Walk

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I have been getting up early every morning to go walking.  I started about ten weeks after our youngest was born, so in May I will have walked about 1.75 miles every day for seventeen years.  Over the course of the last year as I have struggled with my health, it has been sheer determination and will power that has gotten me out of bed and out walking.  I am so glad I persisted despite how I have felt because I think that the consistency of it has helped me to at least not get any weaker.  I miss a few days here and there for lightening or for below zero temperatures, but my pattern is no matter where we are I make sure to get my walk.  1.75 miles does not seem like that much especially compared with some of these runners that run 8 miles a day, but figuring on the low side over the last seventeen years I have walked about 10,000 miles.  I could have walked the USA coast to coast three times.  (Just figuring that out has been amazing to me.)

Sometimes in Scripture we get long detailed accounts of a story or a person’s life.  The battle of Jericho goes into detail.  The ten plagues received a rather detailed account.  Joseph and Moses received a rather vivid portrayal of the events in their lives.  Other times, we get a quick Polaroid and are left to search out the hidden clues that are in the picture, with the only way to view the movie is to piece together what we see in the snap shot.  So is the life of Enoch. Enoch is mentioned nine times in Scripture with four of those times related to his genealogy.  Five verses with Enoch’s name and yet the details that are included make us want to pull up a chair by the fire, grab a cup of tea, and hear the rest of the story.  God does not include the “rest of the story” so we must take what we know about God and His word and apply it to the life of Enoch.

“Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years.  Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.” (Genesis 5:22-24)

When?  Enoch walked with God AFTER he fathered Methuselah.  He was 65 before he started walking with God.

How long?  Enoch walked with God for 300 years.

Result?  Enoch did not see death because he walked with God.

The Hebrew word, halak, not only is used for walk but also for continually and going forward.  The principle from Enoch’s life is that he went continually forward in his life side by side with God.  As we consider a journey on the path of life, God did not go ahead of Enoch nor did He go behind Enoch, rather they walked side by side on the journey of Enoch’s life.  It denotes a special relationship that takes place over the course of time.  I have this picture in my mind of Enoch eager to wake up in the morning to spend time walking with God, Enoch talking to God as he went about his daily chores, Enoch consulting and talking through with God the many decisions he had to make throughout his day.  No matter what meeting or interaction Enoch had, God was there with him as part of the interaction.

As we walk with someone through life we begin to become more like them.  Not only is there a resemblance, but also a joy in being together.  There is also a sacrifice when we spend time with God devoted to walking with Him because the time we spend with Him is taken away from something else we might rather enjoy doing.  As we begin to make this sacrifice of our wants, needs, or desires to walk with God more faithfully, it stops feeling like a sacrifice and more like the central joy of our lives.  After all Jesus has done for us, He deserves nothing less than what He created us for: relationship with Him.

According to the Westminster Catechism “the chief end of man is to love God and enjoy Him forever.”  This is all about walking with God, having a relationship with God.  It’s not putting in our time, reading our Bible and saying a quick prayer.  It’s more than that.  It is the most important relationship that pervades every aspect of our lives.

“By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him.  Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.” (Hebrews 11:5).

Enoch pleased God because He walked with God.  As I have spent time in prayer every morning seeking to walk with God, I have seen sin in my life that I would have never seen if I had not changed the way I went about my time with the Lord every morning.  Relationship takes time and devotion.

As I consider the miles I have logged walking every morning over the last 17 years, I wonder if God could say I have walked just as faithfully with Him through life.  Walking with God is not a box to be checked, but rather a lifestyle to be lived.  The time that I spend with my open Bible on my knees as I kneel before my Savior has become the sweetest time of my day.  I look forward to it. It has changed me.

What would God say about your walk?

Talk Stories

 

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Recently on our trip to Hawaii to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, I heard a phrase that was oft repeated by the local Hawaiians: “talk story.”  They do not tell stories, they talk stories.  At the heart of the difference between these two phrases is relationship.  Whether meeting someone new or greeting a longtime friend, talking stories is an exchange that takes place between two people who share their stories.  It’s about connecting on a deeper level with someone.  It’s the social interaction of storytelling that becomes an event.  It is stopping long enough to hear another’s story and then share your own.  Talking stories emphasizes the importance of people and their life stories and the relationship that can develop because of shared stories.

This concept is not new but has been around for centuries.  Moses wrote about it in Deuteronomy.  David wrote about it in Psalms.  Joshua wrote about it in Joshua.  The Bible is full of encouragement for us to “talk stories.”

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk to them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. “  (Deuteronomy 6:4-7).  Hear, teach, and talk are the commands that God gives to the children of Israel.  They are to hear, pay attention to this very important commandment.  Love God with every part of your being.

My question is, “How do we practically live this out in our every day lives?”

I often wonder if a tape recorder was attached to me and recorded my every word for a week, could anyone listen to what I had to say and know that I love God.  What would my verbal testimony be on a daily basis?

These verses in Deuteronomy 6 are very clear about what the average of our words should be: love God with all your being.  Now the stated obvious is if my life does not match my words than my words are null and void.

As I have purposed to make my time with the Lord more meaningful over the last months, I have also tried to be purposeful in sharing with our daughters about this journey I am on. I want them to know that walking with Christ every day is not always easy.  Sometimes, my heart tells me one thing and my head filled with the knowledge of Scripture tells me something else. Sometimes, my thoughts are not Scriptural and the Holy Spirit must do His work and remind me of the faithfulness of my Savior.

The key point I want to emphasize is this: Talk about your journey with the Lord.  Talk stories so that as you are sharing with someone else what God is doing in your life, they also want to share with you what God is doing in their life.

“O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds you have performed in their days in the days of old.  In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to Your name forever.” (Psalm 44:1, 8).

We are reminded by the Psalmist again, that what God has done should be rehearsed before the children.  Sometime during the four hundred year captivity of the Israelites in Egypt, they forgot to rehearse what God had done for them.  The children did not hear their parents “talk stories” at the end of their long days working for Pharaoh. Somewhere along the way in their journey in the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land, they forgot to rehearse with their children all the great things God had done for them.  The children did not hear their parents “talk stories” around the camp fires at night.  We see this evidenced in their frequent bent to complaining and their lack of trust in God to provide for them.

I have found that as I rehearse these stories of God’s faithfulness to me, it is not just about telling others (especially our daughters) it is also a reminder to me of God’s faithfulness.  When I share what God has done for me with others, it reminds me as well of what He has done.

If God is not working in our lives, then there is nothing to share.  If our time with the Lord is more about checking the box rather than deepening our relationship with Him, then there will be nothing to share.

“But His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither, in all that he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:2, 3).

The fruit on the tree comes from the depth of the roots.  The stories we rehearse with our children and those around us come from the depth of our relationship with God.  So many heroes of the faith we could use as examples that shared with us about their walk with the Lord.  George Mueller has become my favorite because he wrote in his autobiography what a daily intimate walk with the Lord looks like.  The ups and downs.  The trials and the blessings.  He doesn’t hide behind a pretense.  As I read his autobiography, I saw for the first time what a genuine daily walk with the Lord really looks like lived out in a day by day way.  My heart’s desire is to be that to my daughters and others I come in contact with.  God has given me a story to tell, and if I do not share what He has done in my life then I am not only being disobedient, I am also denying Him the glory due to His name.  God desires for us to “talk stories.”

“I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations; therefore nations will praise you forever and ever.” (Psalms 45:17)

Talk stories.

Steadfast Love

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In my journey with my Lord over the last months, I have prayed a Psalm a day.  Have you ever done that?  If you have not, I would highly recommend it.  Let the words of David be your prayer.  As God brings a situation to your mind as you pray through the Psalm, pray about that situation.  Many, many times I have started to pray the Psalm for that day and been in tears crying out to the Lord, “This is the Psalm I needed today.”

 

As I have done this exercise of praying through the Psalms, I began to be aware of 2 repeating words “steadfast love.” It is used 127 times in the book of Psalms.  Jonah in the midst of his bitter tirade to God says, “That is why I made to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” (Jonah 4:2).  Jonah was angry at God for His grace, His mercy, His slowness to anger, His steadfast love, and His relenting from disaster.  God wanted to bestow these things on a country that did not deserve it and Jonah told God so.  In other words Jonah was telling God, be nice to me but you should not be nice to these people; they do not deserve it. This reminds me of the brother of the prodigal son.  He was angry at his father for being nice to his prodigal brother, because he as the older brother “had served his father for many years and never disobeyed his command.” (Luke 15:29).  Rather than rejoicing over the return of his prodigal brother, he in bitterness said, “What about me?”

 

I am going to be honest, I have struggled often with the older brother complex.  Yet, God in His patience with me has walked me through the Psalms and confronted me of my sin and poured His steadfast love into me.  It is such a slow process as I have to be willing to give up the sins I cling to.  They are comfortable and they protect me.  The sin of praying, “my will be done.”  Have you done that?  The sin of selfishness.  The sin of insecurity.  As God sits with me each morning, we make new discoveries together.  He heals the brokenness in my heart.  He helps me to see the wrong thinking I believe.  So often I pray and release these sins and feel a cleansing, but they are so comfortable I take them back and God patiently asks me for them again.  All He wants to give to me is His steadfast love.  David in his prayers kept going back to God’s steadfast love.  David poured out His heart before God, and God poured out His steadfast love.  David is said to be “a man after God’s own heart.”  How can this be since he committed some pretty despicable sins?  Acts 13:22 answers this question. “…He raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.”  When David is confronted by Nathan with his sin, he does not make any excuses, rather he says, “I have sinned against the Lord.” (II Samuel 12:13). Recorded for us in Psalm 51 is David’s prayer to the Lord regarding these grievous sins.  He starts his prayer to God with a plea for God’s steadfast love. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love…” (Psalm 51:1).  When confronted with his sin, David bows before the Lord knowing he sinned against the Lord, and then appealed to God’s steadfast love knowing how vast it is.

 

When I read these verses in Jonah, I am overwhelmed with what Jonah said about God’s steadfast love.  Do you see it?  It is abounding.  God doesn’t have just enough, He has an overflowing never ending supply.  God has enough love for every person in the world, and not just enough for each person but an overflowing, abounding amount of steadfast love.  Love that does not change based on what we do.

 

Maybe as you read this, you are feeling down over the situations in your life.  Maybe you feel rejected or unloved.  Maybe someone is receiving God’s love, grace, and mercy that does not deserve it. Remember, God’s steadfast love is not just abounding and overflowing it is also steadfast.  It doesn’t change nor does it move.  It is a faithful love for us.  No matter what we do, God loves us.  Those who have not accepted Him as their Lord and Savior can even see God’s love for them, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16).  We do not deserve this love, but God so generously wants to give it to us and to those who we feel do not deserve it.  May God’s steadfast love surround you today!

No Greater Joy

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Many of us are familiar with the children’s book by Michael Rosen (1989) “Going on a Bear Hunt.”  As the story goes there are obstacles on the path that is being followed in order to catch the bear.  The long wavy grass, the deep, cold river, the thick oozy mud, the big dark forest, a snowstorm, and a cave are obstacles on the way to find the bear. As the story goes, “can’t go over it, can’t go under it, we’ve got to go through it.”  In other words the obstacle cannot be avoided.  In order to get to the other side, we must go through it.

 

Life is pretty similar to this children’s story.  We can’t go over, under, or around; we must go through the obstacle.  These obstacles in the paths of our lives are also tests of our character.  We try to go around, over, or under the obstacle; but God in His desire for growth in our lives keeps prodding us back to the path through the obstacle.

 

I have watched our daughters go through various trials over the course of the last year, and as much as we wanted to go around some of these trials or pray them away; God in His infinite wisdom steered them back through the trial.

 

Danielle began a beautiful relationship with a young man at the beginning of 2016.  My heart has been thrilled as I watch this relationship follow the pattern of a godly relationship that focuses on Christ and how He can be glorified through their relationship.  They spend time in God’s Word each week sharing what God is doing in their hearts and lives.  They have set physical boundaries that keep them pure.  In August, after struggling with his health for many months, Aaron was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  The news was devastating for everyone, but Aaron being a fighter met this challenge head on and Danielle along with his many family members and friends walked beside him through the challenge of chemo.  She was able to keep up her studies, a job, and twice weekly visits to Columbus, an hour away from Cedarville University, to sit by Aaron as he received chemo and encourage him since he was confined to keep him free of infections.  Through all of this, Aaron and Danielle grew in their walk with the Lord together and were a testimony for all to see.  There was never any complaining or questioning God’s plan, rather there was complete faith in God for the challenges that lay before them.  Aaron is now cancer free and returned to Cedarville to continue on the next part of the journey God has for him.  “Gotta go through it!”

 

Denise has gone through many challenges in her short life of eighteen years.  As she began to prepare for her college years this past summer, she made the difficult decision to not play soccer for Cedarville University.  She chose to play intramural soccer so she could spend more time on her studies and develop friendships.  Even though I had encouraged her to play for the university, I watched her make this difficult sacrifice of something she loved in order to focus on the true purpose of college-studying, learning, and receiving a degree.  In October, during one of her intramural games she tore her other ACL.  (She had torn the other one a few years earlier playing soccer).  After surgery, the surgeon told me she should no longer play soccer.  As I watched this sweet girl go through this, I saw the joy of the Lord continue to emanate from her life and be an example to those around her.  She completed her semester at Cedarville despite having surgery.  Through all of this there was never any bitterness toward God, but rather a faith in God and the journey He had her on. “Gotta go through it!”

 

Delaney having never moved in her life was faced with the challenge of moving from her childhood home, childhood friends, and all she had ever known.  As a junior in high school, she knew that life would not be the same.  Yet, now six months later God has allowed her heart to be more sensitive and observant of the needs of others.  She sees that even when we resist the changes that God has in our lives, if we trust Him for the results He will bless us in ways that we never dreamed were possible.  “Gotta go through it!”

 

As I watch the growth of these sweet girls, I praise my Lord for what He is doing in their lives.  “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (III John 4).  As we have grown and walked together through these struggles, I am thankful that rather than going around the trial in their own strength they have chosen to walk with God “through it!”