Prevented/Stopped/Forbidden…

Yesterday was a weird day.

Here’s a sum up, with a little bit of background.

Acts 16 tells of the (continuing) story of the Apostle Paul & his missionary travels with his band of merry men. (Ok – I’m just assuming that the guys were merry; they WERE, however, for sure, his traveling companions in sharing the Gospel Good News throughout {mostly} the Greek/non-Jewish world.)  And yet… This passage reveals that at least twice on this particular journey, Paul & his team were prevented/stopped/forbidden from doing the very thing that Jesus Himself had told Paul he was to devote his life to doing. No sharing the gospel. No declaring the Good News. No even entering entire geographic regions.

The provinces of Asia. Mysia.  Bithynia. Forbidden by the Holy Spirit.

And then Paul has a dream, a dream of a Macedonian man begging him to come to Macedonia. Paul determines, “I guess we’re supposed to go to Macedonia…” So they did, & as a result, we have the Philippian incident, a strong & influential 1st century church, & Paul’s letter to the Philippians.


I’ve read this passage in Acts many, many times, & I always wonder:

  1. WHY would the Holy Spirit keep Paul & his team from doing something good like sharing the message of the Gospel Good News in a place that had never heard it before?”  
  2. What was it like to be prevented/stopped/& yes, even forbidden by the Holy Spirit? How did Paul KNOW the opposition they were experiencing was God & not the enemy, his own flesh, or something else? (THIS is the bigger question for me.)

The answers I’d probably give to those questions (if someone else was asking me,) are these:

  1. God knows. :) Maybe it has to do with His timing – & it wasn’t time for the Gospel Good News in those places. Maybe it wasn’t Paul’s mission from God to go to Asia, Mysia, & Bithynia, but rather someone elses mission for the future. (Kinda like when you think about the lame man at the Beautiful Gate. He’d been there, unable to walk, for as long as anyone could remember. Jesus would have had to walk by him EVERY single time Jesus went to the Temple for prayer & worship. Jesus DIDN’T heal the man… but Peter & John DID, & it was an incredible sign that led to thousands of people being added to the Church.
  2. Good question. From my own experiences at seeking God’s will & direction, & also from what we see in the Scriptures, there is no ONE way that God speaks to people. There is no ONE way, a litmus test if you will, that, after it’s performed, will give a definitive answer, a clear indication of God’s purposes.
    1. Was it that Paul & the guys tried to make plans & they kept falling through? Maybe their preparations kept coming to naught & eventually they figured, “If this door isn’t opening up, let’s try something new, a new destination & see if THAT door opens.
    2. It doesn’t say that Paul had a “NO” vision or clear sign NOT to go to these places; it says he tried & was stopped, so he tried a couple other places & was stopped. And then he had the dream about the Macedonian man, from which he deduced, “I guess we’re supposed to go there.” Not scientific. Not a declarative & booming from heaven James Earl Jones voice.
    3. It really speaks to the fact that Paul & the team were used to letting God direct their steps; they prepared, got moving, & then were very easily redirected with the (often) subtle nudges given by the Holy Spirit to those He trusts. Paul knew his mission was to declare & share the Gospel Good News; this story shows that he also knew to not try to do it in his own strength with his own giftings. He learned to go & do what God told him to & where He told him to do it. (Kinda reminds me of what Jesus said about only doing what He saw His Father in Heaven doing.”

Here’s a time when I believe this happened to me:

Years ago, I  was offered a ‘side gig’ as an American History teacher at a local private school. I jumped at the chance… after all, my ‘dream’ job for years was teaching High School/College history. I can remember thinking to myself, “What an incredible opportunity! I’m so  thankful to God for Him giving me the chance to teach history AND continue to pastor.” The euphoria about teaching history lasted about 45 minutes, after which I was hit with a really strong heaviness… it wasn’t oppressive, wasn’t strongly negative, & it didn’t ‘feel’ like spiritual opposition (hard to explain or put words to.)  it was just heavy, almost to the point of incapacitating, esp. when I began the task  of putting together a calendar of events & happenings for the year.

