Onward and Upward

(Repost from 2017 following Sunday’s sermon. Click on reference for audio and video.  Phil. 3:12-16

Often I think of life as a simple “spiral.”
It circles, and as it turns, advances a little at the time.

Nothing is required for us to move in a downward spiral.
A natural downward spiral begins when we are born into this world. Our minds are set on things of this world, which draw us and drag us down. We are unable, of our own volition, to change our direction. Life never stays the same, and nature itself, by its gravity, keeps pulling us to its depths and the impending death that waits for us.

Those who are born into a culture that teaches Biblical principles may hear of God’s grace and His means of changing our direction, but we are at a loss to apply these principles in our own power.

The Bible teaches us that the direction of our lives changes when we are reborn of the work of God’s Spirit in our heart and spirit (Ezekiel 36:26).   God gives us a new life through His Son, Jesus Christ, and by the power of His Spirit within us, turns us from the power of the downward spiral. By His kindness, He brings us in repentance and faith to Himself (Acts 20:21; Romans 2:4). He continues through this life to bring us onward and upward, and to eternity with Him.

There is much more we could say in this short treatise about life here on earth, including sin and evil in this world, which is the reason for the downward spiral. The world has been in this downward deathly movement since the beginning of time, when our first parents turned from their Creator to make and take their own lives, and ours, in a different direction than His.

Are you aware of how you are turning, which way your life is going? Do you want to know this onward and upward movement in your life? Do you want to know the power of God’s Spirit working in you to bring you to Himself? No one can do an about-face, turning themselves. Many have tried but to no avail. It requires the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit working through our spirit to give us a new heart and a new spirit (Ezekiel 36:26) This requires a new birth (John 3:3) which only He can give (John 1:12-13; 1 Peter 1:3). Regeneration, a new creation, and repentance is His spiritual work in us, and what a glorious experience to be turned and moving in the opposite direction from the world.

If you have yet to know this new life, I pray that you will reach for God’s Word, which He offers to you. Read the Holy Bible. If you have never read before, begin with the New Testament. Ask for His Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13); pray and pour out your heart to Him. He knows where you are and what you need. Read and pray until He, by His Spirit, turns you to repentance and faith as a new creature in Christ. He gave His life to deliver us from the present evil age (Galatians 1:3).

If you have never heard the good news of God’s changing our lives and our direction, and want to hear more I would be blessed to tell you more. You can send me a message on our CONTACT page. There is oh, so much more of this glorious upward spiral that is ours in Christ through whom we, as God’s children, live.

I will end this post by saying that your wedding day will not be the most wonderful day of your life. Neither will the birth of your children be the greatest experience you can know. There is nothing as wonderful as being born of the Spirit of God and living every day in Christ, in light of His promises and hope. It is the most uplifting experience of this life as He is preparing us for eternity with Him.

Gracious Father, how can we tell someone what it is like to know you and what life is like as your children? It is impossible to share the width, the depth and the height of your love. You must do the work in each of us. I pray that you would shine your light and the life of Christ through us, and by your Spirit, draw and birth others into your house and kingdom. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

“For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness,
who has shone in our hearts
to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God
in the face of Jesus Christ.
2 Cor. 4:6

1200 Miles and Back – A Vacation Story

The following story may be the first of a new category for this blog There are other Wilderness Sagas I want to share in the future. This is an excellent one to start.

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by Brittny Bailey

Our annual vacation from Georgia to northern Minnesota is a tradition established across generations; one I married into and have learned to love. The 1200 miles through five states, around mountains, and past endless acres of corn in mid-summer have been a part of my husband’s every summer since childhood.

His dad began these trips sometime in the fifties when he was still in diapers, and this summer our two-year-old began chanting with unbridled enthusiasm, “Sotaaaa!” Uncertain of its meaning, he was doubtlessly informed by all the dinnertime conversation about the place, spearheaded by his dad and readily entertained by his three sisters. Our girls have several years’ experience, and now they weave their own memories into that family tapestry that we all adore. 

