My Journey Along the Narrow Way

Posts tagged ‘hope’

The Oak Tree…

treeWe have a huge, very old oak tree in our front yard. In fact, that tree was one of the reasons we bought our house. I don’t think I would want to live here without it. One thing I have noticed is how solid that tree is. When we first moved in, even before our furniture had been delivered, Hurricane Opal came through Montgomery. I remember watching that old tree all night long just hoping that it wouldn’t come crashing into our (new to us) house. Everything else around us swaying and moved, including the branches of our tree, but the trunk of that tree never moved at all. A few years later, while digging across the yard to plant some bushes, I found out why that tree didn’t move. There were roots the size of my legs deep across the yard front that tree. You see, the deep, strong roots of the tree held it tight and fast when all around it the storms were raging. Just recently a huge limb fell off that tree onto our roof and it got me to thinking about storms in my life and what exactly keeps me rooted.

Several times in the Bible it mentions that when we are rooted in Christ we are just like our big, solid oak tree.

Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. Col. 2:6-7

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD
And whose trust is the LORD.
“For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8

When I read these verses I realize that I, too, can be as firm and steady as that oak tree. But only if I root myself in something strong and permanent in my life. If I only rely on my own strength or the strength of those around me I will surely be uprooted when the storms of life rage. Only in being rooted in something solid and unchanging can I weather the storms.

And boy are there storms in life. Sometimes they are little squalls that come and go quickly like someone hurting my feelings or the car running hot. Other times they are thunderstorms like an argument with someone I care about or having to buy a new refrigerator when we hadn’t planned to. And still other times they seem to be full blown hurricanes like the sickness or death or someone I love or marriage problems. And during those storms I may even feel like I’m falling apart (kind of like a limb falling off the tree), but in reality I’m not because I’m firmly rooted in the love and grace of Christ who will never leave or forsake me.

But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God;
I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever.
I will give You thanks forever, because You have done it,
And I will wait on Your name, for it is good, in the presence of Your godly ones.
Psalm 52:8-9

But God…

People ask all the time what my favorite verse is in the Bible.  There are so many to choose from but if I had to pick one it would be Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”  During the hardest times in my life I CLING to this verse.

But when I think of what words of Scripture are most precious to me, it would have to be this:  But God.  These have long been my absolute favorite words in the Bible.  And I see I’m not alone.  Just this last Sunday Shawn (our preacher) mentioned those two words in his sermon as well.  Google these two words and multiple postings, including many blogs, pop up.

For being two small little words, only 3 letters a piece, they are very powerful words.  What they say again and again in the Bible is:  man does _________ (which is usually something selfish, hurtful, stupid, etc.); BUT GOD __________ (fixes it, works it all for our good and His glory, hits us upside the head with a 2X4 so we understand, etc.).  How can anyone NOT love that?

For example…I was running away from God and his enemy.  I was literally shaking my fist at him…but God loved me, pursued me, called me to Himself.

Psalm 49:14-15

14 Like sheep they are laid in the grave;
Death shall feed on them;
The upright shall have dominion over them in the morning;
And their beauty shall be consumed in the grave, far from their dwelling.
15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave,
For He shall receive me.  Selah

I am mortal and I will one day die…But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave.

Acts 13:29-30

29 Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb. 30 But God raised Him from the dead.

Jesus’ earthly body died on the Cross, But God raised Him from the dead.

Romans 5:7-8

7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We might lay our life down for another, but only if we feel like they are worthy…But God died for us – worthless, angry, sinful worms.

1 Corinthians 10:13

13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

We are tempted and fail repeatedly…but God is faithful to help us either escape or bear the temptation.

Psalm 73:26

26 My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

We will rot and die…But God will redeem us forever!

I fail and fall repeatedly…But God
I hurt others and am selfish…But God
Satan attacks and tempts us…But God

I mean, how can you not LOVE this?  It reminds me again and again…it is NOT me.  None of it.  Nothing I do.  It is ALL God.  He is sovereign, He is faithful, He is in control.  And all I can say is Thank God!  If my faith was left up to me I would stumble before I finished typing this blog post, mostly likely before I finished typing this sentence.  But God is faithful to the end.

No matter what happens in my life, when I’m down, or disappointed, or I fail, I cling to these two little words….BUT GOD.

Waiting…

The older I get, the more I realize that I am not good at waiting. In fact, I’m really bad at waiting. Even when I have something not so pleasant coming along, I would rather get it over with then anticipate it. I figure, the faster I start with it, the faster I’ll be done with it.

It seems to me that 2011 is going to be the year of waiting. I guess God is determined to finally teach me some patience.

A few things I am waiting for right now…

~ The end of my old job and the beginning of my new job – as I made the decision to leave my job at Wells Distribution, I decided to give a one month notice. That way Wells would have time to find someone to replace me and I would have time to train them.

It really was a great idea but the wait has been hard. I am a “make a decision and then get on with it” type of person. So I have had to do a lot of praying to God for help in the waiting.

~ My father-in-law’s cancer – as anyone who has helped a loved one through a major illness, it usually is a “hurry up and wait” process. My father-in-law has finished with his radiation and chemotherapy for the time being, but we are waiting to see if the tumor has shrunk enough for surgery. Right now it looks good, but the treatments work for several weeks after they are done, so again with the waiting.

~ Bud coming home – this is actually been the hardest for me of all. It seems like Bud has been gone for so long already but in reality, it has only been a little over 2 months. That means I still have 5 more months before he comes for his one-week visit, and 7 months before he is home. The hardest part about this waiting situation is missing the day-to-day time together. We talk on the phone every day and we video Skype as much as we can, but it’s the little things I miss. I can’t just text Bud something when it happens. I can’t go up and hug him. I can’t get tickled about something we see and burst into laughter. Those things are the things I miss the most.

There are many stories in the Bible where God’s people had to wait. Abraham and Sarah had to wait until their old ages for their longed-for child (Genesis 18:10), Moses and the Israelites waited to enter the promised land (see Exodus), Noah waited for the waters to recede (Genesis 8:10), Simeon waited to see the Redeemer (Luke 2:27-32), as did Anna (Luke 2:36-39), We await the return of our Christ Jesus in all His glory (Revelation 19:11-16).

So, I wait. And I take hope in knowing that God is faithful to those who have faith and wait.

Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!
– Psalm 27:14

We are a Moment…

My stepmom fell today (at a doctor’s office, no less) and broke her hip.  She is currently in the Emergency Room getting admitted into the hospital where they will do surgery  tonight to fix her hip.

Prayers are appreciated – her name is Louava and my dad’s name is Troy.

This immediately brought to mind the suddeness of her fall.  It’s funny how we wake up each morning and we expect to make it through the day in one piece.  We expect for everything to be the same when we get home in the evening as when we left in the morning.  We forget how fleeting life is and how it can all change in the instant.

Before I was a believer, I used to still understand deep down in my heart that if I died without Christ, I would go to Hell.  I didn’t want to go to Hell.  I had been in church enough growing up to know Hell was not where I wanted to spend eternity.

So, what did I do about it?  I stuck my head in the sand.  I put my hands over my ears and closed my eyes and sang, “lalalalalalalala, I’m not listening.”  If my thoughts came even close to thinking about dying, I would quickly and firmly push them into a box and ignore them.

When I did actually let the thought of myself dying come into the corner of my mind, I would assure myself that when the time came, I would have time to “get things right” before dying.  I really thought that.  That I would actually have time to “get saved” at that last instant.  However, the Bible tells us in Job 14:1-2, “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.  He comes forth like a flower and fades away; he flees like a shadow and does not continue.”

James 4:13-14 says, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”

God calls us “a vapor”.  That is how fragile our lives are.  Just like a vapor that comes from a boiling pot, it soon disapates and is gone.  How silly of me to think that me, just a vapor, could just say to God, “Hold it just a minute, I’m not quite ready for You to take me.  I need just a few minutes so I can get saved”?

Ecclesiastes 8:7-8 says, “For he does not know what will happen; So who can tell him when it will occur?  No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, And no one has power in the day of death. There is no release from that war, And wickedness will not deliver those who are given to it.”

What an arrogant thought.  And what an insult to the Cross of Jesus and the blood He shed to save men from their sins, for me to make it so cheap that I could just slide into salvation at the last minute.

But that’s what being lost does to you.  It makes you arrogant and self-righteous.  It makes you think that you have all the time in the world to do and live however you want to.  You’ll get right in the end…no problem.

Ecclesiastes 8:12-13 also says, “Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him. But it will not be well with the wicked; nor will he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he does not fear before God.”

All this to say… Don’t wait!  You could be gone in an instant!  Romans 10:13 says, “For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”” Call on Him…be saved!  Do it now.  You may not have another chance.

