Earning The Medal

Like so many, I am an avid tennis fan.  I can’t play worth beans.  When I’ve tried playing, I have no control of the ball to the point that when I hit it, it goes way past the opponent and on and on and on.  Consequently, no one wants to play with me as they get tired of chasing the ball.  I get tired of hitting it to nowhere, too.  Even so, my own lack of ability has not ruined my love of the game.  It’s Wimbledon finals this week and I have had my eyes glued to the matches as each player tries their best to be one of the last two standing, playing for the final prize.

Throughout these past two weeks, as the matches have been played, the journalists would report various stories about the players.  One thing that is obvious, with no exceptions for any player, is their preparation for this event.  They pay attention to their diet, their sleep, their physical training, and their practice.  Without preparation today, there would be no hope of the final prize tomorrow.

It came to me that this is the same principal in our spiritual worlds.  Our Heavenly Father has made a plan for each of us to follow.  He has given us guidelines for our daily preparation in His love letter to us — His Holy Word.  Once we choose to receive Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit indwells us to give us every tool we need to grow stronger each day.  We are given spiritual insight and understanding to “press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Jesus Christ, is calling us.”  (Philippians 3:14). This does not mean that we work for our eternal destiny.  Salvation is a gift, that when received, will never be taken away.  That’s the promise.  However, we will receive rewards for all we do in Jesus’ name.

Are rewards that important?  Isn’t the main thing just being in heaven for eternity?  Well, that depends on one’s eternal perspective.  You see, the Bible teaches us that a time will come when we will all see Jesus face to face.  At that time, our understanding will be complete.  In other words, we will fully understand just what Jesus has done for us and gone through in order to give us the gift of eternal life with Him.  When we have that realisation, we will take those rewards given to us, and we will cast them at His feet in our love and gratitude.

I once saw an athlete who won her race and received the medal.  Joyfully, this athlete then stepped into the crowd and placed the medal in the hands of her parents.  She said it was her parents who encouraged and supported her in all her training.  It will be the same with us.  Imagine that you won your gift of eternal life with Jesus, but did nothing on earth to show your love for Him; nothing to earn any rewards.  You have nothing to give back.  Imagine.

 

 

 

The Things Kids Say

Don’t you love the television programs where kids are interviewed?  Some of their answers are hilarious.  Going back many moons ago, when I was a child, I loved watching the Art Linkletter show.  Anybody remember that one?  Only those of, shall we say, a more mature age, will recall it.  I still laugh at the episode where Art asks a little girl if she looks like her mother or her father.  The smiling child answers, “I don’t look like my mother or my father.  I look like the milkman.”

On other episodes of the things kids say, answers can be more poignant and thought provoking.  Such was a recent television show where the question was asked, “What is trust?”  Answers varied from silly to serious.  One little boy answered that trust was when his dog got wet and didn’t shake all over him.  Another answered that trust was getting your favourite ice cream.  One after another the children shared their definition of trust.  Then the moment came that touched me very much.  A little boy was asked the question.  He thought for a moment and then said very quietly and sweetly, “Trust is whenever I fall down, I know my Mom or Dad will come to help me.”

I mulled over that answer for a long time, thinking of times in my own childhood when I would fall down.  Indeed, my Mom or my Dad would be there to help me up, checking for scrapes and cuts, assuring me that all would be okay.  Usually after such moments, I would brush myself off and continue what I was doing, like riding my bike or playing softball at the empty lot across the end of the street.  I might fall again but Mom or Dad would be there.  I had that trust.

Now, I know that not every child has parents that are caring or even loving.  Perhaps they have no parents at all.  Those thoughts naturally bring a sadness for what so many don’t have, but the thoughts also bring a knowing hope of the Father available to anyone who wants Him.  Our Father in heaven is a most magnificent Dad who gladly comes when we fall.  He encourages us and gives us hope. He never leaves us no matter what.  He has a wonderful plan for each of us and gives perfect instructions along the way.

