Blog

Habits Show

 

36019-hope1200.1200w.tn

This month has been a busy time of celebrating grandchildren (of course any time is a good time to do that). We are enjoying two graduations, the first grandchild to graduate from college and the third to graduate from high school. But we are also celebrating our youngest granddaughter who will be baptized and share her testimony as well as other milestones and events for each of our six. In the midst of these, I am not losing sight of the less tangible reasons to celebrate, those that do not involve certificates or diplomas.

 

I am especially celebrating the evidences of the habits our children have been diligently seeking to develop, prune, and grow in each of our grandchildren. Chief among them is the ongoing development of their relationship with the Lord. They are all beyond the age and seasons of sitting on our laps listening to Bible stories. Three of them are officially adults. Each of the six has made a profession of their faith and trust in Jesus and have begun to walk out what it means to trust Him in daily life when things are hard, disappointing or depressing.

 

thursday_quoteIt is now that those foundational truths are developing into habits and evidences of seed sown long ago along with seed sown just a day ago. Will that truth and trust kick in when you don’t get the grade you want or need? Will that truth and trust kick in when someone makes a cruel remark about you? Will that truth and trust kick in when you feel rejected by friends? Will truth and trust kick in when you feel unsure of yourself, not equal to what lays ahead?

 

We read Proverbs 22: 6 and often have it memorized about the importance of training up a child. The ESV reads:

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

 

The NIV reads:

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

 

It means investing a lot of time not just teaching and training a child, but living with and out a Christ like life in the midst of daily living. It means teaching and modeling responsibility for so many things as well as teaching and modeling respect for others even when they do not agree with us. Parenting, good parenting, is not for cowards, the faint of heart, or those caught up in self-devotion. If we miss this opportunity when they are young because we are too busy, too lazy, or even too consumed with religious activities, we will have failed in our stewardship of these precious gifts entrusted to us by the Lord.

 

I hope I live long enough to see how the habits I see developing now in my grandchildren grow and expand into their adulthood. I love seeing some of those habits in our adult children. I feel deeply grateful that despite our failings as parents many times that both 15969-Jim-Rohn-Quote-Motivation-is-what-gets-you-started-Habit-is-whatof our children are mature in their faith. I smile when we are visiting in their homes when I see our daughter on the end of her couch with a cup of coffee nearby as she studies the Word or see our son sitting on his front porch with coffee and golden retriever, Sam, while he too studies the Word. I also whisper, “Thank you, Lord!”

 

Habits that we develop over a lifetime stand out when we face extreme or difficult circumstances. A great Biblical example can be seen in David’s life as compared to Saul’s. At an early age David was convinced that a giant was no match for his big God. His friend, Jonathan, also encouraged him. Over and over again we see in his life the growing habit of trusting the Lord that had begun as a child when circumstances were not as large as a giant or the armies of Saul chasing him.

 

Look at the contrast with Saul. I don’t know a lot about his early life, but if early life shapes our habits then I might guess what it may have been like. We know he was tall and apparently handsome. Did he trust in his own prowess? His recorded story might suggest that. In contrast to David, he does not show evidence of thinking much about God and when push came to shove he gave more weight to the circumstances he was facing than to God. As a result of those habits, he succumbed to overwhelming fear, overwhelming pride, and dependence on circumstances. In the end those very things caused him to fall on his sword and take his own life.

 

What habits were sown into your life?

 

What habits are you sowing into someone else’s so when trials come, they can stand?

 

05d6aa81be4b5b46fabf9189661c4727

 

 

 

 

When Enemies Thunder

PPP 010

A few days ago I wrote a post entitled Cease Striving…Stand as I reflected on how we respond when our lives feel as if they are being upended. I took a brief look back at Watchman Nee’s classic work, Sit, Walk, Stand, focusing on the book of Ephesians. Since then I have heard more than one or two messages or reminders of how key it is for us to rest when all around us are faltering. The sources have been broad and varied and it occurred to me that I think the Lord is speaking to His body on this issue. I don’t think He is asking us to be passive when He says we are to rest, but rather to actively trust Him.

