Freedom

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners- Isaiah 61:1

Isaiah 61 has always been one of my favorite passages in the Bible. It is the same passage Jesus read in the synagogue when he first began his public ministry. The fourth chapter of Luke shares this. For me, these are very powerful words that describe just what Jesus set about doing when He came to earth. The prophet Isaiah had written these words several hundred years before, and when Jesus read them aloud He added, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21, NIV).

I am fortunate to live in a place that allows me great freedoms; the freedom to marry a husband of my choice, the freedom to have as many children as I desire, the freedom to worship God, the freedom to meet, the freedom to be educated, the freedom to teach what I have learned, the freedom to pursue a career of my choice, the freedom to live where I desire, and the freedom to travel wherever I wish and the freedom to vote for my leaders.

I realize, however, that this is a special perk of living in the United States, and not everyone has these same freedoms. This freedom is amazing and I am thankful that this is the place God chose for me to live. But, unfortunately all who are free at least physically, are not free spiritually.

Many of us struggle with the freedom from whatever has control over us. We try to free ourselves from life’s pains, sorrows, doubts and fears by our own strength. This is weary work. We try to find freedom in organized religion or a self- centered religious practice, only to find it lacking any true release. What we need is help from God to be free from this pursuit of freedom. This pursuit of spiritual peace.

This is precisely what Jesus offers. Jesus came to set men free from the sin that binds them, from the endless religious rituals that were only a temporary staving off of the darkness and hopelessness felt by men. The sacrifices offered in the Temple were only good for a year, for a short time, for it was just a foreshadowing of what was to come through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

Jesus set men free from the captivity and hopelessness of sin, the thing that keeps us from peace with God and ourselves and others. We no longer have to be prisoners of this world, in darkness and without hope. We can and have been set free, if we will only realize this. Jesus opened the prison doors, but we must acknowledge it, and trust Him for our salvation and be reconciled to God. It does not take any additional religious working, or sacrificing or reading ten chapters of scripture per day. It is realizing our need for His sacrifice, believing in His work, confessing Him as Lord and Savior, for us, for you, personally, that opens our eyes, redeems us, and enables us to see the doors of the prisons we have created are already open. God does not force us up on our feet, dragging us out of our prison cells against our will but rather, He proclaims freedom. He declares that what the world had long waited for, a Savior, a Messiah, a deliver, was here, freeing us from religion and declaring that sin and Satan had no more control over us.

Whether or not we have personal freedoms or political freedoms, does not matter, for we can experience true freedom- spiritual freedom by accepting Jesus’ proclamation of our release and walking in faith in Him. This my friend is true freedom. God Bless- Nancy

Unhindered

So, what’s holding you back? From taking that next step? From moving forward. I’m sure if you are like me, you kinda know the answer already. The minute you read the question, you could picture just what it is. The big thing that holds you back. Is it fear? Is it doubt? Is it because you lack faith?

For me it has always been fear. The fear of rejection, and the fear of failing, of not measuring up to others, not fitting in. I always have this same recurring fear of not fitting in and people not approving of what I do. When we let fear control us, we get held back from our progress forward. I have written previous blogs on facing fear before, and like I always say, I am a work in progress. I write about what to do, but even for myself, those steps forward in facing fears, have never been easy. I think it is that way for all of us. We let ourselves and our fears hold us back. It isn’t really anyone else, but US.

We have dreams and goals and maybe even callings, but we can feel hindered from pursuing them. These dreams, goals and callings, are like small seeds when we first sense them. If we nurture them, they grow and produce fruit. If we leave them alone, they can become stagnant and lifeless. When we let fear, or whatever else that we know is OUR hindrances become larger than our dreams, the dreams will wither. It’s like the parable of the sower that Jesus taught. We can let the worries and cares- like the fear of rejection- steal the seeds and prevent them from growing. If you would like to read the entire parable it is from Matthew chapter 13, Luke chapter 8 and Mark chapter 4. Jesus is of course explaining how those that hear the Gospel can hear it, but not everyone will accept the message of the Gospel, and still others will fall away from faith and not grow. It takes nurturing and good soil. The principle is the same, however,

We need to continue to nurture and grow our dreams and callings. To press past the worries, pray about every step we need to take, make time in our schedules to pursue those dreams and believe that God has uniquely qualified us and hard- wired us with certain skills and talents for those dreams and callings.

