Tag Archives: faith

Messages that Encourage Me

Messages that have resonated with me lately:

“God has given you praise as a weapon to defeat despair. ” Victory Over Despair, by Nike Chillemi

The Weapon of Praise, posted by Grace Fox.

“How do we most glorify God? By being completely satisfied in Him, realizing that the neediness we have is designed by our Creator in order to be fulfilled by Jesus. ” Satisfaction for a Thirsty Soul, by Jake Riddle

“Wait on God and He will work, but don’t wait in spiritual sulks because you cannot see an inch in front of you! Are we detached enough from our spiritual hysterics to wait on God? To wait is not to sit with folded hands, but to learn to do what we are told.” (Oswald Chambers, quoted at ochristian.com)

“Inadequacy can be one of the best blessings in your life if you respond properly.” The Good Side of Inadequacy, audio message by Dr. Charles Stanley (Do take 25 minutes and listen to this…)

Offline, what is God using most to speak to my spirit? Matt Maher‘s newest album, Saints and Sinners, and Eugene H. Peterson’s classic, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.

Abraham’s Example

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God.
Romans 4:20, NLT*

Abraham believed God. He obeyed, went where he was told, and tried to live a righteous life, but it was his faith that made him “the father of all who believe.”

Perhaps the hardest thing for him to believe was God’s promise to give him and his wife a son. Especially when the years kept passing with no sign of pregnancy. Humanly speaking, it was impossible for this elderly, childless couple to reproduce.

But “Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise… his faith grew stronger.” He didn’t know how, or when, or even why (except that God said so). But he knew Who.

God gives some people “impossible” promises, but He gives all of us the promises in His word. Promises like “I am with you always,” and “whoever believes in Me will have eternal life.”

Abraham’s example shows us how – and why – to live in the big challenges and the small ones. Our purpose is to bring glory to God. That doesn’t have to involve doing great things. Sometimes the greatest thing is just to hold onto our faith and to act in obedience.

Father God, help us to trust You with our honest questions. Grant us the faith to keep holding onto Your promises, no matter what. Help us trust You and wait for what You will do. Help us hold onto You, and to know that You are holding onto us. Your grip is sure.

Let the Newsboys‘ song, “Stay Strong,” encourage us today.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Running and Life Lessons

Last Saturday, I participated in my first-ever 5K running event (that’s 5 kilometres for my US friends, which translates to roughly 3.11 miles). This proves that God has a sense of humour, because I have never been athletic.

The Hillside2Haiti run is sponsored by a local church that regularly sends mission teams to Haiti to teach life skills. I’d wondered for a while about attempting a challenge like this, and when I saw the promotional material at another event, I recognized that the time was right.

I’d been running in the gym with my music, and now I started running on the streets around my home. Alone and content that way.

From the early stages of the Hillside2Haiti event, I ran with my friend Kim. I kept telling her not to slow herself down for me, but we found a pace that suited us both and by running as partners, encouraged one another to reach our dream goal of running the entire distance without taking walk breaks. (Yes, I know you can go faster if you take walk breaks. If you have enough stamina to go faster.)

Crossing the finish line was as surreal as signing my first novel contract. Despite my hopes, clearly some deep part of me never thought it would happen. Along the way, I observed a few parallels between running and the Christian life:

  • The participants came in all shapes, ages, sizes, fitness levels; some walked, some run/walked, some ran: we were all heading for the same finish line.
  • We swarmed out onto the road, stopping traffic: there’s strength in numbers, and together we can overcome certain obstacles.
  • A runner put on extra speed to catch us and return Kim’s headband, which we hadn’t known had fallen: help one another out, even when it’s hard work.
  • One runner stopped to fix a shoe: it doesn’t matter if something stops us, what matters is that we start again.
  • Those who ran in bursts and walked for brief recovery times finished with a better time than those who ran all the way; different people had different goals: pace yourself, set and know your strategy.
  • Some wanted speed time, some to run the full way, some had other goals: don’t judge someone for being on a different strategy; but do alert someone who has veered off the route.
  • Stopping to walk before you’re gasping means a shorter recovery before you can restart: be realistic about your abilities, while leaving room for God to stretch you a little farther than you think is comfortable.
  • It was a twisty, unfamiliar route, with no distance markers: not seeing how far we still had to go, or what hills lay ahead, kept discouragement away.
  • Previous running experience teaches you to slow down on the hills and to know you’ll recover on the flats: remember where God has already met us, choose to trust Him to do it again.
  • After slowing for hills, speed back up when you can: pace yourself, but beware the danger of starting to coast longer than necessary.
  • I thought we’d reached the end, but it was the start of a long, hard final stint; discouragement would have stopped me there, to walk the rest of the way, but my partner was still running: in disappointment, we need help to carry on.
  • There were water stations: take your own sustenance for the journey, but expect God’s provision en route.
  • We cheered for the children crossing the finish line on their race before ours started, and cheered on other runners as they passed us or came across the line after we did: we need to be encouragers, and it does something positive in us when we are.
  • Training for a race helps us run it better: remember the Christian life is a race, be diligent with spiritual training. Also, we train better with a goal, so don’t slack off because we don’t see trouble yet.
  • Good equipment helps: what spiritual equipment do we need?
  • Keep your sense of humour because there’s no dignity in the final stages of a race: don’t worry about appearances.
  • The sense of unity: isn’t that’s what it’s all about – the body of Christ, united in relationship with Him?
  • There was a big red start/finish arch: finally seeing the end in sight gives fresh energy.
  • The celebration at the finish line: “when we all get to Heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be,” and yes, it may feel a little surreal.

