Hope in suffering.

There was a single word burning in my heart. It was twirling in my soul. I tried to ignore it, but I seemed to keep hearing it. Even if I put my fingers in my ears, I could hear it in my spirit.

The word? SUFFERING

We don’t necessarily want to talk about suffering nor walk through that valley. But it is hard to avoid as it deviously moves throughout the world in one form or another. As the word was twirling in my mind and wouldn’t leave, I realized that the Lord desired to show me a different perspective.

There is suffering without the Lord and then there is suffering with the Lord. And there is a difference.

Think for a moment about training for a triathlon race. You would not be sitting around binge-watching TV while snacking on buttered popcorn.  Instead, you would be working out and eating right so that you can sustain your body. You would be teaching your body, mind and will the art of endurance, perseverance, sacrifice and confidence. Though the training would be grueling, it would produce the strength needed to win, or at least complete the race.

Suffering is like training for that triathlon. It is the catalyst that will create great rewards and great results. It isn’t the natural avenue we would choose to travel, but it is the very avenue that will lead us to our victory. And though we need confidence in ourselves to win a competitive race, we will need to put our confidence in the Lord, during a season of suffering, to become victorious.

In fact, confidence in the Lord will be one of the defining aspects between suffering without the Lord and suffering WITH the Lord.  Our confidence MUST come from resting in God. If we depend on our own strength our arms will get weak and our hearts will grow hopeless.

In Exodus lies the story of the war with the Amalekites. As long as Moses lifted his arms the children of Israel were winning the battle. But he could not keep them up alone. He needed someone to hold up his arms. The battle was won with the help of those who lifted Moses’ arms and with Joshua’s confidence in the Lord, as he and his men fought. (Exodus 17:8-5)

Suffering WITH the Lord is surrendering and trusting and still persevering with faith even when we see only darkness with our natural sight. it is walking with those who are going through hardships and lifting them up, as well as letting others walk with us.

It is ENDURING WITH CONFIDENCE IN CHRIST.

“My brothers and sisters be very happy when you are tested in different ways. You know that such testing of your faith produces ENDURANCE. Endure until your testing is over: Then you will be mature and complete, and you won’t need anything.” James 1:2

Like in that triathlon where the participant exercises to prepare for the race, we must exercise our faith to be able to endure. It is part of growing and becoming mature. As we learn to endure in the face of battle, wisdom increases and our confidence in the Lord becomes our strength.

But there is even more.

It is connecting with our Heavenly Father without any inhibition. It is trusting him so entirely that the world we live in begins to fade in comparison to his glory. It is being able to say, with Harotio Spafford, who authored a hymn after losing his children to the cold ocean waters: “It is Well with my Soul”.

How could he do that? He had built a relationship with the God of creation. He knew that the Lord was greater than his sorrow.  He knew that God’s love for him and his family overshadowed his circumstances. He surrendered his heart and heartache completely to the Lord.

A similar circumstance, though not as grievous, happened to me when I lost my 6-year-old at a campground in Colorado. He was only gone for a few hours. We didn’t know if he got lost in the woods or was taken by a stranger. But what happened to me in those few haunting hours was this: I chose to totally surrender to my Lord. I could do nothing. I could only pray and trust.

It is walking so close to the Lord that in your darkest hours, you know that he is still Lord. It’s as if you can breathe his presence into your lungs. You know that you know he will not let you go. And you relax in his arms and trust in his all-powerful mercy and grace.

Joseph experienced this confidence in the Lord when he went to prison for years for a crime he never committed. Though it may have felt like he was forgotten, he still held on to his faith in his Lord. After he was tested for a little while, he became the 2nd in command over the nation. After his season of suffering the Lord revealed his plan for his life.

Jesus embraced suffering because he trusted his heavenly Father regardless of what he was about to suffer. He had said, “Not my will but yours be done.” His love was and still is so intense for us that despite the hate and torture and grueling death, he went to the cross and into the depths of hell to get the keys of sin and death from satan.  There was a purpose for his suffering and a plan of victory.

Because He was victorious, we can walk in victory despite what we may be enduring.

The followers of Jesus walked in victory despite the suffering they endured because they had put their confidence in Jesus. Today many around the world are persecuted for their faith because the world hates believers as it hated our Savior, Jesus Christ. Even if you are in a free country you will still face opposition of many kinds. And it is a guarantee that you will face personal defeat, heartache and suffering sometime in your life. The word of God states that we should not be surprised by the fiery troubles that come to test our faith. Instead, we are to be happy to be found worthy. (1 Peter 4:12-13)

When I face opposition, I am learning to stop and consider that the Lord is preparing me for something greater. He loves each of us beyond the trials we face. It is those very trials and sufferings that we endure that will be our steppingstones to complete our purpose.

