What Trees Say to Me

I often find wonderful lessons in the things that God has created. Take trees for instance. Have you ever noticed that trees stand with their arms constantly uplifted? I know they are not arms, but branches. Isn't it cool that when a tree grows it reaches for the sky. Obviously there are scientific reasons for this, such as the tree's need for light. The tree grows toward the source of light. Of course, if you believe in a Creator, then you probably would agree that God not only made the tree so that it would grow toward the light, but made it so that it could teach us lessons. What sort of lessons can we learn from a tree?

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1. Make your roots deep. Trees that have deep roots are better able to stand in the devastating storms that come along. In the past few years we have had a few strong storms come through our town. In the aftermath it is not uncommon to see pine trees laying across yards and roadways. Pine trees have shallower roots. It is harder for them to stand when the winds are fiercely blowing. So too, in our lives, the deeper we grow our roots into Christ and His word, the better we will fair when the strong winds of difficulty sweep through our lives. 

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2. Grow towards the light. As I said before, trees and all green plants will grow toward the source of light. Put a plant in the window and watch which way the leaves and flowers turn after a few days time. Or try moving the plant away from the window and see what happens. Plants need light. We need light as well. Not just the sunshine, but the light of truth and the light of a relationship with Jesus. Without light we will stop growing and spiritually we would eventually die. The light of Christ and His truth gives us the necessary nutrients and energy we need for growth. 

Pixabay - autumn trees

3. Lift your branches up. The trees remember to praise God so why do we so easily forget? What happens when the storms come? The trees bend and sway, but their arms stay lifted up. If something as simple as a tree can keep its branches lifted up, as if in praise to God, even when the storms blow, then we can lift our hearts, hands and voices to Him also, when life gets difficult. I know from personal experience that this is not an easy task. There are times I would much rather curl into a ball to wait out the storm, rather than standing firm with my arms uplifted in praise to Him. However, God gives the strength, just as He enables the tree to stand in the mighty gale.

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4. Produce fruit. Whether it be the beautiful leaves that help produce the oxygen we breath, the nuts that fall to the ground in the fall or the many fruits from apples to oranges, cherries to peaches, all trees produce some sort of fruit. This begs me to ask the question, what sort of fruit am I producing? Am I a growing, living tree, producing beautiful leaves that bring life, hope and shade to a world that is weary and worn? Am I bearing fruit that is accessible for all to pick and enjoy? Are my words, my actions, my thoughts and my life bearing the image of the One who created all living things?  

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5. Be the tree God made you to be. Not all trees are the same. There are so many varieties, shapes and sizes. No two, even in the same family are exactly the same. Look at one maple tree compared to another. Every branch is different. Every leaf is different. Not every tree serves the same purpose. There are hundreds of species of shade trees. There numerous fruit trees....just think of all the different kinds of apples we have. You are just exactly who God made you to be. Are you perfect? No! None of us are. God created you for His purposes. And just as a tree doesn't question how God made it, we can choose to thank God for how He made us and follow His lead to lift our arms in praise to Him in fair weather and foul.

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.
— Psalm 1:3 (NASB)
The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
— Psalm 92:12
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who is wise wins souls.
— Proverbs 11:30 (NASB)
“For you will go out with joy And be led forth with peace; The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
— Isaiah 55:12 (NASB)
For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush.
— Luke 6:44 (NASB)

Mulling it Over: Part 8 - Ephesians 6:17

Today I will be looking at the 5th piece of armor that Paul mentions in Ephesians 6:10-18. Last time we mulled over the shield of faith. Verse 17 actually covers two pieces of armor, but we will look at them one at a time.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
— Ephesians 6:17 (NASB)
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Pixabay

Piece #5 - The Helmet of Salvation

The galea is another name for the Roman helmet. Helmets were worn as protection for the head from as far back as mankind began fighting wars. Today, helmets are worn, not only by soldiers but by motorcycle riders, bike riders, football players and other sports enthusiasts. The head is very important and contains the control center for our whole body. 

When a person is determined to be brain dead, whether by illness or injury, the brain is no longer showing any life activity. The body will follow the direction of the brain and without artificial support will die. Obviously, keeping the brain safe and the head uninjured was and still is of prime importance when fighting a battle. 

Why is it that salvation is so important to our heads as protection? Since the brain controls and processes all incoming and outgoing information, I would like to look at three areas the helmet of salvation protects.

1. Spiritual

We are spiritual beings. God created us, not only to be physical, but to be spiritual. The spiritual part of us becomes fully formed and understood when we accept the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. 

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Pixabay

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.
— 1 Corinthians 2:12-13 (NASB)

Salvation enables us to see with our spiritual eyes.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
— Ephesians 1:18 (NASB)

It is through the spirit that we are connected to God the Father, through Jesus Christ. If we toss out the helmet of salvation our thinking will become skewed and we will no longer have spiritual understanding. 

Is it any wonder that there is so much confusion and misunderstanding in our world today? Without salvation through Jesus Christ we do not have His wisdom and clarity, because we do not have His spirit.

2. Mental

I am sure you have heard of Joyce Meyers, Battlefield of the Mind. In her typical straight forward way, Joyce explains that it is in our minds the battle rages. The battle of truth versus falsehood, good versus evil, right versus wrong. As I said earlier, the mind controls our bodies, not only in a physical cellular way, but in a thought processing sort of way. 

Our relationship with Jesus affects how our minds work and what we think. If we adhere to truth, acknowledging that Christ is Lord and reading His word, our minds will try to combat the lies that the world constantly throws at us. If we saturate ourselves in the gospel message our minds will find rest, peace and freedom from mental chaos. 

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull 

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull 

Speaking from personal experience, I have had to return over and over to certain scriptures because my mind does not naturally want to accept truth. The word says that God loves me, sometimes I still question that. Belief in the person and work of Jesus has given me worth, but even in my 50's I still struggle with my value. The mind can be easily led astray, thus the importance of the helmet of salvation.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life
— John 3:16 (NASB)

3. Emotional

Once again, we know that the brain is the command  center for controlling emotions as well as physical and mental capacities. Wearing the helmet of salvation enables our mind to keep our emotions in check. Don't get me wrong, I am not expecting us to be emotionless creatures. God created us with the capacity to feel. However, only feeling and not thinking can be detrimental to our health and even dangerous. 

Think about the range of emotions you can experience in one week, or for that matter in one day. You might wake up feeling peaceful, but within five minutes when the kids are running late or the baby is crying and you can't find your car keys, your emotions tend to go from peaceful to stressed out. Throw in traffic, a bad day at work and a fight with your spouse and your emotions can literally run the gambit from peaceful to stressed, to sad to angry. 

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Pixabay

Knowing Jesus as Lord and immersing ourselves in His word can give us the ability to temper our emotions, even the ability to bring every situation to Him and rely on Him for the grace to get through each difficulty. Just think about the scriptures that address emotion.

Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
— Ephesians 4:26 (NASB)
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
— Philippians 4:6 (NASB)
Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
— Isaiah 41:10 (NASB)
Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.
— Psalm 42:5 (NASB)
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
— Philippians 4:4 (NASB)
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The helmet of salvation is a key piece of armor that we should never forget to put on. You might say that once I am saved I don't need to worry about the helmet it is always on my head. However, I do think that we can become so preoccupied by all the other hats we wear, that we forget the helmet is there, always able to protect us.

The helmet of salvation is key to protecting our thinking. Out relationship with Christ protects us spiritually, mentally and emotionally. I hope you own this important piece of armor.

Have a great week! 

 

Waiting.

She walked with purpose through the camp. Her waiting had turned to worry and her worry had turned to anger. Why weren't they moving? Why were they just sitting here? The enemy's walls were within sight, which meant her daughter, who had been in his filthy grasp for more than two months, was within the reach of her arms. Her arms longed to hold her once again, to look into her sweet face and see those blue eyes smile back at her. 

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Pixabay

She saw the King's tent ahead. Two guards stood outside the entry and just as she made to move past them, they blocked her way with their long spears. She backed up angrily.

"What is the meaning of this? I am here to see the King."

The two guards didn't even flinch. Staring straight ahead the one said, "The King is not to be disturbed, by anyone."

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Pixabay

She stepped up to the one who spoke and looked up at his face. He was at least a foot taller than her, but she was not going to be intimidated. 

"I am the King's daughter. He will most certainly see me."

The guard did not move, his expression stony. "He will not be disturbed by anyone, not even you, your Highness!"

She fumed, but she also remembered her place. She was the King's daughter, but He was the King. Ranting and raging would only make her look a fool and would not serve to get answers to her questions any sooner. 

She took a deep breath. "Would you please tell my father, as soon as is convenient, that I need to see him?"

The guard did not speak, merely gave a curt nod.

She moved away, ranting and raging on the inside. 

*           *            *            *             *

The small brook she sat beside had a calming effect on her tumultuous nerves. As the sun began to slide behind the horizon she heard a voice behind her.

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"So I have found you."

Her father joined her on the fallen log that she was using as a bench. 

She stared at the stream, willing herself to be calm.

"I was told you wanted to see me."

She made no response.

"Here I am!" His voice was almost jovial.

She sprang to her feet, whirling on him as if he was the enemy himself.

"How can you be so calm? The enemy is within sight and yet here we sit! My daughter is within reach and yet we have been camped here for days. You have been distant from me, even telling your guards to not let me, your own daughter, in to see you. I am mad with the waiting!"

He patted the log beside him. "Come. Sit beside me."

She started to pace. It was her default, to keep moving. Moving meant she was doing something and doing something was far better than doing nothing at all. She said as much.

"I do not want to sit. I want to go get my daughter. I want to go in and kill the man who has no doubt violated her by now. We don't even know if she is still alive."

Once again, he patted the log next to him, his voice a bit more forceful.

"Sit!"

She took a deep, steadying breath, then sat back down. 

"You have been trained to be a warrior. You know as much about tactics and battle as I do, maybe even more. You also are aware, that this enemy is not one to be trifled with. He has his own tactics, many of which have taken husbands from their wives and fathers from their children. I will not go into this battle on anyone's timeline, but my own."

Now it was his turn to stand up and pace. 

"You don't think I've lost sleep over the fact that my grand daughter is in the hands of that beast? Do you think I am unaware of the ramifications of delay? That little girl is never going to be the same, but to rescue her alive is my only goal. Our enemy will have no qualms about taking her life. My goal is to keep that from happening...but it must be done with great care."

He went and knelt before her. This time he took her hands in his own.

"You must trust me. You must believe in my ability as you father and as your King."

She felt her anger recede to a dark corner of her mind. As tears filled her eyes, she said, "Help my unbelief!" 

She leaned into his strength and sobbed.

for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’
— Deuteronomy 20:4 (NASB)

This was a fiction piece by Amy D. Christensen. You can see the first two parts to this series by clicking on the titles below.

Part 1: Return to Battle

Part 2: A Father's Perspective

 

 

 

What I am Thankful for Today

I am not trying to sound trite or simplistic, but there really is something to the idea of being grateful. I have brought this up before in many of my other faith posts, but as I sit here this evening, I started doing some thinking on what to write about for this week's Faith page. With so much tragedy and difficulty happening all around us, I felt the need for setting my eyes on someone and something much higher than I.

We all know the tragedy that is going on in Texas right now. The devastation is real and visceral. I cannot begin to feel the loss that so many are experiencing. Unfortunately, the difficulties of others often do make us more thankful for what we have and the comforts that we so easily forget and take advantage of. So for today's post, I just want to give you a list of things I am thankful for.

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Pixabay

1. The sun. I am sure many of our comrades down south can't wait for the rain to stop and the sun to shine. We never really appreciate this giant flaming orb that God placed in the center of our solar system, until we haven't see it for a while. Being a sufferer of seasonal affective disorder, I thank God everyday that the sun is shining. Sometimes I will stick my face in a sunny spot and just soak it in for a few seconds, channeling my inner kitty.

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Pixabay

2. A hot shower. There is something about clean, hot water that just seems to wake up the senses and get us going in the morning. 

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Pixabay

3. Trees. This is one thing that I love about living in a city filled with trees. Just recently my husband and I took a walk at one of our many area Metroparks and I was entranced by the beauty of so many variations on trees; tall and lanky, short and stubby, pines, oaks, maples, and our own Ohio Buckeye. Trees provide shade, wood, food and shelter for animals and humans and most importantly oxygen. Our world wouldn't be much of a world without trees.

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Pixabay

4. A bed to sleep in. I don't always wake up well rested, but then I think of how much more difficult life would be without a place to sleep. Even now, I think of so many Texan's that are displaced due to the flooding from Hurricane Harvey. They will be fortunate if they get a cot or a mat on the floor at an area community center or school, let alone will they have their own pillow, blankets or space. What a blessing, even when it is old and lumpy, to have a bed to sleep in.

Drinking fountain

5. Clean drinking water. I don't have to even think about what comes out of my faucet when i turn it on. I know it is treated water and won't be filled with little critters that will make me sick. If our city water takes a turn for the worse, I know I can go to the store and get clean bottled water for just a few dollars. There are many areas of the world where clean water is an unknown. 

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Pixabay

6. Basic human rights. We get off in a lot of directions in the country, but the fact of the matter is we have many rights that other countries do not have. We can come and go as we please. We can wear what we want, eat what we like and hang out with whomever we choose. We can speak our mind and not worry about being thrown in jail or worse. We can shop, go the movies and church, for the most part, without fear. When we are sick we can go to the doctor and we will be taken care of. 

7. Food. I don't know about you, but I love food and I love variety. We have so much food and so much variety that we should never get bored with our eating choices. We also have the blessing of most of our food being clean and properly prepared. Granted things happen...out breaks of salmonella, and other bacteria do happen, but for the most part our food is managed carefully.

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8. Books. Maybe you don't like books or like to read, in which case you are probably not reading this, but I love books and I am so thankful for the knowledge they bring us and the worlds they transport us to. Books have had such an important impact on my life, so I will always be thankful for them.

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9. Health. Often when we are young we don't think about our health and just live life to the fullest. As we get older, we start to realize some of our choices have or will affect our health. I am thankful for what I have today, because tomorrow things might be different. My husband and I have started walking every day, (as often as we can). It has helped to relieve stress, gives us time together and gets our hearts pumping. 

10. Faith. For me, my faith in Jesus Christ is the most important element of my life. It affects everything I do. Unfortunately, I am not always the best example. I make poor choices, get emotional, worry and forget that I am His, more often than I would like to admit, but faith is what gives my life focus and purpose. 

These are just a few of the things I am thankful for today! What are you thankful for? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 

Have a great weekend!

 

The Winds of Change

We all know change is inevitable. With the coming of fall, my mind often turns towards the changes that are beginning to take place. We see the changes all around us in the yellow school buses that are back in traffic, the grass dressed in morning housecoats of dew, plants beginning to wilt and fade and leaves starting their colorful descent towards life's end. Most of us enjoy these changes. Moms with school age children are usually ready to resume the routines associated with their children being back at school. Homeowners look forward to putting away the lawnmowers and trimmers for the long winter season and those of us who love nature look forward to the colorful display of potted mums and changing leaves. 

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Pixabay

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Pixabay

fall

Change can also be very scary.

There, I said it. You know it is true. Many changes are not looked forward to like those I listed above. Change can involve pain, volatile emotions and overwhelming shadows of the unknown. Anyone facing the difficult changes of a divorce, a long term disability or illness or the loss of a loved one, know that change can take on a very different appearance. Instead of looking exciting and enjoyable, change looks lonely and terrifying. So how can we embrace change, even when it is difficult?

Know that God did not intend for things to stay the same.

In our relationship with Christ, God the Father has an ultimate plan, our growth and development as His children. You knew when you had children, the ultimate goal was to nourish and take care of them so they could, ultimately, take care of themselves. Most parents look forward to the day they can see their child go off to college or get married, or move to start a new job. They never intended their children stay with them forever. An attitude like that, would not only be difficult on the marriage, but it would be extremely limiting for the child. They need to grow and become the individuals they were meant to be. 

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
— Philippians 2:1-3 (NASB)

God did not intend we stay the same. Life is all about change. Many changes we have absolutely no control over. However, we do have control over ourselves and our attitudes towards those changes. Every time we choose to have the mind of Christ, rather than feeling sorry for ourselves or becoming anxious, we grow and become more like Him.

Know that God is with you through the change.

Going through change can be extremely lonely. I am sure there are times when you are encountering change that you don't feel at liberty to share your burdens with other people. These are the times to remember His is with you. He will never leave you.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
— Joshua 1:9 (NASB)

Did you ever really look at that verse? God commanded...you heard me right. God commanded that Joshua not be afraid, that he be strong and courageous. Isn't He commanding us to do the same thing when our lives are chaotic with change? Because he is with us, we can do it. 

I am the Lord, I have called You in righteousness, I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You...
— Isaiah 42:6(a) (NASB)

Know that God will give you the strength to get through it.

Going through difficult changes can be exhausting, especially if the change has to do with physical distress or limitations. Emotional changes can also leave us feeling drained. Many times when we are encountering change we have a harder time sleeping, eating and just doing the normal every day routine. However, routine is important, especially when your life is in upheaval. Try to wake up at the same time, go to bed at the same time, eat when you need to eat, brush your teeth, get dressed and so on.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)

God is capable. When I get to the point where life just won't let up, I find myself returning to this verse in Philippians over and over. I claim it. I bring my fatigue and distress to the Lord and simply say, "Lord, your word says, 'I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.' I claim that promise now and trust You to give me the strength I need to keep going." You know what? He has never failed me. He always gives me the strength to get through the changes that are going on in my ever rocking world. 

That strength may not always be physical. You might be flat on your back in the hospital, but He will give you the strength mentally and emotionally to deal with those changes. Remember, it is all about Him. He will give you strength because He is the one who will be glorified as you get through the winds of change.  

Mulling it Over: Part 7 - Ephesians 6:16

Today in my Mulling It Over series on the Armor of God I am looking at Ephesians 6:16. This piece of armor is essential as protection. While the other pieces, so far, have been actual body armor - the belt, the breastplate and the shoes, this piece is defensive, but not attached to the body. 

in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
— Ephesians 6:16 (NASB)

Piece # 4 - Shield of Faith

There were three types of Roman shields. The legionaire scutum was a long oval or rectangular shield used by foot soldiers. It was particularly effective in battle when a group of soldiers would stand side by side. The scutum created a wall which was almost impenetrable. The shields could also be turned skyward to keep arrows from hitting their targets.

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Pixabay

The other two types of Roman shields were the parma and the clipeus. Both of these shields were round. The parma was used by soldiers on horseback and was easier to maneuver. They were, however, made with an iron frame and were heavy. These eventually were replaced with the clipeus which was designed similarly to the Greek aspis. (This info was gleaned from this article by Graham Land.)

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Pixabay

There are several points I would like to make regarding this piece of armor. Once again, I would like to dissect the verse to squeeze the most out of it we can.

1. In addition to all...

This phrase at the beginning of the verse causes me to think there is something important to derive from it. This would seem to refer back to the pieces of armor that were listed before hand. In other words once you have put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness and the shoes of the gospel of piece, now it is time...

2. ...taking up....

It is time to take up...don't just leave that shield sitting on the floor, or the bedside table or on a shelf in the closet. Get it out and pick it up. Carry it. Use it. Protect yourself with it. That is exactly what it is intended to be used for.

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3. ...the shield of faith....

So what is the shield of faith? Let's have a little discussion on faith. Faith is essentially belief. A belief in something or someone. For us as Christ followers we place our faith or our belief in Jesus Christ. When we take that step or make that choice to believe we now have faith. 

Everyone has some sort of faith. When you go to sit in a chair you have faith the chair will hold you. When you get up in the morning you have faith the sun will rise. We have faith in the medicine we take, the food we eat and the police that keep us safe. 

Our faith in Jesus is much deeper and more life changing that the faith that allows me to sit in a chair. My faith is in Christ, a person. Yes He is also God, which is a real plus!

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval.By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.
— Hebrews 11:1-3 (NASB)

Why does Paul refer to our faith as a shield? Ask yourself this question, what would my life be like without my faith? My answer would be, empty. A living and active faith, one that believes in a living and active God, fills our life with the breath of the Almighty and the firm foundation of a risen Savior. My faith affects everything I do, or at least it should. It should affect our choices, what we do, where we go, how we act and react. There are 378 verses in the Bible that contain the word faith (or a derivation such as faithful or faithfully, etc.). There are 259 verses in the Bible that use the word believe

Now, think about the things that affect your faith. What sorts of things shake you? What events challenge your faith? What difficulties crimp your faith and which ones cause your faith to grow? Can you think of a time that you started to doubt? Doubt that God exists, cares or loves you? Imagine if you allowed that doubt to grow? What would happen to your faith and what would happen to your life?

Faith is our shield. To fully understand how this works, let's look at the last part of Ephesians 6:16.

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4. ...with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Whoa! That's some pretty hefty battle damage, extinguishing all the flaming arrows of the evil one! It doesn't say one or two arrows, or even a few dozen, it says all. This shield of faith is capable of combatting any arrow Satan throws at us. Did you get that? All the flaming arrows.

If you want to know what these arrows look like, think about any negative thought that pops into your mind: worry, fear, despair, hopelessness, envy, lust, anger, malice, gossip....I'm sure you can add more. These are Satan's arrows. It is our faith that protects us from these fire tipped barbs. 

"I'm worried about my job....God says do not be anxious."

"I'm afraid...God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind."

"I feel hopeless...my hope is in the Lord."

"I wish I had that...as Paul said, 'Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.'"

"I am so angry...God's word says to cease from anger and forsake wrath, fretting only leads to evil doing."

Satan knows the greatest battle is in our mind. Look at the world we live in. Opposing ideologies, racism, terrorism, acceptance of so many things that were once seen as taboo. It would seem that our enemy is walking out in the open, reveling in every moment. Even Christians are being taken in by the lies of our enemy. That is exactly why we need to raise our shield of faith. 

It is my faith in God and His word, that enables me to take up the shield and use it against my enemy. We need to recognize the fiery arrows of our enemy and raise our shield against him. Battle on warriors! Battle on! 

Steadfast Hope

Last week I wrote about Elusive Hope. The purpose for calling it elusive, is that there are times hope is very hard to find. When life constantly beats us down, it is hard to keep feeling like there is much hope. Here is where we must make a differentiation. Hope is not a feeling. 

Webster's online dictionary defines hope in these ways: to cherish a desire with anticipation, trust (though it says that this is an archaic definition), to desire with expectation of obtainment or fulfillment, to expect with confidence. 

I find it interesting that this online version of Webster's dictionary calls the definition trust, archaic. I would not dismiss this definition so easily, especially when looking at what the scripture has to say about hope.

For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.” And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise. For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
— Hebrews 6:13-20 (NASB)

There is much to learn from the book of Hebrews, about faith and about hope. I actually asked my husband for help on this one. Being a philosophy instructor, he has spent most of his adult life musing over writings that are not easily understood. He has a unique ability to look at something logically, especially when it comes to language. I can write. But I cannot write on the level of a Kierkegaard, or an Aquinas. 

The writer of Hebrews, while fairly easy to understand, still delves into writing that must be mulled over, not glossed over. Just like the book of Romans, there is so much in this book and I am only looking at one small passage. 

The part that intrigued me was this: "...In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us..."

There are several points that need to be made. 

1. When it came to making promises in that day, men swore by one greater than themselves. So, in other words, men would swear by heaven or by God that they would do what they said they were going to do. 

2. They basically sealed the contract by performing an oath. The oath made the promise so. 

When it comes to salvation God did both of these things. He made a promise to us and swore according to Himself, since there is no one higher than Him. He also, then sealed that promise with an oath, or a guarantee. 

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
— John 3:16 (NASB)

God made the promise and then sealed it with a blood oath, that of His son Jesus Christ. 

What I find fascinating is the fact that this phrase was included, "...in which it is impossible for God to lie..." The things that the author is referring to, would be the swearing and the oath. God made a promise to us, through His son Jesus Christ and He cannot lie.

Therefore, we have "...strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us." What is that strong encouragement? The fact that God swore by Himself and that He sealed the promise with an oath. He cannot lie, so the fact that He told us if we believe in Jesus, we will have eternal life, along with all the other promises in the Bible means He will do it. He is as good as His word.

So elusive hope, becomes steadfast, because of what God did. Bringing back the idea of hope to the definition of trust makes perfect sense. We are placing our hope or our trust in an almighty God. There is no one higher than Him. He cannot lie. He is good. 

It is this hope in God that becomes our anchor. It is sure and it is steadfast and best of all it enters into the veil as Jesus did! This hope is more real than the earth we stand on or the stars we see in the sky. 

Next time you feel hopeless or that hope is hiding like a rainbow on a sunny day, take a closer look. Hope is blooming all around us, because it is found in Him. 

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull 

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull 

Elusive Hope

Elusive hope.

A rainbow, seen, real, but untouchable.

The bow in the sky, bordered by storms and darkness, gives us pause.

A reminder that He was with us, from the beginning.

A reminder that no matter how bad it gets, this one thing remains...

     When the conditions are just right, the rain, the sun, the clouds...

The rainbow.

Sometimes we can see hope, like the bow of colors,

Real, seen, but untouchable.

Yet we are reminded, there is always hope, 

     Just like there is always a rainbow.

But hope is not based on just the right conditions.

It solely rests in Him.

Pixabay

Pixabay

My soul, wait in silence for God only,
For my hope is from Him.
— Psalm 62:5 (NASB)

Lord God, we are your people; the sheep of your pasture. It is in You that we live and breath and have our being. You are the God of all creation and we acknowledge that we are but dust.

But we are Yours and we are struggling. We need hope. Not an elusive hope, like a bow set in the clouds that we cannot hold onto, but a real living, breathing hope.

Give us a hope that we can see, like the night sky filled with stars that have existed ever since creation.

Give us a hope that we can feel, like the ground on which we walk.

Give us a hope that we can hear, like the bird song that is revived every morning.

Give us a hope that we can taste, like biting into a fresh peach, so sweet and juicy it makes our tongue tingle.

That Lord, is the hope I pray for...for the mother who wonders when their child will no longer suffer; for the father who paces the floor wondering where his daughter is; for the couple who believe the embers of their marriage have finally burned out; for the child who thinks the abuse is their fault....Lord give us hope!

(I know I have posted this video before, but once again it seems appropriate. I pray it will give you hope.)

Deep Waters

Summer weather always makes me long for the beach, or at least somewhere near the water. What is it about water that fascinates us so? I know for me, some of it may be the lovely pictures I come across in magazines of quaint sea side cottages decorated with lovely reminders of the vast ocean just outside the door. Water has a therapeutic effect. I love to sit near it, watching the waves rolling in or listening to the rush of foam hitting the shore. 

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

Water can also be frightening. It can cause catastrophic flooding and overwhelm the largest ocean going vessels. We all desire safe harbor, but sometimes God has something very different in mind. Once in a while He will cut the lines that tether us to the shore and set us on a sea that would scare the bravest and most seasoned sailor. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

Oswald Chambers states it perfectly:

If you yourself do not cut the lines that tie you to the dock, God will have to use a storm to sever them and send you out to sea...If you believe in Jesus, you are not to spend all your time in the calm waters, just inside the harbor, full of joy, but always tied to the dock. You have to get out past the harbor and into the great depths of God, and begin to know things for yourself—-begin to have spiritual discernment.”
— My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

I love word pictures. This picture struck me right between the eyes. I love being in safe harbor. I love to feel at peace and know that life is running smoothly. I like organization, and like many women, I want to feel like I am in control, at least of some aspect of life. For me that is safe. What isn't safe is not knowing where your kids are at three or four in the morning, having pain or illness that can't be diagnosed, losing your job or getting old. These things are all reminders that we have very little in our control. 

I believe that we can become dependent and even prideful of our place in that peaceful harbor. We become fixated on the ropes that are tethering us to the dock believing that it is the ropes that keep our boat safe and secure. That is when the storms come and sever our ties, ripping the very ropes we took pride in and depended upon, from the dock and setting us adrift on an angry,  sea.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Why would God do that? Why would He take us from that safe place and send us out on a stormy ocean? Doesn't He care about us? Doesn't He know that we are afraid?

Of course He does, but He also knows that you will never grow if you are forever in the safe harbor. He knows every hair on your head, every cell in your body and He knows just exactly what you need. Our journey in this life is about our relationship with Him. It is about letting go of everything we hold dear and clinging to Christ alone. 

I know this is hard. I have experienced the storm and I have felt my strongest ropes (the things I thought were right) torn away from that peaceful dock. I have cowered, terrified, in the bottom of the boat wondering when that monster wave would finally take me under. But always at that darkest and most chaotic moment, I would lift my eyes just a bit over the edge of the boat and I would see Him coming to me on the waves. He would come, climb into my boat and we would ride those stormy seas like a surfer hanging ten! 

Oh yes, my stomach has roiled, just like the sea. My mind has crashed just like those tumultuous waves, but gradually the storm would move away, the waves would soften and the wind would calm. He would take my hand and say,

"Peace, dear lamb. Be still."

He alone can overcome our pride. He alone can ride the storm out with us. He alone can speak peace into our troubled hearts.

Dear ones, don't cling to tightly to those plans you have made, nor those ropes that tether you to the dock. He may be calling you out into deep waters.

Mulling It Over - Part 6 - Ephesians 6:15

This month as I continue to look at the armor of God we are going to talk about shoes! As a fashion blogger, I love shoes of all sorts, whether it be sandals, boots, heels or flats, I love to have a variety of shoes to go with the variety of outfits that I post and talk about. 

I find it interesting that God mentions our feet when talking about His armor. 

Piece # 3 - The Gospel of Peace

15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
— Ephesians 6:15 (NASB)

There are several important points that we can pull from this simple verse.

1) We are supposed to have our feet covered. Seeing as it is summer I am sure most of you have made the run to your mail box without any shoes on. When I was a child we spent most of our time outside in bare feet. Our feet became tough and we could walk just about anywhere. I don't go without shoes, or at least flip flops, anymore. Time has made my feet soft and age has made me less tolerant of pain. Ha, ha. God made a provision for our journey in life, in the armor He gave to us. Our feet need to be covered, because we need to keep walking and keep fighting. We wouldn't get far at all if our feet were not in working order.

2) We are to be prepared. The word preparation implies that we are to do some training or making ready in advance. When speaking in terms of military readiness, our soldiers go through weeks of intensive training. They also learn additional skills about tactics, weapons and psychological readiness. I am sure many vets will tell you, even with the training they had, they still weren't prepared for the horrors of real warfare. 

We are directed in the Bible to be prepared, not only for Spiritual warfare as is being discussed in this passage in Ephesians, but to give an account for why we have hope.

but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
— I Peter 3:15 (NASB)

 What exactly is this hope that we have? What exactly are we, as Christ followers, supposed to be prepared with? 

3) The gospel of peace. I'd actually like to break this phrase into two separate pieces. 

a. The gospel. Simply put, the gospel is the good news. Christ followers believe that we are all sinners and all fall short of measuring up to God's perfect standard. Because of this there had to be a sacrifice made to bridge the gap between God and ourselves. Jesus Christ bridged that gap. By committing our lives to Him we are able to enter into God's presence and have fellowship with Him. When we share the gospel, we are sharing the fact that Jesus paid the price that we ourselves should have paid and by believing in His work on the cross and His resurrection we can and will be with God. John 3:16 is the gospel in a nut shell.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
— John 3:16 (NASB)

b. ...of peace. I love that the word peace is included with this piece of armor. Jesus came so that we might have peace with God.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
— Romans 5:1 (NASB)

However, it doesn't end there. The idea that this piece of armor is for the feet implies that we are taking it with us wherever we go. We don't put on our shoes to get into bed. We put them on so that we can go out of the house to work, shop, play and the many other things we do throughout a day or a week. For us, the gospel is to be an integral part of everywhere we go and everything we do. Not just the good news, but the peace that the good news brings.

In a world of unrest we all need a little peace, not only for ourselves, but for those we work with, hang with, and encounter on a regular basis. You would be amazed how responding with a peaceful and loving attitude can diffuse a volatile situation.

As we go forward this week, let's be prepared by having having our feet ready with the gospel of peace, so that we might have opportunity to share the good news and bring His peace to all we encounter. 

You can see the first 5 parts of this Mulling It Over series on Ephesians 6:10-18 by clicking on each of the links below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

 

 

Mulling It over - Part 5

If you follow my faith page on the blog, you know that I have been doing a series on Ephesians 6:10-18. I have been going very slowly as we look at the armor of God, endeavoring to savor and fully understand each verse and even words within each verse. (To see the original posts click on the links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4) Let's review. 

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
— Ephesians 6:10-13 (NASB)
Pixabay

Pixabay

A quick review of the first four verse reveals Paul's encouragement to be strong in the Lord. We are told to put on the full armor of God, so we might be able to stand against the schemes of our enemy, the devil. Paul reminds us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood armies, but against rulers, powers, world forces of this darkness and spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. If we just stopped there we could get pretty discouraged. Life is hard enough without throwing in all those forces and battles we can't even see. Again, we are encouraged to take up the full armor of God so that we can stand firm.

Last month, I looked at the first part of verse 14.

Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
— Ephesians 6:14 (NASB)

In last month's post I talked specifically about having our loins girded with truth. Truth is the foundation for our ability to protect what God has established in our lives, through His word and His Spirit. If we are not listening to truth and seeking truth, we will be weak and defenseless when it comes to the assaults of the enemy.

