The Keel In My Life
I received an encouragement about the significance of my beautiful wife of forty years. It was affirming the reality that Suzie has been the keel in the hull of my life. A structural keel is a beam around which the hull of a ship is built. The keel runs in the middle of the ship, from the bow to the stern, and serves as a basic foundation or spine, providing the major source of structural strength of the hull. Only the ship’s launching is considered more significant in its creation than the laying down of the keel. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keel) Which brings me to acknowledging that, next to receiving Jesus as my Lord and Savior, my marriage to Suzie has been the most significant and stabilizing event in my life. And for this I am eternally grateful. Who, or what in your life, is your keel?
There are times when the only good move left in life, is a humble response to a shattering disappointment. As true success is measured by obedience, more often than not, the final option left standing is a good attitude to a downed expectation. Since God weighs the thoughts and intents of our hearts, our motives are as important as our actions. Many times the only opening we can see for breakthrough is a godly response. The secret to this strategy of humility is found in the verse, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6, ESV) Humility activates God’s supernatural favor! The question we should ask throughout our day is, “Lord Jesus, what godly response will activate Your marvelous grace?” A good response always beats a challenging circumstance.
My wife Suzie’s car had a leak in its trunk. So, I had the brilliant idea, that if she locked me in the trunk, as my eyes adjusted to the dark, I could perhaps see where light was coming in and find the leak. As I climbed into the trunk, I was excited about the adventure I was about to experience. But, as soon as Suzie closed me in, I started to freak out. It wasn’t just the darkness. It was the smothering. Call it claustrophobia, which is defined as “an irrational fear of being in a confined or enclosed space.” All I know is, within 15 seconds, I was banging and yelling, “Get me out of here!” Being alone is a horrible feeling! Though we all experience it, God is always there to guide us back into the light.
Success Is the Greatest Test
Many of the greatest tests in life come after great successes. In college, a friend of mine and his sister were competing in a dance contest called the Harvest Moon Ball Dance Championships, held every year in Madison Square Garden in New York City. As I sat there with 25,000 people in the nose-bleed section of the packed arena, I was stunned when my friend won first place. It was amazing! But, what was less than exceptional was watching how, over time, success changed him. You would have thought he’d found the cure for cancer; he became so proud. God wants to humble us and make us only as successful as we can handle, because He’s most committed to our spiritual and emotional well-being.
Convenience and Entitlement
Raised to take the easy path, many in this generation have weak “spiritual immune systems.” Instant gratification has resulted in far less satisfaction, and fostered an inability to persevere under extreme pressure. Being able to “check out” and “press quit” whenever it seems too hard, or if we can’t win, has left too many unable to learn these essential fruits of the Spirit: patience, faithfulness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23, ESV) Convenience and entitlement have always been great temptations. This applies to eternal truth as well. If we don’t stick with what we know to be biblically true, we will eventually be seduced by what is eternally false. The Bible admonishes each of us to “…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58, ESV)
If you feel betrayed, it’s probably because you have been. In order to be healed from this common offence, let’s begin by isolating the principle betrayers in each of our lives. The first betrayer is you. None of us are the exact person’s we want to be. We all love “do overs.” The second betrayer in each of our lives is other flawed people. And lastly, there’s the enemy of our souls, the devil, who first betrayed our ancestors, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden. Mistakenly, Adam first blamed God, then his wife, and lastly the devil. So, the next time you are betrayed, don’t blame God first, take responsibility for your own actions, exercise some grace for others, and live mindful there is an enemy of your soul stalking you.
The Do Not’s
We live in world that hates to be told, “Do Not.” Yet, many of us bear in our bodies and souls the scars of laughing at the “Do Not’s.” I’ve buried lots of people who didn’t believe in the “Do Not’s.” You could say that sin is a big “Do Not…” There are actually three primary words for “sin” in the Hebrew language. Each implies going against God’s standard of what’s right. One word for sin means to “fall short,” another means to “twist,” and the last word for sin means to “rebel” against the divine standard. Whether it’s “falling short,” “twisting” or “rebelling” against God’s standards, sin strands us. It fails us, abandons us, blinds us, twists us, and deceives us. It leaves the “good” seemingly beyond our grasp, twisting our will to choose what we know is wrong.
Feasting On the Bible
I’ve heard people say, “I’ve read the Bible, but I don’t get much out of it.” The only way to get something out of the Bible is to really believe it. Believe it like it’s a matter of life and death, because it is. Believe it like it’s the best advice you’ve ever heard, because it is. If you question God’s Word and it’s personal and practical application for your life, then “No!” you won’t get much out of the Bible. But I’ve been reading it with faith in my heart for over 44 years and I can say without a doubt, I always get something out of the Word of God when I believe God is speaking a life and death message that will transform me if I trust and obey Him. Find a translation you like, and then feast on the Word every day.
Cancer or Strep Throat
A 35-year old woman’s mother died of cancer. A few months later she had a severe and persistent sore throat, and was convinced it was cancer also. She felt she couldn’t go through the pain and suffering her mother had gone through, so she reasoned that she and her two children would be better off in Heaven. Notes that she left indicated she was extremely anxious about the cancer in her throat. So, one day she took the lives of her two children, and finally herself. Her actions were totally based on fear. To add to the tragedy, an autopsy revealed her throat condition was not cancer, but simply strep throat. You say, “I’d never do that!”Yet, every time we bow down to fear and refuse to trust God, we destroy part of our future just the same.
Tension Between Hope and Fear
There’s always a tension between the hope of being used by God and the fear that He actually might do it. We ache for Him to use us, but we are somehow acutely aware of the cost of that level of relational connection. Knowing Jesus, produces a desperate longing to want to obey Him. But that passion is always challenged by the trepidation of the impossible journey before us. The Bible says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31, ESV) That’s where only by knowing Him, can we trust Him. Knowing His heart and motive for us, assures us that the hope we have in Him is eternal, while the fear we face will pass. “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.” (Psalm 62:5, NLT)
Eternal Joy Is Ahead
How do you know you are trusting God? When you are convinced every act of obedience will ultimately be followed by great joy, either in the short or long term. The times and the seasons are in God’s hands, but our willingness to trust Him in all seasons is always in our hands and hearts. It depends on who we are looking at. The Bible says, “…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2, ESV) We can endure anything if we believe there is eternal joy and gladness ahead. But if we believe there is shame and disgrace ahead, then we are believing the father of lies, and not the Father of life.
God does not need our help. But, He does need our cooperation. It is in the emptying of selfish motivations that we provide an environment for God to move in and through us. Obedience to the will of God will always produce infinitely more fruit than the greatest actions we initiate ourselves. The only efforts that finish well are those first started by God and not us. I want to get my heart still enough to hear what God knows is the best of all options…it’s called His will. Cooperate with Jesus, initiate nothing, and success that comes from God’s favor will overtake your life. Submit your will to God and He will direct your steps. Cooperate with God as the Guide of your life, and you will look back with joy.