Category: Encouragement

Sharing support, courage & hope

Set

Sunday Sermon 2.27.21

Seized through the night with this word “set”, I awoke, pondering, reflecting and eventually investigating it more deeply. So let me begin by asking you, the same way I began, in what ways do we use the word set? Go ahead, think about it and begin your mental list. DON’T READ ON ’til you’re finished, k?

cement setting

Here are my “set” phrases and uses:

  • you set stones
  • in volleyball you set the ball
  • racers get set for a race
  • cement sets
  • jello sets
  • as do other desserts and foods
  • prisoners are set free
  • you can set your heart (or face) on something
  • decision, plans are set
  • broken bones are set
  • sails on a boat are set
  • then I went to the dictionary…..

How did you do? Wish I could hear your list.

That word, as you guessed is our focus today, because it is the call of the Spirit to you and me and everyone else on the planet. Seriously, everyone.

What is it that we have set our hearts on?

This setting represents a locking in on, fixing on; like a broken bone or ring setting; similar to jello but stronger and more permanent, like cement.

Set” is used 695 times in the Bible and is interesting in each setting, but in the form that we are using it, let me share this powerful verse.

  • Isaiah 50:7 – because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like a flint and I know I will not be put to shame.

In Isaiah’s image here, we have a picture of someone who, supported by the help and power of the Lord, has lasered their focus and cemented their course, as hard and sharp as the flint rock, and will not be deterred! Nothing is going to distract them, pull their focus or sidetrack them. Their face and heart is SET. Period.

It is worth mentioning that flint is a hard rock used to make hammers, chisels and knives. It is also used to start fires, because when flint hits a piece of steel or another hard object it produces sparks.

flint

So, to set your face like flint honestly means, that no matter the hard opposition in front of me, I am firm in my resolve and let the sparks fly, I am flint! The Lord is helping me and I am set, focused on Him.

Daniel set his heart, too. Scripture tells us that he “purposed in his heart”. This is the same type of setting your heart that we are discussing here. Other situations where setting occurs are:

  • Jacob set his pillow (where he dreamed of angels on a ladder) as a altar (of commitment and remembrance)
  • Moses set the laws before them
  • The serpent was set on a pole for all to look at for healing
  • Israel was to set their heart on all of His words
  • The Lord set a plumb line among His people

The call of the Spirit throughout history has been for a people to set their heart on the Almighty Jehovah. To set their faces toward Him, His Words and His ways. To set their desires on Him, to set their hope in Him and to set themselves like flint, immovable and firm on God, no matter what.

I find in interesting that the last Old Testament verse using our word “set” is in Amos 7:8:

“And the Lord asked me, “What do you see Amos?” “A plumb line,” I replied. Then the Lord said, “Look I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.

Amos- the prophet

A plumb line is a measuring device used by builders to assure the wall is perfectly vertical, and is at maximum load bearing capacity.

plumb line on a wall

So the Old Testament closes with the Lord’s challenge that He is setting a measuring device up, and he is now measuring just how vertical related His people are and if they are able to bear His load, weight, and yoke.

Why?

Because the New Testament begins with the setting of a city on a hill.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid”

Matthew 5:14

Jesus’ coming to the world, brought light, life and the plumb line to bring us into vertical alignment with the work of the Spirit here on earth. He wastes no time, for in Matthew 25, he does this –

“He will set the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.”

Jesus, teaching the parables

Let’s regroup. The question is, what is your heart set on? It is being measured, the plumb line is hanging beside us revealing our vertical connection and setting.

Scripture is clear there will be those who’s heart is set on abominable things, committed to idols, and have not set their heart on God. There will be those who actually set their face against God, and set themselves to worship at shameful altars. In those cases, scripture is also clear, that He (God) will set His face against them. THAT is a fearful place to find yourself in.

I believe we are living in the days of preparation. Kinda the “Ready, Set, Go” days. The Spirit of God is calling us to ready ourselves, measure ourselves, judge ourselves, and to get SET. Set our hearts on Him and His Kingdom alone, set our faces like flint, immovable and with sparks! It is time to check what our hearts and faces are actually cemented, set on. If it is anything other that Him, if we don’t change, judgment is coming. Time are shortening. The plumb line is speaking and we must check our set.

Digest these truths about our set, its purpose and power:

  • Acts 13:9 – the Holy Spirit set his eyes on him and said come out of him you child of the devil
  • Acts 13:47 – He has set you to be a light and to bring salvation to the world
  • Colossians 3:2 – set your affections on things above not on earthly things
  • Hebrews 6:18 – take hold of the hope set before us
  • Hebrews 12:1 – let us run the race set out before us
  • Revelation 3:8 – He has set before us an open door
  • Revelation 4:2 – there is a throne set in heaven

The Lord wants people’s hearts set on Him. Not because He is an egomaniac, but because He loves them and always has their best interests on His heart. He alone can bring the lasting happiness and fulfillment they each seek. He also wants no one to perish. He wants all to be included in His eternal home in heaven around His throne.

These are serious, spiritual introspection and evaluation days.

Check your set. What is your heart set on?

He wants you to be set on Him.

Go with God.

What Comes from the Cave of Confinement?

Sunday Sermon 2.20.21

There are people struggling under a chaotic world where authorities are hostile to God; zealous, local governors have enacted laws against the church, and the faithful are targeted as scapegoats. Believers are pressed to question, “Is God in control?”, if so, “Is He working all things for our good?”.

In some places there is violent persecution of the church, in other places lawless violence. The church is under pressure to conform to the society norms and are assaulted with false doctrines and calls to practice idolatrous worship. Most people have become comfortable with their affluence and face a variety of challenges to their faith.

Banished to caves/rooms of confinement, government officials seek to silence voices of truth, all the while elevating their prominence above everyone else. False charges, events sparking revolts, economic instability, blaming and instability of governmental heads, and trouble between the elites and the commoners are the marks of this society.

Are the above paragraphs describing the events of these days or another era?

Remarkably, both.

The details given above are an accurate account of what is happening today, yet is also point on in representing the events of 95AD in the Roman Empire. The parallels are actually mindboggling.

In the first century the struggle between Caesar worship/The Roman Empire and Christianity was severe, persecutions were great and martyrs were many. The Church Father, Polycarp, was burned alive for refusing to say, “Caesar is Lord.”

All of the disciples/Apostles were tortured and killed, save one – John, who was banished and confined to a small island called Patmos, where he lived in a cave approximately the size of your living room, 23 ft. x 20 ft., and slept on a hard pillow, a rock every night.

It is John, in the midst of these dreadful conditions, that I want to zoom in on today.

Here he was confined to a barren, volcanic, island. It is believed that Patmos was a penal colony in the Roman Empire, hard labor there wasn’t necessary, for the isolation, barrenness, and heat were punishment enough.

Expelled here and restricted in movement, opportunity, influence, and expression what did he do?

Revelation 1:10 says,

I was in the Spirit realm on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice…”

John, The Elder

The simplicity of his verse has always challenged me.

Here you have John, in exile and isolation, yet he chose to be in the Spirit on the Lord’s day. Choosing the Spirit over surroundings and circumstances drove him, empowered him and placed him in the position where God could reveal Jesus to him. Additionally, whether “the Lord’s day” was the Sabbath, or any day matters little. In fact, it would be an even more powerful image if John viewed every day on that island of isolation as the Lord’s day.

Those who study such things believe that John’s room of isolation, the place where he slept, is the place that he received The Revelation. There, through a crack in the ceiling, he received the vision of The Revelation of Jesus Christ. There in that Patmos Cave of confinement he heard the voice of God. It was there, that he chose to be in the realm of the Spirit, rather than the realm of the natural.

There was no denying where he was; on that rocky island, in that dark, lonely cave, cut off from others, persecuted by political edicts, or any number of other worldly circumstances. Each of them were very real and affecting the Roman Empire at large. His focus was not on them, though.

He chose to see into the spirit realm, and live in that realm regardless of the hard realities of his life in that cave. The payoff was enormous! Because of his choice, we have a powerful and beautiful, (albeit confusing,) revelation of who Jesus is and the victory that He brings to His church, His bride in the end. (I’ve read the end of the book, and we win!)

I am extremely challenged by John’s choice in his cave of confinement.

Great things come from caves of confinement. Look at Jonah confined within the whale; that brought deliverance to Nineveh. Remember too, Joseph’s multiple confinements yielding freedom for all of Egypt! No matter the prison, restriction or confinement in our lives, we can chose to see “in the Spirit”, not in the cave.

It was being in the Spirit, in confinement that he saw and wrote; Revelation 1:4-8

  • all the best to you from the God who is, the God who was and the God who is about to arrive
  • Glory and strength to Christ who loves us
  • who made us a Kingdom of priests
  • He is coming, riding on the clouds
  • people from all nations will see Him
  • He declares, “I’m A to Z. I’m the God who is, the God who was, and the God about to arrive”

And those are just the first 8 verses of His Revelation! His choosing the Spirit realm over his circumstances, caused the Spirit to explode within him with clear vision, and hearing on Earth as it is in heaven.

My Spirit is challenged and that challenge I want to share with you.

Some say there are parallel ages of man. Maybe so, but I think we can agree that The Roman Empire of John’s day and America, the world of today share many similarities.

I trust that another one just may be that in your cave of confinement, you too will “be in the Spirit realm on the Lord’s day” – today, everyday, and especially the Sabbath. May you too find a new, and powerful vision of the Revelation of Jesus Christ and His love and purpose for you. May you see beyond your cave and circumstances.

What comes from the cave of your confinement?

Go with God.

Finding Your Jet Stream

Who would have imagined that a sixth grade, Oklahoma farm boy drop out, armed felon, ex-con, suffering from severe depression, blinded in one eye, would become a highly decorated, world famous pilot?

Who would have imagined that in the midst of his modest life filled with adversity, he would find his jet stream?

At the age of 15, he went to the county fair with his parents and there he saw what he had never before seen – a beautiful plane. With his love for mechanical devices and now the sight of this airplane, he knew then that he would become a pilot.

At the age of 26, his flight path in aviation began, not as you would expect however. He joined a barnstorming troupe as a skydiver. In that capacity, he made over 99 jumps, and for the very handsome fee of $200 a jump, but he never lost his dream of becoming a pilot.

It was in 1926, two years later that an accident on the oil rig occurred, where a flaming piece of metal pierced his left eye. The doctors thought he would be blind, but eventually the left eye was removed and he wore a patch over that eye from then on.

Now with no depth perception, while learning to fly, he used telephone poles and 2-story buildings to gauge the height of things. This made for extremely difficult landings, but he learned by practicing over and over and over. (In today’s setting he would never even be allowed to earn his wings.)

With pilot license in hand, he became a personal pilot for oil men and flew them to their sites and barnstormed on weekends. Having received $1,800 settlement for his eye injury, he bought his first airplane.

In 1930, he entered and won the Men’s Air Derby Race from LA to Chicago by more than an hour and a half and he even had a faulty compass.

It was in 1931 that he set his first world record for the first successful aerial circumnavigation by a single engine monoplane. After 8 days, 15 hours, and 51 minutes, stopping only eleven times, in the “Winnie Mae” he had made it around the world!

He received a hero’s welcome and was celebrated at the White House and with a ticker tape parade in NYC. Following this flight, he bought another plane and wrote a book.

Not content or satisfied, he continued to press himself. Not knowing what was above him, only knowing he had to go higher and faster. (this turned out to be prophetic)

In 1933 he repeated his flight around the world, this time accomplishing it alone and using instruments that he had invented – auto pilot and the aerial navigational compass. This set another record.

Yet, still above him was his jet stream.

Even though a Japanese meteorologist had used weather balloons in the 1920’s to track upper level winds around Mount Fuji, our guy is the one who first began exploring high altitude, long distance flight. Working with Goodrich and Phillips Petroleum he was able to design a high pressure suit. This allowed him to fly at high altitudes, which had never been done before.

He was now able to fly at altitudes of 40,000 – 50,000 feet above earth’s surface. He was the first to fly at these altitudes.

While on one of his practice runs (remember, he practiced and practiced and practiced), he noticed that his measurements for speed on the ground and speed in the air were different. This told him that he was actually flying in a current of air.

He had found the jet stream.

Although the term “jet stream” wasn’t officially used until a German meteorologist used it in a research paper in 1939, it was our guy, Wiley Post, who made the first practical advances by actually flying in it in 1934.

He had discovered his jet stream. Literally.

If you have even flown on an airplane cross country, you, too have probably flown in the jet stream.

The jet stream is what makes it possible for me to go and see my sister from CA to NY in 5.5 hours, but coming home it takes 6 plus hours!

The jet stream is a fast flowing, narrow band of air currents high in the atmosphere, approximately 5-9 miles above earth, thousands of miles long, and a few hundred miles wide. They blow from West to East, which is why flights going East will always be faster.

Thanks to Wiley Post, now all airlines, and aviation industries have found themselves depending on and utilizing the jet stream. So too, do weather services, because the jet stream pushes weather patterns around the world. The position of jet streams helps meteorologists forecast future weather events.

Wiley Post’s life exhibited what he “discovered”.

You have your own forward speed BUT if you continue in it in an environment that is moving, it propels you faster.

He was propelled forward, through much adversity by his vision and dream of being a pilot and inventing devices to help him fly. The environment that dream created was like a moving walkway at the airport. As he stepped on it, it moved him faster in the advancement of his dream.

Then, one day, he flew into that moving current in the air, and there, he was propelled faster through the sky.

He had found his jet stream.

I trust that you have found your jet stream, and if not, it is still above you, waiting to be found by you.

Cheers to you.

You Can Do More Than You Think

It’s been just over a year ago that I sat down to do something I had never done before. Filled with questions, uncertainties, hope and worry, I stepped into unchartered waters trusting that it would work out for the best.

Driven by desire and conviction I set out to write; to share uplifting, challenging and humorous stories, lessons, and facts; to do what I thought I could, but wasn’t entirely sure.

They say, the first step is the hardest, and I believe it to be true. I am certain you could attest to that fact as well given your own experiences. But the truth is, you can do more than you think you can. We all can.

We are our own worst critic. We don’t forget our failures, and can rattle off our weaknesses in a split second. But ask us to note our strengths, and we all to often stall out and have trouble recognizing any that stand out, much less actually speak them out loud in front of other people. (maybe the dog or cat, tho’) We have been duped!

Psychologists tell us that it is necessary to have some degree of inner critic because it helps us to monitor our behavior. “We doubt ourselves in order to check ourselves”, as the saying goes.

Of course, a total lack of insecurity can be a sign of a narcissist or psychopath, and we certainly don’t want that either, do we?

But again, we can do more than we think that we can.

Who was it that said, “If you think you can’t, you’re right”?

We can always do more than we think that we can, but we won’t find out if we’re not willing to try.

Trying means accepting the possibility of failure, or hurt; but it is also your way to win! It is your way to take a risk on you.

Taking that risk, believing in yourself solves the biggest problem of all – taking that first step.

I don’t know what you’re facing, struggling with, or considering, but I do know that you can do more than you think you can. So much more!

Who knows, everything that you have ever wanted might just be behind that door that you haven’t had the nerve to open yet.

In this case, take advice from Nike – just do it, cuz you can do more than you think you can.

Cheers to you.

How Animals Stand Against the Wind

Today I want to share some interesting facts about a few fascinating animals, and hope that in them you will remember that we too, are in the animal kingdom, and we too can stand against the winds that blow against us.

As you know, I love to sail, and therefore should love the wind, right? Well, I do BUT… when the winds come with warnings they are no fun any longer. The National Weather Service has created an array of wind warnings, watches and advisories to help all of us animals prepare for winds; they range from high wind warnings to hurricane force wind warning. There is even a scale used to measure wind speeds, I remember teaching this in 6th grade Science – The Beaufort Scale – again ranging from calm (zero mph) to hurricane (64 mph and over.)

Winds are bound to blow and we all will face them. Winds are scary, uncertain and can be dangerous. How do animals stand against them?

