This is pretty close to exactly what I saw two days ago as I glanced out my kitchen window towards my little farm. This is now the second time he (or a close friend of his) has visited my area. It gave me pause for sure because it was clear that this dude (I'm totally guessing on sex), while cute and cuddly looking at first glance, wasn't interested in a social visit. There were two things that made the presence of this fox even more unsettling than normal.
One, it was mid-day. It was a little overcast but the sun was shining, the birds were chirping and yet there he was, seemingly unworried by his lack of shadow or stealth. As I've reflected on this over the last few days I've been reminded that this is similar to satan's MO in our world today. Sin which used to be viewed as shameful was committed under the cover of darkness and secrecy but is now openly celebrated and encouraged for all to see. This idea has been perpetuated within the church as well under the "come as you are" mantra. Of course we should come as we are to Jesus to receive healing and forgiveness but we've confused "come as you are" with "stay where you are" and that idea isn't supported anywhere in Scripture. God calls us out of the darkness and into the Light of Christ not to parade our sin but to serve as an example to others of what a journey towards holiness looks like.
The second unsettling fact that Franklin (I decided to name the fox) reminded me of is that we've perhaps become too comfortable with sin crouching at our doors. This dude was super close to I'm sure what he would have considered a very generous lunch. To be fair to the fox (in case he reads this) he wasn't openly prowling and gave no impression of being on the hunt and in fact he wasn't even looking in the direction of my little farm...but it was clear as he sat resting in the neighbors yard that he was present.
I'm reminded of the passage from Genesis 4:7 (NASB) where God is challenging Cain to not allow his anger to get the best of him and lead him into sin. God says, "If you do well, will your face not be cheerful? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
It is easy to slip into sinful patterns when we allow sin to crouch at the door of our hearts. When we regularly expose ourselves to things that lead us down that road it's no wonder we struggle to resist temptation.
1 Peter 5:8-9 (NASB) says, "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. So resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brothers and sisters who are in the world."
What are you and I doing to make opportunities for sin uncomfortable in our spaces? Before I had the chance to startle Franklin he sauntered away on his own but I regret that I missed the chance to make him uncomfortable in that space. If he's comfortable, he'll come back and perhaps next time he won't leave on an empty stomach. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
I keep lots of list. If I don't, I forget about things. I have separate lists for each of the efforts I'm involved in....personal stuff at home, church ministry stuff, overall camp stuff, high school camp stuff, baccalaureate, 3SLI, etc. It helps me stay organized and for the most part (feel free to comment with the exception) it prevents me from forgetting about stuff I need to get done.
I was reading through Paul's letter to the Corinthians this morning and came across chapter 10:1-5 (NASB) which says, "For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our fathers were all under the cloud and they all passed through the sea; and they all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and they all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased; for their dead bodies were spread out in the wilderness."
Paul was writing this letter to those Christians gathered in the city of Corinth who had perhaps gotten distracted by the pursuit of "evil things" (see verse 6). He was reminding them of their forefathers (the Israelites) who had also chased "evil things" despite the fact that God has provided so much for them.
Despite all of these provisions verse 5 is crystal clear, "Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased; for their dead bodies were spread out in the wilderness." That's rough. Why would the Israelites still chase "evil things" even when God had so clearly provided for them every step of the way? From the outside looking in, it's somewhat easy for you and I to pinpoint the error of their ways and from a place of hindsight clearly identify what went wrong. From this vantage point, it's easy to see how God had provided for them and guided them all along their journey but somehow they missed it. Did they feel alone? Did they feel as though God wasn't hearing their cries for help? Did they feel invisible? Why did they feel as though they had to forget their own future?
We know now that none of that is true because we have the record of God's provision, His Word! But perhaps in the moment the Israelites would have benefited from a real-time record for themselves. Maybe when the first person started grumbling and complaining, no one spoke up and reminded the group of God's faithfulness or maybe like us, when they got caught up in the moment they allowed the pressures of life to blur their minds and convince them they were all alone. It's clear that the Israelites missed the mark and were "chasing evil" but I don't think it's because they were trying to. On the contrary, they missed the mark because they weren't trying to remember how faithful God had been to them.
When it comes to life in general, I'm convinced that I've forgotten far more than I remember. I think the same is true for my relationship with God. I've forgotten about all of the times He's protected me, all the times He's guided me, all the times He's heard me and responded, all the times He's answered my prayer, all the times He's calmed me down, all the times He's changed my heart, all the times He's been there when I've felt alone. He has never been unfaithful to me even when I've been unfaithful to Him. Remembering that fact helps change my appetite from the things of this world to the things of God. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
It's been a few weeks since Christmas but I've been reminded of the true meaning of Christmas and it's more than you've always thought. Allow me to share...
