WE ARE FAMILY!

Sunday marks another Mother’s Day! It’s a special day to honor mothers. Some women will not be honored on this special day. There are those who have passed away and are no longer with us. Single women will wonder where they fit. Those women who haven’t been able to have children feel a weight on this day. Other women who do have children but have no contact with them will grieve their absence. This day will remind others of the children they’ve lost by miscarriage, still birth, or death. Mother’s Day is very tricky. We want to honor mothers and yet there are so many who suffer. The answer lies in the instructions Paul gave Timothy concerning the church.

“Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.” 1 Timothy 5:1-2

In these verses, Paul makes it clear to Timothy that the church is family. We are to relate to one another as members of the same family. It’s interesting to read his instruction concerning our conduct toward one another, it is to be pure. Let’s think about purity for a moment. This is an attitude of our heart. It doesn’t really have to do with outward appearance but with what flows out of our heart.

  • Our interactions with other member of our church family should be characterized by the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is not law.” Galatians 5:22-23
  • We should be free from selfish motives. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”       Philippians 2:3
  • Respect should be our heart’s desire for others in our church family. “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood.” 1 Peter 2:17a
  • The older men and women are fathers and mothers. The younger men and women are brothers and sisters. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”           1 John 3:1a

Here’s the challenge! When was the last time you reached out to an older member of the family? Mother’s Day is a great day to adopt a mother. Just an encouraging word, a card, or a hug would mean so much. The older women in our family have poured into the younger members. We need to recognize that and celebrate them.

How about another challenge! When was the last time you reached out to a younger member of the family to encourage her or him? Mother’s Day is a great day to adopt a sister. We have many sisters who are grieving losses of children and others who are single and feel left out completely. Recognize the struggles and be the one to invite them into your day. You can pray for them and with them.

Family is support for one another. We hold one another up in the hard times. We celebrate together in the good times. Our Father is perfect. Our lives can be meshed together in service to him. We are family, but do we really believe it? Let’s do something different this year and begin to adopt mothers and sisters. Don’t forget in June you can continue something different by adopting fathers and brothers.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:12

ON TRACK

Have you ever thought about a train and how it stays on the track? The wheels have a flange on the bottom that looks like an L. This is what hooks to the inside of the track. Does the train ever derail? Yes, it does. There are a few reasons for this. It could be a broken rail. The gauge (the distance between the track rails) may be too wide for the wheels. Perhaps, the wheel picks the switch. The switch is the mechanism designed to lead the train from one track to another. If the switch isn’t adjusted properly then there’s a gap between the track and the switch. The wheel will roll the flange into the gap and the train will fall off the track. It will be derailed. To keep a train on the track, it takes good maintenance of the equipment. Let’s think about our Christian walk. It takes maintenance in our lives to follow Christ.

How in the world do we get off-track as followers of Christ? It’s not as hard to do as you may think. We all have the ability to form habits. This is a gift from God. Have you considered how your ability to drive is so habitual? You jump into the car, turn the key, put it into drive, and go forward. You didn’t have to think about it. This habit came about after much practice behind the wheel. In the same way, we practice each day in our thoughts, words, and deeds. We’ll think of it as “the more I __________, the more I will _________.” We can put whatever we want to in the blank. It’s about forming a habit.

Examples:

The more I swear, the more I will swear.

The more I play games on the internet, the more I will play games on the internet.

The more I respond in anger, the more I will respond in anger.

The more I put myself first, the more I will put myself first.

The more I isolate, the more I will isolate.

Do you get the picture? We choose things in this life to focus on that have nothing to do with our Christian walk. It’s so easy to continue to choose them as they become a habit in our lives. We derail our Christian walk by our thoughts, words, and deeds which don’t line up with who we say we are. The reason we continue to “do more” is because we are looking for peace and joy in the things we’re choosing. There is no peace and joy in not following Jesus. That’s where peace and joy is found. It’s hard to right a train which has derailed. It takes cranes and multiple men to lift it up again. We, on the other hand, can make steps to right ourselves. This change is not on our own as followers of Christ. We have the Spirit within, the body of Christ, and the Word of God to help us to get it right. Let’s think of what that would look like.

Examples:

The more I pray, the more I will want to pray.

The more I fellowship with the body, the more I will want to fellowship with the body.

