city walls

When my children were young they watched Veggie Tales.  They had the stuffed toys and other items with Bob, Larry, and the gang. I painted the French peas, Bob, Larry, and Junior Asparagus on their nursery room wall by free-hand. Each song, story, and lesson was learned and remembered throughout their early years.

One of my favorite stories to watch with my sons was Josh and the Big Wall, the re-telling of Joshua and the battle of Jericho. As Joshua and the Israelites traveled to the Promised Land they faced strong opposition from the current residents, including the inhabitants of Jericho who were not for the Lord nor did they want to follow Him.

God could have just wiped the town off the map with a thought, but instead He had Joshua carry out specific instructions to march around the city with the army, seven priests, seven trumpets, and the Ark of the Covenant. The soldiers were not to fight, just march. It was a faith-growing exercise. The usual way of war was not to be used for this city. God’s way was to be used.

When we face battles with our enemy we often resort to face him with ways that are familiar. But the thing is, when it is familiar with us, it is also familiar with him. We need to remember that God’s approach to the enemy is the only successful victory. The enemy was defeated for all eternity when Jesus rose from the dead. Any battle we face is just a skirmish after the fact.

Just like Joshua’s approach to Jericho was successful because God lead the way, so to will our battles with the enemy end in victory if God is in charge.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8:37).

Rend Collective puts it this way:

We are more than conquerors, through Christ
You have overcome this world, this life
We will not bow to sin or to shame
We are defiant in Your name
You are the fire that cannot be tamed
You are the power in our veins
Our Lord, our God, our Conqueror

May we approach the city gates with the confidence that through God we already hold the keys that unlock those doors.

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Perspectives in battle

Over the last twelve months I have been in counseling for my anxiety and other residual issues related to the anxiety. I have worked through the roots of the issues, the false beliefs that trying to please others to make them happy will somehow work, and ultimately, learning the boundaries for what I can control and what I cannot control.

At my meeting yesterday, I described the way I felt when I arrived in her office last year. I was fearful and overwhelmed with all of the “should haves/could haves” in my past. I felt much like an inexperienced soldier in the middle of a fierce battle. The chaos of gunfire, smoke, and shouting surrounding me.  The cacophony of sound preventing me from finding safety and my true direction. It seemed like I would never find my way out.

Contrast that with now, when I am standing on the overlook, viewing the battle below. I can see the scrimmages between what is true and what is not. I can see that some approaches to the battle need to be readjusted, that some forces are succeeding in their advance to conquer the territory. It is a welcome change in perspective and learning how to see things from a new angle, seeing the bigger picture.

During the time of Elisha in 2 Kings, he faced much opposition because he stood for God when the Israelites turned away from God’s guidance. In chapter 6 Elisha was being pursued by an evil king with the intent to capture and kill him.

When the servant of the man of God got up early and went out, he discovered an army with horses and chariots surrounding the city. So he asked Elisha, “Oh, my master, what are we to do?”

 Elisha said, “Don’t be afraid, for those who are with us outnumber those who are with them.”

Then Elisha prayed, “Lord, please open his eyes and let him see.” So the Lord opened the servant’s eyes. He looked and saw that the mountain was covered with horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

The servant’s perspective was here in the finite world, but Elisha knew the eternal perspective- through Heaven’s eyes and that made the outlook very different. He knew because of his faith in God and all that He could do, that the enemy would fail.

So it is with me and can be with you, too. When fear tries to take over our view, our heart and mind, we can stop and pray that God will open our eyes to let us see what God sees. Our perspective in battle will be seen through the Victory of Christ on the Cross. We can remember that our struggles are, “producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Jesus is bigger, Jesus is stronger, Jesus is greater than anything we will face in this world so let us live with eyes that truly see.

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hush

Mondays begin Sunday night for me. Somewhere around 6 p.m. I stop thinking of Sunday as a day of rest and instead, I think of the preparations needed to make the work day run smoothly. Clothes laid out, coffee pot ready to make coffee in the morning, alarm set. Whatever is needed for me to be able to get up and go without major complications to start my week.

The one thing that is needed the most is rest. Rest for my body, but more importantly, rest for my soul. Time to be quiet, to breathe deeply, allowing my mind, heart, and soul to settle down. In order to hear the Holy Spirit speak to me, I need to hush everything else around me.

