Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Week Thirty-Seven - AVA

The other day my niece put up a Facebook post that reminded me of a teaching I enjoyed and still continue to use. Her post was about racism, abortion, and euthanasia. I'm not going to directly get into those topics, but I think we can look at some Bible principles that guide our position on these issues and others facing this generation.

Her post read, "The importance of the concept of men and women as bearers of God's image speaks to the dignity and worth of each human being. No one person can be considered more like the Creator than another. In addition, every life, whether in the beginning stages or at the end of days, shares the same value before God. This fact should encourage Christians with two important truths:

1. You should seek to protect life at every stage because every stage is valuable.
2. You should never hold racist beliefs because all humans bear the image of God."

When I consider these things, I place myself in their position and walk a mile in their moccasins. If I were the unborn child or the aged person - how would I want to be treated or valued? If my skin color or nationality were in the minority - how would I want to be included or what would I hope to add to the community around me?

The Golden Rule applies here - Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Isn't it amazing how simply God puts it?

I want to share with you a teaching the Lord gave me years ago when I had to speak on women's rights. It was an odd topic for a Bible study, but I have never forgotten what I learned and when I come to these issues we are referring to today, it creates for me a way of viewing all of humanity regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity. It's easy to remember - I call it AVA.

We all have equal Access to God.

    He hears the prayers of every soul that calls to Him.
    He is open to all who will believe.
    Even for those who have not heard, the Bible says, creation reveals God.

We all have equal Value to God.

    He is no respector of persons.
    He loves and cares for each of us as His creation.
    He has a plan and purpose for every individual.

We are all equally Accountable to God.

    God's standard is the same for each of us.
    We will all eventually stand before Him.
    And, we will all be held accountable for what we did with Christ, and how we treated each other.

So, with equal access, equal value, and equal accountability, there comes a level playing field. No one person is greater than the other in God's eyes. Oh, we might have job descriptions that place us in different categories and levels of responsibility. Or, we might have educational differences, but laying those things aside, we all come from the same place and all end up standing before a holy God.

For me, this little AVA directive reminds me of two important things.

1. I am never going to meet anyone God does not love. And so, I should treat them with respect in honor to His name.

2. Accountability. I think this is the missing key in today's society. Understanding and accepting my personal accountability causes me to measure my responses. But equally - others will also be held accountable for their actions. But I am not the one to whom they must answer - God is. And since we are all equally accountable, I am best to keep myself in the love of God, treat others with care and respect, and leave the judging of their actions to Him.

Equal access, equal value, and equal accountability. So simple, yet so worth using as a guide in life.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Week Thirty-Six - I


Do you ever spend time beating yourself up with negative words about yourself to yourself? Well, I have just one thought for you today. Read slowly and breathe it in deeply.

I is a hard taskmaster.
I whispers self-condemning words.
I devalues progress.
I demands perfection.
I tries to hide.
I is a liar.
I steals joy.
I quenches hope.
I breaks relationships.
I genders loneliness.
I is stubborn and proud.
I is never satisfied.
I must die daily, so
I can be assured.
I can be humble.
I find fellowship.
I have hope.
I rejoice.
I live honestly.
I am open.
I have peace with imperfection.
I grow and develop.
I hear words of truth.
I can rise with Him.
And so,
I can follow the Master.



Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Week Thirty-Five - Stick with Your Assignment


Chris Tiegreen makes a point I am coming, with age, to understand. "Jesus didn't try to do more than He was assigned."

Many times, Jesus retired for a time of solitude, even while needy people wanted His attention. Not every leper was cleansed; not every diseased person was healed. There were still the poor and deprived. Jesus even said they would always be there. He didn't just stay busy for busyness' sake! No, instead of trying to heal everyone and fix every problem, He focused on the work God had given Him to do. He accomplished it and didn't stray from His mission.

In John 17:4, Jesus says, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." Jesus stuck with His assignment and praise the Lord He did, for His assignment was our salvation.

How often are we guilty of taking on too much, trying to fix every problem, and thinking we can make everyone happy or satisfy every request? It is soul-destroying to think we can do everything and a huge waste of effort.

Tiegreen writes, "It will not mean that we were everything everyone else expected of us. It will not mean that we worked so hard that we're sure we managed to accomplish God's will sometime during all our activity, although we're not sure when. It will not mean that we addressed every situation for which we felt sympathy, or gave to every organization or missionary that said they needed our financial support. It will simply mean that we discerned God's will for our lives and devoted ourselves to accomplishing it by the power of His Spirit. May we be single-minded for that goal."

I have often wondered why my missionary career has been in England. Here, I do loads of administration and very little seeking tribes in the dark jungle. Here, I live as well or better than in the States instead of in a grass hut. Here, the weather is fine, no scorching heat or rain forests on my island. Here, I travel by car, bus, and train instead of a donkey cart. And yet, this is the place God has for me - His will for me - my assignment.

Oh, Lord, may I do all as unto you. Knowing my reward and worth are based on my attitude and faithfulness in service. So, whatsoever I am tasked to do today, may all be done for Your glory!

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Week Thirty-Four - Why the Storm?

My husband and I enjoy reading the same devotion book throughout the year. It gives us something to talk about and keeps us spiritually on the same page. This year we are reading Chris Tiegreen's devotional, One Year at His Feet. Several weeks ago, he wrote about storms, and his thought stuck fast with me. I want to share it with you today.

In Matthew 8:26, Jesus says to his disciples, "Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?"

Chris Tiegreen writes, "One of the hindrances to a faithful response to Jesus in the storms of our lives is our acute awareness that He let us get into the storm to begin with. We would rather have a Savior who didn't sleep in the back of the boat. We would prefer that He navigate us around the storms rather than deliver us from the middle of them. But our God has never guarded His people from storms. He even lets us suffer in them sometimes. Why?"

I'd never really had those thoughts, but I can see what he is saying. If God is in control, why do we have to experience storms? Why doesn't He direct us away from them?

His answer is, "Jesus could have navigated His company around that storm. It blew up without warning, but the Lord of creation isn't surprised by anything. He knew about the Cross ahead of time, and He knew about this storm. But if He had let the disciples avoid it, they would never have known Him as the Master of the winds and the waves. They wouldn't have asked the questions: "What kind of man is this?" (v.27). They would not have known Jesus as their Deliverer that day."

Oh, and my heart leapt right there! Jesus, our deliverer! How many times have I known Him to be so! Praise the Lord for the storms in my life that revealed His power to deliver. 

These storms come so we will know HIm. "When we avoid the dangerous waters, we avoid the Deliverer...some of His characteristics can only be discovered in the deep, treacherous waters...we can't really know the Deliverer unless we need deliverance."

And my heart rejoiced again! "We can't really know the Deliverer unless we need deliverance." Playing it safe, cowering when challenged, or avoiding hard situations is an indicator that we don't fully understand the power of our Deliverer. He is the one who accompanies us through every storm. He delivers when we need deliverance. We need not be fearful or faithless.

God is fully aware of the storms around us. This pandemic was not a surprise. The fires, earthquakes, and floods are still under His control. And the impending human disaster in the Middle East was known by Him before it ever hit the airwaves.

So here's the thing - if life were easy and things always went our way, we would have little need for faith and even less need for a Deliverer. Instead, storms help us see our need and remind us of our inadequacies and inability to control life. And that is not a bad thing. Our faith increases as we see God mighty to deliver. Zephaniah 3:17 reads, "The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save." He will deliver!

Are you in a storm? Do you need a Deliverer? What a wonderful place to be, for God loves to show His power to His children. He will deliver. He is the Master of the storm. Cry out to Him today.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Week Thirty-Three-Be Different

I saw a FaceBook post that read, “As Christians, we can't make a difference if we're not different.”

Oh, how we need a difference made in our world today. It is disheartening to see fires, earthquakes, destabilization of countries, evil, and exploitation. Add all that to the pandemic, and I think it is fair to say we are living in a time of great woe!

But I remind myself, as I remind you, that we need not look at the world in despair; we should look to see what they need. They need Christ! And God has tasked us with that assignment. As his ambassadors, we have a different hope, a different purpose, a different message, a different mindset, and a different destination!

Through His Spirit, we live in hope of the fulfillment of His word.  I love Psalm 119:49, "Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope." God's word tells us how this old world will play out, and yet it gives us hope as overcomers, and we rest ourselves solidly in the promises of God and His word, which shall never pass away.

Our purpose is to serve and glorify Christ. Colossians 3:23 reads, "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ." That is our purpose. And His purpose? God's will is that all be saved. And He works all things according to the purpose of his will (Ephesians 1:11). This gives us confidence and a measure by which we can base decisions and determine direction.

We have a message of love, forgiveness, and salvation. John 3:16 rings true. The love of God is still there for every human being. No matter what ethnicity or religious persuasion, God offers salvation through His Son to those who will call upon him. Our job is to proclaim this message.

We work from a mindset of care and compassion, for this is the way of Christ. "He was kind to the unthankful and to the evil" (Luke 6:35). He requires from us a different response to enemies. (Matthew 5:44). We walk that extra mile and offer that cup of cold water that He might be lifted up, and all men be drawn to Him.

And we have a solid assurance of heaven (1 John 5:11-13). Paul wrote, "To live is Christ, to die is gain" (Philippians 1:19). Our destination is secure in Christ.

The world has none of this. They have no voice or guide pointing them to hope; they live in anger, guilt, and fear. They do not know the assurance of heaven or the purpose of God. Their god comes to destroy. Our God comes to seek and save. And, they do not work from a mindset of care and compassion, only exploitation and greed. 

But they can be different - if we will share the Good News, find the courage to act in love, and reach out instead of running in fear.

Christian, be fervently on your knees. Prepare your heart to share your faith. Live in a way that exhibits hope and confidence in Christ. Let your light shine and be different from the world around you!

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Week Thirty-Two - Pry Yourself Off


I took my oldest two children for swimming lessons when they were very young. My son, only six months old, really enjoyed the water and happily began swimming. However, Sally, my oldest daughter, latched on to me with all her strength. I literally had to pry her off. She did not trust the water! It was embarrassing. She was the only child there screaming and crying as I tried to teach her to relax, hold her breath, and float. She finally got it, but I doubt she ever appreciated the lessons!

Sometimes we are like Sally. We don't like the situation around us or the lesson the Lord wants us to learn, so we latch onto anything that feels safe rather than trust the Lord and swim in His grace. Thoughts like, What if something goes wrong? What if I get sick? What if I don't have enough money? What if I fail? push us to fear.  And the more we worry and grasp, the larger our fear grows and the tighter we cling.

We will never learn the depth of God's grace and ability while hanging on to our self-made safety net. This is so akin to deceiving ourselves. We prefer control - self-control. We want things easy and not fearful. We strive to create boundaries and parameters that protect us from harm, but they are all false. We do not have that much control of life. Yet, every time we encounter difficult situations, we start thinking about how we want them to turn out and obsess about everything that could go wrong instead of laying them before the Lord and trusting the water!

There's an interesting little article I read about how to survive drowning. Listen to these pieces of advice. "Float, don't swim to avoid drowning. Fight your instincts, not the water, to help stay alive. Sudden immersion in cold water triggers the instinctive but life-threatening reaction to gasp uncontrollably and swim hard, which can quickly lead to drowning. (The Mirror, Alice Wojcik, 25 May 2017)

Do you see the correlation between drowning and our irrational fear? When we are faced with these difficult, scary situations, our knee-jerk reaction is similar. We hyperventilate, try harder, and follow our instincts.

God says, instead of gasping for air, relax. Even the air you breathe is a gift of God. So take a deep breath. He already knows about the situation and the outcome. You can trust him. "What time I am afraid?"  Remember that verse? "I will trust in thee," the Bible tells us. (Psalm 56:3)  

Instead of trying harder, buoy yourself in the water of the Word. 1 Corinthians 3:7 reminds us that God gives the increase. He is in charge. Ephesians 1:11 assures us that everything works according to the purpose of his will. There are loads of other scriptures to hold you up and point you to His strength instead of your own. So, there's no need to be flapping about!  These verses serve as life jackets so make sure they are strapped on!

And, in place of following your instincts, choose to follow Him. Let go of whatever you are grasping on to and follow God's instructions. This choice will take you straight to the "I will" passages of Scripture. I will trust, I will sing. I will obey. And you will find Psalm 94:19 so true, "In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul."  

Like learning to swim, learning to trust the Lord takes time, and you get stronger along the way.  So, pry yourself off your circumstances and start grabbing hold of God.           

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Week Thirty-One - As the World Turns

I've never really been one to watch soap operas, but my mother did. One she followed was, As the World Turns. Today, we don't often call them soap operas; we say we are watching a series, but the idea is similar. There is a storyline running through each episode, drawing us to keep coming back for more.

I began thinking about this as I read Ecclesiastes. Similar to our leading characters, Solomon looked for things to satisfy his fleshly appetites. He wanted more from life, so he explored every pleasure. He tried to figure life out and found only dead-end roads. He was at the top of the mountain, so to speak, but even there, nothing satisfied.

As I look at my own life, I remember times when I have felt the same; like the world turns to no purpose. Everything is empty and vain and holds nothing for me. I'm just a pawn in the grander scheme.

Do you know what conclusion came to Solomon? Remember, he is the wisest man who ever lived. He was rich beyond our wildest imagination, and no pleasure, exploit, or desire was withheld from him. His conclusion? Enjoy what you have; it is your portion from the hand of God. Solomon came back to a humble, loving response to an all-knowing, all-powerful Creator.

I don't know about you, but when I allow my A-type personality to settle into this truth, I find great comfort. There is no need to prove myself, no need for great works or mighty words of earthly wisdom, just a gentle, contented, thankful heart for what God has lovingly placed around me. 

When I get back into my place, life takes on a healthier meaning. That old song, Count Your Blessings, begins ringing in my ears, and I start taking stock of my portion - a safe and cozy home, a loving family, good health, food on the table, the beauty of creation, the fellowship of His Spirit, the powerful working of the Word in my heart, and the good hand of God upon me. What more could I ask?

This old world continues turning. Solomon told us many years ago that the sun faithfully rises and sets, the wind and waters move to a never-changing cycle, and there is no new thing under the sun. All of these are beyond our control but under the control of God. "I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it: and God doeth it...why?...that men should fear before him" (Ecclesiastes 3:14).

I walked away more peacefully that day and remembered another scripture, 2 Corinthians 4:18, "For the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." 

This reminded me that with all its sadness, temptations, and pleasures, this old world will pass away, but my soul is eternal. I have eternal life, and I am happiest when I am thankful for my portion and live with expectant contentment while this old world spins to its end.

How about you? Do you feel caught in a never-ending soap opera? Like there is no end to troubles and no purpose to life? Why not stop and take stock of where you are, thankfully accept the portion God has given, and lift your focus beyond this world.