Being made strong

The Bible says, “When I am weak, I am made strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

A piece of steel can’t say that.  When it fails…. it fails and people get hurt or even die.  And it’s final.

When we are weak, in a particular area of life, we also can experience hurt and pain as well as a variety of other emotions.  This weakness can hurt us and others around us.  Yet, in our deepest weakness, Jesus reminds us that in our weakness we are made strong.

When we come to the end of ourselves and turn to Jesus for our strength, understanding, and power, he will give us what we have need of in the moment.

As a cyclist, I know if I want to complete an event that is extremely difficult, I must train.  I must get myself prepared and ready to accomplish whatever it is I want to do.  Without the proper training, time, nutrition, and encouragement, I will not be able to do what I set out to do.

Finishing doesn’t happen overnight.  I plan for it.  I train for it. I suffer for it.  I get frustrated when setbacks come my way.  And, yes, things get in the way.  This year I got sick just 4 weeks before the event I was training for all year.  My body was in good shape but my mind was not.  I showed up to the event in shape physically – not mentally.  You have got to have both to reach your objective.  Even the best encouragement couldn’t help me overcome my own self doubts in my head.  I was there to do the 80 mile ride and settled for the 50.  The 50 was no cake walk with over 3500 ft of climbing – with one of the climbs over 8 miles long.  I completed a lesser ride but I did what I my mind said I could do.

I look around my life these days and I see many of the same fears and feelings I have had pretty much all of my life.  I’m not sure why I keep fighting these same things over and over.  Maybe I get tired and let my guard down.  I allow the stuff of life to get to me.  And, yes, Satan knows me well and knows when I am on a good track and uses individuals and circumstances to send me down from time to time. During ALL seasons of life, I must remember to surrender to Jesus….. hear his words “Come to me…”

I’ve been in training as a Christian for many years.  Too often, I still feel like a newbie.  Even so, I, just as you, need to heed the words of Jesus, “Come to me…”

“Come to Me…” (Matthew 11:28). His word come means “to act.” Yet the last thing we want to do is come. But everyone who does come knows that, at that very moment, the supernatural power of the life of God invades him. The dominating power of the world, the flesh, and the devil is now paralyzed; not by your act, but because your act has joined you to God and tapped you in to His redemptive power. (My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers, November 4).

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Obedience

God, teach me lessons for living so I can stay the course.  Give me insight so I can do what you tell me- my whole life one long, obedient response.  (Psalm 119:33-34, The Message)

As I begin to write, I had to have a conversation with my 7 year old on obedience and respect.  She has an old iPhone that she has kept up with for about 4 years now.  No, she doesn’t have wireless service but she does get to use it like an iPod.  I have been very impressed at her ability to keep up with it and to not break the screen.

How does this relate to obedience?  Well, I had a conversation with her this morning about not walking around the house watching and listening to her “kid shows”.  I explained I don’t want to hear it today.  So, as I begin to write, she walks past my room with it playing.  Literally – all I typed before this happened was the word obedience.  I turned around and called her back and had another conversation about it.  (Side note:  I do like all the times she walks around the house playing and singing Hillsongs, “Oceans” at the top of her lungs!)

This week I made a step of obedience myself.  I have been praying about this for over a month.  Really? Yes really!  I sat around for the past month and prayed whether or not I would be obedient.  Sounds silly, stubborn, and disobedient – all at the same time – I know.  And, yes, I do and did deserve the same conversation from Jesus that I had with my daughter this morning.

It gets better than that prayer.

I actually called one of my life-long friends from seminary.  Fortunately, he didn’t answer the phone.  I called looking for him to give me permission to be reasonable and logical about this thing I was praying about…. bottom line I was looking for him to tell me (without him knowing) I was looking for him to give me permission to delay my obedience.  Think I will call him back today to apologize for something he has no idea he was almost a party to… Honestly, I don’t think he would have given me the permission or encouragement for me to delay my obedience.

My wife and I sat down that same night, held hands, and prayed.  Immediately, I did what I had been “praying about for a month.”  Two days later, God intervened in a situation to let me know He had heard me and was with me.  A direct answer to another prayer that has been ongoing for the past month.

Honestly, as I sit here and contemplate this week.  I can see all of the situations before me and see them all as layers connected to the same onion.  Obedience is the key to the layers being able to be peeled back.

This morning I am reading Rick Warren’s daily devotional and he also is writing on this same subject!  (I love how the Holy Spirit works through things I read to confirm His leading in my life).  The first paragraph reads,

God smiles when we obey him wholehartedly.  That means doing whatever God asks without reservation or hesitation.  You don’t procrastinate and say, “I’ll pray about it.”  You do it without delay.  Every parent knows that delayed obedience is really disobedience.

Well, you don’t have to hit me over the head…. but I do love the confirmation of God at work in my heart and my life.  For that, I am wonderfully thankful!!

Faith-filled living does require action.  And, oftentimes, that action is at the center of obedience.  So, today, walk in obedience and do what He is leading you to do.

He cares…. seek Him with all your heart!

Just before the cold, snow, and ice came our way, I was looking through some things and came across a bag of bird seed I had forgotten about.  So, I go out to the storage building to get the bird feeder and set it out.  Normally there is a lot of traffic around this feeder throughout the spring and summer months.  Now that it’s winter not so much traffic.

I was looking out the window this morning as I heard something rustling in the leaves.  I saw  male and female Cardinals.  They were both enjoying the little treat I had left outside.  The sight got me to thinking about a time I was meeting with a few friends early one morning.  We were praying over needs in our lives.  As we prayed, I could hear the birds singing and I reminded the guys that God takes care of the birds we could hear – how much more will he tend to our needs.  We must trust him and lay all of our concerns at his feet for he cares for us (Matthew 6:26).

I set the bird seed out over a week ago.  I have seen these Cardinals sitting on the fence some 50 feet away from the bird feeder on several occasions.  I thought to myself (as if I were talking to them) there is food over here under this window.

Isn’t that like God?  Everyday he provides for us.  His provision is there.  Sometimes it’s right in front of us and we see it right away.  Somethings in life come to us through much seeking, looking, asking, knocking, etc.  But when we find that which we are searching, our Heavenly Father is looking out the window at us with a smile on his face, with great pleasure, saying, “You have found it.”

We all go through tough and bitter-cold seasons of life.  Seasons of searching for answers to troubling times.  Paul writes in I Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

These verses are not always the easiest thing to do – especially when faced with overwhelming circumstances.  I know I’ve been there… even now I seek and search and lay those things that are heavy on my heart and I rejoice because I know He cares and His Spirit comforts me.

In Psalm 84, the writer is longing to be able to worship in the courts of the LORD.  To physically be in this place of worship.  “Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young.” (v.3-4)  He is reminded of being there in this place of worship and seeing these birds there and how he longed to be in the presence of God just as he knew those birds are.  But even more than his longing to be in the courts of God, in prayer, he longed for the living God himself.

For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.  I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.  For the LORD God is a sun and a shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor.  No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.  O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you! (Psalm 84:10-12)

Find rest, comfort, and warmth as you trust in the Lord today… may you find the presence of the Lord himself.

Walking in wide open spaces

I loved living in the desert.   I miss the wide open spaces with blue sky all around.  While reading in Psalm 119, I was reminded of this beautiful land that I miss.

and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts.  Psalm 119:45.

The Psalmist loved the Law of the LORD.  I love reading Psalm 119.  Through all of life it’s the law, the way of God, His precepts, commandments…. that he loves and that drives him forward in his pursuit of God.  He has a relationship that is real and personal with God.  The Message puts it this way, in verses 44 & 45,

Oh, I’ll guard with my life what you’ve revealed to me, guard it now, guard it ever; And I’ll stride freely through wide open spaces as I look for your truth and your wisdom;

Rio Grande in New Mexico Bike MS 2015

We were visiting a church several years ago.  During the worship these lyrics jumped out at me, “All of my deserts are rivers of joy.” I mentioned I love the desert.  And when I look back at my time of physically living in the Southwest I see rivers of joy.

I was reminded of John 14:12 this morning where Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” (New Living Translation).  God intends for each of us to be moving toward greatness.  He tells us here in John that we will do even greater works… but we must believe in him…  Even in the times of desert living.

Our lives have the propensity to become messy.  Everything about each one of us is not perfect.  Yet we try hard to make our lives look neat.  We want to make everything look perfect.  We attend churches with stained glass windows and/or churches with rock bands filling the room with great music, lights, and dry ice… all looking and sounding good.  But when it’s all torn down what really remains?  Hopefully, in both situations, relationships are being built so that when the stain glass windows and the music fades that the heart of it all will still be standing.

After having lived in the beautiful Southwest, I understand that there is a lot of life in the desert.  For me, its a beautiful place that is open with great views all around.  To some the land may look barren but it’s really wide open spaces full of excitement.  So much has adapted and been created to sustain life there.  I believe we will each spend our time in the desert of life.  It’s not a place we should avoid but rather take advantage of.  It’s there, in the stillness of the desert, we can draw close to God.  It’s a place for us to be able to sit back and enjoy looking into the face of God and keep our focus steadfast on Him.

The desert at night is breath-taking!  The first time I ever stopped on New Mexico HWY 550, in between Albuquerque and Aztec, I realized I couldn’t see one foot in front of me due to the darkness.  But I could see more of God’s creation in the sky than I have before.  I never would have seen the beauty above me had I kept my focus on the darkness in front of me… I had to look up.  When we find ourselves in a desert place with darkness all around it’s not until we look up to God that we will see His glory.

Romans 5:2 in The Message says it best,

We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand – out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.

If you find yourself today in a land that is dryer than you would like keep your eyes on Jesus.  Look to him and him alone for your joy.  We will not find joy looking in any other direction.  Feeling a little dry? Want someone to pray with you?  Just leave a comment, “In need of prayer”.  I’d be happy to pray for you.

The Promise…. waiting.

When I read this verse today I heard George Michael sing, “Faith.”  If you are familiar with the song now it’s stuck in your head too.  Sorry about that.  🙂

Faith.  Hearing and responding in faith, at times, can be a very difficult thing to do.  Especially when one is living in long season of silence.

I wonder about Abraham.  I wonder about his life and the thought process he went through before he took matters into his own hands.  God had told him he would have a son.  I presume he waited.  I guess he actively engaged at the task of trying to have a baby with his wife.  I’m sure he didn’t get tired of that!  But, then again, maybe he did.  He did end up taking things into his own hands by having sex with someone else.

I still wonder about his thought process.  He knew the promise.  He knew the Lord.  He was a friend of God.  Yet, he got tired in the waiting.  Did he question his understanding of the promise?  Did he begin to doubt?  Did he ask God about this decision to sleep with someone else?   Obviously he believed he was supposed to have a son.  That’s why he stepped outside of the covenant of marriage to have one.  (That doesn’t feel or sound right to even type).  But that’s exactly what he did.  He stepped into sin in order to bring about God’s promise…

I go back to wondering about his thought process that got him there.  Had he lost faith? Did he think it was up to him to help God bring about a child? In James 2 we read faith and works go hand and hand.  Abraham is even used as an example of faith and works when it comes to his son Isaac.  The son that was promised!  Yet, before he got to that point he exercised his faith with works outside of the covenant.  Outside of the realm of what God had promised.  Which brings me back to my wondering about what was going on in Abraham’s life and heart at the time he made his decision to help God along with the promise.

For me, I know I have made decisions in the darkness of silence.  Knowing I was supposed to do something, make a move, career change, etc.  Many, if not, most of those decisions didn’t work out so well for me.   Why? Did I not hear correctly?  Or did I not wait?

I think it has more to do about the waiting and trusting the promise God has spoken  than anything else.

Changing of the Season

It has been a mild Winter here this year.  As for cycling, I had gotten off to a great year of getting miles in.  In fact, my best January ever.  We had a hint of Spring most of the year.  Then it hit… a COLD snap that I wasn’t expecting nor desiring.  It had felt so good all year until we had a blast of winter.  I pushed through some of the cold and stayed on the bicycle.  I also ended up sick for about 3 weeks or so and the cough still lingers.

I stood outside just as the sun was beginning to rise Saturday morning.  The noise that filled the air was music to my ears and brought a smile upon my face as I stood there sipping on my coffee.  I couldn’t help but be reminded of Matthew 6:26.

Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God.  And you count far more to him than birds. (The Message).

