Get It Done

[Note: I posted this up on the Facebook wall of my church’s youth group on December 31, 2014.  Every year, in lieu of making a list of resolutions, I typically pray about a verse/passage that I will meditate on over the next year.  In 2014, I focused on “abiding” a la John 15.  2015 is all about “being strong in the Lord” and “getting things done” in the spirit of 1 Chronicles 28:20]

I had a really hard time falling asleep last night.

I don’t think I suffer from insomnia, nor do I believe it was the fault of the adrenaline still pumping through my veins after singing T. Swizzle songs with Michael and Hubert. Instead, I place blame solely on the two adults in the attached photo. Many of you know them. They gave an… interesting… talk on relationships once. Getting back to my original point, I don’t know if your parents snore, but God saw fit to place me in a family where two were joined in holy matrimony.

As 11:30 rolled around, I tried to extract lemonade out of my situation by turning it into a game. Was that cavernous rumble the sign of a tongue base snorer? Dad, is that you? As the snores began to increase in volume and mingle, it hit me. An old memory of a family vacation, where we stayed in a two bedroom Residence Inn suite, came rolling through my conscious mind (http://www.residenceinn.marriott.com/tour?fp=2br-fp – scroll down for the floor plan). My mom and I were in one room, while my dad and little brothers were in the other. I remember missing out on the little window of opportunity to fall asleep before my parents (curse the temptation that was Nickelodeon to a girl whose parents refused to subscribe to cable). By the time I pried my eyes away from the umpteenth episode of Rugrats, at around 1/2 AM, and I headed for my room, my mom was already fast asleep and… snoring.

I must have tossed and turned for another hour before deciding that I had had enough. Thoroughly frustrated, I grabbed my pillows and marched out to the living room. I threw them onto the couch, curled up into the fetal position, and closed my eyes… only to come to the horrible realization that I was now stuck in a living room DMZ with my mom on one side… and my dad on the other. Let’s just say that I don’t remember being a very pleasant person later that morning.

But as the memory played out last night to the soundtrack of only more deafening snores, I found my reaction to be quite different: I laughed.  Not the kind of wild laughter that comes from an attempt to dodge pain by untethering oneself from reality and going off the proverbial deep-end. Not the kind that succumbs to the pain, marked by a rueful sardonicism at being dealt “a bad hand” and no longer having the will to keep playing. No and no.

Instead, it was the kind of laughter that bubbles up from a soul that experiences what David penned in Psalm 27:13 – “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (NASB). It’s the kind of laughter that bursts forth from someone who can still feel all the feels, but now knows that they can thrive in the midst of it, because they are held in the hands of their loving Heavenly Father who has seen them through, and has redeemed their pain.

Too much? I mean, really? Not despairing over snoring? Is that really a noteworthy triumph/example of God’s goodness?

Well, the snoring didn’t just trigger the aforementioned memory with my nuclear family, but many others with my family in Christ. Like the first Friday back in April where we went through 1 Peter 1:3-9. The first Friday my family spent with my dad in Chicago (I had dropped him off at San Jose International Airport just the previous Sunday). The first and rawest (and not in the positive way Sam uses it) Friday when things were tumultuous at home, and between my parents, and my heart was so heavy thinking about how this felt like one of the “various trials” that God’s children would be grieved by “so that the tested genuineness of [their] faith-more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” When I admitted that it felt like the flames were turning my faith to ashes and I was struggling so hard to be hopeful. When Pastor Johnson walked clear across the room and just had everyone in junior high lay hands on and pray for me. And KK, Matthew, and Teru provided me with enough handfuls of Kleenex to clog every toilet in the church… so I took one for the team and just used them to wipe away all my tears.

I had a really hard time falling asleep last night… because I was just so filled with gratitude.

On September 2nd, I booked a Thanksgiving flight for my dad. (See? Sometimes I can plan ahead!) He was supposed to fly in on November 27th, and then depart for Chicago on November 30th. The day after my birthday, September 19th, he sent me a text message saying that all of the contractors were being let go, and that he would be home in two weeks. On September 29th, I successfully converted his flight from a roundtrip over Thanksgiving, to a one-way flight into SFO on Saturday, October 4th. The following Monday, he had an interview with the Space Science Laboratory in Berkeley. A few weeks later, they offered him a full time position.

And on Thanksgiving morning, the screen of my phone lit up with a Google calendar alert that I had forgotten to delete, an alert telling me that my dad was going to be flying in that morning…

Yes, last night I reflected on how grateful I am to have my dad back (even if it’s gone from there being a solo snorer in the house to a duet). But I also realized that my joy is not solely tied to this change in circumstance; instead, I am overwhelmingly grateful to be able to look back on the chapter of my life that 2014 comprises, and say that even though it has been filled with a fair amount of trials, I have not gone through them alone. God has been there each step of the way, encouraging me through His word.

A few weeks ago, I was reading through 1 Chronicles 28, where King David prepares to hand the building of the house of God off to his son, Solomon, who he acknowledges is “young and inexperienced” (1 Chr. 22:5). In 1 Chronicles 28:9-19, David gives Solomon all of the building plans, from the layouts of the chambers and treasuries, to the weight of precious metals for lampstands, and then ends his charge with these words:

“Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished” (1 Chr. 28:20).

I can say quite honestly that I never envisioned being in the place I am now when I first came to San Ramon that first Friday, May 3rd, 2013. That is, single in terms of relationship status, and also in leadership. It’s easy for my mind to have that word connote being alone and abandoned in some ways. It’s easy for my shoulders to tense up as I think of all the things I need to coordinate and how little time I have to do it. It’s easy for me to feel the flames of this trial begin to singe my faith. It’s just all too easy to fear and be dismayed.

But God has shown me 2 things in 1 Chronicles:

1) He Can Be Trusted:
If God could help the “young and inexperienced” Solomon build His house, He can be trusted to build our youth group in 2015 and beyond, to make us even more of a family and united Body that reflects His goodness and love. Yes, there will be work for all of us to do, but above and beyond that, we can “be strong and courageous and do it” because God is with us.

2) He Has Given Us One Another So That We Can Build Each Other Up:
Does the phrase “be strong and courageous” sound familiar to any of you? I’m sure Joshua 1:9 was a memory verse for many.

I did a search of the phrase and it turns out that in Deuteronomy 3:28, God tells Moses to “charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him.” And later in Deuteronomy 31:6, Moses tells Joshua to “be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of [enemy nations], for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

In the middle of tough times, I’m all too prone to retreat into myself and away from other people, to forget God’s promises and, once in self-imposed isolation, to falter under the weight of my own doubts and fears.

What I saw between Deuteronomy and 1 Chronicles, from Moses and Joshua to David and Solomon, is a pattern of mutual encouragement that is, from the very beginning, something that God desires for us to do for one another.

Speaking for myself, it has been such a blessing to know all of you! Each time I’ve faltered, whether that was over family strife or with ministry leadership changes, there has been no shortage of listening ears, prayer partners, encouraging words, smiles, hugs, offers of boba, etc. Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen the internal tide of my thoughts turn from worry, to joy and hope, and I know that I didn’t get there alone.

All in all, I had a really hard time falling asleep last night because I was just so filled with gratitude… as I reflected on how truly blessed I am to know all of you.

Happy New Year, brothers & sisters. Thank you so much for walking with me through the valleys and peaks of 2014. I greatly look forward to, as one of you so succinctly put it in a letter, “kicking butt in 2015.”

Amen, amen.

Speak Life [Part Two]

Part One: HERE

In blue pen were the words: “Inspired! 1 Thess. 1:3”:

Inspired - 1 Thess. 1:3

Inspired – 1 Thess. 1:3

The sight of something handwritten like that made me smile.  I’ve done bulk mailing before and it can become such a mindless task without any real sentiment or feeling behind it.  And the fact that the same letter is being sent out to so many people, without any personalization except for maybe the name used within and the address printed on the front, can be sterile enough to make the message communicated seem impotent.

