Monday, October 27, 2014

How to Trudge Along Without Losing Your Joy



Does life ever feel like a trudge through the mud?

Every step is crucial (or else you’ll sink).

So you keep your eyes fixed on the mud, and you trudge and trudge.

You get tired of the murk and the constant looking down.

And you lose your joy.

Mud and earthy things are where we live.

But not where we belong.

I think of those who went before us.
Abraham, Jacob, Joseph. 
Sarah, Rebekah, Ruth.

They were constantly looking for something better.


“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on this earth.” (Heb. 11:13)


The Greek word for "man" is “anthropos.”

“The up-looking one.”

You and I were created with the ability to look up.

And we’ve been promised there is something reserved for us up there (Col. 1:5).

Something far better.

This is how every faithful pilgrim before us has been able to trudge along and not lose their joy.

They were looking up.

They were looking forward.

To something better.

Amy Carmichael once said,

“What does it matter if Today be difficult? We have Tomorrow.”


Tomorrow is ahead for each of us.

So we trudge through this muddy earth.




And look up.


 ". . . to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you . . . in this you greatly rejoice." (1 Peter 1:4-6)



Monday, October 20, 2014

Where the Weight of this World Lies Heaviest



Sometimes the weight of this world lies heavy.

We feel its weight as stories are shared and life reminds us where we live.

This past weekend, I listened as many shared their stories—all shared in the span of less than 72 hours.

                Her son is bipolar.
                She’s overcoming an addiction.
                Her friend betrayed her.
                He left.
                Her daughter made a poor choice.
                His marriage is rocky.
                Another loved one died.

This is where we live.

As my weekend came to a close, words from an old hymn were read from the pulpit, and every weight I’d heard about this weekend flashed through my mind as this line stood out in bold colors:


“On His footstool I roam.”


This earth where we live is His footstool.





We feel the weight of the world.
                In our own broken stories.
                Or in the stories of those living beside us.

But its weight lies at His feet.

The feet of a God on His throne.
                Mighty to save.
                Gentle as a mother’s love.
                The coming Judge.
                The God of all comfort.

He sent His Son to this earth where we live. He mingled among us and felt the weight of this world.

Then He died and rose again.

And on the cross, He crushed this world’s weight into a footstool.

We wander on that footstool.

On it.

Not under it.

It’s a footstool made for a King.

Where the weight of this world lies heaviest.

This hurting earth where we live reminds us that there’s something higher.

And it’s a throne.

Where a King sits.

And a King does what no one else does.

He reigns.

Heartaches are just the edges of a footstool.

Where a King reigns.

And this earth's weight lies under His feet.

The weight of the world lies beneath the feet of a God who took heartaches and pain and choices and sin, and crushed them into a footstool.

He sits above that weight.

On a throne.

And reigns.



“In the world you will have tribulation;
but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)


Monday, October 13, 2014

What a Bag of Pretzels Taught Me About the Love of God



I’m writing this on a four-hour flight to Portland.

I prefer not to fly on a full stomach.

But when the snacks came around, and a bag of pretzels invited me to know my business was appreciated, somehow its sentiments sat as stagnant on my gratitude radar as the pretzels did on my empty stomach.




And I realized something.

Sometimes I look at God’s gifts like a bag of pretzels on a long flight, given to me simply because He likes me.

The truth is, every gift God gives is a token of His unending, abundant love.       

A love that began before He created anything (Jer. 31:3).

That compelled Him to give sacrificially of Himself when I didn’t deserve it (Rom. 5:8).

That stoops to my life and walks with me every step of my day (Psalm 139:2,3)

That gives and gives.
                When I notice.
                Or when I miss it.
                Or when I think His gifts are a tiny trifle that He just sort of likes me.
               
He’s the Giver of life.
Who loves His own.

And His love is more than a bag of pretzels.

His love is life-sustaining, life-giving, from His life, for ours.

God gives.

Just because He loves us.



“Since you were precious in My sight, You have been honored,
And I have loved you.” (Isaiah 43:4)


Monday, October 6, 2014

Our God Can, But If He Doesn't . . .



How many of you are asking for a miracle today?

Maybe today isn’t the only day you’ve asked. You’ve prayed for years. You’ve begged God to hear your cry. Like the persistent widow, you’ve asked again and again.

A wayward child.
An ailing parent.
A long-awaited hope.
A chronic need stretched into years longer than you ever imagined.

You’ve brought these needs to God over and over again, because you know God can.

He is able. You believe that with all your heart.

But He hasn’t.

What do you do when you’ve believed God for the impossible, but He hasn’t stepped in?

What do you do when your faith wears thin?




Three men stood on the edge of death.

They were told to bow down to an idol; an image of a mere man.

But nothing would coerce them.

Nothing.

Not when they knew the God of all the earth, the Maker of Heaven and earth, the Lord of hosts.

Not when they belonged to a God who chose them for His own, who reached down and led their people in power, and who had proved time and time again that He was able to do the impossible.

They wouldn’t bow down.

So they stood in front of flames that beckoned them to their death.

A death they deserved for the simple crime of believing in a God who is able.

That’s what they told the king: “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace” (Daniel 3:17).

Our God can.

“But if not . . . ” they continued. “We will never bow down.”

But if He doesn’t . . .

Four words that take thin faith and shakes it to its core.

God can, but sometimes He doesn’t.

So what is your faith going to do?

Will it bow? Cave in? Give in? Falter?

These three men knew they could be consumed by the flames.

They also knew God could deliver them.

And He did.

But what if He hadn’t?

Their faith would have still overcome the world.
Because true, overcoming faith never gives in.

And theirs never did.

Faith is tried.
Faith wears thin.
God works.
Sometimes He doesn’t.

But if He can, and sometimes He doesn’t, we will keep trusting.

We will trust the God who is greater than any nation, any need, any broken life, any desperate prayer.

We will never bow down, cave in, cower.

We won’t, because the One who authored the faith of those three men is the same Lord who authored yours and mine.

When our faith wears thin, we change our prayers: “Lord, help my unbelief.”

Because we serve a God who can.

Who sometimes doesn’t.

But He’s the only true God, and we have nowhere else to turn.

Who still reigns, and grants us faith that overcomes the world.

Our God can.
But if He doesn’t.
We will never give in.

This is “the victory that overcomes the world” (1 John 5:4).

The faith we need, He gives, and is greater than any answered prayer.



Click here to listen to Overcoming Faith [A lesson in the Hall of Faith series]



Monday, September 29, 2014

When Life Gets You Down, Look Up



We almost missed them this year.

The Vaux’s Swifts are headed South, and they’ve stopped in Portland for the month of September.

For decades, these tiny birds and their offspring have used the chimney of the Chapman Elementary School as a one-month vacation spot.




They forage during the day; then dive into the chimney in swarms every night.

And Portland likes to gather and watch the spectacular show.




In the midst of every busy life, all creation is praising its Maker, living the life He's called them to live, and following His allotted path.

And birds, called Vaux’s Swifts, magnified their Creator every night of September by their tiny presence in Portland.




Many looked away from the mundane of their daily lives, beyond the questions begging answers, above their smart phones, the unresolved, the arguments, and asking why.

We were beckoned to remember there’s a God who oversees it all, and life doesn’t have to get us down.

Our Maker lives and reigns.

And He can scoop up everything down here into His capable hands.

Then He sends us tiny reminders to leave them there.

And look up.

video