Day Eleven: Don’t Forget

This post is a day late, I realize.  Last night, there was a congregational meeting at our church that ran a little late.  So, today, you get 2 for the price of 1.

 

Day Eleven’s reading comes from Numbers.

 

READ:  Numbers 9:4-5, 9-12.  This particular passage begins with Moses telling the Israelites to celebrate Passover in the wilderness of Sinai, which they did.  Then, it lays out instructions regarding their cleanliness in regards to the keeping of the Passover. 

 

THINK: “As humans, we are forgetful people, and as forgetful people we need tangible reminders–symbols–of who God is and what He’s done…..Under what circumstances are you most prone to forget who God is and what He’s done for you?”

 

This question convicts me.  Many times over the course of the current situation my family is living through I have forgotten God, who He is and what He’s done for us.  I’ve been so busy being mad over my circumstances, feeling like God had forsaken me, whining about how He had let this happen, that I had neglected to keep in mind, and thank Him for all the things that He was doing and had done in my life, that would prove He hadn’t actually forsaken me/us.  Sadly, once you start down the road of “poor, pitiful me,” it’s easy to just keep going.  This is not the first time I’ve found myself needing the prompting from these scriptures. 

 

PRAY:  “Take a stroll down memory lane.  Think about the times when God was evident and at work.  Allow your memories to guide your prayers of gratitude for all He has done.”

 

This is the one thing that has been one of my biggest weaknesses, especially over the past year.  How easy it is to forget how good God has been when He has refused to give me my way.  Or when things have gone my way, but because they were going well, I decided to take the credit for myself.

 

When I left home, I mistakenly thought that I could have exactly the life I wanted because I said so.  For most of my life, things went pretty well like I thought they would.  When I made good choices, things went well.  When I didn’t choose so well, there were consequences.  Everything was a fair game of give and take that always seemed to end with my coming out about where I figured I would, and at least where I aimed for, because I had aimed.  That was just the way life was supposed to be.  Right?  You make a plan.  You work the plan.  Just like they say in recovery programs.  “It works if you work it, so work it.”  Granted, I would slack sometimes and not get what I thought I wanted, but if I had really wanted whatever that thing was, then I’d have worked hard enough to get it. 

 

This thinking had even crept into my walk with the Lord.  I figured if I was obedient, like the Bible says I am to be, then I will be rewarded.  How is it that I had managed to miss all those pesky little passages about being guaranteed to suffer if I am identified with Christ?  Somewhere along the way, the messages that said that if they hated Christ, they would surely hate me, had become just something that I would hear in church every once in a while, or something that happened in countries where Christians were really persecuted every day.  In China, of course, this would happen.  In Muslim countries, naturally, people should expect that their obedience to the Word of God would be met with hatred and disdain and even outright violence.  But, this is not China.  And this is not a Iraq or Syria.  So, I should’ve been fine.

 

Then, one day, I spoke with a lady at church who told me something (2 things, really) that really stuck with me.  The first thing:  God wants us to come to with for everything and with everything, and if the only way He can get us to do that is to keep us desperate for Him, because we cannot help ourselves, He will.  In fact, during one particularly rough time in her life, she prayed that she would always be desperate for God.  My family’s current situation was only in its infancy and all I could think to say to her is:  “But, I never prayed that prayer.”  But all I could think was:  “Why in the name of all that is holy would anybody ever pray that prayer?”

 

Then, about a year ago, this same woman said to me, “The thing about God is, what He wants is for our insides to match our outsides.”  Look back at that prayer I said people would have to be crazy to pray.  What I realized shortly after this precious woman shared this second thing with me was that I had, in fact, prayed prayers of desperation.  I had sat in the pews at the church I attended in high school, a church I attended for 5 years and never once felt like I fit in, begging God to show me what this thing called Christianity was all about.  Surely there had to be more to being a Christian than just saying some prayer and then sitting in a church pew for the rest of my life.  I mean, if this is it, then why not just take me now.  Otherwise, why else am I here?  There has to be more to it than this.  Please, show me what it is.

 

Then, as I got older, and had kids, and felt like I had kind of stagnated, I would pray that God would let me make a difference in the world, that He would “really” use me.  I was hung up on doing something “big” for God.  What I didn’t realize, at the time, was that I was more concerned about doing something for God than I was about having a relationship with Him.  I figured that if I could “really do something for God,” – something good enough or big enough or that nobody else had ever thought of or done – then He would have to accept me.  I just couldn’t  or wouldn’t or didn’t trust that He would accept me as I was and then equip me for the position He wanted me to fill.  And even that, He wouldn’t do until I had totally submitted to Him:  my plans, my will, my husband, my kids, my life.

 

Then, our desperate situation hit.  To say that my world was turned on its head would be an understatement.  I don’t know that it’s necessarily true to say that I forgot about God, but I felt like He had forgotten about me.  I felt betrayed because He didn’t answer my prayers (and those of MANY other people) the way I wanted them answered.  I felt like I had entrusted my heart to Him and He had taken it, threw it on the ground, and stomped on it.  Yet, I am surrounded by people who kept telling me that I could trust Him.  “All things work together for good for those that love the Lord.”  “Yes, I know,” I would say.  But, in my head, all I could think was, “Is it gonna happen this side of Heaven, because, if not, then I don’t know if I want this.” 

 

Then, I went to Lynchburg for my intensives.  As I mentioned in previous posts, I went with just one prayer:  God, please show up.  Please reveal yourself to me.  I don’t care if it hurts, or if I don’t hear what I want to hear.  Just show up and show me something.

 

I had faith enough to pray that and I hoped (probably more than I actually believed) that He would answer it and not leave me sitting in silence wondering what in the world I was doing.  And some of what He showed me was painful.  There were some ingrained thought patterns I had come to accept over the years – thoughts about God, thoughts about myself, thoughts about my self-worth – that were simply not true, that I am going to have to work to overcome.  There were also things God showed me that let me see that He had not forgotten about me, things that He had done for me and/or my family over the course of our situation, that could only have come from Him.  THOSE things, I was not thinking about when I was complaining.  I was too busy being ungrateful and indignant that He had put me in the position to be thankful for things I had never even wanted.  And to top it all off, I kept trying to run away from the circumstances I found myself in because I just wanted so desperately to try to regain some semblance of control over my life.  But every time I tried, something would happen, and I would fall flat on my face again or be told “no” again.  I was actively trying to forget God because I felt like He had just abandoned me. 

 

But the truth is:  God had not abandoned me.  No, instead, He was being faithful to answer the desperate prayers of a teenager, tired of not fitting in, who prayed that God would show her that there was so much more to being a Christian than just getting dressed up, playing church, and filling a pew every Sunday for the rest of my life.  Granted, He hasn’t answered the way I wanted, but He has been answering it the way He has for generations.  How is that, you ask? Well, for example, there is only one disciple (John) who died of old age.  ONE.  And even that one was boiled in a huge basin of oil, but survived.   

 

What I have discovered (or what I have been shown) is that the only way that I can possibly grasp the gravity of what Christ did for me is to be put in the position to see how desperately I need Him.  If I am honest, that is a position I have desperately tried to avoid my entire life.  My prayers did not reflect that though.  Come on!  Tell me, when was the last time you heard someone pray that God would make them a mediocre Christian, or that their walk with the Lord would be mediocre?  Don’t most people pray that they would be “on fire” for the Lord?  Yet, once the fire’s lit, how often do we start praying for rain?  How often do we start telling God that the fire’s too hot, that we can’t stand the heat, or that THIS is not what we actually wanted.  All of a sudden, we forget just how God has blessed us and delivered us before, and now…we just want out.  Or maybe that’s just me. 

 

When God started answering the prayers I had prayed years ago, I had forgotten that I had prayed them.  Then, over the years, I had forgotten the scriptures that remind us to count it all joy when we suffer all kinds of trials because they are testing our faith, which builds our endurance, with then ensures that we have everything we need, that we are perfected – complete and lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).  Finally, I had forgotten just how God goes about preparing His people to walk with Him in a world that will grow increasingly more hostile toward Christians as the world progresses. 

 

So, let me wrap this up, by sharing the final section with you.

 

LIVE:  “Create a symbol that will remind you of God’s faithfulness in your life.  Maybe it’s a photograph of your close friends or a rock you picked up during a hike.  Put this symbol in a place where you will see it often.  When you look at it, be reminded and thank God for his blessings.”

