My youngest son graduates from high school this week.
Honestly, there were times I wasn’t sure he’d make it. But, he struggled and
pushed and refused to give up. He stayed resilient and tough in tremendous
He made it. He’s ready to try the world out on his own. Yet,
he also knows he’s never really alone, never really on his own.
My son will always have these reminders tattooed on his skin. They’re more than that, though. They’re his testimony too.
The Bible often uses nature to illustrate God’s power and glory. By no means do we fully grasp the extent of that power, but certain verses do help us have some sense of the vastness and strength of His power.
“In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.” (Psalm 95:4-5)
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1-2)
For me, waves speaks profoundly about the vastness and awesomeness of God’s power.
“You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them.” (Psalm 89:9)
“Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?” (Job 38:8-11)
So, when I read that “Ocean Waves are Officially Getting Stronger,” and how this is associated with the strength of the wind and rising water temperatures, I actually find comfort even though this means the waves are also becoming more destructive.
The comfort comes because I am reminded of just how powerful God is. It brings me back to a place of awe and wonder over his might. And I once again find myself at a loss for words to describe Him.
“One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?’ (Luke 8:22-25)
One of my current goals is to become more literate with technology. I’m actually pretty literate already for a middle-aged, almost empty-nester (at least that’s what my boys assure me), but I recognize some gaps that need closed to better prepare me for the next season of life.
One of those gaps involves better use of “the cloud.” Specifically, I want to make sure all my photos and documents are backed up regularly. In investigating my options, I discovered that one of my memberships provided unlimited storage for photos. Turns out, it offered much more than that too, and I wasn’t using hardly any of it.
Up to this point, I used my membership for free shipping and
to watch the occasional movie or television show. I just hadn’t investigated
this service for anything beyond those for some reason. In addition to these
benefits, this membership also offers free music and books as well as magazines,
newspapers, audio books and games.
Sure, I pay for the membership, but the benefits are worth it. This is especially true if I use more of what the service offers and of what I’m already paying for anyway.
I then got to thinking about my other memberships. Was I not
getting the full benefit of those either?
I applied this line of thinking to the membership that I most consistently use, my church membership.
The benefits of being part of a body of believers includes:
Relationships, friendships & accountability
Being part of something transformational
Connection with multiple generations
Encouragement & stability
Supportive and Godly leadership
Being a part of spreading the Gospel
No church is perfect, but being a member of a full-Gospel
church sure has some amazing benefits, ones I have not found anywhere else.
As I thought about my church membership, I tried to assess if I was missing out on any of the available benefits. I am. This happened partly because I hadn’t thought about the benefits in a while and partly because I’d started taking my membership for granted.
Like with my cloud membership, I needed to take an active
role in accessing the benefits of my church membership. Not only does my church
provide the backup system I need to stay secure in my faith walk, but it also
provides a place where I can exercise my gifts and even stretch myself. With
this realization, I am determined to be a better church member.
felt worn out both physically and mentally. I’ve also felt like I’m spinning my
wheels spiritually. I believe in progress over perfection, but I’m struggling
with keeping my energy and motivation up. In other words, I’m struggling with
why the theme of cultivating perseverance stuck out to me during a recent read
of Hebrews 12. Specifically, cultivating perseverance by once again resetting
Several verses brought my attention to thinking about my focus. Turns out, my thoughts were scattered and focused on the temporary. These verses together helped reset my focus.
Verses 1 & 2 – “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us; fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Verses 11, 12 & 13 – “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.”
I can’t help but picture a race like the one in the photo when I read these verses. When I get this visual, I am reminded of three important things that make for a successful race. These things apply to perseverance in any area of life, and I made this application to what I had been going through recently.
Distractions are weighing me down.
My goal is Jesus. Nothing else.
Discipline brings strength.
Hebrews 12 ends by focusing us again on the “Why?” for continued perseverance.
Verses 28 & 29 – “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.”
Through Jesus, we receive something that cannot fall apart. By letting go of distractions, focusing on Jesus, and learning from mistakes and failure, we cultivate perseverance that takes us to what we cannot lose. Let that truth encourage you today.
Ever been told to “pay attention”? Ever tell someone else to
“pay attention”? We can all probably answer “yes” to both of these questions.
Every wonder why we so often struggle to pay attention? If
pressed to give a short answer, I would say, “comfort and distraction.”
Distraction probably makes sense to most. We struggle paying
attention often because we have so much other stuff vying for our focus.
Comfort, though? For me, yes. Often, actually.
A significant, often overlooked, danger to/enemy of our
attention is comfort. Comfort with the world and with our own level of growth.
When we get too comfortable, we let our guards down. As a result, things (habits, activities, people, etc.) get into our lives – and become distractions – that shouldn’t. We then begin to pay attention to those distractions and make them our focus.
If you’re struggling to visualize this happening, read
through the book of Judges. It’s filled with examples of how God’s people got
comfortable and failed to pay attention over and over and over again.
Do An Assessment
To avoid the damage that can happen when you fail to pay attention, take time to assess your own attentiveness to the things of God regularly. The following questions can help:
Do I regularly read and meditate on Scripture? Am I dwelling on it or rushing through?
Are my prayer times forced and obligatory?
How are my reactions? Am I quick to rush to conclusions? Do I make decisions based on far too many assumptions rather than taking time to get the facts?
Is my attitude like a roller coaster?
Am I always in a hurry? Do I constantly push others to step up the pace too?
Let the Holy Spirit show you where you need to make adjustments. Let God guide you to a place of focused attention that propels your productivity for Him.
Bookends keep books upright. They help keep them organized and in good condition too. Bookends of readiness for sharing the Gospel function much in the same way.
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” (1 Peter 3:15)
The books in the middle make up the “defense” and “reason” for the hope that you have. Essentially, that is your testimony. The bookends?
Meekness & fear
Sanctification (holiness) keeps a believer ready to evangelize by lending authenticity to his witness. Meekness and fear indicate humble patience along with recognition of who God is and the truth of what the Bible says about Him. The Elliot Commentary explains it this way:
“Recognize, in word and deed, His full holiness, and therefore to treat Him with due awe.”
The bookends of sanctification on one side and meekness and fear on the other hold up our defense – our witness – by keeping the focus on God.
“The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread.” (Isaiah 8:13)
“When they see among them their children, the work of my hands, they will keep my name holy; they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.” (Isaiah 29:23)
“And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 38:23)
In Spring 2018, I decided to read “The Hidden Life of Trees” by Peter Wohlleben. I still remember the “Why?” looks my family gave me when they found out what I was reading. Essentially, they thought the topic would be boring and could not imagine why I would choose it.
Though not the most exciting read, and in no way encouraging my hope of the existence of Ents or Narnian foliage, realizing how trees communicate was fascinating. Learning about the life of trees, especially why some are so resilient, renewed and deepened my appreciation for how nature shows God’s glory.
Be Like Trees
Learning more about trees also increased my understanding of where the Bible references trees. It gave me depth of understanding about how trees illustrate how we are to grow spiritually. For example, we are to…
Thrive like the olive tree, which can live 500 years even when neglected because its root system allows it to get water quickly. (Psalm 52:8)
Flourish like a palm tree that sheds leaves on purpose before a storm to make it less top heavy and therefore less affected by the force of the wind. (Psalm 92:12)
Grow quickly like the cedar and in a wide range of climates with roots often as deep as the tree’s height. (Psalm 92:12)
How can we be like trees in our spiritual lives?
We can thrive like olive trees by continually seeking living water (John 4:10) and by trusting in God’s love. We can flourish like palm trees by letting go of what weighs us down during life’s storms (Hebrews 12:1). And, we can grow like cedars by establishing deep roots in the fertile soil of God’s word (Luke 8:1-15).
As discussed in Course Corrections, a pilot makes course corrections throughout a flight. If he doesn’t, the aircraft will gradually get off course and eventually become drastically so to the point of significant consequences.
Similarly, the Holy Spirit helps us make course corrections
to keep us from getting drastically off course in our lives. As we tune in to
those promptings, we’re able to make course corrections sooner rather than later.
