Plod On Faithfully

A TRAIL HEADER IMG_2155Some days are ordinary.

Some days are mountain tops.

And some are just hard.

It’s the stuff of which life is made. And it is good…whether we feel like dancing through the day, putting one foot in front of the other, or just sitting down.

We are called to move forward, and there is joy in recognizing that His mercies are new every morning. It is our call to run our race with perseverance (Hebrews 12:1-2); but not just any race, “the race marked out for us.”

My life, my walk with Christ, my place in the world and the people in it will not be like any one else’s. It may be similar, but God has made me and each of us, in His image yes, but uniquely us; our circumstances are just what He intends for such a time as this.

And, He who has “marked out” a race for each one will not leave those He calls His own to run it alone but will prepare us for the journey, come alongside, even carry us at times, and use it all for His glory and our transformation!

A couple of months ago, we were in Colorado and decided to do what we thought would be a semi-short, fairly laid back afternoon hike in the mountains around the perimeter of the town close to where we were staying.

It began relatively easy and, early on, I found myself running up some parts of the path, exhilarated by the beauty and eager for the adventure. Rather quickly, however, we realized it was not all going to be a smooth, well-defined path with little elevation change. There would be places where the climb was grueling, the path beneath us rocky and at the same time, slippery, and the markings not so clear. The corridor would get narrow and the edges steep. We would grow thirsty, having not brought as much water as we probably should have.A TRAIL IMG_2086

It was soon evident that we would come to more than one crossroad where we had to decide whether we would persevere and finish the course or take a short cut and miss completing the much anticipated afternoon of exploring we had undertaken.

There was actually no way either of us would consider cutting it short; even if, when we grew weary from the varying conditions of the trail and the heat, we had to plod from time to time. That was part of the beauty and adventure of it.

In the end, it was closer to nine miles and the temps soared in the lower elevations; not particularly long but more rigorous than we anticipated.

Still, had we chosen the “easier” way, we would have missed the green pathways where we stopped to watch a young doe moving unafraid under the trees. We would have lost the opportunity to look out over the highest point of the trail at 8,557 feet, to watch a hawk catch the wind, sailing across a chasm, and to view the various peaks and valleys that declared the glory of God simply by their presence. A TRAIL IMG_2158

We would have failed to come across both the rushing waters and steady flow of different waterfalls and a cool mountain lake that alerted all our senses! Our encounters with a man who shared his story and a mom and dad with eager teenagers who joined us for a time would have been missed. The sheer joy of the journey and finishing what we had begun and endured would have been wasted as well!

It was not just the experiences from the hike that we remember and in which we have satisfaction but, in finishing; what it did “in” us and what it taught us about ourselves and, more importantly, about God and our relationship with Him. It was also a reminder that we need each other in this journey as we regularly encouraged each other to press on.

The paradox was that we were so tired yet so refreshed! And isn’t that part of what perseverance does in us?

“Let perseverance finish its work (in us), so we will grow, lacking nothing in Christ.” (James 1:4)

Perseverance isn’t dependent on the circumstances in which I live and breathe but upon whom I rest and find my ultimate satisfaction. And that One calls His people to be, as Joseph Wheat has said, “faithful plodders.” We are not called to be stoic in the face of sorrow, slap on a fake smile when our hearts are breaking, nor be arrogant in our demands that God answer every prayer in our timing and according to “our will.”

He knows our sorrows, allows us to weep, brings others to share our tears, and holds us in the darkest nights. He allows us to ask questions but then calls us to trust Him for the answers even when we can’t see and our hearts don’t understand.

He knows we live in an easily shaken world that defies Him and that can so easily distract us from a determined walk with Christ that is distinctively different and provides a firm foundation as it is grounded in His Word, Truth.

He knows we are continually faced with things and people that seek to rival our affection. He understands the enemy of our souls tempts us to satisfy our hunger and cover our shame, hurts, and loneliness with substances, experiences, and the noise of mindless activities rather than learning to be still, seeking that redemption, healing, and satisfaction in the only One that is not a temporary fix but a lasting transformation, and spending time with others who find joy in desiring the same so we are mutually encouraged to stay the course.

He knows we need the exhortation of one another so we “may not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13) nor overwhelmed by the sheer exhaustion of living in a world that seeks to call good, evil and evil, good.

