Does He Have To Raise His Voice?

And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.  I Kings 19:11-12

God is a kind and gracious Father.  He is also a whispering God.  His voice is heard in the wind of his Holy Spirit.  He is comforting in His encouragement. He is specific in His instruction, enabling us to make decisive and wise decisions.  My experience of Him as Abba encompasses all of these.  Even when He has had to discipline me, I have known Him to be kind.

I have never understood when someone admits, “I’m hard headed. God has to hit me upside the head to get me to listen.”  Stubbornness is not a badge of honor for any of us.  Perhaps Jesus would want to ask, “Wouldn’t you want a whispering Father instead?”

Does God deal differently with different types of people?   There are larger than life personalities.  There are strong-willed saints.  There are rebellious believers.  And there are disciples who are gentle of heart.  Each could, I guess, require a different approach from Abba Daddy.  But if each of us is called to be humble before God ~ no matter who we are or how we’re wired ~ wouldn’t His whisper suffice?

I recall that the prophets who encountered the revelation of God in the O.T. fell on their face and were undone.  They embodied humility.  ‘Humble” comes from the word ‘humus’ – meaning ‘dirt’.  We are not worthless as dirt but we are face down in the dirt as we are prostrate before a holy God.

To whom will the Lord be revealed?  To the one who walks humbly with their God.  Elijah, the larger than life prophet, heard God in the wind.  He exemplified Deuteronomy 8:6  It’s paramount that you keep the commandments of God, your God, and that you walk down the roads he shows you and reverently respect him.  The Message

Father God, may You never have to raise Your voice to my stubbornness.  Amen

Refreshing People

So that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.  Romans 15:32

The word ‘refresh’ is found 17 times in scripture.  In most of them, the spirit of one person is being refreshed in the company of another.  This got me thinking.  What really happens when I am refreshed?  Who is it that refreshes me? And most importantly, am I a person who refreshes others?  Do I leave them feeling stronger or weaker?

I jotted down names of people who refresh me when I’m in desperate need of it.  What is it about each one?  Each is:

  • Someone who is deeply at rest in the Lord.
  • Someone who is permanently unshaken by life.
  • Someone who has had their needs met in Christ and can listen well without self-distraction.
  • Someone whose heart is full of the scriptures and it comes out of their mouth at just the right time.
  • Someone who inspires faith, not blind optimism.
  • Someone who whispers courage based on God’s presence and promises.
  • Someone who prays for me, by name, with intuition and discernment.

I know it’s possible to be refreshed by someone who is kind and positive.  Perhaps they’re not even a believer but their personality and attitude toward life are contagious.  But, when I need more than a pep-talk and someone to speak God’s words into my life for perspective and strength, I won’t get it from them.  Without Christ, there is no foundation to their strength.  Their encouragement has no substance even though their personal fortitude is admirable.

Paul knew that if He went to Rome to be with the Roman believers, he would be refreshed.  Weariness and discouragement would be replaced by hope and renewal.  If I don’t have others in my life who refresh me, I need to ask God why and possibly make changes about those with whom I fellowship.  Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs ~ so important was the spiritual refreshment that happens between two people who love Jesus.

Make me more like the ones on my list, Jesus.   Amen

Lifting Your Head

Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Psalm 24:7

God speaks to His people and joyfully commands them to lift their heads. He has gone out to battle on their behalf and has come back victorious.

Have you been shamed? No matter what the context, the experience is gut wrenching. Every part of your being feels it. Your emotions plummet. Your mind runs tapes of the accusations. Your body language turns inward.

I recall when Joseph told the cupbearer, who was falsely accused, that Pharaoh would lift up his head in three days. The Hebrew idiom paints a beautiful picture. It is when the one shrunken in shame is restored to his position of power. It’s used other places in scripture that expand its beauty.

King David, betrayed by his son Absalom, on the run with just the clothes on his back, turns to God for vindication. He climbed the Mount of Olives, covered up his head, wept, and said, “You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.” Psalm 3:3 As king, he could have formed an army, or at least a posse, to get back his throne. He abandoned all ideas of conniving, of battling, and of manipulating. He recognized that God was his rescuer.

