Which governs your walk with Christ – knowledge or feelings?

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Patrick’s definition of Biblical wisdom in today’s sermon stopped me cold.  Our pastor has begun preaching through the book of James in view of the many trials to befall our church family in recent months.  He has sensed, rightly so, a need for us to know HOW to think properly about what God has sent.

I’ve always joked about being a member of the ‘pure joy club’ as in:

  • Consider/Count it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds...James 1:2

But when you are suffering, it’s nothing to laugh about. No matter the flavor or extent of pain and difficulty, we all require good teaching and counsel in how to deal with the trials. James’ instruction, therefore, directing his listeners to ask God for wisdom in the suffering makes sense.

But here’s the new wrinkle:  I had always thought that praying for wisdom meant asking for guidance in what TO DO!  Today, Patrick took a different angle.  He explained that the kind of wisdom we need is help in thinking correctly/truthfully about the trial.  If we can’t imagine how to view this current suffering as falling into the category of ‘complete joy,’ then we are to pray for the ability to take what we know about God and his Word and apply both to our circumstances.

In essence we are begging God:

  • Father, help me to understand and trust that you are working in this awful circumstance!  Help me TO THINK correctly!

From THAT new definition of Biblical wisdom, it occurred to me that Knowing WHAT TO THINK is more important than knowing WHAT TO DO. And since our actions or lack of actions affect our emotional state, right knowledge must rule our feelings.  

So here’s a question?  In your life is your  knowledge more important than your feelings?

God, speaking through the prophet Hosea, says: My people perish for lack of knowledge -Hosea 4:6

and in Isaiah 5:13, God warns: Therefore my people will go into exile for lack of understanding; those of high rank will die of hunger and the common people will be parched with thirst.

And in this teaching from Philippians 2:5, Paul counsels – Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.

What he means is THINK, or DIRECT YOUR MIND…about a certain topic.

A recent conversation with a close friend provides an appropriate illustration of the importance of correct thinking.  This dear gal has been suffering from what I call:

ADHD – Anxiety, Despair, Hopelessness and Depression

Like all of us, she is pulled in many directions as a mom of 2 under the age of five as well as being pregnant with her third child.  Her self-chosen priorities feel like burdens because of some INCORRECT thinking.

Here is one example of the unintended consequences of false ideas. Her life presupposition has been:

  • I am what I do.  Therefore, if I’m not doing, then I don’t exist.

In her case she has chosen to define herself as the kind of mom who:

  • cooks healthy meals for her kids
  • spends time reading to them and homeschooling the eldest
  • exercises every day
  • keeps an organized house

So when circumstances (aka God’s providence) interfere and block her ‘doing’, then she has felt herself coming undone, like she doesn’t exist.

She has been living off of, feeding on her emotions with NO input from God’s word.  She truly is perishing for lack of true knowledge.

Truth will set you free

The only solution is to throw herself onto God’s mercy and ask Him for wisdom in how to think correctly, that is Biblically about her circumstances, given accurate knowledge of God’s character, ways, past rescues and promises of future grace.  The right kind of knowledge trumps feelings.

Here’s one final bit of evidence that our God considers true knowledge vital.

The apostle John comforts us in the most important knowledge or reality that any Christian wants – assurance of one’s salvation.  The good news is that our feelings do not enter into the facts.  Listen to his words in 1 John 5:13

  • These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

We all know the source of this life-giving knowledge – God’s written Word.  Don’t starve! “Mangia! Mangia!” as all good Italian moms exhort!   Let us taste and see that the Lord IS good.  Why do you think I named this blog, “Feed on Him”?

 

 

Wrong question: Are you a Mary or a Martha?

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Mary and Martha

Go figure – it takes a man to offer a fresh insight into the proverbial question, “Are you a Mary or a Martha?”

Charles Spurgeon’s meditation 

Charles Spurgeon stunned me by his evening offering for 24 January!  Explaining that Martha should not be faulted for having a servant’s heart but ONLY for allowing herself to grow distracted, he then solves the Mary v. Martha dilemma!

It’s NOT a matter of which mindset is the better. We should be a combination of BOTH personality types.  We should serve Jesus as well as soak in His teachings.

Why had I never seen that? Or, for that matter, why have I never READ of the 3rd way?

