Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Heavenly Perspective on an Earthly Life

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has ever conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (I Corinthians 2:9).

I recently read the book  Heaven by Randy Alcorn. This topic can give me hope and encouragement for my eternal future. However, I can also focus too intently on “going home”. Initially I found myself doing that, yet as I continued reading, God changed my perspective on my earthly life while yearning for my heavenly one.

I constantly face negative thoughts and emotions concerning my limitations. I mourn the loss of old abilities and new activities. As I dwelt on those thoughts, God reminded me of a wonderful truth. I will have an endless eternity to enjoy those things and much more. When I think of the places I would like to visit now, they cannot compare to the beauty I will see daily on the new earth. When I think of the gardening I would love to do, I know that the flowers I grow on the new earth will be more incredibly beautiful than any here. I will experience all this and more in a perfect, pain-free body, and the Lord Jesus will be there enjoying it with me.

Everything that God brings into my life on this earth is for a purpose. There are lessons I need to learn, traits I need to strengthen and develop, and work I have been given to do here and now. God knows that all of these things are necessary training for the wonderful life that lies ahead.

There will still be moments when I struggle with my desires. Yet by God’s grace and power, I can move on to that eternal perspective. There will come a time when these days of suffering are only a distant memory. Now they are preparing me for an unending life with God that is beyond my most wonderful imaginings.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the blessed hope of my eternal future. Remind me that the losses I grieve now are only shadows of the glories to come, and help me to willingly accept the ways You choose to prepare me for those wonders. Amen.

Inwardly We Are Being Renewed

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (II Corinthians 4:16).

What an encouragement this passage is! Pain ages me. Some days I feel that I’m wasting away more than others. Pain and trials have caused me to lose that light-hearted, optimistic, and youthful outlook on life. Cynicism, hopelessness, and drudgery can fill my days if I allow them to do so. Physical limitations make me feel older than I am. The latest magazines and books leave me feeling discouraged and disheartened, since I am unable to follow the regimen of physical activity and supplements to keep me “in shape” and “be a younger me.”

Yet God does a wonderful thing inwardly. As I look to Him each day, He restores peace; “May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way" (II Thessalonians 3:16). He renews hope; “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself . . . who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts" (II Thessalonians 2:16). He releases fears; “Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you" (Joshua 1:9). He reminds me of who and whose I am; “Look to the rock from which you are cut and the quarry from which you are hewn" (Isaiah 51:1). Although I am aging physically, my spirit is becoming younger and more alive than it has ever been.

We cannot stop the effects of illness and pain on our physical bodies, but by God’s power we can keep it from destroying our spirits. As our spirits are renewed, we understand an even deeper meaning to being a new creation in Christ. We can look forward with great anticipation to the new bodies that await us in eternity. Until then, we can continue to “be made new in the attitude of our minds, and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:23,24). That is worth far more than any gym workout, health supplement or beauty treatment could ever be.

Prayer: Uplift my spirit today Lord, reminding me that You see me not as I am now, but as I will be in eternity. As I wait on You, renew my strength to live for You in this season of my life. Amen.

I Will Always Have Hope

“But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.  My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure”
 (Psalm 71:14,15).

Hope is a dichotomous word to me. I have had positive experiences with hope – pleasant expectations fulfilled, desires satisfied, pain relieved, and my eternal future secured. I have also had negative experiences – another drug that didn’t help me, a new doctor who had no answers, another activity in which I was unable to participate, another cycle of pain/panic/depression. Sometimes I have felt as though my hope was gone and could never be brought back. I was too beaten down by this life.

The dictionary states that hope is to trust or rely on something, or a desire accompanied by expectation. In whom or what am I placing my hope? If it is a person, treatment, or pill, it may or may not be fulfilled. If it is in the Lord, it will always be satisfied. After days, weeks, or even months of no improvement or relief from struggles, it becomes easy to give up all hope. I may become fearful and despairing about the future during this earthly life. Recently a passage in the Old Testament came to mind. When God gave the Israelites manna, He gave them only enough for that day except on the day before the Sabbath. If they collected too much, doubting that God would provide the next day, it rotted and was worthless. God wanted them to believe that He would provide enough – daily. Daily is the key. God gives me hope for one day at a time. Each new morning, if I put my trust in Him for whatever the day may bring, the Holy Spirit will give me fresh hope.

When that happens I also experience another aspect of His salvation, which is His saving grace to bring me through the day. I realize I truly cannot comprehend its measure, but it is enough for today and that is all I need. It is all any of us need. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

Prayer: Gracious Lord, how comforting it is to know that my hope will never be disappointed when that hope is in You. Renew and refresh that hope today.  Amen.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Choosing the Right Path

“Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left” (Proverbs 4:25-27).

Some time ago, I attempted a short hike with my husband. Although the path was not long, it was somewhat rocky and uneven.  After walking for a brief time, I began experiencing such back pain that I was unable to continue. We then tried another path, but became bogged down in mud. We ended our hiking and enjoyed a scenic drive instead.

This verse reminds me of that experience. My wandering eyes can draw me down paths of examining other people’s activities and abilities. I also have moments when I am tempted to look backward, getting pulled down into the memories of my past life and the health I possessed then.

These directions will not keep me on firm ground, but rather will lead me to envy, discontent, and discouragement. An annotation to the above verse reads, “Consider the paths for your feet”. Where I choose to walk is a choice I must make. Every day, I can choose the firm direction of God’s Word and truth, having the assurance that He knows what is best for my life and is guiding and sustaining me as I walk. If I choose the uneven paths of comparing myself to others or of looking back, I become more lame and disabled (Hebrews 12:13).

Although Christ’s path is level and firm, it is not always easy. Yet His Word says that though I stumble I will not fall, for He upholds me with His hand (Psalm 37:23).    He will broaden my path and keep my ankles from turning (Psalm 18:36).  I want to finish this walk of life and arrive at my heavenly destination in victory, not defeat. By fixing my eyes on Jesus, I’m going to make it (Hebrews 12:2).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me the faith to trust in Your direction for my life, rather than my own understanding. As I commit my way to You, You will direct my paths. (Proverbs 3:5,6). Amen.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Delightful Inheritance

“Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. . . surely I have a delightful inheritance”
 (Psalm 16:5,6).

The word “inheritance” brings pleasant pictures to my mind. I think of lovely antiques, heirloom jewelry, and perhaps an unexpected sum of money! Our spiritual inheritance is of far greater worth than any earthly one could be.

At times in this life, with this imperfect body, I am not content with my portion and cup. I would prefer something different. Yet Scripture says the Lord “assigned” this cup to me. If God chose the paths for my life, and if I truly believe in and trust Him for my ultimate good, then I should accept my cup willingly. He is all I need to satisfy my desires in every way.

This passage also states that the Lord has made my lot secure. He is in control of my destiny – past, present, and future. I know where my eternal future lies, but I also know He will be with me through everything I face in this life. I am not alone.

Truly I do have a delightful inheritance. Unlike an earthly one, I do not need to wait for someone’s death to receive it. The death took place years ago at Calvary. The gifts are mine, waiting for me accept them. God’s presence is with me daily - surrounding me, protecting me, guiding me, and loving me. In pain and pleasure, He is there to bring hope, joy, comfort, and peace. I can exclaim with the psalmist, “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure” (Psalm 16:9). As I go through this life, may I be reminded of all He has given me even now, and rejoice.

Prayer: Gracious God, You have shown me the path of life. In Your presence is fullness of joy and in Your right hand are pleasures evermore. Thank you that You are my most precious inheritance. Amen.