Just Love Each Other

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.  Psalm 36:7

I had my first ever dream about Jesus, Yeshua, a few months ago.  I have thought of it often.  To be quite honest, it was a bit convicting.

In the dream, I saw a hallway with several white doors.  The doors opened and a person came out from behind each door.  We all then entered a common room where Yeshua was.  The group was made up of both men and women, probably in their 20s and 30s.  Yeshua looked around the room and said, in an exasperated yet pleading voice, “Just love each other!”  I immediately awoke.

Confession time.  I have not always been a loving person, and I still struggle with this at times.  Even as a Christian.

Isn’t love the trait that sets believers in Jesus apart from others?

By this, all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.  John 13:35

Isn’t that one of the greatest commandments that Jesus spoke of?

Love the Lord your God will all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27

So how can someone say they are a Christian and not love people?

Well, different reasons, I suppose.  We all come to Jesus with baggage.  We have all walked through life and picked up scars along the way.  Rejection from peers, the painful end of a close friendship, verbal or physical abuse from parents or a spouse, harsh or embarrassing comments from a teacher or supervisor, the heartbreaking end of a relationship or marriage, just to name a few.

None of us are immune.

In my case, there was fear of being hurt by people.  It was safer to make my heart a kind of fortress, where only a few select people were allowed in.  I didn’t do much outside of time spent with those select few because it was safe there.

What I didn’t understand was that what I thought was a sanctuary was actually a prison.

Thank God, He loves us baggage and all, and He bids us come to Him and leave the baggage at His feet.  Letting go is a process, though, because we’re often not even aware of the baggage we’re carrying.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

Slowly, as we spend more and more time in God’s presence, praying and reading the Bible, He shows us what we’ve been carrying, and then He enables us to give it to Him. That thing is then no longer a weight to carry, but becomes the very thing the Lord uses to help set someone else free.

I’m so thankful that the Lord doesn’t leave us the way He finds us.

The more time we spend with Him, the more we become like Him, and He is love.  He fills us with love for others.

But how do we really love in a practical way, day to day?  I’m still learning, but one of the things that has helped me is a question I heard somewhere that really stuck with me:  why do we assume a person’s worst intentions when they hurt us, but expect them to assume our best intentions when we hurt them?

Can’t we assume that their actions were never to hurt us?  Can’t we believe the best, and look for the best?

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8

Can’t we forgive when necessary and not get offended every time our toes get stepped on?

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

It’s not easy, is it?  But it is possible.

We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19

Looking at His love, at His sacrifice, and seeing our own sinfulness…knowing that even when we were in our filthiness, our unloveliness, recognizing how truly wretched we were, how can we, who have been loved and forgiven much, not do the same?

There are so many ways to love others.  We can encourage people when we see them struggling.  We can pray for them.  We can offer physical assistance if needed.  We can help them financially.  Whatever gifts the Lord has placed in us are to be used in serving each other, and by doing this, God is pleased and honored.

I have found myself crying out to the Lord, more and more, to help me love people with His love.  To help me see people the way He sees them.  To be filled with his compassion.  I believe these are prayers that are dear to His heart, and He is answering.  He is transforming me with His love.  I know He will do the same for you if you ask Him.

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

Lord, help us to love others the way that you do.  So fill us with your love and compassion that it overflows and touches everyone we meet.  Give us eyes to really see the people around us, and give us the empathy to want to relieve their pain.  Lord, Your Word says that he who waters will himself be watered.  You water us continually with your love.  Help us to do the same.

Best Friends

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! Psalm 133:1

I lay in the dark, waiting for the alarm clock to sound, with an old familiar theme song running through my head.  We’re talking OLD.  Think late 1960s.  I haven’t heard it in many, many years.

     People let me tell you about my best friend

     He’s a warm hearted person who’ll love me till the              end

If you grew up watching reruns of the television show The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, you recognized those lyrics immediately.  Yes, I’m dating myself, as I was a child when the show was on the air.

The song remained on my mind throughout the day…and throughout the week.  I would find myself humming it while waiting in line to pay at the grocery store, or while driving through rush hour traffic on my way to work.  Standing at my kitchen sink, in the middle of washing dishes, I’d find myself singing it.

I began thinking of the friends I have had over the years.  Each one special, each friendship for a specific period of my life.  Friends have come, friends have gone, and some friends have even come back, thanks to social media.  That’s just a part of life, and you have likely experienced the same.

I thought of my best friend when I was growing up, who read my heartfelt, and at times dramatic, teenage poetry, where I poured out my heart while trying to find out how to make sense of life and figure out where I belonged. From Barbie dolls to bicycles to boys; Detroit, Sault Sainte Marie, and Mackinac Island, where we watched Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour filming Somewhere in Time. Riding our bikes to McDonald’s with coupons from her church bulletins, where $1 each would get both of us an entire meal. Frances, I know I’ve said it before, but I’m so glad you found me again (thank you, Facebook!).

From Girl Scouts to heated political discussions to renewed hearts and minds; to new churches, and both witnessing and participating in healings, and blessings beyond our wildest dreams. Melinda, you have journeyed with me as we began delving deeper into scripture, where we discovered that the Bible, true when it was written, is still very much true today – miracles and all. I have so enjoyed this journey with you.

From sibling rivalry to love and acceptance, through marriages and remarriages, Girl Scouts, softball, and living across the world from each other. My friend and sister, Sandy, who listened as I cried and helped me through the very hardest thing I’ve ever gone through – divorce – and helped me find that life could still be good, and even become normal again. Sandy, there is no one I would rather call sister than you.

Of course, my mom, who has always loved me, encouraged me, believed in me, and who drew me to the Savior. Through nights of grueling homework, teaching me everything she knew about cooking, cleaning, sewing, and crafting. I will never forget that when I was away for a few days, she completely redecorated my bedroom, and refinished pieces of beautiful, antique furniture for it. Mom, I am so thankful to have you for my mother, and to have you as a friend as well.

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. Also, if two lie down together, they can keep warm; but how can one person alone keep warm? And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

So many other friends throughout the years, too, all put in my path at just the right time, to provide encouragement, education, and fun! I’m thankful for each one of them.  There is another Friend, though, who was there the whole time, loving me, guiding me, even when I wasn’t aware of it.

I mentioned in my last writing that I participated in a church-wide fast recently.  I’m not ready to discuss the two biggest revelations to come out of that time, but suffice it to say that this song was a prelude to what was to come.

So people, let me tell you about my Best Friend! 😊

He is the one spoken of throughout the Bible, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament – the Redeemer, the Deliverer, the Savior, the Messiah who was to come, and come He did.  Yeshua, Jesus.  He came to bridge the gap between a holy God and unholy people.  He came to be the final sin sacrifice so that we could be forgiven for everything we had ever, and would ever, do wrong.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared also to me. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8

He is a Friend of Sinners

But the Son of Man goes around eating and drinking, and you say, “That man eats and drinks too much! He is even a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” Yet Wisdom is shown to be right by what it does. Matthew 11:19

Yeshua didn’t hang around the popular ones, or the rich ones, or the ones with high status in society.  Not that they weren’t welcome to follow Him, too, but the people who followed Him were typically overlooked, disliked, unpopular, and rejected by society.  They knew who they were.  They knew their faults.  So did He, but He saw them as they could be.  He saw how very important they were to His Father, and if they were important to His Father, they were important to Him. Can you imagine how they must have felt?

You are important to the Father, too, and if you’re important to the Father, you’re important to Yeshua. And if you’re important to them, you are important to me.

He Leads by Example

I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.  Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. John 13:15-17

Although He was abused, He never tried to get even. And when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He had faith in God, who judges fairly. 1 Peter 2:23

Yeshua taught that it is better to give than to receive. He taught that we should put others first – that we should treat others the way we would like to be treated. He taught that who we are on the inside is more important than who people see on the outside because our Father sees it all. He didn’t repay evil with evil or insult with insult, and He received plenty of both. He was obedient in everything, going as far as to allow Himself to be nailed to a cross, where He would give up His life for us.  Even in death, He asked the Father to forgive those who had betrayed Him.

He is Compassionate

Then Jesus went to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:35-36

Yeshua consistently put the needs of others before His own needs. He even woke early in the mornings to spend time with His Father, praying. Once His day of ministry began, it was nonstop.  Connecting with crowds of people, healing the sick, teaching His disciples, talking about His Father, casting out demons, confronting religious leaders who were outwardly perfect in conduct but lacking in love, and that barely scratches the surface. He even provided meals on occasion! Throughout His busy days, however, He never failed to elevate others and put their needs before His own.

He isn’t the type to see a need and not do something about it. His compassion led Him to heal the sick that came to Him and feed the hungry. He uses us, His modern-day disciples, to do the same.

He Loves Me Enough to Tell Me the Truth

Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

He loves me like no one else ever has, or ever will. He loves me enough to tell me the truth, even when it’s not what I want to hear, and even if it hurts. But that’s what love does, right? It always does the absolute best for the object of affection. He loves me, and He loves you, too.

He Desires Unity

I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message. May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me. I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one. I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me. John 17:20-23

Notice He didn’t mention anything about skin color, gender, or any other division. He wanted unity then and He still desires it now. There won’t be any denominations in heaven – no separation by skin color, either. So if we pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” and there is no separation in heaven, why would we continue to allow differences to separate us here?

There is so much more that I could write about Yeshua, but this is enough for now. If you don’t know Him, I’d be happy to introduce you. His Jewish name is Yeshua. His name translated from the Greek texts into English is Jesus, and you can call Him either one. Yeshua, meet my new friend. New friend, meet Yeshua, Jesus. Now, new friend, just start talking to Him! He’s the BEST listener! You can also read about His life in the Bible, especially in the New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, where you can read the actual words that He spoke.

Oil and incense bring joy to the heart, and the sweetness of a friend is better than self-counsel. Proverbs 27:9

Whatever He Says, Do It

I will instruct you and show you the way to go; with My eye on you, I will give counsel. Psalm 32:8

I was recently given the opportunity to write something in which I mentioned some of the ways that we can hear God speaking. Some of the ways we can hear Him include Bible verses, songs on the radio, a still small voice within, conversations with friends, a stirring in your spirit when you read or hear something, and dreams and visions. The Lord will give confirmations as well when they are needed.

Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.  Jeremiah 33:3

Another way the Lord speaks is that an idea will come to mind, and it will be the very last thing you would ever choose for yourself, because it is costly.  Not necessarily monetarily, although that is certainly a possibility, but costly with regards to our lifestyles and comfort levels.

One biblical example is the prophet Hosea.  Hosea was a righteous man, and he was commanded by the Lord to marry a promiscuous woman.  The Lord used that marriage to illustrate His love for Israel.  Though Israel wandered and would get entangled in the pagan worship around her, God loved her and continually sought to bring her back to Him. As I read the story of Hosea and Gomer, I find it interesting that nowhere does it say that Hosea questioned God, questioned His motives, or had second thoughts about obeying.  He obeyed, and the Lord was able to use that obedience to both warn Israel and give her hope.

Jesus replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”  Luke 11:28

It reminds me of a time when I was asked to take in a young woman who was going through a difficult time finding a place to live.  The person making the request knew her well, and spoke very highly of her, mentioning that the young woman, like me, was a follower of Yeshua (Jesus).

I said that I didn’t think so, but that I would pray about it.  I didn’t pray about it very much, though, not like I should have.  See, I had already experienced a roommate situation years before that began well but ended badly, and the last thing I wanted was to repeat the experience.

In addition to this, between family members and all of the pets, we already had a full house, and this full house needed repairs. So yes, I prayed, but only halfheartedly, and I really wasn’t listening for God’s answer.

One night, a few weeks later, I was getting ready to feed our pets, and realized that we were completely out of cat food.  It had been a long, busy day, and I was tired.  For this reason, my daughter and I drove to a higher priced store just a few blocks from our home instead of driving to the less expensive store farther away where we normally purchased pet food.

My daughter offered to go inside and purchase the cat food while I stayed in the car.  I gratefully accepted her offer, and within minutes, she returned to the car, with a bag of cat food in hand.

As we pulled out of the parking space, we saw something dark moving on the ground several yards ahead of us, moving between the parked vehicles at the end of the parking lot.  As we got closer, we saw that it was a kitten limping on three legs.  The fourth leg was missing.  Our hearts melted.

My daughter scooped some of the cat food into her hand and headed toward the kitten.  As she put the food down on the ground, several other kittens came running toward the food.

As I watched this, the Lord clearly spoke to my heart.

“You’re concerned about the kitten, and that’s a good thing.  How much more should you be concerned about My child?”

Ouch, that hurt!  Teary eyed, I drove home knowing that we were soon going to be sharing our home with this young woman.

I wish I could say that by now I have learned that what the Lord does in my life is always for my good, and that I bend obediently to His will, but there are times when I still question what He could possibly be thinking.  During those times, He calls me – calls us – to walk by faith and not by sight.  Obedience always brings blessings.  It may not be immediate, or even apparent until years later, but this is a truth clearly stated in the Word of God.  In this case, it was immediate, and the blessing far exceeded my “sacrifice.”

When Jesus had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink.  Luke 5:4-7

I am now facing another challenge, which I will write about another time.  It is another “opportunity to excel,” as a previous supervisor of mine was fond of saying whenever someone in the office was faced with a difficult task.

Have you experienced something similar?  Have you been feeling like the Lord has been leading you (okay, sometimes it feels more like pushing) into a place where you don’t feel comfortable, and don’t particularly want to go?  Trust God.  Seek Him.  Ask Him for confirmation.  Then, whatever He says, do it.

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Now there were six stone water pots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. Jesus said to them, “Fill the water pots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it to him. When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him. John 2:1-11

Perfect Timing

Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD. Psalm 27:14

My home is under renovation right now, and things are in disarray all around me. My house has two balconies, and both have wood that has to be replaced, after standing faithfully for more than four decades. Our plan was to also replace the wood siding on the second story of our home, in addition to several minor things that needed some attention.

The process is slow, and at times, frustrating.  There have been many delays.  I was particularly concerned when the contractor was unexpectedly called out of town shortly after being paid for the siding materials.  The materials were purchased and sat on the side of the house.  Each day that went by and the work did not begin, I grew more impatient. I thought surely the contractor would have arranged for one of the sub-contractors to install the siding while he was away.

He returned, but still the work was not begun. Finally I received a call from the contractor, and he informed me that the siding we had selected was no longer up to code. It seems that with every hurricane, the code gets stricter.

As I reflected on this turn of events, the Lord spoke a familiar, yet unwelcomed, truth to my heart: His delays are always for my good. Always.

See, had the contractor installed the wood siding when I wanted it installed, it would have had to be removed, and it would have cost me greatly, both in time and materials, and we would have had to pay for the more costly option of stucco. The delay saved me time, money, and a bigger headache.

But they that wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

Not long after that, Hurricane Irma came onto the scene. I prepared my home as best I could, but there were some things I didn’t have the time, knowledge or strength to do – such as putting boards over my windows.

My beloved came to my rescue. Using leftover wood that the contractor had not yet removed, he, my daughter and I measured and cut the wood, and then covered our windows. My heroes!

I had not been happy that the unused wood was still here, but yet another delay worked in my favor.

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:25-26

I am in awe of the Lord’s goodness to me. If He loves me so much that He allowed these delays for my good, I can rest assured that delays in other areas are for my good as well.

That means your delays are for your good, too. Maybe you’re waiting for the Lord to send you a spouse, or a baby, or a job, or a car, or a house. Maybe you’re waiting for a loved one to come home, or come to the Savior. Maybe you’re waiting for healing.

Waiting is hard! We try to wait without complaining, try to remain cheerful and hopeful, but sometimes we fail. The Lord knows. He sees, and He understands.

Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. Psalm 103:13-14

Sometimes He sends us reminders through Bible verses at just the right moment, or a message that we hear on the radio or television, or a conversation with a friend. Sometimes He sends us heroes.

I read recently that God is never early and never late. He is never in a hurry, but is always right on time.

Delays. I don’t know what it is that you’ve been longing and praying for, but I know this – the Lord hears you, He sees you, and everything is going to work out in His perfect way and in His perfect time.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

When God Stretches Us

Now the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, those who depend on His faithful love. Psalm 33:18

I’ve been thinking about the growth process of a Christian.  Growth seldom feels good.  Like growing pains in our childhood, it can be a painful experience.  It doesn’t seem to get any easier with experience, either.  In fact, it seems to be even more difficult, at least for me, because as we age, we develop mindsets that we believe are scriptural, yet which are actually based on church, denomination and family traditions and accepted beliefs rather than on the Word of God.  It has led me to question a few things about what the Lord uses to grow us, especially if we welcome His work in our lives and pray for His will to be done in us.

So…when I pray and ask the Lord to help me walk by faith and not by sight, am I asking for more trouble in my life?  More trials?  Is this an open invitation for Him to give me opportunities where I can only walk by faith because absolutely nothing I see with my eyes makes any sense?

When I ask Him to make me more like Yeshua (Jesus), am I asking Him to bring difficult, hard to love people into my life, because He loves difficult, hard to love people?

When I ask Him to give me His heart of compassion, am I asking Him to open my eyes to the pain and difficulties in the lives of those around me, even though it hurts so much to see people suffering, because He has compassion on them and wants to minister to them through me?

When we pray for His kingdom to come, and His will to be done, is this what we’re signing up for?

Yes, I think so.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18

It has been a rough week. I have felt like I’ve been standing near the shore in shallow water, while wave after wave after wave has knocked me down. I get back up only to be knocked down again. Over and over. A car repair, an air conditioning repair, another car repair, another air conditioning repair, a contractor issue, a personality clash, added pressure at work, family and friends experiencing illness and life threatening issues, another car repair, a relationship strain…

Lately, I have not been walking by faith or by sight. I haven’t been walking at all! I sat down in the mud and had a pity party. I barely prayed, other than to ask the Lord to FIX THINGS, AND FIX THEM QUICKLY!

Yeah, kind of like a toddler’s tantrum. I am not proud of that at all. I wouldn’t even tell you about it except that I know I’m not the only one out there experiencing these things.

Beloved, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. 1 Peter 4:12

That’s not my normal way of handling things. If I’m having one of “those” times, it usually doesn’t last more than a day, two days tops. This one lasted an entire week. I didn’t even have communion with the Lord, which I try to do a few days a week, because I knew I would have to confess my bad attitude and repent. Sigh.

Today I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer. The unleavened bread had sat on my table for days, and seemed to taunt me. In reality, it was beckoning me.

Come, be made clean again.

Come, renew your mind.

Come, lay that burden down.

Come, walk in peace again.

Come, be restored.

This time, I couldn’t resist, and I felt the heavy burdens roll off of my shoulders as I spent time with the Lord, confessing, repenting, and being forgiven and loved on. I felt hopeful again, for the first time in days.

How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord, his God. Psalm 146:5

Beloved, if you are going through this now, don’t stay there like I did. It’s just not worth it. Bring it all to the Lord and tell Him how you feel. Let Him pick you up, clean you up, and set you back where you belong.

He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock, making my footsteps firm. Psalm 40:2

I can only guess what the Lord is going to teach me through this, but one thing I know, He is faithful, and when all is said and done, I will look back on this time and be thankful for it. That is always His way.

Father, please forgive us for wanting the fruit without the pruning. Please help us to see things through Your eyes, with Your perspective. Help us not to lose hope, but to continue to walk with You in peace and unity. In the name of Your son, Yeshua, I ask these things. Amen.

 

Perception vs. Reality

I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. Psalm 32:8

Did you ever see the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade?  In one scene, Indiana Jones must cross from one side of a large cavern to another.  There is a steep drop, blackness so dark that you can’t see the bottom.  He refers to the quest as the Path of God.  It seems an impossible task, and requires a step of faith.  His faith is rewarded as he lands on a solid, yet invisible (from his perspective) bridge, which enables him to walk across easily.  When he reaches the other side, he tosses dirt on the bridge so that he can easily find his way back.  As the camera angle changes, however, you can see that the bridge was there all along, clearly visible from another point of view.

Indiana Jones would never have known the bridge was there if he hadn’t stepped out.  It certainly didn’t make sense.  Based on what his eyes could see, it was foolish.

Isn’t that the way life seems sometimes?  Haven’t you felt like Indiana Jones, knowing that to move forward, you have to take a step into the unknown?  You wish for just a little dirt on the path so you can see where to go.  You want to grasp someone’s hand to walk along side you, but deep in your heart, you know that this is something you have to do yourself.

The process of reaching that point can be difficult.  It’s easy to give in to fear and refuse to move forward.  Staying where you are is comfortable, for a season, but then, like a treasured piece of clothing from your younger days, it just doesn’t fit anymore.  You have to move forward, like it or not, and take the leap of faith.  You land, get your bearings, and it’s at that point that your faith truly becomes your own.  You realize that though you can’t see Him, the Lord has been leading you all along, just as He promised.

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand. Psalm 37:23-24

That movie scene reminds me of a dream I had awhile back.  In one part of the dream, I opened what appeared to be a closet door.  Inside was blackness, so dark that I couldn’t see anything except for a couple of feet of a rope bridge suspended over nothingness that led into the darkness.  All of a sudden, one of my dogs walked onto the bridge, expecting me to follow.  I quickly called him back and closed the door.  I have wondered about that dream many times, and I believe it is very much like the Indiana Jones scene.  In my dream, at least I could see the bridge, but I couldn’t see where it led and wanted no part of finding out, even with my trusted companion.

I believe I finally understand the meaning.

I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes and trusts in Me [as Savior—all those who anchor their hope in Me and rely on the truth of My message] will not continue to live in darkness. John 12:46

Jesus is the Light of the world. After His death, burial and resurrection, He ascended to heaven, where He is seated at the right hand of God the Father. If He is seated in heaven, how is He then a Light here on earth?  He is a Light through us who believe in Him and have surrendered our lives to Him.

I have lived, for the most part, a pretty safe, comfortable life.  I don’t do things to get myself in trouble, try to be kind and encouraging to others, and try to please the Lord, who loves me and gave Himself for me.  Those are all good things, right?  But am I not also called to be a light in the darkness?

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Ahhh, and that’s where the trouble within me lies.  If I don’t step out of my comfortable, predictable little bubble, how can I be a light?  Instead, I must venture out, and learn to navigate in the world around me, comfortable or not.  Not to walk in darkness, but to be a light in the darkness.  Not to be afraid of the darkness, but to know that His Light overcomes the darkness.

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,” even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. Psalm 139:7, 11-12

We are never out of His sight, never out of His reach, and never alone.

Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness. Psalm 33:18

In looking up the verse above, I found that the Hebrew word translated lovingkindness is chacad, which means merciful. I really like the Amplified Bible version, which translates the verse this way:

Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon those who fear Him [and worship Him with awe-inspired reverence and obedience], on those who hope [confidently] in His compassion and lovingkindness. Psalm 33:18

The Lord is merciful, loving, compassionate, and kind.  He is wise, and knows the end from the beginning.  He knows how to lead His own, and His compassion requires that I – that we – be the light that He has called us to be.

There is an old song sung by musical duo Harvest, entitled, “Send us to the World.”  Here is the chorus:

If we don’t believe then how will they know?

How will they hear, if we never go?

Oh, Lord, send us to the world!

If we don’t believe, then how will they see?

How will they know that they can be free?

Oh, Lord, send us to the world!

Two bridges.  One unseen but there nonetheless, and another seen but leading into the darkness.  One led to the other side, where he found what he needed.  The other outcome wasn’t certain, but would have been taken with a trusted, faithful companion, had I had the courage to step out and bring light into the darkness.

We must remember that we do not walk alone, and we do not go unprotected.

You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Psalm 32:7

May we have the courage to walk where He leads, to be lights in the darkness, and to bring the message of hope, freedom and redemption to people who don’t know the Giver of those things.  Jesus would.  Jesus did.  May we walk by faith, and not by sight, and so please Him.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the certainty of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Hebrews 11:6

 

A New Page

In Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. Psalm 139:16

Some time ago, a man came to the church I attend. He had many encouraging things to say to the people in the congregation, and gave many testimonies about what the Lord was doing in India, where he was from. I had an opportunity to speak with him briefly after the service. He told me that when he looked at me, he saw a new page. He said that the pages that went before were filled with many scribbles. Things were crossed out, cancelled, but that now he saw a clean, fresh page. He told me not to let anyone scribble on this new page.

Later, as I relayed this to my daughter, she reminded me that a couple of years before, she had come into my bedroom shortly after I had awakened. She had asked me if I had had any dreams. I told her that I had had a strange dream. I dreamed that I was holding a book and there were scribbles on the pages. It didn’t make sense to me, and I quickly forgot about it.

You have taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book? Psalm 56:8

At the time I had that dream, my life felt like it was a shambles. I was a recently divorced, single parent struggling to function with a broken heart. I can remember asking the Lord to help me go through the motions, but to numb my heart so that it wouldn’t hurt anymore. I didn’t want to feel anything. I just wanted to be His puppet, to do and be everything that I needed to do and be, but without pain.

The Lord did better than that, though. He healed my heart instead, because that’s what He does. That’s one of the reasons Jesus came.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners. Isaiah 61:1

However, the healing didn’t completely happen overnight.  Healing is a process. Even now, the Lord continues to heal me of things that have been buried too deep and for too long to even remember. But HE remembers, and He steadily works to bring those pains to the surface where He can clean me and heal me.

I have wondered why He waited until now to do some of this deep cleaning, and I think I understand now, at least partly. See, after my divorce, I told the Lord and anyone who asked that I never wanted to be in another relationship – ever. I never wanted to hurt like that again. My family and friends told me that I would change my mind, that the Lord would bring me someone – HIS choice. I continued to refuse to even consider it, until one day, reluctantly, I said that I never wanted to be in another relationship…unless…God changed my heart, the man loved Jesus more than he loved me, and he’d have to sweep me off my feet. Well, much to my surprise, He did, he does, and he did.

Because the Lord loves us so much, and wants this relationship to glorify Jesus and be everything that it can be, He is clearing away the debris so that what grows will have the best possible chance for success.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

I know that what He has done for me, He will do for you. Just talk to Him. Ask Him for a new page, and don’t let anyone scribble on it. Ask the Lord to do the writing. When He does, the result is unbelievable. And if you are experiencing heartache, Jesus is the Great Physician and will heal your heart if you just ask.

Cause me to hear Your loving kindness in the morning, for I trust in You. Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, for I lift up my soul to You. Psalm 143:8