Psalm 90:1-2

Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
Or ever You had formed the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

The Rescuer…

Imagine one nice spring day being on a boat. You are enjoying your day. It’s a nice warm day and the breeze off the water is cool on your face. You have decided to take the boat out on your own just to have some time to think and enjoy some alone time.

As you are going down the river you suddenly hear a sound. It is the sound of people yelling for help. As you look around you finally see a bunch of people in the middle of the river. Their boat has obviously capsized and sank and they are treading water. Even though the day is warm, the water is still really cold. You realize that unless you start saving people, some might not make it.

You have a really small boat but you pull along side the first group and start helping people on. The people are starting to be so cold they can barely work their limbs. It takes a long time to get people in the boat. Also, some of the people fight each other to get on. There are a few that are so frightened; they even are fighting you as you are trying to save them.

Finally, you get a whole load, as many as the boat can safely carry, and you speed down the river and put them on shore. You hurry back to the next group in the water and start trying to rescue them. You do this three or four times, as quickly as you can. In the end you are able to save about half of those in the water.

The news that night sings your praises and calls you a hero. Without your intervention, all 60 people would have died. However, because you chose to become involved 32 are alive that otherwise would have been lost.

It makes sense that they would call you hero, doesn’t it?

If so, then why don’t we call our God a hero? Why do people not see it’s the same?

There we all are in our natural state. We are drowning in our sin. And don’t be mistaken…we WILL drown in our sin and die to eternal Hell. There is nothing we can do to help ourselves. Actually, we are so far gone at that point that we don’t even want help. We think we are fine. We can help ourselves. Everything will be alright…but that’s not true.

And here comes God. He plucks some out of that swamp of sin and death and saves them. Psalm 25:15 – “Mine eyes are ever toward the LORD; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.”

Oh, and we fight Him. We shake our fist at Him. We say it’s not Him that saved us. We say it’s not fair that He didn’t save everyone. We rage against our very Creator and we don’t call Him a hero. We definitely don’t deserve to be saved.
As it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Romans 3:10-18

Why did He choose who He chose? We don’t know, but God sure knows. God has a plan and His plan will be carried out. We should praise Him for His mercy and grace at choosing to save even one of us.

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8

The Door…

All my life I had been walking down a dark, dreary alley. Let me describe it for you. It was damp stone with moss growing between them and cracked and broken bricks. The street was also brick and could be very slippery. Sometimes I would slip on the brick and fall and skin my knee or hurt my hands when I tried to catch myself.

From time to time, I would come to place where the buildings rising up on either side of me were a little farther apart and, if it was daytime, I would have a glimmer of sunlight around me. But most of the time it was dim or even downright dark. And there was no color anywhere. Just blacks and browns and grays everywhere.

There were people around me once in awhile. And every now and then there would be someone there that seemed to shine with light from within. But mostly I trudged along by myself. I did all the things I was supposed to do every day, but I couldn’t seem to escape the alley.

Once in awhile I almost felt like I had escaped! Things would be brighter there might be some blue skies and some nice, soft grass under my feet. However, sooner or later (usually much too soon), I found myself back in my alley – trudging down the uneven brick – in the dark, colorless place that was my home.

Then one day, one glorious day, I found myself in what seemed to be almost a maze. I couldn’t seem to get out of the maze. No matter which way I turned and walked, I always ended up right back going through the maze. And sometimes I was really upset and wanted out of the maze, but mostly I was curious as to where the maze led and how I got in the maze in the first place.

Then one day I noticed that it began to be a little bit lighter in the alley. It wasn’t a big change but it did seem to my eyes that I could see the stones and bricks a little clearer. I didn’t think I was stumbling near as much either. Also, I began to notice things around me in a different sort of way. There were actually more people around me than I had ever realized. Maybe it was because there was a little more light that I could see them better. I also could see their expressions on their faces and hear them talking.

I also noticed that everyone around me seemed a little excited about something up ahead. And when I thought about it, I realized that I had a sense of anticipation and excitement as well.

As days went by, I noticed that it was definitely getting brighter. Through the brightness I could also see how really dingy and dirty everything around me was. I also noticed that even though everyone had that sense of excitement, beneath that excitement there seemed to be a sense of desperation and longing in everyone’s face. When I saw that desperation and longing, I realized that it had been on these people’s faces all along. I had never seen them without those feelings.

The excitement continued to build. People around me had started talking to each other and to me about what lay ahead. What could it be? What did it mean? There was so much anticipation but also still some nervousness too. What would it be like in that light? What if I liked my alley better?

But still we trudged along. And it got lighter. And suddenly, at the end of the dim, dirty alley we saw it! It was a door.

The door was just a plain, ordinary door set into the brick. There was nothing new or even very exciting about the door. It was what was beyond the door that was so exciting. There was light. There was color beyond my wildest dreams. It was as if everything in the world had gone from black and white into Technicolor! There was so much detail in everything I could see through that door. There was also music more beautiful than anything I had ever heard. It seemed as if everyone on the other side was so happy they were laughing and singing all at once!

As I looked I felt the deepest, most profound longing to walk through that door. I actually started to walk right through it but then the doubts and fears started. I had a huge wave of doubt. “Do you really think you, of all people, belong here? What would happen if they found out who you really are? What if they knew how you acted, how you thought deep inside?” I thought if I just stepped back and finished some of those improvements I always thought I needed, then I would be ready to walk through that door. Maybe if I took a good, hot bath and cleaned myself up, then I would be ready.

I looked around and saw that many were hesitating. But what I really noticed was there was a man behind each one of those hesitating and he was whispering in their ear! I didn’t know what he was saying to them but everything he said caused them to hesitate and the wonder and excitement that had previously been on their face was leaving.

I began to worry that I had one of those men behind me too. When I turned around, there he was. And what I thought were my worries and fears were actually what he was whispering in my ear, “Who do you think you are? Do you really think anything over there is for you?”

I realized he was trying to keep me from going through that door. I also realized that there was nothing I wanted to do more but go through that door right at that moment.

I looked back one last time through the door. Beyond the door I could now see my dark, dreary alley. I saw poor, sad people trudging along the alley with their heads down. They were so intent on not stumbling; they didn’t even see the open door in the alley. How I longed for them to look up and see the open door.

Then I turned and stepped through the door.

“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:44

The Sovereignty of God…

Job is one of my favorite books of the Bible; mostly because it speaks a lot to the sovereignty of God. For example just read one passage where God Himself is speaking:
“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said,
‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me!
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding, Who sets its measurements? Since you know.
Or who stretched the line on it? On what were its bases sunk?
Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang
together and all the songs of God shouted for joy?
Or who enclosed the sea with doors when, bursting forth, it went out from the womb;
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When I made a cloud its garment and thick darkness its swaddling hand,
And I placed boundaries on it and set a bolt and doors,
And I said, Thus far you shall come, but no farther; and here shall your proud waves stop?’”

This is but one chapter…and Job has a lot more chapters just like it. There are not many places in the Bible that so clearly show the absolutely sovereignty of our Creator God.

When I read words such as these, I realize how very small I am. It makes me feel like the worm that I am. It also reminds me of how very trivial all these problems of life that I worry about actually are and how small and insignificant we really are. “For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. As for man, his days are like grass: As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, and its place acknowledges it no longer.” Psalm 103:14-16

In his book Future Grace, John Piper says, “The confidence that a sovereign God governs for your good all the pain and all the pleasure that you will every experience is an incomparable refuge and security and hope in power in your life.” Psalm 103:19 also says that “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all.”

I agree with John Piper: What a comfort God’s sovereignty should be. And I realize that when I worry and have anxiety about the things of this world, no matter what they are, I am forgetting just who it is that I serve. This is the time that I need to go back and look at God’s own words in Job. I need to remember that God created the earth and all that is in it. How can anything I go through or any problems I have surprise Him? Or catch Him off guard? Or be too hard for Him to walk me through?

I was recently talking with a good friend and we were surprised to realize that our lives have had some very similar trials in them. One thing we both agreed on was that during these trials – trials that the world would say it was understandable to be anxious and worried about – we felt closer to God than we ever had before. He was right there…and we both knew He was caring for us during those difficult times.

This was so true that I can honestly say, when the situation was getting better, some part of me truly regretted that it was because I didn’t want to lose the closeness that I felt when I clung to God during those tough times. What that tells me is that I should cling to God during all times – the good and the bad. Again I go to Job who said, “…Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21

If I believe that the indeed the Lord gives and takes away (and I do), then anything I’m going through is no surprise to our sovereign God. It all comes from His hand. And if the trials are allowed by God, then the rescue will come from God as well.

And in the end I know that I will see the ultimate sovereignty of God as I stand with Job and all the other believers through the ages and say, “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold, And whom my eyes will see and not another. My heart faints within me!” Job 19:25-27