When Your World is Shaking

Last evening I sat down with an old friend… a worn notebook dated 2005. As I perused the pages of this familiar journal, I smiled at the memories these penned words conjured up. I winced at the rawness of some of the entries I had written in brokenness, and I sighed with relief to see the glimpses of growth that have taken place within me with the passing of years.

There are treasures found in memories.

Lessons to be learned.

Praises to be pondered.

Gratefulness to be expressed to the One who has remained faithful and true through all of life’s twists and turns.

Today, I am sharing words from another. Words that I had deemed worthy of being copied into my daily life many years ago. Words that I still find worth in today. Words that are worth repeating for the sake of bringing hope to you, as well. May you be encouraged in reading this excerpt from the life of Peter as he describes his denial of Christ in Larry Huntsperger’s novel The Fisherman:

Each of us constructs our lives on beliefs we accept as unshakable. These beliefs form the great support pillars of our existence, pillars on which everything else is built. We rarely or perhaps never acknowledge their existence in our conscious minds. Yet every choice we make, every word we utter, every goal we hold for the future assumes this certainty.

For me, the greatest of those pillars, the one upon which all the others depended, the one rooted in the deepest core of my being, was the understanding that Simon Barjonah would always ultimately prevail. If I tried hard enough, if I learned from my mistakes, if I regrouped following my failures, I could and I would succeed. This was not simply something I hoped for, it was the foundation of my life.

When Jesus entered my world, He brought massive changes with Him. When I finally submitted to His lordship, He became my reason for being. His goals became my goals. His successes became my successes. His techniques became my techniques. His affirmations became my greatest joys, and His reprimands pierced me deeply. In a word, He became the center of my world.

But even though I had forsaken all and followed Him, the central pillar of my life was still undisturbed. My goals were different. My techniques were different. My reason for living was changed. But the means by which I pursued all of these remained unaltered. Whereas once my determination, my strength, my wit, my charisma, indeed, all my fleshly attributes had been focused on becoming Simon the great fisherman, through Jesus all those fleshly attributes had been refocused on becoming Simon the great disciple.

Then, in one terrifying instant, at the very moment when He knew all my weight rested upon it, Jesus reached His almighty arms around that pillar and wrenched it out from under me, and everything that rested upon it came crashing down. Now there was only the shattered ruins of my existence surrounding a cold, black, gaping chasm where once my pillar had been.

If you have ever been there, you will understand. It wasn’t just that I had failed. Failure I understand. Failure was simply a call to try harder and reach higher. This was not failure; this was death. The foundation of my life had collapsed, and now my spirit wandered aimlessly through the piles of rubble, through the broken bricks and crumpled mortar, listening to the wind whistling through the ruins of my life…

Perhaps you are in the same position today as Peter found himself when the true knowledge of Christ collided with the flesh of Simon. Jolted and undermined. Shaken and found weak.

Sifted and found wanting.

What are we to do when all that we have rested our lives upon has been shaken?

Rebuild.

But not in our own strength.

Not according to our flesh.

If you are in a place where it seems as if the very foundations of your faith are being rattled to the core, then I invite you to invite the Rock of salvation to come to your rescue.

Those pillars upon which you have rested for so long are not strong enough to withstand this storm. Indeed, they were never meant to.

So let them tumble, dear one. And with the crumbling of all those hollow pillars that you thought were holding you firmly, you will find the truth.

Those pillars of self-reliance have no strength.

But the Cornerstone called Christ is powerful enough to uphold all things.

If the very foundations of the world can rest upon His shoulders, how much more can the  foundations of one hurting child who is floundering in her faith rest in His care?

Remember, dear friend, when your world is shaking… the pillars of heaven stand.

And they will continue to do so throughout all eternity.

Now that’s a foundation worth building upon.

Old_Pillars_2_by_Fallen_Desire_Stock

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It’s More Than a Pipe Dream

A few weeks ago, I heard a Christian leader share that there was a movement of people wanting to go back to the “old ways.” He justified this statement by telling of the current trend of churches in his area that are purchasing pipe organ extensions to place on keyboards. While I am unconcerned as to what type of instruments you may prefer to be played during your local church’s worship time, I cannot help but wonder about the truth of his statement. Is it really that folks are wanting the sound of a pipe organ over a keyboard, or could it be that there is something much deeper in the longing?



Perhaps what they are really longing for in a gathering of Christians is not so much a particular sound as it is a Presence. A Presence that manifests Himself in unconditional love and transformed lives. Could it be that the real thing missing in the lives of many of today’s Christians is not so much the absence of a particular style of worship or rituals, as much as it is an authenticity toward living a LIFEstyle consistent with the Gospel?

You don’t have to look further than most Christian families in America to see that our influence over the culture is becoming absorbed by the culture itself. The statistics themselves attest to the alarmingly high rates of divorce and infidelity among believers. Work ethics of Christians are not proportionally higher than anyone else’s. Our busy lives are just as full of extracurricular activities that pull us away from each other. And our morality is slipping day by day as we tolerate behaviors without truth.

Perhaps saddest of all, our power to overcome the frustrations of life seems just as diminished as that of the regular Joe next door.

Where is the abundant life of which Jesus was talking?

Where is the sacrificial living?

Where is the Christian who will go the second mile when he has only been asked to walk one?

Where is the power that is supposed to make all things new?



I believe that what people are looking for is not so much a return to the “old” ways as it is to finding a real relationship with lasting impact. Now, I’m not trying to set up a legal list of dos and don’ts concerning Kingdom living. (Obviously that did not work out for the scribes and pharisees, so why not learn from their mistakes?) Nor am I suggesting you live aloof from others for fear of being corrupted by a sinful nature. In fact, I believe quite the opposite to be true — it’s time to get messy for Jesus.

All throughout Scripture, you will find Jesus hanging out with “sinful” people, those who were considered the “unworthy” ones, the “outcasts,” the “less-than-desirables.” But Jesus didn’t party with folks to no avail. He impacted lives by His presence.

He lived in a way that drew others to Himself — in a style that the disciples were called to emulate. In a style that we are called to emulate. A style that changes lives.

But this type of living takes devotion. 

It takes intentional choices.



It requires a removal of self and an invitation to let Jesus come in without stipulations or restraints.

It takes a purposefulness in choosing God’s way over our own so that He may increase in us in startling ways.

Ways that are different than simply listening to a pipe organ pound out hymns of praise.

Ways that challenge us to rise up and pound the love out of life even as we offer ourselves to be poured out for others.



Real Christianity is an offering.

It’s placing ourselves at another’s disposal, even at the cost of our own inconvenience.

It’s loving enough to risk being hurt.

It’s living open-handedly enough that we are assured of being taken advantage of, yet living beyond caring that we are.



Real life in Jesus is dwelling in a state of continual metamorphosis.

Allowing the old life to be overcome.

Changed.

Transformed.

Made new.

Bit by bit.

It’s choosing to clothe ourselves with the garments of praise as we put on the characteristics of Christ.

One thought at a time.

In a way that is noticeable.



It’s a journey that will take a lifetime of REAL living with REAL people in REAL circumstances that stretch us beyond ourselves and our own power time and again as we rely upon a REAL SAVIOR…

All the way to eternity.

organ

Love Them Back

A young missionary friend of mine recently wrote of his experience with rejection. And while many of us have dealt with moments of rejection throughout our lives, I doubt if most of my readers have experienced that rejection because of their faith in God.

Daniel shared of being “seen with despise.” As he shared his childhood memories of being spit upon by an older boy and left playing alone because of his faith, those memories morphed into the present-day reality of being ignored and hated because of His service to the Lord. As a missionary in a country with few Christians, Daniel realizes that suffering is not the side effect of serving Him or several coincidences along the way. Rather, it is as the apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:29 – For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him.

Let’s face it, most of us would prefer that Paul never included that bit of knowledge in the Scriptures. For while it is our joy to believe in Christ, most of us would choose to leave the suffering by the wayside. After all, where’s the joy in that? What’s the benefit of bearing burdens when it seems that greater testimony would come from a carefree life of ease and happiness? And as we face our fears, ponder the doubts, and question why God would allow suffering to come to us, we realize how much our own thoughts are unlike His. We become aware of the shortfall between our own character and that of Christ’s.

Until, as my friend did, we realize that the real question addressed toward suffering should be, “How will I greatly embrace it?”

Embrace suffering.
Clutch pain.
Cling to the ones who despise you.
Give a bear hug to the boy who would spit in your face.

That’s a mighty tough challenge.
But one that is completely Christlike in nature. (See Isaiah 53:3-12)

Today, it seems fitting to close with my friend’s final remark:
“It is a privilege of following Him… to be hated, and love them back”

Powerful words. And the heart of the Gospel.

“…To be hated, and love them back.”

Think on it.

Then ask God for the strength to not only believe it, but to fulfill it.
In Jesus’ name.

Kite Flying Boys

The Shunning of Christ (A Re-post from Christmas Past)

The other day, my daughter and I decorated the Christmas tree. This long-standing tradition also included the setting up of nativity scenes. Yes, that IS plural. Somewhere along the line, we have accumulated THREE of these treasured creches. Which is actually a good thing, considering the fascination my children have had with nativity sets throughout the years.

While some folks have beautiful figurines of great value, mine are of cheap ceramic, which means they have offered many years of “Baby Jesus and the manger” playtime. The largest set takes primary placement beneath the Christmas tree, while the other two are positioned in locations at the discretion of the chosen manger caregiver (aka: whoever gets to the boxes first). To be sure, there is much rearranging that takes place throughout the weeks leading up to the actual celebration of said manger baby’s birth.

This year’s placement was not nearly as dramatic since there was no one fighting over – I mean, attempting to carefully place – the beloved figurines. In fact, in my haste to complete the decorating task, I rather unceremoniously emptied the contents of Nativity Set #2 with instructions for my daughter to arrange them as she pleased. Considering to whom I was giving such unreserved rights, I should not have been surprised by the arrangement that was chosen. But still, I was caught off guard when I glanced at the set and saw Mary and Joseph with their backs firmly turned toward Baby Jesus. When I asked my daughter what on earth she was doing, she smiled and answered, “They’re shunning Him.”

IMG_2518While I could not help but smile at my daughter’s sense of humor, I had to admit her arrangement seemed much more appropriate considering the reality of how the Christmas season often appears to be celebrated. For while we all say that Jesus is the Reason for the Season, sadly, our actions seldom align themselves in accordance with our declaration. In a bit of holiday silliness, the two of us came up with what we considered would be an even more appropriate rendition of the celebration of Christmas in America.

Perhaps our nativity set would appear more fitting as the following:

IMG_2516When my husband noticed our circle of gift-worshipers, he suggested we keep it that way in order to make a statement… or perhaps simply to serve as a reminder of the true meaning versus our true actions. Regardless, this simple act has spoken volumes to my heart and is challenging me to resist getting carried away with the world’s twist of all things godly. Instead, I am determined to keep my focus firmly fixed on Jesus this year.

While it’s tempting to shun the Christ Child amidst all the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations, I pray we will never find ourselves glorifying anything or anyone more highly than the Most High. Instead of shunning Jesus, may we determine to set our hearts and our minds on things above and not on the things of this earth.

May we shun shunning even as we turn our faces to meet and accept the greatest Gift of all — the Savior who has come to deliver us from our sins.

IMG_2517FOR REFLECTION
Do you fight the temptation to turn from the true meaning of Christmas as you’re tugged toward the glow of tinsel and lights? What are some practical ways you can keep Jesus as the center of your Christmas celebration? It may be as simple as taking time to read Scripture and encourage yourself in its truths, or it may mean you need to cut back on the gift-giving and spend your efforts and your dollars on things that pour love into the lives of others less fortunate than yourself. Regardless of how you readjust your position, may you find yourself forever facing the steady glow of manger’s light.