Illusion or Reality

      There is a mind-set floating boldly through our culture that began very subtly and over time has taken hold in almost every possible area of our lives. Some of its slogans are now pronounced very boldly and dare to be challenged. They have masqueraded as subtle statements like “the world is your oyster” to proclamations that you can have it all; be it all; and do it all. 

     Perhaps these sayings and those like it were meant to encourage us, empower us to be better, challenge us to reach further, climb higher and to motivate us to stretch ourselves. Sadly, they also hold potential like everything in life  to be carried  to far and turn from a positive encouraging word into a dangerous, reckless way of life. Without balance in the above statements, we may find ourselves believing in our own self-sufficiency and leaving broken relationships in the wake we leave behind.  Maybe an example is in order. Let’s consider tenacious pursuit of a goal. Tenacious is defined as patient, persistent, resolute, tireless, unshakeable. Being tenacious when pursuing something can be a strength. It can be an admirable quality, however this same quality can turn into stubbornness, a hazard and a quality that can do much harm and damage to both ourself and others when we become so focused on a goal that all else is forgotten and left in the dust. When taken to the extreme, relationships and responsibilities can be risked and much is at stake for being lost. Just as most things in life,  the key is balance, keeping our perspective and having realistic expectations for both ourselves and others.

      My scripture reading highlighted this for me today. Sometimes we choose to see God through our current circumstances only, refusing to remember His past actions in our life or forgetting to hold on to the promises that He has given us. In those times tunnel vision takes over and balance is very often lost. Sometimes we lose track of the greatness of God and His goodness. Sometimes we can’t see past ourselves or our troubles; we forget who He is and how powerful God is. It is in these times we may tend to forget His faithfulness to us, forget to run to Him for our solutions and try to ‘fix’ things ourselves.  It doesn’t typically turn out in my best interest when this happens to me! Time and experience are teaching me it is always in my best interest to remember to seek Him, seek His wisdom, His Word, His comfort, and His direction rather than trying to ‘fix’ it myself! 

Isaiah 40:6-31 “Comfort, comfort My people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and announce to her that her time of forced labor is over, her iniquity has been pardoned, and she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”  A voice of one crying out: Prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness; make a straight highway for our God in the desert. Every valley will be lifted up, and every mountain and hill will be leveled; the uneven ground will become smooth and the rough places, a plain. And the glory of the Lord will appear, and all humanity together will see it, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. The grass withers, the flower fades; nothing lasts except the word of our God.It will stand forever. 

     A voice was saying, “Cry out!” Another said, “What should I cry out?”  “All humanity is grass, and all its goodness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flowers fade when the breath of the Lord blows on them; indeed, the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; nothing lasts except the word of  our God.   It will stand forever.   Zion, herald of good news, go up on a high mountain.  Jerusalem, herald of good news, raise your voice loudly. Raise it, do not be afraid!  Say to the cities of Judah,“Here is your God!”   See, the Lord God comes with strength, and His power establishes His rule.  His reward is with Him, and His gifts accompany Him.  He protects His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them in the fold of His garment.  He gently leads those that are nursing. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand or marked off the heavens with the span of his hand?  Who has gathered the dust of the earth in a measure or weighed the mountains in a balance and the hills in the scales? Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or who gave Him His counsel?  Who did He consult with?  Who gave Him understanding and taught Him the paths of justice?  Who taught Him knowledge and showed Him the way of understanding?

 Look, the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are considered as a speck of dust in the scales; He lifts up the islands like fine dust. Lebanon is not enough for fuel, or its animals enough for a burnt offering. All the nations are as nothing before Him; they are considered by Him as nothingness and emptiness.  

Who will you compare God with? What likeness will you compare Him to? To an idol?—something that a smelter casts, and a metalworker plates with gold and makes silver welds for it? To one who shapes a pedestal, choosing wood that does not rot? He looks for a skilled craftsman to set up an idol that will not fall over. 

Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning?  Have you not considered the  foundations of the earth? God is enthroned above the circle of the earth; its inhabitants are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like thin cloth and spreads them out like a tent to live in.  He reduces princes to nothing and makes judges of the earth irrational. They are barely planted, barely sown, their stem hardly takes root in the ground when He blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind carries them away like stubble. 

“Who will you compare Me to, or who is My equal?” asks the Holy One. Look up and see: who created these?  He brings out the starry host by number; He calls all of them by name.  Because of His great power and strength, not one of them is missing.  Jacob, why do you say, and Israel, why do you assert:  “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my claim is ignored by my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard?  Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding.  He gives strength to the weary and  strengthens the powerless. Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.