I wasn’t familiar with 1 Thess. 1:3 off the top of my head, so I had to look it up.  When I did, my smile just grew:

[…]remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Work of faith.  Labor of love.  Steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ… before our God and Father.

I’m not sure who took the time to pen that verse onto that letter, but whoever did, I pray that God would continue to inspire that brother or sister to keep sharing encouragement like that.

***

Group 3′s Poster – Seed Among Thorns [Mark 4:7 + 4:18-19]

Group 3′s Poster – Seed Among Thorns [Mark 4:7 + 4:18-19]

There are many verses and passages in The Bible that talk about the power of the tongue and how the very words that we speak can either build people up or tear them down emotionally.  One of my favorites is Proverbs 18:20-21:

“From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips.  Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

I have struggled, and continue to struggle, in this area of life.  I won’t enumerate all of my struggles, at least not in this post anyway, but I do want to touch on one that I believe God impressed upon my heart at the sight of that letter from VOM.  

I benefited greatly from what that person took the time to write down, from them pointing me to the encouragement and edification that is always available in Scripture.

But how often do I allow myself to be used by God to do that for others?  

I always ask God what He wants to say to me when I enter a time of personal Bible study, but what is the frequency with which I ask Him to show me a word of encouragement for others?  

And in circumstances where I do receive words from Him to give to someone else, how often do I succumb to the temptation to withhold those precious words if I am upset with the other person?   

As the Spirit impressed those questions upon my heart last weekend, I was also reminded of Proverbs 3:27-28:

“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.  Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it’-when you have it with you.”

 

Group 4′s Poster – Seed in Good Soil [Mark 4:8-9 + 4:20]

Group 4′s Poster – Seed in Good Soil [Mark 4:8-9 + 4:20]

Yes, indeed.  Where would I be if God had withheld Jesus from me?  Where would I be if Jesus withheld His life from me?  I don’t even want to think about it.  

In prayer, I confessed to God the numerous instances in just that week alone (Holy Week of all weeks!), in which I had selfishly kept back good words from Him to others.  I repented, and I know that this is a real area of struggle that I will need to continue to be aware of in the days to come.  In this week, I have tried to be more open to being a conduit and channel for God’s love through spoken and written words.  I hope that this blog post was part of that for you who are reading.  And I pray that you will also be more sensitive to the moments when you, too can speak words of encouragement and “life” to those around you.

***

On a side note, the poster images that adorn this post and the previous one in this “Speak Life” series, were the product of last Friday’s youth fellowship.  I think all of the junior high students did really well considering the fact that I gave them less than half an hour to work on these (they were asked to illustrate the literal and figurative meanings of this particle parable, and then present to the group at large).  Later on, they had some time to reflect and journal on which situation they thought best represented where they were.  

Please partner with me in praying that God would enter their hearts and transform their lives, and that they would be the good soil that bears 30, 60, and even 100-fold.

 

Speak Life [Part One]

Group 1's Poster - Seed on the Path [Mark 4:3-4 + 4:13-15]

Group 1’s Poster – Seed on the Path [Mark 4:3-4 + 4:13-15]

