“Talitha Koum!”

You know… I am passionate about God’s word. I can completely fill up on the pages of Scripture, and it takes real effort to pull myself away at times. Because I find it addictive. And it was through several years of devouring God’s word that I developed another passion… God’s women. That’s because for so long, this woman simply went through the motions of church, and all that implies. Honestly, it’s only recently that I’ve begun to know God. And I’ve come to know Him through His word. And because I have developed such a taste for Scripture, I want other women to be as hungry as I am. I want them to know what I know. And so, my passion is for God’s word, and for His women. 

And Vacation Bible School? Well, that’s something I haven’t felt so passionate about. Because it’s for kids, right? And so, I volunteered only because it was something I thought I should do. I simply told the person in charge to put me where she wanted to put me. And the truth is (shamefully), I wasn’t really looking forward to it. My heart just wasn’t in it. Because in my mind, it wasn’t about God’s women. Or so I thought.

And so, this week I was pleasantly surprised. Because although I was placed with 4th through 6th graders (who intimidate the heck out of me), I was blessed. Although I wouldn’t have selected this age group had I signed up myself, I found my nerves subsiding. See, my child is only six, so I don’t have those older kid skills yet. And because kids don’t come naturally to me, I usually feel awkward with children beyond my son’s age. And so, what I found within my heart this week caught me off guard. Because what I found inside was unexpected and wonderful. I found love. Real love. And most particularly… I felt it for those precious girls.

sad girl 4

Do you know what 4th through 6th grade girls are? Why, they’re mini-women. And right now, they are full of life. Their faces are bright and shining, and grins and laughs abound. They have energy… they have love… and they have hope. Some are exceedingly confident and some are quiet and shy. But all in all, I saw happy girls at Vacation Bible School. Full girls. And so, my heart ached. It broke just a little because I know that they are right there on the edge. I know what they’re likely to come face to face with in just a few short years. I know because I was just like them. I clearly remember how I took things to heart. Because girls, well, they’re fragile. They’re sensitive. And they’re breakable. And before long, these girls will enter the school of hard knocks. And I just have to wonder what they will be like afterward. Will life dull the shine? Will circumstances still the laughter? Will reality quell hope? Is their fullness enough to carry them through?

You know… the truth is some of these mini-women have already endured hard knocks. I saw it when a man spoke harshly to a young girl this week. He didn’t mean anything by it, and it wasn’t really a big deal. But, I cringed inside. Because I remember how I felt. See, a hasty command issued in a stern tone can be humiliating to a young girl. Especially when everyone else hears. So cutting. And yet, she kept smiling. But I wondered… how was her inside at that moment? And kids… you know, they get so excited. In their eagerness, they forget about other people. And so, they can push. And although it was only for a short while, I saw when a young girl shut down. Her arms crossed in front of her, and her face fell as she backed into the wall. She didn’t want to get pushed further aside. And then there’s home life. In speaking with a couple of moms, I found some young women already have hurts and anxieties. And in reality, they have already entered the school of hard knocks. The truth is, some of them have endured the blows of life… some being knocked down already. God’s girls… His mini-women. And my heart aches for them. Because I want them to know what I know.

Then He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha Koum!” (which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”) Immediately the girl got up and began to walk. (She was 12 years old.) Mark 5:41-42

These girls, who are really just mini-women, touched my heart this week. But I am hopeful for them. See, they have a foundation and are building their lives on Christ. And no doubt, they will get knocked down in life. Because life is full of harsh people… and pushy people… and disappointment… and heartache. They’ve had only a taste of the bitterness life can afford them. But they’ve also tasted the sweet… Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus. I want them to know that when life knocks them down, they can get up. I hope they hear Him when He calls to them, “Talitha Koum!” I hope these mini-women graduate from the school of hard knocks with honors. May their testimonies be honoring to God when all is said and done.

Yes, I have such passion… I am passionate for God’s women. But also for His word. Because it’s His word that sustains me and keeps me going. I know that God has issued an open invitation to His banquet, and that He supplies us with fresh manna daily. We just need to open our mouths, and Bibles, and feast. We must fill up on His word, so that we have enough sustenance to carry us through. Because the school of hard knocks is lengthy. And life is harsh. People are pushy, and we can be knocked down. It’s His word that will help us stand up again. What Jesus said in Mark 5:43 holds true today. He said that “she should be given something to eat.” Let’s give these young girls… these mini-women… the word of God. Let’s show them how to feast on the pages of Scripture. So that when they fall, they’ll remember what He said:

“Little girl, I say to you, get up!”

And may she rise.

Does she know?

I’m studying the book of Esther. And through the second chapter, I learned that this young, Jewish woman (who became the queen of Persia) was beautiful in both form and face. Basically, she was a knock out. And not only that, her beauty was more than skin deep. There was just something about Esther that made her so likeable… to both men and women. Because she won the favor of everyone she came into contact with. It sounds like she had it all, doesn’t it? But no, if you read closely you see that she must have had some sadness in her life, for she was orphaned. Because she had no parents, her cousin adopted her and raised her as his own. And not only that, because the king put forth a decree, she was taken to the palace along with all the other beautiful women. So Esther, who had lost her parents, was then abruptly taken from the only one she knew as a father. So realistically, she didn’t have it all. She only looked like it. And the amazing thing is that despite her less than favorable circumstances, she retained a sweet soul. She had to have, for she gained favor wherever she went. She must have positively glowed… inside and out. Do you know anyone like that?

Yesterday, I wondered if there was someone like this in my life. But sadly, no one came to mind. Because I must be honest… if I know a drop-dead, gorgeous woman, there may be the smallest part of me that feels a little bit jealous. And maybe, I feel a hint of intimidation. So, really, no one readily came to mind yesterday. But this morning, I thought of someone. See, I’m memorizing a new verse…

I would have lost heart unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living…       Psalm 27:13

“Lost heart” captured my attention. Another version of the Bible says it this way… “I am certain that I will see the LORD’s goodness.” This verse is all about faith. This verse exhibits such hope. The psalmist who wrote this fully expects to see God’s goodness in the land. And this made me think of a woman I know. She happens to be exceedingly beautiful. Not only that, her beauty is more than skin deep. Whenever I am in her presence, I feel happy to be with her. She is sweet and authentic and lovely… but in reality, she doesn’t have it all. See, her circumstances are less than favorable. This woman has two boys, both with a disease called Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Her days are hard, and her heart must positively ache at times. But you would never, ever know it. For her attitude is always uplifting. This woman gains the favor of all those who see her (Esther 2:15). And coincidentally (or not so coincidentally), this woman posted something on her Facebook page yesterday that moved me. Perhaps this is what brought her to mind today:

“I want to thank God even for the afflictions, pain, hardships and discouragement I have met with over the years, for through them I have realized God’s ever-loving presence no matter how hard things may be.”

Amazing. I just bet you this woman has faith that runs through to her marrow. I’m sure that with each new dawn, she has fresh hope. Because she has to… for her boys. They are her life. This woman has to look to God. She must believe and never give up… or else she would lose heart. But for her boys, she will endure. She will not lose heart for she believes that she will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. I’m sure she feels that way… she must. But I just have to wonder… would I be that strong? Could I be?

And so, today, I find it’s her birthday. Perhaps that’s why God brought her to mind this morning. And today, on her birthday, I wonder if she knows. Does she know how much she inspires the people who know her? Does she know what a light she is in this dark world? Does she know that she gives hope to each one of us? Does she know that I want to be just like her… and that I admire her… and that if I am ever surrounded by such circumstances, I hope and pray that I could stand in faith… as she does. I would hope that I could follow her lead, and be of good courage, and that I would wait on the LORD… as she does. And, does she know how very, beautiful she is… both inside and out? Does she know??

Today, it’s her birthday. And so today, I ask you to please surround her. Bathe her in prayer and lift her up. Because she deserves it. Pray for those boys, I implore you, and pray for this woman, who is exceedingly beautiful. Pray that she will rejoice and that she will endure. And pray that she will see the goodness of the LORD. Pray, so that she’ll know. See, I want her to know, for her birthday, just how beautiful she really is… to all of us.

And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:3-5

Quicksand

Perhaps you’re familiar with the quicksand scenes in movies. Wikipedia states that during the 1960’s, nearly 3% of all films included such a scene… you know, someone begins to sink in mud or sand or clay and they began to flail about in a panicked way. Coincidentally, I just saw such a scene in Wreck-It Ralph. And inevitably, someone cautions, “Don’t move!” Because apparently, the more you move, the quicker you sink. But you know what… according to Wikipedia, this does not happen in real life. This type of scene is unrealistic and one being fully submerged in quicksand is purely fiction. And metaphorically, I find this to be true in my own life – spiritually speaking, that is.

For the past week, I have been fully submerged in God’s word and captivated by verses regarding His spiritual food and drink. And how simple it all sounds… “Come to me, eat and drink.” And it’s beautiful and seems so simple. But realistically and practically, how do you do that? How does one drink living water and feast on the bread of life? And at the risk of sounding over simplistic, I have found that it is just that… simple. Because eating and drinking and resting in Him is dependent on one thing… faith. Yes, we can come to Him, but “come” will take us only as far as our faith will carry us. So that’s the question… do we have faith in God? Do we really trust Him with our lives and every, single circumstance? Or do we still place our faith in man and precarious situations that can change at any given moment. And here’s truth… if we trust in the temporal, then we’re building on sand. And if we trust in only what we can see, then we end up focusing more on the problems at hand than on the God who can do all things. And when our troubles loom larger in our sight than God, we sink…

For troubles without number have surrounded me; my sins have overtaken me; I am unable to see. They are more then the hairs on my head, and my courage leaves me. Psalm 40:12

Only faith in God can hold us upright. And that type of faith can only be cultivated over time. I know, because after fifteen years of walking with God, I finally have a track record with Him. See, I am a worrier by nature. I tend to fret about the things I have no control over. It’s what I do. But now I can see, time and again, that God has always taken care of me. Always. No matter how many times I sank down in fear and anxiety about what might have been, God never let go of me utterly. He never released His grip on me, and by His grace, I never fully submerged in the muck of my making. God always brought me through it, whatever it may have been. And so it’s only now, after fifteen years, that I can see what’s taken place. It’s only through the years of walking with God, that my faith has been established.

Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6

I was amused when I read about quicksand. I’m no scholar, so I confess I don’t understand all of it. But pieces of it came together for me. Specifically, the fact that quicksand consists of three elements. One, a fine granular material (such as sand or silt), clay and water. And what a picture of our lives here! See, God is the Potter, and we are the clay. And we have unlimited access to His living water. And the sand? Well, “like sand through the hour glass, so are the days or our lives”… And what I find incredibly interesting is the fact that quicksand forms in loose sand when the sand is suddenly agitated. The way I see it, the sand is our every day activities. And the best we can hope for is that our sand (or circumstances) is loose so that we can walk freely, unencumbered. But it’s only when the sand becomes suddenly agitated that we’ll know how deep our faith runs. In other words, when the pressures of life begin to mount, and when our schedules become more compressed, and when we feel restricted in some way… will we sink or will we stand? Will our faith hold us up? Because the fact is, quicksand forms in both standing water or in upwards flowing water. See, even if we’re fully immersed in God’s free flowing, living water, the sand can suddenly be agitated. It makes no difference where we are (spiritually), because quicksand can form. As Jesus said, troubles will come. So, will our faith hold us up, or will the burdens of life threaten to bury us. Will we stand, or will we sink?

The truth about God & me is that I’ve not always stood. It’s only in looking back that I can see this. But now, I have a track record with God. I can see His hand upon my every step. And so, my faith is deepened. And I have hope… the hope that next time I will stand. We all can. Because whether we realize it or not, we have a firm place to rest our feet. For Christ is the solid rock. And all that other ground is simply sinking sand.

I waited patiently for the LORD, and He turned to me and heard my cry for help. He brought me up from a desolate pit, out of the muddy clay, and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure. Psalm 40:1-2

Isn’t it ironic?

It was just under three years ago that God’s favor rested upon me. He brought me into a land (my hometown), of which I was desperate to possess for years and years. I likened my time away to the Israelite’s years of wilderness wandering. I fancied that surely I must have felt similar to them as they anxiously awaited that glorious day… the day when God would usher them into their promised land. And it did happen… for them and for me.

For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams of water, springs, and deep water sources, flowing in both valleys and hills; a land of wheat, barley, vines, figs, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without shortage, where you will lack nothing; a land whose rocks are iron and from whose hills you will mine copper.” Deuteronomy 8:7-9

Today, my heart is stirred by this passage of Scripture on more levels than I can describe. Because it speaks of the promised land… a land that I always considered my home. And when I ponder how God moved me from there to here, I now see it’s been more of a spiritual move than anything. Because my relationship with Him has utterly changed since coming back. And it’s through these last few days that my undivided attention has been on His spiritual food and drink. So when I stumbled across the above passage, it nearly leapt of the pages of my Bible. I knew I wanted to use it in a blog because of references to plentiful food and water. But, the funny thing is – or shall I say the ironic part is – I didn’t plan on using last line! Because rocks of iron didn’t flow with what I had been feeling and thinking. But my eyes have been opened… And today, it’s specifically the last part I am captivated by.

This morning, I looked up irony and was surprised by the definition I found. I·ron·y  adjective – consisting of, containing, or resembling the metal iron: an irony color. What? I had never heard of that, and it’s not at all what I expected to find. And so, this new definition immediately brought Deuteronomy 8 to mind… because I remembered… I thought, “rocks of iron.” And so, I saw the truth. Because since returning to my promised land, irony is exactly what I have been mining. Honestly, I have been chipping away at a massive boulder of iron since day one. Because I am here in this land of plenty, and yet, I am not tapping into what’s good and abundant. See, my eyes have been closed. How ironic…

Irony is having your deepest, heartfelt prayer request answered, but upon entrance to your promised land finding yourself in a place you never, ever would have imagined… the deepest of pits. Irony is being delivered to the place you always wanted to return to; however, rather than a heart filled with joy, you find a heart full of bitterness. Irony is that on the heels of God’s goodness, you find yourself further away from God than ever. And irony is finding a home that you just had to have, and yet, there were issues with the well. There were problems with the water source. See, the water was dirty. Oh, there was plenty of it… only it was filled with bacteria. And perhaps what I thought was a coppery hue was in fact irony. Because it is so very ironic that at that time, I had unlimited access to clean, living water… only, I was completely overcome by anxiety and worry over an earthly well. I didn’t have faith in God, rather, I placed all my trust in a bank, and man-made methods, and UV lights, forsaking the One who brought me into the promised land to begin with. Irony is that I was torn up over a well, of all things, and the foul water that housed it… when there were streams of living water directly in front of my eyes. I just couldn’t see it. And so, instead of digging for living water, I mined for iron. And the deeper I dug, the wider the pit became in which I dwelt. Down, down I went as the troubles and worries heaped higher and higher.  Yes, irony is that upon entrance to your promised land you find yourself in the driest of deserts.

Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind, who makes human flesh his strength and turns his heart from the LORD. He will be like a juniper in the Arabah; he cannot see when good comes but dwells in the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land where no one lives. Jeremiah 17:5-6

Today, I looked up the definition of well. You know, the place where you expect to find water. And once again, irony abounds. Because according to Strong’s concordance, there are two meanings. One being, a shaft in the ground for extraction of water. And two, a pit, a depression in the earth with no focus on water. How funny is it that the house I wanted to buy within the borders of my hometown had a well full of dirty water… and how very ironic that I was so engrossed by the water shaft in the ground that I ended up falling into the deepest of pits – a depression – and I had no focus on the living water that could have lifted me out.

I bet Hagar could taste the irony that surrounded her. Do you remember her story? She was the servant by whom Abraham fathered a child. See, Sarah was tired of waiting on God for a child, so she manipulated His plan according to her time table. Sarah offered her maidservant to Abraham, and when Hagar actually conceived (which Sarah wanted), she became embittered. See, Hagar was able to do what she had not. And then, Sarah began to mistreat Hagar for the very thing she wanted her to do in the first place! Ironic, huh? Hagar ran away, but encountered the living God through her desert wandering. And by a spring of water, of all places. God sent her back, but eventually Sarah had her own child. Because things became worse, and Sarah commanded it, Hagar had to leave once again.

Abraham sent Hagar and her son away, but with provisions… a waterskin filled with water. They wandered through Beer-sheba, but inevitably, the water ran dry. And this time… Hagar didn’t see a spring of water. This time, she had no hope. And so, the child lay under a tree dying, and Hagar walked off a distance and wept. And then, when things looked the bleakest, an angel spoke to Hagar. He said, “What’s wrong, Hagar? Don’t be afraid, for God has heard the voice of the boy from the place where he is. Get up, help the boy up, and sustain him, for I will make him a great nation.” Genesis 21:17-18. And that’s when it happened… God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. Do you see? The water was there all along… Hagar just couldn’t see it. Her problems had grown so high, that’s all she could see. Because Hagar was dwelling in a pit of despair, she was blinded to what lie directly before her. And when the scales fell away, she finally saw hope. Because she was in Beer-sheba, which means seven wells. How ironic that Hagar journeyed through the land of seven wells, but couldn’t one of them.

