I Am a Sheep!

sheep

I am a sheep!

Exhibit A:
When a sheep lies down it must be incredibly careful to not roll onto its back. If it does, gases build up very quickly in its stomach and it dies. This is called being a cast sheep.
But sheep are not known for being careful! They easily can slip from a safe place of rest to a dangerous place of wallowing.

It is so easy for me to become a cast sheep! If I do not guard my heart and my mind, I can allow dangerous, poisonous thoughts to fill me. I can easily slip from rest to wallowing. It is just a matter of where I set my thoughts. Focus on the problems, the things I feel I am lacking, the difficulties and I am “cast” in a very short time. Focus on the Lord, thankful for what He has done in the past and praising Him for His character, resting in His promises for the future and I can stay in a rested posture without slipping into wallowing.

Exhibit B:
If a sheep is left unshorn, the weight of the wool can become dangerous. The wool keeps growing the sheep is unnecessarily burdened. There was the case of Shrek the Sheep that fled shearing and evaded the shepherd for years! By the time he was captured he was almost unrecognizable as a sheep. Plus, his wool was a dirty, matted mess and his burden was far heavier than anything he was ever designed to bear.

When I hold onto THINGS, I am holding onto my wool. When I won’t allow the Good Shepherd to “shear me” of all that I am, all that I have, all that He has given, I become weighted down, a dirty, matted mess. But when I hold all that He has given me with open hands, allowing Him to give and take away as He sees fit, I become a conduit of blessing for others. Just like the sheep regrows the wool after it is shorn, God refills my cup over and over again. It is far healthier for me to be a conduit of blessing than a stagnant pool of gifts He has given.

Exhibit C:
There are so, so many things the sheep has no control over. One of those are the flies that pester it, especially around the face. Some of those flies will lay eggs inside the sheep’s nose if they can – and then the larvae can even go to the brain, killing the sheep. So the shepherd uses a mixture of oil and spices to anoint the head and face of the sheep. This keeps the flies away and the sheep safe.

“He anoints my head with oil.” There are flies of worry, doubt, fear, disbelief, anxiety. They buzz about my face and my head, filling my brain with their incessant noise. But the Good Shepherd has given me the Anointing Oil I need, if I will just apply it! Oil in the Bible is one of the pictures of the Holy Spirit. And as a believer, I have the Holy Spirit of the Living God dwelling in me. It is up to me if I remember that, tap into that, and allow Him to anoint my head with oil. How do I do that? I take every thought captive to Christ. I replace the flies of worry with the oil of praise. I choose to lift my face to the Shepherd instead of turning it down and focusing on me. And He is always, always good to smooth oil on my face, filling me with His Word, His hope, His comfort. He collects my tears in His bottle, according to the Psalms. He does what He tells us to do in Romans – He weeps with me as I weep, He rejoices with me as I rejoice. He is the God of all comfort as Paul called Him for me and He gives me the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness as Isaiah said.

And there are so many more examples of how I am sheep!
I am filled with fear – but He protects me.
I need to be led – but He walks before me, wooing me forward with His voice.
I need to sheepdogs to keep me on the path – He provides goodness and mercy to follow me all the days of my life.
I won’t rest unless I have still waters in my soul – He calms the storm of my heart with a word.
I need green pastures with good food to nourish me – He provides great books, teachers, and ultimately His Word, illuminated by His Spirit.
I need correction – His rod and His staff provide that for me.
I need safety – He is the door to the sheep pen, and He guards my soul.

Yes – I am a sheep.
Prone to wander.
Foolish in my own thinking.
Easily disturbed.
In danger from myself and my enemy.

But He is the GOOD Shepherd.
He laid down His life for me.
And He leads me day by day.
I am His.
And He is mine.

Truly, what more does this wonderfully foolish sheep need?

Defined By The Numbers

Numbers

I don’t have a scale here in Guatemala.
And that is probably a good thing since I can get very, very tied to the number on it.
When it is up, I am down.
When it is down, I am up.
That number has way too much power in defining my sense of worth.
A lower number means I am more valuable.
A higher number means I am less valuable.
A lower number means I am pretty.
A higher number means I am not.
A lower number means I am lovable.
A higher number means I am not.

So, since I moved here last August, I have not had a scale.
Instead, I have been simply been eating well and exercising.
And it has been wonderful.

But then I put a pedometer app on my phone to hold me accountable during these sedentary days.
And it asked for my weight.
So I put in my best guess.
But I was curious, so I got on the scale in the weight room here at school.
And it said that I was 60 pounds lighter than my best guess!
Which, of course, means that scale is broken!
But the jolt of joy it brought my heart was telling.
I knew it wasn’t factual.
But, for a moment, it made my day.

Then I borrowed a scale from a friend because I was even more curious.
And her scale says I am 17 pounds heavier than my best guess!
And my emotions plummeted.
Suddenly I felt much, much heavier and less healthy than I had moments before.
But more than that, I felt way less worthy of love.

But we all do it.
It may not be the number on the scale for you.
It may be the number in your waistband.
Or the number of zeroes in front of the decimal place in your bank account.
It may be the number of children you have.
Or the number of years you have been (or not been) married.
It may be your house number, in the right neighborhood.
Or it may be the number of friends you have on social media.

We all do it.
We all define ourselves by numbers.
And when those numbers are “right”, we are happy.
When they are “wrong”, we are devastated.
Or at least discontented.

