Are you Living STRONG?

Livestrong photo

Did you know that you have an open invitation from the Creator of the Universe to come to Him for everything you have need of?  It is true, but sometimes we need a daily reminder.  Our lives get so busy and the hustle and bustle of the 21st century run us down so that we forget where our true sustenance comes from.

My reminder came this morning as I was pounding away on my treadmill.  The words at my feet scream, “LiveSTRONG”.  The catchy phrase that Lance Armstrong has made millions from, could also be an open call from God Himself to you and I to live STRONG.

God spoke this message in times past through another man, the prophet Isaiah.  In chapter 55, God calls out, “Ho!  Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat.  Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price”.  God is imploring His children to come to Him for all their satisfactions, come to Him for their daily provision.

The great culmination of this invitation comes when God invites us again through the life of Jesus.  On the great day of the feast of Tabernacles, Jesus stands in front of the people and calls out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink deeply”.

Close your eyes with me for a moment and can you just imagine this scene?  Jesus is in the temple and He is raising His voice above all the others.  Wanting to gather everyone’s attention, He calls out this powerful invitation.    As Jesus must have looked out over the sea of faces, His heart must have tugged deeply for the hurting and brokenness of mankind.  He knew that the only satisfactions that their heart craved could only come from Him.  He was the expression and fulfillment of all of the Father’s heart.

As I daily meet people who are hurting and confused, I hear the Father say “LiveSTRONG”.  As I sit across my kitchen table and hear a 40 year old man tell me of his tragic and devastating childhood, his life now falling apart, I hear the Father say, “Come to Me”.  As I see people running around buying and spending money on things that will never satisfy, I hear the Father say, “Come to Me, I am free!  I have everything you need”.

God is all we need to get by in this world my friends.  Today, if you feel the sadness and frustration of  realizing that perhaps you have substituted other things for the living water that Jesus offers, simply reach out your hand to Him and He will come!  Allow His deep love to crash over you and rush into your being.  The result will be a beautiful filling up and then you can go and pour it out over everyone else that is thirsty!

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest”.  Matthew 11:28

Fixing Our Eyes On Jesus, the Author and Finisher of Our Faith!

I have an eight year old Australian Shepard, who undisputedly, is the smartest dog I know.  When we purchased “Janie” all those years ago from a local breeder, it was because my daughters had been begging for a dog for a couple of years.  I finally relented, but considered that if I was to get a dog, I wanted a breed that was smart and would obey me!  So, I did lots of research and the general consensus of everything I read, stated that Aussie’s were one of the smartest dogs around.

After we picked Janie out of the litter and brought her home, the long, arduous task began of training this cute, furry puppy.  Guess who that task fell upon – you guessed it…… ME!  Although my girls tried their hardest to train and build relationship with their new family member, I noticed that little Janie followed me around the most and looked to me for all of her needs.  After all, I was the one feeding her, bathing her, cleaning her and buying her all those fun toys!  Therefore, I had officially become her new master!

Over the years, I have worked tirelessly in order to train Janie to be an obedient dog.  The main reason I was so concerned over this fact was that if I could get her to obey my voice instantly, I knew it would keep her safe when we were outside walking or jogging – something Australian Shepherds LOVE to do!  Since Aussie’s have lots of energy, sweet Janie needed to be walked every day.  The dangerous element of this would be is that Janie continually pulled herself out of her collar and leash to go chase cars, squirrels or little kids on bikes.  It took months, and months to break this very, bad habit.

Over the years, I have slowly weaned Janie off of her leash and now we can go anywhere and she will follow my commands by voice.  Over the past 3 years or so, as Janie has matured, and when we go for a walk, she will stay in step with me and keep pace without me having to guide her on a leash.  I trust her to listen to my voice and obey my commands.  After all, most of my commands are given to protect her and keep her safe.  I love her dearly and want to make sure she is protected and out of harms way.

Lately, I have noticed that as we are going on our walks, she is constantly looking up at my face.  Ready and waiting for me to guide her.  If she gets ahead of me, she will continually turn, pause, study my face and seem to wait on me so she doesn’t get too far ahead.  I have also noticed that I can communicate with her without using my voice.  I can look at her a certain way, tilt my head in the direction of a turn or snap my fingers, and she will know which direction to head in.  As our relationship has grown over the last 8 years, we know one another, and trust one another.  I trust her to listen, watch and wait for me and she trusts me to guide her in the correct direction of our daily walk.  It brings me great pleasure to know that Janie has developed a wonderful habit of studying my face in order to be told what direction to move in.

One day, before our daily walk,  I was reading Psalm 32, and I stopped short when I read verse 8.  In the previous verses, David had been pouring out his heart to God and then you see at the close of verse 7 the word, SELAH.  The word selah in Hebrew means to pause and/or meditate.  So, as David is pausing and meditating on what he has just said, God enters the conversation and  says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye”.  I slowed down and read this over and over many times until these words got down deep inside me.  My first response was, yes God, I want you to guide ME with Your eye!   And then my next thought was, how interesting and peculiar that God is able to guide His children with His very own eye – how does this work?