Still with me? Give yourself a medal, and here are the biggest benefits I discovered about running with a partner:

  • we encouraged one another to keep going
  • we bonded through the experience and through sharing conversation
  • we distracted one another from the hardest parts
  • knowing that stopping would let the other down kept us each pushing on
  • under 38 minutes from the start, we crossed the line together
Photo of Janet and Kim, side by side, putting on extra speed because we've seen the finish line.

Janet and Kim: we have seen the finish line, and we can do this. Photo credit: Your Running Race Photos (Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/YourRunningRacePhotos)

https://www.facebook.com/YourRunningRacePhotos

 

Who Does it Look Like We’re Living For?

 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
2 Corinthians 5:20, NLT*

An ambassador’s words and behaviour should reveal the character of whoever the ambassador represents.

What does that mean for Christians? If we’re living for “One Name Alone,” we can choose His will and His way (including His “house rules”) over our own, and do it cheerfully, not grudgingly, because we love Him and it’s a joy to do whatever we can to stay close to Him.

When we cultivate an attitude of trust in God, of gratitude and peace, it’s not simply for our own spiritual wellbeing. We can let others see that in the good and in the bad, we choose to rely on God, and that He is enough.

Jesus is our model, as well as the One we’re to represent. His countenance, conduct and demeanor all reflected Whose He was. He didn’t go around with a moping, frowning face. He didn’t deny His pain, either – just took it to the Father.

He spoke truth gently to the hurting, and He listened first to discern their true needs. He reserved His blunt talk for leaders He needed to call out. He didn’t complain about people behind their backs. He didn’t gossip, stew in resentment, or indulge in any of the attitudes that so often beset us.

He didn’t condemn sinners, but invited them into new life. And He showed them the new life was good.

We’re not perfect, but the more we rely on the Holy Spirit within us, the more effective ambassadors we’ll be.

Father, sometimes I get tired, or frustrated, or fearful. You understand those feelings, but You have better things for me. Help me to remember that if I indulge in cranky or moody behaviour, it reflects poorly on You. Help me press into You, my Rock and my Redeemer, and live authentically so that others will see how trusting You makes a difference.

Let Matt Redman‘s song, “One Name Alone,” settle into our hearts and remind us of our true focus.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Terrified and Amazed. In a Good Way.

The disciples were terrified and amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “When he gives a command, even the wind and waves obey him!”
Luke 8:25b, NLT*

When was the last time you were terrified and amazed by God?

Not fearing He would nail you with a lightning bolt. Overwhelmed by awareness of how much power is His. Of what He does. How much He loves us.

Paul tells us to “come boldly” into His presence because God is so much more than we can conceive. This is the same God who thundered on the mountain in the Old Testament, whose presence terrified the high priests. He is no less by giving us a way back into His presence. (He is, after all, the same God who walked in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.)

We don’t often see “big” proof of His power, but He is working in and around each one of His children right now. It’s easy to miss, if we don’t keep our eyes open. Even then, it’s easy to see His touch as evidence of love and care but to miss the power behind it.

Awareness of His power increases our confidence in Him. It reminds us that obedience is not negotiable. And it stirs our faith in worship.

Holy and majestic God, all power and authority are Yours. Forgive us for forgetting, for settling for less than full worship of all You are. Help us take time to reflect on all of Your attributes, so we can grow in faith.

A good reminder song is “God Undefeatable,” sung here by Austin Stone Worship.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

A Teaching Moment

The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and the raging waves. Suddenly the storm stopped and all was calm.
Luke 8:24, NLT*

We know from the Gospels that Jesus rose early to pray and sometimes stayed up late praying. We can assume preaching, teaching and healing was exhausting. Yet this is His only recorded nap. I think He did it intentionally during this storm, as part of the day’s lesson for His disciples.

Not that they recognize it as a teaching moment—they’re panicking, shouting. Expecting to die.

After He calms the storm, Jesus asks, “Where is your faith?” And Luke says the disciples are “terrified and amazed” at what He has done. (Luke 8:25, NLT*)

I catch an undertone of, “Why were you freaking out? All you had to do was ask.” His question isn’t about blame, or about their lack of faith. It’s to show them faith applies even here.

By this point in their relationship, the disciples have heard Jesus’ authority when He taught. They’ve seen miracles: healings, demons cast out, a supernatural catch of fish. Even a raising from the dead.

But this new crisis seems so immediate—so personal—and they don’t think to ask Jesus for help.

Were they angry when they woke Him? I can imagine their mutterings: “How could He sleep at a time like this? How could He put us into this situation—didn’t He know it would happen?”

I’ve read this account many times, but today it speaks again: In new situations I need to not only remember what Jesus has done in the past, but remember His power. His presence. And ask for His help.

Also, if I’m dealing with something that’s in my area of expertise, I shouldn’t assume I need to handle it in my own strength and understanding. Remember when Jesus sent the fishermen out after a night of catching nothing—and nearly broke the nets with the haul of fish. (Luke 5:1-11)

God, You are a patient teacher, yet so many times we don’t learn. Open our hearts, minds and spirits to receive what You want us to know. Help us to remember what You’ve shown us in the past, and to be confident in Your presence and Your power, whatever new things come our way.

Jeremy Camp‘s song, “Walk By Faith,” is a good reminder for us all.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Nowhere Else to Go

Nowhere Else to Go, by Steph Beth Nickel

The following devotional is from a series I am writing for HopeStreamRadio. I also plan to publish an e-book featuring these pieces later this year.

Jesus’ teachings weren’t—and aren’t—always easy to understand. In John 6, He speaks of the bread that came down from heaven. As a result, many of His followers left Him. His teaching was just too hard for them to grasp.

When He was alone with His disciples, He asked them a pointed question.

John 6:66-67 reads as follows: “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?'” (ESV)

Simon Peter, in keeping with his nature, was quick to respond. He said in John 6:68-69, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

Jesus’ disciples didn’t fully understand all He had come to accomplish—or how He would fulfill His mission, but there were times like this that one or more of them expressed great faith.

These verses became very important to me a few years back, when my dad died. I have been a Christian since I was a child—many years ago, but this event was difficult to handle. If you think of my belief system like a house, it was as if my dad’s death knocked the entire structure down and left me huddled on the foundation.

But that’s okay because I had arrived at the same conclusion as Peter: There was nowhere else to go.

When the disciple made this proclamation, I don’t think he understood what Jesus was saying about the bread and the cup any more than the others did, but I do think he knew enough to realize there was no other place to turn for truth, solace, and meaning.

In Luke 7:47-49, Jesus says, “Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

The storm that was my dad’s death and the emotional and spiritual turmoil that went with it battered my dwelling place, my faith, but no matter how the storm raged, I was secure on the Rock, the Foundation, the Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Did this have anything to do with my efforts? No, and here’s why. While I had put my faith in Christ, I wouldn’t have done so if God hadn’t drawn me to Himself—which He did because of His grace, not because I somehow deserved it. There were times I dug deep (through prayer and Bible study, both alone and with others). However, there were others when I let these spiritual disciplines slip. But every time I asked for forgiveness, I found that He was right there waiting for me, arms open wide.

As it says in Luke 7:47, we are to come to Jesus, take note of His words, and do what He commands. But we often fail to do so. Still, at times, life happens, and there’s no-one to blame. We take a beating and are left with nothing except the foundation of our faith. But Jesus is a sure foundation, and we can rest assured that we can again build on the foundation that will never crumble.

Uncertainty marked my life for a while—and I still have many questions that won’t be answered this side of eternity—but my foundation was secure, unshakable. My foundation was—and is—Jesus Christ, the Holy One of God.

[Questions or comments for Stephanie? Leave them below!]

