Not Alone

Look to my coming on the first light of the fifth day, at dawn look to the east.

Gandalf – Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers J.R.R. Tolkien

In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the battle of Helms Deep looked grim as the enemy surrounded the only entrance and there seemed no hope for victory. It was a long night, but at dawn, Gandalf arrives with reinforcements just as he promised. The Bible is full of God’s promises to His children, but sometimes we have to wait for it to be fulfilled. The waiting time can see like an eternity, but if we keep our eyes focused on God, we will always have hope.

When we are waiting, it is easy to get distracted by the world around us. For example, in 1 Kings we find the story of Elijah who has just prayed down fire from Heaven and wiped out the prophets of Baal. When he hears of Jezebel’s threats, Elijah feels like he is alone in a battle he cannot win and he hides in despair.

14 And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away…18 Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

1 Kings 19:14, 18

After some rest and nourishment, God tells Elijah that he has seven thousand who are still loyal to Him and that he is not alone in the fight. From our vantage point, we might wonder how Elijah could go from boldly confronting the prophets of Baal to hiding and whining, but it is often after great victories that the enemy will attack us with doubts. Winning a tough victory takes a lot of energy: physical, spiritual and mental. We need to remember that like Elijah we are not alone.

The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.

Psalm 68:11

Being a writer is often solitary work, but I am not the only one writing the word God has given. He has many other writers, each with their own message to share. Writing groups allow writers to share and encourage one another so that we know that there other people who have been through some of the same issues and some who have had success. By sharing our stories, we build each other up. The trick is to find the right community for you.

Besides finding a like-minded community to offer support and accountability, we also need to ensure that we also take care of ourselves. First, we need to rest because we are more vulnerable if we are tired. Also, we need to make sure we have proper nourishment because hunger is another point of attack. Finally, or maybe firstly, we need to pray so that we are connected to our true source of energy.

Once you have strengthened yourself, then it is time to get back to work. If we sit idle too long, we are subject to remaining idle, which can lend itself to wallowing. This weekend I battled another round with those pesky fleas, which included wrangling two angry cats into carriers and to the vet followed by a thorough cleaning of the house. I took Friday and Saturday off from writing this blog as a result, but I rested, I ate, and I went to church. Now, I am finishing my assignment. So eat, rest, and pray, but don’t wallow. If you lay down with dogs, or cats, and wallow you just wake up with fleas. So, get up and get back to work. It’ll make you feel better.

Stay Focused

Bear in mind then, that Brag is a good dog, but Holdfast is a better.

― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.”

― Bruce Lee

The two words set my nerve on edge: Below Expectations. I am working a short-term job which requires me to maintain validity. They judge this by randomly inserting tests in with actual work to make sure that I am responding in a consistent manner. For the last week I had been “Exceeding Expectations” and making incentive pay for my hard work. In one shift I had dropped to the danger zone, and I had no idea why because I cannot see what I have done wrong and my supervisor is not allowed to tell me. They can only offer suggestions. If I drop too low, I can be dropped from the job and possibly not invited to further job offers. I reminded God that He had provided this job and I needed wisdom to be able to continue.

 Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?

Jeremiah 32:27

Jeremiah was the verse for Monday and reminded me that not even a computer system or validity questions were too hard for God. I continued working, but the two words “Below Expectations” were always just to the left, mocking me. I clocked out early with a headache.

 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

I had to confess that I was wavering in my faith a little, especially since the two words would not go away, no matter how carefully I worked. I had lost my confidence. I prayed again and kept working.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

I could see no purpose in this mental torture, but I kept on working. There was still no change in the two words. I clocked out a little early, weary of the mental strain of trying to meet some hidden goal.

 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

The next night I picked back up with those two words still lit up in orange: Below Expectations. I began to work and occasionally the system would show me that I had answered correctly, but the words refused to change. Then, I noticed that the system had not notified me of a chat message from my supervisor. It was a word of encouragement. I responded that I appreciated it.

 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

Psalm 91:4

A little while later I received a phone call from the supervisor. He said that he had no idea why the system kept showing “Below Expectations.” From His perspective, I was doing excellent work. He could see everything I had done from His side of the system, while all I could see were the two words “Below Expectations.” His encouragement got me back on track and a day later I was back on “Exceeds Expectations.”

In life, sometimes all we ever see about us are evidence that we don’t meet up to the world’s standards. The truth is it’s not the world’s standards we have to meet; it is God’s standards. He knew we could never meet them, so He sent His only Son to bridge the gap for us. The enemy uses comparison and discouragement to try and distract us from doing what God has called us to do. God doesn’t require perfection, only a willing heart. He’s not looking for someone who talks a good talk; He is looking for someone who holds fast to Him.

So, when the world tries to distract you by throwing comparisons in your face, remember to stay focused on God and hold fast.

Hopeful: It’s an Attitude

It’s the little things that can make your day, but it is also the little things that can wreck your day…if you let it. My hope Bible study this week seems to be on attitude. Don’t get me wrong, I can get an attitude, but it’s not always the right one. The scriptures this week give an example of how we should respond to life given the hope that we have.

Day 15

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

1John 3:2-3

We should purify ourselves. If we are Christians, we are purified by the blood of Christ on the cross, but we still live in a fallen world. We are faced with situations on a daily basis that can send us down the wrong path. So the first key word is PURITY.

