The Backside of the Desert.

I’ve been spending time in Exodus and thinking about Moses. Here was a man that was miraculously saved from the wrath of Pharaoh, then raised right in Pharaoh’s own household. Raised as a Prince of Egypt, with all of the wealth and privilege that came with being raised in the King’s house. When he ws forty years old all of that changed! He found himself running for his life because he had killed an Egyptian.
The next chapter in his life finds him raising sheep in the wilderness. Now that’s quite a change, isn’t it?  From the palace to a desert tent!  From princely pursuits to sheep shearing!  Moses spent the next 40 years in that desert.

desert mountains

We can only imagine what he thought about the turn his life had taken. Was he content? Was he disappointed? Discouraged? Disillusioned?  Well, his life was about to take another drastic turn.  One day he saw a strange sight! One of those desert bushes was on fire…but, it wasn’t being burned up!  And that was the beginning of the most amazing adventure with God in the Old Testament.  Moses encountered God in the wilderness!  God spoke to him and told him his name.  “I AM!”

I think we all have backside of the desert experiences. Times in our lives when things don’t seem to have turned out the way we expected.  Changes; loss; tragedies; or just boredom! We feel dry; barren; thirsty; lost.  Doubts and fears assail us.  What we need is an encounter with God.  The wilderness is designed for it!  It is there that our neediness is laid bare.  It is there that we ae at our weakest. It is in the wilderness that we are being prepared for an encounter with God.

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One of my favorite verses in the Bible is in the Song of Solomon 8:5 “Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness leaning upon her beloved?”

The wilderness is where she found her Beloved. The wilderness is where you can find your Beloved.   No matter how lonely, tired, discouraged, grieving your heart is,  Jesus is there with you. Remind yourself that He is a Man of Sorrows. He is acquainted with grief. He understands loss. He understands temptation. He gave His life for our sins and weaknesses, and wants us to live in His joy and victory.

The “I AM” is with you in this wilderness of yours.  So embrace this season of your life, and ask Him to reveal Himself.  He will!  He has written the next chapter of your life.  Think of the significance of that!  So, lean upon your Beloved, and let Him lead you out!

Let’s pray:  Great I AM, and Everlasting Father, your Word says that in our weakness Your strngth is made perfect.  We are great candidates for that!  We admit that we are weak. We don’t know the way out of our desert places, so we need You to lead us; carry us, out of our dry and thirsty lands.  We search for you.  In Jesus’ name,

Amen

His Eye on the Sparrow

I had the opportunity this week to sit in on a high school American History class that was studying Reverend Jonathan Edwards, reknowned pastor, professor, author, and evangelist of  18th century America.  A wonderful subject for our high school students to study as he was a thoughtful, goal setting, devoted man of God.  He wanted his life to count. To count for the Gospel. To count for souls into the Kingdom of God.   He lived a life that was intentional in every way. He was “Planning for Significance.”  As a young man of 19, he had a list of  seventy resolutions/ideals by which he wanted to guide his life.  What an inspiration for young people to study!

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jonathan_edwards_resolved

I wish I could say that I had such a plan. In fact, I have made countless lists of things I should do to help my life measure up.  Why, every January 1st, I get out my notebook and re-list a lot of the things I wrote the previos year! 🙁   My intention is always to live a more biblically intentional life. To please the Lord.   Unfortunately, I have a natural inclination to think I can make God love me more by doing more.   Then I fall into the Romans 7 syndrome: “That which I would, I do not; and that which I would not, I do.”  That is what happens when I try to live by my list!  At least I am in good company with the Apostle Paul!  Thank God for Romans chapter 8!  “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus…”

What is it, after all, that makes us significant?  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son……” (John 3: 16)  He created us in His own image and likeness and He loves us.  Period. He bought us back to Himself with a Great Price on the cross of Calvary.  We belong to our Heavenly Father. How much more significance could we ask for?

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To be engraved upon His hands. (Isaiah 49:16)  To be ever before Him.  That His name would be called Emmanuel! (God with us) That He would send His Spirit to live in our hearts!  How could we be any more significant than that?  And now, from that ground shall we go on to lead lives that reflect this great significance.  To resolve to walk out the great love He has bestowed on us.  His love has made us significant.

Let’s Pray:  Loving Heavenly Father, help us to perceive and receive your boundless love so that nothing can deter us from walking in it every moment.  We resolve to walk in Your great grace and mercy, as we walk ever leaning upon Your strong arm.  In Jesus’ name,

Amen!

A Good Samaritan

The other day a man approached my daughter and me in the parking lot of the store we had just left asking for money. You’ve probably had that happen to you, too. It used to be really awkward for me. That was before I had a thoughtful, Bible-backed policy settled in my heart. It is based on Micah 6:8 “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee. but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

Homeless

Why was it always so awkward for me?  Well, I could always hear the voices of the skeptics in my life shout, “Don’t be a chump!” “They are conning you!”  “He is just going to spend it on booze or drugs!”  …and the ever popular, “They are running a racket! They probably make more money than you do by begging on the street every day.”

