ARM Blog

I’ve been seeking to put Psalm 145:1-3 into practice. Especially the “I will bless You every day” part. Analyzing my day, I recognized that one of the missed opportunities to praise God was when I was driving. So, I have been worshiping on my way to the office.

One song that has been particularly meaningful on that daily journey is Jared Anderson’s “Beauty of the Lord.” In response to the love of Christ, the chorus says: “So I will declare the beauty of the Lord. Nothing compares to the beauty of the Lord. Jesus Your love it takes my breath away. Now I'm living everyday for the beauty of the Lord.”

One morning, admiring a flock of birds in the clear blue sky, I wholeheartedly voiced, “So I will declare the beauty of the Lord...” At that very moment, my windshield was splattered with aviary waste. This was no little white sprinkle. This was the aftermath of a multi-colored, multi-textured diet.

The contrast between what I was proclaiming and what I was seeing was further highlighted when “it” began to run down my windshield while I was singing “…nothing compares to the beauty of the Lord.” Thankfully, this mess was no match for a full washer fluid reservoir and recently purchased wiper blades.

I chuckled at the irony of wholeheartedly declaring the beauty of God’s breath-taking love while being showered with something rather ugly. But then sensed the Spirit remind me of a simple Truth: the beauty of God is not negated by ugly circumstances.

I know… that’s easy to say when it is just bird droppings on a windshield. However, in the face of challenges that set themselves up against our knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:4-5), it is a bit more difficult.

Perhaps there are circumstances that have literally postured themselves in between you and your knowledge of God. The prophet Habakkuk offers us a gift of faith… a beautiful “Even Though…Yet I Will Rejoice” prayer that I believe can help us take our thoughts captive. He writes, “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights (3:17-19 [NLT]).

Why not take some time and write your own “Even Though… Yet I Will Rejoice” prayer knowing that “…the God of all grace [Who imparts all blessing and favor], Who has called you to His [own] eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, and strengthen, and settle you” (1 Peter 5:10 [AMP]). Amen.

In Tennessee, there is just one major east-west corridor. Because of the volume of traffic, a single accident can trigger massive backups.

We recently experienced this reality first-hand. Just two miles from our exit, the traffic slowed then came to a halt. While we couldn’t see because of the semi in front of us, we knew the accident must have been pretty serious because of the numerous emergency and rescue vehicles that passed by on the narrow berm.

About 45 minutes later, traffic began to slowly move. I kept my foot on the brake anticipating that the truck in front of us would roll backwards a bit before moving forward. As expected, the truck eased backwards. But then, it continued to roll backwards. Knowing I could not back up, I sounded the horn and flashed the lights hoping to avoid this impending doom. But to no avail. The truck rolled right into us. Then, it pulled forward accompanied by the unpleasant sound of scraping.

We were blessed to get away with minor damage, quite mindful that this minor incident was nothing compared to the horror of the accident that triggered the back up in the first place.

Over the next few weeks, I replayed that experience in my mind. Each time I saw that large trailer rolling toward us, the stomach-churning feelings of helplessness in the face of impending impact were recycled. What do you do when there is nothing you can do? For us, the answer was “Hold on and pray.

In contrast to our minor incident, there are many among us who are facing major life-crises with stomach-churning feelings of utter helplessness in the face of impending impact. Potential consequences of medical diagnoses, financial challenges, business negotiations, and relational brokenness can often prompt the question, “What can you do when it feels like there is nothing you can do?”

Sometimes the answer is still the same, “Hold on and pray.” The Psalmist declared, “My whole being follows hard after You and clings closely to You; Your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:8 [AMP]). The One to whom we cling will steadfastly uphold us through the impact of life circumstances. “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:10 [NRSV]). Be encouraged this day and rest in these assuring words from Civilla D Martin:

 

Be not dismayed whate'er betide,
God will take care of you;
beneath His wings of love abide,
God will take care of you. 

God will take care of you,
through every day, o'er all the way;
He will take care of you,
God will take care of you.

Just before the New Year, I watched a compelling promo video for a non-profit organization. Perhaps it was the beautiful music, or the crisp story line, or just because it had sad looking dogs in it... but, honestly, it got me.

