Battlefields and Supply Lines

I live in the midst of many civil war battlefields. When I stop to read historical markers along the hiking trails, they describe what occurred in each location telling how many lives were lost from each side and which side was victorious. From what I observed, time after time the Confederacy seemed to come out victorious in the battles, yet the Union won the war. How could that happen?

I asked my husband, my resident historian, what occurred to allow loss after loss to result in eventual victory. While I thought it was endurance, continuing to fight and not turning back, Mike, also my resident logistician, believed a major contributing factor was the that the supply chains of the South had broken down while the North was able to restore their interrupted supply chains to provide the soldiers with needed supplies to include food and weapons.  

I began pondering what spiritual parallels can be drawn. I know the end of the story – OUR LORD IS VICTORIOUS, but some months, it seems like battle after battle is lost.

Overcoming is a result of enduring. We are on the winning side of the King of Kings, the Lord of Heavenly Armies so the enemy can only attempt to convince us we are defeated and without hope.

What are our supply chains? Time alone with the Lord and in His word, continual communion with our Commander through prayer, and fellowship with other believers. We employ the Word of God as our sword.

I keep reminding myself not to feel defeated if the battle of the days seems to be turning in the enemy’s favor.

I am strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might and I will continue to take up the full armor of God so that I will be able to resist in the evil day and having done this, I will stand firm (Ephesians 6:10-13).

 I am fighting the good fight and keeping the faith (1 Timothy 1:19).

 I am pressing on so that I may lay hold of that for Christ has already laid hold of, forgetting what is behind and reaching to what lies ahead (Philippians 1:12-14).

Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Ordinary Days

Ordinary time consists of the calendar days in some Christian traditions which are not part of the Advent and Christmas season nor part of the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection and the Lenten period preceding it. The majority of our days are lived in ordinary time.

So why when I am living an ordinary day does something not feel right? I think it is because I have been conditioned (by the world and maybe to some extent the church) to believe ordinary is not enough.

In my hopes to get to the root of this taunt the enemy continues to whisper, “Your life is so ordinary!” I decided to look into the etymology of word ordinary.

While today it the word seems to primarily mean mundane and without any special qualities, in Latin the word ordinalis refers to regular order or rule. The very similar word ordinare, translated ordain, means to put in order while ordinatio, ordination, signifies to set apart for certain duties or to consecrate.

Piecing together these word origins and the truth in God’s word, “We are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand so that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10), ordinary seems less like a judgment of “not enough” and seems to more accurately describe being faithful in a routine.

While my days are often ordinary (have a certain order and structure), they are set apart and consecrated by God for the good tasks which He has ordained for me.  As Brother Lawrence wrote about in The Practice of the Presence of God, the Lord is here in my midst in the ordinary moments of dishwashing and potato peeling. However, there is absolutely nothing ordinary about being invited into the presence of the Lord Almighty!


Lighthouses

Last month, Mike and I traveled to Maine. It was a whirlwind adventure sampling the seafood and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. I was particularly drawn to lighthouses.

On sunny days, lighthouses are an interesting architectural study, but on dark nights or during storms, the architecture becomes irrelevant. The light shines forth warning ships of the rocky coast in order to allow them to continue on course to eventually bring them safely into the harbor.  

Although each was different in size and style, the purpose was the same – to shine light in the darkness. Additionally, during clear visibility, lighthouses serve as a reference point to enable sailors to adjust or confirm their route.

I think of what Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before others, so they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

My favorite lighthouse was the Rockland Breakwater light located at the end of a ¾ mile pathway. We walked the granite breakwater constructed over a period of 20 years, comprised of over 750,000 tons of rock.

I imagined being a keeper of this light. It would be no easy task merely walking out to the light not to mention the challenge keeping the way lit for distant ships.  This person would have experienced frequent isolation yet remained dependable and committed, willing to endure the hardship of freezing cold and intense storms. A continual supply of oil was needed, so the light would shine brightly.

Today, instead of being maintained by oil, lights are primarily powered by solar or electrical power; however, I still enjoy the parallels for believers today. We are enabled to remain faithful and persevere as the Holy Spirit provides the oil in our lives. It is not by our own might or power, but by the Spirit.  We can be a light to others only because His light is shining through us.

John 8:12 Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in the darkness but have the light of life.”

His light shines through us so that others who have been thrown off course by storms or lost at sea may be kept from being dashed upon the rocks. Our light proclaims that by trusting in Jesus, we will be safely guided into the eternal harbor we call heaven.

John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

Spiritual Astigmatism

I can relate to Asaph. In Psalm 73 he writes, “I almost lost my footing, my feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. I envied the proud…they seem to live such painless lives…they don’t have troubles like other people. They are not plagued with problems like everyone else.”

Sometimes it appears that everyone is managing better than I am, and I begin wondering does giving God first place in my life really make a difference? Does time in His word and in fellowship with His children really matter? “Did I keep my heart pure for nothing?… I get nothing but trouble all day long and every morning brings pain.”

Thinking like this leads to spiritual astigmatism. As I am trying to navigate life, I believe I am seeing clearly, yet my vision is distorted.

