“Special Ops”

2 Corinthians 4:17 “For this light, momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”

When I read this verse, my thoughts go to my own personal “affliction” that I am dealing with and it neither feels light nor momentary.  I suspect many of you reading this might feel the same about what you are going through right now or have gone through in the past.  There are many trials that we can face in this life.  I have gone through my fair share and know others who have gone through very hard things…loss of a spouse, a child, a marriage ending, and many other things.   In this scripture there are several words that carry a lot of meaning.  I began to focus on the words “Preparing us for the eternal weight of glory”  I was reminded of a soldier going through training.  My husband and I were recently on Coronado Island where the Navy Seals train on a section of the beach there. It came to mind so I googled Seal training.  I found a video of a former Navy Seal talking about what they go through to train.  He said that there is one part of training called “Bud’s” where they have you dive in a very deep pool wearing the diving gear.  He said you have to stay down there a long time, then when you are about out of air, one of the instructors dives in and unhooks your hoses, ties them in knots and roughs you up a little  bit, then goes back to the surface to watch and see how you handle it.  He said they are testing you to see how comfortable you are under water and that it is the longest 30 minutes of your life, while you try to get your hoses back on with only the air left in your lungs.  He said the most important thing is to “Stay calm, conserve your air, and work the problem until relief comes, when someone dives down and gives you the thumbs up.”  As I compare this difficult situation they are in during this training, to the scripture verse, I can see the “affliction” but I can also understand that as hard as it must be, it still can be considered “light and momentary.”  What makes it light and momentary? The fact that it is momentary lightens it somewhat, but most of all, it can be considered light because it is a test. It’s not a true life or death situation.  There is someone above the water watching over them.  Regardless of whether they handle it well and pass the test or whether they panic, blow it and fail, they are not going to drown. There is relief above the water, watching over them as they train.  It’s practice.  It’s HARD practice, but it is practice.  This fact, this reality, that someone is watching over them while they train, is what makes it light and momentary.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9, 16  “We are afflicted but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed. (vs 16) So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is waisting away, the inner self is being renewed day by day.”

When we find ourselves in difficult situations, we need to seek the face of God and get in his presence.  In scripture it says “when we behold the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed into the same image, from one glory to another. ”  2 Cor. 3:16-18   The scripture says we go from glory to glory.  This is referring to each trial and victory.   The definition of glory is “high renown or honor won by notable achievements.”Those difficult things we go through are like our “Special Ops” training.  As we go through a trial, it strengthens our spiritual man as we learn and grow in our faith.  The victory on the other side of the trial is the glory.

James 1:2  “Count it all joy my brothers when you meet trails of various kinds, for you know that the TESTING of your faith produces steadfastness (loyalty, in the face of trouble and difficulty, resolution, resolve) and let steadfastness have it’s full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

At the end of the Seal video, he says that anyone can become a seal.  Anyone can do it. He says “you just need to have dedication,  and passion and resolve in mind and spirit.”  When we give our hearts and minds to the Lord, we begin training for “Special Ops” but not the same kind as the brave and wonderful soldiers that serve and protect us and our wonderful country.  We become a soldier in the army of God.  We have a calling to eternal purpose.  With Gods help, we can make it through trials, while having faith and confidence that it is momentary.  The trials are strengthening our spiritual character.  So then what?  We are called to share with others,  the trials, our faith and the glory of Gods victory through it, so they too can be encouraged and have faith in God.  Then we are advancing the kingdom of God.  That is eternal glory.  

2 Corinthians 4:13  “Since we have the same spirit of faith, we also believe and so WE ALSO SPEAK.”  

We are here to make a difference in the kingdom of God.  When we speak, when we share the gospel with others, we are making an eternal difference in their lives.  Let’s ask ourselves, “What are we doing that is eternal?” 

2 Corinthians 4:17  “For this light, momentary affliction is PREPARING YOU, for the weight of ETERNAL glory, beyond all comparison.”

