To make us rely not on ourselves …

It was like the Lord said, read your blog.

A miracle happened as I cared for my elderly parents a while back. I wanted to share it with you, but in the mean time my dear Dad passed into glory, and the caregiving for my bereaved Mom has been overwhelming. But I keep thinking that this may help someone else, so here it is.

You will understand how wonderful this was if I if I go back a little. Ever since I can remember, as the oldest daughter, I was made to feel that it was my responsibility to “save” the family. As a child as young as five I remember being asked to solve adult-weight possible catastrophes. So, my parent’s recent devastating health (dementia, COVID, COPD, heart failure) and resulting financial problems have triggered a lot of anxiety and panic and even despair in me.

This particular day, my parents called me in a panic because they had purchased 400 dollar’s worth of Target gift cards to send as gifts and were positive that either they had left them at the store on the counter or in the little basket of the motorized cart my dad was using, or that my mom had thrown them away in the garbage (part of the dementia is an obsessive urge to clean and clear away clutter). So, I went over there to help them find the cards, or, if possible have them canceled so they could get their money back.

First, I looked around in the house just in case. My dad said to look for a little grey Lowe’s bag and that he was pretty sure they were in the garbage. Luckily, they had failed to get the two cans out to the curb, and they were very full. So, I went through both, item by item, refilling garbage bags. Some of it was pretty ripe. Anyway, I found two little grey Lowe’s bags, but no cards. So, then we went down to Lowe’s to see if they could help us.

They were polite, though looked at us with pity. They said no gift cards had been turned in. My heart sunk deeper. The manager said I would have to call the 1-800 customer service number that is on the back of Target gift cards, as they were not Lowe’s products and they could do nothing. So, as my parents sat on a bench, I called the number and talked with a representative. She said she needed some numbers, which apparently are on the cards themselves because they were not on the receipt or the gift receipts containing the activation codes. In that case, she said she would send me an email and that I should respond with photos of the all the receipts.

I waited and waited but the email did not come. As I stood there, I asked God again to help us, and it was like he pointed me to the receipts I had in my hands and said if we had all the receipts and codes, why didn’t we have the cards too? I felt Him say that the cards were in the house. I knew that God had delayed the email so I wouldn’t get the cards canceled.

Let me go back again. A few months ago God gave me a blog post about these two verses:

For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (ESV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

That morning before I left my house I had been crying out to the Lord and asked him for a Bible verse I could hang on to that day. It was like he said to me, read your blog. Ha ha. So, I did and grabbed unto Philippians 4:6. I had just enough strength in the panic and despair to present my requests to God and try not to be anxious. As we drove back to the house, I cried out to God again, but this time said to him: it’s not up to me to save anybody, it’s up to you, and even if we never find the cards, I will trust completely in You and believe that you have good in mind for my parents. Suddenly, every burden lifted off me and I was at complete peace.

When we got back to their house I asked if I could poke around. I looked in every drawer, every closet, every shelf (I did find my mom’s glasses that had been missing for months!), under piles of junk mail, under furniture. I looked in the attic, in every room on the main floor, and in the basement. While in the basement, I felt sure that the cards were in the kitchen, though I had already searched there several times.

There are two deep drawers in the kitchen packed with random items and junk mail so that you can hardly open and close them. And as I took things out a few at a time, there were the cards about a third of the way down. I was jumping up and down and praising God and they were looking at me like I was strange, but smiling. I knew it was a witness to them because I had prayed with them that God would help us find the cards.

So, God did a “three-for” as my Dad used to say. I believe God healed me deep down of some of the childhood trauma and gave me faith to believe for other grave situations in my family, and he helped me find the gift cards, saving my parents a lot of money, and he showed them that he cares for and loves them. My sister later told me that she was praying “that God would show you where the cards were so that you would feel deep in your heart that God loves you, cares about you and would never leave you.” Thank you thank you thank you sister! God heard you and answered. Praise God for His love and mercy towards us!

But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God.

