Losing Crutches

“No manna appeared that day, and it was never seen again. So from that time on the Israelites ate from the crops of Canaan.” Joshua 5:12 (NLT)

Have you ever wondered what the Israelites felt like when the manna stopped coming? If you remember, after the Israelites escaped from Egypt and miraculously crossed the Red Sea, they began to disobey and fall away from God. As a result, they were left to wander in the wilderness for 40 years until the disobedient generation passed away. During all that time, God fed them in the desert by giving them manna every morning.

Have you ever wondered what it felt like when the manna stopped?

If it were me, I must admit that I would be afraid that God was upset with me or that I had done something very wrong.

But the truth is that God took away the manna because He was pleased with the Israelites. The Israelites had just crossed into the Promised Land, had just circumcised the existing generation & had reestablished the covenant ceremonies — most notably celebrating the Passover for the first time in decades. God was very pleased with the Israelites. And the manna stopped the next day.

Sometimes we cling to crutches. Sometimes we hold on too long to things that we needed when we were weaker or less mature … but no longer need as we grow. Sometimes it is time to lose the crutches.

God gave the manna to provide sustenance when His children were in the desert with little to no provision. But once they entered the Promised Land — a rich, fertile land, flowing with milk and honey — they no longer needed the manna. God had given them plenty of provisions in the Promised Land.

So He took away the manna.

Sometimes we need to let go of the crutches. Like when we encourage our toddlers to let go of our fingers as they are learning to walk. It is because we love them that we take away our fingers — because it is ultimately for their good that they learn to walk on their own. Because we believe in them and want them to grow strong and capable.

God too was pleased in the Israelites. He believed in them, wanted them to grow strong and capable, and provided all that they needed. So He took away their crutches.

And maybe He is asking you to let go of some crutches too. Maybe you are holding on to something you used to need but is now really holding you back. Will you let it go?

Because I know God loves you and believes in you and wants you to grow strong and capable. Will you let Him take away the manna so that you can eat from the crops of Canaan?

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The Word Became Flesh 2

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory — glory as of the only begotten from the Father …”  John 1:14 (NASB) 

In this season, I have been thinking a lot about the birth of Jesus. The manifestation of God on earth. The eternal Word being made flesh.

In the birth of Jesus, God Almighty came to dwell in a human body.

Then I fast forward the story in my mind to the part where Jesus paid the price for our sins in His body. Where His body was whipped and beaten and crucified to atone for our transgressions.  It was Jesus’ earthly body that was abused, sacrificed and killed for us.

Then I fast forward to the part of the story when Jesus was resurrected. And I notice that His body — His dead body — disappeared (it was no longer in the tomb) … And Jesus appeared in a different, resurrected body.

Was the old body was gone?  Was it absorbed into the resurrected body?  Was it fodder for His resurrected body, but just transformed?   Maybe.  I don’t know.  (But I do know that Jesus showed Thomas the nail-holes that remained in the hands of His resurrected body.)

This is a mystery for another day.  But here’s what it all tells me: that our bodies matters to God.

If Jesus is our example, His story shows us just how much our bodies matter to God.  Jesus was God in a body; Jesus’ body bore the penalty for our sins; Jesus’ body was resurrected and transformed.

If Jesus is our example, His story shows us how much our earthly bodies can be used to redeem & transform lives and bring unimaginable glory to God. If Jesus is our example, then His story shows us how much our bodies are part of our stories … and that God longs to use them for His glory and purposes.

May we accept and embrace that reality in 2018!

In Faith and In Hope

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength ….”. Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

Philippians 4:13 is a great verse to toss around in the Faith & Fitness arena. It’s motivating, inspiring & grounding … and it reminds us of why and for Whom we do what we do.

But have you ever been at a point in your journey when you are not sure you can go on. Have you ever been in places or circumstances that are so oppressive that you aren’t sure you have the strength to continue?

I was serving with my kids the other day at Feed My Staring Children — an amazing non-profit that feeds the innumerable kids who are otherwise starving to death around the world. And on the wall was a Philippians 4:13 sign made by the hands of some of these children. And I wondered: can I do all things through Christ & His power? Can I really? Could I really … if I were one of these children?

The past year or so, for me, has been one of the best AND one of the hardest yet. There have been moments when I have wondered how this Philippians-4:13-thing is supposed to work. When I get to the end of myself and am so exhausted and empty and have absolutely nothing left to give. When I want to say “I can do everything through Jesus’ strength” … yet I cannot. And I am reminded of those kids and that sign. And I cry.

So I bought the sign. It is not a slogan or a feel-good verse. It is gut-wrenchingly painful sometimes.

But I bought it to remind me that if they can, I can. I can get up the next morning in faith and in hope that only Christ can give … and I do my best. And trust God for the rest.

Growing Pains

“I pray with all my heart; answer me, Lord! … I cry out to You; save me!”  Psalm 119:145a-146a (NLT)

Have you ever watched the parents of a young baby (or been one yourself) as they oversee their young one learn to roll over?  If so, then you know how hard it can be to watch your baby struggle over and over again in learning how to do things (like roll over, hold up her head, or begin to crawl).  To sit by and just watch as they struggle over and over … all the while, resisting the urge to help them or do it for them.  It’s hard.

But we know that if we help them … if we rescue them from the discomfort of learning and achieving these milestones on their own … we ultimately handicap.  By rescuing them out of the struggle, we are actually doing them a disservice.

I was working with a chiropractor the other day whose practice actually centers around “relearning” these basic early movements that we either didn’t learn or didn’t learn appropriately.  Perhaps our parents rescued us too frequently from our struggles, or perhaps we never learned to crawl, or perhaps we were rushed into certain stages too quickly.  Any of these have muscular and structural implications for our long-term well-being.  So, in many cases, we have to undo or relearn some very basic movements.

And all this makes me think of God.

In the Psalms, we watch David beg God to rescue him over and over.  Often today, people ask why God isn’t rescuing them or the world from a particular struggle.  Sometimes, I too wonder why I haven’t been rescued from certain struggles.

Maybe it is because God, in all His wisdom, knows that if He rescues us, He would actually be hurting us.  Maybe God, in all His love and kindness, actually restrains Himself from rescuing us … because He wants us to be fully functioning more than He wants us to be temporarily relieved.  Maybe God, because He loves us so much, suffers with us through the growing pains … so that He can celebrate with us at a later date.

David seemed to know that only God was the Author of all that is true and just.  David’s trust in the Lord was unwavering, even when he wasn’t seeing God’s rescue.

So may your trust also be unwavering … and mine … as we struggle through whatever growing pains the Lord allows.  “Be strong and take courage,” reminds David, “all you who put your hope in the Lord!  For He has shown His unfailing love.”  (Psalm 32:24, 21 (NLT))

 

Pondering

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 …. .. Hebrews 12:1 (NLT)

One of my favorite verses.  Hebrews 12:1.  It has been one of my favorite for years.

And yet God keeps showing new things.

This time, it’s the little “and.”  Not the big “And,” but the little one.

For years, I think I’ve overlooked the first “and” … with the result of thinking that only sin is what God is asking us to throw off.

But it’s not.

Don’t get me wrong — sin definitely slows us down. As the verse says, sin “entangles” and therefore keeps us from running our race well … or sometimes from even running at all.  Sin needs to be thrown off.

But then there is the “and.”  Let us throw off everything that hinders AND the sin….

There are things that hinder us that aren’t necessarily sin.  God wants us to throw off those things too.

Maybe it’s a negative attitude.  Maybe it is fear.  Maybe is a bad habit.  Maybe it’s as simple as inertia.  But it is holding you back.

Whatever is holding me back from what God wants to do in and through my life — those are the things God wants me to throw off.  It doesn’t have to be “sin.”

And so I ponder.  What is hindering my pursuit of God physically … mentally … emotionally?  God wants all of me.  What might be hindering me from giving all of me to Him?

It doesn’t have to be “sin.”

Won’t you ponder with me?

Forgetting

“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:13b-14 (NIV)

I love this verse. It’s one of my life verses. God so often speaks to me through it. And today is no different.

Today, He speaks about forgetting.

Forgetting the past. Forgetting what is behind.

I don’t think God means for us to totally forget.  At least, I don’t think He wants us to forget in the sense of losing the lesson. Our mistakes, after all, always hold potent lessons for us … and I think God wants us to remember and to learn the lessons our past can teach us. But He does want us to let them go. To bury them in the sea of His mercy. To let Jesus wash them away, as far as the east is from the west.

Competitive athletes learn to do this well. Competitive athletes learn to let go of mistakes so that they can focus on the present. Competitive athletes cannot perform well in the current play, for example, while still beating themselves up for the error they made in the prior play.  They have to learn quickly how to let it go — yet learning from it — and move onto the next play.

Or so I’m told. Not being a competitive athlete myself, I am told that’s how it is.  Personally, I have learned this lesson at a much later stage in life, and I’ve learned it best through yoga. Learning to be present and stay present in the current posture; letting go of the prior posture (whether I did it well or poorly) and staying present in the current one. Whether proud or regretful of the past, I am learning to let it go.  And to stay present with God in today’s moments.

So may we learn to forget as a competitive athlete.  Holding onto the lessons, releasing the rest into the sea of God’s mercy. Washed away by the blood of Jesus.  And pressing on toward what God has called us to do and to be.

To Heal

“This is the kind of fast I want.  I want you to remove the sinful chains, to tear away the ropes of the burdensome yoke, to set free the oppressed, and to break every burdensome yoke.”  Isaiah 58:6  (NET)

Jesus came to heal, to set free, to redeem.  The heart of the Almighty is to heal, to grow, to set free, to redeem.  The Bible is emphatic that God is making all things new.

What’s cool to me is that our bodies were designed with the same objectives in mind.  God made our bodies with His eternal attributes in mind.  The bodies that God designed for us are, for example, designed to heal — they are able to heal themselves from wounds or injuries inflicted upon them.  The body, for example, is constantly renewing itself — the skin renewing itself every 28 days, liver every 5 months, bones every 10 years, etc.  God made our bodies in ways that reflect His amazing glory!  Even though imperfect and aging, they still constantly reflect some of the glory of the One who made them.

And, by and large, the body does this automatically.  Cells respond immediately to start forming blood clots, for example … to bring extra blood and nourishment to the injured area… to swell and protect the injury  … to being the healing process.  No arguments, no negotiating, no denial.  Just immediate action to heal and renew.

And thank God for that!  Because if the other aspects of our lives are any example, most of us would be totally out of commission due to innumerable accounts of denial and refusal to accept that we have been hurt.

To be healed means you first need to admit you are hurting.

To be renewed means you first need to accept that you need renewing.

To be set free means you first have to acknowledge that you are truly in captivity.

To be redeemed means you first believe that you need a Redeemer.

May we see more fully the inherent beauty of being healed and renewed such that we eagerly embrace our brokenness.  He IS making all things new.  Will you join Him in His work?