Tuesday, July 16, 2019

When the Journey Grows Long




But the people grew impatient with the long journey,
and they began to speak against God and Moses.
Numbers 21:4-5 (NLT)


            What happens when you’re stuck in a rut? When every day resembles the previous one? When variety or spontaneity are merely words in the dictionary? You grow weary. You lose sight of the destination and focus instead on the dreariness of life.
            The Israelites had reached that point. Their progress was agonizingly slow. Every morning they woke up to the same food, the same scenery, the same plodding, the same longing for an end to their tiresome journey. As they plodded, seeds of discontent began to take root and slowly blossomed into resentment; against Moses, against God.
            It’s all too easy to succumb to discouragement when we don’t see any progress. When every day is like the previous one. When typical childhood milestones pass by without any sign of change in our child’s condition. Disappointment sets in, along with frustration and weariness. We’re tempted to focus on the plodding rather than God’s promises.
What we perceive with human eyes should not stop us from finishing the task God has set before us. Plodding is tedious. Trusting is difficult. Remaining hopeful can be challenging. Yet God has promised a reward to those who stay the course and do not give up. He sees the bigger picture and He is hard at work, even in the midst of the deserts of life.
When the journey grows long, don’t grumble or give up. Focus on Jesus, instead. The promised land is waiting up ahead.
Takeaway:  Focus on Jesus instead of the journey
For further reading:
·         Galatians 6:9
·         Romans 12:12
·         James 1:12
·         Psalm 32:8

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Rainy Days




Rainy Days

For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good,
and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.
Matthew 5:45 (NLT)


            The other day, a woman said to me, “I thought following Christ meant life would be easier. But it hasn’t been.” It’s tempting to view God as a fairy godmother who removes obstacles and waves a magic wand to grant us our wishes. Although God promises to meet all our needs, He doesn’t always give us what we want.
            Joni Eareckson Tada understands this. After a diving accident that paralyzed her from the neck down, she pleaded with God to heal her. Yet God chose a different path for her. She says, “While the devil’s motive in my disability was to shipwreck my faith by throwing a wheelchair in my way, I’m convinced that God’s motive was to thwart the devil and use the wheelchair to change me and make me more like Christ through it all.”[1]
            I’m not implying it’s not difficult to see our child suffering or struggling to be like everyone else. It hurts, plain and simple. Yet when we understand God uses the rainy days as well as the sunny ones to bring growth to the plants we eat and the flowers we enjoy, we get an inkling of what He can do to bring growth into our own lives.
            Following Christ doesn’t necessarily mean life will be easy. We live in a fallen world which means we are subject to its effect on our lives. But God is greater than the evil one and He will redeem both the good and the bad.



[1] Joni Eareckson Tada, Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God’s Purpose and Provision in Suffering (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), pg 33.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Prayers from the Pit





Answer me quickly, O LORD, O my soul;
All my inmost being, praise his holy name…
…He redeems my life from the pit
and crowns me with love and compassion.
Psalm 103:1-4 (NIV)


            Pits are deep. Pits are dark. Pits are lonely. Joseph was thrown in a pit because he prophesied (Genesis 37:24). Daniel was tossed into the lion pit because he prayed (Daniel 6:16). Jeremiah was lowered into a pit because he preached (Jeremiah 37:6). Jonah was sucked into a pit (Jonah 2:6) because he pouted.
            The trouble with pits it’s that they're deep and we usually can’t make it out on our own. Joseph’s soul was in anguish while he lingered in the pit (Genesis 42:21) He pleaded for rescue, but his calls went unanswered – by his brothers, that is. But God heard his cries. There is no place on earth, no pain so great, no sorrow so dark, no pit so deep, where God isn’t present. He hears our anguished souls cry out, “save me!”
Though the pit seems dark, God sees us. Though the pit seems lonely, God is with us. Our pit may be deeper than others, and the length of time we linger there might be longer than some. But God never leaves us there. He always brings us through those times of trial. And He always redeems our pain for His divine purpose.
            When our anguish is so great, we can’t see past it, it’s crucial to remember God does, indeed, care for us. When the time is right, He will rescue us. He doesn’t throw us a rope and say, “Good luck. Hope you’re strong enough to pull yourself out.” No, He reaches down with His nail-scarred hand, grasps our hand, and lifts us up out of the pit.
            Keep your eyes lifted upward. Help is on the way.



Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Learning to Cast





Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you;
he will never let the righteous fall.
Psalm 55:22 (NIV)


            When our boys were young, we would take them fishing at the lake. Andrew and Christopher quickly learned to cast the baited end of the line into the water, then slowly reel it back in. Benjamin, on the other hand, would fling the line into the lake, then leave it dangling in the clear blue water. It required quite a bit of time and patience to convince him that reeling it back in would entice the fish to bite.
            So often I find myself casting my cares on the LORD only to reel them back in. Despite the worries and frustrations my cares elicit, I still struggle with absolute surrender. Rather than casting my cares on Him and handing them over to His control, I reclaim them one by one, thinking I can influence the circumstances to reach the desired outcome. Because my thinking is faulty. For some reason, I assume I need to remind Him about my concerns over and over again, instead of entrusting them to Him once and for all. In doing so, I hamper my heart and mind from fully enjoying God’s abundant peace.
            Thankfully, God is a gracious Savior. Though time and again I fail to fully trust Him, He still welcomes me into His presence, willing to sustain me through each trial, grasping my frail hand in His nail-scarred hand to keep me from falling. Because He loves me.
            Ironically, it was Benjamin who caught the first fish that day. Maybe he can teach me a thing or two about casting; whether it’s bait or burdens.

Monday, June 10, 2019

But God...




My health may fail, and my spirit grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
He is mine forever.
Psalm 73:26 (NLT)


            But God…. I love those two words. They whisper hope. They breathe expectation. They hint of transformation. They proclaim God’s sovereignty and His dominion over all of creation.
            But God… Two words so foundational to our faith. We were lost but God found us. We are sinful, but God offers pardon through Jesus. We merit nothing, but God pours out grace upon grace. We don’t deserve His love, but God offers Himself, completely, sacrificially.
            But God…. Two pivotal words that change everything. They bring light into our darkest nights. They offer hope to those who grieve. They provide strength to those who aren’t guaranteed another tomorrow. They remind us God can redeem our failures. They transform the impossible into the possible.
But God… Two little words that contain such a powerful promise. There is no place we go where He hasn’t preceded us. There is no problem that is too great for Him to resolve. There is no future He has not foreseen. There is no loss He will not redeem. Even death cannot separate us from God’s love.
But God… He is our strength. He is our refuge. He is ours forever.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Empty Nets




Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.
But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
Luke 5:5 (NLT)


            They were weary, frustrated, and disappointed. Over and over, during the long hours of the night, they’d cast their nets into the Lake of Galilee without catching a single fish. Never before had they encountered such a setback. There would be nothing to sell at the market, no money to bring home to their families.
            As he washed one of nets at the water’s edge, checking for rips or tears, Simon kept his gaze on the task before him. He couldn’t bear to look at his fishing partners, James and John. He was all too conscious of the disappointment and frustration stirring in their hearts. Little did the three of them know that the man standing in the midst of a crowd, teaching and preaching, would change their lives forever.
            There have been times in my life when I’ve suffered from that empty-nets syndrome. No matter how much I try, no matter how much I toil, my nets come up empty. I have nothing to claim, nothing to share, nothing to show for my hours of labor.
            Yet, God can redeem those times of emptiness. When I come to the realization that my all my efforts, all my resolve and determination, all my toil are only as effective as God’s supremacy in my life, when I run to God empty-handed, that’s precisely when He is able to fill me with His love, His grace, His wisdom and His power that He might be glorified.
            Simon’s nets were eventually filled to overflowing. Not because of anything he did or said, but because of his surrender and obedience to Jesus. By faith, he cast his nets into the lake and pulled in the biggest haul of fish he’d ever seen.
            Empty that we might be filled. This is the paradox of grace.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Grief




          Grief is not merely an emotion. Grief is a fellow traveler who comes, unbidden, into our journey and walks alongside us. At first, we shun him and resent his presence. He’s a reminder of what we’ve lost.
          Yet, gradually, as we learn to accept his presence, those memories that once brought tears to our eyes will be replaced with smiles, as we consider all we’ve gained from our loved one’s imprint in our lives.
          Renée Vajko-Srch, May 2019