But here is what I have learned – and am learning – about numbers of all kinds.
They don’t matter.
In the grand scheme of eternity, they Do. Not. Matter.

My life on earth is so very, very brief compared to eternity.
I MIGHT have 100 years of heartbeats in me.
But when this heart stops beating, real life will have just begun.
And these earthly numbers that we use to measure success, value, and worth will vanish.

When I see Him face to face for the very first time, God will not look at me and say, “How much did you weigh, Kathy?”
He will hold me accountable for how I treated this temple of the Holy Spirit that He gave me as a tool to use for my time on earth.
He will not measure my worth by it.

God will not look at me and say, “What’s your net worth, Kathy?”
He will hold me accountable for how I used the monetary tools he entrusted to me.
But He will not measure my worth by them.

God will not look at me and say, “Where’s your husband and kids, Kathy?”
He will not measure my worth that way, either.

He will not ask me about the number in my waistband or on the door of my house.
He will not ask me about how many Facebook friends I had or how many people followed my blog.
He will not even ask me how many good deeds I did to outweigh the bad.
How many times I went to church.
How often I prayed.
How many times I read through the Bible.
Or how much I put in the offering.
He will not find me worthy of heaven through any of these measures.

He will ask me about ONE thing.
“What did you do with My Son?
Did you accept that He died for you, in your place, because you are a sinner?”
And because my answer is “Yes, I did”, He will allow me into heaven.

My value to Him is not based on a number.
It is not based on what I do or do not do.
It is not based on what I look like or what I have.
Or any of my successes or failures in this life.

It is solely based on His heart for me.
He loves me.
Regardless of my stats, He loves me.
Before I was born, He loved me.
When the scale was much higher, He loved me.
When it has been much lower, He loved me.
When I share my faith and share my wealth and share His Word, He loves me.
And when hoard my faith and hoard my wealth and hoard His Word, He loves me.

Single
Married
With or without kids
Fat
Skinny
Clumsy
Graceful
Gorgeous
Ugly
Fiscally sound
Flat broke
Tons of friends
All alone
Popular and wanted
Socially outcast and alone
Spending time wisely
Wasting time completely

No matter what.
No matter where.
No matter who or when or why or how.

No matter the numbers.
No matter the scale.
No matter how others define me or how I define myself.
He. Loves. Me.

And He offers this same love to all!
To everyone who will receive Him.
ALL

And because He loves me so,
because He gave everything for me,
because He is so good,
I want to please Him.
I want to make wise choices.
Take care of all He has entrusted to me.
And share Him with everyone I meet.

But will that make Him love me more?
Never.
As one songwriter says, “He cannot love me more and He WILL NOT love me less.”

So here is the only number I will use to define myself:

One.

There is one God.
Who loves me like I am the only one He ever made.
Who sent His one Son to die in my place.
So I will give Him this one life that I have.
And I will choose to keep Him in first place, number one in all I do. Say. Am. Have.
Because He is the only One worthy.

Sing A New Song!

worship

O sing to the Lord a new song;
Sing to the Lord, all the earth!

Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim good news of His salvation from day to day.

Declare His glory among the nations,
His marvelous works and wonderful deeds among all the peoples.

Psalm 96:1-3

Sing a new song…
A song of faithfulness
A song of thanksgiving
A song of change and changing
A song of Your direction
A song of Your goodness
Your mercies, new with each sunrise

Sing a new song…
A song of joy in the midst of trial
A song of hope in the midst of despair
A song of life when surrounded by death
A song of praise even when my feet are in stocks and my hands are in chains

Sing a new song…
A song of trust when facing the unknown
A song of joy even when my pockets are empty
A song of excitement even though I cannot see my hand in front of my face
A song of a good future and a hope even when I am blind

Sing a new song…
Through tears if necessary
Through sorrow as it comes
Through painful circumstances and fiery trials
Through the howling of the wind and the crashing of the waves

Sing a new song…
Because outwardly we are wasting
But inwardly we are being renewed day by day

Sing a new song…
Because weeping may last for the night
But joy comes in the morning

Sing a new song…
Because these light and momentary afflictions
Pale in the face of His glory

Sing a new song…
Because the lost and dying world needs to see
That we have hope no matter what

Sing a new song…
Because they will know we are Christians
By our love

Sing a new song…
Because His heart is worthy of our praise
Even when the purpose of His hand eludes us.

Sing a new song…
Because we are living on the title page
Of a glorious book that begins with our final breath

Sing a new song…
Because the storm is raging
But He is in the boat

Sing a new song…
Of joy
Of perseverance
Of hope
Of praise
Of thankfulness
Of mercy
Of kindness
Of loving

Lift your head!
And choose to sing a new song!
Not based on your feelings
Not based on your bank account
Not based on your marital status
Not based on what lies ahead
Not based on your past
Not based on your abilities
Not based on how you see these circumstances
Not based on your political party
Not based on your limited perception

Sing a new song
Because of Who He is
And because you are His

Because of the redemption bought at the cross
And the fact that the tomb is empty

Because of the promises He has made
And that they are all “YES” in Christ

Because He IS in control
And because joy comes when you surrender

Sing a new song
Not because you feel it
But because He is worthy.

Sing a new song!

