singing in the pain

“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)

1!1!1

Soul’s Anthem (It Is Well) by Alisha Mino and John Rose

said apart

 “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,”  Ephesians 1:17-18 (NKJV)

Shhhhhhhh, close your eyes and be mindful of the whispers of your soul.  There…do you feel it…that unmistakable longing found in the wellspring of your heart? Ah yes, that call.  You know it as well as I do.  It’s a yearning for beauty, truth, and purity that beckons you to move ever closer.

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time.  He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”  Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)

Dorothy of Kansas expresses this deeply embedded desire for eternity within all our hearts in song in the beloved movie “The Wizard of Oz.”  It’s an upward call to experience the vibrant, heavenly colors of a life lived abundantly that eclipses the uncomfortable sterility of an all-too grey world focused on self.  For non-believers, that call to “somewhere over the rainbow” is to be with God; for believers, it is the call to become the person God intends you to be through an ongoing intimate relationship with Him.

Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland from the album “Over the Rainbow, The Very Best of Judy Garland”

“but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”  1 Peter 1:15-16 (NKJV)

“May I view and long after holiness as the beauty and dignity of the soul.”  The Valley of Vision, edited by Arthur Bennett

Before moving on, we need to pause a moment and consider the difference between righteousness and holiness; it’s a mistake to speak of these two terms as if they’re the same because they are not.  We become righteous when we accept Jesus as our Savior through double-imputation:  our sins are placed on Him while His sinless nature covers us.   We will never become more righteous than we are at the moment of our salvation.

“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)

Holiness, however, is the Holy Spirit-led process of sanctification that begins at our conversion.

“Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture.  It is the habit of agreeing in God’s judgment, hating what He hates, loving what He loves, and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word.”  J. C. Ryle

As we travel the life-long path towards holiness God has set out before us, the fruits of the Spirit are to be made manifest within His children.

“Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance,”  Matthew 3:8 (NKJV)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.  Ephesians 5:22-23 (NKJV)

Let us praise God that He is unwilling to leave us as He found us.  He has placed this quest for holiness, our call to Christlikeness, within each believer’s heart. 

“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)

For what purpose does God pursue our holiness?  Jesus says we are in the world, not of the world, yet here we purposefully are as God’s heralds.   The truth is the more you look like Christ, the less you will look like the world.  And that’s not only good but necessary under His plans.

“They do not belong to this world any more than I do. 17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world.”  John 17:16-18 (NLT)

According to His purposes, God uses holiness to “set apart” us from the world.

“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)

“Let your Christianity be so unmistakable, your eye so single, your heart so whole, your walk so straightforward, that all who see you may have no doubt whose you are, and whom you serve.”  J. C. Ryle

Can we be truly effective as His ambassadors, His voices crying out in the wilderness if we resemble the world?  As believers, it’s essential to ask, “How does the world see us?”  Are we recognizable as different, as “set apart” from it?  As holy?  If not, then why not?

While we could discuss various lifestyle areas that would prove helpful in answering these questions, let’s look at just one today, namely our manner of speech.  Does what we say or talk about cause the world to see us as “said apart” from it?  Or, do they hear us as one of their own?  Do the words coming out of our mouths confirm or deny our claim of being a child of God?

“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)

Take a look at this post’s introductory photo again.  I spotted the toothbrush in a hotel’s landscaping early one morning while I was out walking our dogs.  Can you imagine how filthy it must be?  Beyond the nastiness of its surroundings, the brush’s history is entirely questionable, too.  The idea of ever using it as an actual toothbrush is repulsive.  Yet, considering how abysmally low our society has stooped in its manner of speech, isn’t it reasonable to wonder how many would ever notice how disgusting this brush is if used as intended?

