How NOT to Identify an Ash Tree

Today the Bro and I went on a hike with a friend. Twenty percent of our hike was through the woods–what I consider actual hiking–and eighty percent was walking on the side of a road as we circled back to where we parked our vehicles. (We don’t believe in backtracking.)  I wondered if the people driving past us thought we were on the hunt for a gas station after our vehicle ran out of gas. 😉

As we walked we exchanged stories, and I debated about sharing one particular story from when my brother Ethan and I went hiking last May. I decided to go ahead, after all, it is rather funny, even if it is only a little embarrassing to me.

Ethan and I were in a state park, bushwhacking through trees and brush to find some land previously unexplored to us. We were on the edge of a swamp when Ethan stopped and evaluated the tree in front of him. He broke a small branch off and looked at it. “This is an ash tree,” he said.

I knew Ethan knew what an ash tree looked like–that information came from working with an arborist who knew his stuff.

“You know how you can tell if this is an ash tree? When you lick it, it tastes like ash from a smoldering fire.” He raised the twig to his lips and it looked to me like he tasted the branch, just as he’d said.

“Really?” I asked, unbelieving yet at the same time trusting, because why would my dear, sweet brother ever steer me wrong?

Ethan tossed another twig my way. It landed on the ground. I picked it up, gave him one last glance of trepidation, and then I licked it.

It tasted like wood. Like I was licking a pencil, or in my case, a plain, old, ordinary stick. Nothing like ash at all.

The look on Ethan’s face was one of unbelief and endless amusement. He doubled over in laughter.

“You’re such a liar!” I attempted to throw the stick back at him, but of course being the tiny twig that it was, didn’t go very far. “I can’t believe I trusted you!”

Ethan, between bursts of laughter, said, “You just licked a stick!”

By this point, our friend who I was telling the story too, was definitely amused. “Everyone does stuff like that when they’re young.” Obviously trying to make me feel better. And under the misconception that I was a little girl when this happened.

I was happy to let him assume this happened years ago, but Ethan was quick to chime in, “This happened last year!

Of course this made the story all that much better, and we all laughed about it. I’ve learned my lesson however–brothers with a reputation for being mischievous are not to be trusted. And wood from an ash tree does not taste like ash! 😉



A Prayer for the New Year

Seeing as how I kind of already did an end-of-the-year wrap up post, today’s post will be a little bit shorter. At least that’s the game plan, y’all know how I am once I get started talking. Or, in this case, writing.

Sometimes at work I have a hard time focusing. There can be a variety of reasons for this. I could have a lot on my mind, irritating customers, unresolved issues with friends or family… The list goes on, and I’m sure you can fill in the blank with your own answers to the question, “What are things that make you have a hard time focusing?”

And sometimes, to get my mind back away from whatever downward spiral I’m on, I need to stop a quick second and breathe. I need to write something down to get my focus off the problem and back onto God. Written word helps orient me better than if I’d merely pray in my head. I’m not saying that silent prayer is ineffective by any means, but I’ve personally found that if I want to get my head on straight again, it is most effective for me to write because that’s one of the best ways I focus.

I am a writer, after all. 😉

What do I write in these moments of struggle? Many things. Sometimes I write one of God’s names, like Jehovah Shalom (The Lord is Peace) or Jehovah Shammah (The Lord is There). Sometimes it’s a Bible verse, like Philippians 4:6 or John 14:27.

And sometimes, it’s a prayer. I saved one prayer I’d scribbled down at work and taped it to my bedroom wall. I reread it every now and again, and this is the prayer that I’ve decided to take into 2020 with me. It’s a prayer of focus, a prayer of submission, a prayer of open hands.

I don’t know what 2020 brings, but I’m going to hold tight to my Savior’s hand and settle my focus on Him every step of the way.

May my eyes be focused on You as my feet travel Your way and my hands accomplish Your will. For you are my strength and my portion forever, who enables me to rise up on wings like eagles. I pray for Your love to fill me and that I would share the hope we have in Your name. Bind up the brokenhearted, Lord, and anoint them with joy instead of mourning. In Your Name there is freedom. In Your Name there is love. In Your Name alone is there saving grace. May I demonstrate and share these things everyday, loving not only in words or speech but with actions and in truth. Amen.


