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Keep Calm & Pray On

Lessons from Cherith

Do not be afraid.  Stand still and watch the Lord rescue you.  Exodus 14:13 NLT

Are you a panicker?  I can raise my hand and say I still haven’t fully removed panicking from my life.  In my “baby Christian” and pre-Christian days panicking in my world looked a bit like this: bad news comes, I immediately pull back (finances, emotion, socializing, etc), and Mrs. Fixit comes to live in my brain.  How was I going to fix this overwhelming problem?  If “fixing” the problem was truly out of my hands that really threw me for a loop.  And, if it was a personal failure, I’d add a hefty dose of self-disdain as in, “why in the world would you do that you stupid, idiot?”  Or this always helped: “Of course this happened because you are a failure and no one even likes you.”  Surefire ways to solve any problem, right?  

I opened up my Strong’s Concordance to see how many times the word “fear” appears in the Bible.  It’s two pages and four tiny columns long of references to the word “fear.”  That doesn’t include “feared,” “fearest,” “feareth,” “fearfully,” and many more!  According to on-line sources the words “fear not” show up about 140 times in the Bible (not 360 which is frequently proposed).  It seems God really wants to get a point across about how to handle our fears.  And yet we still panic.

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Matthew 14:28-30

From beginning to end of the Bible we see people who literally have the hand of God reaching out to them panicking.  Isn’t that what Adam did when God asked, “Where are you?”  They freaked out and hid.  The Israelites, after having God lead them night and day with clouds and fire, provide food from heaven, freaked out and cried, “We want to go home!”  And poor Peter.  Even with Jesus admonishing him just seconds prior to, “Take courage! It is I,” he takes his eyes off the Lord and on to his own feet and the world.

So, take heart my dear friends we are not alone. But God still wants us to grow each day, each disaster toward Him.

I’ve been rewarded by the world for what my own style of panicking looks like.  I go into research and development mode.  My computer keys alit with fire as I search for reasons and solutions.  I start problem-solving how to save more money while imagining a giant victory garden to sustain us.  I organize, make charts, create checklists, watch YouTube videos.  And I forget to pray.  And be still. The world doesn’t reward with peace.

Elijah himself was a study in two sides of this panicking problem.  On one hand he did as directed by God and told the king how his evil behavior would result in a drought.  Then he seemed to calmly go to Cherith Ravine under God’s direction.  See how God provides when we obey and are calm?  But after all this plus the amazing display of God’s power and might on Mount Carmel he suddenly panics.  He runs away and hides in fear for his life.  And God asks him, “What are you doing here?”

Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Matthew 16:8-9

It’s been a hard fought lesson between Jesus and me about not panicking.  About staying calm in the face of scarcity, whether that be finances, food, love and even yes, toilet paper.  But time and again God asks us, “What are you doing here?  Don’t you remember what I’ve done for you before?”

And so, while in my own Cherith when another person suddenly showed up for lunch or dinner I forced my thoughts back on Him.  I kept calm and prayed.  “You will show up, Lord.”  When I didn’t know how the 100 mini-birdhouses we had to hand out at Bev’s funeral would get painted (side note: she had planned to give them out at her wedding anniversary party and asked, “is it ok to give out party favors at funerals?) I prayed for help and a small army of women volunteered.  When the angel volunteer, who was planning the funeral reception, called and said all the sunflowers she had ordered were lost somewhere between California and Colorado I prayed that it would all turn out fine.  And on the day of Bev’s funeral the church and reception looked so beautiful thanks to many hands.

God started on me many years ago with the verse from Psalms 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.”  It showed up everywhere, even on vacation while attending a church for Mother’s Day.  The gift they handed out? Pens with that very verse.  And when I can’t sleep at night from worry I repeat that verse over and over.  Be still.  Don’t panic.  God’s got this.  It wasn’t until my time in my Cherith that I finally really got it — In times of great strife panicking is never the solution because peace and calmness are waiting for us

Friends, the Lord has so many better solutions for problems that we can’t even imagine.  So why not just give every one of them, no matter how small or large to Him right now?  We need to stop fearing the world and give glory to the only one we should fear with reverence and majesty, the Almighty God.  

What’s your “panic mode?”

What are you worried about right now that you need to give to God?

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From Why? to What?

Lessons from Cherith

He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Luke 24:38

During the time in my own land of Cherith, a place where I was separated from my home, my regular way of life and exposed to great sadness, I so needed to rely on the vast promises of God.  Yet each day I battled the “why” of it all.  Why didn’t the cancer doctors see and recognize the increased cancer markers in my beloved mother-in-law’s blood tests?  Why did each visit to the emergency room end without answers?  But more importantly, why would this woman, a shining light for God, an inspiring gift to everyone around her, a woman, as her pastor reflected at her funeral with a beautiful aura surrounding her, be stricken with cancer and taken so soon? Why God, oh why?

How often have we lamented that why question in our lives?  Why are we suffering financially?  Why is my child rebelling?  Why is my marriage on the rocks?  Why did I suffer that abuse?  It seems as Christians we are expected to answer those questions.  I believe many of us avoid speaking the Gospel to our friends, family and neighbors out of fear of being asked those why’s of life.  In fact, as a young college student who was approached one day on my campus by two religious folks, I too asked the big why – why is there suffering?  You see I believed in God but didn’t really know anything about Him.  Unfortunately, neither did these two young proselytizers.

I recently heard the statement: “If we view the world as a Christian, it all makes sense.”  On the surface that’s a real head scratcher since this world seems so upside down especially now.  Broken families, broken lives, so much pain and death abound.  But take a step back, way back to Genesis 3.

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. Genesis 3:17-18

And that’s just a taste of what man’s rebellion wrought.  Creation is currently at odds with God.  And just as cells divide and life moves without our intervention, our world around us is no longer under our full dominion.  So yes, there’s floods and fire and famine and cancer.  And it has absolutely nothing to do with whether we are a good person or not.  In addition to this result of The Fall, we became separated from God, always seemingly looking for ways to buck His system.  And we face the consequences for our actions, both individually and collectively.

Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’” Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.”  Exodus 5:1-2

And we know how well that went for Pharoah.  But what was Moses’ first reaction after Pharoah knuckled down and made the Israelites work harder?  “Why?”  He asked God why did He have to make things worse and why did Moses have to be the brunt of everything?  From a Christian point of view, we should say, “There’s consequences in this world when anyone chooses to not submit – whether you choose to believe in God or not.”  This is not “Karma,” it’s simply a cause and effect of acting outside God’s desires for us.  

And while we may cry out, “why?!” in the moment whether in situations of our own making or of those in which we have no power, we need to remember the “what.”  What is God doing in me or even in the world?  What is God expecting of me as a believer? What is the promise I can hold on to?  The early Israelites had a decent excuse.  They didn’t know God as well as we do now.  They didn’t have all the stories of how He has rescued and protected His people.  They didn’t have Jesus’ brother James telling them there will be trials and in them they need to seek the lessons of God.  They didn’t have Jesus come to earth and die for their sins.  They didn’t have the Book of Revelation.  But we do.

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

So, each day as I sat beside Bev’s bed as her body succumbed not to cancer but to an infection, I battled the “why” demon. I wanted someone punished.  I wanted someone to suffer like I was now suffering.  Then I heard a whisper, “She gets to come home to me.  And you need to see what I am teaching you.”

You see even in her suffering, on her death bed, this Christian called Bev was a conduit for Jesus.  A teacher and a comforter.  I finally realized it didn’t matter the “why.”  For one, there really were no answers that fully satisfied.  At times like that we just need to submit to God’s sovereignty and say, “I don’t know but He does.”  The only real answers that I continued to come back to were the “what.”

What did I truly believe about God?  And what was He trying to teach me?

Christian Friend, if you earnestly believe the Bible, believe that God is the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth and all it’s inhabitants, if you believe He is sovereign and He sent His Son to die for our sins, if you believe that there is a place greater than Eden awaiting us then you could understand why Bev wasn’t worried.  Why she could make us all laugh at her darkest hour.  Why, in the middle of a conversation she looked over my shoulder, waved and with a child-like voice exclaimed in joy, “Hi Jesus!”

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? John 14:2

You see I didn’t need to know the answers to my worldly questions and I definitely didn’t need retribution.  I needed to remember that Jesus hates death because it’s a sign of our broken world.  And He is right now preparing a room more beautiful than I can imagine for even me.  When He comes back we will all be raised up to live forever in a beautiful place that has no suffering, no death, no pain, no war, no hate, no fear.  And that is just what I needed to learn.

