Hold To It

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

It’s not easy staying the course. I think my ideal is life should be smooth sailing, but as a dear one says often, “God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.” The turbulence in life can deter my attention, missing the actual moment God has created especially for me!

I’ve been thinking a great deal about the life of Moses lately. There’s really too many lessons with that man! But in my circumstances, there is much to gain by peeking into the life he lived. Chosen by God, Moses was given the task to lead the people of Israel from captivity (slavery) to the Promised Land (freedom). This being a place he’d never seen and trusted the words of God that what He said was true. Leading a million or more people through the desert had to have been the most challenging thing he had ever faced. This I know, because the Bible speaks of the whining, complaining, arrogant, disobedient, entitled people he was leading. And perhaps it wouldn’t have been so bad had they made it there in the 11 or so days it should have taken, but instead, it took 40 years. In fact, Moses himself would never step foot on this land.

I mention Moses because in some ways, I feel like he must have felt. Tired, discouraged and faced with more questions than answers. Yet the lesson I can learn from Moses is much as Christ spoke about to the Jews from the book of John. It’s much easier to veer from the truth and slip into what I feel may be better . . . my way, not God’s way. But Jesus tells us, “hold true to my teaching . . .” Press on, stay the course, keep your chin up, trust, believe and know whom you have believed and am persuaded that He is able.

So, hold to it! Paul said in I Corinthians that it was “by the gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word” for it is in that “which you have taken your stand.”

Lord Jesus, pressing forward in the face of gale-force winds is draining. I feel somewhat discouraged, but I know that my hope is not in the journey. My hope comes from you alone! I am choosing to live in II Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

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

Right Place, Right Time

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.  Mark 15:21

Ever wonder whether or not you were where you should be or doing what you should be doing or going where you should be going?  I can imagine most everyone has asked these questions of themselves at one time or another.  And sometimes, after our experiences we second guess our purpose there.  Why is this?  Is it a lack of faith or a hole in our trust?

There was a man that the scripture tells us was just “passing through from the country.”  Not much else is said for his purpose in Jerusalem, but it’s likely he was there to bring a sacrifice not realizing that which was going on at the time.  And this man, observing the radical journey Christ was taking through the streets, being led to the Hill, by cracks of the Roman whips and shouts of hurt and pain from those whom He loved.  Simon found himself in the right place at the right time.

Unlike anyone else to have ever lived on this earth, Simon from Cyrene actually carried the cross of Christ!  It doesn’t make him any more holy by any means, but to have carried the cross for Christ must have been the most unbelievably symbolic moment of time.  As I mentioned before, it is most likely Simon was there for his own purposes, but God chose him to escort THE Lamb of God to be sacrificed for the sins of all.

I would dare suggest that Simon would have preferred not to be the one to carry this cross.  I might figure that he was wishing he was not standing where he was standing, or made eye contact with the Roman soldier that called him out.  He may have even felt as though he was the one “helping” Jesus to the cross.  The opportunity for doubt, shame, regret and wishing he had not been there at all was ever-so present.  He might even had thought he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  But God used Simon for the Glory of God and the Salvation of the World!

Lord Jesus, today is the anniversary of the day Simon carried your cross!  We speak of how you carry our burdens and the weight of all sin hung with you on the cross that Simon carried for you!  I’m in awe.  It has shed a whole new light on the events of this day.  May I be reminded often of your journey to the cross — for me — and the many times you demonstrate your love for me!

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid.  Am I in the place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”   Genesis 50:20

 

Faith Springs From Hope

. . . the faith and love that springs from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel . . .    Colossians 1:5

On those hot, blistery Florida summer days, I remember as a teenager going with my friends to the local springs to swim.  With it 95 degrees or more in the shade, the year-long 70 degree water was always a bit chilly at first.  The shallow end of the spring was much warmer as the sun was able to make a difference in the shallow.  But the deeper you swam, the closer you came to the spring, the colder that water would get.

I remember swimming near the sandy bottom, chasing the bluegill and becoming fixed on the bubbling of fresh water from somewhere beneath it all.  It made the sand dance.  When the light from the sun cast its light just right, you could see the fury of cold water mixing with the warmer water around the spring.  It was truly amazing to see — and I never grew tired of that sight.

I was sad to learn recently, the spring is no longer open to the public — but is still dancing . . . it just can’t help it!

God has given us an abundance of love and faith and it, too, springs from hope.   It dances . . . it just can’t help it!  The difference is, it has no measure and nothing can contain it.  It stretches as far as the east is from the west.  It is the strength we need in pressing forward, to pursue the desires of our heart, to obtain our God-given dreams.

Lord Jesus, my faith has been tested on many levels.  My hope has been battered by storms in my life.  Restore in my heart, in my mind, the truth about your hope.  The truth that says your love and faith force themselves from your hope — because it just can’t help it!  As you live in me and I in you, may I remember when things feel bleak that your springs are bubbling in my soul with an abundance, uncontainable love to which I find your hope in all things.

But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. . . The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.   Galatians 5:5-6

Where My Help Comes From

I lift up my eyes to the hills–where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  Psalm 121:1-2

How do you explain peace?  Is it best described as a stillness or calming of a mighty storm?  Or is it more like the gentleness of the beast as it reclines with the lamb?  Maybe it could be described best in the quiet morning hours of a springtime sunrise overlooking the reflection of the mighty mountains on the surface of an outstretched lake.  More difficult is defining it in a person — like the person of Christ.  We like to see peace to know what it’s like.  It becomes something ever so different when we taste it for ourselves.

But while Christ, in His person demonstrated a more scandalous sense of peace, He was and still is, the Prince of Peace!  And this peace, unlike the calm sea or the comfort of beasts or even the stillness of the morning — is actually living within me!  But though my heart toils and wrenches in the anguish of pain and grief, He offers peace and rest in the comfort of His arms in every place, every corner, every moment of my life.

Even the gardener, in the midst of his pain, hurt and grief, in great sorrow still sowed the land with seed.  With peace and joy, not without tears, he continued in his day to bring the first fruits of the season.  I can only imagine the number of seeds that were watered by the tears that drenched the soil under his knees.  But what he brought home were sheaves of songs of joy!

Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.  He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.    Psalm 126:5-6

In the peace that only He can give, there is unmeasurable comfort.  When every ounce of myself can no longer carry on, I remember, my strength comes from the Prince of Peace.  This is where my help comes from!

Lord Jesus, I know you are the Maker of heaven and earth!  When I think of that alone I am overwhelmed with your power, your creativity and humbled by your love for me — merely a dot in the vast expanse of your creation.  Yet, though what appears to be so small, you have written a promise to be my Peace, my Joy, my Help, my Rock!  Oh,  how much you must love me!  There are days when I feel I cannot move for the weight of this world upon me is so heavy.  But in you the burdens of my circumstances become light and my wondering is sealed.  You are more than I have ever imagined and your greatness is beyond my human ability to understand.  Thank you for helping me through my pain!

In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.  The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?  The Lord is with me; he is my helper.  I will look in triumph on my enemies.  Psalm 118:5-7

Mind Of Its Own

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hpe fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.  I Peter 1:13

I ask because I want . . .

I want because I do not have . . .

I wonder on that I do not have . . . that’s doubt.

I reason when I wonder . . . that’s distrust.

I get so confused . . . that’s distraction.

I want to live from faith to faith . . .

But, I doubt when I lose faith . . .

And, I do not believe when I doubt.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything form the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.   James 1:5-7

Lord Jesus, this unsettles my soul.  I am fearful . . . I am that man.  I know the battlefield is not for my heart — it already belongs to you!  The battlefield is for my mind.  I thought about my children this morning in the early hours, about your words from Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  I find great comfort in knowing this, as my children face so many obstacles — none too large for you.  As you know, I thought, too, how our minds are much like children — they need training.  While my soul belongs to you and my spirit lends its ear for hearing you, my mind . . . well, it has a mind of its own.  My mind has been trained to speak loud against my spirit and disbelieve many things.  When I disbelieve, I disobey.  But this is more than just a declaration, it’s a prayer of revelation — one of finally seeing the root of my angst, the nourishment of my doubt and the birth of stillborn hope.  Renew these thoughts into a river of peace, resting in the joy of faith, not by sight, but faith through belief in who you are and what you are doing in me.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:2

I ask because you make it possible to come before you to seek you in fulfilling the desires of my heart (Psalm 37:4)  . . .

I seek you with my desires because I want to experience you in all things (Matthew 6:33) . . .

I trust you in all things with all of my heart (Proverbs 3:5-6) . . .

I live from faith to faith, believing you when what I see does not make sense (Luke 1:45).

Getting It Right

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Matthew 6:33

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been in the pickle of a moment.  It’s that all too familiar place when the flutter of the wings from the angel on your right shoulder are weighed against the pricks from the horns of that guy on the left, which oddly feels good!  Some call it that battle in the mind between right and wrong, good and evil — a conscience, conviction, confrontation — a decision.  And then we lean — go ahead, pick a side — because we do lean to the voice we most recognize.  The sheep always follow the voice of their shepherd.

I’ve always been one to speak against the “Land of Should’ve”.  We all say it at one time or another, even myself.  “I should’ve done this” or “I shouldn’t have done that.”  As though by saying these words to ourselves or even out loud declares the “right-er” path — the good path — a better decision.  It somehow releases the guilt and unloads the current circumstances of it’s meaning and gives more justice to the choice left behind.  It’s to say our future is determined by our choices.  But is it?  Really?

There is no doubt in my mind that my choices today may in fact dictate my future.  We can all dig up examples in our own stories where the choices we have made have altered the future outcome of things.  But let’s not forget Sampson!  God was with him, ordained from the beginning to save Israel.  Yet, his choices as they should have altered the outcome were no challenge in the Mighty scheme of things.  God’s purpose was still delivered through him — regardless of his choices along the way.

It’s not so much that our future is linked with making the right choices along the path of our journey, it’s more so directly linked with the right Lord we serve.  When we see this first, before our decisions, it serves as a compass in all things.  That’s when we get it right!

Lord Jesus, today I pray that in all things I choose you first.  But it’s not easy!  I read your word and it has so much to say about your love, and I am learning to trust you more, not just with my junk, but with my hopes and fears, my dreams and drama, my heart and my hurt.  You have my attention, may it be undivided.  I choose you today Lord, but I know you chose me first!

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.  Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  This is my command:  Love each other!    John 15:16-17

When God Asks

. . . my cup overflows.   Psalm 23:5

In the course of my life I can guarantee I’ve reached the million mark in a number of areas.  There’s been more than a million cups of coffee (ok, maybe not that many-but close!), a million steps since I learned to walk, a million sneezes (each time I sneeze I do them in threes-that adds up fast!), a million mistakes and a million peanut M&M’s.  But one thing is for sure, the benchmark of asking God to do things, change things and make things happen have far exceeded a million I think.

I just celebrated my birthday this last weekend and the top question on the board was, “What would you like?”  Others were wanting to create a day full of blessings by giving things I’d enjoy.  My day was filled with my favorite things (I suddenly started humming that song from The Sound of Music) — ugghh!!  I was overwhelmed at times and stuffed to the gills for most of the day!

I have spent a great deal of my time in life asking God for things.  Some of those requests and prayers have been answered, while some are still in the queue.  And now, many have asked me for the answers to questions in order to bring blessings to me.  That day was made marvelous through the diligence and willingness of those asking of my favorites.  But what about God?  How often has God asked me, about me?

I know that God cares about me, in fact loves me beyond measure.  I also know that He wants nothing but the best for me — even though my choices have not always opened the door to His blessings.  But God knows my heart and He knows what delights me and my spirit.  Knowing this, sometimes He doesn’t actually need to ask — He knows — and He blesses.  My day entails keeping a close watch out for His subtle surprises — to see the beauty in the blessings of those things in which He knows I find delight.  I don’t always accept those blessings as I should, nor see them as from His hand.

My cup, indeed, overflows!

  • The honks high above of the Sandhill Crane, circling in their flocks on their journey home, grabs my attention in awe and wonder.
  • The dazzling dance of a bumblebee in the garden captures me.
  • The sounds of a saxophone.
  • The burst of orange, blue, yellow and purple from the sun’s first kiss of the day takes my breath away.
  • The heartbeat of the ocean gently breaking on the shore in the early morning hours mesmerizes me.
  • The subtle breeze of springtime.
  • The sounds of my children laughing.
  • The winter night sky is overwhelmed with the details of His creation.

When God asks me how He can bless me, these are a few of those things He shares with me!

Lord Jesus, I am overwhelmed at how much my cup runs over.  My party is clearly not over or my cups would be dry.  Instead, you have filled them to overflowing!  I celebrate these many blessings and more — may my eyes continue to recognize your hand in all things.

. . . because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, because of your father’s God, who helps you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you with blessings of the heavens above, blessings of the deep that lies below, blessings of the breast and womb.   Genesis 49:24-25

A Dark Place Called Pit

And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.   II Peter 1:19

Last night I had the opportunity finally to see the first episode of the new series, The Bible on The History Channel.  It was exciting to see the Bible come to life and get more of a sense of human emotion as God stirred the hearts of His people.  It was very dramatic — yet still, it was perhaps nothing compared to the actual events.

In one particular scene I noticed something that had not occurred to me otherwise in reading of this account.  The excitement and energy of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea on dry ground has, as for many, been a moment of intrigue for me.  Imagining a wall of water on either side being held back by nothing but the strength of God himself is for me, a more than remarkable event.  But in this particular episode, I noticed the people grabbing torches to use for light as they journeyed quickly to the other side.  It never occurred to me that the walls of water might be so high as to block the daylight.  And as they reached the other side, it was as bright as noon.

I can only imagine what the Israelites must have felt while in the middle of the Red Sea, walking a dry bed.  Frightened.  Worried.  Confined.  Limited.  Uneasy.  Scared.  Curious.  Amazed.  Doubtful.  Confused.  Who could blame them?  They were just led into a very dark place!

For me, this dark place is called a pit.  I could spend a few days on my thoughts about the life and way of the pit, but for now, the measure of the journey is most important.  In the lives of so many, unlike the Israelites, the journey ends somewhere in the middle of the Red Sea.  Pitching a tent and making the pit feel like home.  Let me just say, there’s no place like home and the pit is not it!

It’s all about the journey, because, like the Israelites, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — my and your God, lifts me, leads me, guides me, teaches me to finish the journey.  He wants me to learn, forgive and love, and experience His life on solid ground!

Grab The Torch and journey through that dark place called pit!

Lord Jesus, I give you thanks for giving me your Light of Truth to guide me and teach me!  Your deliverance from my pits I’ve called home far too long is truly a celebration — a homecoming!  May I continue in my journey bearing witness to your hand as I learn to have eyes for you!

You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.  With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.  II Samuel 22:29-30

Murdering Hope

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.   Ephesians 4:31-32

I don’t have a clue what just happened, but I know who did it!  It was a team effort, they worked together and while they carefully manipulated the moment in their favor, the next move determined the fate of hope.  Unfortunately however, this murderous moment is not so uncommon and repeats itself virtually every day and often more than once.

Whether its like last night when I couldn’t find the ice cream scoop or yesterday when someone pulled into the parking spot I had been waiting on, it’s as though, as some say, someone just “peed in my cornflakes” and the smell of murder fills the air.  It’s when the sidekick accomplice of pride and entitlement lend their support to the masquerade.  When my friend speaks the truth and when family seems to turn their back, the characters begin to prepare for hope’s assassination.  There is nothing good that comes from the acts of resentment and bitterness — together they murder hope — and everyone gets hurt!

It seems like hope doesn’t have a fighting chance in this orchestrated tale of events, but hope has a few tricks up it’s sleeve just the same.  The lord over resentment and bitterness is lies themselves.  Hope is drained through the lies I choose to believe — both of myself and others.  Standing firm however, on the promises that Christ alone IS my everlasting Hope ushers in THE very thing that unravels the plans brought about by lies through resentment and bitterness.  When the ploy is revealed, hope lives!

Lord Jesus, while this story is silly in nature, it conveys a familiar pattern of destruction that so easily entangles.  I know who wins this and I know that hope through you is all the hope that is needed.  Jesus, I’m asking that you continue to heal me and guard my heart from resentment in the little, daily things, but more so, guard my attitude from bitterness and remind my mind of the fullness of my faith in you and the untrustworthiness of my emotions.

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.  I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.  Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope.  

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.  

Lamentations 3:19-26