Monday, April 25, 2016

Withered Roots

I have always enjoyed keeping a journal. When the journal is full , I put it on a bookshelf and get a new one . Every few years  I gather those books up, glance through them , and throw them away . I've gotten into the habit of "dog earring " the pages that I wanted to return to . Recently I was cleaning out the bookshelf, gathering the journals of the past 10 or 15 years, preparing to throw them away .  I began leafing through the marked pages of a journal that was 13 years old . 

I was reminded of the intensity of that season of my life .  I remember it clearly . I was offering up long overdue forgiveness to people who had hurt me and my family.  At the very same time the Lord was revealing a deeply rooted sin of insecurity within me.  In one of my entries I had been reading about the life of King Saul. I made  note that Saul was insecure and that insecurity caused him to be a prideful, disobedient, people pleaser.  It revealed to me the sinfulness of my own insecurity. It seemed that that insecurity ruled every decision I made - I was no different than Saul. 

Later on in the journal I was reading in Mark 11 . Jesus was hungry and he saw a fig tree full of leaves.  He wondered if it had any fruit . But when he got to the tree he found nothing but leaves and he said "may no one ever eat fruit from you again " . The disciples took note of what he said and they went on their way . The next morning they walked past and noticed the tree that Jesus had cursed was withered from the roots . Peter said "look, the fig tree you cursed has withered!"  Jesus said, " I tell you , whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours ." 

My prayer entry that day was, " Lord there is a fig tree in me that bears no fruit.  It's a part of me, as if it's in my DNA.  I can't do anything about it, but I believe that you can speak to it just like you spoke to that fig tree, and it will never bear fruit again . I ask you to do it . And maybe one day we might be walking past and you could show me how it's withered from the roots ".

Here I was, 13 years later reading this entry, and God was still answering prayer.  It was as if the Lord and I were walking past and he showed me that fig tree withered from the roots . I can say with certainty that I no longer am ruled by insecurities . Oh, I get insecure . And yes, I can be prideful and disobedient - but that part of me is dead. It no longer has dominion over my decisions and actions . Jesus said that the father cuts off "every branch" "that bears no fruit".  How faithful he is! 

But that wasn't all. When Jesus spoke to his disciples about the withered tree he said " and when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them so that your father in heaven may forgive you your sins ."  The Lord was showing me that my obedience to forgive those who had hurt me aided in the miracle that I had asked for.  Here was God's word revealing itself as truth to me . 

We can be certain that the word of God is true - it is full of life-giving truths...and even death-giving life!

Monday, April 11, 2016

God's Perfect Love

Last fall, Joe and I listened to a book on tape about the Johnstown Flood by David McCullough. There was a scene in the book that described a crewmen on a train who was in charge of a  particular train car full of passengers . Somehow that train was caught on the tracks at the time of the flood . The train tracks were in a low place with hills surrounding it.  When that crewman saw the wall of water coming toward  the train, he ran as fast as he could and made it to high ground .  The passengers of that train car were frozen in fear.  Many lost their lives.  A reporter asked that man, "How is it that you made it to high ground and the others in your train car did not?"  He answered something like, " Well, I saw the water coming and I ran as fast as I could. I had to save my life, didn't I?"

That's scene troubled me, but not because of what that man did . No, I wondered how I would have responded had I been faced with such a life-threatening event . I can't say that I'm very courageous , and I know for certain that I am very selfish at times.  What is to keep me from having the same reaction as the man in Johnstown?  Paul says in Philippians 1:20, " I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body whether by life or by death ".  Paul faced death many times and had an eager expectation and hope that he would not be ashamed, but that God would give him the courage that he needed either to live or die . 

Over a month ago our dear brother Art Belcher faced a similar situation . Not allowing others to be endangered , he heroically protected them to his own hurt . He was stabbed several times and nearly died . Thanks be to the grace and favor of God, Art  is recovering and growing stronger every day . 

I thought it interesting on the first day Art came back to church – the testimony was that when he first took the security officer job , he confided in his friend that he wasn't sure if he really had the courage to do the job required .  The Lord proved to Art that he did have the courage – but that courage did not come from himself, it came from the spirit that fills him . 

This world can be a dangerous place and we can be tempted to walk in fear . John the beloved in I John 4:18 says this , " perfect love expels all fear . If we're afraid, it's for fear of punishment and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love ".  I think Paul must have experienced that perfect love that he could be so confident to eagerly expect and hope that he might be filled with courage . 

And, come to think of it , I can't say I know too many others who are more filled with the love of Christ than Art Belcher.  Perhaps his courage came from a deep experience of God's perfect love . 

I think that in the future I will not pray so much for courage, but for the experience of God's perfect love.  May the Lord grant us all the experience of his perfect love so that we may "eagerly expect and hope that we will have sufficient courage" … So that Christ may be glorified in our lives

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Fly Away

I'm going to be traveling soon.  The thought of flying on an airplane really troubles my mind. No matter how hard I try to understand it , I don't know how such a huge thing can carry so many of us through the sky and land safely.  You may tell me that the law of "lift and thrust" supersedes the law of "gravity" and allows the plane to fly.  But my imagination goes wild, and the thought of something interrupting the superseding law causes me torment.  

These are natural laws that CAN be interrupted , but I am reminded of another law in Romans 8:2 ..." through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death".  That law can never be interrupted because I have received Jesus Christ, and nothing can separate me from His love.  His spirit gave me life and set me free from the law of sin and death . Perhaps I should let my imagination go wild at the thought of the freedom that Jesus Christ has given me:  Freedom - not to sin... Freedom - not to fear... Freedom- to face the unknown - knowing whose I am...Freedom!  Yes, that's what I will do: I'll consider that freedom  on my trip - and I'm sure my worries will "fly away"!