The God Who Sees Me – Part 3

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Studying the names of God, I continue to reflect on the name Hagar, the Egyptian Slave of Abraham and Sarah, gave to God in her encounter with Him.  It was a moment of great despair and hopelessness for her.  Despair and hopelessness until she realized that God saw her and cared about her.

As I continue to think about this concept that God sees us, I continue to be reminded of times in my own life when things seemed hopeless, but then God reminded me that I was not alone, that He saw me and He cared.  I shared the first two times in my life – at ages 14 and 33 – when God revealed Himself to me so vividly in The God Who Sees Me – Part 1 and The God Who Sees Me – Part 2

Perhaps the greatest time God showed up for me was when I was fighting for my life in a battle with an aggressive cancer.  After a mastectomy, the surgeon apologized to me because he said he had to cut a lot more nerves under my arm than he wanted to, including the main nerve running through my underarm down my side.  He had found so many lymph nodes full of cancer and he wanted to make sure he got all of them so he cut away more than he preferred to do.  He said I would have more pain than normal, but he felt trying to save my life was more important than inflicting some pain.  I totally agreed with him.  I wanted to live.  If that meant some pain, so be it.

Meeting the cancer doctor for the first time he told me my cancer was a very aggressive type and far advanced.  The type of cancer they found would also not respond to any further treatment after chemotherapy and radiation.  His first words to me will never be forgotten.  He said:

The odds are not in your favor!

After undergoing 16 chemotherapy treatments with three different powerful drugs, I began a radiation treatment which would include 35 sessions radiating not only the chest area where the cancer had been removed, but my underarm, the left side of my neck and the left side of my upper back.  Because so many lymph nodes had been cancerous, the doctors wanted to radiate all the lymph nodes in that area of my body to make sure any cancer cells left were destroyed.

Starting the first radiation treatment I was already exhausted from almost nine months of chemotherapy.  Several hours on two different days were spent in the radiation department as they worked to set up the computer to deliver the radiation to all four parts of my body.  They had to be careful to avoid my heart and my lung as the cancer had been on my left side.  Then the day arrived to begin treatment.

As I entered the room where the treatment would be given, I saw a sign on the door “Danger!  Radiation!”.  The technicians helped me on the table, working to get my body placed in the exact position needed so the radiation rays would reach the right places.  They then left the room and the heavy door slammed shut.  I lay on the table in a very painful position and watched the big x-ray machine begin to descend toward my chest.  Feeling so frightened, I never felt so alone.

As tears ran down my cheeks, I cried out to God telling Him I felt so alone.  At that precise moment, the elevator music they had been playing stopped and a song from my childhood came over the sound system.

Yes, Jesus loves me!  The Bible tells me so!

The song was so comforting reminding me that I was not alone.  When the treatment was finished I thanked the technicians for playing that song.  They did not know what I was talking about.  The music they were playing was canned music already programmed and that song was not on the program.  They also said they did not hear that song.

But I heard it.  The God Who Sees Me – the God who saw Hagar – was there.  He saw me, heard my cry, He cared.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
 You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
 You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
 Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
 You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

 Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

 

Hold the fort!

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Defensive mentality

An old hymn of the church which I always disliked tells much about the mentality of the church in years past.

“Hold the fort, for I am coming,” Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to Heaven, “By Thy grace we will.”

For many years the church has seemed to view the return of Jesus and our future home in heaven as the primary goal of the Christian.  I remember attending several Bible conferences where people taught eschatology using material from authors like Hal Lindsey and his book “The Late Great Planet Earth.”   A few years ago people were fascinated by the “Left Behind”  series written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.

While I totally understand the need to study Bible prophecies of the future, it seems to me that while the church taught of the return of the Lord and often suggested that time was very soon, it made little difference in how the church members actually lived their lives.  The general feeling seemed to be that we needed to make sure we were ready for the return of Jesus so we could go to heaven.  Maybe we should also warn others that if they did not get right with God, they would be going to hell.

But our daily lives were not really changed.  We were basically living in a fort, trying to defend our self from the sin of the world and waiting for Jesus to come and rescue us.

I often have wondered “Is this what being a follower of Jesus is all about.  Living a defensive life against Satan and hoping I can hold out until Jesus rescues me.”  I remember hearing testimonies (at the time when churches actually had a time for members to “testify”) of how rough the week had been, how hard Satan had attacked them, but thank God they were hanging on.

As I wrote earlier this week, I believe the church has not truly understood that when we pray the Lord’s Prayer we are asking for God’s kingdom to be present in our lives now.  Active Anticipation

God’s Kingdom is here!

Through God’s Spirit in us we are to live out the Kingdom values and teachings now in this world.  That means we need to live together as brothers and sisters of God – not separated by race, gender, economic status or any other barrier.  When we get a glimpse of heaven in the book of Revelations we see that there are people from every “tribe, tongue and nation” worshiping before the throne of God.  If we cannot do that now, how will we be able to do it in the future?

That means we do not live defeated lives, but through God’s Spirit we find the strength, the courage, the determination we need to not only overcome difficulties in our lives, but to reach out and be a source of strength, courage and determination for others who are struggling.  That does not mean we will not have times of weakness and discouragement.  But I think it should mean that we always recognize we are children of the Kingdom and have God’s resources to draw on in times of need now.

The best defense is a strong offense!

This statement or basic concept has been attributed to George Washington as well as others and is often used by football teams.  While it is not always true in all situations, I do believe the church would benefit by recognizing that God’s Kingdom is in us now.  If we would more actively study and follow the principles of God’s Kingdom that Jesus taught while he was on earth and begin to allow God’s Spirit to strengthen and guide us, then we could really show the world what God’s Kingdom would really look like.   As the world saw us truly love others, truly work to heal the hurt of others, truly enjoy the peace of God, they might began to want to be a part of this Kingdom also.

David’s example

In 1 Samuel 30 we find a great example of allowing God to strengthen and give us victory.  David and his men had gone into battle.  When they returned, they found that a band of Amalekites had burned their town and taken their women and children captive.  The men wept until they could not weep any more.  They became angry with David and began to talk of killing him.  What a time of discouragement.  But I love what the Scripture says about David in this time of great distress.

David found strength in the Lord his God.

Like all his men, David no doubt was worried.  He had wives and children that were also taken captive.  His leadership was in question, even his life in danger.  But David called on the strength that comes from God.

He then asked for direction from God as to what he should do.  I love what God spoke to him.

Go after them.  You will surely recover everything that was taken from you.

My prayer in this Advent season is that we as the people of God will seek God’s direction for the difficult situations in our lives.  Then, with His guidance let us begin to go on the offensive and pray prayers of faith to reclaim what Satan has taken from our church, our family, our nation.

Let us “get out of the fort” and interact with God’s love, wisdom and strength in this world and show them what God’s Kingdom is all about in the here and now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Active Anticipation

 

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Saying the Lord’s Prayer once again

Beginning my devotions for this third week of Advent, I read once again the Lord’s Prayer. Growing up in a Christian home I cannot began to count how many times I have heard this prayer, how many times I have recited it.

But today I wondered how much I really understood that part of the prayer where Jesus said

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

So many times I must confess I have prayed this with anticipation of that day when Jesus would return to earth and set up His kingdom.  What a glorious day when God wipes the tears from our eyes, when sin and temptation no longer are a problem, when there is truly peace on earth.

According to the dictionary anticipation means a feeling of excitement about something that is going to happen in the near future.  Often I think that is how I – and perhaps others – have viewed this part of the prayer.  Sometime – hopefully in the near future – Jesus will return and set up his kingdom.  To have God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven is a future event – something Jesus will do – while I sit and wait with excitement.

But today as I reflect on these words, I realize once again that Jesus was not calling us to anticipate this future event.  I believe it was calling us to make that true today – right now.

Not anticipation, but ACTIVE anticipation!

To truly pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, I am asking God to manifest his kingdom in me today.  I am called to be an active participant in the answer to this prayer.  I am not to sit idly by waiting for someday.  I am called to make myself available to God’s Spirit and to allow God’s will to be manifest in me (obvious, clear, plain, noticeable).

While I wait with great anticipation for the return of Jesus Christ and the fulfillment of all the wonderful promises of the complete defeat of evil, I must wait with active anticipation recognizing it is my responsibility to see that God’s will is done today in my own life.  It is my honor to surrender to God’s Spirit now and be a witness to what God’s will on earth really is all about.