Be Ready…

Life is moving fast. Barely time to anticipate an event or occasion and it’s done and the next one is coming.

We just went on vacation – Smoky Mountain cool and nights of good sleep. But here we are along with the rest of the world in the thick of crazy lives again. And, do you sense this is how the rest of our days will be? As in hectic, chaotic, unrested?

Words are running through my mind trying to put into perspective the times we’re living in: expectation, awaken, revive, change, be ready. “Honor Christ and let him be the Lord of your life. Always be ready to give an answer when someone asks you about your hope.” (1Peter 3:15 CEV)

On our trip I found something sacred and special that is universal: the body of believers, those devoted to Jesus, are the same no matter where we roam. The same hope, the same faith, the same peace, most of all the same love. We happened on to a very small church and were a little nervous to go in.

Welcome, we were welcome. The music was wonderful, the message right on. God moves in the heart of His people wherever they are. When worship is heartfelt and the message shared are His words, longing souls are bound together by the Holy Spirit.

“Faith in Christ Jesus is what makes each of you equal with each other, whether you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a man or a woman.” (Galatians 3:28 CEV)

So what I see and feel most right now is a call from God to be ready. Look around, don’t waste time. Days are spinning by fast and someday the end of them will come. What are we doing to reach those we love? Those God loves?

This faith of ours can’t be a selfish faith. We are not called to find Jesus and then hide hoping everyone else will figure it out. We’re called and then filled with His Spirit. Filled so that we can share the freedom with have in Christ. “All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But God treats us much better than we deserve, and because of Christ Jesus, He freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins.” (Romans 3:23-24 CEV)

We can no longer live like there will always be tomorrow. Only God knows the number of each of our days. “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Luke 12:40 ESV) This crazy world needs the hope we have. For this hope – of everlasting, never ending days full of good things – is precious and is for all who will call on the Name: Jesus Christ.

 

 

Thirsty…

Ever wake up in the middle of the night and just need a sip of water? Our thirst mechanism is built in because water is vital for life. Keep hydrated and life goes on. No source of water, life can end pretty quick.

I’ve only experienced dehydration once – I was out on a warm day, walking a long distance, and forgetting to drink water. Suddenly I was weak and felt like I needed to sit, right where I was (embarrassing). Within minutes of getting several ounces of water in me, I could feel relief flood my body.

Not all thirst is physical. We can feel just as drained mentally, emotionally, and in our soul. “O, God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, my body longs for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1 NIV)

America is thirsty right now. Souls have wandered so far away that we’re lost and about to expire. But God is on the move and great numbers are finding Living Water.

Revival – I used to always think it was a hokey kind of word. But the very meaning of the word is this: improvement in the condition or strength of something; an instance of something becoming popular, active, or important again. When God is important, a nation thrives. When He is ignored, chaos ensues. We’re at a crossroads: choose to turn to God or continue to forget Him.

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” (Psalm 33:12 NKJV)

Not only America, but the whole world is parched and finding nothing to quench its thirst. Yet we’re living in amazing times and those who know Jesus have the chance to help others to the well that satisfies. “The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” (John 7:38 CSB)

What great news is found in the pages of the Bible. “‘I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. ‘No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again.'” (John 6:35 HCSB)

Yes, here on earth, water will always be necessary. But for a worn-out soul there is drink that satisfies forever. “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst…For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘He will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.'”  (Revelation 7:16a-17 NIV) Thirsty? Let God’s Holy Spirit fill you to overflowing.

 

 

 

Your Life…

We spend a lot of time thinking about tomorrow. It starts young “When I grow up…”. We always think we have tomorrow, until we don’t.

I spend a lot of time these days with an under four age group. The youngest, learning to walk, doesn’t know what tomorrow is. The middle one, almost two, just knows it’s a new day. The almost four always wants tomorrow to be the next play day at grammy’s. From little hearts and smiles and wide eyes I’ve learned a big lesson: don’t live in tomorrow. Live today, moment by moment, for we will never have this moment again.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:34 NLT)

A pastor that I greatly admire and learned so much from, has always said “Lord willing” when talking anything future tense. So, I’ve tried to remember to preface life that way as well.

