On Joining God on an Adventure

I am never disappointed when I turn to God’s face and listen to His words. Never.

He never says anything that unexpectedly veers from His character. His words are as reassuring as they are familiar.

With some people, their annoying habit of repeating essentially the same conversation over and over again whenever we meet, grates on every last nerve, and makes me doubt that there is vitality in the relationship. With God, it is the opposite. I count on His unchangeable Truths. I need them repeated to me, as a familiar and comforting lullaby of love from parent to child.

He even surprises me upon occasion by guiding my soul deeper into the layers of His love and purpose. That usually occurs right smack in the middle of what I thought I was Front Door 1familiar ground. It is a little like walking down a familiar street with an old friend or kindred spirit—well, better yet, a trusted mentor. We pass all the interesting doors and nooks we’ve passed before. While we amble, we grab the cloaks of comfort from each one, reminiscing about their blessings of love, laughter, and growth in hardship. Then we discover a secret passageway or hidden basement that we had never before noticed, and we explore it together. The twist is, when I occasion to look over my shoulder at Him, I see that He knew this adventure was here all along. He was just waiting to show me when I was ready to enjoy it fully along with Him.

How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth! Psalm 119:103 (NIV)Door latch

I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.

I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word. Psalm 119:15,16 (NIV)

 

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February 1–Spiritual Droughts: The Blessings of Dry Times

A follow-up discussion to our Sunday lesson. (All are welcome here, even if you aren’t with us in class!)

Something to Think About

February 1Drought Blessings of Dry Times

A drought in nature is a period of dry weather, especially a long one that is injurious to crops. An extended shortage.

Spiritually speaking, it is a time when we feel depleted, dried up. Our souls feel limp and lifeless. We may look great on the outside, like we’re functioning, but inside, in our hearts and souls where it counts, there is little or nothing left.  Spiritual droughts cause a lack of food.

Our three QUESTIONS to keep in mind as we study:

  • Does God INTEND for us to have seasons of spiritual droughts?
  • If there is a drought, do we create it or contribute to it?
  • What can we do to survive (or move out of) the drought?

During class on Sunday, it was easy for us to identify symptoms of a spiritual drought. We acknowledged, that like all spiritual seasons, it is part of our imperfect human nature to experience this season, and we’ve all been there, are there, or will be there again.

Scripture Reminders:

  • John 6:35-37, especially v. 37: “I am the bread of life, he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst”
  • John 5:37-40 A conversation with the Jews who thoroughly knew God’s Word, but managed to miss something important. (Not that that ever happens to us, right?!)

Over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to look at some different causes of spiritual droughts. Our first glance is selfishness with our time and attention. This can lead to neglect of listening to God and living in relationship with Him through His word.

Jesus promises that in Him, we will never be thirsty. Check out His conversation with the woman at the well (John 4:7-26) and revisit that conversation with the Jews in John 5.

  • Can we take Jesus at His Word? There seems to be action that is required on our part to receive the blessing of this promise.
  • What’s the difference between studying God’s word diligently and coming to Jesus?

Don’t you love God and how His intentions for us are pure and complete? Yet, He understands our nature so perfectly, He ALWAYS offers a provision of grace that helps us in our weaknesses!

  • What are some small changes we can make in our study of scripture that can help us make the shift from viewing Bible study as a ‘should do’ and an academic exercise, to truly communing with God in His word?

I look forward to your thoughts expressed here or during class. Welcome to all who join in, regardless of whether or not you are with are group on Sunday morning!

Blessings and love,

Terri

Cardinalinsnowapgart2014

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January 17, 2015–Something to Think About: The Work of our Spiritual Summers

A while back I was asked to share my three Ganderbrook Ladies’ Retreat 2014 lessons with my sisters in Christ in Manchester, NH.  A class format is quite different from a speaking engagement, so it’s been an interesting journey, reformatting the lessons to be a collaborative study. What a blessing it has been to revisit the truths God brought me, and to look at them with a room full of fresh eyes and open spirits!

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Recently, I found myself wanting to continue our discussions into the week, since our Sunday class time is so short. So, here I am, trying to create a forum for sharing and growing. I am a fledgling when it comes to blogging and managing the technical aspects of a web site. I know what I WANT it to look like and do, but haven’t much of a clue HOW to make that happen. I’ll give it a shot. Please be patient as I figure it out.

I will post some follow-up discussion and reflection questions here on the site after each week’s Sunday lesson. The byline will be “Something to Think About”, so it can be distinguished from my other blog posts. You are invited to use them for your own private study, or to meet here, and share what God is teaching you, related to the week’s topic. As well, you are invited and encouraged to share the link with others. (They can find the lessons elsewhere on the site under the “Categories” side bar.)