The more I go to church, the more I will want to go to church.

The more I read God’s Word, the more I will want to read God’s Word.

The more I depend on the Spirit, the more I will want to depend on the Spirit.

The more I remind myself of the gospel, the more I will believe the gospel.

You see all of the above are habits worth forming. We can’t form a habit without effort, work, and practice. When we begin to form these habits, then we will be surer of our salvation. We will have joy and peace in Christ and what he has accomplished for us. The life lived as a follower of Christ is so worth the effort.

This road of life is not easy. There are many bumps, twists, and turns which can tempt us to derail from the track God has prepared for us. We will be tempted to pick the switch by falling into the gap created in our life by this world’s system. This world is not home for followers of Christ and its system will not bring us the peace we need.  Paul states this for us in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” This world doesn’t have the answers for life, God does. We will derail our lives by seeking our own way and creating habits that move us further from the Lord.

The more I pursue God and his ways, the more I will pursue God and his ways.

Let’s stay on track!

 IT’S GOOD TO BE NEAR TO GOD

Have you noticed how everyday there seems to be more and more bad news?  We all know the news programs strive to have the worst possible scenarios for us to consider.  For instance, when there is snow on the horizon, the weather is given to us every 15 minutes on the radio.  Preparations are encouraged to be made as if there is going to be a snow apocalypse.  Then, as we all know, we get two inches.  Even though this happens, it’s true that the world is in a bad way.  The world has turned away from its creator.  There are consequences to that.  As a follower of Christ, I need to keep in mind who holds my hand, who carries me, and who is my greatest comfort.  As all of the information of this world’s problems flood my mind, how can I remember God.  I am easily distracted and need to be reminded.  How does that happen?  Let’s look at the idea of being near to God together.

BE YOUR OWN ALARM CLOCK

 Alarm clocks are not really our favorite possession.  They are a necessity.  We need them to get us up on time. The alarm goes off and we have to stretch and get out of bed.  The noise it makes alerts us to the start of another day.  When we allow this world to overwhelm us, we need to give ourselves a wake-up alarm.  Truth needs to buzz our minds back to our Father God.  He has things well in hand.  We can remind ourselves, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” Proverbs 21:1  BUZZ!!  There is no leader on this earth that God doesn’t hold in his sovereign hand! 

HAVE A BACK-UP ALARM CLOCK

There are those of us who may sleep so deeply that a second alarm is needed.  You may put it across the room so that you have to get up to shut it off.  It takes more effort but it gets you going and you can start your day.  Sometimes being our own alarm clock isn’t enough.  We have to put forth the extra effort to contact someone who can be our back-up alarm clock.  “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” Ephesians 4:15  BUZZ!!  A brother or sister in the Lord is a great back-up alarm clock to remind us of the truth of who God is!

HEAR GOD’S LOVING ALARM

Do you remember when you first had to start using an alarm clock?  Your parents gave you instructions on how to set it and then made sure you knew you were on your own for the morning.  What was the problem with them waking us?  They were up anyway so it would be easy to shake a shoulder.  However, our parents wanted to teach us responsibility.  They wanted us to learn independence.  It didn’t mean they didn’t love us, quite the opposite.  Teaching and training is a loving thing for parents to do for their children. God wants us to remember his character and live trusting in Him.  “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children.” Ephesians 5:1  BUZZ!!  God is our example and we can trust his character!

How do we stay near to God?  We believe the truth of who he is and what his word says.  We have to get our own attention, rely on someone else, and fully embrace God’s love.  When we get our minds on so many other things, our eyes begin to wander.  We spend more time looking at others than we do our Lord and Savior.  Looking at how this world’s people respond will not help us be near to God.  In fact, we will be getting farther away from him.  What do you need to change in your life in order to be near to God?

“But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” Psalm 73:28

BITTERSWEET…WHAT A WORD!

Have you ever had a bittersweet experience?  I’m sure you have. It’s hard to express exactly what being bittersweet is all about.  Is it good? Is it bad? Enjoyable or miserable?  Yes; all those things wrapped into one package.  Many have asked me about my retirement, which is coming up at lightning speed.  What is it like right now for me?  Bittersweet!  I think of the bittersweet chocolate used to make delicious brownies.  It’s hard to eat alone but when you add sugar, eggs, flour, and other ingredients it’s tastes good.  That’s what I’m experiencing right now.  I’m the chocolate without the other things added.  What that means is, I don’t know what will happen when I no longer come to my office every day. It has been a drive I’ve made for the last 33 years.  On July 1st, I won’t have an office to drive to and I have no idea what that will look like.