It’s wisdom from James 4:15 “What you should say is this: “If the Lord is willing, we will live and do this or that.” (NLT) What happens is we get so wrapped up in trying to secure our future, we miss all the wonder of today. As we age, we begin to realize, since there’s not as many tomorrows, maybe we better enjoy now.

There’s much I want to impart to those I love. Mostly Jesus stuff. What I want them to realize is: “They are not just idle words for you– they are your life.” (Deuteronomy 32:47a NIV) When these words were spoken, a momentous event was about to happen – after much loss and lostness, Moses was telling the people what life really is. He was speaking God’s instructions to them.

God’s Words are life. They are not idle, dead, past tense. How often do we say: ‘If I just had a set of instructions for child-rearing, or navigating the hard times, or how to have peace’? We do! An amazing book that is not ancient, it is alive. Each reading bringing new insight.

How foolish we are, wrapped up in our own self-sufficiency. When that doesn’t work, we might crack open the Bible or pray. Why is that a last resort? Maybe it should be a new each morning habit – then perhaps all that today holds and our cares about tomorrow might just find their answers. Your life is precious to your Creator, He’s given you instructions, and He eagerly awaits you in each moment.

Consider…

Rest and unrest are sort of coexisting in our lives these days. In some ways, many are having to do life a bit simpler. Less ‘going out’, more staying in the place we’re blessed with. May not be much for some and may be a mansion for others. But it’s space to call one’s own. And beauty is found in simpler ways. 

I used to think about where we could go, what we could do. Now I think more about how quickly time flies by, how brief all these moments are.

Yet unrest about unknown is at our side as well. Then I consider all that God has done, is doing, will do. It’s phenomenal – and that’s an understatement. He spoke life and it came to be – every molecule of every thing. What mind can think up things too small to see but are so complex the smartest of scientists can’t define them? And then I think – worry? Why?  “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” (Luke 12:27 NLT)

At a time of much change, long ago in the nation of Israel, their spiritual leader, Samuel, gave a farewell speech. His wise words are timeless, we need to listen and take them to heart: “But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things He has done for you.” (1Samuel 12:24 NIV)

Consider the great things He has done – God is bigger than all the what ifs. Every what if is already known and taken care of perfectly.

So instead of wondering what will be, time to consider what is. We still have life and breath. A few things may be missing – or even a few loved ones may have passed on. Yet God is still in control and is working for our good because of His great love.

That’s what Jesus came to remind us of. Many saw Him as a threat or a lunatic. But those with hearts to see, heard the Savior’s call. And lives were changed forever – literally. Eternity is His gift and one we can cling to. “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:3 NIV)

Don’t lose heart now – let His joy over you lift your weariness. Consider Jesus things, all is well with our soul.

Passing Through…

Ever get wrapped up in all the mess? Angry or despairing? Heartbroken or lost? Too easy these days. The constant of fear, worry, the unknown – words and actions of others that seem out of control. How do we navigate?

When all I want to do is shake the wrong out of the perpetrators – I am reminded: this is a journey. Never, ever did Jesus say the journey would be easy. In fact, in 66 books of history not one easy journey is recorded. And ever since the last words penned in Revelation, we’d be hard-pressed to find any.

Even though I know this, I still often feel the anxiety rising. When I was 25 and the gift of faith and salvation became mine, the first passage I found in the Bible was this: “Rejoice in the Lord always…Do not be anxious about anything…” (Philippians 4:4a-6a NIV)

 

I was amazed. I was certain that verse was written just for me. Don’t worry? That was my specialty. How about you? With riots and covid and elections and your own circumstances are you worrying?

The next part is our answer: “instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.” (Philippians 4:6b NLT) Three things stand out so far – rejoice and pray and be thankful. Rejoicing about His promises and praising Him tends to put worry on the back burner. Let alone the thanking and praying part. Combine the three and the journey becomes bearable.

We’re hoping to take a vacation soon – stay in a mountain place that’s quiet and cool and far from chaos. We’ll take hikes and sit on the porch long. We’ll eat at a local place or two and talk to strangers. We’ll be passing through.

That’s life here – for everyone. For believers in Jesus and unbelievers. One thing we all have in common: a limited time on earth.

The next thing I read when I discovered God’s words to me: “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 NLT) Living in Christ Jesus – the way to journey in peace. My prayer? As we are passing through, let our steps speak of Jesus and lead others well.