 

I don’t have a symbol yet.  I have not created one yet.  But I keep thinking about how so many Old Testament figures built altars so that future generations would remember what God had done for them on that particular occasion.  I believe that this is definitely something that would be helpful to me, for the next time that I forget how God has met all my needs according to His riches in glory.  For now, what I do is write.  In a way, this devotional is my altar.  And every day, I add another stone to remind me of how God is continuing the good work He began in my nearly 32 years ago, and of how I can be confident that He will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.

Advertisements

Day Ten: What is Holiness?

READ:  Today’s reading is Leviticus 22:1-8, but the extended passage is chapters 19-22.

 

In this passage, God informs Moses that he needs to tell Aaron that he and his sons need to remember to treat the holy offerings the Israelites consecrated to Him with reverence so they won’t desecrate God’s holy name, because He is God.  Then, He proceeds to lay out a series of rules that tell what all could make them unclean and what they must to do avoid becoming unclean, as well as what they will need to do to become clean again.

 

THINK:  In this section we are asked to read the passage again, noticing our reactions toward God about what we’ve read.  It asks if we feel drawn closer to God or repelled from Him, and then, we are encouraged to talk with Him about it, exploring what could be the possible causes for our response.  Then, the challenge comes to ask God to show us more of ourselves — “the memories, opinions, and feelings you bring to him on this day.”

 

This is where I began to wonder just what holy actually meant.  So, I looked it up.  I had what I thought was a rudimentary idea, but I wanted to make sure I knew for sure.  It means consecrated, set apart, separated.  Another definition is “set apart for a special purpose.”  That definition I could grasp.  But then:  why the urge to be holy as God is holy? 

 

I know how to set apart a thing or a person for a special purpose.  But how does that apply to God?  How does one define God as holy, when He is the one who does the defining?  If he is above all things, and has created all things, and therefore, has dominion over all things…is that what makes Him HOLY?  Is He holy because He is unchangeable?  Because He is omniscient?  Omnipresent?  Omnipotent?    I think I’ve discovered that the answer to all of these questions is: YES. 

 

But what really struck me about that passage is just how unattainable true holiness really is apart from Christ.  With all the rules the Levites had for being able to approach the Holy of Holies, it was no wonder they had to enter with a rope tied around their wastes.  If they forgot even one thing, the Holy and Just God would have to punish their sin.  Therefore, the only way that person was going to get out was by being dragged out.  But, because of Christ, the veil to the Holy of Holies has been rent from top to bottom and, now, we are all free to enter in, to have a personal relationship with God, because Christ’s death and the shedding of the blood of the perfectly pure, sinless sacrifice paid the price for every sin for the rest of eternity.  So long as we accept it.  We no longer have to worry about whether or not we have asked forgiveness for every single one of our sins before we can go to God.  We can come to Him with those sins, known and unknown, and ask Him to show us where we need to ask forgiveness and He will tell us, and then we can ask forgiveness for all of them and repent. 

 

That is the only way that we can be holy as God is holy.  Because, without Christ, we can never be seen as sinless.  Without Christ, the best we could do is hope we hadn’t forgotten any of the rules, and had covered all of our bases, before we approached God. 

 

You see with the God of the Bible and Christianity, there is no such thing as “good enough” or a balanced scale.  You can never attain a state where the scales tip heavier on the side of your good works because as long as there is even a speck of dirt on the other side, you are all bad and deserving of an eternity in Hell, because a Holy and Righteous and Just God cannot and will not wink at sin.  The wages of sin is death.  Plain and simple.  That is the holiness of God.  And that is why we need Christ.  Because of His sacrifice on the cross at Calvary, the debt of our sins has been paid.  If we accept Christ, God will look at us and only see His Son standing in our place, saying: “His sins are paid for.  I took care of that bill.  He can come in.”  Without Christ as our vouchsafe, we would all be doomed to Hell. 

 

But as harsh as that sounds, it was God who provided that way out.  God, who cared so deeply about His creation that He said, “He is not willing that any should perish” and that “whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  God must punish sin because He is Holy, but He doesn’t want to because He loves His creation. 

