Archived Devotions | Pearls of Promise | Page 62

Finding “I Am”

      Every year my family takes a vacation to my sister and brother in laws’ lake house near Coldwater, Michigan.  It is a time of relaxation and recreation as well as bonding with the family.  I find that it is also a highly creative time for me.  Many mornings, while my husband, brother-in-law and two sons go out on an early fishing expedition, I spend time outside in a comfortable lawn chair, admiring the peacefulness of the lake, studying God’s word, listening for His voice and writing what comes to me.  There isn’t much activity on the lake yet.  The television is not on.  The cell phone is turned off. I’m not hooked into the internet.  I am only connected to God.

     Often times, it takes a retreat away from our busy lives to feel close to God.  Jesus himself, knowing he needed time with his Father, would go alone to the mountainside to pray (John 6:45,46).  So, if Jesus needed quiet and solitude to recharge, why wouldn’t we? 

     If it my belief that we simply don’t disconnect from the world enough.  Psalm 46:10 encourages us to “Be still and know that I am God.”  I have a plaque on my kitchen counter that shortens this verse to “Be still and know that I am.”  In Exodus, when Moses asked God who should he say sent him to free the Israelites from slavery, God told him to tell the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.” It is in the stillness and silence of our existence where we hear God’s voice and know the great “I am.”  It needs to be a daily discipline to turn off all that distracts us so we can focus on our creator, Almighty God.  Who or what could be more important?

“Up”

While vacationing in Coldwater, Michigan, my nineteen year old son recommended we all go see the animated movie “Up” so we followed his advice and headed over to the local theatre.  The movie was excellent and had many deep themes running throughout, themes we discussed for a while afterwards.  However, it was the main theme that reminded me of a Christian concept that so many of us find difficult to grasp.

The lead character, 78 year old Carl Fredrickson, is about to see his lifelong home demolished to make way for a construction project. Carl has nowhere else to go but to an assisted living residence, so instead of succumbing to the inevitable, he ties thousands of balloons to his house and lifts it up off its foundation.  Meanwhile, the assisted living employees, waiting outside Carl’s door so they could move him, watch Carl and his house rise up above all the issues below.  Carl then proceeds on a journey high above the earth to find a site in South America where he and his deceased wife often talked about traveling to but never had the opportunity.

In reality, tying thousands of balloons to a house probably would not lift it off its foundation, but I loved the thought process!  Carl knew the only way to get out of the bind he was in was to go “up.”  The world below just didn’t look all that great anymore to him so he set his sights on a higher goal.

I reflected, “Isn’t that what God asks us to do in our Christian walk?”  Colossians 3:2, 3 reminds us, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”  Over the past few months, the Holy Spirit has really been trying to teach me this truth but I’ve found it very difficult to apply in my own life.  It isn’t easy to live above our problems and to focus our eyes on Christ.  It is much easier to dwell on what is wrong and let it sidetrack us from doing the Godly work we are called to do.  I find that as I try to grasp the spiritual balloon that will take me “up,” there is something or someone holding onto my leg to draw me back down.  It is a constant battle and a struggle that only Christ can enable me to overcome.

I think of the Apostle Paul, who we can use as an example of someone who looked “up.”  In 2 Corinthians 11: 24-28 Paul relays to us his struggles below:  “Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods.  Once I received a stoning.  Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters, in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked.  And besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches.”  Paul had good reason to not set his sights on what was above, but he managed to do it, despite the suffering and hardship he faced on the earth.  In Philippians 4:4, Paul encourages us to  “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice.”  In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for rejoice literally means to “spin around with glee!”

So how do we rejoice like Paul did?  How do we look “up?”  We must remember that one of the main reasons we are here on this earth is to tell others the good news about Christ and the salvation he offers us.  If we are so bundled up in our problems, the message will remain buried below and will not rise up.  We have to pray each day for God’s Holy Spirit to fill us and enable us to “set our minds on things above.”  We must also pray for protection from the one that wants to hold us down.  We can do it!  We can live above the trouble below.  Let us grab hold of the balloons of faith and as they lift us up, we can watch our problems become very small in comparison to the great eternal reward we look forward to as Christians.

