Monthly Archives: April 2018

Of Eagles’ Wings and High Walls

They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:31

Those who wait for the Lord.  What does it mean to wait for the Lord?  Have you ever run ahead of God?  Maybe you were too impatient to let Him work out His plan, so you took matters in your own hand, and you ended up with a mess.   If you did, how did it work out?

Waiting on God means that we apply Psalm 34:5, Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act.  It is trusting God to direct your steps, praying to Him and waiting for an answer before you act.  It is also daily coming to God to ask His opinion on your day, not just going in your own energy and strength.

Shall renew their strength.  Paul said in Colossians 1 that his goal was to teach and admonish everyone with all wisdom so that everyone would be mature in Christ.  In verse 29 he gives away a little secret, “struggling with all of His energy, which works so powerfully within me.”  This meant that Paul had to put a lot of time and his own energy into reaching others for Jesus, but He did it with Jesus’ strength and energy.

That is a big secret.  The only way we can live the Christian life successfully is to let God live it through us via the Holy Spirit.  Usually we don’t figure this out until we come to the end of ourselves, like through some sort of disabling injury or disease, or loss of a job or some situation where we are in over our heads.

Save yourself a lot of trouble and figure it out now! Philippians 4:13 reads I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, not I can do all things because I have so much strength. Come to God daily and ask for Him to give you His strength and wisdom for the day. Don’t rest in your own strength, wisdom and resources. They will quickly fail. If they don’t, you’re just full of your own pride, and that’s another issue.

They shall mount up with wings like eagles. The Holy Spirit is a part of the trinity.  He is God’s personality and His job is to teach, convict, and guide us.  His job is also to empower us, according to Acts 1:8, You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses… The Holy Spirit gives us the power not to sin, the power to set our mind on Heavenly things and not on ourselves, and He gives us the power to mount up with wings of eagles.

They shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Many days when I’m already worn out and I just got out of bed, I find myself praying these verses.   Psalm 18:29 says, For by You I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. Claim God’s strength to equip you to do what He has called you to do.  It’s funny that on those days when I’m driving to work with no energy and I’m calling out for it, when I’m driving home on those same roads, I’ll think: “I made it!”  I’ll marvel that God did it, not that I did it.  He’s that kind of a God.

receive His strength.jpgI pray that God would give you His energy and strength.  I pray that God would give you His power, wisdom, creativity and equipping for the day.  May you mount up with wings like eagles and may you run and not grow weary. In Jesus name today may you leap over a high wall.

 

 


In His grip—God’s righteous and powerful right hand

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Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

I remember years ago when I was in graduate school for Counseling. I had a professor who was quite difficult. She was prone to zeroing in on a student and then ripping him or her to shreds, seemingly out of the blue. It was my night, and rip she did. It was nearing the end of my program, and there had been many obstacles to my finishing. They seemed to be spiritual obstacles, and I was trying to march through them valiantly.

But this rip fest shook me. I got home and I fell apart. I cried out to God and I said something to the effect of, “God, I have to know you’re there. Give me something.” And this is the verse He gave me, this exact verse. He spoke it loud and strong to me. It meant everything to me. In that moment I knew He would get me through that battle and whatever battle stood ahead of finishing. And He did.

Fast forward almost thirty years later. I was praying with a woman in jail who had just been sentenced to 25 years in prison. What she had done warranted it. When she had come into the county jail, she was a mess. But she was leaving a new creation. Jesus had gotten a hold of her.

We had read and claimed this verse before she went to her sentencing and now we read it again before she went to prison. Does she still have a ways to go? Yes. But Jesus goes with her.  This verse has been a mainstay so many times!

Can you remember a time when you were truly fearful?  Where what faced you was way more than you could handle? To be dismayed means to be horrified, unnerved, filled with fear and distress and being at a loss at how to deal with something.   This promise is like Superman coming in for a rescue, but Superman isn’t real.   God is.  And that’s great news. God takes a hold of you with His righteous right hand.

Get this: The creator of the universe promises to subdue our fears, to strengthen us and to uphold us with His righteous right hand.  He was promising this to Israel collectively, but 2 Corinthians 1:20 tells us, All the promises of God find their ‘yes’ in Jesus.  That means God’s character and promises were fulfilled in Jesus for all of us.

What about God’s righteous right hand?  Exodus 15:6 reads, Your right hand, O Lord is glorious in power, Your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.  And Exodus 15:12 goes on to say, You stretched out Your right hand; the earth swallowed them.    And check out Deuteronomy 33:2: The Lord came from Sinai and dawned from Seir upon us; He shone forth from Mount Paran; He came from the ten thousands of holy ones, with flaming fire at His right hand.  

When John saw Jesus, he fell at His feet as though dead.  But He laid His right hand on me, saying ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last,’ as Revelation 1:17 reports.  Jesus strengthened John with His right hand.

Throughout the book of Revelation Jesus uses His right hand, like in Rev. 5:1, in the right hand of Him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals.  It seems to symbolize strength, sovereignty and authority.

When you are in over your head, call on God, reminding yourself and God that you are His child and that He has promised to strengthen you, to help you and take a hold of you with His righteous, strong and ruling right hand.  Write this verse out and post it everywhere, quote it to yourself and tell Satan to get lost. You can take this promise to the bank.


Self Forgetfulness

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 2:3-5

I find myself thinking back on this article quite a bit, so I dug it out.  It is even more fitting now than even six years ago, since our ‘selfie culture’ has advanced all the more.  This short article was in the February 25, 2012 issue of the World magazine with the title of “Me, Myself and I.”  Here is what it said:

“The way a person writes can reveal his psychological state.  That’s according to research by University of Texas professor James Pennebaker.”  He wrote about a computer program that counts and categorizes words.  He analyzed over 400,000 different pieces of writing from college essays, texts, transcripts from press conferences, and chat room conversations.

Pennebaker writes: “when we analyzed poems by writers who committed suicide versus poems by those who didn’t, we though we’d find more dark and negative content words in the suicides’ poetry.  We didn’t–but we did discover significant differences in the frequency of words like ‘I.'”

He went on to conclude that “pronouns tell us where people focus their attention.  If someone uses the pronoun ‘I,’ it’s a sign of self-focus.  Say someone asks ‘What’s the weather outside?’ You could answer ‘It’s hot’ or ‘I think it’s hot.’  The ‘I think’ may seem insignificant, but it’s quite meaningful  It shows you’re more focused on yourself.”  His findings were that suicidal people focused on themselves to a fault.

Now, think about either conversations that you have with others, or that others have with you.  Who talks about themselves the most, or does things to point the attention and focus back to themselves–you or the other person?

I am struck increasingly  about our lack of people skills, or social skills, even in the body of Christ.  People don’t know how to carry on a conversation about simple life things and go back and forth to get to some point of connection, let alone to get to spiritual conversations that either encourage, spur on, or to do anything else.  People ramble and not say anything much, they interrupt or get side tracked with their attention, they talk about themselves, or they just don’t go out of their way to initiate a conversation with someone else.  Others use “humor” to keep people at a distance or to keep the focus on themselves, making barriers that they might not even intend just because they want to be liked or known as being funny.

Simply asking people about their family, their job, where they are from, leads to being able to ask deeper questions about what God is doing and has done in their lives, and other significant things.  It takes servanthood to be the listener, the encourager, and the one not at the center of the conversation.

I lead a women’s Sunday School class, which has a varying number of participants, up to almost twenty at times.  It is interesting to me those who are just waiting to jump in and pull the attention to themselves, their week, their rabbit trail.  Many times it has nothing to do with the topic at hand.  I try to allow time to share, to attend to how people’s weeks were, to pray…But then we move ahead.  Some would never move off of self.  It’s that way in any group I’ve ever been in.

How to get my eyes off of me?  Timothy Keller’s book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness is wonderful.  He says something to the effect of: As we grow in Christ, we don’t think less of ourselves.  We just think of ourselves less.

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One of my favorite hymns is “May the Mind of Christ my Savior,” by Kate B. Wilkinson.  One of the stanzas is:

“May the love of Jesus fill me, as the water fills the sea.  Him exalting, self abasing–this is victory!”

 


Is that a shovel in your hand?

For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. Jeremiah 2:13

holes shovelsOne of my favorite kids’ movies is the movie “Holes” from the book by Louis Sachar.  The kids at the juvenile detention camp, “Camp Green Lake” have to dig holes in the desert day in and day out.  The warden  is in search of a generations old treasure and the teens are the forced labor.  The song that plays as they dig has the line of “Keep digging those holes, diggin’.”

As we hew cisterns for ourselves that are broken and can hold no water, that song might has well be playing in the background.  “But wait a minute,” you cry, “I’m a Jesus lover.  I have not forsaken Him, nor have I dug my own well that can hold no water.”  Really?

I am reading a challenging book by Brad Bigney called, Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel With Hidden Idols (P&R Publishing).  In it he talks about how we can give our hearts and our affections, our first love, over to something else.  That thing becomes our driving force to what we do.  Then we become idolaters.

I often read through the Old Testament and wonder how they could have altars to Baal or Asherah poles in their back yards or high hills and not connect the dots.  Like someone should have said: “Wake up!  How did we fall so far?  Get rid of these idols!”  Yet when someone looks back on our culture, they might see the things that we’ve allowed and  there will be certain idols that will be so clear to them that aren’t clear to us.

If we move away from the Bible, from Jesus, from what Romans 1:21 describes as essential: knowing God, honoring Him as God and giving thanks to Him–then we engage in the ‘Great Exchange.’  The ‘Great Exchange’ of Romans 1 is exchanging the truth of God for a lie, worshiping the created things instead of God the creator, exchanging  natural pleasures for unnatural ones.  Turn on the television or the computer and you see it and hear it.  Again, that’s not us!  Or is it?

I don’t have a shovel in my hands.   Or do I?  When the Israelites fashioned the golden calf at Mt. Sinai, again, I judge.  How could they?  God had just parted the Red Sea.  Do they have amnesia?  God was too slow–Moses was up on that mountain too long.  How often do I turn to something I can control, instead of waiting on God, even though it serves me poorly?  It’s a broken cistern, an idol, sin, rebellion–whatever you want to call it.  I’ve got a shovel in my hand and gold dust on my clothes.

My broken cisterns cost me.  They might be more predictable than God is, and they might keep me in the driver’s seat, but they cannot hold water.  They don’t deliver.  I might have pride if I succeeded in some plan, but there is fear lurking around the next corner about ‘what happens if I blow it next time?’ Or if I don’t get what I want and can’t conjure it up, there are things like depression and defeat to contend with.

I’m pretty good at spotting other people’s golden calves.  I can see them running around with their kids to all kinds of sporting events, or their preoccupation with keeping up with cultural norms.  I’m not so good at spotting my own.  Even if I am, I’m not so good at calling them what they are.    When I first set out in my 20’s after college, I was determined not to own any more things than what I could fit in my car.  I thought people who were tied down to mortgages, jobs and responsibilities were “sell out’s.”  It kept them from being all-in for the Kingdom.

Well, now I’m one of those sell out’s.  I stand on the edge of breaking away from it, contemplating an early retirement to go back to my radical lifestyle of my 20’s.  I didn’t know how God was going to provide then, but I knew He was.  I was ‘about my Father’s business,’ and I loved it.  Now I have much more to give up, but so much more to gain.  Is my job and  my position my broken cistern?  Is money my golden calf?  Is the control that the good salary offers, the self sufficiency, the power, and the me-time, standing in the way?

Brad Bigney:  “When you’re craving something other than God, even something good, God takes it very seriously.  In that moment, He’s coming after you.  He’s coming after you for His glory and your own good, because life for us is better without idols.  Life for us is better when we’re delighting in the gospel and living Christ as our highest treasure.  Life for us is better when we’re focused on God and free from idols.” p. 26

Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!  Psalm 139: 23-24


A Gospel Ambition

I endeavor to bring the Gentiles to obedience of the faith, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God…so that I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and this I make it my ambition to preach the gospel not where Christ has already been named.  Romans 15:18-20

That was Paul’s gospel ambition, to go where ‘no man has gone before’ to preach about hands upJesus.  He had dreams and he was fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit.  A Gospel Ambition.  That sounds so lofty, reserved for heavy hitters like Paul, or pastors and missionaries.

Maybe the rest of us get ‘life ambitions.’  Now we call them ‘bucket lists,’ after the Morgan Freeman movie.  It doesn’t have to be spiritual, at least that’s what we think.  So our bucket lists include things like: seeing the Grand Canyon, or running a half marathon, or getting on Jeopardy (that’s mine).

**But does God put spiritual bucket lists on our hearts?  Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “We are HIs workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which He has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  The NIV words it “that God has prepared in advance for us to do.”  He’s given us a mission just like He gave Paul.  It might not be as sweeping and far reaching as his, but my point is that God gives us all a ‘Gospel ambition’ a life purpose, and He burns it on our hearts.

That means we don’t have to look hard to find it.  We know what it is.  And God gives us the Holy Spirit to give us the power and the boldness to carry it out.  That’s what Acts 1:8; 4:31 and Colossians 1:27-29 say.  It wasn’t just for guys back then, it’s for us too.  Jesus lives in us and gives us His power, energy and boldness.

I occasionally get dreams that I know have spiritual significance.  I had  one this week.  I knew that there was something to the people and events in the dream, so I sought out a friend that is a pretty good interpreter and encourager.  One thing he has taught me is that if I have a dream about somebody else, I need to tell that dream to the person because God has a message for them.  God has been speaking to me about several things since that dream, including not letting me back pedal from my Gospel ambition.

In my dream I was walking a co-worker’s father home.  It was a snowy evening, and I was walking him home on a trail to his daughter and son-in-law’s cabin.  They had the fire going and they welcomed him in.  The father and I didn’t talk, nor did the couple invite me in.  My concern was that he got ‘home’ safely and I was successful.  I have never had a personal connection with this father until about three weeks ago when I rode with him and several others to a sporting event.  He is almost 80, so no spring chicken.

As I turned to head back down the snowy trail, the sun was going down almost completely and I saw that I had a head lamp.  My co-worker, who is not a Christian, called out, “Don’t you love those head lamps?  I have one every where I go.”  But within a few steps it dimmed.  I looked down the path and about 30 yards ahead there were four or five bears in my path.  I saw them, they didn’t see me.  My head flashlight went out completely and I laid down on the ground and back pedaled up hill and woke up.

The father that I walked home is not a Christian.  One of his daughters is, and I felt led to call her and ask about his spiritual state.  The night before my dream they had just had a family meeting to say that her mother had breast cancer and they were talking about where their burial plots were.  He is a skeptic and a debater.  She said, “I won’t be in that grave long.”  He said, “I’ll be in that hole for a long time.”  He needs Jesus.

As she told me this, the Michael W. Smith song played strongly in my head, “I’ll Lead You Home.”  Some of the words: “It won’t be long before your sun goes down, just leave it to Me, I’ll lead you home;  A troubled mind and a doubter’s heart; You wonder how you ever got this far; Leave it to Me, I’ll lead you home.  Hear Me calling, Hear Me calling…”

I had just watched the movie, “A Case for Christ.”  It’s about Lee Strobel, the big skeptic who tried to disprove Christianity and ended up becoming a Christian in the process.  The father was a lawyer and reads a lot.  I ordered the book and am going to give it to the Christian daughter to give to him this next week when they get back from a trip.  We’ll see where it leads from there.

The bears in the path are/could be resistance, nay sayers, overbearing people who would cause me to back pedal and to not be bold–hence, my light for the Lord dims and goes out.  It doesn’t shine and doesn’t do it’s work.  That so hits the nail on the head.  It is so easy to back pedal and avoid confrontation.  It took boldness just to call the Christian daughter out of the blue and tell her that I had this dream and to ask her about her dad.

When I read these verses about the Holy Spirit being the one who gives us the boldness, as well as the  ambition to be used by God in the first place, it gives me the confidence that God will do a work in this father’s heart before He dies.  He will lead Jim home.  I just get to walk with him down the path.