Yes, it’s true that living water is available to us all. But here’s another truth… we must first see! Because living water, like H20, can surely run dry. We have to do our part… we must get up and sustain ourselves with it. Like Hagar did. As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t force it to drink. Same thing with us, spiritually speaking. We can be led to the edge of His live-giving river, but only we can take that first sip. What irony abounds in our lives… how ironic that we can be surrounded by God’s living water, and yet find ourselves dying of thirst. May it not be so.

May we refuse to remain in a dry land, and may we open our eyes to see! May we ever dig deep, tapping into the life-sustaining water that runs within us. And when we find it, may we gulp it down…

Again he measured off a third of a mile, and it was a river that I could not cross on foot. He asked me, “Do you see this, son of man?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I had returned, I saw a very large number of trees along both sides of the riverbank. He said to me, “This water flows out to the eastern region and goes down to the Arabah. When it enters the sea, the sea of foul water, the water becomes fresh. Every kind of living creature that swarms will live wherever the river flows, and there will be a huge number of fish because this water goes there. Since the water will become fresh, there will be life everywhere the river goes. Ezekiel 47:5-9

Come…

5000

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, because they will be filled. Matthew 5:6

My son and I just read about Noah and the ark. We talked about how the floodwaters surged on the face of the earth for 150 days, and how the ark finally came to rest atop a mountain. Eventually, the waters began to recede. And after 40 days, Noah opened the window of the ark to send out a raven… and the rest is history.

After the story, I asked my son how he would have felt being surrounded by all those animals in an ark for so long. And his answer took me by surprise. That’s because he said, “Hungry and thirsty.” What?? This is not at all what I expected, and so I asked him why he said what he did. And he answered, logically, “Well, 40 days and 40 nights…”

And quite rightly. Because after forty days without food and water, I, too, would be hungry and thirsty. My son seemed to have overlooked how long Noah was really aboard that ship, though… and obviously, we neglected to discuss food rations.

At any rate, I was stunned by my son’s reply. Because earlier this morning, I just thought about his early years. I smiled as I reminisced, picturing my son on his throne (otherwise called the couch), and how he used to make his demands. He would cry out, “Hungry! Thirsty!” And until I realized how very wrong it was, I used to jump at his every command, supplying him with food and drink as quickly as possible.

Eventually, I figured out I needed to teach my boy some manners, and how one should politely ask for food and water. But, for a time that’s just what I did… he would yell, “Hungry!” or “Thirsty!” and I would fulfill his need.

I find it amazing that this is where his little mind took him this morning. For in contemplating what life must have been like on that ark, he did not hone in on it being fearful, or dark, or scary, or perhaps exhilarating and exciting. No, it was physical needs that spoke to my son. And that makes me think of Jesus, who also had physical needs.

Before Jesus began His earthly ministry, He fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. And afterward, quite rightly, He was hungry. That’s when the tempter approached Him and said, “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” But He answered, “It is written: Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” See, although Jesus knew the reality of real hunger, he also knew a deeper truth… and it was this deeper truth He spoke of in Matthew 4:4.

Today, we know very well how real hunger and thirst are. Because when our throats become dry, or when our tummies begin to rumble, we can barely concentrate on anything else. Because those physical demands consume us. But, there’s another type of hunger and thirst that is every bit as real as the physical. Only this type goes so much deeper than the surface.

See, I have felt hunger pangs that Wonder Bread cannot assuage, and I have experienced a thirst that not even Evian could quench. And perhaps the woman we read about in the fourth chapter of John felt the same. Perhaps she, too, had an unquenchable thirst and a hunger for more than bread alone. Because although this woman went to the well to gather water, she gained so much more. Oh, she was thirsty, alright, but for something deep and internal…

I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God? Psalm 42:2

Jesus came to a town of Samaria, and because he was worn out from his journey, he sat down at a well. In the evening, a woman of Samaria came to draw water but Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” She was surprised that He spoke to her since He was a Jew, and Jews did not associate with Samaritans. When she mentioned this, Jesus simply said, “If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would ask Him, and He would give you living water.”

The woman wanted to know how to get this living water since Jesus didn’t even have a bucket and the well was deep. He said, “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I give him will never get thirsty again-ever! In fact, the water I give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life.” She said, “Sir, give me this water…”

I’ve heard several sermons on this passage of Scripture. And because of circumstances, we can infer that this woman must have been an outcast. First of all, she was a Samaritan hated by the Jews even though they shared the same ancestry. Basically, she was from a mixed race and apparently racism extends as far back as we can recall. Not only that, she came to the well when it was evening… perhaps there was less chance of running into people she wished to avoid. And finally, this woman had been married five times and the one she lived with was not her husband.

I would bet this woman had some excess baggage and a closet full of skeletons. I would even venture to say she probably felt quite desperate. And hungry. And oh, so thirsty by the time she ran into Jesus. But then, something out of the ordinary occurred… for when the woman from Samaria tended to her daily chores, she encountered not just another man. No, this time she encountered a Savior. Right there in the midst of routine, she discovered Jesus Christ.

And though He was a Jew, Jesus did not turn the other way in an attempt to avoid her (which would have been the norm). No, He did not greet her with indignation or contempt or condemnation or judgment. Rather, He met her right where she was. He tended to her deeper needs. He spoke of spiritual matters and He told her how to assuage her thirst with living water.

I just have to smile when I think about my son in his more tender years. When his stomach growled, he’d yell out, “Hungry!” knowing that his mama would take care of him. And when his throat became parched, he’d call out, “Thirsty!”, again, knowing I was there to handle it. And I just have to smile when I think about what God would say to us, His own children, when we do the same today…

Because there are those times when I ache inside… times when I need something, but can’t say what. And it’s then that my starving soul must be crying out, “Hungry!” And His reply?

“I am the bread of life. No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry again…” John 6:35

And for those times when I feel as dry as a bone… times when I am near desperate for revival of my soul but just can’t seem to get there. It’s then that my insides must be screaming, “Thirsty!” And His reply?

If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! John 7:37

God is simply waiting for us to ask… because He is our heavenly father. When we’re hungry, He will feed us. And when we’re thirsty, He will give us drink. And if we open our ears to His word, we will hear Him.

For He says, “Come…”

Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters; and you without money, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost! Why do you spend money on what is not good, and your wages on what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and you will enjoy the choicest of foods. Pay attention and come to Me; listen, so that you will live. Isaiah 55:1-3

 

So, what have you got?

If you’re alive and walking God’s green earth, then He has a plan for you… His thoughts are of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. And sometimes, that’s just hard to imagine. We look at our small lives, and wonder how in the world the God of all creation could possibly have a custom-made plan for each of us. Because we simply cannot fathom how we can be of any use to Him. We may even think, “I have positively nothing to offer.” Because times are hard, right? And the cost of living is rising. And because we’re so busy, time has become a commodity. Since we feel constraint, perhaps we hold back. But I know in my bones that holding back cannot be part of God’s custom-made plan. And as such, with regard to contributing to God’s kingdom and His plan, I just have to ask myself a question. I’ll pose the same to you. “So, what have you got?”

I can speak only for myself here, but at the basest level, I have me. And I have a pulse. And because I am living and breathing, I have God-given life. At the very least, I have that, right? And so, indeed, I possess life. And God has placed me strategically on this earth… for His purpose and His plan. He wants me to use what I have, which is life.

For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness”- He has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ. Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us. We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed. We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who live are always given over to death because of Jesus, so that Jesus’ life may be revealed in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you. 2 Corinthians 4:6-12

So I see. I am but a clay jar housing life, but also, so much more. Because inside, there is light and knowledge of God’s glory, and the face of Jesus through His death and His life, and God’s power. And I have spirit… the Spirit. All of this is contained within me, an earthen vessel, to be used for God’s glory. But He doesn’t want me to keep this treasure to myself, for it’s to be shared.

“The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.”       John 7:38

God wants for me to lavishly pour out these treasures, so that they splash onto and into the clay jars surrounding me. Because what I possess should be doled out freely… until everyone I come into contact with is drenched. I can be emptied, poured out as a drink offering, without the fear of drying up. Because the Spirit is endless. And I believe. And so, this is what I have… a river within me, and there are those who thirst.

