UNDERLYING POWER

Recently I saw a Facebook post saying something like:

“Watch out for people who are always bragging about what they can do, a lion never has to tell me that he is a lion.”

Of course, the thrust of the comment is that the lion does not have to advertise that it has power — its power is evident and well-known to others.  Unlike the lion, however, often the people who are doing the bragging will be embellishing and exaggerating their status whereas people who actually have abilities or who have had accomplishments do not have to brag.     

While in Yellowstone National Park recently, we were privileged enough to see a family of buffalo strolling down the road and into some trees.  They were minding their own business, walking as a unit without being a threat to anyone and seemingly not aware of our presence.  There were three adult buffalo and three young ones.

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This baby buffalo is not particularly threatening.  We saw him walking through some trees with two of his siblings and three adult buffalo.

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Now, these two buffalo present a different picture than the baby did.  They are not threatening as they are laying in the grass but staring at us while standing seemed to be potentially threatening.  Especially when the National Park Ranger told us that adult buffalo weigh about 2,000 pounds.  Combine that weight with an ability to run at 30 miles per hour, and you have a considerable threat both to man and vehicle.

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Like the lion, the buffalo does not have to brag about its abilities.  It can be calm and in control, and it can also be terrifyingly fast if it needs to defend itself or its family.  In short, they are animals of great strength and speed – animals with underlying power that we as humans simply don’t have ourselves.  We may be able to drive our car faster than the buffalo can run, but if the buffalo impacts the vehicle, it is probably going to be damaged beyond repair.

The lion and the buffalo have underlying power within themselves.

So, does the Christian.  I don’t mean that we can run fast – anyone who knows me realizes that running at all is not likely going to happen.   And I don’t necessarily mean that we have physical strength, although some people I know are incredibly strong.

What I do mean is that ALL Christians have underlying power within them, specifically the Holy Spirit sent by Jesus Christ so that we are enabled to be witnesses for our Lord Jesus Christ wherever we are.  Jesus said:

But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.  And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”

John 15:26-27

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

Again, after His resurrection, Jesus said:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Acts 1:8

We know that the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and that same day they preached the gospel of Jesus Christ boldly.  Fishermen and tax collectors who were cowering in fear after Jesus’s death were transformed on that day into evangelists who virtually blanketed the known world with the good news of faith in Christ.

They didn’t brag about their achievements.  They gave the glory for what they were doing to Jesus Christ and to the Holy Spirit, praising God for the good works that they were seeing all in the name of the Lord.  They were Christians who were powered by the Holy Spirit.

So are we.  We have the same Holy Spirit, the same Lord Jesus Christ, the same God and Father Almighty.  They are our brothers and sisters just as much as the Christians we see in church.   We too have the Holy Spirit, and as part of the unchanging infinite triune God, the Holy Spirit is no different now than he was 2000 years ago. 

Underlying power.  Do I take advantage of the Holy Spirit’s presence in my life?  Do I call upon His power to enable me to do the work that Christ has called me to do?   Do I use that power for spreading the gospel?  Do I boldly tell others of Jesus Christ or do I shrink back in fear of what they will say, or think?

What about you?  How would you answer these questions?

Father, I pray that you would forgive me when I have failed to witness to others of Your marvelous gift of salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  I pray that you would embolden me to witness of my Lord without fear and that Your Spirit would put the words in my mouth that will accomplish Your Work in those to whom I speak and in me as I do Your will.

GOT POWER?

(This is a revised version of the post originally posted April 21, 2015)

We were camping when an unexpected cold snap caused some damage to the RV.  Frozen hoses and pipes were identified and then we went to work searching the Internet to find a place that had the necessary parts.   A quick call confirmed that they were open and had the needed parts. So now it was up to us to get there.

Since we were in unfamiliar territory, I pulled out the trusty RV GPS that is created specifically for the intrepid RV camper and put in the address.

Directions GPS

We found the store, purchased the necessary supplies, and began our trek back to the campground when we came to several intersecting roads. In fact, this intersection arrived just as my husband was asking what road we needed to be watching for AND just as the GPS flashed “LOW POWER” and “POWERING OFF”.   Then, it just went blank.  Not even a “sorry” or “I tried” or “You have 1 more minute”.  Just … well, nothing.  It apparently didn’t care if we got lost!

I couldn’t believe it.  In my second of need, it was “powering off.”  My frustration stemmed from the fact that, unlike my husband, I get lost in a paper bag.  I am the one who, in Walmart, will turn left into the main aisle thinking I am going to the checkout lane and wind up in sporting goods at the back of the store.  If there are two directions to select from, I will ALWAYS pick the wrong one.

