Monthly Archives: September 2010

Polish Up the Dull Side

Phi 4:11-13  I am not saying this because I am in any need, for I have learned to be content in whatever situation I am in.  I know how to be humble, and I know how to prosper. In each and every situation I have learned the secret of being full and of going hungry, of having too much and of having too little.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

I saw a billboard today as I was driving to work.  It said, “If you can’t see the bright side, then polish up the dull side.”  It pierced me to the core.

How many times have I bemoaned my situation, complained about my job, etc.  We all need to be reminded of how blessed we really are.

We are constantly bombarded by the television and media with images of how we “should” be according to the latest fashionistas, or the latest media polls, or the latest gossip columnist.  We are told that we are too fat, too thin, too bald, too hairy… the list goes on and on.  We are encouraged by a smiling “doctor” to have urgently “necessary” cosmetic surgeries.  There is even a channel on cable television called “Wealth TV.”  Its programming is completely devoted to showing us what we don’t, and probably never will have.  It’s designed to promote discontentment.

Dear Lord, help me to see myself through YOUR eyes.  And, if I can’t see the bright side, help me to polish up the dull side.  Help me learn, as Paul did, that I can do all things through You because you daily strengthen me… You daily provide what I need.  Lord help me to be content in whatever situation I find myself.


On Wings Like Eagles

What kinds of things do we place our hope in?
·         Our Job?
·         Our Family?
·         The Stock Market?
·         Our 401K
·         Our Home?
·         How about the earth we stand on?
What happens when these things fail us?  What sorts of circumstances cause us to lose hope and become weak and weary?
What are God’s special promises to the hopeless, the weak and weary?  Isaiah 40:31…
This is from the New Living Translation:
 [27] O Israel, how can you say the LORD does not see your troubles? How can you say God refuses to hear your case? [28] Have you never heard or understood? Don’t you know that the LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth? He never grows faint or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. [29] He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; he offers strength to the weak. [30] Even youths will become exhausted, and young men will give up. [31] But those who wait on (hope in) the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
They that “wait” on the Lord… literal translation is “hope in.”  What does it mean to hope in the Lord?  Trust in or look expectantly to the Lord will “renew”… literal “exchange.”  Their weakness will be exchanged for God’s strength.  The Hebrew for this verb is used of changes of clothes.  In the New Testament, Paul encourages believers to “clothe” themselves with Christ (Col. 3:10)
Col. 3:10
…you have clothed yourselves with a brand-new nature that is continually being renewed as you learn more and more about Christ, who created this new nature within you.
Ephes. 6:11
Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil.
Ephes. 6:13
Use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm.  
Where is your hope placed??  What are you hoping in… the economy… your job… your family… the stock market… your home… your life insurance…
You know… placing our hope in God releases us from the uncomfortable clothing/trappings that this world places on us… We’re basically putting on a new suit of clothes!  The Israelites in Isaiah 40 had forgotten their hope in God. 
Let’s look again at verses 27 & 28
[27] O Israel, how can you say the LORD does not see your troubles? How can     you say God refuses to hear your case? [28] Have you never heard or understood? Don’t you know that the LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth? He never grows faint or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
These verses indicate to me that hope is linked to trust!  You find hope in who or what you place your trust.  The Israelites had stopped trusting God. 
So, who is this God that we are being asked to place our hope in?  Can we trust Him enough to place our hope in Him?  What does Isaiah say…
