Tuesday, November 15, 2011

God's Pillar

Recently at church, we were singing the Gaither classic Because He Lives. We are a contemporary church, but some classics are just so uplifting! The second verse of that song goes,

"How sweet to hold a newborn baby, 
And feel the pride and joy he gives,
But greater still the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain days because He lives."

Now, to be honest, I have had a hard time with how that verse really fits in to the bigger scheme of the song. It just seemed to stick out to me (I'm not questioning Bill Gaither's talent or the Holy Spirit leading him in writing this song!) This morning, however, God granted me a little perspective. A perspective that was sweet and humbling. A perspective of God's amazing love for us.

In Exodus 13, God gives Moses direction as to the consecration and celebration required in remembrance of the Passover. Then Moses describes where and why God is leading the Israelites a particular way (another example of God's care for their fragile spiritual state. see v. 17.) As the chapter closes, this is written:

He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night from before the people. (v.22)

Did you catch that? He was constantly before the people. They didn't have to question whether God was there; they didn't have to doubt whether God was leading them; they didn't have to worry about figuring their escape out on their own, all they had to do was follow. Wow!

Are you currently in a state of transition and are questioning where God is and what He wants you to do? I know I am. I yearn for more but I'm not sure what that more is. So, I sit and wait on God to reveal where He is at and where He wants me to be.

What is especially sweet to me about this passage is that God understood the people had been in darkness for over 400 years. He knew their faith was small, just starting to bud as they experienced God's greatness through the plagues He brought upon Egypt. He met them where they were and gave them the constant care that they needed in their infancy of faith.

This brings me back to the newborn baby of the song Because He lives. As I was meditating on Exodus, I began to think of the Israelites as a newborn baby or an infant who needs almost constant contact with his/her mother for security and safety. The baby depends on his momma to take care of him. He depends on his momma to protect him. He depends on her to comfort him when he is feeling insecure or scared. Remind you of the Israelites?

This relationship between parent and child is so precious to both the parent and the child. The parent feels the joy and pride of his/her new baby. The child has the calm assurance that her parent will care for her despite not knowing what is ahead.

The same can be said for God and the Israelites. God is so excited about His renewed relationship with Israel. He is doing everything He can (which is the best ever!) to show His love and care for His children. He is even going to physically walk them out of slavery into freedom! The Israelites on the other hand can have the calm assurance that God is there to watch over, protect, provide, and lead them despite the uncertain days coming. (Now we know that the relationship does not stay this idealistic - despite God's presence, the Israelites still have weakness of faith.)

You may be thinking, "That's really great that God did that for the Israelites. If I had that I would never stray. I would be the best Christian ever - always following God and depending on Him!"

Well, the good news is God has done that for you and me . . . in an ever better way! If you have believed in Jesus as your Savior and Lord, the Holy Spirit is God living IN you (I Cor. 3:16, 6:19)! ". . .[B]ecause the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Rom. 5:5. He is your Helper (John 14:16), Provider of gifts (Rom. 12:6-8; I Cor. 12:8-11); Intercessor in prayer (Rom. 8:26); and your Seal of salvation and Deposit of future things to come (I Cor. 1:22). He is with you forever (John 14:16)!

So, just as God showed His love and care for the Israelites by displaying himself as a Pillar of cloud/fire during the exodus, God shows His love for you and me by depositing His Holy Spirit in us at salvation so we can walk in faith out of dark slavery into the freedom light. In any even greater way, He continues with us as we live out the rest of our days. And during those ensuing days, He meets us where we are with what we need through His Holy Spirit (a continual, everlasting Pillar)!

I now know I want to be that newborn baby in Because He Lives, curled up in the protective, caring, loving, providing, and leading arms of God, maintaining a calm assurance despite the uncertain future because His Spirit lives in me.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sturdy Faith

"Peter said to Him, 'Lord , if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.' And He said 'Come!' And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But, seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, 'Lord, save me!' Immediately, Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him and said to him, 'You of little faith, why did you doubt?'"
Matthew 14:28-31

I read this passage this morning and something in my spirit said, "THIS IS ME!!" I want to follow Jesus out onto the water - I want to follow Him wherever He leads! Yet, so often and very recently, when I start down the path in the will of God, I start looking around like Peter; I forget about the power of God that got me started on the path and I start worrying about the strength I am going to need to figure out this path.

I start sinking . . . or maybe wandering for the initial calling/path on which God said, "Come!" I rely on my own provision, not God's. I have little faith, despite God's constant displays of faithfulness and extraordinary provision - Jesus had just turned 5 loaves and 2 fish into enough food to feed more than 5,000 people! AND Peter had seen Jesus do it! I have seen Jesus provide, praised Him for it, but then not relied on that powerful provision on the next path God called me.

Why can't I have faith, sturdy faith, that keeps me walking on the water . . . walking down the path . . . God has called me? Instead, I have little faith, like Peter, and I have doubts. I have all the great intentions in the world but can't seem to stay fixed.

This is where I have found myself recently. And honestly, until this morning, I prayed for another chance to follow God into something mighty and I promised that I was going to "do better" next time.

But that isn't what God wants of me. He doesn't want me to do more - He wants me to do less! Look at what Jesus did with Peter. First, He called Peter. We don't lead. God does. And God calls us to daring things - like walk on the water! Impossible things that only He is able to accomplish.

Second, when we lack faith, God is right there, ready to immediately reach out and take hold of us. Once Peter became frightened, he didn't sink down and start swimming on his own! NO! He called to Jesus, and immediately Jesus came to Peter to rescue him from his fear and doubt. Notice though, He didn't calm the wind until He and Peter got into the boat. Jesus didn't remove the source of Peter's fear; He stepped in and comforted Him through it. He wants to be our anchor even during the storms that will come against us while we are in His will.

God knows that following His calling will be hard. Satan will come against us. Our flesh will war against His Spirit in us. Yet, we have the comfort and strength of being held by Him through it all. We learn to depend more and more on Him through these times of faith-stretching.

Finally, look at what happens when they get back in the boat:

"And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, "You are certainly God's Son!'"
Matt. 14:33.

No matter what Peter's (or my) personal struggles in responding to or living out God's calling, God's faithful response and show of power resulted in praise and glory for Him, the only one deserving of it!

I can have sturdy faith when I follow God, keeping my eyes on Jesus. And when I start to look around in my own strength, I can trust that He will be there . . . sometimes gently taking my hand, sometimes grabbing me around the waist . . . reminding me of His calling and His power in my life.

I pray that He will have more and more opportunities to show His love, faithfulness, and provision to His children through my life, even if that means they come in my struggling to obey and rest in Him. Today, I can praise Him even more because of His faithfulness in Peter's life!

And that is where sturdy faith is . . . a faith that doesn't just sees with my eyes, but knows that through His power the impossible can be accomplished.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Distracted Devotion

I was challenged recently as a read an excerpt from Radical by David Platt. He commented that discipleship included a daily walk with new believers, including teaching him/her by sharing your quiet time with the new believer. Lead through co-experience. At first as I contemplated how neat that would be with a sister-in-Christ, I was all eager-beaver to find one of my "disciples" and start meeting the next morning! Then, I started thinking about reality. Share my time alone with God with another person, maybe one I don't even know that well?! That is MY time, my sacred time of quiet, coffee, God's Word, and my journal of how God and I talk each day.

My devotion time, as I call it, is early in the morning, before any one else is up . . . or that's the goal anyways! Sometimes I hear the patter of very early risers coming down the hall before I've really gotten into it. In these cases, I try to fix a quick breakfast, send him or her, or both, into another room to watch a movie, or for my 4 yr. old, set out a couple of books for her to read at the table. I make a pot of coffee, collect my Bible, journal, and favorite pen, and I sit at the head of the kitchen table - a place normally reserved for my husband at meal times - for easy access to the coffee pot. Although I would love a space all my own, the table serves the purpose with a nice wide surface to spread all my things out on and a hard surface to write my prayers, God's leadings, and my inmost desires.

I generally like routines, so I'll pray, read . . . journal as the Spirit leads . . . read again . . . pray for others and special requests on my heart. I LOVE journaling. I seem to take more in when I've written it down. Sometimes, however, I start feeling like the habit is becoming more of the focus than the conversation, so I sit in my husband's recliner or on the couch and just take my Bible into our conversation. It is in these times, that I focus more on listening to what He's saying than on my ability to take what He's revealed and write it.

I desire my devotion time each morning! Yet, I titled this post, "Distracted Devotion" because no matter what my intentions, there are always other things trying to interrupt my special time with the Lord. My children's needs, housework that got put off for another day, the computer, last minute homeschooling prep, fatigue, even my coveted morning phone call from my parents who live far from me. But sometimes the distraction isn't physical, but spiritual. Pure rebellion, pride I can do it for a day without a special word from my Lord, worry and doubt, discontentment.

But what I have learned over my years of developing a daily quiet time is that it is only by practicing a devotion time that those distractions do not make or break my day. My devotion time helps bring me back to the place where I focus more on what brings God glory for that day than the current pressing need. It gives me perspective. It allows me to exhibit more hope, patience, peace, joy, love, kindness, gentleness, and self-control with my husband, my children, my friends, the lady waiting on me at the grocery store, and the random people God brings into my path.

Distracted devotion becomes focused purpose for the day. And that is something God can use.

And it is something I can and am willing to share with others. So who wants to study tomorrow morning with me?