Faulty Fuel Line? How is my connection with God? Read the blog post on SJLittle.ca

How is my connection with God?

I drive an older vehicle. It has been faithful over the years, but no one would mistake it for new.

Recently, when I went to put gas into my car, the pump’s auto shut off activated as though my tank was full, but I knew it wasn’t. To get around this, I held the pump at half-speed. At this reduced speed, I was able to fill my tank.

With my tank full, I went on my way.

When this happened again at the same gas station, I began to suspect something was wrong with their pump. Only recently had I begun using this gas station and I’d never had the problem anywhere else.

Not long after, I again returned to this same gas station to fill up. This time several cars were already there forcing me to circle around to a pump I couldn’t recall using before.

I began filling the tank, again using half-speed. As I did so, I noticed liquid beginning to drip beneath my car.

This alarmed me. I stopped pumping and looked closer. The dripping slowed. The source of the dripping wasn’t visible to me. It was coming from underneath. I decided to try pumping some more. Again the dripping increased. I tried turning the pump at different angles in case I could find an angle that wouldn’t drip. No luck.

I didn’t fill my tank all the way this time, but enough to let me drive for the next while. As I drove away, I glanced back. There was no trail of drips following me. I made mental note of which pump I’d used.

When I got home, I drew a rough sketch of the layout of that particular gas station and marked the pump I’d used. It must have been a leaky pump. I would avoid it in the future.

It crossed my mind that maybe I should report the leaky pump to the staff at the gas station, but they probably already knew about it, right?

As the time drew near for me to get more gas, I considered going to a different gas station. However, I wouldn’t earn as many points at a different one and this one was in a convenient location. I would try one of their other pumps. Surely not all their pumps were faulty.Faulty Fuel Line? How's my connection with God? Read the blog post on SJLittle.ca

Pulling into the gas station, I chose carefully which pump to use – not the leaky one! Even if it meant waiting for someone else to move, I was determined to use a better pump this time.

When my turn came, I went through the motions of pre-paying and selecting the type of gas I wanted. Then I lifted the pump and put it into my car. I didn’t bother trying full-speed. With the gas flowing at half-speed, I watched for any signs of trouble. Almost at once I began to see that same dripping again. I tried twisting it at different angles to no avail.

It occurred to me that maybe the problem wasn’t with the gas station or even this particular pump. Maybe the problem was with my car.

With this new revelation, I only filled my tank about halfway.

What good is a car if I can’t put gas into it? Realizing what was at stake, it was decided to take the car to the mechanics.

Sure enough, while the gas tank itself was unaffected, the hose channelling gas from the pump to the tank was rusted through.

Here I’d been blaming the gas station, but all along it was my car at fault.

Then I stop and ask, are there ways I have unwittingly done this in my own life?

As a Christian, my source, or you could say my fuel, comes from God.

In a related illustration, Jesus said: “Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.” John 15:4-5 CSB

A branch is reliant on the vine for nutrients and water. In the same way, a car is reliant on the gas station to give it fuel.

If the connection between the vine and the branch is weak or broken, that branch will not receive what it needs to be strong and healthy. Likewise, when the gas pump doesn’t properly pass fuel to the car, that car won’t be able to run.

Just as I at first blamed the gas station for the faulty connection between my car and the gas pump, do I sometimes blame God (the Vine) for not filling me with what I need to produce fruit?

God never runs out of fuel to give me, nor does He have imperfections. If I am not receiving from Him what I need, is it His fault or mine? Perhaps I have a hole in my fueling system that needs looking at?

I’m still trying to figure out exactly what this looks like in my life. I know that being intentional to make time to study the Bible and pray is part of staying connected with God. I also know that taking time to sing praises and to give thanks to Him are important.

With His help, I will get better at connecting to Him so that I can receive the fuel He desires to give me.

He Suffered for Me written on shadow of a cross

 

It’s the week of Easter. The time to celebrate Jesus’ gruesome death on the cross for us, and His resurrection back to life.

It’s a time to slow down and reflect. A time to remember the very core of our Christian faith. The very event without which all of Christianity would be a waste of time.

Yet sometimes I find myself so caught up with the busyness of life that I struggle to reconnect with the significance of Easter. I’ve heard this story time and time again since childhood. It is incredibly easy to skim by it and hurry on to some more recent excitement.

Jesus died for me – great! I know that, now what?

Not so fast.

Last November, I was reminded just how much Jesus endured for my sake, while watching the TV show Survivor. I couldn’t help but see the comparison. While what the contestants endured doesn’t come close to the pain Jesus felt, it gave me a visual that renewed my awe of Jesus’ sacrifice for me.

Survivor: Season 37, Episode 10

It was a hot sunny day. The contestants prepared for a competition to win immunity, that is, a guarantee that they would not be voted off the show that evening.

The competition was explained. Each contestant would stand on a tiny perch attached to a pole, and hold handles above their shoulders – to me this resembled the shape of the cross. Anyone who let go was eliminated from the competition.

However, before the competition began, the host tempted the contestants to opt out of the competition in exchange for food – incredibly tempting to those who’ve been surviving on rice and whatever else they can scrounge up.

Praise the Lord that He didn’t give in to the temptation to say no to the suffering of the cross! He could so easily have refused to go, but, for my sake, He endured it.

Links to scenes from the competition on Youtube:

4th Individual Immunity Challenge Part 1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIZUlkuWqoM

4th Individual Immunity Challenge Part 2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HM6sFV_4jGI

Please note, I do not support everything portrayed in this reality TV show. Viewer discretion recommended.

A few of the contestants took the food offered, the rest got into position.

The first contestant only held on for a few minutes. Others for half an hour, their faces twisting in discomfort. They fought to endure long enough to win the prize.

On and on the competition went. Some contestants constantly shifted, hoping to relieve the pain. Others stood stock still, focusing on staying up. Some groaned and moaned. One or two, upon letting go, sank to the ground for a time before standing up to move to the side where they watched the others compete.

Finally, only two remained. One tried to convince the other to let him win, but neither would give up, despite being so utterly exhausted. At last, after 5 and a half hours of painful enduring, only one man was left standing. He was named the victor and received the reward.

Watching this competition, my mind recalled Jesus’ suffering. Not only did He endure a similar position for hours, but He was whipped nearly to death first. He was stripped naked and openly mocked. He was spat on and had a crown of thorns pressed into his skull. On top of all that, He endured the wrath due me for my sins.

He endured all that for me.

He could so easily have given up!

When Judas betrayed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and one of Jesus’ disciples tried to fight back, Jesus said:

“Put your sword back in its place… Do you think I cannot call on My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”  Mat. 26:52-54 NIV

Jesus chose to endure suffering beyond what I can comprehend. Why? Because He loves me.

What a wonderful Saviour we serve.

Happy Easter – He is risen indeed!

Sometimes I think I know someone well, only to discover that there is so much more to know about them. The missionary Jim Elliot is one of those people for me.

During my growing up years, my Mom initiated a pattern of having family devotions prior to getting into our textbooks (my siblings and I were homeschooled).

Among others, one of the devotional books I recall enjoying was Hero Tales by Dave and Neta Jackson. It’s a collection of short stories about various Christians throughout history. Listening to my Mom read it, I was introduced to men and women who committed their entire lives to following Jesus. The missionary, Jim Elliot, was one of those individuals. Hearing his story, I felt intrigued and awestruck. I wanted to live for Jesus too!

Later, I began reading the Trailblazer Books by the same authors. Each Trailblazer book tells the story of a historic Christian from the viewpoint of a fictional 8-12 year old. One of the books I read was about Nate Saint, a missionary who worked closely with Jim Elliot. Through it, I began to catch some insight into the challenges Jim Elliot faced. I learned how they followed God’s call to attempt to share the hope of knowing Jesus with the Aucas, a hostile primitive tribe. In this book, I also read a watered down version of Jim’s death as a martyr in the hands of the very people he sought to serve, and of the tremendous impact of his death in drawing many Aucas to Jesus. It seemed to me I had become acquainted with this man.

Reading a bookFast forward several years to my time in Bible school. When presented with a list of biographies to read, I chose Through Gates of Splendor written by Jim Elliot’s wife, Elisabeth. In it, I got to know Jim Elliot and his team on a deeper level. Prior to reading this book, I viewed Jim as super-human, untouched by any hardships of life. This book, however, spoke of trials and discouragements along the way. The book included various quotes from Jim Elliot’s journals and letters. One of my favourites is: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”* Having read this book, I felt I had a fairly good understanding of who Jim Elliot was.

Then, at my Bible School, I found a massive green book on the top shelf of the library. It contained the journals of Jim Elliot! On more than one occasion I randomly opened the large book and read entry after entry. I felt intrusive reading his musings. How much more intimately I came to know him! I saw that he was a human, no different from me. I skimmed through his random observations about the unfamiliar culture he lived in. I read of his joyous records of mountaintop days, and his musings on gloomy discouraging days. Most of all, I saw a deep unwavering passion to follow God. I did not get very far through his journals, it being a massive book and my time at Bible school being limited. Still, what bits I read shed a beautifully honest light on the personal life of this man who chose to put Jesus first.

