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.”
“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” Habukkuk 3:17-18 (NLT)
When I think about birds, two things immediately come to mind: flying and singing. Indeed most people would say a bird unable to either fly or sing is, well, less of a bird, especially so if it was no longer capable of flying. I can’t help but wonder out loud, though, “Is it possible God sees such a bird as ‘more than’ when all we see is ‘less than?'”
What would your answer be if I were to ask you to tell me two vital things about yourself that are integral to who you are, like we just mentioned about birds regarding flying and singing? Do you have those attributes firmly in mind? Good. Imagine what it would be like if something happened and you lost one of the two traits for an undetermined length of time. In other words, you don’t know whether the loss is temporary or permanent. What might your attitude be? Your outlook? What emotions might you experience? Would you shake your fist at God? Or would you praise Him despite your circumstances?
“It’s easy to love and trust God when life is good, but when things fall apart is when you find out what we truly believe.” Cory Asbury, Reckless Love (the devotional)
Let me tell you a remarkable story about a lady and a bird as told to me by my wife last week. One of her Facebook friends originally shared the story as I understand it. It’s a story that points the way forward towards higher ground for all who find themselves struggling to keep their heads and their hopes up in deep, stormy waters. I hope you will be as touched by it as I continue to be.
“When I understand that everything happening to me is to make me more Christlike, it resolves a great deal of anxiety.” A. W. Tozer
Before I begin this story, let me first make mention of God’s photo provision before I ever heard this story. A few days earlier, we had a bird fly into one of our windows at the back of our house. Stunned from the impact, it fell on the outdoor couch between the seat back and the cushions. This situation was unusual because it was a cardinal rather than the typical dove we usually see. Intrigued by this uncommon occurrence, I took the photo. Little did I know at that time that I’d need an image of a cardinal sitting in an unusual setting for a story I’d be inspired to share a few days later. And yes, for all you fellow bird lovers out there, I’m happy to report that the bird fully recovered and was gone just a few minutes later after I took the picture.
As the story goes, it seems this lady was driving down the street at the beginning of a hectic day filled with appointments when she happened upon a cardinal sitting in the middle of the road. The bird didn’t attempt to fly off as she drove closer, so she pulled off to the side and parked her car for a closer look at this unexpected sight. Realizing something must be wrong for the bird to act like that, she gently scooped it up and placed it in a cardboard box she happened to have in her car. Instead of going ahead with her busy schedule, she immediately drove to an animal shelter, hoping someone could help the bird out. The person examining the bird explained to her that, most likely, the bird had a broken clavicle (collarbone) and had only a 50-50 chance of recovery from this severe and excruciating injury. If she wanted to help, the best thing for her to do would be to take the bird home, nurse it as best she could, and then wait and see what happens, realizing the bird may not ever fly again or possibly die. Not surprisingly, the lady decided to take the bird home with her.
In an unexpected twist on the drive home, the lady said she and the bird shared a “moment” of sorts as they made eye contact. And then, to the lady’s delight and amazement, the cardinal broke out into a song and continued to sing most of the rest of the way home. Happily, the bird healed over the next several weeks, and as instructed, the lady took it back to where she found it and released it back into its home territory.
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Vivian Greene
You know, friend, I’ve thought about this story a lot since first hearing it. Do you want to know what tugs at my heartstrings about it? It’s the bird still singing despite the pain, despite being unable to fly, and despite finding itself in strange and threatening surroundings. I have to ask, “Would I still sing under such difficult and painful circumstances where I’ve lost something of great value, something I consider to be part of who I am? Do I have the faith and trust in God to sing His praises during challenging times that shake me to my very core?”
“Faith isn’t fact until it’s tested.” Steve Wiggins, Groundworks Ministry
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” Corrie ten Boom
The story of an underdog facing seemingly insurmountable odds stirs my heart like none other. This tale is that kind of story, and it brings to mind that old saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” God has called us to make lemonade with Him no matter our circumstances. Why? For His glory. Do you know Him to be a good, good Father? Do you believe He is sovereign? Your willingness to sing His praises even while surrounded by lemons depends upon Who you believe God to be and the degree of intimacy you have with Him.
“There is a correlation between our sense of security and the depth of our understanding of God’s love.” David Jeremiah
Ah, yes, if we but truly grasped the unsurpassed depth of God’s love for us, we would never be shaken, and our days would overflow with waterfalls of heartfelt singing.
“Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “’Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’” Mark 9:24 (NKJV)
I’ve taken the liberty of changing a few words from an iconic song (Singin’ in the Rain) to help illustrate this story’s takeaways. The original word is noted in parentheses. And, yes, of course, this song is the source of inspiration for this post’s title.
“I’m singin’ in the pain (rain) Just singin’ in the pain (rain) What a glorious feeling I’m happy again I’m laughin’ at clouds So dark up above The Son’s (sun’s) in my heart And I’m ready for love Let the stormy clouds chase Everyone from the place Come on with the pain (rain) I’ve a smile on my face I’ll walk down the lane With a happy refrain Just singin’ Singin’ in the pain (rain)”
Writer/s: Arthur Freed, Nacio Herb Brown Publisher: BMG Rights Management, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind
When the painful times come into our lives, and Jesus assures us they will, may we find the courage, trust, and faith to sing His praises despite the heartaches. He has, after all, overcome the world. Do we believe God to be sovereign? Let all who know this to be true be of good cheer.