Bad Year or Good Year?

2019 – another 365 days filled (mis)adventures, learning, sorrow, joy, and hope. Honestly, friends, it would be easy to say that 2019 was a bad year. Parts of this year have been heartbreaking and tragic. Mum and I were talking about this, however, and she said something that struck me: “I don’t want to focus on the bad things that happened. I want to focus on the good.”

That gave me something to think about. I don’t want the sorrow I went through this year to be the Highlight Reel of 2019. Yes, I will always remember those things as they were big events in my life…but there was so much more to 2019 than the two events that marked my summer.

This year I made new friends and reconnected with old friends. I learned to swing dance, which is so fun and makes Tuesday my new favorite day of the week.  If my count is correct I’ve traveled to eight different states. (Although I only stepped over the Arizona border to say I’d been there, does that still count?) Palm trees were checked off my bucket list in Nevada, and so was the ocean in Maine. Both of which I saw for the first time. (!!!)

I met second-cousins who live out of state when they came up for a family reunion. We had a grand ol’ time, too.  Together a group of us cousins tried eating pig brain, which was my brother’s idea. Is he crazy for coming up with it or are we crazy for following him?

The Bro and I hiked close to 11 miles while on our first trip sans parents this summer. That was the trip we saw more waterfalls (our first being in Maine). It was a learning experience to be sure, but all in all, we had a great time.

Efers and I also stacked four hammocks between two trees, one on top of the either, with some friends. Sadie and I successfully made sweet-and-sour chicken, rice, and crab rangoons…with some help from Mum. 😀 And I tried rice wrapped in grape leaves soaked in olive oil…which was awful.

In March we got a puppy, a Basque Shepherd dog we named Ceder. Let me tell you, this dog has an attitude. He is super cute, but he can be a stinker when he wants to be. We’re still trying to figure out if his cuteness outweighs his sass.

This is the year God taught me about hope. Hope in God is never misplaced. He is a God of hope, and will fill me with all joy and peace as I trust in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:13). When I place my hope in earthly things, I will be disappointed. God has promised that He has a hope and a future for each one of us (Jer. 29:11). Am I going to trust Him, follow Him, believing and expectantly waiting for God to do what He says He will do?

So if someone asked me, “How was your 2019?” I would respond, “It’s been a tough year. But there was a whole lot of good, too. A whole lot of good.”



Holy and Blameless in His Sight

Last night someone told me that I was “the holy one”. As if I did everything right, never made mistakes, was absolutely, one-hundred percent perfect. All I could think to respond was, “I do plenty of things wrong.” Because that’s the truth–I’ve sinned just like everyone else and am nowhere near perfect. In fact, I deserve to die for them. Holy one? Yeah, right.

But here’s the thing. In Hebrews it says “But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” Hebrews 2:9

What a beautiful passage! Jesus tasted death so we wouldn’t have to. In 2 Corinthians 5:21 it says “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

God sent Jesus, the only One to walk the earth and live a perfect life, to bridge the gap between our sin and His holiness. He was the ultimate sacrifice needed to save us from our sin and bring us into right standing with God if we “confess with our mouths ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead”. (Romans 10:9)

No longer am I, a child of God, defined by my mistakes. Jesus’ blood has covered all my sins. I have a new identity.

Therefore since we have been justified [which is to be declared guiltless and innocent] through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. Galatians 3:14

And finally…

For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance to His pleasure and will–to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. Ephesians 1:4-6

These verses say that once I give my heart to Jesus, I’ve been adopted into His family. I’m justified. I’m new. I’m redeemed. I’m holy and blameless in His sight, because of His glorious grace. I’m a work in progress and still make mistakes, but God’s grace abounds.

Maybe last night he was right. I am holy, but not for the reason he implied. It’s not my holiness, but Jesus in me. It’s not what I’ve done, but what Jesus has done. On my own, I’m nothing. In Jesus, He’s everything. To God be the glory.

xoxo, Emma

Let’s Kayak! What Could Happen?

“What if we went kayaking tomorrow?” I asked my brother Ethan and our cousin Sadie. Monday promised to be a beautiful day, perfect for an afternoon on the river.

I was slightly surprised when Ethan agreed right away. My kayaking track record isn’t exactly spotless, as a few months ago I lost my phone (and a pizza). “I don’t want to go kayaking with you again,” he’d told me. But really, how many kayak-related incidents can one girl get herself into?

Sadie thought it sounded fun too. She had to work at night, so we would be on a tight schedule, but if we didn’t dillydally or run into any trouble, we would be fine. So we made plans.

And that was how the three of us ended up paddling down the river early Monday afternoon. The sun was shining, there was a slight breeze to offset the heat, and there were turtles galore. (To prevent a deja vu experience, I had my phone in its dry bag, safely inside the locked compartment in the front of my kayak.)

Everything was going great until we rounded the bend. There, spanning the entire width of the river, was a huge downed tree. We were headed straight for it and had a limited amount of time to come up with a game plan. Sadie was leading, I was behind her, and Ethan was bringing up the rear.

“Get to the side!” Ethan called to us. “Grab something!”

I paddled to the side and grabbed a tree branch. I didn’t know at the time I should have spun my kayak around so I was facing upstream. Water began to come up over the back of my kayak and Ethan issued new orders: “Let go!”

So I let go. And was carried by the current right smack against the tree. Sadie hadn’t been able to get over to the side at all and her kayak was pinned sideways against the trunk. Where I was at, the trunk didn’t touch the water. There was just enough space between the river and the tree for my kayak to fit and I began to tiiiiiiiip–and then I flipped.

I ducked under the tree and stood in four feet of water–thank goodness the current wasn’t too strong for me to stand! I grabbed my kayak before it was swept away and flipped it right side up. But it was too late for my life jacket, water bottle, and paddle. They were continuing down the river without me. My phone, however, was safe and sound.

After I dragged my kayak onto the muddy shore I went to see how I could help, if at all. Ethan was out and helping Sadie climb out of her kayak onto the tree. He pushed her kayak underneath to me, and I dragged that into the mud too. A few minutes later they joined me in the mosquito-infested woods and we had a new problem.

I was up the creek without a paddle. Literally.

Our options were slim. Ethan hopped back in his kayak with the hope of finding my paddle just down the river, but in less than ten minutes he was back. No paddle. Time was running out and we had to keep going, otherwise Sadie would be late for work.

“The only thing we can do,” Ethan said, “is to attach the front of your kayak to the back of mine and I’ll pull you.”

Wonderful. I didn’t like it, but we had no other choice. We pushed off, Ethan pulling me like a tug boat. Paddling upstream had tired him out, and now every time he got some speed he’d jerk to a halt at the extra weight in the back. Did he regret coming? Probably. As for me, well, I chose to look on the bright side of things. Now I could float at leisure while someone else paddled for me.

We kept an eye out for my things: life jacket, water bottle, paddle. Paddle being the top priority. The problem was, there was piles of brush and downed trees all along that section of the river. They could be stuck anywhere, and there was always the possibility that we would miss spotting them. A few minutes later we found my life jacket caught on the branch of a tree limb in the water. Wonderful! One down, two to go.

“If we were going to find it, we would have found it back there,” Ethan said as we rounded the bend. “I’d be very surprised if it made it past all that stuff. We must have missed it.”

Which meant Ethan would have to pull me the remaining two miles of our trip. Other than being out a $20 paddle, I wasn’t super bummed. Ethan was less than thrilled, I’m sure.

Then from behind us Sadie called out, “Guys! I think I found it! It looks too white to be foam–it might be her paddle!”

Sadie paddled to shore and hopped out. Ethan maneuvered us to the edge and went to join her, leaving me to safeguard the kayaks and keep us from floating away. Wouldn’t that be cute?

“We found it!”

Ethan returned a few minutes later, paddle in hand, and a few minutes after that, we were all back on the river, each of us paddling ourselves. Sadie told us she had asked God to help her see my paddle and then she found it. How awesome is that?! God is so good!

Despite that little hiccup, Sadie made it to work on time. Once again I hear from Ethan, “I never want to go kayaking with you again.” It stings a little, but I have a feeling we’ll be kayaking together again soon. Adventure is out there! And really, what could happen?

Who Wants to Go Kayaking?

I enjoy kayaking. It’s an opportunity to be outside in the sunshine, on the water, enjoying the company of my brother and/or a friend. I am fortunate (blessed!) to live in an area where there is no shortage of lakes and rivers. All the Bro and I need to do is strap our kayaks to the top of my car and drive twenty minutes for a few hours of fun.

Fun…not sure that’s the word Ethan would use to describe our outings. Our last few kayaking trips have been memorable, to say the least. “All’s well that ends well,” they say. I agree, at least in the context of kayaking. Ethan, however, tells me he doesn’t think he wants to continue kayaking with me. I think he’s overreacting. But I’ll tell you the stories and let you decide for yourself.

Once upon an April day, Ethan and I loaded up our kayaks with the intention of kayaking a couple miles down a river. After parking a car at our end destination I realized we had never eaten lunch. I was hungry and didn’t fancy kayaking on an empty stomach. Since weren’t in any hurry we drove back into town and picked up a Little Caesar’s pizza. A lot of driving, but worth it. 😉 We decided to wait and eat the pizza until after we were on the river. That way I wouldn’t have to touch my steering wheel with greasy pizza fingers. Plus it would be kind of fun to float and eat.

Ethan and I each have a phone dry bag with a lanyard, a handy little gizmo that keeps our delicate smartphones safe from water. My phone was getting heavy hanging around my neck in the dry bag, so I slipped it all into the pouch pocket of my sweatshirt as we unloaded. The riverbank was muddy, the river itself deep even right off the bank. There wasn’t a good place to put in without getting wet–and neither of us wanted to do that in April!

Well, we had a genius idea. I’d put my kayak on the muddy riverbank and Ethan could push me into the water. It should have worked. Except it didn’t. I secured our pepperoni pizza on the back of my kayak and settled in. Ethan shoved me in and my kayak nose-dived into the river, flipping me into the icy water.

I scrambled to my feet and spun around to rescue my things. “Our pizza!” I cried as I reached for the soggy cardboard box that had begun to float downriver. The pizza was ruined and we’d never eaten a bite. It was a tragic loss, but peanuts compared to our other loss: my phone.

Pizza was forgotten as I checked and double checked my pockets. How could I have forgotten to put the lanyard on again? “My phone is gone! I don’t have my phone!” As a brother would, Ethan thought I was kidding around. “I’m not joking, it’s gone!”

The water where I stood was three and a half, four feet deep. It wasn’t moving very fast and my phone was still in the dry bag. If the dry bag was actually waterproof then my phone would still work. If the cold didn’t hurt it in any way. (Can cold do that to a phone?) If we could find it.

Ethan joined me in the water as I swam around and ducked underwater. The water was cold, maybe 50 degrees, and the air was the same temperature. After twenty minutes of fruitless searching we were cold. We had to get warm.

We drove home to eat and warm up before returning to try again. I posted on Facebook and asked my friends to pray. Ethan–I am so glad he’s involved in so many hobbies. He has a waterproof metal detector. We packed that and anything else we thought we might need and drove back.

Ethan got back into the water with his metal detector and began searching. I prayed we would find it, but would we? I had no idea. Please, Lord, help him find it…

A couple pieces of junk metal were recovered. No phone.

Lord, help us find my phone! Even if we did find it, would it still work? It had been almost three and a half hours since I’d lost it. Ethan continued to swing the detector through the water.

After twenty minutes of searching, Ethan reached into the water for something. A pop can maybe–but no! He had my phone!


Ethan climbed out of the water and handed it to me. It was still in the dry bag of course, but would it still work? And as we were wondering about this, Ding! I had a text message!

Once again we hauled our things back to the car and drove home, elated and exhausted and in disbelief of everything that had happened.

We never ate our pizza. We never went kayaking. But I had my phone. It still worked. We made memories. It was an adventure. All’s well that ends well, right?

Want to go kayaking with me?

But before you answer that…I’ll have to tell you about what happened on Monday when we went kayaking. Part two coming soon.

It’s always an adventure, I’m tellin’ ya.

