Category Archives: Bible

Have Courage

By | Bible, Suffering | 2 Comments

Today, during my Bible reading, God just hit me with the truth of His Word. Have you ever found yourself trying to gain the courage to be a light to someone that you know needs Him? Have you found yourself afraid of what others might think of you if you speak the truth? Join the club! How often I fail at going into all the world and preaching the Gospel (paraphrase of Mark 16:15). We are not called to live comfortable “Christian” lives. By this I mean: we go to church, talk to our Christian friends about how we want to be a light, sing songs (but not too loudly, because we do not want even our Christian friends to judge us), read our Bibles every now and then, but never really make the dive to fully commit to Jesus Christ. We are called to live our lives with eternity in mind. It is not always going to be a pretty life! Just think though, it is going to make living in paradise so much more worth it.

Friday, our courts made a decision to step completely outside of what the Bible commands and their decision both terrifies me and also encourages me. It terrifies me, because I know that I will get more persecution when I speak up about Christ and what I believe the Bible teaches. But on the other hand, it encourages me in my faith. It helps me to know that I really need to commit to Christ and know what His Word says! Matthew 10:16 says, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” I do not know about you, but that encourages me. Jesus knew the times we would be facing. Think about what Jesus endured for us…now that’s persecution. Normally, what we encounter when we speak up for the cause of Christ is some ridicule and mocking.

Jesus’ words to His disciples (that still apply to us) were, “Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:26-28, my emphasis added in italics) He knew we would have fear, but He encourages that our lives are to be lived for eternity. Think about those friends again that you know need a savior… Now think about the one (Satan) this passage is talking about who is able to destroy both their bodies and souls… Do you think that their souls are worth maybe a little ridicule or even some persecution? You might even be rejected. That’s okay. Still be that light! Their souls are worth the risk! Who knows, you might be thanked for speaking truth into their life! Maybe they have been praying that God would send someone and you are the person that He sends.

Jesus came for those that were sick and lost (paraphrase of Matthew 10:6, 8). Go; reach out to those that you encounter that are lost and in need of a true savior! Do not let man’s opinions or rulings stop you from being beacons of light. God is backing us when we go out and are lights for Him. Yes, we might have to endure some hardships here on this earth, but the ultimate glory will be when we reach heaven’s shores. Let these words of Jesus Christ sooth your soul and give you the extra strength and courage that you need to go be that light. “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for their’s is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12, my emphasis added) My heart is encouraged and ready to go fight the good fight! I hope yours is too! Go be that light!

Climb for Perspective!

By | Bible, Family, Personal, Relationships, Studying Scripture, Suffering | No Comments

“Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Perspective is everything…and I tend to lose proper perspective easily. Often. I am a cronic perspective-loser. (If that’s even a word.) Two weeks ago was one of those times.

I was away from home on a work trip with my family and trying to juggle the normal responsibilities from my perch in the South. It was one of those times when the to do list in my brain was overwhelming me and making me a bit crazy. My fuse was getting smaller and smaller and my attitude was challenging me hourly. With an upcoming conference and other ministry opportunities, I was trying to get some work done, despite my being away from home. All of this and more were piling up in my mind. One of those times where you mark off two things on your to do lists and add four. At night my brain wouldn’t shut off. I was tired emotionally. I was discouraged.

Then I climbed a mountain.

Ok…it was more like a high hill with lots of rocks, but none the less, they call it a mountain. Pinnacle Mountain in Arkansas. I was told it was a “hike”, and if I had been in shape, it would have been just that…but it was more like a humbling stop-and-go climb for me. Three quarters of a mile seems like an easy hike until you put it 1,011 feet in the air. That changes things tremendously. The terrain was very rocky and thankfully, I am told we were on the “easier side”. That’s a very good thing. Otherwise…I’m not sure if I would have made it in one piece.

It was a hike. Took me an hour to summit, being 26 and sorely out of shape. I kept hearing my heart pounding out of my chest and my heavy breathing. It’s a very effective way to shut me up since I couldn’t talk and huff and puff simultaniously.