“It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us; it is the very sign of His presence.” C. S. Lewis

The truth is the world is awash with “four-letter” rhetoric and angry, hateful discourse.   When unleashed, it takes all within earshot unwillingly captive as if it’s a raucous chainsaw violating the serene solitude of an alpine meadow at dawn.  Safe havens removed from its grip are few and far between these days. Unfortunately, the world’s influence is so strong that it has managed to creep into some professing Christian’s lives as well, myself included in days now mercifully long past.  Given these circumstances, perhaps we should call this misplaced brush a “truthbrush” instead?  Brothers and sisters, we are called to the higher ground of beauty and not to a quagmire of ugliness!  Do you know this to be true?

“Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing.  My brethren, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.”  James 3:10-12 (NKJV)

As God’s children, we are the “happy little bluebirds” Dorothy sings about so longingly.  Our heavenly Father calls us to much more in this life than to wallow in the darkness of some murky, oppressive, and stagnant swamp.   It’s a noble call to aim high and choose His beauty over the world’s standards, to choose His ways by speaking in such a way that leads and points ourselves and others to the top of God’s mountain high above the swampy lowlands.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

But how do we proceed, Lord?  How do we stay true to the path that leads to higher ground?

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

“Take my heart and hold it in Thy hand; write upon it reverence to thyself with an inscription that time and eternity cannot erase.”  The Valley of Vision, edited by Arthur Bennett

Yes, Lord, may my heart be Yours!

When we speak, friends, let it be for God’s glory.  Let us delight our Father with our voices at all times and in all circumstances.   So, what say you?  Will you determine to be “said apart” for His glory?

“May every part of my character and conduct make a serious and amiable impression on others, and impel them to ask the way to the Master.”  Valley of Vision, edited by Arthur Bennett

24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”  Ephesians 5:24-25 (NKJV)

May it be ever so, Lord! In Jesus’s name, amen!

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Let the Words of My Mouth” by Fernando Ortega from the album “The Shadow of Your Wings:  Hymns and Sacred Songs.”

Light headed

“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)

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“Two Sets of Jones” by Big Tent Revival from the album “Big Tent Revival.”

Out of the shadows

 “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! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, 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; 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)

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Less Like Me” by Zach Williams from the album “Rescue Story.

humilability

(hue-mill-uh-bill-uh-tea)

-the ability to employ selfless compassion and empathy for others as a grateful expression of God’s love.

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  Matthew 12:30-31 (NKJV)

One need look no further than a cat frantically chasing a laser pointer’s wildly zigzagging dot skimming across the floor for visual confirmation that motion attracts attention like little else.  After all, movement is typically associated with life, which, as we all know, is the ultimate visual attention-getter. 

A few mornings ago, a familiar and friendly sight enticingly beckoned me to come nearer for a closer look.  Just as it did a few years earlier, a solitary movement tantalizingly framed within a multitude of stillness captivated my attention.  No way could the cat in me walk away, then or now.   

As I drew closer, much to my curiosity’s delight, I realized that the movement I was observing was wonderfully unique from what I had previously experienced and written about a few years ago in per sway-dead or per sway-did.  Instead of an entire plant moving to the beat of the faint wind as it happened then, this time, however, the motion radiated from a single blade of tall grass that, upon closer examination, revealed an unexpected and intriguing feature. 

What was so surprising about this lone blade of dancing grass?  In a word: brokenness.  The stalk was broken and bent about two-thirds of the way up.  This imperfection resulted in a visually compelling motion resembling bowing at the waist whenever the slightest whisper of a breeze stirred the air.

Curiously a nearby similarly broken blade remained fixed and unmoving.  Hmmmm.  It’s fair to say that, yes, where this motion was concerned, the break was essential, but it was also apparent that the location played a pivotal role, as well.  If this were not so, then clearly, both broken blades standing so close to each other would have exhibited motion rather than just the one.

I find the irony so captivating here that the motion catching my eye emanated from something broken and flawed.  As we all know, the world is not particularly kind regarding things judged damaged or not measuring up.  The truth is it can be downright cold and cruel towards anything it perceives as not rising to its standards of desirability or perfection.  But, take heart, friend, because the good news for all of us “less-than” sorts is that the Lord has an entirely different perspective than the world does.