We can also ask others to pray for us. I know I need prayer warriors, praying for me. I also find that I need to spend time reading the Bible and reading books that others have written who have gone before me in this faith journey. It renews my thoughts and renewing my thoughts, renews my mind. And my mind is my biggest hindrance to stepping out into my dreams. The fears I have tend to roll around in my mind, unless I decide to believe what the Bible says, over what I might be feeling, others are saying about me, or what the devil tries to tell me about myself. I have to choose to free my thoughts, to unhinder them from fears and move forward in faith. It is a journey, not a dash, but I am moving forward and so can you. God Bless- Nancy

Beloved

“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” – Song of Solomon 6:3

Today, our son is getting married. Like other weddings I have been to, it will be a day to celebrate the love between my son and his bride. Many family members have traveled to witness this beautiful ceremony and reception. To join in celebrating with the couple this very special day, when they affirm their covenant before God to love each other no matter the circumstances.

I often think about our wedding celebration that is yet to come with Jesus. For Christians, we have this promise that some day, we, as the bride of Jesus, will be presented at the wedding feast of the Lamb. We will eat and celebrate together with Jesus and all of us will be beautiful, radiant, and unblemished. We will be healed and whole.

And I wonder, as I think about this upcoming celebration, if Jesus will gaze at his bride, the church, as a groom gazes delightfully at his bride. You see, I have seen it before, in my son as he looks at his fiancee and as my son in law looked at my daughter on their wedding day- also this year. He was totally captivated by her.

Life is so busy, and I think I missed it before, but what I saw a few days ago, was nothing short of beautiful. The look on our son’s face- He and his fiancee were practicing their wedding dance, and there it was- for a moment- my son looked at her with a most beautiful gaze, an amazing moment of love- shining through in his eyes as he looked at her. It caught me off guard as I had seen them many times together, but in that moment, I could imagine also, of the way Jesus will look at us, his bride with love.

A love that is sincere, captivating, beautiful. May we look forward to that day with all hope and anticipation. It will be a day to celebrate and will wipe away every bad memory of this sometimes long, difficult and tedious life. May it give you hope to think of Jesus looking at you with a love that is sincere, captivating and beautiful. Amen. – God Bless Nancy.

A Joyless Church

Have you seen one? Have you been to one? By definition, joyless means “not giving or feeling any pleasure or satisfaction; grim or dismal.” (Dictionary of Oxford languages, Google, 2021). Grim? Dismal? Not giving any feeling? Wow. Yup. I have seen it before. To their defense, a church without joy is probably more common than not, given the current world status. But… Um. aren’t Christians carriers to the greatest message ever? Like the GOOD NEWS? Aren’t they suppose to be happy? Joyful? All the time? Well, realistically, we cannot all be happy all of the time. Life is difficult, but overall, we, that is the body of Christ, or the church, should stand out from the world with a hope. A hope that we cling to and rely on to keep us steadfast in our faith.

What causes the joyless church? Well, as mentioned, many people are under great stress and it affects everyone. A worldwide pandemic that refuses to let go of its hostage (the world) is affecting us all, believers and unbelievers alike. But, maybe it is also that we have forgotten the one who brings us hope and joy. Maybe we neglect Him and the message of hope found in the Gospel. Or maybe we have been idle.

The apostle Paul mentions the brothers (and sister, for that matter) who are idle in his letter to the church at Thessaloniki. He writes, “We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies.” (2 Thess. 3:11, NIV). Ouch Paul.

I wonder what he would think of us now? Would he call us idle and busybodies. Perhaps. But, it has me thinking that maybe that is the root of the joyless churches. Not doing anything to help others, except talk. Or argue. Or gossip.

I have felt the most joy whenever I have been sharing the Gospel or offering an apologetic response, or praying with someone, than when I am just sitting in a church service. To be honest, at times, my mind just wanders during the service. I have heard from others, who say the same. Maybe I am letting my worries and stresses crowd my mind, until they drown out the message of the good news. It is up to me then, to change my thinking, to focus ( and to share) with others the joy that is found in the good news. And to serve others. We have a reason for hope and joy, its time to celebrate and rekindle that joy again. -God Bless- Nancy

Pardon Our Dust….Work In Progress

Pardon our dust….work in progress, ……….we’re sorry the site is currently down for maintenance. Uh…… Okaaay? I mean, not really, but what am I going to do? Don’t you hate seeing this when you login to your favorite site online.. or maybe you’ve seen a similar sign on a door, indicating you will have to return later, the place in being remodeled, or something like that. Inconvenient isn’t it?

