Beginning and Finishing Well

I love the Olympics. This past weekend as my husband, and I sat watching the qualification games for speed skating. I was struck by something as I watched the skaters burst out from the starting line.

It isn’t enough to start well, you have to finish well.

I watch race after race, as the one who started out quick, was passed toward the end by one who seem to be at the end of the pack. This one had begun well, but failed to end well.

Then there were those amazing few who not only began well, but finished well also. They were the first out, they maintained their spot and their speed, and finished the winner.

As I contemplated this, I was reminded of what Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).” He fought hard, he finished the race, and kept the faith. He never quit.

You may ask as I did, how did he do this? This answer is also found in the Bible. Hebrews 12:1-3 says,Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

The way Paul finished his race was by getting rid of things that weighed him down, getting rid of sins that entangled him, causing him to fall. Then he ran with perseverance, meaning he didn’t just run, he ran to win. He continued to run, even when he wanted to quit, even when he felt like giving up. He ran with his eyes fixed on Jesus, fixed on the finish line, considering all Jesus had endured, so that he might not give up.

The speed skaters much the same, must not only begin well, but persevere through their race despite the pain, despite how weary they get. They fix their eyes on the finish line, and the prize set before them.

Far too often these days I hear of those in the ministry who have fallen to sin. Pastors who fall into adultery and pornography. Ministers whose marriages and families are falling apart. It is more common than not these days. And I never fail to be shocked, never fail to wonder, how they could let this happen.

But as I watched the speed skaters, and considered Paul’s words, I realized how simple it truly is. How easy it is to start well, but not to finish well. How easy it is to lack perseverance in the Christian walk. How quickly people can become weary and lose heart. If in fact they have allowed themselves to be entangled by the things of this world. If they have allowed themselves to excuse sin and compromise on the small things. If they have taken their eyes off of the one they served, and placed them upon themselves.

The race set before us takes endurance, it takes hard work and stamina. This Christian walk takes eyes fixed upon Jesus. It requires one unwilling to compromise, unwilling to get caught up in the things of this world.

It is tough, no doubt. For I’m sure there are days we all want to quit, days we all would like to give up. Yet, we must keep our eyes fixed on the prize. We must set our hearts and minds on the things of God. Only then, can we endure to the end, and finish the race.

What has God called you to? Whatever it is, finish well. Run the race He has for you… keep your eyes fixed on Him.

Friend, it is not enough to start well, the true winner, both starts and finishes well.

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When you don’t know what to do? Look up!

Unknowns, lead to lots of questions.

So what do you do when you don’t know what to do?

Where do you turn when you don’t know which way to go?

This morning as I sat in service the pastor was preaching from 2 Chronicles 20, one of my favorite OT passages, the story of Jehoshaphat.

Jehoshaphat has received news that a vast army is on its way. And his first response is to seek the Lord. And in verse 12 he says, ” We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

Don’t you just love this? I know I do. Especially these days in the midst of the unknowns.

The truth is though I want to know the answers, I want to know what to do. Yet, I can be like Jehoshaphat and simply declare, “I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on you!

Jehoshaphat sought the Lord and awaited His response and His power to be seen.

He didn’t have the answers, but knew the Lord did. He also knew the Lord could and would provide all he needed.

And that is exactly what the Lord did. “This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you (20:15,17).”

All too often I try or attempt to try to fight my battles, try to figure things out, seek a way out. All the while the Lord is there saying, “Look to me! Don’t be afraid, don’t be discouraged over this situation. This isn’t your battle it is mine. Be still and know I am God, and watch as I take care of every single detail, Trust me, look to me!”

One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 121, I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord,the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Our help dear friend comes not from ourselves, not from others, but from the Lord!

I don’t know your struggles, or the things you are going through, but the Lord does. And He desires for you and for me to look up. To look to Him. He longs for us to lay our burdens at His feet, and simply say, I don’t know what to do, Lord, so I look to you!

May we find our rest, our help, our strength, our joy, our everything in the Lord!

 

 

Trusting God Even When it’s Hard

How do we trust God when we can’t see the way?

How do we trust God when nothing makes sense?

When life seems to be spinning out of control?

When someone we love is sick or hurting, and we are helpless to help?

We all know trusting God is easy when life is good, when all is well in our worlds. Yet the true test of our trust is shown not in the good, easy times, but in the difficult.

Trusting God to do the impossible is easy to instruct others, but difficult to hold onto when you’re the one needing to believe.

Holding fast to the Lord seems painless until He is all we have to hold onto.

I think of the saints of old, and how they trusted God. Abraham trusted God with Issac. Joseph trusted God as he waited in prison to be remembered. David trusted God when he was running for his life. Shadrach, Meshach and Abindigo trusted God regardless of the outcome. Daniel trusted God as he faced the lions. And the list goes on and on.

