With Wings Like Eagles

This weekend, over a hundred people are gathering from Central Illinois to run a charity half marathon to benefit families living in poverty in Central America. It’s been a really neat journey, from the spring when everyone signed up, learning about the communities we would be supporting… to then training through the warm and humid summer months, and now getting ready to toe the start line.  We will run the 13.1 mile victory lap of all the miles already run. The work is done. They hay is in the barn. The runners have done the hard training, and race day is the icing on the cake.

When I visualize running a successful race, it always comes with this image of leaping, and bounding, and flying – literally flying like an eagle. Isaiah 40:31 says we will mount up with wings like eagles, run and not grow weary!

When I thought about today’s journal entry post of Isaiah  – of course I was going to share the parallels of this run supporting Central Americans and our strength from God. As I was packing and prepping for the race weekend, there were several things that came to mind and I was looking forward to putting pen to paper.

Right in the middle of all of this – I received some really awful news. One of our runners has a serious health condition that came on and definitely can’t join us. Our entire team is amazing…  but this runner is also SO INSPIRING. She is new to distance running, and this would be her first half. The runs didn’t always come easy to her. And yet she continued to focus on the bigger mission, fundraised to help others, and week after week, she logged her workouts, coming back for more even when she wasn’t loving it. When it got hard, she showed up. She has encouraged and led others this summer, and I had no doubts she would cross that finish line – and I couldn’t wait to witness it.

I wish I knew why this isn’t her weekend, why this has happened. And why now? I wanted her to wrap up her summer with a big bow – that finish line ribbon! Having made this hard decision myself two years ago for a race I had to pull out of, I know she’s feeling sad, hurt, and discouraged. And it’s kinda lonely when everyone you’ve been planning and prepping with is moving forward and you’re not.

When I go back to our scripture – it’s that first part of this passage that I struggle with… you know, the WAITING.

For they that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.They will mount up with wings like eagles, run and not grow weary, walk and not faint.

Have you had situations where you had the wisdom to make the hard decision to wait? Or, if you’re like me, sometimes you don’t wait, you keep pushing forward, and God has a way of forcing the waiting!! I can think of a few of those… and God knew that more time was needed.

Do you believe in the strengthening power of the Lord, that comes in the timing of waiting? Yielding? Listening? Being still?

Or do you view the waiting as a waste of time… unnecessary, or uncomfortable even?

Will you join me in praying for my friend that wisely made the hard decision to wait, that she will feel God’s comfort and strength in the process.

So why do you think God call us to wait? What has happened during your seasons of waiting?

From big things to little things, from waiting on medical test results, to a relationship to start, or for the promotion we’ve been working toward… there is a LOT of waiting.

On the other side of these waiting periods in my life, I can look back and see how waiting has grown my patience and perseverance. Waiting has taught me how to rely more on the Lord. Waiting has transformed me. Think of Moses – from the start of his journey with the Israelites, through the end. All the waiting, yes, but also all the growth he experienced!

If you have a moment today, reflect with me on the waiting seasons you’ve experiences and write down what happened. How you handled it, what you learned, how your perspective changed. The next time you are in a season of waiting, dust off these notes and get encouraged by your own personal testimony of waiting.

Here are additional scriptures on waiting on the Lord:

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He puta new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Psalm 40:1 

The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. Lamentations 3:25

For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. Isaiah 30:18

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning. Psalm 130:5

If you’d like to learn more about the prophet Isaiah, check out chapter 6, which outlines his calling from God as a messenger to the people – and his quick and willing response! Isaiah 53 is the chapter of the prophesy of Jesus, including his rejection and suffering, for our salvation.

 

Samson

From the book of Joshua we go to Judges, and it’s a fascinating period of time with a lot happening. Joshua dies, the tribes are still trying to conquer/divide/settle into land, and going through cycles of sin and depravity. Between Joshua’s death and until Saul is named the Israelites’ first king, we have “judges”. These judges are different than modern day judges and I love how they’re described in chapter 2 verses 16-18:

16 Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. 17 Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord, and they did not do so. 18 Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. 

In our reading today, we focus specifically on Judges 16, which outlines Samson as a judge for the Hebrew people being oppressed by the Philistines (there are 11 other judges recorded in the book of Judges). If you’ve heard this one before, your high points might be similar to what stood out in my mind over the years:

  • God gave Samson supernatural physical strength, and if he cut his hair he would lose his strength – but no one knew that but him. 
  • Delilah tries to get the truth from him multiple times – in order to sell his secret to the Philistines. The first couple of times he tells her lies, but she tries to take away his strength with these lies… why does he keep trusting her and telling her?
  • Eventually (third time is a charm) he tells her the truth about his hair and she sells him out and Samson is captured. 