Christmas is interesting because we place so much focus on the Christmas Eve and the Christmas morning experience that we sometimes forget that after “Christmas” for Jesus was really just the beginning of His earthly life and ministry. In our 2021/2022 world we come to Christmas, we get all excited and then on the 26th of December or maybe on the first day that we’re back in school or work, after the Christmas break we move on back to our normal lives. I call it the "Post Christmas Slump". What if we could avoid that slump? Here's how...
What if we understand that while Christmas is all about the “Arrival” of Jesus on earth it’s really more about the, if I can use another word that starts with the letter “A”, the “Adjustment” that should happen in our lives as a result of the “Arrival” of Jesus.
Most of us are familiar with the Bible passage from the first 20 verses of Luke 2 that record for us all of the details surrounding the “Arrival” of Jesus on earth, but let's focus on what comes after those first 20 verses. While you and I go back to life as normal after celebrating the “Arrival” of Jesus, for Jesus it was the beginning of Him accomplishing what He was sent to do which was helping the world with the “Adjustment” that was needed.
Luke 2:21-24 (NLT) says, “Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived. Then it was time for their purification offering, as required by the law of Moses after the birth of a child; so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. The law of the Lord says, “If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the Lord.” So they offered the sacrifice required in the law of the Lord—“either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
What we read here is that Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple, which was what all parents did with their new born children, to present Him, have him circumcised and make a purification offering for Him which was meant as a way to honor God and give thanks to God for this new baby.
It's in verse 25 and following that we first see the idea of Jesus' true purpose, "Adjustment" come to the surface.
Luke 2:25-31 (NLT) says, “At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people.”
If we were to stop reading right there we might think that the arrival of Jesus was what mattered most. Here’s Simeon, a guy who had waited his whole life to see the arrival of the Savior. He even says there at the end, “Now I can die in peace because what I’ve been waiting to see has finally shown up.” The "Arrival" of Jesus had finally occurred, but wait, Simeon had more to say.
He goes on in Luke 2:32-35 and says, “He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”
Boom! There it is! Here’s where we start to see for the first time this idea that “Adjustment” was more important than just “Arrival”. Again, we spend all of our time at Christmas celebrating the “Arrival” and what God was really all about in sending Jesus was the “Adjustment” that needed to take place in the world.
Simeon says, "Many will fall." Perhaps referring to those who go around living their lives in a proud and arrogant way: Jesus came to offer the opportunity for adjustment to these people. People who are living arrogantly and pridefully aren’t different just because of the arrival of Jesus, they’re different because they took Jesus up on the offer of an adjustment.
Proverbs 29:23 (NLT) says, “Pride ends in humiliation…”
Proverbs 16:5 (NLT) says, “The Lord detests the proud; they will surely be punished.”
Simeon says, "Many will rise." Perhaps those who are dragging themselves through the mud, those who think they have no value, they convince themselves that they have no worth. Jesus came to offer those people an adjustment, to bring them into the fullness of who God created them to become.
The beginning of Proverbs 29:23 (NLT) says, “Pride ends in humiliation…” but it ends by saying, “while humility brings honor.”
God doesn’t make junk right? God doesn’t make mistakes. Sometimes we can slip into this mindset where we start comparing ourselves to all of the stuff we see on social media and we start to get really down on ourselves. We start to value ourselves at a far lower level than God values us.
According to Proverbs, honor doesn’t come from promoting ourselves, it comes from being humble. We are called to be faithful and let God bring honor when to us when He sees fit.
Simeon ends by saying, "Hearts will be revealed." Sometimes we forget that what goes on in our hearts and minds isn’t really private. We might be able to hide what’s in our hearts and minds from spouses, friends and co-workers but we forget that God sees and is fully knowledgeable about every thought and feeling that runs through us.
Luke 16:15 (NLT) says, “You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts. What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God.” We’re not fooling God when it comes to what’s really going on in our hearts. God makes it super clear that when Jesus “Arrived” lots of people would receive an “Adjustment” that they may have not even seen coming.
