Moral Compass

What forms your moral compass? Does it depend on the ever-changing culture wherever you live? What candidate do you vote for? Do you vote? Where do you stand on the question of creation? How do you respond to people who hold opposing views? So many issues to navigate!

As I spend more time studying the Bible, I am more certain of its everlasting relevance and sovereign authority in this area because I believe – I know – it is inspired by the One who created us. God doesn’t ask us to blindly believe, he raised witnesses and continues to reveal evidence of this truth to anyone who seeks it with an open heart. 

I have been spending some time in the Old Testament which, though written hundreds of years before his birth, so clearly foretold of Jesus, my Lord and Savior:

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you,     righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. Isaiah 7:14-16

Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them     and cast lots for my garment. Psalm 22:16-18

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

The book of Genesis explains where so many traditions practiced in every culture come from, like the 7-day week punctuated with a day of rest (2:2), the idea of work (2:15), wearing clothes, even in the sweltering heat (3:7,21), and worship (4:3).

The more I seek, the more I find reason to align my moral compass with our God.

If you don’t know His character, the thought of a Sovereign God can be frightening. And believing it’s true means change, and most of us are resistant to that. When Jesus performed a miracle in Luke 8:26-39, healing a demon-possessed man, verse 37 says, “then all the people of the region of Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear.” 

Fear of God and what following Jesus, the Son he sent, would mean kept me at a distance for too many years. But as I get to know Him through the pages of the Bible I find a trustworthy God who abounds in love and compassion and knows better than me what is best. I shouldn’t be surprised, He loved me so much that he sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for my sin, freeing me from fear and condemnation. There is freedom in a relationship with Him.

So, if I believe, how does my life reflect my faith? For me it has been and likely will continue to be a process… a very slow one at times. Old habits die hard – I’m not who I used to be, but I’m still a work in progress. The more I get to know Him, the easier it is to trust that His unchanging nature will always be, the right choice for me, my moral compass.


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The Whisper

When the subject of stress comes up I easily identify by recalling a specific time in my life. My career was in growth mode; I had worked hard to earn the trust and respect of many clients and was determined not to let them down. I began my days in the wee hours of the morning to stay ahead of all the looming tasks while doing anything I could to ease the workload of my equally taxed co-workers. Then my husband became seriously ill. Balancing it all was overwhelming. Though I couldn’t afford the luxury of a break, much less a 15-minute lunch, when I found myself on the edge I would drive to a park nearby and silently stare at the greenery until my bulging eyes eased back into my head. Stress.

Trying to manage my time in a healthy way always felt like weakness – I should be able to do it all, all the time, and do it well. But those moments at the park cleared my head. They helped me gain perspective and reset my priorities. The overwhelming demands were put in order and tackled one by one.

I have come to cherish the discipline of intentionally setting aside quiet time alone, long before my eyes are bulging! Even with my recent retirement and this season of less responsibility, I recognize my soul’s need for it. It is where all things fall into proper perspective and align themselves with God’s priorities.

In 1 Kings 18 the Lord’s prophet Elijah humiliated the evil King Ahab by demonstrating the power of God against his 450 prophets and their false god Baal. He wrapped up the demonstration by killing all the false prophets. This earned him the promise of death from Ahab’s wife Jezebel. I find it so interesting that, after witnessing the power of God against 450 of the king’s prophets and his victory against them, Elijah ran for his life. It is so like something I might do. Elijah runs as far as he can and finally collapses under a bush praying, “I have had enough, Lord. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. I bet his eyes were bulging. This is exactly where an angel of the Lord met him; in the solitude of a day’s journey into the desert.

All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.”  So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.  There he went into a cave and spent the night.

Wherever we are, regardless of circumstances, we remain under the watchful eye and compassionate care of our Father. I love how Elijah is simply attended to and strengthened. It is only after he is rested and fed that God begins reasoning with him, asking a simple, yet poignant question, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Elijah gives God a summary of events (as if He needed one). The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

A gentle whisper, that’s where God was. Not in the wind or the earthquake or the fire, but in the gentle whisper. A gentle whisper is near impossible for me to hear when my eyes are bulging or when I’m hangry and tired.

