Denominations, Abomination & the Christ

Denominational barriers, in my opinion, are a bit like a certain proposed wall between USA and Mexico; we build the wall, and the other side pays. We’re in; they’re out. It’s a divisive ‘us v/s them’ mentality, when ‘denomination-as-an identity’ is what we focus on, rather than focusing on Jesus, and rather than blessing our neighbours who also focus on Jesus, but do it differently. That said, I’ve read several strong ‘anti-denomination’ articles and comments ranging from general anti-denominational rants to calling all use of denomination identifiers demonic, to healthy questioning. (Observation would tell me that those who are totally anti-denomination, are very ‘pro-my-belief-system’ and create the same barriers without the denomination name associated.) And it all made me think below the surface of this problem.

Isn’t the real issue from Whom/whom, or what we draw our spiritual identity? Is it from a denomination? From a leader? (dead or alive) Or from any other person or thing other than Christ? To whom do we look for validation and affirmation? Denominations are an unnecessary thing in and of themselves, granted, but I’d hesitate to call them demonic, as there’s no biblical evidence, nor current evidence that they are. But there’s plenty of evidence that they can be problematic. And that problem is old as the idea of Christianity and church. “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos…” they said in Corinthians, and Paul corrected them, to bring it back to Christ, and that is something that popularly ‘followed’ or ‘idolized’ spiritual leaders sometimes fail to do, as they watch their ‘tribe’ grow in strength in support of them, lifting them up rather than bringing it back to the simple gospel of Jesus. Good spiritual leaders will turn that ‘lifting up’ back to Jesus, not in false humility, but humbly accepting thanks and redirecting glory to God. Less than stellar spiritual leaders will absorb that ‘idolatry’, and as their name grows, the shift happens from Jesus to a person. (I would know… I’m “MENNOnite” by cultural birth, which wouldn’t be a big deal if it wasn’t a spiritual identity.) And as that name grows and if the identity becomes about a person or a set of beliefs held by that person, rather than about Jesus, divisions are inevitable. But the problem isn’t about the name, it’s about the position it is given, and the division it causes in the body of Christ.

That divisiveness is not good. But it goes deeper than denominational name, doesn’t it? Is the root not a baser thing than that? A thing of selfish ambition and fear of losing position if we don’t feed and absorb that place of being held high, or having our beliefs held high… even higher than Christ? We forget that the ‘positions’ we are given in spiritual leadership are sacred callings, and they are servant-hood; an invitation by God to do His work, and when He has called, He preserves our calling if we trust Him and humbly turn the hearts of people to Him. This is gracious spiritual leadership, honouring ‘the Christ’, whether with denominational ‘titles’ or not. And I have known men and women of great ‘position’, wealth, and wisdom, who have walked humbly with their God, and whose names hold significant ‘presence’ when referenced, yet always they hold their hands up, redirecting to Jesus, the worship, as did Peter and Paul on the streets, as told in Acts 14. These are men and women of various denominations, or no denominations at all, but they are true heroes of faith, and true spiritual leaders. Because spiritual leaders always lead the way to God; they are never an end in themselves.

I will grant it, I don’t like the whole ‘denominations’ thing much, and find it particularly unnecessary as a frame of reference as to what ‘kind’ of Christian I am. I’m either the Jesus kind, or I’m not one at all. But I can extend grace for the idea of it, because it dates back to the beginning of the church, from what I can tell, though often associated with cities, and now associated with beliefs. I don’t think it will keep people out of heaven, so I come back to the argument that strong labeling or condemnation of denominations seems a bit over zealous.

Revelation addresses unique church identities well, pointing out that each has something to offer, but with areas of deep need for transformation. So I question whether ‘ridding the world of denominations’ is the answer, or even possible. Rather, tearing down the invisible divides we create by holding high our own positions, or this person or that one, rather than lifting Jesus high… now that’s a mission I’m into. Because when Jesus is lifted high, people are drawn to Him. And when He is invited in, the demonic flees and people are made whole and the body of Christ is made whole, not divided. We humans tend to focus on solving a problem so the Christ can be portrayed accurately and we try to rid ourselves (or each other) of the demonic to invite Jesus in, but the reverse is the answer most times; when Jesus is invited in, the darkness scatters. Darkness cannot exist in the light. And Jesus does not fear that darkness. In His darkest hour, He opened His arms wide, welcoming the whole world into grace.

And that’s the problem with us… We tend to cross our arms and close our hearts, but Jesus opened His arms wide, and His heart wider. If we stop ‘fixing the problem’, and rather invite a broad shift in focus away from the denominations that exist, and away from the people who lead them, and collectively lift Jesus high, and walk in the way of His love, transformation will come. Barriers will come down. Walls will crumble.

Love,
~ T ~

 © Trudy Metzger

Choosing the Abundant Life

For some, a title like this puts your guard up, as you brace yourself for the prosperity gospel. Others may be hoping for it, hoping I can promise you that, by giving a percent of your money, God will give you back that amount times one hundred–or some wonderful ‘get rich’ promise. But I’m not talking about the ‘name it and claim it’, or the ‘prosperity gospel’ version of abundant life. I’m talking about the real abundant life, the abundant life Jesus came to bring.

When I speak of abundant life, I speak of a heart that is full, when the wallet is empty, and being content with what God has given you. Sometimes ‘abundant life’ is sharing with those less fortunate, even if it means that you will have to sacrifice in some areas, because they are in a place of greater need than you

This is something my mother taught me, when I was a little girl in Mexico. We were poor and didn’t always have enough food for our family. Still, when homeless people wandered by, holding out their dishes for food, she managed to find something to feed them, even if only bread. She didn’t do it without fretting, feeling a sense of obligation, and yet worrying about caring for her own family. And though life was difficult for us in so many ways, watching my mother give in spite of her own need communicated a powerful message to me.

In different ways, Dad also gave when he had nothing to offer, did work for people without charging them what they owed and other acts of generosity that he could not afford. Both of my parents shone in this area and raised a family would sacrifice the shirts on our backs, to help others.

Abundant life is a life that gives generously of time, money and resources, giving where there isn’t always a return, pouring out and yet always being full and satisfied. But it’s more than just the material and physical realm.

Abundant life is a spiritual state of well-being. It is knowing that all is well, where it really matters—in relationship with God—whether there is lack in our present circumstances, or not. It is knowing that God is more than enough, and that He has more than enough where our resources fall short, and He will meet our needs.

 

Living with purpose, seeing our hopes, our dreams, and the desires of our hearts, come to life in our experience is also part of living an Abundant Life. When we know God, when we ‘delight’ in Him, He promises to give us these desires.  (Psalm 37:4 and Psalm 20:4)

Often we view an Abundant Life through the lens of selfish, materialism, but that’s not what the Abundant Life consists of. Jesus came to give life, and life more abundantly. (John 10:10) We can only give what we have to offer. This means that Jesus lived abundant life, and as our example, He lived a life of sacrifice but a life so closely connected to God that His needs were fully met on every level. If once we get a revelation of this truth, we will never again life in want, but will live a full abundant life, a life of generous sacrifice and great joy.

© Trudy Metzger 2012

Spiritual Abuse: Introduction

Tears literally poured down her face as she spoke the words, sheer desperation in her voice, yet with hope and confidence in her words. “Trudy, they want me to repent and come back to believing what they believe. But I can’t do it. I just can’t do it now that I know Jesus.” These were the words spoken by a young woman–meaning my age or younger–who spent her entire life going to church, practicing a religion. After one encounter with Jesus, she saw that her congregation didn’t teach Jesus, but taught religion.

She went on to tell me how her family felt she had shamed them by leaving. They felt rejected even though she repeatedly told them she cared and loved them. It wasn’t good enough. If she refused to return to her congregation, she was not welcome in the family. She was shunned.

The church pursued her as well, telling her she would go go hell if she did not repent and reinstate her membership. By all external appearances she still held to every rule, every standard. What had changed was her belief system. She traded religion for relationship and she could not keep silent about that relationship with Jesus. She spoke with respect and honour even though she was deeply wounded by her family and the church.

Eyes pleading, she asked, “Trudy, what do I do? It hurts so bad!”

It is difficult to look into that depth of pain and know there is nothing that can be done to resolve the circumstances. The circumstances may never be made right. In that moment the only thing I can offer is to bring Jesus to the pain, and the pain to Jesus. The only thing I can do is help people in this situation understand how God sees them, how He loves them, how He grieves with them, and help them see in the Bible, that God is not like that!

I have heard these testimonies of pain frequently. The above story is not a one-time event, but a blend of repeated cries from women and men, deeply wounded by, typically well-meaning, religious leaders. Usually the leaders—be it Bishops, Priests, Elders, Ministers, Preachers, Pastors or other leaders—are only trying to ‘protect the flock’ from what they perceive to be deception or sin. That never makes it right. Spiritual abuse is wrong in every way, regardless of the intent of the heart, because it completely violates the heart of God and misrepresents who God is!

God called leaders to ‘shepherd the flock’–using biblical terminology, 1 Peter 5:1-3–not to control through manipulation and abuse. Never did the right to control enter into the equation in God’s leadership guide and it is not to be part of New Testament church life. Never can it or should it be accepted or blessed as such. We’ll touch on that again in another post.

Does this mean a church should be a ‘free for all’ and ‘do as you please’ with no one to hold the church accountable? By no means! But that’s a topic for another day. Today is merely an introduction to a very complex and multifaceted problem.

John 3:16-17         16. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.     17. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through

The topic of spiritual abuse has been on my heart for weeks, but how does one go about tackling it? I’m not certain… but I’m about to find out. I want to spend a few blog posts looking at some of the ways that often well-meaning humans misrepresent the heart of God, especially within the context of spiritual abuse either in churches or Christian organizations.  Iwill not attack on them—that would serve no purpose whatsoever—but rather looking honestly at the pain, and then hearing what God says in His Word, for the purpose of inner healing. In the process we will explore the impact abuse has on victims because of lies they believe about God and themselves, and find God’s truth to break down the lies.

We will look at what we do know about God, based on stories in the Bible and especially drawing from the life of Christ, and explore the mystery of His heart and His character. Since He is Emmanuel, ‘God among us’, it seems most appropriate to watch God and learn the right way from Him. The best way to become like someone is to study the individual as closely as possible on a personal level. Jesus is ‘God in the flesh’ and therefore the best example and role model.

When we know someone personally and someone else comes along and tells the untruth about them, we are much more likely to take a step back and say, “No… I know that person. That can’t be right.” So to know Jesus, and know Him intimately, equips us to stand against the damage of spiritual abuse. Ultimately, spiritual abuse is rooted in misconceptions about God. If we know God intimately and personally, we have nothing to fear from Him or people around us—“…there is no fear in love…”—but when we don’t know Him we can be tossed about by the control and misrepresentation of men and women who profess Christ, but live out of selfish ambition.

Knowing God is the key to standing against spiritual abuse, manipulation and any form of spiritual control. God placed us here with the freedom—or God-given right—to choose our path, our faith, our allegiance. It is wrong that any human would try to take away what God has given us as a gift, and attempt to control and manipulate the mind through fear. God did not. Why should they?

That does not, however, remove God’s Word as Truth and authority. It doesn’t mean we should disrespect leadership. That is also not biblical.

In this series, as always, but especially here, I welcome feedback, suggestions, questions, thoughts challenges and anything you would like to share. I don’t have all the answers, but God’s Word does, so that is where I will go for answers. My one request is that we speak kindly and respectfully when we disagree, and that we don’t do any personal attacks. This can be a very sensitive topic and stir up a lot of anger in those who feel violated. The anger is not surprising or wrong, but what we do with it is critical. If you have suffered spiritual abuse, please don’t name the individuals responsible—I can’t approve that for my blog. If you need to vent or get something personal off your chest, or if you need prayer, email me at info(insert ‘at symbol’)faithgirlsunleashed.com and I will respond and will pray for you. Alternatively, if you would like contact information for a professional counsellor, I will be happy to do my research and try to connect you with someone in your area. (Canada and USA only) I am a certified life coach, speaker and trainer, not a counsellor.

As much as possible, I will post at least once a day—on a good day twice. If you share a story or a question, I may refer to it in my blog but will not share your name, location or any details that would expose you or make you vulnerable. If you do not wish for me to refer to it, please explicitly say so.

I look forward to finding God’s light, in a dark and painful journey. There is hope in every dark experience.

© Trudy Metzger 2012

God Doesn’t Play the Daisy Game

“He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me…. “

As a little girl, when I had a crush on a boy, I would play the daisy game. With each ‘he loves me’ the anticipation grew. But, as I neared the end, if it looked like it was going to end on ‘he loves me not’ I would throw the faulty daisy to the ground and start all over with a new one. Seems to me, as I recall it, that sometimes I would pull two petals at a time, if I grew impatient, just to get to the end faster. However, if it seemed to be in my favour,  I would go back to removing petals one at a time just to hear ‘he loves me’ in the ebd. Having heard what I wanted to hear–that I am loved–I would skip away happily.

It occurred to me recently that I used to play the daisy game with God.  Unfortunately when  I landed on ‘He loves me not’ I actually believed it. It wasn’t as simple as moving on until I ended with ‘He loves me’. I thought of my salvation as a fragile petal that could be plucked at will when something wasn’t right in my life. If I sinned or was angry, for example, a petal would fall and the echo in my heart would proclaim a resounding ‘He loves me not’. I didn’t have the courage to grab the next petal, clutch it in my hand and say “He loves me! Yes He does!” Instead I sank in defeat and as I did all the petals began to scream “He loves me not!” The moment I repented or had a happy-mood-swing, I felt loveable and claimed the next ‘he loves me’ petal, but they were fewer and farther in between with the passing of time.

My expectation at age 12, when I first ‘responded’ at Revival Meetings, following a hell fire and brimstone message, was that God would make me good. I thought He would miraculously make me perpetually joyful, obedient and victorious. As days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months and months turned to years, I discovered that the miracle cure didn’t work. Terrified of hell I kept trying but with no one to disciple me in my faith or mentor me, I became discouraged and by age fifteen I took the ‘God daisy’ and stomped on it. The hope of being loved or loveable was gone.

I left home a month before I turned sixteen and spent the next two years ripping bouquets of  daisies out of God’s hand and shredding the petals. Hurt, angry and desperately searching for love, I ran as far from God as I could, grabbing broken petals as I ran and begging for just one that would tell me I was loved.

A month after my eighteenth birthday I had a profound revelation through the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. As He spoke the words “neither do I condemn you” something happened in my spirit. In that instant I realized that every petal on every daisy I ripped from His hand and shredded said “I love you”.

God doesn’t play the daisy game. The moment we receive Him as our Lord and Saviour we are saved. Our salvation does not rise and fall, based on our humanity, nor our perfection or the lack of it.

The petals in His daisy bouquet simply say: “He loves me. He loves me lots!”

© Trudy Metzger 2012

To be a Friend of God

It all started with a random thought about my brother-in-law, Leonard Hursh, who is in ministry with the Eastern Mennonite church in Pennsylvania. That thought took me back to my own days in the Mennonite culture and I started recalling the preachers of my childhood. Some were dynamic speakers with passion for truth, regardless what their perception of truth was, and these men inspired me even where I did not agree with them. Some were very on target in their teachings, almost charismatic. Others were dryer than dinosaur bones. Yet others manipulated the mind out of a need for control and power. We saw it all, as most denominations and cultures do—the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

This thought led me to asking the question, Where was God? In a culture that had so much good in it, how was it that the true God seemed to have slipped into the shadows for many? Hidden at times, angry and in your face at other times. In a culture that prided itself in two main things—peace and humility—how did God become so violent and angry for some, or even for many?

This was not true in every conservative Mennonite denomination, or in every preacher, but my experience from age nine to fifteen often felt like a ‘graceless’ existence. Because of the hard-handed distant leadership of some key preachers and authority figures, I became disillusioned with God, faith, religion and, particularly, my denomination—the Conservative Mennonites. I have since learned to know many kind and caring individuals there, who are Born Again believers. Even in my childhood memories I can now find the good in those years of anxiety and fear, but at the time I was a lost child who mostly felt the anger, fear and shame.

Today, as my brain stumbled through the past, one memory overtook the others. It was not a one-time thing. It happened repeatedly, starting at age ten until I was about fourteen, in the days before my heart was completely hardened.

The song leader would get up, go to the front of the church, perch his Hymnal on the music stand, clear his throat, and announce the song number. As we began to sing, tears started to pour down my face and I could not stop them. There were a few songs that did this to me, but two especially disarmed me. I didn’t understand why then. I felt ashamed. Angry.

I presumed anyone within earshot of my sniffles or sobs, or anyone who saw the tears fall, silently prayed that I would repent, assuming I was feeling convicted of some great and horrible hidden sin. That was the only time we really saw tears in church. And that is why the tears made me angry, because I wasn’t convicted of sin.

Hidden behind that surface anger were feelings I couldn’t identify.

I recall one morning when the song leader chose both of the songs that so deeply touched me. Today, as the memories returned, I revisited the words of the songs and I started to let myself feel all of those things again. As I did, I allowed myself to explore those feelings and discovered a deep heart cry that I believe most of us have, if not all of us.

The first song, Precious Memories, tore at my heart. The only ‘memories’ I carried were of pain and trauma. I wondered what it would be like to sing that song and burst with joy, to know that the memories of family, love and closeness would go with you for life. Depressed and sad, tears spilled down my face. I wanted desperately to know love.

The second song, had I understood it all back then, was the definition of true love.

“I come to the Garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses, and the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses. And He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own, and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.” (Couldn’t resist sharing…. As I wrote this I listened to Elvis Presley’s version of In The Garden on Youtube.)

A prayer I have prayed for years, and continue to pray, is that people will know me as someone who loves God and considers God to be my best friend, through Jesus. I want to be a friend of God. More importantly, I want God to know me as His friend—someone who is not afraid to identify with Him, even when it’s not popular.

James 2:23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.

Like Abraham, who made some pretty messed up decisions, and was still called God’s friend, I want that to be my story.  Though I’d be happy to do without the messed up decisions, it’s too late to avoid that part… I’ve already made those.

As I travelled down memory lane and felt the same emotions in these words, I realized that the tears were the tenderness in my heart for God, as my Friend, in the midst of the chaos and hell of the abuse and violence in my childhood. Reliving the memory, I see myself sitting in the Lakeview Conservative Mennonite church as an eleven year old girl, crying. I see Him walking beside me in a cool and quiet place—the garden of my heart—reminding me that I am His, engaging in conversation, listening to my pain, and telling me that I will not walk the path alone.

The song ends with needing to go, bringing with it a sense of sadness at needing to part and reminding us that our ‘this world life’ awaits, drawing us away from that sweet connection with God.

Thirty-two years have come and gone, since that beautiful spring morning when my heart cried out to know God that way, to be close, to be confident that I am His friend, that He values me and delights in me. Thirty-two years… and many, many rough waters later I see that I have what my heart cried for that day.

Life isn’t perfect. Heck, I’m not perfect so how could life be? I mess up. I sin. I fail. But always, always He is there, my ‘walking buddy’ ready to lift me up and encourage me to keep walking when I fall.

© Trudy Metzger 2012

I Am Loved, Accepted

(How Should We Receive One Another? Faults and all!)

Romans 15:7

Receive one another as Christ received you. This will honor God…

(How Does Christ Receive Us? Broken and Imperfect)

Titus 3:5-6

not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

Today I thought a lot about what makes us accepted. It all started with breakfast in bed. Well, sort of in bed. I came downstairs to find my two youngest sons already awake.

Todd, who is almost 13, was a bit disappointed to see me, but not because he doesn’t love me. “Aw… I was hoping Daddy would come down first,” he said. “I wanted to make you breakfast in bed.”

I told him I would quickly finish what I was doing and then go back to bed. This pleased him and immediately he set out to make my breakfast. He scrambled several eggs with cayenne pepper in—he knows I love spicy food so decided to be creative—and neatly arranged grapes, cheese and half of a pear on a plate.

I was just wrapping up what I was doing, and was ready to run back to bed when he decided to make a cup of coffee for me. I didn’t realize he has never used our Tassimo with the new disc holder so I didn’t offer any assistance. Almost instantly I heard a hiss and a sizzling sound.

Fortunately I was still downstairs and immediately I ran to the Tassimo to find coffee grinds everywhere and a mess on the counter. I cleaned it up, showed Todd how to use it and then went upstairs and pretended to sleep.

Minutes later Todd appeared in our bedroom, gently ‘woke me up’ and told me breakfast was ready.

Much picture taking and fussing later, I enjoyed a lovely meal.

Kordan, who is ten, walked into our room and disappeared into our closet. Moving a stool along the closet so that he could see the top level, he carefully studied my clothes. At length he arranged a selection of four tops that I could choose from to wear for Mother’s day. And in his favourite colours—three had predominant colours in various shades of blue, and one in red and black. I tried them on, one at a time, posing for Kordan so he could pick his favourite.

When all was said and done, his favourite one was a bit too snug and we had to go with his second favourite…. a top I don’t wear often. It’s one of those tops that I loved at the store and then it never quite made it to my favourite list. But Kordan gave it a ‘thumbs up’, so I wore it.

It occurred to me, as I thought about these special Mother’s Day moments, that sometimes our love for God is like that. We offer Him our service, broken by humanity, tainted at times by selfish motives. Our imperfect love is more about us than about Him. It’s like we serve Him coffee with grounds spilled everywhere, even in His cup. And the outfit we dress Him in is more to make us feel good, than to represent Him.

As a mom I was delighted with breakfast, even though it left a mess. I loved my outfit, even though it wasn’t my favourite top. I loved both of these gifts because I saw the love my sons poured into the offering. It wasn’t their perfect presentation that made their gift acceptable.

Only two things made these gifts so special this morning. They are my sons. That alone is enough. And their hearts desire was to bless and honour me. That was the true gift.

We struggle sometimes to see that God accepts us and loves us because we are His children. We fail and fall short and then fear rejection. We doubt His love and acceptance based on our shortcomings. When I lived my Christian life that way, it was all about me, and I missed the blessing of the unconditional love He offers His children. In my lack, I also placed these expectations on my children.

They say we live out in our lives what we believe about God, and there is truth in it. In the days when I felt God demanded perfect service, the mess would have overtaken the purity of the gift and my clothing preference would have overruled my son’s love. I would have been frustrated, maybe even angry.

How tragic to go through life that way and miss the wonder of the love in a child’s heart—messes and all!

The wonderful thing is that it’s never too late to change how we think. It is never too late to accept the purity of our children’s love. And it’s never too late to receive the love and acceptance God offers us, on His terms—Jesus—and not based on our perfection.


What adjustments do you need to make in how you see God’s love and acceptance?

© Trudy Metzger 2012

The Apple of His Eye


Psalm 33:18-19
(In My Own Words)

18 …the eyes of (the Lord) are on those who (reverence) him,
over those who put their hope in his unfailing love,
19 to deliver them from death
and keep them alive in famine.

 In the verses preceding these, the Psalmist tells us that God sees everything, everywhere, all the time. But then he goes on in these verses to shift from a ‘general watching over’ to ‘God’s eyes are on’ those who reverence Him.

When I first read it, I didn’t catch that subtle difference but on further study, I realized that this is a loaded passage of scripture! Not only does God ‘watch and see’ everything, but he ‘zooms in’—His eyes fixed—and pays special care to those who walk in relationship with Him. When we put our hope in His unfailing love, and not in ourselves, we invite protection from Him, and He honours that.

It doesn’t say that no bad thing will happen, or no harm will come our way—as we sometimes hear taught in Christian culture—but, rather, it says we will not be destroyed, and He will give us life, even in times of deprivation.

The point is that God does not abandon us, or leave us to suffer alone in our difficulties. Even God’s people suffer tragedy, illness and death but our suffering is not hopeless. We know we are loved, cared for and that God brings purpose and meaning to tragedy.

The Psalmist goes on to declare the following:

Psalm 33:20-22
20 We wait in hope for the Lord;

    he is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
22 May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
even as we put our hope in you.

The words ‘wait in hope’ indicate that even while our circumstances are still very wrong, we choose to trust God and recognize that He is our Provider and Protector. We don’t give up. We wait and trust in His holy name—Jesus—and we claim His promise, though not yet seen, as the certainty we cling to. We invite His unfailing love into our experience, even as we invest our hope in Him.

Not only is God our Provider, He is our Provision. Not only our Protector, He is our Protection. When everything else is wrong, when experience screams that there is nothing left to live for, we still have all we need. We have Him.

It is as though we look up, taking our eyes off of experience all around us, and we meet His gaze—His eyes locked intently and lovingly, on us. We become so lost in that gaze, that we are made complete and fulfilled, making all else secondary.

 What experience do you need to lay aside so that you can look into His eyes and find hope again?