Every 10 minutes I stopped for a breather. Every bench had my name on it. My two teenage siblings were ruthless in their fun ribbing. “The old lady” was climbing a mountain! I waved them off…they were right, I was older than them AND out of shape. I reminded them that they didn’t have to run ahead and prove themselves! “Let’s enjoy the trip” really translated to “I am dying, can you slow down?”

Along the way, I was met by many athletic folks jumping and skipping rock to rock…as I hoisted myself slowly from one to the other. They exhausted me even more just watching them. We saw one man, probably in his late sixties or older, who was jogging downhill at a much younger speed. Our friend who took us on the hike said that same gentleman is there all the time. That knowledge wore me out too. People take this mountain climbing serious…like it’s a favorite pastime, or something. I mused at my very different ideas of a favorite hobby. None of which were rock climbing.

After an hour, and several bench breaks, we arrived at the top. I was windless and tired. My mind rolled over my to do list back home and the emails I needed to reply to…and I really needed to finish that blog! My shirt was wet from sweat and my legs felt remarkably similar to noodles. As I crested the ridge, I appreciated the breeze…especially in a damp shirt.

Then I looked down into the valley below and smiled. I wanted to congratulate myself for not fainting on the way up, but the view took my breath away (at least what was left of it). There was my Creator’s handiwork in full view. The sun was starting to set and the river below snaked around the mountain. In the far distance, I saw a sailboat…like a pin head on the horizon. The sky was exploding into color and the breeze was perfect. Below, I saw the city…this city I had just came grumbling from. The same place that seemed so big, and scary, and overwhelming. Now it looked ridiculously small. I put my hand against the spot where I had previously been and it all fit in the palm of my hand.

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How my perspective had changed. Quickly. In an hour of climbing. Suddenly…my to do list vanished. My swimming brain stilled. My heart was in awe. I couldn’t get over the sail boat. It was so tiny. Then, as if in a whisper, I felt a truth drop into my heart. “There’s my to do list,” I thought. When I am right up on it, it’s HUGE. But when I am with the Father, it’s a speck of nothing on the horizon.

As a child I always wondered what Christ meant when He said, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) The way I saw it, with Christ came a rough road ahead. Worth it? Absolutely! It’s just that the promise of a lighter burden didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I didn’t see lighter loads. Since fully surrendering my life to Christ, I had a whole lot more on my plate. So what did Jesus mean by a “light burden” and an “easy yoke”?

It seemed, standing there on top of that mountain, I understood what He meant. He didn’t mean the problems would disappear. He meant that your perspective would be changed. On that mountain, I was lighter. My load seemed like nothing. Weightless. Was my to do list erased? No. In fact, I knew it was getting longer at home while I stood on Pinnacle Mountain. My perspective had changed. All those details that I had been stressing over? They were all a pin-head sailboat on the horizon compared to the wealth of God’s abilities. He doesn’t need me to run around with my head cut off. He doesn’t need me to complete His tasks…He chooses me and uses me for His glory. Big difference.

So there I was 1,011 feet up in the air and all the dots were connecting for me. My problems aren’t big. My to do list isn’t impossible. My opportunities aren’t overwhelming. I make them that way. I blow them up into monsterous proportions and then God has to come along and deflate them when I am at my wits end. He calls me to climb a mountain…and then He points to my sailboat of a problem. Its really not that big from up there. Its actually very achievable. It fits under my pinky finger.

I know I stared for a long time into the valley that day, overwhelmed in a different way. This shrinking feeling washed over me. Freedom feels very light. In fact, it’s weightless. And for the first time in a long time, I felt weightless. It wasn’t my job to be frantic and coordinate perfection. It’s my job to climb the mountain and be obedient. He does the rest. Roll up my sleeves in diligence? YES. But not get in God’s way of planning and making all things beautiful IN HIS TIME.

The sun was setting and we had to leave the mountain top. To be honest, I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stamp this image deep into my heart. Every river bend, every church steeple, every road and every sail boat. I wanted it etched in my memory. I wanted this new perspective never to fade. I wanted this mountain to change me.

How often do we allow the circumstances of life to rob us of our joy and sap us of energy? We blow up our problems and create bigger ones. However real they are, we must not let them rule our lives and steal our zest for living. That relationship that is crumbling…it IS painful, but it must not keep you in the valley. Climb up, dear friend! That test final that seems impossible? One rock at a time, sister…move steadily to the top and your perspective will change. Stay on the mountain top as long as you can and carve the things you see there in your heart forever. Dwell on His power. His majesty. HIM.

