Red Light, Green Light -- A Repost

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Have you ever been so afraid of getting out of God's will that you found yourself faced with complete and total indecision?  You knew a decision had to be made, but after much prayer and no answer (from what you could tell), you were at a loss at what to do next.  I found myself in such a place last week.

Being in the last stages of a new book, I found myself at the point of decision--which book do I work on next?  You see, the final stages of my current book are the tedious points of formatting and preparing for publication.  Because these are such tedious tasks, I can only work on them for short periods of time lest I go mad!  In the stretches of time in between, I thought it best to start on a new project.  I was ready to do some writing.  Not editing.  Not formatting.  Writing!  But with a long list of book ideas, I had no idea where to begin.

So, I prayed and prayed and prayed some more.  I waited for an answer.  I searched for God's will.  But after nearly two weeks, I still hadn't written a word because I couldn't decide which book God wanted me to write next.  I was tired and frustrated and couldn't figure out why the Lord was making this so difficult. After all, I was simply trying to do His will.

As I usually do when faced with a spiritual dilemma, I talked with Jason.  I explained my prayers and God's silence on the matters.  He followed my outpouring with a few pointed questions, one of which was, "Which one do you want to write next?"  After some thought, I told him which one I would most like to write at the present time.  "Then go with that one," Jason said.  "If the Lord wants you to work on it, then He'll allow you to do it.  If not, He'll hinder it.  But you need to get moving.  It's easier to steer a vessel when it's already in motion."  Whoa, when did he get so wise?

Seriously, he had an excellent point.  Have you ever tried to steer a car that wasn't moving?  It's nearly impossible!  But once the car is in motion, it becomes so simple to steer it in any direction.  I was so stumped by God's next step for me that I was standing completely still.  I wasn't getting anything accomplished.

Now, let me tread carefully here.  I am not saying that we shouldn't seek God's direction in matters or that we should just do what we want and leave it up to God to tell us "yay" or "nay."  The point that I'm trying to get across is that there is a time to be still and a time to get moving.  And just so you'll see that I'm not making this up to suit my own fancy, I'll give you proof.

 And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward: But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.
— Exodus 14:13-16

Did you catch it?  Standing there on the banks of the Red Sea, the children of Israel throw up their hands in despair and complain to Moses about their current plight.  So Moses tells them, "Don't worry about it.  Just stand still and see what God will do."  Immediately after Moses' statement, however, the Lord says, "Moses, why are you just standing here talking to me?  Tell the children of Israel to get moving."  Moses told them to stand still, but God said keep moving.  Red light, green light. God needed the people in motion.  He had a work to accomplish, and it involved action on the part of the Israelites.  And once they were moving, God was able to direct them exactly where they needed to go.

Now, I realize that there are places in the Scriptures where the situation is reversed, and that's fine.  It still proves my point.  There is a time to be still and wait on God's direction.  Then there is a time to start walking in the general direction in which the Lord has already directed and allow Him to guide you from there.  Knowing when it's a time to wait and when it's a time to act is between you and the Lord, but I'm certain He'll give you peace one way or another when the time comes.

Questions, Questions - Part Three

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Okay, today we’ll end our game of Questions Only but first, let’s look at our key passage one more time.

And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?
— Mark 4:35-41

In yesterday’s devotion, we discussed the two questions of Jesus: “Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” Tough questions, no doubt. And as I mentioned, the disciples had no answer. They couldn’t understand their lack of faith. They couldn’t explain their fear. But neither could they understand or explain what just took place in their fishing boat, which prompted the next question: “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

What gets me is, at this moment, these men were more scared of Jesus than they had been of the storm. We thought they were afraid before, but the Bible clearly states that after Jesus calmed the sea, the disciples “feared exceedingly.” In a way, I guess I can’t blame them. Jesus had just proven Himself more powerful than the storm. He had just shown that He controlled the wind and waves. Three small words were all it took to calm the seas, but it would take much more—it would seem—to ease the disciples’ hearts.

I want to berate the disciples. Not so much for their fear of the storm but for their fear of the One who stopped the storm. I mean, seriously, can’t they see Jesus is on their side? But, as much as I want to give them grief, I can’t because I’m guilty of doing the same. How many times has Jesus delivered me from a storm, and instead of offering gratitude or praise, I respond with more fear? Afraid of the new situation in which He’s placed me. Afraid He might not come through for me again. Afraid of failure. Afraid of being afraid.

I have to give the disciples credit—they asked a great question. Who is this man? He was obviously not like anyone else they had ever come in contact with. What kind of man could control the wind and waves? The book of Matthew tells us they marveled at him. I like that better than fearing Him though, in a sense, it still involves fear. Just a different kind.  

The fear of the Lord is a good thing. The Bible tells us it’s the beginning of wisdom, and let me tell you, the disciples would be wise by the time Jesus ascends to Heaven. When we talk about fearing the Lord, it’s not about being afraid of Him in the sense of fearing monsters under the bed. It’s about marveling at who He is and what He can do. It’s a matter of respect, of awe. And our Lord certainly deserves that.

