The Key to Trust

 

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Trusting can be so difficult for us.

 

Our life experiences oppose trust.

 

The reasons are many. They echo off the walls of pastors and counselors’ offices. They fill the pages of books and journals and they are the subject of conversations over coffee between close friends.

 

Inside of us there are mixed messages about whether or not we should trust. The messages come from training and teaching about so many people or things we should not risk trusting. They also come from disappointments and betrayals that cause us to question whether anyone or anything is trustworthy.

 

It is very difficult to feel safe when we cannot trust.

 

At present, we live in a world where we feel increasingly unsafe. Terror lurks around the corner haunting our steps. Deceit and untruthfulness are common coins of the realm. Failed promises and guarantees leave us filled with doubt.

 

One of perhaps the hardest things is how often those we have deemed trustworthy turn out to not be. It happens with spouses, parents, bosses, companies, organizations, governmental officials, and even pastors.

 

As these things, these experiences, stack up, our mistrust grows as does our doubt and uncertainty. Gradually we find it difficult to trust even those we want to trust or those we need to trust.

 

Even defining what trust is becomes foggy and blurred. British Columbia, Canada

 

Trust is defined as the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

 

As I was reading in Romans 10, I saw Paul shares some significant truth about what gets in the way of trust.

 

 “But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted?” Romans 10:14 The Message

 

Clearly in the context of this verse, Paul is talking about the importance of hearing the gospel and the value of being sent to preach it. Otherwise the conflicting messages disguised as truth could result in distrust.

 

The key to the issue of trust begins with listening and more specifically, what we are listening to.

 

You see, the root word for listen and obey come from the same root word. In Latin, obey would not exist without listen.

 

Our heart and our thoughts tend to follow what we hear or what we are listening to. Most of us would recognize we hear a lot of “junk food” for the mind, heart, and spirit. Over time, it becomes background noise, “elevator music”, but it seeps into us and can slowly erode the truth that should be guiding us.

 

How can we learn to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ if what we are listening to is cluttered with static from ingesting things that are like “junk food”?

 

We can often say that we aren’t really listening and that might be true if we were given a quiz on the content of what we hear. The problem comes from the reality that what we hear is going through that sensory organ into our brain. Our brains can process something threatening in less than a second. Even if we cannot recollect the words or the lyrics or the music exactly, it’s all in there and potentially impacting us.

 

Is it any wonder that we find trust increasingly difficult?

 

If I am going to learn perceptive trust that helps me wisely discern what I am listening to, I need to choose a nourishing diet of truth daily that can sustain me when doubt assails me, when my world falls apart, and when I don’t know which way to turn.

 

It means I need to silence the voices within that have picked up lies and distortions that can play unendingly without action on our part.

 

We all have a tendency of replaying old tapes and these very tapes can keep us mired down and isolated from healthy relationships with others and also with God.

 

Listening to truth will then be what influences what I believe and act upon. It will lead me to trust wisely.

 

According to Adam McHugh, “A Lord who speaks truth to me is good and right; a Lord who listens to me is grace and mystery and glory.”

 

 That is the key to building or rebuilding trust…listening to the One who is Truth. 

 

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Butterfly on Coneflower, Blackberry Farm, TN

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Snare We Easily Accept

 

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They were enjoying their favorite lattes when her friend asked if she were going to the party next weekend. Unaware that a mutual friend had not invited both of them, a cool breeze quickly blew over the cordiality of their conversation leaving an awkward silence fall between them.

 

Those painful moments when we are not chosen or feel left out are impossible to avoid in this life. Even when there is no intent for harm, wounds come. It is often even harder to know how to respond when it happens by accident and you discover a relationship is not what you thought it had been.

 

No matter what we may say in the moment, our heart shrinks back a bit not unlike a turtle pulling back into its shell for protection when sensing danger. In that one moment in time, things change and shift, crumbling within us. An explanation may come, but it cannot cancel the moment.

 

Our mind can be fertile ground for all sorts of imaginings about the person who has wounded us as well as us.

 

We easily go off on rabbit trails reviewing the relationship, but with the filter of the wound coloring every memory and turning even the sweetest ones sour.

