When the Brook Dries Up

In the Old Testament we are told of a prophet, Elijah, who told the wicked king Ahab that God was going to send a drought on the land because of the sinful leadership of Ahab and his wife, Jezebel. For three years Elijah said there would be no rain. Elijah then made camp at the brook Cherith where God told him the ravens would bring him food.

Day and night the ravens brought Elijah food and he drank from the brook. But then because of no rain, the brook died up.

Now what? Elijah had obeyed God and defied the king putting his own life in jeopardy and the provision that God had told him would be his at the brook was now gone.

The brook dried up.

Have you had those moments in your life? Times when you felt you were obeying God and trying to live in a way that was pleasing to him – but your brook dried up.

Maybe you had struggled to help someone in need – and they rejected your help or accepted your help and then rejected you.

Maybe you started a job or a project with great enthusiasm, but things did not go as you expected. You lost the job or the job became a burden instead of the joy you first had felt. The project was a big failure or someone else came along and took over and changed your ideas or took credit for your work.

Maybe you were losing weight and exercising and then you got very sick and could not continue with the exercise program and gained all your wieght back.

The list could go on and on about times when we lost hope, lost enthusiasm, lost joy in something we were doing that we felt was exactly what God wanted.

I think today of the teachers, the nurses, the retail workers, the truck drivers who have been subjected to such chaos that many have felt the brook has dried up for them.

What do we do when the brook dries up?

For Elijah God told him to go to another place. He sent him to a widow woman who was getting ready to fix a last meal for her and her son and then prepare to die as they had no more food left. Elijah told her to fix a meal for him first and then her and her son. As she acted in obedience to the man of God, God caused the meal and oil she had to not run out. She provided for both her son, herself and Elijah until the drought was over.

There is much we could pull from this, but the thing that stands out to me is that when the brook dried up, God still made a way of provision for Elijah.

If you read the rest of the story in the Bible you will see that as a result of Elijah’s journey not only were Elijah’s needs met, but he was an instrument to bring blessing to the woman and her son.

So what do we do when the brook dries up?

Like Elijah we continue to trust God seeking His guidance.

Like Elijah we continue to be open not only to our own needs but ask God to give us the insight, the compassion we need to be willing to help others in spite of our own state of discouragement.

Like Elijah we believe that God can bring good things from this time of a dried brook.

As I write these words I realize it is so easy to say these things, not so easy to actually do them when we are in that valley of discouragement.

For those who may find themselves there, I pray for God’s strength and peace will be yours as you wait for the rain.

Entrance of Praise

Studying the Tabernacle in the Old Testament the past few months has been such an encouragement to me in my walk with God.

Earlier I posted why a Tabernacle and in the elaborate plans that God gave Moses for the Tabernacle – and in the Israelites response – we see how much God desires a relationship with us.

What really stood out to me was that there was only one gate – one way into the Tabernacle. I know it is not a popular thought today but it reminds me that Jesus said He was “the Way.”

When the Israelites would stop and camp, the 12 tribes of Israel each had their own assigned area to camp by the Tabernacle. Interesting the tribe of Judah was to be camped first next to the entrance to the Tabernacle.

The name “Judah” means “praised” or “let him be praised.” This reminded me of how important praise is in the life of a Christian.

Psalms 95:2 – Let us come to him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to him.

Psalm 100:4 – Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name.

Even in the New Testament we are admonished to praise God.

Hebrews 13:15 – Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name.

What does it mean to offer a “sacrifice” of praise. To us the word “sacrifice” sounds like offering something that is difficult or costly for us. While it can mean that, in the Old Testament a sacrifice was an offering to God. So first of all, our praise is an offering, something we give to God.

However, I think the writer speaking of a sacrifice of praise might mean to tell us our praise is not dependent on our feelings or our circumstances. When all is going well, it is easy to praise God. But in those times when all is well, how much of our praise is really directed to the awesomeness of God and how much just grateful because all is going well in our world.

Of course we should be grateful – but our praise must be more than that. Praise is the recognition that God is faithful and good. That we trust Him no matter our circumstances.

