I have fought the good fight,I have finished the race,I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for methe crown of righteousness,which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7-8
My eight-year-old daughter skied a black diamond her first day on the slopes. I was shocked. My husband, a competitive skier in his youth, couldn’t stop grinning. My daughter couldn’t get back on the chair lift fast enough so she could try it again. Sure enough, she skied it again, and again, and again. Four times she conquered that steep hill, each time improving her form and control.
It started with over a year of begging. Her big brother got to go skiing so when did she get to go? After finally arriving at the slopes in near perfect weather, we quickly got her fitted for boots, helmet and skis and away she went to a one hour beginner lesson. Soon bored with the bunny hill, we spent the day taking our time as the three of us wound down gently sloping green circles and slightly taller blue squares.
Then she announced that she was going down a black diamond. I was a bit nervous. My husband was all for it. I could tell my daughter was scared, but her determination won out. So, down we went. My husband stayed out in front, coaching her slowly down the hill, while I followed behind in case she lost her balance. Slowly, steadily, shakily, she made it to the bottom.
The second time she had a bit more confidence and by the fourth attempt my husband had stopped coaching altogether and let her go her own pace as he stayed back. My daughter’s ski instructor spotted one of her attempts while riding overhead on the chair lift and her happy shouts of surprise and encouragement put a big smile on my daughter’s face. Once my own shock wore off, I couldn’t stop smiling either.
And so it is with our heavenly father. When we slowly, steadily, shakily take a step of faith He is ever so near, encouraging us to move ahead, ready to catch us if we stumble. And as our faith grows He calls us deeper, to follow Him into that which is uncomfortable or unknown, all for our own good. And when we have finally finished our earthly race, there He stands. Smiling.
It is my prayer that this week, whether God has you meandering down beautiful green circles or fighting your way through enormous moguls, that you will realize what a good father He truly is. He created us, He knows us best, and He gives us all that we need for the journey He has laid before us. Knowing that should make us smile.Read More
We’ve reached the last day of the first month of this new year. It’s possible that, for many of us, this year may already be “the same old thing” as years before—with promises of new beginnings dashed, resolutions faltered, and hopes receded.
But newness does not come with a new year; nor does it age by the last day of an old year. Satisfying and refreshing newness is ours every day through the Lord Jesus Christ, who makes all things new. Days and years will pass, but the Word of the Lord is forever.
Once settled in Bethlehem, Ruth did not look for anything new or exciting; she was embraced by the kindness and integrity of Boaz, and she immersed herself in living out her days with her family and with God. The ancient, living Word of God kept her young and refreshed till the day she died.
After Haman’s death and Mordecai’s promotion to the king’s right hand, Esther too was done with the anxiety and evil of Haman’s persecution. It was good to rest in the victory gained by discerning God’s timing and will in her life.
Wisdom invites us to eat what refreshes and keeps us ever new; folly winks at stolen sweetness, which only embitters and binds us to perpetual old age. Take, eat, and drink from the wisdom of God, and be ever new!
We praise you, O God! Your grace is limitless, and you provide every good thing for us. Thank you for your love. In Jesus, Amen.Read More
Have you ever struggled making friends? Have you ever felt like your personality should be different? Have you ever though that if you were like someone else, life would be better?
From time to time, we struggle with the idea that if we were just a little different we would be happy. I have often looked closely at impressive individuals and thought, “maybe I should become more like them.”
Jesus says in John 15:15, “I have called you friends.” That is an amazing statement. What is a friend? A friend is someone who likes you the way you are. A friend is someone you don’t have to impress. A friend is someone who just wants to be around you…period. So when Jesus calls us friend, he is not saying we should become like someone else. He is saying he made us a certain way for a certain reason. Another way to put it is you, your personality, your genetic makeup are not mistakes. You were made the way you are to live an incredible life following Jesus.
This certainly doesn’t mean we are perfect. But it does mean that the gifts and qualities God has given us need to be redeemed for his greater purposes. God doesn’t want you to become someone else. God is perfecting you into a holy you, not a holy someone else.
Jesus likes you, loves you, died for you and just wants to be around you. That’s friendship.Read More
Recently I had a conversation with a friend. Like many of us, she was struggling to see God in a world that is so filled with hatred, violence and injustice. How do we square the idea that an all-powerful God is good, yet allows unfathomable evil? This is a question that haunts believers and unbelievers today.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about a thorn in his flesh. There has been much debate about what that thorn really is (is it a physical ailment or some kind of spiritual burden). But there are things we do know. The thorn is painful. The thorn is something that was given to Paul. Satan and his minions used the thorn to torment Paul. Finally Paul begs God to take it away, and God does not. Paul asks God over and over to heal him, and God doesn’t.
In response to Paul’s request God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).” What Paul is looking for is relief and understanding (which isn’t bad of course). God gave him neither; yet, he gives Paul something infinitely better…His grace. In other words, God is enough. Even if we don’t have all our questions answered or pains relieved, God quietly whispers “what you really need is me, and I am enough.”
In our human state, we struggle when we don’t see the full picture. We struggle when God, in all his goodness, allows evil to be perpetuated against the innocent. We struggle when we have physical ailments that last for years. We struggle when we see individuals we love make poor choices. In all that fear and weakness, God’s grace is enough. In this life, God’s grace is all we need because it’s the only thing we cannot lose.Read More
As God so often does, when he spoke to the prophet Jeremiah, he used both images and words to get his message across.
This is Jeremiah 18:2-6…
“Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went…and I saw the potter working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” – “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand.”
In her book, Children Are Wet Cement, author Anne Ortlund addresses the question, “But what if the cement is already hardened?” She says, “There’s good news! Because of God’s grace and love, nobody’s cement is ever completely hardened.”
If you struggle with despair over how set you are in your ways or how the same seems to be true for your child or your spouse or your Dad, take heart! All of us are “clay in the hands of the potter.” He is the God of hope! He is the source of hope! He invites us to allow Him to work with us, making us new!
Ortlund tells of Augustine, one of the giants of the early church. She writes that early in his life Augustine had a well-deserved reputation for enjoying the company of many women. But God called him away from that life and re-shaped him into a person of influence.
One day as he was walking down the street, one of his former partners spotted him. She called out, “Augustine!” He didn’t answer; he just quickened his pace. She called again, “Augustine, it is I!” Augustine began to run and called back to her, “But I am no longer I!”
Augustine’s clay, the original material, was the same, but God had reworked him into a completely new piece of pottery, hand made for His use. Still today, God extends that same offer to each of us.Read More
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorry has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.” 2 Corinthians 7:10
Sorrow comes in two forms: worldly and Godly. Worldly sorrow, says the apostle Paul, brings death, yet Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation. Why is this important? It’s important because our response to sorrowful situations is the difference between death and salvation.
Take the book of Lamentations, for instance. It is truly a book of sorrow. Taken away from their homeland, the Jewish people mourn for their past and for their bleak future. Their reaction to their sorrow makes all the difference. They bring their sorrow to God: “Remember, Lord, what has happened to us; look, and see our disgrace (La 5:1).” This is a much different reaction than those who don’t know God. As you might imagine, those who have worldly sorrow blame the world, are filled with hatred and have no hope. Yet those who have Godly sorrow can only look to God as their true source of peace and salvation.
Worldly sorrow might have benefits. It might lead you to improve yourself or protect those you love. Yet, it’s like modern health care. We are quick to say that medical science saves lives. But the reality is, medical science has never truly saved a life. Why? We all still die. Even the most dramatic life saving actions—amazing as they are—do not produce a cure for the real problem…death.
In the same way, worldly sorrow might put a Band-Aid on the problem, but ultimately does not solve anything. Yet Godly sorrow leads to the only person who has the power to do anything about our sorrow…our Father in heaven.
What is the difference between worldly sorrow and Godly sorrow in your life?Read More