Monday, September 29, 2014

When Life Gets You Down, Look Up



We almost missed them this year.

The Vaux’s Swifts are headed South, and they’ve stopped in Portland for the month of September.

For decades, these tiny birds and their offspring have used the chimney of the Chapman Elementary School as a one-month vacation spot.




They forage during the day; then dive into the chimney in swarms every night.

And Portland likes to gather and watch the spectacular show.




In the midst of every busy life, all creation is praising its Maker, living the life He's called them to live, and following His allotted path.

And birds, called Vaux’s Swifts, magnified their Creator every night of September by their tiny presence in Portland.




Many looked away from the mundane of their daily lives, beyond the questions begging answers, above their smart phones, the unresolved, the arguments, and asking why.

We were beckoned to remember there’s a God who oversees it all, and life doesn’t have to get us down.

Our Maker lives and reigns.

And He can scoop up everything down here into His capable hands.

Then He sends us tiny reminders to leave them there.

And look up.



Monday, September 22, 2014

The Best Way to Start a Monday [and Every Day]



“Lord, give me what I need today.”

I heard a speaker say he’s learned to begin every day with this prayer.

“Give.”

Often the hardest word to pray.

We would rather earn our own way, give back to God, plan out tomorrow, and dream big.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these things, except that we often forget to undergird it all with the prayer: “Give.”

Jesus told us to pray this way.

“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).




The God who told us it’s better to give than to receive is the God who prefers to give.

So we’re taught to pray that He will.

We’re to begin each day, praying “give” because He knows all the unknown needs of the day.

He knows our needs before we ask.

And He promised He will provide.

Jeremiah Burroughs once wrote:
“Christ does not teach you to pray, ‘Lord, give me enough to serve me for two or three years,’ but ‘This day our daily bread.’” (The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, p. 200)

Today is all we’re told to live, and the day we’re to pray for the most.

We work, we earn our way, we seek out His plans for tomorrow and ask Him to decide our dreams.

But undergirding our full lives, we ask Him to give.

He told us to.

He knows that left to ourselves, we would be nothing but destitute.

Every day we’re to pray, “Lord, give me what I need today.”

As we open our mouths this wide, He will fill them.


“I am the LORD your God . . .
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” (Psalm 81:10)


Monday, September 15, 2014

A Pilgrim's Progress



Been thinking about life lately—particularly, the Christian life—and how little I feel I am making progress.

A pilgrim’s journey has windy paths and bumps and hills and valleys.




Often, you feel you’re walking backward.
In circles, at best.
And most often, you feel farther away than you’ve ever been.

You remember that moment when you knew you were a new creation, made righteous and whole, loved by a Savior who died for you and rose again.

Today, that joy is stifled because you know you’re prone to wander.

You find your life in Christ falls short of your position in Him.

You wonder why He calls you His own, and marvel that He will welcome you into the Celestial City.

You know your own heart, so you feel you're going backward.

In actuality, you're making a pilgrim’s progress.

Listen to the Apostle Paul as he wrote of his own progress in Christ:
               
·         Written in A.D. 55: “I am the least of the apostles (1 Cor. 15:9).

·         Written five years later in A.D. 60: “Me, who am less than the least of all the saints (Eph.3:8).

·         Written three years later in A.D. 63: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief (1 Tim. 1:15).

The truth is, the closer we draw to Christ, the farther away our hearts will feel in light of who we discover Him to be.

Progress is made in that paradoxical stride of walking closer and shrinking backward.

Because the greater our sin seems, the closer we really are.

This is a pilgrim’s progress.


“We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, 
are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory,
 just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor. 3:18)



Monday, September 8, 2014

Failure and Faith Moments and Why Samson is Listed in the Hall of Faith



Like some of you, I grew up loving the stories of the Bible. 
Elijah on Mt. Carmel and Daniel in the lions’ den.   
Moments like these where pillars of faith believed God, and God humbled the proud and exalted the humble.


So I grew up believing there are two classes of Christians:
Pillars of faith, like Elijah and Daniel and my very godly, elderly pastor.
And the rest of us who can only admire from a distance.

Then, I find Samson and Jephthah and Barak in the Hall of Faith. 

Intermixed with “the pillars,” I see people like me, prone to wander and fearful and unbelieving at times.

Discussing this perplexity with a friend one day, she said something I will never forget.

“God sees our faith moments, even when we fail at other times.”

If you study the lives of these men, they showed only a few “faith moments.”  

Only a time or two did they show utter “confidence in God before [they saw] God emerge” (O. Chambers). 

Their faith showed itself only in “moments.”

I’d like to think my life would be one great faith moment, where I’d always be ready to contend against prophets of Baal or would be faithfully fearless if thrown into a lions’ den.

But God calls us to live normal, sometimes mediocre daily lives.

And all of us fail.

In fact, no pillar of faith exists.

None ever has.

If God waited for flawless people to use, He’d never use anybody.

God used Samson.

Physically strong, but weak and full of flaws. A man who failed.

But a man who had his faith moments.

God uses people like Samson and Jephthah and Barak . . . and you and me.

Because He has nothing else to work with.

Men and women who fail and stumble and sin and fear.

But who, looking to God at the right moment, believe, and watch Him work.

When it came down to it, Samson knew where his strength came from.

And in his greatest moment of faith, he was strengthened like never before (Judges 16:28-30).

The Hall of Faith doesn’t list “pillars of faith,” but men and women who had this testimony:  “They believed God.”

God sees our faith moments.

Even when we fail at other times.


Click here to listen to "Courageous Faith"[A lesson in the Hall of Faith series.]