Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Best Listener

"Therefore I will look unto the Lord, I will wait for the God of my salvation:
my God will hear me."
Micah 7:7
(KJV)

Have you ever needed to say something to someone very badly
and each time you try, they won't really listen?
They either won't let you get a word in
or they don't seem to concentrate on what you are trying to say.
It is as if they are eager to rush away from the conversation...
to bigger and better things....
and you are left feeling unheard...
and unimportant.

Let's face it, 
for whatever reason....
some people are just not good listeners.
They would rather do all the talking,
then conclude the conversation,
without you being able to express what is in your heart.

It is quite frustrating, to say the least.

I have found Jesus to be the very best of listeners.
Think of it.
He hears us every single time we pray.
Have you ever knelt and approached Him,
only to feel that He really doesn't have time 
for you?
That there are others calling on Him who really need Him more than you do?
That He really needs to address their concerns before yours,
because they are dearer to His heart...
or more important to Him...
or more spiritual...
 than you?

Can you honestly say that you have ever found Him too busy for your pressing needs?

It hit me the other day that I have been serving the Lord 
for over 35 years.
I knelt at an altar at the tender age of ten years old,
and I gave my heart to Jesus.
He came in and washed away my sins,
and He placed my feet on the right path.
I have endeavored to follow Him ever since.

In my 35 years as a Christian,
I have prayed countless prayers.
I don't suppose there is any way of calculating the number
of times I have called out to Him...
for help....
for guidance....
for comfort....
for a listening ear.

It amazes me to know that He has heard me...
every, single time.
He has never turned me away.
He has never made me feel less than the most important person in the world.
I've never been met with closed arms...
or been pushed aside....
or ignored.

My reception at the Throne of Grace has always been the same.
Total acceptance....
love....
mercy....
patience...
compassion....
forgiveness....
open, loving, caring, tender, gentle arms.....
open ears.

"For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers..."
I Peter 3:12 

During Mom's prolonged last hospital stay,
we continually had to deal with a doctor who would not listen.
She loved to talk.
She loved to impress....
 and express....
 her extensive medical knowledge 
during her rushed and hurried talks with us.
But, each time one of us tried to talk,
each time we tried to voice a concern, 
ask a question, 
or needed further clarification,
we were abruptly cut off and made to feel that she already knew what we were going to say...
before we said it.
We had many unanswered questions,
and our communication with her was of very poor quality.

I am so thankful God is not this way, aren't you?

He already knows what we are going to say,
each and every time we come to Him...
but He listens anyway.
He waits,
and He continues to listen,
no matter how long it takes us to empty our hearts,
no matter how often we say the same, repetitive phrases,
no matter how many times He's heard the same request,
no matter what time of the day or night it is.

He listens.
He cares enough to give us His complete, undivided attention,
every single time we pray.

Women are emotional creatures...
much more so than men.
Research has proven that the main thing a woman needs from her spouse...
is for him to listen to her.
To stop what he is doing.
To turn off the noise.
To lay down the cell phone.
To look into her eyes.
To let her finish.
To care about what is most important to her.

Listening is a huge component of intimacy....
both in a marriage...
and in our relationship with God.

Nothing escapes our Heavenly Father's wisdom.
He recognizes our needs.
He made us to be the emotional creatures we are...
remember?
Who could know us or identify with our needs more than Him?
He is our Creator.

He never rushes us.
God is never in a hurry....
to end our cries to Him...
to walk away...
to move on to someone more important...
to a more pressing need.

I love studying the four Gospels.
I cannot think of anything more interesting to read 
than the first four books of the New Testament.
It absolutely never grows old to me.
Never.
Each time I read it, I find something new...
in the most familiar of passages.
I don't know how many times I've read the precious words contained there,
but they never lose the slightest measure of their power to inspire me,
encourage me, and motivate me...
to continue my quest to learn more.

I love delving into the four accounts of Jesus' life and ministry.
I am completely enthralled as I read...
of how He treated people...
how He reacted to the many who thronged Him....
how He felt about things.

How blessed we are to own His story!
How incredibly kind of God to allow the Holy Bible to fall into each one 
of our homes and hands!

By the way, how often do we pick it up?
Read it?
Give it more than a passing swoosh with the feather duster?

One of the millions of things I love so much about Jesus,
is that He was kind.
Don't you know He got tired?
Can't you just imagine how emotionally draining it was...
for Him to continually...
day after day after dreary, mundane day....
have people constantly pulling at Him?
Wanting something from Him...
many only following Him because they wanted a free meal.
He must have felt weary beyond words...
there must have been moments that He felt He needed to turn...
and run...
away from the whole sick, ailing, miserable, needy crowd...
and get away from it all.

There are times that He tried....
only to arrive someplace else to find that they were there already...
waiting for Him.

Seldom, did He find a moment's peace...
and solitude.
He made time by getting up early...
or going someplace remote and spending the whole night....
in prayer....
in communion with His Father.

I can't blame the people.
I would have done the same.
My overwhelming desire to be near Him,
to hear Him,
to hope that He would hear me....
that He would listen to me...
that He would take compassion on my case....
would have driven me to do anything within my power 
just to be in His presence.  
I don't think there is anything I wouldn't have tried...
just to gain an audience with Him.
Can you picture yourself standing in the presence of Almighty God...
in the flesh...
in front of you?
Can you imagine the unspeakable joy 
of Him looking into your face,
listening to you talk,
really listening...
taking it in....
giving your feelings the validation for which you so desperately yearn?

Feelings matter.
We really can't control how we feel.
If we feel a certain way,
there is a valid reason.

Jesus understands that.
He felt...
remember?
He was here.
He was one of us.
He experienced every emotion....
the full gamut...
of everything you and I go through in this life.

He is our intercessor.
The Man in the middle.
Just as He was hanging on the middle cross...
between the two thieves...
on Mt. Calvary...
so, He is now in the middle....
between us and God.

Aren't you glad it is Him?
Who stands in the breach...
Who spans the gap....
Who built the bridge....
between you and God?

I sure am.
There is no one I would rather have on my side...
no one I would rather bend a listening ear to my needs....
than Jesus Christ Himself.
Who would or could ever be more compassionate,
more empathetic,
more full of love....
than Him?

When He was here on the earth,
He gave full attention to every person 
who came into His presence.
He never rushed them or pushed them away.
Even the children.
Remember how disturbed He became when the children tried to come to Him,
only to be pushed aside by His disciples?
Jesus made it crystal clear that children are of utmost importance.
He listened to them.
He took them up in His arms.
He held them close.

He cared.

Have you ever taken the time to count all of the miracles He did....
in the process of being interrupted?
When He was on His way to do something else?
He was constantly being derailed from His intentions.
He was continually met with someone who desperately needed Him....
while He was on His way to help someone else.
He never looked at them and said,
"Sorry, I don't have time."
Or
"You'll have to wait.  I'm on my way to an important official's house."
Or
"I'll get to you later.  This person's condition is more serious than yours."

Why?
Because time does not matter...
in the least....
to our dear Lord.

So what if the person He was originally going to help
worsened while He was helping someone else?
Nothing was impossible for Him to fix.
No matter how serious,
no matter how urgent,
no matter how advanced the situation...
He had and still has all power.

Each person standing in front of Him...
was the most important, most pressing need.
He dealt with each one...
on an individual basis...
no matter what or who they were taking His attention away from.

They mattered to Him...
every, single one of them.

This is the One Who listens to you and I...
when we pray.
This is the One Who faithfully...
24/7...
365 days a year...
remains at the right hand of the throne of God....
just waiting...
listening....
for your voice.


This is the Advocate we have with Father God.

"My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.
And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous..."
I John 2:1

"Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him,
seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." (Emphasis mine.)
Hebrews 7:25

I'm glad it says "to the uttermost", aren't you?
Doesn't that encompass us all?
Even the ones of us who have drifted the farthest from Him?
Even the ones who have resisted Him the most?
Even the ones who have prayed to Him the least?
Even the ones who have most often broken His heart?

When you pray, 
Heaven stands at attention.
Jesus listens....
He hears...
He communicates your petitions to His Father.
He is your personal Advocate.
He pleads with His Father...
to grant your requests.

Can you imagine how many prayers He hears...
during the course of any given day?

Yet, He knows exactly...
what each one of us has to say.

He hears with His heart.

Do you need to talk?
Are you frustrated that no one is really listening?
Has life convinced you that no one really cares?
Is your heart heavy?
Do your problems seem too much?

Jesus is there....
close to you.
He loves you.
His ears are open, my friend.
You haven't gone too far...
away from Him.

Why not tell Him all about it?

He is the best Listener of all.



Monday, August 27, 2012

High Places

"Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve."
Matthew 4:10
(KJV)

There are tall, skinny weeds that grow
at random...at their own will, seemingly...
all over our yard.
Unfortunately, they grow at a much faster rate of speed
and much taller than our grass.
They are also stubborn and hard to cut.
We usually have to mow over them more than once
in order for the lawnmower blades to flatten them to the ground.

Many times, I think I am finished mowing in a particular area,
when lo and behold,
I see a high-growing weed sticking up like a sore thumb.
The rest of the lawn looks manicured and even,
but the look is marred by the tall weed still needing to be removed.
If I don't go back and mow it down,
it will be even taller and harder to mow the next time.

I guess the solution would be to go around with weed killer
and pour it over every weedy area.
This would take a lot of time and money and energy.
So, we just keep dealing with the problem,
and each time we mow,
seeing the full-grown weeds in their usual spots
comes as not even the slightest surprise.
We've never really killed them...
or removed them by their root....
we've only chopped them down....
even with the ground.

They will inevitably and definitely grow back.

When we are finished mowing,
everything looks uniform and even...
but it doesn't take long for the weeds to take off
and begin growing again.
Soon, we are needing to deal with the high weeds....
scattered randomly over our yard...
once again.

The root of the problem is never dealt with.
So the problem remains....
and continues to give us trouble.

In Old Testament times,
high places represented places of worship.
Many times, they were areas designated
for heathen forms of worship to false gods.
Hideous acts were committed in the heathen high places,
such as the sacrifice of firstborn babies to heathen gods.
These acts were abominable to the one, true God, Jehovah,
and He commanded His chosen people, the Israelites,
to completely destroy the high places
they found after they entered the land of Canaan.
God knew that if they didn't utterly destroy them,
they would create a snare of temptation to future generations
and threaten to turn their hearts away from worshiping Him.

"And Jehoshaphat reigned over Judah...and he reigned twenty and five years in Jerusalem...
and he walked in the ways of Asa his father, and departed not from it,
doing that which was right in the sight of the Lord...
Howbeit the high places were not taken away:
for as yet the people had not prepared their hearts unto the God of their fathers."
2 Chronicles 20:31 (KJV)

Jehoshaphat was, in some ways, a good king.
But, he failed to follow ALL of God's commands.
He didn't remove the high places.
He was influenced by the people and failed to exert his God-given authority
to completely eradicate the thing God hated.
The root of the problem was not dealt with under his reign.
This made it easy for heathen worship to continue
and be perpetuated with little effort on the part of the people....
and it was very displeasing to God.

When God was giving Moses the Ten Commandments,
the very first one He mentioned was,
"Thou shalt have no other gods before Me....
for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God."
Exodus 20:3, 5

Do you know there can be "high places" in our lives that
compete with our single-minded devotion to God?

Things that we choose to put ahead of God.
Things that we worship instead of God.
Things that are dearer to our hearts than God.
Things that have proven detrimental to our Christian walk,
but we refuse to utterly destroy and remove from our lives.
We may not bow down and actually worship these "things",
but in essence, they become our god and the thing we put above and before Him.

2 Corinthians 10:5 says, 
"Casting down imaginations, 
and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, 
and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ"

Every high thing.
Every high place erected.
Any thing that is exalting itself against our knowledge of God...
and what we know He wants us to do.

Your "high place" may be the complete opposite of mine.
Some people put their career ahead of God.
Some love money more than Him.
Others worship a person...
and have them on a "high place" pedestal.

There are many things that possess the potential to turn our hearts away
and become a "high place" in our lives.
The world is full of things of interest,
things that are eye-catching,
many that are completely innocent of and within themselves...
but within them lurks the temptation to over-indulge...
to over-partake...
and the innocent is subtly transformed into an exalted "high place".

Satan doesn't really care how he does it.
He'll use the lure of something beautiful...
prestige, glitter, glamour, fortune, fame....
or horribly ugly.....
bitterness, unforgiveness, animosity, revenge, hatred, a grudge....
it matters not to him.
Just so a high place is erected and maintained.
Just so the root remains...
untouched and alive.
He knows if the root is there,
the problem will eventually and consistently come back....
and he will have the advantage.

No wonder the Bible warns of the root of bitterness and  how the love of money is the root of all evil.
Roots are important.
They sprout, and they become high places.
High things that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God.
That take God's place as number one in our lives.

In essence, a high place is anything that comes between us and God.

What keeps you from serving God wholeheartedly?
What would you rather do than spend time with Him in prayer?
What draws you away from His presence and pulls at your heartstrings...
enough to cause you to neglect Him and His work?
What or who do you love more than Him?

What has He asked you to lay aside...to utterly destroy from your life...
that you are still leaving in place and holding on to?
That maybe you've cut down,
but the root is still there...
lurking under the surface....
ready to sprout at any time?

If He says "no", there is a valid reason.
Most likely, He knows that "high thing" will cause us to slip somewhere down the line.
Chances are, it has caused us trouble in the past.
As long as the root remains,
as long as we make allowances for it,
it will continue to vex us and trip us up....
and come between us and God.

God's love...
His grace...
His mercy.....
provides the ultimate root killer.
The blood of Jesus is the most powerful force on earth.
It can cleanse even the deepest sin.
It can trump the highest, most exalted place in our hearts.
It covers all....
because He paid all....
everything He had.

Why not follow Him....
with everything you have?







Thursday, August 23, 2012

Faithfulness

"...a faithful man, who can find?"
Proverbs  20:6
(KJV)

Papaw used to say, "A man's word is his bond."
There was a time when a handshake was as morally binding as a signature.
These days, faithfulness is a rare find.
Marriage vows are deemed disposable.
Promises are regarded as not necessary to keep, 
or they are spoken with contingency intentions.
"I'll keep my end of the bargain as long as he keeps his."
"I'll be true to her as long as she doesn't give me a reason not to."

What ever happened to keeping promises like, 
"If I say I'll be there at ten o'clock, I'll be there."
Or...
"If I can't be there, I'll call."

Faithfulness takes effort.
It is going to require some self-denial,
perseverance, and determination.

When did denying ourselves for the sake 
of another person's good become so difficult?

Why is it so hard to do whatever it takes to be true to our word?

The 15th chapter of Psalms describes the attributes of a true Christian.
Verse 4 lists 
"He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not" 
as one of those characteristics.

In other words, even it if is hard,
even if it puts one out,
even if it is inconvenient,
once one's word has been given...
once a promise has been made...
if at all possible, it is honored and not changed....
no matter the cost.

How many promises has God heard spoken in times of anguish?

"Lord, if You'll heal my body...
if You'll just give me more time...
I promise I'll serve You every day I'm given....
with all my heart."

"God, if You let my little girl live...
if You'll just let the tests come back benign....
I promise I'll start taking her to church...
and I'll pray with her every day."

"Heavenly Father,
if You'll just restore my marriage...
I promise I'll stop the abuse."

"God, if You'll just let me marry so-and-so,
I promise You we'll have a Christian home....
we'll put You first, Lord, I promise."

How many vows have been made from fox-holes,
Emergency Room waiting rooms,
cancer treatment centers,
and from piles of mangled metal and shattered glass?

God has heard it all.

How many of those promises....wrenched from hurting hearts,
tormented souls,
anguished minds....
 were faithfully kept?

How many of those vows have actually been paid?

Psalm 50:14 instructs us to pay our vows unto the Most High.

