Tag Archives: Gospel

Spiritually Dry: When you’re doing All The Spiritual Things… and He still feels far away.

Do you ever feel like you're in a spiritual desert even when you're actively pursuing God? Me too. Then I found a beautiful (and surprising) encouragement tucked away in the Scriptures. It has changed everything. Find strength for your faith in this quick read.I recently read the account in Joshua where the Lord stops the flow of the Jordan River so the Israelites (and the Ark of the Covenant) can cross.

And my brain exploded a little.

Before we get to the brain explosion, let me bring you up to speed. After they crossed the river, the Lord instructed them to set up a memorial using stones taken from the bottom of the Jordan riverbed (where the Ark was held on dry ground as the people crossed). Here’s a quick excerpt from the account:

[Joshua] said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what He had done to the Red Sea when He dried it up before us until we had crossed over.” – Joshua 4:21-23

Did you see it?

He dried it up.

The Lord dried up a path through the Red Sea until they had crossed over.

And He dried up a path through the Jordan River until they had crossed over.

Okay, okay, so the Lord did the same thing in two places. Big deal, right? But, oh man, I relate to the two places in very different ways — and it’s rocking my world (cue brain explosion). Think about it with me:

Start with the Red Sea. We often associate the sea with “the wind and the waves.” You know, life’s struggles. Spiritually speaking, drying a path through the sea evokes images of the Lord making a way through trials, hardship, or distractions. That makes sense. (Also sounds insane and miraculous. But it makes sense because it sounds like something our loving, powerful God would do.)

But now come to the Jordan River. Unlike the sea, we usually associate a river with life and joy. Let the river flow. Streams of mercy. The river of life. But here, God stopped the flow of the river. He dried it up before them. And a dried up river is pretty much exactly how I feel when I say, “I feel spiritually dry,” or “I’m in a dry season.”

Now, sometimes that dry season comes because I’ve been disobedient or stopped investing in spiritual disciplines (reading my Bible, prayer, and worship to name a few) that draw me near to the source of abundant life, God Himself.

But sometimes I’m doing all these things and I still feel spiritually dry.

Today, I see a new possibility. Perhaps the Lord Himself has dried it up before me until I cross over. Cross over what? I don’t know. Not yet, anyway. But, being dried up because I walked away from God, and being dried up because God’s hand is holding back the flow even while I walk toward Him, are two entirely different things.

You see, the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years because of disobedience. I’ve known that kind of dried up ground. (Not 40 years’ worth, thank goodness.) Crossing the Jordan River was different. There, they were exactly where they were supposed to be, doing exactly what they were supposed to do. They weren’t in sin. They weren’t walking away from God. The Israelites were walking in obedience. AND BECAUSE OF THAT, the Lord dried up the river until they had crossed over.

I must walk through some circumstances or seasons with Jesus WITHOUT THE FLOW OF THE RIVER, but on DRIED UP GROUND, simply in obedience; simply in pursuit of God Himself.

Why?

“He did this so all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” Joshua 4:24

So I’ll know Him, love Him, revere Him more.

It’s lovely to know and love God when the river is flowing. It is something more to also know Him on dried up ground — and through to the other side.

I wonder if anyone else, like me, has found themselves on dried up ground EVEN WHILE pursuing Jesus, serving Him, practicing spiritual disciplines that normally would lead to a rich experience of feeling connected to God — a river of “spiritual flow.” And perhaps when it began to feel instead like dried up ground, we let go of some spiritual practices. I mean, they stopped being “effective” anyway, right?

Well, I guess that depends on how we define effective.

If effective means I FEEL close to God (river flowing), then no. I guess spiritual disciplines aren’t always effective.

But if effective means I AM close to God (whether I feel like it or not), then like the Israelites, I can be on dried up ground right in the middle of His presence and His will.

Okay, okay — dried up ground, flowing river.. who even cares!? Does it really even matter!?

Well, maybe not. But, do I worship HIM or the flow? Do I know and trust Him in the flow and on dried up ground?

Because THAT MATTERS.

I invite you to return to the riverbed. And if you find it all dried up, don’t be discouraged. He is waiting for you there.

