Resting In The Shadow

There are so many places where peace is nothing shy of just plain pretty.  Oh the beauty of a peaceful commute home from work or the beauty of  a calm conversation with the phone company over a discrepancy in the bill.  How awesome to experience the peace in the playroom when 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 child with a friend plays without fighting.  Sometimes I just cry out for a Klondike Bar!  Oh boy, what I wouldn’t do sometimes for a peaceful moment.

But God has extended for me a place, a place to rest — find peace.  It’s a place not riddled with distractions, formal rules, assignments or expectations — it’s a place of freedom, communion, fellowship and well . . . rest.

David spoke of this place as he, too, wondered of the assurance of fellowship with his God.  And as he did he found peace in his fellowship.  It was a place of rest, embrace and joy.

I’m reminded of moments I’ve spent in the hammock, under the tall oak tree.  I reflect on the fellowship with my Savior on the boulder found  firmly in place at the edge of the creek.  As I seek shade on a hot day, may I rest in the comfort of my Lord.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  Psalm 91:1

Frozen By Fear

Fear has power.  It’s ability to reinvent is comparable only to the force of nature.   Fear is able to change momentum, redirect confidence, sabotage faith, conceive doubt, hijack control and freeze freedom.

I’m reminded of a beautiful spring day at a Tennessee wilderness creek.  It was a supremely perfect day.  Just the right amount of sun through the trees to warm your back while following the rushing water upstream and pausing on occasion to witness it’s power cascading over boulders left behind from something far bigger than myself.  On this particular day I chose to get a bit closer than usual to nature.  With a number of good sized rocks scattered beyond the shoreline into the rushing water it only seemed right to hop from one to another.  The air smelled of adventure and then time seemed to freeze.  Oddly however, it all happened in a split second and yet, lasted what felt like a lifetime.  As I left the security of one rock to land on the next, my eyes caught glimpse of a water moccasin warming himself on the likes of the rock I had intended to land.  But I was already in motion, in the air with no way to “change my mind.”  Yet, in some odd unexplainable way, I changed my mind, changed my direction and needed to change my shorts!  I landed on a completely different rock out of harms way.  Fear changed my momentum, redirected my confidence, sabotaged my faith, gave birth to doubt, hijacked my control and froze my freedom in mid-air.

It’s easy to talk about fear when it comes to snakes . . . who doesn’t freak out?  But when fear creeps into our lives through relationships, emotions, finances, careers and circumstances, it behaves in very similar ways.  And yet, Jesus tells us to fear not!

I’m reminded in scripture the account of Jesus asleep on the boat as the disciples begin to panic over the storm that threatens to bring disaster.  Jesus asks, “where is your faith?”

The sick woman who touched Jesus’ garment was called to reveal herself.  Full of fear and trembling she fell at Jesus’ feet.  Yet Jesus tells her, “. . . Go in peace and be freed . . . ”

David, a boy with only three stones faces a giant bully — but fear has no power!

Faith in knowing the Truth brings fear to it’s knees.  It thaws the grip fear has on the soul to do what is right and affirms the power of the Spirit who lives within to “go in peace and be freed!”  It is through the greater power of the Spirit of God that overcomes anxiety in messed up and broken relationships, that conquers unleashed emotions, that answers the questions of why and what if, that gives the solution to how.  It sees through the fog of soured circumstances to see that God is in control and that His promises stand true to the end . . . that He is glorified!

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”   Romans 8:5

 

Forfeit The Grace

Do I really believe the Word of God to be “a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path?”  Yes I do!  God’s word to me has been increasingly more meaningful and His voice, through His word, has been steady, firm and clear.  His promises and assurances fill me with more God-confidence and far less self-confidence.  More of Him, less of me.

Jonah’s life has always been an interesting read.  There’s nothing like the consequence of disobedience resulting in an unexpected journey in the belly of a whale.  It’s evident through his journey that God is serious.  And it is in this seriousness God reached out and demanded Jonah’s attention.  I know the feeling!

What is better is Jonah listened and pondered God’s direction.  He was in quite an awkward position of surrender and so he did.  And as he did, his heart too began to hear the steady, firm and clear voice of His savior.  As he listened, he learned of the greatest consequence of all.  To God, Jonah’s worship was silent.  It echoed throughout his life, but little belonged to His Lord — in fact, one might question what or who Jonah truly worshipped.  And without Jonah’s complete surrender in worship to His Lord God, the grace that could be, would be forfeited.

Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.  But I, with a  song of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you.  What I have vowed I will make good.  Salvation comes from the Lord.  Jonah 2:8-9

Lord Jesus, I know your grace is sufficient . . . for even me!  You have reminded me to trust in you even when the waters get deep and rough (Isaiah 43:1-2).  You have assured me that you hear my thoughts and words (Micah 7:7).  You have encouraged me to not allow my heart to be troubled or to be afraid — because you have given me Peace (John 14:27).  May I sing the same song as Jonah!

Calm, Chaos and Christ

In a conversation with one of my sons this past week it was brought to my attention how busy things have gotten for me.  He said it with the best of intentions, but it certainly made me think a bit.  In reflection, I could see his point.  Life was getting busy, bouncing from one fire to the next and with little time to rekindle.  My loaded days certainly looked different than a year ago, but at what expense?  Stressed by the daily entourage of deadlines, projects and well, worry and wonder, that “double-W” will get me every time.

And then I was reminded of a few men with which I could certainly relate.  The account of Jesus in the boat with His disciples on a stormy night brought instant peace.

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.  Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat.  But Jesus was sleeping.  The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”  Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this?  Even the winds and the waves obey him!”   Matthew 8:23-27

Years ago I recall standing on a small bridge on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas.  On this particular bridge one can look to the left and see the raging, deep blue almost black waters of the Atlantic Ocean and to the right you can see the calm turquoise blue green, crystal clear waters of the Caribbean.  Below your feet, under the bridge the two met, yet kept their distance.

When I read this story of the disciples in the boat with Jesus, I’m reminded of the fierce waters of the Atlantic that day and I must admit if this sort of torment “came” upon my boat, it would invoke a slight bit of fear.  But without warning, chaos appears in our lives much like the waves of the sea and it is plenty enough to sweep us off our feet.

I’m further struck by the fact that the disciples cried out to Jesus because He was sleeping during the chaos.  How many times have I thought Jesus was sleeping in my own chaos?  Shaking my fist or expressing a sarcastic “Thanks!” seemed to be the most appropriate response.  But Jesus’ response to our chaos is most profound!

Jesus takes our chaos and through our trust in Him brings peace.  In the midst of life’s most chaotic moments when Jesus seems to be no where around and silent to the mighty waves He says, “You of little faith!”

May I continue to see the peace in the presence of Jesus, throughout my chaos whose presence alone demands the raging seas of life to become calm and clear.

When God Appears

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.  “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.  But Jesus immediately said to them; “Take courage!  It is I.  Don’t be afraid.”  “Lord, if it’s you,” Petter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”  “Come,” he said.    Matthew 14:25-29

I’ve thought about this passage for quite some time.  I was enamored by the acts of Christ in separating himself from the distractions of life to find a quiet place to pray — and not just for a minute, but for hours!  Knowing Christ approached the throne for those He loved along with fellowship with His Father was for me a cause for pause.  But the next course of events were absolutely stunning.

From a distance, Christ’s vantage point, the boat and disciples could barely be seen.  Matthew tells us they were “already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves . . .”  Then, the impossible unfolded.

Knowing full well they were no longer near the shore, Christ appeared to the disciples.  As unexpected as this must have been, it was not unlike the Lord to teach through His actions and less so through His words.

When God appears in the midst of life events difficult to explain because it simply does not make sense, it is undoubtedly exactly when God finds a teachable heart.  I’ve often heard that if you can’t explain it, God’s in it!  This was so true of the moment Christ stood before them on the water in the middle of the lake.

It’s reassuring knowing God shows up to my events and teaches me simply by His presence of the Truth of His promises, the abundance of His love and the depth of His hope.

Thank you Lord Jesus for your willingness to seek the Father on my behalf and then pursue me, find me and call to me — right where I am.  Good, bad or indifferent, it doesn’t matter the circumstance, what you think of me never changes, your call to me never ceases, your love for me runs deeper than my mind can imagine.  I just cannot explain what it’s like when you appear!

For the grace of God ha appeared that offers salvation to all people.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the is present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.     Titus 2:11-14

When God Prays

After he dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.  Later that night, he was there alone, . . .      Matthew 14:23

In the context of this event with Christ and his disciples, He sent them across the lake in their boat ahead of Him.  He then went to pray.

It’s easy to pray . . . right?  I can’t tell you the number of times prayer has felt more like trying to speak another language without knowing a single word in that dialect.  Not knowing what to say, how to say it, where to say it, when to say it.  Should I ask?  Should I tell?  Do I even need to speak?  He knows everything already so what’s the real point?

No, it’s not so easy to pray!  But when I hear someone else pray from their heart through the love of Christ, it’s like my spirit has been refreshed!  I shared this with my oldest son recently when we were talking about prayer.  I mentioned how much of a joy it is to hear him pray — to witness him approach the throne on our behalf as we all begin our day!

Prayer is a connection unmatched by any other relationship on earth!  It’s a fellowship that enriches the heart and infuses the spirit with a communion of God’s love that by nature is the epitome of faith and trust!  And when we pray, Christ prays!  When He hears the voice of His children praying, His Spirit too is filled with joy!

When Christ went onto the hillside, He did so to be alone . . . to think . . . to commune . . . to intercede!  And hours later He came to the lake.  Hours later?  Yes!  He spent hours interceding in conversation with His (our) heavenly Father, knowing the fullness of what was yet to come.

Lord Jesus, help my voice speak the words of my heart in fellowship with you often so you can intercede on my behalf to the Father!  I know BIG things happen when I’m in fellowship with you and I know BIG things take place in the Kingdom when you mention my name to the Father!  May I learn to be still, listen and pray!

Next Post:  When God Appear

It Matters Because I Matter

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  I Peter 5:7

My understanding of God’s approachability directly correlates with the measure of my belief that my circumstances are both significant and weightless to Him.  When I am able to see God as caring for me despite my shortcomings, I am more likely to get on my knees in prayer.

This is the point in which I can fully experience the deepness of God’s care for me.   It’s this deep relationship with my Savior that even James speaks of in James 4:3 when he says, “When you ask you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives.”  I don’t have because I do not ask.  I do not ask because I do not believe He cares to hear.  I do not believe He cares to hear because I feel my prayers are trivial.  And so, I do not ask.

It’s a dangerous cycle of thought that leads to self-destruction.  Beginning my prayers with phrases such as, “I know this is silly, but . . .” or “I don’t think you really want to hear this, but . . . ”  or “You already know this, but . . . ”  sets the stage for this line of reasoning.

But James is telling us to pour it on!  Empty our hearts of our unmet needs to the Father in raw honesty.  He is telling us of the approachability of our Father to those things that matter to me.  Big or small, those things that matter to me matter to Him, because He cares for ME — I matter to Him!

Lord Jesus, are you ready for this?  This opens the door to a flood.

Therefore confess our sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.  James 5:16

Press On Through The Gospel

I meet today at the front gates of the Gospel.  And as I enter, I pray . . .

This is a recent blog post from a pastor in Nashville, TN — Scotty Smith.  It can also be found at this link: 
http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/scottysmith/2013/04/25/a-prayer-for-examining-our-lives-through-the-lens-of-the-gospel/

A Prayer for Examining Our Lives through the Lens of the Gospel

     I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. (Phil. 3:12-15) For, to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Phil. 1:21)

Dear Lord Jesus, praying through this passage moves me to praise you for freeing me from the “paralysis of analysis”—an unhealthy, navel-gazing preoccupation with me. Now, as I examine my life through the lens of the gospel, it’s your glory, not mine, that I’m most concerned about. I matter, but I’m simply not the point. It’s so refreshing to really believe that.

I don’t know how old Paul was when he was when he wrote these words—maybe in his sixties or seventies—but it’s obvious that with an increase in age came an increase in gospel astonishment. He never grew bored exploring the unsearchable riches of Jesus, and he never seemed to tire of wrestling with the kingdom implications of the gospel.

Jesus, make me more and more that kind of man. Give me this kind of maturity in the gospel. I’m thankful that it’s your grasp of me and not my grasp of you that defines this way of life. Sometimes I lift my hands in awe and gratitude for the way you love me. Sometimes I shake my fists at heaven like a pouting, demanding child. Sometimes I wring my hands in anxious unbelief, like a hapless orphan. But I live and I will die secure in your palms and written upon your heart.

I praise you that as with Paul, you’ve given me a prize to win, not a wage to earn. I never earned my way into a relationship with you, and I don’t maintain a relationship with you by my efforts either. I am secure and beloved, all because of your doing.

What do I want for the rest of my days? I cannot say it any better than Paul, Lord: I want to know you, Lord Jesus, more intimately than ever. This is the one thing I want more than anything else. And I want to experience more of the power of your resurrection, for I have no power in myself to love others as you love me. And  I want to enter more fully into the fellowship of sharing in your sufferings—living out the birth pangs of new-creation life in this broken world which groans for its release from the bondage to decay—a release that is sure to come (Rom. 8:18-25). Our labors in you are not in vain, Jesus (Phil. 3:10-11).

This is what I really want. Help me to have way done with lesser things, and be much more taken up with your beauty and kingdom will. So very Amen I pray, in your most glorious and grace-full name.

Refuse the Refuse

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.  Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.  Isaiah 26:3-4

I recall a moment a number of years ago when I hopped on my riding lawnmower to mow the old retention pond behind our house.  Although it was dry from the summer drought, it was knee high with grass.  Going in long circles on the outside of the bowl, the first two runs were admittedly a little spooky.  Bugs flying in all directions, grass slapping my arms and legs on both sides — it’s creepy!  This time it proved to be even worse.  On my second go around I noticed something moving amid the grass in the center of the pond area.  As I passed by, a 4-5 foot black snake raised it’s head above the waist high grass to grab a better glimpse of what was disturbing his field–ME!  Chilling!  I thought sure by the time I got back around it would have crossed my mowed path and vanish into the woods on the other side of the levy.  As I approached, that was further from the truth.  There he sat in the middle of the path — right in my way!  It was like he was saying, “I don’t think so mister!”  My arsenal was pretty lethal with a 48 inch spread of spinning blades, but it would require a direct hit and from all I had observed, his reach was serious.  Honestly, I knew the mower was fast, but quite frankly it would never be fast enough when it comes to snakes.  So we sat there, like it was some sort of dual at high noon some fifty feet apart.  I inched forward thinking he’d get the idea and move on.  But his idea was far more effective!  He began to slide his way directly toward me.  I immediately stopped the mower, I think I said something I shouldn’t, slammed it in reverse and floored it.  Riding backwards, but looking forwards, this snake was persistent!  I never knew the mower would go that fast in reverse!

I feel like this some days.  I turn the corner and there sits the evil one bombarding me with a plague of thoughts of “what ifs” that are relentless . . . persistent.  And in those moments, I must refuse the refuse he serves and stay my mind on the Lord.  Reminding him of his garbage reminds me of my inheritance!  Don’t let the trash pile up!

Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, 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.  Philippians 4:6-7

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How Much To Trust

. . . because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.  II Timothy 1:12

How much do I trust Him . . . really?  Oh man, this question is one I have always avoided.  I would suspect that it has been one that many choose not to ask of themselves for fear of the truth that lies beneath the selfish surface of our own sufficiency.

One of my boys thinks it’s fun to randomly fall backwards toward me without notice.  I’ve told him over and over again this is not a good idea.  “What if I don’t see you or notice you falling?  What then?”  His reply . . .  “Dad, you wouldn’t let me fall, you’ll catch me, right?”  That’s some firm trust!

Unlike my son, unlike Paul or Timothy, I’m looking behind me to see if God is there to catch me — before I take the plunge.  That’s not faith — nor trust.  That’s doing things my way.  God wants me to abandon my way and have faith in His way — though it doesn’t make sense at times.  But my plan seems to abandon His way for mine most of the time.

Yes, Lord, I pray for your provision on those I love.  Give them the fruits of your hand in whatever form you see fit:  sunshine or storms, abundance or famine, wealth or poverty, health or illness, peace or conflict.  Whatever it takes to draw them nearer.  And for me, I pray the same!  Give me the confidence to fall into you with all things, in all things, from all things.  I do trust you Lord, with everything!  And even when I don’t, I know you will give me a chance to find out if I am.

. . . being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1:6