As I headed home from work last Friday, I began to feel very tense as I thought about the passage we were going to be going over during the youth fellowship that night.  I had prepared an activity around The Parable of the Sower from Mark 4:1-20, and as I thought of the youth, of my desire to see the Gospel of Christ take hold in the good soil of their hearts, to see them freed and walking with God, I felt… angry.  At God. “Don’t you care about them, God?  Or do you just not save and sanctify people until they’re older?  Can you even save youth?”  I fumed out loud as I drove to pick up my younger brothers.  But as the words leaped like hot drops of oil from a heated pan, I cringed as my mind was being singed as it processed out what it was I was actually saying.  Of course He cared.  Who was I, having barely known these youth for a year, to dare question His interest in them as their, and my, Creator?  And of course He desired their salvation and new life in Him.  Sure, I might give of some of my time and my attention each week, but He already gave His only begotten Son for the salvation of the world.  And of course He was not only willing, but very much able.  And I felt like at that moment, God gently asked me how it was I even came to know Him.  After all, I had rejected Him in high school.  I had thought I knew all there was to know about Him and just decided that He was wanting.  And even after He took the scales from my eyes in college, how many ways did I misunderstand and disobey Him still?  But no matter how often I careened my life to the right and to the left, He was and is so, so faithful to continue the work that He began in my life (Philippians 1:6). As the truth cut through my impassioned, accusatory questions, I was left with one uncomfortable question of where all of that had really come from.  Yes, I still felt angry, but now I knew that that clearly was not something based on anything God had(n’t) done.  So what was I really angry about?  Who was I really angry at?  When the answer slid across my mind’s marquee, I felt so empty. I was angry at myself because I was powerless, utterly powerless, to save anyone.

Group 2's Poster - Seed in Rocky Soil [Mark 4:5-6 + 4:13-16-17]

Group 2’s Poster – Seed in Rocky Soil [Mark 4:5-6 + 4:13-16-17]

I know, I know.  I am aware that I always carry phrases like “God calls us to be faithful” or “salvation is God’s work alone” around, but what my frustrations tell me is that those things, more often than not, only float like lifesavers in a pool.  A portion of them might make contact with the water, but they are never fully submerged.  My frustrations tell me that there are places in my heart where I am more than one who sows like Paul or waters like Apollos.  Oh no.  In those places, am the one who “gives the increase,” not God (1 Cor 3:6).  Yes, I felt wounded and angry.  But what was wounded was my pride. 

***

Now, it’s not that we, as laborers in the great harvest, should be content to never gather.  That’s not it at all.  We should work enthusiastically for the Lord and passionately desire that others would come to have saving faith in Christ and eternal life.  But it has to be completely devoid of self.  And obviously enough from what I just shared, that’s very difficult for me.  It’s hard for me to not swerve off into making myself the center of it all, only to get angry at God for “not doing enough,” or other people for “not getting it enough,” and then back at myself for ultimately making a whole mess of things because I was wrong, wrong, wrong to begin with.  Ugh.

***

By the time I got home, I felt pretty exhausted with all of the questions, and just so caught up in the various threads of thought running through my mind.  I checked the mailbox before heading inside to put my things down.  Once in my room, I sifted through the mail.  Bills.  Credit card offers.  A letter from VOM.  Weekly circulars.  Stuff for my parents.  I picked up the envelope from VOM, and inside was a fairly standard letter, but scrawled at the end was something completely unexpected…

To Be Continued…

Part Two: HERE

One Week & Counting

My boyfriend, MH, is the Worship Leader and Youth Director of a church here in the Bay Area (that reallyyy narrows it down for ya, doesn’t it? lol).  As part of his duties, he coordinates and oversees the Youth Fellowship, which is comprised of both junior high and high school youth, and meets every Friday night from 7:30 to 9:30 PM.  Right now, everyone gathers together in the beginning for worship, announcements, and an icebreaker.  After this, the two groups branch off for their separate teaching and small group time.  Before the night ends, though, we all gather back together for a time of corporate prayer.

MH teaches the high school group on Fridays, and junior high is co-led by a mutual friend of ours from our Thursday night small group, and myself (we swap weeks).

Last Friday was my turn, and just as I began the lesson, I saw this message flash across my phone screen:Image

And even though the reality that he is in a place that falls into the Central Time Zone, while I am in the Pacific Time Zone is ever-present, things like this slice like a scalpel to my chest, leaving my innards bare.  Things like this betray the existence of a barrier that I have tried to erect in my conscious mind so that I can keep myself from feeling the full weight of this separation – the tiny paper cuts of loneliness, the mind searing worry over him out there without any family or friends, the soul shackling sense of helplessness.

