In today’s mishmash of events, everything in our lives seems jumbled and muddled.
Strongly held beliefs that once carried us forward and gave us hope, now sway ever so slightly in the prevailing winds that are urgent, and rushing, and never ending.
The world is watching to see how Christians are responding as we all find ourselves spiraling toward the drain of 2020.
While some Christian leaders have clearly drawn a line in the sand- boasting their own Pharisaical and legalistic viewpoints (Matthew 23:4-7) and holding themselves out as the true voices of God- others, who are also carriers of the grace, stand just across the aisle with a different perspective.
These are those outside of the gate whom we often see as lacking doctrinal knowledge and biblical understanding. They are, in fact, living in the very places where Jesus found us.
They are waiting and hopeful for a revelation of something-anything- that is good and true and secure.
Then there are the true worshipers. Those who carry the heart of the Father. These are those who are battle worn, have been proven, and are now taking their places, right here, in the middle of the darkness.
“But the hour is coming and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” John 4:23
They are the counterculture in the midst of a prevailing tide who have decidedly chosen to push back the voices of alarm that have come in the night and are carried by the tearing of the wind and the shattering of the earthquakes and the burning of the fires.
Determining instead to tune their ears to the pulse of God and to listen for the familiar voice.
John 4 describes an unlikely encounter between Jesus and a woman who stood on the outside of what was acceptable to those who saw themselves as true believers.
Jesus was tired and thirsty when He sat down at Jacob’s well in Samaria. He was on His way somewhere else but needed to pass through the city of forbidden people in order to get there.
When the woman came to the well for water, Jesus engaged her even though she stood outside of every limitation that the church had set for holiness; She was of mixed race, the values of her people were questionable, and she had been married many times before and now lived with a man who was not her husband. (John 4:17-18).
What led Him to her was the Spirit of God. What drew her to Him was their shared humanity- he was tired and thirsty; she was stuck in a destructive cycle. What lifted her and altered her perspective, was an invitation of grace.
Because Jesus choose to listen to the Father and ignore the clatter of the breaking news stories, the persuasion of social media, and the everchanging opinion of the crowds that bombarded Him, He was able to sow seeds in her. Those seeds she would take back and spread among her people.
So the question remains; Is the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob still the God that is relevant in this time and at this moment when it seems that many have taken their own paths of enlightenment and believe that the truth of God is no longer applicable during the most difficult time of our generation?
As God’s priests and kings, one of our missions is to reflect the true light of God and to point the way to Him for everyone who desires to know the same grace and love that has found us.
Right now, wherever we find ourselves, we need God. We need the stability of God. We need God’s peace. We need God’s guidance more than ever before.
God will help us on our journey and show us the places we need to be as He strengthens our hearts for the harvest.
1. God is our foundation
New York’s once highly anticipated Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was a mere shadow of its former self in 2020.
This year, the scaled down version had no spectators and no smiling waving groups of people walking down the brisk New York city streets flanked by crowds of spectators.
Instead, a small number of individuals riding in open cars were tasked with hanging on to the ropes that kept the bloated characters tethered to the parade route.
The delightful caricatures bobbed and weaved as they made their way down Central Park Avenue sporting plastered on smiles and colorful outfits as the workers held tightly to thin cords that kept them from slamming into the sides of skyscrapers or being swept away by gusts of wind and carried away to places they were never intended to be.
God holds the tether of our world. He is the measure of truth and justice in a world that is overflowing with opinions and apathy for one other.
To whom do we look to tell us what ‘s right? Whose truth do we hold on to and what is that truth based on?
Are my experiences more real than your experiences, or is my perception of truth distorted because I can only see through the lens of how it affects me and my family?
What if I have never experienced your reality? Does this change the standard that God has already set for how I should relate to or treat you?
We were never meant to blow around in the wind bouncing off of one thing to the next and allowing emotions or fear to carry us from place to place.
God wants us to build our houses on His revelation.
“Now therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and the members of the household of God, having built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone in whom the building being joined together grows into a holy temple in the Lord and in whom you are also being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22
2. God is our strength
Most of us who have read the story of Job watched in horror as Job’s life is strategically destroyed.
Our hearts sink as we witness our own deepest fears manifested in a man who the bible described as “the greatest of all the people in the east.”
We find ourselves questioning God’s decision to remove the hedge of protection from around Job and give him over to the enemy which resulted in the death of Job’s children, the betrayal of his wife, and the loss of all his wealth.
And although Job’s friends try to comfort him in the only way they know how, it’s not enough.
“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place. And when they raised their eyes from afar and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept. So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights and no one spoke a word to him for they saw that his grief was very great.” Job 2:11-13
Until he lost everything, Job’s strength had been in himself.
Now everything that had once identified Job is gone and his friend, Eliphaz, describes how those around him had defined Job.
“Surely you have instructed many and have strengthened weak hands. Your words have upheld him who was stumbling and you have strengthened the feeble knees. Now it comes upon you and you are weary. It touches you and you are troubled. Is not your reverence your confidence and the integrity of your own ways your hope?” Job 4:3-6
Job believed he had done everything right. After all, he had always reverenced God and offered continual sacrifices. He had even made atonements for his son’s sins just in case they needed it (Job 1:5).
In Job’s eyes, he didn’t deserve what happened to him. And in Job 10, he makes that point clear to God as he sinks deeper into despair.
It wasn’t until God introduced Himself to Job (Job 38) that Job begins to understand that nothing he had, came from himself.
“You asked who is this who hides counsel without knowledge? therefore I have uttered what i did not understand. things too wonderful for me which I did not know. I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You.” Job 42:2-5
What Job painfully discovered is that his strength and his hope was not connected to the things that surrounded him. His strength and his hope was dependent on the God who created him.
Job’s life had begun with God and would end with God and everything in-between was an extension of God’s grace and goodness.
With relief, we finally see that in the end God restored to Job two times what he had before.
But Job would never be the same.
He had lived according to God’s standards and had done everything right in order to remain in God’s good graces but when he lost everything, he had no one who had the capacity to carry his grief.
Family and friends can comfort us, but they get weary too. And though we like to think of ourselves as strong and resilient, at times we grow tired of our own heaviness.
Only God can carry the weight of who we are and what we bring.
Job had to remove the cloak of his own self-righteousness and piety, that had kept God at arm’s length, and bring the fragmented pieces of his soul and lay them at the feet of the One who gives and takes away.
And even though he may not have ever fully understood why his life was destroyed, through his sorrow, he was finally able to see that God alone was his strength.
When Job saw the pure strength of God (“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?”), it changed the way he saw himself.
His weakness in the shadow of God’s strength restored him and prepared him to be used by God (Job 42:10).
“You Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth. The heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain. They will grow old like a garment and You will fold them up like a cloak. They will be changed Oh God, but You will remain the same and Your years will not fail.” Hebrews 1:10
3. God is our strategy
“The Lord our God spoke to us in Horeb saying “You have dwelt long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey, and go to the mountains of the Amorites, to all the neighboring places in the plain, in the mountains and the lowland, in the South and on the seacoast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the River Euphrates. See I have set the land before you; go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to your fathers.” Deuteronomy 1:6
The world is weary. We are tired of sickness. We are tired of being apart. We are fearful about the present and uncertain about the future.
After weeks of laying on the couch, feeling deflated, and helplessly watching my perfectly concocted “next steps” for 2020 disappear like a vapor right before my eyes, I eventually had to admit the inevitable; My plans for 2020 had failed.
The plans I had so carefully made were clearly not the same plans that God had made for me.
I had to concede that God wasn’t thrown off by the pandemic and He wasn’t unsure of how things would turn out- I was.
His plan had never changed.
The word that I heard was clearly God calling me into a season of rest in preparation for the next level. But my interpretation of that plan was, as always, quickly implemented by a lot of creative embellishment on my part.
This revelation created a sinking feeling of failure and the realization that it was time to get off of the coveted path that I had created.
It was time to trudge back to God with slumped shoulders, to crook my hear to His frequency, and to ask- “What did you say again Lord?”
On its surface, the book of Esther appears to be a fairytale rags to riches story about a young girl’s journey to the palace.
Upon further inspection we see that Esther’s life was fraught with heartache and uncertainty.
She lived in captivity in Babylon. She was an orphan, and after her parents died, was taken in by her cousin Mordecai.
Esther’s only chance of breaking out of her life came in the form of a contest. She and many other young girls were drafted to compete in some sort of weird talent search to be picked as the wife of a king who was fickle and had easily led by those around him.
But in spite of those crazy details, God had a plan (Esther 4:13). He gave Esther favor in an unexpected place.
I wonder if Esther would have entered that contest if God had told her why she was really there?
I’ve found that one of the most uncomfortable things in my life has been to let go of the dream in my own heart in order to embrace the thing that God has intended for me.
Surrender is a sweet sacrifice to our King and something I have failed at more times than I want to remember.
Surrender tells God that we trust His plan more than we trust our own.
Surrender puts us in positions where the things that God sees ahead can now become profitable.
For me it is a continual yielding. It is a step ahead, and then a step back, and then a falling down and then a getting back up. It is very rarely the smooth trajectory that I want it to be.
There are hills and mountains and disappointments and hurts so deep they threaten to incapacitate me. But I know within the deepest places that hold me steady and after the dust has cleared, God still has me.
He has you. You were created by Him for such a time as this. Allow Him to prepare you and train you and heal you so that you are strong enough for these times. He knows what you are capable of because He put it in you.
Once Esther was in the palace, she thought she had arrived. She was the queen of Persia. She had the favor of the king.
She had stepped away from her past and into this fairytale present. She didn’t know the enormity of why she was really there.
No matter what is going on around us, God’s plan for us has not changed. His intentions continue to be for us to possess the places where we are sent, then wait for His orders.
As our own masters of improvisation, often the smooth roads that we have created for ourselves cause us to be sidetracked and disoriented. We can no longer see the vision clearly as we plow through to reach the next level of success.
But God’s next level rarely looks like the one we have pictured. His ways and His thoughts are nothing like our own.
God is always “other” and He continues to be far outside of the boxes that we create.
The challenge for us right here and right now is to ask God for His strategy, then adjust accordingly.
Walk it out!
“Father, thank You that You have chosen us for this time. Thank You that You have trusted us to be carriers of Your grace and Your love in the darkness.
Help us to remember that everything we are and all that we have is because of Your goodness, Your mercy, and Your grace. We can do nothing apart from You.
Help us to love one another through our disagreements and keep us fixated on the plans that You have already made for each one of us.
Open our hearts Father so that we are able to turn away from the distractions and help us remember to point the way to those who are trying to find You.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.