Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Thoughts from the Valley of Shadows

Jettie and I continue to face the largest challenge of our lives together, and I don't really feel qualified at this point to write about much--the challenge we are facing has stripped away any confidence in self (not a bad thing!). But there is one thing that has really stood out these past couple weeks, and that is God's incredible attention to the details of our lives.

In the midst of our valley of shadows, the number and impact of God-incidences has increased remarkably. For example, several of our praying friends have felt led to share a certain scripture, not necessarily a common one, right after God gives us that particular scripture. Or I will hear Father tell me to go back to a particular date and there find the same scripture He raised up for me before sending me there. And then there's all the details for our lives. One day in particular this past week I was overwhelmed with God's interest in our lives and wrote the following in my journal.

Papa, your attention to the details of our lives is beyond description or comprehension. I have been so blind, Papa, to your goodness and to your infinitely intricate involvement in our lives! But how I see you now answering the prayers I have prayed along the lines of Ephesians 1:17, 3:14-21, Psalm 25:4, et al.! And I am seeing perhaps for the first time the wonder David was feeling as he wrote Psalm 139! I am seeing why Jesus lived loved and loving and why He said, “Do not worry,” etc. Ah, Papa! I just found two more evidences of your infinitely close attention to us: the scripture theme for this month on our calendar is Lamentations 3:22-23, another one you have raised up for us at this time; and R______ sending us Psalm 94:19 yesterday as I was clinging to it so tightly. Ah, Father, you number the hairs on our head because we are so precious to you, not because of scientific interest! Every detail of my life is infinitely precious to you and you are incomprehensibly intimate and intricate in your loving involvement in our lives (Luke 12:6-7).

So there you have it. A thought from the valley of shadows where the Shepherd walks with us, paying close attention to us, not to watch for our mistakes but because He treasures us! And as we learn to listen, listen, listen...the wonder of His bending over us to bless us in the tiniest details only increases.

Marveling at His love,

Tom, one of Abba's children

Friday, August 21, 2009

God's Mysterious Will Is Good!

My post is late this week because of my need to care for my wife as she recovered from endoscopic surgery (she is doing better each day). But something has been bubbling in me that I want to write about: the tendency of even believers to think that God's hidden will is somehow going to mean pain for us!

This was brought home to me when a wonderful teacher and friend spoke of negative circumstances and said that that's why they didn't really like Isaiah 55:8-9 which says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

I smiled when I heard this because of something Father showed me through this passage about His "mysterious ways." Like most folks I somehow took this passage to mean something like, "Listen, Tom, your pea-brain just can't get it, so when things that you don't like and you don't understand happen just suck it up. After all, God's ways are just so far beyond yours..." Well, okay maybe not everyone thinks like that or puts it that bluntly, but we do seem to think that the bad things that happen are somehow part of God's mysterious ways and that we just have to buck up. But when God opened my eyes about this passage, He led me to an astounding discovery: "mystery" in the New Testament is with perhaps one exception, always about something good that God is revealing about Himself! (Check it out for yourself by searching on mystery in the NT).

This passage in Isaiah reveals this in living color! Check out the two verses that precede 8-9: "Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, and he will freely pardon." 8 "FOR my thoughts are not your thoughts..."

Do you see what I saw? The exalted, unsearchable thoughts of God are in the context of His mercy towards those (rebellious people!) who turn towards Him. In other words, it's about His goodness! What is mysterious about God is not the fact that "bad things happen" in this world, but that He is so very, very good! He is so astonishingly good and loving and kind that the best human definitions of these traits fall infinitely short, because His thoughts are not our thoughts, and our ways are not like His! So when God "has something up His sleeve" that we cannot see or understand, we can be sure that it's something good, not something bad!

What does this mean for me, for you? Well for me it has changed my entire perspective about life and God in the midst of life. Now, no matter what happens (and Jettie and I are in a very, very hard time right now), I find myself looking for evidences of His amazing, totally good if mysterious will. And I find myself realizing that He is so beyond my best thoughts and operates for my good in ways so far beyond my ways that I am stunned even as I am loved into surrender, restfulness and yes, even expectancy.

