Perseverance

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June 29

Monday, June 29th, 2020

“On Christ the solid rock I stand/All other ground is sinking sand/All other ground is sinking sand.”  It seems to me we need to learn that lesson in spades these days.

There is no doubt that ungodliness is getting bolder and bolder. Blatant sin is being paraded in front of our very eyes. There is no effort to hide it or disguise it anymore. It’s “in your face” and the follower of Christ is expected to take it, accept it, or go under. I tired long ago of the nightly news. I tired of seeing sin blaring out from the screen-Hollywood telling me I need to accept this/that or I’m a bigot. I have some kind of phobia. If I speak up I’m censored, black-balled, or attacked. If I stay silent it is seen as acceptance.

I read recently about an old country preacher who once said,

I may tremble on the rock, but the rock don’t tremble under me.

As the opening statement said, “On Christ the solid rock I stand…” His foundation is solid. The foundations of our society may be trembling or even crumbling, but our solid rock is not. As a follower of Christ, I may come to the fork in the road when I must make a choice- stand and be counted or falter and take the easy way. But when that time comes I pray my choice will be with the Rock who never rolls.

“Father, You are forever. You are true. Help me to remember to stand with You because Your foundation does not tremble and will not crumble.”

June 25

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

What was it like to be him? Jesus chose him. He was one of the 12. He spent 3 years with Jesus. He was in charge of the purse strings and John tells us he was dishonest. He often questioned what Jesus did-not out of concern or awe-but out of selfishness. Somewhere along the line he got angry/frustrated/humiliated/greedier…who knows? The Scripture tells us he made a deal with the devil religious leaders to betray Jesus.  30 pieces of silver. That’s all. In the Upper Room Jesus exposed his duplicity although the others didn’t get it. Go out…deed done…betrayal kiss…reality hits…life ended by his own hand.

What was it like to be him? Jesus chose him.  He was one of the 12. He spent 3 years with Jesus. He left all to follow at the drop of a net. Brash. Bold. Mercurial. Speak first; think next. He often openly challenged Jesus. Luke 22 and John 13 record a prediction: denial was in his future. Supper observed…denial happens (3 times)…reality hits…remorse and repentance…restoration.

What is it like to be me? I would never do either of those! I mean, how could they? Surely not me. They were with Him every day for 3 years. Watching Him love, heal, speak, confront, forgive, show compassion, play no favorites, raise the dead. They did. Judas betrayed; Peter denied. So do I…more often than I care to admit. Which will I choose? The way of Judas or the way of Peter? Betrayal and death or denial and forgiveness?

“Father, may my heart always be sensitive to the way of Peter. May I always pursue a right relationship with You.”

May 22

Friday, May 22nd, 2020

Is there any of us who hasn’t struggled with prayer? I’m not talking about frequency, or seeing the necessity, or posture, or any of the varied ways to pray. I’m talking about believing God will answer our prayer. Or to put it another way: Is God even listening?

You know how it goes:

  • A dearly loved grandmother is diagnosed with dementia.
  • A much-loved child is diagnosed with cancer.
  • A husband or wife is only given weeks, maybe months, to live.
  • A job ends and days of unemployment turn into weeks then months.
  • A much prayed-for child goes AWOL and chooses a lifestyle we don’t approve of.
  • A pastor/youth pastor goes rogue and leaves everything to pursue lust.
  • A child we have prayed for and prayed over since before birth becomes a prodigal, abandoning their faith.

The list seems endless doesn’t it? Is God listening? Is He deaf? We are praying in faith believing, but it just doesn’t seem to be heard. The prayer hits the ceiling and slaps us in the face, laughing at us.

We may never know the “why” of God’s work. Least not at the moment. Maybe later. Maybe. I honestly have no answer except to say, “Been there; done that; keep praying.” God is listening. It may not seem like it, but He is. Sometimes no matter the sincerity or the fervency or the heartache the prayer goes unanswered. That doesn’t mean God is not listening; it does mean our wish is not His command. God is not deaf. He is not out relieving Himself (as Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal about their god).  God is heart-broken over your heart break. He is shedding tears with you as you shed tears before Him. He does care. He is listening.

“Father, in spite of long lag time, help me to trust, to believe You have things in Your sight.”

May 14

Thursday, May 14th, 2020

I live in Indiana. That means our winters are usually made up of freezing and thawing, freezing and thawing, freezing and thawing, and more freezing and thawing. Combine that with several other factors-the use of salt or some weird combination of ice melt; lack of money; heavy trucks; school buses (not so much the past 2-3 months); and (in our case) miles and miles of graveled back roads-and you have a problem called potholes. I’ve been driving around a lot lately and I’ve (unfortunately) ran over some potholes that have threatened to swallow my truck or at least put in the “I-need-an-alignment” stage. This is especially true on the gravel roads I’ve traveled. They jokingly say the Indiana state flower is an orange cone.

But what really gets me is how a newly paved road or highway doesn’t take long before it begins to show signs of stress fractures, and cracks, and little holes, and even break-offs. Say what? They just finished it and it is already squirrely.

There have been times in my Christian walk when all was good. I was firing on all cylinders. My heart was in the right place; my Bible reading was alive; my worship was vibrant; my “spiritual eyes” were wide open; my trust factor high, and I wished for it to never end. And I foolishly thought or hoped it wouldn’t. I wanted to stay there. I can’t and won’t because the walk of a Christ-follower is one of ups and downs; highs and lows; ins and outs; climbs and descents; and mountaintop and valley experiences. Like the newly paved asphalt which over time shows signs of stress, so does my faith. And yours.

No. I can’t stay there. While roads develop those annoying potholes, stress cracks and break-offs, those times of cracks and stress and break-offs are designed to help me grow. It’s unrealistic to expect to stay where God and I are in sweet communion. I can’t avoid the potholes but with God I can navigate through them to much better roads.

“Father, it is easy to forget You are in the lows, the stresses, the potholes and the break-offs as much as You are when the road is smooth. Help me to trust You to navigate me through the mess called my life.”

May 7

Thursday, May 7th, 2020

During my Quiet Time this year I’ve been reading One Perfect Life by John MacArthur. It takes the story of Jesus and puts it in chronological order. So related Scriptures are read together. My reading today was from Matthew 18 and Mark 9. It is, perhaps, one of my favorite passages/stories in the life of Jesus. It is the story of the father with an epileptic son.

The setting is critical. Jesus, Peter, James and John had just come down from the mountaintop experience of the Transfiguration. A spiritual high for sure. They came down to a scene of pure chaos. The disciples were surrounded by a crowd and scribes arguing with them. A man had a son who had epileptic fits and a demon who controlled him. The father had asked for help and healing for his son from the disciples but it wasn’t happening. Jesus came on the scene of chaos, asked a question, and the father told him. About that time, the boy had one of his fits.

  • Jesus: How long has this been happening?
  • Father: From childhood. “If you can do anything.”
  • Jesus: “If I can? All things are possible for one who believes.”
  • Father: “I believe. Help my unbelief.”
  • Jesus: Mute and deaf spirit come out.

A father’s faith is rewarded. Contrary to what today’s false teachers say, this father’s faith was not all that great. He asked Jesus to make his faith complete. My thought: On a scale of 1-10 the father’s faith was a 2 let’s say.  He asked Jesus to fill in the lack. There are times you and I don’t have “complete” faith. That unanswered prayer is not because of that, in spite of the hucksters who say, “Healing (or whatever) didn’t happen because you had doubt, you didn’t have enough faith.” If so, what do you do with this man’s experience? We take what little faith we have and we bring it to Jesus. If it is His will to answer that request,  He will. Actually, He always answers. Maybe not the way we want, but He does.

And that is where faith comes in! Bring your request; what little faith you may have; and trust Him to answer.

“Father, please give me the faith like a mustard seed-faith like this father- who trusted Jesus to answer. Let me bring what little faith I sometimes have and let you make it complete.”

April 27

Monday, April 27th, 2020

In the movie The Free State of Jones starring Matthew McConaughey, Newt Knight deserts the Confederate Army when he tires of war, sees his nephew get shot and killed, and hears about the Twenty Negro Law. With a ragtag group of people, he frees Jones County from the hold of the Confederates. But he would never had gotten there if he hadn’t first been saved by two slaves.

In this time in our country, there are many who are in despair for various reasons. I’m not downplaying the more serious kind. People are wounded and desperate, facing an enemy that can’t be seen and, in all honesty, makes its presence known in most cases without warning. It sort of reminds me of what Paul said in Ephesians 6 about spiritual warfare: “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers of the air.” The battle is very much a flesh and blood one, but it creeps up on the unexpectant. Many are like the psalmist in 102:1-2: “Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to you! Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; and answer me speedily in the day when I call!”

We wonder where God is in all of this. Does He really care? Is.43:2 answers that question unequivocably: “When I pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.” Sometimes I feel like a broken record-we have nothing to fear. No matter what happens our God goes through it with us. We are not alone.

“Father, help me to remember there is no water too deep; no storm too strong; no mountain too high; no path too treacherous that you aren’t with me.”

April 22

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

Three of the Gospels-Matthew, Mark, and Luke-capture the story of Jesus and the disciples in the boat on the Sea of Galilee. I’m pretty sure you know the story, but for review, a storm suddenly hit them and those hardened fishermen, who I’m sure had been through countless storms, became full of fear.  Jesus had fallen asleep in the boat so they woke Him up and He calmed the story (to their amazement).

I read a story years ago and saw it again this morning of a church that needed parking space. So they contacted the owner of the grocery store next door that was closed on Sunday (remember those days?) to see if they could use their lot. The owner said, “Sure. You can use it 51 weeks but one week it will be chained off.”  Out of curiosity, the church rep asked, “Why that one week?” “So you’ll remember that it’s not your parking lot.”

In other words, you will remember to whom it belongs. Let’s put those two ideas together for a moment. We all hit stormy periods in our life. The current crisis is one-just more global. But what if we looked at it not so much as a disruption but a divine interruption? What a difference it makes if we see God’s hand in this as slowing us down, of making us take stock of what is important, of recalibrating our lives. God could “snap His divine fingers” and this could instantly be over, but what is the lesson in that? This storm can be stilled, our hearts quieted, by the One who calmed the raging sea in our Scripture. Maybe we need to remember whose world this really is. We didn’t make it. We don’t own it. But we serve the One who did. Let’s remember that today.

“Father, this world is yours. All that happens is under Your watchful eye. I pray you will calm this storm and help me…help us…to remember You got this. You are in charge. And this is Yours.”

April 20

Monday, April 20th, 2020

Throughout this whole “virus thing,” I’ve seen various actions and reactions. I’ve seen abject fear. I’ve seen wise caution (One church family has had to hunker down and be super careful because of a family member with an illness that could get much worse if she got the virus). I’ve seen cautious and careful movement toward others (maintaining distance and limiting physical touch). I’ve also seen recklessness and total disregard for suggestions.

The one I have been pleased to see in many is 9-1-1. Known as the universal call numbers for help or an emergency, they also should remind us of something else: Psalm 91:1. When this whole thing started I wanted to let the people know I was thinking of them.  So about 2-3 weeks in I started writing notes. It turned into quite the project…over 100! I’m not sure I will ever do that again! 🙂 But each note was signed with two Scriptures underneath my name: Is. 40:28-31 and Psalm 91:1-2.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’

Psalm 91:1 is a good verse to cry out. In fact, the first six verses are enough to calm the troubled soul and bring peace to the distraught mind. The false teachers do a great disservice to this chapter when they jump to verses 11-13 and focus on this current situation and try to apply those verses and say no harm will happen to someone who claims the blood of Jesus over their illness or over the virus. (Totally out of context btw).

But I digress. Whether good or bad; positive or negative; health or sickness; faith or fear, the promise we have is God’s presence. I’ll call 9-1-1 any day. I’ll stand on it. There is no greater place to be.

“Father, I can’t live in fear. Not as Your child I can’t. But I can live in cautious faith-trusting You to be my shelter and refuge during this storm.”

April 15

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

Did you know on this date in 1912 Titanic sunk?  108 years ago. Okay…on to other things.

As I write this-April 15, 2020- our lives are being “determined” by the COVID-19 virus. I use the word determined in quotes because while some people see it that way, I don’t.  I still see God in control of this whole scene and firmly believe my steps-all steps- are determined by the Lord.

One of the safety steps we are told to take is social distancing. At home it is called self-quarantine. Do not expose yourself to anyone nor allow anyone to expose themselves to you. It, for many, has become a lonely existence, a lonely time. Sure, there is social media if you use it. There is texting and phones. But interpersonal interaction in minimal, at best. I was reminded of the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy. He is in prison with his life soon to  be snuffed out when he writes this letter to Timothy. He asks Timothy to come to him soon (v.9). He’s alone, deserted (v.10). Bring Mark with you and join me and Luke (v.11). Oh yeah, bring my cloak with you also and my parchments (v.13). Is Paul feeling sorry for himself? No, I don’t think so. He is simply gathering his friends around him for one last hoorah. How do I know that? Several reasons:

  1. “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering and the time of my departure has come. I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith…” (4:6-8)
  2. “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (4:18)

Paul may have been in isolation in a dingy prison cell. But the last thing on his mind was defeat. On the contrary, his lips were filled with praise (v.17). In spite of our circumstances, we are not alone. Not by a long shot. God knows and provides all we need. If you are feeling alone, isolated, or just plain fearful, reach out to Him and also reach out to people as Paul did. In this age of social distancing and isolation and self-quarantine, you are never alone and you don’t have to be isolated.

“Father, help me to find ways to reach out while respecting others’ need for space. If I’m lonely or feeling isolated, please bring someone into my life whom I can help.”

April 6

Monday, April 6th, 2020

As I was reading during my Quiet Time this morning, I ran across these words in Psalm 18:

For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?-the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the height…You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great. (18:31-33, 35)

It is a normal reaction, I think, when things get tough to hunker down. To close ranks. To set up a self-enclosed bunker. There could be various reasons for that. Fear of the enemy. Fear of showing weakness. Sort of like self-preservation mode. Fear of engagement.

There are several passages during the last week of Jesus where He talks or shows the value of faith. He speaks of telling a mountain to be moved and it will. He speaks and a fig tree withers. Then He tells His followers they have that same ability if they have faith.

We really have nothing to fear. When all things seem to be against us, God is for us. David expressed it in Psalm 18. Jesus expressed it often. When things seem to be against us, let’s sing the song of God’s faithfulness.

“Father, all that is Yours is mine. Your power is at my disposal. You set me on a solid rock and secure me on the heights. Help me to be a singer of your faithfulness as David was.”