Pose related questions and biblical links if you desire. Above all, respect each other’s hearts by being loving and gentle in your posted responses. Help us by making it clear when  you are sharing scripture vs. your opinion (also valued, but it’s good to know the difference!).

I’m kinda excited about this! (Kinda, really!)

Here we go!

Something to Think About

Jan. 17 Ladies’ Bible Study—The Work of our Spiritual Summers: Tending the Garden of our Hearts  000_0267

Biggest Lesson: There is no coasting during our spiritual summers!

  • When have you ever been spiritually ‘transplanted’ by the Master Gardener? What spiritual reasons do you think God may have had in mind? Who do you know that has been recently transplanted? Can you help with God’s watering and nurturing of their heart?
  • What season are you in today? Think about how you choose to use your time…what fills your thoughts…how you interact with people in your words and deeds…your personal, work and church family relationships

Are there any spiritual ‘weeds’ that stick out to you? Be courageous and brutally honest with yourself and God. (He already knows, anyway, and hasn’t stopped loving you!) Ask Him to help you seek wisdom and strength to rid your heart of these weeds by the sword of His word. Grab His sword and find a scripture today that deals with this weed in some way. Write it down and meditate on it. Does the context fit your situation? Let God do His heart-work with you through it, over time.  Do the same thing tomorrow with another verse. And the next day…and the next.

(biblegateway.com is a great way to search a topic)

Confession time!  Rubekia and thyme entangled

James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Guess what weeds I have found (ugh!)…complaining…misuse of time… (I’ll stop there for now.)

Phil. 2:14,15  Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world…

Even the Greek word for grumbling is ugly! Goggusmos (gong-goos-MOS)  It means murmuring, muttering, a secret debate, a secret displeasure not openly avowed.

http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/goggusmos.html

 Bonus Thought 

The Macedonian church was able to let God create a spiritual summer while they lived in a storm. They eagerly pleaded for an opportunity to serve, despite the battering of life. Let us aim to do the same!

Scripture Reminders

2 Cor. 8:1-7                         The Spiritual Season of the Macedonian Church

Matt. 13: 1-7, 18-23         Jesus talks about the Garden of our Hearts

Eph. 6:17, Heb. 4:12        Our Gardening Tool!

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Learning in the Shadow of a Pillar

I am listening to an earnest exchange today–not much action going on at the moment, but the air crackles with the rhythm of point, counterpoint. The buzz around the temple has the aura of an interrogation room, and I am standing as though on the dark side of a one-way mirror.

There is a lot to be learned from quiet listening in the shadow of a temple pillar. 100_8223(John 8)

Using the tool they have at hand, the one they think they know best, the Pharisees are at it again. As tiresome as their law-flinging haranguing is, I wonder if Jesus welcomes these frequent exchanges. Perhaps it is better to exchange in the conversation of testing and doubt than to ignore the Son of God. In exchange there is a seeking, and hope of resolution, while in purposeful ignorance, a soul never stands a chance.

As I listen to the dialogue, without the pressure of participation, I learn the craft of Jesus’ conversation:

*He uses the tool that is wielded by the opposition. Rather than selecting an argument He has already used, or a one-size-fits-all, He selects that which rings true to the soul of His audience: the Law. It is so interesting to me here that he calls it ‘your’ law. They have had added so much, and at the same time, missed a great deal. At times, it is unrecognizable as God’s law. It has become something entirely different, with only a glimmer of truth. As Jesus selects the law, upon which to base His response, He redirects his opponents from the flaw in their handling of it to the purpose and Giver of it. It is all about God. He continues to emphasize the link between Himself and His Father. (v. 12-29)

We can learn from this. Sometimes, in the name of ‘spreading the gospel’, we select a tool (a stance, even a particular scripture) that does not connect to the soul of our audience. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the craftsmanship of the tool that we forget that our main purpose is to bring others to Jesus and His connection to God, and our connection to Him.  Sometimes we allow, over time (and usually with good intent), God’s words to evolve into our words. And we distort or dull their purpose.

Hearts change in this moment. Jesus’ witness has its effect and many are convinced. (v. 31)

Now a new group gathers around Him. These are His fellow Jews that already believe in Him. They have followed Him here, and with them, they bring a heritage and centuries of baggage. He starts a discussion that requires a shift in their thinking. Don’t you love when that happens?

