Our Little Bebop

We carefully backed our camper van in among the trees of our new campsite, which was elevated on a ridge about four feet beside a lake. The local ducks and geese soon found us. After welcoming us to ‘their’ lake, they told us they were ‘starving.’ Squirrels quickly descended from the live oaks draped with Spanish moss shading our lot.

One seemed to live in the tree beside our van, because he came several times every day to request a handout. We handed out saltine crackers, having nothing else a squirrel might desire.

He’d hold them in his front paws like a pizza box, and then spin them around from corner to corner, nibbling as he turned. We named him Chester.

The ducks and geese received carrot and potato peels. They gladly gobbled them up, being the freeloaders that they are, and immediately asked for more. After receiving the same thing morning after morning, they soon tired of the peels and demanded ‘real’ food. Chester continued coming down and asking for another saltine. Then he’d run back up the tree, returning two seconds later to ask for one more. How could he eat a cracker in less than two seconds? One day we spotted him stashing the latest cracker on a high limb before he ran back down. We also noticed that he was gaining quite a bit of weight. His name was soon changed to Chesterina, because ‘she’ was heavy with child(ren)!

We put our slow cooker right outside our van at night, so our food would be done cooking when we got up the next day (and to keep it from heating up our van as we slept!)

Another ‘woodland creature’ appeared not long after we started using it—a little calico cat with no tail. She was smaller than the average cat and did not have enough to eat or a home.

She was afraid of people, and would very cautiously approach our campsite hoping for a handout. But she’d run off out of sight if we approached her to offer something. We began leaving a bit of food for her on a picnic table at another site. Then we’d leave and watch and wait. She came around when the coast was clear to claim her handout. But the irresistible smell of cooked meat in our slow cooker every morning began drawing her a little closer to our van every day. One morning we found her hiding under our van, hoping something might fall out of the slow cooker and become hers!

The weeks went by, and she played in the leaves and caught lizards to eat because she couldn’t find anything else. Her generic name around the park was “Bobtail.” A large male calico cat, who was more adept at getting handouts, started coming around our site—drawn by the odor coming from the slow cooker. He would intimidate Bobtail and push her aside to claim whatever we might be offering that day for himself. She was too small and timid to fight back. So she would back off and let him have whatever he wanted. Hence, her lizard diet.

My husband noticed her dilemma. He would yell at the male calico to leave when he saw him coming around and would chase him away if he wouldn’t go. After a few days, Bobtail caught on that she now had a knight in shining armor who would defend her! She was really warming up to us and becoming less timid all the time.

One day she stood between my husband’s legs as he was threatening the male cat, and did the cat version of sticking her tongue out at him, saying, “So there! You heard him! Now don’t come back!” Then he ran off.

After a month or two, we moved from the tiny lot beside the lake to a larger site within the park. Before long, a little calico bobtailed cat came timidly creeping up to our patio! We introduced her to the novelty of dry cat food and put some out for her regularly. She decided that she didn’t need to be afraid of us anymore. We wanted to give her a name that was not so generic, but similar to the one she already knew, so we settled on “Bebop.” Since she had never lived with people, everything we did for her was a new treat. Sometimes we’d pour some liquid from a can of tuna into her water. She’d gingerly walk over and try it, then say, “Wow! They even have flavored water here!” What a delight she was!

Once Bebop began to know and trust my husband, she relied on him to protect her. When she stood between my husband’s legs, she had faith in him that he would look out for her.

She only weighed nine pounds, but the bigger cat would turn and run off. He was not afraid of her—he was afraid of what my husband might do to him if he hurt or mistreated her! She was no longer timid and afraid around that cat, because she knew that her ‘knight’ would take up her cause and defend her! She stood up to her bully (as long as he was there over her), although there was no way she could protect her little self on her own if the bigger cat came after her.

cross at sunset

Paul writes that we are to “…be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil (Ephesians 6:10-11).” (Notice that we are to put on God’s armor, not our own.)

Being “strong in the Lord” means that we believe that God is our source of strength, and then rely on Him and the promises He has made to us so we can stand against the devil’s attacks.

It does not mean being strong in our own self, but only through the One in whom our real strength lies (literally, “Be strengthened with power.”) Apart from Him we can do nothing. By having faith in Him, we can “…do all things through Christ which strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

“…in the power of His might” refers to …the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power” (Ephesians 1:19). Your own strength is really weakness when battling the devil, but the strength of Jesus Christ’s power is almighty.

To the devil, we are timid little nine pound nothings. He is not afraid of us in the least.

But when we put on the armor of God and stand up to him relying on God’s strength, he runs off! He knows he cannot take on God and win! Bebop would say, “I can do all things through my hero who looks out for me!” And I say to you, “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might!

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The Lonely Ones of God

young Japanese woman looking over railing

Many people fear loneliness. But for a child of God in His service, being alone is a necessity—because God’s way is a lonely way. If you are going to lead others as God directs, it requires a certain amount of loneliness. You cannot take friends along with you, even though they may provide you a great deal of comfort.

Anyone can go with the crowd. But how many can turn and go in the other direction—alone? Nothing but God’s grace can make it possible for a man to face any obstacle—alone.

You need to be able to stand like a solid rock that nothing can move, even if the whole world pushes against you! It is boldness like this in the name of the Lord that is worthy of His grace. Do you count all the difficulties that you encounter? You don’t need to. Why not count how many times God has gotten you through difficulties you considered insurmountable instead! In fact, it is better to have more difficult situations, and fewer friends, because more grace will be poured out on you to help you stand firm in your lonely situation—with your faith resting solely on God.

O man or woman of God, don’t think of yourself as alone! God never leaves you unprotected. You would be amazed if you could see all the mighty angelic bodyguards surrounding you all the time!

You have no right to complain of loneliness, therefore, because you never really are alone. Nor do you have to fear evil, because “thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4). When you know the Lord is with you, you will be able to go through loneliness, illness, grieving, poverty, and even terrifying torment. Yet you never need to doubt the Lord, or give up on Him, in spite of what you may go through. In fact, your song can still be full of joy, even if you have to pass through “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4). This is the victory that your faith in Him provides!

man sitting on bench with distant mountains

Are you a child of God in some remote place, far from any friend, known by no one? Even if you have only a hut to live in, and are not near any group of Christians, don’t let your spirit be down. Lift up your voice and sing to God! He will hear you and comfort you and remain with you. Maybe you rent a room in the middle of a crowded city, without even one person you can call a friend. The Lord sees you and can help you to thrive in the midst of your loneliness, even in a crowd. He has not forgotten you and is not neglecting you.

You can’t see God’s presence when He is working on your behalf. But those who know Him and fellowship with Him can sense His presence, nevertheless.

When your ears have been constantly trained by faith, you will hear God’s ‘footsteps’ nearby. Do you ever sit in sorrow, feeling all alone at times? Every so often, lift your head and listen for that gentle whisper telling you “It is I; be not afraid” (John 6:20). “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him…” (Psalm 25:14). Instead of trying to avoid loneliness, retreat every once in a while to a private corner alone. Tell your heart to rejoice, and then break into a song of praise unto God.

 

woman standing water at sunset

Sometimes the Holy Spirit stirs you inside, calling you to come away and be alone with God. Do not take your own good time responding to His call. If you are truly born again, you need private prayer time just to live! The Spirit calls you to spend much time in loneliness. This is to your advantage, so you will have a chance to prove whether you are truly trusting only in God. There are also times when you can get very alone, and then discover that no one will be kind to you. At times like this, lean solely on the Lord. He has the power to provide the comfort you need and He will prove it to you. Then you will discover more of what God is to His people. Get alone with God and the damage done by the noise and worry and shouting of the world will be repaired in your life.

Man of God, woman of God, you don’t need to feel the pain of being lonely. No matter where you may be at any given time, God is there. All you need to do is to pray, and you and God will be together. Bring Him to mind, and you’ll find Him walking with you that very moment. Go to Him with all your needs and He will lay His hand upon you. He is your dependable, inexhaustible source of supply and support. Devote yourself to Him and you will find that lonely, narrow path which leads to His unending love.

man looking out window

No one who ever lived experienced more loneliness than Jesus did. He knows just what it’s like to be lonely and forsaken—even by His own brothers. Therefore, His sympathy is endless for all who feel alone and forsaken. But who did Jesus turn to when He was afflicted and set apart from others? Who could He uncover His innermost feelings and thoughts to? No one but His Heavenly Father. He prayed and asked for His assistance humbly and earnestly, time after time. All of His sorrow and complaints He brought to Him. And His heavenly Father answered them all and comforted Him.

Lonely one, you are not truly alone. The Spirit of the One crucified on the cross of Calvary is with you right now, whispering gently in your ear: “Fear not: for I am with thee” (Isaiah 43:5). He “is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). He promised that He will never leave you, nor forsake you. Let Him be your source of comfort whenever you are in danger of succumbing to the pain of loneliness.

Trusting Your Way

old library

Trapped of his own accord, he suddenly found himself captive in a strange world of literature, caverns, and old, scratched tile floors. While this new world would seem very warm and humid to others, he found it quite pleasant, no different than the land he had become detached from. He determined that an extremely tall, thin, flexible mesh obscured his passage to freedom. He carefully crawled across to another panel of the same mesh. Was there hope for freedom there? Of course not! In fact, this side harbored even less of a chance of escape—if only he had known it. He observed the world that lay on the other side of this flexible surface, a world he had once been part of. He breathed in its fragrance and longed for more, but with less hindrance. Making a sudden glance in the opposite direction and a quick maneuver, he sprang back to the other side. Seeing no improvement in his situation there, he pondered some more and made his next move to the painted wood surface adjacent to his current position.

Inch by inch, he scaled the towering white wall. Upon reaching a small landing, he carefully traversed it while surveying his newfound domain. It was a vast (and not necessarily inviting) continent with odd structures in the center. Did he find any part of this unusual world appealing? No. But he did ascertain a need to explore the odd cliffs and caverns just a crumb’s throw beneath where he was stationed. His appetite and thirst beckoned him to find some means of satisfaction. After lurking around and behind the works of Lescroart, Macomber, Meltzer, and Patterson, he grew dissatisfied and returned to his post to observe the world below him again. It seemed little had changed in his brief absence. Oh, how he longed to be in his own familiar world again, with its abundance of delectable morsels and refreshing afternoon showers!

Then he descended back along the narrow painted wall and onto the mesh surface again with exquisite agility. Had there been any improvement in detecting a means of a retreat from this land of captivity? Following another routine search, he came to a negative conclusion. Think. Think. Think, he told himself. There must be a way to return to the joyous land of no restraint. His sharp eye spotted a small hole in the mesh. Could it be? He knew he was of the lesser variety in terms of size and diameter, but definitely not that much. Disappointed again, he turned, and with much haste, journeyed back up to his elevated observation post on the top of the towering wooden wall that lay next to the great bulwarks of Coulter, Crichton, and Cussler.