And so, out of His great love and tenderness, He appeals to us not to neglect meeting together. Rather, give one another confidence…

“…to press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of (us)… forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead…” (Philippians 3:12-14)

Though my “hard” may be different than others, my temptations may not mirror another’s, and my places of rest might not look like yours – every redeemed child of God is called to that same perseverance because each of us is called to fix our eyes on the same endpoint – Jesus, the Author and perfecter of our faith.

We aren’t given a view of what is ahead or even just around the next corner.

God doesn’t call us to plow ahead, full speed, beating out every other runner nor hold back in fear.

Instead, He equips us for and calls us to an unwavering…

Endurance.

     Steadfastness.

          Diligence.

In order to run the race with perseverance without burning out, to be able to “mutually encourage,” and to be a “faithful plodder” who knows that our help comes from “…the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1), we must first learn to “Be still and know that (He is) I AM, God!” (46:10)

In fact, we have Jesus’ example to follow. Even He, God in the flesh, had to get away from the crowd! Spending time with others is a good thing, but getting away, talking to and hearing our Father’s voice; feeding on and savoring His Word as though our lives depend on it, because they do – is life-giving. Resting in our Abba, who stands ready to strengthen, equip, and just hold us when we are weary with the race or when temptation increases, allows us to take that next step.

As we grow in our understanding of what is needed for faithful perseverance, our longing should be for more of His presence and His Word for which Jesus commended Mary. While Martha ran around meeting needs, a good thing, Jesus said that Mary had chosen what was better and it would never be taken away.

At times, we may need to ask Him to restore that longing, but it is in those times when the hunger wanes, we must run even more intentionally into the arms of the One who is able to restore the joy of our salvation and our very souls!

The “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (none of which comes from the Father) but from the world” (I John 2:16) will distract us from keeping “our eyes fixed on Jesus” so we must also be deliberate about guarding that which has been entrusted to us; turning from “godless chatter and opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge” (I Timothy 6:20) that explodes all around us but is nothing more than the Deceiver whispering across the ages, “Did God really say?”

The more we idly engage the world, its ideas, and its systems in direct opposition to and defiance of the very character of God, instead of “renewing our minds” (by His Word), “taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5), and answering accordingly, the more we will soon realize we are no longer just “in the world” but “conformed to it.” (Romans 12:2)

In that conformity, the less we will persevere, the less faithful we will plod, the more we will turn our gaze from the Savior and soon find ourselves “sitting in the seat of mockers.” (Psalm 1)

There is nothing that robs us of joy more.

It is God’s mercy that the Bible warns us through the life of Demas, who was, at one time, in ministry with Paul as a faithful “fellow worker” in the gospel, but who, not being watchful, became in love with this present world” and deserted Paul. (2 Timothy 4:10) He quit running the race.

It is God’s grace and power, that gives us “everything we need for life and godliness, through our knowledge of Him who called us…” (2 Peter 1:3), that calls us to be diligent and devoted to His Word and sound teaching (I Timothy 4:13-15), that pursues us and infuses us with joy then beckons us to use every opportunity to encourage each other to the same.

There is joy in this journey on which God has called us – this life lived for Him. But there are times we won’t “feel” it and will, instead, have to choose it. It isn’t an emotion or a reaction as a result of a circumstance; it is an abiding rest in knowing who we are and whose we are. It is leaning into the One who has not only marked the race for us but runs it with us, infusing us with the very breath we need.A TRAIL IMG_2239

As we set our hope on Him, God will renew our strength that, at times, will falter, so that we will “soar on wings like eagles, run and not grow weary, walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

By the work of His transforming grace, don’t give up, flee to Christ and what is before us, that very race He has marked out for you and me!

Flee to redemption and His purposes for us rather than to the very things that are killing us spiritually!

Don’t miss the joy! Look up and see Him who is doing a “new thing” we can’t perceive!

Look up and see Him who is faithful!

Plod on Redeemed Followers of Christ and finish your race! But plod faithfully, purposefully, deliberately, intentionally bringing others along with you!

“He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.” (Philippians 1:6) 

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of evil one.” Ephesians 6:10-11 

“I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” Psalm 119:11 

“Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them…” I Timothy 4:16

Restrain or Give Way

While at a local store, my husband and I encountered a man in front of us in line that tested my husband’s patience. I was oblivious to the extent of his rudeness because my attention was elsewhere, but I did hear one of his comments and that one was enough to make me raise an eyebrow.

