What’s the Point?

No one aspires to be the kind of friend Job had. He called them miserable comforters because they judged him and presented lengthy discourses when what Job needed was an empathetic listener.

 My friend and I were discussing how not to deepen another’s pain with meaningless words.  In the midst of suffering and depression, her friend had lost hope questioning, “What is the point of my life?” I don’t know that anything my friend could say would be beneficial yet being present speaks love and concern without words.

Thousands of years ago, Job asked something similar, “Why was I born?” Today, we are still pondering the reason of our existence.

What makes life meaningful? Fortunately, we do not have to formulate a response to the question, “What is the point of my life?” God knows His purpose for each of us even when we do not. The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 138:8

From an eternal perspective, a life is never pointless if a person worships God and intercedes for others.

When Satan roars lies into my ears, “Your life doesn’t matter. Everything you do is pointless.” I turn my focus to the King of Kings by recalling parts of Revelation 4

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord Almighty who was, and is and is to come… Worthy are you, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for you created all things and because of your will they existed and were created.

Or I lift up a prayer for God to strengthen believers who are being persecuted, for his comfort for those grieving, or for the peace of Jerusalem.

Showing kindness, encouraging someone in the smallest way or spending time in God’s word is never worthless to our Lord.

You cannot determine the value of your life by using the world’s standards. 1 Corinthians 1:27 reminds us, “The Lord has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong.”

 Plant one mustard seed by faith each day and trust God to bear His fruit.

Remembering….

As Josh and I walked around the neighborhood today, I was excited to notice signs of spring. It has seemed like a long winter. Physically as well as spiritually, I have been longing for more warmth and light.

Perhaps you have heard the idea expressed, “When you are in midst of darkness, don’t forget what you knew to be true in the light.”

My son is training to become a pilot. On one of his flights, after he took off, a shield came into place completely obscuring his external view. He flew without seeing anything outside of the cockpit by recalling what he had learned and by relying on the plane’s instruments. No matter how disorienting it was to fly without visibility, he could not make decisions based on feelings. (The second pilot, his instructor, had full visibility and could assume control if a problem arose.)

When things in my life are difficult, I am tempted to make decisions or judge my circumstances based on feelings. Unfortunately, when it is the darkest, it is hardest to navigate my way. Lest I become disoriented and veer off course, I began a list to maintain my bearings for when the shadows of dusk loom and dawn comes slowly.

God will never leave me or forsake me.

God hears my cries, and He answers prayers.

I am loved by God.

God has a purpose for my life, and He will fulfill it. The enemy cannot thwart God’s plans.

The grand tapestry God is weaving is far grander and more complex than I can comprehend.

My Redeemer lives, and one day I will behold Him face to face.

My eternity is with God forever.

It’s easy to forget truth when we cannot perceive how God is working. Consider making your own list of truths to mark the way.  As you navigate through the darkness, remind yourself what you knew to be true when the light of Jesus was clearly lighting your path.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot extinguish it. John 1:5

Being Intentional

I have been wrestling with some questions lately. After discussing the topic with my 3 oldest children, this clouded issue became even murkier.

To what extent should I plan for the future or set goals?

Is there a difference between goal setting and being intentional?

When does being intentional become prideful?

Proverbs 16:9 NLT states, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”

I don’t want to live the life God has given me haphazardly, yet after many attempts of planning things, I encountered God’s divine detours and interruptions of these intentions I thought were wise and good.

So I face a dilemma. How much time and energy to do I put into goal once I encounter obstacles and unforeseen circumstances? How much do I rest in the sovereignty of God that if He is behind the plan, it will unfold in His time and His way?

Proverbs 19:21 ESV reinforces the sovereignty and omnipotence of God, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”

The outcomes belong to God. Maybe I think the goal is to do something, but God’s purpose is for me to become something. If I am focused on the goal or the intention, am I missing what is unfolding in my life now?

James 4:14-15 give us an important reminder -You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

But this leads to the other extreme. Do I just wait on the Lord and plan nothing? I wonder if some personalities who are initiators find this instruction nearly impossible while others who are responders, use it as an excuse not to take any action.

Clearly God is intentional in accomplishing His purposes. To what degree do I seek to be intentional since my desire is to become more like God?

How is obedience an outflow of being intentional? Can we build spiritual discipline without intentionality?

Hebrews 10:23-25 reminds us that our God who promised is faithful. Then the writer instructs us to consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. What are your thoughts on this subject? If you comment, you don’t have to give your name or e-mail but you won’t be able to see you comments right away.  

By Faith

Hebrews 11 is filled with examples of men and women who lived by faith. I was reading these inspiring accounts and wondered, “What would the writer record about my faith?”

But Hebrews 11 is not just about “them” – those giants of faith who did amazing things we could never live up to. It is about us too.

Hebrews 11 describes you! You are a noteworthy example of faith when you come to God believing that He exists and realizing that He is pleased by and rewards you as you seek Him.

Over the years, I have written notes in the margin of my Bible.

By 11:1, Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, I wrote, “Lord give me this faith.”

 By verse 5, after reading of the witness of Enoch being pleasing to God, “May this be my witness too.”

In verse 28. Moses endured as seeing Him who is unseen, I wrote, “Please strengthen my ability to see Him who is unseen.”

To remind myself that I am part of this great cohort of faith, I decided to add a footnote to Hebrews Chapter 11. “By faith Lynn did not shrink back, but placed her hope in the Lord.”

We are not there yet. One day our faith will become sight!!! Until then, remember our faith isn’t about doing greater things but in everything trusting Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

O Come, O Come Immanuel

O Come, O come Immanuel and ransom captive Israel.

That mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appears…

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death’s dark shadows put to flight…

Make safe the way that leads on high and close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Each year when I hear this song my spirit is drawn into the minor key of longing for the fulfillment of promise, waiting in darkness for the long expected Messiah. The good news of Christmas is that God has brought the light of His Son, Jesus, to people trapped in darkness.

Yet even as we sing, “Joy to the World the Lord has come,” there is still an intense longing for what is yet to come. Feeling joy and excited anticipation is not the story for everyone this season, and to suggest that it should be only magnifies the isolation and depression some people are experiencing during this season.

Even as believers, sometimes the light is merely a dim flicker nearly overcome by the brokenness around us or within us, living each day in incredible physical pain or the anguish of separation from someone dear to us.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot extinguish the light of Christ. John 1:5 Sometimes instead of a bright light appearing, we are given strength from God to endure the darkness a little bit longer, to wait with the tiniest glimmer of hope knowing the light will one day come.

While we rejoice that the birth and death of Jesus is God’s provision for our salvation, our spirits still cry out, “O Come, O come Immanuel” as we await the glorious return of Immanuel.

A Blessing in a Different Package

In case you are not a regular reader, I will share with you that our 13 year son, Joshua, has Down’s syndrome. A friend of ours approached me a few weeks ago telling me that he was asked to pray with a family whose newborn child also had been given this diagnosis. He mentioned that some of the others present were praying “against the curse of Down syndrome.” He confided to me that he was unable to pray that way because he did not see the diagnosis in such a negative light. Having been a part of a special needs ministry, he commented that the participants in that program had a unique connection with God.

My response when I heard this was sadness for the baby and the family. I do not feel Joshua is plagued by the curse of Down syndrome or that his condition was a triumph of our Adversary. Joshua is a divine gift for our family for reasons only God understands, yet I do know having Josh has taught us about God’s abundant and unfailing love for his children. Joshua’s presence in our lives has given us a depth of compassion for hurting people that we as a family would not have gained parenting four typical children. Joshua reminds us that our value does not rest on our performance.

Katherine Wolf, who survived a stroke and wrote about her journey expressed an idea in Hope Heals that resonates with my journey.

I have learned to do many things well – to wait well, to suffer well, to cope well, to persevere well, and even to lose well. Our culture tells us to be beautiful, to avoid pain and be happy. What if everything important in our lives is actually the opposite?

The things the enemy intends to devastate and cause despair, God transforms into uniquely designed opportunities for sanctification. The diagnosis or circumstance that someone perceives as a curse may become a window into the heart of God.

Breakthrough

Our worship team sings a currently popular song* which includes these lyrics

I know breakthrough is coming
By faith I see a miracle
My God made me a promise and He won’t stop now

Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon an interesting reference in 1 Chronicles 14:11. David defeated the Philistines saying, “God has broken through my enemies at my hand like the breakthrough of waters.” They named the place Baal-perazim meaning “Lord of Breakthrough.”

Over the years, I have studied the names of God many times, but had never come across this name spoken of God after this victory. I was curious about the word perazim and wanted to find other usages. Just a few verses earlier, it is found in verse 11 of chapter 13. However, this time the context is not favorable. When Uzza touches the Ark of the Covenant to keep it from falling off the cart, the Lord’s anger breaks through and Uzza dies.

The same glory and majesty of God that accomplishes the impossible victory or performs a miracle also breaks forth in judgment.

Contrary to what I first supposed, the idea of a breakthrough coming is biblical. However, the Lord of the Breakthrough may not manifest Himself as the song describes when all will be made right for me. He may breakthrough in correction and refining.

Even so, when we sing the song, I imagine the breakthrough coming described in Revelation 1:7 Behold! He is coming with the clouds and every eye will see him, even those who pierced Him.

He promised to His own that is He is coming back to gather us to Him. May we remain faithful and stand firmly until He returns.

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*Won’t Stop Now by Elevation Worship


			

Do You Love Me?

Last week, my Facetime group finished studying the life of Jesus. We read about the disciples sleeping when Jesus deeply desired for them to be with Him, fleeing during His arrest, and conspicuously absent (except for John) at His crucifixion.

Peter denied Jesus 3 times. Peter failed Jesus-big time! For the most part, I do not identify with Peter because he is outspoken and seems to enjoy being in the middle of things. However, this aspect -disappointing Jesus- to that I can relate. I have slept when I should have been praying. I have I have retreated when I should have taken a stand. I have allowed my feelings to dictate my actions instead of faith.

I wonder what the encounter was like after Jesus rose from death and appeared to the disciples. The last thing they did was abandon him during his most difficult hours.  We don’t know all that was said or what transpired between that meeting and the next occasion when the disciples had returned to fishing. However, once Peter recognized him on the shore, he didn’t hesitate but took off his outer garment and threw himself into the sea in his eagerness reach Jesus.

Peter denied Jesus 3 times, yet when they met again, Jesus did not ask Peter to confess his sin but to confess his love. In John 21, Jesus questioned Peter 3 times, “Do you love me?” Every time Peter adamantly affirmed his love for Jesus. Each time, Jesus instructed Peter to watch over and tend his sheep. Peter wasn’t chastised or dismissed. He was given the very role Jesus embodied – shepherding.

The shepherd became the sacrifice. Because of his love for his sheep, Jesus, our shepherd laid down his life for us.

Peter would ultimately give up his life because of his love for Jesus. After Peter failed, he didn’t give up and go home, he jumped in and served with the strength the Lord gave him until his very last breath.

When our love of Jesus is foremost, our life is focused properly. We won’t live looking back to all the ways we have failed to measure up but in the new grace He lavishes on us each new day.

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

Sons of Issachar

In 1 Chronicles 12:32, there is a single reference to a group of men, the sons of Issachar, who both understood the times in which they lived and possessed knowledge of what they should do.

We desperately need people like these sons of Issachar who understand our times and are able to apply Biblical wisdom to life today. There is an urgent need for discerning individuals to recognize what the body of Christ should be doing during these challenging days. I desire to be like these men, and I want this for you, too!

 4 keys to understanding our times

  1. To intimately know Jesus who (no matter what times we are living in) is the same yesterday today and forever. Daniel 11:32b states that those who know their God will be strong and perform mighty deeds.
  • Growing Faith – In Isaiah 7:9, Isaiah tells the king, “If you do not believe, you surely shall not last.” We must trust God to complete the things His word declares He will accomplish.
  • Continual immersion in His word – His word is truth and life. The more we meditate on His words and put his words into practice, the stronger our roots grow anchoring us to His firm foundation.
  • Fellowship – Discussing the Bible and our spiritual walks with other believers allows us to perceive a more complete picture than we can grasp on our own.

Each week, the future seems fraught with more unknowns, seemingly spiraling out of control. The only security we have is to trust the One who is omniscient and sovereign. Unless we fully understand who we are and what we have been given through Christ, we will be ill-prepared to meet life’s pressures without compromising or emotionally crumbling.

Ask and it shall be given to you. Today, I humbly beseech you, Lord, to cause us to stand firmly upon your truth; for us to be kept from compromise and from the enemy’s deceptions; for us to shine brightly in the darkness and give understanding to others.

Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven and those who lead the many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever. Daniel 12:3

Enduring Suffering

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I tend to avoid the book of Job even though at times I readily identify with his struggles and questions. While it seems few will experience the magnitude of loss that Job experienced, most of us have asked God why or questioned the Lord’s purposes in the midst of suffering and devastation.

I can’t understand why the Adversary is given so much leeway to bring destruction in the life of one of God’s dearly beloved children. Satan’s MO has always been to kill steal and destroy, yet he cannot act without God’s permission. He must stay within the limits God sets. The book of Job clearly reveals God’s sovereignty.

Although Job lost his 10 children and every possession, he never lost the favor of God. Job did not displease God. However, until the end of the book, God remains silent. Over the years, I have found my struggles are intensified when God hides his face and his voice isn’t heard.

After reading, I have so many questions and very few conclusions. I am still unsure how to help those who are hurting. However, here are a few observations many of which are based on what Job’s friends did wrong.

Wealth is not a protection from tragedy.

Avoid temptation to judge a person experiencing misfortune suggesting it was something they did.

When someone is suffering greatly, words may not penetrate the shroud of grief. Listening is far more valuable than advice or parroting platitudes.

In Job Chapter 1-2, God said that Job was blameless, upright, feared God, turned from evil and held fast to his integrity. In Chapters 7,9, and 10 Job experiences anguish of spirit, bitterness of soul, emptiness, futility, loathes his life and wishes he had never been born.  Having these feelings was the result of intense suffering not a lack of faith. Note to self: Don’t beat myself up if I have these feelings seemingly contrary to how the church portrays a victorious faith-filled believer.

God’s ways are so far above our comprehension that we cannot perceive all God is doing in the heavenly places.

Finally, in Chapter 38, God answered Job. Instead of explaining why all of this has happened, God questions Job. Was Job there when God laid the foundation of the earth? The Lord asks Job if he ever commanded the morning or does he know when a mountain goat gives birth? Can Job send forth lightning or has he entered the storehouses of snow? I counted 60! questions that the Lord asked Job, and Job did not have the wisdom or power to accomplish even one of the mighty feats of God.

God’s anger burned against Job’s friends because they had not spoken what was right about God. God, however, was not angry with Job’s questions in the midst of pain. The Lord wanted Job to acknowledge His unfathomable greatness. Job repented recognizing God’s ways were too wonderful for him to understand and no purpose of His can be thwarted. 

In the final chapter, God restored the fortunes of Job.  Whether here or in eternity, the Lord will restore everything the adversary or this fallen world has taken from us.

Even though my trials pale in comparison, I desire the faith that Job proclaimed in 13:15, “Even though He slay me, I will trust him.”  Similarly, I long for the result Job anticipated in 23:10, “When He has tried me, I will come out as gold.”  Until my faith becomes sight, my best response when questions overshadow what I understand is to Be Still and Know He is God.

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