Sunday, July 19, 2020

Panting For Streams of Water

Hey Friend,

Lately, I've made an interesting observation.  Once I get past my screen-saver, my laptop shares random picturesque photographs and then asks, "Do you like what you see?"  I've noticed that my eye and heart are drawn to photographs in which there is water.

It can be the ocean, a mountain stream, an idealic lake, a waterfall, or winding river, and my soul is drawn to it with a sort of longing.  I feel as if I've been walking, for days on end, in a dry and barren land. The sun is scorching hot (it truly is in NC).  I am parched and tired and I, like the deer, am panting for streams of cool and quenching water.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.  (Psalm 42:1)

These have certainly been turbulent, uncertain, and worrisome times.  I am able to be "fine" for only so long and then it's as if someone opened the floodgates on the dam and the tears begin to flow. It feels like I'm caught in the down-stream rushing waters and I'm praying that they won't overwhelm me. I fear being sucked under. These are not the waters I long for.

When I was young my father built a summer lake home, for our family, in the mountains of West Virginia.  I loved to wander on the hilly pastures near our secluded retreat.  One day, while picking wild backberries, I was intrigued by why the cows had gathered around a huge gnarled tree midway up the steep hill.  

I pushed my way in between two females to find a young calf lapping up clear water.  To my amazement, there was a freshwater spring bubbling up around the ancient, well-washed roots of the tree.  I'd never seen anything like it before.  The water quenched the thirst of the cows and the tree had obviously sent its roots down deep in order to provide a lush green canopy of shade for the animals.  They had everything they needed right here. I cupped my hands and took big gulps of the pure water. Only God could design this, I thought. 

"They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."  (Jeremiah 17:8)

I need to be like that wise old tree.  I need to be sending out my roots by the water.  I desperately need the living water which is God's Word, and I need big gulps daily.  In this year of desert drought, pure, living water is what I need in order to flourish and bear fruit.

One of my favorite adventures with my kids was swimming in a fresh water spring in Florida.  I was fascinated by how this crystal clear water came up from the aquifer that runs below this salty marsh state.  We snorkled, splashed and swam, and once again I was intrigued by the source of the water.  It came up from a mysterious, watery cavern below us. Another God-design...  

No wonder there are so many illustrations in the Bible that speak of drinking living water and never thirsting, waters of life healing nations, rivers flowing from the throne of God, wells of water springing up to eternal life, and deer panting for streams of water.  Maybe this is why I am so drawn to water?! 

As a believer, I need to take in the living water for my survival and well-being, but I also need to be a fount of truth and hope for others who are struggling.  I can't pour out if I'm not being poured into.  If I'm not hydrated, I can't draw up water from the well for others to drink.  

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. (John 7:38)

Recently, I've been dreaming of running off the end of a long dock and diving into the refreshing cool waters of a mountain-stream-fed too?!

Dear Heavenly Father,  I praise you that you provide for my every need.  In a dry, parched, and barren land, You provide streams in the desert.  Your holy word is the living water that I need to drink in daily in order to have life.  I am panting for your living word and only it will satisfy.  Let me send out my roots along the streams you provide so that I may flourish and bear fruit.  Draw me closer still, to you, so that living water will flow from within me.  You are the source of water and life that never ends.  Be with me now and always.  In Jesus precious name I pray.  Amen.

What about you?  Do you feel, at all, like the deer panting for streams of water?  Where do you find the strength to go forward day after day?  How far do you think you'll get without daily water or God's daily word?  Any inspiration you'd like to share?

Be blessed...

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Sunday, July 12, 2020

Declaration of Dependence

Hey Friend,

The word "dependence" has taken on a negative connotation in our society.  It's not healthy, psychologically, to have a co-dependent relationship.  We are at risk if we are dependent upon cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol.  

We are viewed as strong if we aren't dependent upon anyone else.  Self sufficiency and self reliance are esteemed as positive virtues.  Every super hero that you can think of is able to rely on themself and their own inherent strengths to get them out of any sticky situation.

