Friday, February 14, 2014

God’s Great Faithfulness


 
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:23
As I was with Moses I will be with you; I will never leave you or forsake you. Joshua 1:5b

Shirley Temple died this week. That was sad for me because I adored her when I was a child. As soon as I heard the news songs and scenes filled my mind, but one stuck. I don’t remember which movie it’s from but precious, precocious little Shirley struts around singing “When I Grow Up.” Eventually the butler, Arthur Treacher I think, starts singing it too. So there it was, “when I grow up, in a year or two or three.”
I suppose that one stuck with me because I’ve just decided, at the tender age of fifty-six, what I want to do when I grow up. It’s a great idea but I don’t know if it’s God’s will so for now, I’ll bloom where I’m planted. But bloom how? The what I want to do is finally pretty clear but who do I want to be? You’d think that I would know by now and I do, sort of, but suddenly that became much clearer as well.

Call it the day of the awkward conversation. Early in the day I was involved in a discussion that included a woman I know who prides herself on being a “good Christian.”  I love her and therefore do not want to cast aspersions on her so I will use two quotes to sum up her attitude throughout the conversation.

“You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when he hates all the same people you do.” Anne Lamont

“I love your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Ghandi

Listening as she spoke I prayed, “Oh Lord, please don’t let me sound or look like that.” My goal is to draw people to Christ not push, judge or scare them away.

A bit later I received an email from an old acquaintance. It included the quote about the woman the devil hates.  The one who when her feet hit the ground in the morning the devil says, “Oh no! She’s up.”
There it is. That is who I want to be when I grow up. So it was settled and I was so grateful to God for the enlightenments. My day felt great. Enter the next message from another person. I suppose it was meant to be cute and funny but it wasn’t. Instead the passive aggressive nature of it hit right between the eyes. It almost knocked me over. I felt myself wanting to give into to some serious self-pity. The Enemy would have loved that, right?

God is too good to let me sit there. In the exact moment that I wanted to give in and whine, God placed an image of my sweet friend Tara in my mind. I remembered her sharing a story of how someone she loves was blindsided by fear after taking a serious leap of faith. Hm… is that God allowing cruelty? No! If we look at it as an if/then, if you step out in faith the challenge will come, then maybe… But thinking of Tara in light of my own weak moment I realized how different it truly is. God’s love never fails.
Those leap of faith moments or decisions to be the best witness/servant we can be bring huge grace and love into our lives. That grace and love gives us the strength to sustain during the moments of attack. So the if/then would go like this, if an attack is coming, God has already shown up in love with the mercy, grace and strength to see us through.

I love Tara and I am always grateful for her but yesterday God made her a little more precious to me. She served as a reminder that God does indeed provide. His mercy is new every morning and his love never fails.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Breathe*


 

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says; Come from the four winds, O breath and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’”

“I will put my spirit in you and you will live,”  Ezekiel 37:9, 14a

If you’ve never read Ezekiel 37 I highly recommend it. If you have read it, read it again, read it out loud. It’s so powerful. Reading it it’s easy to think how great it would have been to live in that day, to see a valley full of dry bones become standing human beings, with flesh and skin (Ezekiel 37:4-8) and eventually breath (verse 9). Can you imagine it?

Now think about this. How many people do you see each day who look done. Their faces are closed and drawn. If they catch your eye they might smile but does that smile reach their eyes? The words I hear most often at work are “I’m so tired.” We work hard, fair enough but it isn’t strenuous physical labor. The tired of which these ladies speak is not bone and muscle tired; it’s spirit tired. They are, if you will allow me the analogy, out of breath.

The story in Ezekiel 37 is so huge, powerful and moving but it isn’t just for the people of Judah and Israel. It’s for us. Read verse 14 again. “I will put my spirit in you.” That is for us. Jesus came to fulfill the law and leave His precious Holy Spirit with and in us until His return.

Do you ever feel like a sack of dry bones? Do you feel out of breath? I know I do. It’s awful but it doesn’t have to become who we are. We do not need to be breathless dry bones. We have an answer, God’s Holy Spirit. “I will put my spirit in you and you will live.” (emphasis mine) You will live. Life is hard but God is faithful. He provides breath and strength for us when ours is depleted in ways that to us, seem beyond repair.

“Come from the four winds and breathe…..”

Operating in our own strength is an impossible battle. We will surely end up like those people in the valley, an old pile of dry bones. Oh we’ll walk around and smile and nod at people all the while feeling the dust, hearing the creaks. In that state we are no good to ourselves or anyone else. But, thanks be to God, His Word restores our breath. It restores our very lives. 

“Come from the four winds and breathe…..”

*(there is a song by Chris Tomlin, Awake My Soul that comes from these same verses. May I suggest that you listen to it? It is so powerful and very compelling.)

 

 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Listen


 
The Lord came and stood there, calling “Samuel! Samuel!”
Then Samuel said, “Speak for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:10
Our Father in His infinite mercy speaks to me, to my heart through His Word, certainly but He knows me better than I know me and so He uses music. I love music and songs tend to get stuck in my head. In my years of walking with Jesus He has used songs to inspire me, guide me and comfort me.
 A little while ago I was listening to a few of my favorite worship songs. I started with some that have been my support system for the last few days. Then I thought about one that I love but haven’t heard for a bit. Listening to it I realized the truth of the title, a line that is repeated over and over throughout the song. “You won’t relent until you have it all, my heart is yours.”

For the last few days I’ve been working through a section of a Bible study that has been rather difficult. It’s on suffering and breaking free. Sounds fun right? As is often the case with studies of this nature, the farther in I go, the more challenges I face. I can almost see the Enemy taunting me, with the voice of the wicked witch from the Wizard of Oz. “Think you’re going get free, do ya’?” No, I don’t think so. I know it. I know it because Jesus has already accomplished it.
So here’s the condensed version of the last week or so. Stupid arguments have occurred in places that are normally my safe havens. My work situation has been rife with pitfalls. (That would be the PG interpretation.)  Just when it looked like perhaps there was light at the end of a long, grey, sad tunnel a door slammed turning the murky grey half-light to complete darkness. While that may be temporary, it was a huge blow. And those are just the highlights. Still I’ve felt, albeit very light and feathery, the hand of God.

This has not been a season of God’s power in an obvious way for me. He is bounding in knocking things out of my way or blowing through and cleaning out the junk. It seemed to me that He was moving in a quiet, holding pattern fashion. Well that last part was wrong!  Suddenly, this evening listening to those words, “you won’t relent” I realized the enormous power moving through my life, surrounding me, protecting me.  The Enemy has used every arrow in his quiver and everyone has hit without leaving any real scar, a ding here, a scrape there but no permanent damage. How is that possible? Grace. God is willing to shower His grace on me and answer my prayers, chief among which is “draw me closer.” He won’t relent until He has my whole heart. Somehow that makes every tear, every ache, every second of heartbreak bearable.
Just short of a year ago I went through a day that defies description. The pain in my heart seemed as if it would crush me. That day too I was answered with a song that had been running through my head off and on for a day or two. The lyrics of that song ask, “how many times have You given me strength to, just keep breathing?” The answer to that is more times than I can count.

God always answers our prayers. He won’t relent. He will be our breath when it’s too painful to even try to breathe. Beyond the power of His perfect Word, God uses music for me. Dear one, find what He’s using to speak to you and listen. It’s pretty amazing.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

I AM



God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites. I AM has sent me to you.”

There is a worship song that I just love. I can’t say it’s my favorite because before I could finish typing that ten others would cross my mind as “favorite.” In any case the name of the song is “Great I Am.” The lyrics say just what you would expect from the title that God is indeed the great I AM, holy, powerful, unique, awesome, in the truest sense of the word. I love that song! The bridge includes the truth that the enemy runs from God, that even the mountains tremble in His presence. All true.
Listening to the song just a few minutes ago, hearing the words repeated “the great I AM” something occurred to me. I Am, what? As Christians we don’t ask that question because we know or think we do, what that means. It’s the name of God Yahweh, the great I AM. But indulge me for a moment and think about it. God is the great I AM.  If anyone else said to any of us, “Hello, I am.” There would be a pause as we waited for the rest of the sentence. “You are? Hungry? Lost? Happy?” We might try to fill in the blank from body language of facial expression. Certainly we would expect if not an actual name, at least some elaboration.  “Hello, I am your new boss, worst nightmare, here to help, etc, etc.”  Something has to come after the I am. Not with God.

God is everything. There was nothing before Him and will be nothing after Him. He can say “Hello I AM” because He is!
The song I referred to is huge. I love music and musically speaking it’s a wonderful song. It builds nicely. The lyrics are so good and true with music that matches the mood of the words perfectly and there is so much more. I can’t imagine a person who can hear that song and not be moved. Not just because it is so well written or, as has been my experience in many venues, so well performed. It is because of the simple and yet enormously beyond our total comprehension truth. God is the Great I AM. As the song says, there is none beside Him.

Think about God for a minute using nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives. It’s awe inspiring isn’t it? That is why the song is so effective because it beautifully states the truth that makes this life livable and the next one so inviting. We are reminded that there is nothing we could desire that God can’t give, do or be. The great I AM.