 

I can recall more than a few seasons where my world was being upended and I was being pulled in every direction. I was exhausted and easily caught up in all the things I absolutely had to do. One of those was the season over a number of months where both of my parents died. In February of that year, my father suddenly became ill after always being healthy and five and a half weeks later, he went home to be with the Lord. During that same time my mother (who had congestive heart failure) was hospitalized several times and then died in June three months to the day of my father. Additionally, my only living sibling who was developmentally handicapped, had other mental problems, and lived with my parents became my responsibility.

 

Those months tested my limits in every area of my life. Their deaths were hard enough, but dealing with their estates simultaneously while seeking guardianship of my brother, and petitioning to find placement for him in a group home, left me fully depleted.

 

I had no choice except to fall into the Lord’s arms knowing all that I faced was too much for me to handle. Did it feel like the enemy was about to do me in? Absolutely, yes!

 

PPP 024It is easy during such times as believers to know what we should do and can do, but fall prey to old demanding voices assailing our hearts, minds, and spirits. Ultimately what I was facing was so “over the top” that I could not help but relent and fall into His arms. It wasn’t that I immediately went there first.

 

When I read Old Testament passages or histories of the faith it can sometimes be easy to deride the persons in those stories for their lack of faith, their flaws, and more. Then when a trial of my own comes along, I discover I am not always so much different than they are. I also discover those who stood when everyone around was faltering.

 

I look at David when he was considered to have nothing to offer by his brothers or much of anyone. He gives me a glimpse of the model I seek to emulate. The enemies surrounded Saul’s army and Goliath was bellowing and demeaning these chosen people of God as well as God Himself. When David arrived on the scene, he appears to have been shocked that no one had responded to Goliath and everyone seemed to be cowering in fear.

 

It can be easy to revere David and look at his courage, his skill with a sling, or even his Indian Paintbrush Wildfloweryouthful risk-taking as he called out Goliath to meet him on the field of battle. If we do, then we are failing to recognize the headline that day. I think it might have read something like this: “David Trusts God and Defeats His Enemies” or “Young Boy’s Trust Wins the Day”.

 

The story behind the headlines was even more important. David could only have trusted God in that moment if He truly knew Him. Knowing Him allowed David to trust Him. David had been the shepherd boy who had been tested before while caring for the sheep and looked up at the stars in the heavens and felt a certainty of God’s greatness and power. He had learned trust in other challenges. When it was time to choose how he would respond to the taunts of Goliath, the answer was clear to him.

 

I like to think God stood up that day as he heard young David when he reminded the faltering men of Saul’s armies that Goliath was defying the armies of the living God and pronounced his unwavering trust that God would deliver him. His earlier experiences had helped David to know God with a certainty that allowed him to rest in the trust that God would be with him. He even reviewed his history (his testimony) with God for the army around him as the source of his faith.

 

My response and yours when those days of upending and shaking come will likely be determined by my or your history with Him and if we have learned to rest or trust in Him. In the moment when we must choose, we cannot then summon up something that is not there.

 

If we have come to know Him, really know Him, then we will find it easier to fall into His arms and rest, trust that He has us in that moment and for eternity.

 

Why do we need to be desperate until we trust Him? Has He not given us enough evidence long before those life-altering experiences?

 

Psalm 121 is often attributed to David. The psalmist’s words give evidence that he knew the Lord well. Do we?

 

“I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
 Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.”

PPP 013

 

Cease Striving…Stand

IMG_2394

Have you noticed how easy it is to be caught up in the stress of always striving, seeking to accomplish something? It represents struggling or fighting for something. There is no question there are more than one or two principles, values, and causes that are worth fighting for or on behalf of, but in our Christian experience have we balanced out when we are to cease from that?

 

Everywhere I look there appears to be struggles in abundance as so much in our lives and world is being shaken. We can easily be thrown off balance and our natural instincts kick in and we either flee or fight. The key we must not lose sight of goes to the foundation of our Christian experience and what informs the decisions we make as we live in the world while seeking to be not of the world as His sons and daughters. I hear often that we need to stand in the midst of all that swirls around us.

