Tears And A Spray Paint Can

We are building a pool.  It’s been a long process and we’re nearing the end.  The first day that I met with our building contractor, as we sat on the couch and talked about pool construction, out of the blue God burdened my heart to ask him if he went to church.  I argued with God in my mind as the contractor explained the pool process– half of my mind wrestling and arguing with God and the other half trying to pay attention to the contractor.  I wrestled with God because I didn’t know this man and I was afraid he would be offended if I just blurted out “Hey, you go to church?”  That’s kind of a weird, random question to ask your pool contractor you just met.

About four minutes later, God won the argument, so I said, “Are you a church goin’ man?”  He blinked a couple times, and looked at me like I just told him I liked to eat dog hair.  I could tell he was trying to regain his composure from what must have seemed like a bizarrely random question in the middle of explaining the pool construction process.  But then he said yes, that sometimes he went to a certain church in the town he lives, but that he hadn’t been in a while.  And just to maintain the awkwardness, ‘cuz, you know, if I’m anything, I’m awkward, I said, “Well, you look like a church goin’ man.”  He doesn’t look like a church goin’ man. Then we resumed talking about the pool construction process.  That was almost four weeks ago and we’ve spoken off and on since then, but we’ve only discussed our pool construction.

Today he was supposed to be here at 1 p.m. for us to add extra concrete to our patio design.  I didn’t hear from him until 6:30 p.m.  Earlier in the afternoon I felt a little irritated when he didn’t show up.  I wasn’t angry, but I pointed some irritated thoughts in his direction….wherever he was.  When he finally got here, he was flustered and quickly trying to calculate concrete square footage.  As we talked about the concrete, he made a few comments about the stress of his job.  I told him I couldn’t imagine the burden of dealing with homeowners and subcontractors and all the problems in-between, day in and day out.  As he talked, God told me to ask him if I could pray for him.  Despite the awkwardness of our first encounter when I asked him about church, I didn’t wrestle with God this time.  As my contractor was gathering his equipment to leave, I asked him if I could pray for him.  He hesitated a moment and said, “Yes.”

So, I stood there in our half-constructed patio, surrounded by two-by-fours, broken rocks, spray painted lines and goose droppings and took this man’s hand.  A man I barely know.  A man that does not look like a church goin’ man.  A man that builds pools and deals with subcontractors who accidentally cut cable lines and electric lines when they dig a pool.  A man that deals with homeowners who call him every hour of the day and night.  A man who was precious to God and needed prayer.  When I finished praying, this grown man was weeping behind his dark sunglasses as he stood there with a spray paint can in his hand.

He wept because he is a human being who is hurting.

He wept because God told me to pray with Him and I obeyed, so God touched his heart at just the right time.

He wept for other reasons that only he and God know.

God touches lives through our obedience.  And although sometimes what He asks us to do may seem uncomfortable or weirdly random, He has a plan.  Today I stood in my yard and poured out my heart in prayer for this man, but four weeks ago I didn’t even want to ask him if he went to church.  But four weeks ago, God knew about today– the day this man was going to need prayer.  The day that God would remind him that he is treasured and loved.  The day that God would speak to him through someone else.

So today, I encourage you to be obedient to God.  I encourage you to remember that every soul is a precious treasure to God.  I encourage you to reach out to those who are hurting.  Our world is full of broken, hurting people that God wants to speak to through you.   He wants to tell them that they are treasured and loved.

“Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the Law of Christ.” (Gal 6:2)

“And the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick. The Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power to prevail.” (James 5:15,16)

“Pray in the Spirit at all times, with every kind of prayer and petition. To this end, stay alert with all perseverance in your prayers for all the saints.” (Eph 6:18)

Advertisements

Defiled By A Yoga Mat

I have noticed Yoga classes being offered at many churches nowadays.  To which I marvel at the lack of discernment within entire congregations.  And when you point out that Yoga is, indeed, a legitimate system of worship that is part of the Hindu religion, people give excuses as to why they have reasoned within themselves that it’s okay, rather than humbling themselves and considering any error on their part.  Among those excuses is the most prevalent, “I do it for exercise” or “I’m not worshipping anything while I do it.”  But those are just illegitimate excuses to justify doing it.  Any reason to justify doing something that would even remotely grieve God, is an illegitimate excuse.  Quite often when Jesus taught something that people didn’t want to accept, He would end His teaching with the phrase, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt 11:15; 13:9,43; Mark 4:9,23; Luke 8:8; Rev 2:7,11; 36). Even Jesus knew that everyone wouldn’t receive the truth of His message.