Sharing Spurgeon’s insight with Mike, I started thinking of other implications drawn from this incidence:

  • Martha and Mary are a pretty dysfunctional pair of sisters!  Wouldn’t you think that they had hosted guests for dinner before?  I doubt that Mary’s unawareness or disregard for her sister’s feelings was a new wrinkle to their relationship.
  • Why couldn’t Martha be forthright and ask Mary for help, instead of seething and growing resentful that her sister hadn’t NOTICED she needed assistance?
  • Why couldn’t Mary just go ahead and pitch in to help her sister, knowing that the man/prophet/Messiah/friend who had raised their brother Lazarus from the dead was coming to dine along with his disciples?  Was she so insensitive to think that Martha might not like to sit down and listen to the conversation too?

Had the sisters teamed up and prepared the meal together, they could have gotten every task covered and completed AND then had time to refresh themselves and learn at Jesus’ feet.

Both Martha’s distracted resentment of her sister’s behavior and Mary’s indifferences are mirrors that makes me wince. How many times in the past have I expected my husband to KNOW how I’m feeling and what I want or need?  That’s unfair!  And it’s a burden we wouldn’t want placed on us.  Furthermore, haven’t I also chosen to overlook how I might help out a friend or colleague and excused my self-centered behavior with the rationale, “They like to serve, that’s just their love language!”

So thank you, Charles Spurgeon, for teaching me something brand new and useful about the Mary and Martha story.  Next time I’m presented with an either/or situation, let me also consider a third option!

See John 11 for the Mary and Martha dinner party account!

 

Take your heart medicine this morning!

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Heart Meds

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:13

My heart is ready, O God, my heart is willing; I will sing and give praise. Psalm 57:7

Gospel heart medicine is crucial to preparing our mindset or outlook for the day.  To keep our physical bodies running, we don’t neglect to take our daily medicine along with our energy-providing food and drink.  It would be folly to assume that the meds we took and the food we ate yesterday would serve us today.

So too must we bathe our thoughts in the truth of who we are and whose we are.  This requires getting ready. What does this preparation consist of?  Here are a few truths I meditate on each morning:

  • As born-from-above Christians, we belong to Jesus.  Our inheritance and future are secure.  The Bible teaches that our eternal life after we die will be categorically better than our current circumstances now in earthly bodies.
  • Since we are with Jesus, we are in a real war against spiritual forces of wickedness, all who hate Jesus.  If they loathed Him, count on being targeted as well. It is naïve to think otherwise.
  • If we claim to be followers of Jesus, we have to prepare ourselves to die this day.  That is reality.  How do I know?  Here is what Jesus said:

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.”  Matthew 16:24

What is taking up one’s cross but being prepared to die for Jesus?  Jesus’ realistic call at the very least requires His followers to look not to their own interests.  That’s what self-denial means.

And Paul echoes this theme in his letter to the Romans:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1

William Gurnall, a 17th-century English pastor whose sermons I’ve been reading, taught his church about the necessity of establishing this ‘living-sacrifice’ frame of mind each morning.  Without spiritual mental preparation, one would be unequipped to respond with readiness to the call ‘to up and die’, as Gurnall penned it.  In fact, we might not have the advanced warning and time to plan for our death that a lingering sickness affords. We might be faced with a sudden in-your-face execution like the kind of:

  • Columbine High School’s Cassie Bernall when the teen killers spotted her Bible on her desk and asked her if she were a Christian
  • John the Baptist’s sudden beheading one evening after Herodias’ daughter requested this cousin of Jesus’ head from Herod. This drunk and proud king had publicly announced he would give the young girl anything for having danced for him and his friends.
  • the 21 Coptic Christians beheaded on the beach by ISIS. They refused to comply with their murderers’ demand to renounce Jesus.

I know this is pretty sobering and might be difficult to swallow.  But look at it this way, if God DOES grant us to live through this day, we can climb gratefully into bed and give sincere thanks to Him for the gift of a completed day in His grace and care. Furthermore, preparing to die enables us BETTER to handle the suffering, trials, difficulties and discouragements that are woven into the fabric of a fallen world. At the very least, this gospel-rich mindset should make it easier to let go of material goods that are guaranteed to breakdown and end in a landfill one day.

Landfill

I want to be like those unknown heroes of the faith chronicled, in chapter 11 of the Letter to the Hebrews.  But without Bible-saturated preparation, morning-by-morning, I won’t have the faith-fueled mind; ready for whatever Jesus has planned for the day.

And if we need an example, just look at the verbs describing what flowed because of the FAITH (not out of their confidence in their own abilities) of early believers:

33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.