Turbulence…

I haven’t been on an airplane in a while – but the last time there was a bit of turbulence. It’s pretty much a helpless feeling. Either worry or keep reading your book.

Kind of like these days. Only the turbulence seems to happen daily. Check the latest news – kind of rocky out there. Find out a friend has a bad diagnosis – can’t get it off our minds. Let thoughts of what will happen next week or in a couple of months or whenever – now we’re holding on tight.

But God knows us from before our first breath and all our days: “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (Psalm 139:16 NLT)

These unsettling times, they’re nothing new. From mankind’s beginning, life has been pretty crazy one way or another. There have been wars, plagues, deaths, financial ruin, family fall-outs, health issues, mental health issues, earthquakes, tornadoes – always. I think what we’re seeing now is a condensed version.

Instead of scrolling through the history of centuries and seeing one dilemma or another, we’re seeing a piling on of just about every scenario imaginable. It’s like time is spiraling towards some end. It is.

“The end of all things is near. Therefore, be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” (1Peter 4:7 NIV)

But many are missing it. Many are under a great delusion. Thinking if they can get the right person in office to take care of their issues, then everything will be ok. Thinking if they had enough money, all their problems would be solved. Looking everywhere but where real Help comes from.

For those of us who know Jesus, things will still feel a bit turbulent – butterfly stomachs now and then. The difference is, we trust in the One who is in control. Whether things continue to move on like this for another hundred years or only a hundred days, we rest in the knowledge that the end of the story is already told.

And it’s quite an ending – because it is a beginning. The beginning of no more of life’s turbulence and a calm that comes from the presence of Jesus and an eternity void of sin. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:4 NIV)

The Best Way…

One thing I’m missing: smiles. I can’t see them – masks only reveal eyes. So I’m trying to see those, but I’ve noticed this: people are looking down a lot these days.

I’ve wondered about the missing smiles and the downcast eyes. Wondering how this is affecting not only us who are all grown-up, but what do the children see, feel? Children are the best readers of character, now their ability to ‘see’ someone has been covered up. That’s a bit scary. I’m not advocating mask/no mask – what I am advocating is humanity. We need to see each other. It’s how we know how each other feels. How can I stop and pray for someone whose hurting if I can’t tell if there’s a smile or a grimace hidden there?

Definition of humanity:  compassionate, sympathetic, or generous behavior or disposition. This new normal has definitely put a damper on those qualities. Yet, God, who never changes is all those things and He still sees us and knows how burdened this pandemic makes us feel. “The LORD is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made.” (Psalm 145:9 NIV)

My grandson asked recently why the nature center he likes to visit is always closed. It’s hard to explain in three year old language. It’s hard to explain in any vernacular. The simplest way may be the hardest – man’s sinful hearts over the centuries have brought about disease and illness, and we are experiencing the outcome.

This is what I know: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8 NIV)  For that reason, hope is ours. The hope? This is not all there is, there is a someday with no more sickness. Christ’s unchanging nature guarantees that in His presence we will never need a mask again.

In the meantime, I’m gonna try and see those eyes peering back at me. Try to look for the light of Jesus in them. And if I can’t perceive it, I’m gonna pray they will receive it.

It’s always been the best way – that’s why praying without ceasing isn’t a command, it’s a lifestyle. Here’s a favorite passage of Scripture, three precise ways to be in God’s will and live unmasked in our actions: “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT)

 

This Changes Everything…

I was wondering recently: how will we recognize people in eternity? Here’s the reason for my ponder  – a picture flashed through my mind of when I first see the face of Jesus. I could see Him look me in the eye and lightly brush my cheek, right where my newly acquired scar is. I knew in that instant flash of thought, that scar will be no more.

Someday we will not have all the wear and tear this earthly life has caused. And not just the outward wear and tear. The scars on our souls will also be no more. Who wouldn’t want this hope?

“This hope does not disappoint us, for God has poured out His love into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit, who is God’s gift to us.” (Romans 5:5 GNT)

Today I listened to a great illustration of the journey we make here on earth. We go day in day out usually looking to our own strength. But life has a way of showing us, now and then, that we don’t have what it takes to do this all on our own. In those times we tend to lift up our eyes and call for help. “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2 NIV)

The Helper has been there all along, we just don’t ask. In the moment we do, He puts His arm around us and helps us limp along, showing us that He is the strength our weariness needs. Not more money, not more stuff, not more of anything that doesn’t last.

Here’s what we all need to grasp – the moment we accept Jesus, eternity begins. “You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God.” (Colossians 3:1 GNT) Notice the past tense: “raised”. Raised to life, eternal life. Trekking through our world here will still have it’s harsh realities. Hard things are not just for our refining, but to give us much hope to offer to others.

The kingdom, as spoken about by Jesus, isn’t a place. It’s His followers.  We are the pearl He gave everything for. And those who have gone before us will look different not just because we won’t be worn and torn, but because our spirit and soul, now united in eternal love, will shine in ways we couldn’t perceive here, but won’t be able to miss there.

This changes everything –  He indeed has made all things new. You, me – no mistaking Whose we are – and that’s our true identity.

Comparison…

Things aren’t always what they seem. Today south Florida is holding a collective breath wondering what the hurricane passing by tonight will be like. But to look out the window right now – sunshine, breeze – you’d never know heavy rain and big wind gusts will keep us shut in tight tonight.

It’s the same with people. We seem to value appearances so highly. Whether it’s physical appearance or ability (think models and sports figures) or fame, money, power (think celebrities, millionaires, politicians). But this is what God told Samuel a very long time ago, still true today: “People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1Samuel 16:7b NIV)

Funny how children seem to intuitively know people’s hearts and don’t give a rip about their looks. I have grandchildren who don’t know that wrinkles aren’t attractive, they just think I’m fun and love to cuddle up in my lap or bury their head in my shoulder. It’s as old as time, but I wonder, why we do get so wrapped up in what is seen?

Pretty much stems from what all the shortcomings of our world can be attributed to: we are selfish by nature. We compare ourselves and feel like we deserve more. When worth is about what we have, about where we live or who we know, about anything in this world – we will always feel short-changed.

But when worth is found in our Creator, then we discover we have all we need and more. “Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy.” (1Timothy 6:17 CSB)

There is freedom in getting our focus off of comparison, off of self. We spend so much time pressuring ourselves to be a version of what advertising says we should be, of what equates “success” – no wonder stress is a universal mental and physical health detriment.

When we release worldly standards and pursue Jesus standards, He’ll always be enough for us, He’ll always make us enough for where we are. And we’ll know, without doubt, that there is so much more to live for than all the riches of this world.

 

 

 

Last Chance…

If today was you’re last one, would you do anything different? Would you surrender your heart to Jesus? Would you surrender your way to His? What would you do or not do?

We’ve heard this before. Boils down to living like the next minute isn’t guaranteed. That’s a tall order for us.

We get sidetracked so easily. We read things – or live things – that anger us and want to take matters into our own hands. We have it easy and forget our need for our Savior. We get all wrapped up in ourselves and forget we are wrapped in arms that hold us close. So maybe the question isn’t what would we do, but what can we do?

Joshua summed it up pretty well a few thousand years ago: “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD!” (Joshua 24:15b BSB) That’s what we can do. It’s a moment by moment, day in day out, month by month thing – adding up to a lifetime.

It is, always has been: a choice. Joshua started by exhorting his listeners to ‘choose’. Choose whom you will serve – self or God? Simple – not easy, but simple.

Joshua had seen God’s faithfulness – Red Sea parted, enemies defeated, numerous miracles. Seeing is believing. If you belong to Jesus, then truth is it won’t take much for you to recount these same amazing miracles in your life. If you don’t know Christ, perhaps it’s time to let the blinders fall from you eyes and see how faithful He is.

Only one book has survived millennia unchanged. Only One who walked the earth still causes so much controversy. And only One is the truth – all other gods (things we live for, long for, fight for) are temporary.

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” (Deuteronomy 30:19 NLT)

In this crazy time of riots, Covid, hate, politics, families divided – and all the other hurts and hurdles of our day, we need an anchor. To hold us steady, to keep us from drifting to never. There is a forever where no more tears exist. And there is a never – where eternity is spent never knowing the peace only God has secured. Someday our last chance will come. Time to choose.

 

 

 

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