Here’s what I do know, God is not finished with me yet because I’m still breathing.  I’m still capable of following him and want to do that.  As I think about that I’m considering what will be added to take me from bittersweet to good.

  •  GOD’S PRESENCE

“…And behold, ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”           (Matthew 28:20b)  Jesus said this to his disciples as he was leaving this earth to go and be with the Father.  I am his disciple and I know he will be with me in the days ahead.  I may not know exactly what they hold for me, but he does.  He will walk through each day with me just he does now.  I can count on his presence to bring me comfort and peace.

  • GOD’S WORD

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

There are so many times I take it for granted that I have God’s Word available to me at all times.  God will use his word to give me direction and to point me in the way he would have me to go.  His word is powerful enough to give me what I need in order to move forward in life without an office.  I can rest in what I learn from his word about him and me.  God means what he says.  It is truth.

  • GOD’S PEOPLE

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”  (John 13:34)

Jesus gives this command to his disciples and to us, the church.  I know that in the days ahead, I can count on my church family to continue to be my family.  I don’t need an office to love others or to be loved by others.  Jesus’ love will shine through his people and I know I’ll continue to be the recipient of that love.  There will be new opportunities to love others well.  I look forward to that.

Are there any better ingredients to add to my bittersweet retirement?  I don’t think so.  God will make it deliciously his.  I need to rest in that and trust him as I move forward.  As I look at the calendar, I can see June 30th looming in the near future.  As I look to God, I can see many beginnings in store as I come to this ending.  The beginnings will be sweet because of God’s presence, word, and people.  How can it be anything else?

DO YOU HAVE A GARDEN?

The days are getting longer and warming up a bit here in Michigan.  This is a celebration for those who like to be outside in a flower or vegetable garden.  You know who you are.  You enjoy being on your knees with your hands in the dirt.  It can be relaxing for you but for others it’s a chore.  I would venture to say that even if you enjoy gardening, it is still hard work.  My Dad loved to garden.  He had a vegetable garden every year until he was 93.  His pride and joy were his roses and his tomato plants.  Even in his old age, he would scoot around on his bottom to weed.  He knew the value of cultivating in his gardens.  The time spent preparing them for planting and then pulling weeds was so valuable to the outcome of the plant.  I think that as members of the body of Christ, we have a garden of people.  We need to take the time to cultivate our relationships.  What does that look like?

  • Giving of our time for other’s best interests.

When you have a garden, you have to put aside time to cultivate the soil, plant the seeds, pull the weeds, and water them regularly.  Without this time the plants will not grow to their potential.  I think of how Jesus gave of his time with the Samaritan Woman at the well.  Although the Jewish people didn’t go through Samaria, Jesus did on purpose.  I love how the KJV says in John 4:4, “And he must NEEDS go through Samaria.”  To give of his time for this woman was a need.  He needed to do it for her and for so many others who believed on him that day.  Do you see time spent with others as a need for their best interest?

  • Giving of our ears for the other’s best interests.

What does listening have to do with a garden?  You can’t hear the plants as they stretch and grow.  You can listen and learn about gardening and how to do it better.  My dad never missed listening to Jerry Baker on the radio to get gardening tips.  We will do better in our relationships if we listen.  If we listen to others well, we will learn more about them and how to love them well.  Conversations can only go forward if we listen.  Take Jesus’ example again with the Samaritan Woman.  He spoke to her and then he listened to everything she had to say.  He never talked over her and dismissed her words.  Jesus was after her heart. “…If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”  John 4:10  Do you take the time to listen to others in order to understand their needs?

  • Giving truth for the other’s best interests.

In a garden, you need to fertilize, water, and weed in order for good growth to take place.  There was a time when my Dad gave me three of his tomato plants for my yard.  I wanted to make him proud so I was determined to care for them well.  The holes were dug, but before I put the plants in the holes, I poured in a generous amount of manure.  I was sure they would thrive on all that nourishment.  Two days later, the plants were shriveled up and brown.  I over fertilized them.  Those were the last tomato plants my Dad gave to me.  Can this happen in relationships?  Absolutely.  We can say truths that are hurtful because they are said at the wrong time.  In Romans 8:28, it tells us all things work out for good to them who love the Lord.  This is truth but is not the best truth to tell someone whose husband just died.  We must learn from Jesus on how to speak the truth at the right time and in the right way.  It needs to be helpful.  The Samaritan Woman told Jesus that the Messiah was coming.  It was at this point when Jesus gave her truth, “…I who speak to you am he.” John 4:26  This was the perfect time and she believed him and then went to call others to see the Messiah.  Do you use the truth to harm or to help others?  Do you use the truth to smother someone who is hurting?  Will you use the truth for other’s best interests?

These are only three ways we can cultivate our relationships within the body of Christ.  We can learn from Jesus and his encounter with the Samaritan Woman.  Take some time and read the account from John 4:1-45.  You will see how Jesus works at cultivating a relationship with this woman.  Remember this…we don’t have to wait for warm weather to cultivate relationships.  Every moment of every day is a great time to cultivate within the body of Christ.  What is holding you back?  Move toward someone today for their good and God’s glory.

TIME FLIES…MEMORIES

Do you remember how long the years were between 6 and 10 years of age?  I do.  I couldn’t wait to be 10.  Those four years were an eternity to me.  Then I replaced 10 years old with 16 years old.  There was always an age I couldn’t wait be and time moved so slow.  If you’re out of school, I’m sure you feel like the time goes too fast.  I think that’s when it started for me.  I was no longer waiting for things to happen.  In fact, I felt like I was barely keeping up with life.  When I was in elementary school the months before Christmas dragged by, but now I feel like next Christmas has arrived right after this Christmas. We all know that time is still the same with 60 minutes in an hour.  Time doesn’t change, but we do.  We have memories, good and bad.  These memories can be very old, but because we can remember them, it seems like yesterday!  I wonder why God made us with memories.  There are some very important reasons for memories.

  1.  God remembered.

“He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations.” Psalm 105:8

God made a promise to Satan, Adam, and Eve in Genesis 3:15, as a part of the curse on Satan.  He promised a Savior who would defeat Satan.  For this to come to pass, he chose Abraham and made a covenant with him.  Abraham would become a great nation of people, too many to count.  God didn’t forget this covenant.  Jesus came to the earth to fulfill this covenant and become the Savior of the world.  God remembered.

2. God’s children are to remember his deeds.

“I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.” Psalm 77:11

We are to remember God and all the works he has done.  God gave us this memory so that we could bring him glory.  How?  As we remember, then we are grateful to him for all he has accomplished. Also, we are to tell others about what God has done for us.  We remember so that we can share the good news of God’s work in our lives.

3. God’s children are to remember Jesus’ sacrifice.

“…This is my body which is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me…This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 1 Corinthians 11:24b, 25b

God remembered his covenant to Abraham, Moses, David, and the children of Israel.  He sent his son, Jesus, to be a man, like us and yet God.  He lived a perfect life for us and died the death that paid the payment for our sins.  Before Jesus was arrested, he had a last meal with his disciples and he instituted this remembrance of him.  We have communion together to remember Jesus and his sacrifice on our behalf.  We thank God for what was done on our behalf.  This memory helps us focus on what was done for us that we didn’t deserve. 

These are three very good reasons for memory.  God, our creator, gave us a brain that is really beyond our understanding.  We remember so many things that are trivial and not really of any importance.  There are those memories which cause us to laugh, others cause us to cry, and still others can pull us into anger in a moment.  FACEBOOK memories can be very painful when you see pictures of others pop up who are no longer a in relationship with you.  But, still, memory is a good thing given to us by God for his purposes.

I began this by talking about how fast time flies by as we age.  I think it has to do with memories.  We have life behind us which we remember as if it just happened.  The memories are vivid, real, and in the front of our mind.  An example of this is my grandson turning 20 years old.  My memory goes to myself at 20 years old standing in a courthouse being married.  It seems like yesterday.  That’s’s how time speeds up.  Where did the 20 years go from the time I saw my grandson in the hospital until now?  Yet, my mind can see me 49 years ago in a courthouse. 

“O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!” Psalm 39:4

Enjoy your memories!  Let the time fly!  As a child of God, eternity awaits us!  The memories we have in eternity will not cause pain or tears but will all be gloriously good!!

FAMILY…WHO KNEW?

Families can be messy!  Aunt Susie doesn’t speak to cousin Mary because, truth is, no one knows why.  Time goes by and they don’t know either.  There was a time when there was a funeral dinner in my basement and I had to make sure to put the two great aunts who were coming at different tables.  They didn’t speak to one another or associate with one another.  However, at dinner there were words exchanged of sarcasm and hostility between the two of them.  Keeping them at separate tables didn’t do anything to change their hearts.  How can we process this behavior in our families?  Where do we turn?  It’s important to understand how God has used the terminology of family to refer to his followers.  What does he mean? 

  1.  Christ died so that we could be united in him as sons.

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Galatians 4:4-5

When we trust in Christ as our Lord and Savior accepting his payment for our sins, then we are adopted by God.  He becomes our Father.

2. God becomes our Father.

“And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’.  So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” Galatians 4:6-7

If we have a father, then we are part of a family. Notice how God gives us what we need to be close to him, His Spirit.  This family we are a part of is the body of believers.  All who believe in Christ are related to us through Christ’s blood.

3. The family of God should want what is best for each other.

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part if working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:15-16

As part of the family of God we should strive to be a conduit to Christ to every member.  We do this by following the Word of the Lord.  If we follow it, then we put it into practice.  We are to be loving and kind to one another in order to build each other up in Christ.

God’s family can be messy!  It becomes that way when we choose to follow our own desires and not his.  There are so many verses in the Scriptures which use the words, “one another”.  These words follow an instruction to us in order that we may follow it in order to be a benefit to our brother or sister.  We are family and we need to remember that we are to grow together.  Spiritual maturity happens when we look more like Christ.  Here are a few examples of how the family of God displays unity, love, and kindness.  The results are always growth for everyone involved.

Someone is coming to church for the first time after the death of someone very close to her.  She feels alone and misses her friend.  As she is standing in the pew, she feels someone on one side of her and then there is someone on the other side of her.  She knows she is not alone as her friends are there to comfort her in her time of grief.  GROWTH!

Life is so hard in the face of on-going health issues.  The everyday things of life still need to be taken care of like meals, laundry, work, and school.  Life doesn’t pause because of the health issues.  In fact, there is so much more that is added to the plate of responsibility with doctor’s visits, pharmacy pick-ups, treatments, and rehab.  Help comes from individuals in the family of God.  There are rides, pick-ups, meals, grocery shopping, and so much more that people come along side and do.  GROWTH!

The greatest contribution we can make to our family is prayer.  There are people who say, “I guess all I can do is pray.”  That is not an accurate reflection of what prayer accomplishes.  Prayer is the best we can do because we are connecting with our Father about a member of his family.  “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” 2 Corinthians 1:11 Paul is encouraging prayer for each other.  The result of these prayers is praise to God for his work in each situation.  Praying for others equals GROWTH!

Yes, families are messy but God can make every mess we face beneficial for ourselves and others.  We need to look to our own hearts and seek to grow to be more like our elder brother, Jesus.

JESUS TURNS

My mouth can get me in trouble.  At least I blame my mouth, but I know that I thought it before I said it.  It’s interesting that Jesus says our words come from the overflow of our hearts. (Matthew 12:34)  It’s not really my mouth that gets me in trouble, but it’s my sinful heart being revealed.  We try to hide so much in our hearts, but those things are really not hidden.  In fact, the Scriptures tell us that we don’t really know our hearts because we’re deceived by them, but God knows them. (Jeremiah 17:9-10)  What is the answer to this dilemma?  I believe that the Lord showed me an answer as I was reading the other morning.  The following passage is what I read.  Please read it through to the end.

“Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance.  And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them.  Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the lights and looking closely at him, said, ‘This man also was with him.’  But he denied it, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know him.’ And a little later someone else saw him and said, ‘You also are one of them.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I am not.’ And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, ‘Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are talking about.’ And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.” Luke 22:54-62

The account of Peter denying Jesus is so sad and we may be tempted to think, “I would never do that”, or “How could he do that after living with Jesus?”, or “Shame on Peter!  I just don’t get it!”.  The truth is, we are all capable of this sin. Have you ever been in a crowd who were speaking badly about Jesus, or the church?  How did you respond?  It’s a lot easier to be quiet in these situations, isn’t it?  By our silence, we are denying Jesus and are just as guilty as Peter.  So, what really struck me was how Jesus turned and looked at Peter after his third denial.  Their eyes met.  As I read this, my mind began to make pictures of the eyes of both Jesus and Peter.  Our eyes can say a lot without us speaking a word.  What did their eyes say that day?

PETER

His eyes were full of shame.  Can you see it?  Can you feel it?  He may have had tears in his eyes and a downcast look.  Although Peter and Jesus looked at each other, Peter may have looked away quickly in shame.  We don’t know these things, but as we think about sin in our own lives, we can certainly identify with shame.  The shameful eyes are devoid of hope.  Shame has taken over and hope is a distant thought.  Peter went out and wept bitterly.  He could feel the guilt and shame of denying his Savior.  If I were Peter, I would never forget that look from Jesus as the rooster crowed.

JESUS

His eyes were full of love, compassion, and sadness.  Can you see it?  Can you feel it?  Jesus always responds out of his love and compassion.  Earlier in Luke, Jesus spoke with Peter telling him about his denial.  The most important part of this exchange is, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.  And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32  Jesus had already prayed for Peter to not fail but also let him know that after repentance, he would be of great help to other believers.  Jesus’ eyes were reminding Peter of his love and his prayer for him.  Jesus has caring eyes.

Our Lord is the same today as then.  He never changes.  He knows our hearts and loves us still.  When we sin against him, he causes us to feel guilt that leads to repentance. The biggest thing I take away from this is Jesus turns, not away from us but toward us.  Sin doesn’t keep him from turning.  He always lives to intercede for us. (Romans 8:34) When my mouth (really my heart) gets me in trouble, I can be sure that Jesus turns toward me and gives me the look to drive me to repentance.  “And the Lord turned and looked…” Luke 22:61a  That’s how much he cares for his children!

UP, UP, AND AWAY!!

I had the joy of going on a vacation in the Hocking Hills of Ohio.  What beautiful scenery!  The hiking was good and not too strenuous.  I stayed in a cabin and it was clean and comfortable.  There were many deer in the area and I was greeted me in the front yard by one.  Can you picture all of this?  It is the scene of a nice quiet, peaceful, relaxing vacation.  But I guess I wanted more so I called and reserved a place on the Hocking Hills Canopy Tour.  So, at 69 years old I was outfitted with helmet, harness, and cable for zip lining.  We traveled at least 8 zip lines in the tree tops.  The longest one was over 500 feet and the rider went 35 miles an hour.  I was the rider and I was traveling that fast.  Zip lines weren’t the only things to get us from one tree to another.  There were also cable bridges which would swing back and forth.  Yikes, what was I thinking?

While on this tour, I was always thinking about placing my hands in the right position.  There were thoughts of the beauty of woods from the treetops as well.  The tour guides told us to look around while traveling on the zip line but I kept my eyes ahead to see the landing place.  Landing was important to me.  I didn’t really look until I felt safe on the platform.  The tour guide made sure to catch me if I was going too fast to land.  It brought me joy to see his smiling face at the end of the line each and every time.  Would I do this again?  Probably.  Why?  I don’t know. 

Life, for the follower of Christ, is like traveling the zip line.  There are many things to see along the way but the finish line is the important focus.  In fact, we read in the Scriptures about where our focus should be.

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:2

“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…” Hebrews 12:1b-2a

Our lives are to be lived now with eternity in view.  We need to keep our eyes on the finish line.  Jesus has already zipped through this life on our behalf. I think of my tour guide who zipped before us.  He made sure to be ready to catch us as we came to the end of the line.  He got there first, which showed that it was possible and safe.  That’s what Jesus has done.  He has gone before us in this life and lived it perfectly because we aren’t able to.  He is now interceding on our behalf to the Father.  We can keep our eyes on him and trust him because he knows the line we will be zipping on in this life.  Our eyes, at all times, need to be on our guide and the eternity waiting for us.

