The ClimbMy wife and I made a trip to a waterfall a few hours’ drive from our house. It was set to close to the public in a few days. The reason it was going to close is because it is a tough climb along slippery rocks and roots. Over the years people have been badly injured and some have died.
It is with these signs warning us my wife and I began the climb. The further we ascended along the side of the waterfall the more warning signs we saw. The trail grew steadily steeper and sketchier with each step. It wasn’t long before my wife was ready to stop. But I wouldn’t let her. As I helped her up rock ledges and navigate root foot holds I kept telling her, “I guarantee you it will be worth it.” Every time she wanted to stop people who had made the climb would encourage us to keep pressing on. She hung in there root after root, step after step, pressing on towards the unseen trusting my promise. I give her a lot of credit.
After stopping for multiple breaks, photo ops, and many views we summited the last waterfall. We were on top of the world. Sitting down a few feet from the ledge we broke out lunch. While she was distracted preparing the meal I reached into my pocket and pulled out a ring. Kneeling in front of her I asked her to marry me . . . again. As I slipped the ring on her finger I told her the climb would be worth it. The sweat and toil of a long arduous climb was met with a ring and a promise.
When we begin this life in Christ we soon come to realize the road is not smooth. It is met with difficulty and trials. Those who have gone before us, who have made the climb, encourage us to ‘run with perseverance the race marked out before us” (Hebrews 12:1). The Apostle Paul encourages us, “Do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly, we are being renewed day by day. For our momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them (our trials) all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is temporal” (2Corinthians 4:16-18).
Whatever you are facing, press on. I guarantee you it will be worth it. These temporary trials will cease and you will stand on the mountaintop of eternity.
Driven to Distraction
This morning I sat down for my quality time with the Lord. As I began to pray the usual
happened. My mind began to drift to the cares of the day. Get the sermon done. I
wonder how my friend battling illness is doing. I’ve got to get ready for small group
tonight. When I get home I need to take care of . . . And so on. How easily we become
distracted when we attempt to focus on the things of God. Even now as I write this I
received a text from my wife, the printer isn’t working for the secretary, and the heating
guy stopped by.
I can confidently say this happens to you as well. I can also confidently say there is a
purpose behind it. The Enemy will do anything he can to take your focus and time away
from the One who delights in you. He will keep you busy. If he can distract you from
quality time then the quality of your time will diminish.
It is in these times we must fix our eyes. We must be determined to converse with our
Lord, to be in His presence. I am reminded of the men who had a sick friend. The
crowds around our Savior were thick and it was impossible to get their friend through
the door to Him. They did not give up. They climbed up onto the roof, knocked a hole in
the roof, and lowered their friend down. Whatever it takes.
Distraction will confront you today but do not be defeated by the distraction. When
distraction does come think of it as a time so say hello to the Lord again.
Up a Creek
I’ve always enjoyed canoeing. Over the span of my life I have logged countless
hours and countless miles exploring lakes, rivers, and creeks. One thing I have learned.
You cannot canoe without a paddle. I know Mr. Obvious it’s not earth shattering
information but it’s a simple important truth. To canoe a lake without a paddle is to be at
the mercy of the wind. To canoe a stream without a paddle is to be at the mercy of the
current and won’t end well. There has to be a means to propel and steer the canoe to
get where you want to go. This is true of any water craft. Propulsion and a rudder are
critical to its proper function.
These simple truths have always made Noah’s adventure fascinating to me. We
talk about him spending 120 years to build a boat when boats and rain didn’t exist. The
people probably thought he was nuts. Truthfully I think he was nuts for not including
rudder or sail. He was about to command a ship and be entrusted with the future of
civilization. Without rudder or sail he would be at the mercy of the waves. However in
this instance Noah understood he was not the navigator. The seas which he faced and
the boat he built were in the command of God. He did not venture alone.
