The Other Side

When  my family took a trip to Israel a few months ago, one of the many highlights for me was taking a boat out on the Sea of Galilee. So many significant events took place here!

Jesus called his disciples from this area.

He walked on water.

The miraculous catch of fish.

But my favorite is when Jesus calmed the storm.

 

I’ve heard this story taught multiple times. But it’s what happened before and after this miracle that makes it even more powerful to me now that I know the whole context.

Let me lay the foundation of what was going on before Jesus gets in the boat with his disciples. They were all gathered in Capernaum, the headquarters of Jesus’s ministry. The people were flocking to him, bringing their sick to be healed. The crowd was getting a bit out of control and Jesus decides it’s time to move to another  location.

But not just any location.

He intentionally says to his disciples, “Let us go to the other side.”

When he says “the other side” he means the other side of the lake.

But the other side of the lake was pagan territory. They didn’t follow the ways of God. They were known for indulging in all kinds of sin. The Jewish people weren’t embraced there. And they couldn’t stay for very long because of restrictions with food and social requirements.

Jesus knew exactly where they were going. It wasn’t just a random decision.

They headed to the Decapolis region for a divine appointment with a demon-possessed man.

Everyone in Capernaum would’ve been able to hear this man screaming from across the lake.  He wandered aimlessly in the tombs by the shore because nobody could contain him. He was out of control.

Jesus is making a very bold move to take his disciples across the Sea of Galilee to the other side.

So this is what happens right before an unexpected storm threatens to drown his disciples. Waves of panic rushed through seasoned fishermen as they watched literal waves crash over their ready-to-sink boat.

But Jesus awakens from his sleep (asleep–really??) and calms the storm before their very eyes. The storm didn’t take him by surprise. He was on a mission to get to the other side.

Nothing was going to stop him.

At this point, I wouldn’t have blamed the disciples one bit if they’d turned that boat around and headed back home to Capernaum, to familiar territory.

But Jesus wasn’t finished yet! Someone was waiting for him. Desperately waiting on the other side.

Approaching the shore, the demon possessed man doesn’t skip a beat. He’s waiting for Jesus. He must have heard the buzz spreading about this supernatural man who could heal the sick. This was his only hope. He was at his wit’s end.

Jesus takes control of the situation and casts the demons out of this man. And he not only casts them out, but he ushers them into a herd of pigs, driving them over a cliff into the sea.

The man is immediately set free!

He begs Jesus to let him climb aboard the boat with his disciples. (Wouldn’t that be anyone’s first response?!)

But Jesus firmly and lovingly tells him to stay. To go and tell his own people what Jesus did for him.

This is huge.  A demon possessed man—bound up in a prison of despair—is now set free to proclaim the good news. He’s a missionary in the pagan region of Decapolis!

A region on the other side.

Here’s some powerful insights to take away from this and apply to our lives today:

Sometimes Jesus calls us out of our comfort zone and asks us to go to the other side.

While it’s comfortable with the crowd, we are sometimes called to take a risky move.

A move that will feel very uncomfortable. A move that will tempt us to panic.

And yes, a move that might even drive us to feel as if a storm is threatening to drown us.

But instead of getting focused on the storm, maybe we need to shift our focus on the other side.

 

Who or what is waiting on the other side? 

The neighbor across the street.

The co-worker everybody avoids.

That estranged family member who causes conflict.

Or it might be a place Jesus wants you to embrace.

Your child’s school.

A new ministry that needs volunteers.

Whatever the other side is for you, take that leap of faith and go forward. But be prepared for the enemy to attack. Because anytime we make a move toward pointing others to Jesus, the enemy will do whatever he can to stop us.

You might get opposition from others. You might be criticized. Your whole world could be shaken up.

But just like Jesus, may we keep our eyes fixed on the other side. When the waves of doubt and panic threaten to drown us, may we trust Jesus to calm the chaos.

Just like the demon possessed man was changed forever, there are souls who are desperately waiting for the love of Jesus to impact their lives. Waiting for hope. Waiting for good news. Waiting for someone to reach out.

But that isn’t going to happen unless we resolve to go to the other side.

Pray today for God to show you what the other side is for you!

Blessings to you,

Lisa

Check out my book Embracing The Race: 40 Devotions for the Runner’s Soul 

Part of my proceeds are donated to WaterStep, a ministry that puts clean water in developing countries.

 

 

 

 

 

The Prison of Doubt

“Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3)

Have you ever found yourself in a season of doubt?

The kind of season where everything around you feels dark. The light you could once see so brightly, now seems to have faded.

You wonder if God is really there. Does He see you? Doesn’t He know what you’re going through?

The path you were on seemed so clear and firm. But now the path has disappeared and it feels like you’re sinking.

Sinking into disappointment.

Sinking into discouragement.

Sinking into despair.

And then your weary mind is flooded with questions…

Are you sure this is where you called me, Jesus?

Did I not hear you right?

This isn’t where I thought I’d be right now.

Have you abandoned me?

Do you even hear me?

John the Baptist was asking some similar questions when he found himself in prison.

Ummm….prison?

You mean the one who was called to prepare the way for Jesus?

In prison?

Yes. That’s where he was.

He sent two of his disciples to find Jesus and ask him point blank:

Are you the one who was to come? 

This is where he is doubting whether or not Jesus is truly the Messiah.

Should we expect someone else?

As if the first question wasn’t clear enough, this one surely grabbed his attention!

John’s entire ministry pointed others to the coming Messiah. His assignment was to prepare the way for Jesus. If he got this wrong, then everything he did would be in vain. He would have been guilty of leading so many others astray.

He couldn’t live with that. He knew his days were limited. (When prophets rebuke kings, it usually didn’t go very well.)

So he had to know the answer to his final question.

Did he get it wrong? Was Jesus really who He said He was?

Dear friends, we often find ourselves in similar situations. We may not find ourselves in a physical prison awaiting execution. But we find ourselves in a different type of prison…

We might feel trapped in a marriage that  started off on the right path, but now is falling apart.

We may have taken that dream job but now it feels like an absolute nightmare.

We poured so much into our kids but now they are wandering off, making poor choices.

Or maybe someone you trusted has betrayed you and you feel stuck in a prison of bitterness.

Whatever it is you’re doubting, you are most certainly not alone. We all have seasons of doubt. We all have those moments when we are afraid to even admit we doubt God’s presence in our lives.

After reading back through the passage where John the Baptist is doubting who Jesus is, he gets his answer.

Jesus sends those disciples back to John with exactly what he needs to hear. Don’t miss what Jesus says!

“Tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”

John would certainly recognize Isaiah’s prophecy in those powerful words. This promise would bring the peace John needed to sustain him through the painful circumstances he was experiencing.

Notice that Jesus did not speak words of condemnation towards John. He didn’t express disappointment that John was doubting him. He didn’t throw up his hands in frustration that John would dare question his authority as the Messiah!

Right after John’s disciples go on their way, here is what Jesus says about John:

“I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist.” (Matt. 11:11)

Jesus makes this statement in the midst of John’s doubt!!  

I don’t know about you, but I find this nugget of truth fascinating. It brings me such relief and peace. It removes the heavy burden of guilt I sometimes feel when I’m in a season of doubt myself.

As the forerunner to paving the way for Jesus, John did a lot of great things. He called a nation to repentance, and prepared the world for Christ’s arrival.

But the quality I think we can all embrace is how he persevered in the face of public misunderstanding and malicious persecution.

Have you ever been misunderstood by anyone? (A family member, friend or co-worker?)

Have you ever been wrongly accused for standing up for your beliefs?

Have you ever felt like someone has bound you up in an emotional or mental prison?

I don’t know where you are today, but I want to encourage you to claim the promises of Jesus that will bring you peace.

The very words of Jesus are what ultimately comforted John. Even in prison. Awaiting a death sentence.

Wherever you feel trapped, locked up, bound up or hopeless…only His promises can bring you peace.

Don’t feel shame in your doubts, but bring them to the feet of Jesus, the only one who can unlock your prison of doubt.

Blessings to you!

Lisa

Facing the Giant of FEAR

A once-in-a-lifetime trip to Israel.

My husband, daughter and I stood in awe on the top of Mt. Azekah overlooking the valley of Elah. This was the place where David killed Goliath! Trying to wrap my head around what took place here, I tried to envision David coming face-to-face with the one who taunted him. Threatened him. Dared him to come one step closer.

Ted, one of our teaching pastors had just walked us through this historical event.  Pulling nuggets of truth from scripture, he took us back in time to what played out that day. He finally challenged us to identify the giants in our own lives. 

The things that taunt us. The things that ignite fear, leaving us paralyzed.

How will we respond when we come face-to-face with these giants?

Just four hours after our group hiked back down Mt. Azekah, I’d be forced to answer that question.

We’d just finished eating dinner at our hotel’s dining room. My daughter, Breanna, smiled as she began to dig into a piece of chocolate cake. The chef had just informed us the dessert was nut free.

She’s severely allergic to nuts. We have to take extreme caution with anything she eats. The slightest amount of nuts ushers in a dangerous reaction.

After three bites, Breanna’s smile turned to shock. She spit out what looked like a tiny piece of nut.

“Mom, I think this has nuts in it and I’ve already eaten some!”

In that moment, fear ignited in my heart. Grabbing the plate of cake, I gasped and held my breath as we quickly made our way to the chef on the other side of the room. Showing him what we’d discovered, the frown on his face confirmed my fear.

“I didn’t realize this cake had walnuts in it.”

This is when the spark of fear engulfed into horrendous flames in every part of my being.

It had been six years since Breanna had accidentally ingested nuts. She’d broken out in hives all over her body. I remember distinctly what the doctor had said in that moment.

With each incident, the reaction gets worse. Just because ingestion doesn’t affect one’s breathing in a given moment doesn’t mean it won’t the next time.

This was her next time. Would she experience anaphylactic shock?

Anaphylactic shock shuts down the respiratory system. In some extreme cases, people die.

My husband, Jim, and I looked at each other in total disbelief. Is this really happening?

Just minutes after Breanna ingested the nuts, her lips and left eye swelled up. Panic washed all over my daughter’s face and in that moment I came face-to-face with my giant.

The giant that all parents face…

The fear of something tragic happening to one of your kids.

When others in the dining room realized what was happening, Roy, a doctor in our group, offered his assistance. Not only was he a doctor, but he understood our fear. One of his grown daughters also had a severe nut allergy. Looking back now, I realize in that moment God began to slowly extinguish the flames of fear with His comfort.

Fear of the unknown is another giant we all face.

And in this moment, we just didn’t know what was going to happen. Breanna didn’t have trouble breathing. She hadn’t broken out in hives either. Would her lips continue to swell? Could it eventually affect her breathing? Should we wait it out and see what else happened?

Based on Dr. Roy’s experience with his own daughter, he urged us to get Breanna to the hospital.

Other giants stomped onto the scene, shaking the core of my heart.

We’re in a foreign country!

We know nothing about hospitals in Israel!

Will our insurance cover us out of the country?

How far away do we have to go?

If she goes into shock, are they equipped to treat her?

An ambulance pulled up outside the hotel. We made our way through the crowd that had gathered in the lobby. Four Israeli medics (yes, four!) greeted us and immediately got Breanna hooked up in the back of the ambulance. Jim sat up front with the driver. Was there room for me?

“You, get in here with us!”  I squeezed in next to the other three medics and hung on tightly, trying to stay strong for Breanna.

The tires of the ambulance screeched in reverse, making our way down extremely narrow streets.

This is when I began to pray like crazy!

God, please help us. We need you now. I beg you to protect Breanna. 

 

The medics continued to monitor Breanna’s vital signs. They assured me we were getting closer to the hospital. At this point she was breathing fine.

The ambulance continued speeding to our destination, at some points driving up on sidewalks to get around stopped traffic.

God, please get us there safe. 

Breanna suddenly bolted up from her reclined position, fear all over her face and yelled, “My throat feels strange, I can’t breathe!”

Just seconds later, she threw up. (Sorry to be so graphic here!)

“Please help her!” I pleaded with the medic next to me. The one in charge immediately gave her an injection of epinephrine.

Immediately she announced to us that she could breathe okay now. (It turned out that she had not experienced anaphylactic shock, but because her throat felt strange before vomiting she thought it was affecting her ability to breathe.)

Finally, we arrived at the hospital and they took her right in. No waiting.

I walked beside my courageous daughter to the room they pointed to. Jim filled out paperwork at the front desk and would join us later.

A nurse with beautiful long, black hair took Breanna’s vitals and smiled,assuring us we were in good hands.

In that moment, I felt the comforting hands of God holding us tight. Earlier I’d felt stricken with panic. But now felt saturated with peace.

I looked over at my precious daughter and a smile washed over her frail face.

“Mom, I had a six-year streak going and now I’ve gotta start all over!”

I thought back to where we’d stood earlier that day. On top of Mt. Azakeh, overlooking the valley of Elah. The place where David slayed the giant.

And here we both were–in a hospital emergency room. We’d just walked through our own valley, staring our giants face-to-face.

My daughter’s worst fear? Ingesting nuts…knowing it could be deadly. 

My worst fear? Something tragic taking the life of my child…and feeling out of control to fix it.

 I believe God sometimes allows us to experience our worst fears so we can experience the truth that He is more powerful than anything we fear.

 

We pray for the giants to stay away so we don’t have to face them.

But sometimes the giants march out right in front of us. A decision must be made.

Will we let them threaten us and leave us paralyzed? (This is what King Saul and his soldiers did when they looked at Goliath.)

Or will we look to God for strength and by faith let Him fight the giants for us?

God fought the giants for us and provided exactly what we needed that night:

*A doctor in our group who understood the urgency of the situation.

*A hospital close by, which I found out later was one of the best in Jerusalem.

*An amazing medical team who acted quickly and accordingly.

*Breanna experienced swelling and hives, but no anaphylactic shock.

*The hotel paid for our medical bill in full.

After four hours of observation,Breanna was released. We were all washed over with exhaustion. But we stepped out into the streets of Jerusalem praising God, knowing the situation could have been so much worse.

We’d come face-to-face with our giants that day. And just like David, we walked away victorious.

I don’t know what giants you are facing today, but I can promise you this:

If you look to God for strength and put your faith in Him, He will be your giant slayer. 

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

Check out my book Embracing The Race: 40 Devotions for the Runner’s Soul!

When Love is Hard

Valentine’s Day.

A popular time for people to declare their love for one another.

A husband confirms his love for his wife with beautiful roses and a special dinner at a fancy restaurant.

A parent excitedly lavishes candy and gifts upon her children, hoping they will feel the love oozing out in between each bite of chocolate.

A young man chooses this day to propose to his girlfriend, their love so explosive for all to see.

Yes, these are ideal expressions of love we long to give. Or even better, the kind we long to receive.

But what if this is not reality in your world today? What if you can’t identify with any of these scenarios?

You can’t go there today because for you, love just feels HARD during this season of your life.

Your marriage may be crumbling and there aren’t any flowers or fancy dinner date on the horizon.

You’re in the midst of conflict with one of your kids and no amount of candy or gifts will make things right.

Or perhaps you’re single and there isn’t anyone in your life to declare their love to you. You are literally all alone. By yourself. Going through a divorce or a break-up with a significant other.

Yes, this is when love is hard. It doesn’t feel good. In fact in feels down right miserable. 

But the kind of love I’m referring to in the above scenarios is human love. And because humans live in a fallen world with sin nature, their love will fail. It will disappoint. It will leave you feeling empty at times.

Even the best of marriages? Yes, their love will fail at times.

Even the best relationships between mother/daughter and father/son? Yes, their love will fail at times.

What about the love between two people who are soul mates…made for each other? Yes, their love will fail at some point, too.

Not trying to be discouraging on this Valentine’s Day, but this is a reality we have to come to grips with.

Human love will fail and disappoint. But the love of God is unfailing and always dependable. 

When He declares His love for us, we’d better take notice and cling to it with all we have.

Psalm 13:5 says “But I trust in your unfailing love, my heart rejoices in your salvation.”

Psalm 6:4 says “Deliver me and save me because of your unfailing love.”

When love is hard with the people in your life, remember that His Love Never Fails. 

He also tells us that NOTHING can separate us from His love.

Romans 8:35,39 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So nothing or nobody can separate us from His love! I don’t know about you, but I just really need to soak this up and camp out here for a while.

It’s easy to get discouraged by our loved ones when they hurt us. Disappoint us. Let us down.

And if we aren’t careful, we can let the disappointment of human love override the declaration of Holy Love. A love that is unfailing. A love we can depend on. A love that will never be separated from anyone or anything.

So where are you on this Valentine’s Day, dear friend? Are you in a place where love is hard? Has someone you love disappointed you? Whether it’s your spouse, child or friend, you are not alone.

An amazing thing about God’s love is that when we embrace it and let it ooze out all over us, it gradually begins to trickle out to those around us. His love will come out through us if we stay still long enough for it to soak through our souls. And then we are able to love others like He loves us.

Even when love is hard.

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Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

Anywhere Faith

Have you ever struggled to step out in faith when you sensed God calling you to do something? Or perhaps you’ve just doubted your faith because of difficult circumstances swirling around you. 

My friend, Heather King, is guest posting today on my blog and her new book Anywhere Faith is something you will definitely want to check out. She writes candidly about how fear and insecurity often get in the way of our desire to step out in faith. You’ll be challenged and encouraged by her words! 

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I was in the middle of packing for a writer’s conference when I felt a crushing wave of defeat.

I wanted to give up.

It would be easier (I told God) if I just stopped now, stopped packing, stopped investing time, energy, focus and resources on writing.

Maybe I could pick it up again later, but right now this was hard.

I felt terrifyingly small. I worried that maybe I was trying to do something that God hadn’t actually called me to do.  Had I heard His voice right?  Was I in His will?

I also, to be totally honest, felt overwhelmed by the idea of being plain old me at a large writer’s conference with women who looked so put-together.  They would have perfect hair with perfect highlights and perfectly awesome shoes that matched their perfectly stylish outfits.

Me?  I don’t have highlights in my hair and I don’t wear high heels.  Surely I’d be out of place.

I flopped back on the pillows of my bed with stacks of clothes around me and an empty suitcase in front of me.

It felt like one of those defining moments, one of those times when we have to choose whether we take another step forward and say “yes” to God or we pack it all in and choose what feels easier in the moment.

Two things happened.

The first is I remembered I wasn’t alone. Many before me had similar conversations with God.

Moses wanted God to “send somebody else.”
Gideon wasn’t sure he heard God’s voice clearly.
Esther was afraid of what might happen if she obeyed.
Martha thought God’s call didn’t make sense.

So often what we really need in our Christian walk is for someone to understand what we’re going through and to say, “Me too!  I’ve been there!  And this is how God was faithful.”

That’s what Scripture shows us.  We see broken people bringing their brokenness before God and He still used them.

We don’t have to pretend with God and we don’t have to be perfect before He can use us.  We can tell Him the deeply honest truth and bring Him our brokenness so He can make us whole and holy. (#AnywhereFaith)

I brought God my smallness in that moment.  I gave Him my brokenness.  I told Him the truth:

I feel overwhelmed by the task and underwhelmed by my ability.  I feel like others are more able and more worthy.  I feel uncertain of the next step.  But I will go.  I will follow you “Anywhere” you want me to go as long as you go with me.

As a teen girl, I had copied a poetic prayer into the front of my Bible that began with these words:

Lord, send me anywhere only go with me (David Livingstone).

This became the prayer of my heart.

And truly, wherever He calls us to go, He’s right there with us and His presence is our great desire and our deepest need.

The second thing that happened for me in that moment I wanted to give up is that my phone pinged with a Facebook message from an author I’d never met face to face.

She had been to the writer’s conference before and wanted to encourage me with this: “Don’t feel overwhelmed.  God’s got this.  Don’t worry about what to wear or whether you have the perfect hair.  Don’t feel out of place because you think every woman there will have snazzy outfits and you won’t fit in.  Just be yourself and trust God.”

It was the perfect confirmation, perfect encouragement, perfect word at the perfect moment.

When our hearts are set on obedience to God, He is our Help and our Strength along the way. We don’t have to be enough all on our own!

Whatever God has called you to do, whether it’s to follow Him around the world, across the street or right there in your own home:

He will equip you, He will be with you, and He will help you overcome. (#AnywhereFaith)

But we must first choose to bring Him the honest truth about our fears, insecurities, and excuses and ask for His help to follow Him “Anywhere.”

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you (Psalm 56:3).

 

To read more about how we can bring our honest struggles and fears to God and ask for His help to live lives of obedience and faith, please check out my new book: Anywhere Faith: Overcome Fear, Insecurity, and Excuses and Say Yes to God.

To read more devotionals from heather C. King, please visit her website at http://heathercking.org/ or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/heatherckingauthor/

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Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett