Saturday, December 24, 2011

Stir the stagnant waters of my soul.
Merge me with your river, which brings life.
I don't have all the right words to say
that will provoke you to want me, anymore than you already do.

So won't you come. Come like you promised.
Pour out your Spirit. Pour out your Spirit.
Won't you come. Come like you promised.
Pour out your Spirit. Pour out your Spirit.

Overcome the darkness of my night.
Jesus, be the strength of my life.
Reaching past my hiding,
Oh, reach beyond my right.
Oh Lord, flood my soul with your love.

Won't you some. Come like you promised.
Pour out your Spirit. Pour out your Spirit.
Won't you come. Come like you promised.
Pour out your Spirit. Pour out your Spirit.

I was listening to this song tonight while doing some writing. The reality of these words and the significance of this day, Christmas Day, simply overwhelmed me.

Of all the ways he could've come, he chose to do so as one of us to this broken world and that, to me is unfathomable. But to come for the mere purpose of reconciling us to God through the sacrifice of his own life, is worthy of a day, a month, a lifetime of celebration.

Jesus, today we celebrate you for you are the one gift we simply cannot live without.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

I Can't Hold Back!

For about the past two months or so, I have been engrossed in the book of Numbers. It really is quite fascinating when you know the story of the Israelites. Even if you don't, I highly recommend that you read this book. You will most definitely see some people you know in this epic story, including perhaps yourself.

For now I will just share with you what has captured me this week from this remarkable epoch. I won't write out the entire passage here because I want you to read the story for yourself. You simply must do so to really gain a perspective on what's happening here. I will highlight some verses to drive home a point but trust me. You've got to read it.

Let me set it up for you. Moses is about to send some dudes out to go scout the land of Canaan. He chooses one leader from each of the twelve tribes of Judah. Not sure why he did this but Moses changed one of their names from Hoshea to Joshua. If you have a son or a relative named Joshua I know you are glad he did that. I don't like the name Hoshea either. Anyway, enough chasing rabbits.

Those men are sent out. You probably know the story. They bring back a great report about the riches of this land flowing with milk and honey. They bring back a single cluster of grapes so big that it takes two of them to carry it on a pole between them. What? We are getting ripped off people! Have you ever seen a cluster like that in your local grocery store? Me neither.

The people were on pins and needles listening to their report and were in awe of the rich fruit born from this land. Then smack dab in the middle of their glowing report, the shoe drops. "BUT." Don't you hate it when you can feel a "but" coming? Everything is all good until someone says, "but."

"They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there." Numbers 13:27-28

Okay, a bit of history before I go on. Hearing that about the descendants of Anak really meant something to the Israelites because they knew who those people were. They're ancestry was from the Nephilim which were the offspring of the sons of God (angels) and daughters of the earth (Genesis 6:1-4). That's how beautiful you are daughter of God, but that's a totally different blog. I won't get on that soap box here.

So you see, this word from the negative ninnies held some weight with God's people. If that wasn't enough, they went on to make the situation sound even more dire.

But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” Numbers 13:31-33

Now these are God's chosen people, right? The people of His promise... The people He rescued from the hand of Pharaoh by miraculously parting a sea and then closing it back up again with their pursuers engulfed within it's waters. These are the same people whom He supplied food for in the middles of the desert, right? And these twelve scouts are LEADERS from each of their tribes. Right? Okay. Glad we got that settled. I just want to make sure we all get it, including me because there is a reason I have been stuck in this book of only 36 chapters for several months even though I have only made it to chapter 14.

Did you catch that phrase I put in bold print for you?

"And they spread among the Israelites a bad report..."

Every time I read that my eyes well up with tears, even now as I am writing this I am having a hard time keeping them back. That is because I know what a bad report can do. I know the poison it possesses and the ability it has to undermine, to thwart and to destroy the person or situation towards which it is directed against. We've all seen it and perhaps even experienced it. If you haven't, you will at some point.

As a result of that bad report being spread amongst the Israelites, here is how they replied.

That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” Numbers 14:1-4

What? Now I'm sorry but that's just stupid! Yet with a report like the one they had been given, it's a bit difficult to judge them. BUT GOD. Had they forgotten Him? Well, DUH! Ya think? Obviously they had but then there were two.

Caleb had tried to speak out earlier to rally the troops and bring things back into focus, but the naysayers had overtaken his words with their arsenic. Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it." Numbers 13:30

But what happened next is much too humbling for me to fully comprehend. Four men, amidst thousands... Four men whose hearts must've been broken because of the rebellious hearts of God's people... Four men who had the courage to stand in the midst of a volatile people and speak truth, did just that.

Aaron and Moses fell face down in front of God and everybody (probably deeply embarrassed that they were the leaders of these habitually insane people), and Joshua and Caleb, two from among the twelve scouts, tore their clothes (most likely to expose their ripped abs and toned biceps - so that the other ten could see what real men looked like) because they were about to lay it down for the Israelites in plain English, or whatever the language was of the day. (Cheryl interpretation added in parenthesis for extra emphasis.)

“The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” Numbers 14:7b-9

In essence, what they said was, "What the heck?!! Are you stupid? Do you know who our God is? Let's go get the land! God is with us, not those people in the land. They have no hope but not us. We've got God." At least that's how I interpret it. But God bless those poor Israelites who had clearly been mistreated from the time they stepped into the dessert because the next thing you know, a stoning was being planned for Caleb and Joshua because they believed a totally different report.

I'm going to stop there and let you read the rest of the story for yourself because I just wrote something that I want to linger in for just a bit because it just caught me by surprise. Read chapter 13 and 14 on your own.

I wonder what was so different about Caleb and Joshua that made them believe and give a different report? You know we live in a very cynical and resigned world - resigned to believe the worst in others intentions and in the systems of this world. I have been in organizations and structures where the bad report of just one or two all attempted to destroy the reputation and/or effectiveness of an individual in that specific arena. I have been the one to whom that sort of venom was directed. It is pure evil and it destroys, but God... But God is near to the brokenhearted and to those who fear him. (Psalm 34:18)

Psalm 15:1-3
Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill?
He whose walk is blameless
and who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart
and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbor no wrong
and casts no slur on his fellowman...

When we begin to realize that our negative words, our condemning words, and our judgemental words contain power to persuade and to destroy, and that they also bear consequences for us, then we will start making a conscience effort to stop speaking them. Joshua and Caleb knew this which is why they warned their people not to rebel against the Lord. They saw the danger coming.

Can you see the danger coming, maybe not for you but possibly for another who cannot see the trap they have set for themselves? If so, take them to the throne room and do what Moses later did in this passage. He interceded for his people because God was ready to just flat out start over using Moses as the vessel. But God changed his mind when Moses prayed. (Numbers 14:11-20) I love that! Did you know that God could actually change His mind because of our prayers?

Maybe for the first time you are seeing this truth for your own life. You have been the one spreading poison to whomever would listen. Let me caution you. Stop it! Stop it now and do what Moses and Aaron did. Fall face down before a merciful God who alone has the power to cause those words to fall like dust to the ground. "Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity." Joel 2:13

Surround yourself with people who speak no evil against any man and who themselves yearn to be like Caleb. This verse so gripped my heart this morning that it prompted me to write this message.

"But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it." Numbers 14:24

I want to have a different spirit! I want to experience every promise, every joy, every victory, every gift the Lord has in store for me. Yet, I fall ridiculously short so often of achieving that goal but I want to have a different spirit - one that will believe the good report and that will believe that my God is bigger than the obstacles before me. I want to live in that place every day of my life.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


A few days ago I was reading the account of the Israelites wandering in the dessert and grumbling about not having meat to eat. Something in the passage early on gripped me so deeply, that I could not read on any further.

"When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down." Numbers 11:9

I know. It seems really unimportant, doesn't it? It didn't to me that morning, not from the place I was in and not from the place where many of you sit who need to be reminded that where God leads us, He will also feed us.

I was suddenly taken back by the fact that the Lord provided nourishment for these murmuring people, supernaturally every night. While to the Israelites, their exodus may have seemed like a bit of a hassle, Yahweh took care of them in the desert because they were His and He was taking them on a journey to the land of their promise.

Consider this. Dew falls at night and only on cloudless, clear nights. That makes since given that the Lord gave His people a pillar of fire to follow by night and a cloud to follow by day. How else would Moses have known which cloud to follow if the sky was cloudy? Would he have picked the cloud that most resembled a bunny, or a lion or a butterfly? I would've had spotters looking for the most distinctive looking cloud. Tiaras, shoes, chocolate, puppies... No telling where we would've ended up!

Our amazing Father ordained the conditions to be just right so that His people would have a clear sign to follow both day and night and food to eat without fail. He did not bring them to the desert to strand them there. He had a purpose and a destination in mind. The exodus was a gift, although on many occasions they failed to see it as such.

We do that sometimes. I recently had an experience at work where I had something I enjoyed very much, taken away from me. The purpose was so that I could perform my other tasks better and with greater efficiency but I did not see it like that right away. In my heart, I fought against the transition for a while and I struggled greatly with what I thought that incident really meant. I was wrong.

When I finally yielded, gave up on being upset over the matter and confessed my brokenness, I was able to move on. I later received a blessing I am not sure would have come had I held onto the attitudes which had stolen my joy and held captive my spirit.

What I needed to get through that difficult patch was with me all along. It had settled as dew upon my heart, yet I let it spoil and subsequently grumbled about my plight. But we serve a graciously loving God who's mercies are new every morning. Just just like the dew, the opportunity was there once again to grab hold of that mercy and to trust God completely with my situation.

Can you relate? Are you in that place? Do you find yourself kicking against a brick wall or in a situation where you're just crying out to God saying, "You've got the wrong person! I can't do this."

Then that's a good place to be because you are partially right. You can't do it alone but if He called you, you can do it with Him. If He lead you there, be it adversity or adventure, He will feed you in the midst of it.

What is it you need to fulfill the assignment before you? It's yours already. The ground is saturated with the dew of heaven - your manna for today. Ask Father to help you gather all that you need.

"All I have needed thy hand hath provided.
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Kindness of Strangers

Recently, I was reminded of an experience I had some years ago while traveling. I was driving to a friend's lake house during the mass Houston exodus for Hurricane Rita. I arrived several hours ahead of my friends, so I decided to run a few errands, the first of which was to get gas.

As I stopped at the station, I could see I was not the only traveler fleeing the big city in search of safe refuge. Cars filled to the brim with people, children, pets and things were steadily trickling by on this usually uneventful country road. I was there alone with just about everything of worth to me - my dog, my photos and other important treasures and documents I didn't want to chance losing. I was not afraid though. I knew where I was and had safe havens nearby where I could wait until my friends finally arrived.

While I wasn't looking, a stranger approached me. She had a kind face full of concern as she came up to the pump where I had stopped. Apparently she saw me before I saw her and noticed I was not just on a weekend trip to someplace. She walked up and asked if I was fleeing the storm, to which I replied I was. Then as though we had met before, she asked if I had someplace to go.

My urban awareness all too quickly kicked in and I responded that I did, but thanked her very profusely for asking. She peered at me for a bit as if to say, "Are you telling me the truth? I mean you no harm," and then mentioned that she and her family lived nearby and would be happy to put me up if I needed it. I eased a bit and thanked her once more as I told her of my friends and their dilemma - being stuck in mile long traffic, taking a detour stop off at their ranch and yada, yada, yada...

Finally satisfied that I would be okay, she moved on but not before compassionately wishing me luck and a very safe journey. I was glad I had chosen that gas station to fill up at that day.

That encounter did something in me. In the midst of this stressfully uncertain situation, God sent a stranger to show me two things. The first was my suspicion to the kindness of others. I had nothing this woman needed but she had something to offer me. My initial response to that offer was one of distrust. Had I continued in that place and kept up my guard, I would've missed out on the second lesson.

In the midst of our day to day lives we experience all sorts of trials, triumphs, joys and sorrows. Yet we are continually surrounded by people who simply have nowhere to go. They have no one to turn to that they can share their trials or sorrows with, not to mention their joys. Sadly, we miss seeing those people, even those divinely placed in our own spheres of influence who desperately need for someone to notice their need. We miss them because we are too consumed with our own lives to see that they even have a need.

I want to be like that woman. It was her kindness - the kindness of a stranger that softened me that day. Lord, help me to see beyond me.