Sunday, May 30, 2010

Fix it

Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)

My husband is an amazing fix-it guy. From broken toys to car engines, he repairs items ranging from the simple to the more complex. He's able to install electrical appliances, replace plumbing fixtures, lay tile floors, and pour concrete steps. In six of the houses in which we've lived, he's built a fantastic set of solid wood storage shelves, each designed to perfectly hold different size boxes of Christmas decorations, equipment and tools.

During our 28 years of marriage, I've come to appreciate several characteristics of Bob's work, whatever the project. First off, he's very attentive to the things around him. He notices when a lawn mower isn't cutting correctly and hears when a toilet isn't flushing properly. Secondly, he has the wonderful ability to step back and observe a situation. To make a repair, he studies how something works, or more often than not, doesn't work.

Bob dares to do something about a problem. When he realized that the firebox in our living room fireplace had rusted through, he had no fear picking up a sledge hammer and gutting the 50-year-old stone hearth. At the same time, he doesn't rush. Whether it's repairing the plastic leg of one of our daughter's Breyer horses or tearing out a plaster ceiling, he's willing to ask advice from those he trusts and dedicate an appropriate amount of time to care for each project. He is tenacious; his follow-through is admirable. Very seldom does he not finish a project that he starts.

The New Testament book of Hebrews is an intriguing and powerful work. While we don't know who wrote it, nor the precise location and identity of those who first received it, its message points us to the basics of Christian discipleship. Surrounded by heroes of faith (Hebrews 11), we're encouraged to consider Christ--the ultimate example of faith, its pioneer and perfecter. Why? So that in our walk we will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:3).

How does the fundamental teaching to fix our eyes on Jesus play out in the everyday-ness of our lives?

Fix means to direct or concentrate our eyes, attention and mind on something. It seems then that the first step is to examine the things that currently have our attention and influence our lives, as well as how we respond to them. Prayerfully consider the attitudes, activities and relationships that hold your interest. To whom and to what do you give priority? As you step back and observe each situation, does it align with the manner in which Jesus encourages us to live? If not, will you dare to do something about it? Change isn't easy and it isn't always immediate. It may require time, as well as trusted counsel and a deeper study of God's Word.

The writer of Hebrews knew that keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus was the only way we could make it successfully in our walk with Christ. Helen Lemmel captured this thought beautifully in the hymn "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus."

O soul are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There's light for a look at the Saviour,
And life more abundant and free.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grown strangely dim,
In the light of His Glory and Grace.

Wherever you are, my friend, fix your eyes upon Jesus. He's tenacious. He's there with you all the way to ultimate victory in Him!

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, words and music by Helen Lemmel, 1922

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Giant fighting stones

Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd's bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.
1 Samuel 17:40 (NIV)

In 1 Samuel 17, we read of a classic matchup between the Israelites and Philistines. These two ancient people were long-standing enemies who showed up often on the field of combat to do battle. For them the contest was always one thing--which people would serve the other.

History tells us that battles such as this were often decided by having each side choose their bravest and strongest warrior. These two men would then meet between the opposing forces and fight to the death. When the contest ended, the side that lost would become the servants to the victor. This seems to be what was happening in the Valley in Elah.

In this particular case, however, the Philistine warrior was no ordinary soldier. Approximately nine feet nine inches tall, Goliath wore armor that weighed about 175 pounds. He carried a 17-pound spear that included a spearhead that weighed roughly 15 pounds. Every morning and every evening for 40 days, he appeared before the army of Israel and mocked them, cursed their God and challenged them to send someone out to fight him. Each day, Saul and the Israelites trembled in their armor too afraid to fight this giant.

Enter David, a young shepherd boy who had been sent by his father Jesse to carry supplies to David's brothers who were fighting in Saul's army. While speaking with his brothers, David heard Goliath make one of his twice daily taunts. He appealed to Saul to let him fight the giant. Reluctantly, Saul agreed.

Choosing five smooth stones from the stream, David put them in his shepherd's bag. With his sling in his hand, he approached Goliath, ran quickly toward the battle line, met the giant, reached into his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Israelite antagonist on the forehead. David triumphed over the Philistines' national champion!

David didn't go out foolishly to fight Goliath. He had a history with the Lord, and he knew the battle was the Lord's from the get-go. (1 Samuel 17:34-37) David met the Philistine enemy armed with five smooth stones and unswerving faith in the Almighty God. He slung one stone. The giant fell. The Lord won the battle.