“If you continue (abide, remain, stay in) my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”  v. 31, 32

He confronts them with IF statements:

If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples…

If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed…

If God were your Father, You would love Me…
Their faces register surprise. This was not what they expected to hear. They thought they had already nailed down this ‘being God’s people’ thing. They had the right lineage, a heritage of faith. They believed this man who calls Himself the Son of God. Here they are, following Him as good students do. Their expressions register the hidden rebellion in their hearts, the secret places that only God knows, the ones that stay cloaked by external actions.

Jesus speaks boldly here.

“…I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me, because my word finds no place in you.

“I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” I don’t know these men well, but I can guess what that means. Growing up in a household with a tradition of faith, they have traded the leadership of Abraham, which led hearts to God, for following the leadership of their fathers, which led to tradition and an attitude of spiritual entitlement.

“…if God were your Father, you would love Me…”  I wonder if their father, the leaders of their religious life, ever guided them to love God? How easy it is to teach only behaviors and forget to mold the heart toward God.

“…you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.” OUCH! No filter here. Jesus knows He has to be specific. I trust that He knows the timing and need for such a bold statement. It comes from knowing the hearts of men. I trust that I do not have the same complete, unfaulted perspective.  I know that as God’s children, we are called to share His truths—truths that bring hope and grace, and truths that make us face our sins in a way that helps us recognize the need for His hope and grace. It’s a fine balance between speaking boldly, truthfully, and assuming we know exactly what hearts need, flinging an arrow in their direction. That’s God’s job.

“…He who is of God hears the words of God; the reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God!”

Well! I sure hope Jesus has scoped out all the temple exits from here. This is not a happy crowd, and they have gone to gather stones. I think I’ll move on.

Today’s takeaways for me are 100_8187

*There is hope in conversation. Even if the dialogue is testy, embrace the opportunity to have the conversation about spiritual things.

*Examine my conversation to be sure that I stop short of making my words into God’s words. Deliver God’s Truth. See to understand the perspective of my audience (my children, my coworkers, my husband, my fellow Christians, strangers…) and try and match the truths I share with what is important to them.

*Live the ‘thens’. Because I want the “Ifs” to be true, I need to live the “thens”: Continue in God’s word. Don’t become stagnant. Allow the Son to make me free and God to be my Father.

*LOVE God. Truly love Him, and teach and encourage others to LOVE Him. This is more than just obeying or acknowledging His sovereignty-it’s a relationship that breathes, that lives, that responds.

*Be brave enough to hear His words for me and let them craft me into being of God.

What is God teaching you through this journey? I invite you to slip your lessons here below and share them. 100_8229

I am moving on now, and the streets are littered with sounds and movement. There are people lining the edges of the paths, pitiful, with nothing. Unable to take care of themselves without aid, they cry out, hands outstretched.

Jesus pauses…

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Learning from Silence

Two thousand years later, and nothing has really changed. Surroundings and circumstance, may have, and certainly tools and population have changed. But in the human heart, it remains the same.

I am wandering the streets of Galilee and Jerusalem, poking my head in and around the 100_7879temple, listening to conversations. Two things are quite clear here about Jesus:

He has an impeccable sense of timing.

It doesn’t bother Him that people don’t understand Him. He calls to Himself, those that seek Him.

I have to laugh as I listen to these conversations. The people couldn’t agree on what to do with Jesus. Arrest Him, because they don’t understand Him, and they fear He is an enemy of their neatly arranged lives? Recognize Him as a prophet? Push Him away or draw close? Follow Him or stand off to the side and mutter to each other about Him?

See how things never change?

The purpose of my own journey here is to throw off the confining box in which we have placed Jesus. By ‘we’, I mean the church…the world…you…me.  Believers and scoffers alike, we tend to confine things to our own boxes. Think of it like organizing our lives in ways we think help us better manage it. One trip to The Container Store after perusing Pinterest, and we’re ready to put the mess that is us into manageable chunks. We define areas of our lives: clothing, crafts, finances, food, tools, toys, church, work, leisure, family…

While walking down the worn and dusty paths of the holy lands, one thing I notice is that the human heart beats the same over millennia. It wrestles the same. It hopes the same. It despairs the same. It fears the same.

There will always be division where Christ is concerned.  While it is true that God is not a God of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), we humans are a people of confusion.

On this journey, I am asking: What of Jesus here? What of His character connects with mine, or convicts it?  If I am to live Him in this world, what does that look like?

So, the recorded history of my Savior says this:

*He doesn’t let the confusion bother Him. He recognizes it for what it is, and stays firmly grounded, pointing the hearts of those that mangle God’s truth to the One who wrote them. He knows that, underneath it all, the Author of their faith is his Father. Their Father. Our Father. Jehovah. They have just covered it up with human distortions.  See…nothing in human hearts changes over time.

7:16-18 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me;if any man’s will is to do his will, he shall know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. He who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but he who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. 

*He points out, not how they have misconstrued the finer points of the law, not how they need to adjust their rules of doctrine, but He points out that they have missed the point of the law.

“If on the sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the sabbath I made a man’s whole body well?  Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” v. 23-24

I learn a lot from what Jesus doesn’t say. I begin to understand how to be discerning in living God’s laws. What is the difference here between keeping circumcision on the sabbath and healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? Circumcision was a direct act of obedience to God’s direction. Healing was an act of compassion and witness to God’s power and love. Jesus doesn’t say either ‘work’ is wrong. He doesn’t tell them to stop circumcising on the sabbath, if need be. What He does do is draw their attention to the purpose of His actions. Could it be that an act of compassion and power on the sabbath carries the same weight of importance and obedience as a sanctifying routine?

Still pondering Jesus’ silence, I join Him again in the early morning. A crowd has suddenly arrived at the temple gathering. They don’t look happy. Their faces are, perhaps, a little defiant. A little smug. A little self-righteous. (John 8:1-11)

They surround a woman, whose face I can’t quite see. They demand that Jesus weigh in on the application of God’s law given through Moses. They’ve got Him, now, I can see it in their eyes. This should be interesting. Even though I already know whose side I am on, I am intrigued by the collision of religious practice that’s about to happen. If Jesus is who He claims to be, God’s Son, then how can He deny the truth and exactitude of God’s law? They whip out the law, and wield it as a sword, just as they’ve been taught. Only this time, God’s Son offers silence. Given a tool of His Father, He chooses not to pick it up as expected. He had every right to. The tool was not false, or weak, or broken.

Instead, He chooses silence.

People have spent the gift of time trying to guess what Jesus wrote on the ground, as if it were significant. Whatever it was, it had no effect on the crowd, because the accusers keep pestering Him with their agenda. I do wonder, not what He’s writing, but what He’s thinking. All I know is what I see, and all I see is His silence, then His response. “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” He does not sidestep the law. He raises the level of its responsibility.100_7895

Check your own heart first. See that you need grace as much as anyone else. See that you need Me, as much as anyone else. Extend that grace, the one that really isn’t yours to give or receive, to others. It’s Mine, and I give it.

This journey has taught me a lot. If I love this Savior, and commit to letting Him live through me, then I must allow my spirit to conform to His image:

*Don’t let the confusion bother me. The hearts that pull God’s Truth like taffy and make it unrecognizable will always be there. Stay firmly grounded in the core of what I know is true: God loves, deeply, richly and eternally. He has plan, and its unfolding will not look like any human scheme. Don’t get tangled in foolish arguments of doctrine, and don’t own them as my own. Share the big Truths of God’s, and let Him sort out the rest when the time is right.

*Seek to understand the intention of God’s commands as they reveal His character. Let them draw me nearer to Him in understanding instead of using them as a weapon or a box.

*Weigh compassion and grace along with obedience. Dismiss neither. Live both.

I am grateful for your company. Blessings on your own journey. I invite you to share here, in this quiet place, the grace that you have gathered.

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What You Can Learn from Watching a Conversation

I have crossed the sea, in a boat full of seekers, and we are gathered on the northern shore. I have spent weeks here, shifting position, renewing my journey. My motivation remains the same: shift the focus from the externals of faith, the structure of church, back to Who I love and the One who authors my faith.

As I sit here on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, I am seeing my sometimes-self in these people that pursued Jesus. Oahu sun

A crowd of people pursued Jesus after witnessing the miraculous feeding of about 5,000 people with a little boy’s lunch. This story widens my eyes and faith every single time. I am glad to return here, and watch again, how Jesus draws His beloved to Himself.

Jesus recognizes that the crowd seeks Him out because they view Him as a source to fill a physical need. It’s interesting to me that He calls them on that: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” v. 26

I wonder how many times humans draw close to God, to ‘church’ because of a physical or emotional need: shelter, food, belonging, a wholesome activity calendar, reputation…Then, on a good day, they get down to the business of the work of God.

I wonder how often I do that?…

The people ask Him about labor…activity…pursuit. How interesting that He does not choose to nudge them toward action in this moment. Time enough will come for that later. In this moment, what they needed to hear (and, apparently, what we need preserved for all time so that WE may feed upon this grain of truth) is this: the labor of God is belief in His Son.

All Jesus tells them to do at this point is to v. 29

Sometimes belief is the hardest work of all.

Sometimes acts of faith, the Doing, the activities, the ministries, the living a certain way are easier than believing.

This audience is still looking for a tangible sign. Well, if the truth be told, I would too. In fact, there I days I am. There are days I crave (and beg for) a ‘flaming arrow’ of verification, a wet fleece, parted seas. Some days I long for a loaf of bread and a few fish to turn into a banquet for thousands. Because of the conversations I have with others, I am pretty sure I am not alone in this.

I am listening to Jesus’ lesson here, and how He speaks to hearts that seek.

First, He knows His audience. This was not a rabbinical committee of temple leadership. This crowd was a remnant of those, that for some reason, had remained in the place where Jesus fed them. They were perhaps those that had cried, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!” v. 15 As I watch the conversation unfold, I can see that Jesus speaks to the people who have followed him differently from his closest disciples the religious leadership. He always tailors the conversation to particular needs. There is no ‘one size fits all’ evangelistic checklist imposed on any interaction.

Second, He helps the audience knows themselves. “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” v. 26 The embarrassing truth is, Jesus always knows our hearts and motivations, no matter how deeply we bury them underneath justifications or a flurry of activity.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 RSV

Ouch. However, with hearts that are seeking, Jesus never stops there. He uses those human yearnings and impulses as starting blocks of the race to Him.

Next, He steers them in the right direction for now and future pursuits. He gives them a life principle that will serve them well in every aspect, with every question of faith and living: “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.” v. 27

This will work to the doer’s benefit, every time. He shares a Truth that holds up under all circumstances. In that truth is an action plan and a guarantee of reward for following it.

Finally, He fields their question and distills His message to the simple truth: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” v. 29 He follows it up with a response to their “Prove it!” He explains the truth of what they have lived.

Then comes the bread conversation. Bread is a big deal to this audience. Not only is it 100_3702crucial to survival, it is a daily reminder of hope and dependence on God. If we visit here with our 21st century abundance and western attitude of excess, it is difficult to fully grasp the power behind this conversation. Even those of us who craft bread by choice, for pleasure, and wrap ourselves in the process of rising dough, it can be difficult to fully receive the impact of Jesus’ lessons about bread.

 “So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” V. 30-31

The audience knows this They have a rich heritage of faith and a corner of their believe rests on the bedrock Moses and the desert wanderings. They remember their history. They were provided for.

Jesus IS bread from heaven…He took one of the foundation stones of their faith and one-upped it. The manna rained down from heaven was such a blessed gift of God’s miraculous grace. It was proof of God’s constant care for a people that were homeless and bereft of even the most basic provision. Jesus removed the wonder from the gift itself, replaced the honor where it was due, to the Giver, then revealed to His audience that HE was the true bread from Heaven. Not only that, but that His flesh must be eaten, and there was even MORE: If it is eaten, we will not die!

48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; 54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.” RSV

Strip away a millennium or two of hindsight, and do you see how frighteningly preposterous that was?! There are some wild Truths that Jesus asks us to believe, but they are Truths, nonetheless. Faith in them reaps even wilder, astoundingly beautiful rewards: deep, heart-grounding faith that sustains us through all of Life’s storms, and the promise of eternal life in the holy companionship of God.

There is so much more to this bread conversation. It is a conversation God began with His people long before Jesus became the living Bread. Just think of the riches God reveals to us in such a simple thing: bread.  Seeds must be buried, and then their shells are broken in order to extend the roots downward and stalks upward that will grow to provide the grain. Grain must be gathered, and broken again, to transform it into flour, which is made into loaves. The Israelites made it in the form of an oblong or round cake, as thick as one’s thumb, and as large as a plate or platter hence it was not to be cut but broken. Broken again. There’s a lot about breaking in this life with God—breaking of will, breaking of ties with the world and our sins, breaking of the loaves that then are consumed for sustenance. His Son participates in the breaking with us. It is He who is broken instead of us, and then shared to provide us real life in Him.

Against the backdrop of lapping waves, and then the walls of the synagogue, Jesus speaks of being the bread of life, and that we must consume Him. This is not a word that implies a casual relationship between us and our sustenance. “Consume” is an unambiguous, all-encompassing term for how we are to interact with Jesus. Too often, we choose to nibble a crumb, while moving down the buffet, instead of consuming.

We’re packing up our satchels again, dusting off our feet, preparing to move on. You are welcome to join me under the warmth of the Galilean sun, as I gather what has been shared with me here: how Jesus would have us speak life-truths to others, how belief is the work of God, how there is a lot about breaking in our walking with Him.

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Drought–The Blessings of Dry Times

Here is the third and final set lesson notes from September’s New England Ladies’ Retreat. Several have asked that I share my notes. It seemed easier to clean them up a bit and post them here. They are not in narrative form, fully edited, or in tight order. Rather, they are a bit of rough journaling from my time with God as we poured over His word and I asked Him what we needed to learn. I am hopeful they provide a starting place for you to tuck in along side me as we are gathered by God to His heart. Perhaps I will return to them and be granted the opportunity to study even more, polish them into order, and share the lessons in full that God brought me.

Drought Blessings of Dry Times

The Condition: a period of dry weather, especially a long one that is injurious to crops.

What is Spiritual Drought? The Condition is: a period of dry weather, especially a long one that is injurious to crops.

an extended shortage: a drought of good writing. Archaic. thirst.

In our case, I want us to consider it the condition of our spiritual land.

As well, let’s consider our own droughts, and what God is teaching us here, and also the droughts of others and what His role for us is in those times.

What happens in a drought? There is not enough nourishing water to satisfy the needs of the plants and animals that depend upon it.

Allow me to paint a picture for you:

Spiritually speaking, it is a time when we feel depleted, dried up. Our souls feel limp and lifeless. We may look great on the outside, like we’re functioning, but inside, in our hearts and souls where it counts most, there is nothing left. Spiritual droughts cause a lack of food.

For example:

*worship becomes rote and distilled to ‘attendance’. You may be physically present at every service, many activities of the church, but you don’t feel connected to the body, or to Christ.

*your passion for Christ, His church, the lost, is in a holding pattern…has become stale

*your attempts at serving and ministering are stopped short at the walls of disinterest, criticism, ‘someone is already doing that’, failure, inertia (lack of movement)

*only you and a few others appear to be caring and or serving, and you have run out of steam. You are a ‘frequent flyer’ in the ministries. Why do this if it’s only you?

*Bible classes and sermons fail to inspire you to growth. You feel as though they don’t challenge your faith, encourage your spirit, or anchor your heart to Jesus.

*there is no spiritual encouragement at work, at home, anywhere, only a draining of your spirit

One of the dangers is:

*because of the dry landscape of your heart, the seed of rebellion (which can grow EVERYwhere!) takes root and begins to grow: rebellion against authority, rebellion in our marriages, rebellion in our free time, rebellion against our elders, rebellion against the convicting truth of God’s word

The other danger is spiritual death:

This condition can happen for days, weeks, months, or years.

**Here are the three Questions to keep in mind as we study:

Does God INTEND for us to have seasons of spiritual drought?

 If there is a drought, do we create it or contribute to it?

 What can we do to survive the drought?

Turn to John 6:35-37 with me for a minute…Jesus PROMISES his disciples (that’s us!) a life without drought.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life, he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” John 6:37

**What causes droughts? http://weather.about.com/od/drought/f/droughts.htm

Droughts are caused by a depletion of precipitation over time. Unlike a dry spell, prolonged lack of rain will cause regions around the world to slowly dry out. Because of the slow onset of droughts, their cost is often only estimated.

*Think about the lesson here God provides about your soul, His church…

1. My observation has been that (for me, and some others) one cause of Seasons of Drought is selfishness with time or lack of time listening to God and living in relationship with Him through His Word. Jesus made this same observation of the Jews:

Flip back to John 5. Jesus is speaking to the Jews here. They were having such a horrible time accepting Jesus as God’s son, and accepting His version of salvation. He says things of critical importance. He tells them something they were totally unaware of. They were living through a drought, and didn’t even know it!  Remember, a drought is the condition of lacking what is needed to thrive. Listen to how He point this out to them-how they did not have life! (v. 39).:

37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (NIV)

41 “I do not accept glory from human beings, 42 but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.

THIS is their ‘lack of rain’.

First, Jesus says to the Jews: “You have never heard His voice nor seen His form.” Well, of course they hadn’t! To do that would be to die  So, what could Jesus mean? Think about it…there He was, Jesus the Son of God, Jesus who WAS/IS God!—saying, in essence, “Here I am. I have been living among you as Emmanuel-God with you, and you do not hear me! You do not “see” me for Who I am! I am God with you and you don’t LOOK OR LISTEN! You are living in a drought! You are WITHOUT Me.

How often do we do this? We have JESUS, here in His Body, the church, His Spirit, God-breathed in His Word! Do we look for Jesus here? Do we look for HIM, listen to HIM, not the people, the routines, the external structure of church life?