Day 16

But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

1 Thessalonians 5:8

The next key word is SOBER. Sober is more than just not drinking alcohol or taking drugs. Have you ever heard the phrase “sober as a judge”? To be sober is to be calm, temperate, and earnest. Noone wants to come before a judge who is either silly or prone to outbursts. We want someone who is calm and serious so that they can judge the situation fairly. From the looks of social media, I think all of us could do with a little sobering up.

Day 17

Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;

Titus 2:13

LOOKING is the word that jumped out at me from this verse. When you have hope, you are expecting something. In this case, we are expecting the appearing of Christ and the renewal of the entire world. Let’s not let evil in the world take away our hope. Let’s keep our focus on Christ, and share our hope with the world.

Day 18

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Revelations 21:4

The key word here is NO. There will be nothing bad in Heaven, so we have a hope for a better future. Therefore, we should remember that this world is temporary, but eternity awaits full of good things for those who believe.

Day 19

The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

MIDST is the keyword here. I almost chose mighty, but we know God is mighty. What we need to remember is that He is in the midst; He is in us through the Holy Spirit’s presence. We are not alone.

Day 20

Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;

Romans 12:12

There are actually three key words here: REJOICING, PATIENT, CONTINUING. There are several scriptures that tell us to rejoice. If nothing else, we can rejoice in our salvation, but I think if you try you can think of many more things worthy of rejoicing over. Patient is not an easy one, but if you are rejoicing, it is easier to be patient in times of trial. Continuing means we don’t stop; we keep going. As we keep going forward for Christ, we continue to pray. Keeping in constant communion with God helps to keep our battery charged and our hopes high. All three keywords also represent actions as well as attitude. What can we do today that will bring out these attitudes?

Day 21

His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

Matthew 25:21

The keyword is FAITHFUL. God just wants us to do the best we can with what we have for His service, no matter how small. If we do that, then we have JOY.

Our attitude is in direct relation to our focus. When we keep our focus on Christ, then we have hope. When we have hope, our attitude changes for the better. So, let’s try for a hopeful attitude because the world is in need of hope today more than ever before. #MyHopeNotebook

In The Background

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:18

My computer often gives me a message that a web page is slowing down my computer and gives me the option to stop it or wait. I usually just ignore the message because it disappears not long afterwards. Sometimes it is slow because a program is working in the background. Sometimes that program is the antivirus software that makes sure nothing can harm my computer.

In writing we have the same thing because of point of view. We normally see things through one character’s eyes. While a book may contain more than one point of view you usually only see a scene from one character at a time. The character only knows what they have seen; they have no idea what the other characters are doing or thinking in the background where the reader can’t see.

Our spiritual lives are like that as well. 2 Corinthians tells us not to look at the things which are seen, but the things which are unseen. We should be looking to God for answers because he sees everything. He is the author, so he knows what all the characters are doing, and he knows the end of the story. Therefore, we should trust what he is doing instead of worrying about what the other characters are doing or looking to them for answers.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Jeremiah 29:11

The other half of 2 Corinthians 4:18 is the reasoning behind the command to look to God instead of man or current events: they are temporal. They are temporary. They will change. God never changes and is eternal.

For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

Malachi 3:6

Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

I Timothy 1:17

So then, we should set our eyes on God, the author, knowing that He will bring about a good end and that He is working in the background for our good. He is protecting us, leading us, and helping us grow. When circumstances look grim, just remember that God is always at work and never sleeps. Look to him and be kingdom-minded and eternally focused and the din and clamor of the world will fade away.

What do you see?

setting tableSometimes I like to make a game of cooking something with just what’s left in the pantry. Sometimes it is for fun, sometimes it is because I’m too lazy to go to the store, and sometimes it is purely from necessity. Trying to find an appetizing meal out of random ingredients can put your creativity and problem solving skills to work. I had been doing this for years when I saw a similar challenge on a cooking competition show. The chefs must create a meal using only the ingredients given to them. There submissions are judged on taste, creativity and use of ingredients. I’ve come up with some very unique and tasty recipes myself that way. Necessity really can be the mother of invention.

In Luke 9:12-17, the disciples come to Jesus with a problem: it’s late and the people haven’t eaten. They tell him to send the people away, but Jesus tells the disciples tBreado feed the multitude. The disciples look around but they only had five loaves and two fish, so they said we need to go buy more food. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish and multiplied them so that there was enough to feed everyone with food left over. The disciples were amazed because all they saw was what was in their hands.

Switch scenes to the Old Testament. In I Samuel 17, David hears Goliath defying God and is incensed. He offers to fight Goliath while all the others are shaking in fear. All they see is the giant in front of them. Instead of looking at the giant, David points out how God has always come to his aid. So, he picks up five stones and his slingshot and defeats the giant. On top of that, he only needed one of the five stones to get the job done. Why, you might ask? David knew that God was bigger than any giant. He saw what God could do.

The difference between David and the disciples is their focus. The disciples saw a lack of resources and their inability to remedy the situation, while David saw a situation that needed to be resolved and believed God would help him win the battle. The difference is in how we look at the situation.

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

We can’t feed the multitude or defeat the giant alone, but when we give the situation to God and offer ourselves to His will, He will make it more than enough. We become conduits for God as He works through us, allowing us to have a part in His ministry. It’s not what you have but what you do with what you have that counts. So, when we are faced with a job that seems too big for our meager resources, whatever they may be, if we give it to God, He will make it more than enough.

5 + 2 = More than enough #LessonsFromGideon

This video takes it a step further:

It Depends on Whose Hands It’s In.