Would you rather carry your god?

We can live one of two ways. One way is the way of idolatry in which we create gods we try to carry ourselves, and the other way is surrender to  being carried by the Living God Himself.

bel and nebo on donkeysThe idolatry described Isaiah 46:1 is almost comical. “Bel and Nebo wobble and duck, as their images sway on the backs of oxen and donkeys—such a heavy burden for the weary animals—as they are carried about.” (Isaiah 46:1, The Voice). This is an apt description of how we humans do our best to carry those things we worship in place of God Himself. It’s as though we’re a herd of oxen and donkeys barely able to carry our heavy burdens, as we head down the road to destruction. It really is not something about which to smile.

W. Pat Cunningham describes idolatry at http://www.sermoncentral.com as turning to some other reality, one without a true face. He writes, “God’s face is a face of love, but it is a love that shows itself according to a timetable that God Himself sets. We want everything good, and we want it NOW. When God’s self-revelation is tardy by our watches, or when God demands something hard of us, we are tempted to turn to some other reality, one without a true face, instead. That is the definition of idolatry. It might not be a physical statue, but rather an object of pleasure — art, music, sex, or even our own reputation.”

Isn’t it ludicrous to try to carry all this stuff? It is as though we try to carry God Himself, and finding that is impossible, we create a god we think we can carry.  The inevitable result, however, is to wobble our way down the road.  We end up really tired, totally lost, and utterly miserable.

The futility of carrying those burdens is not what God wants for us. In Isaiah 46:3-5, God paints a completely different picture than the one we try to paint for ourselves — one meant to bring us to totally rest in Him and find the only life worth living. Instead of YOU and ME carrying our gods, He reminds us that HE will carry us – when we rest in Him by faith.

“Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, And all the remnant of the house of Israel, You who have been borne by Me from birth And have been carried from the womb; Even to your old age I will be the same, And even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; And I will bear you and I will deliver you. To whom would you liken Me And make Me equal and compare Me, That we would be alike?” (NASB)

I like the part about being carried even in the years of gray hair! In other words, there is never aOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA time when God is not offering to be our all in all — to take up every burden we carry on Himself, to teach us about resting in Him, and to give us finally His own heart of peace. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NASB)carry me through pinterest

You cannot carry God, and it is senseless to try to carry the gods of this world.  If you try, you will end up wobbling down the road under the weight of it all.

Why not choose His way, and let Him carry you?

“He found him in a desert land, And in the howling waste of a wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the pupil of His eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, That hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions. The Lord alone guided him, And there was no foreign god with him.” Deuteronomy 32:10-12 (NASB)

“There is none like the God of Jeshurun, Who rides the heavens to your help, And through the skies in His majesty. The eternal God is a dwelling place, And underneath are the everlasting arms; And He drove out the enemy from before you, And said, ‘Destroy!’ So Israel dwells in security, The fountain of Jacob secluded, In a land of grain and new wine; His heavens also drop down dew.” Deuteronomy 33:26-28 (NASB)

No Easter Bunnies or Daffodils in the Story

(Written by David Ewert)
The Easter season is awash with beautiful sentiment and sweet pictures, as a recent search for Hallmark Cards to send to my sisters revealed. However, that is not the real foundation of my faith this morning.

It is notable that most everything in the testimony to Christ’s death and resurrection is so factual. Where are the symbols of springtime and new life we’re so fond of today? Where is the poetic sweetness? Where are the cute bunnies and fields of daffodils?

The most poetic passages I can find of the Passion Week are Psalm 22, Isaiah 53 and Romans 8:31-39. From those passages, the gigantic implications of that week for our lives shine forth in poetry that absolutely soars to the heights and depths of soulful expression. But even there, the bunnies and daffodils are missing, and I, for one, am not sorry.

I am so glad the biblical accounts are factual. The record of Christ’s death and resurrection rings true because it points to  real-time events and not emotional interpretations of those events. It is because of this that my hope rises this morning and I can be sure my resurrection from death is also actually true.

Everything I believe rests on a solid foundation of truth. Therefore, I am free. I can freely embrace today’s very real journey in which we taste real pain and loss, and I can enjoy fun-filled carefree moments that include the chocolates and the laughter of childreIMG_20170401_105610445n. Because the facts of the Lord Jesus are in evidence forever, I am even free to wax poetic and imagine new ways to celebrate the beauty and life-creating power in those facts. Because I see the evidences of His resurrection so clearly, I can now recognize and enjoy fully the many, many ways in which God reminds me of those realities.

