My Crossroads, God’s Camp

“Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw him, he said, ‘This is God’s camp!’  Genesis 32

After 20 years near his Uncle Laban in Haran, Jacob followed God’s call to “return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.” He was at a crossroads–on his way, but “greatly afraid and distressed”at the dread of meeting his estranged brother Esau. What did he do? He prayed, he practically planned and moved forward, and he wrestled with God at Peniel. He acknowledged God’s high place and authority, and claimed His promises.

Capetown world cities sign with miles

We claim His promises by trusting His character to fulfill His true word. We exercise faith when we proceed in obedience. And when we get alone and wrestle with God, seek His face, and tenaciously press on to know Him, we are changed, and blessed.

Do I acknowledge my crossroads, my places of transition and fear and obedience, as God’s camp?

O God, may Your character and Your promises compel me to pray with faith, obey with courage, and cling to You in humility and gratitude.

Extravagance and Remembrance

Matthew 26 paints two pictures of extravagant love. The first is by an unnamed woman at a gathering in Bethany who “came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at the table.” When the disciples complain about the waste, Jesus commends her: “She has done a beautiful thing to me. In pouring this ointment on my body she has done it to prepare for my burial. Truly, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” She had eyes only for Jesus, poured out for Him her treasure, and has been remembered ever since, not for her name, but for her extravagant love. Isn’t this the extravagance of the gospel itself?

The Last Supper, Delft 1760

Then Jesus, knowing His death is near, anticipating Judas’s betrayal, serves the Passover meal to his disciples. “‘Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is the blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'” (with Luke 22:19) Is there any more extravagant love that giving one’s life?

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

Crucifixion, 18th century Delft

“See from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down;                         Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?                           Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small;                         Love so amazing, so divine demands my soul, my life, my all.”                                                       –Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

What treasure am I lavishing on Jesus, Who gave His all for me? O Lord, help me love others deeply, selflessly, and well, as You have loved me; and if I am remembered for anything, may it be for my extravagant love for Thee.

Faith’s Impetus

“For we walk by faith, and not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

In Genesis 22:2-3, [God] said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.’ So Abraham arose early in the morning…and went to the place of which God told him.”

Abraham had learned what it was to walk by faith. A ‘literal’ walk was a sojourn over road and rock, a long meandering journey by foot from one known place to the next unknown place, step by step listening, watching for God’s direction. In Genesis 12:1, God had called Abraham to “go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” He went.

Cornwall coast 2013

God knows the end, God knows the way; we must know God, that is enough. Hebrews 11:8 tells us “Abraham went out, not knowing where he was going, for he was looking forward to a city whose designer and builder is God, and considered…that God was able.”

Do I question the call? The task? The possible discomfort, unease, challenge, or even suffering? Or do I listen to the Caller, and embark, knowing He Who called is faithful (1 Thessalonians 5:24) and that is enough?

Lord on high, engage my mind and will to trust, and propel my feet to walk at Your bidding, fully believing that You are able. And that is sufficient.

God’s Right

The sky is clotted with grey this morning, with slits of white light showing through, evidence of a risen sun. It is true, even in cloudy times, the Light is there, evidence of God’s presence, although we cannot see Him or His ways clearly. It may be His measured grace that keeps us from seeing too much. His unseen hand is always at work to perform His bidding with care and perfection and lovingkindness.

“Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” Matthew 20:15

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“I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working on his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good for the potter to do. Then the word of the LORD came to me, ‘Can I not do with you as the potter has done? Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.'” Jeremiah 18:3-5

Pots at Austin succulents, Austin, TX

Help me trust Your guiding, shaping, orchestrating hand, O LORD. When I cannot see what You are doing or making, I believe You are good, and do good. (Psalm 119:68)

The Pelican, Lot, and the Lost Sheep

I watch a pelican glide across the water– regal, wings spread, eyes keen. Fluid seconds pass. At just the decisive moment, in an instant, he ascends a split second then plunges straight down and pops up with a fish in his beak. That fish, oblivious to its captor’s pursuing flight and watchful eye, is grabbed out of its own kingdom forever.

Pelican above the water

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In Genesis 19, Lot has become settled in wicked, depraved Sodom, and two angels, disguised as men, came to rescue him. When “he lingered…[they] seized him, the LORD being merciful to him, and brought him out and set him outside the city. One said, ‘Escape for your life, do not look back.’” (19:16-17)

Jesus describes one lost sheep in Luke 15:4-7. “What man, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulder, rejoicing, saying, ‘I have found my sheep that was lost.’”

SHepherd and sheep

God has His watchful eye on His beloved children. He serenely and supremely rules, never flustered, always perfect in His providential timing and mercy. At His right moment, He rescues and saves His own out of the kingdom of darkness to be His forever. May I trust His watchful care, His merciful heart, His perfect timing and ways, and ever rejoice.

I was lost in utter darkness, ‘til you came and rescued me;                                                           I was bound by all my sin when your love came and set me free.                                            Now my soul can sing a new song, now my heart has found a home,                                     Now your grace is always with me, and I’ll never be alone.                                                           – Ron Keen

Look and Listen!

I marvel at the fact that God speaks personally.

In Genesis 18:1, Abram is resting by the Oaks of Mamre in the heat of the day, and the LORD appears, and they spend the afternoon conversing. In Nehemiah 7:5, “God put it into [Nehemiah’s] heart to assemble” all the returned exiles and enroll them.

In Matthew 16, the Pharisees ask for signs, and Jesus renounces their fickle ways, saying He does speak but they don’t take the time to discern and understand. His disciples, after listening to Jesus, understood (16:12). They spent time with Him, answering His questions that brought them to discovery. In Matthew 17, “Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.” Peter acknowledges, “Lord, it is good that we are here.” It is there Jesus reveals Himself, and God declares, “’This is my beloved Son; listen to him.’ When they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.”

In Acts 16, the Spirit of the Lord led Paul, Silas, and Timothy, preventing them from speaking in Asia and Bythinia, but directing them to Macedonia where He opened Lydia’s heart in Philippi. The Bereans, in Acts 17:11, “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily.”

Bid me up the mount, O Lord, leaving behind distractions of phone, schedule, responsibilities, other voices, to rest under the Oak with You, to hear and heed Your voice to me. “Morning by morning, awaken my ear to listen, as one being taught.” (Isaiah 50:4) “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18)

Staying the Course

Nehemiah and his men, in chapter 6, had rebuilt the wall, but not yet set the doors in place, and opposition continued with repeated urgency. “Come, let us meet together in the plain of Ono,” but each time, Nehemiah said ‘oh no’ to the distraction of Ono, knowing they intended to do him harm. Then deception hit—a false report on his intent (rebellion to become king), and Nehemiah quickly refused its lie and prayed, “But now, O God, strengthen my hands.” Next came discouragement in the form of a threat for his safety and resulting temptation to take cover in the temple. His constant prayer gave him insight to know he was the target of hired enemies. His refuge? Prayer. He left the issues and the perpetrators in God’s hands, and set his own hands and mind to ‘finish the wall,’ and finish it he did.

“Be strong and very courageous, being careful to do all…commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This book shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night. Do not be frightened, do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:7-9

“Arm me with jealous care,                                                                                                              Thy calling to fulfill,                                                                                                                          And may it all my powers engage                                                                                                     To do my Master’s will.”                                                                                                                         – Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

O, Master, when distraction, deception, discouragement come, keep my mind and hands strong to stay in the center of Your will, to do all You have assigned, and to leave all cares to You.