Friday, May 21, 2010

Where's Your Plan B?????

Last week I wrote about people who persisted in pursuing Jesus until He met their need. They, like many in Scripture, did not have a "plan B." It seems to me that people who "keep a plan B" in their minds, "just in case" don't often see God's breakthroughs. I think that's because having a plan B, although it seems prudent, tends to erode faith. Just a thought.

Think about how tempting it must have been for some of the folks in the Bible to ask God for a "plan B." I think of Moses and Israel as they were backed up against the Red Sea with the entire Egyptian army bearing down on them. God told Moses, "Tell the people to move on..." I can picture me as Moses saying, "Ummmm, excuse me, LORD, but there's this little problem of the sea in our way." "Oh, you want me to hold up my staff all night, right? Yup, that will work!" "Say, LORD, shouldn't we at least arm the men and put them where they can fight (Plan B)?" Nope, no plan B this time!

Or how about Gideon when God told him to pare down his army to 3oo to face multiplied thousands? Again, I can picture myself as Gideon trying to come up with plan B. "Excuse me, LORD, but 300!??? Can we maybe call those other guys back and have them stationed about 500 yards away, just in case?" Nope, no plan B this time either.

Then there's David, of course, going out to face Goliath. Others around him even offered him a plan B (Saul's armor), but David chose to go with plan A: trusting in God alone.

Note here that I am not advocating presumption or recklessness as we pursue the things of God. Each of these examples had a clear word from God as to what to do and/or a clear conviction about, and in David's case a long experience of, God's faithfulness. And in the New Testament examples from last week, each of these people had Jesus clearly in front of them and His perfect track record in healing available to them. So refusing to have a "plan B" is not reckless but is the sanest thing we can do: trusting in God alone and allowing Him to unfold His plan as we listen to His voice and follow Him wherever He goes (even if it's off the map or through the sea!).

Yes, I will admit that lately my mind ("understanding" -- that thing we shouldn't lean upon) has screamed at me to prepare plans B, C, D, E, F and G, but each time that fear-filled voice has been quieted by God's invitation to listen to Him, rest on His word, trust in His promises. So... I have no other plans... :-)

Tom, one of Abba's little boys

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Other Side of Collapse: Chasing Jesus

Last week I wrote about faith as collapse, and this week's entry may sound like I am contradicting myself, but I'm not--honest! Faith is not something that can be described with one or two metaphors because trust is not a commodity but a living thing that grows in us as we get to know the one we are trusting. So there is a part of faith that is resting trust and collapse. There is another part of faith that pursues God because we know He is good and generous and loving and...

So this week as the battle for Jettie's health heats up even more, I have thought a lot about the people in the Gospels who chased Jesus and pursued Him until He met their need. There are many examples, of course, but some that God has raised up especially are Bartimaeus (see Mark 10:46-52 and Luke 18:35-43), the Syro-Phoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30 and Matthew 15:21-28, ), the woman with the issue of blood (Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-33 and Luke 8:43-48) and the Gadarene demoniac (Mark 5:1-20 and Luke 8:26-39). What strikes me about each of these individuals is their persistence in pursuing Jesus in the face of opposition or obstacles. Each of them knew that "If I can just get to Jesus, I will be healed." In fact, the woman with the issue of blood essentially said that, "If only I may touch His clothes I shall be made well." (Mark 5:28 NKJV), so she pressed through the crowds (despite being "unclean" because of her issue of blood), even interrupting Jesus on an urgent mission, in order to touch the edge of His robe! Bartimaeus also faced opposition as He pursued Jesus with those around him warning him to be quiet. But Bartimaeus shouted all the louder until He captured Jesus' attention. The Syro-Phoenician woman is really amazing in her pursuit: even Jesus (to draw out her faith) put her off, but she wouldn't give up until He granted her request. But perhaps the most amazing one of all in this group is the Gadarene demoniac. Both Mark and Luke tell us that this man dragged his many demons along with him to run to meet Jesus (Mark even says he worshiped Jesus!). Can you imagine the level of satanic opposition this man had to overcome to get to Jesus??? Amazing!

I see in all of these stories an encouragement to pursue Jesus until He grants what we need. Yes, theologically I know that as believers Jesus is already with us, in us and we in Him, but there is also a coming to Him that, however you wish to describe it, brings the powerful response of healing that we need. Each of these people pushed past obstacles and opposition (human and demonic) to chase Jesus until they received healing/deliverance. But I wonder how many others in Jesus' day didn't chase Him? It seems to me that even back then there were many folks like those who urge us to be "realistic" about things like sickness and disease. They are the ones who didn't see the miracles because they stop chasing the One who would have readily granted it (Jesus never turned away anyone who sought healing from Him).

So here I am, collapsing and pursuing. Others may suggest a more "realistic" view of things, but the last time I checked miracles come to those who don't give up their pursuit of the One who loves to do them!

Pursuing Him,

Tom, one of Abba's children

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Strategic Collapse, Refreshing Words, and God's Fingerprints

"I don't understand." I have said these words quite often over these past few months as I have watched my wife wrestle with illness and pain. Recently as I thought those words, God brought to mind one of our theme passages for the journey to healing, Proverbs 3:5-6. I was as if He were saying, "Of course you don't understand. That's why I invite you to trust me and not your ability to understand." And that led me to remember Graham Cooke's frequent statements about not placing confidence in what God is doing but in Who He is, His character and nature.

So does that mean we can never grasp what He is doing at the moment? Not at all. Jesus Himself obviously was able to see what Father was doing because that's what He Himself would do (John 5:19). But the key, I think, is to be content with whatever He chooses to show us (which He usually does because He is inviting us to join Him in it.). The rest of what He is doing, which we cannot see, is where the invitation to trust Him comes into play, eh?

But this is easier said than done, of course, especially when someone you love is in a lot of pain. In fact, I am beginning to think that pain is one of the things that is most likely to turn us back to our own resources. When it persists longer than we think it should, we begin to look at ourselves and wonder what we are doing wrong, etc. This, of course, is a totally useless action since it turns us away from the only One who can help us. But it seems to happen a lot in my experience. I guess it's because pain makes one feel so helpless, and that leads to fear, and fear leads to attempts to "do something," and that turns the focus back upon me (and leaning on my own understanding).

So what am I to do when my mind is screaming for answers? Three things come to mind. The first I have written about a lot. This time I will call it "strategic collapse." Psalm 56:3 is the key verse for me in understanding this: "When I am afraid, I will lean upon, collapse into You." Note that this is not resignation, which is succumbing to circumstances. This is rest through surrendering to God's embrace and focusing on His face. I like the way Graham Cooke describes how this works in Towards a Powerful Inner Life:“When the soul comes under the rule of the spirit, life and peace are the result. Suddenly, we don’t have to know everything; we just become wise about where to stand at any given moment. We don’t know how everything will pan out, but we learn to be happy with the process of getting there. We become fixated on holding God’s hand, and not worried about the trouble around us.”

The second thing that helps me is to refresh (more accurately, have the Holy Spirit refresh) the many promises God makes to us from the Scriptures. I have lost count of how many strategic scriptures He has given Jettie and me for this current journey, but because many of them are memorized or at least very familiar to us now, they form an almost constant stream of communication from Holy Spirit to our spirits and it is a stream that always leads to Father's embrace and the peace that comes therein.

The third thing that helps me is to look back at "God's fingerprints." Although we cannot see the present things God is doing with much clarity, we can see the traces of His activity in the past. One reason I keep a journal is to trace His fingerprints. It's amazing how encouraging it can be to look back and see one evidence after another of God's work in our lives. And I call them fingerprints because we see only the smallest glimpse of what Father's Hand was really doing! But those fingerprints are enough to restore assurance that He is indeed working "in the dark" in the present!

Collapsing often, living refreshed, marveling at His fingerprints.

Tom, one of Abba's little boys

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Prayer, Faith and the Goodness of God

My week has been disrupted more than usual with things related to Jettie's healing journey, so I am late and I am also posting something that I lifted from a journal entry I made one year ago today. As I read this entry this morning, I thought there might be some things in it that would benefit others. So here you have it: my reflections in God's presence about prayer, faith and learning to look into God's face.

I am beginning to see more and more that your goodness is beyond our comprehension and that grasping your completely loving ways is the key to faith. If I just remember how kind and good you are when I pray, I will pray with expectancy. I have tended all along to focus on either the need or on my “praying right” and have missed this key (which Andrew Murray made primary!). Show me your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths! So much more here to ponder, Papa! You want to bless, to heal, to set free. Why is it so hard for us to hold onto that? Tozer’s words, “Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God” takes on new meaning for me now. Ah, Father, you do it again! Last night I awoke at 3:45 and you brought Psalm 34:5 to mind. This morning as I look for and find the page with the Tozer quote I see—no surprise here—Psalm 34:5 referenced! And Young’s literal translation essentially says, “They looked expectantly to Him…”

Father, I see that you have planted the seeds of this in me for a long time. Most recently there was the repeated readings of Andrew Murray’s reminder that prayer must “always begin in the patient love of the Father,” and even more recently the picture you gave me of you and I sitting across from one another and placing the person I am praying for between us. Papa! Please help me hold onto this! There are so many areas where we already know your will and looking into your face as we pray will cause faith to rise up as we consider these. No wonder, Lord Jesus, you started the incredible faith passage in Mark 11 by putting the emphasis on trusting Father! As long as I look for faith as something that begins with me or as something generated within me, I cannot move into biblical faith!

Father, understanding continues to flow. I wonder if it’s not true that when we miss your good purposes (which we must do often) because we don’t understand faith and pray accordingly you simply recalculate our course based upon your ever-pursuing-us goodness. Like a GPS, you are patiently and persistently “recalculating” to get us to your destiny for us. When we miss a turn, you simply pick up from there and invite us to get our eyes back onto you. Yes, there are consequences for our missing things—certainly if we do so because of rebellion—but for those who sincerely are seeking to follow you, you get us back on track the moment we turn back to you. Father, once again I am beginning to see that you are infinitely more loving than we can grasp, infinitely more good than we can imagine, and you are always working. Teach me, Papa, how to join you!

So there you have it. Maybe something in my musings will touch a chord in a few of you, eh?

Tom, one of Abba's children who is still learning to trust His goodness