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Book - Walk On Water

Playing Defense

When Barak told Deborah that he would not accept his mission without her assistance, she rallied to the opportunity. Good for her! She did not hesitate. She was not afraid because she knew God had promised them victory. But you know what? The victory was not magical.  They would still have to fight! There would be battles and pain and, well, warfare! Which is hard and dangerous and scary.

Battles, spiritual and physical ones, require preparation knowing that there is the distinct possibility we could be wounded in the process. We often make the mistake of walking into a battle totally unarmed, believing that God will give us the victory and protect us from harm.  And if God has promised victory, then we will be victorious! However. However . . . if we are unarmed, we will be wounded. 😯

God has given us armor for these spiritual battles, and Paul lists the pieces of that armor in his letter to the Ephesians. Our defensive weapons are truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation. Our offensive weapons are the Word of God and prayer. Most of us readily go to offense because it’s where we are in control, where we score points. (Think basketball. 🏀) We study God’s Word, recite scripture, and pray about the battle. Those are “go to” weapons: things we can do. But I think defense is as important as offense, if not more. (Think basketball. 🏀)

The enemies we face are smart and powerful. If all we do is use our offensive weapons, we will probably be beaten up a bit. We should expect to be shot at. (Think basketball. 🏀)  And note this: the devil knows our weaknesses. He has studied our film!  And he knows scripture! He quoted it at Jesus!  We need to defend ourselves when we are attacked. And the enemy will target our hearts. Therefore, we must guard our hearts. How do we do that? With our defensive weapons. (Think basketball. 🏀)   

Although it is not listed first, I believe faith is the most important defensive weapon. Paul describes it as a shield. “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” (1) So, with our analogy of basketball, our opponent (Satan) is throwing up his ball and trying to score points on our goal (our heart). What we have to do is block his shots. That’s where the shield comes in. More than anything else, Satan wants to destroy, or at least chip away at, our faith—our trust in God. Our shield (faith) will keep the shots from hitting his goal.

But our shield (faith) must be strong. Faith is nothing less than absolute trust that God is our ultimate protector. Faith is something we must exercise. It only grows stronger when it is tested. (Think basketball. 🏀)  James writes that we should “consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds for the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (2)

So our faith, which is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” (3) is our greatest defensive weapon. If we go into battle without it, we will be hit so many times that we will probably be defeated—in life and in basketball. It is essential that we heed Paul’s words: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” (4) And holding out the shield of faith will cause the darts of Satan to miss the goal (our hearts) and possibly be the reason we win the game . . . I mean, the battle.😬 (I watch a lot of basketball.) 

(1) Ephesians 6:16      (2) James 1:2     (3) Hebrews 11:1      (4) Ephesians 6:11

Be Strong and Courageous and Do It

What was Barak’s response to Deborah when she asked him why he had not responded to God’s command to fight Jabin’s army?  “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” (1) He was afraid. (I knew it.😏) Wow. Really? 😟 However . . . I’m pretty sure I have said those words, too. Barak needed support. I get that. It is difficult for us to venture out on our own. Moses did not like the idea either. Back in his day, he pleaded with God to send someone else to rescue the Israelites, so finally God let his brother come along with him. Barak knew Jabin’s army was powerful. General Sisera was intimidating. Israel had been living under their oppression for 20 years. He did not want to tackle this mission by himself.

But. 🤨 But . . . God told Barak “I will give him into your hand.” (2) Did he not hear that part? Success was guaranteed! He would be an automatic hero! Why would he hesitate? Only one reason: he did not believe God. And this is the real issue—not fear, not failure, not fear of failure. He did not have faith in God. He did not believe that God really understood what was involved here.

