Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Week Four - Distance

Beside the Well
      Last year I read Relationships, a Mess Worth Making by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp.  It is a good book on facing and working through difficult relationships and the importance of dealing in a healthy way with issues that arise in order to come out with a good marriage and some friends in life.   
            The authors wrote, “The reality our imagination embraces is the reality we will live by.”*  To me, these are just words that paraphrase Proverbs 23:7  “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”  No real depth of knowledge here, but it did spur me to think about what reality was governing my life. 
            There are quizzes you can take that claim they reveal your opinion of God.  When I take them they usually reveal I believe God has better things to do than attend to me.  I seem to view Him as a distant, but loving Father who only comes when I call.  We could surmise I had an absentee father.  I did not.  He came home from work every night for supper and was there at the breakfast table every morning.  We did loads of hobbies and fun things together.  Valuable time could be wasted on getting to the bottom of my thoughts here, but the bottom is exactly where it would bring us, so let’s move on.
            I know God is not actually passive, but am I living as if He were?  Are my imaginations causing me to live outside truth?                      
            The authors went on to say, “If we are not captured by the truth of living in a deeply personal relationship with God, we will shrink our expectations and dreams down to the size of our own selfish wants, desires, and strategies.” **
            What?  If I leave God as passive I will be living below God’s desire for my life?  I’m living selfishly and independently? It isn’t a matter of thinking I am being humble or meek, but a lack of faith and trust, a lack of a fully developed relationship?  That’s not what I want.  I don’t want to shrink God down to fit my tiny life.
            They didn’t leave it there.  “Their view of God’s passivity was a principal ingredient in their abiding hopelessness.” ***
            Oh, wow!  That is what I often feel—hopeless.  I hear my inner voice saying, “You are a waste of time.  All you try to achieve is just senseless activity. No one really cares about the things you care about.”  I struggle to stay out of that pit!  I even have strategies for climbing out!
            I stared at the page and tried to imagine life in a deeply personal relationship.  I don’t have many of those with which to compare.  I came to realize nearly all of my relationships are passive and distant.  
            “Exactly.”  I heard the Spirit say.  “You keep yourself at a distance.  Why not just open up and allow room for your Heavenly Father to love you, accept you, and create a new image in your mind?  One that will give you the ability to love others more deeply and bring greater value to your life?”
            On my knees I went confessing my tiny estimation of God and seeking forgiveness for inhibiting His Spirit and keeping Him at a distance.
            Then, God flooded my heart with more truth. He works for me, for my good, continually.  He is the lifter up of my head.  With Him, all things are possible.  Hope filled my heart and I went away with a renewed passion and a start on a deeper and more personal relationship with my Heavenly Father.
            What about you?  Do you view God is distant and passive?  Do you often feel hopeless?  Do you spiritually live on your own and only call on God when you can’t figure things out for yourself? 
            He invites you to a personal relationship.
            Jeremiah 33:3  “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”
            Jeremiah 29:13 “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”
            Acts17:27  “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.”

Lane, Tim S. and Tripp, Paul, Relationships: A Mess Worth Making, New Growth Press, 2006, Grand Rapids, MI
*page 161
**page 161

***page 162

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Week Three - Christianity

Beside the Well

            Last year I heard President Obama being maligned for some of his statements against Christianity.  When I heard the actual sound bite I understood him to be challenging Christians to stand up and be what they are supposed to be.  He said we should be doing instead of just talking.  We should be actively involved in solving problems.  I heard a cry for proof, not condemnation. (Hanity, May 13, 2015)
            Christianity is always being judged.  Ghandi was dismayed saying, I’d be a Christian, if it were not for the Christians.”  Red Cloud, an important leader of the Oglala Lakota Sioux, explained that the Native Americans heard of this Christ and of the way of salvation.  They watched to see if Christ made a real difference, but the white man still cheated and lied.
            These words challenge me to think more seriously about how I present Christ in my own life.  My Christianity needs to be more than my personal comfort zone.  Those around me need to see Him shine in a way that will draw, not repel.  I am eternally accountable for how I live my life.  More important than that, my personal presentation of Christianity may be; rather, it potentially is, the only presentation some will see and is the determining factor in their eternal destination.
            An anonymous quote pinned up on my desk reads, “Don’t look at the world discouraged at what they do, look and see what they need.”  The world loves to cry out, “Don’t judge me.”  But the truth is, they are already judged (John 3).  Maybe, instead of coldly pointing out their sin, I would to be more of a witness by pointing out out my concern for the sins that hurts them.  I ought to see them as wounded and dying instead of annoying and in my way.  I could say, “I see your heart.  Let me love you enough to show you a healthier option.”
            Instead of just saying we are Christians, what if we purposely got involved with our community and walked wisely among them?  What if we learned to bridle our passions and prejudices, turning them into loving zeal for those in need? What if we took the example of Jesus and intentionally went about doing good? 
            As we inaugurate a new president this week we are best to remember that America is not one man.  The difference he can make is small compared to the impact made by those of us who will turn hate to love and shoulder the responsibility to bear burdens and walk the extra mile.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Week Two - Wrinkles

Beside the Well

            While reading through my Bible I came to Job 16:8,  “Thou hast filled me with wrinkles, which is a witness against me…” and I laughed right out loud.
            Wrinkles.  Every time those of us over fifty look into the mirror we are shocked to discover another one, or two, or three.  They are the blight of age and the source of huge industry. I look down now and see the hands of my grandmother typing.  It brings precious memories, but I certainly don’t know how they got there, and no amount of potions or concoctions is going to change them.
            Poor old Job, he was prematurely aging.  As if his trials weren’t enough, his friends, by their negative and condemning counsel, had caused him to wrinkle, to shrivel.  He even calls them miserable comforters in verse one.
            It got me wondering what else, besides negative, non-supportive counsel, might cause me to prematurely wrinkle?
            Overtiredness?  Am I pushing and pushing for things that hold no eternal value?  Am I guilty of keeping a diary full to the brim and rarely refusing another appointment, all the while dragging through each day feeling beat up and exhausted?
            Poor Diet?  Am I cramming my face with junk food and then feeling guilty because my clothes don’t fit? Am I drinking more soda than water and then blaming my weight on age?  Am I skipping meals and then wondering why I am irritable and have dark circles under my eyes?  Are my three veg chocolate, chocolate and chocolate?
            Unforgiveness?  Am I nursing and rehearsing old grudges and hurts allowing bitterness and anger to be my daily diet causing me to feel heavy-hearted, angry and alone?
            Stress?  Do I have huge debt?  Do I feel overwhelmed by the demands of life?  Am I creating my own stress by thinking something is wrong if I don’t have something to fret and worry about? Do I keep trying to seize control and freaking out when things don’t go my way?  Do I wonder how others seem to have such peace and rest while I can barely hold it all together?
            Fear?  What will be tomorrow?  What if I am not able to hold my job?  What if my health fails?  What if I am not smart enough to actually make it through life?  Are the “what-if’s” plaguing me while my eyes dart at every angle of life expecting the bogie-man to jump out and get me?
            Negative people and poor life choices will have a definite affect on my appearance.  They will wear me down; cause me to wrinkle.  No amount of makeup will be able to hide the crevices.
            So, what am I going to do?  My grandmother told me not to get old, but I don’t think that is feasible.  Age is going to happen. 
            Surely, it is better for me to grow past the mistakes of youth and bring my life inline with godly principles.  I need to get off the merry-go-round I have created, step back, and learn to create a life free from the unnecessary burdens of stress and fear.  I need to choose my friends and influences wisely and take responsibility for my choices; else my wrinkles will be a witness against me.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Week One - Beside the Well

Beside the Well

            I don’t know what your habit is for personal daily devotions, but mine starts with getting across the landing to the corner of my office each morning where my leather IKEA chair waits.  Beside me is a lap desk, which is drawn up from beside the chair to hold my Bible, devotional reading and journal.  With reading glasses and pen to the ready I position myself to delve into whatever the Word holds for me.
            Like the woman at the well, I come with an empty bucket.  I have drawn aside for this special moment to find refreshment, courage, and solace. I want you to know there are days when it is a real struggle just to make it to the chair.  There are even days when I feel I have only tasted of crumbs falling from the table of the Word as I scratch the ground, but even those are morsels of truth to a hungry soul and hold promise of more to be found.
            The woman at the well came daily to draw water. It was a menial task.  Her visit was of no real significance. It was simply a duty that demanded consistency and drew no acclaim. The difference was who met her at the well. 
            Our daily drawing aside can be seen as a duty.  As servants we are to do it.  But, as water to the thirsty soul, this personal moment is totally necessary for spiritual health. Proverbs 8:34-35 speaks of watching daily at the gate, waiting for the promise of the Lord’s favour.  Luke 17:10 speaks of simply doing our duty.   As we obey, our Saviour is ready to give the water of life, which daily we so desperately need.  He knows our bucket is empty and he knows exactly how to fill it.  Spurgeon put it this way, “The cup must be held under the flowing fountain or it will not be filled…”*

            As I restart my blog I plan to share with you some of the jewels I have found from my meetings at the well.  Sometimes we may look at a truth from Scripture.  Other times we may look at a quote that sparked a ray of understanding from a diamond in the rough. Won’t you join me as we hold our cups under the fountain?

*Spurgeon, C. H., Illustrations and Meditations or Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden, p 65. Passmore & Alabaster, London, 1883