Monday, May 6, 2013

Constant Companions

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger”* kept ringing in my ears as I climbed up the trail on the side of the mountain. My lungs were screaming for air and I was wishing there was some sort of rescue plan for the desperately out-of-shape, middle-aged woman who had “thought of herself more highly than she ought.” When I started out that morning, I believed a nice little walk in nature with a few hills and valleys would be the perfect exercise but now I wished some helicopter would come over the horizon to pull me up to level ground where my feet belonged. I was beginning to believe this would not end in 'strengthening.'

And yet, I survived to live another day. I was relieved to make it to the top. I am not sure I would have made it without the encouraging presence of my husband. He took it slow when I needed to go slow and stopped and waited when I needed to rest. He stuck with me the entire time even though he could have gone much faster. He never murmured a single negative comment or let on how weak I was. When we got to the top, I was grateful not only for his company but also that he had been there for me when the trail was tough. His companionship had helped me to persevere in an exercise that was very difficult and through that perseverance I had learned I could walk up the side of a mountain.

Hebrews 12 came to my mind this morning partly because I recalled the part of “Enduring hardship as discipline” but what I found was a list of encouraging companions that help us along the way when we encounter that hardship.

Verse 1 gives us a “great cloud of witnesses” that surround us. The idea here is a stadium filled to capacity with cheering spectators. The race is about to begin and the crowd is not only there to witness it but to also shout out encouragements. These witnesses know what we face because they have been in our shoes and they too have felt the pre-race jitters and the moments of doubt about whether would finish or not. But they know it can be done and so they raise their voices with enthusiasm to spur us on.

Secondly, we see Jesus in verse 2. He is called the author and perfecter of our faith. He has written the how-to book on faith, what it looks like and how to do it. He is what they call a pioneer who has gone before us to show the way and now we are instructed to follow in his footsteps. Verse 3 says, “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Jesus lived as a man and was confronted with the hardships common to man. We are spurred on when we consider his example of perseverance.

And thirdly, God, the Father (vs7) walks us through hard times and trains along the way. His motivation is to give us what we need to have the life he has planned for us: One full of righteousness and peace (vs11); One that allows us to share in his holiness (vs10). I love his encouragement in verse 12, “Therefore,” -- because you want to live a life of peace and righteousness and share in God's holiness-- “strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.” How? “Run the race marked out for us”, “Consider him [Jesus] who endured such opposition” and “Endure hardship as discipline”. Easy. Hardly. This a one of those 'good news, bad news' situations. The bad news is "No disciple seems pleasant at the time, but painful."  But the good news --"Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (vs11)

Last week, I repeated the hike that almost did me in. This time with the blessing cooler weather and stronger muscles, the thought of not finishing never entered my mind. I did have to take it slow and even stop to catch my breath a few times but the trip itself was much easier. My husband cheered for me as I reached the top and pointed out we had completed the climb in half the time. WooHoo! What an accomplishment.

It is true that “What doesn't kill us does make us stronger” but isn't it a good thing we don't have to go it alone when life produces hardship. We are surrounded, shown the way, and instructed by some pretty encouraging companions. Boy, do they ever make life and its seemly constant uphill climb a whole lot easier.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple stranded cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 New Living Translation

*”That which does not kill us makes us strong.” Friedrich Nietzsche

Monday, April 29, 2013

Sure Footed

"Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.  But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foot hold." Psalm 73:1-2

I lost it yesterday. What's the use anyway? All the encouragement and all the 'good words' about who God is I had lent to others in their times of trouble seemed to fall flat when applied to my own anguish. "Where was God and why was HE letting this situation continue?" and  "Why wasn't he doing what he said he could do?!" were questions rumbling around in my head. And "WHO KNOWS!" seemed to be the only answer. My once firm footing based on God's promises seemed to be crumbling beneath my feet and I could feel myself stumbling.

One verse seemed to scream out in my soul as I prayed was from Psalm 27. "I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."[13] It was more like-- I DEMAND TO SEE THE GOODNESS IN THE LAND OF THE LIVING!!! NOW!!! But this 'goodness' had not made itself visible in this situation. Turmoil and heartache were in its place taking all my attention. It wasn't until this morning when I took time to actually look at the verse in context with rest of the Psalm that my wobbly legs began to find their balance again.

