“Well, what had happened was…”

(2 Samuel 22: 17-20) 17 “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. 18 He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. 19 They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. 20 He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”


When I think of enemies, I do not think of human beings.  I guess to me, people are just people.  Yes, there are dangerous people.  Yes, there are groups of people who wish to do harm to others.  However, deep in my heart I understand that the only true enemy is the one who seeks to destroy souls.  Satan.  It’s okay.  You can say his name.  He’s just not that scary…he has, after all, been defeated.  Sure, he’s the enemy of our souls…but because of God’s word we have knowledge, and because of His word become flesh (JESUS) we have victory.

Just like with hope, we have to claim our victory.  Our thoughts and words are powerful, and when we use wisdom to control them, we are always a step ahead of the enemy. 

Words satisfy the mind as much as fruit does the stomach; good talk is as gratifying as a good harvest. Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose. (Proverbs 18: 20-21, The Message)

“You choose.”  That’s the love of God…freedom of choice…spacious places away from the deep waters…God delighting in us in the midst of our worst disasters.  So our words, they have to echo the love of God that is manifest in our lives.  Our words have to declare TESTIMONY.  That means we no longer keep it to ourselves.  We have share our rescue stories.  Imagine if you lived through a major tornado or hurricane, only to find yourself injured and buried beneath a pile of debris…but someone comes along, just when you have lost your voice and your last drop of hope, and piece by piece they remove the broken hunks of wood and shards of glass until at last you are gently pulled from the ruins.  Isn’t that a story you would share for the rest of your life?  Well, we have to quit thinking in physical terms!  You have a story to tell!  The testimony of Christ our Lord is exciting, and sharing it with others is how we overcome:  “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…” (Revelation 12:11).  You see, our words work together with the blood of Christ to overcome Satan.  That is power, friends…power entrusted to us by the One who delights in us.  Our enemy is powerful, of that there is no doubt, but the same power that conquered death and hell is what dwells within each of us.  Even if you were the only one, you would still triumph.  Thankfully though, we are not alone, and together, sharing our testimonies, operating in love and compassion, praying for one another, using the wisdom and truth of God’s word to guide us, we win.


Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for my testimony.  Thank you that I have a story to tell that can encourage others and spread hope.  Thank you that, through my difficulties and pain, You are made larger and your active love in my life is made evident to others.  Let my words be a source of everlasting life, and as You have delighted in me…I will delight in You.  Amen.

“Even When It Hurts”

(Job 5: 17-18)  17 “But consider the joy of those corrected by God!  Do not despise the discipline of the Almighty when you sin.  18 For though he wounds, he also bandages.  He strikes, but his hands also heal.


Years ago, one of my cousins was in a terrible mountain-biking accident when he was a young(er) man.  He was awfully disfigured and underwent numerous surgeries in order to regain a normal appearance…meaning — an appearance that wouldn’t cause people to wince and/or ask questions everywhere he went.  The doctors called it reconstructive surgery.  Throughout the process of these procedures, which took years to complete, my cousin had to endure a lot of pain both physically and emotionally.  The surgeries were painful.  He had bone removed from his skull and placed into his gums, so that he could have dental implants to replace the teeth he’d lost.  He had skin grafts and pins, and everything else that goes into reconstructing a crushed face.  I am sure there came a point for him when just the thought of going to the doctor was enough to send him into hiding, but he had to continue on through the pain to get the desired results…reconstruction.  He had to trust the surgeon completely.  He had to remember that the surgeon’s intention was not to harm him, but to make him whole again.  Sure, the surgeon’s hands wounded him, so to speak, but over those cuts and sutures were gently and carefully placed bandages. 

Our lives sometimes bring us into places where we are wounded beyond recognition.  Our choices lead us into situations, though at times out of our control, that disfigure our spirits…and we have to be lifted into safety and undergo some tough reconstruction.  We have to trust God in that pain.  We have to understand that His hands sometimes have to wound us in order to correct us.  Like the locked jaw that has to be broken, then wired shut for a time, before it is mended and corrected.  It’s not fun, and it hurts, but we have to trust that the process is worth the outcome. 

10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.  (Hebrews 12: 10-11)

When I was little, I was the kid that needed some (okay…a LOT of) spankings and discipline.  I constantly had to be reminded (because of my impulsiveness, impatience and quick temper) that I was making poor choices.  My parents had to, at times, strike me (usually on the butt), but were always quick with a loving hug and healing words of grace and encouragement.  Well, I’m 37 years old and I still need those reminders…only now they almost exclusively come from my Heavenly Father.  He sometimes has to lovingly reach down and (figuratively so) slap some sense into me!  And I desperately need those reminders.  Maybe it comes in the form of embarrassment, or internal conviction…sometimes it’s having hurt feelings…or causing them.  However it may come to pass, I recognize my Father’s discipline for what it is, and though I don’t enjoy it (not by any means), I am able to reflect back on it and be thankful that He loves me enough to help me learn from and correct my mistakes. 


Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I thank you for your eye of concern that is always fixed on little ole me.  Help me to love the process, even when it hurts.  Amen.

Consistency is Key

(Galatians 2: 11-13, NLT) 11 But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. 12 When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile believers, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. 13 As a result, other Jewish believers followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.

Inconsistency of character can be very damaging…not only to our personal reputations and growth levels, but also to the spiritual lives of those over whom we have influence.  Whether we believe it about ourselves or not, we absolutely have an impact on the people with whom we choose to spend our time, and we must be good stewards of this leverage that we hold in the lives of our friends and loved ones.  There comes a point in life when we have to step beyond just thinking inside and about ourselves.  We must evolve to a place where we recognize that there is a certain level of responsibility that comes with carrying the name of Christ…as His child, as His disciple, and as His ambassador to the world.  We are representatives, and we must take care to always present Him in the best possible light that we can…because He is worthy of that.  He is worthy of our best!

Consistency is no easy feat though.  We are so used to our many masks that we wear, sometimes switching between them numerous times in one day!  Those masks are our comfort zones, and we hide behind them because it is easy…and it feels good.  Some of us hide our true feelings for fear of ridicule or persecution from others, some of us are private and standoffish in a crowd or new setting, and some of us are simply unsure and indecisive…we don’t know who we are or what we want!  Whatever the reason may be, we all have the parts of our lives that we keep hidden…and we all pull out our different disguises to fit the various situations of our lives.  As we grow in Christ, however, we must learn to tear down those barriers and become more consistent and transparent with others.  You never know who is looking at you and watching what you are doing…especially when you live your life as a Christian!  There is a fine line between privacy and hypocrisy, and if we are not careful we can step over into the realm of deception and insincerity and subsequently crumble the foundation of any influence that we may have established.

It may seem hard at first.  The thought of being open to the judgement and criticism of others is often intimidating and somewhat scary, but as a Christian you have to bear it…because part of loving others is allowing them access to your heart and life.  When others can see who you are, when they feel as if you are the same person in every area of your life, they will trust and respect what you say and your circle of influence will grow.  And isn’t that the goal?  Loving, influencing, and winning souls for the cause of Christ…  He did His part…and is doing His part still.  So now, we must pick up our own crosses, crucify our own flesh, and experience our own resurrection in Him…becoming new creations…growing, changing, and magnifying Him with our lives.  It is no small thing.  So…be mindful of your influence, and take care to never cause someone else who may be weaker than you to stumble and fall.  Instead, make yourself available to others and work hard to get yourself on an even keel.  After all, if God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, shouldn’t we too strive to be just as peaceful and fluid in our own lives?  Let Him do the work in you, calming the storms and smoothing out the wrinkles, and He will be glorified and magnified by the words and deeds that are testified through your transparent and consistent life.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I recognize that my inclination is to hide from others and to keep parts of my life protected and safe behind my barriers.  I pray that You will do a work in me, and help me to cast those walls in my life down so that I am not hidden from view.  Help me to become, instead, a bright light that will draw people to You in me.  Thank You for Your grace as I grow.  Amen.

 

 

I Want To See

And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar was sitting by the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many warned him to keep quiet, but he was crying out all the more, “Have mercy on me, Son of David!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called the blind man and said to him, “Have courage! Get up; he’s calling for you.” He threw off his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

Then Jesus answered him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Rabboni,” the blind man said to him, “I want to see.”

Jesus said to him, “Go, your faith has saved you.” Immediately he could see and began to follow Jesus on the road. (Mark 10)


I have always loved this story from the gospel of Mark. It is short and to the point, and yet it marks a huge turning point in Bartimaeus’ life. Isn’t it funny how something so huge and life-altering can happen so quickly, almost before we even realize what’s happening.

Although the Bible doesn’t give us a whole lot of follow-up, I’m sure that it took some time for it to fully sink in, for Bartimaeus to adjust to the new normal. Things that once were impossible for him were suddenly available options. I don’t know about you, but I would love to have God bless me in such a way that a whole new world of opportunity opened up in front of me!

However, before Bartimaeus could receive his blessing there were a few prerequisites that had to be in place:

  1. He was humble — Bartimaeus realized that he was literally helpless. There was nothing he could do to restore his own sight. He recognized that he needed a miracle and cried out to Jesus for mercy. He placed himself fully in God’s hands.
  2. He was persistent — When others tried to quiet him, he just increased his volume. He didn’t care if it annoyed them, or made them uncomfortable. All he knew was that he had an opportunity to have and encounter with God, and he was not going to miss his chance. Nothing was going to stand between him and his blessing.
  3. He was ready — When Jesus called for him, Bartimaeus threw off his coat and jumped up. It didn’t take him long to respond when Jesus called for him, because he was anticipating a response from God.
  4. He knew what he needed — When Jesus asked him what he wanted, Bartimaeus didn’t have to think about it or check his wishlist. He knew what his greatest need was and he brought it before the Lord with a clear and direct request.
  5. He had faith — His faith was the open door that allowed God to not only restore his physical sight but also save his soul! In one life-changing instant, Bartimaeus’ physical AND spiritual needs were met, but it would not have been possible without faith.

What is your greatest need? Have you made it a matter of humble, persistent prayer? Are you ready and anticipating a response from God? Do you trust that his answer, positive or negative, is perfect and the best outcome for you?

PRAYER: Father, have mercy on us! Thank you for your gracious and merciful provision in our times of need. You have been so good to us, and your promises have never failed. For our current and future needs, we trust and rely on you! In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

“There’s an All-seeing Eye Watching You”

(Psalm 144: 3-4) 3 Lord, what are human beings that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them? 4 They are like a breath; their days are like a fleeting shadow.


The idea of our God, the Creator of the world, being interested in our individual lives is quite a mystery and can be hard to comprehend at times.  Within the timelessness of His existence, we are but wisps of smoke.  Our lives dissipate so quickly in comparison to the infinity that He is, and in His word, our God reminds us, “I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.” (Revelation 1:8) 

All of my life I have struggled with feeling invisible…small.  I don’t crave attention for the sake of being on display.  In fact, I rather detest being in the spotlight, yet somewhere planted deep in my heart is this prickly little seed of insignificance, and from it grows a profound yearning to  matter to those who I love the most.  It has taken me nearly my entire life thus far, but I’m finally beginning to take hold of three very important truths about God that are confirmation of the words He has constantly whispered into my spirit throughout my life:  I see you.

  1. God is omnipresent.  He is everywhere.  There is no time, no place, no has been, and nothing that will come to be that He hasn’t graced with His presence.  Deuteronomy 31:8 tells us, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”  Because of this omnipresence, our Creator is able to dote on each one of us as if we are His one and only. 
  2. God is omniscient.  He knows and sees all.  We are NEVER invisible to Him.  “O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.”  (Psalm 139:1-3)
  3. God is omnipotent.  He is all powerful.  He is not limited in any way by any thing.  Even in the midst of his pain and lament, Job proclaimed his own faith in God’s power:  “I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything.  Nothing and no one can upset your plans.”  (Job 42:1)  For God, Creator of everything that exists, if it can be imagined…dreamed…He can bring it into existence…He can do it.  Jeremiah 32:17 declares, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” 

For me, these three revelations have been integral pieces in the puzzle that is my faith in God and my sense of self-worth.  As I grow in Him, I am constantly turning over new pieces and searching for where they fit into the framework and foundation that has been built from these three corner pieces.  There is no greater revelation than to understand that you are seen, you matter, and you are loved by a God who can do ANYTHING…and for you He will always come through.  The bottom line:  YOU MATTER.

(Matthew 10: 29-31) 29 What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. 30 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.


Prayer:  Father God, in a world full of people, multiplying at all times, it is very easy to feel small and insignificant.  Help me to use your word as a reminder that I am important…that you see me.  Thank you for your presence, your watchful eye, and the strength of your gentle hand.  I will continue to place my value and worth only in You.  Amen. 

I Am Ready

Then Paul replied, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Since he would not be persuaded, we said no more except, “The Lord’s will be done.”  (Acts 21)

Commitment is an odd concept for many of us.  On the one hand, we believe that it is a good thing to be committed and loyal, a person that can be counted on and trusted.  Yet, when it comes time to actually do the committing, we balk.  It could be that we are afraid of committing to the wrong thing. Or perhaps we just value our freedom so highly, that we don’t want to be held back in any way.

This attitude towards commitment has had a devastating effect on many of the institutions that we once held dear. From civic groups and social clubs to sports teams and even marriages, our communities are struggling to find people willing to commit. Trying to plan a get-together for a group of friends can be an exercise in frustration, as people neglect to RSVP and even if they do, they may or may not show up!

Sadly, this tendency has infected the church as well. Research shows that even “regular” church-goers are attending less frequently than in the past. Those who do attend are not as likely to volunteer to help, and when they do it is a short term of service. Please, understand that this is not an indictment, but an honest look at where we are as a people and as a church. I think that this is something that warrants some close attention and self-examination.

I am so grateful that we live in a country where our rights to worship God according to our conscience and the dictates of our religion are protected. However, because our faith is “safe,” we lack the clarifying urgency that believers in other countries and cultures possess.  We can afford to be less attentive to matters of faith and observance because the stakes do not feel as high. We do not have to fear physical harm or criminal/political repercussions. 

However, there IS danger involved when we allow our spiritual lives to take a back-burner.  When we fail to set aside time for daily prayer and worship, our spiritual growth is stunted.  When we do not study the Word in the context of community, we run the risk of mis-interpreting what God is saying, or simply read our own biases into Scripture. When we fail to gather with other believers, we cannot be encouraged and supported and miss out on opportunities to be the encourager! 

Someday, when we stand before our Creator, we will have to give an account for our stewardship of the spiritual gifts that he places within each of us.  The book of Revelation makes clear of the terrible consequence of “luke-warm” commitment. I pray that none of us suffer that fate!

When faced with the prospect of imprisonment, suffering and even death, Paul was unwavering. He had seen the risen Lord.  He had witnessed signs, miracles, and wonders. When others tried to dissuade him from preaching the gospel, Paul was relentless because he knew the importance of the Great Commission and he knew his role in it.  We need that kind of clarity and commitment today!

What is your role in the community of believers?  Do you have one? What spiritual gifts do you possess and how are you exercising them? Have you allowed worldly distractions to take your focus off of Christ and his church? When you are faced with adversity, are you able to say, as Paul did, “I am ready?”

PRAYER: Father, thank you that we live in a context where we are not persecuted for our faith, and we are able to worship you without fear. Help us to fix our eyes on you, on what is truly important. Help us to discipline ourselves, to embrace commitment rather than run from it. We desire to be a part of what you are doing…in our families, in our communities, in our nation, and in the world.  In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen!

“Peace Be Still”

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm.  (Mark 4:39, NLT)

“Peace Be Still” (by The Belonging Co)

I don’t want to be afraid
Every time I face the waves
I don’t want to be afraid
I don’t want to be afraid
I don’t want to fear the storm
Just because I hear it roar
I don’t want to fear the storm
I don’t want to fear the storm

Peace be still
Say the word and I will
Set my feet upon the sea
Till I’m dancing in the deep
Oh, peace be still
You are here so it is well
Even when my eyes can’t see
I will trust the voice that speaks

I’m not gonna be afraid
‘Cause these waves are only waves
Oh, I’m not gonna be afraid
I’m not gonna be afraid
I’m not gonna fear the storm
You are greater than its roar
I’m not gonna fear the storm
Oh, I’m not gonna fear at all

Peace be still
Say the word and I will
Set my feet upon the sea
Till I’m dancing in the deep
Oh, peace be still
You are here so it is well
Even when my eyes can’t see
I will trust the voice that speaks

Peace, peace
Over me

Let faith rise up
Oh heart, believe
Let faith rise up in me

 

Are you feeling lost?  Are you facing a storm, and you just don’t have the strength to stand against the waves?  Are you hurting or worried or afraid?

I speak Peace today…over YOU…your heart, your mind, your circumstance, your worries, your hurts, your grief…all of it.  May the peace of God wash over ever part of your life.  May it bolster you when you are weak.  May it soften and open your wounded and sequestered heart.  May it find you in your darkest hour and be a light when you are lost.  May it be a reminder of the greatness of our God, rebuilding your crumbled faith and giving you all of the strength you need to stand and say, “Peace be still!  You are here, so it is well!”

Let me tell you a little something about Jesus:  He’s bigger, He’s greater, He’s stronger, and He did not shed His blood in vain.  He came to Earth so that He could reach out to us in a very personal and experiential way.  He stepped out into the masses and got his hands dirty, reaching out to touch the lowliest of all, a direct response to His great love and compassion for humanity.  He was fully man so that He could have complete empathy for us, yet He was (and is…and forever will be) fully God so that He could be a direct line of supernatural power from God the Father to us.  He came to heal, restore, and break us free from the prison of sin…and through His death and resurrection it was all completed and accomplished.

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed. 

(Isaiah 53: 4-5, ESV)

So let your faith rise up from the ashes, and let your heart truly and fiercely believe that He has taken it ALL and is using every moment, every circumstance, everything that seems wrong, and everything that feels too big, to perfect His work in you.  In the midst of what feels like a storm, just trust Him, and speak His peace over your heart today.

These waves are only waves.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank You for Your peace.  I am confident, strong, and full of faith because of Your peace.  Amen. 

Can’t We All Just Get Along? 

(Psalm 133) 1 How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! 2 It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. 3 It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.


I look back on some of the most difficult times of my life and I am amazed to think of how much better bad situations were made by simply choosing to be in unity with my family.  Discord only serves to exacerbate the negativity that is already at hand, but when we instead become unified, with one mind, we are bound together…made stronger by love. 

God hasn’t promised us that life will be perfect.  In fact, quite the opposite.  We are guaranteed, because of sin, to encounter hardship and temptation.  How we opt to react is entirely up to us.  “Good and pleasant” doesn’t refer to the circumstance, it refers to our reaction TO circumstance!    When you’re in the midst of opposition, whatever it may be, it’s always “good and pleasant” to be able to come home to a family who speak lovingly to you and to one another.  It’s “good and pleasant” to have a church family that is unified…that will edify one another in truth and love…that is a safe place to come to when your home life is falling apart. 

You know, we serve a loving God, but there are certain things that He cannot abide.  I bet you would never dream something YOU do would be on that list…but let’s have a look anyway.

(Proverbs 6: 16-19) 16 There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him, 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, 19 a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

I don’t know about you, but if God hates it…I don’t want to be doing it!  A family is a delicate thing, and the church family is no different.  It is to be respected, each member treated with love and kindness.  This is where unity begins.  When you feel “good and pleasant” feelings toward your brothers and sisters, you are then able to come together as one, rather than a clique here and another clique there.  Setting all else aside, a body of believers can be a very powerful force in the lives of one another and more importantly in the world.  But…it takes unity…and unity requires love. 

We ought never allow Satan to send us on a detour through the desert by giving into our own pettiness and weakness of the flesh.  Instead, we have to bite back that untamed beast of a tongue, resist the temptation to have those whispered conversations in the church hallways and restrooms, and work together to create an atmosphere that is, yes you guessed it, “good and pleasant.”


Prayer:  Father in Heaven, I am humbled by the promises of Your word.  I know that through it, I am corrected, instructed, and made better.  Help me to never sow discord among Your people, but to always remember that unity is the lifeblood of Your church.  Amen.

“I Will Trust in You!”

(Psalm 105:39-41) 39 He spread out a cloud as a covering, and a fire to give light at night. 40 They asked, and he brought them quail; he fed them well with the bread of heaven. 41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out; it flowed like a river in the desert.


For the lonely, for the lost; when you struggle to believe; when you feel forgotten, discouraged and defeated; when your money’s run out and your hope is spent…

For the childless woman with a mother’s heart, for the widow, for the bereaved; when you wonder why; when sadness overwhelms your heart…

For the broken family, for the abused and neglected; when you’re numb and your faith is dead; when guilt and shame have crushed your spirit…

(Psalm 139: 1-5) 1 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. 5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.

…the Lord knows.

Sometimes you have to take a look in the rearview mirror, to gain some retrospective.  I’m sure if you were to ask the Israelites in the midst of their journey through the wilderness how they felt about life, they probably wouldn’t have had much positive feedback.  They were, in fact, dealing with crisis after crisis, misery upon misery (or so it seemed to them).  When their exodus began, they were exhilarated by their deliverance and the miracles they had seen take place in order to set them free.  They set out toward the promised land much like a child sets out on a foot race…full speed ahead.  However, we all know what eventually happens to that eager runner.  Thirst, exhaustion, discouragement and frustration all seem to set in at once.  That’s when he is faced with the choice to either dread the long road ahead and quit, or to look back on what he has conquered thus far and finish what he started. 

For the Israelites, there were MANY stops and starts as they navigated their way toward something that, at times, I’m sure was hard to believe or trust.  Looking forward, it had to be unsettling to see no end to the struggles.  Thousands of years later, here we are, children of God, dealing with the same issue.  Because we are human, because our vision is limited and we cannot see the entire scope of what God is doing in our lives, we have to depend on our faith to keep us moving.  Looking back on the trials, the Israelites were able to recount what the Lord had done to sustain them. 

A good friend once told me to record my prayers (both great and small) in a journal and to go back after a year or so and allow myself to be encouraged and amazed at just how many of them were answered.  It doesn’t happen, rarely ever, the way that we would have imagined or hoped for it to…the answer, I mean…because you know what?  Sometimes the answer is a no, or the dreaded, “we’ll see.”  In our impatience and petulance, instead of forging on in faith, trusting the Creator of the world, we let our human”ness” bring us to a halt. 

In our loneliness we say, “I’m forgotten.” 

In our financial distress we declare, “This is hopeless.”

In our loss we cry out, “I can’t go on!”

In our shame we whisper, “I’m worthless.” 

But the word of the Lord says this:  16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4: 16-18)


Prayer:  Heavenly Father, when I look back on my life I see Your hand in all things, the joy and pain alike, and because of Your faithfulness I will continue to trust in You.  Amen. 

I Gave Them The Same Reply

When Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall and that no gap was left in it — though at that time I had not installed the doors in the city gates — Sanballat and Geshem sent me a message: “Come, let’s meet together in the villages of the Ono Valley.” They were planning to harm me.

So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing important work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” Four times they sent me the same proposal, and I gave them the same reply.

(Nehemiah 6)

Have you ever noticed that when you start to move in a positive direction, that’s when distractions and roadblocks seem to appear? As long as you are just drifting along, not making any waves, things seem to be so much easier. Sure, you might bump into a rock every now and then, but you can just go with the flow and move past it. But when you decide that you’re not going to just let life come to you, when you set a goal and start moving towards it, that’s when things get difficult.

As is illustrated in today’s passage, people will array themselves against you and try to stop you from accomplishing your purpose. Some will be enemies, as in Nehemiah’s case, but even more perplexing is when it is your friends and family are the ones speaking negativity into you! Let’s explore some of the reasons why you might experience pushback:

1. Fear of Change

Humans are creatures of habit. It helps us make sense of the chaos around us when we can recognize patterns of circumstances and behaviors. When you decide to change the status quo, it throws things off and can create anxiety for others.

2. Jealousy

Some people cannot bear to see someone else content, happy, and fulfilled when they are not feeling those things in their own life. They would rather tear you down or hold you back than to see you receive a blessing that they desire but lack.

3. Control

Some want, consciously or unconsciously, to manipulate others. When you choose to acknowledge God as the Lord of your life, and submit to him, it threatens their desire be in control. When you are heeding and moving with the Holy Spirit, people will see they don’t exercise power over you any more.

4. Conviction/Guilt

When you decide to improve yourself or obey a call of God on your life, it can spark conviction in the heart of others who know that they also need to make some changes. Maybe they aren’t ready to up their level of commitment, so seeing you make strides in your life or walk with God makes them see the need in their own life, and it makes them feel guilty.

As I mentioned above, it’s not always our enemies that attempt to frustrate, dissuade or discourage us, but Nehemiah modeled the perfect response for both friend and foe — “I am doing important work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” — He was confident that he was doing the right thing and would let nothing get in the way of accomplishing his goal. They were persistent in their attempts, but Nehemiah was consistent in his responses.

Someday, we will all stand before God and answer for our actions. We will be called to account for our responses to his leading. When God placed a prompting in your spirit, or an opportunity to be busy about his business, what was your reply? What did you say to those tried to stop you? I hope that we will also be able to say, “I gave them the same reply.”

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, you have called us to grow in wisdom and righteousness, and we want to be faithful to that call. When others do not understand the call on our lives or are working counter to it, help us to shrug off the distraction and stay focused on what is important. Give us the confidence to be steadfast in our obedience to you. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen!