Moments That Are Much More

When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was.  And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.  Mark 6:53-56

So many people.  So many needs. It got to the point where the only interaction Jesus had with many was when they touched the hem of his garment.

It must have been hard for Jesus to have limitations that he didn’t have in heaven.  In the spiritual realm, somehow God is able to pay attention to millions of people simultaneously.  Jesus could only deal with one person at a time.  Surely his heart was pulled to connect with each precious soul as he saw their face. Surely he longed for more time with each one.

Over the past few days at the wedding and on vacation, one thing that made my heart sad is that I didn’t have time to have a good talk with all my old friends and my family members.  I saw them, they were right there in front of me, but the clock ran out.

At the wedding we called for everyone who had been a part of our church to gather and pose for a picture.

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I got a HUGE lump in my throat.  So many individuals who are dear to me!  It was like my insides weren’t big enough to contain all the emotions I was feeling.

The same was true when I gathered with my family members who I don’t see very often.

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And then, as if my heart hadn’t been strained enough,  five of my good friends recently moved away.   You would think that as I get older, it would get easier to deal  with this.  But, I tell you, it gets harder!

I so much want to connect and make moments.  And when I am able to connect and make moments, I so much long to hold onto them.

It’s like this verse:  “He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has put a sense of eternity in people’s minds. Yet, mortals still can’t grasp what God is doing from the beginning to the end [of time].”  Eccl 3:11, NIV, God’s Word Translation

We feel the beauty, even the sanctity, of the moments God gives us.  But we are melancholy because we realize that it is only for a time that we have the beauty.  Somehow we know we are made for lasting happiness, but can’t experience it here on this earth.

Our hearts hurt!  Yet there is good news.  Jesus heals, just as he did when he was on earth.

I think part of his healing is giving us a myriad of good gifts, gifts that fall on us like rain on parched ground.

Over the past couple of weeks I have had many healing times.

There was healing as I saw dreams come true in the wedding of Devonte and LaJasmine.

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There was healing through every interaction I did have time to have.

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There was healing in being surrounded by love with my family.

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There was healing as I took in many scenes of nature’s beauty.

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There was healing in visiting my mother’s memorial.

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There was healing in being with my grandchildren.

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There was healing in having a “date day” with my husband.

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I could go on and on.

I use this verse a lot, but it’s so true: “Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.  (Hebrews 6:7)  God showers us with blessings, but we have to recognize them, we have to drink them in!  We can’t be so caught up in what is going wrong and what we don’t have that we miss being nourished by what we do have.  We can’t be so shut off to pain that we’re shut to the healing. 

We are to be “overflowing with thanksgiving.”  (Col 2:7)   Gratitude is a fountain that we can drink from time and time again.  We can make lists, take pictures, treasure things in our hearts.  These will help us remember, be thankful, and be renewed.  

And something uncanny happens as we do so.  Being thankful makes our little transitory moments last.  In a sense, we are holding onto them.  We are putting time in a bottle.  We see that the moments we wished could be more ARE more.

Going back to the story one more time, it would have been tempting for Jesus to minimize the importance of a person simply touching his cloak.

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He didn’t have time to love them, or build a relationship with them, or teach them.  But it was still big for them.  In their world of brokenness, they had a healing moment.  And I have to believe that although Jesus didn’t have time for more, God took what Jesus did and used it to keep on working in their lives.

It’s also tempting for us to underestimate the impact of our fleeting interactions with others.  But I see it like the loaves and the fishes.  God can take little and make it into much more.  He can create a positive ripple effect in our moments.  Our labor in the Lord is not in vain. (I Cor 15:5)

We will always live with limitations on this earth, having not enough time or strength.  But Jesus offers us refreshment in the face of frustration.  He offers us power in the face of impotency.

And one day, in heaven, our hearts will be truly satisfied.

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Faith Like a Snowplow

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Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and [Jesus] was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified.  Mark 6:47-50a

Okay, here is a passage about fear.  The disciples were alone in the dark, getting blasted by wind.  Then they thought they saw a ghost and totally freaked out.