 

PRAY:  This section challenges us to (maybe) ask God to help us increase our belief that He is holy, and then to ask Him to show us how this truth interacts with our first reaction. 

 

LIVE:  “Use this silent time to rest in the presence of the holy God, who has just made himself known to you.  Let go of your own words and let yourself enjoy the experience.”

 

And with that, I will leave you.  Take some time and let the weight of what the word HOLY means to you.  See what God wants to show you.  Then, if you’d like, drop on back by and share, if you’d like.  I’d love to hear from you.

 

Good night,

Patty

Day Nine: Letting Go of Sin

READ:  Today’s passage comes from Leviticus 16 (verses 20-22, specifically, though they recommend reading through to verse 30).  This passage talks about the scapegoat.  The scapegoat was the goat upon whose head the nation’s sins were placed.  Then, this goat was sent out into the wilderness, taking those sins with him.

THINK:  Here we are given a list of activities to consider performing.  I will list them for you.

 

  1. Picture yourself laying your hands on this precious animal’s head.  Even better, hold a stuffed animal, figurine, or even your pet, and put your hands on its head.

 

  1. Confess to God your acts of rebellion, your bad attitudes, and your harsh thoughts about others.

 

  1. Experience the feeling of transferring your sin to this animal.  (Don’t feel sorry for the animal.  God didn’t give it the capacity to take on hurt or guilt from your sin.)

 

  1. See yourself sending it off as it takes your sin far away from you.

PRAY:  What do you wish to say to God about having sent your sins off without you? 

Now, that’s a powerful question.  To be perfectly honest, I don’t know how to respond to that question.  God says that this is good enough, but my mind questions:  “Is that really all there is to it?  Surely, that can’t be it.  What else do I have to do?”  I can also say that just that response right there would be enough for me to not want to take that step, if I didn’t already know better.    Even so, it was hard to actually do that activity in faith.  I kept getting this nagging voice in the back of my head telling me that there’s no way this could be good enough, because, what if the goat comes back?  How do we get so good at rationalizing away everything?  But, even more important to ask, if that’s all there is to it, then why not do it and trust what God says?  What do we have to lose but our sins?

LIVE:  Quiet your mind and wait on God to show you situations in which you need to remember what you just did.  Practice resting assured of God’s love in those situations as you are resting assured now.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of the scapegoat.  Thank you that you have made it just that easy for me to be separated from my sins, since I cannot ever hope to make atonement for them myself.  Thank you that You came after me when I was lost, and for continuing to chase after me until I am back home in the fold.  Forgive me, Lord, when I have cheapened the sacrifice of Your Son by refusing to believe that it is enough.  Help me to remember, when I am having the hardest time forgiving myself, that I cannot withhold from myself that which you have so freely given.  And when I am hurting and tempted to seek vengeance on those who have wronged me or my family, remind me that you withhold your forgiveness from nobody and that I will only be forgiven the measure I am willing to forgive.  Give me strength to walk in faith, resting in this forgiveness, claiming it for myself as my victory over sin.  Every.  Single.  Day.

In Jesus’ Precious Name, Amen.

Day Eight: The Necessity of Sacrifice

This devotional takes us back to the basics of the Gospel but we begin by reading back in Leviticus.

 

READ:  Leviticus 4:32-35.  This passage covers the rules for bringing a sacrifice to the altar for an Absolution-Offering.  Absolution for sin. 

 

THINK:  “Each (sacrifice) served a specific purpose for interaction with God.  For example, a sin offering was given for confession, forgiveness, and cleansing.  Why does God take sin so seriously?  When we sin, what sort of sacrifices are we required to bring to God?”

 

PRAY:  Ask God to help you understand the severity of your own sin.  Thank God that he sent Jesus, the Lamb of God, to come and be the sacrifice for your sins.

 

LIVE:  Knowing that God has provided the ultimate sacrifice through his Son, Jesus, consider sharing this great truth with someone today.  As you drive, walk, work, and relax, whisper under your breath, “Thank you, Jesus,” each time you remember the sacrifice he made for your sins.

