Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Radiance Instead of Shame

Those who look to the Lord are radiant, and their faces are never covered with shame (Psalm 34:5)

I had been pulling my weary self up by my own spiritual bootstraps for so long, I didn’t recognize how very weary I was. I mean, I knew I should be joyful (didn’t Christ die for me, after all?) that I shouldn’t obsess about my problems (shouldn’t I be setting my mind on things above not on earthly things?), I shouldn’t fear all the things that could go wrong tomorrow (didn’t Jesus say each day has enough trouble of its own?).

I just couldn’t figure out how to do all that.

So I would scold myself. Look at all God has done for you, given you, blessed you with! How can you be unhappy or depressed or anything less than joyful?! I shamed myself into setting my mind on the better things - yes, there were many of them! Whenever my doubts and fears would bubble to the surface, I would stuff them down again under that list of things I truly was thankful to God for, hoping God Himself would not even see them. But inevitably, they would rise again — along with my shame over not being more grateful and joyful.

And then in 2007, God brought a conflict and a crisis of faith into my life, which turned my shame upside-down and inside out. It’s taken me this long to figure out how to write about it, and put my finger on it more precisely. Because it’s all about things I would have said I knew five years ago - but now I really know them. About Scriptures I’d memorized and comprehended - but did not understand as deeply as I do now. (Do you find the Christian walk to be like that? It’s not a matter of learning something brand-spanking new every day, but learning it more deeply, making it more real.)

Here’s just one example:

I’d been treating Philippians 4:6-7 as a formula of sorts:
1) don’t worry or be anxious
2) pray about those things and make sure you offer thanks, too,
3) God’s peace will relieve me of my uncomfortable emotions and feelings of guilt.

In fact, God’s invitation to come to Him with those fears and worries, and with thanksgiving, are anything but a formula for “How to Get Peace.” Instead, God’s Word — in this passage and every other one — is an open invitation into relationship with God, honest interaction with Him with everything in me, the good, the bad and the ugly. He does not shake his finger at me when I come as I am, tattered and torn and dirty; He listens and encourages with truth and love. And the next thing I know, I’m looking not at my own failures, but into the face of Jesus Himself — the Living Perfect Peace who guards my heart and mind. The more my vision fills with His perfections, the less room there is for anxiety and fear over my imperfections.

What a mystery is the gospel! That Jesus would literally take my place in the courtroom of God. That the One who never sinned suffered the penalties of my sin. That faith in Christ acquits me of shame and guilt before the throne of the Most High God. That God would judge me not on my imperfections, but on the perfections of Christ.

That God’s greatest desire would be for me to know Him and fellowship with Him. And that He did all that was necessary for that to happen — leaving me only to respond in faith and awe to His compassionate, costly initiative.

My shame is dead and gone. Not because I am without sin, but because God has declared me clean and pure in Christ. Not because I have no cause for guilt, but because He Himself has put it to death by his death and resurrection. Not because I am perfect, but because Jesus (I in Him, and He in me) is.

What has God taught you more deeply in your walk with Jesus?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Groaning for Glory

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth being compared to the glory that will be revealed in us.
. . . .
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
. . . .
We do not know what we ought to pray, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express... the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
. . . .
And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him . . . to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.
. . . .
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? For I am convinced that [nothing] in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 8, excerpts

An unexpected death, a rebellious child, a catastrophic hurricane: every day, we find things to groan about.

Now, I don’t mean griping about your in-laws or your laundry or your weight. I’m talking about the kind of groaning God describes in Romans 8 where, along with all creation and with the Holy Spirit Himself, we groan to see how short this world (and our own heart)falls of His perfection and glory. We cry out to God for justice, righteousness, mercy. We long for heaven.

This creation groans under the weight of sin’s relentless curse; it bears thistles and thorns and unthinkable tragedies. And yet, those groanings are compared with the labor pains of childbirth! The pain which feels unbearable at the time is not a senseless one leading to destruction, but a fruitful pain which will bear life and satisfaction and joy.

