Pressing On

I press on. . . toward the goal . . . to win the prize . . . for which God has call me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14

Snap, crackle, pop. And no, I’m not talking about Rice Crispies. I’m sitting gazing into the newly started fire and I begin to think of how thankful I am for our wood stove on these chilly Fall mornings.

As I stare into the growing flames, I am contemplating a much-needed run.  Trying to warm myself up to the idea of getting out there on this cold morning and doing my thing.

I know I’ve mentioned this before but I hate being cold.  I think I was born to live in the tropics.  Maybe to have just stayed in the garden of Eden, paradise where the climate was just perfect.

Some days I really struggle to suck it up and make myself get out there and do something which I know is good for me, makes me feel better and is good for my health.

I share this because I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.  That’s how life is.  Doing the right thing always costs us something.  I can choose to stay here in my cozy place all snuggled by the fire which will bring me temporary comfort or I can choose to do something which is initially difficult but will bring more long-term lasting benefits.

So often times I equate my running to my walk with God. We don’t always “feel” like taking the time to read, pray or spend alone time with God, but in doing so there are lasting benefits to our health.  It’s our spiritual health that is at stake here.

When I speak of cost I mean obedience always costs us something.  A friend reminded me of this just yesterday.  Obedience means me waking up and intentionally giving up sleeping time to spend time with God while my household is still quiet and before the demands of the days are sitting on my shoulders. It means doing the right thing when everything inside of me kicking and screaming and doesn’t want to.

Following God and seeking Him takes concentrated effort.  It’s never the easy thing to do.  The enemy of our souls wants to steal, kill and destroy and to take us away from doing what we should.  He seeks to make us focus our time and attention on other things, namely self.

Following God is not always going to be the “comfortable” life that some seem to think it should be.  When we follow Christ we “share in His sufferings.”  This means that we are daily giving up of ourselves in an effort to be more like Him.  Laying down our wants to do what God wants of us.  And in this world that means there will be a constant battle.  Our flesh constantly wants to fight against the things of God.

It’s our fight for joy when everything inside us tells us we’re to tired to fight anymore.  Too tired to get out of bed to read or to pray, or to surrender to idleness or the present circumstances in our life that seem unbearable or to surrender to the emotions that are trying to drown us.

Our walk with God is sometime like a game of chutes and ladders.  There is no idle ground.  We will either advance and climb ladders or we fall on chutes that take us to low places.  And in our lives we all have these times of loosing ground but the trick is to get back up and continue on which reminds me of the passage in Proverbs 24:16 which says . . . for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again . . .

Our lives are not about the rising and falling but the pressing on through ALL circumstances.  It’s about acquiring the endurance needed to complete the race.  It’s getting out of bed one day and a time and walking the walk. Drawing close to God and running the race. Pressing on and in so that in the end we may win the prize . . . and complete our calling for which God is calling us heavenward in Christ Jesus.


Upside Down Living

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

One of my daughters all time favorite books growing up was Amelia Bedelia. If you’re not familiar with this children’s story, it’s about a maid named Amelia Bedelia who lives in Cameroon, North Africa.  Amelia has a slightly “different way” of doing things.  Amelia’s new employers would leave her a list of duties to perform while they would go off to work.  Amelia (who was well intentioned) would take the orders quite literally and do things in quite extraordinary way and it would always end with quite a comical result.

Some examples of her actions would be: If she was told to dust the furniture  she would literally go get dusting powder and put dusting powder all over the furniture . If Amelia was told to put out the lights, she would unscrew all the lights from their sockets and hang them all outside.  Another one I vividly remember is she was told to change-up the bathroom towels. So Amelia Bedelia went, got a pair of scissors and made some grand designs in their lovely bathroom towels. I always remember laughing wildly with my kids every time we would read Amelia’s crazy actions.

When I think of how I used to view God and how God has shown himself to me in my life, I would have to say that I have had quite an Amelia Bedelia experience.  God had to un-due many of my misconceptions of who he is and how he works because God’s means are a bit “different” from the worlds.  Sometimes when we grow up in a “religious” environment, we are given pictures in our head of what God is like and how things should be done. But as we begin to know God personally and understand his character, we discover that God works quite differently than how we would expect he would or should act.

It’s same as in Amelia Bedelia’s story like I said, God had to un-due some of my traditional thinking patterns about who is so that he could show me that there is another way, which is “His” (God’s) way of doing things. God’s way of doing things is usually quite upside down from how the world views things.  Meaning that it is not the way we would think someone who “created the universe” would work.  As we begin to seek God and walk in His way, we discover that His way is so much more amazing and incomprehensible than we could ever have imagined.

Like the Pharisees in the bible who were so steeped in their religious rules and traditions that they were unable to see Jesus the Savior of the world standing right there in their midst.  What they were expecting the coming Messiah would look like in their minds and what he was actually like did not line up. They saw a lowly carpenter who was born in a stable, who ate and drank with sinners and who did not follow the rules of the day, and therefore the Pharisees refused to believe in him and were blinded by their own thinking.  Their minds kept them from believing in faith. To them Jesus was a radical and non-conformist and therefore he couldn’t be the Messiah.

Jesus Christ breaks the mold of religious thinking. He is God and is not a stereotype of what we think he should look or act like. That’s why it says in the bible that we must come to him in childlike faith.  The act of believing in Jesus and who he is, is an act of pure faith.  Our humans minds cannot comprehend the wonders of such an amazing God.  When Jesus tells us to, Love our enemies, Pray for those who persecute you, Forgive 7 x 70 times, or if someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn him the other.  All these actions in and of themselves sound crazy to the natural human way.  Our flesh wants revenge when we are treated unfairly, but God’s way is not mans way. His ways are so much higher than ours. His thoughts higher than our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9)

We cannot do the things God asks of us in an of ourselves.  Only when we come to Christ in faith, we are reconciled to Him and we are given his spirit. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit working within us that God begins to mold and transform our lives.  He gives us the power to turn our ordinary thinking patterns into his thinking patterns.  This doesn’t happen overnight, it is a journey.  God is the business of extreme make-overs. He LITERALLY wants to give us a new way of thinking and God wants to use us and our lives to further his kingdom here and now.  And it’s only when we fully submit ourselves to his purposes will he transform our lives and infuse us with his upside down thinking that has the power to help change the world for the Glory of God.

 …the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.  John 14:17

You show that you are a letter from Christ, the Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

You are a result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human heart. 2 Corinthians 3:3

Pulling Power!

Do you ever try to figure things out in your own mind?  We are ultimately bent on trying to come up with solutions to the things going on around us.  Or we question God on what he is doing and why things happen the way they do? Like he needs to answer to us anyway, right?

I do this quite frequently and this often times leaves me feeling more frustrated and more confused than ever.  And sometimes even defeated.

This morning I was reading an article that spoke to me and then God reminded me of the passage in Psalm 37:5 which reads . . . “Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him and he will do this.”

This is exactly what I needed to hear at just the right time.  God is so good like that.  He saves me from my own harmful thoughts and ways.  He wants me to commit my ways to him and not to try to figure everything out on my own. When I try to do this, it is sin. It’s not trusting God’s bigger plan.

His word says “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways. Isaiah 55:8-9  How could I ever hope to comprehend or know what God is doing in and through my life.  He just wants me to trust him and to walk in obedience to him.

This reminds me of the sin Eve committed in the garden. She decided to eat of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil thus knowing all and becoming like God.  She was given paradise and yet did the one thing she was told not to do.  She wanted to know instead of just trust. God please forgive me.

Gods words says, I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11 With promises like that we can rest assured that God has us is the palm of his hand.  Our thinking tends to be a bit short sided but God knows the ultimate plan and when we walk with him, we can trust that he is working all things for our good and that his plan IS good!

God wants us to stop playing tug of war with him.  And often times I am so guilty of doing  just that. He wants me to set the rope down in surrender. Because when I surrender and obey, He is able to carry the load and pull the weight in our battles.  HE WILL DO IT! Our victory comes when we let him do the work. We will never fully understand why God does what he does this side of heaven, but God sometimes shows us glimpses of the results when we trust him so that we will be encouraged to continue on the journey.

God doesn’t need to do these things for us, but he does because he loves us and wants our full love in return.  When we submit our all to God and trust him, he gets the Glory due him and we have the opportunity to see him at work.  This life is not about us. It’s about him and furthering his kingdom here on earth.

God wants us to come to him in childlike faith, not trusting our own human wisdom but trusting in his divine plan!  Our wisdom brings confusion, his wisdom brings results! Lord Jesus help us to give over the pulling power to you, help us to trust you more fully today! Help me to commit my ways unto you so that you can fully guide and direct all my days!  Help me to daily surrender. Lord Jesus show me how fleeting my life is.  Help me to further your purposes and be a willing vessel in your ultimate plan.  Thank you for who you are and for how you work in our hearts and lives.  And glory and praise to you King Jesus!

Beware of the Spider and it’s Web

The other day I went for an early morning run.  It was a typical fall morning, cool and crisp but beautifully sunny.  There is one part of my run, which is a slow but continual incline.  Usually when I crest the top of hill, I stop for a short breather. I also do a little quick victory dance congratulating myself for making it to the top of the hill without quitting.

I had stopped to catch my breath and was looking around pondering the surrounding beauty.  I looked out across an open field surrounded by trees and there amidst the long dried out and overgrown grass, were hundreds and hundreds of spider webs.  Typically they would be obscured from the naked eye.  But they were covered with moist droplets of morning dew which was  illuminating them by the shining of the morning sun through the trees.   I was shocked by the vast number of them, it was really quite amazing.  If walking through the field, I would not be able to walk three feet in any direction without running into them.

Spider webs have always fascinated me.  They are beautifully woven, yet deadly traps for unexpectant prey.  Almost everyone at some point has watched when some little fly or other insect gets stuck in a spider’s web.  The spider most often times is hidden from plain view, but upon sensing the vibration from the struggle of something caught in it’s web,  the spider quickly descends upon the prey, further trapping it to seal the deal.  It then injects venom into its prey leaving it either immobilized or killing it.  Then the spider will then feed on it’s prey.

We must beware of the spider and it’s web.  The devil is like the spider who so craftily spins a web of deception.  He lies waiting for unrepentant prey,  just like ourselves, to wander aimlessly into his trap, so that he can entangle us and make us his next deadly victims.  Just like in the garden, Eve was deceived by the serpent.  He was cunning, crafty and made his lies appear to be as truth.  The bible gives us repeated warnings such as, beware, watch out, and stay alert.

When we are not diligent in our daily walk with Christ, when we’re not daily dying to our fleshly desires, we become easy targets for Satan.  The bible says in 1 Peter 5:8 . . .Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  That sends chills up my spine that our enemy is LOOKING for someone to devour.  We become easy prey when we are not spending time in God’s word and communing with him.  The devil renders that a victory, because we have become useless to the cause of Christ and have hardened out hearts against him.

When we are trying to do Gods will and seeking him.  The devil will amp up his attacks.  He wants to trip us up and make is fall.  God does not tempt us but each one is tempted when by his own evil desires he is dragged away and enticed. James 1:14  Lets face it none of us are going to be free from temptation, but if we remain strong and in Christ, these same temptations if endured will strengthen us.  While we remain in the flesh we will always have a battle to fight.  But praise be to God it says in that sin no longer has power over us. Romans 6:14  And that in Christ Jesus we are more than conquerors.  Romans 8:37

So as we go about out daily business, let us try to heed the warnings of scripture and remain with our eyes fixed on the goal to win the prize for which God has called heavenward in Christ Jesus.  Father God I pray in your precious name that we would abide in you.  Help us to stay alert against the schemes of the devil.  Help us daily to take up our cross and follow you.  Father God you have set us free from a life of bondage, help us to remain free and no longer be enslaved to sin.  We have that victory in you.  Thank you for all you have done and the great price you have paid for our freedom.  Help us to daily walk in that freedom! We praise you for your goodness to us! All praise and Glory be to your name, King Jesus! AMEN