“What or whom we worship determines our behaviour.” John Murray
The eclectic line of people silently stretched as far as the eye could see away from the building. Persons from all walks of life were present: the old, the young, the rich, the poor, the powerful, and the powerless, some with hats in hand and heads bowed low, others with their noses up in the air. From time to time, the building’s front doors would open, but only long enough to admit the next one waiting in line to enter.
Once inside, each person found themselves alone in a large, silent auditorium illuminated by a single window. A sense of reverence permeated the room. “Hello, is anyone there?” they half-whispered as their eyes anxiously scanned the room for a felt but not seen presence. The silence quickly returned as the faint echoes of their question disappeared. Hearing no reply, they turned their attention to the light offered by the window, which drew them ever closer. A few pressed their noses against the glass, while others stood back at varying distances gazing at the outside world they had just left. Suddenly a voice, remarkable in its gentle nature, enveloped the entire room, saying, “What are your thoughts about the world as you look through the window? What do you see?”
So many people, so many uniquely individual answers to the question, as one might guess. Yet, despite the diversity found in such a large crowd, their answers leaned in one of two directions.
“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
Some pursue the world as if it’s a prize or trophy to be obtained for personal gain without regard for the cost. It’s an enticing but ultimately deceptive take-no-prisoners lifestyle approach that leaves misery and regret in its wake sooner or later.
“The world is my oyster.” (A well-known, slightly modernized quote from Shakespeare’s, The Merry Wives of Windsor)
I can’t help but think about the “old” Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dicken’s beloved “AChristmas Carol” before he experienced the visitation of the three Christmas spirits.
“Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.” Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Now there’s some irony for you, eh? Those who view the world as their oyster for the taking become an oyster themselves, desperately clutching a pearl of their making, unwilling and afraid to share it with anyone else.
“We become what we behold.” William Blake, Jerusalem
Is such a solitary oyster-like existence all that surprising, given such persons view themselves as life’s singular, all-important reference point around which the world orbits? The voracious flock of seagulls from the animated movie “Finding Nemo” immediately come to mind, loudly squawking, “Mine, mine, MINE!” as they coveted the objection of their affection.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21 (NKJV)
And therein lies sadness and danger if the treasures we hold near and dear to us are solely self-serving.
“For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:26 (NKJV)
“We have multiplied our possessions but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We’ve learned how to make a living but not a life. We’ve added years to life, not life to years.” George Carlin
In due course, the knife called unavoidable pries the precious pearl from deep within the oyster loose, it now intended for another’s hands. How can we be so foolish and short-sighted?
For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 1 Timothy 6:7 (NKJV)
Ah, but this is graciously no ordinary window that beckons us ever nearer to embrace the life-changing view of the world it offers. Perhaps you noticed the cross in the window immediately, as did I. It reminds us that a vibrant relationship with God through Jesus is the gateway to truth and meaning as we go about our daily lives interacting with the world through eyes, hearts, and minds other than our own.
“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Romans 12:3 (NKJV)
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4 (NKJV)
Jesus is the window, the True North we seek, through which radiant hope shines for a darkened and despairing world.
All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:8-10 (NKJV)
He shows us a still better way of viewing and engaging with the world.
“I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” Acts 20:35 (NKJV)
“It’s about how we can love people, how we can make a difference for other people. I really believe in God’s economy, which is different than how we talk about our economy. In our economy, in order to have more, you take more. But in God’s economy-you give more.” Tim Tebow
And now it is your turn to enter through the doors into the room set aglow by the light streaming in through the single window. As you gaze out through the window, the gentle voice asks, “What are your thoughts about the world as you look through the window? What do you see?”
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.33 Butseek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:31-33 (NKJV)
Start Right Here by Casting Crowns (single version)
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21 (NKJV)
“What are you aiming at in your heart of hearts?” Jordan Peterson
When I spotted the X-shaped jet contrails in the sky as I was driving, the Will Smith-Chris Rock “slap” debacle at this year’s Oscars was fresh on my mind. Disappointment and sadness hovered over me as my mind replayed Mr. Smith’s unfortunate actions. An opportunity to rise above circumstances by demonstrating a better way to handle friction in one’s life had landed with a resounding and uncomfortable Humpty Dumpty thud. What a mess and a cautionary tale about the vital importance of keeping one’s eye where it belongs. Indeed, what hope does a person have to hinder negative, harmful, God-dishonoring actions?
As I considered the implications of the solitary “X’s” location in the sky relative to Smith’s regrettable confrontation, the notion, “You’ve gotta aim high,” came to mind. I suppose some will say to that, “Well, of course, you do!” For me, however, this visual cue was an oh-so-timely and welcome reminder of where a person’s attention needs to be focused lest they land in pieces on the ground too.
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18 (NKJV)
A heart focused on the wrong things will get you in trouble sooner or later.
So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Matthew 14:29-30 (NLT)
As a sinner saved by grace, it’s imperative to take your eyes off this world and focus your sights heavenward towards Jesus.
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. Colossians 3:1-2 (NKJV)
Talking about aiming high is one thing, but employing God-honoring actions takes things to a new level of significance and impact. Of course, words matter, so we should always be mindful of them, but physical steps accompanied by words that line up with biblical principles are compelling and winsome in the love light they bring to a dark world.
My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:18 (NKJV)
And how are we to accomplish what is not natural to us? Through our individual strength and power? Through our resolve and determination? Hardly. We see where that sort of thinking can get a person. Yes, we’re all aware we must be intentional, but purposeful towards what end exactly? As my good friend Steve B. says, “Keep the main thing the main thing. First things first. And that’s Jesus.”
As I pondered the “X,” I couldn’t help but notice its location suspended between heaven and earth, as if visualizing the role of Jesus, who bridges the gap between holy God and sinful man.
For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. 1 Timothy 2:5-6 (NKJV)
Knowing and being known by Jesus is the key to living your best life, the life God has in mind for you.
I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. John 15:5 (NKJV)
How does one go about “abiding in Christ?” If you want to abide in Christ, a change in thinking is needed.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2 (NKJV)
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
Where can you find such trustworthy guidance? Let’s turn our attention to the “X” again for the answer. Perhaps you’ve already thought, “X marks the spotfor buried treasure!” As a lover of maps, this was my very next thought following the “aiming high” inspiration.
Ah yes, but this is no ordinary earth-bound “X,” so it stands to reason the treasure chest of valuables it brings attention to is extraordinary too, priceless actually. No regular shovel will get this celestial job done. A shovel of a different sort is required to unearth the bounty this treasure has to offer. Let me encourage you to grab the shovel of perseverance and hope firmly with both hands and dig with all of your might. You will not be disappointed. Trust that your faithful and obedient digging will reap the rewards of God’s promises found in the treasure trove of wisdom and truth awaiting you in God’s Word, the bible.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. Psalm 1:1-3 (NKJV)
Can you imagine being like such a magnificent tree?!?!
to grant to those who mourn in Zion-to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called, an oak of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified! (Isaiah 61:3, ESV)
Oh yes, this most certainly is a treasure like non-other, far and above anything the world can offer.