Sometimes we feel we have to have everything we need to navigate life and
circumstances. We have to have a vessel, a paddle, and a plan to get to where we are
going. Remove any one of these things fear and uncertainty will rule the moment. There
are many times in my life where I, we as a family, have stepped out into the unknown.
We have set sail into waters without a paddle. Whether a ministry opportunity or a life
struggle. It is then I am reminded of Noah. Life is never met without a navigator because
my Lord commands the vessel.
Be encouraged when facing the waters of life. Whatever you are experiencing
you are not navigating alone.
I spent a large portion of my life on a bmx bike. In our neighborhood we had a
driveway at the end of a dead end street where a house once stood. It had the perfect
setting to dig jumps into the hill side. The early days of my jumping career was jumping
two old tires we dug out of the crick. As we found more tires we would add them to the
line. Advancing from that we dug a hole and jumped it. Then the penultimate jump. This
time we would light a fire in the hole and jump it. I pushed my bike up the hill across
from the driveway. Hands tightly griping the handlebars I gazed off in the distance at the
jump, thoughts of Evel Knievel in my head. The fire was lit, the flames reached their
apex and I was off pedaling as fast as my legs and bike would allow. I hit the jump,
sailing over the flames licked my tires. Success! I had jumped fire! It was a new level in
my daredevil days. From there it was on to bigger things. Tire jumping advanced from
two to thirteen. Cross ups off towering walls, racing through the woods at breakneck
speed and descending precipitous slag hills. It all began with an abandoned driveway
on a dead end street and two jumps dug into the hill side, and two tires.
In areas of life there is a progression. As babies we move from crawling to
walking to running. In school we move from coloring the ABCs to See Spot Run to
Shakespeare. All these progressions are necessary for us to grow and navigate life on a
greater scale. If we fail to progress we fail to grow and when we fail to grow we begin to
stagnate. When we stagnate we get comfortable and begin to atrophy.
There is a point in the Christians life that begins at what we call salvation. It is the
point when we recognize our need for forgiveness for sin found only in Jesus. That point
starts us down a road to make us into a clearer image of Jesus while the things in us
unworthy of Him die in the process.
As new believers Christ is our Savior but as we mature in Christ He becomes our
sanctifier. Sanctification literally means ‘holy’ it is us saying to Him “Thy will be done!”
AB Simpson wrote, “A sanctified Christian is submissive and obedient. He desires the
Divine will above everything else in.” Paul, speaking about growing into the image of his
Christ, says in Philippians 3:12-13, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have
already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus
took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.” The call
of a follower of Christ is never to stagnate but continue to grow our relationship with our
Savior, and grow into His image. Our desire, our passion, must be to continue to
develop this relationship. Every day we wake up we need to realize that God wants to
work in our life that day, conforming us in the image of his Son.
The start of a new year is always an opportunity to evaluate and start afresh. It is
easy to look back, to see where we’ve been, to see the highs and lows and rest on
them. However, God is calling us on so much more. Learn from the past but “press on
toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” in our life.
A Tree God Planted
When we bought the farmhouse we planted a tree at the end of the yard. It was a small
thing. I towered over it. The wind would push it around like it was nothing. We actually
had to put a little fence around it so the dog wouldn’t trample it. Yet this tree, started as
a stick in the ground, took root and began to grow. Each year the growth was
As it reached for the sky and its branches spread out it soon towered over
me. The stick had become a shade tree. Now our dog enjoyed lounging in the grass at
it's base. It became a shelter and a home for the birds. In the Fall the winds would come
and its helicopter like seeds would catch the wind. Where they landed new sticks, soon
to be trees, would sprout.
What is the kingdom of God like?” What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed,
which a man took and planted in the garden. It became a tree, and the birds of the air
perched in its branches” (Luke 13:18-19).
A babe was born in a manger and the world took notice. The babe grew to be a man.
He gathered men around him and began to speak into their lives. People were drawn to
Him. He seemed to impact everyone who came in contact with Him. The deaf could
hear, The lame could walk, The possessed were set free. And the number of His
The disciples, like those helicopter seeds, were dispersed by the winds of tribulation.
Disciples were planted where they land, the gospel took root, and the kingdom grew.
Today when we walk into a church building we see the effects of that spread. That
single seed, the babe in a manger, continues to produce.
A tree God planted birthed a movement that continues to grow today. We are called to
partake in its growth.
October 19th, 2022
Grace and Truth
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the
glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John
One of the hardest things to do is show grace and truth in equal measure. Too often we
live on one side or the other. We are quick to show grace to someone who stumbles, or,
hammer them with truth when they fail. Somehow Jesus knew how to bring each in
equal measure to the forefront in any given situation. He know how to administer grace
to the fallen yet do so without ignoring the truth that needed to be spoken. A woman at a
well just there to draw water. Jesus confronts her with the truth of her lifestyle, yet does
so with so much grace the woman is convicted yet seems somehow relieved to be
called out for it. A guy climbs a tree to gain a glimpse of this Jesus guy. Jesus, catching
a glimpse of him, invites himself to the man’s house for dinner. Zacchaeus, a known
cheat of a tax collector, welcomes him gladly and with joy then repays what he had
How does this happen!?!?! How do we live in the tension between grace and
truth to speak into people’s lives on both levels? As I pondered this the only way I see
the possibility is if grace and truth are centered by love. It was the love of Christ for the
well women and tree men He encountered that made Him capable of gracefully
speaking truth into their lives. And made them willing to receive it.
We must operate in the same place. Grace and truth bracketed by love is the only way
life change is facilitated by the Holy Spirit through us to others. To lean one way or the
other is to fall short of being the complete image and presence of Christ to the person in
front of us who needs that complete image to deal with what they are going through.
Too much grace will leave them comfortable with where they’re at and no desire for
change. Too much truth we come across as the condemning sin police looking at them
through plank filled eyes.
Redeem the Time
A friend of mine sat in the hospital waiting room while someone close to him was having
surgery. He noted among the pile of magazines that litter the waiting room was a
monthly magazine dedicated to cats. He loves cats! I commented something to the
effect he would read it if there was nothing else to read. Yet in today’s technology driven
age that was never a problem. He had his Kindle and a pastoral related book to read.
He learned early on from John Maxwell that the time we have must be redeemed and
that ideal has stuck with him.
Let me be clear, being a former cat owner, I have nothing against cats. But, that
magazine is a good reminder for me, for us. The world is full of cat magazines that
intend to rob us of our time and time is short. The stark reality of this truth confronts me
whenever I sit down at my computer to bang away at the keyboard for Sunday.
There are many things to distract us today. As I sit at my laptop it is enticing to make a
few clicks and soon I am catching up on what a friend had for breakfast, on another’s
desire to have a pet otter, or read the latest news on the Steelers. There is nothing
wrong in and of themselves (well maybe with the pet otter thing) but we must not let the
things of the world steal the time we have been given.
Early on in His life Jesus told His parents, “I must be about my Father’s business” (Luke
2:49). Peter quoting the prophet Joel to the crowd in Acts 2:17 reminds us, “We are in
the last days.” James reminds us in his letter, “Yet you do not know what your life will be
like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes
away” (James 4:14).
We must redeem the time we have for the glory of the One who sacrificed himself for us
and those around us.
I challenge you to invest your time in fellowship with our Lord and in those He brings
into your life.
My wife and I caught a break in the weather. So we took advantage of it to go for a walk to a beautiful waterfall not far from our house. I enjoy walks in the woods. It doesn’t matter if there is an end goal to the walk such as a waterfall, overlook, or any other spectacular feature. I simply enjoy the peace and beauty of nature. I can find a place to sit and soak in the surroundings. I know others who do not understand this. They enjoy the walk in the woods if there is something waiting on the other end like the aforementioned waterfall. There is nothing wrong with that, we just see things differently. We both enjoy nature but for different reasons.
