How the Lord guides us

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Isaiah 30:20-21 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.

Direction, wisdom, guidance from God – don’t we believers all CRAVE certainty from Him!

That’s why these verses in Isaiah linger in my thoughts; I keep coming back to them.  Turning them over this way and that way, pressing them to tell me more. How will we see our Teacher? What form will He take? Why does the voice come from behind?  Why does the pilgrim hear the voice either AS he makes a choice of which way to go or right after?  Is God influencing his opting for one over the other?  Or would either have been God’s will?

I don’t have anything specific at the moment for which I am undecided or at a loss about direction.  But the teaching here FEELS weighty and timeless.

Facts:

  1. Hard times come from God. That’s explicit in verse 20.  Makes sense, since God sovereignly creates, sustains and directs every molecule.  I’ve heard RC Sproul quoted multiple times: ‘There are no maverick molecules!’
  2. As Isaiah records, times occur when we FEEL as God is hiding. We experience darkness and confusion.  But those are periods of time that He purposes. They have a start and an end point.  Often we don’t know the reason for the hard time. I’m learning that likely my Father has LOTS of purposes for the shadow times when I don’t understand. BUT the good news is, there is an appointed end.  Whether we are Jonah, Job or Jesus.
  3. Seeing our Teacher, maybe that refers to seeing something in Scripture that pops out at us, seemingly personalized.  But what shapes me more than that idea is the encouragement to LOOK for my Teacher, rather than focusing on the problem OR the confusion. So how do I look for my Teacher who is Spirit?  With eyes of faith.  This morning I bathed in the balm of Psalm 23:6For sure! goodness (towb) and mercy (chesed) are pursuing me today and every day of my days on earth.  That’s how I see God – I think about what He is like, what God has promised in His Word.
  4. Staying with Psalm 23:6, I see a theme that repeats, God behind me….chasing me down, on my heels, just like in Isaiah.  I have to trust that the crossroads are not a problem for God.  Whether I go right or choose the left path, He works with that and brings me to His desired destination.

Finally, does EVERYone of us believers SEE the Teacher or experience the reassurance from Him about the chosen path? I don’t think so.  For just 6 verses prior to 21 is another landmark promise from God:  Isaiah 30:15 For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling.

O Comforting Holy Spirit of God –  Keep bringing me to repentance. I don’t want to wander away from You, away from Your reassuring voice.  I want YOUR rest and quiet, YOUR strength and salvation. I want to know that You alone make my path straight.  Amen!

 

 

Jesus is even better than a permanent ‘bail bondsman’!

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Meditating on the HISTORICAL fact that Jesus has lived out the judicial sentence I deserve for my past, present and future crimes against the Holy God.  I have been declared ‘debt-free’.   And Jesus now accompanies me as my SURETY.

Jesus paid my debt

What is a ‘surety’?  “A surety is an individual who undertakes an obligation to pay a sum of money or perform some duty or promise for another in the event that person fails to act.”

Because Jesus is my permanent ‘surety’, I don’t have to rely on my own righteousness. (not that it would ever be ‘good enough’) That means that I can repent EACH time I succumb to those deceptive shortcuts to happiness, aka ‘sin’.

Thank you, Father, that with Jesus grafted permanently in me because of the new birth, I can begin –  again –  to follow You with a pure heart and willing mind.

This is what God calls sincere, upright and blameless. What an amazing deal for us, that He delights in and is pleased with all these PURE-intentioned starts, SINFUL falls, HONEST repentances and HUMBLE willingnesses to pick right back up to follow Him.

Romans 8:3-4  For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh,  in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

The twin evils of smugness and envy

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I was feeling smug. Admiring my ability to juggle this and that. Compared to others.  Evaluating myself next to another sister. He pulled me up short. As realization of sin spread, so did horror.

Juggling life

“I repent, Lord! Forgive me! I see! Truly! I humble myself. You don’t need to do anything else to get my attention. Seriously!”

 

For what had flashed across my consciousness about God was this:

“You, the all-wise and infinitely good God, have perfectly arranged this fellow Christian’s plate with the appropriate palate of weaknesses, strengths, characteristics, bents, abilities, talents, habits (good and bad), circumstances, and experiences all intended for her to grow in the knowledge and love of your Son. Every piece on that plate of hers is necessary to her sanctification and growth in holiness. You planned each one, the good and the ugly!”

And You have done the same for me. Who am I to boast about this or that as though they were due to my efforts and smarts? All along You are the one who has traced out our paths? And more pointedly, who am I to complain about the potholes in the road if they are according to Your will?

“Father, I see that this constant comparing of me with others produce either envy or pride and both are evil! Deliver me from these sins, please! Pride says: Look at me!  Envy says: You are a bad God not to give me what I want/deserve!

Since that day a week ago, He has continued to show me that He does indeed ordain and govern all circumstances. Because He is in charge of every molecule in the universe I can trust what He commands me to do:

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6-8

Not evaluating, not judging the circumstances of others is wise. That’s God’s business. Do you remember Peter’s comment to Jesus as told by John after Jesus appeared to his eleven disciples post resurrection?

“So Peter seeing him (John) said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man? Jesus said to him, ‘If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!’” John 21:21-22

Several times a day as my smug-o-meter rises, (that is – when I awake to this sin), I put myself back in my place. I say to myself:

“Maria, you have died! And the life you now live, you live by faith in Jesus. (Gal 2:20) That is to say – you move and live and have your being attached to Him. If there be any good in your life, it is only good because of Him. So give it up, this thinking that there is something good in or about you alone!”

That truth not only humbles me, but it liberates me. Since all that is good in me through faith is a gift, I don’t have to worry about earning it. And since Jesus has given me the most costly gift, Himself, I can trust Him to give me any and all such that He deems good for me for godliness and life (2 Peter 1:3)

PS:  When I caught myself later on in the week doing my ‘I’m-so-good dance’, I realized that God was showing me a specific way to PRAY for this fellow Christian.  Again, I repented.  We are all different, intentionally.  He has arranged each of us in the Body of Christ as He sees fit.  Therefore, we are to encourage and pray for one another. It’s in our best interests, after all.  Another gentle smack-down!

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