Mr. Fish

“Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9:10 (NIV))

When our kids were young we would take them to the local County Fair which arrived for about two weeks each Summer.  They loved the fair and would enjoy the rides, the food, and all the fun activities.

Many of the fair booths would offer prizes to kids for succeeding in certain events, such as tossing a small ball into a hoop, or coins into bottles and bowls.

On one occasion, my son won a goldfish.

We had little hope that this “Fair fish” would survive for long, it looked rather skinny and listed to one side. Nonetheless, our daughter set out with great determination to ensure that her little brother’s fish would survive. We started by locating a large fishbowl that had been purchased at a garage sale some years before. After a trip to the pet store, we had an inexpensive air pump, fish food pellets, and some water conditioner in hand.

For the first week or so our Fair fish seemed to remain somewhat on the fence about survival, but then it suddenly seemed to take to its new home. Each morning he got a few pellets of food and he continued to thrive. In time he matured into a large handsome and very bright orange fish.

Days became weeks, months passed and then years.  Our Fair fish is now over seven years old and is as healthy as ever. Somehow over the years I became his de facto caretaker. Mr. Fish resides in our kitchen on the counter, his bowl only a few feet from our coffee pot.

Each morning as I pour my first cup of java, Mr. Fish slurps the top of the water in his bowl loudly and splashes his tail to remind me that it’s also mealtime for him. I obligingly drop in several pellets of food, which he hungrily devours. He spends the rest of his day poking around his bowl looking for anything that he may have been missed in the morning.

Periodically his bowl needed to be changed with fresh clean water. This used to be a process whereby I would chase the poor guy around the bowl with a fish net, and then transfer him with a plop into a  small temporary fish bowl (Actually a small plastic food storage container) until I finished cleaning his bowl.

Over the years however, this entire process became much less traumatic. In time there developed this unspoken trust, that when I needed to clean his bowl, all I needed to do was to gently cradle Mr. Fish in my hand, lift him out of his bowl, and place him in his little container until the cleaning was done. Once his home was cleaned and ready to occupy again, I would do the reverse and put him back into his bowl.

During this transfer activity, Mr. Fish remains extraordinary still and at peace as I make the quick, but smooth transfer from one environment to the other. Any normal fish would have every reason to be frantic, because absent the environment of his water, he is totally helpless. He can’t breathe, he can’t swim about, and it’s all about trusting that I’m not going to harm him in the process while I clean his home so that he remains healthy and strong.

One morning as I was having my coffee and watching Mr. Fish I found myself thinking about matters of trust and how rare real trust actually is.

Life for you and I offers many of its own challenges. We have every reason to find little trust in anything or anyone. Our news is filled daily with horrible stories of people taking advantage of one another.

Even as I look to the Bible I saw that one of Jesus’ closest and trusted disciples, Judas, traded him in for the equivalent of about six months’ pay.

What exactly is “trust” anyway?

In the context of relationships, the word trust means to have complete certainty when it comes to the character, ability, strength or the truthfulness of an individual. The reality is, no matter how well meaning, there’s no human being that we can hold with complete trust. That’s because the Bible tells us that all of humanity simply falls short, (Romans 3:23) we would have to be a perfect being in order to convey perfect and complete trust.

In a world of shifting values and uncertain times, where then do we anchor our trust? Over the years I have found that the only reasonable place to secure complete trust is in Jesus Christ. He has always been and will always be. (Revelation 22:13) The character and integrity of God is unchanging (Hebrews 6:17) and can be completely relied upon for all of the ages. Only Jesus possesses the character traits that have stood the test of time. He is the only one who has lived a life that is perfect and untainted by the effects of sin, a condition for which no one is immune. (Matthew 5:48)

Perhaps today as you read this you’re facing issues of trust. I don’t know what specifically they might be, but I do know this; you can trust our Lord for all of time, He is the one constant and certainty that you can reliably anchor to. He is an unmovable rock, the firm cornerstone that you can confidently build your life upon.

If you choose to follow Christ, to lay your complete trust in Him, you will also experience the peace and the joy of a deep inward satisfaction knowing that you are eternally loved by your creator. For the first time you’ll have a lasting purpose and you will know for certain that your presence in this life is not an accident, it was intentional in every respect.

Will this trusting relationship cause conflict or challenges in life to go away? Nope. But it will allow you to prevail with a hidden strength that will carry you through the storms of life with confidence and trust, knowing that the outcome of your life is in God’s loving hands.

 

Copyright FullLifeWord 2016

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.

Loneliness Displaced

” ‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ ” (Matthew 28:20 )

God never intended human beings to live apart from one another in isolation.

Yet here we are, living in one of the most “connected” societies in human history, yet loneliness is so prevalent. There are many reasons for being lonely. Often the very social networks that connect our society are also the very networks that have been used to isolate us from one another. A frequent means of doing so is through social ostracism, public shame, and cyber bullying. Of course other factors such as the loss of family or someone close, disability, age, disease, poverty, discontent or depression can drive a person into a state of loneliness.

No matter the cause, its a terrible place to be.

In life, friendships grow from shared perspectives, concerns for one another, and a heart willing to take action in times of need.  Lasting friendships are transparent and honest, yet caring and compassionate in its delivery of truth. Friends enjoy time together, even if its not necessarily doing an activity together, sometimes its just being in proximity to one another.

But no matter how deep our human relationships might be, they’re rarely lasting. My  grandmother, in her nineties at the time, once commented to me how grateful she was for her living family as she had outlived her husband and all of her childhood friends. I remember thinking how hard that must have been for her. There was no one left in which to relive shared memories.

Jesus Christ, who loves us (John 3:16) and seeks after us (Rev 3:20) knows about loneliness and the cure for such. He told his disciples shortly before his crucifixion that they would abandon him during his greatest time of need. In that same passage, he also shared that he had overcome the world and that fellowship displaced loneliness because of his relationship with his Heavenly Father (John 16:32-33). Jesus recognized, as my grandmother did, that God is a constant force that can be counted on to push back the creeping shadows of loneliness.

It’s one thing to be alone, but it’s entirely different to be lonely. We can be surrounded by many people and yet experience a deep loneliness in our hearts and souls. I enjoy times of solitude, but I would never desire loneliness.

Responding to Christ’s love for us is often the first step towards overcoming loneliness. Inviting Christ into our lives makes us a new creation (1 Peter 1:3 ). God literally indwells us ( 1 Corinthians 6:19 ). We are no longer alone (Matthew 28:20). As we mature in our faith we learn what it is to “live life to the full” as Christ  always intended for us to do ( John 10:10 )!

Over the years I too have come to the realization that people may come and go, but Jesus will always be. After all, He is the cornerstone upon which the whole of our lives find eternal rest, peace, and fulfillment.