Wednesday, August 29, 2018

White Water

Many years ago, I went to a park called White Water  in Branson, Missouri.  We were a large group with my family and the family of one of my sisters.  
   
At this water park, my sister and I decided to leave the ease of life on the Lazy River for the experience of an unfamiliar ride.  The ride seemed calm and peaceful at the beginning as we lowered ourselves into the waiting inner tubes and began floating down a river of slow moving water.  Then gradually the moving water changed to White Water rapids with a bend in the river ahead.  We couldn't see what was coming next.  All we could hear was loud screaming.   The name of the ride was Whirlpool. 

My sister and I made a promise to each other while the water was calm that we would hold hands and stick together no matter what came our way.  Across the inner tube, I reached for her hand, and we floated side by side--committed to one another to the end.  

That promise lasted until we came to the first whirlpool.  We were sucked into a continues vacuum of spinning water.  It was impossible to get any leverage to break free.  We watched tube after tube of laughing patrons bounce off us into freedom.  No one would help.  We were hopelessly trapped.  It was crazy out-of-control stuff.

I'm not sure who turned on who first, but there was the positioning of a foot on my inner tube and then I was pushed with great force deeper into the spinning water.  That push helped catapult my sister to freedom or so she thought.  There were many more whirlpools to maneuver before the ride would end.    

After that betrayal, I dug deep into my competitive spirit--okay it wasn't that deep--and then did the same thing to a helpless stranger passing by.  I was free.  Now, that person was trapped and a sinister laugh escaped my lips. 

At the next bend in the river, I came upon my sister and without mercy I applied the same killer move.  I left her behind me spinning without any sense of remorse.  Then at the next turn someone pushed off my inner tube and I was sucked into yet another whirlpool.    

This time my sister came upon me and soon we were both stuck again.  We finally arrived at the end of the ride and our husbands couldn't believe how long it took us to break free.  Needless to say, I've never been on that ride again. But the memory of it is alive and well. 

I think what amazes me most about this story is how quickly I was willing to betray and leave behind the one I loved for my own self-preservation.

I think we all have within us a self-preservation mode just like that.  It's cat like reflexes that help us land on our feet even if someone else is under them!  Human nature is...survive at all cost. 

Just like that water park ride, the whirlpool ride of life can feel the same. We can be moving along nicely and BAM, we get sucked into the spinning waters of life.  Issues and concerns take ahold of us and won't let go.  We may feel betrayed, helpless or hopeless, but there is One who sticks closer than…let's say…'a sister.'

His name is Jesus.

"…for he has said, "I will never leave you and I will never abandon you."
Hebrews 13:5 (NET) 

When the White Waters of life try and sweep over you or have you spinning out of control remember--God's word doesn't lie.  He will never leave you and you are not alone. 






Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Isolation

In my life, I've experienced depression on a few occasions.  In those dark times, I've learned it's not a place I want to remain for long periods of time.

What I remember most about depression is how it makes a person withdraw from life.  They have little joy in the activities around them, and before long, depressed people put themselves into a self-imposed isolation

Been there--done that--don't wanta go back.

Not too long ago, I watched a TV special about a prison in California that specialized in using isolation as punishment to break the will of inmates.  Prisoners who were considered gang leaders, were sent to this prison sometimes for as long as a decade with one purpose in mind--to break these men by removing them from all human interaction.  The isolation that was imposed on the inmates was so severe, that the prison had to be closed because of pending law suits.

None of these prisoners acted on their own.  They did not willingly go to this place of isolation.  Yet, there are Christians who do just that.  They willingly choose isolation over the community of believers.

I'm not talking about any form of clinical depression.  That is something altogether different than Christians choosing to believe the lies of the enemy that they are not worthy.  They are not accepted.  They are not loved.  They don't fit in. 

Those in isolation get their relationship with the Lord all mixed up and falsely rooted in feelings.  If they aren't getting the "feelings" then God must have abandoned them.  They believe other Christians are too judgmental and don't care--so they go into a self-imposed isolation by withdrawing from the body of Christ.

When Christians isolate themselves from other believers, this act of isolation gives Satan opportunity.

In John 10:10 (LB) it says this about the enemy of our spiritual souls.

The thief's purpose is to steal, kill and destroy.  

When we choose isolation over the community of believers, we open ourselves up to the enemy whose main purpose is to destroy us by what ever means he can.  As with any predictor, when given opportunity, Satan's plan is first...isolation!

The first half of John 10:10 tells us what the master of isolation is like, while the second half of the same verse tells us what Jesus, the master of community, can do for those in isolation.

 My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.

You may be saying, "Well, what does that have to do with me?  I'm a faithful church attender.  I go to a Life Group.  I attend Wednesday night service.  Hey, if the church doors are open, I'm there! 

Well, here's what it has to do with you and me!  We are not without responsibility to those in isolation.  Hebrews 10:24 (NET) gently rebuffs us with these words.

And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works...

Has the Lord laid someone on your heart recently?  Have you noticed someone missing from your fellowship of believers?  If so, reach out!  Your act of human love may be the thing that moves that person out of isolation and back into fellowship.






Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Only Thing That Counts


I think we've all heard that saying, 'love covers a multitude of sin.'  I personally have not always lived that out in regards to the people in my life.  I mean I haven't always extended love when I've been offended or hurt by others.  Yet,  I believe that love is one of the most powerful emotions we humans possess.

When I'm willing to extend love to those in and out of my circle, I'm better for it because showing love is the only thing that counts.  

You may be thinking--that's a pretty bold statement.  Actually, I can't take credit for it.  Paul the apostle said it first in Galatians 5:6.  
  
For in Christ Jesus 
neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. 
The only thing that counts 
is faith expressing itself through love.

True faith works itself out in our lives through love.  In other words, faith will always be accompanied by love.   We are saved by faith not works, but faith is more than a conviction, as if a Christian could do as he pleases in regards to others so long as he feels his personal beliefs line up with those in his circle.    

It's through Christ example and most of all His great sacrifice that we see this love in action.  Our faith is truly worked out in our lives by a sincere and sacrificial love for other.  

To keep us from becoming too legalistic and self-centered, we need to learn to express our faith through acts of love and be mindful of this; faith in God should never be “indifferent” towards people.

Romans 14:1 says it like this...Now receive the one who is weak in the faith, and do not have disputes over differing opinions.  

We may not always agree with each other about things in this world, but in showing love, we must all agree that it's the only thing that matters.   






Wednesday, August 8, 2018

No Rival

We've all have certain people in our lives that we are in a neck and neck race with to the finish line.  It may be a sibling, a cousin, a school friend, a workmate or a spouse.  The list could go on and on.  When I was in the 7th grade, I had an experience like this.

This was the yearI learned to play the flute.  Each Monday, in my class of 12 students, we would play a selected piece of music and the teacher would seat us that week, according to our performance.  Thus, we were numbered first chair, second chair, third chair all the way through to the dreaded 12th chair.  

I loved playing my flute, so I had no problem spending time practicing.  However, in my class there was one girl who seemed to have an ability above all the rest of us.  She spent almost every week of our 7th grade year in 1st chair.  

No matter how much I practiced, I was mostly in 2nd, 3rd or 4th chair.  Until one day, I'm not sure how it happened, but she went down and I went up.  All the way to 1st chair--for one whole week, I was in the seat of honor.  It was amazing and I remember the prestige of that 1st chair very well.  

For one week, I was the best of the best.  I had No Rival.  I was #1 and I don't mind telling you--it was sweet!

Then Monday came around and guess who was in 4th seat again.  Me!  

There's a song that we sing at our church called, What A Beautiful Name.  In the lyrics of that song are the words "You have No Rival."  Of course, these words are talking about the wonder and Majesty of Jesus.  Nothing compares to Him.

Deuteronomy 3:24 (NET Bible) says this...

“O, Lord God, you have begun to show me your greatness and strength.
(What god in heaven or earth can rival your works and mighty deeds?)"

As wonderful as this scripture is, I wonder how true this verse is in our lives, does Jesus have No Rival?  

What about our time?

What about our finances?

What about our careers?

What about our politics?  (Oh, did she just say that?  I believe she did!)

Does Jesus really have No Rival in our lives?  Is he 1st chair?  Will he remain there when life makes us crazy?

I wonder.

This week, as you filter through the Tsunami of things pushing in on you, ask yourself honestly;  


Do I need to make adjustments in my life
to be sure Jesus truly has No Rival?









Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Quick Fix

For the most part, I consider myself to be intelligent. I also am a person who can fix things.  

In my house, when something is broken, I don't just ignore it--I fix it.  When you put these two awesome gifts together you have a winning combination, but when you remove the intelligent part from the equation, disaster looms.  That's what happened in the following story about a quick fix I did.

Early in my marriage, I broke a coffee cup.  I could've thrown it away but because--I'm an amazing fixer, I attempted to repair what was broken.  And I used Elmers glue to do it.   When I was finished with the repair, the cup looked flawless, and I proudly returned that 'good-as-new' cup to the cupboard and never gave it another thought.

Until one day, my husband poured himself a cup of hot coffee.  He carried the cup to the table and sat it down.  We talked for a few minutes then he lifted the cup to his mouth. The coffee cup fell apart in the air sending coffee in every direction.  With an expression of shock on his face, he still held the handle of the cup in his hand.  It was priceless. 

I immediately knew what happened, and I couldn't contain my laughter.  l did not plan the incident to play out as it did.  That was pure luck on my part.  It could have just as easily been me who chose that cup, but my husband was pretty sure I had strategically plotted against him for that very rewarding moment.  Yes.  I'm laughing as I write this--I'm so bad!

After his initial shock, I explained what happened.  He shook his head in disbelief and said, "You don't use water dissolvable glue to fix something that holds hot liquid." 

Still laughing!

There is a spiritual truth to glean from this funny little story.

We all know what it is to be broken. Sin does that to us. And in our brokenness we have two options. We can either try to quick fix the problems ourselves with something that was never meant to hold together the broken pieces of our lives.  Or we can allow the blood of Jesus to wash over us and restore us to wholeness. 

Jeremiah 17:14 in the Message Bible says this...

God, pick up the pieces.
    Put me back together again.
    You are my praise!

This world has plenty of quick fixes to offer broken people, but God is the only tried and true adhesive that can holds us together and make us useful again.







It's all about the heart!

Have you ever looked at someone's outward appearance and made a determination based on that? I have.  Not proud of this--but it...