Strong Finish

A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.

Henry David Thoreau

Ever taken a 30-day challenge? Did it feel like it was three months long? I am involved in two challenges for the month of July that involve different aspects of writing. My first challenge is to finish a revision of my current novel in progress, and the second is to finish setting up my website. I want to end the month strong. I want the satisfaction that comes with completing something, knowing I have done my best.

And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men

Colossians 3:23

The Christian life is made up of seasons with unique challenges and blessings. We move from season to season like a runner completing segments of a race. It is a marathon that requires endurance and perseverance. But, we don’t run this race alone. We have a great cloud of witnesses, past and present, who run alongside us toward the prize.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

As we run the race, we need to remember whose name is on our jersey. As Christians we carry Christ’s name, and we shouldn’t do anything that brings Him shame or disgrace. No one is perfect, and we all fall short. God knows our hearts and our weaknesses as human beings, and He is full of grace and mercy when we come to Him.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14

Like, Paul, I don’t count myself as having apprehended, but I keep trying to move forward by the grace of God. One day we will all cross the finish line, and everyone who finishes gets a crown because Jesus has already won it for us.

So, to finish strong we just need to focus on the next leg of the race and on the author and finisher of our faith. Let’s help each other run the race so that we can hear God say:

Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

Matthew 25:23

Stay Still

Think of yourself just as a seed patiently waiting in the earth; waiting to come up a flower in the Gardener’s good time, up into the real world, the real waking.

C. S. Lewis

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

Psalm 46:10

For the last few weeks I have been working an extra temporary job to help save up for a car. One day I was trying to focus on the work, which can be tedious, but my mind was flying in every direction. I was going over all the things that needed doing and bills that needed paying and trying to figure out how to get it all done. There should have been a blue circle over my head going around and around. I couldn’t get my mind to stay still.

Sometimes the busyness of this world can overwhelm us with things we think we should do or worrying about might ifs. The story of Martha is often the story of us. Jesus was in the house, and she was in the kitchen. She was missing out on the best part of life doing what was expected of her by society, being a good host, instead of enjoying her company. Jesus doesn’t call us to do what the world expects; He calls us to be obedient to him. Sometimes that means to just be still.

41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: 42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Luke 10:41-42

The funny thing is Jesus’ list is a lot shorter than the one the world tries to give us. His goal is not necessarily being more productive as much as it is being closer to Him. Now, we all have jobs to do, but sometimes we take on work that isn’t ours. We either try to do things that God didn’t call us to, or we try to do his job. In the Mary and Martha story, Jesus says that Mary has chosen the one needful thing, which was being in His presence. If we take the time to sit at His feet, we often find the To Do List is shorter than we thought.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

Jesus calls us to work alongside Him. When we do that, He takes the bulk of the weight for himself, but sometimes we try to take over. For instance, when I started worrying about the future, I was taking on His job and it is too much for me because I wasn’t made for that position. God doesn’t want us to work ourselves to death; He wants us to rest. He even set aside a day for it.

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31

When we take the time to wait upon the Lord, we are renewed. The word “wait” has a few connotations. The first is to wait upon the Lord like Mary did by sitting at His feet, to take a moment to be still. Another meaning is to wait for His guidance and timing. Finally, there is the idea of waiting on Him like a servant, or being obedient to His commands. When we wait on the Lord, our lives are much more enjoyable and satisfying because we are doing what we were meant to do, but it all started with being still.

Stay Focused

Bear in mind then, that Brag is a good dog, but Holdfast is a better.

― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.”

― Bruce Lee

The two words set my nerve on edge: Below Expectations. I am working a short-term job which requires me to maintain validity. They judge this by randomly inserting tests in with actual work to make sure that I am responding in a consistent manner. For the last week I had been “Exceeding Expectations” and making incentive pay for my hard work. In one shift I had dropped to the danger zone, and I had no idea why because I cannot see what I have done wrong and my supervisor is not allowed to tell me. They can only offer suggestions. If I drop too low, I can be dropped from the job and possibly not invited to further job offers. I reminded God that He had provided this job and I needed wisdom to be able to continue.

 Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?

Jeremiah 32:27

Jeremiah was the verse for Monday and reminded me that not even a computer system or validity questions were too hard for God. I continued working, but the two words “Below Expectations” were always just to the left, mocking me. I clocked out early with a headache.

 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

I had to confess that I was wavering in my faith a little, especially since the two words would not go away, no matter how carefully I worked. I had lost my confidence. I prayed again and kept working.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

I could see no purpose in this mental torture, but I kept on working. There was still no change in the two words. I clocked out a little early, weary of the mental strain of trying to meet some hidden goal.

 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

The next night I picked back up with those two words still lit up in orange: Below Expectations. I began to work and occasionally the system would show me that I had answered correctly, but the words refused to change. Then, I noticed that the system had not notified me of a chat message from my supervisor. It was a word of encouragement. I responded that I appreciated it.

 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

Psalm 91:4

A little while later I received a phone call from the supervisor. He said that he had no idea why the system kept showing “Below Expectations.” From His perspective, I was doing excellent work. He could see everything I had done from His side of the system, while all I could see were the two words “Below Expectations.” His encouragement got me back on track and a day later I was back on “Exceeds Expectations.”

In life, sometimes all we ever see about us are evidence that we don’t meet up to the world’s standards. The truth is it’s not the world’s standards we have to meet; it is God’s standards. He knew we could never meet them, so He sent His only Son to bridge the gap for us. The enemy uses comparison and discouragement to try and distract us from doing what God has called us to do. God doesn’t require perfection, only a willing heart. He’s not looking for someone who talks a good talk; He is looking for someone who holds fast to Him.

