Remembering and Rejoicing

Most of us on the tour bus were oblivious to the date on the calendar, though most knew it was Tuesday.  Placed together as part of a no-rest-for-the-weary visit to Israel almost a week before, we had become comfortably familiar with one another by this time.  On this particular morning, the bus left Jerusalem fairly early so we could explore many sights to the north before ending the day with the sun setting over the Mediterranean Sea at Caesarea while we worshipped the Lord with Joseph Prince and the musicians from Singapore.

The narration wasn’t as constant this morning as it usually was, leaving us to quiet conversation or contemplation.  Most of us knew today to be the last day of the official tour, and bittersweet emotions were just below the surface of most thoughts.  It had all come and gone so quickly.  Tomorrow, our group would be broken up and combined with others who were taking a side trip before flying out from Tel Aviv late in the evening.

Israel 2012 622Someone must have remembered what day it was.  They also knew Alex, one of our own, had a story to tell about this day, and urged him forward to share with the whole group.  It turns out this day was Tuesday, September 11.  Alex wasn’t just another tour member who had vivid memories of life before, during, and after that day, like the rest of us.  Alex was from New York . . . City, and he worked for Cantor Fitzgerald in 2001, in the World Trade Center.  His memories were up close and personal, and we really did need to hear them.

Though Alex told his story with obvious emotion, he did so without tears.  That was for the rest of us on the bus.  In the midst of the telling and the tears, however, we were greatly encouraged.  You see, though he couldn’t see it so clearly at the time, Alex now sees God’s grace in evidence in even the smallest of details of his life at that time, and he is full of joy and peace of Jesus.

He told of close friends and co-workers who died that day, in the very offices where he worked.  And he told, in specific details I can’t quite remember a year later, of a training course he was to have taken at another time – one that was either postponed or conflicted with his planned vacation.   But there was a last-minute opening in a different class that had him away from the office on that Tuesday morning.  Not only that, but it was out of the city, as well.   As if that weren’t enough, the name of the building where these classes was held was more evidence of God’s intervention – something like The Grace Building.

That day, Alex became the face of victory in Christ and His grace, not just in the sweet by and by, but in the sometimes not so sweet here and now.  Hearing his story of life through tragedy, and seeing the peace of Christ profoundly displayed even in the retelling, helped bring a present-day reminder that Jesus is alive and victorious.  He wasn’t just the Jesus of 2000 years ago in whose history we had been immersed all week.  He is Jesus Christ – the same yesterday, today, and forever!

Remembering today . . . and rejoicing!

This Could Be the Day!

As I considered a long-lost loved one – one about and for whom I have prayed many times, and one for whom the Lord has given me assurances over the years – the thought came to me, “This could be the day. I could get a phone call, or they might finally see their need for Savior Jesus and receive His love.  This could be the day!”

There was another time I lived in that state of expectation about the possibility that this could be the day.  My father, whose mental and physical health had deteriorated to the point that he needed to move to North Carolina to be closer to me, lived in Georgia and refused to consider the needed move.  From a hospital stay, he was moved to a rehab facility for no longer than six weeks.  He was adamant that he could return to his home and take care of himself, though the one who had been helping care for him (his older sister by twelve years) was leaving to receive help, herself.

I knew there was a definite end point to the wait; yet, it looked like an impossibility.  Legally, there was nothing I could do against his will.  As I struggled with worry and doubt, trying to figure out how it could ever happen, Holy Spirit encouraged me with something He promised me months before – that Dad would move.  I released the worry and trusted Him to do what only He could do, in ways I could not imagine.  From then on, I began each day with the thought that this could be the day for the phone call saying he had agreed.  I really believed it. At the end of the days when the call hadn’t come, I refused to be discouraged, despite the rapidly-approaching deadline.

Ancient olive tree continues to stand in Israel – through drought and war.

Sure enough, in the latter part of that 6-week stay in rehab, it was the day!  My aunt called to say that Dad had agreed to the move.  It had come in a way only God could have orchestrated, yet it had happened as He promised it would.

I am not aware of a definite time period in which this loved one must see and receive, but there ends the difference between the stories.  My God does not lie.  He is faithful and trustworthy.  I can trust Him with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding.  He loves this loved one more than I, and He knows all the intricacies in their personality and all the circumstances in their life.  By His Spirit, I have released any worry or doubt to Him.  Now, instead, I receive His peace as I thank Him in advance for what He is doing.  No matter how many days must pass until that time, I know this could be the day!

Lamentations 3:21-23  AMP  21 But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation: 22 It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not.  23 They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness.

This could be the day for you, as well!

Soaring, or Flapping with the Crows?

As I sorted through some old correspondence, I re-read a word picture that seemed to speak directly to me when I read it years ago.  It aptly described a situation with which I struggled at the time.  Just as God used it to encourage me then, my prayer is that you will be encouraged by it now.

I was on the final descent of my hike in the mountains when I heard the great clamor of crows.  I looked up to see one particular crow dive-bombing a completely unperturbed hawk gliding lazily through the air.  The crow was insanely angry, calling the hawk every name in the bird book.  When that crow approached the hawk, the hawk flipped his wing slightly out of the crow’s grasp and kept on gliding.  The hawk came to rest on the top of one of the giant pines, right at the tip top.  The crow increased her dive-bombing and cursing until other crows joined her.  The hawk finally took off and made a purposeful, yet lazy, progress over to another part of the mountain, despite multiple dive-bombing crows.

Sans the mountain backdrop, I’ve observed many similar bird interactions.  The Lord reminded me through this word picture that I am that hawk in the midst of insanely angry crows, because I’m in Christ.  He didn’t try to help me understand the underlying reasons for their anger.  It seemed as if He whispered simply, “Continue on the path in My peace.  I’ll deal with them.  Just don’t join in their ways.”

God knows what you face today.  May you receive His encouragement and strength so you will continue to soar as a hawk instead of flapping with the crows.

Gotcha!

Every now and then, our wonderful Father reminds us in very surprising ways that He never leaves or forsakes us.  Also, because He is right here with us – always – He not only knows what we need, but He knows how to strengthen us with His provision in very personal ways.  The following testimony, included in Sharon Hobbs’ article about CFNI summer outreaches in the August 2011 issue of Christ for the Nations Magazine, is just such a reminder.  May you, too, be strengthened and encouraged by the Lord as you read Chris’s story.

Chris Troop’s Story:

I felt really discouraged about the financial situation I was in.  I needed money for my outreach account.  I heard many people had been blessed with full payments on school bills; yet none of these miracles were happening for me.  I knew not to entertain discouraging, faithless thoughts, so I started to pray.  LORD, I know that You take a long time to do things ‘suddenly;’ right now, GOD, I need something done suddenly.  I need some hope to build up my faith.

I walked to the bus stop, reaffirming this prayer the best that I could.  I noticed a piece of paper hanging on the center frame of a pole.  I thought it was just another ad for something, but after a closer look, I realized it was an offering envelope.  I was about to throw it away, but the words Tithes and Love Offerings to God caught my attention.  I figured the rightful owner lost this, and someone had posted it for them to find.  Then reality kicked in – I’m in Oak Cliff – NOBODY who finds money is going to leave it for the rightful owner to come back and get it!  And even if it was someone’s tithe, it belonged to GOD, not me.

I opened it.  Where the address should have been, a note said, “This is my tithe.  To GOD be the glory.  If you find this, GOD has blessed you.  Know that there is a GOD, and HE loves you!”  This sent chills all over my body.  There was a $100 bill in the envelope.  I am amazed at all the ways GOD can provide.

Taking Stock

In case you missed it – for it came and went so quickly – we have already left the first half of 2010 and entered the second half.  Less than six months left until Christmas.  New school year just around the corner.  Football season imminent. . .  STOP!  Maybe, it is better just to live in the now.

Because time passes so quickly, however, now is also the time to take stock of the goals and plans we set at the beginning of this year.  In general, Christians don’t differ much from our counterparts in the world when the new year rolls around.  We might begin with times of prayer and fasting, rather than toasting, but we, too, set goals (the world calls them resolutions) for ourselves.  We begin the year excited about what we believe we will do.  If we take stock now, in July, have we made any progress?

While some have continued working toward their goals, the vast majority find ourselves pretty much where we began in January, except for the enthusiasm.  In many cases, those goals and plans are such a distant memory that they are basically forgotten.  Before charging forward from a dead stop, though, it’s important to reconsider what we thought we were to do.  Was it really the Lord’s plan, or just something we felt we needed to, wanted to, or should do as a Christian?

If it’s in the need / want / should category, release it to the Lord and allow Him to work as we simply continue to live in His Word.  If was the Lord’s plan, however, it hasn’t changed.  He hasn’t withdrawn it, nor is He surprised (or disappointed) by our delay.  He waits patiently for us to pick it up again – in His grace – and begin taking the necessary steps with Him to reach the goal.

Philippians 3:12-14 NIV  12 . . . I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 . . . Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Whatever our reason for failing to pursue God’s plans, forget it!  Isn’t that what Paul said?  Actually, we don’t forget the plans, just what we haven’t done.  Then we ask for Holy Spirit’s help as we begin to strain and press toward what is ahead in Christ Jesus for us.  He is willing and He is able.  Now is the time to pursue.  We can face the rapidly approaching end of the year with confidence that we will, indeed, make progress toward God’s goals for us as we go forward, not looking back.

It’s not too late.  The time is now.  Press forward!