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NKJV)
“But I will sing of Your power; Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; For You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble.” Psalm 59:16 (NKJV)
“The Christian’s life is to be a thing of truth and also a thing of beauty in the midst of a lost and despairing world.” Francis Schaeffer, Art and the Bible
I’m blessed and inspired, as I hope you are as well, by this moving and encouraging story about the cardinal singing amid a life-threatening storm. Yes, these are the type of stories that thrill and lift my heart above the stormy waters that threaten to capsize and sink me. May I live an authentic and vibrant “more than” life that points others to God even during dark and treacherous times. Because of You, Jesus, I can sing it is well with my soul. Let us sing His praises, my friend.
“Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. 23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:22-25 (NKJV) (emphasis mine)
Soul’s Anthem (It Is Well) by Alisha Mino and John Rose
“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:2 (NKJV)
Who would’ve ever thought the Lord would use a Snoopy bobblehead to teach me a thing or two? Snoopy has now been on “my cover” twice in a row. It’s safe to say I did not see that one coming!
At the beginning of each year, a specific word in tandem with just the right verse becomes my guidepost of sorts to help guide me through the coming year. Last year my word was “grateful.”
“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV)
Time marches on, as they say, so this brings us to my word for 2022, of course. Typically it comes to my prayerful attention through various means and ways sometime in the first week or two of the new year. This time, however, in a first, it surprisingly appeared right before 2021 was officially over. My 2022 word? Yes, you’ve no doubt guessed it already from the title of today’s post: “Perspective.” And not just any kind of perspective, but godly perspective.
“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)
“The greatest tragedy for any human being is to go through their entire lives believing the only perspective that matters is their own.” Doug Baldwin
“When I understand that everything happening to me is to make me more Christlike, it resolves a great deal of anxiety.” A. W. Tozer
It’s fair to say this is an area of my life in need of attention as the Lord wasted no time providing me with a teaching moment in the early goings of 2022.
On the very first Monday of this new year, I had no sooner settled down at my desk upstairs to begin my work than my phone started ringing. Looking down, I saw my wife’s name on caller ID. I had just finished lunch not 5 minutes earlier with her, mind you. “What in the world?” I thought to myself, already feeling a bit of frustration swelling up in me since we had just spent an hour or so together. Her voice sounded more urgent than usual when I picked up the call, though, exclaiming, “Come here! Now! I need to tell you something!”
As I walked a bit begrudgingly down the stairs, I couldn’t help but wonder what it was that was so important for her to tell me now, yet wasn’t important enough during our lunch to tell me about it then. “Doesn’t she know I have work to do?” I thought to myself with a tinge of self-proclaimed importance iced with a bit of dismissiveness as to the likelihood that whatever she has to say would turn out to be significant enough to justify the interruption. Yes, embarrassingly, I know this is not a good look for me.
Arriving in the living room, she pointed to the opposite end of the couch with an outstretched finger. “Sit!” she commanded. As I sat down, my mind began to race. “Oh boy,” I mused, “This doesn’t sound good. What have I done?”
Before I could even speak, she put her finger to her mouth and whispered, “Shhhhhh…listen!Don’t say a word.What do you hear?” “OK,” I thought to myself, “I’ll play along, although I have no idea whatsoever where this is going.” And then, within the quietness, a faint but steady and distinct “tap…tap…tap” sound came to my ears. “Do you hear it?” she asked. “Yes,” I replied. “It’s that tap…tap…tap sound…right?” Glancing in the direction of the sound, I immediately recognized its source. “It’s coming from bobblehead Snoopy as his head is going up and down,” I stated matter of factly. And yes, at this point, you’d be right thinking my level of excitement was nonexistent compared to that of my wife’s, which seemed to be building by the minute.
Undaunted by my lack of enthusiasm, she excitedly replied, “Yes! But I didn’t know that at first. I thought it was the leaky kitchen faucet dripping again.” She then went on to explain that she had just gotten all comfy on the couch with a blanket and a magazine for some much-needed quiet time winding down from her very early morning job when she became increasingly aware of the irritating sound. She tried her best to ignore it, but that only made it louder in her mind.
Unable to disregard the annoying sound any longer, she got up from the couch in somewhat of a frustrated huff and walked the few steps into the kitchen to turn off the faucet. Only then did she discover the real reason for the noise was bobblehead Snoopy. “And then something fantastic happened,” she exclaimed. “I wasn’t annoyed anymore. No, I felt just the opposite…I felt…soothed. After all, you know how Snoopy’s constantly bobbing head always manages to brighten our mood, ” she announced as I nodded my head in agreement. Then before I could even speak, she quickly added with a starry twinkle in her eyes and an octave higher voice, “My PERSPECTIVE changed once I realized it was Snoopy and not the faucet making that sound! Isn’t that crazy amazing?!?!”
Suddenly, her reason for interrupting my work became crystal clear. And just like that, I was no longer annoyed at having my work disturbed. Instead, a soothing wave of encouragement and delight washed over me. You see, like my wife, my perspective of the circumstances changed for the better, too.
