Tag Archives: renewal

Come apart and Rest

Psalm 131:1-3

We spend precious time trying to protect ourselves from being wronged by others. We devise plans and take pains to execute our plans to the last detail.  Yet we are still wronged.

We engage in mind-boggling conspiracy theories of which we are useless to defend. The machinations of this world are intertwined and often directed towards our demise. Many of the best and brightest of us are incarcerated unjustly.  We fight, march, and struggle for justice countless hours, months, and years. We become overwhelmed, frustrated, tired, and melancholy. The fight of life steals from us the joy of life. Some fight to live others live to fight.

But who rests?  The psalmist does. The psalmist realizes that struggle is worthwhile yet endless. There is a need for intermission.  She rests!  And while resting replenishes herself with the knowledge that God handles things that seem impossible, things beyond our control or our ability to influence.   She rests as she did upon entering this expansive universe, trusting a mother she had just met, a father she knew little about, a world she had only briefly encountered. 

Like the time spent suckling an unknown mother’s breast, she rests trusting her God of whom she knows little. She curls up quietly and wraps herself in God’s Word. She ceases her struggle and receives restoration, renewal, and strength.  She rests in childlike Faith in the assurance that her God will hold the reigns of her life.  She rests!

Find some time to rest!

A Desperate Plea for Restoration

Psalm 80:1-3

Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth 2 before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken your might; come and save us. 3 Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.

Move 1

“Our world is not okay,” these Advent readings declare in stark terms, and God’s apparent absence isn’t okay, either. We are surrounded by evil and suffering, and we’re not sure our faith can endure what our eyes reluctantly witness each day. Though we long for a Savior to rend the heavens and come down, the very ferocity of that longing often wearies our souls.

The first gift of Advent, then, is the permission to tell the truth, even if that truth is laced with sorrow. We are invited to describe life “on earth as it is,” and not as we mistakenly assume our religion requires us to render it.[1]

Cities are exploding over worsening racial injustice and police misconduct. Football players like Ray Rice get a free pass on domestic violence. Colleges shrug off epidemics of rape and cheating.

Banks and the financially independent wage unrelenting war on their fellow Americans. Descendants of immigrants turn against new arrivals and call it patriotism. Large companies like General Motors sell defective products. Lobbyists control our legislators, and they in turn deny votes and basic rights to certain citizens.[2]

The second is the gift — and the discipline — of waiting. During Advent, we live with quiet anticipation in the “not yet.” We stop rushing, and decide to call sacred what is yet in-process and unformed. As Paul puts it in this week’s reading from 1st Corinthians, we “wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This is no easy task in the modern world, which applauds arrivals, finish lines, shortcuts, and end products, far more than it does the meandering journey or odd way station. Eugene Peterson calls the Christian life “a long obedience in the same direction,” and I don’t think we can get more counter-cultural than that. If the secular world speeds past darkness to the safe certainty of light, then Advent reminds us that necessary things — things worth waiting for — happen in the dark. Next spring’s seeds break open in dark winter soil. God’s Spirit hovers over dark water, preparing to create worlds. The child we yearn for grows in the deep darkness of the womb. “Our food is expectation,” writes Nora Gallagher about Advent. In this season, we strive to find, “not perfection, but possibility.”

Thirdly, Advent prepares us for the God who is coming — a God who will turn out to be very different from the one we expect and maybe even hope to find.[3]

The end of all this prayer, all this pleading with God is ‘we want some peace in our lives; we want peace in our world.” But what is peace without God as King and Sovereign. Certainly the bible declares “There is no peace to the wicked.” So if this plea is to be fulfilled, somebody has to invite God into their lives as Lord and King. Indeed, what we need is restoration. Thus we find ourselves waiting and God finds himself waiting. We wait for God and God waits upon us. God waits for us to change our attitudes and lifestyle to that of a worshipper. We wait until we’re so sick and tired of being sick and tired until we are able to change to meet God’s demands. Waiting then is for both God and man. And that is why peace alludes us; Restoration precedes peace!

Move 2

Billy Graham, world famed Evangelist remarked, “We’ve lost sight of the fact that some things are always right and some things are always wrong. We’ve lost our reference point. We don’t have any moral philosophy to undergird our way of life in this country, and our way of life is in serious jeopardy and serious danger unless something happens. And that something must be a spiritual revival.”[4]

The following is a fictitious story but it’s a beautiful way to illustrate God’s work to restore his fallen creation or his power to restore broken people.

Ever since he was a little boy, his parents had been promising that they would give him a beautiful car to drive when he turned 16. He even planned to park it in the family’s barn where it could stay warm and dry. Only first his dad would have to get rid of that old car sitting in the barn. He couldn’t wait for his dad to haul it off to the dump to make way for his dream car.

But when would that day come? When would that new car arrive? And when would his dad get rid of that old junky car under the tarp? Then one evening in early summer he heard strange sounds coming from that old barn. It sounded like power tools … a drill … a hammer. What was going on? Peering into the darkness he saw nothing but the stars overhead. And he noticed that a light was on in the barn. He walked into the warm night air, down the dirt path, and poked his head into the barn door.

When he saw the tarp, rolled up and left against the door, he excitedly thought, Was Dad finally getting rid of that junky old car? But then he suddenly looked and saw one of the most incredible sports cars in automotive history. It was a Corvette, but not just any Corvette. It was the coveted, beautiful, powerful 1963 Corvette 327 V8 with a split window, aluminum knock-off wheels, painted candy apple red.

So that was the car underneath the tarp all those years. He stood there stunned. It was always there, just getting ready for his father’s masterful work of restoration. At that moment his father looked up, his hands deep in the engine bay, and handed his son a socket wrench. With a broad smile, he said, “Come on, son. Grab a tool and let’s get this car ready.”[5]

Move 3

According to George Gallup, Jr. “Any revitalization of faith in this country will have to start with prayer, in which we gain a sense of the living presence of God.”[6]Prayer is our work done in the dark. Revival, restoration and renewal are God’s work revealed in the light. That’s what we need today. That’s the solution for this hour. We need intercessors who will pray under cover of darkness.

God does his best work under cover of darkness. It was in the darkness that God made an everlasting covenant with Abraham saying surely I will be with you wherever I send you and you and your family will be blessed forever.

It was in the darkness that God spoke to Pharaoh saying you’ve kept my firstborn, my people Israel in bondage too long. And about midnight the death angel passed over Egypt and destroyed the Egyptian firstborn. Yet the children of God remained untouched, covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.

It was in darkness that God eradicated sin and its power by hanging on the cross of calvary.   There Jesus destroyed Satan and displayed to the world Satan’s impotence.

Just as that Father restored that old clunker under the tarp, God will restore us. It’s dark for Black people, its darker still for immigrants in America. Black sons and daughters of Abraham are being killed all over the country. Yet, I hear the Lord declare in Isaiah 43:1-7:

“Now this is what the Lord says — the One who created you, Jacob, and the One who formed you, Israel — “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you. For I Yahweh your God, the Holy One of Israel, and your Savior, give Egypt as a ransom for you, Cush and Seba in your place. Because you are precious in My sight and honored, and I love you, I will give people in exchange for you and nations instead of your life. Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west. I will say to the north: Give them up! and to the south: Do not hold them back! Bring My sons from far away, and My daughters from the ends of the earth — everyone called by My name and created for My glory. I have formed him; indeed, I have made him. ”

Yes Lord, we cry out to you: “Show us your mighty power. Come to rescue us! Turn us again to yourself, O God. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved.” (Psalms 80:2b-3) Come Lord, because you know what we need; come Lord, because you created us in your image and in your likeness. Lord, when you come, peace will flow. When you come we will indeed be saved.

Works Cited

[1] Thomas, Debie (November 2014) “Hard Gifts” Retrieved from http://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20141124JJ.shtml

[2] Ehrich, Tom (2014). “Can a nation so wounded by its divisions survive?” Retrieved from http://www.ministrymatters.com/preach/entry/5580/can-a-nation-so-wounded-by-its-divisions-survive.

[3] Thomas, Debie (November 2014) “Hard Gifts” Retrieved from http://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20141124JJ.shtml

[4] Billy Graham in a speech at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Founder’s Day (April 4, 1989). Christianity Today, Vol. 33, no. 9.

[5] Adapted from Randall Rauser, What on Earth Do We Know about Heaven?(Baker Books, 2013), pp. 157-158

[6] George H. Gallup, Jr. Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 4.

Reach Past the Past and Achieve Your Potential

 19The Lord said to Moses in Midian, Go back to Egypt; for all the men who were seeking your life [for killing the Egyptian] are dead.  [Exodus 4:19]

            Moses began his adulthood at odds with the law.  Presently he’s living as a fugitive.  He had run from Egypt after committing a capital crime – that of killing an Egyptian guard.  The Pharaoh sought to take his life, but Moses fled.  He ran and kept on running until he came to a wilderness place called Midian.

            Presently, he is living based on his past not his future.  He has developed a comfortable life in Midian.  He is married to Zipporah, the eldest daughter of Jethro, the High Priest of that region and settled down as a shepherd tending the sheep of Jethro.  Moses has settled; his original dream suppressed – his role as deliverer, rejected and his label as murderer, accepted. That label, murderer, lived in his mind for 40 years. To observe his life, you would say Moses was doing quite well.  But what Moses put behind him, destiny brought back to him.  A spiritual encounter quickened his conscience and challenged his reality.  Moses could no longer stay in that nice, pretentious, settled existence. He realized he was living a lie.

Uncle Albert and I were discussing conflict and issues and he said to me, “When time fixes it, it is well fixed.”  When your future becomes your present, you can stay in your past no longer.  Destiny waited until time had passed, the situation had changed, and Moses was receptive.  Moses realized that the life he settled for conflicted with the life he was destined for.  Moses could no longer exist in his present; his future had invaded his now!

Yet, his past had a strong grip.  It reminded him he was a felon, a fugitive no less.  The past brought up all the reasons why Moses should remain in Midian, in his comfortable, settled life.  Again, “When time fixes it, it is well fixed.”  After 40 years, Moses was no longer the talk of the town.  His record had long since been exonerated.   His record was clean; he could do whatever he liked.  The only thing keeping him in Midian was his mindset; he needed to exercise courage to break free from the prison of his mind.  Moses rejected the voices of the past and with faith moved toward his future.  He lived a life of power, adventure, challenge, and purpose.  His wife gained in her respect for him and his sons honored him.  Dad had taken off the shepherd clothes and put on the mantle of deliverer.  Life was worth living now because Moses had stopped settling and starting directing his life in concert with his potential.  The past had lost its grip.  Moses was free!

            Judge Greg Mathis had a past.  He grew up in the housing projects of Detroit, and as a teenager was well on his way to a life of crime.  Mathis was a gang member who dropped out of school, was in and out of jail.  But, as a promise to his dying mother, he vowed to change his ways.  At age 18, he turned his life around, earning his GED, continuing on to college and earning a jurist doctorate degree.  Despite tremendous obstacles and odds, Mathis became the youngest judge in Michigan’s history and was elected a Superior Court Judge for Michigan’s 36th District.

             “It pains me to think of all the hurt that I caused my neighborhood, my community, my family,” said Mathis.  “That’s why I’ve made a lifetime commitment to redeeming myself and changing my life and helping to inspire other street youth to redeem themselves and change their lives. With Judge Mathis, [Television show] I hope to reach even more people with my story and, hopefully, make an even bigger difference in the lives of others.”  His past ran into his future and became his present.

            Two monks belonged to a convent that did not believe in touching a woman.  They were walking down a road one day toward a river they needed to cross to get to their convent.  When they got to the river, they encountered a woman.  The woman asked them to help her across.  The monks looked at each other for a moment.  Then one monk just picked up the woman and carried her across the river.  He let her down and the two continued their journey.

            About two miles down the road, the monk who had done nothing said to the one who had carried the woman.  You know that we are not allowed to touch a woman, why did you pick up that woman?  The monk who helped replied, “I put that woman down nearly 2 miles ago.”  If anyone is still carrying her, it is you, not me.”  And with that he continued walking.