Friday, May 30, 2008

Finding Strength for Today, Receiving Hope for Tomorrow

Struggling with "Blue Mondays" and the issues of life, I went to Sunday School to teach a lesson on crisis that leads to contrition. As God often does, the teacher learned more than the students. As we continued our study on Jacob wrestling with God found in Genesis 32 and compared his challenges with our own, God repeated one of his messages. Last Sunday morning I heard, again, how God desires to show us the "path of life" (see May 13, 2008 blog entry).

When I thought about the many who have gone before, I asked myself, "How does knowing that many have gone before us help us stay on the path? By doing what they did, of course. The Holy Spirit led me to Hebrews 12:1-3 that tells what they did. The New Living Version does a great job bringing it all together.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd
of witnesses to the life of faith (all found in Hebrews 11), let us
strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin
that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the
race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our
eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our
faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross,
disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor
beside God's throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from
sinful people; then you won't become weary and give up."
So what is it that we have to do to stay on the path?
1. Strip off every weight that slows us down.
2. Let us run the race God has set before us.
3. Keep our eyes on Jesus, the originator and perfecter of our faith.
4. Think about all Jesus went through--survey the wondrous cross.
If you and I do these things we have the guarantee from God that we will find the strength to overcome weariness and not give up. This promise holds the gift of hope for tomorrow. Can you hear him? He is standing on the sidelines shouting: "I know you can stay on the path!" "Don't ever give up!" "I'm here with you and will never leave you."
". . . He has given us his very great and precious promises"
2 Peter 1:4

Have a powerful day! Amen!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Blue Monday

Hear my prayer, O LORD God Almighty;
listen to me, O God of Jacob.
Psalm 84:8

Have you ever had one of those days where you went from stress to stress instead of from strength to strength (Psalm 84:7)? Going from stress to stress described my day yesterday. It started out with a lot of little things and then ended up with a big thing that just blows my mind.
God has kept me in Psalm 84 for weeks now, which helped me through my blue Monday.

My last phone call of the evening was from my crying brother. His best friend in the whole world had shot himself after leaving a note that said he couldn't take the pain any more. My heart began to break again, not only for my brother but for this precious mother who now has to bury the last of her five children. She has been through so much, I can't comprehend how she can bear it all.

Her first son, was an invalid for years from a rare debilitating disease that destroys every muscle in your body. This horrible condition left him blind, unable to hear, speak, or move. Soon after her first child died, her youngest twin daughters were diagnosed with the same disease. But once this hereditary disease showed up in them, doctors began experimenting with bone marrow transplants and other things to no avail. Both of these beautiful girls died within months of each other. Years later her second son shot himself, because his wife left him, leaving her with her third and last son. Recently, her last son got a strange virus that moved to his heart, almost killing him. He had open heart surgery to save his life and seemed to be doing better, but obviously was still in a lot of pain.

I am thankful that she is strong in her faith, despite her life journey. As I lift her up in prayer, I can't imagine how she must feel after losing all five of her children. She is not much different than Job. In these matters we cannot understand, God asks us to lean not on our own understanding, but in all our ways acknowledge him, and he will make our paths straight.
Even though my mind is boggled, I know I have a choice whether to trust God in all these messes this sinful world creates or not to trust him and become bitter. I choose to trust because God's word promises:

O LORD Almighty,
blessed is the man (woman) who trusts in you.
Psalm 84:12

Be blessed and please join me in praying for this hurting family.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Path of Life

You will make known to me the path of life;

you will fill me with joy in your presence,

with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16:11

God is ready and willing to show us the road of life. Are we paying close attention to what he has made known about this path? He has repeatedly shown me this road represents our pilgrimage, many have gone before us. There are times we pass through the Valley of Baca (Psalm 84:5). Baca means weeping. We will cry on the way to our holy place, heaven, but he blesses us with the joy of his presence during our entire journey--bumpy back-roads, potholes, smooth super-highways and all.

It's passing through the Valley of Baca, however, that leads us to contrition. Contrition means to be smitten, maimed, dejected or sad. Jacob experienced being contrite when he wrestled with God all night long. Jacob was so determined, it is written that the man (God) could not overpower him.* Finally, God touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was maimed. He walked with a limp for the rest of his life.

Jacob's hip represents our human pride. Most of us are downright hard-headed (I know I am), but once we wrestle with God and allow him to show us how to be broken-hearted, dejected and sad over our pride and sin, miracles begin to occur. Like Jacob, we receive a new name and a mission, the path of life becomes clear. This happens when we have the same mindset of Jacob: "I will not let you go unless you bless me" (Genesis 32:26). We are less likely to stray off the path, if we hold on tight to God every moment of every day, living totally dependent on him. The good news is he has a firm grip on us, even if we let go and roam off the well worn road.

It doesn't matter if our path leads us through valleys or over mountain-tops, God remains faithful. He dries ours tears, clears our confusion, and protects us fiercely. Nothing can separate us from his love. The path of life consists of total surrender to a totally trustworthy God. Is my listening heart limping? I pray so. Amen

*read story found in Genesis 32:22-32

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Make Listening Your Motto

The Psalmist in Psalm 85:8 wrote:

"I will listen to what God the LORD will say"

Shama is the Hebrew word for listening. It means to hear intelligently. This word takes on the connotation of obedience in certain contexts, especially in Deut. 6:3-4 when God told the Israelites through Moses to Hear, O Israel. He told them to be careful to obey and to love God with all the hearts, with all their souls, and with all their strength.

God has spoken the 66 Books of the Holy Bible into existence. He speaks through his people. He speaks through his creation (Psalm 19). He also says:

"But oh, that my people would listen to me" (Psalm 81:13)

God is talking, but who is listening? He waits ever so patiently for us to hear what he has to say. When we do, he gives us the strength to obey. Why not make listening to God your personal motto? In turn, God will make you like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not whither. Whatever he does prospers (from Psalm 1). God wants to help us obey and bring his promises to life in all of us. I know this from personal experience. Besides, he has been fulfilling his word for eons and won't ever stop. Will you do your part by listening?