So where are you? Are you in the Christmas slump? Has the wonder of the "Arrival" faded? Take some time to focus on the "Adjustment" that Jesus is calling you to make. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
"Here I am, send me." This is the response that's recorded for us in Isaiah 6:8 in answer to the question, "Whom shall I send?" Over the years, I've primarily heard this passage taught from the perspective of outreach and missions. Who is going to leave the comforts of home and go share the Gospel with those in the remotest regions of the world? While that context is certainly applicable to this passage, I recently started thinking about it more in the context of everyday attitude or mindset.
First, it's important for us to understand that the response of "Here I am, send me." is always the correct response. Regardless of whether we're talking about relocating to the other side of the planet for the cause of Jesus or allowing God to use you to spiritually encourage a co-worker, "Here I am, send me." is always correct.
Secondly, what if we could train ourselves to respond in this way, "Here I am Lord, send me." to the seemingly mundane everyday things of life? Things like parenting, being a spouse, being a neighbor, an employee.
Let's think about parenting, it's exhausting right? It doesn't stop, there's no break. Your kids seem to need you just about every minute of everyday and if we're honest, sometimes we can get a little bitter, a little frustrated and a little impatient. Sometimes it feels like a futile effort, are we even making a difference? I'm keeping my kids alive but it's killing me. These are feelings that I'm sure most of us have experienced. Now let's overlay the response of "Here I am, send me." over those feelings.
God's Word clearly maps out the responsibility of parents in passages like, Proverbs 22:4, "Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he grows older he will not abandon it." and in Titus 2:4 where it says that older women are to, "encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children..." and in Ephesians 6:4, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."
In order to shift our mindset we have to train ourselves to understand that parenting isn't about keeping our kids alive physically or developing them athletically or academically or socially. It's not about setting them up for career success. It's about you responding with "Here I am Lord, send me." to the Lord's question of "Whom shall I send?" We get discouraged as parents because our focus is on the wrong thing. It's not about the outcome, it's about our response and obedience to God.
The same is true for our jobs. Whether we love our job or hate it, it's the mission field God has placed us in during this stage of our lives and we are called to impact those around us. It's not about collecting a paycheck, it's about obedience to God and the immediate response of, "Here I am Lord, send me."
This idea can be applied to every area of our lives: being a spouse, being a good neighbor, a church member, a soccer mom, member of the community. Our focus needs to shift away from "have to" to "get to". We have a huge opportunity everyday to respond in obedience to the Lord. Let's shift away from viewing everything as mundane and required and start viewing life as an opportunity for obedience and an opportunity to say, "Here I am Lord, send me." Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
I came across this passage this afternoon as I was reading and was reminded of the powerful lessons that it communicates. Luke 18:35-32 (NASB) on BibleGateway says it like this...
"Now as Jesus was approaching Jericho, a man who was blind was sitting by the road, begging. But when he heard a crowd going by, he began inquiring what this was. They told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. And he called out, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way were sternly telling him to be quiet; but he kept crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and commanded that he be brought to Him; and when he came near, He asked him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And he said, “Lord, I want to regain my sight!” And Jesus said to him, “Regain your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he regained his sight and began following Him, glorifying God; and when all the people saw it, they gave praise to God."
1. Bartimaeus was doing what he'd always done. He's blind so his options were limited right? Not so today, but in this time in history and in this culture, the blind were somewhat helpless. He was quite literally dependent on the hand outs of those around him. His daily life consisted of begging people for charity.
As a blind man , he was doing what was expected of him. Don't miss that, "He was doing what was expected of him." That's likely where many of us spend a majority of our lives, doing what's expected of us by those around us. We achieve what's expected of us. We accomplish what those around us have spoken over our lives. We hold ourselves up in comparison to those around us; those that look like us, live where we live, experienced similar upbringings as we did, are similar in age and status to us, and we simply follow suite. We do what we've always done and what we've started to believe is really our only option.
2. As soon as he heard the commotion surrounding the arrival of Jesus on the scene he began to inquire, "What's happening?" He wasn't sure what was happening but he knew something different was brewing and he kept hounding those around him until he received an answer. Too often we become content to just stay where we are. We sense something on the horizon of life, we sense God moving in the distance but we've become so convinced that's what's possible isn't for us. We've become convinced that anything good can't be for us that we don't even bother to inquire, "What's happening?"
3. What I love about the account of Bartimaeus is his tenacity. As a blind beggar I'm sure he'd received more than his fair share of rejection.
"You don't matter."