Burning Bushes

There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up … God called to him from within the bush … Exodus 3:2, 4 

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Revelation 22:17 

God got Moses’ attention with the flames that didn’t burn up the bush. Once He got Moses’ attention, He called to him from within the bush. J.D. Walt recently wrote that we are called to be burning bushes too. 

“The only reason the Word of God has been bound into books is so it might become unbounded in our hearts, our minds, our very flesh and blood bodies and unleashed through our lives in the world. We are meant to become living bearers, holy manifestations, burning bushes, Spirit filled fiery pillars of the Living Word of God who is Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah.” — J.D. Walt, The Only Problem with the Bible1   

We are meant to become burning bushes, givers of light that are not consumed, God drawing through us.  

Jesus said,You are the light of the world.” Matthew 5:14 

… you shine as lights in the world as you hold forth the word of life … Philippians 2:15-162 

There is another way that we become light in the world. When we become living sacrifices and God’s cleansing fire falls on us. 

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1 (ESV) 

And just as people were drawn to the burning bush, they are drawn to the flame of the sacrifice and can turn to the Living God. In the story of Elijah and the priests of Baal (1 Kings 18:16-39) there is a foreshadowing of this drawing when fire from heaven fell and burned up Elijah’s sacrifice, and the adherents of Baal worship confessed that the Lord is God. 

Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!” 1 Kings 18:38-39 

Oswald Chambers wrote of the call of God coming out of the flames of yielding. 

“If you abandon everything to Jesus, and come when He says, ‘Come,’ then He will continue to say, “Come,” through you. You will go out into the world reproducing the echo of Christ’s ‘Come.’ That is the result in every soul who has abandoned all and come to Jesus.” Oswald Chambers 

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Revelation 22:17 

… for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:29 

But maybe you are wondering, as I did, if God is a consuming fire, why wasn’t the bush consumed, why wasn’t it burned up? Why aren’t we burned up on the altar? I think it is because God is life and light and love, and what He burns up is sin and darkness and anything that is harmful and keeps us from Him. Only the ropes that bound Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were burned in the fire, but they walked with Jesus in the fire unharmed (Daniel 3:22-25). 

If we cling to the things that God’s holiness consumes and refuse to yield, we will get burned – and consumed with them in the end. Or, at the least, we will be left with nothing as the “wood, hay, and stubble” are burned up (1 Cor. 3:12-15).  

But if we put ourselves on the altar as a burnt offering and let His fire fall on us, we are cleansed and purified and set free. We are called to be burning bushes, to be burnt offerings on the consuming fire of His altar, a witness to His transforming power, His glorious majesty, and His unfailing love. And the more we let him burn away the darkness, the purer the flame, the brighter the light. And the needy, hurting, imprisoned people of the world are drawn to the light of the fire and we are able to call out to them from our burning bushes, “Come!” 

… his word is in my heart like a fire … Jeremiah 20:9 

The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Leviticus 6:12 

Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit … Acts 2:2-4 

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Revelation 22:17 

https://seedbed.com/the-only-problem-with-the-bible/ 

2 Berean Study Bible 

Photo, Flame by Annie Roi https://flic.kr/p/9VB6y7  

Go Stand

Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.”  Exodus 33:7 

Moses placed the staffs before the LORD in the Tent of the Testimony. Numbers 17:7 

Reading through the accounts again of the Israelite’s journey through the wilderness, I saw something I hadn’t noticed before. The tent, or tabernacle, that traveled around in the wilderness with the Israelites was called both the Tent of Meeting and the Tent of the Testimony, or Witness. And I realized something as I remembered that Paul said in 1 Corinthians that we are now that Temple or Tent. 

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16 

And that being so, I realized that we are both – a tent in which to meet with the Lord, and a tent of testimony or witness to who he is. What does that mean?  

We are the Tent of Meeting  

We always have a holy place where we can go to meet with God and commune with him – our hearts – seeking Him, turning toward Him, open to His correction and love. 

Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come fearlessly into God’s presence, assured of his glad welcome. Ephesians 3:12 (NLT) 

Because of Jesus’ atoning death on the cross, we can now come into God’s presence as Moses did. 