“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;”  1 Corinthians 1:27 (NKJV)

Each of us has experienced brokenness in our lives.  Some more, some less, but the bottom line is we are all broken in some way.  The worldly method of handling our damages is to try and hide them by pushing them out of sight.  Essentially we attempt to avoid attention by immobilizing or disguising those damaged areas of our lives in hopes of blending in with everyone else.  “It’s the safe thing to do,” says our ego, which quickly tries to seal the deal on that thought by adding, “Trust me because I know what’s best for you.” 

To reveal our brokenness to the world exposes our weaknesses, and who wants to do that knowing we’ll most likely become the object of ridicule at the very least?  So, we go into stealth mode, closing and locking the door tightly behind us as best and as fast as possible.

Sadly, when we go into hiding, we subject the world and ourselves to yet another day of being held captive by shame and fear.  This thinking is in direct opposition to our calling as God’s children, however.  As believers, we’re called to more, so much more than being invisible.

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:14-16 (NKJV)

It’s time, brothers and sisters, to step out of the dark and into His light.  We need to embrace the life-changing potential that sincere, godly humility offers to the imprisoned and isolated of this world and to ourselves along the way.

“Think not that humility is weakness; it shall supply the marrow of strength to thy bones.  Stoop and conquer; bow thyself and become invincible.”  Charles Spurgeon

 “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”  1 Peter 5:6-7 (NKJV)

Humility is the ability to generously apply a mending salve of compassion and understanding to the world’s endless sea of walking wounded.  It finds its beginning in the refining fires of our healing and restoration.  It is not man contrived false humility that focuses on self, mind you.  No!  Genuine humility gives up the steering wheel to God and climbs cheerfully into the back seat so that someone else can sit in the front seat.  Oh, and just in case you’re asking, “Are we there yet?” there’s nothing to worry about; God will tell you every time whenever you’re there.  He is, after all, the Driver and the GPS, so sit back and pay close attention to what’s going on around you because it’s likely you’ll come upon another weary soul in need of what the Lord can offer them through you now that you’re not the driver.

“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”  Philippians 2:4 (NKJV)

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”  Galatians 6:2 (NKJV)

Jesus has shown us the way forward, of course.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:45 (NKJV)

Like the blade of grass bends in the slightest presence of the wind, the humble heart also gratefully bows at the very thought of the healing, mercy, grace, and love it has received from the Lord.  In doing so, such a heart rightfully honors the Deliverer and His intentions regarding other’s needs, all the while trumpeting they’re a part of a much larger and grander story.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.”  2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NKJV)

 “Rare are those men or women who have glimpsed God and whose insights transform others ever afterward.  They wrestle with their humanity in a way that helps others wrestle with theirs.  They give freely of what they know with contagious joy.”  Stephen Mansfield

I can’t help but think of that familiar saying attributed to John Bradford back in the 1600s, “There but for the grace of God, go I,” uttered while he was watching a group of prisoners pass by on their way to their executions.  When it comes to our own lives, who among us can honestly testify any differently about our rescue by the Lord’s hand?  Indeed, humility worn properly is a garment of incalculable worth lovingly stitched together by His nail-scarred hands with the threads of God’s love, mercy, and grace.  It rightly honors and glorifies God.   

“Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.” And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.”  Luke 8:39 (NKJV)

“who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,”  2 Timothy 1:9 (NKJV)

Is it not pride driven by what others might think of us that keeps us from sharing with others who are hurting the comfort and provision God has generously bestowed upon us in our times of need?  Delivered from our captivity and now safe in His embrace, where is our compassion for distressed and weary people?  Or, perhaps our once grateful heart has grown selfishly cold and turned a blind eye?  Considering all He has done for us, how can we as believers remain stoically detached and motionless in the face of the suffocating darkness others confront?

 “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”  1 John 3:16 (NKJV)

Humilability flows freely from the heart of Jesus to you and then through you to others.  It recognizes this isn’t about you; it’s very much about the other person.

