Sink or Swim

(Philippians 2: 12-13)  Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.  For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

No one ever said it would be easy…this pursuit of righteousness that we begin when we choose to live for Christ.  In fact, sometimes doing what’s right is the absolute hardest thing to do.  Sure, there are those who make righteousness and godliness look easy.  My grandmother was one of those people.  She just always did the right thing.  She was kind, thoughtful, reverent, prayerful, considerate, loving, generous, hard-working, accepting, forgiving, and just as Christ-like as a person could ever be.  Her life was a basket that was overflowing with every fruit of the spirit — and it spilled out into the paths of every person who ever had the pleasure of meeting her.  She made it look so easy.

Then there are people like me.  I have always sort of struggled with right and wrong.  I don’t typically see things in black and white, so the line between just seems a bit vague to me.  I’m a questioner and a skeptic, so I never take things as they are presented to me.  I want to know why.  I crave a deeper understanding.  I wanted to be one of those people who just ease into obedience and holiness without question, and I felt bad for having questions and for needing to know so much extra from God.  So many times I have stifled my own reservations and uncertainties, because I felt I should just be able to naturally trust and obey.  But it just isn’t easy for me…

But what are the “results” of our salvation?  Does that equate to ease and perfection?  Does that mean that we are all the same, without questions and struggles?  Of course not!  No!  These “results” are the obvious changes that are taking place in our lives as we go through our metamorphoses in Christ.  They are the things that make us unique individuals who are actively overcoming the battles that we face, both internally as well as on the surface. 

Whether we make it look easy, because it just somehow does come to us fluidly, never making any waves, or whether we are ones who jump in feet first and spend the majority of our swim thrashing and trying desperately to keep our heads above water, we are all in the same ocean together.  It’s a long swim, friends.  We are so blessed to have one another to hold onto when the waters get choppy and the waves overcome us.  We may look out at the vast and endless sea of our lives and think, “How can I do this with no end in sight?”  But God hasn’t called us to know it all — to have the answers we need.  He has called us to jump in, and our only job is to trust and obey, holding onto the anchor that is His word.  We can’t give up when it gets hard, because our lives are a testament to what He can and will do when we obey…so that others may see and know the beauty of this transfiguration that takes place when we offer our lives to Him. 

My life looks nothing like my grandmother’s life.  And do you know what?  That is okay.  It’s great even!  Because God created me to be exactly as I am.  My story will speak to others where my grandmother’s cannot.  My heart can go out to people that my grandmother’s could not.  My life is my own — in all of its frantic, mistake-laden, problematic flailing — it is mine, and I am going to work hard to show the results of my salvation.  When I mess up, I’ll keep on doggy-paddling, backstroking, treading water, or whatever I have to do!  Because I’ve come too far to drown now!

I can promise you this, you may not always want to do what’s right.  Sometimes it just feels good to be bad, because sin is what the flesh craves…day and night…and we tend to give into it from time to time.  However, remember that we are all works in progress.  God is doing a thing within us all — and if we are reverent, obedient, and daily seeking a deeper relationship with Him, then He will be faithful to His word…empowering us with the desire to please Him in every way with our lives.  Without Him, we simply cannot do it. 

It’s sink or swim, friends. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, when it feels like I’m in over my head, when things aren’t easy and I want to give up, help me to remember that I am not alone.  Give me every ounce of strength and desire that I need to keep my head above water…no matter what.  Amen.

Just Jesus!

(Mark 9:2-8 HCSB) 2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up on a high mountain by themselves to be alone. He was transformed in front of them, 3 and His clothes became dazzling — extremely white as no launderer on earth could whiten them. 4 Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it’s good for us to be here! Let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” — 6 because he did not know what he should say, since they were terrified. 7 A cloud appeared, overshadowing them, and a voice came from the cloud: This is My beloved Son; listen to Him! 8 Then suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus alone.

Lanny Wolfe penned the words of the beautiful song entitled, “Only Jesus Can Satisfy Your Soul.” It says…

The world may try to satisfy

That longing in your soul.

You may search the wide world over

But you’ll be just as before.

You’ll never find true satisfaction

Until you’ve found the Lord,

For only Jesus can satisfy your soul.

Only Jesus can satisfy your soul.

Yes, only He can change your heart

And make you whole.

He’ll give you peace you never knew,

Sweet joy and love and Heaven, too.

For only Jesus can satisfy your soul.

It’s true you know! This world, with all its beauty offers so many satisfying experiences. I have been blessed to see many of them. I have traveled to various countries, and experienced most of the landscape known as the United States of America. I have witnessed the migration of the animals of the African plain, grazing buffalo in Yellowstone, and hummingbirds feeding in my own backyard.

I have stood in awe at the sound of Bridal Veil Falls in Yosemite National Park; witnessed Old Faithful as she spouted off in her natural rhythm. Mt. Rushmore, The Grande Canyon, The Giant Redwoods of Sequoia, Mackinac Island, the country roads of West Virginia, and good ol’ Rocky Top Tennessee!

I have worshipped with French speaking Haitians, Jamaicans, and the Navajo Indians of Gallup, New Mexico. I’ve removed my shoes before entering churches in Korea, prayed in mud huts with Ghanains, and had orphans in Kenya lay their hands on me and pray that I would be blessed. I’ve sung hymns with the people of Ecuador, and prayed at churches  in Belgium.

Please don’t read this and feel that I’m bragging. I am humbled that God would allow me to experience so much of His creation. The truth is, there will be people who read this who have experienced MUCH more than I have. My reason for writing is to simply acknowledge that, although God has given me these opportunities, none of them can compare to the glory of His presence.

Mark 9:2-8 records an amazing account known as the transfiguration of Christ. Peter, James, and John watch as Jesus transforms before their very eyes! His clothes started glowing, clouds surrounded them, and if that wasn’t enough, Moses and Elijah showed up! Can you say WOW?

But, the next few words tell the greatest story… “Then suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus alone.” There was so much to see and experience. But, when it was all stripped away, only Jesus remained! That’s all that mattered. And, that’s all that matters in our lives as well. With all the many blessings that I recounted earlier, none of them satisfies like Jesus does. The old song of the church declares, “Take this whole world, but give me Jesus!” I concur!

PRAYER: Jesus, know my heart today! It is filled with adoration for You. Truly, this world has nothing that compares to You. Allow your glory to be evident in such a way that the world can know You as I do. Help me to make much of You at all times. Amen.

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