They will remember this year’s trip to the cabin as the one where we were in the car for days, and we had to come home early because Daddy was sick. I will remember it as the vacation through which I was made to feel very much like a sheep; a little head strong, a little captured by my Shepherd’s crook, taken up in my Shepherd’s arms and held there with all the power of a mighty maker, all the love of a tender Father, and in the safety that is mine as His child.

It began much like previous vacations, a month of meticulous planning, shopping, cleaning, and an ambitious number of events scheduled for the week of departure. We were ever diligent to lay hold of that vacation promise, anticipating all the rest to be had in that place, but a shadow was cast two days before we planned to leave.

Several households from our Church were taken ill with COVID, and this threatened to derail our plans. We waited until the last possible moment to take a home test for the virus. It was midnight, just hours before hoisting all our sleeping progeny into the car. We were banking on getting ahead of Atlanta traffic that morning and stopping at The Ark Encounter on the way.

That test marked the beginning of our vacation, and it was a source of great uncertainty. 

We prayed about it and waited for the Lord’s leading, but waiting well even while the course was yet unknown? That is a hard thing to do. Waiting cheerfully without begrudging all the rules and circumstances? That is a different sort of waiting.

Patient waiting is marked by a quiet spirit; patient waiting requires practice. It was in this School of Waiting that we were to be enrolled for the next seven days, and in very ordinary ways the lessons began. 

Establish our Steps

We left the house a couple of hours late, took a bypass around Atlanta to keep out of rush hour traffic, lingered long at Chick-fil-a waiting for our lost breakfast order, then spent the next eight hours on a scenic Kentucky route behind vehicles of authentic country spirit, pacing ourselves at or below the speed limit the entire way. We were in the car two hours longer than we had planned, and we arrived at The Ark Encounter four hours later than we anticipated when we booked the tickets. These were the first of our opportunities to wait, patiently.

As it turns out, the Ark after 4 ‘o clock is less populated with fellow tourists and the children could only endure the excitement of it all for about three hours anyway before discovering their aching feet and empty tummies. The sun was setting when we made our way out to the little zoo, and a breeze lifted the day’s heat from the asphalt and danced through the hibiscus blossoms that were in spectacular display across the grounds.

Here at the closing of the day we had the flowers and the animals all to ourselves. I was on the verge of tears of wonder and praise about every 15 minutes as we wandered through that great monument to God’s faithfulness. These moments were gifts, priceless memories, but the uneasiness with which we began our trip hounded us.

Jake developed a fever that night at the hotel. We were far from home and a bit more subdued by the day’s travel. Perhaps we were more willing to concede that things were not going to go as planned but still so sure that all would be better tomorrow.

The fever broke sometime in the night, and Jake felt completely normal again by morning. By mid-afternoon we continued our way up to the cabin where his parents would be waiting for our noon arrival the next day. 

The route to the cabin from our stop in Kentucky was different from the one taken in years previous. By night, it was an elaborate system of construction cones and flashing arrows, flanked by miles of cornfields, and made nearly impossible to navigate by rainstorms and regular tolls. The rain held me in a perpetual, blurry blackness as I followed shifting brake lights through the eerie night. It slowed me down, made me doubt every road sign, and it made me impatient for day.

I drove into the early morning hours then parked among a fleet of sleeping truckers at a rest stop somewhere in Indiana. Jake slept and slept and slept, and I slept but wondered why Jake slept so long. I began to be anxious about the day’s plans. Would we ever get there at this pace? Would we ever get out of this car? How many more times could we eat at McDonalds? Was Jake okay? 

Jake had been taking Advil for pain in his knee, but as the day wore on and the medicine wore off, he suspected that he might have a fever again. We drove on from the middle of nowhere to the secluded backwoods of northern Minnesota. When it was apparent that Jake was sick and not just exhausted from the week’s labor and subsequent travel, we had to stop and begin looking for another Covid test and inquire into alternative lodging so as not to displace his parents. This was about four additional hours of driving, searching, and eventually finding a test so that we would know how to proceed. I sat there, waiting yet again. 

Shimmering lake waters and crisp cool morning breezes began to slip through my fingers. I tried to hold them there, knuckles white with will and vain hope, hot tears finding their way down my cheeks and into my lap as I grieved the memories that I had hoped to make this year.