I couldn’t do  it. Not even a little. Imagine the worst writers block you’ve ever had & multiply it by 1000. I was stuck before I even got out of the gate. I can remember asking God, “Lord, please, will you please help me please? I’ve got  to prepare this so I can submit it to the administration so I can teach. Please?” 

It was at that point I got the sense of God saying, “But you never asked Me if this was for you to do.” And I knew. All the heaviness, all the difficulty, all the stuck-ness… that was what it felt like to try to do something (that I loved & aspired to do!) in my own strength, without the grace of God to empower or strengthen or equip me to do.

And so I prayed. Asked God for direction, asked Him “If not this, then WHAT am I to give this extra energy & attention to?” Couldn’t have been more than a minute when i got an idea for something I’d not given much thought to before… but that now seemed to be exactly what would come next for me. I pursued it & it flowed. It wasn’t easy – but it was simple. I could better differentiate between doing something in my own strength vs. doing something with the grace of God.

Which leads to my weird yesterday.


I’ve been working on & prepping for a project for church for the last 3 months; it’s been tough going, but I thought as we got closer things would  come together & get simpler.

Nope.

(In case you’re wondering, without going into specifics, it’s a project I love & a project I believe in.)

Finally, yesterday around 11 a.m., I realized I’d been wrestling for almost 3 hours with the same question & had a total of 3 words (not even a complete sentence) on my notepad. My head felt foggy, I had no ideas, no motivation, no insights, nothing. It felt like I couldn’t progress in this if my life depended on it. I was desperate.

I prayed. Talked with theBean. Interacted with my staff. And then I prayed some more, for wisdom & insight into what I was dealing with. All of the sudden, I had the thought, “What if we DON’T do this project? What if we just pull the plug on it today?” 

“Yes.” I heard it in my spirit. “Yes. Pull the plug.”

And so I did.


Immediately, my brain cleared.

I had ideas for 10 things that  I/we could do  instead of the project we’d been working on.

I felt normal. Better than normal. Like I’d just woken up after a long, wonderful nap. Couldn’t believe HOW MUCH different I felt in just a moment of time.

As I processed through it with theBean last night, I  wondered WHAT had been going on & what had lifted (& WHY) when I said “No” to the project. I’d never felt this way before, except… the history teaching gig. Ahh. Is that what this was? Me going out in my own strength & abilities to try to make something happen, (something GOOD I’ll have you know,) something that was not on God’s agenda for now/the near future? I tried to remember: “Did I ask God if I was supposed to continue with this project even though it wasn’t progressing, even though we’d done a version of it before & found it to be incredibly helpful & GOOD!?” I don’t know.

I’m still not 100% sure, but are we EVER 100% sure? As I have continued to think about it today, I process how many times we’re led to act because it “seems good to me/us & the Holy Spirit.” No direct words from on high. No ringing prophetic words. Nothing. Just a big, hard, seemingly impenetrable wall in one direction & clear skies & clear sailing in another one.

Still processing… And thankful for the grace of God in & ON my life.

…but here I am, living my new life & other musings…

I have a namesake: Moses Louis Heifner. I’d like to say that  one of the requirements I gave to Mo-Lou’s parents, Chris & Natalie, for me hiring Chris as our Worship/Creative Arts guy was that they had to agree to use MY name for one of their children, but that wouldn’t be accurate or right, esp. seeing that Mo-Lou was born BEFORE I hired Chris. But that would have been a good story.

As confusing, chaotic, difficult, & stretching as 2020 has been for me & mine, I can only imagine how the  ‘utes’ (youths/young people) are navigating it, esp. with the school year starting (albeit in a typical-for-2020 herky-jerky manner.) The utes & their teachers have been on my prayer list for reals.

Today, Natalie shared something from Mo-Lou’s school day that I thought was encouraging, inspiring, & even a little bit of a tear-jerker.

…but here I am living my new life.