Faith, Flaming Arrows and the Good Fight

shield of faith

Zip! Thwack!
You can hear the arrow as it hits the target, embedding deeply in tender flesh.
“If God really loved you, He wouldn’t be holding out on you.”

Zip! Thwack!
“If He really meant what He said, your circumstances would have changed by now. He obviously didn’t mean it.”

Zip! Thwack!
“Actually, God probably isn’t the problem. It’s you. You keep Him from answering your prayers. It’s a shame how you are always failing, always messing up, always doing the wrong thing. People think you’re so great. But you’re not. If you were, God would have answered your prayer by now.”

Zip! Thwack!
“Look at how bad things are! They aren’t going to get any better. This is hopeless. You are helpless.”

Zip! Thwack!
“You can’t really trust Him, you know.”

Arrows.
Darts.
Fiery ones.

Lies from the enemy.
All designed to make you doubt the character of God.
Doubt His goodness.
Doubt that He is for you and not against you.

Lies designed to make you believe only what your five senses tell you.
To make you focus on the circumstances you are in.
And the ways out of it that you can see.
The plans you can make, understand and manipulate.

All Christ-followers face these lies of the enemy.
These flaming darts.
Which is why God has given us the shield of faith.

Faith in what? What does that look like?
My ability to deal with the lies?
My ability to discern them?
My ability to fight?

Faith in myself always, always fails.
Because I am not a worthy object of faith.
I am a fallen human being in desperate need of saving.

So this shield of faith is cannot be about me gritting my teeth and conjuring up more faith from somewhere inside of me.
Rather, this shield of faith HAS TO BE about me putting my confidence in the only worthy object of it – God.
Not the God I imagine Him to be or claim Him to be or think Him to be.
But Who He is.

As revealed by His Word.
By the cross.
By the empty tomb.
By the record of history.
And the glory of His creation all around me.

His character.
His heart.
His goodness.
His mercy.
He.
Himself.

Yes, this shield of faith is about me choosing to believe.
But not believing in my belief.
But rather putting all my faith, all my trust, all of me in the Truth about who God is.

Which is why I think it could really be called the shield of thankfulness.
The shield of praise.
And the shield of remembering.

Because when the darts come, thankfulness protects my heart.
The enemy says, “God is not good.”
Thankfulness says, “But I have seen His goodness in these specific ways” as I list them out.

The enemy says, “God doesn’t know what He is doing.”
Praise says, “Here’s a reminder of His character, His faithfulness, His transcendence. He is God. I am not.”

The enemy says, “God is holding out on you.”
Remembering says, “I have seen in my history – and so many others – the faithful love of the Lord. I cannot see what He is doing in the days ahead – but I can look back at His track record and choose to trust.”

The Roman shield that Paul modeled the armor after in his letter to the church at Ephesus was a frame with layers and layers of leather stretched over it. Before battle, the shield would be dipped in water to make it ready to put out flaming arrows.

The shield of faith is made up of layers and layers of history.
Personal history with the God who saves.
Stories from the lives of people I know who have seen Him work.
Reports from recent history where He has intervened.
And the record of Scripture, the true stories of His story.

And over, within, throughout each of those layers, more layers of thankfulness.
Gratitude for what He has done.
That His character has always proven trustworthy.
That He has always turned the darkest nights into dawn.
That He has come through time after time after time.
In my life. In those lives. In the faithfulness of His story.

I have stretched those layers over the frame by studying His Word.
Learning from His people.
Asking His Spirit to enlighten my heart.
And recording what He has done so I can remember it well.
Rehearsing thankfulness in the days before the battle.
Learning His history and character when the arrows are not flying.
So when the fly, I am ready. The layers are stretched. The shield is thick.

And then, when the arrows start to fly, I dip those layers in the refreshing water of praise.
I lift my voice to sing, to pray, to shout His goodness.
I whisper praises through tears and brokenness.
I soak in His Word, drenching those layers with Living Water.

And when those fiery darts land they find no purchase.
The thoughts come.
The arrows fly.
But the shield refutes them. Refuses them. Repels them.

Not the shield of me trusting me.
But the shield of my thankfulness for the character of God, even amid difficult circumstances.
My remembrance of Who He is even as the lies fly.
And my praise for His character, trusting His heart even when I cannot see His hand at work.

And what was a flaming arrow intended for my destruction bounces off, drenched. Instead of taking me down, it becomes a burnt-out matchstick, sizzling weakly at my feet.

On Sunrise and the Burning Season

hazy

The sun rose this morning in Guatemala.
It wasn’t a spectacular sunrise.
Pretty, but not gorgeous.
That is mostly because we are in the middle of burning season.
During these last few weeks as dry season ends, farmers burn off the residual layers of their crops to prepare for planting and the rainy season.
So, while much of the rest of the world is seeing better air quality from lack of human activity, our air is hazy and thick most of the time.

Which means that this morning I saw some pretty colors.
The sky lightened for sure.
But it was a quiet sunrise.
And for the better part of it, I could not see the sun at all.
I saw the effects – but the sun itself was hidden in the haze.

But it struck me again as I watched.
Even when I cannot see the sun, it is there.
I know that if I were able to be in a plane at this moment, I would see something completely different.
We would be above the haze, above the burning.
I would most definitely be able to see the sun.
I would not be able to look at it directly, of course, because the radiance would far outshine what my eyes can handle.
But it would be a completely different perspective, above the burning.

