Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Angel-Talk: Fear Not

"What about fear not? Isn't that what angels are supposed to say?" 

That's a line from one of my work-in-progress novels, and the answer to the second question is yes. Angels are messengers from God and they almost always begin by saying, "Fear not." That's because God is constantly saying, "Fear not," to us. 

Today, my morning reading was from Deuteronomy 1-3. The three chapters are the beginning of the sermon Moses preached the children of Israel before he handed over leadership to Joshua. As I read, I realized God had been telling them the same message ever since they left Egypt. It's the same message he tells all of us, sometimes on a daily basis.

Fear not.

When, at the beginning of their journey to the Promised Land, God made a way through the Red Sea, the people stood at the edge of the water and hesitated. They were afraid. Could they trust this God they served? They weren't sure.

Moses told the people, 

"Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent."  
Exodus 14:13-14 nasb

At the end of their journey, when they were about to enter the Promised Land, the people were still afraid. Their enemies were big and powerful. The battle ahead was too much for them. They were still asking if they could trust this God they served. They still weren't sure.

Moses told them (concerning the inhabitants of the land),

"Do not fear them, for the Lord your God is the one fighting for you." 
Deuteronomy 3:22 nasb

The Hebrews started the journey as newly-freed slaves with nothing. They ended the journey as free people with great wealth, many treasures, and abundant livestock. 

From beginning to end, God told them not to be afraid, just as He does us.

We are to choose faith, not fear, because we serve a God who can be trusted.

Sometimes, the path God chooses for us is hard. The children of Israel traveled through wilderness and desert. Sometimes, they had to fight real battles with real enemies. It was difficult. They didn't have the food they preferred. There were no markets or grocery stores. They ate what God provided and wore the same clothes and shoes for forty years. 

It wasn't a pleasant path, but it was a blessed path, for God was with them and there was no need to fear. 

God fought for them, even before they knew there was a fight to be fought, and He does the same for us.

When we journey through a hard patch of life, which we all will do, there are two words we need to remember. 

Fear not. 

God is with us. He is fighting for us. He does the hardest part of the work. He will bring us through this journey of life to the destination He has promised. 

Our job is simple. Choose faith, not fear, and keep walking.

Be sure to check the updated Prayer List 
#fearnot #choosefaithnotfear #JesusChrist #linesfromleanna #leannahollis

Friday, March 11, 2016

God Uses Everything, Even Manwich: Flooding, Bailing, and Moving Leaves

When Ryan graduated from high school, we discussed options for a senior trip. I knew that not everything that happened on a typical senior trip was good, so I proposed an outing that was irresistible. I would take him to Nashville for Music Fest. Tons of country music stars, as well as those who would be and wanted to be, were singing. Multiple venues both in and out of doors. A week of music. Great fun.

In between one venue and the other, there was a Manwich booth. They gave away mini-sandwiches to introduce people to the wonders of Manwich. Ryan loved it. We stopped by for so many Manwiches that I expected them to ban us.

I've kept a can or two of Manwich in my cabinet ever since.

Yesterday, company was coming for a dinner meeting and I was mulling through ideas to use a package of thawed ground beef. I spied a can of Manwich and had my answer. Several hours later, I remembered I had buns in the freezer. It was raining far too hard to drive to the store, so I headed to the well pump house to get the buns out of the freezer.

Here's where the crazy part comes in. If I hadn't gone to Nashville back then, I wouldn't have had Manwich in my cabinet. If I hadn't had Manwich in my cabinet, I wouldn't have made it yesterday. If I hadn't made it, I wouldn't have gone to the freezer for buns.

If I hadn't gone to the freezer for buns, I would not have discovered (at just the right time) an incredible flood.

You can't tell it from the photo, but the water is well up the side of the five gallon bucket. When I arrived at the pump house, the water in front of the building was half-way to my knees. If the water had flooded the pump house, it could have easily reached the well pump and my freezer. My heart sank. A disaster was unfolding.

I had a five-gallon bucket handy (because of another unforeseen event) and started bailing. After 50 gallons or so, I realized I needed to do something else.

Leaves had piled up on the side of the road and had blocked the normal drainage. I tried to divert the flow of water with limited success. I prayed for the rain to stop and for God to send some help. When the rain didn't stop, I yelled. A little like the prophets of Baal. It was pointless. God heard me the first time. 