 

I wish there was something I could add to this.  Honestly, I’m coming down off of a really good message at church that was the capstone for my entire last two weeks.  It was breakfast Sunday, so I got there early and ate with a man that I’ve not had a chance to really talk to yet.  We swapped an abridged version of our life stories and talked at length about suffering and what it has looked like in our lives.  The man (I will call him “Joe”) told me about where he was in his life at the moment, and how he thanked God every day that he got a second chance at life, and did not intend to do anything to mess it up.  As for me, I shared with Joe, just how I had spent my last couple of weeks and the necessity for it.  Joe proceeded to tell me just to stay strong.  It was a really good chance to be able to extend my two weeks of devotional time. 

 

After that, we went into the service.  Worship was phenomenal.  Honestly, I cannot recall the last time I actually worshipped.  And I know that, within the last year, I haven’t truly worshipped at all.  I haven’t even been able to sing at the top of my voice this past year, and probably not for the past 3 years.  Before that, the memory gets fuzzy.  I’ve been so consumed by the drama that was our lives at the time, that I simply can’t remember what my worship life was like.  However, I believe I was too concerned with how I looked in worship to actually do it.  NOT TODAY!! 

 

Don’t get me wrong, I have participated in worship every Sunday I’ve been there.  However, most of the time, I was standing there saying, “I am singing to you because you deserve this.  You are God and I am not.”  But today was different.  I was feeling worshipful.  Now, I realize that worship is not about the feeling.  But today, I didn’t have to try to force something that felt like a lie.  I was worshiping.  Praising God because He deserves to be praised and singing the words, and meaning it, and basking in it.  I can’t describe it, but if you’ve felt it, I don’t have to.

 

Then, the preaching started.  We started a new series this week on the book of James.  We started at the beginning and we are going to work our way through.  So, today, we read Chapter 1, verses 1-4, concentrating primarily on 2-4.  Let me share:

 

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance (or steadfastness).  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

 

I wish I could share with you everything that our preacher said because it was JUST THAT GOOD.  But, what was so amazing was that it was almost like he had been eavesdropping on my past two weeks and my conversation with Joe.  Over the past year, he has shared many services that have hit my right where I was living, but most of the time, I’ve been sitting there, crying, trying not to keep sniffing through his entire sermon.  This time, I was rejoicing.  It was like God was continuing to smile down on me after having been there for me all week. 

 

So…how do I bring this back around and tie it into today’s devotional? 

 

I guess it all comes down to grace.  God’s grace is why we are on the Earth, and God’s grace provided the first sacrifice that covered Adam and Eve’s sin.  That sacrifice and every other atoning sacrifice in the Old Testament pointed to Jesus Christ, the last sacrifice that would ever need to be made for the whole of mankind’s sins.  And that sacrifice made it possible for me to have the devotional time I had the last two weeks.  God has always actively sought out His creation in hopes of redeeming them and bringing us back to Himself.  Most of the time, we spend our lives running the other way.  But when, like the prodigal son, we make our way home, even just part of the way, Our Father comes running out to us, and orders the fatted calf slain in order that He might throw us a party, in celebration that we have returned to the fold!  For me, that was what worship was like today! 

 

How could I not go out into the world and share that with people.  That freedom.  That relief.  That grace that taught my heart to fear.  The grace my fears relieved.  The grace that has brought me safe thus far.  And the grace that leads me home.  

Day Seven: God Encounters

Good morning everyone.  Technically, this would be Day Eight, but I spent the bulk of yesterday driving and, when I arrived home, the people I live with were hosting a small get-together.  Needless to say, by the end of the day, and after the last couple of weeks, I was pretty much wiped out.  But, I am back home from Liberty (Lynchburg, VA) now.

 

Day Seven of the SOLO devotional is different than the preceding six days. On the seventh day, we are asked to review and reflect on all we read during the week and to revel in the ways we’ve encountered God in the past six days.

 

REVIEW:  This week, we have read about reconciliation in Genesis 3 and about wrestling with God until we get a blessing in Genesis 32.  Genesis 50 (verses 15-21) gave us a picture of forgiveness by looking at the story of Joseph and his brothers.  Day Four asked us to read Exodus 3 and the story about Moses and the burning bush and the holy ground.  We were challenged to pay attention to our lives in a way that might help us to notice God and His Holiness.  On Day Five, we read about the Israelites begging for meat; so, God gave them quail and manna.  This was in Exodus 16 (9-16).  Then, on Day Six, we read about God shielding Moses from the full effects of His Glory, but that God did allow Moses to see His Back, while they were on Mount Sinai (right before God wrote the Ten Commandments).  This message was from Exodus 33 and 34.

