Category: Essentially the Bible

If You Want to Hear from God, Go Stand by Him

There’s a story behind the picture in this post. This old man, praying over his bread. It’s actually part in a series because there is an old woman as well, in a separate picture. In my family, this picture is a big deal. All of my aunts, uncles and cousins have this same picture hanging in our homes. It’s iconic for us and we all have different memories of times we we’d spent at my grandparents’ house, doing various things while that picture watched over us. I used to ask myself- what is he praying about? Just his food? Maybe the weight of the world is on his shoulders and, at the end of a long, difficult day, sitting down to his meal, he is praying for grace to face another one. Who knows. But everyone in my family has a different theory.

I’m not one to pretend I know much of any one, particular thing, but after walking in relationship with the Lord all of my life, I do know this: Prayer changes things. Prayer doesn’t change God, no. He never changes. But prayer changes hearts, minds, attitudes, entrapments, strongholds, situations and everything else because prayer engages God’s power and releases it into our lives: On earth as it is in heaven.

We become the agreement on earth, for things to align in God’s will, as they already exist in heaven. That’s an Amen!

On my mind today: Deuteronomy 5:31, “…but as for you, stand here by Me, so that I may speak to you…”

As I’ve been working my way through the book of Deuteronomy, I’ve been reading it with fresh, new eyes. I remember trying to read it so many times in the past and just about falling asleep, partially because I thought it was boring and partially because I’ve read it so many times, since it’s one of those first few books you encounter each time you try to read the Bible through in a year…

Our proximity to God is a crucial part of our ability to hear from Him. James 4:8 tells us to ‘Draw near to God…” – it is our responsibility to place ourselves closer to God and we do that through building a relationship with Him, getting to know Him through His Word and through time spend seeking Him in prayer and even just being quiet in His presence.

There is a geography in the Kingdom (Read the post, “The Geography of Sin” for more) – you are either close to or far from God- and those are your choices to make.

In Deuteronomy 5, Moses had just finished giving the Hebrews the Ten Commandments that the Lord spoke to him “on the mountain, out from the midst of fire, the cloud and the think darkness with a great voice” (don’t you wish it could just be that easy to hear from God…?!) and the Word says that even though the people heard the voice of God up on that mountain as the Lord spoke to Moses, they had no sense of honor or awe. They wanted to get as far away from it as they could.

In fact, they said to Moses, “Now, therefore, why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, then we will die. For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? Go near and hear all that the Lord our God will say. Then speak to us all that the Lord our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.”

One of the biggest mistakes the Hebrews made (over and over and over) is that they consistently ping-pong’d back and forth in their geography to God. If God did nice things, they got closer. If God didn’t do what they wanted, or not fast enough, they made golden calves and distanced themselves from Him.

One thing we know about God from His Word is that not only can God be found, but also- He wants to be found, but it is our job to seek.

In Deuteronomy 5:30-31, after the Hebrews got weird about being too close to hear God’s voice, the Lord says to Moses, “Go say to them ‘return to your tents’, but as for you, stand here by Me, so that I may speak to you…” As for YOU. As for me. “Stand here by Me.” Could there be any more inviting, amazing statement God could make? He wants to be near me?

The Lord wants to be close to us, so that He can speak. Need a word from God about your situation? Read the Word. Pray. He can be found, but you must seek Him, His face. You must place yourself close to God so that He can speak and so that you can hear. How can we expect to hear and know the voice of God if we aren’t standing close enough to Him to listen?

Food for thought. Pray before you eat it.

 

When Making Lunch Changes the World

If your house is anything like ours, school mornings are somewhat chaotic. This morning’s weeping and gnashing of teeth was over school lunches. We can’t afford to buy school lunch right now, so we pack lunches (remember the good old days when people preferred homemade things??), which is much less exciting, apparently.

As EDJ stomped around in anger because “we never have any good food” my husband suggested scraping three dollars out of our spare change jar to let him buy lunch, but it turned out that we didn’t have enough, so I got up to find him something to eat for lunch (yes, he’s a teenager and could, presumably make his own lunch, but it wasn’t in the cards today- I could already tell). You know how those days go.

As I scrambled around to scrape together something for lunch that wouldn’t end up being thrown away, EDJ threw some shade at me about how he hates peanut butter and jelly (which is all I could manage, as we need to shop, but haven’t gotten paid yet- aaaand you know how that goes), and that he fully intended to throw it away at school.

We went back and forth about the value of food and its cost, priorities and perspective, an appreciation for what we have even when it’s as humble as a PB&J and how not everyone can pay for school lunches and how that is OKAY. Of course, when I say “back and forth”, it was mostly me doing the talking as EDJ remained (mostly) silent and staring in a way that reminded me of the way people’s eyes would glaze over when looking at those magic pictures from the 1990’s that made images appear and float in front of your eyes.

After he left for school, I sat down to do my devotions and was reading in John 6, about the little boy with the five loaves and two fish. You know the story- Jesus had been teaching and everyone had come from far and wide, and apparently no one had thought to bring any food into the desert.

When Jesus suggested buying them food, Philip points out that they don’t have enough money to buy food for everyone (we didn’t even have $3, so I felt his pain), but they did have “five loaves of barely and two fish”, offered by a boy in the crowd.

Suddenly it struck me — someone had made that lunch for him, most likely the boy’s mother. My mind wandered as I thought about what that mother may have gone thought that morning as the boy headed out to see Jesus. Did he argue with her about how he hates fish? About how he’s sick of eating barley bread all the time? I wondered if he had complained that her fish always tasted funny and how all his friends were stopping at flafel the vendors to pick up something better. I wondered if he told her he’d throw it away once he was away from her.

I thought- maybe after he’d left, holding his five loaves and two fish away from his body as though it were covered in spiders, if she’d sat down like I had and beat herself up for not being a better mother and for forgetting to pick up his favorite lunch foods. Maybe she’d sent him out of the house with resignation, imagining how he’d toss the food that the rest of the family would gladly have eaten without complaint and what a waste it would be. Maybe she’d just been glad he was gone for a few hours. (You know how that goes).

Then, I remembered Jesus. He’d taken those five loaves and two fish and had performed one of His greatest miracles ever recorded – feeding well over 5,000 people (the Bible only counts the men) with that humble, packed lunch that some mother, somewhere in time, had made that morning. Who knows what she went through, but if she were anything like me, she may have had a morning that made her think: Why do I bother to do this at all? Will it ever get any easier?

And yet, because of the faithfulness and, yes, even the “routine” of one mother, who had made a thousand thankless lunches before that and a thousand thankless lunches after that day and may have had a thousand other arguments with her son about how it’s never good enough- she got up and did it anyway. Why?

Did she know Jesus would perform one of His greatest miracles with her humble, packed lunch? No. In fact, it’s highly probably she never had any clue what the Lord had done with her thankless lunch, made on a morning when she felt especially frustrated with it all. She did it because that’s what loving mothers do – they keep moving ahead because they love, because they see things their kids do not, because they’re willing to invest in their children, even when it’s not gratefully accepted at the moment.

However that investment pays off someday isn’t the concern right now. We do what we know to be the right thing, our very best, in spite of the struggle, the monotony of the routine, in spite of how others around us accept the best we have to offer- we’ve given it to God, and who knows- maybe that one, frustrating morning where we did the same thing we do every day will become one of the greatest events ever recorded in history- because we got up and faced another day thinking all we were going to do was pack our kids a lunch.

Stay Blessed!

~Alicia