The Freefall of Jesus

By Vicki Johnson

“One more step, Michael. When you’re ready, let go. I’m here. I’ll catch you.”

My husband, David, who was speaking at a summer camp, got our 6 year old to help him in a visual aid during his message. The plan was for Michael to climb up a 6’ ladder, one rung at a time, and freefall backward into his daddy’s arms. As Michael advanced to the next height, he could hear his dad’s voice behind him encouraging him to “let go” and trust. For a short time, Michael couldn’t see or hear David, but he knew what the plan was. Don’t goof off, get silly, or switch things up and there would be a happy ending. Michael was obedient and held true to the plan. His confidence in David’s trustworthiness was a wonderful example.

It’s been a long time since I thought of this story.

Three things stand out to me:

  1. Michael and David knew the plan from the beginning.
  2. Michael took the steps needed to fulfill the plan.
  3. Michael finished the plan, relinquishing all control for the final outcome to David.

When the world began, a Father and a Son knew a plan. The Son took the steps needed to fulfill the plan. The Son finished the plan, relinquishing all control for the final outcome to His Father. Jesus Christ, fully divine and fully human, came into this sin-sick world and lived a life of perfect trust in His Heavenly Father. There was never a time when Jesus would be out of fellowship with his Dad, except for the cross. On the cross, Jesus would need to experience that devastating sin-separation from the Father. There was no other way for the plan to be completed.

Jesus, nailed to a cross, is raised up for all to see. The sun is obscured. He cries out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He has been abandoned; left alone. Then John writes in chapter 19 verse 28, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, *said, ‘I am thirsty.’” The price is paid. The plan is complete. His parched lips are wet with sour wine and he affirms, “It is finished!”

With one last act of trust Jesus,”… crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.” Having said this, He breathed His last.” (Luke 23:46) Jesus freefell into the gracious hands of God. May I live each day in that way.

My Heavenly Father knows the plan; I can trust Him with my life.

My Savior lived a life of trust in God, the Father, to the point of death; I can also, in Jesus’ strength.

The best outcome is when I relinquish control and allow God to work in me and through me to accomplish His plan, to His praise and glory.

ONE MOMENT AT A TIME

By Sarah Langness

One of the most significant moments in my walk with the Lord happened on a faded yellow movie-theater style chair in the Reusch Auditorium on the YMCA of the Rockies campus. The year was 2003 and I was enjoying the summer bliss following my freshman year of high school. The week at FLY was soon coming to a close; one of those weeks that seem so long on Monday but by Friday, you’re trying to find out how the days passed so quickly. I was gathered with other high school students listening to a message from a passage in Matthew 14:

“[Jesus] made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray . . . The boat was already a long distance from land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night, He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.’ 

Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ And He said, ‘Come!’ And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?'” – Matthew 14:22-31, NASB 

That night, the speaker challenged us to be like Peter. To follow Jesus. To get out of the boat. To get out of our comfort zone.

I don’t remember if she specifically said anything about doing “big” things for Jesus or “exciting” or “crazy” things for His name; but I’ll  never forget the prayer that I prayed. I committed my walk and my way to the Lord, promising that I would go wherever He sent me – even if it was in Africa.

Now, 11 years later, I sort of chuckle at that prayer. Well, maybe not chuckle. But I certainly shake my head. 

Because I guarantee you that I never would have prayed, “Lord, I’ll do whatever it is You want me to do, even live in Beulah, North Dakota.” Who would? I mean, in those moments, in those prayers, we’re thinking BIG stuff. Exciting stuff.  The kind of stuff that you read about in a Voice of the Martyr’s magazine or a Samaritan’s Purse Prayer Point bulletin insert. It’s the stuff that Katie Davis does in Uganda or the impact that Mother Theresa left. It’s the stuff that is seen, the stuff that is recognized and that fills us with a sense of awe and purpose.

I didn’t realize then – and have only begun to realize now – that following Jesus is done in the everyday, ordinary moments of life. That just because I’m “only” a stay-at-home mom and ministry wife doesn’t make what I do for the Kingdom any less significant. That following Jesus, getting out of the boat of our own comfort, is lots of little things.

It’s opening up my home and my heart to that new mom who feels alone.
It’s making a meal for that family who just experienced a loss.
It’s waking up countless times throughout the night to soothe a sick child.
It’s supporting my husband in his ministry even when it means he’s gone for the fourth night this week.
It’s considering the impact of my words before I speak them.
It’s setting aside my preferences to make time for others.
It’s holding my mouth shut when it really wants to spew that gossip or speak bad about someone.
It’s baking cookies for our bachelor neighbor – not just at Christmas.
It’s practicing patience when our little boy decides the bathtub is a scary place.
It’s not holding onto a hurtful grudge.
It’s redirecting funds in our budget to feed the hungry instead of buying myself another new pair of jeans.
It’s not being jealous of a close friendship between family members or friends.
It’s making my husband a chicken potpie even though I don’t really like potpies.

Serving the Lord in the everyday, ordinary moments of life probably won’t make ministry magazine headlines. In fact, it may even go unnoticed by the world. But following Jesus, serving Him, is done only for One. And it’s done one moment at a time.

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom who serve.” Colossians 3:23-24, NASB (emphasis mine) 

Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into joy of your master.” – Matthew 25:21, NASB (emphasis mine)

 

LIVING IN THE MUNDANE

by Sarah Langness

My days are fairly predictable. I can roughly tell you what time Zeke and I will be out for our morning walk and down for our afternoon nap. I usually do my grocery shopping on Mondays after lunch. I can tell you what days I typically do laundry. Day-to-day, my life tends to look extremely similar. Sure, there are days with a few surprises, like when my husband decides to be spontaneous and come home from work early. Or like last week when Zeke pooped out his diaper for the first time in months and I had to rinse his pants off in the toilet. Or when I’m able to grab coffee with a dear friend back for a short visit.

Yesterday, though, I broke the mold. I skipped my morning walk, left the men at home and headed to Bismarck to run a few errands. (I know, I know: real exciting. But hey, I live in western North Dakota; cut me some slack.) As I was driving across the familiar 79-mile stretch of farmland, I did something I rarely do: I listened to the radio. Family Life Today was on, and my apologies to the name of their guest whose name is lost on my mind somewhere on I-94. And actually, apologies to Family Life Today as I hardly even recall what the broadcast topic was about. Something about loving your spouse. I forget because of something that forgotten guest said that rang over and over and over in my mind:

“We only make three or four big decisions in life. But we live in the every day, in the mundane.”

It’s so easy to seek Christ in the big decisions, the big issues. Where we should go to college. Who (or if) we should get married. To take that job far from family or stay closer to home.

But what about the every day? The ordinary, mundane things? Jesus doesn’t want just a part of the “big” things in life – He wants the little ones too.

Not that I need to pray about switching my laundry day. Or that there is anything wrong with a fairly predictable routine. But in those every day, mundane, day-to-day tasks, who am I living for? Am I living selfishly, putting my desires over those of my families? Do I have eyes of compassion for the hurting around me, or am I to focused on me to notice them? Am I content with what I have, with who the Lord has made me to be, or am I envious of that other mom who seems to have it made?

“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spiritlet us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.” – Galatians 5:13, 24-26, NASB (emphasis mine)

It is in the mundane moments that I choose to put Jordan’s needs over my own. It is the every day moments that become Kingdom teaching moments for little Ezekiel. It is in the ordinary moments that I live for the Extraordinary One.

“For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” – 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, NASB (emphasis mine)

No matter how ordinary, how everyday, how mundane our daily tasks may seem to be, may we ever be guilty of living for Jesus.

 

Three Months Ago, Round 2

Three months ago, my mom had her first total knee replacement surgery. Three months ago, my sister-in-law had emergency surgery for a burst Meckle’s Diverticulum.

Last week, my mom had her second total knee replacement surgery. Last week, I received a text from my brother that said, “Round 2”; my sister-in-law was having another CT scan for pain in the area of her previous surgery. Today she had surgery to remove a dermoid cyst on her ovary.

Given – one of these surgeries was planned. Both times. But in all honesty, when I got that text from my brother last Friday, I couldn’t help but think, “Really? What next?” My heart was heavy and I (the one not having surgery) was tired of the unexpected.

But in the midst of my down-heartedness, I was reminded to remember. To remember the Lord’s faithfulness in the past. How, three months ago, He had taken care of my mom in that planned surgery. How her recovery went well. How grateful she is for that new knee.

I was reminded to remember how, three months ago, He had taken care of my brother and his wife in that unplanned surgery. How He was with them in the midst of the fear and uncertainty. How He provided for their every need.

There’s a verse from the Psalms that encourages me to remember these things –

“Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.” – Psalm 37:3, NASB

But my favorite part? A footnote that says this verse could read – “feed on His faithfulness”

Our God is always faithful. Sometimes, in the midst of pain, in the midst of uncertainty, in the midst of fear, it’s easy to forget. But He is indeed faithful. We simply need to look back and remember how He has proved that faithfulness in the past. How He has been present. How He has provided. How He has never left.

Into the Air Conditioning

By Sarah Langness

It’s been really hot out lately. Really hot. But I probably don’t need to tell you that. Despite the heat, my little man and I still spend much of our day outdoors: going on our morning walk, Zeke pushing his little umbrella stroller up and down the driveway, digging in the dirt, playing in little backyard pool, going to the park, visiting the neighbor’s dog. When I’m in the heat, there are moments when I realize how incredibly warm it is outside; but a lot of the time, I get used to the heat. Until we come inside. And that initial, wonderful sensation of air conditioning reminds me of just how warm I am.