The more I attempt to figure it out, the more the distortion is magnified. “I tried to understand why the wicked prosper” and why these difficulties are happening to me.

Until I was fitted with lenses of truth. “Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood…Then I realized my heart was bitter and I was torn up inside. I was so foolish and ignorant that I must seem like a senseless animal to you.”

The only treatment I have found for my spiritual astigmatism is taking my eyes off what other people seem to be experiencing and to fix my eyes on upon Jesus.  Only then. my vision begins clearing.

Instead of meditating on what my life seems to be lacking, I meditate on what is true.  “I still belong to you; you hold me with your right hand. You guide me with you counsel, leading me into a glorious destiny.”

“My health may fail, and my spirit grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever.”

Revelation

I have been reading Revelation this month, but when I heard a sermon last Sunday (Rules of the Game by Shawn Franco which can be found at cornerstone.ag/browse-all-sermons/) on Acts 8, it dovetailed completely with what I had been reading. I am sharing the key points using them as a framework to gain understanding of what is written in Revelation instead of Acts. 

The amount of time is decreasing before God’s judgment.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to Him to show his bondservants the things which must soon take place. (1:1)

 As I watched, the Lamb broke the first of the seven seals on the scroll (6:1) resulting in peace being taken from the earth (6:4), scarcity, famine, pestilence and death. (6:8) The sounding of the 7 trumpets will bring even more severe conditions to those dwelling on earth – one-third of the earth, trees and grass burn, one-third of the sea becomes blood, one-third of the waters become bitter, and the sun and moon and stars are darkened. (8:6-13)

Urgency for repentance is increasing because everyone must give an account of their life before a holy God. Romans 2:5 states, “Because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” Yet in Revelation we do not read about those crying out and returning to God. The rest of mankind not killed by these plagues did not repent. (9:21).

Persecution is multiplied.  The closer to judgment the greater the confrontation between light and darkness.  Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12

When the Lamb broke the 5th seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and because of the testimony which they had maintained. 6:9

The dragon was enraged with the woman and and went off to make war with the rest of her children who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus 12:17

Suffering is Unavoidable

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you…as though some strange thing were happening to you. 1 Peter 4:12

I, John, am your brother and your partner in suffering and in God’s Kingdom and in the patient endurance to which Jesus calls us. (1:9)

Ugandan Bishop Festo Kivengere observed, “What we suffer increases the credibility of the gospel.”

The Holy Spirit is not optional.  He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God. (2:7)

They overcame him (the accuser) because of the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. (12:11)

We will overcome, not  in our own strength, but by faith and dependence upon the Spirit.

Victory brings Joy

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless and with great joy, to the only God and our Savior Jesus Christ our Lord be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Jude 24-25

God will wipe away every tear and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning or crying or pain. Behold I am making all things new. (21:4-5)

Although many portions of Revelation are difficult to explain, verses that can be understood provide a framework for those things harder to interpret. Don’t allow what you can’t understand keep you from the blessing of reading and studying this book as we anticipate the Lord’s return.

Behold I am coming quickly, and My reward is with me, to render to everyone according to that he has done. Revelation 22:7

What Does it Mean to Obey These Words?

Blessed are all who read and those who hear the words of the prophecy and obey the things which are written in it for the time is near. Revelation 1:3; 22:7

How do I heed these words? What is there to obey in Revelation, this prophetic book filled with visions too difficult to fully understand?

Foremost, we are to WORSHIP  1:10; 4:8-11. No matter what is happening, we can make a choice as John did, while exiled on the island of Patmos, to worship. There is a song from many years ago with the lines…

One day every tongue will confess You are God

One day every knee will bow

Still the greatest treasure remains for those who gladly choose You now.

Interspersed among the prophetic images John saw, we find quite a few instructions and examples of what we should do or avoid as we await Christ’s return.

Return to your first love. 2:4 In the midst of a busy life of doing good deeds for the Lord, it is easy to cease being motivated by love and instead perservere in duty.

Where you have fallen away, repent. 2:5

Don’t fear what you are to suffer. 2:10; 12:11

Don’t compromise or tolerate false teaching or teachers who lead others astray by encouraging sin. 2:14,20

Guard against becoming apathetic (lukewarm) in your faith and love. 3:16 Wake up to the harm of self-sufficiency and the ask God to reveal self-deception that is keeping Him outside the door to your life. 3:17,20

Continue to give witness for Jesus in spite of opposition. 11:4-7

Patiently endure and remain faithful. 12:11; 13:11

Do not give your allegiance to anyone/anything – only Jesus! 13:3

Don’t’ be deceived. Not all supernatural signs originate for God. 13:13-14

As we wait for Jesus, stay awake and remain clothed in the righteousness and character of Jesus. 16:15 Don’t get entangled in the world’s systems, mentality, and sinful ways. Come away from her (Babylon), my people. 18:4

Let the one who is thirsty come and deeply drink the water of life without cost. 22:17 Minute by minute, hour by hour, day after day we are to continually come to the source of living water, Jesus, who sustains us until He returns.

I am sure there are many more, but I will end here since I can spend the rest of my days seeking to obey these few words from Revelation.

Good Enoughism

Our society drives us to strive, critique, improve and then strive more. When do we ever reach a point of satisfaction? I am attempting to stop this frantic pace to reach near perfection and exit at a place of “good-enoughism”, finding contentment and acceptance of how God designed me.

It’s one of those traps I fall into – seeing the best in others and noticing what is lacking in myself. For example, in my desire to publish a blog I want to have something exceptional to share. I think about various topics but the thoughts I mull over in my head don’t make it past a draft because they are not fascinating explorations of something that has never been considered. They are ordinary thoughts about loving God and others.  I imagine traveling to faraway destinations but circumstances and finances limit me so I just keep wondering when it could happen and feeling sad because the answer looks like never.

What if I accept something less than perfect as good-enough so instead of staying stuck, I move forward? That doesn’t mean I will never write an excellent blog or have memorable vacations, but this paradigm shift in thinking enables me to live in the present instead of waiting for just right. 

Instead of hesitating to volunteer believing someone else would do far better performing the task, I can offer myself and trust God will accomplish His purposes. I can give myself the same grace to grow as I would give someone else instead of expecting that I should have it all together by now.

I encountered the name of a ministry called “Broken Crayons Still Color.” What an inspired name reminding us God is a master artist who uses broken people to manifest His glory. In the hands of God, our lives are not about being perfect or even good enough but that Jesus is more than enough.

Portals

Photo by Abhishek Tanwar on Pexels.com

One of my husband’s favorite genres is science fiction. Often a character enters a new universe by going through a portal. For a limited period of time, a portal opens allowing access then it closes.

I started thinking about portals as an (obviously imperfect) analogy to God’s presence and opportunities in our lives.

Saying “Yes” opens a door to a vast universe we never imagined possible. Saying “no” may keep us from marvelous plans God has for us. Waiting is dangerous. The portal could close and remain shut, and we would be blocked from entering.

Now is the day of salvation. If God is drawing you to Himself, don’t delay because only He knows the number of our days. If He is calling you to act in faith, the opportunity may not last indefinitely. If it is God who has opened a door, we can enter with confidence.

When we listen and obey God, our hearts remain softened and able to receive more. When we refuse God and His ways, our hearts become hardened and calloused with the risk of eventually becoming stony.

Joshua 1:9 Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Imago Deo

O Lord, our Lord How majestic is your name in all the earth! Psalm 8:1

Photo by Mohan Reddy Atalu on Pexels.com

The significance of the Latin phrase- imago deoin the image of God– is incredible! From the very creation of the first man and woman, the LORD declared that we are fashioned in the image of God. Each human bears the image of our divine Heavenly Father.

We are imprinted with this image when He forms us in the womb. For those who reject God, His image becomes obscured by sin. No matter the extent of a person’s darkened mind or physical appearance, the image is present although perhaps it is deeply hidden.  May God open our eyes to see that the clerk at the grocery store, the inconsiderate driver, child with Down syndrome, the homeless veteran, the drug addict, and even a murderer or persecutor of believers (I’m thinking of Paul) are each created in His image.

For those who know God and are called according to His purpose, His image upon us is clarified and refined like a polaroid picture emerging to view.* I find it interesting that while we may not be able to recognize other believers, I think heavenly beings (angels) discern the ones sealed by God as his own.

What a privilege and responsibility we hold to re-present our LORD as image bearers. However, even more astonishing is that our Father additionally gives the gift of His Spirit to each one who confesses Jesus as Lord and Savior. As His children, He sets His seal upon us giving us His Spirit as a guarantee promising us redemption.* He puts this marvelous treasure, His very presence, in fallible and deteriorating bodies.

Some days life may seem impossibly confusing or difficult. Be fortified in these truths – You are created in the image of God, and He dwells within you as His promise of hope in His glory.*

* Romans 8:28-29; Ephesians 1:13-14; Colossians 1:27


 

FEED & GO

Thanks to our new youth director, Edgar Ruiz, I have another acronym to share. This one is a simple model when praying for God’s purpose and direction.

F – Fill me with Your Spirit

E – Empower me

E – Embolden me to be your witness

D – Direct me

GO- Go before me

Jesus revealed to his disciples in John 15:5, “He who abides in Me and I in him bears much fruit. Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” Praying in this manner places me in a position of abiding by keeping me from organizing my days and hoping God will come alongside me as I attempt to do what I think is good. This prayer reminds me that my strength, power, and direction all proceed from abiding in Jesus. If God is not leading the way, it is far better to wait than to make my own way in my own strength.

Moses understood this as he pleaded with the Lord in Exodus 33:15-16, “If your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. …Is it not by Your going with us that we may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?”

Waiting is difficult. Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Father to send the gift He promised, the Holy Spirit. For the disciples as well as for us, waiting on the Lord may be the difference between cowering and courage, being a wanderer or being a witness. In his message, Edgar observed, “The presence of God is what sets us apart.”

Lord, please fill me, empower me, embolden me, direct me and go before me so that my life is not filled with ordinary accomplishments, but extraordinary fruit-bearing.