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Archive for January, 2019

A shower or bathtub are simply great places to pray.

You’re alone, its quiet (there than the soothing sound of water falling or splashing in the tub), there are few discretions and if your prayers move you to tears, the water will just wash them away.

As I watched the water circling the drain, I thought how my bathtub prayer time can, at times, be similar to that water circling the drain.

There are times when I cry a fountain of tears, releasing the tension, as I cast my cares on the only one who can do something of worth with them.

There are bath prayer times when I haul out my list and go through it like a child with their Christmas wish list, continuing my wants and perceived needs, as though God is my great genie in the sky (or shower head, as the case may be).

There are also times when I unload my wants, my needs, and my cares, but then I keep holding onto them, spinning myself into a vortex, like the water circling the drain, into worry and anxiousness … over the things that I have little control over … I have little control over much!

Why do I want to spin that way? Why do I want to hold on to the worries that fill my heart and mind?

There are two things that I need to remember when this circling the drain happens:

  1. I need to share my worries with God, but also with another person. We all need the support of others who will listen to us, pray for us and even be the hands and feet of God to us.
  2. I need to remember that God, in me, makes me stronger and more capable than I could ever imagine. He makes me strong enough … not in my strength, but in his.

These words of Charles Spurgeon are also good reminders when I am circling the drain:

“There is neither in heaven nor earth nor hell anything that we need fear when we are once right with God. Settle the centre, and the circumference is secure”

 

 

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Click, click, click went the four paws of our Wonderdog, through the house, looking for something, someone … me.

On this particular day, I was hidden from view by a large framed print, leaning against a coffee table, and I was snuggled up on the sofa behind it. He had been searching upstairs and down, with no luck in locating his master. I was giggling to myself, for this self-appointed protector of the household was oblivious to my presence … just a few feet away.

He is my constant companion when I am home and I frequently think of the verse from Proverbs:

” … a real friend sticks closer than a brother.”
Proverbs 18:24

Anyone who has ever had the experience of being ‘possessed’ by a dog (or cat … if it’s that kind of cat) knows of what I speak.

They think that the moon rises and falls on you. They are excited to see you arrive home, and obviously sad and rejected when you leave (without them). They position themselves always between a stranger/guest and you. They stick close, all the time. They know, though self/nature appointed, themselves to be your companion, protector.

When Solomon speaks of “a real friend sticks closer than a brother”, he is both reminding us that we can have relationships, friendships that are even closer than family. Those are those friends who we choose, who have chosen us and with whom we would go the distance with … they make our hearts soar with delight. We and they would drop what we are doing for the other. With us they laugh, cry and share the deepest of thoughts and emotions. They want to spend time with us and we with them.

He is also reminding us that Christ is also such a friend, for he too will go the distance with us … he has already gone the distance for us. He desires that we share our tears, laughter and deepest thoughts. He wants to spend time with us, to be our companion, he is our protector.

He is closer than a brother or beast.


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It is Written

We live in a time when established or preconceived ideas are challenged. In reality, this has always been the case for there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

Though it sometimes makes my heart ache and my brain hurt, I do love how such challenges to my own beliefs, habits and preconceived notions force me to think more deeply, to inspect and research my rationale for what I do, what I believe.

I have been challenged in recent months and years with concerning the Bible as the source of truth. This seems to be a hot topic among those of us who call themselves Christians, or followers of Christ.

Though there are those who struggle with the word of God being written by huMAN vessels (both the human and the man parts), I do not, for I can be confident within my own understanding of God that he can accomplish his will, his work through even the most unpredictable of individuals.

I believe this to be continually proved over and over again as manuscripts, scrolls and other ancient writings have confirmed the validity of what we have today as our Bible.

Less than one hundred years ago, in a cave, a group of shepherds discovered what has become known as the Dead Sea Scrolls (found not far from the Dead Sea). There were found portions of every book in our Old Testament (except for Esther). The scrolls of the book of Isaiah were so close to what we have today as the Hebrew Bible, there were only a handful of words that differed (and they did not change the meaning of what was written). Anyone who has ever played the childhood game of Telephone knows this is no small thing!

Some will say, I don’t follow the Bible, I follow Jesus. John 1:1 tells us that Jesus was (and is) the very Word of God … from the beginning of time:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

He is our model, the one who is our light for the path (Psalm 119:105).

So, if we are to follow him, we need to keep what is said of him always in our mind:

“He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God (Jesus) and obey it.” (Luke 11:28)

“Do not merely listen to the word (Jesus), and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” James 1:22.

To live our lives truly following Jesus, the very Word of God, is no small, or easy, thing. For he took his message straight to the cross.

Jesus came to fulfill the scriptures, the prophesies, the redemption of humankind. As we look to his example, I recently was reminded of his time in the desert, being tempted by Satan.

Three times Satan begins a temptation with the words “if you are the Son of God …” then offers Jesus something that all humans may crave; satiation of hunger, immortality and power.

Each time, Jesus responds with “it is written …” He, the very Word of God, responds with referral to the scriptures.

I would say that Jesus is the greatest confirmation of the Bible.

“There’s nothing like the written Word of God
for showing you the way to salvation
through faith in Christ Jesus.
Every part of Scripture is
God-breathed and useful one way or another
—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion,
correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way.
Through the Word
we are put together and shaped up
for the tasks God has for us.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17

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Naked and Exposed

Last January, I started the new year with the goal of dealing with a lifelong struggle, failure, and self-disappointment that I had not managed to get ahold of in a real, permanent and transforming manner.

I even wrote about it in a post called Stripped Down. In that post I focused on Hebrews 12:1, which encourages us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” 

Though I didn’t indicate what my goal was, I did clearly indicate that it was not just about self improvement, but dealing with sin … my sin.

Now, fifty-five weeks later, that resolution, that sin … I failed. Not only did I fail, but I am now two pounds heavier than I was when I started!

The sin of which I speak is that of gluttony, and, yes, it is a sin.

Sometimes, as Christians, we are far too comfortable to point out the sins of others, rather than our own. We are eager to speak of murder, of divorce, of stealing, of (add your own) …

We tend to judge others more harshly,
simply because
others sin differently from us.

I refuse to try to cover up my sin … one cannot cover up something so visually obvious. I refuse to call it my weakness (though it is), or say that God is patient with me (which he is) or that I need to remember that I live a life of grace, not perfection (which I do).

‘Cause, here’s the thing (and it’s not an easy or popular thing to admit, and certainly not to say),

sin is sin

Sin is not comfortable, not easy, not popular, and not pretty. It could be equated with religion and politics … it is something best to avoid speaking of in mixed groups.

But … sin IS sin.

This sin of gluttony is one of the Seven Deadly Sins (pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth), and with high rates of heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes in the top ten causes of death in developed countries, it truly is a physically deadly sin.

The Bible is clear that gluttony is a sin.

1 Corinthians 6:12-13 reminds us:

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food.” (aka, food is not to be valued beyond it’s intent, or valued beyond God).

Deuteronomy 21:20 says:

“They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” (when I was growing up, I never heard anything in church that equated overeating with over drinking).

Galatians 5:22-23 speaks of the opposite of sin:

“The fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Self-control is the opposite of gluttony (and drunkenness).

Probably the most compelling verse, for me, comes from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20:

“You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies”

Dealing with sin is a life-long process. Perhaps this is what Paul is referring to, when he speaks of his thorn in his flesh? :

“In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

I’ve gotta say, I don’t think that you will hear me bragging about this weakness, this sin, but I see where Paul was going here.

The thing is that sin separates us from God. When we choose to embrace, accept and continue committing sin, we are distancing ourselves from God.

And he created us for something more.

So I return to where I started, fifty-five weeks ago …

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Not saying that I am joining a gym, starting a fad diet (or any diet) … for the sin of gluttony is really the sin of giving in to eating more than our bodies need. What I am saying is that sin is hard to overcome, and my focus needs to be on Jesus … the pioneer and perfecter of faith.


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Stillness

Today follows ‘Blue Monday’ … in the middle of the dark, the cold, winter.

Christmas is now past, summer is so far away. The bills are coming in daily, no hint of funds for vacation. The light has been replaced with dark … even the moon’s light recently eclipsed from view.

The alarm rings early, in the dark, but the body, mind and spirit cry out for more rest, more escape from the dark until the sun’s latent appearance. It is cold, wet outdoors, and we stand, feet planted in our slippers, unmotivated to move beyond the threshold.

We just want to remain … still, unmoved by circumstances or will.

“Be still …”

Two words that can be a directive, a forcing against one’s will, like the dark that forces our day to close, our bodies to tire, our minds to hibernate.

It can also be two words that are full grace, and mercy, and sanctuary.

The rhythm of our lives gives us this seasonal opportunity to naturally be still.

It doesn’t have to be just a season of bleak and barren, of down and depressed, of Netflix and novels.

“Be still
and know that I am God.”

In the still and silent, in the shadows and sadness, He no longer needs to shout for His silent whispers permeate our mind, our souls.

He is here. With us. In the stillness.

And we know it.

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So there was a day of frustration, of sorrow, of hopelessness. A day I didn’t know what to do. Prayers had been prayed, with white-knuckle faith, with peace beyond human understanding. Chin up, saying my amens expecting the (right) answers any moment.

Nothing.

No grand answer to prayer … not even a hint that anyone was listening.

Ever been there?

Ever had your chin so far up that the air seemed too thin to provide the oxygen needed to breathe in, breathe out? Ever had your hands folded in prayer ’til they were so white-knuckled that their white-washed bones were shining through your paper-thin skin?

In frustration, in exasperation, as hope and faith fade and we cry out:

“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?”

Psalm 13:1-2

Then, from my pit, I reached out to others, sharing my story, my struggle.

In just a few days, change dawned one morning. Complete, beautiful, better-than-I-could-have-hoped-for answer to prayer.

So, why? Why did the many months of prayers in faith result only in silence? Why did answers only come when I shared what was weighing on my mind and soul with others?

For an answer, lets look to Moses (Exodus 17:8-16).

While the Israelites were still wandering, they were attacked by Amalekites. So Moses told Joshua to choose some men to fight, and that he would stand at the top of the hill, with the staff of God raised above his head.

This all sounds a bit weird, except that this staff is the staff that could be thrown down and transform into a snake. It is the staff that tapped a rock and water came from it. It is the staff that was used to bring on the plagues of Egypt. It is the staff that parted the Red Sea. It is the staff of God.

So, as the story goes, as the staff was raised, the Israelites were winning, but whenever the staff lowered they began to take losses. Battles do not end in minutes, but hours and days, and Moses could only hold his arms up for so long. So, along came Aaron and Hur and they sat Moses on a large rock, and they stayed at each of his sides, helping to keep his arms held high.

“As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.”

Now when Moses raised the staff in the air it provided at least two purposes. One was that of a visual encouragement to those in battle. The other was that of intersession to God.

That staff had been the symbol of the presence of God for these wandering Jews. Moses lifting it up was not a power that Moses had in his own strength, but with the help of Aaron and Hur. Together they were holding the symbol of God’s power acknowledging that they did not have any power without God.1

Matthew Henry’s Commentary speaks of this intersession, and of the help Moses received from Aaron and Hur:

“We should not be shy either of asking help from others or giving help to others, for we are members one of another.”

We have, at our very hands and sides, people who can and will hold us up when we get tired, when we are weak. Others who are willing to intercede on our behalf. That is the encouragement, the help that we need when in the thick of life’s battles.


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Rhythms of Life

Statistically, this is when well-intended resolutions or new habits begin to crumble.

It is now the third week of the new year.

Have you lost your motivation? Slipped up along the way? Found your weakness to be stronger than your strength?

It can be so very frustrating, so very discouraging when we are weak, when we do not live up to the goals we have set for ourselves. We can even interpret such as character flaws, or outright personal failures. For some, the consequence of such can be self-damaging, if we have put far greater value in our goals than, perhaps, we should.

2 Corinthians 4:16 tells us:

“Though our outward man perish,
our inward man is renewed day by day”

Our human existence is all about the rhythms of life that bring us renewal. We have seasons of life, seasons of the year and even each of our days contains the rhythm of awake and sleep. These natural rhythms provide for us time of renewal, refreshment as well as opportunity to reestablish our personal goals, hopes and desires for change … both inward and outward.

Tomorrow is a new day, a fresh start, a chance to try again.

Keep moving forward. Don’t get stuck on momentary struggles.

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