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27 (NKJV)
Upon what path does the Lord send you to accomplish such a remarkable transformation?
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Romans 8:29 (NKJV)
As I bring this post to a close, there is one final thought I’d like to share with you about the giant “X” in the sky. Perhaps you’ve already considered it. I’d be delighted to know you have. What does “X” stand for in Hebrew? Yes, “Christ.” Indeed, Jesus stands right in front of us for all to see. Do you see Him? I pray you do because He already has His eye on you.
My friend, aim your heart at Jesus in all you do. Run to Him, the treasure of all treasures, and as you do so, may you find the rest in His loving embrace of grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love you so desperately seek.
That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:2-3 (NKJV)
Lord, “Fill the garden of my soul with the wind of love, that the scents of the Christian life may be wafted to others; then come and gather fruits to thy glory. So shall I fulfill the great end of my being-to glorify thee and be a blessing to men.” In Jesus’ name. ( The Valley of Vision, Things Needful, edited by Arthur Bennett)
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 2 Peter 1:5-7 (NKJV)
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)
“Abide in Me” by Andrew Marcus from the album “Abide in Me.”
“Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” John 8:12 (NKJV)
Though they cannot speak, our shadows have something to say about us.
Standing beside a stream a few autumns ago, I was immediately drawn to the appearance of my shadow as it stretched out into the water. Where the water was shallow, the silhouette of my head and body was sharp and crisp. However, my shadow became increasingly indistinct in the deeper water and diffused to the point my outstretched arm became progressively unrecognizable. Indeed, where the water was deeper still, the shadow of my hand wasn’t distinguishable at all, so wrapped up it was in the depths.
Such is my relationship with Jesus. As a believer standing in His living water, am I in the shallow or deep water, or somewhere between the two? Am I ankle-deep with a lot of me still visible, or am I deep enough that Jesus, at least in part, can at long last be seen? The shadow I cast in this world tells the tale of my condition.
So long as we remain in the shallows, our shadows more times than not have something more to say about us and less about Jesus. And uncomfortably so, I might add.
“Peter said to Him, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!’ And so said all the disciples.” Matthew 26:35 (NKJV)
“But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Matthew 16:23 (NKJV)
Can you relate to Peter’s failings? I know I certainly can.
Fortunately, God is mercifully unwilling to leave us as He found us. You see, He has plans for you and me far beyond our becoming converted believers. He has nothing less in His sights than our becoming conformed believers.
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.“ Romans 8:29 (NKJV)
How can a person not be blown away by the very thought of God intending us to bear the image of the One who set us free, our Savior, Jesus? The mere thought of such an astonishing plan should cause us to erupt into praise spontaneously every time it comes to mind!
“Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! 2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: 3 Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, 4 Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, 5 Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Psalm 103:1-5 (NKJV)
This view of our destiny is so breathtaking it’s tantalizing to linger here, perhaps even stop altogether and forever bask in its warm glow. But, after a moment’s pause, we must keep going, for we have not arrived at our destination yet.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
(Robert Frost, Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening)
“but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 (NKJV)
What is the purpose of this journey that beckons us onward like none other?
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” 1 Peter 2:9 (NKJV)
A herald magnifying the Lord, this is God’s purpose for our lives. How incredible is that calling? As before, I find myself stepping aside and pausing to breathe in as deeply as possible this magnificent view’s sweet aroma. And yet again, I am called to return to the path He has laid out before me.
All worthwhile plans come with instructions to ensure their success, and most certainly, this is no exception. So, where should our adventure of faith begin? The same place it should end: the Bible.
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17 (NKJV)
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV)
I have to ask, “What sort of quest shares the same beginning and end?” The obvious response is, “Only those that run in circles, which means they end up going nowhere.” Ah, but this is no ordinary undertaking at all, of course, so circular thinking has no place where the Lord’s plans are concerned.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
It is no secret that one must wade through the shallows to get to the deep. Shortcuts don’t happen on our way to meaningful spiritual maturity as God seeks to achieve His purpose and plans for our lives through an ever-deepening relationship with Him. As I noted a few years ago in (S)Parking Lot, we must persevere and be patient as God’s plans for us unfold. We cannot get ahead of ourselves. More importantly, we cannot get ahead of God.
“I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:24 (NIV)
God transforms us step by step as we hike the hills and valleys along our lifelong trail. One need only examine the lives of a few such notable biblical figures like Joseph (Old Testament), Moses, King David, Jonah, Ruth, Peter, and Paul to realize our pilgrimage into Christlikeness is a long-ranging process. But happen it surely will because just as the tides are subject to the moon, so too is God’s will for the upward call of His children.
“Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; All Your waves and billows have gone over me.” Psalm 42:7 (NKJV)
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)
By the grace of God’s Spirit, I inevitably become less, and Jesus becomes more.
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30 (NKJV)
I end, Christ gloriously begins.
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 (NKJV)
Our Christlikeness doesn’t reach its zenith until we pass from this life into the next. I can’t help but wonder what the appearance of a genuinely godly person’s shadow might be like in this life, though, can you? God has graciously given us a glimpse of such a person.
“so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them.” Acts 5:15 (NKJV)
Now that is a shadow born out of the Spirit’s deep waters that shades people with the light of Jesus!
Peter, while wallowing in the shallows, denied Jesus no less than three times. Jesus also rebuked him for his all-too earthly point of view that lacked heavenly understanding. Yet now, we later see a radically different Peter who radiated Jesus so much that people sought out his shadow.
“If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13 (NASB 1995)
I ask you, “Who does this sort of thing?” Only God, friends, only God.
That’s good news for you and me because that means God will bring about meaningful, world-impacting change in our lives, too. But we must move by faith into His deeper waters.
“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NKJV)
“but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:14 (NKJV)
Wait, did you hear that? Shhhh. Yes, there it is, a still, quiet voice welling up from deep within our souls, asking, “What does your shadow have to say to the world about Jesus?” Friend, the Lord calls you and me out of the shallows and into the deep. It is time to let go and let Him.
Lord, out of the shadows of our lives flows Your life-giving light of love. May it be ever so! Lead me out of the shallow and into Your depths so that the fruit of Your Spirit blossoms in me, bringing forth love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control for against such You have said there is no law. May people see the shadow of Jesus and not mine wherever You would have me, Your herald go, for Your glory. In Jesus’s name, amen!
“He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8 (NKJV)
“Less Like Me” by Zach Williams from the album “Rescue Story.”
“For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1 Corinthians 6:20 (NKJV)
Have you ever purposefully bought something you knew was defective? I never thought I’d find myself doing that, but that’s what happened a few days ago. And unexpectedly, there was Jesus wonderfully right in the middle of my conversation with the cashier about my improbable purchase.
If you read my last post, “Humilability,” then you already know I’ve had the Japanese art form known as Kintsugi on my mind. So much so that I decided I wanted to try my hand at it. I was in the process of buying something at the last minute for my art-venture when a “refreshing summer rain” moment of understanding in the checkout lane occurred.
Let me refresh your mind about Kintsugi before moving on with this story.
Kintsugi is a Japanese art form that takes shattered pottery and makes it whole by mending the broken pieces together with glue typically containing silver, gold, or platinum. Upon completion, the revitalized object becomes more valuable and desirable than it was initially. Those who follow this style of art delight in the object’s history as revealed by the repaired joints. In other words, the rejuvenated vessel tells a story of hope through its rebirth that is cause for much celebration.
Returning to the story, I had already bought everything I thought I needed for my project but still had one last stop to make for my wife before heading home. She had asked me to buy a clay pot, so I stopped by the local gardening center knowing they would have a good selection. While looking for just the right clay pot for her, I noticed a chipped and cracked one. As soon as I did, a light bulb immediately went off in my head, and I realized it’d be a great addition to my collection of Kintsugi project material. Why smash up something in perfect shape when I could break up something that was already flawed? So, I happily picked up the broken pot along with a good one for my wife and headed to the checkout lane.
After a short wait in line, I placed the two pots I wished to purchase on the counter. As the cashier scanned the items, she paused over the broken one and looked up at me with a questioning expression on her face.
Cashier: “Did you know this pot is broken?”
Cashier: “And you still want it?”
Me: “Yes, I have plans for it.”
No sooner had those words been said when a spiritual sonic boom stirred my soul, recrystallizing the reality of a precious gift I far too often fail to acknowledge and cherish rightly. Indeed, just as I had plans for the broken pot, how much more so does Jesus have plans for broken me?
“For I know theplans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)
There is a huge difference, of course, in the method of payment for these items. Jesus purchased me with His life, while all I did was hand over a few dollars for the flowerpot. He gave all, I gave little.
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13 (NKJV)
Before I stepped into the picture, the trash heap was that defective clay pot’s only future where it would join countless other items also considered worthless and of no use. However, the funny thing now is it sits next to me on my bookshelf in plain sight as a treasured reminder of where I’d be right now without Jesus. There now was no way I was going to bust it up as I had initially planned after being gifted with such a beautiful flash of insight. God has such a wholly (holy!) excellent way of turning my thoughts and plans upside down, you know?
“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV)
How did this broken pot land in a position of honor in my office instead of lost in a landfill? Simply put, I had plans for it where no one else did and was then willing and able to do something about it. That is the sole reason this little clay pot has a new home beside me.
“Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19 (NKJV)
As a believer, the soul (yes, that’s purposeful spelling on my part) reason I now have an eternal future overflowing with hope is that Jesus saw my need and was willing and able to do something about it.
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29 (NKJV)
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed;’” Luke 4:18 (NKJV)
He put my brokenness, my chips, if you will, on His shoulders at great cost to Himself. And He’s done the same for you.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6 (NKJV)
“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 (NKJV)
What are the Lord’s plans for you, my brother and sister in Christ, and for me? He has prepared a place of honor for us with Him.
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:3 (NKJV)
“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14:2 (NKJV)
But there’s more, so much more. It’s beyond astonishing when you think about it!
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:29 (NKJV)
Have you sincerely thanked God today for His active presence in your life, for the priceless gift of rebirth out of brokenness He has bestowed upon you through His Son, our Savior, Jesus?
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)
Come to the Table by Sidewalk Prophets from the album “Something Different.”
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10 (NKJV)
“Content.” Now there’s an interesting word. What’s the meaning or significance of this word as it applies to your life?
“Well, that depends on which ‘content’ you’re asking about,” you say. “With the word standing there all alone, I can’t be fully content to tell you the answer to that question until I know the full content of what you have in mind since it could be one of two possibilities. At the very least, you’re going to have to use it in a sentence; otherwise, I’m going to keep bouncing back and forth between the two choices. So, you tell me, which one are you talking about here?”
To that, I enthusiastically jump to my feet and reply, “Both!”
Now that we’re on our feet, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page regarding the distinct meanings of these two identically spelled but differently pronounced words. The Cambridge Dictionary defines “content” as “everything that is contained within something.” It also informs us that the other pronunciation of “content” means “pleased with your situation and not hoping for change or improvement.”
Our level of contentment is determined by how content or satisfied we are with the contents of our lives. Generally speaking, when we perceive our content or the components to be favorable, we’re content. But when the contents of our life take a turn for the worse, we become woeful or even fearful.
In a sense, these two words relate to each other a bit like our feet. In one scenario, they work together in harmony like finely tuned, graceful dance partners, serenely gliding across the floor. Or, conversely, they’re like two left feet noisily and clumsily stepping all over each other on the dance floor, which frequently results in a memorable faceplant of viral social media proportions. By the way, I fall into the latter category of these two as I’m no Fred Astaire.
For many of us, when a significant component of our lives that we’ve come to depend upon falters, so do we. Experiencing the loss of a job, relationship troubles, financial issues, or an impending health crisis, to name a few, are undoubtedly challenging turns of events that threaten our well-being. The Apostle Paul certainly experienced various potentially life-altering and, at times, life-threatening circumstances. No doubt he had more than his fair share of the scars to prove it, too.
“Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” 2 Corinthians 11:25-27 (NIV)
Theologians generally agree that Paul wrote about those trials about six years before he penned the following words in Philippians:
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:11-12 (NIV)
These verses in Philippians stand in stark contrast to the world’s perspective of contentment. Paul’s steadfastness and confidence are even more remarkable, considering he wrote them while being unjustly confined in prison. How was he able to avoid falling into despair regardless of the situation? Why doesn’t he have two left feet? What is the secret he has found?
Paul’s ability to be content in all circumstances did not just magically and suddenly appear one day in his spiritual arsenal. No, far from it. Each of his visible and invisible scars wrought from his experiences became graduation diplomas of trust and understanding in the Lord’s plans for his life beautifully and lovingly engraved on his heart.
Does the relationship between “content” and “content” as they influence our contentment not exist for Paul? At first glance, it might perhaps seem they’re disconnected, but given a bit more thought, the answer is an emphatic “no!” The difference is Paul can confidently say what he does because of the eternal Who that fills his life up, rather than the temporal whats that fills up the majority of most other people’s lives.
“To know something in your head is one thing; to feel it in your heart is another. And I think most Christians are trying to be happy without a sense of the Presence. The Presence is here, but the sense of the Presence is absent. The sense of the Presence is absent and that yearning you see is a desire to be nearer to God.” A. W. Tozer, The Attributes of God.
Paul is content because he fully embraces the sovereignty and presence of God in his life. He understands that so long as his life is full of the Lord, Who is good beyond measure, his outward conditions are of little consequence. The when, where, how, and why of his circumstances are no longer uncomfortable mysteries tormenting him. He recognizes his place in God’s hand. And that gives him hope.
“for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13 (NKJV)
Paul is a person completely sold out for God.
“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God” Romans 1:1 (NKJV)
“Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,” Philippians 2:14-15 (NKJV)
Paul has learned the secret for true contentment.
“I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 (NIV)
“Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance.” Isaiah 55:2 (NKJV)
“But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ “Matthew 4:4 (NKJV)
“I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:24 (NIV)
In the end, all of the worldly what’s we have come to believe in as necessary to secure our contentment are mere smoke and mirrors. In them, we stack clay bricks made without straw that cannot possibly support our weight when the storms of life come our way.
“But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” Matthew 7:26-27 (NKJV)
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 (NKJV)
Only God, Who is the same today, yesterday, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), is an eternal rock that is utterly dependable.
“Thereforewhoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.” Matthew 7:24-25 (NKJV)
Where are you searching in your quest to secure your contentment?
“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” C. S. Lewis, A Mind Awake: An Anthology of C. S. Lewis
“My home is in heaven. I’m just passing through this world.” Billy Graham
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 3:20 (NKJV)
“Wait a little while, O my soul, wait for the divine promise, and thou shalt have abundance of all good things in heaven.” Thomas a Kempis.
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)
“The secret to happiness is to be content no matter the situation. My life isn’t going to make my happiness. My happiness is going to make my life.” Full Count, the movie.
Dear friend, I don’t know where you are or what’s going on in your life, but one thing I do know: He alone is the Source for true and lasting joy that creates and sustains contentment. Content in and through Jesus is where we are meant to be!
He! Is! Worthy!
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NKJV)
Be Still and Know by Christy Nockels from the album Healer
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (NKJV)
Influence. It’s something we all possess, so that makes every one of us influencers to some degree. Regardless of the amount of sway we hold with others, how seriously do we take that responsibility? More pointedly, to what end is our influence wielded? Is it for ourselves or something more significant?
“In thismanner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Yourname. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9-10 (NKJV)
“How many of your plans take an unending future into account?” John Eldredge, The Journey of Desire
As believers, how might we conduct ourselves differently if we envisioned ourselves more conscientiously as “end-fluencers” with our eye on the future instead of mere influencers focused on the here and now?A perspective of thinking about tomorrow instead of today emphasizes a heightened big-picture awareness of our potential personal impact on all of those the Lord puts within our reach.
“Teach me the happy art of attending to things temporal with a mind intent on things eternal.” Christlikeness, from the Valley of Vision
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot
Essentially, in this forward-thinking, other-centered mindset, we become investors with genuine “skin in the game” regarding other people. Or to borrow my purposeful misspelling methods one more time, as “end-vestors” in people. In doing so, we are putting aside our needs and wants and taking personal responsibility for helping guide others to be everything God has called them to be.
“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:1-4 (NKJV)
Allow me to share an example of an authentic “end-fluencer” with you. The stirring words of my mentor, 2 Tim, as I like to call him, continually ring out loud and clear in my head like Christmas morning church bells gloriously chiming for all to hear, “I want my life to count for eternity!”
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2 (NKJV)
“while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NKJV)
2Tim has been passionately and faithfully pursuing a life of eternal significance since becoming a believer as an eleven-year-old boy. These words have been his consistent mission statement for decades, shaping all of his choices along the way. They have been his ever-present rudder steering him in the way he should go. When these are your marching orders to be carried out coram Deo (before the face of God), there is only room for integrity, character, and honor.
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
Over the years, hundreds of people have learned to be disciple-makers directly under 2Tim’s hands-on, watchful and purposeful teaching as he pours himself into equipping others to lead in the same manner. The Biblical truth of what he teaches is delightfully contagious, end-fluencing those disciples, who in turn teach others what they have learned. And so it goes like a baton passed from one relay team runner to the next in a never-ending, ever-growing circle of Spirit-connected hearts to encourage people to participate in furthering God’s Family proactively.
“Not that I have already attained or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14 (NKJV)
How many have been impacted by 2Tim’s discipleship ministry, directly or indirectly? That’s impossible to say, of course, but it’s likely in the thousands. It’s what inevitably happens when reproducers reproduce, as he loves to say.
“And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:2 (NKJV)
So, the question inevitably becomes for each of us as sons and daughters of God, as followers of His beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus, are you an influencer, or are you an end-fluencer?
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NKJV)
“Speak the Name” by Koryn Hawthorne from the album “Unstoppable.”
“But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” Romans 5:20b (NKJV)
“But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” James 4:6 (NKJV)
A broom and a light green pencil lying right beside it are something you don’t see in the middle of the street every morning. “What’s the story here?” I wondered out loud to myself. “How did this unlikely pair land in front of my house?” Answers to these questions and more were nowhere to be found as I stood there contemplating the unusual sight.
There was one thing I did know, however. No way did I want to try and sweep the entire street even though it could use a good cleaning. To compound those circumstances, imagine what it’d be like if I attempted to deep clean the road with someone following behind me, circling all the dirt and such that I had missed with the colored pencil. That’d be an even more enormous “no thank you!” in my book.
As I considered the possibilities of such a hopeless task, a bit of Greek mythology drifted into my mind. Zeus punished and condemned Sisyphus to roll a boulder up a hill, as you may recall. Unfortunately, the boulder would roll back down just before reaching the crest, and then the whole process would unmercifully start all over again. Just as Sisyphus’ task was impossible to complete and was never-ending, so would be my trying to sweep the entire street clean of all the dirt and trash. I wince at the very thought of that hopeless task.
And that’s when a lightning bolt began to dance around in my head. It seems there’s much more to the broom and the pencil than I had initially thought.
How many of us try and sweep ourselves clean so that we’re presentable to God? Both believers and non-believers alike can, and often do, fall victim to this misguided way of thinking that is reliant upon yourself to perform the needed rescue successfully. Sadly, we regard ourselves and our abilities more highly in this way of thinking than we ought, and in doing so, we give God’s grace, Jesus, our only authentic, viable rescuer, the cold shoulder.
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 (NKJV)
“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Romans 12:3 (NKJV)
I know all too well how this process works: about the time you finish sweeping _____ Street (put your name in the blank) believing you’ve got yourself all cleaned up, along comes a supposed well-intentioned voice armed with a marker pencil, saying, “Well, yes, that’s an improvement, but you’re still not quite ready to stand before God. Take a look back at where you’ve been sweeping. Do you see all those areas in need of attention that you missed that I’ve conveniently outlined for you? Go back and clean them up, and then you’ll be ready. You can trust me because I have your best interest at heart. Now, hop to it; you’re wasting precious time!”
So, off we go with renewed determination back to square one to try and make ourselves right before a perfectly holy God. The truth is we’ll never be able to clean up ourselves sufficiently in that regard because sinners that we are, there’s no shortage of highlighted problem areas in our lives. They are like the seemingly unending handkerchiefs a magician pulls out of his or her hat. Besides, even if we could get it down to but one sin, we’d still come up short.
“For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” James 2:10 (NKJV)
For those among us who are non-believers, the roaring lion seeks to prevent you from ever experiencing God’s grace and mercy through the forgiveness of your sins offered through His Son, Jesus. If you listen to the voice with the pencil, you’ll be pushing that “Sisyphus” broom for the rest of your life, all to no avail, with only hell to show for it in the end.
Know this, friend, Jesus is the only One capable of cleaning and washing you thoroughly enough to meet God’s standards. You can scrub yourself as often and as hard as you like, but you can never sweep away all of your sins so that you’re spotless before the Lord. Even if you’re a “9” on a “one to ten goodness scale,” you’re still one short of perfection. Let that fact sink in for a minute.
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” 1 John 1:8-10 (NKJV)
How then shall we be rescued? It’s time to let Jesus take over the sweeping and make you a bonafide “10” in God’s eyes.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV)
“that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:15-18 (NKJV)
“For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever callson the name of theLordshall be saved.” Romans 10:10-13 (NKJV)
The broom and the pencil in Jesus’s hands have accomplished what you could not. He is the Good Samaritan that has graciously provided sweet relief to your former unsettled and wounded soul.
“So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.” Luke 10:34 (NKJV)
You may ask, “What about the pencil?” Unlike the voice that used it to condemn you constantly, Jesus uses the pencil to commend your faith by writing your name down in His book of life for all eternity.
“Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the Lord And who meditate on His name.” Malachi 3:16 (NKJV)
Let us rejoice!
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord. 8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NKJV)
And what of believers stuck in the loop of similar off-track thinking? You willingly and eagerly accepted God’s grace at the time of your salvation, rightly recognizing He alone has the power to save you. But post-conversion, more times than you care to admit, you’ve fallen into a works-oriented pit of despair in a vain attempt to earn or justify the Father’s love. Friends, I know of this darkness (“grace-full high five”), and I can tell you it is far from the place of freedom He intends for you to enjoy!
What should we do when we find ourselves in such a place? With a repentant, humble heart, give the broom and the pencil back to Him, for you see they were never meant to be used by your hands in this way.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (NKJV)
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.” Psalm 23:1-3 (NKJV)
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;” Luke 4:18 (NKJV)
Let the pencil be a reminder of your need to be firmly grounded in His written word, the Bible, for life through Jesus freely and gloriously abounds within its sacred pages.
“But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ” Matthew 4:4 (NKJV)
“Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105 (NKJV)
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1 (NKJV)
And again, we can proclaim, “How utterly beautiful is a person swept clean by His marvelous grace!”
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-7 (NKJV)
“Father, we pray for all of us, that Thou wilt sweep away our self-righteousness, even any little, ragged traces of self-righteousness that may be left. Save us from ourselves. Let grace abound from Calvary, and teach us that it is not by grace and something else, but by grace alone, Thy goodness, Thy kindness in Christ Jesus. This we ask in the name of the Lord who loves us. Amen.” (A. W. Tozer, The Attributes of God.)
“Grace Upon Grace” by Matthew West, from the album, “Brand New.”
Wherever a power washer is employed, a dramatic and significant change for the better happens as evidenced by this recent photo taken by Steve Wiggins.
It’s an obvious difference-maker that results in a startling night and day, dark and light, dirty and clean contrast between the before and after.
And this for perishable, earthly things in desperate need of thorough cleaning. How much more urgent is the heart-wrenching cry for the necessary cleansing embodied in our eternal souls for those who seek an everlasting relationship with God?
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 (NKJV)
“Not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:9 (NKJV)
Unclean and incapable of saving ourselves, how, then, can we ever hope to come into His holy presence?
Unwilling to leave us in our hopeless state of darkness, God has graciously provided us with the means of a soul-scrubbing, power-washing rescue, a pathway leading directly to Him.
What is this unique pathway?
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29 (NKJV)
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (NKJV)
What is Jesus’s mission here on earth?
“to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” Acts 26:18 (NKJV)
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begottenSon, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” Romans 3:16-17 (NKJV)
Has your soul been set free by the Lamb of God’s sacrifice?
“that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 8:9-10 (NKJV)
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,” Ephesians 2:8 (NKJV)
“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14 (NKJV)
Where do you stand spiritually? Are you still in the “before Jesus” darkness, or have you stepped into the “after Jesus” light of His power washing grace?
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:19-22 (NLT)
“To live Coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God. This phrase literally refers to something that takes place in the presence of, or before the face of God.” R. C. Sproul, Ligonier Ministries
Psalm 23 (NKJV)
The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.
What if this is the last post I ever have the opportunity to write?
What if reading this is your last opportunity to do anything?
In just a few hours I will undergo surgery. It is a minor surgery that doesn’t involve matters of life and death as so many others will endure this very same day all across this globe we all call home. Yet, it still causes me to pause and take a longer, deeper look at what is most important.
What thoughts run through your mind after reading these questions? Are they balls and chains that weigh you down, buzz-kills if you will, or do you view them instead as unlikely wings that, when firmly attached to Him (“Grounded Flight of Freedom”), allow you to soar in ways and into places you never imagined possible? When the latter occurs, a whole new world of previously unrecognized opportunities to be “Flying with God”presents themselves.
To live absent or oblivious to the underlying truth behind such questions is to miss out on living abundantly. To live in their sweet presence, however, is to experience “a life danced to the rhythm of God’s wisdom in a Byrd’s song.” Indeed, acknowledging this truth allows us to live each day to the fullest. This understanding ironically ushers us into a previously unseen world of incredible possibilities. What seems at first blush to be uncomfortably confining is ultimately found to be incredibly liberating.
Can nature’s song sound any purer than if you consider it from the perspective of recognizing you may never hear its captivating melodies again? Can the sky be any bluer than with such a mindset? The night stars twinkle so brightly? A flower’s bloom smell any sweeter? Can the touch, the look, the sounds of those you love be any more profoundly moving than when you humbly acknowledge it could be your last time?
My friend, this post has continued to grow far beyond what I originally envisioned. At first, I strongly resisted this expansion, wanting to keep this post as concise as possible, which admittedly is always an ongoing challenge for me. However, what began as a bubbling spring on a hillside has blossomed into a full-fledged waterfall. It is a captivating sight. I cannot look away. The vibrant current transports me along its purposeful path towards adventures only it knows at this moment. I am like a child on Christmas morning. My smile stretches from head to toe, and back again.
With renewed vision, I see that He would have me paint a much different picture than I originally intended. Quite frankly, it’s a picture I have needed to see as so often I’m prone to see the tree but not the forest. “It’s the view from 20,000 feet high” as my mentor, 2Tim, likes to say from time to time. After all, the Lord cannot be constrained to the earth-bound muddlings of the likes of someone like myself. The great I AM is thankfully so much more than my small-minded, narrow “God-in-the box” notions.
Each post I make addresses something He is teaching me, something I need to understand more fully. This latest endeavor continues in that vein. My hope and prayer are that you, as a fellow voyager, will walk away from this journey with a more profound and revolutionary awareness of His sweet presence in your life as well. In turn, may you be “contagious, unstoppable, and revolutionary” in your walk of faith, as John Eldredge notes in his book, “All Things New.”
Sprinkled throughout this post are links to past compositions already present on this site. Alone, these posts are but singular notes. Considered together, however, they become a captivating melody, if you will allow me to be so bold as to use that description. Yes, the view from 20,000 feet is quite extraordinary and humbling. In moments like this, I enjoy telling people, “Nobody weaves a quilt like the Lord, nobody!”
“We are the sum total of our experiences. Those experiences – be they positive or negative – make us the person we are, at any given point in our lives. And, like a flowing river, those same experiences, and those yet to come, continue to influence and reshape the person we are, and the person we become. None of us are the same as we were yesterday, nor will be tomorrow.”B.J. Neblett
Embracing a grander perspective is vital to ensuring our walk with Him remains headed in His direction, and not one of our choosing. If we focus solely on the tough times as completely individual pieces with no interconnectivity, we risk losing sight of not only the larger quilt He is weaving, but even more significantly, the Weaver Himself.
My fellow adventurer, where is hope to be found under a narrow, fragmented perspective? If we are to experience “tapping into hope,” then we must remain vigilant, trusting that there is a much bigger picture than the circumstances staring us immediately in the face. Hearts aligned with the Lord are then able to discover and embrace the hope lying just beneath the surface within the “Beauty is in the ayes of His beholders,” for example.
Walking with the Lord through the garden of your life, can you imagine a more breathtaking lifetime adventure than this? Surely there is nothing more mysterious, more beautiful, more revealing than this remarkable experience shared with the Living God, your Creator, your Salvation, the Author and Perfecter of your faith.
Each step, each bend, each vista, both large and small, is like a breath of fresh air after a cleansing summer rain when He is by your side. It’s seeing things as if you’re gloriously experiencing them for the very first time as a wide-eyed child. “Three in one” was such an experience. Yes, this odyssey with the Lord is nothing short of extraordinary. It overflows with sacred and noteworthy moments that span the variety of seasons that add vibrant color and meaningful depth to our lives. It’s like Dorothy stepping out of her former black and white world into the spectacular explosion of color, sights, and sounds that is the Land of Oz.
As you explore the winding path with the Lord, there inevitably comes the time when He pauses, puts His arm around your shoulder, and looks off into the distance. Pointing with His finger towards the distant horizon, He says to you with great anticipation in His voice, “Look there, my child. Do you see that?”
Squinting mightily, you peer off in the direction of His outstretched finger. “Lord, I’m looking, but I’m unable to make out what it is that You want me to see.” “I know, child. It’s OK that you can’t see it yet, but I wanted you to know I have already provided and planned something marvelous for you. The closer we get to it, the clearer it will become for you. It’s so lovely and magnificent!” He replies. “Oh! It sounds spectacular! How I wish I could see it, Lord!” you exclaim. “You will not be disappointed, I promise!” He whispers into your ear as He grasps your shoulder even more tightly. Gazing off into the distance, an ever-broadening, glowing smile of immense satisfaction appears on His face as He turns His attention back to you. It’s a smile that instantly warms your entire being.
Continuing, He adds, “I’m excited for you to see it and to share this adventure with you. It’s a long journey to get there, but I’ll be there every step of the way with you so you’ll never be alone. I must tell you, though, that there may be times when the temptation to think and feel otherwise might present itself. There will also be times in which you seem not to be making any progress. Don’t worry, though, because (S)Parking Lots have their good purposes. Remember to pursue My Word that it will always be a lamp to your feet and a light to your path (Psalm 119:105.) Welcome My presence moment by moment with open arms so that you may enjoy its full and “sound affect”on you. Surround yourself with brothers and sisters of spiritual character and integrity (Hebrews 10:25.) Allow their iron to sharpen your iron (Proverbs 27: 17) Be encouraged by their stories like “Truck stop rescue”in which they have experienced My presence (Joshua 4:4-7) and unfailing kindness (Jeremiah 31:3.) Listen carefully, my child, fear not for I will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6.) Have faith that I’m always there beside you working on your behalf “behind the seens.” Together, we will go on this quest that will be incredibly challenging at times but immensely rewarding. Keep your eyes always on Me so that you stay the course and do not falter (Hebrews 12:1-3.). Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. (Matthew 11:29, NKJV) In the end, the effort will seem light when compared to the great reward I have in store for you (Philippians 3:13-15.) You will not be disappointed. How does that sound to you?”
Listening intently, you subconsciously rise on your tip-toes in hopes of obtaining a more precise view only to come up short in your effort yet again. “Lord, I still can’t make out what You want me to see. Is there something wrong with me that I can’t see it?” you ask with a slight bit of uncertainty in your voice. “No, my child,” comes His soothing voice. “Many others also find themselves exactly where you are now standing. They also express similar concerns. You are a “diamond in the rough” just as they are. The time has come for you to move forward if you want to discover what lies in the distance. You must move beyond this place in which you have become comfortable. You must move courageously in faith towards what is unknown to you but known to Me.”
It’s fair to say that so long as we’re comfortable most of us are quite happy to stay exactly where we are. Two of my favorite quotes come to mind. The first is from the movie, “Morgan” in which Dr. Alan Shapiro, played by Paul Giamatti, says, “I have found comfort to be a possible thorn in the side of revelation.” The second quote is by John Maxwell. It reiterates the same basic idea as the first. “If we are growing, we are always going to be outside of our comfort zone.”
Of this much, I am sure: His plans and purposes for our lives are far more significant and grander than you or I can imagine. To allow us to languish in comfort when we are as yet unfinished lumps of clay would fall well short of who He is and who He has purposed us to be. His love for His children presses us onward and upward toward mountain peaks instead of little hills.
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4 (NKJV)
To grow, you have to go; it’s as simple as that. An old familiar saying puts it like this: “A rolling stone gathers no moss.” Stagnation is quite unlikely to happen when you’re moving. No way is the Lord going to allow His people to become covered in moss. Even God’s own Son, our Lord, and Savior, Jesus, was always on the move.
“And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’” Luke 9:58 (NKJV)
Ironically, we all strive mightily to be comfortable, but once obtained, it is comfort itself that too often hinders and thwarts our spiritual progress. We have misunderstood “happiness.”
In Desiring God, John Piper explains, “The very longing for contentment that ought to drive us to simplicity of life and labors of love contents itself instead with the broken cisterns of prosperity and comfort.”
“Remove falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches-feed me with the food allotted to me; lest I be full and deny You, and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God.” Proverbs 30:8-10 (NKJV)
“Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing…” Revelation 3:17a (NKJV)
What is the remedy for our chasing of things that offer only temporary relief in our search for happiness? How can we avoid falling into the deadly trap of filling the “broken cisterns of prosperity and comfort?” The answer? We must be firmly grounded in Him. Cultivate your relationship with Him with all your might. The better you know Him, the more you will experience His peace and joy and the things of this world will lose their grip on you.
“Unless Your law had been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have given me life.” Psalm 119:92-93 (NKJV)
The Psalm 119:92-93 author experienced a life-threatening event. Ironically, in the throes of his wrestling match with death, however, he miraculously found life. The thorn of affliction, although unidentified, was the catalyst for such an epiphany.
This much is sure: the truth and wisdom found in verses like this were purposefully wrought on the rocky shores of adversity and desperation far, far away from the safe, moss-covered harbor of comfort. “Faith rubber meets the rowed” happens outside the bounds of a comfortable sanctuary. To enjoy the abundant life God intends for us, we must look beyond the walls of comfort.
What do you think? Was the Psalm 119:92-93 trial too great of a price to pay for such a life-altering revelation? For something that creates deeper trust, intimacy, and dependency upon the Father? For something that ultimately glorifies God?
Let’s consider Joseph’s story, as told in Genesis. He unexpectedly found himself at the bottom of a dark pit at the hands of none other than his brothers, who then sold him to strangers. His treasured coat of many colors had been stripped from him. And what about those marvelous dreams he had boasted so freely about to his family? Instead of his brothers bowing down at his feet as foretold by the dreams, he now found himself staring up at their feet. Surely at that moment, he must have felt as if his whole world had suddenly collapsed around him.
Yet not only did Joseph survive this and other challenging situations that followed, but he thrived. How was this possible?
How we view troublesome circumstances that we encounter along life’s path dictates whether we survive and thrive, as Joseph did, or experience ruin and heartache. When we face setbacks, do we see the pits as bottom-less, or as bottom-more? It would be easy and for an excellent reason to call such a place, “despair.” Or perhaps it would be better named “prepare?” Our answer to these questions is critical and reflective of one’s perspective, one’s worldview.
“It’s time that you take a close look at your God concept. Your God concept is what you think about God and how you feel about Him. These beliefs and feelings become a type of filter in your brain. Inevitably you will not live with the facts of your life but the interpretation of the facts of your life.” Paul Marc Goulet
“Never interpret God’s love by your circumstances, but always interpret your circumstances by His love.” C.H. Mackintosh
The world, apart from God, is predisposed to view such dreadful pits as dead-end roads lacking hope that ultimately leads to nowhere good. Alternatively, an eternal perspective that embraces the sovereignty and flawless character of God believes there is ample reason to hope and, therefore, not give up, regardless of the circumstances.
Astonishingly, this hole was the improbable and unlikely beginning of his Coram Deo journey to becoming the much-admired, God-centered “Genesis 50:20” Joseph. Therefore, wisdom accompanied by faith instructs us, His children, to not be too hasty regarding our perception of our circumstances at any given moment, and instead beckons us to view our conditions in this world with Romans 8:28-30 in full view at all times. Why is this viewpoint so critical? Joseph became humbly teachable at the bottom of that pit, and so must we in order to become useful in God’s Kingdom.
To what end, such a profound transformation as Joseph underwent? And for what purpose? The Westminster Shorter Catechism #1 answers these questions: Q1-“What is the chief end of man? A1-Man’s chief end is to glorify God, by enjoying Him forever.”
Unwavering faith grows when a person experiences first hand His intimate presence and ongoing provision. Trials amplify this learning process. As the saying goes, “Faith isn’t fact until it’s tested.” Tested faith joyfully proclaims and shares what it knows to be true. It is no longer a mindless faith that timidly whispers of what it does not genuinely know, but rather it becomes a passionate voice crying out in the wilderness that He is none other than who His Word proclaims Him to be. He has come to set the captives free! Yes?
Psalm 23 is an overflowing fountain heralding God’s Kingdom built upon King David’s tested faith and personal relationship with Him. We are to be fountains overflowing with His living water, as well. I can’t speak for you, but the still, small Voice in my heart whispers, “How well does your fountain flow?”
“But He answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”Matthew 4:4 (NKJV)
A loaf of bread can momentarily satisfy a person’s physical hunger, but the Word of God nourishes the starving soul forever.
“When our body needs energy, we eat food. But when our soul needs hope, what do we feed it? Promises…. Our souls are designed to be nourished by God’s ‘precious and very great promises.’” (2 Peter 1:4, NIV) Jon Bloom
How priceless, then, are situations that teach this ageless truth and create deeper intimacy with Him? If you have been to such a heavenly place wherein you have been entirely dependent upon Him, then this portion of the journey is familiar to you.
Genuine freedom and wisdom are not acquired cheaply. What price an authentic life? What price freedom? Our Savior paid the ultimate price to secure our freedom. Is it any surprise, then, that our transformation into His likeness is costly as well?
“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” Luke 9:24 (NKJV)
Judging from my own life experiences, I can confidently attest that the Lord is the actual source of such wisdom regarding the importance of our moving beyond our comfort zones. What, then, are the circumstances that have taken me outside the comforts of a hammock gently swinging beneath lush shade trees? What is the landscape of the pit I am now experiencing?
I am momentarily stepping aside from the plot to tell you a portion of my story. It is not to whine or complain, mind you. No, not at all. Nor is it to elicit pity. Instead, I feel the need to inform you of my immediate circumstances, given its relevancy to this discussion.
I am at an age that is generally perceived to be associated with retirement. Retirement in the foreseeable future is off the table for me, however. About three and a half years ago, I was laid off by my former almost two-decades-long employer as a result of a severe downturn in the oil and gas business. Three days after my layoff, my partner experienced the same fate. A half-year later, my partner and I were blessed to most improbably give birth to a drilling and exploration company. We have primarily provided the “sweat equity” while a group of investors has provided the funding for this startup company. The life expectancy of this enterprise was for two years, based on our partners’ level of financial investment. Miraculously we are now one year beyond that expected expiration even though we have yet to produce one dollar of revenue to date despite our best efforts to the contrary.
As you might guess, COVID-19 has only served to compound our problems like it has for so many. My partner and I have given everything we have and more to this effort, yet we stand on the brink of a cliff. The hourglass sand is trickling away with scant few grains remaining as you might correctly surmise. If grains of sand each represent a month, then we are down to only two remaining grains. The dream will become that distant “Wylie Coyote” puff of smoke and dust at the base of the cliff from the Roadrunner Cartoon series if we’re unable to establish a revenue stream quickly. Financial ruin is on our doorstep. At my age, how can one possibly hope to ever recover from such a devastating loss? Will my wife and I find ourselves living under a bridge for the rest of our years? These are questions that growl more loudly with each passing day. In short, we need a parting of the Red Sea sort of miracle.
My relationship with the Lord has deepened remarkably throughout this experience. I can honestly tell you that the reward of intimacy with Him I continue to receive is well worth the price. Truthfully, I wouldn’t change any of this part of my journey if it meant losing Him. I have gained so much more of Him through this valley. He is my Rock, my Refuge, my Strength. It is He that keeps me in unlikely peace amid this storm-filled pit. I am blissfully dependent upon Him.
“In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.” Psalm 94:19 (NKJV)
And so we return to where we earlier left our journey gazing at the distant horizon. There is but one remaining question that must be asked: “Do you trust Me?”
That is THEE question before all of us, His children, wouldn’t you say? How do you respond to Him? Will you go with Him to discover this distant, unknown beauty so that He may reveal it to you? Or will you play it safe according to your understanding and remain firmly planted right where you are? Will you be “per-sway did or per-sway-dead?”
The great I AM now knocks at the door of your heart, beckoning you to follow Him. Perhaps your response to the question is predicated upon your knowing how this adventure ends. For those that need an answer, I have good news for you. You don’t have to remain in the dark any longer. He has already given to each of us, His children, the remarkable answer to that question. Be encouraged by His words.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30 (NKJV)
The Transformed You, my brother, and sister in Christ is the distant, gleaming beauty on the horizon at the end of the trail that He seeks to show you. It is your metamorphosed beauty bearing His Son’s likeness and clothed with His righteousness that He aims to bring to your attention. What was once unknown and unrecognizable to you has all been graciously revealed beforehand! Therefore, consider solemnly “the few-ture”awaiting you. Regardless of your current circumstances, do you now sense the heartbeat of hope and meaningful purpose rising within you?
“to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3 (ESV) (emphasis mine)
There is but one true beauty responsible for this life-changing transformation leading to our being “(br)oak(en) for righteousness.” Jesus, the “unfading Rose,” the One who has redeemed us and set us free, the One to whom we owe all, the One who willingly took our place that day on the cross, He is the reason. Rejoice friends for He has made our destiny sure. I say again, rejoice!
“being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” Philippians 1:6 (NKJV)
Will you accept His offer to lovingly guide you through the hills and valleys of your lifetime as King David declares in Psalm 23? The first and last steps of your Coram Deo adventure in search of the destiny He has purposed and planned for you can successfully begin and end only one way: trusting Him.
In the end, He is what matters. Do you trust Him?
“Only Jesus” by Casting Crowns from the album “Only Jesus”
OK, I confess. I have to admit I’ve struggled specifically with this particular post more than most. Why? In an interesting twist of irony it’s because I’ve been riding the fence about, well, writing about riding the fence.
My writing problems were not about the “what” so much as they were about the “how.” The struggle was all about finding the correct approach as to how best to write about this subject. I started this post multiple times only to be unhappy with my efforts so into the digital trash bin each attempt would go.
How did I finally gain writing traction? The Lord pointed out something to me that had been staring me in the face the whole time: Simply put, Jesus didn’t pull any punches when he addressed the issue of people riding the fence when it comes to spiritual matters, and particularly so about Himself, so why should I? My previous efforts had all failed because I was watering things down. I was sugar-coating His message. I was trying to be safe. While He is direct, I was being indirect, thus the discomforting disconnect between my writing and my inspiration.
“We are either in the process of resisting God’s truth or in the process of being shaped and molded by His truth.” Charles Stanley
Jesus speaks very plainly and openly about those who attempt to ride the spiritual fence between Heaven and earth. Why? Because He knows He can’t afford to be or say anything less than that for our sakes and the sake of God’s Kingdom. If He were to do so He wouldn’t be true to us or Himself. Therein lies the lesson He desires to pass along to us when dealing with this subject.
“He who is not with Me is against me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.” Matthew 12:30 (NKJV),
Like the bear looking for an easy meal of birdseed on our fence, we cannot allow ourselves to be lured away from His truth. It’s unnatural for the bear to balance precariously on a fence for a meal of birdseed, and likewise, so it is also unnatural for believers, His followers, to take up unsteady and mistaken positions on matters He has addressed in His Word.
The world is like the cat in the photo, intently watching to see if we will be true to what we say we believe, or will we show ourselves to be the outstanding hypocrites they hope and believe us to be?
“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.” C.S. Lewis
When our words and actions do not mesh the truth is suppressed. If we know the truth yet don’t stand up for the truth of what value are we to a dying world that is being deceived? Do we not add to the veil of deception when we fail to speak the truth? Rather than helping others find the truth, we become part of the lie that holds them captive.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” Matthew 5:13 (NKJV)
Why do we take up such awkward positions that place us most uncomfortably, if we’re being honest, in between two opposing forces? Sadly, far too often I must admit that I can relate to the pressures King Saul speaks about as found in 1 Samuel 15:24 (NKJV), “Then Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.”
Is there a root cause for our fear of people’s opinions? I believe there is. Surely our lack of understanding as to the true nature of God is exposed when we acquiesce in fear to people and choose the world’s ways over His ways.
Too few believers spend meaningful time in His Word and enjoy quality alone time with Him. When this happens our relationship with Him lacks sufficient depth and intimacy. Take heart, though, because it’s not meant to be this way. He desires to be in a relationship with you more than you can imagine. “Be-loved” His beloved!
“The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” Jeremiah 31:3 (NKJV)
Think about it. We will go to bat for good friends, but scarcely, if at all, lift a finger for someone who is little more than an acquaintance. Is it any wonder, then, that when push comes to shove regarding our beliefs concerning God and His ways that we find ourselves aligning with the world over Him? We align ourselves with what we are familiar with and know, it’s as plain and simple as that. My friends, it doesn’t have to be this way. He has given us the right path to follow and how to stay on that track. Ignorance of who He is and what His Word says is not a reasonable excuse.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105 (NKJV)
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV)
Today, more than ever, we as believers are faced with mounting pressure to choose the world’s ways over the Lord’s by saddling up and riding the fence of compromise that only serves to dilute His truths. God’s Kingdom-truth is that when this happens there is no fence riding occurring, but instead, if we truly look with our hearts and eyes, we will find that we have fallen off of the fence and have landed squarely on the opposite side of the fence from where we’re supposed to be with Jesus.
But…is all hope lost, is it too late if we find ourselves on the wrong side of the spiritual fence from Him due to our compromises, our agreements that we have made with the world in the past, some possibly as recently as even today? Joyfully the answer is a resounding “No!”
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Luke 4:18 (NKJV)
“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying?” Matthew 18:12 (NKJV)
So, my brothers and sisters in Christ, let us take heart and rightly choose Him over the world when we’re tempted, and even encouraged, to take up sides against Him by coming into agreement with the world. Be reminded by the writer of Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV) who extols us to avoid finding ourselves on the wrong side of the fence saying, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Let us always be mindful of how Jesus described Himself in John 14:6 (NKJV) saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
And that, my friend, is the bare truth. The question is how will we choose to handle this truth?
Jadon Lavik, “My Father’s World” from the album, “Roots Run Deep”