Not once in the Scriptures do we see Jesus berating someone for having the fear of the Lord, but many times we see Him correcting those who were just plain afraid. I have to wonder if it’s even possible to possess a fear of the Lord and a fear of other things at the same time. After all, if we’re fearing the Lord, that means we recognize His all-knowing, all-powerful nature. Can we honestly do that and still be afraid of the “what ifs” in life? According to these verses, I’d have to say “no.”

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? - Psalm 27:1

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. - Isaiah 12:2

The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? - Psalm 118:6

So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. - Hebrews 13:6

 In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me. - Psalm 56:4

Yes, it seems the fear of the Lord and the lack of fear, in general, go hand in hand. So when we choose fear (fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of dying, fear of foreclosure, etc.), we deny the fear of the Lord. We’re choosing the wrong master, serving the wrong thing. We’re putting more trust in our own fear than we are in the all-powerful, all-knowing God. And here I wanted to give the disciples a hard time!

The good news is, the disciples finally got it. It took a while, and they messed up a lot, but they finally understood, and when they did, it changed them forever. You know what that tells me? There’s hope for us too. If we keep our eyes on Jesus instead of the storms in our lives, soon we’ll learn to live in the fear of the Lord. And once we do, we can face any storm, any giant, any situation and boldly proclaim, “I’m not afraid of you!” Or, if you’re from the South, “Ain’t skeerd!”

A Modern-Day David and Goliath

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As you probably know by now, I love finding spiritual lessons in everyday life. There is nothing sweeter than hearing my Heavenly Father whisper, “Are you seeing this? Do you understand?” Such an occurrence took place last week.

Barnabas and I were on our morning walk around the neighborhood. As usual, he was behaving like a perfect gentleman, and I was relishing in the months of training that finally paid off. Suddenly, I spotted a small white cat approaching us on the sidewalk ahead. At first, the feline seemed oblivious to our presence, so we continued, me being certain the cat would flee when he noticed us. I was wrong!

Not only did the cat remain on course, but he also gave no indication he saw us except that his eyes were fixed on us. No other reaction. No fluff. No hiss. No arched back. Nothing. The crazy thing didn’t even slow his pace but continued strolling toward us with confidence.

As I mentioned, Barnabas has come a long way in his training, and he usually does very well when it comes to passing by the temptation of a stray cat or running squirrel (though he is still wholly intrigued by groundhogs). His typical response is to watch and pass by without a second glance. But these were not ordinary circumstances. This was something new. I’ve never seen a cat act like this...and neither had Barnabas.  

When my mutt realized the cat’s bravery, he slowed his pace and lowered his head to glare at the cat. The feline remained calm and continued forward. At this, poor Barnabas turned and looked at me with the funniest look I’ve ever seen (and the dog can pull off some hilarious faces). He didn’t know what to think but more than that, he didn’t know what to do. I understood exactly how he felt.

Not willing to observe the showdown between my 90-pound pit bull and the 5-pound kitty, I pulled Barnabas over the ditch where we could safely pass by on the side of the road rather than the sidewalk. As the distance between the cat and us grew, Barnabas’ eyes never wavered. He watched the cat as the cat watched him, still unfazed by the giant coming his way. Then I noted in amazement as my huge dog nudged me in the opposite direction of the coming feline. As I inched further into the road, I realized Barnabas was no longer amused. He was afraid. He was ready to get away from that crazy cat who was now staring at us from the corner of his eye as we passed. With a final glance over his shoulder, Barnabas took off across the street, dragging me in his wake.

The entire ordeal only lasted a couple of minutes, but the whole time I was thinking about David and Goliath. Barnabas could definitely pass for a Goliath (though he is much sweeter), and the cat, well, as far as size is concerned, he was a David. Despite the difference in size, the cat seemed unafraid. He was unmoved by the giant before him and continued to press on. In the case of David and Goliath, the shepherd boy defeated the giant and chopped off his head. Lovely! In the case of dog versus cat, the cat also defeated the dog. Not with a sword, a sling, or a stone, but with courage. His boldness in the face of a giant so bewildered and confused my poor pup that Barnabas ended up being the one to run in fear. I’m guessing he figured if the cat could be that brave in his presence, then the cat must know something he didn’t. It was enough to shake the confidence of my curious canine.

The incident left me wondering how often we could defeat our enemies by simply being bold and courageous. How often could we send Satan and his minions scampering by merely holding fast to God’s promises and marching confidently no matter what giants we face? How many times would our giants fall because of our firm stance on the Word of God?  

I don’t know about you, but I’d like to find out. I’m tired of always being the one afraid. I’m sick of being the one to back off or run and hide. I’m fed up with allowing the enemy to get the best of me. It’s time for a change. It’s about time I stood up to my giants. After all, if God is for us, who can be against us? No one! Not even a giant. Or a rather large pit bull.

Being a dog person, I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I want to be like the white cat. I want to walk courageously, confident in the One who walks with me. I don’t want to flinch, balk, or turn away. I want to walk the path God has for me no matter what giants are lingering in my path. I want to have such an air of confidence and courage about me that the enemy runs the other way at my approach. “Oh, for grace to trust Him more!”

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
— Isaiah 41:10