As Anton Ego put it in the movie Ratatouille, "... you know what I'm craving? A little perspective. That's it. I'd like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that?"
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
iPray eVotionals exhorts those who pray. It's the glass of water held out around each month's turn for the runners who can use a quick and easy quench in order to finish strong.
(Approximate reading time: 11 Minutes)
The Right Tree
A few days ago I watched a program where two men talked about their survival story of coming face to face with a grizzly bear. Both ran to a tree to climb. One attempted to climb a smaller tree that had weak branches and as he tried to climb the tree the branches kept breaking. The second ran to a bigger tree with strong branches that didn't break. As the bear approached, the first man was still at the base of his tree while the other was moving up his. The bear mauled the first and left him for dead before attempting to maul the second. The strong tree played a major role in how the attack ended. After a struggle that included holding onto a tree with the tightest grip possible the bear got maced and left the area. The first man came so close to death but survived after months in the hospital and many surgeries. The second walked away with bruises.
We have an advisary, we may not see him crawling around with our physical eyes but he's there. We may not always be aware of the battle that is waging for our very soul, but it is happening in a very real way, just as real as the struggle in the program I watched. Ephesians 6:12 describes this very real and persistent battle this way, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." The tree we choose to climb, the path we choose to take is one that could mean life or death. I Peter 5:8 tells us to "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."
It's the sturdy branches on the bigger tree that is strong enough to hold you up in every moment, at every life turn. There is nothing bigger and stronger than the One who created it all. God tells us in Isaiah 43:2, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." Our life depends on which tree we choose to climb.
The first time I climbed on the ride called Tower of Terror at the theme park Disneyland I was sitting next to my brother. We had walked into what seemed to be an elevator and sat in seats with seat belts. The ride rose and dropped several times. Right before the first drop the panic that makes the ride the thrill it is came upon me, instinctively I went to grab my brothers arm. Being the brother he is he pushed me away and told me I had to handle it on my own. (I still give him a hard time about that.) As the elevator dropped the weightlessness from the free fall gave me no time to decide if I really wanted to handle it on my own. Without thinking I couldn't help but try to hold onto something as we plunged towards the earth's gravity.
It is our nature to hold onto things when we feel ourselves falling. When that moment comes there is little time to consider what it is that will be our stronghold. It's usually the first thing at our reach and that first thing can make all the difference. When an ape starts to fall out of a tree it was the choice to climb a tree with sturdy branches that will save his life as he quickly holds on.
I don't think I'll choose to sit next to my brother next time I go on that ride. He may be a sturdy support to me in other areas of my life, but when it comes to Tower of Terror, he is a broken branch.
What are you keeping close by, that you can quickly hold onto?
"While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God's creation." -Maya Angelou
In 1998 I sat with a group of women every week that were leaders for a Community Bible Study gathering. Lynne Ingram always shared great reflections and stories that sometimes challenged me and at other times made me think. I'll never forget her very real opinion she had about the apostle Paul. You know, the one who is attributed to writing over a dozen of the New Testaments books in the Bible.
"I have always had a hard time with Paul," Lynne said, "it has been hard to receive from him because I think he can be harsh and has a lack of compassion. He ruthlessly killed so many Christians before his conversion and then after seemed to teach with arrogance."
I was shocked! How could she have a hard time receiving from the apostle Paul? A desire to defend this man took off as I sat there in silence. My eyes looked her over as she went on to explain.
"I am finding that I have been holding onto Saul; the person he was before he came to believe in Christ." She explained, "Because I was holding onto that weakness in him, it was affecting the way I read all of his writings. I am growing to respect Paul and love his teachings."
She had chosen to climb into and stay put in a tree marked with resentment and bitterness. As she studied God's word she found that those branches could not hold her up. When she let go, carefully climbed out of the sick tree and into the tree of life, she was able to hold onto the strong branches of forgiveness and acceptance.
It seems extreme to hold a grudge against God's apostle! After all, God forgave him, he did a complete turn around. God then empowered him and sent him out to be His vessel. He was able to reach hundreds, thousands and even more... right up to the present.
I think all of us, if we were to be honest, do the same thing. We hold onto weak branches in sick trees; doting on what makes us uncomfortable, hurt or resentful. Like Lynne we tend to hold onto the past in such a way that it destroys the present. We tend to take on the accuser's job, reminding others of their old self with judgmental facial expression and words. Really we should be a vessel of life, reminding them of how they are alive in Christ; encouraging them in the process of sanctification and confirming their calling.
I took her lead and let go of my judging thoughts about her resentment towards the apostle Paul. Lynne's honesty in working out her faith and her willingness to share her struggle was beautiful. As I let go of my own weak branches and held onto the branch of acceptance I gained the best gift ever! A mentor. Even now, long after she has gone to be with the Lord, her transparency inspires me.
Ephesians 4:27, 31-32 "...and do not give the devil a foothold... Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."
You are making a choice everyday. Some times it's easy to hold on to the sturdy branches. Sometimes it's not.
It's not always easy to let go and abandon our old ways and Hold On to God's ways. It can be scary and feel unfamiliar. No matter where we are on this journey becoming increasingly more vulnerable before God replaces our fears with faith. The more we do it the more we realize how strong His branches are, how sturdy the seat is. When we start to slip we can grab hold to the nearest branch with confidence and trust that it won't break. It will hold us; we will not fall to our death.
Have you heard the Philip Philips song "Home"?
Our eternal home is waiting for us!!! John 14:3, "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."
The song starts with these words, "Hold On..." Hold on to the strong branches. With the words, "Settle Down..." I am reminded of how easily I can get caught up in my own thoughts and fears. Settle down Michelle!!!! Hold On to God's words they are trustworthy. Hold On to God's spirit with me, it's my strength. Hold On to the hope we have in Christ Jesus, He is making an eternal home.
Hold on, to me as we go As we roll down this unfamiliar road And although this wave is stringing us along Just know you're not alone Cause I'm going to make this place your home
Settle down, it'll all be clear Don't pay no mind to the demons They fill you with fear The trouble it might drag you down If you get lost, you can always be found
Just know you're not alone Cause I'm going to make this place your home
The words to this song remind me of when Jesus told his disciples that their grief would be turned into joy (John 16:16-33), explaining that at their darkest hour of hopelessness, God has not abandoned them! Hold On...they will see Him again!
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
Sit in the biggest tree ever, that is in the presence of our creator and our God, and you will start to know His branches and understand His ways. While God's Word reveals His branches, every time we pray our grip gets stronger. We become more connected and realize that while we hold on, really it's God who has a hold on us! Jesus is His grip that keeps us safe from what our sin deserves. We hold on, He holds up!
Let's tighten the grip through prayer...
Instead of holding onto the weak branch of worry, pray John 14:1, "Lord, don't let my heart be troubled, I trust in You, I trust Your grip... Jesus!" Acknowledging God's resolve.
When troubles come in strong and hard pray 2nd Corinthians 4:8-9, "Lord, troubles are all around me, but I am not defeated. I do not know what to do, but I will not give up the hope of living. I am persecuted, but You God do not leave me. I am hurt, but I am not destroyed." Claiming promises even before we can feel it.
After the newness of a long journey wares off pray the truth in Hebrews 10:35-36 that reminds us to keep holding onto the courage we began with, and hold on in spite of the challenges and discouragement that may cloud our first vision. "Lord, Give me the strength to not lose the courage I had in the past, which has great reward. May I hold on, so I can do what You want and receive what You have promised."
As you hold on continue to claim your grip and God's sturdy branches by praying Psalm 63:8, "I cling to you; your right hand upholds me."
iPray 4 you...
iPray... that you choose the tree of life.
iPray... that you will pray often, keeping God very close to your heart so that when you feel yourself falling you can quickly grab hold to Him.
iPray... that every time you open God's Word His branches of hope, promise, instruction and guidance helps you put off your old self and cling to the new.
iPray... that you may be forthright in your struggles, abandoning fears of being harshly judged, as you honestly work out your faith.
iPray... that if there are people in your life you have tuned out or turned away from because of your own hang ups, you will be able to receive what God might be doing in and through them in the present.
iPray... you will let go of the weak branches, grab hold to what God is doing and make Jesus your stronghold.
iPray... that every time you pray you find your grip getting stronger and God's grip on you more clear.
iPray... that you will trust in the Lord with all your heart, and not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways iPray you will acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your path. (From Proverbs 3:5-6)
In Jesus' name iPray, Amen!