Friday, May 29, 2009

What is the Right Path?

“I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; Surely I will remember Thy wonders of old; I will meditate on all Thy work, and muse on Thy deeds. Thy way, O God is holy; What god is great like you God? Thou art the God who workest wonders…”
“Thy way was in the sea, and Thy paths in the mighty waters and Thy footprints may not be known. Thou didst lead thy people like a flock,…” (Psalm 77:11-14, 19-20)

After another round of being tested and finally having the hamster-wheel of doubts and questions silenced; I am left with the single question, “What is the right path?”

One possible answer is this: Following your dreams and goals while remembering Jesus by praying daily and going to church once a week…that will keep you on the right path. After all, you are a Christian and that means that as long as you go to church and pray, you get to decide what you do in your life. Then Jesus will help you do what ever you want to do.

Another possible answer is this: You think you are given a goal for your life by Jesus, and you make that your destination. You fix your eyes on the goal, while praying to Jesus to help you reach the goal. You submit to Jesus and rely on Him to work through you to reach the goal you think that He has given you. You and Jesus become a team to reach the destination.

Now there may be other answers, I’m sure an infinite number…but I have one final answer.

I make Jesus the path, the dream, the goal…the final destination. My entire focus is on You Lord, and nothing else. I ask myself now, “So how do I do that?” and “What does that look like?”

Now I am truly lost…Now comes the fullness of walking by faith…Because I can not use any references. I can not look to anyone else, because I am unique; no one else looks like me, no one else can be me; and therefore there is no one else that is like me enough that I can follow. I have no one to use as an example.

But since I am made in the image of God, the imago Dei, I do have an example…the only one perfect person in whose image I am made. Jesus; the Word Made Flesh, the Christ… Fully God/fully human.

So that is the right path.

And if I know the destination, which is Jesus; then I don’t have to worry what happens along the way.

So as I am given choices of things to do and ideas to pursue; when reaching these junctures in the road I will ask myself the one key question: “How will this help me to get to my destination?”

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I Need Patience...Right Now!

Luke 8:15 (Amp.) But as for that [seed]in the good soil, these are [the people] who, hearing the Word, hold it fast in a just (noble, virtuous) and worthy heart, and steadily bring forth fruit with patience.

While having lunch just the other day with my father, I made the comment, “Well, I just need to be patient.” To which my father replied, “Well, you certainly don’t get that from me!”

So I started thinking about patience. Obviously patience is not genetic; it seems that the only way we get patience is as a part of the gifts of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22-23 “…love, joy, peace, patience…” Clearly, patience is a part of the “fruit of the Spirit.”

But what is patience?

The dictionary definition is “...The capacity to endure hardship, difficulty or inconvenience with out complaint. Patience emphasizes calmness, self-control, and the willingness or ability to tolerate delay.” (Houghton Mifflin on line dictionary)

So as I face “hardship, difficulty or inconvenience”, how much do I trust God? Do I really understand that in all these things that I have to face, God really is in control. Can I take a deep breath, and try to find the lesson in a particular trial, or maybe the particular trial is to simply test my patience. So where is my faith?

As the Apostle Paul wrote, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

But I find that as I exercise my faith in God, it does tend to lower my blood pressure if I simply remind myself that God really does know what He is doing (even if I am clueless!)

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful, yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:11)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bringing it with me, or leaving it behind?

Genesis 12:1
Now the Lord said to Abram, Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house to the land which I will show you;

You know, I had an interesting thought today…as I was gazing across a large expanse of Kentucky Blue grass lawn…I reflected on the fact that here we are in high desert plateau and often in drought conditions, and obviously an East-coast person brought their idea of what landscaping should be like in the fairly inhospitable climate of Colorado. The thought then hit me, you know so often we say we want to “leave it all behind us”… yet what do we do but bring it all with us.

We say we need a change…but do we really mean it?
Exodus 2:23 “…And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God.”

So again we all know the story…The plagues, and the Passover and the ultimate deliverance...The children of Israel set free from 400 years of slavery…(my “slavery” was only 20 years or so) and in the desert, after seeing miracle after miracle…still the people complained “…Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat , when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill the whole assembly with hunger.” (Exodus 16:3)

Lord, really it was easier when I was in bondage…I didn’t have to think, I had the excuse of slavery…really Lord, this freedom thing is just not what it is cracked up to be…I’ve never worked so hard at being free. Wow, I don’t want to try; I’ll just go back to slavery, because it was easier. I was content! (I really didn’t cry for help) I don’t want to trust you…I need the old, familiar routine…You know the old saw, “better the devil you know than the one you don’t.”

Like that grand expanse of lawn, I want things to look the same, feel the same…be the same. But I have to walk in the New Life; and that means a whole new way of living in obedience to God. So I need to evaluate the climate, and challenges, And I must realize that this is a whole new way of life…so how about switching to drought tolerant plants?

Hebrews 12:12-13 Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My Battle?

Psalm 71:1-4
In Thee, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be ashamed. In Thy righteousness deliver me, and rescue me; incline Thine ear to me, and save me. Be Thou to me a rock of habitation, to which I may continually come; Thou hast given commandment to save me, for Thou art my rock and my fortress. Rescue me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out of the grasp of the wrongdoer and ruthless man.

How do you know when to be aggressive and when do you submit? As a woman I was hammered into the mold of “always” submitting to the perceived authority of men. Unfortunately for me, it was pretty much in all things.

Now praise God, I understand boundaries; and my worth as a human being. But with the new confidence as a person with worth and value in the eyes of God; I want to go over board, to press my rights…Basically to do things in my own strength. I want to force other people to “see my worth”, to stand my ground and fight for my rights. I want people to see my gifting and my calling. Of course this leads me right into a vision of my future as one unrelenting battle; as I have to face obstacle after obstacle, without any support; on my own. And I quail in the face of that –Oh God, how can you ask me to face this future?

Then I remember John 16:33 where Jesus reminds me, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

And I take heart; Jesus, You have overcome! You won the victory! I don’t have to struggle. I just walk forward- and You will take away the barriers and obstacles. The peace that passes all understanding washed over me, and I feel the familiar joy rising up in me as I remember the chorus of my favorite hymn:

Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness.
Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided,
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.[i]

*Amen*

[i] Chisholm & Runyan (1951) Great is Thy Faithfulness, Hope Publishing Co.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Portrait of a Servant

This is a devotional posted in one of my classes by Stanley Lawson, a youth pastor in an Ethiopian Church in Colorado. He gave me permission to use this.

“But is must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life – a ransom for many,” Mark 10:43-45 (Holman Christian Study Bible,2003)

We don’t have a lot of domestic servants in the United States. Over the last century the numbers have dwindled. The idea of being in total service to another human brings back images of slavery and Uncle Tom, in the United States we tend to frown on that sort of thing. Not so in other countries. Many of the Ethiopians that I “serve” as a Pastor once had domestic servants. In Ethiopia servants are very affordable. A small wage, no worry of heath care, social security or a servants union; many are just glad to have a roof over their heads and consistent meals. I have heard what it is like to have someone waiting on you, sounds like fun. Someone to fetch your slippers, wash your hands for you, even clean your feet. Some of my Ethiopian friends confess how poorly they treated the people that served them. Now they are ashamed of the behavior, but then it was quite common after all they were just servants.

Taking the form of a bond–servant…(Phil.2:7) Jesus understood His rightful place yet for all of us He left His place. He took the place of a bond servant, a slave, and then He served, even to the point of death. I often wondered what that service must have looked like and then I read 1 Corinthians 13 again. Love is patient; love is kind. Love does not envy; is not boastful; is not conceited; does not act improperly; is not selfish, is not provoked; does not keep a record of wrongs; finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things , believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corithians13:4-7). Each of these actions of love to me also provides a picture of what it really means to be a servant. In fact I can even substitute the word love with servant and it still makes full sense. A servant does not envy or boast , is not conceited or act improperly, is not selfish , not easily provoked…bears ,believes , hopes and endures. This person, who could do such things, would be the very best servant. Jesus said He came to serve and not be served (Matt. 20:28) Later as a testimony of what is means to be a leader He turned the tables and said you had to serve and to be a slave (Mark 10:43,44) He also said to follow Him you had to deny yourself…all these thing are submissive acts of a servant. Can I do that?

Can I go along and be patient when I am suffering, be kind when I am hurt, not envy when I do not have, not boast or be prideful when other think me less. Can I not tally the wrongs people do to me waiting for them to be punished? Can I endure? I confess, apart form Christ I cannot. Many times when I am wronged I want to lash out, correct, even punish but not say “Father Forgive them.” I am not talking of being a doormat here. What I am saying is though I may have the power or the right; can I choose to react in love, like a servant. Do you really want to know if you are able to be a servant? How do you react when you are treated like one?