Working Together

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Jason and I enjoy watching the show, Food Network Star. For those of you who are not familiar with it, a group of chefs (some professional, some not) competes for the chance to gain their own show on the Food Network Channel. The challenges vary from week to week, but all of them include a cooking portion and a presenting portion where they tell others how to make their dish. It’s entertaining to watch the chefs grow in both their culinary skills and their presence in front of a camera or a live audience. Each week, the chef who performed the worst is eliminated, leaving the others to continue vying for the spot of the next Food Network star.

One of the most difficult challenges the contestants face is near the end when they’re down to just a handful of contestants. The eliminated chefs return, and some of them are partnered with the current contestants to act as their sous-chefs (basically, an assistant). On the surface, one would think this challenge would be easier than the others because the chefs have an extra set of hands to prepare their meals in the allotted time, but it all depends on the willingness of their sous-chef to trust and follow directions.

On one of the most recent episodes we watched, a Kentucky chef named Jason was one of the final contestants and was joined up with a former contestant who was a know-it-all. While the sous-chefs of the other contestants followed orders and trusted the instructions of their chefs, she questioned every order and often did as she thought best.  

At one point, the head chef instructed her to leave the sauce boiling until the flame disappeared (his sauce included a heavy dose of bourbon). Afraid of the flame, she kept saying, “I don’t think this is right. This doesn’t look right. I’m going to turn it down.” Each time, Jason, the head chef, assured her, “No, it’s fine. Just let it keep burning. It’ll be fine.” Despite his assurances, she fretted over the flame, and as soon as the head chef turned away, she mumbled, “This doesn’t look right. I’m turning it off.” And she did.

When the judges tasted Jason’s food, everything was wonderful except for one thing. Yup, the sauce. The bourbon hadn’t cooked down enough, and the sauce was too strong. In her failure to trust the head chef and follow his orders, the sous-chef nearly cost him the prize.

I think you probably already see where I’m going with this. How many times are we, like the sous-chef, unwilling to trust the Master because we don’t understand the plan? How often do we take matters into our own hands because things don’t look right to us? So many times, our doubts and uncertainties cause us to question the Lord’s instructions, and we decide we know better and do things our own way. And the result is often a catastrophe.

Funny enough, I found myself furious with that sous-chef. She should have listened to Jason. It was his dish, his recipe. He knew what he was doing. She should have trusted his judgment and obeyed his instructions. I was shouting at her, “Just leave it alone, and do what he said!” And then, I received a heavenly thump in the back of my head, and my outward criticisms turned to inward rebuke.

I should listen to the Lord. It’s His plan, His creation, and He knows what’s He’s doing. I need to trust His judgment and obey His instructions, even when I don’t understand. Especially when I don’t understand. Lord, help me!

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
— Proverbs 3:5-6

Nothing Is Too Hard for God

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Today I’d like to begin a new series based on the negatives found in the Bible. I know what you’re thinking. Negatives? Isn’t that. . .well. . . negative? I want to read something positive and uplifting. I hear you, and I can relate. So, believe me when I tell you there is nothing negative about these negatives except the words themselves. For the next several posts, I want to talk about nothing, never, and no one. Let’s begin with one of my favorite nothings.

Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:
— Jeremiah 32:17

Dear friend, nothing is too hard for God. Nothing! No sickness or disease. No temptation or sin. No trial or storm. No giant or mountain. Absolutely nothing! Isn’t that glorious to know? I find such strength and encouragement in understanding the things that trouble me do not worry God. No problem ever keeps Him awake at night (not that He sleeps anyway). No situation ever causes Him to wring His hands or sigh in desperation. His pulse doesn’t quicken nor does His blood pressure rise when faced with the difficulties of this life. To Him, it’s no big deal.  

Just ask King Asa. In the long list of the kings of Israel and Judah, Asa was one of the few who did what was right in God’s eyes. From the beginning of his reign, he set things in order, tearing down the altars to false gods and rebuilding the safeguards around their land. But his righteous living didn’t protect him from hardship, and soon, his kingdom was under attack. Outnumbered nearly two to one, Asa had no fear, for he knew nothing was too hard for God.

And Asa cried unto the Lord his God, and said, Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. O Lord, thou art our God; let no man prevail against thee.
— II Chronicles 14:11

I love the way Asa spoke his belief—“It is nothing with thee to help.” Asa basically said, “Lord, I know it’s no big deal for you to help us because this army, though great in number, is nothing compared to You. So, we will treat it like no big deal too.”

I probably don’t need to tell you how the Lord responded to Asa’s great faith, but I’ll let you know anyway. To put it in my Southern tongue, God whooped up on the Ethiopians and sent them scurrying away like the cowards they were. Despite the size of their army (and their muscles), they were NOTHING when compared to God. They didn’t stand a chance.

As for God, He never broke a nail or a sweat. I’m not sure what method He used to defeat the enemy, but it could have been something as simple as a flick of the wrist or the twinkle of His eye. It was nothing! No big deal! And that, my friend, is precisely how our problems rank when compared to God. Yes, they may seem unsolvable to us, but we can rest assured God has the solution. There is nothing He cannot do. No problem He cannot solve. No situation He cannot remedy. He is willing and able to do above and beyond all we can ask or think.

So, what about us? We can take Asa’s approach and view our problems from God’s standpoint, leaving our hearts and mind in peace, or we can worry, fret, plot and scheme to fight our way through. If God came through for Asa (and we know He did), why would we doubt He will do the same for us? God is no respecter of persons. Though He deals with us individually, He loves us all the same. None of our problems are too big for Him to solve. Do we believe that today? If so, let’s act like it!


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!”