Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Desert Survival Skills

In my last post (read it first if you haven’t read it yet), I talked about ways that we find ourselves in the desert. In this post, I will discuss three things we can do that will help us survive in the desert.

- Prepare
- Pursue
- Persist

1. Prepare
In Exodus 3, Moses had to take his shoes off. Two things immediately come to mind:
Firstly, his shoes had the dust and dirt of his everyday endeavours on them and he had to leave that behind in order to come into God's presence. How are we coming to God?

Secondly, his shoes were a tangible barrier between God and himself. By removing them he came to God on God's terms and was directly in contact with holy ground. One year I was very upset with a class I was assigned. Just before school started I was looking over the list. There were 6 classes in my grade. In this grade there were 5 children with special needs/ behaviour issues severe enough to qualify for special education funding. Because I had “good routines” I had 4 of these children put into my class of 35 (along with two children with ADD). I was angry and upset. At this time there was a teacher shortage in New Zealand. I decided that I was going to sort out this situation by having the children redistributed fairly or leaving my job! The morning that I got up to do this I very clearly heard God ask me, “will you trust me? My response was, “I don’t want to trust you because if you are asking me to, that means I have to put up with this situation and I don’t want to. It’s unfair.” I felt like God’s response was, “I am going to rock your boat this year honey. In fact I don’t want you in the boat – it’s a barrier between you and me. So prepare to get wet!”

Moses prepared himself to meet with God. When we come to God … there can be NOTHING between him and us. We come to him on HIS terms.

Ex 19:10-11
God gave the Israelites advance notice that he was going to meet with the people. It required 3 days of preparation. He was serious about the preparation.

Again, we see in 1 Kings 19:11 that God gave Elijah advance notice so he had time to prepare to meet him.

In Matthew 17, Jesus didn't just wander on up the mountain. He took the disciples and LED them - he set off with purpose. He had to take the correct path to end up in the right place. What path are we taking to come into God's presence ... or are we waiting for God's presence to come to us?

I woke up one Sunday a few years ago and as soon as I awoke I clearly sensed God's voice say to me, "I want you to prepare for church". I thought , "I'd rather just rock up actually!" God's response to me was "no more." I was really challenged about this. I was going to our 8.30am service and this meant that I had to get up earlier to prepare. In that season, it also meant that I needed to forgo my Sunday afternoon snooze to seek God's face for the evening service. Here is the thing ... if we knew that we were going to meet God face to face, what preparations would we make? I'm sure we wouldn't come with the casual attitude we so often have when we seek God!

Part of preparing involves repentance. In Exodus 33 we see that Mt Horeb was a place of repentance. Acts 3:19 tells us, “Repent then, and turn to God, so that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”

2. Pursue
We are exhorted to pursue God. The Oxford dictionary defines pursuit this way: "seek after, follow with intent to capture". It is an active verb. We have to do something. In Song of Songs 3:1 – 5, we see that the beloved sought after her lover. She got off her bed and actively went looking.

The desert is not the time to sit under a tree and wish to die. It is the time when you have to press in and determine to find God no matter what. We must dig our wells deeper and keep drinking!

In my first year of teaching, I taught a very bright student named Michael who was 5. We used to share news. One day, I asked who had something to share and Michael eagerly waved his hand. He started off, “Well, on the weekend we went to Hot Water Beach and dug to find the water table …” Now imagine a class of 5 year olds – this went right over their heads! I asked Michael to explain what the water table was and he responded with, “well ... its when you dig and dig and keep digging until you find where the water level is under the ground ..." Michael had caught something that we need to catch. When in the desert, dig and dig and don't stop digging until you find that water.

God is not playing Hide and Seek with us. In Jer 29:11 he says, “I will be found by you when you seek me with all your heart.”

Hosea 6:3 tells us, “Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that cover the earth.”

3. Persist
The Oxford dictionary defines persist as: "continue firmly or obstinately, especially in face of difficulty; survive."

Hebrews 10:23 says, "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess for He who promised is faithful"

We need to persist … when it’s hard … when God seems far away … persist in your pursuit.