Ruth Haley Barton says in her book, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, that times of solitude and silence are “times for noticing – noticing what is true about us in a given moment and then being in God’s presence with the things that we’ve noticed… When we are tired we feel out of control, compelled to constant activity by inner impulses that we may not be aware of… When I am dangerously tired I can be very, very busy and look very, very important but be unable to hear the quiet, sure voice of the One who calls me the beloved. When that happens I lose touch with that place in the center of my being where I know who I am in God, where I know what I am called to do, and where I am responsive to his voice above all others. When that happens I am at the mercy of all manner of external forces, tossed and turned by others’ expectations and my on compulsions.” …Eyes bulging.

Whether it’s five minutes, five hours, or five days, I must intentionally make room to hear God’s whisper.

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Right Now

Life circumstances can threaten to overwhelm me at times. Stacks of responsibilities and deadlines simultaneously pull me in multiple directions. The best (actually worst) example for me lasted a number of years. My husband was very ill, eventually requiring a liver transplant. I supported him through frequent doctor appointments, trips to the specialist 100 miles away, hospital stays, all while working a very demanding, full-time job. Eventually, during one of those hospital visits, the doctors advised us that my husband would not survive if discharged without a new liver. So, there he waited as I balanced work, insurance issues, maintaining our home, and visits so far away.

As exhausting as it was, I am so grateful that God gave me the strength to carry on. Each day I would meditate on Philippians 4:4-9:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Sometimes I’d read those verses over and over before my mind could grasp and relax into them.

Priscilla Shirer, in her Discerning the Voice of God study says, “God is the God of right now. He calls us not to be regretful over yesterday or worried about tomorrow. He wants us focusing on what He is saying to us and putting in front of us today. The enemy’s voice will focus on the past and future.”

Boy do those words speak wisdom! When I was smack dab in the middle of my husband’s illness, or even today when I am feeling overwhelmed with life circumstances, I need to stay present – not worried about where this is all going, full of regrets about what should have been done differently, how I got here or how I’ll get through it all. God is the God of right now, and He is with me in the right now. I can trust He has a plan that I cannot see from my limited vantage point.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

My husband did receive his transplant, but eventually went home to be with the Lord. The experience had a deep impact on who I am today.  It put many things into perspective and even now surfaces as a reminder of what’s important. It prompts me to let the little things go. It deepened some relationships and developed compassion for others in situations I otherwise would not have understood. It even evokes warm feelings of the satisfaction and reward that come from having served another in their time of need.

As Discerning the Voice of God notes, God is the God of right now. I don’t have to let circumstances overwhelm me, or try to figure out what will happen, where this is all going, or what His plan is. In the words of Priscilla, “Want to know God’s will for you? Well, what has He put before you today? Do it.”

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Anxiety: an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it. (Merriam Webster)

I met a woman recently who struggles with anxiety. She was in tears, so disappointed in her inability to take part in a women’s gathering at our church. There she sat, alone in the lobby seemingly watching the program stream on a wall monitor, but in reality beating herself up for failing again.

“I thought I could do this. I’m a newer Christian and I’ve been praying that God would heal me of these panic attacks, that I would trust Him with the evening and make it through. I feel like I’m failing Him again, that I am disappointing Him.”

As we talked she shared what surely was the root of her fears, something so personal and rarely talked of from her childhood. A trauma I cannot imagine, one that took years to share with her own husband, but that she trusted me with that night.

She diligently seeks God through His Word and various teachers. She knows God does not want us to worry, but recently heard a teacher call worry a sin. While the Bible never directly calls worry a sin, it implies that most worry or anxiety is a failure to trust and believe God.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:25-34)

It was tearing her up that, despite her diligent pursuit of God, she was still bound by this recurring sin.

As I was listening to this sister’s frustration with the speed she was developing her trust in God, I thought of John, the disciple that Jesus loved. In Kelly Minter’s study What Love Is she points out that John walked with Jesus as he performed so many miracles; telling the fishermen to drop their nets after catching nothing and coming up with more fish than the nets were made for, turning water to wine, watching Jesus being transfigured as he was joined with Moses and Elijah, raising a 12 year old girl from death to life, and many more. Yet John 20:8 records his reaction to the empty tomb:

Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;

Wait… didn’t he already believe?

Trusting God is a gift that we will continue to open and receive in fragments for the rest of our lives.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Peter 3:8)

We are all sinners and will never fully conquer our doubts and fears, until that is until we make it home. While I suppose there are people who receive the Good News and do a much better job of immediately placing all their trust in Jesus, for me it’s one day at a time, working out my faith as I learn to trust Him more. I’ve come a long way from where I started, but look forward to greater trust and a deeper faith with every passing day.

I told my lobby friend how delighted God must be that she trusted Him enough to come to our event. It was a leap of faith, believing He would give her the strength to participate and connect. While it did not turn out exactly as she had hoped, perhaps that was part of His plan. The enemy loved seeing her in tears and self-condemnation, her faith teetering and hoping to render her ineffective. But God is greater; He brought us together to share our stories and encourage one another.

Think of the testimony she will have, glorifying God as she conquers her fears and doubts one baby step at a time; focusing on the triumphs and celebrating the progress, every inch of the way.

We left there united in our intentions to thank God for the night’s victory over the enemy, with praise for the portion of trust added to our faith, and for the way he brought two sisters together just when we needed it most!

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The Great I AM

It’s easy for me to empathize with someone stepping into a public forum who is visibly rattled by nerves. It’s painful. I really dealt with it growing up because I was so self-conscious.  And, when the focus was on me, my anxiety would often be compounded by someone commenting on how red my face was.  The unease I so wanted to conceal announced its presence instead.

It’s natural to feel insecure when tackling something new with an audience that matters, whose respect I value. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when I was approaching a stage not too long ago to address a group of women and felt the nerves rushing in. When I accepted the position I knew it would draw me out of my comfort zone.  Part of me wanted nothing to do with being on that stage, but on the other hand I really wanted to accomplish what God had placed on my heart.  And that required the public aspect of the job.

I remember diving into Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life when it came out. The first sentence, “It’s not about you,” were the very words I needed as I prepared to walk on stage. I repeated them over and over as I approached the stage, confessing that any nervousness simply indicated how self-absorbed I was. I asked Him to realign my motive with His purpose and to give me a spirit of humility as He filled me with courage. He was the focus, not me. I prayed that He would turn my heart, mind and soul to Him.  He was faithful; I delivered my short talk in tranquility and didn’t hear a single whisper about a red face.

Reading about God calling Moses to leadership in Exodus 3 reminded me of that night. I smiled to have something in common with him – nerves!  Moses had a heart for the people, but didn’t feel equipped or qualified to lead them. He questioned God’s choice and responded with insecure questions. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (3:11) Though God promised to be with him, Moses continued with his insecurities, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” (3:13) God patiently prepared Moses by establishing his Name and providing Moses with an answer should the people ask (3:14). But still Moses’ insecurities and fear of looking foolish persisted, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” (4:1) At this point most of us would just want to slap him silly and tell Moses to man up!  But instead God reveals his patience by equipping Moses with amazing miracles to demonstrate to the Israelites that he had indeed been in the presence of God. Still Moses dug his heels in with more excuses not to accept the call, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” (4:10) Realizing that he’s getting nowhere, Moses finally lays it out there, attempting to throw in the towel he pleads, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” (4:13)

Really? Right about now I’m not feeling so bad about my reluctance to be on that stage.  Moses loved and was loved by God, yet struggled deeply when called. This exchange is encouraging. It confirms God’s deep, patient love and resolve to stick with us. He gently calls us to what he has planned for us, patiently equipping us and empowering us to overcome the insecurities that threaten to render us ineffective.

Like social media documents some of our weakest moments, the Bible exposes Moses. At what point did Moses finally understand who it was that was calling him to action, the significance of His Name.

Exodus 3:14:  And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you.

 Matthew Henry’s Commentary explains that God’s Name establishes him as self-existent with no dependence on any other. Therefore He is also self-sufficient and therefore all-sufficient. He will be what He will be and what He is. Moses desires instruction from God – what answer to give them – what name to give them to vouch to them as proof of his authority (If I must go, let me have full instructions so that I may not run in vain).

The commentary warmed my forever-planning-and-organized-heart by stating, “It highly concerns those who speak to people in the name of God to be well prepared beforehand. Those who would know what to say must go to God… to His Word… and to His throne for instruction.”  Being a person who too often questions her calling and authority, who was knit together with a need to have all the facts before proceeding, helped me sympathize with Moses’ resistance.

The commentary notes that when facing insecurities, “It is desirable to know, and our duty to consider, what is His Name?” Why would a child of the God Most High, carrying out His agenda with His support have anything to fear?

Moses and I could save ourselves a lot of misery if we’d just truly understand early on who calls and equips us to complete the mission – the one and only I Am That I AM, the One who said in Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

With eyes on Him, oh what confidence to approach any circumstance, to obey any call!

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