Enough

Habakkuk 3: 17-18a

Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor the fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls — Yet I will rejoice in the Lord , I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.

The picture painted here is one of utter desolation. The trees and vines produce no food, crops aren’t growing, the livestock are gone…it’s a bleak, hopeless outlook, especially for people whose lives depend on agricultural output (which, really, all of us do). But there is no hope here, no joy in a dead farm.

Nothing is growing, nothing is going right. Despair, destruction, hopelessness, failure.

Life.

Tell me, where’s the joy in that?

I don’t believe there is any.

But Habakkuk doesn’t find joy in that life. He finds joy in God:

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

God is enough. He is our joy. No matter how dismal my life is, I can still find joy in Him. We need nothing else; He is our joy.

Even when we are the lowest of low by the world’s standards, when we have absolutely nothing, when life is the most barren desert we could ever imaging passing through, just look at the position God puts us in. Look at verse 19:

The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.

I like how my footnotes explain this passage:

“The Lord God”: Here the divine name Yahweh is tied to the term Adonai, which means “Lord.” “my strength”: God will strengthen those who trust in Him [….] He will give those who live by faith the same confidence that a surefooted deer has  in climbing mountains [….] like a victorious army, the righteous with God’s strength will occupy the high hill.

God is the Strength I need to face this life.

He makes me able to maneuver the crags and crevices and predators and danger zones.

And He gives me the victory. Oh my goodness, He gives me the victory to stand tall with Him, no matter how Satan attacks.

God is my Everything.

Acts 27 “The Sin Ship”: Part 4 of 4

As I was typing out the previous devotional notes, another point came to my attention which I hadn’t initially noticed, but which I cannot fail to overlook now that God has brought it to my mind. I’ll admit, it’s something I don’t want to talk about because I’ve thought it before, although not in the context of Acts 27, and I honestly don’t even like thinking about it let alone writing about it. But I believe God wants me to, hence the fourth part of this series.

The sailors and the centurion deserved to face the Tempest of Sin. They deserved the suffering and terror they fared aboard the Sin Ship and in the sea. It was just; it was fair. But what about Paul? Had he sinned? Had he chosen to disobey God’s will and press forward on the sailing journey? Did he deserve to bear the suffering he too was forced to share?

No.

It’s a simple answer. Why then did he suffer as much as anybody else?

Because we can’t keep sin to ourselves; it is going to affect other people, regardless of whether we want it to or not. We think, “Oh, I’ll just keep this sin hidden in my own personal world. If nobody knows about it, then it can’t hurt them.” Lie. Go ahead, keep telling yourself that – until truth comes knocking at your door and the reality comes out. The fact that you’ve been hiding the sin only adds to the pain it causes others.

Even if you manage to keep your secret from the people in your life, God knows. How much do you think you’re hurting Him by choosing to live in your hypocritical lifestyle every single day?

(Honestly, how much do I hurt Him?)

Sin is contagious, contaminating everything and everybody it touches. My mom made an analogy once that has stuck with me ever since. We raise livestock, which means we have to haul in loads of hay to feed them over the winter. Unfortunately, not all of that hay is good feed; if it has mold it cannot be fed to our animals because the mold will sicken – if not kill – the animals. When there is a tiny mold spot in a flake of hay, the spot spreads and spreads until the whole bale is worthless garbage…and then the mold spreads to the surrounding bales in the stack. Even if those bales were the cream the crop when first hayed, they too are damaged by the first moldy bale.

That’s what our sin does. When it rules us, it spreads into the lives of others. It damages them, hurting them, wounding them, cutting them, contaminating them. Something which we thought we could keep to ourselves is suddenly hurting those we love, and it’s hurting them far more than it is us. That truth – the knowledge that what we have done has absolutely broken those whom we would never wish to break in any way – brings an agony to our hearts.

Sin, like mold, can’t be contained to one moldy spot or flake. If it isn’t entirely taken out of the bale, then it will escalate until it wrecks far more havoc then we ever could ever imagine.

David’s sin with Bathsheba cost Uriah his life and Bathsheba her husband. Judas’ greed cost Jesus His life. A drunken driver wrecks the other car coming home from the basketball game, killing the mother and maiming the child. Selfish, materialistic ambitions cause the deaths of hundreds of neglected animals whom people insist on raising but cannot – or will not – feed.