 

One of the books I read long ago is that “little” gem by Watchman Nee entitled Sit, Walk, Stand. In less than sixty-five pages, he lays down the foundational principles Paul lays out for us in Ephesians as succinctly as anything I have ever read. If you have read it, you know what I mean. If you have never read it, put it on your book list.

 

It struck me that our difficulty of standing in the midst of challenge is perhaps because we have not first learned to sit, as Watchman Nee makes clear. Standing suggests we are in conflict or warfare and we cannot begin to consider warfare unless we have first learned to truly rest in Christ, in who He is, and what He has done for us and already accomplished on the cross and through resurrection. When we can sit and rest in that truth, we have greater clarity on the reality of the victory that was already accomplished and will be accomplished for the rest of all time.

 

That gives us the beginning of clarity on what it means to cease striving. If we get caught up in constant striving, I am not so sure the enemy is not gleeful when he senses that we are not certain that Christ’s sacrifice has counted for much of anything. Have we also lost sight of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within us?

 

I am not suggesting there are not attacks of the enemy from a broad range of options available to him, but rather do we rightly discern what is an assault from him and what is a consequence of some poor choice or sin in our own lives? Our discernment is key.

 

Nee makes clear that if we have a solid understanding of our position with the Lord that we will be able to learn how to walk with Him before the world! In Ephesians Paul makes clear we are to put on the whole armor of God so we can stand against the wiles of the devil. Paul doesn’t suggest at that point that we are to march into battle, but rather to stand. Am I, are you, remembering why Paul exhorts believers to do that? It’s key to the foundation that leads to a cessation of striving.

 

Watchman Nee put it this way:

The word ‘stand’ implies that the ground disputed by the enemy is really His, and therefore ours. We need not struggle to gain a foothold on it.”

 

The weapons described in Ephesians 6 are by and large defensive except for the sword that can be used both defensively and offensively. That gives a metaphor for the truth that we have the ground because of Him. We are not, I am not, trying to get the ground if He dwells within us or me. Jesus took the war to the enemy at the cross and defeated him there. That is what allows us to know and be assured that we can stand and in fact, to know that He is counting on us to stand and not be shaken as the world around us starts to come apart.

 

Let Paul’s words encourage your heart today:

 

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.

 

Is what He called us to do easy? Absolutely not! We need to depend on Him and that is as it should be.

Stream at Blackberry Farm, TN

 

 

 

 

 

What Remains?

 

IMG_3591

 

Recently, I watched our oldest granddaughter toss college notes onto a fire in a fire pit as she came to the end of a grueling BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) program. I am not so sure our oldest grandson who is finishing finals of his sophomore year in college in pre-med wouldn’t like to do the same except that he may need them in the years ahead. I have watched, as these first two of our six grandchildren have poured themselves out and fallen at the foot of the cross for the only One who could sustain and provide for them in the midst of exhaustion, doubt, discouragement, and sometimes disappointment. I have also watched as they have been stretched in trust and faith in the Jesus they have both believed in for quite a few years.

 

I have watched their parents, our children, as well who have poured so much into them stood with, exhorted, and comforted them as they take a step closer to adulthood and the responsibilities and challenges that wait for them on the other side of the door of their college life. It speaks of a big transition, a time of letting go of small things, small ideas, and small dreams and learning what remains. It is the first major sifting process of adulthood where the urgent clashes with the important.

 

It can be easy to make the urgent a villain in the mix and sometimes it can be, but life does not let us escape attending to the urgent many times. Our challenge is to discern the truly urgent from the nagging things at our elbow that may seem urgent, but are not.

 

It is our challenge to also remember that we are being molded and shaped by the Potter according to His design. The process of being spun on a wheel and molded and pounded into the shape He intends is not going to always be a picnic or a lot of fun. It will often hurt and we will want to pull back from the hands of the Potter, but we must not forget that He sees beyond what our human eyes can see and he knows well the finished product He intends. He knows what must be eliminated and what must be added and His hands are sure and full of grace and mercy.

 

God, the Father, shaped His son as well as Jesus grew up in human form, walked through the wilderness testing, and then the ultimate testing on the cross. He submitted to the process despite the shame and pain, the agony and the grief. He knew what remained and in Him the result was the manifestation of that.

IMG_3644

 

What remained? God’s love.

 

Jesus became God’s love demonstrated in the flesh so we wouldn’t miss it. It was what He wanted us to have confidence and assurance in. When we get confused about that or if we do, it is likely because we understand so little about what love, His love, is all about. Paul reminds us in that famous ending of Romans 8:38-39 NLT:

 

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

We hear it again in powerful lyrics and words in the song, “One Thing”, heard so often at Passion conferences and sometimes during our worship services. I love singing it in worship and allowing the words to resonate deeply in my spirit.

 

“Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me. Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me…On and on and on it goes. Yes, it overwhelms and satisfies my soul; and I never, ever, have to be afraid ‘cause this one thing remains…your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me…”

 

The very best news about it is that it was and is not based on who I am or who I’m not.

 

Love is just who He is!

 IMG_3638

Has Wondering Led to Worrying?

 

b3fb1122531aec2a46da9e00b3af72a7

The uncertainty of the time we seem to be living in can create a great deal of concern for us at times. We wonder what the future holds and sometimes worry about it as well. Wanting to pull back the curtain to see what lies ahead from the beginning of recorded history has long fascinated us. People sought out seers and prophets to that end. Many still look to astrologers and others who practice the occult to get answers for what may lay ahead. I wonder if we do so because of anxiety or because somehow if we find out we will steel ourselves for whatever it is and feel a bit more in control.

 

Whether we like to admit it or not, when things appear to be totally out of control we can start to shake a bit. Perhaps that is based on the faulty premise that we might be able to change something to alter what is ahead if it is not to our liking. I suggest it is faulty because the very worst things that may happen to us often appear to happen randomly even though we can potentially impact small things like what we eat, how much we exercise, where we live, and how much we spend.

 

Does the Lord really want to keep us in suspense so we have no way of preparing for the future? It might be tempting to think so and there are some things He has clearly said will not be revealed to us such as the date and time of His reappearing. But even then, He has given us clues and information we can read and reflect upon regarding that. Additionally, He has filled the Bible with a huge chunk written by prophets and too often we skip over those books or get bogged down in trying to sort out Daniel’s visions or John’s unusual images in Revelation. Sometimes we also try reading those books without any context or attempt to study what excellent commentators reveal or to lean into the Holy Spirit to guide and open our hearts to see.

 

Have you considered Isaiah? I know you likely know the passages we hear and associate with Christmas, but there is so much more in the book of the Bible that bears his name. My pastor is currently teaching through the entire book and he has noted how often Jesus quotes Isaiah in His words in the gospels. My pastor’s admonition? “Know Isaiah. It will settle your heart. So far, everything he has said has come true so far.”

 

Reading carefully shows us Isaiah’s words encompass at least four kings and we see how his prophetic messages have come to pass regarding these kings and their kingdoms. But there is more to learn because some of his words extend beyond his time into our present time and speak to what will yet be. Some of them align with things John writes in Revelation. His job as a prophet was to challenge the people and speak the words of God, to warn and call the people back to God.

 

Perhaps you wonder about what lies ahead in heaven or hell. No, we don’t have a video of either one, but the Bible speaks clearly about both destinations. It seems He wants us to know and I don’t think He wants us to fear death as believers but rather to see it as a transition and change of address. He tells us about both places because He wants us to choose heaven and the way to get there.

 

a97d6c355f7921182198647eb401c139Yes, bad times will come and always be with us in this life. Yes, we will not escape disappointments and wounds. BUT that does not mean He is absent! He also promises that His righteousness will prevail and judgment will fall upon evil and those who have rejected Him. Would you like to see an example of His faithfulness to His chosen people?

 

Look at Isaiah 14: 24-27 to discover God’s faithfulness. I will not quote all the verses, but here are a few phrases to whet your appetite: As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand….For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who shall annul it?”

 

God is looking at how Assyria has besieged His people and through Isaiah tells them in essence, Rest easy. I’ve got this.”

 

How do I know I can apply that to our current day? Because the writer of Hebrews says: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 ESV

 

So when you are tempted to worry about the future, consider reading Isaiah 14: 24-27 and remember…God’s got this!!

a9ab225221efd61fbdd4f8eaa9de5b40