What about people? Have you ever wished that people would come with warning signs like that? Pardon my dust…..I’m currently working on myself….be patient…..the site is currently down…..so yeah, like…. “Do not be demanding of me…..I am working on it…..trying to remodel my thoughts…. adjusting my attitude…..Be patient….” Or the ever popular phrase…”Be Patient, God isn’t done with me yet….”

I really think I need a sign like that. But, not for others….for myself… See I tend to be the most critical and impatient with myself. Like earlier today…I had woke up, fed the cat, walked our old age dog, poured myself some coffee in my mug, and settled down in my favorite chair to read my Bible. and THEN…. it happened, just as I was reflecting on God’s word….I heard it….the sound of water running….only it wasn’t water….. I looked over to where the sound was coming from…and I saw the source….my old dog. Now when I say old, she is probably 16+ years old, blind, deaf and at times well….she can’t hold it. Neither could I…….my temper that is. My level of frustration with the dog began to boil over from my emotions to my thoughts and came pouring forth from my mouth. I rushed to grab her leash and pulled her outside once again. Angrily, taking out my frustration…. Even the cat picked up on my sour mood and avoided me.

After a bit, I realized I was letting my anger get the best of me…I felt bad… really bad, the poor dog is old, and losing her mind a bit…she cannot see and is diabetic. But she is still one of God’s creations.

I really wanted to have handled it better, and as I thought about it more….actually overthinking it…. I realized I felt worse towards myself…I AM my biggest critic. I do not have much patience with myself…I want to be better than I am. I want to be sanctified already…to get this Christian walk right. To act rightly, to do rightly, to live rightly….But, I am a work. But, no amount of working will change me in an instant. See, it is a process as I cooperate with the Holy Spirit. To renew my mind, to change my thinking…to show myself some grace and mercy. To allow myself to fail sometimes, just not give up. To confess my shortcomings to God and He will forgive me.

Maybe you are like me…impatient with yourself. You want to do better, and to act better, to feel better, but you aren’t allowing yourself a little grace for the process to be completed. Here’s a hint…..neither you or I, or anyone who is a Christian will be perfected, to be fully sanctified, or holy, until Heaven. Until then, God helps us to grow and stretch and move forward towards that day. Be patient. you are a work in progress. God Bless- Nancy

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 ESV

Are You A Warm Frog?

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. – Paul in his letter to the church at Thessaloniki chapter 3 verses 11-12.

Well,……… are you? ………A warm frog? Confused? Don’t be, I’m going to explain my question in a bit. Today, I’m continuing in the book of the Thessalonians. It has a lot to offer in the way of encouragement for Christians who are going through trials and obstacles. It seems very fitting at this point in our own history to consider. Paul sent words of encouragement to the church in Thessalonicae, now Thessaloniki. If you are able to, I encourage you to read this important letter.

Back to the frogs. I apologize in advance if this is too graphic of an example for some reading this, but have you ever heard the story of boiling frogs? Yeah, kind of weird, I get it. Well, the story goes that if you want to boil a frog, you just need to put them in a pot of cold water and raise the temperature of the water slowly. And eventually, the water will boil and well, you guessed it the frog will be boiled. He will not notice the temperature getting hotter and will not jump out of the pot. Or so the story goes. I’m not sure. I have never tried it and I do not intend on trying it. And I’m not suggesting you do either. But, the point is this, complacency hits us all.

Like those frogs, who do not notice the temperature raising, we can sometimes get so complacent in our faith, that we fail to notice how we are getting entangled in matters of the world. What I mean is, we start to accept what everyone else is doing, instead of following what God desires of us. Or maybe it is that we just stop caring about others around us. Or about the world around us. And we focus on gossip, or politics, or our careers, or whatever makes US happy. We become focused on ourselves, instead of God, instead of loving others as He commands us to do, we judge, and fight, and slander and cause harm to others, even by our doing nothing to help others around us.

We are just complacent, happy frogs, just waiting around for someone or something else to make us happy. Oh, we might be great at attending church, but when we are home we slip back into our complacent lives, slipping back into ourselves and our own world. We don’t want to be uncomfortable or confronted about our personal lives. We just want to check a box that we have attended church for the week and go back to our warm baths of complacency. We don’t care if others are hurting and we only want to hear happy snack sized, dessert sermons. Never challenge us from the pulpits, or make us bring Bibles to church. Just keep us happy, entertain us, and let us throw some money into the offering to help out those “OTHER” people, that are so bad off compared with us.

I, of course, realize, that this is not all of us. Some of you are facing great obstacles for your faith, risking everything just to have a Bible, much less read it, but I’m still encouraging you to keep up the faith, just as Paul was doing in the first century. Hold onto hope that is found Christ.

To the rest of us, I’m including myself too- I am a work in progress- I challenge us to stop being happy getting by in our faith, and step out and deepen our faith. Study the bible to know what it REALLY says and what those words mean, not just take someone else’s word for it. Learn about the history of the Christian faith -not from skeptics- but from real scholars. Do your homework. Look for ways you can encourage others. Not just because it’s what everyone else at church is doing, but look for the needs that are not public, the people who need an encouraging word, maybe a friend, or coworker, or stranger. Just DON’T be a complacent, warm frog. Get out of the water, before it boils you. God Bless You, – Nancy

Amazed

We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition.

– Paul in his letter to the Christians at Thessaloniki (Thessalonians 2:2)

What amazes you? It might seem at times that there is nothing that is amazing. Nothing that just encourages you to the point of feeling overwhelming joy and contentment. You see, I think that is a result of being amazed. We are filled with both joy and contentment. It’s difficult right now to find this joy and contentment. Or to be amazed. If you are following along with this blog, than you will recall last week’s topic of weariness. If you don’t follow, I encourage you to do so, in order for you to not miss any of the blogs. And you can join me in this journey of walking out my Christian faith through difficulties, and changes that we all face in one form or another. I try to encourage you from my own life, that while life is a challenge and is constantly moving forward, we do not have to lose heart. God is with us.

In Paul’s letter, quoted briefly above, Paul is writing to a church located in Thessolonica. He, along with Silas and Timothy, had shared the Gospel of Jesus there over the course of a three week time period, with several people responding positively to the message that Jesus was the promised Messiah, had been crucified and rose on the third day. He was their hope and salvation. However, there was a group of Jewish leaders who tried to have him thrown out of town He narrowly escaped. You can read more about this in Acts chapter 17. The message had been accepted by some, and a group of Christian believers began to meet. After a time, he sent Timothy back to encourage these new believers in their faith. He himself was not going back to avoid a riot. The believers there had also been subject to persecution for their faith and yet remained hopeful and looked forward to the return of Christ. This news brought joy to Paul and it was the reason he wrote back to them in this letter.

So, what does this have to do with being amazed? Well, like the Thessalonians, we all face struggles, difficulties and have the option to lose faith and hope. We are all the same. Human nature has not changed. But, they remained faithful.

There have been times, when I have struggled and felt like the whole world was falling apart, or at least my world. In those times, what I needed was a reminder of just how awesome God is; how amazing He is, and how this life, despite its struggles, is not falling apart, but is growing me and deepening my faith.

I can recall several times, when God has shown up in a time I was struggling. It is something small, and what others would overlook or consider a coincidence. But to me it was the greatest sign that God was with me and encouraging me to hold onto hope. To focus on His goodness, despite the bad circumstances in my life.

I remember one time, as I had left a Christian conference, not uplifted, but to be honest, I was rather discouraged. The conference had the right intentions, but the wrong motives. I had been given an insiders look into this ministry and was looking forward to someday serving in a leadership role, only to find myself very disillusioned and discouraged by what I saw behind the scenes. Though the conference was to last the entire day, I asked my husband(who was attending with me) if we could leave early, before the last session. He didn’t like the idea of leaving early, but reluctantly did for me. I recall it caused a bit of a heated discussion between us.

If you have been around churches or Christian ministries for awhile, disappointment is bound to happen. When we get more involved, we will find the flaws and truths. Sadly, this turns many away from Christianity and at least in my case, discouraged me, because I had really thought this was a legit group. Just like in Paul’s day, there are many who claim to be in ministry to serve others, but they are not, and need to be avoided. It is not just that they are people who are not perfect and sin, there are some people who are intentional defrauding others for their own benefit.

