One of the greatest themes of the Old Testament is the ‘Exodus’. The focus on much of the first five books of the bible centers on a ‘transition with provision‘ as the people of God move from one place and season to another. (Egypt to the Promised Land)
The Torah lingers on the details of Israel’s release from the empire of Egypt. Significant details are shared about the journey of God’s chosen people from the land of Egypt across the Red Sea and into the wilderness, specific locations, events, and characters are recorded in intricate detail.
This “exodus’ is a major theme of the early scriptures and gives us a clue as to its importance in the bigger picture of history and the word of God. It tells us we can expect to face similar experiences and circumstance as we make our own personal journey from the ‘old’ to the ‘new’.
In the New Testament scripture we see a parallel journey for each believer as we leave the ‘old man’ behind and put on the ‘new’ man in Christ. The process of transition for each of us is unique, but the principles are the same. God always ‘provides’ for His people as they ‘transition’ from one stage of life to the next. The introduction of divine food (Manna) is realized on the Israelite’s journey through the desert. A remarkable and supernatural provision for their daily needs.
Change is almost always scary. When we leave the familiar behind we are taking a risk. God calls each of us to walk out of our old ways and lean into the new. These changes are transitions and can take many different forms. For some it’s the challenge of a health issue or Cancer diagnosis, for others it’s a lost job and new career path, but for ALL of us it’s a serious shift in our ‘normal’ way of doing and being.
Like the children of Israel, we face many stressful transitions in our life and like the children of Israel we too have a good and capable God who knows our needs and has already arranged for our provision. The scripture reminds us of God’s faithfulness to meet each and every need as we progress from one season to the next.
I love the way speaker and author Stasi Eldredge puts it in her book “Defiant Joy”. “In Christ your life is inextinguishable. Undefeatable. Victorious. Worry, fear, panic, and dread do not get to hold your heart hostage in their vise-like grip. Your heart is safely held in the hands of your faithful God who promises that a life of unending joy is your inheritance. It is coming.Jesus led the way. And though the way often includes disappointment, pain, betrayal, and sorrow, none of them get to have the final say.”
We can live with confidence no matter what we’re walking through or away from. God is going to keep up with you, He won’t leave you behind or let you go. Your safe, secure and intimately cared for, in fact you could not be in better hands.
Peace out, Father Brad.
PS – for a scripture reference to study, check out this passage from the Old Testament.
Exodus 16:14-18 (ESV) – ” 14 And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground.15 When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?”for they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. 16 This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.’” 17 And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. 18 But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat.”
Do you struggle sometimes to pray. To sincerely trust God more than we do our-self? Do you wonder if He’s really going to ‘show’ up in our life when we need Him the most? I mean the whole idea of God being engaged and concerned with my struggles and fears can seem laughable. I’m sure He has bigger ‘fish to fry’ than my petty little anxieties and circumstances.
If you’re like me, you might find yourself praying timidly around the edges of your life, asking for general things like favor, health, wisdom, etc. We’re easily convinced He has better things to do than talk with us.
It’s easy to feel that way. It’s not true of course, but it can ‘feel’ that way. We keep our conversations with Him short and superficial, we avoid asking what we’re in true need of, uncertain of our status with Him. Sometimes it’s because of the fear we have about His true ‘answer’ to our deepest concerns, but I think its also because we don’t feel worthy of much blessing. We are keenly aware of our own shortcomings, inconsistencies, and hypocrisy.
In the opposite extreme, sometimes we can totally take prayer for granted, rushing into things we go through our ‘check-list’ of needs, heedless of who and how we’re talking to the one who saved our very souls. We charge ahead in our demands, wanting answers to our ever present emergencies, approaching God without the reverence and awe He deserves.
If we’re being totally honest… often the ‘real’ reason we’re visiting with Him in prayer at all is to ask for stuff or to ask Him to affirm our wishes as His will. He becomes sort of a cosmic cookie jar rather than the Creator and Lord of all.
In an effort to find some balance its important that we approach Him with the proper levels of both familiarity and respect. It’s vital that we find a healthy balance and perspective for the amazing opportunity that Prayer provides the Christian. In the end, prayer is all about relationship. It’s not about ‘getting’ but growing.
For those who feel unworthy, we don’t need to be afraid to approach Him and for those who are simply spiritual consumers, we shouldn’t over assume on His blessings. Thankfully, we’re offered grace for either imbalance and scripture grants us insights into how to access His faith and power despite our inconsistent and often messy spirituality.
I’ve been struggling with being too timid, too conscious of my shortcomings. Recently I was reminded to pray with more courage and a clearer purpose, to ask with less hesitation and more hope.
Quick couple of thoughts for you to consider if you’re in a similar state.
This isn’t word of faith stuff or positive thinking, it’s a firmer grip on the work of Christ on Calvary and my status as ‘His’ adopted son.
According to the scriptures, I’ve inherited His strength and wisdom and insight, I simply need to ‘remember’ that and step into it with the confidence of His work on my behalf. I’m not a beat up, worthless piece of poo in my redemptive life, I’m a son of royalty, a prince and heir to the King.
Rather than giving me hubris and overconfidence, these insights give me the courage to engage my life head on.
I don’t have to slide around the scary things in my day or week, I can confront them directly when required. I don’t have to live waiting for the next crisis to crush me, I have every thing the day will require in Christ.
So do you.
Peace out, Pastor Brad.
The Solitude and sanctity of Consecrated living
This internal work of the Holy Spirit is active in the wilderness season. It’s very presence and function an indication of our being prepared for a future work and service. Our spiritual senses are awakened as we begin to experience the presence of God, and the wilderness is where we are most keenly attuned to God’s whisper.
Our life begins to take on a sharper focus as we recognize the forces at work within and without us and we slowly accept and even embrace the intentional nature of our circumstances.
This awareness is the growing culmination of our decision to stay on the path, the expanding vista of our upward journey in faith.
The removal of the old and of our self makes space for the new and spiritual to grow. This consecration transformation is overseen by the Holy Spirit and is specific to the precise detail of our circumstance. The purposes of God are rarely revealed in their entirety to us, we are kept in the dark for many reasons, but not the least is the trust and the faith that the mystery of His work instills in us.
We cannot move deeper and closer to God without allowing this growing sensitivity of our need for consecration to take center stage within our consciousness. When we do, we make different choices, we shy away from those old and deeply ingrained habits. Replacing those old patterns we find a surprising but growing hunger for more time in His presence, for His plans more than our own. This inner transformation wipes away the decay of selfish pursuits and reorients us to a life spent for service.
This new motivation provides us a growing sense of inner calm and tangible assurance of who we are, where we’re going, and who we truly belong to; which is in essence the ultimate goal of our wilderness journey.
A growth in our personal discipline and dedication to Prayer is the natural byproduct of living in the presence of God, motivated by such a season of life as the wilderness we grow and grow. It (prayer) becomes the vital connection and intersection of our lives and Gods presence here on earth – it’s more than learning to take authority or a process of removing life obstacles – God is inviting us into deeper intimacy and longer conversations. We have to see prayer as time spent listening and talking. At stake is the will of God in our lives, and consequently here on earth. Our sensitivity to Gods will and way should become the most important part our day.
As Dr Tony Evans says, “we need to discover what God is up to each day – we need to listen and respond by asking Him what He wants to do and where we should be within His will, within His plans” (my paraphrase) “We are not meant to simply “visit” with God in prayer, but to learn to “abide”. We cannot fully enter into what God is doing here on earth without learning to listen and hear when we pray.”
The bigger picture is this… as we learn to live in the wilderness, we will grow in our inner desire to follow after and become like Christ. This expanding thirst for holy living will draw us into a closer and deeper faith, a positive cycle of shedding the “old” and putting on the ‘new’. Our transformation starting within expressing itself without, not for appearance sake or the affirmation of others, but for the preservation and growth of our communion with God.
The circumstances of our life may wax and wane, but by leaving behind the old false and fake self we make space for the new and liberated self. This frees us from our fears and opens the door to a growing practice of living within a constant presence with God. This is what the saints have long called ‘walking with God’. It’s habitual practice in our lives means we can not only endure our wilderness season but learn, grow, and expand.
The distractions and struggles of our lives are like the swirling wind for an eagle’s wings. We can fight the turbulence or learn to ride the currents trusting in the power of God to lead us. The other option…? We can stubbornly resist and insist on a vain attempt to maintain control of our trajectory until we reach the point of complete exhaustion and despair.
The struggle for each of us to draw near to the Creator is real. Our need to exert control is deeply ingrained, but Gods Holy Spirit is the patient and perfect tutor and will realign our hearts to His.
The process of consecration and preparation requires from us a voluntary surrender and release of our protective grip on those false confidences and comforts that counterfeit His provision and presence. This often means a season in the wilderness, a time of isolation, transition, and frustration in the short-term, but greater peace and deeper intimacy in the long run.
In the end, we must learn to rest while we find ourselves living in the wilderness. Not confident in our tenacity to stick with it, but in His patience to work within us, to perfect us in the midst of it all.
PS – the last 5 posts have been an outline of a new project I’m working on for publication. I trust they provide hope and encouragement to any who find themselves in a wilderness season of life. Much of the biblical insights I am drawing upon can be found in the book of “Hebrews’. This epic summation of the New Covenant in Christ is the road-map for any who wish to find ‘rest’. Hebrews points directly to the completed majestic sacrifice of the long promised messiah… Jesus Christ.
My grandson has the best laugh… like his mother, he can cackle from deep in his belly and light up a room in a heartbeat.
His laugh is contagious and full of genuine joy, it warms the coldest heart and breaks through the chill of any dour day. It’s magical and supernatural and wonderful to hear, and God designed it exactly so.
Life can be so challenging, so stressful. We live day in and day out with clenched fists and anxious minds, ducking and weaving our way from one crisis point to the next. Laughing is the last thing on our mind, work, finances, strained relationships, health issues… those are the things that get our attention.
This Thanksgiving, my grandson (14 months) arrived with all the jovial chatter of a plump little cherub, cackling and hooting his way around our Tennessee house. He was mesmerized by the lights and sounds, nuzzling our soft furniture and pillows, blankets, toys and trinkets. Stuff we took for granted.
His blue eyes sparkling with excitement, he rumbled from room to room. He was simply thrilled to see and touch, to try and catch our little dog or strut out some new steps on the fireplace sill. He roamed and rolled in hidden places and spaces, experimenting with everything he could. Awash in new tastes and touches, life was thoroughly exuberant, fascinating and full of hooting joy with all that could be discovered. He was a glowing spot of hope and happiness, a wonder to behold.
Sometimes we get so serious we forget to laugh. To enjoy our life. It’s really that simple.
We adults get so grown up we forget to savor the tastes of our wonderful existence. Grandkids can break that fallow space up for us, allowing new light and flavors to renew our heart and refresh the mind.
Thank God for our little grandson!
If you don’t have your own grandkids, godson, toddler, or nephew… go borrow one! (with permission of course) Freshen up your day with some toddler living and a cereal box full of tender laughing, the contagious joy you unleash won’t wear off for a long -long time. (I’ve been told, granddaughters are just as good as grandsons 🙂
No one can spread joy and happiness faster or further than a toddler… it’s no wonder God used children to exemplify HIS KINGDOM in the gospels*.
Given the gospel illustrations* that Jesus used with his disciples… there must be something truly special, something amazing and hilariously joyful about redemption. I mean let’s truly stop and think about how much laughter must be going on up there, full joy and hilarity, nonstop celebration in Heaven that we can’t really comprehend yet. Makes you wonder, shouldn’t we start seriously practicing down here?
Merry Christmas and may you have a very HAPPY New Year!
Scripture Passage: *Mark 10:13-15 (BibleGateway.com)
Paul writes of his ‘thorn’ in the flesh. It’s in his second letter to the church at Corinth, he’s describing an experience he had with God, confused by an unanswered prayer for relief.
How many of us feel like God’s not listening when we pray?
How many of us struggle with the weight of circumstances and situations that we can’t escape, the powerlessness of being caught in a dilemma of someone else’s making?
It’s incredibly hard to stay encouraged, ‘up’ or full of faith when we’re praying for relief and finding nothing but more stress and overwhelming pain in our lives. But Paul gives us a very helpful and encouraging insight into these moments of struggle.
Listen to his words… “a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”(2 Corinthians 12:7-9 ESV – Biblegateway.com)
Paul gains the understanding in the midst of his frustration, pain, and bewilderment at God’s failure to remove the obstacles to his life. Instead of growing angry and resentful, He grows closer and more intimate with God. A peculiar response to a prayer denied. I long for that kind of trust and faith.
For me, it’s a struggle to just trust God sometimes. To just believe He is up there. To let go of my control for His will. I wrestle with the difficulties and attacks that seem to never end in my life. I wonder at the wisdom of such persistent stress and spiritual oppression, it seems so overwhelming. So pointless.
But then a passage like 2 Corinthians 12 comes along and light breaks into the darkness of my despair and I ‘see’ again. I remember the goodness of God and His infinite capacity to take the attacks of the enemy and use them for good. Not just “his” good, but ‘my’ good.
Paul illustrates the point of unanswered prayer so succinctly here you can miss it without taking the time to dig a little deeper. God’s grace and power are released in these ‘thorny’ moments of our life. Released in a very unique and permanent way that no other life experience can create.
It’s in these struggles of faith and circumstance that God transforms and abides with us. Our strength is sapped… and His is tapped.
Powerful grace overshadows the overwhelming despair and defeat we feel… we gain character (for Paul it was humility) and we gain it permanently. We lose our fear and grow courageous, full of anticipation for how and where God will show up in our circumstances. Paul was convinced that the grace and power released in his struggle would so far overshadow the pain of it all that he was encouraged by the setbacks in his life.
So, if you’re in the midst of a rough spot, feeling beat up and abandoned, don’t give into the doubt, God is with you. If he’s not answered your prayer yet, He will. And like Paul’s triple request for relief, if God in his wisdom chooses to leave you in the situation, it’s’ because the outcome is going to be so much better than you can imagine, that it’s worth the wait.
I pray for that atmosphere of faith to rule in my heart. “Lord I believe… Help my unbelief.”
Additional notes and links:
John Piper has multiple sermons and resources at DesiringGod.org on 2 Corinthians 12 – This is the one that was most helpful for me –
BibleHub.com has a great array of Commentaries as well – the one by Barnes was so helpful in providing the detail on how these thorns create permanent changes in us.
Fear can consume us…
As a pastor. As a dad. As a leader I’m supposed to be fearless.
I feel the weight of others watching, waiting on my words… wondering what I’m going to do. It may be a bit myopic, but it’s a very real, and very heavy burden. I know many of you feel the same weight on you.
Newsflash… I’m not fearless.
I’m full of doubts and fears like everyone else. I don’t have supernatural courage or resolve, I wrestle with my anxieties, walking the floor late at night..wondering where God is, figuring the angles, calculating my options.
Does that mean I’m failing in my ‘faith’ walk? If I roam the house restless and full of dread, does that mean God’s forsaken me for my doubts? Does that mean we’re unworthy of His presence…?
No. Absolutely not. It simply means we’re human and not up for pretending anymore. Some Christians feel like they are failing if they admit they have fear… I promise you, if the disciples wrestled with this… if Abraham and David wrestled with it, we will.
Life is scary. Stuff gets crazy and out of our control very fast and very intense. From a bad lab result to an unexpected change in your job, life hits hard and sudden. We get caught off-guard and unprepared. It scares us… sometimes it just freaks us out!
The Christian isn’t immune to fear or anxious thoughts, we just have another option. We can retreat, blame God, our parents, or a spouse… become a victim and isolate or we can face our fears and learn to get past them. We can do this alone, proud, and defiant… or we can surrender our pride and ask for help. Help from God, help from our friends, help from our spouses. Facing fear requires the courage of humility to overcome.
What is abundantly clear is this… we are going to be afraid. There are going to be moments that are overwhelming and super intense, we are going to have to move forward or retreat inside when those moments come. Our faith will grow or shrink. We will trust Him again… or we won’t.
My encouragement…Don’t run. Don’t hide. Face this stuff head on, but don’t do it alone. Ask for help. Pray. Read the word. Share with your Life-group, share with your pastor and friends, access the community of faith and the strength we share together.
Fear has a way of crushing our hope and strangling our faith, but when we walk together through the storm, we find solace and support. When we choose to trust despite our frustration and fear… I promise we’ll find Jesus, and He brings Peace and He brings comfort.
From Genesis to Revelation, the entire narrative of the bible speaks to fear. It tells us to be of ‘good courage’, to ‘fear not’, it talks of God’s provision and protection. It reminds us of God’s will and the destiny of God’s plan for each life. It gives us confidence that we’re not alone, that our lives matter… that we have a way forward no matter how bad it looks.
Facing the facts with the promises of God brings light into the darkness and hope to our despair. Remembering God’s words of hope gives us courage to hang on, to trust Him one more time for ‘this’ crazy situation. ..we grow our faith roots deeper and we gain strength from confronting our fears. We gain confidence and great Joy from seeing God provide a miraculous solution to one more impossible problem.
This is the life of a Christian, it is full of stressful moments and impossible odds… but also ridiculously cool surprises and lavish blessings. In the end, it is my belief that we will discover a God who does the impossible and does it with style!
Peace… out! Pastor B.
Links to checkout – Faith vs. Fear