I have been seeing a man from my neighborhood walking his dog when I run. I usually run past them a couple of times on my route. This dog is huge, ya’ll. He always shows his affection towards me with a growl and lunge in my direction. I am pretty sure I would just be a Scooby snack for this pup.
I find myself praying for protection as I approach them and for the man to have a really good grip on that leash! So far, that has been the case. The man is always kind and tells the dog to leave me alone, thankfully. That dog would chomp me down in one bite, without even chewing. I also pray for the dog, if he did get me, I would probably give him an upset tummy.
Then one morning as I ran on the opposite side of the road from them, I decided to take a different route back so I could avoid them all together. This sparked something biblical and reminded me of the scripture in I Corinthians 10:13 where it talks about temptations. God will not allow the temptations to be more than we can stand. When we are tempted, He will show us a way out so that we can endure.
God always provides a way out, a different route, if you will, to avoid the dangers of temptation and possible danger. But if we are not tuned in to listening for His direction and instruction, we are only relying on our limited way of thinking and that can get us in trouble. We cannot see the whole maze to find the best route on our own. Allow God’s perfect perspective guide us to the best path He has laid out.
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. I Corinthians 10:13
Agape is a Greek term for one of the highest forms of love in the Bible. This kind of love is rare and is modeled by Jesus when He died on the cross for us. It is a sacrificial, selfless, and unconditional.
Phileo, also a Greek term, is like brotherly love, but also one that shows strong affection, not expecting anything in return.
We see in John 13: 34-35, Jesus tells his disciples about a new commandment; to love one another as God loved them. In verse 38, He goes on to tell Peter that he will deny Him three times before the rooster crows. Peter is distraught, he insists that this will never happen. Yet, we read that it does.
In John 21:15-17, Jesus gives Peter a second chance. He restores him by asking him three times if he loves Him; the same number of times that Peter denied Jesus, he was given the opportunity to be redeemed to Jesus and respond to Him in love. I heard a minister speak about this once and say that the first two times Jesus asked Peter if he agape Him; and Peter answered both times that he phileo Him. But the third time Jesus met Peter where he was and asked if he phileo Him. Peter answered yes.
As I reflect on this, I believe if Jesus indeed asked Peter the first two times if he agape Him and then the third time if he phileo Him; Possibly Jesus knew He was asking a lot of Peter. This was the man who had just denied even knowing Jesus, when the going got rough. This kind of love, the highest form of love, may have been hard for Peter to claim in his shame and regret. A kind of love only Jesus had shown us; but Jesus kept on asking and changed to the level Peter could relate to so he could accept forgiveness.
For us, the closest we may come to knowing this kind of agape love is for a child. The other night, I dreamed that my son was about three years old and we were in a foreign land. I wanted to go explore and take photos of a beautiful waterfall I could see in the distance, but every time I turned around, he had taken off and I had to go find him. The third time, I was not able to find him anywhere. I was scared that I wouldn’t or that something terrible happened to him. I looked around and saw him coming towards me through a marsh, up to his waist in muck. I ran out to meet him and grabbed him in my arms, whispering in his ear how scared I was, and I asked him to please not run off again.
I see this as how God comes after us when we are lost. We are in a foreign land, but we can see glimpses of the beauty and glory to come. God picks us up out of the muck, comforts us and gently asks us not to leave again, whispers of love. He loves us so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for us. The crucifixion and resurrection prove Jesus’ love and the love of the Father. Agape love.
If you have a friend who is kind and loving and you consider to be your best friend, don’t you want to introduce them to everyone you meet? In the same way, I want to introduce my Friend, Jesus to everyone I meet. He rewrote my story. He redeemed all the miserable years and all my tears. I hope to show others who He is by the way I live and conduct myself. I pray to always be humble and kind, with a tender heart. Yes, He is the Leader of the world, Creator of all things, Master of the universe, but also a caring, kind, gentle, friend who wants the best for us, always. He restores and redeems. I know my story isn’t over. God is still writing it. He amazes me every day! I hope to soak it all up and enjoy every moment
It was nearing the end of the year and I was still praying for my word. Many times, God told me to ‘be brave’. Knowing I would need to be brave for what He was calling me to do in the upcoming year, I quickly adopted ‘brave’ as my word for 2020.
One of the things I felt God was calling me to do this year was start a support group for women. Still learning and healing from my own past abuse, I knew I had a story to share and could help others walk through their stories as well as teach the red flags of abuse. But I had never led a support group before. I prayed for God to help me as I attempted to help other women.
I basically feel, like most of my assignments, I just need to be willing and show up. God will handle the rest. As many times before, when I show up, He shows out. So, I know I can trust Him with the outcome. I just have to take the next step. I registered my group and continued praying for guidance and help.
A couple of weeks into the new year, sitting in my quiet time, I was given the word, ‘echo’ in a very distinct manner. God knowing me like He does, I went to search the spiritual meaning of the word. As I am surfing the internet, letting the Spirit lead me, I found a women’s ministry and a blog post entitled, “To Be God’s Echo”. I read the article and found a beautiful story and explanation that the opportunity to tell people again what God had already said was to be an echo of the Almighty. It went on to say we must first listen to what He has said.
I love that! It spoke directly to my heart for serving women through Faith Walk Ministries and the Sister’s Circle support group. The author went on to say as she is ministering to women, she focuses on three words: encourage, embrace and echo. I can relate to all three of these words as one of my Spiritual gifts is to encourage others, I pray often that I will never hurt others with my words but lift them up and encourage them. In anticipation of the group, I designed a logo for the Sister’s Circle which is two women embracing each other in a hug. (Ya’ll know I am fond of hugs) And now to have a word that completes it, to be an echo in the lives of others, to breathe God’s truth and love by being an echo to His heart. I know God is still calling me to be brave but my new word for 2020 has been given to me from the purest of hearts…ECHO. I am amazed every day and look forward to echoing His truth not only throughout the coming year but continue throughout my ministry wherever He leads me.
Since becoming a runner about nine years ago, it has never been my goal to run a marathon. The longest race I completed was a 10K (6.2 mi.) and the longest run on my own has been 7 miles. These days I do about 3 miles each day or sometimes 4 if I have time and am feeling good. I have learned to listen to my body and take a break when it needs to rest. This allows me to be stronger when I do go back out.
My main goal is to run for my health not to damage it. For me, that is what I would be doing if I trained for a marathon. Finding out I have the first stages of osteoporosis and that running is good for my bones only added to the many beneficial reasons for continuing this sport. I enjoy running and spending that time with God. I don’t want to turn it into something I dread. Besides, this is where a lot of these messages come from…my time with God in nature. I have the time to process, pray and receive. God teaches me a lot, but I realize it isn’t just for me, so I share it with others in hopes it blesses them as well.
However, when I think about the things God is preparing us for it reminds me that the opposite is true. It is in God’s timing. Most of the time He reminds us that it is a marathon, not a sprint. We can celebrate the milestones along the way, remember to take breaks, rest, and enjoy the beauty of the journey. We may not know the end goal of our trainings, but God does. We can slow our pace and take one day at a time.
Our experiences and lessons along the way can be used to help others. Sometimes, we think we know where we are headed only to be shifted in a completely new direction and focus. If we are staying our course, with God as the leader, we can rest assured we will get wherever we are going at just the right time. We shouldn’t settle on anything less. It may take a little longer but that is the nature of the marathon.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Hebrews 12:1
Do you believe God parted the Red Sea as though it were dry ground? Do you believe the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down? Do you believe God shut the mouths of lions, quenched flames of fire and placed Jonah in the belly of a whale? Do you believe Noah built an ark to save his family from the flood? I could go on and on through scripture how God saved His people, preformed miracles and changed lives through the faith of His people.
I believe because I have seen first hand in my own life how God spared my life from a tragic car accident, saved me from an abusive relationship, brought good out of my mistakes and bad decisions, and I could on and on about that as well.
We all have our blanks? How do you fill in the blank? What have you seen God do in your life that causes you to believe?
I believe because God saved me from________________________________________.
How has God changed your life so much that you know it could only be Him?
So why not trust Him with this?
Whatever your ‘this’ is right now. That daunting thing that looks overwhelming, but you know God brought you to it. It reminds me of the song lyrics, ‘I’ve seen You move, You move the mountains, and I believe I will see You do it again.’ Friend, when we’ve seen God work in our lives before, we can believe He will do it again. If we believe we can receive everything He has for us, in full measure and abundance. If we believe we will receive. Hold tight to that confidence- not in ourselves but in what God can do in and through us when we believe, have faith and trust Him with the results.
This also comes with a warning; it probably won’t look like what we thought, but we can trust God with the outcome and believe where He is leading us will be even better than we ever imagined for ourselves.
When you get a chance, read through Hebrews chapter 11. Refresh yourself in one chapter with what all God has achieved through those who believed.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.Isaiah 40:31
I love God’s heart. For a lot of us our childhood memories come with a sense of innocence. I had a ton of great memories on our front porch. It brings back so many images to my mind. A place of firsts. Firsts certainly contain a load of innocence. First memory, first word, first step, laughter, singing, loss, tears, family and friends, music out the bedroom window, swinging, pets, long conversations, sleepy eyes, fireflies, hellos, and goodbyes.
First bike, first car, first crush, wedding day jitters, first house, first job, first baby, singing lullabies. I could go on and on. Even though our front porch saw a lot of these firsts, for me, it also was the place I first lost some of my innocence. But that one memory does not have to taint all the others. I was reminded that God restores our innocence. Through all the things we have done since our more innocent days of childhood; We can rest assured God has redeemed it all through His Son, Jesus.
Not only to our level of childlike memories, but to His superlative standards of innocence. That brings a new level of renewed hope and joy, as we travel the high road, looking to the Rock for our comfort and protection. God loves us that much. His heart is so full of love for us that He chose to save us and restore our innocence so we can be free.
From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2
I look up to the mountains- does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! Psalm 121:1-2
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun. Psalm 37:6
I have learned to distinguish a cardinal from other birds by their call. Even when I can’t see them, I know there is one close by because I hear it.
We have been watching the Masked Singer lately- this is where a group of celebrities in costume compete against each other in a singing competition while a celebrity panel of judges tries to guess who they are. As they are eliminated in the competition, they are unmasked. Most of the time it is a total surprise who they are. But the last show we watched was different; one of the panelists recognized the voice of the singer- they were friends, so she had no doubt who it was. A friend recognizes the voice of a friend. She wasn’t wrong.
We can also learn how to recognize God’s voice and train our ear to listen for it; even when we cannot see Him. We can know He is near- He never leaves us or forsakes us. Sometimes we feel distant because of our sin or simply because we do not take the time to be still, learn His voice and pay attention.
God is the One person we do not have to social distance from during this time of quarantine. Quite the opposite, now is the perfect opportunity, as we have more time at home, to rekindle our relationship with the Father. If you have not experienced a close relationship with Him before, it is a great time to start one through the reading of His word, sitting in quiet time with the Spirit and asking for discernment to understand His voice.
It is also a great opportunity to pray for God’s people all over the world- as we are experiencing the same trials- (I Peter 5:9) We are not alone in our suffering. Not only are there others going through the same things; but God is always with us. He never leaves us alone or forsakes us. These song lyrics have been on my mind for several days: “I’ve seen the lightning flashing and heard the thunder roll…. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.” You have a friend that is closer than a brother that you can talk to anytime. His door is always open. He is always listening and waiting for you to come to Him. He knows exactly what you are going through right now.
God’s faithfulness is everlasting. Draw near and abide in Him. His promises stand true. Trust Him to be your constant companion- even though you may not see Him. You can know that He is there. It is in the knowing and trusting that brings a peace and comfort like no other.
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. John 15:4
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27