I had the blessing and privilege of God walking me through lessons to share for September’s New England Ladies’ Retreat recently. Several have asked that I share my notes. It seemed easier to clean them up a bit and post them here. They are not in narrative form, fully edited, or in tight order. Rather, they are a bit of rough journaling from my time with God as we poured over His word and I asked Him what we needed to learn. I am hopeful they provide a starting place for you to tuck in along side me as we are gathered by God to His heart. Perhaps I will return to them and be granted the opportunity to study even more, polish them into order, and share the lessons in full that God brought me.
The wonderful ladies from Massachusetts and Rhode Island who organized this event selected Celebrating the Seasons as the theme, and asked a dear sister, Betty Oliver, and I to share the lessons. From their plan, I felt moved to choose Stormy, Summer, and Drought. Betty studied and spoke on Winter, Spring, and Autumn.
I am humbly blessed by your presence as we walk this journey together.
Lesson One: Storms…Hold On to the Promises!
THE CONDITION: stress…the feeling of being buffeted by all side, like a whack-a mole—you get one draining situation resolved, and another pops up…tension, fear, unpredictability, damage, despair, loss of direction, a broken heart
Types of Storms:
In the natural world, there are all types of storms, just as in Life:
Windstorm, rainstorm, thunderstorm, monsoon/hurricane, tornado, blizzards (white and blinding…can’t see), ice storm (where the roads and paths we walk and drive on become treacherous and near impossible to navigate)
Some of our life storms, and if you haven’t lived them, you’ve witnessed them, or you’re caught in the refuse spewn from the storm’s eye…
…disease…suicide…paralyzing depression or anxiety (you or your loved ones)…addiction (drugs, alcohol, pornography, food, technology, work, play)…fertility challenges…parenting difficulties…relationship issues (marital, friendship, church family)…infidelity…unemployment…rebellious children…loss of a loved one…major financial bills all at once…
Even some of the comparatively minor storms cause damage, exhaustion, worry, fear, frustration. like when all of your major appliances make a death pact and cease working the same month (yes, we had three one month—dishwasher, washing machine, and computer)
Some storm seasons are long and drawn out. The land becomes flooded, or at the very least, so sodden, it can’t grow anything. To walk on it (let alone, cultivate it), is to damage it. Sometimes roads wash out, the power fails.
Don’t you feel that way sometimes? Like your power is out?
Some storms are brief and violent, leaving a path of destruction that we must clean up, and some are short-lived, and just leave us with a feeling of weariness or relief that we “dodged the Big One.”
Some storms that come, you know they’re coming. You see them on the horizon, or receive fair warning, either by looking at the sky, or heeding the forecast of those who watch the atmosphere. Other storms come up suddenly, their mounting clouds have been obscured by the beauty of rising peaks or forested green. These storms can catch you totally off guard.
These storms happen in our family, our churches, our relationships.
The Challenge: “Hang on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”…without losing your grip, getting lost in the storm
The challenge is staying faithful. Trusting. Not losing your soul. The goal is ALWAYS to guard your salvation in Christ!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NM14VZVu0og Matt Redman You Never Let Go
What do people do in storms?
Leave, tie things down, prepare by gathering what they know they’ll need and hunker down, with no intention of leaving
What do you do in your storms?
What do you choose to keep tied down in the storm? And with what do you tie it?
Do you leave? Sometimes you have to, then you come back and help pick up the wreckage.
Some storms you need to leave, because they are not yours to weather. Such as…
Addictions….you cannot make that person’s decisions for them. You can support, advise, and, oh, you can love, but you cannot change. That is the Spirit’s work, alone, with the tortured soul.
As you have hit ‘storms and stormy weather’ in your life, ask yourself: What lessons has God taught you?
Is this a storm I need to leave, and return when the air is calmer? Or is it God’s will that I stay and hold on while the tempest rages?
Our Response: Take a stand!…“Hold on to the Promises”…change your grip (tighten or loosen)…praise God and trust Him
In living through storms, I go to the only place I can trust…God’s heart, as revealed in His word:
Let’s take a look at some Biblical Storms:
When you are in a storm, I want you to take a good look at the storms of God’s people. Look at the “great cloud of witnesses” Read Hebrews chapter 11 with new eyes, read of the deep faith, of the horrible storms and of the hope that we can celebrate
Their storms? Slavery, infertility, a family member tries to murder another, building a boat to house a family and a zoo for the rain that had never before fallen, persecution, mistreatment, destitution…
Think of the first century Christians and their storms of persecution, of political and social exile…
Let’s look for a moment at Paul. Prison (Paul—prison epistles)
Boy, did Paul ever have a storm! (AGAIN!….Seems like God placed him in the middle of several storms, literally and figuratively!) Prison. Think about that. This is NOT a story…It is the Truth. It is History!
