The Hard Places

imagesGenesis 28:10-12 – “Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. Then he dreamed, and behold a ladder was set up on the earth, and it’s top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.</span><br /><br />

I am slowly losing my Mom. Sick for several weeks now and hospitalized she gets further away from me daily. Some days are better than others but this situation will more than likely get no better. I watch helplessly as she loses control of her body and mind. My once strong Mom is fading away. I pray daily for God to heal her and help restore her body and mind and I have not given up hope that he can do that, but I am mentally trying to let go of her at the same time and it’s so very hard. Why God chooses to restore life to some yet call others home is a question no one can really answer, but I think there is a greater lesson, a higher calling for those of us willing to ask him.<br /><br />There has been a huge focus lately on Revival.<br /><br />Regardless of our opinion, one thing is for sure the the claims of signs,  wonders and controversy  are happening within the body of Christ and people are talking. To me the most important thing that can come out of this kind of situation is dialog, with each other and with God and that is happening.

I think people are so hungry for a move of God in their lives that sometimes anything, regardless of the source is a quick fix. There has been a lot of talk of late about anointing which to me basically means the fullness and blessing of God. People are so desperate to bring or see this anointing manifested they will take planes, and drive thousands of miles for the latest “outpouring” but God’s anointing is already here and available to us.<br /><br />In John 1:51 Jesus is the divine fulfillment of Jacob’s dream. A few verses earlier Jesus tells of Nathaniel, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!”. I don’t think the Lord was just dishing out complements but saying that because Nathaniel had a true, pure heart he “Got it”. Nathaniel had no falsehood, he was real, transparent and open of heart and therefore he could see the vision of Jacob as it really was, that Jesus was God’s provision in the flesh and made available to all who walk with God, bless God, and through that relationship or “dialog” bless others.<br /><br />Life has sometimes been very hard for me. It’s often been lonely, frustrating and dark but God has been there every step, every stumble with me. Oddly enough when I have been frustrated to the point of giving up, that is where I find him. I think sometimes in our push to just get through life and not ever ‘feel bad” we miss God the most. At one very difficult point in my life my family were not very supportive. I had been laid off from my job and was working two very hard but not too impressive jobs. I was exhausted and when I was laid off I paid all of my bills but food was scarce to say the least. It was sweltering hot and I came home from work to find the air conditioning was not working. I went to my basement only to discover that my breaker box had caught on fire. I tried to call my landlord but found out they were on vacation and had left no contact information. I had no electricity in half of my house for a week. I only had air conditioning in my living room, so I slept on the floor there. The only food I had was a jar of peanut butter and come stale crackers, but I was so grateful to have that.<br /><br />I remember coming home from work, worn out, hungry and just emotionally spent. I had no family or friends to turn to but I had Jesus and I just sat on the floor crying, eating my crackers and praying.<br /><br />It’s sort of funny now but at the time it was just the worst feeling. Alone, no one cared.

I had many friends but I had recently been saved so they no longer wanted anything to do with me. I was so tired from working two jobs that on top of everything I caught a cold, and that was just the last straw. I remember vividly laying down just bawling like a baby asking God why were things so bad. I guess I just wore myself out feeling sorry for myself and fell asleep but I awoke a few hours later. I distinctly heard a voice in my ear as I was waking say to me “This is a blessing”. I was startled and sat right up but I was so groggy I remember saying “What is a blessing?”. I knew in my heart that God was telling me something, I did not know the answer then but he brought this to my memory this morning while writing this.<br /><br />My blessing was the intimate time spent with him, developing my relationship with him, in his word, without any distractions.<br /><br />Every time I have wrestled with God trying to get beyond some pain, some ache, he is always there. I know that voice was an angel, you could never tell me otherwise I just know! There has been so much deception lately concerning Angels but many in the body of Christ have this all wrong. Angels are real and biblical, but they are not in existence solely for our provision. When we try to find cheap imitations of God that is exactly what we will find. Satan is a counterfeit we all know that, but what of us? Do we really need nourishment but grab a bag of Frito’s instead as a quick fix? I read this quote once “God has a greater purpose our eyes cannot see but our hearts can understand”. I always had trouble with the Apostle Paul saying “He was poured out like a drink offering”. To me that sounded painful, just awful. How on earth could a mouse like me ever be that strong? How can people actually live that way, dying for Jesus.<br /><br />Suffering unimaginable things. I have since learned the provision of God came to Jesus in the Garden, when the suffering started the Angels were there. They gave him strength for his journey, they did not take the journey away. Satan would have liked nothing better than to have stopped it.<br /><br />There is authentic revival, and I for one want that. I am tired of the fairy dust, the gold teeth, barking and writhing on the floor. To cheapen the Holy Spirit with such goofery is appalling to me. You will never convince me that Christ hung on a cross in agony, took my sin and the sins of the world into his body for this carnival atmosphere.<br /><br />I believe in miracles, healing and the gifts of the spirit, but those things bring repentance and authentic transformation based on Christ and Christ only. There is a place for manifestations but I want to be part of something more, the higher calling.<br /><br />My problems, with his provision have given me purpose and a testimony. I only hope that I can get out of the way so God can use that testimony to help other hurting people. I know that my only purpose is to make much of Jesus, not me and in that serve his sheep. If I had never known fear, hunger, frailty, how could I ever give of myself to anyone? The selfish Christian is never a threat to Satan, he loves it! They have no witness, no testimony and no fruit. Authentic servant-hood comes from authentic relationship with Christ and the study of the word of God, nothing else. The Martyr’s, the Apostles did all things through Christ who strengthened them. It is possible! Authentic compassion, wisdom and power come in the delight of being in the will of God. There is an authentic anointing, the presence and power of God and that will always be Christ centered and Christ focused. Anything less is a cheap imitation.<br /><br />Have you ever really thought about the fact that in order to come into his Temple in the old Testament, his dwelling place you needed to make a sacrifice?<br /><br />God can heal, God can perform any miracle that suits him but maybe, just maybe your blessing is in something hard, difficult even. Maybe if we stopped looking for a way out we could finally get into the holy of holies, really see his face and his desire for us.<br /><br />

Oswald Chambers said “Our Lord’s teaching is always anti-self-realization. His purpose is not the development of man, His purpose is to make a man exactly like Himself, and the characteristic of the Son of God is self-expenditure.” If we believe in Jesus and for just one minute slow down and stop asking what he can do for us, it will not be about what we gain, but what he pours out through us that counts. I am sure we will be blessed beyond measure in the end.<br /><br />Oh and Jacob? See what God can do with your hard places?<br /><br />Verse 13-22 “And behold, the Lord stood over and beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Issac; I will give to you and to your descendants the land on which you lie, I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south;and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Behold I am with you and will keep you wherever you go and bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in the place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of Heaven!”

The Lord of the Dance

little girlby RC Sproul Jr.

I was reminded this afternoon of a liturgy within a liturgy that I practice. My two youngest daughters, Erin Claire and Maili had their first dance recital. They are a part of a small ballet group made up of homeschooled little girls in our broader community. They danced beautifully, received their applause, smiled as only little girls can, and came and sat beside me, giving and receiving hugs. The entire rest of the family was there to cheer them on. The second dance troupe was a little older, and they danced to Pachelbel’s Canon in D. As they danced I glanced over at my eleven year old daughter Shannon, smiling joyfully as she took in both the music and dancing. She sat there in her wheelchair and rejoiced.

Each Lord’s Day at Saint Peter Presbyterian Church we confess our faith together. Usually we sing together either the Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene Creed. That is the liturgy I was reminded of. The liturgy within the liturgy is this–when we get to that part in either creed where we affirm our belief in the resurrection of the body, I look to my little girl Shannon. For her, and therefore for me, the resurrection of the body isn’t merely a theological affirmation. It isn’t merely a careful add-on to the really important thing, getting our souls saved. It is instead a promise to long for, to cling to, to rejoice in.

Our Lord came not just as a soul saver, but as a redeemer. The good news is not merely that our spirits do not end up in hell, but is instead that we will be saved to the uttermost, that our resurrected Lord has secured us completely. The effect of sin in the life of my precious little girl, the illness that leaves her so unsteady on her feet that she spends most of her days either in bed or in that wheelchair, this too will be beaten. Jesus, our hero, has promised to rescue my precious little maiden.

It was, however, in the context of that music and that dance that this became so much clearer. I once heard that Pachelbel wrote his Canon in D in a fit of ecstasy, believing he was hearing the very music of heaven. I heard he was so moved by what he heard that he never wrote another piece of music. And so I too think of heaven when I hear those strains. And there up front these little girls are dancing. I remembered as I watched Shannon watch, that Jesus would not only heal her body, that He would not only make her mind whole, but that He will on that great day dance with her. He will hold her close, and twirl about His throne room to the music of the spheres, and together they will laugh at the joy of it. As Aslan roared “Ohhh Children!!!” as he frolicked with Lucy and Susan after he was raised, so will Jesus roar “Ohhhh Shannon!!!” I will watch, and I will give thanks. This is the good news of Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Dance.

The Befriended Orphans

Jesus the Comforter

“Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said”:
“No, I will not abandon you as orphans, I will come to you.”
John 14:18

Does the Christian’s path lie all the way through Beulah? No, he is forewarned it is to be one of “much tribulation.”

He has his Marahs as well as his Elims—his valleys of Baca as well as his grapes of Eschol.

Often is he left un-befriended to bear the brunt of the storm—his gourds fading when most needed—his sun going down while it is yet day—his happy home and happy heart darkened in a moment with sorrows with which a stranger (with which often a brother) cannot understand.

There is One Brother “born for adversity” who can.

How often has that voice broken with its silvery accents the muffled stillness of the sick-chamber!

“I will not leave you comfortless: the world may, friends may, the desolations of bereavement and death may; but I will not; you will be alone, yet not alone, for I your Savior and your God will be with you!”

Jesus seems to have a special love and affection for His orphaned and comfortless people. A father loves his sick and sorrowing child most; of all his household, that child occupies most of his thoughts.

Christ seems to delight to lavish His deepest sympathy on “him that has no helper.”

It is in the hour of sorrow His people have found Him most precious; it is in “the wilderness” He speaks most “comfortable unto them;” He gives them “their vineyards from thence”; in the places they least expected, wells of heavenly consolation break forth at their feet.

As Jonathan of old, when faint and weary, had his strength revived by the honey he found dropping in the tangled thicket; so the faint and woe-worn children of God find “honey in the wood”; everlasting consolation dropping from the tree of life, in the midst of the thorniest thickets of affliction.

Comfortless ones, be comforted! Jesus often makes you portionless here in this world, to drive you to Himself, the everlasting portion! He often dries every rill and fountain of earthly bliss, that He may lead you to say, “All my springs are in You.”

“He seems intend,” says one who could speak from experience, “to fill up every gap love has been forced to make; one of his errands from heaven was to bind up the broken-hearted.”

How beautifully in one amazing verse does He conjoin the depth and tenderness of his comfort with the certainty of it—“As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you, and you SHALL be comforted!”

Ah, how many would not have their wilderness-state altered, with all its trials, and gloom, and sorrow, just that they might enjoy the unutterable sympathy and love of this Comforter of the comfortless, one ray of whose approving smile can dispel the deepest earthly gloom!

As the clustering constellations shine with the most intense luster in the midnight sky, so these “words of Jesus” come out like ministering angels in the deep dark night of earthly sorrow. We may see no beauty in them when the world is sunny and bright; but He has laid them up in store for us for the dark and cloudy day.

“These things have I told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.”

by John MacDuff