Monthly Archives: December 2013

When The Path is Dark

Rhodesian Bush path at dark.

Rhodesian Bush path at dark.

WHEN THE PATH IS DARK

Yesterday, December 28, 2013 was a day thousands of Americans had their fragile life line of Unemployment benefits severed. The flickering light of hope was extinguished and the path ahead lay in darkness. Glyn and I are among those who fall into this category of uncertainty.  He lost his job as a Hospice Chaplain nearly 8 agonizing months ago, every door he has tried has remained closed and now he is facing turning 70 years old in twelve days’ time. There are those who are fortunate enough to retire comfortably at his age but sadly that is not the case for us.

For several weeks now I have wrestled with anxiety filled emotions, bombarded God with questions concerning His faithfulness to us yet, found no answers.  I told Glyn yesterday I was experiencing a “crisis of faith”!

Today while meditating on the Word and desperately searching for just a “crumb” from God’s promises; three, seemingly insignificant things happened, that I firmly believe were orchestrated by God.

First a friend posted a thought on Face Book that grabbed my attention big time! I would like to quote the portion of his comments that particularly spoke directly to my heart:

“If you spend time worrying, fretting and stewing over tomorrow’s problems you have actually taken away the joy, peace, serenity and loveliness of today. None of us have that many todays to squander on things that may never be a today problem, when we actually get there. Enjoy today’s ride with its many blessings and deal with the problems at hand that you are confronted with.” (Quote by Phillip Webb)

I sat mulling over the powerful truth that our friend had posted. It was so true! Each day that God gives us EVEN IF THE PATH BEFORE IS DARK, is a day to be lived to the fullest while we immerse ourselves in the joy of God’s provision for THAT day. Tomorrow’s fears and problems might never come but if they do, God will be there to shine a light on the darkened path!

The second thing that happened was while I was letting this truth sink deep with in my heart, the Lord reminded me of an experience Glyn and I had while missionaries in Africa. We were at Rufaro Mission in Rhodesia. There was no electricity on the Mission compound, so for the most part we used the old hurricane lanterns to give a measure of light, once darkness set in. On this particular evening we needed to walk from the house down to the kraal (corral) to check on a cow that had given birth to a calf that day. As we stepped out onto the verandah, the darkness enveloped us like a blindfold as our eyes tried desperately to adjust to the deep night. Glyn was carrying a hurricane lantern – its yellow light radiated a few feet on the path, giving us very little warning of any type of danger lurking in the darkness ahead. We were accustomed to the deep darkness of the African night so walked confidently in the little circle of light the lantern gave us. Just as we were about halfway to the cow kraal, Glyn let out a gasp and told me to stand still and not move my feet. In the glimmer of the outer reaches of the hurricane lantern’s light was a Puff Adder stretched across the path. One more step and we would have stepped on it. The Puff Adder is a “back fanged” viper, so it strikes backwards and its poison fangs penetrate deep into the flesh. This was not a snake you wanted to mess with! As I remembered this incident that we experienced over 30 years ago, I once again felt the Lord nudging me.

Yes, our future path is dark and fearful but we do not walk it alone – the Lord WALKS ALONGSIDE US and His Word is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path so I did not have to become anxious about our future! His Word gives us this promise:

Psalm 119:105 (NKJV) Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Finally the third thing that happened was in my daily readings I always read a Psalm along with other passages of scripture I am following. Today I read Psalm 27 and once again the Lord was waiting to drop another “orchestrated promise” on me.  I came to verse fourteen and just stopped reading and let the words of that verse soak over me as the gentle surf rolls onto the shoreline.

Psalm 27:14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. 

I have to confess that my first reaction was: “You have to be kidding Lord! We have already waited for nearly 8 months!! You really want us to wait some more?””

Waiting is one of the hardest things to do in the entire world! (Many are still waiting, impatiently I might add, for Christmas packages to arrive!).

Waiting on the Lord is a different matter. God loves us more than we can even imagine. Everything He does in our life shows His perfect love for us EVEN WHEN HE HAS US WAIT!

Once I had swallowed the pill of instruction to WAIT, I was able to digest the rest of the verse.

The Psalmist instructs us that while waiting we are to BE STRONG. Anxiety, worrying and stewing are not descriptions of “being strong”.  These words don’t even belong in the same sentence!

Being strong means that when our path is dark before us we are to walk by faith and not by sight!

The next thing that verse encouraged me to do was to “TAKE HEART AND WAIT”.  The Psalmist did not say “take heart and run”………… but “take heart and wait”! This tells me that Glyn and I can wait in CONFIDENCE; no matter how dark and uncertain our future appears God has already gone before us and day by day He will order our steps.

