Monday, June 30, 2008

Food for Thought

Love one another with brotherly affection.
Outdo one another in showing honor.

Romans 12:10

Our congregation has taken on the challenge of memorizing scripture. It is not an easy task requiring commitment, concentration and courage, especially if one's "memory" brain cells are diminished! The goal is to memorize Romans 12:9-21 over the next several weeks but perhaps the more important goal is to become a congregation that reflects our memory verses. Verse ten is only the beginning of what prayerfully will become a way of life for us. It's not always easy being in "community" together.

In his book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer reflected on the pitfalls that can plague a Christian community. The following was written over 60 years ago and yet is pertinent for today's Jesus followers who want to be in community together and yet find it difficult.

The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, his own law, and judges the brethren and himself accordingly. He act as if he is the creator of community, as if it is his dream which holds the community together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes first an accuser of his brethren, then God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Day Four at Camp

Today I will be leaving camp. My time here has passed quickly. As I sit in the red adirondack off the back porch my mind is meandering through all I learned. That's what this week has been about. While at the outset I thought I was going to be helping someone out the reverse has happened. I have been helped.

My spirit was helped by the beauty of the surroundings. One simply can't feel dumpy when surrounded by towering mountains and elegant aspens.

My mind was helped by the rhythm of the day. When you get up before dawn, work all day and well after dark fall into a sound sleep your mind just doesn't have the opportunity to torment you!

My heart was helped by seeing Mary and Winston commit themselves wholeheartedly and unashamedly to a passion. Being around a couple who has grabbed hold of God's call with so much enthusiasm, well its inspiring and motivating.

My faith was helped by experiencing God's presence and seeing him work through the lives of a wide variety of people. Sonlight Christian Camp is full of God's creative handiwork. What God began he will see through to its completion. I saw "good works" in progress.

My life was helped. I needed this week. I had been feeling pretty sad lately. God didn't seem to have any "job" for me in my new living environment. I'm still not sure what I'm supposed to do in the coming months but I will remember this week as one that reminded me again about the importance of being still. God will show me in his time.

It has been a good week. I lived and experienced one corner of the kingdom!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Day Three at Camp

We talk about doing and giving our best for God and it sounds good but do we really know what that means? What is my best when it comes to living life or what am I giving to God that is my best?

This week, while preparing meals, I've been awed at the quality of food we are serving. Now, I know that sounds ridiculous but if you've ever been to a camp or conference you can probably remember the terrible food you were served. Part of giving their best at Sonlight Christian Camp is serving good, healthy, homemade food and I mean homemade from soups to breads. Everything is delicious.

I wondered if this feat of "homemadeness" left any impression on the campers. While I liked the idea that they were being introduced to foods they may not normally eat I wondered if this wasn't a little bit over the top.

Absolutely not. While serving last night's barbeque replete with grilled steak, green peppers and onions with brownie ice cream sundays one camper said to me, "I'm going to miss this food. I've got to go back home to my Dad's frozen tacquitos." Aha! We were giving our best and it made a difference!

When Jesus took a few ceramic water pots and turned the contents into wine a guest said to the host, "Most people serve the best first, but you have saved the best for last." Even Jesus knew the significance of serving the very best food. Even something as simple as food speaks about the character of Jesus.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Day Two at Camp

I've been working on memorizing a verse of Scripture each month. They all have revolve around trusting God. Last month's verse was Psalm 37:4--Commit your way to the Lord. Trust in him and he will act. It's a very simple verse to memorize but it packs a punch when it comes to one's own personal life.

It has been a particularly poignant verse for me this summer. In responding to God's call to move and begin ministering in a new town, in a new state we had to put a house up for sale in one of the worst real estate markets in history. From the beginning I have wanted to be faithful in waiting to see God at work. My prayer has been, "God, you know we need to sell the house so I am trusting you to bring the right buyer." I have had to consciously commit my way to God and not become anxious, however, we are sending our daughter off to college in the fall!

This morning while elbow deep in pastry dough with ten pie plates lined up in a row, my husband called with the news that despite everything a buyer had made an offer on our home. Surprises come at the most unexpected times! What was so amazing was that in trusting God from the beginning I could completely enjoy seeing him act!

Other time in my life I have griped and whined about our unfortunate circumstances and wailed about God's will. When events turned around I always found myself somewhat sheepish when I faced God with thanks. This time I could fully enjoy and appreciate God's action because I had first committed my way and trusted Him to do what I knew he can do.

It was an amazing morning and through the rest of the pie baking, brownie making and oven cleaning that the day brought I sang praises that God had acted so faithfully, but, I also thanked him for helping me to again that God is worthy to be trusted.

Commit your way to the Lord. Trust in him and he will act. It's an absolute truth.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Day One at Camp

If it has ever passed your mind about the dire condition of the world and you find yourself a bit terrified about the next generation that will be in charge, you might want to visit a camp like Sonlight Christian Camp. In one day I find that my hope for the future has brightened.

I am meeting Christian young men and women who have a genuine heart for Jesus. Admittedly there are those who can talk the Christian language but that's pretty much where it begins and ends. However, amongst them are individuals who know the God who created them, the Jesus who loves them and the Holy Spirit who guides them. It's not to say that they don't have questions, but they seem to be content in the fact that they may not know everything, now. Their confidence is in the truth that God knows and that is enough. They are much like the father who cries out to Jesus, "I believe! Help me in my unbelief."

So, if you are at all like me and feeling some anxiousness about the future particularly as it pertains to our youth, take heart. There are young people out there who are being guided and moved by the Holy Spirit to lead others of their generation to the truths of Jesus Christ. I'm meeting a few of them this week and am reminded of Jesus' words to the disciples-- everything else might fail but My Word will never fail. Thanks be to God!

Monday, June 23, 2008

In Defense of Martha

But Martha was distracted
with much serving...
Luke 10:40a

Martha gets a bad rap most of the time; at least that is my own opinion. Many preachers use Martha as an illustration of a woman who makes a choice to be busy over spending time with Jesus. Jesus himself says that Martha shouldn't be "anxious and troubled" about food but I think that Jesus was actually keeping to his typical teaching style and using Martha's situation to illustrate a larger point. He wasn't putting down Martha's efforts in the kitchen. He was encouraging her to not make such a fuss over the meal. He didn't need a big spread, just something simple. After all spending time with Jesus is important.

While baking cookies this afternoon for the incoming campers it struck me that food and Jesus are a good combination. After teaching thousands of people for three days Jesus becomes aware of their hunger pains and what does he do? He feeds them. He worked this miracle at leat twice! Plus much of his converations with the diciples takes place around a meal.

There are lots of Marys in the camp this week. They have chosen to spend a week learning about Jesus. But, you know what? There will be three Marthas in the kitchen this week, not "anxious or troubled" about the meals that will be prepared, but open and willing to encourage and support the eager Marys.

Without a few Marthas at camps, retreats, conferences and church dinners a number of Marys would perhaps be so hungry that they would forget the purpose of their coming! Here's to those supportive Marthas!

Jesus, thank you for loving Martha.
Even though sometimes she became focused on
meal planning she was also
one of the first who really knew
your power to heal and restore.
Help me in my own "Martha" spirit
to also make time to spend with you.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Writings from Camp

A few weeks ago my husband and I visited Sonlight Christian Camp located in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. It's a marvelous place committed to leading young people to life in Jesus Christ. We were amazed at Mary and Winston who have operated this camp for over twenty years. If you ever have the opportunity to meet them, count it as a privilege. They are truly inspiring.

During our visit Mary mentioned that occasionally she is in need of a cook in the kitchen, "I'd love to do it sometime!" I said. And so, last week Mary e-mailed, "This is short notice but could you come next week? Our kitchen staff is down this next week." So, I find myself snuggled in a lovely valley, with a few amenities from home for the purpose of preparing over 200 meals a day to 65 high school students and staff. It's going to be great!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Seizing Control

God’s Spirit brooded
like a bird
above the watery abyss.

Genesis 1:1c (The Message)

In the beginning, there was water. It is the single most important substance, besides oxygen, that allows us to live. We take it for granted until it isn’t there or when there is too much. Recently the Mississippi has illustrated the results of excess water. Livelihoods are being destroyed--the very substance that sustained farming livelihoods is now washing it away.

There are scientific reasons for floods based on weather patterns but experts are also saying that part of the problem is man. For centuries we have yearned to tame our landscape often upsetting the balance of God’s creation. There’s a reason why the soil is so fertile in the central states along the Mississippi. At one time the Mississippi was free to run over its banks, without hindrance, washing the earth with rich nutrients. In God’s creation there is order, not chaos.

Of course, the world has gotten older and more crowded with demands on God’s creation becoming more and more intense. We see land under water that could be used for our benefit and so levees are built to hold back the powerful substance in order to plant and grow because at this point the world cannot be fed without land.