When we go from glory to glory,  learning and growing through the trials of this life, thats great, but it’s not until we share the gospel with others, and show them that Jesus is our Savior and their Savior, that we make an eternal difference.  That is the eternal weight of glory.  When those soldiers pass Seal training, and become a Navy Seal, the testing is over.  THEN they are in real situations making real life or death decisions.  The training prepared them to handle the weight of those actions.  When they succeed in their mission, there is glory in that victory, but that glory carries with it a weight.  They are now taking action that has eternal results, because they are saving peoples lives.  They understand the meaning of the eternal weight of glory.  The challenge we can take from these scriptures is to remember when we are going through trials, to not focus on the circumstances and become consumed and overwhelmed by them, but instead “Stay calm, conserve your air, and work the problem until relief comes.”  Clint Emerson.  Let’s remember that God is there, watching over us.

2 Corinthians 4:18  “As we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are not seen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are ETERNAL.

Let’s remind ourselves to keep an eternal perspective. God is faithful. He is always there, watching over us. We should learn, grow, and look outside our circumstances and outside our own issues. The enemy wants to keep us consumed by our own problems so we loose sight of the unseen. What are we doing that is eternal?

Prayer:  Lord thank you for your steadfast love and faithfulness.  Please help us to remember your faithfulness when we are in the middle of affliction.  Please help us to keep an eternal perspective and not be consumed by our problems, but instead, work through them with faith.  Help us to share the good news of Jesus and our faith with others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“He Can Take It”

I am writing this from a hotel room in Cuba. I have spent the last two days meeting with Christian woman and hearing their stories. Today I sat in a tiny little room probably 8×8 that was a “Home Church” and heard each women tell their story of abandonment or loss of a spouse. The ones they loved, counted on and did life with were gone. They spoke of the faithfulness of God in their journey. Tears streamed down my face as I listened to one after another tell their heartbreaking stories of life’s disappointments and of Gods redemption. I wept because I have experienced a little of that in my life as well. SOMETIMES God does or allows things to happen that don’t make sense to us. Sometimes the enemy does things that we feel like God should have stopped! What do we do with our faith then? What do we do when we are hurting and confused, disappointed and honestly, probably a little angry? Here is the truth: I don’t know why he heals some and not others.  I don’t know why sometimes he takes people that have served him faithfully and loved him and have made a difference in the kingdom of heaven and make this world a better place.  It just doesn’t make sense to me. That’s just one situation I don’t understand. There are more.

1 Peter 5:7 Amplified Bible (AMP). Casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully].

Here is what I do understand. He is a big God. He is Sovereign and his thoughts are higher than ours, but he is also a loving and understanding God. We can bring our pain, our questions and even our anger to him.  He can take it!  He will walk through it with us. He is patient and loving and he is not afraid of our emotions, our anger or questions. I have had events in my life that caused me to question what I believed about God.  Like these women I met today, I found out that it was okay with him, that I didn’t understand and questioned him. He still loved me and was faithful to love me and guide me through the pain, disappointment, questions and anger. In the end he led me to a place where I trusted him again. In time he showed me his faithfulness and how he had walked with me through the pain and taught me things that gave me greater understanding and it built my faith. It also deepened my relationship with him. He is not afraid of our feelings. He understands emotions. He created us.  Jesus walked this earth and had to feel all of those things. He felt injustice, a broken heart, fear, pain, I could go on and on. HE KNOWS how we feel and IT’S OK to be honest and share it with him. Cast all your cares, anxieties, fears, and pain at the feet of Jesus. Don’t shut him out because you don’t understand why something has happened. Talk to him. I promise you that he will meet you where you are and listen to you, love you and walk with you through whatever it is that you are going through.

A couple of my favorite lines from the song “Bigger Than I Thought” that I’m sharing in this post says, “I THROW all my cares before you, my doubts and fears don’t scare you.” And the other one is, “I will rest in the Father’s hands, and leave the rest in the Father’s hands.”

Yes he is a BIG God. He is the Creator of the universe. The one who makes the waves roar. He is also a personal and intimate Savior who loves us. He is the only one who will never hurt us and will always, ALWAYS be faithful, understanding and forgiving. There is nothing we can say or do that will cause him to stop loving us. There is nothing we can say or do that will make him leave us alone. He is there, even when we choose not to talk to him. He loves us SO MUCH. He is waiting for us to turn to him and unload all that is in our hearts.

In the song “Nobody Loves Me Like You” my favorite line says “Story…I could have had a really different story, but you came down from heaven to restore me, forever saved my life.”

May I encourage you today, no matter what you are going through or how you feel about it, to take the chance on him? Tell him everything and leave it there at his feet.

‭Psalms‬ ‭34:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬ “Taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

 

 

 

 



 

 

Obligation Or Opportunity?

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Scripture tells us not to be conformed to the passions of our past, but to be holy because he is holy.  1 Peter 1:14-15  “14As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance,15but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;”   We are called to live a life worthy of the Lord.  Colossians 1:10  “Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”  This is not, nor should it be looked upon as a duty or obligation that we dread or roll our eyes at.  IF we have surrendered our lives – the miserable mess that we have made of our life- and have laid it at the feet of Jesus, he trades us salvation, purity, freedom, joy, a fresh start, for our mess, our sin, our pride.  We then can joyfully and purposefully strive to live holy.  Of course we will fail daily, but we shouldn’t get discouraged.   Jesus told Peter when he was washing his feet, “You are clean!” John 13:10  10Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean. He only needed to wash his feet from the daily dirt that got on them. We meet with our Savior daily, so he can wash away the dirt of the daily sin from our minds, eyes, ears, hands, feet… so that we can  successfully be led by the Spirit and keep in step with the Spirit.  Galatians 5:25 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. If we don’t go to our Savior daily and allow him and his Word to wash away the dirt of this world, by the renewing of our minds, the dirt of this world (our daily sins and anxieties) will weigh us down and we will move more slowly and not be able to keep in step with the Spirit. Romans 12:2  2Do not be conformed to this world,c but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. If we are not daily seeking him, it is harder to see where the Spirit is leading us and harder to keep in step with him.

God was always having  the Israelites  build monuments or establish feast days as a memorial to the victories where God had rescued them.  This was to remind them what he had rescued them from.  If we will continually remember what God has saved us from, it will keep us grateful for his Salvation.  Then we will want to strive to be holy, not out of obligation  but out of gratitude!

Imagine for a moment how humbling it would be, to allow The Holy God – The Great I AM – The one who spoke everything into existence – The one who willingly laid his life down in a humiliating and horrific death, to kneel down before you and wash your feet.  Oh dear God, NO!!!! I can not imagine! I am so unworthy of such an act of love.  That is the example of humility and love that he gave us.  It is that same humbleness, and submission that we must have in order to lay our sin and our lives at the feet of our Savior.  We have to acknowledge the mess we have made of our lives, the abundance of sin and pride, the lack of ability to do it right on our own and acknowledge his ability, his authority, his greatness, his holiness, his love, his sacrifice, his gift of salvation for us.

When we realize who he is and what he has done for us, then, instead of an obligation, to live holy, it becomes an opportunity to show our gratitude, as we humble ourselves and turn our backs on our wicked ways.  2 Corinthians 10:5 5Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; 6And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.   1 Peter 5:7-11  7casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Casting is defined in the Webster Dictionary as throwing forcefully in a specified direction. I don’t know about you, but I desperately, humbly and gratefully, HURL my sin, my worries and my problems, to his precious, holy feet and gladly and passionately strive to be an obedient child of God.  What an honor!  What a joy to lay down my passions and fleshly desires, to strive to serve my Savior and my God!  Philippians 3:12-14  12Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  It is with immense gratitude and joy that I strive and press on to live a life worthy of the Lord.

1 Peter 1:6-9 6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.8Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He is..

I just spent a wonderful week in Havana, Cuba leading a youth mission trip. On so many different occasions I saw how God had gone WAY before and set something in motion that might have seemed to a bystander as coincidence. My friend these things were no coincidence. It strengthened my faith. Now as I get back into the normal routine of life at home, the worries and stress of everyday life can be overwhelming at times. Then I remember how he showed me that he is working on our behalf all the time. He isn’t waiting until we cry out in desperation or fear in the moment. He knows what is coming before we get there. We can and should cry out for help and strength to face what comes in this life, but we can be comforted by the fact that he already has the provision ready. He loves us so much. He is so good to us. Are you worried about something or someone?When we are down he is there to pick us up. When we are tired he is there to strengthen us. When we run he runs after us. When we are lost he will find us. Take heart! God is faithful. He is love. He is in control. He is the great I am.

Philippians 4:6-7

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.”

English Standard Version (ESV) | Download The Bible

Off Plumb?

Have you ever drawn a long line on a piece of paper without using a ruler?  It is difficult to keep it perfectly straight.  Even using a ruler, you can end up with a very straight slanted line.  Plumb is an architectural term that is defined as vertical, absolute.  It is achieved by a lead weight attached to the bottom of a line and the top of the line is above and this is used to indicate a vertical direction, straight down/up.  This procedure results in a vertical absolute, or true.Plumb on white background

If something is referred to as off plumb it is “out of vertical or true.”   Do you think that maybe part of your life might be a little off center, or off plumb?  The only way to achieve this absolute is vertically.  Think about that.  I have been reading “Breathe” by Priscilla Shirer.  In it she talks about keeping the Sabbath.   She asks the question, “What does the Sabbath accomplish?”  I believe that when we set apart time every week and every day to spend time in the presence of the Lord, we are refreshed and our faith and hearts are encouraged, but even more than that, we are shown and reminded of truth.  In the presence of truth we can examine our day, our week, our thoughts and the choices we are making to see of they line up with the truth of God.  If we do this on a regular basis it can give us the opportunity to correct our path before we get too far off center. It keeps us plumb.  When we get in the presence of the Lord, he shines the straight absolute light of  truth and we can see if we are plumb or off plumb.

labor man using a plumb bob for check 	 pillar

In her book I learned there is a saying in the Jewish community that says, “More than Israel has kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept Israel.”   I get it.  When we choose to set a margin of time in our week or our day for corporate and personal worship, it keeps us grounded.  It requires a disciplined choice to set apart this margin of time in our day and in our week.  We are choosing to trust God to redeem and bless the time away from work and the business of life, while we rest, worship and remember his blessings and stand on his promises.   Will you trust God to redeem that time out of your week and out of your day as you put him first?

 

 

If Only…

Have you ever found yourself thinking “If only I had done this” or “If only that hadn’t have happened” and find yourself fretting over the way things play out in life?  I most definitely have done this very thing on more than one occasion.

In Acts 25 & 26 We find Paul has been arrested because the Jews are unhappy with him spreading the gospel of Christ.  They ask Festus, the leader at the time, to do them a favor and have Paul sent to Jerusalem.  Secretly, they had plotted an ambush to take place during the transportation, with the purpose of killing him.  Paul, having no knowledge of this plan, decides to request that he stand before Cesar, instead of going to Jerusalem.  Festus honors the request because Paul is of Roman decent.  While still in jail, waiting his turn to go before Cesar, Agrippa the King and his wife Bernice arrive.  Festus laid Pauls case before the king and Agrippa says he would like to hear from Paul himself.  Paul goes before them and shares his testimony and the gospel of Christ. We see here that one more time, in the middle of Pauls trials, the opportunity is made to share the Gospel with people in leadership that might otherwise not have heard the Gospel.  After the king hears Paul, he is talking with Festus and says, “If only he hadn’t requested to go before Cesar, he could go free!”  This implies that the king would have pardoned him.  If only…. What they don’t understand, is that if he hadn’t of requested to go before Cesar, he would already be dead and the king would never have heard the Gospel, but God knew.  Paul of course goes on to share the Gospel everywhere he is taken.

We have a tendency to worry and fret over circumstances in our lives because we don’t have the ability to see and know the whole story.  I am more and more convinced that we should not stress over these things.  I admit that it is difficult not to react in this way, because in our own understanding things don’t seem right or just, but the reality is, God is orchestrating everything!  Even the evil in the world can be used to further Gods plan. That is not to say that he causes or approves of evil, but that he can use that evil to bring about a miracle and/or a beautiful story of redemption.  Think about it.  The people Jesus healed while on earth were first, plagued by disease or evil, then healed.  The life of Christ is the ultimate example of evil being present.  Evil worked his plan to kill Jesus by planting a traitor right in his inner circle, and the plan succeeded!  Jesus was crucified.  I’m sure the disciples thought, “If only we had stayed awake to pray…” but God brought about the most miraculous and beautiful story of redemption ever told.

I am reminded of the scripture Isaiah 40:28 “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not grow faint or weary; his understanding is unsearchable.”  In other words…..
“What in the world are you worried about???”  I can picture him up there, pacing back and forth, throwing his hands in the air as he says “Do you think I don’t see?? Do you think I have dropped the ball???  WAIT upon the Lord Isaiah 40:31 says. I think he uses his hands when he talks, don’t you?  I picture him up there looking at us, beating his hands on his chest saying in a voice mixed with love, frustration and authority, “I’VE GOT THIS!” while we are fretting saying “If only…”

Sometimes in life things happen that are heartbreaking. Sometimes we see how God redeems it, sometimes we don’t get to see how he redeems it.  We live in a fallen world, so bad things happen.  But God can make beauty from ashes if we will bring those disappointments, broken dreams and heartbreak to him.  Isaiah 40:28 says his understanding is unsearchable.  I believe I have seen the heart of God in the scriptures and in my own life.  God is love. God is holy. God is sovereign. So I will choose to trust him.  Will you? I will strive to be “easy going” in this life and remember to trust him, even in the things I cannot understand.

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways, acknowledge him and he will direct your path.”

The next time you think or sayIf only..” follow it up with, “But God…”

 

 

 

Do This In Remembrance Of Me

This last year we lost my husbands grandmother.  She was a strong woman. Strong in mind, spirit and faith.  She was also a wonderful cook.  One of our favorite things she made is her caramel pound cake.  My son loves this cake!  He and I are going to attempt to make it for Thanksgiving.  I can promise you that when we sit down to eat a piece, our hearts will be full of love and our minds will be full of memories of her.  Even now, just thinking about it, tears slip down my cheeks.  I’m guessing that you may have a similar experience about someone you have loved and lost.   Today I want to present to you an idea. Perhaps it is a new way of looking at an old tradition.

Matthew 26:26-28  “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it, broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take; eat; this is my body.” and he took a cup, and when he had given thanks gave it to them, saying “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

In scripture all through the Bible, we see that Jesus used parables, which are analogies, to help explain to people the meaning of what he was trying to teach.  At his last meal with his disciples, this was no different.  It was his last opportunity to teach them.  He was about to willingly be taken into custody, where he would be humiliated, beaten and ultimately be killed for all of mankind. The law was about to be abolished and a new covenant established.  No longer would we be accountable to laws that we could not possibly consistently follow with perfection.  Jesus taught us that in this new covenant life, God looks not just to our actions, but looks beyond them, to our heart.  Which in theory makes it even harder to obtain perfection, but God had a plan.  He offers the sacrifice of  Jesus in our place.  Jesus becomes the sacrifice and payment for our mistakes, bad choices and all of our sins.  Jesus ushers in a new covenant of eternal life and forgiveness of sins through grace.  Grace is a wonderful thing!  To be forgiven by His amazing grace makes my heart burst with overwhelming gratitude.  So much gratitude, that I want to spend the rest of my life worshiping Him and trying my best to live each day the way He taught us; loving God, loving others and trying to live righteously (in right standing with God) in honor of his sacrifice for me.

I would like to take a moment to say to each of you, that if you have not accepted Jesus as your Savior and experienced this new covenant life with Him, to think about it.  Examine your life and this freely given gift that is offered through Jesus.  It isn’t like the old law where we are condemned because we can’t possibly measure up.  This new covenant life through Jesus is full of love, freedom and hope, because of the amazing grace of forgiveness.

John 14:6 “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Let me take you back to the table where Jesus sat with those he loved, to share a meal together.  They sit down to eat good food and drink good wine and have fellowship together.  He picks up the bread and blesses it and breaks it, and passes it around the table for everyone to have some and he says this bread is like my body,  which is broken for you. (He was called the Bread of Life in John 6:32)  He blesses the wine and pours it in the cups and passes them out to everyone.  Many times in scripture he used the analogy of a vineyard, a vine or fruit of the vine.  He even refers to God as the Vinedresser.  (There is a LOT of teaching that can come from looking at the process of making wine)  So, as he passes out the wine, he says, this wine is like my blood,  that is poured out for the forgiveness of sin.  It is an analogy of what is about to happen.  Then sitting at the table, sharing this meal in fellowship with those he loved, he says to them,  “Do this in remembrance of Me” because he knows that He won’t be there for their next meal or any others, until they meet him in heaven.

I have grown up in church having communion.  We even occasionally have it at home when we gather with family for the holidays.  We have the unleavened bread and wine or grape juice for those that prefer it.  I love this tradition.  I think that it is nice and important to do. However, I don’t think it has to be done just in this way.  I think Jesus meant that anytime you come together in fellowship and share a meal, and partake of bread and wine (or whatever you prefer) that you let it jog your memory and you remember the sacrifice and the gift he has given, but not just that…. but also the fellowship with him and each other.  Think about it.  What is the “Great Commission?” Mark 12:30-31 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.”  I believe God wants us to come together in fellowship with one another, and when we partake of bread, remember that He is the Bread of Life,  and when we pour a glass wine (or whatever) to remember that he poured out his blood for us.  Just like I am going to have that piece of cake that Mamaw Peak use to make and remember her,  I think that is what He was talking about.  Each time we do these things, He wants us to remember Him, with our hearts full of love and thankfulness.

So this holiday season and beyond, let us all gather with our loved ones and break bread together and fellowship with one another, with thanksgiving in our hearts as we do this in remembrance of Him.

In this next video someone sings Amazing Grace. They are not the greatest singer of all time, but just a person, imperfect, singing it the best they can with a grateful heart.  I chose these versions on purpose. This is all the more poignant as I am reminded that I too am imperfect and saved by grace.

What do you have?

Have you ever found yourself faced with a situation where the need was so great, and a solution seemed so out of reach, that you didn’t even know where to begin?  I have felt that way many times on mission trips, when I see people struggling to have enough food to eat or clothes to wear.  I feel that way when I hear about sex trafficking or the drug problem that is rampant all over the world.  It can seem so overwhelming.  It is easy to feel so unequipped to handle it or help, that we simply shake our head with a heavy heart and walk away thinking, “I don’t have an answer to that problem” and we pray “God please help these poor people.”

In Matthew 15:32-39 we find Jesus has been teaching a crowd of people for three days. He turns to his disciples and says, “I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”  Although it is not my intention to teach on the symbolism here, I believe it is worth mentioning…. He has been teaching three days….Jesus is going to die and be dead three days…..then he will be raised up and then leave and ascend to heaven, but he is unwilling to send us away (with our souls empty) so he gives us the Holy Spirit to comfort, guide and strengthen us, “lest we faint along the way.”  There are so many of these pictures of what is to come, throughout scripture.  Genius!  Now on to my point..

Jesus presents a problem to the disciples.  Their response is to tell him they can’t help the people because they don’t have enough.…They  don’t have enough food or money to buy food and they are too far away to find some anyway! All good arguments.  They give him facts.  They give him physical evidence that there is no easy or practical resources that they have at their disposal to meet the need.  They don’t have enough. Jesus responds to them by asking them, “What DO you have? This too has symbolism for us.  I think sometimes we see a problem and tend to think we have to wait until we “have it all together,” until we are a better Christian, until we have read our Bible through, or make more money, or have more time. THEN we will do something to help.  In these moments when our hearts are tugged and we feel compassion, Jesus is asking us, “What do you have?”  

Then what will he do with it?  Having given thanks, (for what they were willing to give) he blessed it and broke it into enough to feed them all, with seven baskets full of pieces left over. Matthew 15:36-37  He took what they gave him, prayed over it with thankfulness and blessed it, then miraculously transformed it into just what was needed and gave it to the people.  We don’t have to wait around for perfect circumstances.. There will never be perfect circumstances.  He is teaching us in this scripture, to give what we have, as who we are right now.  We don’t have to be “Super Christian.”  Be who you are right now, where your are right now and do what you can right now to love and serve others.  He will take care of the details.  It is not us who work the miracles,  and heal wounded hearts and lives.  We are not the Savior, BUT we know him and we can introduce him to those around us as we give what we have.  He isn’t asking us to have enough.  He is asking us what we have that he can work with!   Just bless it and give it.  He will turn it into whatever is needed.  It’s not about WHAT you have to give.  He is the Creator of the Universe, the great I AM. Do we really think it has anything to do with WHAT we have to give?  NO!  It is completely irrelevant how good of a person we are or what specifically we have to offer.  Do you think that if Jesus had been given only one loaf of bread and one fish, that it would have changed the results? Of course not. He is God. The WHAT doesn’t matter, just the WHO that we are giving it to.  When we give what we have, we get to be a part of the miracle he performs in other peoples lives.  Guess what? That miracle affects us too!  They were amazed, and in awe of him.  Their faith was made stronger and their boldness bigger!   Thank him for whatever you have to give, whether that is great or small, whether it is resources, physical labor, loving on someone, or praying for someone.  Just thank him that you have something to offer, ask him to bless it, then give it. What do you have?

What Is Your Dream?

I remember when I was the farthest I’ve ever been from my dream…and when faced with a choice, I shared a dream of being married, to a Christian man, living a life for Christ, raising my kids to do the same.That was my dream. I know it sounded crazy to the person I shared it with at the time, because I was in no way living a life that followed Christ. Nevertheless, it was my dream.

Guess what!

Through a series of events that only God could have orchestrated, here I am. Living that dream. Only the kid part is a LOT harder than I thought. Honestly, as I look back… the marriage part has been hard at times too… really hard at moments actually. Still… God gave me the desire of my heart, even when I wasn’t actively pursuing it.  Why? Because it was a desire that HE planted there. It’s been a crazy wild ride so far. There is no reason for me to think, based on precedent, that the future will be calm and peaceful… I guess another adjective could be boring. There is definitely nothing boring about God! Have you read any of the Bible?  Definitely NOT boring…. or normal… or predictable. Why should I expect anything different?  That’s ok.  Even in the difficult situations, I would rather be in the middle of the mess…serving him, than anything I would have come up with. Let’s be honest. I would have planned a perfect life.  A perfect family, perfect kids, I would be perfect. Do you notice anything missing from that sentence??? GOD. My desperate need for GOD.

FACT: If everything in my life was perfect, I would still need God. I just wouldn’t realize it!!!

So… I will continue to live out this dream life… with its good times and it’s bad times, with a happy and grateful heart.  I am and will be grateful that God has blessed me with my dream… and enough trouble to cause me to press in to him, to seek him, and to pray “Show me your ways Oh Lord, teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me. For you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you ALL DAY LONG!!!  Psalm 25:4-5. I’ve had that memorized since I was pregnant with my first child.  It is STILL my prayer. I don’t see it changing any time soon. Won’t you join me? What dream has God planted in your heart? He can make it come true.

Tip: If you seek Him, it will help…

Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV) ” For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans to give you hope and a future.”

Ephesians 3:20 “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.”

Who’s In Your Boat?

Luke 8:22  “And Jesus got into a boat with his disciples and said, ‘Let’s go to the other side of the lake.’ “

Are you in the boat with Jesus?  Has he asked or directed you to go somewhere or do something? I hope each of you reading this have responded to his invitation to get into the boat and give your heart and life to God.  The next step then, is to respond to the invitation “Let’s go.”  He will most definitely  guide you, direct you and ask you to go and do.  Are you listening? Are you open and trying to hear his voice?  It might be as subtle as a fleeting thought or idea to call that friend or see that person who you learned is sick or going through a difficult time, maybe it is to invite that acquaintance to dinner and get to know them better or invite them to church.  He is always prompting us to reach out to others and ask them “what’s going on in your world?”  Just the other day I thought about going to see someone I had learned  was in the hospital.  I was tired and it was inconvenient timing so I didn’t.  It keeps haunting me.  I now know that it was a prompting from the Holy Spirit.  I intend to follow through with that prompting!  How about you? I challenge you to pay attention to the promptings.  What is God leading you to do?  Sometimes it is more than a gesture.  Sometimes it’s a journey, a job, or a ministry. So If we agree “To go” then we know it was his idea and he is in the boat with us.  

For a minute let’s think about what it was like to be one of the disciples of Jesus during his ministry here on earth. What a wild ride that was! They witnessed the blind being healed, leprosy disappearing before their eyes and even the dead coming back to life! Of course they also were there when he was arrested, tried, convicted, beaten, and crucified. That must have been confusing, heartbreaking, even frightening!

Luke 8:23 “So they set out, and as they sailed, he rested and fell asleep and a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger.”

Have you ever been in a situation or position in life that you know God led you to, then found yourself in the middle of a storm?  I certainly have. Maybe you are in that situation right now.  I definitely know what that is like!  There have been times when I knew God lead me there, and even showed me in many ways that he was there with me. Then thunder would shake the walls around me.  Lightening would strike too close for my comfort.  Do you know what I mean? My heart would grip with fear, my emotions so strong, I felt overwhelmed.  My faith would begin to falter.  Have you ever felt that way?

Luke 8:24 “And they went and woke him saying, Master, Master, we are perishing!”

For a minute, let’s not look at our own situation, our own story, but look at what is being played out in Luke 8.  The disciples find themselves in the boat WITH JESUS and they are worried about a storm.  I can easily point my finger at them and judge them.   I mean, they are worried about a storm when Jesus is LITERALLY  WITH THEM in the boat!  Do they really think God is not paying attention?  It’s easy to judge them, isn’t it?

Now let’s step back into our own story.  I KNOW I’m in the boat with Jesus. Do you?  When the storms of life come, and the weather turns dark, it is unnerving. What does your storm look like? Maybe you lost your job, a relationship ended or you lost a loved one.  Sometimes life can be very difficult.  When the thunder, lightening and waves get so big and so strong, our emotions can begin to overwhelm us and we might focus on the problem and what we are feeling.  Sometimes we are distracted by the problems and emotions and forget to THINK and remember that he is there….in the boat….with us.  When despair knocks on the door of our heart, we have a choice of how we are going to respond.

Luke 8:24b-25 “He awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?”

God knows we are only human.  He knows we are going to get focused on the storm from time to time and forget he’s in the boat with us.  Nevertheless, he is calling us to look and see where and what we are putting our faith in?  He is calling us to trust him more than our circumstances.  This is my favorite miracle that Jesus performs in the Bible.  It shows us that there is absolutely NOTHING, that is not subject to his authority. He is the Creator of the universe and everything in it. In the same chapter of Luke 8, in the verses that follow (Luke 8:26-32 & Ma. 8:32) Jesus encounters two demon possessed men.  Before he even speaks, the demons know who he is and they beg him not to send them into the abyss.  Scripture says he gives them permission to go into some nearby pigs and with one word “Go” he sends them.  People…..what are we worried about???  When we find ourselves in the middle of a storm, we need to ask ourselves “Did God ask us to go here? We need to look around.  Isn’t he with us?  We need to ask ourselves “Where is our faith?  Is it in our own abilities?  Is it in the circumstances, or is it in God?

Food for thought:

It’s easy to judge others.

Don’t look at the storm instead of the One who has authority over it.

Is Jesus in your boat?

Are you willing “To go” wherever he wants to go?

Where is your faith?