Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Is Your Foundation Solid? Part 2

Yesterday we heard from an experienced contractor on what is necessary for a solid foundation. Today we’re going to look at what our Master Builder says we need for a solid spiritual foundation: 

What does is Virgin Ground spiritually? 
What wide and deep footings does God have for our soul, and what reinforces them?
What anchors our spiritual foundation to the rest of our “house”?
And what clean ingredients need to go into this foundation?

Virgin Ground—Solid and Immovable
Virgin ground is not brought in from somewhere else; it’s been there from the beginning. That describes God. The first two commandments out of the box are: we are to have no other gods before Him or worship any other (Ex. 20:3-6; Deut. 5:7-10). God knows anyone or anything other than Him will let us down. If we try to build our life on a person, a career, a substance or anything else, our “house” will fall.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matt. 7:24-27*).

Footings—Wide, Deep, and Reinforced
We need a foundation substantial enough to support the weight of our “house” so we don’t sink under pressure. And it needs to be reinforced with steel to withstand whatever comes. Who can do this better than the One who built the Universe? (Job 38:4-6)

What reinforces our foundation? I believe it’s a word we hesitate to speak these days—obedience. It’s not enough to just say we believe in God and that our lives are built on Him; we have to actually do what He says. That gives strength to our faith and testimony.

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete” (Luke 6:46-49).

What connects our “house” to the foundation? Jesus Christ. The Son of God is our connection to the Father; His sacrifice opened the way for us to come into His presence without fear.  

"'See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic’” (Isa. 28:16). “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Heb. 6:19). “He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge” (Isa. 33:6).

Clean Ingredients
Purity—another word we’re scared to use—is important for building the kind of victorious life God has for us. When we let un-repented sin remain in our lives, it weakens our foundation—like air pockets cause concrete to crumble. Quality construction doesn’t come cheap. Saying no to sin our culture approves of is a cost most people don’t want to pay. I guess it depends on whether you want your house to stand or not.

It’s worth the price. Just be sure you’re ready to finish what you start. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish’” (Luke 14:28-30).

Many have built flashy spiritual mansions that crumbled and fell for lack of a proper foundation. I don’t want to make that mistake and I hope you don’t either. Ask the Lord if yours is built according to spec. He’ll tell you what to do to get started, or repair what you’ve already begun.

“Each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11).

*bold wording on scriptures is added by author for emphasis

Monday, January 23, 2017

Is Your Foundation Solid? Part 1

A client once hired Kelly to fix up his shed. The foundation for the structure was a toilet placed under each of the four corners. The client didn’t want Kelly to build a new foundation, just to fix the building on top. Since it was just a garden shed, Kelly did the work as asked. But I can’t help but think that’s the way we approach God sometimes. 

We want Him to fix what’s troubling us, what others see, but we don’t want Him to mess with our foundation. That would take too much time and cost too much, and we’re not willing to go to the effort.

Since he’s been a contractor for 35 years, Kelly knows the importance of a solid foundation. He’s careful to build each one square and level, and use the right materials so they will hold through all kinds of weather—which is especially important here on the west coast. 

I asked Kelly what makes for a strong foundation and I learned a lot! 

“The most important thing,” he said, “is to build on virgin ground. If you don’t, none of your building efforts after that will matter, because it won’t last.” Virgin ground is dirt that hasn’t been moved in from somewhere else. “Dirt expands 25% when it’s dug and oxygen mixes with it. There’s no way to compact what you bring in enough so it won’t settle later and cause problems.”

“Secondly, you need to have wide and deep footings. These act like snowshoes to support the weight of the house without allowing it to sink into the earth. And it needs to be reinforced with rebar for strength.”

“Next, you need anchors to hold the house to the foundation. It’s not enough to just sit a house down on top without firmly connecting them together.”

And finally, you have to have the right mix of ingredients for the foundation. “Everything that goes into it has to be clean. The rocks can’t be mixed with dirt or they won’t bond to the concrete mix. And the ‘slump’ of the mixture has to be wet enough to pour without being watery, but not too dry which would leave air pockets in your foundation.”  

It’s one thing to build a garden shed on top of four toilets. It’s quite another to build your home on a cheap or faulty foundation. It’s foolish and wasteful, and can cost your life if you’re not careful. And it’s easy to do the same thing with our spiritual life. It doesn’t matter how much time and effort we put into work, physical fitness, relationships, or education if our foundation is in the toilet. Our life here on earth and our eternal destiny depends on what we base our lives on.

What does it mean spiritually to build on Virgin Ground? What are the wide and deep footings for our soul, and what reinforces them? What anchors our spiritual foundation to the rest of our life? And what clean ingredients need to go into this foundation?

Check in at Epiphany tomorrow for part two and find out what God, the Master Builder, says about building a solid foundation.

#solidfoundation #builtontherock #buildforeternity #surefoundation #onlyfoundationJesusChrist

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Live Like You’re Loved

Sometimes I’m not sure what God is saying to me, but there are other times when His message is unmistakably clear. Obvious, even. This is one of those times. And since I know I can’t be the only one who needs to hear this message, I want to share it with you.

First it came on a card they passed out at church entitled My Confession. We read it aloud together for weeks and I continue to read it almost every morning. The words, “I am the beloved of God” have started burning their way into my heart.

Next it came in Pastor Jeff’s sermon from Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” He spent a whole sermon on the word “BE” and one of his points was—BE Loved. This BE is not something I must do, but something already true to recognize and accept. I admit I have believed otherwise because of things said and done by others that made it seem untrue.

Then I started reading a book I got for Christmas and found His message there. “Live from the abundant place that you are loved, and you won’t find yourself begging others for scraps of love.” The author continued. “Living loved is sourced in your quiet daily surrender to the One who made you.” (Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst)

If that was not enough, because God knows sometimes I’m a little dense, He told me again. This time in a song. Driving to the gym feeling frumpy in my too tight workout clothes, berating myself for things I didn’t say, and regretting things I did say. I was in the middle of beating myself up for my many failures when I heard “Live Like You’re Loved” by Hawk Nelson.

Okay, God, I get the feeling you’re trying to tell me something? Clearly, I need to not only hear I am loved and believe I am loved, but let it permeate my whole being and live like I’m loved. 

But how? When past experiences have shattered my trust. When my mind rebels at the thought that anyone, even God, could really love me. Especially God, who knows every detail about me.

I thought about my mom, dad, and sisters. They love me. They know me—silly, serious, and creatively warped; they have seen me at my best, and my worst. They know all my embarrassing stories. Yet I know without a doubt they love me and are committed to me. No matter what. 

How do I behave when I’m with them? I’m relaxed, happy, content, sincere—eager to be in their presence.

And I think about my dear Kelly. He knows me better than anyone besides Jesus, and has the power to wound me like no other. But he doesn’t. I’m confident in his love, because he shows me every day he’s committed to us. It doesn’t matter if I have bad breath or hairy legs, whether I make his favorite dinner, or if I embarrass us both blurting out something stupid. 

And how do I behave with Kelly? I look forward to being with him, cherish and protect our time together, and try to think of ways to bless his days the way he blesses mine. I can be honest with him and look forward to a life of love, laughter, and adventure.

I don’t have it all figured out yet, but I’m trying to let this trickle into my spirit and into my relationship with Jesus. To walk confidently in His love for me. To use my energy to welcome others into that love, instead of focusing on my latest mess up, since He has made it so very clear I am loved, accepted, invited—unconditionally. 

He may have to say it a few more times in a few more ways before I really get it, but I do believe I’m beginning to get the message.

#youareloved #livelikeyou’reloved #doesGodreallyloveme #whowouldloveme #beloved

Friday, January 6, 2017

The After Holiday Crash

A lot of people are experiencing the after holiday crash right now. Sick, exhausted, burnt out, and wishing they could just hibernate until the spring thaw. It’s not a big surprise. We often crash after emotional highs. And from November through December we’ve had two solid months of excitement—overeating, under exercising, overspending, under devoting, and pushing ourselves and our families beyond exhaustion to squeeze it all in. 
After all, you don’t want to miss a once in a lifetime opportunity—the only time of the year we get to see certain people, the only time our child/grandchild will be that age in that program. We think, This may be the last Christmas Great Uncle Albert is with us, so we make every effort to  be there.

I was sick for a week after Christmas and wasn’t surprised. But I’ve learned some simple things about crash recovery from Elijah.*

Elijah was a mighty prophet of God. He was bold and did incredible miracles throughout his lifetime. But he was also human, and faced his own times of discouragement and doubt. I love it that the Bible doesn’t just tell us the victories, but also the struggles of others so we can learn from them and be encouraged.

Elijah had a huge victory on Mount Carmel against the false prophets of Baal and he should have been doing a victory dance. But as is often the case after an emotionally draining experience, he crashed. When Queen Jezebel threatened to kill him Elijah ran away. Sometimes that’s a good idea, depending on where you go. Elijah ran to God and said he wanted to die. He felt like he’d blown it; like he wasn’t doing any good.

I can relate to that. Sometimes life is so hard that we just want to check out. In times like this, I agree with David, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest” (Psalm 55:6). When I feel like a failure the easiest thing to do is give up, but God knows better.

The second thing Elijah did was vent. God listened. He’s good at that. He knew what Elijah needed. When we’re wrung out physically and emotionally it’s hard to listen. So God did two things for Elijah—he put him down for a nap and fed him some healthy food, not once, but twice. Empowered by this angel food, he went to the mountain of God, and God talked to him there.

It’s simple, but true. Rest and nutrition makes all the difference in recovering from the after holiday slump. I’m amazed how much better I feel this week getting back into a regular routine of healthy eating, sleep, and exercise.

But Elijah still wasn’t ready to go back to work. When God asked him what his problem was he said, “I’ve given it all I’ve got, Lord, but the people just aren’t responding. I’m the only one doing your work and now they’re after me too.” 

Have you ever said that? I’m the only one who ever does the dishes. I’m the only one who carries the weight at work. I’m the only one who ever calls. I’m the only one who is faithfully serving God and the enemy is out to get me. I’m tired and I want to go home!

But God had news for him, and this is where Elijah got energized. First, God shook the mountain with His power, reminding Elijah how BIG He is and how small our problems are in comparison. Then He told him there were 7,000 faithful believers who still loved God, and three men God had prepared to help with the work. Elijah wasn’t alone. 

A little R&R after the crush of family gatherings, programs, and parties and then it’s time to connect with other believers. We need to know we’re not alone. We’re not the only ones fighting for the cause of Christ. It has meant so much to me this week to have meaningful connections with others who love the Lord. They filled and inspired me with energy and excitement to do God’s will.

If you are feeling deflated and worn out, ask God what it is you need: To run away and vent to Him? To get some rest? To eat healthy food and exercise? To connect with God-loving people? Whatever He tells you, do what He says. You’ll be glad you did.  

* You can read about Elijah’s experience in 1 Kings chapter 19.

#NewYearslump #afterholidayblues #howtorecoverafterChristmas  #wornoutfromholidays