For a while now I have been quite enamored with the semicolon. It is stronger than a comma, but weaker than a period. It separates major sentence elements. It is more than a pause; it… More
It is the Monday of Holy Week. Yesterday in church the palm branches were waving and shouts of “Hosanna!” were heard. We cry out “Save Us!” as Christ enters Jerusalem, we recognize the Savior has come and we lay down our garments before Him.
And Monday comes. With the celebration of praise and adoration comes the judgment of God. Christ is fully God and fully man, and with that entry into holy week He brings with Him the judgment of our fruitless, thieving hearts. Mark leaves us only eight verses of Monday and yet it’s a direct reflection of who we are and why we needed Christ’s entry on Sunday.
The fig tree not bearing out fruit isn’t Christ having a case of the Mondays and losing His temper. Remember He is GOD. No the fig tree should have had evidence of it’s future fruit bearing at that point in the season. But there was nothing. Christ wasn’t hangry, He was exacting judgment and pronouncing that judgment had come to all. That speaks directly to me and it should to us all as believers. Are we bearing fruit as expected by the Vine? Are we connected to the Source of our lives? We will show budding of that expectant fruit if we are, and we can expect the convicting power of Christ if we are not producing fruit.
Then we have the table-flipping Jesus, the Jesus who I seem to like alot. But He’s also bringing judgment, to our thieving hearts. To those that sit in the temple and seek to segregate, separate and profit from their own ideas and opinions. Thieving hearts that serve themselves rather than the gospel of Christ. Worshiping idols of greed, pride, ego and self-service.
So Monday is here. The Monday that follows praise and adoration, triumphal celebration of Sunday and brings the urgent message of judgment. Judgment come in flesh for repentance…for confession…for turning. We see the full righteous anger of Christ on Monday of Holy Week, and how it directly speaks to us and the state of our hearts.
Often I skim read to get to the crux of a paragraph, chapter, article, etc. I don’t much care for details unless they are pertinent to a story, a character, a situation directly. The indirect stuff? You can keep it.
But in the details is where most of the story is in actuality. It’s where the plotlines develop, the characters come from the page and into being. It’s where most of the story is actually.
And it’s most often where I’d like a bit more involvement from God in my own life-the details of the every day, the situation, the cause and effect. We tell ourselves that a big God wouldn’t care about the details of our day, of our work, that relationship or that conflict. That He’s got better, more important stuff to handle like poverty, genocide, creating life.
But He does.
The details do matter to Him because I matter to Him. You matter to Him. What we are doing every day, in the big and the small-and especially the small, they matter.
The worshiping, confessing, ministering and cleansing of the Israelites in their day to day lives was so important God detailed how it should happen, what they should do, where it should be done because it all pointed back to Him. Every single detail pointed to a God who cared about the work of the people, how they worshiped, the responsibilities of the every day. He cared so much about the details that He gifted them the resources by which to build it far before they knew what they’d need it for. He set into the hearts of some to be gifted weavers to make the robes that pointed to the gospel before the very mention of Christ.
I like to point to God saying I’d like more details about why this matters, or that task has significance. I cry out for the bigger picture, when He has invited me into the details already. He’s asked for obedience in this task, right in front of me, gifting me with this particular set of skills in order to accomplish it for His good and glory, to point to Him and even to the gospel.
He is in the details of my life, and in yours, but I think I have gotten too accustomed to skimming through life in this perpetual state of hustle and bustle that I don’t see Him in the details. Because He is there, in the threads weaving a story if I but take time to listen, heed and obey.
“So God led the people around by the way of the wilderness by the Red Sea.”
Blink and you miss it in that verse nestled right before the crossing of the Red Sea in the Exodus of the Israelites. Right there, God led them out into the wilderness. It’s where John the Baptist would be called from before birth. It’s where Christ would spend 40 days. It wasn’t new for Moses to be in the wilderness, it’s where he met God.
God was intentional in leading His chosen people out of bondage and directly into the wilderness. There was another route, a more direct one along a road. But they would have encountered the Egyptians’ fortification for defensive purposes there, done long before the Exodus. God knew this, and He knew the Israelites were not prepared for battle…yet.
He knows this about us too. Knowing that the route we see as easier and exactly what we would plan out for our escape from slavery and bondage within this world isn’t for us. That route has a battle on it that we just aren’t ready for, so He leads us out into the wilderness just like Moses and His chosen people.
