Spiritual Dryness

How most of us long to have hearts overflowing with love for God and a tangible feeling of closeness to Him, as reflected in many of the Psalms.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.

When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches,
For You have been my help,
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me.                Psalm 63:1-2, 6-8

In the final analysis, this joyful experience of God’s closeness is a gift from Him.  That is why Paul prayed that his Ephesian friends would be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man . . . able to comprehend . . . and to know the love of Christ . . . and be filled up to all the fulness of God.  (Ephesians 3:16-19)   The catalyzing work of the spirit is unpredictable, like the wind, Jesus said.  (John 3:8)  Blow on us, Holy Spirit!

Besides prayer for our awareness of His closeness and for confidence in His adequacy, there are things we can do to be ready for His Spirit to move within us.  Our receptivity to such filling is an important prerequisite.  We can clean house for Him, that He might make Himself at home.  An important aspect of this readiness is to recognize the false attractions the world has to offer for what they are.

fountain 2For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me,
The fountain of living waters,
To hew for themselves cisterns,
Broken cisterns
That can hold no water.
              Jeremiah 2:13

Lord, blind me to the false jewelry of the world around me.  Let me hear the empty clink of counterfeit “money.”  Deafen my ears to the Sirens begging me for attention and pursuit.  Fill my mind with Your majesty, grace, beauty, wisdom, power, holiness, and justice.  Give me eyes only for You!  Give me satisfaction that You are all I need and all I want, in this life and the next. 

 

Posted in experiencing God, heavenly-minded, Holy Spirit, spiritual dryness | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Light to the Blind

The people who walk in darkness
Will see a great light;
Those who live in a dark land,
The light will shine on them.
     Isaiah 9:2

This is a frightening, unpredictable world we travel through in our pilgrimage to our permanent home in heaven.  Most of us are rather helpless and vulnerable, like blind men, stumbling along the way.  Isaiah described our predicament:

blind personWe grope along the wall like blind men,
We grope like those who have no eyes;
We stumble at midday as in the twilight,
Among those who are vigorous we are like dead men.
    Isaiah 59:10 

Sam Shoemaker was an Episcopal priest in the early 20th century.  His greatest love was introducing searching, lost people to a God who, just out of their sight, holds out His arms openly to them, heartily inviting them to come to Him.

I stand by the door.  I neither go too far in, nor stay too far out.  The door is the most important door in the world.   It is the door through which men walk when they find God.  There’s no use my going way inside and staying there, when so many are still outside, and they, as much as I, crave to know where the door is.  And all that so many ever find is only the wall where a door ought to be.

They creep along the wall like blind men, with outstretched, groping hands, feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door, yet they never find it.  So, I stand by the door.  

The most tremendous thing in the world is for men to find that door: the door to God. The most important thing any man can do is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands and put it on the latch.  The latch that only clicks and opens to the man’s own touch.      Excerpt from Samuel Shoemaker, I Stand By the Door, An Apologia For My Life

The apostle Paul had the same mission vision for himself.  He relates how Jesus appeared to him and gave him this assignment —

 . . . to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.   Acts 26:18

Father God, thank You for seeking us patiently and persistently, then laying hold of us, adopting us, and bringing us into Your home to be with You forever.  Thank You that You opened our eyes to see You and that You placed our hands on the latch of the door into Your kingdom and welcomed us as Your children.

 

Posted in darkness, helpless, light, witness | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

He Takes Us by the Hand

pexels-photo-226616.jpeg

Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You have taken hold of my right hand.
With Your counsel You will guide me,
And afterward receive me to glory.

Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
That I may tell of all Your works.                Psalm 73:23-26, 28

Even in our habitual rebellion and earth-loving insanity, our Father God understands us, loves us, and redeems us.  He holds our hand, counsels us, and guides us.  And, after this life, He receives us to glory! 

This personal, Fatherly attention is heart-warming and comforting.  Normal life can be dangerous and frightening.  What encouragement it is to feel His steadying hand on the seat of our bicycle as we attempt to pedal our way through life!      The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.child n dad ride bike  When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,
Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.       Psalm 37:23-24

We will fall!  That is expected.  But we have a tender Shepherd who will pick us up, comfort us, and carry us, until we have the confidence to try riding again.

Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
In His arm He will gather the lambs
And carry them in His bosom;
He will gently lead the nursing ewes.
               Isaiah 40:11

It is an astonishing reassurance that our position safely in His hands is permanent and secure.  Thank You, dear Lord, for protecting, leading, counseling, and carrying me in this often intimidating journey You have assigned me.

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.     John 10:28-30

 

Posted in dependence, guidance, protection | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Surprised by Belief

Jesus told Nicodemus not to be surprised that one must be born again in order to see the kingdom of God.  (John 3:5, 7)  He goes on to explain in a metaphor, The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit. (8) IMG_1892

This was the experience of the early church.  After Jesus’ resurrection, as they prayed in hiding, the disciples were suddenly surrounded by what sounded like a strong wind, as they were filled with the Holy Spirit and with power.  (Acts 2:2-4)  The Ethiopian eunuch traveling through Gaza and the Roman centurion Cornelius both showed evidence of a miraculous new birth, as the wind of the Spirit blew unexpectedly on them.  They were taken by surprise by life-changing belief in Jesus.

To the outside observer, the Spirit’s action seems random and sporadic.  But in the mind of God, these movements of the Spirit are an orderly fulfillment of His sovereign design.

Jesus said that No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.   John 6:44  He draws us in a wonderful way that is mysterious and unpredictable, yet accomplishing God’s will incisively, as a well-shot arrow finds its way to the target.

 pexels-photo-842876.jpegFor by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.   Ephesians 2:8-9

Thank You, Lord, for the wonderful, mysterious way You draw people to Yourself in inexplicable, life-changing belief.  We are awestruck by Your wisdom and sovereignty as we see You work in the hearts of people around us.  We pray that You move in that same way in the lives of people we love in our families, neighborhoods, and workplace.  Blow, Holy Spirit, blow!

Posted in belief, Holy Spirit, new birth | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Longing For Home

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.            Philippians 3:20

looking upThe believer in Christ belongs to another unseen world.  The more he reads of his true home, the more he fervently longs to experience it.  Not just as a place to find refuge, away from the dangers, hurts, and disappointments of this seen world —  that would be escapism.  But he longs to live in the here and now in the way he was created to live.

We live in a dual existence.  Our true life is unseen, hidden with Christ, in God (Colossians 3:1-4)  For this reason, we are exhorted to seek, to set our minds on the things above, rather than on the things we can see on earth.

The writer of Hebrews complimented believers in the Messiah for their example of homeward-looking.  All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.   Hebrews 11:13

The lens though which we see life thoroughly colors our thinking, and this affects the way we live.  colored lensesIt determines what we value and what we seek in life, what we trade our precious time to do in the few, short years we have been given.  This is why the subject of our gaze is so important.  John said it had a purifying effect on our lives.

We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.   1 John 3:2-3

Father God, I love you.  Help me to see myself as alive from the dead, rescued from the eternal death I deserve by Your unmerited grace.  Let me be motivated to love the things You love, to hate the things You hate.  Let me spend my time thinking, saying, and doing the things that are part of Your eternal Kingdom values.  Let me walk to Your drumbeat.  Use me to make a difference in the world around me.

Posted in heavenly-minded, seeing the unseen | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Saving Look

reaching for helpAs Israel was being led through the wilderness with little food and water, they began to grumble.  (Numbers 21:4-9)  They writhed under the plan of God to bring them through such hardship, and they rebelled against the leaders who brought them there.  This stirred God’s anger.  “The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.”  Moses, interceding for the people to be saved from death, was told by God, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he shall live.”  Those who chose to look were healed and lived.

Jesus used this story from 1300 years before to illustrate to his night-time visitor Nicodemus how a clueless, helpless human could hope to be born again and be saved from the eternal punishment we deserve.  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life.  For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”   John 3:14-16

To be rescued from our impossible predicament is so simple.  Just believing look is all it takes.  To trust in Jesus being our substitute, rather than hoping that we can someday be good enough.  This saving look is something anyone can do, people from any walk in life and any background.  Kings and queens and homeless and beggars have equal access to this salvation.    Charles Spurgeon (b. 1834), a famous British pastor, tells the story of his own conversion, when he realized he could just look to Jesus and be saved.  [read his story]

Dearest Father, comfort the hearts of us helpless sinners who recognize our powerlessness to save ourselves.  Give us hope.  Open our eyes to the healing salvation that You hold out to us.  Give us boldness to look to You and take this undeserved gift of forgiveness and eternal life from Your hands, clutching it tightly to ourselves.  Thank You, O Father!  Thank You!

Posted in new birth, trust | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Confessing helplessness

O, what a gift it is to be made aware of our life-threatening condition!  After the initial shock, we are grateful to the doctor who uncovers a serious life threat.  Recognizing that we are not invincible — but in fact mortally vulnerable — motivates us to get the help we so desperately need.

drowning handsPaul said this was quite true of our spiritual condition.  For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.   Romans 5:6

As Judah’s King Jehoshaphat trembled at the approach of a large coalition of hostile invading armies, he declared,

For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.     2 Chronicles 20:12

To think we are well prevents us from seeking the help we need so badly.  To recognize that we are bankrupt to fix our own defects prepares us to seek that help from outside ourselves, from Him who made us, who knows our failings, and who alone can make us right.

O God, open my eyes to my many failings.  Let me come to grips with my own helplessness to fix myself.  Do what you must to make me what You designed me to be.  I cast myself into Your capable arms.

Posted in dependence, helpless, powerless | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment