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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Don't Quit

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised” Hebrews 10:36.

We need endurance all the time. We need it in times of pain and difficulty, so as not to give up. We need it in times of temptation, so that we won’t give in. We need it when we are weary of the battle and no sign of victory is in sight. We need endurance in prayer when the answers are not coming…and when the answer comes and it is “no”. We need it when the attacks of the Enemy are so very real and frightening that we feel defeat is inevitable. We need it when we feel that no one notices – or cares – about our battles and our pain.   And we need it in times of prosperity so that we won’t give away our faith and find our pleasure in that which will not satisfy truly. We need endurance, that consistent satisfaction in knowing Christ and making Him known, all the time.

How can we endure to the end, how can we persevere throughout the valleys and mountains of life? Probably lots of things are helpful but I want to focus on a couple today -

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Beautiful art

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them Ephesians 2:10

I have a painting hung above the fireplace in my basement. It depicts an old barn in a hay field, done in browns and beiges. To the discerning art critic, it probably wouldn’t merit a great deal of attention. Likely no one in sophisticated circles would long to own it.

But to me, it is priceless. I would never give it away or even sell it to the highest bidder. To me, it is beautiful and irreplaceably treasured.

Not because the scene is so beautiful nor because it is so rare.

But because of who painted it and gave it to me.

A friend who became so dear to me in college and then moved to the mission field tried her hand at painting before she left. She found she had a good bit of talent for it and she completed a few pieces, just for fun. One such piece is displayed in my home, a precious reminder of one I love so very much.

The painting is valuable because of who made it.

Regardless of what the art experts may think about my painting, I know beyond a shadow of doubt they may cast upon it that this painting is of inestimable value.

Girlfriends, it’s the same for you and me. We are His workmanship. The Master Designer has conceived and created us according to His flawless plan. We must not listen to the amateur art critics who try and speak into our lives, those who judge us according to temporal standards and find us lacking. Our design is not only intentional…it is also good. We are of infinite value because of Who made us. We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.

Unlike my precious painting, however, the designs of the Master are not created to just hang around and get looked upon. We have been created with purpose. Purpose that is not incidental but rather priority – for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 Let’s be about discovering what those are for each day.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

What if?

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food,the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,yet I will rejoice in the Lord;I will take joy in the God of my salvation Habakkuk 3:17-18

Joy. Not just any joy but joy that will sustain us when times are hard.

We spend a lot of time speculating “what if”.  “What if” I lose my job or “what if” that test result shows cancer. “What if” my children rebel or “what if” I never get to be a wife or a mom. “What if” my friendships betray me or the car repairs are more than I have in the bank or my marriage dissolves. What will I do if this happens or that? And we can spiral down into despair over these imaginings if we are not careful.

Most of the time, our speculations never materialize beyond our imagination. And we do well to remember to “think only” on truth, not speculations!

But what about those times when the worst possible thing does happen?
 What about when the diagnosis is bad, the loss comes, the dreaded fear becomes reality? What then?

The prophet Habakkuk covers that for us. He says even in times of great loss – no food,no source of sweet pleasure, not even any potential for income – it is possible to have joy. Habakkuk reminds us that our welfare – even our very existence – is not dependent on fig trees or olives or livestock. Nor paychecks or relationships or elected officials. Our existence – our joy – our security is found in the self-existent I AM.

Knowing Him and His glory is the source of our joy and security. Even if all the circumstances of our lives should turn out to be the worst we could imagine, there is still cause  for joy because God is in control and His purposes are love. He cares for us in our heartbreaks and He provides hope for us in our despair. Knowing Him – in the midst of suffering and disappointment – will sustain us. Knowing that He is faithful and worthy of our trust produces joy. Contentment. Satisfaction.

Even in the midst of great pain and loss.

When we resolve to rejoice in the God of our salvation even in – especially in – the midst of great fear and  sad valleys, then we will find great strength. Great joy.We will be able to say with the prophet Habakkuk – And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet and makes me walk on high places.





Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Sometimes you just need a nap...

Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.”  Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”  And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.”  And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again.  And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.”  And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. I Kings 19:1-8

Sometimes after the highs of our lives (wonderful blessings or even great spiritual victories as was the case with Elijah), we experience quite undesirable lows. How gracious of our God to include in His Holy Word this story of Elijah’s journey from depression back to joy! Tucked into the books of I Kings is a prescription that we can use in our fight for joy. Let’s see what is included in this passage…

Here’s the background – Elijah, prophet of God, was witness and catalyst to a mighty display of God’s glory. He invited the prophets of the false god Baal to a showdown between their god and the One True God. I hope that in Eternity, God will pull back the curtain of time to let us witness this amazing event where God shows those misguided people Who He is! Talk about a blaze of Glory! (For the details, check out I Kings 18)

In spite of this great victory, Elijah is human. And that means he is susceptible to doubt and fear. He falls prey to the temptation to fear what man could do to him (or in this case, a woman!) and he subsequently doubts God’s care for him. In this state, he runs away from the problem, hides out, and prefers death to living this way. God shows such tender mercy to him! Instead of telling him to straighten up and face things like a man, God is so gentle, so kind, so compassionate. Look up Psalm 103:13,14 for a reminder of how God sees us.

This passage above has a message for us about our own tendency to dip into depression. First, don’t be taken off guard. Know that we are all vulnerable in this way and be intentional about resting in Him always, especially in the aftermath of those “mountaintop experiences”.

But if you find yourself in the valley, take a page out of Elijah’s story. Take care of your body. Sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is to take a nap! We are physical beings, not just spiritual ones! And when our bodies are exhausted or ill, that can definitely take a toll on our spirit.
Take a nap. Eat healthy. Go for a walk. Get a physical. Maybe there is a physiological cure to your spiritual woes!