Despite having read books about Jim Elliot and parts of his journal, I still don’t know him super well. I would not recognize his voice, nor spot him among a crowd. If we were at the same restaurant, I would not be able to pick out his laughter among the murmur of conversation.

Then I stop and think about my relationship with God. How well do I know Him?

Since childhood, I have read books people have written about God. Many of these books were watered down or contained fictional characters alongside real ones.

Even now in my adult years I read blog posts and books and listen to sermons teaching about who God is, many of which include direct quotes from the Bible. These are good, but if I stop there, I will not know God well. Just as the children’s books portrayed only the surface of who Jim Elliot was, I risk knowing only a watered down version of who God is when I rely on what others have said about Him.

Glasses sitting on open BibleWhat a wonderful gift God gave me in His Word, the Bible! Much like Jim Elliot’s journals, reading the Bible gives me incredible insight into who God is. Some parts of the Bible tell the story of what God has done, while other areas reveal the very thoughts of God.  I see how He was jealous for Israel and grieved at their rebellion. I learn of His incomprehendably great love for me. I read of His desire to be known. All sixty-six books of the Bible were given to me that I might know God and thus know how to live a life pleasing to Him. How critical it is for me to read and study the Bible, being mindful to keep each part in context.  

Speaking of studying God’s Word, the Bible tells of those in Berea when Paul began teaching them about Jesus:

“The people here were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, since they received the word with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”  Acts 17:11 CSB

Yet even here I cannot stop if I truly want to know God.

Jesus criticized others saying:

“You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, and yet they testify about Me. But you are not willing to come to Me so that you may have life.” John 5:39-40 CSB

While I must value the Bible, and indeed I read from it practically every day, it is not the sitting down and reading the verses that save me. It is Jesus who saves me.

Man thinking or praying while holding BibleBut how do I get to know Jesus? By reading the Bible I learn the truth of who Jesus is and about His power to save me. Then I must take Him at His Word and believe what He says. I must take time to talk with God, to share my heart with Him, and – through His Word and prayer – to learn to know His heart.

But then the question comes. How much do I really want to know God? I am privileged to live in a house with several Bibles, and through the internet, I have free access to more translations than I can count, yet do I take the time to really dig in? Is knowing Jesus a priority in my life?

 

Writing this post has been a challenge for me, not just because of the weightiness of the topic, but also because of how it convicts me. Some days I read my Bible simply to check it off my to-do list and move on. I don’t always take time to stop and reflect on what God would have me learn about Him through the passage.

Since writing the draft of this post, I did make some time to randomly sit down and prayerfully read the first chapter of Colossians. The very next day, when I felt discouraged, God used one of those verses to encourage me by reminding me that He has given me the help I need. Yes, taking time to seek God through His Word and prayer is incredibly valuable.

Will you join me in seeking to be men and women who know God deeply?

 

*Quote from Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot (2012), Page 155

Related links:

References:

Elliot, Elisabeth (2012). Through Gates of Splendor. Authentic Media Limited.

A powerful but easy to read book. I highly recommend this biography to any adult who takes their relationship with Jesus seriously! (For further reading on Jim Elliot, I recommend reading Shadow of the Almighty by Elisabeth Elliot. It is a slower read. It follows Jim Elliot’s life more closely with more direct quotes from his journal entries and letters.)

Elliot, Jim (1978). The Journals of Jim Elliot (E. Elliot, Ed.). Fleming H. Revell Company.

(I believe this is the book I read, however, I don’t know the publisher or year of the copy I read.) Reading this incredibly thick book is slow and it is sometimes challenging to understand, however, there is incredible richness in being able to step into the mind of a man of faith who has gone before us. Note, this book contains mature subject matter.

Jackson, Dave, & Jackson, Neta (1997). Hero Tales: A Family Treasury of True Stories from the Lives of Christian Heroes(Vol. II). Bethany House.

A beautiful devotional book which shares an intro and three short stories about various Christians from distant past to modern day and from missionaries to everyday Christians. Excellent for reading as a family. I highly recommend it!

Jackson, Dave, & Jackson, Neta (1997). Fate of the Yellow Woodbee: Nate Saint (Vol. 24, Trailblazer Books). Bethany House.

I highly recommend the Trailblazer Books for children aged 10-12. A few of the books contain somewhat more mature subject matter than others, so having a parent pre-read the books for more sensitive children may be recommended. If you are older than 12, but have never heard of these historic Christians, then I recommend them to you as a light easy intro to these men and women of faith.

A toddler pouting

Children often have trouble waiting for their turn. What about me? How do I respond when God asks me to wait?

I just got home from another day of teaching. My head is still ringing with “Teacher!” “Teacher!” “Teacher!”

If you work with young children you may understand. One of my classes today included several children who were eager for adult attention. It seemed any time I got down to play with them, more than five children surrounded me eagerly calling for my attention: “Teacher, watch me!” “Teacher, here’s ice cream!” “Teacher, I want to play!”

And then came art time…

Today we were using watercolour paint. I had four chairs at the art table and four paint brushes.

As I got four children settled and painting, others came by.

“I want it!”

I reply light heartedly “Okay. You will get to paint, but you have to wait until your turn. Why don’t you go play while you wait?”

The child groans and folds his arms.

Another child comes and takes the paintbrush out of another’s hand.

I return the paintbrush to the child currently painting, then turn to the second child. “Do you want to paint?”

The child nods with a frown.

“Okay, you will have a turn, but the art table is all full now, so you go play.”

The child begins crying.

A third child comes. “Me turn! Me turn!”

I ruffle her hair. “Not yet. You go play. I will call you when it is your turn. Don’t worry. I will make sure you have a turn.”

This child scowls and stands watching for a few minutes before moving elsewhere in the room.

I wrote this early in the school year. Thankfully, after a few months, they learned that there is no need to get upset if it isn’t their turn yet. It took time for them to learn that I mean what I say when I tell them that everyone will get a turn. They needed to learn to trust me.

Then I stop and think. How did I respond the last time God asked me to wait?

Honestly, I was frustrated. I didn’t see any reason for me to wait with the plan I had in mind. I wanted to do it right then, but God said wait so many times in so many ways I would have been a fool to ignore it!

I pouted, asking, “But why, God?” I was impatient and waiting made no sense to me.

The Bible mentions waiting for God many times. Sometimes it is the psalmist waiting for God to answer his plea for rescue. At other times it is a command to wait.

One of my favourite verses about waiting for God is Psalm 37:34: “Wait for the Lord and keep His way…”

This time, when God instructed me to wait, I felt incredibly impatient. I did not want to wait! Therefore, He led me across another verse which I then placed by my lamp as a daily reminder.

“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.”  Proverbs 21:5 (ESV)

I look forward to the day when I can join in saying:

“Look, this is our God;
we have waited for Him, and He has saved us.
This is the Lord; we have waited for Him.
Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.” Isaiah 25:9

For me, that most recent thing God asked me to wait for involved moving towards publishing a particular picture book. At this point, I really don’t know why He told me to wait. It makes no sense to me, but perhaps one day I will see the reason.

What is something God has asked you to wait for? What was the result?

Various tools arranged together

 

Getting ready to leave the house, I smooth my hair, slip on a necklace and take a close look in the mirror.

No! I have a black hair growing on my chin!

I, as a female, am not pleased with this discovery. Indeed it must go before I face the world!

Immediately I try to grasp it between my fingernails to pull it out.

It takes me several tries to get the angle right, gaining some form of grip on that unwanted hair. I pull, but it doesn’t move. I try again… and again… That pesky hair refuses to budge.

With a frustrated sigh, I reach into the drawer beside me to retrieve my secret weapon – tweezers.

I grasp the hair with my tweezers and pull. Out it comes without a fuss.

As I put my tweezers away, I shake my head and smile. Why didn’t I simply get the tweezers out when I first discovered the hair? They were right beside me within easy reach. All I needed was to open the drawer and pull them out, yet I tried with my fingers several times before retrieving the tweezers.

Next time I will get the tweezers right away… or not. I have repeated this process many a time, and can hardly recall ever reaching for the tweezers until after trying several times unsuccessfully with my fingernails.

Unfortunately, the same is often true in far bigger parts of my life.

As a Christian, God has promised many things to me. In John 14:27, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (NIV)

Jesus has given me peace. It is mine. However, just like with my tweezers, I must make the effort and take the time to pick it up and use it. “Do not let” is an action I must make with His help.

Far too often I try to use my own resources. I make a strategy to help me feel better, which can be good, but unless I tap into the resources and tools God has given me, I will never experience the peace He offers.

Okay, this all sounds good, but how do I actually not let my heart be troubled? My heart is often troubled as I listen to the news or scroll through Facebook.

Thankfully Jesus answers this question a few verses earlier.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me.” John 14:1 NIV

The New Living Translation uses the word “trust” in place of “believe.”

Easy? No. Worth it? Yes. Oh that I would learn to continuously believe that God is all He says He is.

And that’s not the only tool or resource God has given to me as His child.

Various tools lined up together

“His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3 CSB