As soon as he realizes that it's Jesus passing by he goes into full on "throw the free t-shirt my way" guy. You know what I'm talking about right? You're at a game of some sort and they're throwing out the free t-shirts to the crowd during a break. Who get's the t-shirt thrown in their direction? The guy or gal that makes the biggest scene obviously. That's basically Bartimaeus. He loses his ever lovin' mind and will not stop screaming until he's sure that Jesus hears him. Despite the voices of those around him, despite their best efforts to quiet him, he persists. If that's not a low hanging fruit for you and me I don't know what is. Go get it! Don't stop! Keep pushing! Ignore those in your circle who don't care as much as you do. Ignore those who are more concerned with maintaining the status quo, go after your miracle. St. Augustine is credited with saying, "Work like it depends on you and pray like it depends on God." Be tenacious!
4. I can imagine the crowd quieting as Jesus turned His attention towards this blind beggar. Perhaps the crowd assumed that Jesus Himself was getting ready to chastise him. Instead, Jesus says, "What do you want me to do for you?" Bartimaeus could have simply asked for some change, perhaps a little food, maybe a new mat to lie on as he begged for money each day, any of which would have been much needed and more in line with what those around him expected of his big ask. Instead, Bartimaeus throws caution to the wind and goes all in. "Lord, I want to regain my sight." That's the whole enchilada! This isn't Bartimaeus just aiming high, this is Bartimaeus shooting for the moon. I wonder what thoughts were running through his head as he made this ask.
What do I have to lose?
Am I even worthy of something like this?
Did He even hear me?
Is He still there?
Whatever doubts may have been running through his head, all his questions were answered with the next words Jesus uttered, “Regain your sight; your faith has made you well.”
I wonder what my faith has afforded me lately? Where have I lacked faith? Where have I scaled back my ask for a lack of faith? What have I settled for because I'm simply doing what I've been told I should be doing? What's expected of me. What have I settled for simply because I haven't been tenacious enough to scream for something more? The people at those games who never get the free t-shirts are the ones who never stand up and act like a fool. They never scream at the top of their lungs nor stretch out their hands as if their lives depended on it.
It's my prayer that you and I would never settle for what's always been. That we would keep our eyes on the horizon anxiously awaiting a move of God and that once we see it, we would lose our ever lovin' minds until we manage to get some of it.
Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
“Search me, God, and know my heart; put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there is any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” Psalm 139:23-24 (NASB)
That's a request that only the brave of heart will make. To ask God to reveal any area that's not pleasing to Him can certainly be uncomfortable. Nevertheless that's the call of Psalm 139. Our move into 2021 comes with questions:
While it’s sometimes not fun to take an honest look at ourselves, it’s necessary and important for our spiritual health to do so on a regular basis. Here's the big idea, “Stop it! It’s not easy but it is simple.”
Following Jesus is simple, it’s simply about patterning our lives after His teaching, looking to Him for guidance and direction. It's simply about seeking Him for the forgiveness of our sins. It's simply about studying His Word for how we should and should not be living our lives, being honest about the stuff in our lives that isn’t honoring to Him and then making moves to get rid of that stuff. Simple right? Yes, but it’s not always easy to do.
Allow me to quickly suggest two areas that God is calling us to flee from. The first one is an obvious one but it’s one that we can quickly get pulled into especially in the times we’re living it - drama! Here's a snippet of what God's Word says about this topic.
2 Timothy 2:23 (NASB) says, “But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.”
1 Timothy 6:20 (NASB) says, “Timothy, protect what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly, empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”.
This politically charged, social media driven culture that we find ourselves in provides ample opportunity for us to get caught up in these "foolish and ignorant speculations". Scroll social media for one minute and you'll be barraged by "empty chatter" being passed off as "knowledge". At best this serves as a distraction to what really matters and at worst we end up damaging our credibility as believers.
God’s Word is clear, we are not to get caught up in this and it's not beneficial for us or the unbelieving world around us. Steer clear.
If you spend time praying Psalm 139:23-24 and God reveals to you that this is an area of struggle in your life the solution isn't easy, but it is simple: You’ve got to cut whatever the source of that is out of your life.
Maybe it’s a friend group or a particular friend. Maybe it's a particular social media platform. Maybe it’s you feeling like if you don’t have empty chatter and drama in your life then no one pays attention to you. Your value isn't in the pot you stir or the cause you champion. Maybe for you it's the realization that if all of your focus is on the drama and the empty chatter then you don’t have to deal with what God really wants to deal with in your life. Regardless, drama, empty chatter, arguing, strife, contention - not what God wants in our lives. Get rid of it!