I would assume that if you are like me, you won’t wake up this kind of ready for the day. So join me in taking the right kind of heart medicine.  And let’s face the day, JOYFULLY prepared for whatever comes our way since we too look forward to our ultimate future with Jesus: 

You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. Hebrews 10:34

 

 

Provisions for the day

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Pill containers

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. – Phil 4:19

Give us today our daily bread. – Luke 11:3  (Keep us alive with three square meals – The Message paraphrase)

I’m getting ready to take students to Québec for a French class ‘field trip’.  Planning ahead for the 6 day absence, I bought this pill container so I can leave Mike’s vitamins and meds for him clearly marked and safe from the cats.

Each color-coded plastic mini box will supply what he needs for a specific period of time. The clear markings and different colors broadcast sufficiency and timeliness. It would not make sense nor be healthy for my husband to take from other than the scheduled provision.

God provides the same way, by giving us enough grace (strength, wisdom, money, work, SLEEP, knowledge, whatever we need) for the moment. If I worry about ‘later’, I’m actually stealing from future stockpiled grace.  (Our cousin calls it – ‘stepping out of the circle of God’s grace.’) Just like I will set out pills for Mike before I depart, so God has furnished supplies for our future needs.  The verb to pro-vide, if you break it into component parts, means:

  • in advance
  • seeing

God sees what will sustain us, minute by minute, our entire life, that is –  in advance of NOW. And we know that our God is loving, good and personal.  So it’s not like He is going to peer into the future, observe our needs and then shrug, “Hope they can handle THAT event. Good luck to them!”

Here’s the point.  Just like Mike is going to trust me that I’ve pre-positioned the requisite pills he requires for the appropriate segment of the day, so too we Christians should trust our Father in heaven to do the same. In the 35 years of our marriage, Mike has learned to place his confidence in me, assured that I will do him good and not harm.  Can’t we at least trust God THAT much?

During the past 2 months of ‘health issues’ (2 unexceptional little words that pack a punch), we’ve seen God come through time and time again.  My daily mantra has become:  ‘Manna for the day; Grace for this moment’ and I’ve clung to Psalm 84:11 – ‘No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.’ 

I’m ashamed to admit, that for me, it is STILL a fight, to trust God in those scary moments when I SEE no provision.  It’s then, more than at any other time, that I have to speak Words of Truth to me!  So I recite out loud as many of His promises as I can, those assurances that He IS in fact caring for me and supplying what I need. I think it was Martin Luther who taught that we must daily preach the good news, the Gospel, first and foremost to ourselves!

As Jeremiah himself learned and then turned and comforted the exiled –

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”  Jeremiah 3:22-24

 

A sheep’s reflection on the Shepherd

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Sheep

The Lord is my Shepherd:

Jesus is my protector, guide and provider.  And I belong to him.  Shepherds take care of helpless animals who can’t look after themselves.  That must be God’s assessment of me.  I’m not fit to go it alone.  I need to be with other vulnerable ones in Jesus’ flock.  He’s also not just ‘any ole’ shepherd.  He’s MY shepherd.  That makes me HIS sheep and he knows me by name.

I shall lack nothing:

Jesus is a good shepherd.  He provides all I need.  That promise, that he will give me the time, energy, desire and ability to do what is needful this day, comforts me.  Especially when not a day goes by that I don’t struggle with trusting that he really will come through.  He’s ‘forcing’ me to learn NOT to live each day based on the provision I see waiting for me.

Having a shepherd also means I don’t have to hoard my own supplies. Besides, sheep don’t have pockets! AND I don’t really know what the day will bring.

He makes me lie down in green pastures:

I obviously don’t know a green pasture when I see one.  Or else my shepherd wouldn’t have to lead me to one.  And the fact that he forces me to lie down there speaks of my needing to learn to wait patiently and keep my eye on him. If I were in charge of my life, I’d move on, ‘knowing’ what was best for me.

He’s a good guy and I can trust him, because these abundant grazing areas are first on his agenda. Because of our stubbornness, he has to drive us, his flock, to rich and nourishing pastures both to feed and to rest in security.

He leads me beside still waters:

Gosh!  I was thirstier than I thought!  The calm quality to the stream implies no danger or threats.  And along with food and rest, Jesus takes care of all my other most basic needs and desires.

We all thirst for something, whether recognition or accomplishment or truth or comfort. My good shepherd can sort all that out and give me what is best.  The fact that I require him to herd me and the other sheep along implies I don’t know what I’m really thirsty for or how to satisfy that need.

He restores my soul:

My French Bible translates this as ‘He gives me renewed strength‘.  Boy, do I need to know the shepherd cares about that!  Especially since my energy is depleted about 9 pm each day.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his own sake:

The direction Jesus takes us is ‘God-ly’ and in keeping with the characteristics of the happy, triune Godhead.  And since all his decisions accord with his divine nature, I can trust him.  If Jesus’ next step were contingent on how I acted or thought, my life would be precarious.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death:

The way is dark and confusing at times. I don’t see where I’m headed.  And I probably don’t detect all the dangers.  The text also reassures me that I’m not meant to live there.  I’m walking through it.  There’s an end to this scary trial.

I will fear no evil, for your rod and your staff comfort me:

I may not see you (Where are you, God???) but I know you are near me for I feel your correcting rod when I start heading in a dangerous direction. And when I ignore your warning, then I know from experience that you will haul my little sheep derrière out of each pit I stubbornly choose.

You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies:

Spiritual forces of wickedness directed by Satan seek to plant rebellious and wicked fear thoughts in my head almost every day:

  • Why trust what you can’t see?
  • There’s no way God can do that!

Often I have to battle anxiety that takes the form of ‘what ifs’:

  • What if I don’t have enough time to get all my schoolwork done this week?
  • What if Mike doesn’t sleep well tonight?
  • What if my Christian witness at school, as cautious as I am, gets me in trouble?

But Jesus feeds me daily with encouragement from the Bible, from devotional books, from others’ prayers, from podcast sermons AND most especially each time a prayer is answered.   Whether a need on behalf of a friend that I repeatedly and insistently brought before the Father or help I received via others’ prayers for me.  Seeing God come through is the biggest boost!  We, his sheep, get the help and I love to give God the glory. Each time God provides an answer to prayer, my faith deepens, even if by just a bit.

You anoint my head with oil:

Jesus has a job for me, one of his sheep!  And it’s work that he has planned just for me from before the creation of the universe. Tailor-made work meant to advance his kingdom, pushing back the darkness.  I’m reassured again that each one of us, his sheep, is individually important.

My cup overflows:

I receive more goodness from your hand than I need or desire. You keep pouring it on! It never ends.

It’s a fact!  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:

I’m hemmed in by the holy, happy, loving and compassionate community of the one true and living God.

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever:

My life is only going to get better. Living near Jesus forever means I will always be safe and completely satisfied.

**

Often on my morning walks I personalize Psalm 23 or the Lord’s Prayer. Talking it through TO the Father reminds me of these realities and reconfirms to ME my status as a child of God and the privileges and responsibilities that go with my position.  My life DOES matter and this day is a gift. The morning conversation reassures me of those facts and of the one who will be with me throughout the next 24 hours.

 

 

 

Rotting manna

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“Mother, you’ve gathered too much!  You know what Father instructed us to do, ” seven-year old Adina exclaimed with astonishment.

The determined woman was quickly stashing extra manna in her robe’s folds.  “Hush, Daughter.  You don’t know what you’re talking about!” Carmela commanded, moving the sack already filled with the day’s flakey white substance.

The two had left the tent since daybreak and numbered among the many, quickly collecting what would be their only foodstuff until the evening quail God promised.  Moses had commanded the men, her husband Zibeon included, on how much and when to harvest the strange-looking and utterly unappealing white scraps.  They were then to mix and shape the flakes together with some water, baking it on a flat, iron pan-like board over the family’s fire.  Surprisingly, the result yesterday had been tasty and satisfying.

manna

More important than HOW to bake this new food, was the injunction JUST to take from the ground what would be sufficient for the number of people in each family.  Yesterday Zibeon had been with his wife and daughter and Carmela had been afraid to pick up more than necessary.

But today Zibeon, confident that his wife knew what to do, had sought out some of his tribe’s men with whom to confer about other matters.   Consequently only little Adina accompanied her mother.

The child did not pursue the topic of conversation.  Hebrew children knew better than to argue with their parents.  But she pondered what Father would say or do if he knew.  Her mother did not leave that possibility to chance. Upon entering the tent, she strictly warned Adina not to report anything to Zibeon.  “Your father has enough on his mind, Adina. Besides, Mother knows what she is doing.”

