Keep Walking

You may remember the song from Brandon Heath, “Give Me Your Eyes.” It’s about seeing others through the eyes of Christ–truly seeing them. And loving them with the love and compassion of Christ.

I’ve often wondered what it must feel like to God, to see His children suffer. It must break His heart. It breaks mine, and I’ve caught but a glimpse of what God sees every day.

Last night my husband and I spent the evening at Taking it to the Streets in downtown Omaha. This small, hot, dingy building is becoming one of our favorite Friday night hang-outs. The moment you walk in, you sense God’s presence–His deep and initiating love. And for the most part, the place is filled with smiling faces uttering words of gratitude.

Veiled faces hiding broken hearts. But every once in a while, a smile falters and tears flow as one of the precious men and women share their heart and fears.

And in a flash, I’m broken, listening to them talk about sleeping on the streets, going without food, unsure where their next meal might come from.

When this happens, I feel hopeless. What can I offer them, besides a plate of food and a gentle smile? Feeling a bit discouraged, I took this to God in prayer. I told Him I wanted to do more, to see real, long-term, positive change. Hope.

He gave me Psalm 18, and I’ve been holding tight to it, reading it, praying it. (I’ll post the verses that speak to me, but you can read the entire passage here.) Will you meditate on it with me? (Emphasis, in parentheses, mine.)

Psalm 18

I love you, Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and I have been saved from my enemies.
The cords of death entangled me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me.

In my distress I called to the Lord;
I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came before him, into his ears.

(God hears our every cry.)

16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.

(Many of the people at Taking it to the Streets are held in bondage by drugs and alcohol. This is their enemy–the enemy that seeks to destroy them. But God is bigger, God is stronger, and He can reach down and pull them out. This passage reminds me we are always, always in a spiritual battle. Satan is out to destroy us and he will use anything he can to hold us in bondage and lead us to despair. But God is bigger. Christ has already won the victory.  How did Christ conquer Satan? Through love–His death on the cross. Agape love is a powerful demonstration of the life-changing truth of the gospel.)

30 As for God, his way is perfect:

(God’s got a plan and is always working out His plan. His plan is perfect. Our role is to follow Him in full surrender. He’ll take care of the rest.)

The Lord’s word is flawless;
he shields all who take refuge in him.
31 For who is God besides the Lord?
And who is the Rock except our God?
32 It is God who arms me with strength
and keeps my way secure.
33 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
he causes me to stand on the heights.
34 He trains my hands for battle;
my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35 You make your saving help my shield,
and your right hand sustains me;
your help has made me great.
36 You provide a broad path for my feet,
so that my ankles do not give way.

(Surrounded by such brokenness, it’s easy to assume the situation’s hopeless, but God’s word says differently. All I can see is that next step–serving a meal, offering a smile or a prayer, initiating a conversation–but God sees the mountain top. My job is not to analyze ever twist and turn of the journey but instead, to keep walking, trusting in the God who sustains, loves, and intervenes.)

Perhaps you can relate. Is there a task or ministry God has placed before you that seems utterly hopeless? Keep walking, friend! In God’s strength you can scale any wall, and He will make a wide path for your feet.

Or maybe you are running from an enemy–sin, addictions, attacks from others, joblessness. God sees you. He hears your cries for help. He is your solid rock who arms you with strength and has given you the shield of victory.

So keep walking, friend, because God has the road all mapped out.

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Just Get ‘Er Done!

America appears to be in a constant state of panic. We fear losing our retirements to another stock market crash. We fear losing our jobs to another economic downturn. We fear radiation from Japan and damage from another earthquake, tornado or hurricane. We fear global warming, ozone depletion and at times, our own government and I could go on. But where does the Christian stand in all this upheaval? What message are we giving to a dying world? Do our actions, and our countenance, reflect the truth and power of the gospel, or have we followed the pattern of the world?

I have no idea when the end will come, and frankly, I don’t think that’s my concern. My concern–my God-given duty, is to stay watchful and keep busy. To make the most of the time I have. And as others are gripped with fear, I am to show them the confidence I have in Christ. I am to show them what it means to live in victory, as a child of the risen King who reigns sovereign, even now.

Did you catch that? God reigns sovereign, even now. The earthquake in Japan didn’t surprise Him. Nor did the stock market crash. The God of eternity past, present and future knows everything that has ever happened and everything that will ever happen, and His wisdom far exceeds any analysis we’ll find on television. Which means, our best course of action is to draw near to Him. To stay strong in Him, and to share His love with a dying world.

Because what if they days are short, and tomorrow is too late to tell that neighbor, co-worker or family member how they can be right with God?

As I was reading through Psalms this morning, I found chapter 55:9-10 quite appropriate:

9 Confuse them, Lord, and frustrate their plans,
      for I see violence and conflict in the city.
 10 Its walls are patrolled day and night against invaders,
      but the real danger is wickedness within the city. (NLT)

Violence and conflict filed the city, but the real danger was the darkened hearts of the people living in the city.

It’s easy to get distracted by the media and to follow the panic wave, but God tells us to be alert, self-controlled, and to be about His business.

Am I afraid? Yes, but not of what might happen in the economy, nor of nuclear fall-out. What burdens me most is the knowledge that if Jesus were to return tomorrow, many whom I love would be condemned to hell. For eternity, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Today is the day of salvation. Today they have the opportunity to be made right with God. Tomorrow is guaranteed to no man. The next time we hear of a new political scandal, terrorist attack or devastating earthquake, may it remind us of what’s truly at stake.

I leave you with this passage:

Luke 12:1-12

 1 Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.

   4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

   8 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God. 10And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

   11 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

Meditate on verse twelve for a moment. The Holy Spirit is our comforter, friend and guide. But to gain from His wisdom and comfort, we first must draw close to Him. The closer we are to God, the stronger we’ll be when difficulties strike and the more effective our witness will be to a loss and hurting world.

And remember, if we are in Christ, we are in a position of victory. The ultimate battle’s already won. Christ claimed our victory when He hung on the cross. Battles will come, but we are on the winning team. And we know how this will all end, don’t we? When we stand before the eternal King, surrounded by His Presence, all our momentary struggles will be forgotten as unimaginable joy fills our soul.

The question is, who else will be there to celebrate with us?

What’s Your Jericho

I’ve read the story of Jericho numerous times, always from the perspective of what God did–which is amazing. But today I read it through a different lens What must it have felt like for the Israelites to march around a heavily fortified, six-acre city, not once, not twice, but thirteen times?

As the 8+ meter wall loomed beside them, swallowing them in its shadow, did their courage fade? 

I imagine when they first received God’s instructions, they felt excited. Hoorah! God has given us the city! Let’s go! On day two, halfway around with no sign of victory in sight, did they begin to feel foolish? Then came day three, day four, five and six. How easy it would have been to give in, to walk away, to chalk it all up to a crazy idea not worth pursuing.

Then came day seven. This had to be the most difficult day of all when the Israelites marched around the city not once, but seven times. Seven times around a heavily fortified, six acre city. All total, the Israelites marched around the city thirteen times. Do the math–that’s a lot of acrage to cover. That’s a lot of walking, with zero fighting.

I can imagine the thoughts that must have filled their minds. Surely the God who parted the Red Sea could move faster. Seven days? Wasn’t there a more efficient way?

Maybe, if God was only concerned with conquering the city, but God had bigger plans–eternal plans. It’s easy to praise God when everything goes as expected. It’s easy to trust Him when life is easy. It’s another matter entirely when everything runs contrary to reason and we feel like we’re endlessly marching in circles. 

Seven long days of nothing, doubts and insecurities flooding their minds. Seven long days of their hearts crying out to God. “Do you remember, Lord? Are you still in this?” 

Then imagine their jubilation when they rounded that corner for the  thirteenth time and the ram horn blasted.  The faithful marchers shouted with victory, then the walls came tumbling down.

What’s your Jericho and where are you on your march?