My friend, we all face giants in our life--doubt, fear, worry, sin, and guilt. Do you have five smooth stones tucked in your arsenal to battle your giants?

Include the stone of faith. Believe that God is who He says He is and that He can do what He says He can do. (1 Samuel 14:7; Hebrews 11:5-6)

Gather the stone of hope. In confident expectation, trust that you are who God says you are--His holy, dearly loved child. You can do what He says you can do. (Ephesians 1:17-19, Philippians 1:19-21)

Be sure to add the stone of love. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. (Deuteronomy 6:4-6; John 14:23-24)

The Lord has given you a skill, mind and knowledge. Store the stone of knowledge in your pouch as well; He will lead you to use it. (Psalm 119:18, 33-40)

Finally, be sure to include the stone of praise. Give the Lord thanks in everything. (Philippians 4:5-6)

With our all-powerful God, we too can triumph over our giants.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

Sunday, May 16, 2010

When possession isn't 9/10 of the law

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power; and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
1 Chronicles 29:11 (NIV)

It's spring, which means it's time to wash windows. As I sat on the ledge, gripping the frame of a first floor window with one hand and washing an outside pane with the other, I thought about the gyrations and machinations my husband and I went through to buy this house.

Beginning with loan pre-approval, the process quickly moved to determining the needs and wants we had of a house and finding a real estate agent we believed we could trust. We spent hours attending open houses and private showings, not to mention negotiating a fair and equitable contract. The final deal involved real estate agents, title companies, lending agents and attorneys. Out-of-pocket costs included title insurance and homeowner's insurance; as well as fees for radon testing and well, septic, termite, and general and structural inspections. What an exhilarating, exhausting process. The ironic thing is that when our agent handed us the keys to the house and congratulated us as "new homeowners," we don't own it! The bank does.

Chapter 29 of the Old Testament book of First Chronicles records the collection of gifts for building the temple in Jerusalem. After donating his personal fortune to the construction project, David appeals to the people for their voluntary gifts. He is deeply moved by their joyful response. Interestingly, however, David thanks God and not the people that such giving is possible from people who apart from God's goodness have nothing.

Standing before the Israelite people, David praises God's power and proclaims His ownership over all creation. He adores God and ascribes glory to Him as the God of Israel, blessed forever and ever. With thankfulness David acknowledges that everything comes from God, including the grace of God that enables the people to contribute so cheerfully towards the building of the temple.

David speaks humbly of himself, and his people, and the offerings they presented to God. He appeals to God about his own sincerity in what he did. Finally, David prays to God for both the people and his son Solomon that both might hold on just as they began.

Through the gifts of His people, God provided the resources necessary for building the temple, the symbol of His presence among His people. Though these resources were in the possession of the people, in David's eyes they had never ceased to be the full property of the Creator Himself.

Rev. Dennis J. DeHaan wrote, "We as Christians must recognize that God is the rightful owner of our possessions, or they will be a cause of frustration. Our attitude will be reflected in what happens to them. A dent in the fender of our new car, for instance, can bend us out of shape. A coffee spill on the furniture can stain our attitude. A theft can easily rob us of peace."

When we transfer ownership of our goods to God in our hearts, only then can we learn to use things wisely, hold them lightly, and enjoy them fully.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

P.S. If you happen to be in the area, grab a bucket and stop on in. There are more windows to wash. ;-)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Amazing love

When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.
Luke 1:57 (NIV)

"I was there to hear your borning cry. I'll be there when you are old,
I rejoiced the day you were baptized, to see your life unfold.
I was there when you were but a child, with a faith to suit you well;
In a blaze of light you wandered off, to find where demons dwell."

"When you heard the wonder of the Word I was there to cheer you on; You were raised to praise the living Lord, to whom you now belong. If you find someone to share your time and join your hearts as one, I'll be there to make your verses rhyme from dusk 'till rising sun."

"In the middle ages of your life, not too old, no longer young, I'll be there to guide you through the night, complete what I've begun. When the evening gently closes in, and you shut your weary eyes, I'll be there as I have always been, with just one more surprise."

"I was there to hear your borning cry,
I'll be there when you are old.
I was there the day you were baptized
To see your life unfold."

Happy Mother's Day, mom! Thank you for giving me life. I love you.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry, John Ylvisaker