          How easy it is to get wrapped up in our lives and circumstances!  How easy it is to get overwhelmed by our needs, our lack, our struggles. Sadly, sometimes it doesn’t take that much to make us lose sight of God’s goodness, power, past provision and love.  This passage  shows God’s desire for the comfort of His people; for their freedom from bondage. He is making His way to them/us, His reward and gifts are with Him. Who indeed is like our God?  Do we dare become so traumatized or so wrapped up in our own lives, agenda, desires, pursuits that we forget Him? Our lives are like grass.   In comparison to His greatness, we are as grasshoppers; our good deeds like filthy rags compared to His great goodness! Do we dare exalt ourselves and allow Him to be pushed to the back seat of our  lives? It can happen you know!  Do  we dare forget Him until things get tough and then suddenly realize how desperately we need Him?  Lord, may it not be so!  May  we,  Your children-Your sons and daughters, exalt You above all else in our lives knowing that when we do, all else begins to fall into right alignment. Help us to depend on You to guide us, free us, restore, renew, and regenerate us and not get trapped by the illusions the enemy sets before us as a trap to ensnare.

Days of Grace-Day 22

     We have traced grace all the way through the Old Testament and through the life of Jesus. This new movement of His followers has spread outside of Jerusalem and throughout many cities. The body of Christ is spreading, growing like wild-fire and planting new fellowships in many areas. They are being blessed in great ways  but life is not without many trials also. Many people, both Jew and Gentile alike, are hearing the good news and are seeing the wonders and miracles. People are being healed, delivered and set free from the things that bind them; hold them back. Still there is division and strife from some of those who choose not to believe.  Acts 14 tells us “After they had reached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch staying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed They passed through Pisidia and came into Pamphylia When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia From there they sailed to Antioch, from which they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had accomplished When they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles And they spent  long time with the disciples. Acts 14:21-28

     Sometimes when one comes to believe and follow Jesus, the impression is given, though it is not true, that it will make life smooth sailing and we will never have any major problems or struggles.  Then when the trials of life do come along and buffet us on every side we get discouraged, desperate or worse. We wonder where God is or what we are doing wrong that these things have come upon us.  Sometimes we blame God. As in the above passage, God tells us here and in other places in the Word, “Through many tribulations (troubles, trials) we must enter the kingdom of God”.  He also proves it to be true by showing us in the lives of the people in history.  Jesus never promised us an easy life but He did promise us a full or abundant life in John 10:10. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly. (NET)

     James tells us to consider it joy, all joy, or great joy when we face various trials… lets look. My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything. But if anyone is deficient in wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without reprimand, and it will be given to him.” James 1:2-5  Why? was my first thought when I first saw this scripture many years ago. Am I supposed to be joyful, happy that something terrible happened? How can you be joyful when a loved one dies or tragedy happens? So I reread it many times and did as it said. I prayed for wisdom. I was finally able to understand the true meaning of the message. I believe what James is actually saying here is: in the midst of trials, He will see us through and in the process we will grow in faith, in endurance and in wisdom. When we don’t understand what we are going through we need to ask for wisdom, understanding and grace to move through the situation.

     In my experience with walking with God, there have been many  scary times, hard times, struggles and losses of very dear loved ones.  One of the earliest and most frightening times I can remember was when I was about five years old. All I knew of God at the time was the normal children’s Bible stories parents read to their children. A situation arose and I was scared to death. I literally feared that might be my last night.  I feared what the future would be if it wasn’t and this continued. In the back seat of a car in the dark, I cried out to God. I prayed hard! He answered that little girl’s prayer and the chaos began to subside. It was not completely resolved for several years but the circumstance was drastically changed within the next hour or two. That answered prayer was favor; it was grace. He met me where I was and granted me grace to hold on not just initially but time after time until the issue was completely resolved several years later.  That was the night I gave my heart to Him. In every trial and trouble throughout my life, this has been the case. Did all of them turn out the way I like? Absolutely not. Did I always understand the whys? No. Did I feel at time He wasn’t there? Yes. Did He ever leave me or forsake me? NO!  Today, I can say with boldness:

  • God is good and has goodwill toward us.
  • His thoughts and ways are higher than ours, He sees the big picture.     Isaiah 55:8-10
  • God knows what we are suffering is hard.                                               Hebrews 4:14-16
  • He sees every last tear and He knows our pain.                  (NKJV)        Psalm 56: 7-8
  • God knows the outcome, even though we don’t.                                      Psalm 139: 1-18
  • He will provide for all our needs.                                                             Philippians 4:19
  • God will see us through.                                                                          1 Peter 5:6-10
  • He will redeem our troubles.                                                                    Romans 8:28
  • God likes to bring restoration, restoring what was lost.

     Many would challenge my thoughts here. What if things would have turned out differently? There were times they did, times my prayers seemed unanswered or were answered very differently than I would have liked. God was always there even when it did not feel like it.  God has proved Himself faithful to me and proved each of the above things in my life over and over again. His love, grace and mercy has been the sustaining force  in my life and He can do the same in any life.  Our job is to  turn to Him rather that blame Him when the struggles, trials, and troubles come desiring to overtake us.  It is to believe He is who He says. Hold on to the promises in His word.  Trust in His grace to get us through both difficult days and good days.   He is able!

Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21