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. “  Philippians 2:3 (NKJV)

A humility-led person walks a mile beside a wounded soul trudging up a seemingly impossibly steep hill in their worn, tear-stained shoes and does so silently if that’s what’s needed.  Only when the time is right is the silence broken, saying, “Friend, you’re not alone.  I know something about what you’re going through because I’ve been there, too.“  Truthfully, who better to offer much-needed compassion and understanding to a person dealing with heartache than one who has experienced not only similar pain but Jesus’s subsequent rescue?

 “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy  and to walk humbly with your God.”  Micah 6:8 (NIV)

In Japan, there is an art form known as Kintsugi in which shattered pottery is made whole by mending the broken pieces back 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 art form delight in the object’s history as revealed by the repaired joints.  In other words, the rejuvenated vessel tells a story that is worthy of celebration.

Like a Kintsugi vase, our mended brokenness, our scars, also tell an extraordinary story of redemption if we will but give them a voice.  It’s a remarkable testimony of rebirth that lifts the name of Jesus, our Healer, our Savior, high for all to see.  

Consumed by brokenness, do we become lifeless and distant from God like the static, unmoving grass, or do we embrace life by bowing before Him in grateful recognition and trust in honor of what He has done and will do with our brokenness?  Our ability to exercise humility steps forward by acknowledging the One who has healed us, for you see, only He can speak life into and through our brokenness.  How will you respond to His whisper?  Which broken blade of grass will you be?

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” Revelation 21:5 (NKJV)

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”  Colossians 3:12 (NIV)

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“Scars” by I Am They from the album “Trial and Triumph.”

end-fluencer

“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 this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.  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, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 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)

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 “Speak the Name” by Koryn Hawthorne from the album “Unstoppable.”

swept clean by grace

“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. 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, 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 calls on the name of the Lord shall 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. 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. 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.” 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, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 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.)

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“Grace Upon Grace” by Matthew West, from the album, “Brand New.”

Praying “A, B, C’s”

“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)

Sometimes enlightenment comes gushing out of the most remarkably unexpected sources.  Like a freely flowing artesian water well, the life-giving refreshment offered by such an epiphany awakens and revitalizes our once stagnant consciousness.

Recently I was caught entirely off-guard by a revelation in the form of a prayer adorably delivered by my not quite three-year-old granddaughter.  When it came time to say the blessing, she eagerly volunteered and said, as best I recall:  “A…B…C…D…H…K…M…T…amen!”

Yes, of course, as you might imagine, all the adults chuckled to themselves with knowing winks in that surprising moment upon hearing her recount the alphabet as best she knew how.  How can you not be enchanted by a toddler’s delightfully offbeat prayer efforts? 

However, as cute as such a child’s prayer is, we’re often quick to dismiss them as having very little significance given the source.  After all, there are no prominent spiritual ingredients or ideas embodied in reciting the “A, B, C’s,” so why give it another minute of thought? 

All I can say to that is, “Thank you, Lord, for prompting me to have second thoughts!”

As I later reflected on it, I realized that my granddaughter’s unlikely prayer unveiled a slumbering truth.  Simply put, she was excited to share the excellent and acceptable instruction she had been receiving.  In doing so, she honored the Lord by demonstrating she was positively improving her mind just as God intends for His children to do.

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  Colossians 3:17 (NKJV)

My granddaughter’s notably unorthodox prayer is a gentle reminder that our waking moments are continuous prayers.  As such, throughout the day, we have the ongoing opportunity to honor and glorify Him by doing things His way, as found in the plans and instructions given to us through the Bible.  Our very lives are walking prayers.

 “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light  (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:8-10 (NKJV)

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19: 14 (NKJV)

“I am convinced that, if we protect our minds by dwelling on the right things, it brings God glory. It also protects us from unnecessarily allowing ourselves to be tempted. The Bible is clear on what we ought to think.”  Victor Nunez

“But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.”  Proverbs 4:18 (NKJV)

When we consistently pursue the acceptable “A, B, C’s” in our Father’s sight, He is pleased, and His heart smiles with joy.  When we do this, we choose Him and the extraordinary life He envisions for us.