The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young assistant Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent. Exodus 3:11 

Moses spoke to God there in the Tent as a friend, face to face, but had to leave to attend to the needs of the people. But Joshua never left the Tent. I have always thought, how amazing and precious to never leave the Tent of Meeting! But that’s exactly what we can do because of what Jesus did on the cross. We can dwell continually in God’s Presence.i 

One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. Psalm 27:4 

We are the Tent of the Testimony  

The Tent was also called the Tent of the Testimony because it contained objects that pointed to God’s plan of redemption and reminded the people of all that God had done for them. These objects were witnesses to God’s love and care. Among them were the Ark which “contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant (Hebrews 9:4).”

These objects stood as witness to God’s Word (the commandments), God’s goodness and care for their very lives (the manna or Bread of Life), and the authority of the High Priest (Aaron’s rod that budded). The High Priest was a type of Jesus who would take the blood of the sacrifice – his own blood – into the heavenly Holy Place. 

For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Hebrews 9:24 

This is what we are witnesses to; this is the testimony of our earthly tent: Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), the Bread given for the life of the world (John 6:51), the Word made flesh (John 1:14), the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). This is what Jesus has done for me; this is who he is to me. 

When I think of myself this way, as a Tent of Meeting and Testimony, a lot of Bible verses click into a new focus, and I see why holiness, and perseverance, and trust in God is so important. May God show you who you are in Him and give you grace to stand. 

… at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 

Go (pursue the journey on which you have entered, follow) 

and stand (stand immovable, stand firm, in the presence of others, in the midst, before judges, steadfast of mind, not hesitating, not wavering, stand ready, stand prepared) 

in the temple (in the temple courts, in the sacred place) 

and speak (utter your voice, emit a sound, speak, talk, tell, use words to declare, preach)  

to the people (population, people groups, tribes, nations) 

all (each, every, any, all, the whole, every one, all things, everything of) 

the words (which have been uttered by the Living Voice, things spoken, the Word) 

of this Life (life real and genuine, a life active and vigorous, devoted to God, blessed, in the portion even in this world of those who put their trust in Christ, but after the resurrection to be consummated by accession of a more perfect body, and to last forever).  

Acts 5:19-20 

do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? 1 Corinthians 6:19 

Go and stand in the temple … 

i For more on the Tent of Meeting see https://www.gotquestions.org/tent-of-meeting.html 

Image, free download from Pxfuel

“Come down from the cross!”

Whenever we are insulted and mocked for Christ’s sake it is a provocation to come down from the cross.

Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. Matthew 27:39-42 

Come down from the cross! As Christians, we are to be crucified with Christ, and whenever we are insulted and mocked for Christ’s sake it is a provocation to come down from the cross. This is man’s remedy. It is man’s way to show strength. It is like kids in the schoolyard, “You say you’re so tough? Prove it! Come over here and fight!” It reminds me of this verse: 

And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Luke 9:51-55 

This was not the first time that Jesus had been tempted to prove himself, justify himself – glorify himself – with the words “IF you are the Son of God.” Turn these stones to bread! Throw yourself off the pinnacle of the Temple! Come down from the cross! But Jesus always remained fiercely focused on the will of his Father – the salvation of the world. Love kept him focused. Love kept him nailed to the cross.

Man’s remedy is to come down from the cross. To call down fire from heaven. But what did Jesus command? “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-44). I like how the Message translation puts it. 

You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best–the sun to warm and the rain to nourish–to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. Matthew 5:43-45  

Jesus said that this loving-your-enemies thing, this giving like God gives is to be daily. And it can only happen if we deny that self that wants to call down fire. It can only happen If we have been crucified with Christ, if we stay there hanging on the cross with him. Daily. 

Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily (throughout the day) and follow me.” Luke 9:23 

I am to be daily crucified with Jesus. Hidden in him, I am to be his witness. To be a representative of his love and forgiveness and salvation here on this dying earth. Henri Nouwen said it this way: 

“Whenever, contrary to the world’s vindictiveness, we love our enemy, we exhibit something of the perfect love of God, whose will is to bring all human beings together as children of one Father. Whenever we forgive instead of getting angry at one another, bless instead of cursing one another, tend one another’s wounds instead of rubbing salt into them, hearten instead of discouraging one another, give hope instead of driving one another to despair, hug instead of harassing one another, welcome instead of cold-shouldering one another, thank instead of criticizing one another, praise instead of maligning one another . . . in short, whenever we opt for and not against one another, we make God’s unconditional love visible.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen 

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with 

(rendered idle, unemployed, inactivate, inoperative, deprived of force, influence, power, caused to cease, severed, separated, loosed from us, put an end to, annulled, abolished, destroyed, made of no effect, vanish away, made void)

that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Romans 6:6-7 

I love that! The old me is unemployed. The one who wants to come down from cross and curse and hate and malign is inactivated. 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, I encourage you – don’t come down from the cross. In this time of insults and mockery and hatred, don’t respond in kind. Stay there on the cross with your Lord. Take it up daily. Jesus said, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself”(John 12:31). That is our mission. To draw all men to Christ. To make God’s unconditional love visible. To give God’s best. To love and forgive and bless no matter what. To be crucified with Christ. 

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross 

Image, Coventry cathedral father forgive, by David Perry https://flic.kr/p/qfiB6r  

The Treasures of Darkness

God’s love is always facing out.

I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, so that you may know that it is I, The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name. Isaiah 45:3 (NASB) 

I blogged about this verse back in July1, but I see now that it was just a beginning. God has been leading me deeper into Isaiah 45:3. He is showing me, and hopefully, all of us, something amazing for this dark time. 

I will give you the treasures (storehouse, treasury, magazine of weapons in the armory of God)  

of darkness (misery, destruction, death, ignorance, sorrow, obscurity, night)  

and hidden wealth (hidden treasure)  

of secret places (the hiding place),  

So that you may know (perceive, recognize, comprehend, understand)  

that it is I, The LORD, the God of Israel,  

who calls (summons, invites, calls for, calls and commissions, calls and endows, appoints) you by your name. Isaiah 45:3 (NASB) 

There is a treasure to be found in our darkness. A treasure that can only be discovered there in the dark night. Encouragement and comfort and beauty, a light on the path through. Comfort and encouragement for us in our struggle and fear and pain, but also for others. Maybe mostly for others for God’s love is always facing out. 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4  

There are weapons to be forged in the darkness. It’s interesting that God’s treasure house or storehouse is also a magazine of his weapons. Weapons of the faith that shields, the love that overcomes, the joy that imparts strength, the song that crumbles walls and disperses enemies. Yes, we have these weapons from the first, but we don’t really fight well with them until they are tested – mostly in adversity. Like David, who tested his sling and stones against the lion and the bear.  

There is a commission to receive in the dark times. For in the dark times he calls, he invites, he appoints and commissions us to go out and share our testimony. A testimony birthed in the darkness. It is an awesome thing to be summoned, appointed, and commissioned by God. Isaiah 43:1 says: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”  

It’s like that letter you get when you are drafted into the service, and you are no longer your own for a few years, but this summons is infinitely more. Unlike the draft letter, God gives you a choice in the darkness – you can give up in despair and anger at God, or you can pick up your weapons and step forward and sign on the line with that new name He has called you: Mine. 

“Be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8). Paul instructs, “Arm yourself with faith build up your belief now, before the day comes. Learn your song, and you’ll be able to sing it in your fire. 

This is the hope of our most holy faith: our Lord causes a song to come out of the darkest of times. Start now to build up your holy faith in him and learn to praise his majesty quietly in your heart. When you sing your song, it will strengthen and encourage your brothers and sisters. And it will testify to the world: ‘Our Lord reigns over the flood!’” — David Wilkerson 

Photo by Jack Bair, 2020

1 see When You Are in Darkness https://wrestlingwordblog.wordpress.com/2020/07/11/when-you-are-in-darkness

My Testimony During My COVID Struggle

A dear friend of mine has been struggling through COVID-19 illness for many weeks. Yesterday she posted this wonderful testimony of her experience of God’s love and faithfulness through it all. I asked her for permission to share it here because it is so uplifting and encouraging – no matter what your current struggle is.

