Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Giants

The scouts went out and found a land replete with all that had been told to them. This was the Promised Land. After their expedition, they carried a sample of the luscious fruit growing there back to those in charge.

However, in the telling of their story, the appeal of the fruit was overshadowed by tales of giants and their strength.

 



“We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (Numbers 13:33), they said and spread the news among their people causing a rebellion.

Moses and Aaron had to deal with a real mess. Of the twelve scouts sent into the Promised Land, only Joshua and Caleb stood to recommend the Israelites should proceed.

In the end, Israel would take the land but not with the ones who grumbled against God that day. Years later, their children inherited God’s promise.

As familiar as this story is to so many of us, we still forget it when the metaphorical giants appear. We’ve sensed God’s leading, and yet all we can see in our path are the huge obstacles hovering over us like behemoth bullies. We feel like, well . . . grasshoppers. About to be squished.

We make our excuses. Our really good excuses. We take a step back. Then another. The fear takes control, and in time we’ve convinced ourselves it’s better to stay where we are than take the risk.

All the time, God is ready and waiting to walk forward with us.

The prophet Elisha found himself surrounded by the horses and chariots of the king of Aram. Elisha’s servant expressed his dismay, “What shall we do?” he asked.

“’Don’t be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them’” (2Kings 6:16).

Elisha prayed God would open the servant’s eyes. “Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

God is bigger than any bullies we can see. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

So, if we’re feeling like grasshoppers, let’s pray God would open our eyes to see His presence overshadowing any obstacle in our path. We are NOT grasshoppers. Let’s walk forward into God’s promise repeating to ourselves that God is more. God is bigger.

God. Is. With. Us. 



 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Staying on the ship


In recent days, I’ve been troubled about two high profile people in ministry who have now announced they are no longer Christians.

My brain just cannot wrap itself around those declarations.
 
 
I keep thinking of Peter’s words, “Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. We’ve already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69 The Message).

Early in my life, I drifted to a life apart from God and his principles. I am still living the consequences of the train wreck that ensued. After roaming down those dark roads, I know from experience there is nowhere else to go and no one else to whom we can turn. C.S. Lewis once wrote that God stoops to conquer. He did with me. Only after I had exhausted other avenues did I return to Him. Yet, despite those circumstances, God received me. He reached down to where I was with love, grace, and tremendous mercy.

In our time, it may be possible to become immersed in the trappings of Christian culture and lose touch with the person of Jesus Christ.  We can begin to focus on, among other things, the business of church, social media, the hypocrisy of others (and we all have streaks of it) and simply forget the main point our relationship with Jesus. Sometimes people in ministry can rise to platforms for which they are not prepared. Their level of influence can outstrip their spirituality. That scenario is a setup for a downward spiral.

I also know that when life grows difficult, people may feel abandoned by God. I don’t know if that was the case with the two I referenced earlier, but I know it is true for others because I’ve observed it myself.

As Jerry and I were discussing this, he offered what I thought was a profound insight.  He reminded me that on the Adriatic Sea, after many days of being battered by a storm, sailors traveling with the Apostle Paul intended to board lifeboats and flee. They wanted to avoid being dashed against rocks. Paul said this to those in charge. “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” So the sailors were directed to cut the lifeboats and stay. And so they were saved.

“You have to stay on the ship,” Jerry said. When life grows stormy, sometimes we have to cut what appears to be other lifeboats. We have to stay on the ship despite the storm and trust the only One who can truly save us. It’s what Peter said, “We’ve already committed ourselves . . . “ All those other options are detours and  will ultimately lead to destruction.

I will continue to be troubled over those who choose to jump ship but I believe even when they do, God is at work to bring them back.  

So friends, if life is hard right now, don’t jump ship. Stay with the only One who can take us safely to port.

Stay with Jesus.

 

 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

If you're in the eye of the storm

It's going to be a long week here in the Southeast as Hurricane Dorian churns up the coast. The Bahamas have already seen massive destruction. As we watch and wait I remember this post I wrote a few years back when Matthew passed through. As so many are facing the eye of the storm this week, our prayers go up and we do look to the One who is our hope.

I left a conference in Atlanta where I was volunteering and found because of Hurricane Matthew, many evacuees from the coast were making their way to where the conference was held to stay with family and friends until the storm passed. Evidently, because of this, every Atlanta thoroughfare was jammed to the max.

Despite dire predictions of wind speeds and storm surge, so many that evening were waiting, watching, and hoping  that they’d have a home after the storm passed. People were as we heard often “hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.”
 
The mother of a woman I worked with was in an intensive care unit in Florida where the storm was about to hit. All the doctors and nurses there were under 72-hour lock down. Repeatedly, my friend’s flights to Florida had been cancelled, but she still hoped to get a flight out the next morning to be with her mother.
While volunteering at the registration desk, a  pastor and his wife approached.  ”Could we transfer our tickets to next year? The storm is veering toward the area where we pastor a church and we feel we need to return,” they said, their concern and compassion spilling out. I felt for them driving so far having just arrived the day before.

Another family I know evacuated to the north, but their home sits on a coastal marsh. Any amount of storm surge could destroy everything they owned. This family had already suffered the loss of their only son a few years back. 

My heart broke as I prayed for these folks.

I inched along in the traffic. It was clear I was going to have an extraordinarily long trip home. I turned on the radio and “In the Eye of the Storm” played. Click HERE to listen.


I couldn’t imagine a more appropriate song for those who had left everything and were now stuck on the interstate wondering what the outcome might be. It’s as if the words were written just for them. Now I cried as I prayed.

I wondered about the person who wrote “In the Eye of the Storm.” How could he write such words if he hadn’t experienced loss? When I returned home, I did a little research.


The author, Ryan Stevenson, was a paramedic for eight years, lost his mom early in life, and he and his wife suffered the miscarriage of twin daughters. He said this in a New Release Today interview, “One of the things I've seen as a paramedic is that we all have true, real struggles, ugly parts of our lives that we are dealing with and failures and defeats. In the middle of that, when we feel our sails are ripped out in the battles and wars we are going through, we can feel like we float out to sea where the Lord isn't paying attention to us and He's overlooked us. I want this song to say no to that. His promise to us is that He is the anchor of our being, and He is our only hope.”


Ryan had written the song just as a personal testimony thinking it would never see air play, but God has used it over and over to bring encouragement to those going through hard times. And I’m sure Hurricane Matthew was no exception.


So now as I write, many are digging out. Some have found trees or wind have destroyed their homes or if they’re still standing, water has flooded them. Our prayers go out to those driven from their homes because of the terrible flooding. Sadly, many lives have been lost during the lashing of this storm. So even after the storm passes, there’s so much grief and heartache still to deal with, but we remember that last thing Ryan said: “His promise to us is that He is the anchor of our being, and He is our only hope.”


That works when dealing with the effects of a storm named Matthew or one by any other name, too.
God is a safe place to hide,
    ready to help when we need him.
We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom,
    courageous in sea storm and earthquake,
Before the rush and roar of oceans,
    the tremors that shift mountains (Psalm 46:1-3 The Message).

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