So, we make them when we’re only slightly off track rather than well on our way
to being lost.
The Holy Spirit’s
Jesus, when explaining why he had to leave his disciples,
told them about the Holy Spirit:
“When he comes, he will prove the world to be wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.” (John 16:18)
In other words, he’ll reveal sin (indicate what needs to go)
and guide into right living (indicate what needs to be added). One of the Holy
Spirit’s main purposes in our lives, then, is to reveal the course corrections
we need to make.
Our role is to pay attention, make adjustments and let the Holy Spirit work in us. The sooner we do this, the smaller the needed adjustment and the more likely we are to avert tragedy. Life is already full of struggle. Why make it worse by failing to make the course corrections we know are needed?
Knowing this, we can:
Be thankful for the Holy Spirit’s course
Pray for increased sensitivity to the Holy
Seek connections with others who desire to
continuously course correct.
Obediently and immediately make course
“If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” (Galatians 5:25)
Partly because I’m a perfectionist and partly because I get easily frustrated over my apparent lack (or absence) of progress as well as the lack (or absence) of progress I see in others, I need reminded of what God says about how we are to grow spiritually.
To that end, this post is simply my collection of Scripture emphasizing the idea of focusing on progress over perfection.
“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the LORD’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the LORD, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.(Ephesians 4:15)
“Nevertheless, the righteous will hold to their ways, and those with clean hands will grow stronger.” (Job 17:9)
“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God.” (Psalm 92:12-13)
“The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” (Proverbs 4:18)
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)
“Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.” (1 Timothy 4:15)
“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” (1 Peter 2:2)
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our LORD Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8)
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18)
Even though I know this emphasis placed on progress over perfection this side of Heaven, I still get discouraged when I fail to see any forward activity. Knowing I have this tendency, I also daily pray this prayer…
“Father, forgive me for my weak faith. Help me to trust You even when I don’t see You working.”
Coupled with regular gratitude for the progress I have seen over the years and for His faithfulness through it, my focus continually returns to the almighty God. And, as always, focus determine reality, and I then see more of him working for progress in my life and in the lives of others.
While the extremes vary, everyone experiences changing seasons no matter where they live. Even Hawaii changes seasons, though not an extreme difference and only between two different seasons (summer and winter).
If you think changing seasons are unchangeable events, think again. Climate change experts say that the timing of seasons is now changing.
The Earth’s seasons have shifted back in the calendar year, with the hottest and coldest days of the years now occurring almost two days earlier, a new study finds. This shift could be the work of global warming, the researchers say. (Timing of Seasons is Changing)
Yes, even the changing seasons are becoming more unpredictable, though if you live in a place like I do (Michigan) that has always been the case.
Our season changes are extreme, and you simply love or hate it. I’ve actually heard of people missing the extreme changes after moving to a place with less seasonal change. Also, every time we enter a new season, someone (often a person who has lived in the area for many years) expresses surprise over it happening.
If you live in an area of extreme seasonal changes, you have to admit to the beauty of every season. I’ll admit, it’s sometimes hard to see when it’s hot and humid or rainy or bitter cold or there’s a foot of snow on the ground or you experience rain, fog, snow and cold with a 40-degree temperature drop all in one day.
Change – unexpected or not – keeps life interesting.
Our lives have seasons too, some expected and some not. Some people embrace the change, some resist; most do both, and all are at times surprised when change takes place.
Staunchly resisting change is futile as well as unhealthy. We all know this both by observation and experience, but it doesn’t stop us from stubbornly resisting change at times.
Why do we sometimes resist the changing of life’s seasons and other times embrace them? Why do we in our hearts often wish things wouldn’t change?
The answers to these questions are unique to every person. What we all have in common, though, is the need for stability within change.
Stability Within Change
Stability within change is essential for thriving as the seasons inevitably change in our lives. For Christians, this means focusing on God who does not change.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8 )
“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.[a He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” James 1:17
As the seasons of life morph in both expected and unexpected ways, I am learning to lean heavily on Jesus. The hope he gives keeps me stable amidst the changes of the many extremes in my life.
“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.” Hebrews 6:19