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Beginnings Choices Fasting Kingdom Missions New Year Obedience Questions

A Captive Audience

We are taught from an early age to “think for ourselves.” Indeed, having the ability to reason a situation through is something best learned early on. My youngest daughter is in 4th grade and she is learning how to think before answering; when she thinks first and processes the work, she generally gets a better grade which makes everyone happy!

Solving math problems definitely requires more brain power for some (like me) more than others. Thankfully, my daughter has learned this skill at a much faster pace than I did. I wasn’t the automatic math genius in school – I spent a great deal of time training my mind to think problems through. Once I finally mastered this skill of reasoning and thought, my grades improved. What I wasn’t prepared for in daily life as an adult when facing life issues was understanding that reasoning life problems through like algebraic equations won’t always produce the correct results.

All of that work to train my thoughts in a certain way had to change.

2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

In my mind, as I learned to navigate this path called my walk with God, I often found myself arguing with the issues I faced.

Trusting God for His wisdom when facing civil unrest? My mind told me to run but my heart said stay; there was an internal argument taking place in my mind daily in those days. My old debate class lessons quickly found their way back to the forefront of my mind.

Trusting God for buildings when our tent where we meet keeps blowing over? Where was the money going to come from? Math arguments come in handy here, I’d tell myself hundreds of thousands won’t multiply from zero as zero times anything still equals zero!

Much like the lessons I learned at school, lessons of reasoning, I’ve learned another lesson: mentally working out how to walk with God simply won’t work. Much like you can’t apply algebra to conjugating verbs, earthly reasoning cannot apply in our walk with God.

This year as we begin afresh once again, I’ve set my arguments aside. Arguments of why it can’t be done are now my captive audience as I surrender to the process of solving problems in a much more effective way – in the way of the Kingdom. My feeble attempts at solving don’t amount to much anyway in the face of issues that are obviously far beyond my pay grade: comforting the bereaved, growing new churches, expanding into new countries, and loving those who don’t love me back.

My thoughts are captive. I’m listening. I’m learning.

Categories
Church planting Destiny Dreams Endurance Faith Missions

What Was That All About?

Together with my husband and daughter Andreya in Arusha, Tanzania.

In early 2000, we moved to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from Bujumbura, Burundi where we had planted our first church. We had handed our church in Bujumbura over to a son in the faith and were excited to see a new church born. The process of planting a church from scratch is daunting enough but we had seen God’s favor in Burundi and were sure that we would see another wildly successful church born. We had seen it before! God was on our side! What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty.

In Burundi we struggled to get government permission to open the church and, after 9 months of waiting and struggle, we received news that our file had been approved. A few short months later, we held our first service. The church stood strong through times of serious civil unrest and war. Today, our first church has planted 4 additional churches since our departure. All of the difficulty we faced fades into nothing knowing the work has moved forward.

However, we had a totally different experience in Tanzania. From the moment we arrived, it seemed the odds were definitely not in our favor. We had applied for approval to start the work and despite having all indications we were approved, we spun in circles from day to day for a year and a half trying to get our certificate of registration. It became very expensive as we had to purchase visas for our 5 member family monthly at a cost of $400 per passport. In the end, after spending nearly all we had, we moved on to Lusaka, Zambia and registered the work there in a matter of weeks.

Yet, the “Tanzania effect” followed me for quite some time. 

Everyone has moments in life when hopes and dreams not only don’t come true, but it seems they are shattered into millions of pieces so small that there’s no way to put them back together. For me, Tanzania was my first experience with such a disappointment. 

I had supposed that I knew how things worked since I had seen it happen before; in Tanzania I faced the harsh reality that each step we take has its own set of rules attached to it. My mind battled with the questions of, “How could we have been so wrong?” and “How could we have made such a mistake?”

For years afterwards, I avoided the subject of Tanzania. The work continued and other difficult moments ensued, but none that hurt as deeply as Tanzania. With the years passing, my attitude changed from “How could we have been so wrong?” to “What was that all about?”

Periodically, as it goes here in Africa, we would get news of those we had ministered to during our short stay in Tanzania. One brother’s news in particular helped me see things differently. This man had told us years ago that he wanted to reach his tribe, the Maasai, who are notoriously difficult to reach. “Out of the blue” as it were we received news he had actually gone back to his people and was a pastor of a church.

A smile crosses my face, now nearly 17 years later, as I realize what never was meant to be for us, happened in the life of another. What we sowed into him has carried on and that is amazing. When we say, “One soul is all that matters.” God will test us on our word, not because He needs to find out for he knows our hearts, but to show us what is in the depths of our hearts.

It took years, but I was finally able to come to a place of peace and left the unknown and unanswered questions about that time to God. I have had more “Tanzania effect” moments in the years since we left, and they have hurt me as well, but none effected me as deeply as my season in Tanzania. 

Then, earlier this year, we received an email from some connections in Arusha, Tanzania, inviting my husband to speak at a conference. Two days ago I stepped onto a plane and made the long journey to Arusha from our home in Blantyre, Malawi, with my husband and daughter. I’ve not been back to Tanzania since 2001, and I wondered what “effect” this journey would have on me.

The conference begins this morning and as I look out my window and wonder what this week holds, I know one thing: God is faithful. He loves us so much that He puts us exactly where we need to be at any given moment. Had our journey in Tanzania taken more or less time, everything we have seen in its wake could have turned out differently. Would the churches have been born that we’ve seen born? Would our adopted daughter in Malawi have come into our lives? I can’t bear to think of that! I thank Tanzania for pushing me forward, so much has come to pass in the years since.

Romans 8:28 NLT “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Take a breath, the pain will pass, and one day you’ll find yourself on the other side of that experience. The reasons you endured what you’ve endured may not be understood in this lifetime, but that really doesn’t matter. They will work to get you to where you need to go.

Categories
Courage Faith

It’s All Downhill From Here

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I don’t think I’m much more than ordinary but there might be a few things about me you don’t know (everyone here has a story). Maybe you don’t know that I am first generation Finn. My parents, both Finnish, moved to the USA in the early 60s. Then I was born!  My first English word, I’m told, was “underdog.” What significance does that hold? I don’t know. It’s just fun.

So I spent much of my early childhood in New York and New Jersey where it’s slightly cooler than in Africa where I’ve spent most of my life.

