Strangely Dim

Some of my friends and I are doing a study called Healed and Set Free, by Tammy Brown.  It has to do with inducing healing by lancing the wounds of the past in order to let out the poisons.

Past.

I remember the pain of dealing with past hurts in a study years ago called Breaking Free, and I did find healing from the “past.”  I can say in all honesty that I give no thought to past offenses — because that is exactly where they are … in the past!  They are over.

But what about offenses that are in the present?  How is it possible to relinquish all pain from past offenses, yet continue to be plagued by the sting of current offenses?

As Christians, we know about Matthew 15:15: If your brother or sister sins [acts wrongly], go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.  This is what we are called to do, and it will diffuse all kinds of trouble.

However, some cases are easier than others.  

And so we can vacillate between resentment and the more “spiritual” response of … praying about it.

Being fully aware that resentment releases poisons into our system that rob us of health and happiness, I asked the Lord to give me a tool for when I encounter such situations.

And, oh!  He is FAITHFUL!

The Lord reminded me that He sees way below our surface needs, and that He is interested first in changing us, rather than in changing our circumstances!

He knows that we need more than “a tool” to deal with difficult relationships and/or conditions.

I recently asked Him to help me with a situation, and He began to deal with me as only He can.  With His still, small voice, He penetrated my soul, removing all doubt that it was His Spirit speaking deep into my prone-to-wander heart.

Out of the blue, I heard these words to a great old hymn that we sometimes sing:  “…and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

If I were truly caught up in His love as I should be, the sting of offenses, or of threatening situations, wouldn’t even rate on my radar!  These things would grow “strangely dim” in an unexplainable way if I could only get lost in His Glory!

But how do we get lost in His Glory when we’re feeling the pain of stinging words, rejection, or scary stuff?

In my own dealings, I asked the Lord to help, and He brought something to mind that actually has humanistic underpinnings — Maslow’s Hierarchy.

“But, LORD!  You know how I feel about Maslow’s Hierarchy!  It’s all about ‘self’ actualization!” I argued.  For that reason, I considered dismissing the promptings.

“This can’t be God. He wouldn’t use MASLOW 

… or would He?”

Well … actually … God can use anything He wants to use in order to plant an essential, life-giving message deep into our hearts.

After all, didn’t He use a donkey once?

And so this picture came to mind (except I always add Actualization of  “Others” to the pinnacle):

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I decided to be quiet and listen.

God’s Spirit proceeded to teach me, but not in audible words.

This is how the “impressions” came to me.

God: I know you understand that if you are dying for lack of oxygen, food, and water, you do not care if you’re being chased by a bear.  All you care about is getting your next breath and some sustenance, right?

Me:  That’s right, Lord.

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God:  Well, it’s the same way with Me.  My Word is the Air you breathe … the Bread of Life … the Living Water.  Do you want Me more than you want safety from this difficult person (or situation)?  If you do, the lack of “safety” that you are experiencing with your offender (or this threat) would grow strangely dim” in the light of your need for air, food, and water … ME.  Would it not?

Me:  Uhhhh … y e s ? ? ?

God:  Now let’s go to the next level.  Let’s say you have all of your physical needs met, yet you feel alone in the world.  You have no family or friends — no support of any kind from anyone — everyone has turned against you, and it is causing you great anguish and sorrow.

Me:  I’m listening, Lord.

God:  A mama bear comes out of nowhere, stands on her hind legs, roars an earth-shattering roar at you, bores her eyes into your soul with the clear desire to kill — razor-sharp, daggar teeth glisten in the sun, threatening your very existence!  How much are you going to care about whether you “belong” or are “loved” by anyone?

Me:  Not much at all, Lord.  I would just want to run for my life!

God:  Correct.  Your desire for love and belonging is suddenly shrouded by your desire to flee from the mama bear.  The “belonging and love” tier in the pyramid will grow “strangely dim” in the light of escaping the bear attack, right?

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Me:  I think I’m beginning to “get it,” Lord.  I should be as consumed by YOU as I would be by the bear — so much so that I wouldn’t even think about whatever is plaguing me, just as I wouldn’t think about the next level up on Maslow’s pyramid!

From there, I was able to extrapolate — measuring “love and belonging” against self-esteem, and so on, all the way to the pinnacle, beyond “self-actualization” to my own made-up end: “actualization of others.”

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Mystery solved!  This would be the key to overcoming negative emotions!  Look unto God my Savior — the Author and Finisher of my life — even in all things undesirable!

And so, the consternation that I sometimes feel as a human being is not an indictment against an offender or a situation — it is an indictment against myself!  It is a red light — a signal to me that I need to “check my engine” and change my focus — to repent with godly sorrow, confess with true contrition, and turn ALL my attention to the One who is noble, right, pure and lovely — the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and Him alone …

When I have a strong foundation in Him — when I turn my eyes upon Jesus and look full in His wonderful face — then the peace of God will fill my heart and mind indeed, as the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace!  

I can do this … with His help.

And so can you.

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Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

O soul are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free:

Turn you eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion
For more than conquerors we are!

Turn you eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

His word shall not fail you He promised;
Believe Him and all will be well.
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Turn you eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

 

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Formidable Foes

Sometimes it feels like we are being crushed under the weight of our circumstances, burned by the fire, devoured by the lions, and gouged by the thorn!

That’s when we need to remember the Hebrew children who were calm and composed because of their faith in God, in the midst of the torturous chamber of flames.

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That’s when we need to remember the long night Daniel stood quietly among lions, trusting in his God.

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That’s when we need to remember the 40 days and nights that Jesus Himself endured a special trial as His human nature was weakened for lack of food and rest.Screen Shot 2017-11-30 at 11.03.44 AM

That’s when we need to remember the Divine help Paul received when his thorn remained after pleading three times that it would be removed.

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We have a plethora of examples from scripture of others who dwelled in the presence of the enemy while dwelling in the presence of God.

They all looked to their God … I mean really looked to Him …

and He gave them supernatural strength to trust in the midst of tremendous pressure …

and they were not consumed by the forces against them. 

So does it seem to you that you are on the brink of disaster because furious flames are licking at your heels, ravenous lions are smacking their lips, and prickly thorns are digging into your flesh?

Here is a thought for you:

Could it be that, though God oftentimes allows us to be placed in difficult positions (for His own good reasons), we can trust that He has set a table before us in the very presence of these enemies?

Can we trust that He is a Shelter from the storm?

Can we trust that He is a Fortress amidst our foes?

He tells us these things for a reason.  He wants us to believe that He will provide what is needed for us to walk the walk to which we’ve been called. 

We often pray that we will be delivered from calamities — and there is nothing wrong with that!

But do we also ask God to mold us to His liking in the midst of the calamities? 

Do we ask Him to help us live within the furious flames until they’re extinguished — without the singeing of one hair, or even the smelling of smoke — trusting that we are being sheltered, yet refined by Him? 

Do we trust that we will not be devoured by the hungry lions for as long as we’re hedged in with them, knowing that we are also being held in the tender arms of our Great Shepherd? 

When we throw all of our faith and trust in Him, do we believe that we will emerge stronger, gentler, and perhaps a little more useful in His Kingdom? 

O, Lord, help us to shout a resounding ‘yes’ to all of those questions!    Help us to live victoriously in the hard places of life, fixing our eyes on You. 

Jeremiah 45:5 ~ Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them. For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the Lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life. 

John 16:33 ~ These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

Daniel 3:17-18 ~ If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.

Romans 14:8 ~ If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

See Streams in the Desert, November 30, for more on this subject.

Hosea – Hard Stuff/Happy Stuff!

Making the most of a tough teaching — God’s judgment! The book of Hosea is not for the faint of heart … and, of all the studies I’ve taught, this one (to my surprise) had the highest attendance, most consistently! These faithful attendees weren’t scared away by the content! Were we uncomfortable at times?  Yes!  In fact, I was more emotionally impacted by this book than I’ve been by any other!  This “don’t-make-any-waves girl” actually made some waves, much to her chagrin!  (Yikes!)  She had to keep reminding herself that she was “only the messenger” — albeit a reluctant messenger! After all, who DOESN’T prefer teaching about God’s love and skimming over His wrath!

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However, God’s Word contains hard stuff, too, and it wouldn’t be an honest representation of Scripture to focus only on the Good News — because before we can receive the Good News, we must be faced with the bad news!

But don’t we all prefer the Good News?  Remember how incensed the children of Israel became with Hosea and the other prophets when they spoke God’s words?  They actually became angry to the point of killing some of them for speaking about the “hard things”!  Heavens to Betsy!  Folks were even outraged by Jesus’ words!  So why should we expect otherwise?

In this study, we were forced to face ourselves squarely and consider matters we’d rather not consider. But woven throughout all 14 chapters of Hosea was a Golden Thread of God’s love reaching and calling us to worship *only* Him.

Tough book, yes, but we have much to rejoice about if we have surrendered to His love and, thus, been given the power to *daily* recognize, repent, and resist our propensity for modern-day idol worship … simply by fixing our eyes on the Cross and the Empty Tomb … for THAT’s where victory is found!

Honor the Aged

You shall rise up before the gray-headed and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the LORD. ~ Leviticus 19:32

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Every other week, folks from New Life Assembly gather to honor the aged at Countryside Care Center; and, as a daughter-in-law of one of the residents, I say thank you!  How sweet it is to worship the One True God with brothers and sisters from another Christian church!  It’s a foretaste of heaven every time we’re together!

Pastor Dan’s message today was about Revelation 21 and 22.  Mom talked at length about that during our visit afterwards!  No more tears!  The absence of sin!  Jesus reigning as our King!  And she brought up a very special story about the crystal sea that I had never heard her tell before!  Pastor Dan’s teaching stirred her heart and brought back a fond memory for her!