I can identify with that statement. Lately, I don’t feel ready for many things. And a lot of the time I find myself wishing I could fall back on one of those tried & true “do-overs” from when I was 8. You know, when you didn’t know if the ball was fair or foul, or who touched it last, or something was in question… you just declared, “Do-over” & you got to reset, to start new, to “do-it-over.” But in the meantime, I think that Mo-Lou’s answer is a perfect one that we can learn from: “I feel like I am not ready, BUT here I am living my new life.” Here’s to living our (new) lives to the best of our abilities, even when (especially when?) we don’t feel ready. May God give us the grace & faith to go forward into the unknown with the encouragement that He won’t leave or abandon us.


Fires. Man! All over the place. Wreaking havoc, instilling panic, threatening to destroy entire lives, homes, & livelihoods. And the smoke from the fires (so many fires) has filled our valley for the last couple of weeks, & made it really difficult to breathe, do anything physical outside, &/or even SEE across the city like we’re accustomed to. So imagine  my surprise (& joy!) this morning to wake up to a clear(er) sky with many thanks to early morning rains.

I’d gotten used to the smokiness. The status quo. And it only took 2 weeks. And now…

I see the sun & it looks normal. I can see the other side of the  valley. I’m reminded of the beauty I’m surrounded by that I so often take for granted.

TheBean & I went out back & sat in the fresh, rain-scented air to read, drink our morning water & coffee (2 separate drinks, not watered down coffee. That would be gross & that would be wrong. But I digress.)

So thankful for the rain that cleans, purifies, & makes new (if even for a short-time. Skies are smoky again.) I’m praying for more rain (the regular stuff that falls from the sky) & also for a God-given rain that will fall on & around me & mine… to clean, purify, & make me new.


Little Lites just opened our “Kinder Lites” Kindergarten class today. They meet in the classroom right outside my office & I have to say I was thoroughly entertained by their songs, excited voices, & goofy playfulness as they began their own school journey in a really great place.

Reminded me of how many things I can remember from my own early life, the Kindergarten years. So many memories, some good, others not so much. Stuff that I still think about at times, stuff that helped shape my thinking (again, in some good ways, & others not so good.)

In Mrs. Morris’ class, (my Kindergarten teacher at Jessie Beck Elementary back in the olden days) I learned:

  • I talked funny (couldn’t say my “L’s”  or my “R’s”) until about 3rd grade
  • If I asked the wrong person for help, I would get made fun of
  • Recess was (& remains) the best
  • No matter how big a problem is/seems, rest/a little nap helps a lot
  • Clean up time, while not being fun, was/is one of the most important life lessons
  • School District toilet paper is THE WORST (2″ x 2″ 1-ply squares? Seriously.)
  • Reading opens up all sorts of worlds & provides a phenomenal respite from the ‘real’
  • Girls are interesting & VERY different from boys

For the stuff I’ve had to unlearn: I’m thankful for my parents & for the people who  took the time to show me another way. For those who God worked through to re-shape that which was intended to mar, to warp, & to damage me, into just memories & reminders that things don’t always go our way, & God’s  word on ME & who I am & will be is THE final say.

A thought on conflict & other musings on a Friday…

This morning I was listening to one of the podcasts I try to catch weekly (The Ryen Russillo Podcast – its sports, entertainment, discussion on movies, & life advice.) Today’s episode featured a conversation with longtime NBA referee (& now Head of Referees) Monty McCutchen. Something McCutchen said about conflict really jumped out at me. Here’s my sum-up version (with apologies to Mr. McCutchen):

“I’ve been in this business for 30 years; I don’t try to avoid conflict, but rather to maximize the positive impact conflict can have on relationships. Think about it: if we’re both in the same field over a 30-year period of time, there will be countless opportunities where conflict can & will arise. It might be over a differing opinion over a call I make, it might be a personality clash, it could be anything. But  the fact that we BOTH are going to be interacting in each others lives for decades is enough reason to use conflict positively, as something that allows us to build & grow our relationship. Because our lives are about MORE than this conflict we’re having – if we both can keep that in mind, we can learn to embrace humility, recognize our own faults & challenges, & contend for lasting relationship. Because in the end, that’s what’s most important in life.”

I’ve been thinking about that statement all day… especially because in my experience, conflict is something that I don’t relish, let alone look forward to as a potential “growth opportunity.” (Honestly, most of the growth opportunities I seem to have encountered are as attractive as a novacaine-free root canal. But I digress…) This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered the “conflict leads to growth” idea, but it is the first time in a long time I’ve thought about it long enough to begin to grab ahold of & work on embracing it… again, not seeking conflict just to stir things up, but seeing conflict as an inevitability for people who have chosen to walk through life together. Maybe its in a workplace, family situation, or more pointedly for me & my life, in a church community.

Looking back, the greatest friends that I have in this life are people with which I’ve navigated significant conflict & come out the other side.

I’m going to be thinking on this some more…


In other news, I went to the doctor in January of this year for my annual checkup. As I just turned 50, I discovered that there are several recommended tests & procedures recommended for this man who is now of a certain age. Let’s just say there were lots of “discussions” about prostates, colons, & other fun & (exciting!) procedures that need to be undertaken as a part of the new “50 year old’s health & wellness journey.” I left the office that day not necessarily looking forward to what was in front of me.

Fast forward 6 months – I received an email with a reminder that I need to get a colonoscopy scheduled & performed as soon as possible. In the midst of the pandemic & other craziness of 2020, it had completely skipped my mind. Until yesterday. Oh joy.

I called & left a message & then received a return call a few short minutes later. The P.A. on the other end of the call started off the conversation saying, “So, I hear that you are wanting to schedule a colonoscopy…” Now, words MEAN things to me; I can’t say, “Yeah, I want to schedule this…” as – I HAVE NOT & DO NOT want to have this procedure, but my primary care doctor strongly recommended this for me. So I relayed this to the nice lady: “Want to schedule? No. Need to schedule at my Doc’s request? Yes.”

And she laughed.


Sweet iced tea is too sweet for me. But I love to  put a packet of Splenda in my Pure Leaf Unsweetened Black Tea. Go figure.


After an 18 month writing/blogging hiatus, I feel like I am beginning to get back in the swing of things. I missed this.

For such a time as this…

Yesterday while a friend & I were waiting for the rest of the (virtual) attendees of our lunchtime Zoom Bible study to arrive, we got to talking about the challenges of navigating the current circumstances w/COVID, quarantine, etc. We commiserated a bit about loneliness, isolation, & the challenges of church, small groups, outreach, & other ministry (service) opportunities during this time where physical proximity (esp. if it is < 6 feet) seems to cause many the heebie-jeebies & all sorts of worry.

And then she made a comment that has been resounding in my ears for the last 24 hours:

“I was all caught up in worry & asking God, ‘Why?’ I don’t really know what it looks like to be in Christian fellowship in the middle of quarantine, or even how to carry on in any sort of ‘normal’ way through this process. But instead of getting worked up or fearful about the times I’m living in, I was thinking about Esther in the Bible & the threats of genocide & extermination she (& her people) were facing. And I remembered what was said to her. It was something like ‘maybe you’re here in the middle of this mess, intentionally, because God knew you were His person FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS.'”


Her statement really resonated with me. It reminded me that OF COURSE God has not been taken by surprise by the events of 2020, nor have His plans for salvation, transformation, renewal, rescue, healing, & the like been derailed due to COVID, quarantine, 6′ bubbles, & all the fear & speculation that runs rampant.

He knew, & He knows. He is STILL in charge, STILL on His throne.

And God’s people, the Church, are STILL called to be Jesus’ healing presence in the world where we live, to BE & to DO what Jesus would be BEING & DOING if He were walking in our shoes. And for SOME reason, He believes that we are exactly the RIGHT the people to be living as that healing presence in SUCH A TIME AS THIS. Personalizing this:

It’s easier for me to cheer for Esther to take on the challenges of her day, (“C’mon sister! You got this! God has your back, & He’ll give you what you need DAILY to obey Him & put into practice what He’s calling you to do, no matter how scary it might be!”) than it is for ME to BELIEVE, to HAVE FAITH for the SAME input into my own life, for my own challenges that I am facing TODAY, in THIS time.

And then I remind myself that God knew. And He knows. He knows what is needed today & He knows what He’s got to work with by working IN & THROUGH me & my actions. And I get to thank Jesus that His ways & thoughts are FAR above & beyond mine, & that as Lord, He is able to pour out my life where He sees fit. He’s promised to equip me with what I need for each day, & has also promised that He will never leave me alone or abandon me. God created me to live & be where I am for these days we live in. THESE DAYS.

I’m in the process of experiencing something new – a new way of seeing the current world, a new way of seeing myself, w/a new skill set & tool belt to move forward with in serving others in the BEING & DOING... & I’m praying that I will be able  to see things around me with His eyes. I’m asking for teammates to walk this out with, people who recognize & respond to their own call from Jesus, that we wouldn’t shrink back & (continue to) live in fear, but to look how we can respond to Jesus, by grace through faith, for such a time as this.


Reminds me of this exchange between Gandalf & Frodo about the One Ring in Fellowship of the Ring – & how Frodo wishes the ring had NEVER come to him.

The  quote:

Frodo: ‘I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.’
Gandalf: ‘So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides that of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, in which case you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.”


All we have to decide is WHAT to do with the time that is GIVEN to us. And I’m believing we’re here for such a time as this.

Waiting with purpose, a long obedience in the same direction, and other musings…

This Easter season has been a significant one for me – it started with a Holy Spirit-directed rediscovery of the significance of Christ’s suffering & Good Friday, & it continued with the waiting, uncertainty, & anticipation for the coming Resurrection Sunday. Coming out of Easter Sunday, I have been asking the LORD what & where He would like to work in me (& at Hillside.) What has continually come to mind has been the time period between Easter (the Feast of Passover) & the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the church (the Feast of Pentecost.) I was drawn to Acts 1:1-11.

In this passage, we see that the Risen Christ spent about 40 days, post-Resurrection, with His disciples. His followers, believing that the time had FINALLY come for Christ to overthrow their Roman oppressors, couldn’t wait to question Him about the details on His presumed intentions for declaring & advancing a physical, political kingdom. His instructions, however, took them completely by surprise, as He told them their next steps were not to prepare for battle, but rather to return to Jerusalem TO WAIT for the promise of the Father, which, He said, “you heard from Me, for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Go back to Jerusalem. Wait for the promise. And then, you will receive the Holy Spirit – & when you do, you will receive power to be witnesses for Christ.

And wait they did.


Over these next weeks until Pentecost Sunday, our Sunday studies will be exploring what it means to wait, as well as different facets of what it might look like, to us individually & as a church, to wait & then, when it’s time, to act in Holy Spirit empowered actions. I’m looking forward to it.


Perseverance. Faithfulness. Patient endurance. These are some of my favorite phrases – probably because, to me, they so clearly capture what most of life in Christ is about. One of my favorite books is “A Long Obedience In The Same Direction,” by Eugene Peterson. The book is based upon the Psalms of Ascent, (Psalm 120-134, 15 songs that Jewish pilgrims sang as they climbed the hills leading to Jerusalem for the 3 main feasts of the year,) & it deals with what is necessary to live the Christian life, over the long haul. The title of the book comes from a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche:

“The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.” Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900)

During this time where I’ve got ‘waiting’ on my mind & heart, I’m revisiting “A Long Obedience…” & inviting our Hillside Learning Community reading group to join me in reading through & pondering the book (& these Psalms, in depth,) & then join together to discuss what God has been speaking to & forming in us.

Through the Gospels – Matthew 3

SOAP – Through the Gospels
Matthew 3

S – SCRIPTURE
Matthew 3:1,2;5-8 – In those days, John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand…” Then Jerusalem & all Judea & all the region about the region were going out to him, & they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees & Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance…”

O – OBSERVATION
Repentance is a heart-level, life-transforming response; it is a change of heart & mind that leads to a change of direction & action. John called people to REPENT because the kingdom of heaven was at hand, & that fact changed everything. People from all over, convicted of their sin & challenged in their heart, submitted themselves to the declarative & symbolic act of water baptism as a sign of a changed heart & life – it was a visible sign of their desire to be prepared for the advent of the kingdom of God.

But repentance wasn’t (& isn’t) just about the act of being baptized; true repentance will bear fruit, will show evidence of that changed heart, mind, & life – the proof of repentance is seen in the days, weeks, & months that follow, as the new life springs up & reveals itself.

A – APPLICATION
John’s challenge to the religious leaders of his day, (& to us reading this 2000+ years later) is to persevere in repentance, & not merely go through the outward motions of a religious experience. To be fundamentally shifted from my road to Christ’s. To live life, make decisions, establish priorities, & invest oneself in a manner that is congruent with a life of repentance; to not grow weary at doing good, but to persevere through difficulty & opposition so we may see the work of the Holy Spirit, righteousness & life, established in us. (Galatians 6:7-10).

P – PRAYER
LORD – make me sensitive to Your Spirit – that I would be quick to repent, to turn, to change my mind to align with Yours. Make my heart simple & soft. And may the seeds of repentance & faith grow in my heart & mind, translated to action & a life that makes You famous.

perseverance in the face of persecution, & other musings from Acts 14

Then some Jews arrived from Antioch & Iconium & won the crowds to their side. They stoned Paul & dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead. But as the believers gathered around him, he got up & went back into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe. After preaching the Good News in Derbe & making many disciples, Paul & Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium, & Antioch of Pisidia, where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God. Acts 14:19-22

The Apostle Paul suffered violent opposition, persecution, slander, & threat of death for his persistence in declaring the gospel. In Lystra, the mobs that had been chasing him from town to town finally caught up with him, dragged him out of the city, & stoned him until he was dead. Or at least they thought he was.

Whether he was resurrected from the dead or somehow had “shaken off” the stoning & recovered enough to walk we don’t know. (And just how might one “shake off” being pelted with rocks as big as your head?) What we do know is that Paul got up, & moved on to the next city, Derbe, continuing to preach the gospel to any & all that would hear it. If that wasn’t enough, Paul & Barnabas soon went back to Lystra, Iconium, & Antioch of Pisidia, all places that angry hordes had either wanted to or attempted to kill them. And the message they preached was Good News – & that this Good News & following Christ was worth every bit of suffering & hardship that would come, something they all knew he had experienced firsthand.

It makes me think about the confidence that Paul placed in his relationship with God, & how much he depended on the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain him through a life of such physical difficulty & suffering. What’s more, his chose to set his mind on Christ, the author & finisher of our faith. To be steadfast, firm in his pursuit of the goal, the mission he’d been given: that all would hear & come to know Christ, our hope & glory.

When Paul challenged the disciples in each city he visited to stand firm in their faith, to boldly persevere in the face of suffering, he spoke from experience. He had discovered the very real peace of God that goes beyond circumstances, & had fully committed himself to the fact that God would sustain him until such a time that he died or was martyred. And this death (& even the threat of it) had no power or sway on him, for long before, he had chosen that whether he lived or died, it would be for the glory of God.

I pray for a fresh filling with the Holy Spirit for each of us. For boldness to live & declare the Good News without fear of what may come. And I set my eyes on Christ & purpose to follow in His footsteps, & encourage others to do the same after me.

living downstream from faith…

Paul & 275 others were in trouble. Their tiny ship was sailing towards Italy, & had been caught in a winter storm that raged without stopping for more than two weeks. It was so severe that the most experienced sailors had given up all hope of surviving (27:20.)

But not Paul – he knew that God had told him he would witness on His behalf before Caesar in Rome (Acts 23). And since God had told him, he believed it with all of his heart.

…last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as He said…

I’m struck by how Paul’s faith in God’s ability to keep His promises, even in the face of a deadly storm, not only saved Paul, but also everyone else on the boat.

When we exercise faith, we may not always know just how many other lives will be touched & influenced by it; faith is contagious, & the LORD looks for those who will take Him at His Word, & strengthens them. And then, like with Abraham, He blesses others through His faithful ones.

The eyes of the LORD run to & from throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him… 2Chronicles 16:9

a little encouragement to stand, & other musings…

I really appreciate the “little” reminders of God’s faithful protection and grace in my life. It’s not that I need to hear something every morning to keep me going, or come across The Perfect Verses Of Encouragement in my scripture reading to stay on track. In fact, it seems that most of my life has been “…a long obedience in the same direction.” However, some of my most difficult life situations were able to be navigated because of a well-timed encouragement from the LORD in prayer; or a note written by a friend who’d been praying for me & was prompted to pass something on.

One specific time, Dick Mills, a well-known and very prophetic Bible teacher, picked theBean & I out of a church service and quoted 2Samuel 23:11,12 – He said, “You’re going to go through hard, hard things. But you’ll remain standing, & will come out smelling like a rose!”

Sure enough, over the next months, we endured some of our most challenging times in our ministry and personal life… and many times, revisited and rehearsed the word we’d received, holding tight to God’s promises to bring us out the other side. He did, and I’m still thankful for those timely words.


In reading through Acts 23, I think that the Apostle Paul appreciated the encouragements he received from the LORD. He’d been stoned at Lystra. Survived a riot at Ephesus. Navigated mobs at Thessalonica and Berea. Been threatened with violence and death countless times. And that’s not even considering the death mobs in Jerusalem. So when the LORD stood by him one night and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome,” it had to be a point of celebration, and a boost to his faith. Not because he was a fearful man, but because God was reminding him, “Don’t look at your circumstances. Don’t listen to the threats and plots against your life. I am your protector, and you still have a mission.”

So the next day, when he was informed there were 40 killers lying in wait to murder him, he didn’t worry what might happen next, for God was WITH him, and with absolute surety, Paul knew that He would never leave him or forsake him. No matter what.

And God even cared enough to encourage Paul, a little reminder of His goodness.

This is our God.

thoughts about Paul’s ‘mission from God,’ suffering, perseverance, & other musings…

Acts 21 tells of Paul’s intent to head to Jerusalem, and also the fact that he received several prophetic words and pictures declaring, “If you go to Jerusalem, you will be thrown into prison.”

I never understood why, after hearing these multiple warnings from the Holy Spirit of the imprisonment, persecution and suffering awaiting him in Jerusalem, Paul still purposed to go to Jerusalem. I even tried to come up with possible reasons WHY he might be so intent to finish this journey; none of the reasons made sense, especially considering the man the Apostle Paul was. So I asked the LORD, “What would make a man choose this path and persist in the face of what looks like preemptive warnings of danger and trouble from the Spirit?”

Immediately, an earlier portion of Paul’s story flashed into my mind, from the time right around his conversion (Acts 9:10-19.) From the beginning, God revealed that He had made Paul His “chosen instrument to testify of Christ and spread the gospel, before the Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.” And one of the first things revealed to Paul was how much he would suffer for the sake of the Name of the LORD.

Aha! I get it. Paul was on a mission from God.

The single-minded purpose to get to Jerusalem wasn’t an exercise of stubbornness on Paul’s part – he simply understood that this was part of the living out of the mission given to him by the LORD years before. The fact that his obedience and persistence could (and would) result in imprisonment and suffering were almost an afterthought; the mission, and the spread of the gospel, were preeminent.

I think that we might have an underlying assumption that suffering is to be avoided at all costs, probably because suffering hurts. Digging deeper, we may have an unscriptural ‘karma-like’ belief about good and bad happening in our lives, e.g. if we’re doing what God wants us to do, life will be good, and if not, then that’s when the bad stuff happens.

Jesus told His disciples, “The servant isn’t greater than his master; if they persecuted me, they will also persecute you…” (John 15:20) If I’m living a life of obedience to the LORD, living for eternity and not just for comfort in the here and now, I will suffer. The good news is that any “present sufferings won’t even compare to the glory that will be revealed” in, through, and around us in Christ Jesus and by His Spirit (Romans 8:18.)

Paul was sure about one thing – God had given him a mission, and therefore, whatever it took to complete the mission, he knew that God would provide it.

I pray for such a faith to grow in my heart and mind, and for that kind of faithful perseverance to the calling and mission that God has placed in front of me. LORD, help me live life with eternity and Your values firmly in sight, and with a single-minded focus on my mission.