Then there is that Other Voice I hear as I drive on, or shrug and walk away.  The One that says, “When you have done it to the least of these….you have done it unto Me.”   (Matt. 25:40)  The same Voice that says,  “… to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.”  (Micah 6:8)  And what about “entertaining angels unaware?”   (Hebrews 13:2) Or the One that says, “Give to him that asks of you.” (Luke 6:30)   These are the seeds of the Word of God that have been planted in my heart; are grown up and ready to bear fruit.  So it is settled in my mind now.  I can chart my course, and know what to do when the situation arises.  Do what the Voice of Truth tells me to do.

Jesus is the One I answer to for my actions. I can’t base my actions on what the other person might think or do. I must base them on the Word of God. So if I give, I give as though I am giving to Jesus Himself.  And pray that Jesus will have mercy on the other person, and save him.

I once read an article by a woman who was always prepared for these occasions. She kept a few panhandlerzip-lock bags in her car or purse. The bags contained a little money, ($5- or enough to buy a fast food meal), a pack of gum, some candy, and maybe a Gospel tract.)  She could always add more money if she felt the nudge to do more.

I have to say that I am not as prepared as this woman was, (I hardly ever carry cash since the advent of the debit card) but since being caught short by the man in the story above, I am going to try this little prep.  Times are tough, and there are so many needs. It is time to be His hands extended.  Like a true Good Samaritan.

Don’t forget the story of  Peter and John when they were caught short of coinage when a lame man asked them for alms!  They offered him what they did have: “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have I give unto thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of i, rise up and walk!” (Acts 3:6) Always pray.  If you can’t pray for them on the spot, tell them you will be praying each day. Then do it!  Let them know that Jesus loves them.  Be available for Him to use. Like the Good Samaritan.

Let’s pray: Heavenly Father,  lead us day by day, to those that you want to love through us.  Help us to walk in your mercy and love, moment by moment, listening to Your Voice as we go.  Teach us to “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly befor you.  In Jesus’ name,

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you singing?

I was born to sing!  One of my first memories as a little child of almost three is of singing.  It was, in fact, a very sad song about a cat that even had me crying real tears while I was mewing.  I am pretty sure this memory comes from the time that my grandma died.  Everyone in the house was sad, so I think I picked up on it…and expressed that sadness in a little song. Later on there were many loud and happy songs that I loved to sing.  My friend and I would swing on the swings in her yard and sing at the tops of our lungs…”and they call the wind Mariah!” or “Ghost riders in the sky! Yippee-yi-yay!”  The neighbors never complained…at least, not that we knew of.

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Did you know that the subject of “singing/song” is a major emphasis of the Bible?  There are 254 references to using the voice to make music.   Evidently, God loves to hear us sing!  In fact, in the aptly named “Song of Songs” He even tells us so.   Song 2:14  “…show me your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet and your face is lovely.” NIV  Wow!  Think that over! (Selah!) He still finds these wrinkles and my croaky, over-used voice pleasant. 🙂

A great number of those 254 references I mentioned are even commands to sing!  “Sing to the Lord.” or “Sing praises to our God.”  There are even 9 places where we are told to sing a new song  to the Lord.  A song we have never sung before, one straight from the heart, born of our love for Him.  Try it!  Right now!  Sing a “Hallelujah,”  a “God is great!” a “Holy are You, Lord!”  You don’t even have to have a complicated melody.  Just put your voice in singing mode and go for it!  It is an excellent way to communicate with Him.  You know that He inhabits the praises of His people?  I just imagine Him saying, “Oh, what is that sound I hear?  Let me come closer to this one who is praising me.”  There’s the blessing! His Presence.

God has given us the gift of singing as one way to communicate.  Music is powerful, so don’t lose your song!   Are you singing?  I mean, are you singing a new song to the Lord every day?  I have to say that sometimes I find myself in a very dry or troublesome time when I don’t feel like lifting up my voice.   These are the times when the song is most important and most powerful.  When your worship can help to deliver you.

When Jehosaphat found himself in an impossible battle, he sought the Lord, who told him to put the singers first, the instruments next, and go out against the ememies.  God handed them a great victory without even having to raise a sword!  (2 Chron.20)

Sometimes we just don’t feel like it!  Depression, grief, distress, and weariness are some of the things that will steal your song.  The people of Israel had been taken captive into Babylon, and were pressed to sing for their captors.  In grief and homesickness, they hung their harps on the  willow trees and said,  “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”  (Psalm 137)  God understands that we feel that way sometimes, but His Word encourages us to lift up a song!  Listen to His promise in Isaiah 30: 29:

 “Ye shall have a song, as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one goeth with a pipe to come into the mountain of the Lord, to the mighty One of Israel.”

Yes, I was born to  sing.  And so were you!   So sing to the Lord every day.  Serenade the Almighty! He is blessed when He hears your voice! So bless the Lord! Give Him the thing that He desires!  Your song of praise!  Don’t hold back … He is your Audience of One!

Let’s pray: Heavenly Father, Chief Musician, fill us with your Holy Spirit, so that when we sing our songs to You, we will worship in Spirit and in Truth.  Remind us to sing even when we don’t feel like it…to give You the Sacrifice of Praise, the fruit of our lips and our hearts.  In Jesus’ name,

Amen

By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.    Hebrews 13:15

Bowing Down, Lifting Up

How many times have you promised to pray for someone, but forgot to continue after the first couple of times? I am sorry to say that’s been me, more times than I care to admit. Simple Solution! My prayer board! Writing things down has always helped me to remember things IF I remembered to look at my list. And even though I would write things in my journal…I am not always consistent with my journal!  So IPrayer Board 2 decided to buy a magnetic white board in the office supply department…and voila! My prayer life has been transformed!! I posted my board right above my computer in my office. The reminders are constantly before my eyes…so,  shame on me if I neglect to pray like I promised!

Having a reminder board is only the beginning, though. A jumping “in” point!  I have already written about how praying through the points of the The Lord’s Prayer helps me to pray according to the Lord’s will and way.

But, lately, I have found something else that I need to remember as I begin my prayer time each day.  Sometimes I feel overwhelmed at the needs represented on my list.  For instance, I have promised to pray for a baby who has seizures, and a baby with cancer. Now, I understand what it is like to live with a loved one with these conditions, and how difficult it was to pray in faith in the midst of such desperation. I recall trying to pray for my grandbaby in the middle of a terrible seizure.  Crying out with more desperation than faith! Rebuking what wouldn’t be rebuked! Feeling like heaven was brass!  Believing, believing….then watching the next seizure begin.

This is why we need each other, friends.  We are called to bear one another’s burden’s. To strengthen the people of God when they can’t do it for themselves.  And to turn to them for help  when our own faith and prayers seem small.

While it is important to identify and empathize with the situation for which you are praying,  we must be careful not  to enter in to the desperation and the impossibility of the thing.  That is what I call praying from under the need, rather than praying over it!   To relate so completely to the situation, to empathize so much that you find yourself begging God for the answers to the impossible, rather than thanking Him for the answer He is so abundantly able to perform.

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Look, libraries are full of books on prayer.  In fact, I have a pretty good stack of my own right here. I’ve learned a lot from the writings of  these wise men and women, too.   I remember reading about Rees Howells, a Welsh missionary, pastor, and famous intercessor, who would so identify with those for whom he prayed that he would arrange his living conditions to mirror those people. For instance, he would sleep on a mat on the floor, or eat a particular diet, or fast, if he was praying for the hungry or poor.

It is one thing to identify with the need, but quite another to enter into the despair and hopelessness about it.  We must humble ourselves to empathize with the need…what I call “bow down.”  Then we must “lift up” our eyes and our faith to the Answer. We must “lift up” our voices in praise, and our hearts in adoration of the One “who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we  ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20,21) We must build ourselves up in our faith! Then we will be able to pray the “prayer of faith.”

We can’t forget the first part:  humbly identifying with the person or situation. Bowing down to the need. Picture washing the feet of the one in question. Think ministering. Strengthening.  Having compassion. Never praying from a sense of duty or obligation, but from the ground of love.  Now you are ready to lift up your eyes and heart to Jesus, and become a conduit for the answer He wants to bestow.

So, first I allow my compassion to engulf the situation, then I confess my weakness and inability to change it, then I remind myself of Who He is and what He is perfectly capable of doing. I begin to praise Him and recite who the scripture says He is.   I begin to see Him high and lifted up. Mighty in power and rich in His love to this person. Merciful; good; full of compassion; acquainted with grief.  I remind myself of others I know personally and in the Bible who were healed,  delivered, comforted, or protected by Him.   In this way I am praying from a position of faith and love, not fear and dispair.  I am focused on HIM, His character, and will, rather than being focused on the impossibility of this need. Praying over the need, not struggling under it.

These are just some suggestions that I share from the view in my prayer place.  Always remember, He hears you when you pray, no matter how you do it!  He treasures your prayers like sweet incense.  He hears the cry of your heart, the voice of your groanings, and every inarticulate mutter.  He saves your tears!  He hears. He knows. He loves.  And He speaks! Always linger for the answer, or for the peace that comes from knowing you have been heard.

Let’s pray:  Dear Heavenly Father, help us to learn to bear one another’s burdens in prayer.  Holy Spirit help us when we don’t know how or what to pray.   May we become a link between heaven & earth for others.  May we learn to Bow Down and Lift up!  In Jesus’ name,

Amen

Jude 20, 21: But ye, beloved, building up yourselves in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.