 [9] Messenger of good news, shout to Zion from the mountaintops! Shout louder to Jerusalem-do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!”    [10] Yes, the Sovereign LORD is coming in all his glorious power. He will rule with awesome strength. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes. [11] He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. [12] Who else has held the oceans in his hand? Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers? Who else knows the weight of the earth or has weighed out the mountains and the hills? [21] Have you never heard or understood? Are you deaf to the words of God-the words he gave before the world began? [25] “To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One. [26] Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out one after another, calling each by its name. And he counts them to see that none are lost or have strayed away.
So, what is the promise for us when we once again turn our eyes toward God and look to Him and His Word for our hope…   This passage of scripture tells us that we’ll soar like eagles!  Wow… reading this passage inspired me to gather some information about these creatures to which we are being compared.
Some Eagle Factoids:
  • They mate for life… same nest is used for 40-50 years.
  • They prefer to stay in high places where they can see all around them.
  • They eat only living prey… they are very selective.
  • Eagles have been known to kill large prey simply by sheer strength of their grip
  • They’re able to see small prey in a field from over 100’s of yards away.
  • They can stay on wing for eight hours, covering 300 miles in a day
Now, Isaiah tells us that if we place our hope in God,  WE will fly high on wings as eagles… 
[31] But those who hope in the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”
When we place our hope in the Lord we are designed to be like spiritual eagles…
We are designed to have:
I.       Supernatural Strength
Those who “hope in” the Lord will renew (exchange) their   STRENGTH.
I don’t know about you, but exchanging MY strength for God’s strength seems like a pretty good bargain! 
2 Cor. 12:9 Each time he said, “My gracious favor is all you need.  My strength works best in your weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me.
Philip. 4:13 For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.
Literally, we EXCHANGE our weakness for His strength.  The image of that eagle flying high, nearer the sun, free and strong!
I am reminded of Kierkegaard’s story about “duck land”. 
On Sunday morning all the ducks got up , brushed their feathers, and waddled to church.  After waddling down the church aisle and  into their pews, they squatted.  Shortly, the duck minister    waddled in and took his place behind the pulpit.  He opened the duck Bible to the place where is spoke of the great power that was given to ducks by God… their wings.  “With wings,” said the duck preacher, “you ducks can fly.  You can mount up like eagles and soar into the heavens. You can escape the confinement of pens and fences.  You can know the euphoria of complete freedom.  You must give thanks to God for so great and powerful a gift as wings.”
All the ducks in the congregation agreed and shouted, “Amen!” and then—they all waddled home.
The point? 
God’s power is available to us.  He has given it to us through His Son, Jesus Christ, yet we remain weak and unchanged…  We nod and agree that this power is available to us, yet we don’t use it!  How do we use it?  We stretch out our wings of faith… they’ll need exercise from lack of use, but once we have begun acting out our faith, we begin to experience the kind of power God intended us to have!  He’s willing to exchange our weakness for His power!!
As spiritual eagles, we are also designed to have:
II.      Supernatural Vision
I’m not talking about Superman seeing through walls here… But, what changes take place in your view of everyday sights when you have seen them from high above?
Several years ago, my wife and I visited Boston.  Getting around Boston had been a bit confusing and we got a little turned around.  We decided to go to the observation level on the Prudential tower.   As we stepped out of the elevator and saw the city surrounding us, we suddenly had a different perspective on our journey.  We finally understood where landmarks were in relationship to other landmarks.  We had a different perspective… a better perspective.
Like the eagle being able to see a small animal from over 100’s of    yards away… We were designed by God, when our hope is placed in Him, to see beyond our present circumstances.  How?… through His Word… His unfailing promises.  Once again we return to that idea of TRUST. 
“HOPE”… what is it after all?  We literally see through different eyes by looking at our circumstances through the truth of God’s word. “faith is the substance of things hoped for… the evidence of    things not seen.”
The psalmist so aptly describes this relationship of trust…
Psalm 71:5-6 O Lord, you alone are my hope.  I’ve trusted you, O Lord, from childhood. 6Yes, you have been with me from birth; from my mother’s womb you have cared for me. No wonder I am always praising you!
           
