Battle Vision

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Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith… Hebrews 12:2

Recently my husband and I were able to take a “date walk”.  It was quite romantic until my left contact popped out and then I went half blind – literally. (I really know how to set the mood.) Or maybe the contact debacle was what made it most romantic after all. My man now took me close into his side and was my left eye all the way home. In sickness and in health and in lost left contacts right! Anyway this got me thinking…

Even those of us lucky enough to be born with perfect vision can suffer vision impairment caused by long term battle situations don’t you think. I mean look at David in the Bible. He was anointed next in line to be king. He had the promise and time after time God proved His presence was with him. However as time went on and his enemies continued to pursue him relentlessly David says in 1 Samuel 27:1 (paraphrased) I guess I better just go hide out with the enemy as Saul (his greatest enemy) is going to get me eventually.

Sarah too in Genesis 16 had the promise of a child but as time went on and no child came she started to wonder maybe she needed to go get her servant Hagar. Gen. 16:2 (paraphrased) Sarai says to her husband Abram, God’s not bringing the promise through me so you should sleep with my servant Hagar.

You know the promise like David, like Sarah but in the battle that rages just a minute, a day, an hour, a year, 20 years too long, fear, frustration and exhaustion set in and you start be tossed in the waves of doubt. You just can’t see a way – your vision is suffering long term battle impairment.

GOOD NEWS! That prescription is not a permanent deficit!!! Unlike me who with out visual aid can not even see the big “E” on the chart – long term battle vision impairment is immediately cured when the right chart is placed in front of you (no visual aids required).

Stop looking for the big “E” and fix your eyes on “I AM”.

When we shift from all that we don’t know and from how big our obstacles are to what we DO know about our God, it is amazing how fast the anchor of our faith drops to secure us in the wind and waves of doubt.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure… Hebrews 6:19 Just as I was able to hang on to my husbands arm, firm and secure all the way back home on that trail I only half saw – God says, child I AM your way, anchor yourself to Me. Though the battle rages on do you see the empty cross?! On the other side of every cross we have to bear is our victorious risen Savior!! …despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. Romans 8:37

Independent Read: 1 Corinthians 13:12, Jeremiah 17:7, Psalm 130:5

 

Three Little Words

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Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in the mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. James 1:23-24

At my age looking into the mirror only seems to reveal another wrinkle, another gray hair (of which mine seem to have FORGOTTEN are suppose to come in with ADDED wisdom!!) and quite frankly it’s just not getting any prettier. Immediately forgetting that aging image… although might be a blessing… is not possible; so praise the Lord He looks at the inside, and if that’s filled with Him somehow no matter how old you are there is just a radiant glow about you that is renewed (for free) each moment you spend with Him!

I’m for spending more time with Him so lets back it up to James 1:19 and read through verse 25.

Did you see it said EVERYONE should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry… (note to self: my name cannot be inserted as an exception to that rule!) and why?! Because verse 20 says human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. – So verse 21 seems to wonder why in the world we would not just humbly except the Word planted in us THAT CAN SAVE US! It’s like hello?! Anyone listening yet?! Because then in 22 it says don’t be tricked, you actually have to DO what you hear stated in His life saving Word! Oh now glorious verse 25…

But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do. And yes, that said WHOEVER, there is no age limit!

You know who this reminds me of…. JESUS! Of course right! In John 12:49 Jesus tells us He did not speak on His own but only what the Father gave Him to say! How incredible right! Sinless Jesus walking the earth with all of us, and can you imagine all in the flesh He may have wanted to say, but restrained!!!!?! Unfathomable strength, which is also available to us if we will surrender to the filling of His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11)! Now verse 50 says He knew the Fathers command lead to eternal life.

The mission of Jesus first coming was not to judge people but to show the way to find salvation and eternal life. (Shouldn’t we follow suit. (Romans 12:19, Mark 12:30-31)) Now when He returns there will be judgment and those who excepted Jesus words, excepted the Truth of Him and lived His way will be raised to eternal life (John 3:16). Hallelujah!

Just before we go let’s look at one more snap shot of Jesus (who couldn’t use a little extra radiant glow anyway? You might not be as wrinkly as me but let’s marinate in His Word together just a bit longer, shall we!)

John 11:17-44 depicts the events around Lazarus death. Verse 33 in the NLT states, When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. I think Jesus was angry at death. Death was never a part of His plan  (You don’t have to be a control freak like me to know what it feels like to have your perfect plan messed with!)​ and He was right there in the middle of those He deeply loved sharing in their grief that death had caused and He was angry at it’s destruction!

But what does Jesus do?! Throw rocks and curse up a storm… uh no.

First: He says three little words… verse 43, “Lazarus, come out!” and with that death let go of Laz and he inhaled life again!! Amazing strength under control!

Then: Jesus took the cross in our place conquering the grave resurrecting on the other side so that we could all come out of the chains of sin and death into abundant freedom and eternal life with Him in His Kingdom!!!! (Heb. 12:2) He did the will of The Father.

I guarantee there is no face cream on the planet that is going to give you a youthful glow like that Good News right there! But if you could bottle it up with applicator directions it would just be three little words in response to Jesus… I do believe.

Jesus was quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry – the Scriptures were His guide, prayer was His lifeline, He DID the work the Father gave Him to do (John 17:4) and He is willing to finish the work He started in us (Phil. 1:6) (even if it is one ‘wrinkle’ at a time). Praise Him!

I do believe!

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19

Independent Read: 1 Samuel 16:7, 1 Corinthians 15:51-58, Rev. 21:1-7, 1 Thess. 4:15-18, Ps. 34:5, Romans 10:17, Malachi 3:16-18

 

Well vs. Wellness

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…It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life. John 4:14

I once fell through the ice, not on a well but on a pond behind our home one Wisconsin winter. I was “testing out the ice” (because that is what brilliant people do right?!?!) and thankfully I was just at the edge when I slipped out a bit too far which led to me walking home in soaked winter gear!

By God’s grace, mercy, goodness and unfailing love He saved me once again from myself that day!

But I’m reminded of another incident that occurred around water in John 4. There a woman came to a well to draw water when Jesus begins a conversation with her. She couldn’t believe that He would speak with her considering the social norms at that time but what He told her was even more remarkable!

Jesus tells her about living water and she begins to question Him with all sorts of doubtful thoughts in verses 11-12. But sir, you don’t have… this well is very deep. Where would you get… besides do you think you are greater than… how can you offer…?!?!?

Ever found yourself in that doubting boat; in waters way to deep to be handled on your own?

I’m reminded of John the Baptist. In Matthew 3:13-17 John baptizes Jesus and gets to witness God open the sky, and in an audible voice says, this is my Son whom I love with Him I am well pleased and the Holy Spirit descends on Him like a dove!!!!! YET…

In Matthew 11:1-6 we see John ask his buddies to go ask Jesus if He is REALLY the Messiah?! I wonder if his buddies looked at him funny at first like, really John, the ripped open heavens and the audible voice wasn’t enough?!

However they decided to do as John asked anyway, maybe because they felt bad he was in prison. But isn’t that what our “prisons” will do to our minds!?! Doubt floods it’s way into every nook and cranny!

Jesus responds to the women at the wells questions with a perspective shift just like He did to John’s buddies.

It’s easy to get so consumed and caught up by what we can see and what our current circumstances appear to be isn’t it? Though He IS into our details (like saving us from our “testing out the ice” ideas) He is weaving a tapestry with more than the one thread of our individual life. He sees the bigger picture and want’s us to trust Him with it.

I think He is after our eternal WELLNESS more than giving a temporary fix for the “WELL” we’re focused on. And even though the prison John the Baptist sat in seemed dark and confusing Jesus reminded him that he did know Truth and that we all will be blessed not to turn away because of how He does things (Matt. 11:6).

After all the Bible doesn’t hide the fact that we will experience hard times in this world. Psalm 23 tells us even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death we do not have to be afraid.

Even if we got in that valley because of our own version of “testing out the ice” it doesn’t say Jesus is standing there reminding us we wouldn’t be there if we hadn’t done that or believed that lie. He’s not using that rod and staff mentioned in verse 4 to beat some sense into us, it is to comfort!!

And where does that Psalm say we are headed?! To a feast! Where our cup overflows with blessing! Why? Because He is good and is unfailing love! We can trust Him with our “well” and our eternal wellness!!

Praise Jesus and don’t turn away! He’ll take you into His arms even if you had to walk the whole way home soaking wet in winter gear because you had the “brilliant idea” to test out the ice!!

Independent Read: Isaiah 55:8-9, Proverbs 3:5-6, Romans 12:2, James 1:6, 1 John 4:8

Golden

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But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold. Job 23:10

Many of my runs end under this street sign and there is this ever faithful little swallow perched atop just waiting to cheer me on as I strain to the finish (at least that’s what I like to think).

It also got me thinking of Philippians 3:13, Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead – That word, straining, in the NIV does not paint a picture of ease in my mind. Actually it brings me to the scene in Mark 6:48, Jesus – saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.  Shortly before the dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake –  Jesus is there in the straining moments even if it requires a little walking on water to save us!

Sometimes the forgetting what is behind is a strain as we long to move forward! Since the enemy can’t take our salvation he sure would settle for keeping us living in the shadow of shame and under the rock of regret because that is just the position that will render us ineffective on our journey to the Kingdom isn’t it!

Looking at Luke 5:1-11 I see Jesus ask Peter to go fish for Him yet Peter had tried all night and came up with nothing… Peter had a boat full of empty failure. Yet Jesus still chose that guy, the one with the empty boat, the failed catch, to fish for Him!

The key is Peter’s response in verse 5. I tried, I failed, but because You say so…I’ll try again.

If anyone can redeem a situation or life it is Jesus. Because Peter chose to trust Jesus, everyone around, Peter included, were awestruck, just astonished at what Jesus had done with what appeared to be such colossal failure, with such an impossible situation!

Jesus doesn’t stop there, He goes on to flip Peter’s perspective… He tells Peter now he will fish for people. Peter could have said, but Lord I always fish for people! People eat fish, I fish for the people. But Jesus was saying you will fish for PEOPLE – FOR Me.

God has great purpose for all He has redeemed, don’t let the enemy trick you into staying under that rock of regret or walking in the shadow of shame. Strain forward forgetting what is behind for 1 Peter 3:21 states, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also-not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ – Clear conscience! What a wildly wonderful God we serve!!

One last thing. Did you notice the word under which that little sparrow is perched?! Golden! Zechariah 13:9 I will bring that group through the fire and make them like gold. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘These are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’ 

Don’t give up in the straining forward – it’s the fire that purifies gold and often it’s in the fiery trials that purify and refine us to be more like Christ.

In Jesus you have GREAT purpose so run in such a way as to get the prize! (1 Cor. 9:24) He is cheering you on! (Romans 8:34)

Independent Read: Psalm 107:20, Jeremiah 15:16, John 8:36

Guarded

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Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you. 2 Timothy 1:14

Yesterday I sat pool side soaking in the summer sun and a good book while watching my children enjoy being soaking wet (ahh the sweet simple and abundant joy’s of summer). When all of a sudden the youngest of my tribe comes running up all puddles and drips exclaiming he needed a boogie board! I replied, “well, you know what to do, go ask a guard and he’ll have one for you to use.”

At this my five year old looked at me with those big brown eyes now beginning to shiver just a bit he said, “but mom…. I just need at least one more buddy to go with me because alone I’m kinda nervous.”

Now I completely can relate and all the fear of having to walk the attendance list up to the front office in school when I was five, came rushing back! There were so many big kids to walk past in the halls that I was terrified! But I guess there is something to be said about having a few decades under your belt because I now know fear, doubt and embarrassment is exactly what the enemy will place high bets on, capitalize on if we let him because he knows how very low our threshold for any of those emotions can be.

So as much as I would have like to take my sons hand and go with him I felt it might be an opportunity for me to do what is difficult for me… step back, let go and entrust them to God.

So I looked into my youngest sons beautiful brown eyes and said, “hon, you KNOW Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. You say you need at least one buddy to make you brave, well Jesus promises to be with you everywhere you go-use His brave to make you brave, He is forever your buddy.”

So my youngest turns around and slowly, slowly begins walking toward the lifeguard station which is maybe 25 feet from where I am sitting. He stops about half way…but then keeps going all the way to the guard widow, climbs up with those mighty arms and an even mightier heart within that is strengthening in faith and trust right before my very eyes in the One that will faithfully walk with him everywhere in life. The One in whose hand he will always be in even when he can’t be holding mine (you know I’m crying now). I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:4

Yesterday my five year old son got a boogie board from the lifeguard station all by himself but he got something even greater than that… an increased confidence and trust in the One that will walk with him everywhere he goes! Amen and praise the might faithful name of Jesus! As for me, I got to know just a little bit more the One in whom I trust, and am sure is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return. (2 Tim. 1:12)

Timothy (insert your name), guard what God has entrusted to you…. 1 Tim. 6:20

Independent Read: Isaiah 41:10, Deuteronomy 31:6,8, 1 Peter 4:19

 

Shocked Not Shook

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Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD… 2 Chronicles 20:3

James 1:2 states, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  When was the last time you ran into trouble and your reaction was, “Oh yah! What an opportunity for great joy!!”? Honestly I can’t remember either; but what might I be missing out on not responding in this way?

