God Have Your Way In Me

Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25 both say: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”

 

I don’t know about you, but that verse always sobers me.

 

The truth is, He has given us discernment as believers; and He’s also given mankind a general moral compass for good and evil.

Most would say, regardless of time period or culture, that murder is evil.

Most would say, regardless of time period or culture, being generous to the needy is good.

And because there is a general sense of right and wrong—and for believers, a general knowledge of God and Biblical principles (one would hope) – then, there can easily be the delusion within ourselves that we’ve got it pretty much figured out! We can be trusted, right? We have enough common sense to do the “right” thing at the “right” time and please God with our desire for “rightness”.

 

I’m reading 1 Samuel right now and it’s tragic to read this very thing happening to King Saul. Chapters 13 and 15 give accounts of Saul trying to work his way around instructions given by God, because… well… it seemed “right” to him.

He wanted to be God: making the rules, justifying himself in his decisions, being held to the standard he chose. And did that go well for him? Sadly, no.

And if I’m honest, I see the same crooked way in me, apart from Christ! With King Saul, we see that the Lord saw the condition of his heart: the lack of reverence for, and obedience to, Him. And the hard truth is, that’s the natural state of everyone’s heart. We all want to be judge! The little bits of wisdom, clarity, or common sense that He gives us in His kindness can lead us to believe that it comes from us. We can easily think that we are the ones who hold knowledge and can perfectly govern our hearts and lives – and even those of the ones around us!

 

Proverbs 2:6 tells us, “the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”

What we have… is a gift. But let us not fool ourselves into thinking we can now take that gift and run with it in some prideful form of independence!

 

We can’t trust our own hearts (Jeremiah 17:9, John 2:24).

We need our minds to be renewed by Him constantly (Ephesians 4:23, Colossians 3:10).

We desperately need to humble ourselves and remember HE knows what is right (Isaiah 55:9).

 

I love this promise in James 1:5,

“If any of you ” (and I will add here if I may, “since we do”…) “lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

 

Everything from the biggest life decisions, to the most miniscule, trivial things in your day, to the overall course and rhythm to your years this side of heaven: He is your source of wisdom!

Seek, ask, knock, wait – and He will answer and lead.

He loves to lead us! He leads us well! And submitting to His leadership only leads to good…

 

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He stores my soul.” (Psalm 23:1-3)

 

“The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him…” (Psalm 25:14)

 

“The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” (Proverbs 15:33)

 

He is far more trustworthy than we are.  He sees the end of the story while we are stuck looking at our present. So let us continually ask Him to generously give us what we lack through the means of His Word and Spirit! Wouldn’t we be a set-apart people in this generation if we lived like that?  

Awake My Soul & Sing

 Psalm 42 has been especially precious to me this year:

“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, the living God… Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you…”

If you know me, you know that I am what you’d call a “feeler”. I have deep emotions about everything, and often am processing verbally and internally every single one of those emotions! The self-awareness that comes with that is at times a blessing, and then other times it is a rut that I fall into.

Why am I heavy hearted? Why do I feel like crying at the drop of a hat? Am I not praying enough, reading the Word enough? Am I a failure? Am I missing it?  That would be just a small sampling of what goes on in my head and heart on hard days. It’s what Puritan preachers called “self-talk”.

It isn’t a sign of anything wrong per se for you or I to have those types of days. I don’t know any honest Christian who has been spared a “desert” season or hasn't at times felt disheartened. The reality is that we live in a fallen world. We are carrying around our broken frames. We can mentally accept that – but then, to feel it— for it to not go away in an instant, but remain, is more of a challenge. What do you do when you’re in the midst of loneliness, suffering, discouragement, loss, AND you are pursuing the heart of God through prayer, study of His word, and biblical community? It isn’t as simple of an answer as it would seem.

That’s when Psalm 42 becomes precious; when the jewel that it is sparkles under the cold, hard surface of everything else. To mine that jewel means to take hold of the truth the Psalmist did:

 

·      Stop listening to your heart, and instead speak to it

·      Remind your soul of His character

·      Remind your soul of the hope that seasons change (“for I shall again praise you… therefore I remember you…”)

·      Pour out your heart to God

·      Continue to hunger and thirst

 

One night after I came downstairs from tucking our girls in, I sat down with a guitar and started to sing this chorus. I had been meditating on this psalm, as well as being freshly reminded by Zechariah 4:1 and Ephesians 5:14 that there is an awakeness to worship. There is a constant fight to not be lulled to sleep by our present circumstances or our own weary hearts.

And here is His promise to us in that fight: He responds. Psalm 18, 42, and 126, Lamentations 3:19-33, and Isaiah 40:28-31 are all great places to start. But if you pay attention, you’ll see it everywhere in Scripture… and you’ll begin to see the truth of it everywhere in your own life.

            Worship is its sweetest (and maybe its truest) when our voices and souls aren’t bolstered by feelings, but by truth.

“Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” (Hebrews 13:15)

Sometimes it feels like a sacrifice—or at least, a huge risk—to set our hopes on something and Someone we can’t see, hear, or feel in the moment. But let us be encouraged in knowing every seed of sorrow that falls to the ground; every day of picking up our cross, whatever the weight, and following Him; it is storing something up. It’s producing something. When we awake to the truth that He is worthy of worship in every season, Christ shines… and He shines on us. May He give us the grace to believe that!