Think about Ezekiel and the dry bones (Ez 37). He prophesied and the dry bones came together. They not only came together but flesh, tendons and muscles appeared on them. I don't know about you but I would probably be so in awe of this miracle that I would be tempted to stop there. The thing is that those bones were defying the Word of God. In vs 5 God said "I will put my breath in them and they will live." In vs 8 it says ..."but there was no breath in them...". What use is a pile of beautifully formed, attractive looking, LIFELESS bodies!!! Ezekiel had to push through until he saw the miracle and work of God in its completeness.

How often we are like that? God touches us and we are so overwhelmed and excited by it, that we stop there in the moment of encounter. God is always moving on and his challenge to us is to move with him and keep climbing higher. Don't back off and be content with a little taste. Get thirsty and pursue Him.

Isaiah 35:6 - 7 " ... Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool and thirsty ground, bubbling springs ..." So how do we survive in the desert? We prepare for it, we pursue Him and we persist until we find him. Not only will he refresh us, he will use us to refresh others. God's heart is that we are filled with Him and that he bubbles out of us and refreshes those around us. We can become part of his oasis in the desert ...


Sharon said...

Thank you for your timely post.
I have spent some time to in the dessert and now I am pursuing God.
I once did a children's church on preparing ourselves to come before God. I used a reference of the priest in the old testament and how even on the days that they were not physically serving the Lord in the Temple they still washed and purified themselves to come before the Lord. When they did this the shekinah(s.p) glory of God was so great that they were overcome by His presence. And if I remember correctly--they were all driven to their faces because they could do nothing else.
Someone reminded me of this tonight.
Thank you.

Brigitte said...

I needed to see this. Karen told me to come here and read your posts. I am SO blessed by these two posts. This morning God told me that the feeling of depression I am experiencing is coming between Him and I - and now I see what He meant by that.

Karen said...

I am going to print these posts off. Yes, Yes. This past couple of days I visited a friend's blog (Lynne on my links list) and she was talking about Deserts and digging ditches, then another friend talking about Arizona and desert stuff.

As a teacher I'm sure you've been encouraged many times, but my wee boy now 6 had some behavioural issues when he started Public School. He was there 6 weeks and was alienated, as was I because he was so very different - could not cope with big classes, would act up and freak out and get way over excited. Well God had us on a 180, us and him and big time leaning on him alone. He led us to a wonderful Christian School, and it has been incredible to the changes in my son, as he soaks in the word, his uniqueness, his intellect and now catching up socially - you'd not think him the same boy. The point is that his Teacher is an amazing woman of God, who has prayed for the children in her class and committed herself to their spiritual growth and release and we have been blessed and changed throughout and it's like a stone being thrown in the water, rippling out touching many lives. Thanks for this post.

Danifesto said...

Well done my friend! I like how you split these desert posts! And of course I love how you have used alliteration to make your main points easy to remember! Your stories give me an image to supplement the rest of the text. And of course it's really the content that makes it all so engaging! THANK YOU for the obvious time and effort you have put together to share this with your readers!

Justin said...

Wanna write my sermons for me? Just kidding, but this is really good stuff written in a very understandable and memorable way. Be blessed in Jesus!

gail said...

Thanks Sassiekiwi for all the time and thought that you have put into your posts.
Louie Giglio as saying at Hillsong that we need to go to church ready to worship with our hearts prepared and engaged.
Your post reinforced this.
I can attest to that fact that the desert can be a real time of growth and refreshing,strangely enough.

Brigitte said...

BTW, I printed these posts out and passed on to a very special friend who needed them too.

sassiekiwi said...

Thanks for the feedback everyone ... I am happy this helps stimulate thinking and encourages ... we all have those desert times. :)

Ally´s Antics said...

Here I am visiting again and I am very uplifted! It is easy to see that you are a teacher, and your skill to expose these issues is very praiseworthy indeed. These 2 posts are very rich in spiritual depth and wisdom. I am sure I will need to read them over several times to get all that the Lord wants! Please drop by and visit me sometime. I have also taken the liberty to add you to my blog friends because I believe your writing can benefit everyone!