Photo of Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Picture by Sarah Grace Photography)

Stephanie is a freelance writer and editor. She writes under the pen name Steph Beth Nickel. She co-authored Paralympian Deborah L. Willows’ memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances. Among other places, it is available from Castle Quay Books and Amazon. Steph has been blogging since 2010 and is a regular guest on Kimberley Payne’s site (fitness tips) and Christian Editing Services (writing tips). She will also be writing and recording regularly for the newly-formed Hope Stream Radio. Stephanie is an active member of The Word Guild and InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship


Steph invites you to pop by for a visit on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stephbethnickel or https://www.facebook.com/stephbnickel?ref=hl

You can also look her up on Twitter @StephBethNickel; her blog: http://stephseclecticinterests.wordpress.com; or her website (still a work in progress): http://stephbethnickel.com

Belief and Trust

“Lord,” he said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”
Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared.
Luke 5:12b-13, NLT*

Imagine the fervent, desperate hope in the leper’s voice – in his heart.

There was no cure for the disease at the time, and Luke calls it an “advanced case.” He might have been missing fingers, toes… part of his nose.

He believes – he knows – Jesus can heal him.

So he asks. Luke says he begs. There’s no sense of entitlement here. He’s lost all that a long time ago.

Jesus touches him – touches a potentially contagious untouchable. And Jesus heals him. Instantly.

The man is now whole. Clean, as opposed to unclean. Once the priests confirm it, he can go back to his home, his family. He’ll even be happy to go back to work.

Two things stand out to me in this man’s example: his belief and his trust.

He has no doubt that Jesus has the power and authority to heal and cleanse him.

If You are willing” suggests that he knows not everyone who asks gets healed. Even if he doesn’t know that, we do.

Unbelief can cripple our prayers. Remember the father of the demon-possessed boy? “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief”? (Mark 9:24, NLT*) But even believing prayers may be answered with a “no.” Remember how the Apostle Paul’s believing pleas for relief from his “thorn” were denied because it better served God’s Kingdom purposes for the thorn to remain. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

We need to pray “if You are willing, You can…” but we can’t let the “if” become doubt of God’s goodness.

In one sense, of course He’s willing – as in, He doesn’t want to see us hurting, and He loves us. But because He loves us so much, loves the whole planetful of us, sometimes His wisdom chooses to allow an unpleasant situation to continue, for the ultimate good – for us or for others.

“If You’re willing” must never become “If You’re good” or “If You love me” … or even “If I deserve it.” It simply means “You can, so I’m asking, but I don’t know Your full plan.” And we need to trust His heart, however He answers.

Almighty and all-wise God, Your plans and purposes are beyond our understanding, but You have clearly revealed Your heart in Jesus’ life and death. You’ve revealed Your power in His resurrection. If You are willing – if You choose – You can do anything. Forgive us for the times we doubt Your power, and for the times we doubt Your love. Help our unbelief. Teach us to trust You and to live and pray with confidence in Your care.

Trusting the God we know when we don’t know the details or the future… Here’s the Newsboys with “Lord (I Don’t Know)“. I’ve used this one as a prayer before.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Meet Frank Warkentin

Imagine yourself in 1940. We’ll visit a farm in Saskatchewan, Canada, to meet Frank Warkentin, a young man who’s a central character in Elma Schemenauer’s new novel, Consider the Sunflowers.

Janet: It’s good to meet you, Frank. I know you’ve been in Elma’s heart for a long time. Since we can’t actually see you, how about you describe yourself?

Frank: You know that new movie Gone with the Wind? I look like the leading man, Clark Gable. Actually I’m joking. I’m taller, darker, and handsomer than Gable. I think so anyway.

Janet: Sounds like Mr. Gable has some competition! You’re not very old, but you’ve already picked up a variety of work experience. What are some of the highlights?

Frank: I’m twenty-seven. I’ve been a farmhand, logger, dishwasher, guitar-player, manure-shoveller—you name it. I travelled around a lot during the 1930s, going wherever there might be work. Jobs were hard to find.

Janet: And now you’re running the family farm. How did that happen?

Frank: My dad and stepmother moved to Alberta and left me the place, along with the equipment and livestock. Tractor, plough, one-way disk seeder, hayrack, closed-in sleigh, horses, cattle, pigs, chickens.

Janet: That sounds like a heap of responsibility. You’ve endured a lot of small-town gossip and prejudice over the years because of your heritage. Are you staying on the farm now to prove those people wrong, or do you really want to settle down? Or are you waiting for an opportunity to get away?

Frank: My dad is a Dutch-German Mennonite. He married a Gypsy in the Old Country, Russia. A match like that was unheard of. Even now, with my mother gone for years, people can’t forget I’m the product of that mixed marriage. They don’t expect me to settle down like a regular Mennonite. I want to prove them wrong.

Janet: The municipality of Coyote has a large Mennonite component, but there are other ethnic groups as well. Your Norwegian friends, and the Chinese man who operates the restaurant. Does everyone stick to their own group, or is there a sense of blended community?

Frank: People cooperate and help each other in these little prairie communities. They’ve got to. Life can be hard. At the same time, folks always keep in mind who’s inside and who’s outside their own group. I don’t fit into any of them, but I’m more comfortable with the non-Mennonites. They don’t carry all that Russian baggage.

Janet: As well as your friends, I hear there’s a certain young lady—or maybe two—who you’ve been spending time with. How did you meet Tina?

Frank: I met Tina on the train platform in town, west of here. She’s from this area but she works for her relatives in Vancouver. She’s got a good job. I’m proud of her.

Janet: Is she “the one”?

Frank: I’m not actually looking for “the one.” If I was, Tina would be a prime candidate, though her parents wouldn’t be in favour of us getting hitched. They want her to marry Roland Fast. He’s a jerk in my opinion.

Janet: Maybe she’d be better off with you, then, Mr. Gable lookalike 🙂 Tell us something you appreciate about where you live.

Frank: I like the freedom. I enjoy seeing the whole sky and the whole horizon, and being my own boss on this farm.

Janet: The newspapers talk about war with Germany. Would you join the fighting, or do you share your father’s Mennonite values? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I understand you’re not a man of faith.

Frank: Hitler has got to be stopped. I’d join the army if I got my call-up; I wouldn’t make excuses. On the other hand, I’m already helping the war effort by raising food to send to the Allies overseas. Whether I’m a man of faith or not… probably not. I don’t attend church much. Too many hypocrites. At the same time, I’ve got my principles. I know what’s right and I try to do it.

Janet: What’s your biggest challenge right now?

Frank: Doing a good job on this farm. I owe my dad that. And I owe it to myself.

Janet: What do you like to do to recharge?

Frank: I play my guitar. And I go fishing with my Norwegian bachelor friends.

Janet: What’s the most surprising thing you’ve ever done?

Frank: Let Dorrie Harms talk me into taking her to the Mennonite Church. As I said, I’m not really a churchgoer, but Dorrie’s a little blonde charmer. I relax more with her than with Tina.

Janet: Cake or Pie? Coffee or tea?

Frank: Lemon meringue pie with real coffee. Some Mennonites drink prips. It’s made of roasted barley and stuff, a poor substitute for coffee.

Janet: Is there anything you’d like to say to Elma, your writer?

Frank: Tell Elma she can’t control me. I’ll run my life my own way, though I appreciate her concern for my eternal soul.

Janet: Thanks for taking time to chat, Frank. I’m sure the farm doesn’t leave you with a lot of free time. Your life hasn’t been easy, and I don’t think that will change. But I believe you have what it takes to overcome the struggles. And maybe there are more people on your side than you realize. God might be, too, if you’d let Him.

===

Author Elma Schemenauer

Author Elma Schemenauer

Elma Schemenauer was born in a Saskatchewan community like the fictional municipality of Coyote. “As I grew up,” she says, “I sank deep roots into prairie life and the traditions of my extended Mennonite family.” After teaching for several years, Elma fulfilled a lifelong dream by moved into a publishing career in Toronto. She’s the author of many books including Yesterstories, Russia, Jacob Siemens Family Since 1685, Ottawa, and Hello Winnipeg. In 2006 she and her husband relocated to Kamloops, British Columbia. There she writes, blogs, and takes walks on grassy hillsides that remind her of her prairie roots.

Consider the Sunflowers, by Elma SchemenauerConsider the Sunflowers paints a colourful, often humorous picture of family life on the Canadian home front during World War II and beyond. As the story begins, it’s 1940 and Tina Janz doesn’t want to marry the man her pious Mennonite parents have chosen for her. He’s as boring as turnips compared with the dashing half-Gypsy Frank Warkentin. Obsessed with Frank, Tina leaves her job in Vancouver to marry him. However, her joy pales in the face of loneliness on Frank’s farm in the prairie community of Coyote, Saskatchewan.

When Frank shuns local Mennonites because some of them scorn his mixed parentage, Tina feels torn between her Mennonite heritage and her husband. Their son’s death drives the couple farther apart. Then Tina’s former Vancouver boyfriend shows up, setting off a series of events that send her and Frank stumbling toward a new understanding of love, loyalty, faith, and freedom.

Paperback 299 pages $19.95, ISBN 978-0-88887-575-4, available from the publisher, Borealis Press. Also available online at Chapters Indigo by about November 15. E-book coming in 2015. For more information, please visit elmams.wix.com/sflwrs.

SPECIFICATIONS
Paperback 5½” x 8½”, 306 pages
ISBN 978-0-88887-575-4, $19.95
Ebook ISBN 978-0-88887-576-1

ORDER FROM
Borealis Press
8 Mohawk Crescent, Nepean (Ottawa), Ontario, Canada, K2H 7G6
Telephone: (613) 829-0150
Facsimile: (613) 829-7783
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Web site: www.borealispress.com/
E-mail: drt@borealispress.com

He Can Do it Again

He stands motionless in the dim light, his back to the door. The fashionable linen shirt droops from his tired shoulders, heavy with grime. We can almost taste the air that he breathes: dank and  foul… steeped in the aroma of unwashed bodies, mouldy walls and accumulated filth… heavily spiced with fear and hopelessness.

This time, it looks like the end. Have his enemies finally triumphed?

Tension mounts, but we’re sure he’ll come up with a plan. He’s the Scarlet Pimpernel, nemesis of all that is evil within Revolutionary France. We’ve already seen him achieve the impossible. Of course he can do it again; the thrill for the audience is to see just how. (I’m thinking of the 1982 version of The Scarlet Pimpernel. See the 8-minute mark in this YouTube clip.)

He faces his peril coolly. And why shouldn’t he—he’s a fictional character. The writer protects him. It’s different for us. The threats in our lives are real, and we stand to lose.

We’re on our own.

Or are we? There was once a king named Jehoshaphat who thought otherwise. He believed his Author was responsible for making a way out at his crucial hour. Second Chronicles 20 tells the story, and it ranks alongside Hollywood’s most edge-of-the-seat thrillers.

An overwhelming army was marching on Jerusalem. Jehoshaphat was helpless to stop the slaughter of his people. In desperation, he proclaimed a national fast. And he prayed.

Unlike many of our prayers, Jehoshaphat’s wasn’t full of suggestions for how God might solve the problem. He praised God, reminding himself and the people of God’s omnipotence. He reviewed the facts: the attackers were only alive to fight because God had earlier forbidden their destruction.

Facing annihilation, Jehoshaphat concluded simply, “O our God, won’t you stop them? We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.” (2 Chronicles 20:12, NLT*) And he waited.

God’s answer sounded too good to be true. Israel wouldn’t even have to fight. They were to meet the advancing army, then stand and watch God do battle on their behalf.

For Israel, hearing was receiving. Jehoshaphat led the people in worship of this God who would take care of them. They worshiped and they praised. They were still praising the next day when they saw God rout their enemies.

Jehoshaphat’s case was special. Most times, God’s deliverance involved more than “watch and see.” His people had—we have today—a role to play in the solution. God empowered Israel’s armies, but they usually had to fight.

The Old Testament view of God pictured, among other things, a strong deliverer. He watched over His chosen people, essentially requiring only two things: they were to love Him wholeheartedly, and to obey Him. As long as they did, He took care of them. When they drifted away from loving Him, discipline brought them back.

Both the protection and the discipline had a dual purpose. Israel was helped, while at the same time other nations saw the character and power of Almighty God.

Our own experiences tell us God still looks after His people. It’s vital that we remember what He has done (in our lives and throughout history) and expect the same level of care now. He hasn’t changed. This gives our faith the necessary springboard to launch us into each day.

Nothing is too hard or too insignificant to bring to God: failing health, crumbling finances, or a sobbing child’s lost soother. We are significant to Him, and so He hears our prayers.

He will care for us His way, though, not ours. We may endure some things we’d rather escape. But He will always be with us, making a way. Whatever the day holds, will we love Him, and willingly follow His lead? Look to Him in childlike and expectant trust? Let others know we’re depending on His promise to care for us?

Then, like with Israel long ago, the people around us will see God’s love and power in action. The word will go out: God is relevant to our lives. He does make a difference.

Our God is the God of Jehoshaphat—Nemesis of all that is evil within our world. He is the Author and Sustainer of the universe. We’ve already seen Him achieve the impossible. Of course He can do it again; the thrill for the believer is to see just how.

We've already seen God achieve the impossible. Of course He can do it again; the thrill for the believer is to see just how.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

This post was originally printed in Evangel, February 2003.