Dependence = Weakness

Self-reliance = Strength

...or so says the world.

I find it interesting that immediately before beginning His ministry, here on earth, Jesus didn't have a pep rally to build Him up and get Him pumped like a prize fighter about to enter the ring.  There wasn't any posturing or fans patting Him on the shoulder chanting, "Go get 'em Jesus; you're the Man!!! You can do this!"

In fact it was just the opposite.  Luke 4: 1-2 says:

Then Jesus left the Jordan (where He'd just been baptized), full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days to be tempted by the devil.

God doesn't even view His own Son's strengths as essential.  His will is for Jesus to begin His ministry from a point of weakness and dependence.

Let me be clear that God never tempts us...

When you are tempted to do wrong, do not say, "God is tempting me." God cannot be tempted.  He does not tempt anyone.  (James 1:13)

God, however, allowed Satan to point out Jesus' vulnerability.

Satan's first temptation is posed to Jesus in order to get Him to take matters into His own hands.  Jesus had wandered for forty days in the wilderness with nothing to eat, so at the moment Satan spoke to Him, Jesus was famished.

The enemy tempts, "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread." Satan is manipulative.  He admits Jesus' strength in being the Son of God and tempts Him to rely on Himself and turn the stone into bread and solve His own hunger problem.

Satan is a master at creating a sense of doubt - he wants to make you question why God isn't providing for you?!  He taunts, "You're being denied, and if you just take matters into your own hands, you can satisfy your need on your own." There's no denying that the enemy of our soul is powerful and crafty.

Jesus, in His weakness, withstood the temptation by calling on the strength of His heavenly Father and He doesn't succumb to Satan's ploy.  Jesus realizes that on His own, He's toast, but in God's strength, He is strong.

Fast forward along the Biblical timeline, and Paul (Jesus' disciple) is writing a letter to the church in Corinth.  This is what he says to the early Christians:

Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may reside in me.  So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in the difficulties, for the sake of Christ.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.  (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Have you ever thought that if there are areas in which you are struggling, that they may be areas in which you are still too strong?

When God called me to begin a Christian school for orphans in Pakistan, I dove in with my writing abilities to get the word out and my marketing skills to raise funds, but I quickly found myself struggling.  The enemy wanted to dupe me into believing that I could do this in my own strength because he wanted me to fail.

Then, when I wasn't succeeding as I had hoped, he was the first to tear me down in an attempt to render me ineffective and manipulate me into believing that God had the wrong person when He chose me.  He is evil and he is clever.

Yes, God had the wrong person in me (alone)...but He had the right person when I was able to admit my weakness and call upon the strength of Christ to work in and through me.

I had to lay my pride down and pick up the strength of God.

Before I was ready for ministry, I had to be brought to my knees in weakness and declare my utter reliance and dependence upon the Lord. I need to adopt this posture every single day.

Satan's favorite lie is to tell you that you don't need can handle things on your own.  This plays right into our elevated sense of pride.  Who wants to admit that they can't do something?  Who wants to claim, "I am weak." 

Look what Jesus was able to do when He declared dependence upon His Father.

Look what the disciples were able to do when they admitted their weakness and asked for Jesus' strength - they were able to walk on water.  On our own, we can't walk on water, but when we depend upon the Lord, we can walk across oceans.  

Dear Heavenly Father,  please forgive me for relying on my own self sufficiency.  Forgive me of my pride that says, "I can do this on my own."  Enable me to see that when I am weak, it's then that I am truly strong.  Remind me, Lord, that you are always "for" me and never "against" me.  Protect me from the temptations of the evil one who wants to make me doubt you.  Give me discernment to see right through his lies.  Let me declare my dependence and utter reliance upon you, Lord...only upon you.  Make me bold to do your will in your strength.  Thank you for your grace that is sufficient for all my needs.  In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  Do you try to do things in your own strength?  How does that work out?  What lessons have you learned about dependence vs. self reliance?  Where do you see the enemy tempting you to doubt that God is for you?  When have you seen God's strength be sufficient?  Will you share?