How easily we give into fear.  I found myself experiencing a lot of anxiety when I went on my trip. With the fatigue, the scramble of being in different places, and carrying a backpack instead of a purse,  I was so afraid I would lose something.  I constantly checked to be sure I had my wallet, phone, camera and meds.  I’d wake up in the morning and not see my thyroid pills and worry that I left them at the last hotel.  I’d sit in the car and feel my mood plunge because I couldn’t remember packing my camera.  I actually did leave my phone at my dad’s motel, but we were able to retrieve it.

Here are some places I went.

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Also, on my trip, I was also afraid of not feeling well.  I felt uneasy because my root canal was still achy and my toe was hurting.  Would they get worse?  What about other maladies I suffer from?  Would they act up?  I packed my backpack with every kind of cure for physical ailments — teas, pills and even my Nettie Pot!

Can you relate?  What makes you fearful or anxious? What are your props to keep you feeling secure?

Of course, it’s not wrong for me to keep up with my stuff, or to make sure I’m prepared.  But it is wrong to be ruled by my insecurities.  Let’s keep reading:

Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.  Mark 6:50b-52

Fear comes from having a hard heart.  We don’t understand about the “loaves,” the ways God has provided for us in the midst of scarcity.  And so we gather our own “loaves” and clutch them tightly.

On Sunday, we visited our sister church in Albuquerque and two of the campus guys did a lesson on Matthew 6.  One talked about verse 25, where Jesus told his disciples not to worry.  The campus guy’s point was, “The mind wanders to what the heart wants.”  In other words, our worries reveal what’s most important to us.

Yikes! That means that what’s important to me is feeling in control, having everything in place.

Instead, what should be important is focusing on God.  If I could just realize that he is what I really need to keep with me, much more than my phone or my emergency kit!

So this trip I started aggressively using my shield of faith.  I would picture myself wielding it, pushing forward in hope and pushing away all of my fears, worries and uneasy feelings.

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But after awhile, I decided I needed a bigger shield.  I needed something more like the snowplow of faith!

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The snowplow of faith is the knowledge that God is a loving faithful father who is with us, even when we can’t see it.

It’s the acceptance that we may have to go through that thing we fear, but when we do, God’s grace is sufficient and he will provide at the right time.

It’s crucifying the temptation to worry, be afraid or give into dejection. (Gal 2:20, 5:24)

How easily we give into fear.  The disciples in the boat freaked out because they felt vulnerable and defenseless.  I feel the same way without my stuff. (Lol — first world problems. I do have bigger fears I struggle with too.)

But then I keep thinking of Joshua and Caleb.  They were the only ones who made it into the Promise Land because they were the only ones whose faith was bigger than their fears.  They had faith like a snowplow!

Let’s fight to have the same kind of faith to make it to the Promise Land as well.

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Rest for the Soul

Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.  Mark 6:45-46

Sometimes you have to get away to recharge. Ken and I just returned from vacation in New Mexico.  Some of the vacation was busy and filled with relatives, so it wasn’t necessarily quiet.  But it was nourishing to be loved by so many, and it was peaceful to be on the vast prairie of my family’s ranch.

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When Ken asked what I wanted to do on the last weekend, I said that I would like to be somewhere beautiful where I could be quiet and reflect.  So Saturday afternoon Ken and I went to the top of the Sandia Mountains outside of Albuquerque.  There, we hiked to a place with an amazing view, and prayed out loud as we took in the majesty of God’s creation.   It was just what I needed to process the many things I’ve gone through in the past couple of weeks.

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The next morning I arose early, moved a chair to sit outside of our second story hotel room and had a long time with God while I watched the sun rise over the mountains.  I wrote down everything I was thankful for.  I connected with scriptures.  I could feel the tight places in my heart begin to relax.

It’s good to go on vacation and get away.  But we need more than that.  We need time in quiet places where we can be restored.    Jesus made this a priority.  I don’t know how he managed to stay up at night and pray when he must have been dog tired after teaching people and taking care of their needs all day.  But I guess he knew what he needed rest for his soul more than he needed physical rest.  Surely we are the same.

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How Do I Give When I’m Tired?

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The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.  Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.  But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.  When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. . .

(Then Jesus sees that they have no food)

Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all.  They all ate and were satisfied,   Mark 6:30-34, 41-42

This passage challenges me!  It’s hard for me to imagine giving as Jesus did, when he was so tired and depleted.  Yet somehow he found the strength and inspiration to teach, and feed masses of people.

I think the key was that Jesus was accessing a deep well of compassion.  It was like he was pulling from God’s heart, and that gave him what he needed to give to others.

Sometimes we forget how big God’s heart is.  Look at how God describes himself:

And [God] passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”  Ex 34:6

God has this huge reservoir of tenderness, this innate concern for people.  God has empathy.

I’ve been learning about the power of empathy lately, and it has been one of the most profound, life changing lessons for me.  Check out this video by Brene’ Brown.

The message of the video is that if someone is in a pit, it’s much more helpful to them if you to get down in the pit with them, rather than if you just tell them how to get out of the pit or stress the positive side of being in the pit.

And that is what I think Jesus did with this crowd.  He got in the pit with them.  He was moved by their their helplessness and their hurts, so he made their desperate needs his own.  He confidently drew from God’s power to meet these needs, creating a feast from a snack, knowing that God also was moved to get in the pit with these people.

This thrills my heart!  And it is even more thrilling to think of the cross, where Jesus gets down in the pit with us in an epic way.

I love what Ann Voscamp wrote about the cross in The Broken Way:  “Over all of us is the image of the wounded God, the God who breaks open and bleeds with us.  How do you live with your one broken heart?  All I can think is — only the wounds of God can heal our wounds.”

This reminds me of Isaiah 53:

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering,

But he was pierced for our transgressions,

he was crushed for our iniquities . . .

the punishment that brought us peace was on him,

and by his wounds we are healed.  v. 4a, 5

Jesus saw our plight and our misery, and came and lifted the burden off of our shoulders and onto his own.  He saw the overwhelming mess we made for ourselves, and got in there and cleaned it up for us.   And that means he himself experienced the mess — the anguish, the depravity, the limitations of the flesh.

Sometimes, when I’m not doing well, it’s hard for me to go to God. I know he’s compassionate, but he seems so stern.

But I can go to Jesus on the cross.

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The cross is the place we can bring our hurts, our inadequacies, our despair over a world gone wrong.  The cross reflects everything that’s broken, so we don’t have to be ashamed of our own brokenness.  The cross is a place we can relate to, where hope seems lost, but then where we are lifted up because we know that Jesus experienced the worst and came out on the other side.

The cross is the place where his wounds will heal our wounds and his brokenness will heal ours.

And this doesn’t just happen with salvation.  There’s something immensely powerful that happens as we remember the cross.  It’s like we get down in the pit with Jesus, as he got in the pit with us, and there we are able to experience God’s deep well of compassion, his huge reservoir of tenderness.

Every time we do this, it gives us the strength and inspiration to go out and give to others.  We tap into the same source that Jesus had.

That’s what we need so much.  That’s what I need.  Because it’s easy for me to feel empathetic to someone’s plight.  It’s much harder to act empathetic,and stop whatever I’m doing to get in the pit with someone

Yesterday, I had a root canal.

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Okay, it wasn’t as bad as this picture, but it was challenging.  It started with a crown that cracked two weeks ago, continued with a visit to the dentist a week ago that was supposed to fix the problem but left me in increasing pain, and ended (hopefully) with multiple shots of Novocaine, prolonged drilling of my tooth roots and bleary convalescence.  And as if that wasn’t bad enough, I was also experiencing stomach problems and some kind of respiratory virus.  Ugh.

But the best thing about all this was that it makes me more empathetic to those who are going through physical challenges.  It reminds me how lousy it feels to be down and out, and how nice it is when others remember you in prayer, text to asking how you’re feeling, offer to drive you to your appointment, or drop by some soup.

It totally motivates me to empathize more with others by doing something, and not just by sympathizing with them.

The cross is like this example, but on steroids multiplied by a gazillion.  It changed things for all time.  We have a real solid example of the vastness of God’s compassion.  We can never be the same.

