Commitment, Faith, Obedience, Perseverance, Sanctification, Spiritual Battle, Surrender, Trust, Victory

Chomp Chomp

“May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners! May the Lord fulfill all your petitions!” Psalm 20:5

Recently, my husband and I spent the weekend in Gainesville, Florida visiting our oldest son, Sean.  On Saturday we made our way to the UF football game. Traveling by foot through campus in the human current of orange and blue we passed some professional tail-“Gators” anticipating the sure victory over Colorado.  However, the majority of fans were, like us, eagerly speed-walking to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, nick-named “The Swamp.” It was the second hottest (and I’m guessing the most humid) game-day on record for the Gators. Regardless, we all rose up the ramp in ant-like procession. Everyone was so excited — joyful even — as they took their seats.  Although fans (literal paper fans) were waving, no one complained about the heat. Apparently Gators don’t sweat.

Soon, the band played and everyone cheered as the team streamed onto the field. Then it happened. Thousands of arms lifted, right over left, elbows locked, and moved up and down, like an alligator’s mouth. At the same time ninety-thousand voices shouted,”Go Gators!” Go Gator’s is their battle cry but there is something about this chomp, chomp motion that motivates both fan and player. It gives them a sense of belonging — a confidence because they know they are part of a winning team. And (chomp, chomp) they wanted their opponents to know it.

Wow! This kind of community is inspiring! I’m not even a football fan and I enjoyed it. However, this experience made me question my own approach to the spiritual battle we find ourselves in as Christians. We too are a part of a winning team. However, we are not always excited to gather together. And even though we have the best quarterback, coach and manager in the universe we don’t always trust Their judgement. We may have a rag-tag team but because of Jesus – because he resides in us – we are victors! What is our intimidating war cry? “Jesus lives!” and our motto, “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us” Romans 8:37. What is our uniform? “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience Colossians 3:12.

Do I believe Jesus has secured the victory? Do I act like it? Do I confidently endure all things by faith? Struggles, like conflict, pain, heat and injury, are expected by the football player. But, he doesn’t overcome these obstacles alone. He stands on that battlefield as part of a unit. We too are part of an enormous community. The “great cloud of witnesses” cheer us on because they already know the outcome.  The individual Christian is encouraged while doing his part as the sure victory unfolds because God provides us with a team called the Church. Instead of The Swamp we have The Sanctuary and instead of a war cry we have praise. Instead of tailgating we have fellowship and instead of a winning season we have salvation by grace, through faith in our leader, Jesus Christ. So, this Sunday put on your game shirt and cheer on your “team” while raising your hands and shouting with joy! Chomp, chomp!

“For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me.” Psalm 18:39

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12

Control, Faith, Insecurity, Life, Obedience, Overwhelmed, Perseverance, Rebellion, Repentance, Trust

Soda Can Heels

“I will walk in freedom,
    for I have devoted myself to your commandments.”

Psalm 119:45 NLV

When I was a little girl living in Okinawa on Kadena Air Base, my sister and I would slip soda cans onto our heels and walk, clinking and clanking, down the hill. Pretending to be “grown-up” we endured hot asphalt on our toes, just so we could know the boost of adulthood.  We also felt free, even while the pinch of sharp aluminum pressed against our heels. Though we had fun pretending to be autonomous at the time, now I know that freedom is a powerful motivator, especially when it concerns parting from oppression.

Of course, war is proof of this.  As a child I was unaware of history and could not comprehend the horrors the Okinawan people witnessed during the occupation period, nor did I understand their fear of being pushed into the Vietnam War.  During one trip to the fish market we had to bring our German Shepherd, Bo, for protection. And, like fish in a bowl looking out on the world, we drove through a crowd of anti-war/anti-American protestors in our station wagon. They yelled; Bo barked; I stared. Hate and fear stared back. On the other side of their experience, I could not appreciate how they felt. They wanted their independence—their soda-can heels—so they could feel safe from China. But, what they needed was a freedom that only comes through surrender.  They needed God.