This time, he realized he was not alone. But the huge living creature he spotted seated in the center of this vast land was not of a variety that he would choose to enter into fellowship with. His monitoring of both the strange surroundings, as well as the strange, almost motionless giant proved uninteresting. Yet he sensed that he was being observed as well. After an extended period of lingering, he concluded that this immense territory needed to be explored in areas far beyond what he had previously investigated, not to mention the fact that he was now quite hungry. After a momentary pause, he quickly returned down the wooden tower and rechecked the mesh surface for any changes of its impenetrability. After seeing that it was still not possible to make an easy exit, he then proceeded to scale the vast caverns and corridors of the opposite side of this challenging (and very dry) world of paper, ink, and wood.

Meanwhile, back in the center of this “vast land,” the “giant” continues to write his narrative about a little gecko lizard that managed to slip in through an opening in the frame of a window screen of a warm, cramped library. He noticed how easily and innocently the lizard managed to get himself into the room, but could not figure out how to get himself out again. Then the “giant” pondered how easily people also get themselves into a predicament, and then try to figure out on their own how to escape. He noted that, like this lizard, they often search and search for the exit, never realizing it is only a short distance away from where they had been looking. How often they travel all around the exit, but never actually to the exit itself.

gecko on computer mouse

The lizard tried to find its way out, yet all it did was retrace its steps over and over again. When it branched out into what it thought was another way out, it only moved farther from its entry point and a way of escape. It would very likely never escape if left to its own devices. When someone makes a commitment to God, they have chosen to follow and obey only Him. They have no right at that point to chart their own path, because they now belong to Him and have come under His direction and care. Those who surrender their life to God cannot go off into just any place on their own initiative.

Many people seem to think that they can agree to surrender their life to God while continuing to chart their own course without Him.

This is what happens when people refuse to seek God for direction in their life. They let self be lord over their life, and not God, through His Son, Jesus. While they may not do this intentionally, they still hurt Him when they want to continue on without Him. It is not that God desperately needs them—God doesn’t need anyone! Rather, everyone needs God. What is the point of having a relationship with someone else if one person goes off in his own direction while the other goes the opposite way? When a person surrenders his heart and life to God, then God wants love and companionship and obedience to Him and what He says in His Word, the Bible. “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him…” (Psalms 37:5).

arrows graphic

This lizard thought it knew where it was going. How right it seemed, yet it was still trapped and could not find the way out. How many times does this happen in your life? How often do you simply let go and let God order your steps? When was the last time that you determined that you were going to trust in God, and then actually trusted in Him? You need to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). The more you trust in God, the less you will want to trust in yourself. Then you will begin to see just how helpless you really are and how helpful He is. This lizard may never find his way out, but this does not have to be the end result for you. It did not have the means to have a personal relationship with God and His Son. But you do! Put your trust in God and keep it there. Let Him be your guide to lead you in the right path, instead of yourself.

A Strong Tower

scrabo tower

You are in a bad predicament. Your enemy has you surrounded and is closing in quickly. What should you do? Run!

Me, run?

Yes, you! Run. Run to the nearest fortified protection.

But that’s retreating. I don’t retreat, I fight!

So you are going to fight an enemy that is always more powerful than you are? An enemy you can’t always see?

Well, if I try and apply myself hard enough, I’ll surely make some kind of headway and then I’ll round up some reinforcements.

But you will not be retreating in defeat and you won’t need any reinforcements if you’ll do what I just said!

But where do I run? I don’t see anything but some tower nearby.

That’s it, exactly!

It looks so isolated and I’m sure I’m going to be trapped when I get inside! Oh, now I see—a trap! Some help you are, sending me into a stuffy old tower in the middle of nowhere with an impossible enemy bearing down on me!

It’s not a trap. Are your plans any better? How are you going to fight with nothing but your bare hands?

I’ll make some kind of weapon with whatever is around me. I’m really a very resourceful person, you know. Look, rocks and pebbles! Yes! That’s what I’ll do. I’ll gather up lots of these and pelt the enemy in the eye, the face, or wherever I can do some harm. That’s it! I’ll be like David in the Bible, where he took some stones and knocked the life out of a giant! You know, I do have a rag in my pocket that would make a perfect sling.

Well, you could do that if you were relying solely on God first.

Oh! that is so difficult and complicated, and, besides, I’m pretty sure my aim is sharp, and I can throw really fast and… and…just how strong and secure is that tower up ahead?

Stronger than anything any enemy could use to come against it. In fact, no enemy will ever be able to overcome it. Period.

It doesn’t look that secure. Who designed and constructed it?

Jesus.

Jesus? You mean the One who died on some beams shaped like a cross thousands of years ago and miraculously rose from the grave a little while later? The One I accepted into my heart and surrendered my life over to sometime ago?

He’s the one! He not only is alive, He now sits at the right hand of God His Father in Heaven victoriously! You see, when Jesus died on the cross, He not only made it possible for anyone who believes on Him to have eternal life, He also took away the legal right for the devil to have control over them as well.

OK, so now how do this tower and I fit in with all of this?

stone tower

Well, when you put your faith and trust in the victory that Jesus won over the enemy (the Devil) through His sacrifice on the cross, then that victory becomes your victory. He is that strong tower that keeps you safe. The Bible says in Psalms 61:3, “For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.” And in Proverbs 18:10, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.”

Wow, you mean that all I have to do is just put my trust in Jesus to shield, protect and care for me?

That’s right. When you try to fight the enemy in your own strength and effort, defeat and failure result. There is nothing about you that will overcome the enemy. It is only in Jesus Christ that you can have victory.

But aren’t there some procedures, some rules or requirements that I have to follow first?

Just one. Believe (have faith) in Jesus, that He will take care of your enemy or problem. If you worry about the problem at hand, you doubt God. When Jesus was on this earth, He could have touched many more lives than He did if there had not been so much unbelief among the people. Even His own family and the people in His hometown refused to believe in Him.

Um, could we finish this conversation inside that tower? The enemy seems to be getting awfully close now, and an intense storm is brewing overhead too!

