Thursday, June 29, 2017

Week Twenty-Six - Extreme Sports

Beside the Well

               Have you seen the videos of web-suited people jumping off mountains in Norway and navigating the air currents above the fjords?   I’d love to think I could do that, but someone would have to push me off!  Then I’d probably scream all the way down and forget to enjoy the trip!
               As I was reading a devotion book by Emilie Barnes she said, “As with any talent, we must be willing to be used.  Yes, there is a risk, but its worth the insecurity to find out how far God can take us if we are willing…Life is not boring when you have a purpose.” (p 64)
               Those webbed jumpers are taking an extreme risk.  They are trusting the currents to hold them as they glide ever downward.  But they probably weigh the risk against the experience and think it well worth it.  I don’t know if they have any other purpose in life than to seek thrills, but I am sure their adrenaline is surging!
               My life isn’t lived on such an adrenaline rush, but that doesn’t stop me seeing the futility and endless boredom of a life without purpose.  I hate that feeling of being in a rut with no end in sight. 
However, life with a purpose is demanding.  It requires me to use my talents for His glory.  Or, at least to be willing to give it a go.  Insecurity cries out for self-protection.  I don’t want to be embarrassed or fail.  I don’t want to make a mistake and hurt someone.  Those thoughts are entirely self-centered.  They are not God centered. 
Take a risk?  Oh, my! Too often I find myself stuck between being the poor guy who buries his talent in the ground and the risk taker who plunges himself into following God’s will.  I’m not really a brave soul.  I would rather stay inside my four walls and live a secluded life.  But sometimes God’s will takes me out of my comfort zone.  Sometimes I have to be a risk-taker for God.  I have to hazard myself for the sake of the Gospel or others.  I must step out by faith and soar with the current of the Spirit if I am to fulfil the purpose God has for my life.
               Experience has taught me to step out for God.  Why then do I still come to roadblocks on the path of His will?  Why do I shudder with fear or doubt when I am faced with something new? 
I have learned that the blessing is always on the other side of obedience. Each step is just another step of obedience and a building step of my faith.  If I stand at the parapet of the mount and fail to cast myself into the current of His winds, I will never mount up with wings like an eagle.  I will never know the security and thrill of deep abiding faith.  The fear of risk, the fear of insecurity and the unknown will keep me clutching to tangible things and I will never soar by faith.
               I once read, and have never forgotten: “Nothing before, nothing behind; the steps of faith fall on the seeming void and find The Rock beneath” (JGW).
No boredom there!  Only a purposeful challenge—like extreme sports—keeping up with Jesus means taking the plunge and learning to soar!

Barnes, Emilie, 15 Minutes Alone with God, Harvest House Publisher, Eugene, Oregon1994.
Whittier, John Greenleaf,, February 25, 2008

Friday, June 23, 2017

Week Twenty-Five - The Power of Mustard Seeds

Beside the Well
               When I look back at my journal I see a pattern of ups and downs: of great soaring faith and then my tail dragging in the dirt.  I could be so bold as to say it reads like the psalms of David—O, woe is me followed by remembering God and being full of praise—but I’m sure I am no David.
               My journal holds quotes recorded from my Kindle reading.  This time I came across on from Becoming a Woman Whose God is Enough.  There’s my word again: enough! 
The author wrote of our need for faith.  As she referenced the story of the disciples out in the storm, she quoted Matthew Henry, “He does not chide them for disturbing him with their prayers, but for disturbing themselves with their fears.”
               Did you catch that?  “Disturbing themselves with their fears.”  They were making their own anxiety, creating their own doom.  It reminded me of the phrase from Genesis 37:35, “he refused to be comforted.”  How often are we guilty of refusing to take the comfort God provides?  We would rather fret and wail upon our beds than accept the comfort of the Holy Spirit and Scripture.  We disturb ourselves by creating imaginary situations that will most likely never take place.  We think we are all alone as we face the fear of our “what-ifs” while the God of creation and absolute peace is looking on.  What silly creatures we are!
               As the author continued, her discussion moved onto the mustard seed from Mark 4:30-32 and Luke 17:5-6.  She quoted Clarkson:
               “This truth is surely not that the possession of a faith as slight as the mustard seed is small will suffice, but that the faith which is full as is the mustard seed of life and power of appropriation will avail for all occasions.  For it is not true that a slight and feeble faith does suffice…only a faith which is a living and a growing power, like the mustard seed in the soil, will triumph over the difficulties to be met and mastered.” 
                “Full as is the mustard seed” caught my attention.  Even if my faith is small, it is still packed with resurrection potential and assurance.  The ups and downs of my spiritual walk do not supersede the truth and power of the faith that lies within me. 
               As Jesus approached the fearful disciples his comment was, “O, ye of little faith” (Matthew 8:26).  They had faith.  It was there.  They needed to appropriate it instead of giving way to the fears around them.
I thought of the day I was going to pass out tracts.  I was alone and fearful as I prayed my way to town.  Then, hanging from the outside of the local art museum was a huge banner that read, “Courage is stronger than fear.”  Right there my fear stopped and courage (appropriated by my little mustard seed sized faith) took over!
               Next time I peruse my journal I hope to find a more stable record, but even if I still go up and down, it gives me great comfort and assurance to know there is a constant seed of hope and faith within me.  When fear tries to disturb me, I hope I will be reminded that courage is stronger than fear and I will lay aside the torment of fear replacing it will a few more sprouts of faith.

Clarkson, W, The Pulpit Commentary, eds. H.D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, vol. 16, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson,1985, p 56.
Heald, Cynthia, Becoming a Woman Whose God is Enough, NavPress, Carol Stream, Illinois, location 1097 Kindle, 2014

Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 5, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson,1985,

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Week Twenty-Four - The Steps of a Good Man

Beside the Well
               Life holds many amazing moments.  This past Sunday evening was one of those for me.  I sat with one of my two younger grand-girls on each side as I watched their father, my youngest son, be ordained to the ministry.  Around me sat more children, grandchildren, in-laws, and family friends as we relished the moment.  The messaged, delivered by Grandpa Gritts, was based around the steps we take in Christian life: salvation, service, surrender, and being sent.  Then, after the laying on of hands and a prayer for spiritual power and discernment, my son became a reverend.  His next step is Spain, where God has called him to serve as a church-planting missionary.
               I thought of the many steps it had taken for him to get to this place: growing up on the mission field, getting his education, marriage and family, internship and experience.  Then, I thought of the many steps that lay ahead.  What comfort there is in knowing the “steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord” (Psalm 37:23).  God has a path for my son and will be with him every step of the journey.  God has worked throughout his life to bring him to the place he is today, and with the same faithfulness, God is ready for every step in the future.
               This truth is not just for those who are following the Lord into full time service, but for everyone who is willing to walk alongside the Lord.  Over and over throughout the books of Psalms and Proverbs we read about steps, order, direction and guidance.  God is willing to show us the way if we will look to Him.  His word is the light for our path.  He never intended for us to stumble in darkness or wander about with no direction.  He wants us to know the confidence that comes from seeing where we are going and knowing we are in His will.
               But, you will say, “there are times when we cannot see the way.”  You are right.  Sometimes there may be fog on the path, or voices calling from the dark, or an inability to determine the right direction, but if we will continue by faith doing what God has shown us to do and leave the rest to him, the fog will clear and the path will be illuminated.   
I love Deuteronomy 29:29. “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.”   This teaches me that the way to walk with the Lord is to continue by faith doing what God has shown me to do and leave the rest to Him.  When I take steps in accordance with His word and keep my eyes on Him, the path will shine and lead me to the next step with full assurance of His promises fulfilled in my life.

               My mind and heart are flooding with songs about following, taking steps, and the promise of God’s direction and provision.
“My Lord Knows the Way Through the Wilderness”, “Follow On”, “Each Step I Take” and “He Leadeth Me”, are just a few.  These songs accompany me through my journey and encourage me to take steps that will show my faith and trust in a God who truly does order my steps.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Week Twenty-Three - When I'm 64

Beside the Well
This week my husband celebrated his 64th birthday.  It was great fun singing that old Beatles tune to him and watching him enjoy time with his children and grandchildren.  Happy Birthday was sung many times and gifts were exchanged.  Hugs and kisses abounded along with the laughter of children and the teasing of adults.  These are rare times for missionaries and their value cannot be over-estimated. 
This morning my Bible reading took me to Proverbs 20.  Verse seven reads, “The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.”  I could not but stop and think of yesterday’s birthday celebrations and see how God had fulfilled this promise.
A good father is a blessing from the Lord.  A man that walks in integrity is one who knows how to walk in honesty, love and truth, understands his position in Christ, and strives to pass his faith on to his children.  A just man is one who is discerning and thoughtful in decisions and creates an atmosphere of safety and growth in the home.  He teaches his children how to navigate life planting strength, wisdom and courage in their lives.
The verse promises a blessing upon the children.  This takes time.  A father must sometimes maintain his integrity and justness for many years before he sees the fruit of his labor, but a just man will walk with integrity for as long as it takes. 
My husband’s father is a golden example of patience and love as he worked to provide the strength and example necessary for one of his wayward sons.  Though he passed away before seeing the son return to the path of truth, the son did return and today is a blessing to his family. 
The father is the family’s anchor.  He is their ground upon which to stand.  He is their focal point.
As I watched my children and grandchildren expressing their love for the man who is their anchor, I was blessed to see such happiness, openness, and acceptance among them all.  Truly, the blessing of God in their lives has come because of the faithfulness of their father.  His decisions, his tender care, and his wisdom have created the basis of success for their lives. 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Week Twenty-Two - Needs

Beside the Well
               Paula Rineheart in, Strong Women Soft Hearts, said, “Needs are not enemies to conquer, they are part of what keeps us returning to the Lord.”  (p 101) That left me meditating for several days.  Needs are not enemies to conquer?  Am I looking for some celestial type of existence?  One in which every need is met and I am not bothered by any discomfort?
               Spurgeon also thought on this idea when he said, “If because you are Christians you promise yourselves a long lease of temporal happiness, free from troubles and afflictions, it is as if a soldier going to the wars would promise himself peace and continual truce with the enemy…If there be no war there can be no victory; ease is therefore our loss and hindrance….nearness to God is the one desideratum [something desired] (p 135).
               Okay, so needs have their place in life.  Since I am the type of person who likes things to be solved and sorted, how am I going to deal with the fact that needs will always be with me? 
               I imagined myself using my old tactic of the shoulder toss based on 1 Peter 5:7, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”  I take that burden or care—or need—and cast it over my shoulder to my Lord.  He will take care of it.  He has promised over and over in His word to take care of me and He knows my needs, even before I do.
               So I can saunter through life without a care in the world because God has my back? That might sound a bit trite, but if God knows I have needs, promises to meet them, and will not give me anything too large for me to toss over my shoulder, then why can’t I walk lightly with a spring in my step?  Why would I want to lug that ball and chain of unmet needs down the path with me when I can give them to the Lord?
               The wonderful thing about our Lord is He knows my heart.  He knows I have trouble letting things go and trusting Him to care for them.  He knows I am a “fixer”.  He made me that way.  But the best fix I can ever have for my needs is the knowledge of His ability and the faith that says the nearer I walk with God, the lighter the burden. 
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28, 29).
I don’t have to conquer my needs or fear them.  They can flow alongside me because they prompt me to look to my Lord who is able to take care of every one of them.
 “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”   John 16:33 

Rinehart, Paula, Strong Women Soft Hearts, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, Tennessee, 2001

Spurgeon, Charles Haddon, Illustrations and Meditations or Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden, Passmore & Alabaster, London, 1883

Week Twenty-One - MIrrors

Week Twenty – Mirrors

               I have always loved the book of James because of its straight and simple message.  In James 1:22-24 we see the example of the man who looked into the mirror to see his image, but went away forgetting what he saw. 
               When I look into a mirror I can see my imperfections.  We all have spots and blemishes of some description.  We may have one eye larger than the other, or thick lips, or thin lips, or any number of variations.  They even say if you divide your face in two vertically, you find each side was different.  We simply are not perfect!
               Now, I don’t want us to get hung up on what we look like on the outside.  God is not worried about our physical image.  He is looking at our heart.  So when James wrote about the man forgetting what he saw, he wasn’t referring to his face; he was referring to his spiritual condition.
               2 Corinthians 3:18 also speaks of seeing our reflection saying,  “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
               Let me put to you a few ideas about our image and how God makes transformation.
               First, there is a law of reflection.  Our speech, our dress, our political views all reflect the person we are.  We are mirrors.  I see you and I describe you by what I see.  You see me, and you describe me by what you see.  My reflection/personality/outlook influences you in some way.  Maybe it creates hope or happiness.  Maybe it causes disgust or fear.  For better or for worse, our reflection has an effect.
               Second, there is the law of assimilation.  All we have personally seen, felt, known, and experienced has become a part of us.  We are changed by these things and reflect them.  They are not just memories; they make up who we are.  They are markers to where we have been and are assimilated into the deep recesses of our hearts and souls creating the person we are today.  For example, I grew up on in a rural setting.  My experiences and outlook are colored by my upbringing.  You may have grown up in the city.  Your experiences will also color your mindset and outlook.
               But here is the thing.  Though we will reflect the person we are, Christ came to transform that image into His likeness.  How?  By reflection.  Look again at 2 Corinthians.  We are told to behold the glory of the Lord.  We are to look at His reflection.  What will we see? 
               We will see His glory shining through His perfect character. We see His beauty.  He is merciful, gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth. His reflection is a force used by God to create change in us.
               Every time we look at the image of the Lord through the mirror of His word, there is an affect.  We see our own sinfulness and His perfection, our impairment and His sufficiency and our weakness and His strength.  From glory to glory He uses His perfect reflection to impress change in our lives.
               It is the process of sanctification: a day-by-day, moment-by-moment, divine reflection that transforms us by His power.
               The challenge for us is to not be like the man in James who saw his flaws but forgot about them thinking he would not reflect those images to others.  But rather, to be always looking into the reflection of Christ allowing His glory to be assimilated into our own reflection that we might mirror His image.