Something to remember on Election Day

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from CNN.com

Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
He changes times and seasons;
He removes kings and sets up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
He reveals deep and hidden things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him.

Daniel 2.20-22, ESV

Emotions run high today. Anxiety has reached new heights in this election cycle. The shockwaves of today’s decision will be felt for years.

If we have to be under a Hillary presidency, will we have an attitude like Daniel?

If we are a under a Donald presidency, will we have an attitude like Daniel?
Continue reading

Do you trust Him?

imageThis passage in Psalms began my daily reading today.

In light of our discussion, “does everything happen for a reason,” this scripture seemed quite timely. In this Psalm, David challenges his own soul to remember no scheme of man can ever snatch Him from God’s omnipotent hand.  Continue reading

Overcome or Overcomer?

alone

“Its only Monday, and the world is already falling apart.”

She raked slender fingers through her long hair, willing the movement to ease her tensed nerves. Her heart seemed to gravitate towards the floor. Why couldn’t something go right for a change? No matter what she did, it all seemed to unravel in the end.

As the minutes ticked by, the room grew darker until she realized her own hands were barely visible. The encroaching darkness brought relief, but only for a moment. Tomorrow she would have to face the catastrophe reverberating from today’s events.

Seized with sorrow, she sank to her knees and wept.

Plagued with doubt. Overwhelmingly defeated. Dogged by despair.

She lifted her hands to pray, her words only audible to the One who could hear the desperate cry flowing from a burdened heart.

“Why, Lord?” she gasped through tears, “Why?”

As the tears rolled down, words crept into her mind—words she had read several days ago: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…”

Words from the Bible. Words that Paul—who suffered multiple losses and countless disappointments—had written to fellow Christians. Words she needed at this dark hour. Peace and comfort soothed her aching heart like a warm compress. Though the pain lingered and the problems persisted, relief came. God had not abandoned her. He was present with her in the gathering gloom.

These moments of doubt, defeat, and despair visit every person at some time in their lives. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, where you live, or how righteous you are. For many, the three D’s lead to the destruction of faith and/or life.

You may think the righteous of times past never struggled with the three D’s, but they did:

Moses

“I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.” (Numbers‬ ‭11:14-15‬)

David

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭13:1-2‬)

Elijah

“I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” (1 Kings‬ ‭19:10‬)

Jeremiah

“My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.” Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.”
‭‭(Lamentations‬ ‭3:17-20‬)

Jesus’ disciples

But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened…” (Luke 24.21)

These examples merely scratch the surface. All who have served God faithfully have been tested and tried in this way. What we see in the scriptures is the enduring mercy of the Lord. He does not abandon us in the pit of despair, but always shines through in the darkness to those who cry out to Him in Faith.

He replaces doubt with trust, despair with hope, and defeat with victory. We are more than conquerors through Christ.

If we read further through each of the above passages, we see the dispelling of the three D’s:

Moses

[God speaking to Moses] “And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone.” ‭(Numbers‬ ‭11:17‬)

David

“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” ‭‭(Psalms‬ ‭13:5-6‬)

Elijah

[God speaking to Elijah] “Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings‬ ‭19:18‬)

Jeremiah

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations‬ ‭3:21-24‬)

Jesus’ disciples

“Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road…” (Luke 24.32-35)

The afflictions of doubt, defeat, and despair are ones we all must endure. What defines us in these moments is not our own strength, but upon whom we lean for strength. When we reach out to God, He will not push us away.

When there is doubt, he will bring certainty.

When we feel despair, he will supply hope.

When we suffer defeat, he will transform it to victory.

As you read the word each day, make note of how God demonstrated his steadfast love toward those who served Him in times past. To download a free PDF worksheet to use for your own encouragement, click here.

So we do not lose heart. 

Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

~ 2 Corinthians 4.16-18

Don’t forget to download this free printable for your personal study!

“Little Faith” — Good, bad, or simply a start? (Coffee Chat 15)

coffee chat

With all the big leaps I’ve taken lately, my mind has travelled several times to the account of Peter stepping out on the water in the middle of a storm. There are a plethora of songs that allude to this idea of stepping out in faith/walking on water. Many focus on Peter sinking the moment he took his eyes off Jesus. That’s a great lesson for every season. Lately, however, I’ve been mulling over the term “little faith.”

Jesus uses this phrase throughout the gospels. The only time I found “have you no faith?” was in Mark. Most often he says, “O you of little faith.” Is it a term of disappointment, condescension or frustration? Or, is it an acknowledgement that they have faith, but it needs development?

Let’s look at the passage in Matthew 14 that I alluded to earlier:

And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.

And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But 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 heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?””

‭‭~ Matthew‬ ‭14:23-31‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I find it interesting that he doesn’t say, “where’s your faith?” Or “have you no faith?!” Jesus says (in essence) “you have faith, but it needs to become greater than your fear.”

Here are thoughts/questions I’ve been pondering and I’d love to hear your input:

1) Peter was a fisherman. He knew what happened if you got out of a boat in the middle of the water—you sink. In a stormy situation, you would likely drown. He had faith enough to step out on the water and walk a little ways. Nobody else jumped out to follow him. Only Peter took that risk. Was he being brash or foolhardy? I don’t know what was on his mind, but if he had been trying to show off, I think Jesus would’ve rebuked him for that. Peter believed that Jesus had the power to help him walk on water. He had faith enough to take the first step.

2) Peter had faith, but his fear was greater. His initial trust in Jesus was overwhelmed when he took his eyes off Jesus and focused on the danger. His fear overshadowed his faith. I wonder if Jesus looked at him like we look at our children sometimes. For example, my children trust me, but sometimes their fear overwhelms their trust. When they went swimming in a big pool for the first time. I assured they would not be scared, but they panicked as soon as they couldn’t feel ground beneath their feet. I may have been a little disappointed in their lack of trust, but, as an adult, I also recognized that they did not possess my long experience. Sometimes this makes them rush headlong into danger and at other times it makes them reluctant to trust.

3) “Little faith” is meant to be a starting point, not a permanent residence. Thus far, these men had left their livelihoods, their families and the status quo to follow Jesus. We often shake our heads at their mishaps, but I wonder if we would have done as much as they did with the little knowledge they had. Jesus watered their faith regularly so that by the time He ascended to heaven, they had enough faith to move mountains.

4) I find it interesting in James he says this:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

~ James‬ ‭1:5-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Do you think James may have been thinking of this incident when he wrote this?

Your turn!

What do you think about the phrase? When Jesus uses it, what does it mean?

Grab your favorite cup of coffee or tea and join the discussion!

It’s time to break camp!

camp

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.

~ Proverbs 16.9, NKJV

When I was young, I had very definite ideas about what I wanted to achieve in life. I wanted to have enough money to live in a nice big house in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I wanted a college degree, a good career and a good church to worship with. I wanted to be married, have children. I wanted to have it all.

There’s a funny truth about our crazy dreams: while many are attainable, they are not necessarily attainable together. I couldn’t have everything without sacrificing something.

By the time I was 16, I knew I wanted to go to college, but didn’t have a clue where to go. I wanted to go somewhere prestigious like Harvard, Yale, Princeton or Stanford—I certainly had the grades and the test scores to stand a chance. But when the rubber hit the road and I had to start shelling out hundreds of dollars per application, those California state schools looked far more attractive. I settled on a school in San Luis Obispo, over 300 miles from home, and at the age of 17, embarked on dream #1: college. While crashing classes, eating lousy dorm food, drinking too much coffee, pulling all-nighters and forming lifelong friendships, my dreams transformed once more. I wanted a home and career in that beautiful place. I wanted to revel in the beauty of that coastal town for the rest of my life. The church there had become my family and I was thoroughly happy.

Unfortunately, careers and affordable rents are difficult to come by with such an expansive concentration of interns and talent. While I was working my first post-college job, I met my spouse and moved to Sacramento, embarking on another unplanned journey.

I broke camp and moved to the next place.

Such has been my routine for the past seventeen years.

Make plans. Dream dreams. Get settled. Things change. Break camp. Move along down the road.

The dreams keep changing shape. I make plans—good plans—but the Lord leads me in other unplanned directions.

So, is it foolish to make plans and dream dreams?

No.