Ordinary Monday

Easter weekend felt so powerful – the kind of powerful that makes you think you’ll wake up feeling different the next day. But can I be honest? So far, today really feels like Just Another Monday. Disappointed, I prayed about it this morning, and God reminded me of some thoughts I typed into my phone over the weekend. During a moment of awe and wonder at the miracle of the Cross and the Resurrection, my heart had overflowed:

He loves me. And I am loved.
He sees me. And I am seen.
He hears me. And I am heard.
He knows me. And I am known.
He finds me. And I am found.
He chooses me. And I am chosen.
He redeems me. And I am redeemed.
He is risen. And so I rise.
Love wins. And LOVE. HAS. WON.

Today, on this seemingly ordinary Monday, I’m reminding myself that some things are true whether I feel them or not. My God has conquered death. He’s as risen on Monday as He was on Sunday. Jesus, help me live like I believe it!

The truth about grace. And why Jonah was pissed.

As Christians, we often talk about “grace and truth” or refer to speaking “the truth in love” — as if the “truth” is very unlike grace or love.

But for a moment, can I address the truth about grace? The truth about love?

The truth about God’s love and grace is that both are way too extravagant for our comfort. Some will even say (and have said) it’s dangerous to preach “too much” about God’s love and grace.

But don’t we already know the Gospel is dangerous? It cost Jesus His life. You’re absolutely right it’s dangerous. Remember the powerful passage from The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe? When Lucy asked if Aslan is safe, Mr. Beaver answered,

“. . .Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

You may be familiar with an account of God’s dangerous grace — Jonah and the whale, anyone? Quick synopsis: Nineveh is bad bad bad. God tells Jonah to go there and tell the people to turn back to God. Jonah refuses. Then the bit about the big fish. Jonah finally obeys God. Nineveh turns back to God. God has compassion on them.

But have you ever paid attention to Jonah’s response to God after he calls out the Ninevites and God shows them mercy? Jonah says,

“I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” (Jonah 4:2b)

You probably know the story of Jonah and the whale. But you may find this part shocking. (I did!) If everyone knew this, it could change everything.

Sounds great, right? But if you read it in context, you see Jonah is actually hurling this at God as an ACCUSATION. Because truly, the people of Nineveh were THAT BAD. They were “those people.” Whoever “those people” are to you – that was the Ninevites. And no, I’m not specifying any one particular sin — because which sin is irrelevant. This applies to any of it, all of it. Plus, I’m pretty sure they had every sinful, selfish thing covered and then some.

Even so, God called out to them. And they responded. They turned back to God and He received them in grace and compassion. It was such an extravagant display of grace, it made Jonah uncomfortable. Actually, it pissed Jonah off.

God’s grace is so deep and so wide, it’s quite unsettling.

Can people take grace and abuse it and use it as license to sin? Yep. But if you are welcomed into the presence of God, just as you are, and still encounter and receive the fullness of His love – even in your imperfection, your selfishness, your stuff… who can come away from that unchanged?

I recently asked God, “Do You really love me as I am right this moment? Imperfections, selfish ways, and all? Or do you love the potential in me? The me I could be? This feels important. I need to know.”

He took me straight to His Word for the answer:

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

God really loves me just as I am. Not some future version of me. Not some what-could-be or what-might’ve-been. ME NOW. ME MESSED UP. ME TODAY. But my sin was not without effect – the effect was that I could not access that love. So… JESUS.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17, emphasis mine)

Please understand: I’m not saying we don’t repent when we come to Jesus. What I am saying is, REPENT doesn’t mean “clean yourself up first.” Biblical repentance is a change of heart and mind which results in a change of action. It’s changing your mind from rejection of Jesus to faith in Jesus. And Jesus transforms your life.

God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness, he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.
(Romans 2:4 MSG)

How can anyone change except in His presence? And how can they get to Him if we just throw rules and condemnation at them?  His kindness. His unrelenting love. His fierce compassion. It warmed my heart and changed me from the inside out. “… it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love…” (Hosea 11:3,4) I can’t even begin to tell you where I would be if it wasn’t for Jesus. If not for His kindness. His mercy. His unrelenting pursuit of my heart.

I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us. (Anne Lamott)

The world doesn’t need more rules. The world doesn’t need more condemnation. The world needs Jesus. Y’all, condemnation doesn’t change the world. Changed hearts change the world. And Jesus changes hearts.