Perseverance

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April 8

Thursday, April 8th, 2021

I like to tease Jo. Sometimes I know I really get on her “last nerve.” One of Tami’s students once her: “Miss Grandi. Are we getting on your last nerve?”  🙂  Yeah, that would be me with Jo.

Anyway, as I was saying, I like to tease Jo. One of those times is when she was watching a Hallmark movie-whether it is the two-month-before-Christmas-movie-marathon or even now. There is a word which describes those movies:

Predictability.

I bug her (not because I chit chat while she is watching the movie or I ask half way through what is happening), but because I tell her what is going to happen. This guy and girl will meet at a lodge or some vacation spot (they like resorts). They might know each other from the past. They will start having feelings for each other but then one will have a close friend (sometimes someone they soon plan to marry) who will get in the way. One will leave but that in the last 10 minutes or so will show up at the shindig. They will realize they have fallen in love with each other and kiss and live happily ever after…or so we assume.

Predictability.

There might be a variation or two depending on the story line, but ultimately they all come down to a couple falling in love.

We like predictability…to some extent. I tend to think it could get boring having the same old same old day in and day out. My vote is for variation, for unpredictability, for adventure, for not knowing.

Have you ever given some thought to our lives as Christ-followers? How important is variety? Truthfully, we should be used to unpredictability by now. We serve a God who might be “the same yesterday, today and forever” and never changes, but the way He works is priceless. There is no “one size fits all.” Nor does He operate the same way each time. Sometimes it is a gentle tap on the window. Sometimes it is in the storm. Sometimes it is in the clear and gentle breeze.

And one thing is sure: no matter how He works, the most predictable part of it all is that He loves us and wants the best for us.

“Father, thank you for being You. Thank You for being both predictable in Who You are, and yet unpredictable in how you will work. Help me to see it as part of Your loving plan.”

March 26

Friday, March 26th, 2021

If there is one word which has reached epic proportions today in weight it is “tolerance.” Although most often not in a good way. I have said over and over: “Those who want and preach tolerance become the most intolerant of all when you disagree with them.”

Today, intolerance has become the worst sin in the world’s eyes and tolerance the highest good (if and only if you agree with them). To be principled or to have informed moral convictions is to be declared intolerant, out of touch, and above all, mean-spirited. Those who are “tolerant,” those who will tolerate anything and everything, take the high moral ground. And please! Don’t disagree with them! You become an intolerant bigot.

In the OT there is a great story and a great illustration to this whole mess. It is in Numbers 25.  Thanks to Balaam’s word to Balak, the people of Israel began to intermingle and intermarry with the Midianite women. This resulted in the acceptance of and worship of foreign gods, particularly Baal. One incident stands out.  God is extremely angry and Moses is confronting the people and many of them are in repenting of their sin. Zimri comes into the midst of the people repenting and takes a foreign women into the tabernacle and lays with her.

The scene is shocking to say the least. But when Phinehas, a grandson of Aaron sees what is happening, he goes into the tabernacle, and filled with the Holy Spirit and holy outrage, kills them both with a spear through their belly. J.B. Phillips once said, “It’s not for nothing that the Spirit God has given to us is called the Holy Spirit.

If that happened today, there would be outrage. It wouldn’t be holy and it wouldn’t be for God’s cause. People would be outraged that Phinehas stood up for a righteous and holy God. He would have been cancelled or black-balled or bullied (or all three) because he dared to take a stand for what he believed to be right. I’d say it is time for the church- pastors, leaders, and individuals- to stand up for the truth and righteousness. To be called “intolerant” just very well might a badge of honor worth wearing.

“Father, like Phinehas help me to take a stand for the righteous and holy God You are. Help me not be concerned about  the consequences but to be willing to stand for You.”

March 22

Monday, March 22nd, 2021

I’m sure you’ve heard or maybe used the phrase, “You make a molehill into a mountain.” The opposite is what we truly want to happen (and what God often does): “He makes a mountain into a molehill.”

Back to the original statement of “a molehill into a mountain.” Small things loom large. Small holes are made into mountains by worry, fear, and rebellion.

Here is an interesting connection for you. Moses is opposed by two magicians at the start of the plagues in Egypt-the Nile turning to blood, and the frogs taking over. They were able to duplicate the plagues but not remove them. Paul gives us their names in 2 Timothy 3:8-9. Their names were Jannes and Jambres. They opposed the truth, put up counterfeits, and rejected Moses’ warnings. Eventually, they slithered off in disgrace (Ex.9:11) but very possibly convinced Pharaoh to pursue the Israelites and drowned with him and the army.

Application: In our lives-sometimes daily-we have our Jannes and Jambres. Let’s give them different names: fear, anxiety, anger, rebellion, and others opposed to God’s work. Molehills become mountains because we allow the tools of the enemy to take root in our lives. What is interesting is Jannes and Jambres could duplicate the plagues but not get rid of them. That tells us the enemy of our souls can cause havoc but has no power to take it away (not that he would want to). He brings the mountain; God does the removing.

Two statements come to mind. I have a magnet on my file cabinet at the office which I have for more year than I can remember:

The faith to move mountains is the reward of those who have moved little hills.

The other is a Tolkien quote via Gandalf:

The power of Sauron is still less than fear makes it.

Don’t let your molehill become a mountain. Let God take your mountain and make it into a molehill.

“Father, may I give you my complete trust in all my circumstances, especially when the molehill threatens to become a mountain.”

March 10

Wednesday, March 10th, 2021

Let’s continue with some more thoughts on gratitude.

I personally think one of the hardest things to do and to see is to be grateful in all circumstances. But I believe some of that is because of wrong thinking. I did not say “Be thankful for all circumstances” but in all circumstances.

Of course, I’m not going to be thankful for cancer or MS or bankruptcy or (fill in the blank). I’m not sure anyone in their right mind would say, “I’m so thrilled and thankful I lost my home, my car, my family, etc because I lost my job and now I can’t afford anything. So I guess I’ll file for bankruptcy and be happy about it.” Or “I’m so thankful cancer is ravaging my body.” When I was going through my medical issues as a result of being a Covid long-hauler, I wasn’t praising the Lord for all of that.

But I can be thankful in that situation. Gratitude doesn’t hinge on certain or good circumstances in my life.  The opposite, however, can be true: I should be able to be thankful in those circumstances KNOWING God’s presence is there with me. I’m reminded of Paul’s words to the Philippians when he said, “He who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion.” (1:6) We are all in the dark when it comes to God’s plans for our lives. All we can really do is trust Him in and through it all to complete His purpose and perfect will.

Can you say you are grateful in all circumstances? I certainly want to be able to say I am!

“Father, only You know what is ahead for me.  Help me to be thankful in all my circumstances, no matter what they may be, knowing You are there with me. I thank You for Your presence in all things.”

March 1

Monday, March 1st, 2021

(Note: I wrote this Friday, the 26th, but waited to post it until today)

I didn’t sleep well last night. Not exactly sure why. I was tired. I had a day of doctor visits (follow up to surgery and dental for an implant). I had a beautiful visit with a family of three children, who because of health issues with the youngest, have been unable to be in worship with the group. I took M&Ms to the kids; a bag of York peppermint patties to mom; and a bag of Heath bars to dad. Of course the kids were already in their boxes within 5 minutes! 🙂

If I had a “guess” as to why I have unrest and have been up since  before my regular “day-of-work-get-up-time of 3:30” is what I know I might have to do this morning and where I need to go. I will be at the High School at 8:00 to possibly “help” or listen to a teacher or student who is struggling. You see, we had a tragedy this week in our school system. Last weekend one of our teachers and baseball coach, the husband of our Middle School principal, had a brain bleed. Even a second opinion has declared him brain dead so last night they began harvesting his organs for the donation process. (He will continue making a difference long after he leaves this earth).  He leaves behind a wife and 2 young girls. The oldest turned 6 on Thursday. One also has Down’s but I’m not sure what her age is. Bryan was not only the baseball coach, but he also taught SpecEd and it is easy to see why.

