Sunday, April 29, 2012


Sorry for the Friday Favorite being a bit late. This week has been a whirlwind of activity, as it is usually is for teachers this time of year. I had originally planned to write about a different Bible story this week, but for some reason, the story of Moses keeps coming to mind.

Most people are familiar with the story of how Moses led the people of Israel out of captivity (even if it's only based on some popular movie they have seen, complete with errors!) There is one part, however, that I have only heard explained once in my life; yet it was so powerful that I have never forgotten it.

Many years ago, a friend of mine, Joseph Britain, taught on the Exodus of the children of Israel. I will attempt to retell one small part.

The children of Israel, and there were hundreds of thousands of them, had left Egypt. They were headed away from their life of captivity and I'm sure thinking that finally life would start getting better. Instead of taking the shorter route, however, God directed them to take the long way. They were guided by a pillar of fire at night and a cloud to shade them by day. Talk about a visible sign that God was with them! Finally they camped out at Etham, at the edge of the wilderness, and one version says "The Pillar of Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night never left the people." I immediately thought of God's promise to never leave us nor forsake us. (Deut. 31:6 "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrifiedbecause of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”)

Of course, you know the story. The Egyptians realized they had not only lost their labor force, but their wealth as well and Pharoah sent his army after them! When the Israelites realized they were being followed...well, read it in the Message translation: 
Exodus 14: 10-14

10-12 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up and saw them— Egyptians! Coming at them!
   They were totally afraid. They cried out in terror to God. They told Moses, "Weren't the cemeteries large enough in Egypt so that you had to take us out here in the wilderness to die? What have you done to us, taking us out of Egypt? Back in Egypt didn't we tell you this would happen? Didn't we tell you, 'Leave us alone here in Egypt—we're better off as slaves in Egypt than as corpses in the wilderness.'"
 13 Moses spoke to the people: "Don't be afraid. Stand firm and watch God do his work of salvation for you today. Take a good look at the Egyptians today for you're never going to see them again.

14 God will fight the battle for you.
      And you? You keep your mouths shut!"

I love that part - "They were totally afraid." Ya think?!?! I mean, they do have an entire army coming at them! But Moses tells them, stand firm and watch God do his work of salvation for you today. (I also kind of like that whole, "And you? You keep your mouths shut!" If you can't speak words of faith - just shut your mouth and at least don't add words of doubt and fear!)

Then comes the part that I was telling you about.
Exodus 14: 15 - 21

God said to Moses: "Why cry out to me? Speak to the Israelites. Order them to get moving. Hold your staff high and stretch your hand out over the sea: Split the sea! The Israelites will walk through the sea on dry ground.
 17-18 "Meanwhile I'll make sure the Egyptians keep up their stubborn chase—I'll use Pharaoh and his entire army, his chariots and horsemen, to put my Glory on display so that the Egyptians will realize that I am God."
 19-20 The angel of God that had been leading the camp of Israel now shifted and got behind them. And the Pillar of Cloud that had been in front also shifted to the rear. The Cloud was now between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel. The Cloud enshrouded one camp in darkness and flooded the other with light. The two camps didn't come near each other all night.
 21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and God, with a terrific east wind all night long, made the sea go back. He made the sea dry ground. The seawaters split.

Notice the direction and timing in verse 21. The wind came from the EAST!!! They were standing on the WEST bank. That means the Red Sea started to split from the other side - at NIGHT! They couldn't see what was happening until it was right up on them! The pillar of fire was standing between them and the approaching army so there was no light for them to see what was going on and how God was making a way where there seemed to be no way!

This has really been on my mind lately as I face some situations where I feel that God has led me in a direction and now I'm kind of "stuck". There seems to be a Red Sea in front of me blocking my way. (Thankfully, other the army behind me hasn't caused me to totally shake in my shoes since I can't really see them - God is blocking their way and my view from seeing them.) Still - I stare at that sea and wonder, "Now how am I supposed to cross that?" But in the darkest part of my "night", God is already at work, parting the sea from the other side. It may look like nothing is happening, but God is making a way to not only take me across ON DRY GROUND, but to show Himself mighty so that others may see HE IS GOD!

Now, in the words of another old friend Murphy Matheny, if that don't stir your soul, your spoon's done fell out your bowl!

That SEEMINGLY impossible situation you are facing, God is already at work making a way through the darkest night so that you may pass over into victory and promise. That enemy that has been biting at your heels; you will see no more forever! (I love that part of the promise!) 

And our job? Shut our mouths and see the deliverance of the Lord. It's not the way I would have done things...but God has a way of doing things in such a way that shows HE IS GOD! We can take no credit for it. I don't know what your "impossible" situation looks like, but I do know that God is at work even when we do not see it. He is making a way where there seems to be no way. Don't give up and walk away before you see the miracle in front of you. It's that East wind blowing and parting an impossible sea.

It's funny, but as I get ready to post this I heard the words to an old Simon and Garfunkel song..."the nearer your destination, the more you're slip-sliding away." One more word of good news - God's miracle included being able to walk across on dry ground. You don't have to fear about slip-sliding as you step out in faith. (In case you wondered about the picture used in this blog - my friends and I faced our fears and took on the Warrior Dash...but we definitely DIDN'T go through on dry ground!)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Random thoughts from a Warrior Dash!

Yesterday I ran in a Warrior Dash. This is my first race of this kind and I came away with a few Random Thoughts, so of course I'm going to share them with you!

To begin with, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. When we arrived and I watched literally hundreds of people finishing up, covered in mud, I began to question if I had lost my sanity! Fear started creeping in and it was only by looking at the smiles on those who were finishing that I found the courage to get in line for my start. Thankfully I was running with two good friends and we had promised each other we would stick together....we weren't in this for an "impressive" time, we were in it for a FUN time!

Almost immediately we started running into the "mud" - actually, I'm pretty sure it was gray glue spread out to capture unsuspecting runners. I know this because I saw quite a few shoes on the trail where the mud had sucked the shoe right off of runners' feet! The good news was I knew we could make it through because although we did see quite a few single shoes, there were no broken bodies to go with them.

The obstacles weren't one right after another - there was some space between them...sort of like the way it happens in life. That is, until we got to the very end. Then the obstacles came fast and furious - but we knew the end was just ahead and that enabled us to push on through! I have to wonder how often in life we fail to realize that the faster the obstacles come, the closer the finish actually is. It would probably make a difference in how we ran through what tries to stand in our way.

But back to our run. The first major obstacle, I have to admit, beat me. It was a wall climb where you had to use a rope and boards on the wall to make it to the top. That wall looked HUGE! My fear of heights really kicked in, but I grabbed the nearest rope and started to pull myself up. The rope was covered with mud and slicker than snot on a doorknob! I watched my friend make it to the top, but I just couldn't get a grip. I gave up and slid back down, went around the obstacle and moved on down the course. Looking back, I wish I had given it another try, but my failure didn't stop me from moving forward. It was an obstacle I just wasn't ready for - but it didn't mean I was done! More obstacles waited ahead.

Not too far ahead came the obstacle I had dreaded since I signed up for the run...the rock wall climb. I'd already failed at an obstacle I thought I was ready for so I wondered what would happen now! I was being given a second chance to face my fear. First try - failure. Second try - failed again. I just couldn't reach those hand-holds! I just had to give it at least one more try in a different spot. I didn't want to walk around another wall - I wanted to scale it! This time I made it to the top. The top! Did I mention I have a fear of heights???? Now what was I going to do!!! After much encouragement, I reached out and grabbed the fireman's pole and slid to the safety of the ground. This time, fear didn't win!

Now we were back to the course. There were climbs and crawls and jumps and mud....lots and lots of mud. You'd make your way through the mud and think you were "clear" only to hit another spot that threatened to send you into a major slide! The mud would then CLING to your shoes, weighing you down and slowing your progress. Trust me, it made running tough! It made the obstacles even tougher!  Walking on a balance beam 6 feet off the ground with mud caked shoes is NOT for the faint of heart!
Most of the obstacles weren't nearly as difficult as I had thought they would be. It just required stepping into them and continuing to move forward!

Before I knew it, we were on the final stretch. It required getting dirty - really dirty (as evidenced by my photo!) There were encouraging cheers on both sides and  we ran across the finish line as winners! As I stood there with my muddy grin with my muddy friends, all that we had gone through seemed like a distant memory; and I had to think how much like life this was. 

As we run this "race", we often can be filled with fear - not knowing what will lie ahead...but if we'll just take one step at a time and keep on moving, before we know it we will be running into the gates of glory, surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before. There will be times we encounter obstacles we just don't know how to overcome - but we move on! We will feel like the world is clinging to our shoes and making it hard to walk, much less run. We will feel in danger of slipping, but if we's just mud! Get up and move on...and when the water "hazards" appear - just use them as a chance to wash away the mud that has held on for so long.

Will I run this race again - most definitely! Next time I'll do a little better....and I'll take a few more with me, and with every step we grow stronger!

Psalm 121

A song of ascents.
 1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
   where does my help come from? 
2 My help comes from the LORD,
   the Maker of heaven and earth.
 3 He will not let your foot slip—
   he who watches over you will not slumber; 
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
   will neither slumber nor sleep.

This race was just for fun....but we are in a far greater race every day!

Hebrews 12

Discipline in a Long-Distance Race
 1-3Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The world "owes" me...

I've had one of those random thoughts rolling around in my head all day. Have you ever noticed how it seems that a lot of people go around thinking that life owes them something. It's as if we have decided that we are somehow owed something besides the breath we take and the sun rising each day. We've missed it! It's not about what life owes's about what WE owe LIFE!

Each of us has been created for a purpose, some unique gift that only we can give. Our job is to find that purpose and GIVE so that the world can become a better place! Each day is filled with chances to may be to share a smile when someone is hurting, or to teach a child, or to simply help others hold on to hope. We were each created to worship God and live our lives in such a way that they point to Him...and we were created to give.

It's not about what life can do for's about what we can do for others in this life.

I often hear students complain about their "rights," and I have to remind them that their rights end where another person's rights begin. Truly, the only "rights" we have as Americans are the rights to life, liberty and the PURSUIT of happiness. I'm breathing - that's life! I am freer than much of the world's population and I have "rights" that allow me to chase my dreams. And I just happen to believe that happiness is best found when you discover that giving to life is a whole lot more satisfying than taking from it.

That's all....just a random thought. This life owes me nothing....I am the one with a debt to pay, and I am having a blast learning how to do that each day. Come on and join me in the fun. Who knows? Maybe we'll start a trend and everyone will discover that joy that comes from paying back what we owe.

The following is from "Discovering your God Given Purpose" from Focus on the Family. (Series on discovering your God given purpose - Focus on the Family) This is definitely a series worth checking out.

"Consider that your purpose is not just about you; it’s about what God wants to do through you. Therefore, if you ignore or neglect your dissatisfaction, what others say about you, your gifts and your passions, you are not only betraying yourself, but betraying God; because He has called you to a purpose and wants you to walk in it — for others and for your own joy.
Also consider that since God has called you, He is completely able to reveal your purpose to you, and He will as you diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6)."

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Psalm 139:16

The Message (MSG)
 13-16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
      you formed me in my mother's womb.
   I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking!
      Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
      I worship in adoration—what a creation!
   You know me inside and out,
      you know every bone in my body;
   You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
      how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
   Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
      all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
   The days of my life all prepared
      before I'd even lived one day.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Fighting with a friend.

You know, some days you just feel like you need to hit something. To be honest, I didn't wake up thinking I wanted to hit something; in fact, I've been traveling under a little black rain cloud emotionally the past few days. Fighting back was the last thing on my mind. I really wanted to curl up under my covers and hide from the world for a while.

Still, today called for some good old fashioned fighting. Some of my most favorite people came down from Memphis to lead us in a Krav self-defense class and I was signed up for the entire day! I downed a few cups of coffee and made up my mind to have fun. Yes, I actually have fun in these classes.

When I arrived, I discovered that Sam, my favorite instructor, was already there and a "new friend", Jason, was there as well. I find that the guys that come down and lead these classes quickly become some of my favorite people; I think it's because they push me to my limits and teach me to find my inner warrior. 

That's what got me to thinking. Over the years, I've had the privilege to "fight" with a lot of friends through Krav, and the bond that is created is something I truly treasure. We come from all walks of life, and we're as different as night and day...but after a few hours of sparring I feel like I have made a lifetime friend. Why is that?

Is it the intensity with which we train? Is it the shared sweat (and sometimes blood and tears)? Is it the adrenaline rush? I think it's probably all of these and something more.
Something happens when you fight with a friend...I mean the good kind of fight of course. You become a better you.

Proverbs 27:17 - You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another. 

I am very thankful for my friends made of steel - both physical and spiritual. During the past two days, I received encouragement from some of my "spiritual sharpeners" as well. They saw my discouraged facebook posts and sent words of encouragement to help me refocus. They prayed for me, (yes - I could tell you guys were lifting me up!) They "fought" alongside me when I was too tired to fight for myself.

I am so thankful today for my friends that "fight with me." They bring out the warrior in me - even when I am tired and discouraged and don't think I can fight the good fight anymore. I am so glad God placed me in a community of believers...and fighters. I love you guys! Thank you for "having my back."

Ecclesiastes 4: 9 - 12 
Two are better than one,
   because they have a good return for their labor: 

If either of them falls down,
   one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
   and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
   But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
   two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Gideon, the reluctant leader

It's time for the Friday Favorite...a Bible story you may already know, but someone may have never heard before.

Today's story is about Gideon, the reluctant leader. I like the way one writer put it, "It gives us hope that if God can use Gideon, He can use anyone." You see, Gideon was not what anyone would have thought of when they thought of "leadership material." 

Times were bad for the Israelites. They had rejected God's law - again. The results were they found themselves under the domination of the Midianites for seven years. Because of Midian, the people of Israel made hideouts in the mountains. Finally, they started to cry out to God. (Ever notice the pattern in this?) God responded with a loving word of correction and then He sent an angel. 

This angel comes down and sits down near where Gideon is threshing wheat in a wine press. The angel of God appeared to him and said, "God is with you, O mighty warrior!" These seem like pretty strange words considering Gideon was hiding at the time. 
It seems that God often chooses reluctant leaders - those who don't see themselves as qualified...those who have no real aspirations of greatness. Gideon was one of those reluctant leaders. 

Gideon said to him, "Me, my master? How and with what could I ever save Israel? Look at me. My clan's the weakest in Manasseh and I'm the runt of the litter."

The story is actually a lot longer, but basically Gideon tore down the altars to Baal and the Asherah poles. Of course, he did all this at night so no one would know it was him....he still didn't see in himself what God saw. 

Then came the time for real battle. The "bad guys" were all camping out in the Valley of Jezreel. God's spirit came over Gideon and he called out to all the other tribes, calling them to battle. Next comes the part of the story we all know...Gideon starts to doubt that God has really called him to be a leader. He asks God for a sign. Gideon will put out a fleece, a sheep skin; and in the morning if the fleece is wet with dew and the ground is dry, he'll know God has really called him.  Of course, that's what happened. When he got up early the next morning, he wrung out the fleece—enough dew to fill a bowl with water!

Then Gideon said to God, "Don't be impatient with me, but let me say one more thing. I want to try another time with the fleece. But this time let the fleece stay dry, while the dew drenches the ground."

God made it happen that very night. Only the fleece was dry while the ground was wet with dew. This is, of course, where we get the phrase "put out a fleece."

Finally Gideon is ready to lead troops into battle. That's when God tells him he has too many men. All he has to do is tell anyone who is afraid that they can go home. Twenty-two companies head home! That leaves only ten companies to fight the battle.

God tells Gideon he still has too many men. Take them down to the river and He'll tell him which ones to send home. By the time the final cut is made, there are only 300 men.

This next part of the story is straight out of Judges 7. 
That night, God told Gideon: "Get up and go down to the camp. I've given it to you. If you have any doubts about going down, go down with Purah your armor bearer; when you hear what they're saying, you'll be bold and confident." He and his armor bearer Purah went down near the place where sentries were posted. Midian and Amalek, all the easterners, were spread out on the plain like a swarm of locusts. And their camels! Past counting, like grains of sand on the seashore!
 13 Gideon arrived just in time to hear a man tell his friend a dream. He said, "I had this dream: A loaf of barley bread tumbled into the Midianite camp. It came to the tent and hit it so hard it collapsed. The tent fell!"
 14 His friend said, "This has to be the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite! God has turned Midian—the whole camp!—over to him."
 15 When Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he went to his knees before God in prayer. Then he went back to the Israelite camp and said, "Get up and get going! God has just given us the Midianite army!"
 16-18 He divided the three hundred men into three companies. He gave each man a trumpet and an empty jar, with a torch in the jar. He said, "Watch me and do what I do. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly what I do. When I and those with me blow the trumpets, you also, all around the camp, blow your trumpets and shout, 'For God and for Gideon!'"
 19-22 Gideon and his hundred men got to the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after the sentries had been posted. They blew the trumpets, at the same time smashing the jars they carried. All three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands, ready to blow, and shouted, "A sword for God and for Gideon!" They were stationed all around the camp, each man at his post. The whole Midianite camp jumped to its feet. They yelled and fled. When the three hundred blew the trumpets, God aimed each Midianite's sword against his companion, all over the camp. They ran for their lives—to Beth Shittah, toward Zererah, to the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath.

Did you catch that last part? The enemy turned on themselves and was destroyed! Now THAT is a battle story! All from a very reluctant leader who wasn't really sure God meant him!

And that is the story of Gideon...a man who didn't see himself as a leader, but in whom God saw something more.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The war is won...and the fight has begun

Today is Resurrection Sunday. Easter. And there is a feeling in the air...of anticipation. Hope!

There have been many Easters before....but this one has a distinct feeling about it that feels - more alive!

As I pondered the meaning behind this "feeling," I got to thinking again about the C.S. Lewis movie, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe - (I have no idea why that movie is on my mind!) specifically about the part where Aslan comes back to life. This is such a joyous time! Death has been defeated and Aslan has won! You'd think they would have had a party. Instead, they head directly into battle...a battle that has already begun. The witch, thinking she has won, has declared that she has no need of prisoners - kill them all. 

A battle? Wait...That really doesn't fit with my picture of Easter. A battlefield? Where is the sunshine and lollipops, I mean colored eggs? Where are all the flowers? Where are the pretty new clothes? In my mind, the story sort of ends with the Resurrection celebration. But, of course, it doesn't.

That really got me to thinking. Then, in the recesses of my mind, a verse about a sword started rolling around, begging me to look for more. It is from Luke 22: 36-38. "He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’[b]; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”
 38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
   “That’s enough!” he replied."

Why did Jesus tell his disciples to get a sword? I asked a few friends and they gave me the same, "I have no idea" kind of stare. Somehow, I had a feeling that verse wasn't talking about a literal, physical sword...but a spiritual one. 

When I got home from Easter lunch with friends, I took the time to do some searching. I found this commentary at that confirmed my thinking and explained it this way - "The disciples take Jesus' remarks literally and incorrectly. They note that they have two swords, but Jesus cuts off the discussion. Something is not right, but it is too late to discuss it. As the arrest will show, they have misunderstood. They draw swords then, but Jesus stops their defense in its tracks. He is not telling them to buy swords to wield in physical battle. They will have to provide for themselves and fend for themselves, but not through the shedding of blood. They are being drawn into a great cosmic struggle, and they must fight with spiritual swords and resources. The purchase of swords serves only to picture this coming battle. This fight requires special weapons (Eph 6:10-18)."

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

That is what I think I was feeling in my spirit...a new start, a new stirring, and a new call to war. It's a call to put on the whole armor of God and take a stand. That's it! 

Happy Easter my's time for a new beginning. Dreams that were dead, hopes that were gone, situations that seemed hopeless - it's time for new life. The good news is this - this war is already won.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Rebuilding the walls

It's Friday, so that means it's time for a Friday Favorite....a favorite Bible story that many know, but some may have never heard. 

Tonight's story is about a guy named Nehemiah. (I love Nehemiah!) Nehemiah was just a regular guy working away at his regular job when one of his friends arrived from Judah so he asked about how everyone was doing "back at home" as it were. The reply was that things were in bad shape....I'm sure that wasn't what Nehemiah expected to hear. The walls of Jerusalem were in rubble and the city gates were cinders. How could that be? 

After 70 years of captivity, thousands of Jews returned to Jerusalem. Zerrubabel led the return and rebuilt the temple. About 57 years after the dedication of the temple, Ezra led a second group of Jews back to the city and found that those there had fallen into a state of spiritual and moral degradation. Through Ezra's teaching, the people repented and turned once again to God. That had been 14 years earlier, so I can guess that Nehemiah expected that things would finally be better by now. That obviously wasn't the case.

Nehemiah immediately started to pray. He asked for forgiveness for all the people (that whole, "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." from 2 Chronicles 7:14) Then he decided to go and ask his boss for time off so he could go and help rebuild the city. his words, Nehemiah simply states, "I was the cup bearer to the king."

The king grants Nehemiah a "leave of absence" (how wild is that!) and even gives him letters to help him out in the process because, while you may find it hard to believe, there were those who didn't want Nehemiah to succeed! (Sound like real life?) 

When he got there, Nehemiah went to check things out and then... "Then I gave them my report: "Face it: we're in a bad way here. Jerusalem is a wreck; its gates are burned up. Come—let's build the wall of Jerusalem and not live with this disgrace any longer." I told them how God was supporting me and how the king was backing me up.
    They said, "We're with you. Let's get started." They rolled up their sleeves, ready for the good work.

But remember, there were those who didn't want the city to be restored! There were even those who fought against him so much that Nehemiah had those rebuilding the wall to carry a sword strapped to their side as they worked. Many had to hold a tool in one hand and a spear in the other! Still, they kept praying and they kept working.

In only 52 days, despite the intimidation of his enemies, Nehemiah led the people and they rebuilt the wall. If you read the entire book, you'll find they did some major "house-cleaning" spiritually in the process! 

My favorite part of this story lies in this; the temple had already been rebuilt and people were worshipping...but if you looked at the city, things were still a mess. That's like a lot of people I know...shoot, that's a lot like me! I have been saved and the Spirit of God lives in me, but let's be honest - parts of my life are still a mess! Some of it is my own fault, some of it is residue from years of living in a fallen world, some of it is because of attacks from the enemy....but just because I don't always "look" saved, doesn't mean that the temple hasn't been rebuilt or that I don't love God. It simply means some of the walls are still down and rebuilding takes WORK!

I was reminded of that fact today when I thought of how I had spoken to someone recently. I meant it in love, but I'm sure (thanks to someone else telling me) that my words sounded harsh. I never meant them that way - but evidently that is a part of my "wall" that still has a hole in it. I could sit and beat myself up over this or succumb to the enemies taunts that I'll never get it right...or I can pick up my tools and my spear and keep on working on the wall.

I'd love to think that my "walls" would be rebuilt in only 52 days, but I know it will be a battle and sometimes I don't give it my all so it's probably is going to take a whole lot longer. Thankfully, God doesn't give up on us in the rebuilding process. 

So there you have it....a semi-condensed version of Nehemiah rebuilding the wall. To get the "whole story", you probably want to check out the book of Nehemiah in the Bible. It's the 16th book and you can find it 3 books before Psalms. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What do birthdays mean?

Since I celebrate my 53rd birthday tomorrow, I've been doing a lot of thinking about just how to handle getting this old. Over the hill, past my prime, etc. Even if a person tries to tell themselves that 50 is the new 30, there echoes in the back of their mind that feeling that makes them cringe...that perhaps they are, in fact, getting old. 

Funny thing is, I remember when I turned 30 feeling pretty much the same way! I even wonder does my father-in-law have those same thoughts now that he's about to turn 83.

Our society celebrates youth, that goes without saying. Even in areas of ministry, we tend to look to the next generation....those who will be the "Joshua" generation and take the promised land. While I in no way want to discount those who have not yet made the trip around the sun as many times as me, I can't help but I done? Does God look at me and figure, "Well, she's still alive but I can't really use her for much anymore. Time to look at the next group coming up." Of course, we all know that's ridiculous...but many of us who have made the trip over 40 or 50 times still have those moments. You know the ones I'm talking about, those times when you wonder if your best years are behind you and perhaps you just never fulfilled what God had planned for your life. Those times when you I too old to be used by God?

I've often heard that a baby is God's opinion that the world should go on. Not sure how theologically sound that is, but I do believe that every child born is born with a purpose. There are no "accidents". Each life has a purpose in God. That's what got me to thinking about those birthdays again. Perhaps, just perhaps, each passing birthday is God's way of letting us know He's not finished with us yet....He still has a work for us to do...we need to "go on". We may not have the same spring in our step that we once had, but that doesn't mean we're done. Whatever God created you to do, as long as you're still blowing out the candles on the cake, it's not over yet.

The gifts of God are without repentance....and as long as we abide on this earth, we are to use those gifts. Don't think that just because you are older that God won't still fulfill the know the one I'm talking about...the dream that He placed in your heart years ago...when you still had that spring in your step. God doesn't make mistakes....and He doesn't forget about you or that dream.

God's time table isn't the same as ours, and if you're still alive, then evidently God still has something for you to do. Though it tarries, wait for it. Let your gifts continue to grow and mature...and be used. Allow each passing birthday to serve as a reminder that God is in control and He's not finished with you yet.

For everyone, no matter when it comes, I wish you Happy Birthday! May this birthday bring you assurance that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it....and don't be afraid to continue to dream.

Ephesians 1:11-12 (Message)
It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.