Will you listen to love?

Demons also came out of many, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Messiah. Luke 4:41

 

There are times when Jesus’ voice addresses the death-dealing powers operating in the world and in people. The demons departed from the oppressed people of Capernaum at Jesus’ command; his rebuke silenced them. Evil forces are at work in your life, their intention is to separate you from God’s love. They mimic your own voice with their accusations, speak lies into your soul, arouse doubts about God’s character; and you believe them! This is a form of idolatry. God’s voice is the only one you should heed, it speaks of love, dignity, justice and goodness. Will you listen to love?

Are you spiritually diseased?

As the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various kinds of diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on each of them and cured them. Luke 4:40

There are times when Jesus’ touch cures the sick and diseased, as it did in Capernaum. Jesus personally touched the people who were weak and feeble; those who were without strength or power to help themselves felt Jesus’ hand upon them. Where in your life have you given up hope of ever experiencing health? Do you have habitual thoughts or actions that seem impossible to overcome? This is a form of despair. Jesus knows the exact nature of your distress. His nail-scarred hands touch your discouraged heart. Will you receive his power?

Do you have a spiritual fever?

After leaving the synagogue he entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked him about her. Then he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. Immediately she got up and began to serve them.   Luke 4:38,39

There are times when Jesus stands near, like he did over Simon’s mother-in-law, who was suffering from a fever that kept her bedridden. A fever is a body’s attempt to fight off an infection, a way to heal itself. Do you have a fever of the spiritual variety? How do you attempt to fight your own fights; depend on your own strength or will power to overcome things that keep you out of commission? This is a form of pride. Jesus stands near you, saying, “Let go of your self effort, let me come close and let’s work together to deal with this circumstance.” Will you trust his nearness?

 

No possible escape?

Exodus 14

The Israelites found themselves at the edge of the Red Sea, the Egyptian army closing in, certain death approaching, and no escape possible. Their fear birthed blame; first toward Moses, “Why didn’t you leave us in Egypt to die?” Then toward themselves, “Why did we agree to follow him?”

Can you relate to the fear that arises when an enemy is at your heels and there is no way out? God, through Moses, gives aid to the rightfully frightened Israelites, and by extension to you and me.

DO NOT BE AFRAID – When panic arises, get in touch with the fear you are experiencing. Of what are you afraid? What’s the worse thing that could happen? Follow this thread until you arrive at the core, existential fear that your situation touches. God will meet you at that place with a truth that addresses your fear.

My marriage is over. And?  My children will suffer. And? I can’t protect them. And?  I should have been able to. And?  I’ve failed as a parent. (hear the blame) And? My greatest desire is for their well-being and it is impossible for me to keep them safe. And? I’ll need to trust them to God’s care.

This makes it sound much easier than it is, you might need someone to help you through this process. Once you’ve hit bottom, gotten in touch with your greatest fear and God’s truth in response to that fear, the next word of aid God’s offers is: STAND FIRM.

When the enemy taunts and fear and doubt arise in the form of regrets, should-haves, why did I’s? and I’m doomeds, your work is to return to the truth, “God will care for my children.” The hardest thing to do will be to KEEP STILL. But in so doing, you will “see the deliverance the Lord will accomplish and your enemies no longer. The Lord will fight for you.”

The Israelites waited and walked through on dry land, the Red Sea closed upon the Egyptians and their threat was eliminated. God will make a way for your impossible situation.

What enemy presses in on you? Financial debt, serious health issues, relational crises? When doubt and blame reign in your heart, keep still and let the Lord address your fear. Hide from the enemy behind the truth God promises.

God and ‘Pharaoh Fear’

But Moses said to God, “Who am I?”

God had a plan to deliver his chosen people from the Egyptian political machine that held them captive.

God is the same today as he was then, he observes our misery, hears our cries, knows our suffering and comes down to deliver us, bringing us to a good place, a broad place; a place of freedom.

Moses is the man God assigned to implement this deliverance plan. Moses, though, was a man who lived in bondage. Although not enslaved by the Egyptian taskmasters, as was his Jewish brothers and sisters, an even worse oppressor, one that lived within him held him captive. Fear.

Like Moses, “Pharaoh Fear” and his taskmasters hold you and me hostage. Our personal prisons, created by fear, look different in each of our experience. But what is the same for all of us, Moses included, is that God’s promise, realized in Jesus Christ, releases us from every captivity. This includes the prisons that fear and its various taskmasters create.

God had a plan to set his people free and it required Moses to return to the place he’d fled, challenge the most powerful man in the world, and go back to an environment where he felt insecure and inadequate. No wonder he resisted God’s request. “Who am I…?” was his gut reaction. He had come to know himself as his fears had defined him and speaks from this sense of identity. “I’m not enough for this task.”

In setting us free, God begins with the basics. We’ve come to believe lies about our true identity. Our past may have taught us that we are powerless, without a voice, unnecessary and perhaps even the reason for trouble. Such beliefs keep us from experiencing the liberty that God intends. These statements are not what God says about us.

Pause for a moment and consider the beliefs you hold about yourself that keep you captive and living in fear…

The interesting way God has of correcting these wrong beliefs is not through words or cognition. “I will be with you” is the antidote offered for Moses’ fears. The presence of God is the healing and restorative means of addressing our inaccurate self-assessments.

Words or arguments will not convince you of the truth. You do not need to know more correct and proper information. When these lies bully you, and you cringe in fear because of them, it is only in clinging to the presence of the God who promises to be there that will give you the power to act in freedom.

It is not a mind game, it is not positive self-talk that empowers you to operate from a sense of freedom. “I am capable, I am enough…” It is bringing these imprisoning lies before the God of love that causes them to melt away and be replaced with God’s truth spoken over you.

Your heart must be convinced, not just your mind.

This is when freedom is experienced.

The God who Sees

god seesHagar got a raw deal. As Sarai’s slave, she was an object to be used however Sarai saw fit; and in the drama playing out between Abram and Sarai, Sarai decided Hagar should be impregnated by her husband and become a surrogate mother. Hagar had no say in the matter, her opinion and desire was of no consequence. She was just another useful container, not unlike the bowl Sarai used to hold her bread dough, Hagar would be the temporary container of Sarai’s child. (Genesis 16)

Hagar, though, was not an inanimate object. She had thoughts and feelings which she expressed when she became pregnant. She resented being used to satisfy Sarai’s plan and dealt contemptuously with her mistress which resulted in harsh treatment. Not willing to put up with the abuse, she escaped into the wilderness.

It was here she was found by God. She ran and the Lord sought. To her mistress she was a possession to be used, to God a prized possession, worthy of God’s searching care. She may have been nothing to her mistress, overlooked unless she was useful, but God had seen her. She named the Lord who found her El-roi, the God who sees.

God sees you. God seeks you out.

This is the only time God is referred to El-roi in all of the scriptures. It was Hagar’s personal name for God, it described her relationship with the Lord. Based on your relationship with God, what name would you give him?

The Lord asked her two questions: “Where have you come from?” and “Where are you going?” She could only answer the first, she had to get away from her abusive mistress. God answered the second one for her. “Return and submit to your mistress.” Accompanying this instruction was a promise, she would be the mother of countless offspring.

When God asks you to remain in an unpleasant situation, what promise will he give you? Check out Romans 5:1-5, James 1:3-4, 1 Peter 1:6-8, Isaiah 43:1,2

God, the Confusing

Raytracing by Anders Sandberg 2000

Raytracing by Anders Sandberg
2000

Genesis 11:1-9

Do you ever wonder what God is up to in your life? At times, does God’s action (or inaction) make no sense? The whole tower of Babel situation in Genesis seems to fall into this category. What was harmful about building a tower and a creating a city big enough to hold everyone? Isn’t God about community and unity? Why, then, did God confuse their language, so they couldn’t communicate and separate them from one another? It’s confusing.

There are three things in this passage that explain God’s confusing actions.

Their doubt – The bricks they formed to build their tower were made of the same material Noah had used to make his ark waterproof. Even though God had promised that he would never again destroy the earth by a flood, they needed a back up plan, one of their own making to insure their safety – waterproof bricks. They didn’t trust God’s word.

Their disobedience – As Noah and his family left the ark God gave the commandment for them “to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” (Genesis 9:1) But these people did the opposite, they decided to settle down and build a great city so that they could all live together. After all, there is safety in numbers. God said, “fill the earth”, they said, “no we’re going to huddle together.” They trusted in their own devices to determine what was best for themselves, forgetting God’s commandment.

Their ego – They wanted to make a name for themselves by building a tower that reached to the heavens. Weird. Who were they trying to impress? So far, they were the only people on the earth. The only other being around was God. Maybe they were trying to impress God. “See God, our tower enters your heavens, we can reach you through our own efforts.” They were concerned about their own reputation and believed they could manage their relationship with God.

So, when life seems confusing or the situation you are in seems senseless, or when your efforts are confounded, consider this: Are you doubting God’s word? Disobeying God’s word? More concerned about your interests than God’s? Relying on yourself for protection or guidance? If so, confess it (which means admit the truth), repent (which means turn around and go the opposite direction), and thank God for his mercy and promise.