Outside of my window, on the lake below, I enjoy watching the variety of birds that make the lake their home, and our favorite has become the American Coot. These guys have been especially interesting to watch in high wind situations. I marvel how a 1-2 pound bird and stay it’s course and not be blown away in the heaviest of winds.

Take a look at what I mean. These guys are tough.

How do they not get blown away? How do they stay on course? They don’t have webbed feet like ducks, even tho’ they are related to ducks, just a different order.

The secret to their staying on course during high winds is found and seen in their feet. Check these puppies out.

Weird, right?

Their feet have 2 – 3 long toes that are actually broad lobes, which are adept for land and water. They help them kick through water and their palmate toes fold back when they need to walk on land. Additionally, those odd toes are used to help them run on the surface of the water to get themselves airborne.

Lastly, their feet are used for fighting with other coots for territory, mates or food.

Built into the design of these animals is all they need to stay afloat and on course during the fiercest winds. Their weird feet, strong legs and even their internal wiring keeps them warm, on course, and strong for whatever Mother Nature brings their way.

Pretty cool, yeh?

But let’s look at other birds. Birds respond to high winds differently.

Some keep track of barometric pressure and postpone their migration. There are even some birds that fly exhaustively into the eye of the storm and keep pace with it until it dies down! Now, THAT’S strong and crazy!

Small birds, like chickadees and wrens, who don’t fly long distances will fly even less during high winds. Bluebirds and woodpeckers, who are cavity dwellers, will simply stay inside in the winds.

Solitary birds will shelter in the high grass and the perching birds have talons that lock onto branches. This lock mechanism is a reflex which requires no additional energy and so the bird can even sleep, locked on to the branch during a hurricane!

In crosswinds, while maintaining their flight speed, birds have the ability to keep their heads steady and pointing in the direction it is going. It then turns it’s body into the wind to offset the wind gusts blowing against it. All the while they are managing their steady head and body sail, they are flapping their wings at 14 flaps a second! Talk about stability??!!

Ornithologists tell us that there are 2 reasons birds survive high winds:

  • location – they take advantage of their surroundings, habitat
  • preparation – they are designed to survive in bad weather

Part of this preparation, or design genius is their “counter-current exchange”. This is the design in birds legs where heat is returned to its body and cold to its feet thereby allowing them to stand on cold ground and not get cold. This is just one of the unique features birds have to help them survive winds. What about feathers, eyes, wings?

Have you heard about the feral horses in North Carolina and how they survive the hurricanes there?

Do you know how sharks know to get out of the shallow water before a hurricane arrives?

Pick an animal. I challenge you to find one that has not been designed to survive and therefore stand in high winds.

It therefore follows, that we too as members of Kingdom Animalia have been designed to stand in high winds.

So please remember that, there are no crosswinds, no opposing winds, societal, political or media winds that blow against you that you have not been designed to withstand.

Your Creator designed you with everything that you need to not only survive the blowing winds against you but keep your head up, your course sure and your weird little feet on solid ground, or paddling through the deep waters.

Be strong, my friends. You were built for these times, to stand against the winds.

Cheers to you.

After You Have Done Everything, Stand.

This is a familiar quote from around 60 AD by an imprisoned Roman citizen.

Consider. After you have “done everything”, don’t you want to just sit? Rest. Cool off. Check out for a bit? Unplug? Disengage? You’re pooped and are not feeling like standing.

Hey, when I was teaching, on my feet all day, doing everything, guess what I wanted to do and did when I got home? Not stand.

Now, when I work, mostly short shifts of 3-5 hours on my feet, having done everything, I still want to sit not stand afterwards. What about you?

But these 3 images came to mind today and with them, our title phrase – after you have done everything, stand.

The first image – A Sentinel Tomb Guard; standing guard at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington, VA.

The second, the brave men of the 28th Regiment, 5th Marine Division, US Marines, who on Feb. 23, 1945 captured the extinct volcano, Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima.

The third picture, a WW2 Veteran, who from a wheel chair and a long life of sacrifice, paid honor and tribute during a patriotic parade.

These men demonstrate what it means “after having done everything – stand.” Allow me to explain.

The Tomb Guard, a member of the 3rd Regiment (Old Guard) US Army, volunteers for this assignment and gives him or herself to the strict training that goes with it. After basic qualifications with personal records, financials and family, if accepted, they begin training.

This training is harsh, beginning with 2 weeks of basic instruction, uniform prep, walk sequence and behavioral assessments. Then they are tested. This test is the first of four that they must pass during their entire training period. If they do pass, they will spend the next 7-8 months in 12 hour duty days with homework galore. They are not allowed any TV, may not even acknowledge jokes while in quarters, may not acknowledge the public, and are not allowed even to speak to another guard unless spoken to.

During this period they are prepped and tested on three more occasions in these areas:

Uniform – they are allowed 2 minor infractions, no major infractions, and all items never more than 1/64 inch out of place. Imagine, they must pass a 100% inspection, where 97% is failing! There has never been a 100%.

Knowledge – they must memorize a 17 page packet with info on Arlington Cemetery and write it out, including punctuation. Passing the test with no more than 10 mistakes. If you miss a comma on 2 pages, that is a double fail.

Performance – On a 200 point inspection you are allowed no major infractions, 2 minor infractions. This includes performance on foot placement on the mat and cadence while walking the mat. They aim for a 72 beat per minute cadence.

There is a 10% completion rate of passing these 4 tests. Guards who fail the last test, may test again. If you fail again, you are released. You can come back but must start from the beginning. If you pass, you are a Fully Qualified Sentinel and earn the Tomb Guard Identification Badge, which is sterling silver and worn over the right, breast pocket.

While on the 24 hour duty then, every changing of the guard is evaluated and any infractions result in being released. So these highly regarded Sentinels are always doing everything to stand.

The standards for revoking their badge are the only ones in the military that are based on personal conduct. Any felonies or DUI’s means their badge is taken away and their name is stricken from the esteemed record.

These men and women, have truly done all, and their goal is to be standing in the end! If they are not standing in the end, their work has been in vain. In fact, that’s when their training comes fully into play. Standing in the end is the point of their training.

When the 4th and 5th Marine Division invaded Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945 their goal was to secure the island as an important airbase for fighter escorts and emergency landings between Japan and the US bases in the Mariana Islands. Their 36 day assault on this “Sulfur Island” of the extinct volcano Mount Suribachi, was a deadly one in which we lost 7,000 Marines and another 20,000 were wounded.

These Marines reached the base of the volcano on Feb. 21 and by nightfall the next day they had surrounded the mountain. On 2/23, by 10:30 AM they had reached the top and raised a small, American flag. Later that afternoon, 5 Marines, and a Navy Corpsman returned to raise a larger, visible American flag.

This image of that second flag raising was sent back to America and along with that flag raising, so too rose the spirits of Americans and brave warriors in each of the theatres of war.

Perhaps you’ve seen movies or read stories of the bravery displayed on that airstrip. Admiral Nimitz, famously immortalized it this way,

“Among the Americans who served on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

Pacific Fleet, Commander in Chief Admiral Chester W. Nimitz

That very image became the template for the world’s largest, bronze statue – the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, VA, AKA the Marine Corps Memorial. It’s 32 foot high figures, raising the 60 foot flag stands to remind us all of the bravery demonstrated by those Marines in that battle, who did all they possibly could to stand at the end of that battle and raise that beautiful American flag.

Lastly, that WW2 Vet, a member of The Greatest Generation, after having served, lived, fought demons in country and his own personal demons at home, after everything he had been through he chose to stand, again.

With every excuse to sit, and stay down and given every exception by others to sit, he was driven by all that was within him, by all he had been through, by all that mattered to him, and by all he had fought to preserve to STAND. He had done all and now he would stand.

The training, the battle, the long fight… what is it for if not for us to stand in the end?

After we have done all, it is time to stand; maintain our position, hold down the victories, show off our training and execute the strategic plan and purpose bred into our fiber. It’s not time to sit, hold back, give up, or rest.

If you have done everything you know to do, up to this point- then it is time for you to stand your ground.

Cheers to you.

Props to Peter

Sunday Sermon 1.16.21

What would compel a person to step out of a boat that is in a storm?

As a sailor, who enjoys sailing the coastline of Southern California, this question gripped me, “Why would anyone leave a boat in the middle of a storm?” Consider it, why?

The foundation story for this question is found in Matthew 14:22-34, where Peter, a new follower of Jesus, aboard a fishing boat (sail boat) was, along with his other disciple buddies caught in a fierce storm. Here are the conditions on the lake, when we pick up the story:

  • it was dark at night
  • they were far from land
  • they were being pounded by high waves
  • there were strong, opposing winds

The men on board this boat were not having a good time! In fact it was dire for them.

Again, from my own personal experience, were I aboard Lady Debra in these four conditions, I would be absolutely terrified! Which is why I was wondering why leave the boat? What could ever be so motivating that you would actually step INTO these conditions without the protection of the boat?

(I can honestly say that each of these four conditions are ones in which I would NEVER sail. I don’t sail at night and get concerned when the sun is setting and we are still out. I choose to sail, nearly always, with land in sight. High waves and strong winds are no-no’s for me. Absolutely not, no way, not me on my boat!)

The boys were in a very difficult situation that did not look good at all. The best thing coming was dawn.

As the story goes, “Just before dawn, Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake”. Matthew 14:25 Or put another way, “walking on the waves.”

Now we have some good news appearing. Jesus is showing up in the midst of the storm, walking on top of its waves. A lot could be said about this, but let’s focus on the disciples, who responded with terror, thinking he was a ghost, and crying out in fear. Matthew 14:26 To them, Jesus showing up like this seemed to add to the terror of the moment. Oh no, a ghost too, we’re gonna die! We’re dead.

Jesus wasted no time, and spoke to them across the waves and in the wind and said,

“Be brave and don’t be afraid. I am here.”

Matthew 14:27 TPT

These are reassuring words, for sure! We will come back to them.

Peter, upon hearing Jesus’ words responded with a statement, that on its face, to me seems odd. He said,

“Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” (and waves and winds, in the darkness a long way from shore)

Matthew 14:28

Herein lies, our opening question. Why in the world would anyone leave a boat and step into the storm surrounding it? That’s crazy!

Well, I thought of 3 reasons why someone might do that –

  1. the ship is sinking – escaping it may save my life (remember Titanic?)
  2. suicide – taking a permanent solution to a temporary problem
  3. delusional – extreme conditions at sea causing me to see ghosts

Clearly, none of these apply to Peter and the gang. So why step out into those conditions? Why?

I can vividly imagine these conditions on the lake and the guys in the boat. I can vividly see the waves overwhelming the boat and the winds opposing their every attempt to right the boat. I can imagine the panic of darkness in this storm all the while knowing there is no land in sight or even near. This is real in my minds eye. This is horrific.