And this is the recurring problem for all of us. God gives us a mission and we mistakenly believe that God might have erred. That he really does not know what he is talking about. And there are so many reasons to believe this: We are unqualified. We are weak. We are insecure. We will make mistakes. The enemy is stronger than we are. So when God persists—which he often does—we sometimes reluctantly comply with the condition that someone else come along with us. And I guess that’s okay. It is more fun with someone else on the journey—not to mention less scary. I think God understands our frailty.  Barak solicited Deborah’s help.

Her response? “I will surely go with you.” (3) She is glad to help. Actually, I think she is psyched about it! Sure, I’ll go! 😀 Add to her list of accomplishments: Warrior. (I really like her.) Deborah seems to be fearless—which is what we are all supposed to be. She is heeding David’s advice: “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed.” (4)

Why can’t we? Be strong and courageous. We can. Really. It’s possible. But how does that happen? Simple. We trust in God, not ourselves. “Some men trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.” (5) We tend to overthink, to despair, to question, to hesitate, to ponder, to calculate. 😟  I think when it comes to our mission in life, we are simply to “rise and stand upright.” (6) God commanded Barak to “Go, gather your men.” (7) We need to do what David (and Nike😉) said: Just “do it.” (4) And have faith that God is who he says he is and will do what he says he will do.

(1) Judges 4:8    (2) Judges 4:7    (3) Judges 4:9    (4) 1 Chronicles 28:20    (5) Psalm 20:7-8    (6) Psalm 20:8    (7) Judges 4:6  

 

 

 

 

Fear of Failure

King Jabin “had 900 chariots of iron and he oppressed the people of Israel cruelly for twenty years.” (1)  Of course, it was the Israelites’ choice—to be under his rule. That is to say that even though once upon a time they said, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods,” (2) they did. I daresay that most of our trouble is self-inflicted. But that’s another lesson. Eventually the Israelites realized the error of their ways and “cried out to the Lord for help.” (1) Again. 🙄

Enter Deborah. I don’t know if this woman is really my namesake or not, but let’s just say she is. 😉 The facts are quite sparse. We know that Deborah was married to Lappidoth. We read that she was a prophetess, God’s spokesperson. This meant that she not only worshiped God but God used her to deliver his message. She also acted as a judge for the people. “She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment.” (3) I like her. She sounds steady and strong and wise.

God told her to summon a guy named Barak, a military man. She had a question for him: “Has not the Lord, the God of Israel commanded you, ‘Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 from the people of Naphtali and the people of Zebulun. And I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the river Kishon with his chariots and his troops, and I will give him into your hand?’” (4)  Hmm. 🤔 So, Barak had already heard from God about this mission. But had not done anything. I think that happens a lot. God tells us to go somewhere or to do something and we do not. Why? There are many reasons but mostly we do nothing because we fear we will fail. 😞

The ironic thing about fear of failure is that our fear causes us to fail because we are paralyzed to even attempt the thing. So failure is not the issue—the issue is our fear. And what does God have to say about fear? “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (5) Note he does not say, “Do not fail.” We are the ones who put the emphasis on succeeding. God does not command us to succeed. Instead, he repeatedly says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (6)

Where do we read, “Be successful in the Lord”? Nowhere! 😦 Joseph was a successful man. You know why? “The Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” (7) Joseph’s success was not dependent on Joseph; it was dependent on the Lord being with him. Our successes in life are due to the Lord. Not us.

God did not command Barak to succeed. He commanded Barak to “Go.” (8) I’m pretty sure that’s God’s message to us as well.