 

Whatever trust we have had shrinks a bit, but too often it doesn’t happen with just the one person who wounded us. We trust ourselves less as well and wander off the path wondering what we missed and why we missed it.

 

We tend to be more cautious in all our relationships, more tentative about what we say or share, hesitant about reaching out.

 

Little by little our world gets smaller and we can be tempted to begin to close ourselves off from others except in the most superficial ways. At its worst, we can distance ourselves from the Lord as well at the time we most needed to run to Him.

 

A deadly war is going on and like any warrior in such a time, the smoke and din of battle result in our inability to see or hear, to know the direction we are to take or even how we can summon the strength to move.

 

In the last part of the incredible trilogy of The Lord of the Rings in the Return of the Kings, the movie version gives us a poignant picture that depicts our situation.

 

Frodo and Sam are near the end of their journey to Mt. Doom to destroy the ring of power that has blanketed the world in darkness. Both lay exhausted on the slopes of the mountain scarred and worn by their travels to this point.

 

Sam, the ever-faithful friend, seeks to encourage Frodo and to pull his mind and sight from the relentless and frightening image of the ring of fire and “the eye”.   He asks Frodo, “Do you remember the shire?”

 

I love this scene!

 

Sam is reminding Frodo of his history, his moorings, and the reality that he can no longer see.

 

That is why we so desperately need not to walk alone, especially when we walk in darkness and exhaustion. We need a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24) to remind us of what we have forgotten, to help us to see more clearly.

 

We must not fall prey to the snare that would tempt us to walk alone where we can be more easily seduced to the power of darkness.

 

In Ecclesiastes 4:9-11, we are admonished again about the dangers of traveling alone.

 

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up.” ESV

 

We are admonished because the Lord knows well our weaknesses and has designed us for fellowship, to be with one another and for one another. We see it when Jesus sends His disciples out two-by-two. He knew the risks and dangers, the warfare they would face.

 

So in these scenes on the slopes of Mt. Doom, Sam senses his dearest friend has lost sight of everything precious and good, right and true. He begins to tell Frodo about the shire and he asks if he remembers the taste of strawberries.

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With what little strength he has left, Frodo tells Sam that he can’t recall the taste of food, the sound of water, or the feel of grass. He says he sees nothing but darkness, the ring of fire, and “the eye” whether his eyes are open or closed.

 

Sam, who is also exhausted, looks at Frodo with tears in his eyes and says, “Let’s be rid of it. I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.” Sam picks up Frodo and step-by-step carries him up the mountain.

 

“And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken”. Ec. 4:12

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A Review: The Mind of Terror

 

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Hour by hour we are bombarded with news about outbreaks of terror in our own country and around the world. For many of us, it makes no sense and tests our theology as well.

 

Opening the pages of The Mind of Terror by Tass Saada goes beyond the headlines into the Middle East through the eyes and heart of a onetime sniper with Yasser Arafat’s Fatah government who at 42, experiences a transformed life through the power of the gospel.

 

Few individuals can likely give such a unique view as Tass Saada. Born to a Muslim family in 1951 in the Gaza Strip, he grew up in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Tass meets Osama bin Laden in his father’s auto body repair shop at the age of nine and later as a teen fights with al-Fatah, Yasser Arafat’s militia. But God had a different plan for Tass’s life.

 

After immigrating to the United States, he becomes a Christian in Kansas City, Missouri. Sharing with his family in Qatar what has happened results in an onslaught of rejection and threats by his family who remind him he has brought dishonor to them all.

 

When terrorists slam planes into the New York towers on 9/11, Tass comes under scrutiny from the FBI because of his background. After carefully checking out his story, the agency acknowledges Tass is okay. Even so, it is clear the world has changed greatly as terrorism explodes across the world in the years following.

 

After giving facts and an overview of the list of the ten richest terrorist organizations, their geographic location, and their money sources, Tass begins by introducing his readers to the key principle we need to understand if we are to delve into the minds of those who adhere to terror. The principle is that of “honor” and “shame”.

 

The book opens a window into the collectivistic culture of the Middle East as well as many other nations outside of the West’s individualistic culture. This window immediately adjusts a westerner’s understanding.

 

“If a member of my group has been treated badly, it is my duty to honor him or her by taking action in his or her defense. If someone in my group has shown disloyalty, I must shame them in the strongest way possible.”