After spending more time in Judges and the life of Samson, a few new things came to light for me:

  • Samson was born to Manoah and his previously barren wife, after an angel appeared telling her she would bear a son that would be a deliverer for the Israelites. – Ch. 13
  • Samson was raised as a Nazarite and as he grew, the Lord blessed him. – Ch. 13
  • Samson desired/tried to marry women outside of his tribe (against God’s laws at that time) – Ch. 14 the woman from Timnah, Ch. 16 Delilah. 
  • Samson was betrayed by both women, both telling information he trusted them with. 
  • The situation with the woman from Timnah (his soon-to-be wife) is Lifetime Movie ready. He kills a lion on his way to ask for his bride.. then during the wedding feast creates a riddle for the Philistines to solve. His bride tells the secret answer, and it all ultimately ends in death. Samson was a great warrior and killed 1000 men without an army. Ch. 14-15
  • Samson has his “Hey there, Delilah” moments and we do not know how long she nagged him to reveal his secret, but in verse 16 it says she pressed and urged him daily until his soul was vexed to death. 
  • The Philistines gouged out Samson’s eyes upon capturing him. Samson, whose role was to help people keep their eyes on God, lost his way, and his own sight in the process. – Ch. 16
  • God gives Samson one last super strength moment during his captivity and he kills 3,000 Philistines before his own death. 
  • Samson is listed among the men and women of great faith in Hebrews 11! 

This deeper study of Samson has replaced my thoughts of “why did he spill the beans” with some areas of encouragement: 

After Samson is captured and realized he wrongly told the secret of his strength, he still had the courage to call upon the Lord for help. Wow!! When we mess up, we need God’s help to deal with the fall out. But sometimes we let our shame, pride, or doubt keep us from calling on God. What an awesome example Samson gave us to cry out with faith! 

Be wise about who you allow into the inner circle of your heart. Are they Christ Followers, encouraging you in your walk with the Lord? Is there anyone influencing you in ways that come between you and God? 

What strength did God entrust you with and how are you using it for His kingdom?   

Rooted in His Love

Today’s Readings: 1 Kings 6, Ephesians 3, Ezekiel 36, Psalm 86

Today we find Paul again in Ephesians 3 writing from prison. I did some reading about Paul’s experience and learned that he was under house arrest in Rome while he awaited trial. In the very first verse he describes himself as “a prisoner for Christ.” He goes on to say that he is a prisoner on behalf of the Gentiles. This short phrase is so easy to skip over but I think it is really significant. What does it mean to us to be prisoners for Christ? To me, that means putting Jesus before all other things. That means dying to myself in order to put him first as he put me first on the cross. Paul goes on to explain to the Ephesians that they should not lose heart over his suffering. He says,

“To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles, the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.” (Ephesians 3:8-9)

 What would it look like if I committed to bringing light to everyone and shared the plan! Even though he was under arrest, Paul maintained his faith that God was in control of everything. When I think of this in context of my life today, it gives me such comfort to know that God is in control. Then I think about the possibility of sharing that message with others. I know, sometimes we feel hesitant, we don’t know if it’s the right time or place to share the hope and promise of Jesus. Paul shows us through example that we too can gain strength by sharing the message in our times of weakness.

Paul goes on in Chapter 3 to pray for spiritual strength. I love this moment and these words. It reminds me that each of us are named, each of us are absolutely cherished in His heart.

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and the length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ….” (Ephesians 3:14-19)

Did you read that? Did you take it in? Rooted and grounded in love! How many times this week can we repeat that sacred text to ourselves in times of worry or anger or fear. We are truly rooted and grounded in God’s love. So rooted that we may have strength to comprehend his love for us. Paul wants us to see that God’s love for us is multidimensional. It isn’t just at church, not just at home in our Bible or our daily devotional. God’s love for us fills all the spaces. Paul calls us as Christians to go to Him. He reminds us that God truly wants to hear from us.

Today’s message is so simple but to me it is so foundational. We can do better than survive each day. We can thrive in the knowledge of his love for us. We are rooted in Him; nothing can separate us from our grounding in Christ Jesus.

God, thank you for your words, help us to find our strength, to comprehend your all-encompassing love for us. Amen!