My testimony during my COVID struggle:

My Father has given me three very intense and personal experiences with Him to make sure I KNOW with every cell and every part of who I am, how deep His love is for me, how He has compassion for me and how He SEES me with no condemnation but PURE LOVE.

  1. Jesus is sitting right beside me at the table He has prepared for me, in the presence of my enemies. Sitting right next to me, laughing with me, enjoying me, eating with me… MY BEST FRIEND who SAVED me. Every door to my heart is open to Him and He is fully with me. I feel His joy in me, His friendship with me and His complete love for me.
  1. My Father God is sitting right beside me. His face shines on me with PURE JOY. I saw Him beside me and saw Him turn His face and look directly into mine. He fully SEES me, and I am UNDONE. Pure love. Pure joy. Pure compassion. With NO CONDEMNATION.

I am undone. On my face before Him with just that brief glimpse of total love for me. When the veil is removed, and I get to spend eternity with Him face to face how can I stand? For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face.

  1. This life is precious and sacred because God is WITH me and IN me. With everything that is in this world and this life that would beat me down and cause me to give up and give in… I push into Him. Wanting only deeper love for Him and a deeper KNOWING Him.

Death means FULL JOY, FULL LIFE, FULL LOVE. A full knowing and understanding of the love and joy He has in me and for me. And it means I will be fully with Him with no veil and no barriers ever again.

For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.

Whether I am healthy or sick. Whether I grieve or experience pure joy in His presence. Whether I am overwhelmed by life, or am sitting with Him on the beach at Lake Michigan at sunset. Whether I am alone, or in the presence of a husband and family He blesses me with. Whether I feel very far from Him, or I feel Him in me and with me. Whether I can’t catch my breath, or peacefully breathe in His presence through the Holy Spirit.

NOTHING in this life will EVER separate me from the love of Jesus, my LORD and SAVIOR, who rescued me from running after sin, and rescued me from death.

HE IS EVERYTHING to me. EVERYTHING.

I am uniquely His. Here on earth and into eternity.

 

 

 

Image copyright by Jack Bair

 

I Testify

The one who existed from the beginning is the one we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is Jesus Christ, the Word of life. 1 John 1:1 (NLT)

This is what eyewitnesses do. They testify about what they have seen and heard and experienced, with their own eyes and ears and hands

I have been called to be a witness, and I, too, testify that

I have heard His voice calling my name. I have heard Him say to me, “You are mine!”

I have looked, while in the spirit, into His eyes like unending pools of molten love, like perfectly pure liquid gold, purer than anything here on this earth

I have felt His Presence, very near, right beside me, instant in need, comforting, cheering me on, relentlessly offering me this Hope, pointing out the Way

I have experienced His unstoppable power and authority, taking my breath away, healing, redeeming, restoring, bursting bonds, kicking down doors, bringing me out into that spacious place

I have experienced this power in me, in my heart, in my mouth and in my hands, working through me sharing this love, this healing, this redemption, this new-creature, new-way-of being, new Life

I have known the power of His Truth repairing the twisted, mangled parts, the mind-blowing revelation of His Word, changing my thinking, switching the track, crumbling unscalable walls, blowing away the chaff

I testify, with my own ears, with my own eyes, in my own life, with my own hands

He is Jesus Christ, the Word of Life

 

Image in the Public Domain, by Brad Shorr

Sunrise to Sunset

Sing

unto the Lord, the Existing One, The Eternal

all, every one, the totality, altogether, in every place, every thing

howsoever, whatsoever, whosoever,

the whole earth;

shew forth, bear the good news, the glad tidings, announce, tell, publish, preach

from day to day, sunrise to sunset,

his

Salvation

deliverance

help

aid

saving intervention

victory

Yeshua

 

 

Photo by Sheila Bair

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