After a Long Time


Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Do you notice how it seems that when we are in a place where something is taking a long time to happen or change, our fear and doubt grows?

Yeah, me too.

That also happened to Obadiah in the Bible. When I read his story recently, I was struck by the parallel to our current lives.

Here’s the basic run-down of the situation:

For a long time, a crazy lady, Jezebel, and her bad-guy husband, Ahab, had been running things like tyrants in Israel and all the surrounding areas. They had set out to kill all the godly prophets (the folks who spoke the messages of God to instruct and encourage his people), and many of them were dead.

Obadiah was actually in charge of the king’s palace, but he had been frantically working to save these prophets by hiding a hundred of them in caves and sneaking them provisions.

Like I said, it was a crazy, scary time.

To top it off, there hadn’t been any rain for three years so there was a severe famine in the land. Ahab called on Obadiah to find grazing land for the animals (clearly more important than the people it seems.)

But as always, God had a plan. And it was a great one. It seems like in the places of the greatest lack, God does the biggest work.

When Ahab and Obadiah split up to search for some grass, God sent the prophet Elijah to speak to Obadiah. I love that God waited until Obadiah wasn’t with Ahab. He often gets us alone, away from the distraction of the enemy, so he can speak to us.

You can imagine how stunned and excited Obadiah was to see Elijah. He was, after all, the prophet of all prophets. The main man, we might say. He evaded capture because of God’s protection and suddenly showed up to speak to Obie of all people. (You don’t mind of I call him that, right?)

This is where I started to notice some cool things.

  • Obie was a “devout believer in the Lord.” Don’t some of us feel stuck in an evil situation for a long time even though we are steadfast in following the Lord? Following Jesus doesn’t always mean we won’t have trouble. In fact, we may have even more. (But always with a good ending.)

Elijah instructs Obie to go tell Ahab that Elijah is in the area. Say what? Yeah, Obie kind of freaks out about this because obviously Ahab is out to kill Elijah and anyone associated with him.

  • Because of his past and current trauma (3 long years of drought, tyranny, and killings), Obie doubts this man who he absolutely knows is a good guy. Isn’t it easy for us to doubt what God is telling us when all we can see is our past and/or current trauma?
  • Obie predicts that he will be killed IF Elijah doesn’t follow through with meeting Ahab, IF Obie tells Ahab that Elijah is “in the house,” or IF God decides to take Elijah away again. “If” and “what if” gets us in trouble every time we say or think it. When we start projecting possible problems, our fear increases and faith diminishes.

God is so faithful though. Elijah promises that he won’t bail on Obie, and in the end, Obie decides to trust God and Elijah. He goes to inform Ahab of the situation. All good, right?

Yes.

But, not without trouble.

Immediately, when Ahab meets Elijah, he throws out false accusations at him saying that Elijah is the trouble-maker in Israel. In truth, it’s Ahab and Jezebel who are the trouble-makers, and Elijah makes it clear. Not only with words, but with actions.

  • Whenever we are falsely accused, it is the enemy—Satan—who uses people to speak against us. He accuses us with the very same thing that HE is doing. So instead of getting all offended by the accusation, we can recognize it and calmly call it out with truth especially if it is the opposite of who we are and the same as what that other person is doing/saying. Sometimes it’s best to ignore it. Don’t defend ourselves because we don’t need to. Taking a stand in godly conviction is different than defending ourselves and our position. (Still learning this every day!)

This is where things get really good.

Elijah doesn’t just confront Ahab and argue with him, he calls all the people together and has a contest. Yep. Right then and there he tells them to make an altar and put some meat on it and call on their gods to catch it on fire and burn it up. He says he’ll do the same thing, and whichever god answers the challenge is the real God.

  • The people wavered between the God of their ancestors and the gods of the evil tyrants, Ahab and Jezebel. In light of something new, they let go of the truth they knew from the past. God says that if we need wisdom, we should ask him and not doubt what he says or we’ll be double-minded, tossed back and forth. Do you ever feel tossed? I’ve learned that if I feel unsettled, it’s because I’m trying to hold onto two things. Usually, it’s that I know what God says, but I’m trying to make it fit something else that seems to make more logical sense. Just saying.

The people agree and build an altar, stack the meat on top, and spend all day calling, dancing, cutting themselves, and finally screaming at their gods, but nothing happens. (Why are we not surprised? If their god was real, why after 3 years of sacrifices, hadn’t it rained?)

  • What type of plans, rituals, pleading, figuring, etc. do we often attempt in order to make something happen in our lives, but to no avail? Maybe we are looking at the wrong things and/or motives to secure what we want or need.

I’m sure you’ve guessed the rest of the story by now (unless you are a Bible reader and already know it).

Elijah built his altar, but he one-upped the deal by adding a trench and pouring three jars (we’re not talking mason jars, people) of water over the entire thing. Before he called on the Lord, he proclaimed that the people would know that God was the only God and turn their hearts back to him.

  • This year, everywhere in scripture, I find that same theme. “So they will know that I am God.” What if we choose to believe that everything that happens in our lives, good or bad, is so that we or someone else will know that God is who he says he is?

Of course, God came through because he gave Elijah the plan to start with, and Elijah committed the altar building to the Lord, the only true God. The fire of the Lord consumed the entire altar as well as the soil and all the water. (I’m still wondering where they got the water in a drought…but God!) God never does things half-way!

In the end, the people came to their senses, got rid of all the false gods and the false prophets of Baal. Elijah prayed for rain, and after seven reports from his watchman, it rained—a lot! That’s a whole other story. And then, God made Elijah teleport to the city Ahab was running away to. True story. (And you thought teleporting was a new idea.)

The story doesn’t end there. Elijah has an exhaustion melt down—no wonder! That was some pretty intense work he did. But God shows up in a whisper.

  • Sometimes we look for God to show up in the same way all the time, but God is far more creative than that. Where have we missed hearing God because we thought he would only speak a certain way?

The bad guys get theirs—in a bad way.

  • The bad guy always loses. Think of when people watched their political hopeful, the Savior of the world be beaten and crucified. That was a dark day. But God brings life out of death. No matter how dark, he is always victorious. I’m learning to think and live from that reality of victory rather than the false reality of circumstances—even when they look more real. Truth is, we are actually spiritual beings in a physical world. Think about it.

You can read the entire story and more in I Kings. This came from chapter 18 and part of 19, but I recommend starting at the beginning. Actually, the beginning of the Bible will give you the entire story of it all.

Seriously, if you’ve never read it, it’s the best book ever written. Step aside soaps and reality TV. The Bible is where it’s at!

What Is Evil?


There are some things we would all agree with as being the epitome of evil. Serial killing, sex trafficking, murdering the innocent and helpless, and vicious brutality would all be in the category of “evil.”

But what if some work of the devil is much more subtle? What if we tolerate or even participate without even realizing that what we are thinking, doing, or accepting is actually evil?

In the book of Acts in the Bible, in the fourteenth chapter, we can see some of these subtleties of evil in Luke’s account of the apostles’ journeys and activities. It tells of how Paul and Barnabus were teaching in the Jewish synagogue—a place we would consider peaceful and full of kindness—and many people were encouraged and believed what they taught.

But then there were those who acted badly, and eventually, even viciously.

Here’s how we know they were being used of Satan to subtly perpetrate evil.

  • They refused to believe. Everyone can choose to believe or not. God doesn’t force anyone to receive his love. But the word “refused” reveals a heart of rebellion, not simply disinterest.
  • They stirred up the crowd. Specifically, they targeted the Gentiles who were different than them. Can anyone say “racism?” They were causing distrust and doubt among people groups.
  • They poisoned people’s minds against their brothers. We’re not talking siblings here, but other members of the same group of people being turned against each other. Sowing dissension, division, and hatred.
  • They plotted to mistreat the men who were teaching. It’s interesting that the people plotting were from both groups—a portion of the Jews and Gentiles came together to cause harm together.
  • They attracted people from other towns to create a mob. Then this mob stoned Paul and left him for dead.

Sound like anything we’ve seen or heard of lately?

Here’s the thing about what Paul and Barnabus were doing. It was all good. No one was forced to agree with them or believe what they taught. They simply shared what they knew—what they had experienced for themselves.

No threats. No violence.

The Bible says they:

  • Spoke effectively.
  • Spent considerable time with the people.
  • Confirmed their message with miracles.
  • Ran away from trouble.
  • Healed a crippled man.
  • Were humble and never claimed to be any better than any other person.
  • Spoke of God’s kindness, provision, and joy.
  • Strengthened and encouraged people.
  • Prayed for people.

Hmm…

It seems pretty clear when it’s examined like that, doesn’t it?

Maybe there are four groups of people.

Some may, for whatever reason, choose to perpetrate evil acts. Others may subtly, in their hearts, refuse any message of good and therefore create hatred. Perhaps there are those, who without realizing it, are sowing seeds of dissension and division, setting brother against each other—or by their participation are allowing it.

The last group are those who choose love and kindness. They show grace for others and speak truth in love with acceptance. Sometimes that may mean not to speak at all or to speak about something encouraging and hopeful. Changing the subject can be a loving strategy.

Tolerance and acceptance doesn’t mean ignoring and allowing evil.

We can accept that everyone has a choice to believe what they want, and we can honor them by not demanding they agree with our choices. But if someone chooses to act in a way that will harm another, we can also step in and take action to protect. Not to defend our position, but certainly to defend someone’s life.

Paul chose to return to the people even after they stoned him. He claimed that we would endure hardship for the kingdom of God and was willing to put his life on the line.

So, where are we? In which group do we find ourselves?

Is it possible that we are ignorantly participating in evil without realizing it or considering the cost?

Or are we loving people and showing them kindness? The Bible says it’s God’s kindness that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4), and that the anger of man will not bring about the righteousness of God (James 1:20). How are we doing with that?

The disciples were able to live showing kindness to others while they shared their testimony of what they’d seen and heard because they were filled with the Holy Spirit and joy.

I want to be like them. Like Jesus.

How about you?

Peace Be With You


20170816_200512

This week I was reading in John 21, and God spoke to me about peace. He asked me to share what he said, but first let me set the scene.

The followers of Jesus are cowering together in a room together with the doors locked.

Why?

Because their leader, who they thought was going to bring about political freedom, has been murdered. Tortured, mocked, and nailed on a tree to die for “no reason” according to the man who released him to be crucified. And even though some of them have seen him alive after he’s risen from the dead, they are hiding because people are hunting them to kill anyone who has followed Jesus.

Chaos, riots, turmoil in the streets. Fear permeating through the locked doors. Sound familiar?

And then Jesus shows up in the midst of their fear and says “Peace be with you.”

Today I heard him speak through his word and the whispers in my spirit. This is what he said:

No matter what is happening in the world right now, when I am with you, you will have peace. Do not get caught up in the drama of the times. Sit with me. Abide with me, and I will bring peace. I will cover you with peace. Not the peace the world claims void of racism and pandemics and turmoil and killing and riots, but peace outside of that, beyond it, in spite of it. Peace is not the absence of turmoil, it is my presence that is perfectly right and transcends what you can see. If you seek me, you will find me. If you trust me, you will rest in me. If you align yourself with me, it doesn’t matter what is happening in the world, you will be in peace, surrounded with peace, covered with peace. I AM WITH YOU. Peace be with you. Let me breathe on you. Live in forgiveness. Stop doubting. Stop looking for something in the world to bring you peace, just believe the I AM, and I AM with you. Peace be with you.”

May you find peace in Jesus today.

What About Forgiveness?


During a discussion about the events of the recent murders, our love for our friends of all races, and how to navigate in a world where the violence of some escalated into ridiculous destruction, my husband asked a question.

“What about forgiveness? What would Jesus be thinking/doing in this situation?”

I thought he brought up a good point. One that has caused me to contemplate and consider my thoughts, opinions, and actions in regard to the racial injustice now and for hundreds of years previously.

So many thoughts and questions.

We talked about how we can’t fully understand what it feels like for someone of color to have to be careful where they go, what they do, and how they look. We haven’t been in a situation to have to instruct our children how to be careful when driving or being out with friends.

What little experience I have of that type of discrimination is when my younger brother, in our late teens/early twenties, was pulled over more than a couple of times because his long hair stereo-typed him as a drug user.

Or the numerous times I’ve been followed by men in cars trying to lure me, degrade me, or assault me because I’m a woman. Even as recently as a couple of weeks ago, a man in a doctor’s office elevator undressed me with his eyes. Not a pleasant experience.

But still, it only gives me a small taste of the concern and tension my dear black friends feel on a daily basis.

We talked about how people all over the world are discriminated against, persecuted, and maligned because of their skin, beliefs, or cultures. I asked Brendan, who’s from Australia, if he had any friends who were of Aboriginal descent, those who were native to Australia, and if they experienced the same kind of discrimination.

We talked about how we both felt uncomfortable now with people of color because previously we simply saw everyone we met or knew as people. Not white people or black people or Asian people or Latin people. Just as someone might use skin color as a description of us white folks, we might describe others the same way by their color or ethnicity or culture, but we didn’t think of it in a derogatory way. Is it?

But now, would people assume we did? Had we not been interested enough in the past to find out someone’s story because they were of a different color or background? Should we go out of our way to be kinder than usual to let people know we care about their color? Have I discriminated in some unknown way because the majority of the characters in my books have white skin?

I believe that black lives matter.

They absolutely do. I’ve been ignorant in my assumptions that black people aren’t treated badly “any more” as a whole. I’m grateful for the conversations that are opening my eyes, and breaking my heart.

And I also believe that every life matters.

Every single person whether they’re black, of another culture or race, white, young, old, male, female, unborn, or living with some kind of limitation or disability should never be thought of as “less than.” But haven’t we all at some point looked at someone else and thought they were not as good, right, talented, kind, handsome, fit, pretty, etc. as us?

Not to take away from this current crisis of racial injustice.

But the bottom line is our sinful hearts. Wrong motives. Selfish attitudes. Pride. Fear. Lack of compassion.

And what about forgiveness?

I believe there is a place for righteous anger. God has displayed his in numerous occasions in the Bible. And I believe he calls us to speak out against sin; not people, but sin, calling out evil and injustice. He tells us to speak for those who don’t have a voice. To stand up for those who are in captivity.

But I also believe God calls us to forgive. To lay down anger, and not let it make us sin. Not let the sun go down on it. Not let it turn into roots of bitterness. He says our anger will not bring about his righteousness. Even if we’d like to believe it will.

What the officers, as well as so many others we don’t even know about, did in killing innocent people or turning their backs as it happened, was so wrong. Unjust. Evil. It’s righteous anger that calls it out for what it is.

And, as my husband pointed out, Jesus was beaten, tortured, and murdered in a horrific way too, but he chose to forgive those who did not know what they were doing.

Of course, they knew what they were doing. But they had no real concept of how wrong their actions were. They were ignorant of what it meant in a bigger than human understanding way. They were foolish and led by evil, self-centered hearts.

Doesn’t that describe all of us?

Should we forgive? Jesus forgave us. He forgives the officers that killed Mr. Floyd and the others. He forgives the rioters and looters. And he forgives us for any of our opinions and fears and questions because our understanding about all of it is not his understanding.

He tells us that we see through a glass dimly. We can’t grasp all of what this means. We can’t. Even if we think we can and try to. So the best we can do is to spend time with him asking him to give us his eyes to see. His heart to understand and love with true compassion. For everyone.

_sux_tmlwx8-agberto-guimaraes
photo by Agberto Guimaraes https://unsplash.com/@agb800m

And his grace to forgive.

 

 

A Sneak Peak


A Journey of Broken FaithRachel's Son Book Cover (2)

I’m all about taking our lives forward into more abundance. When we deal with our past, God can heal us, offer us hope and redeem the broken places in our heart. That’s why I’m so excited about my new book, Rachel’s Son. Rachel’s heart has been broken by the murder of her son, and that’s not the only challenge she faces.

As a result, she’s shattered and lost, not understanding God or his purposes. She can’t get past the pain to find freedom, love and life again.

Ever felt that way?

Yeah, I have too. But what I’ve learned is that by pushing through the pain, not hiding it, ignoring it, denying it or burying it, we will step into an abundance of joy. But it’s not easy. It’s scary. And it hurts. It may even feel as if we won’t survive.

It may take us months, or years or decades, but when we finally decide to step through, like pushing through the wardrobe or sea in Naria, we will learn to live again.

“The deeper my past sorrow, the greater my present joy.”  Simeon, Rachel’s Son

Rachel’s journey is a grueling one, maybe like yours and mine have been. But with God there is hope, healing and redemption.

Rachel’s Son releases on March 20th. I thought you might like a sneak peak 😉

“‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.’”          Matthew 2:18

Chapter 1

Rachel pulled a loaf of crusty bread from the fire as the ground began to quake. Terrifying reverberations shattered the morning peace. Thundering hooves. Neighing horses. The roar of an approaching army.

Micah!

She dropped the bread and lurched for the front door.

Within seconds an army flooded the village. Soldiers on horseback pounded through the street, weapons ready. Children scattered, mothers screaming their names. A two-year-old lay trampled in the dirt. Another ran, wailing. A soldier speared him through the back. A man jumped off his steed and forced his way into the home next door. Rachel’s neighbor shrieked, “My baby, my baby!”

The soldier reappeared, blood covering his hands.

Rachel froze, her knees buckled beneath her.

“Micaaaah!” She stumbled into the road, darting between horses, “Micah!” A roughened hoof clipped her hip. She fell to her knees and crawled out of its path. Dust caked her face, the stench of blood suffocating her.

Her closest friend, Elisabeth, staggered from her house, the battered body of her baby son in her arms. Her keening tore through Rachel’s heart.

“Stop!” Rachel forced herself to her feet. “Stop!”

A grim soldier scooped up a toddler and dashed his brown, curly head against the stone wall of his home. A woman laid crumpled outside her door, a swaddled baby in her arms. Their blood pooled together in the dirt.

Bile rose in Rachel’s throat. Chest heaving, her muddled thoughts rushed over each other in a torrent. The only clarity in the chaos was the certainty that Micah was dead.

She dodged around the corner of their house. Her worst fear materialized. His chubby little hand still clutched a stone he had been playing with. A shriek pushed out of her.

“Nooo!”

“Oh, dear Jehovah, please no.” A bleak whisper tumbled from her lips as she stumbled to his body now crumbled in a tiny crimson heap. She fell on her knees in the wet dirt where earlier he had played, stacking rocks and chattering to himself.

“Miicaaah!” The scream burst from her lips as she scooped him up, hugging him to her chest.

“Oh, Micah.” She wailed, rocking his bloody body back and forth.

Her only son. Her miracle from Jehovah.

Why? Why? Her heart screamed. What kind of war was waged against helpless, innocent children?

Look for Rachel’s Son on Amazon March 20th. The digital version will be FREE for a limited time.

For updates as well as behind the scenes information and extra material not found on the blog, sign up for my email list here.

 

Are You a Victim?


20150816_195410.jpg

And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice…”  Jesus                                                                                               Luke 18:7-8

Have you ever been robbed?

I was once. Someone broke into my house and stole $600 from my bedroom. Even though I never saw the thief, a creepy sense of violation made being in the house and sleeping at night difficult.

Have you been betrayed?

Maybe a friend gossiped about you, or your spouse had an affair.

Have you lost a loved one because of murder, an accident or illness?

And what about assault? Many of us have been physically abused, molested or raped. Even verbal abuse is an assault. When we’re a victim, we can become stuck in a place of feeling the need for the wrong to be made right. The injustice to be rectified.

We seek – we need vindication.

Most people have had some kind of injustice visited upon them. But much of the time, vindication doesn’t come. Perpetrators rarely admit their crimes let alone apologize for them. Often, our hurt goes unanswered because we kept the offense to ourselves. Maybe we even blamed ourselves.

I was stuck there. Here are a few signs that you may be too:

  • Do you notice even the slightest of wrongs whether against you or not?
  • Are you hyper vigilant to point out when your family “messes up?”
  • Do you find yourself believing that your loved ones are trying to hurt you?
  • Do you take offense at mistakes as if you were the target?
  • Are you quick to assign blame?

Recently, I read the verse above. It wasn’t the first time, but it was the first time that I took to heart what Jesus was saying. I realized that my thoughts and action were often the result of feeling the need for vindication for the many areas I had been victimized in my past.

Jesus’s words finally sunk in.

He is the one who defends me. He will make it right in the end. At some point, those who have hurt me will be called to account. He WILL see justice done because I am his child who he loves.

He loves you too.

He sees our distress and pain. He knows the injustices we’ve suffered. He is not ignoring us. It may seem that he doesn’t care, but his timing is perfect. It is not for us to hold onto the injustices – that only hurts and hinders us.

When we allow his timing for vindication, we can be free to live. No longer will the weight of those moments hinder our lives.

We can let go.

Sometimes we need to talk about the hurt, pain or injustice in order to let it go into Jesus’s hands. I’m happy to listen in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

What is Faith?


Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

DSC_0016Isn’t it great to know that God looks more at our willingness to have faith and be faithful than he does at whether we keep his laws?

Of course, as we grow in faith, we will also desire to live rightly with God and others. But in Hebrews 11, God gives us a list of folks who made mistakes and bad choices but God praised them for their faith in him.

Even though they blew it in other ways.

Abraham lied about Sarah being his wife.

Moses killed a man and disobeyed God.

David took another man’s wife and murdered her husband.

Noah got drunk and exposed himself.

Job lost everything and questioned God.

Rahab was a prostitute.

And those are only the big names we know about.

But God commended them for their faith even in spite of their sinful, human tendencies. And look at all the things they and their predecessors accomplished by faith:

  • Pleased God (vs.5)
  • Obeyed and went unknown places (vs.8)
  • Worshiped in weakness (vs.21)
  • Weren’t afraid of a king’s edict or anger (vs.23 & 27)
  • Persevered (vs.27)
  • Did something that seemed foolish, but saved their lives (vs.28)
  • Conquered kingdoms, administered justice, gained promises, saw lions’ mouths shut (vs. 34)
  • Escaped flames and sword, saw their weakness turn to strength (vs.35)
  • Became powerful in battle, routed foreign armies (vs.35)
  • Saw the dead raised, withstood torture, flogging, insults and prison (vs.37)
  • Were able to trust God even when stoned, cut in two, persecuted , mistreated and killed (vs.39)

Wow. Living a life of faith means living in greatness.

In spite of our sin, our opposition or circumstances. And in the end, we spend eternity with a loving God and fellow believers.

The best part is we don’t have to conjure up faith on our own. It is a gift freely given by God when we ask. Good news: even our asking exhibits faith.

Are you ready to move ahead in faith today?