It’s Not Just a Matter of Survival, It’s a Matter of Revival

storm clouds over highway

There’s a lot to learn from Lot!

Genesis 19:16, 18 & 19

”When Lot still hesitated, the angels seized his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and rushed them to safety outside the city, for the LORD was merciful.”  Here’s a short story synopsis. The city is destroyed by fire. There are no other survivors. Lot and his family are saved only because the angels grabbed their hands and pulled them out of their indecision.

Isn’t that how we respond when we first hear of God’s plans? We stand with our feet firmly planted in the place we know. The place that seems safe. We have lived there so long change seems way to risky. Besides, that place has become home. Oh, the paint is peeling, the cracks are emerging, and maybe its even sparking a few flames, but we’ve built our lives there. Our comfort zone. We know it’s not perfect. We know there’s a possibility of something better, but then again there could be something worse. So we get stuck. We accept the unacceptable because no one likes moving. If you are like me you realize that the new place will require you to change into a new life. And honestly we just can’t see what that looks like, so we hesitate.

Once Lot and his wife and daughters are practically dragged out of the city the angels tell them to run for their lives and don’t look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Lot’s response echoes his fear of the unknown. “Oh no, my lord! Lot begged. You have been so gracious to me and saved my life, and you have shown such great kindness. But, I cannot go to the mountains. Disaster would catch up to me there, and I would soon die.” Lot begs the angels to let them stay in a village nearby. He says thanks for saving my life, but the mountains are not the place for me.

At first glance, I think Lot is a little bit wimpy. Angels just pulled him from a burning city, why wouldn’t he trust their directions? But, aren’t we a lot like Lot? When God takes our hand and pulls us away from the old life strewn with stumbling and ashes we beg to stay in the valley. We know we barely escaped. We know God drew us out just in time. But standing that close to God makes us acutely aware of how we came out of that burning city with ash still clinging to our faces. We recognize we are not ready for mountain-top living. Mountain-top living that exposes us to the presence of God.

So we stand at the edge of the old life barely a step or two away. Just in case this new life gets too hard, we want the option of going back. Even if it means going back to a pile of ashes.

God tells us to go, run for your life from these choices you are making because devastation will follow. We turn and go but just far enough to clear immediate danger.

We bargain with God, just as Lot does. We live marginally obedient lives and miss the mountain-top moments.

Lot asked the angels to allow him to go to a small village instead of the mountains. He begs, “please let me go there instead, don’t you see how small it is?” He would rather live small, than live obedient.

Do we recognize our own lives in this story? Is it possible to look around at our small living and see the reality? Living small keeps us believing we are in control. We’d rather live small than risk reliant obedience.

My friends, obedience requires daring dependence. When God says run for your life, don’t look back, don’t stop anywhere in the valley he means it for our safety. We have somehow convinced ourselves living small keeps us safe.

Lot reached the village just as the sun was rising over the horizon. I wonder if he stood in wonder at God’s mercy toward him as he watched the beginning of a new day. He had lost so much. But God had spared his life and the life of his daughters. He and his little family were the sole survivors of the destruction of his city. But the question hanging in the air full of smoke and ash was whether this would lead to a soul revival for them.

God will wait. He wants us to hurry. He wants us to escape. He will send angels to pull us from the fire.  But he leaves it up to us to decide how far we will follow him.  I imagine him standing with open arms calling to us. Hurry! Hurry to the mountain top!

He knows the obedience to move toward the new beginning requires daring dependence. He didn’t leave us alone in the climb. Jesus stood on a hill reaching out his hand ready to help us over the steep place. The Holy Spirit helps us step over the hurdles where fear blocks our way. He promises he will never leave us.

I’m thinking we might just find this climb breathtaking, our hearts alive, wondering why we took so long to get to the mountain top. Oh, I know there will be moments when we look around and wonder if we can take just one more step. Because let’s be honest here, we can’t see what’s around the next bend in the road and that makes us uncomfortable. But, what if we start the new day convinced it’s not just a matter of sole survival, it’s a matter of soul revival? Would it be worth the risk?

I confess I am a lot like Lot. But I have an advantage. Because I know the love of Jesus I’m willing to risk the climb. One step at a time.

Advertisements

But Lord…

6871B368-B6C6-4DB8-9EE6-8446A88D2680

The Lord said, Go!

Ananais said, But, Lord!

But the Lord said, Go!

So Ananais went.

Acts 9:10-19

’Now in Damascus there was a disciple named Ananais; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananais.” And he answered, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul; for he is praying there, and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananais come in and place his hands on him, so that he may regain his sight.”  But Ananais answered, “Lord, I have heard from many people about this man, especially how much suffering and evil he has brought on your saints [God’s people] at Jerusalem; and here [in Damascus] he has authority from the high priests to put in chains all who call on Your name [confessing you as Savior]. But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is a deliberately chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will make clear to him how much he must suffer and endure for My name’s sake.” So Ananais left and entered the house, and he laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road to Damascus, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit [in order to proclaim Christ to both Jews and Gentiles]. Immediately something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized; and he took some food and was strengthened.’

Acts 9:10-19 tells the story of a man who doubted but did it anyway. Can you relate Sis?

I get it. When God says go, I run through a mental checklist of what it could cost me. I’m a lot like Ananais. He knew who Saul was and fear stepped into the path before him. Sis, isn’t there always a form of fear stepping between us and obedience?

I wonder how Ananais missed this promise. “I have shown him (Saul) a vision of a man named Ananais coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.” God revealed he had gone before Ananais.

Because Ananais is so focused on who Saul is, he can’t see clearly who God says he is.  Because Ananais is so focused on Saul’s power he can’t see clearly the promise of God’s power in him.

Sis, I think sometimes we are so fiercely focused on fear of the unknown that we forget God is the all-knowing. When God asks us to go, could we cling to the promise he has gone before us?  There is courage to be found there.

I love how God in his infinite patience explains the plan to Ananais. He gave him the encouragement he needed. So Ananais went. And in the going, he found God’s confident heart beating with his. He trusted God even in the unknowns.

When Ananias found Saul he wasn’t timid.

When Ananais found Saul he didn’t stand at a safe distance.

When Ananais found Saul he laid his hands on him and said,

”Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Okay Sis, did you catch that? Ananais called Saul his “brother”.  Because Jesus loved Saul, his persecutor, Ananais loved him too. He trusted Jesus’ perspective even when he didn’t see evidence or reason to. He trusted God even in the unknowns.

I love that Ananais proclaims he was sent so Saul could REgain his sight. Maybe you are like me in recognizing the beauty of grace poured out on Saul through these words.

Saul was a man longing to serve God. He had lead a passionate life for God. He had lead a purpose-driven life for God. But somewhere along the way he lost sight of God. His pride lead him to judge others, blinding him to grace and mercy.

Sometimes we need to sit in darkness before God allows us to REgain our sight. He acknowledges we once saw him clearly, but have allowed the world to crowd in and cloud the truth. The truth that we have a great need for grace.

Ananais said, but Lord…

Saul said, but LORD…

We say, but Lord…

Sis, don’t you love how God will get through one way or another. He will either tap us on the shoulder with a little unveiling of the bigger picture, or he will allow us to sit a spell in darkness so we will regain our sight with a new perspective.

On any given day I can stand alongside Ananais and Saul.

But here’s the picture I cling to. I see Jesus laying his hands on either side of our face, leaning in and whispering—will you trust me now?

Will you say yes to my plan?

Will you go where I say go?

Because Ananais and Saul were willing to trust God, we can find hope for the moments we react with the same words…but Lord. I am so thankful for their stories because we get to see how God will take a single solitary effort of obedience and change the world.

So Sis, lets turn toward trust in the all-knowing when we stand facing the unknown. He’s got the plan, he’s gone before us. It’s a promise we can depend on.

 

Dear Father,

We stand at the road leading to unknowns and we shake in our boots. Oh, we hear your voice, we long to go, but we stagger under the burden of fear. Lord, help us to see your perspective. Help us to see the path you have already set out for us. Oh Father, help us to remember all the other times you have gone before us, because it reminds us to trust you in the new journeys. When we stand hearing you invite us to go, give us courage like Ananais, built on  the promise you have gone before us. When we stand hearing you invite us to change our perspective, give us a new vision like Saul to see through your eyes. Lord, we live thankful you believe we can go and make a difference in this world for your Kingdom. We depend on the promise you will always go WITH us. Thank you Father. We declare we can’t do it without you.

all my love,

Amen.

 

 

A Penny For Your Thoughts

photo (9)

“A penny for your thoughts.” The definition in the Urban Dictionary reads: a phrase that means: What are you thinking?

