Friday, February 28, 2014

Enrolling in “AGING 101”

(Excerpt from the Preface to Leona's book in progress: “STILL MORE! Flourishing on My Summit” The third book in her “MORE” Trilogy)

I stand at the foothills gazing at the high mountain of my advancing years. It is unsettling. I seem to lack courage to climb another mountain given my failing body and diminishing strength. I'm not prepared—I haven't passed this way before. Somehow I missed enrolling in a class called “AGING 101.”

My own questions bombard me: How can I expect STILL MORE of God's goodness and mercy as I grow older? Haven't they run out, been used up, and are no longer available? Isn't rocking chair living all there is to look forward to? Shouldn't I be satisfied with 'been there--done that' Isn't there only ho-hum living ahead? Hasn't God withdrawn His calling and purpose for my life at this late calendar season? 

After all, I've done enough hill climbing in my lifetime. My zeal for exploration has leaked out. I think I've achieved my summit already. My greatest hours have come and gone. I deserve to take it easy. Can't I just settle down here in the shade of comfortable foothills and relax 'on the way Home'?

Mountains are known for their echoes. I listen for the echo of my own voice. I expect it to bounce back and agree with me, to imitate my despair.

A Voice does echo but it doesn't mimic my discouragement. It doesn't sound like my voice bouncing back to me...but I recognize Him! My Good Shepherd and I have a long track record so I know and trust His Voice.

Be of good cheer! It is pressing-on time. Dare to climb this mountain and reach the special summit which I have planned for you.

In Me you will have the courage to strive forward and discover the richness and blessings of summit living. That season of your life will be as flourishing as your verdant valleys have been. At your summit you can look through the lens of the Holy Spirit to see even further horizons, more peaks in the distance. 

You are in your advanced years but they can be advancing years not retreating years. Come with Me to explore together 'what eye has not yet seen nor ear heard.' Stay hungry and thirsty for MORE of the fullness of what I have prepared for those who love Me and trust Me over the long haul. Be willing to stay the course, to persevere, to endure, to receive the prize of My high calling. My rod and My staff will comfort and sustain you. 

Kindle again the fire in your soul that is burning low. Stir up the embers of your first love for Me. Embrace your latter journey with hope and optimism for I have promised never to leave you nor forsake you in your 'graying years.' 
My purpose for your life is not complete yet. I have saved some of the best wine until last! So, “gird up your loins...,” pull up your socks, lace up your hiking boots, and climb to your summit with Me....

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


There's a way to steer clear of WITS' END neighborhood--obey the signs to avoid it in the first place. The Word of God provides them.

Since our “wits” are our own smarts, our understanding, wisdom, and abilities, Proverbs 3:5, 6 erects the direction signs. It points us in a positive direction and also gives us a negative caution. Let's be thankful for both. When we see a “Do not enter” or “Wrong way” signpost, that's as important as a direction sign that points “This Way.”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart [positive], and do not lean on your own understanding [negative].” Bottom line: You should never depend on your own “wits.” You should trust God completely with all that is within you, and lean in the direction of His wisdom, not your own. Don't wait until the waves are higher than your ship to ask God to calm your storm. Acknowledge Him as your Captain, give Him the helm as soon as you sail off. He will set your proper course and guide you into a safe haven. “He will make your paths straight” Proverbs promises.

Another way to avoid the WITS' END neighborhood is found in Psalm 107:43. “Who is wise? Let him give heed to these things; and consider the lovingkindnesses of the Lord.” Heed what things? All the wonderful things God has already done that were itemized in that Psalm.

It's an exciting and rewarding study to take a highlighter and go through Psalm 107 noting the lovingkindnesses of the Lord. Those remembrances will assure us that God is going to see us through our present storm as He did in the past. I found thirty-three marvelous things the Lord had done for His people. What a faith-builder! Here are a few: God redeemed them, gathered them, delivered, led, satisfied, filled, humbled, saved, broke their bands, cut bars, healed them, spoke to them, guided them, blessed them—you can find others yourself. We feel like singing, “To God be the glory! Great things He has done!”

For a personal faith-builder while avoiding the Evil One's siren invitation to buy property in the WITS' END neighborhood, try making a list of the specific and wonderful ways the Lord led you in the past, what He brought you through, rescued you from, how He has blessed you. Give heed to them, consider them, meditate on them, think seriously about the mercies and goodness of the Lord. The longer we live, the longer the list. This will build our assurance that God will continue to be faithful to us for the rest of our days.

If those of us who are supposed to be more mature in chronological age or spiritual age are always running off to WITS' END neighborhood, we aren't good role models for the Lord before others. Let's hurry and get out of that neighborhood entirely!

Let's put down our stakes in the place which Psalm 91 recommends: “He who dwells in the shelter [secret place] of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” That neighborhood is a joyful one with happy and helpful neighbors--peaceful, secluded and shady. Because The Most High lives there it is a secure, gated community.  

What's more, the Ol' Tempter doesn't have a real estate license to sell property there. We are safe—he doesn't even know the password to enter!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


WITS' END is a bad neighborhood! There's too much traffic—people always running back and forth down Panic Street, which is a Dead End. Some people choose to live there permanently, others visit regularly and often. Don't count on your neighbors to rescue you in an emergency if you live there. Other people never help you if you are at WITS' END. They are too engrossed in their own anxieties and fears. The “Trust Police” are available 24/7 to patrol the neighborhood, but no one seems to call them.

All of us have been at WITS' END at one time or another. Did you know there's a verse in the Bible that uses that term? “They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, and were at their WITS' END.” (Psalm 107:27) Every version of the Bible I checked translated the verse in the same way.

The dramatic scene took place on shipboard in a stormy sea. The deck of the ship was “rising up to the heavens and going down to the depths.” I almost get seasick reading that as I recall ocean voyages when I experienced such a feeling in the pit of my stomach! One is at the mercy of the storm.

What are your “wits”? Sometimes we say that a person doesn't have his “wits” about him. Or that he is a “half wit” or a “nit wit.” The dictionary defines “wits” as our understanding, intelligence, or reasoning powers. If you come to the end of your wits, you are at the end of your abilities to cope or to get yourself out of your predicament. Similar cliches are: having your back to the wall, being at the end of your rope, painting yourself into a corner. There is no way out, no one to help you, and you can't deliver yourself.

The Psalmist didn't leave us in suspense in describing what happened on shipboard in the storm when they were at their WITS' END. “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed.” Their response? “Then they were glad because they were quiet; so He guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men!” (107:28-31)

Why do we always seem to wait so long before we call on the Lord in our WITS' END situations? We wait until we get into emergencies, exhaust our human resources, then we panic. We struggle to get ourselves out. If that doesn't work, the next thing we do is to call for other people. Our first call should be to God. WITS' END is not the place God prepared for us to live.

A similar incident in the life of Jesus is recorded in Luke chapter eight. Jesus was sound asleep in the middle of the lake in a boat His disciples were sailing. Jesus was both God and man and the human side of Him was exhausted from ministry to crowds of people. A storm suddenly came up. The disciples were at their WITS' END crying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Did they really think God the Father would let His beloved Son Jesus drown and all His friends with Him? Jesus rebuked the wind to be still and rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith. Jesus didn't disappoint them when they were at their WITS' END. He reenacted exactly what those verses in Psalm 107 described. “Then they were glad because they were quiet; so He guided them to their desired haven.”

How many times in our lives have we been at our WITS' END? Perhaps we are visiting that neighborhood right now? God has always been faithful, hasn't He? He saw us through before; He will do the same for us today. He may not rescue us exactly the way we think He should or how we ask Him, but He will calm our storm. The Lord will give us peace on the inside although the storm may continue to rage on the outside.

(Come back tomorrow for some OUTWITTING strategies!)

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Lure of the “Negative MORE”

TV ads pull me into greed.

They are designed to appeal to my gluttony not only in what I am tempted to eat but in all of my senses. They cater to my physical comforts and satisfactions. The writers know how to push my sensual and covetous buttons. They drag me down to act on my flesh, my baser instincts. They target my pride, my ego, my self-interest and self-aggrandizement.

In a recent commercial six youngsters of early elementary school age are sitting around a low table with a man in a tailored suit asking them for their opinion. “Do you think bigger is better?” The kids have been rehearsed to yell out, “YES!” in unison with enthusiasm. The man gives an example on their level and they continue to shout that “Bigger is better!” (I can't even remember what is being advertised!) I am only left with the impression that the next generations of our children and grandchildren are victims-in-formation vulnerable to the lure of the “Negative MORE.” Contentment is regarded as passivity and downgraded to lack of motivation or ambition. 

I am lured toward wanting to super-size everything—much of what I already have. But I am drawn to desire bigger, better, newer, the latest, the most fashionable, the tastiest. And the more powerful, the more convenient, the easier—whatever will enhance my mortal, material life in the flesh.

Describing the lifestyle of the world, the Apostle Peter in his first Epistle 3:3 spells it out that in these last days men will be “following after their own lusts.” Lust? By definition that is not only inordinate sexual desire, but any of our senses gone wild and no longer under control. “Thou shalt not covet” may actually be one of the most difficult of the Ten Commandments to keep, and it leads into transgressing most of the other Commandments.

Our modern society is totally being programmed toward greed. We are not expected to deny ourselves of anything. We are told, “After all, you deserve it!”

The “Negative MORE” is not confined to the secular or material or sensual side of life. It also lurks around the corners of our Christian assembling together. Unless a church grows into a mega-congregation with a sprawling campus, the leadership may be tempted to question their “success.” Isn't bigger always better? 

On a recent TV newscast I saw video clips of China's efforts to outdo any other Asian nation in construction of larger and more magnificent statues of Buddha—seems inconsistent when China is no longer known as a Buddhist country, in fact, is a secular, atheistic nation. The statue that took the prize was a Buddha two-hundred times taller than the Statue of Liberty! The lure of the “Negative MORE” knows no geographical or cultural or religious boundaries.

Let His followers take heed—Jesus demonstrated and taught a different measurements of success than size and quantity of material acquisitions. “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world [has the latest iPhone, electronic gadgets, drives a Ferrari, wears the latest Armani fashions] and loses his own soul?” Jesus told us clearly what to “seek first” and what kind of positive “MORE” would be added unto us. 

A popular bumper sticker declares, “He who has the most toys wins.” Not so. It doesn't matter if the toys are bigger, newer, or high-tech. The bottom line is that we are pilgrims living in a transient world. In view of that, the Apostle John declares in his first letter, “The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.” Jesus' followers are people of Eternity who resist "The Lure of the 'Negative MORE'!"