So my friends when the path before you is dark and uncertain; WAIT, BE STRONG AND TAKE HEART for the Lord is with you!

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Defended and Covered

African Fish Eagle

African Fish Eagle

DEFENDED & COVERED

“As birds flying, so will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem.” Isa. 31:5 

During these days of uncertainty for Glyn and I while it seems God has us in a “holding pattern”, it never ceases to amaze me that in my moments of fear and anxiety about what our future holds; God swiftly beings comfort and assurance through whispers from his Word. The scripture I read this morning was once again reminding me that the Lord is our provider and protector through a beautiful word picture.  I love birds and over the years have studied them, hung feeders and bird houses for them and been taught many spiritual lessons from them.

A mother bird is a force to be reckoned with when her brood of chicks is in harm’s way. Swiftly on feathered wing the mother bird swoops in to protect her young. She wastes no time in her own pleasure when it comes to supplying them with food, or guarding them from danger. I have watched a mother bird attack a marauding snake that was attempting to destroy the chicks in the nest. She has no fear, no matter how large the enemy, tenaciously attacking the predator of the chicks.

So too, with the speed of eagle’s wings, the Lord will come to the defense of His children; He will ride upon the winds of the very storm that is battering His child.

Going back to the picture of the mother bird; I have seen her cover the chicks in the nest with her outspread wings when a fierce storm is lashing the nest. She hides them away by letting her own body suffer the beating of the wind and driving rain. The hen yields her own warmth to her chicks, and makes her wings a house, in which they remain in total security.

This can well describe how the Lord Himself becomes our protection in the overwhelming storms of our life. He Himself is our refuge, our shelter and our sustainer in every situation that life dishes out to us.

As birds flying, and birds covering (for the word means both), so will the Lord be to His trusting child: not just once but over and over again during our journey in this troubled world.

We SHALL be defended and preserved from ALL evil and His daily provisions are sure.

Let me add at this point that the Lord, who the scripture verse likens to the birds of the air, is not be like them in their feebleness, for He is God of the universe who is ALL POWERFUL! Our Lord is Omnipotent and nothing can stand in His way.

Let this be our comfort today especially for those who are struggling, remember the Almighty love will be swift to succor, and sure to cover. The wing of God is quicker and gentler than the wing of a bird, so we can put our trust under His shadow in confidence and without fear of what our tomorrows hold!

Gift of Strength & Peace

Psalm 29:11

Psalm 29:11

GIFT OF STRENGTH & PEACE

This is the season of giving. The commercialization of the Christmas Season does not reflect the true meaning of the season. Gifts that are most precious are unexpected gifts given from the heart. As all our Face Book friends know, Glyn lost his job back in May of this year. It has not been easy by any stretch of the imagination wondering what our future holds, especially as the rejection letters pile up and the reality of finding steady work is fading fast.

I have days where my faith is strong in God’s provision but then I have days when my faith falters. The Lord knows my thoughts and it is during these times of faltering that He sends a “gift” in one form or another as a gentle reminder that He has not abandoned us. Last night was an example of God’s loving   care for us; that came in the form of a family, who despite bitterly cold temperatures shoveled the six inches of snow from our driveway. Through-out these long months of our world being turned upside down God has shown His care in unique and tangible ways.

I love the Psalms and go back to them time and time again; especially when anxiety becomes my companion. Today I found myself going down that all too familiar road of “what if…….” which only resulted in anxiety starting to creep into my heart. So I knew it was time to turn to the Psalms and draw strength and direction from the Word! I read Psalm 29 which closes with a powerful statement.

“The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.” Ps. 29:11

In this Psalm David had just heard the voice of the Lord in a thunderstorm; had seen the power of His voice in its ability to shake the earth and splinter the huge cedars of Lebanon. Nothing has the capacity to withstand the powerful voice of the Lord. Not unemployment; not rejection; not schemes of evil beings; or even aging bodies!  The sound of God’s voice defending His child causes the whole of creation to tremble.

Then the Psalmist notes in the cool calm after the storm, that the overwhelming power by which Heaven and earth are shaken is promised to be the strength of the hurting Child of God.

THINK ABOUT IT:

He who flings the air cleaving lightning bolt will give His redeemed the wings of eagles to soar above the storm.

He who shakes the earth with His voice will terrify the enemies of His saints and give His children peace.

So I ask myself these questions:

Why am I weak when I have divine strength to escape to?

Why am I troubled when the Lord’s own peace is mine?

The mighty God who with His spoken Word brought this creation into existence is my strength.

The answer to my questions:

I can with confidence immerse myself in His strength and joyfully face the unknown of my tomorrows.  The Lord is also my peace; as I rest in His arms, peace will bring an end to my fears.

That same God who rides upon the storm in our days of tempest will also rule the hurricane of our tribulation; enveloping His trusting child with an over-riding peace.

We shall have strength for storms, and songs for fair weather.

So away, dark thoughts…….they are vanquished at the sound of His Voice!

Let us begin to sing to God Who is our strength and our peace.

We can sing with confidence……….”HE IS MY PEACE, HE HAS BROKEN DOWN EVERY WALL…..”

When you see this -Sound the alarm

Sounding the alarm

Sounding the alarm

WHEN YOU SEE THIS – SOUND THE ALARM 

The seasons of the year arrive then pass, each with its own unique fingerprint.

Spring brings gentle rains that caress the sleeping vegetation awake; turning the dormant landscape to a feathery green with meadows ablaze with vibrant wild flowers. Song birds fill the air with joyful trills as they prepare their nests for their new brood of babies. Spring brings a sense of hope, anticipation and expectancy in the new life that is bursting forth.

Gradually the soft spring sunshine gives way to hot summer days, where even the breezes stirred by the wind give little relief from the unrelenting heat. Heavy rains deluge the parched earth; farmer’s plantings grow rapidly reaching to the sunlight that gives them life. The local lake or swimming pool becomes a favorite haunt for both young and old alike. Summer is a time for industrious work mixed with times of relaxation, fun and laughter.

Then the season known as autumn imperceptibly starts to touch the landscape. Soft colors invade the leaves until finally they turn into brilliant hues that become a visual enchantment.  Autumn, though beautiful, serves to signal a warning that the harsh cold winds of winter, soon will cast its freezing cloak upon the land.

Autumn leaves by Chuck Flewelling Photography

Autumn leaves by Chuck Flewelling Photography

Autumn is “sounding the alarm” with its flamboyant colors, warning wild life and humans to prepare for the rigors of winter.

In the spiritual realm the church universal has gone through “seasons” in its growth. Initially it was vibrant, filled with new life giving growth and excitement. The summer season of hard work slowly took its toll on congregations that were not grounded in correctly prepared soil (doctrine) and mad-made programs and ideas insidiously crept in. These ideologies moved the church’s focus from the pure teaching in the Word to a more “user friendly” model.

I firmly believe that the world and the church are clearly in the “autumn season” of time.  The spiritual summer season has lulled the church into a lethargic, complacent attitude.

IT IS TIME TO SOUND THE ALARM! OUR BIBLICAL AUTUMN IS UPON US! 

Recently I have been reading through the book of Nehemiah.  There are some valuable lessons we can take from Nehemiah’s experience of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah was a man of integrity that had a “heart for God”. When he discovered the decaying, desolate condition of Jerusalem he determined to do something about it.

The condition Nehemiah found is a classic picture to me of the modern church. The truth of the Gospel has taken a back seat and been replaced by political correctness of this godless age.

Nehemiah calls the rag tag band of people together and this is the challenge he throws out:  (Nehemiah 2:17) Then I said to them, “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.”

The people responded with joy and agreed to help Nehemiah, yet we see that trouble was lurking just around the corner, in the form of the leaders of Jerusalem!  You would think that there would be a concerted move among these leaders to follow Nehemiah’s example but that is not the case. It just took THREE MEN to sow seeds of discord. Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem (Nehemiah 2:19-20) quickly withstood any attempt to repair the broken down walls and conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion. (Nehemiah 4:7-8)

Satan has learned that his most effective tool to hamper the work of God is to fight the church from WITHIN ITS OWN RANKS!

Look at the lengths these men went to, to foil the rebuilding of the walls:

  1. They scorned the workers. (Nehemiah 2:9)
  2. They became angry and used ridicule as a weapon. (Nehemiah 4:1-3)
  3. Their next weapon they pulled out of their deceitful hearts was they conspired to cause conflict.
  4. When all of these tactics failed they went after Nehemiah making false accusations against him. (Nehemiah Ch. 6)

WHAT A PICTURE OF THE CHURCH OF TODAY!

Nehemiah was not going to be stopped by the plans of these carnal men.  He called the people together and devised a strategy to win this battle. (Nehemiah 4:17-18)

  1. The carriers of the stones and the builders on the wall would carry their tools in one hand and have a weapon ready to use with their other hand.
  2. One man would be assigned the duty of blowing the trumpet to sound the alarm of an impending attack.
  3. Nehemiah’s last instruction was a great statement of faith.

Nehemiah 4:20 (NKJV)  “Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” 

Church it is time to shake ourselves and awake from our lethargy! Our spiritual autumn is upon us and we need to SOUND THE ALARM!

