Our Source for Strength, Courage, and Action

“Then David said to his son Solomon, “Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.” (1 Chronicles 28:20 (NASB95))

There are those rare moments in life where we must face a seemingly impossible situation that requires us to engage, to be strong and to act in the moment. In those times we must  replace our fear with courage, and our inaction with action. Such was the case of Lenny Skutnick, who on January 13, 1982 was one of the many who witnessed the heroic first responders rescue efforts to save survivors of an airplane crash into the icy Potomac River in Washington, D.C.  During the rescue operations a helicopter tried to rescue a stewardess struggling in the icy river:

“Twice she slipped from the rope dropped to her and fell back into the icy Potomac. Seeing that her strength was gone, Skutnick shed his coat and boots, jumped into the water, and swam thirty yards to her rescue. Questioned by the press afterward about his motivation, Skutnick replied: “I had been there all that time and nobody was getting in the water… It’s something I never thought I would do, but in looking back, I guess I did it because I didn’t think about it. Somebody had to go in the water.”

Solomon, King David’s son, faced his own fears as he begin to grasp the magnitude of the legacy and responsibility of leadership that his Dad was entrusting him with.  King David recognized that he would not be the one to see the vision fulfilled of the temple being built in Jerusalem, rather he chose to entrust the building plans for the temple to his son to complete.

David recognized that God has a role and plan for everyone in this life. His was that of a solider, not a builder. His was that of a visionary and not that of an administrator that would carry out the details of this enormous project. Not only would Solomon be charged with building the temple, but he would one day be King. The legacy of his father would be on his shoulders. David understood this, and he understood the pressures of leadership. But he wanted to give his son the most valuable piece of advice he could, and that was to remind him that God would be with him, that it was through God’s hand that David had been able to successfully navigate and manage the duties of the kingdom that God had charged him with.

Most often we don’t face the life and death moments that Lenny Skutnick faced, nor will any of us likely be handed a kingdom to reign or the plans to a temple to build. Yet as believers we are called upon to live out our lives with courage while depending upon God for the strength to act as his ambassadors in this life.

I have found in my life that real courage is needed to simply face each day that life offers us. Life is hard. It takes courage, strength, and a will to act in order to face the challenges before us. The challenges are different for each of us, but the source of our strength and the power to enable us to act is common to all those that believe and have placed their faith in Christ as their personal savior.

In this life we need not live in fear, even in the face of fearful circumstances. The disciples understood this concept many years after David was gone. They experienced firsthand what it was to have fear, and at the same moment to see how God overcame their fears and enabled them to complete the tasks that God had planned for their lives.

Be  encouraged to trust God in the midst of your circumstances, allow Him to be the source of your courage, strength, and ability to act while trusting Him completely for the outcome.

Changed In The Midst of Prayer

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” -John 14:12 (NASB95)

I love a good movie, one that draws me in with mystery and wonderment. In the movie,  “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” in which the main character, Indiana Jones (Played by Harrison Ford) had to pass through several tests to reach the Holy Grail, learned that one of the tests he would have to pass was called the “leap from the lion’s mouth.”

With his father close to death and the grail the only hope to save him, Indy rushes through a rock archway below a carved lion’s head and finds himself standing on the edge of an enormous deep canyon that drops away into utter darkness. On the opposite side of this chasm is a rock wall with a doorway. But in between there’s nothing but air and no clear means to get to the other side. With no other options, and time running out, he does the only thing he can do; he looks straight ahead and steps out into the gaping chasm. Instead of falling to his death, his foot mysteriously lands on a solid surface, almost as though he were standing on a clear glass bridge.

I loved this scene because as the viewer, I was pulled all the way in and not able to understand initially why Indy didn’t just plummet to his death. But it’s when the camera shifted to the right that the viewer suddenly sees a bridge across the deep canyon in which the walking surface has been perfectly painted to match the opposite side of the canyon wall, thus from the perspective of the walker, the bridge was invisible. It’s only when the perspective changed that the carefully camouflaged bridge became evident.

Often God is about changing my perspective on many things in life. There was a time where I struggled with experiencing the intimacy of prayer that Jesus experienced with His Father. Today that experience is no longer a mystery, it is an intricate element in my walk with God.

Oswald Chambers once said; “It is not so true that ‘Prayer changes things’ as that prayer changes me,…”

How often it is that I have gone to the Lord in prayer asking Him to change a circumstance in my life, or to soften the heart of a person that needed to hear the Gospel, or to show another person that they are loved by Him.

Yet it was me that needed to change to be available for Him.  It’s been through the intimacy of prayer that I have allowed my Lord to mold and shape my heart to serve Him. God equips us to do good works (2 Tim 3:17) and He gives us the tools to do so (Romans 12:6). It is His desire that we experience ministry to others, that we become more like Him because of our encounter the Living God.

God is all-powerful, He could easily “do” for us, but that’s not how God works. He loves us, he wants to develop in each of us our personal and unique character. We each have a place in His Kingdom.

Jesus has gone to the Father, He will return one day, and when He does, we will want to hear these precious words; “Well done, good and faithful servant!” But to hear those words will require that I have allowed the hands of Jesus to mold my heart His way, to guide me in a shift of perspective and see life through His eyes with a completely surrendered spirit.

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2017 FullLifeWord

In Pursuit of Stillness

“Be still, and know that I am God;” (Psalm 46:10 a)

There are times I hearken back to the days when I was a child. Summer was the best of times for me. I spent most of it barefoot, playing with my siblings and friends; all the while exploring and inventing imaginary games of adventure and fun. School would be out for the Summer, and other than a few chores, I had no real responsibilities to contend with. My parents wisely recognized the importance of play and unstructured time for kids.

On warm Summer days when it became too hot to play, I would often scamper up an old car tire that we had leaning against a massive trunk of a stately Silver Maple that resided in our backyard.

From the tire, I would reach up to grab hold of the lowest limb, from there I would swing up onto the huge limbs that offered shade from the hot rays of the midday sun. The branches were so big that I could easily lay back comfortably, resting by body much like I was sitting in a large wooden lounge chair.

With it’s branches dressed in shimmering leaves that stirred  gently in response to the touch of the warm afternoon breezes, I would lay nestled securely under the massive canopy of greenery.

The warm summer air would often draw me into a sleepy dreamlike state. It  would be then that I would find myself entranced,  staring upwards as I would lay on my back watching the occasional birds bounding and chirping from one branch to another.

In those moments, all would be well in my world; there were no worries, I found myself awash  in a state of blissful peace.

I believe God originally intended for us to live our lives without the worries and anxieties that we’re routinely faced with today. Sadly, when humanity fell, the Evil One stole from us the security and peace that was once intended.

Since then, we’ve continued to trade God for a world filled with stuff, worries, busyness, and the constant concerns of life. We’re fed a steady diet of news, piped directly to us at every moment of the day. Most of the news is bad. But Evil sells, so we have lots of bad news.

Even as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, one would think I would be able to steer clear of the worry and stresses of this life, but there are times where I manage to allow myself to become gradually sucked into an abyss of worry. I recently heard a pastor share that “tomorrow is God’s realm and not ours.”  What a simple but profound thought.

In reality, worry is a symptom of misplaced trust, or more accurately, lack of trust in the only One for whom any trust should be given. Jesus.

Jesus said that He came so that you and I might live out our lives to the full. (John 10:10) He did not say we should live out our lives in a state of stress and worry.

Admittedly, I toil to live my life to the full. Often I allow the noises and worries of this life to drown out the gentle voice of my Lord. At times, I’m so busy trying to tackle the struggles of this life, that I don’t always savor the moments of fullness that Jesus wants me to have.

I am reminded that I am but an imperfect person, born in an imperfect world. Because we live in this fallen state, I cannot hope to live my current life as fully as I will one day be able to in Heaven. Yet Jesus has given us a little taste of where all of this is going. When He came, He did so to set the stage for his final return.

In the meantime, I need to take the advice of the Psalmist who shared a simple but direct message from our Heavenly Father; “be still and know that I am God.”

While I can’t fully disconnect from our world, that’s not realistic in our current imperfect state;  I can consciously and intentionally elect to carve out part of my day and spend it with Jesus.

The choice is ours to figure out  in terms of when and how. But I know for me it’s been a priority to turn off my connectivity for part of each day, to spend that time in prayer, to read my Bible, to meditate upon Scripture, or consider a devotion.

Furthermore, with God’s help, I have learned that I need to keep on surrendering my burdens to Jesus, (Matthew 11:28 ) because I cannot carry them myself.

But the most important pursuit in my walk with the Lord is to “be still.” Allowing me to hear Him speak to my heart, secure my mind, and bring a divine peace to my soul that only God can provide.

Fatal Letters or Living Spirit

For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (ESV 2 Corinthians 3:6b)

When I was eight years old I remember traveling with my Dad in his 1961 Ford Fairlane to a shopping center parking lot. It was there that vehicles were being given free seatbelt installations, making them compliant with a new law that went in effect in January of 1968, which required every seat in a car be equipped with a seatbelt.(1)

My parents were practical people and saw that seatbelts made sense, and whenever we drove anywhere, we had to have our belts on. But there were many people that didn’t see it that way, they wanted to make their own choices and didn’t want to be told what to do. It would take many years, but eventually laws had to be passed that fined people for not wearing their seatbelts. This despite data that showed that seatbelts reduced the probability of being killed by fifty percent.(2) In the face of real world data, thankfully most people have internalized the benefit and buckle-up almost automatically.

Yet, try as we may, it’s sometimes hard to comply with all the rules and laws that we are faced with each day. Many are not as compelling as the seatbelt laws, which make them harder to follow. If we break a law there are often consequences.

In our society the consequences for breaking our laws vary. Some consequences are severe, and others might simply be a small fine or fee we might have to pay. Sometimes we break the laws quiet unintentionally, at other times we do so with full knowledge, weighing the risk of being caught vs. the consequences should we be caught.

In our country, the laws are created by legislators. Once passed they are recorded and then enforced in our society by the appropriate officials.Officials typically enforce the letter of the law, and our actions and behaviors are evaluated against the backdrop of these laws.

Long before the United States came into being, God gave Moses His laws in the form of the Ten Commandments. One would think that it would be simple to keep these ten Laws, yet no matter how much we try to live by them, we will at some point trip up and fail them.

Sadly, God’s laws were ultimately misused over the years. Soon the very letter of the law became twisted into an impossible list of external rules that would ultimately form a barrier to our ability to be in a relationship with God. The letter of the Law replaced the spirit of the Law. When used this way, the very letter of the law would lead to separation from God, preventing us from having an eternal relationship with God.

Fortunately, Christ came and restored the intent of the Law. He did not come to replace the Law, but to restore the spirit of the law, to draw us to God so that we would be able to receive His grace and the gift of eternal life.

As one writer put it; “when one served the law, he ministered death. When he serves the gospel, he ministers life.” (3)

In life, I must be on guard to not judge others hearts and motives by what I see, rather as a believer, I need to offer the kind of grace that God has offered me. I am reminded by the Scriptures that no matter how hard I might try, I will never be able to stand before God at the end of my life and declare that I never once sinned before Him. He offers His grace freely to me and loves and forgives me as His child.

Dr. David Martyn Loyd-Jones once made the observation:

“I am now in His family, I am now His child, and when I sin now I am not sinning against Law, I am sinning against Love. It is no longer the action of a criminal; it is the action of a child.” (4)

If I am to be like Jesus, if I am to live out my life honoring the spirit of the Law, I need very much to remember that when I encounter someone that has disappointed me in some way, or frustrated me in some fashion, that I need to be very careful about the first words that come to my mind, because they may be words of judgement, they may be harsh and lack His love, grace, and forgiveness. I need to remember how my Savior approached me when I failed him. In fact, it will be a certainty that I will continue to fail Him many more times before that great day when He calls me home to be with Him.

May the heart of Jesus lead my words, my thoughts, and my actions. May God’s Law show the way to eternal life with my Lord Jesus, may it take root in my heart, not as the letter of the law which kills, but the Spirit of the Law which leads to eternal life in Christ Jesus.

 

 

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Notes:

(1 ) Seat belts were required starting in January of 1968
https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=when+were+seat+belts+required+in+cars

(2 ) According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 86% of the US drivers use their restraint systems. Seat belts reduce your chance of dying in a car accident by 50%. In 2012 there were 277,245 vehicle related deaths. Without the use of restraints this would be double, at least half a million deaths. This of course does not count the life changing injuries that go along with this statistic.

(3 ) Robert E. Picirilli, 1, 2 Corinthians, ed. Robert E. Picirilli, First Edition, The Randall House Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Randall House Publications, 1987), 295.

(4 ) Tony Sargent, Gems from Martyn Lloyd-Jones: An Anthology of Quotations from “the Doctor” (Milton Keynes, England; Colorado Springs, CO; Hyderabad, AP: Paternoster., 2007), 181.

Copyright FullLifeWord 2016