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Hiding Among the Baggage

So they asked the LORD, “Where is he?” And the LORD replied, “He is hiding among the baggage.” 1 Samuel 10:22

This verse is so well known to me, not because I’ve read the story several times but because I’ve spent so much time hiding among the baggage myself. Saul, after being anointed king by Samuel, was about to be crowned the first King of Israel. The lots were cast and it was no surprise to Saul that he was chosen. Yet, he hid among the baggage.  They actually had to ask God where he was! The text doesn’t say why Saul was hiding. But why does anyone hide? For me the reason was fear. The fear of failure, fear of being hurt and fear of rejection controlled my life. It was much easier for me to hide than to risk.

While looking up 1 Samuel 10:22 I stumbled across a sermon by Charles Spurgeon delivered on July 19, 1866 called, Hiding Among The Stuff. It was so profound and relevant that it brought me to tears.  Early on Spurgeon quotes Christian in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress: “What a fool I am to be rotting in this stinking dungeon when I have a key in my breast that will open every lock in Doubting Castle!”  Oh, how this resonates with me! How long I lived in doubting castle never quite sure about anything, stuck in bondage to fear. Wanting to protect myself I avoided deep friendships for years. Pouring myself into ministry was another way I hid. As long as I was busy I didn’t have to really know anyone or be known. It was safe. Then, one day I was asked to help with a discipleship ministry with a focus on healing. However, it required relationship on an intimate level. Of course I said, “No. It’s not for me. God isn’t calling me to do it.”  Then, a couple of days later I experienced the discontent of disobedience. In contrast, God was saying, “I am calling you to this ministry and I want you to do this for your own good.”

Fortunately, I was compelled to obedience by God’s love. It’s been ten years since I said yes and He has taken me on a beautiful journey of healing and sanctification that I would have missed if not for His grace. It has not been easy or pain free but oh so rich and freeing. I am still involved in the same ministry with different people and in different formats and He is still teaching me to be transparent and unashamed. I am thankful for the work He prepared for me beforehand and for the prompting of the Holy Spirit to walk in obedience to Him for His joy and glory. It is still a daily battle to purpose to be out in the open, “naked and unashamed” (Genesis 2:25). The willingness to be used by God, to be vulnerable and transparent, even when it means suffering is to surrender to the Lord Jesus, denying myself and taking up my cross. It can be painful and yet remains the only way to true freedom, abounding joy and incomprehensible peace. Spurgeon’s closing words from the sermon follow. I pray they will inspire obedience as the Love of Christ compels you also.

“Now, Christians, let me say to you in closing, do seek, as God shall help you, to get away from that baggage and that stuff of yours. Get up! Get up from those valleys where the reeking fog of earth is always lingering—get up to those healthful mountains where the breezes of Heaven fan the cheeks! Get above the mists and clouds into a clearer and serener atmosphere! Ask the Holy Spirit to assist you in your spiritual mounting. Do not let it be said any longer that when a crown is ready for you, you are hiding away from it. May you be ready to be crowned and, being crowned, live as a king and a priest to the Glory of your Lord! May God add His blessing to these words for Jesus’ sake.”

 Charles Spurgeon, Hiding Among The Stuff, Sermon #3322, July 19, 1866

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Dark to Light

The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Genesis 1:2

An artist, when painting or drawing, can go from dark to light or light to dark, depending on the medium and the color of the canvas. Either way, in the end, it is the darkest shadows that illuminate the whitest highlights. Without the darkness the picture would be flat, lacking the illusion of being three-dimensional.

Perhaps it is true in the spiritual realm too. God created the world and started with darkness. The shadows were already in place before He breathed life and created light. In relationship to God, we see Him more brilliantly because of darkness not in spite of it. Adam and Eve knew God in a state of perfection but they didn’t understand His grace and holiness until after the fall. What a beautiful picture. He wants us to know Him as we are known.

John 12:46 says, “I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.” I once read that darkness is actually the absence of light and, in the same way, evil is the absence of God.   However, without the backdrop of darkness and sin we would not recognize the holiness and goodness of God. Also, in Psalm 30:11 David proclaims, “You turned my mourning into dancing!” It isn’t until we experience pain that we appreciate comfort. In the same way, there is no recognition of our need for God until we see our sin. If, like the Pharisees, we don’t think we need saving and fail to understand the darkness of our own hearts then we are blind to the light. We see white on white, so to speak, instead of white on black. We cannot see the contours of His face when we are staring at our own self-righteousness.  So, today I will purpose to view God in the light of His truth which is drawn on the canvas of a very dark world.

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Instead of Worry

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NLT

Change has been igniting worry in my heart.  Our youngest son is about to graduate high school and it looks like he’ll be drafted by one of the MLB teams in early June.  Meanwhile, our oldest son is turning 21 in May and will most likely be working out-of-state for his final internship before graduating college in December.  Along with this comes a list of “To Do’s” and activities and emotions that range from pure joy to desperate fear of the unknown.  This also means we will be empty-nesters. Fortunately, Marty and I have a great marriage and are looking forward to our time alone together but it doesn’t cancel out the anxiety I feel when I think about the next few months and the changes that will occur.  My heart races and I feel like I want to cry because even good change triggers fear of the unknown in me.

