Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Construction Zone

"A voice is calling, 'Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God'" (Isaiah 40:3).
The wilderness is the place where roads and highways are made for God to travel.  In my experience, our greatest spiritual growth occurs in the wilderness.  When we reach the end of our means, we are most likely at the beginning of God's.

We can apply a few things to our lives in regards to roads and how they are built.

#1--Road construction takes time.  Construction zones sometimes last for many years.  The work that God is doing in our lives could take a while to accomplish.  We might as well learn to enjoy flashing yellow lights and the sound of heavy machinery.

#2--Road construction requires major change.  Rocks and hills are sometimes removed and valleys have to be filled in.  Old roads are torn up and favorite exits are closed.  God's work in our lives will not be convenient.  Change is often painful.  It usually gets worse before it gets better as traffic slows into one lane and the highway is temporarily replaced with narrow detours.

#3--Road construction makes us slow down.  75 becomes 45 and fines are doubled.  Our agenda gives way to the man standing in front of our car holding a stop sign.  We can get bitter...or we can get's a choice...but we will will have to slow down and maybe stop regardless.

#4--Road construction results in a better road...eventually.  We can flip a u-turn, we can find an exit, or we can press on, believing that a better road lies just ahead.

"The road to success is always under construction" --Arnold Palmer

Monday, January 05, 2015

The Wilderness

The wilderness is the desolate place where we sometimes find ourselves--the place where nothing grows and water is scarce.  Jesus was led by Spirit into the wilderness where He was tempted without food for 40 days (Luke 4:1-13).  The prophet Elijah spent some time in the wilderness when he fled for his life from Jezebel (1 Kings 19:1-18).  It seems that many of those whom God used spent some time wandering in the wilderness: Moses, David, and more.

Genesis 16 tells us about Hagar's time in the wilderness.  The story goes that Abraham and Sarai had no children together even though God had promised descendents numbering like the stars in the heavens.    Sarai suggested that Abram sleep with her servant Hagar in order to obtain offspring.  When Hagar conceived, Sarai began to despise Hagar and started treating her harshly.  The result was that Hagar fled into the wilderness.

"Now the angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur.  He said, 'Hagar, Sarai's maid, where have you come from and where are you going?'  And she said, 'I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.'  Then the angel of the Lord said to her, 'Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.'  Moreover, the angel of the Lord said to her, 'I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count'" (Genesis 16:7-10).

A couple of things jump out of the text. #1--The angel of the Lord found her.  Let me suggest that we cannot go so far into the wilderness that we are out of God's sight.  The angel found her and he will find us too.  You may feel lonely, but you are not alone. 

#2--The angel asks, "Where have you come from and where are you going?"  God is interested in your past and your future.  And, most likely, your past and future are connected.  Understand where you come from and you will have insight into where you are going.

#3--Hagar is to return to the source of her pain (Sarai) and submit to her authority.  God's purpose is not necessarily to release us from pain--but to release us from fear and frustration.  God uses pain and sometimes bitter people to ground us and grow us.

#4--God promises blessing to Hagar.  She wasn't going to feel blessed submitting to Sarai but God had promised it nonetheless.  It's not about "feeling" but "faithing". 

"Father in Heaven, bless my fellow wilderness-wanderers.  May today be a a day of love and life.  Open our hearts and minds to receive your Word.  Bless us today to be blessings to others.  In Jesus' name--Amen!"