Desert Dweller

Psalm 68: 6

God makes a home for the lonely; He leads out the prisoners into prosperity, only the rebellious dwell in a parched land.

It is easy for us to get “religious” and when we do, we create a whole bunch of sayings, expressions, doctrine and habits that are not Biblical. Today’s verse points out one of those religious ideas that is completely foreign to God.

It has become rather common for Christians to talk about being in a desert period. This is a religious idea, meaning more about man-made conception that Spirit led reality. There was the time our Lord was led out into the desert. That may be where we got the idea that people should have desert experiences. God, however, said that only the rebellious live in the parched land. So what are we doing out in the desert?

I have had my desert experiences too. As a matter of fact, there was a two-year period when I was parched and thirsty. Then I discovered something. My Father didn’t intend me to be out in the desert alone. For that is what the desert experience is – a time of being alone when it seems as though the presence of God has withdrawn. God did not name His son Immanuel (God is with us) so that we could go dwell in the desert by ourselves. He didn’t send the Holy Spirit to “be with you forever,” (John 14: 16) just so we could go live in the desert alone.

Jesus went into the desert for a short period of time. He was led there by the Spirit and he most definitely was not without God or the Spirit one moment of that time. His “desert” experience was vastly different from ours. It was a time with God; a time of reflection, introspection and conviction. It was not a time apart from God. His soul was not deserted. In fact, Father sent angels to minister to Jesus’ needs and Jesus emerged from the wilderness victorious.

Most Christians put on sackcloth and weary faces as they talk about their desert experience. They don’t describe a time of revelation or of communion with God. They describe a time of dwelling in a parched land. They act like God has abandoned them to the desert and that, my friends, is a grand deception. Jesus promised that he would never leave us, the Spirit is our constant “go along”, and God promised He would never leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13: 5).

Therefore, we can now recognize that the “desert experience” is a misconception. It is not God inspired. He is not and never will leave you stranded in the desert. He is with you day and night to support and protect you. If you’ve got a tent pitched out in the desert, jerk up its stakes and go pitch it by the stream. That is where the Father leads us (Psalm 23). Anything else is a lie.

Home for the Holidays

Psalm 68: 6

God makes a home for the lonely; He leads out the prisoners into prosperity, only the rebellious dwell in a parched land.

The holidays are a time of friends and family and yet for many people, it is the loneliest time of the year. A friend of mind mentioned recently that loneliness is a pronounced contributor to mental illness. Most of us have dealt with loneliness at some point in our lives but God is present to say, today, that we need not be lonely. We have a God who cares for us. Moreover, He is a caring, loving father and He has made a place for us in His heart.

I want you to know that God is actively thinking about you right now. He has plans for your well-being. Despite your current situation, you do not have to live apart from love. The transformation, however, often takes place inside of you first. Some of us are alone because some of our decisions led us into the place of aloneness. Whatever is in our hearts, though, that keeps us isolated, can be renewed so that we find a world of people who are willing and even desirous of spending time with us.

Have you ever felt you were living in a desert? I sure have and I never want to go back to those times. This verse says that our isolation in the desert came out of our rebellious nature. Those are not easy words to hear but for me it was true. When I relaxed into my relationship with God and ceased striving and toiling for everything, including hearing His voice, then I began to find a new relationship with Him. My effort and self-reliance separated me from Him. I tried so hard but finding is easy when you stop trying and simply open your eyes. He is right there, I promise, but we build such walls around ourselves that our perceptions become numb and His voice muted.

God created this entire planet, everything on it and even the solar system in which it revolves just so He could have a family. He didn’t create deserts for His children. Deserts exist in our lives when we do not allow Him to pour His living water into us. They are of our own making. He gave us Eden and we turned it into a desert. Here is the good news, though. We have the same power to renew Eden into the glorious garden of our heart where we can, and do, walk with God in the cool of the evening.

I pray that this Christmas season, you find new connections with your Divine Father and that those bonds lead you to increased relations with others so that you will never experience loneliness again. I pray that the joy of God’s heart will be reverberate in yours this season. When we connect with Yahweh in the way He intended, we never will feel alone again. Happy Holidays!

Desert Days

Luke 4: 1 – 2

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led about by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days; and when they had ended, He became hungry.

I want you to notice a few words in this passage, those being, “being tempted by the devil.” You see, right after this verse begins the telling of the three temptations with which we are all familiar. Has anyone else missed this part though, that he was tempted for 40 days before those famous three temptations? It certainly had eluded me.

Here is another question for you. How did the devil tempt him? Jesus wandered around in the desert, presumptively alone, for 40 days not eating. As if that was not enough, apparently the devil was pestering him the whole time too. Do you think the devil appeared to him? Did he just whisper in Jesus’ ear? We know next to nothing about this forty day period.

I also find it interesting that he wandered around in the desert for forty days being led by the Holy Spirit. That is very reminiscent of the forty years the Israelites roamed around in the desert though they were led by God. Were they also tempted in the desert for those forty years like Jesus was for the forty days he was in the desert? Jesus never failed, he never gave into the temptations. He made it to the promised land without succumbing to the devil’s machinations. It is as if he put to right the disastrous journey of the Israelite nation by making his forty day sojourn.

Whatever the devil dishes out, there has always been the power available to overcome him. The Israelites had God with them. He was in the cloud by day and the pillar by night. Somehow, though, they were unable to connect with the power which accompanied them day and night. Jesus showed that people can overcome the temptations of the devil. He connected with the power which accompanied him, namely, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gave him company so that he was never really alone and he empowered Jesus with everything he need to succeed.

All the Israelites had and all that Jesus had is with us today too. We can access the power of the trinity at all times because they are always with us. We no longer need wander around in the desert lost, alone and afraid. We have a redeemer and a comforter. We have an overcomer. They have led us to the oasis. Hallelujah.

Desert or Oasis

Numbers 14: 22

Surely all the men who … have not listened to My voice shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers.

This verse is taken from a piece of a conversation between God and Moses. I have to stop right here in awe of dialoguing with God. That should be a goal for us all and what a privilege it is to get to sit in on this conversation. Anyway, they are discussing the people that God freed from Egyptian slavery and subsequently led to the Promised Land. 

The end of the story is that these people did not get to enter the Promised Land even after travelling for years to reach it. What is going on here? The long and short of it is that you can only enter the land of promise by faith. The reason they didn’t get to go in is because of doubt, they did not listen to God’s voice. We run the same risk when we don’t turn our ears to hearing the voice of the Lord.

Let’s begin simply. The easiest way to hear God speak is simply to pick up the Bible and read it. If a person is unwilling to do that then there is very little any minister or even God Himself can do for them. They are going to die in the desert with their testimony of doubt. Everyone can hear God speaking to them because He has written it down. Let’s keep it simple here. Pick up the book. Read it. No excuses.

We love to look down our noses at the Israelites but many times we are their modern day equivalents. We think, “If I had been there I would have been different.” Well, we are there. Many of us are still wandering around in the desert despite the voices calling out to us. Additionally, consider that they did not have a Bible. Okay, they had a cloud and that is cool but you don’t have to go outside and see if the cloud is still there. You can pick up your Bible and have God speak to you any time you wish. It’s like having a tape recorder with God on it so that all you have to do is press “play” and God begins speaking to you. Wow!

Doesn’t it strike you that these folks followed God around for forty years and yet did not get to enter into the Promised Land? It grieves my heart for them. But then it grieves my heart tremendously today when I see so many people rob themselves of the promises of God. Do you know why the Israelites took 40 years to make an 11 day trip? The answer is exactly the same as to the question, “Why is Jesus taking so long to come back.” He sees us wandering around in doubt and unbelief and he knows if we are confronted with the promise we will not be able to enter in because of our unbelief. God did not take the Israelites the most direct route because of the littleness of their faith. He knew that would fall immediately. So He led them around in the desert; feeding them manna from heaven, water from rocks, meeting their every need and answering their every complaint. He went before them in the cloud by day and the pillar of fire at night, His very presence with them at all times. He showed them miracle upon miracle trying to build their faith. However, when they reached the goal and surveyed the land of promise their report was full of doubt. Love couldn’t let them go in because they would have destroyed themselves. So, God had to wait to raise up another generation, a generation that could go forth in faith and take possession of the land which God had already given them.

Let the report about our generation be different. Let us end the desert years and go boldly into the Promised Land. There is so much the Father has for us if we can but listen to Him and do what He says. We all need to hear the voice of God and that is available to each of us but the Israelites did not fail to enter in because they did not hear the voice of God. They failed because they did not listen to God. They didn’t attend to His word. It really is that simple. They didn’t give it the proper weight in their lives and they did not act according to the Word of God. We can be different. With just a little effort and faith as small as a mustard seed we revolutionize our experience and our environment. We can be the generation that believed. Read the Word, listen to what God is saying to us and be a believer.