April 12, 2015

Sensing Change

Today is a blessed and beautiful Sunday in sunny and not-so-warm Phoenix. It is expected to be in the low 80s today, and the forecast calls for much of the same through the next week to 10 days. I am so hoping we do not start our 100 degree days until later in May. Summer seems to come so suddenly in the desert...

I missed church this morning, thanks to oversleeping, but I think my body must have needed the rest. I woke up feeling very refreshed and satisfied -- such a good combination -- and that feeling was a welcome relief considering the past couple days and weeks were so stressful. It is odd how right now, here at the end of the semester, I am feeling less pressured and rushed then I was only a few weeks ago. God is good, so very good to me!

The past weeks and months, really, have been stressful, so very stressful. It is interesting to think about them, just how stressed out I have been as I considered the plans the Lord had for my life. I think back to the beginning days of the semester, and all I remember is how panicked I was over my teaching assignments, my work load at Regent, and my duties here at home. It seemed so overwhelming to me. The weird part was that my classes at Regent have not been super difficult this semester. I have had quite a bit of reading, and a number of research papers to write, but generally speaking, the level of the work was not as difficult as in other semesters. Now for sure, doctoral classes are not easy -- ever -- but when compared to some of my other classes, these two have been challenging, but not overwhelmingly difficult.

My workload at GCU was difficult to start, but after about 5-6 weeks, I started to get into the groove of teaching the content, and then the work became more routine. In all, when I think about how panicked I was, how I thought I couldn't handle the level of work, I see now that I was seriously in error in that line of thinking. I think it is typical sometimes, to see the glass as half-empty, when in reality, it is always half-full. The Lord is the One who is able to help us see the reality of our situation, that is, if we let Him show it to us.

I was in this position, well it seems that I am always in this position, where I see everything has half-empty. I see my lack of resources, for example, and I feel so overwhelmed by that fact. Then the Lord shows me that really I have plenty (my glass is half-full), and I immediately feel better, more content, more at peace, and more relaxed. It is all a matter of perspective. If you are looking at your own hands, your own strength, your own way, then more than likely, you will see everything you cannot do. The picture looks bleak, overwhelming, and at times, impossible. But, if you look at His hands, His strength, and His way, then the picture looks complete and everything appears possible. The difference depends on the lens you use. I know that when I look at the world without my glasses, I can only see about 3 inches in front of my face. Everything is blurry. However, if I put my glasses on, then I can see almost 20/20 (near perfectly). It is the same with God. I need to keep my "God glasses" on so that I see the world correctly. Otherwise, I will spend my days frustrated because I cannot see anything but what is right in front of my nose!

As I consider today, and I think about where I am (as opposed to where I have been), this is what is clear to me. I am right where I belong. Yes, this is the truth of the matter. I am right in the place where I belong today. I am on the right path, walking in the right way, and doing the right things. I am right where the Lord intends for me to be, and I can know this is truth because I feel the difference, I feel the difference between "ah comfort" and "oh pain!" Let me explain...

I have blogged about my feeling "off" for the past couple weeks (probably longer, but let's not drudge that up). I have felt "off" for awhile, and I have felt as though something was not right with me. I couldn't put my finger on it, and it seemed the more I tried to figure it out, the more confused I became. Finally, in a moment of utter frustration, I lashed out at the Lord for allowing me to be so confused. I mean, really "Lord, tell me why am I so confused?"

Then this verse came up to me. Psalm 116:16-19 is one of those difficult passages to process. David is writing about paying his vow to the Lord, and one must wonder what that means, and whether there is any implication for readers today.

O LORD, I am your servant;
yes, I am your servant, born into your household;
you have freed me from my chains.
I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of the LORD.
I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people—
in the house of the LORD
in the heart of Jerusalem.

As I read through Psalm 116, I realized that I was like David in that I had made a promise to the Lord some months ago, and while I was not turning from my promise to Him, I was not being faithful to keeping my attitude, my heart, and my willingness toward that promise on a daily basis. In fact, I was seriously thinking, pondering, and questioning whether I should keep my promise at all. It is funny how we make promises to the Lord, but then after a time, we forget them. We say so many things in the moment, but when the long hard road begins to take its toll on us, we forget our promises, our vows.

I have done this before, struggled with keeping a promise to the Lord, but usually when I get in the heat of things, I will forget my words. The Lord takes words very seriously. In the Bible, the Lord often made covenants with people. His covenant was a sacred agreement. It meant that the two parties made an agreement, and they were bound to keep it. When we make a vow to the Lord, such as promising to follow or obey, the Lord takes us at our word. Of course, He knows that in our fleshly strength, we will fail, but if our intention is serious, then the Holy Spirit helps us to keep our promise.

I made a promise to the Lord, well several, and I was serious when I made the vow. I promised to be faithful, obedient, and willing to whatever the Lord desired for me to do. I was honest in my intention, and I made the vow knowing full well that the Lord would expect me to keep it. I have made vows to the Lord before so I have been in this position where I have felt "off" and out of sorts. Typically, the pattern follows the same course. I feel off for a while, I pray and ask the Lord for clarification. I struggle, I find myself confused, and all the while, I cannot put my finger on what is the cause of all the apprehension and difficulty. Then the Lord reminds me through Scripture, and I "get it." A light bulb goes off in my head, and I remember what I promised I would do.

This is what happened to me last week, and once I remembered my vow and I made amends, the fog, the confusion, the clutter all disappeared. Peace, joy, and a sense of hope returned, and I realized that as long as I remain within the boundaries of my promise to the Lord, then everything, every single thing that happens in my life, is good, is so very good.

As I blog today, I am reminded of the seriousness of the commitment we make to the Lord. This goes for commitments we make between other individuals as well. As Christians, we are to be faithful to all our promises. This is why Scripture clearly instructs us to not take vows, to not make promises we cannot keep (legally, in particular). We are to keep our "yes and no" as these are the most easy for us to keep. If we do not make worldly promises outside of a simple agreement of yes or no, then we will not fall into situations where we are called to fulfill our part of the covenant agreement. There are exceptions of course, and besides the New covenant, the one other exception is marriage. We are called to keep the marriage covenant until death. It is a binding agreement between ourselves, our spouse, and the Lord.

Thus, today, I sit here thinking about my vow, my promise to the Lord to be faithful, obedient, and to follow after Him. He has a great plan for my life, and that plan is specific. I know that I am called to a specific ministry, a specific work, and the Lord intends for me to do this work. Therefore, I cannot do anything else besides this work. In short, if I don't do this work, then no one else will do it. The Lord has been specific on this point, and I feel in my heart that I am do this thing -- it is the one thing -- the Lord intends, needs me to do.

God is so good to me, and my life is bound up in His work. I can do nothing else but the work the Lord has called me to do. No matter what job He provides, no matter what home He provides, or the place He sends me -- no matter what -- I must do the work He has called me, prepared me, and equipped me to do. I know this now, and I am convinced of this fact. I rest in His calling, knowing that I am right where the Lord wants me to be.

It is good to go to the House of the Lord, to pay our vows, in the presence of all the people. Selah!

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