Worship is choosing to respond Biblically and responsibly despite the environment or circumstances. Somehow, we have come to accept an emotion-oriented approach to worship that says, “If I do not feel like expressing worship to God, it is hypocritical to do it!” In no other area of life do we accept this philosophy. Because it is the responsible thing to do, we go to work, pay our bills, restrain ourselves from saying certain things at certain times to certain people – although we feel differently inside. We say “I’m sorry” and “I forgive.” Do we always feel like being nice? Or forgiving? No! God never said, “If you feel like it, forgive. Or, if you are having a good day, love your enemies! And in leap years, on nights when there is a full moon, bless them that persecute you, and do good to them that spitefully use you!”…P. Douglas Small

In my own life I have experienced what praise can do in times of distress. At 33 my husband was killed in an accident and I was left with two small daughters to raise. There were times when I felt overwhelmed and afraid.

I remember one day in particular when I looked out my kitchen widow at the meadow below our home. We had purchased this property because it was a perfect place to raise our daughters in the country. There was enough acreage to have a couple of beef cows, some chickens and my daughters wanted a horse. It was Fall when we bought the home and now it was Spring. Lonnie died before we could fulfill those dreams.

As I looked at all the wild flowers in the meadow, I thought how much my husband would have enjoyed the view and began to cry that he never lived to see it. Suddenly I realized that he was probably seeing things far more beautiful than that meadow. And seeing them with two good eyes instead of looking at it with his one handicapped eye.

As I praised the Lord, those chains of worry and despair fell from me. Yes, sometimes they came back, but when that happened, I just began to praise the Lord again.


Taking a Close Look at My Prayer Time

There is only one miracle of Jesus that all four gospel writers record: the feeding of the 5,000. Actually there were probably more than 5,000 fed that day because the writers say 5,000 men. Since we know that women and children also came to hear Jesus we can assume there were women and children present which would increase that number significantly.

Growing up in church I have heard that story told many times. The emphasis has always been on the miracle of feeding all those people with just two loaves and a few fish and the compassion of Jesus for those who were hungry and possibly weak from the hunger. Certainly that is a story!!! Certainly we can gain comfort from the fact that the compassion of Jesus led to meeting a real physical need.

However, I recently heard a sermon where the emphasis was not on the feeding of the 5,000 but rather on what the first thing the compassion of Jesus led him to do.

Mark’s gospel tells us:

But the multitudes saw them departing, and many knew Him and ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and came together to Him.  And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things.  When the day was now far spent, His disciples came to Him and said, “This is a deserted place, and already the hour is late.  Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy themselves bread; for they have nothing to eat.” But He answered and said to them, “You give them something to eat.”

According to Mark the first thing the compassion of Jesus led him to do was to teach them. Clearly their physical need of food was important – how could anyone really listen and understand when their stomach is growling? Over and over we see through the miracles and actions of Jesus that He cared about the people’s physical need.

Yet His main purpose was to teach us. In Luke after ministering to many in a town, He went out to pray. When the crowd came searching for Him, He told them:

“But Jesus told them, ‘I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well, because that is why I was sent.”

Thinking about this I have to wonder: where is our emphasis in our walk with God? Are we more interested in having Him meet our physical needs rather than having a deep interest in learning more about Him?

Again, our physical needs are important. Believe me, when I had cancer and when my husband had surgery for a brain bleed, I was asking everyone I could think of to pray. I spent a lot of time crying out to God for healing.

But looking at my prayers I have to ask myself, how many are just:

  • Heal Aunt Susie
  • Give cousin Billy a job
  • Help my friend, Ann, get that promotion
  • Don’t let it rain today on our picnic

Looking at the prayers of Jesus, the early church and the Apostle Paul – what a difference.

The prayer of Jesus for us just before He went to the cross:

Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.  Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world.  And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.  I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

When the Early Church was facing persecution and the disciples were threatened if they continued to share about Jesus, the church gathered and prayed not for safety, as I would probably do but rather they prayed:

And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

The Apostle Paul prayed often for the church. His prayers were:

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you spiritual wisdom and revelation in your growing knowledge of him–since the eyes of your heart have been enlightened–so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the incomparable greatness of his power toward us who believe

I pray that according to the wealth of his glory [the Father] may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, so that, because you have been rooted and grounded in love, you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and thus to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

[I ask] God to fill you with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects–bearing fruit in every good deed, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for the display of all patience and steadfastness, joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.

As I think about this, I have to add another prayer:

Lord, help me to ask for my physical needs because I know you care about them, but help me to go deeper and seek a closer walk for me and my family and friends. Help me to care as much about our spiritual health as I do our physical health. Help me to seek You not just to meet my needs, but so I can draw closer to You and be more capable of sharing Your love with my community.

So I Know It’s not Easter!

This week our pastor encouraged us to realize committing our live to God was not a one time event. Neither was it a “get out of hell” card. Rather that commitment to God was only the beginning of what God wanted for us. She shared with us this verse:

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7

One of her suggestions was to “turn off the noise and be silent.” How can we hear from God when we have such noise all around us?

I thought a lot about that yesterday. We get in the car and turn on the radio; we spend too much time on social media, the news. None of that is bad – but sometimes it can become overload. So today while cleaning my kitchen I turned off all the “noise” and just let my heart and mind pray as I polished the dining table, underloaded the dishwasher and swept the kitchen floor. How peaceful I felt.

Then I put on an old CD to hear a song I have not listened to in years. It is a song that used to be sung in church and played on Christian radios every Easter. But we seem to only want to hear songs that have been written in the last two years 🙂 and some powerful songs are forgotten.

Today, I am reminded of the wonderful story that Jesus died not only so I could look forward to eternal life after this life, but could have joy and peace today – joy and peace that come to me when I take time to worship Him.

If you have not heard this song before, I hope it speaks to your heart. And if you have, I hope it reminds you that we serve a God who is able to help us no matter what our circumstances. And I think we need to celebrate this more than just one Sunday in spring.

Mountain or Valley – He’s Still There!

Our pastor has been doing a series on Psalm 23 – taking one verse at a time. Today she spoke on one verse that has been such a blessing to me throughout the past almost 20 years. It is the verse that says:

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou are with me.

That is the verse that came to my mind the day of my first visit to the oncologist following surgery for breast cancer. His first words to me were “The odds are not in your favor.” Immediately the above verse came to my mind.

I did not know if the Lord was assuring me I would walk through this valley to health and life on the other side or if I would walk through this valley into death.

What was comforting to me was the assurance that He was going to be with me through this time.

Looking back on my life as I near the last years of life I am so thankful to see all the times He has been there for me.

What comfort I find in knowing He will continue to walk with me through the rest of my life – both on the mountain times and the deep valley experiences life may bring.

At this point in my life I would say I’m mostly experiencing those “mountain” times. Last week my husband and I celebrated 37 years of marriage. What a blessing it is to be able to say that he is my bff and our love for one another is deeper and stronger than the day we married. We are blessed with good health for our age and we have a beautiful home to enjoy.

Yet I have been facing some “valley” moments these last few weeks. When I had surgery for cancer the surgeon apologized and said that he had done quite a bit of nerve damage as the lymph nodes were full of cancerous cells and he wanted to make sure he removed all the cancer. That plus the extensive radiation I had has left me with pain ever since. The damage done to my side has, with age, also led to a damaged rotator cuff. Surgeons now do not want to do surgery to repair the cuff because there has been so much nerve damage already done.

For whatever reason – old age I guess – the chronic pain that I have learned to live with has recently become much worse. It is especially difficult when I try to lay down and I have come to dread bedtime.

This morning my church family gathered around me and prayed for me. What an encouragement that was. One young man put some legs on his prayers and offered to come help me with my housework, even to vacuum my floors. My husband is able to help me and I refuse to just sit and give in – got to keep moving. But it was so kind of him to offer. That’s what real love is all about.

How blessed I am – how good to know not only that God is with me – but He has given me friends to love and support me.

Whatever situation dear reader you may be in – let me encourage you to lean on God. He is our Good Shepherd and His promises to be with us in “all” seasons I have found to be true.

Wisdom from my Daughters

As a mother, I like to think that I am a source of wisdom to my daughters, that they look to me for advice and counsel.

But it is really great when my daughters share words of wisdom for me.

Recently my youngest daughter, who is a pastor, spoke something in a sermon that has really been meaningful to me. She said:

“We don’t draw lines to keep people out. We cross lines to bring people in.”

The more I thought about that statement, the more I realized that sometimes I have drawn lines to keep people out.

  • They did not meet my “standards.”
  • They were not dressed “properly.”
  • They were not of my political viewpoint

How many times have I missed an opportunity to share the love of Jesus Christ because the lines I drew shut them out? Made them feel unwelcome.

Then my oldest daughter, who is a school teacher, shared with me her experiences this year with the Covid crisis in school.

She had a coworker whose dress was eccentric, whose walk was strange. This coworker greeted her every morning when she came to work with a cheerful “Good morning Mrs. Thomas.” My daughter was struggling just to make it to school on this stressful year and that last thing she wanted when she came in was a “sunny side up” greeting. She said for awhile she just gave a quick reply and hurried past the coworker to her room.

But one day the Holy Spirit quickened her heart and she began asking God to help her see this person as He did. She began stopping to talk each morning and listen to the person.

She knits caps for all her students and when the coworker commented how much they liked the hats, she made one for them.

The person did not change – what changed was how my daughter saw them.

Again, I wonder how many times I quickly pass by that person whose personality I do not care for, that person who annoys me. How many times do I fail to see them as God sees them.

So – I have two prayers today:

  1. God help me not to shut people out because they are different from me – help me not to be judgmental but to reach out and show them your love.
  2. God help me to look past what annoys me and help me to see people as you see them.

When I was pregnant with both my daughters, I used to put my hand on my stomach and pray that they would grow up to be people who made a difference, who shared God’s love.

How grateful I am to see that prayer was answered.

Now I’m trusting that my two new prayers will also be answered.

What a better world we would live in if we all prayed those prayers.

Modern Response to Message of Jesus

The Lesson

Then Jesus took His disciples up on the mountain and gathering them around Him, He taught them, saying:

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven
  • Blessed are the meek
  • Blessed are they that mourn
  • Blessed are the merciful
  • Blessed are they that thirst for justice
  • Blessed are you when persecuted
  • Blessed are you when you suffer
  • Be glad and rejoice for your reward is great in heaven.”

Then Simon Peter said, “Are we supposed to know this?”

And Andrew said:  “Do we have to write this down and take notes?”

And James said:  “Will we have a test on this?”

And Thomas said:  “Do we have to get this signed?”

And Phillip said:  “I don’t have any paper.”

And Bartholomew said:  “Do we have to turn this in?”

And John said: “The other disciples didn’t have to learn this.”

And Matthew said: “May I go to the boys’ room?”

And Judas said: “What does this have to do with real life?”

Then one of the Pharisees who was present asked to see Jesus’ lesson plan and inquired of Jesus:

“Where is your anticipatory set, your aim (long-term goals), your objectives in the cognitive domain?”

AND JESUS WEPT!

Count it All Joy? You Have to Be Kidding me!!

What a year 2020 was! Coronavirus – and all the uncertainty and problems that has created. Loss of jobs/income, loss of ability to travel freely to name just a few. Division over wearing a mask or not wearing one.

The election also brought such division and unrest.

The arguments over BLM.

We were looking forward to 2021 – but now that it is here – I am not sure this year is shaping up to be much different than 2020.

So as Christians, how are we supposed to respond?

I turn to the writer of James and see that he started off his letter with the words “Greetings.” The word James used is “chariein” and it means basically “to rejoice exceedingly” or “to be well.”  Used as a greeting James was essentially saying “joy to you.”  “Joy to you” seems a great way to start a letter to friends.  Hey, I’m wishing you joy, happiness, that you do well.  We do this for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas. 

However just after he says “joy to you” he begins speaking of anything but joyful times or situations. On continuing to read this letter it is clear that James is not just being friendly in wishing his readers joy.  After saying “joy to you” he immediately speaks of times of difficulty, trials, tests.

Difficulties. Tough times. Kind of like we have been experiencing. Situations that do not naturally led to joy.

The word he uses for testings is not referring to something like our tests in schools that are designed to reveal what the student knows. Rather, James is referring to something that reveals the genuiness of one’s faith, but he also implies this test is designed to develop something that is not yet fully developed in a person.

He says:

trials/testings = perservance/endurance = mature character             

James was writing to fellow Jews who were facing difficult times.  He is encouraging them to let these times help them grow in the Lord and not be an interruption in their relationship as a servant to the Lord.

Questions he raises and which I submit to you:

  1. Is any trial a reason not to rely on God and allow His joy to fill your heart?
  2. Even in trials, is there ever a reason a Christian should curse another or call them names?
  3. Even in difficult times, is there ever a reason a Christian should engage in grumbling about others?

James says “Don’t let difficult times stop you from obeying and following the Lord.  In the middle of trials, that is the time to put into practice what you say you believe.”

In my words I would say “put your money where your mouth is.” Growing up in church we heard all about the Sermon on the Mount and all Jesus said about turning the other cheek, loving your enemies and praying for them, being peacemakers. Sadly it seems many have either forgotten those words – or have tried to make them mean something else.

I ask you: Did Jesus “really” mean it when He said:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Shut My Mouth!

This past year has been so full of noise. So many voices approving this point of view – attacking that point of view. If the voices had only been speaking of ideas, beliefs, policies, it might have been a good year of honest open debate. Sadly, I have found there was little true debate. It seems we all went into our own corners and listened only to those we agreed with.

The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply….Stephen R. Covey

Everyone has a right to be heard, but only if they are willing to listen to others in an attempt to understand….Eric Overby

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen….Winston Churchill

Know these my beloved brethren, let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger….James 1:19

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion….Proverbs 18:2

To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people….Titus 3:2

I have been guilty myself of giving my opinion whether wanted or not, adding my own thoughts to all the posts and articles out there. In my devotion today I really felt convicted in my spirit as the Lord reminded me that my primary focus should be on Him and not the craziness around me.

I know many Christians are afraid of the new administration and what that might mean to the Christian freedoms. But looking at the Early Church I want to follow their example.

In Acts 5 we see where the apostles were put in prison for sharing the gospel and then warned not to do it again. Their response:

The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.  Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.

Note that they did not argue with the Sanhedrin, they did not complain or start a political movement. They praised God they were worthy of suffering for the cause of Christ and kept on proclaiming the good news about Jesus.

Earlier in Acts 4 after being imprisoned and then released the apostles met with the church and told them of the threats they had received. If that happened today – if my pastor was arrested and told not to speak any more about the Gospel – I imagine the prayer meeting that would follow would be for a cry for protection – for justice – for our rights to speak. However that was not where their focus was. Rather they prayed:

Sovereign Lord, you made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them….Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. THEY DID WHAT YOUR POWER AND WILL HAD DECIDED BEFOREHAND SHOULD HAPPEN. Now Lord consider their threats and ENABLE YOUR SERVANTS TO SPEAK YOUR WORD WITH GREAT BOLDNESS. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I know there are times when injustice requires us to speak out. I could also post that famous quote “Bad things happen when good men do nothing.” But to me today I have decided to leave all the discussions and comments to others. Going forward in 2021, this song I have attached is my prayer.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight O Lord!

Persistent Prayer

A parable Jesus told about the importance of prayer has often made me wonder.

He tells of a widow who went to the local judge to ask him to intervene in her behalf. Apparently there was someone who was treating her unfairly and she wanted help in resolving this dispute. According to the Mosaic Law judges were never to show partiality.

And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s.

Jesus tells us that this judge just ignores her. Whether he did it because he was trying to protect a friend, to gain favor with someone, or was just indifferent without any compassion we do not know. Clearly he was an incompetent judge and should not have been allowed to remain in that position.

The woman is persistent and will not stop coming to the judge and asking for help. Finally, Jesus tells us, that the judge hears her case simply because she was driving him crazy. “She is wearing me out with her constant requests.”

Jesus then ends the parable by telling us that if this unjust judge would do what was right in the face of someone who would not give up, how much more would God answer His children’s cries for help.

In the past as I read this parable I wondered why God would compare Himself to an unjust judge and thereby imply we needed to keep asking Him for our needs. Did that mean if I keep asking for something – even though it might not be the right thing or me or in line with God’s Word – God will give it to me? That is actually a frightening thought to me. I can think of some prayers I have asked that later I was so glad God did not give me what I asked for.

As I study the Bible more I am learning to take Scripture in the total context. So I noticed that Jesus ended this with a question.

When the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on earth who have faith?

Some Bible scholars have said Jesus was simply pointing out the need for His followers to trust Him regardless of whether it seemed their prayers were being answered. I get that. When I pray I need to trust that God is faithful and leave the “when” “where” and “how” to Him.

But as I looked at that today thinking of my own prayer life, I saw something else. Persistent prayer and my faith in God are fundamentally connected. As in any relationship, honest and consistent communication are necessary if that relationship is to grow and remain strong.

When I first met my husband I knew only a few facts about him. Slowly as we dated and shared our fears, hopes, dreams I came to know him. I felt I knew him enough to marry him and pledge my love until death we do part. But today after almost 37 years of communicating I realize how little I really knew him on my wedding day. My knowledge of him today is very deep – I think it is safe to say I know him better than anyone else.

So I think Jesus was telling us that if we want our faith to grow and be strong until the very end of our life, we need to be persistent in our prayer time. In contrast to the unjust judge, Jesus is telling us that God’s character is just the opposite. Of course, He will hear the cries of his children. Trusting in His character and His goodness, we must never give up hope as we pray.