I loved being outside during all seasons (still like being outside) but especially during winter. When we lived in New Jersey, we lived in an area where there were plenty of ski resorts and lakes. During the summer, there was an abundance of outdoor fun to be had; from building treehouses to fishing and swimming. It was a great place to grow up.

During the WINTER, to me, it was a wonderland! When it snowed in our part of the country, it snowed. I relished in making snow forts, having snowball fights, sledding, ice-skating, and cross-country skiing.

Yes, you heard right. Cross country skiing. Being of Finnish descent, I had no real interest in downhill skiing. In the “old country” (Finland) everyone knew how to cross country ski. My parents told me tales of how they skied to school, church, and family gatherings during the cold, long winters in Finland.

Cross-country skiing requires incredible physical stamina: no ski lifts, no pre-marked hills, it’s all strength and understanding – just you and nature. It is, undoubtedly, the superior one of the skiing sports.

So when we lived in New Jersey and I grew old enough to try, I asked to use my mother’s cross-country skis since she, due to a knee injury, no longer skied. My parents had no objection and so I began my illustrious career as a cross-country skier.

There were hills behind our house, just perfect for my mission to cross country ski. I had visions of myself stealthily whipping around trees and hills in the woods– but that first year of skiing was not at all spent as I envisioned. Instead, I spent a lot of time with my face planted in the snow. My father tried to instruct me on how to strap the ski boots into the skis, proper form, how to hold the ski poles, how to stand on the skis, how to care for the skis, even how to wax the bottom of the skis. In my enthusiasm, I didn’t give his advice much thought, and began tumbling down the hills face first. I had a lot of nosebleeds and bruised knees. I wasn’t interested at first in learning – I figured I could do it alone without the hassle of being instructed.

Dad stood at the tops and bottoms of the hills, yelling instructions, and gritting his teeth as I fell. I shut a lot of what he said out as I tumbled and stumbled my way around. Those first months of learning how to ski were pretty tough; I spent more time on my knees in the snow than I did standing on the skis. Instead of anticipating going down the hills, I was afraid, afraid of the spills but too embarrassed to admit I was wrong, at least for a while.

Around the middle of that first winter, I grew tired of the bruises and nosebleeds and found myself thinking, “What was it that dad said?” Then, I tentatively began recalling his words, implementing what he said, and spending less time on my face in the snow. I have a vivid memory of one of the first big hills I climbed up and successfully skied down without falling – I was so proud of myself! And dad was at the bottom of the hill that day, waiting for me, congratulating me. There’s nothing like getting to the top of the hill and coasting down after all that effort – I’d say to myself, “It’s all downhill from here!” No wonder I began begging for my own skis for the following Christmas.

The next winter, at Christmastime, it was gift opening time. I was so happy and there were gifts under the tree. But by the end of the evening (we opened our gifts on Christmas Eve), I had not gotten many presents while my sister and brother had plenty of spoil. All of the sudden, coming up the steps wearing a Santa Claus mask comes Dad with a big pair of orange cross-country skis – he was supplying me with my very own skis! I did nothing to get them – he saw I learned and gave me better skis than what I had been using. That’s a father for you.

Our heavenly Father is like that: He sets a landscape before us (life) and gives us skis (faith) to navigate with. He stands, instructing us how to use those skis and sometimes we see what’s before us and think we know the way to go and how to use those skis. Nevertheless, He continues coaching us and waits for us at the bottom of the hill.

There was a man many of us know from the Bible named Abraham who had a goal, or a landscape set before him by God the Father. That goal was for him to have a son and through his son have many descendants. It was quite a long journey on his faith skis to get there – the only way he could get to the destination was by faith for faith is the way of the Kingdom:

Habakkuk 2:4 NASB “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.”

Hebrews 11:6 NIV “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”

So we have to live by faith or we won’t make it, nor will we even please our Father without it. Here’s a heads up: we won’t understand it. Living by faith is like skiing for the first time: you have to listen or you will fall. The terrain is rough – sometimes isolated and cold – but you have your skis, remember the instructions on how to use them: trust Him and His faithfulness. That means you have to turn off your thinking from time to time. If we can just trust Him, we’ll get down the hill with fewer bruises.

Now Abraham is known to us as the “father of faith” (see Romans 4). A great reputation to hold and one we need to aspire to. We feel a bit overwhelmed when we hear about Abraham and think we can’t even think we could get to that level of faith.

Why do we do that? Think God has made others greater than He made us?

Abraham was just like you and I, full of imperfections. In fact, there are some things that I hope you DON’T emulate from the life of Abraham (keep reading, you’ll see).

Psalm 139:14 NKJ “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.”

So the Father made us all on equal footing – He loves us all and made us all “wonderfully.” Why then do we put ourselves down? The only one among us better than us all is Jesus Himself – and Philippians 2 tells us He became like us because we couldn’t possibly be like Him.

So, you can read from Genesis 15 all the way through to Genesis 22 about God’s promise to Abraham (who was “Abram” before being renamed “Abraham” by God). He and his wife didn’t have children of their own for years and despite God’s promise, Abraham had a few wobbly moments of trying to ski down the hills by himself and get to the goal his way.

Genesis 15:2 NCV “But Abram said, ‘Lord God, what can you give me? I have no son, so my slave Eliezer from Damascus will get everything I own after I die.’”

Abraham tried to give his inheritance to Eliezer his servant; God then promised him an heir, a son. Not many verses later after the God made his covenant with Abraham (a time of establishing God’s promise – it was a heavy moment with animals being offered and God committing Himself to Abraham and his descendants) where Abraham learned the fate of his descendants, again he wobbles on his skis:

Genesis 16:2 NKJ “So Sarai said to Abram, ‘See now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.’ And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai.”

Sarah “helped” Abraham get to the goal since she wasn’t apparently able to have children on her own by telling him, “Please go in to my maid.” Abraham agreed and this is how Ishmael was born – and even though he was born out of Abraham’s moment of weakness in belief, God loved and provided for this son.

Those wobbly moments, those mistakes along the way, are not irretrievable! Some of the greatest growth you’ll experience along this journey won’t come by way of great Christian books but by your drawing nearer to the Father in the middle of the frozen wilderness, standing on your skis paralyzed not knowing what to do! Then you remember, you have your faith – you don’t know how to work it too well – so you trust, and that’s when faith works.

Things didn’t get any better for Abraham as he waited for the promise as he pawned Sarah his wife off to Abimilech, king of Gerar. All of the women of the household of Abimilech didn’t have children while Sarah was with them (seems it was a while even though the scripture doesn’t specify how long, it was long enough for them to realize no one was getting pregnant – interesting they were struck with barrenness and Sarah was barren).

There goes the father of our faith, wobbling along in his faith – afraid for his life even though God had promised him an heir and that heir hadn’t been born yet. Wobbling on the skis. Climbing up the hills without a ski lift to help him, barely making it.

But of this Abraham we see it written:

Hebrews 6:15 NIV “So after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.”

What? Abraham waited patiently? According to my judgment he waited IMpatiently – but God’s way of seeing things is different than mine. If there’s an element of faith in us, God sees it and rejoices! He doesn’t beat us up for lack of faith, He finds a reason to cheer.

Every day we find ourselves bumbling and stumbling along trying to reach goals, make our way along the journey towards those promises God has for us. You see, just like Abraham, God chose you (1 Pet. 2:9 chosen generation).

Nehemiah 9:7,8 NASB “You are the Lord God, Who chose Abram…And gave him the name Abraham. You found his heart faithful before You, 
And made a covenant with him
…And You have fulfilled Your promise,
For You are righteous.”

NLT vs. 8 “when he proved himself faithful…”

Not only are you chosen but like with Abraham, He changed your name from lost to found, from bound to free, from sad to happy, and from unwanted to wanted. And like Abraham, we are going through the process of us finding our hearts to be faithful to Him – and guess what? They are! Even through the stumbling and momentary slips, as long as there is that element of faith there God sees it and rejoices.

One thing is certain, our Father is faithful to fulfill His promises. Sometimes, in fact most of the time, they are not filled as we want or when we want. And to be honest, this is why we get angry because we think we know better – but we don’t even see a quarter of the picture:

Job 26:14 Rotherham “Lo! These, are the fringes of His way, and what a whisper of a word hath been heard of Him! But, the thunder of His might, who could understand?”

MSG “And this is only the beginning, a mere whisper of his rule.
Whatever would we do if he really raised his voice!”

It’s as if we are on skis and those skis and ski poles represent our faith. We didn’t fabricate the poles, we didn’t make the skis, the Father supplied them like my father gave me my skis. Yes, the Father gave us our faith (Rm. 12 “everyone given a measure of faith”), we didn’t do anything but receive it. But more than supply our faith (or our skis), He yearns to teach us how to use our faith just like my father yearned to teach me how to use my skis.

Our Father sees things we don’t and we couldn’t understand or bear it if we did.

As a child, I didn’t understand what went into the skis and why it was important for them to be just right, straight, waxed on the bottom, ski boots buckled in properly, all of the details that went into a successful journey – but when I followed instructions without really knowing why, I made it to the end with fewer bruises than having tried on my own, following what looked good to me.

What we forget it that our Father knows we are imperfect, He knows we have feet of clay. All He is looking for is for us to have faith in Him, trust His counsel on how to use the skis. We can’t conjure up anything on our own – faith isn’t a magic spell or positive thinking – faith is all about the Father and His faithfulness!

Once the subject of our faith ceases to be “me and my” (I want this, I need that, I think it ought to be this way) and turns into “Him and His” (what does He want, what does He need, and how does He think it ought to be) then things change. None of this relies on what we do – it all relies and rests on His shoulders whether we understand why or not. He wins in the end; of this we can be sure.

Zephaniah 3:17 NASB “The Lord your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”

Faith will go through its ups and downs in life – and in the middle of the trials it is still faith, whether it feels like it or not. He is rejoicing over you and He is the winner. His love and joy over you doesn’t change because of circumstances. So, why then, do we change in our feelings for Him when our circumstances change? He never fails us – He sees the bigger picture.

You’ve not lost it just because you are struggling to remember what the Father has said. He is faithful to remind you and will be waiting at the bottom of the hill, cheering you on. But let me give you a hint: don’t do this on your own. Once we can do this, we’re at the top of that big hill and guess what? It is all downhill from here!

 

 

 

Categories
Beginnings Journey Obedience

Huts, Houses, Garages, and Tents

Matthew 18:19,20 “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

I used to think, like most people I suppose, that a church gathering was an activity that Christians took part in on a Sunday. It meant going to a prescribed building on a prescribed day to take part in a prescribed activity. Once I became a Christian, those prescribed activities became like a prescribed antibiotic for me – if I missed even one dose, I risked missing out on the healing effects of the medicine. What I didn’t realize at the time was that going to church didn’t necessarily mean going to church on days we are accustomed to nor did it hinge on whether or not there was a proper church building to meet in.

In 1987 I moved with my husband and young son to Africa to serve as a missionary. Little did I know that my prescribed routine of church attendance was in for a big change. Oh yes, I had been an associate pastor’s wife for nearly three years prior to our move but somehow I was not really prepared for what was about to take place in my life.

When I landed in Zaire in 1987, I was enamored with the notion of missionary life; the difference of lifestyle between the USA and Africa was what I thought would be my biggest hurdle to overcome. I would gladly face the rigors of grinding coffee beans in a large mortar and pestle until they were fine enough to make coffee, learn how to bake bread and even figure out the magic of making mayonnaise. Oddly enough, I adjusted to these changes rather quickly (and my family survived this process – a miracle in itself) and even began to make strides in speaking foreign languages!

Going to a church service in Africa for the first time made me realize that either my idea of church was going to change, or I was going to change everyone else’s idea of church! No one was very keen to follow what my idea was for church so I was the one challenged to change. First of all, I didn’t understand why in the world did everyone think that we had to go to church for so long? Couldn’t we get everything done in an hour and a half or two hours max? Wasn’t God big enough to get the job done in a shorter period of time? There was no reason to hang around in church for three, four up to six hours! How could a person be expected to sit in one spot for so long on a cement block, rock, broken chair or bench? Let’s not discuss how hot it got in those buildings or the fact that it wasn’t uncommon to hear several languages going on at once – I was just trying to say hello in Swahili, I had no idea that languages such as Lingala, Chiluba and Chibemba existed.

While this was all going on, I was trying to take care of a busy two year old and keep a smile on my face. Keeping a smile was no small task and sometimes, if not often, my husband must have wanted to put me in a box and ship me back to where I came from! Not only did I find out how to get through church and much more (let’s not mention the bat that kept trying to nail me during church one Sunday) but I had to somehow find GOD in the middle of these services.

