Joy in the Wilderness

During my journey through the wilderness of infertility God was with me every step of the way. He led me in, just as He has led me out. Just as He provided for Elijah in Kerith Ravine, God sent me His Spirit and His truth to feed me and to sustain me even as my womb remained barren and void of life, like a drought – a drought I had been born with. When the test results had first come back showing that I wasn’t ovulating and that I wasn’t creating the hormone levels needed to create nor sustain a pregnancy I had a choice. Would I decide what I was going to do next, or would I let God decide what I was going to do.

God tests us in the wilderness to see if we are truly fully devoted to Him, if we have a heart toward Him like Joshua and Caleb had even as they marched back into the wilderness away from the Promised Land. To be fully devoted to God is to be fully devoted to His authority, to His Lordship over everything, including the decisions we make. I determined to wait upon the Lord and to only do what I felt sure He was OK with me doing in my efforts to become a mom. Ultimately I was brought to the crossroads that even though this had been a dream of mine my whole life that if it was not God’s will, then God’s will be done. I had to submit to the pain of a failed attempt at pregnancy over and over again and declare that God was good, no matter what. The thing that amazed me in all of this was that God taught me about His goodness in the midst of the wilderness. He taught me by allowing me to experience the depth and the love of His goodness when I all I had was Him. He taught me that He was more than enough.

When I took that really hard step and declared that God was good, as I cried and sobbed my heart upon the floor I should add…God responded by bolstering me up in Him, by doubling my portion of faith and by filling my heart with joy–joy in Him. We can have joy in the wilderness. It all just depends on whether or not we will say:

Have your way in me oh Lord.

A few weeks ago a pastor in my life, Clay Gatlin, shared a message out of Proverbs and spoke about God’s authority and determination of “our vat”. How big our vat is, and whether it is overflowing or not. This could mean a myriad of things for each of us, our income, our health, whatever our lot. For me it was my womb, God has spent almost the past 6 years teaching me and bringing me into a deeper awareness of His authority over my womb and over my fertility. He did this through a womb that remained barren and lifeless year after year. It has been a journey of sorrow for sure, but one that I’m thankful for because God brought me so much closer to Him and to a place of trust. He taught me about the great wealth of His goodness as He challenged and grew my faith in regards to His love and goodness. When I stepped out and declared God’s goodness over my circumstances, no matter what–I felt such an immeasurable level of peace and joy in the Lord, a peace and joy that sustained me and healed my heart even in the midst of a barren “vat”.

I’m so excited to tell you that my husband and I are expecting. After 5 1/2 of trying, and almost to the end of the time I was willing to go through the emotional roller coaster anymore, lo and behold God has filled my vat to overflow with life! When Pastor Clay spoke about how some of us have small vats and others have big vats and that we shouldn’t compare our vats that really resounded with me because God doesn’t want me to compare my vat with with other women’s vats, other women who will be blessed abundantly in their fertility. I just need to keep my eyes on God and rejoice in Him during this most amazing season in my life as my vat is literally bursting forth (my belly is surely growing and I love it)! I love the my vat is physically growing as a living testimony of God’s perfect timing and goodness. 🙂 I am soooo incredibly thankful to God for my baby and I love him so much already.

We each have our place to serve and to bring glory to God in the kingdom before He calls us home. I rejoice with women who have been called by God to bear many children. I rejoice in God for the place that He has for me in His kingdom as well. I rejoice with all women for the place that He has for each of us as His dearly beloved bride. Oh how deep and how wide is the love and the passion of our bridegroom for each of us. Lose yourself in Him. Catch your reflection in His tender gaze. We are each so precious in His sight, the apple of His eye.

 

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Vengeance in the Wilderness

Even when we walk faithfully with God in the wilderness, the wilderness is still a hard place to be. Darkness and confusion seemingly surround us and we are being tested and refined to live by faith. One of the hardest things to do in the wilderness is to resist the temptation to take vengeance into our own hands. In the wilderness when others hurt us it is compounded because of the pain we are already going through. To love, to forgive, and to spare in spite of what a situation or a person says or does takes the strength and the love of God. It is too great in our weakness for us to do this on our own. It requires supernatural, it requires faith. The only way to give grace is to learn grace, and learning grace is hard because it is undeserved. Having mercy is hard because it is undeserved.

It may also feel just downright wrong. The enemy will try to get us to believe so many lies to justify our hatred, our anger or our vengeance. What we have to remember is that no one is “getting away” with anything. When we exercise love and forgiveness we first must exercise faith in God. It requires for us to trust Him. The Lord’s Prayer begins with two very important words: “Our Father”. God loves His adopted, we are His children, and His love for us is more fierce and more passionate than the love of any parent–as hard as that can be to imagine. We are precious in His sight. When we choose to love and to have grace in a situation where it is not deserved we are choosing to trust God with the situation. We are releasing the people and the circumstances to the authority of God. We are reserving the right for justice over to God. He is perfect and we can trust Him with that.

