Saturday, May 30, 2015

the feast of tabernacles

God has been doing an incredible job of providing for us. He has always taken good care of us, but in this stage of life it is especially noticeable how He has thought of every single little detail and has made sure we have what we need in every area of our lives. Nothing has been overlooked or left out. There is still a transition, and the nature of a transition is that it has its many bumps - but God is allowing the bumps in my life and then going back and smoothing them out - just so.

I'd been contemplating the way He's been providing, and then read this morning in Zechariah 14:

"And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of the tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain, there shall be the plague, wherewith the Lord will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of the tabernacles." (vs. 16-18)

The feast of the tabernacles is for giving thanks and rejoicing. It is eight days of tithing, hospitality, and being joyful - in remembrance of God's provision to the children of Israel in bringing them out of the land of Egypt. Looking it up, I learned that "In Biblical times, Sukkot (the feast of the tabernacles) was considered the most important of all the holidays, referred to simply as "The Feast" (I Kings 12:32). It was a time of many sacrifices (Num. 29:12-40), and a time when (on Sabbatical years) the Torah would be read aloud to the people (Deut. 31:10-13). It is one of the three required festivals of the Lord (Exod. 23:14, Deut. 16:16)." (

The holiday of thanksgiving was the most important of them all. I felt God telling me this morning to keep the feast of the tabernacles in my own life - to thank Him for all the little details that He has been so faithful to work out. Back in Zechariah, He tells us that there will be no rain on those who do not keep the feast, and I hear Him telling me this morning that this rain He's sending merits joy and thankfulness in return.

"In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the Lord's house shall be like the bowls before the altar. Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts." (Zechariah 14: 20-21)

"And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates. Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the Lord thy God in the place which the Lord shall choose: because the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice."
(Deuteronomy 16:14-15)

Friday, May 22, 2015

great is Thy faithfulness

It's in my times of great need when God's great provision is most noticeable; perhaps that's why He has me there so often. Here, I can only begin to recount His faithfulness over the past few weeks. From a purely materialistic standpoint, He's provided everything we needed - a house, kitchen appliances, a washer and dryer, a mini van, a lawn mower, food - everything. But even those things pale in comparison to the people He's put in our lives to help us through this stage - mentors, countless helping hands on moving day, generous and selfless hearts who have given of their time and resources to help us set up life on Main Street. He's provided employment opportunities (for both of us - I'll be working part time in the fall) and given me a renewed desire and energy to be a mother and to blossom where He has placed me.

The summer is off to a wonderful start.

But in the midst of all of it, I found myself lacking joy yesterday. It seemed so ridiculous, really - I've been given absolutely everything I need and more, and yet in the cold, gloomy, runny-nose morning yesterday I was having a hard time coming up with reasons to smile.

Looking up "joyful" in the concordance, I found Isaiah 49:13.
"Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted."

As I read that and other similar verses, I found the common thread - one that I already knew existed but that became more real to me that morning - that true joy springs out of challenging times and takes place in the midst of the hardship - not necessarily when it is over. And so, the nature of joy is to have it when life is disorderly, chaotic, sick, and unsettled, because life is disorderly, chaotic, sick,and unsettled.

Lord, remind me.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

perfecting holiness

I am the "tender herb" in need of "the small rain" that Moses describes in Deuteronomy 32. On Monday, I am not only moving 2000 miles, but also moving on to a season of healing in my life - one that the Father has promised me for a while now. Trying to make sense of all that has happened and of God's purposes in life, I've been reflecting on who I've been, who I am right now, and who I want to be. So I've been thinking a lot about personal growth and change. And I've also been thinking about what part of that personal growth and change is my responsibility, and what is God's - because He is faithful to transform us into what He desires that we become - if only we ask.

I've made many mistakes in this stage of life I'm coming through, and I don't want to make them again. In fact, I don't want to make mistakes at all! I wish I could walk into this new era without the worry that I'll mess it up again.

I want to be perfect.

But it is not up to me.

I was reminded recently in a book I'm reading that personal and spiritual transformation is by the power of the Holy Spirit: “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (II Corinthians 3:18)

There have been many times when I've struggled to become who I should become on my own - it's a desperate search for identity and purpose in my own strength. But God has been gently reminding me lately that "My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. […] For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection.” (II Corinthians 12) God desires my perfection too! But my perfection will not come by my own doing - it will come only by His strength - and not only that, but in my weakness. I see that in my own life right now; healing has come only as I have surrendered myself completely to Him; giving Him permission to do with me as He wants and use me as He wishes.

We see that holy transformation and perfection are not up to us, which ultimately is very liberating. We wonder, though, what should we be doing? As I've studied to understand God’s will for my life in this season, I’m coming to understand that really, what He asks of me is rather simple. For starters, He desires faithfulness: “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (I Corinthians 4:2). He also desires obedience, rather than a lot of giving up or doing: Micah 6 tells us: “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

God isn’t asking for big sacrifices, unbelievable service, or anything that we cannot possibly accomplish. His will is for us to walk humbly and uprightly and to show mercy to others, as He has done for us.  This is echoed in II Samuel 15:22: “And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”

We're also encouraged by Paul to press on, to keep pursing that perfection that we so desire, and not to give up. “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)

As I floundered around searching for purpose and understanding, God showed me all of these things. He made it clear who He wanted me to be coming out of several years on the mission field, and He helped me find Truth in all of it. And then at the end, He gave me II Corinthians 7:

"Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." 

II Corinthians 7 goes on to talk about joy in tribulation and godly sorrow working repentance. I felt like verse 11 could have been written directly to me: "For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter."

I felt like God was saying, "look at the journey I have taken you on! Look at how much you have learned, how much closer to Me you have become, and how much better you understand that your strength is only in Me!" He's right - I would not exchange these years for an easier way, ever, now that I know how much He did it for my own good. 

I know of no better way to "cleanse myself" than by being washed by heavenly rain. And so, as that tender herb, I'm poking my little green head out of the rich, black soil, ready for Him to continue to "perfect holiness" in me.