2 Kings 3:8 NIV
The Israelites discovered that for them, the way into the Promised Land was through the wilderness. One Bible teacher refers to it as “God’s killing field.” He says: “In the wilderness experiences of life, the things that cause you to stumble in your walk with God are permitted to die. There He weeds out those who want only a superficial relationship from those who long to know Him intimately. It’s where you learn to stand in faith and to cast all your cares on Him, because there’s nowhere else to turn. It’s where God says, ‘I finally have you where I want you.’ Sometimes He will lead you into the wilderness abruptly. This is especially so when He’s been trying to get your attention and talk to you about a calling He’s placed on your life, and until now you haven’t had time to listen. Suddenly you realize that God is the only One who can get you through the situation you’re in. He permits you to be stripped of pride so you can be clothed with humility; stripped of self-sufficiency so you can be brought to the place of total dependence on Him.” If you’re going through a wilderness experience, don’t think God is punishing you or that He has forsaken you. He’s just allowing some things to die so that other things can be born in you and grow into fruitfulness. Be encouraged; you will come through this! By God’s grace you’ll get to your destination. The truth is, the only way to reach the destination God has planned for you is through the wilderness.
Soul food: 1 Sam 5:1-6:16; Rev 11:15-19
Psalm 107:9 NIV
Psalm 107 is all about remembering and rejoicing in the things God has done for us. It’s divided into sections, each talking about a different group of people who found themselves in challenging circumstances, but saw God come through for them. And each section ends with the words ‘Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love’ (Psalm 107:8; 15; 21 NIV). The first section speaks of people who were wandering in the wilderness, and were hungry and thirsty. This can be interpreted two ways. Firstly, it could be about God providing for our physical needs. When the Israelites were in the desert, they began complaining to Moses that they were better off back in Egypt where they were slaves. They said: ‘There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve’ (Exodus 16:3 NIV). God provided the Israelites with manna to eat, and the way He gave it to them meant that they had to trust in His provision each day (take a look at Exodus 16:4-21). Secondly, it could be showing how God provides for our spiritual needs. When we are spiritually hungry and thirsty, God promises to satisfy us. We are told that ‘he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.’ Other translations include the words ‘longing soul’ which suggests it’s talking about people who are desperate for more of God. God never forces us to have a relationship with Him, but inside each of us is an empty space which only He can fill. We often try and fill it ourselves, but a deep relationship with God is the only way we will ever feel truly satisfied.
Acts 18-19; Matt 10:11-20; Ps 146; Prov 16:4-5
Psalm 100:2 NKJV
To grow in your relationship with God, you must move from the “should” to the “want to” category. The most basic assessment we have for any experience or event is what psychologist Jonathan Haidt calls our “like-o-meter.” Your like-o-meter was running the day you were born. For example, taste receptors in babies are pretty well developed, so their like-o-meter usually involves what goes into their mouths: “I like it – gotta have more,” or “I hate it – get it out of here.” As you continue to grow, everything in life registers on your like-o-meter without your even having to think about it. Every sound you hear, every conversation you’re part of, every bite you eat, rates positively or negatively on your scale. And people also register on your like-o-meter. During the briefest conversations you’ll find yourself drawn toward certain people. Something within you says, “I like this person. I’m enjoying this conversation.” It’s always going on. So here’s a question to consider: Do you like God? That may sound like a strange question, but if you don’t like spending time with Him, you won’t do it. And you need to be honest about it, because you can’t pull the wool over God’s eyes. In Scripture the Christian life is compared to a twenty-six-mile marathon. At mile marker twenty-three it doesn’t matter whether you think you should finish, you’ll only do it because you want to. In other words, your “want-to” keeps you going when your “should” finds it easier to quit. The Psalmist said, “Serve the Lord with gladness” because nothing else will enable you to go the distance.
Soul food: Ruth 1:3-18; John 6:41-69
Luke 1:41 NLT
Besides being cousins, Mary and Elizabeth were ‘spirit friends’. They didn’t just connect socially, they connected spiritually at a deeper level. That’s why Mary ‘hurried’ to see Elizabeth, and why she spent three months with her. It’s also why Elizabeth confirmed the miraculous purposes of God that were being fulfilled in Mary’s life, and praised her obedience. The Bible says: ‘A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea…She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth…exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed…Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home”‘ (vv. 39-42, 56 NLT). When God introduces us to someone who’s been touched by His Spirit and carries within them a vision that’s started by the Holy Spirit, we need to reach out to them, treasure them, and build a relationship with them. The strength of the connection between Mary and Elizabeth went beyond the fact that they were family. Sometimes our families are the first to criticise us and the last to understand us. It also came from a mutual realisation that God’s Spirit was working in their lives. Their relationship with God meant that they had a stronger relationship with each other. When Mary greeted Elizabeth, the unborn child within her leaped in her womb. How do we recognise a ‘spirit friend’? When they speak, something within us will resonate. That’s because we’re both filled with the same Holy Spirit and empowered to do God’s will.
Job 24-28; John 1:6-18; Ps 113; Ecc 10:10-14
Psalm 103:13 TM
To see God as a loving Father may not come easily, if you carry the scars of a neglected or abusive childhood. Perhaps you had so many unmet needs growing up: affection, security, trust, comfort, material necessities, etc., and your lack of these things makes it hard to believe God will provide for your needs now. What to do? Recognize that your “father-image” is flawed and in no way resembles your heavenly Father. Even the best earthly father can’t measure up to Him. He wants you to approach Him as a caring, sensitive, generous, dependable, loving Father. That’s why Jesus taught us to call Him “Our Father,” not just “Almighty God and Lord.” Like a good father, God understands your needs and makes full provision for them (See Matthew 6:25-34). And just as a good parent recognizes the unique characteristics of each of his children, He knows your distinctive personality, gifts, thoughts, and feelings. “As parents feel for their children, God feels for those who fear him. He knows us inside and out, keeps in mind that we’re made of mud” (Psalm 103:13-14 TM). God’s care is tailor-made to your specific gifts – and weaknesses. And like a loving father, He accepts and fulfills His responsibility to provide for you. So what’s your role in the relationship? To act like the child of a trustworthy, generous, permanently-loving Father!
Soul food: Exo 22-24; John 3:1-21; Ps 89:1-14; Prov 26:17-19