Is It Just Me?

I shouldn’t be feeling this way!  These things shouldn’t be happening to me!  Life stinks!  I want one thing, but do another!  I love, but am not loved!  I fight, but do not win!  I work hard, but get no where!  I look up, but it’s cloudy!  Is it just me?

The answer to this, and many of the pending questions in life is found as I live not as I want, but as Christ lives through me.  Even as I’ve written this I’m reminded of how much I’m still learning.  Trusting Christ as my life is an act of obedience with every step.

It’s trusting the Truth in Christ and recognizing the lies from satan that bring misery and bondage.  It’s making it all about me and my circumstances instead of Him and His control of my circumstances.  For when I live through His Truth, He receives the glory.

How many times have you opened a gift and tossed the packaging away only to learn there was more!  Well, there is MORE!  How often I forget that along with the gift of salvation came Christ as life!  It’s rarely noticed until something happens greater than we (I) can bear, but the measure of this extends throughout my very existence — second of every minute.

Cast all your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.  Psalm 55:22

You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great.  You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.  Psalm 18:35-36

When life gets heavy, so heavy in fact it feels all-consuming, the answer to the pending question is yes, it is just me!  God has commanded me to give it to Him to carry.  His shoulders are broad and strong and not just for the moment — instead He expects me to heave my burden onto Him.  Why?  Because He can handle it – will handle it – promises to handle it – with ease.  Remember, His yoke and burden are light (Matthew 11:30)!

So, why do I feel like it’s just me all the time?  Well, it’s likely because it’s the devil’s idea.  A bunch of lies! Because of who I am, to whom I belong and through whom I live, it is not normal for me to carry my own weight.  When I choose to carry my own burdens, I am choosing to live life outside of Christ — independence from the One who lives in me!  And this, my friend, is sin (Romans 14:23).

 

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!

Desert Cloud

Ever complain?  Ever sit in your seat and ask this question . . . “Really?”  I certainly have, and worse, I know it full well.  My complaint trigger is sensitive with little to make it fire off.  If you are anything like the rest of us on earth, it’s tough finding something not worth complaining over.  Yet, in the midst of this very thing God does not delight.  At least this is what I’ve gathered through an account with the Israelites and Aaron in the book of Exodus.

At the instruction of Moses, Aaron addressed the hostile crowd.  They had been complaining about their conditions, mainly provisions.  And, while there was much at stake, their conditions were not meant for daily comfort or individual gain, but for the glory of God to be magnified.  And therefore, through their grumblings, God’s glory was on display!

While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.   Exodus 16:10

The glory of the Lord . . . wow!  Hovering over the dry sands of the desert, the richness of beauty and provision was on display. The glory of the Lord was before them, reminding them of the One to whom all praise is given — regardless of the condition.

Lord Jesus, may my life always point to your desert cloud.  Press upon my complaining heart a prayer of the reflection of your glory in me to answer the call of the moment to know it is less about me and all about you!

The Very Answer

Life is filled with hard knocks — I presume you’d agree.  Circumstances that wield their way in and out of our lives, leaving a trail of hurt, pain and worse . . . destruction.  It can lead to personal torment and depression, worrisome and troubled thoughts and a sense of control that has somehow remained out of reach.

We look at the world around us in a more global sense and see buildings collapsing, abuse, political positioning, failing economies and all things corrupt.  It truly is difficult to see the light shining around the edge of this dark cloud.  But Jesus said He was the answer.  Surely if He were then He’d make right the wrong.

We look at our own world and see many things that fail.  We experience the unexpected death of a loved one, the dysfunction of divorce, the chaos of relationships, abuse and the absence of anything good.  No, it’s not about being a pessimist, it’s about the world — our lives, that reflect the growing nature of life since Eden.  God’s great plan to rescue his people has never changed, but the life we live today is that detour.  It’s a detour filled with pot holes and rough terrain, but God never promised smooth roads and clear skies — he just promised the destination because he is the answer.

In John 11 and 12 there is a story of faithfulness, trust and belief that brings rest in a worry-filled world.  We know from the story that Jesus loved Lazarus.  We also know that Mary, because of His love for Lazarus, knew that Jesus was the answer to Lazarus’ sickness and therefore sent word to Jesus so He would come.  Mary trusted in Jesus to be their Healer!  But Lazarus died before Jesus arrived.  And not just died, but Lazarus was placed in his tomb and was there for four days before Jesus arrived.  To Mary, Jesus was late and never showed up!

When Jesus finally arrived, Mary ran to him and stated that Lazarus would be alive today had he been here on time!  But Mary didn’t know that God’s glory would be shown to everyone in Lazarus’ life.  Mary didn’t realize that Jesus was the very answer for which she was asking all along.

Sometimes we only see what stands in front of us and forget that Jesus is never late and Jesus always shows up.  And every time He does, He understands our world!  No matter how bad it gets, no matter how dead life appears — Jesus isn’t the answer . . . Jesus is the VERY ANSWER!

So they took away the stone.  Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”   John 11:41-42

 

The Fingerprint of God

photoLast week I had the honor of helping a dear friend with some fallen trees on his land.  For you and me, we would take a chainsaw to a fallen tree and cut it into logs or split it into firewood — but not this guy.  He takes the trunk of the tree and runs it through his mill to make planks.  Recycling the fallen.

My dad made his living taking such pieces of wood, old and new, and transforming them into true works of art.  Since childhood, fresh cut wood causes me to reflect on many great moments of sanding, drilling, cutting, glueing and ultimately experiencing my dad’s handiwork.  His work was breathtaking.

And so, last week, while cutting these logs into planks . . . I noticed something I had never noticed before.  I’ve always admired the grain of wood.  The patterns that swirl around knots that number it’s years, it’s simply beautiful.  But this time I realized this looks like a fingerprint.

The truth of what I was looking at, what I was admiring, had actually been touched by the hand of God.  It was His fingerprint! With no two alike, God touched not just this tree, but every living thing . . . including me with His hand.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:10

My God, may I never overlook your handiwork in me!  May I never discard the fact that your fingerprint is within me because you have fearfully and wonderfully created me.  I am your workmanship!!

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.

Wife With No Name

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.  Psalm 34:8

Today I had the most excellent conversation with some new friends at my local Starbucks.  It was one of those conversations that begin knowing full well God orchestrated.  Those are indeed, the best kind!  During the course of the conversation, my new friend asked me a question.  She said, “Who is your favorite woman in the Bible?”  What an interesting question.  I sat and pondered as she explained, “I’m going to be speaking at my church on a woman of my choice from the Bible and I just don’t know who.”  I replied, “My favorite woman in the Bible is the wife with no name.”  Confused and a bit bewildered, my new friend sought to learn more.  “It’s Noah’s wife,” I said.

You see, there’s not much written — in fact hardly a word — on Noah’s wife.  She’s a quiet character in the story of Noah, but plays the leading supporting role.  The mere story itself suggests many things I believe to be true about Noah’s wife that serves to be a lesson for all of us.

The story of Noah begins, if a story can actually begin when one is 500 years old, with God finding favor with him and his family because he was found righteous.  God found favor in the hearts of Noah’s family, destroyed everyone else upon the earth.  Not once do we read of Noah’s wife complaining, belittling or questioning Noah.

Instead, we find the wife with no name in complete obedience to her Father in heaven as she follows with honor her entrusted husband.

May we learn from Noah’s wife the power in obedience to our God . . . even in the midst of unbelievable circumstances, unfathomable storms and undeniable messes . . . only to find, in His great plan, the promise of all things new!

 

Clean Undies

But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.  Philippians 3:20-21

Julie:  Are you wearing clean underwear?

Mark:  What?  Really?

Julie:  Are you?

Mark:  Just trying to pull my life together.

Julie:  I know.  Some days my only source of sanity comes in knowing that I have clean undies on.  I guess it’s the only thing I can control.  Everything else I shove off to Jesus.  I might appear looney tunes because I literally talk to him out loud as if he is there.  And not in  “mushy prayerful” conversation.  More like, “I can’t deal with this crap so you’re just gonna have to take it and figure it out yourself.  Let me know when I should pay attention to it because I’m done.”

Mark:  That’s where I am.

Julie:  Clean undies?

Mark:  They are clean . . . for now!

Julie:  Okay then!

This is an actual conversation I had recently with a dear friend and thankfully, not forgotten.  It was an incredible reminder of my need to let go and let God.  It is terribly easy for me to sulk, think, craft, construct, excuse and attempt to control my circumstances and ultimately, my life.

Julie’s point was well taken. Clean undies are my job, God certainly has a sense of humor.  He left that decision to me!  Luckily I have the smarts enough to make it so.  But little have I ever realized the implication of assuming control of my life.  God wants nothing more than to “work all things together for His good.”

Control is a crazy thing — something we want desperately.  Because when we have it we feel safe, secure, ordered, in charge, peaceful, organized, mindful — but these are all false senses.  It is only through Christ, who is all, gives all and controls all.  It requires a true surrender and demands a level of trust that comes only through the grace and love found on the cross.  It begins in the mind, captures the heart and together, through Christ, brings everything under His control.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  II Corinthians 10:5

Holidays That Hurt

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ  the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  II Corinthians 1:3-4

I’ve been reminded quite often during this holiday season of the hurt that surrounds me.  Not my own, while also deep, but rather the hurt of friends and family . . . and strangers alike.  I used to think and believe, without compassion, the hurt of those around me were more of their business than my own.  With this attitude it is simple and easy to think about yourself more highly than one ought and arrogantly disregard the pain of others.  After all, that’s not my problem . . . right?  I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Pain and hurt during the holidays is incredibly heightened.  With every turn, almost unavoidably, the joys of the season in family, and friends and fellowship spring from every corner.  To the hurting, it’s like rubbing alcohol on an opened wound.  There may be healing in it, but it hurts like the dickens . . . more than usual.

The loss of a family member or a very dear friend conjures up an absence, a change in routine and a reflection of what once was.  The grief associated with such loss can be immense.  The heaviness of sadness and loneliness can sink what was once unsinkable.  How one stays afloat in such times is somewhat of a mystery . . . but not really.

The God of this universe has promised you comfort in the midst of loss, grief and pain.  His comfort alone is sustaining and the “mystery” is truly by the grace of God!  He is the author of all that is and He alone orchestrates the healing power of the Holy Spirit in and through you.  Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus my friend and everything that belongs to Him has been freely given to you!  While things are not the same in your world, Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever!

Experiencing the fullness of joy in the holiday season is indeed a precious gift.  Enjoy, celebrate and give thanks for those moments . . . but do not forget nor neglect the fact, there are those who experience far less joy in this season.  Share God’s precious gift with those who may be hurting.  It may be the only gift they receive.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.  For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.     II Peter 1:3-7