Keys

Samantha gazed adoring into her darling daughter’s face. This perfectly beautiful baby slept so peacefully, not a care in the word.

Samantha began a prayer she would pray over all her children the rest of her life, “Lord, may this beautiful child love You and serve You all the days of her life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Who will she become?

What will her personality be like?

What gifts will she possess?

What challenges will she face?

In that hospital room, holding her newborn baby in her arms, Samantha knew tomorrow she would carry her home.

What is the most important key to life I can teach her?

How to stay safe?

How to love?

How to be kind to all?

Psalm 27:4 provides a weighty answer: “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only so I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.” NIV

 

The Message version of Psalm 27:5 further explains, “That the only quiet, secure place in a noisy world, the perfect getaway far from the buzz of traffic.”

Being held securely in a parents’ arms feels safe and secure.  Going out into the world doesn’t always leave us with the same warm fuzzies. Every parent knows this vast world can be wonderful, and it can also be heart-breaking.

The best tool we have to offer our children, our friends, and even ourselves for navigating life is to introduce him to the Lord.

When we do life with the Lord, we are not alone. He’s not the magic genie in the sky who suddenly makes it all better. However, He does promise:

– to stay with us always (Deut 31:6)

– the pain has a purpose (Romans 8:28)

– He will redeem everything we go through. (Romans 8:28)

Samantha knew the proper order of things. As she watched the infant’s chest rise and fall, she knew mothers should not outlive their children.

Chances were, she would not always be there. However, if the baby grew up with a foundation of faith laid on her heart, she might choose to love God with all her heart, soul and strength.

She would have courage in scary scenarios. She would find wisdom when she felt clueless. And, even if she lost everyone she knew, she would know the Lord, and never, ever be alone.

 

Which Wins: Fear or Faith?

“The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them slain over to Israel.'” Joshua 11:6a (NIV)

What he saw should have stopped his heart. His enemies united and charging toward him, with massive armies too numerous to count.

Surrounded as he glanced every direction, Joshua saw no  way out. Had Joshua been relying on only his eyes, he would have had great reason to fear. Death was surely coming – now!

But thankfully, he didn’t only have his eyes to assess the situation. He had a heart for God which enabled him to hear God’s prompting. “Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand over all of them, slain over to Israel.'”

By tomorrow, your problems will go away, so don’t be afraid.

How easy was it for Joshua to believe that?

How about you?

When facing an insurmountable task: be it a life threatening diagnosis, financial ruin, or an a loss you can’t prevent; is it easy to let go of fear when fearful things have you surrounded?

I haven’t always handled fear well. But I have learned God keeps His promises. He wrote in Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them. He will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Can I encourage you with my life experience? I have faced fear and uncertainty in many forms. God always came through. Not always with the miracle I would have authored. Not always with the timeline format with the promise it would be dealt with tomorrow. But, He was always in control, even when my human eyes couldn’t see it.

He has never let me down.

He has never left me on my own.

He has always been there, holding me and my loved ones in the palm of His hand.

It’s not easy to trust when we can’t see. But God is faithful. He will never leave us nor forsake us; we can trust in Him.

Lessons From David, Part II

Does your mind ever play tricks on you? When I’m concerned, or tired, or overwhelmed, especially when I’m lying in bed, my mind often begins to play tricks on me. It starts to play the “what if” game.

What if the treatments don’t work?

What if the economy goes south?

What if I can’t overcome this situation?

Maybe you too, know that game well. Maybe you too, struggle to win every time you play.

David had reason to know fear intimately. Oh, he had great successes – after all he was a king. He was also the one named ‘A man after God’s own heart.’

He also knew what it was like to run for years from the King of the land in hopes of preserving his own life.

And he knew the fear of running from God.

In Psalm 27:1, he writes, “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” (NIV)

When our minds wander from God and begin playing that dangerous and deadly ‘what if’ game, this verse is the perfect psalm to silence Satan. It’s his voice whispering the words of the ‘what if’ game, the words that worry the soul.

As I’m lying in the dark, worrying instead of worshipping, worrying instead of resting, I need to recall who has already conquered the darkness – who is the light.

The Lord.

Who is in control here? Who authors the outcome?

Do I?

Thank goodness, NO!

It is the Lord.

Who has authority over me and all that transpires in my life?

