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Posts Tagged ‘Ephesians 3:20’

 

 

It was a grand summer evening to be at the park. Not too hot, not too crowded. Mom, Dad, my grandparents, baby brother and I were just finishing a picnic supper. Through the trees a nearby vacant swing beckoned.

Come ride with me! We’ll fly up to the sky!

I had just learned how to pump and was anxious to try my new powers on the ten-story park swings. (OK, they weren’t that tall. But compared to most playground swings, these were colossal.)

No sooner were the last bites of hot dog and potato salad consumed, than Mom and Dad said it was time to pack up; we needed to leave.

“But I want to go on the swings,” I protested.

“We’ve got something better planned,” Mom replied.

What could be better than flying up to the sky?

Reluctantly I climbed into the back seat of the car. Dad stowed the picnic paraphernalia in the trunk, and drove us through city streets to the countryside where fields of corn stretched to the horizon.

 

 

And then, miracle of miracles, Dad turned into the parking lot of…

…Kiddie Land!

Some clever farmer had carved out a corner of his field and installed a number of carnival rides: a merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, kid-sized motorized tractors, small boats that rotated in a large tub, and more.

 

(Another visit the following year,

when my brother, John, was old enough to join in the fun.)

 

We had passed this Kiddie Land at least several times on our way to visit my great-aunt and her large family. And though I would beg to stop, we never had time.

“Not today, Honey,” they’d say. “We have to get to Aunt Hester’s.

That summer evening, however, turned out to be the occasion of my first visit, and in a cloud of euphoria I flew up to the sky on the Ferris wheel instead of an old playground swing.

 

 

My plans for the evening didn’t begin to compare to what Mom, Dad, and my grandparents had in store for me.

Someone else also designs delightful plans that far exceed my child-sized ideas. My Heavenly Father.

One experience on top of another begins to construct a good foundation of things already seen, so I can trust him for what is not seen. (A number of previous posts have highlighted some foundational experiences. See: “After the Fact,” “Progress,” and “The Greater Plan.”)

The psalmist, Asaph, knew about this foundation for faith and built one of his own. “I will meditate on all your works,” he declared, “and consider all your mighty deeds” (Psalm 77:12). He affirmed there is no god as great, who performs miracles and displays his power among us all (vs. 13-14).

 

 

Ah, but what about the potential for trouble or pain in the not seen of the future? Even then, God will produce good effect (Romans 8:28). And a bedrock foundation of trust will provide the necessary fortitude to endure, even thrive.

With Job we’ll be able to say, “Those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction” (36:15).

I have no idea what God is planning for tomorrow, next week, or next year. But just as my parents set a reliable example of parental care and blessing, so has my Heavenly Father–only infinitely more so. Every good gift comes from him (James 1:17), and they are plentiful.

I have seen enough evidence to know I can trust his all-knowing, all-wise, all-sufficient ways. Especially because all he does is motivated by perfect love.

 

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *   *

 

Thank you, Lord of Joy, for every good and perfect gift you bestow, many of which exceed our expectations. We delight to see your creativity and marvel at your generosity. Day after day you pour forth your blessings, building a strong foundation of experiential evidence. And each blessing demonstrates your compassion, grace, patience and love.

“Your righteousness reaches up to the skies, you who have done great things. Who, O God, is like you?”

 (Psalm 103:2-5, 8; 71:19)

 

 

What great things has God performed in your life that have built your foundation of faith?  Please share an experience or two in the comment section below!

 

(Photo credits:  www.nps.gov; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pinterest.com (3).

 

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(The famous Chicken Potholder)

 

The game is called “Chicken Run”; the rules are simple. IT tries to tag another player with a chicken-shaped potholder, or he/she may throw the potholder Frisbee-style, and snag someone that way. If the chicken touches you below the shoulder, you’re the next IT.

I love to play this game with our granddaughters because anyone of any age can participate, and laughter is guaranteed– sometimes the result of a clever move that avoids the potholder, or a “You-missed-me!” soon followed by a solid chicken-thwack.

 

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(A 30-second rest before the next round.)

 

Nobody keeps score.  When we get too tired to run, the game is over, yet everyone feels energized and relaxed. No surprise there. You’ve surely experienced how rejuvenating a bit of fun can be—physically, mentally, and emotionally.

But here’s an idea that may surprise you:  Fun also rejuvenates us spiritually.

Fun can impact our faith.

I admit: Faith and fun are two words we seldom use together. We sometimes feel guilty for having fun, asking with King Solomon, “What does pleasure accomplish (Ecclesiastes 2:2)?”

 

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But at least several benefits await those who embrace faith and fun together.

Before I list them, however, please understand: I am not suggesting that a bit of fun will erase all pain and sorrow. Trouble clearly overshadows fun–at least for a season. But, praise God, joy does come in the morning (Psalm 30:5)!

The benefits of embracing faith and fun together include:

  1. The euphoria of answered prayer.

God allows us to be a part of his miracles as we pray for the needs of others. What fun to see his answers come to pass—sometimes way beyond our requests or daydreams (Ephesians 3:20)!  Several years ago, I wrote about just such an incident in “Part of the Process.”