 

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:14

Awaken Me

         When our daughters don’t know what to pray, Shane has gotten into the habit of reminding them to ask God to do one simple thing for them:

“Please open the eyes of my heart that I might see You.”

What a good reminder that is for me. Although my spiritual eyes have been opened, my vision can quickly get blurry. It’s blurred by the war going on of flesh versus spirit inside of me; the constant darkness at war with Light going on in me and the world around me.

            We are exhorted in Scripture to be “sober minded” (2 Timothy 4:5, 1 Peter 1:13, 4:7, 5:8). To help paint the picture, here are some scenes that are always helpful for me: In The Matrix, Neo takes the proverbial “red pill” and sees life for what it is (and it isn’t all that encouraging). King Theoden in the second Lord of the Rings installment – The Two Towers – is under a spell that has rendered him apathetic to the point of being barely cognizant. I think if we are honest with ourselves, we who know Jesus also know how easy it is to gradually become “sleepy”… with vision blurred and heart dulled.

 

Come awaken me

Wake me from my sleep

Come awaken me

There’s more than what I feel or see…

 

            I had been reading Zechariah and was so surprised and stirred by the Messianic thread woven throughout that book. (Note: the minor prophets are very much worth our time and study!)

 

“… ‘behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. In that day, declares the Lord of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.’

            And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep…” (Zechariah 3:8-10;4:1)

 

            I love moments like this in Scripture: when someone sees Him; when they suddenly see things not as they seem, but as they truly are. It’s like being woken from a deep sleep. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a few precious moments like that.

            Most of life in Him this side of eternity is walking by faith. We ask, we wait, we cling to the Word. Most of life with a regenerate heart living in the “already but not yet” reality comes with a good dose of angst and dependence and the work of belief. (John 6:29)

But then – there are those moments when He opens our eyes and kindles aflame the embers of affection for Him, and we behold.

He truly is good to those who wait on Him. The vision of our good and sovereign God in the midst of our reality can do nothing less than renew our strength. It’s His kindness when He gives a fresh sobering of your mind and heart; when the clouds part and you see the bright light of Jesus piercing through the fog of apathy, busyness, culture, and even the murkiness of your own heart. Seeing Jesus… wakes you up.

            This song continues to be my prayer, not just for the beginning of a record, but for my day-in, day-out.

 

“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your heart enlightened…” (Ephesians 1:15-18)

My Soul Waits

 

            This past year has been a hard one. There have been overt things: health scares with our children, moving cities, walking with people in our community through suffering and loss. There has also been a subtle undercurrent of heaviness within.

            Have you ever had a season or chapter of life where feelings are hard to come by? Not every or any feeling, but those steadying feelings.…affection, expectation, contentment; the ones in your soul pointed upward towards God; the warm-fuzzies of assurance?

            If you resonate at all with what I’m talking about, perhaps you also know the tendency to avoid God in those times. I can sing that “He is my refuge” along with the Psalmist on the bright, summer days of my soul; but when the cold and dark of winter begins, I don’t warm myself by the fire of those promises. And maybe that’s an indicator of my lack of belief that – He is my refuge in times of trouble—is true, along with a thousand other forgotten promises in suffering.

            It’s almost as if you just want to put your head down, muster up enough grit and endurance, and just get through. And in all my forgetting, the notion of stopping to rest in Him—with Him—under the “shadow of His wings”—in the comfort of His Spirit—feels like a waste of time or worse, tee-up for disappointment.

            But, David suffered. David wandered. He knew way longer and deeper seasons of danger and grief and isolation than I have! And when I read his prayers, his songs in the midst of those dark periods of his life, I see he reminds his soul to… wait. To take refuge. To remember. Disappointment wasn’t lurking behind every hope and his time wasn't spent frivolously.

And so, through the Word, I’ve been reminded by the Spirit on those hard days and in those moments that feel impossible to get past … that there must be something I haven’t grasped, haven’t leaned into, haven’t tried and tested quite yet. Maybe all of my avoidance and “being okay” has caused me to forfeit a grace and peace I would’ve known otherwise.

            I was about a week out from heading into the studio for this record and was having one of those mornings when anxiety, sadness,  and unbelief all seemed to be weights on my shoulders that I couldn’t shake off. I turned PBS on for my girls (because sometimes TV is what you call a “common grace”!) and sat down at our piano (which I am not good at playing!) and began to cry, pray, and sing.

There had been a melody floating in and out of my head for weeks. On God alone my soul waits… and then I remembered singing on another hard day, sitting on my bedroom floor crying and praying: Your praise is an ocean; my troubles are a puddle…

              And then, right there in our home, right in the middle of my pain, breaking the silence and interrupting my doubt, a rest came. It was a rest that only comes from Him and it is marked by freedom from circumstances. It has the fragrance of hope because of knowing the One who sows my (present) tears and brings about a (future, faith-seen) harvest of shouts of joy.

            Friends, this year I have called on Him from the deep, and He has answered me. And as that path gets worn down with each season of life, He proves Himself faithful. Oh, may we believe and pray these words when feelings are few:

 

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation.

He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.

He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him;

God is a refuge for us.

Selah.

Psalm 62:1-2,5-8

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