Archive | July, 2013

Whose Battle Is It?

26 Jul

Life is hard. The longer we live, the more we know that to be true. However, when we hear ourselves say, “I can’t do this,” it’s time to renew our mind with truth. I can think of at least three possible reasons life seems overwhelming. (You may think of more.)

First, sometimes we can’t do “this” because it’s not our ministry, calling, or responsibility. We may teach when we should organize, i.e. we don’t recognize our gifts. Other times we can’t stand the silence after an appeal for help. Up goes our hand, seconds before the one called by God stirred up courage to volunteer. We can’t do it all. Neither can we take the Holy Spirit’s place. We can’t force anyone to be responsible, mature, or loving. We can only set boundaries and administer consequences.

Second, we don’t realize we can do “this” because we haven’t done “this” before. Some first-time experiences come to mind. Becoming a stepparent. Giving up cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, over-eating, or any other addictions. Giving or receiving forgiveness for abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Dealing with long-term unemployment, debt, or bankruptcy. The list can be endless. Entrusting God with a tough situation comes faster and easier each time we let go.

Third, it’s true I can’t do “this” in my own strength. However, God never intended us to live life alone. (See We Need Supernatural Help) Ponder the following verses.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13 NASB95).

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might (Ephesians 6:10 NASB95).

This power working in us is the same as the mighty strength which he used when he raised Christ from death and seated him at his right side in the heavenly world (Ephesians 1:20 GNB).

You may have heard “God helps those who help themselves,” but you’ve never read it in the Bible. God searches for people who utterly trust Him. “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” (2 Chronicles 16:9a NASB95).

Our part is faith and dependence. God helps those who believe in Him to the extent of complete trust and reliance. He also strengthens those who humble themselves and admit their weakness.

But [God] said to [Paul], “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV).

Most of us have a weakness we can’t bear to disclose. As God’s teaches me to share my failures, I’ve discovered new freedom and joy and the first step in God’s process. “And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:3–5 NRSV).

So when we hear ourselves say, “I can’t do this,” let’s add, “but I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Are there other reasons we may feel overwhelmed? What have you learned about trusting God’s strength? Please share your insights and thoughts.

Twilight Love

20 Jul

photoO God, you have taught me ever since I was young, and I still talk about the miracles you have done. . .Let me live to tell the people of this age what your strength has accomplished, to tell about your power to all who will come (Psalm 71:17–18b GW).

This verse reminds me of Janie. She’s radiant when she speaks of her latest miracle and what God’s power accomplished. Janie turned 75 and married Robert the next day.

Janie and Robert share a history. Robert and Darrell were university buddies, both majored in math and physics. Janie and Darrell married in 1957; Robert and Shirley married in 1958.

The foursome remained friends after college and both men became teachers. After Robert moved to Amarillo, he persuaded Darrell to do the same. When Robert left teaching, he and Shirley lived in many different places including Puerto Rico and Geneva. Darrell and Janie visited in every new location. Sadly, Shirley developed Lupus.

Though the years, the two couples continued to share special times—weddings, cookouts, camping, and more. Robert visited Darrell and Janie after Shirley’s passing in 2004 and called often. When Alzheimer’s ended Darrell’s long goodbye, Robert was a pallbearer.

Shared joy; shared grief.

Janie and Robert had very little contact until 2011 when the extended phone conversations began. During one of these frequent calls, Janie mentioned she’d never flown by herself but was going to fly to Oregon for her second great-grandson’s baptism. Robert immediately said, “I’ll escort you to Oregon.” This was characteristic of Robert who regularly helped friends and strangers alike. Surprised and grateful, Janie accepted his generous offer.

They enjoyed the time together as good friends, never running out of conversational material. Robert made himself useful as they helped prepare for a birthday party. He played with and spoiled both precious little boys. No grandfather could have been more loving and attentive or fitted into the family any better.

They returned home as good friends, but imperceptibly Janie’s feelings for Robert altered during that trip. The long conversations continued and Robert came to visit in January 2013. Three enormous obstacles marred their realization that they cared deeply for each other. Almost five hundred miles separated them. They both had homes, family, friends, and a comfortable lifestyle. Then there was the age thing.

After the phone calls began, Janie’s son told her Robert would “come knocking at her door.” Janie assured him Robert wouldn’t knock and neither would ever move. It was impossible.

However, Janie began saying, “I have a fella.”

The long calls continued. Inevitably, they discussed marriage and found limited pros and abundant cons. Robert persuaded Janie that significance mattered more than quantity; she was delighted to see it his way.

“It just occurred to me,” Janie said, “we’re planning a wedding and we’ve never had a date.” Say no more. Robert drove to Amarillo, asked for a date, and Janie accepted.

I attended Janie’s lingerie shower; a bunch of twenty–year olds couldn’t have giggled more. No bride-to-be could have been more radiant. That glow accompanied Janie down the aisle June 29, 2013 as two families became one.

Robert had the wedding band engraved, “Twilight love is a blessing.” Janie and Robert have lived to tell this generation and the next that God removes all barriers, including distance, circumstances, and age.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT).

Singing Mountains and Clapping Trees

13 Jul

IMG_1211Every year I ask the Lord for a verse. In 2012, He gave me Isaiah 55:12. “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands” (ESV).

The previous couple of years had been challenging to say the least, and I yearned for renewed joy and peace. I claimed Isaiah 55:12 with no idea how God would bring it to pass. He was true to His word and eventually led me into this place of joy and peace. Our vacation in the national forest of Colorado brought all this to mind, as quaking aspen and gurgling streams reminded me of God’s faithfulness.

After three years, we’re once again camped in our 5th wheel trailer. My husband is an excellent fly fisherman and I enjoy photography. We delight in watching humming birds compete for a place at the feeder. There’s time for walking, reading, poking burning logs in the fire pit, and meaningful conversation.

We drove one of the “improved roads” up from our camp. The picturesque 10,000-foot mountain surpassed our expectations of beauty and fun. I couldn’t help but think of Romans 1:20. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (NIV). How can anyone witness the grandeur and beauty of creation and not recognize the Creator?

Isaiah 61 gives those trapped in physical, emotional, and mental affliction reason to clap and sing. Jesus proclaimed Isaiah 61:1-2 spoke of Him.

And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He . . . found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4: 17–19, 21 ESV).

Isaiah 61 continues, “To grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. (Isaiah 61:3 ESV).

Did you notice Isaiah called us trees? We are to be God’s beautiful oaks of righteousness, bringing glory to Him. Christ heals our broken hearts, sets us free, and so much more. Therefore, we join nature in singing, clapping, and proclaiming His glory.

Being Least in a Most World

5 Jul

How big is your pond?

I once had a university friend ask if I’d rather be a big frog in a small pond or a small frog in a big pond. Hmmm. It’s a bit like asking if I’d rather be valedictorian in a class of twenty or ranked twenty in a class of 1000. We all have a tendency to want to be most or best at something—most beautiful, organized, popular, or intelligent; best athlete, CEO, parent, or grandparent. It’s an endless list. The smaller our pond, the greater our chance of becoming the biggest frog.

Our need to feel important isn’t a new thing. Even Christ’s disciples weren’t immune to such attitudes.

[Jesus] asked [the disciples], “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:33–35 NRSV).

Later, ten disciples became angry with James and John who asked to sit on Christ’s right and left hand when He came into His glory (Mark 10:37).

So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:41–45 NRSV).

“But it is not so among you…” Christ followers walk a different path to glory. Glory doesn’t come through intelligence, talent, connections, education, or other contributors to “worldly success.” Jesus says greatness comes through slavery. Slavery has never held much appeal. Who wants to be completely controlled by someone or something?

Actually, I can name several. Paul, James, Peter, and Jude all declared themselves bond-slaves of Christ. I’ve known too many who yielded to alcohol, drugs, food, or sex. We’re all obedient on some level. We submit to laws, company policies, wedding vows, and more.

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16 NRSV).

In “My Utmost for His Highest” (March 14), Oswald Chambers says, “remember what lust is: ‘I must have it at once,’ whether it be the lust of the flesh or the lust of the mind.”
What must we have at once? That thing controls us.

Lord Jesus, I want to be Your bond-servant. I confess that I often make wrong choices and want to be a big frog. Teach me to be “slave to all.” Amen.

What have you learned about obedience and yielding? What’s hard? What consequences or rewards have you experienced? Please share your insights and experience.