Saturday, December 22, 2012

In the Belly of the Big Fish

But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights. Jonah 1: 17

Sometimes, while in the middle of running away from God, He provides an opportunity for us to pause and reconsider our desire to flee His presence and His will. Like Jonah, who did not want to abide by the Lord’s command for him to go to Nineveh and preach salvation unto them so they could leave their lives of wickedness only because Jonah didn't think they deserved God’s forgiveness; we sometimes are in disagreement with our Heavenly Father’s wishes and we try to run away. The Lord’s plan, however, will unfold, in spite of us and our unwilling hearts. 

No matter how much we cover our ears to block God’s whispering  He always finds a way to catch our attention, even if it requires placing us in the belly of a great fish. This big fish may have different shapes for different people. For some, the big fish is a hospital room. For others it may even be a jail cell. For many it is, perhaps, being laid off work having to be stuck in the house alone. Some others find themselves in shelters after losing everything to a mighty storm. And sometimes it might be something less dramatic like being snowed in for a few days or having a cold. It could really be anything, but the Lord always “provides” a place and a moment where and when we have no choice but to listen to what He has to say to us, ponder it and eventually, move to action.

My most recent “big fish” has been my own house. I've been forced to be in my home with my family for a few days due to a delay in our Christmas plans. We were supposed to leave for my country of birth, Panama, 4 days ago, but the Lord had other plans. Our flight was cancelled and there were no other flights to Panama until 5 days later. We found ourselves driving back home with nothing to do in our calendar so that’s exactly what we have been doing. In the midst of the busiest time of the year for a mother of 2 young boys, God has provided a respite of 5 days of doing nothing and it has been wonderful.

The trip to Panama meant a lot of stress for me due to the difficult circumstances that wait for me there, so even though I long for my family, I was not looking forward to the things I had to do there during the days leading to Christmas. Instead, the Lord changed it all and He has provided my family and I with a few precious days to refuel our energy, enjoy each other’s company, calm our nerves and specially, to listen to His voice.

The last few days have been quiet enough for me to sit down and hear what He has to tell me. For years now, I have been struggling with forgiveness. Particularly during the days in preparation for our trip to Panama, the resentment I feel for those who have wronged me has increased. Our Merciful Lord, however, has provided this opportunity for me to reconsider my grudge. I have heard Him telling me about the need to find forgiveness in my heart even if I think those I need to forgive don’t deserve it. No one ever does! That’s the point. I don’t deserve to be forgiven either, but by His Grace I am. The same way I must extend that undeserved forgiveness and grace to those around me. God is working a change of heart in me the same way He worked it out in Jonah inside the belly of the fish.

As Christmas approaches at the speed of light, I pray the presence of the Lord is born in us again and that no matter where we are right now, we take the chance to listen to His whisperings because chances are; He has placed us where we find ourselves today, for just that very purpose.

Friday, December 21, 2012

God's Secrets

I am the kind of person who likes to know and understand the direction of things. If there is a plan, I want to know what it is so I can be aware of what’s coming. I am not much of the “go with the flow” type. I like knowing where this “flow” is going to take me. It’s not so much that I am a planner. Not really, I am not. I just like being in the loop. It doesn’t bother me not being the one in charge of making the plans. I just want to know what the plan is!

I’m the same way when it comes to God’s plan. I wonder about it all the time because it kills me that I don’t necessarily “know” what it is. I wish I knew and understood His plan perfectly so I could just sit back and relax while I watch it unfold. It’s not a control issue. I don’t want to make the plan. It is a knowledge issue. I just want to know what it is. It doesn’t work like that, though.

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. Deuteronomy 29:29 

The truth is that God does have things that He doesn’t reveal to us because they are not for us to know. They are meant to be secret. He is God and it is His will to not fully reveal it all in detail. He reveals what He has planned to reveal and what is necessary for us to have a full life in Him. For instance, He has told us that He does have a plan and that it is good and meant to bring us goodness, not harm. (Jeremiah 29: 11) He has revealed that we need to sit still and let Him be God. (Psalm 46: 10) And He has, very often told us, to not be anxious, but to trust in Him at all times. (Philippians 4: 6) We can trust Him, for He is faithful and unchangeable. (1 Corinthians 1: 9; Malachi 3:6)

However, it is not for us to know all the details of His plan. Jesus warned us about this. He told His disciples right before He ascended into Heaven, when they asked Him when He would restore the Kingdom to Israel that,

“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1: 7-8 

God’s timing is not our own, as it isn’t the full extent of His plan, but He does give us needed revelations, like the fact that the Holy Spirit will come upon us and give us power to carry out His great commission, to be His witnesses. Jesus revealed to us through His words to the disciples that even though we are not entrusted with the specific dates of when the events of His plan to restore His Kingdom will occur, we are responsible, in the meantime, to tell the world that it will happen.

As another year comes to a close in the coming days, it is important once again to remember this commission. “To the ends of the earth” means as far as our voice can reach. It might be our own homes and family, places of work, schoos, church, community, country and/or abroad. It doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that we do it with the means that the Lord has endowed us with. I don’t know how to do it or even where to start. But one thing I know is that He will equip me if I have a willing heart. I have no clue where I’m going or a panoramic/all-encompassing view of the plan, but I know whom I serve and I know He who began a good work in me will see it to its completion for His glory. (Philippians 1: 6)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

O Come Emmanuel

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. Revelation 21:3

Well, I’ve been out of commission for such a long time now that my fingers can’t keep up with my ideas, and I’m having trouble formulating coherent sentences in my mind. A lot has happened since the last time I had some “alone time” with my laptop and my thoughts, and now that we are back together again, I don’t even know how/where to start.

I sort out my mental chest of recent memories and I decide to begin by turning my eyes toward Jesus, the One who we celebrate this season but must worship every day. As I focus my distracted eyes back on what’s important, I go to one of my favorite Christmas songs, O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

I don’t know what it is about that song. Perhaps it is the haunting melody which makes me think of ancient cultures. Maybe it is the dramatic performances by groups like Selah that captivate me. I think what draws me to it is, however, the Biblical prophecy the song holds. Hearing about the promise of the coming of the Lord, His second advent, intertwined in the beauty of this melancholic tune becomes a bright ray of light and hope which cuts through the thick gloom of such days like these.

After days, weeks and months of walking in the valley of the shadows, and thirsting for the living water, hearing about the Emmanuel, the God who is with us, surely refreshes my weary soul. By mortal standards, 2012 has not been a good year for me; however, by eternal perspectives, the pain has been nothing more than the glorious pain of growing in His knowledge and love.

Even though the loss this year has been great, the gains had by far outweighed it. Tasting the dirt-flavored bottom of the mythical but all too real pit has allowed me and those around me to rejoice in the victory of seeing the light again after been pulled out by the merciful hand of the Almighty. Victory is won because He has overcome the world and He is in me. He is the Great I AM and He lives in me, therefore, it doesn’t matter how deep the pit is or how dark the shadows that entangle the valley are or how final a last breath may appear, the sweet taste of resurrection can only be savored after death.

A new day is coming because He is alive and with us. He will come back again as He is already here. Spring will indeed come and bring cheer, for He has promised and He is Faithful. I hang on to that faithfulness. It is my only hope.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer 

Our spirits by Thine advent here 

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night 

And death's dark shadows put to flight. 

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel 

Shall come to thee, O Israel.