Uncharted Waters

John was sent to live in exile on the island of Patmos as a result of anti-Christian persecution. His crime: he preached the word of God and he lived his life as a testimony for Jesus. He lived and survived alone on that island. All alone.

But he wasn’t alone.

During John’s exile, God was close to him. God was all he had. God spoke to him through a vision. John wrote down everything he saw in the vision. The name of his book is Revelation. It is the last book of the Bible. It’s a unique book full of visions and prophecies. God spoken words in a time of aloneness but never alone.

What does a man do all alone on an island? How does he spend his time? How does he survive? What goes through his mind? Will he be bored with only God to talk to? Does he have God’s word stored in his heart? Can he can dig through the reservoir of his mind and find strength and comfort from his knowledge of Scripture? When all has been lost, is his faith in God alone enough?


Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12


We may feel like we’re living in exile at this moment in history. But we’re not. Some of us are living with family. Some are alone, but they keep in touch with family and friends. If you know someone who is truly alone, reach out. Check on them.

This time in history is a first for everyone. Uncharted waters for even the best of us. Now is the time to gather your family close. Those who live with you. Those you can be with. Keep in touch with family and friends. The contact means so much.

Oh. Things have changed. We can no longer shop in stores. visit a salon. eat in a restaurant. go to a movie. Sure. These closings are temporary, but they’re new to us. We’ve never experienced anything like this. This change will continue without an ending in sight. Who knew?

Private funerals. Private weddings. Even close family members can’t attend. Hospital patients alone without family or visitors. Everyone needs to stay in place.

Oh. It’s easy to be frustrated. My hair appointment was only 5 days away when it was canceled. My grocery store was out of potatoes. The bakery that makes my dogs favorite treats has been out of them for weeks. I’ve had to start working from home. Petty inconveniences.

Lean in. They say. Hold your loved ones a little closer. Look across the room at the one who stole your heart. Think back to the reason they won your heart. And pause. Remember the moments of first love. And recall the reasons you chose to say “I do”. Make the most of this time with your loved ones.

Watch your children as they do homework. Oh. You may have never planned to home school, but now you are. Make the most of it. Be patient. Extend grace. Show mercy. Have fun. Let these days be the good times your kids look back on when they are older.

Allow yourself to become bored. This could spur you on to learn a new hobby. A hobby that could be life changing. Or not. But who knows what change can do for you. Be willing to explore. Read a book. Take a walk. Try a new recipe. Let your hair grow. You have no choice in the matter. Embrace it.

Pay it forward to the grocery worker. Pharmacy staff. Delivery drivers. Bankers. Healthcare workers. First responders. City, county, state and national employees. Everyone needs a break every now and then. Don’t judge a person’s politics. Embrace differences. But keep your convictions.

Lasting self confidence is built in pure faith in God. Trusting and obeying God in the hard times of life builds a strong reliance on him that produces an unmatched strength of character. 

In Christ alone I place my trust. 

This period of isolation may be the time in your life where you reap the greatest blessings from God. This may be the season where you find life’s true meaning. Trust the master of the uncharted waters to lead you to new depths in your walk with him. 

Read a book. Study the Bible. Memorize Scripture. Live out the Beatitudes. Honor those in authority. Pray. Really pray.

That money you would typically spend at a restaurant or sports event or concert. That money you would use to pay for a haircut or a massage or a pedicure. All that discretionary money you aren’t spending right now. Put it into savings. Or give to a needy nonprofit organization. Send an extra check to your church. Give to others in need. After all, how many new clothes or shoes do you need if you’re staying home all day? How much food or toilet paper do you need to hoard when others can’t pay their rent? How do you expect charities to help when they don’t have the funds coming in? How is a church supposed to help in times of crisis if believers aren’t faithful in giving their tithes and offerings?

Be generous. Be the giver. Be the gift. Chart new waters.

Peace in the Storm

In times of uncertainty, it’s easy to doubt God. To wonder what he’s doing. To not understand why he would allow such things to happen. Wondering is ok. Trust is important. God’s word is truth. He is faithful. His promises will always stand. God does not lie.

We don’t like to be inconvenienced. We want to do what we want to do. Sometimes that just can’t and won’t happen. Life will go on. Life may change. But as long as we have breath, God is and will always be good.

God’s promises are true. We can trust him. We may not see his promises fulfilled in our lifetime, but God does not lie. He will do as he says.

Here is a reminder of what God’s Word says. 

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. John 14:27

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

I will never fail you. I will never abandon you. Hebrews 13:5

God does not give us everything we want, but He does fulfill His promises, leading us along the best and straightest paths to Himself.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge. Psalm 61:2-3

He will cover you with his wings when you need refuge from the storm. Psalm 91:4

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This alone I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Psalm 91:1-4


If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. Jeremiah 29:13


This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. 2 Chronicles 20:15

The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm. Exodus 14:14

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by. Psalm 57:1

I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20

Thank you for your faithfulness, Father. In the middle of trouble. In the storms of uncertainty. Lord, you’re the one thing we count on. Everyday your faithfulness carries us through.

Brian Doerksen

Out of the Heart

She was looking forward to spending time with her mom.  But then again, she wasn’t.  She said her mom gets mean when she is anxious or afraid.  Her mom cloaks the mean words with sarcasm and humor.  She pretends she’s joking.  As if she doesn’t mean the words she’s saying.  But she does.

And my coworker has been on the receiving end of her mother’s harmful words more times than she cares to remember.  She wants to avoid another one of those situations.  She loves her mom, but she doesn’t appreciate being the target of overly harsh words.

She said she had talked to her mom about it.  My coworker, the unbeliever, the one who never reads a Bible, said that her mom’s problem stemmed from her heart. Because, she said, you say what is in your heart.  And it’s true.  She is so right. 

But, I wonder, how did she know that to be true?  How did she learn it if she hasn’t read the Bible?  I don’t know. 


For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. Matthew 12:34


Then I think about my words.  My thoughts.  What is in my heart that I have tried to hide?  Oh.  It’s become a little clearer to me this week. I’ve been reading John Bevere’s book, “Honor Rewards”.  Every chapter has convicted me.  Not only the words that come out of my mouth need to honor others, but my thoughts do, as well.  Oh.  I know that.  But sometimes.  Sometimes, I can’t get past my thoughts turning vindictive. I realize those thoughts, or even words, are more harmful to me. They’re harming my soul’s eternity.

I know that God knows my every thought.  He knows my heart.  He knows if I really mean those mean words I say.  He knows the unkind thoughts I think.  I realize I have much work to do to clean up my heart.

I read that when we honor others, God will reward us.  I found that to be true this week.  One day at lunch, I read one of the chapters in the book.  I felt convicted about my thoughts of the people in authority over me.  I confessed my sin.  As I walked back into work, my step had a little spring in it.  I felt that my load had been lightened.  I had been unaware of how much my thoughts about others was affecting my mood.

I had been frustrated about a work situation, and I would have these imaginary conversations about it. Doesn’t everyone?  Sometimes in these imaginings, I would confront the person.  Other times, I would talk about them to others.  In my conviction, I realized that I should change my attitude and let things work out by themselves. I’m trusting God to let me know when or if the time is right for a face-to-face conversation.

Later that afternoon, I was sitting at my desk when my manager approached me.  He asked me to do the thing I had been stewing about.  The thing I had been hoping he would ask me to do. He asked. Wow.  What a little repentance will do for a person.  It will open your heart and allow God to give the blessings he has been withholding. 

I’ve learned. Obedience is always the key to heavenly rewards. My reward that day was nothing to write home about. But it sure did open my eyes to what I could be missing out on if I am not faithfully guarding my thoughts and words. God will reward an obedient heart.

Cravings

I once craved sweets and chocolate. Carbs were my go to meal. Unhealthy carbs that seemed healthy. Pizza. Pasta. Donuts. Croissants. Bagels. Bread. Whatever carb I found, I was in. I was always looking for the biggest piece of dessert I could find. Cookies. Cake. Brownies. You name it. I ate it.

I’ve since cleaned up my diet. In the past ten years, I’ve given up most of the foods I formerly craved. Oh. I couldn’t give them up all at the same time. They were discarded one by one. In slow increments. Over time, I have been able to overhaul my diet to a healthy one. And I find I don’t miss those foods I once craved. They no longer appeal to me. I can’t remember the last time I ate pasta or sourdough bread. Call me crazy, but I don’t miss those foods anymore.

I’ve learned that tastes can change. You have to put in the effort to make the change. It won’t be easy. It won’t be perfect. But change can happen if given a chance. Change for the better is always best.

I replaced these old loves with new satisfying foods. Healthy foods. Apples. Dates. Potatoes. Brussels sprouts. Smoothies. Taste buds can change. The desire to change must be stronger than the love of the old craving.

I find that as my cravings have moved from processed sugars to natural ones, I enjoy fruit at a different level.  It is true that fruit can sometimes taste like candy.  It sounds strange, but it is true.  Oh.  There are times that I intentionally eat chocolate.  Or a brownie.  Cheesecake.  Pizza.  I still enjoy those foods.  But I don’t dwell on them.  I no longer crave them. I can recall the flavors of the foods of my past, but I no longer use them to fill my hunger.


Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. 1 John 2:15-17


A craving for physical pleasure. Do I use food as a replacement for the deep spiritual longing that is within me? Has physical activity taken priority over prayer and Bible reading?

A craving for everything we see. Do I really need that new pair of shoes? Or another pair of jeans? What about the organizational items that I never get around to using? Will I ever use that new immersion blender I just bought? Will these things fill the cravings that I have for more, more more?

Pride in our achievements and possessions. Do I place my dreams and plans and goals ahead of God’s will for me? Does that award really hold more value that peace of mind and contentment? Do I treat others nice so it will make me look good?

I find that as my craving for a closer walk with God matures, my desires are centered on more holy actions.  Honest words.  Intentional acts of kindness.  Thoughtful gestures.  I no longer have the desire to prove my abilities.  I want the mind of Christ to be seen and heard through me.  Oh.  I’m not perfect.  I fall short of my goal many times.  But as my desire for heaven deepens, my desire to please the One who made me grows stronger.  No.  I’m not a holy roller.  I’m one who has developed a deep craving for God Almighty.  I’ve discovered a desire to be more like him.  I want a close, personal relationship with him.  I want to recognize sin when it looks me in the face.  I don’t want to be influenced by sin disguised as goodness. 

I recently read that God made us to crave, so that we would always desire more of him. So, these days, what are you craving?

Fragile Clay Jars

It’s been two years to the day since I felt the sting of rejection.  I was told I was no longer needed for the job.  I was no longer wanted.  The job was no longer mine. In other words, I got the boot.

Oh. I don’t remember the date so I can commemorate the embarrassment of losing my job.  I remember the date for what I gained. For sometimes when you lose, you gain so much more than you ever thought you owned.

Sure. I eventually gained a new job.  New self-confidence.  A deeper trust in God.  For what a better way to learn total dependence on God than to lose a big ticket item you depended on daily.

2 Corinthians 4:7 tells me that I am a fragile clay jar.  And yes, I am.  I’ve learned these past two years that a personal rejection can make or break that fragile clay jar.  It depends on how I have filled the jar. Oh yes.  It’s fragile.  The jar can break.  It sure has cracks in it.  They’re obvious if you come too close. These cracks are caused by greed and anger. Envy. Pride. Fear. Jealousy. And many other uncomfortable undoings.

Oh.  I’ve tried to patch these cracks.  Time and again.  Repeatedly over the years, I’ve worked feverishly on some slow growing crack that just never mends.  The problem is that I tend to try to make all the repairs by myself.  But I’ve discovered a holy patchwork that is flawless.  Oh.  The scars are still in sight, but they can be filled with a righteous covering.  In the midst of my patches and flaws, this patchmaker comes in and has begun filling this fragile clay jar with just the right amount of holiness.  He makes the repairs when the clay softens enough to accept change. 

In the spots where the clay has become so hardened, he gently applies love and forgiveness to soften the spot.  He does that so he can remold this old vessel into one that looks more like him.  Oh.  He doesn’t remove the scars, but he fills them with his signature blend of mercy, grace, love and forgiveness. The blend is actually personalized for each clay pot.

Because at the end of the day, it’s not the clay jar that’s the prize.  It’s the contents that really matter. 


We are like fragile clay jars that contain a treasure.  Our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 2 Corinthians 4:7


Pressed but not crushed. Perplexed but not in despair. Hunted but not abandoned. Knocked down but not destroyed. 

We are pressed by troubles, but the hope within us keeps the weight of those troubles from crushing the life out of us. Our God is strong when we are weak.

 We are perplexed by loss and momentary troubles, but desperation is not our friend. God provides for our every need with precision in his timing.

We are hunted by the enemy himself,  but God does not abandon us when we are at our weakest. He fights for us. He is the host of heavens armies. 

We will be knocked down. Many times. But we will not be destroyed when we have the light of heaven shining in our hearts. We are not alone in this battle. This fragile clay jar has withstood fiery heat to get to this point of strength. 

Our great power is from God and God alone. It is not of ourselves. Never be fooled into thinking you are strong enough on your own to handle what life throws at you. You are a fragile clay jar. The filler is the key to strength and endurance.