I agree with that little boy whole heartedly: trust is knowing that whenever we fall down, Father will be there to help us.  Why wouldn’t we all want Him for our Dad?

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them (any difficulty), for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you or forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

Climbing Ladders

I was led down a passageway with steps going deeper and deeper.  When I reached the bottom there was a stretch of metal rungs leading up.  It was so high I could not see the top.  I began to climb.  My arms ached from pulling my body weight up and up and up.  Finally there was a level concrete path to step out on.  I followed the path while it began to go down again.  Then there were more metal rungs which I had to climb to take me up once more.  It was exhausting and scary, leading to nowhere.  Imagine my relief when I finally woke up.

Some say that dreams are a result of something we are going through in life.  Others say dreams are just heartburn expressing itself.  The Bible tells us that sometimes God uses dreams to speak to us. Discerning between life situations, heartburn, or God speaking, is the challenge.  Most of us just roll over, get up, and forget we ever had the dream in the first place.

Dreams in themselves aren’t detrimental to our spiritual or physical wellbeing; however, the paths we choose in life are paramount to our happiness.  The way we choose to go today can have consequences that last a lifetime, so what can we do to assure a life passage of contentment?

The answer itself seems too simple to be true.  We are told in Psalm 119:105, “Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.”  I remember learning a song with these words when I was a child.  When I am seeking God’s direction for any matter in my life, I still sing that song.  The truth of God’s Words sounding in my ears causes peace and joy to rise up within my spirit.  I begin to sense an assurance of Father’s leading and I remember that He always, without exception, has only the very best plans for my life — and for yours.  He tells us this in Jeremiah 29:11, “‘ For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”  

Why is it hard, at times, to believe that our Father is leading our lives, not up endless ladders that lead to nowhere, but along a path of His choosing that will strengthen us, bring lasting peace, sweet joy, and a meaningfulness to keep our confidence for all our days.  We never have to beg our Father to bless us or to lead us, because He loves to do that very thing.  He loves showing us the very best path for our lives.  We need only keep our eyes on the path that is lit by His wonderful, perfect Word.  When we seek, we really do find.

 

A Very Quick Flight

I’ve had the joy and excitement of traveling on so many airplanes that I truly can no longer give an accurate count of the number of flights taken.  Each one has its own story.  There have been times when flights were delayed, twice when an air pocket was hit and the plane dropped several hundred feet in a matter of seconds.  That put our stomachs in our throats.  There have been bumpy landings and smooth ones.  I’ve had friendly seat parters and others that were grumpy.  I’ve had no-stop talking seat partners and those that pretended they didn’t hear me, or anyone else, when they spoke.  Food has never been the best on any flight but some much better than others.  On some flights the weather was clear and I could see for miles across the landscape when coming in to land.  At other times it has been cloudy with very low visibility.  Flights vary but every flight that takes off without incident and lands safely is a great flight.

I took another flight this week.  As the plane taxied down the runway and lifted its nose off the ground, I could feel the force of gravity push my body into the seat.  Then the plane leveled and all felt normal and smooth again.  Yet another airplane ride reminded me of one flight I have yet to take.  I’m looking forward to it.  In fact, the older I get, observing world events, I realise with keen and glad awareness that there is a flight I may take which will literally be out of this world.  Christians refer to it as “The Rapture.”

The Bible promises that one day Jesus will come again; it will be His second coming.  At that time He will set up a new kingdom that will last for a 1000 years.  Then comes the time of Judgement, but that’s not what I’m referring to at this time.  I’m thinking of the greatest flight to be taken ever, and it could happen at any moment!  The Rapture!  Read I Corinthians 15:52-53: “It will happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown.  For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever.  And we who are living will also be transformed.  For our dying bodies must  be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.”  Now read I Thessalonians 4:16-18: “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God.  First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  Then we will be with the Lord forevermore.  So encourage each other with these words.”

Can you imagine that flight?  The sad thing is that not everyone will be on board.  I hope everyone reading this has their flight reserved.  It’s easy to get a ticket.  It’s John 3:16.

 

When The Answer Is No

Earlier in the week I met with a group of friends when the conversation turned to prayer.  We began to discuss various aspects of prayer, especially requests to God that did not get answered according to what we asked.  We’ve all experienced those moments in life when we desire something so strongly that we beg God to make it happen.

There are those who will bargain with God, promising never to ask for another thing if just this one request will be met.  Of course, that’s assuming that we are troubling and annoying God with our pleas.  Our loving heavenly Father loves it when we come to Him with those things that concern us.  We don’t have to make a promise of never bothering Him again.  We are always welcome to come to Him.

Then there will be those who turn away from God altogether when what they ask  for does not come to them.  Their anger and disappointment pushes them away from the One who only answers out of His vast love.  As a Father, there will be times when He says “yes” to what we ask.  He knows that receiving what we ask will indeed bring about great joy.  Equally, there will be times when He says “no.”  He knows that receiving what we ask will bring trouble our way or that what we ask will not bring about the greatest joy.  At other times He will answer “wait.”  Waiting is rarely an easy thing for any of  us.  It’s like a child waiting for Christmas, hoping  that what they have desired will indeed be under the tree.  Even so, there are times when He will answer “wait” because receiving at a later time will bring about the greatest joy.

Our Heavenly Father is vastly concerned with your happiness.  Jesus begins His famous Sermon On The Mount with instruction on how to be happy.  Of course, in the Beatitudes or the Happy-tudes, He is addressing things in our spiritual worlds, but being spiritually happy spills over into our physical worlds and brings contentment in all things — the good and the difficult.

When we pay attention to our spiritual health, we then find that our emotional strength is stronger, our peace is unshattered, and our faith in our Father’s ways is secure.  When we pay attention to our spiritual self, asking the Holy Spirit to speak into our hearts, then we are ready for His answers to our prayers.  We will have a growing love and trust in our own hearts that allows Him to do as He sees best with our lives.  To live in such a manner is out of this world.  Ponder the following, a prayer of Jesus to His Father, concerning us:

“”I’m not asking You to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.  They do not belong to this world anymore than I do.  Make them holy by Your truth; teach them Your Word, which is truth.  Just as You sent me into the world,  I am sending them into the world.  And I give Myself as a sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by Your truth.”  John 17:15-19

 

A Row Of Houses

My mother and I have enjoyed having a friend visit this week.  We’ve been her tour guides and have loved every moment.  Earlier this week our friend and I spent the day in London.  We traveled by train.  As we whizzed through the countryside, villages and towns, I was particularly drawn to the terraced houses.  These are homes built in a long row, all attached to each other.  Basically each house in the strip is identical to its neighbour.  However, as I observed them, I knew that while they may appear alike, each home would be its own distinct place of habitation.

If we could open each door and peek inside, we would no doubt see homes that were very neat and tidy.  Others not so clean and orderly.  Still others might be an absolute mess. No one can see behind a closed door.

It’s the same in the spiritual worlds of our lives.  Mankind can look at the outside.  They may see some faces smiling while others appear indifferent.  Still other faces may be angry or crying.  While the outside may indicate what is possibly on the inside, like an overgrown lawn might suggest untidiness in the home, no one can know for certain.  You and I can only guess what another may be feeling or experiencing, but God knows all.

God says in I Samuel 16:7, “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them.  People judge by outward appearance,  but the Lord looks at the heart.”  The Lord knows our every intention, our every ambition, our ever desire.  He knows when we love and when we detest.  He sees when we smile on the outside because we are happy on the inside, and He sees when the outside smile is a fake, covering up the turmoil behind our facial mask.

God sees all, but that’s not the point of this blog post.  The wonderful point is the truth that God sees the pain and is able to comfort.  He sees when we are trapped by the deceptions of this world and is able to put us back onto a path of righteousness.  We cannot clean up the cluttered mess of our hearts, but our forgiving and loving Father is able to clean us up and then to make us like brand new again.  That is why the Apostle Paul could proclaim the wonderful truth of II Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, all things have become new.”  Isn’t that amazing?

When our hearts become cluttered or downright unclean, that is no reason to keep the door shut tight.  The moment of such a realisation is the moment we need to open the door wide, inviting the Holy Spirit to please take the broom of holiness and clean us up.  The door can only be opened by us.  The key to unlock it from the inside is repentance; which is that sense of regret and desire not to live that way anymore, that stirs us to ask for forgiveness.  When we do, the Holy Spirit begins to clean, sweeping away the debris of this world that can never satisfy, but can only deceive one into thinking they have found joy, when indeed they have only sunk into deception.  When all is forgiven and hearts are clean once more, then true joy fills the rooms of our heart and mind.

A tidy home is pleasant in our physical world; it’s indescribable joy in the home of our spiritual heart.

 

 

 

 

They’re All Mine

I witnessed a touching scene the other day, although an argument was close at hand, between a group of children.  A small boy, about five, was clutching something to his chest.  His face was twisted in alarm.  Two other boys and a girl were taunting him saying, “You can’t keep them.  They’re not yours.”  “Yes, they are, too! My Dad gave them to me!”  The boy kept his hands tightly holding onto what he claimed was his.  Just then a man stepped out the front door and walked over to the group.  (I was getting closer and slowed my pace; the exchange of words so intriguing I didn’t want to miss anything.)  The boy with his treasure turned to his father and said, “they don’t believe these are mine.”  His eyes were locked on his Dad’s face with a look of knowing that he would now be defended.  The boy was right.  “I gave those to him,” the father now ruffled his son’s hair.  The other children shrunk back, appearing sheepish at their false accusation.  Father and son exchanged smiles and walked together into their home.

I walked on with a reminder of God’s deep love for us.  When any of us chooses to receive the love and forgiveness of Jesus into our lives, the enemy Satan, is livid!  He will try his best to make you ineffective for the Kingdom of God.  His best tactic is to lie.  He will whisper that you are not worthy, that God can’t possibly love you anymore.  He will remind you of past wrongdoings.  He will taunt you with, “no one can love someone like you, and God is holy, so He can’t love you anymore either.  You are just too awful!”  Hasn’t the father of lies ever said such things to you?

You and I all know the terrible things we have done or thought.  We don’t need to be reminded by our arch enemy.  After all, when he dares accuse us, claiming that we don’t have the seal of God’s promise of forgiveness, love, and eternal life, who walks out the door to face our accuser?  Jesus Himself.  He says in John 10:28-29, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.  No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and He is more powerful than anyone else.  No one can snatch them from my Father’s hand.”  What a beautiful promise, so assuring and full of lasting peace.

Never forget who you are: a child of God Almighty, clean in the sight of God because you have been washed in the blood of Jesus — every wrongdoing gone and forgotten.  Did you know that the Bible tells us that as soon as we ask forgiveness (meaning it) that Father not only forgives, but remembers the sin no more?  How amazing is that!  Why does He do that?  Because of Grace.  Because of His immeasurable love.

You are His treasure.  He holds you tightly, clutching you to His heart.  Safe in His hands — for eternity.

 

An Unusual Peace

My mother and I have the joy of living close to the sea.  Nearly everyday we drive along the seaside. There are seagulls; and lately with the sunshine, there are kite surfers, children playing, picnics, and dog walkers.  Such a feeling of the hope of summer coming.

Today as we were driving along, returning from our own time of dog walking, I glanced at the people and activity along the shore.  That’s when a memory of long ago came back to me.  I had gone down to the beach just to find a place to sit and enjoy the beauty of the wind and sea and sun.  I remember that as I sat there I began to pay close attention to the people all around me.  In fact, I would say I felt drawn to them but I didn’t know why.  I tried to turn my attention back to seagulls diving, and waves rolling onto the shore, but no, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the people.  That’s when I sensed God whispering into my heart, “pray for them.”  What?  I don’t know these people nor have I ever even met them.  I considered my reasoning to be valid, but still, the whispers of Father were unmistakable.  “Pray for them.”  So I sat there, fastening my eyes on one person after another, praying for them.

You might be wondering what I prayed since I knew nothing about them.  It occurred to me that I can pray a blessing on someone without knowing anything about them at all.  We can all do that for anyone, whether we know them or not, and what a truly wonderful and loving thing to do.

The Lord said something to Moses about this in Numbers 6:23-27: “Tell Aaron and his sons to bless the people of Israel with this special blessing: ‘May the Lord bless you and protect you.  May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.  May the Lord show His favor and give you peace.’  Whenever Aaron and his sons bless the people of Israel in my name, I myself will bless them.”  Isn’t that an amazing thought?  As we pray a blessing on someone, it rouses the blessing of Father upon them.  God has given us the amazing privilege of interacting with Him, through prayer, to bring blessing upon someone else.

As we drove along the sea today, with that memory of the whispers of God to me so long ago, I smiled and thanked Him for the habit that formed in my life from that moment.  I pray for people in airports, while I’m driving along, when I see others walking their dogs, or even just glancing out my widow and seeing someone walking along the sidewalk.

When I do that, you know what I have discovered that happens to me?  My own worries and troubles seem to fade into something manageable.  At times, life’s struggles loom large, often, seemingly insurmountable.  When I pray a blessing on someone, it brings my own concerns into the proper perspective of, “with God, nothing will be impossible.”  Luke 1:37  God has designed a way for us to have an unusual peace; a peace that comes through a desire to bless someone else.  It gives us fresh strength, a renewed joy, and hope that the troubles of today, are safe and manageable in the hands of our loving Heavenly Father.

 

Finding The Source

I love reading the true stories of history and how people coped with the knowledge they had at the time.  Recently I was reading about the London cholera epidemic of 1854.  For a long time it was believed that bad smells were the source of the disease.  However, it was reasoned that those richer with access to properly cleaning themselves were hit with the disease just as many of the poor.  The source was finally traced to a particular area of the city  where the drinking water had become contaminated.  When that was eradicated, the disease came to an end and people enjoyed good health once more.

This drew my thoughts to the diseased condition of our world; not in the physical sense, but spiritually speaking.  The Bible tells us that Jesus “…came that we might have life and that we might have it abundantly.”  To help us achieve that in our world of sinfulness, He has given us His own Holy Word as a guide.  He longs and loves for us to be overflowing in great joy, to know we are loved, to value ourselves, to be honest with each other.  His guidance leads us to achieve that level of success and joy — and we can have it for eternity.

His Word also shows us what pitfalls to avoid.  It’s our choice.  Follow His perfect ways and know indescribable joy and peace.  Turn from His perfect ways and know a destruction of love and joy and peace.

Nearly 3000 years ago, the prophet Isaiah foretold many things.  Some of those things have already come to pass; for example, the birth of Jesus.  He also foretells the second coming of Christ.  That has yet to come.  Interestingly, Isaiah tells us in what condition the world will be just before Jesus returns to claim His own and to set up His perfect Kingdom on earth.  The Bible tells us there will be a new heaven and a new earth.  When that happens, there will be no more sin at all.  Everything will be perfect in love and joy and peace — for eternity.  This life will be for all who choose the way of Jesus now.  Those who choose to turn away from God, in the here and now, will live without Him — for eternity.  What a sad and terrible thought, especially when it doesn’t have to be!

Our world is tragically in a great danger zone with so many people choosing to go against God and His ways in large numbers.  We see our world looking for meaning to life in all the wrong places.  Their judgement is impaired.  What was once known to be bad, they now call good.  What was once known to be good is now called bad.  This is why the world chooses death for babies not yet born, falling under the deception that it’s really just helping women.  This is why the world now embraces men making love to men and women making love to women; men deciding they’re really women and women deciding they’re really men.  Constant drunkenness resulting in vomit and headaches is called fun.  Unfaithfulness in relationships is accepted as the norm while waiting to have sex only after being married is called foolish.   Meanwhile, everyday the crime rate rises around the world.  Shootings, stabbings, bombings — and the world shouts “Why?”  Some blame God, if there is a God, they say.  All the while, God is loving them and longing for them to come to Him for perfect guidance so their world may be filled with meaning rather than emptiness.

Read what  the prophet wrote 3000 years ago in Isaiah 5: “What sorrow for those who drag their sins behind them with ropes made of lies, who drag wickedness behind them like a cart!  They even mock God and say, ‘Hurry up and do something! We want to see what You can do.  Let the Holy One of Israel carry out His plan, for we want to know what it is.’  What sorrow for those who say that what is evil is good and what is good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.  What sorrow for those who are right in their own eyes and think themselves so clever.  What sorrow for those who are heroes at drinking wine and boast about the alcohol they can hold.  They take bribes to let the wicked go free and they punish the innocent.”  I encourage you to read the whole chapter.  It’s a sad and terrible picture of the world we live in, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  It’s an individual choice to choose God and life —  or not.

Spiritual death is all around us.  It’s an epidemic.  People are searching for joy and meaning to living but death draws near to them.   The source to this epidemic is drinking contaminated water; the dirty water of this sinful world who hates God and His Words of guidance.  We can turn away from the contamination and be made clean instead.  We can drink of the life of Jesus.  “He is the Light of the world and in Him is no darkness at all.”  I John 1:5

The source of eternal death is darkness (those things that are against the ways of God).

The source of eternal life is Jesus.  “He is the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Him.”  John 14:6

I invite you to take a moment right now to pray for those you know who are choosing darkness.  May they search for and find the Light.  Jesus is waiting and calling.

 

 

A Matter of Washing Your Feet

Happiness often seems to allude us.  There are all sorts of things or situations that we know makes us happy:  vacation time, reading a good book, watching a favorite old film, coffee with a friend, working on your hobby, plus a whole lot more.  There is much in this physical world to make us happy, but how do we remain happy in our spiritual worlds?

Do you remember those times when the presence of God was so sweet?  Perhaps you were worshipping through song; the notes rising and falling, creating a swell of delight in your innermost being, the words probing thoughts of intimacy with the One you love so much.  Maybe His presence seemed closest as you were walking alone with Him in the beautiful nature He created.  Such moments may have come while reading something in His Word that gave a needed direction, or a reminder of His infinite love for you.  Those moments are strengthening in courage, faith building, sweet in fellowship.  We adore those moments — but they don’t seem to last.  Why?

It could be a matter of washing your feet.  You remember the story of Jesus when He washed His disciples feet?  It’s recorded in John 13.  The disciples were astonished and probably a little embarrassed that they had not thought to wash Jesus’ feet.  It was culturally good behavior in that time and place to wash the feet of one’s visitors.  You see, everyone wore sandals, and roads were dusty.  Therefore, the washing of one’s feet upon arrival was refreshing for the guest and a good idea for the host in keeping the home clean.

The disciples felt badly that they had not thought to be so kind as to wash the feet of Jesus, but Jesus took the opportunity to teach a spiritual lesson.  You see, when any of us comes to Jesus, believing that He came to die on the cross to pay for our sins, and asks His forgiveness, He cleanses us from all sin — a Holy bath.  Then, by the Holy Spirit, He takes up residence in our lives.  We are spiritually born again.  “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”  II Corinthians 5:17  We are forgiven and clean; however, we still live in a sinful world.  In other words, as we walk through the days of our lives, we get our feet dirty.  We don’t need another bath, but as we walk in the world, being tempted by and succumbing to its sinful lure, we need to have our feet washed.

As soon as we know our feet need to be washed; ask Father, with a heart of true repentance, for His forgiveness.  He will immediately wash your dirty feet, restoring your joy once again in the sweetness of His forever forgiveness and love.  There is a level of  intimacy with Jesus that one can never fully attain without understanding — the matter of washing your feet.