Is God Still Good?

I looked at the face book post with the caption, “God is so good!” and wondered again if she would say the same words if her life wasn’t rocking in prosperity.

What if her business was plummeting and she faced thousands of dollars in debt rather than millions in revenue? Would God still be good?

I’m also thinking of Job this morning, and how God calls him “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” (Job 1:1, ESV)

Satan shows up before God’s presence and tells Him that Job only loves because God is so incredibly good to him. He tells God to take away Job’s blessings and he will surely turn from his love for God.

So, God says ok. Take it all, but don’t kill him.

Job’s life turns from extra-ordinary blessing into such a pain ridden life that even his wife begs him to curse God and die. Job tells her no, and remarks that she speaks like a foolish woman.

Notice he doesn’t call her a foolish woman; he tells her she speaks like one of the foolish women. Then, he replies with a question, “Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil?”

In all this, Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 1:9&10)

See again when he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

In all this, Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” (Job 1: 21&22, ESV)

My heart wows over this man because I know something he didn’t know. I get to read the after-math of his painful experience and see that he was really on trial. I get to read how God boasted of his faithful servant to satan, and how satan challenged the Lord with a light-defying war blazing across the reality of Job’s life.

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I get to read how God didn’t flinch for a minute because He knew that Job was aware of his goodness in spite of all odds—and he’d never deny it, even in the face of near death.

Job didn’t know he was in the midst of light and darkness clashing in a spiritual war. All he saw was the death of his children, the destruction of his livelihood, and the face of his discouraged wife as she watched him sit in the dust, scraping his boils with a piece of broken pottery.

Even his friends were so taken aback by his pathetic situation that they sat on the ground with him and didn’t speak a word for seven days.

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Get this—complete silence from his best friends. How horrible! 

But, Job knew something about the goodness of God—that whether or not we understand our circumstance makes no difference in the measure of goodness in the character of God. 

But in the midst of it, even Job began to question God, and he cursed the day of his birth. (Job 3:1, ESV)

God walks him through loss, pain of insane measure, and then, right back to his goodness. Job accepts and receives, long before he’s healed and restored. 

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I wonder how satan slinked back in shame when his boasting didn’t hold weight. He must have watched eagerly for Job to curse God and die. But, though he walked through a season of questions, he never walked away from God.

Light and darkness clashed in a holy war over the greatest question man-kind will ever experience–—Is God really, truly good in the face of suffering and pain?

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A few years ago, my breath was taken away at the blessings that came pouring in to my life. I hadn’t expected so many of my dreams to be realized, so soon. Every day, I was keenly aware of God’s goodness toward me. 

Today, my life is riddled with trials and loss of such magnitude that it takes some serious effort to rise above and keep going. Even more serious faith that God has me, and holds me. Each day, I wake to mine and the kids’ new reality—and helping them through their pain is as difficult as dealing with my own. 

I could ask God why—and sometimes I do. 

I could be angry with God—but I’m not.

When  man betrays you, does God betray you, too? Or is He steady when life is rocky, good when life turns sour, and faithful when mortal man is not?

God whispers to my heart that He’s good. He wasn’t with me before, only to leave when my life turned upside down. 

Heaven still rules. Those who walk away from God when life gets hard fail to see that an immortal God couldn’t be who He says He is if His goodness changed with the choices of mortal humans.

See this—we were never meant to compare an immortal God to fallen humanity. There is nothing to compare, only every reason to turn from man toward God—because God never fails. In fact, the greater man’s failure, the greater God’s own measure of grace toward you. 

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Earth was never promised to be easy, but God has always promised heaven, always given grace for those who receive it, and always assured us that He will never leave us. He has stood by His character and never once let anyone down who held firmly to the truth of what He speaks. 

How can we, as mortal humans, base the goodness of an immortal God on any given circumstance in a fallen world? God never fell when man chose to sin, and my heart aches to see the enemy of our souls win by convincing us that just because man is not good, God must not be, either. 

We live in a fallen world because mortal humans have free will and make wrong choices, but we do not serve a God who is capable of failing. If my God was capable of failing me, He would no longer deserve my life or my praise.

It cannot be one or the other—either God is good all the time, or He is not good at any time. I choose to believe and rest in the former, because I know the latter to be false.

God never promised that we would understand everything, all the time. He did promise grace in spite of everything, and at all times.

God also never promised eternally faithful humans—but He did promise to be eternally faithful regardless of what people choose. 

Job trusted in the midst of trial, long before He knew what was really going on. Will we do the same?

There’s a song waiting to be sung in our hearts, a song of worship, a song not contingent on any other fact than the most important one we will ever embrace—that God is inherently, ultimately, and beautifully GOOD.

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Joshua urges us to choose this day whom we serve. Will you say it with me, no matter what:

“As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15, ESV)

Peace Makers or Peace Fakers?

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Mathew 5:9)

This verse grabs me because I love peace. Rather, I adore peace while I hate conflict and trouble so much I’d love to just run when it happens. You know the fight or flight thing? Well, I’m definitely in the flight category.

But sometimes you can’t run and the unpeaceful  stands tall in your life no matter what you do. For those who hate conflict, this can be debilitating. And, guess what, we can join the false who cry “Peace, Peace” when there is no peace.

Jesus asks us to be peace makers; He never approved peace fakers.

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                    Even a peace maker at heart needs to learn not to fake peace.

Jesus didn’t put the burden of creating peace in every situation on our shoulders, but He did say we are blessed when we can, and we do. This means there are times when we can’t, and times when we can.

Peace makers dissolve fights willingly when they’re able to do so righteously; peace fakers pretend nothing is wrong even when something’s dreadfully wrong.

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Peace makers are humble enough to say “I’m sorry” first; peace fakers say “I’m sorry” just to cover up the problem and move on with the problem still staring her in the face.

Peace makers take the low road of acknowledging personal sin; peace fakers take all the blame, all the time, and pretend another has no sin even when they do.

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Peace making leads to life; peace faking leads to an artificial, superficial existence where the soul is stripped of true inner joy and you soon land, wounded and battered like this boat on the shore.

Blessed are the peace makers who create peace when possible, but never shoulder the impossible.

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Mothers, teach your kids to walk in truth, because only the truth brings ultimate freedom!

When Jesus encouraged us that the truth sets us free, He wasn’t just referring to the gospel; He wants us to own all truth, whether good or bad, painful or easy.

Owning reality helps us walk in clarity. Embrace the truth of your circumstance,             your trial, and allow it to lead you to the truth of God’s deep, deep love. 

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Denial leads to a false sense of reality, and a clouded reality leads to mental confusion. Embrace the truth of all things, then wrap it all up in the truth of God’s love for you in spite of it all. Your heart and soul will clarify as you refuse falsehood and embrace truth.

In this way, you ensure peace making for your own heart whether or not others create peace for you.

Faking it hard never meant making it well. Only truth (on all accounts) leads you to light.  

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    Walk in truth, and you will only go up, even when your circumstances are down. 

When God Hears

God, please send me the right friends for this time in my life,” I prayed one day as I pulled up to my counseling appointment. 

We all know what it’s like to know many people, yet realize that certain people are tailor-cut for specific seasons of life.

I’d been at work so I devoured my lunch as I waited, observing the carpenter working on the interior walls of the church building. A pastor walked by, and I stood to introduce myself, as I’d just been in a leadership meeting with his wife, and greatly admired her. 

The carpenter walked over. “I’ve been wanting to meet you,” he said. “I read your article in the newspaper and purposed to meet you, but wanted it to happen organically.”

Then, he spoke a few words in my mother tongue (huge surprise), and we chatted for awhile. 

Both of us knew our meeting was no accident, so a few days later, he and his wife met me for dinner and we all became fast friends–probably the life-time kind of friends! They offered assistance in any area I needed it, and I accepted. 

My car is giving trouble, and I know little about cars,” I said. “If you could give me some advice, I would so appreciate it.” 

My van continued to get worse, and before long,  I knew the time had come to get rid of the old van and purchase something else. 

Willis and Greta were up to the task, and quickly had my desk loaded with print outs of cars for sale. “No mini van!” was my main request. Somehow, I needed to drive something different.

You need seven seats,” he said. “I will find several cross-overs for us to see, and we will make up our mind from there.” 

Greta and Willis spent the day traveling with me, and after traveling to different cities and back to the same one three times over, we finalized a deal. The car was not only affordable, but had a lot of life left, and I genuinely loved it. 

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I hugged them both as we parted ways on the ferry. “You will never know how much this means to me,” I said.

Willis’ eyes became teary. “You know, when I do this, I feel like I’m doing it for Crystal.”

Willis and Greta’s only daughter had passed away many years ago, and their hearts still ached. She was an angel of a child, and greatly missed. Today, they are an answer to my own prayer, but God always turns giving around to bless the giver, as well. 