It appears to have been a house arrest in Rome. He was allowed to live by himself, though was guarded by a soldier and not allowed to leave.
What we can learn about storms and faith and the work of God from Paul’s imprisonment:
Surely the weary apostle spent some sleepless nights praying for the regeneration of these evil hearts. In spite of all this heartache, however, Paul could still muster a generally jubilant spirit. “Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice,” he would write (Philippians 4:4). As unpleasant as his circumstances sometimes were, he could affirm that the things which had happened to him had worked for the “progress” of the gospel (Philippians 1:12).
“Progress” is from the Greek term prokopen, derived of two roots (pro, “forward,” andkopto, “to cut”). Originally the word was employed of “a pioneer cutting his way through brushwood” (Vine 1991, 334). Paul views his troubles in the most positive light possible; they were like an advance party, preparing the way for the success of the gospel.
Have you ever felt under ‘house arrest’? Tethered, boxed in by your circumstances? Not entirely impotent, but frustrated, just short of being able to exercise your own will? Perhaps you identify with Paul. Let’s see what God can teach us here.
Here’s what we can celebrate…not the pain, the suffering, the damage, but the hope within storms, the promises that raise us above the storms!
Keep a Holy Perspective:
12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,[b] that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard[c] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.
There is holy purpose in storms.
Know that Your Victory in Christ, Over the Storm, is a Shared Victory-a Weapon of Encouragement.
So, Satan has weapons? Flaming arrows? (Eph. 6:16 in addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.) So do WE! In Christ, our weapons outperform his. They do more than merely deflect, the promise is that they are extinguished!
Col. 2:15 He has disarmed the enemy!
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[d] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
We have more than just holy garments of protection. We have an offense that has already been victorious and will continue to be!
1 Cor. 15:53-57 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”[h]
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”[i]
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
Phil 1:14 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. I wonder…how does a fellow Christian’s imprisonment inspire confidence, and not fear? It’s the same as watching someone take the first step onto a rickety bridge over a chasm. Once they cross successfully, you feel empowered. So, let us look at the great cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1) and march forward through the storms!
15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill.16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.[d] 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit,[e] striving together as one for the faith of the gospel (Our continued faithfulness to God inspires others in the storm, just as much as those that are in a storm inspire us to persevere. Both help us SEE God and the strength of His Spirit.) (28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ (This is a purposeful grant, to suffer for Him.) not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
14 times in Philippians the words “joy” and “rejoice” occur. From prison. That’s quite a storm in which Paul discovered and lived the joy.
My Harper Study Bible commentary states: Of all the churches Paul had founded, none was so near and dear to him as the church at Philippi. The letter to the Philippians breathes an atmosphere of perfect love and mutual confidence; these were friends who had often helped Paul with their gifts (4.15, 16) and had not forgotten him now that he was in prison.” We can learn from this. Paul was in a storm, and his fellow believers ministered to him with gifts, remembrance, and staying faithful, making sure the positive, uplifting news of steadfast faithfulness was shared. Church!: We can do this!
Let’s look at another storm. Acts 1 Jesus had been crucified. Then He’s back. Then Jesus leaves! Acts 1
Who here has been left? Sometimes people leave because they choose to;; sometimes it is their turn to go Home, and they finish the race ahead of us; sometimes we are left because people change, church communities change, our circle of friends change; sometimes a spiritual leader must leave us; sometimes God has other plans for those we count on that do not involve being a constant physical presence for us…
No matter what the leaving is, it can cause deep pain at the most, and a spirit of unrest and detachment at least. Let’s look what happened when the Savior of the World left His closest friends and co-ministers. Let’s learn from the leaving of Jesus.
*Jesus told them “Don’t leave! Wait (Luke 24:49-53, Acts 1:4)…interpreted as “I have a plan. Wait for the promise of God.”
*The disciples still didn’t understand the purpose of this storm, or of Jesus. They still expected a restoration of the earthly kingdom.
*They stayed in Jerusalem. (Lk. 24:52, 53) Upstairs, “joined together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:12-14) 1 Thess. 5:17: Joined…together…constantly…in prayer. Let the power of those 5 words and their example take roots in your soul!
From A Holy Experience, the blog of Ann Voskamp:
There is faith that accepts no fast, next day delivery, but rests that the new order of things waits on the hands of God, not the hands on the clock.
There is faith that stands or falls on the truth that the future with God is more fulfilling than anything forecasted by either the fortunetellers or the fearmongers. (The power of sin and worry and fear over us is always the power of deceit over us.)
There is faith that in the midst of the setbacks, God is setting up everything for the comeback of your joy. Ann Voskamp July 19, 2014
Scriptures to Hold on to During the Stormy Season:
or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight** in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor. 12:7-10 (NIV)
**the RSV says “I am CONTENT”
Paul’s storms: 2 Cor. 11:16ff
16 I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then tolerate me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting. 17 In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool. 18 Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast. 19 You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! 20 In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or puts on airs or slaps you in the face. 21 To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!
Whatever anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying.
Praising God in the Storms: Yikes! Really? How? And, quite frankly, for WHAT?
Just what can we CELEBRATE in our storms?
*God’s power, His character, His faithfulness
*He is ABOVE all of this. (Romans 8:31-38 If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any chargeagainst those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[j]
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.)
Ephesians 1: 18-23! 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
*HE has the way out! Ephesians 3:20-21 “Now to Him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more ABUNDANTLY than all that we ask or think, to HIM be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen!
Job 1:21 (lost all his farm and children) Then Job arose, and rent his robe, and shaved his head, and fell upon the ground, and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
- 2:9-10 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God, and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Habakkuk 3:17-19 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
As we close this session, ponder this for a moment… even if you are not buffeted by a storm at this time, even if you are not living in a stormy season at the moment, you have a holy role in every storm. Be a …
*Throw SALT on the icy roads: Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost is taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men.” Matthew 4:13
We PRESERVE when others are floundering. We preserve faith, love, trust, wisdom of God. We MUST be that salt that is freely cast by God, to continue to save men and women, to continue to save faith and belief!
*Light the way! (*lighthouse, lamp, floodlight, match pics*):
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid.” Mt. 4:14
Ps. 119:105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
*Speak truth against the lies of the enemy. Counteract the lying arrows of defeatism, distraction, rebellion, devaluing with the truth of God:
*Offer their WORTH, again and again (Matthew 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me.
*Offer HOPE: Ephesians 1:15-23, Romans 8:28, 31-39 Nothing is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
*Offer confidence in God’s wisdom and promises
*Be the chain of strength that anchors them to Christ, the true and trustworthy anchor of our souls. Hold on to those that are suffering their storms. (*pic of grasping flood victim*)
*By anchoring them to you and the church, you are anchoring them to Christ’s body—to Christ Himself. Be that arm that holds them securely.
*Realize that it is neither within your power, nor your responsibility to stop someone else’s storm. But you can be the one that encourages.
*Be sure you are anchoring them to Christ, not to you! or even the church (despite the fact that it is Christ’s body?)
*Wash Their Feet*
The real Jesus turns to our questions of why, why this sickness, who is to blame — and he says it like a caress to the aching,“You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here.” (John 9:3 MSG)… “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him” (John 9:5 NLT).
That’s the grace touch of Jesus: The dark is not your fault, the dark is not the heavy night that weighs the worth of your soul, the dark is not about blame.
The dark is about bravely being a canvas for light — about courageously letting your dark be a canvas for sparks of God glory, a backdrop for ambers of mercy in the midst of your fire. Ann Voskamp August 12, 2014
From Ann Voskamp with Betty Moore
Lord, so knives can make heads roll
and terrorists can execute the unimaginable
and divisions can split up the middle of our streets & our towns & our hearts & disease can go devouring like some starved epidemic —
but we can feel the warmth of it on the nape of our bared, bowed necks, we can feel the beating warmth of it pounding like a victory march in the chambers of our praying hearts:
There is a Light that shatters the dark, that shards the dark, that pierces the cowardly dark right to the wall of an eternal pit,
and the diseased doomed to death walk straight out of hospitals
and the pleading streets of pain feel justice roll & hope run like water
and the warring wounds of this world are dressed with a world of tender prayer
and you can bet that There. Is. A. Light. in every single darkness
and the darkness can never extinguish it, the darkness can never smother it, the darkness can never, ever, no matter what, suffocate the relentless coming of an emancipating Light.
And all the brilliant people, all the people looking for the Light, said? AMEN
aholyexperience.com A. Voskamp