Take Courage! Don’t be Afraid

Take Courage

When Jesus says, “Take courage! Don’t be afraid,” fear dominates and faith is hard to find. Jesus doesn’t suggest; He commands. “Take courage!”

I, like the disciples, often find myself in a “boat” not of my own choosing, tossed by waves stronger and bigger than I. It is in those times, I too must learn to “take courage.”

I find many things about Mark’s biblical account of one stormy night intellectually troubling. Let me name just a few.

Not My Boat!

I’ve experienced firsthand the consequences of running ahead of God. Those times remain burned into my memory bank. Too often, I get a hint of God’s direction, turn up the throttle and embark on the voyage before He gives full instruction. Fortunately, I’m gradually learning to follow rather than race full steam ahead. But . . . 

“Immediately Jesus made his disciples
get into the boat and go on ahead
of him to Bethsaida,
while he dismissed the crowd.
After leaving them,
he went up on a mountainside to pray.”
Mark 6:45-46 

Boat calm water

Do you see that? Jesus made them get into the boat. He made them go on ahead of Him. Everything in me screams, “No! Don’t do it! Wait for Jesus!” But in obedience they step into a boat, not of their own choosing, but by divine instruction. They leave without Jesus, going ahead of Him.

This time, it must be okay, right? After all, they are obeying the Master. 

Every follower of Jesus is in a boat. It’s not our boat, but HIs. He has pointed the way and released us to “Go!” To the best of our ability, we follow. Even though He wasn’t physically with them in the boat, Jesus interceded for them on their journey; He intercedes for us on ours.

“. . . Christ Jesus who died —
more than that,
  who was raised to life —
is at the right hand of God
is also interceding for us.”
Romans 8:34

Not My Wind!

Night came and with it a fierce wind.

“Later that night,
the boat was in the middle of the lake . . .
He saw the disciples straining at the oars,
because the wind was against them.”
Mark 6:47-48

Eventually the winds of adversity press against all desire to follow Christ — to obey His leading. Strain as we might progress becomes slow if not impossible. We usually face it “in the middle” of our calling, “in the middle” of our journey. 

Boat Storm

Ferocious winds have been blowing against the church of Jesus Christ since those earliest disciples stepped into their shaky boat. Perhaps never in the course of the Christian church has she faced such extreme adversity on a global scale. Oppression and dark times surround us. It is spiritually “night.”  The majority of people live with no concept of God.

The other day I sat on the grass with a new young visitor who stopped for a chat while I was in my garden. Though a new acquaintance, around 10 years old, it became obvious as he talked just how disconnected from society and reality his young life was. Raised by video games, formed by cultural influences, hurt by abandonment . . . My heart ached for him. And a generation like him. 

Cold, harsh winds blow ugly and cruel.

Not Alone!

“Shortly before dawn he went out to them,
walking on the lake.
He was about to pass by them . . . ”
Mark 6:48-49

Jesus came! He sees our dilemma and comes to our aid too. He comes to where we are — our places of straining, places of fear, places of hopelessness and futility. 

The next line shocks me, “He was about to pass by them.” How can these two passages sit so close together? He comes, but would also pass by unless we notice — unless we call out to Him, unless we acknowledge His Presence.

They all saw Him coming. They all cried out in terror. Yet, they all missed recognizing Him as their help and hope. Until He spoke. 

Faith

Take Courage!

At the sound of His voice, they knew Him. Through the familiarity of His voice, they recognized Him despite the dark, and above the wail of the wind.

“Immediately he spoke to them
and said, ‘Take courage!
It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Mark 6:50

“Take courage!” He commands. Fear never leaves voluntarily. When we take courage, fear has to go. Whether the winds willingly subside at the Presence of Jesus or not, courage is ours to possess — ours because Jesus offers it to us.

“Take courage!” Jesus says, as He holds out His hands to us and enters our circumstances, climbing into our rickety “boats.” “Take courage!” He says, as He tells our personal storms to be still.

Calm Sunrise

The best place to be in stormy or safe times, is beside Jesus in the boat, any boat. Perhaps now like never before, the spirit of fear has swept upon us from every direction, threatening health, stability and security. 

No Fear!

When we receive the courage Jesus offers, fear immediately dissolves like mist in the sunshine. I can think of no greater time in the history of church to be alive and in His boat — going where He sends us. The opportunities ahead rise wider than the Sea of Galilee. Will storms come? Probably. Will it take everything we have to strain ahead? Most certainly. 

When these men crossed over to the other side of the lake, multitudes, anticipating their arrival, were excited to see them and ready to receive ministry. 

This is such a picture of where the church is heading! We are almost there. We’re with Jesus, crossing over to new territory. The spiritually hungry still flock to receive all that Jesus provides. 

They ran throughout the whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went — into villages, towns or countryside — they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.”
Mark 6:55-56

Jesus

My little visitor on the grass, searching for someone to care and some reason to live, became my personal reminder. He didn’t come running or begging, but he did come hoping. 

Jesus heals, delivers, and supernaturally touches lives right here — in our own villages, towns, countrysides and mega cities. Though much of the journey remains confusing to me, this I know and am certain of — Jesus is with us. We live in a season of miraculous encounters.

Take courage! Don’t be afraid! Get excited! 

 

My Fair Share! A Measure of Faith!

We all possess incredible ingenuity for obtaining our fair share. Preconceived paradigms of what constitutes fair varies greatly from person to person.

Whether a pie, chocolate bar or some other precious portion, our children eyed the division process with intense scrutiny. Nobody wanted the smallest piece; each hoped for the largest slice; all at the very least, desired their fair share. Generosity sometimes prevailed, but not always.

To settle any disputes, we established a simple rule: the person creating the divide received the last piece. The extra care and concentrated effort to ensure fairness often bordered on humorous!

Fruit Food Apple Refreshment Dessert Fresh - Pixabay - OCC Public Domain

Too Little or Too Much

I’m glad God portions to each of us what we need. No one receives too little or too much. I’m reminded of the children of Israel in the desert gathering manna. God supplied. They gathered. Some gathered little, others gathered much, but all received sufficient quantity (Exodus 16).

Whatever the need, we can trust God to supply. There are no shortages in His Kingdom!

“For by the grace given me I say to everyone of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”
Romans 12:3

The King James Version says, “God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”

Apple Pastries Cake Puff Pastry Apple Turnover - Pixabay - OCC Public Domain

The Passion Translation says it like this: “God has given me grace to speak a warning about pride. I would ask each of you to be emptied of self-promotion and not create a false image of your importance. Instead, honestly assess your worth by using your God-given faith as the standard of measurement, and then you will see your true value with an appropriate self-esteem.”

Paul hits the target, doesn’t he? Hiding behind the expectation of “more,” whatever the more looks like, pride lingers and demands.

Look Up

As long as we focus on “the piece” we don’t possess, we lose. The Roman church had as much trouble understanding the concept of fair as I sometimes do. Paul encouraged them to look up before they looked around.

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever? Amen.”
Romans 11:33-36

Muffins Pink Cream Delicious Pastries Eat Tart - Pixabay - OCC Public Domain

Now with a realigned perspective of God’s majesty, Paul gives a grand, “Therefore . . .” (12:1-2). Because of who He is, therefore, worship Him. Therefore, offer yourselves sacrificially and holy unto Him. Therefore, change your mindset and begin thinking like He does.

A Measure of Faith

Just like with my children or the children of Israel, I sometimes attempt to “gather” more than my fair share, stashing it away for another day. God knows exactly what I need — for today and tomorrow. He also knows faith is one of our greatest needs.

So He “has distributed” to each one a measure of faith — our fair share! This word “measure” or “metron” in Greek means “a portion, measure off or allotted” (1). Thayers Greek-English Lexicon says it this way, “a determined extent, portion measured off, measure or limit” (pg 408).