Unfortunately some have this view of God. They enjoy His presence only if they have something waiting on the other end. There has to be something in it for them beyond the simple presence of Jesus. In the gospel of John we meet such a group. In John 6 the apostle records Jesus feeding the 5,000. The next day He was in Capernaum and the crowd who had been fed tracked Him down. Jesus says to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (John 6:26). They did not come for Jesus to be in His presence but for what could satisfy themselves.
We must not seek Jesus for the waterfall but for His presence. “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst.” Jesus is the end game to our searching, everything else is a bonus. Today take time this week to sit in His presence with no other goal in mind.
Over the past couple of years I have watched from afar a friend from college transform himself. Through a radical change of lifestyle he has gone from obese to in shape. When I see the before and after pictures the transformation is amazing.
Recently he noticed something at the gym. Through his hard work and dedication people at the gym began to notice as well. He starting getting nods from the other gym rats in the free weight area.
When I go to the gym I get nods as well. Only not from the gym rats. My nods come from the old guys on the stationary bikes and coffee drinkers sitting in the hallway. But hey, I’m getting nods right?! On some level it is a sign of acceptance and approval.
It’s interesting where our nods come from. It speaks a lot to who accepts us and who doesn’t. I think that is a large problem in society today. We pick and choose who we will nod to. It also got me thinking who I nod to. Who do I deem worthy of a nod? James says “If you really keep the royal law found in scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. Bu if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.” (2:8-9). In other words. Everyone gets a nod.
I think if we were a little more freer with our nod this place just might be better off. I think if our churches and followers of Christ were freer with their nod people would come to see the Christ we know a little easier. They would experience the love of Jesus as we have received it. Let me be clear. This is not a nod to accept behavior contrary to who God is. This is a nod to say you are valued. A nod to say I see you. A nod Jesus gave to a Samaritan woman and a tax collector.
Be freer with your nod today.
a time to tarry
The word ‘tarry’ has crossed my path on more than one occasion. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines tarry as, “to linger in expectation: wait; to abide or stay in or at a place.” I fear this word or mindset is something we have lost over the years. While going through boxes of old pictures I found a shoebox full of pictures from my backpacking trips. One particular picture is taken of a place called MacAfee’s Knob on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. It is arguably the most breathtaking vista I have had the privilege of experiencing.
While I was there soaking in the view and enjoying my lunch a guy came bursting out of the trees, whipped out his disposable camera, snapped a quick picture, then raced down the trail. I later found out from other thru hikers he was putting 30-35 mile days in an effort to hike the trail as fast as he could. Tragic. He may complete the trail, I don’t know if he did or not, in a blazing time but he is missing the opportunity to soak in the beauty of where he is hiking. He is not taking the time to tarry.
This is an unfortunate habit that has pervaded all of life. I think particularly of our Christian life. Too often we are too busy or have too much on our plate to take time to tarry, to abide in one place and sit at the feet of our Lord. I think more specifically reading His word. We open up our bible, power through a chapter or two maybe even three, then get on with our day. Or perhaps we have determined to read the bible in a year. There is nothing wrong with that but if we do not take the time to tarry, to stay in one place and allow the Spirit to speak to us through a particular passage, then we miss an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of what the Lord wants to say to us through His word.
I often wondered if that hiker remembers anything from his trip. In your day to day living stop and see the Lord in it. Do not be in such a rush you fail to miss His presence. In your reading did you hear God speak? Did you give Him opportunity? While I do not discourage reading through the bible in a year I want to encourage you to take time to tarry. I want you to read a particular chapter or passage for a few days, a week, or whatever you feel prompted, and allow the Spirit to reveal to you the beauty of what that passage is saying. Today, take time to tarry.
Be Blessed and Be a Blessing
Rob Jeffrey, Pastor - Bradford Alliance Church