Psalm 23:3-4 He renews my strength.  He guides me along right  paths, bringing honor to his name.  4Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
Proverbs 3:5  Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do, and He will direct your paths.
We can keep our eyes fixed on our circumstances… or, through His Word and His Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we can rise above our circumstances and catch a glimpse of the eternal!
Philip. 4:6-8 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. 8And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Once again… I’ll ask … where is your hope placed?  Are your thoughts fixed on what is TRUE and HONORABLE and RIGHT? 
Finally, as spiritual eagles, we were designed to have:
III.     Supernatural Freedom
John 8:36
So if the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free.
         That word “indeed” means absolutely, unquestionably, completely free!
Romans 8:2
For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death.
In other words, through His sacrifice, He has released us from the   restraints that sin places on our lives.  The work has already been done, we just need to live it out in our lives.
2 Cor. 3:17
Now, the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, he gives freedom.
I grew up in Eugene, Oregon.  Many years ago there used to be a small zoo in Skinner’s Butte Park.  There were a few pathetic animals there, endlessly pacing in their cramped cages.  In addition to the bears and monkeys, there were several large cages with birds of prey.  One of these cages contained a majestic golden eagle.
Although the cages were large, the bird could not fully extend his wings, so he hunched on the wooden perch inside the cage, barely moving.  He looked miserable.
Finally, the city realized that these animals were being confined inappropriately and they decided to relocate some and set others free.  The birds of prey were to be released on a given day.
The day came for the release and they removed the cage from the golden eagle.  He just sat their staring.  He had been in captivity so long, he didn’t realize he was now free.  Someone took a broom handle and poked him a little.  He just scooted over to the other side of the perch.  After several failed attempts to release him, the handler finally poked him hard enough to upset his balance.  His wings stretched out to regain the balance and he realized he was free.  He began to fly, circling higher and higher into the sky until he appeared to be just a speck in the distance.
Sometimes God has to give us a good, sharp poke in the ribs… something to make us lose our balance and realize we are free.  Helping us find our wings.
            Hebrews 12:1-3
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. 2We do this by keeping our eyes (hope) on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterward. Now he is seated in the place of highest honor beside God’s throne in heaven. 3Think about all he endured when sinful people did such terrible things to him, so that you don’t become weary and give up.
Where is your hope placed?.  Are you living with supernatural strength… with supernatural vision… with supernatural freedom?  If you aren’t… where is your hope placed?

At Wit’s End

There are many times in my life when I have reached my wit’s end. There seemed to be no possible way out of the situations I found myself in.

I realized I am not alone in this feeling. The Children of Israel in Exodus 14; 1-14 & 31 found themselves at wit’s end.

The story actually begins at the end of the previous chapter when the Children of Israel are freed from the bondage of the Pharaoh. They then begin their journey into the wilderness, led by the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. God gave instructions for them to travel throughout the wilderness, which was a longer route because he did not want them to encounter the Philistines in battle and be discouraged into returning to Egypt. This is the point where the reading begins.

READING:

Exodus 14:1-14 & 31


1 Then the Lord gave these instructions to Moses: 2 “Order the Israelites to turn back and camp by Pi-hahiroth between Migdol and the sea. Camp there along the shore, across from Baal-zephon. 3 Then Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are confused. They are trapped in the wilderness!’ 4 And once again I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after you.[a] I have planned this in order to display my glory through Pharaoh and his whole army. After this the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord!” So the Israelites camped there as they were told.

 5 When word reached the king of Egypt that the Israelites had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds. “What have we done, letting all those Israelite slaves get away?” they asked. 6 So Pharaoh harnessed his chariot and called up his troops. 7 He took with him 600 of Egypt’s best chariots, along with the rest of the chariots of Egypt, each with its commander. 8 The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, so he chased after the people of Israel, who had left with fists raised in defiance. 9 The Egyptians chased after them with all the forces in Pharaoh’s army—all his horses and chariots, his charioteers, and his troops. The Egyptians caught up with the people of Israel as they were camped beside the shore near Pi-hahiroth, across from Baal-zephon.

 10 As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the Lord, 11 and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? 12 Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’”

13 But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. 14 The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

31 When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the Lord had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before him. They put their faith in the Lord and in his servant Moses.

There are four major things in this passage that have helped me understand and deal with those seemingly dead end situations.

WIT’S END IS WHERE GOD SOMETIMES LEADS US

·        By specific command vv 1-2a
God gave the Israelites the specific location to set up camp.  This location was headed away from the Promised Land.  God told them to turn away from the Promised Land… sometimes God’s direction seems counterintuitive to our finite minds.
·        For His own purposes vv. 3-4a
God had a purpose in the situation.  He knew it would confound the Pharaoh.  Many times we don’t have the “bigger” perspective… we can’t see beyond the apparent circumstances to the larger picture.  This is where God develops our trust and our reliance upon Him.
·        Why?  That they might know that He was the Lord.
He is God and I’m not.  It was important for the enemy to KNOW that there was a greater power; an all-powerful God of the universe.  We can choose to go our own way… why not allow God to reveal Himself, not only to us, but to those who would oppose us.

WIT’S END IS WHERE GOD TESTS US

·        In the path of obedience v. 4b
So the Israelites camped there as they were told.
·        By allowing overwhelming circumstances to overtake us.
Can you imagine the wit’s end feeling the Israelites must have been feeling when they saw those Egyptians coming after them? I can just picture these people. Migdol was between two mountains… and here they are, the Red Sea on one side two mountains on either side and the Egyptians… 50,000 horsemen, 200,000 footmen, 600 chariots on the other… I believe this was the definition of the term “between a rock and a hard place”.  Where else could they turn but to God for their deliverance?

WIT’S END IS WHERE WE SOMETIMES FAIL GOD

·        By our unbelief. v. 10
The Israelites must not have believed God or would not have cried out as they did. It is a human response in situations such as this to be afraid. When you reach the end of a rope dangling over a cliff there is a natural human tendency to yell for help.  But God had made a promise to the Israelites and God always keeps promises.
·        By our complaints vv. 11-12
Since they were afraid, and had chosen to not believe God’s promise, they decided to rake Moses over the coals. When we are in a situation that we have no control over and there seems to be no way out, we tend to complain.  Unfortunately, man can only see circumstances.

WIT’S END IS WHERE GOD MEETS US AND UNDERTAKES FOR US

·        Always at the right moment v. 13
See the salvation of the Lord TODAY.   God’s timing is perfect. God always meets us at the point of our need.  We must realize the point of our need though and call out to Him.  My grandmother used to say, “God is rarely early, but He’s never late.”
·        By taking control v. 14
“The Lord will fight for you, and you will stay calm” This same type of statement is made in Psalms the 46th chapter and the 10th verse, “Be still and know that I am God”.  

So, why does God lead us to our wit’s end?  Why does God test us at our wit’s end?  Why do we sometimes fail God at our wit’s end?  And, why does God meet us and take over for us at our wit’s end?

The Israelite nation learned to depend upon their own strength when they were in bondage.  They had become accustomed to providing for themselves and not looking to anyone else for their support.  God brought them to their wit’s end to get their attention and make them realize He could provide a better way than anyone else.  God wants to direct our attention to Him today.  He wants us to realize where our strength lies when we reach our wit’s end.  God wants us to rely upon Him.  God brings us to our wit’s end to help us realize as David did in Psalm 18:2  The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.  He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.”

Living Forward

Phi 3:12-16
I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize.  My friends, I don’t feel that I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize that God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done.  All of us who are mature should think in this same way. And if any of you think differently, God will make it clear to you.  But we must keep going in the direction that we are now headed.  (CEV)
It’s so easy to allow the past to hold us back… to get stalled on our journey.  Probably the best “use” for the past is to give us context for today.  It informs us of our progress.  It helps us know how far we’ve come.  We cannot, however, look backward and continue to effectively move forward. 
If we try to drive while constantly looking in the rear view mirror, we are destined to collide with something looming in front of us.  We have to periodically check our mirror, but concentrate our attention on the road ahead.
As Paul states, I have certainly not “arrived”.  I have to remind myself daily that “Christ has taken hold of me” so I can “keep on running”.   When Christ took hold of me, He set my trajectory.  My task is to keep going in that direction… forgetting what is behind, aiming for what is ahead, but never losing sight of how far He has brought me!

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