Pilgrimage Rest Stops

A road trip to Nebraska has been a frequent journey for my husband and me. We have our favorite rest stops where we pull off the interstate every 3 or 4 hours. We may just use the restroom and run around for a few minutes. If it is lunchtime, we will get a bite to eat. Whatever we do, we are refreshed and ready to continue down the road for another few hours.

I find a spiritual message in our road trips. As believers, we may not be traveling concrete highways, but we are traveling spiritual highways and byways to Zion. Psalm 16:11 declares, “You make known to me the path of life.

As we journey through life, the Lord provides spiritual rest stops – better known as places of refreshing. Our spiritual rest areas may be located in our local church on a Sunday morning or in a home for a small group gathering. Maybe a retreat at a Christian camp will be the rest area of choice. Even conversation with a friend in a coffee spot can be a rejuvenating place. Wherever we stop, our spirit can be fed. Matthew 5:6 says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

By car, we travel from New York to Nebraska in 2 long days. Our spiritual journey takes a lifetime. The journey’s length will be different for each of us. For the majority, the travel time will be 70-90 years. That’s a long trip! Most every parent knows the question young children ask when traveling in a car for an extended time. “Are we there yet?” Although God will personally greet us at the final destination, He wants us to enjoy the journey from here to there. That is why we need rest stops.

Ben Armstrong  says, “God is in love with process! He is not in a panic and He is not trying to get people to their future too fast without actually allowing them to go through the process that helps them gain strength and momentum. Process gives us the things that are needed to sustain the greatness that God wants in our lives.”

(Michele Weston is the artist.)

Let us look closely at Psalm 84:5-7 as a picture of our journey.

Verse 5, “Blessed are those whose strength is in You, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.” A pilgrimage is a long journey, often leading to a sacred destination. As believers, we are on a lifetime trip. It will culminate with our arrival in the Lord’s presence for eternity. John says in Revelation 21:1-3, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, . . . . I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, . . . And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God.’”

Verse 6 goes on to say, “As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs.” Valley of Baca describes a dry, barren place. Since we will experience difficult paths, spiritual rest stops will be helpful. At these spots, we will encounter other brothers and sisters in Christ. We will worship together. We will encourage and refresh each other. According to John 4:14, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.

Verse 7 states, “They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.” During our pilgrimage, we will help each other grow in the Lord and gain His strength. Nehemiah 8:10 tells us, “the joy of the Lord will be our strength.” We never travel alone. The Lord will be with us as well as our fellow sojourners. Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

When traveling to the Midwest, we have a specific route we follow. Although we are familiar with the route, we still plug in the GPS. We should take the same precaution spiritually. While on our pilgrimage, let us listen carefully to our spiritual GPS – God’s Provision through the Spirit. Galatians 5:25 says, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

We must remember to take breaks while traveling the thruway of life. Times of refreshment will help us stay alert to road traffic. Physically, stops at rest areas help prevent auto accidents. Spiritually, times of refreshing prevent crashes or clashes with the enemy.

Remember, God loves the journey as well as the destination. Travel with the Lord. Isaiah 35:8 says, “And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way.

Hidden Mysteries

Have you ever found the perfect gift that you just had to buy for someone? Did you then hide the gift because it was not the right time to give it?  I think God does this with us.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.
Proverbs 25:2
It is interesting that God hides things. Although God interacted with the people of the Old Testament, He also chose to keep some things concealed. He revealed messages through pictures and prophecies but the people did not completely understand all He was saying and doing. I sometimes wonder if God hides things from us just so we will look for them. Today, I am searching for what He has hidden.

. . . filled with the full riches of complete understanding, so that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Colossians 2:2-3
Paul is talking about Christ being the mystery that was concealed in the Old Testament but revealed in the New Testament. He also emphasizes that there are more treasures hidden in Christ.

So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.”
Matthew 13:35
Jesus taught through parables. He fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 78:2. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old.” Sometimes His parables hid meaning and other times they gave insight. Although I have read Jesus’ parables many times, the Holy Spirit continues to give me fresh perspectives. I can discover things that had previously been hidden.

there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.
Matthew 10:26

Jesus spoke these words as He sent His disciples out to “the lost sheep of Israel”. They were to reveal the Gospel’s hidden message.

I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth
John 16:12-13
Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit. People were not ready or able to comprehend all that God still wanted to reveal. Now we have the Holy Spirit as our Helper so we can gain new understanding about God and His plans and purposes.

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
Jeremiah 33:3
Although God has concealed things, He also desires to reveal things. He promises to tell us things we have not even thought about! When we need to hear something fresh and are able to understand more deeply, God will reveal it to us. I find this verse very encouraging.

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.
Deuteronomy 29:29

Although Moses spoke these words to the Israelites, they still apply today. When God entrusts us with His revelations, it is our responsibility to share His insights with those who have not yet heard the gospel or do not understand it.

You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.
John 13:7

Jesus spoke these words to Peter while washing the disciples feet. However, I also hear Jesus saying them to us
today. The greater eternal purposes of God are beyond our comprehension. Our knowledge is limited while God’s wisdom is beyond measure.

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
Hebrews 11:1 NLT

“What we cannot see” can refer to our lack of ability to see intellectually as well as impaired vision of the eye. Faith does not require us to know everything perfectly. All of us have questions for God. However, we need to be content knowing that what may now be concealed will be revealed in the future.
If I knew everything about God, I would have facts not faith. Faith allows us to accept the mysteries that God keeps concealed. It allows us to accept the limits of our revelation and honor God’s secrets. Although what our eyes see is easier to understand, faith is always more challenging and exciting.

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
I Corinthians 13:12 NLT
It is still God’s glory to conceal some matters. As long as we seek deeper insight, God will give us
clearer understanding. The mysteries of God encourage us to grow in our faith. Personally, His mysteries keep me from becoming bored. I am not content. I always want to learn more.

God has purchased the perfect gift for each of us. He still hides the fullness of this gift. However, He gives partial revelations at the appropriate times. God is too big for us to fully understand with our finite minds. But, the day will come when we will completely know Him. What a wonderful promise! Meanwhile, what an awesome journey!

Be a Waiter while Waiting

I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait,
Psalm 130:5

The Psalmist says that he waits for the Lord. I guess I should follow the Psalmist’s example. In this context, what does it mean to wait for the Lord? Do I just stand around doing nothing? I don’t think so.

Two types of waiters come to mind. Both are found in a restaurant. Waiters can be people who serve those seated at the tables. Or, waiters can be people seated at the table waiting to be served.

The job of the first waiters is to efficiently serve the restaurant’s customers. They often greet their patrons by asking, “How may I help you?” Waiters politely and accurately take food orders. Shortly after serving the food, waiters check to see if everything is to their patrons’ liking.

Waiting is serving. Jesus is an example of a waiter. Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

All of us are waiters who serve. We serve people and we serve the Lord. Psalm 100:2 NKJV says, “Serve the LORD with gladness: come before His presence with singing.” The New International Version reads “worship” rather than “serve”. Worship is waiting upon the Lord by giving Him the glory and honor He deserves. It is a privilege to wait upon the Lord by worshiping Him.

The second type of waiters are people who are waiting for something to be done for them. They wait expectantly whether it be for restaurant food or for an answer to prayer. These waiters wait with a sense of anticipation.

People seated at the tables expect to be served plates of delicious food in a short time. They do not always wait patiently. Sometimes we can be like them while waiting for the Lord to move in our lives. Scripture gives us a word of caution. Psalm 27:14 NLT says, “Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.”

Isaiah 40:31 NKJV says, “But they that wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Other translations use “hope” or “trust” instead of “wait”. For  me, hoping and trusting are spiritual activities. Effort is involved. The same can be true of waiting. Waiting on God can be faith at work. Lamentations 3:25 ESV tells us, “The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.”

I believe it is our privilege to wait on the Lord by serving Him and those around us while waiting for answers to specific prayers. When serving other people, we can be encouraged by Hebrews 6:10. “God will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.” If we are waiting upon the Lord by serving Him, let us follow the advice of I Samuel 12:2, “Be sure to fear the LORD and serve Him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things He has done for you.” While waiting for the Lord to move in our lives, remember Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Which ever type of waiter we may be, let us fulfill Romans 12:11, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”

Continually Give Thanks


G
ive thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
I Thessalonians 5:18

In the United States of America, we will be celebrating our national holiday of Thanksgiving tomorrow. It is an opportunity for us to pause and thank God for His blessings upon our nation and our families.

All of our family will be together. Before we eat, we will pray and thank God for the food set before us. We will ask for His blessing upon our Thanksgiving dinner. While eating, each of us will express gratitude for at least one thing. It is easy to give thanks for situations where we have seen God move. However, can we give thanks for a blessing we have not yet received?

Jesus sets the example for when we should give thanks. Before Lazarus was raised from the grave, Jesus gave thanks for what was about to happen. John 11:41 says, “Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard me.’” However, it is not until verse 43 that Jesus commanded Lazarus to come forth. In verse 44, Lazarus came back to life. Jesus thanked His Heavenly Father for what He was confident His Father would do. Jesus gave thanks before He received the answer to His prayer.

In her book One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp explains that eucharisteo – thanksgiving – always precedes the miracle. Ann writes, “Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation our Yes! to His grace.”

Thanking God in advance may not appear to make sense in the natural. However, Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Giving thanks prior to receiving the answer to our prayers reveals our confidence in God’s willingness and ability to answer our prayers.

Psalm 119:90 states, “Your (God;s) faithfulness continues through all generations.” The fact that God is faithful to answer our prayers is a valid reason to give thanks.

Giving thanks before we have received our request is an expression of our faith. Hebrews 11:1 NKJV says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

In I Chronicles 16:34 NIV, we are told,Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.Ephesians 3:20 NKJV says, “(He) is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” God is good and God is able. Two reasons to give Him thanks – even before we have His response.

Psalm 71:14 NLT says, “But I will keep on hoping for Your help; I will praise You more and more.” We thank God for what He has done. We praise Him for who He is. The more we praise God for who He is, the stronger our faith becomes regarding what He will do for us.

Philippians 4:6 tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Asking and thanking are both aspects of prayer. God gives us the privilege of asking. We have the responsibility of thanking.

The Thanksgiving holiday gives us the opportunity to focus upon giving thanks. Most of the time, it is easier to ask God for something than it is to thank Him for what we have received. It is even harder to thank Him for what we are still waiting to receive.

I encourage you to take your thankfulness to a deeper level this season by giving thanks in all circumstances. God will bless you in return. He loves to hear you say, “Thanks, God!”

 

Untangle What Is Tangled

A friend shared about her granddaughter getting a brush entangled in her hair. Way too many snarls! My friend was able to release the brush by massaging hair conditioner into her granddaughter’s locks of hair.

As Debbie and I talked, we compared her granddaughter’s experience with how we can become entangled in worldly situations. We need the anointing of the oil of the Holy Spirit to free us from our snarls of life.

Scriptures help validate this concept.

The Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin,
so we receive God’s promise of freedom
only by believing in Jesus Christ.
Galatians 3:22 NLT

My friend was able to free the brush from her granddaughter’s tangled hair. Hebrews 12:1 says sin easily entangles us. So, we need freedom from our sins – our entanglements with worldly ways. Faith in Christ is our solution.

If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
John 8:36

Physically, a brush was no longer stuck in the little girl’s snarly hair. Spiritually, this verse confirms our freedom from spiritual snares and sinful snarls.

When people escape from the wickedness of the world
by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then
get tangled up and enslaved by sin again,
they are worse off than before.

II Peter 2:20

When trying to free the brush by herself, the little girl only created more tangles. The same is true for us. We need help to be released from our entanglements. Christ frees us from the snarls of sin. Nevertheless, we must be aware that it is possible to become entwined again. Then we would be in a worse situation.

The Spirit helps us in our weakness.
Romans 8:26 ESV

Neither Debbie nor her granddaughter were able to release the entangled brush. Applying hair conditioner was the answer. Little by little, Debbie applied more conditioning solution. Little by little, she was able to untwist the brush from the knots in the hair. There are times when we are twisted by temptations and knotted in snarls of sin. We may become too weak to get ourselves out of these situations. However, there is help for us – the Holy Spirit is our spiritual conditioner. In John 14:16, we are promised that the Holy Spirit will be our Helper forever.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves
be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1

Debbie hopes her granddaughter learned a lesson through the knots in her hair. However, she also realizes it could happen again. The same is true for us. Christ has set us free. However, knots of iniquities can again tie us up – we can become yoked to slavery. Be strong in the Lord – stay free!

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in
My name,
He will teach you all things and bring to
your remembrance all that I have said to you.
John 14:26 ESV

Grandmother helped granddaughter with her hair. The Holy Spirit is our Helper.