Here’s some things to keep in mind about plans and dreams:

  1. Entrust them to the Lord
    As the above verse states: A man’s heart plans his way [these are dreams/goals/plans] but the Lord directs His steps. Pray about your goals and dreams. Ask God to shape them and make the right ones come to fruition. I have learned that God’s plans are always more beneficial than my own. I’m learning to put every request before Him with the Words, “not my will but yours be done, because you know best.”
  2. It is far better to make plans and work at them, then to have no plan at all.
    For example, I have a savings plan laid out every year. Sometimes there are surprise expenses and I have to adjust the plan. Even if I come out a few dollars short, I’m farther ahead than I would have been if I’d just arbitrarily thrown money into savings. Make plans. They truly help!
  3. Be thankful for the dreams that have been fulfilled
    In the face of unfulfilled dreams, we tend to mourn their loss and disregard any present blessings. First of all, if you have been washed in the blood of Christ, you are in Christ. What better “dream” could their be than salvation?? In more physical terms, what dreams are still in your possession? I assume at least one has still come to fruition. Give thanks in all circumstances. God provides for you every single day.
  4. If our greatest dream is the Lord, the devastation of our earthly dreams won’t be as catastrophic.
    Many of my earthly dreams have not just been derailed, they’ve been violently shattered. It’s painful to see things go up in smoke as it were. Consider the early Christians. They lost their homes, families, livelihoods, and more—all for the sake of Christ. Did they sit in the ashes and weep? No! They rejoiced! They had come to realize that there was something far better than this life. They had Christ, and He was their greatest treasure. They are our cloud of witnesses who possessed joy indescribable. We ought to desire, as they did, a heavenly country.
  5. It’s all temporary.
    There’s a reason I keep saying, “Break camp.” We are only here for a short while. This world is a wilderness camp ground and the promise land comes afterwards. Let go of that sense of “possession” and remember that it all belongs to the Lord.

Today I sit in our freshly painted house, surrounded by the chaos of moving boxes, paperwork, misplaced furniture, and all those trappings of relocation. I’ve been sorting through old books, papers, and trinkets, and trying to say goodbye to people, places and things that I’ve grown to love. Yes, even in this wilderness place, there are attachments that are painful to part with.

I never dreamed that I’d spend my adult life relocating multiple times. And yet, I can’t deny that God has lead me to each new location. Sometimes I’ve run joyously toward my new destination, but mostly, I go with sadness and painful goodbyes.

If your wait is over and the call has come to break camp, remember that if the Lord wills you to go, He will direct your steps. He will guard you and protect you.

Commit your work to the Lord and your plans will be established.

~ Proverbs 16.3, ESV

Acceptance: what it is and what it is not. (Comparison Cure#2)

This is the third post in the series on Comparison cures. To read the previous post, click here.

storm coming

“Live the life you want to live”

“Don’t drift through life. Get where you want to be.”

“How could you let that happen to you?”

“You need to try harder”

Would you say that those are fairly common phrases? I hear them or read them almost daily. So many high-powered people talk about how you are the only thing holding yourself back from a “better” life.

If you have ever seen “The Princess Bride,” then you’ll remember the shrilly little man named Vincini who keeps blurting out the word “inconceivable!” Finally, after several inconceivably conceivable events, his companion, Inyigo Montoya turns to him and says, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” When I hear people say the above phrases or use the word “better” I feel a bit like Inyigo Montoya. I don’t think it means what they think it means. Only God really knows what is best. Sometimes the worst things that happen fashion our hearts to be more like the Lord and less like the world.

So often we think we’ve been dealt a bad hand. We see God as unjust and unfair—though I daresay we only think it in our heart. The truth is, Satan is trying to pull us away from God by any and every means possible. Satan will use wealth and prosperity to create pride, apathy and complacency. He inspired concentration camps to create despair and hopelessness. He destroys families, feeds loneliness and abandonment so that people will seek help outside of God, falling deeper into his clutches. God is not unaware of what goes on, and we are never beyond his reach. God is able to transform any agonizing trial into something glorious if we accept the situation and allow Him to work.

Think of it this way: imagine that a father has told his son that they are going to get ice cream. Through no fault of the father’s, the ice cream shop they frequent has suddenly gone out of business. The Father tries to explain to his Son that there are alternatives, but his little boy is too busy crying and stomping his feet to listen. The Father understands that his son does not understand the unpredictability of life and tries to help him. However, if the little guy is going to ignore the reassurance of his father (and alternate plan to go to another shop) and instead chooses to kick and scream, there will be no ice cream, but a firm reprimand instead.

There is nothing wrong with being upset/hurt/disappointed, but where do you take your pain? Do you allow it to be your focus or do you turn and listen to the Father? Do you accept things and place them in God’s omnipotent hands or do you rage against the machine hoping that all your fighting will change things?

So much of our trouble in comparing ourselves to others is our unwillingness to accept both blessings and trials. But lest you think acceptance is defeat, guess again.

Acceptance is not lazy resignation.

When I hear individuals talk about success, they place those of us “less successful folk” in the lazy category. They look dubiously on the person who sighs and says, “that’s just the way it is” as if they are too complacent. In one way, they are right. We cannot just drift about as though we are fated to have it good or have it bad. We must always work toward our improvement and the improvement of those within our sphere of influence.

However, there are times when things just turn nasty and we have to determine our course of action. In life, we often find ourselves in the midst of a sudden storm. What is our usual reaction? We get upset, we cry, we analyze, we fret, we throw up our hands in defeat—we do everything except turn it over to God. The best course of action is to accept the situation, not in defeat, but as an acknowledgement of reality. People who commit suicide feel resigned to their lot and they think that death will alleviate their pain and the pain of others. What it usually does is create more destruction and grief.

No, lazy resignation is NOT acceptance.

So, what is acceptance and how will it help cure our comparison ills?

Acceptance is Situational Awareness

In law enforcement and the military, a huge portion of their training deals with this idea of Situational Awareness. Those men and women don’t get to create their circumstances. They go where they are needed and often find themselves in some sticky spots. The first and best thing to do is to be alert, sober, vigilant and highly observant. If, for example, an officer finds himself in a place where there is a suspect running down the road on foot, the first thing is to be cognizant of what they look like and where they are going. Are there other suspicious people around who might cause the officer harm? Are they going into a place where they can be cornered? Where is the nearest backup? They have to take the situation as it is and decide what to do with it.

As children of God, there will be seasons of life that are painful. They are not of our making, but are the result of living in this decaying world. The first step is to be aware of the reality and to guard ourselves against the tricks of our enemy (Satan). It’s acceptance of fact. If you jump off a cliff, you’ll die. Someday, the people you love will die. At some point, you will die. There will always be people who grasp for power, control and tyranny. There will always be people who reject God. Companies go under. Jobs disappear. Cancer creeps in. Bad people get good things and good people get bad things. That is reality, however awful it may be. Be aware of it, be on guard against Satan and set your mind on the blessings that you have in the moments that you have them. Lastly, remember the greatest reality of all—this life isn’t the end. Someday we’ll have an eternal life and that’s the better thing.

Acceptance is Trust in God

I’ve been reading the book of Daniel over the past few days and I still marvel at how much Daniel and his three friends placed their trust in God. I wrote about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in a previous post, so I won’t expound on them here. What jumped out at me in this reading was in Daniel 6. It’s a familiar account to many children about Daniel in the Lion’s Den, but the den part wasn’t what struck me.

Here is part of the account:

Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”

Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.

When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.

~ Daniel 6.3-10, ESV

Notice a few important details. Daniel was given a great deal of power in the kingdom and things were only looking up. He had integrity. He was respected. In spite of being away from his homeland in Israel, life was good for him. What these men were planning to do had the potential to destroy him. He would lose every earthly thing—power, wealth, respect, and, of course, his very life.

On the other hand, if he did not continue to serve God, He would lose everything of value—his relationship with God.

Does Daniel weep bitter tears and ask God why these things are happening? Does he try praying in secret so they won’t find out about it?

No.

He didn’t hesitate. He went up to his room, got down on his knees and started praying; And not just praying, but praying visibly. He wanted them all to know, without doubt, that Daniel’s loyalty was to God and not men. He accepted the reality of the situation and made the choice to put his life in God’s omnipotent hands. He trusted that God would take care of him, either in this life or the next.

After being delivered from the lions’ den, the account says this in verse 23: “So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

Acceptance is seeing the storm and trusting that somehow, God will pull you through it. When we accept the good and the bad and place it in the hands of the Lord, we have peace. When the fear starts to grip your heart, take it to the Lord in prayer. You will never find peace or rest until you do that.

I want to conclude with this excellent poem by Amy Carmichael:

He said, ‘I will forget the dying faces;
The empty places,
They shall be filled again.
O voices moaning deep within me, cease.’
But vain the word; vain, vain:
Not in forgetting lieth peace.

He said, ‘I will crowd action upon action,
The strife of faction
Shall stir me and sustain;
O tears that drown the fire of manhood cease.’
But vain the word; vain, vain:
Not in endeavour lieth peace.

He said, ‘I will withdraw me and be quiet,
Why meddle in life’s riot?
Shut be my door to pain.
Desire, thou dost befool me, thou shalt cease.’
But vain the word; vain, vain:
Not in aloofness lieth peace.

He said, ‘I will submit; I am defeated.
God hath depleted
My life of its rich gain.
O futile murmurings, why will ye not cease?’
But vain the word; vain, vain:
Not in submission lieth peace.

He said, ‘I will accept the breaking sorrow
Which God tomorrow
Will to His son explain.’
Then did the turmoil deep within me cease.
Not vain the word, not vain;
For in Acceptance lieth peace.

 

Am I walking by faith or frozen with fear?

image

What follows is a long post and I hope you will bear with me through the end. It could be that you will not relate to this in any way; or its just possible that you also are faced with terrible storms that make you want to change course. Whatever the case, I hope this will be edifying to you.

As many of my long time readers and personal acquaintances are aware, 2015 was a very challenging year for me and my family. I won’t go into great detail, but we have dealt with a disability that brought about medical retirement and have been searching for new job opportunities since August. We’ve been waiting for doors to open, putting out resumes and preparing for some lean times. We’ve been busy during our wait and praying hard for direction and strength.

Around Christmas, we got a phone call—a potential job opportunity in Texas. Houses, food, gas (pretty much everything) is cheaper in Texas. We could do more than just “get by” over there.

My immediate reaction was resistance and—though I am ashamed to admit it—fear

Texas is flat!

How can we move so far away from my parents and in-laws?

That part of Texas doesn’t have much natural beauty…

How would the kids handle being uprooted?

How would we afford the move?

But it’s Texas!

I’m a native Californian… I won’t fit in.

We have to leave behind orchestra, my daughter’s truly awesome violin teacher and our homeschool group.

I’ll be even further from the coast!

Why Texas?

Fortunately, 2015 was a year of significant spiritual growth. So, even though my mind was all flashing lights and blaring sirens, I knew that I needed to take it all to the Lord. So I prayed and pondered. I talked to my spouse, then prayed and pondered some more. I started sounding out friends and family and prayed even more. Slowly but surely I began to see all the positives. If this is the direction God wants us to take, then He will help us through it. I need to trust Him to do what He has always done.

No final decision has been made as we are still doing our homework, which includes an upcoming trip to assess the potential of the job offers, the housing and the local churches. As all these things have been unfolding, I was struck by something, but I kept it to myself until about a week ago.

I thought of the Israelites.

I can hear you groaning: “Oh no! Not more about the Israelites, Elihu!” I see so many of my own foibles in them that I feel compelled to write about them and—hopefully—learn from their mistakes.

I thought of the account in Numbers 13 when the Israelites had reached the edge of the Promised Land and they sent twelve spies to check it out. The account even lists the names of these men. Two men of faith and then men of infamy…

They don’t hop on google to look at photos, crime stats and housing prices. They don’t get a birds-eye view from Google Earth. Not having the benefit of modern technology, they pack their walking sticks and maybe the last bit of the day’s manna and quail ration and head in on foot. The rest of the Israelites pace about for forty anxious days waiting for their return. They may have been thinking,”Do you think it’ll be as amazing as God says? I wonder how hard it will be to move in?”

At the end of forty days, the twelve men return with more than what they packed. They have fruit! Mouthwatering, savory, sweet, colorful fruit! When all you’ve had is manna and quail for months, fruit is pretty exciting.

With twelve different men, one would anticipate twelve different perspectives. It came down to two: fear vs faith.

Let’s read the account:

At the end of forty days they returned from spying out the land. And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the people of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh. They brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land.

And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.”

Joy of joys! This is what God had promised! He wasn’t making it up, and the men had brought back evidence. Can you imagine seeing fruit after eating nothing but quail and manna for months?

How do you think the Israelites are going to react? Are they going to rush eagerly toward their new home?

Hang on to your hats, the men have more to say:

“However…

Uh-oh. This can’t be good…

“…the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan.”

Houston, we have a problem. This won’t be as easy as we thought! Lions, and tigers, and bears—oh my!

But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”

Whoa. Why did Caleb think they could take the land? They didn’t have chariots, horses or battering rams. They were just a rag-tag assortment of ex-slaves! How could they overcome these gigantic, well-armed people?

Read on:

Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.””

So…. who’s giving the correct assessment? Is Caleb having delusions of grandeur or are these men cowards?

Fear says: Freeze! Don’t go another step! We can’t do this!

Faith says: Yes, this is daunting, but God and I make a majority. God promised this land and He wants us to take it. He’ll lead us through it one step at a time.

Faith trusts God in spite of fear.

Faith moves trembling feet forward.

This story isn’t over….

So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims?

Oh the agony! One minute, the promised land is within their grasp, the next minute they are lead to believe they cannot have it. Instead of pausing to consider or even praying about their fear, they weep and wail.

Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.”

Seriously?!

They wanted to go back to slavery? They must be mental!

It’s doubtful the people of Egypt would have welcomed them back with open arms. It’s more likely they would have killed them on the spot. And yet, how often do we make outlandishly stupid statements at the height of our anxiety?

The minority is going to speak:

Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the people of Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel,

“The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.”

Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones. But the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel.

Joshua and Caleb—two small but strong voices of reason. Two voices who speak from faith, not fear. In the turmoil of emotion, the people pick up stones to kill them (hmmm…. Sound familiar?)

“The Lord is with us; do not fear them.”

I would venture to guess (and it is only a guess) that Joshua and Caleb had been noting, with gratitude and awe, all the ways in which God had cared for them since they had left Egypt: the manna, the quail, the longevity of their clothes and shoes, the cloud by day and pillar of fire by night, and the water in the wilderness. They had seen a mighty empire defeated without a single spear tossed. All these wondrous things they had committed to their heart. They had confidence in the power of the Lord.

I would also guess (though, again, I could be wrong) that these men had a huge adrenaline rush when they saw the Anakim and the fortified cities. I’m confident they were a little scared. Fear is a natural reaction to such things. Joshua and Caleb didn’t know how God would defeat their enemies, they simply trusted that he could. They feared God more than they feared the Canaanites. Their faith held more sway than their fear.

How often do we fail to see God’s provisions, both small and large, and consider ourselves entitled to those blessings? Such a mindset will lead to a lack of trust and progress in our walk with God.

What was the outcome of this account?

And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying,

“How long shall this wicked congregation grumble against me? I have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me.

Say to them, ‘As I live, declares the Lord, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.

But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, I will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have rejected. But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness.

According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, a year for each day, you shall bear your iniquity forty years, and you shall know my displeasure.’ I, the Lord, have spoken. Surely this will I do to all this wicked congregation who are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall come to a full end, and there they shall die.”

And the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation grumble against him by bringing up a bad report about the land— the men who brought up a bad report of the land—died by plague before the Lord. Of those men who went to spy out the land, only Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive.

(The above passages are from Numbers 13 and Numbers 14. As always, I suggest reading the full context.)

Oops.

Confident, courageous faith will take you beyond what seems possible, guard you through perils unthinkable and carry you to heights incomprehensible.

An unhealthy fear of everything but God will paralyze you, leaving you to wander about life barely subsisting, never quite tasting the joy that comes from trusting in the Lord.

As I thought about this possible move, I had to ask myself—Am I going to walk by faith or freeze with fear?

I wondered, “Am I being offered the chance for better things and forsaking it for the comfort of my known wilderness?” During a discussion one evening about our possible future, my spouse began comparing the situation to the Israelite spies.

I burst out laughing. Our thoughts were nearly identical.

So, the two of us are going to go “spy out the land” as it were. This choice will have a huge impact on our family one way or another and I would be dishonest to say it doesn’t matter. I want this choice to be positive not simply so we can be “better off” financially, but so our family will grow in the Lord. If living in this new place wold damage that, I’d rather not go. If staying here will weaken us, I’d rather not stay. Unfortunately, I cannot see all the far-reaching implications, but I have confidence in my God who does see and whose wisdom is so far beyond my own.

Unlike the Israelites, we don’t have any sort of promised land on this earth. Our promised land lies beyond this life. Yet the choices we make today have long-term consequences that impact our spiritual health. I’d rather have a dinner of herbs with God in my home, than a sumptuous feast without Him. I want my choices—even these piddly ones like moving—to fulfill God’s purpose on this earth. No matter where he leads me, I need to be making Him the goal with each breath. It could be this door is opening just to reveal it’s the wrong one. Who knows?

Seek the Lord’s guidance each step of the way and remember that the promised land lies beyond this earth. Don’t let your fear keep you from it. Walk by faith.

 

Day 29: The Bible

This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.

bible

We are nearing the end of this series! As I indicated in my post about light, these last few posts are focusing on the greatest lights of all. I’ve talked about love and hope. Today, we are going to talk about the Bible.

There’s a new trend among Christians to say that the New Testament is not the inspired Word of God, but consider: the Apostles were handpicked by Christ, witnessed His death, burial and resurrection and possessed the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit led them as the toiled to bring people the gospel. God has always preserved His message for generations yet unborn. The Bible is His preserved message for us, and I am thankful that I have ready access to it. There are more manuscripts of the New Testament than any other ancient historical document. God protected His message and I trust that He would not leave us in the lurch.

The light of truth

The Bible—all 66 books—brings us the light of God’s truth. Sometimes I wish that God’s expectations were laid out for us in a neat little list, but then we would seek to justify ourselves instead of depending on God’s grace. It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings to search it out. God wants us to dig through His Word and learn step by step, day by day, what He wants for us. It’s a life-long endeavor, but those who seek, find.

Truth is not relative. There is one truth: God’s.

Knowledge of God

Why do we study the Word? Our primary purpose should be to know the Lord. Every book teaches us about Him—His faithfulness, His steadfast love, His justice and His mercy. We see His hand working with the proud and the lowly. Nobody can thwart His plans. We learn that we can truly trust the Lord in all circumstances.

Life-saving instruction

In the Bible we see God has had a plan for us from the beginning of time. We see how salvation is to be received. We learn how to obey God the way He wants us to obey. We just need to have open eyes and a heart set on seeking His will and not our own.

I am thankful that God has preserved His Word for me and for the rest of the world. I am thankful for this beacon of truth that hasn’t been destroyed.

 

Day 28: Hope

This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.

image
From The Return of the King, New Line Cinema.

An innumerable horde of creatures besieged the city of Minas Tirith. Dark clouds fill the sky. Ominous pounding reverberates through the courtyard as the orcs and Uruk-hai attempt to penetrate the large doors. The situation is desperate. The men quake with fear but stand ready to fight. The stench of death surrounds them. Despair is palpable.

Pippin, the hobbit, turns to Gandalf the wizard and says, “I didn’t think it would end this way.”

Gandalf looks kindly at the hobbit and remarks, “End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.”

Pippin’s face reflects his confusion. “What? Gandalf? See what?”

“White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.”

“Well that isn’t so bad,” Pippin says.

Gandalf smiles. “No. No it isn’t.”

In that dark and desperate moment, Gandalf gave Pippin a glimmer of hope—an expectation of better things.

In another scene, the Rohirrim (the cavalry) appear on the hillside. As the horses begin to move forward into the fray, rays of sunshine break through the gloom as though hope for victory has finally come.

That particular series of books and movies overflows with scenes contrasting light vs darkness, and despair vs hope. On some level, we can all relate to these moments. How often have you been at the brink of utter ruin, only to be saved from destruction? Has life ever seemed purposeless? meaningless?

For the Christian, we remember that life for us was aimless before Christ. Without Him, we faced death (and life) without hope. In our cushy country, most of us have never faced starvation or persecution—at least not since the end of World War II. There is this sense that all will be well. There is confidence that the government will protect and provide. Either that or we’ll pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. That’s misplaced confidence.

What would happen if all those “supports” were suddenly destroyed? In what or in whom would people place their hope?

We have an unshakeable hope. A confident expectation for better things. And it isn’t here in this decaying world!

What is the Christian’s hope?

A hope that defies circumstance.

One of the things that perplexed the Romans during the rise of Christianity was the peace with which the Christians faced death. No matter how much they persecuted, threatened, tortured and imprisoned them, the Christians would not renounce their faith nor beg for mercy. They had confidence that God would deliver their soul if not their body.

The Romans hoped that persistent persecution would destroy the church, but it didn’t. It flourished! The people saw hope reflected in the lives of those Christians and they were hungry to have that same confidence.

Hope that anchors our soul.

When a ship lowers its anchor, it’s very hard for that ship to go wandering off with the tide. It may move around a little in its place, but the anchor keeps it from being carried off by the wind and waves.

Our hope is like that anchor. When circumstance and the deceitfulness of the world push us about, our hope holds us in place so we do not wander away from God.

The Hebrew writer refers to hope as an anchor in the following passage:

“So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

‭‭~ Hebrews‬ ‭6:17-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Hope in God’s Faithfulness and steadfast love.

Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations‬ ‭3:19-24‬ ‭ESV

The above passage is one of my favorites. It eloquently expresses why we can trust in the Lord: he is faithful, his love is steadfast, his mercy never ends. Do you know anybody like that on earth? Have your friends ever let you down? What about family? The church?

Humans will always fall short. We aren’t perfect. Our minds get overwhelmed, our bodies ache and break, our emotions take over. God isn’t frail like us. He is sure, strong and steady. He will never leave us or forsake us.

Placing your confidence in God is a secure choice. We can trust Him. We can have hope because of his trustworthiness.

Hope for eternal peace.

This world is essentially a foreign country for us. It’s a place where we are forged. God wants to know if we really love Him. He wants us all to be with Him in heaven, but many don’t want anything to do with him. They want their way. They want to satisfy themselves.

I was “they” until I decided to put my hope in something better. It’s easy to fall into the rhythm of the world and make a home here—especially when circumstances are wonderful. But with each new day I have to remind myself that this too shall pass—the good and the bad. Every day. 

My hope is in a place where my spouse and my children won’t be threatened by thugs. My hope is in a place where those who’ve gone before me are waiting. My hope is in a place where I will finally be face to face with my creator, surrounded by his perfect glory. I’ll get to see Jesus, the one who saved me from eternal death.

I have hope. And I am so thankful to God for giving me a confident expectation for better things.

Do you have this hope?

 

Hurry up… and wait.

teach me

I never cease to be fascinated by themes throughout the Bible (look for posts on this in the future!) One predominant theme that seems to shout at me lately is waiting on the Lord.

I was having one of those days yesterday where I was moving about smartly and all was well for the moment when… crash! I hit another catastrophe. Another obstacle! Another spot where I was forced to mark time.

Have you ever had one of those days?

I took a few minutes to find a solitary place and think. I opened to the Psalm that has been my meditation and prayer lately: Psalm 25. I kept reading all the way through Psalm 27. In Psalm 27, this idea of waiting is repeated at the end of the chapter:

Teach me Your way, O Lord,
And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies.

Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries;
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.

Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

~Psalm 27.11-14, NKJV

“Wait on the Lord.”

“Be of good courage and he shall strengthen your heart.”

Are you despairing today? Have you lost heart? Are you afraid? Take time to meditate on this passage.

In verse 11 of the above passage it says, “teach me your way, O Lord.” This is also expressed in Psalm 25:4-5: “Make me to know your ways, O Lordteach me your paths; Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.”

When God teaches us His way, He has to draw us out of the world. We have to walk the path of faith. That path looks scary and uncertain at times, doesn’t it? He calls us to step out on a stormy ocean, disregarding the obvious threat of gravity and powerful waves. Who created the waves and gravity? Who has charge of our future? 

God wants to teach us His way: TRUST.

He wants us to trust Him in good times and bad. He wants us to trust Him above all other supports. The moment we lose all our helpers is the moment our faith is tested to the uttermost. Will we wait on Him in trust?

“I would have lost heart…”

I initially read this passage from the New King James Version. The words “I would have lost heart” were italicized in my Bible. Whenever the NKJV italicizes something it means that it was not in every manuscript or added to enhance understanding. I often do not count on those italicized phrases to establish any sort of point because it was not in the original.

I did a comparison between three translations (NASB, ESV & NKJV) to see how that particular spot was translated. You can see the full context comparison here.

In the footnotes of the ESV, it says, “other Hebrew manuscripts Oh! Had I not believed.” My conclusion is that those italicized words were added by the translators to enhance meaning. They don’t detract from the passage, but I think those italicize words clarify why it was important for the psalmist to believe that He would look on the goodness of the Lord in the context of the passage. He believes that God will deliver Him and so He does not go out and commit suicide in His despair. He trusts. He does not lose heart.

Waiting on the Lord can be a challenge. Many kings and people committed great errors because they did not wait on God’s timing or seek His counsel before acting [Think Abraham and Hagar].

Let the Lord teach you His way. He wants us to wait on Him in faith. He’s teaching me that lesson even now and the Bible is showing me that I need to seek His counsel and wait. It’s hard to wait in our busy world, but we need to learn to slow down and seek God.

While you are waiting, think of the times when the Lord has provided for you or delivered you from trouble:

  • Write it down (or type it and print it)
  • Post it somewhere you regularly look (maybe you could make a little graphic for your phone so when you hit the home button, it’s the first thing you see!)
  • Give thanks to God in prayer for those times.
  • Ask Him to help you again.

Are you being taught to wait?

Are you seeking God’s way or your own?