Last week, I wrote about how I felt like I was in this spiritual rut. It’s like being outside when it’s hot: there are moments when I realize just how stuck I am; but a lot of the time, it’s easy to get used to being in that rut.

And this week, I’ve stepped into the air conditioning.

I’ve been refreshed as I have slowly read through barely a chapter in Luke a day. Some mornings I’ve only gotten a handful of verses read before the little man is up and it’s time to cuddle while reading books for 30 minutes. Other mornings, I’ve gotten an entire chapter read – but not just read, I’ve actually let the Word sink into my heart, let Him work. And it has been a blessing.

I can’t tell you anything earth-shattering that I’ve read. I can’t tell you that I’ve had any “I-never-realized-this-before” moments. I can’t tell you that reading through the book of Luke now is like reading it through for the first time.

But I have been reminded.

Reminded of what Jesus expects of His followers (Luke 6:32-35). Reminded that Jesus desires me to hear and to do (Luke 6:46,8:21). Reminded that Jesus doesn’t always send us far away to tell others about the wonderful things that He has done for us (Luke 8:39).

And being reminded? It’s good. I need reminders. Lots of reminders.

So next time I’m out in the heat, when I’m stuck in the rut – because, unfortunately, these air-conditioned, refreshing times never last forever – I’m going to remember to step out of the heat. Slow down a little bit. Get an extra nap. Sit down with the Word. Pray for the revived heart.

And always, always always cling to Him. Because He never changes

A Perfect Picture

by Sarah Nelson

As I was hanging pictures on the walls of our new home, I thought of a simply decorated wall hanging that has been on my parents’ walls for many years at many different addresses.  It is not an expensive piece of art.  It’s not ornate, masterfully designed, or worth many dollars.  It is a Bible verse written in beautiful calligraphy and decorated with some simple purple and blue flowers.  I don’t treasure that picture because of it’s appearance, but because of  the message on it that reached my heart many, many times over the years.  The verse?

“For my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Paul was given a thorn in the flesh and pleaded with the Lord to remove it.  What was the Lord’s response?

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:8-10  (ESV)

Do you have a situation in your life that is a painful thorn?  Do you have troubled relationships, a difficult workplace experience, or a physical challenge that is making your life seem unbearable?   Have you asked God time and time again to remove it and His answer has been no, or not yet?  If that is the case, know that He does see, He does hear, He does care, and He does have a plan to use that thorn for His glory.  His grace IS sufficient for us.  This doesn’t mean we are spared pain, tears, and loss, but it does mean friends that He is WITH us.

May God remind you today that His power is made perfect in the weaknesses of our lives.  Less of us, more of Him.  May that be the picture of our lives.

Follow Me!

by Velma Amundson

I was in the lunch line at the AFLC Annual Conference last week at the ARC, and happily talking with a friend of mine. We were chatting and walking along, enjoying ourselves, when I heard a voice behind me, “Velma, where are you going? The line is this way”. It seems I do this frequently. My husband and I will be taking a walk. It’s so much fun and there is so much to look at, or think about. I can be happily walking along, watching the clouds, the birds, singing a little song. I’ll be so engrossed in what I’m doing that I completely miss the turn home. Then I hear that familiar voice behind me, “Velma, where are you going?  Home is this way”. Of course, I turn around and get back on the “right path”, following the voice of my husband.

It’s like that following Christ, too. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in what’s going on around me that I get a little lost. When I taught my Confirmation class, we talked about being in the wilderness. They all agreed that the wilderness was a dangerous place to be, full of temptation and evil. I talked to them about a different kind of wilderness, one where there are trees and flowers and beauty all around us. A wilderness that we would feel safe in, let our guard down. Of course, that’s when the danger is the greatest. It’s when we are most susceptible to temptation and getting a little lost.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”  John 10:27  (NASB)

Thankfully, when I get a little lost, or distracted, I hear the voice of my Savior saying, “Velma, where are you going? The way is with me”. I know His voice, and I follow.

I pray that whenever you “get a little lost”, you hear the voice of Christ saying, “Where are you going?”, and you follow Him. May God bless and keep you.

Serving by Grace

by Sarah Langness

Remember that lesson I was learning about servant hood and that servant heart? I’ve found myself in situations this week yet again where that has been tested. Where my desire to have a servant heart has been challenged. Where I’ve learned even more about how selfish I am and how much work my heart needs.

And you know what else I have learned this week about being a servant?

It’s not something I can do on my own. Not on my own strength. Not by my own will. Not by my own power.

Only through Christ can I serve when I am exhausted and crabby. Only through Christ can I love as He has called us to love. Only through Christ can I have the grace to respond as He would respond.

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:13, NASB (emphasis mine)

So not only have I been praying to be a servant; but I’ve been praying for the grace to be a servant. When those trying moments come, when I am crabby, when I am simply exhausted — I’ve started asking the Lord to give me grace. Grace to show to others so that I can be a servant.

Praise God we don’t have to do this stuff on our own!