Monday, February 21, 2011

Can You Hear Me Now?

"I called to the LORD; I called out to my God.
From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears.”
2 Samuel 22:7

It was early afternoon as we left Hoover Dam and headed into Arizona. The day was sunny, windy and very dry. As we began to descend into the desert we drove for close to 75 miles without seeing any visible signs of gas stations, no markets, no houses. It was indeed isolated. I wondered what would happen if we were to have an emergency or car trouble. These are the kinds of areas where the guy on the television commercial for cell phones says, “Can you hear me now?” This leads me to our next point…

3. Communication May Be Difficult

It's often difficult to explain to others what we are going through. Trying to put  our feelings and emotions into words is not always easy. If we have been hurt by someone we trust and love, anger or mistrust of others  can cause us to pull away from those around us. We stuff our thoughts and emotions because we have no one we feel we can confide in.  We feel the need to put up barriers and protect our hearts from being wounded again. So we withdraw to a lonely barren place.

There are occasions when we find ourselves in situations that others simply don’t understand. They may not understand your emotions, or your reactions, or even know what kind of support they could possibly give you. They don’t know what to say! And so, we with draw further…

The enemy loves it when we isolate ourselves…we become easy prey. That very isolation that we intended to cocoon ourselves in makes communication with others very difficult. We just don't want anyone to get too close.

And we end up in the desert
with no one to talk to

There is One with whom we are always able to communicate. One who is always there to listen. One who always understands. One who is always trustworthy. One who always cares. One who never leaves. And One who always has the answer. Our first line of communication is with our God.

"I called out to my God.
From His temple He heard my voice;
my cry came to His ears."
(2 Samuel 22:7)

As I mentioned before, sometimes these barren places are necessary pathways to our God-given destination. Just like Moses and the Israelites, they had to pass through the wilderness on the way to Canaan. It was the pathway God had chosen for them. But the barrenness and desolation often caused them to grumble. Not a good form of communication! But, when they cried out to God, He always heard them and always answered them. He is the one line of communication that will never be broken or interrupted.

That communication line runs both ways, though. Often it’s not us calling out to God, but Him calling us. There are many instances in the Bible where men of God were in the wilderness and God called them.

Moses was hiding out in the wilderness, tending his father-in-law’s sheep on the far side when God out to him from the burning bush. “When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” (Exodus 3:4)

Elijah was running for his life from King Ahab. He fled to the wilderness, fell down and said, “I have had enough, LORD,” ...Take my life;…” (I Kings 19:4). The Lord sent angels to minister to him and feed him, after which he lay down and slept. When he awoke, he fled again to a cave and hid. But, God found him and called out to him and asked him “What are you doing here?” God had a plan for Elijah and it wasn’t hiding out in a cave or wilderness.

If we run to a wilderness on our own to hide, He won't leave us there. He has a plan for us...and He will call out to us. Are we listening? Hebrews 4:7 says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Sometimes, like Elijah, we are listening for God in the thunder, earthquakes or wind. But he found God to be in the whisper. Listen for it...

“Whether you turn to the right or the left,
you will hear a voice behind you saying,
 ‘This is the way, walk in it.’”
Isaiah 30:21

Can you hear Him now?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Know the Terrain....

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
Psalm 119:105

2.  Know the Terrain - Get a map!
Know the terrain you will be in.

When we left Seattle and headed for Phoenix, we had an atlas that we used to map our trip. We checked out different highways and routes to see which ones would be the quickest, or the most scenic, or the safest. As we got to the end of the road on one page, we would simply turn the page and pick up the route on the next page. We used that atlas until the pages are worn and tattered. We knew which page to turn to as we crossed from Washington into Oregon, and again from Oregon into California. We knew which page to look at when we approached Hoover Dam and as we crossed into Arizona. And if perchance, we took a wrong turn, we would just go back to the page with the last place we knew we were right and correct our error....or find a new road to get us back to where we belonged. And trust 3am in the pitch black darkness of a barren Nevada desert.....that's no easy feat!

How many times have you traveled through life wishing you had an atlas? Something that would show you where the road you are on goes, let you know if you are on the right road, get you back on track when you've made a wrong turn, or simply point you in the right direction. While God doesn’t give us an atlas that shows us the entire route our lives will take, He does give us step by step instructions…one day at a time, one step at a time.

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
Psalm 119:105

The Bible is our road map.

His Word shows us the way to live, the way to serve, the way to treat others, the way to shine His light in a dark world. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us, "Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God's way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us." (msg).  Every word is training us to live God's way.

His Word tells us how to dress for the journey. "Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Ephesians 6:14-17). From head to toe, His word tells us what we will need to wear in order to be prepared for the journey, but also to face an enemy.

His Word tells us when to rest and leads us to quiet waters to replenish our dry and thirsty souls. Psalm 23:2,3  "You have bedded me down in lush meadows, You find me quiet pools to drink from. True to Your word, You let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction". (msg) There are times when we just need to stop and take a breather...a sabbath as it were. His Word shows us how to be quiet and drink from His living water. And when we are ready to go again, He points us in the right direction.
His Word is truth. If we listen to His Word, we cannot be deceived by the enemy. John 16:13 say, "But...the Spirit of truth...will guide you into all the truth." (niv).

We have the Word of God as our road map with the Holy Spirit as our personal guide. I like the way the Message puts Isaiah 42:16..

"But I'll take the hand of those who don't know the way,
who can't see where they're going.
I'll be a personal guide to them,
directing them through unknown country.
I'll be right there to show them what roads to take,
make sure they don't fall into the ditch.
These are the things I'll be doing for them—
sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute."  
So, if you are looking for a road map to get you through this life, pick up your Bible and ask the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you. He'll never leave you for a minute!
Next.... Communication May Be Difficult!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Be Prepared....

"Be prepared, in season and out of season."
 2 Timothy 4:2
When I returned from Arizona last year, I began pondering the things I felt God had dropped into my heart regarding the desert experience. I called my dear friend, Carole, who we had visited in Arizona and asked her to do some research for me. She sent me a list of things to do to be prepared for a hike in a real desert. It seemed to be a really good place to start studying to prepare for a spiritual desert. Today we will start with the first step:

1. Be Prepared: Understand that in the desert …
There may be water, there may not be, depending on the season.
When God delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians, He led them through the wilderness instead of the more direct route that would have gotten them to Canaan in 11 to 30 days, depending on which commentary you read. They spent 40 years in the wilderness. Exodus 13:17 tells us, “God didn't lead them by the road through the land of the Philistines, which was the shortest route, for God thought, ‘If the people encounter war, they'll change their minds and go back to Egypt.’" So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.

God sent them into the wilderness on purpose, because He knew that if they faced the Philistines in war, they would be tempted to return to Egypt and its “safety”. They weren’t prepared to face battle yet; they didn’t know who their God was yet; they didn’t know they could trust Him yet. They needed some time to get to know their God and that He would be on their side at all times…that He would guard, guide, protect and provide.

  • He was the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night to direct them.
  • He was their rear guard to hide them from the Egyptians as they prepared to cross the Red Sea.
  • He was their Waymaker through the Red Sea and made a way where there had seemed to be no way.
  • He was their conqueror when he destroyed the entire Egyptian army.

So, while God directed the Israelites into the desert as they left Egypt, He did not send them unprepared. Exodus 12:35, 36 says, “The Israelites did according to the word of Moses; and they [urgently] asked of the Egyptians jewels of silver and of gold, and clothing. The Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they gave them what they asked. And they stripped the Egyptians [of those things].” (AMP) God sent them out into the wilderness prepared. They had everything that they needed. And even though they were out there for 40 years, the Bible tells us that not even their shoes wore out!

They were prepared…until they ran out of water!

But God had that under control too. When there was no water, He made water spew forth from a rock (Exodus 17). When the waters were bitter, he sweetened them (Exodus 15). He refreshed them with water.

As we travel thru life, most likely at one time or another we will find ourselves in a desert. How do we prepare? How do we prepare for a desert that we may not know we will be traveling through? Sometimes we find ourselves in the desert because we have isolated ourselves from fellowship with others…it is by our own choosing. Sometimes, like the Israelites, it’s just a path that we must take to get to the destination God has for us.

When you find yourself in that place, what is your water?
What refreshes your soul in times of drought?

Spending time in His Word regularly will help prepare us for those “dry” seasons. Psalm 19:14 says, “Thy Word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Getting to know God and having a relationship with Him will prepare us for those times when we feel alone. Or during those “waiting” periods when we don’t really see anything happening in our lives.
"He satisfies the thirsty soul"
(Psalm 107:9)

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters…”
Isaiah 55:1

“Let the one who is thirsty come;
and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”
Revelation 22:17

No matter the reason we find ourselves in the desert, it is important to remember first of all, that God has never left us or forsaken us. He is always right there with us...sometimes waiting for us to notice Him, but there guarding us all the same.

“But GOD himself took charge of his people,
took Jacob on as his personal concern.
He found him out in the wilderness, in an empty, windswept wasteland.
He threw his arms around him, lavished attention on him,
guarding him as the apple of his eye.”
Deuteronomy 32:10 (MSG)

Are you preparing?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Drive Through the Desert...

"His splendor was like the sunrise;
 rays flashed from his hand,
 where his power was hidden."
Habakkuk 3:4

Sometimes we find ourselves traveling through a desert or wilderness time in our lives. These can be places we have wandered into on our own, or they can be places we must travel through in order to get to where God is leading us. Sometimes He sends us through that wilderness as a time of testing. But no matter the reason we find ourselves there…there are some things we should remember.
Last May my family took a road trip to Arizona. We drove straight through for 25 hours from Seattle to Phoenix. Before we left we sat down, looked at a map and planned out our route. This route took us through valleys, up and over mountain passes and across several deserts...or maybe it was just one really BIG desert. Some of the scenery along the way was absolutely beautiful! As we passed through the high mountain passes in the middle of the night it began to snow and along the roadside we would occasionally see wolves. Pretty amazing! Coming down out of those passes in the early but dark hours of the morning into the valleys, seeing the lights of the cities below was incredible, too. But we knew we had to travel through that desert. We tried to plan the trip in such a way as to not be in the desert in the heat of the day. But, it was a really big desert!

I took over driving at 4am just as we began to get into the desert. Let me tell you, it was really dark! There are no street lights in the desert. No towns or houses or any visible signs of life, just a lot of darkness. Fortunately, the road through the desert is pretty straight. As I drove down that long, lonely stretch of highway, the sky slowly began to lighten. While it was still dark, I began to see dark shadows along the horizon. I couldn’t tell what they were. They looked a little like dark, ominous clouds. Was there a storm approaching? I don’t like storms and I sure didn’t want to drive through one! Everyone else was asleep in the car, so I just continued on, watching those dark shadows…not sure of what I was approaching. I never passed another car along that road. It was lonely. It was unsettling. The road ahead was uncertain.
Isn’t life like that sometimes? We find ourselves traveling a road that we have never been on before. We may know what our destination is, but the route is unfamiliar to us. Sometimes we find ourselves traveling alone, or with occupants who are taking a much needed rest. And there are dark shadows up ahead that we can’t quite figure out what they could be. Should we be afraid of them? Or should we just continue to drive straight into them? Only the morning light will tell….

The Lord spoke to me as we traveled through that desert. It has taken me almost a year to process some of it and I’m not entirely sure I am finished. But I have some thoughts I’d like to share with you. And it could take a while. So, I’m doing something new and different on my blog.

A series….

I haven’t decided what to call it yet. But I’m going to take you on my trip through the desert. Some of what I found was hot, dry, barren and a little eerie. But there is beauty in the desert. There is life in the desert. And there are lessons to be learned in the desert. And there are also rivers in the desert. Hey! Maybe that’s what I’ll call it!

So, are you ready? I would love to hear your thoughts as we go through this. Please leave comments or let me know if you find yourself in a desert. I would love to pray with you (confidentially, of course). Feel free to email me, too.

Oh, and those ominous, dark shadows I saw? As the sun began to rise in the east, I watched one of the most glorious sunrises I have ever seen, come right over the top of those huge dark ominous......mountains!

His splendor...rays of light from His hand.

See, there really is beauty in the desert!