2.  The pursuit of all things praiseworthy.

God provides pleasurable fun for us to enjoy every day—even in the midst of difficulty. Such pleasures include: sliding into a fleecy robe on a chilly morning; catching the carefree laughter of children on the breeze; spooning into the season’s first bowl of autumn squash soup.

 

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  1. The realization that God has engineered circumstances—even in small matters.

Steve and I stopped at a store to inquire about a recliner we’d purchased there, because the bottom and top sections seemed to be separating.  A cheerful salesman showed us how to make the simple repair ourselves.

While there, we checked the clearance section and found a rug and another chair—absolutely perfect for our new home and super-bargain priced. What fun that we would “just happen” (A-hem!) into that store at that time!

 

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(Even prettier in person!)

  1. The special delight of faith-filled people who also know how to laugh.

Somehow God augments the pleasure of fun that rests on a foundation of faith—perhaps because a Christian secure in Jesus is not looking to impress others. They can even tell stories on themselves.

 

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My grandfather was just such a person. One time, as he was about to leave the mall, he put his key in the lock of his car and nothing happened. The key would not turn. (This happened before key-fobs.) He wondered if the lock had frozen up and he’d have to call Triple-A.

Suddenly a man’s voice from behind him said, “Here. Try this key.” It was the owner of the car. Gramps was trying to get into a similar-but-incorrect car. The two of them enjoyed a good chuckle and wide-eyed amazement that the car owner arrived on the scene when he did.

Now we never would have known about the incident except Gramps told us.  Unlike some who’d feel foolish after such a mistake, he had fun relating the story.  And perhaps without knowing it, Gramps modeled for us a humble, unself-conscious celebration of life—mistakes included–the result of his strong faith-foundation on Jesus. (You may enjoy Gramps’ amazing life-turnaround story  in “The God of Rachel, Henry, and Clara.”)

Billy Sunday used to say:

 

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(“If you have no joy, there’s a leak in your Christianity somewhere.”)

 

Let’s plug the leaks with a little fun!

 

What kind of fun impacts your faith?  Please share in the Comments section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg (2); http://www.pinterest.com (2); Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.quotesgram.com.)

 

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

There’s nothing quite like a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies. The best recipes (and a decent oven!) create a buttery crunch on the outside and a chewy, chocolate-and-walnut infused center.

Of course, every ingredient of the recipe is necessary—not just the chips and nuts. You have to include the flour, butter, eggs, and more. Leave one out, and the results will be hugely disappointing.

Take vanilla extract, for example. A batch of chocolate chip cookies is quite bland without that one teaspoon of flavoring. But have you ever tasted vanilla extract all by itself?  Whew!  It is shockingly strong and bitter.

Now try this idea on for size: Our lives are a bit like chocolate chips cookies!

(Stay with me–the simile will be clear in a moment!)

Just as it takes a variety of ingredients to make delectable cookies, it takes a variety of people and circumstances to make our lives into “the aroma of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15).

Some ingredients, like chips and walnuts, can be enjoyed all on their own. Similarly, God’s recipe for each of us also includes blessings, provided solely for our pleasure—all on their own.

But then there’s that vanilla. So awful by itself; so transforming when combined with the rest of the ingredients.

I see that vanilla as representative of the distasteful and bitter experiences God allows in our lives. Without them, we’d end up as bland and good-for-nothing as vanilla-less chocolate chip cookies.

Every person, every situation God allows into our lives has the potential to make us like Jesus. Even the bitter ones. No, especially the bitter ones. It’s those uncomfortable, challenging relationships and situations that transform us the most. For example:

  • Would Joseph have been as prepared to be second-in-command under Pharaoh—without being sold into slavery or thrown into prison? Probably not. He learned invaluable lessons about organization and leadership while overseeing Potiphar’s household. Those skills only increased while Joseph was incarcerated and given responsibility for all that was done in the prison.
  • Would David the shepherd boy have become the greatest king of Israel? Undoubtedly, his perseverance and faith grew strong as he struggled through fifteen years of waiting—and hiding in caves from Saul.
  • Would Paul’s ministry have been as effective to the persecuted Christians of the first century, if he himself had not been exposed to great suffering?

It’s true. Just a teaspoon of trouble can create great benefit. Trials offer us opportunities for:

  • Growing spiritually and emotionally
  • Ministering to others with understanding and empathy
  • Developing a closer relationship with God
  • Preparing for a God-ordained change-of-direction in life
  • Praising, as God engineers circumstances beyond our dreams

However.

We must be willing participants.

Perhaps our prayer could be based on Ephesians 3:20, a verse often quoted to give us hope for blessing. But this scripture also offers great hope for the good accomplished through difficulty:

“All glory to God,

who is able,

through his mighty power

at work within us,

to accomplish infinitely more

than we might ask or think.”

Just as a bit of acrid vanilla works wonders in the cookie dough,…

God uses the bitter moments to work wonders in our lives.

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Heavenly Father, I praise you for your infinite wisdom. You know exactly what to allow into my life to achieve your ultimate purpose. I thank you for the blessings but also for the trials. May I be a willing participant, like Joseph, David, and Paul. And may I become strong and resilient as they were—for your honor and glory. Amen.

(Photo credit:  www.thehealthyfoodblog.wordpress.com.)

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