He was caustic and insolent, giving snide remarks and pushy comments to the clerk. Driving home my husband told me it was making him angry to listen and that it was hard not to step in and make a comment of his own.

The situation made us stop and think…when and what do we restrain and when do we give way?

Sometimes we pray for patience (oh, a dangerous prayer to pray) and God gives opportunities to grow that fruit in us. The reality is, He knows we need that pruning and will give us situations even if we don’t ask for them. Yes, our God has a sense of humor, even as some of that pruning is rather uncomfortable; but there is always purpose in our pain in our pursuit and practice of becoming more like Him…be it patience or other areas.

How many times do we restrain ourselves – whether in words or actions – even though our hearts are desiring quite the opposite? And when is that restraint most often practiced? Is it easier to draw back from a confrontational and/or acidic response with strangers? Are we more inclined to give into that “response” to those we love; to let the frustration and anger pour out on friends or family instead? Is it easier to say no to a temptation when we are with a certain group of people more than others or when we are alone?  And when we ought to give way, do we pull back in fear when God is calling us to step out in faith?

Do we live with eyes open, asking God to give us the discernment to see temptation as it rises and the courage and power to not just step back but intentionally respond with the heart of one committed to Christ – to tame a caustic tongue, to turn away from a particular action, to press forward and do the hard thing?

The reality is we all have sinful hearts and are tempted again and again to do and say things that are contrary to the “new creation” we are in Christ or to not do things for His glory that are outside our comfort zone. Face it; we are told to “follow” our hearts, but they are completely deceitful and will, if we are not prayerful and intentional, take us down roads we would never intend to go.

An angry word, a confrontational comment (that is not spoken humbly in love, for the good of the other person), a sinful action in public or when no one is looking, a bitter heart nurtured by murmuring or complaining, or anything that sets itself up against the character of God and His command for us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18) – set them all aside by the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and live out what we know!

As our friend Bill McDonald says, “Be intentional doers of the Word!”

It is at that intersection of choice that the Holy Spirit will be prompting those who are followers of Jesus Christ; He will convict us, remind us, prod us, pull back on us and say, “Whoa!” We will either choose to curtail our impulses, our desires, and our temptations or we will give ourselves over to them and rush headlong into whatever is set before us, often either blaming someone else or a situation or rationalizing that at least we don’t…(fill in the blank) or that we all have our sin bents and we will never be perfect this side of heaven so….!

When we well up with any desire that is contrary to God’s character and His commands, we have a decision to make (and often not much time to make it; it’s why God says “train yourselves” beforehand). Restraint in the face of temptation says we are hearing God’s voice and choosing to “take up His cross and follow” obediently for His glory, our ultimate joy, and the good of those most affected by our choices.

Every time we set a guard over our mouths, our hands, our feet, or our imaginations, we are strengthening our spiritual muscle, making it easier to hear the voice of the Lord and respond well the next time.

Sometimes it will take intentionality beyond what we think we can do or, in our flesh, would like to do. Often it takes a deliberate call out to God and a rebuke of the enemy of our souls who loves to exploit our weaknesses. Ultimately, we have to stand on the truth that God Himself has given us everything we need for “life and godliness,” “to take every thought (and every emotion) captive” – increasingly!

When we stand firm – we ought to celebrate, thank God, and allow someone to rejoice with us! Realize that it is God at work, continuing to “complete the good work He began.” Likewise, when we blow it – take it to the cross, leave it there, don’t keep picking it up or see it as an excuse to toy with it. Instead, thank God that, in Christ, we are forgiven but that He has given us all we need to stand firm, asking Him to remind us of that the next time a snare is set for our souls.

It’s not a “Pull yourselves up by your own bootstraps” or “You can do it because you are strong!” issue! Not at all. We are weak, and the enemy knows our breakpoints; but God, who created us and calls us by name, knows us better and is already there set to equip us, strengthen us, and give us the ability to stand or flee, to speak or be silent, to murmur and complain or give thanks, to sink into despair or cry out for His mercy. Yes, He provides and equips, but it’s our job to take hold of that grace and use it!

Restrain or give way…but do so not according to the tug of your heart and its desires but according the Word of God and the unwavering voice of our Savior!

“…Stand firm and you will see the deliverance, the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today!” Exodus 14:13

“The healthy Christian has a sense of God’s presence stamped deep on his soul, trembles at God’s Word, lets it dwell in him richly by constant meditation upon it, and tests and reforms his life daily in response to it.” J.I. Packer

“A correct view of God is necessary in order to have a correct view of everything else.”

God Is More Than Able

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“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory…”  Ephesians 3:20-21

God is able.  We know that.  We don’t doubt it.  We want our lives to reflect a deep assurance in Jesus so that others will know the God in Whom we trust.  And yet, there are times we forget and allow our fears to overtake what we know and step off our firm foundation to a place of shifting sand.

It’s so easy to trust, when our eyes are fixed on Jesus and when we “feel” His presence.  But when the winds shift and the waves get wild, too often we shift our gaze inward to self or outward to circumstances and we falter.

Can’t we, at times, relate to Peter, the disciple who boldly declared his allegiance to the Savior, yet later ran in fear when asked if he knew Him?  It wasn’t his intention; but, in that moment, he hesitated.  He had moments of both trust and the lack thereof throughout his life.

In Matthew 14, he boldly declared his faith by looking intently at the Savior and, thus, was able to walk out to Him on the water when Jesus said, “Come.”  But when Peter began to focus on the raging storm around him, taking his eyes off Jesus and putting them on what he could see, he began to sink.  It was Jesus who had to save him when all he could do was cry out; just as He is faithful to do for us when we call out in our weakness.

God lovingly commands His children to keep our eyes on Him – yes, because He is worthy and yes, because He is good!   But it is also because God knows that we are only steadfast, confident, and able to stand firm when our eyes are completely fixed on Him through His Word, the Bible, and our daily, even minute to minute, communication with Him through prayer.

These aren’t legalistic rituals or “spiritual” exercises to soothe the soul on the surface. Rather, it is time to climb into the lap of our Abba Father, our Savior, our Comforter and to rest instead of wrestle; to put our confidence in the hope that is grounded in a Person, namely Jesus, not a “hope without substance” philosophy devised by man.

It might be a designated time or an impromptu moment of praise, an outpouring of our pain or doubt, or a humble moment of repentance when His Spirit convicts our hearts and we must set our sin aside so we can again firmly walk in truth.  When we are in relationship with the living God through Jesus Christ, we can come at any moment – He desires it and beckons us to it.

God loves for us to bring Him praise, unburden our hearts, pour out our fears, and lay ourselves bare before the God who knows us intimately, even better than we know ourselves.  When we don’t understand the circumstances around us, we have a Father who is not afraid of our questions and who even allows us to ask “why.”  But then He tells us to trust in what we cannot see rather than demand that He change our situations or readjust His will and His ways to suit ours.  We are called, as children, to open hands; to a humility that says, “Not my will, but Yours, Lord.”

And, we are invited to a greater hope and purpose that says, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)  Many cling to that verse as if it is quick fix – that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will do whatever we want Him to do.  But it is so much richer and more redeeming than this short-sighted view.

The paradox is that if we truly grow in our delight of the LORD – if we earnestly seek Him and know Him – our desires will be transformed to reflect His desires, our wills will be changed to want His will.  In so doing, we will receive the double satisfaction of having a heart after our Redeemer and He, in turn, will fulfill His renewed purposes and our redefined desires.  Through it all, He gets the glory and we receive the joy!

We see the chaos; He sees where He has said, “this far and no further.”  We often miss seeing the mercy and grace in situations, but make no mistake, everything that touches us is full of both, even when we don’t see or feel it.

Our covenant keeping God sees the full picture clearly, from start to finish.  We see only where we stand in a moment’s time and even that imperfectly.  If we will trust the heart of the One who, in His great love for us sent His Son to redeem us and make us His own, we can rest, even give Him praise, in the middle of the moments that sometimes rock our world, the daily grind of the ordinary, or the difficult life situations that are part of our everyday, because we know that what He does and what He allows has a greater purpose now and in the future.

As Oswald Chambers writes, “We have the idea that God is going to do some exceptional thing, that He is preparing and fitting us for some extraordinary thing by and by, but as we go on in grace we find that God is glorifying Himself here and now, in the present minute.  If we have God’s say-so behind us, the most amazing strength comes, and we learn to sing in the ordinary days and ways!” 

And again, Chambers states it so clearly,“Faith for my deliverance is not faith in God. Faith means, whether I am visibly delivered or not, I will stick to my belief that God is love. There are some things only learned in a fiery furnace.” (from Love: A Holy Command)

Yes, He is preparing to do exceptional things even as He is already doing in the present.  Indeed, he is doing much in and through us, though we may not yet touch that reality and though we may, at times, hold up open hands through tears!  We know that because, as we look back, we can often say, “Now I see what God was doing all along and it was flawless!”

Through it all – past, present, and future – He gets the glory and that’s just how it should be because He is more than able; He is good!  And that is not dependent on His answer!

“…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus…”  Hebrews 12:1-2

MAKE MY LIFE A PRAYER TO YOU  by Keith Green

Make my life a prayer to You, I want to do what You want me to,
No empty words and no white lies, no token prayers, no compromise.
I want to shine the light You gave, through Your Son, You sent to save us
From ourselves and our despair, It comforts me to know You’re really there.

Oh, I want to thank You now, for being patient with me,
Oh, it’s so hard to see, when my eyes are on me,
I guess I’ll have to trust and just believe what you say,
Oh, you’re coming again, coming to take me away,

I want to die, and let you give Your life to me, so I might live
And share the hope you gave to me, the love that set me free.
I want to tell the world out there You’re not some fable or fairy tale
That I made up inside my head –
You’re God, The Son, You’ve risen from the dead.

(Originally posted June 2013)

Even When Trembling, Stand

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A friend is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. A family member lives day to day with a debilitating disease. A family we love is torn apart, a marriage marred. An expected outcome comes to a heartbreaking halt. Across the nation and the world, news flows that brings a shadow on the soul.

Yet, through it all, I am reminded that this world is not our home and this generation is, as every generation before, in need of truth and hope.  That “truest true” – the one faithful, constant, factual hope that has stood and will stand is Jesus Christ and the power of His death and resurrection to free us from the penalty, power, and guilt of our sin but it is also is able to redeem our fear, our pain, and our limitations because He is more than able.  It is not always a physical freedom or a restoration of how we desire things to be, but it is life giving on earth and in eternity.

What causes the redeemed child of God to face sorrow without despair is the intimate knowledge of and our relationship to the One who tenderly and firmly holds all circumstances in His hands both now and forever and allows nothing that will not ultimately be for His greatest glory and our good.  Though it is not always “good” as we define the term and His “better ways” for us may not always be visible to us at first glance, it is so. For everything that touches us is sifted through His strong hands that hold us and His wise fingers that filter as only He can. He is the only one who well knows our frame (Psalm 103:14) and the number of our days (Psalm 90:12) and He is the Lover of our souls!

God’s Word upholds us because it is not just “comfortable quotes” that can be framed and hung on a wall to make us feel lighthearted and at peace for the moment; it is not a crutch that allows us to hobble along.  It is rock solid truth on which we can “hang” our very lives and which causes us to walk steadfast, to stand and, when we have done all else, to continue standing firm, hidden in Christ…regardless.

From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2

We take in and hide the Word of God in our hearts because it is “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) just for us and we choose to not only believe it but to live it out even when our steps are trembling. Our God who is mighty makes us secure, our footsteps steady, as He reminds us of His very great and precious promises.  (2 Peter 1:4)

Even when we are “in the presence of our enemies,” “in the shadow of death,” or any situation where “weeping lasts for a night,” we can trust and hold steady.

So evident was this in Martin and Gracia Burnham’s lives as she recounts their ordeal and God’s tender mercy to bring to mind what was written on their hearts.

Read and be encouraged for the days when life is “just as it should be” but also when “live spins out of control!”

How do we manage when life spins out of control in a single day? What do we do when all our plans and goals are put on hold, when everything we had intended to do and see and accomplish gets swept aside, and we don’t know if we’ll ever get back to familiar ground? How do we keep our sanity? How do we avoid slipping into a personal canyon of despair?

‘I remember a particularly frightening Thursday morning in the jungle, the day of Gun Battle Number 13. We endured seventeen of these altogether, where our little group would be spotted by the Philippine military, who were trying to rescue us hostages but were ill-trained to do so. While their intentions were good, their technique was altogether dangerous, not only for the terrorists but for us as well.

On this day Martin and I had just built a small fire to heat water for a cup of tea. Our recently washed clothes were strewn out on bushes to dry in the sun. Suddenly, gunfire erupted. We had to get out of that place immediately. Normally, we tried to keep our belongings fairly well consolidated for such emergencies. But in this moment, our stuff was everywhere. We were totally unprepared. We instantly hit the ground, of course. As bullets continued to whiz past our heads, Martin gingerly reached up to pull the cord that tied one end of our hammock to a tree. He then scooted along the ground to do the same to the opposite cord. We squashed the hammock into our backpack and then dashed for cover, abandoning nearly everything else—extra clothes, cooking utensils, my hairbrush, and other necessities.

Soon we found ourselves wading through a swamp that came up to our waists. We emerged on the other side and flopped down to rest. I looked at my husband with total exhaustion. In that desperate hour, my wonderful husband said, ‘Gracia, let’s remind ourselves of what we know is true.’

We had no Bible to consult; we could lean only on what we had stored in our memories. From that reserve, we began to recite: ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ (Romans 8:31). One of us said, ‘Where does it say in Scripture, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love?’ (It’s in the Old Testament, Jeremiah 31:3.) ‘And then what about that part at the beginning of Ephesians: ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ?’ (Ephesians 1:3)

We went on sharing Scriptures such as these, trying to anchor ourselves in the truth we could trust, the truth that God is with us through the tunnel, through the valley, through the gun battle. He stands with us through the medical prognosis that terrorizes us, through every horrible thing that life throws our way. We don’t go through these things alone. We walk with our hands in the hand of the One who turns night into day.’

(***From “To Fly Again,” by Gracia Burnham who is also the author of “In the Presence of My Enemies,” the true story of Martin and Gracia Burnham who were kidnapped in the Philippians and held hostage in the jungle for over a year.  I would highly recommend both starting with the latter.)

“Therefore my trust is in the Lord,
And not in mine own merit;
On Him my soul shall rest, His word
Upholds my fainting spirit;
His promised mercy is my fort,
My comfort and my sweet support –

I wait for it with patience (Wait for it with patience);

I wait for it with patience (Wait for it with patience).”

(Lyrics from Psalm 130 (From Depths of Woe)

Fight to Be Faithful…Refreshed and Ready

IMG_1337.JPGRecently, I read an article from Kevin DeYoung, from which the following led to more thought, “As a pastor, everything seems more important and more urgent than being in the word and prayer. We must fight to be faithful.”

Indeed, in ministry there is often the tyranny of the urgent and many expect the pastor to be available to them as needed. It is, without a doubt, the pastor who is faithful to cultivate his time in the Word and prayer that best nurtures his congregation, best ministers in his community, and best expounds on the Bible in teaching and preaching.

The same could be said for the believer in every sphere of life. Regardless of the age or level of activity, we often justify our “me” time, our “down” time, but that’s the irony of it all. For the believer, our greatest rest and reward is in His Word. Our best “me” time is nestling up to our Abba Daddy and hearing His heart. We are better equipped for all of life – for doing, thinking, discerning, and walking well – when we listen to our Lord’s heart and let Him hear ours.

The opportunity to revitalize, restore, and refresh is found in the presence of our Savior. And yet, we all succumb to satan’s whisper too often flowing from our own bent – “I just don’t have the time.”

I remember being so exhausted when I was the mom of young children, especially once I started homeschooling, that I didn’t think I could wake up early and function. And, if I stayed up late, it was to finish tasks undone during the day.  I just needed rest!

Yes, that is legitimate! Jesus rested and called his disciples to do the same, so that is good. But some of my sweetest times were either sitting alone quietly and letting God’s Word be a balm for my weariness or having a little one, even from infancy, snuggle up next to me asleep (or not) and having it open while I held them, sometimes reading aloud so it would also penetrate their head and heart as well. I was always amazed at the refreshment I got from it; so much more so than when, holding one of my sleepers, I turned on a mindless t.v. show for the noise factor.

And, then the days would get hectic again and I would forget how life giving it was as I got back to the demands that seemed to claw at me.