 

“Group honor is a higher priority than an individual life.”

 

If we delve deeper into our Bible, we actually discover, there is much that reflects this cultural principle as it arises out of a Middle East environment.

 

If you know nothing else that Tass goes on to share, this alone can be hard for those of us in the West to fully grasp. He explains that to insult one Muslim is to insult them all and that the West is seen as having intentionally humiliated and shamed them throughout history.

 

That belief is one reason young Muslims resort to terror in order to regain honor.

 

The book outlines six key motivations for becoming a terrorist:

  1. “You are in anguish over the violent loss of an innocent loved one, friend, or group member.
  2. You firmly believe your opponent’s faith is wrong or at least corrupted.
  3. You are sickened and disgusted by all of Western society’s decadence.
  4. You want your homeland back.
  5. You grow weary of day-in, day-out discrimination and maltreatment.
  6. You can’t stomach the United States’ rock-solid backing of modern Israel.”

 

Tass then goes on to look at the solutions that have not worked and are likely not to work as well as the origins of this deep conflict. That takes us into the Old Testament when Sarah gives her maid to Abraham to father a child for them. Isaac displaces that child, Ishmael, when Sarah bears a son despite her skepticism at such an advanced age. I would guess you know the story.

 

If so, you also know that God looks at Hagar and her son without food or water in the desert and blesses them, promising 12 sons who will become leaders of 12 tribes or nations. This is really where the origin of the conflict we see today was birthed.

 

There is much more shared by Tass about the complex relationships between the culture of the Middle East and the culture of the West, but he also goes on to share the news we never hear.

 

Tass and his family feel God’s call to be agents of love and peace in this most troubled of regions, the Middle East. They spend much of every year in ministries they have established to reach the children of this region whether they are Christian, Jewish, or Arabic.

 

Their goal: “to help raise little Arabs and Jews to care about each other, to play soccer with each other instead of using machine guns on each other.”

 

To that end, Little Hearts Preschool in East Jerusalem not far from the Damascus Gate opens its doors to children of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and religions. Established in 2011, 65 children are nurtured there and receive instruction in Hebrew, Arabic, and English. All who come know it is a Christian organization even though it is not advertised as such and children from three months to five or six years old will hear Bible stories, but the preschool’s focus is love and a respect for all.

 

They have also founded Seeds of Hope in the West Bank in the historic town of Jericho. There is no Biblical instruction at Seeds of Hope, but the message of harmony in daily living, caring and respecting one another is taught. The staff does not deny being Christian, but rather seek to “take what the Bible says and demonstrate it to the children. And the result over time is a changed child who knows love is better than hatred, peace is better than war.”

 

This book will challenge your thinking, cause you to reconsider your assumptions, and most certainly call you to prayer.

 

In exchange for my review, Tyndale through the Blog Network, provided this book, published by Tyndale House.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gift of Gracious Grace

 

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Few words can stir the hearts, minds, and spirits of most of us like the word, grace. Words fail us when we seek to describe it, but still we try. Most of us can easily recite the definition we learned at some point in our lives: God’s riches at Christ’s expense.

 

For all of the incredible riches and beauty of grace, we so often resist it. We resist it before we first receive it, but it doesn’t stop there. We resist not only being saved by grace, but also living by grace.

 

There is a verse by an unknown author that gives us a solid glimpse of the dilemma that swirls inside of us.

 

Within my earthly temple there’s a crowd:

There’s one of us that’s humble, one that’s proud,

There’s one that’s broken-hearted for his sins,

And one that unrepentant sits and grins.

There’s one that loves his neighbor as himself,

And one that cares for naught but fame and self.

From such perplexing care I would be free

If I could once determine which is me.

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I think those lines echo Paul’s words in Romans 7:15:

 

 “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” NIV

 

 What most often stands in the way for us is shame.

 

It’s shame that hinders us from having the courage to look at the mixture of shadow and light within us, feel ashamed of what is not good, and accept God’s loving acceptance of us knowing that He sees the shadows that haunt us and halt us from reaching out to Him.

 

These parts of us are not separated neatly inside. They live in a murky twilight made up of shadows preventing us from seeing clearly.

