The Hand of Jesus

Clasping Hands Medium

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you live long enough you are going to feel it.  That sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach.  Worry sets in.  Uncertainty reigns.  Before you know it, you are descending into full-fledged panic mode.  Your heart races and your palms are sweaty.  Your mind takes over and fills your head with a thousand “what-if” scenarios.

Eventually, you feel like you won’t be able to go on by yourself and you need someone, anyone to give you a hand to lift you up and pull you through…

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

My pastor was preaching this morning about not quitting in spite of the difficulties and discouragement that you may face in this life.  Make no mistake, if you are living obediently, you will face troubles in your Christian walk.  Jesus told us so.  But he also said that he would be there with us.  I loved the illustration that my pastor spoke this morning.  He said that sometimes when he is on stage preaching (he’s been doing this thirty years) that he thinks of this verse in Isaiah and when he holds out his hand to the congregation, he is really visualizing Jesus holding onto his hand.

Pretty powerful imagery, don’t you think?

You see, we often forget that Jesus is right beside us.  He is there to give us strength.  Day in and day out.  There is nothing that we go through alone, because he is there with us.  Our friends and family may desert us, but He never will.  He is always by our side.

Look at the verse again.  Fear, dismay, weakness and faltering are the things that God will overcome for us.  I don’t know about you, but I have known these four well over the course of my life.  These are not adjectives that I want to describe me, but they come visit me when I focus on the circumstances of my life instead of the One who promised to walk beside me through the darkest valleys of life.

When I focus on the storms instead of the One who works all things together for good, fear, dismay, weakness, and faltering are my companions.  They anchor me down during the storm.

When I, instead focus on the One who gathers every tear I cry in his hands, then this I know:

I AM is with me

I AM is my God

I AM strengthens and helps me

I AM will uphold me with his righteous right hand.

So in times of trouble, when my strength is small, this is where my focus turns.  I look to my feeble, empty hand and I envision it clasped in the hands of the Carpenter.  His hands are calloused and they have been pierced, but they are strong.  They defeated death and they conquered sin.  They hold onto me when I have no strength to carry on.  They lift me up when I falter.  They wipe away my tears in this life and they prepare a place for me in heaven.

That is my truth.  

That is my hope.  

That is His promise.


photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/16210667@N02/8755031604/”>CJS*64</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

Storms, Anchors, and Prayers for Daylight

This has been quite a week. I am literally a broken heart and a lost dog away from a country song.  This week has seen two broken vehicles, one broken furnace, two sick Dads and it’s only Friday morning.  Thank goodness weeks like this don’t happen often!

I have been reading through the book of Acts in my daily devotional time.  And as God often does, He provided me with just the right verse at just the right time.

Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they [the sailors] dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. Acts 27:29.

The backstory for this verse is this:  Paul has been arrested in Jerusalem and has appealed his case to Caesar, his right as a Roman citizen.  He is placed on a ship and begins his arduous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Rome.  Along the way, all manner of misfortune falls upon the ship and its passengers.  Just prior to this verse, the sailors literally tie ropes around the ship in an attempt to keep it together as they ride out a horrible storm that is going on two weeks long.  

I like this verse because it ministers to me as I have struggled through this week.  

Sometimes, all you can do is anchor to what you have, hunker down, and pray for daylight.

As I mentioned before, weeks like this don’t come around very often.  But when they do, you have to start looking around for those things to anchor to.  Fear can quickly and easily incapacitate us.  You have to find, in this case, four anchors to throw out.

For me, I anchored to the Word of God, a family that loves me, a job that provides for my needs, and peace that passes understanding.  These anchors can change daily and what I anchor to can be totally different than what you anchor to.  One thing I know, your first anchor had better be your relationship to God and the promises found in his word.  That is immovable.  

As this week progressed and I tried to minister to others in the midst of my storm, the Holy Spirit led me to Lamentations 3:21-26:

Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:

 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,

    to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.

This week, this was my prayer for daylight.  When it gets to the point that you just have to throw out the anchors and pray for daylight, it may be good to remember that our God is a faithful God.  His mercies are new every morning.  If we can just trust him to get us through the darkness of night the light of day will shine again.  He gives us hope.  He is filled with compassion. Nothing in our lives sneaks up on Him and he will use all things to shape us into the image of Christ. 

He will carry us through our storms.

So hold fast, find your anchors to throw out, and pray for daylight!

Trust: Defined

Proverbs 3:5-8

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
8 This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.

How many times have you heard these verses?  Maybe you are a little more familiar with 5 & 6 than 7 & 8, but for many of us, these verses are a mainstay when we face uncertainty.  As part of my quiet time each morning I usually read the Proverb that goes with the day’s date.  When I read this verse a few days ago, the Holy Spirit just moved in my heart and I couldn’t get past these verses.

Like many Christians I know that I am supposed to trust the Lord.  It’s the kind of thing that we acknowledge without really thinking about.  But for most of us, we go about our lives and our day to day tasks not really even thinking about the Lord’s hand in them.  It is almost as if we are thinking:  I’ve got this God, but if I need you, I will give you a shout.  Would you agree with that statement?  It’s only when things get a little hairy that we flip open the Bible and scan the back for what it says about trust.

When we reach the end of our rope, that is when we decide to trust God to get us out of our mess

But what if we really decided to do what the verse said?

It says to “trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

For some of us this is a radical shift in perspective.  It means retraining ourselves to have a total reliance on the Lord.  Most of us have been taught to ‘pull ourselves up by the bootstraps’ and ‘figure it out on our own.’  But God wants to have a relationship with us in which we rely on him for everything.  Remember the vine, the branches, and “without Him we can do nothing?”  This isn’t to say that God doesn’t want us to use our minds, talents, and abilities to live, love, and serve.  It is more about a mindset of total trust in the One who gave those things to us in the first place.

Now this place of total trust can seem scary to us at first.  Imagine living as Jesus commanded the disciples and the rich young man: give all your possessions away and trust the Lord to provide for your needs.  Most of us would be too afraid to live like that.  We are control freaks and we don’t want to take a chance that God will let us down.  To me this indicates a rather limited view of the God we serve.   We need to be totally reliant on him for everything: our next heartbeat, our next breath, our next meal, our next job, our next car, indeed all we have comes from Him.

When we learn to trust like that our ‘understanding’ of any situation we face becomes eclipsed by the knowledge that the when we ‘wholly lean on Jesus name’ we are in the best possible place.  When we are here, the things that used to command our focus (all those individual problems that we face) grow strangely dim.   When we are here, our focus is on the one that loves us with a love that we cannot fathom.  When we are here, submitting to his will, we are truly where he wants us to be.  And that is always the best place for us.

Preparing As We Wait…

God may give us transition periods and times of waiting to help us depend on him and trust his timing.  If we patiently do his will during the transition times, we will be better prepared to serve him as we should when he calls us.

(Note from Genesis 11:31—Life Application Study Bible)

I am not by nature a very patient person.  I don’t like being behind slow drivers when I am in a hurry.  I hate choosing the wrong line at the grocery store.  I get frustrated when things don’t always go as I think they should. 

All of which makes life very interesting when you are waiting on God’s timing and direction 

These last few years have been an extended period of waiting for me.  I have waited on God’s provision for my family as my work dried up.  I have waited to find the place that God wants me to serve.  I have tried to be obedient to him and wait for his calling. 

Now things are starting to move and I can see how these last few years have prepared me to step out in faith and obedience to him now.  Just as the note above states, my transition periods and times of waiting have helped me depend solely on him and trust in his perfect timing.

It now appears that his timing is near and he is calling me on to new and exciting things.  This push he is giving me has drawn me even closer to him as I earnestly seek him in prayer and make sure I am going where he wants to lead me.

If you find yourself stuck, waiting, and impatient to move on, I would encourage you to continue to seek his face.  Be content to wait on the one that knows you best.  Look for ways to worship Him and serve Him as he holds you for a time.  His timing is perfect and when he calls you, you can be sure that when he has you move forward it will be to the exact place he needs you to be.

 

Stronger On My Knees

Stronger on My Knees

God brings us things sometimes that drive us to our knees.

It’s tough being the type of Christian that God wants me to be.  I don’t know why I am surprised at this.  Jesus said that the way to follow Him was narrow and that many would not be able to make it.  He said that I would have to deny myself and take up my cross to follow Him.  Being a disciple of Christ is so much more than being baptized or being a church member or simply saying the sinner’s prayer.  Being a disciple of Christ is hard work. 

I am convinced that there are two types of Christians:  the ones who know just enough to be saved and the ones who have an earnest desire to be remade into the image of Christ.  The first group has accepted Jesus and then goes forward with their life trying to do the best they can to live like it.  The second group realizes that they can’t be like Christ without some radical remaking taking place. 

Therein lies the difficulty.  When Jimmy said that God brings us things sometimes that drive us to our knees, it resonated with me this week.  I once heard a preacher say that you are either in a storm, coming out of a storm or heading into a storm.  Right now I am in the midst of a storm that has put holes in my jeans and calluses on my knees.  This time, however, I am not despairing.

This time, there is a change in me.  I know that my present storm is necessary, even good for me.  This storm is there because God is using it to reshape me, yet again.  This storm is driving me to my knees because I have exhausted every option in my feeble mind.  I know that all I can do is fall down before my Creator and raise my hands and wait for His voice. 

Would I rather be standing on my own two feet?  Absolutely!  But I also know that I am most able to be shaped by God’s hand when I kneel and submit at His feet.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I urge you to allow God to shape you into the image of Jesus.  Allow the circumstances that drive you to your knees to be the catalyst that drives you closer to God.  Allow His gentle and to smooth away anything that is of you and replace it with all of Him.  Be willing to be remade and be ready for where He leads you.  When your time of struggle is finished and He picks you up from your knees, know that you will be a little bit closer to where He wants you to be.

Father, help me to recognize that you should be the first place I should turn to, not the last.  Help me to rely on you for my strength and my peace.  Give me direction through the storms that life throws at me and help me to be obedient to you when the rain blows away.  In Jesus Name, Amen.