Humbled and Hungry

Recently, Aaron and Gary had both been feeling puny.  In fact, they had each been tested for COVID.  Thankfully, both were negative. 

When a family member is sick, I slip into full-on caregiver mode – which means I usually hit the kitchen and start cooking.  I did this last Monday, making a huge pot of potato soup.  It was way more than the three of us needed but that’s the way I roll.

We sat down to eat that evening, where Aaron declared that he didn’t like potato soup and that he would not eat. 

“That’s fine,” I said.  “Suit yourself.”

Gary and I proceeded to eat.  Finally, realizing that I was not offering another option to him, Aaron begrudgingly agreed to try a small amount.  Three bowls later, he left our table full and happy.

“I liked the potato soup, Mom,” he told me later.  I just smiled and thanked him, not telling him that I knew he would because he had eaten it before and loved it.

Sometimes Aaron needs to see that I am not going to give in to what he wants.  I will allow him to get hungry in order for him to learn that the food I have made is good and that he needs to eat what is offered. 

How amazing it was that the passage I read in Deuteronomy 8 happened right after this object lesson!

Moses was reminding the Israelites about the reasons God had told them to obey Him and to remember all the ways He had led them. 

And then in verse three:

            “He humbled you, and let you be hungry…”

God let them be hungry.

Why?

So that He could feed them with the manna that He provided.  There was nothing they could do in the desert to feed themselves.  He gave them what they needed, and in their hunger…a hunger he allowed…He showed them a great truth.

“…that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.” 

I didn’t enjoy seeing Aaron hungry.  It would have been easy for me to rush in and offer him something I knew he liked just so he would eat.  But if I did, then he would have missed an important lesson:  You eat what Mom has provided.

I can look at my life and see that there are many times when I don’t understand the way that God has led or the events that He has allowed. 

I ask why.  At the time, a decision seemed to be wise and right, but it led to situations that were hard.  Sometimes those ongoing situations are the very ones that roll around in my brain in the dark night hours.

But I have learned to push those circumstances aside and to look at God Who loves me without fail.  And I know…I KNOW…that the hard times – the times I am humbled and hungry…are by His design and His allowance.

God isn’t being mean when He allows me to experience hunger.  He knows that in my hunger I will be more aware of His provision, and I will learn that I do indeed live and eat and prosper only through His food that He provides.

His words to me are manna and life and strength.

And I will come to Him one day, hopefully, full of His Words that I have eaten, and I will thank Him for the hunger that brought me to the place of being satisfied with His goodness.

“How sweet are Your words to my taste!  Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”  (Psalm 119:103)

The Fruit of Forgetfulness

Aaron and I walked into our Dillon’s store one day this week.  He had happily agreed to my idea of getting him a Cheddar Pasta Salad for supper.  As we walked in the door, he quickly took off in the opposite direction from me. 

“Aaron,” I said to his back as he briskly walked away, “you need to come and find me when you’re done!”

I quickly got the salad.  No Aaron.

As I walked to the meat section, looking up each aisle…no Aaron.

I bought some meat.  No Aaron.

I looked up each aisle that I passed again.  No Aaron.

Finally, I went back to my original location. 

“MOM!!”

There he was, amid the flowers on one side and the boxed bakery treats on the other.  He had seen me.  He took off toward me in a run, holding two jars of peanuts, his face covered in a huge smile of relief.

“MOM!” he repeated.

“Don’t run, Aaron,” I admonished. 

But afraid of losing me again, he ran anyway.

“I thought you had left me!” he dramatically stated as he dumped his jars of peanuts in the cart. 

“I would never leave you,” I replied.  “You’re the one who left me.”

“But I thought you had gone, so I told a lady who works here to page you,” he excitedly answered.

“Oh, Aaron!  Did you really?!” I asked.

“YES!!” he said.  “I told her I couldn’t find my mom and I thought you had left and would she page you.”

I was actually pretty impressed that he had thought about paging me.  He saw the employee in self-checkout that he had spoken to.

“Is this your mom?” she asked.

“YES!!” Aaron told her.  “She didn’t leave me!”

We laughed…and there I stood, feeling like the mom who routinely abandons her son, being eyed by the customers who would never do such a thing.  😊

As I scanned the groceries, and kept reminding Aaron to calm down, I was also reminding him of all our past history.

“Aaron, have I ever, ever left you anywhere?” I asked him.

He said no, but…

“No, Aaron, just remember that I have never left you and I would never leave you,” I continued.

This past January I chose a word for the year.  I’ve never done that before but this year I felt impressed to choose the word “Remember” for my word of the year.

I’m reading and studying through the book of Deuteronomy.  Moses was preparing the children of Israel to enter the Promised Land.  It was a land of “milk and honey,” full of good ground and many resources.

But it was also full of danger from inhabitants who hated the God of Israel and who fully intended to kill all the Israelites. 

So, there were the weary travelers who had just spent 40 years wandering through the desert, and God wanted them to conquer this land.

“Really, God?” they questioned.  “And just how are we supposed to do THAT?!”

And Moses said, “REMEMBER!!”

“…you shall not be afraid of them; you shall well REMEMBER what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt.”  (Deut. 7:18)

How easy it is for us to forget God when we are surrounded by the stresses and bad news in our lives! 

Or we don’t really forget God, but we forget all the many ways that He has shown Himself faithful to us over the years.

Sometimes we simply forget WHO God is. 

And when we do that, we focus on our situations and not on God.

This quote jumped out at me this week and planted itself firmly in my heart:

            “FEAR IS THE FRUIT OF FORGETFULNESS.”  (Raymond Brown)

Over and over, Moses told Israel to remember all the works of God and all the ways He had led them.  And the only fear they were to have?

“You shall fear only the Lord your God; and you shall worship Him…”  (Deut. 6:13)

This fear means to have reverential trust in God. 

There is plenty to fear today in our personal lives; in the lives of our families; in our nation and in our world.

I don’t know about you, but I have had – even just this week – several opportunities to practice fearing (trusting) God instead of fearing my circumstances.

You see, trust and a lack of fear does not involve understanding my circumstances.

Trust and a lack of fear involves knowing and understanding God.

There is so much I don’t understand today.

But I DO know and understand this:

“Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God Who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments.”  (Deut. 7:9)

I affirmed to Aaron that I would never leave him.

And may I never forget that God affirms to me the same.

Tough Trust

Yesterday as I ate my lunch, I saw a picture on my computer that started my mind turning toward some issues that make me sad.  As I wrote in my last blog (Listening Carefully), I know better than to let my thoughts stay on certain matters that will pull me down.  I am consciously practicing, more and more, immediately turning my heart to God and affirming to Him…and to me…that I trust Him totally.

As I sat at my table, thinking on these things and praying, these words came to me.  I shared them right away on Facebook.

It was around 1:30, and soon I was to go pick Aaron up at his day group.  He had a seizure early that morning, around 4:30, but felt fine and so was able to go on and spend the day with his friends. 

When we got home, as we talked about many things…because with Aaron there are always many things that he wants to talk about…I mentioned to him that I saw his empty deodorant in his bathroom trash can. 

“Yes!” he said, “I put some on this one but not on this one!”

I turned to see him holding up one arm at a time as he showed me which arm pit had gotten deodorant and which one had not.  😊

I left him in his bathroom to remedy the arm pit situation.  I had just sat at my desk in my bedroom nearby when I heard the awful crash and the sounds of a big seizure. 

I yelled for Gary and ran in the bathroom to see Aaron laying in the tub.  He had fallen backward into the tub, taking with him the shower curtain and rod.  He was entangled in all that, plus in his shirt that he had been removing.  The first thing to do was to hold his head to keep him from continually banging it on the hard tub as he seized.  Gary had run upstairs, grabbing one of Aaron’s small pillows to put under Aaron’s head. 

These sudden and very dangerous seizures are just awful on many levels.  It’s a terrible feeling to hear that crash and then the seizure sounds…to run to him not knowing what you will find…to wonder how hard he hit his head or if there are other injuries.

We had untangled him from the shower curtain and from his twisted shirt that was all around both his arms and hands.  Gary put a sweater over him and then we just had to let him lay there in the tub until he was awake enough to be moved to his bed. 

I went back to my desk, still shaken, and cried.  I cried out of fear, yes, but mostly I cried because it makes me so incredibly sad to see my son go through all these physical hurts. 

But as I sat there, God softly spoke into my hurting heart…and He reminded me of those words that He had given me two hours earlier.  God gave me words I needed before I knew just how much I would soon need them.

Yes, my heart is so tender when I think of Aaron and all the years of his physical suffering.  But God really does take that mama hurt I feel and uses it to show me how to toughly trust in Him.

I have to be tough for Aaron, and really, I can only do that because of my trust in God.  Sometimes that sort of trust doesn’t come naturally.  It would be more natural for me to be mad at God for letting this happen to Aaron, over and over and over. 

But I know my heavenly Father, and I know that He has reasons far beyond what I will ever know on this earth for why He lets Aaron suffer. 

It’s a tough place for me to be and it calls for a tough trust.  If my life was only smooth and simple, no tough trust would be needed.  But then I would not know God as deeply.  I would not experience His peace and comfort.  My faith would stay simple and small. 

A verse also came to my mind as I sat there thinking of all these matters.  I want to leave that verse with you…that simple but profound word from God. 

There it is again…trust.  Even when it’s tough.

ESPECIALLY when it’s tough.

Listen Carefully

I was on our patio the other morning, enjoying the cool air and stillness before I had to start another busy day.  It’s nice to see and to hear squirrels rustling through the branches of nearby trees, or to hear the sweet chirps of our many cardinals, or the whir of a hummingbird’s wings.

But soon, way up in the top of our huge oak tree, came the loud squawking of a Blue Jay. 

His voice soon overtook all the others.  I had to make myself listen carefully in order to hear the quieter, more pleasant birds that were still there but were being drowned out by the shrill voice of that Blue Jay. 

What a picture of my life lately!  Satan knows exactly when to yell in my ear, reminding me more of what I don’t have than what I do have.  He knows when I am vulnerable…when I am more susceptible to letting him drown out God’s voice.

It’s easy to cave and listen only to his discouraging yells…to let him make me question God’s past leading in our lives.

“Are you sure it was God’s will for you to move here?”

“Too bad you can’t re-do some of your parenting.”

“Look at what they have that you don’t have.”

“Well, that hasn’t turned out like you thought it would.”

I’ve had to make myself stop hearing that very loud voice and instead focus on God’s quieter voice, just like Elijah did.  Elijah, in I Kings 19, was just coming off the high of tremendous victory.  He ended up physically and emotionally drained…vulnerable to Satan’s attacks of discouragement and depression. 

He ended up in a cave, where God told him to stand on a nearby mountain.  “And behold, the Lord was passing by!”

First there was a strong wind, but the Lord was not in the wind. 

Then an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.

A fire was next, but still the Lord was not in the fire.

Finally, there was the sound of a gentle blowing…a low whisper. 

And God spoke to Elijah in that soft whisper of a faint breeze. 

Over the past couple weeks, I have had to make myself NOT listen to the loud voices of doubt and questioning.  I have had to discipline my thoughts to remember the past leading of God.

I was trusting God in the past, and He led me…He led us…to where we are.  Why doubt Him now?

Did I trust Him then?  Then how can I doubt Him now?

It’s a conscious choice I must make.  Do I let the loud voice of doubt crowd out the small yet firm voice of God?

At the end of the day, may I choose to listen carefully to the right voice in my heart and not the loudest.

         “My sheep hear My voice…”

Damaged

During our trip to the Houston area last month, we noticed that the palm trees looked different.  One normally expects palm trees to resemble these:

But instead, this is what we saw.

I stood there staring as I snapped this picture.  The trees looked both silly and sad.

“Bless your hearts,” I wanted to say.  I am from the south, you know.

Andrea explained what had happened.  The prolonged deep freeze this past February had taken quite a toll on the palm trees.  Many were irreparably damaged…dead.

I have read a little about the palm trees and found out that one way you can tell if a palm is dead is to scratch a section of bark off the tree.  If there is green underneath, then the palm is alive.

These sad looking palms we saw were, despite their damage, alive.  We could tell by the growth on top, odd as they might have looked.

This past Sunday at church we were privileged to listen to a live interview between our pastor and a prominent businessman from our city.  Britt Fulmer discussed his cancer journey.  Unless God works a miracle, there is nothing humanly possible that can be done for him.  Again, barring a miracle, heaven might soon be a reality for Britt.

Yet I walked away from that service full of hope and praise.  That is because Britt was full of hope and praise.  He conveyed, through his rather frail voice, the strength OF God because of his total trust IN God.  There was no anger, no regret, and definitely no fear as he confidently gave testimony of his total trust in God’s plan for him in this trial.  In fact, Britt has grown during his hard bout with cancer.

I think of so many I know who are battered from life’s prolonged adversities.  One can look at them and see the damage in various ways in their lives.  It reminds me of those palm trees.

But you know what?  Those palm trees are still standing, despite showing the stress of the freeze they endured. 

And they’re growing!  If we scraped off a section of their bark, we would see green underneath.  

Life is there!

Roots run deep!

James talked to believers about trials.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials; knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  (James 1: 2-4)

That word “consider” means to make a judgment.  We have a choice to make when we encounter various…multi-colored…trials in this life.  Are we going to allow God to work in our lives the endurance that He desires?  That endurance is the act of abiding under the difficulties. 

Will we abide under the prolonged pain in our lives, whatever it may be?  Because if we choose to do that…to abide under the suffering…we are really abiding under the shadow of the Almighty Who has our best interests and His glory in mind. 

To abide means to endure without yielding. 

So, to endure means to abide…and abide means to endure.

It means I stay put in the place God has put me, even if He has put me under suffering. 

I don’t yield to unbelief.  I don’t give in to giving up on God. 

Instead, I allow endurance under the hardships to produce in me a maturity and growth that is evident to everyone around me.  But I can’t produce that growth myself.  Only God can grow me in that way as I abide in Him, fully trusting His plan for me.

Suffering hurts, no doubt about it.  Long-term suffering takes a toll. 

But what will others see in me beyond the damage? 

Will they see growth, even if I feel like it’s just a little bit? 

Is there green under my bark? 

Oh God, grow us in our prolonged sufferings so that You will be honored and others will be amazed at what You have done!

My Times, Your Hand

One evening last week, I looked outside and saw a beautiful red glow on the horizon.  However, my view was hindered by trees.  Knowing there was more to this scene than I could see from my vantage point, I quietly snuck out of the house…so I could drive alone without Aaron…and headed west to see what I would find. 

It was hard to keep my eyes on the road as I drove past trees and power poles.  The sky was so beautiful that I wanted to only gaze on it.  Finally, a few miles away, I found the spot I sought.  Flat…open…unimpeded by trees or poles – there it was.  The perfect view.

Oh my!!  What a stunning sunset it was!

I’ve looked at this picture a lot and done some thinking about the path of life upon which God has placed me.  How much do I trust God’s decisions about me and my life?

I don’t know about you, but I tend to feel more trust in God during the harder and often unexpected situations of life…those times when I’m suddenly the recipient of bad news and I’m thrown into God’s arms. 

But it’s the daily disappointments…that drip, drip, drip of stress…that can really bog me down.  The dailiness of life’s burdens can hinder my view of God’s path and His purposes for me much as the trees hampered by full view of this gorgeous sunset.

Saturday morning, for instance, Aaron stood by Gary’s desk chair. 

“Dad?” he said, “my mouth is broken.”

I smiled from the other room at Aaron’s phrasing – and I know that Gary was secretly doing the same.

Aaron thought he had burned his mouth, but in looking at it we both knew that these were not burns.  He had a rash.  The next day, Mother’s Day, I took Aaron to Med Express to have it checked.  It was quite painful, and he was having trouble eating.

Gary offered to take Aaron, bless him, but I wanted to do it since I always take Aaron to his doctor visits.  So, here I was, on Mother’s Day…at the doctor with Aaron.  It was a bit of a downer, honestly…not the way that I envisioned my Mother’s Day. 

See what I mean?  A small example of a small thing that can play upon my heart to bring discouragement, self-pity, and then lead to multiple other thoughts of how this and this and this did not turn out the way I wanted…

And my path’s view of God’s goodness is lost in the jumble of negative thoughts and emotions.

God gave me what I needed this morning, as He always does!

In Luke 13:31, the Pharisees reminded Jesus that Herod wanted to kill Him.  Jesus responded to them that He would continue the journey that God had for Him, and that when the time was right then He would perish. 

In other words, Jesus was declaring the truth of Psalm 31:15.  My times are in Your hand!  Jesus was standing in the unfailing sovereignty of God.

When David in Psalm 31 speaks of times, “…he doesn’t mean merely his life-span but all the kaleidoscope of circumstances that meet him left and right.”  (Dale Davis)

Oh, those multi-colored burdens that pile on day after day!  The unresolved issues and concerns that grow larger on a special day like Mother’s Day can cloud my view of God’s path for me. 

Last night, very uncharacteristically, Aaron suddenly said, “Mom, I’m glad you cared for me and took me to the doctor.”

I was pretty much stopped in my tracks by that!  And so overwhelmed with thankfulness that our “downer” doctor visit prompted in Aaron such a response.

Oh God, may I too look at You and be thankful for your care of me in the rough spots of life.  May I look fully at the path you have me upon and see the beauty amid the stresses.  May I not miss the opportunity to give You thanks for being for me all that I need, and not just giving me all that I want.

For it is in my need that I most fully see Your beauty on the road of life.

A Setback…But God

Seizures have been a part of Aaron’s life…and ours…since he was in the first grade.  He had his first seizure at home on a Sunday afternoon, out of the blue and utterly terrifying.  God was so good to let me be standing right behind Aaron when it happened there in our military apartment in Germany.  I was able to catch him.  If not, he would have fallen onto the hard kitchen floor and received a serious hit to the back of his head.

His seizures have morphed over the years, as seizures do, seeming to eventually bypass all the medicines and treatments that can be provided.  The majority of his seizures occur in clusters during his sleep, most often at night.  These clusters carry their own dangers, one of which is SUDEP – Sudden Death by Epilepsy.  Those words from his epilepsy doctors over the years always send a chill down my spine.

Aaron has occasionally had drop seizures here and there.  A drop seizure happens when Aaron is fully awake.  They hit suddenly, with no warning to us.  Aaron will fall either forward or backward like a downed tree, not able to break his fall. 

A few years ago, he began having more and more of these drop seizures.  He sustained significant injuries.  Cuts, scrapes, bruising, stitches, a fractured tooth that had to be pulled, and very hard hits to his head. 

Finally, on March 9, 2019, Aaron had a drop seizure on our stairs.  He had walked up a couple steps, then fell backward, and hit his head on a metal file cabinet handle.  He ended up with 8 staples in his head.  It was awful!

When we got home from the emergency room and checked our mail, there was a letter from our insurance company approving Aaron for the new pharmaceutical CBD oil, Epidiolex.  We had experimented with over-the-counter oils from good sources but had no success.  His Epileptologist couldn’t provide any guidance for those OTC oils, legally.  As soon as the FDA approved Epidiolex, Dr. Lee put in our request for approval.  Now here it was, on the same day that Aaron had fallen…a visual and sad example of why we really wanted to try this new drug. 

Dr. Lee was able to oversee Epidiolex since it was FDA approved and obtained through a prescription.  Over the next few months, we adjusted Aaron’s dose and tweaked another medicine and waited to, hopefully, see positive results. 

And we did!  Aaron’s drop seizures totally stopped!  We were elated, and soon began to relax.  Our fear over those horrible and dangerous seizures slowly went away.

Until this past Thursday. 

Aaron and I delivered for Meals on Wheels in the morning.  We enjoyed lunch at a cute Mexican restaurant.  Then home, where Aaron took a nap…and had a seizure while he slept.  This is nothing uncommon.

Later, as I was getting supper on the table, Gary had just come into the kitchen.  He was standing right beside Aaron when suddenly Aaron lurched and went into a seizure.  But instead of Aaron falling into the table and a chair, and landing on the floor, Gary was able to catch him.  This was truly from God, that Gary was there beside Aaron instead of across the room.  We were so thankful!

We got Aaron safely on the floor.  Such disappointment filled us both! 

Almost two years since a drop seizure, and now this. 

We hurt so for Aaron.

And I felt that familiar fear.  It had come back. 

But I also felt something else.  I felt God’s peace pushing back on the fear.  I forced myself to focus on God…His love and His plan for Aaron, and for us.  That knowledge was the best push-back on the fear that threatened to fill me.

I also thought about Mary’s response to the angel when she learned of the very hard path that God had chosen for her…the path of unwed pregnancy in a time when she was no doubt shunned and gossiped about and disbelieved.

Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”  (Luke 1:38)

Total submission.

Like the writer of Hebrews said, “Now the God of peace…equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us THAT WHICH IS PLEASING IN HIS SIGHT, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be the glory forever and ever, Amen.”  (Hebrews 13:20-21)

God has been working on me this past year about being willing to pray in submission…being willing to say, “God, whatever it takes…”

Just two days before this latest drop seizure, I had been reading about Mary and then this benediction in Hebrews. 

I don’t know what it is…what it will take…for me to please God. 

But I do know that I need to be willing to let God do in me…and in Aaron…that which is pleasing in HIS sight, even when it may not be pleasing in mine.

Even when it hurts, deeply.

“Submission is preferable to consolation, for consolation pleases us but submission pleases God.”  (Thomas Hog, 1692)

Who is it that I most want to please? 

It’s tough when my submission involves my child.  I love Aaron.  I love all our children. 

But a huge area of my close walk with God, which I truly desire, is to be able to submit “whatever it takes” concerning my children as well.

I humanly want the consolations of God…the closeness and assurance that I feel when He blesses me, and them, with wonderful things.

But true submission to God comes only when I am willing to relinquish all the warm fuzzies for the stark hardship that often comes when the deepest lessons…and blessings…are allowed to occur.

Allowed to occur because I am submitted to God. 

God won’t bully me into submission.  Submission happens when I open my hands and release my desires to Him, trusting Him to do what He knows is best.

Even drop seizures, if they do start again, are somehow being allowed by God in Aaron’s life and in ours. 

The sky just before Aaron’s seizure that evening was so beautiful.  I have only to look up and know that God is there for us. 

The heavens declare the glory of God…and I want to do the same, as well.

Barren

It happened to me again two nights ago.  I was sinking into sleep when I think, honestly, that I snorted and woke myself up.  😊

But then I couldn’t get back to sleep.  Instead, I lay there thinking of a picture I had seen just before bed.  Happy news for someone else created in me a longing for some things I don’t have. 

These are the moments that Satan loves.  He uses the tender areas of my heart’s desires to create in me an unsettled feeling.  The dark of the night is his perfect setting to speak words of doubt and unhappiness into my head. 

I’m a captive audience at that point.  The choice is mine. 

Whose voice will I listen to? 

So, I prayed and I thought of scripture.  I eventually went to sleep.  But I awoke the next morning feeling the weight of my burdens still lingering on my shoulders.

This morning I continued in a new study I just began yesterday in the book of Luke.  Right away we meet the priest, Zacharias, and his wife Elizabeth.  They were both righteous in the sight of God and walked in blameless obedience to God. 

They were old.

They were faithful to God.

And Elizabeth was barren.

In their culture, having children was everything. 

They had nothing, in a sense.

I think of Elizabeth beyond the stories we always hear and the ending that we know well.

I think of her hearing with sadness of the pregnancy of yet another friend.  Of probably faking joy when deep inside she is grieving over what she doesn’t have.  Of perhaps not feeling included in the years of family gatherings, celebrations, large happy holidays…

Of laying awake at night, bombarded with these realities, alone and with a broken heart.

And though we know the end of the story, that God gave her a child, she did not know that this blessing would be in her future.

“…there are those who are true servants of the Lord and yet some trial, some disappointment, that may be life-long, hangs over their lives.  ‘Righteous before God’ yet ‘they had no child’.  A very huge fact and a very deep sadness are pressed together.”   (Dale Ralph Davis)

Do you have a barren place?  An unfulfilled desire that eats away at you in the dark stillness of the night?

I do.

We all do.

What ARE we to do?

We are to live faithfully, in daily obedience to God.

We are to “Commit our way to the Lord…”  (Psalm 37:5)  That means to roll our burdens on the Lord’s strong shoulders.  Literally, that’s what it means.

“…God does His most impressive works in a context of impossibility.”  (Davis)

No BUTS…unless we say, “BUT God!!”

Will God give me what I want? 

I have no idea.

The real question should be:  Will I allow God to put HIS wants into my heart?

Will I want to walk with God so closely that His desires become my focus?

“God tends to begin His finest works in the face of human hopelessness and human weakness.”  (Davis)

Walking faithfully with God doesn’t mean we’ll never have our barren places.

But may we, in the barren, bear the fruit that only God can produce in us, to His glory.

What’s Ahead?

Here in Kansas over the past ten days we have had some extreme winter weather, as have many of you around the nation.  We knew it was coming thanks to modern weather forecasting.  We were able to prepare as best we could for sub-zero temperatures and even worse wind chills and snow.  What a blessing it is to be able to look ahead and to be ready when the storm hits! 

Some of you know that I have been reading and studying through the book of Numbers.  This book isn’t exactly known for super passages full of encouragement, but I have discovered, with the help of Raymond Brown’s book The Message of Numbers, that there are indeed many blessings and promises in this often-neglected book.

I finished Numbers yesterday.  The last verse was amazing, and I wanted to share it with you today.

“These are the commandments and the ordinances which the Lord commanded to the sons of Israel through Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho.”  (Numbers 36:13)

I believe I know what you’re thinking.  Nothing in that verse reaches out and grabs you, does it? 

But don’t be so quick to assume that this is just another dry verse from a rather dry book.

All throughout the book of Numbers, God had given His people commands to obey in order to survive the trip through the desert – but more importantly, in order to live victorious lives.  Their lives would only be successful if they obeyed God.  It was a lesson they learned over and over as they left Egypt and entered the desert. 

Obedience brought victory and blessing.

Disobedience brought defeat and curses.

Now at the end of this book, after taking care of matters concerning land distribution and inheritances, there stood the nation of Israel on the east side of Canaan. 

They stood in the plains of Moab, and what was ahead?

God had confirmed his commandments “…by the Jordan opposite Jericho.”

God had given them so many victories over their desert wanderings…so many lessons learned…so many providences. 

Then He confirmed all His final commands to His people whom he loved when there, just ahead, were two HUGE difficulties. 

The Jordan River, in flood stage and impassable.

Jericho, a well-fortified city that far outweighed any hope of defeat by a nation that had no real army.

God had given Israel the land upon which they now stood, but up ahead were seemingly impossible situations.

What was the key to victory? 

Obedience.  God’s presence was with them and His power was theirs if they but simply obeyed Him. 

The Jordan River parted.  Jericho fell.  The stories are so fascinating in the book of Joshua.  But the key, always, was for Israel to obey God.

“How could anybody possibly convey this huge contingent of nomadic people across that fast-flowing river, and how could an untrained army capture a well-fortified city like Jericho?  The secret was in total obedience.  Neither barrier was to be overcome by intellectual skills, geographical proficiency, crowd manipulation, army intelligence or military strategy.  Two doctrinal factors prompted their obedience:  God’s presence and God’s power.”  (Raymond Brown)

What is ahead of you today? 

Have you been walking in life, doing the best you can to obey God and live right?

But are you now looking ahead to a forecast that is anything but encouraging?

What huge thing in your life is looming ahead, causing you to lose sleep and to feel fear? 

Whether our issues are national in scope, or personal in nature, each of us has plenty to keep us anxiously glancing at what is ahead on our horizons.

Please know that God’s presence and His power are fully yours if you know Him, and if you are obeying Him step by step, day by day.

God has not brought you to an impassable river to watch you drown.

And He has not brought you to a strongly walled city to watch you die.

You may be standing near…or in…some very tough situations.  But like Israel as they stared at Jordan and Jericho, listen to what God says to you:

“Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous!  Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:9) 

Look in God’s eyes as you listen to Him, not over His shoulder at your Jordan and Jericho that are looming large. 

Be strong in God’s strength and rest in His presence. 

Let God do the fighting and trust Him for the finish!   

Is God Gone?

The heaviness in my soul these past few weeks has been palpable.  As a Christian it’s been very difficult to see Biblical principles pushed aside in our country while rank sin is legislated with the stroke of a powerful pen.  Then if we don’t jump on board with this agenda, we are haters and racists and out of touch.  The changes just in two weeks are almost too much to comprehend. 

As I continue reading through the book of Numbers, I came to chapter 20.  Moses, Aaron, and Eleazar climbed Mount Hor while the children of Israel, full of foreboding, waited down below.  On the mountain, Aaron’s priestly garments were removed and given to his son, Eleazar.  Then Aaron died there on the mountain. 

The people’s priest was gone.  Yet God had provided His man, Eleazar, to continue His work.  God’s pledge to stay with His people and to accomplish His plan was being perpetuated. 

God did not forget His promise.  His sovereign purpose for His people would be carried out, even though Aaron had now died.

This simple phrase written by Raymond Brown jumped off the page to me in the early morning as I read this story in Numbers: 

“ONLY AARON HAD LEFT THEM, NOT GOD.”

What an amazingly simple yet profound comfort this truth has been to me during these sad and hard days.  We feel bereft and abandoned, scared of what the future holds for us as believers in this culture, and angry at the sin that we see being promoted by our leaders. 

There were many true followers of Christ in the past administration.  Open Bibles were commonly seen on their desks.  Prayer, hymn singing, and Bible studies were routine in the White House.  Now that is all gone, and our spirits are stirred within us at the open endorsement of sin that we are witnessing every day…some of which we will be paying for with our tax dollars.  Open sin instead of open Bibles.

BUT…God is NOT gone.  God is still accomplishing His perfect plan.  He is with His people, each of us, as we wake up each day and seek to live godly lives in a most ungodly culture. 

Let’s take each day and each moment with that thought in our minds and hearts.  God is not gone!  He is here with His people just like always, in our homes and our work and with His Church. 

God is not gone!  He is with us in our disappointments and our pain, our sickness and our fear, our good news and our bad news.

God continues His work, no matter our circumstances. 

So let’s be encouraged to be about His work…to be strong and courageous…to be voices of love and conviction…to share the gospel…and to be bright lights in this dark world.