Anyway, I was the one who had insisted that we purchase this GPS, even though my husband has a virtually infallible sense of direction, simply because I do not.  I wanted to have my own backup plan … assuring myself that we could find our way home if something happened to his directional instincts.  So, we purchased this fancy-dancy GPS thing and now, when he actually asked me a directional question, in my truest hour of need, it is “powering off”.

Inside the car, I went into full scale fume mode, when my husband said simply “We’ll just plug it into the charger when we get back to the RV.”

How simple, yet how profound.  Recharge!  That’s the answer for the electronic messages that had disrupted my day. 

But what about spiritually?  How do we get our spiritual power?  And, when we have exhausted our power, how do we recharge?

In Acts 1:8, Scripture records Jesus as promising that his disciples would “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” so that they could be effective witnesses for Him. We understand this coming of the Holy Spirit as the day of Pentecost, and because of that day, we believe that the Holy Spirit is within us, as Jesus promised.  John 14:16-17.

But the Holy Spirit’s presence with us is not the whole answer to the “recharge” question.  We must avail ourselves of that power.  I had chargers available at the camp site but the GPS had not been plugged in – now, it was unable to give me the information that I needed when I needed it.  It had no power even though that power had been available.

Likewise, simply having the Scripture in your hand, purse, cell phone or pocket, is not availing yourself of the power which otherwise would be provided. This realization prompted me to consider how often I had ignored going to the Scripture to charge my spiritual batteries.

I had time for many other things, but, I did not have time to quell the growling hunger for my Lord by feeding on the nourishment of His Word in Holy Scripture.  Daily activities took priority over quiet time with Him that would have prepared me for those encounters that He had prearranged for me to handle according to His will, not mine. Ephesians 2:10.

Did my spiritual red light flash “Powering Off” when the assignment came because my batteries had not been charged through reading His Word with contemplation and prayer and then praising Him for His excellent goodness and mercy?

Or, did I not even see the assignment that He had for me that day because my spiritual eyes and ears did not have sufficient power to even recognize the call to present Christ to those around me?

Scripture states that the Spirit and Scripture were given to us so that we would be complete and equipped for every good work that God has for us to do.   2 Peter 1:3 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

The kicker is that we must plug ourselves in to the Source of our Power.  Seek the Lord and He will be found.  He is waiting for you.   Deuteronomy 4:29.   Beloved, don’t delay – go to the source of all power and life, Jesus Christ and His Word.

Father, forgive me when I give more time and attention to worldly things and ignore the more important spiritual preparation that I should undertake.  May I look to Your Word continually and seek the Holy Spirit to provide the power to live my life in constant witness of Your love, grace and mercy.

UNPLUGGED – GOOD OR BAD?

We were camping in Charlottesville, Virginia.  It was a beautiful location, with wooded camp sites and quiet surroundings.  It is quite a distance from the city, but we were camping so that was perfectly alright.

What we did not realize is that our cellular provider offered no coverage in the area of the campground.  The city had good cell coverage, but where we were camping there was virtually none.  We were forced to be “unplugged”. 

Now that is likely a good thing.  We are entirely too used to looking at the cell phone or tablet while spending a nice evening next to each other, but focusing on various news stories, books, card games instead of actually spending time communicating with each other.  Perhaps the unplugged status is good after all.

While being unplugged from electronics is an inconvenience, it is not earth-shattering or of eternal significance.  However, there is nothing inconsequential about being unplugged from God.  The stakes for being unplugged from Him are both horrific and eternal!

The ultimate unplugged condition is that of unrepentant sin.  God is a holy God and He cannot and will not tolerate or look upon sin.  As R. C. Sproul says, sin is cosmic treason against God.  It is against His holy nature and, His justice demands that it be punished, eternally.

As Christians, however, we understand that God’s justice has been satisfied for His children through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross of Calvary.  Jesus, our Good Shepherd, paid the price for the sin of His sheep by giving up His life.

He offers us life abundant through His grace and mercy if we are plugged into Him. 

Wisteria blooming vine close up
Wisteria vine stem at ground level, providing nourishment for the plant.

The analogy Jesus uses is that He is the vine and we are the branches.  If we abide in the vine, we will bear much fruit, but if we are not in the vine, we will be cast out and burned. See the Gospel of John, Chapter 15.  We need to be plugged in to the vine for the power to produce fruit for Him. Only through Him can we experience a life that is abundant and fruitful.

Wisteria blooms
Wisteria vine along the front yard fence.

Christianity is a relationship between you and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Neither your parents, your pastor, your spouse, indeed no one, can enter a relationship with Christ for you.  You must receive Christ through the call that God makes on your heart.  It is a gift from God, not of works.  Ephesians 2:9.

While each of us has our own unique call into Christianity, once you are a child of God, the life in Christ is not a solitary experience. Our meeting, worship and fellowship together with other believers provides power and strength, accountability and support, so that you can grow in your Christian life and witness. 

Just as our cell phone needs charging from a source outside itself, our Christian life needs power that we do not have on our own.  Our life charger is not a plug or cable, rather our power comes from abiding in the Vine of Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Are you unplugged?  Need power?  Go to the Cross and repent.  Receive your nourishment from the Vine and you then will be able to be used for the Glory of God and of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Father, thank You for providing power through Your Word, Your Spirit, Your Son.  Forgive me when I fail to appropriate that power for my life and when I try to life a life in Christ through my own efforts or good works.  Give me the power to yield to You solely so that Your Spirit will shine through me.

WHEN LIGHTNING COMES!

This past week we had severe storms rage through the Southeast.  Pounding rains with strong winds (which made the falling rain descend on us horizontally, or at least it appeared so) pummeled the buildings and vegetation.  There were a number of tornadoes throughout the region and many were dramatically adversely affected by such severe weather. 

Heading into the Storm
While on vacation, we were driving into a storm in Mississippi that had lightning, thunder and blinding rain. This is similar to the storms that we had in East Tennessee this week.

I had been out in the thick of it as I picked my grandson up from school.  We drove back through rain but it seemed to be slacking a bit and we commented on how the storm appeared to have finally passed along.  The sky confirmed our suspicions insofar as the dark heavy clouds had dissipated and there was even some hint of blue overhead.

So, with relief surging through our veins, we entered the house and I proposed that we celebrate his day with a slice of freshly made bread that had come out of the bread machine just before I left to get him from school.  His face lit up in positive glee when …

A SIMULTANEOUS  FLASH/BOOM

I literally jumped back and he lunged and wrapped his arms around me, plastering us together in an embrace that was based on our mutual thought “What was that?” 

He answered the unspoken question first saying “Grammy, there was a jet engine in our kitchen!” 

I responded that it sounded like a jet engine but it was lightning that hit something very, very close.  Then I smelled an unmistakable ozone smell and I realized that the house had taken a direct hit by lightning. 

While many hours and days have been taken up by the effect of the lightning strike, damage to the house was minimal and there was no personal injury. Inconvenience is irrelevant when we consider the possible ramifications of the storm, lightning, wind and tumult that may have occurred. 

In short, we have praised the Lord for protecting us throughout the whole event. 

The strike, however, did prompt me to look into Scripture to see what God has said about lightning.   The reality is that lightning is often referred to, almost always in God showing us His power and/or His presence.  While I am not citing all of the references, here are some of the ones that I found especially descriptive.

“Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off”

Exodus 20:18 ESV

God spoke to the people of Israel while they were in the wilderness of Sinai.  God called to Moses from the mountain and, when Moses approached the mountain, God express His Law, the Ten Commandments.  The people, however, were afraid at the sight of the mountain when God was there.  Lightning was pivotal in expressing the power of God to His people. 

One of Job’s friends, Elihu, made this argument to Job, underscoring God’s power and His inexpressible works:

“Hear this, O Job; stop and consider the wondrous works of God.  Do you know how God lays his command upon them and causes the lightning of his cloud to shine?”

Job 37:14-15 ESV

Then we have the vision of God that Ezekiel records in Ezekiel 1:1 and following.  I will not cite all of the chapter, but some pertinent verses are:

“In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the Chebar canal, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. … As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal. And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had a human likeness, … And each went straight forward. Wherever the spirit would go, they went, without turning as they went.  As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches moving to and fro among the living creatures. And the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning.  And the living creatures darted to and fro, like the appearance of a flash of lightning.”

Ezekiel 1:1, 4-5, 12-14 ESV

There are many more references to lightning in the Old Testament, but I want to look at the New Testament where we find the term in a new light (pun intended):

His appearance was like lightning, and His clothing white as snow.”

Matthew 28:3 ESV

This, of course, is describing the appearance of Jesus at the time He was transfigured before three of His disciples.  This occurred very shortly before He was arrested and crucified.  His glorified appearance was so bright that it, in itself, was blinding, like lightning. 

Then, another of the Gospel writers says this about lightning:

“For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.”

Luke 17:24 ESV

When the Lord Jesus Christ, also known as the Son of Man, returns in judgment, it will be sudden, like lightning.  And, like lightning, it will be unmistakable.

Lightning is evidence of the power of the Creator God and it is undeniable in its mission.  Just as mankind cannot stop lightning’s travel, mankind will not be able to stop the Son of Man returning to claim His people. 

For the believer, lightning reflects a marvelous promise coupled with sense of expectation and wonder. 

For an unbeliever, lightning represents judgment with unchangeable consequences.

Now is the day of salvation! 

“For he says, ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

2 Corinthians 6:2 ESV

Father, I praise Your name in thankfulness for protection from the storm. For those who do not know You, I pray that Your Spirit would convict them of sin and draw them into Your arms, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

A DROP FOR THE LORD ACCOMPLISHES MUCH!

We went camping at Spring Lake RV Resort in Crossville, Tennessee for a weekend away from the frenetic activities that seem to have overtaken us lately.  The campground has a lovely lake with a beautiful fountain and swan, quite the picture.  The Lord brought numerous thoughts to my mind while I was staring, almost hypnotized by the falling water from the fountain. 

spring-lake-island-swan-and-fountain
Spring Lake RV Campground, Crossville, Tennessee. Picturesque and a quiet respite from a frenzied world.

For some reason I thought of the difference between a drip and a drop.  “Not much” you say?  Perhaps not, but there is a nuance that favors one over the other, at least as far as personal characterization is concerned. 

As a noun, the definition of the word “drip” does include the word “drop” but it also includes the words “trickle”, “dribble” and “leak”.  These words reflect, to me at least, some lack of intent … in other words an almost accidental event. 

As a noun, the word “drop” has the definition of “the quantity of fluid that falls in one spherical mass”.  As far as synonyms, the words include “bead”,”globule”, and “dewdrop”.  (I don’t want to be considered a “globule”, but …)

Returning to the fountain, it seems to me that the water sprayed from the fountain and formed drops of water, not drips of water, and those drops rose and then formed an arc when they fell back into the lake.

I further noticed that when the water drops hit the face of the lake, they didn’t just go down into oblivion … rather, they hit the surface and had an effect on the lake, they sent ripples out into the lake.

spring-lake-fountain
Close up of Spring Lake campground fountain and ripples.

 

In other words, the lake was not the same after the water droplets hit the surface.  Each drop had an impact on the lake itself, even though it was small and not all that “important” in the overall scheme of things.  While the ripple from an individual drop may not have been huge, the combination of them reached far out into the lake.

So too, we each can make an impact on our world to the glory of God the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit as we reach out and share the gospel story of Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross for His people. 

We may not be a great preacher, or an important teacher, or one who has a voice which is heard by millions.  We may be simple folks who love their family, who work in an inconspicuous role at their church, who sing as a choir member but not even as a soloist. 

We may be in the background and think that we are just a small drop, not much to look at and without much effect.  We may even think that we are not important enough or smart enough or loving enough … but if you are a Christian, you are part of the fountain that is the Body of our Lord, and each part is important because Jesus Christ died for each one of His people

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

Hebrews 12:2. 

Each of us can reflect His love, compassion, and zeal for spreading His gospel to others who need to hear the “Good News”.  That is the race that which is before us and we cannot run it if we are weighed down by sin.

Praise God that when we ask the Holy Spirit to bless our work and then we do what we do to our best abilities, through His power, God will use our efforts and our impact will change our world.  And, I believe, that the “great cloud of witnesses” will rejoice as we fulfill the work that we were ordained to do.

Today, pray that you will reflect Jesus to your world.  Even if you feel as miniscule as a droplet from the fountain, remember that each drop impacts the lake in its own way.  Remember too that you have been chosen by Jesus Christ to spread His gospel to the “world” into which He in His providence has placed you, and He will empower you to do so.

Don’t be a drip — don’t trickle or drizzle around without power or strength.  

Be a drop for our Lord — have an impact for Christ on the people you come in contact with as you live your Christian life through His word His power.  Your effect will be multiplied when you join the rest of the drops as together we ripple through society, spreading the message one drop at a time!

 

Father, thank You for sending your Son to die for my sins so that, through faith in Christ alone, I can join the millions of other saints who will glorify your name throughout all the ages.  I pray that You will guide me as I live my life so that through your power, I will give witness to your Kingdom on this earth.  And, at the end of my days, may I join the “cloud of witnesses” who will rejoice at the coming of your Kingdom on the earth.

 

POWER FOR FRUIT BEARING

Earlier this spring, I wrote about a Wisteria vine that follows a fence at the corner of our street.  This year it was full and the vine produced prolifically.

Wisteria blooming vine
Wisteria fine on the fence and growing up and onto the neighboring tree and telephone pole.

The mass of flowers hides the source of the plant’s power – the vine stem itself.

Wisteria blooming vine close up
Wisteria vine stem at ground level, providing nourishment for the plant.

 

The vine is strong, solid, and firmly embedded in the ground.  From its roots, the entire plant derives its strength and nourishment, enabling it to bloom and give its flower for all to enjoy.

 

As Christians, we too are to produce fruit for our Lord.  In order for us to do this, we must be firmly grafted to the Vine.  Jesus used the vine and branches analogy when He said:

 

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:1-5

 

The wisteria branches need the vine stem for their strength and nourishment.  Likewise, we have strength for our life in Christ as long as we “abide” in Jesus, when we are attached to our Lord through the Holy Spirit’s power.  When we are depending on the Vine for our strength, direction, words, actions, then we will be able to bear fruit for Him.

 

In his sermon entitled The Secret Of Power In Prayer delivered on the Lord’s Day Morning, January 8, 1888, at The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, Pastor C. H. Spurgeon talked about an individual who exclaimed “I have something to do!” without regard to being in the Vine.

 

“’I have something to do,’ cries one.

Certainly you have, but not apart from Jesus. The branch has to bear fruit. But if the branch imagines that it is going to produce a cluster, or even a grape out of itself alone, it is utterly mistaken. The fruit of the branch must come forth of the stem. Your work for Christ must be Christ’s work in you or else it will be good for nothing.

I pray you, see to this. Your Sunday school teaching, your preaching or whatever you do, must be done in Christ Jesus. Not by your natural talent can you win souls, nor by plans of your own inventing can you save men. Beware of homemade schemes. Do for Jesus what Jesus bids you do. Remember that our work for Christ, as we call it, must be Christ’s work first if it is to be accepted of Him. Abide in Him as to your fruit-bearing. Yes, abide in Him as to your very life.”

[Sermon #2002 Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit 1 Volume 34 www.spurgeongems.org.]

 

The flowers cannot bloom and grow without the stem’s strength.  If they are cut off from the vine’s stem, they will die in time.  So too, if we work for the Lord in our own strength and power, using “homemade schemes” or using our talents without regard to the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be ineffective because, apart from Jesus, we can do nothing for Him. John 15:5.  We may be good people, and we may even do nice things for others, but there will be no spiritual fruit because only God through the Holy Spirit can produce that fruit.

 

As Spurgeon says it:  our work “must be Christ’s work first if it is to be accepted of Him.  Abide in Him as to your fruit-bearing. Yes, abide in Him as to your very life.”

 

I pray that this rendition of the hymn “Abide with Me,” played by Eric Wyse on Reflections – 60 Songs of Devotion, will focus your mind and heart on our Lord and His grace that has been given to you through His Spirit.

 

 

Father, forgive me when I have run ahead and done things for You when You did not tell me to do so.  Forgive me when I have relied on my own strength, talent or power to “work for You”.  May I rely on the Holy Spirit for guidance and for strength as I live my live for Your honor and glory alone.

 

TRAINS – TOOLS FOR TRANSFORMATION!

At the outset, I want to thank my Beloved Husband for acting as my consultant extraordinaire on the topic of trains, engines, fuel, etc.  This has been a hobby/interest of his for decades and I appreciate his willingness to help me with the accuracy of my account below.

——-

Every Christmas we watch the 1946 classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, a man who gave up his personal dreams in order to help others. The primary dream that George Bailey had was to travel across the world, having adventures and thrills that were simply not available in the small town of Bedford Falls.

Near the beginning of the movie, George hears a train whistle and the following colloquy occurs between George and Uncle Billy:

George: There she blows. You know what the three most exciting sounds in the world are?

Uncle Billy: Uh huh. Breakfast is served; lunch is served; dinner…

George: No no no no. Anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.

 

Trains. Where distances made it virtually impossible for travel between communities, the train removed that impossibility; indeed, they increased mobility and the speed at which you could cross our continent. In 1869, the first transcontinental railroad even linked both sides of our country together!

Long train
Long passenger train going to California.

Take for example this long passenger train going cross country, from Illinois to California.  The picture does not say the destination, but I was on that train in 1955 as we went to visit my grandparents.

 

Train travel expanded the horizon so that people could experience areas of the country far from their local community. Families that were divided by hundreds and thousands of miles could now visit, after a marvelous trip on the train.

 

There were trains of various sizes and purposes, fueled by a variety of materials; but all were intended to go from one place to another.

Train - 611
The 611.

 

 

The Norfolk and Western 611 is a steam engine that was based in Roanoke, Virginia.   My husband has a long history with this particular locomotive. It has recently been restored to pull excursions.

Train 611 in curve
The 611 steaming through a curve.

 

 

The Alaska Railroad runs trains throughout the State of Alaska and the trains provide vital links to supplies and assistance to those folks who live in areas outside of the cities. Numerous reality television shows illustrate the railroad and its involvement with the “off-griders” in Alaska.