“We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the JOY ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross, and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God. Think about Jesus, who endured opposition from sinners, so that you don’t become tired and give up.” Hebrews 12:2-3

Jesus endured with joy because he saw the joy ahead of him.

The suffering you endure does NOT, will NOT and can NOT compare to the hope of his glory. He promised that he will NEVER leave or forsake you.

Romans 5:3-5
Not only that, but we REJOICE in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (ESV)

So, what is the difference between suffering without the Lord and suffering with him?

With him, there is a purpose and a plan. God is equipping and preparing each of us for our destiny.

With him there is a peace that passes understanding, knowing he has us in his hands.

With him there is a strength built inside each of us as we place our confidence in him.

With him there can be a place of joy despite what we see because we are building a relationship with our Creator.

With him there is a hope for our future.

For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

There is a word burning in my spirit today. It is HOPE. Yes, we will endure suffering. But it will produce so much more in our lives. Be of good cheer. The Lord has overcome this world.

Amen and God bless.

the Challenge

I was in a corridor with three other people. I didn’t recognize them nor was I aware of their relationship to me. I just knew I trusted them. We peered through an opening from the darkened corridor where we were hidden. We saw what appeared to look like the steps of a courthouse. A large crowd had gathered. The crowd comprised of people who were protesting for their freedom that they once took for granted.

They shook their hands in the air demanding freedom. The leaders (people in power) stood on the platform of the steps, towards the protestors, trying to calm down the frustration that the people were expressing. I wondered why we were not amongst them. But the four of us just listened staying in our hiding place. Suddenly we realized that the loud protesting had quieted. And individuals in the crowd were shaking hands with the leaders, one at a time. And then one by one the protesters departed with contentment in their eyes and a smile on their face. We then realized that the leaders were making deals with each person, promising them something they wanted. The people traded their freedom, traded their outrage, traded their stand for what was right for some type of personal promise. They were willing to compromise.

It was then that the four of us looked at one another knowing we had seen enough and it was time to leave. One of the people told us to follow him. He knew the way to go. We followed him back through the narrow corridor.

And then I woke.

The thought that came to my mind: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it.” Matthew 7:13

Compromise has swept the hearts of many. It seems easier at times to compromise than to stand up for what is right. It is hard to fight against the flow. It is hard to walk upstream. It is much easier to just lay back and float downstream on a nice floatie. Is that what has been happening to those who once stood for righteousness? Have they given it up for the comfort of floating downstream?

The word that kept coming to my mind was: challenge. It is challenging to be different from the mainstream. I do believe that many are taking up the challenge. Our lives have been rocked. We have not been allowed the comfort of floating downstream. Instead many are rising up and walking against the grain.

2020 has given us a reason to get out of our comfort zones and stand. This year may have been challenging to be positive in the midst of the news of rioters, in the midst of a pandemic, in the midst of schools being closed, churches being closed, businesses going under, people losing everything they worked so diligently to attain. It would seem that hate and lies are dominating the airwaves and the stores, the workplace and the streets; our entire lives.

There has always been challenges, even following the Lord or maybe because we chose to follow him.

Paul faced challenges and said as much in 2 Corinthians 4:8,

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

He knew his choice to follow his Lord would take exercising his spiritual muscles. But when he left this world, he left fighting the good fight. He knew that it was worth it, not just in this life, but especially in the life to come. He had gotten to know his Lord on such a personal basis that he was willing to give up all that he was, for the one that loved him above all. He was willing to be persecuted so others would know the truth, the freedom and the joy he experienced. Jesus had turned his world upside down! And in a positive way. He had learned the truth and that truth filled every fiber of his being, in spite of the hard circumstances.

Jesus also tasted what it was like to go against the flow. He knew what it was like to walk upstream in a world that was filled with lies and darkness. He still healed the sick and still set people free, in spite of attacks, not only from the world system, but also from the religious system.

He took up the challenge and set his face like a flint. He was determined that no matter how hard things got, no matter who was with him, he would accomplish what he set out to do; because he loved his Father. And because he loved each of us, as well. He was willing to take up the challenge that his heavenly Father had given him.

He kept his eyes on the joy that was awaiting him, so that he was able to endure the cross despite the ridicule, humiliation, excruciating pain and loneliness so that we, too, may experience the goodness of the Lord. (Hebrews 12:2)

He defeated the lies of the enemy on the cross so we can be free.