This reminds me that I need God too.  My freedom doesn’t come from something I do (like squish soda cans on my heels) but from who I am. Anger and protest will not bring me peace and no dog can protect me from the world. It is Christ’s blood on the doorpost of my heart and His Word applied by the Spirit that causes me to walk in freedom. That brings me to a confession.  Lately, as we are in a time of transition, I have found myself neglecting the fact that I need God. The time spent with the Lord has been microscopic compared to my “normal” and I have paid a steep price. Ironically, studying for Christian Ministry has been one of the main distractions along with moving, travel, serving and working out. Forgetting that blood was shed for my freedom, I have neglected God’s Word. Now, instead of walking in freedom I find myself taken by apathy and anxiety, fearful of the future and reaching for my soda cans.

Fortunately, God has a way of reminding me of the basics. “I will walk in freedom for I have devoted myself to your commandments” (Psalm 119:45, NLV). In other words, I will live a life free from spiritual oppression because I have spent time with the Lord and have been in His Word. Recently, Charles Stanley set me straight by challenging me (through the radio) to confess and repent the sin of neglect. He talked about how easy it is to drift away from God right into a prison of hard-heartedness and confusion. In a way I felt like that little girl in the back of the station wagon looking out on the ugly world as I clung to my dog who was not entirely safe at the time.

Oh, how I love our Father who speaks so tenderly to us, even when we run off. Perhaps He is not so safe either. He may still ask us to go to the fish market during war-time in a hostile setting.  But we will never be alone.  From now on leave your soda cans at home and walk with Him.

“My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Proverbs 4:20-23 (NIV)

Control, Faith, Holiness, Hope, Humility, Obedience, Perseverance, Pride, Righteousness, Self Righteousness, Submission, Surrender

Finish Well

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.  Because you have rejected the word of the LordHe also has rejected you from being king.”  1 Samuel 15:23

Crossing the finish line after a grueling marathon must incite a feeling of overwhelming relief and accomplishment.  I say “must” because I am not a runner.  However, I can imagine the feeling, having “finished” other things that seemed impossible and required perseverance to endure (like raising teenagers).   Unfortunately, King Saul did not finish well.  In fact, I would say he is one of the most prominent cautionary tales in the Old Testament.  Anointed the first king of Israel, as a young man King Saul was humble in his own sight.  However, as he grew in power he also grew in self-reliance and pride.  Therefore, by the time Samuel admonishes Saul in 1 Samuel 15, he is rebellious, prideful and distant from the Lord.

Personally, finishing well gives me great satisfaction and joy; especially since completing a project or achieving a goal is not my strongest attribute.  So, when it does happen I feel great, especially if God was glorified.  Even greater will the joy be when, at the end of my life, I finish the race, running across the finish line straight into the arms of Abba who says, “Well done!”  Still, the question remains, why didn’t King Saul finish well?  How did this tall, handsome, humble man become a king  with a hard heart?  Most importantly, how did this anointed King fall out of favor with God?  1 Samuel 15:10-11 tells us: “Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, ‘I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.’ And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the Lord all night.”

Most assuredly, the answer is pride.  Saul had decided in his heart that he was just as capable of making “good” decisions as God.  Little by little Saul recessed into the bowels of self-absorption until he no longer honored God or His prophet, Samuel.  Self-absorption and hard-heartedness are stones that build a path to spiritual calamity.  We are all prone to the idea that we know better.  Romans 9:20a says, “But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God?”  The word translated “talk back to” is the Greek verb antapokrinomai.  It means “to contradict in reply, to answer by contradiction, reply against” (Strong’s G470).  Which prompts the question; am I talking back to God in any area of my life?  It can be a subtle slide into spiritual fatigue as we log the miles this side of Heaven.  I want to encourage you to finish well, as many have spurred me on in the race of life.  If you don’t already, surround yourself with Christian encouragers who are running with perseverance.  More importantly, be that encourager to someone else, thinking little of yourself as you “stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24) so we may all finish well as we break the ribbon between heaven and Earth.

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”  Acts 20:24