Something that much of the church seems unaware of, is God’s very real contempt toward mixing religions.  Throughout the Old Testament, He refers to it as “harlotry” or spiritual adultery.  It is the very reason for which He destroyed His beloved Israel.  And because the God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament, Paul tells us that how God dealt with Israel was written down as a warning to us: “Now these things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.” (1 Cor 10:11)

Over and over, God spoke through His prophets about Israel’s idolatry and spiritual adultery:

-“Look at the shrines on every hilltop. Is there any place you have not been defiled by your adultery with other gods? You sit like a prostitute beside the road waiting for a customer. You sit alone like a nomad in the desert. You have polluted the land with your prostitution and your wickedness.” (Jer 3:2)
“Their deeds will not allow them to return to their God. For a spirit of harlotry is within them and they do not know the LORD.” (Hosea 5:4)
-“Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Because you have forgotten Me and cast Me behind your back, bear now the punishment of your lewdness and your harlotries.'” (Ezek 23:35)
“These things will be done to you because you have played the harlot with the nations, because you have defiled yourself with their idols.” (Ezek 23:30)

Much of the Mosaic Law was to symbolize Israel’s separation from the other nations:

-“For is not the fact of your going with us the sign that I and this people have grace in your eyes, so that we, that is, I and your people, are separate from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (Ex 33:16)
-“You must keep the Israelites separate from things that make them unclean, so they will not die in their uncleanness for defiling my dwelling place, which is among them.” (Lev 15:31)
-“Therefore, separate yourselves and be holy, because I am the LORD your God.” (Lev 20:7)
-“But I have said to you, you will take their land and I will give it to you for your heritage, a land flowing with milk and honey: I am the Lord your God Who have made you separate from all other peoples.” (Lev 20:24)

And this spiritual principle of the separateness of God’s people carries over into the New Testament to be applied within Christianity today:

-“What agreement can exist between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be My people. Therefore come out from among them and be separate’, says the Lord. ‘Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.'” (2 Cor 6:16,17)
-“You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot partake in the table of the Lord and the table of demons too.” (1 Cor 10:21)

Because Western Christianity tends to have a very casual attitude about Christ, it has been inundated with Eastern Mysticism and even occult influences.  Western Christianity has become a very mixed religion.  However, God calls His church to be “without stain or wrinkle or any such blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Eph 5:27); “..holy, unblemished, and blameless in His presence..” (Col 1:22); “make every effort to be found at peace with Him, without spot or blemish.” (2 Pet 3:14); “..keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (1 Tim 6:14).

We may have a casual attitude towards our salvation, but God does not:  “How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?” (Heb 10:29); “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in Whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Eph 4:30).

If God has a serious attitude toward holiness, then so should we:  “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14); “..But just as He Who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, because it has been written: ‘You shall be holy, because I am holy.'” (1 Peter 1:15,16).

For an article that explains the spiritual aspect of Yoga far better than I ever could, I recommend you take the time to read:  The Spiritual Stretch Of Yoga

“Salt is good, but if the salt loses its savor, with what will it be seasoned? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile, and it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Luke 14:35)

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” (Hosea 4:6)

“For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.” (2 Pet 2:20)

“Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today if you should hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as you did in the rebellion, in the time of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers tried Me by testing Me, and for forty years saw My works. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and I said, “Their hearts always go astray, and they have not known My ways.” So I swore on oath in My anger, “They shall never enter My rest.”‘ See to it, brothers, that none of you has a wicked heart of unbelief that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another every day, while it is called today, so that not one of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb 3:7-13)

Eclipsing Repentance

Genesis 1:14 says, “Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years.'”  The phrase translated as “and let them be for signs” is the Hebrew “LE’OTOT”, which is a form of the Hebrew word “OTH”, which can mean banner, omen, sign or witness.  Depending on the context, this word can mean a sign such as the changing seasons and times, or it can mean a sign or omen promised by prophets as pledges of certain predicted events, such as God moving the shadow of the sun on Ahaz’s stairway at Isaiah 38:7,8.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year, I’m sure you are aware of the total solar eclipse that will be traversing across the entire United States, from sea to shining sea, on August 21st of this year.  Jewish tradition held that lunar eclipses were a bad sign for Israel and that solar eclipses were a bad sign for the Gentile nations.  This tradition is related to the fact that Gentile nations held to a solar calendar and Jews reckoned their calendar by the moon.  The Jewish Talmud* states:  “When the sun is in eclipse, it is a bad omen for the whole world. This may be illustrated by a parable. To what can this be compared? To a human being who made a banquet for his servants and put up for them a lamp. When he became wroth with them he said to his servant, ‘Take away the lamp from them, and let them sit in the dark’… When the sun is in eclipse it is a bad omen for idolaters; when the moon is in eclipse, it is a bad omen for Israel, since Israel reckons by the moon and idolaters by the sun” (Succah 29a).

It goes on to say that the Rabbis taught that there are four reasons for a solar eclipse over a nation.  One of those four reasons is as a sign that homosexuality/sodomy has invaded a culture (Succah 29a).  Not only do I find that worthy of note, but I also find it worthy to note that the total solar eclipse across the contiguous U.S. on August 21st, 2017, is also the first day of the Jewish month of Elul.  In the Jewish tradition, the month of Elul is a time of repentance in preparation for the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah (also known as Yom Teruah or Feast of Trumpets) and Yom Kippur.  Yom Kippur is also known as the Day of Atonement, or Judgment Day.  According to Jewish tradition, an entire month was spent in heartfelt repentance to prepare oneself for judgment and atonement.  And it just so happens that the first total solar eclipse across the entire contiguous U.S. in almost 100 years falls simultaneously on the day that begins the Jewish month of repentance that precedes Judgment Day.  I find this remarkable.

During the month of Elul, every effort is made to repent and “return” to God in every area of a person’s life.  It is a time of thorough self-examination, a time of coming before God in total submission, without worldly distraction, seeking Him to reveal anything in our lives that does not line up with the standard of His Word and the lives we are called to live as those who call Him Lord.  The month of Elul is, quite literally, the season in which we ensure our lamps are full and our wicks are trimmed in preparation for the arrival of the Bridegroom for the wedding feast (Matt 25:1-13).  Which is why I find it additionally remarkable and worthy to note, that the rabbis used a parable about taking the lamp away from unworthy servants to illustrate the significance of a total solar eclipse:  “Take away the lamp from them, and let them sit in the dark” (Succah 29a).

I wrote a post last year around this time about America as Daughter Babylon who sits in the dust…in the dark:  Cold Love of Daughter Babylon

I wrote a series on the Parable of the Ten Virgins and the Jewish month of Elul, that goes into greater detail and explanation:  The Picture on the Puzzle Box

I also wrote another post last year around this time, in which God impressed upon my spirit the gross need for repentance:  Balm of Gilead

“Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon;
sit on the ground without a throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans!
For you shall no more be called tender and delicate…
Your nakedness shall be uncovered, and your disgrace shall be seen.
I will take vengeance, and I will spare no one.
Our Redeemer—the LORD of hosts is his name— is the Holy One of Israel.
Sit silently, and go into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans,
For you will no longer be called The queen of kingdoms.
Yet you said, ‘I will be a queen forever.’
These things you did not consider Nor remember the outcome of them.
Now therefore hear this, you lover of pleasures, who sit securely,
who say in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me;
I shall not sit as a widow or know the loss of children’:
These two things shall come to you in a moment, in one day;
the loss of children and widowhood shall come upon you in full measure,
in spite of your many sorceries and the great power of your enchantments.
You felt secure in your wickedness, you said, ‘No one sees me’;
your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray,
and you said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me.’
Disaster will come upon you, and you will not know how to conjure it away.
A calamity will fall upon you that you cannot ward off with a ransom;
a catastrophe you cannot foresee will suddenly come upon you.” (Isaiah 47:1-11)

After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory. And he called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast. All the nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her immorality. The kings of the earth were immoral with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown wealthy through the extravagance of her luxury.”
Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “‘Come out of her, my people,’ so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; For her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Give back to her as she has done to others; pay her back double for what she has done; mix her a double portion in her own cup.
To the degree that she has glorified herself and lived in luxury, inflict on her that much torment and misery. In her heart she says, ‘I sit as queen; I am not a widow and will never see mourning.’ Therefore her plagues will come in one day, death and misery and famine; and she will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her”… Then a mighty angel picked up a stone the size of a great millstone and cast it into the sea, saying: “With such violence the great city of Babylon will be cast down, never to be seen again… The light of a lamp will never shine in you again, and the voice of the bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more. For your merchants were the great ones of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by your sorcery.” 
(Rev 18:1-23)

*Disclaimer:  I do not consider the Jewish Talmud to be inspired literature.  I am very well aware that the Talmud discredits Jesus and His teachings.  However, the Talmud is a rich source of Jewish oral and historical tradition, and for that reason only have I included it as reference in this post.

Lord Of My Doorstep

I missed You today.
And yesterday.
And the day before that.
I missed You because I was busy.
I am so busy with my life.
Day after day, the time passes by.
I think of You.
I breathe a word or two in Your direction.
You are a perpetual concept in my mind.
A concept that is ever-present, so that gives me comfort.
It gives me comfort because I have confused the concept of You with Your actual presence.
You stand at the door, but I wrestle with the thought of inviting You in.
I have grown comfortable with Your presence on my doorstep.
Besides, it’s messy inside.  If I invite You in, I will have to clean up this mess.
I will have to get rid of some things.
Sometimes cleaning up the mess is far more difficult than living in it.  Surely You understand?
I want You, but I don’t want to clean up this mess.
So I will let You stay on my doorstep, and comfort me from there.
You are my comfortable concept.

My faith is one of intention, rather than practice.
My salvation is a notion, rather than a lifestyle.
Why should I change, if You can save me from out there and let me keep my mess in here?

I read everything but Your word, because if I read it, I will have to choose.
If I read it, then I will know better, and the avalanche of accountability will wash away my comfortable construction.

So, not today.
Today I will miss You.
And probably tomorrow too.
I will miss You because I am busy.
I am far too busy with my life.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Rev 3:20)

“Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word.  My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our home with him.” (John 14:23)

“Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning.  Then you will be like servants waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks, they can open the door for him at once.  Blessed are those servants whom the master finds on watch when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve and will have them recline at the table, and he himself will come and wait on them.  Even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night and finds them alert, those servants will be blessed! But understand this: If the homeowner had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour you do not expect.” (Luke 12:35-40)

Big Yellow Bus

I have this fear that pops up occasionally, like a lone Lego in the middle of the living room floor that keeps getting stepped on.  Actually, I’ve got a lot of those pesky Legos I seem to repeatedly step on in my life, but one of them is the fear that somehow God won’t actually pull through in certain situations.  I fear that He won’t, in fact, provide what is needed in certain situations.  Like, one day He’s just going to pull a thread from the proverbial “rug of circumstances” and let the whole tapestry fall apart, and I’ll just be left standing there looking at a big, messy, knotted pile of mismatched yarn, which would equate to a big, messy, knotted pile of my unanswered prayers.

