When It Just Gets Worse

Now you will see what I will do.”

Exodus 6:1

Moses had just walked into a lot of ‘hot water.’   He had done what God had told him to do, and everything was getting worse!   An enraged Pharaoh was now breathing down his neck . . . making threats, and heating up his cruelty to  God’s people.  Moses began  doubting God.   I can imagine his questions:  Did I hear God wrong?  Is this some kind of Divine joke?  I must have been crazy to go to Pharaoh and tell him to “…let my people go!”   

Everything just got worse.   God’s people  . . . slaves who had put trust in the reluctant Moses,  were now in a worse situation than before!

And what does Moses – their leader – do?   He goes to God with frantic questions, fear, and even accusations for the predicament they were all in now.  Not only was Pharaoh (with all the power of Egypt) against him, angry and breathing threats to Moses and all of God’s people, but  their whole nation-in-exile was angry with him as well.

God knew.  He saw exactly how this horrible situation had unfolded.  He was there.    And surveying the chaos, He said, “NOW you will see what I will do.”

Can you relate?   You have taken risks, stepped out of your comfort and onto a limb, because you believed that God had asked you to do so.   It may not have made a lot of sense to you, or to the people around you . . . those looking to you with trust.  Hope.  And then, . . . everything goes haywire.

And God says, “NOW you will see what I will do.” 

When I followed God’s Call to me to become involved with my desert nation, all Hell broke loose in my life.  There were vicious attacks on our church, on my reputation, on my husband and family.  Most devastating was that it came from Believers.  The Enemy of our souls does not want God’s people to move into the Darkness with God’s Light.  There will always be great resistance.

When we come to the end of ourselves … our confidence, skills, education,  passionate desire to do great things for God, He patiently watches it unravel.  And as we stand there watching all our great intentions, hopes and plans crumble, He Whispers, “Now!  See what I will do.”  

In my early years in the desert refugee camps, we came to them with great plans, with passionate hearts . . . and a lot of great people sacrificing time, skills, and their own comfort.  I’d submit the written, organized, agreed-upon “Plan” to God, asking Him to bless it and make it all happen.  I could swear that I would hear His Soft Chuckle, then crumpling it up with a wink and a smile He’d say, “Now!…Here’s what we’re going to do…“   

And it was ALWAYS far better than what we had come up with!  That realization may have taken some time to become clear to us, but His Plan was always the BEST!

When the King Comes

“John proclaimed: ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 3:2

John the Baptist, earthly cousin of Jesus, had taken up his mission of life to prepare his world for their long, long-awaited Messiah King.  As ancient prophets of God had announced in the past, John was now the “voice” announcing that the time had  come.

About a decade ago, I had an experience of being in the midst of a preparation time before a nation’s king would be passing my way.  Of course, I had no idea what was about to happen, but from my 6th floor hotel balcony I saw crowds gathering along the road far below me.  “A parade!” I thought.  I stood on my balcony, watching all of the scurrying as the crowds gathered  along the road the “parade” would travel.

Suddenly, my room phone rang.  “Mrs. Lenz, you must come away from your balcony, and stay in your room.  Close your curtains, and do not peek out at all.  His Majesty the King will be passing.  Security forces are watching for any curtain movements, and you could be shot.   Thank you….and welcome to our country.  Click.”  

Well, that was a memorable parade experience for me, (of course I had to take the tiniest peek, down on the floor hiding as much as possible against the side wall.)  

Now I think of the mission John the Baptist carried out . . . preparing his nation for the arrival of their loooooong-awaited King-Messiah.  But in his mission of announcing Jesus’s presence on earth, the “Good News,” there weren’t parades, nor the thrilling anticipation of seeing the King of Kings.  Jesus looked like a common man.  No fanfare.  No military guard.  No opulence or finery.  No security hovering around Him.  No barriers.  It just wasn’t the way everyone thought it would be.  And most people missed it completely.  The preparation for His Presence was all about hearts.  

Are you peeking from behind a curtain, afraid you’ll be shot?  Or have you taken the steps to be as close to Him as you possibly can….bent  knee, bowed  head, and opened  heart to accept Him as your King, and all the changes to result  in your life.  His Kingship is absolute.  

