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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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Two Witnesses

Last year my BSGs did a study on Revelation.  It was a challenging deep dive into one of the most mysterious books of the Bible.  Any Hollywood script writer or New York Times bestselling author would probably consider the story told in Revelation to be a pinnacle piece.  It weaves its way through the story of the complacency of the times and the coming storm of evil.  It has heroes and martyrs.  It has all the special effects of world-wide destruction to win an Oscar.  And it has a savior.  And a beautiful new beginning for the world.  

There’s been plenty of apocalyptic movies and stories told in the last 100 years or so that draw upon the themes found in Revelation.  Man and satan lead the world in its own inevitable destruction and a savior rises from the ashes.  But what is unique about the Bible’s Revelation is it’s all true.  

From Genesis to Jude, new beginnings abound.  But in this one final book of God’s Word, we see 1,000s, millions even.  Martyrs rising from the ashes to take their place near the throne. The 1444,000 appointed Jews who are to be God’s instruments in spreading the word of the final judgement.  And of course, the rapture of believers, taken up before the final judgements are passed on this world.  

But there are two people that have a special place in this book.  Two ordinary people to whom God will speak and send out to the world as prophets or truth tellers.  Smack in the middle of the 22 chapters of Revelation you’ll find two people whose new beginnings will send shockwaves around the world.

And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” Revelation 11:3

The two witnesses’ identities have long been up for debate.  Suffice it to say if they were extraordinary people I believe the text would say so.  But they aren’t even given names, just like Naaman’s little slave girl.  And unlike Jonah, they appear to walk boldly into a hostile world without pause.  Maybe God has a pre-game “pow wow” with them where He explains the plan.  More likely, God tells the witnesses, after having been prepared through their own study and trials, to go to Jeruselem at an appointed time and start spreading the Word that judgement time had come.  But also unlike Jonah, they will tell how to avoid a terrible death.

“Now when they have finished their testimony,…” Revelation 11:7

Notice the two witnesses won’t go about town crying out, “The end is near!”  They instead speak of God’s rescue from sin — their testimony.  God will protect them for 1,260 days while they tell the world of the Good News of the Gospel and yes, about the impending judgement.  And when God’s time for them is up, they will be killed by evil forces.  It appears their new beginning would end there.  But their death is just the middle of their story.  For all the world to see after three and a half days lying dead in the street of Jeruselem, God will cause them to rise to their feet, sparking terror in the hearts of those who celebrated their deaths.  Their new beginning, a reunification with the Lord, sets the world on fire.

At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. Revelation 11:13

Thousands, most likely, will give glory to God.  Because of two unnamed people speaking the truth about God’s love, promises, rescue and judgement.  Two people that are like you and me – flesh and blood.  Two people, who like Noah, heard God’s voice and obeyed courageously.  Who like Moses sought out an intimate relationship with God.  Who like Queen Esther will stare into uncertainty and know God will not fail her.  Two regular humans like Onesimus who studied at the feet of a teacher and then asked for forgiveness from both his spiritual and earthly masters.  Like Joseph who stood alone against judgement by his community knowing God was with him.  And like the 3,000 who put discipleship at the forefront of their faith.

In my study of Revelation, Warren Wiersbe points out the Gospel of John shows us how and why to believe.  The epistles give us confirmation of who God is and what He expects of us.  And Revelation is all about being ready.  Ready for what?  Ready for your new beginning.  To be a witness for all of God’s glorious ways.  

Friend, we don’t know when the events outlined in Revelation 11 will happen.  But we need to be ready, they are nearer today than they were yesterday.  You might be one of the witnesses called to be part of this amazing New Beginning for the world.  Your name may never be known by man but God has a plan for you.  A plan for your new beginning.

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The First 3,000

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. Acts 2:41

My husband and I are back in the process of a church search.  For some of you, your church has been your lifelong home.  For others, you know all too well the difficult path of church searching.  We spent the last seven months trying out a church and realized it just wasn’t the right fit.  Great preaching and friendly people but there were a number of pieces missing that we didn’t see being resolved any time soon.  We left on friendly terms as we began our journey to the right home.

And this search led me to think about the first church.  That fateful day of Pentecost when 3,000 souls turned their hearts and lives over to Jesus when the Holy Spirit was delivered to Earth.  There could’ve been more.  Others stood in the temple that day and heard the sound of the violent wind.  They heard the Jews from every nation speaking to each other in their native tongues.  But they hardened their hearts.

Some however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”  Acts 2:13

The 3,000, selected by God, were urged by Peter to recognize what had just occurred.  He quoted the prophet Joel in explaining how the Holy Spirit would be poured out just as it had happened.  He reminded the Jews of David’s words when he spoke of God’s promise to fill them with the joy of God’s presence.  When Peter had his brief history lesson the 3,000 asked, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38-39

He answered with the message of the Gospel.  And he went on to plead with them to abandon their corrupt generation.  Imagine.  3,000 people all at once starting on their new beginning.  It must’ve been glorious!

But their baptism wasn’t the end of their stories.  What came next was an intense learning period.  They “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship.” (v2:42).  They ate together, worshipped together, studied together, prayed without ceasing, worked together to help those in need.  And they multiplied.

You don’t get the impression from reading about the first church in Acts that a bunch of individuals were saved then when to their own homes and began an intensive self-realization study.  Or went about their work day as though nothing spectacular just happened.  No, their common goal was to spread the news of Jesus Christ dying for our sins.  Remember, they spoke in many different languages.  So, they were preparing to go back home to make even more believers.  Preparing to go do difficult work.  That first church was all about discipleship.  I wonder how many of our churches can truly say the same?  I haven’t been a member of one yet.  But it’s what I’m looking for now.

The Spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions and the nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we must become.

Henry Martyn

The act of baptism, confessing our faith in Jesus Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit, is typically a public affair.  It’s the starting point of our new beginning.  But after that one time event we call on the power and strength of the Holy Spirit to fill us continually for one mission – to be in service to God.  Those first 3,000 believers would need the Holy Spirit to continue on their mission.  They would most likely encounter adversity, opposition, violence, and yes, success.  Beautiful success.  

We should all celebrate the day of Pentecost, which comes on the 7th Sunday or 50 days after Easter Sunday (June 5, 2022). For the Old Testament Jews, it represented the giving of the Law to Moses.  But the new covenant, for all the world to partake, saw Jesus enter our lives.  And after Jesus’ foretold crucifixion He gave us the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  On that day 1000s of years ago, yet another promise was fulfilled by God.  His Spirit came to live in all of us, permanently.  And we were commissioned into His service.

As my faith and biblical knowledge has matured, my list of “must haves” for my new church has been honed.  I want a church that is biblically strong, always pointing me to Jesus, a joy-filled body of believers, and one whose primary goal is to create well-versed and confident disciples.  I hope you will pray for us in finding such a place.  

The modern church itself needs a new beginning.  As individuals, may we be spurred to greater expectations of our Christian communities.  And may we seek out ways to draw each other together in unity as our forefathers in Christ did on that day of Pentecost.

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I’m Fine, It’s Fine

Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. Esther 4:13

In a way, I hope you’ve never heard of Annie Lobert.  But, if you or someone dear to you has ever found themselves trapped in the world of sex-trafficking and drug abuse I pray that God would lead you to Annie.  She started out as an ordinary girl from Minneapolis, Minnesota.  She became a prostitute, exotic dancer and drug addict.  To make more money she moved to Las Vegas, Nevada with her then boyfriend who soon took her ID, her cell phone and every penny she earned, in effect turning her into a sex slave.  After five years of physical abuse she escaped her pimp.  In 2003, Ms. Lobert found herself in a hospital, the result of a cocaine overdose.  As she tells her story this was the moment she finally took a true stock of her life and turned to God.

With the support of a former customer who had fallen in love with her, and her new found faith, Ms. Lobert left prostitution behind and started a new life.  The former customer trained her in estimates and service reviews in order to work with him at his auto body and design firm.

A wonderful, true story of God’s intervention into the lives of a non-believer, a sinner for certain.  To some, a “throw-away,” a person so entrenched with the devil that a changed life seemed impossible.  And by all accounts her story, if it ended there, would sound admirable and a great testimony to God’s love for all people.  But that wasn’t His plan.  In fact, if you read all the stories in the Bible, God’s gift of pulling us from the fiery furnace is never the end of the story.  It’s never the end of His expectations of us.  It’s always a new beginning.

“the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.” Esther 2:17

The story of Queen Esther has some disturbing parallels to Annie Lobert’s.  After becoming an orphan, Esther (a Jewess originally named Hadassah) was raised, by all accounts, by a good and decent Jewish cousin named Mordecai.  However, when King Xerxes decided he needed a new queen he called for all the most beautiful young women to be brought (kidnapped) into his harem.  Night after night these very young virgins were raped by the King.  They were then placed amongst his concubines.  Stripped of their names, their families, their everything, they became sex slaves.  

And Esther, who was eventually selected as the new queen, could end her story at reaching such a high status.  She had received wisdom and help from the right people – pagans and Jews.  She had attendants, great food, a comfortable life.  In fact, when palace intrigued resulted in a decree to kill the 15 million Jews scattered throughout King Xerxes’ dominion she was insulated from the information.  When word came via a messenger that her cousin, a palace official, was at the gates in torn sackcloth crying in despair her response was simply to send him new clothes.  She didn’t want to know what caused him so much grief.  Her life was good.  I’m fine.  Everything’s fine.

“Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her and command her to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people.” Esther 4:8

It was not known by the king and his people that Esther or even Mordecai were Jews.  But Mordecai’s very public reaction to the decree made their background known.  And therefore, he implored Queen Esther to act on the Jew’s behalf.  She was uniquely positioned to petition the king for relief.  But she initially refused out of fear.  She refused because the king still didn’t know she was a Jew so why not just leave it that way?  Why rock the boat?  I’m fine.  It’s fine.  

She had decided when her God-given new beginning would stop.  For some of us that’s where we stop.  God has rescued us over and over and over.  He has placed us just where He wants us and we stop.  We thank Him for the past with our words and don’t plan on thanking Him with our works.   I’m fine.  It’s fine.  

But you can see by today’s first Bible verse Mordecai reminds Esther that she too will be swept away eventually.  That the decree will come to all of them.  She finds herself at a crossroads of sorts.  To speak to the king without being called by him might mean death.  To not speak up for the Jews will probably also mean death. For some of us we get stuck here.  Fretting about what to do.  And Esther finally decides to show the Lord her commitment to Him — to continue on her new beginning.

Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai,“Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” Esther 4:15-16

She, in effect, prays.  And she trusts.  God had placed her with Mordecai, who himself had good standing in the government.  He placed her with Hegai, the eunuch in charge of the harem with whom she found favor.  Hegai imparted wisdom on how to act and speak around the king.  God placed her as Queen.  God put all the players in place for Queen Esther to bring about the removal of an evil man from the court and overturn the death sentence for the Jews.  And the new edict which she helped the king craft elevated the Jews to such a place that “many people of other nationalities became Jews.” (Esther 8:17) And to this day, the Jews celebrate Purim in her honor.

God is preparing His heroes and when the opportunity comes He can fit them in to their places in a moment and the world will wonder where they came from.  

AB Simpson

You and I are being prepared to be ordinary heroes.  You and I have been rescued by God already so many times and placed here, right now for these times.  But too many of us say I’m fine, it’s fine.  We say it by telling ourselves, our Christian friends, our pastors, that we aren’t needed by God or we don’t have enough time.  We’ve retired and now want to coast. We say we are happy where we are and don’t need to send God a “thank you note” by obeying His Great Commission.  We say we feel uncomfortable feeding His sheep.  We say we don’t need a new beginning.

Warren Wiersbe issues this warning in his commentary on Esther: God will accomplish His purposes even if his servants refuse to obey.  Esther could’ve been the loser in this story.  We either miss out in participating in His full glory like Moses did when he told God not to ask so much of him or we get disciplined like Balaam when he refused to do God’s bidding.

If we love God, love the fact that He loved us before we were even out of the womb, we must be compelled to be His servants instituting His plans.  I heard a pastor today say we need to “Get in, Get out, or Get Run Over!”  Complacency in faith, complacency with the gifts God has given us is no faith at all, truly.  And it certainly isn’t God’s plan for our new beginning.

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” John 21:16

As for Annie Lobert?  She came to a crossroads too.  She could’ve been like so many Christians and said, “Thanks for saving me Lord” and gone about her life.  Instead in 2005, she established Hookers for Jesus, a safe house program in Las Vegas with the mission to Hook (outreach), Hope (Jesus), Help (housing) and Heal (restoration). 

Annie Lobert is an ordinary person committed to God’s plan to rescue others from evil.  We may not all be in the position to save as many people as she will but if we can at least commit to not being “fine where we are” and to ask God every morning to place us in positions to share His Word and do His good works we are well on the way to being an ordinary hero. We would be well on our way to our new beginning.

There are such calls in the Bible as “Universal Calls,”  ones which every follower of Jesus is called to.  One of these is 2 Corinthians 5:17-20:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

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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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Written Word

Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water.  And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant – the Ten Commandments.  Exodus 34:28

As a college student, I majored in journalism with a minor in English.  You could surmise I enjoy the written word so much I wanted to make a living at a job that required a lot of writing.  I dreamed of one day writing a novel or even a regular column in a magazine.  And although neither of those has happened (yet!) my eventual career path in public relations saw me using those skills in abundance. 

The degradation of the written and spoken word these days drives people like me a bit batty.  Not only do people rarely speak face to face but they also don’t write much.  Text messaging has broken all the basic rules of the written word with shortcuts such as “lol” and “brb.”  But I suppose it’s just another step in the evolution of God’s gift to us of language and the written word.

Write them (the Commands) on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates,” Deuteronomy 11:20

There are currently around 6,000 different languages spoken around the world. It’s been estimated that it would have taken at least 100,000 years for a single language to have diversified that much. That would take us back to the middle of the Stone Age according to BBC Science Focus magazine.  But archeologists have found languages written in Mesopotamia dating back to the 8th millennium BC.  God has been at work helping us communicate with each other for a very long time!

When we think about Moses writing the Bible about 1500 years before Jesus’ birth, we should sit in awe at the beauty of it all.  The poetry, symbolism, logic, history and storytelling have guided millions upon millions of believers.  I’ve marveled with my Bible study ladies at the sophistication level of the apostle’s letters to the churches.  Their ability to use the written word to educate, admonish and encourage people for thousands of years must be the envy of any author.

God has always provided what we, as humans, need to survive and thrive in this world.  His gift of language and the written word has catapulted us ahead of all the biological life on Earth.  I thank Him not only for the Bible but for all the poetry, novels, history books, songs, letters, phone calls, conversations and yes, text messages that have been made possible because of His love for us.

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Courage

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

There’s certainly a lot of courageous people in the Bible. After Moses’ death, God commands Joshua to take the Israelites into the promised land – not knowing what to expect.  God reminds Joshua that with every step, He will be just ahead of Joshua paving the way. 

The dictionary definition of courage is: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.  But that doesn’t really do “courage” justice.  There’s plenty of people who build up their courage to do really stupid things.  And without consulting God on our next steps how can someone really “withstand” fear and difficulty?  

Courage is one of those mysterious uniquely human gifts.  A gift that is frequently used wrongly when the Holy Spirit isn’t involved.  I find when I’m telling myself to be brave it’s a signal that I need to start praying.

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31:24

Awhile back I challenged a group of friends and acquaintances to embark on what I called The Boldness Challenge.  I asked each of them to make a list of five things they’d like to accomplish.  And then, they were to start working on each of them, reporting in occasionally.  For some it was digging deeper into their faith. For another it was completing the John Muir Trail.  From starting a business to learning to fly, the lists were incredibly diverse!  One list included forgiving certain people in their lives. Each person had been putting off tackling a dream or a goal.  All of them would need God’s courage to move forward.

I’m so thankful that when I know I’m going to encounter a difficult situation or embark on a new and scary adventure I can count on God for the mysterious courage.  The Holy Spirit wells up inside me and gives me the strength to take that step forward.

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Music

Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:18-20

There’s no consensus in archeology as to when humans first started creating music.  One theory is that it must correlate with the creation of language.  When you think about it that makes sense – we go about our days humming, whistling, or like my dry cleaner, putting our conversations to some mysterious tune.  Scientists have found ancient flutes dating back around 300,000 BC.

What scientists will never answer is why do we have this thing called music and from where does it originate? From a Christian point of view, we know that God gifted us with so many human-specific attributes (although birds do have lovely songs!) such as the creation of music.  The first known “hymn” detailed in the Bible dates from somewhere around 1500 BC.

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:
“I will sing to the Lord,
    for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
    he has hurled into the sea.
“The Lord is my strength and my defense;
    he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him.  Exodus 15:1-2

That praise song to the Lord goes on for 16 more verses!  Wouldn’t it be amazing if we had a recording of the exiles singing this?   As I write this, I’m listening to a beautiful Spotify playlist called “relaxing piano Christian.” What continues to amaze me is that year after year, decade after decade, and century after century this beautiful gift of music finds new ways to stir our hearts and minds.  I thank God for the notes He has placed out in the universe for us to sing, to play and to hum.  And I look forward with anticipation for each new song’s foray into His mysterious ways.

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The Great I Am

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”  Exodus 3:14

This week I’ve been reading a lot about going ahead of God.  Thinking I know the right way, the right answer, and moving forward on that path without first seeking God.  I was reminded of when I was asked to be our elementary school’s PTA president.  At the time, the elementary school was the largest in the district with over 1,000 students.  And it was about to undergo a major construction program to build more classrooms.  That meant a lot of turmoil with the way kids were dropped off at school, where classes would be held and how many of our PTA programs would take place.  I told the committee I could do the job but I didn’t think they would want my style of leadership.  I wasn’t an “insider” and didn’t have any qualms about squashing old ways of doing things.  Yet they returned to me multiple times asking me to take the job.  And I did.  

You’ll notice in this story, like we do in so many Biblical stories of failed leaders, that I haven’t mentioned consulting God.  Because I didn’t.  That is, until after I said, “yes.”  I believe it was the next day after I agreed to the job that I had my first of many conversations with the Almighty about this decision.  It went like this, “Lord, I’ve done this thing.  Please help it not be the wrong decision.”  In other words, I went ahead of Him and now wanted Him to fix my mess.

And God was with me throughout the two years of my term.  He was there when I cried myself to sleep.  He was there when I had parents screaming at me over the phone.  And He was there when people who I thought were friends turned their backs on me.  But He didn’t take away the consequences of my decision.  

Thank God that most of the time when I’ve failed to let God lead my life it hasn’t resulted in some horrible final outcome.  He has picked me up and dusted me off.  And after too many times of being on that same wheel I’ve decided to take a different path.  To trust that God is the Great I Am.  The One who has the best laid plans.  Who can make my path much more smooth if I just consult Him first.  If I release my need to be the most knowledgeable, not just about my life but other’s.   

I praise God today, on this final 30th day, for being I Am.  For being the Lord Almighty.  The God of our fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac,  and the God of Jacob.  

If you’ve ever seen the Jim Carrey movie Bruce Almighty you’ll see a man who takes this idea of control to the extreme.  He wants to be in charge of his life and no one knows better than him.  So God sort of turns over His powers to him.  And what a mess he makes of it.  At first he thinks answering prayers is so cool and then when he becomes inundated with millions of prayers he just gives everyone what they ask.  And as we know, God doesn’t give us all we ask.  He gives us what we need.  The movie is hilarious to be sure but it speaks to our innate need to be in control.  To take over the job of I Am.  

We can shake our heads at characters like Saul who stop seeking God’s direction and make every mistake possible.  But how many of us today will do the same?  How many of us yesterday forgot to place God at the top of our consultant list and instead called our friends or family for advice?  And then probably did what we originally wanted to do anyway?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” Isaiah 55:8

Friends, God is God and we are not, thankfully.  His thoughts and ways are so much better than ours.  If we truly believe this and accept Him as our creator, as an active participant in our lives, then we need to seek His plans for us.  Let’s all start right now by thanking Him for being the Great I Am.