It doesn’t make sense, but I know God spoke it. What to do? That very thing.
I am freshly reminded today of the high I’m on when I walk in step with the Holy Spirit and do the hard thing. Yes, I still wrestle with the Lord and try to convince Him with a sweet, “I’d rather not.” But, there is a drive within me to obey. The flesh says, “No, it’s not comfortable, and I can’t do that.” However, the Spirit says, “This is gonna be fun! God Almighty is here to accomplish it through you!”
Don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t feel like fun when wrestling with God; it feels like fear.
I think any of us on this side of failure to obey can identify with the regret that weighs on us. I will transparently share my own massive failure that trained me to not make the same mistake again.
I went on my annual 4th of July trip to visit my friend in Georgia knowing that there was a heaviness in her community. For two years, her friends and neighbors were trusting the Lord for a healing of their 4-year old who was battling cancer. After every medical solution was sought and acted upon, and yet the aggressive disease remained, the doctors sent him home without any hope.
The large neighborhood and extended community had stood faithfully alongside of this lovely family during the lengthy trial and came together in that dark hour to hold a prayer vigil on their front lawn. I flew down that very day knowing that I would be a part of the gathering along with my friend. I was amazed at the number of people who came out. We gathered for worship and then broke into small groups to pray for the family and their son who remained isolated from the crowd. They did not want to expose their precious boy to any contagions that may further compromise his delicate state. We prayed, and I felt an anointing of God to go and lay hands on the child, but I resisted. As the prayer vigil ended, and we all dispersed, I was still overcome by God’s power to the point that it took effort to walk. I told my friend what I knew I was supposed to do, and she encouraged me to go back to the house with her so I could do what God was impressing upon my heart to do. “No,” I said…
We got back to her house, and she still said, “Let’s go back.”
Do you know why I so stubbornly refused? Because I had never done anything like that before. My mind couldn’t conceive the purpose in praying for the boy because I failed to look at the God who not only CAN heal but is WILLING to heal, and I refused to allow Him to work through me.
Would the outcome of the boy’s life have been different if I had obeyed? I can’t answer that now, but one day, I’ll know for sure. So, I charge you and myself to do the hard thing, especially those things that do not make sense. We need to surrender our will and limited understanding and trust God for the equipping and the results.
Interesting Biblical perspective from my daily reading today: Jonathan gets a wild hair (1 Samuel 14:6-17).
I’m nearly finished reading the account of Joseph in the Bible. I just love a good story with a happy ending, don’t you? I have read the story innumerable times and will continue my life- long to take it in with fresh wonder. It is the story of family, the story of a dreamer, the story of jealously, the story of the enemy seeking to wipe out a life of influence, the story of a father’s love for his child… the story of me.
The theme that rings loudest in Joseph’s story is redemption. He was cruelly separated from his father to live as a servant in a foreign land only to realize later God’s plan of salvation had orchestrated it all in order to spare nations from desolation.
Do you see Jesus? I do.
This morning, as I drove on interstate taking my children to school, I looked with new appreciation at the landfill alongside the highway. I know, it’s strange. Normally, I’m trying hard to not breathe in when the stench of the dump fills my nostrils in that vicinity! But today, the sun cleared the horizon shortly before I approached the landfill, and the dawn’s light shining over the fog in that barren place was simply beautiful. The Spirit spoke, “That dump represents your life before I redeemed your heart.” He speaks truth! I am in a season of reflecting on the mighty deliverance of my God. I can’t even be completely thorough in my explanation of what I have been delivered from, but I think it is suffice to say, by the time I was eighteen, I had seen some pretty devastating consequences of choices made apart from the knowledge of God’s will. It is almost unimaginable that I can look back on my childhood with fond memories when I consider the evil I faced: adultery, alcoholism, arrests, fighting, marital separation, and the list goes on. It’s not pretty, but neither is a landfill.
Oh, that we would see our messy lives with the eyes of God! Like Joseph knew hatred, bondage, betrayal and unjust accusations, he also knew that God takes what was designed for evil and uses it for good. I guess that is what the dawn’s brilliant light was speaking this morning: “There is beauty here, even if the foundation is a landfill.”
Bring it all under the covering of the Lord Jesus: the injustices, the mistakes and the failures. Be found pure in heart like Joseph. Follow his example:
“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun” (Psalm 37:6).
It hasn’t been a hard winter, weather-wise. It hasn’t even been cold here in southeastern Virginia for very long. But it’s still been a long winter. It’s unusually warm days like today that make me realize I am desperate for the coming spring season and all of its representation: Hope springs forth.
Recently, three members of my church family along with my own family have all said, “so long for now” to our fathers. It’s this constant reminder of death that forces me to keep the promise of eternal life ever before me.