Yet, these great men of old were still just that men. They weren’t perfect, more holy than you or me. They still struggled I’m sure to trust and believe in the midst of such times. The Psalms of David give us a glimpse of this as we read of him crying out to the Lord.

So how do we do as Proverbs 3:5-6 instructs?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.

  1. We must remember who we serve. The LORD, with whom all things are possible. The One and only who spoke all things into existence. Whose voice the wind and waves obey.
  2. We must remember His faithfulness. In the midst of difficulties, it is easy to see only the difficulties. Yet, this is the prime time we need to remember his faithfulness. Taking the time to think back on all He has done for us, how He has always taken care of us, and resting in the fact that the same is true now.
  3. We must remember to lay our burdens and cares at His feet, knowing He cares for us. Too often we pray about our difficulties, and yet we hold onto them, still trying to resolve the issues, still attempting to fix the problems. Then we become weary and feel we can’t go on. When this is not what the Lord intends. He calls us to, lay them down and trust Him to work it out.
  4. We must remember to spend time in His presence. In Psalm 73, the Psalmist was overcome with life’s problems, overcome with the unfairness of how the wicked seemed to prosper. Until He came into the presence of the Lord. Then all things were brought into perspective. As we read and study the Word of God, the peace of God radiates our soul. The joy of the Lord becomes our strength, and our faith is increased.
  5. We must remember to do as the verse says, to rely not on our own understanding, but in all our ways to acknowledge Him. We will become weary, depressed, angry, afraid if we rely upon our own understanding. We will be spinning our wheels, with no answers. Instead we must rely upon Him. Rely upon the fact that nothing about our problems or situation takes the Lord by surprise. He ordained all the days of our lives before they came to be. And He can be trusted to bring about what He has planned.
  6. We must remember to acknowledge that He is God and we are not. We can’t fix the problems, we can’t manipulate the details, we can’t orchestrate the events. But, He can. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present. He doesn’t need our help, but He desires our trust.

I don’t know the struggles you are going through, any more than you know mine. But the Lord knows each and every detail, and He calls us to trust Him. He calls us to believe on Him, to rely on Him, to draw our strength from Him, and to find our rest in His presence.

 

A Letter to my Daughter

Today my daughter turned 9.How different it is to raise a girl than boys. They think, feel, and learn differently. So to my 9 year old going on 20, there are a few things I want you to know.

  1.  Your beauty is not found in your dress or jean size. Your significance is not found in the length of your hair or the amount of jewelry you wear.You beauty is found according to the Scriptures, in a gentle and quiet spirit. It is found in what is in the inside, not in what is found on the outside..“your adornment must not be merely external– braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God (I Peter 3:3-4)”

    2. You are your beloved’s and He is yours.He is enthralled with your beauty and longs for you to come away with Him.

    The One who loves you the most, loves you just as you are. He made you that way. He loves the freckles on your nose, the color of your hair, the shape of your face. And He desires for you to care more about what He thinks of you than what anyone else says. He invites you to come away with Him and find your joy in Him.

    “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine,”( Song of Solomon 6:3)

    “his banner over me is love.” (Song of Solomon 2;4)

    3. You should clothe yourself with the things that matter.

    All too often we pick out our clothes, we dress a certain way to draw attention to ourselves. We want to be noticed. We want to fit in, look the part.Yet, the label on our clothes and the length of our skirt, is not the issue. All over the world, women dress certain ways to fit their culture. But, God says, what we wear on the outside is not what matters. It’s the things we clothe ourselves with on the inside.

    ” clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity (Col. 3:12-14).”

    4. You are never alone, you have a friend who is closer than a brother…

    When others hurt you and you feel alone. Don’t believe that lie. You are never alone. The One who loves you most, the One who cares for you the most, He is always with you. Though others will let you down, He never will.

    “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24).”

    5. You are holy, righteous, justified, forgiven, chosen of God.

    Though the enemy will lie to you and try to tell you that you have no worth. Your worth is great in the eyes of God. Because of what Jesus has done, you are perfect. Don’t listen to the lies of the enemy, instead fill your mind with the truth of God’s Word.

    “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things (Phil. 4:8).”

    You my darling daughter are a daughter of the King of Kings. He loves you just as you are. He delights in you, and made you just as you are for His glory and for His purposes. When He looks at you, He see’s His creation and He says it is very good!

What Makes Good Friday Good?!

To the lost world, celebrating Good Friday doesn’t make sense. Why would we celebrate the death of our God, they wonder?

Yet, what they don’t understand, what the lost just don’t get. Is that we don’t celebrate the death of our God. We celebrate the ransom He paid in full at the Cross. We celebrate the fact that at the cross Jesus blood made it possible for us to be forgiven. The cross gives hope. The cross gives life eternal.

Yet, to those here in Nepal, this makes little sense. To them Jesus is just another god, not the Son of God, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords.

But to me, He is this and so much more.

Because my belief in what Christ accomplished at the cross gives me redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of all my sins, an inheritance in Christ, and peace with God. (Ephesians 1 and 2).

No, Good Friday is not only good, it is great.

For it is only because of the death of Christ, we can have life. Only through the blood of Christ, we can be forgiven. Only through His sinless, perfect life we can be made righteous. Only through Christ!

We don’t serve a god who cares not for us, who can’t hear our prayers, see our needs. We serve the living God who paid the price we could never pay, who hears our prayers, sees our needs and cares for every detail of our lives.

In every other religion the believers seek to get to god. They do this by doing good works, offering sacrifices, following rituals.

But in Christianity, our God came to us. He came born as a helpless babe, becoming a bondslave, living a sinless life, so that He could accomplish the will of the Father. To die for our sins, so that we could have life. Our God accomplished it all, we must simply repent and believe!

Good Friday is good. A wonderful day because of all it represents, yet the best part is that the story only begins this day. For what the lost don’t understand is that my God did not stay dead, three days later He rose from the grave, defeating sin and death.

And He lives today!

Giving our everything to Him!!

Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” Matthew 26:13

Living overseas, I have seen this personally. The stories of the Cross have been translated into multitudes of languages, and shared throughout the world. It is a beautiful thing.

Yet, I do not for one second believe this had anything to do with why Mary did such a lavish thing. She knew not how often her story would be told, she knew nothing of the languages the Scriptures would be translated in.

All she did, she did out of love. Love for her Savior!

Though this perfume could have been sold for a large price, though it seemed a waste to the disciples, and a cause of rebuke by Judas. She cared not.

For she was committed this act of love not for the applause of man, the attention of others. She did it solely and completely for the Lord.

And yet, this extravagant act of love lives on today. Spoken of throughout the world, acted out in dramas for all to see.

Causing us to think, to ask of ourselves. What are we willing to lay down, give up for the Lord? How can we lavishly love our Savior? Why do we even do the things we do, for the applause of the Lord or of man?

For Mary, she did the only thing she could. She took what was most valuable in the world to her, gave it to the Lord. And she didn’t just pour out a little, saving some perfume for herself. She gave all that she had, completely.

As Easter draws near, and I read the stories of the Cross. I am reminded that I too must lay all I have at his feet, give all that I have unto the Lord. For only He is worthy.

 

The Idols Within….

Living in a land of idols and among carved images brings me much thought of the “idols” within.

Walking past temples the other day, I asked myself what idols do I struggle with?

And the response made me tremble.

For you see, all too often I believe my greatest idol is myself.

See an idol is anything we put above or in the place of God. And more than I’d care to admit, I realized how easily it is for me to elevate my needs, my wants, my feelings, my comfort, my time etc. above the Lord. My, my my!

And I think if we are all honest, this can on many days be said of us all.

When kids are small and they grab a toy and say mine, we laugh. Yet, that natural inborn tendency remains for life. Causing us to value our own feelings, needs, and desires above others.

Which is precisely why Paul tells us in Philippians 2 to, think of others, look out for the interest of others, more than ourselves. Because this doesn’t come naturally, it is something we all must work at.

Another way we idolize ourselves is when we have a tendency to look to ourselves rather than God. To depend upon ourselves, rather than Him. To try to figure things out, rather than trust the Lord. All I’m ashamed to say I am guilty of.

And when we do this, we have placed ourselves in the position worthy only of the Most High.

In my quiet time the other day I read, “For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.” Psalm 86:10

He alone is God. We are not.

“Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” Psalm 100:3

He alone made us and all in this world, we did nothing.

Yet, far to often we look to ourselves to fix the situation, depend on  ourselves or others when anxious. Rather than turning to the Lord, the one and only who has the power to do above and beyond all we could ask or think!

This past Sunday my husband preached on the grain of wheat, and how until it dies, it can not bear fruit.

The same is true of ourselves. Until we learn to die to ourselves, our wants, our desire, our selfish tendencies, we will not bear much fruit. The fruit is a result of death. 

Jesus put it this way, “And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23

To follow Christ, to bear fruit, to be His disciple. It means denying self, carrying our cross daily, so that we can follow Him.

Jesus made it clear, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” Matthew 6:24

We can not serve ourselves and God. It won’t work, we must choose to serve the Lord, and discipline ourselves to put Him on the throne in our lives.

Paul said he beat his body into submission. Why? Because he knew how weak his flesh was. He knew that though his heart was set on serving the Lord, that his flesh wanted to serve himself.

This same battle takes place within us.

So, how do we overcome?

Simply put, we don’t. He does.

When we reckon ourselves dead to self and alive to Christ.

Yet, it is much more complicated than just that. Because it involves daily dying to what we want, and submitting ourselves to what the Lord wants instead. It means looking to Him, rather than ourselves, depending on Him for everything, seeking Him first, and treasuring Christ.

How we live reflects who we serve. What then does your life reflect, you or Christ?

May we seek to reflect Christ to this dark and dying world. For Jesus is the only, true hope.