God Works in the Dark

When I was a child I remember occasions when I was the last one to go to bed. Being last required me to turn out the downstairs lights and climb the darkened stairs toward the dim hallway light at the top. Our stairs made a turn part way up and I still remember exactly how I felt as I prepared to make the climb. I would reach for the light switch at the bottom of the stairs as my feet were already moving up the first few steps. I would hit that switch and dash up the stairs like my tail was on fire. I’d make that turn and see the light at the top and know I was safe.

Even as an adult, when my boys were small and my husband was traveling for work, I would lock the doors at night and head for the stairs with that same sense of dread as I flipped the switch at the bottom of the steps. I really wasn’t afraid of the dark by this time. It was more about the responsibility I felt to protect my family against the unknown while my husband was away. It always seems that everything hard is magnified at night.

When Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt they were guided by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. God never left them in the dark. It was all around them but they always had His light. The night they arrived at the Red Sea they set up camp and the pillar that had been leading them moved behind them. It stood in between the Israelites and the Egyptians. Then God worked all night to clear a path of escape through the sea for His people while His light held back the enemy. (Exodus 13-14)

We need not fear the darkness. God’s light is always there. Sometimes leading us and sometimes standing between us and the enemy that is pursuing us. We can walk confidently toward and through the darkest times knowing God’s light shines to show us the way and to keep us safe.

God doesn’t have to wait till morning to be able to see what He’s doing. He works just fine in the dark.

Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”  – Psalm 139:12 (ESV)

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'” – John 8:12(ESV)

 

 

Would You Get Into a Boat With Jesus?

A story that begins in Mark Chapter 4 comes at the end of a long day of preaching. Jesus has spent the day teaching a large crowd by the sea. We pick up the story in verse 35.

On that day, when evening came, He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” – Mark 4:35-41 (NASB)

The disciples get into the boat and Jesus promptly goes to sleep. He’s exhausted. The winds pick up and a storm threatens. The disciples wake him in an panic. Jesus speaks to the wind and the waves and they are instantly calm. Then Jesus rebukes them for having no faith. The disciples are amazed that He has so much power over the storm.

If they had been listening they would have saved themselves a lot of stress. They had been sitting under the teachings of Jesus for a while and he had explained the parables to them. They knew they could trust him.

But they missed what he said in verse 35. “He told them, “let’s cross over to the other side.”  He didn’t say, “let’s go out into the middle of the sea and be drowned by a storm.” What he told them was that they would arrive safely.

Like the disciples, we often miss the promises Jesus makes to us. If we would just listen, we would know that the safest place in the world is in a boat with Jesus, even if it appears He is asleep in the stern in the middle of a storm.

Why? Because He has already told us we will make it to the other side.

Heirs with Christ – What Do We Inherit?

Romans 8:17 says “and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”

What does that verse mean for us? What exactly is an heir anyway?

Webster’s dictionary gives the following definitions:
1:  one who inherits or is entitled to inherit property
2: one who inherits or is entitled to succeed to a hereditary rank, title, or office     <heir to the throne>
3: one who receives or is entitled to receive some endowment or quality from  a parent or predecessor

If we apply all of those definitions to our relationship with Christ the implications are quite remarkable!

Colossians 1:15 says “He (Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” Jesus is the firstborn son and entitled to all that God has. If we understand that we are co-heirs with Christ then we find that we have inherited some amazing things.

First, according to Webster’s first definition, we have access to ALL of God’s property. That would be…the entire Universe. But God’s riches are so much more than tangible things. The riches of His glory are beyond our comprehension.

Then, according to Webster’s second definition, we are entitled to the authority that comes as a result of being royalty. 2 Tim 2:11-12 says “It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; If we endure, we will also reign with Him;” If we are heirs, then we will rule with Christ.

And finally, according to Webster’s third definition, we will inherit character qualities from our Heavenly Father! If we are heirs, then we have been blessed with the same character qualities that God gave to His son, Jesus Christ. We can be like him! We can represent Him to a dying world and show them what our God is like.

What an amazing inheritance we have been given!

Hurricane Season is Upon Us

Last year we learned a lot about hurricanes. We experienced Irma up close and personal!

I remember listening to the wind howling outside our boarded up windows and the creaking of the wood when the strongest gusts came. It went on for hours.

During hurricane season it isn’t uncommon to see pictures of people in the path of a hurricane. The meteorologists stand in hurricane force winds and their clothes are whipped and pulled by the gusts as they report on location. They may have trouble standing as the blasts of wind bear down on them. If you‘ve ever walked outside in strong winds you may have some idea what they are experiencing. And if you are trying to walk, you may have to lean into the wind to be able to make any progress at all.

Sometimes it might feel like that in our everyday lives too. We may feel like we are walking through life against a strong wind. We may feel like we aren’t making any progress at all, maybe we’ve even been knocked down a few times. We might even feel like we just want to give up.

But it may be time to lean into the wind.

The Bible has some encouragement for those times when we feel like we are overwhelmed and about to lose our footing.  In 1 Corinthians 15:58 we are told to “…be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” Sometimes we just need to plant our feet and hang on. We know God is able to keep us from falling. To be steadfast means to be determined to stay put, to not give up even in the most difficult times.

The beginning of verse 58 says “therefore.” It refers to something said in the previous verse. What does verse 57 say? It says, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” That is why we can be steadfast! Christ has given us the victory!  But there’s more!

We don’t just have to stand there and be assailed by the winds of opposition. We can move forward with confidence! You may be facing gale force winds today. Be encouraged, God has promised to help you. He will not allow you to be overwhelmed.

 “When you walk your steps will not be impeded; and if you run, you will not stumble.” – Proverbs 4:12(NASB)

What If You Had to Just Pick One?

I went to a conference a few weeks ago. During one of the sessions the speaker asked us to think of something or someone we wanted to pray for. She listed several categories and prayed for each one.  As I was listening and thinking of all the things I could pray for I suddenly stopped and thought, “if I could only have one prayer answered what would it be?”

I had gone through a long list of things as the speaker talked. I hurt my knee several months ago and it would be wonderful to walk again without pain. Our finances could use some boosting. There are some relationships I would love to see mended. The list went on and on. That’s when I stopped and asked that question.  What WOULD that one thing be if there could only be one?

Immediately I began to cry as I asked God for the one thing that mattered most. I prayed for my husband Randy to be healed of liver disease. It was the most important thing in the world at that moment. I believed I could lay everything else aside if only God would answer that one single prayer.

But, you know what? That is totally wrong.

God isn’t like a genie in a bottle that gives you three wishes and that’s all you get. I don’t have to choose which prayer to ask as though eventually God will run out of answers. Mark 11:24 DOESN’T say,”Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. But you only get to ask for three things.”

God has enough answers for every prayer you pray. I don’t have to choose my husband’s health over relief from my own knee pain. There is no trade-off here.

The trade has already been made. Jesus made the sacrifice so we could say with Paul, “For every one of God’s promises is “Yes” in him. Therefore, through him we also say “Amen” to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:20)

So ask away! God wants to hear about everything that you need. He wants to show you that He loves you and since His love is endless, so are the answers to your prayers.

You cannot run out of answered prayers.

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” – Mark 11:24 (CSV)

Tell Your Story

Everyone enjoys a good story. We especially love to hear stories with happy endings. We want good things to happen to good people. We want to hear how making that critical decision changed a life.

Some stories don’t start out so good. People may make some bad choices and struggle with consequences of their actions. The Bible is full of such stories. They don’t always have a happy ending but they DO provide encouragement and instruction to us concerning how we live.

Have you ever considered that you have a story? If you are a Christ follower, you have a story with a happy ending. Your story has the potential to help change someone else’s life.

But not if you keep it to yourself. In order for your story to have impact, you have to tell it. You have to share where you’ve been and where you’re going. Others cannot be encouraged by the lessons you’ve learned if they never hear about them.

Jesus said that we should tell others what has been done for us.

 “Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him. – Luke 8:39 (NASB)

Tell your story! Others are waiting to be encouraged by the unique story that God has given you.

 “Come and hear, all who fear God, And I will tell of what He has done for my soul.” – Psalm 66:16(NASB)

How to Ride a Bicycle Uphill

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Have you seen those cartoons where the guy is riding his bicycle up a very steep hill? He’s struggling, doing his best but running out of steam. Then a vehicle comes by him headed in the same direction and the man grabs onto the back of it and the rest of the ride up the hill is easier.

In my life, there have been many occasions where I’ve heard people say that “religion” in general or following Christ in particular is for weak people. Those who can’t make it on their own and need a crutch.

Recently I injured my knee. At first I could barely walk on it. Then the doctor suggested crutches. I winced, remembering the many weeks I’d spent on them when I had hip surgery several years ago.  I finally gave in and pulled out the crutches. Suddenly I had much more freedom to move about. It didn’t hurt to walk with the crutches. I needed them and they served a purpose.  Why do we feel resentment about having a problem and needing help to deal with it? Why do we see that as some kind of weakness?  Don’t we all have things we would do better if we had a little assistance?

Back to the man on the bicycle. He may have made it up the hill on his own. No doubt having to walk his bike for part of the journey. But his decision to grasp on to help that presented itself wasn’t a sign of weakness to me. It was a sign of him having a healthy perspective of his own limitations. He let go of his pride and grasped a better solution. And just because he did so doesn’t mean he’s coasting or being lazy. As you can imagine, if he let go of the handle bars and expected a completely free ride, he would have ended up in the ditch needing a few bandages.

Following Christ doesn’t mean surrendering your responsibility.  He expects you to cooperate with His plan. He is there to be everything you need but he also wants you to follow through with the things He tells you to do. The scriptures are full of examples where man came to the end of himself and stretched out his hand to God. God took his hand and led him forward to live and serve for the rest of his days.

Perhaps you’ve seen that poem that talks about the footprints in the sand and ends with one set of footprints where Jesus is now carrying you.  Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes we have completely collapsed and God picks us up and carries us. But other times, I think God chooses instead to walk alongside us and let us lean on His strength. He says, “I’m here with you, lean on me.”

We still have a responsibility to keep holding on and to keep moving forward. Just like my crutches. They give me the freedom to keep moving even when all the parts aren’t working right on their own. It takes letting go of pride and latching on to the greatest source of help around. A loving Father who wants to see you at the top of that hill.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)

Opening the Floodgates

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Lately we’ve been challenged by many things at once. A year ago my husband Randy, started his own business. Three weeks later he ended up in the hospital with a life-threatening diagnosis. How were we supposed to survive with no income and so many health issues?

Now, a year later, we are still trying to make a go of it. The business is growing slowly, Randy’s energy is returning slowly, and the income is coming in slowly. “Slowly” isn’t always an easy pace to accept.

We know that God has promised to provide. Sometimes we look at the numbers and shake our heads wondering just how it will all work. Then we remember something that God showed Randy a few months ago. He was feeling like he should make a business decision that seemed a little scary to us. It would require even more trust than we felt we already had.

But God gave Randy a picture of floodgates. Now, if you had lived in Iowa when we did in 2008 you would understand what it feels like to think about floods and the massive structures that hold back the water. As the water levels rose hourly, we anxiously listened to the news to hear if the water would breach the spillway and come rushing down upon the city. It did finally happen and those downstream braced themselves for the arrival of millions of gallons of water with no way to protect their homes. It was a scary time.

But the picture God gave Randy was of a different kind of flood. It was a picture of the Father opening the floodgates of blessing. If we chose to be obedient and do what He had instructed us to do He promised to open the floodgates.  We are standing on that promise now. We have to believe the gates have been opened. We don’t see the signs yet. There has been no miraculous inflow of income. No huge jump in Randy’s energy levels. We are still just plodding along…waiting.

All we have is the promise. But we know from our Iowa experience that when the floodgates spill what they have been holding back, it takes a while for everything to arrive downstream. We believe it’s coming and are waiting to see the first glimpse of His blessings coming around the bend in the river. Now, when it looks like things will never work out we have a signal to help us remember God’s promise. We look at each other and just say, “floodgates.”

What have you been waiting for? Have you been trusting God for a promise and see no evidence of His answer?  Remember the floodgates and keep on trusting. It may be just around the bend.

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” – Isaiah 43:18-19 (ESV)

It’s the Little Things

From the very first day, the moment we gave our hearts to the Lord, we have been taught that the key to walking with the Lord is trust. We must trust Him to know what’s best for us. We can to trust Him to supply everything we need.  

As we mature in our walk we get better at this. We see God’s faithfulness and it builds our faith in Him. We see His hand in our lives when we are desperate for help and we are grateful. This is especially true when we are faced with things that we know we are unable to manage on our own. 

Actually, have you ever noticed that it is much easier to trust God when the issue is a major one? We seem to find it easier to trust Him when we know that He’s our only hope. We know there is absolutely no way we can do anything about our situation so we release everything to God and allow Him to work. 

It’s the little things in our daily lives that we somehow think we can manage on our own that trip us up. We try to do it on our own and get frustrated and anxious. Why is it that we aren’t as quick to ask for God’s help with the little things? Do we think He isn’t interested? Or too busy? That He doesn’t want to be bothered with all the small details of our lives?  

Take a few moments to read this passage from Matthew. To me, this sounds like God is definitely interested in the little things.

  “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6: 25-34(NASB)

Our Heavenly Father wants to be involved in all areas of our lives. Every day is a fresh opportunity to allow the Lord access to every little thing. Practice inviting Him into the small details of your life.