Going on a supernatural carpet ride–Psalm 95

All the life--on one dead log!

All the life–on one dead log!

I’ve been reading Psalm 95 regularly these last few weeks. I’m not sure how I landed on that particular psalm. It’s not one that has special connection with my current life events, and it’s not a really well-known psalm (other than its phrases about being “the sheep of his hand”). But I’ve still been drawn to it, to reading it at the starts and ends of my days. It’s a divided psalm, beginning with praise for God’s care and creativity and then abruptly shifting to warning.

All the life--inside one dead log!

All the life–inside one dead log!

I read it really late last night, when I was very tired, and I imagined myself kneeling on a prayer carpet, doing exactly what the psalm says–praying, thanking, and praising God–making the “joyful noise” it refers to. As I read the next verses, which give the image of our great King holding the deep places in his hands, forming the dry lands…, I imagined the prayer carpet rising in the air (hmm–a supernatural prayer carpet!) and visiting these places the psalmist mentioned. First it took me to the “deep places,” to caves filled with glowing stalactites and flashing jewels. Then it swooped up, up, up to the highest mountains, to peaks covered in snow and massive rocks, balanced one on top of another. Then it was down, down, down again, through the waves of the sea, swimming alongside great creatures of the deep. It then rose to the shallows, swooping in and out of beautiful coral beds. Finally, breaking through the surface, the carpet swept inland, to where the great hand of God was forming hills and valleys, scooping out canyons and sweeping flat the plains.

After “seeing” all that, I was in awe and so ready to shout the next verse: “Oh come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.”

The carpet moved again, taking me over a gentle valley, where contented sheep grazed and lambs played, all under the watchful eye of a wise, careful Shepherd. I read, “We are the people of His pasture, the sheep of His hand.” The God who created the massive, sweeping universe I’d “seen” on my carpet ride cares specially for us, the small, the weak, the foolish. The same hand that scooped out valleys and fashioned the tallest peaks clasps our heads to His chest, holds us close, carries us next to His heart.

The carpet jerked then, unsettling me from my imagination. It dropped to the ground with a thump, and the next words came strong and firm. “If only you would listen to his voice today! The Lord says, “Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah, as they did at Massah in the wilderness. For there your ancestors tested and tried my patience, even though they saw everything I did. For forty years I was angry with them, and I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them.’ So in my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”

The carpet was gone. I was left to ponder this warning that did not seem to fit with what I’d seen and read before. And then I understood–at least part of it. The Israelites, too, were given a supernatural carpet ride. In the ride of my imagination, the laws of gravity and my lungs’ need for oxygen were suspended, but the Israelites truly experienced the supernatural. Through all the plagues in Egypt, the pillar of fire in the wilderness, the Red Sea crossing–God had made Himself and His power known. They’d seen, felt, and experienced the reality of God.

Yet they still hardened their hearts.

The warning–coming directly on the heals of praise–is necessary because I, too, am fully capable of hardening my heart, even after I’ve experienced a “supernatural carpet ride” kind of time. I’ve had quite a few of those times when God has broken into my life in extraordinary ways, going before me, leading me as a cloud by day, a pillar of fire by night. He has opened up my way at times so it is as if I have walked through a sea on dry ground, the walls of water piled up on either side.

Yet I still doubt.

“Listen to my voice today! Don’t harden your heart!”

I must remember the awe and wonder. I must stay there.

I must return, if need be,

And experience the rest of the pasture.

p.s. I used the Amplified version of Psalm 95 in some spots above and the NLT in others. The link at the very top of the post takes you to a side-by-side of those two translations.

Ephesians 3:14-21

I have long loved the prayer found in the third chapter of Ephesians. Either I have never read it in the Amplified version or it bloomed with new meaning for me today (such a wonderful aspect of the living nature of Scripture!). Either way, I wanted to share it with you. It spoke to me today in terms of identity: the living God desires to fill and flood me with Himself–how do I get fooled into thinking that a self-determined identity (and is there really such a thing?) could be better than THAT? This passage is long in this version, and there is so MUCH in here, but my prayer is that you find a particular verse or even a phrase that speaks to your soul.

wild violets“For this reason [seeing the greatness of this plan by which you are built together in Christ], I bow my knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, … May he grant you out of the rich treasury of His glory to be strengthened and reinforced with mighty power in the inner man by the [Holy] Spirit [Himself indwelling your innermost being and personality].

May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love, That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it]; [That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!

Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of0 the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]–To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen (so be it).”

Want to read this passage in a different version? Click here to see this passage with the AMP, NLT, and the NIV side by side.

Isaiah 50:10

I read this verse in Isaiah this morning and felt strongly that I was supposed to post it–just it, no commentary. I’m praying it speaks directly to the heart of someone who needs this verse, this day.

“Who is among you who [reverently] fears the Lord, who obeys the voice of His Servant, yet who walks in darkness and deep trouble and has no shining splendor [in his heart]? Let him rely on, trust in, and be confident in the name of the Lord, and let him lean upon and be supported by his God.” Isaiah 50:10, Amplified version

Two ears, one mouth, and no highlighter

“We have two ears and one mouth, which ought to remind us to listen more than we speak. Too many times we argue with God’s Word, if not audibly, at least in our hearts and minds.”

The above quote is from Warren Wiersbe’s commentary on the book of James (Be Mature: Growing Up in Christ).

The quote reminded me of a call-in guest I’d heard not too long before on a radio program. He identified himself as a Christian who was a formerly practicing homosexual and then said, “I had to get to the point at which I read God’s Word and said, ‘I agree with that. I may not like it, but that doesn’t change its rightness and trueness.’”

That’s an amazing statement, I thought, and went on, but God kept bringin

From our yard–beautiful!

g it back to mind. The issue, I realized, is that it is easy to tell someone struggling with an “obvious” sin that he/she needs to agree with God’s Word, but it is even easier to ignore the fact that I need to do the same. I once listened to Shane Claiborne, author of several books, including Irresistible Revolution, talk about the fear with which he approaches the Bible. He said something like this: If I truly believe the Bible is God speaking to me, then I can’t just ignore what He says. Every time I open the Bible, I find that I am called to do something that disrupts my comfort.

It is easy for me to point the finger at those who have beliefs or lifestyles that noticeably contradict Scripture and say they need to accept God’s Word. But what about my “acceptable” beliefs or actions that are pointed out when I allow Scripture to pierce me, when I read them and say, “Yes, I agree that this is TRUE and right, even though I don’t necessarily like what it is saying about me”?

Shane Claiborne, focusing specifically on the Church’s attitudes and actions toward the poor, and how we place more emphasis on some commands/theology than others, wrote, “But I guess that’s why God invented highlighters, so we can highlight the parts we like and ignore the rest.”

Mark Twain wrote, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” I am most definitely mis-interpreting Twain’s original intent (considering that you generally find this quote and many others of his on atheist Web sites), but I can apply it to my life. The meaning is clear when the Scriptures call my heart “deceitful” and “desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:7-9) and my tongue a “raging fire,” “set on fire by hell” itself (James 3:6), but I don’t like those pointed statements, and I haven’t “highlighted” those verses in my Bible.

But Scripture calls itself a dividing sword. Sometimes it’s like an axe (like when the prophet Nathan confronted David about his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband, Uriah: “You are the man!” [2 Samuel 12]). Other times it’s as fine-tuned as a laser: Psalm 19:12 asks God to reveal “hidden faults,” because “who can discern their own errors?”

I encountered the Warren Wiersbe quote about arguing with God because I’m in a Bible study on the book of James right now that is using his commentary, and I’m discovering lots of verses in James I’d like to ignore. But instead I’m called to read verses like James 1:20: “…be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” and AGREE with it. I have to say, “You’re right! My anger—no matter how provoked—is not working Your righteousness. I HAVE to let go of my anger no matter how justified it seems or how good it makes me feel in the moment.”

Wiersbe also writes this in his James commentary: “Too many Christians mark their Bibles, but their Bibles never mark them.” And pastor/speaker/author Stuart Briscoe says, “As we look into Scriptures, we (must) let the Scriptures look into us.”

I agree with that. Now it is time to DO it.