What are you waiting for? Go. 🙂

(1) Judges 4:3      (2) Joshua 24:16        (3) Judges 4:5       (4) Judges 4:6-7      (5) Deuteronomy 31:8      (6) Joshua 1:9     (7) Genesis 39:23    (8) Judges 4:6

 

Living With the Enemy

When Israel was under the crushing rule of Jabin, Deborah decided to fight back. Apparently, Jabin had “oppressed the people of Israel cruelly for twenty years.” (1) But before we go on, I have a few questions. Question #1: Why was Jabin, this cruel man, ruling over Israel? Well . . . as it turns out . . .“The Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin.” (2) Hmm. 🤔 That doesn’t sound right. Question #2: Why would the Lord do that? Well . . . you see, “the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord after Ehud died.” (3) Okay. 🧐 So . . . Question #3: When we are bad, does God make things worse for us? 😦  

Now that’s a good question. And here’s my answer: Yes. 😮 Yes, I believe he does. Not because he is a vengeful God but because when we choose evil, we are rejecting God. And God never forces his way into our lives. So this is a case of God giving the Israelites over—selling them out—so they can live exactly how they want. A life without God. Their choice.

But let’s try to understand the big picture here. Here’s a brief history lesson. The Israelites were chosen to be God’s people. Abraham was their first leader and helped them understand that the gods of other nations were false gods—that there was only one God, Yahweh. The Israelites struggled with the concept, but by the time Moses arrived on the scene God had made himself clearly known and laid down the law (literally!). “You shall have no other gods before me.” (4) Before Moses died, he passed the baton to Joshua, who at the end of his life made this declaration: “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (5)

The Israelites responded, “We will also serve the Lord, for he is our God.” (6) Yeah! 😀 Good for them! Unfortunately, they made one tiny mistake. They forgot or overlooked or ignored Moses’ instructions regarding Canaan. God told Moses to tell the Israelites  “When you pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land. . .” (7) Their error? “When Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not drive them out completely.” (8) They let the enemy stay.

So? It sounds like they had mercy on them. Instead of killing them or driving them away completely, they put them to work. What’s so wrong with that? 😕 Well . . . did I mention they were the enemy? 🤪 Still . . . what was so bad about letting them stay and work for them? God told them “you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land.” (9) Why is this so important? God knew what would happen: “they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” (10)

It is a lesson for all of us. We mistakenly treat our enemies as if they are not. Enemies! Plus, we believe we can handle our enemies. We cannot. They sneak into our lives. They infiltrate our world. They make us weak. They blindside us. And before we know it, we are siding with them, having compassion on them, compromising our values, and soon we are acting just like them. And they are our enemies! Guess what happened? “And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of  the Lord.” (3)

Need I go on? I thought not. 🙄

I promise I will begin our study on Deborah next time . . . or soon thereafter. 😬

(1) Judges 4:3    (2) Judges 4:2   (3) Judges 4:1   (4) Exodus 20:3    (5) Joshua 24:14-15   (6) Joshua 24:18    (7) Numbers 33:50-52     (8) Judges 1:28     (9) Judges 2:2    (10) Judges 2:3

 

Doing What We Want

If you read the Old Testament very much, you probably grow weary of reading these words: “And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. . .” (1) The operative word being “again.” 🙄 My reaction sometimes as I read this is, “What’s wrong with these people?” But then my gut tells me, “I am one of these people.” 🙁

Why is that? Why do we continue to do leave good things and return to what is “evil in the sight of the Lord”? My only conclusion is Paul’s conclusion, who also struggled with it. He wrote: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (2) I must pause there, however, for I actually believe that most of the time people do what they want to do. So am I disagreeing with Paul? Actually no. Paul says he ends up doing what he wants, which happens to be what he hates. Wait. What? 🤪 Paul is wise enough to realize that what he wants is of far less value than what God wants; therefore, he hates that he does not really want to do what God wants. (If you need to take a sip of coffee at this point to follow this logic, please feel free to do so! ☕ )

The rest of us mortals (excluding Paul and a few other godly people—the disciples perhaps and some Old Testament folks like Deborah, which we will get to eventually) are not even wise enough to truly believe that . . . that doing what God wants would be way better than doing what we want. And so: the struggle.

Most of us—with some exceptions, I am sure (but they are few😏)—most of us do exactly what we want to do. Most of us—if we even commit to anything—leave a back door open in case something better comes along. In other words, we are committed to living for the Lord . . . until something else catches our attention. Yes, I believe we are that selfish and that fickle. ☹️

My evidence for such a depressing philosophy? The number of meaningful relationships people forsake. The number of promising jobs people quit. The number of excellent programs people abandon. The number of wonderful diets people ditch. The number of notable churches people leave. Etc. Etc. Etc. 🙄 And so our story reads like something out of the Old Testament: “And the people of _____ again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” We are just not very good at sticking with things—even good things!

But that’s on the large scale, regarding the big decisions in our lives—relationships, jobs, programs, health, churches, etc. What about the little decisions? The daily ones? How do we handle those? Well . . . 🙄 basically the same way. We commit to praying more . . . until our phone buzzes. We commit to reading the Bible more . . . until that TV program lures us away. We commit to exercising more . . . until we are too tired (lazy). We commit to attending that class . . . until something else needs our immediate attention. And so: the struggle. “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (3)

But wait a minute. 🤨 Am I saying these other things are actually “evil”? No, not independently evil. But, yes, if they keep us from doing the better thing, the godly thing, the thing God wants us to do. The fact is, God’s ways are so much better. We just have a hard time really believing that . . . because if we did, we would do what God wants! Instead, we do what we want to do. And settle for less. 😕 And struggle. Aargh! 😠 “I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” (4) It’s serious! We are actually in bondage to this lesser way of thinking—this double-minded, on-again-off-again unstable way of living. And there is only one way out of it: “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (5)

My goal one day is to be able to say with Paul, “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” and understand that what I want (and generally end up doing) is not as good as what God wants, and then conclude that I really hate that. 🙁

(1) Judges 4:1    (2) Romans 7:15    (3) Romans 7:19    (4) Romans 7:23    (5) Romans 8:2

The Deception of Deception

James tells us, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.” (1) And I agree! Be careful, people! 😦 The devil is out to get us and bring us down. According to Jesus he is “a liar and the father of lies.” (2)  This world is a treacherous place. We must be alert at all times. People will trick us and lure us in to their dangerous ways. Therefore, so that I might “not be deceived,” my question for James is what were the “beloved brothers” being deceived about? And the surprising answer is this: Blaming their temptations on God. Wait. 😮 What? Yeah, that’s right. The brothers were deceived into believing that God was tempting them.  

James was quick to point out their mistake, though. He writes, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” (3)  It wasn’t God and it wasn’t even the devil tempting them—it was themselves! “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” (4) It was their own fault! 😒

And that’s not all they were deceiving themselves about! James reveals that the brothers believed they were actively applying the Word of God to their lives. They were not! They were only listening to the sermons, but not doing anything the sermons commanded or suggested. He warned them: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (5)     

And one more thing. The brothers deceived themselves into thinking they were religious people and yet did not control their tongue—which could mean they were saying untrue things, or hurtful things, or offensive things, or maybe just useless things. “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart. . . ” (6) But the worst part of all of this is the last part of that sentence: “this person’s religion is worthless.” (6)

Wow. 😟 How sad is that? No one will pay attention to anything these people say or do. And remember, these are “beloved brothers.”

So, what’s the lesson? “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.”–not by others, not by the devil, but mostly . . . do not be deceived by yourselves.

Don’t kid yourself. Deception is very deceptive. 🙄 We believe others are responsible for our downfall because surely we are quite capable to resist temptation. We believe others need to apply the Word of God to their lives because surely we are quite adept at hearing a good sermon and working it out in our lives.  We believe others need to tame their tongue because surely we will not say anything that might be a stumbling block. We are easily deceived because we have it all figured out. We trust our instincts; we are intelligent people. We think quite highly of ourselves. 😉

But our understanding of things is limited. We really cannot even see ourselves properly. James explains, we are “like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.” (7)

So, there’s the problem. 🧐

What’s the answer? “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding.” (8)

Don’t trust yourself. Don’t be deceived. Deception is deceptive.

(1) James 1:16)    (2) John 8:44     (3) James 1:13    (4) James 1:14   (5) James 1:22     (6) James 1:26    (7) James 1:23-24    (8) Proverbs 3:5

Evil vs. Good

Paul tells the Christians in Rome to “Abhor what is evil.” (1) Why would he need to tell them to do that? Isn’t it common sense—to hate evil?  🧐  Are people inclined to love evil? Well . . . 🙄 sometimes! Evil comes pretty naturally to us. And we are very good at covering our actions so they do not appear evil. And what is bad for other people is not necessarily bad for me. 😬 My reasons are justifiable. I promise.

But it is undeniably clear what we are to do. We are to abhor (hate, detest, recoil from, run for dear life from 🏃‍♀️—my favorite🙂,  regard with horror, abominate, despise, detest, deplore, disdain, and loathe) evil (iniquity, sin, villainy, wrong, atrocities, devilry, fiendishness, corruption, depravity, and that which is morally unacceptable).

Yes. It’s obvious how we should approach this directive. Why then does Paul reiterate with this warning: “Repay no one evil for evil”? (2) If it is clear that we are to run for dear life from evil, then why are we tempted to seek revenge? I think it is because good is slippery. What? 😦 Yeah. Right after Paul writes, “Abhor what is evil,” he adds, “hold fast to what is good.” (1) We need to hold on tightly to good or it will slip away from us. You see, good is slippery; evil, on the other hand, sticks with us. Good and evil are always at odds with one another. And evil often disguises itself as good, so it is hard to know what to do sometimes. That’s why I think Paul gives us a list of things we should not do—as if we would be more inclined to do the evil things than the good ones.

Here’s the list: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and DO NOT curse them.” (3) “DO NOT be haughty, but associate with the lowly.” (4) “NEVER BE wise in your own sight.” (4) “Repay NO ONE evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” (5) “IF POSSIBLE, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (6) “Beloved, NEVER AVENGE yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God.” (7) “TO THE CONTARY, if your enemy is hungry feed him.” (8)

My favorite one is this: “If [your enemy] is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing so you will HEAP BURNING COALS on his head.” (8). It sounds like by doing something good, it will feel like we are doing something bad, which will make us feel good! 😏 Why does that make me smile? Because I kinda’ like doing rebellious stuff and being the bad guy sometimes. I grow weary of being a goody two shoes. I like to shock people at times. Don’t you? 😉

And there’s the rub. It’s not funny. Evil. It is not fun. It is dark and dangerous. As a matter of fact, if we are not careful, it will destroy us. Even so, it will be tempting. So listen carefully to the last word on the matter.  “DO NOT be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (9) Hmm. 🧐 Evil will overcome (defeat, annihilate, conquer, overwhelm, and get the best of) us. It is an ongoing battle to cling to what is good and repel what is evil. And that is why Paul mentions it. And warns us about it. And commands us to Abor what is evil. To run for dear life from it. And hold on for dear life to what is good.

(1) Romans 12:9    (2) Romans 12:17    (3) Romans 12:14     (4) Romans 12:16    (5) Romans 12:17    (6) Romans 12:18     (7) Romans 12:19     (8) Romans 12:20      (9) Romans 12:21

Genuine Love

When Paul wrote his letter “to those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” (1), he included this little verse. “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” (2) Sounds simple, right? Let’s take a look. 🧐

Let love be genuine. What does that look like? Here is what I discovered when I compared multiple translations of the verse. Genuine love is love with no hypocrisy, without deceit, without pretending, love that is not merely an outward show, one that is unfeigned, completely sincere and without dissimulation, love that stems from the center of who you are and not faked but real love that is honest and true and perfectly sincere. That’s all. 😬 So . . . how’s that going for you? 😏

The problem with this directive is that the instructions imply that we are to love everyone this way—not just the people we are drawn to love. And just so we are clear, let me define a couple of these descriptors with the help of my friend Merriam Webster. Feigned love would be artificial, not natural or real and never spontaneous. And dissimulation is the practice of misleading others through lies or trickery. 😮

So here’s a good measuring rod for you: which definition jumps out at you? And who are you thinking about as you ponder it? Sorry. 😕 I don’t mean to be so personal but scripture pricks us where we need pricking. The fact is there are people in our world that rub us the wrong way, and we find it hard to love them genuinely. Instead, we “fake” it. We say things to them we do not mean at all. As our mouths are verbalizing one thing, we are thinking something entirely differently and probably rolling our eyes secretly. 🙄 And that, my friends, is not love. It is the opposite of love. Wait. What? 😦 Does that mean when our love is not genuine it is actually hate? Not exactly. We simply need to understand that we must love people even though we dislike them.  Paul is not telling us to like everyone. He is instructing us to let love override our personal feelings for them.

We will not like everyone, including dedicated and faithful believers. And by the way, not everyone likes us either! 😉 So how do we love people we do not like? I think we have to refer to the greatest thing ever written about love: 1 Corinthians 13. Here’s the meat of it: “Love is patient and kind.” (3) That’s it. The rest is details. Patience and kindness are the essentials of love. Especially patience. And kindness. 😏

The pressure is off. We are not expected to like everyone. And we are never to fake our love towards others. But it is imperative that we are kind to everyone. That we are patient with everyone. It is the most loving thing we can do.

So, here is your challenge for the week: Really love others—especially those you do not like. We’ll save the other parts of Paul’s simple little verse for next week. 😏

(1) Romans 1:7    (2) Romans 12:9   (3) 1 Corinthians 13:4

Your Greatest Fear

So, what is your greatest fear? Take a moment to think about it. And I’m not talking about the easy stuff like acrophobia (heights) or claustrophobia (confined spaces) or arachnophobia (spiders) or hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (long words)—all perfectly legitimate fears, in my opinion. 😉 I’m talking about the intangible ones like fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of letting people down, fear of change, fear of loneliness, fear of abandonment, fear of intimacy—those things. Which one of those fears grips your heart? Why do I ask? Because that’s the thing God wants you to face—and not only face but get over. 🤨 As in overcome.

And so . . . be advised that one day . . . probably sooner than later . . . God will give you an opportunity to conquer that fear. Meaning, you will fail. You will be rejected. You will let people down. You will face change, etc. What? 😯 Why would God do that to you? Very good question. And here’s the answer.

In order to conquer something, you must be defeated by it first. The defeat is where you learn your weakness. And identifying your weakness is the first step in overcoming it. Here’s the thing though. You will probably not conquer it the first time or the second time, or even the third.  But if failing is your fear, then God will give you an opportunity to fail. And when you do—fail, that is—he will be there to catch you, to walk with you through the agony of it, to offer his strength to endure it, to embrace you with his compassion to soften the blow of it.

And when you have another chance to fail, you will remember that God carried you through it. Of course, you will still fear the failure that second time. But there is a chance you will not fear it as much, knowing you did survive the first time with God’s help. And as you continue to have opportunities to fail, your fear decreases because you are so familiar with failing that it is no big deal anymore. 😁 And one day you will overcome the fear of failure and merely look upon it as an opportunity to grow stronger. But make sure you’re catching the meat of this lesson. The result is not that you become more successful and your chances of failing decrease. No. The result is that the fear of failing decreases. 🙂

However. 😏 

However. If failure is your greatest fear, there is a chance that you will always fear failure. That you will never overcome it. Wait. 😕 What? Yeah, sorry about that. Why would I say such a thing? Because this fear just might be your thorn—the thorn that God wants you to have. God wants us to have a thorn? 😦 Maybe. He gave one to Paul. Paul didn’t want it. He prayed God would take it away. But God did not! Why not? Paul concluded it was to keep him “from becoming conceited.” (1) Paul’s thorn kept him humble.  

And so, I think, perhaps that your greatest fear can do the same thing. Now, I firmly believe that it is possible to conquer fears. I have conquered some myself with God’s help. And I hope you conquer your greatest fear. But I also know, from personal experience, that my greatest fear—even with countless opportunities to overcome it—is still my greatest fear. And recently I have concluded that it will always be with me because it keeps me humble and very dependent on God. It is where I have learned the same lesson God was teaching Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2)

And so. My weakness, my greatest fear, is also where I experience God’s grace and God’s power and God’s presence. And although I hate my greatest fear, I love experiencing God on that level.  And as I continue to have the opportunity to face my greatest fear, I am now in the habit of reciting this verse aloud: “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (3)

And God’s presence and God’s promise relieves my fear. Every time.

Until the next time. 😬

I’m a work in progress. 😏

(1) 2 Corinthians 12:7      (2) 2 Corinthians 12:9        (3) Deuteronomy 31:8

TRUE STORY: Signs from God

Patty went to see the movie Top Gun: Maverick on Sunday, July 24. Mark and I went to see it on his birthday, Wednesday, July 27. When I told her we had seen it, she texted me: “I’m glad you liked the movie! Could you weave Tom Cruise into a devotional???” I laughed. And then I read my devotional the next day—July 28. In it I mention the movie Jerry Maguire, a Tom Cruise movie. I actually quoted Tom Cruise in the devotional!! 😮

What are the chances of that happening? And how did that happen? My answer? It was God. I know some of you will disagree. But for me, there is no other explanation. Look at the odds. First of all, the last time Mark and I went to a movie was . . . I can’t even remember when. We rarely go to the movies. I think it has been a few years. (I know. 🙄 We are boring.) Secondly, Patty went on a whim, last minute decision, not planned. Thirdly, I did not remember writing the devotional about Jerry Maguire until I read it on July 28. So, the odds? What are the odds on Patty sending me the text on July 27 and the Tom Cruise devotion being on July 28? I guess you could say they were 365 to 1. Okay. So, it’s possible it was just coincidence and not God.

But if I believe this: “O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether” (1)—if I believe that (and I do), then God made the Tom Cruise thing happen. How? That’s the tricky part. I wrote the devotional a couple of years ago, I believed inspired by God. Patty, my good friend and publicist, is always encouraging me in my work; it is a relationship inspired by God. So, what I’m saying is God inspired Patty to go to the movie, which led Mark and me to the movie, which led her to make the comment about Tom Cruise. Now that in and of itself is pretty amazing but the most amazing thing is God’s timing. When Patty made the comment—the day before I mention Tom Cruise in the devotional. That’s the amazing thing. God’s timing.

So, what I’m saying is that God planned that little insignificant “coincidental” thing years ago. 😕 Yeah, I knew I would lose some of you with my explanation. That’s okay. And I agree—it was insignificant—nothing life-saving or monumental about any of it. But that’s what convinces me the most that it was God. It was his way of saying to me, “I know everything about you and I thought this would make you smile. And by the way, I am deeply involved in the work you are doing with Patty and the devotional.”  That’s what I believe.

The whole thing was absolutely unnecessary and so very very special. And that’s the kind of God I serve. He speaks to us in whispers most of the time and much of the time he is reminding us that he is with us all the time.

That was not the first time God has given me a sign that he is involved in my everyday life. And I am sure it will not be the last time. I agree with David who concluded about God’s intimate knowledge of his life: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” (2)

I believe God sends us signs often. But we dismiss them as coincidental or fate or karma or simply a serendipitous moment or maybe even nothing at all. So, all I’m saying is the next time you hear yourself say, “What are the chances of that happening?” Consider God. 🙂

(1) Psalm 139:1-4     (2) Psalm 139:6