“Sometimes the best thing to do is to take a step back and get a little bit of a different perspective and re-evaluate things.” Austin Aries
And so, it would seem we’ve now reached the logical end of this post. Surprisingly, however, that is not the case. You see, this story is like a quilt the Lord is weaving, and as it turns out, the quilt is incomplete. A vital part is missing that I haven’t previously considered until now. What’s the missing piece? “Prosperity,” which is my wife’s word for 2022.
As I sit here writing, I must confess that I am experiencing an abundance of prosperity in my life at this time. How so? As a husband, my heart is joyful because of my wife’s unbridled excitement to share her experience with my word for 2022. As a writer, I can also tell you that telling stories like this always makes my heart smile, even dance. And, last but certainly not least, as a child of God, I’m overwhelmed by His desire, kindness, and patience to teach me a still better way, His way. In short, I feel incredibly blessed in terms of prosperity right now.
Upon reading that last observation, the world will likely say, “Hey! What you’re describing is not prosperity because there’s no mention of wealth!” To that, I reply, “But, I am wealthy in other ways that don’t involve money. Can’t you see that? Like so many other things in this life, grasping the true meaning of prosperity requires the proper perspective. Where then can such truth be found? There are our ways and viewpoints, but then there is the Lord’s perspective shining gloriously above all else.”
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105 (NKJV)
“Help us to accept our grief as pain that will empower us to live; our uncertainty as a difficult opportunity to discover unknown dreams and directions; our illnesses as a strong light which helps us see at last our health; our loneliness as the most authentic beginning of human love and solidarity. Help us, not to be Pollyanna pieties but sincere seekers for wholeness of life. Help us to open the door of the morning and say: what happens, let all of it be a blessing. Amen.” (Singer of Seasons, Beverly Sawyer)
You see, my friend, it’s all a matter of perspective regarding how we perceive our circumstances and lives. There are our limited, selfish, earthbound ways and viewpoints, and then there are those of the Lord’s that gloriously know no bounds.
“Never interpret God’s love by your circumstances, but always interpret your circumstances by His love.” C.H. Mackintosh
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5 (ESV)
Blessings by Laura Story from the album “Blessings.”
“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)
And just like that, it turns out my most recent post, which I had thought would be my last post of the year, isn’t the last one, after all. Surprize (wink)! What can I say? When the light of inspiration strikes, it buoyantly sets into motion a creative adventure with the Lord like none other for me. I pray it is the same for you.
Recently we bought a cheap solar-powered Snoopy bobblehead. We weren’t looking for him at the time, mind you, because he wasn’t even on our shopping list. However, there he was on a shelf alongside a host of other bobbleheads, all seemingly laser-focused on capturing our attention with their almost hypnotic up and down movements. It was like a bobblehead flash mob, but with one standout “star” in our eyes. How could we resist, given that we love Snoopy and all things Charlie Brown? Encouraged by Snoopy’s eager, nodding approval, we decided the right thing to do was take him home with us, and so we did.
Snoopy’s new home is on our kitchen counter-top. Much to my delight, I’ve discovered that my daylight conversations with him are always positive and uplifting. Indeed, watching his head always nod affirmatively is something that brightens my day.
I’ve noticed a few other things about Snoopy since he’s come to live with us. One, when the lights are off, he’s motionless and has nothing to say. Two, his head starts bobbing almost immediately as soon as the lights come on. Lastly, the longer the lights are on, the more pronounced his head bobs up and down. In short, no light amounts to no enthusiasm whatsoever, while more light equals visible, unmistakably passionate movement.
We can say the same about our walk with the Lord, can’t we?
“You were placed on earth to know God. Everything else is secondary.” Greg Laurie
The amount of enthusiasm, devotion, and passion we have for God and His Kingdom directly depends on how much and how often we bask in His light through prayer, Bible study, and other spiritually edifying choices that all result in authentic worship experience.
“Keep on being faithful, because God honors faithfulness. Not bigness, but faithfulness. Not the great crowds, not the great set-up, but faithfulness in the place He put you.” Billy Graham
The truth is we are brought to a spiritual standstill when we are outside God’s presence and alone in the dark. Our forward motion is non-existent.
“If we are unexcited Christians, we should go back and see what is wrong.” Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There
Just as you do in all relationships, you have to invest time and energy in your relationship with God to reap the rewards; otherwise, negative consequences will arise.
“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:24 (NKJV)
“He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.” Matthew 12:30 (NKJV)
And so, the stage is set for the dramatic divide between darkness and light, stagnation and forward progress.
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” Romans 8:5 (NKJV)
The more quality time we spend with Him, inevitably, the greater our enthusiasm and desire for all things of God. His light amplifies our motion on His behalf and in His direction.
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:8 (NKJV)
“The Bible is the only book whose author is always present when one reads it.” Anonymous
“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)
The question on the table for all of us throughout each day is, “Are you headed in the Light direction?” Will we choose to nod in affirmation of Jesus, or will we stand stoically silent in the dark?
“Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock.” Luke 6:48 (NKJV)
“Two Sets of Jones” by Big Tent Revival from the album “Big Tent Revival.”
“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.”
“God is infinite, and because God is infinite, you and I can be bold and brave in the universe, just the same as the little boy who is brave when his father is around.” A. W. Tozer, Delighting in God
Recently, my wife and I went out for a later than usual lunch at one of our favorite beachside restaurants. Accompanying us was my unwanted sullen attitude, which only worsened as a long line of other hopeful diners unexpectedly greeted us at our restaurant of choice.