Today, there may be opportunities for a prolonged time to bask and there may be other times when I have to grab five minutes. But oh the strength gained regardless!

One of the ways I find to hide God’s Word in my heart throughout the day, both now and when I was busy with preschoolers all the way up to my high-schoolers was by way of music.  Music that is drawn from God’s Word – all genres from kids’ praise to bold music with solid truth to quiet praise and worship – has always penetrated its way into my heart in a manner that God often brings it back to my mind to refresh and even challenge me at just the right moment.

We can be sure of the promise found in Isaiah 55:11: “…so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”  Music has a unique ability to pierce through the noise of life and adhere to our hearts and minds.

Paul reminds believers, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (I Peter 5:8) Not only does disciplining ourselves to be in God’s word and prayer refresh us, it makes us ready for the inevitable clash; for truly every believer has times when life is fraught with discouragement and pitfalls – times when, in our weariness, we are more vulnerable to temptations and less likely to be “ready to give reason for the hope that we have,” let alone be salt and light. It is the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God that equips us to battle through those things that threaten to unravel our worlds.

The more we are in God’s Word, the Bible, the more we realize that it is our very life and breath. It is His gift of strength for our journey, for our conflicts, and sometimes for the tediousness of the everyday when we fail to see His beauty in the grind, the revelation of His glory in the commonplace, and His call for us to be His ambassadors of grace to the soul thirsty world among whom we live and move. The more we are in His Word, the more effective and content we will be in our individual lives and roles.

We soak in it and let it soak down into us not so we just “know” it but so that the Holy Spirit then transforms our hearts and our actions.

In Luke 10:38-42, Martha was busy doing good things; but Jesus said that Mary had chosen what was better and it would not be taken away from her. She was drinking in the Savior while Martha was serving and missing out on the refreshment. Her work of service was good, but Jesus knew that time with Him was better and was what she needed.

Work, service, recreation, and fellowship with others are right and even necessary; we were created for it all! We should nurture our families and enjoy them. We should care for our bodies and enjoy God’s creation. We should foster the talents and gifts God has given us. His Word calls us to be in fellowship with other believers and to be a conduit of God’s mercy and truth to the unbeliever. We can laugh at a funny movie and cry at a sad one. We can wisely tweet and Facebook and Instagram and enjoy it (as long as it does not control us nor lead us to compromise)!  We should make an impact in the places we call “our world” and abroad. And, yes, we need time to just be still or even nap.  All of this is good!

But, if you are anything like me then or now and, if we are honest, though there may be seasons of life where those things are hard to come by, it is often not that we have too little of those opportunities and have to fight for them. Rather, we often have to choose to pull away from some task that must be done “now” or some relaxation into which it is easy to settle and, instead, fight to be soul satisfied; not as a legalistic checklist but to enjoy our Redeemer and to “do” life well!

So we must, as Kevin DeYoung says, “fight to be faithful” – fighting our complacency and self-focus; facing and dealing with the broken places in this fallen world; pushing back against the “tyranny of the urgent” that we might rest in the shadow of the Almighty! Relying on God’s strength, we choose the self-discipline His Spirit provides that leads to fulfilling our true heart’s hunger, comforting our soul with the peace that will come, not from another triviality with which we often fill our time but from the Word that is living and active. It will come from pouring out our hearts to the One who is ready to take our burdens and give us rest.

Lifting hands of praise for the goodness He provides.

Laying before Him those things from our hands and head that draw us away from Him.

What will satisfy our true thirst? What will be the key to our discernment, to choosing wisely, to loving others well, to forgiving those who offend us, to enjoying God and His many gifts to us, especially that of our redemption, and to serving, but that the Word of God dwelling in us richly?

“Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I, for You have been my refuge, a strong tower…” Psalm 61:2-3

Like Mary, there are times we need to stop doing “Martha” things and sit at the Savior’s feet, soaking in His truth and basking in His presence. The journey will be sweeter and more delightful with the new perspective and we will be refreshed and ready!

Ready, Set, Live…

God has given me a love for words and I have found throughout my lifetime that I often express my heart and soul best through that gift of the written word far more clearly than the spoken. I love to encourage and exhort; express and delve deep into a thought through the musings of my pen to paper.

Recently, I was asked if I have a blog or had one in the past. Though I write often and share with individuals and in other social media formats, I have never published a blog. But God has been challenging my hesitancy.

Could it be that I, who find some of my greatest delight in the written word, have opportunity to share what is on my heart and, in the process, encourage another?  I am well aware that I do not have all the answers and I am under no delusion that I am the most eloquent wordsmith.  What I do know is that God has every answer for every question and it is my desire to use what He has given me to point others to that knowledge as well!

There may be many or few that read it. My heart is that those who do would be encouraged to seek the God of all Creation and His Word more closely and that they would either be led into a relationship with Him and/or drawn closer to and steadfast in Him.

And so my mind continues to embrace the idea and the same theme persists – my life has been and is a journey that God has orchestrated and on which He has remained faithful to lead, direct, encourage, challenge, and grow me…quite often in spite of me!

And into that life, he has infused music in general, song lyrics in particular – at times a balm for my restless and weary soul, at others a challenge to my willfulness, and, at still other points, a reflection of the inexpressible joy I have in walking this road.

Two songs in particular continue to echo in my head in relation to this idea of blogging. The lyrics to Sara Groves’ “This Journey Is My Own” and Michael Card’s “Joy in the Journey” have long been expressions of my heart. (Below you can read their words and find links to listen).  For truly “I am not my own; I have been bought with a price” (I Corinthians 6:20) so the journey on which I find myself is one I walk primarily with my Savior; it is to be the tool of the One Who created me, Who has known me since before time began, and who is in the process of “completing the good work He began” in me.  (Philippians 1:6)

I wrestle, I rest, and I rejoice because of Him!  And, as I walk with Jesus Christ and am changed by His Word, it is my prayer that it increasingly transforms my every thought and informs every conviction I hold, every decision I make, and every action I take; that it causes me to see each person I encounter as one created in His image, each needing a relationship with the Savior.

On this journey, there is great joy in the midst of both immense victory and periods of deep sadness. Indeed, there is a “wonder and wildness to life!”

It is in the context of that “wonder and wildness,” “freedom,“ and “joy” that I live! It is in relying on Him to make me willing and able to grow in my knowledge and love of Him, and thus, in obedience; it will not save me nor make me more acceptable to the three times holy God, but it is part of the journey on which He has released me to live!

Obedience is not always comfortable or convenient, but it is the evidence of a life redeemed by the Savior who is “able to do immeasurably more than we could think or ask” (Ephesians 3:20) and a joyful expression of my reliance on and thanks to Him in whom I find my truest satisfaction.

It is in this life that I long to “give reason for the hope that I have!” (I Peter 3:15)

So I begin another part of my journey and invite you along. Walk with me if you will as I post and if you are encouraged to seek the one true God of the universe and walk closer to the Savior, then my joy will be made even more complete.

I am always ready and eager to talk with anyone who asks me to give that reason or who wants to share their own journey that we might “mutually encourage” each other!

BLOG PHOTOS road journey Ready Set Live 
JOY IN THE JOURNEY By Michael Card

There is a joy in the journey; there’s a light we can love on the way.
There is a wonder and wildness to life and freedom for those who obey.
And all those who seek it shall find it, a pardon for all who believe.
Hope for the hopeless and sight for the blind.

To all who’ve been born in the Spirit and who share incarnation with Him,
Who belong to eternity stranded in time and weary of struggling with sin.
Forget not the hope that’s before you and never stop counting the cost.
Remember the hopelessness when you were lost.

There is a joy in the journey; there’s a light we can love on the way.
There is a wonder and wildness to life and freedom for those who obey…

THIS JOURNEY IS MY OWN by Sara Groves

When I stand before the Lord, I’ll be standing alone; this journey is my own.
Still I want man’s advice, and I need man’s approval; this journey is my own.

And why would I want to live for man and pay the highest price.
And what does it mean to gain the whole world, only to lose my life

So much of what I do is to make a good impression; this journey is my own.
And so much of what I say is to make myself look better; this journey is my own.

And I have never felt relief like I feel it right now; this journey is my own.
‘Cuz trying to please the world, it was breaking me down…

And now I live and I breathe for an audience of One (repeat)
‘Cuz I know this journey is my own

And why would I want to live for man and pay the highest price.
And what does it mean to gain the whole world, only to lose my life.