There’s the story about a woman who lived long ago. We find her in the fourth chapter of 2 Kings. She was near the end of her rope. Her husband died, her debt had mounted, and finally, the creditors were coming to take away her two children as payment. And so, she did the only thing she knew to do… she approached the man of God. And Elisha asked her, “What can I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” She said there was nothing… nothing, but a jar of oil. But whereas she saw only need, Elisha saw opportunity. He told her, “Go and borrow empty containers from everyone… from all your neighbors. Do not get just a few. Then go in and shut the door behind you and your sons, and pour oil into all these containers. Set the full ones to one side.” And that’s what she did…

Long ago a woman filled empty jars with oil until there were none left. And that’s exactly what we’re supposed to do today. See, God fills us – His clay jars – with His own oil. We have the Holy Spirit. And He can fill us to the brim. He can pour into us until there’s no more room and we’re overflowing. Because the Holy Spirit is not a commodity… Its supply is limitless. And so, now, when we contemplate the question, “So, what have you got?” We can answer… We have a river. And it flows from deep within… streams of living water.

Yes, God has a purpose and a plan… for you, and for me. We are His earthen vessels, each one made to be filled. Until there are none left…

Many, mini deaths

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Jeremiah 29:11-14

It started with a promise. God said He would be found by me. But now I see. I have found Him… again and again. Because invariably, I begin to lose sight of Him. Inevitably, something will displace Him from my view. Something will claim all my attention, and ultimately, hold me captive. And it could be a good thing, or, it could be a bad thing. But ultimately, it makes no difference whether it’s good or bad, because if I’m holding to it tighter than God, then I will lose my grip on Him. And this is when I fall into captivity. When I loosen my grasp on God, I fall back into the pit of whatever it is that claims me. And there I stay… held down. Until, I remember. Him. For He has plans for me. I do have a future. And when I remember, I go to Him and I pray to Him. And He promises to listen to me.

God said that when I sought Him with my whole heart, He would be found by me. And this is true. Because when I turn to Him with my whole heart, He leads me back from my captivity. And this is my revelation. First, I must die. Because I am flesh and blood. And the flesh wants what the flesh wants. And if it’s sin I crave, then that sin leads to a spiritual death. And if misguided passion turns into obsession, then I have an idol I place above God. And if fear holds me down, then fear is my master… not God. Always, always, something begins to hold me captive. But the key that unlocks the the chains of my captivity is death… I must die to the want, I must die to the misplaced passion, and I must die to the fear. I must die… and there will be many, mini deaths in my life. For I have seen it. But behold, there’s beauty in my death throes. For with each occurrence, God brings me back to life. He never fails. Each time, He breathes fresh breath into my heart and soul. With each agony, He revives me. He never lets me go utterly.

And each time God revives my heart, there’s an opportunity. This is part of God’s plan for me. Because someone may witness my death. Someone may notice the change in my demeanor. Someone may even wonder what set me free from my captivity. And that someone is the whole point. For they may need to know the truth… the truth that they may need to die, too. Many, mini deaths may ultimately set them free. And do you see? My death only mimics what happened over 2000 years ago when a tomb lie empty. What someone else witnesses through my life can point the way to the cross, to the tomb, and to everlasting life. Because many, mini deaths lead to many, mini revivals. Someone will see a life, my life, resurrected.

And so it’s clear to me now. See, throughout my many years with God, I may have gotten “carried away” by something. And really, it’s happened more times than I can count. But God has been so faithful. Because with each banishment, I began to wither and die. And the longer my captivity, the drier I became. And eventually, I became so parched, I had to cry out for His living water. And that’s when I neared death, spiritually speaking. And when you’re that close to a spiritual death, you realize what’s really important. You don’t want to stay there, and so you realize you must die to whatever it is that holds you down. At least it happened that way for me. And so, I called out. And He kept His promise for He heard me. He listened out for my cry, and He gathered me from where He banished me. He brought me back to where I was first carried away captive – into exile. And He brought me back to life… again and again. Each time I neared a spiritual death, He picked me up and carried me… all the way to the cross. It’s at the foot of the cross where I find my life renewed… again and again.

And someone will see this… that’s the whole point. For it’s part of His plan. For me and for you. It’s through our many, mini deaths that someone will be led to new life. And my hope and prayer is that all who see will be carried to the cross… right there with us.