Through trials and temptations God wants to teach us that self-trust is dangerous and unreliable. Our heavenly Father allows things to filter from His hand into our lives for a purpose. Seemingly, purpose hides itself from our weary eyes at times. Sometimes to endure a trial is like a mill stone flung around an over-burdened neck. However, the Father allows theses things to wean us away from trusting ourselves and to move us to lean exclusively on Jesus.
Do you lean on Jesus when the burden is great?
Do you place yourself and your family in the hands of God and let God do with you as He wills?
I look back over the past two weeks and can see the terrain in which God has led me. I can see the valleys of waiting for my 11 year old’s MRI; and the plateaus of contemplating whether or not cancer is to be realized. Professedly, fear is a veil that can obscure God from my view. Fear is the father of unbelief and it distorts the smiling aspect of God’s face. Do I really believe that God has my best in mind? I recognize my circumstances are no indication of whether the smiling favor of God is upon me. But fear has a tendency to construct roadblocks in my faith. It can cause me to look around at the mess instead of up towards my Messiah.
So I place my fear on the alter and relinquish its claim. I prepare a sacrifice and watch for the brightness of God’s smiling face (see Psalm 5:3). I am reminded of Abraham and Isaac in this moment. After he placed his child on the alter and experienced God’s faithfulness, he saw the world differently. I see the world differently too and I know. If I hang on to fear, it will weigh me down and hinder my pursuit of spiritual perfection. If I lift of my child to God in sacrificial praise and adoration, I will be like the sheep feeding on his glorious faithfulness. Amen.
I am reminded of the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace. If they had been more conscious of the fire around them than that God was with them, they might have been discouraged. They may have even robbed God of His glory by deciding to bow to the idol King Nebuchadnezzar created. But they pushed past the veil of fear, looked beyond the flames, and experienced the glory of God and His favor on them. Oh, how I pray I can be this faithful as to come out of this fiery situation unsinged!
Leaning isn’t something we do in today’s society. Standing on our own seems to be life’s pursuit and priority. But the Bible says “Trust, lean on, rely on, and be confident in the Lord and do good; so shall you dwell in the land and feed surely on His faithfulness and truly you shall be fed,” (Psalm 37:3 amp). We must lean into His understanding and not our own. We must push past self-reliance and penetrate the veil where the deliverance of God hovers. If we don’t, we will end up like the Israelites coming up to Kadesh-Barnea once a week for years only to turn around and go back out into the wilderness. Lord help us to die to ourselves so that we might rely exclusively on you and be ushered by grace into the promise land.
I don’t know what tomorrow holds for you or for me. But I do know we live in a world where innocent people suffer and good friends die, and the pain and the hurt and the evidence of sin is everywhere. But the hope, the joy, and the peace we find in our Savior is everywhere to.
I don’t have a lot of answers right now. They say more tests need to be run and there is a bit of anxiety there. But what I do know? God is who he says he is and the hurt and the pain and the burdens are lightened as we lean into His greatness. God is near. God can be trusted. He alone is reliable. God is good, even when the ending might not be.
Red beads click around a little girl’s neck as she skips down the hill. Children clothed in plaid uniforms and back packs head from shanty to school. Women clip laundry to twine in simple drying arrangements. Abandoned dogs scour streets, roosters peck on cardboard, and turkeys hop over ruble. City life is happening all around us as we go. We go to the people today to tell them about Jesus.
We walk up a dirt path that is so far from the indulgent lifestyle we are accustom. When our shoes push against over-worked earth, a funnel of dust swirls behind us. We reach the top and enter a squeezed-in-town with crudely built homes. Each dwelling place is constructed by individual families. They are made with boards and concrete and they hang off steep terraces of ground. Electrical wires cling to weathered poles and shoot through the shanty town. There is no running water here, only barrels of water dropped off for the people. This dry land makes me thirsty from the inside out.
My eyes scan a town with a paucity of resources and I know.
This is what Jesus came for.
This is who Jesus came for.
He came for them, He came for us.
The King of the Universe, clothed in splendor took off His royal robe, laid aside His crown and squeezed all of the fullness of God into a place like this… dirt floors, smelly troughs, loud noises, and meager surroundings. He calls my name right here and how I long to recognize Him here.
