Deserted for a Purpose – II

This post is continued from last week’s post describing some undeniable facts of spiritual deserts. These are experiences when God puts us in tough places and we feel God is absent. A sick child, a sinking marriage, scandal and shame – urgent but unanswered prayers.

Why on earth would our Lord allow such things?

What is the purpose behind His children being deserted?

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Credit -.craig, https://www.flickr.com/photos/anabadili/6137924233

Will we ever find God’s love in a spiritual desert?

Continuing to look at Paul Miller’s book, “A Praying Life”, he notes that “God takes everyone he loves through a desert. He does this to kill our idols, drive us to helplessness, and help us realize only HE can be our hope and joy.”
This leads us to the next question – how can we respond best in a seemingly hopeless situation where our spiritual life becomes dry and apparently of no use?
What do we remember so that we don’t give up or faint in this barren land?

Miller suggests that we remember three things:

(1) Don’t demand that the story go your way;

(2) Look for His hand [at work], and then pray in light of what you are seeing; and

(3) Stay in the story; don’t shut down when it goes the ‘wrong’ way. The examples of Job, Joseph & our Lord Jesus in the Bible show how they clung on to God almighty all through the gruesome times.

As we saw last week, prayer is integral to a Christian’s life during spiritual deserts. But as Miller says, “When we don’t receive what we pray for or desire, it doesn’t mean that God isn’t acting on our behalf. Rather, he’s weaving his story”.

God desires us to see Him at work, and to marvel at His goodness and grace, and learn to know and trust Him more in the process.

What do you do to keep hope in God alive during spiritual deserts? Feel free to leave your story below.

Deserted for a Purpose – I

Do you feel deserted? Stuck alone in a crazy, frustrating period of life?
A spiritual vacuum? If you have any thoughts about God, are they more on these lines?

“I am SO clueless in this mess? God, don’t you see this?!”
“Am done- Am DONE with my never-ending sins! Just finish me off Lord!”
“I want hope.. but I see nothing! NOTHING, Jesus! I hope you are happy?!”

Such complaints and dejected, despairing statements give away the soul marooned in a desert. The desert could be injustice, consequences of our sinful desires, consequences of others’ sinful desires, Murphy’s law chasing us down week after week, plain chaos. You are sure God has deserted you, and no one can help you.

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Image credit -http://pixabay.com/en/iraq-sandstorm-weather-man-80329/
by tpsdave . CC0 BY license

Followers of Jesus Christ go through desert-like situations knowing fully well we have the living God who can solve the whole disaster miraculously- and yet he does not.

If we look into the Bible, we know it is one book that bares lives of people- deserts and all.
David was anointed to be King of Israel, only to be chased into a desert by Saul. The Canaanite woman with a demon-possessed daughter, fell at Jesus’ feet for her girl’s healing, only to be confounded by Jesus’ aloofness. And then, the Lord Jesus himself, – was fatally rejected by His own Father, God almighty, as He bore our sins.

Paul E. Miller’s helpful book, “A Praying Life”, touches upon the topic of desert-like situations. One look at Miller’s life- he has been through tough times we would probably never ask for in our own. He shares some undeniable facts about desert experiences.

1) There is no way out of a desert God puts you in. Maddening fact.

2) The temptation to mock hope and have cynical views of God’s promises is very close.

3) Suffering in the desert burns away the false selves created by cynicism and pride or lust. We stop caring abut what people think of us.

4) We cry out to God so long and so often that a channel begins to open up between us and God. Radios get switched off. Praying gets mixed up into our sleep times.

5) The desert, becomes a window to the heart of God. He finally gets our attention.

Miller goes on to explain that people like Joseph in Egypt, sensed God bringing grace through suffering. Which is why he is able to tell his brothers that though they had wanted him destroyed, God used their evil to save the nation of Egypt.

Have you been through desert-like situations? What helped you not lose hope?
Have you or a friend of yours lost hope in Christ because of their suffering?

Next week – What do we do when we find ourselves in a spiritual desert?

