Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Better Rope

As I think about people trying to get better, trying to grow in someway or another, what is brought to my mind is a rope.

I remember having two different kinds of ropes in gym class when I was in elementary school.

Rope #1: We had the rope with knots every step, so if you got tired or slipped, there was always another knot below you to support you. Additionally, you could rest every step if you were out of shape. This allowed people to even rest one knot from the top, or rest once they got to the very top and enjoy the view around them.

Rope #2: We also had a rope that didn't have any knots at all. This was the kind of rope that you would need to be really fit in order to climb. You would go up really fast, and be back on the ground because you couldn't take a break halfway up the rope or you would lose energy. Even if you did make it to the top, you would quickly be back on the ground.

Most people go through life struggling to maintain growth of any kind, they have a rope without any knots on it. They seem to do better during certain seasons, but when certain circumstances come, they don't have anywhere to place their feet and rest, any "knots". So what happens? They slide back down to the ground and go back to "square one" for a time. Back to the old habits, the old desires that kept them from growth in the first place.

What I am here to tell you is that there is a better rope. A rope that has knots that you can put your full weight on and even rest on as you take one step at a time towards growth in your life.

"Because of his (God's) glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires." (2 Peter 1:4)

You may say, wait a second! I'm not God! None of us are. But when we believe and put our trust in the first "knot", the first promise that Jesus died and rose again so we could escape the results of sin and our selfish desires; when we believe that promise and ask Jesus' to save us from sin and its various effects on our lives, we receive the Holy Spirit who is able to progress us towards God and away from what we are doing that we know is not progressing us towards what God wants for us.

God then continues to show us many promises, many "knots" we can rely on according to who He is and what He has done for us. After the first promise though, it's tempting to go back to the ground. In some ways, it's easier to ditch the goal of being more like Jesus, the perfect man. But why go back to ground after you've just begun? God always has another knot, another promise that we can step on in order to bring us closer to Him. 

Maybe that next promise is the reality that when we walk in obedience to God's desire, his will for our lives, we can, Be strong and courageous! Do not fear or tremble before them (your enemies), for the LORD your God is the one who is going with you. He will not fail you or abandon you! (Deut 31:6, NET)

Now, there is one who is able to keep you from falling (Jude 1:24) and His promises can be relied upon. One knot at a time, through obedience to what God wants for us as shown in His Word, the Bible, and by the leading of His Spirit, we can progress towards a closer relationship with God and thus reflect Him better to this broken world as His light shines on us and we shine to the world around us through being closer to Him. 

So what is the next knot, the next promise that God wants you to step onto? The promise of who He is or of what He has done for you?

Lord, thank you that you have established promises in Your Word telling us what You are like and how You work in line with your character for those who trust and are obedient to You. Show us the next knot that we can step on to be closer to You. Help us to be obedient to You before our selfish desires and we trust that You will use us as we progress towards You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Refuge for the Weak

I was reading through the beginning of Psalm 34 and the Lord gave an application to me: “The Lord is a refuge for the strong that they may become weak, The Lord is a refuge for the weak that they may become strong.”
At first, this may seem like a contradiction, but upon further reading of Psalm 34 (ESV), it was made clear.
Here are the particular verses in Psalm 34 that the Lord connected to this word of application: “Oh taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!…The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit…The LORD redeems the life of His servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned” (Psalm 34:8,18, 22).
I think about it like a valley. I believe this is what should happen in every worship service and for that matter, every prayer walk and intentional time with God we have. At the start of the service, we are in a place of being at the left hill of the valley, about to enter in. This hill is the hill that we have put ourselves on. The hill of our own desires, motivations, and selfish wants.
At this point, we are ready for some spiritual water, but we can't partake of it until we are lowered into the valley. As we enter into fellowship with the Lord our refuge, in our own strength and pride, He lowers us. He does the lowering for our sake and for His. As said in Psalm 34:18, “the LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” The Lord is a refuge for the strong that they may become weak and that they would in turn be saved.
As we drink from this spiritual water, upon our fellowship with the Lord of refuge, we are thereby allowing the Lord to lower our ‘self’ into the valley of humility that He wants us to enter. Upon this 'baptism' of the living water of His Holy Spirit, we are then empowered by Him to climb up the right side of the valley: the hill of 'confidence in the Lord'. As it is written, “The LORD redeems the life of His servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.” We can remain confident that when we come to Him and confess our sins, we will not be condemned for them, but saved!
There is a transfer in that immersive/baptismal moment that occurs. We enter the valley in the flesh, and we come out walking in step with the Spirit upon drinking from the spiritual water. In John 4 speaking to the woman at the well, 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” However, we are expected to continually drink of this water (see Revelation 22).
Thus it is also fulfilled in that time frame of our worship: “Oh taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” Oh to taste that spiritual water from the hand of Christ, what a marvelous thing! May we continue to turn to it always, in humility and declaring “He must increase, but I must decrease”(John 3:30).
So let us always take refuge in the Lord in our strength and in our weakness, confident that He will then guide us through the valley of humility, providing the power to bring us up to the hill of confidence again. Thank You for Your power, Lord. Amen.