Because, whether I see it or not, the sun is there.
Hazy, cloudy, rainy – it is there.
Clear, crisp, clean – it is there.
The sun is always there.
And it rises every morning.


The Son rose that morning.
The actual event was quiet.
Not spectacular.
One moment, He was dead.
The next, He was alive.

But the effect of that Sonrise?
Oh my goodness!

Life-changing.
Revolutionary.
Staggering.
Radical.

Death was defeated.
Satan’s head was crushed.
Victory was won.
The grave had no grip on Him, so it has no grip on me.
Which means fear is defeated as well.

Sin is paid for.
Fellowship, relationship, friendship with God is restored.
The path is open for me to come directly to God.
No priest needed.
No sacrifice needed.
No veil between the two of us.

Incredible Sonrise!
It changes everything!

Even when the world is in burning season like it is now.

Especially when we are in burning season like we are now.

All the things that we have depended on – our own resources, our abilities to protect ourselves, our entertainment, even our livelihoods, are stripped away.
We have been laid bare.
Down to the soil of who we are.
Without the trappings.
Without the idols.
Without our self-sufficiency.

Even when the haze of pain and suffering hangs heavy in the air.
Even when it feels hopeless.
And we feel helpless.
Even then, the Son is risen!

And when I allow my spirit to rise above the haze, above the clouds, above the burning, I can see Him.
I can see that He is still seated on His throne at the right hand of God the Father.
I can see that He is still the Glue that holds all things together.
I can see that He is still the Lamb Who Was Slain and the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for this sheep.
I can see that He is indeed Worthy.
Worthy of every praise
Worthy of all of my life
Worthy of my trust even when I do not understand
Worthy of my worship
Worthy of being the only God I bow before
Worthy of every song I could ever sing
Worthy of every gift I have
Worthy of ALL my time, attention and effort
He. Is. Worthy.

I can barely look at Him in all His glory.
My human eyes and finite mind cannot fully comprehend what I am seeing.
Who I am seeing.

But my whole perspective shifts when I rise above the haze.
When I look to the Sonrise.
When I intentionally set my eyes on the Son.

I am transformed.
Renewed.
Strengthened for the long days ahead.
The unknowns.
The uncertainties.
Secure in the knowledge that the Son IS there.
Even when I cannot see Him.
Even when He is hidden in the haze, the smoke, the pollution of suffering.
He is there.


And then I am reminded of the purpose of this season.
The reason the farmers are burning the fields.
The reason the air is thick with smoke.

It is so the seed can be sown.
The crops planted.
And the harvest eventually gathered in.

The burning away of the old makes room for the new.
The fire of suffering does the same thing in my soul.
It forces me down to the bare essentials.
The reality of who I am and Who God is.
The acknowledgement that I am not in control.
Not able to heal.
Not able to save myself.

But it leaves behind fresh ground, ready for new.
Renewed life.
Restored fellowship.
Revival.
In me.
In you.
In His bride, the Church.
So that the world may know the He is real.
And He is risen.
Just as He said.


The Son rose today.
That reality changes everything.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Calling All Warriors!

Calling all warriors

This post is for Christ-followers.
If you are not one, it will sound like foolishness.
If you are one, it should sound like hope.

Here are the lies that the enemy of our souls wants us to believe right now:
We are helpless in the face of this virus, economic uncertainty and world events.
And we are hopeless because we are helpless.

LIES.
Utter, complete, ridiculous lies.

Believer, there are TWO worlds.
In this physical one that we experience with our five senses, we are stuck.
Stuck at home.
Stuck with all kinds of precautions, rules and fears.
Stuck with unknowns like when, and why and how.

And the enemy wants you to be stuck.
To shut down.
To be depressed or sad or angry or self-focused or fear-focused or overwhelmed.
He wants you to not only experience those feelings – which are real and valid.
He wants you to live in them.
Wallow in them.
And operate out of them.

Because if he can shut you down and trap you in your feelings, then he can shut down the battle you are called to fight.
He can turn you from the warrior you are to the weakling he wants you to be.
He can convince you that you do not have the victory, even though you do!

So he will feed the negative emotions as long as you allow him to do so.

He wants to feed your fears in this world.
He wants you to believe that you can do nothing.
That you are a victim of your circumstances.

Or he is trying to tell you that you can do everything.
That you can control the outcomes.

Both of those are lies.

Because if he can shut you down in the physical world, then you are no threat to him in the spiritual.

He has to work that way – through deception.
Because HE HAS NO POWER OVER YOU.
He is defeated.
He is weak.
The God who lives in you is GREATER.
More powerful.
Able.
You have the same power that raised Jesus from the dead living in you!

That means the only power the enemy holds in your life is the power you give him.
The only places he is allowed are the places you let him in.
The only control he has is what you hand over to him.

So he uses the only weapon he has against you: lies.
He works hard to feed the lies.
Keep you centered on how you feel.
Feed the fears.
Feed the deceptions.
Because if the enemy can get you to believe the lies, then you are defeated.
Not because you are – but because you think you are.
You believe you are.

So he focuses your eyes on the fears.
The what-ifs
The unknowns
Your helplessness
Your inabilities

GUESS WHAT???
You have always been helpless!
You have always been unable!
You have always been insufficient to meet your needs!
You have always been helpless!

Which is a GLORIOUS truth!!!

Because there is a second world.
The REAL world.
The eternal one.

And in that world, Jesus says, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing” while at the same time he says, “in Me, you can do everything I have called you to do!”

You ARE helpless – but He is your help in time of need.
You ARE weak – but in your weakness, He is strong.
You ARE powerless – but He is the Almighty.
You ARE falling to pieces – but He is the glue that holds the universe together.
You ARE broken – but He is the one who restores.
You ARE walking through fire and flood – but He is the one who walks with you through it.

So I say, please, please live in the REAL world.
Set your eyes, your heart, your mind on the spiritual world.
Because here is the truth that the enemy does NOT want you to know, believe and operate in:

In the REAL world, you have ALREADY been given everything you need for life and godliness.
In that world, Satan’s head has been crushed by the cross and the empty tomb.
In that world, you are clothed in righteousness, in pure white garments.
In that world, you are outfitted with strong armor and powerful weapons.
In that world, you are ALREADY the victor!
Because the tomb is ALREADY empty!
The debt is ALREADY paid!

So are you helpless and hopeless?
Oh no!
You are a warrior!
Called to fight in this battle for souls.
Called to fight the fear, discouragement, hopelessness, and despair.
Called to use the weapons of our warfare.

To take every thought captive to Christ.
To seek the face of the Living God.
To fall on your knees in prayer.
And to lift high your hands in praise.

To sharpen your sword by spending time in the Word.
To use this time to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
To share the Good News with a lost and dying world instead of filling your time with the bad news in the media.
To lift up those around you with encouraging words and the hope that you have.
To set your eyes on things above, on the truth that this world is not all there is, that this is just a blip on the screen of time and eternity.

To walk in LIVING HOPE.

What does that look like practically?
For me, it means turning on the praise music more often than the news.
It means reaching out with encouragement in every way I know how through every avenue I have.
It means listening to uplifting podcasts.
Reading encouraging things.
Praying for whoever crosses my mind when they cross my mind.
Rehearsing truth over and over again in my mind.
And when fears creep in, telling them that my God is greater.
Repeating Scripture.
Taking walks with God.
Being still and listening to His voice.
Writing encouraging stuff down.
And seeking His face.
Looking for ways to serve.
Including serving by obeying the government God has established.
Starting each day with, “God, I have very little to do today in the physical world. But You have a good plan for my day. So guide my steps and guard my thoughts as only You can. Use me today.”
And remembering that prayer is not the last resort but the first line of offense.
Not defense.
OFFENSE.

Please, please, brothers and sisters in the Lord: don’t waste this opportunity to engage in battle. The enemy intends this time for evil. But God is using it for good. He is calling you to be a part of the victory!

Will you do battle in His name, one day at a time, one event at a time, one disappointment at a time? Or will you lay down, defeated?

Will you live in fear or in victory? Will you live in complaining or in praise? Will you battle people or will you battle the real enemy? Will you come out of this better in the Lord or bitter in your spirit?

These are moment by moment choices. And ones that only you can decide.

A P.S.  I usually include the references for each truth from Scripture in the piece.  But this time, they are here so you can really chew on them if you want to do so:

  • Called to battle, the armor we have: Ephesians 6
  • Unable to do anything without Christ, all things in Christ: John 15, Philippians 4
  • Same power at work in you that raised Jesus from the dead: Ephesians 1, Romans 8
  • Being transformed by the renewing of your mind: Romans 12
  • Help in time of need: Hebrews 4
  • Walking with you through fire and flood: Isaiah 43
  • Setting your mind on things above: Colossians 3
  • Taking every thought captive to Christ: 2 Corinthians 10
  • When you are weak, He is strong: 2 Corinthians 12
  • He is the glue that holds all things: Colossians 1
  • You are broken but He restores: 2 Corinthians 4
  • Given all you need for life and godliness already: 2 Peter 1
  • Praise as a weapon: Psalm 8
  • Obeying government: Romans 13

On Waiting…

waiting

I have done some serious waiting in my life.

Looooooong plane rides.
12, 13 and 16 hour rides.

Long layovers, too.
24 hours in Singapore.
12 hours in Detroit.
(Guess which one felt longer?)

Long car rides.
12 hours.
14.
24.

Interminable waits.

Waiting while a friend is labor.
Waiting for the bride and groom to show up to the reception.
Waiting for the contract to be accepted on my house.
Waiting to be the bride.

Some of those were easier than others.
The ones that were easiest were the ones with the known variables.
Known ends.
The flight will land at this time.
The destination will be achieved in this many hours.
The layover will end at this time.

The hardest ones were (and are) the ones where the end is not known.
Are we almost done waiting?
Or are we not even half-way there?
Has this waiting really just begun?
Or do I get to arrive sometime soon?

Of course, the world pandemic of COVID-19 fits in that second category: the great unknown.
Which is what makes it so hard.

Will we go back to school this year at all?
When will the borders open?
When will I see my family again?
When can people get back to work?
When will my parents and other loved ones be out of danger?

Unknowns.

You know, there were a ton of people in the Bible who had unknowns.
And long, long waits.
We know the ends of their stories.
So it is easy to breeze past their seasons of wait.
But THEY didn’t know the end of their story.
And yet they faithfully waited.
Serving while they waited.
Praising while they waited.
Being faithful while they waited.
And yes, crying out to God while they waited.

Some of them NEVER saw what they waited for so patiently.
I think of the Israelites when they were slaves in Egypt.
There were 430 years between the time Joseph’s family moved there and Moses led them out.
How many of those years were slavery?
It is unclear.
But many for sure.
Many, many YEARS where they cried out to God for deliverance.
And they waited.

Many of those who looked for the Messiah waited without seeing as well.
Isaiah, Micah, Zephaniah and tons of other prophets all “saw” him in their prophecies.
But they never physically laid eyes on him.
There were hundreds of years between the visions they saw and the reality of fulfillment.

I think of Joseph.
He told a fellow prisoner who happened to be a high-ranking official in Pharaoh’s court the meaning of his dream. And he said, “When that dream comes true, don’t forget me here in prison.”
The dream came true; the guy got his job back.
And promptly forgot to remember Joe.
For two years he completely forgot about him.
Two. Years.

I think of Noah and his family.
They knew the rains were coming.
But they had no idea they were going to be in that boat with all those animals for over a year!
There were “only” 40 days and nights of rain
But then days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months as they floated.
Just floated.
Fed the animals.
Dumped the poo.
Fed them again.
And repeated it all the next day.
And the one after that.

Waiting.
It is a theme ALL through the Bible.
David was crowned king as a boy and didn’t take the throne for decades.
Moses spent 80 years in training for the 40 years he spent with ungrateful people.
Simeon literally waited his whole long life to have the Messiah in his arms.
Over and over again, God’s people have waited.

Even now, we are waiting.
Jesus promised to return.
To kick out the evil.
To make a new heaven and a new earth.
To make all things new.

It hasn’t happened yet.
But it will happen.

But He is waiting, too.
Waiting for hearts to turn to Him.
Waiting for us to do our jobs.
Waiting for the world to hear about Him.
Waiting for us to actually obey.
He is patiently waiting.

And in the meantime, He is our hope in the wait.
In EVERY wait.
Because one of His names is “Alpha” or “Beginning”.
And another of His names is “Omega” or “End”.

He IS the Beginning and End of ALL things.
Including this virus.
This wait.
These seasons.
These conditions.

It is ALL in His hands.
And He has allowed it for our good and His glory.
The evidence of Him.

And so we wait on Him.
As the psalmist put it, we watch Him like a servant watches for a master’s slightest signal.
The flick of a wrist.
The lift of an eyebrow.
The slightest motion of a finger.

We wait on Him.
We watch for Him.
We seek His ways.
His timing.
His response.
How He would have us love in His name.

Because the most amazing thing happens as we wait on Him.
As we let go of our timetables.
And our expectations.
As we throw up our hands and admit our lack of control.
As we humble ourselves before Him.
As we wait on HIM.

He renews our strength.
He strengthens tired knees and weak hands.
He restores souls.
And refreshes the weary.

So this wait is one of the hard ones.
We have no idea when it will end.

But there are things we KNOW to be true, even as we wait:
He is the Alpha and Omega of all things, including these circumstances.
He has promised to work even this out for our good and His glory.
We have a job to do, even as we wait.
The world is LITERALLY dying and going to hell without Him.
And right now, they see it.
The feel it.
They fear it.
So redeem this waiting time, please.
PLEASE.

Pray for opportunities to share His love.
Then trust Him to give you the words when He opens the door of opportunity.
Don’t preach a sermon.
Just share what He has done for you.

Pray for the hearts and souls of those who do not know Him.
Ask Him to put willing voices in their ears. And willing ears in their heads.

Pray about what lessons He wants to teach you during this time.
What good habits do you now have time to foster?
What bad habits do you now have the energy to break?
How does He want to change you in the wait?

Spend time in His Word.
Spend time listening to Him.
Let Him whisper to your heart.
And let Him change you from the inside out.

Don’t waste the wait.
The world needs you to use it to become a stronger soldier for the King of Kings.
Whatever you do, please don’t waste the wait!

COVID-19, Two Roads and Us

fork

Thoughts that lead to life.
Thoughts that lead to death.

I’ve written about these before.
But it bears repeating.
Especially now.

The trails start in the same place: with a thought that crosses the mind. Often associated with an emotion. And in our current world, the emotion is usually fear. Or frustration. Or loneliness.

But let’s go with fear.

So the thought might be,

“This virus situation keeps getting worse! It is never going to end. And even when it does, nothing will ever be the same.”

Let’s first stroll with that thought all the way down the trail marked

“Thoughts That Lead To Death”:

“This virus situation keeps getting worse! It is never going to end. And even when it does, nothing will ever be the same.”

“I need to protect myself! I have to look out for me. I better go to the store and get as much ____ as I can.”

“And I don’t know how we are going to pay for stuff right now. We don’t have enough to cover all this. What if (fill in the blank here with the financial worry on your heart)___ ? How will we make ends meet?”

“And what about my elderly parents? Their bodies can’t fight this well. And the kids I know who are medically fragile. What is going to happen to them?”

“This is hopeless.”

“I’m so scared.”

“I just need this to be over. If only the ______ would ______!”
(Government would ____; People would ____; Banks would ______ Etc.)

And then you are swamped by something. Panic. Fear. Anger. Loneliness.

And you don’t know what to do with that emotion.

So you turn to your favorite vice.
Or you yell at your kids.
Or you sit in the dark and cry.
Or you post a diatribe on Facebook.
Or you mindlessly scroll Facebook.
Or you binge watch something on Netflix.

Anything to escape your own brain and release some of that emotion you are left with at the end of the spiral.

UGH. Thoughts that lead to death!

But!
There is a different way!
There is a fork in this road. And the other trail is marked

“Thoughts That Lead To LIFE!”

It begins with the same thought:

“This virus situation keeps getting worse! It is never going to end. And even when it does, nothing will ever be the same.”

But God is still here. He is still in control. He is still on His throne. He is still trustworthy. He is still able.”

“It doesn’t FEEL that way right now. But the Truth is, I have never, ever been in control. I can be as wise as possible in my actions, but He is still God. Still sovereign.”

“So yes, I will wash my hands. Sneeze and cough into my elbow. Wipe down stuff.”

“But I will also submit. Submit my fears to God. And myself to the authorities in my life. God placed them there. So I will yield.”

“And I will find ways to serve.
That may look like trusting God enough to share some of my bounty with people in need.
Or maybe that is posting encouraging stuff on Facebook.
Perhaps that is praying regularly for someone. Medical professionals. The people around the world who are grieving. Medically fragile folks. The people who don’t know Jesus and have no hope. The missionaries who are now stuck wherever they are around the world.
I will take my eyes off of me and look for needs I can meet.”

“And I will be thankful.
I don’t know how this is going to turn out.
And it is scary.
But I have a HUGE God who is able to meet all my needs. And today I have what I need. Food to eat. A roof over my head. Electricity. Running water. Hot and cold running water. Technology. People who love me.
So I will be thankful.

“And I will not worry about tomorrow.
God knows when this is going to end.
And He has promised to work all things together for my good and His glory.”

“And because I know
God loves me,
that He is in control,
and that He will bring good out of this,
I can be at peace. Calm.
The storm is raging. But He is in the boat with me. And He will either calm the storm or He will calm me. But either way, I can trust Him.”

“Because He is good. And everything He does is right.”

“He is still on His throne.”

“And He has filled my life with blessings.”

“So I will praise Him no matter what.
His love for me is not contingent on what I do or do not do.
So I refuse to make my love for Him that way.”

“I will trust His heart, even when His hand confuses me.
I will believe in His goodness, even when my feelings scream opposite things.
I will trust Him with all my heart, leaning not on my way of thinking or what I see, feel or even think I know. Instead, I will acknowledge Him in all my ways. And I will thank Him in advance for how He is going to direct my steps.”

“Now, how can I show what I believe?”

And I find someone to bless.
Or I spend time in the Word or reading an uplifting book.
Or I spend time in prayer.
Or I find a project that will make someone else smile.
Or I post something uplifting.
Or I turn on praise music as loud as the neighbors can stand.

Thoughts that lead to death leave me hopeless, helpless, in despair.
Thoughts that lead to life leave me full of praise, thankfulness and hope.

Not because I am good.
But because HE IS GOOD.

I cannot stop the stream of thoughts.
But there is always, always a fork in the road when they come.

One trail leads upwards.
Towards sunlight and green pastures, still waters and peace.

And the other leads downwards.
Towards darkness and fog, jagged rocks and steep cliffs.

The Shepherd beckons our thoughts onward and upward.
He is leading to higher ground. He goes before us in that direction.

The enemy of our souls beckons our thoughts downward.
To a pit of despair that will shut up our testimony and shut down our serving.

Which path will His sheep take?

On COVID-19 and The Gift of the Holy Spirit…

gift

Guatemala announced its first cases of COVID-19 Friday.
We sent the kids home with all their stuff, including textbooks.
And sure enough, yesterday the President announced that all schools here are canceled for at least the next 21 days.

Is God surprised by this pandemic?
Has He suddenly lost control?
Did this sneak up on Him?

Of course not.
He knows.
He knows your details.
And He knows mine.

He knows that no one from the U.S. or Canada is allowed to come in after Sunday.
He knows that there isn’t adequate running water in many places in this country to wash hands properly.
He knows all the mission trips canceled, all the people and ministries impacted, all the fears and concerns.
He knows how long this will last.
He knows the economic impact.
He knows.
He knows – and He has it all under control. Truly.

Friday my Bible lesson for 3rd and 4th grade turned into talking about fear and Coronavirus and the Holy Spirit.

All week we had been studying how Peter was transformed from a coward to mighty mouthpiece for God, simply by the addition of the Holy Spirit to his life.
How he went from denying the Lord to leading a worship service where 3,000 got saved.
And how we too can be transformed from fear-filled to faith-full.

That was the content of the lesson for the week.
But the application on Friday was what that looks like when you are 8 or 9-years old – or much older than that – and scared.
What does it look like to trust God in this time, in this place, in this global crisis?

And I shared with them how God’s Spirit is NOT one of fear but instead HE is the Spirit of Power, Love and Self-Control. (2 Timothy 1)
So if you are a follower of Christ, you have already been given all that you need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1).
You received the gift of the Holy Spirit at salvation.
And with that gift comes unlimited power.
Unlimited love.
Unlimited self-control.

Power to battle back the negative emotions and the “what-ifs”.
Power to love other people and put their needs ahead of our own.
Power to rest in His strength, the knowledge of who He is, the certainty that He is in control.
Power to take every thought captive to Christ. Every worry. Every fear. Every time.

The Spirit of Love that says, “You first” instead of “Me first.”
Love that says, “No, I probably won’t get it. But if I stay home, I will lessen the chance of YOU getting it.”
Love that says, “How can I help? What can I pray about for you? How can I put feet to my prayers, too?”
Love that shares instead of hoards.
Love that seeks to help, not blame.

All wrapped up in the package of self-control.
Controlling our fears.
Controlling our tongues.
Controlling our thoughts.
Controlling what we post.
Controlling our responses.

Because the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in me.
The same love that held Him to the cross flows through me.
The same self-control that kept Him from calling down 10,000 angels to intervene keeps me together.
And you, too.

It is a gift.
He did NOT give a spirit of fear.
But He DID give the good stuff.

Or rather, the Good Comforter.
The Good Power Source.
The Good Help In Time of Need.

So now it is up to me to unwrap the gift.
To not just acknowledge His presence with my mouth.
But to live the truth that I am indwelt by the God of the Universe.

I can cling to the spirit of fear that is pervading society and trying to pervade my heart.
Or I can rest in the Spirit of the Living God.

I can feed the spirit of fear.
Or I can feed my faith with the truth of Scripture, the Bread of Heaven and the Living Water that flows through me.

I can act like fear is my honored guest, allowing it free access to every thought, every corner of my heart and all of my actions.
Or I can treat it like the hostile invader that it is and use the power of Almighty God to take it captive.

What does that look like practically?

I replace each fearful thought, each time it crosses my mind, with a fact about God, a truth from His Word, a record of His faithfulness, a promise He has made.
And then I fill my mind with what is good: praise songs, sentences from Scripture, and memories of His faithfulness that I have seen in my life.

Which one will you do today?
Feed your fear?
Or kick it out every time it tries to return and feed your faith instead?

You already have all you need to do the second.
Because You have NOT been given the spirit of fear.
But instead You have inside you the Spirit of the Living God.

Please, please, unwrap the gift and use it. Use Him.
You will be so glad you did.
And the watching, dying, hopeless, fear-filled world will see a difference in you. They will want to know what you have. And you can share the hope instead of the fear.

May COVID-19 cause us to die to self, die to fear, die to selfishness.
May it cause us to live for Him.
So that the world may know Him, too.

Fear and Faith: A Conversation

Fear vs Faith conversation

Fear says, “If I don’t do this, they won’t love me.”
Faith says, “I will do this because I love them.”

Fear says, “If I lose control, I will have to do damage control.”
Faith says, “I will give up control because it is an illusion anyway.”

Fear says, “If I don’t do it, it won’t get done.”
Faith says, “God will supply all I need, including this.”

Fear says, “The worst-case scenario is where we are heading.”
Faith says, “The only worst-case scenario that exists is God abandoning me – and that won’t ever happen.”

Fear says, “Where will I find the money?”
Faith says, “My God will supply all my needs.”

Fear says, “What if I get sick?”
Faith says, “God always heals. It is simply a matter of when and where.”

Fear says, “You will always be alone.”
Faith says, “You are never alone.”

Fear says, “Batten down the hatches! A storm is coming and we may not survive!”
Faith says, “I know the Master of the wind and waves. He will either calm the storm or ride with me through it.”

Fear says, “Guard yourself. Don’t love too much. They will take advantage of you.”
Faith says, “Love in the way God loves you. He will protect you. You don’t have to protect yourself.”

Fear says, “If you don’t take care of you, no one else will.”
Faith says, “God is my Father who will always take care of me.”

Fear says, “If God really loved you, you wouldn’t be going through this tough time.”
Faith says, “Great parents allow pain in limited portion for their children when it serves a greater purpose.”

Fear says, “God will never give you that good thing you want because you don’t deserve it.”
Faith says, “I deserve nothing and yet look at all the good things He has already given. If He withholds that, He has a good reason for it.”

Fear says, “Look out for number 1.”
Faith says, “Play for an Audience of One.”

Fear says, “Life will never get better.”
Faith says, “This life is the worst it will ever be. Heaven is waiting and my hope is sure.”

Fear says, “You are not enough.”
Faith says, “Amen. I am not. But greater is He that is in me than he who is in the world. And HE is enough.”

Fear says, “You can’t run. You might fall.”
Faith says, “Not only can you run, you can fly.”

Fear says, “But see how dark it is.”
Faith says, “What a great opportunity to reflect His light!”

Fear says, “Your to do list is overwhelming.”
Faith says, “That is why my Father and I will do it together, one step at a time.”

Fear says, “He won’t come through.”
Faith says, “Look at His track record.”

Fear says, “Grasp your life and all your stuff tightly.”
Faith says, “Lay it all down and watch what He does.”

Fear says, “Death wins.”
Faith says, “It is already defeated.”

Fear says, “Control it.”
Faith says, “Cast it on Him.”

Fear says, “Worry about it.”
Faith says, “Worship through it.”

Fear says, “Fretting is helpful.”
Faith says, “Freedom is found in surrender.”

Fear says, “It ALL depends on me.”
Faith says, “It ALL depends on Him.”

Fear says, “What if…?” and imagines the worst.
Faith says, “What are we waiting for?” and believes for the best.

Fear says, “Who says??”
Faith says, “God says. I believe. Enough said.”