Expectations and Perspective

Expectations and Perspective

If there is one thing I have learned as a foster / adoptive parent it is that my perspective is often wrong, or at least different. By often I mean almost always, it seems. As we prepared to go on a short little vacation with our boys, we started noticing strange questions, packing sequences that didn't make sense, and other oddities. It didn't take long to realize that once again, our perspective was off. I'll explain what I mean by sharing some conversations we had before and during our vacation.

The Trauma Informed Teacher - The Silent Front Line

The Trauma Informed Teacher - The Silent Front Line

If you are an educator, you NEED to read this. As an educator, parent, and foster parent of children impacted by trauma this is spot on, needed,and under-trained. You guys are the day to day front line from 8 to 4. Seriously. Read it. Please. This concept should be in every Professional Development package an administrator puts together.

12 Ways Our Children Described Our Family

12 Ways Our Children Described Our Family

Have you ever wondered how other people think of you or your family? I have. As my kids have gotten older and our first grandchild came on the scene, I have wondered what they think about our family and how they would describe it to someone else. So, a couple of weeks ago I asked them to list a few things they think of when they think of "us", things that defined who we are through their eyes. This isn't a complete list by any means, but here is what they said...

She Said So Herself

She Said So Herself

So, tonight we put Brynna to bed, it was uneventful. You know, only 4 meds tonight instead of 5; no shot today. Even on simple nights I'm sometimes reminded, and saddened a little, that normal for us is "how many meds are we giving tonight?". But times like this make that a short-lived thought ... you see, when we brought her home they said she would never love, know love, show love, let alone speak love.

My Daughter's Nurses are Family

My Daughter's Nurses are Family

As the parents of a child with chronic special needs and foster/adoptive parents, we have had someone in and out of our home almost constantly for over a decade. Even before we ever brought Brynna home from the hospital we had to meet with social workers, DME (Durable Medical Equipment) companies, doctors, nursing agencies, and eventually, the nurses themselves.

Everyone Can Help With Foster Care

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

James 1:27

For me, it sank in at one of our first training events. I remember it very well as we walked down the hallway of Mobberly Baptist Church in Longview, Texas. Every ten feet or so there was an easel. On each easel was a poster with pictures on it. Pictures of kids. Kids that needed a home. Their names were listed at the bottom. There were so many, and this wasn’t the half of it.

Confess. Repent. Repeat.

Confess. Repent. Repeat.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

Confession is the heart of the matter when dealing with sin when temptation has overtaken us when our fleshly desires win the momentary battle and we indulge in self-gratification. While John speaks of confessing to God, it is also vitally important to have an accountability partner or group to which we can also confess. Look at James 5:16:

The Development of Sin - Part 5

LIMITING OPPORTUNITIES

As we discussed last time, the real ‘cure’ for sin is a transformed heart, not behavior modification. If we aren’t changing from the inside out, we aren’t really changing at all. We are simply becoming what Jesus would call whitewashed tombs that remain full of the decaying evidence of our broken and sinful natures. However, there are also some very practical things we can do to deal with the sin problem, remembering only God can fully eradicate sin through regeneration of the heart, but our flesh is still broken. 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 tells us that the treasure of Christ exists in jars of clay. Our bodies are broken and present us with a constant battle of spirit and flesh that will only truly end when we are glorified at His coming.

The Development of Sin - Part 4

The Cure

I’ll be honest, I struggled with the title of this section. “The Cure” seemed inadequate and frankly, a bit optimistic. I don’t know about you, but I constantly struggle with temptation and sin. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t, in fact. So is it a bit too far to talk about a cure? I don’t think so.

First and foremost, let’s be clear at the outset about one very important fact. All the willpower in the world is not the cure for sin. Well-meaning behavior modification isn’t a cure for sin. Rigid rules and regulations aren't a cure for sin. The only sure-fire cure for this brokenness we all possess is Jesus. The new birth, a new nature to fight with the old in this jar of clay we call our flesh. On the cross Jesus completely defeated death, the grave, and sin. Our problem is we still live in a fallen world, wandering around in broken cisterns bent on self-indulgence. What, then, is one to do?

If I had more time and space, I would first discuss our need to be filled with the Holy Spirit and such, but space is limited so I will be a bit more pragmatic in this article.

Though both our church and world culture often view sin as an outward thing born of circumstances and situations easily controlled by physical and mental isolation, or by building enough walls around one’s heart as to never fall into the devil’s traps, we have learned the true source of our sin lies within our own hearts; our own desires. While external safeguards are extremely important and even effective to some degree, what we really and truly need is an inside out approach to sin since its process begins as an inside out transgression.

Look at Romans 12:1-2:

 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Here, Paul makes an appeal. You know what an appeal is. He is asking with passion. Not only is he asking with passion, but he is almost begging, “by the mercies of God” for us to act. This little phrase “by the mercies of God” is important. These mercies are the basis for his appeal, his urging. Since God has been so merciful to us in forgiving our sins, our proper response is to be transformed. The word used reminds us in English of metamorphosis, a change from the inside out, and a complete one at that. Paul wants us to be completely changed, but he also gives us some guidance on how that is to be done.

There is initially a three step process to dealing with sin outlined by Paul in this text.

Step 1: Present your bodies. Present them as a living sacrifice. Jesus didn’t call us to great wealth, exaltation, and triumph in the earthly sense. Instead He called us to join Him in His death, to take up our cross, an instrument of sacrifice, discomfort, and death and follow Him in the journey to being transformed into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Step 2: Do not conform to this world. I know of no one who wants to be labeled as weird or different, but this is in fact the very thing we are supposed to be in this world; different. Scripture would call us peculiar. One way to put it would be to say, “stop being like everyone else. Stop thinking and acting like this world tells you to. Stop yielding to the temptations of this life.”

Step 3: Transform your mind … maybe I should better say, let Him transform your mind. Renew it. Make it think differently. If sin is ultimately born of our own desires and lusts of flesh, then it stands to reason that the cure is to change those desires.

If you have ever done laundry for an active little boy, you will understand this, if not, then just bare with me. One of the most grotesque things I can think of is to reach down into a wrong-side-out dirty sock that has been worn outside during summer by a little boy who plays in the mud, climbs trees, and splashes in puddles. There are things in there the CDC hasn’t identified yet because he left that sock rolled up in a tight little wod in the bottom of the hamper … from four days ago. It wreaks, its gritty, and rolling that thing out is plain nasty. However, if you want it to get clean, you must do the work of getting that succer turned right-side out. You may have to shake out some dirt, rocks, or other foreign bodies, but the end result is worth it.

This is how we need to approach our minds. We need to get down in there and turn these broken pots of debauchery inside out and renew them by the Word of His Power. We need fresh wineskins to hold the new wine of His Spirit. Simply put, we need our desires to change. The things we want need to be different, they need to be what He wants. Period.

Then, as our hearts begin to change, our minds are renewed by His Spirit and the Word, then and only then can we feel safe in acting without sinning. Only then can we even properly pursue holiness and not the risk of self-righteousness. We need new minds, new desires to stand up under the opportunities Satan will throw our way.

Psalm 119:11 says “I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” The renewal of our minds starts with the filling of the Spirit and Father putting a new heart in us, recreating this old creature into a new and lovely one. Our part is in taming this fleshly packaging through His Word. Reading, studying, memorizing the scriptures will guard the fleshly human heart against all manner of disobedience, against all manner of indulgence of opportunity.

May He renew our minds and hearts today and slay this twisted offspring of our desire; sin and death.

The Future of the SBC and JD Greear

I'm not gonna lie, I've just about had it. At least that's where I was yesterday, and for most of today to be honest. I'd pretty much had my fill of the way the SBC leadership and the leadership of the SBTC had behaved in the recent past and was, and maybe still am, calling for a possible exodus of churches if they can't get their act together. Frankly, I think the current leadership totally botched the Dr. Patterson issue. That's just my opinion, but I'm not alone.

I guess my problem is I've seen too much. I've seen the leadership of the Good ole Boys network in action, personally in my church, and corporately in the national scene. I've seen the principles of our beliefs set aside for agendas, career advancement, and the good name of the convention. However, the last time I checked, our call was to the church, not to any convention in particular. I'm a purist in this, so if we didn't have a convention, it wouldn't impact me all that much honestly, but this isn't about me. 

It would greatly impact missionaries and countless other ministries out there who rely on them and expect a moral compass to guide the organization. That's where I've jumped ship. The ship no longer seems to have the guts to hold itself accountable in any real and lasting way. Just today I was saying, "I'm done. We need out."

Then, a friend shared an article with me showing the video of JD Greear calling the SBC to repentance. You can watch it here. This was a sobering video and message. Today I was prepared and ready to jettison the whole thing until I watched Bro. Greear call me to repentance for a spirit of division. No, he wasn't talking to me directly, but that doesn't mean it didn't apply.

For over 2 decades I have pounded the drum that you don't walk out on your family, meaning the church, when times get hard, or even when they walk out on you. Our commitment and covenant is our bond. I've never extended this to the convention. It is a man-made institution and different than the church, for sure, but I'm no longer certain it doesn't deserve the same consideration. Instead of being so fed up that we leave, what if we were so fed up we passionately and lovingly held ourselves and our leadership accountable through prayer and transparency. If we are fed up with the direction we must be the ones to change it. 

If the likes of JD Greear can be brought into leadership of the SBC, not only am I in, but I'm ALL in. His message about accountability, transparency, the treatment of women, and everything he shared is on point. Shame on me for taking a road paved in self-righteousness and unwilling to shoulder some of the load of correction to right the ship. 

This isn't to say the day will not come that we realize the ship must be abandoned. That will depend on the stances the leadership takes and the direction of the denominational culture. Today JD Greear gave me hope. Hope I should have had in Christ all along. So, for now, instead of saying, "Let it fall" I want to say, "let's see if it can fly!" I still maintain this is a crucial time for the SBC. If it, as an organization, can learn from this, repent, and seek the Lord, then we can move on. If not, we are in a fragile and sad place which will cause us to evaluate our affiliation with it. I pray this is not the case.

Spend some time praying for the SBC leadership this week. They need it. We need it. The lost of this world need it.

 

Santa Fe, Theology, and Babylon

As I was getting ready for work today I watched, or more listened, to the coverage of the Santa Fe shooting. The news anchors were doing what news anchors do, covering the victims' family stories, profiling the shooter, discussing the cry for gun control, and talking about how tragic this all was. They're right, it is very tragic on many levels. However, while Facebook explodes with armchair pontification from people like me, my thoughts went to another place. My thoughts stayed mostly on the shooter. Not that I wasn't deeply saddened for the victims, because I am. I can't even imagine what their parents are going through right now. One mother felt as though her daughter was the main target because she had dismissed the shooter's romantic advances in the past. The heartbreak she is feeling now is beyond the scope of my understanding.

What crossed my mind regarding the shooter and the situation in general was a sobering, saddening thought. This isn't getting any better, it's getting worse, more frequent, and seemingly with less and less provocation. What crossed my mind is that my children, the ones who are left in this age range, and my grandchildren, are growing up in a world where this is the norm, not the exception. Shootings are driving a new industry that travels to teach school aged children how to defend themselves with desks, books, and pencil bags. Our world, like the hearts of men, is dark and growing darker all the time.

I thought about how do we reach the kids like this? The schools can't fix this. The government can't fix this. Only the High King of Heaven can fix this. We, as the church, the image-bearers of the Most High, must figure out a way to bring His peace to this dark and lonely place. He is the only thing that can make this any better, and the rub is, it probably wont get better as a whole, but it can get better for some. We must be on the lookout for the lonely, the discarded, the hurting, and be the Light to them in this dark and weary place.

Everyone is hitting social media with thoughts like, "if we hadn't kicked God out of schools, perhaps this wouldn't be happening." Perhaps. However, this issue isn't coming from the schools, and I don't think the answer lies in the schools, either. Sure, arming teachers may or may not help in the moment. Sure, bringing prayer back in might help expose students to morsels of truth, but to think that a daily prayer on the loudspeaker would somehow single-handedly stem the tide of this level of darkness seems a bit odd to me. However, appealing to the Creator is our hope. The problems isn't our schools, and that's not what punched me in the face this morning. It was this:

We must prepare and train our children to live and survive in a depraved post-modern world with redefined norms where school shootings, gender confusion, victimization, trafficking, and all sorts of debauchery are no longer exceptions to the rule. Our kids are growing up in dark world that will only get darker. They are most certainly strangers in a strange land that grows more hostile each day to the ways of Jesus.

This is why it is imperative, and I can't say this too strongly, it is IMPERATIVE that we train our children up in theology. I'll be the first to admit, even as a pastor, to relying far too much on the church, round table discussions, and passive teaching moments to instill theology into my children. These are all good strategies, but they are not enough. Maybe the most important practical task our churches have before them in this time (other than pure Gospel teaching/living) is a revitalization of passion around theologically training our kids and teaching our families to do it at home, then doing it!

Soft-sold lessons that give warm fuzzy emotional feelings will not sustain them in the days to come. They need to know who God is, why Jesus came, why they need him (their own depravity before God), and how to walk upright in the ways of Jesus while standing up under the scrutiny and hatred of a world that hated Jesus, too. We need to be intentional about building strong leaders, strong servants, empowered by the Holy Spirit of God. I beg youth pastors, senior pastors, elders and all leaders, don't water down the truth. The kids can handle it. The need it. They are facing such devastating truths in the world around them, we MUST give them weapons with which to defend the faith, to guard their souls, and to lead the church of the next generation. We must teach them to rely solely on God, to stop worrying about whether they are relevant, and encourage them to be sound.

Jesus is the hope for people such as the shooter in Santa Fe. We and our children are the ones saddled with the task of sharing that hope with him and those like him. Time is short, the task urgent. We must equip them now to flourish, not just survive, in Babylon.

The Development of Sin - Part 3

The Penalty

Continuing with our Algebra lesson, let us review:

Temptation = Desire + Opportunity

Sin = Desire + Opportunity + Action

It then follows:

Desire + Opportunity + Action - Forgiveness/Repentance = Death

The imagery in this passage (James 1:14-15) and others regarding the process of sin is simultaneously beautiful and terrifying. Let’s look at two passages which deal with the severe cost of sin James 15 and Romans 6:23.

In James, we have a picture of a birth. Strikingly, the thought of a birth is almost always a joyous occasion. We envision the plump little bundles, the small whimpers and cries as the baby nuzzles close to its mother and finds comfort. The picture in James is vastly different. Roy Zuck calls sin a “grotesque child.” Stark contrast to our thoughts of a precious baby. It is born of an unholy union between an unmentioned father and our desires, or lusts: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. This unmentionable father of death is most certainly the devil himself, metaphorically speaking of course.

Satan is the father of lies, a tempter to evil, and a perverter of truth who loves nothing more than feed on our lustful desires, arrange for opportunities to tempt us to action, then capitalize on our fleshly weakness as we plunge headlong into his traps. This unholy union breeds the grotesque offspring of sin, which in turn, matures and produces its own child, death.

As Zuck relates, unchecked lust and desire bring sin, unconfessed sin (hence the subtraction of repentance in the formula) yields death. Romans 6:23 backs up his claims and reminds us the wages of sin is death. Another interesting metaphor for this twisted child of desire.

Wages are given for something earned, something sought after. I have never known anyone paid for a job they didn’t do or hired for a position they didn’t seek. In a very real sense, the wages paid for sin are given to us for that which we have chosen. The resulting spiritual and physical death are ours to own and ours to avoid.

I firmly believe if we really understood the eternal and temporal wages of mature sin, we would be much more inclined to strive for holiness. It is popular in our church culture to draw in the crowds and pacify the hearer with thoughts of lesser degrees of condemnation which follows sin and fail to warn each other of the vicious and awful payment exacted on unrepentant sin. It will destroy us. It’s penalty is death, and it doesn’t happen to us all at once. It is a process.

So what are we to do about this burden under which we were conceived in our broken flesh? How do we avoid such terrible destruction? Our next installment will explore the depths of dealing with this destructive cycle.

Because She Picked Me

After packing up my Papaw's books and sermons, I was considering our place in the eternal future of things and our Kingdom impact. What would our legacy be? Why do we do what we do? Are we doing it well? That sort of thing. This morning I saw and heard something so affirming I don't know how to describe it. I tell my wife all the time I've fallen I'm love with her all over again. Its not a joke, I mean it. When I see her living her gift, loving us well, or simply being who God made her to be, I'm smitten. Today, it happened again.

I won't sugar coat it, being a foster-adoptive parent is hard. It's also hard on kids. Especially on days like today. Everywhere you turn someone is talking about their awesome mom and the wonderful relationship they have with her. There are sermons, cards, gifts, special food, and extra family for lunch.

What we often miss are those for whom Mother's Day is hard. Those who have tried unsuccessfully to become parents, those who have lost children, and those who are facing, maybe for the first time, the fact that they may never see their mom again. Mother's Day is hard on foster children. Period. There are floods of emotion, or sometimes a complete absence of it, and everywhere in between.

