Monday, June 26, 2017

Sibling Rivalry

Wisdom has built her house…she has also set her table...she takes her seat on the highest places.  ‘Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding’…the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…The woman Folly is loud; she is undisciplined and without knowledge…she takes a seat on the highest places… calling to those who pass by… ‘Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!’” Proverbs 9:13-14.

Wisdom and Folly…they are spiritual sisters who will always be at odds.  They live estranged from each other and neither delights in the other.  And yet they are called to walk out the same journey but they make very different decisions.  One methodically and intentionally invests in the future while the other lives in the now.  Wisdom builds her house on the spiritual truths of God while Folly builds her foolish reputation by walking in the impulses of the world.  Wisdom carefully sets the table for her guests serving baskets of righteousness and goblets of grace.  Folly is too busy shouting temptations and chasing after things that are of no substance.  Both sisters take their seats in the highest places of our minds and hearts.  Who will we hear? 

The translation for simple in this passage is without moral direction and inclined to evil. Of course, as long as we are on this earth we still qualify for simple living.  I couldn’t help but be amused by the contradiction of the word and its lifestyle.  Our lives are anything but simple when we fail to use a moral compass in our daily walk.  Lady Wisdom tells us that life really doesn’t begin until we walk away from our sin or weakness.  She also understands that her name originates by living a life revering God.  Her sister Folly deserves no special title because Folly walks in the foolishness of the world. 

Both ladies send us invitations to visit their home.  Both ladies call out to us from their desire to share their offerings.  Lady Wisdom wishes to give and Folly only knows how to take.  Let us choose well when considering where our time will best be spent.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’ Matthew 6:33.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

From Deserts to Destinies

Jesus…was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.” Luke 4:1-2.

I’ve heard the story of Satan tempting Jesus in the desert many times but one fact escaped me until this morning. Although Satan tempted Jesus throughout the timeframe it was at the close of this time when the 3 toughest temptations in Luke occurred. It was when Jesus’ hunger was greatest and His resistance was probably lowest. The Bible states that He was led into the desert by the Spirit and then later in Luke 4:14 led by the Spirit out of the desert.

The example of Jesus is one to which we are to follow. We certainly won’t be perfect in our pursuit but we can be intentional in our response to temptation since we are fall prey to them. Just like Jesus, we must realize that sometimes we find ourselves in the desert by no fault of our own. Most times we are led into the desert to teach us something about hearts. Other times it is the vehicle God uses to prepare us for ministry just like He did Jesus. Jesus was also spiritually savvy in the fact that any retort to Satan’s tempting was met with God’s words, not the words of Jesus. When we are at our lowest or weakest, that is not the time to speak our own words. We must press on in prayer for the Lord to give us the grace and discernment to operate within our weaknesses. We must be on high alert that when we find ourselves in the wilderness we are not alone. We are surrounded by God and His many provisions, but we are to be shrewd in understanding that Satan is an opportunist. The closer we get to the crossing from desert to destiny, Satan will throw the books at us to distract us from crossing over. It will be at the closing of our tough season that he becomes desperate, pulling out all stops. But God is stronger and relentlessly resolute, because He sees where He is taking us. He is ready to take our hand, look up ahead and walk us into our beautiful destinies.

Your wilderness won’t last forever but don’t resist the heart-work that God intends on accomplishing during this time. Get in the word, arm yourself with God’s provisions and prepare for greatness! ‘He humbles us before the harvest so that we know it’s His power and glory, not ours.’ Steadfast Love, Lauren Chandler, p. 55.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Chasing Lovers

When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, ‘Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife…of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty…in departing from the LORD…She will chase after her lovers but not catch them…Therefore I am going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Anchor (Trouble) a door of hope.” Hosea 1:2, Hosea 2:7-15.

God looked upon Israel and saw how they were betraying Him. They had lost their love and loyalty for Him through their disrespectful behavior. God writes this beautiful but sorrowful story in the call on Hosea’s life. In this call, Hosea was asked to take a faithless wife to represent how unfaithful God’s people were being towards Him.

This story always puts me back in time when I secretly mounted tons of debt in my marriage. I would continue to spend money on things trying to compensate for something which I couldn’t figure out… ‘chasing her lovers but never catching them.’ Then one night, the Lord woke me up and demanded that I wake up Bruce and completely come clean. That night He led me into the wilderness and for the next 6 months showed me ways that my spending had betrayed Bruce…had disrespected Bruce…broken loyalty with Bruce. It felt like punishment but now I can see that it was a Father who wanted more for His daughter and His son. It was an effort to return love, loyalty and life into a fractured marriage. Just as God was with Hosea equipping Him in love and forgiveness, so was He with Bruce. Bruce not only forgave me and showed me such enveloping grace but helped me find a new way to deal with my discontentment. God reminded me that He gave Bruce to me to love and cherish above all others and all other things. He had given me one of my greatest blessings only for me to recklessly love. ‘She has not acknowledged that I was the one who gave her the grain, new wine and oil, who lavished on her the silver and gold.’ Hosea 2:8. But, God is a God of many chances and thankfully He turned my Valley of Anchor which held me down into a beautiful door of hope which healed my heart and marriage.

Whatever valley you are experiencing is exactly where God has led you. He loves you too much to allow you to walk in a lesser version of who He created. If ears are attuned, we will hear the tender life-giving words of our Father. He will place life in those dead places in our hearts, and contentment in those restless hidden parts of our lives. We can trust Him to restore us to full fellowship. He has His own vows to us if we will return to faithfulness.

I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD.’ Hosea 2:19-20.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Howling Prayers

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” Psalm 13: 1-2.

I discovered this morning that this Psalm has been referred to as the Howling Psalm. It likens itself to that of a lonely and longing wolf, lifting his cry as it echoes across the landscape. Howling is a communication device used by wolves to connect with the rest of the pack over long distances. Quite a powerful image of David’s response to his predicament. ‘David howls his plea for deliverance. He feels far from God. He feels forgotten; even worse, he feels as if God is hiding from him. He is stricken with anxiety and his enemy seems to have the upper hand.’ Steadfast Love, Lauren Chandler, p. 41.

How many of us can relate to this when dealing with our own set of present circumstances? We know in our hearts what we want to happen, and the days drag by and by with life seemingly standing still. The ‘nothingness of action’ reminds us that God has not moved in our situations, or perhaps tempts us to believe that God is not listening. We ask ourselves ‘How long?’ How long will it be before a job is offered? How long will I walk in my grief unable to move forward? How long will it be before I find my partner or become pregnant with my child? How long must I sit in this wait? How long? How long? Howling prayers…howling hearts…just wanting to connect… feeling so far away from a resolution. ‘We have all known loneliness and longing. God sees us. He hears us. The Lord welcomes our lamenting. Lamenting is a deep response to real pain in our current condition, and longing for restoration…we cry out to the Lord to make good on His promise to us. It’s a vertical act. We point our faces up like a howling wolf and lift our voices to the only One who is able to deliver us.’ Steadfast Love, 42.

God will never desert us in our time of need. The Bible echoes God's promises right back to our howling prayers and turns them into goodness and mercy in the wait. But we must be willing to give Him our time and hearts for Him to minister to our greatest needs.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3:19-24.

Friday, June 16, 2017

From Guts to Glory

But Moses said, ‘Who am I, that I should go…?’ ‘O Lord…I am slow of speech and tongue.’  Moses returned to the LORD and said, ‘O Lord, why have you brought trouble…Is this why you sent me?  Ever since I went to…speak in your name…you have not rescued…at all.  ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke…I will free you from being slaves…I will redeem you…I will be your God.’” Exodus 3:11, 4:10, 5:22, 6:6-7.

I can’t help but smile when reading these verses today.  Moses was just as flawed of a human as I am as he wrestled with who he was, what God wanted him to do and who God was.  Between Chapters 3 and 5 Moses began doubting everything God was asking him to do.  He was blind to his own identity in God, and was insecure of his abilities.  We then read that after he did what God asked him to do, he marched through the throne doors and accused God of not living up to His word.  And yet, Moses has significant ink throughout both testaments as one who was in the top 5 of Who’s Who in the Bible.  So how does this settle in this flawed woman’s heart?

Relief…relief that who we see in the mirror is not who God sees.  Courage…courage that what He calls us to do will be matched with the equipping from the One who calls.  Authority…authority that when our hearts break we have permission to approach Him.  Confidence…confidence that our demands in prayer will not offend God, but will open the door of honest fellowship.  Comfort…comfort that when God speaks a promise into our heart He doesn’t mind reminding and reassuring us of that promise.

God didn’t break His promise to Moses, but broke the timeline of Moses’ expectation.  Hearts had not yet been changed, circumstances had not yet played out and the day of the great delivery was not yet upon him.  If God has whispered a promise into your ear, He cannot forsake Himself by failing to fulfill.  Keep going back to Him in all of your emotions, giving Him full permission to complete the heart-work He has begun.  His reminders are as beautiful as His heart.

And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand…as a possession.  I am the LORD.” Exodus 6:8.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Functional Saviors

Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness’” Genesis 1:26a.

As a mom, fewer things make me happier than hearing someone say one of my children look just like me.  It has nothing to do with how I think I look (because I don’t know many women who are satisfied with that!).  It is more about the love and shared fellowship I have with my children as they represent my family.  ‘In our image’ means the ability to share in similar joys and grow together in our own uniqueness.  God didn’t make us as robots but individuals with different likes, dislikes and personalities.  Because we cannot understand at this point what the image of God (and the Trinity) really is, we must assign God’s heart to the creation of man/woman.  His desire to create us was rooted in love and established in the hope that we would return His love with intimacy…just like we did when the decision to have children filled our hearts.  His initial creation was for us to be in the image of God, representing Him within creation.  My Bible Study asks the poignant question, ‘How is mankind doing at representing God on earth?’  Steadfast Love, Lauren Chandler, p. 18.

She writes, “Even if you love God and seek to worship Him, it’s a struggle to resemble, represent, and relate with Him in a way that honors Him, isn’t it?  The image of God was marred and all creation suffered.  Adam and Eve’s choice to believe the serpent over God resulted in a fracture that makes resembling, representing, and relating to God in the way He intentioned impossible on our own.”  But that is the beauty of God…through Him all things are possible, and He never leaves us on our own.  Martin Luther once wrote that ‘whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God, your functional savior.’  That is why we must pursue holiness through the example of Christ, who is our Anchor, and keeps us from floating towards the image of the world.  Everyone is holding on for dear life to something as we walk out our lives.  In this broken world and with broken hearts, we cling to false anchors all of the time.  A false anchor is anything to which we turn to gain satisfaction and contentment other than God.  A false anchor promises but never delivers.  A false anchor takes more of our soul than what it gives.  A false anchor keeps us in broken relationship with God who created us to be in relationship with Him.  The author of this study ends today with a beautiful prayer which I will leave with you.

‘My prayer for you is that you will let God use the seasons of pain, struggle, and uncertainty expose the false anchors.  And in exposing the false, you are able to see, cling to, and confide in the true Anchor – the God of steadfast love.’

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Winds That Move Us

For he commanded and raised the stormy wind…they reeled and staggered…and were at their wit’s end. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works…extol him…praise him.” Psalm 107:25, 29-32.

Even if you barely know me, if you have read a few of my blogs you know that I have spent the biggest part of my life pursuing the approval and acceptance of others. It has been an insatiable beast and no matter how much I have loved…supported…fellowshipped…the truth always came back around. Approval and acceptance of man are fickle companions for they always have an expiration date. Only God’s approval and acceptance never changes…never wanes…never expires. My desired haven was to quit chasing the illusive ghost of making decisions based on the approval of others. God commanded and raised a stormy wind which left me reeling and staggering, making it difficult to stay on top of the waves of despair.  So many days and nights I felt as if I were drowning.  It was no doubt one of the toughest times in my entire life but, in His gracious love and faithfulness, He heard my cry and comforted me. He stilled my storm, hushed my emotions, and brought me the desired haven I didn’t even know I wanted.

We all have those set of circumstances where God is trying to do work in us to take us to our desired place. What are those desired havens? For one, it is the release of perfectionism. For another, it is to give control of our children’s lives over to God. Another haven is to lay down that habit or behavior that is disrupting our lives. A tough one is to accept the life God has given us and learn to live in His joy, neither being driven nor defined by our circumstances. Whatever it is, God knows what we need to live in freedom from ourselves. When those storms pop up we can know that God is doing something important in our lives to move us to better places. We can trust in His plan what we are experiencing is what He has commanded for us to experience. We can have both confidence and gratitude that every bit of progress is the grace of God.

Don’t despise these days; God is doing a deep work in you.’ Steadfast Love, Lauren Chandler, p. 16.