The video showed different dogs who had lived on a chain their entire lives being tenderly cared for. Meanwhile, volunteers built a fenced area where the dog would be able to run free. When the fence was completed, the captive dog was released. Running, jumping, tearing around the yard with obvious tail-wagging joy, the dog inspired smiles on the faces of those who had facilitated his freedom.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_withoutname.jpgRecently a very good friend of mine ran the New York City Marathon. Wanting to pray more specifically for him, I downloaded the marathon app (Yes, there's an app for that) which allowed me to monitor his progress along the 26.2 mile journey. In addition to tracking him using a map of the course, I received an update every 5K that told me the exact distance he had run and the elapsed time. Prior to the marathon we had texted back and forth about his travel to New York, his concerns, and what Scriptures he would be praying as he ran. Throughout the marathon I found myself praying for his physical endurance, mental clarity for decisions he would make about his pace, and that God would speak to Him as he ran the race.

As I was reflecting on how cool the technology was to get "updated" every 5K, I was overwhelmed by the thought that God, the Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent One, knows my every step. The Psalmist expressed it beautifully saying, "Lord, You know me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up. Even from far away, You comprehend my plans. You study my traveling and resting. You are thoroughly familiar with all my ways" (Psalm 139:1-3 CEB). In fact, that passage goes on to remind us that even as we were being formed in the womb, we were not hidden from God.

Be encouraged by this fresh reminder as you celebrate Advent and Christmas. Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. He does not "check-in" every 5K as you run the race marked out for you. He is with you; immediately present every step of the way. As you face hills and valleys, rain and sun, and even gusts of wind that throw you off your balance, "He will give His angels charge over you to accompany and defend and preserve you in all your ways" (Psalm 91:11 AMP). May you run the race with perseverance and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given you - the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace - with great joy (Acts 2:24)!

Recent safety improvements along our highways called "Dynamic Message Signs" display real-time information about incidents, roadwork, and other conditions that affect traffic flow. One Saturday morning, the message sign close to my home indicated that the left two lanes of the interstate were blocked about 5 miles ahead. I dutifully moved over to the far right lane.

As I passed yet another message sign, I noticed that cars were still buzzing by me in the left two lanes. I shook my head and thought, "Duh, you ought to read the signs!" Soon, with blue flashing lights in the distance ahead, the people who flew by me, now were trying to squeeze into my lane. In my older-brother-of-the-prodigal-son-pride, I thought, "If you morons had paid attention to the signs (like I did), you would have gotten over already (like me). It's your fault that the traffic is now backing up. You are slowing me down. Jeremiah's rebuke to Israel about setting up road signs and paying attention to guide posts even came to mind (chapter 31 if you're interested). Honestly, I smugly thought, "God has just handed me my next blog post."

My world was swirling around me, my irritation, and my inconvenience... until I saw the reason why the lanes were blocked. Just past the police car sat a single vehicle wedged up against the concrete barrier.

Herded along by the police, I glanced at the open passenger door of the incapacitated vehicle and was shocked to see a young woman sitting on the edge of the front seat. She blankly stared at the ground. Beside her, deployed airbags hung lifelessly from the dashboard and the side window frame. My heart was pierced and a deluge of compassion drowned my arrogance as I began to intercede for this precious one who sat alone in stunned silence, right in the middle of a mess too big to clean up by herself.

As I have reflected on that incident, I am sensing that perhaps "dynamic message signs" are actually divine gifts to be REceived rather than PERceived: accepted as an invitation to intercede, rather than labeled as an inconvenience to avoid.

Maybe when God gives us a "heads-up" along our faith journey, it is not so much for us, as it is for the person to whom He wants to demonstrate His love. The reality is that those around us who have sideswiped a guardrail and find themselves sitting alone in stunned silence don't need our distant condemnation; they need our present compassion. Those in the middle of a mess too big to clean up on their own don't need self-righteous scowls from passersby; they need the love of Christ incarnate.

So next time you see a divine "Dynamic Message Sign" along your faith journey, don't dread an inconvenience, anticipate an opportunity! In the words of missionary Heidi Baker: "It's not complicated... simply love the one in front of you."