THE UNEASY CHRISTIAN WALK

 

Recently we had a family vacation to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  It was a great time, despite the record heat all over the Southeast.  We played miniature golf, we went to the campground pool, we went to Pirate’s Voyage dinner and show, we went to a museum of cars from “yesteryear” (that is another word for “when Grammy was young!”).  And, we went to Radical Ropes Adventure Park, a ropes course that had multiple levels of ropes, zip lines, etc.  It was an awesome facility. 

myrtle-beach-radical-ropes-course
Radical Ropes Adventure Park, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

All of the members in our son’s family had done ropes courses before and this one looked like a great deal of fun.  But, our daughter’s son, who was traveling with us and was the youngest in the group, had not been on a ropes course and he was not at all sure about this venture.   He was, shall we say, a reluctant participant!

myrtle-beach-ropes-course-reluctant-participant
The reluctant participant, at the beginning.

The personnel were detailed in getting the participants suited up with harnesses and hooks and clamps, helmets and gloves, and all were enthusiastic about the endeavor, except for the youngest grandson.  He was not so sure, even when the practice run was just inches above the ground, there was an instructor at his shoulder, and his Aunt was going to go on the course with him.

myrtle-beach-practice-for-ropes-course
Practice at ground level.

 

After significant encouragement, he persevered and participated while letting us know that he was not excited about it at all.  The adults in the group knew that this would be a growing experience for him – he would be safe with all the safety equipment and with multiple family members surrounding him, he would be on the lowest course so no fall would prove injurious even if the safety equipment failed, and he had a built in cheering section standing under the course and documenting his efforts so his parents could see his prowess!

myrtle-beach-ropes-course-practice-with-eyebrows-raised
On learning line, at ground level, with “angry eyebrows”.

 

The first couple of obstacles were met with scowls and an expression that said “I don’t like this but I’ll do it because you want me to!”  

However, after recognizing that he could accomplish these tasks, even though they were hard and it took struggle, a transformation occurred in his expression and his enthusiasm.  He still had to work hard to walk the line and overcome the barriers that were strategically placed, but his eyebrows were no longer “angry eyebrows” and there was a smile on his face that said “I’m doing it – look at me! I am going to conquer this thing!” 

myrtle-beach-ropes-course-working-heard-but-now-smiling
Working hard but with a smile on his face!

At the end, he was tired, but he had the grin of satisfaction glued to his face.  He had done something that he had been afraid of – he conquered his fear and had more self-confidence as a result.  He persevered and completed the hard task.

myrtle-beach-ropes-course-tired-bear
One tired bear who accomplished the goals set before him.

Perseverance.  It seems as though that is a theme for recent blogs on The Ruminant Scribe, but I believe the Lord is leading in that way for some reason.  [Most likely it is because I need the lessons that I write, much more than the readers do!] 

 

The Lord said that we would have persecutions and problems, difficulties and trials throughout our Christian lives as His disciples.   Some even say that if you are not experiencing persecution because of your faith, perhaps your faith is hidden from the world!  Bring it out in the open and the persecution will come!

 

Jesus promised persecution to those who believe in His name.

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.   Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.”

John 15:18-20

 

Persecution of the righteous is foretold in Jesus “Sermon on the Mount”:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matthew 5:10-12

 

In Ephesians chapter 6, Paul is encouraging the Ephesian believers to remain faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ.  And, even though he is in prison in chains because of his preaching about Jesus, he exhorts the people to persevere and to pray for all the saints, including him.  Notice that Paul provides a description of the weapons we have at our disposal through the Holy Spirit so that we can persevere and withstand the trials that will come our way.

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;  and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Ephesians 6:16-20

 

I certainly am not equating the ropes course at Myrtle Beach to anything that “the evil one” would send our way [although possibly our young grandson felt this way at the beginning!].   We did not expect him to tackle the highest ropes course the first time he ever tried to do such an event.  

 

While undertaking the lowest course was something that was way beyond his comfort zone, it was also something that we had confidence he could handle.  He had his own personal cheering section for support, and it was a growing experience for him.  In short, it was a building block in his self-confidence for tasks far more important than just an adventure ropes course.  [In this picture he was waiting for his Aunt to cross the obstacle – notice his crossed legs, a position telegraphing “I’ve got this!”]

myrtle-beach-ropes-course-waiting-for-aunt-to-catch-up
Air of confidence as he stands on the platform between obstacles, with legs crossed indicating “at ease” rather than “terrified”.

 

The same is true in our spiritual life.  The Church is our cheering section in heaven and the local Church is our cheering section on earth, while the Spirit is our power from within. Persevering in one endeavor is but one of many steps in our maturing so that we can persevere in each successive task that God presents to us, some of which may strike at the point of our most significant fear.

 

Praise God that He is willing to lead us so that we grow, progressively, into the image of His Son.  Praise His Name that He guides us through our spiritual infancy into spiritual maturity as we bask in His love, rely on His Spirit to guide us, and look to do His will in our world. Praise the Lord that He has promised His grace and support as we go through difficult times. 

 

Father, thank You for your presence with us, even in difficult times.  Thank You for your Spirit who undergirds us with His power and strength as we learn to walk in faith and love for Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

How firm a foundation …!

Reverend Franklin Graham stated, in an article for the National Day of Prayer,

“I believe our nation is in trouble today, probably more than I’ve seen in my lifetime. We are contending with issues that are causing the very foundation of our country to crumble. Our moral and spiritual roots are eroding, the economy is misleading, family life is disintegrating, and political forces are at unprecedented odds. There seem to be very few leaders who will take a stand for God and for His Word.”  http://www.nationaldayofprayer.org/how_to_pray_for_america

 

Foundations are important. Without a firm foundation, the whole structure falls, whether it is a building, home, career, church or country.

 

Most of us have experienced the lack of a foundation. The easiest to recall may be the first time you went to the beach and have stood, ankle deep, in the ocean. As wave upon wave rolled through your legs and over your feet and ankles, you can feel the sand shift under you. Soon, if you stood there long enough, you will be knee deep in sand because the water has “rearranged” the “ground” upon which you based your stance, and there was nothing secure underneath you.

 

Ocean - standing
Boy standing in ocean as waves move the sand under his feet.

 

In what is known as the “Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus Christ talks about the need for a foundation as he spoke to his disciples and the people gathered around him. In Matthew 7:24-27 [NIV] he provided the following parable where He particularly was speaking about those who hear his words but do not intend to follow His teaching:

 

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.

 

Clearly, Jesus’ parable has a multitude of lessons encapsulated in these four verses. But the focus here is on “foundation”. What is the foundation that the wise man used for his house? What foundation is secure so that the house did not collapse even during difficult times?

 

Scripture states that this Rock is Jesus Christ Himself. In Isaiah 28:16, the writer states that there is a rock provided for us to build this house upon, and that rock is Christ. He is laid for a foundation, and other foundation can no man lay. The church is built upon this Rock, and every believer is secure on this Foundation.  I Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 2:20.

 

foundation
Rocks forming the foundation of the porch at cabin in Cades Cove, Tennessee.

 

The foolish builders in Jesus’ parable based their hope upon anything but Christ, and you can rest assured that such unsecured foundation will certainly fail them on a stormy day. This picture of rocks as a foundation for the front porch was taken at the Oliver Cabin in Cades Cove, Tennessee.  While the porch has been sturdy with this “rocky” foundation for a very long time, such foundation for your life will yield no true comfort and satisfaction for times of trouble in this life or at the time of death and future judgment. (There is more information about Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains National Park that can be found at the Parks’ website, at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/cadescove.htm.)

 

This dilemma was described eloquently in Job 27:8 [KJV]:

For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he may gain [much], if God takes away his life?

 

Job continues to compare the foolish builder’s hope with the spider’s web.

Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so perishes the hope of the godless. What they trust in is fragile; what they rely on is a spider’s web. They lean on the web, but it gives way; they cling to it but it does not hold.

Job 8:14-15. [NIV]

 

Clearly, having the right foundation is of paramount import. Indeed, it has eternal consequences.

 

The Psalmist says:

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!

Psalm 33:12 [ESV]

 

The writer of Psalms 11 then asks this question:

When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

Psalms 11:3 [ESV]

 

The answer, Beloved, is to pray … to look to the Lord who is the only foundation that will stand, no matter what happens. When things look bleak, Scripture tells us that God is not hindered by the leaders of men, see Proverbs 21:1 [ESV]:

 

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.

 

Even the king, who is the most powerful person in the kingdom, is subject to the sovereign will of Almighty God, whether he recognizes it or not! The Lord turns the king’s heart however He desires.

 

Are you going through difficulties now? Have you in the past? In the unlikely event that the answers to these two questions are “no”, in all likelihood you will have difficulties in the future. But you do not have to be terrified or dismayed.

 

Are you concerned about our country and the course it seems to be traveling?  Pray.

 

Read the Word and pray that the country will return to the foundation upon which it was founded. Pray that God will be allowed to return to the school, the governmental body, the court. Pray that God will shower His grace upon our country and that we would repent of our arrogance and insistence that we would ignore His Word and His Son.

 

God rescued Israel when they prayed to him and repented of their sin … let us do so now and pray that He will not depart from our land.

 

Beloved, pray and then trust Him and praise His Name even when things are hard … the Lord will be blessed and you will be glorifying Him in all things.

 

                                                

Father, I know that You are sovereign and that no leader rises to power but for You allowing him/her to do so. I know Scripture says that You can turn the leaders’ hearts because they are like a stream of water in your Hand. Lord I pray for our country, for our leaders and for our people. Prick our hearts that we would turn to You and not trust in our own power. You gave us this land; may we be stewards of it as we rely on You to guide our course.