By the time I finally had made peace with myself and found God’s presence – God called us to plant churches. As we planted our first church, I realized once again that God had to change me before He could use me to help anyone else. Church became a lifestyle for us, it was no longer a prescribed activity – it became our life. When we’d enter into people’s homes and give them the Good News, God’s presence was there. In early Morning Prayer meetings, when only two or three showed up – God’s presence was there. Our very first church service was held in the middle of a slum, you could smell banana beer and open sewage when you opened the windows – but somehow, God’s presence was always there. In the middle of the estates where we had cell meetings on any and all days of the week – God was there too. Our church buildings have never been posh by Western standards, even our best building would be called a “fixer-upper” in the US, but when you get past the aesthetics of it all – you’ll find God is there.

Our trek in Africa has brought me through several nations. Every time we plant a new church, I find God’s presence quicker than the time before. For example, when planting our church in Lusaka, Zambia, we started by meeting as a small group in a hut in the front yard of our home. As the crowd grew too large to sit in the small hut, we moved our little group inside the house.   God was faithful and soon, 30+ people were squeezing themselves into our small living room. Another place of meeting had to be found quickly! In the back of the house we had an open garage; we had the idea of moving everyone outside to celebrate the Lord in the garage. 30 soon became 50; 50 grew to 80 and we again had to solve the problem of where to seat everyone. Instead of moving, we hung a large piece of tarpaulin out to extend our capacity. Not long afterwards, we were bursting out of the seams with over 100 people garage-a-brating the Lord. Ultimately, we moved the growing congregation to a school ground we rented where we pitched a 300-seat tent.  God has been faithful since those days of garage-a-bration services; the same problem of where to seat all of the people has continued to follow us as we have planted more churches – and we like these problems.

Huts, houses, garages and tents may seem like unconventional places of meeting to you; but God isn’t limited by what we are accustomed to. If we look for God, even in the most unconventional and unlikely places – we will find Him there waiting to meet with us.

Ecclesiastes 11:4 LB “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.”

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Categories
Fasting Obedience

Day 15 – Life Unexplained

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We are now in the 15th day of our 21-day fast. I don’t know what kind of fast you are on, we have been on a water only fast during the day and having a vegetable broth soup at night. This fast has been an amazing journey spiritually; God has really been speaking to us. At the same time, it’s not all been serious here at our house. There have also been quite a few funny things happen. Around the 5th day into the fast I noticed my brain was not working as well as it should (some might say my brain activity is usually missing a connection). I began forgetting things easily. I went to the store and forgot multiple items and returned 2 and 3 times just to get what I had forgotten. Write a list? I would forget that I wrote a list.

At lunchtime yesterday, my daughter wanted a cheese sandwich for lunch. I was happy to make her the sandwich and clean up afterwards. Later on in the day, I went to the kitchen to get a pair of scissors that I usually keep in the utensil drawer. When I opened the drawer, I had a great laugh – I had left the cheese in the drawer rather than in the refrigerator. Fasting brain we now call it, and we had a good laugh.

Yesterday’s entry had to do with not worrying about fitting in with this world’s way of doing things, a lot like cheese doesn’t fit into the utensil drawer. Fasting certainly is stepping outside of wanting to fit in with what is the “sensible” thing to do. Sure, some will fast for medical reasons or to follow a diet plan that only allows eating during windows of time during the day (this is called “intermittent fasting”). But fasting just to hear from God? How can we explain that sensibly? It’s plain and simple; we aren’t sensible people to this world.

1 John 1:5-7 NKJ This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

We’re told to “walk in the light.” Whose light are we told to walk in? The light of our feelings? The light of our opinion? The light of our family’s bidding? There’s no light, no direction in any of those places. If we walk in the light of feelings, we will change direction daily. If we walk in the light of our opinion, we will be prone to instability as our opinion changes with circumstance. If we walk in the light of our family’s bidding, we will never live out our own destiny.

Living out of any sense of obligation, be it obligation to family, friends, or even our own feelings, is living out of a sense of duty. If we live this way, it’s easy to explain to others the reasons for our actions.

Explaining living in the light to others, even fellow believers, is sometimes difficult, as living in the light, living in obedience, often cannot be explained. God won’t usually give us answers to our questions when He reveals His will to us – He simply wants us to follow directions.

Acts 9:3-18 NKJ As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ So he, trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do. And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ And he said, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ So the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.’ Then Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.’ But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.’ And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.’

Saul, later the Apostle Paul, was told to go and wait. At that moment, he had no other explanation offered to him by the Lord. He was blinded by this experience and was led “by the hand” to Damascus. The scriptures say that those with Saul didn’t hear the voice speak as Saul had. I wonder what Saul told them and what their reaction was. I wonder had he known the future that was about to unfold in front of him; of the rejection he would face by the Jews, near-death experiences, imprisonments, and finally death for Christ, if he would have been so quick to obey.

I also wonder if it isn’t out of the great mercies of our Father that He does the same for us. Only revealing to us the things that we are able to bear for the moment because He knows we are made of dust.

Psalm 103:14 NKJ “For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”

Do we remember we are dust? Do we remember that His ways go far beyond ours and that He has the big picture in mind? Do we trust Him when He speaks, understanding that our ideas take a back seat to His because he is so much smarter that we are?

For His ways cannot be explained to even ourselves. This is why it’s so easy for believers who obey to be misunderstood and ridiculed – because how they live is unexplained.


 

 

 

Categories
Fasting New Year Fast Obedience Provision

Day 4 – He Didn’t Stutter

Today we have a guest blogger, Ishah Whipple. Her contact information is below. I’ve enjoyed reading her blog; she has a transparent style of writing that is refreshing. Her love for God is set openly on display as she shares with us today how God doesn’t backtrack on His words: He doesn’t stutter!  

I find her entry for today on point with the path the Lord has been bringing us on: focus, obedience, clarity.

I hope you enjoy her writing as much as I have and follow her blog as well. Blessings!


I can still remember it like it was yesterday. Funny thing is, it happens to us on a daily basis in various ways and it’s up to us to make the right choice.  Whose voice will we choose to listen to today? Ours, the devil’s, or God’s?  Yep. There’s three of them.  Let’s go down memory lane and maybe it’ll help you to understand where I’m coming from.

It was the year 2014 and me, my husband Deric, and our four kids lived in South Florida.  We were at a place where we had backed away from God due to a mix of bad decisions and some church drama.  We were given word after word from what seemed like everyone in the entire world that God was relocating us, but we were so busy being bitter about our present circumstances that we flat out didn’t care.  

We spent months in pure misery as every aspect of our lives began to slip away from us. Friends, family, jobs, finances. Our marriage was falling apart before our very eyes and our children were fighting like cats and dogs. We were a wreck. 

One night my husband and I fought so bad that he started to pack and leave the house. I thought for sure it was all over.  I screamed and cried wondering how we ended up in such a low place. It was God and God alone that softened my husband’s heart that night to stay. We spent all night and most of the morning sitting on our bedroom floor talking and crying. We knew exactly how we got to that place and knew the only way out was to shut out the world and seek God like never before. 

We needed a word and some direction from God without any interference. 

For about six weeks we spent every waking moment outside of work and school praying, worshipping and drowning ourselves both individually and as a family in God’s word.  We had mornings where we would all be in tears, faced down on the floor just crying out to God. We put our desperation on display and let me tell you, God rocked our world!

By the end of those six weeks, God had made it clear that we were going to be relocating and we already knew where.  We had never been to South Carolina, but we knew that was where He was sending us.  We had no jobs, money, or a place to go.  All we had was a word from God and a promise that He would keep us.  I have to be honest and tell you, I wasn’t having it.

I knew I heard God. Never in my life had I been so confident in what I heard. Not only did I hear Him, but my husband heard Him too. My husband was ready. Like annoyingly ready. He was ready to pack up and go without knowing where we would go.  Me on the other hand, I was ready to go as long as I knew we had a house to go to, jobs to start and a full outlined plan.  Needless to say, I was about to learn a hard lesson in faith.

Now listen, I had a great job with benefits and even though the world was crumbling around me, I was determined to have a plan that I could see so I could then obey the word. Because that’s how God works right?! Wrong!

I remember being at home, working on my laptop and it suddenly shutting down. I became immediately frustrated because I had work to do.  I called coworkers and their laptops were just fine. I called IT and they didn’t find an issue with my laptop or the network. I sat there frustrated and blurted out, Ok God! What is it?! I get up to take a ride with my husband and he reminds me to check on a friend of ours who recently lost someone. I call her and she picks up the phone speaking in tongues. 

Great……here we go! Let’s see what You have to tell me!

She immediately began to rebuke me for my disobedience. I was shocked. She said, You know, the mere doubt of God’s Word is disobedience. Why are you being disobedient? If God gave you a word, do it! Don’t question it. The moment you question His word or put conditions on His command, you become disobedient. You know better than that!

I sat there in complete silence….with the occasional sniffle and whimper. I knew what God had told me. I just kept asking for Him to repeat Himself because it was so out there that it honestly scared me. She then prayed for us and politely got off the phone. I sat there like that five-year-old child who just got spanked because she knew better. I knew what God said and I didn’t immediately obey.  I had to make it right.

I went to the room, with my husband right beside me and typed up my letter of resignation. The moment I signed it and pressed send, my laptop immediately connected back to the network and all was well. Two weeks later, we packed up our two cars, four children and everything we could fit in those cars and left to South Carolina. 

Moral of the story, it’s been two years here in South Carolina and we have not lacked for a thing. We’ve had our ups and downs and life has certainly not been a bed of roses, but we’ve been completely changed.  Our children have grown to love God and ministry like never before at such young ages, our marriage is stronger than any marriage I’ve ever known, our faith is solid and ever growing, and we have a ministry that is being birthed through the lessons learned throughout our transition.

Today I challenge you to simply obey. I challenge you to seek God like never before and to be open to whatever He shows or tells you.  The unknown can be a scary place, but what is scarier is living outside the will and purpose of God for your life. I’d rather take a step into the dark hallway with God than to jump off the cliff on my own. Hallways always lead to doors whereas a cliff leads only to jagged rocks.

Remember, you are God’s children. The voice of a stranger you will not hear. Ask God to quiet those voices…including your own….so you can hear His voice and be obedient to what He says. He will never steer you wrong and has nothing but great plans for you. Don’t make Him repeat Himself. You heard it the first time. He didn’t stutter.

Until next time, be blessed!


Contact information for Ishah:
Email: mrzwhip@gmail.com

I’ve been asked how to comment on the blog itself so here’s how: click on the title of the blog you want to comment on and it will open to that specific entry. At the bottom of the page is a comment/share section. On the bottom right of the page is a “follow” button if you would like to receive the blog by email instead of reading offline.

How’s your fast going? It’s day 4 and we are getting into the thick of it and I feel it for sure. Take it easy if you’re doing a more conventional fast; make sure you’re drinking water and getting rest. I’m leaving you with a fasting YouTube link from Jentezen Franklin that will give great advice and encourage you to keep going. It’s a great resource, I highly recommend listening to his short messages (about 20-30 mins each).
Categories
Choices Obedience Offering

Day 3 – Not a Word

I’ve been guilty of grumbling over the “long” wait I have had for answers to my prayers. I’ve also complained that the journey has been “so hard” and “no one else” can understand how hard it has been. No, certainly there isn’t anyone who could possibly understand this road. Having to go from place to place, learn languages, use tents for our churches, wondering how things will get done. Then I remember Abraham and his life and am immediately reminded that this journey in obedience has been taken many times before I was even born.

Abraham is one of the greatest human examples we can draw from on the subject because of his deep “humanness” in the middle of great obedience to God and sacrifice. As well as being a great man of faith, he was a man with great flaws just like the rest of us – and this gives the rest of us hope! Despite being flawed, human, God can and will use us if we dare to believe.

Let’s pick up Abraham’s story in the latter part of Genesis 11 when he was known as Abram (God later renamed him Abraham). Initially, Abraham was an idol maker, his family made their wealth off of making idols. They were quite well off, I imagine if Abraham lived at this stage of his life today we would find him somewhere on Palm Beach or in Los Angeles or some other expensive area with a large mansion, owning some posh business and involved in the “jet set” of society.

In the opening of chapter 12 of Genesis, God speaks to Abraham and tells him to “Get out of your country, from your family, and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you…” (vs. 1) in subsequent verses, God promises Abraham that he would be blessed and through him all nations of the world would be blessed.

In verse 4 of chapter 12 it reads, “So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him…” He went with his whole family. It’s mind-boggling that there was no record of Abraham asking God questions like: how? why? where? He simply obeyed immediately. Where was he going? He didn’t know but he went. He knew the plan of God in part, that he would be a blessing – but all he knew to do was to go so he did. He left the “how” it would get done to God.

Throughout Genesis, if you take the time to read through it, you’ll see how Abraham basically kept his course and somehow kept going toward the goal that God had set for him. Throughout the process, we see moments where his humanness shows, like when he tried to pass off his wife as his sister (though somehow there was some truth to that statement, maybe that was his justification for his error in judgment??), when he tried to bring about the promise of having a son through Hagar instead of Sarah, and so on. Finally, though, we see God come through and Abraham’s son of promise, Isaac, is born. What a great day of celebration that must have been for Abraham!

But the journey of sacrifice that had already taken many years for Abraham, was not yet complete. God had another hurdle set before Abraham, not to test him so that God Himself would know what was in Abraham’s heart, for God knows what’s in the hearts of all people (2 Chron. 6:30). God tested Abraham so Abraham could see what was in his own heart. Sound familiar? How many times have we all gone through things and later on thought, “Wow, how did I get through that?” God knew it was in you to get through – so you did, you just needed to see it.

I want us to pick up the story in Genesis chapter 22 where we see one of the greatest (if not the greatest) parallels to the offering of Christ in the Bible, where Abraham was told to offer his son Isaac to God as a burnt offering.

Gen. 22:2-19

Isaac, the son of promise, was the demand that God placed on Abraham. He told Abraham in Genesis 22:2, “offer him to Me.”  I believe Abraham reasoned that God had given him Isaac, God had the right to ask for him. He also knew God had promised to raise up a nation from Isaac so if he offered his son, he knew God would have to raise him from the dead in order to keep His promise – for God is a God of His Word (Titus 1:2).

What I find astounding about Abraham and his life is seen at this juncture when, in the next verse 3, we read, “so Abraham arose early in the morning and saddled his donkey and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him (Mount Moriah).” His decision to obey wasn’t one that he laboured over; this father who loved his son and had waited for his birth immediately obeyed a command he certainly couldn’t understand. How many times have I agonised over God’s call? His demand on my life? Why has my obedience been delayed? To be reasonable? To get prepared? The scriptures don’t give us much insight into Abraham’s thought processes but I’m sure he struggled as we do now. The difference we see between our agonising obedience and his was that his obedience was immediate.

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We don’t see Sarah being consulted here; this doesn’t mean she didn’t know. This simply means that Abraham was commanded to do something and he obeyed. I tend to think that Abraham must have told Sarah, after all they had been through and she supported him, but who knows? Nevertheless, whether or not she knew wasn’t what was being driven home here. What is important for us to note is that whether or not she approved or disapproved of what Abraham was doing had nothing to do with Abraham’s obedience. This was a command given to him by God; this was his journey to take whether or not others, even those closest to him, understood or approved. When we obey God, we have to be ready for resistance and even rejection for God’s ways, as we know, are far beyond human understanding.

Imagine what this man went through for this act of obedience, he not only had to endure his own thoughts, but he prepared everything he needed for the sacrifice. Just like God when He prepared everything on that first Christmas night for His sacrifice (he prepared a family for Him, a home to grow in until the time came for Him to move on to His offering of His own sacrifice).   Abraham prepared for sacrificing his son: he split the wood for the sacrifice, loaded it all together with his son and his servants, and off he went.

Abraham understood that this was a job he had to tend to personally. Just like God understood that the redemption of mankind was a personal journey He had to take. No one else could do it for him, none of his paid servants could offer Isaac for him – this was his sacrifice, his journey. He stopped life to make it happen.

It took 4 days for Abraham to get to the mountain of Moriah (Genesis 22:4) with his entourage. Imagine those 4 days and what they were like. 4 days to think about what he was going to do. Just like God Who had 33 years to think about what Jesus was going to do when He faced the cross – but He (like Abraham) never backed down. No words in either case of re-thinking the issue or finding a bartering tool – a way of escape. Simple silence, no words were given to express feeling.

As a parent, I can tell you at least from my perspective what Abraham must have been feeling.   You could do the same, those of you who are parents. That baby that he had prayed decades for, giving up as an offering? No bitterness spewing from his father’s mouth, just courage and endurance. It must have been a long 4 days to Moriah.

At the bottom of  the mountain of Moriah, the story goes on to say (Genesis 22:5) that Abraham left the donkey and the young men. He had to leave anything that might have slowed him down or influenced him in any way so he could go and “worship.” Notice he says at the end of the verse that “we will come back to you.” He must have clung to the promise, just like Jesus did as He looked at the “joy” (you and me) set before Him so He could endure, knowing that Isaac was the door to God’s promise. But all he could think as he climbed that mountain must have been, “My son. Isaac! My only son!” Obedience, I’ve learned, comes from the heart, not the mind. Abraham knew that his mind couldn’t understand what his heart knew: he had to obey God.

Historians have noted that Moriah is one and the same as the mountain in Jerusalem or Calvary. When Jesus climbed that same mountain as Abraham and Isaac, His reaction to His offering required by God was the same –

Isaiah 53:7 “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter.”

Isaac, once arriving at the top of the mountain, asks his father, “where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7) In wisdom, Abraham clings to God’s promise saying “God will provide a lamb…”

The difference between Abraham’s offering and God’s is this: Abraham’s obedience was full and God provided a sacrifice for Abraham in the form of a ram at the top of the mountain – Isaac was spared. God had no substitute when He gave us Jesus. And Jesus’ offering was complete all the way to death.

This is what obedience means to me: it is the ascent to Moriah, to Calvary. It is the giving up so that others may live. It is proving to myself the level of my commitment to God.

The parallel of Abraham’s & God’s offerings doesn’t end with the sacrifice. Perhaps the greatest parallel exists in why they offered their offerings:

Genesis 22:18 “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

Galatians 3:13, 14 “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”) that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”

This is what our lifetime sacrifice means to me: it is the ascent to Moriah, to Calvary. It is the giving up so that others may live. God calls all of us to Moriah so that He can use us for the sake of others.

All of us are called to this place of sacrifice; everyone has their own sacrifice. For me, Moriah brought me to a place of sacrificing my family. I have known the sacrifice of leaving my parents, my siblings, my nation, which was difficult enough. I have known the sacrifice of being misunderstood and having to learn languages and new cultures. Yes, those were hard. But now I have come to the greatest mountain of sacrifice when I had to leave my children. All I thought about as I climbed that mountain was “how can I do this?” But God somehow gave me grace so others could hear, so others could know. I had to trust Him with my sacrifice, my children.

That sacrifice brought great pain to me, to us, but in our offering, came much joy. God provided for all their needs and He is using us to plant more churches, feed more children – and in the offering we still have child #4 filling our home with joy. Yes, God thinks of everything.

The new climb He has asked of us is to trust our offering to Him. If I’ve offered my children, living near them, helping them when they need help and enjoying my grandchildren, I must truly leave it with Him without complaint. After all, it’s a very small offering in comparison to what the Father offered for me.

Are these people, these people that surround us every day worth what God is asking us to climb and offer at Moriah for Him? Yes it is. You might not feel it, I might not feel it, you might not feel like it, but it is worth it because there was a day that our Saviour climbed that same mountain for us – and He didn’t say a word.


We’re now in Day 3! How are you doing? I’m appreciating the personal messages that are coming through to me via email and messenger. I’d love for others to read your faith-filled comments. It’s a great encouragement during times like a fast to read what God is saying to fellow believers. Click in the comment section of the blog and leave your comments there and we can get encouragement to the whole group.

I was also asked about Bible reading and what plan to follow by several readers. I want to encourage you to go to YouVersion (if you have access to a computer) and there you will find many Bible reading plans. I prefer the One Year Bible myself but there are some other interesting options there. I’ll include the link here for you to take a look.

Home

Of course you can purchase the One Year Bible at your local bookstore or online if you prefer pages to computer screens!


Categories
Forgiveness New Year Obedience Vision

Runaway Prophet

It’s almost 2017 and the internet is buzzing with words like “resolutions” and “vision.” Plenty of counsel abounds in books, articles, and sermons on how to be successful in reaching those goals. Its’ not that setting goals is bad; I personally set goals and trust that God is in my goal-setting.

I struggle not to have preconceived ideas about how God will help me bring my goals to pass. I have, all too often, failed in my attempts to allow God to work His plans out instead of me working my plans out. This began early in life for me. I assumed as a young child that I could excel at any sport or activity, until I actually tried and realised there was more to success than natural ability. No, I was not a gymnast, swimmer, runner, or celebrity. By the time I reached adulthood, I had an idea that I wasn’t all that and a bag of chips. But I still thought I knew enough to figure out how a situation would pan out. When I got married, I was sure that I would be a princess forever (for Jamie called me princess then) until I became a real-life Cinderella and toilets needed scrubbing! When I had children I thought I would be the patient, perfect parent and then found myself talking through my teeth. Things were not proceeding as planned…

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And I wondered after a few years of thinking I knew how things would turn out – what if I was wrong? What if, after all my fumbling around, there was something to be said in surrendering to God and His will when it made no sense? What if the problem wasn’t in my surroundings but in my own reactions and prideful thinking in the depths of my own heart? I found myself to be very much like the prophet Jonah of old.

One of the things I appreciate about Jonah of the Bible is that he’s real. There’s nothing hidden about Jonah. He wears it all on his sleeve and yet, God used him. To me, that meant as I read about Jonah, that there was hope for me!

We can read that God had sent Jonah to the ancient city of Nineveh for a special mission (Jonah 1). God wanted him to go on a three day trip inland from where he was and proclaim God’s message to the people of the city because God had better plans for them; He had better things in mind for them than what they were living. He loved even the people of that city.

The problem with this was the historical hatred that existed between the Jews and the Ninevites (who were Israel’s ancient enemy, the Assyrians). The Ninevites (Gentiles) were a warring people that periodically plundered Israel, destroying their villages, killing their people. So this command given to Jonah by God was more than his mind could grasp – and his solution was to flee.

Once Jonah fled, God had a two-fold problem on His hands: an unrepentant city and a runaway prophet. Jonah took refuge on a ship sailing for far-away lands and hid, but he ended up being thrown overboard and then swallowed by a “large fish.” What living in a fish’s gut is like is not something I care to think of – the very lightest whiff of “fish smell” makes my stomach turn.

God held on to Jonah in the belly of that fish and He holds on to us – He holds on to you. He used a lot of adverse circumstances to “corner” the runaway prophet and get his attention. Had Jonah just obeyed he could’ve avoided a lot of trouble. Just like me. I could’ve, in my lifetime, avoided a lot of adverse circumstances by just obeying. Instead, I found myself wrapped up in attention-getters of my own making.

It took a lot for Jonah to respond to God. Even when he finally did respond to God and go to Nineveh to give Nineveh God’s message – He did so with an attitude.

Nineveh was a huge city, in Jonah 3:3 it says that the city was so large that it took 3 days to travel across it. What that really means in actual mileage is uncertain, but we can be pretty sure it was of substantial size. This meant that Jonah had a big job to proclaim God’s message. He couldn’t just say it quietly at a corner in an obscure neighborhood – it had to be preached.

As I think of it, he must have had to take several days to get the word out that unless the city repented, the city would be overthrown (Jonah 3:4). Can you imagine him looking at the people in that place. We might think that Jonah was just disobedient simply because of how the Ninevites had plundered his people. Have you ever considered that he might have lived through some of the raids of Nineveh on his people and it might even be that Jonah himself lost some family members to this warring group of people? The Bible doesn’t record more than Jonah’s anger against the people for all the atrocities they had committed, but one wonders, had Jonah been hurt? Had he lost loved ones? Friends? It was to these people that he hated that he was called.

As Jonah was, so are we. We are called to this world. The unforgiving, unashamed, hard-hearted, hurtful, mixed up, and angry world. Those who have hurt us, those who don’t help us, those who oppose our beliefs, those who don’t care when we are wronged – these are the ones we are called to.

And just like with Jonah the choice is ours – do we choose the school of the storms and fish or the school of God’s aggressive love?

Let’s pick up the story here in Jonah 3 when Jonah had finally come to his senses and decided to obey God:

Jonah 3:5-10 NKJ “So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, ‘But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away form His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?’ Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

Why is it that God is so forgiving? Here in the Old Testament, to a group of people that were pagan, the Assyrians by descent who were ancient enemies of Israel, noncovenant people! And to this people, He extends the opportunity to repent and turn to Him. So much for God loving one group of people over another; He has always loved this world and has sought to bring His message to all who would hear.