Things have been difficult this year. Personally I have fought challenges, as well. I have surrendered my will and my heart to my Lord many times this year. The Lord was challenging me: Do you trust me?

I choose to take up that challenge and trust him. I choose to take up the challenge and obey him, standing up for what the Bible teaches. Many do not understand that choice and even many who call themselves Christians don’t understand. They want their feet in both worlds, compromising. They are like those in my dream who compromised for the promise that was given to them by the world. They have closed their eyes to God’s truth and have accepted watered down truth.

I pray that the Lord will keep me from compromising with this world, that I will stay on the straight and narrow path. I have compromised in my past and it did not satisfy. I never want to return to that life. I know that living for Christ is worth it in this life and also in the one after.

This is what the Lord is challenging me to do:

I challenge you to trust me…more and more each day,
To trust me in this hour and live out what you say.

I challenge you to read MY WORD and hide it in your heart
To keep it fresh in your soul, so your love for me won’t part

I challenge you to stay in truth, the truth that comes from me
Don’t compromise with those that sin. They are blind and cannot see.

I challenge you to seek MY LOVE, a love undefiled and pure.
Not the fake love that roams the land. It is muddy and unclear.

I challenge you to live in worship. You will never be the same.
It will bring freedom into your life. Chains will break in Jesus name.

I challenge you to walk in boldness with MY holy fire.
Sometimes that means to pray, than watch what will transpire.

I challenge you to live the purpose that runs throughout your blood.
Get READY! My Glory is coming to the earth like a rushing flood.

I challenge you to quiet your heart so you can hear my voice.
Will you let me lead you? I’m giving you a choice.

So I responded: Lord help me. Give me your wisdom and your grace.
Help me to be determined to not just run, but run to win the race.

What is the Lord challenging you to do? These are precarious and exciting times. God is on the move and he would like to have you join him. His glory is about to blow through the world. Are you ready? Do you want to be a part of what God is doing? Are you willing to walk through the narrow gate? You will look different than the world. But the joy that is set before you will outweigh the trials.

GOD IS GOOD…….ALWAYS!

Will you accept the challenge?

Live in the Moment

Will the real astronaut please stand up?

I was watching the new “To Tell the Truth” game show and on it were 3 people who were talking about being the astronaut that had accrued 665 days in space over the course of their career. I was interested to find out who the real astronaut was and waited with interest.

When the question: “will the real astronaut please stand up”, Peggy Whiston stood up with a big smile on her face. A question she was later asked was, “Did you miss the earth while you were gone?”

Her response, “I live in the moment, so I enjoyed the moments I had in space.”

Suddenly something stirred in my spirit. Was I living in the moment? Was I cherishing the very moment I was living in?

There are times I have regretted some moments of my yesterdays and then other times when I have become anxious about the moments in the future. Her words didn’t leave my heart and I began to ask God to help me to live in the moment and cherish each one. How could I have abundant life if I didn’t learn to enjoy the moment in which I lived?

Guess what title of the sermon was the very next Sunday? You guessed it, “Living in the Moment”. I kid you not. Again, the words burned in my spirit.

What was the Lord trying to tell me?

To me the statement, “living in the moment” was always equal to making foolish decisions. Wasn’t it living in the moment mentality that caused people to not consider consequences of their choices?

Isn’t planning using wisdom?

If you think about it, I am quite sure that Peggy Whiston planned. How would she get to the place where she was if she didn’t plan? She planned her schooling to accomplish her goals. And I bet she enjoyed those moments, as well.

Even the Lord plans. He planned his only son to come to this earth to bring hope to the world. In fact, the Lord himself says,

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

God plans.

Planning is an important part of living successfully,.

The speaker at my church that Sunday emphasized that he was not saying to not plan. Instead he was saying don’t live in the regrets of yesterday, nor the anxieties of tomorrow.

Living in the moment, according to google.com (we all google sometime) I found this answer: “Living in the present moment means letting go of the past and not waiting for the future. It means living your life consciously, aware that each moment you breathe is a gift.”

Aha. That made sense.

So living in the moment is enjoying each precious moment you have. It is not living in regret of the past and not stressing about the future. It is also being ready at any moment to go where and when the Lord calls.

I want to learn to use those moments wisely.

If you are reading this, you are still alive. And if you are still alive at this moment you probably are extremely aware of the hour in which you are living. These are tumultuous times, filled with evil and confusion.

Yet, we are each living in this moment of time for a purpose. What is the Lord saying to your heart? What is he telling you at this moment? Listen to his voice. Listen and follow through with what you hear in your heart.