For the most part, I’m content to persevere in my faith as long as everything seems to be working out according to plan.  As long as I can piece the circumstantial puzzle pieces together in a way that makes sense.  As long as I can seemingly “foresee” some purpose or direction.  But once I catch a whiff of the possibility that my big, yellow bus full o’faith might careen off a cliff into purposelessness or failure, all I can focus on are the jagged rocks of despair and fear below.  I begin to imagine having to collect all my precious– albeit bent and broken– puzzle pieces from among the crags in the rocks, strewn from one end of the unknown to the other; the sharp, jagged rock edges pricking me and scraping me as I go, serving only as a constant source of discouragement.  All this vivid imagery, all this provocative emotion, all while still safely inside my big, yellow bus full o’faith that is still safely on the road.

It’s times like this, when I look to the example of Abraham’s faith.  God told him that he would be a father of many nations.  So it made sense when God promised Abraham he would have a son, despite the elderly condition of himself and his wife.  Abraham could put his faith in God’s ability to make his elderly wife conceive a child.  He could have faith in a God that big.  What didn’t make sense was when God told Abraham to kill the son He promised to use to bring forth those many nations (Gen 21:12).  No son = no many nations.  That didn’t make sense to Abraham.  Those circumstantial puzzle pieces weren’t fitting together.  That big, yellow bus of faith was headed toward the cliff and down onto the jagged rocks below.  But as far as we know from scripture, Abraham didn’t spend a whole lot of time concocting a litany of worst-case-scenario possibilities in his head.  As far as we know from scripture, Abraham went chips-all-in, he poured out all his faith onto God’s promise, there was no plan “B”.  Abraham had faith in a God Who was big enough to handle all circumstances, even the ones that seemed to render His own promises void.  Abraham had faith in a God Who cannot lie and Who keeps all His promises, so when God told Abraham to kill the son from whom He was going to bring forth many nations, Abraham reasoned that God would just have to raise him from the dead to do it (Heb 11:19).  Abraham believed in the ultimate sovereignty of God– a God Who is not shaped by our circumstances, but rather, a God Who shapes all circumstances.

Surely I’m not the only one who is guilty of freaking out while God is still holding me safely in His hand?  Because that’s the simple reality of the matter– when we fret, we do it while we are being held in capable hands.  God is exceedingly capable and more than willing to hold us in His hands.  After all, we are His, we belong to Him– His eternal treasure and dwelling place (1 Cor 3:9,16,17; 2 Cor 6:16; Eph 2:22).

Sometimes I can be Noah’s ark, and sometimes I’m just a leaky, feeble vessel.  Sometimes my rug of circumstances seems like it will hold together, sometimes it doesn’t.  Therefore, something I have to continually remind myself, is that it is Christ Who holds our “rug of circumstances” together, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Col 1:17).  It is Christ Who is the “pitch and tar” that fills the leaky spots in our ark (Gen 6:14).  It is Christ Who is the Author and the Perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2).  Which means that no matter what direction it looks like our big, yellow bus o’faith is headed, it is always in capable hands and it is always headed closer to God.

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2)

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature, upholding all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Heb 1:3)

“And He Who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” (Rom 8:27,28)

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.” (Isaiah 43:1,2)

The Only One

The other day I was in heartfelt prayer with God, asking Him for His presence, crying out for Him to say something.  I was weeping because I so desperately wanted Him to tell me what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong, to give me clear directions.  During that time of intense seeking, I imagined the day that I will finally hear Him say my name, the day that I will finally see His glorious face, and as I sat there slumped over, praying and weeping, He impressed something deeply upon my heart:  “I love you as if you were the only one.”  That one sentence, in all it’s appropriate perfection, was the food that my soul was so desperately longing for.

That is how God loves each one of us.  God’s love for you is as if you were the only one.  Paul tells us, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes [the time of perfection; completeness] the partial passes away… 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.” (1 Cor 13:9-12).

My NASB translation also puts verse 12 this way:  “Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror; but then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”  I can’t decide what fills me with more wonder and longing:  to know that I am “fully known” by God, or to know that there will come a day in which I will know God fully and completely, even as I am now fully and completely known by Him.

Meditate on the fact that God knows you fully and completely.  Every sigh, every joy, every struggle, every victory, every defeat, every moment, meticulously recorded and pored over by the eyes of the Creator of the universe, the Author of all reality, “the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross…” (Heb 12:2).  The joy that was set before Him was us.  We are His joy.

“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with an inexpressible and glorious joy..” (1 Peter 1:8)

“Jesus said to him, ‘Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.'” (John 20:29)

“And I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to comprehend the length and width and height and depth of His love, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:17-19)

Abandoned

There are many hurtful emotions that we will struggle with through the duration of our time here on this side of heaven– despair, discouragement, anger, resentment, bitterness, sorrow.  But in my opinion, there is no negative emotion so quite like abandonment.  I think it’s because abandonment, at its core, is such a multi-faceted emotion– involving a sense of betrayal, a sense of being forsaken and cast away, all mixed together with a sense of worthlessness.  It involves trust issues which affect us on a primal level.  No matter what age we are when we experience abandonment, in our mind we feel like we are a helpless child at the mercy of our circumstances.

Of all the emotions that Jesus experienced during the last week of His life here on earth, I feel very strongly that His sense of being abandoned was likely the most riveting and acute.  All those who were closest to Him, all those in whom He had invested His life and teachings, all those whom He trusted to be there for Him when He needed them most, were scattered and gone.  We are given a vivid picture of His sense of abandonment when the Gospels record His cry toward heaven as He hung on the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt 27:46).  I think one of the things we so easily forget about Jesus’ crucifixion was that He was utterly alone and utterly abandoned the last twelve or so hours of His life.  He made the greatest sacrifice in all of creation and He did it alone.  Abandoned.

After Jesus was crucified, those who followed Him and believed in Him experienced their own sense of abandonment.  All their hopes and dreams, all the good they imagined being accomplished through Jesus’ continuing ministry on earth, was shattered and gone.  What confusion they must have felt?  What a sense of discombobulation, as they reassessed their purpose and their mission.  As they reassessed all that Jesus had promised, and now He was gone.  Had they misplaced their faith?  Had they been deceived?  I can imagine Peter replaying his conversation with Jesus, after many of Jesus’ disciples left Him during His ministry after His teaching on being the Bread of Life, when Jesus told them “..unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.”(John 6:53).  Jesus asked His disciples, “You do not want to go away also, do you?”  To which Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:67,68).  Now that Jesus was gone– dead, crucified, and entombed– to whom would they go?  Abandoned.

Abandonment is an emotion I have unfortunately experienced more times than I care to recount. People who should have been there for me, but weren’t.  People I should have been able to trust and depend on, but couldn’t.  People I thought were going to stay with me, but left.  Every time, in my mind, reverting back to a helpless child at the mercy of my circumstances.  Abandoned.

But one very important thing that we must remember is that we cannot use our circumstances or emotions to define God’s character.  Our circumstances and emotions will always change, but God does not change and neither do His promises.  Even now, as I write this, there are circumstances in my life in which I am tempted to feel abandoned by God.  My circumstances make me ask, “What are You doing God?”  To which He replies over and over again, “I am tending my sheep.”

You see, Jesus is the Good Shepherd, “I am the Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11).  Jesus purchased us with His blood; we are His sheep and He is our Shepherd.  Jesus, anticipating the Disciples’ sense of abandonment after they saw Him crucified, spoke to them before all those things happened and said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18).   And again, after Jesus’ resurrection, He told them, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28:20).

Despite whatever sense of abandonment our circumstances may seem to convey, we must use God’s word to define His character.  And His word tells us that He is the Good Shepherd, Who laid down His life for us and purchased us with His own blood.  He has promised us that He will never leave us as orphans and that He is with us always, even to the very end of the age.  No matter how tempted we are to allow a sense of abandonment to become our embrace, we must look that temptation in the face and proclaim the truth of God’s character and the great promises we have been given in His word.  We are not abandoned.

“I will ask the Father and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, Whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.  I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:16-18)

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.  And you know the way to where I am going.” (John 14:1-4)

“I am the Good Shepherd; the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.  He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.  He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep.  I am the Good Shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.” (John 10:11-15)