"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her." Hosea 2:14 NKJV
While listening to the testimony of Jefferson Bethke, I was reminded of a verse in Hosea chapter two that I had read before, "Behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness." My mind immediately went to my nights alone outside with God in the darkness. The wilderness can symbolize a place of wondering, a place of darkness, a place of pain. Webster's Dictionary defines it as a region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings, an area essentially undisturbed by human activity, an empty or pathless area, or a bewildering situation.
I can identify with this verse because I know what it feels like to be led into a bewildering situation, my personal wilderness. Here in my wilderness I feel that it s uninhabited by other humans. I know the feeling of aloneness that the wilderness brings. As for a pathless area, the wilderness can definitely engulf you and make you feel as though there is no path that leads out of it.
So why would God purposely lead someone into the wilderness? Well, the rest of the verse says that He will bring her into the wilderness to speak comfort to her. But why would God choose an uncultivated, uninhabited place to bring comfort? Why would He take you to a pathless area to show you comfort?
Well, if you're a girl who carries a backpack instead of a purse, a girl who owns no makeup, and a girl whose idea of fixing her hair involves a ponytail, then you might see the wilderness differently. There is a beauty found only in the wilderness.
There are billions of stars in the sky, and yet many people never see them. They are there all the time, but most people never notice their beauty. During the day the brightness of the sun hides them They're there just like they are at night, but you can't see them. Even at dusk only the brightest ones can be seen. To really see them you have to wait until full darkness had come, and even then you must be still and linger for awhile. Then you start to see them, and the longer you look the more that you will see.
You see, there are some things you can only see in the dark. Light is beautiful. It symbolizes God and all that is good. Light brings sunshine and happiness, clarity and serenity. But if you never experience darkness, you miss the beauty of the stars. There are things you can only see in the dark. Sometimes God brings us to darkness, to the wilderness so that He can show us what we miss in the light. He leads us to an uninhabited area, undisturbed by human activity, so that when we get still and look long enough, He gets to show us His stars.. It is there in the wilderness that He speaks comfort. Even while in the middle of a bewildering situation, He can cause us to be still long enough to catch a glimpse of those glimmering lights strewn against the canvas of a dark sky. The longer we sit quietly with Him in the darkness, the more stars we begin to see and the comfort comes. In the dark stillness of night in the middle of the wilderness, He speaks comfort in a way that we miss in the light. There is an intimacy with God that only comes in the wilderness.
Fear. The kind of fear that sends you straight to the feet of Jesus and even there you can feel its grip. Fear that allows you to read fifteen chapters of Job without thinking to take a break. Fear in the heart of a girl who generally isn't fearful. And before you send the verses I already know them..."perfect love casts out fear", "fear not for I am with thee, be not dismayed", etc. I also know Job 1:12, Job 2:6, and 1 Peter 5:8. It's just like teaching. You don't give the hardest tests first. They get harder as you go.
I've had some difficult tests. Most of the really hard ones have been in the last couple of years. I know the God who promises to never leave us, for I have felt Him when I thought I was alone. I know the Perfect Love personally, for it has cast away my fear and allowed me to walk in paths I could not have walked alone. And my favorite verse is Isaiah 41:10, "Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." I know Him. I know His love, His strength, and His power.
But I also know 1 Peter 5:8, Job 1:12, and Job 2:6. I know the God who tests us with fiery trials, for I have felt the heat from the fire many times. I know the God who sometimes stays His hand and allows the storm to come in all its fury. I have felt the flame of refining fire, and I have grown to know more and more about my Creator and His love for me. Yet I also know the tests must grow more difficult in order to continue to grow me...and therein lies the fear.
I asked an old friend to pray for me a couple of weeks ago because I knew that I was getting ready to embark on a journey that God had called me to, and that Satan intended to keep me from finishing. It has many facets, some in the near future, and some that seem so very far away and impossible to reach. Some I have dreamed for myself. Some I dare not hardly speak above a whisper because they are from Someone higher than I. The problem is that Satan doesn't like any of them, big or small.
I have grown to learn a lot about who God is. I have also learned a lot about Satan. Our world gets caught up in movies and books that tell them that Heaven is for real. Yes, Heaven is for real....so is Hell. We love that God knows us intimately and knows our every thought and the desires of heart. We don't stop to realize that Satan knows us intimately too. He does his homework. He studies for your test. Not to help you pass, but to ensure your failure.
I have heard the voice of God in a dream. I will never forget it. It was the most amazing feeling, even though I didn't begin to understand at the time just what it was that He was saying. But last night I heard another voice. A voice that instilled fear, and brought out every Bible verse I could draw on in immediate succession. "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts otf wickedness in the heavenly places." Ephesians 6:12 NKJV. I've read that verse at least one hundred times, but never have I felt the presence otf the battle as I did last night. Never have I been so afraid. But they were hidden on my heart. "When I am afraid I will trust in thee." "Perfect Love casteth out fear." "Fear not, for I am with thee." "You will not need to fight this battle, stand still..." And "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death' because He is with me.
I see a journey that I am beckoned to continue on, but I see the battlefields that lie in wait on the path. There is a place where battles move beyond finances and problems at work. There is a place where the weapons of choice change from daggers and arrows to heavy artillery. I have reached that place. It would be easy to quit. It would be easy to tell God that I am tired, and that I am afraid that one day there will be a test that I will fail, even with Him standing there. I could tell Him that my armor is so cracked and battered from the more recent waves of battle, that I fear that it cannot withstand the weaponry that is sure to come. But it is pointless. It is pointless because I have tested Him and found Him faithful. How can I tell Him what I cannot do so long as He is by my side? And so I go on not knowing. I would not if I might. I would rather walk in the dark with God than to go alone in the light.
(This was first published as a note on my Facebook page on July 7,2011. I was asked to consider reposting it.)
And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ. Mark 8:29 KJV
Kristen and I were listening to the radio on our way to piano lessons this morning. I turned it on and heard just a little part of a sermon. I don't even know who the preacher was, but it doesn't matter. He compared how we believe in Jesus to that of a Build-A-Bear Workshop. He didn't really go into detail and concluded the sermon, but it got me to thinking. If you've never been to a Build-A-Bear Workshop, they're all about the same. You can pick from an assortment of animals and choose the one you want to make. Yours may not even be a bear. You might make a cat, dog, monkey, etc. Then you can choose how you stuff it and even add some cutesy stuff to put inside. Then you can buy clothes to dress your animal. You end up with your own version of what you would like your stuffed animal to be. It's funny to me how many people go into Build-A-Bear and come out with a cat or a monkey and not a bear at all.
We're like that with Jesus and God. We go into the Bible and pick out the parts we like and we put them together and build ourselves a god that we can live with. You see that isn't God. You don't build a God out of the pieces you like and leave the rest. God is God. He is the God who created the universe. He is the God who loves us enough to send His Son to die for us. He is also the God who wiped out entire cities at a a time because He was disgusted with how they were living. He is also the God who will proclaim to many to depart from Him into an everlasting Hell because He never knew them.
There are so many people who think they can go to Build-A-Jesus. They go into church or into their Bibles and pick out what they want. Usually they like the "Called the Children Unto Him" model or the "Feeding the Multitude" model. The "Tunring over the Tables" model isn't a favorite, nor is the "Great Commission" model. Then it's time to stick in the parts you want Him to be stuffed with. Usually a little "ask and ye shall receive", coupled with some "God wants to bless you" and a little dab of "riches in Heaven". Then it's time to close Him up and dress Him. Most people pick the "Royal Robe and Crown" outfit and not usually the "Crown of Thorns". Then they're all ready to pick up the newly created Jesus and carry Him out to use whenever it is convenient. The problem is that just like at the Build-A-Bear when people come out with an animal that doesn't look so much like a bear, most people come out of "Build-A-Jesus" carrying something that doesn't really look that much like Jesus at all. It's more of a creation of sorts that they can pick up or put down as they wish.
The saddest part to me is that so many people are so happy with their Jesus that they made at the Build-A-Jesus that they miss the point of who Jesus really is. Some will even carry their Jesus they made with them to judgement only to figure out that they didn't even have something that looked remotely close to Jesus. When they figure it out, it may be too late.
I hate I didn't hear the rest of that sermon and who knows? Maybe that two minutes I heard of it was the only part where he mentioned the Build-A-Bear concept, but it really made me think. I know some people who have been to the Build-A-Jesus and seem to be very happy with the things they've built, but I don't recognize the likeness to be that of Jesus. It's scary and sad all at the same time to see people who think they're in a position to receive God's blessings and yet the reality is that they wouldn't recognize Him if He walked into the room because He doesn't really look like what they made Him to be.
It has been my experience that Jesus is the perfect picture of love. It is accurate that He is always waiting with arms outstretched to meet us, but it also my experience that He will ask you to leave your comfort zone. He will ask you to do things that you would rather not do, and sometimes He will ask you to walk through the deepest darkest valley. He sometimes asks us to stretch ourselves almost to the point of breaking. It is in these times that you find the real Jesus. He will be the One that gives you the strength to keep breathing. He will be there to walk the valleys with you and will see each and every tear. You will find that although the Build-a-Jesus carries less risks and brings a simpler life, it is in knowing the real Jesus that you grow in faith and learn to trust Him completely. So I challenge you to put away who you have created Jesus to be, and get to know Him more completely. Ask Him to reveal His true character to you. Ask Him to let you know Him better. Develop a personal relationship with Him just as you would a friend.
Sometimes I listen to others tell about their life with God and I don't understand. I listen as they talk about not really feeling threatened by Satan and some act as if he doesn't exist at all. I hear them talk about these preachers that they hear on television and how it seems as though they believe that God just sits on His throne in Heaven and waits to hand out rewards and blessings.
A member of my extended family once told me that she wanted to introduce me to God. I was pretty insulted because I've known Him personally for about 34 years now and her introducing me just didn't seem necessary. I wasn't really interested in anything she had to say, but there were times when I was caught in situations where she got a chance to share with me about God. I don't know Him like she does. She knows someone who can be manipulated by the actions of humans. She knows someone who rains down blessings on those who produce magic formulas. She believes that if you do A, B, and C, then God has to follow up with D and E. She believes that if you tithe, read your Bible methodically, go to church, and hand out some tracts from one of her Word of Faith ministers that God owes you rewards for your efforts.
She's right....I don't know him. I have no idea who he is.
I have to be honest. The hardest thing I have ever done in my life is to serve God. What do I mean by that, you ask. You see, the God I know is the God of the Bible. I don't remember ever reading where you could work a formula with God. I know a God who is not controlled by human forces. He is not swayed by our futile attempts to make Him anything less than what He is,
I know the God of Job. I know the God who asked Satan where he had been, knowing the answer was that he was roaming the earth seeking whom he might devour. And what did God do? He pointed out His servant Job, a man who although he wasn't perfect, was an upright man who tried his best to serve God. God basically said, "Have you checked out my boy named Job? Have you seen hid dedication to me?" And Satan said of course he loves you, why wouldn't he? And what did God do? He basically gave Satan power to touch anything Job had except he couldn't take his physical life. God sat back and let Job lose everything he had. Yes, he rewarded him beyond measure, but he let him be tested in ways that most of us could not hope to withstand. He allowed him to be pruned so he could grow and influence those who would study his life.
I know the God of Hosea. Hosea was a man of God. God told him to take a wife....an immoral, promiscuous woman who had no capability to be faithful to him. Hosea followed God and found himself in a relationship with a woman who mothered children for him to father that were not all his. She was restless and unfaithful, and what did God ask Hosea to do again and again? Hosea was to take her back, just like God did for Israel and for us. Hosea represented a picture of God's love for us.
I know the God of David. The God who saw the heart of a simple shepherd boy and chose him to be a king. The God who taught David to trust Him...enough trust to face a giant that no one else was willing to face. The God who loved David through his battles....both the successful ones and the not so great ones. The God who gave him consequences along with blessings.
I know the God of Paul. I know the God who watched a man named Saul who vehemently hated Christians. A man who had such passion and dedication to persecute the people of God. And what did God do with this man? He chose him. He met him one day on a road and changed his name to Paul. He took the same passion and dedication this man possessed to do wrong, and channeled it to make him a great influence on generations of Christians. He used who he was but changed his direction.
I know the God of Michelle. He has given her an opportunity to develop a personal relationship with the Most High God. He has taught her that He is in control and she isn't. He has taught her that sometimes you have to be hurt in order to grow. He has taken someone who had no real story and given her a story that has become her own. He has shown Himself to be a God who loves unconditionally and without reservation. He loves with the love of a parent. Sometimes He applauds from the stands, sometimes He brings out the paddle, sometimes He says no to something she really wants, and always He waits to hold her when she cries. She knows a God who has allowed her to walk through the valley of the shadow, yet never left her alone. She would rather walk in the deepest darkest hell with Him, then to go alone in any glorious light. He is hers, and most importantly, she is His, and nothing else matters.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. James 4:8 NKJV
Have you ever heard God whisper in your ear? Have you ever felt His presence as if He gently brushed against your arm? Have you ever just paused for a moment because you realized that the God who created the universe just made what seemed impossible happen?
We are but a speck on the canvas of the earth. There are millions of people on this planet, and yet God knows your name. He knows how many hairs are on your head. He sees each and every tear that falls from your eyes. If you call His name, He is there, ready and waiting to hear every word, It is truly amazing to realize that the God who controls the entire world, hears my every word.
I have come to realize that not many people really know God. Sometimes I wonder if I can ever know all there is about Him that He wants me to know. In the last few years I have been amazed at the people who are saved and know who God is, but really have no relationship with Him.
In James 4:8, we are promised that if we draw near to God, then He will draw near to us. Drawing near to God is a little more than going to church on Sunday morning. It isn't about tithing or serving on committees. In order to develop a relationship with someone, you have to spend time with them. You have to talk to them. Sit and listen to them. Tell them about your sorrows and your joys.
God is like that. He demands your love and obedience, but He doesn't want you to think of Him as a big God out there somewhere who controls everything and has little or no time for you. Even though He wants to bless us, I think He wants us to want more from Him than simply to be the "Daddy Warbucks of the Sky". He is our Heavenly Father. We are HIs children. He wants to be our Daddy.
I don't know who God is to you, but I can tell you who He is to me. He is my Heavenly Daddy. I run to Him when I fall down and He lets me climb into His lap and He holds me while I cry. When I am ready to try again, He gently puts me back on the path in the direction He wants me to go. He is always there when I need someone to talk to and even though He knows it already, He patiently lets me express my pain, my confusion, my wounds. He hears me when I yell at the top of my lungs or when I can't even utter a word. He is my best friend.
If you answered no to the questions in the first paragraph, then spend some time with my Heavenly Daddy. He loves you more than anyone on the planet. There is no one who can love you like He does. Get to know Him better. Spend some time with Him. Learn to hear His voice. Listen for His whisper in your ear. Know what it feels like to have Him so close that the hairs on your arm stand up. Let Him move mountains for you. Tell Him your fears, your hopes, your dreams. Learn to draw close to Him....and trust me, there is no substitute for what it feels like when you know He has drawn close to you.
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7 NKJV
"I found a closet." That's what the text from my husband said. I am left thinking, "He found a what?" With both of us being teachers, we will never be able to get ahead financially or send two kids to college, so we flip houses occasionally. We had purchased a house in much need of repair.
According to realtors, in order for a room to be a bedroom, it must have a closet. This house had the potential to be a four bedroom except the smallest bedroom didn't have a closet. We had debated for months about what to do about this situation, but had decided that building a closet inside the bedroom would cut down too much on the size of the room. We would just advertise it as a three bedroom.
While attempting to rewire the final bedroom, my husband started to notice that there was an unusually large space at the top of the stairs to the basement. Upon further examination he ended up finding a door. A door to a closet. A door to a closet in the fourth bedroom.
All these months of visits to that house, we had no idea that there was a hidden closet. All those moments spent debating whether to add a closet, while one was there, hidden, waiting to be discovered. But isn't life like that sometimes? We know what we need and we stress about how to get it, and there it is right under our noses if we would only bother to ask and seek.
Who would have imagined that the thing we needed was hidden just beyond a wall? God knew it was there. He must have chuckled each time we stood in there debating whether to build one or not. Sometimes God is like that. Sometimes He knows what we have need of and yet He keeps it hidden until the timing is right. Sometimes He just waits until we decide to stop trying to find the answers on our own and come to Him instead.
We knew we needed a closet, but we had no idea it was already there. Sometimes in life, the answers to the questions that we strive so hard to find, are already there and we just miss them. And all the while, God waits for us to ask, seek, and knock. Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it shall be opened. Why is it that we have such amazing promises and yet rather than following their simple instructions in faith, we attempt to find the answers on our own?
What if my husband had not decided to cut the hole for the outlet? He would still not know that the closet existed. Wonder how many things we miss out on because we fail to ask, seek, and knock?