Dying and Yet We Live On

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The garden on the grounds of the Franklin D. Roosevelt House goes on and on and is so pretty, a picture cannot begin to do it justice. I love gardens and have one of my own, where I love to spend time nurturing and coaxing colorful blooms.

But there comes a season that no matter what I do, my plants not only refuse to bloom, but they insist on dying. If I didn’t know better, I would be disheartened by this. After all the time and resources I’ve invested in my flowers, just to have them wither away to nothing seems like such a waste. I might even be tempted to give up. But I happen to have gardened long enough to know a little something about the cycle, and that the apparent death of this year’s flowers is actually the beginning of the abundance of next year’s.

“…Dying, and yet we live on…” 2 Corinthians 6:9.

This is an amazing truth – it is through death that everlasting life came. It is through the crucifixion and the tomb of Christ that a mansion now awaits me in Heaven. When death seemed darker than ever before, Christ’s resurrection and victory over it brought eternal light to every soul who would call upon Him. And it is through dying to myself that I truly begin to live.

So when I see my flowers die at the end of the season, I know that an abundant harvest awaits just a few months down the road. It’s a reminder to me that Christ always brings life from death.

This Far and No More

E0F275B8-BEE5-47A2-95DC-170C2F7E23CEMyrtle Beach is my husband’s all-time favorite destination. While I could go on a road trip adventure to a different National Park or wilderness area every single month, he could be happy just going back to Myrtle Beach time after time after time. Thankfully, he cheerfully tolerates my adventure planning, and I happen to enjoy Myrtle Beach, too.

One of our favorite things to do is go for long walks down the beach. It’s a beautiful place to stroll long distances, and they don’t call it the “Grand Strand” for nothing. Miles and miles of uninterrupted flat, sandy beaches and the sweet Atlantic Ocean, warmed by the Gulf Stream, make this special place a favorite for many people. There’s always an abundance of bird life to entertain you, and if you get up early enough in the morning, you can amass quite a seashell collection. The tides are interesting to observe at Myrtle Beach because it is so broad. Low tide is my favorite, but even at high tide, there is still plenty of room to walk, and even toss a football or frisbee.

“I said, ‘This far and no farther will you come. Here your proud waves must stop!'” Job 38:11.

I’ve been going to Myrtle Beach all my life, and I’ve seen those waves pound at the shore year after year. Yet, there she stands. God is the One who created the sea and determines its boundaries. Its boundaries are set according to His wisdom and purpose. The same is true of my life. Though circumstances may at times crash against me, God determines their limit. And He does that for my good and His glory.

What you are going through has a limit set by God Himself. He is sovereign over your life and circumstances, just as He is sovereign over the very waves of the sea. He determines when “that’s enough.” Therefore we can live in peace everyday, even in the midst of turmoil, knowing that there is reason, purpose, and divine love at work in our lives.

For God So Loved

45476775-C864-4EA4-A7BA-3D8E3B3A5C56There’s a very special place in Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains that looks a lot like the Holy Land. In fact, it is known as the Holy City of the Wichitas.

As you approach this area, you might mistake it for a ghost town, and it certainly looks like the rock ruins from an ancient town. Instead, it’s the home of a long running passion play, telling the story of Jesus, from birth to resurrection, since 1926.

Although you may have never heard of it, this play draws thousands of people a year around Easter, with a cast that has grown from just a few to hundreds over the years. Why would the people here put forth such effort? Because they want you to know this:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16.

What amazing good news for every single person! This is the Gospel wrapped up in a couple dozen words, a single sentence. Maybe you’ve never been loved unconditionally before. Maybe you’ve never known what it was like to have someone go to the ends of the earth to show you that they love you.

If you haven’t, then I want to introduce you to Someone who does. God loves you so much. And it’s not just pretty words with Him; it’s action. He not only tells you He loves you; He demonstrates He loves you. He made the ultimate sacrifice to bring you into a relationship with Him by giving His one and only Son – that you might believe in Him and not perish, but live with Him eternally.

Even though the world may tell you different, it is God’s nature to love. Not control, not exact vengeance, not punish.

Although our sin deserves these things, God, in His mercy and grace, planned a better way. But it’s up to each of us to make this choice- to choose a relationship with God through Christ or to choose to go through life and eternity without Him. What will you choose today?

Power in Weakness

F1DE707B-4A7B-491A-9652-5050D38B2F24These roses grow all over our garden, and they are exploding with color right now. Knockout Roses are probably my favorite flower. They make an almost impossible task super easy. I’ve tried rose gardening several times, and no matter how I nurture and coax, I cannot get those babies to thrive. They just sit there and exist, at best.

Enter the amazing Knockout Rose, and with little to no effort, you get this! Hundreds of blooms are ready to burst forth all around me.

Sometimes in life, as in gardening, I find myself struggling and striving with no results.

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.