Even in our daily lives this is difficult. It doesn’t take extreme wilderness circumstances to have to face difficulty in releasing anger to God in exchange for love. However, with the help of the Holy Spirit we can do it-and we must do it. God commands us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. He commands us to not keep a record of wrongs. He commands us to forgive. He knows this is to hard for us without His help – and He longs to fill us with the Holy Spirit in order to perfect His love in and through us.

Think about David in 1 Samuel 26. Talk about being in a wilderness on the account of another! Filled with jealousy and bent on preserving his line as the rulers of Israel, Saul was in pursuit of David’s life, acting in direct defiance of God’s will. David ended up in the wilderness, hiding out as a fugitive because of this. In 1 Samuel 26 David and a companion stood over Saul as he slept in his camp with the perfect opportunity to kill Saul with his own spear. His companion even offered to do it on David’s behalf so the blood wouldn’t be “on David’s hands”. David absolutely refused however. What if you are in a situation where the stars align perfectly for you to get back at someone who has hurt you and even to not have to do the dirty work yourself? Would you consider that to be divine providence for vengeance or would you steadfastly reserve vengeance for the Lord – biting your tongue, refusing to harm the other person in any way…? Furthermore David had been directly anointed by Samuel to be the next King of Israel – with witnesses, and the people loved him! In the eyes of man David could have walked away from this with every justification necessary–but not in the eyes of God. David understood that vengeance belonged to the Lord. In I Samuel 24 David had spared Saul’s life. then in Is Samuel 25 David was tempted to execute vengeance for himself and his men against Nabal, but God used Abigail to stop David with wisdom and then God executed the justice on David’s behalf. Then in I Samuel 26 David faced another perfect opportunity to take Saul’s life. By this time He’d learned it didn’t matter if two, if a hundred perfect opportunities to execute vengeance presented themselves, even if was seen as justice in the eyes of men – vengeance belonged to the Lord.

There was a time in my own life when I was wrapped up in bitterness, hatred and anger, so deep and so wide that it took the supernatural help from God to love those that had betrayed me and to forgive the unforgivable. But God commanded me to do it and He planted a love in my heart that I did not and could not have mustered on my own. In addition to helping to forgive, God also manifested restoration and healing. Just because we forgive someone and have love and grace doesn’t mean we have (or should have) a restored relationship with them. However, if it is God’s will (well really it is, but if the other person(s) is in resistance to the will of God it may not be possible)…Restoration it is so delightful, a wonderful gift from the Lord! God desires to heal each of us. To make brand new that which has been tattered and torn. No situation, no wilderness is beyond the hope and the help of God – Miraculous, Wondrous, Wonderful God. Our Father. Trust in Him. Release vengeance to Him. He is faithful.

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Strengthened in the Wilderness

Yesterday I posted about staying faithful to God in the wilderness, even a wilderness that comes upon us because of the sins of others. We are to fully follow God–whether He tells us to go back into a wilderness or to go forward into the Promised Land. Not every wilderness is the result of another’s sin. I’ve suffered in the wilderness because of my own sins (see my post But, there is a Redeemer) and I’ve suffered in the wilderness simply because we live in a fallen world and there is a curse of death upon our bodies (see my blog series starting with 5 Years). No matter how we end up in a wilderness though, if we humble ourselves before the Lord and recognize His authority by submitting to Him then God will provide for us in the midst of the suffering.

Think about Elijah, when Ahab and Jezebel brought suffering upon Israel because of their sin. The land was parched with drought, and on top of that Ahab and Jezebel were out to kill Elijah. Jezebel was out to kill all of the prophets of God in fact. It was a dangerous and perilous time to be a prophet of God–but God provided for Elijah. Elijah was faithful to God in the “wilderness” season of his life and God in turn transformed the actual wilderness into a safe haven for Elijah:

“Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan.  You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.”

So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.” I Kings 17:2-6

One of my favorite verses in Exodus is chapter 15 verse 27:

“Then they [the Israelites during the Exodus in the wilderness] came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.”

God had created these 12 springs of water, one for each of the tribes of Israel, way before the Exodus. In His providence He created a safe haven for them, a place to camp at. Interestingly, and importantly they were tested directly before this provision with a time of wondering where there was no water, and a time where there was only bitter, unfit water.

Whether we’ve brought the consequences of sin upon ourselves, or whether we are suffering because of others or even because of the way we were born–God longs to be tender and affectionate towards us in the wilderness. He longs to provide for us supernaturally and providentially. God is able. Sometimes we find ourselves in a wilderness all of a sudden, and sometimes, just like Caleb, Joshua and Elijah, we need to obey God when he tells us to enter into the wilderness.

It is in the wilderness where God can teach us and refine us. It is in the wilderness where God chooses often to show Himself mighty and strong. It is in the wilderness where God delights in magnifying His love and His provision to His faithful ones. It is in the wilderness where you suddenly become aware of how much you have to rely upon Him. It is in the wilderness where He opens up the Rock and nourishes us with Living Water.

He is all that we need.

http://www.freeimages.com/photo/lonely-hawthorn-tree-1313433

Faithful in the Wilderness

I’ve recently been going through the Bible and reading all of the scriptures about Caleb in the Bible. This led me to reading and meditating upon Numbers 13-14. Here Joshua and Caleb go out with the rest of the spies that God commands to scout the promised to bring a report back. Joshua and Caleb bring back a report of faith, encouraging the people to follow God into the land, and promptly! They were eager to go because of their faith, they were excited to go into the land, into the promise God had for them and His people.

The rest of the spies saw the land through eyes that lacked faith in God. They scared the people into not wanting to enter the land. In fact their report is described as “evil”. To discourage or detract others from God’s will is evil. One of the footnotes in the Amplified Classic version describes it best, “God is what makes the difference between cowards and Calebs”…You see if God is with you and if you are walking in obedience with Him, then who can be against you?

However, the majority of the people were not in-tune with God, they lacked faith because they lacked a devotion to God. The best way to build faith, to build devotion is to devote time in prayer and to cherish time spent in the study of His word. To wait upon the Lord. Shockingly they became so consumed in their fears and self-justified in their way instead of God’s way that they sought to stone Joshua and Caleb after Caleb pled with them to not rebel, but to trust and obey God instead. Not only that, but the crowd decided it would be best to throw Moses and Aaron out of leadership so that they could get a leader that would take them back to Egypt…back into bondage, away from what they perceived to be impending disaster via sword in Canaan.

As many of us know the consequence of this was that they had to wonder 40 more years in the wilderness and every adult besides Joshua and Caleb would perish during that time. Did you ever notice though that it wasn’t just the rebellious ones that suffered? Their children suffered too. In Number 14:32-33 God tells them:

“But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness.

And your children shall be wanderers and shepherds in the wilderness for forty years and shall suffer for your whoredoms (your infidelity to your espoused God), until your corpses are consumed in the wilderness.

After the number of the days in which you spied out the land [of Canaan], even forty days, for each day a year shall you bear and suffer for your iniquities, even for forty years, and you shall know My displeasure [the revoking of My promise and My estrangement].”

We don’t sin in a vacuum. Our sin hurts others. Our sin hurts our children. There are real consequences for listening to the lies of fear and the reasoning of our own hearts rather than living by faith according to God’s commandments and Word.

The children weren’t the only ones to suffer though, so did Joshua and Caleb. So did the members of the congregation that were fully devoted and on-board with God’s plan to enter the promised land. They had to wander the wilderness too, for 40 more years of their life because of the sin of others. They hadn’t done anything wrong! Wouldn’t you be tempted in a situation like that to think “Hey wait a minute, I get that they have to be punished, but why me, I want to obey You, I want to enter the land…” Would you be tempted to leave, to give up on those that tried to stone you and oust God’s ordained leaders? Would you be tempted to test God and question His inclusion of you in the corporate consequences? Joshua and Caleb remained faithful to God though, even as they wondered the wilderness for 40 more years, their children and their families with them.

God is calling each of us to be wholly and fully devoted to Him and to remain faithful to Him, even if we are suffering because of the sins of others. Whether that sin be the sin of our parents or sin within a corporate body that you belong to. Think about our nation. We will suffer consequences as a nation for the decisions of the majority, for the decisions of leaders. In the midst of it all, God call those that are His to remain faithful to Him. To keep our eyes fixed on Him.

Caleb and Joshua did end up entering the promised land. Caleb was 85 years old when he finally got to go into battle for the portion of the land that was his inheritance:

“Now behold, the Lord has let me live, just as He spoke, these forty-five years, from the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, when Israel walked in the wilderness; and now behold, I am eighty-five years old today. I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in.” Joshua 15:10-11

God blessed Caleb with strength to fight still, even when he was 85, He was faithful and good to Caleb because Caleb had remained faithful to Him even when he had lost 45 years of his life to the wilderness because of corporate sin…The question is will you and I remain faithful to God in similar situations?

The Israelites are recorded over and over again as grumblers and complainers in the wilderness…grumbling against God. But Caleb is described as a man that was fully devoted to God and Joshua declared that as for him and his house they would serve the Lord. Although the people had wanted to stone them in Numbers 13 and 14, God protected them and these to men of courage didn’t give up because of discouragement, they remained in the places of leadership where God had placed them.

We each have a decision to make. Will we grumble and complain when the sins of others sweep us into a wilderness, a wilderness that is a consequence of another’s sin? Or will we stay steadfast in our trust and obedience to God? Making sure our heart is right, our mouth is pure before the Lord. We are each accountable for our own heart. We must remain faithful, devoted and focused on God, on His blessings and provision…whether or not we are in the wilderness or the promised land.

But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it. Numbers 14:24

Lord please help me to have a different spirit than the one that seeks to rule in my flesh. Please fill me with your Spirit. Lord please help me to walk according to the new heart and the new creation that I am in Jesus Christ, as a slave to righteousness instead of as a slave to sin. Lord please help me to remain devoted to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Lord please help me to remain devoted to You and to follow you fully whether it is in the wilderness or in the promised land.