Absolutely Good.

CONTINUE TO LIVE

“And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord,

You must continue to live in obedience to HIM.

Let your roots grow down into Him

And draw up nourishment from Him,

So you will grow in faith, 

Strong and vigorous in the Truth you were taught.

Let your lives overflow with thanksgiving

For all He has done.”

Colossians 2:6-7

In many ways, it seems like a massive “PAUSE” Button has been pressed in our nation…our world…our lives.  

Paul knew what that was like.  Sitting in a prison in Rome, he wrote this message to the Believers in Colosse. . . a city, it is believed, he had never even visited.  His world was a disconnected mess, and he wasted no time in writing letters of encouragement and challenge to the Christ-followers in that distant region.

Picture Paul as he writes these words.  NO prison is a nice or safe place.  Everything about a prison is foundationally a place of punishment and loss of personal rights.  Yet, here this man who, before his personal encounter with the risen Christ had been on a mission to kill Christians, was now writing words of encouragement to them . . . to be united in heart and purpose… to live for Christ and make Him known.  

Paul, once a man of privilege and position with the Romans who brutally occupied his nation, describes life as a follower of Christ like a plant growing in a garden.  Sitting in a wretched prison cell, his innermost being was like a  growing, thriving plant.  With chains on his body, filthy surroundings, cruel treatment inside the dark, dank, dangerous prison, his heart was fully alive.  He was thinking about  fellow Believers who he probably had never even met.

He was concerned for their faith.  He knew the dangers of the Truth of Christ getting watered-down by the world around them.

He drew a word picture for them of how their lives should look:

  • Christ’s Presence surrounding them, like the earth around a seed;
  • Their roots planted deeply into Him;
  • Everything they need to survive are in Him, and their tender roots draw the life-water and nutrients that will help them grow into the living plant coming from that seed;
  • Growing strong, well-watered, surrounded by all they need. . . all that the Gardener had intended for them to be.  Whether a flower, or a vegetable, or a tree. . . their life would come from being rooted in Him.
  • The plant would become one that is for the benefit of many…not for itself.

The critical start of that plant begins in the dark earth.  The Gardener watches the earth and rejoices as the tiny spikes of green begin to emerge, watching the daily growth, watering, weeding, and waiting for the time when the fruit of the labor is ready to be harvested and eaten . . nutritious and beautiful to enrich the lives of others.

Paul, in his miserable prison cell, saw his fellow Followers in this way.  In the Sunshine, growing, becoming life-giving food for spiritually hungry people.  Coming out of the darkness . . . from “death” into life.

May we take Paul’s vision to heart, and be those who are growing, strengthening, healthy, and bearing Fruit that will feed the spiritually hungry world around us…  no matter what else is going on in our harsh, challenging world.

THE PLAN . . . That Changes Mine: Mary & Joseph

“He (Joseph) traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.  He took with him his fiancee, Mary, who was obviously pregnant by this time.  While they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, Because there was no room for them in the village inn.”  Luke 2:4-6

The young couple had made their plans.  Mary was now engaged to a young man in her village, with the blessing of her father.  Joseph had had his eye on her, asked for her father’s blessing to marry, and was in the traditional practice of preparing their future home attached to his father’s house.  It would normally take a year to get everything ready for their new family to begin their life together.

That’s when everything in their happy, traditional little world “blew up.”  Joseph had been working on their future home, Mary had gone to her beloved cousin Elizabeth’s home for six months of “women time.”  But when she had returned, it was obvious that she was pregnant…with no reasonable explanation.  Their dreams crumbled.  He was planning to end their marriage promise…she was now viewed as a shameful woman.  To make matters worse, the Roman military was forcing all citizens to go to their family’s birthplace and pay taxes to the government that had devastated their nation, and stolen their freedom.

Their sweet, traditional love story, and their lives, had literally fallen apart.

But God was right in the middle of their turmoil and heartache.  It was His Plan that was behind all of this upheaval.  And His Plans are always Perfect, even though we humans usually miss that part.

After God’s Messenger explained to Joseph the Plan God was orchestrating, the young couple headed to Joseph’s family’s origins, Bethlehem.  In the chaos of Rome’s occupation and very unhappy people forced to give Rome their sorely lacking tax money, they could find nowhere to stay.  They ended up in a cave shelter for animals. Mary was in hard labor with the birth of this Baby, Who was not even their own….He was God’s.  No Mom or Aunties with her at this “first.”  Having watched her cousin Elizabeth give birth to her “miracle baby” (John) months earlier, Mary at least had that experience to draw from. 

When God is “Creating” new realities on this earth, our human minds and perspectives usually see it as “disrupting”, “chaotic”, “upsetting”,  . . . it makes us want to scream, “God!  Where are You?!  This can’t be right!”   That’s when we have to cling to Him more tightly, look in His Eyes with more focus than ever, and hold onto all the Truth we know of Him with a steel grasp…no matter how out-of-control our personal world becomes.  His Ways are so far beyond our human understanding that we just have to keep walking forward, holding onto Him as tightly as we possibly can. 

And then, in the darkness, will be those moments when Light dawns . . . we glimpse what He has been preparing. . . and a quiet, “Oh…that’s why…”  will escape from our hearts.

The newly-wed new parents in Bethlehem may not have had “The Moment” while on this turbulent, dangerous earth.  But it’s the “Well done…good, faithful servants,” from the Father’s lips to our ears, that matters in the End.

THE PLAN that Changes Mine: Three Kings

“Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod.  About that time, some wise men from Eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn King of the Jews?  We have seen His star as it arose, and we have come to worship Him.”

Matthew 2:1-2

Scientists….astronomers…astrologers…Kings…. The three men were highly respected experts.  They studied the heavens, and understood the laws and patterns of the stars, planets, galaxies, and Time.  They knew  and understood the implications on earth.   They knew things that few humans knew, because they could read the heavens. . . celestial communications from God’s own Space.  It was all very scientific, and predictable.

Until one night, when a New Star appeared:  The Creator’s Own.

They had one decision to make:   Either focus everything to pursue it, or stay put where they had always been and continue in what they could learn from there.

They packed up their most essential tools, charts and supplies and began their journey to follow The Star.  But, because of what they were ‘reading’ in the heavens, they also packed three extraordinary Gifts:

 Gold . . . the gift befitting  a King

Frankincense . . . the precious spice that only the High Priest used for worshipping in God’s Presence

Myrrh . . .  the precious, costly spice used on the body of the highest royalty, for burial.

They had probably never imagined that at their destination, those priceless, precious gifts would be given to a tiny newborn King, not in a palace on a throne, but in a cave…a shelter for animals;  his cradle… a feeding trough.  

Their one-of-a-kind Star led them through the Great Desert to the tiny King who had come to Earth, the planet of Man.  He was the Only One who could be the Great Sacrifice through whom anyone … kings or shepherds, could find the Door to forgiveness and an eternity in Heaven.

Eva’s Gift

A surprise ‘condensed’ Bible was slipped into my purse by my 5 year old granddaughter.  A priceless Christmas gift!

THE PLAN that Changes Mine: Shepherds

That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep.  Suddenly an angel . . “

Luke 2:8-9

Another night like all the rest…out on the hillside under the stars, a few miles outside of Jerusalem, where the outline of the Temple of God stood, the centerpiece of the city.  The weather-worn old shepherds, warming their hands by their small fire, were spending another night watching over their flocks of sheep. . . like every night.  They could see Jerusalem from their fields nestled between Jerusalem and the little village of Bethlehem, just five miles apart.  Bethlehem was famous for being the city of David, where their most famous King David had been born.

These sheep were special.  They needed the best shepherds because they needed the best care.  These were the sheep destined for sacrifice in the Great Temple in Jerusalem.   To qualify for sacrifice, they had to be in the best condition. . . as “perfect” as a sacrifice lamb could be.  The vigilance of the shepherds was essential.  It would be to their shame if a lamb was flawed in any way, and disqualified from being the sacrifice.

It was a night like any night, except for a one-of-kind, exceptionally bright “new”  Star that none of the shepherds had ever seen before.  They knew the sky well . . . it was their view every night.  They had memorized as very small boys the “map” in the sky.  It was essential to their survival and responsibilities  as shepherds, and their vigilance with these top-quality, “perfect” lambs.  

But this night, something occurred that had never, in all of history, taken place in that familiar sky.  The sheep were safely down for the night.  The “on-duty” shepherds were huddled around their small warming fires watching over their sheep, as they did every night.  A normal night, except for that one “new star” that was directly above them.  In the quiet, chatting together, an eye on the sheep and on the sky, it happened.

Suddenly, a brilliant Being appeared to them, with blinding radiance.  The  Angel spoke, reassuring the terrified shepherds that He was bringing the Greatest News ever sent from God.  

“I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior – yes!  The Messiah, the Lord, has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the City of David!  This is how you will recognize him:  You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth!”   Luke 2:10-12

Suddenly, the entire sky lit up . . .filled with a light show never seen before nor since.  The Armies of Heaven filled the entire sky, all singing a once-in-eternity Song to God:

“Glory to God in the Highest!  

And on Earth, PEACE!!!   Good Will toward Man!” 

“Unto us a Child is born…a Son is given!”  Luke 2:13-14

Then they were gone.

Those rugged, weather-worn shepherds were the first to see that tiny little Lamb of God in that humble manger, in a cave used for sheep.  They knew, more deeply than most, the destiny of any “lamb of God” . . . a Temple sacrifice for sin. They could see the Temple’s outline on the high place of nearby Jerusalem.  Simple, rugged shepherds responsible for all of the lambs raised for sacrifice, became the first to bow before that tiny Lamb of God, and to tell their world of the greatest News of all Time.

Psalm 23 – In the E.R.

“The LORD is my SHEPHERD”

God is the GREAT PHYSICIAN Who is with me.  Because of that absolute fact, 

“I lack nothing”

The Great Physician knows every detail of every emergencyAnd will give me what is necessary to walk through each detail of every patient in my care today.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures…

He leads me beside still waters,”

Although the circumstances that surround me are dangerous and chaotic,  I know that He has gone ahead of me and He knows every detail of where I am.   I can trust that.

He restores my soul.”

When I  become overwhelmed by this place where I serve,

He is there. . . His Hand on my shoulder, His Whisper in my ear,

Gently setting me back on my feet to keep going.

That includes providing needed rest.


“He leads me in the right paths…”

When I don’t know what to do, He is there.  

He will guide me as I step into all the chaos, the pain, the fear as I live out, in this place, what I have been called to do.

“For His Name sake.”

In bringing me into this role, His own Name is at stake.

I want to represent Him well, making choices consistent with Who He Is.

He has entrusted me with His Name.

I serve, representing Him.

“Even though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death…”

The Front Line of this deadly pandemic battle is full of danger, caring for those who truly may die in my care.

Exposed to this great risk all around me,

My own mortality is very much in my thoughts.

“I will fear no evil…”

Somehow, knowing my Great Physician is present, I have a sense of protection and care in my very soul.  

Why??

“For You Are With Me.”

The Great Physician is not in some remote location.  It becomes very personal now. You are in the room.  You are in the hallways.  You are right here….with me.  No mask, no isolation, no contamination concerns or layers between us.  

You are with me.

“Your rod and Your staff  give me courage.”

Your ROD fights back the evil that wants to destroy me.

Your STAFF draws me nearer to You…an extension of Your own Hand on my shoulder.

You are in this battle with me.  

I am not alone.

“You prepare a ‘table’ for me, even tho’ the Enemy is watching, 

Even right in the room.”

God has blessed me in the medical field, giving me the knowledge of sickness, disease, and medicine.  I have so much to draw from as I step into the room…to the bedside of people fighting for their lives from its evil effects.

You, Great Physician, are with me here.  Not just as an observer, but if I pay attention, You give me thoughts, bring up knowledge at moments so desperately needed.

“You anoint my head with oil.

My cup overflows.”

My mind is full of knowledge of the body, how it works, medications that help, and training for bringing healing.  As The Great Physician, I look to You to use my knowledge, and things beyond my knowledge that You may bring to my mind, to know what is needed for each patient to begin to heal.  Things beyond my own knowledge,  I look to You to bring into my head ‘for such a time as this.’

“Certainly, goodness and mercy will stay close to me all the days of my life,..”

As I serve those  . . . the sick and the dying , . . .may I hold tightly to knowing how GOOD You are . . . how much You LOVE to show MERCY, as I care for those who are in such fear and suffering.  May Your Goodness and Mercy flow from my heart, my mind, and through my hands to each person who comes under my care.   And please continually re-fill my emptiness when I have spent all I have to give.  Every day.

Always.

“…and I will remain in the Lord’s house for days without end.”

As I look to my own time of leaving this earth, may it be without fear, knowing that You are with me…here, There, and whatever days come until then.  

May Your Presence be with me today, tomorrow, and all the days I face in this role of “Physician….Healer” into which You have placed me.

BREAD

“I am the living BREAD that came down from heaven. 

Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”        

 John 6:51 niv

If we pare life down to the bare minimum, bread would probably make the list.  Who doesn’t know what bread is?   Who hasn’t ever eaten it?  It is a globally common food . . . from the most ancient of times.

I like bread.   I enjoy the great variety of bread that creative bakers have come up with.  I would guess that every nation, people group, and family on earth has bread that they have eaten their whole life.  I can’t imagine anybody on earth would not know some form of bread as a regular part of daily life.

I heard something the other day about bread.  It caught my attention, because I don’t remember hearing it before.  So I tried it.   

Get a bread that has been made and baked the simple, old-fashioned way….no preservatives.  Take a bite, but instead of gulping it down, chew it intentionally.  Start paying attention to all the flavors that start to happen as you chew.  I started noticing a hint of salt, but also other flavors I could not even identify.  As I kept chewing, more and more new tastes kept  emerging.  It was so fascinating and good that I was in no hurry to swallow.  And I found that when my piece of bread was gone, I kept getting little “taste memories” that reminded me of that taste-discovery.   It was 

suppertime before I even thought about a meal.   That piece of bread was fully satisfying for my day.  Some of the credit was to the handmade quality of the bread.  But some of it is how God created our mouths with tastebuds, saliva, and the interaction of grains, and simply letting all those elements work together with time.

Jesus said He was the Bread of Life.  For the past 3+ years, I have come to treasure beginning my day reading the Book of Life, and taking in the Bread of Life, Who always meets me there.  Taking the time, unhurried, and “chewing” on it for a while, brings more and more “flavor” to the Word of Life I’ve taken in that morning.  It’s not a time of lightning bolts or big emotional revelations.  It’s the little by little bites, and chewing on each.  New “flavors” emerge, and new discoveries.  Words I’ve known my whole life take on new meaning.  New life.  I don’t have to make the bread.  The Bread of Life comes to me. . . enough for that day.  Tomorrow there will be another.  It will never be gone.

Jesus comes so simply, so basically, in the routine of each day.  “Take.  Eat,”  He said.

Whispers in the Dark

“Tell in the daylight 

what I say to you in the dark. 

Shout from the housetops 

what you hear whispered.”  

Matthew 10:27

I have never experienced such darkness as in the night hours in the desert.  The first time I visited the refugee camps, I arrived by truck in the middle of the night.  I could barely distinguish that we had arrived, the darkness so covered the sands and the tents equally.  There were no lights in the camp, no electricity available.  In the headlights of the truck, I began catching sight of the dark tent shapes.  The truck ground to a stop and the driver opened his door…we had arrived.

Exhausted from the long, hard days of travel, I was focused on finding my bag and trying to not step on some strange desert creature that may be lurking in the dark.

Then, I looked up.  And gasped.  A gazillion stars…whole galaxies…filled that night sky.  I had never seen anything like it.  The black backdrop  that covered the entire sky made the sparkling diamonds shimmer and dance.  Shooting stars blazed across the vast sky.  It was breathtaking. I could do nothing but keep looking up at that living canopy stretching from horizon to horizon, unbroken by trees or tall buildings or any obstacles of the earth.  I couldn’t speak.  I could only watch.

Then the Whisper. . . “I Am here.”  

And He is.  

His Light shows up most spectacularly in the darkness.  No matter how dark your world may seem, look up.  Watch.  Listen. Really listen, for it’s a Whisper.   And then share with this dark world what you have heard.