Friday, November 23, 2012

Wrestling with God

Lately I have been feeling like Jacob, in a wrestling match with God.  Actually, if I think about it, this has been a match that has been going on for a long time. 

Jacob is one of those characters you love to hate.  I remember a pastor mentioning in one of his sermons a few years ago that he would never name his child Jacob. 

My husband and I looked at one another with smiles on our faces.  That is the name of our youngest son.  And completely off topic but I have to admit, he fits the meaning of the name!

But let’s get back to the Jacob of the Bible.  Right before he had this wrestling match with God, he was preparing to meet his brother Esau.  You know…the one he had deceived.  He was in fear of his life, not sure at what his brother’s reaction would be when he finally saw him.

He basically attempts to butter up his brother with gifts.  He is thinking that will pacify him and help him to forget the number of times he had been tricked by Jacob.

So that night, as Jacob is alone with his thoughts of worry and fear, God begins to wrestle with him.  I think these wrestling matches are most intense when we are in the same state, alone with our thoughts. 

This match went on all night long.  Finally, when the sun is coming up, Jacob says that he won’t let go unless he is blessed.   

Now here is something we need to hang on to.  Jacob wasn’t going to give up.  Can you imagine the strain and the struggle that was involved?  But he wasn’t willing to give up until he had what he was looking for.

I am in that place right now.  I want to give up.  I want to walk away from the match but I know that I can’t be blessed until I finish it.

Now let’s get back to the story.  It’s at this point he finally gets rid of the name and the stigma attached to it.  He is no longer Jacob.  He is Israel

I love this verse:  “Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.’”

You can’t overcome if you give up.  I know this isn’t some earth shattering truth I am sharing with you.  But I feel that others, like me, only have head knowledge of this.  We haven’t allowed it to sink deep into our hearts.


In the end, Israel walks away but it’s with a limp.  There was some hurt done in that struggle.  But I bet he would say it’s worth it.  

Photo by emdot in Flickr

Saturday, November 17, 2012

When the Heart Needs Soaking

Sometimes when I unload the dishwasher, I will notice a cup hasn’t been completely cleaned out.  So I run it through again.  If it happened to be a cup that came from one of my teen’s bedrooms, it may require more than a washing…it may need a soaking. 

There are times my heart feels just like that cup.  I bring it before the Lord and I ask Him to cleanse it.  I know that He does his part, just like the dishwasher does.  He washes me clean.  But sometimes there is still some residue left. 

If I’m lucky it will take just another outpouring of my heart before Him and I can finally say that my heart is clean.  But other times, just like that cup, the stubborn stains of my heart needs to be soaked in His Spirit.

When I think back to before I was a Christian, I am amazed at some of the things from my past that I was able to bring before the Lord and receive an immediate cleansing from. 

I’m talking significant issues here.  I’m referring to what we as humans might consider as “big” sins.

Then there are the things in my heart that somehow seem less significant, yet have gone through His cleansing time and time again…yet the residue of that sin remains.  I have learned that it just means I need more than a rinse and wash cycle.  My heart needs a good soaking.

These are the times I don’t receive an instantaneous answer to my heartfelt prayers of change.  I likely won’t be able to give a date in which it happened.  Over time, the soaking of His Spirit begins to break away the residue. 

The thing I am still learning with all of this is patience.  Not necessarily with God but with myself.  It is so easy to feel frustrated at what the inside of my heart looks like. 

In the end, I’m so thankful He doesn’t rush the process.  At some point my heart will shine and reflect the beauty of His Holy Spirit. 

Photo above by monip in MorgueFile

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Never Leave a Fallen Comrade

Each branch of the military has its own creed.  Although I am partial to the one for the Air Force, having a son in it, there is a line in the Army’s creed that we could all adopt…

I will never leave a fallen comrade.

Sometimes in the church, a comrade falls.  How should we respond?  Do we shake our heads in disgust and walk away?  Do we kick a little dust over them, letting them know how ashamed we are?

With my oldest son always having an interest in the military, I have watched many war movies with him.  While each one has its own storyline, there is a common theme in them all.

You never leave a fellow soldier behind. 

We are in the army of God.  We are soldiers fighting a spiritual battle.  So when one falls down, is it really the right thing to do, to walk away?

In some of these movies, it is a wounded soldier that goes back to help the one who can’t get up.  When we are hurt, it is easy to focus on and attend to our own wounds.  It is easy to neglect to see the pain in the one who is on the ground.

It takes selflessness to ignore your own wounds and go back to get the one who is down.  But I believe that is what God would expect of us…never leave a fallen comrade.

Photo Above:  US Army Africa in Flickr

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Negativity and Quicksand

Negativity is like quicksand.  Once you step into it, making your way out is difficult.

The deeper you sink, the more you struggle…until finally, it has completely overtaken you.

I will admit that it can be hard to overcome negativity when it’s around you long enough.  In fact, you can go from thinking everything was just fine to suddenly questioning it all.

Recently I have been hearing a lot of negative things about my church.  These are from seasoned Christians who have been attending a long time. 

At first it was easy to dismiss what was being said.  I wasn’t seeing the same things as others were.

But then I started thinking…or was it I allowed a toe to touch the quicksand of negativity?  “Hmmm…maybe there is something to this.” 

You begin to wonder if everyone else is right and you have just been too blind to see it.  Pretty soon the foot has made its way in.

Thankfully, I was able to pull myself completely out of that quicksand, before I got into it any further.  And I walked away with the following insights…

  • If what everyone is saying is true, then it’s our job as the congregation to pray for the church

  • No church is perfect…simply for the fact it is filled with imperfect people

  • Am I expecting the church to meet all of my expectations, when only Jesus can give me everything I need?

  • The way I wish to be treated by others, am I doing the same?

  • Am I so busy judging others when I have enough of my own baggage to deal with?

I’m not saying that others don’t have legitimate concerns.  And I’m not saying that what someone feels is wrong. 

What I am saying is that I can’t allow negativity to cripple me.  Are you finding it a struggle to overcome?  Don’t step into the quicksand!

Photo by bonvivant in stock.xchng