Well, do you believe that Jesus has the power to protect and shield you by that tower? Do you believe that His sacrifice on the cross has not only saved you from eternal punishment in hell, but has also set you free from the control of sin as well?

OK. OK. Yes, I do believe that, and I even believe that I can overcome the enemy only through Jesus and His victory at the cross. Now, can we go?

Don’t panic—we are already there!

Wow! This tower isn’t bad at all. I can feel peace, even though the storm is raging above and the enemy is charging all around us!

Let’s take a look outside.

Are you nuts? With all of the fury going on out there? Stop! Don’t push—I’m moving! Let me just look out this window here. Wait! Where is the enemy? What happened to the storm?

Jesus handled everything. Remember that He already fought the enemy and won the victory once and for all at the cross. We are to just rest in Him. Our victory over the enemy is only as good as the faith we put in Jesus Christ to take care of the problem for us.

This is amazing! So, by putting my trust in Jesus and the victory He won at the cross, He will be as a strong tower, a place of refuge? Yet, if I try to fight the enemy or solve the problem at hand on my own, then I will be like a deer in the midst of an open field with predators lurking all around?

That’s about the size of it!

Well, watch out world, because I’m looking now in faith for that strong tower whenever I find the enemy trying to overtake me!

————–

How about you, reading this right now? Have you put your faith in Jesus and the victory He won at the cross? Are you anxious over the problems overtaking you, or overwhelmed by the size of the enemy approaching? Is your worrying and lack of faith in Jesus Christ limiting God? The Bible says in Philippians 4:6, 7 “Be careful [full of cares, anxious] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication [petition, asking in earnest] with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” This is not a nice suggestion, but rather a command by God.

When the enemy comes at you, do you seek refuge in the strong tower of Jesus in faith, or do you try to fight the enemy, or take care of your problems in your own strength? Are you putting yourself first or God first? Jesus wants to be your strong tower from the enemy and your mounting problems, if only you will commit them to Him and let Him do the work.

The Anchor is Secure

ship on rough night seas

As a seafaring veteran of over thirty-five years, Captain Reginald Clarbonne knew his vessels and waterways well. The forecast that day was for a mostly sunny afternoon with some clouds, moderate winds, and slightly choppy waters, but Captain Clarbonne still sensed that volatile conditions were ahead. He ordered First Mate Lisbon to have the crew batten down and secure all on the ship’s deck. Lisbon, although a very experienced officer himself, looked at the sky incredulously and again at Captain Clarbonne, who countered the glance with a slight scowl. Even the crew, who dutifully worked the deck as directed, maintained an air of disbelief. The skies were sunny, the temperature was very warm with the wind blowing rather strong, and the clouds showed no sign for impending concern. In spite of their reluctance, the ship’s crew and officers maintained a fairly solid respect for the captain, knowing that he only erred on the side of caution.

The Bernelle Collette was a sturdy and sound commercial vessel that had traveled frequently throughout much of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Captain Clarbonne really enjoyed the ease of navigating her to the many ports of Europe, Africa, and North and South America over the past eight years, and he knew that she could handle most of the severe conditions that might come her way. His diverse and rugged crew was equally qualified for the task at hand.

For several hours the skies were spectacular, as the sun streamed through a varied assortment of clouds and the temperatures remained at a very warm level. Even though the wind was steadily increasing, there seemed to be little to warrant any concern. But Captain Clarbonne still remained adamant that rough seas were ahead.

Around three in the afternoon, the clouds, no longer a collection of odd floating shapes, had turned into one ominously dark, massive cloud that was slowly bearing down on the Bernelle Collette and her crew. Within an hour the temperature dropped significantly and the crew no longer remained skeptical about Clarbonne’s prior warnings. The ship’s radar showed severe storms approaching, with reports rapidly coming in from other vessels nearby of their very intense properties.

Captain Clarbonne well knew that common sense would say to turn around and go full speed ahead away from the fury that lay ahead.

Yet he also knew that the storm’s constantly evolving characteristics, as reported by some of the more distant vessels, could engulf him and create an even worse condition. He seemed to remember a small safe harbor some distance away. But he wondered—could they make it in time?

By five o’clock, the storm’s outer edges had already passed over the vicinity of the Bernelle Collette. Waves were cresting at five to six feet and starting to lash at the bow. The crew was growing anxious as the sky took on the appearance of nightfall, and crashes of thunder greatly vibrated the gear on the upper deck. They were reminded again not to question the captain’s judgment, even when conditions seemed to indicate otherwise. Captain Clarbonne ordered the ship hard to starboard, and then to proceed full speed ahead. He knew they had very little time left to reach the safe harbor.

At twenty minutes after five the storm’s fury was steadily increasing, with wave heights now cresting at nine and a half feet. Lightning was vigorously dancing all around the Bernelle Collette and the thunder was almost deafening at times. The strong heeling of the vessel almost threw Limmer, one of the few crew members still on deck, overboard. At the captain’s request, Lisbon ordered all of the crew below deck until further notice.

After alternately studying the radar and reviewing the navigation charts, Captain Clarbonne concluded that they were not going to reach safe harbor in time. The men around him knew what this meant—they would now have to ride out the full fury of the storm. When word reached the rest of the crew, many reacted glumly, full of anxious concern. Some grew angry and shook their fist in the general direction of the ship’s bridge where the captain remained stationed. They wanted to know why the captain couldn’t have turned around sooner, or why he pressed forward when he knew that horrendous and now deadly conditions were fast approaching. Yet a few crew members did not let their shipmates’ pessimism overtake them. They knew that the captain would, somehow or other, get them to port all in one piece.