I thought unkind thoughts toward the man who owned the farm before me and built the pump house in a very low place. 

I hate to admit it, but after more than 200 gallons of bailing, I considered, for a few seconds, a very un-Leanna thought toward this man. This thought did not come from Jesus, but I embraced it briefly. I've had a lot of problems over the years from his building-in-a-hole scheme and, yesterday, I was sick to death of it. (I'm not even going to tell you what it was because I don't want it in your head.)

I had to repent over the not-nice-thought, even though it only lasted a few seconds. (I wish I always thought and acted like Jesus, but I'm human, too, just so you know.)

I kept bailing. I was wet through. Water dripped off my hair and clothes and filled my boots. I sat down on the bucket and cried, but the water started rising again, so I had to skip the crying and start bailing again. I prayed non-stop. 

Forty-five minutes into my bailing episode, I finally admitted defeat and called the man who helps me on my farm. 

He arrived, grabbed a shovel, and diverted the flow of water in less than five minutes. After a few minutes more, the water level began to recede. He stopped, leaned on his shovel, and looked just a little fierce. 

"If you had called me ten minutes after this started, you wouldn't have spent so much time bailing. I already told you I'd come if you needed help."

There wasn't much I could say to that.

"One thing to remember. It's always a good idea to fix the cause of the problem instead of just attacking the problem."

Lecture over, shovel in hand, he helped me fix two more areas of water accumulation that I'd tried (unsuccessfully) to divert.

I've thought about this a lot since yesterday, and I've found several lessons in this event:

1) When you fantasize about a not-nice-thought toward someone, it's sin and you have to repent. We're supposed to take every thought captive, even in the midst of bailing water like your life depended on it. Taking captive means instantly, not after you've enjoyed the fantasy for a while. 

2) There was a little water in my pump house, but if I hadn't cooked the Manwich and gone for buns, there would have been a lot more. I could have lost my pump and my freezer but I didn't lose either.

God had made a way that began years before and finally unfolded yesterday. He wastes nothing. He uses everything. Even Manwich.

3) If I had dealt with the leaves at the beginning of the problem (or before), it would have been a shorter-lived problem. He was right. It's always better to treat the cause rather than just the symptom. As a physician, I should know this better than most. 

Sometimes, our sin makes us feel bad. Physical symptoms. Emotional pain. The only thing that will make us better is to remove the sin. So, remove it as definitively as we removed the leaves.

4) We can't do it all alone. The bride of Christ, the church, is described as a "body" because we all work together. There are no lone rangers in the body. A hand is useless without a foot. My bailing bucket was useless without a shovel. 

There is a huge job facing the body of Christ. A dark and lonely world is desperate for the hope that can only be found in Jesus. We can share Him with them, but only if we work together to make it happen. 

5) God heard me and was with me when I prayed, when I cried, when I yelled, when I bailed, when I despaired.

He was there. Just as the discovery of the problem had been orchestrated years before, so the solution had been in the making for years, too. There's nothing we face that God has not already made a way through.

Take heart today, God is with us. He cares. He provides. He is here.

"Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6 nasb

Be sure to check the updated Prayer List 
  #manwich #Godwillmakeaway #flooding #JesusChrist #linesfromleanna #leannahollis

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Faith and Hope: We Do Not Wait Alone

Our pastor has been teaching a series, called "Whisper", about hearing the voice of God. Last night, he said, "Some of you have been waiting to hear the voice of God about specific concerns for a long time. I'm asking you to stand where you are and share a little about your concern. Afterward, we're going to gather around you, pray for you, and agree with you about your concern as you wait for God to move."

One person had a prodigal son. One was concerned about a new job. Another had an unsaved family member. Huge needs. 

As one after another stood and shared their concerns, my own litany of concerns played in my head and tears began to leak out. I swiped tears and saw my pastor look my way. I wondered what he thought about my tears, wondered if he had any idea of the battle raging in my head.

The battle was not whether or not God would answer my prayers. I've followed Him long enough to know He always answers prayer, including mine. 

The battle was whether or not I could stand faithfully through the waiting. 