The day sped quickly as Adina helped her mother with household desert chores and played with her cousins.  Forgetting the morning’s incident, Adina with her tummy comfortably filled with this new wilderness food that God had provided, fell asleep shortly after sundown.

But the next morning, the conversation rushed back as she awoke to her father exasperatedly demanding, “Where did all these maggots come from?”  He and Carmela were examining a clay container where Mother had stashed the extra, forbidden manna.  Carmela sheepishly confessed her role in inviting creatures drawn to the rotting flakes. Having learned her lesson, she decided instead to trust the living God, Yahweh, who had promised the Hebrew people that He would provide food each day.

**

This fictionalized figment of my imagination is based on the account in Exodus, chapter 16, starting with verse 13b:

“….in the morning the desert all around the camp was wet with dew; 14 and when the dew disappeared later in the morning it left thin white flakes that covered the ground like frost. 15 When the people of Israel saw it they asked each other, “What is it?”

And Moses told them, “It is the food Jehovah has given you. 16 Jehovah has said for everyone to gather as much as is needed for his household—about two quarts[a] for each person.”

17 So the people of Israel went out and gathered it—some getting more and some less before it melted on the ground, 18 and there was just enough for everyone. Those who gathered more had nothing left over and those who gathered little had no lack! Each home had just enough.

19 And Moses told them, “Don’t leave it overnight.”

20 But of course some of them wouldn’t listen, and left it until morning; and when they looked, it was full of maggots and had a terrible odor; and Moses was very angry with them. 21 So they gathered the food morning by morning, each home according to its need; and when the sun became hot upon the ground, the food melted and disappeared. 22 On the sixth day there was twice as much as usual on the ground—four quarts instead of two; the leaders of the people came and asked Moses why this had happened.”

And the application to us, in the 21st century is two-fold.  First, no matter which economic stratum describes us today, what we need comes from God.  We are to depend on Him for all our needs during this present 24-hour period. The ‘Daily Bread’ Jesus teaches us to ask Him for is broad enough to include all our necessities.

But for those who are not dirt-poor, the rotting manna lesson is just as crucial and freeing.  When we gather and stash away more than we need for this day, the extra spoils and is good for no one.

God cares more about developing in us the UNNATURAL and learned reflex of trusting Him to provide for tomorrow.  If we allocate extra resources that we keep just for ourselves, why WOULD we or SHOULD we put ourselves in the uncomfortable position of dependence?  Oh, just for a mere reason or several:

  • God commands it. – “And he (John the Baptist) answered them, ‘Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.’ “ Luke 3:11
  • Giving away our surplus, ‘our bread for tomorrow’ brings joy“Now, friends, I want to report on the surprising and generous ways in which God is working in the churches in Macedonia province. Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts. I was there and saw it for myself. They gave offerings of whatever they could—far more than they could afford!—pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of poor Christians.” 2 Cor 8: 1-4
  • Relying on God humbles us and brings glory to God in the eyes of the world AS He meets our needs –“I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.” Isaiah 43:20-21 
  • Realizing that all we have belongs to God who is our provider frees us from being tied down to stuff.  John Wesley, reacting to news that his house had burned down, nonchalantly responded with something like, ‘It belonged to God anyway; one less responsibility for me!’ 
  • Finally, HAVING to depend on God is apparently what God, our good father thinks is best for us.  When Paul describes the trials that he and his fellow missionaries underwent he adds: For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” 2 Cor 1:8b-9

So what is going on in my life that has caused this reflection?  Just the trials from the past 2 months and my return to desperate praying of both the Lord’s prayer and Psalm 23.  I’ve sought renewed assurance that He will provide. And along with banking all on those rich promises and practices I’ve been confronted with my need not only to TRUST GOD and abandon anxiety and fear but actively to practice DEPENDING ON HIM through voluntary generosity of time, talent and money.   What helps is remembering that the EXCESS, what I hoard and hold back, will rot just like the manna. And then what good will it be?

 

 

What if?

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The Lord is my light and my salvation—
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the refuge and fortress of my life—
Whom shall I dread?

Though an army encamp against me,
My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
Even in this I am confident. (Psalm 27: 1, 3)

“But Daughter, what if the men forget?” the anxious and elderly man conjectured, rubbing his hands as he rocked back and forth.

“Father, I have their assurance. We mustn’t be fearful.  They will come through.  After all, I did not let them down when they were being sought by the King’s men,” Rahab spoke quietly with calm assurance as she rubbed his shoulders.

The old man seemed to soak in her words for a few minutes, but then another thought assailed him.  “What if they can’t find our house in all the confusion of the attack?”

Tenderly, Rahab reminded him, “But I have fastened the scarlet cord to the window ledge, just as they instructed me.  They will see it.”

One last time, her dad fished for another possible mishap, “Yes, but what if they are killed by the King’s soldiers before they can save us?”

Rahab’s words silenced his doubts, for a while. “Father, I trust the God of the Hebrews. He is not like any other god. We know how He rescued His people from the Egyptians and led them through the desert.  He is trustworthy.  He always does what He says.  We will put our faith in Him, not the spies or fortuitous circumstances, but in this Rock.”

Rahab

Like Rahab, I have moved beyond my known world of visible help out into the wilderness where many of God’s people have journeyed.   About two weeks ago heart palpitations invaded Mike’s heart. Uninvited, they immediately set about to mess with his pumping chambers, adding extra beats in an intermittent pattern that disrupted his sleep in a debilitating way. What brought them on? Apparently a series of seemingly random events such as dental pain and a bad cold and a reaction to Sudafed are the precipitating causes we think. But ultimately God, the originator and sustainer of the universe, is the First Cause of all that happens to us.  Permitting these little messengers of Satan to plague Mike, God has gently and lovingly overseen my husband’s battle with fear and anxiety at night.  ‘What-if’ scenarios have especially been hard: apprehension that the heart meds won’t work and worry that sleep will evade him.

What God has shown me as I’ve battled with Mike, mining God’s word for strength and assurance, is this:

Every hero of faith has been led out to the very same desert, alone except for God, and beyond sight of provision, to confront and battle the fear of the ‘What-Ifs’.  Similar to how American Indian young men endured solitary testing for their manhood initiation rite, believers have been dragged or led into an arena to do spiritual warfare.  Equipped only with God’s word, (His promises, His past provisions, and knowledge of His character) this fiery trial has provided them the opportunity and gift to prove decisively to themselves whether God is true and faithful. Just look at a few of our Biblical ancestors:

  • Rahab had to trust the spies’ promise of rescue when Joshua and the tribes surrounded and attacked Jericho
  • Abraham had to hold on to God’s promise that heirs as numerous as the stars would come through his son Isaac who lay bound on the wood, about to be sacrificed
  • Esther had to entrust her life to God as she courageously broke the king’s law and approached him unbidden, risking death
  • Mary faced possible death and certain public humiliation by explaining to Joseph and accepting the circumstances of her imminent pregnancy
  • Paul’s friends in Rome brought food and supplies to him in prison, courting possible imprisonment by association

Many weak, frightened and flawed men and women have encountered that ultimate, often unsought moment.  They have had to answer once and for all the only question that matters.

  • Can I trust God?  Do I believe what He says in the Bible?  Will He actually come through?

With no more visible proof than what each of us has already learned about Him experientially, and/or by reputation per other believers’ accounts and in His Word, we come to the edge, alone.

  • Do I step into the chasm, trusting in the evidence provided?
  • Will He catch me?

Many of you have already endured this refining, this baptism of fire meant to bless you, not to harm you. Sure, we can orient our life in the direction of banking all on God, preemptively before God brings on a trial of trust. But sometimes our good Father accelerates the timetable or the intensity of the ‘Faith Course’.

Mike and I didn’t consciously enroll in this particular curriculum.  But obviously God thought it was necessary to strengthen our faith, to test it so WE would know how real and valuable the gift of faith is that Christ purchased for us. We needed a push, apparently!

Daily the homework and pop quizzes confront us, but I know that all who stick it out in God’s school make it to the end, fully qualified.  And what is reassuring is that He doesn’t enroll anyone who is not going to graduate and be purified.  In fact, we have the personal attention and daily assistance of the Remedial Counselor.  We can’t help but pass.

As I reminded Mike this morning, we WALK through the valley of the shadow of death. We haven’t moved in, to settle down.  Yes, it is dark and scary and over the past few weeks we have not KNOWN what to do.  We feel like Hezekiah who prayed publicly in front of his people,

“….we have no might to stand against this great company that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” 2 Chronicles 2:12

In our need, the road has seemed starless and confusing with no signposts directing us where to go or what to do. But our good Shepherd IS leading the way, HIS way, along ‘paths of righteousness for His name’s sake’.  He will bring us out into green pastures.  The end is sure.  I can see it, with my eyes of faith.

 

 

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