The second area that comes to mind is much more specific and likely more difficult to deal with - temptation. Before we move any further it's important to say, we'll never rid our lives of all temptation but we can make moves to make it less aggressive and active in our lives.
Here's what I mean by that: If we're honest, much of the temptation that we struggle with is a result of our own choices. We refuse to place ourselves in accountable relationships so we never have to deal with the hard questions of:
Here’s what God’s Word says about putting ourselves in these types of situations:
“Keep watching and praying, so that you do not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41 (NASB)
"Submit therefore to God. But resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 (NASB)
1 Corinthians 10:13 (NASB) says “No temptation has overtaken you except something common to mankind; and God is faithful, so He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”
The Bible is clear that God is with us in the midst of temptation but it's also clear that we have a responsibility to flee from temptation, to not continue to subject ourselves to unnecessary temptation and to place ourselves in situations that better allow us to be held accountable.
Of course temptation by itself isn’t a sin, it’s only when we give in to that temptation that we enter into sin. But it's as if our goal has become to knowingly flirt with the line in an effort to see how close we can get without sinning. Friends, this approach is not glorifying to God. It's not easy but it is simple, flee from temptation. Place yourself in accountable relationships.
Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Preparation is important. You have to be prepared for what's to come. This is a lesson we teach our children as we encourage them to look ahead at school assignments or lay clothes out the night before a big day. We practice these same principles as we think through our own days, weeks and months. We work ahead, we think through meal prep and groceries we have on hand, we plan out calendars and appointments related to work, social life and our kid's extra-circulars. I've always considered myself a planner. I prefer to think things through well in advance and to consider what's needed whether I'm planning a trip, a project or something larger.
This morning I was reading from the book of Exodus and the account that's recorded about the passover. For those who aren't familiar with this account allow me to provide a little context. The people of Israel are in slavery in the land of Egypt. God had already challenged Moses to bring an ultimatum to pharaoh (release the people or else) and various plagues had already begun sweeping through Egypt as a result of pharaoh's unwillingness to release the Israelites. It's in Exodus 12 that we see God introduce the final and what many would consider the most severe plague of all, the plague of the first born. God was preparing to strike down the first born of both man and livestock throughout all of Egypt. This would be the straw that broke the camel's back (pun intended).
In preparation for this plague, the Israelites were to sacrifice a lamb and paint the door frame of their houses with the blood of that lamb. As God passed over all of Egypt striking down the first born from every household He would skip over those who had the blood of the lamb on outside of their door frames.
In this plague we see some needed action on the part of the Israelites. First, they were required to sacrifice a lamb and then paint the blood on the doorframes of their dwellings. This in itself would have been an act of faith as it's likely that there wasn't an abundance of food for those that found themselves in slavery and beyond that why in the world would anyone paint the blood of that slaughtered lamb on their doorposts? It seemed a crazy request.
Secondly, as it's recorded in Exodus 12:11, God instructed them to eat that lamb in a very specific fashion, "This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover." Why would God instruct them to eat the lamb with those specific instructions. The answer is simple, God was getting ready to move and thus they too needed to be ready to move. While God had not yet answered their prayers of freedom from slavery He was preparing to do so and He wanted them dressed and ready. Cloak tucked in, sandals on, staff in hand. Their preparedness was a sign of faith that they believed God was getting ready to move.
As I read that this morning on this final day of the year and thought through what God might be calling me to in the New Year I wondered how prepared I was for what lie ahead. If God was calling the Israelites to tuck in their cloaks, put on their sandals and take hold of their staff could He also be calling me to, in a greater way dig into His Word, spend more time seeking His will in prayer, allow Him to push me towards a greater witness to those around me? How might He be calling you to prepare for what lies ahead...getting your finances in order, mending fractured relationships? So I ask myself that simple question today, "Am I preparing for what God has for me in the New Year?" Are you? Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Often those who don't regularly read the Bible and perhaps many who do regularly read the Bible, assume that much of what's written in it is not applicable to the modern life. After all it was written so long ago, how could it possible add value to my life today? If you've ever asked yourself that question and struggled to apply God's Word to the modern life allow me to suggest the Psalms to you.
The Psalms are an honest record of the emotional and spiritual ups and downs that many of us face each day. Take Psalm 13 for instance, in it David says,
"How long, Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long am I to feel anxious in my soul,
With grief in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.
But I have trusted in Your faithfulness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has looked after me."
David's honest questions to God sound familiar to many given the year we've had. In our darkest moments we start to feel as though God is hiding His face. As we watch the news or listen to the experts we feel as though our anxiousness will never end. We come across a positive report that boosts our spirits only to have our hopes dashed as we read another article that seems to contradict the first. What will 2021 look like? Will things go back to normal?
These are not modern problems. Yes the names and faces have changed but anxiety, loss and grief are not new. David experienced all of these emotions and more.
Here's the part I want to be sure you don't miss. David's response to these age old feelings and struggles:
"But I have trusted in Your faithfulness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has looked after me."
David gives us a powerful example of what a response could be to the anxiety and grief that many are dealing with today. David trusted the Lord's faithfulness. He chose to continue rejoicing in the Lord and giving praise to God because he knew that even in the midst of his anxiety and grief, God had looked after him.
What a powerful response and perfect model for us to follow. Push through. Continue to trust. Continue to praise God. Reflect on how God has continued to look after you. Don't allow what's happening around you to cause you to forget what's happened in you. God is with you. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
That's a phrase we hear every four years, "There's still a path to victory." We hear this phrase countless times on the evening of presidential election nights and in this year's case, the week of election night. "There's still a path to victory." It's often used in the context of the small, seemingly impossible, against all odds chance that a particular candidate could still win the highest office in the land.
This morning I've been finishing up a book by Jim Burns entitled, "Doing Life with your Adult Children" and I came across this phrase, "Our children need to know that no matter what road they travel, there's a path that leads home, and there will always be a welcome mat out for them." As I read that phrase my heart skipped a beat and my mind suddenly became aware of the power of that statement for every man, woman and child on the face of the planet. There is a path to victory for your life.
You are not alone.
Deuteronomy 20:4 (NASB) says, "For the Lord your God is the One who is going with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you."
Choose to walk with Him.
1 John 5:4 (NASB) says, "For whoever has been born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith."
You can have victory.
John 16:33 (NASB) says, "These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
Do not count yourself out. Count yourself as one of God's chosen ones and believe that what He tells us in His Word can and will come to pass in your life. Regardless of your current state, regardless of how behind you feel like you are in the race of life, regardless of the odds you feel are stacked against you, YOU CAN HAVE VICTORY IN CHRIST JESUS.
Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
You've heard the phrase, "Going through the motions" before right? It's when we're present in body but not in spirit. If you're anything like me you've gone through the motions at work, with your kids, with your spouse, with friends, in your daily time with God, with church. It's the thought of, "I know I have to do this but I'm not feeling it at all."
Our reasons for just going through the motions range from tiredness and emotion to being overwhelmed and uncertain of how to proceed. Sometimes we don't have the mental energy to really engage in what we're doing so we just put our heads down and plow through. Sometimes we're uncertain or fearful on how to proceed so we just keep doing what we've always done. Sometimes it feels easier to not even think about what we're doing but to just blindly do it....kind of like auto pilot.
This is a dangerous approach to life in lots of areas but perhaps none more so than in our pursuit of Jesus.
Thankfully God's Word has something to say on this relevant topic. The prophet Isaiah says it like this in Isaiah 29:13a (NASB), "Then the Lord said, “Because this people approaches Me with their words and honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me..."
Allow me to remind you of a few things today:
1. You're not unique. Yes, you are unique in God's eyes, there's no one else on the planet like you, you're special, etc. etc. But you're habit of just going through the motions isn't unique. God is more than aware of our struggle. It's not new. He's been dealing with humanity for thousands of years and He's seen it all before. Sometimes we allow the devil to convince us that what we're dealing with is unique and never been conquered by anyone else on the planet at any point in the history of the world.
2. Because God has seen it in the past, we know that He is more than capable of loving you through it in the present. Notice that I said "through it" and not "in spite of it". God certainly understands those moments of our lives where we're physically exhausted, mentally overwhelmed, emotionally drained, weary and in need of just going through the motions for a few beats but that's not where we were created to live. Our hearts were created to be completely engaged in our relationship with Jesus Christ. Our brains are wired to critically think through our faith and how to walk it out in everyday life. Sometimes we allow ourselves to become convinced that God loves us "in spite of us". God does love us and meets us where we're at and at the same time desires that we increase in intimacy with Him. God is more than capable of seeing you through this dry season.
Sometimes the feeling isn't there. Sometimes we're wiped out. We're tired. We're spent spiritually. God gets it. He's seen it before. He's capable. He's got this. He's got you. Push through and refuse to settle for a life of going through motions. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.