Christians groan inwardly as we watch sin break God’s world, the same sin that broke Christ upon a splintered cross. And yet, we do not groan without hope! For we long for what has been guaranteed, for the fullness of what we already have in part: God’s sin-demolishing kingdom, fully realized.

Even God Himself groans with us! After all, how can we know what to pray for when we can’t understand so much of what we see? How can we specifically know what God’s will is for a seriously ill family member or an unemployed friend? Speechless, stunned, we cry out for God’s help in even knowing what to pray. And His Spirit intercedes, in perfect knowledge of God’s will!

The day is coming when our groans will give way to great glory. And as we look toward that day, God guarantees us two things: nothing on earth can pull us away from His love, and everything in our lives is designed to shape us to Christ-likeness.

In light of such powerful promises, may our groanings always be for God’s glory alone.

As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness;
I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.

- Psalm 17:15

Sunday, June 17, 2012

An Open Letter

To one striving so hard to please God, yet carrying the heavy load of her imperfections:

I know you. I was once where you are: hearing God’s words, "Be holy, for I am holy" and shaking my head, so aware of my imperfection, of the hopelessness of such a command. Driven to serve God to exhaustion, knowing it still wasn’t enough. Convinced that He could not hear my prayer, through the cacophony of all my sin, in spite of all my self-improvement projects. Desperate to realize that I could never pay Him back the way He "deserved." Continually discouraged by the mixed motives, proud thoughts and selfish heart underneath every good thing I did for Him. The burden of serving God with a pure heart was heavier than I realized.

Until five years ago, when He pried my fingers away from that burden, and it dropped and shattered. I understood what I hadn’t for so long: not only did Jesus rescue me from judgment for my sin, not only did He pave the way for a relationship between me and God, but He is — at this very moment — living within me. At this very moment, and forever.

While it’s true that He has called you to holiness, it’s also true that Christ in you has already become your righteousness, your holiness and your redemption (1 Cor 1:30). While it’s true that only a blameless person can come before Him, you have already been declared blameless by Him, because of Him (1 Thess 5:23-24)! You are already worthy to approach God because you have Jesus’ holiness (2 Cor 5:21 & Rom 8:3-4). You are invited to come to Him boldly, with confidence, because Jesus has made you clean (Heb 10:22 & 4:16). He will not turn you away.

He will never love you anymore than He does today, and He has never loved you any less. He loved you when you were his enemy (Rom 5:8) and how much more He loves you now that He has called you His child (1 John 3:1)! His provision for your sin and for mine is more than enough in Christ (2 Cor 12:9). He hears your prayers not because of your perfect obedience, but because of the perfect obedience of His Son.

Because of what Jesus did for you, and is now doing in you as He grows you into Jesus’ beautiful image, you are declared perfect in God’s sight. In the eyes of your perfectly holy Father, you are His holy child.

".... because by one sacrifice
he has made perfect forever
those who are being made holy."
(Hebrews 10:14)

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Mother's Example

The silence following my raised voice was deafening. Ben glanced at me, head hung, then turned and slowly walked upstairs, no doubt to seek solace in his Legoes.

As for me, I couldn’t believe I’d yelled that way — full, louder-than-loud yelling — over a neglected cat litter box. That box pushes my last button when it stinks up the basement, but at the moment, I stunk far worse. My own head hung, I turned and slowly walked out to the deck, where I could talk this over with God.

When Matthew and Ben were younger, I discovered I had a temper, and battled it fiercely. I prayed and memorized passages of Scripture. I remembered my own mother as gentle and calm, such a good example to me of what I wanted to be. And yet, I felt unable to control my temper, setting such a bad example for my sons. But I’d yell anyway. Sometimes, my throat would hurt afterwards. To me, it was so shameful that I could yell at these tiny people I loved, entrusted to me by a loving and patient God.

But as they’d gotten older, I’d done it less. I didn’t know if this was a credit to their growing maturity or my own; I was just thankful I wasn’t yelling anymore.

Until the day I yelled at Ben.

Out on the deck, I told God about it, asking His forgiveness — but I still felt like a heel. All the things I know about God and His perspective don’t always sink deep down right away in the heat of the emotion. Things like: God has forgiven me utterly! He sees Jesus’ righteousness when He looks at me. He is never surprised or undone by my many mistakes, character flaws, offenses and plain old sin. I am a work in process, and He has promised to keep on working and never give up. He loves me as much right now as He ever has, and will never love me any less or turn away from me. Even if I yell again tomorrow. His grace staggers me every time, energizing me, keeping hopelessness at bay.

After 10 minutes or so with God, I went upstairs to make things right with Ben. I found him on the floor with his Legoes and knelt down beside him. My voice trembled as I asked his forgiveness; he easily hugged me and gave it. Then he said something that strengthened my motherly heart.

""Mom, I knew you’d be coming soon to tell me you’re sorry."

"You did?" I asked, wondering why.

"Sure. Because it’s what you always do. Whenever you yell or do something you shouldn’t, you always come quickly and ask us to forgive you."

It was then that I really did cry. I want my sons to be the best they can be — which means loving Jesus and seeking Him in everything. But even if Jesus is their greatest desire, they will still sin against Him and others; they will still need to know what to do with their sin against God and others.

I cried because, while my example of an out-of-control temper is not something I ever want them to emulate, I clearly had set an example of asking forgiveness of God and of them when I did yell. Maybe he was learning not from my example of a quick temper, but from my example of being quick to repent. Maybe I wasn’t such a failure as a mom after all.

Some weeks later, I read this in a blog called MomLife:

My imperfections will find a way to weasel their way into my day, whether I like it or not.

So, what’s a mom to do?
· Accept the fact that we will never be perfect. Nor will our children, our husband, or our house.
· Ask God to give us the grace we need to be an example of love to our children.
· Learn to apologize to our children with humility when we make mistakes, and we will make mistakes, all the time.

 You want to know my definition of a "good mom" these days? A good mom is someone who loves her kids fiercely and with abandon, as God first loved us.

... A good mom isn’t someone who never loses her cool, but someone who loves her children enough to show them how to gracefully handle it when she does.

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." -1 Peter 4:8

Friday, May 18, 2012

Moses' Middle Forty

The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me;
your love, O Lord, endures forever -
You will not abandon the works of your hands.
(Psalm 138:8)

No doubt about it, Moses led a uniquely exciting life.

His first 40 years were spent in Egypt. Having narrowly escaped infanticide, he was raised by the Pharoah's daughter, educated in the wisdom of the day. But after defending a Hebrew kinsman by murdering a man, he fled as a fugitive to Midian, where he spent his next 40 years.

At the end of the those 40 years, Moses heard God speak to Him from a burning bush, calling him to rescue the Israelites from more than four centuries of slavery. He returned to Egypt as an instrument of the Lord's power and judgment upon Egypt and its idolatry. After leading millions of Israelites to freedom, crossing the Red Sea in a dramatic miracle, he spoke with God atop Mount Sinai and received His law for Israel. In those final 40 years, Moses served God as Israel's Liberator and God's Prophet. The Lord Himself described Moses as a faithful and humble friend (see Numbers 12:3-8).

But as we review the spectacular events of this great man's history, we tend to overlook one large segment of it: the middle 40 years Moses spent in the wilderness, living among Midianite nomads, raising a family, shepherding his father-in-law's sheep. It's not hard to understand our oversight: the Bible spends a scant seven verses on this period! Moses led a quiet existence on the backside of a barren desert, all but invisible.

What was going through his mind during those decades? Did he count himself a flash in the pan whose time had come and gone? He named his first son Gershom, which means, "I am as a stranger in a strange land." Did he imagine his remaining days would be lived in exile from his home and his people?

A good friend remarked to me that the Lord was training Moses during those 40 long years in the practical skills necessary for his later ministry, most likely without his awareness of it. He would have learned of the flora and fauna of the region, along with methods of surviving such a harsh landscape. Notably, Midian was located in the desert of Sinai, where Moses would later lead Israel to God's promised land! Through those 40 seemingly uneventful years, God was strengthening Moses spiritually as well. The man who had once boldy delivered a slave by taking a man's life now shied away from God's call to deliver Israel, doubting himself worthy of such a task.

When outwardly it seemed virtually nothing was happening, God was in fact preparing Moses for a mighty work. The Lord used those years to form Moses into a man ready to follow God instead of his own rash impulses, equipped to obey God completely as he led a rebellious people through a forbidding wilderness.

What does this mean for us, all these centuries later? Do you feel like your best years are behind you, that God has used you in the past, but has now put you out to pasture? Do you see your life as descending into the daily grind, lacking purpose or direction or excitement?

Remember Moses' middle 40.

In those years, we see that God is always at work in and through His children, every step of the way, whether our steps are grand - like scaling a mountain to meet God - or common - like herding our flocks (of children!). There is no day or month or moment when God has overlooked us or His purposes for us.

We may spend our days doing unspecatacular things like changing diapers, comforting sick children, packing bag lunches or putting away groceries. We might envision the gifts and dreams that God has given us just sitting on a dusty shelf, all but invisible.

But through those ordinary tasks, in our daily faithfulness, God is working His plans in us, to humble us, to train us, to prepare us for His mighty work - for now and for the future.

May we be found faithful in serving Him and trusting His purposes wherever He may lead us.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Voice of Spring

O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:9)

Early one morning, while watching from the window the low clouds that settle between the hills and then evaporate as the sun's heat turns them to steam, I read from Hosea 6:

Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn; He will come to us like the rain . . .
[mankind's] faithfulness is like a morning cloud and like the early dew;
it departs.

As the mist in the mountains dissipated, I thought: God says MY faithfulness is like that. Yet, God's faithfulness to me is like the promise of each sunrise, like the drenching storms last week that soaked our just-planted garden, coaxing life from those hard, dry seeds.

God voices truth in every season, but for me, there's just something about springtime: the budding trees, the butterflies, the young green that tips the trees and softens the grass. Even crinkly caterpillars and falling pollen make me smile.

God's Word tells us that He made everything simply by speaking. And then He goes on to detail the marvels of his creation in awe-inspiring terms: from the glories of the sun and moon as they cross the heavens, to the industrious example of tiny ants as they work incessantly to serve their community.

In fact, God says that His creation speaks audibly to everyone, even those who aren't listening, even those who doubt His existence.

The heavens declare ther glories of God and the skies display His handiwork. Day after Day, they pour forth speech; night after night, they dsplay knoweldge. There is no speech or laungage where their voice is not heard. (Psalm 19:1)

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities -- his eternal power and divine nature -- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made. (Romans 1:20)

As charming as the just-bloomed daisies and violets are in our field below, 1 Peter 1:24-25 reminds me that life here is passing: All men are like grass, and their glory like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.

Looking out my window at the mountains, I recall God's promised protection: As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people, both now and forevermore. (Psalm 125:2)

When I awoke to a thunk against my window, I opened the door to discover a plain sparrow on the porch, looking dazed. He quickly flew away. I remember Jesus saying no sparrow falls apart from God's will. "Do not fear, therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Matthew 10:31)

And so it goes: God speaks through lilies, and fruit trees and rocks and eagles and hills -- indeed, through every aspect of His creation!

Behind every nature lesson we see this basic-but-breathtaking truth: God speaks to us. His voice is not just in His inspired Word, but in every atom of creation. He reveals Himself so that we will know Him by faith in His Son.

Lord, help us to see Your glory in all you have made, and most of all, to know Your glory in Jesus.

God, who in various times and in various ways
spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,
has in these last days spoken to us by His Son,
whom He has appointed heir of all things,
through whom He also made the worlds.
(Hebrews 1:1-2)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Shadow of Your Wings

Because you are my help, I will sing in the shadow of your wings. (Ps. 63:7)

What a beautiful word picture: we are held close beneath God's loving and powerful wings! He invites us there; God shows his mercy to those who make their home there; Jesus longed to gather his people there.

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." (Jesus, in Matt. 23:37)

The image is of a mother hen (yes, it's a nurturing female image), caring for her vulnerable chicks beneath her strong, tender wings. In the shadow of God's wings, we find perfectly loving protection. As we discover that we are safely held near His heart, He frees us from fear, to love and serve Him with abandon and delight. "The Lord is my salvation; whom shall I fear?" (Ps. 27:4)

Yet, those long wings of refuge cast a shadow.

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me!
For my soul trusts in You,
And in the shadow of Your wings
I will make my refuge
Until these calamities have passed by. (Ps. 57:1)

That shadow may feel confined, cramped, darker than we'd hoped. We can't see the horizon; we want to stretch our own wings and soar, on our own fuel. The shadow of our suffering looms large to us, feels threatening, suffocating; all the while, God's nurturing wing is even nearer than that suffering.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under His wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. (Ps. 91:1 & 4)

We can trust Him as our place of rest. He covers us: sheltering, guarding, teaching us how to trust the Righteous One, who soars with healing in His wings (Mal. 4:2). Whether we find ourselves in broad light or dusky shadow, our Father surrounds us with His powerful love.

May God give us grace to sing in the shadow of His wings.

Afflictions are but the shadow of His wings.
(George MacDonald, The Curate of Glaston)

Friday, March 30, 2012

At Sunrise

The sun's slow arc breaks the horizon's purple rim,
its rise as slow and certain as the dimming stars in brightening blue.
The shy light of daybreak slants a seabird shadow over powder-pink sand.
Early in the morning, I shall seek You.

The air moves, quiet as God's whisper to His war-weary prophet, breathing:
His name, His glory, His presence, His peace.
What more do I need, here on this slender curved finger of sand,
as I look out to the edge of the world?

The tidal pool barely ripples, a guarded sanctuary, 
as only meters away, salted foam
relentlessly, repeatedly, scours the brilliant shore.

In this sheltered place, sandpiper and egret and ibis
with backward knees and delicate necks,
bend and bow for breakfast. 
Their posture resembles reverence. Do they know 
by their instinct what I know by Your revelation?
You open Your hand and satisfy the desires 
of every living thing.

Peace is Your long light, 
the covering of Your wing,
the colors of Your glory, 
the sound of Your gentle voice,
the opening of Your hand, 
the sureness of Your faithfulness,
more certain and steady than the sand and sun and sky.

The heron flaps low, seeking, watching, 
casting broad shadows across my notebook page.
I look up and gaze at Your beauty in this sanctuary,
having already found what I seek.

As near as Your breath and as long as eternity,
is the refuge I find beneath the shadow of Your wing.
Peace is Your open, ageless hand, cupped beneath me,
Your great nurturing wing, covering my bowed head.

You will keep in Your perfect peace 
the one whose mind is set upon You,
the one who trusts in You.

Recommended reading: 
Pilgrim at Tinker's Creek, by Annie Dillard
Psalm 63:1-8
Psalm 27

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Jesus' Kind of Love

"A new command I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you." (John 13:34)

Does this stop you in your tracks, as it does me? I mean, the Golden Rule I can grasp: I can envision treating others the way I want to be treated. But to love someone the way Jesus loves me? I'm stepping onto grace-saturated ground here, painfully aware that my love is a dusty shadow of Jesus' rock-solid love for me. (And yet, I'm convinced that His Spirit living in my changed heart means that I can, indeed, love others the way He loves me!)

So what does Jesus' kind of love look like? Here's one glimpse, from John 8:

The religious leaders shoved through the crowds, jostling bodies, vying for position before the soft-spoken Teacher. When they tossed the woman in front of him, a sudden quiet fell. Every watching eye turned to the shamed woman, to the men who'd brought her.

Except for the eye of Jesus. He didn't even turn around.

They pressed harder, louder, the crowd watching, waiting. What do you say, Rabbi? She was caught in the act! The Law of Moses required the death penalty for adultery, for breaking the seventh commandment. Would Jesus ignore God's Law and show the mercy he was so well-known for? Or would he point a finger and reach for a stone?

Jesus stood and spoke one sentence -- not to the woman, mind you, but to the men pelting him with questions. The one who has no sin may cast the first stone at her. He turned away again.

Surely the men were not expecting this response? But as they turned it over in their minds, looking for a way to ensnare him, their own hearts instead were ensnared. People in the crowd, bending to collect rocks, loosened their grip as their hearts, too, were exposed. Heads hung, one by one, they walked away.

When only Jesus and the woman remained, he raised himself up and looked straight at her, this one who'd broken his Father's Law.

Where are your accusers? he asked her. Who here has condemned you?

No one, Lord! she whispered, scarcely able to believe it.

I do not condemn you either, Jesus gently told her. Return to your family and don't sin again.

What kind of love is this? Three things that I see:

1. Jesus did not point his finger a the religious men and rebuke them on the spot for their hypocrisy. Instead, he spoke one sentence that revealed their hearts to them and turned their accusations inward. Throughout the gospels, Jesus stands against the religious leaders' view of the law and says in effect, "Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice." And, "All the Law is fulfilled in one word, even this: Love your neighbor as you love yourself."

Jesus' concern did not appear to be with following the letter of God's Law, but for displaying God's character to each person -- to the adulterous woman, but also to to her accusers, and to the crowd. It took one brief sentence from him to prompt people to recognize that they, too, stood condemned.

This is Jesus' kind of love: Composed. Wise. Penetrating.

2. He did not concern himself with making an example of the woman for the sake of the watching crowd, or for the sake of his own reputation as a Rabbi. While her accusers saw in her an object lesson, a means to their desired end, Jesus saw a person, an individual. His concern was not with sending a message about sin to the community, but with showing his mercy to a sinner.

This is Jesus' kind of love: Other-centered. Kind. Personal.

3. Most beautiful to me, Jesus did not condemn the woman, although the Law of Moses commanded it. Instead, he released her from accusation and restored her to her family. He clearly named her behavior sin, but his actions toward her were replete with grace. He gave mercy where man would assume justice was required; he showed compassion where we might see room only for law. He saw to her heart and knew what would draw her toward himself -- not the letter of God's law, but the gift of God's grace.

This is Jesus' kind of love: Liberating. Restorative. Life-changing.

"Christ was without sin, and might cast the first stone,
but though none more severe than he against sin, for he is infinitely just and holy,
none more compassionate than he to sinners, for he is infinitely gracious and merciful..." (Matthew Henry)

Oh, Jesus, may we love one another as You have loved us.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Running the Race of Faith (Part III): Looking to Jesus

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

We’ve considered the motivation we receive from the testimony of the Old Testament saints, who trusted God’s promises although they did not see them fulfilled in their lifetimes. We’ve also talked about the necessity of travelling light as we run.

But above all else, more than seeing the examples of others, more than tossing aside our extra baggage, the primary source of strength for our faith race — and the primary goal of our lives! — is this: looking upon Jesus in faith.

"Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God." — A.W. Tozer

It’s not faith itself that is the answer: I can run by faith in my own resources, or faith that everything will work out alright in the end, or faith that I will survive this particularly grueling leg of the race. But all that faith is merely faith in myself. What makes all the difference is placing my faith (trust, confidence) in Jesus.

Our race of faith is so much more than doing our best, keeping a positive attitude, and plugging along till we stagger across the finish line (spiritually speaking). We are called to run with endurance by looking to Jesus for every resource. It is His strength, His grace, His wisdom, His direction, that will keep our legs swiftly moving and our burdens light.

I’m cautious about this subject, because it can be misunderstood. "Looking at Jesus" is not another way of saying, "Ignore the realities of your life! Just sing praise songs and read your Bible; don’t worry; be happy!" We are not instructed to kick back, but to run! Looking to Jesus means that the fuel for this race does not come from our own resources, but from His resources. Faith in Jesus means I can face anything in this race, confident of His sovereignty and goodness and love. Why would I not look to Him in faith? Jesus is the author of this race, as well as the finisher and perfecter of our faith. The final verses in 1 Thessalonians make clear that Jesus is faithful to make you holy and blameless; He is the one who actually accomplishes the task!

So, run for God’s glory by fixing your eyes on Jesus:

. . . the One who has saved and is saving you . . .

. . . the One who is making you holy as you fellowship with Him in faith . . .

. . . the One who has faithfully fixed His grace-filled eyes on you.

those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

Next time: Part IV: Running the Race of Faith with Jesus’ Joy