He’s Kidding…Isn’t He?

ID-10083939    Television, Internet, newspapers—any media; take your pick, and it will be full of bad news—violence, dissention, hurricanes, fires, deception, scandals, unemployment, and more.  So, while only God himself knows exactly where we are in terms of the end times, we’re certainly far enough along for people to be overcome with negative emotions—disgust, hopelessness, anxiety, depression, worry, fear.  But, as He explained what end times would look like to the disciples, Jesus said that these things should not be frightening .

 “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.  “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.  And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.  And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.  And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. (Matthew 24:4-12)

    He must have been kidding!!! Could knowledge of such a dire future be comforting?  Yes, because it comes with His promise.

But the one who endures to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:13-14)

    These days it can be hard to trust others because, somewhere along the way, deception and manipulation seem to have become acceptable behavior in order to achieve a goal.  Some might ask how we can trust what Jesus said?  How do we know that He was any different than our leaders today; that He was telling the truth?  What’s His track record?  Are we really supposed to believe that we don’t need to worry?  That doesn’t seem logical, or even possible! 

    Evidence that God’s word is true is overwhelming, and many volumes have been written documenting fulfilled prophecies and promises.  So let’s narrow it down and get specific regarding His track record with people who were told not to fear.  Is there proof that He came through for them—that He kept His word?

    Abram was already 75 years old when God told him to pack up, leave his home, and go to another country; all based on His promise that, “I will make of you a great nation.”  Years passed—difficult years—years of famine, fear, family friction, battle—years in which no heir of whom a great nation would come had been born.

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” (Genesis 15:1)

    Even more difficult and disappointing years passed before Isaac finally came along; and Abram, renamed Abraham, was 100 years old.  Yet, through all of the trials, he steadfastly chose to believe God and to continue on in faith.

    Isaac had grown up and married when there was another famine, and God showed up to restate the promise he’d made to Abraham.

And the Lord appeared to him and said, “… I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father.  I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” (Genesis 26:2-5)

And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.” (Genesis 26:24)

    Eventually Isaac’s son, Jacob, had his own encounter with God.

Then God spoke to Israel in the visions of the night, and said, “Jacob, Jacob!”  And he said, “Here I am.”  So He said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there.  I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes.” (Genesis 46:2-4)

    Fast forward to Joshua, just after Moses’ death.  Here he was, 80 years old and taking over the leadership of the Children of Israel, with years of battle ahead in order to seize the land of Canaan.  Talk about someone who could’ve been frightened!  There were giants in that land, and 40 years earlier all of the Israelites except Joshua and Caleb had been so scared that they’d refused to go forward, and ended up wandering around the desert until they all died and a younger-and-braver generation grew up.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8-10)

[After Joshua’s death] the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them.  Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them.  They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord, and they did not do so.  Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge.  For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. (Judges 2:16-18)

    And along came Gideon.  One day an angel showed up with the news that God was calling him to undertake the thankless task of leading this unrighteous bunch.

Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the Lord. And Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord God! For now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.”  But the Lord said to him, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.” (Judges 6:22-23)

    And how about some prophets?  Jeremiah and Ezekiel were both commissioned by God to warn His hard-hearted people that they were headed for destruction—not a fun job, to say the least.

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; or to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.  Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 1:7-9)

And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. (Ezekiel 2:6)

    Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; Joshua; Gideon; Jeremiah and Ezekiel; all were told by God to not be afraid in the face of tremendous trials.  Oh, but they were Bible heroes—they were special—right?  No, they were ordinary men, and the only thing that made them that made them any different than others is that they made a choice to believe that God’s would be faithful to His promises.  They all chose faith over fear.  They all understood the truth of words that had not yet even been written by Paul the Apostle…

… we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5: 3-5)

    Still, they lived so long ago in Old Testament times—surely it’s different now.  No, not unless we choose to ignore Jesus, who repeatedly encouraged His followers, “Why are you so afraid?”  “Take courage.”  “Don’t be afraid.”  “Why did you doubt, you of little faith?”   “Do you still have no faith?  It is I—don’t be afraid.”

    So here we are, living in difficult, disheartening and even frightening times; and like those Old Testament believers, we have a choice.  We can choose to dwell in the mire of fear, or we can exercise our faith in God, for He can be trusted to keep His promises.

But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. (2 Thessalonians 3:3)

It’s Our Choice

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Heading north on the scenic 101, about an hour south of the Oregon border, the unsuspecting driver will suddenly encounter and traverse a coastal sandbar. On the left the restless, roaring Pacific Ocean; on the right, still and lush, Freshwater Lagoon; an astounding contrast of constant motion and thunderous noise versus quiet and peaceful serenity.

It’s a good analogy of the choice set before us as Christians. We can either jump headfirst into the hubbub of life where it takes all of our energy to just stay afloat; or we can choose to enter His rest and be free of doubt and fear, even as we move ahead, accomplishing much for the Kingdom of God. 

The incredible voice of Don Potter comes to mind, crooning the words of The End of Some Things:

“There is a promise I can still hear, that one day I might enter his rest…There will be rumors, there’s already war; there will be battles in the heavenlies.  Perilous times are coming our way; many will faint from anxiety…This may be the end of some things as we know it, but it’s not the end of me.”


The road ahead of us is clear.  Which will we choose?

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Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it…Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”  For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on.  So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.  Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. Hebrews 4:1, 6-11

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4: 4-7

Can God Be Trusted?

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The Interstate 5 corridor through California’s Central Valley can seem interminable, especially if one is driving alone.  So, to break up the monotony on this trip, I grabbed several old CDs that I haven’t listened to in years.

Cruising along to Carole King’s “Tapestry” album, the Lord was speaking as loudly as she was singing.  “I feel the earth move under my feet; I feel the sky tumbling down, tumbling down; I feel my heart start to trembling whenever you’re around…” and I considered the earth-quaking impact of being in the presence of God.

Then, “Way over yonder is a place that I know, where I can find shelter from a hunger and cold…Talkin’ about a, talkin’ about a, way over yonder is a place I have seen, in a garden of wisdom, from some long ago dream,” and I yearned for heavenly places.

And, self-explanatory, “Where you lead, I will follow, anywhere that you tell me to…I will follow where you lead.”

But then there was, “I’d like to know that your love is love I can be sure of; so tell me now and I won’t ask again, will you still love me tomorrow?  Will you still love me tomorrow?”  And I realized that this is the cry of many people who are afraid to trust God because they have been bitterly and continually disappointed by others.

God’s Word is true and, yes, he can be trusted!

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you…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.  Deuteronomy 31:6, 8

Then David said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”  1 Chronicles 28:20

And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them.  I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground.  These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.  Isaiah 42:16

…for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”  Hebrews 13:5b-6

Is God Big Enough?

The first week of nursing school and we were a little scared, excited, and hopeful—all at the same time.  Several of my new friends and I gathered around some seniors who would soon graduate and enter the workforce as registered nurses; hanging on every word, listening in awe as they spoke of diseases and treatments that were far beyond our comprehension.  Yet, even as we sat spellbound, longing for such wisdom, they began talking about how unprepared they felt to leave the safety net of our school and enter the world of nursing on their own.  But how could these smart, efficient women doubt themselves?  They seemed so knowledgeable and competent to our untrained minds.

Fast forward just a few short years, as my roommate and I were getting ready to go to our own graduation ceremony, sitting on our beds with those brilliant white caps in our hands—caps that for the first time ever were adorned with the black velvet stripe signifying that we were no longer just students but graduates of the LA County School of Nursing.  Our conversation mirrored that of those other seniors—we felt so unprepared; we didn’t know enough; we weren’t experienced enough; and what if we made a mistake that harmed someone?  Yes, we were excited, but at the same time overwhelmed—the responsibility just seemed too huge to contemplate.

Recently I came across my photo of a giant chair that is displayed in front of a home furnishings store somewhere in New England.  It reminded me of those old nursing school doubts, as well as the many challenges since, when life’s issues seemed beyond me; because as big as that chair is, I know that it’s still way too small for God.  He is sufficient to handle all that concerns me, as well as all that concerns everyone else in the world, without even lifting a finger.  Nothing is too big for Him.

And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling.  But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”  Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.  But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”  Mark 4:37-41

Yes, who can this be?  If He can calm an angry sea with a gentle command, surely He can calm the storms that threaten to wreak havoc in my life.  Surely He is big enough.  His name is Jesus.

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you.  Psalm 55:22a

Moving Mountains

“Moving Mountains” is an article that grew out of my journal entries during 2006 when I was fighting breast cancer.  It is included in my book, “I’m Still Standing”.

Mountains. How I love the mountains! And I’m not alone—any season of the year will find many heading to there to relax—from mountain climbing or biking to snow skiing or sledding; from swimming in a mountain lake to skating on its ice; from gathering around a campfire on a warm summer night to relaxing in front of a roaring fireplace on a snowy winter night, the mountains are an amazing retreat. Flower-carpeted hillsides in the spring or snow-capped peaks in the winter, they are things of such majestic beauty and grandeur that any description seems inadequate. But mountains also have another side. They are places of terrible danger. Every year we hear of hikers being lost, of people being stranded in the snow with tragic results, of swimming or skiing accidents, of avalanches. Perhaps the difficult, dangerous aspect is why we so often think of the problems or challenges in our lives as mountains that we must climb, ever straining to get to the top. Certainly cancer, or any other disease for that matter, can seem like a mountain. So, as I contemplated my diagnosis and the long and difficult treatment that it would entail, I also contemplated what Jesus had to say about mountains. In his words, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20b, NIV)

How often have I read this verse and visualized a physical mountain on the horizon; questioning or doubting the meaning—assuming that my faith is too weak because I know that the mountain is simply not going to get up and reposition itself no matter what I say or pray. Not that I doubt God’s word; I just don’t expect to see a mountain move.

But what if the mountain is really something in my life that is just too big for me to overcome? What if it’s financial trouble? What if it’s infertility? What if the mountain is cancer—or death? What if it’s a problem that’s so massive that I can’t see any way through or around it? Faith will move those mountains—yes it will—I know it will! In fact, it may appear to everyone else that the mountains are still there—but suddenly, for me, it can be as if they no longer exist. Even death? That’s a biggie. But yes again! Death is impending sooner or later for all of us—but death is only the end of physical life, and none of us is even promised a tomorrow, let alone a week, a month or a year. So if I really believe what God has told us—if I really believe that death is swallowed up in victory and has no sting—then what’s the big deal? The big deal is my own fear—fear of pain, fear of loss, fear of the unknown.

So, what will I do? I can cower in fear in the shadow of the mountain, worried about the very real dangers ahead—worried about the pain of surgery, the effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Or, I can worry about what will happen once I get to the top of the mountain—what if I find a mountain range ahead instead of a wide, pleasant valley flowing with abundance? What if I find an uncertain future filled with another illness or metastasis? I have to face those fears head-on and recognize them for what they are—challenges that have been placed in my way by a devious, cruel enemy which can be removed with faith. I get to decide who wins. Fear or faith is my choice. Which will it be? Two reactions that are diametrically opposed; but one leads to anxiety, sorrow and defeat, and the other results in peace, joy and victory. No contest—faith is my only choice.

This is the foundation of my life—God is real—his Word is true—my life is his—he is my refuge, my place of rest, my peace and my hope. Oh, he may deliver me in different ways—sometimes he will take me through a mountain before he removes it. I may come to a mountain and realize there’s a tunnel—a day by day way to keep on keeping on. I can’t see any light at the other end, but I know it’s there and I just have to keep going. Once I’m through, I look back and the mountain has disappeared—vanished into thin air as if it never existed. By faith, the mountain has moved. Or, if it can still be seen, it’s now just a little blip up against a far-away horizon, nothing more than a molehill.

Other times I may have to climb a mountain, encountering one challenge after another along the way—the landslides, storms, wild animals, hunger and pain of life—but I keep on—and finally I arrive at a summit to find a vast panorama of beauty ahead. So I continue on my journey, occasionally glancing back, and once again the mountain has disappeared—it’s shrunk down to the size of the distant hills.

I’ve lost count of the mountains my Lord has moved for me. He’s proven himself over and over, even when my faith was so weak there was hardly any at all—so weak that it wasn’t any bigger than a mustard seed. And so, as I consider the fact that the cancer is something for which I must be treated; as I recognize that it’s not an easy battle; I also realize it’s really a non-issue because my God is the mover of my mountains.