My Favorite Bible Verse…or Not
trust the light to our path

The world around us is becoming increasingly challenging.

  • Challenging to live out our Christian faith in a morally relativistic culture.
  • Challenging to share the joy of our faith in a world that is not only uninterested, but hostile to a biblical world view.
  • And challenging as we face the uncertainty of a future that seems perilously out of control.

What do you do when you feel challenged?

Where do you go for answers?

How do you decide on the right course of action?

If I’m being smart, I go to the Bible for direction and answers. Sometimes I like what I read. Other times I’m stretched by what I read, knowing the answer does not line up with my natural inclinations.

For example, one of my favorite—and least favorite—verses is the same verse.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105 ESV).

This one verse answers several questions, including the source for answers and the kind of help God provides for guidance.

At face value, this verse sounds like everything we would want, including light and leading. Of course, I’m grateful for the direction this verse promises God’s children.

But (true confession) there’s one particular thing I don’t like about this verse. If I’m being honest, I don’t want a lamp to my feet. A lamp only lights the way a few feet in front of me. It lights the path step by step.

I don’t want a lamp for the next few steps. I want a floodlight that lights the way for a mile down the road. I don’t want direction just for today. I want to know what the next year (or two or three) holds.

But God gives me what I need, not necessarily what I want.

What I need is to learn dependence on God. Sadly, it’s easier for me to trust Him for my eternal salvation in Christ—my eternal destiny—than it is to trust Him in the physical trials of life.

According to Psalm 119:105, God gives just enough direction to move forward with dependence on Him. And coincidentally, that’s what prompts trust, which just happens to be my “one word” for the year.

Conversations with friends have shown me I’m not alone in wanting to know what lies around the bend next month…next year…next decade. And actually, isn’t that the reason people flock to fortune tellers, read horoscopes, and visit palm readers?

We’re under the illusion that if we know what’s coming, somehow we can control it. As if a certain level of control will solve all our problems. But the biggest problem is that control is, itself, an illusion. We can’t control the weather, the culture, or how other people respond to us.

And to make matters worse, most of us aren’t even successful controlling ourselves!

Ever lost your temper? Said something you wish you could take back? Or maybe not said something you wish you had?

Control may be what we want, but dependence is what we need. Dependence on the One who created us and sustains us if we run to Him. Trusting that if God has given us all we need in Christ for our eternal relationship to be restored, surely He can be trusted for the here and now.

The Father has restored us through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, and the Son has left us His Spirit, equipping us to grow in our intimacy with Him and to live a life pleasing to Him.

In short, He has already given us everything we need. So why does that not seem to be enough?

Perhaps it’s because, deep down, we’re afraid to trust. Afraid God doesn’t define good the way we do. Let’s face it, we define good as what we want: people and possessions. But God defines good as the people and processes He uses to make us more like Him.

Part of that process is cultivating trust. And trust is cultivated with just enough light for one step at a time.

Like I said…my favorite—and least favorite—verse!

What is your favorite or least favorite Bible verse? Why?


One Word for 2016

2015 was the first year I chose to adopt One Word for the year. I wrote about selecting my word—release—in a blog post last January with an update in August.

Release was not a word I chose eagerly. As a Type A personality, releasing anything does not come naturally. Okay, yes, Type A is really a euphemism for Control Freak.  But control and release are not compatible words. Something had to give. What gave is me.

The act of continuing to release my desire for control merely acknowledges the truth that control is an illusion. I’m not in control. Never have been. Never will be. I can truly say my one word for 2015 – release – made a difference in how I live and especially in how I respond to negative circumstances. And I so needed this reminder during several significantly negative situations this past year.

That doesn’t mean I’ve arrived. I can testify to the truth, “Old habits die hard.” Yet there is also a feeling of relief in release. Relief that I can stop my futile efforts and rest in the care of my sovereign heavenly Father—the One who is and has been in control all along.

So how do I follow up on my 2015 One Word for 2016?

I’ve considered several words that would help me grow spiritually. Serious words. Theologically significant words. Once again I asked the Lord for direction on which to select…and a simple, three-letter word, not on the list, came to mind (another opportunity to release control!). Joy. Within twenty-four hours I received four different confirmations that this is, indeed, my word for 2016.

Seems like an easy one this time, doesn’t it? Perhaps for many. But I’m usually so focused on my list of things to accomplish today, tomorrow, next week, or next month that I miss the joy of each minute now. Building on last year’s word, release, I want to take the next step in finding the joy in circumstances I would not have chosen (or cannot control!).

Now for another fun confirmation….If you flip the number 2016 vertically, it spells joie – French for joy! 😀

Joy.13 - French
I expect 2016 will be an interesting—and joyful!—year. I’ll keep you posted!


The Plague of Perfectionism

A few years ago, a popular television program called Monk featured a lead character consumed with perfectionism. He couldn’t prevent the murder of his wife, so he spent the rest of his life trying to control everything else.

For a while, my nickname became “Mrs. Monk.” I admit it: I like control. I’m happiest when things are done my way, on my time-table, and to my standards. (Cue lots of sympathy for my long-suffering husband!)

Thankfully, the older I get, the more I’m learning to relax. I’m finally getting over my perfectionism, both physically and spiritually. This is a good thing, since on the spiritual front, perfectionism can lead to performance-based Christianity.

That was the Pharisees’ problem in Jesus’ day. They were consumed with doing everything perfectly right. To ensure their absolute compliance with the Law, they created even more laws. But they focused on externals. Their spiritual life was all about impressing people with their performance. Problem is, they also thought they were impressing God.

I can be like that, focused on playing the role of the perfect Christian. I forget that God is more concerned with the state of my heart than He is with the stage of my life. As He told the prophet Samuel, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7). I may be able to fool people, but I will never be able to fool God.

Our relationship with God is based on His grace, not our performance. Our salvation is not payment for good behavior, it’s a gift given to us because of Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice. The good that we do is not to earn God’s favor, it’s to thank Him for what He has already done for us.

And that beats a performance-based life every time.


The Illusion of Control

This was supposed to be such a productive week. My to-do list for spring break was filled with all the little projects I haven’t gotten to since Christmas break.

That was the plan.

Reality was a bit different. I haven’t been this sick in more than thirty years. Not a cold. Not even a run-of-the-mill flu. Nope. This was a full-blown, head-spinning, in-bed-for-two-straight-days version of the flu. I’m sitting at the computer now because I could not bear to stay in bed for One. More. Minute.

Of course, with this much extra time (between naps) I began to consider the whole issue of control. I had everything planned out, but to paraphrase Robert Burns, the best-laid plans of mice and men (and Ava) often go awry.

Control. It’s what we want the most but have the least. I’ve heard it said the first sin was the sin of pride. I wouldn’t be surprised. Because the whole issue of control ties back to pride, doesn’t it?

Control tells the world I am important.

Control says my agenda reigns supreme.

Control ensures that my convenience is prioritized.

Adonai

But, as God keeps teaching me (yes, I’m a slow learner), I was never really in control. What I had was the illusion of control.

He is God, I am not.

He is sovereign, I am not.

He is in control, I am not.

This illness took me by surprise. But it was not a surprise to the One I belong to. And while I would rather not experience it again, I’m grateful for the reminders it brought.