I’m also reminded of the tour guide who stayed behind to help us step off the platform.  He made sure we were securely fastened and then waited for the one who had gone before to let him know it was safe for us.  Our brothers and sisters in Christ are represented by him.  We are to encourage one another by making sure we have what we need to live life reflecting God.  Is there someone who needs to be harnessed to the Word of God?  We can help her to see her need by pointing her to the Word.  Our lovingkindness in helping others take hard steps in life will go a long way.  Life is hard and we need others to help us who have their eyes on Jesus.

Those swinging bridges were harder for me to cross than the zip line.  I didn’t like the swinging and I was tempted to keep looking down as I crossed.  It was actually better for me when I put my eyes up and looked at the destination.  Satan loves when we keep our eyes on the circumstances in our lives.  As we focus on the situation, we can lose sight of the finish line.  We need to look up and see Jesus, who has suffered for us.  He’s at the finish line waiting for us.  The temptation to look to the right, left, or down is one we have to fight as we seek to keep our eyes looking up to our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Was zip lining on my bucket list?  Not really, because I don’t have a bucket list.  I do have a finish line and only God knows when I’ll cross it.  What I do know for sure is, that when I cross that finish line, my Savior will catch me and usher me into eternity with him.  Let’s encourage one another to keep our eyes on him as we live the life he has given us! 

WHAT’S IN A NAME? I AM! – PART 2

Two words we use very often are “I am.”  These words are usually followed by other words describing our role in life or our position in our job or our family heritage.  We say these things so that others will understand us better as they get to know more about us.  There is an identification we make with our roles, jobs, or family when we add the words, “I am.”  Sometimes we just say our name, “I am Laurie Denise” by way of introduction.  Our name doesn’t really say too much about our character, which is one of the reasons we follow up the introduction with the other “I am” mentioned above.  There is one who says, “I AM” is his name, his character, and all that he is.  This one is God!

Our God is I AM which means he’s the self-existent one!  He is the Great I AM!  He is singular, existing without anyone or anything else.  He lives; He remains; He continues.  He came to Moses and introduced himself as I AM WHO I AM!  God told Moses to go to the children of Israel and to tell them, “I AM has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14b) God gave himself this name.  There will never be a time when he will need someone or something other than himself to exist.  His name is forever. 

“I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.”  Isaiah 42:8

The word LORD is used as Yahweh, I AM, or the self-existent one.  His glory is for him alone, not us.  He is to receive all the glory, praise, and adoration we can give to him.  There is no carved idol or idol of our heart that even comes close to being self-existent!   All idols will fail but I AM will never fail, never change, and will fulfill all his promises and purposes.  He is all sufficient for his children.

What about Jesus?  He is God and his name is also I AM.  John records a couple of times when Jesus says his name as I AM.  The first is found in John 8:48-58.  The Pharisees were accusing Jesus of having a demon.  He spoke to them concerning those who keep his work, never seeing death.  They were very upset by this and began to speak of their father, Abraham.  Jesus ends this exchange with the following,

            “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was I AM!”  John 8:58

Jesus honors the Father and seeks God’s glory, not his own.  He keeps the Word of God and loves others well.  He is not about himself but about others.  Jesus declares that he is I AM, the self-existent one!  He is the all sufficient Savior.

The second instance John records Jesus declaring to be I AM is in John 18:1-11.  This is the account of the arrest of Jesus in the garden.  He asked whom they were seeking and they said Jesus of Nazareth.  He answered, “I am he.” (John 18:5b)  John then gives us more information in the following verse,

“When Jesus said to them, I AM he, they drew back and fell to the ground.” John 18:6

When those who were going to arrest Jesus had come face to face with who he really was, KA-BOOM, they fell down.  This is awe and reverence for who Jesus really is.  This brings about humility in those who realize the truth which leads to a recognition of sin in the presence of the Great I AM!  We, too, need to be in awe and reverence of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  He is all sufficient for every area of our lives.

God doesn’t need to follow his I AM with anything because he’s everything.  We need to fall back and recognize who he really is and the benefits of knowing him as his child. 

Let’s marvel together how the Great I AM chose to humble himself by becoming a man who died a gruesome death alone for us.  There is none GREATER!

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” Proverbs 18:10