A short distance later, Captain Clarbonne reviewed the charts again and determined that they were now in just the right place. He ordered the vessel to face the waves, then come to a full stop and drop the anchors. After the crew accomplished the captain’s directive with much difficulty, the vessel was at rest (if one could call it that). At five forty-five, the waves crested at over eleven feet and shook the huge Bernelle Collette with each passing blow. The officers and crew tried to remain somewhat calm, but worry still kept a strong grip upon their weary bodies. With the winds howling and the waves pounding the bow, many feared that they might not see tomorrow.

lightning at night

With the exception of intense flashes of lightning, the cloudy night sky and the ocean appeared to be one dark mass. Wave after wave kept crashing over the bow and draining off the sides of the deck. With each blow, it felt like the ship was gradually coming apart, even though it actually continued to hold quite well. Inside the hull shudders and groans grew greater in volume, and the cargo began to shift from its resting places as the vessel angrily rocked back and forth. The crew grew more and more concerned that the cargo might break free and upset the balance, causing the Bernelle Collette to list greatly and possibly sink.

In spite of the turmoil and danger, Captain Clarbonne continued to exhibit a sense of calm.

He had been through storms of similar intensity before, and he knew what the breaking point of his vessel would be. More importantly, he knew the density and strength of the rocky floor beneath the Bernelle Collette, and was therefore assured that the anchor was holding secure. Due to his long experience with the characteristics of various violent weather systems, and his knowledge of the strengths as well as the weaknesses of the Bernelle Collette, he was able to maintain full confidence that they would adequately weather this latest storm.

Although the storm lasted only an hour and a half, all on board felt like most of the night had passed by. By eight o’clock that evening, the wrath of the storm was well behind them. The clouds began breaking up in the night sky, where an abundance of stars had begun to peer through, along with the rising moon that illuminated the formerly restless sea. The air was much cooler and the wind continued to subside, dying down to only a very strong breeze. With a weary cheer from the crew, the Bernelle Collette weighed anchor and, with a slight starboard turn, proceeded once again standard speed ahead to her destination. Captain Clarbonne, a cup of coffee in hand, stared out over the gentle moonlit waterway and quietly eased forth a sigh of relief. He mentally chalked up this episode as he added another successful accomplishment to his seafaring repertoire.

In the great sea of life, storms are constantly battering our lives. Waves crash against us and we often struggle just to stay afloat. We try to fight, but we often end up being swept farther away from the shore into deeper and more intense water. Safe harbors we want to reach seem to constantly move more and more away from us, in spite of all of our determined efforts to reach them. We look for help from a nearby vessel and see none in sight, or one that is even worse off than we are. We naively fall prey to the storm’s lulls as victorious breakthroughs, only to be lashed even more when the interlude ends and the storm returns with greater fury. We seem to continually find ourselves adrift because we lack the energy to propel ourselves against the powerful waves that come against us.

Yet it does not have to be this way. Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Actually, God brings these storms upon us in order to test us, to see if we will yield to Him, or continue on trying to navigate our lives by ourselves. No storm is too great for Him to handle, but every storm can become too great for us if we try to overcome it by ourselves. We need to stop doing the fighting and place our anchor in Jesus. Our anchor is always secure, no matter how difficult the storm may be, when it is fastened in Him, the Rock of Ages.

anchor underwater

Victory in life will only come when we place our complete faith and trust—“our anchor”—in Jesus and His victory at the cross. His sacrifice of His own life on the cross, which brought us victory over sin and death, was complete and final. When we fight against various problems and circumstances of this life (the by-products of sin) on our own, we are, in essence, trying to get victory over sin by ourselves. But He already fulfilled all of God’s requirements for the forgiveness of sin on our behalf. We must place our burdens, cares, problems, worries, sins and sinful habits, etc., into the arms of Jesus, and let Him take care of them. We must yield and let Jesus be the ruler of our life. We must ask God to forgive us for the sins we have committed against Him and then stop committing them. When you “draw nigh [near] to God…he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8a).

It doesn’t matter whether you have been a believer in and follower of Jesus for decades, or have just found out about Him. He needs to be the rock you anchor your heart and life to. Storms will come and go. They will batter you, sometimes even tocapsized ship the point of death. But when you are anchored in Jesus, your anchor will hold secure, and you will be able to safely weather any storm. You cannot fight the storm on your own and survive. Jesus has already fought the storm of all storms on the cross for you, and He was victorious! Now claim this victory for yourself by placing your faith and trust solely in His victory at the cross. Don’t let the storms of life cause you to break away and capsize or just hopelessly drift because your anchor was in an insecure foundation.

Upon life’s boundless ocean where mighty billows roll,
I’ve fixed my hope in Jesus, blest anchor of my soul;
When trials fierce assail me as storms are gath’ring o’er,
I rest upon His mercy and trust Him more.

I’ve anchored in Jesus, the storms of life I’ll brave,
I’ve anchored in Jesus, I fear no wind or wave;
I’ve anchored in Jesus, for He hath pow’r to save,
I’ve anchored to the Rock of Ages.

Click here for additional information about obtaining this victory Jesus has won at the cross.

The Peace of God

boat in fog

Many people feel that they have some form of peace in their lives. But what most are experiencing is merely peace with their own conscience. This is not the peace of God. Some think that when their anxiety level eases up, they have found peace. And others have what they call peace just because they don’t bother to think! But not one of these forms of peace can compare with the peace that God brings. They will not make your soul content.

The peace of God is the kind of peace that “passes all understanding.”

How many people realize that peace is what they are trying to find? Some think it would be nice to find it, but they don’t really pursue it. Yet they spare no effort in pursuing other things they feel are desirable. The search for peace for many others does not begin until they have become disillusioned and worn-out. Then they will often search for just enough peace to enable them to sleep at night and perhaps dream of a way of escape.

Real peace, according to God, relates to His attitude toward man. The “peace of God” refers to a state of total contentment because the mind is at rest. This, in turn, puts the conscience in a state of blessedness and tranquility. This only happens when man gets into the right kind of relationship with God. A person who is not right with God can never turn his mind anywhere but on himself. But man cannot begin to have peace with God until he comes to the point of seeing, and then stating, that God is righteous in requiring the death of Jesus Christ as payment for man’s sin against God.

“Peace of God”—what does this mean? It can be called a condition of the heart, where those who believe in God know that He is always watching over them. But the peace of God cannot come into your heart until you realize that you are guilty of sinning against God. If you have sin in your life, there can be no harmony between you and God, or even with your fellow man.

No true peace can be had until sin’s curse on your life is taken away.

Those who realize that they are sinners [someone who transgresses the law of God] can come to God and tell Him how sorry they are for their sin. If they are sincere, He will forgive them and have mercy on them and save them from sin. Then they can experience what His peace is. But no mercy is promised to those who will not admit that they are wrong. The only way to find true satisfaction for the heart, mind, and conscience is to have peace with God. Any other form of peace is false and deceptive. True peace never involves deceit. Once you find this peace with God, then you can finally achieve peace within yourself and with others. But “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (Isaiah 57:21).

The state of peace between God and man was made possible by Jesus giving up His life on the cross.

All mankind had gotten into a terrible, sinful condition, which was highly offensive to a holy God. This made it absolutely necessary for Jesus to give His life as the only way to save mankind. For those who, in turn, give their lives to Christ, He becomes the Prince of Peace, and God the Father is the God of Peace.

We don’t have to be disturbed concerning what to do about our troubles and our sins, because Jesus already took them all upon Himself when He hung on the cross. He paid the ultimate price (giving up His life) for our sin against the heavenly Father, and now we don’t have to pay it ourselves. In fact, the cost is so enormous that we never could pay it. “And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven” (Colossians 1:20). When we come to understand this, then our sins will not be able to overcome us anymore and deprive us of peace. We can come to the point where we can live in a state of true peace with God.

But don’t start running after peace—run after Jesus, and His peace will follow you. He is the only source of real peace.

When Jesus left Earth to return to Heaven, He told His disciples: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). The peace He gives is nothing like the peace the world gives. His peace drives out trouble. Jesus told us to not to let our heart be disturbed out of its relationship with Him. In a world always at war with God, can there ever be real peace? Jesus also told His disciples: “These things have I spoken unto you, that in Me ye may have peace. In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The world hated Jesus, and it still does. It hates His followers too. But, even in the midst of all this, He has assured us that we can have peace.

It is not usually the big things which upset us the most, but the ordinary, little, everyday things that disturb our peace continually. What can we do about this? We need to lay out all our troubles before God. Whether we are confronting little difficulties, or large ones, like sorrow or death, we need to hear Him telling us, “Let not your heart be troubled.” The picture of real peace can be seen by looking at the life of Jesus while He was on Earth.

Jesus is not the least bit worried about the difficult situations you find yourself in. But if you worry about them, He won’t get involved in your situation—because you are determined to handle it yourself. Then you get what you deserve. We are to live in Him, but we get disturbed, because we do not take Him into consideration when we look at our difficult situations.

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

What is the case with you? Are you trying to find peace with God? Why haven’t you found it yet? Could it possibly be because of your unbelief? To find God’s peace, you need to have faith in God. The more you have faith in Him, the more peace you will have from Him. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isaiah 26:3).

“Fear Ye Not!”

Moses and the crossing of the Red Sea

“…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” (Ex. 14:13).

“Fear ye not”, Moses ordered the people of God. Yet here they were, with no weapons, facing the mightiest army on Earth at that time. But their lack of weapons really did not matter, because they had no courage to stand against the Egyptian army anyway.

“Stand still”, Moses then ordered them. They were not to even try to fight, or to help God out in delivering them. What they did need to do was to just stand quietly, reining in their fear, panic, and confusion. That was how they could ‘help’ God!

“See the salvation of the Lord”, Moses told them next. But how could Moses be so sure himself that God would deliver them? He knew there was good reason for hope that God would intervene. His courage and confidence came from seeing the supernatural cloud that had come with them. He also knew that God always positions Himself in between His people and their strong enemies. “And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them…” (Exodus 14:19).

The Lord frequently leads His children into very difficult situations from which they are unable to see any way of escape. And they would not have judged this to be a good idea if God had asked their opinion in advance. But God’s cloud always guides them in the direction He deems best.

You may also be in a difficult situation right now, from which you can see no way of escape. Do not worry, do not fear—if God leads you into the situation, then it is appropriate for you, and it will prove to be justified in due time. God will use it later as a way to show His grace and power to you and to others.

Most people tend to place situations between themselves and God. But the man of God places God in between himself and the difficult situation. Has God said “Go forward!” to you? Then watch Him clear the way and lead you, along with other men and women of God, the way a shepherd guides and cares for his flock. His way will be a way unknown to you. But if He chooses to put you in dire straits, He will also be the one to lead you out again.

Where else could Israel go but up? And that is just where their deliverance came from. You may be doing what you should to follow God and make your way to Heaven, and still find yourself troubled every direction you turn. Some of the Israelites cried out against Moses, because they were so afraid. They acted like the same God who had performed miracles to get them this far could no longer perform more miracles on their behalf. Others who were afraid cried unto God in prayer. But this was good for them, because they needed to learn to cry unto God, and no longer rely on Moses or themselves.

kneeling in prayer

Why does God still bring His people today into trying and difficult situations? so that we will go on our knees at once, seeking Him for answers and deliverance. When we cannot find a way to get out of the trouble we find ourselves in, we need to rise above our fear, and use it instead to spur us into prayer. We should never permit our fear to stifle our hope and faith in God.

“Stand still,” instead of trying to fight or flee in order to save yourself. Be a good soldier of God and wait to receive further orders from Him. Then carry out His orders once He gives them to you. Settle yourself to put all confidence in God no matter what situation He has led you into. Then you will see what a great deliverance He is going to accomplish on your behalf!

Hold your peace. Don’t raise your hand to the enemy. Don’t even shout against him. God will do the work needed without any help from you. It is wise when times are hard to keep your spirit calm and quiet. This puts you in the right frame of mind to do the work you are supposed to do and to consider God’s work.

If you can’t figure out what to do, don’t do anything. Stand still until God tells you your next move. It is His concern to defend those who believe in Him and to direct them. “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:14).

“Fear ye not!”

Bribing the Enemy for Peace?

money passed in handshake

“Then Menahem smote [attacked] Tiphsah, and all that were therein, and the coasts thereof from Tirzah: because they opened not to him…and all the women therein that were with child he ripped up. In the nine and thirtieth year of Azariah king of Judah began Menahem the son of Gadi to reign over Israel, and reigned ten years in Samaria. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord: he departed not all his days from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. And Pul the king of Assyria came against the land: and Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, that his hand might be with him to confirm the kingdom in his hand. And Menahem exacted [demanded] the money of Israel, even of all the mighty men of wealth, of each man fifty shekels of silver, to give to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria turned back, and stayed not there in the land.” (2 Kings 15:16-20).

The nation of Israel was at one of the low points in its history, both morally and spiritually. Many years earlier it had split into two kingdoms, with Judah comprising the southern half. Menahem, the current king, did not want to lose his standing as leader of the people and the land. Sadly, though, he had not even been chosen by the people. He had simply killed the previous king, who had only ruled a month, and took his place! The people’s objection to his rule was further established in verse 16, when he readily attacked the city of Tiphsah and all of its inhabitants (including child-bearing women, in a most vicious way) just because they refused to allow him into their city.

Instead of seeking and trusting God, Menahem took matters into his own hands—he leaned to the wisdom of man instead of God.

When the king of Assyria came against the land of Israel, Menahem chose to bribe the king rather than attempting to fight Him. Then he ordered all the wealthy individuals of the land to pay the bribe, whether they liked it or not. It is sad to note that this was all that the Holy Spirit chose to make known of his life to future readers of God’s Word, like many other leaders of the land.

How many believers in Christ today try something similar when our enemy, the devil, attacks us? We may not actually kill a leader, or attack a city and its people, but we still attempt to bribe or pay off our enemy. We even try to force other believers to pay the bribe for us! How many pastors and ministry leaders are guilty of trying to bribe the enemy with the funds from their church or ministry?

Throughout the Old Testament, the history of the children of Israel has demonstrated for us what happens when our faith is not totally in God. Over and over, the Israelites turned their eyes off of God, and onto themselves and their problems instead. They allowed their problems to reach the point where they became blinded to the fact that God actually could, and wanted to, deliver them from these problems and situations. They became so caught up with deception from the devil that their leaders started bribing the enemy to bring peace. As long as they kept averting the tests that God was bringing on them via the devil, the more the tests continued.

We cannot bribe or placate our enemy, the devil, to gain peace, whether we are ministry leaders or not.

The devil is the master of chaos, but Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Our only hope is to give our situations and circumstances over to Him. Giving even as little as a fraction of an inch to the devil results in him taking control of much of our lives. There is nothing that we could ever give to the devil that would satisfy him to leave us alone. It is foolishness to think that we could ever have peace with, much less overcome, the devil in our own strength.

When the ‘king of Assyria’ or any other ‘king’ comes against us spiritually, our solution is to turn to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ. He has already paid the price and won our victory through His sacrifice on the cross. The price He paid was not a bribe or tribute. It was a final sacrifice and a finished work. There is nothing more we can ever do to improve or build upon His sacrifice for us. Jesus has already defeated the ‘king of Assyria’; all we have to do is trust in faith in that victory for ourselves. “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:14).

Little is Much

 

 

kneeling at cross

 

 

“And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat. He answered…Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat? He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes. And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass…And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. And they did all eat, and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men” (Mark 6:35-44).

Jesus had been teaching the people in a solitary part of the region for much of the afternoon. They had come because they were hungry, not for physical food, but for the truth (spiritual food). The people sought Jesus because they knew He taught the truth. Even though Jesus was physically tired at this point, (since He had originally come with His disciples to this desert location for rest), He was strengthened by the people’s desire to hear and learn God’s Word.

Jesus’ disciples, however, grew more concerned with getting physical food for the people than about them hearing the truth.

As the evening drew near, the disciples urged Him to send the people away to find something to eat. The idea never occurred to them that perhaps Jesus could provide for their physical needs as well as their spiritual needs. Of course, Jesus was fully aware of their concerns. “When Jesus then lifted up [His] eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do” (John 6:5, 6). Surprised (and perhaps shocked) at His response, the disciples immediately looked to their own selves to provide food for this great assembly. (Some scholars believe that there could have been over 15,000 individuals present). They replied, “…Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth [several thousand of dollars worth] of bread, and give them to eat?” (Mark 6:37). They really believed that Jesus might be out of His mind at this point, because He was expecting them to meet all of these people’s needs. They had probably expected Jesus to respond, “You’re right, we really ought to send them back to the nearest villages and let them get fed there.”

