Entirely Your Concern

In my studies on the power of prayer recently I came across this quote from one of Martin Luther’s prayers…

“I know You are our Father and our God; and, therefore, I am sure You will bring to naught the persecutors of Your children. For if You fail to do this, Your cause, being connected with ours, would be endangered. It is entirely Your concern. We, by Your providence, have been compelled to take a part. You therefore, will be our defence.”

What a sense of peace that gave me! Of course Yahweh is going to defend true and righteousness and everyone that stands for it! In knowing that I’m living out His will I have the assurance that I’m not going to end up at a dead end and have no where else to go but back. Yahweh makes a way out of no way and even though at times it seems that there’s no where else to go we have to keep walking. Like the priests who had to step into the water of the Jordan before it dried up, sometimes we have to get to the very end of the “dead end” before we find the path through the trees.

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Higher Standards

I was reading in Luke chapter 6 the other night. Somehow, the urgency of what Christ was saying leapt out at me in a different way. Paraphrased, verses 32–34 challenge us to raise our standards higher than those in the world around us…
If you love those who love you, who cares? Even sinners do that! If you do good to those who do good to you, so what? Sinners do the same! If you lend to those whom you hope to receive from, what does it matter? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive from them again. But Christians! Love your enemies, do good, lend – hoping for nothing in return!

We need to go above and beyond what the world does. It is our duty – not to follow the lead of the most popular “role model” in society, but to take the lead ourselves. Not to conform to the world’s standards of what’s right and what’s not, but to aspire to reach for God’s best! What good is it if we “do as they do”? “For sinners also do the same”.

How can we measure good by the good that the world does? The world loves those who love them back, but it’s our duty to love those who do not love us at all. The world does good to all who are capable of “returning the favor” – it’s our duty to step it up a notch and do good to those who, not only can’t pay back, but also those who do evil to us. The world lends with usury. We are called – no, required – to lend “hoping for nothing again”. The world prides itself in using vulgar language and talking crudely without shame, but we are to speak with grace, seasoned with salt and use sound speech “that cannot be condemned.”

“And your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest” “For with the same measure that ye use withal it shall be measured to you again”.
Let’s strive to use the longest, broadest measure! Let’s fly the highest standard, wave the biggest banner, sing the loudest song, and serve our King with all that we are worth! What better Crown to fight for?

A Bubble’s Lifespan

Luke 12:15,“And (Yahshua) said to them,’Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses’.”, is the verse I read last night. That led me to James 4:14 – a verse I’d been pondering a few weeks back – “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time. And then vanisheth away.”

Life is so short – such a small vapor…a dash between the dates…in more unusual terms, a bubble. I watched thousands of them float up into the night sky at the last wedding I was at. Yes, life is like those bubbles…some pop prematurely like the little girl that drowned in the flood a couple weeks ago. Some last longer as my friend’s mom did and dissolve unexpectedly in mid air. And yet others soar high and are almost out of sight before they fade away.
They all have two things in common: one source – one being to breathe life into them; and one purpose in their minute existence – to please their maker (or bubble blower in this case. ).

Why is it so hard for we humans to see life in perspective with God’s plan?
Why do we waste our time trying to gain personal status, financial comforts, knowledge, stable jobs, a nicer car, cooler “toys”, money, money, money?
None of that – not a bit of it – counts in the Kingdom. Not one speck can be taken with us when our bubble pops.

So if our “abundant possessions” pop with our bubble, what’s left?
The absolutes, the right and wrongs, the standards we hold – will live on forever. There’s the people that you impact – and the people that you don’t. That’s what stays and makes a difference.

I always turn back to Ecclesiastes 12:13 – the conclusion of the whole matter:
“Fear Elohim, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”
This “duty is paramount to all things else, it is second to nothing on earth.”

Sounds simple doesn’t it?
Fear God.
Keep His commandments.

Two laws to live by.
It’s our DUTY.

Choosing Trials

“Life need not be easy to be joyful. Joy is not the absence of trouble but the presence of Christ.” – W.V. Hoven

I think that Yahweh is teaching me that life is not about feelings, but about choices. We can choose to love, or we can only love when we feel like it and be miserable the rest of the time; we can choose to be joyful in our trials, or we can moan and groan through them and never grow higher because of them; we can choose to be at peace with ourselves and our circumstances, or we can drag through life being bitter, discontent, grumbling…and get old fast. Very Happy

Feelings are fleeting – here one day gone the next, they can never be relied upon. Living by them only causes heartache and confusion. If we keep our eyes on The Rock however, we will be stable, strong characters for Christ and He will “grow us” through the trials and temptations that come our way.

I am learning to…

· Identify my trials. Name them, label them – know what/who they are. This has been a tremendous relief in my life. I never realized before that I just didn’t want to admit that I had trials!

· Pray about them. Surrender them to Christ.

· Prepare for them. I know, it sounds strange, but trials are a FACT of life. You have to know where your enemy will hit before you can plan a counter-attack, or in this case, how you will react.

· Count them all joy (James 1:2). Realize that this is what makes you GROW. Glory, like Paul, in your tribulation because only by these will you become the person that Yahweh intents for you!

· Detach the trial from the person/people that bring them. Know that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers…of this darkness”. These “sandpaper people” as Elizabeth George calls them, are in your life for a reason – to make you a better, “smooth-er” person.

· Last of all, be confident of this very thing – that He which hath begun a good work in you will complete it (Phil. 1:6)!

Peripheral Vision

“Peripheral vision enables us to be aware of our surroundings while remaining focused on our destination. What we see from “ the corner of our eye” can be useful, unless it distracts us from our goal”David McCasland (RBC Ministries)

Distractions – that’s exactly what I’ve been peering at, and my, do they look like formidable, daunting trials! “I can’t count them joy and I won’t even try”, my stubborn little self pouts. “Well, maybe 85%, but definitely NOT 100% – I want to leave room to moan and groan over the ‘injustices of life'”, it reasons.

That’s where peripheral vision, focus…and cameras come in. Razz

You know when you look through the lens and focus on the tiny redbud how all the leaves and twigs go fuzzy around it? But then try zooming in on the mosquito perched on that unassuming leaf right next to the bud. Yikes! It’s huge! It’s nasty! It’s gonna eat me alive!
Wait a minute! You couldn’t even see it a second ago when the focus was on the flower. It was too blurry and rather non-consequential, right?

That’s how it is on life’s path, I’m learning.
“Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eye-lids look straight before thee…turn not to the right hand nor to the left.” Pro. 4:25

When I do that – focus on Christ and His will for me – I find the trials around me diminish in size. Focus on them, and they magnify – drastically.

Merriam-Webster’s defines peripheral as only slightly connecting with what is essential or important; merely incidental. Yes, our trials are connected because Yahweh uses them to make us into His image, but they are not – should not be – the point of focus by any means.

Where is our focus today? Let’s endeavor to keep the peripheral on the sidelines where it’s supposed to be and mind the One Who matters.

Launching Out

“Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a draught” Luke 5:4

It had been a long night. I mean what night wouldn’t feel like an eternity if you had been fishing and fishing and fishing and caught nothing? I’m sure Peter and the other fishermen would have been thinking the same line you or I would’ve in that instance – Why, oh why, didn’t I just stay in bed? I would’ve accomplished more there than out on this lousy lake where there just aren’t any fish!

I don’t know about you, but I would have been in a pretty sour mood that early morning – washing nets that wouldn’t have needed washing if I had just slept all night. And the last thing I think I’d want is a crowd of people coming down to the beach. Oh com’on! Just leave me alone!

Wait a minute though… Peter must have sensed something different in this Man who asked him to shove his boat off the shore a ways so He could be better heard by the crowd on the sand. Any other man and Peter probably would have told him to shove off himself! I’m afraid I would have – Get lost, I’m going home!

There had to have been something in this Man that caught his attention – even sleep deprived as he was – and made him think I better listen to this. Maybe he kept cleaning those “useless” nets for a while before he became totally focused on Jesus. This Man really had something to say!

And then, Jesus turned to Peter himself. “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a draught”. I know what I would have been thinking Awh man, I just finished washing these nets! What on earth do you think I’m gonna get when I was out there all night long? No way!