The Context Wars I- Applying the Bible Correctly

My friend Aaron recently told me he wanted to study the Bible. He asked me if I was willing to receive his study notes. I, the “wannabe busy-bee”, was a bit reluctant, but then- why not help?
One of my life-thrills is to see friends have a fresh desire to study the Bible as it is – as God’s Word. I hope that is where Aaron is. He’s going to have challenging and transforming times ahead because He will spend time with God! Also, I get to learn from Aaron’s study time. For example, the first text he sent spoke to my life and was quite encouraging. Now, this post is based on something Aaron and I discussed as he studied the book of Luke.
Aaron seems high on finding practical application from the Bible, which is an excellent thing. As he studied the beginning of the gospel of Luke where the Bible describes John the Baptist’s God-fearing, blameless parents, Aaron concluded that we too need to be God-fearing and obeying, no matter what happens.
But is it right to look at 3 verses and draw an application based on that, while not paying attention to the chapter and the book itself?

Do we do that to newspapers? Most of us do not read 3-4 sentences in the middle of a news report about a landmark Supreme court decision, form our conclusions and then take action based on those misinformed conclusions.

If we don’t handle the opinions of men childishly, what gives us the authority to handle God’s Word that way?
Being a child of God doesn’t give us freedom to depart from common sense.

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Image credit – http://pixabay.com/en/outline-people-man-reading-book-32270/ . CC0 BY license

Is it possible that in our zeal to get quick applications, we could be ignoring God’s intention when He gave us the Bible as a book?

Consider the book “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”. It doesn’t matter how many times they play Quidditch in the book – J.K. Rowling is not primarily explaining how to catch the Snitch while riding a broomstick.

There is a larger story, a bigger focus– it is about Harry Potter and it has got to do something with the prisoner of Azkaban.

Now we may not always have the luxury of clear intent in the titles of books of the Bible, but there are surely ways to know the author’s intent. God has given us wise works in commentaries– let us look ’em up. We do injustice to God’s intentions when we don’t do the work of knowing what the author of any book in the Bible wrote that book for.
Chapter 1 of the gospel of Luke, for example, is not primarily asking us to live blameless lives- that is the intent of passages like 1 Thessalonians 2:9-10 & Philippians 2:13-15.
The books of Luke and Acts are two volumes of a single work, which tells the story of how God calls the nation of Israel and later, all nations to follow Jesus (Introduction to the Book of Luke, NIV, Biblica). It is the declaration to a non-Jewish audience about the long-awaited news of rescue from sin by Yahweh, God almighty himself.
So when we read the record of Elizabeth and Zechariah, the main point is not that they were blameless- the focus is on how God kept His promises, right from the one to Adam and Eve to all the Old Testament prophecies about a Rescuer and Sin-bearer. God sends his angel to this undeserving but God-focused couple, and tells of their future son, John the Baptist, who will bring many Israelites back to the Lord and prepare them for the Messiah himself. Wow !!

The whole book’s purpose must affect our life-application, even when we are studying a few verses.

But is it wrong to apply Godly traits from examples present in the text, like my friend Aaron did?

Do share your comments below.

God’s biscuits and a good monster.

As loyal as a middle-man,
He had more than one fan,
Did he have more than one Master?
A questionable ambassador,
They called him the good monster.

She was as delicate as blueberry cheesecake,
His dear brother’s child,
She loved tagging along
with the Army,
Just a child.

The good monster
He watched that motley bunch,
Children from tribes, tongues and nations,
Eating biscuits their Lord had provided.

He had been lazy,
And had missed out on rations that morning,
And now there were bigger things to do,
But he was hungry,
in spirit and in tummy.

He rummaged down the little hall,
packed with the army gathering,
He hoped no one noticed him.

But no one knew his need.
Or so he thought until,
On the floor lay some biscuits,

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Image credit -7854 CC0 BY license,  http://pixabay.com/en/dog-domestic-dog-food-cookies-eat-57201/

The good monster looked around,
Surely the little girl left behind this!
The child was oblivious
of the hunger of his,
But their Lord knew it all.

The monster picked the biscuits,
While some of his family looked on curiously,
He looked up, munched it down and
Thanked the Lord for His provision.

His heart was now an engine
of amazement & gratitude,
He had thought,
that God cared not
for those who had been monsters.

And here was His grace,
in emulsifier and wheat flour.
When he had forgotten grace,
the good monster had
forgotten to remain a child,

May we never forget that
unless we turn from our selfish wrongs
and be unto the Lord like little ones,
we shall not enter His kingdom,
nor relish the love of Him,
who reserves biscuits for His monsters.

–x–

About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”
Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Matt 18: 1-3, NLT