So, bring on the yellow daffodils, baskets of eggs bedded in fake green grass, and all the rest, but remember this first and be truly glad: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!!

“Now, my brothers, I want to speak about the Gospel which I have previously preached to you, which you accepted, in which you are at present standing, and by which, if you remain faithful to the message I gave you, your salvation is being worked out—unless, of course, your faith had no meaning behind it at all. For I passed on to you Corinthians first of all the message I had myself received—that Christ died for our sins, as the scriptures said he would; that he was buried and rose again on the third day, again as the scriptures foretold.”
1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (PHILLIPS)

It’s mercy, not understanding, that we crave (David Ewert)

You’re younger, full of energy, and still in possession of a healthy body and mind. How then do you relate with understanding to those you love who are chronically or terminally ill? To add to the difficulty, they may be much older. How then can you ever hope to understand what they’re going through?

The all-encompassing nature of chronic illness and the way it disrupts life and plans for your loved one may be very difficult to understand if you’re not experiencing it. But lacking understanding doesn’t mean you don’t have an opportunity to respond with grace to their situation. You do have choices that can help them immensely and at the same time, help you begin to understand what they are facing. Your choices will include mercy, patience, and kindness: mercy, because you’ll need to forgive their fumbling with new, overwhelming limitations; patience, because you’ll suffer long with their slowness; and kindness, because their wounding may draw away your time and energy.

We are often asked, “How’s it going?” The question is from well-meaning friends and neighbors who know we live day in and day out with Julia suffering from 20160722_135250-002a progressive lung disease called IPF (Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis). The disease is typically terminal in 2-5 years. Julia has lived for almost two years since being diagnosed with the disease and has stabilized at a level that allows Julia to have about 48% of her lungs in use.

What if deep breathing is no longer possible? The benefits of deep, belly breathing are many. Your stress reduces as toxins are flushed out of your body. Your mental focus, posture and quality of sleep improve. You reduce your risk of cancer, raise your rate of metabolism and lower your cholesterol. But what if deep breathing is no longer possible?

In an effort to help understanding, I challenge you with healthy lungs to breathe shallow with the top part of your lungs for 5 minutes, at a faster rate than you normally breathe. I doubt you can breathe like that for more than a minute or two. In shallow breathing the body switches into a flight or fight mode and begins to tire quickly. The brain cries out for more oxygen and focuses on the need to find air. Now, add to that experiment leaning over to tie your shoes, add the dust and humidity in the air, add the normal aging process, add lack of sleep, add etc. I doubt anyone who isn’t forced to live with limited breath can truly understand from experience what it’s really like.

We know it may be impossible for you to understand what it’s like to live with a chronic illness, but that’s not what we hope from you. Mercy, patience and kindness are what we crave most in our hardest moments.

There are days when the radical losses in energy and freedom of movement are almost more than we can bear. There are days when the new normal of dizziness, mounting aches and pains, lack of sleep, lack of memory and mental concentration, and isolation from the world rushing by bring fear: fear that we’re losing who we are; fear that we’re no longer loveable; fear that we’re no longer useful; fear that we’ll ever figure out how to live with this thing that’s got us in a headlock, squeezing energy and time out of all we deem wonderful and good. And on those days, it’s not lack of understanding in our loved ones that we crave so much as grace.

When those suffering the trying moment of a chronic illness are met with unforgiveness, impatience and aloofness they can come to believe that no amount of words of explanation or apology can ever be enough. Their need to justify themselves may become all-consuming, and equally the most desperate endeavor they consider in seeking relief from their fear of losing you too.

Please don’t misunderstand my intentions here. I’m not complaining, but rejoicing in what we’ve been given on the hardest days.

You see, most days we find much to rejoice in because God’s grace is so evident. Since the diagnosis of IPF, He’s given Julia and me more days together than we first imagined possible. He’s given us the Scriptures that continually renew us in faith and hope. He’s taught us so much about trusting Him and finding Him to be deeper and better and greater than we ever imagined He could be. But mostly, there’s you, our beloved children and friends. Your mercy, patience and kindness mean more than you can possibly imagine. Thank you for bringing God’s grace to us as we set our face forward and rise up to face another day.

“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

Colossians 3:12-13 (NLT)