Burden of Providence

 

 

The anxiety of our mission causes us to act out in a million different ways. The burden of responsibility, that our lots place on us, causes us to feel like we are balancing the weight of the world on a toothpick. Ecclesiastes 6:18-20 says “Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with one toils under the sun the few days of his life, that God has given for him , for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil- this is a gift from God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.”

The word for lot here, is the same Hebrew word for inheritance and reward. Lot seems to stifle the majesty of it all, we think of a small piece of the pie, a corner section, a sliver or morsel but that’s too small of a perception. We are given a wealth, an “entire pie”. You have not been short changed by God…and neither have I. Yet, the weight of discontentment morphs our reward into toil. Instead of accepting the grace given, we contemplate it. Deciphering and weighing every ounce we have. We compare contributions. We marry value and accomplishments, comparing our “lots” with others, thus divorcing joy from responsibility. Could it be that instead of being weighed down with joy over our “lot”, we are burdened by it? That perhaps the weight of responsibility has crushed joy like a coke can?

 

Our lot is the perimeters God has set around our lives, where we would be given authority and responsibility. Here in these sacred spots, we live life. We finish school, hang with friends, get a job, get a husband, have babies, clean the house, buy a car, go to church, serve in the church, plant a garden and march to the beat of the clock. With each passing tick, the opportunity to bring God’s kingdom to earth passes. We scoot and scat, trying to keep things in line. Yet, in the process, the responsibility given to us grows heavy as duty crushes our dreams. The gifts showered on us from on high to bring the kingdom into the present, is wasted.

Enjoyment comes with acceptance; acceptance of the current. Yet, many of us are slaves to the future. We are mesmerized by it, caught under its spell, we bow to its demands and bend to accommodate its desires, even if it costs us the present. Occupied with what is to come instead of what is, the weight of the future is strapped to our hearts like a overloaded cargo wagon. The future can be heavy, we strain and stumble over what might be. For the future rests in the governmental care of providence. Yet, when we bring the future into the moment, we become occupied with it, taking responsibility for it. The weight of responsibility the future brings, drags joy under the current of pursuit and drowns it under the waves of discontentment. 

Providence can be a heavy thing for humans to bear. And that’s exactly what we are doing when we pose as God, directing and dictating the ways of the future, thinking and believing that our ways are better. We plot and plan but to no avail. We chase after something that alludes us. We sacrifice the joy of the moment for the promise of the future. We figure and fidget, trying to fix the future before it ever arrives. We can’t bear that responsibility.

 

The future was meant to stay where it is. Yet, we insist on bringing it into the present, with its troubles and pains. It outweighs our ability to withstand. What do we do when providential purpose turns into a burden? when the future grows too heavy?

 

Psalm 55:22 “Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you…” Providence is much to heavy for us to carry, we must cast it onto the shoulders of the One from who it comes. We were never meant to wrestle with what is to come, but to trust in the One who is and was and is to come. The great I AM encompasses both future and present, He precedes our past and sees the mystery of the future. Many times we take up a burden that we were never meant to bear. How many hours do we spend contemplating and dissecting the future? Only to no avail. Toiling after wind causes us to miss the gift of the present, the wonder in the moment.

A marvelous things happens when we no longer try and be the boss of our own destinies; provision. Providence always brings provision. Provision that transcends the moment and meets the future need before we arrive, He catapults grace so it will be there when the future collides with the moment.  Creating fertile ground for joy to grow in our hearts. 

 

 

Mercy in the Madness 

The clock methodically marches on. The days start the same with every sunrise, the sly glow of the mornings seems to creep over the horizon quicker and quicker. The alarm clock gets louder and louder, you don’t need it, you have been in and out of consciousness all night; feeding hungry babies, turning out bedroom lights, kissing foreheads, adjusting the air so no one gets to hot or cold. You hear a squeak as the upstairs floors give way to tiny feet trying to make their way to the bathroom, you count the steps back to the bed and scurry upstairs to make sure everything is well. You lay back down and release a sigh; your body screams for rest while your mind plays bumper cars with the day. You wonder how the day looked in the eyes of that child. The one you were harsh with, the one who seemed to fall under the radar, the one who you excused away for sake of responsibilities. Your mind bumps together with all the mistakes made throughout that day. The moments that you weren’t your best and maybe even some where you were. “Is it enough?” you wonder under your breath as you try to shut your eyes once more.

Is it enough?

