Tag Archives: Stand firm

What you believe is important


It seems everyone has an opinion on everything. From things that seem silly like does Bigfoot really exist to serious matters like how to be good stewards of this planet and how to be good stewards also of this life we’ve been granted. The truth is, believing in Bigfoot doesn’t make him exist and merely disbelieving the legend doesn’t make him a myth. The truth of whether he is or isn’t isn’t influenced by our beliefs. Similarly, something much more serious like climate change is not made true or false by what we believe. But what we believe can change US and how our lives impact our world.

This isn’t a commentary on Bigfoot or climate change. But perhaps it’s a stepping stone for us to think about what we do believe and the impact it has on our life. For example, I might believe someone said something with the motive of offending me. After all, I feel offended. But my opinion of their motive does not make it their motive, right? What we believe doesn’t make something real but what we deeply believe changes us.


Someone said the most profound question in life is this: “Do you believe Jesus is who he said he was?” Your opinion doesn’t change reality but it can change you. I have good friends who say “yes, he is,” and it appears to me they generally model their life according to that belief. I have other friends who say no or aren’t sure and they model their lives accordingly. And some of those who don’t believe seem to me to be very genuine, kind, and loving people that I respect and love. Some don’t want to think about the matter at all and that believe also impacts their lives. The truth is, our opinions about things don’t change reality but they change us.


Paul wrote a letter to the church at Corinth about such a matter (1 Corinthians 15). It seems some of them believed that Jesus lived, maybe even was the Son of God, but evidently did not believe that he was resurrected from the dead. Paul responded, “If Christ has not been raised (from the dead) our preaching is useless and so is your faith. Your faith is futile, you are still in your sins.” (V14 and 17) The consistent message of the New Testament is that we are indeed sinners and need a Savior, that Jesus died for the forgiveness of our sins, was resurrected, and that we too will be resurrected even after death. If God’s claims are true, whether we believe or don’t believe, our eternal lives will be impacted by that truth. Of course, the opposite is also true, as Paul states. If God’s claims are false, then our faith is in vain.


Our beliefs don’t influence only our eternal state. They influence our life now. Everyone believes in something. If we don’t believe in the power of the resurrected Jesus, we believe in the power of something else – ourselves, our family, our country, our passionate causes. If I set myself on the decision-making throne of my life then I have to rely on my “wisdom” and my natural skills and abilities and passions to guide my life. I’ve tried that and it never worked well for me. Everything falls short, especially me.


But what happens when we believe – really believe – in the resurrected Jesus? We come to believe that God’s Word is really true in all aspects of our lives; that when Jesus talks about giving us his Spirit to teach, convict, comfort and strengthen us, it’s a reality, not just some religious doctrine. It means the reality of the resurrected Jesus lives in the heart of the believer. His authority, his power, his ability to love those you really don’t like, his compassion for people you might look down on, his grace, his forgiveness, his patience, his self-control, his strength and his hope are yours despite the circumstances you face or even the emotions you feel. “He has put everything under his feet.” (V27)


God’s encouragement to those who believe in his Son is this:
“Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the Lord, because you know that your labor is not in vain.” (V58)


How is what you really believe impacting your life?


The only thing that matters


We have really been enjoying reading through the New Testament in our daily devotion reading plan. I’m doing an inductive study, journaling my responses to three questions of each passage:

What does it say?
What does it mean?
How do I apply it to my life?


I am always pleased to rediscover those verses that highlight basic truths for living. We read one of those in Galatians 5. Paul was warning the church (and us!) about being enslaved by the law and the sinful nature (actually our own desires). Pursuing his ‘run the race’ theme he encourages us to stand firm and seek the freedom Christ offers. The part that spoke to me was this summary of the gospel of Jesus in V 6:


“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”


This echoes the consistent message I’ve received through this entire cancer journey. I keep yearning for less of this or more of that. I want to fight but sometimes all I can do and stand firm and let God do the fighting:


“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14)


But in my quiet times with God (and some not so quiet ones) I keep hearing this same message, that through it all, the thing that matters most is staying faithful.


I shared this with one of my former students, who has been suffering from a different form of Leukemia for several years. I’ve lost count of the number of chemo cycles she has endured. She writes:

“Four treatments down and ten to go this cycle. Question of the day…..when do you say enough is enough? When do you say I am too tired to keep up this fight, especially when it feels like it really doesn’t matter whether you do or you don’t?”


Looking at her posted photo, I could see the frustration and hopelessness in her eyes. I’ve been there, though I suspect her battle is much more extensive than mine. You’ve been there too. Maybe you are there today. The phrase that catches my attention is “IT FEELS LIKE”. We can’t seem to escape our feelings. After all, the body and soul are constantly interpreting the world to us and clamoring for our attention. Our spirit, united with The Spirit interprets GOD’s reality to us, but so often is out shouted by the cries of our body and soul. The body and soul say, “It feels like it doesn’t matter.” The Spirit says, “The ONLY thing that matters is faith – expressing itself in love.”


Have you ever kept a journal of your daily walk with God? Part of that story is the accounting of your daily experiences as told in a dialog between your body, soul, spirit – and the Spirit of God who reveals guiding truth and sustaining grace and power for living a life defined by love. It is this ongoing dialog that grows and nourishes the only thing that counts:


Faith expressing itself in love. 



Put on and press on



Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Ephesians 6:11


I Press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14


Many images are conveyed concerning our life journey. One is the image of standing firm, protected by God’s equipping armor. Another is one of throwing off everything that hinders us and running a race with perseverance, of pressing on to win the prize. Yet another is being still, laying down in green pastures.  Which is it? Stand firm, run the race, or lie down in peace?


The answer is all of the above. God always has our very best interest at heart, protecting us from evil and providing us with His grace. Because we so easily come to think of this life as our only life, He reminds us that we are strangers in a foreign land, and that we are in a daily battle against evil which wars against us in the spiritual realms and sometimes in the physical realm too.


And so we are commanded to put on His protective armor that equips us for the battle. His belt of truth secures us. His breastplate of righteousness guards our heart.  His gospel of peace fits our feet with readiness and help us to stand firm. Our faith in Him shields us from fiery arrows that seek to wound and kill us. His helmet of salvation protect us from being taken by the evil one. The Sword of His Spirit is double-edged. It is the Word of God that protects us and attacks falsehood with the truth of God. With our spiritual armor on, our job is to stand firm, unwavering in faith, fully persuaded that God is able to fight the battle and win the war.


The thing about spiritual armor is that is not like traditional battle armor that we’ve come to know. It is light and agile. It doesn’t entangle us when we need to move. And so pressing on while running the race is another image of our journey with God. Running requires effort and perseverance. If you are running to win a race and the prize it offers, you can’t be encumbered by things that entangle you. You need to be free to run and keep on running. A successful runner doesn’t look behind. The spiritual runner keeps her eyes focused ahead, fixed on Jesus, unwavering in her faith that she will attain the prize and that it will indeed be worth the effort and pain endured in the race.


As a sheep depends on the good shepherd for green pastures, press on in your dependence on God and in your humility. You can’t fight and run in your own power. Press on by resting in the strength of God, not your own. Press on while resting in the green pastures, listening to and obeying the shepherd’s voice.



Choose news you need to hear


Your choices make you.

John Stossel recently wrote about the tendency of the media to highlight the news that develops quickly rather than that which grows slowly:  “A car crash that kills a family is terrible news. But gradual improvements in driver behavior, car and road safety, and attitudes about drunk driving should be even bigger news. Driving remains one of the riskiest things we do, but far fewer people die now.”


I wonder if we too are prone to viewing sudden news as more notable than that which takes time to develop. For example, the news of respected person that falls off a moral cliff is quick to stir up all kinds of conversation. But the gradual, steadfast efforts of a tired mother or a faithful dad go unnoticed. Our son or daughter wins a race or some achievement and the accolades are poured on. But do their efforts to stand strong in a tough world reign just as noteworthy?


And how would you report the news of your own efforts to be faithful? I’m guessing you are quick to judge your infrequent momentary failures while forgetting how many times you have said ‘no’ to tempting ways.


Life is a journey that is marked by thousands of seemingly small decisions, tens of thousands of choices to do and think about right things. We make hundreds of choices every day, perhaps without even knowing. Even though it may seem of little consequence at the time, these moments of victory define your life more than any ‘newsworthy’ lifetime achievements; more than your wealth, your career, or your fame. Celebrate the good news in your life!


“Who, then, are those who fear the Lord? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.” Psalm 25:12



Be steadfast – stand firm



Pushed against the wall, seemingly oppressed on every side, exhausted and yet we so often automatically look to what strategy we can employ to resolve the problem. But often the strategy that bests serves us is not to dive forward, not to launch a new attack in our own effort, but to remain steadfast and stand firm.


“Stand firm,” we are told, once we are fully protected by God’s armor (Ephesians 6:10+). “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong (1 Corinthian 16:13). “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10).


What does it mean to remain steadfast in the middle of a battle? To be steadfast is to be a different kind of victor. Using dictionary terms a steadfast victor is loyal, faithful, dependable, steady, true, constant and trustworthy. S/he is determined, resolute, relentless, single-minded, unwavering, unhesitating, unfaltering, unyielding, and uncompromising.


This is our job, to have the courage to stand firm and remain steadfast in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds. Great courage is born out of great hope. And great hope is placed in a great, powerful, and faithful God.


“Be strong and of good courage. Do not fear or be afraid…for the Lord your God, He is the one who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6


“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” Ephesians 1:18-21



Medical Update (May 2014) – fighting the battle

Mostly good reports from this past week’s U of I visits:

Most blood counts continue within low normal range.

Low immune globulin but I am fighting infections well.

Excellent pulmonary functioning scores.

Can now wear short sleeves with sunscreen. Whoo hoo.

Received childhood vaccines for polio,Hep B, and H.influenza B.
(More to follow in coming visits.)

Bone density scan reveals osteopenia but not yet osteoporosis. (Adversely affected by chemo and prednisone treatments & age.)

Constant muscle/joint aches due to GVHD not RA.

Revisit in 6 weeks.

The interesting thing about the ongoing Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD) skirmish is that all you can do is arm yourself with the protective ‘armor’ of medications, exercise, and rest. Then try to stand firm while the battle wars within. It is like the battle we each face daily against elements of the spiritual world. We cannot see the enemy, but we experience the blows. Our job each day is to put on the protective armor of God (Ephesians 6:10+) and to STAND firm. And when the fighting is over, to stand still.

Let’s be found standing firm, brothers and sisters, equipped with the belt of truth wrapped around us, the breastplate of righteousness, the boots of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, praying always in all situations. Our own strength is not sufficient. But God’s is.

A lamp to your feet and light to your path

I’ve been meditating on Ps 119:105. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” It seems that sometimes God only gives us a lamp for the step we are currently on right now. He wants our footing to be secure so we can stand firm (Eph 6:10) and not stumble. Sometimes our current standing seems more like sitting on a bench. What he has spoken to us in this ‘bench’ season is that we should sit on the bench in obedience and not strive to get back in the game until he calls us. But it is more than that. Because, at least in our case, we are confident that God is actively at work preparing our next steps, he also desires to use this time to prepare our hearts as he draws us closer to him. Like the 14 years between David’s anointing and his crowning and the same period of time between Paul’s conversion and his first missionary journey, it is not a time of twiddling thumbs, but of actively seeking God, enjoying him fully, growing in him, and serving him where we are.

Do you trust that God will also reveal his light upon your path, that you may more clearly see not just your current step but also the near path before you? Be faithful in listening for his voice so, like Samuel, you can quickly respond, “Here I am Lord. Speak for your servant is listening.”

Find blessings as you continue to draw near to such a loving God whose mercies never fail, whose compassions are new every morning. Draw close so he can guide and direct you.