The desert experience

Everyone goes through a desert experience during their walk with God. In fact, there are a lot of different desert experiences we can go through. We can go through them spiritually, physically, at work, unemployed, with our family, financially, you get the idea.

Right now I am going through one with "out of work". I keep looking, but so far there has been nothing. This morning I was talking to my son Stephen about reading the Bible through in a year. I looked through my Bible to find some notes I had taken about reading the Bible through in a year. As I was looking for them I found a set of notes I had studied out about going through the desert experience. So I thought it might be a good idea to review them and share them.

It begins with God leading His people through the desert.

"So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. [a] The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle." Ex 13:18niv

I am amazed when I think about it! God led them into the desert. He led them, they didn’t wonder in by accident or get lost. He led them. Its hot, no water, no crops to graze. Hey God, how am I to take care of all these sheep? The green pasture is over that way.

There are several purposes that god has for us in the desert experience.

#1 God is giving us time to prepare.

Ex 13:17 NIV “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, "If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt."

God knew they weren’t ready for the battle yet. Wait a minute you mean I am going through all of this just to go through something worse? No, I mean that God is getting you ready for victory!

#2 God wants to speak to you.

Are there times you pray life is a one way conversation? “God I need,
Could you help me with, please forgive me for, in Jesus name Amen,”\And never give him time to reply? There are times our lives are so busy that we need to slow down so we can listen to what He wants to tell us.

The word desert is midbar, which according to Strong’s # 4057 from #1696 is in the sense of driven, a desert, also speech.

Gesenius says it has 3 meanings: an empty pasture or an uninhabited plain country. A desert, a sterile, sandy country. To speak poetically the instrument of the mouth.

So the desert can be that place where God speaks. He gets us away from the hustle and bustle of our normal lives and speak to us.

#3 to arrange you.

Strongs 1696 says that the root word of midbar is dabar, a primitive root word which means: properly to arrange but also used figuratively to speak.

So there is the idea of to speak again, but primarily to arrange.

A few weeks ago, the pastor at my church, Pastor Ken was teaching on the feeding of the 5000. He spoke on the fact that the miracle did not happen until the people had set down in arranged rows.

Mark 6:39-40 (New King James Version)
39 Then He commanded them to make them all sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in ranks, in hundreds and in fifties.
There are times God wants to do something in our life, but it’s not going to happen until me get things in order.

#4 to worship God
The enemy means to use the desert experience to drive you away from God. The Lord wants you to use it as a time of drawing closer to him. Some of my deepest times of worship have come out of my own brokenness during a desert experience.

#5 to prepare you for ministry and warfare.
Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the enemy before he began his ministry. Israel was led into the desert before they entered the promised land. God used both those experiences to prepare them for the promises that He had in store.

Finally, remember its God timing. The enemy is always trying to get us to take shortcuts. But, the shortcuts always backfire and cause more problems. Such as the case with Abraham and Hagar. 4000 years later, the children of Hagar and Abraham are still dooking it out with the children of Abraham and Sarah.


Today’s blog:

I met with Pastor Bill yesterday. I hadn’t seen him in a several years, and I was looking forward to seeing him again. He is one of those wonderful people that though you might not have seen him in years, when you sit down and talk, it’s like we just met last week for coffee. Bill and I used to pastor at the same church years ago. He and his wife Sandy are great teachers with wonderful shepherd’s hearts.

He reminded me of something we had studied out about the Israelites wondering through the desert. They struggled with the same things over and over again. “Can God provide, what I am going through is too hard, I don’t like the leadership, etc.” Sometimes they would end up in the same place they had been so many times before. Bill and I used to call it ‘going round the mountain.’ God wants to take you into the Promised Land; but you have a few tests to pass first.

So he brings you to this point in your life and asks you to do something, and you say “No, I don’t want to do that… I don’t think that that will work… Right now is not a good time… I’m doing something else and don’t have time to do it your way right now God… etc.” So God says “Ok” and its back into the wilderness and guess what? Later, sometimes years later, He brings you back to the same place to face the same thing all over again. So will you say yes or no this time around? “No” then “Ok” back into the wilderness again.

As we talked about this, Bill and I realized we would rather get it right the first time around. That as difficult or painful as it seems right now to do what God wants, it is nothing compared to going round the mountain over and over again, before we finally get it right. Then Bill shared that he had passed a test. He had held something in his hand that he had wanted for a long time, and God asked him to let it go, so this time he did. He said it felt really good to get it right this time.

So I wondered what it is you may be struggling with. What test are you going through? God has this plan for your life and He doesn’t give up. He will keep bringing you back until you get it right. He wants you to get it right. Philippians 1:6 say, “Being confident of this that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ.”

Day 2?
As we Bill and I shared we realized we had both been through some tough times lately. Then the Lord reminded me of a passage in John 6:25-69 when Jesus is teaching. His flesh is real food and His blood is real drink and we are told that many of His disciples grumbled about it. Vs 66 says, “from this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.” So Jesus asks the 12, “do you want to leave to?” And Peter answers, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Peter is saying “Lord I don’t understand what you are teaching, or what is going on, but I’m staying with you. You are the only answer.” I think every believer who follows Christ will eventually get to this point. The point where they say “God I don’t understand what you are doing, I don’t even know how I got here or how to get out of this mess, but I’m not going anywhere You are my only answer.”

I had a similar experience when my church closed. I had been pastoring a church for several years, and it was dying, so we closed it. I had tried everything I could think of to keep it going: fasting, prayer, bringing in other pastors for advice. I told the Lord I would leave and let someone else take the church if that would keep it open. But in the end we had to close it. Later I was walking in the field near my house praying to the Lord, crying out to Him. I kept asking “Why?” And suddenly, in my mind it seemed as if He was standing right in front of me. I never saw His face; he was about 2 ft taller than me. I remember going up to Him and hitting Him in the chest and screaming “Why? Why? How could you let this happen?”

And then I turned away and it was like nothing. Being in space floating, no light, no sound, no sense of anything, just darkness. That’s when I realized that this is what it would be like without Him. I remember laughing and I turned around and said that was stupid. “Where else can I go, Lord? I tried a lot of things in my life before I came to you and none of them worked. You are my only hope. I don’t know how I got here, or why, but I am going to hang on to you as long as I can. And when my strength gives out and I let go, I’m trusting that Your hand will be under me to catch me.”

Years later I hurt my back and I remember being in pain for a long time. I often asked the Lord, during that time, why I had to be in so much pain. And the Lord told me I was asking Him the wrong question. The question is not “why?” but “who?” Who can heal me?

Whatever you are going through now, or have been going through, Jesus is the answer. He is the one, the only one, who can and will make the path straight and narrow. He is the one who will heal, refresh, and set free every area of your life. He is the only answer.


Words for those who follow Jesus

I have written parts of this over the last few years; but the desire to finish it is based on a new work God is doing in my life. And I would hate to miss out on what God is doing.

There have been 2 different things God has been talking to me about over the last year or so.

One is the word new. Several months ago, David McLain and I started studying out scriptures that had to do with God doing a new work. We felt like God was getting ready to do a new thing; and we were trying to get a handle on it.

The other word was about God asking me to use old giftings I had not used in a while. To get out the guitar and start singing praises to Him. The word was that God was going to give me a time of rest, but that during it, I was to use my old giftings.

I was listening to a Pastor teach on PS 92 which is a psalm of the Sabbath. In other words it is a psalm that was sung at the ending of a week, or the beginning of a new one, depending on how you look at it.

A psalm to be sung during times of change, during times of transition. The verse that stood out was verse 10

10 But my horn You have exalted like a wild ox; I have been anointed with fresh oil.

This verse gives me two promises. One is that He will give me Strength, as horn and wild ox are a symbol for strength, according to Jewish tradition. And the second promise is that He will give me a fresh anointing.

If you are doing a new work you need a new anointing. Not that there was anything wrong with the old anointing, but if it is a new work, it can’t be done with the old anointing.

Two weeks after God gave me this word our worship pastor left and I was the new worship leader.

There has obviously been a fresh or new anointing on me as I have lead worship. And I have not been able to get away from the idea that this anointing might be for other areas. I have always been a good teacher; however it has always been verbally, not in written form. Now I am thinking about writing again because I don’t want to miss out if the anointing extends to this.

I’m not sure what to do with it. Do I try and blog it put it on my space? I just don’t know.

What I want to write about is John 13-17 and the other parallel passages. My reason is as follows...

The other day my daughter Rebekah and I were watching a show called 7th Heaven and in it the dad, who is a pastor, found out that he had to have open heart surgery. The reality of his own mortality hit him. He was getting a second opinion on his surgery when the doctor asked him how his family was taking it. And he admitted that he hadn’t told them. The doctor encouraged him that he had to tell his family.

So he called his wife at the house and said “we are going to have a family meeting.” But when he got there he could not bring himself to tell them. He wanted one night, one normal night before he told them, so they went bowling instead. During the remaining time he made sure to tell each one of his children how much he loved them. He gave them words of encouragement. He tried to help each one with the problems they were facing.

I could so identify with the story. Now for me it wasn’t anything as serious as open heart surgery, it was just a back operation. But at the time there was a lot of stuff going on.

I had been on prescription pain medication for about a year, and that doesn’t help you have a positive outlook. My father-in-law was dying from terminal cancer, and it seemed each week I lost another thing that I considered normal in my Christian walk. First it was teaching because I won’t teach if I am on pain meds. The drive to church was about 40 minutes and at 20 minutes the pain became unbearable, so going to church became harder.

Then I couldn’t play in the band by the time I got the pain to a level I could handle because my fingers didn’t want to work. Finally the Lord stopped giving me words. My life seemed to shrink in on me. There became less and less that I could do or even care about. But I could really mean it when I sang…

“When the darkness closes in Lord still I will praise!”

Then as the surgery got closer I began to think about my own mortality. What happens if…? I went around and had those conversations with my kids, my wife, and my friends. Telling them everything that I wanted them to remember should something happen to me.

It was about this time I started studying out John 13-17 and a thought came to me. What if an angel appeared at your bed tomorrow morning and said “in 24 hours you will die” how different would your life be from normal? How precious would every word be that you would speak to your loved ones?

And I realized that Jesus knew he was about to die.

His words in the upper room carried that kind of impact.

It was a reader digest condensed version of everything he had been trying to get across to his disciples over the last 3 years. The words Jesus speaks here are unique because there were no unbelievers or new converts around. It was just His committed disciples.

Jesus knows that it is the last time before he goes to the cross that he could share with them. He wanted to remind them of the things they will need to know after He is gone. I believe that for the believer, no for the committed disciple, this passage is one of the most important in the Bible.