Another blessing is the old-time hymns that we sing!  They take me back to over four decades ago where I first heard the Good News of Jesus and responded to His invitation.  Songs like “I Surrender All,”  “When We All Get to Heaven,” “There is Power in the Blood,” “At the Cross,” and “Victory in Jesus” were played in that little Baptist church where the burden of my sin was rolled away.  How sweet it is for me to sing those rich lyrics again!  Oh, the depths and substance of those great old toe-tapping tunes!

May God richly bless you, Marilyn, Evelyn, and Pastor Dan, for faithfully taking time out of your Sunday afternoons to shower His love down on all the dear ones who live there … and thank you for blessing my life as well!  I love you for what you are doing!

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Silence of Heart in the Din of Life

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Here I am, sitting in the silent sanctuary of my secluded corner in the stillness of the morning … knowing the tick, tick, tick of the clock is about to be eclipsed by the commotion of the day — paralleling the union of my heart with His in this quiet moment.

Oh, that I would continue to hear His still, small voice once the cacophony of life shrouds this repose!

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What Kind of Love?

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What kind of person can keep on loving and keep on giving while being spurned and shunned?

That’s what we see happening between the Prophet Hosea and his wife Gomer.

That’s what we see happening between God and Israel.

And that’s what we see happening between God and us. 

It’s easy to be critical of Israel and her infatuation with Baal, but isn’t it interesting that we do exactly what Israel did?

We, too, receive good things from God … and then we turn around and offer them to idols.

(Just because we don’t name them “Baal” doesn’t mean they are not idols.)

Our potential idols’ names are:

Money

Home

Career

Garden

Spouse

Children

Computer

Cell phone

All those things – everything we allegedly own – is in reality owned by God.

Not just 10% of it, but ALL of it!

Everything we enjoy!  It’s all on loan from God!

Ironically, though, all of those things can become idols.

Income?  Do we squeak out 10% to give back to Him and feel quite proud of ourselves?

(Read the book Mover of Men and Mountains by R.G. LaTourneau.  It will give you a whole new perspective on that!)

Homes?  Do we use our homes to bring blessing to others or do we withhold our homes because of the idol of “pride”?

It’s too small.  It’s too dusty.  It’s not nice enough, we say.

(Years later, I’m still amazed at our daughter and son-in-law.  For a short period of their lives, they had five young children and one bedroom.  The children all slept in the bedroom, and the parents’ slept in a king-sized bed in the very small living room.  Yet they continued to open their home graciously to others – even having friends over for dinner – in spite of their dime-sized kitchen and tiny table.  They clearly understood the principle of using the gift of their home — small though it was — to bring glory to God.)

What about career? Garden? Spouse? Children?  Do we have a pattern of allowing the pressures of our career and family life keep us from sharing our gifts and from gathering with the body of Christ?

Computers?  Cell phones?  Do we spend more time on them than we do with the God who gifted us with them?  Do we use them to indulge in sinful behaviors?

Heaven forbid that we would allow gifts from the hand of God to be turned into idols!

God created the trees in the forest, placed iron in the ground, and gifted them to man.

He gave man the brains to make an axe and nails from the iron — a gift.

He gave man the energy to cut down trees and the skill to fashion the wood into beams — gifts.

God gave man the cleverness to make a handle from the wood, and head from the iron, and the “know-how” to combine them into an effective hammer.

All GIFTS!

And what did man do with these gifts?

He took the beams, the nails, and the hammer and nailed Jesus to the Cross …

the place where He willingly stretched out His arms and died …

the place where He took the guilt and penalty of our sin …

the place where He restored the relationship between God and man (if man would but believe and receive it).

We are prone to wander away from this gift-giving God.

But, like Hosea … He keeps on loving.  He keeps on giving.

What kind of love is that anyway? 

Oh, that we would capture a fresh new glimpse of His ownership over the gifts we enjoy and use each one to serve Him …

with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our soul. ~Matthew 22:37

 

 

 

Vexed by Thorns!

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Do you feel “hedged in”?  Unable to move forward?  Somewhat paralyzed?  Stuck???  Could it be that God has set up a hedge to protect you from going where you shouldn’t go?

In Hosea 2:6-8, God promised to set a hedge of thorns on the sides of Israel’s path so it would “hurt” whenever she started to go the wrong way.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had literal thorn bushes encompassed about us, preventing us from taking wrong turns?

I don’t like it a whit when God hedges my way!

We tend to think He is against us when we are stopped short of proceeding down wrong paths (which we don’t perceive as wrong paths).

But I’m wondering if we can start looking at those invisible restrictions as thorny bushes set up by our Protector as a shield of security.

While it’s true that gouging thorns vex us and wound us if we try to push through them into dangerous territory … in reality, those thorns are one of the sweetest expressions of God’s love.

Dear Lord, we look to You to hedge up our way with thorns and wall us in when we attempt to move in directions that will do us harm — even if it has to hurt a little.  Amen.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).