by Ryan Duncan, crosswalk.com
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. – Galatians 5:13
One summer when I was younger, my church organized a week-long camping trip to Glacier National Park for all the high school boys. It was after one particularly long day of hiking that a few of us decided we’d cool off by taking a swim in a nearby lake. So we grabbed our swim trunks and towels and ran full speed into the lake, desperate to escape the summer heat. Now, I’m going to pause here and ask two questions…
First Question: Where does the water in these lakes come from?
Answer: Well, ice from the glacier melts and runs down through the waterfalls until it empties out into the lake.
Second Question: Does the water ever get warm?
The moment our feet hit the water we were stopped cold. We all stood ankle deep trying to figure out what to do next. A handful of the boys tried to edge gradually into the water, but after almost twenty minutes they still hadn’t made it past their knees. As for me and a few other boys, we decided it was best not to wait. We dove headfirst into the water. For a time it was unbelievably cold, but eventually our bodies adjusted and we spent the entire afternoon diving and swimming far out in the lake.
Followers of Christ can encounter the same problem my friends and I had on the beach of that lake. God wants us to dive headfirst into the Christian life, to forget our worries and troubles and just focus on Him. Instead, many of us will stand on the fringes of our faith, trying to slowly and comfortably ease our way into God’s plan for our lives. We aren’t meant to stand in the shallows of God’s love, however, so even though jumping in can be difficult at first, it’s the best way. Only by surrendering to God as the center of our lives do we become truly free.
Getting Through One of “Those Days” When You’re Feeling Stretched Thinly
“I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27 (NLT)
It had been another one of “those days” in a house with teenage daughters where dramatic reactions seemed to prevail in every conversation.
While my girls sat upstairs dealing with their runaway emotions, I was overwhelmed by my own. The challenges of parenting, on top of juggling the weight of work and life, had begun to wear me down.
Desperately needing some serenity, I quietly retreated to my front porch to be alone with my thoughts and God. I longed for the days when life seemed simpler and less chaotic, when my daughters were little, and the biggest issue of the day used to be whether or not they could have a snack before dinner.
It was then that I noticed something partially sticking out of the pine needles underneath a huge holly bush. Reaching underneath, I pulled out forgotten pieces of the past: two faded, plastic Easter eggs.
Instantly, I saw a mental picture of two blond-headed little girls in pink, frilly Easter dresses, playing in thick, green grass in the front yard. Little fingers wrapped tightly around wicker baskets topped with big, pastel bows as they excitedly hid brightly colored eggs under the holly bushes and pine straw. Bushes that were then 12 inches tall now stood at 12 feet.
As I longed even more for those long-gone days, a lump formed in my throat and tears welled up in my eyes.
My daughters came outside and sat on both sides of me, exchanging perplexed glances with each other, wondering why mom was crying over dirty old plastic eggs. We all burst into laughter and shared a few hugs, which opened my eyes to realize that those Easter eggs were a little reminder from God that peace and joy are still available, even on “those days.” Then, today’s key verse came to mind like a breath of fresh air:
“I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27)
In John 14:15-31, Jesus shares with His disciples about the Holy Spirit, promising that this Spirit will help them carry on even after Jesus has ascended into heaven. He talks about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within all believers (vv. 16-17) and how the Spirit is what equips us to keep persevering when we are stressed to the max. (vv. 26-27)
Jesus wanted to give comfort and encouragement to His disciples by letting them know His peace would always be within reach. If we are Christ-followers, that promise of peace and comfort is for us today as well.
While still sitting on the front porch steps with my girls, I began to pray and soon felt God’s gift of peace warming me on the inside as the bright sun warmed me on the outside. I found myself feeling thankful for the blessing of family, even on the hardest of days, and especially for the blessing of God’s peace amid chaos.
In every stage of life, there will be “those days” when we feel stretched thin. Days when peace seems unattainable due to stressful or heartbreaking situations. Days when we feel frustrated, hopeless or emotionally exhausted as we face the seemingly never-ending struggles of life. What a comfort to know that, because of Jesus, we can have true peace even in less-than-peaceful circumstances.
On this particular day when my heart felt heavy, God used two faded Easter eggs as reminders that, despite the daily challenges of being a mom and of the various stressors that seemed to consume my days, peace is always available in Him.
Streams in the Desert – July 11
- 202111 Jul
It came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land (1 Kings 17:7).
Week after week, with unfaltering and steadfast spirit, Elijah watched that dwindling brook; often tempted to stagger through unbelief, but refusing to allow his circumstances to come between himself and God. Unbelief sees God through circumstances, as we sometimes see the sun shorn of his rays through smoky air; but faith puts God between itself and circumstances, and looks at them through Him.
And so the dwindling brook became a silver thread; and the silver thread stood presently in pools at the foot of the largest boulders; and the pools shrank. The birds fled; the wild creatures of field and forest came no more to drink; the brook was dry. Only then to his patient and unwavering spirit, “the word of the Lord came, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath.”
Most of us would have gotten anxious and worn with planning long before that. We should have ceased our songs as soon as the streamlet caroled less musically over its rocky bed; and with harps swinging on the willows, we should have paced to and fro upon the withering grass, lost in pensive thought. And probably, long ere the brook was dry, we should have devised some plan, and asking God’s blessing on it, would have started off elsewhere.
God often does extricate us, because His mercy endureth forever; but if we had only waited first to see the unfolding of His plans, we should never have found ourselves landed in such an inextricable labyrinth; and we should never have been compelled to retrace our steps with so many tears of shame.
Faith—How We Look At Things
Scripture Reading — Matthew 6:25-34
Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. — Matthew 6:33
In the atrium of our church one Sunday, I noticed one of our senior members standing quietly. His face wasn’t happy, but it was welcoming. I understood the look of tiredness and concern he showed. His wife was in a memory-care center. His own health was not robust. And yet he was there, at church among the worshipers.
I reached out to shake his hand and asked, “How are you doing?” His less-than-enthusiastic response: “Okay, I guess.” After a pause he stated bluntly, “I don’t care about anything anymore.” Surprised, I asked, “Nothing?”
He shifted a bit and then said, “There was a time when I liked boats and cars and lots of things. I got excited about them. But they don’t mean anything to me anymore.”
I began to understand. Material things no longer grabbed his attention. Desire for stuff no longer preoccupied him. As his wife lost her ability to relate to others, and as she increasingly depended on others to care for her needs, he had grown to know the wearing and wearying effects of caring for her. His perspective on life had changed. Things decreased in importance, and relationships—with God, with family, with church—became his priority. This brother was learning more deeply the meaning of seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. His quiet strength was heartwarming.