Fruit Dessert Food Drink Snack Smoothie - Pixabay - OCC Public Domain

God knows more than anyone what is necessary. He assures us that the smallest portion, even mustard-seed-sized, will suffice. We humbly receive and draw from His rich resources

“. . . in accordance with the faith God has distributed . . .”
Romans 12:3

I have it! You have it! We all possess a measure of faith — a grace gift. No one claims credit for a gift received. Because He has predetermined exactly what I, or you, or we, need, no gloating or boasting allowed! All the faith I operate under came from Him, to be used by Him, for His glory, and the furthering of His kingdom.

Fair Share

Paul connects our portion of faith to our portion of service to others in the body.

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith, if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”
Romans 12:6-8

What God first gives to us, we willingly and liberally give to others.

Where do I struggle, needing faith the most? In the great faith chapter of Hebrews, I’m reminded that “without faith, it is impossible to please God” (11:6). That means I need faith everywhere, all the time, to live life honoring to God.

 Apple Pie Woman Kitchen Baking Food Delicious - Pixabay - OCC Public Domain

What demands the most faith from me? Right now, I’m assisting in a new church plant. Honestly, my humanity didn’t want to go there! I knew it would require far more than my aging body was comfortable to give. I understood all too clearly how much work establishing a new church would require, and definitely needed increased faith to step into the fray!

In everything I do, faith forms the foundation: in prophesying and speaking boldly into my culture; in serving others; by accurately teaching the Word of truth; in sacrificially offering encouragement to those carrying burdens and weighed down by pressures; in generously giving of my time and resources; or through being God’s hands of mercy.

God gives His fair share of faith to accomplish whatever He asks of me. But, whatever the portion, little or great, God intends it for the good of others. It’s in the activation of our faith that God’s purposes are fulfilled.

The Piece in the Middle

It’s significant that God sandwiches this little passage about faith between a beautiful doxology of worshiping Him and serving others. It illustrates the purpose of faith clearly!

I can’t claim credit for the faith I possess. I daily open the gift of faith, drawing from the measure He distributed, pouring it lavishly out to others. As I do, faith never diminishes. Actually, the flow increases, becoming fresher and sweeter through use.

Cooks Confectioner Children's Sweets Cake Baking - Pixabay - OCC Public Domain

We will never exhaust the measure of faith God has already given to us. Though we spend our entire lives tapping into and drawing from the rich resource, it continues to flow.

In humility we lay ourselves low, worshiping Him and serving others, until the beauty and fragrance of faith reaches and touches countless lives. Faith comes from God and operates through Him for His praise.

Let’s take the measure of faith He has given us and use it today for His intended use, combining it with the gifts He graced upon us. Oh, what God will do. Trust me, we have more than our fair share!

**********

References:
(1) Spiros Zondhiates, Th.D., Ed., The Complete Word Study Dictionary, For a Deeper Understanding of the Word; New Testament, (AMG, Chattanooga, 1992), 975

Unmasking The Myths; Is This Prayer? Childlike Faith

(Unedited segment of Chapter 3 Unmasking the Myths: Is This Prayer? to be published 2020. Unmasking the Myths is the first of three books on prayer containing over 70 interviews from people around the globe. Their stories and experiences give insight to the power and effectiveness of prayer.)

“All along, prayer has been the Holy Spirit
planting love in me for Jesus.” 

– Meg

As young as seven years old, Kevin wondered if God was real. Even though he went to church and took communion, Kevin felt there was a huge distance between God and himself. As a young boy, whenever he had trouble falling asleep, he would reflect on God. Yet, he felt confused.

By the time he turned 16 the confusion had turned to fear. Though he assumed he was a Christian, he honestly didn’t know what that meant. Only three years later, he was heading in the wrong direction fast.

“Back home from my first year of university, I was working for the town. However, Because of a severe spinal injury from playing hockey, I couldn’t do anything without being loaded up on prescription pain killers. When I came to the end of that summer, I had no money left. I was drinking daily and spending every penny at the local bar. I was on a destructive path.

Here I was a 19-year-old guy who couldn’t even stand up straight or sit down. I was depressed. I didn’t want to go back to university the way I was. Everything was on a bad track, although I maybe wasn’t aware of it at the time. My family had been set free from alcoholism. However, I was on my own journey of recovery after being raised in a dysfunctional home.

I met Merodee and beyond a question fell in love with her at first sight. She and her sister were crossing the street right in front of my oncoming vehicle. I slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting them. We held eye contact as she passed by.

Shortly after that, I invited her to a football game. Merodee brought some Christian music with her and without saying anything she took my music out of the cassette player and put her in. We listened to her music all the way to the football game and back again. Since she left those tapes in my car, that’s all I listened to for the next couple of days. I was so enamored by Merodee that her music absolutely captivated me.

A little while later, I drove out to an old country church and parked outside the locked gate. I sat there, a nervous wreck, feeling very emotional.

All of sudden, the palpable presence of God entered my car.

I started to talk to God and He started to answer me. I knew at that moment, without anyone ever telling me, what to do to be in a relationship with Him. Confessing my sins, I asked Him into my life. It was such an incredibly emotional experience I couldn’t even drive. I probably sat there for half an hour, unable to leave.

I didn’t understand anything, except I knew it was God and that He wanted to have a relationship with me. When I cried out, He was immediately there, closer than anything I had ever felt. I don’t know if I had any other impression except knowing that what I needed was God.

That was the beginning of prayer for me when I felt the presence of God for the first time. Looking back, I can close my eyes and still see everything and feel the same feeling, though not with the same emotion. Before that, I didn’t even know if I believed in God. Yet He revealed himself to me in an unforgettable way.

I’m a little naïve to what the Lord delivered me from. I can’t imagine where that track would have led if I hadn’t encountered God in that particular season.

Afterward, I phoned Merodee and told her what had happened. She yelled into the phone, ‘You’re saved!’

‘What does that mean?’ I asked. I didn’t even know.”

*****

Yoge began her relationship with Jesus while living in her home country of India.

“When I was young, my grandmother was experiencing many problems. Someone welcomed her to church and told her about Jesus. They said, ‘If you pray there, everything will be all right.’

As a result, my grandmother was the first one in our family to accept Jesus and become a secret worshiper of God. When I was about four years old, she started taking me to church too, but I didn’t realize what was going on. Maybe God chose me then, but it took many years for me to come to Him.

In India, our work also determines our religion and cast. My private math tutor belonged to our cast. He was the one who helped me realize who Jesus was. If he wouldn’t have been from our cast, I wouldn’t have listened to him when he said, ‘You need to know that you aren’t worshiping a real God, but worshiping idols instead. You shouldn’t do that.’

I thought, ‘I know you. Why are you saying that our god is not a god?’ I asked, ‘What happened to you? What made you convert to Christianity?’

He said, ‘No, it’s true! We are all idol worshipers.’

‘Okay, let it be an idol.’ I said, ‘We’re living a sophisticated life, doing what we want to do. Compared to other people, our standard of living is very good. What is there to blame this god for?’

He said, ‘It isn’t the idol that is giving this to you; it is your living Father who is providing for you.’ 

‘How can you prove it?’

He continued, ‘What if you have a kitty and think your pet is a god? One day the pet dies. You cry because you aren’t ready to believe that your pet is dead. You say to the dead kitty, ‘I feel hungry and don’t know what to do.’ You’re asking something dead to give you food. Will that dead pet give you food or your mother who is listening to you cry? Who will give you food?’

‘Obviously my mother,’ I said, ‘the dead pet can’t give me food.’

‘Yes!’ he said, ‘The Living God is the One who provides all these things you’re asking for. Still, you believe that your dead kitty is giving you food. It is not the dead kitty but your living mother who feeds you. In the same way, when you are worshiping and praying to an idol, your living Father God in heaven listens to you and provides you with all the good things that you ask for. It is the living God not dead idols that give you all these things. Your Father in heaven is watching you, knowing what His daughter needs, but sees that she doesn’t know who to ask.’

While he was talking to me, he was weeping bitterly. He spoke a simple word but it was completely anointed. His weeping touched me deeply as I carefully listened to his words. God gave me the understanding that I had been praying to an idol, while He, my living Father, was beside me providing whatever I asked for.