Did God Invite Me to Join Facebook?

A couple of weeks ago, I did something I never thought I’d do.  I joined Facebook.  Facebook has been around for a while, and quite frankly, it never really appealed to me.  I thought it might be time consuming and what was wrong with communicating with my friends the old fashioned way, via e-mail or phone?  Having spent so many years in the media, I was also enjoying some anonymity for a change. However, over one month’s time, numerous people from our church and outside the church started asking me, “Why aren’t you on Facebook?” or “You ought to do Facebook.”  “You’re not on Facebook?”  I thought, “This is strange.  No one has ever mentioned this to me before.”  When I receive multiple messages on the same subject, I take notice and in this case thought, “Maybe God wants me to be on Facebook!”

What I didn’t realize was how Facebook would open up my world to people or friends whom I did not know very well.  It is a thrill to be asked to be a “friend” from someone I don’t necessarily hang out with but know them and still take interest in what they are thinking.  I didn’t understand that the Facebook “wall” would be an intriguing exchange of ideas and many of the posts would make me reflect.  It is also be a way to share with others about my own spiritual walk.  Lastly, I have reconnected with an elementary school friend, a couple of old friends from college and another friend I played basketball with in high school.  After all these years, they are back in my life again and it gives me great joy to communicate with them again!

I realized my personal spiritual journey is a lot like the Facebook discovery.  I became a Christian in high school but traveled a path disconnected from God for many years.  My career path took off; however, and I landed a national sports reporting job with HBO Sports and an anchor job in New York City at the Madison Square Garden Network.  But after a few years working in the “big time,” my career took a devastating blow when I was not renewed on either of these contracts in the same week.  As many people do in adverse times, I reconnected with God, only to blame him and ask him why he allowed this to happen to me!  Understandably, he did not answer me right away so being the good reporter I was, who needed the interview, I decided to seek God in the midst of my trial by participating in a Bible study for the first time ever.  Perhaps God would grant me the interview if I spent a little time studying his Word.  During that year-long study on the book of John, God did eventually provide the answer I longed for.  He told me that he had given me an incredible platform through a media career to be a witness for him but I did not use it and that I was not living my life with him as the focal point.  Hmm…Now I understood and realized it was up to me to take action.  I promised God that if he gave me a second opportunity, I would dedicate my career to him.  I’m sure he knew my heart so he acted fast.  The next week, ESPN called asking me to do some freelance reporting for the sports network.  Was this a coincidence?  I don’t think so.

From 1993 on, just like what happened with Facebook, I reconnected with an old friend whom I never want to lose again.  Now also connected with the Body of Christ, I am walking down a spiritual path with other fellow believers through Bible study, worship, through my speaking ministry and through Facebook!  I was the prodigal daughter and I have to believe my Heavenly Father was as elated to have me back as I was to reconnect with Him.  “Bring the fattened calf and kill it.  Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. So they began to celebrate.”  Luke 15:23,24.

Two Inches

     My husband and I love to play golf and play the sport together every week or two.  I have been a golf nut all my life and religiously watched the sport on television when I was a little girl.  My favorite golfer was Jack Nicklaus, who I later met in the early years of my sportscasting career.  My encounter with Nicklaus is one of the only two times in my life when I was speechless!

    A few weeks ago; however, golf gave me a critical reminder about the brevity of life.  My husband and I were over halfway through the round at our local course when a father and his son asked if they could “play through.”  My husband told me to wave them on, so I moved my golf cart over to the cart path and motioned for them to go ahead and hit.  I first watched the man’s son drive so I’d know where the ball was going, then decided to take off in the cart to get further out so I would not be in danger of getting hit by the father’s tee shot.  I had only traveled a few feet when I felt a blow to my head.  I was stunned initially but quickly realized I had been hit extremely hard by a golf ball.  The sound of the ball hitting my forehead was so loud that the man thought he had hit the cart.  (In his defense, he thought I had moved out of the way already and didn’t see me when he hit his tee shot.)  I shouted to my husband on the other side of the fairway, who also heard the loud crack, “Hurry over here, I’ve been hit!”  The knot on my head swelled into a very unattractive ball and upon realizing how close the shot came to my temple, I began to cry.  Fortunately, the CAT Scan did not show a fracture in my skull or any internal bleeding but the doctor reconfirmed that if the ball had found my temple, it would have been a different story.  Two inches was the difference between life and possible death!

     This experience was a reminder that each day of life we receive is a gift from God and that we need to make the most of it for we do not know when we will be called to our heavenly home.  I have had three near-death experiences like this, perhaps as a reminder that I need to stay the course in my Christian walk.  Psalm 90 reminds us, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  If we live each day like it is our last, how much more effective would we be for the kingdom?  If we faced Jesus at the end of this day, what would we have to tell him about our actions and thoughts that day?  If our life ended today, would we have regrets about our faithfulness or would we be able to confidently walk into the pearly gates, knowing we had given it our all?  We must learn to number our days and make every day count for eternity.

“Fight the Good Fight”

     There have been many times in my life when I have felt a strong tap on the shoulder from God saying, “Lisa, I have something very important to say to you.” The times this has happened to me, God has given me messages like, “You need to go to seminary'” or “I want you to quit your job (after almost 25 years working full-time).”  One time, I received one with a year, 2044, and the message was “There’s still more to do.  The year is 2044.”  I don’t know what that year means but what I got from that is that God had work for me to do for the kingdom and that I most likely have a finite number of years to get it done.

   So, when I received that call to listen again, I took the time to listen.  I had to take my car into the shop the next day so I turned the radio off and was silent.  The only thing I heard during that car ride were the words “Fight the good fight.”  I knew that verse from 1 Timothy but was this really the Lord speaking to me?  It did come out of left field, which is what usually happens.

     Ironically, I had picked up a little Beth Moore pocket book to read that day before receiving this message, which happened to be on the subject of spiritual warfare.  It’s called Arm Yourself Against the Enemy’s Schemes.  The book had been sitting on my desk for at least a half a year but for some reason that was the day I decided to read it while I was waiting on my car to be looked at by the mechanic.  I thought, “This is interesting in light of what could have been a message from God.”  I told my prayer partner later that day about the message, still not totally sure but we prayed that God would confirm.

     The next morning, God did just that.  There was no longer any doubt.  My husband and I do a devotional together in the morning and we happened to be on 1 Timothy 1, verses 18-20.  I began to read the words and could hardly get through them,  They read: “I am giving you these instructions, Timothy, my child in accordance with the prophecies made earlier about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, having faith and a good conscience.”  There it was.  I knew there was no coincidence.  What were the odds of this happening?  I then told my husband what had occurred and he too believed this was God’s confirmation.

     You see, I had been very discouraged the day before I received this call to listen.  I had been praying and praying for a situation and had still not seen total resolution.  I was battle weary and God knew I needed these words.

     What does it mean to fight the good fight?  I’ll quote the words I read that day in my Holman New Testament Commentary: 

“The good fight is the struggle which all Christians engage in when their efforts are focused toward honoring Christ and accepting responsibility for personal holiness.  It is about keeping the faith individually as well as in the church.  Paul himself said at the end of his own life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  This is a militaristic term that admits to a hostile environment:  “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.”

     God was telling me that life here on earth is a daily spiritual battle and that I needed to not give up. That I was to stay on my knees fighting for truth and holiness in myself and others.  I thought about what I read in Beth Moore’s book and she talked about people she knew who gave up the fight in their spiritual lives and let the enemy win.  I didn’t want that to happen to me.  If I didn’t fight the good fight, who would do it for me? 

     Our Father in heaven knows that life is not perfect.  Jesus says in John 16:33 says, “In this world you will have trouble” but he gives us good news, “take heart! I have overcome the world.”  And if we realize this and claim the power in these words, we will be able to fight the good fight.

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