In the moment he tells you to help those in need, follow through. In the moment he tells you to pray, pray. In the moment he tells you to speak, speak. In the moment he tells you to be patient and listen, listen patiently. Use your moments wisely.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)

The Lord was telling me to LIVE in the moment. He was telling me to quit worrying about yesterday or tomorrow. He was telling me to enjoy the moments of my life and be prepared at ANY moment to move by his Spirit.

What is the Lord saying to you at this very moment? I pray that each moment of your life will be lived in abundance.

Remember:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I (Jesus) came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 (ESV)

God bless

Sometimes Tears Are Prayers When You Have No Words To Say.

One of my favorite sounds is the sound of birds singing. Early in the morning as the sun rises and the sound of birds singing float through the air, I smile. Usually it accompanies spring, sunshine, green grass, flowers and new hope. It also introduces the summer season filled with trips to the lake, vacations and the sound of children playing and laughing outside. That is another sound that fills my heart with joy; the sound of children playing throughout the neighborhood, parks and even my backyard.

But this spring is different.

Life is different. Not only are we secluded in our homes, but schools and playgrounds; places filled with children laughing are closed. On top of that, in my part of the world, snow is still trying to fall from the grey clouds. The air is cold and windy.

This morning I heard birds singing in the early morning hour even though the air was cold and blustery. When I went to the window the sound of the birds quieted. I saw a single red robin perched on a branch of a leafless tree. He rested there for quite a while, standing against the cold wind that blew. His red breast puffed up to trap warm air like a winter coat. I wondered what he was doing there, alone.

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My eyes caught a flag flying at a distance from American the Legion, flapping in the cold wind. Above the wind, the sound of silence filled the early morning hour. It was if the world stood quiet while a demonic influence was trying to stealthily sweep the airwaves with pestilence and fear.

I looked back at the lonely robin, still perched in the leafless tree and I began to feel a tear fall down my cheek. I whispered without even realizing I was talking out loud, “Lord, take care of the robin. Lord take care of all the robins.” I do not know why my heart began to break. The single tear turned into weeping and I cried to the Lord again, “Take care of all the robins”!

I wasn’t crying for the robin, per say. I was crying out for the brokenness of our world, the brokenness of our country, the brokenness of people, people lost, people filled with fear, people dying, people dying without the Lord.

I wept for some time. Sometimes tears are prayers, when you have no words to say.

The Lord reminded me of this verse:

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “Matthew 6:26-27 (NIV)

By afternoon the winds calmed down and blue skies began to appear as the clouds parted. I heard several birds singing and I looked outside my window and that single robin was still perched in the leafless tree. Then I watched him fly away as if he had no care in the world.

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Lord, I do not begin to understand what is happening in our world today. But I know this: You will take care of me. You will take care of those who put their trust in you!

I began to quote a part of Psalm 91.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Highest will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
PS 91:1-2 (NIV)

I choose to trust you, Lord, not just for myself, but for those who are lost, those that feel hopeless and afraid. Lord lead them to you. If I am to be the one to lead anyone to you, give me the words to say. Amen.

God bless.

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Seasons of Life

There are seasons in life.

Seasons are demonstrated throughout nature. We experience winter, spring, summer and fall. But there are also rainy seasons, some with storms and tornados or monsoons. There are dry, hot seasons. In different parts of the world there are other kinds of seasons that may not be familiar to everyone. As a child in West Africa we experienced the bugabug season, where there would be so many of the insects that the ground was carpeted with them. In Alaska we had mosquito season, especially in the summer around tall grass and water. There is hunting and fishing season. There is planting and harvesting season. We even have football season, Christmas season etc.…

In other words, there are a lot of seasons in our lives. And then there is the season OF life. First you experience childhood, then the teen years, and young adult. Then perhaps you will experience the season of being a parent or grandparent and finally retirement.

Along with those are joyous times and painful ones, and then some that just don’t make sense.

I don’t know what you may be going through, at the moment, but I can guarantee that you will experience many of these along life’s journey.

Currently I am in a different season than I have walked through in some time. I don’t have the extra time to write as much as I would like, nor be involved in ministry, nor spend as much time with many family members, as I once have had in the past.

As I was contemplating this, I felt like the Lord spoke these words into my heart.

“Lean not into your own understanding.”

That made sense to me because I was trying to understand. I like to analyze and map things out and for some reason my path didn’t make sense to me. Does that make sense? So, taking away the pressure of life making sense, I can simply trust God.

That makes a lot of sense!

The “not leaning on your own understanding” statement is found in Proverbs 3. In fact, all of Proverbs 3 is good and encouraging and worth re-reading.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him and he will make your path straight.” Proverbs 3:5&6 (NIV)

So, this season, is a season of trusting the Lord to lead me. I don’t have to figure it out. I am going to rest in the Lord. I am going to just submit myself to him. I trust the Lord with my family. I trust the Lord with my finances. I trust the Lord with my heart, and with my future. I trust that he will direct my path. I even trust the Lord for my country. I trust that God hears our prayers and I rest in that.

I know many people have experienced heartache and grief and perhaps disappointment. We have all walked through something that we don’t understand.

All I can say is:

PRAY
TRUST
REST

Rest in the God of creation who loves you more than one could possibly understand. Encourage those around you with this hope, this truth. He wants to direct your path and give you peace and perhaps stretch your faith a bit. His ways are always better and a lot higher than ours.

And if you are finding yourself in a difficult season in life remember, God promised that he would turn it around for your benefit. That is just the kind of God he is. Read Romans 8:28. Do your own research throughout his word. He is faithful.

Though I am currently not blogging as much as I would like, I will be on here as much as I can.

And in the meantime: I will TRUST IN THE LORD WITH ALL MY HEART. He will direct my path.

He will also direct yours as you submit yourself to him. Trust him.

God bless you in whatever season you are walking in today.

Following his path

The ferocious wind is howling like a hungry wolf. It picks up what it wants as it races through my life. All that I thought was valuable is being lifted into its merciless vortex and speeding violently in circles around me. I grasp at items in frantic despair.

Then, suddenly all is quiet again. Nothing fills the void of quietness. Nothing fills the void of emptiness. All I see is utter darkness. The things that swirled around me have disappeared. Loneliness takes their place.

I hear a voice say, “Come this way.”  I turn towards the voice and squint, hoping my eyes can focus in the darkness so I can get a glimpse of who might be calling out to me. From another direction a new voice is heard from the depth. Its loud demanding voice pleads for my attention. “No, this way is the best. Follow this path.”

I struggle to know what I should do. Several voices join the plea. Though they seem to be growing louder, the voice I hear clearly is not heard with my ears. It is heard with my heart. I know the voice. I have heard it before many times. This voice is soft, yet vibrates throughout my entire being. This voice speaks with authority but is consumed with peace. I choose to follow the voice inside of me that I have grown to know and love.

It is the voice of my Lord.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27

As soon as I take a step in the direction he is guiding me, a light shines on my feet. I slowly see where I am going, one step at a time. I notice that I am on a path that has not been well-traveled. There are dips and bumps but the light shines bright enough so that I can get a good footing. A peaceful sound, almost like the heartbeat of music vibrates from the light, as if it is alive. Though the other voices are relentless they soon begin to fade into the darkness behind me, as do my cares and anxieties. I know in my heart that if I continue on this path, things will work out for my good.

A thought flickers in my mind then travels to my heart.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart And lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6″ (NKJV)

I trust you Lord, ” I think to myself. And then I say it out loud with bold confidence, “I TRUST YOU LORD!”

And hence I keep following Him though I don’t always see the rainbows nor smell the roses. I walk in His peace, regardless of distractions that try to encourage me otherwise. I walk by faith.

This is a synopsis of my walk with my Lord. It is definately an adventure, as is your journey with Him, I am sure.

treasure map

Trust is like a treasure map. As you follow it, you will eventually find God’s purpose for your life.  I trust that the Lord has called me onto this path I am currently traveling . He is the one that has opened doors that no one could open. He has also shut the doors that were wide with wonder, but not filled with wisdom.

Why? Because he loves me.

It is amazing what he is doing in my life! I don’t always see his hand at work directly in front of me. But I always see it when I look behind me. I see the miracles from my past which confirms to me that he is working in my future.

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

There are many voices in each of our lives that call out to us with soothing tones. They are not always bad, though they can become distractions, and not always the best choice for our lives.” Come this way and follow me,” they taunt.  The distractions simply keep our eyes off of the Lord of our salvation and can fill our minds with clutter that carry confusion.

That is when we have to close our eyes and focus on the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. Everything else…and I mean EVERYTHING else, even the blessings and good things we do, such as helping the poor, must NOT be our MAIN purpose and goal. Being good alone, though it is a good thing, CANNOT save anyone. Even that can distract us from God’s purpose. He desires a relationship with each of us.

That is why the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all our heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30 (NIV)

Jesus explains:

“Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name, drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, “I never KNEW you. Away from me, you evildoers!” Matthew 7:22-23 (NIV)

Not all endings are going to be happy, especially if we are determined to follow our own path. But even when we follow the Lord’s leading we will still need to utilize trust. One of my grandsons experienced that this summer.

I had the opportunity to take a couple of my grandkids to a theme park. One of my grandsons suddenly got filled with fear as we got closer to the front of the line of a rollercoaster. He wanted to back out. But I kept reassuring him that he would have fun.

So the brave (well not so brave) child got in the seat next to me. The person controlling the ride overheard us talking. She asked him if he was sure he wanted to go. I gave her the thumbs up.  I had never been on this particular ride but it definitely didn’t look as frightening as the one we had just ridden. I told him that there was only one big drop, the rest were little dips, at least that is how it appeared in the description.20180731_141155.jpg

Well, to my amazement those “little dips” were not as little as I thought. My poor grandson looked straight ahead and without any other visible emotions squeezed tightly onto the bar that held us in the seat.  With each drop he said in a monotone voice, “Nana, I thought there was only one drop.” He continued saying this statement several more times as we went down one “dip” after another.  A couple minutes later as the coaster cars pulled up at the end of the ride the girl who spoke with us earlier asked if he liked the ride. He said, with a straight face and a lot of pride, “I didn’t scream one time.”

He was so proud of himself, as was I.

Sometimes trust may mean that all you can do is hold on. But you don’t have to scream. You can hold on to the words of the Lord. You can hold to his promises and trust him. You can sit with someone who will endure the trials along side of you and encourage you all the way. And when that adventurous chapter comes to a close you can look at the operator and say. “I didn’t scream one time.”

The winds may blow, things may be stripped from your hands, voices may try to distract you, darkness and loneliness may encompass you, and your ride might be pretty wild. But remember what Paul said to the Philippians.

“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you WILL complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 (NKJV)

Be at rest. He is holding you. Trust his voice.

TRUST HIM.

 

This is a new day.

I haven’t been blogging for some time. So much change is happening in my life that I have not had a moment to sit down and write. Our family has made a major move and we are still in the realm of this transition — and might be for a while.

I have often written about trust, about faith, about remembering the hand of God in our lives, to bring encouragement. We all need hope.

Recently I have had that trust and faith tested as I walk out my hope of the promises of God. We cannot always see with our eyes all the promises that he has made to each of us. It seems the enemy is always trying to distract us with something else, whether it is poor health, poor decisions or just simple daily chaos.

Do you remember the movie, “Patriot“? In one of the clips it appears that the regiment of Carolina patriots are being defeated by the British military. The regiment feels defeated and is about to retreat when Benjamin Martin, played by Mel Gibson, picks up the flag and screams, “Do not retreat.”  He carries the flag as he runs with the last bit of energy he has left. Instead of retreat, the regiment is revived with hope and strength.

When a person feels defeated sometimes they want to retreat. That is when it is important to remember our position in Christ and that we are ALREADY the victor. When Jesus said, it is finished, he meant it. He defeated the enemy. Like a flag flying in the sky, he was lifted on a cross. How much greater of an encouragement is it to serve our Lord who died for our sins and rose from the dead with the keys of death and hell in his hands. We aren’t suppose to retreat- but run as a victor with trust and faith as our guides.

We are soldiers cloaked in the armor of God with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the word of God.(Ephesians 6:14-17) We are marching in victory with the captain of the hosts by our side. And he isn’t a weak defeated captain.

This warrior that fights with us and for us is found in Revelation:

“He was wearing a robe that reached his feet. He wore a gold belt around his waist. His head and his hair were white as wool — like snow. His eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like glowing bronze refined in a furnace. His voice was like the sound of raging water. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword. His face was like the sun when it shines in all its brightness.

When I saw him, I feel down like a dead man!  Then he laid his right hand on me and said, ‘Don’t be afraid! I am the first and the last, the living one. I was dead, but now I am alive forever. I have the keys of death and hell’.” Revelation 1: 13b-17 (GWT)

Sometimes I think we forget who our Lord is. Instead we look at circumstances or the way we use to do things or the way the world would expect us to react and we plan our future with that knowledge, instead of with his wisdom.

I heard an interesting testimony from someone lately which stuck with me. Apparently this individual had a vision. They saw themselves riding on a horse, but instead of facing forward they were sitting on their horse backward. And the Lord asked them why they were riding their horse backward and looking so intently on things in the past?

God does not encourage us to look at our past. He wants us to remember HIS faithfulness in our past but to let go of OUR past, whether it was past mistakes or simply the way things use to be done. Instead he encourages us to look into our future. Though he is the same, yesterday, today and forever, we should not remain the same since he has been working in our lives and taking us from glory to glory.

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it (perfection in the Lord) but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God , through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14 (NLT)

So though I have some great memories and it is fun to reminisce about them and share stories of victory, I do not want to dwell in my yesterdays — good or bad. This is a new day. Instead I want to be as Paul and press on to what lies ahead. I trust that my God will walk me through transition. As a caterpillar is hidden in a cocoon before it has changed into a butterfly that soars in beauty and freedom, so I rest in his goodness and grace as He opens these doors of transition.

Then I will fly a bit higher in HIM. Amen

This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 (NKJV)

The Eye of the Storm

Photo Courtesy - Morris Goen / Palestine Hearal-Press

Photo Courtesy – Palestine Herald-Press Morris Goen

 

I woke up with these words on my mind, “you are in the eye of the hurricane”.   I know that there is a lot of craziness going on in our world and a lot of turmoil. And there are times lately that I have felt I was in a storm, but as I opened my eyes to the new day peace swept through my being.

The eye of the hurricane appears very peaceful, so much so that it can deceive a person into believing all is well, and the storm has passed. Unfortunately the backside of the storm is just behind the deceitful peace.  If a person goes out into the elements without being aware that the storm is not over, they can get broadsided.

I enjoy the Weather channel and watching storm chasing shows. It is amazing how extremely powerful weather systems and nature itself, can be. During a particular weather show the narrator was sharing his adventures via video during a ferocious hurricane.  The winds were horrendous and they were getting quit concerned about their location. Soon the “eye of the hurricane” reached them. It was during that time that he and his crew decided to take cover in a safer location. They were glad they did. When the backside of the hurricane hit they continued to video tape the area where they were originally standing and it was destroyed by the winds.

Have you ever personally encountered a tornado or hurricane? We were hit by a tornado in the fall of 1987 when we lived in Texas.

My family and I just left a restaurant on a warm fall Sunday afternoon. Walking to our car we noticed that the sky had sort of green haze and an ominous quiet filled the atmosphere. Today I would have been more aware that those signs can proceed a tornado.  Then I wasn’t. We casually got into our car oblivious to the impending doom that was approaching our town. One of our sons went home with some friends while we drove out of town to check out a piece of property.

We didn’t get too far down the road when we were caught in an unimaginable hail storm. We had to pull over because we couldn’t see in front of us. Quickly we decided to turn around and head back home. As we entered town we approached a nightmare.  It looked like the town had just been bombed. Semi-trucks had fallen onto their sides, a lumber yard was destroyed and wood was scattered for miles. Gas stations were obliverated and a church was demolished, as was part of the elementary school, a motel and several businesses. Debris was scattered in yards and in the streets. Houses were pulled off of their foundations. Many houses that still stood had no roofs. I heard that the tornado traveled 4 miles and was 1/2 mile wide. I was in shock — what happened?

Of course the main thing on my mind was my son’s well-being. We headed in that direction. The subdivision was thrashed. The national guard was already at work helping people and was not letting anyone enter the area. After I frantically explained that our son was in the neighborhood and probably looked like a crazed woman who was out-of-control, the guard let us pass.  I was overwhelmed with relief when I saw that our friend’s house was still standing in the midst of the debris. My 6 year-old son ran out of the house and jumped into my waiting arms.

We have all seen the images on the news of the aftermath of tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis etc. It is devastating. Someone told me a couple of years ago that there was a tornado warning in their area. They were advised to seek shelter as best as possible. She watched the news after the tornado devastated a neighborhood. A woman said in the interview, “There was no warning. This hit us out of no where.”

The individual telling me the story knew that they were warned over and over regarding the intensity of the storm that was approaching.  A thought suddenly entered her mind, “There has been warnings for over 2000 years regarding the return of Christ. But people ignore it.”

Those of us that are looking for Christ’s return will not be caught off guard. But those who think that God is slow or that they have heard this over and over and it hasn’t happened or simply think it is a hoax, will be surprised and say as the woman did in the interview. “There was no warning.”

“For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. When people are saying, ‘everything is peaceful and secure,’ then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape.” 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 (NLT) 

Perhaps the time it has taken for our Lord to return is for your benefit or for those you love. Peter writes, “Think of our Lord’s patience as an opportunity for us to be saved.” 
Peter 3:15a (GWT)

But there are other storms in our lives that catch us off guard and hit with such intense power that it can be devastating! Other people may not see the storm that you are walking through. What if someone we love dies, we lose our job, we are dealing with an illness or are emotionally hurt by those we trust? Or perhaps things just do not go as planned. Will we be prepared for the storms that hit our lives?

My question: will I be prepared?

I thought about that question when I heard the words, “you are in the eye of a hurricane”.  What do I do to prepare for the backside of the storm or for other storms that are sure to come? What can I do while I am sitting in the “eye of the storm” while there is peace?

I can only run towards safety and hide in a shelter. Where is that hidding place? Where is that shelter? Many places in the Book of Psalms states that the Lord is our shelter, our refuge and our hiding place.

Being hidden with him is walking in the will of our Lord. In his will there is safety and peace in the midst of the storm. It is taking time to know him through reading of his Word, through spending time to talk with him in prayer, through listening to words of hope from other believers and rubbing shoulders with those who speak life into our lives. In that place I am prepared for any storm that may come.

I suddenly realized what the Lord was saying. HE IS THE EYE IN THE HURRICANE.  He was encouraging me. I have found that place of safety and peace BECAUSE I am already seated with him. (Ephesians 2:6)

What a fantastic thought!

We can experience peace though the winds are howling and the mountains give way. We can experience peace though the world is crashing down around us. HE is our EYE in the storm. HE is our PEACE.

Shortly after hearing those words, “you are in the eye of the hurricane,” I heard the song, “In the Eye of the Storm” by Ryan Stevenson.  The Lord promises to never leave us. He will walk WITH us through many storms. I believe there may be stronger storms coming in the days ahead. NOW is the time to prepare our hearts. We do not know what our futures may hold but I rest in him.

Do not be discouraged or afraid because the Lord has your back and the backside of the storm. He IS in control. He is the EYE of your storm.

This is the first few lines to the song. Click the link to hear it in its entirety. It is beautiful. God bless each of you.

In the eye of the storm, You remain in control
And in the middle of the war, You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me in the eye of the storm

in the eye of the storm

 

Laughter of the Lord

You read about God’s judgements. You read about his glory. You know that he is all-powerful, but does he laugh?

We’ve had so much conflict in our great land. Racism has been fed by angry souls and taken an embodiment of hostility. The earth itself seems angry as it is spurring raging storms and floods in our nation. Laugher –that is accompanied with joy –seems foreign.

The writer of Psalm 37 explains that we are not to worry or fret about evil people but to trust God. (Good advise during the times we are experiencing right now–a must read). He continues to explain that as we commit everything to the Lord he will help us. He encourages his readers to let go of anger and trust God. The Psalmist sees that madness (wicked people with evil schemes) is surrounding him, but he is reminded that God will take care of those that put their hope and trust in Him.

Despite what we he sees with his eyes the writer continues in verse 13: “But the Lord just laughs for he sees their day of judgement coming”. (NLT) In other words those that are fighting the Lord, those that are putting up their fists in anger and trying to destroy his goodness do not phase him. It would be like a toddler arguing with his parent. His parent looks at him smiling as he knows that no matter what the child does or says, he is ultimately in control of the situation.

Psalm 2:4 is another example, “But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them.” ((NLT) Again people think that they have the power to destroy his plans and destroy those he has anointed but God is ultimately in control.  David explains in Psalm 59, that Saul and his men are trying to attack and destroy him. But he trusts in his Lord and knows that the Lord laughs at those who think they’re stronger and more mighty than his plans. That is why David is able to trust in his God.

It’s like being in 1st grade and another 1st grader comes over to bully you. Suddenly your Dad walks up behind you and shakes his head and laughs. He knows he can protect you. The bully sees your father and quickly shrinks away. We have a God that is our refuge and strength. He delights in his people. He delights in us individually. And we actually bring him joy because we are his children.

Zephaniah 3:17 states, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fear. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” (NLT)

God desires to give us that same laugher in the midst of our trials. When Job was going through so much excruciating struggles his friends actually said something positive to him.  They told him that God would fill his mouth with laughter once again and his lips with shouts of joy.  When Sara was told that she would have a child in her old age, she laughed in unbelief but God fulfilled her desire and she named her child Isaac, which means laugher.

There is power in joy. That is why James states to count it all joy when trouble of any kind comes your way; because when your faith is tested, it will give you an opportunity to grow.  (James 1:1)

In the days of Nehemiah the people of the land wept as they heard the law of Moses being read. But Nehemiah encouraged them and said, “This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the JOY of the Lord is your strength!” -Nehemiah 8:10 (NLT)

So the question is, does God laugh? I believe he does. He is consumed with joy and expresses it with laughter. On a personal note:  When I was younger I remember calling out to the Lord to meet my needs and wondered if he cared. Deep inside the very depths of my being I heard a deep and jolly chuckle. Then I heard the words, “I will always take care of you!” I hold on to those word still in this hour knowing HE WILL take care of each of us.

He is a God of judgement, a God of strength and power and yet a God of joy and laughter.  Amen.

“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again — rejoice!” Philippians 4:4