Even having gone through the school of “storms and fish” Jonah begrudges God’s love for the people of Nineveh:

Jonah 4:1-4 NKJ “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, ‘Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!’ Then the Lord said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’”

The chapter goes on to account God teaching Jonah about forgiveness and compassion. From this scene, Jonah stomps off to a distant part of the city to see what would happen (maybe he was hoping God would relent and destroy the people anyway). God planted some kind of plant/tree to give him shade – but then sent an insect or worm to destroy it. So Jonah was angry over the death of the tree. God questions Jonah if it was right to be angry over something like the tree, and Jonah says, “Yes! Even angry enough to die!”

God cornered Jonah by saying if Jonah had pity on a plant he hadn’t planted and had withered in a night, why not pity people who are of much greater value?

Jonah 4:11 NKJ “And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left – and much livestock?”

God’s love is so powerful, so aggressive that nothing can stop it. No one can stand in its way. But Jonah’s life compass was off and couldn’t get a grip on the love of God. He was so wound up in his hate of this group of people that his sense of direction was gone. It was then that God had to “erase his hard drive” and start all over with him. This is the power of God’s great love: He loved Nineveh, that reprobate city, and He loved Jonah, the unforgiving, runaway prophet.

I once had a laptop that had been infected by viruses and for those of you who have even a small understanding of computers, you understand how devastating viruses can be.  The very mention of the words “computer virus” strikes fear in the hearts of those who work at their laptops. Well, I was able to remove the virus that had struck the computer but had to reformat the hard drive (a very scary process for me, this was my only computer). Everything was erased from it and I started over installing all programs and backed up information. I succeeded! PTL!

Sometimes that is what happens to us. We’re infected with a virus from this world and the hard drive needs reformatting. God wants to keep us on His track but for some reason, our internal guidance system has been corrupted and has to be reformatted. How this happens has a lot to do with our surrender. God wanted to send Jonah without trouble – but Jonah chose to flee. This brought him to disaster, but God’s aggressive love brought him back because God had something better in mind for the runaway prophet.

Our plans don’t always pan out in the way we foresee. Often this is because we’ve not surrendered our will and our plans to God. Once our plans become His, we are set onto a playing field that God can use! God knows what is happening when we don’t!

Jeremiah 29:11 NLT “‘For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’”

This is a very well known verse; many of us can even quote it. However, as we quote, we’re often so busy trying to map out our paths that we have forgotten that the Director knows the way. We reckon that with our wisdom we know the way – but more often than not, we don’t!

As a parent, there have been many times I’ve tried to instruct my kids to do various chores or help with homework. Often, my assistance has come at their request. When I do roust myself from my “unimportant” chores like paying bills or cooking dinner to help them, I am met with “Oh I know, I know Mom.” Bewildered, I’ll pull back and ask, “If you already knew then why are you asking for my help?”

Math has been a subject for my kids whose logic has often eluded them. I would do everything to try and help when things became frustrating for them. What it came down to most of the time wasn’t their inability to count, add, or subtract, but their rushing through the work so they could do what they thought was more important. When their papers would get marked with many corrections, tears and anger would result. Sad to see them sad, I would try to help them and in their frustration they would shoo me away saying, “I know Mom, I know!”

There’s nothing like being told you know nothing when you know that you know something.

Without doubt, my children had some knowledge about their math assignments but that knowledge wasn’t proving sufficient to get the correct answer. Knowledge without the right process of applying it won’t produce needed results. Besides, no one likes a “know it all.”

1 Corinthians 8:1b NLT “…Yes, we all know that ‘we all have knowledge’ about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church.”

We are so like our own kids in our relationship with our Father God! I can picture me in the middle of a “life test” and failing miserably and not understanding why. In my frustration I call on my Father and as He tries to help me, I push Him away saying defiantly, “I know, I know!” Then I picture Him standing back, like me with my own kids, wishing I would let Him help!

The wonder of living life in the love of God is knowing that He will hold the pieces together – and we don’t have to! We don’t have to know everything because He is our Father and always has our best interests at heart. He is capable of guiding us when we don’t understand, He is capable of saving us when no one (not even ourselves) can. He really does know a whole lot more than we do!

Hebrews 11:40 NLT Because God had provided something better in mind for us, so they would not reach perfection without us.”

The crux of the matter is this: God, our Father, has something so much better in mind for us – it’s better than our best! God supersedes everyone in that not only does He promise to give us the best (because He is the best), but He also has the power to deliver the best.

In fact, what God has in mind is so good that those heroes of faith mentioned in the earlier portion of Hebrews 11 couldn’t reach perfection (or completion) without our cooperation with the plans and mind of God for our lives.

Consider this gallery of faith-mentors cheering for us from the grandstands of heaven: Moses, David, Samson, Rahab, Gideon, Samuel, Barak, the list goes on and their perfection or completion is seen in us – in our aligning ourselves with His plans and not our own because God’s kingdom is an everlasting kingdom that is always expanding. We’ve just picked up where those who have gone before us left off.

Hebrews 12 goes on to say that because all these are cheering for us, since they “surround us,” we need to run with endurance. We need to bear up with the correcting of our course, with that discipline when it comes. They are shouting, “Don’t run away to the school of storms and fish!” Their lessons, and Jonah’s, teach us to 0bey at the first word, don’t wait or we will learn like they did – the hard way!

Hebrews 12:12,13 NLT “So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.” 

It’s time to shake off the pain, put a little band aid on there, and get a new grip. As it was with Jonah, that fierce love, that aggressive love of God is meant to flow through you and not sit stagnant within you. This aggressive love will bring the expansion of the Kingdom to those who remain outside; to those of Nineveh. Perhaps they will repent. Perhaps they will turn from their sin and to God. Perhaps, just perhaps, through our surrender we can see God’s plan for them (what He has in mind that is so much better for them) unfold.

Get a grip! Lift up your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees and take courage! God also has better things in mind than for us than to sit angry under a tree that will wither. Our destinies have farther-reaching implications than we ever thought. We’re all more like Jonah than we think – but the good news is this: he, together with many others who’ve crossed that boundary before us, are cheering for us. Jonah made it, and so will we!