Monthly Archives: September, 2016

Fog Faith

During the walk this morning, it was quite foggy. It was the kind of fog that when you walk forward, you cannot see a thing. Even so, I know what is supposed to be there. I’ve walked the same path every morning and evening for years. So I walked forward in trust.

The Bible speaks of many great people of faith. Hebrews 11 is known as the Hall of Faith as it is filled with many of these faithful followers of God. People like Abraham, who God commanded to leave all he knew and walk into the unknown. He said that He would should Abraham where to go. Now that’s faith. Things are different for us. Even though there is a lot of unknown, we have a lot more to go on than Abraham did. We have the Word of God. We have the Old and the New Testaments. We can read about the faithfulness of God. We can read about how God provided. We can read about how God protected His people.

We don’t always have the faith we should, because we are human. We have doubts. We have worries. It is in these moments we pray for God to help our unbelief. “I believe. Help my unbelief.” As the fog up ahead keeps you from knowing all that will come your way, walk with fog faith, clinging to the promises of God, trusting God at His Word, for He is the best promise keeper.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1 [NIV]

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Strong Vines

As I was trying to prepare the flower beds for Fall, I made yet another attempt to tear out the vines that are planted in many areas of my yard. These vines drive me crazy every time I take the effort to remove them. If you are not familiar with vines, you do not understand the nuisance it is to remove them. You begin to pull some of the vine, but soon realize you are not close to the root. Instead, you are pulling different strands of new growth, connected to other growth. It’s hard to even pull anything out because everything grows connected and is bound together underground, connected with the strong root. The root system keeps me from ever getting rid of the vines.

Imagine now how Jesus speaks of our need to abide in Him. He promises if we abide in Him, He will abide in us (John 15:4). He is our strong root system, our foundation. Paul wrote that we should let our “roots grow down into Him.” If we are rooted with Him, we are like those vines with the strong root, that is difficult to move. When we are rooted in Christ, our “faith will grow strong.” When we are rooted in Christ, we “overflow with thankfulness.”

Ask the Spirit to reveal to you your root system. If you are unsure if you are abiding in Him, consider how much time you devote to prayer, Bible reading and Bible study, and walking in the will of God. If these things sound foreign, or if these things are not of most importance on your list of priorities, it is time to start reviewing your list. Look at what you are trying to grow. Look at where you are investing yourself. Do you want to live a life growing with the strong vine, or are you trying to grow yourself to build yourself up? You’ll find that the little sprouts are easy to pull from the ground, very different from the strong rooted vines. Don’t live like a little sprout.

“Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” – Colossians 2:7 [NLT]

Everything from Him

Tonight I had some tomato soup for dinner. It was upsetting to find no saltine crackers after I already prepared the soup. It just wasn’t the same. It didn’t take me long to grumble because there were no crackers, and then remember that I am blessed to have the bowl of soup.

We often forget how blessed we are by God. He gives us so much. We take it for granted. In Romans 11, we read the question, “Who has ever first given to Him, and has to be repaid?” This basically says we can never out give God. He gives in abundance. He blesses us greatly. Everything comes from God and if we grasp that, we will live with a heart of gratitude and not cling to the things of this earth.

The Sabbath is a special gift to us. We need to remember it’s not just about taking a rest. The Sabbath is so much more. It’s about remembering where everything comes from— GOD. The people were to collect for six days and rest the seventh. In doing so, they were trusting in the provision of God. The people were trusting that God will give them all they need. They recognize everything is from Him.

I love to celebrate the Sabbath. It helps to keep me focused. It helps to keep me thankful. Today, remember “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it.” Remember that God is the great provider. Trust Him to meet your needs. Rest knowing that He is faithful.

“The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.” – Psalm 24:1 [NLT]

“Or who has ever first given to Him, and has to be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” – Romans 11:35-36 [HCSB]

Lost Spike

A few weeks ago, I bought my daughter some Cross Country spikes as recommended by her coach. As she’s now on the varsity team, I wanted to be sure she was equipped with the equipment that would help her get to the next level. Like her mom, she likes to keep her shoes loose. During her latest run, another runner stepped on the back of her shoe. As a result, her spike flew off. My daughter ended up with only one shoe. I couldn’t imagine running with only one shoe. Even more so, I couldn’t imagine running a few miles without a shoe. Despite the pain, my daughter continued to press forward. She didn’t let another runner disrupt her race. She actually ran faster and more focused. She finished with a personal record. Yes, her foot was a bit sore, but she finished the race and she finished it well.

We are each running a race. The Apostle Paul talks about this race. Remember, we are to run so that we win the race (1 Corinthians 9:24). There are people out there who will step on our shoes. We often think it’s the people who don’t believe that step on our shoes. We make non-believers out to be the enemy. Stop doing that! They are lost people, just like you and I were once lost.

Oftentimes, the reason our race is slowed down is because of the other runners—our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Bible speaks again and again about unity, about harmony with the body of Christ. Jesus Christ is the Head and we all are the body. Yet, we have a terrible time at getting along. We argue over doctrine. We tear each other down, instead of building each other up. We promote our own agenda, even if it means sacrificing what God is doing through the ministry of others. We are divisive. We are judgmental. We live by our opinions and emotions rather than God’s truth. Our human nature leads us off course. We get in the way of what God is doing through others because we want to be control happy.

Today, look at your feet. Are you running the race? Are you running to win? Are you encouraging the other runners, or are you stepping on their shoes? Are you running alongside your brothers and sisters in love, or are you slowing them down as a stumbling block? Live in harmony. “Be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.”

“I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” – 1 Corinthians 1:10 [NLT]

Rotten Apples

When I went to the grocery store, I could not turn down a tote bag of apples that was on sale. I was excited to have a great supply of apples; however, when I got home I found a few rotten apples that were hidden in the middle of the tote. They had to have been rotting for days, and they had begun to spread their nastiness to a few of their neighbors.

The bag of apples looked inviting until I got to peer at the inside of the bag. In the same way, there may be people who have the outer appearance of living one way, but if you view the inside you would get a whole different story. We spend a lot of time trying to shine up the apples on the top of the tote, the ones everyone sees; however, we do not often work on the inside. Jesus told the Pharisees not to worry about the outside so much, but to focus on the inside. Because when the inside is clean, the outside would soon follow. Whatever is inside overflows outward.

Today, consider the inside of your own personal tote bag. Yes, consider your heart. Look at your motives. Look at your desires. Ask the Spirit to help you examine closely and reveal anything that shouldn’t be there. Today is a great day to toss out any rotten apples and press forward in your walk.

“You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” – Matthew 23:26-27 [ESV]

 

On the Field

When my daughter first began running Cross Country a few years back, she noted the importance of running within the flags. There’s a course set up and you have to go around the flags in such a way. If you go off of the course, you are in trouble. Something that I see as a big problem is the spectators. You have your eager parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, etc., chasing alongside the course cheering and screaming encouragement. Sometimes they get onto the course. Then you have those people who have no clue how Cross Country courses are laid out, and they walk onto the course. Many times, you will hear a parent yell for people to “get off the track” or “get off the field.” I have been that yelling parent many times. This weekend, I was that parent on three occasions. Guilty! I don’t usually yell, but when I do, you know it was me.

Thankfully none of the uninformed onlookers caused any real problems. They move quite quickly when you yell at them. However, there have been instances when runners have been slowed down because of some disruption on the course. Despite the yelling of the referees, coaches, and parents, it happens. Can you imagine running miles, training for weeks, trying to beat a record—only to have someone stroll onto the course and cause you to lose all that effort in a blink of an eye?!? Sometimes it’s a few tenths of a second. Boom.

Paul talks about us running a race. Each of us, whether we admit it or not, are running a race. It’s our Christian walk, our walk with Jesus Christ. Sometimes there will be someone who will come along as we are running our race, and he or she will cause us to stumble, to slow down, to get off course. Sometimes there will be that one person who will keep you from being where God wants you to be at and you might not even see it coming. Today, look at the track of your life. Do you have a group of encouragers, chasing along, trying to help you get to where God wants you to be? Do you have people in your life who look out for your best interests and try to equip and empower you? Or do you have someone on the field, walking along, getting you to stumble and slow down? Do you have someone who is trying to enable you to stay where you are at, when God is trying to take you somewhere new? Keep running the race. As Paul, may you finish the race.

“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 [NLT]

Block of Cement

On my morning walk today, I passed by this block of cement that was different from the pavement. It is a very white cement, instead of the typical off white pavement color. Most people wouldn’t know what happened last year. When you look around today, the trench that was dug the previous year is no longer visible. Grass has grown over the nasty construction area. The block of pavement that was missing, is no longer an area of stones. Instead, we have the block of cement.

Over the years, you probably noticed change around you. God has given us different seasons of the year. We also have different circumstances, different periods of rest and rhythm, and time of pruning and growth. It is good to look back and remember what God has done. This keeps us humble and provides us an opportunity to praise God. It is also good to look back and remember what God has gotten us through in the past. We are reminded of His faithfulness. As we remember the trenches of the past, we now see the great growth He alone provides.

Today, you may be going through a trench. Remember that you will not always be in the trench. One day, there will be no more trench. Be reminded of the faithfulness of God. Be reminded that this time is temporary. Be reminded that God has a great plan and He will see it to completion.

“He has shown his people the power of his works, giving them the lands of other nations. The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. They are established for ever and ever, enacted in faithfulness and uprightness. He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever—holy and awesome is his name.” – Psalm 111:6-9 [NIV]

“For he loves us with unfailing love; the LORD’s faithfulness endures forever. Praise the LORD!” – Psalm 117:2 [NLT]

Faithful Walkers

Every day, twice a day, the dogs and I take a mile walk. The dogs love their daily adventures and I enjoy the fresh air and quiet time with God. Plus, we all need exercise. I am sure that onlookers enjoy the entertainment we provide on our travels. Often people will slow down and smile at us because it’s quite odd to see a Shih-tzu walking alongside an overweight Black Lab.

I’ve never realized that our morning and evening walks were being observed by so many people. A neighbor approached me and told me once that she enjoyed watching us pass by each morning. Last night, a lady said that I am faithful to my dogs, faithfully walking them each day, so much so that they likely are accustomed to the special treatment. I always knew that people that drove by might see us on our walks; however, I never realized that my neighbors had their eyes focused on us.

Whether you see people looking at you or not, people are watching. People see the choices you make, the things you do, the way you spend your time. People see – people are watching. Your friends and family should be able to see you faithfully walking with Jesus. If they are not noticing a difference in your life, then you may want to look at who is leading you. Are you allowing the Spirit to lead you, thereby walking faithfully, or are you following your own desires?

“And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching.” – Titus 2:7 [NLT]

Grass Clipping

I have a lot of OCD tendencies. When it comes to the lawn, I like the grass to be cut weekly. In my opinion, there is an acceptable height to the blades of grass. If the grass is not clipped at the right time, it will continue to grow unattended and then there’s overgrowth. On my walk with the dogs, I always come upon a lawn that is overgrown. The owners let the grass grow unattended for weeks. By the time the lawn is cared for, there is grass growing over the footpath.

Just as we need to clip our fingernails, get a haircut, and brush our teeth, so we need to care for our yardwork, cleaning, and laundry. But it doesn’t end there!! We cannot forget our spiritual health. Our spiritual health needs attention. God is great at pruning. As you walk with Him, He will continue to prune you and help you to grow the way He always intended. Our part in all of this is to dive deep into His Word. We cannot become dull. Continue to take in God’s Word. Write it on your heart. Allow it to reveal to you our heavenly Father. It’s all about knowing God.

As you desire to know God more, as you continue to read His Word and follow His will, He will continue to prune and grow you. Listen closely to His voice. Remember when He asks you to loosen your grip on something, it is because it is for your best. Every clip. Every snip. Every word. It’s all for your very best.

“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” – John 15:2 [ESV]

The Denomination of Non

When I speak with people about church, they always ask the denomination. Then I say, “Oh it’s non-denominational.” It’s an interesting phrase. There’s different denominations (for example Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist). Then there’s non-denominational. Those are the churches that claim to not be affiliated with any of the known denominations. After the Early Church that you read about in Acts, things started to break apart. As time continued, groups were formed from other groups. Some churches have so many different divisions in their names, it becomes a tongue twister.

The denominations all came about from a difference of beliefs. This still happens today, hence the reason we have tons of church plants and longer than life names. The reason for the differences of beliefs, and at times, disunity of the church, is because we are a broken people. The church is filled with sinners, many sinners who are saved by grace alone. But we aren’t perfect. Some of us are proud, lazy, quick to speak, discontent, disorganized, agenda focused, bossy, or fable telling folks. We aren’t perfect, so it’s hard for us to all live together in harmony.

Nonetheless, the Bible speaks a lot about unity or harmony. Yes, that’s the vision God has for His Church. The capital “C” Church is the universal church. Broken down, this is all of the denominations and non-denominations. Together, as the big C, we need to be united. Remember, the Church is the body of Christ. The Church is people, not buildings. As the big C, we must remember Who we worship, Who we follow, Who is the Head of the Body. Even so, all of the little C’s need to also be united as separate bodies.

This seems like an impossible task. People can rarely get along. There are bound to be disagreements. Yes. Very true. But with God, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37). Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Remember the reason for the Church. Keep running the race. The Spirit will unite us if we allow ourselves to be led (Ephesians 4:3). Don’t be proud. Don’t think you know it all. Humble yourself and seek the best for others (1 Corinthians 10:24). Love. It’s the bond of perfect unity (see Colossians 3:14). Live in harmony.

“Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” – Romans 12:16 [NLT]