Are you asking “why” in your difficult time when you should be asking “what?”

What is the Lord teaching or asking you right now?  

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Not Me, Lord

Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.” Exodus 1:22

Whenever I picture Moses, Charlton Heston comes to mind.  For those of you too young to know that reference, Mr. Heston personified Moses in the blockbuster 1956 movie The 10 Commandments.  He was sweaty and swarthy and muscular.  He was bold and without fear.  Some of his final scenes show him standing fiercely on top of a mountain, wind blowing his impressive white beard and long gorgeous hair as he calls on the name of God.  A hero.  A rescuer.  A man not to be trifled with because God was with him.  As usual, the big screen skips over a few of the finer points of history for the sake of the storyline.  Like the fact that Moses, even though God Himself had been his rescuer many times, really didn’t want the job of Israel’s savior.  Of being the leader of the new beginning for an entire people.

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Exodus 3:11

That interaction alone might lead the reader to think Moses well, he’s just being humble.  But by my count Moses tries to turn God to someone much more suited, much more capable than him eight times!  I can’t! What if!  I’m not!  Why should I?  Sound familiar to anyone out there?

Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?”  Exodus 4:1

My BSGs (Bible Study Girls) and I have embarked on a new study by Shirley Giles Davis called, God. Gifts. You.  In our first week we were asked: “Where are you hearing God, but your excuse for delaying sounds a lot like “Lord, I’m afraid.”?”  Moses afraid?  Not that guy.  God saved him from death as a baby.  God placed him in the care of royalty.  God gave him incredible opportunities for gaining knowledge and physical strength.  He saved him from capture.  There’s no way Moses was afraid of yet another challenging new beginning, right?

Eight times.  Standing in front of bush that was talking to him even!  I don’t know about you but if I told my husband when he walked in the door from work that one of my bushes in the yard was on fire and speaking to me about going to the governor’s office demanding, “let my people go!” he’d be very, very concerned.  In fact, this was a point of discussion with my BSGs.  Not burning bushes mind you but whether or not God still speaks audibly to us.  And if he does, do people think we are crazy?  It’s an unfortunate state we are in that some pastors and biblical teachers try to assure us that God doesn’t speak out loud to us anymore.  We must discern His word in other ways.  And while I agree we need to use God’s character, gleaned from His written Word to verify the voice we hear I completely disagree that we no longer hear His audible voice.  I know.  I’ve heard Him.  Some of my BSGs have heard Him.  To me the real question is now that you’ve heard Him, what are you going to do about it?  Are you going to accept the challenge of this new beginning or find another excuse?

Moses, although a pretty amazing and instrumental piece of God’s plan, stumbled even with God’s past provisions clearly given to him and the promise of God’s presence and help spoken to him.   Moses, sometimes called the “Lesser Jesus,” is so often seen in parallel with the Messiah.  Their birth stories are almost identical with a king demanding their death.  Moses was to rescue people from slavery.  Jesus from the slavery of sin.  Moses led the Israelites through the parted waters toward the promised land.  Jesus is our living water giving us the promised land.  Moses was tested.  Jesus was tested.  So, where’s the problem with his hesitation?

But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” Exodus 4:13

If you remember from Noah or even Abraham when called they went.  And in Isaiah 6:8 Isaiah raises his hand proudly and says, “me Lord, send me!”  It’s hard for a lot of people, I believe to relate to those guys.  We regular folks sometimes are more like Moses.  We list our reasons God’s plan won’t work.  We aren’t smart enough, strong enough, likeable enough, talented enough.  But like with Adam, if God wants us in His service He won’t let go.  He wants us to be part of a new beginning.  And so, he nudges us to the right people and places.  He puts other saints in front of us to help open doors.  For Moses?  He said, “Fine, I’ll give you Aaron to use as your spokesperson.”

But here’s the thing.  Even though Moses is the one remembered and exalted, it was Aaron that got to wear the priestly, holy robes.  It was Aaron that was allowed into the most holy place.  Think if Moses had responded like Isaiah – “Me! Me! I can do it Lord because you have rescued me so many times!”  Moses would’ve been allowed into the whole glory of God, the first priest of Israel.  True, his relationship with God was pretty amazing.  But God clearly wanted even more for him.  

His new beginning, as Moses led the Israelites toward the promised land, would require him to call on the Lord for strength and rescue many times.  I find it interesting that Moses had to listen to all the people constantly complaining to him about why he took them down this path.  Do you think he occasionally thought, “That sounds a lot like I was with God.”? 

Friend, whether it’s a nudging or a clear directive from God I want to urge you to step up in faith and raise your hand.  To use all your resources (prayer, scripture, pastors, teachers) plus God’s past intervention in your life to discern what He is asking of you.  In your new beginning when you step out in faith you can then say “I overcame my fears and allowed God to take my weakness and turn it into strength.”  This blog and podcast was my big step. Let Him work a New Beginning in you and He will let His glory shine brightly through you!

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After Eden

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

During December of 2020 many people kept announcing that “next year will definitely be better.”  I could understand the longing, the hope and desire.  Let’s face it, 2020 was rife with fear, loss, despair, and worry.  I told people around me to be careful romanticizing the turn of a calendar.  Who knew what 2021 would bring – floods, fires, more plagues, death, political uprisings? And it certainly didn’t disappoint.   A short walk through say, the book of James or Jude, reminds us that trials of many kind befall us each and every year.  It’s our response to those trials that set us apart from the world.

So often when we think of “new beginnings” we can think of them as an adventure, something exciting to embark upon.  Probably something God will guide you through to success.  But what if your new beginning is a result of a terrible trial?  A loss?  Will you still seek God and see Him at work in the midst of it all?

If there’s one man whose new beginning exemplified having to start all over, having lost it all, it was Adam.  He had everything you and I could ever want.  A beautiful home, plenty to eat and drink.  No worries except what to name the next animal.  His yoke was light.  He was to be the way maker for all of us.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  Genesis 2:15

And when Adam failed to honor his end of the covenant he did what so many of us do when we fail God – he tried to hide.   Instead of running to God asking for forgiveness He compounded his sins by acting shamefully. But God.

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” Genesis 3:9

Millions of Christians and non-believers know the story that took place in the Garden of Eden.  But when we look at God’s actions we see His loving care for humans, His unique creation.  He knew Adam had failed yet notice He didn’t let him go.  He sought Him out with a gentle question.  He could have immediately wiped the slate free of humanity after the betrayal.  Instead, God clothed Adam in new garments and gave him new skills then sent him off on a new beginning.  A chance to be the first step in the long path toward the new Adam – Jesus.

And Adam, by all accounts accepted the results of his sin and moved forward into his new beginning.  A life outside the walls of Eden but one in which God was fully present.  Adam and Eve didn’t step outside the gates, plunk down and give up.  They didn’t choose to live in shame and despair.  No, they knew God.  They knew God still loved them and cared for them. So they took the new direction God gave them and made a new life.  I love the last few lines in Genesis 4 in which Adam and Eve are mentioned:

At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord.  Genesis 4:26

Adam and his family never stopped worshipping God and talking with Him even though they had suffered a great loss.  They brought their first fruits to Him and stayed close to God.  And their work, their new beginning, brought others to God as well.  If not for their commitment to God’s new beginning laid out for them there wouldn’t have been their son Seth.  And Seth led to Noah. Without Noah there wouldn’t have been a righteous man left to continue humanity.  God’s plan at work.  God’s plan working even when it comes out of sin or loss.  It’s our job to keep trusting Him and accepting Him at His word.

I’ll be honest, for most of my life I’ve been an avowed pessimist.  It’s taken a lot of work by our triune God to help me see Him in my trials.  To see how He is working a good, new thing in our lives.  When circumstances go wrong around me my new attitude is that God is in my midst.  He does want all things to work for good.  I may never know how my commitment to Him will affect the Grand Plan.  But I do know He never left Adam and He will never leave you.

Have you been tempted to give up on God after a trial or loss? God is still working in your life. He’s asking you to trust Him. Call on Him today for strength to live in your new beginning.

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A Plan for Us

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18

I’ll be honest, I never thought I’d get married.  Partially because I just wasn’t raised thinking about marriage and partially because I was the product of a marriage based on very little respect for each other.  For many years, God allowed me to live my life in sexual sin.  I went from one man to another, sometimes only passing through in the night.  But God always has a plan for each and every one of us.  For me, that plan included being given the gift of a wonderful husband. 

In our early years, my husband and I weren’t faithful followers of Jesus.  But he, at least, had a Christian background from which to draw.  When I look back over our first 10 years of marriage I can see where I am grateful for that tension of knowing some of what God expected from us as a couple.  I say “tension” because whenever we live outside of God’s narrow path we can either 1) live like we don’t have a clue that what we are doing is ungodly or 2) have some concept of ungodliness which can then pull us into learning more.  We will be judged in the end so I’d rather not be oblivious to my sins and take the opportunity to work on them!

In our marriage we struggled for control.  Control of who would be the head of our household.  Control of our finances.  Control over long term decisions for our family.  Over discipline of our kids.  Over our time management.    Looking back, I was only doing what I had learned in my family home.  A weak father figure gives way to a power vacuum.  On the other hand, my husband came from a strong, godly father-led family.  And so the back and forth went on and on.

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”  Genesis 3:2-3

There’s a lot of talk in feminist circles and the media about the “patriarchy” and how men shouldn’t “keep women down.”  But from the beginning God had a very clear plan for women and men.  Women were to be the “helpers,” assisting their Adams to be the best men they could be.  Like a good golf caddy, this is no job to take lightly.  Yet we arrive at Genesis 3 and Eve immediately forgoes her heavenly role.  Instead of seeking wisdom from her husband she is drawn to the words of the serpent.  The fleshly desires pull her farther and farther away from God’s plan. 

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Genesis 3:12

And the result?  As you can read above the entire plan is turned upside down.  Eve takes the lead and Adam falls into a weak position of blame.  Eve is punished by God for her role in the Great Fall with painful childbirth and the knowledge that men will rule over her.  But when you read the punishment of Adam, he receives a harsh future that effects every area of his life.  

I have to be honest and say that every marriage I have been around that was in serious trouble was a direct result of this upside down relationship.  That’s not to say there aren’t men who disobey God’s command to love their wives as Christ loves the church (Eph 5:25).  But so often in our modern world and as a result of the feminist movement which started in the 70s, women have jostled or demanded control in their relationships. Like all actions that go against God’s holy plan we see the results with weak husbands and overbearing wives.  And wives who underneath it all desire a man to stand up for them, to take charge, to love them to the point of sacrifice.  

Women of God, the idea of submitting to our husbands or future husbands does not mean we are second class citizens.  You’ll notice in Genesis 3:16 Eve’s punishment was to have men rule over her.  Therefore, it wasn’t God’s plan for men to “rule” over her in the first place.  Thankfully Jesus came to give us a new covenant, reminding us that although there is still a hierarchy of responsibility, every person is of equal value. A helper doesn’t mean you are less than the one being helped.  It’s taken me awhile to truly understand this.  What it means is we trust God’s plan.  And if we have chosen wisely, we trust our husbands who also trust God.  We trust them to take care of the family business.  We trust they will have our best interest in mind.  We trust they love us so much they want us to be content. 

If our husbands are not trustworthy in those areas or men of faith, who are we to blame?

He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. 1 Kings 11:3

King Solomon was considered one of the wisest men of all time.  Yet it was his wives that managed to turn him away from God, to lead him astray.  Our role as our husband’s life caddy is so important that we can’t let what the world says about feminism and submission sway us from following God’s plan.  A good and godly wife holds so much sway over her husband.  And the world laughs at us thinking a bigger paycheck or fancy job title is what’s most important.  Our work in helping our husbands will take us a lifetime — much of the time simply modeling godly behavior, control over our emotions, showing love, showing faith in the Almighty and our men.

Eve’s veering from God’s plan, leading her husband to a great sin, can make me so angry at times.  But then I think about the times I placed myself above my husband and ask for mercy.  It took a lot of intentional work on my part to step back and encourage and teach my husband how to place himself at the head of our family.  He didn’t think I needed him, ever.  

Friends, whether you are a husband, wife, or not yet married we must stand resolutely against how the world wants to define marriage.  We can’t let the world define what “submission” looks like in God’s world.  His great plan for man and woman, joined together in harmony is just the example for what is the final plan.  The ultimate marriage between Jesus and His bride will be full of love, joy, beauty and compassion.  Let’s start today with making those fruits part of our earthly marriages.