Next, God’s word does not dwell in you! They knew the law and the prophets, oh, yes, but God’s word wasn’t dwelling in them. This was their LACKING, their drought. They KNEW God’s word, but it didn’t take root in their hearts, it didn’t cause the BELIEF of Jesus. That is the PROOF that they abide in God’s word. That is the Proof that WE abide in God’s word. Belief. Do we take Jesus at His word…all His promises? All His commands? Do we live like we believe it?!

Jeremiah 17:7-9New International Version (NIV)

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,100_5396
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought100_3371
    and never fails to bear fruit.”

A tree planted, roots to the stream, with no worries of drought! THAT is refreshing!

Then, oh, Jesus saves the real zinger for last!: . 39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

John 5…

Do we equate our striving for a spiritual “summer” of thriving and growth with an academic understanding of faith and Jesus? Do we ‘study’ Jesus, and expect spiritual strength and understanding? Look what He says here. There is something different in spiritual life (the opposite of drought), than just knowing about Jesus. He wants us to COME TO HIM, which is really, the LIFE He promises us. V. 40

Yes, come to ‘church’, but not because it’s a  21st century social structure that attempts to live a life like Christ. Come to CHURCH—His Body, because IT’S HIS BODY! We touch Jesus and He touches us when we are together, worshipping, serving, reasoning over God’s word! We touch Jesus.

You know the scripture of us being all part of His body: 1 Cor 12:27 “ Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” RSV

Yes, study God’s word, but by this, He means, pour over it with an open heart. Cry with me over the state of mankind and your soul. Sit with me at the well and learn compassion. Listen to my lessons on forgiving debts and ask me to show you who you need to forgive…

Yes, come to JESUS…talk with Him! Bring Him along in our parenting, our sistering, our daughtering, our shopping, our dishwashing, our gardening,  our family taxi runs,  our walks on the beach,  our cooking,  our reading…ask Him what He thinks? What would He have you do? What corners of our hearts do we need to release to Him? What scales of blindness does He need to lift from our eyes so we can see ourselves raw and let Him work?

 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent

This is our lack of rain.
I have separation anxiety…from my bed…from sleep…from warmth. Yet, with God’s help, I have been blessed by wrenching myself out of bed in the early AM. It is by His strength that I get up early, daily, before the distracting of my work or home tasks begin.

This WAS me, for years: Drought Bear in AM

Not anymore. It is HARD WORK of wrestling with my will to rise every morning, but once I win that (spiritual and physical battle, I rejoice in the cherished time with God and He blesses so! I highly recommend reshaping your day with God’s help. Along with begging God for a relief from your drought, here’s an answer to “What Can I Do?” We’re always wondering what we can DO. Well, here we are: dig deep, deep down, into the word of God and root yourself by His feet in prayer. Find those underground lakes that the scorching sun and dry winds cannot diminish! They are below the surface, available to be tapped.

  1. **The Ugly Truth that we’d like to ignore, is that SOMEtimes it is WE who cause our droughts. Let’s just get this ugly part over with. It is more comfortable for us to speak of droughts as being seasons that ‘come upon us” that we must endure. That they are unpreventable. Someone else causes them. It’s the preacher’s fault, the elders’ fault, my family’s fault, my background, my work, my husband, my children…This the ‘victim mentality’, that, quite frankly, pervades our culture so deeply. And we pray, “Oh, Lord, give us strength and wisdom to get THROUGH.”

What about: “Oh, Lord, protect my heart and grant me wisdom to AVOID drought, to stay fertile and nourished by your waters!”

“work out your salvation with fear and trembling”  Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, Phil 2:12

Do the work. You do the work. Not anyone else.

You dig into God’s word. YOU pray diligently by yourself, with your children, with your sisters and brothers in Christ.

YOU make the choices in your life that grab hold of spiritual opportunities.

YOU sacrifice your time and sweat equity to serve and study.

YOU pour out your heart in joy and conviction and praise to Jehovah in worship.

Even if your husband doesn’t, your children don’t, your friends or coworkers don’t, your preacher doesn’t, your elders don’t, your church family doesn’t. YOU do it!

ERADICATE your drought!! By God’s strength and your malleable heart, YOU CAN!

  1. We ‘overfarm’ the landscape, and use it up. We suck its nourishment dry, without replenishing it. Think about this in the church, in your own spiritual walk.

How do we dry up our places? Our hearts? Our church communities?

-The most obvious is by sin. We misuse the soil of our hearts and lives.

Jeremiah 13:22- 27

22 And if you ask yourself,
“Why has this happened to me?”—
it is because of your many sins
that your skirts have been torn off
and your body mistreated.
23 Can an Ethiopian[a] change his skin
or a leopard its spots?
Neither can you do good
who are accustomed to doing evil.

24 “I will scatter you like chaff
driven by the desert wind.
25 This is your lot,
the portion I have decreed for you,”
declares the Lord,
“because you have forgotten me
and trusted in false gods.
26 I will pull up your skirts over your face
that your shame may be seen—
27 your adulteries and lustful neighings,
your shameless prostitution!
I have seen your detestable acts
on the hills and in the fields.
Woe to you, Jerusalem!
How long will you be unclean?”

Haggai 1:7-11

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”

The sin here (both places) was forgetting God. It’s always forgetting God. When we forget Him, we act, think, move, live in ways that either intentionally reject Him, or just ignore Him.

What gets me is v. 9 of Haggai… I am really struggling with that now. I feel so pulled by “my own house”. Even with my children grown and off in college or elsewhere, my house, my work—it all claims my time and energy. I feel smothered at times. Because my ‘house’ and its responsibilities are in front of me, loud and insistent, making everything immediate and urgent, they push aside the priority of God and His house.

How do we prevent this? How do we tend the blessings of home, family, work and first tend the Lord’s house?

*They must overlap.

*Sacrifice. Give. Something. Up.

*Encourage each other. Remind each other of opportunities. It’s got to be more than a pulpit announcement. If you see a need, come and ask ME. Don’t assume the needs will be filled by someone listening to a general announcement. Come gather me. Offer to work alongside me!

Deuternomy 28: all  The Blessings of Obedience, the Curse of Disobedience

*I assume that most of us are here because we choose to hear God’s call and walk with Him. Most of us do not purposefully live our days in intentional rejecting of Him and His decrees. Most of us probably fall into the category of forgetting Him.

How do we do this? Let’s look at some places that are easy to remember and easy to forget Him:

Easy to Remember… “church”…big decisions…travel…illness… marriages…  parenting…

Easy to Forget/Ignore…our use of time…everyday shopping purchases…who we choose to be with…financial management…leisure activities (what we read, watch, where we go, what we listen to …)…the words we say/write

God was upset at both the literal and figurative adultery that His people’s hearts committed. Read Hosea to find the love and grace in all of that.

There is ALWAYS an exit strategy, a door of redemption and return to the arms of our Father:

There is a mentality of taking, always taking, without returning that can cause our spiritual droughts.

Ask ourselves: Are we Takers or are we Givers? In the Kingdom, in our marriages, in or friendships, at work, at play…?

 What is the SOLUTION to spiritual drought?

You know this answer already. Casting nutrient-filled water upon the dry land in a steady flow is the ONLY solution to drought.

But this steady rain is not a torrent. What happens when torrents come and fill the land cracked and hardened by drought? Tremendous floods occur, further damage is done. As you move through and out of your drought, or see others in a drought, in particular. Remember to be tender. As we are admonished in Scripture: restore gently, exercise love, patience, and gentleness with each other. Provide nourishing water, but don’t do the bucket challenge on their hearts!

Preparation: develop deep roots and send them out toward the water.

The Blessings of Drought: deep gratitude and appreciation of the satisfaction of our soul in God; submission, a breaking of selfish will

God is a God of contrasts. I am convinced that He does so much of His deep shaping of souls while leading us through contrasts. By allowing the world to drag itself through sin, generation upon generation, He provides for us what we need to understand redemption, to see grace in action. By feeling need, by being in want, we can feel what it is like to be fully satisfied.

The Purposes of Droughts:

Proverbs 30:7-9

Two things I ask of Thee; deny them not to me before I die:

Remove far from me falsehood and lying;

Give me neither poverty or riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me lest I be full, and deny Thee, and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God.” 

Droughts force us to give up our perceived control. We pray, “Not my will, but Thine”, but do we really want that? Are we really comfortable with that?

Celebrate the Droughts!  Drought, the contrast that allows you to truly see the light in the darkness, the satisfaction of soul-thirst. Learn from it.  Remember that God does not intend for you to live dry.

Move toward the holy Oasis, the only One who can satisfy…Stretch your roots deep and tangle them in the rich soil that is Christ, His Body, His love, His work, His Word, His relationship, His grace.

100_7644

From “Blessed be Your Name” by Matt and Beth Redman:

Blessed be Your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

And blessed be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name

Posted in Ladies' Retreat Lessons 2014 Ganderbrook, Spiritual Drought, Spiritual Transformation, The Walk, Trials, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment