Thursday, July 19, 2007

God Our Rock

"...And who is a Rock, except our God?" 2 Samuel 22:32

I have gone through some hard environments and storms in my life, as we all have. Some were potentially faith-shattering, and definitely shook my personal world and beliefs. But in the midst of the pain and darkness of those times I came to discover and inwardly know the Lord as the solid Rock that I needed as an anchor for my soul and for my storm-tossed faith. There is an old hymn, the chorus of which goes: "On Christ, the solid Rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand." There is only one truly solid, trustworthy, unmovable place in the universe, and that is in God. Sooner or later we will find that if our hope is in anything other than God Himself we will become disappointed or disillusioned, and shaken in our faith.

Sometimes we think that our faith is solid and rooted in God Himself, and not merely in a belief system or things related to God. Then something happens that really throws us into a tailspin. When that happens we have a choice of what we will do. I love David's response in Psalm 61:2; "From the end of the earth I will cry to You when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the Rock that is higher than I." Sometimes we need something or Someone bigger than us, and He is the higher one, our Rock of safety. Psalm 40 says: "He heard my cry and He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand."

Jesus tells a story about how a wise man built his house on a rock. Then when the rains came and the water rose and the winds buffeted the house it did not fall because it was built on the rock. Luke 6:48 says, "He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and built a foundation on rock. When a flood came, a torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built." Sometimes our "house" is not on solid ground, but we don't know it until a storm comes along and we get swept off our foundation. But when that happens we can dig down deep inside, deeper than we have gone before, and cry out to the One who is our Rock and He will establish us in and on Himself.

Because of things I have passed through I have discovered what is "sand" and what is "rock" in my life. I have learned that we need to go deeper into God when the storms come. I have learned that God truly is our refuge, our rock, our fortress - a hiding place in the storms of life. We all have had, and will have, different kinds and degrees of stormy situations in our lives (the Word says that in this life we will have tribulations and trials, that our faith may be made strong), but God is there for us in the midst of everything we pass through, in the midst of our darkness and our pain and disappointment. He is there to be our Rock of refuge and our strength if we will cry out to Him.

The preciousness of this truth, the solidness of it, the comfort of it! It is a priceless, saving reality. We have a Rock in our spirit, a Rock that will never leave, a Rock we can depend on, a Rock we can run to and hide under, a Rock that will catch us when we falter, a Rock that will ground us when we are spinning, a Rock to stand on when we are sinking, a Rock we can lean on when we have no strength to go on. He is the Rock of our salvation - this Rock saves us from whatever we need saving from, and He saves us to Himself. We can cry out, "Jesus, be my Rock right now! I'm falling, I'm sinking, I've lost my footing, I feel disoriented. Help! Set my feet on You, be my anchor, ground my heart and my emotions in You right now!" He will not fail us. In the process of learning to know Him in this way sometimes our emotions don't cooperate right away, or the situation doesn't change outwardly as we'd like it to, but He is no less our Rock. He is a safe Rock, a strong Rock whether we believe Him to be or not.

It's like being at the Grand Canyon at an overlook point. As you stand at the railing looking over the canyon, you can either be frozen with fear that you might fall over the edge, or you can rest secure knowing that the railing is firmly anchored in the rock. Either way, the truth is the same - you are safe because of the solidness of the rail and the rock. Just so, we can either live tossed around and in fear of situations and environments, or we can learn to trust and rely on the Rock within to hold us up and be our refuge and strength.

The Lord is our eternal Rock that is there for us every time, whether we believe it or not. But when we begin to believe it and look to Him to be that Rock within, we will be brought into such a solid, sweet inward knowing of our God that will outweigh the pain and the difficulties we are going through or have gone through. Eventually we will even come to the place where we can declare with David, "The Lord lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let God be exalted, the Rock of my salvation!"

Saturday, July 14, 2007

My God, My Portion and My Love

"...And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You." Psalm 73:25

My God, my portion, and my love,
My everlasting all!
I've none but Thee in Heav'n above,
Or on this earthly ball.

What empty things are all the skies,
And this inferior clod!
There's nothing here deserves my joys,
There's nothing like my God.

In vain the bright, the burning sun
Scatters his feeble light;
'Tis Thy sweet beams create my noon;
If Thou withdraw, 'tis night.

And whilst upon my restless bed,
Amongst the shades I roll,
If my Redeemer shows His head,
'Tis morning with my soul.

To Thee we owe our wealth, and friends,
And health, and safe abode:
Thanks to Thy Name for meaner things,
But they are not my God.

How vain a toy is glitt'ring wealth,
If once compared to Thee!
Or what's my safety, or my health,
Or all my friends to me?

Were I possessor of the earth,
And called the stars my own,
Without Thy graces and Thyself
I were a wretch undone.

Let others stretch their arms like seas
And grasp in all the shore,
Grant me the visits of Thy face,
And I desire no more.

We recently returned from a wonderful vacation in the beautiful Northwest. The beauty of the mountains and the water and the trees was unparalleled. We stayed with dear and gracious friends on a beautiful little lake, and had encouraging fellowship and prayer together. We were refreshed in every way. We really couldn't have asked for more. Yet as I sat alone with God after we returned home, a line from the hymn above came to my mind - a hymn I haven't sung in years. And the line was, "Thanks to Thy Name for meaner things, But they are not my God."

What was in me was a deep gratitude for all we had enjoyed and experienced, things from God even. But the deeper realization was that as marvelous and precious and beautiful as all those things are, they are not my God. Nothing can compare to Him. His gifts and His creation and the good things He gives us to enjoy - as great as they are, they are nothing compared to Himself. They are nothing compared to the beauty and preciousness of His presence. I love the last two lines: "Grant me the visits of Thy face, And I desire no more." The more I get to know Him, the more time I spend in His presence, the more I find these lines express the growing sentiments of my heart.

He knows how to ravish our hearts and wreck us for Himself. But the way it happens is by our spending time with Him and getting to know Him, by our seeking Him out - seeking His person and presence, seeking His face, seeking to know His heart. He gladly gives us all things to enjoy, but the things He gives should point us to Himself. It's like He is saying, "This is beautiful, but wait 'til you see Me. That is just a little glimpse of My beauty and glory. I'll show you so much more if you will come and spend time with Me in My presence!"

Nothing can compare with our God. He is everything we truly long for and need. He is our portion, He is our love, and He is our everlasting all.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

More Glory

The story of Lazarus is a familiar one, but one I never get tired of because I love what it reveals about God's heart for us, and how God sees a bigger picture and has a greater good and a greater glory in mind for us than we could imagine for ourselves. Our nature is to stop short and play it safe, go for the quick and easy fix, but God is God and He knows what He is about in each of our lives and He is willing to risk our "safety" for more of His glory to be manifested in us because He loves us.

Mary and Martha and Lazarus were siblings who lived together in a town called Bethany, about two miles away from Jerusalem where Jesus was staying at the time. They knew Jesus and were good friends with Him, so when Lazarus got sick, his sisters sent a message to Jesus telling Him that the one He loved was very sick. When Jesus heard that he responded to the disciples with him, “Lazarus’ sickness will not end in death. No, it is for the glory of God.” Then the Bible says a very peculiar thing. It says that although Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus He stayed two more days where He was and did not go to them.

Finally He decided it was time to go, and He told the disciples with Him that Lazarus was dead and that He was glad He wasn’t there because this would give them another opportunity to believe more in Him. As He was going Mary went to meet Him, and when she saw Him she fell at His feet weeping, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died!” When He saw her and the others weeping He was so moved that He was groaning and troubled inside, and He began to weep too.

It was obvious to those around how much Jesus loved Lazarus. But there were some who said, “He healed a blind man, why couldn’t He keep Lazarus from dying?” And Jesus, again groaning inside, headed for the tomb where Lazarus lay and asked some to move the stone covering the entrance. For Martha it was too late, Jesus hadn’t shown up in time. Lazarus had been dead for four days now and all that was left was a terrible stench - to which Jesus made the reply, “Didn’t I tell you that you will see God’s glory if you believe?” Jesus then lifted up His eyes and prayed to the Father, asking that these people would believe in who He was. Then He shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And Lazarus, who had died, arose and came out. Interestingly, he did not burst out of the grave fully free, but he came out still bound with the graveclothes, and his face covered with a headcloth. And then, rather than Jesus Himself fully freeing Lazarus, He turned to those nearby and instructed them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”

Sometimes when we are going through something hard or scary or even life-threatening we cry out for Jesus to come and rescue. Yet seemingly He doesn’t hear; or at least doesn’t show up when or how we think He should. To us this will end in “death” if Jesus doesn’t respond immediately. But look at what Jesus knows – He knows that what we are experiencing does not have to end in death but that it can glorify God in time if we will let it. Our vision is so short-sighted that we can only see and feel what is here and now, and it isn’t always good or pleasant. It often even is painful. That’s why it hurts when He seemingly doesn’t show up, or He shows up too late by our standards. As with Lazarus He waits to come - even though He is moved with compassion by what we are going through - because He loves us.

God sees a much bigger picture than we do, He has an eternal perspective on things that we don’t naturally have. God wants glory - we were created for glory. He wants to be glorified here on earth and the way that happens is through people who are willing to let go of what they see and what they want, and believe by faith in God’s greater and eternal good. Though all the events up through Lazarus' death were painful and hard to understand, in the end, Lazarus rising from the dead was much more of a testimony than being healed would have been. It had a much greater impact on everyone – and especially on Lazarus!

Interestingly, though, being raised from the dead wasn’t the end of the story. Lazarus was still bound even though he was physically healed and made alive. Jesus could have freed him from the graveclothes too, but instead His instructions were for those close to Lazarus to unwrap him and help bring him into full release from his death situation. This is a beautiful picture of how God operates in our lives and puts us in proximity to others who can render the help we need to experience more freedom. Jesus could have done it all for Lazarus, but instead He wanted to demonstrate how we need one another, how we need others to be "Jesus" to us, and how we need to receive from them (and in turn we need to be available to be "Jesus" too).

This is not a solitary life, it is a member life He has put us into. And just as it must have taken a little time for them to unwrap Lazarus, it takes time for us to get freed from all the things in our life that bind us. Our part is to keep coming, trusting and receiving, and as we do God will get more glory in this whole process of us coming out of "death" and being freed from the woundedness and brokenness that hinders our walk and our growth. What a defeat to our's and God's enemy! When God is glorified in us, our lives testify to Satan and to others of God's greater wisdom and power and greatness that can triumph over even the most seemingly hopeless of situations.