The God Who Sees Me

oasisGenesis 16:1-16

“She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her:  ‘You are the God who sees me, for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.”

Hi!  It has been a while since my last post, but I have been settling into my new position at Grace Bible Church in Lucas, Ohio.  It has been a wonderful experience and I have been blessed beyond measure with the kindnesses of these people.  I finally got around to updating my website page.  I changed my banner to a picture of a goldfinch.  (They are swarming my birdfeeder right now.  Didn’t see any of these of TN.)  I also got around to changing my address and time zone from Middle Tennessee to Middle Ohio.

It is amazing after a move how many times you have to update and change your address to inform others of the change.  There may be many readers of this blog that were not even aware of the change.  One thing for sure:  My Heavenly Father was aware.  And He was there to oversee every step Janine and I took on this pilgrimage northward.

Today’s passage is from Genesis 16.  Hagar is fleeing the wrath of Sarai.  She is partially wrong… partially wronged.  (Aren’t we all at times?)  But whatever the degree of fault or innocence… she was genuinely hurting.  She stops by a spring in the desert in her effort to escape her situation and “The angel of the Lord” meets her there.  Isn’t that like the Lord to meet us at the sight of our own humiliation?  That day, she is refreshed by more than the cool water of the spring that day… but by a visitation of the Divine.  “You are the God who sees me!” she cries out!

I remember hearing the story of a pastor who was caught in the midst of turmoil in his church.  One day when he could not take the pressure and pain any longer, he went into his back yard, waved a handkerchief toward the sky and exclaimed:  “God!  Did you forget where you put me?”  Job in the midst of his affliction once asked:  “Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?” (3:23)  Calamity and adversity can cause one to feel invisible… even to the eyes of the Almighty.

I want to take the next few blogs to draw you closer to a spring in the desert.  I sincerely hope my words will be a refreshment to your soul as you stop to search for answers and to collect yourself for the rest of your journey.  I know that my words will not change any of the  circumstances that have brought you to this place.  But I want to remind you of the God who sees.  Sometimes it is knowing you are not hidden from God that can make all the difference.

 

 

A Wineskin in the Smoke

Psalm 119: 81-88wineskin

Came across an interesting verse in my daily Scripture readings yesterday.  Psalm 119:83 – “Though I have become like a wineskin in the smoke,  I do not forget Your statutes.”  Not sure why I have never seen this verse before.  It is probably because it is buried among 176 similar sounding verses within the longest chapter in the Bible.

What did this expression mean and why did I feel like it describes me right now?  The surrounding context is a Psalmist that is facing hardship.  His soul is languishing for deliverance (v.81) and He asks God:  “When will you comfort me?” (v.82)  He then says he feels like a wineskin in the smoke.  Now in the culture of the day, wine was stored in animal skins.  These skins if stored indoors with a fire present would become dry, then blackened and eventually would crack and become useless.  Good word picture, huh?

In the midst of feeling as used up and worthless as a discarded beverage container, he adds:  “I do not forget Your statutes.”   God’s word alone is the balm he needs for his wounds.  He might feel forsaken by man, but the Word says God has not forsaken him… and he is banking his life on it.

Sometimes, a word of Scripture can help when nothing else will do.  N. T. Wright remarks:

“Some parts of the Bible are best drunk like a large glass of water on a hot day—in other words, large quantities at a time—while others, such as many parts of the letters, are best sipped and savored, drop by drop… (always remembering that, especially in a letter, every verse means what it means in relation to the whole thing, not on its own.  But the point is that reading the Bible is habit-forming:  not just in the sense that the more you do it the more likely to want to do it, but also in the sense that the more you do it the more it will form habits of mind and heart, of soul and body, which will slowly but surely form your character into the likeness of Jesus Christ.”  (After You Believe, p. 262.)

Barely holding it together?  Too weary, you think, to turn to the Bible?  His Word is a lamp (v.105) and it can provide you the light of hope you need… even in the midst of the smoke.

Clinging to God

small-hand-in-large-handPsalm 63: 6-11

“On my bed I remember you;  I think of you through the watches of the night.  Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.  My soul clings to you;  your right hand upholds me.” (63: 6-8, emphasis mine)

Have you noticed how everything seems worse at night?  You might have bobbed above an ocean of despair all day long, only to drown in it when you head hits the pillow that night.  David had a lot to think about when he laid down to sleep.  Absalom… his own son… was also his enemy.  He was seeking to kill him.  That should be enough to keep anyone up all night.   But it doesn’t require physical threat to rob us of our ZZZ’s.   Our emotional pain and our other problems as well flare up at night like a spiking fever.

And yet, I have found comfort in David’s words here.  He concludes this Psalm with faithful trust in a loving God.  You see, David took advantage of these nighttime moments to focus on God.
“I meditate on Thee in the night watch.”  The term meditate here means to “muse or ponder.”   What do we usually meditate on in the night?  We usually wear out our minds chasing down the day’s injustices, like:   “How could they have said that about me?”  “How could life be so unfair?.” and  “How will my family survive my layoff?”  Fair questions… but the lack of attainable answers (you’re in bed remember?) will leave your mind racing all night.

For David, God was all he desired and all that would satisfy Him (v.5).  That is why He gave his all to God even in the night.  When God is all that you desire, you let Him sort things out. (vv. 9-11)

Remember these thoughts from saints of yesteryear:

“I cannot read; I cannot think; I cannot even pray; but I can trust.”  –  J. Hudson Taylor suffering mental and physical breakdown upon hearing that 58 of his missionaries and 21 children in China were massacred.  (Pray Magazine, Mar/Apr 2008, p. 22.)

When you can’t trace His hand you can trust His heart.  –   Charles Spurgeon  (Quoted by Robert J. Morgan in The Promise, p. 53.

I know it is hard.  I’ve had those nights… still having them.  But in the battle surrender to trust.  CLING TO GOD as though He were your only protection.  In the end… He is indeed all we need.

“Sir, Will You Please Run With Me?”

Marine KerrEphesians 6:21-22

“But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you.  I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts.” (Emphasis on the word “comfort” is mine.)

Just read the story and saw the picture (see left) of Lance Cpl. Myles Kerr and his memorable run in the Jeff Drenth Memorial 5K footrace in Charlevoix, Michigan last weekend.  He didn’t technically “win.”  He came in dead last in his age group.  But he is a true winner in my book.

When 9-year-old Boden Fuchs  began to struggle in the race and then became separated from his group… he spotted the Marine.  Boden asked Kerr, “Sir, will you please run with me?” Kerr agreed to run with him and stuck with him until he completed the race.  Kerr finished at 35:43 minutes (five seconds behind Boden).  He may have lost the race, but he won over many heart.  The above picture received over 200,000 Facebook likes and was shared close to 10,000 times.

And what was the response of Kerr after all the praise?  He sent out a tweet that read:  “I was just doing what any man would do, but thank you!”— Myles M. Kerr (@Myles_Kerr)

Wow!  His actions remind me of the NT virtue of encouragement.  The Greek word is parakeleo.  It comes from “para” meaning “alongside” and from “keleo” meaning “to call.”  This strong and rich adjective can mean many things: comfort, exhortation, admonishment, instruction, teaching, begging, beseeching and, of course, encouragement.  In the above verse from Ephesians, Paul sent Tychicus to parakeleo… to come alongside… the Ephesians.  What an awesome word picture this is!

In fact, in the upper room, when Jesus teaches about the Holy Spirit, he refers to Him as the parakeletos… often translated, the “Helper” or the “Comforter.”  The Holy Spirit, much like the marine mentioned above, runs alongside us… exhorting us… begging us.. instructing us… comforting us… encouraging us… to keep running and to finish our race.

And if I am reading Ephesians correctly… it is a quality that we are to display ourselves.  Like Tychicus, when we hear:  “Sir, (or Ma’am), would you run with me?” we are to break off, adjust our pace to cadence, and help the struggling runner to complete their race.  Not for glory or praise, but because it is what “any man (or woman) would do.”

Know anybody that needs you to run with them today?   A teenager?  A close friend?  A widow?  Come along side them… and let them know they are not alone!  We are all in this race together!

And then realize that you are not alone either… the Comforter runs beside you… encouraging and leading you to the finish line and home!