 

Train Alaska Railroad train engine,  cropped Anchorage (C)
Alaska Railroad train engine.

 

The Alaska Railroad also has tours of the state, with beautiful observation cars for the tourists’ enjoyment.

 

Train Alaska Railroad Train observation car, Anchorage Alaska, Moore (C)
Alaska Railroad observation car.

 

 

Railroad train - inside observation car
Inside the Alaska Railroad observation car.

 

And there are train engines that have specialized purposes … consider the snow plow in Alaska!

Train - snow plow on engine front
Snow plow to be used on the train tracks in Alaska.

 

Then there are the trains that carry freight from one place to another. Imagine how many trucks would be required to carry the freight that one train can pull!

Train - Freight train Rio Grande
Freight train Rio Grande Railroad.

 

Yosemite 2011 Sugar Pine Railroad Train (C)
Yosemite Sugar Pine Mountain Railroad.

 

 

Along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you can go just a little off the road and find train tracks that have long been abandoned, reminiscent of the logging activity that took place there centuries ago.

Train Century old logging railroad train  in Blue Ridge Mountains
Centuries old abandoned logging tracks through mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Trains made the impossible possible. The Iron Horse pulled loads that were way beyond the ability of human or equine strength. The train could go into terrain and through inclement weather better than any transport available to man. Communities were brought closer because of the connection made by the train schedule. Isolation was lessened when the train arrived with materials from far away places.

 

 

Indeed, trains encouraged dreams and imaginations, as exploration of what was beyond the normalcy of life became a reality.    While airline and automobile travel may have eclipsed the train for some, it is hard to comprehend what our country would be like if it were not for the trains that belched their way onto the scene in the Nineteenth Century.

 

 

But trains would not have accomplished the revolution that they did if they just sat on the tracks and didn’t GO. In order for the Iron Horse to fulfill its mission, it needed power. That power came from various sources: wood, coal, diesel oil, and electricity, but there is no debate that power was required to have functional trains.

 

 

As Christians, we are to be Jesus’ hands and feet, His words are to come from us and we are to express His love to those around us. It certainly is no easy task since we are sinners, saved by grace, and we have to fight our sinful nature to do that which Jesus commands. In short, we cannot live the Christian life in our own power – we have to have the Holy Spirit within us to give us the power to overcome evil, sin and Satan.

 

 

Prior to the beginning of his ministry, immediately after his baptism by John, Jesus was led into the wilderness and was tempted 40 days by Satan. Jesus successfully withstood the tests hurled at him and, at the conclusion of the 40 days, Scripture tells us in Luke 4:14 that:

Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country.

 

 

Through this Holy Spirit, He was able to heal and teach as no other had done before.  See Luke 4:32 where we read that the people “were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority.” The King James Version of this verse says that “for his word was with power.”

 

 

In Luke 14:29 Jesus promises that the disciples would receive power from the Father, but they need to wait.

“And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

 

 

In the Book of Acts, Jesus tells his disciples why they would receive power from His Father:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  Acts 1:8 [ESV]

 

 

On the day of Pentecost, this promise was fulfilled, and as evidence of the power of the Spirit that filled the disciples, we read:

And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. Acts 4:33 [ESV]

 

 

The same Spirit that powered Jesus is available to us as Christians for the empowerment of our life and witness. Indeed, when we become Christians, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our heart and we read the Scripture with open eyes and an understanding that the Spirit provides. The Holy Spirit empowers us to be bold in our testimony so that we give an answer to any who ask about our Savior. In short, the Holy Spirit is the power for our life in Christ.

 

 

The train transformed our world. Its power accomplished much and we have evidence of the trains’ successful work throughout not just our land but the entire world.  Trains had a variety of functions and purposes, but they all worked together to transform society.

 

 

Jesus Christ has transformed our world in a much more important, eternal way. His disciples are not all the same, each has his/her own spiritual gift to be used for building up of the Body of Christ. One by one, His disciples are spreading the gospel throughout the world and people are hearing of His work and saving atoning grace through His death and resurrection.   Through that witness, God’s mercy is extended to people who are becoming children of God and are being adopted into His family through faith in Christ alone.

 

 

The train cannot sit in the station without power and expect to do any work. The train’s impact on the world becomes evident when power is used to get the job done. Likewise, we, as Christians and believers in Jesus Christ, cannot sit in the church pew and expect that we have fulfilled some sort of obligation to our Savior. We must access the all-sufficient power of the Spirit that will transform all those who are to come to salvation in Jesus Christ.   We must represent Jesus Christ to each individual we meet, all through the power of the Holy Spirit and to the glory of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

 

Father, forgive me when I have failed to access the power you have provided through the Holy Spirit. Forgive me when I have not ministered to others as Christ would have me do, simply because I was too lazy to take action. Forgive me when I have failed to spread your Word to others in need. May I have the impact on my world that you want me to have so that your kingdom will be increased, all to your glory and honor.

WATER – POWER HIDDEN IN TRANQUILITY

Certain scenes evoke a sense of rest and peace for me. One such picture is this view, captured by my Beloved, of an Oregon lake with the mountains mirrored in its reflection.

Mirror lake (C)
A lake in Oregon that looked like a mirror image.

Or this scene of Sylvan Lake in the Black Hills of North Dakota taken many years ago while I was on vacation with my parents.

 

Sylvan Lake, Black Hills, ND (C)
Sylvan Lake in the Black Hills of North Dakota

 

We are, of course, aware that water is not always absolutely still at the surface, and if they were totally still, they would be stagnant. There are the rippling sounds of the woodland waters as they slide over and around the rocks and stumps in their way.

Rapids in stream (C)
Rapids in the woodland stream.

With the right conditions, a stream can become a whitewater rapids. Also, there is the ocean with its rhythmical tossing of waves along the shore, a sound that many of us love to hear when we go to sleep.

Power hidden in tranquility.

Water can be extraordinarily powerful when drops of water combine along their way and, together, they plummet over a rocky edge to fall, sometimes, hundreds of feet to the bottom.

One of the majestic waterfalls in Yosemite National Park illustrates a waterfalls that is not only beautiful but which is, quite literally, capable of rearranging the earth’s surface.

Yosemite majestic waterfalls (C)
Majestic Yosemite Waterfalls

 

While water and its need by humanity is universally known and while death will surely come if there is no rain or fresh water, we in our arrogance often ignore our dependence on God for our water.

This fact is reiterated in the Old Testament where Scripture tells us in Genesis 7 that God sent rain for 40 days and 40 nights, saving only Noah, his family and animals in the ark.

In Exodus we have the story of Moses seeking the release of God’s people from Pharaoh. Convincing Pharaoh required multiple plagues including one of rain, thunder and hail. Pharaoh said he would let the people go if God would stop the hammering hail and rain and in Exodus 9:33 we read:

So Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh and stretched out his hands to the LORD, and the thunder and the hail ceased, and the rain no longer poured upon the earth.

Of course, we know from the next passages in Exodus that Pharaoh again changed his mind, ultimately letting the people go only after death entered the country and all the first born sons died in one night.

King Ahab, also, had to learn the hard way that God is in control over ALL things, even rain. In 1 Kings 17:1 Elijah the prophet tells Ahab:

As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.

While it is the very next chapter in the Book of First Kings, from a chronological standpoint, three years had passed since this statement by Elijah. No rain or dew for three, dry, long years. Imagine the condition of the vegetation, animals and countryside, let alone the condition of the people after going three years without rain. Then, in 1 Kings 18:1, the Lord puts the exclamation point on his lesson for Ahab:

After many days the word of the LORD came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth.”

Jesus said, in Matthew 5:45, that:

God makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

The source of water is, simply put, our Sovereign God.

Water that we need for our physical survival is provided for us by God. We cannot make it rain when we want it to do so. God is in control.  He is sovereign. His will reigns and nothing will stop it from occurring as He decrees.

We may think that God is tranquil, that He is not doing anything so we don’t need to worry about Him as He is not a force that we need to reckon with.

Don’t be deceived. God is active in our world today, just as He was thousands of years ago. In Micah 6:8, God stated what mankind needs to do and there will be judgment if we do not do so.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

This judgment may not occur on earth, but rest assured it will occur at the end of time, because sin cannot go unpunished by a Holy God.

Isaiah fell on his face when he saw the vision of God seated on the throne.

And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Isaiah 6:5.

Isaiah instantly recognized that he was unclean and could not be before the Holy God in his sinful condition. God’s power may be hidden in seeming tranquility now, but it will be unleashed one day.

  • Do we really have an accurate understanding of who we are and Who God is?
  • Do we even begin to comprehend how all-encompassing our omniscient, omnipotent Sovereign is?
  • Do we even recognize how arrogant we are when we think that we have it in our power to control anything, let alone that which is required for our survival!
  • Do we comprehend how sinful and dirty we are when compared to the holiness of our God? Even our good deeds fail to merit attention … all our deeds are as filthy rags. See Isaiah 64:4.

Do I live my life in humble recognition that our loving God, who sent His Son for our salvation and who sent His Holy Spirit to be with us and to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ, our Savior, is the Almighty, Omnipresent, Omniscient, Sovereign God of the Universe?  Do you so live?

Do we bow in submission and thankfulness for His Power, Mercy and Grace toward us?  Do we give Him our life, daily?

We should!

 

Father, forgive me when I have gone my own way and have ignored You and Your Word. Forgive me when I have forgotten Who You are and when I have failed to give You all honor and glory. Forgive me when I have failed to yield my life, daily, to You. Cleanse me and enable me to have the will and the power to live so that Jesus is the One who lives through me, all to Your glory, through Jesus Christ my Lord!

NEED TO REFOCUS?

Christmas village that is out of focus
Christmas village that is out of focus

 

The day after Christmas I went to a physical therapy session — not exactly what I wanted to do that day! But I had scheduled it this way so I was going to the appointment. I was waiting for the elevator when the doors opened and I joined others on our trip up to the therapist.  I was in a bad mood since this appointment was interrupting my holiday time with the family, but I was doing it — not smiling about it though!  I was walking with an ankle brace and a cane and was in my second month of physical therapy after severely breaking my ankle four months earlier.

The young man who exited at the second floor with me was walking on two prosthetic legs with a cane for help. My first thought was that he was a Wounded Warrior, a subject dear to me as our son is active military with the Marine Corps. However, as we were waiting to be called in for PT, several of us in the waiting area spoke together and I learned that he lost his legs in an employment-related electrical event eight years earlier. Indeed, he smiled at me and said that it was no one’s “fault”, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Just then we were both called back for PT and I thought our conversing was over. However, we were placed in the same area and I had occasion to observe his work, his effort and his dedication to rehabilitating to a normal that most of us take for granted and, I dare say, which most of us do not truly appreciate.

 

Therapeutic rocker board
Therapeutic rocker board

We both used the same tilt board which previously had been a painful obstacle that I did not want to tackle. It looks easy but I found it difficult, tiring and just pain hard.  After watching him struggle to conquer it, I was humbled and contrite as the therapist put it in front of me, smiling as she said “here is your favorite toy!” Complaining about the challenge of this device was nowhere in my thought that day. I wanted to do my best, without complaining, as this young man had done moments before.

Perhaps this encounter was particularly potent given the timing, coming immediately after Christmas which always involves reflecting about our Lord and His birth and sacrifice for us, about family and the various relationships that we have in our family as well as with others in our circles of involvement. But I find myself pondering whether we recognize how blessed we are in so many ways, especially in ways that we don’t even think of as blessings from our Lord and Savior. The very air that we breathe comes from Him. We are created so that systems which are required for living are automatic, like breathing, our heart beating, our brain functioning, and of course physical healing.

With these blessings, however, come obligations. One is Focus.

Focused attention
Focused attention

There is certainly a time for focused attention to a problem, an issue of concern, or even a rock (if you are a budding paleontologist).  However, when we are focused solely on ourselves and our problems, everything else is out of focus. We need to look at the long view, not the myopic view that is so prevalent in our society today.

 

Difficult to keep your focus sometimes
Sometimes focus is hard!

In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus taught that the one to whom the Kingdom of God will be open is the one who helps others: the one who feeds the hungry; who provides water to those who are parched; who takes in the stranger; who provides clothes for the naked; the one who visited the sick; the one who visited the prisoner.   These acts are not the “Salvation silver bullet”.   Indeed, when these things are done in our own strength, they are done so that we get the glory, so that we get our name in lights, so that we receive accolades.

Rather, these things reflect a life-style that puts others first, a life-style that addresses the needs and cares of the marginalized and those who are ignored by society. In short, it is a life-style that Jesus Christ exampled for His disciples and it is a life-style that can only be lived by the Christian. It is a life-style that desires glory for God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and this can only come when the Holy Spirit in-dwells the Christian.

On that day, I was acutely aware that while the broken ankle was difficult for me and for my beloved husband who had to do much for me during this time, I know that it is healing and that I  can walk and am not confined to the wheelchair.   My co-patient today was alive and able to live a normal life while many others who encounter an “electrical event” are not able to do so. He, also, knew that he is healing and, although it is a “new normal”, he is able to live and enjoy life and mobility given his prosthetic limbs. He is seeking to walk and move more confidently with his new legs.

I don’t know if the young man in physical therapy was a Christian or not. I do know that he and his actions spoke to me and reminded me that I need to get my focus back on others as the Lord directs.

Now, I am facing surgery on my knees – another time when it would be easy to focus on the me/my/mine of problems. Again I pray that I would be focused so that, even in the time for rehab and recovery, I will be praising my Lord and Savior and that I will be a blessing to others in the name of my Lord.

Focus – sometimes it is hard, but it is always worth it!