But today, today we were reminded why we do what we do. We were reminded what it means to be that someone who has lost their original someone, father to the fatherless, mother to the motherless. Let's face it, we realize some of you look at us like we are crazy when our family piles out of the car like clowns at a circus. Or when we get charged automatic gratuity at the restaurant because there are so many of us at one table. It's OK with us, we know. We simply believe James 1:27 is true: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."

We also are keenly aware that what we do is not us, it is all Christ working to make straight the crooked paths we travel. Psalm 68:5 says: "Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation." Seeing a child with no home find one, with no mother, or at least one that is taking care of them, allowing a child to root out a spot in your heart only to leave it, hopefully better than when they arrived; this is truly the habitation of God. In the long and frustrating days, there are days like yesterday, too.

Yesterday they showed a video at church of the kids saying why they loved their mom, what made her great. When it came time for Eli's video, my eyes filled up with tears. He simply said to Tammy, "you're awesome because out of all the foster kids out there, you picked me."

He's right, you know. We did pick him. We may not have picked our biological kiddos, but our love for them is as much a choice every day as the others who came to our home later. Every day we all must choose. Choose to love. Choose to be fathers and mothers who care and sacrifice.  We have to be moms to those who have no one else to whom they can give a Mother's Day card.

Being a mom isn't always about biology, it is about making a choice; a choice to love.

Yesterday evening Tammy and I sat on the back porch just the two of us. We were talking about the spiritual legacy we wanted to leave. I mentioned something in the conversation about witnessing and telling people about the Lord. She then responded with something I thought very profound in its simplicity and impact. She said, "I don't really have the confidence or personality to go out and tell everyone I know about Jesus, but I know how to be a mom. Maybe through that these boys will see the Love of Christ in that."

I fell in love with her all over again ... again.

7 Plastic Bins

20180514_1345407312995284214351994.jpg

It's been a pretty eventful couple of years. I went back to teaching after a six year break, I'm finishing my Master's, and four of the dearest friends I've ever had moved their families to Colorado. Our first grandbaby was born and the 106 year old church I pastored for ten years dissolved and joined with another church. We brought three 11 year old boys into our home. My father in law and my grandfather both passed away.

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours boxing up my grandfather's books and sermon notes. He was a preacher and missionary for somewhere in the neighborhood of 65 plus years. When I was little I would travel with him from church to church as he spoke and sang some of the corniest songs you've ever heard. I wont lie and say he and I agreed on everything, because we didn't. I wont even say he always lived out everything he studied, but neither do I, and neither do you. However, sitting there flipping through sermon after sermon made me ponder the mortality we all face. At the end of the day, 65 plus years of ministry was reduced to seven plastic bins.

That's it. Seven tubs of books, loose papers, and long forgotten sources of inspiration. This was his legacy. Or was it? I was sad. Partly because I miss him and partly because it seemed like so little, such an incredible reduction of decades worth of work into a few small piles, but then the stories came.

My grandmother came in to see how things were going. Every book, every page sparked a memory. A memory of this preacher and that church. She said when he started preaching he only preached for about 15 minutes at a time. "But he got over that," she laughed. She talked of people he witnessed to who trusted Christ and went on to share that hope with others. We visited about prayer meetings, revivals, and friends long since home with the Lord. That was his ministerial legacy, not the shards of paper in the bins.

It has been said that God makes straight lines with crooked sticks. I know for certain this is true in my case. It was true for Papaw, and it's true for us all. My heroes aren't really preachers and pastors. My heroes are their families. It is the preacher's family who sees them at their worst while everyone else sees their best. It's often hard for our families to reconcile these two sides of us; matching the marred with the redeemed.

I couldn't help but think, after serving in ministry for 24 short years, "what will your legacy be, Matt Parker?" What will be in the jumbled stack of bins representing the sum total of your efforts for the Kingdom. That's a tough question, and maybe a harder answer. For sure there will be reminders of a time when my temper defined me. There will be trinkets to echo a day when I sought more for my children's compliance than I did for their hearts. What will be my legacy with my family be? Another hard question.

There will be things my kids find when I'm gone and one of them will say, "Why on earth did he keep this?" What they may not know is it reminded me of something; something special. Like the shell casing from my brother-in-law's military funeral or the yellow Power Ranger given to me by a young man I led to Christ. They'll wonder why on earth I still have every note Tammy ever wrote when we dated or the really ugly candle one of them gave me for Father's day or some other occasion. Then, they'll put it all in a bunch of bins and try to figure out what to do with it.

Some will go to the trash, some will go to loved ones, and some will just sit there, a vault for some piece of forgotten lore. But my question is this: What will your bins represent? Will they be filled with pointless and meaningless trinkets, money, power, or prestige? Will they be filled with items for which no one can find any meaning?

Or will they be filled with evidence of a life lived pouring the Kingdom into those around you? Sadly, I fear my seven dusty bins will be filled with far more wasted time than effective effort, but it doesn't have to be this way. Today our pastor reminded us as long as you can pray, you have hope. My prayer today is for us to fill our bins with memories and stories of how we did the only thing He really called us to do; die to self, live for others, and praise His name.

God is Unbelievable!!

Yesterday I posted my annual birthday post for Brynna and talked about how we wanted to get her a bike I could push her in because she loves to be outside, but is really limited in what she can do. Though it wasn't my intent to figure out how to actually get the bike just yet, just sharing an amazing looking product we had found, God had other plans. Several people had commented they were praying about it and hoped that God would grant this for Brynna. Well, for those of you who were praying, I'll make sure you get on my prayer chain because your prayers were effective. Yesterday an anonymous donor took care of the cost of the bike and we should be able to have it by the time school is out or shortly thereafter. We are so excited and blessed beyond measure.

Image result for duet bike

God doesn't always answer our prayers in this manner. Sometimes He beckons us to simply hang on to the mast of the ship as the storm rolls through, or says "be patient" when we lay a desire out before Him. Then, then there are those times when He flexes His muscles of Goodness and does the miraculous. This is just one reminder that meeting our needs, and sometimes granting the desires of our hearts, is just something within His nature to do. Don't forget, one time when He and the disciples need to pay taxes, they found money in the mouth of a fish. Making stuff happen in this earthly realm is no hill for a stepper like our Savior.

Tammy and I are so grateful for the unmerited favor of God and the undeserving grace He shows us daily. Thank you, thank you, thank you whoever you are for blessing our baby girl in such a generous way. We will post some videos when we go on our first ride. She's gonna have a BALL!!!

 

The Development of Sin - Part 2

14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

James 1:14-15

The Sin Itself

If Temptation = Desire + Opportunity, then Sin = Desire + Opportunity + Action. I know, I know, this isn’t a math lesson and some of you just had a really awkward flashback to Algebra I, but stay with me. As we noted earlier, temptation isn’t in and of itself a sin. It happens. It is is born out of the desires of our flesh, the sinful ones that call on us to indulge in self-serving indulgence instead of trusting the Lord for our provision.

In this particular text, there is an admonition to count every situation and circumstance as joy in the midst of trial. This is a very hard thing to do. In the pit of the valley our flesh cries out for relief. Sometimes all we want is for it to stop, to return to normal, or be relieved, when what we really should be doing is simply trusting. Often in the darkest of times His still small voice gently whispers, “Trust Me.”

This desire for self-sufficiency and self-reliance betrays us when the opportunity presents itself. Instead of resting, we worry. Instead of being grateful, we complain. Instead of loving, we hate.

It’s easy to give into our desires. The hard part is to stand firm in the opportunity, look our desire in the face and deny it. I know some of you right now are saying, “but what if God wants to end the trial, or grant the desire.” In that case, it isn’t our own desire of which we are speaking, it would be His desire. This passage is dealing with our own desires, those desires that go counter to what God wants for us. To stand in the face of ourselves, deny ourselves, and move forward is no easy task.

He knows this. That’s why He gives us the Holy Spirit to empower us to obey. This is why He puts us in trials of life, in the crucible, to melt away our trust in self and transform us into a pure reflection of His image. This is where we go wrong.

When opportunity presents itself, opportunity to fulfill our sinful, selfish desires, and we act on it, then we have sinned. This action can be outward physical action, indulgence, thoughts, or attitudes of the heart such as bitterness and hate.

We are presented opportunities all the time to indulge these fleshly desires and take the opportunity to act and thus to sin. Our call before the Lord is to die to ourselves, deny those desires, to take up our cross and follow Him in holiness and obedience.