Surprisingly, and thankfully, Peter didn’t have that reaction. “Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.” Wow! I think Christ was working in him already.

Due to his submission to Christ’s command and obedience to His word, “they enclosed a great multitude of fish and their net brake”! Wow again!

“When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord’. (Would’ve been my thoughts exactly.) For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken… And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.”

What an amazing, true story! I don’t know about you, but I sure can relate to it. Sometimes it seems like life is just one obligatory, overnight fishing trip and the fish are out to make me one hungry camper. Try as I might, and no matter what I do, it seems that I just can’t get any farther in my spiritual walk with Jesus. In fact, sometimes I feel farther way than ever. Beginning to wish I had stayed in my nice, warm, cozy, comfortable “me zone”, I hear His still small voice saying, “Launch out into the deep and let down your net for a draught”.

Wow! What an invitation! Do I have the faith to take it? Will I say like Peter, I’ve been trying all night and I’m totally despairing, but okay Lord, I’ll do it. ? By God’s grace, Yes!

And then it happens. And it only happens then because, no matter how hard we try, we’re not going to get anywhere on our own will power. It’s only Christ’s power working in us that can fill us with the draught of the Holy Spirit and send us on a whole new journey for and with Him. That’s when our nets fill with God’s unlimited power and love and when our starving spirits can be quenched with the fulfillment of a life lived for Christ.

It’s a choice. It takes saying I don’t have it in me, I’m a pathetic sinner and have drastically come short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). I need You, I trust You, I will obey You. It takes surrender.

One thing we have to be on the lookout for are anchors in the sand that are keeping us firmly rooted in the shallow depths. God has been pointing these out to me and I pray that I’ll listen and act on it! “Anchors” can be different for everyone and not limited to unhealthy, secular and sensual movies, magazines, books, internet, friends, conversations, and thoughts. If we’re honest with ourselves, we can generally find something in our lives that is not something we can do “all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31)

If I’m at all like other humans out there, we all get “promptings” telling us we shouldn’t be allowing something in our lives, minds and hearts. It’s our conscience, or the Holy Spirit speaking in us. And it’s too easy to ignore it, brush it aside, and rationalize what we’re doing. It’s not that bad! All my Christian friends are watching it! It’s on the bestseller list in the Christian bookstore.

Do we really want to stay next to the beach though, making sure we can always touch bottom so we don’t get too scared? How much is it worth to live the shallow, mediocre existence with a dwarfed understand of God and His ways?

We can be walking on water with Christ! Now how much is that worth? I am convinced that God wants so much more for us than we can even comprehend – and it is worth everything! Here’s a sobering thought though – we never will comprehend it if we don’t cut the anchors and set the sails of faith!

Oh, God, give us the strength to launch out into Your deeps and fill our sails with the winds of Your Spirit! Light us on fire for You!

Lamentable

I opened my Bible this morning to Lamentations 5…

Remember, O Yahweh, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach.
Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens.
We have drunken our water for money; our wood is sold unto us.
Our necks are under persecution: we labour, and have no rest.
Our fathers have sinned, and are not; and we have borne their iniquities.
Servants have ruled over us: there is none that doth deliver us out of their hand.

Does anyone else see the comparison?

“Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens”.
Does anyone else notice that our country is being taken over by people who care nothing for us or our freedoms – much less our lives?

“We have drunken our water for money; our wood is sold unto us.”
Is it just me or does anyone else concede to the fact that what is truly ours (better yet, ours through Yahweh’s grace and abundance) is being forcefully taken from us and “sold back”? (Think property taxes, vehicle registrations, etc.)

“Our necks are under persecution: we labour, and have no rest.”
Does anyone else feel that 40-60% of one’s paycheck in taxes and fees falls under this category? To work half of one’s life away just to pay “Big Brother” is slavery.

“Servants have ruled over us: there is none that doth deliver us out of their hand.”
Does anyone else care that these public servants that our fathers set up have become tyrants and oppressors?

“Our fathers have sinned, and are not; and we have borne their iniquities.”
Can’t we keep this phenomena from burdening our children as well?

Remember, O Yahweh, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach!