Tuesday, July 27, 2010

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Scars and Stripes

In 1947, a young Bedouin farmer was tending his flock in the desert area called Qumran near the Dead Sea. It was there he discovered several caves in which he found clay jars. In those jars were scrolls which are dated back (about 150 B.C - 70 A.D.) to the Essenes. The Essenes (known as the Sons of Light) was a communal group of men who dedicated their lives to God in preparation of the coming Messiah. One of their practices was to write onto scrolls the Old Testament. In these jars were portions of their writings. The only book that was found in these scrolls, in its entirety, was the book of Isaiah.

I have had the privilege of seeing these scrolls three times. Twice here in Southern California and once at the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem. It is amazing to see these writings that date back before the birth of Jesus. I find it very interesting that the only book that has every page is the book of Isaiah. I remember standing in front of Isaiah 53 and being in awe of what I was seeing.

As we have journeyed through the scripture over these past months, we can clearly see that man was unable to be completely obedient to the Lord.
Isaiah was the prophet who God used to introduce the Messiah to His people.

This week as we read through Isaiah 49-66, I was reminded of the scars and stripes that Jesus took for all of us. I love Isaiah 49:16 that says, "See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;..." This reminds me of the conversation Jesus had with Thomas. Jesus was standing there with his disciples after his resurrection with the scars of the nail piercings in his hands. (John 20:25-27) Not that Jesus ever forgets our names, but we sure easily forget what he did. Those scars are our reminder to us, that he never forgets us.

Isaiah 53 is a very familiar passage. For those who have seen the movie, "The Passion of the Christ" have a very visual picture of this description. In the New King James translation, chapter 53:4-7 says this, "
Surely He has borne our griefs, And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth." This sounds so poetic in writing, yet this act, when it happened was so violent. To think that Jesus took a beating that made him even unrecognizable, that eventually lead to his death, is truly the ultimate sacrifice.

If we ponder on some of these words that are used to describe this act, it becomes such a visual of sin. The word wounded describes the infliction of the sins of others done against us. The word bruised is a visual of the sin we have committed. We know that blood is precious to God because it represents life. Did you know the reason you bleed first when you get a cut is because the blood is the body's natural way of cleansing the affected area. The same goes with a bruise. Blood is released to cleanse the damaged area. And for every lashing Jesus took on his body, it was for our healing. Not only our physical healing, but our emotional and spiritual healing as well. He also dealt with our shame so that we no longer carry that scar.
If you truly think about it, the pain you feel emotionally, spiritually, physically and even shamefully, he carried and felt for everyone that has been, is and will be at that moment! We can't even imagine. What a heavy burden!

I hope you will read Isaiah 53 again. I also recommend you to read Isaiah 61 as it is the healing and restoration we have received from His sacrifice. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you through his eyes and understanding a more personal connection. I pray that that passage will come to life for you and that by his scars and stripes you are healed.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - No Visibility: Faith

This morning, the weather on my homepage read, "visibility: 8 miles." For those who live or have lived in California know that the first 4 to 6 weeks of summer there is this weather pattern called June gloom. It is when the clouds decide to hide the sun for most of the day. Most of the time, the view from my windows are of the Saddleback mountains. (Photo to the right) But on these cloudy mornings, the visibility of those mountains is zero.

At the beginning of March we were notified that the owner of our home was going to sell our house. We believed that this was God giving us permission to buy our own home so we began looking right away. When we started our home search, the visibility was so clear that we thought we would find a home in no time. Now we are heading to the end of July and still no home in sight. We've made 15 offers and all have been denied, not to mention we even have submitted offers on houses we haven't seen. God is choosing our house now.

This week as I read the book of Isaiah, I came across the promises that I have written on cards and posted around my house. The first one being, "My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest." (Isaiah 32:18) The second scripture I've been holding on to is Isaiah 45:2 & 3 that says, "I will go before you and will level the mountains, I will break down the gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. 3I will give you treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by name."

In the beginning my faith level was at a visibility level of 50 miles. I have seen God do some incredible things in my life so I had no lack of faith that He would do something on the timetable we are on. As the weeks pass, my clarity has become limited. My faith is often like the view from my home. There are days that I can clearly see the mountains and then there are days I don't see anything. Even though I can't see the mountains, I know, without a doubt, they are there.
Maybe I need to change my view when I don't see the mountains. I need to look at it as though God has leveled them instead of hid them. The Lord used this visual one morning to illustrate where I am currently at. He showed me that not only do the clouds block my view, but as we head into the summer months, the smog blocks it until we get the first autumn rain. Smog, which we Southern California residents know all too well, is similar to the pollution that clouds my faith. The day to day events of life that begin to build up if I'm not regularly washing my mind with the Word. And even when I am washing with the Word daily, like the air fights against the daily exhaust fumes from cars, trucks and machinery, so do the pollutants of life that come against my faith. Keeping our faith view clear is a fight.

Hebrews 11:1 says that "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." I think that is a good description of the view out of my window during these seasons when the heat is turned up. Much like the summer is hot. Paul says that the righteous will live by faith. (Romans 1:17) Romans 10:17 says that "faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of God." It doesn't say that it comes from what we see, but what we hear. Jesus healing the blind man is probably important visual illustration to those of us who choose to live by faith. He had never seen Jesus to know whether or not Jesus was who he said he was. But by the words Jesus spoke, recognized his voice and received them and because of that faith he was healed. Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight, your faith has healed you." (Luke 18:42) Maybe I'm not physically blind, but there sure are days that my faith is challenged with blindness. Yet in God's process of working all things together for good, He turns my faith into something that eventually I will see.

I don't know what the visibility of faith is in your life right now. Maybe you have a clear view or maybe you are at the zero visibility mark. Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God..." It is hard to be settled in your spirit when in the natural we cannot see. As I am growing in my faith, I'm learning that the less visibility, the more faith and hope that is required. I sometimes wonder if God allows the zero visibility days to open our eyes of faith. Maybe life seems uncertain for you right now. Personally, I am at a place that I can't see tomorrow. It's like that game of trust we played as kids. One person is blindfolded and the other person leads you around. What if all of this uncertainty is God's way of working my control issues out of my life. My expectations disappoint me more than God does.

I'd like to close with a verse that I read this past week as well. It is Isaiah 49:23b. It says, "...those who hope in me (God) will not be disappointed." If you, like me are living life with a lack of visibility, then hold tightly to God's hand because He knows exactly where He's leading you.
"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love." (Romans 5:3-5 New Living Translation)