Romans 8:28-29 states God can work all things for good according to His purpose which is to conform us to the likeness of His Son. Also lets look at 2 Timothy 1:9 which states, He has saved us and called us to a holy life-not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time

His purpose and grace… purpose in Greek is prothesis and the opposite in Greek is metanoia which translates repentance, change of mind. So cool that He hasn’t changed His mind about lavishing His grace on you and I in Jesus since before the beginning of time! Truly AMAZING GRACE, AMAZING LOVE!

The next time we are alarmed or quite possibly shocked at the trial we find ourselves up against might we remember the greater shock which is that Jesus gave His life so that His purpose for our lives before the beginning of time might not be thwarted! If that doesn’t drop us to our knees and resolve us to take the opportunity for great joy in watching God wildly work in our lives and the lives of our loved ones however He purposes in His great love and grace what will!?!!

Talk about wildly working… reading through the rest of 2 Chronicles 20 is such a treat to see God mightily inhabit the praises of His people! The army led out only armed with a choir singing songs of praise! Now that’s wild worship! Yet isn’t it faith that is released through worship and faith is what opens the door for God to work!

Next time we find ourselves up against a shocking trial we can remember to fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith and declare with great joy I will not be shook!

Job 42:2 I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

Independent Read: Hebrews 12:2, Psalm 62:2,6, Phil. 4:4-8, John 3:16

PS. We don’t even need to be shocked! 1 Peter 4:12-16 🙂

Operation Faith- Not Feeling

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For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:2

Look at that picture will you! That cow strapped down in a parked car! Parked! Can you imagine with me what he must be thinking…

“Dude, if any of my cow friends see me… how embarrassing! Nothing about this moment feels right, and most definitely not how I planed or thought things were going to go when the rancher said “giddy up” this morning! Maybe I wasn’t suppose to answer?! Maybe I wasn’t the one he was calling because man… this does NOT feel right!!” (How’s that for cow speak?!)

I remember a guy in Scripture that might have felt similarly to this strapped down cow, so lets look at how he handled it. Acts 22:1-15 Paul can be found recounting his “strapped down cow moment” so to speak. Paul formerly known as Saul had a prestigious background to say the least (Philippians 3:4-6) but instead of finding himself as head honcho he finds himself head down and humbled.

In Acts 22:6-10 Paul states, As I was on the road, approaching Damascus about noon, a very bright light from heaven suddenly shown down around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? Who are you, lord? I asked. And the voice replied, I am Jesus the Nazarene, the one you are persecuting. The people with me saw the light but didn’t understand the voice speaking to me. I asked, What should I do, Lord?

Can you just imagine?!!!

In the middle of his journey, his plan well marked out, (key word being HIS plan) he is blindsided literally with blinding light from heaven! His response is one to follow however. He falls face on the ground and asks, What should I do Lord? (Notice the people around him didn’t understand-he had to go directly to God.)

MY plan felt right but now I’m not so sure Lord, I’m feeling more like a strapped down cow in a parked pick up!

In Acts 22:11 God responds to Paul’s question with, Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything you are to do.

One step at a time, HIS time and HIS way because HIS plan is always best and will not be thwarted. (Job 42:2, Proverbs 16:9)

Feeling strapped down and parked may not FEEL good at the time but maybe it’s in those moments that God is building endurance which develops strength of character which strengthens our confident hope of salvation (Romans 5:4)! He’s into building FAITH so that we might be conformed to His image and thus reflect Him more brightly to the world.

In Paul’s “strapped down cow moment” his perspective was changed, Phil. 3:7 I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 

In our own “strapped down cow moments” might we forget everything but Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified in our place because of the depth of His love for us. Maybe being strapped down and parked for awhile to get some of His perspective might just be the very best thing for us. (Psalm 46:10)

Lets not become discouraged in the moments that don’t feel right; maybe it’s a needed moment for a perspective change and an opportunity for greater faith in the One who has a greater purpose than our finite minds can fathom!

Independent Read: Philippians 4:4-9