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)
Too often these days, maybe even constantly, the sounds of
busyness overwhelm our attention. Yet, we often don’t even notice it’s
Not only have most of us forgotten what quiet sounds like, many
no longer desire it or even think it’s possible to enjoy. How often have you
heard, or maybe even said yourself, something like, “I have to have music or
the TV on” or “It’s just too quiet” or “I can’t sleep without noise”?
So many of us have become accustomed to life’s noises, so
much so that the idea of being alone with our own thoughts is undesirable at
best and anxiety producing at worst.
Yet, science backs the notion that silence is good for us.
Silence relieves stress and tension.
Silence replenishes our mental resources.
Silence helps us tap into our brain’s default
Saying “I can’t stand quiet” or some version of this only
verifies that you’re suffering from this “modern plague.” The symptoms?
Struggle to focus
Struggle to solve problems
Struggle to come up with new ideas.
If you’re still not convinced you suffer from this malady,
consider that Jesus regularly sought solitude.
“But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” (Luke 5:16)
“The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.’ (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.” (Mark 6:30-32)
“It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.” (Luke 6:12)
“Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side to Bethsaida, while He Himself was sending the crowd away. After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray.” (Mark 6:45-46)
If the Son of God needed peace and quiet, and he lived
in a less noisy culture in many ways than we do, isn’t it likely we need peace
and quiet too?
“Eat honey, my son, for it is good; honey from the comb is sweet to your taste. Know also that wisdom is like honey for you: If you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” (Proverbs 24:13-14)
Both wisdom and honey come from what seems ordinary. Bees
gather nectar from flowers, digest it, then produced honey. We accumulate life
experiences, digest them, and hopefully develop wisdom as a result.
“Both are gathered slowly, carefully, knowingly, arduously, and sometimes painfully.” (Phillips Commentary)
Both honey and wisdom are beneficial and sweet. They also
both have medicinal value as well.
Knowing all this, consider the following verses and use them
to assess the value you place on wisdom.
“The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:7-11)
The following questions can help guide your meditation of these verses.
What are the different ways the Psalm describes
What are the benefits of God’s word to us?
How can the Bible’s connection of honey and
wisdom shape your understanding of God’s word?
Ever come across someone who refuses to admit they’re wrong? What about someone determined to do only what they feel like doing regardless of how it impacts others? If we’re all honest, we’re all guilty of doing both. Living this way habitually eventually leads to a loss of a moral center characterized by a rebellious, vague, everchanging lack of focus.
Determination can be good or bad. It all depends on the object, the focus, of that determination.
“They are determined with faces set like stone; they have refused to repent.” (Jeremiah 5:3)
Refusal to repent results from selfishness and pride. The
desire to follow feelings only drives selfishness. Unwillingness to admit when
wrong or even to consider being wrong a possibility comes from pride.
Humility is a learned attitude. It comes with experiencing the relational benefits of a humble attitude. This is especially true in contrast to the relational consequences that accompany pride and selfishness.
Humility is a matter of focus too. It’s a matter of properly
directed determination. It’s about allowing yourself to be led versus insisting
on leading self.
“Always remember, your focus determines your reality.” (Qui Gon Jinn, Star Wars)
All too often, it seems like “fellowship” means the same in practice as “visiting.” “Fellowship” is simply used as justification to visit without making commitment to the relationship.
But are they really the same? Or, is “fellowship” something more than merely “visiting”?
One of the best ways I can think of to understand fellowship comes from my favorite movie and book series, Lord of the Rings. More specifically, the first in the series: The Fellowship of the Ring.
This first book/movie in the series involves individuals bound to one another because they were working toward the same goal. Because of that journey, though, they developed deep bonds of friendship.
This exemplifies what fellowship is really meant to be. Beyond
visiting, fellowship is a process of developing deep and lasting relationships.
A Threefold Cord
The Bible offers a description that while not using the word
“fellowship” certainly describes this idea of deeply-developed companionship
and the role it can play in a person’s life.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
Fellowship gets at eradicating loneliness. It solidifies encouragement.
And, it provides stability and strength for persevering when life become
Going Beyond Visiting
This better understanding of fellowship motivates me to move beyond only visiting with my fellow Christians, especially the ones with which I interact regularly. Fellowship leads me to efforts toward developing depth and moving well beyond, “Hi. How are you?”
I’m looking forward to developing depth in relationships and moving beyond just visiting. I’m looking forward to more fellowship. Won’t you join me?
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?’” (John 11:25-26)
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.