As I meditated on these verses over the days and weeks, one day it dawned on me!  Just as I am able to guide my furry, four-legged companion, Janie, with my eye and facial expressions, our Heavenly Father does the same for us.  The important part to understand in all of this is relationship.  Just as Janie and I have spent hours and hours together over the last 8 years, developing a close relationship, we must do the same with our Father God.  The more time we spend with God, studying His face, His nature, we know who He is and we learn to trust Him explicitly.  He is then able to guide us with His eye and move us in the direction we are go.  He loves to do this, in order to keep us safe and out of harms way.

My relationship with Janie has actually taught me a lot of great life’s lessons.  This one has been one of my favorites thus far.  The time I spent pouring into my relationship with Janie over the years has produced a beautiful connection between us.  We have a mutual understanding between us and she is completely devoted to pleasing me in all things.  I really believe that is the main reason why she studies my face, waiting for my eye to guide her.  She wants to please me because she loves me and trusts me.  She wants to do my will.  I am her master and she knows that I only have her best interest at heart.

I encourage you to read all of Psalm 32.  In the passage after verse 8, God exhorts us as His children to NOT be like the horse or the mule, who have no understanding; for they must be harnessed with bit and bridle, lest they will not come near.  God desires us to come near unto Him.  He wants to instruct us and guide us but, he is only able to do this to the degree we submit to Him and know Him.  When we spend time reading and treasuring His precious word daily, we become so familiar with His ways and thoughts.  It is then, that we can actually begin to feel His eye upon us, guiding us and moving us in His perfect will.

Study His face my friends, gaze into His beautiful eyes and allow Him to teach you. For in Him are all things beautiful and He is full of light!  Your path will never be darkened and you cannot stumble, for He will illuminate your path with the radiance of His glorious face.  His eye is ever on you!

I will NOT stay silent!

This morning I got up early!  Even though it was a holiday, my body is programmed to wake up around 6:00am.  After my first cup of coffee, I settled into my daily routine of reading through the gospels.  Currently, I am in the book of Mark.  I have been reading the four gospels over and over repeatedly for the past eight months.  When I finish the book of John, I start back over at Matthew.  I have lost accurate count but, I think I am on my 4th rotation of reading through.  That may not seem like much but, I travel slow!  I often get side tracked and start reading footnotes or I look up a certain passage that Jesus quotes or refers to from the old testament.  Before I know it, I have spent 30 minutes reading from the book of Isaiah because I get so enthralled at what is being said.  I confess, I loose track of time.  Spending time in God’s word is like that.  Time seems to stand still.

So today’s reading was Mark chapter 10.  As I was reading along, I got to verse 46, and blind Bartimaeus is introduced.  Seemingly a random insert into a glimpse of time outside the town of Jericho.  Suddenly, I was on the edge of my seat!  I had read this story many times but, today it was if the words jumped off the page.   Bartimaeus is on the side of the highway begging, and he hears that Jesus is walking by.  Immediately, Bartimaeus begins to call out to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”.  As soon as the others hear his cries, they begin to hush him and rebuke him saying, “be quiet!”.  Bartimaeus  ignores the crowd shushing him and continues crying out to Jesus.  So much so, that Jesus stops, turns and commands Bartimaeus to be brought to Him.  Are you ready?  This is where it gets real good.   Jesus asks Bartimaeus what exactly does he want.  Remember, the man is blind – no sight!  I am sure that Jesus can notice this fact and I find it very interesting that Jesus asks anyway.  I have realized that sometimes, God wants us to simply just ask……in doing this we admit that we are needy.  When we acknowledge our needs, we set ourselves up to receive!

Bartimaeus humbly asks Jesus, that he might receive his sight.   Without hesitation, Jesus grants his desire and Bartimaeus is healed.  Where he once was blind, he now has sight!  Amazing!

As I stopped and pondered this account, I was struck with the fact that blind Bartimaeus did NOT stay silent!  Even though the crowds tried to silence him, he continued to cry out to the One whom He knew could provide what he needed.  My mind began to race….what if Bartimaeus had listened to the people?  What if he had obeyed them and silenced his own cries? What if he allowed their opinions to matter?  Would Bartimaeus have received his miracle?

You see, I am convinced that if Bartimaeus had given in to popular opinion, he would not have gotten his sight!  I know that if Bartimaeus had remained silent, he would still be sitting by the roadside, blind and begging.  I believe that if Bartimaeus had not kept pursuing his one desire, he would not have obtained the thing that mattered the most to him.  When we can push past the crowds and keep crying out for an encounter with Jesus, then I promise our miracle is just on the other side.

So, today I made a declaration.  I will NOT stay silent!  I will not listen to my peers, or even my foes, who try to silence me for telling the good news of Jesus.

Blind Bartimaeus inspired me today!  I want his courage, I need his stamina.  I desire his passion to encounter Jesus, even if it means crying out and looking foolish to others.  Because I am convinced, just as Bartimaeus was, that Jesus is good and that when I capture His attention, it is then that I am fully satisfied!

Isaiah 62:6 – “I have set watchman upon your walls Jerusalem, they shall not hold their peace day or night; you that make mention of the LORD, do not stay silent”.