Would a penny for your thoughts buy something of value?

I find myself lost in thoughts I wouldn’t want to share no matter how much money someone offered me. It’s that ugly place.

The one you never dare admit you visit.

You sit there alone. Because you don’t dare invite anyone into this momentary reality. Judgment would be too much to bear.

And you believe no one else sits in this corner. Facing the corner. Feeling the shame and embarrassment of not being able to overcome.

The lie you tell yourself takes its toll. The burden of believing you are the only one. All the faces you pass belong to happy people who never sit in corners.

If I were to offer you a penny for your thoughts, would you spill out some truth to encourage me? Would you be willing to sit in a corner? Pouring over a time when you too visited an ugly place?

Could we find others who were willing to toss in a penny, toss out a truth? Leave the lies behind. Let the pile of change be the change we are longing for.

It’s hard and it’s messy and who knows what may happen in this reckless abandon of self-protection. Would we? Could we risk spending one penny?

Before you answer, take a closer look at that penny. Just above the head of Mr. Lincoln you will find a little phrase.

“In God We Trust”

The God we trust draws us together. The God we trust makes us fellow travelers. The God we trust guarantees grace. The God we trust extinguishes fear. The God we trust longs for you and I to link arms and stand together so that we will not be overwhelmed.

I’m digging in my purse for some change. Can you find some too?

Baby Bird Bravery

IMG_1265

Have you ever read a book that just stayed with you? The one that said so much more than it intended. Mine was a children’s book. The entire book circled round and round a simple, single question. “Are You My Mother?”

It was a little story about a baby bird who finds himself lost. Page after page tells of the bird’s unrelenting search for its mother. I quickly found myself drawn into this little feathered friend’s constant longing. A longing to feel part of something. To sit close and be one with something. To understand from where he’d come.

I believe we all must feel this unyielding pull. This tugging into a place of beginnings. Nothing makes much sense without it.

The baby bird in the story had the right idea. He asked each person, place and thing if they were his mother. Though they each answered no, his enduring memory of first love drove him on.

Who can unearth the place it all began? Place full of sweet belonging? I understand little bird’s carrying heavy heartbreak. We sometimes spend a lifetime longing to settle back into familiar love.

There’s another defining book that just stays with me. The entire book circles round and round a simple, single question. Are You my Father? I was first drawn to the Bible while searching for the place I belonged. A place where love lived. Just one stable, steadfast love.

I was much like the baby bird. I spent days, months, a lifetime asking every person, place and thing if they were the one true love. My one true love. Then, just when the journey seemed without end, I turned and there it was.

Extravagant love.

The same love I was born of. God designed every moment of light and life, holding and molding me throughout the journey. I am open book, incomplete story, full of twists and turns. My defining moments rising out of each chapter. I am swept into this true love story the Author has fashioned. Full of deep, unrelenting love from beginning to end. A place to belong. The only place I ever belonged.

If you are wondering what happened to that baby bird, he never gave up. Eventually he did find his mother. Just like us, his journey led him to many things he thought would answer the longing. In time perseverance and perspective drew him to the truth.

I wish for us a bit of baby bird bravery. He just kept asking the question. Even when answers were hard to come by and asking was risky.

Let’s be bold. Don’t give up the search. Won’t you agree risk is worth the promise of a happy ending?

 

Can You See Me Now?

IMG_0127

Can You See Me Now?

We began together. Me holding tightly to Your promise. You lighting the path with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. I stood strong with You in full view. But I awoke this morning and You are gone from sight. I’m blinded by fear. Have You left me here?

Where has my God of promises gone? I strain to see You up ahead. Doubt has found its way into this darkness. So many questions unanswered. I’m blinded by fear. Have You left me here?

Oh my child, I have gone from Guide to Guard. From Sun to Shield. Remember my promise, I will not leave you or forsake you.

It was My heart beating with yours in the joy of new life, and in the grief of great loss.

Do you see Me now?

It was My hand that cleared the way to safety and freedom from slavery.

Do you see Me now?

It was Me who stood beside you in the hard journey, full of thirst and hunger.

Do you see Me now?

It’s My great love holding you close when you can’t take one more breath as the world comes crushing in.

Do you see Me now?

Will you find faith in the midst of your fear? Will looking back pave the path to trusting Me?

If seeing is believing.

What do you see?

I have never left you. I am with you, are you with Me?