By Many or By Few 5

Psalm 35:1-3 and 22-23

This movie has become one of my absolute holiday favorites.  Watch this clip:

Wouldn't it be great to have someone on your side like Buddy the Elf?  Someone who loved you, even though you barely knew them?  Someone who leapt to your defense, even when you rejected them?  Someone who others might find a little strange?  Someone who was exceptionally good at making snowballs and defending you?

Well, don't we already have that?

In today's scripture reading, the Psalmist is asking for God to come and defeat his enemies.  I know there have been times I've felt like that.  Later in the chapter, he pleads with God and basically says "How can you let this go on?" and "Don't you know what they are going to do to me?"  His enemies are the people who gossip and spread lies.  They are the folks who he has helped, but instead of returning the gesture, mock and harass him when he is down.

It's important that we learn, like yesterday's reading, that we can't do this on our own.  We must let God handle those who attack us.  Put Him in front and just be like the kid in this video clip who watches Buddy's amazing display. 

Writer Erwin McManus has a quote that applies so well to this idea that he calls "The Jonathon Factor" and it is expressed "when we have absolute confidence in God in the midst of uncertainty and are willing to move with god even without a guarantee of personal success."

DAILY CHALLENGE:  What battle are you trying to fight alone that you need God to just take over and win for you?   Before Sunday, read 1 Samuel 14:1-14.

By Many or By Few 4

Joshua 23:9-11

Not much to go into battle with, is it?
 In today's passage, it's Joshua's final words to the people of Israel.  But they definitely still pack a punch today.  And it triggers several questions for me:
  1. Why, oh why, do we have such short memories?  Joshua has to remind the people that they've defeated a bunch of powerful armies!  You would think that they might just remember that, wouldn't you?  And we're no better.  How many times has God won the battle for us over something we were struggling with (when we let Him - see my next point) and we turn right around and forget.  It's always been that way (see the 10 Lepers!).  But what if we were to live our life not based on fear of the next thing, but rejoicing over the last thing.   And carrying that knowledge with you everywhere you went?
  2. Why don't we trust God?  When He proves himself time and time again, you'd think we'd start to learn and trust?  But we don't.  It seems like every situation that arises, every attack and every disappointment becomes a chance for another selfish little pity party and not a chance to let God triumph.  He has promised over and over again that he will take care of our enemies, yet we don't seem to really believe it.  Even after he's done it over and over, we still don't really believe it.  We need to begin to give the battles in our life to God and step back and let him work miracles!
  3. What does it mean to love the Lord?  Our understanding of love is so limited.  But the word used here is 'ahab and it's used throughout the Bible as the kind of love between parents and children or husband and wife.  We're supposed to love God in the way we love someone romantically -- be excited to spend time with them, want to know all about them, want to share everything about yourself with them.  That's how we are to love God. 
DAILY CHALLENGE:  What battle has God won for you?  Have you ever stepped aside enough to let Him?

By Many or By Few 3

Hebrews 6:9-12 (CEV)

Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.

C. S. Lewis

What a powerful quote from the great author C.S. Lewis. 

In today's scripture, we see the writer of Hebrews encouraging others to keep their faith in God central to all they do.  They are told to BELIEVE that God loves them, remembers their dedication and won't ever forget them.  He is their (and our) only hope.

The Hebrews are also encouraged to never be lazy in their spiritual walk, but always confident that God will keep his promises.  And that also applies to us!

Which brings me to today's quote.  Is your Christian faith moderately important?  Or is it infinitely important? 
What does that even mean? 

I believe it means that we must make our faith in Christ the center of all we do.  If it is truly infinite in our lives, it will have no boundaries or limits.   We can't say "This is my God stuff" and "This is my other stuff."  It's all or nothing with God. 

DAILY CHALLENGE:   Think on how the Lewis quote applies to your own life.  And then go and be an example to others!

By Many or By Few 2

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Trains at the Denver International Airport

I love going places and seeing new things, but I have to admit that I'm not very fond of the actual travel.  (I know... the journey is part of it...)   One of the worst things, in my opinion, is being in an airport alone. 

From navigating the terminals to finding the gate, from eating alone to just having no one to say "Look at that guy!" to, I really hate it.  (And we won't even mention how difficult it is to take your carryon luggage into the bathroom!)

Last year, when I went to Loveland, Colorado, my daughter went with me.  We had a blast in the Denver airport where we had about 4 hours between the time we had to return our rental car and when we could board our plane. 

We went through an alternate security checkpoint, rode the trains all over the place (some twice!), had a nice meal together and shopped.  It was so much fun.  When we boarded the plane to head home, the time had passed very quickly. 

But on other trips I had been alone.  Sitting for hours wishing I had someone to talk to.  Watching strangers hoping that I would see a familiar face.  Time does not pass quickly in those instances.  Once, I nearly missed  a plane because I had looked at my ticket wrong and was at the wrong gate!  If I had been travelling with someone else, that likely wouldn't have happened at all.  I need a travel companion.

One of the most important things God creates is a companion for Adam.  It's not good that he is alone.  (Genesis 2:18)  and it's not good that we are alone, either. 

In every aspect of our lives, we need someone to travel with us.  We need a friend who will work with us, help us, keep us entertained, safe and warm.  We need friends around us who will pick us up when we fall down.  Who will stick with us through thick or thin. 

This is never more true than friends we have who will help us in our walk with God.  Those who will challenge us and build us up.  Friendships that will keep us focused on living the way God calls us to live.

And like the fire building from yesterday, it's something that takes planning, time and work to develop those relationships.  But they are a great help as we work and live every day.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  Who is your friend who helps you like the friend in today's reading?  What can you do to develop more friendships that help you to glorify God?

By Many or By Few

2 Timothy 1:6-7

I was a Girl Scout for many years and one of the things we had to learn to do was build a fire. We had to learn how to make fire starters with paraffin, string and egg cartons (back before they were Styrofoam, of course!). We had to learn how to clear the ground, find dry wood in the forest, surround the campfire with stones, and get a bucket of water for safety.

Only then could we begin to build our fire. We started with dry kindling and lit the fire starter we had made over the winter. Then we blew and fanned those flames. Once it was going enough to burn steadily we added larger sticks and finally logs.

And every day, we worked hard to keep those flames from going out. It was a large part of our day… finding more wood, banking the ashes…. It never stopped.

Today’s scripture uses the idea of fanning the flames. We usually use that phrase in a negative way today, but it is a vital part of staying alive in a culture that has no electricity! Heat, food, water are all dependent on keeping those flames burning. And it’s hard work.

So it is with our own spiritual walk. When we want to learn to step out in faith and really trust God, we have to fan those flames. We have to gather what we need, surround ourselves in prayer and support and then set out to do whatever it is we want to accomplish. And it should be as vital to our everyday survival as it was in Paul's day.

The second verse is so important for all of us to remember. When we fan the flames of God’s spirit, we cannot be timid. No matter what it is in our lives we want to change, we’ve got to be willing to be brave and willing to take a risk.

When we fan those flames, we are given power, love and self-discipline. We must realize that taking a risk in our spiritual growth is not foolish or crazy. It is, as a matter of fact, exactly the opposite. It is through the risks that we take that we become powerful, act with love and acquire discipline.

One other thought on this passage. There isn’t anything said about the outcome of our actions. So whether we succeed or fail in the eyes of everyone around us is irrelevant. It is using the gifts of that God has given us that is important.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Think about what it is in your life that you want to change – lose weight, mend a relationship, new career…What risk is involved in this change and how can you use the gifts that God has given you in this endeavor?