Thursday, May 26, 2011

Safe in the Wake

A final ride. My daughter and I climbed onto the tube and my husband quickly got the boat up to speed. It was late in the afternoon and we were enjoying a nice, relaxing ride before heading back to the marina. I was amazed at how smooth the water was as long as we stayed within the boat's wake. Sure there were some small swells created by other boat traffic that caused us to bounce, but for the most part, we were shielded from the turbulent water just outside the wake. Water that churned with rolling waves that could have sent us airborne.

I couldn't miss the simple lesson God was showing me. The tube was tethered to the boat with a long rope, yet we were able to choose the direction the tube followed. Similarly, as a Christian, I belong to Christ, and am connected to Him: "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing," (John 15:5; KJV). Yet He created me with free will and allows me to choose the direction I take.

Sometimes I purposely steer myself outside the wake of God's shelter. I'm determined to do things my way. Anyone else? I convince myself that God's path is a bit too restrictive and my way is so logical. I get outside God's protective wake and feel the onslaught of the waves. I'm tossed around and slammed up and down. Circumstances threaten to overwhelm me, and then I realize I'm still tethered to the Lord. All I need to do is steer back into the wake. Choose His path once again. Experience His peace and protection.

I know there will be difficulties along life's journey even when I stay close to Christ. But, when I pick a path that follows my Master, I stay under the umbrella of His protection. Circumstances may be tough, but I can be assured that He will see me through, "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee," (Isaiah 43:2). I may experience rough situations, but nothing like the storms that threaten outside God's path.

*Are you tethered to God's lifeboat? Will you choose to stay within the wake of God's protection today?

*You can be sure you're tethered to God's lifeboat!
Admit that you're a sinner. "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)
Acknowledge that you owe a debt. "The wages of sin is death..." (Romans 6:23a)
Admit that only Jesus can pay your debt. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)
Acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord. "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." (Romans 10:9)
Ask God for forgiveness and salvation. "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:13) "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Romans 10:10)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your saving power. I'm so thankful for the protection that you offer me. Forgive me when I wander outside Your 'wake.' Help me to choose Your path so I can experience Your safety and peace. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Living by Feelings or Faith?

Acrophobia. An intense fear of being in high places. I have to admit that I struggle with this phobia in certain situations.

Last week, my daughter and I visited a water park. As we climbed the winding stairs toward the entrance to one of the rides, my muscles began to tense up and I found it necessary to grip the railing as we waited in line. It was all I could do to focus on our destination. Far below, people were enjoying the wave pool and scurrying between other water rides without a care in the world.

Waiting in line on the stairs gave me a very insecure feeling. I could see between the metal steps to the ground below. And for whatever reason, I couldn't shake the idea that I might fall. Logically, I knew the tall structures were safe, yet it was extremely difficult to convince myself that I didn't need to be concerned.

Once at the top of the stairway, on a steady platform, my fears vanished and I looked forward to speeding down the slide to the pool below. The exhilarating ride proved to be worth the discomfort I experienced while waiting on the stairs. I refused to allow my nagging fear to spoil a great adventure. By mid-afternoon, we had ridden every water ride at least once, and others, multiple times.

I was reminded of the importance of living my life according to the truth and not according to my feelings. The same is true in my spiritual life. It's necessary to measure my thinking against the truth of God's Word. And His Word is clear, "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God," (Romans 12:2; KJV). King David shares the Lord's hope for me, "Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom," (Psalm 51:6).

On those difficult days when God seems distant, I have a choice. Believe my feelings, or trust His Word. My head tells me He's too busy to care about my little problems, His Word assures me differently, "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows," (Matthew 10:29-31).

Then there are the times I see little value in following through on the small things. Yet He declares plainly, "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much," (Luke 16:10). Which will I trust? Feelings or faith?Will I give in to my feelings or choose to walk by faith, knowing that Christ walks with me? Today, I choose faith!

What about you? Are you living your life according to your feelings or the truth of God's Word? How will you choose to live today?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for Your Word. Help me to choose to live according to the truth of Your Word, rather than by my feelings. You tell me that my heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), but Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105). Guide me, Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Is There a Difference?

Green space. Our dogs love it. It's the term we use for the wide open area of lawn in front of our house, that borders our pond. When we take the dogs into this part of the yard, they're in for a treat. No need to worry about invisible fences. Plenty of grass to roll in. Lots of sticks to gnaw on. And they know we'll play with them and shower them with affection. A virtual paradise.

Yesterday, the puppies lackluster expressions became enthusiastic as I removed their collars and let them run down to the green space. With tails wagging and legs flying, they were beside themselves trying to decide what to do first. A dip in the pond? A roll in the grass? A run around the yard?

Both dogs wanted to interact with me. Precious leaned against me to be cuddled, while Joe brought me his tennis ball knowing I couldn't resist a game of fetch. Within a few minutes, their adorable faces literally beamed their thanks. If you've ever owned a dog, you know the look. It appears like a big grin - stretching from ear to ear. It wasn't hard to tell they were content and very happy!

What a wonderful picture! When I choose to spend time with my Heavenly Father, my countenance also changes. I'm reminded of the story of Moses. Remember when he went up Mount Sinai the second time to receive the ten commandments? Take a look at what happened as a result of spending time with the very God of the universe, "And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him," (Exodus 34:29; KJV).

Aaron and all the children of Israel immediately noticed that something was different about Moses. His face literally glowed! Moses was unaware of it, but time spent in the presence of a holy God had transformed his appearance. And everyone saw it.

Spending time with God has transforming power. My face doesn't literally glow, but others should be able to tell there's something different about me. My actions will reflect the heart of my Father. My life will be characterized by selfless behavior, "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality," (Romans 12:10-13).

Just like Moses, I have an opportunity to spend time with the Lord and allow Him to make a difference in my life. My attitude can shift from the daily grind, to an eternal perspective that brings true contentment. As I stay in His presence, He gives me the power to overcome self and reach out to others in a way that will point back to Him. They'll notice a difference and be drawn to the Savior.

You have the same opportunity. Are you willing to shut everything else out and spend time with the Lord? Enough time so others will notice a change in you and be pointed to Him?

Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for Your transforming power. Help me to spend time in Your presence that I'd truly be changed. Not so I'd be noticed, but that I could affectively point others to You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, May 9, 2011

I Found It!

The perfect outfit. Hard to come by. I had a pretty good idea of what I was looking for, and the amount of money I wanted to spend. The search began. My husband's patience amazed me, as he encouraged me to try on one thing after another. From one store to the next, I searched through rack after rack, looking for something that would flatter, provide some fun color, and all at a good price. Difficult? Yes. Impossible? No.

With the clock inching toward closing time, I took a few selections into the dressing room. As I slipped into the first suit, I knew I had found the one! It fit, was my favorite color, and wonder of wonders, it was actually on sale! From start to finish, the intense hunt took an hour and a half, but success had been achieved.

There's a valuable lesson here. I was intent on finding something, and willing to spend time and effort to accomplish my goal. I knew it wouldn't be easy, and yet I was determined to search diligently for what I needed. With some effort, I was rewarded with success - I found exactly what I was looking for. The same lesson applies to my time spent with the Lord.

On a daily basis, I need wisdom. Wisdom to use my time wisely. Wisdom to be tuned in to the opportunities God gives me to share Him with others. Wisdom to be the right kind of wife for my husband. Wisdom to encourage my daughter when life gets complicated. But how do I get the wisdom I need to handle each of these situations appropriately? Diligently seeking for it in the pages of God's Word.

King Solomon, the wisest man of all time, was greatly used of God to pen the following words, "My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding," (Proverbs 2:1-6; KJV).

When I'm faced with life's challenges and I need wisdom, I must be willing to seek and search for what I need, knowing that it will require effort on my part. The last time I checked, 'treasure' is not something laid out in plain sight. Or easy to find without the help of a map. The same is true of wisdom for many situations in life. It must be gleaned from the pages of the 'treasure map' of God's Word. When I seek after God's wisdom, I'll always find what I'm looking for, with the added benefit of growing closer to my Savior.

No matter what situation requires wisdom, the book of Proverbs shares the results of finding this precious commodity, "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her, " (Proverbs 3:13-18).

What situation requires wisdom in your life? Arm yourself with prayer and the Word of God, and be prepared to spend some time mining for real treasure. The precious truths you find will be worth the effort!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the wisdom that can be found in the pages of Your Word. Give me a willing heart to spend time digging into Your truth for the wisdom I need today. Thank You for the promise that Your Word contains the answers I need. Help me seek Your wisdom daily. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Light Bulb Moment

The wind was powerful. It was the kind of breeze that was strong enough to rock the car as we drove. And completely destroy any hairdo subjected to its force! My daughter and I were enjoying the beauty of the beach. The white sand and gorgeous blue-green waters seemed almost tropical. Yellow flags along the coast warned swimmers to take caution while in the water. And we were advised to avoid the strong rip current.

High overhead, colorful shapes dotted the sky. They appeared to be enormous kites. But as they moved closer to us, we saw cables running from the sails down to men on surfboards. Kite surfers. Instead of bemoaning the fact that conditions weren't ideal for swimming, these guys had determined to take advantage of the wind and enjoy the opportunity to speed effortlessly across the surface of the water.

A light bulb moment. How many times do I allow myself to be discouraged from doing something because things don't line up as I think they should? These kite surfers were driving home a point. It was true that due to the wind, swimming was a poor choice, but the wind was creating the perfect opportunity to kite surf!

Oftentimes in life, I have a plan sketched out in my mind of how I'm going to accomplish something. When circumstances don't occur exactly as I think they should, I'm stymied, and stop dead in my tracks. I see the obstacles rather than focusing on the options. Can anyone relate?

The kite surfers reminded me of a valuable truth. There are always options. If I'm willing to seek God's direction every step of the way, He will show me how He wants me to proceed; whether it's a minor tweak in plans or climbing the obstacle that's before me.

Remember the story of Mary? A girl intent on doing the will of God. Things were going well. She was engaged to Joseph, a respected carpenter, and she was thrilled to be planning the details of their wedding. Then it happened. And everything changed. An angel appeared to her with some pretty shocking news, "Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus, " (Luke 1:30-31; KJV).

We all know the story. But think about the stigma attached to an unwed mother in those days. At best, she could attempt to hide the pregnancy, at worst, she would be stoned to death. And what about her wedding plans? Surely Joseph wouldn't want to marry her now! No doubt, a multitude of questions plagued Mary. Yet she chose to respond with the following words, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word..." (Luke 1:38). She demonstrated her trust in God, confident that He would help her overcome every obstacle in her path.

I have the same choice - be overwhelmed by circumstances, or trust God to help me see the options and overcome the obstacles.

Where is your focus today? On obstacles or options? Choose to trust the One who is able to help you overcome!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for this simple lesson learned from some kite surfers. When I face obstacles, help me to seek You. As You reveal Your will, help me to follow in obedience. Thank You for guiding me one step at a time. In Jesus' name, Amen.