I nodded my head. “I receive it,” I said softly.

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I drove home in the dark with Christmas music swirling in the car. In the midst of great heart ache and loss, God came with his own touch to let me know I was not alone, and he was intimately involved in every detail of my life. 

Friends, we can trust him. In the light or in the dark, he is there. Whether we feel it or not, he is there. When we need him, he is there.

We are never alone. Ask him for a touch today, and you will receive it in one way or another. And when it happens, put your roots of faith a little deeper than before. 

You are loved.

Jesus has already been where you need to go. He leads you, walks beside you, and declares his love over your life. You are never alone; if you know Jesus, you are held by the best companion you will ever know.

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He leads you on. One day, trials will dissolve—but until that day, He walks with you to fill in the gaps. Trust him, and sooner or later the clouds will part, truth will reign, and you’ve only to make certain you’re on the winning side! 

Fully Seen by God

I’m willing to be nothing,” I told the Lord over and over again. And strangely enough, He’d ask me, “Are you willing to be something?

It took me aback, but I’d say, yes. Whatever the Lord wants, but why would He ask me that?

Did you know that true humility isn’t conditional on being unseen?  True humility happens when you don’t really think about whether or not you get seen, admired, or praised. You don’t focus there, and you stay real. You don’t care about that side of earthly kingdom stuff, because you are engaged in the heavenly, where all is love.

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As God asked me whether I was willing for both, my life boomed with my fondest dreams, and I began to walk through all kinds of doors. One after another, my dreams came true. I wrote books, and I spoke at conferences. I had a radio interview and an offer for a potential television interview. My soul was alive because I was doing what God asked me to do.

Then, a life circumstance crushed me and swept me away in a torrent of grief.  Godly friends rallied round me and held me up when I could not so much as put one foot in front of the other.

I entered a quiet season, one where it was God and me, alone. One where I woke up with tears and went to sleep with a dull ache in my heart. One where, rather than being asked who I was because they had heard my name somewhere, I was asked how I was doing because they had heard about my circumstance, somewhere.

Oh, friends. Can we except the trial as much as the triumph? Can we embrace the quiet as much as the quest? Can we, really and truly, live for the honor of the Highest One, in whom we live, and move, and have our being?

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I don’t really need the action, I need the Activator. When He activates, all is well. When he quiets me down, all is well. Because all is well where He is.

True humility serves Him well more than it is served well by what He does for us. And in eternity, our focus is on Him, and Him alone. His glory will burst from our beings in eternal hallelujahs round the throne, all for Himself.

This is why our focus here is not on our lives, but on His LIFE. Our reward is not from what we do, but from what He’s done. Will you say it with me, “Lord, I’m willing to be seen or unseen, whatever makes you FULLY SEEN.”

Medicate Your Trouble?

So hey, soul!

What are you medicating your troubles with? Because I know that, for many women, the holidays are a most painful time of reminders for what should have been.

So, yeah. Some of us may want to eat our hearts out while others of us get nauseous and can’t eat enough.

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Some of us may shop our credit cards dry while others of us save each penny in an attempt to feel virtuous.

Some of us may want people to surround us while others of us crawl into a hole too small even for our own hearts.

God means to lead us straight to his heart instead of into the chocolate cake (though that helps, too!). He wants us to purchase things money can’t buy with currency of another kingdom, and the more we feel like paupers, the larger His gift of riches.

I want us to see His faithfulness when others are faithless.

See His care when you’re not cared for like you need to be.

God’s no is never meant for deprivation, but is an invitation to wholeness, instead.

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Whatever God says is meant to lead you into better places, deeper graces, and larger love.

Catch the devil red handed in his lie that if you listen to God, you’ll miss out. Tell him to his face that if you don’t listen to God, you’ll end up in a worse place just like Eve did when she didn’t listen. Allow your own Eden to remain by refusing temporary gifts offered in disguise.

You will never eradicate your pain by medicating it with earthly gain. But you can hallow your places when you choose heavenly graces.

Bite into that chocolate, but allow your soul to sink deeply into Someone surpassing all earthly comfort. Thank Him for leading you to deeper grace in spite of your place!

 

Navigating Your Brain

I took the little ones’ hands and walked as quickly as I could.

We had just emerged from the forest and hadn’t ended up where we had planned on meeting the other kids. My heart was sick with worry even though I knew they were okay.

Though on foot, I hit Google maps and began walking swiftly in the direction it led. After about a half mile, I realized it was leading us astray.