Honestly, I was wrought with many emotions the week that my dad passed away. I had only learned the previous week of a lung cancer diagnosis. My dad was always full of life and strong… how could he be so sick? I was with him before he left Virginia for his winter stay in Florida. “Did he show any signs of sickness then?” I ask myself.
Dad and I came to the conclusion that we would pray for a miracle and seek treatment from local physicians. He wanted to come home.
Within a few days, his condition worsened. I hung up from a phone conversation with him and went running into the arms of my husband and sobbed. I was scared. I had never heard my father sound so bad before. I sought the Lord for direction, and He spoke the word, “Presence.” The next day, I was on a plane to West Palm Beach, Florida. Perhaps I could help Dad make the flight home the following day.
The plan quickly changed. While I was flying to Florida, Dad was being transported by ambulance to the hospital. I got to him later that night as he was about to be transferred out of Emergency and onto the oncology floor.
We still had hope that he could be strengthened enough to eventually make the trip home to Virginia. In the meantime, I ran his errands, communicated with my siblings in Virginia, and listened to Dad talk about the things I would need to know once he dies. I didn’t like this direction of his thoughts, but I let him speak what was on his heart to share.
3:30 came and I knew that I had a flight to catch. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I tried to say good-bye through my tears. I didn’t want to leave, but there was a pull to get back home to my family. My dad told me it was ok to go, but I could tell he felt it was the last time we would see one another. I actually left the hospital, got into my car, and drove down the street. I could barely see; I was crying so hard. Over the phone, my husband said, “Go back to your father.”
That was one turn-around I will never forget. I was there with my dad a short 16 hours later when Jesus came into the ICU room and ushered Dad home. Those last couple of hours with him were very difficult to see because he was suffering. I prayed over him, sang, quoted scripture and read other passages from the Bible. I cried out to the Lord with every cough and struggle to breathe that my father encountered. I felt so utterly weak and was desperate for the Lord.
Suddenly, Dad’s eyes jolted open, and he look right past me and above my head. His eyes and head moved slowly as he watched the One come alongside of the hospital bed. Dad never lost focus. He reached out his hand and clasped the hand offered to him. The ICU nurse and I celebrated as we watched Dad step over the threshold into life. With his eyes closed, he breathed a few short breaths, and smiled sweetly.
I miss you, Daddy.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.
Have you ever heard the proverb, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings?” It is found in Proverbs 25:2, and it means that God enjoys our searching out a truth that is found in Him. He will actually tuck it away a little so that it takes our effort to achieve the new level of understanding. Imagine it as a toddler playing with the plastic ball toy with various shape cut-outs. The adult knows clearly which shape fits into which hole, but rather than inserting all the pieces ourselves, we allow the child to work at it, making discoveries along the way. The little one tries first to place the triangle block into the circular cut-out but keeps trying until he finds the triangular cut-out. We all clap our hands and celebrate the successful discovery! Get the picture?
So I am the child, and God is delighting in my discovery of a treasure in scripture that I will call “the oreo effect.” The oreo cookie has two chocolate cookie ends with a creamy middle, and that is the perfect analogy for the scriptural truths unfolding before my eyes in recent months.
In my study of scripture that defines the wife’s role in marriage, I went to Proverbs 31:10-31, a passage entitled: “Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character.” The verses describe in detail the wife’s character as defined by her faithful care of the home and family. The listing of her duties includes weaving fabric, providing food for family and servants, planting a vineyard, profitable trading and extending her hands to the poor. The statement leading up to the treasure is, “She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple” (v.22). This is the first chocolate wafer; the creamy filling is sandwiched between this verse and v. 24, “She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.” The passage continues to list more wifely duties such as faithful instruction and watching over the affairs of the home.
What’s the creamy filling? What statement represents the treasure to be sought out? Verse 23 states, “Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.”
Her husband’s place of authority and honor is a direct reflection of the wife’s care of everything entrusted to her nurturing strength. This is the creamy middle. There is no accident that God tucks such a powerful statement right in the middle of a list of wifely duties. It just goes to show that behind every great man is a great woman!
Do not be dismayed. The wife of noble character also gains from fulfillment of her role. VALUE. (“She is worth far more than rubies.) TRUSTWORTHINESS. (“Her husband has full confidence in her…”) DIGNITY. (“She is clothed with strength and dignity.”) JOY AND PEACE (“She can laugh at the days to come.”) BLESSED. (“Her children arise and call her blessed.”) REWARDED. (“Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”)
And who might be singing praises at the city gate? The husband. He is boasting on his wife to all the others. Next to God’s commendation, that is the highest praise! Husbands know their wives best, and we want to receive their reward of genuine affirmation.
The oreo affect. Two similar truths encasing something different, something pleasantly surprising. There are more of these treasures in scripture, and the wise will “taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him” (Psalm 34:8).
We’re going to wrap up this Emmanuel series and put a bow on it! It’s Christmas Eve, and I’ve got some cooking to do! 🙂
I began this Emmanuel writing while pondering the repeated occurrences of the disciples’ inability to recognize Jesus after His resurrection. We first looked at the two men on the road to Emmaus, then at Mary’s encounter with the Lord at the empty tomb, and now we take in the scene of several disciples in a boat fishing on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus is there on the shore, but again, the disciples fail to realize it is He.
He called out to them, “Friends, havent’ you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”
When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish (John 21: 5-6).
It was at this moment John knew the man on the shore. He exclaimed, “It is the Lord!” Once again, Jesus is known by His ways. John first encountered the One for whom he would leave everything to follow after a similar miraculous catch of fish. The story is recorded in Luke 5. Peter, James and John had been fishing throughout the night without any fish to show for it. The Lord said to put the boat in deeper water and let down the nets. Peter thought it was useless to do so, but he obliged the Man who spoke with authority. To his surprise, so many fish went into the nets that they began to break! Peter needed James and John to help bring in the load with their boat too. There was so much that the boats began to sink! That’s a lot of fish!
And that is very much how the Lord works. In another instance of miraculous fishing, the disciples know that they are once again in His presence. I want us to also recognize the Lord’s ways and respond appropriately. For instance, I was with my short-term outreach team in the Dominican Republic when I recognized the presence of God in our midst and the necessity to respond in that moment with faith. I told my pastor that we needed to gather the afflicted in our group to pray for them because God was desiring to heal in that moment. Did the healings come? Instantly. One felt the power of God heal her when my hand touched her hurting stomach. Another found her skin to be cleared of the bug bites that covered her limbs only moments earlier. Others also testified to the restoration of their health.
The Father loves to reveal Himself in our very real circumstances in life. He is Emmanuel, God With Us. His Spirit is with us forever; He lives with us and is in us. We recognize His voice because we know the Word of God. We recognize His ways because we are among those who seek His Presence and enjoy the fullness of joy found in the times spent with Him.
This is my greatest desire for the upcoming new year: to pursue God’s presence with an unyielding passion. Want to make it your purpose as well? Join me in a year of discovery of our Faithful God in His eternal Word. Starting January 1, I will post a weekly reading assignment with the goal of finishing the Bible in a year’s time. Go to “a year in the Word” page to follow along. It will be wonderful making the journey of discovery together!
We are looking at “Jesus encounters” that occurred in the 40 days following His resurrection. Just as those first disciples were learning to follow Him even though He was about to no longer be present with them in bodily form, we too must be equipped to walk with our unseen God.
The scene is set: Mary Magdalene is outside Jesus’ tomb and is distraught over the disappearance of His body. Two angels inside of the empty tomb ask her why she is crying. In the next moment, Jesus is there and also asks why she is crying. Just like the two men on the road, Mary did not realize that it was the Lord speaking to her.
“Thinking He was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have put Him, and I will get Him'” (John 20:15).
“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary'” (John 20:16).
There was something about the way He said her name, because in that instant, she knew she was face to face with the Lord. What was it about her spoken name that brought revelation?
I’ve heard it said that there is no sweeter sound to one’s ears than to hear their name spoken. I suppose Mary was accustomed to the Lord addressing her by name. She certainly followed closely and gave Him many opportunities to speak personally to her. Scripture invites us into one of the most tender moments between Christ and a beloved follower.
“When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jeus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind Him at His feet weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them” (Luke 7:37-38).
This is Mary, choosing to leave behind her sinful past and to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, the One who will save the world from its sins. Jesus honors Mary demonstration of lavish love and states to the scoffers that she loves much because she has been forgiven much.
Then He spoke directly to her, and she held her breath. Her life was held in the balance until he spoke the words of life: “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48).
The gentleness of the Lord’s voice was familiar to Mary. Upon hearing it that day at the tomb, she once again gave a tremendous sigh of release. Life anew has come to Mary, and she is more certain than ever that His voice will never mislead her.
Reflect on times that you have heard the Lord’s gentle voice speak to your heart. Did you make a written record of His words? If you doubt having ever heard the still and quiet voice of the Lord, ask Him to speak His Words of life over you right now. In fact, be so bold as to open a journal and be prepared to write what He speaks!
(for a dramatic presentation of Mary’s anointing Jesus with her tears and perfume, go to you tube and search “Large Human Video DFAF11 Fragrant Love”)