Are the scattered pieces of mercy enough to teach them to be merciful? I come to the conclusion it’s not enough—“I need to show more mercy…” I agree with myself as I made a solemn declaration that the next day will be filled with more mercy. Mercy in the madness; that’s what we need I sigh.

But what if that’s not enough? what if I slip…allowing my emotion to highlight the moment? What if I react out of the shame and guilt I feel for being home while my husband dredges into work? (All the while knowing I would feel guilt if I had to leave them too- the battle of motherhood is a catch 22). What if I snap under the weight of so many demands? What if in the moment of distraction I choose the lesser and push away the most pressing need that camouflages in horseback rides, tea parties, one on one and playing games? What if mercy is swept up into the bin of duty?

What happens when our emotions highjack the day and we are left with the toxic fumes of our instability?

Mercy.

Mercy happens….even for us. Even for those who overacted over the spilt soda and crushed pop tarts. Even for those whose tongue is much to loose and for those who cling to tightly to control.

We expect to much of ourselves. We label ourselves as “failures” and “useless” as the tide of emotions pulls us in headfirst. . Its a dangerous place to be; pulled by emotions relentless tide. It sucks us in and swallows us up. But maybe you need to know, like I did today, there is a Life Saver who can pull us from the cyclone of emotion; Jesus.

“Let us then, draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

Maybe like me, you have drew near alright…drew closer and closer to the tyrant of emotion; feeding the beast. We pet those out of control emotions, feeding them what they crave, all the while they grow stronger and stronger, until one day they turn on us-devouring not only us…but those around us as well. Our emotions have attacked us, but they didn’t stop there they lashed out on those closest to us.

When emotions rule devastation follows.

The throne represents God’s presence, His power and His potency. It is secured on His omnipresence and exerted by His love. When we draw to the throne of grace instead of the throne of emotions, we will find mercy. God is much more forgiving than our emotions are. They hold us prisoner to their whims, giving an inch and taking a mile. The undercover rule of emotion can erupt at any moment, the slightest upheaval of convenience sends the monster into a maddened rage, condemning all who are in the way. Not so with God, instead of the tsunami of guilt the throne brings one of grace.

 The throne is also an illustration to the mercy seat.In the the Old Testament, sacrifices had to be made for the appeasement of righteousness. In the tent of meeting, deep within, the Glory of God dwelled on the cover of the Ark of the Covenant, the mercy seat. Here the high priest would make atonement for Israel once a year by sprinkling the blood of the sacrifice between the cherubs outstretched wings. Here is where sacrifice collided with mercy: “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of good things, then through the greater more perfect tent (not made of hands, not of this creation) he entered once and for all into the holy places, not by the means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” Hebrews 9:11-12, and as a result “we have mercy and find grace in our time of need.”.

The throne of grace transfers the grace and mercy of Christ to those moments when our strength is zapped and our hearts are cold. When we “draw near” we find mercy in the madness.

Jehovah Nissi

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” Ephesians 6:10

 

The Amplified version translates the above verse this way “be strong in the Lord, be empowered through your union with Him, draw your strength from Him, that strength which His boundless might provides…”

 

The union we have with Christ does more than define who we are, it sets the course for where we are going by conferring His very strength to our weak frames. You see not only are we identified by His person, we are also strengthened by His might. The unification with this boundless might not only enables us, it establishes our direction. Without His strength, we cannot carry the load assigned to us. The battle will be too much for us to withstand. We will retreat and retire without fulfilling our ministry. Many have lost direction because their direction has lost Christ. A Christ-less direction will be void of power and purpose. We discussed the spiritual oppression we all face in our time together, this plot to depress and divert us off course is the age old scheme of the enemy. This battle is fierce, let’s not kid ourselves, it takes a strength that we do not inherently have. We need a kind of strength that has dynamite power. Look up John 1 John 4:4 and again at Ephesians 1:19. We may have a lot coming at us, but we have more brewing within in than any force that may rise against us and all these resources have been shown to us in chapters 1-3 pf Ephesians. What we have been learning that is now ours through our union with Christ is the resources we must draw from in order to be strengthened to be victorious in the battle. What are some things we have learned over the past few weeks that would infuse you with strength against the enemy’s attacks?

 

Look with me at Exodus 17:9-16. Here in this narrative Joshua makes his very first appearance on the stage of scripture. What characteristics do you think of when you think about Joshua?

 

Words like warrior, mighty, strong-leader, courageous, valiant, faithful….swirl around this prominent figure. But what if Joshua wasn’t courageous? What if this mighty leader was shaking in his sandals at the thought of battle? God’s command for Joshua to “be strong and courageous” leads us to believe just that; that he lacked strength and courage to face the battle ahead. Yet, even though the task was bigger than he was, he rested in the fact that it was not bigger than his God. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s when fear is brought face to face with God. Courage has little to do with us and everything to do with our God.

The Amalekites were sworn enemies of God, being the descendants of Esau (who represents the nature of the flesh), they were nomads who survived by plundering the outskirts of over populated groups. The attack and plunder of the Israelites represent spiritual warfare; our enemy sneaks in through the backdoor of sedulity and plunders our inheritance as well. As the enemy closes in on them, Joshua is delegated to go out and fight while Moses will ascend to the top of the hill with staff in hand. That’s their strategy? Sending an un-experienced boy into warfare, while sending the leader to the top of a hill with a staff? What exactly happened when Moses held up the staff?

 

Victory. The staff represents God’s power and provision. This “rod” was used in the Exodus for the deliverance of the Israelites from the hand of Pharaoh. The raising of this staff was the symbol of Israel (Moses being their spokesman) yielding personal weakness for divine empowerment. “Self-sufficiency in spiritual battles is spiritual suicide”. As Moses climbed the hill with staff in hand, he was leaving the “plains” of self-sufficiency” and ascending to the “hill” of sovereign encounter. Throughout the scriptures mountains or hills represent the place where the mortal is overcome by the Immortal.

 

“The Lord is my banner”

A banner in ancient military terms, wasn’t what we would picture today. Instead of cloth, the banner of a country would be a rod that would be held up high above the heads of the soldiers. This rod would have some sort of emblem attached to it, like a charm. There would be one man assigned to hold this banner, this “banner-bearer” would hold the staff up high as a rallying point for the army. If the banner carrier moved forward, so did the troops. It was the marker of identity and unity. The men would regroup and reconnect as the banner was lifted high above them as a call to arms. As Moses lifted the staff on the hilltop, Joshua saw the banner of Israel, that staff was more than a mere shepherds staff- it was the marker of their identity; they were fighting for Jehovah. As Joshua looked up at the banner standing proud over the heads of the enemy, he knew that the Lord would fight for them, the banner said so. Look up the following verses:

Psalm 20:5                                  Song of Solomon 2:4

 

The word “strengthened” in Ephesians 6:10 is the Greek word endunamoo, and is the compound word of en=in and dunamis= which is the root word for “dynamis” that we have looked at in Ephesians 1 regarding the resurrection power. This word means to be put into power. As the “staff” of God hangs over our lives we are infused with the power it represents. There is a banner over your life, one that the enemy sees and knows all too well. The banner of love, the name of the Lord your God is engraved over your head. This banner is our strength, the emblem of the cross hangs above our lives as we fight the evil opponent of flesh. As you advance into battle, rally under the solemn emblem of victory, the cross is no longer the symbol of scorn and shame but of victory and honor-rally under it, follow the advancements of the divine “Banner- Barrier”.

The most beautiful part of this entire story is verse 16 “ a hand upon the throne of the Lord.”. The Lord is our Banner, Jehovah NIssi, meaning that as we ascend to the heights of submission by confessing our spiritual lack, lifting our hands up, relinquishing all power and authority to the Lord, as the staff is lifted high-it is as if our hands are now touching the throne of God. Yielding to His power, by realizing our lack, connects our hands to the throne of God. All that the throne represents: power, authority, might, and victory are now transferred through the conduit of our empty hands to the battle, infusing the weak with strength and ability. Don’t let go, don’t withdraw your hand from the throne-keep it lifted high in submission.

Submission can grow weary, that’s why we need each other-to hold our arms up to the throne when we grow tired of the fight. Let this be our vow to each other: I’ll hold yours and you hold mine. We do not fight alone; the Lord will fight for us-but we also do not have to submit alone-we are here to prop the weary arms of our sisters up as they reach out to the throne of grace.

 

The union of carnal with holy, simple with deep, labored and freed, restricted with timeless, weakness and might….the union of man with God; the embarkment of this journey for direction and definition started there, with our union in Christ and it will end there, for this reality encases what we are looking for. In Him is both direction and definition; the yoking of man to God empowers us for the battle our direction will call for and gives us the assurance that is needed of our definition. Blessed assurance Jesus is ours…..

 

He is our strength.

He is our song.

He is our story, it starts with Him and it will end with Him. He is the identifying mark and the compass throughout our journey. He has proven to be enough for us….and will prove that He will always be. Our personal purpose is lodged into the scars in His side; close by His heart. So that if we listen close, we can hear the cadence of His love for us keeping time with our walk, shouting above the noise “this is the walk in it…”.

 

But to receive this strength, the strength that comes from the thud of a holy heart, we must be in tune to it…listening for it…expecting it. The rush from the throne only comes to those who have their hands lifted high in surrender, hands open, representing the open door to our hearts that create a hallway to our lives.

 

Strength comes from living in this union, abiding in Him and His word abiding in us, (John 15) that all the resources that are His as resurrected Lord are now ours. At the beginning of our study we confirmed the radical truth that as believers our resources and our identities come from a higher plane, to embrace those means our arms must reach upward by acting upon what is now known. Nothing reaches higher than a life that acts like what is believed.

 

Blessed assurance Jesus is ours…..and all that He has has been transferred to our open hands. A foretaste of glory divine, we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, now its up to us….will we eat from His banquet of divine inheritance or settle for the wafers of complacency? Will this taste of the heavenlies be enough to catapult us to soar or will we keep stumbling drunk on indifference?

 

Dreamers and Reapers 

Coveting? Is that what all these desires within mount up to? Is this ache for more the stab of the dull knife of discontentment? Surely so. After all, we are called to lay down our desires, our dreams, on the alter of Gods will…aren’t we? We bury all hope, and step into the cycle of cold religiosity. There’s no room for dreams in the Kingdom of God” that’s what we reason. God doesn’t need dreamers He needs reapers…right? But what if it turns out that those dreamers are the reapers? What if our dreams are the outline of His will? What if the dream that was planted deep within the secret depths of our souls isn’t “self-produced” at all? What if it was planted there by the hand of our sovereign creator? Who saw the need before the dream ever grew, and so dropped the kernel of hope into our bare hearts so that we could reap the harvest of divine provision? What if dreams aren’t temporal at all—what if within that hull something was growing, maturing, creeping to the surface that was other worldly-eternal in fact? What if that nagging heat within proved to be the fuel for furthering the kingdom? What if the ache for growth…the desperation for more…isn’t discontentment at all? What if it’s purpose calling our names? What if God uses those seemingly secret desires, to call us to meaning? What if the scream of our soul wasn’t meant to be silenced but amplified? What if the meter of our spirituality didn’t level out-what if we refused to cruise? Acceleration happens when pressure is added to the gas pedal, the engine revs up as the gauge climbs high and higher- pressure produces performance. What if the pressure from within was meant to accelerate the gospel?

What is pushing me? What pressure is this that consumes my mind and plumps up my heart? I know what I want Lord-but why do I want it? Maybe that’s the most potent question on the table.

Comparison and competition strangely creates complacency. When we get tired of the constant back and forth of achievements and praise, when the coldness of compromise stifles our heat-complacency sneaks in the back door and settles down into the bed of our beliefs. We limit God in our hearts by who we are-all the while praising Him with our lips for who He claims to be. It seems nice, we like the idea…but like a fairy tell story we fold up the breath of God and place it back on the bookshelf of fantasy and the ache within is hushed a little while longer while it circles around our minds like a hula hoop. What if in the process of recreation-our dreams aren’t crushed but transformed? Infused with holiness and righteousness for ultimate meaning. What if instead of smothering our desires the word breathes freshness into the lungs of our longings? What if scripture wasn’t meant to smash our dreams to pieces but to piece together the fragments of our callings to establish those dreams?

What if the outcome of our unification with Christ is that our desires are yoked with His. That what was drab and dreary with the fog of the flesh is now renovated and recharged with Light? What if desire pulls us to the eternal, into the Light? What if dreams are the dredging station for preparing us for our directions?

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desire of you heart.” Psalms 37:4

What if those unfulfilled dreams aren’t unfulfilled at all but are in fact recreated, recharged and reformed after the heart of God?

Maybe your dreams have fell through, maybe things haven’t turned out at all like you had hoped…if this is you then maybe your dream isn’t dead, perhaps God is breathing fresh life into it-shaping it in the mold of His heart so you can reap what He has sown.
After all, dreamers do make the best reapers. (Joseph shows us that!)