Rather simple, ordinary sins, aren’t they? Lust. Greed. Drunkenness. Selfishness. Materialism. And the results are so extreme. So dire. So….

Deadly.

Maybe our sins won’t cause a physical death for somebody else. But they will cause an emotional death. And it seems to me as if the emotional wound is usually far more painful and takes a longer time to heal than the physical wound.

I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum – the wounder and the wounded. I ashamedly guarantee, the former is the worse position to be in. It’s far easier to forgive someone who has hurt you, then to forgive yourself for hurting another. It’s far easier to forgive a person than it is to watch them suffer day after day, to see the hurt in their eyes every time they look at you, to know they want to cry every time they see a picture of you.

Sin is destructive. Deadly. Contagious. We have to leave it behind – to jump ship. Yes, it’s going to be a painful, probably agonizing process. Yes, it’s going to wound others. But the longer you wait, the greater the sin becomes, and the more powerful an impact it has on those it touches.

The mold spreads from one bale to two…to three…to five…to ten…to twenty….

Did you know that if a haystack starts molding, the heat produced by the molding process can actually start a fire? That’s what happens if we just cling to the sin in our lives. Eventually, it will erupt in flames.

Hell here on Earth.

I do not want that in my life.

(Oh my goodness, I have so much to think about right now…so much to act on. I know that there are moldy flakes in my life that I need to get rid of, tackle and foodstuffs that I need to throw overboard. Before they grow into an entire Sin Ship. Before they consume me. And in so doing, consume those around me.)

But there is hope. Oh my goodness, there is HOPE!

Do you see the joy is in this serious discussion? In the story in Acts 27? It is the fact that “all” were saved! Look at it – just look at it in verse 44. They all abandoned ship – they jumped into that frightening Sea of Consequence and struggled to the land. Humanly, they were alone, every man for himself. But God was with them all the while – watching them, guiding them, holding them up. He brought them to dry land. He rescued them from sin. He gave hope when all hope was lost.

And He will do the same for each of us, if we are willing to finally jump ship once and for all.

Letting go of sin isn’t an impossible endeavor. On the contrary, throwing myself into the arms of a faithful, merciful God is the most possible thing imaginable.

So let go. Abandon ship. Face the tempest. Leave the unsteady rolling of the ship behind and set your feet once more on solid ground.

Good-bye, Sin Ship. Hello, Hope.

Joy, Prayer, and Gratitude

Many times I wonder what God’s will is for my life. What college should I attend? What major should I take? What should I do with my summer? The questions go on and on, usually without any definite answers (at least not right when I want them) so that I end up living one month, week, day, or moment at a time, uncertain as to exactly what God wants of me.

But on the other hand, there are instances when God astounds me with the clarity in His Word. Lately, as I have been reading through the New Testament, I have been searching for what I call “Purpose Passages.” These are verses which tell me what I am meant for, how God wants me to use my life for Him. I have actually been surprised — and wholly excited — by the number of such passages that God has shown me. But perhaps the most shocking thus far is 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18, which reads:

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

What caught my attention was the last portion, which says, “this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Certainly I knew that rejoicing, praying, and thanking God were things we should do, but I never thought of them as God’s will for me. When God designed me, He intended that I should “[r]ejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks.” That sounds so…happy. And, honestly, truly wonderful! It is incredibly exciting that God wills this for every Christian! He wants us to have joy, to constantly talk with Him, to have sincere gratitude residing in our hearts. What could be better?

Yet, as I read those three seemingly simple commands, I realize that they are not nearly as easy to follow as  they would appear to be. They do not happen on a regular basis…and they should. They are the sort of commands which sound so fairy-tale perfect that it is hard to imagine them happening in modern-day reality. And yet, I know that they are a genuine possibility because,

“…with God nothing will be impossible.” Luke 1:37

So then, in application, what might 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 look like in my life?

1. Rejoice always. God has given me incredible blessings to be joyful about! Baby goats, a horse to ride, a love for walking and running, good books to read, the ability to write, a fantastic family, twenty secluded acres in the Bull Mountains of Montana, a wiggly dog who wakes me up with kisses in the morning…. I could go on and on! There are a lot of rotten things that happen in life, but I need to look for the good things. The old adage “every cloud has a silver lining” is definitely true. Even in the most miserable, dreary, terrible day, I can find joy in God’s presence and in the hope of His return. Joy must be sought before it can be found. Satan would love to tear me down with frustration and hopelessness, but I must keep my eyes on the joy Christ offers. My mind and heart need to be open to the little things of life — the wildflower on the ground, the scent of hot cocoa, the way the sunlight glistens on my horse’s neck, my quiet moments with Mom in the morning before anyone else is awake. They are little things, but they can — and do — bring joy to my heart.

2. Pray without ceasing. If one of my best friends from Lewtana were with me all day, I would not stop talking with her, would I? Of course not! I would not necessarily be doing all the talking; I would be listening, too. And I can do the same with God. He is with me 24-7, so I can pray with Him all the time — talking and listening to Him. Who knows what He wants to teach me through such ordinary tasks as vacuuming, painting the garage, feeding baby goats, doing homework, etc. It seems as if I learn the most valuable lessons through simple things like these. I am confident that Christ has a great deal to teach me…if I will take the time to listen and discuss things with Him.

3. In everything give thanks. This command seems to go hand-in-hand with “Rejoice always.” If there is always something to be joyful about, then there is always something to be thankful for, right? Even in difficult, discouraging situations, I can always find some part of my life to be thankful about. In addition, I can be thankful for “bad” things because when trials and tribulations come my way, I know that they are intended for my spiritual growth and development. When times get tough, I need to be grateful that God will use it for good, that He can be glorified through the way I handle the situation, and that the challenge can help me to become more like Him. Now, I know being thankful is not always easy; my sinful human nature makes it more natural to complain and grumble when things go wrong. But what if I did look at even the difficult situations with “an attitude of gratitude?” Why, then the whole picture would change! I would see hope, encouragement. I would realize that no obstacle is insurmountable with Christ, and that each mountain I must climb will only serve to bring me nearer to Him.

Now, it is time for me to put this passage into practice. In summation, I need to 1) keep my eyes open for the joy around me; 2) talk to my Best Friend and listen to what He has to say; and 3) thank Him, thank Him, thank Him!

This is, after all, His will for my life.

It’s Spring!!!!

Okay, so this isn’t my usual blog post, but I don’t have anything especially noteworthy to share, and I’m too excited about spring to not talk about it! So – here you go: my top reasons for why I’m so excited about spring being here!

  1. The sun is shining and it’s actually getting warm outside.
  2. Since the sun rises earlier, I’ll soon be waking up with it, rather than before it.
  3. The green grass is starting to shoot up, along with flowers and weeds, of course.
  4. I hear the birds singing outside my dorm window every morning, and I’m pretty sure some of them are sandhill cranes.
  5. I can go running without dressing in four layers of clothes.
  6. If I don’t wear a sweatshirt, I won’t freeze.
  7. I don’t have to be so worried about driving home.
  8. I’ll see herds of calves (and maybe lambs) when I drive home.
  9. School will be over in a month and half.
  10. I’ll be able to work outside as soon as I get home.
  11. I’ll be able to ride my horse when I get home, and I can ride my friends’ horses here.
  12. All the critters are slicking out and growing shiny, soft coats.
  13. Our goats will be kidding soon; that means I’ll be cuddling little bundles of legs and ears every single day over break and during this summer.
  14. More hours of the day can be spent outside.
  15. Easter is only a few weeks away.
  16. The new life and warmth fill me with hope and joy.
  17. Spring always reminds of the new life we have in Christ, and how everyday with Him is a “spring” day for us to grow in our faith.

Isaiah 42:5-9

 Thus says God the Lord,

Who created the heavens and stretched them out,

Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it,

Who gives breath to the people on it,

And spirit to those who walk on it:

“I, the Lord, have called You [Jesus] in righteousness,

And will hold Your hand;

I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people,

As a light to the Gentiles,

To open blind eyes,

To bring out prisoners from the prison,

Those who sit in darkness from the prison house.

I am the Lord, that is My name;

And My glory I will not give to another,

Nor My praise to carved images.

Behold, the former things have come to pass,

And new things I declare;

Before they spring forth I tell you of them.”