Ever walked in circles trying to get somewhere, worried about your other kids?

The woods were deep and the trails varied and confusing, but we were on small paved roads that should surely lead us back to the car. What was the problem?

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Ever ran your mind in circles trying to come up with a plan that worked? A plan that would lead you out of a mess?

Ever landed up exactly where you were at, before? Wondering how it was possible to waste so much time?

We navigate our own brain a million times, only to come up with a solution that leads us to a shack in the woods rather than our own sturdy home. I wonder when we will tune in on God’s word to us, and tune out on our own words to ourselves.

This God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 18:30, ESV)

What is God saying to you right now, friend? 

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Did you know his word to your heart is perfect, even when your circumstances are not? Can you take the dare to listen carefully and follow his road map even when your own thoughts run in circles and you’re tempted to conjure up your own plan?

The God who equipped me with strength, and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.

He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.

You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip.” Psalm 18: 32-36, ESV

Are we all the way in with God? We cannot receive his comfort unless we’re first willing to give up our own discomfort.

Rather than fight your trial, purpose to use your energy to pursue the heart of God for your trial. Only he knows the way out of the maze.

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Others may think they do, and God will use them to pull you through. But never allow their words to replace God’s word to your heart. God’s word is sure, and human words may contradict each other, leading you round and round another maze.

Only listen in when human words match with God’s words.

Don’t fear your trial. Don’t fight it. Jesus himself ended his earthly life in excruciating pain while bearing blame he never deserved in a million years.

There would have been no empty tomb had there been no occupied cross.

There are no plants springing up without a seed buried and dead under the soil.

And there will be new life for you when you are fully willing to die to your old.

For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you.

And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your teacher.

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’”

And he will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground, and bread, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous.” Isaiah 30: 19-21a, ESV

Running your own mind in circles will inevitably lead you to mental exhaustion and, most likely, worthless, fruitless striving.

Slow it down. Breathe. Not everything has to be fixed today.

Only move when the word is sure to your heart. Realize that your part is to receive from the Lord rather than produce for yourself.

As you learn to adopt his word to your circumstance rather than try to fix your circumstance, your way will become bright and sure. You will be a shining light, glowing on a dark path.

No lamp the Lord lights is put under a basket or in a closet. Let His word shine light through you, and you will find that your circumstances no longer control you.

 Let there be rivers of living water flowing through you, out of you, headed to thirsty souls who want to know what grace life really is.

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Let truth govern you, calm you, reign your mind in a world of many voices. Refuse to run the circle, and choose instead to run the race. 

We navigated our way through the maze of small roads, and spotted the van. The kids were there, waiting, wondering where mama had been. I was certainly grateful as I turned the key.

The road led home, and the maze was gone.

Friend, are there others waiting for you to get out of the maze of your own mind? Are your kids longing for you to see clearly and walk with clarity?

Will you tune in on a sure word from the Healer Himself? 

His word will lead you home, out of the maze. And if your circumstances don’t change, your heart will—because God is good. 

How to Pray When You Don’t Know How

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard for their many words.” Matthew 6:7, ESV

Ever listened to someone pray while squirming with uneasiness in your spirit because you could sense in your own spirit that they were praying more for man than praying to God?

Ever knelt on your own knees, wondering how to reach the heart of God?

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I wonder why we try to pray just right when God’s eyes are already roaming the face of the earth looking for His daughters whose hearts have been made right by His love? Look at how simply Jesus tells us to pray:

He wants His name to be hallowed.

He wants us to ask that His will be done on earth, just as it is in heaven.

He wants us to ask for our needs.

He wants us to ask for forgiveness, and to forgive those who’ve wronged us.

He wants us to ask for protection from evil.

He also wants us to keep asking, like the widow who bothered the judge for bread while he was in bed. She didn’t turn away after he refused to come. She kept asking, and then, he came. (Luke 18:1-8)

Jesus tested the faith of His daughter when he told her that it wasn’t right to give the children’s bread to dogs (implying she was a dog rather than a child [Matthew 15:26] ). She pushed through and told him that even the dogs get crumbs. He immediately gave her what she wished for, while praising her for her faith in Him.

Keep coming, but don’t worry about how you come. God’s spirit intercedes for you with groanings even He cannot utter.

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In your weakness, you are covered by Someone who knows how to touch the heart of God because He is part of the Godhead, Himself.

When you have no words to utter, know that the Spirit utters even better ones for you.

Just keep coming!