A dead life

Jesus replied, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you will see God’s glory?” John 11:40 (NIV)

Have you ever felt that part of your life was dead? I know I have, stuck in my troubles forgetting that God has power that I do not have to turn things around. I, like Martha, have cried out, Lord, if  You had been with me I would not be sitting here in pain now! There have been times that I have felt that Jesus seemed to be taking his sweet time getting around to my problem, that He would come too late.

In John 11:21-24 we find Martha in a state of despair. She had sent a message to Jesus to come quickly because Lazarus was gravely ill. Now here Jesus finally arrives and from Martha’s viewpoint, He is too late. “Master, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21).

“Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother shall rise again.’ Martha replied, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day'” (vv. 23-24). I don’t think she really understood what Jesus was saying. She was looking toward a future possibility, not a present reality. She didn’t really expect things to change. Martha saw things from her viewpoint, not from God’s viewpoint.

When I am hurting, I need to hold on to the hope that God can bring a new beginning out of the pain. He can create a Lazarus moment in my life. There is more here than just the part I can see. He can show me glory in my present circumstances, and he can use my pain for something great.

Lord, Help me to find the glory in my circumstances. I need to hold onto the fact that I may not be seeing the possibilities that exist from my vantage point. Help me have faith in you, the one who lives above life’s storms. Help me to trust your viewpoint on my present circumstances and that all will come together for my good. Amen.

The gift of self

“I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. ~John 10:11 (MSG)

Part of being a Christian is following Jesus’ example. Even to lay down our life for other people. We are called to be Christ to others, and here we see in this passage that Jesus is willing to put his life on the line for those He is in relationship with. When we are willing to share with others our sorrows and joys, our despair and hope, our loneliness and experience of intimacy, it makes our lives available to others as a source of new life.

It can be easy to be overwhelmed with all the pain and suffering I see around me. I have to remind myself not to put on blinders of protection. I am not here to solve the problems of the whole world, but I am here to be a helping hand to those God has put me in relationship with.

In his book Bread for the Journey, Henri J.M. Nouwen says, “One of the greatest gifts we can give others is ourselves.  We offer consolation and comfort, especially in moments of crisis, when we say:  ‘Do not be afraid, I know what you are living, and I am living it with you.  You are not alone.’  Thus we become Christ-like shepherds.”

Father in heaven,  may I not be so busy in my life to notice the pain and suffering of those I have been called to be in relationship with. Help me to be willing to share out of my life so that someone else might be able to find hope in You. Help me to be a light pointing to Your love. Amen.

Taking life as it comes

Therefore, stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34 (CEB)

Sometimes I think I hold the market on worry. I get so pulled into all the possibilities all the” what ifs” that I sometimes just wear myself out. As a child, I would almost make it a game. If I could think of all the “what ifs” then maybe I could keep them from happening. Even though I know the odds of really being able to control things in that way I still find myself in my old habit of worry. Maybe that is part of the key to the problem. I have let worry become a habit. I do it without even thinking. It has become part of a thought process that I need to unlearn.

Just before verse 34 in Chapter 6 of Matthew, we are told that God knows what we need. He dresses the earth in splendor, He feeds the sparrows, He knows the number of hairs on my head. Can’t I trust Him to know what I need as well? How I can learn to set aside my worry is just to deal with things as they come. God has equipped me to do this which is why He tells us to focus only on today. Worry only brings frustration and frustration is the first clue that God isn’t in my situation.

Lord help me to practice this day the art of taking life as it comes.  You know what I need, and I am assured by your Word that you will meet my every need for this day. Amen.

Fighting giants​

“The LORD, “David added, “who rescued me from the power of both lions and bears, will rescue me from the power of this Philistine.” “Go!” Saul replied to David. “And may the LORD be with you!” ~1 Samuel 17:37(CEB)

I like the story of David and Goliath. The boy versus the giant and the boy wins. It isn’t the underdog theme that I love it is the confidence that David shows us in the story. He had such an intimate relationship with God that he KNEW that God would take care of him. How did he know? David knew God would take care of him because they had a history together. David tells us some of this history. “The Lord, who rescued me from the power of both lions and bears, will rescue me from the power of this Philistine.” David had the confidence to fight the giant because he had a history with God where God had delivered him from the lions and bears. To him, it was a natural assumption that God would take care of him in this situation as well.

It is important for us to be aware of the times that God has worked in our lives. Even the small things He has done for us. Recalling the small things, He has done bolsters our confidence for the big things in life. If God only came waltzing through our lives at the big events, we might not have the faith we need to believe that he will show up in great times of need. But I think he blesses us even in small things so that we can learn to trust him and as our trust grows and our relationship blossoms we gain the confidence that we need for the big battles in life.

The challenge for us is to look for those small blessings that God bestows on us. Sometimes they might be easy to overlook or to say that it is just coincidence. When we learn to look for God in the small moments of our lives, we will gain the knowledge we need to see him in the crucial times as well. God is always with us. We have to train our eyes to see him at work in our lives.

Heavenly Father, I know the Bible tells me that you are always with me. Open my eyes to see you in the small ordinary moments so that I will be confident to find you in the trials of life. Amen.

