The Red Sea in Front of Me – Reaching for God in Despair

Today I’m sharing from Set Apart.

The Red Sea in Front of Me –
Reaching for God in Despair

By

There is no escaping the painful realities that surround my family. Our own Red Sea looms before us while the relentless enemies of physical and mental illness, financial strain, layered losses, and temptations to lose heart, pursue us from all sides.

While crushing circumstances involving physical and mental health, finances, marital pressures, and loss have been sufficient to defeat us; it’s the inner turmoil and constant temptation to sin against God by doubting his goodness and wisdom that make me plead most for my heavenly home.

In recent suffering, the Lord brought to mind the Israelites, who I imagine felt similarly as they stood before the Red Sea. Not long after the Lord had miraculously delivered them from Egypt they found themselves facing imminent death, walled in by an impassable Sea and enemies closing in behind them. I resonate all too much with their response to Moses:

Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: “Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?” For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness. (Exodus 14:11–12)

Though their response was irrational, portraying a distorted view of the reality of slavery, they spoke out of a very real sense of fear and helplessness. They wondered, Why would God free us from Egypt, only to lead us to our deaths? At that point, even slavery sounded better.

Why Was I Led Here?

Much like the Israelites stood terrified before the Red Sea, I have wrestled with similar thoughts. Why would a God who loved me enough to save me lead me into such awful and seemingly never-ending circumstances? I cannot save myself. I cannot save my family.

And as much as I wish I could say that my response has continually reflected Moses’s words to this complaining people — “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord” — I admit that it often has not. Rather, fearing our pain will never end; I have stumbled, pounded my fists in anguish and wondered if God is still fighting for us.

As followers of Christ, we all must face the reality that we are helpless to save ourselves. Whether it’s merely a traffic jam that makes us late for a job interview, or a life filled with inescapable pain, God mercifully brings us to impassable seas to help us see our need for him.

So how do we respond when we see no way out, no hope this side of heaven? We need to see, stand, and trust.

Read the rest here.

Mature In Christ

I have exciting news to share with you about Pat Knight. She has been working on a new book of devotionals which should be published sometime this year. She is still pondering and praying about what the title will be, so I’ll be sure to keep you updated as I learn more. Pat is also the author of Rejoice! and Pure Joy, both of which can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook, eBay and XulonPress.

Mature In Christ

By Pat Knight

One summer at the lake we experienced the sheer joy of observing two newly-hatched common loon babies under the tutelage of the adult pair. The interaction between parents and chicks provided no end of amusement and delight. The family of four swam by our shoreline with each baby hitching a ride on a parent’s back. We could sense the adults’ pride as they swam leisurely but cautiously near our Independence Day picnic area, seemingly to introduce their new family.

Initially the two newborn loon chicks were tiny brown puffballs, totally dependent on their parents for food, warmth, and protection. Daily as we noticed the parents nurturing and instructing their young, we were reminded of our relationship with our heavenly Father. A priest assured King David of God’s constant care. “‘I will instruct and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you’” (Psalm 32:8). All of our thoughts and actions are known to our Lord.

It was both amazing and heart-warming to hear the adult loons tenderly cooing to their young. We were accustomed to their boisterous, eerie cries that pierced the night silence. With their chicks the adults displayed only gentleness and tenderness. When Jesus ministered on earth, He neither yelled nor screamed His message. His gentleness and patience were known by all. Likewise, we are reminded, “In quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).

The ritual of feeding in the loon family continued throughout the day. The adult dived to catch a minnow, carried it alive in its beak, then dropped the fish directly in front of its offspring. The chick attempted to retrieve its lunch before the small fish struggled to its freedom below the water’s surface. This process reoccurred until the chicks proved unsuccessful catching their lunch. The adult loon then recaptured the fish and placed it directly in the chick’s mouth. It was a thrill to discover the older chicks soon capable of diving and catching their own food independently.

The apostle Paul likened the initial time when we place our trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior to the nourishment requirements of an infant, who at first drinks only milk. He compared our spiritual growth and the need for progressively more sustenance with our physical growth. With greater understanding and maturity in our walk with Jesus, He eventually introduces solid spiritual food.

During the Israelites’ forty-year wilderness walk toward the Promised Land, God assumed the responsibility for feeding millions of His people. He miraculously provided daily food adequate to sustain each person. Dissatisfied, the Israelites wailed and complained about the monotony of the manna and the absence of meat. God heard their grumbling and mercifully sent quail for their evening meal. “‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God’” (Exodus 16:11-12).

God never gives up on His children, urging us to depend on Him for our daily needs. The apostle Paul reassured, “‘God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus’” (Philippians 4:19). God commands us to trust and obey Him, promising that our lives will overflow with His blessings.

When the loon chicks were newly hatched, we equated their diving attempts to submerging a ping pong ball. At first, it was an impossible feat; they were merely small balls of buoyant fluff. However, they persisted, and by their fourth day of life, they had mastered rudimentary diving skills.

Just as the loon chicks practiced and persisted until their tiny bodies were heavy enough to stay submerged, so too, God expects us to practice our Christian lifestyle until God’s ways are natural to us. “But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: whoever claims to live must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:5-6). Our lives are testimonies to our beliefs.

The adult loons were fiercely protective of their young. Predators such as eagles, hawks, or humans pose great threats to an isolated loon chick. To divert attention away from the little ones in the face of danger, the adult loon performs a “penguin dance.” With their wings alternately folded vertically against its body or flailing, the parent walks on water while contorting and shrieking at the predator. If boaters or curiosity seekers are not wise enough to exit, the loon may dance until exhausted and perish attempting to protect its young.

Although God equips common loons with instinctive methods of protecting their young, He promises personal, unfailing protection to His own children. “The Lord watches over you. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore” (Psalm 121:5a, 7-8). God not only protects us routinely, He also offers shelter during the sudden, unexpected storms of our lives. “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).

God provides practical analogies and lessons as we observe His creation, promising love, leadership, and protection in believers’ lives. This, then, is our response: “‘Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’” (Psalm 139:23-24)

Loons provide natural object lessons, illustrating God’s constant parenting and grace for those who seek to follow and obey Jesus. Let us seek spiritual maturity, grasping the gifts God offers to cultivate Christlikeness in each of us.

#Rescue and #Protect {Reblog}

If you make the Lord your refuge,
    if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you;
    no plague will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels
    to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
    you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!

14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
    and give them my salvation.”

—Psalm 91:9-16, NLT

Underneath the Everlasting Arms

Underneath the Everlasting Arms

The eternal God is your refuge,
and underneath are the everlasting arms.
—Deuteronomy 3:27

What is your trust level with God? Do you just give lip service to the word “trust” or do you really mean it when you say you trust Him?

Here in the southwest, the summers always bring a danger of wildfires. I can choose to live in fear that the next fire will be close to where I live or I can trust that if that happens, God will take care of me and my family.

Some people have a real fear of flying and avoid it at all costs. I knew a woman who refused to fly anywhere—until her grandchildren moved over 3,000 miles away. She realized then that she had to put her fears aside and trust God to keep her safe on the flights there and back. After her vacation was over, she said that she still did not like to fly, but at least she finally gave it a try and said she would do it again for the chance to see her precious grandchildren.

As we experienced all over this country last year in unimaginably big ways, people faced various weather calamities: fires, blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, blinding rain and thunderstorms, flooding, or dense fog. There is no perfect place to live here on earth. No matter where we live, we are faced with a nasty weather situation sometime during the year. This is just a fact of life.

There is only one thing to do when faced with calamity or tragedy of any kind, and that is to rush to the everlasting arms of the only one who can grant us true refuge in the midst of any storm. I like to picture God holding His arms out to me when I need comforting, just as a father comforts his child. God is our ultimate Father, the one who shelters us next to Him, tucking us securely underneath His everlasting arms.

Perhaps if we keep in mind God’s protective presence in our lives, we’ll be more apt to stay close to His side and lean on Him always—not just when there is nowhere else to turn. Our only true refuge is God, the only one in whom we can put our complete trust.

My Help

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
—Psalm 121:1-4

#Rescue and #Protect

If you make the Lord your refuge,
    if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you;
    no plague will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels
    to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
    you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!

14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
    and give them my salvation.”

—Psalm 91:9-16, NLT

Divine Protector

If the Lord delights in a man’s way he makes his steps firm;
though he stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
—Psalm 37:23-24

Divine Protector

By Patricia Knight

Following our son’s tonsil and adenoid surgery at age seven, one of his young friends presented him with a spider plant as a get-well gift. On the upper window frame above our son’s bed, a bracket was mounted from which to suspend the plant. It flourished in the sunshine and within months required transplanting into a larger pot.  

One night before his dad and I retired, we entered our son’s room to check on him. What a terrifying sight met us! Our son was sleeping peacefully on his back, buried in dirt. Wet, clumpy potting soil was scattered over his body. What dirty chaos!

It appeared our son sustained no bodily damage, but we awakened him to check his mental alertness. One of us gave him a midnight bath while the other vacuumed his bed and floor and changed his bed sheets. Piecing together the events, it was apparent the plant had grown too heavy for its support system. After pulling away from the wall, the heavy pot then dropped, careened off the upper shelf of the bookcase headboard, smashed the pot, and disgorged its contents directly onto our son. We gently brushed the clinging soil away from our child’s face and eyes, impressing upon us just how tragic the accident could have been. A concussion or a skull fracture may have resulted had the plant pot crashed into his head instead of the shelf, only inches away.

Once we determined our son was unhurt and alert, we viewed the scene with far less panic and much more gratitude. Decades later, whenever that memory flashes onto our mental screens, we are grateful for our son’s divine protection from injury. We thank God profusely for His miraculous deliverance.

Imagine how many times each day God oversees and protects our lives. There are instances when we are fully aware of God’s actions to shield us from catastrophes. But what of the times when we are oblivious to God’s interventions to protect us?  Often we are divinely deterred from potentially perilous scenarios before they impact our lives. “If the Lord delights in a man’s way he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand” (Psalm 37:23-24).

Pharaoh refused to emancipate the Israelite slaves. After Moses’ repeated negotiations failed, God inflicted all of Egypt with ten increasingly horrendous plagues, while safeguarding His own people from collateral damage. God then freed the Israelites to walk away from their captors. When Pharaoh realized the ramifications of losing his entire slave workforce, he and his army pursued them. “As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians marching toward them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord” (Exodus 14:10).The marchers were trapped between the expanse of the Red Sea in front and the Egyptian chariots behind. 

Only a few hours before, the Israelites had witnessed God’s mighty hand creating disaster among the Egyptians while preserving their own lives. In spite of their disbelief, God was faithful. A million or more people walked on a dry path as God divided the sea, forcing walls of water up each side of the walkway. The Egyptian army followed directly behind them on the dry Red Sea bed. Precisely when the last Hebrew reached the far shore, God returned the Red Sea to its normal configuration. The walls of water crashed down, sweeping Egyptian horses, chariots and their riders beneath the sea forever. “And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant” ( Exodus 14:31). They sang and praised God for His great love and mighty power, vowing to follow and fear Him in the future.

The Israelites were suddenly free of servitude for the first time in four hundred years. God had heard their cries of oppression and He responded with miraculous deliveries that only He could orchestrate. One month had passed since their exodus from Egypt and the nations’ walk through the Red Sea. Then, “In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt’” (Exodus 16:2-3). They reflected on the good food available in Egypt, accusing Moses of leading them into the desert to starve.

Although God had shielded and delivered His people, as soon as the immediate danger had passed, doubt and fear transformed their attitudes to bitterness. How quickly they forgot the miracles and blessings of God! Their faith was shallow; their motives selfish. How fickle we humans are! We are inclined to forsake God due to fear and complain to Him when faced with challenges. Yet, God is always faithful, protecting us and advocating for us.

Many of the trials the Israelites endured during their wilderness walk were tests God used to determine their faith. His purpose was to strengthen their trust and to draw them close to Him through unquestionable submission and obedience. But the Israelites usually opted for the path of least resistance. They found it easier to complain than obey; grumbling was effortless. Obedience requires energy and discipline. The Apostle Paul admonishes us, “Do everything without complaining or arguing” (Philippians 2:14). Being discontent with God’s will leads to unbelief.

We may resemble the ungrateful Israelites more than we care to admit. When was the last time we glorified God for specific and constant protection? When we narrowly avoid an accident, is one of our first responses to thank God for shielding us from danger? Let us praise Him for our lives of spiritual prosperity and protection!

“I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed” (Psalm 57:1). David sought safety in a cave when King Saul relentlessly pursued him. We know David wrote Psalm 57 while sequestered in a cave, but we don’t know if he viewed avian life in a nest tucked into the crevice of the rock. Perhaps as David observed a mother bird’s protective instincts shielding her offspring beneath her wings, he was inspired to write the metaphor of God’s great protection and power when He shelters us, unencumbered from the perils of this world. The bird and her hatchlings may have provided the object lesson, illustrating God’s protective character.

God grants strength during trials,
not immunity that spares them from happening,
so that His glory and splendor are exalted by our worship.
In His shielding sanctuary, our Lord is our refuge and fortress.
Snuggle beneath God’s protective wings in your time of need.
What a privilege, to be sheltered by the sovereign hand of God!