My body was getting accustomed to the mild temperatures this winter just to be shocked by the normal temperatures of winter – I considered my own life as I listened this morning.

Seasons come and go.  The good, the bad, the ugly, the pretty, the unwanted, the challenges, the miracles, the blessings, the growth, and death are all a part of life.  None of it should ever really catch us off guard.  But for some reason it does and we experience a various array of emotions in response to the circumstance.  We get comfortable in our seasons.  And when the turbulence in the atmosphere occurs at the change of a season we run, hide, and seek shelter from the approaching storm.

Earlier this week I saw on Facebook that my wife stated, “Why does life have to be so hard?”  Yes, we are in the midst of a tough season in life.  Doctor visits, dentists, car wreck, 3 cars that have broken down (make that 4 since I started writing this), bills, etc.  Yet, I sit here and consider the good health, the miracle of no injury in that totaled Honda… there is good in the midst of the tough season we walk through.  Even as I held my youngest daughter the other night as she was sick and sleeping – I cherished the moment.

I know holding her won’t always be an option when she is sick.  She will grow out of kindergarten, go to elementary school, high school, college, and eventually get married… That’s what the others have done.  With each changing of the season they grow up.  They experience new normals in life and they too will grow from the changing of seasons.  I know she was comforted as I held her and I found much joy in the moment.

I can’t help but think God feels much the same way when we relax and surrender to His loving arms and let Him hold us when we are going through a tough time.  No, I didn’t do anything to heal my daughter.  I prayed over her, held her, and was there with her as she went through that moment of sickness.  Some times God intervenes in our lives and provides the miraculous for His purposes in our lives.  Other times I think He sits with us as I did my daughter and comforts us through the situation.

Wherever you find yourself today.  Remember, just as the birds of the air: don’t sow, reap, or gather into barns… our heavenly Father feeds them and takes care of them.  This Spring take a moment to sit quietly by yourself and listen to the birds of the air and let Him speak to you.

How much more will he take care of you and I?

He Speaks in the Noise

I thoroughly enjoy my moments of quiet and relaxation.  That typically happens before my family is awake or out on a country road riding my bicycle.  Lately, life has traveled far from tranquility.  It’s loud, stormy, and, stressful.  In about every arena that I am involved – it feels like a storm is brewing.

For example, while retrieving one of our cars, after being in a wreck this week – the van I have been driving shuts down on the way home.  Now it sits in a parking lot as I try and figure out my next step with it.  As for the car, it will probably end up getting crushed later this week for scrap metal.

Yesterday I took a vacation day from work and went on a field trip with my daughters kindergarten class.  It was a fun time to watch my daughter interact with her friends.  I don’t see how the teachers do this day after day.  Leading little minds to learn, respect, behave, and to enjoy life.  One parent said to me, “I don’t see how they (teachers) do it.  They kept up with all of these kids today.”  I’d like to add that the children were well behaved. I know the teachers were tired from their little outing but they still had a smile!

Reading in Luke 8:22-15 this morning.  I have re-read this passage several times this week as I continue my trek through the New Testament.  A couple of things stand out to me.  Nothing new.  But in the midst of the current circumstances these verses seem to hit home.

The disciples are with Jesus in a boat.  Jesus is sleeping. There is a storm on the lake and the disciples are scared and have begun to panic.  Now, some of these guys are very familiar with boats and being on the water, as they were fishermen by trade.  I am sure they are very familiar with storms on the water as well.  But for some reason this storm was nothing like they had experienced before.  They were afraid for their lives,

They awaken Jesus for help, “Master we are going to drown!”  The Message says, “Getting to his feet, he [Jesus] told the wind, ‘Silence!’ and the waves, ‘Quiet down!’ They did it. The lake became smooth as glass.”

The sentence that leaves me asking more questions is Jesus’ question back to his disciples. “Why can’t you trust me?”

Makes me think of a moment this week where things seemed to be crashing in on me and I wondered if God even liked me anymore.  I began to question if he was going to let me perish in the midst of my own personal turmoil.

As I read this again, I hear him ask, “Why can’t you trust me?”

Yes.  It’s very noisy right now.  And he is here.  I know it.  I need to learn in this experience of life and to respect, behave, and enjoy life.

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