 

REFLECT:  As I reflect on all that’s been covered this week, it’s amazing to me that what I wrote and shared with you all, does not sound like it would’ve had anything to do with what we were asked to read.  But, then, is that not the grace and glory of God to take us places we don’t realize we need to go using means that would baffle other people?

 

Let me share about where God led me this week.

 

Every prayer is an act of faith.  If you don’t believe that the entity you are praying to will answer your prayers, would you pray?  I began my period of the last 2 weeks just begging God to reveal Himself to me.  I didn’t know what I needed, but I knew I needed something, and I knew that only God could provide it.  I didn’t know how He would show up (or if, for that matter) but I took a leap of faith based on what I’d read in Scripture.  I figured, “if the Bible is true, He surely has to honor this request.”  But to make doubly sure, I didn’t miss anything He might try to say to me, I made sure that I had as quiet an atmosphere as possible for Him to work in, or speak to me.

 

So, without further ado, here are some of the things God showed me this past week.

 

1. The hardest fought battles bring the sweetest victories.

 

2. I CAN live a victorious life in the midst of horrific circumstances.

 

3. I truly must work out my salvation with fear and trembling.

 

4. I hear best from God when I’m writing (this is a personal revelation, not a global one.) 🙂

 

5. Nothing I put inside my body will fill a deep ache in my soul.

 

6. The strength God gave me is a gift  I CAN use it to overcome.  I WILL use it to overcome.  And I WILL do what He has called me to do.  Regardless of how much it hurts.

 

7.  There is a reason God made me strong.  There is a reason my husband keeps saying I “just keep coming.”  I will never be able to move into God’s perfect will for my life if I am too afraid to deal with my baggage from the past.

 

All this, and it’s just the first week.  I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year reveals.

 

If you worked through the devotional this week, or followed along with the passages I posted and what I was doing, and felt God was speaking to you, and would like to share, I would love to hear from you.

DAY SIX: GOD REVEALS HIMSELF

The title I used this time is actually the title of today’s devotional as it appears in the book.  Hmm…I wonder…Coincidence?  I think not.

 

READ:  Today’s passage is Exodus 33:21-34:7.  This is the story of God shielding Moses from His Glory while they were on the mountain, and includes Moses cutting the stone tablets upon which the Ten Commandments would be inscribed.

 

What struck me today?  Verses 21-23.  Here are those verses:

 

     God said, “Look, here is a place right beside me.  Put yourself on this rock.  When my Glory

     passes by, I’ll put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand until I’ve passed by. 

     Then I’ll take my hand away and you’ll see my back.  But you won’t see my face.”

 

THINK:  This part of the devotional encourages us to listen for a word or phrase that especially impresses us and let it interact with our thoughts, feelings and desires.  And this is where I find myself parking today.

 

I think about my own situation, what my family is going through, and I have often wondered where God is.  This passage makes me think about it a little differently.  What if God has not abandoned us?  What if His Glory is passing by us and He has hidden us in the cleft of the rock and placed His Hand over the opening so we cannot see what’s going on outside?  Or…what if, He has passed by, but has turned His back so we cannot look full upon His face and I am merely mistaking that for Him turning His back on us?  I realize that last bit might sound a bit like mincing words, but I’m hoping you hear the spirit of the words.

 

PRAY:  “Deeply ponder the quality of God that the word or phrase portrays.  Share with Him what’s striking to you about this aspect of his character.  Explore what makes you desirous of someone with this trait.”

 

Reading this passage, I envision a God who cares so deeply about His people that He desires to shield them from anything that might overpower them.  And the Glory of God would certainly overpower me.  These verses make me want to try to look at my current situation in a different light.  Maybe I can’t see what He’s doing because it is too powerful to fathom.  Maybe He’s shielding me from being able to see or understand because I wouldn’t comprehend anyway.  Maybe I would just get in the way.  But, maybe, and possibly, most likely, He just wants to develop my faith a little more, asking me to trust that while He has me hidden, or while His back is to me, I can believe that what is on the other side of Him is going to be something that is indeed good for me.

 

LIVE:  Here we are asked to envision the ways God is present to us right now, the posture He has and what expression is on His face.  We are also asked to listen to His tone of voice, if He is speaking to us.  And we are challenged to ask Him to enhance, or correct, this picture of Him, through the passages we read and through our experiences.

 

To say that I have been seeing God through the glass darkly (not dimly, but darkly) would be an understatement.  I’ve not been trying to see much of Him at all.  I think that’s what made these last two weeks so powerful.  Not only has He revealed Himself to me, but He has done so in such a way that He has also unveiled much of my own character for me to see myself more clearly, as well.  I’ve discovered that I cannot have an accurate picture of myself without an accurate picture of my sin.  And I cannot have an accurate picture of God without spending time in His Word.  And when I spend time in God’s Word and get a more accurate picture of Him, my sins come into full, crystal-clear resolution, and I am left seeing that the idea that I could make it in this world on my own steam is foolishness.

 

So, for now, I am going to keep plugging away, spending time in the Word by reading this devotional, and sharing it with you, trusting that God will continue to meet me here.  My prayer is that He will continue to crystalize my image of Him so that I can relate to Him from my proper place:  worthy of dying for and unable to make it through this life without His help and provision and protection. 

 

Abba Father,

Thank you for answering my prayer and for meeting me right where I was, and how I was, these past two weeks.  And thank You for revealing Yourself to me.  Please help me not to forget about this time and how sweet it was when I return home, and give me the courage to tell others about it IN PERSON so that they, too, can see that You dearly long to show Yourself to them as well.

 

In Jesus’ Holy Name, I pray, Amen.

 

 

DAY FIVE: ENOUGH IS AS GOOD AS A FEAST

READ:  In SOLO, today, the message comes from Exodus 16 (verses 9-16).  This is the story of Moses addressing the Israelites complaints about not having any meat in the wilderness.  God told Moses to tell the Israelites:  “I’ve listened to the complaints of the Israelites.  Now tell them: ‘At dusk, you will eat meat and at dawn you’ll eat your fill of bread, and you’ll realize that I am God, your God.'”  That evening the quail flew in and they had meat.  Then, the next morning the manna fell from Heaven but, of course, the Israelites had no idea what it was.  Then, Moses informed them that it was the bread God had given them to eat and that they were gather just enough for each person for the day (except for on the Sabbath).

 

THINK:  This section challenges the reader to reread the passage, stopping to really ponder the emotions the Israelites might have been experiencing at the time:  the neediness of complaining; the excitement of seeing the glory of God visible in the Cloud; the perplexity of seeing this strange bread from Heaven; and the satisfaction of having enough.

 

This part is intriguing.  What does the neediness of complaining look like?  Ha, well…this one I can answer.  It looks like a gaping hole that will never be filled.  But…what it feels like is another story.  I’ve done my fair share of complaining.  Sometimes, I felt mad;  sometimes, lonely.  But every time, I felt doubtful and distrustful.  Every time, I either felt unloved or unlovable.  But, what I never felt, any time I complained, was satisfied or satisfy-able.

 

The THINK passage goes on to encourage the us to contemplate what we would complain to God about right now (and then instructs us to do so).  But then, it asks:  “In what ways, if any, have you been perplexed by God’s response to your complaining?  How might God have truly provided enough but you didn’t recognize it as God’s bread from heaven–exactly what you needed?”

 

Well…isn’t that hitting a bit below the belt?  Over the past 3 years, I’ve had plenty to complain about.  Some of it justified (in my mind) because the situation was unjust.  But, most of what I’ve complained about stemmed from the fact that God did not meet my needs the way I wanted them met.  Sure, God has provided for me.  Sure, I’ve had plenty to be thankful for.  But, why couldn’t it look the way I wanted it too?  It seems that all my years of going to church had served to give me a good dose of “holier than thou” but not so healthy a dose of “true holiness” and even less gratitude.  Naturally, I was thankful when things went my way.  But…why wouldn’t they go my way, when I was being a “good girl”?  After all, that is the way the world is supposed to work.  Right?  Right???

 

It seems I had forgotten the verses in the Bible that declare that, in this world, we will have suffering; and that if they hated/rejected Me (Jesus), they will hate/reject you.  No…I was so busy focusing on the “all things work together for good for those that love the Lord” verses that I had neglected to remember all those pesky verses about suffering.  And, I’m not even going to touch the passage about Jesus praying that “this cup” would pass from Him, nevertheless, Lord, Your Will be done.  Those did not quite fit in with the doctrine I had developed for myself.  As it turned out, I had been most of my reading out of the “Gospel according to Patty.”  And now, my faulty thinking and false doctrine have come crashing down around my ears, and I have been left feeling like, God is surely not enough.  Or, maybe I am just not worth what the Bible says I am.  Either way, the end result has been the same.  COMPLAINING.  And a general state of DISSATISFACTION. 

 

PRAY:  With the above statement in mind, I move on to the PRAY section.  In this passage, we are encouraged to formally complain to God about everything we want to complain about.  (Fantastic, I say.)  But, then, we are encouraged to ask God to show us precisely how He has provided for us, even though we might still wonder?! 

 

Wonder about what?  The passage doesn’t address that, but I have filled in some blanks for myself.  If God is enough?  If He has provided me with enough?  If He actually loves me the way He says He does and will do for me what the Bible says He will do? 

 

If I am honest, I have to admit that God has provided more-than-graciously over the course of our lives.  And over the past 3 years, though it hasn’t looked the way I wanted it to, He has taken ample care of us.  I have nothing to complain about.  But, there’s still that nagging feeling like something might be missing, or like I might do something to make Him finally decide to throw in the towel.  That’s where the “gaping hole that can never be filled” part comes in, and I am forced to deal with it. 

 

If God has proven Himself, over and over and over again, why do I still have doubts?  Why must I still be so much like Eve when that “Unfortunate Incident in the Garden” was so very many years ago? 

 

LIVE:  I will share this passage verbatim.

     “Sit in the quiet and feel God’s “enoughness” in your body.  Where do you feel it?  In arms that are full?  In a quiet mind?  In a stomach that feels full?  In muscles that work well?  If you can really mean it, try delighting in this enoughness.

 

I think that part of my issue with asking for God to reveal Himself to me over these past 3 years has been that it felt so much like asking for yet another sign or wonder.  Somewhere I got it in my head that praying that God would comfort me or show me how he had provided for me was surely a lack of faith.  And after praying for a miracle intervention into our situation and being denied, I was having a hard time asking for anything at all.  The one thing I was not having a hard time doing was complaining.  Much like the Israelites, wandering in the wilderness, grumbling and complaining, I have been wandering through my own wilderness of self-pity and doubt, grumbling and complaining that God had abandoned me. 

 

Desperate, I called out to God to reveal Himself to me.  Not to do a miracle for me.  But just to show me how He had been trying to reveal Himself to me, or take care of me, and how I had missed it.  Then, I waited; sitting in the quiet, I just started listening.  One day, during my devotional, I might read something that touched me.  “Nice,” I would think.  But then, just a few hours later, in class, somebody would say exactly that same thing, or expound on the thought that occurred to me after what I read.  Then, another thought would occur to me, and somebody else would confirm that.  By the end of the day, when I would sit down to type out my reflections for the day, everything that I had read or heard or thought would come spilling out onto the screen.  All the dots would connect and I would be left sitting in my seat, stunned, by what God had done that day.  My situation still hadn’t changed.  But, God had answered my prayers, and that was fine.  That was enough.  And finally, I felt like I was being heard again.  Like  He cared enough to listen and answer my prayers again. 

 

Until my situation does change, my prayer will remain:  “Lord, move,” but so long as He continues to “move me,” I will keep plugging away.  I will continue telling myself the truth about all the ways the Lord has provided for me.  I will keep reminding myself that whether or not I feel like I am “enough” (good enough, pretty enough, lovely enough) has nothing to do with the fact that my God is enough and that He will do what He says He will do, and that it will, eventually, work out for my good.  And I will keep reminding myself that “Enough truly is as good as a feast.”