Ladies, I bet you could name at least one movie where your heart was momentarily stolen by the suave and handsome thief. Whether he was the main character, a secondary character or even a minor character I bet you could think of at least one. He steals for a good reason maybe, kind of like Robin Hood, or maybe he really is a scoundrel but there’s just something about him. I know a robber who steals for a good reason, a good guy who many don’t see as a thief. But there’s the catch, what He is taking already belongs to Him. Jesus is the grave robber. He comes like a thief in the night and steals us away, isn’t that fabulous! When we die we don’t just lie in our graves with nothing to do; Jesus comes for us and only our bodies go to the grave, our souls, our personalities, us… we go to Heaven. Jesus isn’t trying to be alluring to falsely take from us, He steals our hearts with His love and His truth and His sacrifice because He adores us, and once He has our hearts we belong to Him and Him to us and we no longer are of this world. If we give Him our hearts while we are still alive then we can have no fear in death because Jesus is our grave robber. He snatches us away so we are not captives of the grave but are captives of the one true King. I don’t know about you, but Jesus is my favorite robber, a robber who steals us away because He loves us. He is not a thief in truth because He owned us even before we knew what life was and now death is life and this new life is the greatest adventure because it’s an adventure where we can see and touch Jesus, the thief who stole us from death and suffering.
Remember that famous scene from Aladdin when he takes Jasmine for the magic carpet ride? Do you recall how that scene began? It began with a simple question. Do you trust me?
How often does Jesus reach out His hand and ask, “do you trust me?” Do we trust Him? Are we confident that the carpet can hold us? Are we asking Him “is it safe?” And then realizing that God is never safe and finding that that scares us. Just like the Beavers said about Aslan, “of course He isn’t safe, but He is good”. Of course the ride isn’t going to be safe but God is good, all the time. We may not see it always, but God is always doing good for us. The tips of the updrafts and the smack of the wind may not always feel comfortable, but Jesus takes us out of our comfort zones so that we can find a ‘whole new world’. If we don’t ever step off the balcony we will never find the magic of the adventure.
Next point, remember how the Genie said (in humor) “always keep your hands and arms inside the carpet”? We must remember to always keep ourselves within the Holy Spirit. We can wander too far to the edge and fall away from Him. Yes He will catch you if you call on Him, but the fall is a horrible thing that is better to avoid. Within the carpet you Are safe, trying to walk on air by yourself is impossible.
There are a lot of carpets out there, but the only magic one that will take you on an amazing journey is the one with the savior holding out His hand, asking if you trust Him enough to let go of the edge and fly.
Do you ever feel panicked? Not necessarily from something bad, but just from general life? The, ‘this deadline is coming up’, or ‘that paper is due’, or the famous ‘I can’t believe I have not gotten that done yet’ panic. Our world’s not falling apart it just feels like we are. It may be a panic caused by good things that you don’t know how to fit in your schedule, or something you’re excited for but you don’t know how other people will react. All kinds of things can cause us to panic. Then we see the amazing happen, the things we are panicked about start falling into place as if they were always meant to be there. We meet our deadline and it’s the best work we’ve ever done, our paper gets on the prof’s desk just as the bell rings and we can breathe, our schedule suddenly has room, our exciting new life experience is the making of an amazing new future, We find that thing we needed to get done goes by really fast. So on and so on. Guess what friends, that’s Jesus. When our panic turns into prayer we see it turn around into purpose. My grandfather preached once that to see miracles we first have to see problems. I know that’s not a new concept but it’s still true. Until we have the privilege of saying, “okay God, I give this to you,” we haven’t yet seen Him work. Jesus gives us what is best for us and sometimes that’s hard to see. Philippians 4:6-7 says (say it with me) worry about nothing, pray about EVERYTHING. Jesus longs to prove Himself to us, He desires to hear our prayers about everything. Nothing is too personal, too hard, too dirty, too scary for Jesus to hear us say. He knows already, so feel free in unburdening yourself to Him. Only Jesus can give us peace and only He can make perfection out of our panic.