Glory in our Sufferings

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. ~Romans 5:3-4

Paul tells the Romans to give glory in their sufferings, and I wonder, how often do I follow these instructions myself? I think about the days when I worry and complain. When I doubt a solution will come to a situation I’ve deemed impossible. When I become angry or get upset. There is joy lacking in my heart. There is peace lacking in my life. And Paul says to glory in my sufferings?

Yet if God promises that He will work all things together for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28), why shouldn’t we? If I choose to believe this truth about God, that He will use my worst situation as something good for my life, it changes everything. What is God, through this current suffering, teaching me? Showing me? Will I embrace this season in my life as a chance to dig deep into the Word and draw closer to Him?

Faith comes through hearing, and hearing through the Word of God. (Rom. 10:17) Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Heb. 11:1) By digging into the Bible I am building my faith that what God says, He will do. The seeds of hope in my heart are watered by faith, when I read and believe His promises. In the morning I can lay my requests before the Lord and wait expectantly for Him to answer! (Ps. 5:3)

“The word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does.” ~Psalm 33:4

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” ~2 Corinthians 1:20

There is no situation that is exempt from His promises. Every promise God has made is a resounding YES in Christ. Every amen we speak we proclaim, “So be it, Lord! Let it be so!”

Suffering produces perseverance because we know “we are more than conquerors”. (Rom. 8:37) We know that God has a plan for a future and a hope for our lives. We fight the good fight of the faith, we run the race, because we believe, we know that God is true.

The steps we take toward perseverance will also produce a Christ-like character in us. God will draw us closer to Himself. His Words will touch our hearts and change us to be more like Him. We will discover Him to be the most wonderful, amazing, beautiful God, who is trustworthy with everything from the minute to colossal.

The character that God produces in us will, in turn, lead into hope. It is a hope that “does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Rom. 5:5)

Hope placed in God is hope well-placed. It isn’t a “I really hope this will happen,” as if we aren’t fully confident. Godly hope is expectantly waiting, trusting, and praising Him, believing His hand is moving in our lives to accomplish His promises to us…even if we can’t see it.

As we choose to pray instead of worry, give thanks instead of complain, and to glory in our sufferings, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 15:13)

The Lord is Truth

I want to write but I don’t have the words. I’m told to start with that sentence and start from there—easy, right? I wish it were so, but maybe I’m just overthinking it. I tend to lean towards the perfectionist side with something like this. My fingers itch to pen a brilliant prose or inspiring poem, but as I open up a Document or flip to a fresh sheet of paper I blank. Words elude me. It’s annoying.

“God,” I pray, “give me the words.”

“Write your heart,” the Lord whispers back. “Write your heart.”

My heart these past two weeks have been filled with a multitude of emotions, a roller coaster of highs and lows. I’ve been excited, I’ve been discouraged. I’ve been filled with praise, I’ve struggled with fear. In those low moments when I take the time to turn my eyes from my circumstances and to my Creator, I hear these words:

I, the Lord, am truth.

Truth is not defined by my circumstances. Truth is not defined by my feelings. Truth is not defined by what those around me say. Truth is Jesus.

For the past several months I’ve been working my way through the Old Testament, and I have landed on Isaiah. There’s a lot of good stuff in Isaiah.

Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, He will come with vengeance; with divine retribution He will come to save you.”

~Isaiah 35:4~

When I am afraid I am commanded to be strong in the Lord and trust that He will save me. He says that He will! It’s a reassuring verse, a promise I can claim, but

That’s a nasty little word, isn’t it? One the enemy is particularly fond of using. But will He? For instance when I am sick—“God says He will heal you, but will He?” When I am lacking—“God says He will provide for you, but will He?”

It strikes fear. It sows doubt. It sends uncertainty coursing through our minds.

Only if we let it. And as I’ve learned, we don’t have to allow ourselves to be consumed by fear, doubt, or uncertainty. Because ~

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

~1 John 4:4~

God is greater! He is El Shaddai, Lord God Almighty. The Spirit of this almighty God resides in each one of His children. We are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus.

 [God] 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?

~Romans 8:32~

If the Lord gave us what was most precious to Him, He is trustworthy to fulfill all His other promises as well.

When the enemy tries to insert that but will He? onto the end of God’s promise, I need to fight back with Scripture: “If God didn’t spare His own Son, how will He not also give me all things? God has promised this to me, and it is true!”

My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.

~Psalm 119:45~

If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts for by them you have preserved my life.

~Psalm 119:92-93~

Peace is found in the promises of God, knowing that He never breaks His word. The only way to weather the storm is to cling to God. To delve deep into the Bible and be familiar with His promises.

Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God.

~Isaiah 50:10~

There are times I feel as if I’m walking in the dark with no clue where I am going. Those are the moments I’m tempted to fear, to doubt, to worry. But that’s not what God commands me to do. He instructs me to trust in the name of the Lord, and to rely on my God. Even when—especially when—everything else seems bleak.

“Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?” Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

~Psalm 77:7-12~

I will remember what God has done in the past. The prayers He has answered, the miracles He has performed. Know that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

I, the Lord, am truth.

Despite my circumstances. Despite my feelings. Despite what others say. Despite what the enemy says. The Lord is truth.

And I believe Him.

Choosing God Above Your Circumstances

When trouble comes, what is my first response? There are times when we can become paralyzed by the hardships of life. Paralyzed by fear, worry, or doubt that things will ever get better. Seemingly impossible problems stare us in the face, and we exhaust ourselves trying to come up with a solution. God exists, but does He care? Hope and faith is drained away until we believe nothing will change, until all we have left is despair.

That is exactly where Satan wants us to be: paralyzed, afraid, and alone. He doesn’t want you to know the truth: God will fight for you. The enemy wants to keep you blind to the reality that God is close to the brokenhearted and will save the crushed in spirit (Ps. 34:18). If he can keep you there, he’s got nothing to worry about.

The moment we made God our Lord and King, we were raised up with Christ and seated with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:6). We are now more than conquerors through Christ who loved us (Ro. 8:37). We don’t have to be trapped in despair, overwhelmed by our situations, because God is bigger.

Now is time to stand on the promises of God and believe His character. The God we serve is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). We see all throughout Scripture the goodness and faithfulness of God; of His unfailing love and mercy. He is a God of miracles and wonders—a God who is true to His word.

All this begs the question: How? How can we look past the impossibility of our circumstances and find our hope in God? We find our answer in 2 Chronicles, chapter twenty.

After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat. Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. (vs. 1-4)

Before this announcement, Jehoshaphat king of Judah had been appointing judges and turning the hearts of the people back to the Lord. Everything was fine; a time of peace after the battle at Ramoth Gilead two chapters prior. Now he’s faced with the threat of battle. But instead of panicking and staying there, it says that Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord. He made the decision to seek God instead of dwelling on the enemy intent on destroying him.

The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord, indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him. Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard and said: “Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you.” (vs. 4-6)

Jehoshaphat’s first step of action was to get the focus on God. He shifted his perspective to the Almighty God, whose power and reign are supreme to anything in heaven or on earth. In fact, Jehoshaphat had others—all the people of Judah—praying as well, which is important to note. One of Satan’s strategies is to make us feel isolated and alone. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” God designed His church to be in unity, so that we may stand together in the strength of Christ and fight the enemy. We were never meant to battle alone.

“Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgement, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’ (vs. 7-9)

Here Jehoshaphat references 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, which is a promise that God made to Solomon: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

We need to know what is in the Bible and all that God has promised, so we can claim those promises. Claiming a promise is to believe that what God has said will happen for you. In Matthew 6 Jesus tells us we do not have to worry about food or clothing, because He who takes care of the sparrows will take care of us too. So we can say, “Alright Lord, you said I don’t have to worry about food or clothes. You said You will take care of me, and I believe you!” It is clinging to that promise no matter what, knowing that God’s word is right and true and He is faithful in all He does (Ps. 33:4).

The Bible is full of promises for us: promises of health (Is. 53:4-5 and Matt. 8:14-17), protection (Ps. 91), blessing (Ps. 1:1-3), and peace (John 14:27). Of course there are many, many more, which is why it is important for us to know all that God has made available to us!

Not only can we claim these promises for our lives, but we can also use them to fight Satan’s lies. The only way to shut the devil up is with the Word of God. Just as Jesus said when He was being tempted in the wilderness, “Away from me, Satan! It is written…” and proclaim the truth of God.

“But now here are men from Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when you came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (vs. 10-12)

Now Jehoshaphat acknowledges that in their own strength they cannot possibly deal with the problem at hand. He admits his own human weakness and that he doesn’t know the answer, and he resolves to keep his eyes firmly on God. Because He knows God can. Jesus said, “With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.” (Matt. 19:26)

No matter what is happening or going on around us, we need to remember that we serve the God of the impossible! It should’ve been impossible for Lazarus to come back to life after he died, but Jesus did it. It should’ve been impossible for someone who was born blind to be able to see, but Jesus did it. It should’ve been impossible for Saul, a man who hated and murdered Christians, to change into a man full of love, but Jesus did it.

When our problems seem impossible, we must keep our eyes on Jesus because He is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Eph. 3:20).

All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord. Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah…as he stood in the assembly. He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’” (vs. 13-17)

And here is where God speaks to His people and tells them, do not be afraid or discouraged. He reassures them that He is for them and will fight for them. They do not have to face this battle by themselves; they are not alone! Jesus promised us again in Matthew 28:20: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Just as God was with the people of Judah, God is with us and we are never alone.

Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord. Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice. Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” (vs. 18-20)

They are reminded to place all faith, hope, and confidence in the Lord and His words. By standing on His truth they will be successful. Just as we must have faith in order to be saved, it is important to have faith in God’s other promises. Have faith that God will heal, that He will protect, that He will bless you!

But what if we aren’t sure we believe? We know God can, but will He? In Mark 9, a father approaches Jesus and asks him to heal his demon possessed son if he can. “‘If you can?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for the one who believes.’ Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” (vs. 23-24) Jesus then commanded the demon to leave the boy, and he was healed. The man was honest—he believed, he wanted to believe, but he needed help. And God loves to help us!

Jesus is the author and the perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2). He also said that faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains (Matt. 17:20). Most importantly, it’s not so much the size of your faith, as who your faith is in. It is not about you, it is about Jesus. A small amount of faith in the right Person will still move a mountain. So if faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain, imagine what would happen with faith the size of an apple!

After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.” As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. (vs. 21-22)

Before the battle had begun, the people praised the name of the Lord. In 1 Samuel 16:23 it says that whenever an evil spirit would torment King Saul, David would play his lyre and the evil spirit would leave. The enemy can’t work in an atmosphere of praise—but God does! Praise is also an effective way of keeping our eyes on God.

The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another. When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped. So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value—more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it. On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Berakah, where they praised the Lord. This is why it is called the Valley of Berakah to this day. (vs. 23-26)

God’s promise was fulfilled. The people of Judah had no reason to be afraid or discouraged because the Lord fought for them, and they were victorious. He was faithful and true to His word!

Then, led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the Lord had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies. They entered Jerusalem and went to the temple of the Lord with harps and lyres and trumpets. The fear of God came on all the surrounding kingdoms when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side. (vs. 27-30)

They rejoiced in the Lord and He received all the glory. Even the people in the surrounding kingdoms recognized God’s hand at work. And that will happen when we seek and obey the Lord, too. When we step out in faith and follow His guidance, others will recognize God at work in our lives, which will only bring further glory to His name. Because of Jehoshaphat’s trust and obedience, he found peace.

If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea. (Is. 48:18)

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal. (Is. 26:3-4)

Maybe the things God wants us to do sound crazy sometimes. In 2 Kings 5, Naaman was told by God’s prophet Elisha to wash in the Jordan River seven times and he would be cleansed from leprosy. Naaman had thought Elisha would call on the name of the Lord, wave his hand over the spot, and he would be cured. Not go wash in one of the dirtiest rivers. But despite how crazy it sounded, Naaman went, and he was cured.

Instead of dwelling on our impossible problems and becoming overwhelmed by them, we must look to God. He is the answer and solution to every problem and hardship that we face. Instead of wallowing in worry and fear, praise His name! Instead of wondering what to do, ask Him and listen. When He answers (not if, because He will answer!), obey Him. God has never, and will never, fail you. Sometimes His answers are different than we want them to be. But that’s okay, because all throughout Scripture, God has proven Himself to be faithful over and over and over again. And He’s not about to stop now.