Just like when my children were young, I crave the quiet of nap time. Not being needed, demanded to do tasks, to have the silence of the house around me and allow God to talk to me.

When we are exhausted our bodies are only craving sleep and not restoration in our souls. But the rest our physical bodies need will lead to the rest our souls need. Just watch a teenager who has been filling his schedule to the maximum with little time for sleep. Eventually, he will need to sleep, for hours and hours, until his body is restored. Only then can he hear any other kinds of direction, assistance, or instruction.

Dear Ones, let us embrace our times of sleep, our times to be still, and allow our cups to fill again. Joy will come in, peace will come in, and grace will come in- if we just allow our hearts to hush.

 

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your attention, please

We have two dogs on our farm, a Brittany named Rover and a black Lab named Rufus. Rover is wonderful, patient, gentle, and very sweet. Rufus is wonderful also, but where Rover is gentle, Rufus is more of a bulldozer in his personality. His 100 pounds of muscle easily becomes a lot more when he is excited about something. Especially food.

Rufus thinks food is the best creation, ever. Whether it’s a bone to gnaw on, a dish of his food at meal times, or the occasional treat, he will focus on it with laser point accuracy. This morning I was giving the dogs a treat before I went to work and I watched Rufus bypass his treat because he was focused on Rover’s treat. It was the same treat, same size and flavor, but Rufus couldn’t recognize that. All he could see was that Rover was getting something and it might be better that what I was going to offer to him.

Have you ever noticed that we do the same thing with God? We tend to look at all the ways He is moving and blessing those around us and we think, “What about me? Why am I not getting that, too? We need to remember that each position, each gift, each purpose we are given is for the task God would have us perform. Some us teach, some write, some preach, some evangelize, some serve in other countries, some serve at home. But we cannot take each person and move them around and put them in other places and expect them to succeed.

God knows our gifts and talents and gives them accordingly. We may wish we had something else but when we do that we are also dismissing the gifts God did give. First Corinthians 12:12-26 describes this truth to help us remember, no matter our position, when we are serving God our attention is to be on what He has given us not what He has given others.

So Best Beloved, let us do as Dietrich Bonhoeffer suggested, “The disciple looks solely at his master.” As the hymn says, Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face; And the things of earth will grow strangely dim In the light of His glory and grace.

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unknown

The unknown carries with it a sense of wonder, dread, fear, and excitement. The contents of a gift box can bring with it anticipation for the receiver. Waiting for the results of medical testing however, can bring worry and anxiety. As believers we often try to encourage each other with phrases like, “Trust an unknown future to a known God.” But this is only true if you actually know this God.

Paul was in Athens in Acts 17:16-34 when he encountered a similar situation. The Greeks of that time were gifted with the skill of philosophy and discussion. But they often did not take the content of their discussions to heart.

Then they took him [Paul] and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?  You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean”  (v. 19,20).

Paul wanted to challenge them to take the information deeper.

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you (v. 22, 23).

Paul knew that in order to reach their hearts they had to understand who the “unknown” God was, to know Him personally. When we meet people who do not comprehend the God we say we follow, we need to start where they are and help them see where they can go, in Christ.

Knowing God is different, by the way, than knowing about God. It’s the difference of knowing a baseball player’s stats and being a friend of that same player. We can know statistics, facts, interesting stories, and so on, but never actually know God.

Dear Ones, as those who have a relationship with God, we are called to share Him with others, just like Paul did in Athens. Whether a person accepts Christ based on your conversation, or you just plant the seed, it is our mission (Matthew 28:19,20).

May we continue to impact the world, one more time, to exchange their unknown for the Known.

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the young

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with many teenagers in school and church environments. Their faith is fresh, almost effervescent, as they share how God is working in their lives. I have watched each student come into their Faith Journey carrying their backpacks full of enthusiasm, their unfolding belief in who God is and what He can do in their lives.

I have also watched as older generations try to prevent these young men and women from following the Holy Spirit into the land God has prepared for them. The older folk have had their own sorrows and want to shield the younger ones from that same feeling of failure. But we tend to forget as we get older, that these same sorrows can be the best teachers.

My son’s friend is current serving full-time in the mission field in another country, while still in high school. The young man has battled malaria more than once, fevers, hunger, lack of sleep, feelings of homesickness, and yet. He persists. He sees that his actions, his hands and feet, are changing the world one touch, one step, one task at a time. He is a world changer- because he continues to seek God’s plan before his own.

The first disciples were the same way. They were young men who were in their teenage years to early twenties, when they began following Jesus. They were energetic, excited to find someone who would change the world forever, even if they didn’t understand the eternal impact at the time.

What if someone had dissuaded Andrew and John from leaving the fishing nets that day? What if Peter had decided to stay on the shoreline? What if Matthew decided to stay behind the tax collector’s booth? What if Paul never responded to Christ on the road to Damascus?

The men, and yes, women too, who decided that following Christ was the most important choice they could make, sent ripples through time to reach us today. They were young and willing to step out in faith and believe what others thought was unbelievable. And we stand on this side of the Resurrection, saved by Grace, impacted by their struggles and victories because of Christ’s good works through them.

Who do you know who is growing in their faith? Who needs a mentor? Someone who has experienced struggles in their Faith Journey, but is still able to see the joy of serving Christ? Someone who knows sacrifices and hard decisions are worth it this side of Heaven?

Reach out to them. Take them out for coffee, lunch, have them over for an afternoon. Pour into them the time you might have needed, the wisdom, the mercy, necessary for new and growing believers. We may help encourage the next generation to impact the world one more time.

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity (1 Timothy 4:12).

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the pursuit

In college I studied literature and I would absorb it like a dry sponge.  My professor, Dr. Graddy, taught Renaissance and Victorian literature and often would read passages aloud to help us hear the richness of the verse.

The Collar by George Herbert (1593-1633) was one of those pieces. As we listened, Dr. Graddy described the desire to walk away from all the speaker knew, to be “free” to choose whatever was desired. My lines and life are free, free as the road. Loose as the wind, as large as store (l. 4-5). We heard the wistfulness and understood the longing. And yet.

We students could also hear the desire to be found, to be wanted, to be called for, But as I raved and grew more fierce and wild/ At every word, Methought I heard one calling, ‘Child!’ And I replied, ‘My Lord!’

The poem has followed me for over twenty-five years, haunting me, encouraging me. Reminding me of God’s pursuit of our hearts and souls. Francis Thompson (1859-1907) wrote about this very pursuit as well in The Hound of Heaven. 

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
   I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
   Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter. (l.1-5).

Once again, the speaker tries to run from the God of Heaven, only to find He has been pursuing the runner all along. Not as a scold or a tormentor, but as a lover. As One who longs to show the preciousness and tenderness of His love for the one He pursues.

  ‘Strange, piteous, futile thing!
Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
Seeing none but I makes much of naught’ (He said),
‘And human love needs human meriting:
          How hast thou merited
Of all man’s clotted clay the dingiest clot?

          Alack, thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art!
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
          Save Me, save only Me?
All which I took from thee I did but take,
          Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms.
          All which thy child’s mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:
          Rise, clasp My hand, and come!’ (l. 161-176)

We will try to run from God during our lives due to mistakes, belief of worthlessness, but  He longs to pursue us. He wants us to embrace the blessing of a relationship with Him. Sometimes we keep running, no matter how we are pursued. God doesn’t give up, but He does allow us to keep going away, further and further from the very love He offers.

Even then, when we have run a 1,000 miles, if we stop and turn to God, we will find that we only have to take one step toward Him and find that He has been there all the while.

O Best Beloved, is it time to stop running? Is it time to rise, take God’s hand, and trust Him with your days, your future, your soul? Jeremiah 31:3 says, The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.

God is not trying to punish you for whatever wrongs you have done. He desires to make right these wrongs, through His mercies, His ever-amazing Grace. All you have to do is turn to your Heavenly pursuer and hold out your hand.

Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David (Isaiah 55:3).

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no quarter

A friend of mine is very no-nonsense when she talks with people. I have teased that when she responds to questions it’s as if she will take no quarter. The image of her sweet self taking no prisoners seems a contradiction.

When it comes to eternity though, there is no quarter. No mercies, no opportunity to be held for a period and eventually released. Once we are on the other side of death, there are no do-overs. It is over. Death, on this side of Heaven, holds us hostage. We are subject to the real facts of growing older, getting sick, and eventually passing away. This happens to our physical bodies only. We have an ever-living-never-dying-soul that will face an eternity with God or an eternity without Him. It is our choice.

If we choose to live life here without God as a part of it, we will find much of what we do is fleeting. While we may have fun, fall in love, get married, have kids, work at a great job, etc., there will always be a part of us that is empty. We may dismiss it, saying we are just seeking a better something in our lives. But it is true.

When we choose a life lived with God, we find that although there are still battles, heartaches, struggles, and the like. We know that our experiences are an opportunity to grow in our faith, our understanding of the character of Christ. There will be times when we want to quit, but we recognize that there is more than this life.

So the question comes, will we choose to walk with God on this side of Heaven, knowing that on the other side of Heaven, we will experience an eternity in the fullest extent? I don’t mean an eternity of halos and harps, but instead, an eternity of pure, sweet, forever fellowship with the God we love.

Death may say, “No quarter,” but thanks to Jesus’ death on the Cross:

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”[i]

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 (1 Corinthians 15:57, Isaiah 25:8, Hosea 13:14).

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hills still to climb

Someone I know has been in a battle with her weight for over a year. She has made incredible strides, lost a lot of weight, and continues to push forward each day. Some days are harder than others, sometimes she would rather just quit. But she knows overall, the battle is worth it for herself and for her family. The thing is, if you didn’t know her, you might quickly dismiss her successes and just focus on what she still has to lose. On the hills she still has to climb.

When we see people in passing, in public and the like, we tend to cubbyhole them into categories we understand: age, gender, color, socio-economic status, etc. When we look at the people around us each day, we are looking at a person made in the image of God. A person with an ever-living-never-dying-soul who may be struggling with a battle. A person who could use your help, if you would just look past the categories.

Jesus is our beautiful example, Dear Ones.  He loved, cared for, held, and prayed for people. He met them and walked with them up the hills they still had to climb. Jesus met them, ate with them, and stayed with them. Changing their eternities forever, all because He saw them as His Heavenly Father made them. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another (John 13:34).

So what about you, Best Beloved? Are you choosing to put people in the cubbyholes and categories you created? Or are you choosing to come alongside them and help them, encouraging them, loving them, and going with them up the hills they still have to climb?

Let’s put away our labels and take apart the cubbyhole boxes. Let us put on our hiking boots and take the hand of the one in the battle. This is how we will be the hands and feet of God for those who need Him. Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you (2 Corinthians 13:11).

 

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40 days

I am going home for a visit in forty days. My boys have spring break during that time, I took the days off, so we will head east. I am looking forward to spending time with my folks, brother, and friends, reading and knitting. My dear hubby unfortunately, cannot get those days off so he will stay back and care for the animals and work during that time.

The number forty is used often in Scripture to represent journeys and times of process for God’s people in the Old Testament and in the New Testament also. For forty days and nights it rained during the Flood in Genesis 7, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty years (Exodus 16). Moses spent forty days on Mt. Sinai with God as he received the Ten Commandments (Exodus 24:18). Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days after His baptism (Matthew 4).

Each time, the people who began the forty day journey/experience were changed by the end. They were humbled, they were strengthened, they were wiser, they were equipped. Whatever was going to be needed for the next steps on their Faith Journey, they received during that time.

Over the next forty days I am praying for wisdom for myself, traveling mercies for our trip. It will be the first time since 1999 that I have traveled with our boys and not had my husband at my side. I am praying for unspoken things as well. Places I am asking God to show up and show off His power and glory.

I am looking forward to seeing the ways God shows up over the next weeks. I am praying for eyes to see (1 John 1:1) and ears to hear (Matthew 11:15) what He has to say and wisdom and faith to obey His directions.

Dear Ones, do you want to join me over the next forty days? What could you offer to God and ask for wisdom, direction, restoration, release, or peace in return? Is it a relationship? Employment? Something regarding your home? Your family? Your finances? Let us lift these things up together in His name and trust Him for the outcomes (Hebrews 10:19-25).

I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day ( 2 Timothy 1:12).

 

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