The desert is a physical place, but it is also a spiritual place. It is a place where we can feel great loneliness. We discover our hunger and our thirst in the desert. We see vast expanses of barrenness that for many holds no beauty. Those who understand the desert feel quite the opposite. They know how to survive, looking for water in rocky crevices. They know how to eat a cactus! Yes, cacti can be a source of water and food.
When we read the account of Jesus in the desert in John 4, we see He also understood how to survive. I’m speaking here of the spiritual desert. A spiritual desert comes to us all. It’s a place that can be desolate, emphasizing our aloneness. It’s a place where we hunger and thirst for strength, but weariness so easily overcomes. What can we do? Let’s look at what Jesus did in this situation.
Remember, just as Jesus was 100% God, He was also 100% human. He desired to feel everything that we feel. In the place of His desert, His arch enemy came. Satan presented himself to Jesus and began to toss temptations at Him. Satan began by taunting Jesus. “If you’re really the Son of God, then prove it! Turn these stones into bread.” Jesus withstood the goading. Next, Satan appealed to Jesus’ sense of aloneness. It’s believed here that Satan was tempting Jesus to suicide. “Just jump!” Satan shouts, “Surely the angels will catch you.” Again, Jesus withstood the provocation. Finally, Satan appeals to material desire. “Follow me,” Satan urges. “Worship me, and all the kingdoms of the world will be yours.” A third time Jesus withstands even temptation to material wealth and power.
How did Jesus accomplish this? After all, Jesus was 100% human as well as being God. Why didn’t His human self succumb to these temptations? It’s because Satan was operating in the physical, tempting to provide physical pleasures. Jesus was operating in the spiritual. It is only the power of the spiritual that is strong enough to withstand the temptations of the physical. Why did Jesus not weaken in His human spirit? Because He was moving in the Holy Spirit. What was the door to moving in the power of the Holy Spirit? The Word of God.
Three times Satan tempts in the physical. Three times Jesus answers in the spiritual; He quoted the Word of God. Jesus was recalling Scripture found in Deuteronomy 8:3, 6:16, and 6:13. Jesus fully understood the unconquerable power of The Word of God. You and I so easily miss it. Out first focus is often on the physical rather than the spiritual. Our natural selves desire pleasures of the here and now. We want answers today; waiting for tomorrow becomes tedious to our impatience.
It is imperative to our spiritual strength that we focus everyday on the Word of God. We know from reading Hebrews 4:12 that, “The Word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword…” As a soldier gains skill to withstand the enemy by practicing with his or her weapons, so the spiritual warrior withstands demonic attacks through practicing using the Word of God, our mighty sword. To use God’s Word daily is sure success and strength building; to ignore it is sure failure and a sinking into weakness.
So many of God’s children sadly ignore God’s Word. It’s a book that collects dust. “I can pray,” may come the explanation, but can one pray the most efficiently without knowledge of God’s own Word?
In standing strong against the enemy, I love the verse in Psalm 149:6, “Let the praises of God be in their mouths, and a sharp sword in their hands.” These are the weapons that Satan cannot shatter. Today, tomorrow, and the next, may we all praise and pray with our minds saturated in the Word of God. All earthly temptations then melt into nothingness.
Yesterday I had a lovely visit with dear friends who are currently going through some serious health issues. As we talked together, our conversation turned to Psalm 46:1-3, “God is our refuge and strength. A very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will nor fear even though the earth be removed. Even though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea. Even though its waters roar and be troubled; even though the mountains shake with its swelling.” I left them with my own heart gladdened at the reminders of the “even thoughs” that we all face in life.
In our sharing together we imagined being in a boat in the storm, perilously tossed about, in danger of capsizing. But wait! We are never alone in our boat! Jesus is there! He’s even asleep! He is at peace. How can that be? Because He is in charge of the winds and sea. He can bring us to shore — but even though the waters overcome us — He escorts us into His presence where joy is so great it far outweighs any fear felt in any storm.
It is because of Jesus in the boat that we may sing in ecstasy the words of that amazing song — It Is Well With My Soul.
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll:
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me say, It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
It is well, it is well with my soul.
There is probably not a person alive who doesn’t want to have more faith: faith in their relationships, faith in their work skills, faith in sharing talent, faith in travel, faith in God’s will for their lives, faith in facing a fear, the list goes on and on. Moving forward by faith can be a scary thing, because faith is so often stepping into something of which we have limited knowledge, or even stepping into the complete unknown.
Last year my mother and I spent two months in America. It was a wonderful time speaking in numerous churches, visiting with many dear friends. We traveled by car through several states along the east coast. When we crossed the state line into Pennsylvania, getting closer to Philadelphia, I had no idea the level of fear that was about to enter my personal world, smothering all peace within me. I was about to drive over, not one, but several very high bridges. I confess — I am terror-struck when it comes to skyscraper bridges.
The first one came upon me suddenly; it was just there in front of me! It wasn’t even thirty seconds before I was aware of what loomed before me, a tangle of steel structure beckoning me forward into it’s evil grip. Up, up, up! I felt my body lean forward in ridiculous attempt to keep the car from flipping over backwards. Quickly, one at a time, I wiped my sweating palms on my pant legs. I could feel my throat tighten, breaths coming in shallow puffs. Somewhere, sounding far off like in a tunnel, my mother’s voice was speaking, trying to soothe me, encouraging me onwards, but panic pounding in my head like a hammer on an anvil drowned out all the words. My eyes were fixed, unblinking on the top of the bridge. That was all I could see as I ascended. If I could just get to the top, I reasoned, then welcome descent from this death trap, ready to plunge me into the depths of angry water below, would take me back down to earth where safety awaited me.
Even as I just wrote the above paragraph, I felt my breaths growing shallow, just in the frightful memory. Remember, there was not just one, but several bridges in Philadelphia! Obviously I have lived to tell the tale, but I will admit, that very night in our hotel room, I awoke in the early hours with a jolt, a nightmare dropping me into a watery grave from atop that same terrorizing bridge of evil intent. In those short moments of horror I could not think of praying, but someone was indeed wrapping me in prayer. My mother seated next to me, knowing of my terrible fear of high bridges, she was praying for me. She was right there with me. I was not alone.
Two things come to mind in recalling this frightful episode: 1) someone was praying 2) I was not alone. However, if no other person had been in that car, someone else was still praying and someone else was still with me. Romans 8:34 tells us, “For Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and He is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.“ Then in Colossians 3:3 we read, “…your real life is hidden with Christ in God.” I find it amazing that Jesus Himself prays for us, pleading for what we need, and He is always with us; our very lives are in Him and He is in God. What better protection can there be!
I suppose we all have a fear we grapple with; something so terrible it seems unsurmountable. A surprise bridge of terror could suddenly appear without warning. Thoughts of having faith fly out the window! My advice from personal experience? Keep your eyes focused on the top, knowing a descent will follow. Stay focused upwards, Jesus is always there no matter what. Our lives are safely kept in Him and He is in the Father. The Holy Spirit is ever teaching, so never stop learning. Comfort and great instruction for living is tucked away in the pages of God’s living Word, so dive in daily and bring to the surface of understanding treasure needed to get through any fear. He will never leave us nor will He ever forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)
Recently I was reading an article about an illusionist. The journalist interviewing him tried to ply him for the secret of a certain illusion. Of course, the entertainer was not going to reveal his methods. Such a revelation would ruin his act. Many years ago my parents and I went to see the famous illusionist, David Copperfield. It was an amazing night of entertainment. I remember a moment when David Copperfield was standing on stage speaking to us. All of a sudden a black drape dropped to the floor in front on him and immediately lifted again. He was gone. It was only a second or two but he was gone. Where was he? We all gasped as we heard him calling out to us from behind, walking down the aisle and back to the stage. How did he do it? It seemed impossible, like he was in two places at once. It was all the fun of the illusion.
Satan tries hard to make us think he is an illusionist — someone seemingly not there but present at all times. Of course, this is not so. Satan is not omnipresent. He must go when we command him to do so in the name of Jesus. When we recognize his instilling of fear or temptation, we may, in the authority of Jesus, command him and his demons to go! They must! Will they come back at a later time with more attempts to plague us and tempt us? Yes, but that is why we must stay daily focused on the Word and on Jesus. When we keep our minds steadfast on Jesus, calling upon the Holy Spirit within us to keep us aware, then no demonic influence will gain a hold on us. Satan is thwarted every single time and made to go away when we stand up to him in the name of Jesus.
God is the only One omnipresent. He is ever present to help us. As it tells us in Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in times of trouble.” Our satanic enemy lies, trying to make us believe that God leaves us in times of trouble, that He is not there when we need Him most. Remember, Satan always attempts to kick down the saints when we are already hurting and wounded. Never look at him and listen; always look up, eyes steadfast on the One “who never fails you or abandons you,” as we are told in Hebrews 13:5.
Satan is an evil trickster, but he is not always there. God is a holy provider for all we need to get through anything at all. Eyes up! He is with you! Help is on the ready. Comfort is always available.
We’ve all experienced blah days when we lack motivation. We’ve also experienced days when fear of something to face makes us want to stay in bed all day, hoping it will all go away. Even so, most of the time we throw the bed covers back, get up, dress, and get ourselves to work. We make ourselves face whatever the dreaded moment may be. We just do it. If not, there are consequences. We could lose our job, or ruin a relationship. There are consequences when we don’t face up to what we know we need to do.
As we contemplate this day, Passover Friday or Good Friday, the day we remember when Jesus was betrayed by a friend, arrested, and led away to be flogged and sentenced to death by crucifixion, we must also remember His choice that day. It was a choice that had eternal consequences for us all. We read in Matthew 26 something astonishing. Jesus was with His disciples on the Mount of Olives just outside the city of Jerusalem. They were all tired. Jesus was praying in earnest to His Father because He was greatly troubled; He was sorely distressed. He had pleaded with the others to pray with Him, but they were so tired they couldn’t stay awake. Matthew 26:39 tells us about Jesus, “He went on a little farther and bowed with His face to the ground, praying, ‘My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not Mine.'”
Imagine that! Jesus knew what was coming. He knew what He was about to face. Remember, He was 100% human and 100% God. The Bible tells us He has felt everything we have ever felt, and He has been tempted with everything in which we have been tempted. Jesus knows what it is like to have fear stirring within. He knows what it is like to wish there was another way out. What motivated Him to make the right, necessary choice? Choosing His Father’s will. He chose to act in His Father’s love — for you and for me.
Can you and I do the same? Can we choose to act in our Father’s love when we are asked to show love to the unlovely? Can we show mercy to the undeserving? Can we be kind to the thoughtless? Can we speak tenderly to the crude? Can we forgive what we feel is unforgivable? Do we want to shout, “Father, show me another way!” Do we listen and follow when He says, “Choose not your will, but let Mine be done.”
Jesus chose His Father’s way. Jesus suffered greatly for it. He died an excruciating death. However, in the light of eternity, His suffering was but a moment; a dreadful moment, but a moment on the timeline of eternity. Now He sits in glory at His Father’s right hand. Now He waits in the greatest of joy for His Father’s command that will say, “The time has come. Go and get your bride.” In that glorious moment, all who personally know Jesus will hear that exciting trumpet sound and will meet Him in the air, to be with Him forever where perfect peace and jubilation will never cease.
Jesus’ suffering was great. Our sufferings at times are great, too. Jesus chose His Father’s way and now lives in ecstasy. When we choose our Father’s way we are destined for ecstasy, too. Do you already know Jesus? Then persevere. It will be worth it. Do you not know Him yet? Please choose Him. He will be your strength for today and your eternal joy for all your tomorrows.
I recently read something very interesting about the famous Michelangelo. He had been given a large chunk of marble with the challenge to make something beautiful. This particular piece of marble had flaws in it. Other sculptors had attempted to make something but had given up because the marble was inferior. Didn’t Michelangelo realize it was substandard? Of course he did, but he believed he could do something with it. He did. He created the statue ‘David’ which has been seen and adored by millions of people over the centuries.
A smile came to me as I thought, that’s exactly what our Heavenly Father does with each of us. We present ourselves inferior to Him. We are substandard in our own efforts. We make mistake after mistake. We sometimes flounder in relationships. We can easily make bad financial decisions. We often put not one, but two feet in our mouths, speaking out of turn time and time again. We are fickle in our loyalty to God Himself; one day bowing in adoration before Him, the next choosing our own ways over His, falling off our self-made pedestal, with an almighty crash, as a result. We couldn’t blame God if, like so many sculptors in the days of Michelangelo, He discarded us because of our deficiencies, but He never does.
I often find great comfort in the the verses recorded in Job 23:10-12, “He knows where I am going. And when He tests me, I will come out as pure as gold. For I have stayed on God’s paths; I have followed His ways and not turned aside. I have not departed from His commands, but have treasured His Words more than daily food.” Mankind looks at the outside appearance. (I Samuel 16:7) What is seen isn’t always very pretty, but God looks at the heart. Our Father sees our potential. He sees our desires. He knows our willingness to be made into the image of His Son. We are each one always a work in progress. We must never forget that our loving, Heavenly Father does not give up on us. Therefore, we must never give up on ourselves. Instead, with humble hearts, we come before Him each day with the the secure knowledge that we will hear Him say, “This is the way, now walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)
Here in the UK there is a television program called, The Repair Shop. I find it fascinating. People bring in objects that have meant something to them over the years. Perhaps it was a childhood toy, now broken and in tatters. Perhaps it was a bicycle, spokes now missing and fenders bent. Maybe it’s an alarm clock that no longer ticks or rings. Someone brought in a painting that had survived a WWII labor camp, but was faded and peeling paint in places. All of these objects are repaired by the most skilled craftsmen. When the owners return to see their objects, many of them end up with tears in their eyes, such is the joy of seeing something dear to them, returned to how it was in the beginning.
Watching this amazing program brought the verse in Isaiah 1:18 to mind, “‘Come now, let’s settle this,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.'” Our amazing, loving Heavenly Father, is in the restoration business. When anyone comes to Him, receiving the gift of salvation through trust in His Son, He restores that person to what he or she was originally intended to be.
When people bring their broken down objects to The Repair Shop, their only hope is to put all their trust in the craftsmen. Only then, in the skilled hands of the artisan, will their loved object be restored to its former glory. It’s no different in our spiritual world. When one realizes there is a void in his or her life, that every attempt to fill that emptiness is futile, when one finally reaches out to their Heavenly Father, declaring with a whole heart, “I trust you! Forgive me my sins! I believe Your Son died to save me!” Only then does inner peace come. Only then is that empty space filled, made new, and restored to what God has always intended for each of us to be. It’s like the verse tells us in II Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Isn’t that the most exciting thing?
Whatever has happened in your life. Whatever your past has been. Whatever your present is making of you, restoration is available. The Master Craftsman is ready and so wanting to forgive every wrong, to make you like new, giving you a changed heart, a forgiven life, a path with purpose, a hope for your eternity.
Have you been to God’s Repair Shop? The door is always open. The Master Craftsman is always ready. His love never ceases. I hope you will knock on His door.
There are several Bible verses about sowing and reaping. Most everyone is familiar with the quote, “you reap what you sow.” That comes from Galatians 6:7. Often, and sadly to me, this is said with negative overtones. Someone is misbehaving, blatantly doing something they should not do, when another tells them pointedly, “you reap what you sow.”
Of course, it’s true. When we walk in misdeeds, we reap things that are unpleasant, but when we walk in ways that are honorable, we reap respect and good favor. In our spiritual worlds, we reap personal blessings that overflow onto others.
In last week’s blog I touched on the power of The Word, prayer and worship. These are spiritual tools that keep our enemy, Satan and his demonic influences, running. The use of these tools also helps us to maintain inner peace and joy even in the most dire or grievous of circumstances. It’s all about sowing and reaping.
When a farmer plants apples seeds, then of a certainty, trees bearing apples will grow. It takes time. It won’t happen overnight. The seeds must be watered and fertilized, making the soil rich and ready to produce. It’s no different spiritually speaking. What we reap in The Word, prayer, and worship, depends on the time we spend in watering and fertilizing the soil.
When we, not only read God’s Word, but meditate upon it, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal His truth, then we become, as we are told in Psalm 1, like trees planted by a river, being watered and bringing forth good fruit. When we understand the depth of God’s truth found in His Word, we then reap in the discovery of truths for daily living. What joy to share those truths with others that they, too, may be blessed with The Word’s strength and guidance.
When we sow in prayer, coming before God to talk, and very important, to listen to Him, we then reap in the pleasure of God speaking into the depths of our hearts. We sense Him watering every hurting place, fertilizing our thirst for peace with a quiet satisfaction, as we come to realize, no matter what goes on in our outer world, inside, all is well with our souls.
When we sow in worship, coming before Him with attitudes of trust in Him, we reap in the ecstasy of knowing God Almighty has made a plan for each of our lives, unique to every one of us. His plans are always to give us hope and a future, as we are told in Jeremiah 29:11. When we have sowed in The Word and prayer, then sowing in worship becomes an exercise of will that produces joy that cannot be fully described, such is its richness.
We can sow in things that are opposite God’s plans. We will reap in things that are opposite His perfect joy. We can sow in things that are in keeping with God’s guidance. We will then reap in blessings that overflow from us onto others, also. We all sow and we all reap. God has given us freedom to choose. May we all sow in His perfect ways and reap in His rich blessings.
The other day as our dog, Jack, and I were walking through fields and tree lined pathways, another dog appeared. He and Jack stood staring at each other, not a muscle rippling or an eyelid blinking. Finally, Jack broke into a run, going close to the other dog, then circling wide. The other dog took exception to this, branding it an attack. He retaliated, chasing and growling ferociously. The other dog’s owner called his dog, and I called Jack. We both waved at each other amicably and went in opposite directions. Within minutes, the angry dog appeared through a bush and the growling, from both now, ensued. Once again, dogs were called and we parted in opposite directions. Can you believe these unwanted meetings happened three or four more times in unsuspected places?
As Jack and I finished our adventurous walk, getting in the car to make our way back home, I thought of our arch enemy, Satan, and his demonic army. They are relentless in attack, sometimes sneaking up on us unawares, while at other times jumping out in full view to block our path of walking with God. They are always angry; always lying. Sometimes they sneak attack from behind a bush of seemingly innocent temptation. Often they lurk in trees of doubt, shaking our limbs of faith in attempt to knock us over, shaming us with taunts of our own cowardice and weakness. They boldly charge forward with mind attacks to our beliefs, our skills, our personality and sense of self worth. We don’t always know where they are, but they are there skulking about, seeking ways to “steal, and kill, and destroy,” as we are warned in John 10:10. If the enemy can demolish our joy, peace, and courage found in Jesus, then he feels he has won.
We are human with many frailties; therefore, we sometimes lose a skirmish, but we need never believe the lie that victory is unattainable. Our Heavenly Father has given us the tools we need to overcome the attacks of the enemy. First, He has given us His Word which never fails. It is truth. It provides comfort and guidance. Second, He gives us an open-door policy to communicate with Him. When we are under attack, we may immediately “call upon Him,” knowing of a certainly that He “will answer and show us great and mighty things that we do not yet know.” That wonderful promise is found in Jeremiah 33:3. Third, we may partake in the joyful ecstasy of worship. Our arch enemy and his demonic army quake when they see a child of God studying His Word, praying to Him for strength and guidance, and worshiping before Him.
The Word, prayer, and worship. Powerful tools to send the enemy running. Oh, he will come back. He will plan another sneak attach from behind some bush of worry, but when we use our tools, he must go away again, and again, and again. Remember, don’t leave out even one of your tools. The Word, prayer and worship; one without the other is like food without full flavor. We need all of them to be fully strengthened for any enemy attack.