I don't suppose there is any possible way of calculating the statistics 
on how many promises made to God have actually been kept.
But, I say with absolute certainty that God heard every muffled cry.
He saw each falling tear.
He weighed the sincerity of every anguished prayer.
He knew the outcome...
before the prayer was prayed.
He knew what would happen....
should He grant the desired request.
I'd venture to say that even when He looked down the road 
and realized the heart-wrenched promises would turn into nothing more than idle words...
would so quickly be forgotten...
the minute life resumed to normal...
our merciful Heavenly Father granted the request....
more often than not.

That is just how God is.
Why?

Because God is love.

2 Peter 3:9 says God
"is longsuffering to us-ward, 
not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."

He gives undeserved 2nd chances, and 3rd, and 4th, etc.
He gives time and space to repent...
to make U-turns...
to turn around.

God is a faithful God.

"Know therefore that the Lord thy God, He is God, the faithful God, 
which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him
 and keep His commandments to a thousand generations."
Deuteronomy 7:9 

He keeps to His word...always.

"...there hath not failed one word of all His good promise,
which He promised..."
I Kings 8:56

You never have to wonder if He'll grow tired of His commitment. 
It is settled and decided....
that He will be faithful....
forever and ever....
as long as time lasts....
no matter what we decide to do.

His faithfulness is not contingent on ours.
Aren't you glad?
I sure am.

"For ever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in Heaven.
Thy faithfulness is unto all generations..."
Psalm 119:89

You can count on what God will do, 
based on the track record of what He has already done.
It is impeccable....
perfect....
completely faithful.

God means what He says,
and says what He means.

"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise..."
2 Peter 3:9

If only we were the same.

In order to make Heaven one day, 
you and I will have to remain faithful to the vows we have made to God.

"....be thou faithful unto death, 
and I will give thee a crown of life."
Revelation 2:10 

Will it cost us something to be faithful?
Sure it will.
The road of faithfulness isn't always an easy one.
Sometimes, we will be misunderstood,
and condemned, 
and spoken against.

Wasn't Jesus?

Often we will grow tired...
of doing the right thing...
of taking the path of most resistance...
of keeping our promises....
of paying our vows.

But, the crown of life is at the end...
of faithfulness road.

In order to seize the prize,
we must be faithful unto death.

It is an individual race.

I don't get a free pass because my Mom was faithful to her dying day.
I won't slide through the gates because Dad faithfully ran his race and received his crown.
God won't cut me any slack because Papaw & Mimi lived 
faithful, true, Godly lives and died with victory.

It it up to me....
to live a faithful life...
to keep my promises to God and my husband,
to pay every vow I've made.

I'll never forget Mom's words to me the night we sat in her living room
waiting for the ambulance to take her to the ER.

"I want you to pray for me that I will have grace for the crossing.
I want you to keep encouraged.
Stay in the faith."

By God's grace,
I did,
I am,
and I will.

It won't be easy.
Who said it would be?

But, I am so glad Jesus said, 
"With God all things are possible."
Matthew 19:26

He did it.
By His grace, we can, too.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Green Pastures

"The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures..."
Psalm 23:1, 2
(KJV)

I have been studying about sheep 
and their relationship with their shepherd.
It is quite interesting and enlightening learning.

It is the shepherd's responsibility to make sure the 
sheep and lambs are situated on the very best possible 
feeding grounds, based on their nutritional needs.
If the sheep are left too long in the same pasture,
the pasture becomes contaminated with parasite eggs and larvae,
which causes an adverse affect upon their health.

An experienced shepherd knows when it is time to 
make a move to a new pasture.
He is constantly on watch and in tune with whether or not
the sheep entrusted to his care are being nourished properly
and sufficiently.
He is completely aware of the age of each of his sheep,
and he realizes exactly what they need to thrive and be in good health.

I am amazed at the correlation of an earthly shepherd's care of his sheep,
to our loving Lord, and the gentle Shepherd He is to His children.
He knows whether or not we are still in the lamb-stage, spiritually speaking,
or whether we have progressed to the capacity of a mature sheep.
Our Shepherd knows that the nutritional needs are different for lambs and sheep.
He leads us accordingly.
He knows where we will best thrive and prosper,
and He is ever on the watch for the best interest of our spiritual well-being.

Speaking of Himself as our Shepherd,
Jesus said in John 10:3-5,
"...and the sheep hear His voice:  
and He calleth His own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.  
And when HE putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them, 
and the sheep follow Him:  for they know His voice.  
And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him:  
for they know not the voice of strangers."

When our Shepherd calls our names...
when we hear His familiar voice...
it is up to us to follow Him.
To trust His wisdom.
To be obedient...
just like sheep.

When He calls us out...
when "He putteth us forth"....
He goes before us.
He winnows our path.
He clears the way.
He knows where the greenest pastures are,
and we can trust that He is ever leading us there.

We don't need to be afraid of unfamiliar pastures.
Our Shepherd knows the spiritually-nutritious quality of each and every pasture,
He created them all....
and He will place us in the one best for us.
He will lead us to the place that is most beneficial to our spiritual well-being.

Our Shepherd is continually aware of our needs.
As we grow and mature, spiritually,
He must move us along
in order to keep us healthy
and cause us to continually thrive.

I have questioned His reasoning,
as we have heard His precious voice
calling us out of the "familiar"...
out of our complacency....
out of our comfort zone.
I have heard the voices of others 
telling us we were in error...
that we needed to turn around...
and do the complete opposite of 
what our gentle Shepherd commanded.
Their voices were compelling...
but ever contradicting God's tender call.

Sometimes, our Shepherd must lead us over rocky, uncomfortable terrain...
to get us to the lush, green pastures He has in mind for us.
The road ahead can be intimidating...
we can feel the temptation to turn around....
and go back....
to what was easier.
The Shepherd knows this...
He senses our hesitation.
He has valid reason for moving us out...
for moving us on.
He realizes that if we turn around,
our spiritual health will be compromised...
we will be in jeopardy of starvation...
and contamination...
from staying in the same pasture for too long.
So, He calls...
He continues to beckon...
to encourage us to plod on....
to disregard the discomfort....
to ignore the other voices....
to not be afraid.
He sends His rod and His staff....
to comfort us on our journey.
To correct us when we get too close to the ledge.
To prod us back in the right direction,
when we start to look back.

He loves us too much to let us stay in an unhealthy pasture.
His goal is to lead us to Heaven....
to live with Him for eternity.
He knows the route to get there.
All we have to do is follow.
He has feeding grounds that you and I have never heard of.
There are green pastures that will feed and nourish and bless 
us in ways we have never before been blessed.
But, in order to get there,
we must follow Him.
When faced with the choice of following His voice 
or staying where we are,
we have to choose to trust His wisdom...
no matter how radical or unfamiliar or steep the path in front of us.
We cannot fear the unknown.
We need not...
for our Shepherd leads the way.
He will steer us through the narrow passages.
He will walk ahead of us on sure ground.
All we have to do is place our feet in His footprints.

What would happen if when the shepherd called his sheep,
they refused to follow him?
What if he did his utmost to make them move,
and they decided they were going to stay where they were...
in the parasite and larvae-infested pasture?
What if they made up their mind that His command to move didn't make sense?
That they were comfortable and at ease,
and they were not willing to leave the familiarity of their surroundings?
What if they listened to the voice of a stranger....
telling them to stay in the familiar....
to draw back from the discomfort of the elements....
and whatever else they might encounter?

Their health would suffer,
they would become ill,
and eventually, they would starve....
completely to death.

The Eastern shepherds give names to their sheep 
just like you and I name our dogs, cats, horses, and other pets.
The individual sheep recognize their own name, 
and they come when called.
It is amazing how obedient,
submissive,
and compliant sheep are.
They simply trust their shepherd....
completely....
and they follow his lead.

When there are several flocks mingled together in one place, 
the sheep quickly separate at the sound of the voice of their own shepherds.
The voice of a strange shepherd has no effect upon them.
They ignore the voice of any shepherd, 
other than their own.

Our Shepherd is never without resources.

God always has a feeding plan for His children,
even in the midst of famine, drought,
or the worst and most barren of circumstances.

Long ago, there was a drought in the land of Israel.
It didn't rain for over three years.
But God's eye was upon His faithful ones.
He had a plan to sustain them.
In I Kings 17, we read of how He cared for His faithful prophet, Elijah.
His first command was for Elijah to leave what was familiar to him,
to turn eastward,
and to go to a brook called Cherith.
Elijah obeyed.
He made a move, at God's command.
Had he stayed where he was,
chances are, he would have starved and died of thirst.
There was fresh, clean drinking water in the Cherith brook...
right in the midst of drought.
The brook took care of his need for water,
but where did Elijah find food?
God commanded ravens to bring bread and meat to him...
every morning and evening...
every day!

God never runs out of creative means to feed and nourish His sheep.

After a period of time,
the Cherith brook dried up due to lack of rain.
God's eye was still on Elijah.
He saw what was happening.
He was in control.
He didn't choose to send rain to replenish the brook,
but He chose to move His child....
to another pasture...
to another feeding ground.

He told Elijah to pick up and move to Zarephath...
that He already had a plan in place for his sustenance....
that He had spoken to a widow woman there,
and she would obediently sustain him.

What if Elijah had grown fond of the Cherith brook?
What if he had become comfortable there and
enjoyed having the ravens coming to bring his food twice a day?
What if he refused to leave his comfort zone?
He wouldn't have lasted long around a dry brook
He wouldn't have been able to sustain life with no ravens flying over with food.

His time there was over.
It was time to move on and obediently follow His Shepherd.

When he arrived in Zarephath,
sure enough arrangements were already made for his survival.
He stayed there, until God told Him to move on.

See the pattern?
Our Shepherd is in control.
When He says,
"Deny yourself,
take up your cross,
and follow Me",
He knows what He is doing.
It may not make sense to other sheep around us.
But, if we linger where we are when He says,
"Move",
we will wither up and die, spiritually.

He is constantly working and endeavoring to keep us in a healthy state.
He wants us to thrive.
To be all we can be for Him.

Our job is to know our Shepherd intimately.
To recognize His voice above and apart from all others.
To stay close enough to Him to be able to hear when He speaks.
And when He tells us it is time to move to another pasture,
no matter how uncomfortable it may be to leave our sense of familiar,
no matter who does or does not understand us or our actions,
no matter how rough and rocky the terrain,
we must follow Him....
and Him alone.




Friday, August 17, 2012

Healing of the Soul

"Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with man, 
to bring back his soul from the pit
to be enlightened with the light of the living."
  Job 33:29-30 (KJV)

A few months ago, 
shortly before my dear mother's death,
a friend sent me a beautiful Blue Mountain Arts card.
She had heard of Mom's illness, 
knew I was going back and forth to the hospital every day,
was aware of the load I was under,
and in the card, she wrote the most comforting words.
A phrase she penned at the end caught my eye
and has lingered in my mind ever since.
It said,
"I am praying for your soul's healing!"

I hadn't thought of it that way.
But, due to many trials we have endured 
over the past two years, 
truly, that is what I needed the most.
Healing of the soul.
Restoration of health to the deepest recesses of my being.
Healing that only God can give.

There are places in all of us...
hidden deep...
that human love cannot reach.
And though those around us long to help us,
though they reach out repeatedly,
in countless, creative ways,
their efforts just can't quite reach
or do what they so long to do.
They come up short...
every time.
It is no fault of theirs.
It is just that human love can only go so far,
as Mom so often used to tell me.
After that, it takes divine love.
The love of God.
To reach the inner corridors of the soul.
To minister to those places of brokenness that only His eye can see.
To penetrate through the outer shell of braveness we so valiantly wear...
to go beyond the facade of smiles and courageous effort....
to make contact with the hurting, bleeding, shattered soul....
deep inside.

I can't explain how God does what He does.
It remains a mystery to me.
He works in His Own way, 
in His Own time,
at His Own pace.

We can't rush God.

We will wear ourselves completely out trying.
Because no matter how much we question,
cry, rant, rave, demand, even dare to threaten....
God will perform His will....
when and where and how....
He wants to.

He is God.
He is sovereign.
He answers to no one.
There is never a moment that He is not in total, complete control....
of the elements,
of the universe,
of our lives.

I don't ever mean to give satan credit for anything.
But, I must say, I don't ever remember him fighting us
as hard and as intensely as he has over the course of the past couple of years.
The friend who sent me the card understood.
She has witnessed some of the devastation...
the changes....
the aftermath.

I don't know how long she has prayed for my soul's healing.
I don't know how many times she has hit her knees and called out my name.
Maybe she has even shed tears...
or even fasted, so great was her burden.
I will never know.

One thing I do know.
God answered her prayers.
He heard every, single one of them,
and He took notice of every tear shed on my behalf.
And in His time,
quietly, 
without fanfare....
He did for me what she so kindly asked Him to do.

He has healed my soul.

Bless His wonderful name!
He has healed my soul.

It happened over a recent weekend.
I can't pin down the exact moment.
All I can say is that when we returned home from a 
very spiritually-prosperous trip,
I was healed.
Completely.
My soul...
that deepest part of me....
was whole again.

It didn't hit me while it was happening.
While I was basking in the joys of worshiping God...
with all my heart.
But, somehow, while I was caught up into a place that felt like 
"a foretaste of glory divine",
surrounded by others of like-mind,
God came in, and He did what neither I 
nor anyone who loves me ever could.

He healed my soul.

I have longed for healing of the soul.
I have wished for renewal.
I have begged God to help me forgive the pain inflicted by those 
who have not understood the path He has required me to walk.
I have cried from the depths of my inmost soul for peace,
for release,
for relief....
from the urge to cry out in self-defense.
He has not allowed me that luxury.
Each time, I have longed to stand up and explain it all....
make others see and understand,
He has answered,
"Be still."

My stillness...my silence....
has been so misunderstood.

Wasn't Jesus' silence...
His complete refusal to speak out and defend Himself....
wasn't it misunderstood?

To understand Him,
to know Him,
we must taste....
experience....
drink....
small dregs 
from the cup He drained for us.

The amazing part is the effort satan expended
in trying to prevent us from getting to the place 
we needed to be.
It was as if he sensed there was something very 
therapeutic and healing waiting there.

We plowed through his rubbish,
we plodded determinedly on...
until we got the full measure....
of God's blessing....
and the sweet, soothing touch of His healing hand.

After we returned home, 
it hit me the following Monday....
as I was praying or meditating before God...
I can't remember which.

God spoke to me.
He opened my eyes.
It was as if He applied eye salve.
He cleared my vision.
He showed me satan's scheme to keep us from that glorious place...
not one weekend....
but two weekends in a row.
He opened my eyes to see that our first weekend there,
He had applied physical healing to a need in my body.
The second weekend,
He applied spiritual healing to the deep brokenness in my 
hurting, bleeding soul.

Satan lost both weekends.

Praise God, I got what I needed.
My heart is much lighter.
The pain in my heart is much less.
I forgave some very deep hurt.
God just took it away....
He did what I could not do, 
but wanted to with all my heart.

I remember a night in prayer a few weeks back.
I was suffering much from a physical affliction.
Ecclesiastes 7:14 says, "....in the day of adversity, consider."
I got on my knees before God, and I begged Him to show me...
to open my eyes....
I considered....
myself before Him.

He showed me areas that I needed to let go...
to forgive...
even though the wrongs were unjust,
even though the inflicted hurts were undeserved,
even though the pain was deep,
I needed to forgive and release it all to Him.

I told Him I didn't know how.
That I wanted to...with all my heart.
But, I did not know how to forgive...
to let it go.

He gently answered, 
"I will do the work within you that you can not do."

He did.
Quietly.
When I didn't even know it.
When I didn't even realize what was going on.
Through the gentle work of His precious Holy Spirit, 
He healed my inmost soul.

I wish I could express through my words 
how this feels.
My feeble attempts,
my failing efforts,
will never be able to convey the joys....
of healing of the soul.

If the precious friend who cared about my hurting soul,
who went out, spent her money, and bought such a beautiful card,
who took the time and made the effort to add such inspired, meaningful words of her own,
who prayed those earnest prayers on my behalf,
who must feel I have completely neglected, forsaken, and abandoned her...
if, by some chance, 
she ever reads these words,
may I attempt to convey a personal, heartfelt message?

Thank you so much.

My words seem so flat...
hopelessly inadequate...
overwhelmingly incapable...
of expressing to you...
how very much I appreciate
you praying and interceding on my behalf.

You obviously didn't give up on me.
Heaven stood at attention.
God listened.
Your labors were not in vain, my friend.

God has healed my soul.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Stillness

"Be still, and know that I am God."
Psalms 46:10 (KJV)

Sometimes the thing that takes the most effort of all...
is to be still.
There are situations, circumstances, moments...
in which the hardest command of all to obey....
is to "Be still."

Everything within us wants to "do" something.
We don't like feeling that we are not in control.
We feel like we are spinning our wheels....
and accomplishing nothing.  
It would be so much easier to just move...
to take charge...
to go forward.

But, God says, 
"Be still."

I have prayed countless prayers, 
seeking God's direction,
hoping for a proactive answer...
when I have, in the deepest recesses of my soul,
heard His still, small voice...
His gentle whisper say,
"Just be still."

"But, Lord, shouldn't we do something?
We've been still for quite a while,
isn't it time, Lord?
Isn't it time to make a move?"

"No, child.
You are not ready.
Be still.
Be still and know that I am God.
Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.
Relax.
Just be still."

Sometimes being still is all we are capable of.
Any other action would be entirely too much.
There is healing to be found in the stillness.
Peace and a gentle communion with the Almighty...
is found in its solitude.

Why is it that time spent in stillness is automatically
dubbed as wasted time? 
Why do we think we should always be doing something?

The Israelites were in a very tight place.
They had been in a strange land,
under bondage to a cruel taskmaster,
for around 400 years.
God placed a special call upon Moses to lead them out of bondage....
to go before Pharoah and beg for their release.
After many appeals, Pharoah had finally
agreed to let them go.
It wasn't without a fight.
He didn't want to relinquish his control over them.
They were his slaves....
they were hard workers.
He would be hard-pressed to find others like them.
God got his attention
by sending ten horrible plagues upon the land of Egypt, 
the last one being the worst of all.
The firstborn of each Egyptian family was killed...
all in one night...
as the death angel passed through their land.

This was more than Pharoah could take, 
so, at last, he released them to leave Egypt to go to their own country...
a country that God promised to them.

How glorious their day of deliverance!
How light their hearts as they made their way out of Egypt!
The future loomed bright before them, 
and their hearts were full of joy.

But, alas!  Soon they met with the biggest obstacle of all.
They found themselves standing in front of the Red Sea...
with absolutely no way across.
Just when they thought things couldn't get any worse,
they heard the sound of horse's hooves....
pounding the ground....
behind them.
Louder, more pronounced, more threatening they became...
the closer they got to them.
Pharoah had had a change of heart!
He wanted them back.
He decided he didn't want to let them go, after all.

With the Red Sea an insurmountable obstacle in front of them,
and their enemy in hot pursuit in back of them,
they were in quite a predicament.

Their situation, their future, their outcome...
seemed beyond hopeless.
What would they do?
Where would they turn?

They couldn't go forward, 
and they sure didn't want to go back.

God's answer?

Turn around,
fight,
go after them,
defend yourselves,
rise up,
and DO something???

I'm afraid not!
His answer to their immediate,
overwhelming dilemma?

The complete opposite of what they must have expected,
 and not what they wanted to hear, I feel sure.

God told Moses to tell the people to simply,
"Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord."

In my words,
"Just be still.
Stand firm.
Don't do anything.
Don't make a move.
I see it.
I'm in control.
I've got it.
I've already initiated a plan.
All you have to do is be still,
stop struggling,
and let me do this My way."

Stand still??

Really?

How could they?
Everything within them must have wanted to do something.
In reality, what could they do?
They were surrounded...
penned in...
by complete, total human impossibility.

Sometimes, God allows us to be in a position where we have no choice.
That the only option available is to acknowledge our incapability,
to turn it all over to Him,
and to do the hardest thing of all...
to stand still....
and let HIM do the moving on our behalf.

What do you think would have happened
if they would have disobeyed God's simple command?
What if they would have risen up and tried to fight Pharoah and his mighty army?
There were unequipped.
Unprepared.
Incapable.
Weak.
Unequal to the task.

They were outnumbered and without a solution...
of their own.

But, God!
He is never without a solution!
He was their God!
They were His chosen ones.

He told Moses to hold his rod over the water of the Red Sea,
and one of the biggest miracles in the history of time took place.
The waters parted, right down the middle,
they stood in a heap on both sides, 
and here's the most amazing part...
the Israelites walked across the middle of that sea
on dry ground.
They weren't bogged down.
Their wagon wheels didn't get stuck in the mud.
There was no mud.
Where untold gallons of water had stood just moments before,
the ground was now completely dry, 
without a drop of moisture,
and firm enough for every single Israelite man, woman, boy, and girl
to pass over unharmed and unsoiled.

They stood still.
They saw the salvation of the Lord.
His means of deliverance was so far above and so far trumped
any remedy plan they could have come up with on their own.
Had they taken matters into their own hands,
they would have completely missed the miraculous deliverance
He had planned for them.

His way of escape is always the best way out.

After the last Israelite foot landed on the bank of the far side of the Red Sea,
with Pharoah and his army on their heels, 
God caused the two heaps of water to relax and fall back into place.
Their enemies scrambled to get away, but were covered by the water.
They drowned trying to bring God's chosen people 
back into bondage.

When God fights a battle,
in His way,
in His time,
with His resources,
He always wins.

Always.

Why do we get so anxious?
Why don't we want to be still?

We should never fear the Red Sea in front of us,
or the threat of the enemy's hot pursuit behind us.

When we are surrounded,
when there is no human way out,
when the loud, threatening taunts of the enemy scream, "No hope!",
God commands stillness.

He wants to show us what He can do.....
when we admit to our own incapability,
are willing to step out of His way,
and when we make the choice to obey the hardest command of all....
 just be still.





Saturday, August 11, 2012

U-turns

"There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."
Proverbs 14:12 (KJV)


We were traveling 
and covering some brand-new-to-us territory.
We had our little trusty Mapquest maps that I had printed out before we left home....
all organized and stapled together...
lying on the front seat.
When we were driving to one of our destinations Sunday evening,
we saw another route that pointed to the same town we were trying to reach.
We were tempted to veer off, but decided to go ahead and follow the printed-out directions.
We made it there safe and in plenty of time.

Later that night, as we headed back to our hotel room,
we came across the other route again.
Again we were tempted, and this time, 
we decided to try it and see where we ended up.
We thought it might trim off some time and miles, 
so we turned off the proven path and took the untested one.

We drove and drove and drove,
and it seemed that it was taking us longer to get back 
than it did to get there.
We finally realized that our "short-cut" 
hadn't turned out to shorten our trip at all.
Worse yet, it didn't get us back to where we needed to be.
We had to turn around and figure out how to get back on the beaten path.
We soon found it and were relieved to be headed in the right direction once again.

It made me think of life.
Today's Scripture tells us there is a way that "seems right" to a man.
But, even though it seems right,
even though it appears to be the correct and true route,
the end of the path turns out to be dead wrong.

Jesus said in John 14:6,
"I am the way, the truth, and the life:
no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me."
It is impossible for us to reach Almighty God
through any other means.
Jesus Christ is the way.
Following Him,
walking in His footsteps,
keeping on the path He chose,
will absolutely, positively land us in Heaven some sweet day.

Isn't that where we all want to be?

The road Jesus chose is a narrow road.
It is a road of self-denial.
There are no short-cuts.

And all along the way,
there are many detours.
Many distractions.
Many pitfalls and hidden snares.
Their road signs beckon to us, promising they will lead us home....
and their path to home will be shorter than the road we're on.
That it won't take as long, and the road is more comfortable.
Their glitter and glamour beckons loudly that there is an easier way.
They look so attractive, so inviting, so much more exciting....
than the path on which we travel.

Sometimes, aren't we all tempted?
To lay down our cross?
To veer off...ever so slightly...
and just see what another path is like?

How many of us have dared to yield to that temptation?

How many of us have wandered...
how many of us have explored....
a way that "seems right",
only to find that we have ventured into forbidden territory...
that we are no longer sensing God's smile,
and things aren't going quite the way we were promised they would.


Aren't you glad God allows U-turns?

I am so glad we serve a merciful, loving, forgiving,
full-of-grace Heavenly Father
Who never takes His eye off of us.
Even when we become discouraged,
even when we forsake the narrow way and exchange it for the broad road,
even when we find ourselves completely out of His perfect will....
His love remains forever unchanged,
and His heart fills up with joy...
when He sees us....
making that U-turn.

As the broad, comfortable paths beckon to us...
so He calls and pleads for us to come back...
to Him and the right path.

He created a road map for each of us to use and have at our continual disposal.
It is called the Holy Bible.
All of the road signs are there...
 to lead us home...
to where He is.
If we stick right to the directions,
if we don't become enchanted with one of the "easier" paths,
if we don't take a detour or a "short-cut",
we will get there.
We will arrive safe and right on time.
And if any of us do happen to get side-tracked,
take a detour, or veer onto the "seem right" way,
the remedy and the way to turn around is right there...
in black and white instructions...
recorded in His Word.

Staying on the straight and narrow is not for the faint of heart.
Jesus had many a trial,
so will we.
The wonderful thing is....
that He walks the narrow path...
alongside us.
He promised He would never leave us nor forsake us...
that He would always be with us....
right to the very end.
Then He will welcome us into the home He has prepared for us,
and we will be with Him throughout eternity.

Isn't it worth it?
To stay on the right road?

There is danger lurking...
on the "seem-right" way.
One can become dizzy and disoriented...
surrounded by all of the excitement the broad road has to offer.

Sadly, some who have given in and taken the "easier" route
have found that it really was more comfortable,
they have relaxed to enjoy the ease,
and have never wanted to come back to the old, rugged way of the cross.
Alas, at the end of the road, they were met with the stark realization
that the alternate route didn't lead home at all.
That they were at the complete opposite end of where they wanted and intended to be.

Are you on the wrong path?
Has the lure of the greener grass caught your eye and persuaded you
that maybe there is a better way?
Do you find that the route you're on is leading you in the wrong direction?
Has the alternate path turned out to be less than you expected or were promised it would be?

My friend, you can make a U-turn....
from anywhere....
at any point.
Right now.
You can turn around.
It doesn't matter how long you've traveled the wrong road,
or how much ground you've covered.
The distance between you and God is never too far.

The way back is always the same.
The U-turn always consists of crossing a bridge....
the one Jesus built with a cross and three nails.
If you come to Him,
you will automatically be turned around
and pointed in the right direction.

He is the way.
From this point, let Him take your hand
and lead you safely home.