The squeezed-in-places, the dry-well-places, the moments that are loud and messy and uncertain, this is what He came for. The longings, the heartaches, the doubt and the wounds that our sin carves deep, that’s why He is here. And all this life suspended on rocky soil and empty paths, isn’t this why we come? Isn’t this why we take the Gospel to those with no foundation and say with all the longing in our hearts, “Come, Lord Jesus”?
I may not know this kind of physical poverty, but I do know what spiritual poverty feels like.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,” Luke 4:18-19.
Jesus is here for the poor, the brokenhearted, the captive, the blind, and the oppressed. However, when Jesus speaks of the poor, he isn’t always referring to those who live in shanty towns or have limited income. He also refers to those who are poor in spirit (see Matthew 5:3).
I remember being poor in spirit.
I remember my own personal depravity.
I will never forget my water into wine moment where Jesus created something new out of something old. When I said, “Yes,” and He did too. When He mended this broken heart; rubbed salve over blind eyes; and broke chains of oppression in my life.
A signal to return down the mountain interrupts my thought process. So I shuffle forward and I am quiet, humble, and overwhelmed. I know now… the truly blessed ones are the ones who know they are destitute of righteousness. And oh how I know this.
“The Lord helps all who fall; He raises up all who are oppressed. All eyes look to you and you give them their food in due time. You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing,” Psalm 145:8-16.
Jonathan Edwards, the most significant American churchman of the 18th century once said, “If we are going to be excited about anything shouldn’t it be our spiritual lives? Is there anything more inspiring more exciting in heaven or on earth than the Gospel of Jesus Christ? We should be humbled that we are not more emotionally affected than we are.”
Emotionally affected by the scandal of the Gospel. Emotionally affected by its redemptive rescue for worldly wretches. Emotionally affected by His saving power not because of what we do but because of what He has already done, (see Titus 3:4).
A couple of weeks ago I, and seventeen others from my church, board an airplane to a small village in Peru, South America. I recite the Gospel in my sleep. I roll it over in my mind. I can’t wait to engage people. I am living sent. The anticipation sprouts radical excitement down deep. The laughs, the tears, the mama guilt, the prayers…all usher me into this moment of praise and adoration and anticipation of proclaiming the Gospel “to the nations…”
One of my greatest joys on my first international mission trip is our time of corporate worship with the local church. The church in Chorrillos, Peru isn’t a big, beautiful building with stain glass windows and wooden pews. The church is a modest second story room with concrete floors and plastic chairs. This place reminds me of the “upper room,” as described in Acts 1:13-14. 13 “When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. ….. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer…” We climb narrow stairs and pile into the upper room. We squeeze in a circle and prepare our hearts. The Pastor tunes guitar strings as if to tune his spirit for the worship that is about to begin. We sing “Open the Eyes of My Heart,” in two languages. He sings with intense passion in a language I cannot understand. He is simply being with Jesus and I can feel God’s presence here more strongly than I have in a while. All my senses are full of His greatness. God’s glory has fallen down into this place like rain and is soaking us from the inside out. I raise my arms like a child as if to grab His hem and cry, “Jesus, I don’t ever want to be dry.”
The Pastor. Those sitting in the upper room ~ like Edwards says are simultaneously emotionally affected and humbled by the One who “meeked” and shamed Himself in our place. I am blown away by the greatness of our Lord, by the fact that God in all His mighty plans had cared enough for this Pastor, had cared enough for us, to put us together in this moment of praise.
While melodies continue to explode into the rafters, my mind wanders into the throne room. I imagine the etiquette of worship there. I imagine the strange, beautiful creatures with wings and eyes all over. I imagine they put down their wings as they drop quietly by the throne in reverent exaltation of the Lamb. I imagine shouts, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts,” as incense hovers and pillars shake (see Ezekiel 1:1-28; Isaiah 6). Every living thing is engaged in worship as they focus on the person of Christ. This is the same God I sing to in this moment. The inevitable goose-bumps rise and I wonder what heaven thinks about our worship?
As music fades into muted tone, we breathe a word “Amen.” I lift my head and open my eyes and I am humbled by how emotionally affected I am.
“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…” the kids burst into song. I hear their sweet voices echo from the backseat and I begin to think. My candle is lit; I am on fire for God. My purpose, our purpose is to spread His light. One little candle can light up a room but Jesus can light up an entire world … and my small flame can be a part of that. I am continually blown away that my Lord Jesus who can do this all by Himself chooses to let me be a little part of it.
I want to be challenged, to learn more every minute, to share God’s love with people walking around unaware. I want to feel needed, used by the Lord, able to make a difference no matter how small. I want to give my life away, to comprehend losing my life and what it means to find it (Matt. 10:39). I want to serve the Lord daily, with every breath, every moment both inside and outside my home. Opportunities to tell people God loves them and desires to lift them from this dust and into His glory.
One of my great joys (outside my family) is to disciple my friend, Betty. Betty is only 58 years old but the hardness of her life wears across her face. We scoot a chair underneath her modest kitchen table and crack open our Bibles. The worn, scribbled on pages flip with grace to the book of John. We start here. I want her to find Him in between the lines…I want her to know the one true God and Jesus Christ whom he sent (John 17:3). Most days I am a mess and feel anything but qualified to lead a bible study. I make a lot of mistakes but God will use me, in spite of all that. He can use you too.
We finish our study and close our Bibles and begin to talk about our ministry at the Castaway Motel. I ask my trusted friend, with slight hesitation as I’m not sure my heart can handle her response, “Do you think our ministry to share Christ with people is making a difference?”
She takes off her reading glasses and places them gently on her red King James Bible. I feel my eyes quiver a bit upon her reply, “Well, yes. Even if just one person accepts Christ as Savior, that’s enough…don’t you think?” Maybe I wrongly define success by vast numbers and make-shift tent revivals. Maybe I forget to be obedient in the small and anticipate His faithfulness in the big. Maybe I forget I’m the seed planter, not the crop grower.
I don’t cry often anymore but this touches me. The tears push themselves like a parade down the side of my face. I say, “Yes, you’re right. I just needed a gentle reminder, I guess.”
Over and over God ministers to me through someone I thought I came to minister to. He shows me His heart and His Word in new ways right here in the life I am living and through the people I am serving.
How blessed we are to be called His servants. I am thankful that He who sits so high would bend low upon people like us and use us as his vessel. How blessed we are to experience the breath of God as he fans our ember into a roaring flame, set ablaze for the glory of God.
My sweet sisters, don’t ever underestimate your little light. Keep letting it shine because God will use it and direct it where it will shine the brightest.
Discuss three things that happened today. How did you feel? Frustrated, mad, happy, thankful, or fearful? The question my husband and I discuss in our couples bible study.
“Well, I’ll go first,” I say with an abrupt tone. The dog pooped on my friend’s front porch and that made me frustrated. Second, due to the inconvenient fact that no Kleenex were present in the car, I was forced to blow my nose into my scarf while passengers in the neighboring car looked on in horror. I felt embarrassed. Last but not least, the kids smeared dirty water all over the ping pong table outside, the dog licked it, then threw up on the floor. That made me mad.
Shall I continue?
I must confess y’all, I didn’t particularly care for that exercise.
If my day could talk, it would say, “You spent most of me…
My sweet friends, I don’t want to simply cope with life. Survive the day.
I don’t want to pinch myself awake until numbness wears off.
Then I remember something about the Apostle Paul. He said, “Do it all to the glory of God,” (1 Corinthians 10:31). This verse opens the possibility of making every act of our lives contribute to the glory of God. What I do and how I do it, matter to Him.
Every reaction holds the potential to be worship in the raw. Glory to God in spite of poopy porches or snotty scarves! I admit I need practice in this area.
Paul tells us we must set our minds on things above (see Col. 3:2) and practice living for His glory, actually and determinedly.
Underneath the schedule.
In between activities.
In the middle of the mess ~ we must meditate on God’s Truth, talk it over with Him often in our prayers, and remind ourselves frequently as we scale the walls of “to-dos.” It takes intentionality and resolution and determination. Aggressive faith. We must offer all our acts to God and believe He accepts them. Then hold firm to that position and keep insisting every act of every hour of the day and night be included in the transaction. Go to God in closet communion and tell him we mean every act for His glory then supplement those times by a thousand thought prayers as we go about the job of living (paraphrase Pursuit of God, Tozer).
Oh yes, that’s it. A thousand thought prayers. Daily. Hourly. Seconds bursting with the overshadowing Presence of God. God help me to do this … then as I perform the elementary, I will hear the voice of the angels worshipping the lamb, “Holy, Holy, Holy … the whole earth is full of His glory,” and I will sing along with them (because I’m adding to His glory, not stealing it away)!
Then my day’s reflection will become one of:
So as you reflect on today ~ What would your day say about you?