Saturday, November 19, 2011

Daily Injections

A few years ago I struggled with a bout of pneumonia. After the doctor listened to my lungs and looked at the x-rays, he prescribed a potent antibiotic to combat the bacteria in my lungs. For a time I felt better; I had more energy,breathed easier, and had no fever. But soon the bacteria proved to be stronger than the antibiotics, and I headed back to the doctor’s office. He explained that some strains of bacteria are especially antibiotic resistant, so I had two options: one, hospitalization, or two, daily injections of a powerful antibiotic. I chose option two. Every day for two weeks I drove to the doctor’s office for my injections. At first I noticed no difference. I was just as tired as before and still had several degrees of fever. Finally, after four or five days, I felt a little better; my temperature was near normal and I breathed much easier. By the end of two weeks my fever was gone and I felt more energetic. After the injections my doctor prescribed another antibiotic to help my weakened body continue fighting the infection.

Within a few months I experienced a new-found energy and sense of wellness. After that illness I am much more conscious of providing energy and infection-resistance to my body by eating right, exercising, and getting proper rest. None of these guarantees freedom from illness, but my healthier body is better prepared to fight any future infections.

This experience also taught me a lesson about my spiritual health. Satan is like bacteria that destroys my spiritual health. He looks for weaknesses so he can attack and weaken my spirit. A constant battle against the forces of darkness rages in the world. Just as I try to keep my body healthy to prevent another infection, so must I keep my spirit healthy to ward off an attack by Satan’s bacteria. Consuming a steady, healthy diet of spiritual food fills my soul with the word of God. Praying to my creator exercises my spiritual muscles. Resting in Him and listening for His voice guides my spirit. I need the spiritual equivalent of a daily injection, for Satan is a potent adversary. 1 John 4:4 gives me assurance of this antibiotic against Satan: "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them [spirits not from God], because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." As long as I "inject Christ" into my life, Satan’s attacks will be controlled and repelled. The medicine is freely available to help me combat all spiritual illness; all I have to do is take it.

Father, thank you for not leaving me defenseless against Satan’s attacks. Thank you that your medicine is stronger; help me to faithfully take my daily injection.

Ephesians 6:12 "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Sycamore

The old sycamore leans precariously over the creek, its top branches reaching far across to the other side of the meandering four-foot-wide stream. The root system, partially exposed, clings tenaciously to the bank of the stream, like fingers clawing into the soil, desperate for a hold in the earth, lest the white-barked tree topple. The gnarled finger-like roots reach deep into the soil, drawing up water. The life-giving water courses through the tree’s circulatory system, sustaining its vigor.

Like the tree, all living organisms require water for life. Without it, plants quickly shrivel and turn brown. Humans require water every day to stay healthy. Dehydration causes a wide range of problems, from dry, cracked skin to hallucinations and seizures. Without water, a human will die in a matter of days.

Jesus said, “I am the living water.” Of course, He referred to spiritual water, not physical. What happens to our souls when they don’t receive frequent spiritual nourishment? Without God’s living water, we perceive the world through earthly eyes. Our connections with God shrivel and the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control, no longer thrive. In order to thrive spiritually, we must, like the gnarled roots of the old sycamore tree, cling to the spirit that nourishes our souls, drawing deeply from God’s living water.

Father, give me a thirst for your living water and teach me to drink deeply, and often.

Jeremiah 17:8 “He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

Friday, November 11, 2011

So Many Souls

One Sunday morning the members of my Sunday school class went prayer walking.  Several small groups walked the nearby neighborhoods.  Some stopped at each intersection to pray aloud together.  My group walked silently, praying as we went. 

 As my two partners and I walked our route, for me the recurring thought was “so many souls.”  I wondered:  how happy are the people in these homes?  Many, I’m sure are content.  Many have a relationship with God and a church home.  But how many souls are hurting, struggling to survive without God?  How many suffer from shattered marriages?  How many fill the spiritual void with drugs and alcohol?  How many appear happy on the outside but are miserable on the inside?  How many struggle with physical ailments or watch loved ones suffer with health problems?  I wonder how many souls along our walk lack the saving grace of Jesus Christ.  How many carry burdens that Jesus would gladly shoulder?  How many desperately need the peace that only He can provide?

 When we walked, we saw evidence of children living in this neighborhood:  Swing sets, bicycles, and basketball goals.  I wondered about the children.  Are these children learning about our loving God?  Do they know about His awesome power and amazing love?  Are they growing up in homes with loving, Christian parents who teach them about Jesus and model Christian behavior?

 While we walked, God opened my eyes and let me glimpse what He must see in the neighborhoods.  He doesn’t see fine homes, new cars, or stylish clothing.  He sees deep into our souls.  He sees pain and disappointment.  He sees spiritual hunger.  He sees souls lost without Him.

 We who know Christ have a responsibility to pray for those who do not.  We may not know the conditions of their souls, but that should not prevent us from praying.  There are so many souls in our neighborhoods who have not accepted the saving grace of our Lord—so many who need His peace and joy. 

 Thank you God for this glimpse into the souls who are lost and hurting.  May they develop a thirst for You.  Lord, there are so many souls; keep them on my heart and keep me praying for them—so many souls, Lord, so many souls.

Matthew 9:37-38 “Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’”

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Tapping Along

After two months of participating in tap classes, I’m still loving them. For me, everything about the experience is positive. I meet new friends, get some exercise, and challenge myself to learn something new. At times, I must admit, I find my head spinning with so many new steps and terms: shuffle, flap, buffalo, brush, dig, riff, and many more. And then, when I add the arms, which are doing something entirely different from my feet, it’s like patting my head and rubbing my tummy at the same time. Whew! The mental work is more difficult than the physical. For me, it then becomes necessary to stop and think for a moment in order to learn a new series of steps or add arms. Once those brain connections are made, I can let my brain remind my muscles what to do and I can dance. Even though I’m sometimes frustrated when I struggle to learn a new combination of steps, I’m so glad I chose to take tap classes and challenge myself both physically and intellectually.

While I’m enjoying the challenges from my tap classes, I’m wondering about challenging myself in another area of life. What do I consciously do to challenge myself spiritually? Sometimes I’m so busy with life and getting physically and intellectually fit that I neglect my spiritual fitness. Just as with other types of fitness, I must challenge myself spiritually and not be content with the status quo. Just remembering past times of spiritual growth isn’t enough. I must look for ways to continually stretch my spirit by learning new steps: A new Bible study here, more quiet time there, a different viewpoint to ponder, and a challenging sermon. All these and more can stretch my spirit to learn new steps and new combinations of steps so my spirit can tap in time with my Creator. Once the brain connections are made, I’ve hidden His word in my heart and can allow God to be my life’s choreographer, guiding my every step.

Father God, help me to be more diligent in my spiritual growth than I am with physical and intellectual growth. Keep my spirit tapping Lord, keep it tapping.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What Should I Give?

As I prayed and pondered over what I should give to the church, I searched the scriptures for the things God has given me.

Before my own mother even knew me, He knit me together in the secret darkness of her womb.  He gave me life.  Whatever talents or skills I may possess are gift from God.  When I work with my hands, the strength and co-ordination given by God allow me to complete my task.  When I use my mind, God-given intelligence enables me to think.  Although I sometimes wish for different abilities, different looks, or a different voice, I am a creation of God’s, made exactly as He wants me to be.  He gives me my unique identity.

He gives me protection.  He hasn’t promised a life without troubles, but He has promised to protect me and provide a place of refuge when the storms of life blow.  I have experienced, and will again experience, grief, sorrow, despair, difficulties, confusion, and fatigue.  But God has promised protection and refuge.  He has given me a safe harbor from storms; all I have to do is seek that refuge, go to that harbor.

He is the source of all wisdom and love.  Whenever someone gives me wise advice, that wisdom comes from God.  Whenever I don’t know which way to turn or what I should do next, I ask for His wisdom, for He gives it liberally.  When others act in a loving manner, this is a gift from God, for God is love.  When I am able to do a loving deed for someone else, it is God’s gift of love in me that enables me to act lovingly.     
This wise, loving God has given me the ultimate gift:  He gave His only Son, Jesus.  He sent Him away from His heavenly home to live on earth.  He allowed man to nail His only Son on a tree, for me.  He allowed His beloved Son to suffer and die, to take the punishment for my sins, so that I could be pure, spotless, and sinless.  He gave this gift to me so that I, too, could one day live with Him in this heavenly home.

What, then should I give? Everything I have. Everything I am.                                 

Matthew 10: 8b “Freely you have received, freely give.”