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Abiding Savior

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Dark are the shadows invading my mind.
Relentless, foreboding – they capture and entwine.
Sleep so elusive and fears gripping cold.
Oh, Jesus, my light, please shine in my soul.

Your light is a lamp – Your mercy divine.
Grace, please enshrine me, Lord please abide.

Morning dawns brightly – my Help and my Stay.
Jesus so sweetly showed me the way.
Never forsaken, no never alone.
He is my refuge – He leads gently Home.

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Deborah — A Lesson in Obedience and Surrender

 

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I have been quiet for a few days — praying about forward movement — how, where, when, and why?  “Lord, what would you have me do in this world of instant thoughts, overcrowded worries, and delirium from overstimulation of social media?”  Sometimes — or often times — it is hard to know where you belong or how you should exist, or rest, and be.  I do!  So that is where my heart has been for days now — pondering the next and praying for holy guidance on the how.

As I pursued these thoughts, I was not remiss in going to God’s Word with my questions.  I looked at many of the women God has placed there for me to study and observe as challenging witnesses to my own life.  A lot of the women in the Bible seem so strong — like that wife in Proverbs 31 — or Martha as she busied about to prepare a great meal for her guests, and Jesus.  I couldn’t miss Paul’s exhortations of Phoebe, Prisca and Aquila and, also Mary.  He expounds on Prisca and Aquila identifying them as those, “who risked their necks for his life.” (Romans 16: 1, 3,4)

Sarah giving birth past her 90s, Ruth so loyal and steadfast to her mother-in-law — and while we are speaking of Naomi — losing her husband and both of her sons, in a foreign country, how she showed perseverance to move forward.  How about Esther, who saved the Jewish race, and Abigail with all of her diplomacy, discernment, and wisdom?  There are so many more, but I abruptly stopped at Deborah — a judge!

A few things caused me to pause on Deborah —  her obedience and her leadership!  I admire the way she judged and led the Israelites.

  • She sat under a Palm Tree while she judged Israel
  • The Israelites came to her for judgment (she didn’t go out to them)
  • She wasn’t afraid to lead — she leads the Israelites into battle against Sisera
  • She wrote an amazing praise song, after the battle, to the LORD

Why did these things draw me to her??  She understood her job!  She wasn’t sitting under that Palm Tree lamenting the sin and darkness that the Israelites were experiencing…she was judging.  She didn’t have to go out to judge — no, they came right up to her.  This tells me that they valued and trusted her judgment.  Finally, when God told her they needed to go up again to Sisera, she sent for Barak and told him to take the Israelites into battle — he said that he would if she would go with them.  Deborah immediately said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless the honor shall not be yours on the journey that you are about to take, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman.” (Judges 4:9) Once Sisera had been defeated by God, Deborah and Barak sang a song of praise to the LORD. (Judges 5)

I have never been in a military battle — for that matter I’ve never even been in the military.  Neither my country nor my God has called on me to defeat Sisera or Jericho or anything of that nature.  Yet, here in two chapters of the Book of Judges, and the entire Bible, is a woman, sitting under a Palm Tree, giving out judgments, who then agrees to go into battle, why?  That’s what a life in full surrender to God does!  Chapters four and five do not mention Deborah lifting a sword — a woman named Jael put a tent-peg through the temple of Sisera and killed him.  I’m as certain, as was Barak (I’m sure), that Deborah was going to subdue Sisera, but it was Jael, who killed him.  God subdued Jabin the King of Canaan while the sons of Israel pushed harder and harder until they had destroyed Jabin the King of Canaan.

Whether sitting under a Palm Tree giving judgment or standing on the battlefield, Deborah understood full well Who should receive the praise and Who was worthy of it — that is the LORD!  She and Barak blessed the LORD in song and praised HIM.  You can read the Song of Deborah in Judges 5.  If this were a modern-day story, Deborah’s song would most likely be a platinum-selling album, albeit a one-hit-wonder, as we never hear anything further of or about Deborah.  And, so, how does Deborah’s example inspire us?  How can her account in history parallel or even mirror what our lives are like right now?

Wisely seek the LORD — Deborah sat under that Palm Tree for 39 years as a judge.  For people to come to her, as they did, she had to have been discerning and wise in her counsel.  We should always seek wise counsel from the Lord.

Obediently serve the LORD — Deborah went into battle, as Israel’s judge and leader.  She didn’t sit back under her Palm Tree and await a military report.  She was right there in the thick of it.  Those of us who serve this same God should be quick in our obedience to the Lord.

Gladly sing praises to the LORD — Deborah wrote a beautiful song of praise and blessing to the LORD for raising up and equipping the Israelites for battle.  She knew Who to praise and why.  She understood that the Israelites would have tragically failed had God not gone before them in battle.  We should always praise the Lord for His provision and faithfulness to us.

Some days I struggle with the next step!  Some days it seems as dark in my life as it was for the Israelites during the years of the Judges.  I currently don’t have any clear answers, or not any new ones, in seeking Him and His will over the past few days.  I do know that as long as I seek God, obey God, serve God, and praise God —- I will be on the right track.

At times it feels that I am traveling in the low country, where it is dark and difficult and defeating.  I long for the high hills — to travel them with the ease of a Gazelle — but for now, I am in the low country — while here I will keep drawing closer to my Father, learn what He is teaching me, and I will keep persevering.  Our souls are stretched and sanctified by those hard trials — like running a marathon — your calves burn from the exertion — but you must keep pushing forward and forward even more.  Pressing into the will of the Father.

When our journey is over on this ole’ earth, we will one day stand before the Throne of God singing, “Holy is the Lord” and “Bless His Holy Name.”  See you on the mountain tops!

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Navigating Forward

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I never have liked those four-way stops — the ones where everyone brings their vehicles to a stop and then we all quite impatiently wait for who’s next.  Invariably no one knows and everyone proceeds at once!  What a mess!  Horns blaring, hands flying, words muttered, and you still find yourself not knowing who was next.  I think they were put in place by those who take great pleasure in confusing the masses!

Today I found myself at a Four-Way stop — I did!  I’ve heard about this one, but never have come upon it myself until now.  Many of my friends’ experiences were complete chaos and sometimes crashes or system failures.  From what I’ve heard, and now have experienced, it is one of the more difficult to navigate.  Perhaps I should retrace my steps a bit for you so that you might better understand the maneuvering that had to occur to straighten this one out.

We have to go a bit backward here, but sit tight — we have to pull out of the driveway first!  Picture it!  It was 2003 — this four-year-old, shy and reserved little blue-eyed, toe-headed, toddler was sitting with his Daddy and me (yes my son, Joshua) in front of the Dairy Queen enjoying an ice cream.  It was a rather hot and muggy summer night and the ice cream was melting faster than his little tongue could lick.  Then comes an older woman walking with her granddaughter by our picnic table, looking for her own picnic table (of which they were all taken), and looking exasperated that she couldn’t find one.  My son piped up with his big bright smile and said, “You can sit with us!”  I smiled, acknowledging the welcome and they sat beside us.  It was quiet all of a New York minute and Joshua sat up straight and tall and asked, “Do you go to church?!”  I took a deep, silent breath and the woman simply shook her head, “No” and resumed licking her ice cream.  Joshua sat up taller and straighter and looked her square in the eyes — not a blink to be had — saucers of blue staring into her soul — and blurted loudly and proudly, “YOU CAN GO TO MY CHURCH!”  It wasn’t an invitation, it wasn’t a plea, it wasn’t a suggestion — it came assuredly and forcefully — and it dripped pure, sweet love.  It truly was one of the most authentic invitations to church that I’ve ever heard.  It burst forth from the innocence of a little boy who knew Jesus wanted everyone to come to know Him and in his mind, this precious lady and her granddaughter fit the bill perfectly for whosoever will in John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NASB)

Moving further down the road to 2010 — after a presentation of the Living Christmas Tree at First Baptist Church of Orlando, this half-pint Disciple of Christ went forward and said to our Great God, “I want to serve you with my whole life”  That night and without reservations Joshua committed his life to full-time ministry.  Joshua’s life path was given — oh, how I prayed when he was born that God would so grip him and use him for His Kingdom.  Joshua’s life began the forward movement of ministry —- seeking God’s will for his life — where, how, when??  He would then go to China for a month of his summer in 2016 and then another month in Israel in 2018.  It seemed that the plan was set — the course had been established — we were headed in the right direction.  Oh, wait!

A FOUR-WAY STOP

This wasn’t on the map — no one mentioned it — there were no signs back warning us this was coming — we just came to a sudden, halted stop at this intersection.  Someone had to go first, but who??

“Momma, I want to be a policeman.”  I shake my head a bit and say, “Uhm, what did you say, Joshua?”  “I want to join the Florida Highway Patrol, Momma!”  I think my heart stopped beating — I’m certain of it — someone, please check my heart-rate —- I can’t breathe.  Yet, through the drama of my heart stopping, I smile and say (as sweetly as I can), “Oh, and Joshua when did you come to this conclusion?”

I only am catching pieces of what he is saying, as my mind is whirling around so quickly like a spinning top — I sincerely believe that I will probably pass out on this bit of information — someone, call the Rescue Squad, please!  I cannot breathe!  Instead, I gulp down air and blink and then smile and say, “Ok!  Have you prayed about this decision?”  He assured that he had.

Wait!  What are you saying, Tameasa???  It’s not okay — police take people to jail and sometimes they get shot and….. “God, policeman are not pastors!”  Becoming more upset because God must have simply forgotten to communicate this bit of information to me first Then I am reminded…

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8 and 9 (NASB)

So here we are — at a Four-Way stop with God:  Our car is the really dusty one because it has been on the backroads slowly making its way to the main road.  Then there is Joshua’s car — he has the one that looks a bit more like a surfer than a policeman or a pastor — a third car is a group of friends and family who have opinions and think they know the direction Joshua needs to go — the Big, Blue Shiney one is God’s.  Everyone had made plans — no one intended to find themselves in a roundabout governed by a Four-Way Stop sign.

God did take the lead — He heard our prayers and has been faithful in showing us what to do.    In fact, He always has…He said so in Jeremiah,

“‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. ‘Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. ‘You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.'” Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NASB)

We followed God into the college, met some wonderful people in the law enforcement program, and the entire time I paid attention to Joshua’s countenance.  He was beaming — his face was fresh and hopeful and ready.  There was no mistake that God led us here and that he was fully in charge of the path Joshua is on.

God often works outside of our own, human plans — the ones we think are best for us or our family or our children.  The Lord had to sternly remind me that HE had already ordered Joshua’s footsteps when there were yet any of them.  I must trust that His ways are higher than my own.

“The steps of a man are established by the LORD, And He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, Because the LORD is the One who holds his hand.” Psalm 37:23-24 (NASB)

God has shown me that these steps are needful steps so that He can use Joshua best.  So, I wave God through first and we all obediently follow him down the next path.  It is not that the path I originally thought we were taking has been diverted, I just had my own idea of where it was leading and how we should get there.  I can’t see where the next stop or bump will be, but I can trust that God knows and He does…so — onward, forward and all the while trusting Him.