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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Feasting in the Desert

Exodus 16:3 - "If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt," they moaned. "There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death."

God had promised the Israelites that He would free them from slavery and deliver them to the Promised Land, a land filled with milk and honey. On paper that sounds great. Notice how He didn't give them the road map ahead of time?

So here they are, one month into the journey. Thirty short days. Where is this Promised Land anyway? I'm ready for milk and honey. My feet are tired and if I have to sleep one more night on the ground my back is going to rebel. On and on and on, complaint after complaint. So God answers. In verse four we read, "Look, I'm going to rain down food from heaven for you."

Rock on. Turkey with all the fixings - stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberries, pumpkin pie. Or, maybe steak and baked potatoes. I'd even settle for a Big Mac! Whatever was coming...and I know that I'd build it up in my head...the King of the Universe, who has chosen my people to make into a nation, is going to provide in a miraculous way (think about the Red Sea, the Angel of Death, frogs, gnats, hail). Clearly this is a God who knows how to do it right. It's going to be awwwesommme!

The next day comes and what do we get...wings and crackers. You heard it right. Wings and crackers. Really God? Not even peanut butter for those Ritz crackers?

Have you ever wondered why God seems to under deliver? Don't get me wrong, a miracle is a miracle. But if we've been promised the Promised Land, why not turkey instead of hot wings? Why not an instantly healed marriage instead of one you have to keep working at? Why not a job we love instead of a crazy boss who steals all our joy? Why not a million bucks instead of just enough to pay the mortgage? A BMW instead of a Yugo?

Maybe it's because God knows our tendency to slide toward the comfortable. If we got turkey in the desert we'd never want to leave the desert. Like the Israelites we'd forget that freedom with crackers is better than slavery with a big ole' slab of meat. We'd forget that we're on His journey, not our own. His care for us keeps us longing for our arrival at the Promised Land.

So the next time you're tempted to complain that God hasn't pushed the easy button and given you what you want, remember that He's given you what you need; which is just enough to remind you tomorrow that what you need is Him!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Rebuilding Jerusalem

I've been working with a young man who is trying to kick an addiction. He has been working very hard, trying to do things the right way. For several months he's made the right choices. Today he failed.

The good news is that he is discouraged with himself. If his heart was hardened, and there was no hope for change, he wouldn't be discouraged.

I wouldn't be writing this if I were only talking about this one young man. Addictions come in all sorts of flavors, and I work with multiple addicts. In fact, to be honest, I was born with an addiction to sin, that I have been fighting all my life. And, since the flesh never gets better, I'd guess I'll be fighting it for some time to come.

Jesus died knowing that we would spend our earthly lives as recovering addicts - drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, gossip, anger, self, self-righteousness, judgmentalism - you name it, the list goes on and on. We all struggle.

Good news can be found throughout the Bible, but today, Psalm 147:2 seem appropriate. It says, "The Lord is rebuilding Jerusalem and bringing the exiles back to Israel."

Obviously this was written for the nation of Israel. BUT, if Jerusalem is significant because God has chosen to dwell there, then it could be said that since God has chosen to dwell in our hearts that they also represent a Jerusalem of sorts. AND, if Israel is the Promised Land, blessed by the Almighty God, THEN: "The Lord is rebuilding my heart and bringing me out of exile and back into the Promised Land of right living with Him." It doesn't say He is done, just that He is rebuilding.

Jesus did the hardest part on the cross. His work is complete. We are in right standing with God if we have believed in Jesus. But our sanctification (the process of becoming righteous as we learn to live life God's way) won't be complete until we cross the finish line and enter Heaven.

A step in the wrong direction doesn't have to be an about face, it can just be a step backwards. Yes, setbacks can be disappointing, but they do not have to define you. Character is not living life perfectly. Character is what is built when you mess up. Don't give up the fight. He is calling you forward. Take a step that direction today!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Psalm 136 Redux

Sometimes as I read the Psalms it feels like the difference in time and culture rob the rich words of David, Asaph and others of the meaning behind their poetry. For example, whenever David talks about his enemies trying to kill him, I think, "I've got it good. I don't think I have any enemies and even if I do I'm not running for my life because they are trying to kill me." So every now and then I work through a Psalm line-by-line, re-interpreting the meaning (at least what I think was meant) behind the words, and translating them into my life.

Psalm 136 is a great Psalm on its own. As I read it a few days ago I got to verses 19 and 20, where the author talks about Sihon and Og, and thought this is one I should redo for myself. Maybe it will encourage you as well.

1.  Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. He is on my side and in Him there is no darkness.
     His faithful love endures forever.
2.  Give thanks to the only God there is, was or ever will be.
     His faithful love endures forever.
3.  Give thanks to the God over our other gods - power, fame, money, sex, self.
     His faithful love endures forever.

4.  Give thanks to Him who parted the clouds - like He parted the Red Sea - over the stadium in Arzano, Italy as we were starting the last night of the crusade (insert your own miracle here).
     His faithful love endures forever.
5.  Give thanks to Him who already knew about the 'new' galaxy scientists just found - because He made it in the first place.
     His faithful love endures forever.
6.  Give thanks to Him who gave us the oceans, which remind us of His infinite power and love for us.
     His faithful love endures forever.
7.  Give thanks to Him who made the Big Dipper, which is the only constellation I can ever find,
     His faithful love endures forever.
8.  the sunshine which we don't get to see enough of here in Oregon and so appreciate ever more,
     His faithful love endures forever.
9.  and the full moon on a clear night which reflects the majesty of the sun, reminding us to reflect the majesty of THE SON.
     His faithful love endures forever.

10. Give thanks to Him who killed my innate self-focus,
      His faithful love endures forever.
11. and because of it brought me out of my slavery in the Egypt of my life,
      His faithful love endures forever.
12. and continues to show His strong hand and powerful arm as He guides my life along the straight and narrow path.
      His faithful love endures forever.
13. Give thanks to Him who continues to clear the path in front of me when I face obstacles,
      His faithful love endures forever.
14. and leads me through challenging times,
      His faithful love endures forever.
15. and protects me from the enemy from behind (and before and beside).
      His faithful love endures forever.
16. Give thanks to Him who leads me through the deserts I periodically find myself journeying
       through.
      His faithful love endures forever.

17. Give thanks to Him who has struck down so many of the "kings" of my life that steal my
      faithfulness and focus.
      His faithful love endures forever.
18. and they were strong and plenty as He cleaned house in my life...
      His faithful love endures forever.
19. the abuse I had experienced,
      His faithful love endures forever.
20. my insecurity and low self-worth.
      His faithful love endures forever.
21. God gave me emotional and spiritual health as an inheritance,
      His faithful love endures forever.
22. and they are a treasure to be valued and kept safe.
      His faithful love endures forever.

23. He remembers I am a puny human who still messes up,
      His faithful love endures forever.
24. so He continues to beat down my inner enemies.
      His faithful love endures forever.
25. He meets all of my needs - emotional, spiritual, financial, relational.
      His faithful love endures forever.
26. Give thanks to the God of Heaven who is never to big for my smallness and decided long before the beginning of time to notice me.
      His faithful love endures forever.