Susan Jane King

Thriving with Jesus in life's ongoing challenges

Living in a Broken World

This picture showed up as a Time Hop photo on Facebook recently. When I saw it, I felt joyous and sad at the same time. Joyous to be blessed with such wonderful friends, and sad to be missing the two friends in the back row with me, who went home to be with Jesus in May and July of 2017.

Phyllis (back center) and Suzanne (back right) were sisters by birth and sisters in the Lord. I know they’re with Jesus, and I rejoice with them in that. But I still miss them. Looking at this picture helps remind me that every day of life here on earth is a gift, and we should treasure our moments here with the people we love.

But this is not our permanent home. We live in a broken, sin-sick world that will never be perfect. This world includes death, disease, violence, poverty, and pain. We can’t expect it to be perfect because it isn’t our final destination. Our eternal home is with the Lord, who one day will return and create a new heaven and a new earth, and as far as His people are concerned, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4, NASB). We can count on that because the Lord has promised it, and He keeps His promises.

We are a people who can grieve with hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13)—elpis, a confident expectation; that’s what hope means in the Bible. In whom or what is our hope? “Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus . . . We can tell you with complete confidence—we have the Master’s word on it” (1 Thessalonians 4:14-15, Msg).

Death doesn’t have the final say. Jesus does. On the cross, He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30, NASB), referring to His work to pay the penalty for and save us from our sins. Death no longer has a hold on us. We will rise from the dead as He did and spend eternity in heaven with Him. He will give us new bodies that will never die: “But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57, NASB).

So in the midst of this broken world, where we live in bodies that will fail us one day, how then do we live?

We live as a people who realize this is not our final destination. We live as individuals whose “citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20, NASB). If we belong in heaven, then we live as folks who are heaven-minded, concerning ourselves with things that matter to the Lord, taking our directions from Him, because our allegiance is to Him. We’re instructed to “set your minds on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2, NASB). In other words, we walk confidently through this broken world with Jesus, for Jesus, and because of Jesus.

With Jesus

The older I get, the more I realize how much I need Jesus—every moment of every day. Life is way too complicated for me to figure out. I just want to walk with Jesus. His presence gives me the strength, joy, and peace I need to keep moving forward. He promises us, “‘I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:20, NASB), and “‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5, NASB). Our lives are hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). We’re inseparable, always together, and never alone; intimacy with Jesus is the treasure we discover on our life’s journey.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:1-2, NASB). He promises His presence will go with His people, and He will give them rest (Exodus 33:14). Along the way, we discover and declare, “You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11, NASB).

For Jesus

Another decision we can make is to walk through this broken world for Jesus, living for Him, making Him known, and seeking to cooperate with Him in fulfilling those purposes for which He created us. The scriptures tell us that each one of us is the Lord’s workmanship, specifically crafted by Him for good works that He wants us to do (Ephesians 2:10). In other words, each of us was created by Him for specific divine purposes—things He wants to accomplish for His kingdom through our lives, through the way He made each of us.

That’s why we are encouraged to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10, NASB). Jesus modeled this attitude for us when He said, “I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me’” (John 5:30, NASB).

Two wonderful verses that emphasize this idea are: Galatians 2:20, NASB, which says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me,” and 2 Corinthians 5:15, which adds, “and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”

Because of Jesus

We also can walk through this broken world because of Jesus. He gives us the power to do it. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). He has given us a spirit of power, love, and discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). “We overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37, NASB).

Jesus won the battle with sin and death. The same power that raised Him from the dead is available to every one of us who believes in Him (Ephesians 1:19-20). Jesus “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20, NASB).

Jesus has been given all authority (Ephesians 1:21-22), and we are seated with Him in that place of authority (Ephesians 1:20, 2:6). We have been given a position of victory; we just need to stand firm and hold our position in Christ (Ephesians 6:10-11). The battle has already been won. Jesus empowers us to live in His victory.

When we live in this broken world with Jesus, for Jesus, and because of Jesus, something incredible happens. We do things that matter. We live for what lasts. We “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33, NASB), and we store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20), the place of our eternal home.

I know my friends Phyllis and Suzanne have passed from death into life (John 5:24). They have entered into the joy of their Master (Matthew 25:21, 23), and their faith has become sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). May we live as Jesus’ faithful servants until we experience the same.

Question:  How would you like to experience more of the presence, purpose, or power of Jesus in your life? Comment at the link below.

 

Revelation 21:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15; John 19:30; 1 Corinthians 15:54-57; Philippians 3:20; Colossians 3:2-3; Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5; Psalm 46:1-2; Exodus 33:14; Psalm 16:11; Ephesians 2:10; Matthew 6:10; John 5:30; Galatians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 5:15; Philippians 4:13; 2 Timothy 1:7; Romans 8:37; Ephesians 1:19-22; 3:20; 2:6; 6:10-11; Matthew 6:33, 20; 25:21, 23; John 5:24; 2 Corinthians 5:7

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When Cancer Strikes

Doug and his family at his recent birthday celebration

My husband’s brother Doug has a brain tumor. He had surgery right before Christmas to remove half of the softball-sized mass, which doctors are calling stage 4 glioblastoma. He began radiation and chemotherapy treatments this week. Doug is 59 years old. He has a lovely wife Betty and three precious daughters, Stacey, Stephanie, and Sally. He’s a brilliant engineer who works on aerospace technologies. And he has cancer.

It’s amazing how life slows down when you hear words like “cancer”. We walked around in a numbed state for days after we learned the diagnosis. Sometimes, life just doesn’t make sense. In an instant, you move beyond the ordinary routines of daily living, and you find yourself engulfed by the mysterious, unpredictable elements of life this side of heaven.

Although we are in the early stages of this journey, the Lord has taught me a great deal already.

We don’t have to figure it out

At times like these, I’m so glad there is Someone wiser, stronger, and more capable than me in charge of the universe. I don’t have to figure everything out because the Lord already has the world in His loving and competent hands.

I’m choosing not to focus on the “Why” of this season; instead, I’m trying to look at the “Who”—the Lord who is over it all. We have a sweet history together, and He is the same God during this season (and after it) as He was before it. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8  ) The Lord is faithful, loving, compassionate, and gracious, and He is able to do exceedingly and abundantly beyond anything we can ask or think (Lamentations 3:21-24 ; Ephesians 3:20).

Once, when I was much younger, I went to talk with my mom about something that was really bothering me. It was as if I went to her and handed her that broken part of my life, asking her to fix it. A strange thing happened during that conversation. I found my focus moving off the problem and onto her. I felt better just being with her. The problem didn’t hold me in that vice grip of panic any longer because I was with someone who loved me deeply. I was safe.

The Lord is teaching me to do the same with Him. He’s the strong tower I can run to and be safe (Proverbs 18:10). “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1, NASB). My problems dim in the light of His presence. He’s the greater reality over every crisis, fear, discouragement, and uncertainty. He is God. I don’t have to figure everything out. I can choose to just rest in Him. I can let God be God.

We can fight the good fight of faith

The scriptures refer to faith as a fight (1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7). It’s not a casual undertaking. Faith is forged in the crucible of life where we decide if we are going to believe God—who He is and what He says about Himself and us. We can choose to dig our heels into our position in Christ and the victory He has won for us (Ephesians 6:13; Romans 8:37). We can wield the sword of His Word against the enemy’s lies and tactics (Ephesians 6:17). We can learn from the Holy Spirit how to fight the enemy in the battles of life (Judges 3:1-2). It can be exhausting at times, but our faith grows in the process. In the end, the Lord can even use those faith-building experiences of ours to bless others (Luke 22:32).

We can choose to praise God

Why choose to praise God in the midst of difficulty? We don’t praise Him for the difficulty. We praise Him for who He is in the midst of it, and for His ability to work out His plans for our good and His glory. Personally, I’ve found that praising God gives me a better perspective; it helps me refocus on the Lord and the fact that He always has a plan. I can’t always see His plan, but He does. He accomplishes His plans, and the scriptures tell us His plans are good, acceptable, and perfect (Romans 12:2).  He is always at His work, and we can praise Him for that (John 5:17). He promises He “causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, NASB). We may not know what that particular “good” is, but He does. We can praise Him for being able to do that.

This past Christmas, a friend of mine gave me a bracelet that says “HOPE”. I’m wearing it a lot these days. The biblical definition of hope is a confident expectation. In other words, in the midst of it all, we put our confident expectation in the Lord, that He has everything under control, that He takes care of us and those we love, that He has a plan. Job, who encountered a great deal of suffering in his life, said, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him” (Job 13:15, NASB). Our Lord is the God of hope (Romans 15:13). We can praise Him for that.

We are in the early part of our journey with Doug’s cancer. We sure would appreciate your prayers for him and his family. We don’t know where this road will take us, but we know Who is walking alongside us. He continues to set our hearts on fire as we walk and talk with Him (Luke 24:32). I’m discovering as we walk this road together that He is not just part of our lives. He is our life, and He makes the journey so beautiful because He is there.

Question: What journey are you walking with the Lord, and how can we pray for you? Comment at the link below.

 

Hebrews 13:8; Lamentations 3:21-24 ; Ephesians 3:20; Proverbs 18:10; Psalm 46:1; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7; Ephesians 6:13; Romans 8:37; Ephesians 6:17; Judges 3:1-2; Luke 22:32; Romans 12:2; John 5:17; Romans 8:28; Job 13:15; Romans 15:13; Luke 24:32

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God’s Perfect Design

Our family dog Grace

Our family loves dogs. Between all of us, we have 4 distinctly different canines in our family. We got to enjoy all of them this past Christmas season as our children came to visit. David and I own a very mellow, 8-year-old golden retriever named Grace.  Extremely gentle and sweet, she also stays close and remains acutely sensitive to everyone’s mood. She’ll nestle her head in your lap as you watch a movie, or she’ll bound around the kitchen when you walk into the house and express your excitement in seeing her. Our daughter Katie, son-in-law Curt, and grandson Landon own a boxer-shepherd mix named Lexie. Their dog is extremely loyal and devoted, following her family wherever they go, and expressing concern whenever her “little boy” seems upset. Our daughter Sarah and her husband Ben each brought a dog into their new marriage. Sarah’s Henry, a Vizsla hound, possesses boundless energy and excitement. My husband once played fetch with Henry for 8 hours straight during a Saturday get-together. Then there’s Ace, a pitbull mix. He is such a protector, patrolling the yard, and making certain everyone remains safe. All four dogs are extremely affectionate and love their family.

As I observed these precious pooches and their unique personalities over the holidays, I thought about how God shapes and crafts each of us with specific personality traits . . . and how we should embrace, celebrate, and move forward in how He made us.

Lexie watching over Landon during a recent car trip

God made us specifically and individually

Ephesians 2:10 says we are the Lord’s workmanship, the word poiema in the Greek. It means a product, a fabric, a work, of the works of God as Creator, or as one of my pastors likes to say, God’s masterpiece. In other words, the Creator of the universe fashioned and shaped each of us, including our personality traits, like a fine tapestry that is woven together from many different threads and results in a one-of-a-kind, beautiful work of art. The God of the universe created you, and He knows what He is doing. No one else on this entire planet is exactly like you. God authored your life, and He looked at you and said His creation was “very good” (Genesis 1:31, NASB).

Just as Lexie is loyal and Grace is sensitive to others, and just as Ace protects and Henry spreads joy, each of us possesses valuable personality traits wired into us by God. Many of us waste a great deal of time wanting to be different than how God designed us. I know I have done that. I’m sure it grieves the heart of God because He put a great deal of love, design, purpose, and power into who He made each of us to be. He tells us we are, “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14, NASB).

Ace and Henry

God made us with a divine purpose in mind

The Lord wants to use the way He made each of us to achieve His own special purposes. The remainder of Ephesians 2:10, NASB, says we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” In other words, the Lord wants to use what He designed into us for His kingdom purposes . . . to draw others to Himself.

I can see the Lord’s fierce protection in Ace, His compassion in Grace, His faithfulness in Lexie, and His joy in Henry.  On a much grander scale, the Lord wants others to see aspects of His Son Jesus in our lives:  “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27, NASB). That word glory is doxa in the original Greek form, and it means to manifest [display], give an estimation of; hence [resulting in] praise, honor, and glory. God designed you and placed you in this world not only so that you would know Him but also so that your unique personality and personal traits could be used to reflect the character, nature, and ways of His Son to people who desperately need Him. What a beautiful calling and purpose!

My husband is a lot more like Henry and Ace. He is a fierce protector of others who are vulnerable. He can lead a group forward in safety like a pitbull on patrol. He also possesses an energetic, strong personality and a great sense of humor, so he can engage well with others in different social settings. I relate more to Lexie and Grace. I’m more of an introvert. I hang back and observe others and settle in next to someone who might need a little encouragement or support. I key into other people’s feelings very easily and can relate to their strong emotions. Both David and I relate differently to others because of how God made us, and I’m certain the Lord made us this way to help different people in different ways . . . or maybe the same people in different ways.

God doesn’t make junk

Psalm 139:14, NASB, adds, “Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.”  Isaiah 64:8, NASB, says, “But now, O Lord, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand.” Our Lord knows what He is doing. He is the Master Designer. We don’t need to question His work or the purpose of His designs in each of us  (Isaiah 29:16; 45:9).

We can choose to accept and celebrate how God made us—those traits He placed in us that mirror His own. At the same time, we can go to Him about our struggles and character flaws too, and we can allow Him to reshape and mold us into a clearer image of His Son Jesus. “But 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 from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NASB).

Our family dogs don’t try to be anything other than who they are. Their unique personalities shine every time we get together. They constantly remind me of our Masterful Creator. As we stand on the cusp of a new year, may each of us move forward as the individuals God designed us to be, and may His unique designs bring others closer to His Son.

Question: How has the Lord used the personal traits of others to teach you more about Jesus? Comment at the link below.

 

Ephesians 2:10; Genesis 1:31; Psalm 139:14; Colossians 1:27; Isaiah 64:8; 29:16; 45:9; 2 Corinthians 3:18

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Letting Our Light Shine

The lights on our tree, shining for all to see

We got a new artificial Christmas tree this year. We retired the old one because it had several broken branches and a splintered stand that left it looking wobbly and forlorn. Once the new tree arrived, I spent hours unfolding and separating each branch. Then, I began the intricate process of attaching stringed lights to each of those branches. Finally, I plugged the lights into the wall outlet and stood by the tree, enjoying the warm glow of the abundant white lights.

I decided to take a break at that point and to come back later to hang the ornaments. I walked back into the living room several hours later and stopped in my tracks. The tree was completely dark, not a single light twinkled on its branches. Ugh, I thought. What happened?

I went to the basement to check the fuse box, and all the switches were in the right position. I came back upstairs and sat on the couch, pondering my dilemma. Then, I remembered that the lights came with some extra little packets of replacement bulbs and fuses. I wonder if I have a blown fuse on the light string, I thought. I realized the blown fuse would have to be in the first strand of lights since they were all out. I found a tiny screwdriver and opened the fuse compartment, and there it was—a blackened light fuse. Once I replaced it, my tree lights were shining once again.

Jesus said, “‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life’”, John 8:12, NASB. When we invite Jesus into our hearts, His light takes up permanent residence in us. We belong to Him, and no one can snatch us out of His hand (John 10:29). His light and His power are always available to us, just like the current flowing into the lights on my Christmas tree. He tells us, “‘You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven’” (Matthew 5:14-16, NASB).

We always have Jesus with us, but sometimes, we short-circuit our relationship with Him. When that happens, we and others miss out on experiencing the radiance of His presence moving in and through our lives (Hebrews 1:3). His light and power are blocked from being fully manifested in us. What can we do to make certain our connection with Jesus stays open?

Love

We can cultivate our love relationship with Jesus. When you love someone, you spend time with them, talking and enjoying their presence. We can do that with our beloved Bridegroom Jesus (John 3:29). We can spend time in prayer, listening to and talking with Him. We can talk with Him throughout the day and look for the manifestations of His love toward us. We can read and meditate on the gospels and become more familiar with His words, character, and actions. We can thank and praise Him for His great love for us: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13, NASB). We can shout and celebrate in our hearts that “My Beloved is mine, and I am His” (Song of Solomon 2:16, NASB).

Faith

When fear and discouragement come our way, we can choose to believe what our Lord says. We can decide to trust in, fully rely upon, and cling to Jesus. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see . . . And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:1, 6 NIV).

Our connection to Jesus stays open and strong when we store up His Word in our hearts and draw on it in times of trouble. Job, who endured a world of troubles, was inspired to say, “I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12). We are told that when Mary received a word from the Lord, “Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19, NASB).

We, too, can store up God’s Word in our hearts and ponder over it, and then, we can put our faith in what the Lord has said in our difficult times. We are promised if we actively store up God’s Word, that “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26, NASB). In other words, He will remind us of the Word we need when we need it. What a beautiful way to keep God’s power and presence flowing in our lives! The Lord’s light spreads when we do that, and He wants us to “appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life” (Philippians 2:15, NASB).

Obedience

The Holy Spirit works continuously to keep our connection to Jesus strong and open. That’s why we are warned not to grieve or quench Him (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19). Again, we decide if we are going to do what He says. But we are promised that when we walk by the Spirit, we “will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16, NASB). Jesus said, “‘If you love Me, you will keep My commandments’” (John 14:15, NASB). In other words, our obedience comes out of a love relationship with Jesus.

When we disobey, a separation occurs between us and God (Isaiah 59:2), and when we obey, we maintain a strong connection with Him. Obeying God shows that we love and trust Him, and the Lord can move and work through a heart like that (2 Chronicles 16:9). In addition, each time we choose to trust the Lord and do what He says, His blessings can flow freely and unhindered into our lives.

Again, God’s Word serves as a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105). It lights the way for how we are to live. It sets the standards for obedience, so we need to know what it says. God’s standards are meant to bless us and to keep us out of trouble (Deuteronomy 10:13). We need to be storing up God’s Word in our hearts. We have to know what it says before we can choose to do what it says. Psalm 119:11, NASB, says, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.”

God has done His part by sending Jesus as the Savior of the world. He has supplied an unending current of love and power through Him. Our responsibility is to keep the connection open, so the love, power, and presence of Jesus can radiate through our lives. May you and those you love bask in the warm glow of His light this Christmas season—and always!

Question: What steps are you inspired to take in order to maintain an open connection with Jesus? Comment at the link below.

 

John 8:12; 10:29; Matthew 5:14-16; Hebrews 1:3; John 3:29; 15:13; Song of Solomon 2:16; Hebrews 11:1, 6; Job 23:12; Luke 2:19; John 14:26; Philippians 2:15; Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19; Galatians 5:16, NASB; John 14:15; Isaiah 59:2; 2 Chronicles 16:9; Psalm 119:105; Deuteronomy 10:13: Psalm 119:11

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The Renovation Process

Emily at the burn pile of renovation debris

About 20 months ago, my husband David and I bought a little “fixer-upper” house in the mountains. We hope to transform it into a getaway place where we can rest and be restored. Last weekend, David, I, our daughter Emily, and David’s friend Greg went up to the house to do some major demolition so we could proceed with the renovation of the house. As the splintered wood and debris went on the fire, I couldn’t help but remember what the Lord tells us about the renovation process and how important it is to Him.

The house with a new foundation added on the left side

Have the right foundation

Part of this old house was falling off on one side. Before we bought it, David took a good look at it, he realized the foundation needed to be replaced. We both knew that was the first job to be completed. If the foundation isn’t right, a house won’t stand.

It’s the same with our personal lives. There’s only one foundation that stands the test of time: Jesus Christ. “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11, NASB).

A foundation, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “a usually stone or concrete structure that supports a building from underneath.” When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are undergirded by a foundation that will never fail us. When we place our faith in the fact that He paid the penalty for our sins on the cross and receive that free gift from Him, we have Him as the foundation of our lives, and no one can snatch us from His hand (John 10:29). We have the promise of abundant life now (with Him) and eternal life in the future (with Him).

Part of that foundation involves entrusting our entire lives to Him—not just admitting our sins and receiving the gift of His salvation, but also choosing to live for Him now and doing what He says (2 Corinthians 5:15, Galatians 2:20). He knows what’s best for us, and when we love and trust Him and do what He says, we have a solid foundation on which to build our lives.

Jesus asks, “‘Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great’” (Luke 6:46-49, NASB).

The world offers a lot of philosophies and advice about how to live and how to secure eternal life with God, but Jesus is the only sure foundation and the only way to the Father and abundant, eternal life (John 3:16; 10:10; 14:6; Matthew 7:13-14).

Old debris, ready to be hauled out of a new section of the house

Secure and listen to the right overseer

Before we began our renovation project, we researched contractors in the area. We wanted a reliable and reputable contractor to oversee the construction. We finally settled on an honest, hard-working man, who has directed all the building activities.

In the same way, as Christians, we are given an overseer for our lives. He is the Holy Spirit, and He helps us build our house of faith. He tells us the materials to use and how to renovate our lives to be more like Christ (Romans 8:29). He’s there to help us, but we have to listen to Him. Galatians 5:16, NASB, says, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” We are instructed to give the Holy Spirit complete control of the building project that is our life (Ephesians 5:18). If we listen to any other “contractor,” we’re destined for trouble. “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1, NASB).

We already have the Holy Spirit if we have received Jesus as our Lord and Savior (Ephesians 1:13-14). Imagine having the best house builder in the world and not listening to Him and instead trying to build by ourselves without any direction. We do that when we grieve and quench the Spirit by ignoring Him and not experiencing God’s best plans for our lives (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19). We have been given the Holy Spirit so that He could help us build the best lives possible (John 7:38-39), lives that have an impact for God’s kingdom.

The leaky wall

Build the right way with the right materials

As David and Greg tore down walls last weekend, they found a place where wooden outdoor steps were built right into the wall of the house, causing water to leak in from outside. They discovered gaps to the outside where all kinds of insects were entering (including spiders, hornets, and even an army of lady bugs). They pulled out old drywall and insulation and removed wooden boards to prepare for new structures. Emily and I helped haul the flammable materials to a burn pile, which we carefully supervised all day. Other materials went on the trash pile.

Because we know Jesus, we should be mindful about how we are building our lives. Romans 12:2, NASB, says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” That word renewing actually means renovation; in other words, we throw out the old, worldly, stinkin thinkin and replace it with God’s Word, His truth, His way of thinking. David and I got rid of the old, decaying, no-longer-relevant parts of our fixer-upper so that we could replace them with new and better materials. The Lord wants to do the same with our personal lives. That’s why He encourages us to build up our spiritual lives as He leads us (Galatians 6:7-8).

One of the best materials to use in building up our spiritual lives is God’s Word. Psalm 119, the longest Psalm, talks about the benefits of God’s Word as a building material. We are instructed in 2 Timothy 2:15, NASB, to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”

I don’t know how long we will be renovating our little house in the mountains, but I do know it will be much improved when we are finished. I’m excited to one day see the fully renovated, competed project. Until then, we will keep building. May you do the same, beloved.

David, still working hard on the renovation

Question: How is the Lord helping you to make some spiritual renovations? Comment at the link below.

 

1 Corinthians 3:11; John 10:29; 2 Corinthians 5:15; Galatians 2:20; Luke 6:46-49; John 3:16; 10:10; 14:6; Matthew 7:13-14; Romans 8:29; Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 5:18; Psalm 127:1; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19; John 7:38-39; Romans 12:2; Galatians 6:7-8; Psalm 119; 2 Timothy 2:15

Definition of Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved November 29, 2017, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/foundation

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from me and my family to you and yours! Here are some scriptures on thankfulness and some self-reflection questions that can help you cultivate an attitude of gratitude. (All scriptures quoted are from the New American Standard Bible.)

 

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”—1 Thessalonians 5:18

In the midst of your joys and sorrows, hopes and fears, what can you choose to remember about the Lord and His promises toward you?

 

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all.”—Philippians 1:3-4

Who has the Lord placed in your life as a blessing? Whom can you thank Him for this Thanksgiving?

 

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”—James 1:17

What gifts can you thank the Lord for this holiday season?

 

“Be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”—Colossians 3:15-16

How can you focus your mind to be thankful? What can you read from God’s Word? What Christian songs can you listen to and sing? How can you praise God today?

 

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples.”—1 Chronicles 16:8

Will you thank the Lord by telling others what He has done in your life?

 

“O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting.”—1 Chronicles 16:24

How have you experienced the Lord’s lovingkindness (His covenant love, steadfast and merciful) in your life? Will you thank Him for His faithful goodness today?

 

“I will cause Your name to be remembered in all generations; therefore the peoples will give You thanks forever and ever.”—Psalm 45:17

What can you tell the next generation—especially those in your own family—about the character, nature, and ways of God? How can you inspire the next generation to thank God?

 

“Willingly I will sacrifice to You; I will give thanks to Your name, O Lord, for it is good.”—Psalm 54:6

How can you set aside your desires and obey God out of a thankful heart?

 

“I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and will glorify Your name forever.”—Psalm 86:12

How might the Lord want to be glorified (put on display) in your life? Will you thank Him with all your heart, all you are, by allowing Him to do that?

 

“With my mouth I will give thanks abundantly to the Lord; and in the midst of many I will praise Him.”—Psalm 109:30

What can you say as a public witness of thankfulness to God?

 

“Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart, in the company of the upright and in the assembly.”—Psalm 111:1

Are you thanking God by assembling and praising Him with other believers?

 

“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.”—Psalm 139:14

Will you thank the Lord because He made you, and because you are designed perfectly by Him?

 

“Surely the righteous will give thanks to Your name; the upright will dwell in Your presence.”—Psalm 140:13

Will you thank the Lord for His constant presence in your life?

 

“Bring my soul out of prison, so that I may give thanks to Your name; the righteous will surround me, for You will deal bountifully with me.”—Psalm 142:7

Will you thank the Lord for those things He has delivered you from?

 

“To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for You have given me wisdom and power.”—Daniel 2:23

How has the Lord provided wisdom and power in your life? Will you thank Him for them?

 

“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”—Romans 7:25

Will you thank the Lord for the gift of His Son Jesus, who died that you might have life, and have it in abundance?

 

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.”—2 Corinthians 2:14

Will you thank the Lord for the victory He gives us every day in Jesus? Will you thank the Lord by cooperating with His purpose for your life—to spread the beautiful scent of Jesus wherever you go?

 

May the Lord bless you, and keep you; may the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; may the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26) this Thanksgiving season and always!

Question:    What would like to thank the Lord for this Thanksgiving? Comment at the link below.

 

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Putting the Puzzle Together

Landon with some of the block puzzle pieces

My grandson Landon has developed a fascination with puzzles lately—well, mostly carrying around the pieces and depositing them where he likes. I thought I would help cultivate this interest and skill by purchasing him a new puzzle, so I looked on Amazon and ordered him one. It was a chunky wooden block puzzle for toddlers that allows a child to create 6 different puzzles by the way he positions the blocks. The completed puzzles each featured a brightly colored vehicle like a fire truck or bus. When I presented Landon with the new toy, he picked up all 9 blocks, carried them over to the magazine rack, and dumped them inside. I sat him down on the floor and started showing him how to make a picture from the pieces. He laughed, gathered up the blocks again, and tossed them in the air. Okay, I thought to myself, he’s not ready for this yet.

The truth is, we all encounter puzzles in our lives. Sometimes, like my grandson, we just can’t seem to make all the pieces fit together, to get a clear picture of God’s design for our lives. Right now, all 4 of my children are dealing with different puzzles in their lives, trying to figure out how everything fits together. I’ve been praying for them, and here’s what the Lord has shown me.

God sees the bigger picture

When I look at just one piece of the block puzzle I got for Landon, it doesn’t make sense. The colors and patterns don’t seem right on their own, but when I put them all together, I can see the grand design. It’s that way with our lives. God sees the bigger picture. He possesses the best plan, the best design, for our lives. We have to choose to trust Him when we don’t see how things fit together.

The Lord tells us, ““For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:9, NASB). Our all-wise, all-loving Father has everything under control.

I looked at the packaging for the puzzle I got Landon and realized the puzzle was made for 4-year-olds. Landon is two. He doesn’t have the capacity to understand the puzzle design at this point. It’s the same for us. Our finite minds cannot comprehend the limitless wisdom, infinite grace, and all-surpassing love of our Father in heaven. We have to believe He sees the bigger picture and is working out all things for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28-29).

He tells us in His Word, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely” (1 Corinthians 13:12, NLT). Mirrors in Biblical times were made of metal, so reflections in them were blurred and unclear (kind of like looking at your face in a polished metal pot, where the reflection is distorted and fuzzy). In other words, life can be uncertain, confusing, and cloudy this side of heaven, but we are promised we will understand everything once we see the Lord face to face. Our job now is to trust the Lord with the big picture of our lives.

We can proclaim, “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You” (Psalm 56:3, NLT). We can say in our hearts, “When anxiety is great within me, I am going to rely on Your consolations Lord to bring me joy” (based on Psalm 94:19, NIV). That word trust means to hide for refuge, to trust, be confident, or sure. Other words for consolation are comfort, compassion, empathy, help, encouragement, reassurance, and relief. In other words, we can give the puzzles in our lives to the Lord and expect Him to take care of them in His caring way. He knows how all the parts fit together for the greater good.

God puts the puzzle together

Since I am older and wiser than my grandson at this point, I am going to continue working with him to show him how the block puzzle fits together. I am going to put it together with him.

On a much higher lever, the Lord knows how everything fits together in our lives, and He is the One who makes it all align. “The Lord says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you’” (Psalm 32:8, NLT).

We are wise when we allow Him to lead us in joining the pieces, in putting the puzzle together. We experience a deep intimacy and connection with Him when we do, a prize far greater than even the completed puzzle. Again, trust serves as the key to unlocking this gift. Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT, says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.”  The best part is you will be walking that path with Him.

Through it all, we can rely on what He tells us: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).

The puzzle of your life is beautiful and unique

The puzzling circumstances in each of our lives have come from the hand of One who loves us beyond measure. They are meant to refine and shape us to take on the image of Jesus for the world to see (2 Corinthians 3:18).

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them,” (Ephesians 2:10, NASB). That word workmanship means a fabric, as woven together like a tapestry; a masterpiece.

Yes, all the pieces of our lives come together in the Master Craftsman’s hands to create a beautiful work of art. When others gaze upon our lives, may they ultimately see the overwhelming beauty of the Lord Himself (Psalm 27:4).

I’m hoping my grandson will soon get to experience the thrill of seeing his puzzle come together and realizing an amazing picture lies within it. May the Lord do the same for all of us as we entrust our puzzles to Him.

Question:  How has the Lord shown up in the puzzles of your life? Comment at the link below.

 

Isaiah 55:9; Romans 8:28-29; 1 Corinthians 13:12; Psalm 56:3; 94:19; 32:8; Proverbs 3:5-6; Jeremiah 29:11; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:10; Psalm 27:4

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Helping Others in the Race

Sarah and David before their swim

My husband David and daughter Sarah completed an Ironman competition last weekend in Panama City Beach, Florida. The full-day event involved swimming 2.4 miles in the ocean, biking 112 miles, and running a marathon (26.2 miles). Sarah started doing the Ironman competition with her dad 4 years ago, and David has been participating in the Ironman for 7 years. This year’s event especially touched my heart because of the way I saw David and Sarah interacting as father and daughter. It reminded me of how we need to look out for one another in the body of Christ and to be intentional about helping one another as followers of Jesus.

Look for them

The first part of the Ironman competition involves swimming 2.4 miles in the ocean. The triathletes swim out into the ocean, following a long line of buoys that create a path similar to a giant upside down U. They come out of the ocean and then go back into it to swim the same path once again. After his first swim circuit, David came up to me and Sarah’s husband Ben, and asked, “Where’s Sarah? Have you seen her yet?” He smiled when we told him she had just re-entered the ocean seconds before him. He was looking for her. When he completed his swim and came out of the ocean the second time, he asked about Sarah again. He grinned once more when we told him she had already finished her swim. He was continuing to look for her.

We’ve got to watch out for one another in life. Those of us with more experience in the race need to be looking after those with less experience. We need to be watching for those “athletes” who might need a little help along the way. Paul had his Timothy in the Bible. He called Timothy, “my true child in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2, NASB). Paul looked out for Timothy and encouraged him in his walk with the Lord. Paul said he desired that Timothy would experience the true “grace, mercy and peace [that is] from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord” (1 Timothy 1:2, NASB). We can all pray that the Holy Spirit would open our eyes to the younger ones we can come alongside. We can always be looking for them.

When we do that, we are looking through the eyes of Jesus. He looked at us and saw our need for a Savior, and He showed up alongside us to help. He, being God, took on flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).  “For the joy set before Him, [He] endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2, NASB). He looked ahead and saw us—those who would be saved by His sacrifice—and that was the “joy set before Him” as He “endured the cross.” When we look for others we can point to Him, we are joining Him in what is near and dear to His heart.

David and Sarah biking together

Love them

Before the Ironman began, David told me he wanted to do the bike and run portions with Sarah. He wanted to experience the event alongside his daughter. Deep down, I knew David was expressing his great love for Sarah in that decision. He was going to be blessed by the experience, but it also required sacrifice on his part. He was not going to be able to complete the Ironman at his regular biking and running pace. He would have to change his pace to stay with Sarah. He’s tall, with long legs. Sarah is shorter. Any cyclist or runner will tell you that you have to find your own pace and stick with it. David was going to have to make some adjustments that might affect his body physically as well as the timing of his race results. He knew going through the race with his daughter was worth it.

That’s sacrificial love. In the New Testament, the word for love, Christ-like love, is agape. It means an unconditional, unrelenting love, a determined goodwill that seeks another’s best interests. That’s how David chose to love his daughter, and that’s how Jesus chose to love us. Philippians 2:4-8, NASB, says, “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  In other words, Jesus thought of us and did what was in our best interests, going to the cross for our sakes. He emptied Himself, literally laid aside His privileges as God, and loved us to the end (John 13:1). Jesus said this in John 15:13, NASB: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”

Each of us can ask the Lord to show us people we can love in His name. It will probably require sacrifice on our part, but when we do, we are obeying Jesus’ commandment: “that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35, NASB).

David and Sarah running the marathon

Encourage them

Since David decided to bike and run alongside Sarah, he was able to encourage her the entire time. He was able to draw from his many years of triathlon experience to advise her along the way. He reminded her when she needed to eat or drink in order to have enough nutrition. He kept track of their pace and made recommendations for when they should speed up or slow down. He kept the finish line in mind the entire time and kept them focused on the reward. Sarah received his advice and benefitted from it. When Ben and I met them halfway through the marathon, we both commented on how good they looked—healthy and strong, because they were running together.

We are instructed to “encourage one another and build up one another” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NASB). In fact, we are commanded to “encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today’” (Hebrews 3:13, NASB). The Lord knows we need encouragement, and He gives us the blessing of being able to encourage one another in Him.

Jesus Himself encourages us as we run the race of life too. He says, “‘Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:20, NASB). He stays with us all the way to the finish line, telling us we can do all things through Him because He strengthens us and meets all our needs (Philippians 4:13, 19). He guides, protects, and defends us (John 10:11, 14-17), and He sees us through to the finish line and our eternal reward (John 14:1-3, Revelation 22:12).

David and Sarah crossing the finish line

When David and Sarah crossed the finish line of their Ironman competition, I cheered with all my heart. I was so proud of both of them, and I was extremely grateful to witness what can happen when we decide to look for, love, and encourage one another in this race called life. Jesus goes with us as we race, and we’re truly blessed when we get to experience Him in one another.

Sarah and David with their 2017 Ironman medals

 

Question:         Who has looked for, loved, and encouraged you in your race of life? Comment at the link below.

 

1 Timothy 1:2; John 1:14; Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 2:4-8; John 13:1, 34-35; 15:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 3:13; Matthew 28:20; Philippians 4:13, 19; John 10:11, 14-17; 14:1-3; Revelation 22:12

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The Fabric of Our Hearts

My mother, Sarah, and I with the special fabric heart

My daughter Sarah got married recently. Before her wedding day, she took some of the lace from my mother’s wedding dress, the same dress I wore for my wedding, and she sewed it into her dress in the shape of a heart. She surprised both of us with it on the day she got married.

That heart, hidden from view during the entire ceremony, reflected a great truth: “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). The Lord always sees our hearts, and He tells us over and over in His Word that He cares about the fabric of our hearts—what’s in them, what flows out of them, and how we control them.

Inflows

We each decide what we will allow into our hearts, and those things influence us. That’s why Philippians 4:8, NASB, says, “ Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” That word dwell means to store up as inventory [in the mind, heart]. The Lord wants us to store up good things in our hearts, so we will be healthy spiritually, in the same way our doctors want us to eat nutritious food versus junk food in order to have healthy bodies.

Inflows come through what we allow ourselves to see, hear, and experience. Jesus said, “‘The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness’” (Luke 11:34, NASB). He even went as far as to say, “‘If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you’” (Matthew 18:9, NASB). He wasn’t encouraging people to gouge out their eyes, but He was directing them to set up appropriate boundaries—to even refuse to allow their eyes to see certain things—so that they could live abundant lives spiritually, emotionally, and physically and not be hurt by sin.

Our ears also bring influences into our hearts—the things we listen to and accept.  The scriptures warn us, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4, NASB). In other words, people often listen to things that make them feel good for the moment or that align with what they want, but those teachings aren’t truth and won’t benefit them in the long run. The Lord says, “Listen, O my people, to My instruction; incline your ears to the words of My mouth” (Psalm 78:1, NASB). We are encouraged to treasure His Word in our hearts (Psalm 119:11).

Our hearts are also shaped by the people we allow into our “inner circle” of close friendships. David’s friend Jonathan “encouraged him in God” (1 Samuel 23:16, NASB); whereas, Amnon’s friend Jonadab convinced Amnon to rape his sister and even concocted a plan on how to do it (2 Samuel 13:1-6). Proverbs 27:17, NASB, says, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  1 Corinthians 15:33, NASB, warns, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’”

As I looked at the heart on my daughter’s wedding dress, I thought about my mother and the many ways she has shaped the fabric of my heart. She has taught me a great deal about kindness, patience, and love. She inspires me to emulate these qualities. I know her relationship with the Lord produces this beautiful fruit in her life, so she has taught me the importance of that, too.

Outflows

Whatever we allow to influence our hearts also impacts what comes out of our hearts. The Lord wants good to flow out of our lives. That’s why He says, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23, NASB). Jesus said, “‘The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart’” (Matthew 12:34, NASB). He also said, “‘For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man’” (Matthew 15:19-20, NASB). That’s why it says in Psalm 19:14, NASB, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.” There is a direct line from our hearts to our mouths and actions.

Romans 12:2, NASB, commands us, “ And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” In Biblical times, the mind and heart were considered to be the same thing. The word renewing in this verse means renovation. When we renovate a house, we throw out the old stuff and put in the new. With our hearts, it means getting rid of old, worldly thinking and replacing it with the truth in God’s Word. When we do that, God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will can be seen in our lives. We live God’s way for others to see Him in us.

The Control Center

The word heart in the scriptures means the mind, will, and emotions, the control center of our lives. There’s a constant battle over who’s in charge, who operates the control center: “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another (Galatians 5:16-17, NASB).

The Lord gave us His Holy Spirit when we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior (Ephesians 1:13-14). The Holy Spirit is our Helper (John 14:26). He lives in our hearts, but we decide if we are going to listen to, trust in, and act on what He says. We can follow His leading or the leading of our flesh. We decide. That’s why the heart is the control center. Ephesians 5:18, NASB, says, “be filled with the Spirit.” I listened to a Walk in the Word radio broadcast recently, where it said, “To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be thoroughly permeated, entirely influenced, and completely controlled by the Holy Spirit.” We decide if that happens in our hearts.

I loved seeing the lace heart sewn into my daughter’s wedding dress. It reminded me of the beautiful hearts the Lord intends for us to have. We just have to release our hearts to Him so He can make them stunning . . . from the inside, out.

Question: What are some ways you have been led to give the Holy Spirit greater control over your heart? Share with us at the link below!

 

1 Samuel 16:7; Philippians 4:8; Luke 11:34;  Matthew 18:9;  2 Timothy 4:3-4; Psalm 78:1; 119:11; 1 Samuel 23:16; 2 Samuel 13:1-6; Proverbs 27:17; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Proverbs 4:23; Matthew 12:34; 15:19-20; Psalm 19:14; Romans 12:2; Galatians 5:16-17; Ephesians 1:13-14; John 14:26; Ephesians 5:18

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Lessons from the Gym

Until recently, I’ve struggled trying to find some kind of exercise that will work for me. I tried walking and running, which I had to stop due to plantar fasciitis. I tried aerobics, which threw out my back—twice. I tried the elliptical and weight lifting, which aggravated my carpal tunnel syndrome.

Geez, I thought. Am I ever going to find the thing that I can do?

A few months ago, my husband came home from the YMCA and announced, “Hey, they’ve got these new rowing machines in the Functional Training Center. You ought to try them. You could row a little on the machine and then run a little on the track upstairs. That way, you won’t stress yourself too much by doing one thing for a long time. And, by the way, they’re having a rowing challenge—to see if anyone can row 50,000 meters by the end of the month. You should sign up for it.”

Well, I tried out the rowing and running, and I loved it. I would row 1,000 meters and run a quarter mile 5 times during my workout. It was mid-month when I started, and I figured out how many days I would need to go to the FTC in order to row 50,000 meters by the end of the month. Despite my physical challenges, I could do the exercise, and I completed the rowing challenge! I have found the thing I can do!

Life is like that. We all search for “our thing”, what God made us to do, the thing that feels right. Above all, He made us for a relationship with Him, that we might truly know Him (Isaiah 43:10) and find abundant and eternal life through Jesus His Son (John 10:10; 3:16). Yet, beyond that, He also made each of us with an eternal purpose in mind (Ephesians 2:10), and He wants each of us to find the thing we can do for His glory (Isaiah 43:7), to bring praise and honor to Him. If we are persistent in finding this thing (Jeremiah 33:3; 29:13), He will lead us to it (Psalm 32:8).

We each have our own race to run.

One day, when I was exercising at the YMCA, I started my brief run around the track and soon came up behind an older man, who was shuffling around the pathway. He struggled to walk, but he was making progress. A few minutes later, the door to the track flung open, and three high school boys emerged. They zipped around the circuit, the floor pounding under their feet.

Each of us was doing our thing at our own pace and rhythm. Hebrews 12:1, NASB, says, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” and it goes on to say how we do that in verse 2: by “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.”  We don’t need to be comparing ourselves to others and their “things” or their pace; we just need to be doing our thing with Jesus. The joy comes from running our race with Jesus while we do what He created us to do.

We are meant to encourage one another in the great race of life.

While God created each of us for a special purpose (Acts 13:22, 36), with an individual race to run, He also designed us to do our thing in a community of believers, where we can encourage and help one another (Hebrews 10:25).

Just a few weeks ago, my son Patrick began joining me in my exercise routine. He is much stronger than me and totally dominates that rowing machine and track, but we often high five one another as we pass going to and from the track. His boundless smile keeps me going, and his encouraging words lighten the load of the workout. Hebrews 3:13, NASB, says, “Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today’”. That’s what I experience at the gym with my son, and that’s what I experience with God’s people.

Sometimes, when I am rowing at the same time as Patrick, I try to keep up with him, rowing at the same speed, matching his movements. It pushes me to do my best. We can do the same with other Christians. We can learn from their godly examples and try to imitate their example. Paul encouraged this practice when he said, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, NASB). Godly role models and mentors can be a great blessing in our lives. The Lord can use them to inspire us, just like my son inspires me at the YMCA.

Jesus is waiting for us at the finish line.

Sometimes, when I go to do my thing at the gym, my body doesn’t want to cooperate. Fatigue, tired muscles, and even pain sometimes plague me, but it’s all worth it when I finish the workout and feel that sense of physical and emotional accomplishment. Some days, I pray my way through the exercise, asking God to help me finish; other days, I race through the program, thanking the Lord for the strength and exhilaration I feel. Either way, I am doing what He led me to do with Him, and that creates tremendous joy.

An even greater joy awaits all of us who know Jesus. Despite the fact that we face limitations, struggles, heartache, and pain this side of heaven, one truth overarches it all:  Jesus is waiting for us at the finish line, when the “workout” of our earthly lives is over.

It says in 1 Corinthians 9:24, NASB, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” Lots of folks in this world are running after lots of different things, but our prize is Jesus.  We run with, for, and toward Him; as Philippians 3:14, NASB, says, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus said, “‘Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also’” (John 14:1-3, NASB).

Much to my surprise, when I completed the rowing challenge at the YMCA, I was awarded a gift card. A YMCA staff member told me I had rowed the largest number of meters. I was dumbfounded. I didn’t even know there was a prize.

Yet, we are told as believers that a prize waits for us—eternity with Jesus. One day, each of us will leave the gym of life and step into eternity.  May each of us be able to say, as Paul did, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith,” knowing . . . “in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8, NASB).

See you in the gym!

Question:  How is your “workout” going in the gym of life? How can we pray for you? Comment at the link below.

 

Isaiah 43:10; John 10:10; 3:16; Ephesians 2:10; Isaiah 43:7; Jeremiah 33:3; 29:13; Psalm 32:8; Hebrews 12:1-2; Acts 13:22, 36; Hebrews 10:25; 3:13; 1 Corinthians 11:1; 9:24; Philippians 3:14; John 14:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:7-8

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