Together We Take the High Road

Why are so many believers dropping out of the faith race?

This morning I awoke in my brother-n-law’s house to find the Tour de Spain on television. I’ve never liked watching those races because you cannot simply watch it. You experience it, and it transports you to a very uncomfortable place.

The first few seconds are dedicated to your brain telling you, you are watching a race. Next a light bulb realization – man is one with the machine. Then your legs begin to twitch. You can almost feel the cyclists’ quadriceps screaming. You sit further on the edge of your seat, and your tailbone sympathetically winces. The television camera zooms into the competitor’s faces for a close up, and your lips involuntarily purse and blow, draw in and exhale. The camera spans out to reveal the treacherous mountain road spiraling up ahead. Your eyes celebrate the splendor while your heart plummets over some ravine, because the incline is too steep. They can’t possibly make it. You see a spectator jump in close, and raise his fist to the sky as he cheers the cyclists onward. You instinctively know the crowds’ applause is what the riders need to hear in order to finish. The lap counter continues to test their limits, and yours, with only one point eight kilometers to go. You can’t take it anymore. One rider begins to weave towards the sidelines. You gasp, and close your eyes. Your hand reaches for the remote to change the channel, and find something less intense.

I don’t know how many times I’ve read Paul say “I’ve fought the good fight, I have finished the race” (2 Timothy 4:7), but today, watching the Tour de Spain – I got it. People are dropping out of the faith race because they’ve forgotten how incredibly hard the race is. Don’t misunderstand me please. There is joy in the race, but it certainly is not without sacrifice.

To say we believe is one thing, but to understand we must be one with our master, is another thing entirely. Jesus is our guide (the rider if you will), and we are the instruments in His hands. Together we take the high road.

A Christ follower enters the race with the understanding training is mandatory, training which parallels that of a professional athlete.

Teamwork is essential for success. No one is to go it alone. We are to run the race as one united mass or body. Not only does the team keep each other accountable, we build each other up, and cheer one another across the finish line, whether that line comes before or after death.

The rigorous regiments of professional athletes are difficult to fathom, especially if you are not one of them. The act of believing in and following Jesus Christ is a mystery, which can only be fully realized with the help of the Holy Spirit, and the truth He so wisely opens up to us through God’s Word, and yes, analogies through the Tour de Spain Cycling Race.

If you are a believer – you are in the race. The clock is ticking. The eternal count down has commenced. And although you might be tempted to change the channel – don’t. The reward is great.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1).”

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A Mystery Miracle of Love – the soldier, the preacher, the prayer.

Last night I had to sleep on the couch propped up with pillows, because I am getting a bad cold.  I fell asleep rather quickly only to wake up in the middle of the night to a song lyric running through my heart “Greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world”, which is actually from 1 John 4:4. I took that as a signal from the Lord, to pray for my children.

There have been nights where I’ve been in a worried state, but last night was different. Very peacefully I whispered each of their names to Jesus, in faith – that He would accomplish, and complete what he began in them.

Then a strange realization came to me, a memory from the past.  There was an elderly man, and his wife that came over from England and moved in across the street from us.  He told me one afternoon over tea that he and his wife prayed for our children regularly. I could see the snow that day, and the window they looked out that framed our front yard, where our children played.   He told me of when he was a soldier.  He took messages to the front lines in World War II.

Suddenly, propped up in the dark, in the middle of the night, in a small humble living room, I felt like royalty.  I felt so loved, that God would choose to put my children’s well-being, on the heart of a soldier and his wife.

Just as soon as I had thanked God for that memory, another couple came to mind. The man had told me of how when he was a teenager, he agreed to take his mother to an evangelical tent meeting, and there he accepted Christ.  He had been part of a gang and was in deep trouble, but once he accepted Christ his life was changed. He grew up to be a preacher and fell in love with a nurse who originally came from Canada.  She was in love with him too, but felt called to Africa. He followed her to Africa, where they married.  Eventually they moved to Canada, near my hometown.  One night they went to a banquet at a country school and saw one of my children’s names on a book mark at their place setting.  From that time on, nearly twelve years ago, they began praying for my son everyday.

There in the dark I saw an ancient yellowed map of England.  My husband’s grandparents came from England, and a red dot appeared.  My mother’s Grandmother came from England, another red dot appeared.  I wasn’t sure of my father’s ancestry, but know that his name, (my maiden name) – is English and means shelter.  I could see red dots all over the map, representing families, strangers unaware of the other, and yet through accepting Christ, over time, across an ocean, through a window, at a table, spirits converged.

“What a heritage we have through you O Lord” I whispered.  “Who am I that You are mindful of me, and my children?” I asked him in the dark.

As I chose to pray for my children in faith, He chose to show me His handiwork, and how He too pursues them, and prays for them.  And it isn’t that he needs to use us to accomplish His will.  He could accomplish what He wants on his own, but he involves us in one big mystery miracle of love. I saw His love in the middle of the night, the soldier, the preacher, the prayer.

The map faded, my breathing became louder, and my eyelids grew heavy again.  Sleep returned, but not before I whispered “You are great indeed O Lord!”

Believe and Go Deeper

Life is short and full of mystery.  Unfortunately it is also full of pain, and distraction.

All I can think of lately is how I want to go deeper.  How do we make the most of the time we have?  There’s so many unanswered questions.  They don’t make me distrust my heavenly Father.  Instead they bring me to the never-ending crossroads of life, where we can either accept what is around us or change it.

Even having noble desires like changing the world can get in the way.  And so for this morning, I am going to focus on asking the Holy Spirit to change me.  Take me deeper!  Settling for that which keeps my spirit eyes horizontal is not my goal.

So how do I go deeper, or higher?  How do I rise above my circumstances, what ever they may be and see a spirit’s eye view? How do I live in the moment with the power of Christ surging through my veins, in order that each moment that follows will reveal more of His glory?

I believe.

I believe in God and that He sent His one and only Son to die for me, and I will fight every distraction not to forget it. I will embrace every joy and sorrow because He asks me to.

I believe.

The Bible is truth and records history in order to help us not repeat it. God’s Word can take us deeper, and higher and keep our eyes fixed on Him.

It’s very simple, but because He asks us to come to Him, that He may give us rest – we run away all the more and try everything else, just in case we might miss out on something…sound familiar?

Do you want to understand the mystery of life?  Lift your eyes towards heaven and dig deep into His truth.  Get to know Jesus more.  Believe, and put on your boxing gloves.  Believing is not for cowards.  Then the fight really starts.  Every distraction you could possibly think of will try to pull you away – but don’t give in.

Believe and go deeper.

 

 

To Understand, or to Love?

I’ve been praying about a mystery in our family, seeking the Lord for answers with regards to specific pain.  But do I need to understand or am I commanded to love?

Faith always requires action, so after a time of prayer I acted but received a different response than what I expected.  

This was both exciting and heart wrenching.  Exciting, because in faith I expected a miracle.  Heart breaking, because the answer I received was predictable and no miracle was apparent.

Right away my heart groaned inside of me, it rolled around on the floor like a body who had been stabbed in the stomach.  The answer I was given hurt so much I felt my whole body begin to spiral downward into a black hole where I finally curled up in the fetal position.  The next stage of grief found me paralyzed, unable to think or move.  My first emotional reaction was to conclude I had been wronged.

My spiritual reaction with the help of Jesus was that someone expressed their opinion and it was different than mine, that is all.  Of course it isn’t that simple, but it is – if we allow Jesus to do the work.  When we try too hard to figure something out we can tell ourselves we are trying to understand the situation or we can be honest and recognize we are merely trying to make someone else into someone we can tolerate. 

Is it understanding we should seek or the ability to love?

I stuffed clothes in the washing machine and folded the dry items on top the dryer.  My arms and hands worked methodically while my emotions were hosting a wild bucking horse rodeo.  Their little fits tried to assure me my pain was justifiable but my lips refused to join their charade and in the following silence I heard the Holy Spirit speak instead.  “Although your initial act of faith is commendable, your response to the outcome is selfish.” Ouch.

When someone disagrees with you, they are giving a different opinion than the one you were hoping to hear.  Do you think you have the right to decide whether their reply was correct or not?  Besides, if you do –  how will you determine that?  Are you immediately attaching their answer to something in the past because you see a pattern and that pattern helps you make sense of it all?  Who are we to know?  Even if we had a PHD in Psychology, only God can see the heart. Why do we continually hold our friends and family in a constant state of limbo?   God doesn’t!

When we hear a person’s answer (opinion) and we don’t like it, one of the first things we do is base the outcome on their past reputation?  Our past and their past is only important for one thing and one thing only – what God has done for us!  If we have been redeemed, never should our focus be on who we once were, or who they once were!  Our focus should always be on who He is!  

This truth must be applied every day of our life.  When people disappoint us, even hurt us, even to the point of death, we do not have license to justify our pain through judgement.  We do not need to understand, we are commanded to love. 

Our natural, sinful approach disguises itself as justice but is really self-righteousness and the outcome can only be retaliation.  If we are new in Christ, our response is grace with an overflow of love.

Interesting… how we struggle to accept His grace.  Generally speaking, it takes the human race a long time to grasp the truth that we cannot earn God’s grace and even longer to see that grace is given out in the same measure to everyone!  It is that bent that explains why we always expect others’ to earn acceptance.   

We are moved to the core when we begin to embrace His grace and yet still so slow to offer it to others – especially family. 

Somewhere deep inside where a speck of darkness still resides, we continue to expect them to earn our approval.

Ultimately our relationships on this planet will only grow and flourish if we live a life focused on Christ.  As we get to know Him we are transformed.  He does not require understanding but that we love Him with our heart, mind and soul and love our neighbors as we love our self.
Luke 10:27