Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, Christian women, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

Fight or Flight

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the 
fiery ordeal that has come on you to test 
you, as though something strange were 
happening to you.  
1 Peter 4:12

I’d wanted to get my motorcycle license since I was 16 years old.  For any of you counting that’s about 37 years ago.  Back then, my mind and body were young and better equipped to handle the fast moving issues surrounding the dangers of riding.  So, when I finally made a lifelong dream come true, I decided to take a motorcycle safety class.  In order to pass the class, we were required to learn and practice a few emergency maneuvers.  In one situation we were to swerve, at a fairly fast speed, to the left and to the right in a tight “z.”  In another we had to learn how to safely make a quick stop.  In both, the decision had to be made in a blink of an eye to stay in the fight to be upright or to take flight from the bike.

The key to both safety maneuvers is where our focus lay – straight ahead.  Our tendency, as new riders, is to look down at the front wheel.  This is a sure fire way to crash, as I found out during one quick stop practice.

I’ve now been riding for about four years.  But it is in the back of my mind at all times that I’m not sure how I will react when faced with a real emergency.  I have the knowledge but not the wisdom of experience.  Will I stay in the fight or take flight?

Isn’t our faith journey a lot like that?

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, 
whenever you face trials of many kinds, because 
you know that the testing of your faith produces 
perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work 
so that you may be mature and complete, not 
lacking anything. 
James 1: 2-4

We, through our faith teachers and reading the Word, gather up our knowledge of God and how His son, Jesus, loves us so much.  But until we have faced an emergency, a faith testing, we cannot truly know how we will respond.

I think one of great crossroads in the New Testament is when Peter professes to Jesus that he will always stand by his friend.  And when the faith trial came, he fled.  Not once, not twice but, three times.  And we ask ourselves, what would we have done?

Peter had the knowledge of Jesus but not the wisdom of a faith tested.  And even after he realized the truth of the situation and witnessed Christ’s death, he still turned away for a time by going back to his old life of fishing rather than carrying out his friend’s commission.  

I’m so grateful that the one player in the story of humanity never takes flight from us – God.  He is the “long sufferer” in our thousands-year old journey.  At each turn where we have either forgotten or abandoned Him, God has stayed the course and given us grace.

I once was so angry with God that I made the decision to stop believing in Him.  I remember yelling up to the heavens, “I don’t trust you and I don’t believe in you anymore!”

I spent the next few weeks in a tug-o-war of sorts.  At one moment I would find myself arguing with God and then another reminding myself not to talk to someone I didn’t believe in.  And He never left me.

And let us run with perseverance the race 
marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, 
the pioneer and perfecter of faith. 
Hebrews 12:1-2

I’ve had minor emergencies while out on my motorcycle – cars swerving in front of me, lights quickly changing from green to red – where I’ve accessed that knowledge from my safety class.  It’s wisdom building.  And God has given me minor trials along the way.  With each opportunity to decide whether I stay upright, keeping my eyes firmly fixed on Jesus or to take flight, I build up my wisdom and faith muscles.

Peter, who although had the blessed opportunity to stand alongside Jesus for three years, had to face his own trials in order to fully mature from knowledge of God to having the wisdom and faith of His character and ways.  When he took his eyes off Jesus, he was given grace. Jesus returned to him over and over.

As Christ followers, we know the entire story from which draw upon.  And at every life emergency my hope is that we continue to stay upright with eyes fixed on Him.

bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

The Smoothest Path

A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
    a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Isaiah 40:3-5

A few years ago, I came home on my birthday and opened my garage door to a beautiful, new, baby blue Vespa scooter.  On it sat a giant bow.  I was so excited I jumped out of my car and proceeded to run toward the scooter.  I suddenly realized, however, I had yet to put my car in park and turn it off.  So as my car inched toward disaster I jumped back in, turned it off and started laughing.  Once the excitement wore off, I realized I now was faced with a task I had long put off – getting my motorcycle license.

Since I was 15, I had wanted to ride motorcycles but my mom was fearful I’d kill myself.  So here I was, 53 years old, and finally doing it.  After successfully attaining that goal, my husband and I made a new one.  We decided to do a long ride with the local Vespa Club out to Palm Springs, California.  Taking the non-freeway route made it a 113-mile ride over a minimum of three hours.  And as the ride went along, I held my own.  Just before you drop from the mountains into the desert floor of Palm Springs, you’ll find a motorcyclist’s dream road.  On a map it looks like a mess of squiggles.  In reality it’s seven steep and sharp curves.  Having ridden with the group for more than two hours I recognized the most experienced and safest riders.  I picked one and decided to follow his line down the hill.

In motorcycle terms “following the line” means keeping an eye on the leader to see the smoothest, quickest and safest path along curvy roads.   A few years later on a Vespa trip through the Alps, following our guide’s line was crucial as he was the most experienced rider of our group.  And I certainly didn’t want to find myself riding off the edge of a cliff or smacking into a giant tour bus!  

That’s me waving! As we ride through Austria!

It’s amazing the people, some of whom we barely know, that we are willing to put our trust in. Yet with God, who has been with us from the beginning, we seem to struggle in following His line.  He promises to make our way straight.  He will make our ground level.  Yet, we are the ones that decide to take a path all on our own. 

We know better.  Or worse, we just don’t think He knows what we really need.  My youngest daughter was famous for going against my directives.  I once found her, at 2 years old, standing up on the kitchen counter attempting to get a glass down from an even higher shelf.  She had asked me for some juice and I had said, “no.”  I turned my back for a minute.  You see, she would explain to me, I just didn’t understand why she needed x,y or z.  If I had only just understood her need better I would’ve apparently said “yes.”  So, to her, that justified her standing up on the kitchen counter that day.

How many times a day do we do that to God?  How many times a day do we tell God what He needs to do for us?  Or how many times do we just think, “if only He really understood what I need.”? 

Whoever has my commands and keeps 
them is the one who loves me. The 
one who loves me will be loved by 
my Father, and I too will love them 
and show myself to them.”
John 14:21

How many times have we thought our kids or friends or spouse or employees don’t respect us because they refuse to take the path you’ve laid out for them?  You’ve tried sparing them from hardship and yet they still don’t listen.  Now think how God must feel.  

We are asked, entreated, implored by God via His prophets throughout the Bible to trust Him and follow His line.  He knows the best, quickest, and safest path for us.  The book of James has so many wise words about His path. It happens to be one of my favorite books of the Bible.  Why?  Because I like lessons to be clear.  And James also makes it clear that when we learn what that path is, we need to hold steady to it.

But when you ask, you must believe 
and not doubt, because the one who 
doubts is like a wave of the sea, 
blown and tossed by the wind.
James 1:6

I’m thankful for that Vespa rider, whose name I don’t remember and I may never meet again, for leading me down that treacherous road into the desert.  But I’m most thankful to Jesus, whose name I hold in my heart and on my lips, for leading me out of my desert and into a bright and beautiful path.