Rightfully His

What concerns do you carry on your heart?  Where do you hope God will move to improve a situation?  Who are you asking God to bless?  What are you praying about? 

He is kind. He is good. He is love. It is rightfully His. It belongs to Him. So I will put my hand in His.

This past winter, I have carried several things on my heart.  They go with me where I go.  My spirit is praying all the time.  Whether I’m thinking about them or not; there is a constant stream of awareness in my spirit of need in those areas.  I pray for my nation.  I pray for my loved ones. 

In the past, there have been times that I have felt that something was required of me to make sure that God’s will was done.  Pray enough.  Pray the right words.  Say the right things.  Do the right things.  Have you felt that way?  Surely, that is not really the case.  There is clearly relatively little that I can do.  It all comes back to God, and His faithfulness.  Even the fact that I have concerns that rest on my heart, is evidence of a work that God is doing.  It all comes back to Him. 

It encourages me to know that Jesus is also praying – constantly.  And He is praying for us.  Romans 8: 34 says, “Christ Jesus is the One who died – more than that, who is raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”   I know His prayers are heard, and that He has a solid basis from which to pray. 

When I pray, I often find myself begging; asking again and again for the same thing.  But I know that God hears me – ever time.  Even if I pray only once, I know that God hears, not because of my merits, but because of who He is.  He is kind.  He is good.  He is love.  He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11: 6).  I pray on the basis of God’s love, mercy, and grace for His children.  I pray expectantly because I am a child of God, and He loves me. 

But Jesus prays from an additional basis.  Like us, He can pray from the standpoint of being a child of God, and approach God on the basis of His love, mercy, and grace.  But Jesus can also pray from the basis of justice.  He can expect answers because answers are owed to Him.  He can say, “I paid the price for this.  I gave myself completely.  I wore the crown of thorns. They struck me with rods.  They beat me.  They mocked me and spit on me.  They stripped me and tore my flesh with the whip.  I felt pain in every inch of my body.  I know what it is to be so weakened that I can’t take another step.  I felt the fatigue and weakness.  I felt the vulnerability.  I felt muscle pain, and nerve pain.  They stripped me naked and nailed me to a tree, lifting me up for all to see.  I hung there for hours under the sun, in full view of all.  There was no mercy given to me.  I died there – from lose of blood, and exhaustion, and suffocation.  And then, Father, I went to hell. And I beat the enemy at his own game.  And I won the keys of death and hades.  See, Father, here they are!  I won the battle.  I have the keys.  And the enemy is trespassing now.  These are rightfully mine now.  I paid the price.  I paid the price in full.  I now have all authority, and it is rightfully mine.  And I make my request on this basis – that it belongs to me.”

What can a just judge say?  Justice is only served when the One who deserves to receive the answer gets the request granted.  When the price has been paid, the thing purchased belongs to the one who paid.  When the price is like the price that Jesus paid, there is no refund possible.  It is impossible to un-experience what has already been experienced.  Price paid.  Possessions must be delivered.  The power of Jesus’ intercession is that justice is on His side.  His request is rightfully His.

Finding that I can rest in His intercession, knowing that He is aware of things that need His intervention, and remembering that He always cares immensely; encourages me to leave things in His hands.  Therefore, I will watch, and see what He does.  I will trust.  I will put my hand in His.  I will thank Him for who He is and what He does.  I will wait.

Romans 8: 31-34

Do Not Be Afraid

Photo by Casia Charlie from Pexels

     “Uncertain times.”  How often have we hear that phrase in the past year?  Uncertainty has seemed constant.  As we have gotten somewhat acclimated to one issue, something else comes racing behind it: Uncertainty added to uncertainty.  We have faced a barrage of adjustments and “what if” scenarios.  Although we have waited for things to settle down, the uneasiness seems continual. 

     So where is God in all of this?  Where is He?

Even in uncertain times, God says, “Do not fear.” But on what basis can He say that?

    Even through uncertain times, God repeatedly says to us, “Do not fear.  Do not be afraid.”   He admonishes us to not be afraid even in the midst of some of the most trying and fearful circumstances.  But on what basis can He speak such a directive?  In the face of great frustration, desperation, and threat; how can He earnestly say to us, “Do not fear?”  The words defy logic.

Yet, throughout history, that is exactly what He does.     

     For example, years ago, there was a man named Moses.  Moses had fled Egypt, fearing for his life.  Decades later, he had an encounter with God in which God asked him to go back to Egypt (Exodus 2 – 4).  Of course, Moses was afraid.  But that’s not all.  God told him, “Go, I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”  Approaching Pharaoh with such a request was not likely to be met with generosity and kindness.  Nor was hearing this mandate likely to help calm Moses’s fears?  Increase them, maybe.  But get rid of them?  Not likely.  But God told Moses, “I will be with you.”

     Joshua heard similar words.  He was given the command to lead the Israelites into the land that God was giving them, which meant winning numerous battles and defeating various enemies (Joshua 1).  He was told to “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged.”  That was a seemingly unrealistic expectation.  There were large armies which possessed a definite advantage over Joshua and his men.  The challenge ahead for Joshua was daunting. 

     Gideon is another example.  Gideon was minding his own business; thrashing wheat in a winepress, when an angel showed up and told him to deliver the people of Israel from the Midianites.  Gideon was aghast, since his clan was the weakest, and he considered himself the least of the group.  But what were the Lord’s words of comfort?  “Peace! Do not be afraid.  You are not going to die,” (Judges 6).  Those words were an extraordinary promise, considering that soon afterward Gideon faced more than 100,000 men of the enemy armies with only 32,000 men of his own – which God promptly (even before battle) reduced to 10,000, and then to 300 men.  How was Gideon supposed to not be afraid?

     The disciples of Jesus also knew the feeling of fear.  When a storm arose while out in their boat, they fearfully awakened Jesus, asking him if he cared if they drowned (Mark 4:  35 – 41).  What did they expect him to do?  Help bail water?  Help throw stuff overboard?  Regardless of their expectation, they were obviously afraid.  But Jesus came to their aid, in a way they did not expect.     

All of these scenarios had a couple of things in common.  The individuals involved were facing circumstances in which their security and even their lives were threatened.  Who in their right mind wouldn’t be terrified?  Yet, in each case, God said, “Do not be afraid,” or something similar.  And what was God’s reasoning for why they did not need to be afraid?  Because He, God Himself, would be with them.  He promised them His Presence.  “I will be with you.”  That was supposed to settle the matter of fear.  He who was the Almighty, all-knowing, all-powerful, and compassionate one was on their side.  More accurately, the Almighty was recruiting them to be on His side.  If they joined with Him, they didn’t need to fear. 

He who is the Almighty, all-knowing, all-powerful, and Compassionate One is with us.

     It’s encouraging to note that in every case mentioned here, the individuals dealing with fear were on the threshold of something great; something historic.  They were about to experience mighty deliverances, astounding victories, history-making miracles, and amazing displays of God’s power working on their behalf. In order to take hold of it, they needed to hear the word of the Lord, and to go do as He said.  On the other side of following Him was the fulfillment of the promise of God’s Presence, and the opportunity of walking into the identity of their calling.  All of them were stepping into the beginning of something wonderful and great.

     So here we are today, facing uncertain times.  Many of us find our security (and perhaps our lives) are being threatened.  Fear and anxiety flow as a current through our society; sometimes under the surface but sometimes tangible and very visible.  In the midst of these circumstances, what is God saying to us?  What does He want us to hear?

Is it enough that God is with us?

     If we listen carefully, will we hear His patient voice, calmly telling us not to be afraid, but just to follow Him and to live on His side?  Will we be able to take ahold of His words of promise, “I will be with you;” and to rest in the sufficiency of that promise?  Are we courageous enough to walk without fear, and to step with obedience and confidence into the things God has planned for us?

Isaiah 41: 10


Hidden Power

     Some days I feel powerful, beautiful, intelligent, and significant.  Those days are rare.  Usually, I feel…well, let’s say… something less than that.  Is it any surprise then, that at times I identify with a minor character in a story?

     For instance, there was the young servant girl who served Naaman’s wife.  We don’t even know her name.  But she had an extraordinary, but hidden power.  “What’s that?” you probably want to know.  Read on…

     All we know about the servant girl is recorded in just three verses, including two sentences that she spoke to her mistress – “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria.  He would cure him of his leprosy.”  Such a brief communication!  Only 19 words (in the NIV translation).  But they reveal so much about that servant girl. 

     “My master.”  That’s how she addressed Naaman, the head of the household that she served.  She had been kidnapped as a young girl, and forcibly taken to a foreign country to work as a servant to strangers.  She had no choice in the matter.  She had been forced to serve. 

     “If only.”  Her words showed a wistful desire for Naaman’s healing.  In spite of the circumstances, she had learned to love those around her.  She really cared.  She knew how devastating a diagnosis of leprosy was to a person and his family.  With the diagnosis of leprosy, Naaman was a social outcast.  People feared leprosy.  It was contagious.   Anyone with leprosy needed to stay away from people.  Naaman, as commander of the King’s army, would probably be unable to continue his job in the same way (if at all).  He would be at risk for losing all that he had; his friends, his status, his possessions, even his life.  The disease was progressive.  There was no cure.

     Except….  “The prophet… would cure him of his leprosy.”  The servant girl’s words conveyed the depth of faith that she possessed.  It was a childlike faith; a full confidence in the goodness and power of the God of the prophet.  There was no hint of doubt.  Her trust in God was simple, complete, and without guile. 

     (This challenges me:  If placed in the same situation, would I have cared so much about those who forced me into service?  Would I have had such a pure and trusting faith?  Umm…, well, probably not.  Not without God’s help.)

      “He would cure him….”  It was a simple statement, but spoken with profound courage.  Naaman could get angry about relatively little things. (This was evidenced later in the story.  You can read it at II Kings 2 by following the link below.)  Plus, Naaman was close to the king.  They were not likely to be pleased with someone who would give information that resulted in a costly journey to a foreign country, but which yielded no results.  What would have happened to the young girl if Naaman had made the journey, and then returned home, completely disappointed?  But, in spite of the risk, she spoke the words with boldness and confidence.

      (Would I have been as brave as the servant girl to speak those words?  Umm…, well, prob…. Aah, who are we kidding? No. No, I would not have been that brave. That would take…. God.)

     With her boldly spoken words as incentive, Naaman made the trip to see the prophet.  And in the course of the story, Naaman received his healing.  More importantly, he received the profound knowledge that the God of healing was the only God in all the world. 

     Naaman was healed, but the credit for starting the events that led to that healing belonged to that brave servant girl.  Without her love and boldness, there would have been no healing for Naaman.  Her days were ordinary; her workload mundane.  But with the love and courage of those spoken words, lives were changed. 

     The servant girl possessed an extraordinary type of power.  It was the type of power that comes from love and a relationship with an extraordinary God: a God who transforms events by His favor, love, and power.  It’s the type of power that flows from the heart of God in response to an individual’s extraordinary expression of love and unconditional surrender to His purposes.  To look at her, the girl did not look powerful.  But God gave her the ability to influence important people and to make a marvelous impact on the world. 

     Now, years later, we can only speculate about the extent of that impact of that healing.  We know that Naaman was a great man in the sight of the king; which probably meant that the king, and many high government officials of the country, heard about the healing and about the God who had performed it.  We can only guess at how that information changed those individuals’ lives; and at how many peopled in the country were also impacted as a result.  What we do know is that now, more than 2000 years later, we continue to remember the words of that servant girl. 

     (I wonder:  Did she feel powerful, beautiful, intelligent, and significant?  Did she realize how much God did through her? Could it be that through our insignificant and ordinary days, there are ways that God would like to work His extraordinary power to reveal Himself and His love? Are we willing to let Him? Are we willing to reach out to Him?) 

II Kings 5: 1-19

Why Is God Distant?

What keeps us from God?  Why is He distant?

     We think He is distant.  We do.  He doesn’t.  He waits – and longs for us to come.

God knows He is not distant from us. He waits for us to turn to Him. What a joy to be fully known by Him, and to be fully received.

     When we know that we have done wrong, we want to hide it from Him.  To do that, we shut down.  We don’t talk to Him.  We don’t want to spend time with Him.  We feel judged by comments and thoughts.  We are actually judging ourselves, but we take things in the wrong way because we think He is ready to pounce on us – which makes us retreat even more. 

     But if we are willing to tell Him all of our stuff – even our bad, not-so-complimentary stuff; He is “faithful and just to forgive us,” (I John 1:9).  That’s what He has been waiting for – our confession – not so He can punish or shame or reject us.  But because our confession clears the air between us.  He knew already.  But now we know that He knows.  And in that knowledge, we can fully accept His love.  And we realize that He truly does love us, even in spite of our “stuff.”  He doesn’t care that we have that “stuff.”  He knows He can clean us up just by making His Presence available to us. 

     He is faithful to forgive.  It never fails.  We confess; He forgives. 

      He is just to forgive.  Since Jesus already paid the price of our sin, it would not be justice to expect us to pay it again.  While justice used to work against us; it now works in our favor, thanks to the blood of Jesus Christ.  (Thanks, Graham Cooke, for teaching me this concept.)

     How good God is!  How loving!  What a joy to be fully known by Him and fully received!

     In the meantime, He waits, longing to have relationship with us, longing to show how much He loves us, longing to just enjoy being with us and talking with (not “to”) us.  He just wants to hang out with us. 

1_john 1:9

We Had Hoped

I have to admit; I’ve walked the Road to Emmaus – or at least a road very similar. It’s the road where every step causes you to realize that your dreams are disintegrating. It’s when it seems that everything you’ve worked toward your whole life; everything you’d sacrificed for; everything (or at least it feels like everything) that you’ve dreamed of doing, becoming, or achieving is no longer possible? If you have felt that way, then you could understand the feeling of the two men on the way to Emmaus.

They had just been through the darkest weekend of their lives.  They had watched their best friend die.  Besides being their friend, he had also been their hope of deliverance.  It was a time of deep despair and loss.  So, of course, they were processing it all as they walked along the Road to Emmaus.  And they didn’t stop talking when another man came along. 

That man was Jesus Himself– but they didn’t know it… yet.  Jesus asked them what they were talking about.  He gave them time to process everything with Him.  He understood the emotional impact when they said, “We had hoped…”  There was a lot of pain in those words: a lot of disappointment, confusion, and despair.  Jesus knew. 

But Jesus also knew “why,” and what lay ahead.  He knew why the events of that dark weekend were essential in the overall plan.  Furthermore, He understood the purpose and meaning of the events.  He knew that those events would be worth the disillusionment in the long run.  As they walked along that road, He began to explain to those men how the events of the weekend fit into the overall plan.  Although the men were laying down their long-held dreams and aspirations, Jesus knew that letting go of old plans was an essential step for the next stage of the overall plan.  And the next stage was the release of God’s dreams and aspirations into their lives.  The overall plan was bigger and better and more powerful than they could even imagine.   

So as I walk the Emmaus Road, I know that I’m not the first one to walk it.  Others have walked it before me.  Some, like me, are on the road now.  Others will follow later.  As I walk, I let go of the disappointments, and begin to anticipate what is coming next in God’s dreams for me.  And I keep a watchful eye for the surprise and beauty of what His dreams will mean. 

Luke 24: 13-35

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We are so Wonderful

How often do we remember our mistakes and inadequacies, while disregarding and minimizing the complements given to us?  I know it’s easy for me to do that.  Sometimes, it has felt like pride to me to accept the complements, and like humility to acknowledge my shortcomings.  But the One who made me says that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made;” and that all “his works are wonderful.”  Humm, who am I to disagree with my Maker?  Would it be audacious of me to think of myself differently than what my Maker has declared?  So, perhaps I need to truly accept my positive qualities, and turn my mistakes and inadequacies over to God.  He is able to handle them.  God has made me – in fact, all of us – the way He wanted.  If we let Him, He will accomplish His purposes in us.  Let’s enjoy how wonderful we are.

Psalms 139

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Darkest Day Ever…

     After months of standoff, the opponents think they have it made.  They will now get their man – The Man – and it only cost them 30 pieces of silver.  They show up at the designated place with their soldiers in tow.  It’s all but done.

     But things don’t unfold the way they planned.  How could it be?  When they hear the positive identification of The Man, his answer causes the solders to fall back.  The solders are not supposed to do it that way.  They’re supposed to move in and take Him.  Again, The Man identifies Himself.  And then The Man instructs the solders to let the other men go.

     What’s going on? Who’s really in control?

     In the confrontation, one of the opponent’s men gets his ear cut off.  That’s grounds for an up-raising, chaos, a fight.  But The Man calmly corrects his own man; and replaces the ear, healing it to its previous state.  No time to be amazed.  There’s too much going on.  But in retrospect, one has to wonder if the injured man looked at his reflection later, fingering his ear while pondering if it really happened or if he had been dreaming.  Again, the question begs an answer, “Who’s really in control?” 

     As the events of that day continued, the soldiers arrested The Man, and The Man was sentenced to death, and then killed.  Crucified.  All the men who came with The Man, deserted Him.  Job done.  The opponents won.  It was a huge defeat for The Man.  Disastrous.  Devastating for His men.  Darkest day ever.

Darkest day ever… But…

     But The Man’s men didn’t know… they didn’t understand… that it was all part of the plan of The Man.  He was, after all, still in control.  His greatest defeat (and their darkest day) was really His greatest win.  He would rise again.  He would show Himself again.  He would possess all power… and share that power with His men.  The opponent’s greatest win, was actually their greatest defeat.  They fell squarely into the scheme of His plan.  The Man won.  He won completely.  His loss in death was actually the greatest gain of all life.   It was a huge win for both The Man and His people. 

     It makes me wonder about my own days of defeat.  Is it possible that The Man could turn my days of defeat into days of success?  Would He?  Could it be, that if I’m on His side, all my days would ultimately be transformed into days of victory?

John 18: 1-8

                                                                                                           John 19 and 20

Luke 22: 47 – 53

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Who IS that Man?

The day starts like most other days, except that it’s not particularly happy or successful… but it didn’t stay that way.  Peter meets That Man at the end of a long night-shift. He and his co-workers have fished all night… and caught nothing.  Not a single fish.  Peter is a self-employed fisherman.  Fish = money.  No fish means that the whole night has been a complete waste of time.  He and the other fishermen are washing the nets and closing up for the shift, while listening to That Man preach to a crowd of people on the beach.  When the preacher asks if he can use their boat as a platform, Peter agrees.  How tired is Peter at this point?  How much does that act of kindness delay his opportunity for getting some much-needed sleep?  What factor motivates him to say yes?

Peter hears more of the preacher’s message.  Then, when the preacher asks him for another time-consuming (and this time, ridiculous) request, Peter says okay. Just because the request was made; “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch,” Peter complies!

Why, oh why, did he even think about saying yes?  Peter is the expert in the specialty of fishing.   He knows that this plan is unlikely to yield many fish when a full night of fishing produced nothing.  But… he and the fishermen with him, follow the preacher’s instructions; and suddenly Peter’s boat and another boat are so full of fish that the boats are sinking and the nets are breaking.   

What happens next is confounding!  Peter falls to his knees before the preacher and says, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”  What emotion could cause such a passionate request asking the man to leave when he has just provided such a lucrative yield? Yet, when the preacher asks Peter to leave everything and follow him, Peter does.   How intense is the experience that a man would leave his career to follow someone he has just met?  What type of man could inspire such a visual display of surrender and repentance from a rough fisherman?  Who could trigger such a complete and abrupt change of life and direction? 

What is it like to personally encounter a man like that?  Would you want to know that man?  Would you want Him to know you?

Luke 5: 1-11

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