Who has stripped you of your honor? How long have you been brought low? Have you accepted your fate and given up all hope of restoration? Perhaps you even abandoned prayer.

I hope you’re not a fighter who has vowed to take revenge and battle it out. Perhaps you intend to get back what you’ve lost no matter who has to pay. You’ve turned aside from God as your Redeemer and have taken up your own cause.

The hardest thing for any of us to do when betrayed is to wait on God to move. He always will. We just don’t know when. In the meantime, the waiting is never wasted. God draws near, comforts, teaches us what He suffered under the same circumstances.  He pours out treasure upon treasure that is only found in the darkness. He is, and will be, the lifter of our heads.

Satan offered you a way out of waiting when he offered you the kingdoms of the world in exchange for worship. Thank you for not caving. Everything would have been lost. So teach me to wait! Amen

Save

How Creatively God Keeps a Promise

And as they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. Genesis 35:5

God makes His child many, many promises. As long as my heart is sensitive toward sin and I’m quick to repent after falling on my face, the blessing of God is on my life.   Living without sin is not a pre-requisite. Who can do that? Instead, God asks me to live a cross centered life characterized by daily repentance and daily grace.

Jacob and his sons sinned greatly at Shechem. Their murderous rage took the lives of many innocent men. God appeared, gave new orders, and Jacob quickly made a course correction for his family.

The fallout of his sin complicated the picture though. They had been known as a peace loving people; a tribe of shepherds. Heathen nations had not seen them as dangerous. That all changed with their latest rampage. They were now considered a viable threat. God still kept His promise of protection to the sons of Abraham. He sent a wave of panic to all the inhabitants of foreign cities. The fear was so severe that no one even entertained the thought of attacking Jacob’s tribe. God stepped up to define the psyche of alien peoples.

Sometimes I can panic when I feel my future is being decided by an unbeliever. I can wrongly assume that my life is held in their reckless hands.  Not true. God has pre-ordained a path for me. Nothing and no one can keep me from my calling. My God calls the shots when it comes to the thoughts and feelings of those around me. When needed, He intervenes on my behalf to change their mind about me. A God that powerful is my advocate!

To be under this kind of protection, what do I need to do? Make sure I am not reckless with sin. Failing does not disqualify me from Fatherly care. The critical thing is what I do on the other side of failure. Do I repent or do I continue to do my own thing by quenching the voice of the Spirit of God? If it’s the first, God has my back. If it’s the latter, I become a prey to my enemies; physical and spiritual.

Ah, but when I follow Jesus with good faith intentions, how creatively He looks after me. The steps of a righteous man are made securely.

I have seen you change people’s hearts a full 180 degrees over matters great and small. How great you are. How small I am. Amen

Going Home To Get My Spiritual Bearings

Tomorrow is the first month’s anniversary of our son’s death.  In some ways, it seems like a year has gone by.  So much emotion has been packed into so short a time.  For the first several weeks, sleeping soundly was impossible.  I’m just now starting to catch up.  What better place to do it than to go home to my roots.

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Beloved Berkshire Mountains

While I live in Georgia and call that home, my roots are in New England in a little town called Petersburgh.  I am fortunate to be able to go back to my childhood home (my sister still lives there) and walk the grounds that overlook the river, and then go to bed in my old bedroom.

There’s something about going home that allows you to get your bearings.  I finally slept last night – all night – for a good 11 hours.  I’ve gotten out to drive all the back roads I love and it has given me much time for reflection and conversations with Jesus.

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Childhood Bedroom

There’s also something about going home to the heart of God that allows us to get our spiritual bearings.  He is the safe place.  He hushes our agitation.  He speaks into the void where emptiness eats away at the soul.  He puts all our questions to rest as faith believes that He is enough ~ even without answers.

I’ve printed out Hebrews 11:1 on an index card and have been living in it for the past four weeks.  Here it is in THE MESSAGE.  The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.  The meaning of ‘getting my spiritual bearings’ is unwrapped in this scripture.  Trust in God is the firm foundation that makes life (even in the midst of tragedy) worth living.  Trust in God is my handle on what I can’t see.

Suicide leaves so many questions behind.  Haunting questions.  Most never know the answers to why someone took their own life.  While here in my childhood surroundings, spiritual rest is intermittent amidst the grief but it is there nonetheless.  My trust in God has not been shaken loose from its moorings.  He’s got me.  He’s got my son.  He’s got the answers.  For everything I cannot see, or know, I do know in whom I have believed.

Moving Beyond Ambivalence

I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law.  Psalm 119:163

God is rarely ambivalent.  He loves truth and He hates falsehood.  David spent enough time in the Torah and enough time in worship that God’s appetite rubbed off.  How our culture needs more like him.  There are far too many prominent Christians in the spotlight who, when asked where they stand on current issues, fail to answer the way God would.  Their tolerance makes them palatable to the masses but it erases their saltiness.  They have confused loving people with condoning what people do.  They have abdicated their chance to speak the language of the kingdom in order to draw others onto the narrow pathway that leads to eternal life.

Having grown up in legalism, I was used to a regular diet of dogmatism.  A church or Christian organization defined themselves by what they were ‘against’ rather than what they were ‘for’.  They had a poor track record when it came to loving people.  Perhaps some of our ambivalence on critical issues is an over-correction to legalistic Christianity.  In our collective responses to rigidity and gracelessness, we have made opposite choices that are equally as detrimental to the advancement of the kingdom.  The cure for any of us who fail to speak clearly about what we love and what we hate, whether it is rooted in fear or poor theology, is time with Jesus and time to immerse ourselves in His Word.  Christian education, in the context of relationship, cures ambivalence.

Today, I follow Jesus who ate with sinners, put his arm around the broken and repentant but simultaneously, spoke clearly about righteousness and unrighteousness.  His speech was so clear that his audience saw no ambivalence.  They left everything to follow Him or they picked up stones to murder Him.  If others fail to react to me in the same way, my speech is diluted and I have a ways to go to look like, and sound like, my Savior.

Sharpen the sword of my mouth with the sword of the Word.  Clearer speech, compelling speech, in the remainder of my life.  Amen

Stepping Stones

Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow.  Lead me by your truth and teach me,  for you are the God who saves me.  All day long I put my hope in you.  Psalm 25:4-5

A woman who takes the time to listen to and obey the voice of God is never stuck.  Every step she takes is leading somewhere.  No gesture is ever inconsequential.  No task performed is ever hollow.  No pain is ever senseless. Everywhere she places her foot is strategic even though she may be unaware of the significance.  Solomon said so.  “The upright one is on a path that makes up a highway.”

Satan’s urgent agenda for us as God’s children is to cause us to distrust God.  If he can alienate our affections, he knows we will lose heart and abandon the way of faith.  One of his biggest lies is the one that says, “This is a dead end.  You’re trapped.”  Oh, how well I know.  I believed that and was crippled by a severe depression in the early nineties.  Everywhere I looked, I saw traps instead of doorways.  I didn’t know that they were a mirage, a smokescreen.  If only someone had told me to call Satan’s bluff with a well-fashioned arrow of the word of God.

Now, two decades later, I’m still on a soapbox to declare that each ‘trap’ was really a doorway into glory. I was delivered from my wordlessness when I decided to embrace the truth that God is never cornered, and since He lives in me and orders my steps, I’m not trapped either.  Facing the conflict of my core beliefs and then choosing to believe God over my own thoughts, I was freed to move again.  Slowly, I began to see that every pro-active step I took by faith was profitable. It proved that there were indeed invisible doorways I couldn’t see before.  Everywhere I placed my foot led me to another stepping-stone related to my destiny.

It’s still true for each of us today.  The best of life awaits us even in these difficult times if I define the ‘best’ as opportunities to showcase God’s glory. I intend, until Jesus returns, to become an spirited older lady who teaches others how to pray strategically, embrace the scriptures passionately, and love God wholeheartedly.  I don’t know how well I will sing in another decade or two but I will always play the piano, my flute and wooden recorders.  My dream is that God will continue to anoint me to be a ‘pied piper’ who marches on the kingdom’s highway, calling out to others on the sidelines to step onto the path behind me.   My once compromised faith-walk has become a banner-waving parade for the glory of God.

The destiny You write for every daughter is beautiful. Show me today’s stepping stones.  In Jesus’ name, Amen