However, Instead is a great word.  It means “In place of.” Philippians 4:6-7 demonstrates an exchange that takes place when we come to God with our worry.  In the same way God takes our sin and gives us His righteousness when we believe He also takes all of our worry and anxiety and gives us His peace to guard our hearts and minds “as you live in Christ Jesus.”  Because anxiety and worry are paralyzing JOY STEALERS we have immense freedom when we let go of them.

Of course, it’s one thing to know intellectually that worry is sin but it takes me by surprise at times, ambushing me at my weakest moments.  I am so thankful that God knows this and, taking my face in His hands, whispers, “Instead….”  This is when I exchange the W for an S, changing my worry into sorry.  “I’m sorry Lord for not trusting you with all the details, the change and with my children’s future.  I’m sorry for not believing You have a future and a hope and plans for them that are good.  I’m sorry that I believe that you are not there for me or for them and I have to do everything.  I’m sorry that I believed that you are not sovereign and good, allowing my past experience with man to control my thoughts INSTEAD of Your Word and Your Love.

I am so grateful that I can, instead, exchange my worry for sorry and accept the forgiveness of my Father and abide in Him with peace and joy. Today I’m choosing to tell God what I need and thank Him for what He has done, choosing peace instead of worry.

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Son-Shine

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

Snow fell once again this second week of April, blanketing the exposed patches of grass that gave New Englander’s hope for spring. It feels discouraging even though just a few months ago we were excited about the first snowfall. (Not so excited about the power outage Thanksgiving Day.)

The late snow flurry reminded me of the manna that appeared to the Israelites, day in and day out for forty years. How excited they must have been the first day! Exodus 16:31 says, “The house of Israel named it manna, and it was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey.” Oh Joy! Free food that we don’t have to sew or harvest! Hallelujah! However, after years of eating the same thing they desired something different. Numbers 11:6 says, “…but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.” Their thankfulness disappeared and they began to grumble against the LORD.

I too have experienced a grumbling in my soul, unsatisfied with God’s provision of abundant snow.  Through this hard winter God has shown me that I lack thankfulness. His Word says I can have a warm disposition that is independent of the outside temperature. Well, not exactly in those terms but it does say, “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” Philippians 4:5. How soon we forget God’s provisions. How soon I forget that His grace is sufficient, no matter the circumstance (or temperature). Today I am choosing to be warm. I pray that every interaction is pleasing to the Lord and He is able to warm the hearts and lift the spirits of those who are down hearted by shining His Son through me as I choose to be a vessel of His Son-shine today.

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Obstinate Obstacles

The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people.” Exodus 32:9 

Soon after God delivered the Israelites from Egypt they made an idol in the form of a calf and worshipped it instead of the LORD. Their behavior was not reflective of God’s people, the one’s He had set apart for Himself, and because of their rebellion many died. Unfortunately, the pattern is a familiar one. This same thing happens in my life and shows up most often in close relationships.  Everyday the golden calf, called me, myself and I, is erected when I worry, want my way or choose to be impatient. The result is death in the form of friction, disunity and restlessness.

Fortunately, our God is gracious. He knows our frailties and meets us right where we are. Whatever you struggle with God can handle. He is bigger than any idol you can erect and is more than willing to destroy it. The key is to let it go by laying it on the altar, allowing God to consume your fears. It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1. Release your obstinate obstacle to the LORD today through confession and repentance. Turn from your old patterns and turn to the only One who can set you free by removing all the obstacles that are keeping you from His presence and be revived!

And it will be said, “Build up, build up, prepare the way, Remove every obstacle out of the way of My people. “For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite.… Isaiah 47:14-15

Gospel, Hope

Fools for Christ

“For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:21

April is a month of favorites in New England. Spring melts away the tension of winter, the air is actually warm when the sun shines and the Easter celebration arrives. Still, April 1st has not been a favorite for me until now.  Traditionally, April Fool’s Day is celebrated by deceiving people into thinking or believing something that is not true in a lighthearted, fun way.  However, the foolishness of the gospel is the exact opposite.  The simplicity of God’s plan boggles the mind. It doesn’t make sense that we are offered a free gift without having to earn it.  Our first reaction is to ask, “What’s the catch?” But it is true.

When I came to know Christ eighteen years ago my eyes were opened by God to the truth and I believed not because I was convinced in my mind by a skillful argument but because God revealed Himself to me and I KNEW Him.  It was as real an experience as if I had met a person in the flesh.  He not only revealed Himself as my savior but LORD, convicting me to the core that I was a sinner living apart from a Holy God and I desperately needed someone to save me from God’s judgement.  It is hard to write it in those terms because it makes God sound mean but He is so loving.  He is the judge who determines good from evil and holiness from unrighteousness but he is also the Redeemer, sentencing justly and then paying the penalty Himself. It is foolishness to the world. But, isn’t it foolishness not to take the free gift and run? Isn’t it foolishness to run away from, instead of into, the arms of a loving God who takes away my sin and shame?

Also, like the inheritance of a rich father’s child, salvation is free to those who believe. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–” John 1:12    We don’t have to continue earning our salvation because we are His children.  It is finished and there is nothing we can do to change our heritage in Christ.  So, in Paul’s words, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great [resurrection] power for us who believe….” Ephesians 1:18-19a.

Therefore,  since we are Fools for Christ, let’s celebrate, decorating with the centerpiece of our Risen LORD, Who, by His resurrection power, brought us from death to abundant life.  No joke.