Following Jesus is not a Virtual Experience

I have a confession. I have become lazy in the last 12 months. In the early months of the pandemic, our church did not hold in person services, so if I wanted to connect with the body of Christ, I had to participate on-line. As the restrictions eased, I found it is so much easier to watch church on-line from the comfort of our living room. Then this morning, I joined the prayer time with both my audio and video off. I did not want to be seen or heard. While those things are fine on occasion, I realize following Jesus and being in fellowship with other believers is not a virtual experience. It is not watching a you tube video of a great sermon (and there are many) and getting on to the next thing in my day.

I worry I am in danger of becoming like the person in James who looks in a mirror and comes away unchanged – a hearer of the word and not a doer. When I hear and hoard, I am not really following Jesus. It is not how much I know or how much that message spoke to me but how the word of God transforms me to love God and others. As appealing as it is to remain in the shadows, I feel God’s prodding to be present and participating not merely observing and listening.

I have no doubt God hears me and is present with me as much when I am alone as when I am with others, but I find there are things that happen in community that don’t happen in my living room. I see others experiencing joys and hurts who are following Jesus through the mountains and valleys which strengthens my own resolve to persevere and to keep my focus on God. I may encounter someone (perhaps I have never spoken to them) to encourage or to simply look into their eyes to communicate that they are valued and matter very much to Jesus. Sometimes being with people is hard because their personalities or opinions rub me like sandpaper, but even in this God can refine me.

Admittedly, I will continue to watch services on-line at times and may not always speak or show my face during our prayer times, but I will also not choose comfort over being present. Following Jesus together strengthens me, challenges me, and shines light on my blind spots in ways that being alone with Jesus does not.

Gather Your Weapons

We are living in perilous times. It is not the time to stand on the sidelines but to prepare for battle. When faced with the option of holding your position or retreating, what will you choose? Perhaps the weapons you are considering are not the ones I have in mind.

My first recommendation for maintaining an offensive position is praise. In 2 Chronicles 20, we read of King Jehoshaphat who successfully employed this strategy beginning with prayer and continuing into battle. The singers preceded the warriors. As a result, the Lord made an end to their enemy. When the opposition of this world seems huge, re-read God’s words to his people.

Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. …. Stand firm, hold your position and you will see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf…go out against them and the Lord will be with you.

We also engage with simple acts of love toward others. Bringing light into another’s world, whether it is a megawatt stadium bulb or a little night light, casts away the darkness. Don’t minimize the impact of small kind deeds to advance God’s purposes. Additionally, these acts may keep us from falling prey to self-focus and defeat. 

Moreover, I advise you to employ the sword of the spirit – the word of God. Jesus used this as the devil assaulted him again and again in the wilderness. The devil convincingly twists the words of God, but when we know God’s word and character, we have the ability to fight these attacks and prevail. Our enemy uses a kernel of truth but weaves it with a destructive lie. For example, he may say, “Gods promises are true, but that one is for someone else and not you.”

Finally, we have a large arsenal of the fruit of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. God’s methods are dissimilar to the ways of the world since it hardly seems like these qualities will change the world, but they can and do. If we belong to Christ, we are not of this world.  If each of us who calls upon the name of the Lord abides in Him and allows him to produce His fruit in our lives, we may not see the systems of this world topple, (until Jesus returns!!!) but again and again we will see God change hearts and rescue his lost sheep from the jaws of the enemy. We won’t live cowering in fear but overcoming through His strength.

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Thank You, Jesus!

…So that you may believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in his name.

There is a book called A Long Obedience in the Same Direction which pretty much describes my life. Following Jesus minute by minute, day by day, week by week, year by year. It is more than obedience though; I have a deep longing to grow closer and more in love with Jesus until the time I see him face to face.

There was a restless and an emptiness in me even though I believed in God, I didn’t understand how to draw near to Him. I thought it was by being good enough. When I was invited to a Bible study my senior year of high school, I first understood and believed Jesus paid for my sins on the cross to make the way for me to come to God.  Looking back, I would say I understood the gift of salvation through faith and although Jesus was a significant part of my life, He was not life itself. About 10 years following that original decision, I remember a transition when I wanted every thought, word and action to be His.

I found a love for God’s word and began studying in depth. These truths have been my anchor. My first major struggle was in my marriage. My husband was raised Catholic and our ideas of what it looked like to be a Christian were very different. We attended separate churches and I considered him married to the army. In addition to working endlessly, he was often away on training and deployments so about 5 years of our first 15 years  of  marriage, we spent apart. Parenting 3 young children without my husband would have been impossible without the Lord. When Mike left for Korea for a year, I was not sorry to see him leave as we had grown so far apart. During this year I saw the Lord’s goodness as He provided a ladies Bible study, someone to take the kids for playdates and sleepovers and a prayer partner. I believe though these prayers, Mike was greatly changed by his year in Korea. When he returned, our family moved to Hawaii and began attending church together. 

Over the years, the many moves have been difficult for me – to find a dear group of friends, a Bible study and a place to serve only to have to separate from them after a few years. I felt like a tree that kept getting uprooted just as the roots were beginning to go deep. Between the moves and having 2 more children after a 10-year gap, I  began a downward spiral into depression. While this has improved from where it was is 2010, it is a continual struggle not to give in to discouragement and continue to engage when my flesh wants to isolate and withdraw.  I feel drained of energy and some days just showing up for life is challenging.

Since I feel more confident expressing my thoughts in writing rather than speaking, God prompted me to share my struggles online through a blog.

One verse I return to over and over …He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. The reason this verse means so much to me is because when I look at my life it seems messy and incomplete. No dramatic victorious moments just day after day persevering through the mundane and continually drawing near to God who pursued me and has never let me go. He preserved my marriage and provides daily grace and patience for me as I parent a child with Down Syndrome who has so many needs. God keeps holding me and loving me and I have no idea of all the ways He prevented me from evil or harm. No circumstances in my life, or yours, cannot prevent God from accomplishing the good work He intends in us and through us.  When life is hard and the things God is doing are not visible to me, I can trust He is working and His ways are good and perfect.  He is my strength and I do not know how anyone can go through trials without knowing they are held in the precious arms of a loving father who one day will redeem all our suffering into glory.

If you confess with you mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

2000 Year Old Seeds

Ecclesiastes 3:1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…

I came across a fascinating account about seeds discovered on archeological sites in Israel. When these 2000 year-old seeds were planted, they not only grew but reproduced. Six of these ancient seeds have produced date-palm trees. The seeds couldn’t merely be studied, they had to be planted, watered and placed in the light.

What about the long dormant seeds God has placed within you? Yes, they can still thrive and bring forth life. Nothing is impossible with God. He brings into existence something buried long in the past.

Or perhaps you have spent a life-time planting seeds into the lives of others without observing evidence of sprouts. God is not finished.

Maybe you wonder if you are too old to have God begin a new thing. Take heart from knowing God was never bothered but someone’s number of years but sought out men and women whose soil of the heart is conducive to growth.

I am encouraged because I am reminded of how God’s ways are far above my imagining and His timing beyond my understanding.  Furthermore, some of these seeds were found in Masada, a mountain fortress where the Jewish people refused to compromise or surrender to the enemy. Others were found among the Dead sea scrolls. How apt that these enduring seeds were hidden in places of whole-hearted devotion and ensconced with the words of God.  He makes everything beautiful and  flourishing  in its time.

P.S. Thank you Ellie and Bill for giving me the idea to learn more about these miraculous seeds.

This story was accessed February 11, 2021 and found at https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2020/02/how-to-grow-a-date-tree-from-2000-year-old-seeds/606079/

Prayer Requests

This morning I received an e-mail with 3 prayer requests. Someone had fallen and a long recovery is expected. Another person had a 70% heart blockage and surgery was needed to alleviate the blockage. The third person had 2 brain tumors which would have to be removed immediately and this person would then need months of ongoing treatment.

I prayed, but then I began thinking. These are serious physical issues and God is our Healer; yet how much more vital is our spiritual condition? Spiritually speaking, all these conditions could be applied to any of us. I have a heart blockage that keeps the life of Christ from flowing out of my life into the lives of others. My own selfishness flows through my veins and arteries instead of the love of Jesus.  I fall and need help recovering. Worst of all I have tumors infesting my brain in the form of lies of the enemy that have taken hold. For example, I question God’s goodness or think God doesn’t answer prayer. 

It is easy to request prayer for ourselves or someone else experiencing a physical condition or difficult circumstance, but our pride prevents us from disclosing or asking for prayer for when our spirits experience affliction.  I hesitate to mention that my spiritual health is in jeopardy when someone else voices a prayer request for a life-threatening issue.

Jesus is concerned with every little detail and He heals our broken spirits. I find it interesting that the words for healing, wholeness and salvation are all related. When Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” are we willing to expose our needs to Him and others so he can respond, “Your faith has made you well.”

Hope

“HOPE is the best stimulant.” This phrase, taken from a fortune cookie, was the writing prompt for my son’s creative writing class. Since I am having trouble coming up with ideas to blog about, I decided to begin there.

First, in order to pursue this idea, I want to describe stimulant. I think a good synonym would be motivator. Hope is what motivates us to engage in living. I include engage because I know there are times when I have been alive but not engaged in living. Some days it is unbelievably difficult to show up for life, but today is not one of those days so I am contemplating hope.

What is hope? In a general sense, hope is an expectation of something better, that something broken can be fixed or that something empty will be filled and that loss is not the end but believing redemption follows.

The longer the delay, the harder it is to hope.  When my husband’s military duties permitted him to return at the end of the week, I could anticipate his return. However, when he was deployed for a year, it was much harder to hope for that day. It is easier to hope for something certain than something that might happen. Nothing is guaranteed unless you know Jesus, but if you have trusted him there is always hope. In Him we have a sure hope

  • That He is with us always even to the end of the age
  • That God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose.
  • That He is able to keep each one of us from stumbling and make us stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy.

This hope motivates us to persevere even when our earthly hopes shatter. While earthly hopes may disappoint, the hope of the glory of heaven can only exceed our wildest imaginings.

This Grace in Which We Stand

Romans Chapter 5 opens with these verses… Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through who also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. In one sentence we have the essence of the gospel. The sacrifice and gift of Jesus not only reconciles us with God but also enables us to persevere in this present life while assuring us of a future hope of glory.

God designed each of our lives to paint a picture of His grace, telling a unique story. On my wall hangs a picture of a man standing in a light house with the waves crashing high above his head, yet his face and posture indicate perfect peace in the midst of the turbulence. He is certain the rocks that comprise the tower will hold and protect him.

To me, this portrays the grace in which we stand. We know our Rock is steadfast and in the midst of chaos, He holds us secure. Jesus gives us grace today. What impact is God’s grace having in your life right now?

Is Fear En Vogue?

It seems as we don this season’s fashions, a new trend is afoot. It has gained wide popularity not just among the trendsetters, but nearly everyone these days is seen sporting “an abundance of caution.”

At first glance this seems wise and even prudent, but is caution just another name for worry or fear? Did David use an abundance of caution when he set out to meet Goliath? Did Mary weigh the pros and cons before she broke open her alabaster jar anointing Jesus before he entered Jerusalem?

In Matthew 6 Jesus tells us not worry about our lives – for who by worrying who can add a day or even an hour to their life? Are we allowing the worries of this life choke out the life God has poured into us? In my own paraphrase, I urge you not to let what could happen keep you from carrying out the daily assignments or divine appointments God has for you. Don’t let caution be an excuse for disengagement – for discontinuing the activities you enjoy or for not maintaining connection with people significant to you.

I wonder if believers in Nigeria remain in their homes as they consult growing trends and statistics of the numbers of believers captured and executed or churches burned. Do believers in China exhibit an abundance of caution as they decide whether to meet secretly with others, or do they wholeheartedly entrust themselves to God who knows exactly how many days He has given each of us? Are we being wise stewards of the time he has given if bury this time in fear of what could happen? Nothing that happens is a surprise to God. Nothing is outside of his protective power.

The psalmist in Psalm 91 recognized this declaring, “The Lord is alone is my refuge and place of safety, He is my God and I trust Him. He will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease… His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness nor the disaster that strikes at midday, He delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence… If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you. “

Instead of shrouding ourselves beneath an abundance of caution, we can boldly wear our shields of faith and cover our minds with our helmets of salvation. While these do not make us impervious to the evil and harm surrounding us, we are reminded not to fear that which can destroy the body but to take care to guard against that which can destroy our soul. Our Lord reminds us in John 16:33 that although this world is filled with tribulation, we take courage because He has overcome this world.

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Dear Friends…

Friends are the flowers in the garden of life

Thank you to Priscilla, Linda, Maria, Ellie, Ashleigh, Miki, Debbie, Adela, Denise, Jill, and Carole for consistently reading my blog entries over the last year. For anyone else who takes time to read what is on my heart, I appreciate you! For this is a place where I express who I am and what is important to me.  

For most of my life I have kept my thoughts to myself by thinking I don’t have much to say that has not already been said. Although I still believe this, now I share the things I ponder in this blog. Even though in conversations, I am reluctant to talk a lot about myself, I find I enjoy processing my thoughts though writing. 

Maybe we are all like this – icebergs- in the sense where only 10% is exposed and the other 90% dwells beneath the surface. I want to be known and perhaps because I realize I am keenly known and deeply loved by Jesus, I have courage to publish my words and expose my struggles. I want others to fall more in love with Jesus as we follow in His footsteps together.

Recently I was challenged to come up with a purpose statement which I had no intention of writing because I thought, “My life is the Lord’s and He can choose for me anything He determines best.” However, after reflecting on John 1, I decided upon this:

To know the Living Word (Jesus) thought his written Word (the Bible) so my life becomes a picture of the Word expressed in order that others may also long to know and be transformed by the Word of God.

I am so grateful for each of you and your encouragement to keep writing and for the privilege of sharing life with you. Love, Lynn

Isolation

In spite of how we have been told that our world is shrinking and becoming interconnected, more and more people are experiencing deep isolation and loneliness. Yes, we negate this by tallying our likes or followers or by engaging in mind numbing activities, but this allusion of connectedness is not true intimacy. How many of us have someone who will regularly hear the thoughts of our heart? 

The author of the Little Prince narrates his journey of searching for someone who can understand, yet everyone he encounters is focused on their own goals and interpretations of life to the extent none were able to step into his world to understand him. This loneliness, felt even in the midst of people, can feel like being stranded in the Sahara Desert without water.  Although you learn to learn to engage in superficial conversations, a part of you inside is untouched and fading because no one will step into your story.

He asserts that most people do not have a single true friend because friends cannot be bought in a store (or ordered on-line).

Even in the midst of people, a spirit of isolation pervades.

Isolation is produced by what we are thinking as much as our circumstances. The more I believe the lies that “I am unlovable; I am insignificant,” the greater isolation I will experience.

Sometimes the heaviness and darkness of this world seems overwhelming, and the enemy may tempt us into believing we are all alone in this dark, cruel, and uncaring world- that is a lie! Psalm 34:18 tells us the Lord draws near to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Hebrews 13 says Jesus will never, ever leave or forsake us. Romans 8 assures us that nothing in all of creation can ever separate us from the deep love God has for us.

Recently, I read about an amazing feat in World War 2. My husband, the history major, was of course familiar with this, but I was not. The Germans had stranded the British forces at a coastal French town called Dunkirk. They were isolated with no way out until England called for a day of prayer. Then every small and larger boat was appropriated for a rescue mission to bring the isolated back. It wasn’t done by the huge naval vessels but by individuals who were willing to see a need and meet it with the resources they had. 

Let us unite in prayer to come against this stronghold of isolation perpetrated by the forces of darkness. The light of Christ shines into the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome.  Consider how you can use your small vessel do what you can to reach someone who is isolated. Like the boats at Dunkirk, thousands of vessels bound by a single cause rescued the isolated and returned them to safety.