Waiting for loved ones to come back to Jesus. Waiting for healing as I help my beloved neighbor Sam through a difficult and lonely time after the death of his wife. Waiting for complete healing of my back injury. Waiting as I finish edits on my first novel. Waiting to see what God will do with this writing He's assigned me. 

If God had clearly said, "Stand," I'd have stood. But He didn't.

Instead, He reminded me that I was a prodigal once, the most heinous of sinners, yet He drew me back to Him, forgave me, cleansed me, and made me new. 

If He can save me, He can save anyone.

He reminded me that the days I have with Sam are limited. They're hard now, but there will come a time when all the hard days are swept away by eternity.

No matter how many days we have together, I only have to walk through one at a time.

He reminded me that He is my healer, and as I wait, He's my Comforter in my discomfort. He's been as close as my next breath, and He's brought me through the worst part already. 

The minor discomfort I have now drives me to Him, and it's the sweetest place of all.

He reminded me that He honors faithfulness. He will never leave me nor forsake me. His promises are not dependent upon the quality or rapidity of my writing. 

His promises are dependent only upon the faithfulness of God Almighty, and He's the One who loves me most.

I didn't stand. I didn't share my concerns. No one gathered around me to pray or agree with me as I waited.

The One who reassured me as I waited was God Himself as, with His Still, Small, Voice, He gently reminded me that He is faithful. 

This morning, I received two emails that seemed to confirm His words to me. One of the members of my writing group sent a verse from Habakkuk. I don't know what translation this is, but I loved the way it expressed truth.

"If it seems slow, do not despair, 
for these things will surely come to pass.
Just be patient!
They will not be overdue a single day!"
                   Habakkuk 2:3 

Another friend had written a devotional about waiting for God as we pray. "Faith is the evidence of things not seen; if we saw all, no faith would be needed... If God is silent, then we must cling to one truth: Ultimately we will see God's faithfulness." (Aletha Hinthorn 3/10/16)

"Faith that is seen is no faith at all." Romans 8:24

If we're honest, we're all waiting for something. We all have concerns that have not yet been resolved. It's easy to grow weary in the waiting, but there's one truth that will help us through.

We do not wait alone.

Our Lord sees. He knows. He hears. At just the right time, He will answer. Until then, as we wait, He waits with us. 

We are not alone. 

"...We exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit 
who was given to us..."
Romans 5:2-5 nasb
Be sure to check the updated Prayer List 
#waiting #faithandhope  #JesusChrist #linesfromleanna #leannahollis

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Broken-Wing That Was Not: The Killdeer and Jesus

Sunday morning, I arrived a few minute early and pulled into my usual parking place near the front door. Lunch and a marathon choir practice were scheduled for after worship service. As I headed inside with my "covered dish", I realized I had parked a long way from the choir room.

Many hours later, with choir practice finished, I headed toward my car, sitting alone on the far side of the lot. I was half-way to the car when I saw a bird on the ground. It was calling and limping with its wing held at an odd angle. I'd never seen a killdeer before, but I'd heard of the "broken-wing" act, and recognized it instantly. (You can see a broken-wing video here.)

The mama bird was fascinating. She had been sitting on her nest in the corner of the curb. When I approached, she hopped up and did all she could to distract me from her nest. I guess she thought I was headed toward the eggs (which I was, but just for a peek) because she ran toward me, repeated the act, and tried again to draw me away.

Killdeer make their nests on the ground. It's not as secure a location as I might pick, but they have an inborn desire to protect their young. The broken-wing act has one purpose. Draw the possible predator away from the young and toward the mother. 

"Look at me and not my babies," is the message the mother sends. For a predator, the mother bird, seemingly wounded, is an attractive prey, perhaps more so than the three or four eggs she has in her nest. In a way, she offers herself as a sacrifice to save her young.

When she has the attention of the predator, she flies away to safety.

Our Lord presented Himself in much the same way. He was beaten, flogged, pierced through, and crucified. He appeared broken, but He was not. At just the right time, He emerged victorious from the grave, overwhelmed our predator, the devil, and saved us from the sin that threatened to devour us.

The babies safe inside the killdeer's eggs are completely oblivious to the sacrifice their mother offers on their behalf, but it is no less a sacrifice. 

In that same way, we cannot fully comprehend the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf, but it was no less significant, no less essential for our protection, our salvation.

Today, let's pause to remember that Christ offered everything to save us, including His precious blood. We can do no less than offer ourselves to honor Him.

(Link to broken-wing video:
Be sure to check the updated Prayer List 

 #thebrokenwingact #killeerandJesus #JesusChrist #linesfromleanna #leannahollis

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Numbers Don't Lie: The Grumble-Free Zone

When Moses completed the second census before entering the promised land, the tribes with the most outspoken rebels had decreased in number from one census to the next. (You can read yesterday's blog post on this topic here.) 

Men from the tribe of Reuben led a rebellion against Moses and brought destruction on the camp. A man from the tribe of Simeon brought a plague on Israel because of his relationship with a Midianite woman. Ruben and Simeon, however, were not the only tribes that had a decrease in numbers. There were five tribes that had a decrease in numbers (Reuben, Simeon, Gad, Ephraim, and Napthali).

A close look at the Israelite camp suggests there was another factor that may have had an impact on the census loss, as well.


It's clear that the tribes with the greatest rebellion also had the greatest decrease in the census numbers. What's especially troubling is that the tribes closest to them also lost thousands of men.

God had ordered the arrangement of tribal tents around the camp. Ephraim was camped in the southwest corner of the camp. Gad, Simeon, and Reuben were camped along the southern border (in order from west to east). Those four tribes were in greatest proximity to one another.

The tribes of Reuben and Simeon were immediately adjacent to one another in the camp. The rebel grumblers Dathan, Abirim, and On were from the tribe of Reuben and Zimri, the rebel disobeyer, was from the tribe of Simeon. 

Paul wrote, "A little leaven leavens the whole lump (1 Cor. 5:6), and it appears that's what happened.

The proximity of Reuben and Simeon suggests that the two tribes were more than neighbors. They were likely friends and grumbling companions, but it appears they may have spread their venom to their close neighbors, as well.

Grumbling and complaining may seem insignificant, but they often represent the first fruits of rebellion, a contagion that can spread like wildfire if allowed to continue. 

It looks (to me at least) as if the tribe of Reuben's grumbling and rebellion spread to Simeon, from there to Gad, and from there to Ephraim.

Certainly the decrease in numbers suggests something happened to make that corner of the camp lose men.

When we surround ourselves with grumbling, complaining people, we put ourselves at risk of adopting their attitudes and behavior. We put ourselves at risk of discipline, too.

Scripture is clear. Bad company corrupts good morals. (1 Cor. 15:33)

Ben Franklin said it another way. "If you lie down with dogs, you will get up with fleas."

If we don't want fleas, don't lie down with dogs. If we don't want corrupted morals, don't spend time in bad company.

Let's rid of ourselves of grumbling and the rebellion from which it springs, whether it is in our own hearts or in the companions we choose. They not only demonstrate a dissatisfaction with the gifts of God, but they dishonor God before those who hear us.

My mama said, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." 

Let's remember her good advice and make our hearts and our mouths a grumble-free zone.


Monday, March 7, 2016

The Numbers Don't Lie: The Price of Rebellion

After the children of Israel came out of Egypt, God directed Moses to take a census of the men who were able to go to war. Before they entered the Promised Land, God directed him to take another census. The second census revealed a decrease in the population of 1,820 men.

Most of the tribes had increased in number. There were five tribes, though, that had decreased in numbers (Reuben, Simeon, Gad, Ephraim, and Napthali), with Simeon having the greatest decrease of 37,100 fewer men after their years in the wilderness. 

Numbers like this can be very telling. The losses happened for a reason, and I believe there's a lesson to be learned.

Dathan and Abiram and On were from the tribe of Reuben and co-leaders with Korah in the rebellion against Moses. (Numbers 16). Dothan, Abiram, and On wanted control. They wanted to direct their own steps, rather than follow Moses' leading. In rebelling against Moses, however, they were rebelling against God, rejecting His leadership. 

Zimri was a prince of the tribe of Simeon and the man who wanted to choose his pleasure. He joined himself with a Midianite woman and brought her into the camp.(Numbers 25) In rejecting the law of Moses, Zimri was rejecting the law of God.

Four men rebelled against God and many men followed their example. Their choices resulted in the deaths of thousands, but also had a profound effect on their families for generations to come. 

The size of each tribe's portion on entering the promised land was proportional to the size of the tribe's population. The smaller tribes received a smaller portion of land. Had their tribes not lost men, the tribes of Reuben, Simeon, Gad, Ephraim, and Napthali would had been given a larger portion than they received.

Rebellion doesn't emerge full-grown. It begins as a smoldering dissatisfaction that increases, worsens, leads us to consider an action, convinces us that even a wrong-doing can be justified. 

Rebellion is a seed that grows and eventually blossoms in actions that would have been unthinkable at the beginning. 

Rebellion is a deadly contagion that always affects more than just ourselves.

Faithful obedience matters, but rebellious disobedience matters, too. Our decisions are not made in a vacuum. What begins as a small thought of rebellion can mushroom into something that changes the course of our families for generations to come. 

Let's examine ourselves today. Are we nurturing seeds of rebellion? 

Followers are called to follow. Let's be sure the One we follow is Jesus, the One we obey is God Himself.

"Know that the Lord Himself is God; 
It is He who had made us, and not we ourselves, 
We are His people and the  sheep of His pasture." 
                                               Psalm 100:3 nasb

Be sure to check the updated Prayer List 
#numbersdontlie #thepriceofrebellion #JesusChrist #linesfromleanna #leannahollis

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The King with the Plan that Wasn't God's

Today's Chronological Bible reading was about King Balak and Balaam. (Num. 22-24) As I read this morning, I laughed at how silly King Balak was, but he was no more foolish than I have been. 

The children of Israel were on their journey out of Egypt, headed toward the Promised Land. They camped in the plains of Moab. The people of Moab saw the huge crowd of Hebrews, interpreted them as an invading army, and were terrified.

Balak, king of Moab, devised what he thought was a great plan. He would hire Balaam to put a curse on Israel. It's not clear to me why he thought this would be an effective plan, but he did.

At first Balaam refused, but King Balak persisted. Finally, Balaam relented, climbed on his donkey, and headed out to do his cursing best. The angel of the Lord stood in the path, his donkey balked, and Balaam came face to face with a warrior angel of God. After that, Balaam continued on his way, but determined to say only the words God told him to say.

King Balak took him to the appointed place, built an altar, offered a sacrifice, and stood back to hear his enemies cursed. His plan was about to unfold. Or so he thought.

Balaam spoke a blessing instead.

King Balak had paid for a curse. He was furious. "What's up with this? I bought a curse but you gave me a blessing for my enemies instead. Speak the curse I paid for, and do it now!" (Leanna Paraphrase)

I'm not sure why the king of Moab wasn't smarter than this, but he was just like most of us. King Balak wanted what he wanted, so he persisted in the plan he had devised. Even though it had not worked at all the first time round.

Twice more, King Balak hauled Balaam to a place of cursing, built an altar, offered a sacrifice, and waited for the curse he'd bought. Twice more, Balaam offered a blessing for Israel instead.

King Balak's actions seem foolish now, but he was a man with a plan. He followed it all the way to the end, even though it was clear God had not blessed it. God not only wouldn't bless the plan, He would oppose the plan. 

I've had a plan before. Maybe you have, too. I wanted my plan to unfold in a certain way, and I tried over and over again. 

But God had a different plan.

As it turns out, God's plan always trumps mine. 

God's plan is always better. 

It is only when we submit ourselves to the plans and ways of God that we find the greatest blessings. 

 When we follow our own plan, but find it blocked on every side, it's time to reconsider. Maybe what we need to do is not push harder at our plan. Maybe we need to embrace the plan of God for our lives. 

Today, let's take some time to be still and acknowledge that He is God. Seek His plans and His ways, then embrace them with all the fervor we can muster.

He has a plan and it's good. When we follow Him, it might not turn out like we expect, but it's always worth it in the end. (Jer. 29:11)

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways," declares the Lord.
"For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts." 
Isaiah 55: 8-9 nasb
Be sure to check the updated Prayer List 

P.S. - The photo is of Jack, the rambling miniature horse, but when he first arrived on the scene, people thought he was a donkey, so I used his picture today.
#Godsplan #Balaam #manwithaplan #lines from Leanna #leannahollis