Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Week Forty - King of the Mountain

Is life about becoming King of the Mountain? Do the people at the bottom of the pile matter as much as the ones on top? Are only the top ten percent of a class bound for success and the others for obscurity?

Sadly, sometimes people believe these things to be true. They focus only on being first, best, most prosperous, or most prestigious. For them, being recognized as a success is the only goal of life.

Who is most successful? Grandma Moses or Michelangelo? Dolly Parton or Pavarotti? We measure each by varying standards, don't we? 

Michelangelo's art is so different from that of Grandma Moses, yet each was successful in their individual genre.

Dolly and Pavarotti have commanding voices but weren't cut out for the same stage. Although, I bet they'd have made an exciting duo. Crossing them over to the other's style would probably cause them to fail. I can't imagine Dolly singing opera or Pavarotti getting down home with a country ballad, can you? 

And while Michelangelo might be able to create a lovely country scene, Grandma Moses would have difficulty painting the Sistine Chapel. It's unfair to ask them to be more than they are or to perform in a different manner than that which God ordained. 

What about budding artists? Do we discount their work because it lacks maturity and refinement, or do we encourage growth and appreciate the effort? Would we call Abraham Lincoln or Colonel Sanders failures? Did they learn from their stumbles and hurdles? Of course, they did. Then, so can we1 The same can be said for a young lawyer, doctor, parent, or Christian writer. They all start somewhere. Success is built - not attained. 

An attitude of competition is destructive.We put undue pressure on ourselves and others when we try to fit into boxes we designed to make ourselves successful, boxes God did not ordain for us. We measure ourselves by the success of others and feel like failures. God says comparing ourselves among ourselves is not wise, but we fall too often for the comparison game.

We are not yet all we can be, but we are on the path to becoming what we will be. So let's keep going. God's design is individual and unique. Our path is divinely ordained, and as long as we follow our Lord, we are successful.

It's time to stop playing King of the Mountain and let the King show us the way to happiness and contentment. Friend, this competition game kills your joy and never brings the happiness you seek.

Who is most successful? The person whose life is built upon the solid Word of God and who seeks His praise above their own. It's not about purse strings or the accolades of this world. It is about making God King of the Mountain, then hearing "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." 

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Week Thirty-Nine - You're Choking Me

David and Bruce McArthur wrote, "Many people are afraid to forgive because they feel they must remember the wrong or they will not learn from it. The opposite is true. Through forgiveness, the wrong is released from its emotional stranglehold on us so that we can learn from it. Through the power and intelligence of the heart, the release of forgiveness brings expanded intelligence to work with the situation more effectively."

Being in an "emotional stranglehold," choked by unforgiveness, revenge, or resentment, is not a very happy prospect. I've been there. I'm sure you have, too. As we struggle to find a way to forgive or try and try to make things right, we battle with doubt and insecurity. We muse over what could have been, what could have been said, what was or wasn't done, and we draw the strangling cord tighter and tighter until we are, as God's Word puts it, in a "stronghold."

We reach for every fleshly weapon we can find. Revenge, blaming, guilt, fear, anger, victim-mentality, and all sorts of emotional responses become our fellow combatants as we try to justify our unforgiveness. I hope you see the little key as you read the quote above. Holding on to unforgiveness or being afraid to grant forgiveness only tightens the choke hold. The only way to get released is to let it go.

God says, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds" (2 Corinthians 10:4.)

Carnal weapons are those of the flesh, based on our lusts and desires. We want things to be even and right in our eyes. We want it to work out our way. The book of James is straightforward when it talks about these fights and wars we have with each other. It concludes that we struggle because of our own lusts. And what does that mean? It's a way of saying we refuse to forgive because we want to be the winner; we don't want to lose face. That is pride. Very simply put, pride is a work of the flesh. 

We might feel the need to defend ourselves or find reasons as to why we won't or can't forgive, but God says they don't hold water with Him. Forgiveness is a command. As He forgave us, we are to forgive others, period.

So, if we aren't going to use carnal weapons, what weapons can we use to pull down strongholds and release the stranglehold of unforgiveness?

Let's take one passage from God's Word to describe our arsenal. I'll highlight each weapon as you read through Ephesians 6:14-18

"Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.'

Are those weapons fully active in your Christian life? If so, they will lead you to freedom from the chains.

Another way to read this passage is to look at the actions of our warfare. Standing, girding, putting on, being shod, taking up, quenching, praying always, and being watchful are stances of the Christian ready to obey God's command to forgiveness.

