Do I?

I recently had to stop in the road because two little dogs had dashed into the street. One crossed the road, but the other got confused and was wandering. I prayed for the poor things, but then I realized what they’d been after and was floored.

A large dog was jogging beside a woman. He stayed right at her side, never seeming to even notice the little yapper that was chasing after him. He never broke stride, never looked away. He was doing EXACTLY what he’d been trained to do.

And he was carrying his own leash. Literally. He held it in his mouth as he jogged down the sidewalk beside a woman who obviously had total trust in him. And the two made me think.

In a sense, we’re all like that dog. God calls us to run along beside Him, but though He gives us a guide (the Word and the Spirit) that He could use as a leash to control us, He ultimately leaves the decisions up to us. What do we do? What do I do? Do I actively choose to walk faithfully beside Him, not turning to the right or left?

Do I?

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

Be Careful What You Pray For

I read a book in December, a seemingly simple Christmas novel, that convicted me as much as anything ever has outside the Bible. In it, a woman experiences being ignored in her public agony, and it changes her forever.

Without going into the book’s details, let me just say that everything centers around a few words she writes, a prayer. I have it on my wall, and I’ve prayed it many times since finishing the book.

Give me eyes to see what isn’t shown,

Ears to hear what isn’t said,

Hands to do what You want,

And the courage to not walk away.

This prayer has helped me as I’ve tried to be more sensitive to those around me in the past few weeks. I’ve never been the most observant person, taking the pictures people present at face value most of the time, but I’m trying to really watch and listen, especially for that still, small voice.

And then, today, I was tested. I was in the fast food drive through and saw a man who had fallen and was trying to get up. I didn’t want to get out of line and go help him, hoped the line would hurry and I could just swing back by after getting my food to make sure he’d managed it. After all, I was a woman, and alone, and…

Hey, I’m just being transparent here. The first time I heard God whisper, “and the courage to not walk away,” I ignored Him. (Yes! I know!) I kept my eyes on the man through hearing those words yet again – as the line didn’t move an inch. And then, after watching him almost get up only to fall back down, I got out of line.

I knew going in that he was most likely drunk. I knew when he spoke that he surely was. Still, I kept hearing “and the courage to not walk away.” I called another man over and together we helped him stand. I picked up his dropped bag to hand it over and knew exactly what I was smelling on his breath.

We got him up and helped him brace himself. The other man left after getting assurances that he didn’t want us to call 911. I stayed, because I knew it wasn’t over.

I didn’t do any great thing. I let him talk. I listened. I prayed for him. I didn’t offer to buy him a meal or take him anywhere. I just… I just acknowledged his humanity and the fact that even if you’re homeless you are worthy of being treated as a human being.

I got back in my car, went to order (no line-imagine that) and headed home nearly in tears, shame-filled tears. Only weeks ago, I’d have just prayed a quick, “Send him help” prayer and then shut my ears in case I was the help God wanted to send. Even today, I almost didn’t have the courage to not walk away.

And that knowledge hurts.

I’m going to keep praying that prayer, asking God to help me become more like Him. I hope that if I pass by you and you are hurting I have the courage to stop and at least listen. If I fail, please forgive me, and pray with me that I do have the courage next time.

I am being careful what I pray for, because it’s what I want.

The novel is A Cinderella Christmas, by Amanda Tru

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

Revisiting the Furnace

Most of us have heard the story of the three Hebrew boys and how they were thrown into a fiery furnace after refusing to bow to the idol. (Daniel 3) We read about their obedience to God, being thrown in, the guards dying from the heat, the king seeing them and the fourth man walking around, and them walking out of the fire not even smelling of smoke. But let’s pause for a moment. What about while they were inside? What happened…from their perspective?

The first thing they would have noticed, beyond the fact that they were still alive, was that the very fire intended to destroy them had, instead, burned away their bonds. They were thrown into the fire held captive and bound, but were likely loosed before they even hit the floor. Yes, they were still in the fire, but they could stand up, may have even playfully pulled each other up, and they could walk around as they liked. In truth, they were more free than they had been for a while. 

Many times in our lives, we find ourselves anticipating potential outcomes with dread, perhaps with such a fear that it binds us, holding us captive and keeping us from moving forward. Statistics say that what we fear almost never even happens. Think about that. How much time do we waste letting the fear of something that will NEVER HAPPEN hold us captive to the point that we can’t even move?

But the thing is that, once we’re thrown into the fire, that fear is burned away. The worst has already happened and, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we can look up from the floor of the furnace and realize, “Hey! I’m still here! I survived!”

I can imagine their surprised joy in that moment. They had dared declare God’s power to the king, assuring him that the One they served was more than able to deliver them. And He had. You know that special laughter that comes with joy? I can almost hear it. I can also see them turning to look through the flames, out the door, at the outside. Perhaps in the midst of their astonishment they wondered what they should do next. And then, just maybe, from behind them…

They heard a chuckle. Can you see them whipping around in even more shock and amaze? The king said the fourth man in the fire looked like the son of God. Presumably, he was right. They wouldn’t have known Him as “Jesus,” but their hearts would surely have recognized Him.

Now their backs are to the exit, the fire that surrounds them is pretty much forgotten, and their eyes are firmly focused on their first ever glimpse of the One they’ve offered their lives for. Though they have no way of knowing it, everything – literally everything – has changed. 

What words would Jesus have spoken to them? Did they ask all of the questions that had burned in their hearts for years? Did He… I can’t really even begin to propose what He might have said. We do know this, though. They spent some time in there. 

We don’t know how much time, but it was enough that the king eventually realized what he was seeing, pointed it out to his companions, and called out for the three to come out. Given the raging fire, and how loud it would have been, it seems to me that either the fire was allowed time to burn down or Jesus told them, “Hey guys, the king is calling.”

Regardless, stepping back inside with the kids… While I was homeschooling, I wrote an essay entitled “The View from Inside the Furnace,” and at this point I suggested that they, instead of being in the worst time of their lives (what it looked like) were actually on the field trip of a lifetime.

As they walk around, I imagine Jesus explaining exactly how this furnace works, how it is used to harness the destructive nature of fire and cause it to change things, transforming soft clay into usable, even valuable, vessels. Then I imagine Jesus sharing a few secrets about how He is going to use their time in the fire to do far more, not only to change them, making them more useful and valuable, but also change the world. I imagine…quite a lot, actually. 

Can you see the disappointment on their faces when either they finally hear the king calling or Jesus announces that their visit is over? The very thing that was at one time the ultimate threat has now become a refuge, a place they’ve been seeking their whole lives – a secret place where it is just them and Him. In all honesty, if it were me I’d have been like a child begging for “just one more story.”

Actually, I have been. I wrote the essay I referred to earlier during one of the hardest times of my life.  I intended it for friends who were worried about me, and with good reason. In the midst of the fire I learned things I could never have learned anywhere else, and I developed an intimacy with God that I had never known. As I shared with God in prayer at the time, I would never wish that fire on my worst enemy, but I desperately desired to take the intimacy with me when I walked back out of the flames. 

Those three boys had to feel the same way, but for them I think it almost had to be a harder walk to take, because Jesus came out of that furnace with me, staying always by my side, and they had to leave the fourth man behind, knowing they would likely never see Him face-to-face again.

And, as I imagine Jesus promising, their world changed – and not just for them. Yes, they were promoted and given all honor, but even more importantly God was promoted, and the king himself ordered that He be worshipped. Yes, our God was merely added to the list of gods they already worshipped, but it was a beginning.

So I leave us (Yep, this is a reminder for me.) with this. Serve God with all your heart and don’t fear the fire. Jeremiah 29:11 assures us that He has great plans for us, and Romans 8:28 promises that He can cause all things to work together for our good. Even a walk in a fire-filled furnace, though terrifying to face, can be  an amazing experience that prepares us for an astounding future. 

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Meditations: Psalm 106:24

Copyright Clarissa Pardue 2014
Copyright Clarissa Pardue 2014

Psalm 106:24
NLT

The people refused to enter the pleasant land, for they wouldn’t believe his promise to care for them.

 

Okay, this is beyond my ability to understand. They were standing on sand – in the desert – looking at Canaan. It was bad enough that they didn’t just believe and obey God, following where He led. Even worse, they could not accept the beauty and bounty of the place He had called them to and chose to stay in the desert instead.

The desert! They chose to stay in the barren, dry places where there was only enough food and water for their massive numbers because God took care of them! They chose a life of wandering with no home, trekking through the desert (where God had to take care of them) instead of trusting Him and moving on over into the lush bounty of Canaan – which He had already told them would be theirs. Why?

I think the bottom line is that we humans tend to prefer the challenges we know. The challenges Israel faced in the desert were so familiar, and God’s care through those challenges so consistent, that they were (and I use the word in a skewed fashion) comfortable. In truth, I think they took God’s care in the desert so for granted that they hardly recognized it anymore. Stepping over into Canaan, though, would have meant trusting God to care for them in new areas and…oh…

Until then, God had done everything for them, or had Moses or specific others do it. They knew, though, that in Canaan they would be called upon to do something – to take up arms and fight for the ground God had promised them. They were like baby Christians who don’t want to grow up! Or, I suppose, it is rather the other way around – today’s perpetually babyish Christians are very much like these children of God.

When someone first turns his life over to God, He takes total care of them as if they were literal babies – answering every prayer instantly (like a parent responding to a baby’s cry) and often in astoundingly miraculous ways, but then God requires them to grow up – to start using and exercising their faith – to DO something…to take up arms and fight for the ground He has promised them. The funny thing is that God usually ends up fighting the battles for us after we take up arms to fight (just as He did for Israel once they actually crossed on over into Canaan); He just wants us to get up off our blessed assurance and move. But too many refuse. They aren’t willing to take up arms and step forward into His promises, trusting Him to take care of them through everything. No, they would rather stay in babyhood where they don’t have to do anything (but also can’t own or be anything); they would rather stay in the desert.

I’ve seen myself in Israel before, but until meditating on this passage I had never really seen their walk as a parallel to my spiritual walk; yet it is. What they did as a nation I may (or may not) do as a Christian – gaining or losing ground accordingly. Help me, Lord, to keep moving forward!

Reading on into verses 34-39 you see the consequences of Israel’s refusal to grow up. They thought they would be just fine if they stayed in babyhood, in the desert, but because they first disobeyed God’s call to move forward and then, when they did move, moved on their own terms…

When we disobey God in any way we are in sin, and unconfessed sin always has consequences. In their case, it became greater sin. (v. 34-39) “Israel failed to destroy the nations in the land, as the lord had told them to. Instead, they mingled among the pagans and adopted their evil customs. They worshipped their idols, and this led to their downfall. They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons. They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters. By sacrificing them to the idols of Canaan, they polluted the land with murder. They defiled themselves by their evil deeds, and their love of idols was adultery in the lord’s sight.”

It’s true; there is no such thing as standing still with God. We must continually move forward. It is also true that genuine obedience is doing what God says, when God says, how God says and all God says. Israel did finally cross over into Canaan, but even then they failed to do all God said – destroy the nations of the land. They let some remain and, because they did, they “fell” into horrible sin and later paid an unimagined price for that sin. God has great mercy, but (v. 43) “Again and again he delivered them, but they continued to rebel against him, and they were finally destroyed by their sin.”

God was still merciful, and did deliver them in the end, but how different would it have been if they had obeyed Him, and fully, the first time? Where, for instance, would Israel be today? Where would I be today if I had always obeyed Him, and fully, the first time?

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Detailed Deliverance

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make  your paths straight.” Prov. 3:5-6

Trust seems so simple – until God asks us to take a step we don’t understand. We naturally want to see the path ahead, but God doesn’t want us to walk naturally; he wants us to walk supernaturally.

One day, when I was grumbling about not being able to see the path ahead, God taught me a shin-banging lesson. He told me to close my eyes and walk from where I was to a specific spot. I tried, and of course I swerved off course and bumped into something. Then He took me back to the beginning, had me close my eyes again, and told me exactly how to place my foot with each step. It was awkward. It felt all wrong. I was hoping no one would walk in because I knew I looked stupid. But…thanks to His detailed directions, I ended up exactly where He told me to go.

God did exactly the same thing for Gideon in Judges six and seven. From the point at which He had Gideon’s attention and willing obedience, God gave him specific instructions for each step he would take. In Judg 6:25-26, God didn’t merely say, “Sacrifice a bull.” Instead, He told Gideon exactly which bull, precisely how to pull down his father’s altar, and in detail how to sacrifice the bull.

This was only the beginning, of course. God continued to give Gideon detailed directions. Had Gideon chosen to bypass any of them, or fudge on even one, the outcome would not have been the same. Israel may not have received her deliverance.

Nothing great in our Christian walk, outside of a supernatural move of God, comes of itself. It comes as a result of the individual starting out on the right path and taking each and every step along the way exactly as God commands.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C