So if God "hides" something, I now imagine that what He is hiding is just too good to be experienced. The lives of those who have been profoundly touched by God in the past seem to confirm this thought. The great evangelists Finney and Moody both wrote of being so profoundly touched by God's love that they had to ask God to stop! And other influential believers report these same kinds of experience of His goodness in one way or another. No wonder then, that Paul, when writing of the unsearchable things of God, put it in the context of God's astonishing mercy (Romans 11:32 ff). For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. 33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?”35 “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?”36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Living increasingly in astonished wonder.

Tom, one of Abba's little boys

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Guided with His Eye

This will be a brief post. Our class ran long and I have been sending out prayer requests for Jettie who has a CT Scan tomorrow to determine what's up with her pancreas. We welcome your prayers.

I did want to give you a little more exposure, though, to Danny Silk's wisdom. So here goes.

Back in June of last year, I wrote about God's words to me on July 3, 2004, the day after my first "Secret Place" encounter with Papa God. He said to me, "I am raising up an army of those who know me so intimately that I can guide them with my eye.”

Now I know that most translations translate Psalm 32:8 with something like "guide you with my eye upon you" but you can make a case for being guided with His eye, I think, but I won't build that case here. I also have my own thoughts about what this phrase means (being so locked onto His loving face that I catch His slightest glance), but Danny Silk's explanation is really good and fits in well with my theme from last week about obedience that flows from love. On page 178 of Loving Our Kids On Purpose, Danny writes the following.

How does the Lord direct us with His eye? The eyes are the windows of the heart. God directs us by letting us know how our choices affect His heart. When we make choices that violate our connection with him and violate who we are, the Holy Spirit convicts us, which is basically a message that says, “Hey, look into Daddy’s eyes. Do you see that what you are doing breaks His heart?” Unfortunately, if we are still thinking like mules, we mistake the conviction of the Holy Spirit to mean, “Oh, God’s getting mad, He is about to smite your hind parts if you don’t straighten up and fly right.” But that’s not at all what conviction is. Ephesians 4:30 says, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” Our sins hurt His heart. And when we hurt His heart, He invites us to look into His eyes and see that. He trusts us with His heart, and trusts that the concern we have for His heart will direct us."

I love this! And may Father God so capture you and me that we care so deeply about His Heart that His glance is all we need to bring us running into His embrace!

Thanks for "listening"!

Tom, one of Abba's children

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Utterly Joyful Obedience!

On the way up here to Calgary, I finished reading a truly remarkable book. In the forward to Loving Our Kids On Purpose, by Danny Silk, Bill Johnson says, “This book is so profound I wish I could make it required reading for all believers, not just parents.” I was intrigued by that comment and wondered if it could be true. Now that I have read the book, I know it is! It is not only filled with remarkably practical wisdom for parents, it is also one of the very best explanations I have ever read of how to live the New Covenant life that Jesus offers to us!

Far too many—perhaps most—believers still live their lives as if they were living B.C., believing that God uses external control (rewards and punishment) to “control behavior” rather inviting us to respond to Him in love. But as Danny Silk writes on page 43 of his book, “In the New Covenant, God relates to the believer in a new way, through writing His “law on our hearts and minds.” When the law is written on our hearts and minds and when God Himself dwells in us, we no longer need to be controlled from the outside…

God is a safe place. Because sin has been dealt with in the New Covenant, we no longer need to be punished or controlled but need to learn to manage our freedom responsibly, which changes the goal of government as well as parenting. When love and freedom replace punishment and fear as the motivating forces in the relationship between parent and child, the quality of life improves dramatically for all involved.”

Reading this book sent me reviewing things in my journal about obedience that flows from love. I share with you some of these. The blue text are words I sense the Father saying to me. Obviously they always need to be weighed carefully, but I offer them to you as they came to me.

March 3, 2008

“Yes, child, the 'problem' is that you still have not tasted of my goodness. You have settled for crumbs from my table, for wading in the shallows. But I hear your deepest heart cry—it is music to me—and I will take you all the way in. I will! Fly, waking Eagle, fly! Fly...

“Yes, child, when you surrender, you surrender to my goodness even when it appears otherwise. You surrender to my very best, my highest and most beneficial purposes!

“Child, I hear your heart's concerns for people like ____; and every heartbeat of concern in my presence I count as the most lovely and simple childlike prayer. It's the love behind the words that moves my heart, not their eloquence or accuracy. It's the listening for my heart that leads you farther in the journey of prayer. I am listening to your heart, child, even as I teach you to hear mine!”

Reflection: Obedience that does not flow from a truly trusting, surrendered will is not obedience at all. It’s compliance, but it is not obedience. The obedience that Jesus offered to his Abba in Gethsemane had to be completely freely chosen and not under compulsion or the whole thing would have fallen apart. What a remarkable thought! That the Son of God in all his humanity calling out to his Father with the tenderest of terms: “Abba”—there in that most intimate moment, he surrendered his will to his Father's will. There the battle was truly won. There love had its fullest expression. Why then do we think that obedience to God should be any different for us? Any obedience we give that does not come from truly listening, truly loving, truly trusting, but instead is forced, is not obedience at all and brings the Father no pleasure.

July 7, 2008

Abba, I sense you singing over me…

“Yes, child, the joy you feel when your son listens to you and actually does what you say, is my joy when you do the same. It is I that you hear singing over you this morning. You are indeed beginning to understand and practice wholehearted obedience, and that out of love and reverence for me, and I am singing! And I have so, so much more for you, little one, as you (finally) begin to truly yield and follow me with all of your heart! Watch what I do, little Eagle!”

July 16, 2008

Father, the OT prophets and others seemed to hear you only occasionally and see things only at your bidding (with some rare exceptions like Moses, David and Elisha). As I pondered this, I think you said,

“Servants hear only when the Master has instructions, child, but children have the privilege of hearing Father’s voice often. Indeed, anytime they wish to ‘run in’ and converse, they can. Yes, child, even today many function only as servants and not as my friends, my sons and daughters. Even you lived that way once, and you are still very much learning to live as a son. But I will teach you!”

June 11, 2009

And I still struggle to hear you well enough to know… well, one year ago, Stan was still alive; today He is alive with you but gone from here, and I still don’t know what went wrong. And others are close to death and I still can’t hear you for them! Yet if I try to figure this out (which I am prone to do), I get confused and frustrated. I must learn—by your grace I will learn—how to live saturated and surrendered in the moment!

“Child, have you forgotten how to dance? Have you forgotten that it’s about flying? Danny’s book is given to you at this time to remind you once again that it’s about relationship with me, not performance. Yes, I AM GOD, and to obey me is all that matters and the wisest course for any human’s life. But consider the life of my Son—His obedience was joyful, flowing, alive with desire and delight! Why? Because He knew how to fly, how to live in my Presence, and my Presence is good beyond your comprehension. Fly, Eagle, fly! I will take care of course corrections. You don’t do well at that, little one. Consider what I have just said to you through Andrew Murray today! Little one, it brings me joy to see joy in you, just like Ashley’s joy brings you joy! Fly, beloved Eagle. If you follow my Wind, you won’t stray off course, and it’s an intimately connected journey for you, not merely a job to be done! Fly!”

July 2, 2009

I wrote, “Ah, Papa! You have called me to perfect obedience, flowing from knowledge or your goodness and love, and any time I vary from that, your love makes me very aware of this very quickly! Thank you! But the awareness needs to be of your goodness missed, I think, not merely or mostly an awareness of my failure to obey!

Wow! I think I am finally beginning to understand the following words from Jeremiah!

“When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty.” Jeremiah 15:16 (NIV)

More next week!

Tom, one of Abba's children