Why then the upset? Because Ryan (our youth pastor) and I have been asked to be there to listen and help if needed. Ryan was there all morning on Thursday. Very few wanted to talk. Like one or two.  But who knows?  It appears that he and his wife were Christ-followers. Her posts allude to that.  If so, she has a hope beyond all one can imagine. I pray it will sustain her and the girls in the coming days.

But questions abound. Some I don’t have an answer to. Does anyone really? Only God knows for sure and His Word is the go-to. But sometimes questions still abound. I’m praying for wisdom if needed.

Meanwhile, would you please pray for Ashley and the 2 girls? They need God’s Presence more as each day passes.

“Father, You are the Giver of Peace. I pray that for Ashley. You are Giver of Wisdom.  I pray that for Ryan and me today.  I also pray extra wisdom for Ashley as she navigates life without the love of her life. And I’m looking for the good you will bring out of this.”

January 15

Friday, January 15th, 2021

Have you ever been disappointed with God? I suspect all of us would speak to the affirmative of that statement. I must confess there have been times I have been. One of those times is now. After 10 months or pursuing me, Covid finally caught up with me. In spite of the mask, the hand sanitizing, the extra vitamins designed to ward off a virus or infection, I got it. A body that once weighed 223 and was pretty solid is now 30 pounds less in 3 weeks, lost a lot of muscle and is weak. (I hope this is not TMI): I have trouble keeping things down (or at least not feeling nauseated) and keeping things in. I’ve tried the BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Apple sauce, and Toast) but that hasn’t worked. And besides, it is boring and sort of disgusting.  I’m not fond of bananas, white rice or white toast.  I’ve had people praying for me. I have prayed fervently for healing. All the tests so far have come back negative, or on the good side. After a night of solid sleep where the alarm woke me, I slept fitfully last night. This is not meant to be a “woe is me” devotion though. It is designed to ask a question:

Why am I disappointed with God?

I already know the answer: because He hasn’t answered my (and others) prayers for healing. My desire is to be completely healed from this mess. But then I think, “Who am I to expect that? Maybe God has a bigger plan in His big picture?”

One thing I do know is that I need to delight in God and then He will fulfill the desires of my heart, not the other way around, i.e. God will fulfill my dreams then I will delight in Him.  So I must keep in mind that disappointment is not unusual or even unexpected, but I must delight in Him no matter what. If He chooses to heal me, I will praise Him. If He has another plan, I will praise Him.

“So Father,  I will praise You even through my disappointment.”

December 7

Monday, December 7th, 2020

Have you ever noticed how certain words or phrases or thoughts are almost automatically connected to a corresponding word, thought, or action? For example, carousel. Say that word and our minds will go to merry-go-rounds or amusement parks. Say the word love and we might link it to joy and peace, especially at this time of the year. Or we might even think of a person. Say virgin birth and we will tie it to Jesus or Christmas or Mary.

Here’s one: courage. Did your mind go to fear? Did you happen to think of Aragorn’s speech to the enemies of Mordor or to William Wallace’s speech to his band of fighting brothers? It’s understandable but not necessarily where we should go. Here are one or two other possibilities: the cowardly lion in Wizard of Oz. He needed courage, not because of fear, but because he was a coward. We need courage when we face uncertain events or future. We need courage when we feel inadequate for a task we are about to face. That is not necessarily fear but hesitation of ability to do something.

Let me explain better: When Joshua was about to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land he had just taken over for Moses. What big shoes to fill! It was one thing to be the understudy; it was another to be the top dog. What a daunting task facing Joshua. But God told him, “I got this Joshua. You just trust Me. All your uncertainty and insecurity are taken care of. Have courage!” Check out Joshua 1:9.

God will not abandon us. Where and when God calls us, He also equips us.

“Father, I say You are in charge. Help me to know and live it. Give me courage for today and all it brings.”

December 4

Friday, December 4th, 2020

There are a lot of emotions which people experience during the Christmas season.  There are the devastating ones like loss, loneliness, and lifelessness. They lead to a feeling of why bother? Why not just give up? There are also those emotions which carry a sense of settledness. Joy. Peace. Knowing you are loved.

One that is all too common is one called discouragement. How do I know that? I’m fighting it tooth and nail right now. This has been an unusual year to be sure. The virus lead to decreased attendance until we had to lockdown. Then when we could open again our attendance began to creep back up slowly. And I was okay with that. Then recently the spike has hit and we are back to people staying home. I know this is best, especially for those directly impacted by the threat to their health or those they love. But that still doesn’t ease the angst of one who loves people and feeds off seeing them.  So after an up, then a down, then an up, and now a down,  I have found myself fighting off being discouraged. For the most part I’ve been doing well. My hardest time? This past Sunday when it hit me again.

This all came back to me and I saw it again when I read Paul David Tripp’s Day 30 devotion from 40 Days of Faith. While his devotion focused on how God has each of my days written down even before I was born, it caused me to stop and think about my own heart. I had to remind myself that what happens (has, is and will) does not surprise Him in the slightest. He’s not wearing the suit of the guy with question marks all over Him.

On the contrary, He authored this all with a combination of wisdom and grace. That means He knows my disappointment and discouragement and comes alongside me with an arm around my shoulder and eyes full of understanding saying, “I’m here Bill. Don’t get discouraged. You are going to be surprised when this all shakes out. But you gotta trust Me.”

So I do the only thing I can do. I cry on His shoulder and lean into His chest and resign myself to His warm and steady heart beat.

November 27

Friday, November 27th, 2020

Have you ever noticed how sometimes life just doesn’t make any sense? Seriously, when you think you get it, life throws a curveball. When you think life is smoothing itself out, you hit a bunch of potholes and you find yourself trying to navigate around them. Or you are just enjoying the pleasure of a nice, relaxing drift on a boat in still water when a pop-up storm hits that threatens to capsize you and maybe even your faith.

On Day 22 of his little book 40 Days of Faith, Paul David Tripp writes:

Don’t be discouraged today. You can leave your ‘what-ifs’ and ‘if-onlys’ in the hands of the one who loves you and rules all things. (p.50)

Later he writes even more:

He knows, he understands, he is in control of what appears to be chaos, he is never surprised, he is never confused, he never worries or loses a night’s sleep, he never walks off the job to take a rest, he never gets so busy with one thing that he neglects another, and he never plays favorites. (p.51)

How’s that for reassurance? We certainly live today in a day of insecurity and unrest. What more reassurance do we need than words like these about a God like that? Is life out of whack for you? Screwy? Twisted? Hassled? Unsure? You now know the One who knows all about it.

“Father, thank you for being in control. For not being surprised. For being the calm in the storm. Help me to trust You implicitly.”

November 19

Thursday, November 19th, 2020

“I can’t do it.”  You might hear that quite often from younger children. Sometimes it is legitimate; sometimes not so. Sometimes it is a cop out; sometimes it is an honest statement and cry for help. I’m not sure where I read it, but it has been suggested that instead of “I can’t” the person really means “I won’t.” In fact, as an experiment it is recommended to replace “I can’t” with “I won’t.”

There are legitimate times “I can’t” is valid. All things mechanical in a car has me yelling “Uncle!” pretty quickly.  (See my clever use of another word there instead of “I can’t?”) But, admittedly, I do say, “I can’t” a little too quickly.

Two passages of Scripture come to mind when I think of this: one is a story. It is found in Judges 6:11-18. An angel comes to Gideon and calls him a “mighty man of valor.” That is laughable because at that moment he’s threshing grain indoors out of fear of the Midianites, the very people God is calling him to defeat. When Gideon says, “I can’t,” God says, “I can.” With an army of 300 Gideon defeats the Midianites-a feat which was definitely against all odds.

The other passage is found in Ephesians 3: 20-21- “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly that all that we ask or think…” God just takes the “I can’t” and throws it right out the window with this statement by Paul. Again, when I say, “I can’t,” God says, “I can and so will you.” Listen to those words again: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly…”

“Father, help me to remember that with You all things are possible. Help me not to write off Your work and power too quickly. Help me to remember You can.”