And yet Peter steps out of the relative safety of the boat and into the uncertainty of this dark storm. Why? What motivates him?

In one way, Peter’s statement back to Jesus is not unlike what many of us have said; Peter said, “if it’s you…”.

How many times have you said or heard said,

  • God, if you’re real…
  • God, if it’s really you…
  • God, if you’re in this…

That part I get, I understand because I have done it, said it. How ’bout you?

But Peter’s “conditional statement” If it’s you… then tell me to come to you…” puzzles me.

In math, the conditional statement formula is, p ➡ q. P equals the hypothesis, q equals the conclusion and the arrow shows the logical connection.

To me, I fail to see the logical connection between the two. It is not logical to come to Jesus on the high waves in this storm, yet it for sure is a conditional statement. So, what’s the connection? Why did he leave the boat and step willfully into the dark storm?

When Jesus responded to Peter’s statement, he did so by simply saying to him, “Come, join me.” Matthew 14:29

Peter made the connection and stepped into the stormy waves, not the glassy lake. Peter stepped into the roaring winds, just as the new day was dawning. Peter left the little safety he had in the storm tossed vessel in blatant defiance of all things logical. Yet, for him it made totally, logical sense to step towards Jesus on the turbulent sea.

Why?

Remember what Jesus told the guys when they first saw him on the water?

“Take courage. I am here. Don’t be afraid.”

Matthew 14:27 NIV

THAT statement is the key! THAT statement is Peter’s motivation! THAT statement was Peter’s reason for stepping into the storm and towards Jesus! THAT statement!

Peter was familiar with part of THAT statement. He’d heard about it for his whole Jewish life.

He’d heard how his ancestors had at one time called their God Elohim, (this is a title, not a name) until Exodus chapter 3, when God revealed to Moses His name as “I AM”. Exodus 3:14

He’d heard how I AM had delivered the Israelites from 400 years of slavery, sent plagues and judgment to Egypt, parted the Red Sea, delivered them from enemies, armies, threats, disease, judgment and so much more.

He’d heard that I AM was the source of all power and eternal in nature. How I AM was self-sufficient, self-sustaining. How I AM was and is and will be forever the same omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God of the universe.

He knew the name I AM. He’d heard it his whole life. He believed in I AM as the God of his ancestry.

NOW, Jesus, the one he had chosen to follow, was standing before him, declaring to him, “I AM. Don’t be afraid. Come to me.”

Peter now saw Jesus as the Almighty, omnipotent, self sufficient, name above all names, God who is in control of all things. THAT was his motivation for stepping out of the boat and into the storm. THAT was his solid ground he stepped onto when he left that boat.

How could he go wrong stepping towards I AM? There was no fear, no hesitation. When I AM says “Come to me” you step towards Him. Confident. Sure. Unflappable. Secure. Certain. Comfortable. Unshaken. Doubtless. Peaceful.

Even though “I AM” or the “tetragrammaton” appears over 6,000 times in the Bible this one, for Peter was his moment of truth. The dawning of a new day for Peter’s understanding of who he had committed his life to follow.

Although scribes through the ages could not say I AM out loud, nor fully spell it out, here was Peter walking towards the great I AM, fully able to express himself before Him and be accepted, cared for and destined for greatness

I AM brought proper perspective to Peter. Peter saw that, when he saw Jesus as the great I AM.

When you realize the great I AM is in control and calling you to come close to Him, you come close to Him, regardless of stormy circumstances, dark times, opposing winds or overwhelming waves. It makes perfect sense and is the only logical thing to do.

THAT would compel many to leave the boat and step into the storm.

So I say, “Props to Peter!” (Lord, help me.)

Go with God.

When Things Don’t Go As Expected

Sunday Sermon 1.9.21

The previous year, 2020, has provided for all of us more than ample situations or events that most certainly did not go as expected. Were we to have a race writing things down, the only thing slowing us down would be our ability to write fast and the fact that no one would really want to win the race.

And here we are only nine days into the new year and that list just keeps growing. So many things are not going as expected. Not even close.

Shoot, here in my house, we were expecting a wonderful two week visit over the holidays with our son and his new wife – we got that and more – Covid. All four of us! So we actually got a plus three week visit instead.

Here’s the thing, when your life belongs to Jesus, God uses things intended to harm you for His good.

“You intended to harm me but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done.”

Genesis 50:20

It sometimes is a hard pill to swallow, but He really does “work all things for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

All things means just that – all things!

Personal issues, relational issues, family, work, school, politics, church, community, health, financial, supply, housing, pets, neighbors, business, government, all things!

He works in each and every situation, always, to bring good from it for us. He is God, that is who He is and that is what He does.

“No weapon, (plan or purpose, idea, threat, legislation, edict,) formed against thee shall prosper…” Isaiah 54:17

When faced with the unexpected, watch what God can and will bring from it for you. Take a look at these few bible characters to get you going:

Joseph – the earlier quote from Genesis came from his lips after his brothers dashed his dreams by selling him into slavery in Egypt. There, after many years in prison, he eventually became the Egyptian vizier, 2nd in command. His dreams fulfilled and his brothers bowing down to him.

But consider how many times things did not go as expected for him. Goodness! Our hearts bleed when we recall so many injustices and seemingly bad outcomes for him. Beaten by brothers, abandoned, sold, forgotten, imprisoned, mistreated, ridiculed, forgotten again, promoted, falsely accused of rape, imprisoned again, promoted again, respected, empowered, honored, restored to family, blessed his family and the nation.

Joseph’s life is a vivid example for us of how all things really do work for good. All things are not good, but God is able to work them for good for you, and Joseph.

Consider another – Noah. Noah was living in a horribly wicked and violent era; so bad in fact God had it with the world. Seriously. You know the story. Noah built a floating barge under God’s direction and then God sent animals to Noah to fill the barge. Noah, his family (wife, three sons and their wives) all boarded the barge and God opened the windows of heaven and fountains of the deep, and rain as never before seen, flooded the earth and destroyed all mankind.

Did things go as Noah expected? Well, first off, he had never even seen rain before, so right there we have the unexpected. How ’bout the length of time for this rain stuff? Expected? How ’bout after the rain stopped and the flood waters covered even the highest mountains? How ’bout living in an indoor zoo for over a year, with your family??? Expected?

Noah certainly faced the unexpected and he too experienced the faithfulness of God. From that time aboard the barge, God worked for the good of Noah, eventually resulting in a blessing for he and his family and an agreement with Noah’s name on it – the Noahic Covenant; which turned out as a blessing for future generations around the world.

Abraham/Isaac– When this father and son went up to the top of the mountain with all the supplies and tools to make an offering to the Lord, do you think their expectations included Isaac being tied and laid on the altar? Could a father imagine holding a knife over his son, ready to slice his throat as he would an animal?

Why would a father do such an unexpected thing?

“Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.”

Hebrews 11:19

What followed? God worked it for good and revealed a ram, just out of sight to be used as the offering. Issac was untied as were his fears and faith in his dad, not to mention Jehovah God. Oh, and remember what God said to Abraham, “Now, because you have not withheld your only son Isaac, I will bless you and you will be the father of many nations and your offspring will be more than the sand on the sea shore and stars in the sky.” Genesis 22:12, 17

I have several more to share. But stop and think. When things don’t go as expected, what is really happening for you?

Is all lost? Are hopes dashed? Is faith gone? I hope not, but if any of those are close, then this word today is vital for you. When you hit a wall, an unexpected and firm obstacle, God is still at work on your behalf, bringing to you a bigger, broader purpose than what you see in the immediate. He is working whether or not you see what he is doing.

What is faith after all? “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:6

In the face of the unexpected, faith sees God working. We walk by faith, not by sight.

Joseph, Noah, Abraham and Isaac all looked beyond what their eyes saw. They looked beyond the immediate and to the One who was at work for them preparing them for the good which would eventually be forthcoming.

We could add to those men Moses, who went from basket, to burning bush, to bondage to being broke free. Did he face the unexpected, you bet. Did he have faith God was working, sometimes.

How about Rahab? This one was a business woman who happened to offer protection to some spies, and was rewarded by being the only family saved when the city was destroyed. Unexpected? Faith? Yep!

John the Baptist began his life the result of a prophetic word. He was filled with the Holy Spirit before he was even born and grew up being a voice that called the Jews to return to the Lord and His ways. He was all in serving the Lord, all the time. Bold. Brave. Brazen.

Did his life all go as expected? He was beheaded, probably not expected.

But was God at work for good even in THAT situation? It did turn out for good for him, he went immediately to heaven. And it turned out for good for the disciples and for us too. His life God used for good, even though the enemy meant his death for evil.

One last bible character, Peter. The unexpected fisher of men. The unexpected walker on water. The unexpected insightful friend, (YOU are the Christ!). The unexpected voice of Satan, (Get thee behind me, Satan.) The unexpected ear cutter-offer. The unexpected denier. The unexpected witness at the tomb. The unexpected preacher at Pentecost, saving 3,000! The unexpected healer, deliverer, teacher, prayer, leader. The unexpected martyr.

The unexpected result? This man is now listed as one of “these men who have turned the world upside down.” Acts 17:6

Walking by faith, each of these persevered through difficult situations for them. They looked beyond what they saw to a God who was at work on their behalf. The wall was not all they saw. The problem was not all they saw. The impossibility was not all they saw. The unexpected did not deter them or their faith.

When things don’t go as expected, where do you put your faith?

Please allow me to close with a recent personal, account.

My husband had to have surgery on his L4, L5 in his spine. He prepped and was ready for the in one day, out the next expected hospital stay. Seven days later, after having unexpected drug interactions, and him being unresponsive, The Rapid Response Team was called.

During his unresponsiveness, from where we were, we thought we were loosing him. It was terrifying.

But later we found out, during that time of his unexpected, unresponsiveness, he was having an out of body experience, hovering above his body, watching all that was happening to him in his room. He was talking to an old man. Den asked the man, “So I guess now is the time I get to choose whether to go or stay?” The man, whose face was only a bright light, firmly told him, “I will tell you when it’s time!”

Those words sent Dennis back to earth, into his body and into a responsive state. Those words changed his life forever. The medical team, to this day still cannot explain what happened or why.

Den was released from the hospital the next day! Less than 24 hours from when we thought we had lost him. In fact, we had gained a totally new man, spiritual fervor and dedication stronger than it had ever been. His fire and passion for life and the Lord burning brighter than it ever had. God had once again, according to his promise, been working in all things for the good of Den, for us. From this unexpected event, has come Dennis’ greatest freedom, joy, and empowering; and one of my greatest joys and desires.

Covid free and facing the unexpected together with faith.

We serve a God of the impossible. All things are possible with God and our faith will remain anchored to Him, not to events. For when circumstances appear to be harm to us, He intends it for good. He is at work, he never stops working for the good of those who love him.

When things don’t go as expected, have faith and keep going. He is at work for your good.

Go with God.

Strange Things

With such a title, it leaves a wide variety of avenues for possible exploration.

First, although it is a bit tempting, we will not be addressing the similar title “Stranger Things”. You’ve probably heard of it, it is the science fiction, Netflix series about Hawkins, Indiana, the boy Will, the girl Eleven and their battles against The Upside Down alternate dimension. Nope, tempting but not going there.

There are so many times when reading news about my city, my state, my nation; politically, socially, morally, personally, corporately in which I find myself shaking my head and declaring the things I am witnessing as strange. Seriously, where would I begin my list, were I to begin a list of strange things in 2020?

We are living in strange times. Things in nearly every arena are simply strange.

There is already enough about our strange times being written and aired, so I want to go a different direction.

I want to share with you 10 strange and very interesting creatures in our world that I hope will make you smile or maybe even creep you out. But let’s just enjoy looking at some different strange things, shall we?

Axolotl

This amphibian lives in lakes and canals in Mexico and can grow to 18 inches long.

Velvet ants

These furry creatures look like ants but are actually wasps. Found mostly in South America, watch out for them, they are known for their extremely painful sting and in fact are called “cow killers”.

Sparklemuffin

He is also known as the Australian peacock spider. They were only recently discovered in 2015 and measure just 5 mm in length. He looks like he is “dabbing” and in fact, his leg is seeking to attract a mate. Who wouldn’t be attracted to a dabbing spider?

Southern Cassowary

These guys have earned the reputation for being the “most dangerous bird in the world” due to their razor sharp talons they use to defend themselves. So watch out for these flightless 6 foot tall, 190 pound meanies. If looks could kill….

Alligator Gar

This is a fish that grows to 8 feet in length! If you near fresh water rivers and lakes near the Rio Grande to the Missouri River, you just may see one. Sorry, this is just creepy.

Maned wolf

Nope, they are not in fact wolves, they belong to the dog family. That is probably why I think he is sorta cute. Although they are omnivores, they prefer veggies. You will find them in Brazil, Bolivia, Peru and Argentina. I think I want one.

Magnificent frigate bird

You’ve probably seen these before, as their big red sac on the males chest that balloon up are quite famous. Just ask the females. (Galapagos Islands) It looks uncomfortable… yikes!

Jabiru Stork

This guy grows to 5 feet tall and has been known to attack by stabbing with his 14 inch long bill. Ask the zoo attendees in Belize. I wouldn’t want this stork bring my baby, he looks dark and evil!

Pink fairy Armadillo

In Argentina you will find this lil guy, who is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. They are very rare and shy and scientists are still learning about them. Don’t you want to just pull off that top, ribbed layer?

Aye-aye

The aye-aye’s home is in Madagascar. He is known for his bulging eyes, growing teeth and long fingers. He is actually a type of lemur and will forage through the night. He looks like a fun one to hang out with at night, right? Never a dull moment.

Up until a few hours ago, I had never heard of most of these strange things. But at least now, I have more strange things to add to my already growing list of strange things happening in 2021.

Cheers to you, and smiles too.

Washington’s Cruiser Flag

It was 1775 and General George Washington had personally outfitted seven ships in an attempt to drive the British from New England. He believed it was important to be able to attack the British from sea as well as land. Having already surrounded Boston and trapped the British army inside, his mission was to prevent British ships from delivering supplies to the army in Boston.

These seven ships or floating batteries as they were called, in order to be identified as “friendly” to one another, were flying a flag of white, with a pine tree in the middle and the motto, “Appeal to Heaven”; this also became known as Washington’s Cruiser Flag.

This fleet sailed before the first US Navy had even been commissioned, and was also known as “Washington’s Secret Navy”. These schooners captured many a British ship, including the British Brigantine named the “Nancy” that was carrying over a years worth of supplies. This capture is considered the greatest capture of the entire Revolution and it also inspired the birth of the American Navy as we know it today.

In April of 1776, the State of Massachusetts adopted this flag for its own navy as well as ordered the colors of the uniforms of the officers to be green and white. They sailed twenty-five ships in defense of America and were eventually absorbed into the US Navy.

Why this motto – “Appeal to Heaven”?

I’ll attempt to reel in my US History teacher bend and summarize it like so.

John Locke, one of American’s foremost political philosophers argued that

“When all other political and individual methods of resisting tyranny are exhausted, only “an appeal to heaven” remains.”

Second Treatise of Civil Government – John Locke

In summary, he contended that “no man had inherent power to regulate or restrict divine arbitration in civil affairs. Even in dire circumstances, natural rights transcended the political process.”

It was clear to our founding fathers that “God governs in the affairs of men”, and Benjamin Franklin clearly, and unapologetically stated that. It therefore held true, that in all things, Locke’s motto- appealing to heaven, should inspire the citizenry to work to the bitter end to achieve a remedy.

Locke maintained “people should be diligent to oppose egregious acts through political action. Rather than a tactic of last resort, an appeal to heaven was warning sign.”

Though today, Locke’s motto may be overlooked, it appears to me, it represents the very place we again find ourselves standing. It indeed is our focus, battle cry and our course of action.

I join with Washington, the founding fathers, and other revolutionaries who on behalf of a nation lift an appeal to heaven against all tyranny, foreign and domestic. If not now, when?

Won’t you join us in this appeal to heaven?

Cheers to you.