Hope in the Desert

I don’t know about you, but I am busy. At least I feel busy most of the time. Even if I am not physically doing something, my mind seems to be in a constant state of work, either I’m mentally creating, going over my lesson plans, or thinking about my to-do list. I have noticed that in one’s refusal to get quiet before God, He sometimes takes drastic measures to get our attention. Surely, if you’ve spent any time in Christiandom, you’ve heard of “desert experiences” or “seasons of drought”. These can be as traumatic as a sickness or job loss or as subtle as a flat tire, coffee on a new shirt, or just a real awful day. In seasons of drought, it often seems that God is far away. But maybe, God is using these moments of His silence to show us just how far the distance has grown.

A quick study of Scripture will show just how often Jesus retreated to the desert places. After healing many people in Capernaum, Luke writes, “But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer” (Luke 5:15-16). After the miraculous feeding of the 5,000, Mark says, “After telling everyone good-bye, [Jesus] went up into the hills by himself to pray” (Mark 6:46). Unlike us, Jesus sought out the desert. Jesus knew that he needed the quiet barrenness to meet with God. He needed to get away from the people, the busyness, and the noise of city life. In the desert, he could reflect on His mission and refocus His attention on His purpose. He understood just how desperately He needed God’s strength to carry out His arduous journey.

What is taking up your time? Is it a ministry? Is it a job? Is it family? While God is giving us all these avenues to glorify His name, we must make sure that we take significant time to meet with Him. As a teacher, I experienced extreme burnout last school year. I was drained. For 180 days, all I could do was cling to Jesus. Even into the first month and a half of summer, I spent it at His feet. At the end of the appointed time, I finally knew what Jesus meant when he said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Thankfully, God worked through my for the entire school year; there was no way I could have done it without Him. I am even more thankful that while I still cling to Him just as much as I did last year, He has given me a new strength for the current year.

Too often we wait until we are suffering in the unquenchable desert before we even think about asking for help. How much better would it be if we stopped frequently on our journey, and allowed the One with rivers of Living Water to nourish our weary souls?

Stop often. Sit daily. Journey more.

 

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Rejoice!

“This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.”–Psalm 118:24 (NKJV)

You may have heard this verse before. Maybe you even sang the song in Sunday school. Some mornings, like today, I even wake up with that verse in my head. It’s a nice little chorus, and I always thought it was a fitting way to jump into a new day. But as I went to check the verse this morning, it appeared to be so much more than a simple child’s refrain.

Like many verses in the Bible, this one is full of meaning, and I really suggest that you read the whole chapter to really get a feel for why the Psalmist was rejoicing. Taunted and hated by his enemy, he had every reason to fear, and yet, line after line he is praising, rejoicing, and giving thanks to the Lord Almighty, in spite of his bleak circumstances.

And yet, here is what we can glean:

  • God is still in control.
    The fact that the earth is still spinning and the sun is making its way over the horizon gives me hope to believe that the God of heaven and earth is still on the throne. We can find in peace in knowing that no matter the political landscape or the thoughtless violence, God is still victorious, and He is still working everything for His ultimate good.
  • God is still loving.
    With a new day freshly dawned, it’s a good time to forgo yesterday’s mistakes and shortcomings. Lamentations 3:22-23 reads, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Today we have been given a second (or a third or a fourth) chance to discover his magnificent, unending love that offers help, hope, forgiveness, and healing.

  • God is still faithful.
    Not only do we get another opportunity to witness the power and authority of God, but we also get another chance to sit at the feet of our faithful friend. God, will never leave nor forsake us. He is trustworthy and true. We can go to Him at any time with any need. We can seek solace under His wings and find the comfort we desperately need.

It’s good to know that while we may change, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We can place our trust in our eternal God. We can delight in what is called, “today” because we have a God working outside of time on our behalf. What do we have to fear? He’s got this. So, be of good courage and Rejoice! Again, I say, Rejoice!

Action-packed

I don’t know if you know the story, but it’s likely you’ve seen a portrayal of Jesus’s grueling crucifixion on TV or in a church production somewhere. And while I too have seen this many times in plays and such, it’s hard for me to grasp what is really taking placehp-crossshadowI was reading through Matthew 27:25-50 and very briefly it discusses the events leading up to Jesus’s death on the cross. Even the best productions out there really can’t capture the feeling, the emotion, the rejection and ridicule taking place. So, I tried making it a little more personal in an effort to carry the message home.

How often have you been the subject of ridicule? How many times did people call you names or say things about you that were just outright lies? I know for sure that this has happened to me a lot. I also know that at times, my reaction to these scenarios has been downright embarrassing. I can’t tell you how many times I would fly off the handle in order to justify my actions, defend my character, or “prove” myself.

Now. Here’s this man. He’s been ridiculed. Flogged. Mocked. Made to be a fool. His best friends have turned against Him. He is naked and alone. And he just stands there. Quiet. He doesn’t become enraged. He doesn’t hurl insults back at them. He doesn’t think, “Oh! I can’t wait to say, ‘Told you so!’ ”  And the thing is, He actually is who He says He is. He is the Son of God. He could easily prove them wrong in an instant. One word and they would be forced to bow at His might and power. But He doesn’t say a thing. He just sits there and takes it. And most amazingly, He takes it all for us, even those flogging him, even those who do not believe. How many of us can say that we’ve showed such staunch composure? Surely, not I.

I don’t know what has happened in society, but we are real quick to repay evil for evil; and real quick to defend ourselves. Not Jesus. He showed all humility, all grace, and all love without saying a word. His actions said everything.

What are our actions saying? Are we fighting, or are we loving? Are we hurling insults, or bringing encouragement? Are we staying quiet when necessary, or blowing our peace on foolish talk? It’s time we asked ourselves, “Could our actions be saying much more?”

Let us try not to be reactive, but action-packed with love, instead.

Snowflake

I don’t know about you, but I really struggled as a teenager. I never seemed to fit in no matter how hard I tried. Now, I won’t go into the pretty bleak details, but growing up in mainly private Christian schools, I thought public school (8th-10th grade years) to be a very ugly monster. It’s hard to be a teenager when you think differently, desire to act differently, and you just feel that something in you is different than the norm. At the time, all I wanted to do was to blend in and just be like everyone else. I just wanted to feel “normal”. I spent the next 10 years trying to figure out what exactly “normal” was only to realize normal just really wasn’t my style.

I smile tonight, because I am so thankful that God created me to be different. Who cares that I was never into fashion or makeup like the other girls. I’m happy that I’m single and waiting  for “the one”. I’m glad that at 16 I knew I wanted to travel and I wasn’t satisfied living in my town forever. And, I can’t wait to fulfill the desire I have had since age 8 to adopt children from around the world. I am so grateful that God created me to be different and while I may have struggled as a youth, I am glad that I never got comfortable in a cookie-cutter existence.

I’m happy to say that, “I am extraordinary!”

And so are you. I was thinking tonight about snowflakes and how each one is different. They say that there are not any two that look like. If God took that much care and design into a snowflake, how much greater would he take care and consideration into creating you! You are not a mistake and there are no mistakes in your design. You are unique and God has a plan distinctly created for you and no one else. To me, that seems so much better than fitting into some mundane mold.

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Final thought. In Genesis, it tells us that we are all created in God’s image. We are all these little pieces of the Living God. How can we not be little pieces of amazing properties? Just look at how our bodies run! I can’t even begin to imagine what would happen if we began to come together in unity. Each little individual piece would begin to form a greater picture–the image of an Almighty God. Something tells me, that is  just the thing that the world needs to see.

Ungrateful

I’m sitting here horrified. I’ve always been thankful for my “stuff”: my transportation, the roof over my head, the food on my table. How then, could I be ungrateful? Isn’t there a verse that says, “Pride cometh before a fall.”? Well, even though I may have fallen privately, I still got a good knock on the head as a wake up call.  Tonight I found out the hard-honest truth, I have been living a life of ungratefulness.

(IMPORTANT SIDE-NOTE: If you ever feel this pull to talk to God, stop whatever you are doing and start praying. Most likely, its somewhat of an emergency in God’s eyes and He needs to deal with you right away. If you are obedient, I guarantee that you will be blessed. Tonight was no exception.)

For six years, I’ve been a teacher. I’ve done a good job, but I never loved it by any means. At the beginning it was just to pay bills. Later, God talked to me about going in there and doing it unto Him so I was obedient in that, and the job got better. But again, teaching wasn’t my passion and I always wondered when He would free me from it so that I could serve my real purpose. Now, I feel so ashamed.

God loved me so much that He gave me everything in my job. He opened up so many doors and allowed me to experience so many things and I took everything for granted. For six years, God allowed me to do everything I love: read, work with kids, dabble in graphic design, write plays, design a yearbook, and so on. And the whole time, I was looking for the escape route.

In less than 2 months I will no longer be teaching at my school. Over the past few weeks I’ve been pushing for a new career, all the while feeling that God is still calling me to teach. Now, I realize; maybe it’s not that I didn’t like teaching, maybe it’s that I never saw it for it was. Maybe I spent so much time taking it for granted, that I missed 6 great years of God giving me everything I could ask for in a job and more.

I don’t want to miss out on the love of Christ because I am being ungrateful, and don’t even recognize His love when I see it. How horrible would that be? How horrible would that be for any relationship?

Sometimes we need to get over ourselves and get with God. We say we will do His will, but do we really mean it or are we more like Jonah, running away from God’s will and even when we finally succumb to it, we are miserable the entire time? I refuse to live like that!

I love what Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:12, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service.”

God considers you and I trustworthy to do His work. That says a lot about how He feels for his children. Let’s praise Him and thank Him for every opportunity He gives us, even if it’s not necessarily what we would have chosen. Father knows best.

The Burden of Sin

If we aren’t careful sin can create some very heavy burdens in our life. The world paints a completely opposite picture. There, things such as alcohol, drugs, and sex are yours for the taking, and you should take whatever you want and how ever much you want. Right and wrong have vanished with the “as long as you aren’t hurting anyone” mantra. Let’s get this straight: Everything you do has a direct effect on someone, somewhere.

Recently, someone blasted me on my views, mainly my opposition towards abortion, and they called me self-righteous and went on to remind me of my past sins. I had to pray, because the berating could have easily angered me. Then, I was reminded of two things.

First, the mercy of God

I am astonished, amazed, and flabbergasted at the mercy of God. There was a time when I lived a very careless life. Sadly, the person berating me was right. I was the worst sinner a few years back. I had done every sin in the Book, except murder, which God says hating a brother or sister is murder. So, I guess I had failed at that too.

But thank God, He was gracious and merciful with me. He looked past my sins and saw someone He could use for His glory. I am nothing. I am aware of this, but through Christ I have strength to be anything He desires for me to be. Christ did not have to pursue me like He did. He could’ve walked away and never gave it another thought, but He didn’t. That’s how much he loves me. That’s how much He loves you. He will never give up on you! There is not a sin great enough to keep his mercy from being extended.

Secondly, the burden of sin.

That’s the thing about sin, your sin does effect others in unexplainable ways. That person, who shall remain nameless, has not only a bad opinion of me, but probably of God too. They are only able to see my sins; I am an unable to explain to them how God changed all that.

The world likes to make sin look so good. It is very inciting. However, freedom to chose to do whatever you want to do is not freedom. Actually, it’s slavery. I know for a fact, that when I was living as I pleased, trying to gratify the “lusts of the flesh”, I was angry, bitter, and hateful. I was a selfish liar, putrid, really. And how was this not effecting anyone around me? I didn’t even realize it at the time, but I was so burdened down by the weight of my own sin: guilt, fear, sorrow, that the bondage was getting to me and I was becoming a very horrible person. I didn’t even recognize myself anymore. I needed a burden-lifter!

Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Freedom is in Christ alone. Accepting Christ does not ensure you that you will never have trials or that you will never be tempted again; indeed, the opposite is true. But I can tell you with absolute certainty that living a life of obedience to Christ is the greatest freedom I have ever experienced. All those “rules” are just cautionary boundaries that the Lord gives to keep us safe and under his protection. I love that fact that I don’t have to drink or party or do anything of that nature to feel happy and content. I have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and more because of my commitment to the One who showed unending mercy to save a wretch like me.

A relationship with Christ is one that keeps on giving and never runs dry. He will never fail you. He will never leave you. He won’t ever give up on you.

Why would I want to trade an unconditional love like that for any of the fleeting vices this world has to offer?

I pray that you don’t sell yourself short, either.

Your Attitude Stinks

I had a revelation and I just had to share. I don’t know. Maybe it will help someone out there somewhere.

I have an attitude problem.

Last week my attitude when from bad to down right inexplicable. It started off with me calling people names in my head. You know..When someone cuts you off, and you say, “Idiot.”Not out loud, of course, only in your head. Nothing wrong with that, right?

However, it got worse. I was soon calling everyone an idiot, and sadly, worse. I did all this for absolutely no reason whatsoever! I don’t know what was happening to me. I noticed this happen once before when I was watching too much TV with cursing in it. But this wasn’t the case, becaise htis month I had been fasting TV. All this time, I am supposed to be getting closer to God and His likeness, and now I was getting further.

And this is what shocked me the most. A week prior, I had had an awesome week. I really did feel close to God. I was thinking I could give up TV for good. I was praying about doing missions work over the summer. I was smiling, skipping, and just having an awesome time. It wasn’t any wonder that I stopped smiling or skipping when my attitude went sour. The strangest thing was the fact that I no longer wanted to go on a mission’s trip. I had lost all desire. Poof. Just like that. What happened?

The only person I could think of who had a pretty bad attitude was Jonah. He was furious that he had to go to the wicked city of Ninevah to warn the people of their impending doom. Jonah ran the other direction and ended up in the belly of a whale. God ended up giving him another chance and although, Jonah finally preached to the Nivevites, he was still angry! He sat sulking outside the city just waiting for its destruction. Jonah totally missed it. Jonah was called to be a prophet and he missed the point of his purpose all on account of his rotten temper.

We will never know what happened to the rest of Jonah’s life. Did he ask God for forgiveness once again? Did he go on to do great things? Did he ever find joy in living for God?

I don’t want my story to end so abruptly and on such a devastating note. We must be wise and do as Ecclesiastes 7 states: “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”

Once I realized that my dream to do missions in the summer was slowly vanishing, I quickly repented. I never want to miss out of God’s plan and chance to use my giftings because of a stinky attitude.

Hey, I’m no fool.