Saturday, June 30, 2007

Take the Cup

“I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.” Psalm 116:13

Two things, as I look back on my life, have had a major impact on my daily experience of the Lord. One is learning the secret of feeding on the Word, the other is discovering how to call on the name of the Lord. So, what is in a name? A name in itself has a meaning; the name Jesus means savior (one that saves from danger or destruction), or deliverer. But what really gives any name meaning to us personally is knowing the person that a particular name is attached to.

When we were little, “Mommy” was a name attached to a very important person in our life and we knew if we called that name she would answer us. If we were hurt and we cried, “Mommy!” she would drop everything and come running to see what was wrong and would try and comfort us. Just so, one of the things that gives meaning to the name of Jesus is knowing who He is, that He loves us and is for us, and that He is the one who saves us not only initially, but also day by day.

Daily, it seems, there are emotions or temptations and situations that we need to be rescued from, either inwardly or outwardly. Romans 10:13 says that the Lord responds generously, or is rich, to all who call out for help. “Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help.” We call and He responds. The help He gives is His very person, His presence. The Word says He is a very present help in our times of trouble. As we call, He gives to us the experience and portion of His life we need for that moment.

After all, Jesus has already lived the human life that we now live, and He fully knows about and sympathizes with our human condition and experience – He understands what we are going through, He knows our weakness. And in His person we can find peace and comfort, we can find courage, we can find wisdom, we can find strength – it is there if we will receive it. He is ready to richly supply what we need if we will just look to Him and cry out to Him. Our outward situation may or may not change but He will give us the grace we need for that moment. He will give us grace to wait and grace to go on, grace to trust Him - He will give us Himself, all that He is.

The Psalms are full of cries to the Lord, and full of praise for His answers, too: “In my anxiety I cried out”, “Then I called on the name of the Lord, ‘Please save me!’”, “I called on Your name, O Lord, from the lowest pit.”, “I sought the Lord and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”, “He delivered me…therefore I will give thanks.”

The name of the Lord is a mighty name, a powerful name. He has given us an amazing cup to drink from, a cup full of saving ability, a cup that never runs dry. When we cry out, and keep crying out from our depths, “Jesus!”, "Abba, Father” or “Help God!”, He hears us and He responds. If we look for Him instead of for a particular answer we want, we will never be disappointed. Sometimes we can’t cry out loudly. All we can do is whisper because that is all the strength we have, or all that our environment will allow. But He hears the desperation of our hearts and comes to minister to our need. He is our Abba, our papa.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Living Bread

Hunger…we all experience that to a greater or lesser degree daily. God has designed our bodies such that we need to eat multiple times a day, and feeling hungry is usually the signal that it is time to refuel our bodies again.

Physical hunger is just a picture of our spiritual need. For our walk in this life we need spiritual food to give us the spiritual strength we need daily. We do not tend to think of food as an optional part of our life, and if we do for too long, our bodies will surely let us know about it. In the same way, spiritual food is not optional. Part of our problem is that we do not always recognize what spiritual hunger looks or feels like, so we may overlook our need. Most of us have learned in the physical realm to eat regularly scheduled meals, whether we always feel hungry or not, because we know our bodies need the nourishment to keep functioning optimally.

In the same way we need to have spiritual supply daily. In John 6 Jesus presents Himself as food – “I am the bread of Life”. In v. 57 He says that just as He lives because of the Father who sent Him, “so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.” That’s a pretty amazing directive – how do we feed on, or eat Jesus? John starts off declaring in chapter 1 that in the beginning was the Word, and that this Word became flesh in the person of Jesus.

So, a good way to eat Jesus is to feed on His Word. Jeremiah 15:16 says, “Your words were found, and I ate them. And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart”. God tells Ezekiel in chapter 3 to eat what He gives him – “As I opened my mouth He gave the scroll to me saying, ‘son of man, eat this book that I am giving you. Make a full meal of it!’ So I ate it. It tasted so goodjust like honey.” And Psalm 119:103 says, “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

The Word is for eating, for taking in daily for supply, and it is sweet and nourishing. Is eating different than just reading? In my experience and that of others, yes. When we think of how we eat, we put a small piece of food in our mouth, chew on it to break it down and savor the taste, then swallow. And we repeat that until the portion of food is gone. This takes some time of “intimate” interaction with our food.

Another way of thinking about eating the Word is to meditate on it, or pray with it. Psalm 1:2 says, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates (ponders by talking to himself; mutters, mumbles; chews like a cud) day and night.” Verses 2 & 3 in the Message read, “…you thrill to God’s Word, you chew on Scripture day and night. You’re a tree replanted in Eden, bearing fresh fruit every month, never dropping a leaf, always in blossom.” Eating the Word makes us living and healthy, a person who has what is needed inwardly to keep bearing fruit.

We all know that eating is much more enjoyable when done with someone else. And when we come to the Word in the way of seeking nourishment and taking time to eat, we find that Jesus is not only the bread on the table but also the One who is at the table with us. As we meet with Him He offers us Himself as food to fill our hungry souls, as drink to quench our thirst, as supply to carry us through our day.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Emmaus Road

The story in Luke 24 tells how two disciples are on the road traveling together to a village called Emmaus. As they are walking along deep in conversation Jesus, unrecognized, joins them and asks what they are talking about. They tell Him all that's been going on, and then He begins to explain to them about Himself using the Scriptures.

When they arrive at the village the disciples invite Jesus, still unrecognized by them, to stay with them for the night. "As He sat at the table with them He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him" (Luke 24:30-31).

After they recognized Him, they began talking about how their hearts were burning within them while He was talking to them on the road and while He was opening the Scriptures to them. But it took the time of stopping and sitting down together, and breaking bread together in an unhurried and intimate environment where they were face to face, for them to "know" Him.

Jesus is walking with us on the road of life. The Word says that He will never leave us or forsake us. But so often our eyes are blinded and we don't recognize that He is there. Jesus appears to us as we are walking along on our road to wherever, deep in our own thoughts and conversations, and joins us. We are all caught up with what is going on in our lives, but He patiently walks along and listens to us, and then if we listen carefully we find He begins to share some of what is on His heart.

He does this through other people, through things that happen to us, through the Word. And that is wonderful, but for our eyes to be opened to really see Him for who He is, we need to stop and take time to sit down with Him and break bread with Him in an unhurried way.

Intimacy takes time and it takes communication. It takes asking questions sometimes, opening our heart to God, and then listening to what God has to say, what is on God's heart. Too often we rush in, grab a quick "bite", say a short prayer and rush off again without listening to what He might say.

In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me." Every day Jesus is saying, "Here I am!" The more we take time and allow intimate encounters with the Lord, the more our hearts will begin to burn with a love for Him and a love for His Word.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

His Poiema

"The raw material for spiritual growth comes from the grit of our life and human experience. For the Spirit of God calls us through our families of origin, our personalities, our choices, and all the conditions of soul we encounter - and from that He forms in us the image of Himself and His grace which He wants to express to our particular world. From the dust of our lives, the glory of God can shine....

"As Paul says, we are God's workmanship (Ephesians 2:10); that is, our lives are His poiema - literally, His poem. A poem is an artful creation, a thing of beauty that requires care and time to produce. My prayer is that you will find God slowly pulling together all the "words" of your life to achieve just the right meter and rhyme. For His high purpose is that your life may give voice to some piece of His holy wisdom and insight desperately needed by others in this challenging world." (Soul Keeping, by Howard Baker)

Isn't that awesome? God is writing a unique poem with each one of our lives, a poem that will express Him beautifully to those in our world around us.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Servant Song

Brother, let me be your servant,
Let me be as Christ to you.
Pray that I might have the grace to
Let you be my servant too.

We are pilgrims on a journey,
We are brothers on the road;
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load.

I will hold the Christ-light for you,
In the night-time of your fear;
I will hold my hand out for you,
Speak the peace you long to hear.

I will weep when you are weeping,
When you laugh I'll laugh with you;
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we've seen this journey through.

When we sing to God in Heaven,
We shall find such harmony;
Born of all we've known together
Of Christ's love and agony.

Brother, let me be your servant,
Let me be as Christ to you;
Pray that I might have the grace to
Let you be my servant too.

(by Richard Gillard)

This is what we can be to one another in a busy, hurting world. We are here to help each other on our journeys. We are not just traveling alone, although at times it may feel like it. But the bigger reality is that there are members of the body of Christ who can come alongside us when we are feeling weak, or afraid, or in the dark - or even when we need someone to laugh with. We also can be the ones to come alongside others. I am grateful for all who are companions on this journey. There are the ones ahead of us who are beckoning us on, there are those alongside who hold our hand or offer an encouraging word, and there are those next to us or behind us to whom we can offer the encouragement we have received from others and from God Himself. We can be as Christ to each other, and we can receive Christ from each other. We are called to live this kind of life with one another - may we take the time to give and to receive. We will be blessed and we will bless others.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Fire Within

"I believe you need to have something more than smoke to touch people. You need to be a burning light for that. His ministers must be flames of fire....I tell you, a flame of fire can do anything! Things change in the fire....And whatever you do, don't let your heart get in the wrong place, for it is there where all the illumination comes, and you are made a flame by the igniting of His power inside." (Smith Wigglesworth)

"The world is cold. Someone must be on fire so that people can love and put their cold hands and feet against that fire. If anyone allows this to happen...then he will become a fireplace at which men can warm themselves....The English word "zeal" usually means intensity of action. But real zeal is standing still and letting God be a bonfire in you. It's not very easy to have God's fire within you. Only if you are possessed of true zeal will you be able to contain God's bonfire....The Lord is calling us to stand still before Him while walking with men." (Catherine Doherty)

"Silence is the discipline by which the inner fire of God is tended and kept alive....What needs to be guarded is the life of the Spirit within us. Especially we who want to witness to the presence of God's Spirit in the world need to tend the fire within with utmost care....Our first and foremost task is faithfully to care for the inward fire so that when it is really needed it can offer warmth and light to lost travelers." (Henri Nouwen)

I love these quotes and find them to be very challenging and compelling in a good way. As believers we naturally have a longing to know God and to be known by Him. One outcome of that mutual knowing is knowing God's heart that loves and cares for other people and where they are at. But what do we have to offer them?

Perhaps we can help meet physical needs like for food or clothing, or we can listen when someone needs to talk, we can give money where there is a need...these are good things to do. But I believe more than that, people are lonely, they are hungry for love and companionship, for knowing that someone cares about them. And I think to be most effective in this kind of ministry, which is a ministry we all can and should have, we need to have the inner fire of God.
We need to have it tended and kept alive so that when it is needed, it is already burning and we can offer a warming presence to cold, lost, or weary men and women.

What a wonderful possibility that we could be reflections of God's love and light in this world. But there is a price to pay, although love would call it a joy, not a price. The "price" is spending time in His presence, letting Him warm our own souls and kindling the flames freshly in our own hearts. Then as we go out each day, we can go out "practicing the presence of God" in the midst of practical duties, as Brother Lawrence wrote about - learning how to cultivate an inner dialogue with God as we go about our daily lives.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Life is a Journey

"Father, my heart longs for eternity but my body remains here. Help me to see life as a journey that is completed through communion with You." (Margaret Feinberg)

There is this thing called eternity. There is eternity past where God has always existed and there is eternity future where someday we as believers will exist with God forever. And in between the two eternities is this little blip on the radar screen called time. To us time is everything, all we can relate to. After all, who can really get their minds around eternity? Yet that is where we are headed. In the sphere of time we are all travelers on this road to eternity. And God is very interested in our journey. He has invested the life of His son, Jesus Christ, and given us all the raw materials and resources we need to ensure that we will make it and will end our journey well. As we spend time in His presence and in fellowship with Him, He imparts to us fresh strength and fresh supply that enables us to keep pressing on day by day by day.

"Blessed are those whose strength is in You,
who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion." Psalm 84:5,7