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Pixabay

This week I want to look at the second piece of armor that we are to put on.

Piece #2 - Righteousness

What is righteousness? Webster's defines it as "acting in accord with divine or moral law; free from guilt or sin." Okay, so those of us who are Christ followers, know, without a doubt that we are not righteous. Doesn't God's word say:  

For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
— Isaiah 64:6 (NASB)

It also states:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
— Romans 3:23 (NASB)

Where does that leave us? How do we put on righteousness if we are, indeed, unrighteous? If you have been a Christian for a while, or you have had some Bible training, you may have heard of the term, imputed righteousness. Simply put, Christ, who is the Righteous one, gives us His righteousness when we believe in Him by faith. If we believe that, then how is it that we have to put on, righteousness, as part of our armor?

Just as with so many things in our Christian walk, we have to make a choice. Putting on truth, is choosing to seek truth, adhere to the truth and love truth. Putting on righteousness is a choice to do the following three things.

1. Admit - Admit that Christ is your righteousness. Being a good person, does not, in fact, a Christian make. Christ and belief in Him, is what makes a Christian. Following Him and believing all that He did in His life, death and resurrection are what make us righteous. 

he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit,
— Titus 3:5 (New English Translation)
Pixabay - cross

2. Allow - Allow Christ to be your righteousness. Too often we are trying to play this spiritual game on our own and we have no business doing that. Sure you might be a very strong person, but strength in our own might is a hindrance, not a help. God has been working in my life on this very point. It is His goal to make us Christ like, not more human like. I don't know about you, but I have always liked to think of myself as a strong person, able to get through difficulties and still appear to have it all together, at least on the outside. Let me tell you, in the long run, that will do nothing, but produce sleepless nights and plenty of anxiety! 

I am beginning to embrace this idea that when I am weak He is strong....oh what a glorious and wonderful thing to know. 

3. Abide - Andrew Murray is a preacher/teacher of yesteryear and has many good things to say in his writing. Right now I am trying to get through his book called, Abide in Christ, and have learned so much. In fact, I had gotten away from it, because it is not a book I can just breeze through. I have to take notes and ruminate on it. I recently thought, I need to get back to it, because I need to abide in Christ. 

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
— John 15:4 (NASB)

This is one of the red letter sections of scripture. I have always thought, it is particularly important to pay attention when the letters are red, because that is when Jesus is talking. He says we cannot bear fruit apart from Him. If I am going to put on righteousness, I need to be abiding in Him. 

Pixabay - grapes

Abiding is simply doing all those things we know we need to do anyway. Read the Bible, go to church, fellowship with other believers, be thankful, pray without ceasing, rejoice always, spend time with God speaking to Him and listening for Him. 

I hope you will think about putting on righteousness today. Just like truth, we need to put it on, even before we get out of bed every day. 

Dread or Anticipation?

I wish I could tell you I had my act together and always have my blog posts figured out ahead of time, but I don't. My life resembles that pattern, doing things by the seat of my pants. I am not sure how I got to this point. I used to be such a planner, able to think ahead, meal plan, make lists and right now I seem to be hovering somewhere between a misty valley of apprehension and a deep dark cave of despair. 

pixabay - check list

I have always been an emotional person. I feel things, not just experience them. I have teared up at kids movies, cried when we had to put our dog down, or the guinea pigs died; i have also had bouts with anger and frustration as well as times of great laughter and happiness. More recently, I have become well acquainted with fear. I've always been a bit of a nervous person, feeling almost sick the first day of school or when I have to go to the dentist and so on, but now, it is just full blown fear. 

Pixabay - fear

I think things happen in our lives for a purpose. God allows circumstances to bear down on us at times to make us more like Christ, but we still have to choose to bend. That is where I am at. I am trying to bend. I want to be like Christ, but I am learning that I cannot do that in my strength. He seems to be reminding me of that even more so lately with sleepless nights and bouts of anxiety. Yet, I can still see clearly enough that I know this is an opportunity to bend.

Pixabay - bending
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 3:12-14 (NASB)

This is what I need to be doing, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead. I will be the first to admit, sometimes the future looks rather scary. It is certainly a great unknown. However, I can choose to look to the future with anticipation for what God will do, rather than dread for what He won't do. 

I need to remember, God's plan is perfect, no matter what I am feeling, His ways are perfect and His love is just as real and sure as the air I breath! 

An Old Fixer Upper!

Memorial Day is set aside to honor those who have served our country in the armed forces. It is also a day to remember those who have gone on before us, our loved ones and friends, whose lives were ended by age,  disease or accidents. I am thankful for the men and women who have given their lives for our freedom and security. 

My husband and I were able to get away for two nights after our "kidney stone vacation cancellation" occurrence this past week. We went somewhere just a couple of hours away and had a fun, relaxing time. On part of the trip, rather than take the usual interstate highways, we traveled a few country roads which meandered through smaller communities and old farming towns. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

Each town and community are unique. Some are still bustling, with streets lined with pretty houses, lawns freshly manicured and flowers blooming. They have downtowns that are full of cars, with people milling about in cute little shops, pizza joints and coffee houses. Driving through these villages you get a life vibe, like the whole town cares about and contributes to the upkeep and betterment of the community.  Others, however, feel dead. As you drive through these places you might see a few houses where the lawns are mowed and flowers grace the porch, but many are untended. The downtowns of these communities, while boasting businesses of the past, are now mostly empty except for an occasional gas station or quickie mart. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

When we drive through this sort of community I always feel sad. My mind begins to wonder, who were the people that made up this community in the past? What were the businesses that used to call this town home? What happened to cause the eventual end of those businesses and why didn't new businesses move in? Who used to occupy those big old houses that now stand empty? Or if they are still lived in, what occurred in their lives that made them lose hope? Are they too old to properly care for their homes? Do they have some sort of debilitating disease that keeps them from getting out to mow their lawn? Did their lawn mower die and they don't have any money to replace it? Maybe life has thrown them too many curve balls and they have just giving up!

Suddenly, I realized, I am on the cusp of becoming one of those people. I'm tired! I'm getting older! I am, in some ways, becoming, not only like the people who live in those houses, but like the very structure itself; used up, in disrepair and feeling rather empty. I keep asking myself, what is wrong with me? Life has thrown an inordinate amount of curve balls my way. Maybe I have lost hope. But, I can't seem to get the words of that hymn out of my mind:

Pixabay

Pixabay

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
Refrain:
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand,
all other ground is sinking sand.
— My Hope is Build on Nothing Less - Edward Mote - 1834

When Jesus came into my life, he became the owner of this abode. It was His blood and His righteousness that bought me and it is His grace and His Spirit that enables me to live in this world. Just as if a person of unlimited resources could go into one of those old, abandoned houses and refurbish it, Christ came into my life, not to let me get run down, worn out and empty, but to repaint, rebuild and fill up. It is on this solid rock of Jesus that I must stand. If I try to build my hope on anything else, I will become an old, rickety, empty house.

When darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace;
in every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil. [Refrain]
— My Hope is Built on Nothing Less - Edward Mote - 1834

Even when things seem their very darkest and those curve balls keep coming and coming, I still can stand on Him. I rest, not in what I can see right now, but what I already know to be true of Christ through his Spirit and His word. He does not change. He doesn't get tired, or worn out or depressed. He is our anchor, always and forever!

Stocksnap

Stocksnap

His oath, his covenant, his blood
support me in the whelming flood;
when all around my soul gives way,
he then is all my hope and stay. [Refrain]
— My Hope is Build on Nothing Less - Edward Mote - 1834

His oath, His covenant, His blood....not mine. We give ourselves too much credit. Every commercial you see, every song you hear, everything we read, tells us, "You can do it! You deserve it! You can win! If you just....." It wears me out and that is precisely where Christ can begin to do His work. Some of the greatest saints of the past were those who appeared, from a worldly perspective, to be the weakest. 

but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,
— I Corinthians 1:27 (NASB)

Leave it to God to switch things up! He's so good at that. Our human point of view would never think to use the foolish things of the world, or the weak things of the world. Our flesh is all about getting its own glory. I'm strong! I'm smart! I'm powerful! Not! But He is! Oh, the blessed peace and rest, to know that is true.

When he shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in him be found,
dressed in his righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before the throne. [Refrain]
— My Hope is Build on Nothing Less - Edward Mote - 1834

One day, this will be true. I will stand before His throne, faultless, because I stand on HIm alone. His blood and righteousness, not mine. Until that day, I am going to keep trying to let Him work in this old fixer upper. I want people to be able to look at me and see, maybe my porch is a little saggy and maybe my flower beds are not completely free of weeds, but that Jesus is working, always working to make me into something beautiful. 

Wait! I Didn't Want that to Happen!

What do you do when you are very disappointed? Do you blame God? Do you complain and become discouraged and frustrated? Let's face it, life delivers plenty of disappointments. Relationships fail, those things that we wanted for so long break and get thrown away and we even experience disappointment in ourselves due to our failures and lost hopes. Sometimes life leads us down a path that looks appealing, other times, it leads us to a place we don't want to go.

path in the woods - Akron Falls Park, Akron, NY

My husband and I left Thursday evening to begin a ten day journey out east. We were going to spend two nights with my mom near Buffalo, NY and then point our car towards Maine, a state neither of us had been, but both of us were looking forward to exploring. I had already made reservations at hotels and Home Away type accommodations and was anticipating new digs to stay in, new scenery to take pictures of, new places to walk with our new hiking boots and new restaurants featuring local fair like lobster and other seafood delicacies. Little did I know my hope and anticipations were about to be dashed to pieces. 

While we were at my mom's we took her to a nearby park for a walk. At ninety plus she is getting a little unsteady, but she is able to still walk with a helping arm. Here are some pictures from our walk.

Akron Falls Park, Akron, NY
Akron Falls Park - Akron, NY
Akron Falls Park - Akron, NY
Akron Falls Park - Akron, NY

Saturday morning we left my mom's house at 8:30 AM and hoped to put the hours and miles behind us as we headed towards Portland, ME. We had only just gotten onto the interstate when the pain that had been plaguing me in my lower abdomen on and off for the last four days suddenly torqued up the intensity. We stopped at the next rest area so I could use the restroom. I seriously thought I was having some sort of digestive anomaly. Two years ago I had been diagnosed with diverticulosis, but had never actually had an issue with diverticulitis. 

By the time I began walking out of the rest area, my husband knew something was wrong. He could see it in the way I walked and by the look on my face. He asked the nearest rest area employee where the closest urgent care would be and we were directed to the hospital at the next exit. 

By the time I was finally checked into the ER and was actually given pain medication at least two hours had passed. After a CT scan I was diagnosed with having a kidney stone. I have never had kidney stones before. I was told I would have to stay in the hospital over night to see if the stone would pass and they put me on a regimen of pain meds, antibiotics and drugs to widen out the ureters to help the stone pass. 

Me looking lovely in the ER!

Me looking lovely in the ER!

After a mostly sleepless night at the hospital with my faithful husband in a very uncomfortable recliner by my bed we decided this would not be the year we would go on our adventure to Maine. I write this post at a Barnes and Noble as we travel back to our home in the Mid West after spending another night with my mom. I would have been ruthless to not let my mom see me and know I was okay after all that had happened. It proved most beneficial to have a good nights rest and some food that I could actually eat. I feel much better today!

With our car still full of bags and treats and hiking boots as well as five new prescriptions, we began our trip home feeling rather glum and disappointed that things had not worked out as we had hoped. Now I go back to my original question: How do you deal with disappointment? In all honesty I only know of one way. 

Thankfulness! 

Yes! You heard me! Thankfulness.

Here is my list:

1. My husband was with me through all of it. He did not waver. He did not get upset. He was just genuinely glad that I just had a kidney stone (he's had one of his own) and not having surgery for a colostomy or finding out I had cancer. 

2. The hospital staff was great. Every nurse was kind, informative and professional. They answered our questions, let us know what they were going to do with clarity and a smile and always asked if we needed anything. Even the aides who had to empty out my little pee pot to check for stones were friendly and helpful. 

3. We were right near a hospital. I didn't have to drive for several hours to get to a competent place of care. In fact the hospital is in the same city where my brother works. He even stopped by to check on me while I was in the ER.

4. I only had to spend one night! Hooray.

5. By this morning, I was no longer in any pain, and no longer felt like I wanted to hurl every time I thought of food. 

6. Our drive home has been relaxing and enjoyable. 

These are only a few of the thing that I can thank God for during this disappointing time. Disappointments, as I have talked about before, can push us away from God, or draw us closer. I would definitely choose to draw closer every time. 

in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— I Thessalonians 5:18

Mulling it Over - Part 4

After taking a month off, I thought it was time to get back to my Mulling it Over series. I have been scrutinizing the passage in Ephesians 6 on the armor of God. You can read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3, by clicking on the links. Thus far we have looked at verses 10-13. We have learned that we need to be strong in the Lord, and take up the full armor of God so that we are able to stand firm against the evil one. Today we finally start looking at the pieces of armor that Paul writes about in this passage. It is important to remember that Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to pen these words. Thus, these are the pieces that God deemed most important to put on.

Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
— Ephesians 6:14 (NASB)

Piece #1 - Truth

When we look at the verse it says to have our loins girded with truth. When I started thinking about this I had to look up the word loin. I mean we all have probably seen some version of Tarzan and know what a loin cloth is, but what exactly is Paul talking about in this verse. 

From a purely physical standpoint our loins are the area of our bodies from the lowest ribs to the hip bone. There are many important internal goings on in this area of the body. The most obvious is our sexual organs, but that is also the area our digestive tract resides. Think about a time when you've had cramps and diarrhea, or a time when you've endured the pain of a bladder infection or a yeast infection. We can feel pretty miserable when our loins are inflamed and not feeling well. The loins contain the organs that reproduce. Think how important this was in a day and age when having children was a sign of your wealth and blessing.

So, why did God include this piece in the armor and why the connection to truth? Keep in mind, these are just my ideas. There are many excellent Bible studies on the armor of God, by great authors and speakers like Priscilla Shirer - The Armor of God; Chip Ingram - The Invisible War and Joyce Meyer - Battlefield of the Mind. I would recommend all of these books for an in depth study on the whole concept of spiritual warfare. 

1. The vitals are vital. We cannot live without our internal organs. We have to be able to eat, digest, go to the bathroom and so on. It is also important to humanity that we be able to reproduce. It is important to our marriages that we have a healthy attitude towards sex and meeting our partners needs and desires. When any of these areas are off we are usually miserable. In the same way, there are areas of our spiritual lives that are vital to our well being. Prayer, reading God's word, fellowship, study, worship, and thanksgiving are all important to our continued growth and spiritual health. 

When any one of these areas is neglected we begin to suffer. What happens when you don't eat well? What is your marriage like when you have not had sex for a while? How do you feel when you have a lower GI bug? The same thing is true of our spiritual lives. If we aren't worshipping, studying God's word or praying we are going to feel it. 

2. Truth is our covering. Over the years I have heard this particular piece of armor referred to as the belt of truth. The picture Paul had in mind was that of a Roman soldier in full gear. 

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Pixabay

In the picture above you can see the belt that went around the waist. Attached to it were leather loin pieces, these particular ones are studded, that hung down and provided a little extra covering in that precious area. For us as Christ followers, truth is like that leather loin covering. Truth keeps us from getting hit in the vitals. 

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
— John 14:6 (NASB)

If we believe what Jesus said, then we know that it is in having a relationship with Him that we can know truth. Some truths are evident to all. Mathematical equations like 2 + 2 = 4, or 3 x 6 = 18 are true facts. They can be observed. Truth can be found in the scientific realm. Scientists have observed that the earth is round and rotates around the sun. They can also observed chemical reactions that produce gases and color changes. But what about all those things that cannot be observed? Scientists derive theories, from things they observe, but that is what they are, theories. Physicist make conclusions from lengthy formulas about what's inside a black hole or how the big bang could have happened, but just as we have faith that God created the world, so too they have faith in their theories. 

Without truth, we are subject to the whims of the world....anyway the wind blows....truth gives us a standard of measure against which to compare our lives, our actions and our thoughts. Even if you do not believe in the claims of Jesus that He is the truth, you probably have some standard of measure by which you live your life. Many of you probably base it on what you call truth. For a good synopsis on truth see the following article Absolute Truth.

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’
— John 8:31-32 (NASB)
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Pixabay

3. Truth is our Defense. Having truth available to us will enable us to fight the spiritual battles with more confidence. Knowing what God's word says and claiming those promises as we go through life, give us a tactical advantage over our enemy. When he comes us against us with lies, as you know he so often does, knowing the truth will protect you from doubt and place your feet on firm ground. I don't know about you, but if I am going into battle, I don't want my feet standing on a slippery slope of doubt and lies. I will place my feet on the solid rock of Jesus. 

 

 

A Father's Perspective

When the enemy took my granddaughter I knew it was a well thought plan. This vile one, knows how to plan. He is always plotting, and scheming. He knew by taking her, it would unleash a chain of events in my kingdom that would shake it to its very core. My daughter had been there. She had seen him take her child. Her first instinct was to chase after him and his vicious horde. Of course I could not let her go. She was too valuable to me, to all of us. 

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Pixabay

My decision to leave my granddaughter to the vile whims of the enemy was not met without disagreement. My closest advisors looked at me as though I had gone insane when I said to let him go and to retrieve my daughter. They didn't know the torment that was going on inside of me. My heart was tearing into a million little pieces and yet I knew there was a greater plan, a greater purpose. One that had to play out before we could rescue my dear one.

My daughter struggled when they went to retrieve her, but eventually my warriors subdued her and she was taken back to the castle. I knew she was strong, but this was the biggest test she had ever undergone. She needed to rest. She needed to heal.

The first week was torture. I could not eat, for knowing the decision I had made had put my own kin at the mercy of the enemy. In addition, my daughter would not talk to me. During the daylight hours she would sit in a chair on the balcony of her room, with nothing on but her dressing gown. Her lady's maid would put a blanket around her shoulders to try to keep her warm, but she continued to sit, staring out in the direction of the battle where her child was taken.

Eventually, she fell ill. Her body could not cope with the trauma and her mind had shut down. She lay in bed at night, her mind clouded by the touch of evil the enemy had forced on her. I would sit next to her every night, praying. I knew that the One was the only one who could bring light to this darkness. She would thrash and cry out as the fever raged. Our attendants did their best to get water down her throat and cool her fever, but we all knew there was only One who could heal this sickness. 

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Pixabay

One night, her fever was so high I did not even have to touch her to know I was dangerously close to losing her. I laid myself out on the floor next to her bed.  I wept and raged at the One. I argued that He could have prevented all of this. He could have kept my grand daughter from the enemy's claws and in turn He could have kept my daughter from the edge of the dismal abyss on which she now teetered. But, He hadn't. 

That night, I suddenly realized I was not only close to losing everyone left that I loved, but I was close to giving up on the faith that had become such a vital part of my being. It was that faith that helped me to rule with honor and integrity. It was that faith that enabled my to be just and fair. It was that faith in the One, that kept me from taking my own life when my wife had died. Over and over I had seen His faithfulness. Why now was I doubting? 

Because it was too close to me and it hurt.

As I wept, and prayed I realized I could give up my faith, but then where would I be? Everything I had come to believe as right and true would be meaningless and that would be the end of me. The One had never said this life would be easy. He never promised that terrible things wouldn't happen. He only promised to be there through it all, and I knew without a doubt He always had.

Getting to my knees next to my daughters bed, I took her hand in mine and I promised the One, that from that day forward, no matter what happened I would never doubt again. It was as if a weight, the one that had sat solemnly on my chest since my grand daughter was taken, was lifted. I took a deep breath and then I felt it.

My daughter squeezed my hand.

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Pixabay

I looked up at her face and she smiled. I realized then, we had both just fought a battle in a world unseen, a world that one day He, would overcome. I knew at that moment, the way ahead was going to be long and hard, but He would be with us.

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.
— Luke 12:32 (NASB)

(This was a fictional piece by Amy D. Christensen)