Warm Wednesay Words: You’re not the Player You Think You Are

 

goodness & worthOn my own I’m a mess and have nothing worth sharing.  But to be fair, that’s the case with all of us.  The times I get my panties in a wad are often the very times that insidious pride has crept in somewhere.  As C.S. Lewis said, “the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride.  Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison.”  But the truth is, none of us have anything of eternal worth to share without Christ.  But with Him and because of Him, we have worth and a story to share.  He makes beauty from ashes and gives us irrevocable gifts.   All we need to do is be willing to let Him use them and leave the response or results to Him, whether we see their effect this side of Heaven or not.

you are unique the world needs youHere are a few red ” subtle pride” flags I’ve become aware of:  when I feel like someone’s estimation of me matters, when I feel pressured to do something that someone thinks I should even though my own soul searching with God (even for goodwill sake) doesn’t confirm that, when I do the thing God has laid on my heart and instead of trusting God with it, allow disappointment that it meant little or nothing to someone that mattered to me.

live for an audience of one

Most people are fairly incensed about entitlement when it comes to politics.  Most  agree that too many folks are engorged on an entitlement attitude that takes money out of the pockets of the majority and puts it into an unfair welfare system.  However, perhaps a spiritual entitlement check is in order.

www.pinterest.comWithout God, I’m nothing.  I wouldn’t even be here.  But I am, and because of Him I experience abundant life.  The only thing I’m entitled to as Adam and Eve’s progeny (with the same propensity for sin) is eternal separation from a Holy God.  Keeping that in the back of my mind, helps me apply humility and long-suffering to the holes where pride and entitlement would otherwise seep in.

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Thanks to Christ’s compassionate love for us and deep mercy, we who believe in Christ and His redemptive work on the cross are more than enough.  We were brought to a place of royalty…joint heirs with Christ Himself.  Now there’s a rags to riches true story for all time and eternity.   Do you allow your story to play in Christ’s cause?  No one but you can share your God given gifts and unique story!  Do you hold back from sharing what God has given you to share?   In Christ, we are all Most Valuable Players.

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Warm Wednesday Words: Stretcher Bearers

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There are times I’ve been carried on a stretcher, unable to walk where I needed to go, and there have also been times I have helped carry a “stretcher” with a friend aboard where he or she needed to go.  Though one of the stretcher times for me was a literal stretcher from our wrecked one ton suburban to the ambulance and ER, (I was miraculously ok, albeit sore with a case of whiplash and bruised ribs,  after the full speed blow of a semi broadsided my side of the car giving me a couple full twirls), most of the stretcher times for me weren’t literal.  These have been times when I needed the emotional support of a friend to get through a hard time.  I’m sure you’ve had those times as well.  God is faithful to provide those friends who provide the crutch or stretcher and ample words of encouragement and exhortation.  A stretcher situation requires some coordinated efforts between more than one person, but even if it’s just one friend with a crutch, it’s enough to get me through.

little girls helping

In the Bible, (Luke 5:17-26) there is a story of a man who was carried on a stretcher by his friends to seek healing from Jesus.  In between the lines of this story, it’s easy to see that here were some friends who left enough margin in their lives for helping someone.  And they had enough strength, courage and determination to try the rooftop route when they couldn’t squeeze through the crowd at the door.  They weren’t looking for the first excuse out of this job.  This roof didn’t just have a stretcher sized hole in it.  They had to remove roof tiles, and presumably hung around long enough to fix the roof as well.  I doubt they had the ropes in their back pockets to lower him down.  This endeavor, as most endeavors do, started to grow larger on them.  But they pressed on.  And Jesus healed the man based on “their” faith.    Wow…what a thought that Jesus is willing to heal a man based on his own, possibly weakened, faith combined with his friends.

a friend hears the song I am so thankful for friends and family who lend a crutch or provide a stretcher when I need it.  What I don’t need is tale bearers.  And who does?  Our prayers and faith should have “feet” that spur us on to good deeds of encouragement.   One of my favorite songs is “Carried to the Table” by Leeland.

Christ is my ultimate “stretcher” bearer.  Actually, He doesn’t even need a stretcher to carry me.  He carries me to the table of communion with His strong arms and He’ll carry me (and all who trust in Him as Savior) to the table at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  A table where I don’t belong, but He says I do.  “Have you had a crutch or stretcher provided for you when you couldn’t do it alone?  Have you lent one?  Do you know the One who will carry you to the ultimate table where you can’t go without His invitation?

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Warm Wednesday Words: The Rock that’s Higher

There are days…no seasons…when I have to seek a higher Rock.  Those times can feel like I’m between a rock and a hard place.  But when I recognize Who truly is my Rock and Redeemer, I’m no longer in that hard place, I’m both set upon the Rock and sheltered by Him; i.e. The Rock of Ages.  My circumstances may not feel better, but my focus changes and they no longer are the big issue I thought they were.   Not that God has forgotten about them, nor asks me to.  He just grows my faith in His sweet and personal love that He will shine through it for those who have eyes to see and cause joy even in pain.  He gives beauty for ashes.  Everything is transformed in the light of His grace into something with His beauty stamped all over it even in our weakness.

10369221_10202873739737365_5990994660212438186_nJust as flowers are more prolific on the plant that has been through a season of winter. drought or stress then on a plant that has been over indulged with rich nitrogen, so we are more fruitful for Christ when our roots have been forced to reach deeper, then when we aren’t stretched by our circumstances.

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Oswald Chambers puts it well in the May 14 devotional, “My Utmost for His Highest”, ‘The only thing that will enable me to enjoy the disagreeable is the keen enthusiasm of letting the life of the Son of God manifest itself in me….If God puts you there, He is amply sufficient.”

10363953_10202873935142250_6242588642847180332_nWhen I think I’m being pressed beyond what I can do, I remember 2 Cor. 12:9, “’My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’  Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.

 

Warm Wednesday Words: Wilderness Manna

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As a believer in Christ for many years, I have covered a wide range of life’s “terrains”, including lush pastures, gentle streams, raging waters, wilderness and desert.  During some seasons I walked a fairly easy trail, other than typical ups and downs.  God lets the young see His splendor, even more than the seasoned ones.  As newlyweds, my husband and I saw it often, especially in the young marrieds class we were heavily involved in at church.  So many stories of “God in Action” with exciting outcomes for both our friends and for us as a couple, as we birthed six beautiful, healthy babies over the years and added an adopted child, too.  A house full of kids and a little farm with extended family nearby had to be somewhat like heaven on earth.  There were also a few times I may have subconsciously stolen a little of God’s glory, too.  It’s so easy to do that when everything is fairly simple, going well and seemingly in my control.  As Oswald says in the May 7 devotional, “Is God going to detect in His searching fire that we have built on the foundation of Jesus some enterprise of our own?”

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kids and the floodcandace's wedding

I wasn’t alone in the   young Christian trap of taking notice of the scriptures that seemed to fit into the “God is about me or what I can do for Him” paradigm.  In her book “Extravagant Grace”, Barbara Duguid says “the baby Christian gravitates toward those Scriptures that tell him what to do, and there are many…the baby Christian is experienced primarily in the realm of feelings…his faith is weak, but his heart is warm.  He tends to mistake the nature of these gifts from God and think they are his…that he will always have them.  He believes he is right and strong because he has them, and he is prone to feeling superior to believers that don’t…He thinks that there is nothing left now but to walk through life with the victorious hand of God on his side, and then to enter heaven forever.  He doesn’t yet know that, like Israel, there is a huge desert to cross before entering the Promised Land.  The desert he has yet to see and grapple with properly is the wilderness of his own sinful heart.”  At the parting of the Red Sea, and the subsequent praise dance, the Israelites could not have seen the 40 year trek in the desert just ahead, where many of them died off before entering the Promised Land.

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Maturity in Christ, for me, has meant some desert or wilderness times, in which I am stretched beyond what I ever dreamed.  In order to get a drink of the Living Water in these seasons, it is critical that I deepen my roots even more into Christ, my Savior, sometimes for even the next thought and breath.  “My” thinking and “good works” is something to despise more than to purport.  Difficult “terrain” requires much time in the Word, in worship, in prayer, in meditation and in seeking good Christian counsel, which God is faithful to supply.  It is also an important season to be consistent in a journal in order to remember His answers, see the desert or wilderness experience from His perspective and to record this and any particularly encouraging words offered by friends and acquaintances along with scripture promises to stand on in faith.  God’s perspective on my experiences often doesn’t look anything like how others may see it; nor how I see theirs.  That’s because, unless we are interceding and seeking God’s perspective for others,  it’s not our business.

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The unbeliever may or may not experience overwhelming hardships in life.  The rain falls on the just and the unjust.  (Matt. 5:45) As believers, however, we can count on them, but by our loving God and for glorious purposes.

If I can only hang onto the “invisible” perspective of God during stretching experiences, then I can walk above heartbreaks and disappointments while in the wilderness, and so can you.  In Him I live and move and have my being.  My clay feet sometimes step down into the waves of the storm, or get tired in the wilderness and my vision can get obscured there; however this is usually not an issue of backsliding, but a need for encouragement.  We question Peter’s faith (as Christ, rightfully did) when he struggled, but Peter was the only one who even tried to walk on the waves!

Peter on water

Duguid again offers that, “the greatest heroes of Scripture are deeply flawed throughout their lives.”  And speaking of her women’s Bible study ministry she says, “It is a common occurrence to have someone confess their struggle and weakness in a certain area, only to be rebuked and censured by a younger sister in Christ, who eagerly shares the three easy ways they can overcome the problem….Simplistic answers to complex problems can be discouraging to weary strugglers….We should, therefore, practice great caution in evaluating the spiritual maturity of people around us.”  questions by google

I’ve been guilty of judging (at least silently) with my idea of God’s standards, rather then just watching for fruit, praying, encouraging and leaving the rest to God no matter how different the progress may be in someone else.  Anyone honest would have to admit this also, at some time or another.   After all, it’s too easy to default and compare to each other, but it’s a tendency to kick out, not adopt.   God will carry His work to completion in each of us in His time and through whatever means He chooses, and in the end, there will be fruit in those who are His.  I hope to be an encourager to those along the path near me, especially those who are going through a trial of some sort, and I am blessed more than I can say by those He uses to give me manna in my wilderness journeys.

say what is helpfulWhat kind of terrain are you on right now in your life?  It will likely not be the same in a few years.  Have you found encouragement if your path is rough?  Have you purposed to encourage someone else?  If you’re in “lush pastures” right now, write down all that God has favored you with and remember it for dryer seasons.  No matter the terrain, the “God actions” are there, even if the wilderness obscures your view of them.

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