“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)

Friend, I’m confident my granddaughter’s lifestyle prayer brought a smile to our Lord’s heart.  May each of our “A, B, C prayer” choices we have to make throughout the day equally please Him, and abundantly so!

 “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.’” Matthew 25:23 (NKJV)

1!1!1!

Fernando Ortega, “Let the Words of My Mouth (Psalm 19:14, Philippians 4:8)” from the album, “The Shadow of Your Wings: Hymns and Sacred Songs.”

the bear truth about riding the spiritual fence

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”

flying with God

“There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?”  John 6:9 (NIV)

 The Lord has a remarkable way of turning our way of thinking and understanding upside down and on its head, doesn’t He?  What is all too quickly assessed by human thinking as an undesirable exception to the normal, or put another way, what we see as not enough or imperfect, becomes exceptional when placed in His hands.

“Then Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was much grass in the place.  So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.  And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.  So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.’ Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.  Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, ‘ This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.'” John 6:10-14 (NKJV)

My wife dearly loves butterflies.  We’ve been especially thrilled these past few weeks to have witnessed the Monarch butterfly life transformation take place.  Much to our delight this remarkable process has played out before our eyes time and time again progressing from eggs to caterpillars to chrysalis to the miraculous emerging of beautiful Monarch butterflies.  We learned soon enough, however, that this remarkable process doesn’t always end with a perfectly formed Monarch flying off into the sunset.

Curly Sue’s journey as a Monarch took a different route than normal because she cannot fly.  Doing a bit of research after the fact we discovered that sometimes for various reasons a Monarch’s wings don’t properly unfold after leaving the confines of the chrysalis.  When that happens they become fixed in shapes that prevent flight from ever happening.  Curly Sue’s wings have an unmistakable curl along the edges that’s obviously not supposed to be there.  Thus the name “Curly Sue.”

Unlike her brothers and sisters Curly Sue will never experience being buoyed along by warm, gentle breezes that carry her to an endless parade of flowers.  Her fate seemed sealed as time and time again my wife and I would find her pitifully flipping and flopping about in our front yard as she unsuccessfully tried to fly during her first 24 hours.  Our hope was that somehow her wings would finally straighten out.

On the second day my tenderhearted wife was unable to watch the chaotic gyrations continue any longer.  She decided Curly Sue would come inside and spend whatever time she had left in our house with us.   Curly Sue has been with us for about 2 weeks now living in her castle…aka a plastic bug container we found at the local pet shop… on our living room coffee table.

Each day Curly Sue feeds on fresh cut flowers from our yard and is able to stretch her legs whenever my wife holds her gently in her hands.  On sunny days my wife takes her to the back yard and places her on one of the flowers there.  “She needs to be outside in the sun,” my wife will say in this delightfully nurturing “warm chicken soup” sort of tone.

Curly Sue never stops trying to fly.  Several times a day she’ll assertively flap her wings all to no avail causing her to flip upside down after traveling only mere inches.  Curly Sue is definitely not a quitter.  She is a model of determination, perseverance, and optimism.  I’ve decided with each attempt at flying she’s thinking, “This time I will fly!”

“Are you going to be OK when she’s no longer with us? “ I asked my wife as she was carefully cradling Curly Sue in her hands taking her on yet another trip to the backyard.  Pausing for just a moment my wife quietly replied, “Yes, but I will miss her. I feel sorry for her because she’s never going to get to fly like she was meant to do…she’ll never get to have babies…like all the others,” her voice trailing off.  It was at that point that an ephiphany entered my mind.  “Maybe she has a different mission than the others, you know?  What if she is here especially for you to love on and enjoy…yes…to give you joy?” I mused.

Yes, it’s true that Curly Sue was meant to fly, but since her wings didn’t develop normally she has been prevented from ever flying in the traditional sense like the vast majority of butterflies do.  Funny thing is, though, in an unexpected twist in our understanding of what flying is, we have realized that Curly Sue has been flying all along.  How so? Miraculously she has managed to unquestionably fly straight into my wife’s heart as no other normally developed Monarch ever could.