Jesus wasn’t fazed by all of this though. Instead, He let them see for themselves just how little they had for such a great need. If they hadn’t known what they had begun with, then the full depth of the miracle that Jesus was about to perform wouldn’t have been realized. After they took the smattering of provisions (enough for only a few to eat) over to Him and had the people sit in an orderly manner on the grass, He blessed and broke the bread, then the fish, and gave them to the disciples to be distributed among the people. Notice that He never gave any of these provisions directly to the people Himself—it was always through His disciples. In the end, there was so much distributed from the hands of Jesus that everyone was able to eat and be filled. No lack was mentioned and a dozen basketfuls were still leftover.

How many times do we believers in Jesus Christ go to Him first for our needs, both great and small? When Jesus is trusted solely, a small amount yields an overabundance.

Trying to meet a great need by ourselves is the same kind of problem as the disciples trying to feed the whole multitude with the tiny provisions that were available. Jesus never told them to go and buy all of the food, or to take the loaves and fishes and give everyone just a crumb or two of bread. (We won’t even try to determine how much of a portion of those two fish they would have to give!). That is why Jesus told them “you give them something to eat.” He knew that in their hearts that they would say “We can’t; He will have to do something!”

God wants us, as His children, dependent upon Him for our needs. When we look to our self, we take our eyes off of Him, and meeting our need becomes more and more insurmountable to us. The need doesn’t have to be just for food. It can also be in other areas, physical or spiritual. “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

The problem comes when we limit God. The disciples tried to limit God, as in the example above of the five thousand being fed, by implying that the people needed to leave in order to be fed.

They felt that Jesus was so absorbed in teaching and healing the people that He had forgotten about the basic needs of the people and that He needed the disciples to remind Him of this. How often do we limit God, or put Him “in a box,” by saying that He can meet these particular needs, but He probably won’t be able to meet these other needs? How many times are we impatient with God meeting our needs and end up taking care of them ourselves? How many times do we hurt or insult God by not having complete faith in Him?

We must remember that God is always in control of the situation; we are the ones that lose control and become anxious. We are to place our needs and circumstances in the hands of Jesus and let go, not picking them up later when He doesn’t respond or do anything in our anticipated timeframe. If we take back the needs that we laid in His hands, we are effectively saying that we don’t fully trust Him in everything and that we will take care of it ourselves. Again we are back to limiting God. [Cast] all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Remember that the disciples never even asked Jesus to provide for the people’s needs. How much more will He respond when we really do ask and fully believe?

Whose Shadow Are You Under?

 

leaf in shadowA shadow can mean different things to different people. They are beneficial to some, and ominous and oppressive to others. For example: A shadow of sickness moved across a country. A child lives under the shadow of his or her siblings, never able to achieve his own position of authority. A renowned scholar has become just a shadow of his former literate self. The eager young boy was the shadow of his big brother. The large building’s shadow provided welcome relief from the scorching sun.

In the Old Testament, Egypt was often used by God as a symbol of the world and its lavish yet oppressive systems—a world controlled by the Devil. If you followed the world’s ways, you could become quite successful (by its standards), but if you didn’t keep up, or didn’t want to follow any or all of this system, you were left behind and significantly oppressed. The Israelites (descendants of Jacob, who was renamed “Israel” by God) were just such people caught up in this system. They were brought into Egypt because of a severe famine, sustained by the storehouses of Egypt, and subsequently grew into a great body of people. But now they were stuck, because the leadership of Egypt changed. The new leadership was no longer favorable to them.

“And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour [harshness]: And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour [harshness]” (Exodus 1:13, 14).

This is what happens when the world takes over our lives—we end up in bondage. We may try to get out ourselves, but, like a bungee cord or rubber band released at its fully stretched position, we snap right back.

God, in His infinite love, provided a way out of this system. For the Israelites, He provided a man named Moses. Through Moses, Israel was led out of this bondage of Egypt. The monarch of Egypt tried to detain the Israelites and almost succeeded, but God ultimately made it possible for their release and exodus out of the land of Egypt. The real problem, though, was that the shadow of Egypt continued to hang over most of the Israelites. Why? They would not let go of Egypt and put their trust in God. They regularly complained to Moses as he led them through the wilderness. They wanted the pleasures of Egypt (the world) and they wanted the freedom from bondage (to the world). The ultimate result of this continual complaining and unbelief was God denying entrance to the Promised Land for all of the unbelieving Israelites, the very land God had set aside as their ultimate inheritance. Had they let go of Egypt, their journey through the wilderness would have been significantly shorter, and they would all have been much more likely to have entered the Promised Land themselves.

For every man, woman and child (past, present and yet to be born), God provided His Son Jesus Christ, of whom Moses was a type or symbol as their deliverer. But Moses was only a human, sinful being, like we are. While he led the people of God out of the captivity of Egypt, and was very, very close in relationship to God, he could not remove the captivity of Egypt (the world) out of them.

That is why Jesus came to this earth over two thousand years ago—to fulfill all of the requirements God laid out in the Old Testament for our sins (or all aspects of the world’s system, in this case) to be removed.

Jesus can free anyone from the captivity of the world, if we allow Him to do so. He did what Moses, or anyone else, could never do. Sinful man could not eliminate his own, or anyone else’s sins. Only a sinless man, Jesus Christ, could do this.

If we continue to live under the shadow of the world, we have never truly escaped from the world. We must live instead in the shadow of Jesus the Almighty. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust” (Psalm 91:1-2 emphasis mine). We must place all of our trust in Him and His complete, finished work, accomplished through His death as a sacrifice on the cross.

Under whose shadow do you abide—the shadow of Jesus, or shadow of the world? If you have put your trust in Christ, are you resting in His shadow, letting Him do the work in your life? Or is He in your shadow as you try to do His work yourself?

–James Pangburn