As I started down into the valley again, I thought a lot about what I had experienced on the mountain. I carried with me the realization that sometimes…amid the struggles in life…I just need to push the pause button and climb. I needed to MAKE time to climb. To be with Him and rest in His perspective.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I fully expect in my humanness to need another mountain climb again one day. Maybe even soon. We all need a visual reminder. When that moment comes again…I will climb. But for today…I am remembering that little pin head of a sail boat and praising God for His power over my problems, however big they may seem at the moment.

What is your perspective today? Climb a mountain. Climb a tree. Climb for perspective. Live in the Presence of the Father and remember that “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

Climb, sister, climb!

 

Unstickered

By | Bible, Family, Personal, Uncategorized | No Comments

“But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.”         Isaiah 64:8

Strange things happen when you’re doing dishes. Or at least for me they do. Yesterday I was doing dishes at my brother’s new house. My second younger brother is getting married next month and needed some help settling in. So there I was…washing new dishes and putting them into clean cabinets.

New dishes mean one thing…sticky price tags. All of them screaming to be removed. I must have peeled and scraped and scrubbed fifty stickers off. They are very persistent little things and yet so rewarding. The first dozen or two gave me a feeling of satisfaction when the dishes were smooth and clean. It made me feel good.

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Then it started getting boring. Monotonous. Even agitating at times. So I started thinking…what lesson could I learn from this? When I begin asking myself questions like this, I know I am really grasping at straws, but it was starting to get on my nerves…this whole sticker business! I needed to walk away with more than a stack of smooth-bottomed plates and bowls, I wanted some spiritual food for thought!

Then it came to me. Or HE did. All these beautiful dishes are worthless if they stay boxed up, wrapped up, and stickered up. To be useful they must be unwrapped and ready on a shelf for easy access. I won’t eat a bowl of cereal from a bowl that is in a box of styrofoam peanuts and wrapped up in age-old newspaper. No! I need them available. I need them at my fingertips. I need them unstickered.

Wow! That truth got me right between the eyes. Maybe God was standing there at the sink with me, whispering truths into my soul. I heard Him stirring my heart to see myself in those stickered plates. How often was I the one staying packaged up? It got me thinking. Staying packed up doesn’t change my value. It changes my usefulness. I can be a lovely glass in a box, carefully wrapped up and protected from any danger… Or I can be a beautiful pitcher that is used for His glory.

Maybe it is my fears holding me back from doing bigger things for God. Perhaps in an effort to protect myself, I peek out from the safety of my styrofoam peanut-bedded box and shiver. “Not me, Lord. Can you pick someone else? How about that sturdy looking plate over there? You know how easily I can chip!” So I stay in the comfort of my newspaper padding and never grace the table of my King. I am valued, but not useable.

Standing there at the sink suddenly became therapy. I felt tears welling up in my eyes. A prayer bubbled up in my heart. “Lord, I want to be used. Unwrap me. Wash me. Unsticker me. Please…use me. If I chip, still put me on Your table. If I crack, mend me. If I break, heal me…but Father, please use me.” I felt the words of Isaiah pouring from my soul… “Here am I Lord, send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)

I want to be useable. I want to be available. Some days that may mean leading a Bible study or tutoring a child in math skills for the glory of God. My work can become my worship, if my heart is toward Him. Some days that may mean teaching children at a kindergarten class or listening to piano students plunk out their pieces. Other days it might be cleaning up vomit or folding ten loads of laundry. Yesterday it meant scrubbing stickers off new dishes.

Friend, God has the perfect place in His heavenly cabinet for you. It’s a place that you will be available…right at His fingertips. To get there you have to get out of that styrofoam-coated comfort and leave the packing box behind. You have to give up the stickers and be willing to be chipped. It means being vulnerable. It means being subject to the dangerous air…but you can do it in His strength! I think I want to leave the box behind and be unstickered in the cabinet of Jesus. Will you join me?

New Mercies Every Morning

By | Bible, Family, Personal, Relationships, Testimonies | No Comments

Do you ever have those moments when your wonder of God’s greatness gets exploded and you stand in awe of His power? I have. Last week, in fact.

I was standing in my kitchen and listening to the narrative of God’s power and grace on the life of my brother. I’ll spare you all the details, but it’s more than safe to say that my younger brother came within literal feet and inches of death…and lives to tell about it. He drives a semi truck and was fully loaded with logs when he came face to face with a big county truck fully loaded with salt. It’s slick outside. Brakes don’t work this time of year in Michigan…. especially for a semi or other heavy trucks. Police at the sight later shook their heads in disbelief. Both drivers should have died. Instead, both walked away without a single scratch.

As my brother told the story, I stood there amazed at God’s mercy. My skin tingled. Shivers ran down my spine. His mercies are new every morning Lamentations tells us. “Great is Thy faithfulness!” The accident happened right in front of our local school. It was around 2pm…school was letting out….and not one child was anywhere near when the accident took place. Now I call that God’s finger print!!!

Miracles are happening every day, all around us. Problem is, I don’t often stop and notice them. The million things that God graces us with daily…and we walk by without a thought. The air we breathe. The water we drink. The seasons. The baby that curls up in your arms and sleeps like an angel. The fireflies in the summer sky. These are all small miracles. Graces He gives us every day.

As I was thinking of the accident and reflecting on God’s mercy, my brother’s seven-month-old daughter was sitting near me as I played the piano. She loves music and was humming in her sweet baby way. Then (as if I were in “It’s a wonderful life” with Clarence, the angel) my mind flashed to a world without my brother. Morbid, I know. But it was as if God have me a picture of His mercy in a bigger way.

I imagined a funeral instead of joyful relief and gratefulness. A young widow and her seven-month-old daughter. A farm without a farmer. A hole in our family. Shock. Grief. Heart ache. The moment was awful…staring into what could have been a tragic loss.

And then…a miracle instead! God’s mercy. He chose to give life. To grant protection. To dispatch hundreds of angels for that specific moment. To steer those trucks perfectly and spare the lives of two young men…and countless school children. Mercy like that makes you want to sing! So I did. With my little niece humming her own tune, we sang worship songs and praise anthems to Jesus. His mercy! He has chosen mercy and love and protection. Thank you Jesus!

A miracle. That’s what we are. Human wonders that God has created to tell the world His story. He loves us. He cares for us. Even when we don’t see His hand, His fingerprints dot our very being. I stand amazed in His presence. I am in awe of His power. The prophet Jeremiah said so well in Lamentations 3:22-24, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him.” And it all made me wonder. Standing in awe…What miracle have I failed to see? What else have I missed?

From Wimp to Warrior

By | Bible, Studying Scripture | One Comment

Often, I am guilty of looking at people in Scripture as some kind of out-of-this-world picture of perfection. I look at the folks in the Bible as heroes. Super-human. Yet, when I take the time to really read their stories, I see something different…I see genuine people like you and me. They struggled. They failed. They were human…flesh and blood folks with emotions and skin and feelings. In those moments of truth, I am encouraged. It doesn’t matter how much my life seems like a disaster, or that my struggles in this world are giant-sized…He is able to use me in my weakness. And He can use you in yours too.

Take Gideon for instance. This guy had real fear issues! In all practical senses of the word, Gideon was a wimp! Chicken-hearted. The kids on the playground probably called him a sissy. He was a coward. He buckled to the pressure of the day.

Somehow I viewed him differently…like a war hero or something. Or was he?

When I read Scripture, I like to paraphase and imagine what it would be like to be there…in the middle of the story. I love to pretend that I am watching it all unfold. You can read the story of Gideon in Judges 6-7. But for a minute, imagine with me.

The stage for Gideon’s story is sad and depressing. The Children of Israel were being oppressed by the Midianites because of their disobedience to God. (They were doing wicked things that were against His laws…so He used a foreign country to discipline them and bring them back to Himself.) The Midianites were ruthless. They would go behind the Israelites when they planted their crops and destroy everything. They killed their animals. The Israelites were so afraid of the Midianites that they hid in caves. They were completely impoverished and frightened out of their wits.

This is where we find Gideon…threshing his wheat in hiding. He is afraid to do it in the open lest the Midianites take it or destroy it. I just imagine him…jumping at the slightest noise and totally freaked out at the smallest twig snap. He’s trying to make a living and put food in his family’s mouths…and he is completely scared to death in the process. I imagine him there, looking this way and that…trying to be quiet and calm his shaking hands.

Then the Angel of the Lord comes to him. Now this is just speculation…but if a guy is hiding to work, an angel is probably going to scare you worse than a man! What do you think his response is? Does he think about running away? What goes through Gideon’s wimpy heart?

Check this out…the Angel’s greeting cracks me up! He says, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” Ok. I’m not a rocket scientist, but I’m pretty sure this message was given to the wrong guy! Gideon is hiding, for goodness sake. It’s not like he’s picketing for better rights or bucking against the system. What does Gideon say to this? Does he laugh? Does he look behind him and wonder if the Angel is talking to someone else?

Listen to Gideon’s response…again, not a tough-guy type of answer. I imagine a quiver in his voice as he says… “Oh, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ but now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” Even Gideon’s response is full-to-the-brim with fear. Somehow, the Angel completely ignores Gideon’s knocking-knees and says, “Go in this might of yours” (exuse me, what might?) “and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have not I sent you?”

Whenever I read this story, I find myself laughing at this point. What on earth does God see in Gideon? He stands there…white as a ghost, trembling, and making exuses and God says…”Yep, he’s the one.” Why Gideon? Why a wimp?

Gideon is still not convinced. He starts making excuses about his family tree and his weaknesses. He tells all his mess-ups and bad traits. Gideon tries to convince God that He chose the wrong guy! To be honest, I’m with Gideon…he’s not a mighty man of valor. He’s a fear-filled wimp. Weak. Afraid.

Aren’t we glad we don’t write the story of life? God sees past the fear, the knocking-knees, the quivering chin…and He notices strength that no one else can see. He sees a man with potiential. A man, who with the right tools and the right God can be a warrior. I think God saw Gideon as an opportunity to show the world His power…because Gideon was nothing special. He was an ordinary man with wimpy fears. He was the littlest, the last, the least.

So, God promises to be with Gideon and to defeat the Midianites through him. Gideon sacrifices to the Lord there. He’s willing at this point…but he’s not all in. Watch this…God tells him to destroy the false gods of Midian, tear down their altars, and to build an altar to the Lord and sacrifice to Him there. We can imagine Gideon wrestling at this point. He wants to obey God, but his faith and fear are colliding. So Gideon does what he knows how to do well…he hides. He does what God says…but under the cover of darkness. The men of the city wake up and come storming to Gideon’s family’s house to kill him.

You got to love this next part. Gideon’s dad comes out to meet the men and pleads for his son. I don’t know where Gideon was…maybe hiding?

Then it happens. A change of direction. A strengthening of his heart. Judges 6:34 says “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon.” Big difference! Welcome to the new Gideon! This warrior-Gideon is the one we all seem to remember. We are but empty vessels without the power and might of God’s Spirit. Here is Gideon…trying to obey in his own flesh and God fills him up. Holy Spirit-living equals powerful living. Gideon begins to change. Instantly. On the spot.

He still has his fearful moments. Times he wants to test God…like with the fleeces in the next chapter. Twice. But God isn’t intimidated by Gideon’s fears or concerns or worry-level. He’s concerned with his heart. Gideon’s heart is pure. Gideon had a warrior heart…he just needed backing. He needed a General worthy of his devotion. He needed a Captain who could handle the outcome. This is where Gideon is ready to give it his all. This is where he turns from wimp to warrior.

I sit sometimes and think about Gideon. What would it be like to sit and talk with him about the battles he fought? Defeating the entire Midian army with 300 men? Wonder what that was like. With clay pots, swords, and torches, no less! I find it interesting to note that when they did defeat them, the battle cry was this… “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” Wow.

I wonder…could I be a warrior? Are my wimpy fears holding me back from winning victories that will be spoke of for centuries? I love the story of Gideon, because it speaks to me…that normal, fearful, human, weak people can be used of God to be warriors. The change? His Spirit. And where His Spirit is there is victory and peace. Where His Spirit is there are wimps turned warriors.

Which one are you?