Mountaintop

Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and brought them to the top of a very high mountain. He was transformed in front of them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Jesus. Peter reacted to all of this by saying to Jesus, Lord, it’s good that were here. If you want, I’ll make three shrines: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” ~Matthew 17:1-4 (CEB)

Every vacation must come to an end. Each good moment cannot last forever. Life is like that. As we said goodbye to the family we traveled so far to visit, the eleven-hour drive home feels like such a letdown after all the excitement of visiting with family and daily exploration trips. Now we have the mundane time of clicking off the miles ready to be home and yet not ready to be back in our everyday lives. “Let’s just stay longer,” my son says. But the real world pulls on us and home we must go.

My son’s request reminds me of Peter, on top of that mountain with James and John when Jesus was transformed in front of them. When he shared this awesome moment with Jesus and his closest friends he didn’t want to leave either. He wanted to stay in that moment. Jesus’ silence to Peter’s request reminds us of the obvious; they couldn’t stay up there and neither can we.

There is work for me to do, responsibilities that need my attention, additional places that I must go.  No matter how much I long to stay, I must come down from this mountain. I must experience other parts of life as well. Through good times and bad, I know that Jesus is traveling with me down the mountain, through the valleys and back to the mountain top again. The cycle of life continues but my comfort is knowing that Jesus travels these roads with me.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for mountaintop experiences and for everyday life. Help me to enjoy all the paths of life that you have laid out for me. Amen.

Be Strong! Don’t Fear!

For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline. ~2 Timothy 1:7 (NRSV)

I have never really thought before about fear being a spirit. It certainly can influence me. Fear keeps me from doing a lot of things. Fear makes me realize my limitations, my ignorance, and all my shortcomings and that there are so many. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells me that these feelings are not from God. Instead, God gives me a spirit of power, a spirit of love and a spirit of discipline. From Romans 8:15 I learn that fear leads to slavery and bondage. Paul wrote, “You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again to fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as His children. With this Spirit, we cry, Abba, Father.” As a child of God my Father wants me to live in freedom knowing He has given me strength and power to overcome my fears.

“Say to those who are panicking: Be strong! Don’t fear! Here’s your God, coming with vengeance; with divine retribution God will come to save you” (Isaiah 35:4) “Don’t fear, because I am with you; don’t be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand.” (Isaiah 41:10) “I am the LORD your God, who grasps your strong hand, who says to you, Don’t fear; I will help you.”(Isaiah 41:13)

So, I am empowered because “God is our refuge and strength, a help always near in times of great trouble. That’s why we won’t be afraid when the world falls apart when the mountains crumble into the center of the sea when its waters roar and rage when the mountains shake because of its surging waves.” (Psalms 46:1-3) No matter that my life may feel at times that it is crumbling around me, God wants me to stand strong. Even though I feel that I am overwhelmed and that I am drowning, God has His hand out to grasp me and to keep me from going under. So I should not trust my “feelings”. I should not be afraid. This is a discipline that God wants me to learn. He says these words throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament. It is a message that He has repeated over and over again. He says to all of us “Do Not Be Afraid”.

Lord, I know that the spirit of fear is not from you. Help me to use the spirits of power and discipline to stand strong in times of trial. Amen.

Smarter than me

Thomas asked, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?” ~John 14:5 (CEB)

I have this neat function in my map app on my phone. It is called “Navigation”. I discovered this neat little application when I was lost in a big city stuck on a one-way street going the wrong direction. Literally. By my own knowledge, there was no way to turn around and go back the way I had just come. In my desperation, I clicked on the map on my phone to use its GPS. I knew my phone was smarter than me. It was my hope that by using my phone I would be able to figure out the answers that I needed to get me going in the right direction. While pulling up the map I accidentally clicked on the “navigation” button. I discovered this function did more than just give me a map allowing me to see where I was at that exact moment. If I typed in the address of where I wanted to go the application would take me turn by turn from where I was to where I needed to be. By accepting my inabilities and searching for where I knew I could find the answers I was soon back on track. I not only made it to where I needed to be, I made it back home too.

This phone had been in my possession for a year. All along the phone had this application, but until I actually tried to figure out what it could do it was no good to me. No matter how smart my phone might be it is only as smart as its user. The Holy Spirit is like that. I have the Holy Spirit deep within me. If I don’t know how to utilize its capabilities I can find myself lost not knowing where I am going or how to get back to God when I have found myself a little turned around.

The Holy Spirit helps me to navigate through life (Psalm 143:10). I can rely on the Holy Spirit to give me speech when I don’t know what to say (Mark 13:11) and speak with confidence (Acts 4:31). I can rely on the Holy Spirit to guide me in my decisions (Acts 6:2-6). The Holy Spirit will give me encouragement (Acts 9:31) and fills me with happiness (Acts 13:52). The Holy Spirit will give me hope (Romans 15:13). Through the Holy Spirit I will be made holy and acceptable (Romans 15:16). I am washed clean and made right by the Holy Spirit (1 Colossians 6:11). These are all truths that exist whether I use them or not. With the Holy Spirit, I am so much more than I am on my own. Reading my Bible gives me instruction on how to use the Holy Spirit to keep from getting too far off track.

Heavenly God, guide me with Your Holy Spirit through this day. May I utilize all its capabilities so that I may be smarter than I am on my own. Amen.

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