My husband and I drove away from the conference early and stopped at a nearby dollar store. If you are not familiar with these stores, in the United States we have stores that sell basic household needs for one dollar per item. The quality is not great, but if you just need something quick, it is the place to go. I cannot even remember what we were stopping to purchase, but I DO remember feeling so discouraged, hurt, angry and sad. And mostly confused. My thoughts began to rattle around in my head as my husband went off down a different aisle. I recall standing near the glasses and fighting back the tears. I did the only thing I knew to do:pray. So as I walked by those glasses, I began to pray silently, asking God to help me, to understand He was still there, to help me forgive those who had hurt me, and to ask forgiveness for myself, if I had acted wrongly towards my husband or others, by leaving the conference early. I barely notice as someone passed by me with a cart loaded with items, and handed me a piece of paper. It was a Gospel tract with the photo of a rose on the front with the words “You’re Special” printed just above the rose.

I’ll be honest I was scared to look up, or turn around. I knew it had been from God, and frankly I expected to see an angel in disguise, pushing that cart. When I did gather my wits about me and turn around, they were gone. No one in the store with a loaded down cart, ANYWHERE. Yeah, God showed up. and amazed me with His care and concern. I still can’t believe it, except for the fact that I have that little Gospel tract to this day. Oh, I’m sure there are some who would doubt the identity of my fellow shopper, but it doesn’t matter, I believe God uses whatever means to deliver messages of hope.

I think He continues to do this, but we are the ones who don’t notice. I had another amazing incident recently, but not so dramatic. It required me to do some research, but once I had, I was once again amazed by God. He answered my prayers, but not in the large demonstrations, but in small ways. I had almost overlooked it, it appeared so insignificant. I wonder how many times God has answered our prayers, but we fail to notice, because we are not seeing what He has done. We need to look for the amazing. Looking for God’s handiwork in our lives.

Paul was filled with joy as he wrote, not because he recalled his own difficulty there, but that there had been fruit form his preaching, “You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results.” verse 1 chapter two. He was amazed by what God had done there through the Holy Spirit. He could have focused on his own life threatening experience, but chose instead to see God’s hand at work.

Struggles and difficult times do not last forever, but sometimes we must go through them. Yet God is with us. God bless and look for the amazing this week.- Nancy

Weary

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

I don’t know about you, but I am weary. And I suspect many of you are also. We all get weary at times, trying to keep it all going. And keep it together. To keep ourselves together. We carry these burdens for ourselves and even for others. We must maintain our work selves, our church selves, our family selves and society selves- All these roles we find ourselves in. Trying to keep all the roles connected, balanced and producing good results. And if that isn’t enough, there’s this burden we carry around with us as a constant reminder of the problems in the world. We are of course not responsible for the world or its events, yet we find ourselves burdened and troubled by the global crisis’ . Too much bad news, horrible news, incomprehensible news. Earthquakes, bombings, hurricanes, uprisings, Covid. We are all just a little weary right now. And the constant contact through our mobile devices in our pockets, keeps all these problems and global crisis’s on our minds and always within reach, inescapable, it seems.

We might tell everyone around us that we are”fine” when the reality is, we are not “fine”, but far from it. We are weary. We need rest. We need help in dealing with all of this. We need each other and we need Jesus’ peace and comfort.

I admit I am not an expert in dealing with it all, but there are a few steps we all can take to help each other. First, talk with each other openly. If you are not doing well, let someone know. Talk to a friend. Tell them what is going on and what is wearing you down. If you are having serious, suicidal thoughts, tell someone or call a professional hotline. Help is close and people who are trained to listen are waiting for you to reach out to them. You are not a bother. Your friends and family do love and care about you, they need you here. The pain you feel is temporary, it will get better and there are people who can help with your pain.Let them help you.

Second, if you are just tired and weary from too much of the world taking your joy, step away from social media, or block or snooze individuals or pages that are upsetting you and causing you undue stress. Do not keep your phone where you sleep and don’t let it be the first or last thing you check in the day. Instead read, listen to music or take a gratitude inventory.

Third, a gratitude inventory is something I have recently begun. Before your day begins or as it ends, meditate on what you have to be thankful for. At the end of the day, recount the positive events of your day and offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God. Just breathing and living another day is reason enough to be thankful. If it is the beginning of the day, offer thanks for the opportunity for a new day, a new beginning. Even the little things matter. So be grateful for a bed and a pillow, for a meal to wake up to. For your family and friends. God has provided it all. We forget sometimes that not everyone is enjoying these at the moment. Some are homeless, others have lost a loved one or a friend. Some do not have the hope of Jesus. They are trying to do life all on their own,in their own strength.

Fourth, don’t dwell on the negative. Look for the good during your day. Focus on what has gone right, instead of what is going wrong. Focus on positive Bible verses like the one above. Write down these verses and place them on sticky notes everywhere to be reminded of them. Or subscribe to a daily word app that will send you a text or email.

Fifth, to know these verses, you must pick up your Bible and read it. Or get an app for your phone with a daily verse. Remember the Bible is not just a book written by a bunch of dudes in the past. It is inspired by the Holy Spirit. It has power to change minds, challenge you and give you peace and comfort. Don’t believe me? Just try it for a week. It doesn’t mean that suddenly all your problems will disappear, but it will change your perspective. It will change you. Bad circumstances, like those of the world right now, are not going to go away immediately, we cannot change these, but we can change our attitudes and perspectives. And surprisingly, by doing so we change our brains. Our thoughts affect our physical brain chemistry as well as our physical shape. Someone has said that we are what we eat, but scientifically speaking, we are what we think about.

The last step is to take time to pray. God does hear us. It might be we have been neglecting our prayer lives, because we feel like there is a wall between us and God. Or we think He is mad or unhappy with us, but here’s the thing, He knows who you are. He made you. He’s okay with your doubts. He’s okay with you for not being perfect. He loves you. He knows you have messed up, so that’s not a surprise to Him. Just talk to Him, like a friend. He promises rest for the weary and help with your burdens, you don’t have to do this alone.

The Fullness of God

For God was pleased to have all the his fullness dwell in him and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood shed on the cross.-

Paul to the Colossians 1:19-20

So, I have been feeling a bit stuck lately, despite understanding this process of life moving forward. See, even if we understand it and try to find our stride and run our race, we can get overwhelmed at times. We think there is something we should be doing and are falling short. Or it is something we should be doing better. Maybe its reading our Bibles more, or praying more, maybe being a better person, or saving our money better. There is always that “more” we could and should be doing and goals we should be meeting. We put guilt and blame on ourselves when we do not measure up to other people’s standards. So, we might feel overwhelmed and instead of pushing ourselves, we kind of allow ourselves to get into a slump. This is especially true when our goals are unrealistic, or we are trying to meet these goals because someone else is putting pressure upon us. It might be our friends, or our jobs or our family. But we find ourselves so overwhelmed by these “coulds” and “shoulds” and goals to be like others or be the best, that we choose rather to fall into a pit of self- loathing and condemnation. We feel bad for our feeling bad also, compounding our circumstances and well, we feel stuck. Notice I said we “feel” stuck, while the truth is we might say we are stuck, but what we actually should say is that we are feeling stuck. We do not desire to run our race for we believe it is impossible to complete it well. We give up. Our hope is gone. We cannot see ourselves as good, or as accomplished already, realizing all the distance we have already covered in this race. We only look at our shortcomings. We don’t see how far we have come.

It is difficult to get out of a slump like that. To find encouragement and make peace with ourselves about our shortcomings. We need a different perspective. A change of view to help us see who we are and how we are already good, and loved, and full of hope for the future. This race of life is not about how we measure up and whether or not we meet our goals. We are already loved and treasured by God. He has given us the qualities and characteristics he has by His design and purpose. And He doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He knows we will fall short. But, when we fall down in despair, feeling like there is no hope, no point in the race to be the best, he reaches down, grabs our hand, and picks us back up. We are weary of trying to be all we should be, tired of measuring up to the world, and He gets that. He knows we need Him, but He doesn’t wait for us to pick ourselves up, He offers a hand.

At least, this has been my experience. Like this morning as I picked up my Bible to read. I found this passage in Colossians. Well- I didn’t just discover it- I was reading through the letters of Paul and this was the verse that stood out to me. “The fullness of God” these words just stood out. I have studied the Bible, read the passage, wrote papers on the deity of Jesus, but in that moment, it was as if God was reaching out His hand to pick me up, the fallen runner on the ground. As I read the beginning commentary in my Bible about the letter, the commentator wrote that the letter was of concern to Paul and he wrote it because several people of the church in Colossae believed that they had secret knowledge beyond the Gospel and that somehow Jesus dying on the cross was not enough. His letter was sent them to explain that salvation was complete in Jesus’ death and resurrection and that Jesus was fully God, divine and died and rose again.

This right here is reason alone to get excited, that salvation is complete, nothing else needed- no secret works, or knowledge, but divinely orchestrated and completed. But…. after I read the passage I also picked another book I had been reading (Paul Copan’s Is God A Moral Monster?) Copan explains what happened on the cross as Christ gave up His life. See, I had been taught that when Jesus was taking on the sins of the world, God the father could not watch, that’s why Jesus cried out “My God why have you forsaken me?” But, according to Copan, God was there. In the lightening, thunder, earthquake and the tearing of the temple curtain. As Copan explains, look back at God’s meeting with Moses on the mountain. There was thunder, lightning and an earthquake. Whaaaat? Like I looked it up(Exodus 19). Yup, right there! How could I miss it? God didn’t just send Jesus, the son and leave, preferring not to watch His son suffering, He the father was right there. In that darkest hour.

For me that was so encouraging this morning. We forget sometimes how awesome Jesus really is. he is the fullness of God, not less than. I am encouraged this morning at the greater perspective I now have about the cross. it has lifted me up, just as a hand up from God, to this fallen runner. -God bless Nancy

Pressing Forward

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. – The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians. 3:12

My husband built a very sturdy desk for me, which is my writing desk. The desk is in front of a window which gives me the perfect view outside to the street. We live on a corner, so actually my view is not one, but two streets. It gives me the vantage point of observing the life around me as I write. Often, it becomes the inspiration for my writing and podcasting. So, this morning, like many others I was inspired by the runners outside. Every morning and afternoon I watch as several neighbors get their daily exercise in by running the streets near my home. I admire them. They are dedicated. I am not. I’m not much of a runner anymore and I was never a long distance runner, but more of the fifty- yard dasher in my high school days. I was all about the speed and not about the marathon.

The apostle Paul spends a great deal of time talking about life as a race, like a marathon. So, even though I don’t claim to be a marathoner, it is what I am doing in this life. Life isn’t a dash, but a long distance run. My neighbors who run would understand the analogy that Paul writes about I’m sure.

What struck me this morning was that these runners, whether they realized it or not, could stop at any moment and yet they would still be moving forward. This whole planet is constantly revolving, moving, spinning, so are we. But also life is constantly moving forward. We have no control over this forward movement. I heard someone recently comment that we cannot control our circumstances and what happens but we can control our perspective. So true. There are some things we can control, of course, but we cannot stop life from moving forward. We cannot stop time.

As I also heard a comment recently about the decision to move forward. But given that we are all already moving forward in life, this too seems to be not completely accurate. It might appear at times that we are stopped, stuck, in a long queue line, or in a rut. I’ve often felt like that and I’m sure you have too. Life just isn’t changing fast enough. Our circumstances seem stuck, not getting any better, maybe even getting worse. But, truthfully, life has not stopped. So the decision to move forward isn’t actually a reality, but rather deciding how we will keep moving forward despite the circumstances we are in. Sometimes we do need to make changes and change our perspective or our attitudes, but we do not control life or time. We must choose how we can be moving forward. I like Paul’s view of pressing on. It is this constant choice to keep pressing on, to keep moving forward.

One of the runners I have been watching from my window has given me a great deal of encouragement for pressing on and moving forward. I have watched as they first started their daily routine. At first they would walk by my house; not fast, but slow and steady. Next, I notice they added more movement in their arms and hand weights. Then a few weeks later, I watched as they began to jog at a slow pace. This morning as they went past, they had a definite runner’s gate and were using their arms to move along as well. They had been finding their stride to move forward. And as I have been watching and observing them, I am encouraged that I too can begin to join in moving forward, past this moment of feeling stuck in a rut, even if it is a slow pace at first; walking before running. But pressing on, making good decisions, working on my attitudes and perspectives to try to see God’s perspective. Life is moving forward, I do not choose to move forward as though I can control it, but I can choose how I will be moving forward and pressing forward to align more with what God has designed. This is what a faith walk looks like, not a dash, but a marathon, God Bless- Nancy