"The LORD is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid?" are the opening words to this passage. The word 'stronghold' means defense or strength.  Defense itself means to take action against attack or challenge while strength has the idea of endurance and impenetrable structure.  Together we get the picture of a God who as the "stronghold of [our] lives" has what it takes to keep the enemy at bay. My part in all this? Nothing at all.

You see, it says in verse 1, "The LORD is my light and my salvation..."  Not can be.  Not will be if I just ___________. Its says he IS. "When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall.  Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident." [3-4] Why such confidence?  Because he IS my light and my salvation. I can trust it.

The rest of the Psalm repeats the idea of the Lord's protection by keeping us safe in his dwelling, hiding us in his sacred tent and setting us high upon a rock out of harm's way until we have dominion over the enemies that surround us.

The Psalm does point out that since the Lord IS our salvation and that we can be confident in that fact when trouble comes our heart can say as the writer's, "Seek your [God's] face."[8] We don't have look at the situation. We can look to God and ask to be taught and to be led as we move through it.

I don't know how the current situation in my life will play out but I do know that however the Lord has decided to work it out "I [will] remain confident of this: I will see the goodness in the land of the living."

"Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord" because "He will not let your foot slip...For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations" 
Psalm 27:14; Psalm 121:3; Psalm 100:5

Monday, April 22, 2013

For Goodness Sake

“Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through the 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 perseverence, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:2-8

goodness — the state of being good-- pure, moral, conscientious, meritorious, worthy, exemplary, upright, beneficial, having admirable, pleasing qualities

For Goodness Sake.
Danny, the Build Director, teared up as he stood watching his team congratulating the little family on their new home. Handshakes, hugs and comments on the success of the day passed throughout the group and although dinner was waiting back at the ranch, no one wanted to break the moment. It had been a good day.

I am so glad I was there to witness this life changing event for a young mother and her children. But their's were not the only lives that were altered. A team of twenty individuals had answered the call to do something good and this would have a lasting effect on them as well. That is the way of things when you put your faith into action by practicing what is good.

The word goodness in the focus verse in 2 Peter is the Greek word areta and means moral excellence; a virtuous course of thought, feeling or action. This step of  adding goodness to our faith is a strategic one . Now that we have put our faith in God, aligning ourselves with him, Peter says, “Add goodness.” It makes sense that we would follow God in his ways by choosing to act as he does by doing good. It was his own goodness, after all, he has called us out of a life of “corruption...caused by evil desires” and “has given us everything we need for a godly life.”

Romans 12 gives a Goodness Plan for our lives calling us to become “a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God...” by being “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” It gives us a way of seeing things differently by thinking and acting in a way that is good. And in this way, we are “not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” That, my friends, points to a major reason to add goodness to our faith-- It overcomes evil. That is something definitely needed when it comes to living a godly life. It also allows us to participate in the divine nature which gives us a deeper knowledge of who God is.

The challenge set before us is to continually choose good in everything we do. We not only will be changed by doing good but it also has a way of affecting others in the most positive way while bringing attention and glory to the Father. So, for His sake choose goodness.

God's definition of doing good--
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me--put into practice. And the peace of God will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9

”You are the light of the world...let your light shine among others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify the Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

Hands of Mercy, Ensenada April 2013

Monday, March 25, 2013

Add to Your Faith...

"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...". 2Peter 1:3-5

Long night spent sitting up in cramped quarters. What was I thinking? About half way in I began to think my traveling days were over. I had reached my limit of 'discomfort by choice'. And then there was a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. The 'hours to arrival' ticked down and anticipation of reaching my destination began to build.  You see, I got on this plane because I believed it would transport me to the place I wanted to go and even in the midst of exhaustion brought on by a long flight, a sleepless night and thoughts of "Are we there yet?" I never lost faith I would eventually find my way to the Arrival Gate.      

What is your definition of faith? Webster's defines faith as a firm belief in something for which there is no proof, complete trust, something that is believed with a strong conviction. It is something believed but not only that. Webster uses words in this definition such as firm, complete, strong when it comes to that belief.
In air travel you cannot 'sort of' get on the plane. One foot on land with the other in the air is just not going to work. You have to get completely on the aircraft to reach your destination. That is also the way with faith. You have to be 'all in' to get where arrive at the place God is taking you. 

There is however an element of faith that is also a continuous journey. When flying, there are always a few fellow passengers wrought with anxiety. They believe with certainty that this time may just be the time they will crash and burn. They pace the aisles or pop a sleeping pill just to get through. This may not be too far from the truth in how we treat our own lives. We get up each morning and tentatively set our feet in route to see if God's promises still apply to today's set of problems and worries. We struggle with the pain and discomfort as we wonder if this part of this trip through life will ever end. And then, as promised we see the glimmer of hope that God is indeed delivering us safely to our appointed destination.
I think that destination just might be a complete faith; one that firmly, completely and with strong conviction puts our confidence in God's word and his ways. I believe God is developing in us a habit in which we trust him on everything. He proves Himself over and over that there is nothing outside his power to bring the best possible outcome. As we go, we develop more and more assurance in Him with a confidence that He will do He says he can do. Each day that we plant our both feet firmly in that confidence will bring us closer to arriving at Complete Faith.

In Romans 4:18-19, Abraham is credited "against all hope...he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthen in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had the power to do what he had promised." It goes on to say, "This is why 'it was credited to him righteousness."  These words 'it was credited to him righteousness' were not written for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness--for us who believe in him..." [Emphasis added.]  Righteousness. Now, that's a pretty great perk. Let your faith grow. Be 'all in' when it comes to trusting the Lord. You do not want to miss out on what God has for you.
As for me and future travel? I will continue. Living would not be as satisfying if not for the lessons God teaches through the sights and sounds of this great excursion called life.
 The Lord will indeed give what is good..." Psalms 85:12
You count on it!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Packing Light and Still Smelling Sweet

It's time. Packing must begin for my long awaited trip. For over a year, I have been anticipating touring through Greece and Italy to learn about the Biblical history of the region. But first, one by one the items required for the next two weeks need to find their way into my suitcase. There has been much debate about how much  is necessary to make this the trip successful.  We have been asked to travel light. For some this has been a daunting task. How much clothing is needed to get by and still smell good has been a huge concern among my traveling companions.

And then there is,  "What size suitcase, how much weight, the right adapters for hair driers and electronics, TSA regulations on liquids, and what the weather will be. Do I need to bring a coat or will a sweater do?

 Lots to consider so I have looked to the experience of an expert traveler to help us navigate the process. Rick Steves, author of Europe Through the Back Door, teaches people how to experience travel to its fullest and he says that a measure of a good traveler is how light he or she travels. He goes on to say, "After you enjoy the sweet mobility and freedom, you'll never go any other way." He breaks down what is necessary for travel as he urges his readers to bring only the essentials. For instance --When considering what to wear, don't pack anything you won't use multiple times on the trip and include only items that coordinate or can build on each other to create your wardrobe. Keep it simple.

Good advice. Travel is supposed to move us to a new level of understanding of the world around us by bringing new insight and perspective on life. By keeping it simple and bringing only the essentials it frees up our attention and energy to engage in the journey.

Life in general has a similar plan. After all, it, too, is a journey so we need to be careful not to restrict our movements by being burdened down by the non essentials. In 2 Peter 1 there is actually a packing list that can be applied to our 'spiritual suitcase' so that we can get the most out of traveling with God-

"His [God's] 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."
This  step-by-step guide  revealed in this portion of Scripture teaches us how to pack for a successful  trek through life. God has kept it simple. Each idea builds on the last as we move through the list. And if these things, the first being faith, make it into the 'suitcase'  ..."they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ... [but] whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind...For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
Packing the 'travel' essentials makes us more effective, productive, selfless, and balanced. To top it all off, we " will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Pretty incredible promises indeed.

So when you hit the road of life remember to pack just the essentials.  Leave your head and hands and heart free to embrace the adventure. You will not want to miss a thing God has planned on your itinerary. And don't worry. God's 'packing plan' will leave you smelling sweet as well.
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ Matthew 25:23

Monday, February 25, 2013

Consider the Ant?!

Ants!!! Again, they have taken over my kitchen. I spay and they simple change they route. Hard as it may seem, they are not driven by the single purpose of trying to drive me crazy but rather providing a storehouse for the future. Yet again, God takes a moment to point out yet another important illustration that He makes in Proverbs.

“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” Proverbs 6:6-9

When applied to the eternal, this is just another example of the importance of hiding away God’s Word in our hearts so that we might have hope. Scripture cultivates hope through its encouragement as well as being “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man (or woman) of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16

And, just, as those pesky little creatures don’t take “no!” for an answer, we should practice the ways of the enduring little creature and let nothing get in the way of satisfying our own hunger for the Bible and it’s wisdom.

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4
So, consider the ant. Diligently and persistently store up for the future “…so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…”

All that being said, here is the blog site. Considering the lesson on fellowship, I am looking forward to discussing Scripture with you’all. Our time we are physically together is limited so this will give us another outlet to continue our conversation. It should be fun to hear from everyone

Carry Them in Faith

"One day while Jesus was teaching, some Pharisees and teachers of religious law were sitting nearby. (It seemed that these men showed up from every village in all Galilee and Judea, as well as from Jerusalem.) And the Lord's healing power was strongly with Jesus. Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat. They tried to take him inside to Jesus, but they couldn't reach him because of the crowd. So they went up to the roof and took off some tiles. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, "Young man, your sins are forgiven..." Luke 5:17-20 (NLT)

My granddaughter is in the thick of teenage rebellion. In all outward signs she seems to be the typical moody 17 year-old, earbuds and all. But away from of our view she has slipped into a very dark alternate life of drug use and using means to get those drugs that no grandmother wants to think about. You can imagine the turmoil and heartbreak that has resulted knowing the horrible situation her choices have led her to.

The thing is, she doesn't see it. It doesn't seem horrible to her. She has been convinced by her desires and 'the ways of this world' that this is an acceptable way to live. After all, it's HER life and she can choose what to do with it. What she doesn't realize is that she has been paralyzed by the world's deceptive thinking. If she continues on this path her life will wind down to a stand still and she will find herself struggling just to maintain the moment.

So hard to know just what to do. It is so much easier to pray for God to heal an illness or provide a need. After all, these things are out of our control and in God's hands but this situation seems different. What do we do with this? We are convinced that because everyone has 'free will' and can choose what they wish there is not much that we can change . It leaves us watching as our loved one lays down on their 'mat of hopelessness' worrying and waiting until they are ready to look to the Lord for help.

I would like to suggest that is just not the case. We can follow the lead of these very good friends found in the passage from Luke and grab the corners of the mat and haul them to the feet of Jesus.

I love this picture. It gives me hope. It takes the power away from hopeless situation I see, empowers me with what I can do and shows me what God will do in turn. Because of the faith of these friends this man's sins were forgiven and the story goes on to tell us his body was healed as well. Did you see that? Jesus acted on the FRIEND's faith.

I have seen this in action over and over as the women of the Bible study I attend have carried their sisters to the feet of Jesus. Most have gone willingly but there are some who would have who fought us off except they were paralyzed. (Which means they have to go where we carry them.) Healing and restoration has happened and what's more? We have witnessed and recounted the stories bringing the hope to even more women. Yes sir-e! These are exciting times. Healing is happening. God is good.

"Everyone was gripped with great wonder and awe, and they praised God, exclaiming, "We have seen amazing things today!" " Luke 5:26

Please grab a corner of of granddaughter's mat and help me carry her to the feet of Jesus. I know that because of faith of others and the willingness to carry her to the feet of Jesus her sins will be forgiven, her body will be healed and to God's glory she will take up her own 'mat' sharing her story with other young women so they too can find hope in a God who loves them. We will see amazing things today!