When God’s Spirit brooded like a bird over the waters I wonder what He envisioned. Surely he knew what would transpire once the watery abyss was divided and man would seek to control what God had set in motion. I am not saying that God causes flooding catastrophes. They do remind us, however, that in the beginning God had a plan and knew how everything should work in an orderly fashion.

Our mistake with the earth, as in most areas of our lives, is that we try to seize control and create only chaos.

God, thank you for creating the world
to work in balance. You created order!
Forgive me when I create chaos
by seizing control of the happenings of my life.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

On Being Distinctive

You are God’s field,
God’s building.

I Corinthians 3:9

If you have ever seen a building designed by architect, Frank Lloyd Wright you will have witnessed an architectural style which helped change the face of contemporary architecture. Wright’s vision for public and private structures was unique and immediately identified. His designs have been the inspiration for other architects. But, there is nothing like an original Wright creation. His buildings are testimonies to his creative genius.

Being distinctive sets one apart and everyone has something that is distinctive. Whatever unique characteristic you might possess allows people to remember and recognize you. In some way we all want to be remembered as unique. Perhaps our achievements are an inspiration to others, the way we treat others, our wisdom or the way we handle adversity. Whatever it may be, uniqueness is a good thing.

For Jesus followers to be God’s building is the ultimate in living a unique life that reflects the Architect. It is an awesome responsibility. To be the living testimony of God’s creative genius means that when people see us and know us they will have witnessed a life that is unique and different; perhaps even an inspiration to be God’s building as well.

To be an original creation of the master Architect is a privilege. There is no better way to be unique. By being God’s building we are his examples of what he is able to do with anyone’s life. Whoever sees us should be able to recognize and remember our “style” as being life changing and one worth emulating.

Jesus, I want to be a living example of God’s
creative genius in my life.
Help me to see myself as God’s building to
everyone that I meet.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Endurance Running

...let us run with endurance
the race that is set before us...

Hebrews 12:1b

There will be only one winner in each of the track events at the Summer Olympics this year. It’s the nature of competition. Every individual athlete, however, will have prepared thousands of hours with the goal of finishing the race with a personal record. They will think only of the race that is before them; not finishing isn’t an option.

Each of us has a race to run. What we need to ask ourselves is this: have we put the hours into training our spiritual life such that we will be able to endure to the end. In the same way as the Olympic athlete the race we are called to run is individual. While we may find ourselves in a “pack” there will also be those times when we’re behind or ahead. There is a significant difference here, however, in that our spiritual race is not a competition between other Jesus followers. God calls us to run the race that He has set before us.

The challenge is staying focused. Here is where the analogy of the athlete again connects. An Olympic runner, while aware of the presence and location of the other athletes, remains focused on his own race. Well trained, this athlete resists the temptation to run the race like someone else even if they are ahead.

Endurance is built over time. You can’t run an enduring race without building up some stamina. How are you training yourself to build your endurance to run the race set before you?

Jesus, help me to be disciplined in my soul
training so that I will be able to
run with endurance
the race you have set before me.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

God for Us

If God is for us,
who can be against us?

Romans 8:31b

Here is an absolute truth: in this world you will have enemies. The Christian community particularly finds it uncomfortable to recognize certain personalities as “enemies.” After all, we are supposed to love our enemies! Now, I’m not saying that all difficult personalities are “enemies”, however, there will be people in our lives who are our “enemies” and for our own spiritual well being we would do best to recognize them as such.

At one point in our ministry my husband and I experienced a very difficult personality. This individual caused rifts within our Christian community by all manner of disinformation, gossip and slander. We prayed, we talked with wiser Jesus followers, we searched our hearts and we sought reconciliation yet nothing changed the assaults being lobbed. We had an “enemy.”

During this time of seeking God’s guidance we were continually reminded of the numerous times Jesus was verbally assaulted during his ministry. Jesus never held back his opinion on the actions of those doing the undermining, but, he also didn’t waste time trying to get them to like him. They were against him and he let them go because God was for him.

We discovered in a new way through our “enemy” what it meant to have God for us. Having done everything we are called to do as Jesus followers, we were able to claim the truth that our “enemy” was miniscule compared to the Person shadowing us. Despite the gossip, slander and innuendos we had nothing to fear—God was for us.

Father, thank you for being
for me and showing me through your Son, Jesus Christ
how to stand strong in your Presence.
With you for me, I have nothing to fear.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Elusive Wisdom

If any of you
lacks wisdom, let him
ask God.

James 1:5a

Wisdom is elusive, at least it seems that way. And yet, most of us can think of someone who had the ability to put together a combination of words that helped us over an emotional hurdle, directed us towards another course of action or with a few choice questions helped us solve a personal life riddle. These people usually have a special location in our memories because of the impact of their wisdom.

Wisdom seems to be an important part of the life of a Jesus follower. Solomon asked for wisdom and received amazing blessings. Proverbs is full of the benefits of obtaining wisdom. Even Jesus “increased in wisdom” (Luke 2:52)! Wisdom is obviously something worth having.

There’s simple clarity in this particular verse of James in the way it opens and closes. First, it leaves no openings for doubting that wisdom is a virtue and should be desired. If even Jesus “increased in wisdom” so should anyone claiming to follow him. Second, there is a simple way to get this elusive word combo—ask God.

It’s pretty basic. Unfortunately I’m not very good at just “asking God” for wisdom. When faced with a personal dilemma or listening to a distressed friend I grab for pithy comments and quote them like greeting cards.

Recently, in desperation , I tried the “ask God” approach and it worked. A situation that in the past had taken hours to resolve took fifteen minutes. It was amazing! Wisdom, while elusive, is available if we just “ask God.”

God, I lack wisdom.
Please give me
the wisdom I need
for each day and every

Friday, June 13, 2008

Flip Flops

You shall walk in all the way
that the Lord your God has commanded you.

Deuteronomy 5:33a

I confidently told my daughter not to worry about my transportation for the day. After my appointment my plan was to catch the bus home. I miscalculated, however. No buses were going in my direction. Realizing that I had no other choice I began walking the three mile route home--grumbling. This had not been my plan; on my feet were only flip flops.

After one complaining mile it occurred to me that the time could be constructively used and so began thoughts on walking with God. Much like my unexpected walk home, walking with God is full of the unexpected. We make plans of how we want to live, when we want to marry, have children, engage in careers, establish financial milestones, looking ahead we even set a goal for retirement. Then suddenly that career goes bust, a spouse dies or infertility raises its painful head—our plans become as flimsy as flip flops.

Walking with God is a mystery. It’s a winding country road—you don’t know what’s ahead until you get there. It would be nice if we could have a ten mile visual. But, if we did we might take off running, leaving our walking Companion, because we could see the way by ourselves. God doesn’t want to lose us as a walking companion. The route may be different than what we planned but the companionship along the way will make it worthwhile.

I finished the remaining two miles talking with my Companion not once bothered by my flimsy flip flops.

Jesus, you walked for miles
talking to people about the
Kingdom and your Father.
Help me to stop trying to
plan a life route and instead
enjoy your companionship.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Prayer of Abandonment to God

Father, I abandon myself
into Your hands.
Do with me what You will,
whatever You do, I will thank You,
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only Your will be done in me,
as in all Your creatures,
and I'll ask nothing else, my Lord.

Into Your hands I commend my spirit;
I give it to You
with all the love of my heart,
for I love You, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into Your hands
with a trust beyond all measure,
because You are my Father.

Charles de Foucauld

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Payment Due

Pay to all what is owed to them.

Romans 13:7

There is nothing like a clear conscience. When one’s desk is piled high with bills the action of paying off what is owed provides a sense of order but also perhaps a pound of anxiety if times are tough. If you are breathing, bills are a reality and so is making sure that you prioritize your expenses so that those bills can be paid promptly.

There’s nothing like monthly bills to remind us of the importance of prioritizing. Establishing a budget that, hopefully, coincides with our needs we prioritize ahead of time for the payments that are required. Consequently, we’re not surprised when a bill arrives because we have spent the time preparing. We consider it important to have the money to make the payments.

Isn’t it a wonder then that we find it difficult to pay what is owed to God, namely our time? We wouldn’t think about not paying our bills. And yet each day, at the sun’s rising a daily bill is presented reminding us of what we owe. The God who set the sun in place is owed our lives. The payment is prioritizing our day such that we live in conversation with Him.

Like forgetting to pay a bill and finding the electricity shut off, forgetting to give God one’s time could also prove detrimental. When we make conversing with God a priority nothing can come as a surprise. We are prepared and ready because we’ve invested ourselves in God’s presence and the dividends as a result carry us through even the most challenging of times.

Father, you created me in your image.
Jesus, you show me how to live.
Holy Spirit, you bring me comfort and
guidance. I owe you my life.
Today and every day I make time
spent in your presence, my priority.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Follow Me

“Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

Matthew 9:9b

Peter left his livelihood as a fisherman. James and John turned their backs on the family business. Matthew left a secure appointment by the government. Jesus knew what he was asking and yet throughout his ministry he continued to repeat the same two words, Follow Me. Some who heard were able to meet the challenge and take the risk. Others felt the constraint of family and business obligations. Both decisions changed their lives one way or another.

The disciples represent the broad spectrum of individuals that Jesus called. They all came from different backgrounds with the only common factor being that in following Jesus they were turning away from the known to face the unknown. Jesus gave no expectations at the point of his calling. There were no promises of life after death. No assurances that they would return to their lives. He simply said, Follow Me, and at least twelve couldn’t help themselves!

It strikes me that sometimes we spend a great deal of time talking about Christianity in the context of the afterlife. We “witness” because we want people to be assured of heaven after they die. We don’t think so much of how it could change their lives, now.

Follow Me radically changed the lives of the disciples. They saw, heard, and experienced this life as never before. Jesus taught them how to live the kingdom life that was being given to them--now.

Jesus wants to show us how to live in the kingdom as well. Follow me.

Jesus, sometimes I look
only towards the future forgetting
that you have given me a life
to live right now.
Teach me how you want me
to live in the kingdom, today.


Monday, June 9, 2008

Fired Image

He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver…

Malachi 3:3a

The Bible is sometimes difficult to understand. Because of the historical and cultural significance of some passages it takes some digging to mine the truths and bring them to meaning in the 21st century. In other passages all we have to do is simply scratch the surface and up pops a gem beyond compare. I was reminded of this recently by a mass e-mail that I received with this verse from Malachi.

Prompted by this verse and wanting to know more about the process of refining and purifying silver, a Jesus follower found a silversmith and started asking questions. She discovered that in order for silver to be refined it had to be held, by the silversmith, deep in the hottest part of the fire. It was crucial that the silver be carefully watched because the silver would be destroyed if over exposed to the intense heat. However, it was the heat that burned away all the impurities revealing the value and brilliance of the metal.

After watching from beginning to end she asked, “How do you know when the silver has been properly refined and purified?” Without any hesitation the silversmith replied, “When I see my image I know that the silver has been in the fire long enough.”

It doesn’t take much to understand how this connects to our lives! Nevertheless it’s a good reminder--God has his eyes on us at all times. He never allows us to burn unnecessarily. While the heat of the fire may seem beyond our tolerance He’s watching and when He sees His image we’ll be removed.

God, you are the master
Silversmith. I put myself
in your hands believing that
even though I will put in the fire
I will become a reflection of You

Friday, June 6, 2008

Assuming the Best

God is the one who
began this good work
in you…

Philippians 1:6a (CEV)

Grace is an early fixture in my memory. She passed away several years ago but the impression she left is firmly imprinted--Grace assumed the best in everyone. When walking on the pier no one was able to pass by without her calling out a hello or engaging them in a conversation about the catch of the day. She didn’t see anyone as anything other than God’s good work.

It isn’t always easy to accept those that we meet, or live with, as God’s good work. We know all the weak spots of those we love and upon seeing a homeless individual on the street we may find ourselves giving them a wide berth. Personally, I find that my own instinct, unfortunately, isn’t to first assume that God is doing a good work in those that may be troublesome. But, of course, I want to be seen as a good work in progress!

From our beginnings God saw that what He had created was good. Grace claimed this truth living it out in her life, giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, believing that what she saw wasn’t the finished product. There was hope of a completed good work in everyone.

It’s a good way to live--having the eyes of God; seeing that He has begun a good work in everyone. With this outlook it doesn’t matter that a person’s behavior, choices or attitude seem far from being good. Trust God to make sure that the finished product is what He intended.

Father, thank you for
beginning a good work in me.
Help me to see everyone as
Your good work, in progress

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Wing Shadows

In the shadow of your wings
I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction
pass by.

Psalm 57:1b

I am claustrophobic. Whether it’s a tight space or a tight embrace my breath dissipates and I struggle for freedom. It’s probably one of the reasons why I like the image of being in the shadow of God’s protective wing. I want to feel secure not claustrophobic.

Standing in a shadow isn’t a suffocating experience. Instead, there is protection from the heat, the wind, the rain while at the same time an ability to be mobile with a view of what’s happening. If we are to learn from our experiences it’s important that we be able to see what we’re facing. Locking ourselves in a windowless room or closing our eyes won’t prepare us for anything.

When we’re facing storms of destruction and God spreads out his wing of protection he provides the shadow that reminds us of his presence while providing a space to learn and grow from the experience. It’s all part of growing up in Christ. If we want to be a Jesus follower that is mature and strong it will require us to be content in the shadow of God’s wing instead of a face lock embrace.

Now, we have to be honest, a face lock embrace can be nice now and then, but if we are going to become strong through our experiences, taking refuge in God’s shadow will give us the comfort we need and at the same time give us a view of the classroom.

Father, thank you for your wing shadow of protection.
It reminds me that nothing can truly harm
me and that this present storm is yet another part
of my growing up in you.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

At the Center

These children are at the
very center of life in the kingdom

Mark 10:14b (The Message)

“Our culture is child centered at the moment,” was the comment made by my walking partner, an elementary school teacher. She was responding to my question as to whether she had seen a change over the years in the behavior of children. It became apparent that a teacher’s life isn’t easy given the self focused personalities of children. However, that evening at church I saw centers of life jumping up and down singing about the power of Jesus. I saw hope!

Children are the center of life but too often we’re confusing which “life” they ought to center. Once I met a young man who claimed that his parents never told him what to do; they just wanted him to be “happy.” Unfortunately I never saw him be "happy." His parents had centered him in their life forgetting where his true center lay.

Jesus saw the ability of children to throw themselves at something, wholeheartedly, without reserve as a way of illustrating what it meant to live in the kingdom. On one hand it might appear that we should make children the center of our culture, but there’s a catch. When we forget that our children are the center of life in the kingdom of God and instead make them the center of our lives we destroy their identities in the kingdom.

As Jesus followers, who are involved in the lives of children, let’s not focus on giving them a desire to be “happy” but show them how to claim their identities as centers of life in the kingdom.

Jesus, help us to remember that
children are not merely sources of
happiness but the centers of
Your Kingdom. Give us wisdom
and courage to speak with
our children about where
their true identity lies.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Food for Thought

My husband introduced me to Thomas a Kempis years ago. The Imitation of Christ is a result of Kempis' devotional writings while a monk at Mount St. Agnes during the early 1400's. He had a keen insight and awareness of human nature and the emptiness that exists without the love of God in the life of individuals.

Returning home Monday evening from church commitments I picked up Bill's well worn and underlined copy to see what I would see. Given the recent devotionals on enduring difficulties I was moved by the following words.

Be assured of this, that you must live a dying life. And the more completely a man dies to self, the more he begins to live to God. No man is fit to understand heavenly things, unless he is resigned to bear hardships for Christ's sake. Nothing is more acceptable to God, and nothing more salutary for yourself, than to suffer gladly for Christ's sake. And if it lies in your choice, you should choose rather to suffer hardships for Christ's sake, than to be refreshed by many consolations; for thus you will more closely resemble Christ...

Had there been a better way, more profitable to the salvation of mankind than suffering, then Christ would have revealed it in His word and life. But He clearly urges both His own disciples and all who wish to follow Him to carry the cross, saying, "If any will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me." Therefore, when we have read and studied all things, let this be our final resolve: "that through much tribulation we must enter the Kingdom of God."

Monday, June 2, 2008

Solidly Built

Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.

Matthew 7:25 (The Message)

During one of my most difficult life moments I became friends with Beth. She was waging a battle against a powerful hurricane, cancer. Beth’s story and the building she was doing to ensure her strength reeked havoc on my sacred pity party. There was never a complaint or questioning of God’s purpose. In order to not be destroyed, Beth faithfully followed the instructions on how to be solidly built.

There is consistency in the Bible with this message—a Jesus follower can be guaranteed some foul weather. It isn’t a pleasant truth, but there it is. In my own life I have found it to be an uncomfortable fact. It seems as though I just get through one rain storm and another appears on the horizon. It is at these times that meeting people who are dealing with tornadoes provide a perspective.

Being in community with fellow Jesus followers is essential during rain storms. It is impossible to build a house on one’s own. Even if you’re doing all the “building” others are always a part of the process. And so it is with the life of a Jesus follower. We cannot be solidly built without one another’s help. It’s their stories of endurance that prove there is life after a flood.

Meeting a solidly built Jesus follower is like knowing a master architect. Having been intimately acquainted with the master Blueprint they know what is necessary to build on the Rock and can help us build for endurance.

Jesus, you have promised
life even after a tornado.
What I have to do is know you
so well that I become solidly built
able to endure any storm that
floods me.