Found this on my FB page and wanted to share it with you. It’s a funny take on the “Footprints” poem that has been around for several years. This really resonated with me, gripping me in the special way humor and truth does when they get paired up together.
Hope you’re having a blessed day. And (it really is best if you can) don’t be a ‘drag’ today.
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
Philippians 1:6, NLT
“Who is that coming up from the wilderness, leaning on her beloved?”
Song of Sol. 8:5
Leaning on Him. This world is a tangled place, it is a dense and difficult wilderness. There doesn’t seem to be a smooth road anywhere. We make our way slowly, through much suffering and personal doubt. This particular verse gives me an assurance of His presence, even in the middle of hardship and challenge. He is present with me.
There are some who may not understand the term, but back on the farm in Wisconsin, “barnburning” meant one of two things:
1. A person who burns down a barn, (obviously literal.)
2. Something amazing or noteworthy. To be strong, impressive, or of interest, (metaphorical.)
The following verses have made a tremendous influence on me. Here are five “barn burners” — incendiary verses that have directed me and given me support in challenging times. I hope at least one will fire up your heart.
It is a challenge to limit myself to just these five, so much has blessed me over 40 years–I should have at least 500. Scraping up five was really not the problem, there could be so many more.
So here are five which have made a definite impact on my thinking. (I reserve the right to change my mind as necessary, LOL.) All verses are from the English Standard Version (ESV), such as it is. Get ready for some “spiritual napalm.”
ONE: “Strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22
This is a very precise chapter in my mind. A great deal of attention is given to Paul and Barnabas’ relationship to the people. At first, they are deified, but moments later the crowds pick up rocks to stone him. However Paul’s message to the local church was impressive. He strengthens, and he encourages. The reality of difficulty and tribulation has become the very doorway for them to come into the kingdom. This encourages me, and helps me in the conflicts I deal with.
TWO: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32
This verse tells me of God’s commitment to me. First, I’m part of a little flock. Nothing of any significance. The world evaluates me, but I’m just a simple guy involved with a simple group of people, nothing more. However in this verse, fear is the primary issue. “Fear not, little flock.” Our fear is supposed to be eradicated and extracted.
The word “pleasure” is an interesting choice of words. We understand pleasure, or at least we think we do. This verse implies that the Father has put into play His intensity. Pleasure is often a way of doing intensity. God is “ultra-involved” and is exceptionally extravagant in His treatment of us. We are brought into this place of grace, by His kindness and grace. He can’t wait to pour out his love on us.
THREE: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil. 1:6
What confidence! That is a vital ingredient in our lives, this confidence and boldness. Our God is active in bringing us to a deeper place of maturity. Paul understands this, and uses God’s diligence as the basis for his growth. This verse is a real confidence builder for me. A promise that He will continue His work in me, no matter what. This is a great promise for young Christians. I often look at my own issues, and I give up after I accrue a certain frequency–a certain “sin-ratio.”
Shortly before I became a Christian, I spent a lot of time with Fred Tsholl who was the night-shift announcer at a nearby Christian radio station. He was so patient and kind to me. I would sit with him in the studio, all night long. When it was time for me to leave he would quote this verse to me. Looking back, this verse became quite significant. I would take it as a promise from the Lord Himself.
FOUR: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 2 Cor. 4:7
‘Jars of clay,’ really nothing more than this. We are weak and vulnerable, we so easily can be broken. But a treasure, I don’t think we grasp the value of treasure. But, if it resides in us, we become a repository of great significance. This magnificent work is not of our own effort. It belongs to God. It is nothing we can claim from any working on our part.
FIVE: “Who is that coming up from the wilderness, leaning on her beloved?” Song of Sol. 8:5
This world is a tangled place, it is a dense and difficult wilderness. There doesn’t seem to be a smooth road anywhere. We make our way slowly, through much suffering and personal doubt. This particular verse gives me an assurance of His presence, even in the middle of hardship and challenge. He is present with me.
We come up out of this ugliness, precisely because of that close presence. We lean on the Lord, as we traverse this hard place. His dear presence will bring us through this darkness, He gives me the amazing strength to do this journey.
“You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’
And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”
Rev. 3:17, NLT
If you would come to me and speak this boldly, I’d run you off. “You have no right speaking to me in this way!” Our personal relationships are essentially based on “boundaries.” My continuing friendship with you is based to a large degree on your respecting these social rules and restrictions. We look to social protocol to guide us.
God is the only one we would allow to speak to us so boldly and directly (and even then it’s still unwelcome).
Self-sufficiency has become the specific goal of the speaker, it is how he measures a respectable Christian life. Respectability however, is a disturbing development for simple believers. “I don’t need a thing.” Within our hearts there is a hunger to be independent. Self-sufficiency and pride are disturbing thought processes for simple disciples.
There is a delusion that is quite prevalent– we may feel that we have arrived. We finally are capable of something important. We have done all the necessary things, we have jumped through all the hoops, and have “made it.” It somehow feels like we have accelerated the sanctification process. Much of this comes from a feeling of being ‘spiritually exceptional.’
Jesus is confrontive. He will not diminish the truth, to spare our feelings. I think that that is quite remarkable. We esteem and value honesty, but when it is focused on us it seems difficult.
“You don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17).
None of these five words would we use to describe ourselves.Let’s consider them anyway:
wretched– terrible, very bad
miserable– unhappy, depressed
poor–lacking sufficient resources
blind– sightless, without vision
naked– bare, without covering
These five words that describe the “real” position of the believer in pride. These five words dismantle us, stripping us of our lies. We have evaluated ourselves and discovered that we must be exceptional believers. (Perhaps my innate specialness is true after all!)
Twenty years ago my wife and I took an evaluation for placement in a language school. I assumed I was quite exceptional, but two hours later I was told that I failed the test and would be assigned to the lowest level for the rest of the semester. I was shocked! And my dear wife, was put into the highest. What a blow to my pride!
“We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ.”
He reaches out to us because He loves us profoundly. It is a love that is not based on any kind moral performance. However, it is quite necessary for us to step into the piercing light, and an intense desire to enter reality. It is difficult for us to slough off the lies, and to understand what is true. Trust me, Jesus speaks nothing but the truth, and He loves us while He does it.
#3 The Devil will try very hard to condemn you for your past.
There are some days that are harder then others. You see, I have lived profligately, harmed many, and influenced others to do evil. I have wounded and hurt people very deeply. There are days when I have this mental image of myself– I’m a ‘Fountain of Feces’ spewing and polluting my filth to anyone passing by.
But I am also the Prodigal. I’ve squandered everything. It’s gone. I’ve been to the pig pen. Filthy and starving. Coming to my senses, I decide to return home, and sell myself to the employ of Him I once called “Father.”
But the most outrageous thing has happened. It is so wildly fantastic that it defies any reason. (I hardly dare to think it real). The man who I once called “Father” refuses to listen to my list of sins. He has embraced me, dressed me, established me as a son. I have new shoes, and a signet ring.
I am a wonder to behold. A feast of unparalleled joy is waiting. I pinch myself– is this really happening to me? Those days in the pig pen, what a stupid waste. I want to weep and shout for joy– all at the same time! It doesn’t seem real.
The subject of my grossness and sin has been forgotten. I have not been interrogated or punished. (Since then, I’ve learned that Someone else took this on.) But my perversity and my iniquity has never, ever been discussed. Their is no list of my sin, no cataloging has taken place. The promises tell me that my past sin has been put on a big barge, and shipped to the deepest part of the ocean– and dumped!
“You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”
As critical-thinking believers, with just a modicum of divine truth, what we do with our personal sin is huge. It determines much about our walk. We function out of our past. The plant is rooted in something. But our Father has turned our prodigal past into our personal future of total redemption.
Look at your greatest pain. The Holy Spirit will very likely take that deep, deep bruise and turn it into your greatest ministry. And He does it without resorting to a list of your ugly, ugly sin. You see, He has already forgotten it.
“The question is who are we going to side with? God says our sins are past, cleansed, and gone. You cannot go on with God until you stand on His Word as cleansed with the heart made pure.”
I am very clumsy. I have no claims on gracefulness to speak of. I seem to bungle and bump my way through life (to the amazed hilarity of my guardian angel), I walk into walls and stub my toes regularly.
Things others do elegantly I do bumbling. I have no rhythm and no grace, bumping into things and lurching myself through life’s obstacle course.
A lazy fly just flew by. He’s headed for the window for the hundredth time. His unskilled attempts to fly through it are thwarted by the screen. I finally have pity, and open it up. He earned it.
Christians are probably the clumsiest people on the planet. It seems we’ve one foot in the kingdom of God, and the other in this world. This isn’t an easy place to be. We don’t do either very well. We stub our toes a lot.
Even in the Church grace can be a foreign concept to many of us. God’s grace especially. I sometimes wonder, do we really grasp the wonder of this we so blithely profess to know?
Like that fly we try so hard and see no real results. Grace seems to elude us as we make another stab at being obedient. Why does it have to be so hard? Why can’t I make it work?
I’m so awkward. I barely understand the kingdom of God. And I still can’t fly through “screens.”
And still God’s grace meets us.
“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
“Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. They can’t fast while the groom is with them.”
This whole idea of celebrating is often at odds with religious sensibilities. “Too much liberty and too much freedom, and not enough control. People won’t know how to behave, and it’ll ruin everything.” This argument has been used for generations, and will continue to perpetuate itself.
People just don’t know what to do when the presence of Jesus becomes activated in their midst.
There is a wedding! Like all weddings this alters the present status-quo. “We interrupt life for this special announcement– JESUS is getting married!” He has attached Himself to a bride, she is simple, and yet beautiful. Room is made for the outcasts and mentally ill. For she is the Church, made up of rascals and ragamuffins who have had their many sins forgiven! All are invited.
We are limited our religious duty of fasting. It is definitely not appropriate in the light of this good news. Simply put, we cannot advance our religious reputation in this new environment. It’s not about us at all! Joy has taken over, and we can do nothing but stand in wonder. Jesus Christ has become “all, and in all”.
To follow Jesus must mean we are people of joy and celebration! The old concepts of religious effort are nullified, plain and simple. It really isn’t required, but it is understood that we will rejoice. We will begin to party!
Joy is to infuse our understanding, and it will lift us to the place where life becomes infected with the contagion of heaven. It is an epidemic spreading to every believer. The Universe has become the stage when worship is the only solution to the history of man.
His Presence has tipped the scales, and He has formulated Himself as the center of the whole ‘kit and caboodle.’ A joyful romance is at the very essence of everything. C.S. Lewis once said that “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”
When it all comes down, we are transferred into the status of the amazed. What has happened has caused us to take a breath, and step back in wonderment. Jesus is the Revolution! We are brought to the place where we belong, we are nothing more than witnesses and participants in His exaltation. We must rejoice in the joy of the Bridegroom!
“Ebedmelech from Ethiopia was an official at the palace, and he heard what they had done to me. So he went to speak with King Zedekiah, who was holding court at Benjamin Gate. 9Ebedmelech said, “Your Majesty, Jeremiah is a prophet, and those men were wrong to throw him into a well. And when Jerusalem runs out of food, Jeremiah will starve to death down there.”10Zedekiah answered, “Take thirty of my soldiers and pull Jeremiah out before he dies.”
11Ebedmelech and the soldiers went to the palace and got some rags from the room under the treasury. He used ropes to lower them into the well. 12Then he said, “Put these rags under your arms so the ropes won’t hurt you.” After I did, 13the men pulled me out. And from then on, I was kept in the courtyard of the palace guards.”
Jeremiah 38:8-13, CEV
At the very last, there was just one remaining. A single man, Ebedmelech. He was a Ethiopian; made a eunuch by the will of the king. The situation in Jerusalem has gotten very difficult. In an action of revenge and reprisal, certain men intend to kill the prophet Jeremiah. They take a certain satisfaction in this, and Jeremiah is thrown into a very deep cistern. They intend for him to starve to death, which is a terrible way to die.
The king in these last pathetic days is being manipulated by the surviving leadership of the city. Zedekiah gives tacit approval for the destruction of Jeremiah. He just lets it happen without a good reason. The prophet is lowered in the muddy cistern. Without food, he will soon starve. In the minds of this evil mob, they have taken care of the any last vestiges of a godly ‘righteousness.’
But there is one, he is a wild card. And no man would have guessed it. Ebedmelech, the Ethiopian eunuch steps forward and decides to change history. Not only his ethnicity, but his state as a castrated man are definite issues. This mob never recognized him as someone who would intervene. He was a non-entity, a non-factor. He was black, and a eunuch, a nobody.
But Ebedmelech is intervening, in the face of terrible risk, he steps out boldly to make an intercession. He doesn’t appear to be intimidated, and makes a cry for the truth. He becomes an intense and strong advocate for the release of Jeremiah from the deep mud.
Ebedmelech is given the ‘green-light’ by king Zedekiah. Ebedmelech rounds up thirty men to assist him as he delivers the prophet. Ropes are brought out, and out comes Ebedmelech with a big armload of rags. They shout down to Jeremiah. The instructions are called down to him of what needs to take place for the extraction.
It’s interesting, but the rags are the most interesting.
They are really an extra touch, not a necessity. The rags become essentially, a form of grace. They would pad the ropes, providing a degree of comfort as the prophet is pulled up out of the mud. Ebedmelech showed the heart of God in what he did. There was his desire to somehow make the prophet comfortable. In doing so he communicated a kindness and concern that was saturated with God’s own enveloping presence.
Our illnesses– physical or mental, have moved us to a lonely place on the edge.
We are those on the so-called ‘margins.’ Ebedmelech has now become a carrier of God’s grace. Jeremiah could have been lifted up by just the ropes. It would’ve been more difficult, granted. But the rags sent down by Ebedmelech provided the prophet an extra gentleness. And I am certain it did not pass by without notice. Their mention in this Book of Jeremiah is significant, and shows Jeremiah’s deep appreciation of kindness.
We can gather up much from what has been written. We will sometimes find ourselves in parallel situations. But our kindness and concern can make the difference. Admittedly, they are quite insignificant–quite minor. Call it ‘icing on the cake.’ But when you show the kindness of our Father, you will infuse the situation with love, and grace.
So be an Ebedmelech,— an outcast perhaps– but in a position of kindness.