Even if I use all the strength, power, wisdom, or resources available to me, it’s not enough to live this life. Weariness overtakes me. Discouragement overwhelms me. I just don’t have what it takes to overcome the obstacles, challenges, and trials of this life on my own, day after day. In addition, what little strength I do have often leads to the wrong response towards circumstances, situations and people.

Only when I am relying on God’s power can I live a victorious life. Only in Christ can I exhibit grace in the midst of adversity and grace towards difficult people.

The Apostle Paul instructs here that the power of Christ in my weakness brings so much benefit to my life, that it is far preferable to being strong in and of myself. So much so, that I will gladly boast in my weaknesses. If my weakness is what it takes to receive Christ’s power, then it’s something to boast about. That goes against the usual wisdom of this world, but it’s so true.

When I see my lovely roses, they are reminders to me that I cannot take credit for them. My knowledge, efforts, and actions did not contribute at all to their beauty. They grow by a power that is far above me.

Like these blooms, want my life to shine forth regardless of my circumstances. That can only happen when I cease living in my own strength and begin living in the strength of the Lord.

Nothing Is Hidden

1DBDFDA6-91E5-488F-BF01-2FC5020810CEThis is a beautiful sight, but it’s not complete. Do you see that cloud? Behind it is a gorgeous, massive, glacier-covered mountain.

Mt. Rainier reaches 14,410 feet high into the Washington sky and is so large, it creates its own weather. It is often hidden in clouds, snowstorms, or mist for long periods of time. It even casts its own rain shadow, so that the eastern side of the mountain receives significantly less precipitation than the western side. Because of the cloud cover that often hides the peak, visitors are never quite sure if they will get to see the mountain or if it will be concealed in cloud cover.

Eventually however, the clouds will disappear, and the mountaintop will be revealed.

“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” Luke 8:17.

It’s a universal principle emphasized in both the Old and New Testaments. In time, what is hidden will be revealed, and it will be judged.

Jesus is teaching His followers that they are to guard against hypocrisy. In other words, we are not to be phonies. That’s harder than it sounds, so how do we avoid it? We examine ourselves on a regular basis. We ask ourselves, “Am I genuine? Am I authentic? Am I more concerned about outward acts that impress people or the condition of my heart? Am I willing to allow God to change me and lead me or do I want my own way?”

Like the clouds lifting and the light shining to reveal the summit of Mt. Rainier, eventually the light will shine on my heart, revealing the truth about who I am.

May the Lord give me the courage and strength to live a life free of hypocrisy.

If It Prospers, You Will Prosper

1775E7F6-4E52-4E7E-87F6-63D0C7C32793This is the beautiful city of Lynchburg, Virginia. We visited this area in April of 2018 and were blessed to see this unbelievable sight!

I got to thinking about cities. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are large and spread out. Others are medium sized. Still others are small, where everyone knows each other’s names. Then there’s the tiny little village or community, the one that if you blink, you’ll miss it.

We all live in a city, town or community or close to one. What does God think about your city?

“Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Jeremiah 29:7.

God cares about it. He wants you to pray for it. Can you believe He even sent you to your city or community? Even if it’s the last place you want to be.

I would venture to say that most people I’ve met would rather be “anywhere but here.” Including me at certain times in my life. But God thinks quite differently about where you live.

In this verse, God has instructed Jeremiah to tell the people to “bloom where they’re planted.” Who is Jeremiah speaking to here? His listeners are exiles, Jewish people longing for their homeland, yet living in Babylon. How did they come here? According to this verse, God carried them here, using King Nebuchadnezzar to do it.

Wherever you are, it’s pretty likely you weren’t carried there as an exile, even though it may feel like it. Yet God instructed them to invest in where He had wisely and sovereignly placed them. He wants us to do that too. Work for our city’s peace, strive for its prosperity, pray to the Lord for it. Because if it prospers, we prosper.

What conviction I feel when I read these words. How many times have I longed to be free from the shackles of where I might have lived at any given time over the years? But if I am serious about obedience to the Lord, that attitude is not acceptable. Instead of dreaming about how the grass is greener somewhere else, it’s God’s will and my duty to pray for my community and work for its good. That’s true prosperity.

Proclaim His Praise in the Islands

05B9D2BE-C65C-458C-9131-FFF833433876Sugarloaf Mountain, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, overlooks gorgeous Lake Superior and the area around Marquette. While on the moderate hike that led to this spot, we were entertained by cute little squirrels and chipmunks, beautiful foliage, pretty views, birds singing cheerfully, and some friendly people.

But the summit and views from the observation decks were definitely the highlight of the afternoon. You can basically see 360 degrees around the mountaintop, although you need to walk to different viewing platforms to do so.

From the pinnacle of Sugarloaf, you can see the Huron Mountains, deep forests, the city of Marquette, and mysterious Lake Superior with its rocky coastline and emerald islands.

“Let them give glory to the LORD and proclaim His praise in the islands.” Isaiah 42:12.

God is worthy of praise in every corner of the creation. On the highest mountaintops, in the deepest sea, from the furthest land, and from the most remote islands.

More than once in this part of Isaiah, “islands” or “coastlands” are mentioned. Some Bible scholars believe this may be because, in the future, Christianity would enjoy some of its earliest and most lasting victories in these areas. Islands in this day and time were distant, remote and isolated. Yet, they are not to miss the opportunity to proclaim the praise of the Lord. This verse is a reminder to me that I must give glory to God wherever I am and in whatever circumstance I find myself.

Where do you find yourself today? Are you in a season of isolation and loneliness? Are you enduring trials and afflictions? Or perhaps you are going through a season of restoration, rest, and redemption? No matter what, you have the privilege and opportunity to give God glory.

The Highway of the Upright

7FA0DB6D-823A-46FD-BC40-11AFCCDEE383Have you ever driven down a highway and ended up in a place you did not want to be? That’s happened to me before, but I try to do everything possible to avoid it. That’s why, before we go road tripping, I spend weeks doing my homework.

One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to scour maps, looking for obscure scenic drives, great points of interest and superb destinations. Some of my favorite drives have been those roads I had to purposely work to find.

This is one of them. A fabulously gorgeous drive from Telluride, Colorado to Moab, Utah. It’s hard to beat a drive surrounded by canyons with the beautiful La Sal Mountains straight in front of you. This amazing highway happens to lead you to a great destination in both directions. You can’t go wrong with either Moab, Utah or Telluride, Colorado. But that’s not always the case.

“The highway of the upright avoids evil; those who guard their ways preserve their lives.” Proverbs 16:17.

Highways lead somewhere. Whether it is to a wonderful destination or a place you do not want to go, or to a dead end. That’s true physically, and it’s true spiritually too. I want to live a life of abundance and purpose, and I want to live a life that blesses others and glorifies the Lord. In order to arrive at that destination, I must get on the right highway. And which one is that? The one that avoids evil and every appearance of it.

Just as I intentionally study road maps and abide by them to avoid danger, pitfalls, and ruin while traveling, I must intentionally study God’s Word and abide by it to avoid danger, pitfalls, and ruin in life. The result of this is a life full of joy and purpose, even in the midst of difficulty.

Although other ways may appear to be attractive, there is no better road to take and no better way to live than by the guidance and grace of God.

Teach Me Your Paths

1B792EB9-DF3F-42B7-9ECC-6173AB1BE0F8This unbelievable road is the Moki Dugway, three miles of exhilarating, intimidating, unpaved switchbacks carved into the edge of Utah’s Cedar Mesa. No guardrails, no dividing lines, no safety net. Just you, some gorgeous views, and this crazy road going through the desert. As far as the eye can see, in every direction, is barren and stark desolation.

It would be easy to get lost here. If not for this solitary pathway that cuts right through the wilderness.

“Show me Your ways, LORD, teach me Your paths.” Psalm 25:4.

Just as we need a road out of the wilderness literally, we also need a road out of the wilderness spiritually. In this particular psalm, David pens three prayers, and this verse is contained in the first prayer. He is asking the Lord for guidance; he is asking the Lord to lead Him.

How many times do we ask God to show us His ways and His paths, but we are really looking for His stamp of approval on the plans we have already made. Plans that will most likely lead us to places we do not want to go. Plans that will lead us further into the desert instead of out of it.

That is why it is crucial that we follow the example of David in this psalm and inquire of the Lord where He wants us to go and what He wants us to do. Then we can safely and securely venture wherever He leads without hesitation or fear, even if that means a roadway through the desert. We can be sure He will lead us lovingly to the other side.

The Rock that Is Higher than I

2EEDFD95-DA52-4FC9-8EB6-3234DF78CE85The view of Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach, Oregon is quite stunning. It is a 235 foot tall sea stack that can be seen from miles around. It is a refuge and home to many sea creatures, such as starfish, sea anemone, crabs, chitons, limpets, and sea slugs, as well as a nesting site for sea birds, such as terns and puffins. Who doesn’t want a safe place, high above the danger, when it comes?

“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 62:1.

Here, the writer, David, feels like he is at the ends of the earth. It appears he is far from home and far from the sanctuary. Yet, he is never far from God through prayer. He is obviously under duress as he writes, as he refers to his heart growing faint and desperately is seeking a safe place, a refuge, as he asks God to lead him to the rock that is higher than he.

David doesn’t mean Israel, and he doesn’t mean Jerusalem. Neither is he referring to Mt. Zion. He means the God of his salvation.

God is higher than David, and higher than his troubles, and higher than his enemies. He is higher than the rulers and philosophies of this world, and higher than the highest mountains, and higher than the stars, and higher than the angels. Christ is the Rock who is higher than we and the only One who can protect us, redeem us, and give us hope.

Like the sea creatures and nesting birds who need a protective refuge, and like the Psalm writer David far from home seeking safety, we need a place of security, guidance, and unconditional love. This can only be found in a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.