Christ Beside Me

 

pub unsplash Nikola Jovanovic

Franklin, Tennessee is a charming little town. Steve and I went there for a clean water event several years ago. We stayed in an unforgettable bed and breakfast—run down, yet run by a lady delightful enough to make up for the shortcomings of the room she offered. We hiked a long wooded trail and almost got lost. We dined with Jars of Clay in a barn-like venue owned by Michael W. Smith. And, most memorable of all, we spent several hours in an authentic Irish pub.

I don’t remember the menu or even what the live musicians were playing. What I remember is the poem running around the ceiling edge of the walls like an old- fashioned border:

Christ beside me,

Christ before me,

Christ behind me,

Christ within me,

Christ beneath me,

Christ above me.

Those words, written by Saint Patrick over 1500 years ago, often whisper in the back of my mind, reminding me that I am never alone and that all I do is to be done with Christ, in his name and by his power.

How might our daily lives change if we reminded ourselves of those truths every single morning? Wouldn’t they become part of our path to a happy life, one where the enemy could no longer cause us to fear, where stress over our own performance would simply melt away?

And can we doubt a single line of that verse? Isn’t it really just a rewording of the promises of God heralded by his holy Word?

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head” (Psalm 139:5 NLT).

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

I need those promises every day, just as you do. And so my prayer for you today, and the prayer I hope you will lift up on my behalf as well, is this, from Colossians 2: 6-7:

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

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What’s Pulling Your Train?

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The experts say we have to hear something seven times before we really get it. So, here’s a new way to say what I’ve said before: 

When life throws a curveball and doubts begin to erode your joy, it helps to ask ourselves this question: What’s pulling your train? Is it faith, fact, or feeling?

The most common human order is FEELING FIRST! We make our feelings the powerful engine of our emotional train, leaving faith to follow along far behind as the powerless caboose. When that happens, our shifting moods and circumstances crowd out all the good we know to be true.

But God loves us even when the sun isn’t shining! He’s in charge even when the world looks impossibly broken or cruel.

God asks us to reverse the cars on that train. Faith comes first. We trust the God of the universe, the Lord who loves us, based on all he has told us in his Word and all he has revealed to us as we’ve relied on him. Of course, that means we need to learn the facts about him.

Memorization can help. Here’s a good place to start:

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Of course, if you’re like me, memorizing Bible verses can be a little tough. Music always helps. So, let me close by asking you to click over to YouTube, where Chris Rice can help you implant that verse and all its promises into your heart and mind.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness sung by Chris Rice

 

Guided by a Cloud

photo-1516166328576-82e16a127024 cloud nacho Rochon @ nacho_rochon via UnsplashI’ve written about Numbers 9 before, but since it’s striking me anew, I’ll remind you of it as well:

“Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped…As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp…Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out.”

I’ve made a lot of life changes in the past couple of years, and learned plenty about trust and God’s timing. Still, ‘talk about faith and flexibility, about not being certain of the road ahead! Can you imagine unpacking somewhere new, with no clue as to whether you’d be there for a day or for a year? I’m about to get a very small taste of that as I pack to head out on the road trip of a lifetime—Austin to Sacramento round trip by car, stopping who-knows-where along the way and getting to California who-knows-when. (It all depends on the arrival of grandchild #3!) I’m not sure what Steve and I will see or what we’ll learn, but I’m sure there will be plenty of both—seeing and learning, and you’re sure to hear about it in future blogs. But back to Numbers 9.

Are you in waiting mode right now? Are you heading into this day with a bit of trepidation because you don’t know how things are going to turn out? I’ve been there plenty of times. As I read more of the Bible and more about the lives of those who choose to follow him, I find that God very rarely hands out road maps and itineraries.

We usually want to know everything that’s in the plan—right now. Remember, though, that it was Eve’s desire to know everything that got us all into trouble in the first place. We’re much better off simply following our Leader. Of course, we don’t have the Israelite’s advantage of a cloud moving ahead of us to point the way. (Wouldn’t that be nice?) We do have the Holy Spirit, though, and the Bible, and the counsel of other believers. God promises that he’ll instruct us and teach us (see Psalm 32.)

But we still have to follow. And that can mean a lot of flexing, a lot of staying still when we want action or forging ahead when we’d rather take it easy. I hope you’ll take a deep breath right now and let go of any fear or tension stealing the joy of this day. Remind yourself that you have a loving Leader. Promise yourself, and him, that you’ll follow him. Ask for his help. Then, step out into the adventure, confident that you have the best Guide in the world!

photo by Nacho Rochon @ nacho_rochon via Unsplash

Father Knows Best by Beth Smith

 
photo-1526541588356-01de54d1ea1b candy raw pixel @rawpixel via Unsplash.com

John had been out of work for nearly a year, and times were tough. One day, though, he decided to take his little daughter Sarah out for a rare treat—candy from a convenience store. Sarah, being much smaller than her very tall father, began to look with great delight at the brightly colored, cheap candy displayed on the lower shelves, candy was so cheap it didn’t even qualify as a splurge.

John said, “No, Sarah, look up here. There’s the really good candy. You can choose anything, not just what’s down there.” But, sure of what she wanted, Sarah picked some bright red balls of candy. Loving father that he is, John said, “Sarah, those are sour balls, very sour. I know you, and you won’t like them. Look, here’s a Snickers, a Nestle Crunch bar.” But Sarah would have nothing to do with that. She saw only what was right in front of her, at her own eye level. It wasn’t the best she could have, and was nowhere near what her father wanted to give her.

John told me he was disappointed that his desire to give Sarah something special, something big, went unfulfilled. He went on to say that God used the experience to reveal to him that he, John, often made the same mistake that Sarah did. He was making some poor choices because he could see the situation only at his eye level, while his heavenly Father saw the whole picture. Don’t we all do that?

Our Father sees what’s best for us better than we can. We’re limited by our own “short sightedness.”  Unable to see the top shelf, we choose a lollipop over a king sized Snickers bar.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV).

Our Father knows what will fulfill us, because he created us. He knows what will really make us happy, better than we know ourselves. We might choose red sourballs because they look good, instead of letting God give us the desires he has created in our hearts. He puts his desires there. Note our part in this scripture:

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:3-4 NIV).

Do we take away God’s joy in giving to us because we want to do it ourselves, our own way?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT).

What if, today, Jesus asked us the question, “What do you want me to do for you?” We’re human. We’d say we want a job, healing, the return of a wayward child, a house or maybe a new way of life.

Wait. Stop. Think. Jesus knows our needs. We can tell him what we think we need, but then we ought to tell him, “Whatever you think is best. Your will be done.”

We can let God choose for us only if we trust his love and his wisdom, and believe in his power. If we want God’s best, we must let him choose.

 

photo by raw pixel @rawpixel via Unsplash.com

Be Careful of Your Calling

 

photo-1533154613417-407cfcf6abb2 king castle jonny caspari @jonnycpic via Unsplash

Years ago, I saw a movie called “The Man Who Would Be King.” It was based on a story by Rudyard Kipling and, as I recall, (spoiler alert) things didn’t turn out well for the men who sought royalty. Many of us, at one time or another, have dreamed of a fiefdom, a castle, or eight-year rights to Air Force One. The book of Judges provides a different perspective on high positions, though. It says,

“One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’

“But the olive tree answered, ‘Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and humans are honored, to hold sway over the trees?’

“Next, the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come and be our king.’

“But the fig tree replied, ‘Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?’

“Then the trees said to the vine, ‘Come and be our king.’

“But the vine answered, ‘Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and humans, to hold sway over the trees?’” (Judges 9: 8-13),

God made some to be rulers, yes, but he made many of us for humbler tasks, just as he made the olive tree for oil, the fig tree for sweet fruit and the vine for wine.

Do you ever look at your life and find it lacking some element of grandeur you expected in your youth? Perhaps you’ve missed your calling. More likely, though, you’ve simply honed your calling and, hopefully, come to see the importance of simple tasks. We each need to ask ourselves only this question:

“Am I doing what I believe God would have me do right now, today, living the way he has called me to live?”

If your answer is yes, press on, knowing that you are giving glory to the King of Kings. (None of us were ever meant to heap up glory for ourselves anyway.) If, on the other hand, your soul searching leads you to believe you have sidestepped your calling, please don’t look back. Instead, look forward, asking God how he would have you proceed as you re-commit yourself to following him.

And if you’re willing, let me know your calling and commitment. I will pray for your strength, your courage, and your direction.

 

Photo by  jonny caspari @jonnycpic via Unsplash.

Learning the Hard Way

rest @rawpixel via Unsplash.com

This post is inspired by the wise words of a good friend who prefers to remain anonymous. It’s filled with lessons she learned the hard way. I’m sharing it here in hopes that you can benefit from her wisdom and escape some of her difficulties.

 

I’ve been learning some difficult lessons about health and rest–physically and spiritually. At this time I’m recovering and determined to take better care of my body–not only by exercising, but also through eating and resting. We all have areas of health where we simply aren’t in control. But, we are responsible for certain aspects such as nourishment, sleep, and saying “no” to good things so we can have balance in our schedules. While stress doesn’t necessarily show itself outwardly, it can manifest itself physically in ways we’d all like to avoid. When we face illness, we ought to trust God for total and complete healing in His time, while still trying to do what we can to become healthier.

For a long time, I deliberately disliked the term “self-care” and considered it selfish. This is false. It finally dawned on me that I’ve been holding myself to nearly impossible standards that I wouldn’t think of imposing on others. Over and over, I’ve physically pushed myself to the limit and beyond. What for? I am not my own. How can I care for others and serve sustainably without a healthy view of who I am?

It boils down to these lessons for me:

  • Caring for my body honors God.
  • Being relatively thin (by U.S. standards) is not necessarily synonymous with being truly healthy.
  • Most of the time, pain is your body telling you that something isn’t right.
  • It’s possible, and Biblical to live missionally and sacrificially while also allowing one day of adequate rest each week.
  • We aren’t created to just survive, but to really live, and that includes doing things we enjoy like running, cooking, reading just for the joy of it, going to a coffee shop, etc.)
  • Christ is honored in our rest just as He is honored in our service.

These seem like the simplest truths, and I’ve shared them with others numerous times, but a time came when I had to learn them the hard way. Perhaps this was the only way I could truly learn for myself. If you’re reading this today, know that you are enough. Your immense value is not tied to whatever occupation you have, nor is it inextricably entwined with your abilities. You are a human being… Not a human doing. I’m reminding myself of this as well.