As I walked home, those thoughts rewound in my mind. I closed my eyes and started crying as I realized what I was doing when I worshiped our god. I knew that what I was doing wasn’t good and asked forgiveness from my living Father in heaven. ‘I’m not going to worship idols anymore.’ I said, ‘I am going to live my entire life for You.’

I started going to church every Sunday, but soon my Dad discovered that I was worshiping Jesus. One day when I came home from church, he was ready to throw a brick at me to kill me. Because we were religious leaders in our cast, he said, ‘I will definitely kill you. I won’t allow you to live as a Christian.’ He also threatened to pour kerosene on me and burn me. The second time, he did pour it on my head, but my grandmother came and saved me.

Before going to church each Sunday,
I was mentally prepared for the beating
I would get when I returned home.

From the day I became a worshiper of Jesus Christ, I was crazy about God. I literally felt like He was sitting right beside me, talking to me. People wondered what happened and told me to limit my worship and devotion to God, but I never wanted to.

I couldn’t believe that all this time I had worshiped lifeless idols. When I came to God, I knew, beyond a doubt, that He was alive, sitting with me and talking to me. I felt Him moving all around me. Whatever I asked for in prayer happened. How do you deny that? No one can deny it!

That’s how my journey with Jesus Christ began.”

*****

For Shelly prayer was a natural overflow of the relationship she entered into with God. She tells her story,

“I had made so many bad decisions that eventually landed me into an abusive relationship with someone who completely isolated me. I had never felt so much hatred. Feeling devastated, I didn’t know there could be so much darkness. I would wake up thinking I was in a nightmare, but it was real. To him, it was a big game; he was grossly unfaithful. It was like I was trying to get out of my own skin and away from the pain, but I couldn’t get free.

In desperation, I made an appointment to go through the steps of freedom through a ministry called Freedom in Christ. It was during those sessions that I received Jesus Christ as my Savior and began a personal relationship with Him.

After two sessions lasting nine hours (spending most of that time on forgiveness), I forgave him and everyone else in my life. It was like everything dropped off me. In its place, I could feel God’s love being poured inside me.

As God’s incredible love overwhelmed me, I instinctively knew that a relationship with Jesus Christ was where I wanted and needed to be forever. Looking back, I remembered experiencing that same kind of love when I was four years old.

I walked away totally changed—no longer consumed by hatred but overwhelmed by God’s love. I had all kinds of grace for this man, tried to help him and prayed for him. But I got out.”

*****

As a child, Rachel moved to Canada where she became a Christian.

“I was born in China and lived there for eight years before coming to Canada. We didn’t hear about the name of Jesus or Christianity in China. There were posters about evolution everywhere. I was afraid that one day I would turn into a monkey in a cage instead of a human being.

In China, school is very competitive, but you are supposed to be friends with everyone in your classroom. One week before we left China, I was involved in an argument with a classmate over an origami crane I had made. She found my crane and turned into a frog. When I discovered my crane had disappeared, I became angry. Normally, I wouldn’t start a quarrel, but this time I did.

In China, if a dispute arose, a class monitor would come to the class to help settle the problem. The girl told the monitor that I lost my crane out of irresponsibility, so when she found it she made it into a frog. She kept crying and won the sympathy of the class monitor. I ended up having to permanently leave school because of the argument.

‘Okay, I will leave,’ I thought, ‘but where will I go.’

Actually, God used this incident to prepare me to move away. Right after the dispute, I discovered that my Dad and I were soon leaving to live in Canada. My grandmother, the first Christian in our family, had been praying for us to receive Christ.

God, by His sovereign will works through people in unusual ways. We had a friend from China who enrolled at Trinity Western University because a consultant who did not know Jesus specifically told her to go to this Christian University. It was there that her favorite memories developed and that she first learned about Jesus. Even though we don’t always understand how God moves, whether through arguments, class monitors or unbelieving consultants, God is working in our lives.

As a child, I would believe whatever my Dad told me. When I was little, he told me that Buddha held the earth. We didn’t know about Jesus then, but when we came to Canada, Dad became a Christian. Dad told me about Jesus and why He had to die for our sins. Until then, I thought Jesus was a rebel. When God started to speak to me through my Dad, I considered becoming a Christian. I didn’t ask Jesus into my heart yet though.

My first impression of Jesus was that He was like Santa. You could ask Him for something and He would give it to you. Later, I found out that He is bigger than that. He is God and works the big picture. He desires for us all to come to Him so He can give us His grace.

I started to change when I was nine years old and Jesus became personal. I began to pray, but at first, my prayers were self-centered. Then I realized my parents also had needs. I started to pray for people to be healed and began to understand Jesus’ love for others.”

No matter what age, stage or circumstance of life, the prayer of committing one’s life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ is the most powerful, miracle-working prayer anyone could pray.”

*****

Unmasking the Myth

The myth that declares that any god will do has kept many people from committing their lives to Jesus Christ and finding the love Shelly spoke about. 

“We can always have a non-god to go to instead of God.”
– Karin

Only Jesus can create the profound change Charlotte, Kevin and millions of others have experienced. Jesus desires for everyone to come to know the one and only true God.

“Now this is eternal life; that they know you,
the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
John 17:3

This same intimate relationship with God that these people have spoken about, is available right now to any who will sincerely come to Him.

“He longs for everyone to embrace his life
and return to the full knowledge of the truth.”
1 Timothy 2: 4 TPT

God is waiting for everyone to embrace Him and the life He offers. God loves us and has an incredible plan for our future, regardless of our past (Ps 139:16). He desires for us to have a fulfilling exciting life right now and forever—a life connected with Him (Jn 10:10).

Kate asked,

“Does any other god communicate back to you? What other god responds to you like the Lord God? Does any other god give you life? Can another god forgive your sins?

Jesus Christ is life. He gives us an unbelievable life now. Eternal life! Life is found in Jesus Christ alone. In Him is everything I need to exist—love, joy, peace and so much more. I don’t want to look anywhere else or to anything else. Time is too precious to waste pursuing other so-called gods.

God is a life-giving Spirit. When You know that your spirit is made alive by God’s Spirit, that’s it! You don’t need anything else.

The ultimate, Almighty God, is available. He is the One and only living true God. Until you meet Jesus, you don’t know what you are missing.

To communicate with Almighty God is incredible.
Knowing that He wants to have
fellowship with us is very humbling.
It is the ultimate relationship to have.”

Only one thing keeps us from experiencing this vital relationship with Him. God is holy and perfect. Only those who are without sin can come into His presence and enjoy His wonderful plan and experience His presence. Every one of us has sinned and comes far short of God’s perfect standard (Rom 3:23).

God provided the solution for restored intimacy with us through Jesus Christ, his perfect Son. Jesus died on the cross to take our punishment and pay the price for our sins (Rom 5:8). It didn’t end there! On the third day, Jesus rose from the grave as the giver of life for all (Rom 6:23).

The Bible says that by repenting and confessing the Lordship of Jesus, we can then live in a relationship with God. It sounds too simple for such a complicated problem. (Rom 10:9-10) However, God said that by personally accepting His provision and committing our lives to Him, He makes everything new.

The root of every prayer journey
is a relationship with Jesus.”

– Jan

Like a baby begins to walk by taking small steps, we begin the fascinating journey of faith through a seemingly small prayer spoken from sincere hearts. If you want to take that life-changing step today, He is only a prayer away.

*****

“Dear God, I confess that I have sinned against You and others. I choose today to believe that Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins. I turn from the way I have been living to follow You. Please forgive me and come into my life. I trust in You and desire for You to be my Lord and Savior from this day forward, in Jesus Name (Rom 10:13, Jn 20:31). Thank You Lord, for all you have done for me. Thank You for Your love and the gift of your saving grace.”

*****

“Only one prayer causes jubilation in heaven and mourning in hell. That one prayer is asking God to come into our lives.”
– Meg

 

Seeing is Believing – Look up in Faith!

For many people, like me, seeing is believing. First we look up, and then we rest in the enduring fabric of faith we find in God. Faith weaves through the pages of biblical history uniting man and God. It’s a history filled with divine encounters passed down from generation to generation.

My grandchildren delight in passing on the exciting things they are doing and showing me their recent accomplishments.  Their experiences mark milestones of achievement or are just plain fun things they want to tell me about. They are happy to share; I’m equally happy to listen and encourage them.

On the other hand, I have stored more than a few bone-headed blunders in the “open-at-your-own-risk” file! Seeing is believing there too. During those episodes, I hoped no one witnessed my absent-mindedness. Even I can’t believe how or why I stumbled into such predicaments.

I’m not alone! Israel had just about had enough of circling the wilderness. Even though God had faithfully led and cared for them the whole way, instead of gratitude, they were growing impatient.

“They spoke against God and against Moses, and said,
‘Why have you brought  us up out of Egypt
to die in the wilderness?
There is no bread! There is no water!
And we detest this miserable food!'”
Numbers 21:5

Look Around

Actually, I empathize. There are days when I’ve thought, “Enough is enough! God where are you?” Thankfully, my words aren’t recorded for everyone to examine in microscopic detail.

This wasn’t the first time complaining rose among this discontented mob. They had experienced the severe consequences of such mumbling before. You would think they had learned their lesson, but they were human — just like me!

How many times do I know better, but look at my self-made circumstances and grumble? The depraved condition of my own heart expresses itself: dissatisfied, malcontent, self focused, entitled, glum, disheartened… The longer I look at my surroundings the worse it gets.

“Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them;
they bit the people and many Israelites died.”
Numbers 21:6

We reap what we sow! Their sharp poisonous words reaped the consequences of equally sharp venomous bites by deadly serpents. God allowed them to see the snakes and feel the poisonous effects of their actions. Seeing is believing and so is feeling!

Look to Man

Instead of looking up to God, their first response was to point their rigid fingers toward their leader. Their second response was, “Help! Get us away from the problem!”

“The people came to Moses and said,
We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you.
Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.’
So Moses prayed for the people.”
Numbers 21:7

It’s a familiar refrain from fallen and broken humanity. Yet, even when it is obvious how wrong we have been, we refuse to look up to God for help. We choose rather to look for another savior, someone else to rescue us from our trials.

God neither removed them from their circumstances, nor did He remove the snakes.

The Serpent

The Israelites witnessed the effects of mankind’s fall in the most tangible of ways. I hear the silent echo of words spoken to the first serpent in the garden of Eden.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
Genesis 3:15

Here they were sinning like their original parents, Adam and Eve, feeling the serpent’s poisonous bite. God neither removed the serpent from the garden, nor from the wilderness. He doesn’t always remove our situations that strike with equally deadly force today either.

A Savior

However, God doesn’t leave us helpless or hopeless, but provides a permanent solution to our temporary problems.

“The LORD said to Moses,
“Make a snake and put it up on a pole;
anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”
Numbers 21:8

Talk about faith! Look up at a man-made bronze snake hanging from a pole and you will live! What does looking have to do with halting poisonous venom? Only one look brought life — it worked! Seeing is believing when we take time to look up.

“…Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and
looked at the bronze snake, they lived.”
Numbers 21:9b

Jesus, the Savior of the world, compares this very act to Himself.

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness,
so the Son of Man must be lifted up,
that everyone who believes
may have eternal life in him.”
John 3:14-15

Faith looks up and believes. We are like the people in the wilderness being struck by a deadly serpent. We too desire safety, away from the evil intentions of our enemy. Rather than remove the enemy, God still provides a solution — look up in faith and believe!

Faith Looks Up

“Looking” and “believing” are synonymous. When the Israelites looked at the serpent, they believed in their Deliverer. When we look to Jesus, that same faith rises within us.

“Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.”
– A.W. Tozer

Without faith there’s no approaching God, no forgiveness possible, no deliverance available, no spiritual life obtainable, no community of believers accessible.

“Without faith it is impossible to please (God)”
Hebrews 11:6

Jesus represented active faith. He looked up to the Father, doing only what He saw the Father do, speaking only words He heard the Father speak. When faith looks up everything else falls into place.

Unfortunately, we bend our gaze toward each other — mirroring ourselves in smug content. We try the same things other churches try, imitating explicitly, with very little variation. It is all a substitute for looking up to the real Savior Jesus Christ.

If only we would recognize that seeing is believing. Faith actively looks up!

Eyes to See

The serpent’s strike of the heal has inflicted us all with near-sightedness. We are blinded even in our looking.

Faith gazes outside of human perspective. With eyes inside the heart, we look intently upon the all-seeing God. When we look and see, we find One sitting upon the throne.

“At once I was in the Spirit,
and there before me was a throne in heaven
with someone sitting on it.”
Revelation 4:2

If there is one verse that speaks peace to my troubled heart, it is this one. Someone, The Savior, remains on the throne. When I feel the poisonous strike of the enemy upon, my marriage, family, church, community, nation or world, I know there is still One upon the throne. No one and nothing can remove Him from His position of ALL authority and power.

Seeing is believing! So in prayer, I look and see as faith moves within me stirring up peace beyond understanding, joy unquenchable and love irreversible.

Faith is a heart action beholding God from the inside out. We look up to Him, by looking into His Word, the Bible. Our gaze refocuses as we soak in His Presence. Nothing can replace these solitary times of meditation and prayer, seeking His face.

At the root of all faith resides the habitual intention of looking up, gazing upon, and beholding God. While our outward eyes know there are serpents among us, with inward eyes we see the solution, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Look up! Seeing is believing!

Greater Things than These – The God of Greater and Greater

God exceeds all expectation. What if greater things than ever before are coming our way? Greater than anything experienced to this point in history. The bible reveals sufficient evidence to cause us to believe that what lays ahead is far better than anything in preceding times.

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me
will do the works I have been doing,
and they will do even greater things than these,
because I am going to the Father.”
John 14:12

The disciples witnessed Jesus perform many miracles, heal the sick, raise the dead, calm storms, cast out demons and feed multitudes.  He taught scripture with indisputable authority, confounding His strongest opponents. After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven, His followers continued to teach and perform supernatural miracles. They were ordinary men doing extra-ordinary works through the Holy Spirit.

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John
and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men,
they were astonished and they took note
that these men had been with Jesus.”
Acts 4:13

The only explanation for the supernatural works of God moving through natural man was they “had been with Jesus.”

Glory to Glory

The Kingdom of God refuses to remain stagnant. In fact, “The Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing in spite of great opposition. (Matthew 11:12) Everything originating through God contains the seed of reproductivity and increase.

Entering the Presence of God caused Moses’ face to radiate with God’s glory. All who looked at him were overcome with fear and awe. Paul tells the Corinthian church even greater glory is coming.

“And we all with unveiled face,
beholding the glory of the Lord,
are being transformed into the same image
from one degree of glory to another.
For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 3:18

Far greater things — expressions of God’s glory — awaits us. Why? Because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross.

Strength to Strength

One of my favourite psalms talks about the people of God triumphing over adversity as they continue to pursue His face. Even in the Valley of Baka (Valley of Weeping), they leave behind places of refreshing for others who have found the journey difficult.

“They go from strength to strength,
until each appears before God is Zion.”
Psalm 84:7

Only God provides us with that kind of momentum, ever-increasing levels of spiritual strength. capable of propelling us to finish well. Listen closely to these words,

“He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
…walk and not faint.”
Isaiah 40: 29-31

Although my running days are over, walking is one of my favorite pass times — especially when I can stroll outside the city limits. The truth is, however, these frail bodies have a propensity to wear out and fail us. We all face varying degrees of personal limitation.

Yet, God gives His people a capacity to exceed any natural boundaries. He gave Elijah the ability to outrun a horse and chariot (1Kings 18:46). Moses endured two back-to-back forty day fasts — something humanly impossible. Samson with supernatural strength wrestled a stone palace to the ground with one mighty push. The feats of David’s top warriors (2 Samuel 23) remain unparalleled in history.

But even in our mundane day-to-day activities, for “those who hope” in their God, He grants us the capability of exceeding normal limits. Though my personal examples don’t compare with these biblical counterparts, I have experienced times when beyond a doubt, God, and God alone, carried me through.

Faith to Faith

After Jesus had established His ministry in the surrounding territory, He returned to His hometown.

“And he did not do many miracles there
because of their lack of faith.”
Matthew 13:58

On another occasion, He was astonished by a centurion’s “great faith” — a faith greater than anyone else in Israel! (Matthew 8:10) The disciples asked Jesus to “increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5)

“For in it (the Gospel) the righteousness of God
is revealed from faith to faith,
as it is written,
‘The righteous shall live by faith.'”
Romans 1:17

The Good News of the Gospel awakens within believers an increasing progression of faith. The kind of faith that expands and deepens to even greater faith. Paul commended both the Corinthians and the Thessalonians for their faith that was “growing and growing.” (2 Thessalonians 1:3). Their ever increasing faith became evident in the increase of love displayed toward each other.

Latter Is Better

I enjoy reading about the great revivals that have awakened and transformed the church over the generations. Faith sparking reading to be sure! However, even these remarkable revivalist were aware that what they experienced did not yet measure up to what is yet to come.

Whatever supernatural God encounters mankind has witnessed in the past pales in comparison to what is ahead!

“This is what the LORD Almighty says:
‘In a little while … I will fill this house with glory,’
says the LORD Almighty.
‘The silver and the gold is mine,’
declares the LORD Almighty.
‘The glory of this present house
will be greater than the glory of the former house,’
says the LORD Almighty.’…”
Haggai 2:6-9

The Lord God Almighty continues to be the God of greater and greater things. Our difficulty is

visualizing beyond former paradigms.
believing past the natural,
receiving God’s truth as infallible,
and responding to Holy Spirit incentives.

Isaiah declares

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it…”
Isaiah 43:18-19

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour my Spirit on your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants.”
Isaiah 44:3-4

As much as I am inspired by past revivals, they are but a foreshadow of what is ahead — a taste test of the main course to come. God promises such a mighty outpouring of His Spirit that the world cannot fathom. All things are possible for the “LORD Almighty!” 

Greater Things

I pray for an increased, faith-filled expectation for more. The world, my own flesh and the devil creates a gravitational pull that attempts to ground all such heavenly vision. As God begins to pour out Holy Spirit in greater measure, these counter forces work to diminish the effects of God’s live giving flow.

“Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.”
William Carey

God is prepared to pour out far more than even our greatest expectation. This greater glory will require even greater faith to lay hold of the promised out-pouring. Greater strength, wisdom and sensitivity will be needed to steward well what God is about to do.

“I also pray that you will understand
the incredible greatness of God’s power
for us who believe him.
This is the same mighty power
that raised Christ from the dead and
seated him in the place of honor
at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.”
Ephesians 1:19-20

Let’s get ready! Greater things are coming!

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Your Promise is Waiting – Do Something!

Earth’s resources may be diminishing, but heaven’s never do. Your promise is waiting, but you may have to do something illogical to receive it. However, these God opportunities sometimes have expiration dates.

I read the other day that over $800 million remains in unclaimed bank accounts in Canada alone. A $60 million lottery ticket currently sits unclaimed in Alberta. That sounds ridiculous to me. Somebody do something!

How many even more valuable promises sit in God’s hand waiting for somebody — anybody — to do something? God’s prompting to motivate us may hit a road block in my over-rationalizing mind or carry a risk I’m unprepared to take. Possessing our promise may take courage.

“And without faith living within us,
it would be impossible to please God.
For we come to God in faith knowing
that he is real and that he rewards the faith
of those who give all their
passion and strength into seeking him.”
Hebrews 11:6 TPT

Courage requires faith. Faith demands courage.

Risky Faith

Peter had given up everything to follow Jesus, including his family, business and security. So when the tax collectors came knocking Peter’s pockets were empty. Jesus instructed,

“…go to the lake and throw out your line.
Take the first fish you catch;
open its mouth and you will find
a four-drachma coin.
Take it and give it to them for my tax and your.”
Matthew 17:27
 

Sounds little “fishy” to me! (That’s Canadian for unbelievable.) I like fishing, but the most unusal thing I have found in a fish’s mouth is another fish. Peter trusted Jesus’ words and took a risk. He did something perhaps no one else would have done. He obeyed.

You would think everyone who saw the day’s catch would go fishing. But they knew God gives a specific word to a seeking heart that is unique to that time and situation. 

What if Peter chose not to listen? What if he failed to respond? Frankly, I don’t know why God often relies on the obedience of people. 

It’s Absurd

Familiarity gives the absurd directives within bible stories almost a “normal” appearance. The way of us earth-walking humans and our infinitely minded God present distinct and contradictory opposites

God recruits Moses, Egypt’s most wanted criminal and fugitive. When an entire nation cries out in panic as a fierce army corners them against the Red Sea, God tells Moses to point a stick at the water. Seriously?

“Why are you crying out to me?
Tell the Israelites to move on.
Raise your staff and stretch out your hand
over the sea to divide the water
so that the Israelites can go through
the sea on dry ground.”
Exodus 14:15-16

Who would you rather be? Moses or the first person stepping into the ominous depths? As absurd as the instructions appeared, victory came as everyone moved forward in obedience. Moses knew the voice of God. His confidence rested not in himself, but in the faithfulness of the One speaking.

A promise is waiting for all who will obey.

Hearing Well

Rebellion blocked Israel’s ability to hear God. Twisted attitudes and calloused hearts continue to affect our ability to hear clearly and respond fully to God’s leading.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left,
your ears will hear
a voice behind you, saying,
‘This is the way; walk in it.'”
Isaiah 30:21

Responding bridges hearing with receiving:

  • Wash seven times in the dirty Jordan River and the leprosy will disappear. (2 Kings 5:10)
  • Step out of the boat and you will walk on water. (Matt 14:29)
  • After we make mud from spit and put it into blind eyes, go wash for healing. (John 9:6-7)
  • Feed the starving crowd of thousands with a boy’s bag lunch. (Luke 9:13)
  • Throw your nets on the other side. A great catch was waiting! (Luke 5:4)

If we ignore the prompting of the Lord, insisting on doing things like we have always done them, we will miss many miracles and divine encounters. Perhaps a promise is waiting today. Is anyone willing to move in a radical way to find out? Will we hold back looking for a risk-free formula to claim the blessing?

Obeying

Though the bible is filled with such illustrations, none of these men or women moved in presumption. A sure word from God preceded each miracle.

“I will instruct you and teach you
in the way you should go;
I will counsel you
with my loving eye on you.”
Psalms 32:8

Biblical examples abound of those who “presumed” they heard God and missed the mark. Others hesitated and decided too late to respond, with disastrous results. 

Maintaining close relationship with God (through prayer and bible reading), while being in authentic relationships with mature Christians, creates a safe guard helping us discern God’s voice and respond appropriately. Having a mentor, coach or accountability partner will help us access God’s best for our lives.

But ultimately, the choice is ours. Will we trust God and risk?

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 paths straight.”
Proverbs 3:5-6
 

I have this verse etched on the wall at the foot of my bed. I need a constant reminder to resist the tendency to trust in my own strength, ability or wisdom. 

Promise

When my husband and I took over the family farm, my father responded, “What a relief! I never liked farmer.”

It was sobering to think that my father continued, for over 50 years, to do a job that he didn’t find fulfilling. As I questioned him further, I discovered that he kept doing what he always did because he lacked the confidence to risk change. His creative ingenuity remained largely untapped.

It can be the same with us. It isn’t easy to trust God in the unknown. Fear held my father back. Fear paralyzes many.

The psalmist declared, 

“I will hurry, without delay,
to obey your commands.”
Psalm 119:60

Those who accessed the promises and miracles of God hurried “without delay.”  Those who say “Yes!” to God, continually and radically create pathways for the supernatural. They may leave families, businesses, securities and predictable lives in their obedience. These aren’t absent minded decisions. They have

sought God with all their hearts,
listened intently to His voice,
tested and weighed the word against scripture,
and listened to the counsel of others,
before moving toward God in obedience,
knowing a promise is waiting.

Who Knows

God alone knows the result. Will we shake cultural norms? Will we allow His Kingdom to come to earth in surprising ways?

“But when he,
the Spirit of truth, comes,
he will guide you into all the truth.
He will not speak on his own;
but he will speak only what he hears,
and he will tell you what is yet to come.”
John 16:13

So if you ask me what I’m doing these days, don’t be surprised if I answer, “I’m walking with a stick.” “Going fishing.”  or “Making mud with spit.” God alone knows the outcome. I don’t intend on holding back. A promise is waiting! Hopefully, there will be no unclaimed balances left in any of my spiritual bank account.

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Invincible Warriors With Supernatural Weapons – No More Excuses

Do you know that we are invincible warriors with supernatural weapons — strategic members of a great and mighty army? So what holds us back? There is no reason for excuses. What keeps us from marching in unison — powerful, and focused?

Common elements necessary for military success and the advancing of God’s kingdom include discipline, humility and ownership. They are supernatural weapons.

The bible often uses two Greek words together: “egnokamen” and “pepisteukemen”. They mean “to know (understand, recognize, are conscious of by observation and experience) and believe (adhere to and put faith in and rely on). When our knowledge, experience, and faith unite a powerful synergy erupts.

We must recognize and gain knowledge of our weapons, using them through faith, to become invincible warriors.

Valleys

There are two valleys in the bible that warriors avoid.

“Multitudes, multitudes
in the valley of decision!
For the day of the LORD is near
in the valley of decision.”
Joel 3:14

Warrior weapons

Procrastination dominates the Valley of Decision, “I can’t because ______.” “There is no one to help me.” “What if I fail?” “I don’t know how.” Excuses defeat an army’s opportunity of success before they even enter the battle.

Valley dwellers are a peculiar breed. I should know, I am one! Valley dwellers don’t like risk. They prefer security and safety. Lingering too long, however, and this valley turns into another dreaded location.

“The hand of the LORD was on me,
and he brought me out
by the Spirit of the LORD
and set me in the middle of a valley;
it was full of bones.
He led me back and forth among them,
and I saw a great many bones
on the floor of the valley,
bones that were very dry.”
Ezekiel 37:1-2

The common denominator appears to be “many” and “multitudes”. Multitudes of fossilized dead — undecided, disconnected, lifeless, “very dry”.

Prophecy

How long had these bones, picked clean by vultures, lay disassembled on the valley floor? What life once formed their existence?

“So faith comes from hearing,
and hearing through the Word of Christ.
Romans 10:17

God tells Ezekiel to Prophesy to these bones and say to them,Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!…'” (Ezek. 37:4) The Word of God fused knowing and believing, experience and faith.

Invincible warriors with supernatural weapons

Prophecy speaks God’s present word. Alignment with the conversation of heaven makes anything possible — then and now. Ezekiel obeyed.

“So I prophesied as he commanded me,
and breath entered them;
they came to life and stood up on their feet
— a vast army.”
Ezekiel 37:10

Only God resurrects “dry bones” into a vast army of invincible warriors. No longer full of excuses, paralyzed by fear, or dead, an army rises from the valley floor — the lowest place.

You may become slightly confused looking at me: once solid muscles sag; a small frame fluffed with excess weight; femininity wrinkled and faded. Not your image of invincible warrior? But look again!

Knowing and believing,
experience and faith,
working deep in co-existing momentum
creating internal change.

Valley dwelling becomes increasingly uncomfortable and no longer optional. I’ve been in training! Secret service training!

Disciplined

The first essential discipline of invincible warriors is the study of God’s Word.

“For the word of God is alive and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword,
it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit,
joints and marrow;
it judges the thoughts and attitudes
of the heart.”
Hebrews 4:12

Paul tells Timothy, “the Holy Scriptures…make you wise…is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2Tim.3:15-16) A necessity to prepare and equip every soldier for the task ahead!

Archer ready for battle

The second and equally important discipline is prayer. Jesus patterned the need to pray: early in the morning, at the end of a busy day, even all night long.

“But Jesus often withdrew
to lonely places and prayed.”
Luke 5:16

The third, taking thoughts captive, becomes possible after the first two disciplines.

“For though we live in the world,
we do not wage war as the world does.
The weapons we fight with
are not the weapons of the world.
On the contrary, they have divine power
to demolish strongholds.”
2 Corinthians 10:3-4

Every battle is first won in our minds. The wise never battle without the supernatural weapon of discipline.

Humility of Invincible Warriors

Do you ever feel you’ve joined the enemy ranks? I have! Pride forfeits the use of our most powerful weapon — humility. It also puts us in direct opposition to God.

“…God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
James 4:6

Humility

Every biblical leader who chose to humbly submit to God experienced remarkable military exploits. They lead armies victoriously into battle against overwhelming odds:

  • Abraham’s 318 defeated the armies of Babylon
  • Judge Deborah and Barak went against the Canaanites with a vast army and 900 iron chariots
  • Gideon with 300 defeated the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern people, “thick as locust. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore.” (Judges 7:12)
  • Elisha blinded, trapped, and fed the entire Syrian army, before sending them home.

Often when Israel clothed herself in humility before God, He threw the enemy into such disarray she only had to gather the plunder. Invincible warriors submit to their Commander.

“In order for the Church
to accomplish her last-day mandate…
we need the grace and anointing of God.
Because God gives grace to the humble,
we must learn to take every opportunity
we get to humble ourselves.”
Rick Joyner

Taking Ownership

God’s highest ranking warriors are disguised changing diapers, sweeping streets, driving trucks, mowing grass, and working fields. Common people with the supernatural weapon of humility. Quietly doing whatever God asks — unnoticed, unpraised, unrecognized — powerful instruments in the Kingdom of God. Invincible warriors own responsibility!

A common denominator among God’s history makers is the willingness to take ownership of themselves and their “world”. When cultural perspectives shift and become warped, they stand and say, “Not here! Not on my watch!”

Ownership - It's up to you!

A Philistine giant, Goliath, taunted Israel day after day, until the whole army was “dismayed and terrified”. (1 Samuel 17:11) A young shepherd boy came along! David took ownership of the situation. He didn’t blame the army for being frightened. He didn’t talk the fowl-mouthed enemy down peacefully. David stepped forward.

That difference impacted everyone who witnessed the supernatural work of God through one young, invincible warrior. David raised up 30 more fearless leaders and a vast army who delivered Israel from her enemies..

“Don’t let anyone look down on you
because you are young,
but set an example for the believers in speech,
in conduct, in love, in faith, and impurity.”
1 Timothy 4:12

As one experienced in battle, Paul commanded young Timothy, “Don’t make excuses! Do what you are called to do! Own your leadership!” Paul’s last words to Timothy describe a true warrior,

“I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
and I have kept the faith.”
2 Timothy 4:7

No More Excuses

Blaming, finger pointing and giving excuses abound in Christian circles. Changing that error starts with me!

When I am willing to adopt the disciplines of a warrior, humbly serving wherever God calls, and taking ownership of my sphere of influence, I become one of His “invincible warriors”.

Joshua clearly put the decision to the Israelites,

“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you,
then choose for yourselves this day
whom you will serve…
But as for me and my household,
we will serve the LORD.”
Joshua 24:14-15

May the combination of knowing and believing, experience and faith, lead us out of the Valley of Decision and past the Valley of Dry Bones, raising us up to become a mighty army. The supernatural weapons we carry are the practical tools of discipline, humility and taking ownership in battle as we serve God.

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Wrestling With and For Truth! The Truth About Wrangling!

Many people today are wrestling with truth! Some are sure there is no absolute truth. Meanwhile, others are giving their lives for truth! Lengthy wrangling, articulate debating, and bull-headed dogmatism abound.

Truth is more than a concept; it is a Person!

Throughout the ages, many people have spent their lives searching for truth, others have fought fiercely in its defense.

At the trial of Jesus, 

“What is truth?” Pilate retorted…”
John 18:38

Wrangler

A wrangler is more than someone who debates eloquently or a favorite pair of jeans. A wrangler is someone who takes care of livestock.

Our family were cattle producers. One spring, the season of serious wrangling, a “town boy”, who happened to be a pastor’s son, was anxious to enter the corral and experience true wrangling.

Into the pen of spring born calves he confidently pranced. In short order the poor lad was dragged, dangled, trampled, kicked and bunted. There wasn’t an inch of his apparel not caked, covered and layered in a mixture of mud, sweat and manure.

Wrangling cattle

Though we felt sorry for the young green-horn, the real life drama playing out before our eyes was worth far more than any trip to the movies. Although lacking the skill of catching, flipping and holding a calf, he deserved top marks for the effort he brought to the ring.

Surprisingly, he had as much fun trying as we had watching. Years later, the image of his arms and legs flailing the air continues to bring smiles and chuckles.

Persistence

If there was one lesson I learned that day it was that persistence pays! Quitting was no where to be found in this boys genes!

Those who wrestled and wrangled in the bible carried the same attitude.

Cowboy persistence

Remember Jacob?

“So Jacob was left alone
and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 
When the man saw that 
he could not overpower him, 
he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip
 so that his hip was wrenched 
as he wrestled with the man. 
Then the man said, 
“Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied 
I will not let you go 
unless you bless me.” 
Genesis 32:24-26

Jacob’s painful wrangling gave him more than a permanent limp; he gained a new identity and a generational promise.

Until this point, condemnation shadowed Jacob’s life, “You are a thief, a trickster, a liar.” That day, Jacob wrestled for the truth of his belonging. He received a new name, Israel, meaning Prince of God.

Working hard!

Others

What about Elijah? The Mount Carmel show down between 400 prophets of Baal and Elijah wasn’t about strength or power. It ultimately was a contest of what is true? Who is God? Is it Baal or is it the LORD?

“At the time of sacrifice, 
the prophet Elijah 
stepped forward and prayed:
“LORD, the God of Abraham, 
Isaac and Israel, 
let it be known today 
that you are God in Israel…”
1 Kings 18:36

When God responded with fire, the people declared in unison,

The LORD — he is God!
 The LORD — he is God!”
1 Kings 18:39

Truth ultimately wins, though usually not without a struggle of faith.

The struggle

It was true for Jonah, Esther, David, and Moses. It was true for Abraham and Sarah, Gideon, and Jeremiah. 

Faith and Truth

Most of the deepest wrangling comes when God bends our experiential truth into alignment with the way of The Truth, Jesus Christ.

A man brought his demon possessed son to Jesus. The tormenting spirit had attempted to kill his son many times by throwing him either into fire or water. He doubted if even Jesus could or would help.

“…But if you can do anything,
 take pity on us and help us.” 
‘If you can’?” said Jesus…”
Mark 9:23-24

As truth spoke, faith grabbed hold! The wrangling began,

“…I do believe
help me overcome my unbelief!”
Mark 9:24

In prison, John the Baptist wrestled in faith to believe Jesus was The Truth, The Messiah sent from God (Matthew 11). Thomas wrangled to believe Jesus was raised from the dead (John 20). Peter grappled with the truth that salvation was for Greeks as well as Jews (Acts 10).

Laying hold of truth

Faith and truth collided on the Damascus road, as Paul brutally faced the reality of his spiritual blindness.

Truth Check

Perhaps tangling with truth is necessary for us all! 

My thoughts are nothing
like your thoughts,”
says the LORD.
“And my ways are far beyond
anything you could imagine.”
Isaiah 55:8

Thankfully, God consistently bends our minds, wrangles our attitudes, and wrestles our intentions into alignment with His. He never quits – never leaves us as He find us.

Sometimes I stubbornly resist! It doesn’t make sense! My futile thought processes cannot instantaneously connect faith and truth.

Wrangling together

I ultimately end up a lot like our young helper many years ago! My wrestling for and with truth sometimes feels dangerous, downright messy, and thoroughly exhausting.

Three times in Acts 10 God pushed Peter beyond former paradigms,

“…Do no call anything impure 
that God has made clean.”
Acts 10:15

God’s truth united with Peter’s faith opening wide the door to preach the Gospel of salvation to non-Jews. The implications of this single instance of receiving truth cannot be measured.

The Truth

My little contending undoubtedly isn’t as dramatic, but I cannot allow myself the luxury of refusing the invitation to come into agreement with God. 

The bible is the unmoving standard of all truth.

“All your words are true,
all your righteous laws are eternal.”
Psalm 119:160

God’s word is true! That word is eternal! Never ending, never changing, never varying!

How can I be so sure? Jesus made the astounding declaration, 

“…I am the way, the truth, and the life…”
John 14:6

Truth isn’t a relative concept that changes with times or seasons. Truth is a Person. Jesus is Truth. Truth never changes because God never changes!

Taking the lead

In fact, whenever I find myself wrestling with the definitive truth of the bible, I am attempting to wrangle with God. Resist His truth and I can expect to come away limping like Jacob! Yield to it by faith and God alone knows the grandness of the repercussions. 

Never!

Divine truth must be received by faith. That doesn’t mean we throw out sound judgment, critical thinking, and careful consideration.  Actually, acknowledging truth is giving full mental assent to its reality. In so doing, God gives us a new lens with which to view Him and the world around us. 

My source of wrestling for truth is often like Peter’s, 

Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied.
“I have never eaten anything
impure or unclean.”
Acts 10:14

How many times have I responded similarly to God, “Surely not! I have never…”?

Wrangling clenches tight-fisted to “never“! Placing experiential truth ahead of God’s eternal truth will reveal terminal fault lines in our thinking.

God proves patient, however. He is relentless in drawing us into ever increasing ways of truth. We may wrangle like Peter, wrestling with ourSurely not, Lord!” attitudes. Peter got the message and responded with new understanding.

Will our “never” yield to God’s truth? Because God’s ways really are so much higher than ours, we will continue to wrestle both with and for truth. But it is a wrangling that pays benefits!

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Move Out the Old! Make Room for the New!

This year God is challenging me to move out the old and make room for the new. That means change! Even though I tend to be flexible and open to change, I like to know what change is coming.

My husband is a fully certified “keeper” of all things that may at some point be useful for any unforeseen circumstances. He is a “fixer” — and an excellent one at that! I, on the other hand, am a “thrower”. I resist clutter with a fervency. If something isn’t serving a useful purpose, I am quick to give it away to someone who will make good use of it. We have learned the benefit of “keepers” and “throwers”.

“You will still be eating last year’s harvest
when you will have to move it out
to make room for the new.”
Leviticus 26:10

 

Did you ever try to take food from a toddler? Be prepared! What a child lacks in size they certainly make up for in resistance.

Honestly, I feel the same way when I have to part with something I am enjoying!

Still Eating

It is the “you will still be eating” part that has me a little nervous. The “new” at the end of the verse sounds perfect, but what will I have to give up before actually seeing and holding the new?

“You will still be eating” implies the blessing of God in the preceding harvest was substantial. A harvest that was valued and appreciated!  However, “still eating” also means I’m not yet satisfied, full or content with that proceeding blessing.

Inwardly I groan, “Not yet! Wait until I’m full! Don’t bring change now! All is good!”

But it also bids me to ask,

“What blessings am I hanging on to?
What am I afraid to let go of?
Where is my grip too tight?”

Before every new harvest, storage bins receive a thoroughly cleaning. Any remnant of last years harvest is removed, eliminating any opportunity for the old to contaminate the new.

Jesus gave a similar illustration:

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth
on an old garment,
for the patch will pull away
from the garment,
making the tear worse.

Neither do people pour
new wine into old wineskins.
If they do, the skins will burst;
the wine will run out and
the wineskins will be ruined.
No, they pour new wine into new wineskins,
and both are preserved.”
Matthew 9:16-17

You Have To

“You have to” doesn’t exactly sound favorable either. Give me choice!, Show me the options allowing time to weigh and assess benefits. I can adjust with that! Add the words “you have to” and the dynamic changes!

What makes change so difficult?  Here are my top five reasons for resisting change:

  • Change is awkward! More of my life than I care to admit is lived by learned behaviour! Adjusting to something new takes time and patience.
  • Change costs! Want an example? My old computer stopped working; the new replacement has added features but was expensive. Change often carries an unseen price tag — sometimes financially, maybe relationally, or even emotionally.
  • Change is a process! It is the undetermined span between the now and then, the here and there, that requires effort and time. This unknown discourages movement.

  • Change awakens fear! What if it doesn’t work? Will it be worth it? What will people think?
  • Change requires confidence and trust! When the change isn’t my choice, I need to have a deep trust of the one asking me to change. I need to know my best interest is considered or there is a higher goal or purpose for change.

Some things I will gladly let go of, however. The sooner poor habits, destructive thought patterns, or nagging fear exit my life the more content I’ll be.

Thankfully God attached a promise with the “have to”; it includes “make room for the new.

Make Room

I am an expert at making room! We had five boys in just over eight years in a relatively small three bedroom home. Making room for one more created a welcome challenge.

Now with family grown, we have downsized into a much smaller home. Over the years, I have become proficient at making the best use of even the smallest spaces.

The changes necessary to make room for others includes far more that external space

to broader dimensions of love,
devotion, care, provision,
to sharing and giving,
preferring and protecting.

Just like I am unsure of what I may have to let go of, I am equally unsure of what God is asking me to make room for. These unanswered questions create tension, an uneasiness, that only faith in God can resolve.

The New

Not every harvest is prime quality or quantity on the Canadian prairies. There can be infestations of disease or pests, adverse weather like drought or hail, and any number of other issues that significantly affect the new crop. As a matter of fact, there is no guarantee the new crop will even be realized!

Yet, God promises us new!

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:18-19

It is virtually impossible to forget the “former things” when the flavour is fresh in your mouth. However, there will be no appreciation for the new unless we willingly release the old.

Being a seasoned veteran at “letting go”, Corrie Ten Boom offers us solid advice,

” Hold everything in your hands lightly,
otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”

Perhaps the reason change becomes increasingly difficult is previous experiences with both positive and questionable changes. Such resistance to letting go of something firmly possessed for something not yet visible is understandable.

Faithful

With confidence I step into God’s promise purposefully laying aside fear and comfort. Why? The One who promised is faithful!

If God is asking me to let go of the old,
if He is saying in no uncertain terms,
“you have to”,
I know He has a greater plan
than I can presently see.

I trust Him and His word! Not blindly, but fully!

Faith is never blind! Though I cannot see what the future holds, I see clearly the God who holds my future. He never fails in His promise.

“For all the promises of God
find their Yes in him.
That is why it is through him
that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”
2 Corinthians 1:20

Laying aside yesterday’s blessings, yesterday’s provision and yesterday’s anointing is for the sole purpose of taking hold of today’s increased blessing. I will never fully realize God’s best while stubbornly holding on to yesterday’s good.

So I am prepared “to move out” all that is necessary “to make room” for what is ahead!

It sounds like work! But I’ll let you know how God works it out!

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Thanksgiving – Family, Friendships and Faith

Several nations, on virtually every continent, designate a specific time each year for thanksgiving. Some mark with appreciation harvest, freedom from slavery, life itself or a new homeland. Thanksgiving for me, however, is built around three primary relationships: family, friendships, and faith.

Canadians join in Thanksgiving festivities a month before our American counterparts, but the traditions are strikingly familiar. I am thankful for this national time to reflect and be thankful.

It is surprisingly easy to become content, even apathetic, in our blessings.

While out with my grandchildren recently, they all stopped to say “thank you” when someone offered them a treat. I was glad they remembered their manners without being prompted and surprised by the response they received, “You are the first children to say thank you all day!”

Something to Learn

Appreciation doesn’t come naturally to our selfish nature. It must be taught and learned!

Be thankful in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you
who belong to Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Paul commands his readers to “be thankful” not just when we feel like it, but “in all circumstances”. We are not always thankful for our circumstances, but it is possible to be thankful in our circumstances. Yet I have witnessed faith grow so deeply secure in many whose peace and joy were tangibly evident in all circumstances. In their lives. expressions of continual thanks seem to flow freely even for all circumstances.

No matter how heavy, or how overwhelming life becomes, God is bigger! It is helpful to train our focus not on present situations, but rather on the One who

knows far more than we know,
loves beyond measure,
and cares above all others.

I applaud parents who instill in their children the value of gratitude. Our Heavenly Father also smiles upon those whose hearts overflow with appreciation.

Family

With a broad grin, my husband often says in reference to our five sons, “I wouldn’t take a million dollars for any one of them, but wouldn’t give you a plug nickel for one more!” It is his way of declaring the blessing he recognizes within the gift of family.

When we were married, we both considered two children to be the ideal number. God had a better plan! Presently, our family is 23 strong!

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,
declares the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts
than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8-9

The joy of family is hardly measurable. The loss of a family member through death, or absence through separation, is the most painful experience we will each endure. Holidays are difficult for those feeling the weight of such a burden. Searching for thankfulness takes concentrated effort in the midst of such brokenness and pain.

Yet even then, as we focus on eternal reality, fragments of gratitude radiate through grief bringing strength to sullen days.

Friends

Second only to family, friends fill my thankful list. My husband and I made what seemed like a radical move out of our comfortable home and familiar community about a decade ago. We cannot image what life would be like without the many friendships that have been nurtured since that time.

Rather than leaving friends behind, our circle of friendships has widened, then widened again with overwhelming surplus. God has enriched our lives surrounding us with many loyal and true friends.

“Every good gift and
every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no variation
or shadow due to change.”
James 1:17

Genuine friendship is a gift from God! No amount of material wealth can replace the good and perfect gift of friendship.

The ability to simply “do life” together with others is something truly to be grateful for. Laughing and crying! Supporting and encouraging! Sharing and caring! Loving and lasting! Friendships fill our lives with colour and vibrancy.

Faith

Faith may be listed last, but it is actually first!

Give thanks to the Lord,
for he is good;

his love endures forever.”
1 Chronicles 16:34

Thankfulness begins with God! To finish well, we must start here, with an attitude of gratitude towards God. Void of thanksgiving, our faith inevitably slides into the realm of delusion and confusion.

“Yes, they knew God,
but they wouldn’t worship him as God
or even give him thanks.
And they began to think up
foolish ideas of what God was like.
As a result,
their minds became dark and confused.”
Romans 1:21

It is surprisingly easy to know God and yet neglect to appreciate Him — not just for what He does, but for Who He is.

Is the darkness and confusion woven in any culture visible evidence of hearts hardened against the worship and thanksgiving of God? Perhaps!

Remember

Even in writing today, I am reminded of so much more to be thankful for. Is it possible to cultivate a continuous level of thankfulness crowning every day with gratitude?

Here are a few practical ways to create a lifestyle of thanksgiving:

  • Use a journal! One of my daughter-in-laws has a thankfulness journal. Each day begins by writing something she is thankful for.

  • Several of my friends recharge their appreciation by doing a 100 Day Challenge. Each day for 100 days they share with others something they are thankful for.
  • Express it! Tell the people in your lives what you appreciate about them. Weave it into your family and friendship times until it is naturally spoken and expressed. Say “thank you” often and regularly.
  • Pray! Has prayer become a list of “I wants”? Expand you time with God to include more!

“Devote yourselves to prayer,
being watchful and thankful.”
Colossians 4:2

  • Look for “silver linings!” Even the most difficult situations have some kind of positive aspect. Is it the compassion others show in times of pain, the generosity that surfaces at points of need, or humility that flourishes in seasons of struggle? Be thankful!
  • Focus on others! When life’s challenges press hard, focus on helping someone else in need. Changing perspective by improving the life of someone else, will often stir thanksgiving within ourselves.
  • Notice the little things! Looking with child like simplicity often helps us see the beauty and wonder around us with new appreciation. Choosing to look at even the smallest of blessings can generate multiple reasons for thankfulness.

Just Do It!

Enough reading! It is time to do it! Starting a pattern of gratefulness will reap abundant blessing today while creating a pattern of thankfulness that will flow to subsequent generations.  Now is the best time to begin a new chapter of appreciation right where we are.

Start a fresh movement of thankfulness! Be the person others can emulate in their journey toward thanksgiving!