God Speaks

Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. – Proverbs 4:25-26

As I was spending time in prayer and in the Bible today, I was thinking about a goal I have. A big one. Something I’m excited about, but something that’s pretty overwhelming. I was praying for God to help me keep my focus. To help me to be patient as I wait for it all to come together. As I was jotting down my thoughts in my journal, I wrote: “I literally have no idea where this is going to go.”

I set my journal to the side and began to read the Scripture passage for the day. Right now I’m doing a reading plan that is taking me through the Psalms and Proverbs. Always an amazing journey! And as so often happens I read a portion of Scipture that seems to finish the dialogue I began with God. It was like a direct response to my statement. 

Me: “I literally have no idea where this is going to go.”

God: “Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.”

That’s how God speaks!

Run the Race

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. – Hebrews 12:1-2

I am not a runner. I’ve often joked that if you see me running you should start running, too, because something is chasing me. But I admire those that do run. It seems in recent years that conquering a marathon is a lofty goal that many set for themselves. And I know quite a few people that have impressively accomplished that feat.

The author of Hebrews compares living a life of faith to running a race.  In the beginning of chapter 12, he paints a picture that anyone who has run a marathon (and even those of us that have only been spectators) can understand. For starters, picture the long sidelines of a marathon. The streets are lined with crowds cheering the ambitious runners along their way. No doubt a necessary encouragement to the weary runners. He says here that in our own marathon of life, we are surrounded by “a great cloud of witnesses”.  The faithful that have gone before us are cheering us on. They have run this race before and even though they may have stumbled along the way, they finished it because they knew, by faith, what was waiting at the finish line.

He goes on to talk about the things that hinder us.  One translation says to “strip off every weight that slows us down”. I’ve never seen a runner carrying a back pack while they raced. They wouldn’t make it very far if they were running with unnecessary weight. In our own race of life their are so many things that can weigh us down. Fears…doubts…worries…strongholds. These things can slow us to a crawl and use up the endurance we need to push through. And what about “the sin that so easily entangles”? As I thought about the race analogy, the first thing that popped into my mind when I saw the word “entangles” was shoelaces. Imagine the disaster that could happen to a runner if they don’t make sure that their shoelaces are securely tied before they start to run. They would have to stop in the middle of the race to tie their shoes or worse yet, they could end up taking a nasty spill if they trip over a shoelace. The author of Hebrews says that the sin in our life is what so easily entangles us. If we get caught up in our sin, whether big sinful lifestyles or little sinful choices, we will fall flat on our face.

What we need to do is run with perseverance the race that’s marked out for us. God has given us each our own marathon route and we will all face different obstacles. But we must refuse to be weighed down or tangled up by them. We must keep our eyes focused on Jesus. He’s running alongside us the whole way. He’ll carry our water. He’ll be our medic. And he’s our biggest cheerleader. His atoning death on the cross and victorious resurrection assures us that we will cross the finish line and receive the ultimate prize of eternal life.

Wait

The Bible is full of stories of real-life people with real-life circumstances from which we can learn. Sometimes we may get a lesson in what not to do, but often we can see a good example of what we should do. One of the heroes of the Bible that really teaches us about an “all in” relationship with God is King David. He started as a humble shepherd boy with no extraordinary future in the eyes of men. But God had a very different plan for his life. As a young boy he heard the message that he was going to be Israel’s King. (1 Samuel 16) But he didn’t find himself suddenly on the throne. To the contrary. Despite knowing God had a different plan for him, he continued to faithfully serve the current King while he waited. And even when King Saul’s fear of David’s looming take over sent David on the run, literally fleeing for his very life, he never lost hope in God’s plan. 

There has been a thought playing through my mind over the last couple of days. – Stop trying to make things happen and let things happen! – I can think of plenty of times when I thought I would help God out by taking matters into my own hands. I was pretty sure it was his plan, and he just needed a little bit of help to get it going. In hindsight, things would have gone more smoothly if I had allowed God to be God!

There were many times when David could have taken the throne from Saul in his own timing, but instead he patiently waited for God. The Psalms record many of David’s faithful prayers while he waited for God’s plan to unfold and his words can give us hope while we wait patiently for God’s plan in our life to unfold. 

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. – ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭5:3‬

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. – Psalm‬ ‭27:14‬ ‭

We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. – Psalm‬ ‭33:20‬ 

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. – ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭37:7‬ 

Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God. – ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭38:15‬ ‭

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. – ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭40:1‬ ‬‬

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. – ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭130:5‬ ‭

Giving our regret to God

Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night…Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me— now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you…The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God. – ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭51:1-3, 7-12, 17‬ ‭‬‬

True remorse can be a very painful emotion. To wish with all your heart that you could go back in time and undo something you did. Or to unsay something you said. To play back the situation in your head thinking of how different things would be right now if you had only gone a different way. 

King David experienced this deep remorse after committing adultery, trying to cover it up and then ultimately committing murder. (2 Samuel 11 & 12) The “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22) had blown it big time and the realization of what he’d done, beyond even the consequences of his actions, cut him deep within his soul. He knew he had ended up in a place he never intended on being. I can just imagine him thinking back to the moment he first saw Bathseeba from his rooftop and sent for her. “If only I had looked away. If only I had been out on the battlefield with my men. If only…”

It was in this anguish that David wrote Psalm 51. He called on God to be merciful. To “blot out the stains” of his sin. He acknowledged that he could ask this because of God’s “unfailing love” and “great compassion.” He begged God to give him back his joy! The joy of his salvation! He knew God would not reject a truly repentant heart. Our God is the same today for us as he was then for David. We, too, can come to him in our remorse and know that he will not reject us. 

After this particular Psalm, David went on to write many more as he continued to lead God’s people. He had given his regret to God that day. He didn’t hang on to it and allow it to push him further from God. We must do the same. Satan would like nothing more than for us to believe that because we screwed up God doesn’t want us anymore. But that is a lie!  The Bible says that it was “while we were still sinners” that Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) Once we acknowledge our need for a Savior and turn to Jesus, the price for our sin has been paid and there is no undoing that. 

Cry out to God for forgiveness then praise him because it’s done!

I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead. – ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭86:12-13‬ ‭

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me. – ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭13:5-6‬ ‭‬‬

Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. – ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭28:6-7‬ ‭

My times are in your hands

But I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands…- Psalm 31:14

My times are in your hands. As I read this passage of the Psalms, this line was one of those truths of the Bible that jumps out at me as though God had printed it in bold. I can almost hear him saying, “Repeat this over and over until you really believe it.”

When I’m going through a challenge or a trial in my life, sometimes even in the midst of my prayers for guidance I feel so lost. Begging God to show me his way. Wondering what he could possibly have in store for me to get me through whatever it is I’m facing. But in the midst of my crying out to him how often do I allow myself to be reminded that my times are already in his hands?  He does have a plan for every situation. And he also has a time for every answer. I may not always understand the way things are unfolding, but God is always at work. Like a potter with clay, in his hands my life is being formed. (Isaiah 64:8)

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. – Psalm 31:24

Don’t wander off

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. – Psalm 1:1-6

We’ve all heard it said that you become like the company you keep. And if you’re a parent, you’ve likely warned your children of this exact fact. And in case there’s any doubt, that warning is Biblical. 

The book of Psalms starts off with a clear admonition to watch yourself! It doesn’t take a theologian to decipher what God is saying here. Blessings come your way when you stay away from trouble! Blessings come your way when the way you live is determined by your hunger for and knowledge of the law of the Lord (your Bible).  And any child of God that has ever strayed off of that path understands this concept. The further you go, the more you feel un-blessed. The more the wilderness you’re wandering in becomes an uncomfortable familiarity. Until you finally reach a place where you’re face to face with the fact that you’ve allowed the wind of your sinful choices to blow you away from where you belong. 

It is here that you must make the choice to turn around and run back to God. Get back on the path illuminated by His Word. Remember who you are! You’re a redeemed child of the Almighty and you do not belong where you’ve ended up. 

And the promise of your Father is clearly stated. He watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. And our righteousness comes through Christ alone! 

The words “it was credited to him” were written not for [Abraham] alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.‭‭ – Romans‬ ‭4:23-25‬