The Lord.

If the Lord does all that: Conquered the literal and spiritual darkness, completely controls my circumstances, and holds me in the palm of His hand; who shall I fear?

Absolutely no one.

God Knows Best

“I heard he was in prison the last years,” he grunted, adjusting his tunic.

“I understand he was inappropriate towards his boss’ wife,” shared another high-ranking official.

“So how did he manage to garner Pharaoh’s favor?” queried another.

They all looked around questioningly. This foreigner, this man no one knew, had somehow secured the second highest spot in the land.

How?

How indeed! It wasn’t his doing. Lord knew no one in Egypt in his right mind would want Joseph, the man with such a bad reputation in such a high position. He did not have political connections. He did not have any favor. Even those he had helped could not remember him.

Or?

Could he have the highest connection?

Could he have somehow won the highest favor?

Was he more memorable than originally thought?

While the world worried away the minutes of yet another day, another year, God was refining this foreigner who no one gave a second thought.

While the political players were plotting and scheming, Joseph himself was praying and serving.

God was using Joseph’s time in prison, in a foreign country, in trials of every sort to shape and mold a man who could save a nation by obeying a God whom he knew loved him and would never leave him alone.

The world saw a man of questionable character. A man not to be trusted. A man of unknown origins. A man terribly different from them.

God saw a man who had learned how to trust and obey. Even when life turned nasty. Even when he should have lost all hope.

I wonder what went through Joseph’s mind as he was carried away by slave traders. I wonder what was running through his thoughts as he enduring his days in prison. I wonder how his heart responded when he was falsely accused for something he didn’t do.

I do know he humbled himself and accepted whatever God had for him.  And he trusted God.

God did not let him down.

I don’t know what you fear today. Maybe you are concerned who will lead in your life. Maybe you are concerned for your nation.

Maybe you fear who might come to a powerful position.

I bet the people of Egypt had quite a lot of fear when Joseph stepped into his role. Yet, had they known what God knew, they would not have been afraid.

Like Joseph, we need to trust God. We need to obey God. And then we need to let God be God.

We need to follow the advice of the psalmist, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

Because, when it’s all said and done, God does know best.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, When facing uncertain times, uncertain circumstances in our lives, we often overlook the fact that You know all. We might face many unknowns, but we can learn to do so gracefully as we recall Your knowledge and Your love and Your plans for each of us. Thank You that You will never leave us stranded! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

*You can read the full account of Joseph’s story in Genesis 37, 39-47.

Daddy’s Here

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)IMG_2320

Trembling on the edge of the precipice, our eight-year-old daughter, Evita, cried out, “I only want to go with Daddy!”

Wearing both a helmet and climbing shoes, she was strapped into a harness with two safety ropes. She stood backwards on the ledge, her heels already off the edge. Poised to descend thirty-five feet in standard rappelling style, she was stuck.

Fear paralyzed her.

“I can’t go without Daddy!”

My husband quickly gathered another line, buckling himself in.

“Belay on,” he called to our other two daughters down below on the ground. They prepared to belay or hold the rappelling lines so no one accidentally plunged to the earth below.

Reaching Evita, he instructed her every move.  He stayed within a foot of her, encouraging her, as she completed embarking over the edge (the point of no return as we term it) and positioned her legs to “walk” down the wall of the cliff.

A few minutes later she swung safely to the ground, declaring her descent “Fun!”

Her sisters congratulated her and she smiled, saying, “I want to go again, but only with Daddy.”

 

I am so my daughter’s mother. Even when I’ve faced challenges before, I often refuse to go it alone.  I tell God I can’t possibly do it. I must have help. I need to possess the honesty of our eight-year-old! I need to admit, “Abba, I need You! I can’t go without You!”

Thankfully I never need to go it alone. God promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)

I’ve lived through many challenges in life and have tested that very promise. Honestly, God has never left me.  Thankfully, no matter what comes: an unexpected relocation, a surprise family addition, or a shocking cancer diagnosis, I never had to go it alone. He never left me stranded.

I don’t know if you’re standing on any ledges today. I don’t know if you’ve ever read Hebrews 13:5 and understand it’s a promise. A promise from God to you. No matter what you’re facing today, He wants to carry you through to the other side. He wants to encourage you and guide you down the difficult terrain.  He’s not asking you to go it alone.  He waiting for your invitation. He wants to hear your heart say, “I can’t do it!  Abba, (Daddy) help me.”

 

Reflections:

Where am I standing today? More importantly, do I feel alone?

Read Hebrews 13:5. Memorize it. Personalize it. Test it.

 

Prayer: Dear Abba, Thank You for loving me and never leaving me alone.  Sometimes I feel alone, feel I can’t share my heart. Maybe because I worry what other’s might think, or possibly because it’s not my story to share. Regardless, I am never truly alone when I turn toward You. Thank You for Your promise that You will never leave me nor forsake me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

I would love to hear how you have tested that promise. I would also love to hear how you plan to test that promise. I will happily pray for you and your situation.  As always, please feel free to use my email address if you prefer for your comments to remain unpublished. Thank you for reading! Please return next Friday, July 15 at 9pm for the next post.

He Is With HIM, Part VIII

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)

 

A new day dawned. Silence prevailed. Jesus was gone, He had died by the will of the people. He had died a criminal’s death. The disciples had scattered and it was over. The region was rid of one more religious teacher.

“He healed, but couldn’t save Himself,” was muttered with scorn.

The Bible is silent about what went on inside the tomb.  It’s silent about what each disciple thought and in what condition was his heart.

But, as humans, we can imagine.  The agony, the disbelief, that this is how things ended.  “I must have been wrong about Him,” many might have repeatedly thought.

Maybe, it seemed, God was silent.

It was back to life as usual on this Sabbath day. A day set aside for worship and rest. A day filled with empty minutes perfect for pondering just what had transpired.

We can imagine those quiet moments when we wish something else, anything else, could captivate and consume our thoughts, our attention, our hearts.

It was time to worship God.  God that was now seen in a different light. How could this have happened? Did I somehow misinterpret? What’s to come?

God was there.

He was with His people. He was in the tomb. Just as He refused to leave Jesus in the tomb, He refuses to leave us alone, afraid, and in the dark.

Oh, we might spend some time in silent solitude, but He will break that silence at our request, in His timing.

This day was not the day for revelation.  People’s hearts needed more time to prepare for what would come. Although no one understood, God was there.  True to His promise in Deuteronomy, He had not left them.

 

Reflections:

How do I mistake silence for abandonment?

After Jesus was placed in the tomb, the Sabbath dictated everyone worship and rest. The people had been through the most horrible day emotionally, and now, they needed to bring their broken hearts, confused minds, and exhausted bodies to worship.

When God is silent what should I do? WORSHIP and REST.

Worship reminds us of the character and truths of God. That He is God. That He loves us. And, He is ultimately in control.

When we focus on God, we can stop worrying about the problem, because we are focused on the problem-solver.  We can forget fear, because we are focused on the One who casts out all fear.  We can feel our blood pressures return to normal as we realize it is God who controls the future not me, not some madman across the globe.

And after the worship?

After worship comes rest. Because we have shifted our focus, we are less stressed, and can find peace to rest spiritually, and also physically and emotionally.

The timing of Jesus’ death was no coincidence.  Directly after His body was placed in the tomb, people needed to make final preparations for the Sabbath and then follow the rules for the Sabbath.  While many thought God was silent that day, God had already given His people instruction on what they were to do that day: worship and rest. This is how He intended for them to get through that awful, confusing day.

When they followed His command, they were sure to make it through the day with the greatest amount of peace possible.

This lesson applies to us today. When I don’t know what to do, I should worship God and then rest.  I must shift my focus from stress-filled life events and all-consuming burdens of the heart to God. He will take care of it. I can trust in His timing and His protection.

Prayer: Dear God, How often I, like the people who were terrified and disheartened about Jesus’ death, feel overwhelmed by events and underwhelmed by Your presence. Direct me to look to obedience to You, which is where I will find peace, and trust in You. Thank You for recording this example to instruct me on how I should do life. Amen.

 

Thanks for reading! Please return tomorrow, for the next post.

Mary’s Treaures, Part III

“Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” Matthew 1:18 NIV

Joseph was a righteous man. He obviously was a man possessing a great amount of self-control.

First, when hearing of Mary’s pregnancy he knew he couldn’t be the father. Although engaged, and intending to become her husband, Joseph hadn’t touched Mary intimately.

Second, knowing he couldn’t possibly be the father of Mary’s baby must have cut him to the quick.  How hurt he must have been!  How many men would have publicly lashed out at her! Yet instead of pulling from personal pain to publicly persecute her, he mentally decided to end things quietly.

Joseph was a righteous man indeed.  When the evidence stacked up against the woman he promise to love, he didn’t denounce her to the world. He loved her even through her seemingly unforgivable misdeeds.

To both Joseph and Mary’s reassurance, God who had orchestrated the pregnancy, revealed the truth to Joseph in a dream and silenced his fear and confusion concerning Mary.

Mary had done nothing wrong. Joseph was strong enough in his faith to accept the incomprehensible complexity of an unchartered scenario, and accepted whatever God assigned him.

How Mary must have treasured Joseph’s love for both his God and his wife!

That even though unconventional, Joseph was accepting of their divinely assigned scenario and willing to obey his God.

 

Reflections:

Do I practice righteousness and self-control when faced with difficult circumstances?

 

How can I work at building my faith this year to strengthen my resolve to fulfill my divine assignment?

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You that You promise to supply all  my needs. Please help me to grow my faith and trust in You so that I can do Your will. Amen.

 

Thank you for reading! Please return by Monday, January 18, for the next post.

 

Faithfully Facing Uncertainty, Part III

“There is no one holy like the Lord, there is no one beside you, there is no rock like our God.” I Samuel 2:2 (NIV)

She felt deeply ashamed for something that wasn’t her fault. She hadn’t done anything wrong. In fact, she’d done most everything right. But, her righteousness wasn’t witnessed or rewarded. Yet.

Layering a thick helping of demoralizing provocation on top of her shame, you now have a picture of Hannah in I Samuel 1.

For someone whose name means ‘favor’ or ‘grace’, she definitely felt under-blessed.

The longing of a blessing unfulfilled, the suffering of a “mean girl” living her dream, and the hopelessness of no change was just too much.

Hannah experienced a “bitterness of soul.” Maybe today we would term it hopelessness, despair, or even depression. She just didn’t know how to get past this day, this hour, this moment.

So what did she do?

“She poured out her soul to the Lord.” (I Samuel 1:15)

She didn’t call her girlfriends to bash the “mean girl.” She didn’t curl up with a gallon of ice cream and settle in for a sugared pity party. She didn’t even give her husband the silent treatment because he could not comprehend her agony.

No, she carried her weary, broken heart to the Lord and poured out her soul.

In her uncertainty of how to face tomorrow, she ran to her Creator.

Creator of today.

Creator of tomorrow.

Creator of joy.

Creator of her very being.

Because there is no one holy like the Lord.

Because he is the Lord who knows.

God knew.

God heard her sobs.

God saw her tears.

God knew her despair.

And He appreciated her faith.

He was moved to move.

When you are feeling ashamed for circumstances beyond your control and provoked by a ‘mean girl’ who seems to attain the goal so easily, carry your broken heart and pour out your weary soul to Him.

You will once again “delight in your deliverance.” Because God promises He hears, He sees, and He knows. And, He’s still at work, weaving together all things for the good of His children, even today.

Reflections:

What circumstances beyond my control scare me?

How do I deal with disappointment?

How will I deal with disappointment in the future?

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You that You see, You hear, and You know. Thank You that even today, You still act. Please prompt me to persevere, even when I don’t want to continue. Thank You that You care more than I’ll ever comprehend. Amen.

Thanks for reading! Please return by next Monday, October 12, for the next post.

Faithfully Facing Uncertainty, Part I

“He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.” Psalm 91:11 NIV, emphasis mine.

Read Daniel 1 and 6.

He was the guy who did everything right. You know, that guy. The one hated by seemingly everyone else for being so perfect. The one everyone else was jealous of but loathed to admit.

Daniel was trustworthy, never corrupt, and never negligent.

Oh, how his enemies longed to rid themselves of him! They watched him. They studied him. They astutely identified there was one thing Daniel didn’t, wouldn’t compromise: his devotion to his God.

Satisfied, his enemies schemed to spring the perfect trap, sure to obliterate Daniel once and for all. They counted on perfect Daniel’s perfect devotion.

Making certain the king could not rescue Daniel, they silently sneered as the royal signet rings sealed Daniel’s fate. Imagine their evening celebratory plans!

What was Daniel’s evening like? He had much time to recall his life. Hauled away from his homeland as a slave. Brought to a foreign country with a new language to learn and laws which dishonored his God. In doing right, he had incurred the wrath of some very powerful political enemies. Now he found himself sealed in a dark den surrounded by lunging lions. Every moment must have felt like eternity.

Was that a whisker brushing my leg?

Will this moment be my last?

In the dark unable to see but, able to hear, and certainly able to fear.

This is where obedience carried him.

But the story doesn’t end here.

At the end of the terrifying night, a new day dawned. For Daniel, a renewed confirmation that God’s way is the only way.

For King Darius, the dawning of just how drastically wrong he had been in demanding his own god-like status. What tangible evidence that Daniel’s God had succeeded where he had failed!

The King deemed a new decree for the nation, and for himself: Daniel’s God was indeed the living God, “He rescues and He saves.”

Even through fear, Daniel did what he knew was proper and right, what God commanded of him. Daniel was ready to accept man’s consequences for his righteous living – but instead experienced a miracle that not only saved his life, but moved a king and a nation closer to God.

Reflections:

Do I possess any of Daniel’s characteristics? Am I trustworthy, never corrupt, and never negligent?

When others exclude me and point out how I am different, do I confidently persevere with my choice?

Have you ever been in a figurative or literal dark place, unable to see but able to hear, and certainly able to fear? How did you handle it?

Prayer: Dear God, You knew how lonely and afraid Daniel could have been. You saw his circumstances and You met his need. You see me today. You see potential circumstances where loneliness and fear might creep in. You want to provide for any needs that arise. Remind me that is Your desire, and move my fears out of the way. Thank You for Your endless love! Amen

Thank you for reading! Please return by Monday, September 28, for the next post.

Setting It Straight, Part II

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV, emphasis mine)

 

Maybe he had just risen for the day. Maybe he was enjoying a little quiet time with the Lord. Maybe he had always found that time to be the easiest to hear the Lord.

But Ananias did not believe he heard correctly now.

“’Lord,’ Ananias answered, ‘I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on Your name.’” (Acts 9:13 NIV)

Can you feel the tremor starting at his lips and shooting down to his knees, as his mind comprehended the command and his mouth pronounced his protests?

Was he thinking, Lord, I can’t possibly do that! Do You know what that man does?

God answered simply. “Go!”

So, struggling under the weight of his doubts, Ananias went.

Don’t you admire his courage, his faith? He couldn’t see how this would be good for him, how it could be good for him, yet he obeyed God.

And God knew what He was doing.

He knew He had to set Ananias straight, so he sent him to Straight Street to meet and minister to the very last person Ananias would ever want to see, ever want to touch, ever want to offer Holy Baptism.

Ananias was a disciple. He already knew God. He was already “in.” Yet he didn’t have it altogether- he still needed to learn quite a few things, even if he didn’t realize it yet.

God grew Ananias that day. When God gave the instructions He knew that Ananias, after lodging his protests, would indeed go. He would learn that the Lord could be fully trusted. Something he probably knew in theory, but now he would have hard-earned, hard-core evidence.

Ananias exemplified Proverbs 3:5-6. He could not see how in the world his meeting Saul would have any positive result, but he trusted in the Lord with all his heart, and God did indeed make his paths straight.

Straight to Straight Street.

Straight into the room of the worst of Jesus’ persecutors.

Straight as an arrow into the holy line of sight that revealed sometimes we don’t know and must fully trust in God.

Ananias could not imagine meeting Saul and living through it. He never would have imagined this Saul, persecutor of followers of ‘The Way,” would humbly ask Ananias to restore his sight, and to show him the way to follow Jesus for himself.

Yes Saul was not the only one set straight at Straight Street. Ananias found his heart set straight as well.

Reflections:

If you’ve journeyed with the Lord for quite a while, have you, at points, assumed you have everything about faith set straight in your mind?

Has God needed to correct your mindset? How did that alter your thoughts, and/or your actions?

Prayer: Lord, please give me a faith and courage like Ananias, that even when I can’t see any good from it, I too will follow your instructions. Amen.

 

Thanks for reading!  Please return by next Monday, September 14, for the next post.