In our lives we will undoubtedly come across mountains we have to climb; there’s no way past them but up. We stand there at the base of the mountain looking at the thick, prickly trees and the 80 degree uphill grade, the top of the mountain is so high it has it’s own, personal cloud and we think to ourselves, ‘there has to be another way.’ So we begin looking for an easier route.We walk for miles as far as we can go around the base of the mountain in one direction and then in the other. We then find ourselves standing in our original spot, 10 times more tired and 10 times more discouraged as we realize we just wasted all that time and energy looking for a way around a solid rock foundation and could have been at least a third of the way to the top by now if we had just hitched up our socks and started climbing. Does this sound familiar? Well I bet it did for Moses too, he waited 40 years in the desert 100% relying on God for EVERYTHING because his people didn’t want to go through the hardship that they would face in entering the promise land. In the end God showed them that the view from the top of the mountain is well worth the climb, but it took a while to get them up there. God gets it. He’s patient with us and waits as we weigh our options but in the end we have to climb. We may get dirty and bloody and sore climbing to the top but once we sit down on the summit and look at the rushing waterfall beneath us and the crisp, cloudy air around us cools and soothes our aching bones we realize that without the climb we would never have gotten to look down upon a rainbow. God pushes us for a reason. No matter what we go through He uses it to draw us into His presence and to show us His power. He is building us into who we were meant to be and even though other people might not understand the climb and might try to persuade you to stay in the valley you taking that first, second, third, final step is putting you in God’s will; what else could we possibly wish for?
Everyone has had to use it at sometime in their lives, the refresh button I mean. Whether it was the one on your phone, your computer, your video game console; the point is we have all probably had a point in our lives where it was necessary to hit that little button. There have probably been times when your device wouldn’t operate properly until you got out your paper clip, pulled out the end and gave the button a tap; Suddenly your device turns off, then back on and everything is as it should be.When God refreshes us it is much the same thing. I know that usually things aren’t completely they way they were but they FEEL better. My grandfather once preached on how a fair portion of our sufferings are caused by our minds, our situation or hurt might not be nearly so bad as our minds are making it out to be and when God refreshes us we can suddenly see the bright side. Our but God moment as my grandfather would say. That time when we were at the end of our strength, but God reached out His hand and pulled us through. God refreshes us and our souls have peace, we now feel we can take on our lives. Have you ever noticed how small the refresh button is? If you didn’t know it was there you probably wouldn’t even notice it. Sometimes that’s hope; so small that if you didn’t know that Jesus was there with you, loving you, you probably wouldn’t even notice it. The hope just needs a little focus to show us that we will be okay. If our eyes are on our frozen screen, we can’t see a solution around our problem so we panic and get frustrated; but if our eyes are on our refresh button (Jesus) we know that there is someone who can fix everything. We need to press into Him and feel Him take away all our fears and hurts and worries and refresh us. So try to remember that in our lives there will be problems, but we have a refresh button that can set everything right again, a refresh button that has overcome the world.
But if a man suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this name. -1Peter 4:16
Suffering, now that is something everyone knows a little about. The verse probably means to suffer for Christ, but when you think of it can also apply to suffering in general. When you suffer as a Christian you always have someone to turn to. When you suffer as a non-believer, you suffer alone. Suffering with God means you always have someone there, wiping your forehead, wrapping your bandage, helping you up the stairs, letting you cry on His shoulder, giving you a word of confidence and so much more. I have had suffering where I feel like I am completely alone; fear builds up and I feel like my tears are mine to bear in isolation, and then I feel Jesus. It can be something as little as opening my Bible app and the verse of the day is exactly what I am experiencing, or a song that comes on the radio that describes my situation. The one common thread in everything about suffering is God reaching out His hand and pulling the one in need through. The one bright light that makes all the trouble seem like it will come to an end is the mention of God. I almost said the simple mention of God, but there is nothing simple about Him, and bringing our eyes up to His level is AMAZING. Why would the Lord of all the earth allow us to be near Him? Why would He care? Because He loves us and always will! So if you are suffering; whether it is depression, illness, pain, fear, doubt, loss or anything else, turn your eyes to Jesus because He loves you! He is waiting for you to see that He is there to HELP, He never leaves us to suffer alone, our tears He always shares with us. So praise the Lord and trust him, through all your sufferings, and know that they are temporary, but Jesus is eternal.
Sometimes I find things coming up in my life that I just don’t want to pray about, because praying means facing my struggle. When we pray we are meeting with God, taking His hand and staring down our problems together; that’s the hard part though, staring down the problem. It’s so nice to take my fears, my anxieties, my hurts, my angers, my sorrows and just curl up in a ball and pretend they’re not there. The old saying out of sight out of mind comes to thought and it’s so true. If we can bury our faces under our pillows and not see what’s happening we can make the hurts artificially go away. The minute we start to pray we are first acknowledging that a bad thing has happened, second we are confronting that bad thing. This can be very difficult, sometimes the bad things are things we don’t want to think about let alone face; but when we look that problem in the eye and say, “I’m not afraid of you!” It loses its power over us. When David took on Goliath he walked out with God hand in hand and looked that giant in the face, he didn’t hide and hope that he would go away because he knew that would not change anything. David went out without fear because he went out with God and He knew that God had him and wasn’t going to let anyone defeat him. The only way to defeat our problem is with God, and we need to pray. Yes praying forces us to confront the problem we don’t want to face, but until we face it and pray the problem is going to stay there, taunting us. So let’s go get our sling shot and pray with Faith, because I know that God knows just where to plant the stone in the canter of our troubles.
The most defiant words in the Christian vocabulary are “it is well with my soul!”
This statement stands us apart from the rest of the world. The devil tries to take us down using things that tear at our souls. Troubles that drag at our minds, sting at our hearts and eventually cause us to fall to our knees and beg for relief; these things the devil uses to try to hurt our souls. Our souls connect us to God; our bodies stay earthbound but our souls receive a new body in Heaven, that’s why the devil tries to get a hold of them. The moment we win against the devil is the moment when we are on our knees, head hung low to the ground, tears pouring down our faces and we hear ourselves say, “it is well, with my soul!” That’s the moment the chains shatter. That statement is an ultimate statement of Faith. It may not be well with any other part of us, it may not be well with any person who sees us but if it is well with our souls we win. God wins. God never leaves us in those moments, He is always there; but there are times when WE need to make the breakthrough happen. There are times when evil spirits hold our rescuer back and those are times when we need to pray until we feel the breakthrough. When we stare down the beast, though we are battered and torn and we look him in eye and we yell, “IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL!” That moment he will either turn and run or stare you down and snort out a hot breath of indignation and that’s when you keep repeating it, and repeating it and repeating it until it truly is well with your soul and then your beast will have no strength and he will flee. Weary after your prayer battle, when you fall with relief from your victory and you feel Jesus catch you, you will know that all is well, with your soul and that your comforter has made it to you to hold you safe and heal your hurt and take away your exhaustion. So make those 6 words your battle cry today. In the midst of it all stand defiant before the demons who bear down upon you and let them know that it is still well with your soul!
Nothing we desire is coincidence. Now don’t misread this, some desires are set in us by the devil because he wants to lead us to sin, and some are simply human desires because we are, well, human; but many if not most of our desires are given to us by God because He is guiding us to become the person He wants us to be. I am often overtaken by a longing for the Ocean, not just to stand on her shores and admire her beauty, but to be out on her, sailing, so far out that I haven’t seen the shore for days and have no idea what lies ahead on the vast depth of horizon. I often wonder why I desire this, is God drawing me to something that involves the ocean? Am I going to end up somewhere out at sea with no connection to the land? Maybe, or maybe I read too many Jules Verne novels. But if God did end up sending me out to sea, to search the oceans, I would not be spiritually wandering from Him, I would be physically wandering with Him. Missionaries travel this whole world, because they are wandering in the guidance of the Spirit. Sometimes if your soul seems to be yearning to go someplace and/or do something it’s because God is sending you onto your next horizon, it’s because HE wants you to share in an adventure with Him. When Gandalf came to Bilbo’s quiet countryside home and found the hobbit smoking his pipe on a bench he already knew that the journey needed Bilbo, and Bilbo needed the journey; he wasn’t searching for just anyone to go with him on his adventure, he was searching for that one, particular hobbit because no one else would do. When God starts to make our souls uncomfortable and makes us desire to wander it’s because He knows that the journey needs our special touch, our unique character, and He knows that we need the journey and that in the end we will be even closer to Him. Because the amount of times we fall on this journey and the amount of times God catches us add up to make our faith stronger and our focus more clearly on Jesus as our goal. So let go wandering spirit and wander away, you never know what your wandering is preparing you for.
My absolute favorite quote from Tolkien is: Not all who wander are lost.
This statement makes me dream of far off places and uncharted road trips. I can imagine and visualize deep woods thick with ancient trees, their boughs reaching to me as if to guide me along my path. I picture chill mornings by a soothing campfire with a hot cup of coffee in my hand, my dog nestled on my knee and morning doves starting to sing a greeting to the day. Beautiful thoughts these may be, but what if we take a closer look at that phrase? Not all who wander are lost. Tolkien became devout Roman Catholic so there are Christ like connections to His novels and His quotes (whether he intended them or not). Many have written devotionals linking the “Hobbit” and “the Lord of the Ring” with the Bible; no one could possibly know if Tolkien would have approved of these derivative works or not but I doubt he would have minded. Looking at Tolkien’s Faith I wonder what He meant when he said “not all who wander are lost”? Scripture talks about a heart that is prone to wander from the will of God and from God Himself, but that is a different wandering than Tolkien meant here; Tolkien speaks of a physical wandering, a “letting go of the feet” if you will. Here is the point I get from “not all who wander are lost,” not all who wander physically are lost spiritually. Some of us have what may be referred to as a gypsy soul, a restless spirit that makes it so we must constantly be on the move. This may be the result of seeking a longing that only Christ can fill, a longing to know Him because we have wandered from Him, or never knew Him to begin with, but it may also be a need to wander set in us by God.