The God Of The Impossible

I just love how the Lord decides to use people to speak to us at the most unexpected moments!

One time this happened started as just a normal Sunday, except for the fact that I was attending church on my own that morning as my husband was out of town.

I decided that day I was going to sit smack-dab in the middle row of the sanctuary.  I plopped myself down in an empty seat, and shortly after came a couple to sit by me that I adored.  This couple always seemed to radiate the light of Jesus.

Worship started, and after the first song we had a short greeting time and I went over to give the lady a hug.  But she suddenly stopped me, looked me in the eyes, and said she really felt the Lord wanted her to remind me that He’s the “God of the Impossible.”

I broke down in tears – unexpected tears!

Dad & Jeffrey

Dad & Jeffrey a couple years ago

And as I contemplated on that moment the next few days, I was reminded of so many times that God did do such impossible things in our family’s lives; one of the biggest being when our son Jeffrey with cerebral palsy wanted to move out of state to college.  Wow, how the Lord opened door-after-door to make all that happen – in spite of our moments of hesitation, fear and doubt.

There’s a man named Gideon in the Bible who experienced the God of the Impossible also.

In Judges 6 the story begins by an angel appearing before Gideon who is busy threshing wheat.  The angel tells Gideon he is a mighty warrior, and has been chosen to save his country from the Midianites, who had invaded Israel and had been keeping the Israelites in bondage.

Gideon has a hard time believing all this is happening to him – has he heard correctly?  After all, who is he to be chosen for such a mighty task?

The angel tells him not to worry, because God Himself will be fighting with him.

Because Gideon wants to make sure this is from God, he asks for a sign; and God performs a miracle right in front of him.  Gideon then takes his first step of obedience by destroying all the idolatrous altars that had been built.  But he does it at night, because he’s still kind of scared.

Didn’t matter – they found out that it had been Gideon who had taken the bold step.

But something started happening to Gideon through his act of obedience.  Gideon is turning into the mighty warrior that God has called him to be.

He gathers up an army in preparation for war, but before attacking goes before God to ask for one more miracle to confirm he’s heard correctly; and then after receiving that miracle, asks for another one!

God gives it to him, so the army gets ready to advance.

However there’s still more of the impossible that God wants to teach Gideon.

Because as we get into Judges 7, we see that Gideon has about 32,000 men, but God tells him that’s too many.  So 22,000 of those soldiers are let go.

But God says he still has too many, so the army is whittled down until only 300 are left!

taste & seeAlthough we don’t know exactly how many enemies Gideon’s small 300-man army defeated as they followed through with God’s precise plans, it appears that it was at least 120,000 (Judges 8:10) that got trampled!  God, indeed, is showing that nothing is impossible for Him.

Gideon learned amazing new things about his God through that chain of events, and if we are honest with ourselves we can look back and see how we have learned many new things through the impossible things that God has brought us through, as well.

But why did God make Gideon get rid of the majority of his army and only attack with 300 men?  Because God wanted to show His glory.  Sometimes He intentionally allows us to feel out-manned so that we can realize it is God Himself who has won the battle, and not because of our brilliance.

I love how the sweet sister I sat next to in church that day shared that reminder with me.  Because we often forget just who God is, don’t we?  He truly is the God of the Impossible, and He wants us to remember the victories of our past, and be ready and waiting for the victories to come in our future.

 

The Fuzzy Brain Syndrome

I still remember about 2 years ago when my husband and I stepped down from a great ministry at church.  It was hard because we so enjoyed the people we were serving with, but it was time.

I had also just finished my first book and was trying to figure out what to do with it now that I had it in my hands.  Plus getting my website up!  I was stressed because I had no idea what I was doing.

The pastors we had been serving under were totally supportive of our decision.  And, they both stated how important it was to start marketing my book.

But I was struggling because my fuzzy brain kept telling me that I was actually marketing myself, and not God.

love at darkestThe pastors disagreed when I told them of my struggles.  If God had impressed upon me to write the book, then I was being disobedient if I didn’t do my best to showcase it to others – it was His work, and His calling.

But the verses I came across in the Bible were telling me something different.

“Boast no more so very proudly, don’t let arrogance come out of your mouth; for the Lord’s a God of knowledge and with Him actions are weighed” (1 Samuel 2:3).

“Let another praise you and not your own mouth” (Proverbs 27:2).

A few years back I was struggling at my job.  The leadership didn’t realize the different jobs I was involved in – they thought I was just doing data entry.  And at times I was tempted to boast.  But I knew God didn’t want me to do that.  It was being prideful.  I was reminded back then that the Lord knew the hours I was putting in and the work I was doing.  I was to work for Him – my audience of One.

So how was marketing my book any different?  Where was the line through all the fuzziness?  Some days I was in total agreement about what the pastors told me; and other days I felt the opposite.  The teeter-totter effect was driving me crazy.

Also during that time, I felt the Lord impressing upon me to write a Bible study.  I obeyed, and then used it in a small group.  The ladies really enjoyed it and encouraged me to publish it – which put into my mind a second book, which I’m currently writing.

I worked hard to complete the first draft of the book.  But then?  It sat on my desk for a couple months with me barely touching it.

Why?  Because I started getting fuzzy-brain again.  What did I think I was doing?  Who do I think I am anyway?

But thankfully our God is a God of grace, and He keeps putting people in my life to get me back on track.

get off the groundA couple weeks ago my accountability partner got a little stern with me (lovingly) as we were having lunch about how I was letting Satan get a foothold.  Yes, I figured that – still it kind of slapped me back into an upright position.

Then this past week at my women’s Bible study, I got nailed once again when the teaching leader talked about how we need to stand upright with our shields out in front of us (Ephesians 6:16) to catch those arrows of doubt when they come soaring through the air.  If God’s asking you to do something – YOU NEED TO DO IT!

And, as I was leaving the study that day, one gal in the group told me to not let the enemy steal away what God wanted me to share with others through my book.

It brought to mind Peter saying how he’d never turn away from Jesus no matter what; and then Jesus told him Satan was determined to “sift [him] like wheat” (Luke 22:31).

That’s a great analogy, isn’t it?  The way farmers used to sift wheat was to first beat it hard to remove the chaff (husks); and then toss it in the air which allowed the remaining chaff to blow away.  The good grain ended up falling to the ground where it just laid there until someone picked it up.

That’s what the enemy likes to do to us – beat us up and throw us to the ground!  And then he leaves us there until the Lord picks us up and places us back to where we need to be.

It’s tough sometimes to see the clear straight line, isn’t it?  That’s why we need to keep leaning on our Savior, and surrounding ourselves with praying friends to keep us focused on the clear picture.

 

Extravagance Intensified

The day of this posting is the day we celebrate as Easter or Resurrection Sunday.  And, as I was praying and contemplating about what to write, I came across Ephesians 1:19.  Here’s how it is quoted in The Message:  “[O]h, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him…” [emphasis mine].

I know that God has done an extravagant work in me, and probably most of you feel the same.  Author Max Lucado quotes in the introduction to his book “Just Like Jesus,” that “God can no more leave a life unchanged than a mother can leave her child’s tear untouched.”

But as I’ve been thinking about Easter this year, I’ve really been struck with the extravagant sacrifice He gave just for us – to free us from our sins, and to allow us to become His children.

extravagantrI know the majority of you have probably heard the story of Jesus dying on the cross and then rising from the dead on the third day many, many times; yet my prayer is that you hang with me as we really try to focus on exactly what it must have been like for Jesus back then.

First off, Jesus is – and was – God in the flesh (Hebrews 1:3).  Can you imagine what it must have been like to leave perfection as He did, and come down to earth as a man?  Let’s face it – earth is no heaven!

But He came to live among sinners like us; and He chose to use people just like us to be His apostles and disciples.  People from all walks of life:  fishermen, tax-collectors, prostitutes and many others that probably no other influential person would even take the time to converse with.

He knew as He poured His life into His disciples the three years that He was with them, that they would stumble and fall many times – just like we do.  Yet He forgave and encouraged them to keep moving forward.  He created us and knows we’re like dust (Psalm 103:14), at times fluttering all over the place before we settle down once again.

His patience was unbelievable.  I think often of the time when the disciples were arguing among themselves as to which of them was the greatest apostle (Mark 9:34).  Don’t we often do just that ourselves?  No we might not say it out loud, but we certainly have our moments when we think, “at least I haven’t done something that stupid.”  Prideful we certainly are.

And then came the evening when Jesus needed them the very most.  The night of His betrayal by Judas, when He was on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 26:36-56).  Jesus knew what was coming, and He was praying earnestly that His Father might take away the punishment that was on its way.

“Please,” He asked the disciples with Him, “stay here and keep watch with me” (v. 38).  Yet they fell asleep – not just once but three times!

kind & compassionateTo top it all off, once the chief priests came to arrest Him, “all” the disciples ran away and left Him alone (v. 56).  I can’t imagine how that must have hurt Him.  He’d spent the past couple of years pouring His heart and love into them, and then they decide to run away when their Savior and friend is arrested.

Have you ever been hurt like that by someone you love?  Someone you trust?  I think we all have at one time or the other.  It pierces our hearts, and for a time we may have trouble trusting that person(s) again.

But we’re not Jesus, are we?  Jesus forgave them – just as He forgives us when we mess up – sometimes over and over again.  And so we must forgive the ones who have hurt us.

Then He died a gruesome death on the cross, after being severely beaten, so that we can be free and live with Him forever.  What a Savior!

This Resurrection Sunday, remember the extravagant sacrifice that Jesus endured for you.  And all He asks of us is to trust Him, love Him, and obey Him when He asks us to follow Him.

 

 

 

 

Less Me, More Jesus

Sometimes I look in the mirror and I see my mother.  Unfortunately I don’t usually see the good side of mother, but rather the bad side – the side of her that we saw a lot of in the last years of her life.  I see in the mirror her mouth frowning instead of smiling.  It sometimes shocks me, because I don’t want to be like that.  Immediately I realize I need an attitude adjustment.  I need to “die to self” and get back in line with Jesus.

But what does “dying to self” really mean?

For us Christians, it means letting the Lord God reign and rule over our lives.  This doesn’t necessarily mean we should let go of our dreams, goals and desires; but instead we should be like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane when he said, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine” (Luke 22:42).

Have you ever found yourself admiring from afar a great worker who has done much for the Kingdom of God, but then one day you see them close-up and realize that the person you were admiring really wasn’t the person you now see?  It could be a pastor, televangelist, or even a missionary.  You realize the great worker of God is really a person more excited about the “self-serving” aspects of his/her ministry, than making sure God gets all the glory.

Sometimes this can shatter a tender young life that is trying to grow in Christ.  When you look up to someone and then realize that they’re really no better than yourself, why should you be interested in following God?  Why not just keep doing what you’ve been doing?

A lot of well-meaning people sometimes forget Who they’re supposed to be serving.  They start receiving fame and fortune, and all of a sudden they focus more on themselves than God.  That’s not the way a true servant of Christ should be (Galatians 1:10).

It gets hard sometimes, doesn’t it?  Because who doesn’t want approval from our peers?

It is said that the great Christian evangelist George Mueller was once asked what the secret of his service was:

“There was a day when I died, utterly died; died to George Mueller, his opinions, preferences, tastes and will; died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame even of my brethren and friends; and since then I have studied to show myself approved only to God.”

Talk about living out 2 Timothy 2:15 to the fullest!  George Mueller’s goal was to be pleasing to God, not pleasing to George Mueller.

Sometimes “dying to self” can mean letting go of someone into God’s hands, trusting that your Heavenly Father has got His arms around them.  Trusting that even though things aren’t making sense to you right now, God has your loved one in His grip, and has a plan for them that might be totally different than what you think.

I read of a mother who loved the Lord, but unfortunately had a son who didn’t feel the same way.  This prodigal believed that his mother’s faithful continuous prayers for him would cover any sin that he may commit.  So he continued to live his life the way he felt like living it.

But one thing he didn’t count on was his mother’s desire to “die to self” and trust God with her son.  She warned her son one day that she was no longer asking God to protect him or save him from trouble; instead she was asking God to do whatever it took to get him to surrender to the Lord, dead or alive.

That’s obedience!  That’s what our Lord wants from us – dying to self and trusting that God’s will is more important than anything else.

May we be faithful to His call.

Remember!

You’ve probably heard more than once:  “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  This was first quoted by a philosopher named George Santayana, who I’d never even heard of until I googled the phrase one day.

Let me go on record here saying that I always hated history when I was in school.  It was definitely one of my worst subjects (unfortunately there was more than one).  As a matter of fact, I remember in my sophomore year of high school I got a big fat “D.”  I was thankful I didn’t get an “F,” but mother didn’t agree with me.

knowledgeSince becoming a Christian years ago I’ve been trying to get better at studying some aspects of history because I now realize it’s importance.  But it’s hard, and sometimes I find myself thinking, “Why bother?  What difference does it make anyway – that time has come and gone!”

But history is very important, isn’t it?

I really started thinking about this the other day when I remembered the twelve spies who had just returned from their mission to scope out the Promised Land before crossing on over (Numbers 13).

The consensus was that yes, indeed, it was a beautiful and prosperous land, but ten out of twelve of them were afraid to make the crossing, because it was full of giant enemies.  Joshua and Caleb (the remaining two) disagreed – they trusted that God had delivered them so far, and that He would continue to do so.  If they obeyed Him and did not rebel against Him (Numbers 14).

But of course the Israelites again began complaining about how they never should’ve left Egypt.  How easily they forgot their history.  They had been slaves in Egypt – often being treated brutally!

They also forgot their own personalized (and very miraculous) history lesson of how God had parted the Red Sea for them when they were being chased by Pharaoh’s army.  God had allowed them to pass through safely to the other side, then He covered the Egyptians with the water so that they drowned (Exodus 14).

How on earth could they have forgotten all those incredible things so soon?

But don’t we do the same thing?

My husband loves to quote “those that don’t learn from history…” often, but the other day I nailed him on it.  He had been having back problems on and off for years, and sometimes it causes him a lot of discomfort.

Just a couple months ago his back went out and he was in excruciating pain.  I hadn’t seen him hurt like that for many years.  Not even cortisone shots seemed to help.  He was miserable.

don't forgetOf course he admitted that he hadn’t been doing his back strengthening exercises faithfully like he should have been.  Now he was having to pay the price.

Once he got stronger again, he started doing the exercises at least once a day.  He said, “Never do I want to ever have to endure that kind of pain again!”

And he did real good – for about a month.

The other day he went to do a service project with some guys from our church, and later that evening his back was feeling a little tight.

“I’m okay,” he said, tentatively.

I reminded him about his back exercises as I hadn’t seen him do them for awhile.  He said, “Yeah, I know.”

So I said, “Hon, what’s one of your very favorite sayings?”

He finally caught on as to where I was going:  “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  We both started laughing – because I do exactly the same thing sometimes!

We just forget, don’t we?  We start feeling good, and then the bad days seem to get erased from our memories.  We start falling back into old habits, and then all of a sudden we realize, “Oh, oh…”

So we’re really no different than the Israelites, after all.  Just like them, a lot of times we fit right into “always learning, but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7 NIV).

 

 

Leaving Behind Loner-Ville

Heard of Patsy Clairmont?  Years ago I attended a Women of Faith conference, and I remember she had attached together a long string of rubberbands.  And, as I was drafting this post, thinking back to that strand of rubberbands reminded me of how God likes to stretch us sometimes.

He’s been doing that with me, lately.  I’m okay being stretched to a certain point, but when I get a bit far from my comfort zone, sometimes I let go of my Father’s hand.  Boing!  Back I go to a familiar comfortable place.

But God doesn’t necessarily want us to be comfortable, does He?

One way that the Lord’s been stretching me is to start being ~ gasp ~ more social.  You see, I like peace and quiet.  I enjoy sitting in my little office at home, sitting and staring out the window.  I chat with God, I write, and I sometimes I goof-off doing jigsaw puzzles.

Best Bridal Bouquets iPhone PinterestBut I’ve been finding that having too much peace and quiet isn’t always good for me.  I tend to get a little too comfortable in my nice little cocoon.  And if my husband decides he wants to come in and chat, or go do something spur of the moment, I get grumpy.

My husband one day told me point-blank that I just don’t want to do anything fun anymore – I’d forgotten how to laugh.

Ouch!  But you know, it was true.  So I began asking the Lord to help me get my joy back.  Nehemiah 8:10 came to mind, which says “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

And did you know that God answers our prayers?  (How often we forget.)

I’d written before on how being around large groups of people (Take That Bold Step) isn’t always comfortable for me.  Unless I’m speaking, teaching or serving at an event, I tend to get stressed.  Being in a large crowd just to mingle and talk isn’t what I look forward to doing.

So of course that’s what the Lord has started directing me to do.  And at first I really didn’t understand that this was part of His answer to my prayer.

It started with signing back up for a large women’s fellowship group.  Now the women are all very nice – it’s me who has the problem.

Why do I have to join this large group?

But I felt the Lord nudging me.  And through this group He’s been teaching me how to laugh and just enjoy company with other women more than I have in the past.

But it hasn’t been easy.  I’m like slow-cooking oatmeal, where you keep opening the lid to see if it’s done yet.  But often it needs to keep simmering.  It needs to stay right where it is for awhile longer.

So I guess I’m learning to simmer.

About a month ago, I felt the Lord nudging me to join a women’s Bible study too.

Roads to travelYes, I fought that one also, as at first nothing really looked interesting.  I found myself thinking, I’ll just wait and maybe lead my own study next semester. 

But I kept feeling the gentle tapping by my Father – I needed to learn how to be with a group of gals participating in a study, instead of always leading one.

But I’m not used to being just a participator, Lord!

Yes, that was being totally prideful, and the Lord nailed me on it.

So I started attending the Bible study a couple weeks ago, and you know what?  I’m really enjoying it!  I’ve met new ladies that I’ve been connecting with – new friends with which to share my life.

Hebrews 10:25 is a prime example of how God wants us to remain connected so we can encourage each other:  “Do not neglect fellowship!”

So in closing, I’m learning.  I’m slowly but surely starting to break out of my comfortable cocoon and allowing Him to stretch my rubberband existence.  I’m glad that the Lord never gives up on me, and I’m glad that even when we start wandering in a direction not quite right for us, He starts veering us back to where we need to be (Proverbs 19:21).

Isn’t that what any good parent should do?

 

 

 

 

 

The Midnight Cry

When I first started this post I had just gotten home from the memorial service of a beautiful vibrant lady, who loved Jesus and loved serving others.  She’d been struggling for over 5 years with various forms of cancer.  No treatment seemed to work for more than short periods at a time.

She left such a legacy.  As I had sat watching photos of her, and listening to testimonies, I was filled with such joy that finally she’s out of pain, and is face-to-face with Jesus!  Yet there are always those left behind that grieve – beloved family, friends and others who may not have known her real well in person, but nevertheless had been touched by her in ways that will always hold a cherished spot in their hearts.

REJOICEBut even before that service, I’d been thinking off and on lately about the future day when those of us who are still living will hear the trumpet blast talked about in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 (GNT):  “There will be the shout of command, the archangel’s voice, the sound of God’s trumpet, and the Lord himself will come down from heaven…”

Did you catch that?  Our Lord is going to come with a shout – a loud command (NIV) – and a trumpet will be blasting.  If you think you might not hear Him and are worried about missing it, think again.  If the Creator of the universe says He’s coming loudly, it will be loudly!  For me, I can’t wait.

And just what’s that trumpet all about, anyway?

Well our God has certainly used a trumpet to call or forewarn people many times, including the following:

In Exodus 19:10-19, God revealed His presence to His people the Israelites by the sound of a loud trumpet blast.  Again, it states it was loud.  No excuses by people saying they didn’t hear Him.  As a matter of fact in the NIV, v. 16 says it was “very loud,” and v. 19 says the blast got “louder and louder.”

You might also remember that God used trumpet blasts when the walls of Jericho were reduced to a heap of rocks (Joshua 6:2-5).  I have no doubt in my mind that the people inside the city of Jericho heard that trumpet sounding!

Years ago, I was involved in a study on the rapture, and during that time I came across a great song by Clay Crosse called “Midnight Cry.”  The lyrics state in part:

I hear the sound
Of a mighty rushing wind
And it’s closer now
Than it’s ever been
I can almost hear the trumpet
And Gabriel sounds the chord
At the Midnight Cry
We’ll be going home

Wow!

1 Corinthians 15:50-58, talks about the rapture – and again we’re told a trumpet will sound (v. 52)!  All God’s children will be changed as Jesus takes us home to be with Him.

It says in v. 54 that at that time death will be swallowed up in victory.

And v. 58 tells us to keep working for the Lord, as our labor will not be in vain.

trumpetFriends, I already mentioned that the sweet sister whose “welcome Home” service I attended last week loved to serve the Lord.  She hated it when she went through bouts where the effects of the cancer took away all her energy and she was unable to serve.  Yet she prayed – she prayed for those God had placed in her life, and she encouraged people anytime she was able.

And now this sweet friend is with Jesus, and indeed her death has been swallowed up in victory.  I can almost hear our Lord saying to her as it states in Matthew 25:23 “Well, done, my faithful servant, well done.  Come and share your Master’s happiness!”

May all of us who call ourselves Christians leave such a legacy.  I know I want to.