Empathy becomes vital to how we practice our faith.

How do we give when we are depleted? We do as Jesus did. We tap into the compassion of God. 

But God knew it would be hard for us sometimes, so he gave us a conduit to make it easier for us to tap in.  He gave us the cross, that takes us straight into the huge heart of God.

And there we are healed. We are inspired.  We are empowered.

Our vision clears.  We see the person and the need, and we are moved.  And we find ourselves giving more than we ever thought we could.

“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”   Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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God, Why Did You Allow This?

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King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”

Others said, “He is Elijah.”

And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”

But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”  Mark 6:14

Friends, I feel like I have been learning so much!  And this passage, that is next in my study of Mark, goes right along with what I am learning.

It’s horrible that John the Baptist was put to death in this way.  I mean, he did so many good things, he was totally focused on serving God, and his reward was to get his head chopped off!

Why does God allow such things to happen?

I’ve been thinking about this lately. Why does God allow us to go through tough situations?  On one level we know that life is hard, and there will be challenging times.  But on the other hand, we struggle when they happen to us.

On the cross, Jesus prayed, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

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And that is what we all ask when we go through trials, “God, why are you allowing me to suffer like this?  I thought you loved me.  Where are you?”

It’s funny, because I think I’m a good Christian.  I think I know how to have the right attitude in suffering.  I apply verses like I would take ibuprofen, and they dull the pain for awhile.  But deep down, I’m still angry.

And now I’m realizing that I’m still angry because I haven’t wrestled it through with God.  I haven’t been completely honest with him.  I tell myself that my struggle is due to situations or people.  But my struggle is really with God.

So last week, I got down on my knees and dug through my heart in prayer.

I uncovered layers of hidden thoughts and emotions, and bared them to God.   I realized what I was really feeling was, “God,  I’ve been trying so very hard to do all the right things.  Why do I have to deal with this?  It feels wrong.”  It wasn’t just that I didn’t like dealing with what was going on.  It was that I felt like I shouldn’t have to go through it because of my constant striving to be what I should be.

Once I saw that, I could feel the Spirit begin to respond to the question with the answer, “Because I am God.  I will do what I will do, and I don’t have to give a reason.  It is not your right to be free of this struggle.”

Ken and I just just took a little vacation trip down to Jacksonville to see his dad and stepmom.

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It gave us a good chance to talk in the car.  It was Father’s Day, and we were discussing how many people attribute their emotional angst to wounds they received from their relationship with their dad.  Ken said that while he knows his father wasn’t perfect and this has an affect on him, he sees much more that he, himself, made bad choices, and suffers the consequences of those choices.

I told him that the difference between me and him is that when I look at myself, I don’t see all the bad choices I’ve made (although I know there are there) as much as I see how hard I’ve tried hard to make a lot of good choices.  So it’s easy for me to get resentful or even blame someone when things go wrong.  Why would it be my fault?.  I was trying hard.  I was doing good.

What a Pharisee I am!!!  Pride in doing the right thing is every bit as destructive as it is to do the wrong thing.  It’s deceptive.  It keeps me from taking personal responsibility.  It makes me feel entitled.  It opens me up to become paralyzed by anger for long periods of my life.

“In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.” Ps. 36:2

Pride keeps me from being able to deal with the worst.  I think I have my armor on.  I think I’m ready.  But Satan always manages to hit me with that one thing I didn’t anticipate, that one thing that strikes me where I am most vulnerable, that one thing that I’m sure God shouldn’t allow to happen.

And there’s that word that becomes a stumbling block for prideful people like me: “shouldn’t.”  As soon as I think God “shouldn’t” do something, I’m in trouble, because I start thinking I know better than God.

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God is God.  It’s not for us to question or criticize. All through the Bible we see how he protected his people, but also sometimes allowed the worst to happen.  John the Baptist was beheaded.  Herod had all of the boys aged 2 and younger to be slaughtered.  James the apostle was executed by the sword.

“There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated.”  Hebrews 11:35-37

I’ve been reading church history.  It amazes me and appalls me how many people died over the course of history for their faith.  It didn’t just happen in the early church, with the Romans.  It didn’t just happen during the reformation, when Catholics killed Protestants, and vice versa.  There is a copious trail of blood ALL through the history of Christianity.  People of faith were always killing other people of faith who had different beliefs.  .

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Why would God allow his people to go through this?  We’re back to the question again.

One thing we do begin to see is that see that we’re not a special case.  If people all through ages endured this, how can we feel entitled to be exempt from suffering? Let’s face the fact that God sometimes allows bad stuff to happen to others, and to us, things that wound us, things that seem wrong and make us feel abandoned.

And when the bad stuff does happen, our job is to wrestle through it with God.

“Not one thing in your life is more important that figuring out how to live in the face of unspoken pain.”  (Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way)

We need to fight that battle in prayer to figure it out.  Figure out how to let our light shine when the world is dark and broken.  How to face hardship with integrity instead of bitterness, anger, avoidance or self medication.  How to live out the cross.

I’ve been fighting that battle, and I’m finding that the battle makes me dig deeper to find peace, joy and affirmation in HIM, and not in my efforts to do the right thing.

I really don’t understand why God allows us to go through tough situations.  I have verses I could quote that would be a partial answer.

But this much I do know: the more Satan tries to shut us down, the more we find regeneration in Christ.

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.  We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.  We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. . .

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!  II Cor 4:7-10, 16-17

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God is My Safe Place

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Friends, I am excited to share with you something that has been one of the most helpful truths I’ve ever learned: God is my safe place.

This has clicked with me in a new way because I’ve been realizing that one of the things I crave most deeply is safety.  I try to control things around me.  I have this compulsion to create order.  I’m performance oriented, trying to be perfect.

Part of the reason I need safety is because I’m insecure by nature.  But I’ve also discovered that I can trace this need for safety back to the time when I was 16 and my mom got divorced from my stepfather.  It felt like the rug was pulled out from under my feet, and everything was chaotic.  My mother was having a very hard time.  I felt powerless.  Life stunk, and I couldn’t do anything about it.  I was lost in depression.

So I developed protection mechanisms against my fears.  I would try to be perfect and control the world around me so I would not feel vulnerable.  Over the years I’ve grown and I can find much peace and security in God.  But there’s still this lurking fear of chaos, and this knee jerk reverting back to my protection mechanisms.

But now I’ve had this huge light bulb moment.  God is my safe place!  Only he can satisfy my deep craving for security.  Only he can calm my fears.  I can’t tell you how much this is changing my perspective, how much more relaxed I am.

The scripture that is thrilling my heart right now is Ps. 91:2,  “This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.”  (NLT)

I am in a bubble of protection, where it’s like I’m in a peaceful field of flowers.

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Where is your safe place on earth?  For me, I think of watching the waves on the beach, or sitting on the wide prairie at my family ranch and listening to the wind blow.

This is what our safe place is like in God, only much, much more so!

Ps 91 goes on to describe how we have safety in God:

He will shelter you with his wings; you will find safety under his wings. His faithfulness is like a shield or a protective wall.  (v. 4, NET)

For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone. (v. 11-12)

We are safe because God is our protector.

Just as a bird shelters its young, God’s warm loving “wings” form a barrier between us and harm.

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It is a true force field!  No evil can reach us unless the Lord allows it.  If you don’t believe this, read the book of Job and see how Satan had to petition God to be able to tempt Job.

God has a divine security system.  He guards what is most precious to him.  Immensely powerful angels are commanded to take care of us.  I don’t know how this works, but they are there.  God doesn’t leave his own vulnerable, at the mercy of evil.  He assigns assets from his incredible resources to take care of them.

We are safe because God is our rescuer!  We don’t have to fear falling prey to chaos.

For he will rescue you from every trap. (v. 3)

Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. (v. 5)

When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. (v. 15)

Here are some of my biggest fears — I fear feeling like things are out of control, I fear that something bad will happen that leads to more of a mess, I fear the downward spiral, I fear making mistakes, and I fear failure.

But it is becoming clear to me that God has my back.  His heart is for me, and when things go wrong, he’s there at my side, helping to work things work out.

More than this, though, I’m seeing that it is bigger than just me crying for help and the Lord answering.  It’s that God has a plan, and I am a part of that plan.  He saved me for a reason and he has a purpose for me. (Eph 2:10)  All through history, God has accomplished his plan, and nothing, I mean nothing, has been able to get in the way of what he intended to do.  The same is true when it comes to me.  I’m so scared, thinking something is going to go wrong, or I’m going to mess things up.  But I am a part of God is doing, and what God is doing is like a solid wall.

Philippians 1:6 says,  “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”  God is going to get me where I need to go, in spite of disaster, in spite of my weaknesses.  Yes, I need to do my best.  Yes, I must remain vigilant against evil.  But I can be peaceful and assured.

We are safe because we rely completely on him.

If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. v. 9-10

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.  v. 14

Isn’t it ironic that we want to be safe, but we keep putting our trust in things that really can’t keep us safe?  We cling to our deeds, our job, our possessions, our relationships, our bank account, our strength, our intellect, our routines.  And, of course, these things aren’t stable.  But when something goes downhill, we hold to them for dear life because they’re tangible and they’ve given us a temporary sense of security in the past.

Until it gets worse, and then we cry out to God, and God’s like, “I want to be your life preserver, but you have to let go of the sinking ship!”

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In order to be safe, we have to jump headlong into something we can’t see, something that feels unsafe.  We have to throw ourselves into God’s arms.

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If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it. Luke 17:33

It’s a solid truth, repeated over and over in the Bible.  Life works when we trust completely in God.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not upon your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”  Prov. 3:5-6

“Remain in me and you will bear much fruit.  Apart from me, you can do nothing.”

So I’m developing new protection mechanisms: jumping into God’s arms, envisioning myself being in the tranquil oasis with God, holding to the promises that God will protect and rescue me.

And I feel free.  Free to be myself and work out God’s plan without constantly editing myself and the world around me.

But there’s one more thing.  Something in me protests, “But God doesn’t always keep us safe.  He sometimes allows terrible things to happen.”

That is true.  And my answer is I Corinthians 10:13 — “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

In our hardship, there will always be something we can grasp onto that will help us get through.  It could be finding the perfect scripture, or gleaning an insight, or feeling comfort, or being strengthened, or having a prayer answered at just the right time.

God sometimes keeps us from the bad stuff, and sometimes he doesn’t.  But he will always help us when that bad stuff comes.  We will still be safe, because God is immeasurably faithful, and he has immeasurable resources to bring to bear on our behalf.

My fears are subsiding.  I’m fighting that voice that says, “Things are falling apart.  I hate myself.”

God has set me in a state of security IN HIM.  He is the answer to my deepest desires, and I am tearful with gratitude.

“There is no fear in love.”  I John 4:18b

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We All Need a Net

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Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town.  And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

They went out and preached that people should repent.  They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.  Mark 6:1–13

There are a couple of things that I want to discuss about this passage.

First, I am impressed by how much Jesus wanted everyone to have a chance to hear the gospel.  He knew that there would be some who would reject it.  But he wanted them to have the seed planted in their heart.

And the seed is powerful.  But we see here that the seed wasn’t just the spoken message.  It was also the evidence of God’s power, which was seen in healing and demons being cast out.

And today, people can still see the power.  I don’t believe that we generally have the miraculous gift of healing or casting out demons, as the apostles had.  I do believe that people can be healed miraculously through prayer.  But putting that aside for a moment, I want to stress that our lives show the power of God.  We have overcome sins that many others are entangled in.  We are joyful even when it doesn’t make sense.  We love the unlovable.  We serve instead of seeking our own comfort.  These things have a major impact.

You know, back in early February, a woman named Beverly found our church on the Internet.  She was searching for a church that was more than just attending a service and then everyone leaves.  So our web site piqued her interest and she came to visit our service.  She later told us what she was thinking when she saw our church for the first time.  She saw people really living the truth, really caring about one another.  She went out into the parking lot and called her sister, and told her, “I found it!”

For those who are seeking with open hearts, our life is a seed.  Sometimes the seed takes root right away.  Sometimes the seed is buried away, and when adversity comes and reality is exposed, the person remembers the little seed and starts to nurture it.

When we were first married, Ken and I were part of a church where people were wholeheartedly living out the Word.  Then for eight years we went to another church that had many good people, but wasn’t the same.  We became lukewarm.  We got to the point where we were so sad, and so sick of our lives.  We weren’t sharing our faith.  Our marriage was a mess.  We were lonely.  We were caught up in sin.

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Our wedding day

Then we remembered the seed, and  how much we wanted to be all out for God.  We moved to be a part of a church like the one we had been a part of years ago.  And our lives changed in incredible ways.

Being exposed to powerful lives made a huge difference in our lives.   And the point of all this is that Jesus wants everyone to be exposed to this.  He wants people to see others who are living out his word.

Because the second thing I want to discuss is how people are in the grip of Satan.  They may not be demon possessed in the sense that we see in the New Testament, but the devil has a hold on them.  Look at how Acts 10 words it:

You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.  Acts 10:37-38

I like the wording, “under the power of the devil,” because it’s more like what is happening today.

II Timothy 2:26 says, that people are in the “trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”  The devil has carefully lays a snare, and people are caught fast.  They find themselves doing things they never thought they’d do.  They want to be different, but they can’t break free.  Life becomes a downward spiral, and they feel mired and lost.

Do you know what is interesting about the Greek word used here for “take them captive?”  It’s the same word that is used in Luke 5 when Jesus tells Peter, “Don’t be afraid.  From now on you will be catching men.”  It’s like people can be caught by either Satan, or by us, as we tell them and show them the good news.

I went to our church’s Bible talk in Columbus this week.  A young woman who has been visiting talked about how she had recently been slacking on the disciplines like reading her Bible, praying, etc.  She confessed that her life had started going down the tubes.  It felt like Satan was hitting her on every side. She shared that she was so grateful that her friends at the Bible talk  had exhorted her to get back to doing what she needed to be doing.  She was feeling so much better, and she said they told her some hard things, but it was was she needed to hear.

The friends helped get this young woman out of the devil’s clutches.  And that’s what we need to be doing.  We need to help people to quit going after the wrong things.  We need to help them get sustenance, instead, from the word, prayer and fellowship.

And it will be all the more powerful if they can see us doing that, and not just hear us talking about it!

This week I found out that a young woman I studied the Bible with who became a Christian but later quit coming to church is going through some very tough challenges. It is very sad because if she had kept coming around, she almost surely could have avoided making the poor choices that caused these tough challenges.  It is heart breaking that her life has become a train wreck.

You see, life is full of challenges, but some messes can be avoided.  Look at what I Timothy 6:10 says:

Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

This verse is talking about leaving God because of the love of money, but the result is the same regardless of why you leave.  Your defenses are gone.  You’re like a sitting duck in a shooting gallery.  And you get pierced with many griefs.

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In closing, I want to tell you a quick story of something I saw on Memorial Day.  Ken and I rode our hybrid bikes to an area at Chewacla State Park where there were large rocks and rapids.  A family was hiking, and their trajectory took them across this treacherous area.  They had four teen and preteen children.  They also had grandma, who looked to be in her mid-60’s, and the mom was holding grandma’s hand the whole way, so grandma wouldn’t stumble.

When the family came to a place where grandma would have to jump from rock to rock across some rushing water, the mom and oldest son took off their shoes, waded into the water, held their arms out and formed a safety net on either side of the passage, so that they would catch grandma if she fell.  The son in law stood on the other side, ready to pull her to safety.

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The rapids to the far right are the ones that grandma had to jump across.

I was very touched.  I thought, “This is what we should be for one another — a safety net.”

We all need a net.  We need our friends to be our safety net, keeping us from falling into Satan’s trap by encouraging us to keep up the spiritual disciplines.

Those in the world need a net.  They need to caught by Christ and not by Satan.  They need to hear the word, see us and our lives, and know that we care.

Jesus needs us to be his net.  I love that thought!  I want to keep people from being pierced by many griefs.  If I can help some to avoid this, it is so worthwhile.

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