We were so close to our destination, but without a clue as to where we were going. We waited and learned that there was no vacancy at any lodge for miles, we waited and learned that the clinic was closed for the weekend, and results from others would not be for days. We waited and learned that Covid home tests were sold out in five of the nearest locations.

And at last we learned that somewhere, an hour away, Walmart still had a test on the shelf. Despite the despair and exhaustion my Father’s spirit spoke to mine and knowing my thoughts he gently reminded me to be patient, that the heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

In this School of Waiting I was being taught the practice of patience; the practice was found in wanting the Lord’s blessing above my own plans. The nasty tears were poor company and my husband- who was the one feeling bad, mind you- needed the peace as much as I. So, I asked for the blessing; I asked the Lord to establish our steps.

And there was peace. Patience, too, as we waited for the next right thing to do.

Answer Me When I Call 

We both tested negative again. Jake’s parents, who were waiting for us at the cabin in the Northwoods, instead packed up for a short trip until we could see improvement in his situation. We arrived at last on Saturday evening to an empty, recently evacuated cabin, completely uncertain of what the next two weeks would hold.

It was another eerie night. I was with my children in their grandfather’s cabin filled with their father’s childhood memories, their father sick in bed, without his parents or his memories to make any of it feel familiar. There was no phone or internet service, so I couldn’t console myself by researching what to do in case of an emergency or even text home.

I remembered the words of a dear friend telling me once out of an abundance of her own experience that as pilgrims passing through this land, we should all begin preparing for a stage of aloneness. This seemed to me an appropriate time to begin making those necessary preparations. 

So, I met Aloneness there, remembering that my Father is the same in the day as he is in the night, my truest and closest Comforter. I put the children to bed with Psalm 4, then I put myself to bed with Psalm 91.

Jake’s fever departed in the night, and he was back on his feet two days later.

We had one glorious day on the lake and his parents came back to the cabin, all of us hoping it was the right thing to do. We celebrated with a meal and worship and songs, but we soon realized that Jake was not completely well, and the next morning and for the rest of that week he relapsed into fever and fatigue.  That week brought more and more sobering news from back home of friends and family who were succumbing to Covid, several of whom were in the hospital. 

Each new development brought with it a weary sigh or a knot in the pit of my stomach, but there came also a voice that whispered again and again an old and precious promise: “And it shall come to pass that before they call I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” 

So, I called out to Him. 

My dear in-laws were now with us, and Jake was undeniably sick and in a way that caused us to doubt the test. But they didn’t want to leave me alone with four children and an invalid so they stayed, all of us hoping that best case scenario Jake had another illness (I mean, those are still around) and at the worst, it would be a mild case of what everyone else had.

Our supplements began to dwindle by midweek, and I went into town to arrange for more to be sent from home, thinking all the while that if we could just get our hands on some good medicine, Jake would turn the corner. By week’s end news arrived that the package of supplements –due to arrive—would not arrive for another three days.

The same morning, Jake’s parents determined that they would leave the cabin and return home the following day, hoping to make it home before they came down with the same illness. I began thinking that if  I were to come down with the same thing my husband had, we’d be “vacationing” indefinitely, our children possibly unsupervised as we languished.

What if he got worse? He certainly showed no signs of improving. How long would it take me to get out of this place by myself? Who would I take counsel with on such matters if it came to that?  

More waiting. A bit weary now, but patient. What ‘ere my God ordains is right/ Holy his will abideth.

A Broad Place

That evening Jake’s breathing worsened, and a constant cough came in shallow, breathy fits. It became a subject of urgent prayer, and our Father delivered. Amid all the potions, ointments, and vitamins we had remaining, there was a small, near-empty vial of herbal tincture used for asthma related issues.

I had brought it for Natalie, our eldest, and it was this precious daughter who suggested that it might help her daddy. It immediately settled his cough and facilitated deeper breaths. We used it through the night, deciding that we would leave the cabin with his parents the following morning.

 We had been on vacation for one week. Jake had been in bed for five days. 

Here at this late, vulnerable hour, without our medicine, without a hospital, with four children, and three exposed adults the Lord gently led us to this point of clarity; it’s time to go home. A decision that now in hindsight appears so obvious to me.

It was as if the Lord was taking me through a side door, and I couldn’t quite grasp what the room looked like until long after I’d arrived. Praise the Lord I don’t have to know exactly where I am or where I’m going; I know that my Father has set my feet in a broad place.

The next morning brought with it a whirlwind of responsibilities. Among them, cleaning out the fridge, eating whatever leftovers we could for breakfast, washing the bedding, and properly storing a boat, grill, and air-conditioning unit. As the package my mom had shipped from home was never delivered, I arranged to pick up more supplements on the way to hold us over for the next two days. Supplements, again. 

There must be a lesson there because no sooner had we purposed in our hearts to get hold of some more zinc and l-lysine than our car battery died — dead as a doornail and not twenty minutes after starting the car. Perhaps the car doors were open too long, but the deadness of the thing made us all suspect Divine Intervention. It was another bit of instruction, or perhaps just an ordinary opportunity to practice waiting… with him. 

I will wait, Father. 

We unbuckled our seat belts, piled out of the car, and walked to the front porch. Jake crawled back to the couch, and I passed out rice krispie treats, explaining to the children that the Lord was not ready for us to leave Minnesota, and no, I didn’t know when that would be. The second and only working vehicle at this point was useless to us as it was blocked in by the dead one, rear to rear.

Jake’s dad found a couple of overnight battery chargers, and at last, through a conversation with Jake’s brother back home, he made use of a spare, fully charged boat battery from the shed.

Within an hour we were off. Our little caravan embarked on the first leg of the trip from northern Minnesota to Madison, WI where we stayed the night, then continued Sunday morning from 8 until midnight, born up on the prayers of our brothers and sisters back home. 

And I will testify; the Lord felt very, very near. 

I drove, Jake rested (perhaps in body only), and the nine year-old acted as my proxy for the backseat crew who was thoroughly immersed in bags of granola and Pixar Studios. We took the opportunity to experience nearly every rest area from there to here, and by late afternoon on the last day we hit a torrential rainstorm that enveloped us from Nashville to Chattanooga.

For four hours I could neither see the road nor the vehicles on them. I was guided only by countless flashing emergency lights as we wound our way through the mountains.

Gone was the desperate need to arrive already that had so motivated me the week before, and the rain was now an impervious veil keeping me from where I wanted to be.

I was doing my Father’s will. We were walking together; He faithfully, and I, patiently. Though I’d been made a patient driver (perhaps a miraculous working of the Spirit in and of itself), the rain was terrifying, and adrenaline surged through my veins; hitting triple-shot-of-espresso highs. I’m certain the storm was instrumental in keeping me both near to the throne of grace, and keeping me awake there at the end, road weary and still so far from home.

At midnight, we rumbled down our familiar gravel driveway, delighting in every annoying rift and rut. As we staggered up the stairs and crawled onto the tidily made beds, it was like our vacation was just beginning. The rest had come at last, in our Father’s time, after safely delivering us from fever, rain, and foreign land. And the rest was far richer than any I had imagined.
Brittny 9/21

Images: Pixabay.com

The 9-11 PRAYER

A prayer for all times, for every need, memorized, carried with us at all times in every circumstance, knowing the presence and fellowship of our Father and the Son. He never leaves us nor forsakes us, everything working together for our good and conforming us to His image. He is fulfilling His covenant in His people in all generations as He is preparing us to share His eternal glory. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without our Father. He continues to wait to be gracious to all who come to Him in humility and obedience of faith.

Two Sabbaths

Why contend with others about the Jewish Sabbath and the Christian Sabbath?

The First Sabbath

“Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” Genesis 2:3

The Old Testament Sabbath was the beginning of God’s good pleasure, rest, and rule after the first creation. But there was the ongoing anticipation in the prophecy for God’s people of a Messiah. God’s Word speaks continually of the salvation that would come through Christ.  

The Second Sabbath

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

The law concerning the first Sabbath was written in stone. The new Sabbath of our Lord is written on our minds and in our hearts. (Hebrews 10:16)

The Anointed One, Jesus Christ, has come and finished the work of redemption to a new life. The old has passed away. In Christ, we are a new creation. A new day, the day of the Lord was established to celebrate and worship our risen Lord, and to live the new life in Him, to rest in Him in anticipation of His second coming

The Eternal Sabbath

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.” Isaiah 64:17

Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” 2 Peter 3:13

As Jesus’ followers, instead of setting aside Saturday, the seventh day, for our own use and pleasure, let us use it for preparation for the Lord’s Day. We still need to prepare our hearts and our children for worship each week on His day in anticipation of the new heavens and new  earth.

Dear Father in heaven, thank you for your first creation and the Sabbath rest for your worship then. We praise you that we, your children, are the second creation, the new creation. Set our hearts to worship you daily and prepare our hearts for the gathering of your saints for the Lord’s Day each week in preparation for that final gathering of your children when Christ comes again to bring us to you and your eternal glory. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Fran

Image: Google

No Separation

God sent His Son
God’s Son sent His Spirit
God’s Spirit lives in us

We find these truths throughout the Word of God, and Romans 8 expounds on the work of the Trinity. From the planning to the inception, God is sovereign; in control; and bringing to pass His plans for our salvation; made before the foundation of the world.

The power of the gospel that brings about the obedience of faith in all nations (1:5; 16:26) is the working of the Holy Spirit since the completion of Christ’s work (1:4); and will be finished as He has planned.

Connecting the Dots
The Holy Bible is a precious book; a canon; a volume of many books; but more than anything else, it is a workbook, which we must use for all time and endurance of life. It identifies the author, His work, and His workers. We go through, looking for God. He permeates the whole book. We find Him in the beginning and the end. We find Him in Jesus Christ. We find Him in the Holy Spirit. We see Him working in His creatures; in His creation and His redemption. All is His.

When we come to the book of Romans we go a little deeper in our understanding of truth that has been hidden from some because of the change in the teaching and preaching of the gospel in the last century.

It is only as we see that God has full control to work what He has planned from the foundation of the world; before the world began (Ephesians 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:9) that we can be assured of “no condemnation” and “no separation.” We cannot save ourselves from God’s wrath; or keep ourselves through the suffering and temptation of this world.

This chapter connects these truths to each of the Trinity. They are united in this great plan for the power of the gospel for our salvation. As we meditate we look for the work of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In all study of the Bible we find Christ at the center; all things connecting to and pointing from and to Him for all things.

Treasure, Impact, Assurance
In the halfway mark in Paul’s letter to Romans we need to stop; take a breather; and sit down with this letter that is included in God’s word. I cannot in these notes unpack what has been recorded here for His people. If we take the time to read, meditate, saturate, and absorb what is here we find a treasure box from which God, by His Spirit, brings us to understand the fullness of the truth which we have been given in and through Christ Jesus, our Lord. To understood predestination we need to let God lead us to see the truth of His own work and glory in us.  To get the full impact of the whole book of Romans we must allow the Holy Spirit, that intercedes for us, to lead us and teach us here and through the remainder of Paul’s letter.

In Romans 8:19-39 we can look for these words; meditate on the verses from which these come; experience the impact; and be assured of the power of the gospel and the Holy Spirit to accomplish all His work within us ~ for His glory and our joy.

Expectation
Delivered
Liberty
Waiting
Saved
Hope
Patience
Spirit
Intercession
Saints
Everything
Know
Good
Purpose
Foreknow
Predestined
Conformed
Image
Called
Justified
Glorified
Intercession
Conquerors
Elect
Persuaded
Love
God
Christ
Lord

romans8_37-460x345

Dear Father, we are helpless, except for your life that is given us in Christ. I pray for the authority of your word to be commanded in us by the power of your Holy Spirit; to accomplish all that you have planned for each of us today. In Jesus name I thank you and praise you. Amen.

 

Virtual Christian Writer’s Conference

If you are seriously interested in being a published author, it is not too late to attend a conference to meet other authors, agents, and editors in the publishing industry.
This will be my second virtual conference this year which I could never attend except it is online by Zoom.
You can register here or just check it out to see what it’s all about.
Blessings,
Fran