Be blessed...

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Sunday, July 5, 2020

Am I About My Father's Business?

Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away. 36No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be at the coming of the Son of Man.… 
 (Mathew 24:35-37)

Hey Friend,

I don't know about you, but I have had some serious thoughts about us being in the end times.  Scholars will say that first this, then that, and finally this must happen before Jesus returns in glory, but the truth of the matter is, no one knows the day or the hour that Christ will return, triumphantly, to take His people home.  Not even Jesus knows - only God.

I do know this much about God, He is a God of mystery and just when I think I know what's going on, He impresses upon me that I will never be able to fully wrap my brain around His ways.  That's why He is God and I am not.

One thing I DO know is that when the Lord returns, I want to be about His business.

Luke 12 tells a story of the Master who goes away and leaves the manager in charge of His servants.  The manager's job is to give the servants their portion at the proper time.  He's been given His marching orders by the Master.

3Blessed is that servant whom his master finds doing so when he returns. 44Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.…  (Luke 12:43-44)

So what exactly does it look like to be about the Master's business? Consider these aspects:

An earthly son or daughter doesn't usually step into the father's business without first being an apprentice.  Apprenticing involves, learning, training, and preparation.  He/She gains knowledge of the business from the ground floor on up.

Likewise, we need to become apprentices to our Heavenly Father.  We need to be in His word - gaining knowledge about His kingdom, learning His precepts forward and backward, and living out His Word in real life situations. We spend time with Him allowing Him to instruct us. We literally learn how to walk in our Father's footsteps.

Just as we may encounter pain and difficulty from trial and error that comes with learning an earthly business, we, as spiritual apprentices to the Lord, will undoubtedly endure pain and suffering.  As heirs to the throne we are called to participate in the suffering of Christ.

Paul, in the Bible, says, Yes, and all who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution."  (2 Timothy 3:12)

Eight years ago, God called me to start a Christian school for orphans and impoverished children in the enemy's backyard in the Middle East ( I don't think I had any idea what would be in store for me as I began to be about my Father's business.  

We tend to believe that if we are accomplishing God's will and doing His work, then all will go well for us - how very far from the truth.  You might as well have painted a giant red target on my back when I stepped in to do my Father's work.  The enemy came after me with a vengeance and has done so, in a myriad of ways, for eight years.  Certainly, there have been times of extreme joy, satisfaction, and blessing, but I have also suffered tremendously in ways I never would have thought possible. 

Our commitment and devotion to God is evidenced in how we serve others.  Our efforts don't have to be grandiose in scale.  It could be as simple as becoming a pen pal with an elderly person in nursing care that can't have visitors due to COVID-19.  Whatever we endeavor upon, there will be spiritual forces in the universe working against us.  We don't have to fear, however, because no temptation can overtake us without their being a way of escape provided.  

 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,  he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.  (1 Corinthians 10:13)

The best news is that there is a reward for those who are about the Father's business on the day of His return.  We are promised an inheritance which is eternal life.  And, he who is faithful with what is entrusted to him here on earth will be givine even more responsibility in the life that is to come. 

Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.  (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

So for all of us who are waiting on that glorious day, keep fighting the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith, and be about the Father's business since we do not know the minute or the hour in which He will return.

Dear Heavenly Father, Be with me Lord in these turbulent and uncertain times.  Help me to trust that you are sovereign and You are ultimately in control.  Give me courage to be about your business - serving others and pouring out your love, like water, to a parched and thirsty world.  Let it be my honor to suffer as Christ has suffered for me and keep me from all temptation.  I praise you that you have promised that if I am faithful with the work you give me here on earth, that you will give me that much more responsibility in heaven.  Let me spend time in your presence - learning and practicing your precepts.  Let me be about Your business so that I am at the ready upon your return.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen. 

What about you...are you about your Father's business?  Are you enduring the trials, tribulations, and persecutions of this world to accomplish His will in your life?  What are some practical ways you can serve others?  Do you feel like we are in the end times?  What gives you hope? Will you share?

Be blessed...

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