The God who answers by fire...

I said, “O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days; Thy years are throughout all generations. Of old hast Thou laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Thy hands. They shall perish, but Thou shalt endure; yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; and as a vesture shalt Thou change them, and they shall be changed.  But Thou art the same, and Thy years shall have no end.
I said, “O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days; Thy years are throughout all generations. Of old hast Thou laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Thy hands. They shall perish, but Thou shalt endure; yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; and as a vesture shalt Thou change them, and they shall be changed. But Thou art the same, and Thy years shall have no end." PSALMS 102:24-27
Who is the God who answers by fire?

I can think of many things I would love for God to remove from my life. But what if his fire came and devoured something in my life that I wasn't especially wanting to get rid of just yet? He is a Holy God who is a consuming fire.

Lord, help me to let go of everything that might singe me if I hold on to it.... Because I know that your love is the prize that nothing else could come close to substituting for...

(Reference: 1 Kings 18 - The story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal)

How Excellent is Your Name!

 O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!
Who have set Your glory above the heavens! Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, because of Your enemies, that You may silence the enemy and the avenger. When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen- even the beasts of the field, The birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!
Psalm 8 NKJV
I am so thankful for God's grace and mercy as He shows himself Almighty and us as dependent, yet precious children who do mighty deeds in His Name.

No other god claims to love or value his children like our God does.  He is magnificent. The universe He created causes us to stand in awe at his power and creativity. Yet his desire is towards us and He delights in our communion with him. May we recognize our need and privilege to spend time with the Master as He guide us toward Himself so that we reflect Him and His glory more and more.

Baruch HaShem! Blessed be His Name Forever!



In Your Presence, O God

Words and Music by Lynn DeShazo
In Your presence
That's where I am strong
In Your presence
O Lord my God
In Your presence
That's where I belong
Seeking Your face
Touching Your grace
In the cleft of the Rock
In Your presence O God

I want to go
Where the rivers
Cannot overflow me
Where my feet are
On the rock
I want to hide
Where the blazing
Fire cannot burn me
In Your presence O God

I want to hide
Where the flood of
Evil cannot reach me
Where I'm covered by the blood
I want to be where
The schemes of darkness
Cannot touch me
In Your presence O God

You are my firm foundation
I trust in You all day long
I am Your child
And Your servant
And You are my
Strength and my song
You're my song

Seeking Your face
Touching Your grace
In the cleft of the Rock
In Your presence O God
In Your presence
© 1995 Integrity's Hosanna! Music
Even as I read the lyrics I imagine the voice of Paul Wilbur singing this song. But this song always reminds me that Jesus himself is the Rock--cleft for me. Being in the place of basking in God's presence as Believers is such a privilege. It is indeed a gift. A gift given and paid for by the Blood of the Lamb, the sacrifice our Lord Jesus gave of His life. For believers it is a safe place, a secure place, a secret place where our heart is open and vulnerable to the God who understands. He accepts us as we trust Him with our lives. But to non-Believers it could be a place of terror. If we refuse to trust Him, we will not allow Him access into our lives to protect and keep us.

I once had a vision of being squished into a cramped crack in a huge rock. The jagged edges poked my sides and felt like they would scrape my arms and legs. I was afraid to move, balancing my weight on first one part of my body and then another. I was unable to be comfortable, unable to sit or stand on anything or straighten fully. Looking out of the crack into brilliant light, the darkness behind me seemed to ooze out of the jagged places. But at the same time I knew that I was being hidden in a safe place. The brilliant light was my assurance of God's nearness. But while I was drawn to the light, I was also afraid that it would overwhelm me.

As I reflect on this experience I understand that even the uncomfortable place was part of His presence. He is light, but He dwells in thick darkness(Psalm 18)--He is there, He is everywhere--but in this case it wasn't that He was where I was, but I was where He was. Wow! My flesh was not comfortable, my soul felt fear of the unknown, both the penetrating darkness and the brilliant light at the same time. I was afraid to relax or even to move--YET, I knew I was safe!

The experience causes me to sing these words with a completely different perspective. I want to be in the cleft of the Rock! No matter how uncomfortable, I know it is a safe place and I can only get there as He places me there. Jesus, our Rock, the Living Word of God can be found as we diligently seek Him. This year spend as much time as you can seeking Him as you read His Word. You will be amazed as He reveals Himself as He has promised.
But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. Deuteronomy 4:29

Our God is Mighty!

We have so many friends who are going through really difficult circumstances right now that it continues to cause us to ask ourselves the question, "Can we trust God?"

When I am sitting in a meeting with other believers or worshiping at home after Bible study, there is no doubt or hesitation. "Our God is Mighty! -to the pulling down of strongholds! -to heal the broken hearted! -to save and heal the oppressed! -to heal our every sickness and disease! There is nothing too hard for God!" But when I am standing in the hospital beside the bed of a dear friend or their child, my heart breaks. Sometimes righteous anger arises and I declare God's will to heal, save and deliver. But there are times when it isn't that simple. It isn't that I don't think God can or wants to heal in that case. Is it because my faith is weak? Or is it because I am reasoning why this has occurred?

I am continually taken back to the days of the disciples walking with Jesus, listening to his stories and examples that were meant to reveal to them the heart of God in very practical ways. He used everyday situations to show them how to respond in faith to any situation. We are familiar with most of these stories if we have sat in a pew or Bible studies for even a few years. Jesus only taught his disciples for three years. Yet they so embraced His emphasis on the scriptures that they dedicated their lives to the message--the Good News of the Messiah--that Jesus taught from them.

It distresses me that there are believers who do not read their Bibles--some have never read the entire Bible. Yet these same people expect God to speak to them and teach them through every situation--"working all things together for their good and for His glory". Yes, God is faithful and He will do that, but how can they listen if they don't know His voice and don't understand His language? How can we expect our faith to withstand the tests in this difficult day and hour if we don't know what we believe? What do we believe?

Sea of GalileeI think of Peter stepping out of the boat to walk on the water during a storm. Picture this: It is the middle of the night and the disciples find themselves in the middle of the Sea of Galilee when a treacherous storm begins to whip up. They knew their lives were in great danger. They also knew Jesus was left behind on the far shore with no knowledge of their peril. They must have felt fear and abandonment--all that they had given their lives since they met him would end when the boat capsized. Surely that was about to happen. They had just witness Jesus miraculously feeding the five-thousand men--plus women and children. But they also knew that John the Baptist had recently been beheaded. These men had every reason to doubt--their faith may not have been big enough to continue to trust God, not even through that one storm. (Matthew 14)

In the midst of their fear and doubt they see Jesus walking on the water. It is no wonder they thought he was a ghost! Jesus tells them to take courage--he is there with them. He was letting them know that he had not abandoned them and reminding them of His supernatural ability to respond to any situation. Yet Peter has the most unbelievable reaction. "Lord, if it is you, bid me to come to you!" Peter is apparently sold out, willing to die to move forward with Jesus in this preaching of the Gospel--no matter what. We know from the portrayal of Peter's personality that he was compulsive and may not have thought through his request. For that brief moment Peter expected to walk on water.

Yet Jesus, knowing Peter was still fearful and that he did not have enough faith to walk on water, calls him to come out of the boat. Once out of the boat Peter suddenly pays attention to the wind and the waves--those circumstances that would be the primary factors in any one's observation during a storm. When Peter cries out Jesus immediately takes him by the hand and they are suddenly safely in the boat, the sea is calm. Peter had walked on water! It must have been a dream like memory that consumed all of them as they completed their journey by boat across the lake. Imagine being on that boat witnessing these events!

This amazing story speaks volumes today. We know that God asks us to walk by faith, to show our faith by our works, to live by faith, that the prayers of the faithful will heal the sick--but we don't feel like we have enough faith against the onslaught of difficulties we seem to face increasingly. We don't! Our faith on it's own would never be enough to see any kind of miracle. But it only takes faith as a grain of mustard seed placed fully in a Mighty God for us to see the supernatural. Jesus said to Peter, "Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?" Jesus did not say, Why don't you have more faith? Jesus knows we are sometime impulsive and he knows our faith is inadequate to walk in the miraculous. It is our crying out to him that causes his heart to be touched on our behalf. Imagine what we could accomplish if we did not doubt!

This is different than that holy boldness that we sometimes walk in when we know that we know what God wants us to do or say and we can rise up in the power of his name and go forth. When we face seemingly insurmountable circumstances we must remember that when we feel the weakest, He is the strongest! He gets all the glory as we become less, yet trust him with our last, tiny bit of faith left in us to face that situation. This is victory. It is a victory that overcomes any circumstance--even death. We can trust him! He is a Mighty God!

Becoming a Grandma with Vitality

An Inspirational Cup of Jasmine Tea
We all dream of growing old gracefully. No one wants to live to be one hundred and spend their last years confined to a wheelchair, disabled and dependent on others. Many of us have our private dreams of a favorite Grandma or Aunt whose smile and arms were warm and comforting. Visiting them is an adventure back in time as they share their stories of hardships and blessings through the filter of God’s blessings on their family and personal lives. I can close my eyes and envision myself in an outdated kitchen bright with fresh picked flowers and warm smells of freshly baked bread or desserts. I listen, sipping tea and wishing the moment to continue indefinitely as I absorb the life and wisdom of this treasure chest God has given me in my elderly, silver-haired friend and confidant. In her natural humility, she may not even realize I have made her my mentor.

As my oldest child married and settled into her wonderful new life, I watched and prayed for them with some trepidation. I knew the time was fast approaching that would one day make me a grandmother. I took comfort in her sensibility to not have children too hastily. After all I didn’t feel old enough to be a grandmother. Our family joke was that I was permanently twenty-three years old, full of life and adventure, with just a hint of wisdom gained from my mistakes and from experience reading and applying the Bible to my life. My daughter was already over twenty-five herself, her three brothers were soon to pass me by. I wasn’t in denial. I was a responsible, professional woman. I was actively involved in my church. I loved my quiet times with the Lord and enjoyed a healthy lifestyle. Gardening was my favorite pastime and also my prayer closet. I loved to travel.

My former mother-in-law was the grandmother I wished I could model one day. I felt inadequate to step into her shoes and become the loving, supportive pillar she embodied. I trusted that God would give me His grace to enable me to be a unique and loving grandmother to the offspring that were sure to arrive some day as my four children grew towards becoming parents themselves. What would they call me? I just couldn’t imagine a fitting title.

Time passed and four years after my daughter married they were happily expecting their first child. My life had taken some unexpected turns and I found myself leading women’s Bible studies at church, promoted in a new job at a start-up telecommunications software company, and unexpectedly dissatisfied with a growing feeling that there was more that God wanted me to do for Him. I had experienced my dream of visiting Israel, the land where I had envisioned the characters in the Bible to come alive. It was exhilarating and life changing to visit several times after having nurtured my strong desire to go there for nineteen long years. Now, the moment that I had anxiously anticipated was upon me. I was going to be a grandmother!

A delightful change took place in me as the day approached. I likened it to a hormonal release of grand-maternal instincts. It was more wonderful than I could have ever dreamed to hold that precious bundle in my arms. “God is awesome”, I repeated over and over, whispering under my breath. Within three months of my first grandson’s birth the Lord had radically changed the direction of my life once again. I was preparing to resign my position at work, sell my home and move to Israel to marry a pastor I met there nine months prior. I was entering full-time ministry to the nations.

My grandson was only five months old when I tearfully kissed him good-bye to get on that plane. My joy and excitement for stepping into the destiny God had for me was not diminished by the separation from my family. We would remain close in spirit through our occasional visits and correspondence. I felt invigorated by the prospect of living in Jerusalem and soon beginning our ministry by traveling to Uganda three weeks after the wedding. I had no idea that our trip there would in effect be an adoption of hundreds of Ugandan children, ages infant to eighty years young—each a precious child of God.

My husband, Duane, became a father figure to many Israeli individuals and to those in university and ministry there in Jerusalem as well. He had three sons and six grandchildren of his own in California. He selflessly poured out his many years of wisdom and experience from his intimate faith walk with the Lord to all who came in contact with us. I was married to a treasure! Shortly after I had met him, those were the words God used to describe him as I was praying for my new friend and his ministry. I had no idea the depth and riches of that treasure at the time and even today I am still discovering them. We have been continually awed at how God has used us in parent-like roles in Israel and our general ministry. God's Precious Ugandan Children

During the following year we would receive a promotion from our Ugandan family to the honored status of grandparents. How I laughed inside at the thought of eighty year olds whom I respected for their wisdom and grace calling me “grandmother”. This same title I had been so intimidated by just a few short years before, I now receive as a symbol of God’s love poured out through me to those He counts as so precious. What an honor! No parent could ever be more proud than I was when walking down the streets of Jerusalem I hear a shout with a heavy African accent, “Mama! Mama Ruth!” from one of our dear African brothers.

Okay, so I’m no longer twenty-three. But the age fits the excitement and adventurous spirit I feel as I live out this life the Lord has directed for me to tread. I still gain wisdom on a daily basis from our travels, our trials and even from our grandchildren. We now have ten grandchildren between us and hundreds more in Israel and Africa. We have returned to the US and live near my children and grandchildren for the present. We look forward to meeting new children and grand-children along the way even as we continue to welcome them into our family. I have had the privilege of living my dream of sitting in a kitchen sharing a cup of tea with myself as the compassionate friend and mentor I had envisioned so long ago. My hair may not yet be silver and my humble kitchen not as romantic looking but God has used me in a role I never thought I could fill as He filled me with His grace and wisdom. I pray I will always bring honor and glory to our Father in heaven as I bear the title Grandma Ruth with joy.