 

Yet that is the very obstacle the Lord invites us to overcome because it is His grace that will heal our shame and finally free us. It is that overcoming we need as well after we have walked with Him for a time and see our failures, our habits, and our missteps and fear we can never go back again and seek His grace when we already know the truth.

 

The Lord’s grace to us is a gracious grace.

 

 

One of the things that can get us stuck or keep us in limbo is how we are offered grace by someone other than Christ. When we have failed, offended, or sinned against someone and we seek their grace and forgiveness, because they are flawed even as we are it can often be difficult for them to offer us a gracious grace.

 

When they do not offer that kind of grace, when it comes with a tone reflecting their self-righteousness, or when it comes with hesitancy and a “but” connected with it, it shames us. It doesn’t tell us we are worthy to receive their grace or forgiveness.

 

True grace never makes me feel less. In spite of who I am and what I have done, it accepts me, warts and all, and loves me.

 

What a gift!

 

One thing I know that is true. If I look for grace apart from Christ, the results may not always be a gracious grace. Nevertheless, I am called to walk out love in my relationships.

 

One of the greatest gifts you or I can receive is the true love of a faithful friend. Such a friend will be rare among my or your relationships, but one that will be valued highly as the Lord’s grace to us.

 

Such a friend will want you to be the very best you can be, not be threatened by your successes or turned off by your failures. They will also love you enough to confront you about things you may not see in yourself that get in the way of being the best you, that thwart your relational health, hinder your connection with the Lord, and distort your perception of yourself while still accepting you, never losing sight of the very best parts of you.

 

That friend will (like Christ) offer us a gracious grace.

 

“Grace graciously given honors our worth as it overlooks our undeserving.”   Lewis Smedes

 

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The Truth of Our Story

 

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Our stories are woven together one stitch at a time. Some stitches are tight, others loose. Each stitch adds a new color or shade, a new texture, or guide for the design.

 

Some would say that we are adding the stitches, but that would mean the patterns that develop are entirely of our own making. Some might say that others add the stitches or God Himself does, but that would mean we have no part in the creation of our stories.

 

Perhaps it is better said that our stories are actually an interweaving of stitches of our Creator, God Himself, as well as stitches that we also add to the fabric being created.

 

Though the patterns may appear random, they are made up of a collaboration of designs between God and ourselves. Some are purposeful and well thought out while others happen almost accidentally.

 

But all of them are important for it is our stories that we not only remember but also the stories that remember us.

 

We may think that others add stitches as well, but the fabric is always ours and it is our choices or lack of them that determine the weave.

 

Stories, true legends, begin in the midst of a setting, a context that tells us something about how the stories begin.

 

Some stories begin with “once upon a time”, but those are only the ones we call fairy tales, made up of imaginings.

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‘Once upon a time’ stories seem always to have certain qualities and characteristics that pull us forward toward what we believe will be a certain end where the heroine of the story is rescued from the villain.

 

The trials of the heroine, the circumstances of birth, the twists and turns, which take her into danger, may vary from story to story, but the result we are looking for is always the same.

 

We look for the hero, the white horse, the one who makes all things right again.

 

Perhaps our own stories do not begin with those words because we have no belief we are royalty or that a prince has already rescued us. Therein lays the snare for us all, for the exact opposite is the truth.

 

We are indeed royalty, but have forgotten who we are (if we ever knew) or the truth has been hidden or stolen from us.

 

So our stories take us on paths that are often rocky and full of danger and we lose our way with no hope of any rescue. It is the tale the true villain of all our stories desires us to believe. It is the tragic fairy tale we come to believe is reality.

 

The true story is that we are betrothed to the prince, now king, who will come for us to lead us into the banqueting hall beneath his banner and celebrate his love for us and ours for him. The true story is that we will ride into battle together to defeat the villain whose lies we have believed once and for all and the end of the story will be grander than any fairy tale ever written.

 

Our stories are far grander than fairy tales for they are made up of real moments. Some are lavish and ornate. Some are dull and gray. Some are bold and dramatic. Some glitter and sparkle with life. Some are dark and foreboding. Some are airy and delicate. Together they become the history of us, the present of who we are, and the hope of who we are becoming.

 

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