Patience challenged as I was, I suggested we leave and find a place where we could walk right in with no waiting, but my wife brushed right past my attempts to avoid the crowd, cheerfully observing, “What else do we have to do this afternoon?” She was right, of course. It’s just that I didn’t want to hear such positivity as she joyfully, and I begrudgingly took our place at the back of the line.
Why my lousy attitude? Simply put, I was under siege by a ruthless army of restless, negative thoughts feasting on my worries of “what wasn’t yet, but might be.”
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 12:25 (NIV)
Despite the crowd, we somehow ended up getting the table we’d both choose if we were the only people there. Sitting outdoors at this time of year overlooking the beach is nothing short of a breath of fresh air, yet my gloominess refused to budge an inch even in the face of our good seating fortune.
All the while, I was trying to tamp my negativity down to prevent our afternoon from becoming a washout. I felt like I was falling in slow motion off a cliff, yet there was nothing I could seemingly do about it even though I knew better, which made it even worse for me. I was aboard a self-pity train headed fast towards nowhere good that I desperately wanted to jump off of but maddeningly couldn’t. Such a tight spot is so frustrating and debilitating for professing Christians to find themselves in, especially for one who writes about my faith as I do. And with that thought, another chain wrapped itself around my leg.
But then something fortuitously happened out of the blue that completely rearranged and refocused my thinking. Or perhaps I should be bolder and use the word “providentially?”
“Do you perceive mere coincidence, or do you discern the hand of God?” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
We had been watching a dove sitting forlornly on a nearby ceiling fan blade. You see, it couldn’t find its way off the seasonally enclosed deck. While observing the weary bird’s dilemma, I had already ironically thought to myself, “It seems that I’m not the only one trapped today.” If misery loves company, then the dove was my company. Suddenly, the bird left the overhead fan blade and landed directly on my head, much to my and everyone else’s surprise and amusement.
There’s something remarkably transformative whenever you perceive yourself as seen instead of unseen, you know? It’s so encouraging and uplifting. Here’s how my friend, Mindi, put it in my “trucks top rescue“ post when she was battling feelings of abandonment during a rough time in her life, “The bird just sat there sweetly looking at me, tenderly reminding me God was with me, watching over me. Instantly my focus was changed from my circumstances to Him. It was a deeply beautiful moment when I truly felt…well, not so alone.” Amen? Amen!
“Never interpret God’s love by your circumstances, but always interpret your circumstances by His love.” C. H. Mackintosh
“The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 (NKJV)
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)
In that moment of clarity, just as Mindi had experienced, my burdens were left behind as my thoughts also turned away from myself and towards Him. A few short minutes later, with the help of some other diners, the dove also found welcome release from its captivity, as well.
The enemy would have you believe you’re a forgotten castaway adrift on a raft all alone. The truth is just the opposite: the Lord always has His eyes on you because He is always with you, His precious and deeply loved child.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (NKJV)
“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.” Psalm 23:4 (NKJV)
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NKJV)
“For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’” Isaiah 41:13 (NKJV)
“’ 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 28:20 (NKJV)
This particular day I needed to be reminded of the Lord’s promises. I needed to refocus my attention on Him. Graciously that mindset change was initiated by a dove improbably landing on my head.
“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:2 (NKJV)
As much as I’d like to say my faith is rock-solid 24/7, it’s not. The good news for you and me, though, is that while we have our ups and downs, our heavenly Father never wavers!
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 (NKJV)
I pray this story is an encouragement and reminder for you to turn your focus on Jesus regardless of your circumstances. When you do so, He gloriously transforms your sore earth-bound thoughts into thoughts that majestically soar heavenwards. May you experience that sweet relief in Him!
“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)
“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)
“You Raise Me Up-Acoustic” by Selah from the album “You Raise Me Up: Greatest Hits.”
With God, an ocean of unfathomable possibilities exists right behind us; all we need to do is turn around for a new perspective.
If the late Cajun chef and beloved humorist, Justin E. Wilson, could see “provision” spelled as “preauxvision,” he would most likely enthusiastically exclaim, “Hoo-wee, dat’s sum unexpected Cajun flavoring mixed right in there, I gah-rown-tee (guarantee)!”
True to his love for preparing Cajun cuisine, Mr. Wilson once told the Associated Press, “Cajun cooking is the ability to take what you have and create a good dish and season it right.” Or, put another way, in the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing, even the most improbable ingredients prepared with the proper seasoning in just the right way can make your taste buds get up and dance.
“Blessings sometimes show up in unrecognizable disguises. ” Janette Oke
And so it also is with God’s unexpected provision in our lives. Indeed, the Lord is capable of making the unlikely, the seemingly impossible, happen. He is, after all, the Master Chef of all creation.
“But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 (NKJV)
Using just the right seasonings of His mercy, grace, wisdom, and love, our Heavenly Father can take all of our circumstances and create something good out of them. Even those that appear to be utterly hopeless and bewildering from our perspective.
“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Psalm 34:8 (NKJV)
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. Romans 8:28 (NKJV)
“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” Genesis 50:20 (NKJV)
Let me share a story of an unlikely provision in my life from last year amid the pandemic with you.
If you’ve read my bio, you’re already aware my business partner and I began a start-up oil and gas exploration business a few years ago. Although our goal is simple, the pile of bones of many who have gone before us testifies how truly challenging it is. Our task is to identify drilling locations with the hopes of ultimately finding and producing an economic accumulation of oil. Each barrel of oil found and sold becomes the lifeblood that provides the revenue stream we need to survive.
So, how have we done? In the three to four years we’ve been in business so far, we’ve been abysmally unsuccessful in this endeavor. To date, we have produced zero barrels of oil despite our best efforts, which have been bathed in unceasing prayer by myself and many others along the way. I can assure you this was not how I imagined or expected things to go believing that we would be successful within the first year or so. In short, our prayers seemingly went unanswered, much to everyone’s growing dismay. But, oh, this is where it gets exciting in the face of such outwardly disappointing results.
“May we be strengthened with the understanding that being blessed does not mean that we shall always be spared all the disappointments and difficulties of life.” Heber J. Grant
Last year due to the pandemic, oil commodity prices plummeted to less than zero, hitting a record low of around -$38.00 per barrel.
Following that unbelievable oil price collapse, I wondered how we could ever possibly survive this historical low point for the industry. However, my anxious thoughts were suddenly brought to a screeching halt by a staggering realization that raced triumphantly through my mind. Simply put, it dawned on me that had all our prayers been answered according to our expectations and desires, everything would’ve come crashing down around us, abruptly ending in bankruptcy. You see, there would’ve been no way our fledgling company could have financially survived taking an extended negative price hit on selling our oil. But, astonishingly, because we had no production during the price crash, we lost nothing and were able to continue to stay in business. How crazy is this turn of events?
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” Corrie Ten Boom
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)
Gone were my aching questions about why our prayers for success had gone unanswered. Suddenly my doubts and fears disappeared and gave way to words of praise for Him for this unexpected form of provision. In an instant, the Lord used a shocking turn of events to lead me to thank Him for not answering my prayers according to my expectations but instead for answering them His way. Friends, there’s no other way to say it, but, “Dat’s sum dance-and- praise-worthy preauxvision as only the Lord can provide, I gah-rown-tee!”
“And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 (NKJV)
“He calms the storm, so that its waves are still. 30 Then they are glad because they are quiet; So He guides them to their desired haven.” Psalm 107:29-30 (NKJV)
Gratefully, He is exceedingly superior to me in every way. Amen? Amen!
“O Lord, You are my God. I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, For You have done wonderful things; Your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.” Isaiah 25:1 (NKJV)
“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, 12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.” Psalm 30:11-12 (NKJV)
Lord, I’ll trust in You with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding. In all my ways I’ll acknowledge You, and You’ll direct my paths. You alone know best because Your ways are higher than my ways, and Your thoughts are higher than my thoughts. Without faith it’s impossible to please You, so I’ll draw near to You and believe that You reward those who seek You. God, You call me blessed because I have not seen, yet I still believe. You always keep Your promises, and You don’t change like shifting shadows. You’re my dwelling place, my helper, my strength, and my defense. You are mighty, robed in majesty, armed with strength, compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love. You made the heavens, formed the dry land, and Your renown endures through all generations. You won’t slumber but will watch over my life. You fashioned the ear, formed the eye, and determine the number of stars and call them each by name. God, You are the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, and there is no one in all the world like You. (YouVersion original devotional, Praying God’s Truth Over My Fears)
“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
“Unto You I lift up my eyes, O You who dwell in the heavens.” Psalm 123:1 (NKJV)
Say what?!?! No, that’s not some new sort of language used for this post’s title. If you haven’t figured it out yet, it’s “my way of thinking” literally turned upside down. After all, when you’re in a relationship with Jesus, the One who has come to set captives like you and me free, our priorities and perspectives, our very way of thinking, are going to be shaken up.
“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) (note: see also Isaiah 61:1)
Sam Cooke may not have been singing about Jesus in his old song, “A Change Gonna Come,” but the lyrics are spot-on in this case because change is guaranteed when He is involved in your life. It’s inescapable given the vast differences between a holy, just, loving, and infinite God, our Creator, and ourselves, His created, His children.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV)
If you’re at all like me, then more times than I’d like to admit, I need to be reminded I do not always see things as clearly as I think I do. In short, I am wholly unqualified to be a measuring stick, and that most notably so when I’m the one in need of measurement. That True North Measuring Yardstick position thankfully lies solely and rightfully with the Lord, who is holy qualified.
“All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirits.” Proverbs 16:2 (NKJV)
A case in point about our eyes being fallible is this post’s photo. There’s more going on with this picture than you might first guess. All is not as it initially appears. Why would I say that? Well, that’s because both this post’s title and the photo are upside down.
You may be surprised to learn that this photograph captures a reflection in the water. I flipped the image around so it would look right-side-up for this post. Those of you who took a second look at the snapshot before you started reading might have already figured that out. Suddenly those strange, concentric rings in the sky begin to make a lot more sense once you realize they’re not some freak weather phenomenon but instead are ripples on the water’s surface.
All this to say the obvious: we are prone to make snap, incorrect analyses and judgments. Why? Because we unreasonably trust ourselves to a fault, which often leads us to unknowingly not seeing things as they are. Now that’s a scary thought when you stop and think about it. So, what are we to do? Where is hope to be found for our blurry, and at times all-together blind understanding?
“We must rely on the mercy of the only One who is able to turn all that is upside down right side up.” Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There
“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.” Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)
When my wayward reasoning sails headlong into the incalculably higher and perfectly pure ways and thoughts of the Rock of Ages, Jesus, a transformative change in my way of thinking occurs.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Proverbs 14:12 (NKJV)
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 10:10 (NKJV)
Growing up, we quickly learn to avoid collisions with rocks as much as possible. However, colliding with Jesus is the most significant, life-changing impact with a Rock that we will ever experience in our lives. This remarkable journey begins when we first believe and claim Him as our Savior transporting us from being spiritually dead to alive. Having welcomed us into His Kingdom, He then continuously refines us throughout our lifetimes. Knowing and being known by Jesus guarantees we will undergo much-needed changes in our understanding and thus in our actions. We are, after all, as followers of Jesus, His ongoing works in progress in this life. Can I get a joyful hallelujah?
“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)
Let me share a story that turned my thinking on its head and, in doing so, revealed the unobstructed, breathtaking view that exists far above the treeline of my limited understanding.
A couple of years ago, a vacationing family lost their dog not far from where I live. Somehow the dog managed to escape from the house they were renting, and he was gone before they knew what had happened. They and a good number of newly met neighbors spent the remainder of their vacation week desperately searching for him. Despite everyone’s best efforts, the dog remained on the loose, and at the end of the week, the owners reluctantly and tearfully had no choice but to make the long drive back home a few states away without their beloved pet.
About a month after the fact, I spotted one of their “lost dog” flyers at a local store that told their sad story about what had happened. Animal lover that I am, I immediately empathized with their painful circumstances. What did I do about it? Well, I got in my car and searched through the area where the dog had last been spotted, of course. I did that several times over the next week, all to no avail.
It turns out that, like the upside-down photo, there was more to this adventure than I ever first imagined or understood. As a child of God, why would one expect anything else?
“Notice that in the tales told in Scripture, whenever God gets hold of a man he takes that man into an adventure of the first order.” John Eldredge, Fathered By God
Although I didn’t find the lost dog I was searching for, I did discover something else was also missing. Or, rephrased, what was initially lost was not found, but something else of great importance was found to be lost along the way.
During what turned out to be my last drive-around looking for the off-course dog, I was interrupted by a profound thought that welled up seemingly out of nowhere. Like a late September gust of wind, it stripped the leaves of my wayward point of view from their branches, saying, “It’s good that your compassion compelled you to search for this family’s lost pet. If only you were as passionate about sharing Jesus with people.” And in that instant, I knew that, like the lost dog, I was also wandering far from home.
“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:2 (NKJV)
Indeed, when was the last time I’d been sincerely concerned enough about a person’s spiritual condition that I jumped into action as I did for this lost pet? Sadly, I couldn’t remember such a time. Confronted by such an indisputable truth, how do you respond? My reply then, as it still is today in the midst of sharing this story with you, is one with bowed head in humble silence.
Please understand I’m not saying that my feelings for this lost dog were wrong because they weren’t. That is not the reason I’m telling you all of this. Like I’ve already said, searching for the dog was about so much more than what it appeared to be. Instead, I’m relaying this story to highlight a change that I needed to make. In short, my eyes were opened to truths about myself that I’d been blind to for far too long.
“A person wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.” Benjamin Franklin
Throughout the majority of my life, I was reclusive when it came to sharing my faith. My search for the dog aimed a spotlight directly into that dark and all-too silent corner of myself. I searched for the lost dog by myself, involved no one else, and frankly was comfortable keeping it that way. Upon hearing that declaration, my former overly-reserved spiritual self would assuredly observe, “If it’s true that no man is an island, then I am a peninsula.”
But, if keeping Jesus to myself was acceptable, why was I being encouraged to be passionate about sharing Him? The heat from the friction between these two opposite positions demanded an answer to this question. The Bible has something to say about this issue, of course.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do theylight a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men,that they may see your good works andglorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 (NKJV)
“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, 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)
Matthew 28:19-20 made me feel incredibly uncomfortable for practically as long as I can remember. Why? Well, because instead of enthusiastically pursuing Jesus’s clearly stated mission, I found myself wanting to run away and hide.
The truth is my detached attitude existed because I was afraid. The fear that gripped me found its roots in thoughts and feelings I instinctively knew were wrong, yet it still bound and restrained me in its chains. Yes, you can call them strongholds over me if you like.
I can relate to Peter’s three-time denial of Jesus just before His crucifixion. As undeniably awful as Peter’s failure was, at least his actions occurred because he believed his life was in jeopardy. Sadly, my withdrawal was the product of much lesser reasoning and motivation than that.
Embarrassingly, the first reason I was afraid to share Jesus was for no more cause other than what others might think or say. My upbringing resulted in my thinking that personal faith in Christ was indeed precisely that, private, meaning I’m to keep it to myself, period. Growing up and for a long time afterward, I made it a point to avoid becoming one of “those” people who injected themselves and their faith into situations and onto people without a personal invitation to do so. And if you would please make that a written invitation, so much the better. Silence in this matter was considered a golden virtue.
Secondly, I had bought into the mistaken notion that I should remain silent because I lacked the necessary qualifications to voice my faith. Perhaps a sample of some of my reasoning will sound familiar to you: I have no formal Christian education; I don’t know the Bible as well as I should; I don’t know how to present the Gospel smoothly and clearly; I have no business sharing Jesus with anybody because I’ve made lots of my own mistakes along the way; What if I mess up and get it wrong?
When combined, these misconceptions successfully kept me locked away in the dark.I accepted these lies as truth for years and saw myself as someone who had no business sharing my faith. Thinking like this, I was held captive on an endless merry-go-round of self-fulfilling prophecy going nowhere.
But then an unexpected rescue happened in the middle of my search for the lost dog. Abruptly awakened from the hypnotic trance of the lies, I was finally ready to get off this spinning ride that had kept me dizzy and off-balance for far too long.But, how?
“casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NKJV)
“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)
The author of AtomicHabits, James Clear, says, “instead of focusing on a goal you want to achieve, focus on the identity you want to have.” Hmmmm. My goal is to share my faith. What if I were to readjust my focus from what I want to accomplish to who I want to be? Better still, let’s take that thought a significant step further: What if I began to see myself as He sees me?
The more you reaffirm who you are in Christ, the more your behavior will begin to reflect your true identity. Neil T. Anderson
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13 (NKJV)
He says I am His child. And so are you, my brother and sister in Christ!
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. “ 2 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV)
Studying His Word qualifies me as His approved worker. And you as well!
“So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” John 20:21 (NKJV)
He sees me as a voice, a herald, for Him. And you likewise!
“Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” Acts 3:6 (NKJV)
“Christ is mine, and I am His” is the one essential attribute I must have that empowers me to share Him with others. And you are no different!
“that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3b (ESV)
He has firmly planted me in Christ’s righteousness for His glory. And you, too!
“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 2:4-5 (NKJV)
I am to have Christ’s mind that is concerned about others as well as myself. And so are you!
It is Jesus’s remarkable healing touch, strength, and purpose that graciously calls and enables us to travel roads that were previously unfamiliar to us. Gone are the dead-end streets of our choosing, and wide-open are the roads unlike any others with an extraordinary view of life in all directions of His choosing.
“But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” Mark 10:27 (NKJV)
As we walk these roads, we are to share His life with others we meet along the way who are lost as we, too, once were lost.
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,” Ephesians 3:20 (NKJV)
“Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees,and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.” Hebrews 12:12-13 (NKJV)
“Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:4 (NKJV)
No doubt all you pet lovers are probably wondering whatever became of the lost dog. Six months after he first went missing, a full-page article in the local newspaper happily reported a most unlikely reunion between the dog and his family thanks to the tireless efforts of concerned neighbors who refused to give up hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9 (NKJV)
I’m humbly and gratefully overwhelmed as I reflect on this entire story’s most unlikely unfolding. What began as a seemingly “no-big-deal” decision to search for a lost dog turned into an extraordinary adventure of significance concerning a missing, critical aspect of my walk with Jesus that I never saw coming.
Jesus turned my thinking on its head thanks to a stunning, unanticipated plot twist. Never in a million years did I think when I began looking for the lost dog that Jesus was simultaneously looking for a lost part of me. Like those neighbors who never gave up on finding the missing dog, He never gave up on that missing piece of me, a rescue that was years in the making. And friend, He’s not given up on you either, no matter how far from home you’ve wandered, no matter what part of you is missing. Even now Jesus is calling out to you. Do you hear Him?
“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? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray.Even so it is not thewill of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:12-14 (NKJV)
Pray with me, please…
Lord, encourage and lead us to ask You to do the impossible, the unlikely, the unanticipated, the out-of-the-ordinary in the ordinary of our lives, even in areas where we are blind or only dimly see. Turn our world, our thinking, upside down with Your truth so that we rightly see according to Your ways and not ours. May we always know that Your plans and intentions for us are good, and our future is full of hope because of Your loving presence and sovereignty. Let the life-transforming ripples of Your love and kindness cause us to walk in the newness of life that only You can provide and, in turn, lovingly share Your good news with others so that they, too, can experience Your life-giving freedom. We humbly thank You and praise You for Your longsuffering, Your mercy, Your grace, Your unwillingness to leave us as You found us. Oh Lord, we were indeed lost, and we knew it not, but now we are found, safe and secure in Your strong and loving arms. Thank You for calling us to experience and to share all Your higher ground has to offer. We ask all of this in Your Son’s name, our precious Savior, Jesus. Amen.”
“The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.’” Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)
Yes indeed, You most certainly have, Lord! And we are grateful!
Todd Agnew, “Grace Like Rain” from the album “Grace Like Rain.”
When it rains, it pours, as the old saying goes. Let’s reword that a bit for spiritual purposes. “When He reigns, He pours!” To be clear, however, please understand it’s not a question of whether or not He is reigning since He is sovereign all of the time and in all circumstances, of course. Instead, this intentional rewording proclaims He is capable of accomplishing more than we can ever begin to imagine all of the time. The limitations imposed are ours and not His.
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV)
If one exclamation point is instructive, then certainly a second one is even better. Such is the framing of this latest post. The first exclamation point, “His Sound Affection,” is barely a few days old, and now comes this second one hot on the heals of the first and an even older post beyond that, as well.
Yes, the use of “heals” rather than “heels” is very much intentional in this well-known phrase because the Lord is white-hot when it comes to His commitment towards healing (building) His children. Exchanging these identically pronounced words in this particular instance seems very right and thought-provoking to me. Indeed, our Lord, Jesus, endured so much for our healing.
“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)
Let’s take a short detour down one more side street before diving fully into today’s post for just a moment. I can’t help but wonder what remarkable things we miss when we choose to bypass pathways that present themselves to us because they appear to be “out of our way.” Yes, this is but another way of saying, “let’s stop and smell the roses.”
Given that we are discussing exclamation points, it’s fascinating to note the “!” physical location on a computer keyboard relative to another symbol’s location. If you look at your keyboard, you’ll see the “!” and the “1” share the same key. Coincidence? Maybe so. But maybe not.
From my perspective, I find it extremely interesting that there is but the One (1) God, who, if we were to assign a punctuation mark to in an attempt to describe Him, must undoubtedly be an exclamation point (!) to my way of thinking. After all, He is exceptional and worthy of nothing less! Will you ever look at your keyboard in the same way again now that you’re aware of that shared association? I can’t, and it’s my hope you won’t be able to either.
In my previous post, we discussed how we are an “ongoing project that is very much under His construction.” Today’s post is a continuation, an exclamation, if you will, of that thought.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve enjoyed watching the new two-story townhome construction that is ongoing less than a minute’s walk from our house. All of the ebbs and flows of building construction fascinate me. Great strides are made at various times, followed by periods where things seem to stand still. All in all, it’s an intriguing and compelling process to observe.
After what seemed like forever, it finally came time to install the windows into the roughed-in townhomes. However, the workers didn’t install all of the window units leaving a few holes glaringly unfinished. Much to my amazement, those holes stayed that way for a long time following the initial window installation. It was nothing but neglect as far as I was concerned.
I couldn’t figure out why the workers were seemingly ignoring this part of the job for the longest time. The window units themselves were on site, yet the holes for the windows remained dark and unfinished for an uncomfortably long time as far as I was concerned. Over the next few weeks, the roofers, electricians, and the heating and air conditioner workers all came and went.
Every day I’d walk by the building site and wonder, “What in the world were the builders thinking leaving these holes open like this? There those few unplaced window units are stacked up in the garage; go ahead and install them for heaven’s sake!”
My lack of building construction understanding is showing here. How little I truly understand about the entire process. If you’re more familiar with construction than I am, then you’ve probably already figured out why those holes were left unfinished in the first place. And it’s an excellent reason, by the way.
In 20-20 hindsight, I now understand the window openings were left undone so that large, heavy materials, such as sheetrock, in this case, could be delivered through them via a monstrous, telescoping loader to the upstairs portion of the townhomes. Let me now state the obvious: it turns out the builders knew so much more than I ever gave them credit for knowing by leaving the window openings undone. In other words, they knew what they were doing all along.
There’s a simple but essential principle to take away from this lesson, spiritually speaking. Aren’t we all guilty of that same sort of off-base thinking at one time or another when it comes to examining what God is doing in our lives as well? I have to admit there are times when I think the Lord has gotten things out of order in the middle of the construction phase He has underway. And that not just concerning His plans for me, but for other people and their circumstances as well.
When I see unfinished openings, it concerns me. “Put the window in, now. The opening is ready, and the parts are here ready to go.” I say. The Master Builder replies, “Be patient. I have my excellent reasons to leave it incomplete at this moment. I’m still working in this area, and there is much to be accomplished. There is more to this unfinished hole than you realize. The opening needs to remain as it is for now.”
“Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ Or shall your handiwork say, ‘He has no hands’? Isaiah 45:9 (NKJV)
A few years ago, I discussed pretty much this same issue in my post entitled, “the (s)Parking lot.” I’m a slow learner, it seems. Is that why I’m again revisiting that few-year-old post for that very same reason? Hmmmmm. Or, is there something more to this struggle beyond my being a slow learner, which I’ve thought to be primarily a patience issue? Is it possible there’s more to the unfinished spiritual window opening as I’ve previously understood it this entire time?
And suddenly, I now realize there is so much more to this hole beyond my battle with impatience.” Yes, I see the issue behind the issue more clearly now. My struggle with patience finds its beginning with a still more profound problem. I also struggle with giving up control to Him.
“There is more going on in your life than you can ever see. I see the big picture while you can only focus on only a small portion of the (re)construction project I know as you. You’re going to have to trust me for all of it, both the big and the little picture. When you do that, you’ll find you have a lot more patience along the way.”
Carrie Underwood, “Jesus Take the Wheel,” from the album, “Some Hearts.”
Lord, Help me remember that I am Your building project that is very much a work in progress. I’ve got a considerable number of barnacles attached to me that You’re in the process of removing from me, as well. In their place, You are creating within me beauty as only You can create, and doing that right requires Your perfect timing. Forgive me for my impatience as You work to build me into the person You have called me to be. Help me to let go of my ways so that I can more fully know Your ways, for the work of Your hands is good, Lord. Mold me and shape me after Your will. Your purposes, not mine, Your plans, not mine, Your way, not mine. You are my Creator, and I am Your created. In Jesus’ name, amen 1!1!1!1!1!1!1!1!1!
“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)
“Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name. I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify Your name forevermore.” Psalm 86: 11-12 (NKJV)
Casting Crowns, “In The Hands Of The Potter” from the album, “Only Jesus.”