God WILL have His church, but it WILL be a church that does not have soiled garments from compromising with the gods of this age!  It WILL be a church that is pure, determined, armed and focused on the call of God! 

FRIENDS IT IS TIME TO STAND UP AND BE COUNTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS!

Credits: Autumn leaves by Chuck Flewelling Photography

Courage in the Face of Death

Male lion taken at Inyati Game Lodge

Male lion taken at Inyati Game Lodge

COURAGE IN THE FACE OF DEATH 

 It was another hot sultry day in Rhodesia, perspiration was beading on my face and my clothes kept sticking to my skin. Even the softest whisper of a breeze brought welcomed relief.  Glyn and I were busy preparing our camping gear, food and water for trip to a village in the bush. We had planned this trip many weeks before, the word had gone out that “Mfundisi and Amai” (our African names) were coming to preach. Even though we wouldn’t be leaving for ten days we had to make sure all our supplies were in good order as the village was remote; there would be no convenience stores that this modern generation takes for granted. Once again it was going to be a hot dusty trip over bush dirt roads but we were used to traveling under these conditions. The African bush held no fear for us, actually it was “home” to us and we knew that each trip would be different from previous ones. Around many rocky corners the adrenaline pumping thrill of wild Africa would make its presence known one way or another! No matter how many of these encounters we experienced; I can say we never grew weary of the mystery and wonder of the Rhodesian bush-veld. Sadly we had moved into an era in Rhodesia where our beautiful country was being pillaged and torn apart by a terrorist war. Any time we traveled to an area that was off the beaten track we were targets for these ruthless killers. While we went down through our checklists of supplies in our home in Hartley, we were totally unaware that another drama of life and death was being played out on our behalf.

An African school teacher that taught in one of the District schools was travelling with three other men from Karoi to their home village. He was planning on attending the meetings we were holding as he spoke English fluently as well as the dialect of that area; so he was a great help during the preaching services. Suddenly they were brought to a grinding halt as the road was blocked by a group of men carrying AK 47 rifles, aimed straight at them. The gun toting men demanded that everyone get out of the car and kneel in the dirt. They began to beat on them with their rifle butts demanding to know where they were going and threatening to kill them if they did not answer to their satisfaction. Teacher Petros, (name changed for his protection), took it upon himself to be the spokesman for the terrified men. He explained they were simply returning to their homes to see their families. After what seemed like an eternity of paralyzing terror the four men were told to get up and instructed that they were not to tell anyone of this encounter. Before they released the four men though; the armed men asked for directions to the very area that we were planning to go to. They boasted that they had heard a white missionary was going to be there and they planned on killing the white people. Teacher Petros kept silent as he did not want the armed men to know that he had ties to us as they would kill him instantly making him an example of what happens to people who are friends to the white man. After being released they arrived in the small town where their homes were only to discover this band of armed men had already visited causing untold carnage including raiding the small local post office, going through the mail to see if anyone was reporting their presence in the area to the Security Forces.

Now Teacher Petros knew he had to make a decision. He had to get word to us to warn us to cancel the meetings as there would be an ambush waiting for us; on the other hand he would be putting his own life on the line as the only way of communicating with us was to send a letter. Knowing that the terrorists were intercepting the mail he knew he could well be signing his own death warrant but courage in the face of fear rose in his heart and he speedily penned the warning to us. As soon as the letter arrived Glyn contacted the Security detail in our area and alerted them to the presence of a group of terrorist heading to this particular village. As a result of Teacher Petros’s selfless act of bravery the tables were turned, the terrorists found themselves caught in an ambush of well-trained Security forces!  To this day we owe a debt to a loyal African teacher who was willing to put his own life on the line to save ours.

The greatest courage of all is showing courage in the face of fear. I have heard it said, “Courage is just fear that has said its prayers.”

When you know you have heard clearly from God, you are filled with faith in that moment. It puts steel in your spine. But then as you move out in faith, you encounter the lions of fear.

Questions roar persistently in your mind……….“What if this doesn’t work? What if I fail? What will people say?” Suddenly you’re having an attack of the “what ifs.”

Mark Twain said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”  

You have to decide whether you’re going to become a WARRIOR – or a WORRIER.

There is no middle ground. When you’re faced with a health crisis or a family crisis or a financial crisis, you either choose to stand on God’s Word and fight, or give in to worry.

This side of heaven we will never fully understand why bad things happen to good people. But we know that God is good – all the time! So when bad things happen, you will either give in to fear and allow it to destroy your peace and well-being, or you will become a warrior armed with God’s Word and rise up against the “lions of fear”.

Cling to the promise in God’s Word; when fear threatens to engulf your mind, stand up with the Psalmist and say, “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You” (Ps 56:3 NKJV).