Until our eyes were opened just a few days ago we lacked the vision needed to appreciate and understand that Curly Sue was not flightless after all.  We have realized that with her uniquely curled wings she has still soared in improbable ways and into places that are impossible for other butterflies to reach.

If you fly differently than others then shouldn’t you expect the destinations you are able to reach to also be different from what others can achieve?  It’s true as believers that we all collectively strive towards the same eternal finish line, but no individual path, no individual mission is necessarily the same.  After all, He has made each of us unique in our own special ways, hasn’t He?

“For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function,  so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.”  Romans 12:4-5 (NKJV)

Let’s put our shields down here for a moment and be honest enough to admit that we each have our own unique set of curled wings of some sort, don’t we?  It’s a bit cheesy I know, but isn’t it true that we all could be known as a “Curly You” since we all have our own imperfections and weaknesses?  And now you know one of my faults:  I can’t help myself when it comes to word play no matter how cringe-worthy it may turn out.  What else can I say? The shot was there, so I took it.

Our individual flying style depends on who God has purposed us to be.  For some, flight is instantly recognizable as flying by the strictest definition of the word.  Sometimes, however, it may be unrecognizable as flight to not only others, but even more sadly, in our own eyes, as we wistfully focus on what we think flying is supposed to look like from our unhappy seat on the ground.  All too often we lament over what we can’t do while never taking the time to ask the Lord what special plans He has for us that we can do.

I don’t know about you, but this experience with Curly Sue has reminded me just how narrow minded I can be.  In this case, God has broadened my mind and brought me into alignment with His far-reaching thoughts about flying.

If you were to ask my wife about all the butterflies she’s watched flying and flitting about, she’ll joyfully take the opportunity to tell you about imperfect and flightless Curly Sue, and, I might add, the only butterfly she ever named.  Why?  Because Curly Sue accomplished what no other so called “normal” butterfly could ever do:  she flew straight into her heart curled wings and all.  In fact, that flight wouldn’t have even happened without those curled wings.

We look at ourselves and see all of our shortcomings, all of our perceived inadequacies, and we think we have nothing of meaning, nothing of significance, nothing of value to offer to others.  When we do this we terribly underestimate what the Lord has planned for us to do in our lifetimes by His own strength.

We say we can’t fly and without Him it’s true we can’t.  But with Him, well, He says we can fly.  C.H. Spurgeon eloquently captures this truth saying, “God does not need your strength; He has more than enough power of His own.  He asks your weakness: He has none of that himself, and He is longing, therefore, to take your weakness, and use it as an instrument in His own mighty hand.”

Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?  So he said to Him, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.  And the Lord said to him, ‘Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.’” Judges 6:14-16 (NKJV)

The Lord has made you special and unique.  You offer something that the world around you is lacking and desperately needs.  Would you stop and consider that maybe, just maybe, your weaknesses in His hands are His very special provision to meet that distinct need?

Embrace who you are in the Lord’s Kingdom, curled wings and all, so that you may fly and soar into other’s hearts according to His good purposes.  It’s sky high time we open our eyes and understand that it is flight not as the world sees and says, but as He sees and says.

I don’t know how much longer Curly Sue will be physically here with us, but I can say without a doubt that the lessons the Lord has taught both my wife and I through this imperfect, but oh so brave, little butterfly will fly forever in our hearts even after she is physically gone.   And so I must ask you, don’t we all want to matter for eternity’s sake?

Friend, I encourage you to fully embrace who God has not only made you to be, but said you to be and become.  In His gentle hands fly as only you can into those special hearts that He has purposed for you to reach saying to yourself, “Yes, thank you, Lord, for Your grace to fly.  No longer am I grounded by my own limited vision as I once was.  Today I am flying according to Your good sight for Your glory.  Whose hurting heart would You have me fly into today and speak life, so that they too can soar in the heavens with You?”

“Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give to you; in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise up and walk.’”  Acts 3:6 (NKJV)

 

“Voice of Truth” by Casting Crowns from the Album “Casting Crowns”

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