Interesting Things To Know

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Reverberations - On Doubt

On Doubt

It surprises me sometimes how often I need to be reminded of God's love. As in, truly reminded. As if His love could change based on something I do or do not do. As if His love could all of a sudden become withheld from me because my heart was weaker than it should have been.

Today in my reading, I am reminded again, of just how much God loves me. Stories I have heard since the beginning of time, it feels like, become new in the hour I need to know who God truly is. They go from being mere stories in an old book, to the words of Life they were created to be. 

Such is today's offering.

John 20:24-29 NASB

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe." After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you." Then He said to Thomas, "Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing." Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed."

So, once again I am taken to the period of time just after the Resurrection. Jesus is making His appearances, assuring all those who believed in Him while He was alive, that He had indeed risen as He said He would. Christ appeared to His disciples....and Peter...(for those keeping up with the blog!!). Well, all His disciples except Thomas. Thomas wasn't with them. Perhaps Thomas was grieving, off on his own, dealing with his own private pain. It doesn't say why Thomas wasn't with them.  All we know for sure is that Thomas does not believe them. All this excitement, all these wild proclamations, all this renewed vision and hope among the believers. And Thomas won't believe it. He makes his grand statement about not believing until he can touch the Master Himself.

Eight days. Jesus made him wait eight days. That is eight days of listening to them all make plans. That is eight days of sitting on the outside looking in. That is eight  nights going to sleep in the knowledge that all the rest of your company is feeling something that he can't manufacture, even if he tried. That is eight days of doubt instead of belief. 

Jesus, of course, shows up, as He always does, and declares that Thomas can feel free to touch Him, because that is who Jesus is. I don't see Jesus adding any guilt or shame to Thomas. I don't see Him handing out condemnation because Thomas' belief system needed something a little more than the others. I think Jesus may have been a bit saddened at Thomas's response, but there is no guilt heaped on him in that moment. 

In my world, I see these times where God has promised to show up. He has given encouragement, and support and love to get me through the tough stuff. Only in my humanity, I doubt. In my humanity, I somehow can't seem to trust that His promises are 'Yes and Amen'. In my humanity, I need Jesus to fix my times before I can believe. 

Thomas lost eight days before Christ came to him. He lost eight days of building faith, of restored joy, of living in the promise. In my mind, Christ could have come to him at the same time He came to the rest of the disciples, He could have found Thomas wherever he was grieving on his own, and put an end to Thomas's doubt right then. But He didn't. He waited eight days.

I think that's sometimes what He does with me. In my mind, I know the words He has spoken. I know that He has plans for me, plans for my good. In my mind, I know that He will show up in the exact moment I need Him to. But I doubt. I try not to. I hold on to that hope, but the difference between what my mind knows and what my heart believes sometimes is a great chasm. He waits. While others are believing and moving in His peace and walking in His joy, I am waiting. 

As I write this, I'm chuckling to myself, because I can see myself, like Thomas, on that eighth day, when He does show up,....'My Lord and my God.....I knew you were God all along....really, I did! Of course I knew it!'

Again, God just shakes His head at me. Today, though, instead of feeling that heaping guilt and shame for my doubt, I sense His love. I sense His knowledge of who I am. He knows what I need. He knows when I need it. Perhaps, as time goes on, the time it takes for my heart to catch up with my head will be less than my traditional 'eight days'...or whatever that usually looks like.

It moves me so much that Jesus was so gracious to those who messed up. Peter and Thomas....I see myself so clearly in them. My natural responses are met with His unwavering love. 

I think it says something about Thomas that even after those eight days, he was still hanging with the disciples. He was still with them. In my heart, I want to believe that the fact that Thomas was still there, in that closed room with the door shut, showed that he did have enough faith and belief to at least still be there with them at all. 

For me, there's a lesson in that. Not only about believing without seeing, but when my faith is low, when my belief system is not what it should be, when I'm having trouble with my chasm.....I need to keep hanging out with those who are 'getting it'. I need to seek out those ones who are stronger in their faith. I need to still be around those ones who God is speaking to. At the end of the day, that will spill out on me and my faith will grow just by being around those people. Myself, if I had been Thomas, after one day of hearing all those disciples talk about what they saw and how excited they were, I probably would have pulled away in a bitter sulk, pouting at God, like a petulant child. I know myself, and that's what I tend to do. I'm sure God would appreciate it if I grew up in my faith a little bit and behaved a little more like Thomas in those insecure days. Keep showing up. Keep hanging out with those passionate souls whose faith is strong. 

Because one day, He's going to need me to be the eyes of faith for someone who happens to be in the middle of their 'eight days'.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Warrior Bride - Re-posts - Warrior Bride - Pt 2 - Nehemiah, The Watchman

Today, I'm a bit nostalgic. Rummaging through past writings, past thoughts. I am re-posting something posted back in 2011. It's part of a bigger work, called The Warrior Bride. Warrior Bride is a complete essay, but posted on the blog in individual sections so people could read it in chunks. When I wrote it, it was extremely powerful for me,....all of it. Starting with the Introduction, all the way through to the Conclusion. I think it's worth the re-read, if you have the time, or introduce yourself to it for the first time. 

Originally posted 14/07/2011

Nehemiah, The Watchman

          Nehemiah was a cupbearer. His position was of great importance to the king. He was also a Jew. His people were in recovery, a remnant trying to comprehend what had happened to them and how to move on. The symbol of their worship, the House of their God, had been destroyed. It lay in charred ruins, just like their hopes and dreams.

          Nehemiah was a cupbearer. A cupbearer with a heart for how things should be and how God intended for them to be once again. A cupbearer whom God equipped for the job to which he was called.

          The story of Nehemiah is a very personal account about the struggle one man has against the despondency and hopelessness of a nation. Amid ridicule and impossible situations, this man’s commitment to reestablishing the Temple and the Law was astounding. He is a cupbearer who becomes a Watchman. In my personal opinion, being a Watchman is a vital component to becoming the Warrior Bride. It would seem that Nehemiah’s willingness to respond to each situation with fortitude and resolve, must be something that we have in our every day responses.

          A Watchman is a protector. They are people with an eagle eye, who are acutely aware of the weaknesses of the defense systems surrounding those they are to protect. A Watchman is a navigator. They are people with a strong sense of community, having the ability to maneuver protective forces around the weak links, without sacrificing the work already accomplished. A Watchman is a wise and firm leader. They are people with a powerful determination to set things right, and can enlist the support of all those beneath them without segregation. Finally a Watchman is a force to be reckoned with. They are people who can recognize where the enemy is attacking, and move to deal with that attack swiftly and competently.

          All these things are displayed through the eyes of Nehemiah. His competent and organized leadership in the face of much difficulty led the people to make him their governor. His ingenuity in dealing with the attacks of their enemies led the people to respect his opinion and follow his leadership to the letter.

          Nehemiah’s purpose was two-fold, to re-build the wall around the Temple and to reestablish the Law. In doing this, Nehemiah fulfills his commission. He is not sidetracked nor do the smoke screens sent by his enemies to take his attention off of the job at hand, deter him. In a swift manner, Nehemiah places protection at the weak spots along the wall, and continues on.

          This is such a powerful example for us. How often do things that get our attention off of the job to which we are called, sidetrack us? How often can the enemy place smoke screens in our path to cause us to lose our focus? Nehemiah was a man of careful planning, for even during the sleeping hours, the wall was protected.

          With so much in our lives clamoring for our attention, how is it possible for us to find balance, but stay in complete focus? I would say it is by clinging to the Commander. It is by ‘laying aside the weights that so easily beset us’. It is by keeping our hearts clear of the things that pull us aside from our calling.

          Examining the heart of Nehemiah, the thing that perhaps strikes me the most is that he chose to identify himself with his people. The remnant was trying to salvage any bits of pride they had left when he came and chose to get dirty with them. They needed someone who could motivate them and believe in their ability to rebuild the wall. Nehemiah somehow understood that with the rebuilding of that structure came the rebuilding of their national and personal pride in who they were. It was his choice. He had lived in the palace and he had served the king.

          Choosing to leave our palaces, pulpits or our soapboxes to get dirty trying to restore personal pride in our people is the work of a Watchman. It is a noble and valiant effort, and one cannot choose that road lightly. It means protecting the weak links. It means navigating protection on the night watch, when all those around are sleeping. It means leading through ridicule, difficulties and insurmountable odds. It means rallying a remnant together who have perhaps lost their sense of identity and personal pride, and need the chance to re-build.

          A Watchman has a keen eye. Watchmen are people with a powerful ability to see the enemies advances and thwart those opportunities. They do not just see, however, they have a sword to fight with in one hand and a brick to work with in the other. They do not live in a world of their own, not getting dirty or building up themselves.

          It would seem that Nehemiah has the true nature of a leader. He is one who works for and with the people he serves. His job is important, but his eye is never far from the weak spot in the wall. He is touched by his people, he is ridiculed on their behalf, and he puts himself in the place of hazard for the sake of those he loves. He does not ask for them to carry out one task which he himself is not willing to perform.

          Nehemiah’s story is not unlike some of our churches today. Complacency slips in. Casual sin settles on congregations like a comfortable blanket. Watchmen are sometimes frustrated and weary souls. Nehemiah had brought reform, the people repented. Nehemiah has choreographed the rebuilding of the wall, only to have to close those gates for those who began to disregard the Sabbath. He had helped to rebuild the pride that they had lost through exile and evil leadership, only to have them intermarry once again.

          His was neither an easy road nor an easy choice, but through all of it, Nehemiah remained true to the calling of his heart. He bucked the complacency, he battled disloyalty to God, and he struggled through the ridicule of the Law he had worked so hard to maintain.

          A Watchman has a somber heart as they must relinquish control and watch loved ones flounder that no longer want protection. Watchmen must fight to the bitter end to do what they can for those who become complacent, but cannot change their message in order to win back those who walk away. They must plead on behalf of those loved ones, those sheep who have wandered off, but must maintain the focus of their calling.

          Nehemiah could not allow casual sin to re-enter the camp of his people. He could not turn a blind eye to those ones who began disregarding the Sabbath. No matter how many times they had been warned, forgiven, warned again, forgiven again, they still chose to allow the enemy into the camp. And Nehemiah still chose to get dirty on their behalf, all without sacrificing his own personal mandate.

          Perhaps to the remnant, the little things didn’t seem to matter. They probably crept in undetected, or shushed away as insignificant. However, little things when they are heart issues never stay little very long. “Lusts of the flesh, lust of the eye and the pride of life’ seems to encompass so much of what we deal with. If we allow the enemy a place in our mind, our homes, our lives or our churches, even with the seemingly insignificant things, pretty soon our focus will evaporate.

          It is possible to imagine that no one would have thought twice about Nehemiah taking a foreign wife, as others had, even though at that time it was against what God’s law established. He still made the choice to remain true to the calling of his heart. His focus remained rock solid, in spite of many smoke screens the enemy threw his direction to catch him off guard. We need our focus grounded and steady. Little things slip in faster than we think. Lust finds a playground in our minds. Pride in the fact that we do not think we sin, swells our chest and has us believing we are above all of that weakness. Whatever we see that we want, we must have, disregarding any call to financial stewardship and materialistic balance. These are issues of our character that don’t make any difference to anyone but our Commander/Bridegroom. No one else see that playground in our minds, or our credit card bills. No one sees our chest swell with pride as we watch our peers confess the sins of their heart.

          It is my belief that Nehemiah made the choices to be true to what God was calling him to. I believe that he chose to not disregard the Sabbath, just like once before he chose to leave the palace. It is our choice as well. If our focus or vision is blurry, it is our heart that needs to become clearer.

          A Watchman is careful to guard himself as well as those he loves.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Reverberations - On Grace

On Grace....

It's always fascinated me, the fluidity of grace. 
Always moving, always necessary, always foundational, always absolute.

I receive grace from the Lord. I am to bestow grace upon others. In turn, they then can receive the Lord's grace AND bestow grace on their others. Always in motion. It amazes me really.

Like I said earlier, I have a number of reading plans on the go at the moment. I read from all of them every day. I have a number that I chose to start that specifically devote scripture, prayer and discussion to the subject of refugees, displaced peoples and those without a home. They are really extremely powerful portions, and surprisingly so much time in scripture showing the love God wants shown to those ones.

In one of those plans this morning, I read this:

1 Samuel 23:16-18 NASB

And Jonathan, Saul's son, arose and went to David at Horesh, and encouraged him in God. Thus he said to him, "Do not be afraid, because the hand of Saul my father will not find you, and you will be king over Israel and I will be next to you; and Saul my father knows that also." So the two of them made a covenant before the Lord ; and David stayed at Horesh while Jonathan went to his house.

So, the reason this passage is in my reading about refugees is because at this point in David's life, he has already been anointed and told he will become King, but Saul is still on the throne and looking to kill him. David has no home. He's living in the 'strongholds' in the wilderness. There's so much about this story. David, himself, is a mind-blowing character to study. 

Today, however, what moves me is the other guy. The guy we hardly ever hear sermons about. I remember my Youth Pastor talking about this guy's disabled son, whom David took care of in later years, but since those days, I don't hear much about this guy.

This guy, in the natural, would have been next in line for the throne. This guy, in the natural, should have fought for the family honour. This guy, in the natural, should have been eaten up with jealousy over David. David had the ear of the king, this guy's father. David played the harp, sang and eased the king's troubled mind before sleep, hence spending a lot of time with the man. David had received a direct word from the prophet Samuel that eventually he would be king. 

What does this guy do??

No jealousy. No self-service. No immaturity here. 

Jonathan seeks David out in the wilderness. He leaves his home to go where David is hiding. He finds a weary and worn soldier, who must feel like he's being attacked on every side,....because in truth he was being attacked that way by armies against Israel. On top of that, being hunted down by the king to be killed. Weary and worn. 

I had to reread what Jonathan said to David about five times to let it sink in to me. This son, this guy, this Jonathan, who doesn't get a ton of airtime, he encouraged him in God. He hunts him down in the wilderness. Jonathan reminds him of who he is, who God has called him to be, and reminds David of his belief and support. 


No jealousy of someone else's position. No self-service. No immaturity. Just brotherhood. Support. Encouragement to a brother who is down. 

When I look around me, there are many who are working very hard at their calling. Doing the best they can, actually. When I look around me, I see lots of friends who get weary and worn. I see those who feel like there is attack happening on every side. 

Ashamedly, I must admit that I am no Jonathan. I have not made that effort to seek out those who God has placed in positions, who maybe could use some encouragement, who maybe could just use someone to remind them who they are, who God has called them to be, and just maybe, God is asking me to support them. Not for any personal gain. But just because I am their sister. Because we sometimes need reminding of who and whose we are. Because that's why God gave us to each other in the first place.

We live in an 'every person for themselves' world.  This is not Christ's way. This was never God's way,....even back to this guy's day. This should not be my way. 

And then, in another plan today,......this:

1 John 3:16-18 NASB

16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

Showing love in deed and truth. Not jealousy at someone's position or journey towards that position. Showing love in deed and truth. Not self-service just to gain attention.
Showing love in deed and truth. In maturity and grace.

The amazing thing about grace, to me, is its fluidity. It flows to me in spades from the Father. Then it SHOULD flow out, in fact OVERFLOW from me to others. 

Father, please let me pour out the enormous grace you've shown me, all over someone else. Let me heap your goodness and kindness and prayer and support and love all over someone in leadership, or on their way to leadership, or just in the background quietly working out their calling. Forgive my jealousy, my self-service, my immaturity. Lead me to them and help me to hold nothing back.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Reverberations - On Seeing


Earlier this week I mentioned that I was knee-deep in Numbers. Lots of movement by the Children of Israel, lots of instruction from the Lord about priests and duties, and so on. 

Then, this.....
Numbers 22:27-31 NASB

When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord , she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam was angry and struck the donkey with his stick. And the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?" Then Balaam said to the donkey, "Because you have made a mockery of me! If there had been a sword in my hand, I would have killed you by now." The donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I ever been accustomed to do so to you?" And he said, "No." Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed all the way to the ground.

 This is actually quite a remarkable story. Balaam was, for all intents and purposes, not a man of God. He is described as a sorcerer. As I'm sure was standard for the day, one king wanted to curse another king or people or land. He would ask for a sorcerer to come and speak a curse over his enemy. This was what the leadership of Moab wanted Balaam to do. Curse the Children of Israel. God had come to Balaam and told him not to speak the curse. At first Balaam was fine with that. It was the second time that he was asked, that did him in. 

He was on his way to speak his curse, to do his job, even though God had spoken to him directly and given instruction against this action. Then, in the remarkable and unique way that God sometimes does, when He needs to get someone's attention,  He places an angel in Balaam's path. Irony abounds as the only one to actually see the angel is the donkey, who turns to the side to avoid the angel in the way. Balaam hits the donkey, trying to get him back on course. This happens two more times, two more beatings, the last one being the account above. 

The poor donkey just lies down, up. It can't go forward because of the angelic being in front of it, and whenever it swerves to avoid said angel, he gets a beating and a mouthful of angry threats from Balaam. 

It's an interesting story. 

Today, as I'm reading, that donkey and this story seems to speak right to me. 

It's as if I can see myself riding along on a path, while decent in my own mind, even doing what would be acceptable, but it is not God's path. God's probably already told me not to go that way, but I have ignored that. In my mind's eye, I can see myself standing over some brutish donkey of an idea, taking my switch to it, giving it an earful of all the reasons it should keep carrying me to my destination. OBVIOUSLY a defective donkey! Seriously, I can see myself doing that, in my heart. 

Then, suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, comes the angel of the Lord. The AHA moment. The clarity. Of course I'm not to go this way. I see it now. I wasn't seeing the angel blocking the path. Blocking for whatever reason, for my safety, for someone else's safety, and, Lord help me, even for that wild, talking  donkey's safety. 

I never seem to see those roadblocks in my way as the Lord. I always see that my donkey, or whatever dream I happen to be riding on, is swerving to frantically get off the current path. That's all I see. That's all I want to see. Easier for me to blame the journey, or the road, or the irritating donkey. It's so much harder for me to actually acknowledge I might be on the wrong road. I ask for direction, for Him to lead me. Irony abounds again when I buck against any change in direction. He must just shake His head at me. I can almost hear Him sigh...'Which is it Pam, do you want to go in the direction I have for you? Or shall I unblock this path and you just carry on your own way?' 

When I finished reading the chapter, I had a fleeting thought about how sad it was that Balaam couldn't see properly and the donkey paid the price.

Then I went on to my next reading......
Mark 10:51 NASB

And answering him, Jesus said, "What do you want Me to do for you?" And the blind man said to Him, " Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!"

Yes, Teacher, Rabboni, Jesus.....please help me see. Sometimes I am so blind.