The Path into 2019

Here we are January 1, 2019.  Today starts a new day, a new year, a new vision into what lies ahead.  I know we all put a lot into the new on this day.  We all have a since of hope and that maybe – just maybe – this may be the best year yet.  For some of us, when we look back over our lives we sure hope this is the best year yet.

I was reading in Isaiah 43 this morning.  Kind of a random place to pick up the Scripture.  But then again, maybe not so random.

“Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history.  Be alert, be present.  I’m about to do something brand new.  It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?  There it is!  I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.” (Isaiah 43:18-19, The Message)

I don’t know what your path is looking like as you begin this New Year.  I know the path

Walking in the presence of God

I have been on for a little while now has been caught up in the fog with limited visibility.  Today, God is telling me to forget all that is weighing me down from the past.  Too often, when we look back, our minds go back to the “bad” stuff.  Why don’t we go for the good stuff in our memories.  Maybe that’s just me.

In Isaiah 43:1, God says, “Do not be afraid, I have redeemed you.”  In verse 5, He says, “Do don’t be afraid:  I’m with you.”

Walking with God is not as clear as we would like for it to be.  But then, maybe, we shouldn’t desire for it to be clear.  Walking with God is about trusting him wherever He may lead us.  Walking with God is allowing the Holy Spirit total freedom to lead and empower as he desires.

God speaks with us in so many ways.  As I’m writing, I decided to grab another translation off of the shelf.  It’s a specific Bible that I don’t use very often.  It was given to me by FBC, Aztec, NM after my ordination. I opened it up and found a letter from a sweet friend from Harvest Church, Rio Rancho, NM – dated June 2001.  It was a beautiful reminder of something God didn’t want me to forget.  It was an opportunity to look back by going straight to the good stuff.

I can’t help but think that this reminder is key to the future.  (…making a road through the desert.)  This reminder is a Sacred Echo of what a few others have been telling me over the past few years.  For each, I am very thankful.  God is good.  Whatever it is that God may be speaking to you on this first day of 2019, remember to be present and stay alert….

“Do not be afraid: I’m with you.” – God

 

 

 

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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.

Finish the race

When you step back to take a look at your life, what do you see? How do you evaluate your place or position?  What tool do you use to measure in order to see if you are where you need to be or want to be in life?

There are many voices and tools “out there” to give us the help and guidance in life to get us from where are to where we really want to be… or more importantly, to where God wants us to be.  For me, the greatest tool is reading the Bible.  I find direction, strength, hope, and encouragement in the words I read there.  Reading the Bible is a discipline that I must not neglect and must be a part of daily living.Run the Race

I was recently challenged to think about what my ideal life looks like.  As I began to think about my response, I thought back to the 4th grade.  I was sitting in a room in my house and I recall thinking, “I’m not going to be like that.” I can recall the voice of my dad saying he wish he had made other choices about his career.  I can recall the career path he would have preferred over the one he was on at the time.  In my pursuit of God and living in obedience, I struggle with keeping of my stride since it has been broken.

“How you see your future is more important than what has happened in your past.”  Zig Ziglar

I’m involved in quite a few really “good” things.  I visited one of those recently.  I walked out of that meeting and overwhelmed at the need in our community and the task that is set before them.  The thought kept rising in my mind that they are Jesus in their corner of our county.  They are literally being his hands and his feet.  Reaching out to those who can’t feed themselves.  I was unsure about what my experience would be as I drove onto the property.  I drove away challenged.

I once was a competitive long distance runner.  I recall the feeling of having someone break my stride because they cut me off.  It was a breaking of my stride physically and mentally.  I could get my physical stride back pretty easily but, at times, it was the mental portion of it I would have difficulty over coming.  I can recall dwelling on what had just happened and that becoming my focus over the race being run.

You are never a failure until you quit. Resist discouragement and finish the race God has set before you. -Rick Warren, Uncommon Courage Devotional.

I mentioned earlier there are a lot of tools to help us on our journey in life.  God’s Word is the greatest of those… His word is truth.  At times, each of us have moments when someone or something breaks into our lane and breaks our stride.  Keeping our eyes intently focused in the Word of God will help us to keep our focus.  The Holy Spirit will use those words to lead us where God wants us.

If you are in a place in life where someone has cut you off and broken your stride, now is the time to bring life back into focus.  Looking toward the goal that has been set within your heart.  “You were running a good race.  Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?” (Galatians 5:7, NIV).  Don’t let the distractions of this world, the words of others, or the actions of others break your stride.  Keep running.

Can you see what God is doing?

Have you ever ridden the log ride at Six Flags or at some other park? 

Lately my life has seemed much like I am riding a log ride (just not as fun).  My life is in motion bumping up against the parameters (or shall I say the principles) of life.  All the while, I know there is a destination out there that I will arrive at.  As Oswald Chambers puts it, I’m living my life based on principles rather than vision.

There is a difference between holding on to a principle and having a vision. A principle does not come from moral inspiration, but a vision does.

Our own idealistic principles may actually lull us into ruin. Examine yourself spiritually to see if you have vision, or only principles. (My Utmost for His Highest, May 9).

How do you live your life?  Do you get up everyday and hop onto the log ride of the expected routine in life or do you live it a bit more dangerously with a spiritual vision?  I know it seems like I have settled into the log ride and today am being challenged to get off of the ride and jump into a raft and conquor an uncharted river.  The Holy Spirit will be the guide and he will provide the vision.

Many years ago I went white water rafting on the Ocoee River in Tennessee.  I was nervous and stressed the entire time.  The water was freezing, the rapids were rough, and I had to trust the guide.  At times, I even got angry with the guide because I thought he was intentionally sending us through rougher water when it wasn’t necessary.

I realize in life I do the same thing.  At times, I get upset and angry with where this course is taking me.  I want to point a finger at the Holy Spirit and say, “Why didn’t you tell me to dig earlier?”  I’m quick to forget that He is teaching me as I go.  He allows the rough waters in my life and I need to learn from them. 

I have come to know when He is telling me to do something.  I have learned His voice.  But I haven’t overcome my fear of taking risks in following Him.  I like the log ride.  I know what I will experience in the log.  As for the the raft, there’s a risk and I will have to trust the Guide.

Have you lost the excitement for living?  Your job? Ministry? Family?  Read Proverbs 29:18,

  If people can’t see what God is doing,
   they stumble all over themselves;
But when they attend to what he reveals,
   they are most blessed. (The Message)

I know the following quote is from a message on marriage.  But it is applicable to any aspect of life that pertains to personal passion.  Job. Family. Ministry.  Whatever!  We all get involved in doing something based on how it makes us feel but to keep it going and alive there must be a plan… a vision.  It’s the plan that will keep you moving forward.

“Falling in love requires a pulse, staying in love requires a plan.” (Andy Stanley).

Are you following the vision for your life?  Or have you decided to remain comfortable with where you are?

A time of waiting…

I can’t state it any better than Oswald Chambers.  My words I have tried to put together are worthless to go with this quote.  So, I’ll just let Chambers do the talking. 

There are times when you can’t understand why you cannot do what you want to do. When God brings a time of waiting, and appears to be unresponsive, don’t fill it with busyness, just wait. The time of waiting may come to teach you the meaning of sanctification— to be set apart from sin and made holy— or it may come after the process of sanctification has begun to teach you what service means. Never run before God gives you His direction. If you have the slightest doubt, then He is not guiding. Whenever there is doubt— wait.

At first you may see clearly what God’s will is— the severance of a friendship, the breaking off of a business relationship, or something else you feel is distinctly God’s will for you to do. But never act on the impulse of that feeling. If you do, you will cause difficult situations to arise which will take years to untangle. Wait for God’s timing and He will do it without any heartache or disappointment. When it is a question of the providential will of God, wait for God to move. (My Utmost for His Highest, January4).

Crossroads

Are you familiar with the ending to the movie “Cast Away”?  Tom Hanks is standing there in the middle of this intersection in the middle of Nowhere, TX.  As far as he can see in all directions is nothing – yet he has been given the gift of life to be lived another day.  How would you chose to decide where to go?  I would have followed the truck with the wings. 

We all find ourselves at places in life where we are at an intersection and we aren’t sure which way to go.  In the movie, he isn’t sure where he is going to go.  He pauses and gets out of the Jeep with his map and ponders for a moment or two.  During this moment of contemplation is when the person he was looking for drives up.  

I wonder how many times in life we come to crossroads and ignore it and just keep driving our lives right on through.  Or – how often do we get there – and recognize it… and then we get stuck there afraid to move at all.  Maybe there has been a bad decision in the past and fearful of getting burned again.  

No matter the reason or how you respond to the situation it is still a decision that must be faced and made.  How do you make the decision?  What steps do you take?  Do you get the Road Map out?  In my life, the Map has become God’s Word found in the Bible.  No, it doesn’t tell me to turn right or left and any specifics like that at all.  I can say the Holy Spirit gives insight I can’t explain.  Which is often followed by a peace I can’t explain. 

Jesus tells us in John 14:25-27,

I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. (The Message).

I’ve personally been at a crossroad for a long time now.  I have ventured in a couple of directions already to find that the peace and fulfillment were not in any direction I have tried thus far.  I keep going back to the Cross and asking for direction.  I am asking for wisdom… wisdom to be used for His glory and for the leadership of my family.

The Holy Spirit will teach us all things.  He will give all that we have need of.  He cares intimately about the details of our lives.  He will not leave us lonely in the dark.  Jesus instructed his disciples: 

“This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks! (John 16:23-24).

One of the decisions I have made for the year to come is to follow a plan to read the Bible through in a year.  I have done this in the past and grew a lot from reading it completely during the year.  I have already begun the reading plan I am going to follow.  I want to be on track when the New Year begins and get off to a GREAT start.  I’m hoping to find in 2009 where and how God intends to use me.

I know He uses me through my job… even though I can’t directly communicate His Word… I live it.  I’m thankful for the opportunity I have to influence others in all aspects of my life.  I want to continue to do so full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.

2009: A Look Forward – in Your eyes

Hope as defined by Dictionary.com as a noun is wrapped up in “feelings.”  But as a verb: 

  • To look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence.
  • To believe, desire, or trust.

Hebrews 10:19-25,

So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body.

So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. (The Message).

Are you looking toward the future or is your vision on the here and now?  I’m trying to gain all I can today from yet another extremely rare moment of quiet.  It’s rather nice.  The only light in the room is from the Christmas tree.  My heart is set on the hope of things yet to come – in Jesus Christ.

I am reading Psalm 139.  Take a moment to read the chapter.  Psalm 139:1, “God, investigate my life, get all the facts firsthand.  I’m an open book to you.” (The Message). 

I’ve never been one to make a lot of goals or plans for the beginning of the “New Year.”  Why not?  I do this (it seems like) all of the time already.  So, this year I’m going to go about it a bit differently.  I am already making some plans to implement for my life beginning January 1, 2009.  But before I get into that I would like to look at Psalm 139 as it pertains to my thoughts and direction.

I have been focused on the meaning and purpose of the life of Jesus Christ…  His redeeming mankind and making a way for all mankind to have a relationship with God.  I’ve been focused on his Holy Spirit (John 16) and the reason the Holy Spirit is in our lives today…  The power, confidence, and hope He gives.

As I read Psalm 139, I’m asking God to take a deep look into my life.  To look at all of it – inside and out.  I’m asking Him to see all of the highs and lows and to search me out east to west.  I am an open book to Him.  I am one of the verses in His book that is still being written in Acts 29.

I’ve also looked ahead into My Utmost for His Highest to see what Oswald Chambers has said on this subject and Psalm 139:

The psalmist implies— “O Lord, You are the God of the early mornings, the God of the late nights, the God of the mountain peaks, and the God of the sea. But, my God, my soul has horizons further away than those of early mornings, deeper darkness than the nights of earth, higher peaks than any mountain peaks, greater depths than any sea in nature. You who are the God of all these, be my God. I cannot reach to the heights or to the depths; there are motives I cannot discover, dreams I cannot realize. My God, search me.” (January 9).

I know, “I cannot reach to the heights or to the depths; there are motives I cannot discover, dreams I cannot realize.” without God taking a deep look into my life.  Without Him searching the darkest places and shining His light.  As I look toward the coming New Year, I’m asking God to prepare my heart for the plans He has for me.  I want to live in the power of His hope and walk boldly – with confidence – into His plans.

One of my prayers for the past couple of months – as I drive in my car – has been the following.  These are the words from the first verse and chorus of “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel.  I have capitalized the word You and made it personal to God and want to share it.

love, I get so lost sometimes
days pass and this emptiness fills my heart
when I want to run away
I drive off in my car
but whichever way I go
I come back to the place You are

all my instincts, they return
and the grand facade, so soon will burn
without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside

in Your eyes
the light the heat
in Your eyes
I am complete
in Your eyes
I see the doorway to a thousand churches
in Your eyes
the resolution of all the fruitless searches
in Your eyes
I see the light and the heat
in Your eyes
oh, I want to be that complete
I want to touch the light
the heat I see in Your eyes

 

As I begin this look forward, I start with asking God to search my heart.  As He begins this search and reveals to me Himself – I will prepare for the year to come.  I will make the plans and take the steps necessary.  I look forward to complete fulfillment in the coming year – walking in His power for His glory.