So, when the world tries to distract you by throwing comparisons in your face, remember to stay focused on God and hold fast.

Hope is Confident

I was aggravated this morning because I couldn’t seem to get everything together to write my blog post last night or this morning before my dental appointment. I wanted it all taken care of so that I wouldn’t have to think about it when I got home. The dental appointment ran late, so it was past time for lunch when I finally left, and I still had to stop by the vet’s office for cat food. I was working my way into a pity party on the drive home because the dentist had suggested a crown to go over the filling. I was just getting caught up from last year, and I had several other debts still to pay. Would I ever get ahead?

Before I broke into tears, I decided to distract myself by thinking about what I could do, which was plan out my blog and my hope notebook project. I had somehow chosen the same verse twice for the notebook, so I was one short for my 40 days. I got an idea for the 40th day as I was driving along, and in the process I remembered that God was my hope, so I could be confident that He could handle whatever comes. All of the events of last night and this morning led me to the truth God wanted me to know: He is enough.

Day 29

The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.

Lamentations 3:24

Day 30

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:

1 Peter 1:3-6

Day 31

The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.

Psalms 147:11

Day 32

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.

Jeremiah 17:7

Day 33

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

Philippians 1:6

Day 34

For the needy shall not always be forgotten: the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever.

Psalms 9:18

Day 35

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31

As I reviewed the verses from this week, I saw God planting seeds of hope all along the way. Today was kind of like a pop quiz to see if I had learned my lessons this week. In the midst of the temptation to whine, the scriptures came back to remind me that hope is confident because it comes from a God who cannot fail. While the road will not always be easy on this journey called life, we always have a good traveling companion in the Holy Spirit and the destination is worth the struggle.

When you are tempted to wallow in pity, take a moment to list the things you have to be thankful for and it will improve your mood exponentially.  Then give that list of problems to God and ask Him to show you what to do. Sometimes that might be to just “wait upon the Lord” and sometimes it might require something on your part, but if you stay in His will, it will all work out to His Glory.

Now I’m going to go slurp some tea until feeling returns to my lip and work on my hope notebook. Today’s verse is especially timely and I am excited about the finale next week. Stay tuned to #MyHopeNotebook and remember that as long as we have God, we have a hope that give us confidence.

Expectation

As the Advent season begins, the first candle lit symbolizes either hope or expectation and sometimes is called the Prophet’s Candle. To me, hope and expectation are tied together. Generally when we have expectations, we are hoping for good. Biblical hope is the confident expectation of God’s promises. Given the state of the world, we could all use some hope and expectation for good.

Pathway to Hope

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

Romans 5:3-5

The pathway to hope is more of a hike, so think of it as an adventure. Romans chapter five tells us that tribulation creates patience as we learn to deal with the troubles of this world. Patience grows with experience because when we follow Christ, we witness His faithfulness to us. The more experience we have, the more we have hope that God will do what He says. As a matter of fact, we expect Him to do what He says.

Expectations of Hope

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Jeremiah 29:11

What can we expect from God? Jeremiah tells us that God has plans for us, plans on an eternal scale. The things that happen on earth are just preparations for what is to come in eternity. But, it’s not just expectations for the hereafter; it is also expectations for a life of peace here.  How can we have peace in this world? We can have the peace God gives that is not tied to what is going on around us, but is an expression of His presence in our lives.

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31

Because of His presence and his peace, we can expect to be renewed daily. When you team up with God, He does the heavy lifting. You don’t have to do it alone or in your own strength. You can expect help and never be disappointed.

Results of Hope

I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.

Psalms 130:5

When we hope in God, we are never disappointed. Hope by definition usually requires a waiting period. The world had to wait a long time in earth years for the coming of the Messiah, but in eternal time it was just a drop in the bucket. Now we patiently hope for Christ’s return. In the meantime, we have the promise of God, and in the season of Advent we are reminded that God fulfilled the words of the prophets regarding the coming of the Messiah.

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.

Proverbs 13:12

So, light the Prophet’s Candle and have hope for a brighter tomorrow because Emmanuel has come.

Recharge

Wings Like Eagles

I am thankful for two days in a row off from work for Thanksgiving. It has given me a chance to catch up on cleaning and working on some projects for Christmas, but it also has given me a chance to recharge. I got to sleep past daylight and to just sit on the couch with my cats without thinking about what needed to be done next. Since I work part-time in retail, we have been working every afternoon to get ready for the busy season, so I have come home later than usual each day for the last few weeks and my batteries were getting low.

BatteriesBatteries have a limited amount of energy and will eventually run out of power if they are not recharged. We have a multitude of electronic devices that run on batteries these days, and they all come with a cord to plug into a power source in order to recharge them, sometimes on a daily basis. The other day I was working at my computer and the screen got dim. After several minutes, a warning came up about low battery. I had to stop and plug the computer into the outlet to recharge the battery. The screen was immediately brighter. The same is true for humans. When we recharge our batteries, we work better, both physically and spiritually.

When we feel like we are lagging spiritually like the screen on my computer, it helps to stop and recharge our batteries. The Holy Spirit is our link to the ultimate power source. We just have to plug in to the source through prayer, reading the Bible, or just taking a moment to worship the Lord. Ephesians 3:16 says, “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.”All we have to do is take the time to plug into the power source.outlet

Some days may require plugging in multiple times, but thankfully there are no blackouts with this power source. While everything in the earthly sphere is subject to break down and decay, God’s power is infinite. When we are weak, He is strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” We will never need an alternate power source.

In order to recharge, we need only rely on the Lord. Isaiah 40:31 says, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” When we give Him all our cares and burdens, He lightens our load so that we can rest in His strength.  So, take a moment and wait on the Lord, and He will recharge your batteries so that you can soar with the eagles.