A few verses later we see exactly what was in store for the people of Israel on the wilderness way:
“And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night.”
He led them out to safety, to security, as a safe place and trusting guidance on their journey. He would part the sea through Moses’ hand. He would provide a way of escape for them. This wilderness way would point directly to depending upon God fully in the journey, for provision, for light…for all of it. This wilderness way was so the Israelites would focus on Him, His Presence with them in the entirety of each step, each moment, each day. In everything.
How often do I even recognize His Presence with me in my own life? In my wilderness, do I see it as a way to be prepared by Him? To be led by Him? To fully acknowledge and depend fully upon His Presence with me in every moment? Do I stop to consider He goes before me, leading my way into and through the wilderness because that’s exactly what He wants for me, and knows this is the absolute best for me?
Ever feel like God is calling out to you, in the middle of your daily life?
I don’t mean on like the David Koresh level y’all (I have been catching up on the new mini-series Waco obviously) But in a way that only you would recognize? Maybe to get your attention or to remind you that you are noticed?
I was thinking on this as I read through Exodus 3 and 4 this week. Granted Moses got a burning bush and that would be pretty hard to miss, but it was done in the midst of Moses’ daily work. He was in the back of the desert, tending to his father-in-law’s flock of sheep. He wasn’t just in the middle of a desert, he was at the back of it. Doing the day in and day out of work, laboring for his family when God met him there.
But Moses had to take notice first. I love how intentional Scripture is in pointing this out, that Moses stated he would turn aside and see this great sight. He was able to take notice of God revealing Himself to him. But it came at a time that was pretty mundane-doing his work in the field, 40 years into his stay in Midian as an alien resident. He’d fled there as I wrote about earlier.
God is so intentional with us if we are willing and open to hear Him, to seek Him even in the desert, even in our every day lives. The things which we think are mundane? Well He will use us for. I often hear people talk about wanting their “burning bush” moments with God, where He acts in these large ways…but that moment was Moses taking notice of God in the middle of his day, doing his work as he had done for years upon years.
How do we take notice of God speaking to us in specific ways about what He would have us do? How do open our eyes, our hearts, our ears to Him speaking in our day-to-day lives? As we tend our own flocks? As we live out years upon years in a foreign land? As we find ourselves at the back of a desert?
He calls to us when we take notice of Him, His pursuit, His work in and through our lives. We have to be willing to turn aside and see the great sight of Him appearing to us in each moment, day, and way.
Where is it that God has lit a bush on fire specifically for you? Have you missed it? Would you turn aside to see it?
I acted rashly. Out of emotion. Feeling that I was right and seeking to address the injustice rather than my own feelings. I was in what you would call a personal crisis, reflecting on something that had been stewing under the surface for a while but unwilling to address it head on. Until it came bubbling up in a single moment.
So now I find myself here. In this wilderness land. In a desert of my own making as I fled the consequences of my own sin. Of my rashness of judgement and severity of words. Of emotions and feelings that I allowed to be the controller of my thoughts and life. I didn’t realize how well I’d gotten at running until I took off outside the borders and the walls that I thought were trapping me in. That were attempting to confine me, rather than define the work I would be doing to bust them down.
I ran until I felt I was furthest away from the situations, the people, my emotions and sin, and the consequences of my words. Here I am at a well. In my moment of flight, in seeking to not be known for what has been done by me and to me, I find myself thirsting to be known. Thirsting for water that can wash over what I have dirtied. What others have cast upon me too. Not for just a moment’s satisfaction of quenching this thirst, like I felt my actions were…like my emotions led me to believe would satisfy the thirst for justice.
This desert has left me desperate for water that can only come from a well found in Him. Found in my desperate attempt to cling to everything but Him. To flee and hide, only to be found content in my desperate need for only Him. I came with nothing, only myself, and that’s all He has wanted of me from the beginning-just me. Now I am an alien in a foreign land, feeling as if I don’t belong and yet knowing to be content in exactly that. That wilderness is preparing me for the next season, the next step. Preparing my heart and my mind, quieting the voices of doubt and lies and letting me hear Him speak deeply to me.
I don’t know how long He would have me be here, in this land of Midian, but I know it’s not for me to question why I am here but to only present myself over to what He would have me see, prepare for, work out and understand…to be silent and content before Him alone. He meets me here, in the place of Midian. In the daily. To live out my life in pursuit of a desperate need for Him and not myself, not others, not my plan, my emotions, or my sense of justice.
Visiting new churches is difficult, no matter if you are a married or a single. I have mentioned this a time or two, and I know from friends that have kiddos that it’s especially hard to pull them up from the friend group to search out a new church home.
Recently I felt a bit uncomfortable with the comfortable nature I was feeling at my church of three years. The only tension I was finding was in seeing how comfortable the walls and rows had become with being right where they were. It bothered me so deeply that I decided to take a pause from my church and explore other options. Friends who are at other churches that I’d heard about or listened to their podcasts in the area suggested I check out their churches.
But I have to be honest here, I lost every bit of accountability the moment I walked out of my home church. If I didn’t show up that Sunday? Well that’s okay, no one would know but me…and God of course. And so for the past two months I have sort of coasted through this tension of my spiritual walk in finding a church based solely upon my expectations and not what the church is there to do-disciple and minister to the lost.
As I shared with a friend last night when he asked what he could pray for me on, I think I already knew where God was leading on this. Because as a single, we desperately need community rooted in the walls of the church. We need that accountability and that connectedness more than we need the church to live up to some expectation we have set for her.
For me what I didn’t recognize was a season of tension in my selfish expectations and the needs of the church right where I was at. I made it about me rather than about those around me. I directed it all inward rather than outward and upward. I pulled away from friendships and relationships out of a selfish need I discovered was rooted in lies, rooted in doubt and worry, judgement. Instead of taking it to others, I simply pulled up stakes and walked out.
When you are single, whether you are a leader in a ministry or even a pastor, you need that circle of relationships, you need the church and it’s community. You need the care and relationships that can sometimes be difficult and not what you expected, but it’s what God has placed there for you at that exact time. And it can be tense, it can make you want to turn and walk away. But more than anything, that’s when we need to cling even more to Him and His people. To the community. Even when we don’t feel like showing our weaker side, our doubt, our worry, our fears and our hurts. We like the comfortable when it comes to how we do church and community. We like the sheen of fine a bit more than we realize or admit. We worry about what will be said about us, instead of what we are living out of His Word.
It’s a difficult thing to admit you lived into your fears, doubts and anxiety. To admit you were selfish in your expectations. But it’s even more difficult to live it without community. Without the church.
“But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:25 (NKJV)
In the aftermath of traveling (by foot and ship), preaching to hardened hearts and skeptics, converting those whose hearts were opened to the gospel, and casting out demons in Christ’s power and authority. Even just one of those exhausts me in reading about it. In the midst of all this, Paul and Silas were met with opposition which took a violent turn into floggings and imprisonment. All of this after being directly guided by the Holy Spirit to go to this exact place.
And what are Paul and Silas found doing at midnight, of all times, in prison ? They are praising God and singing hymns. And the prisoners are listening to them, as one would a beautiful piece of music, with delight and intent.
I don’t know about you all but I whine and complain about minor inconveniences in my daily life. Like a busted water pipe, missing a workout, a car not starting, traffic, stress at work. I don’t automatically and with voice raised sing hymns and praise God in the midst. I admit that freely because it’s not my natural tendency.
But it should be as a child of God. Just like Paul and Silas.
They were specifically and unjustly being punished for their faith. For preaching the gospel we know today and Christ which we call Savior and King. They were experiencing true persecution, and not just inconveniences we too often feel in our every day life. And yet, they were rejoicing in the God who had led them there by His Spirit. More than that, those in the jail were listening y’all.
People are listening, watching as those of us who are believers react and respond to life, circumstances, situations and inconveniences. They see what it is we truly place our hope and faith in when we face the dark of midnight.
Paul and Silas were living testimonies that circumstances don’t define our hope, our joy, our faith, the gospel, Christ Himself. Not a bit of it weighed them down as they were bleeding and chained in that prison. They knew where God intended to have them, to use them, to spread His truth and His word at just the right time, that no one else would be fit for that time and those men in prison.
Maybe you’re not called out to international missions, but you are called as a believer to carry the gospel with you each day, in each interaction and circumstance. And how you respond to the stressors of this life could be the only glimpse of Christ a person might have, and that you were called to be in that place at that time, even if it’s an inconvenience to you, it could mean eternity to someone else.
Because when you continue to read in chapter 16 you see a jailer and his family believing and receiving Christ as their hope and redemption. That is worth the inconvenience of your time and your life.