Dear friend, there is no reason to be choked by an emotional stranglehold with these weapons and instruction at your disposal. There is no excuse God will receive from you. He is looking for your faith and obedience. Are you ready to cut yourself loose and stop being choked? Then, put on your armor, take up your weapons, break the chains of emotional strangleholds, and forgive.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Week Thirty-Eight - What Happened?

If you've been following along since April, you'll know that our sponsorship of missionaries came to an end on July14th. The missionaries have been working to move to new sponsors or get their visas sorted before the September 11th deadline. I can now give you a final report. Of the seventeen missionary families initially under our sponsorship,

1 moved to the US to take a church. This was already in his plans before the Border Agency news.

1 moved to a new ministry in Denmark.

3 received their Indefinite Leave to Remain visas. They can now stay permanently.

4 moved to new sponsors.

1 moved to a spousal visa. (He proposed and she accepted. They will be getting married on September 22nd.)

3 found new sponsors and have visa applications in with the Border Agency. They can remain in the country until a decision has been made. Hopefully, all of them will have their visas granted before much longer.

4 are waiting for their new sponsor's license to be granted before they can make application for a new visa. We wait and pray to see how this will all work out.

So that's what happened. It has been quite a nail-biting journey for these missionaries, but God is faithful and we ask you to continue praying for these final few. Pray the Border Agency will grant visas to those with applications pending and pray for those who may yet have to leave until things are in place.

Humanly, we always wonder why things like this happen. We grow fearful and imagine all kinds of scary scenarios, but even through this type of test we know and believe that God alone planned what happened, knows why it happened, and how it will all turn out. He is fully in control, even for the missionary whose application went in just 26 hours before the deadline!

God has moved some things around, opened some spiritual eyes, and positioned His people for greater ministry. Let's watch and see what else He does!

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Week Thirty-Seven - Already

Sometimes the beauty of what others write inspires and blesses my heart to no end. I love reading the Puritan writers and Spurgeon. I have a few favorites among modern writers, too, but I find the language and phrasing of the ancients more poetic and intriguing. 

Spurgeon's devotion on Ephesians 2:19 is a case in point. Today, I will record it for you here, and I hope it blesses your heart as much as it did mine. The italics belong to the publisher, so I'll underline the portions that jumped out to me. Enjoy!

Ephesians 2:19 reads, "Now, therefore, ye are no more strangers and foreigners but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God."

"What is meant by our being citizens in heaven? It means that we are under heaven's government. Christ, the king of heaven, reigns in our hearts; our daily prayer is, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." The proclamations issued from the throne of glory are freely received by us: the decrees of the Great King we cheerfully obey. Then as citizens of the New Jerusalem, we share heaven's honors. 

The glory which belongs to beatified saints belongs to us, for we are already sons of God, already princes of the blood imperial; already we wear the spotless robe of Jesus' righteousness; already we have angels for our servitors, saints for our companions, Christ for our Brother, God for our Father, and a crown of immortality for our reward. We share the honors of citizenship, for we have come to the general assembly and Church of the firstborn whose names are written in heaven. As citizens, we have common rights to all the property of heaven. Ours are its gates of pearl and walls of chrysolite; ours the azure light of the city that needs no candle nor light of the sun; ours the river of the water of life, and the twelve manners of fruits which grow on the trees planted on the banks thereof; there is naught in heaven that belongeth not to us. "Things present, or things to come," all are ours. "The present and the future," all are ours.

Also, as citizens of heaven, we enjoy its delights. Do they there rejoice over sinners that repent—prodigals that have returned? So do we. Do they chant the glories of triumphant grace? We do the same. Do they cast their crowns at Jesus' feet? Such honours as we have we cast there too. Are they charmed with his smile? It is not less sweet to us who dwell below. Do they look forward, waiting for his second advent? We also look and long for his appearance. If, then, we are thus citizens of heaven, let our walk and actions be consistent with our high dignity."

Already! What a precious promise to claim. Our names are written in the Book of Life; our citizenship is secure, and our home is prepared. My hearts sings the old hymn, "This world is not my home; I'm just a passin' through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue." And friend, they are already yours, too. Walk in that faith. Claim and live within that promise looking for the appearance of our Lord and Saviour and our home in heaven.

If you aren't already a child of God, don't you think its time you got that sorted? Eye hath not seen nor ear heard all the Lord has prepared for those who love Him, for those who have placed their faith in the Son for salvation through repentance and forgiveness of sin. Are you ready?

(C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, July 10)