The Weight and the Wait

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, - Hebrews 12:1

What weight are you carrying today that is keeping you from running the race God has set before you?  We all have something.  The weight could be our own sin or a situation that is getting the best of us.  It could be an attitude of our own or of someone else that weighs on us day after day.  The weight could be loneliness or even too much interaction with others.  Take your pick.  And I'll ask again, what is your weight?

I don't share many details here about specific areas in my life, but today I feel compelled to share so that maybe others can know they are not alone.  In the past week, the fact that I am in a sense in a spiritually unequally yoked marriage has been in the forefront of my mind.  My husband is a Christian and a good man, however the gap between where we both are spiritually provides great challenges for both of us.  Let's just say that my relationship with God means everything to me while I don't sense that my husband feels the same in his relationship with the Lord.   (Note: This is my sense alone, I am not a mind reader so I don't really KNOW how my husband feels)/  I felt this "weight" today when I went alone to church.  I felt it last week when he accompanied me to church but didn't participate as I thought he should.  Can you see how this can weigh on a person?

It is difficult for a woman who feels called to Christian service/leadership to be in this place.  Being in leadership is difficult enough without this extra burden of a spouse who cannot relate in both the joy and the hardships (including spiritual warfare) of Christian service.  So, what can we do?  First of all, we must focus on ourselves and our own relationship with God.  We can choose to daily lay our weights down at the foot of the cross.  We can give whatever it is to God in prayer.  And then, we must wait.  We must wait for God to respond to our humble prayers in His due time.  That is the hard part, isnt it?  I wonder if that's what the verse in Hebrews 12:1 means when it says to "run with patience the race that is set before us"?

As I heard our pastor this morning discuss Romans 8:37-39 and how nothing can separate us from the love of God, my mind wandered as I thought of how grateful I am for His love and for the hope that I have through His word.  We are promised that through everything we can be "more than conquerors" through Jesus Christ.  We can let God take our weights so we can run the race.  I'm choosing once again today in my life to not let the weight of my situation drag me down.  I am going to focus on the finish line and on God's promises for me.  We can all choose to lay aside our weights.  Won't you join me today?

For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.  (Isaiah 64:4)

Let's pray...

Dear Heavenly Father, I am speechless to think of the love you have for me and of the provisions you make for me.  Help me to lay my weights down at your feet each day so you can take them and carry them for me.  I pray not just for myself, but for all who love you and have their own weights they are trying to carry.  Lord, it would be a lonely place in this world without you.  Keep strong your servants.  Give us your peace, your strength and the knowledge that no matter where we are in our lives, we are not so far away that your love cannot penetrate us.  Help us to sense your love and your presence in our lives.  Thank you for all that you do and all that you will do for us.  Most importantly, I thank you for who you are.  Amen.

Strength for the Journey

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, and He delights in his way.  Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand. - Psalm 37:23-24

This passage gives great comfort to me in a number of different areas.  Unless your life has been problem-free, this passage should provide comfort to almost anyone.  After all, no one I know has had a problem-free life.  Our own minds will give us trouble with our insecurities even if nothing else will.  Let's break down this passage into some principles to take to heart about how God provides us strength for our days, shall we?

1. God will guide our steps.  God has a specific plan in mind for each of us, suited to our own individual talents, abilities and sphere of influence.  God delights when His children follow His path.  I bet He even smiles.   Won't you ask God for direction for each step of your journey today?

2. God will break our fall.  Even the best of us get tripped up from time to time - even if we are following God's directions.  We get tripped up from our insecurities.  We get knocked down by being overwhelmed at all that we have to do.  God will break our fall so that when we do hit the ground we will also be able to get back up again.  Where are you today?  Have you fallen? Have you gotten back up?  If not, why not?

3.  God will hold us up. In spite of our failings, we are guaranteed by God's word that we will not remain down for good: we will not be utterly cast down.  Isn't that a great promise?  We will not be utterly cast down because the LORD will uphold us with His hand.  In what way can you let God hold you up today?

Yes, God will be our strength in times of trouble - when we fall down and don't think we can get back up again (Ps 37:39).  Being a Christian does not entitle us to problem-free living.  But we can know that if we are diligently seeking a righteous life and seeking God's direction in our life, He will delight in our trying.  He will give us direction.  He will help us back up when we fall.  And He will help keep us going down the road.  He is our strength for the journey.

No Fear

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? - Psalm 27:1

Dear readers, you are getting me totally "unplugged" today.  These past seven days or so have just been crazy and I don't really know why.  I've had internet issues that have come and gone, my schedule has been a bit more hectic than usual, I'm a bit overwhelmed with the possibilities (all good things) in my life right now, and on Monday I got bit by a tick.

First of all, let's discuss this tick bite and why it is relevant at all to this blog post.  I am terrified - TERRIFIED - of ticks.  I'm a surbanite.  I don't walk through fields.  I don't wander off trails in the woods.  I can barely pull a tick off of my dogs, which thankfully they don't get very often.  And thankfully, husbands come in handy for tick removal.  So as I read Psalm 27:1, I think about the "whom shall I fear?" part, and I know deep down in my heart how silly it is to be afraid of something so small as a tick.  Or a spider.  Okay, the spider was last week, but I got him (or her) before it got me.  How do they get in the house anyway?

Where I am going with this? There are a lot of things in this life to be afraid of.  Yes, I know that ticks should be the least of our concerns.  We've got crazy people running around college campuses in this country killing people, after all.  We've got schedules that are bursting at the seams with necessary and the optional.  Life can get very overwhelming sometimes.  Who or what is your strength or salvation through these times?

The Lord has not always been my salvation as I know that I've relied too much on myself - my talents and abilities - and my relationships for my strength in the past.  I think I may have even relied on ministry and the rewards it brings.  But through all of the changes in my life over the past several years, I've learned to rely more and more on God for my strength.  Totally and completely.  I believe that I can finally say that the Lord is the strength of my life.  He has to be. He is the only thing that does not change. He is the only thing that will always be there.  Friendships fade, careers and ministry will change, and but God will never disappear from our lives.  Life in general may get a little crazy and overwhelming, but God will be there to give us strength to endure.  It is promised to us.  All we have to do is wait for God to deliver.

Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say on the LORD. - Psalm 27:14 

To think upon:

1) What is your fear?  Is life getting overwhelming?

2) What is your salvation?  Do you know Jesus?

3) What is your strength?  Do you take matters into your own hands or do you wait on God?

Cardiac Care

20 For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.  (1 John 3:20 NKJV)

I started attending a Beth Moore bible study a few weeks ago on the life of David (A Heart Like His).  It never ceases to amaze me how the Bible touches me in these studies in just the right places at just the right times.  God's timing is so incredible.

The video this week spoke of how our lives as Christians paralled King David's because just like David, we did not choose our enemy (David's unchosen enemy was Saul, ours is Satan).  Because we become children of God when we accept Jesus as our personal Savior, Satan automically hates us because he just loves to upset God by causing His children to sin.   Because of this parallel, Beth focused on how we can be armed against spiritual welfare as taught in Ephesians 6.

I've heard teaching about the Christian "soldier's" armor before, but I really enjoyed her teaching on  the "breastplate of righteousness" in Ephesians 6:14.  Beth explained that the purpose of a breastplate as a piece of armor was to protect our hearts.   To be exact, she defines it as such:

The "breastplate of righteousness":  Protection  for our hearts when our feelings are in conflict with our callings."

Dear friends, we need to guard our hearts, for what goes on in our hearts so often determines our actions.  Can you think of a time when your feelings about someone or something did not agree to what God's Word says you should feel about your situation?  I know I can.  It takes discipline to not let our feelings/emotions rule our lives.  However, if we keep our hearts and minds focused on God's Word, with a little discipline we can overcome the temptation to let our emotions rule.

1 John 4:4 says with regard to temptation and the evil spirits of this world that "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world."  God, through the Holy Spirit, is dwelling in us as Christians and He is greater than anything in this world, including Satan.  Isn't that good news? 

Not only is God greater than Satan, but He is greater than our hearts, as stated in 1 John 3:20 shown above.  If our feelings condemn us, we can know that God is also bigger than those.  God can change our hearts to love our husbands, to love our jobs and to even love God.  He can cause our hearts to be in tune with His word, living in obedience to His will for our lives.  That is good news for me.  What about you?  Can you trust in God and His promises to care for your heart?  All you have to do is put on the armor. 

A New Thing

Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:18-19

I'm listening right now to a CD I just bought by Selah, "Bless the Broken Road - The Duets Album".   The songs of Selah always put me in a reflective mood.  What better time to reflect than on the eve of a new year with promises of new friendships, new opportunities and new healing of old wounds.  If you were here right now with me sipping your coffee (while I drink my coke out of the can-I don't know when I'll ever get the coffee thing down) you would hear the title track "Bless the Broken Road" from the CD playing in the background.  I'm posting the lyrics at the end of this post.

I liked this song upon my first hearing of it last week. Its about God's sovereignty.  Its about how God is always in control and how even the broken roads in our lives can lead us to happiness.  The song is about someone's search for their true love.  However, to me, I can't help but hearing through the words about how all of my "broken roads" have led me to a closer relationship to God, my True Love.   As I read/sing the words, the "you" in my song is God.  Has God been drawing you closer to Himself this past year?  If He has, I hope that through your trials you've been able to see His outstretched hand.  Through all of life, God is in control. 

This past year has brought me both blessings and sadnesses, gains and losses.  Looking back I can see God's hand in one way or another, gently nudging me in the way I should go.   Let's look forward now and not backward, in anticipation of the new things He will do with our old broken roads.  Happy New Year!

Bless the Broken Road
(Marcus Hummon, Bobby E. Boyd, Jeff Hanna)

I set out on a narrow way many years ago
Hoping I would find true love along the broken road
But I got lost a time or two
I wiped my brow and kept pushing through
I couldn't see how every sign pointed straight to you

Chorus 1
Every long lost dream led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart they were just northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
And led me straight to you

I think about the years I spent just passing through
I'd like to take the time I lost and give it back to you
But you just smile and take my hand
You've been there you understand
It's all part of a grander plan that is coming true

Chorus 1
Every long lost dream led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart they were just northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
And led me straight to you

Now I'm just rolling home
Into your loving arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
And led me straight to you

Yes, God blessed the broken road
And led me straight to you.

Filled with the Fullness

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ might dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints  what is the width and length and depth and height - to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  (Eph 3:14-19 NKJ V)

This passage packs quite a punch doesn't it?  As I was praying for a verse to give to a friend, I came across this one.  As I've said before on this blog, my heart's desire is to encourage others to see what God has to offer each one of us in His word, for comfort, strength and guidance.  What treasures lie therein!  The biggest treasure of being a Christian - next to eternal life, of course - is the working of the Holy Spirit of God in our lives to enable us to achieve through Him more than we can possibly imagine.   This verse says alot about the inner strength God gives us through Christ, His son.

Our apostle Paul is praying in this verse for the Christians at the church in Ephesus.  Think about how fervently Paul prayed for his flock.  Can you see him bowing his knees, praying with all of his might for their character?  Notice how Christians get their strength from God.  Paul prays for them...

"that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man," (Eph 3:16 NKJV)

We are strengthened by God through the Holy Spirit.  And not just slightly strengthened, but strengthened with might.   Do you realize how much strength God can give you?   According to Webster, might  is defined as follows:

  1. Great or superior strength, power, force or vigor
  2. Strength or power of any degree.

Keep in mind that this is not the physical-I-am-a-great-body-builder kind of strength.  This is internal strength.  The kind that we need to endure the challenges that life throws at us.  The kind that enables us to stand no matter how hard the wind blows in the storms of our lives.

Comprehending all of this takes faith doesn't it? With Christ dwelling in our hearts because of our faith in Him, we can be rooted and grounded in love - God's love.  We can rest in the security of a perfect love from a perfect God that knows no limits with us.  This is the kind of love that casts out fear (1 John 4:18) because if we trust in God's love for us completely, we will trust in His complete sovereignty over our lives.  Consequently, we can have mighty strength.

I wish I could fully comprehend all that God is.  The width, length, depth and height (Eph 3:18) of His majesty is so much more than our small minds can even imagine.  But if we can just understand how much we can't get our arms around, doesn't that help us understand the magnitude of who He is? Shouldn't this help us realize the limitless supply of His power to us to accomplish in us what He pleases?  I think so. 

How can we possess the fullness of God (Eph 3:19) - or be filled with it - if it is too big for us to even comprehend?  Is that "fullness"  the manifestation of joy and peace in our lives?  I doubt that the "fullness" is merely a knowledge of the power to do anything we please because we are so strengthened with might.  That, to me, might lead to a teeny bit of pride.  However, we must have confidence that God can accomplish through us all that He is asking us to do.  That, coupled with understanding God's love, is what I think about having the "fullness" of God. 

I am thankful that God preserved these words of Paul from so long ago.  They give me hope that no matter where I am in this journey of life, that God will help me through it if I let Him.  Thank You, Lord, for providing us with Your power supply!!

Press On

I write this with a heavy heart for those in need of a break in life.  I pray that if you are tired, weary, drained and beat up from life's circumstances that this song might provide even the tiniest bit of encouragement to get through another day.

Download press_on.wma

Press On - by Selah

When the valley is deep
When the mountain is steep
When the body is weary
When we stumble and fall

When the choices are hard
When we're battered and scarred
When we've spent our resources
When we've given our all

In Jesus' name, we press on
In Jesus' name, we press on
Dear Lord, with the prize
Clear before our eyes
We find the strength to press on

In Jesus' name, we press on
In Jesus' name, we press on
Dear Lord, with the prize
Clear before our eyes
We find the strength to press on
To press on

Lord, please lift up those who are in the valley with seemingly no strength left to take another step.  Wipe the tears from their eyes, heal their wounds from falling and give them wisdom to make the hard choices they face.  And please, help them to see clearly the prize before their eyes, and give them the strength and endurance to keep pressing on. Amen.

His Strength Is Perfect

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12:9-10)

I love it when God brings a verse or song to my mind that really makes me reflect on things,  due to a situation either in my life or someone else's.  I sat here this morning, and last night, pondering what to share here today and couldn't settle on anything until now.  Now though, I know that someone "out there" needs to hear what God has to say.   

It is hard to understand sometimes, especially when we are in the middle of something bigger than ourselves, how God's strength can be all that we need.  However, sometimes it is all that we have.  When we wonder how we can take that next step, He is there to guide us. When we fall down and skin our knees, He offers His gentle hand to help us up, kisses our wounds and tries to make it all better.  When we purposefully fall down humbly on our knees in prayer with nothing else to give, that is when we finally see His power and strength as He lifts up our head, looks us in the eyes and tells us that we can make it.  His strength and love is perfect.

To close - because after all, I do have a golf game to play today in the 100 degree heat (yes, I think I may be crazy, but I'm playing with a good friend) - I'd like to share the song that God brought to my mind this morning.  If I could have each of you in my living room, I'd play it on my baby grand piano for you and sing it to you, but alas, we are in cyberspace after all.  Anyway, that is my wish.  Enjoy the lyrics and may God's strength lift you up today.

His Strength is Perfect - by Steven Curtis Chapman

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,
but sometimes I wonder what He can do through me.

No great success to show, no glory on my own
yet in my weakness He is there to let me know:

His strength is perfect when our strength is gone.
He'll carry us when we can't carry on.
Raised in His power, the weak become strong.
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect.

We can only know the power that He holds
when we truly see how deep our weakness goes.

His strength in us begins where ours comes to an end.
He hears our humble cry and proves again.

His strength is perfect when our strength is gone.
He'll carry us when we can't carry on.
Raised in His power, the weak become strong.
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect.

Joy Cometh - Part II

No matter what kind of mood you may find yourself in, the bible has something to say about it, especially in the book of Psalms.  For the record, if you're looking for something warm and fuzzy to stir up the emotion of your choosing, Leviticus just doesn't come highly recommended.  To do lists, yes. Comfort, no.   

God brought this verse to my mind tonight as I was praying:

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.  He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. (Psalm 126:1-5)

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.  Without a doubt.  I think of passion and compassion with this verse.  I think of prayer and I think of what it means to care so much about something or someone that  in the act of submitting our requests to God we end up begging for His mercy, help and forgiveness.  These are the prayers that bring us to the inner courts of God.  These are the prayers that can move the mountains in our lives.  These are the prayers that bring joy when the God's timing has come to pass.

Why then, don't we pray like this all of the time?  Why don't we always pray as if our very lives and the lives of our loved ones depended upon it?  I can't speak for everyone, but for me, it all boils down to time and energy.  It is a sacrifice to sow with tears.  It is a sacrifice of time because it takes awhile to put away all of the day's distractions to come into God's presence and it is a sacrifice of strength as well.  It is emotionally draining to pray with that kind of passion.  It is worth it, but it is draining.

So when does the joy come? Some time after the praying.  God is the only one who knows that answer exactly.  However He does tell us that joy will come.

For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life:  weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning.  (Psalm 30:5)

Joy comes in the morning (maybe not always the next morning) just as sure as the sun rises each and every day.  We can be joyful in our knowledge of God's faithfulness to us...joyful in knowing that we are forever loved by the Creator of the universe and that He has everything under control.  In this we can rejoice and have hope.

This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.  It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his passions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.  The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore I will hope in him.  The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.  It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD. (Lamentations 3:21-26)

Joy Cometh ...

... and the "crud" leaveth.   :)  I am SO ready to be well again from this flu.  I guess the one thing I can count on from past experience is that it doesn't last forever.  So, to my suffering friends around the world...there is hope!!

Okay.  I need to stop letting the decongestant talk and get to business.  As I listened to the video on "Joy" of a Beth Moore study I'm participating in, I couldn't helped but be overcome by thoughts of some dear Christian friends I know, and even those I don't know, who are experiencing the kind of searing pain from life's circumstances that is temporarily dampening their joy.

I love to encourage people.  To listen to them, take their hand, to put my arms around them and tell them that they will see a brighter day is something that really blesses me.  Hope.   Don't we all need it?

In black and white, and sometimes red, on the pages of our bibles we can see the truth of God's promises through the tears brought on by our circumstances if we know where to look.  As I watched that video last night, Beth brought to remembrances some of my favorites words of life and I'll share them here.

For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life:  weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning.  (Psalm 30:5)

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.  He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, brining his sheaves with him. (Psalm 126:1-5)

Tell me these aren't words of life to your weary soul.  Joy cometh, my friends, no matter where you are!  The bible tells us so.  Our Savior, Faithful Friend, and Creator of the whole wide world tells us so.  As Beth so eloquently says it, we will never learn how to dance before Him if we never learn how to mourn before Him.  Like Christ, we too can endure anything...anything, if we know that we will have that jumping-up-and-down- dancing-around-busting-at-the-seams kind of joy waiting on the other side of our trials.  We will have that you know, if not in this life, in heaven.  Guaranteed.  Just keep your eyes on Jesus and we can rejoice in the Lord no matter what.. 

Hebrews 12:1Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,  2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.