So there I was last Friday night, surrounded by our junior high students, ready to go through 1 Peter 1:3-9 with them.  But when I began to go through the first verse of the passage for that night, I just couldn’t keep the heaviness in any longer.  I admitted to them that I had had a really rough time over the past couple of weeks, and that I was in such a vulnerable place emotionally, yes, but even more so spiritually.  I admitted that we were about to go through a passage that highlighted something I felt myself, in that week especially, to be bereft of, if not open to being apathetic to entirely – faith.

A Heavenly Inheritance

“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”

How do we as human beings typically react to tough times?

Confusion.  Yes.  Why is this happening, God?  Why my family?  Why me?

Anger.  Yes.  It’s all your fault, Dad and Mom!  You’re not really a loving God!

Fear.  Yes.  What are we going to do?  What’s going to happen to us?

I told the youth that I had not been immune from feeling any those emotions over the past few weeks, nor had I succeeded in keeping the following thoughts at bay: God hates me; God doesn’t love me; God isn’t in control.  Moreover, I confessed wanting to retreat away into myself and away from people.  I felt so defeated and forsaken that I didn’t want to go to church and I debated walking away from ministry commitments like that very Friday Night Fellowship.

But I decided to come that night because of the truths God reminded me of concerning Himself and His purposes for me as I read through that passage.

Verse 3 opens with “Blessed be.”  Blessed be.  Praise.  Well, that was certainly not something I felt like doing.  How could I in the midst of this trial?  The answer followed: “according to His abundant mercy [He] has begotten us again to a living hope.”  Mercy?  Living Hope?  Where?  My eyes saw a plainly packaged box before me.  I still needed to open it up so I reached for the ribbon, “a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

For as much as the Apostle Paul knew, I always used to wonder why he singled out and wrote that “[he] determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).  I guess such a question betrays what a baby I am in terms of my walk with God, that I saw, and still continue to see and react to, the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a small thing.  It’s for those who don’t yet know Jesus, but once you’re a Christian, well, you move on to meatier things.  Such ignorance has cost me greatly.

There I was questioning God’s ability to exert control in my family’s circumstances when it was His power that resurrected Jesus Christ from the dead.  There I was questioning God’s love for me when He so loved the world, that He sent Jesus to die for us all.  And through Christ’s death came the forgiveness of all my sins.  And through His resurrection and ascension, a living hope, and then some.

Verse 4 tells me it is “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away.”  The implications of the word “inheritance” humbled me.  After all, who normally receives such a thing?  Someone considered an heir, an offspring by the person who currently holds possession of, or dominion over, something.

It reminded me of one of my favorite verses, James 1:17: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

I was beset by so many fears and doubts concerning God and His goodness because I had forgotten who I was to Him, a beloved child, and I had ascribed characteristics to Him that were not His.  Yes, we in all of our humanity can change.  I, too, am capable of great evil, and can be moved to perform good acts because of many shifting and twisted, selfish and sterile motives.  God, however, is not like us, just on some larger scale.  He is good, and that never changes.

And my inheritance from Him?  A truly “good and perfect” gift, yes, but jumping back into 1 Peter 1:4, also “incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away.”  I can so intently fix my focus on the acquisition and loss of things in a world that is already fading away (1 John 2:17), that I completely compromise my own sense of peace.  Because I have invested myself into what thieves can break in and steal, and what moths and rust can destroy, my heart is tethered to this corrupt world and every tremor and quake causes palpitations threatening cardiac arrest (Matthew 6:19-21).

God, however, is not so myopic, and He urges me, even as I exist here in the flesh, to fix my eyes forward to where my inheritance is, “reserved in heaven for me.”  No matter how many troubles I face here on Earth, it will be nothing compared to the eternity I have in Heaven with God.  In Him, I do not have to see present sorrows in light of this life.  In Him, I can see present sorrows in the perspective befitting His child, that is to say, in the light of an eternal life in glory.

Verse 5 offers even more reassurance because we “are kept by the power of God […] for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”  However, we cannot forget that it is “through faith.”  Now faith is something that has, for the longest time, seemed very abstract to me.  I could rattle off a dictionary definition.  I could even put forth Hebrews 11:1-3, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.  By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”

But if you were to ask me what faith meant to me and how it existed in my life, well, I would be at a complete loss as to what to tell you.  And I think I still am in the middle of learning what God wants me to understand about it, but I think I’ve got a start on it.

The phrase, “have faith,” is meaningful, but I personally draw much more encouragement nowadays from hearing, “have faith in God unto salvation.”  My faith is in God.  I know Him.  I trust Him.  And it isn’t to no end; it is unto salvation.  And that is surely no small thing.

Verse 6 never fails to fill my spiritual lungs with clean air: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials.”  It is in the knowledge of my eternal salvation that I can and should “greatly rejoice.”  If I can be filled with momentary gratitude for the fleeting things of this life, how much more should I be filled with unfailing joy at the prospect of what my life in Christ is both in enabling me to live godly and free from sin in this life, but to be taken into a heavenly home in the next?

I have always respected how “real” this verse is, too, in acknowledging that there is suffering in this life, and that I will be “grieved by various trials”; nevertheless, putting them in perspective again, it is only “for a little while.”

When I was younger, I felt like people were telling me that it was great to be a Christian because life was going to just be fab-u-lous, that I’d be happy all the time, that my life would be devoid of pain so long as I did the right things (moralistic deism, essentially).  Needless to say, I would buckle under the weight of inevitable trials and end up embittered because I thought I had done everything I was supposed to, and yet here I was suffering while there were so many others who weren’t Christians and seemed, to my eyes, to be doing a lot better off.  There’s a lot that can be said and unpacked here, but I’m only going to touch on a small part of it – my attitude on one of the differences between being a Christian and not.

As 1 Peter 1:6 says, there are going to be trials in the Christian life.  Various trials.  And those who aren’t Christians face tough situations, too.  However, the difference that I have seen and experienced in my own life, as one who remembers what it was like to be without God, is that now as a Christian, I am not aloneand my suffering is not senseless or arbitrary.  My Father God is with me to comfort me (2 Cor. 1:3-5), and what mankind or the enemy might mean for evil, God can and does turn to my good (Gen. 50:20; Rom. 8:28).

Verse 7 reinforces the importance of “the genuineness of [our] faith” and tells us that it is “much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire.”  This is so important to grasp.  You see, if my present comfort is the most important thing, then when the things that I have attached my sense of security to are threatened (i.e. money, job, social standing, certain relationships, etc.), I feel like I am an utter failure.  However, if I prioritize the genuineness of my faith regardless of outside circumstances, well, I can remain grounded because I am with God and believe wholeheartedly that He is in control, just, loving, etc.

Such faith is also precious because it will be “found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” the very One who gave everything up for, and to, us (1 Peter 1:3).  There is truly none more worthy.

Verse 8 acknowledges that we love Him even though we have not seen Him, but even “though now [we] do not see Him, yet believing, [we] rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.”  Again, it is in believing and knowing Him that we can rejoice in any circumstance with “joy inexpressible and full of glory.”  Reading that description, I desire to pray that God would show me what that caliber of joy is like in Him.  Don’t you?

It also reminds me what the whole point of this blog is for me.  I greatly desire to know God’s will of being joyful always, praying without ceasing, and giving thanks in everything (1 Thess. 5:16-18).  But I realize that that isn’t so 1,2,3, automatic.  It is very much a choice.  Granted, a choice that is probably made easier only to the extent that my faith in Him has grown.

But what a blessing it is to be able to put our faith in a Savior who is “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” (Heb. 12:1-2).

I pray that Jesus will help us to see the joy that is set before all of us.  I pray that we, too, can despise whatever temporary shame and pain we find ourselves in, and come to receive, as this passage concludes in Verse 9, “the end of [our] faith-the salvation of [our] souls.”

Father, help us to know the truth; help us to know You.  And in the middle of the pain and anguish found in the trials of life, may our faith in You not waiver, but deepen.  Keep us through Your power, Lord, and see us safely to the glorious end You have planned for us with You in Heaven.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.