ARM Blog

After the cord on our 12 year old clunky vacuum cleaner began fraying, we decided to purchase a new bagless upright. Breaking it in on our living room carpet, the clear receptacle quickly filled, swirling with dirt and black dog fur. Finishing the room, I thought, "I'll just go ahead and do our bedroom where the dog sleeps." In no time the canister was full again. Emptying the bin this time, I thought, "I might as well just do the other two bedrooms."

As I rolled the new vacuum down the hall, glancing at the old one, I paused, wondering where this sudden motivation was coming from. (I am sure my wife was wondering the same thing). Immediately, this thought came to mind: The clear receptacle on the new vacuum afforded me the luxury of instantly seeing accumulation of dirt and provided an easy way to remove it. The old cleaner, however, was a different story. The receptacle for the dirt was a paper bag hidden on the inside. This meant that every time I vacuumed, I literally carried around all the previous accumulation: Fresh dirt just landed on top of old dirt. When the bag was finally full, you faced the unpleasant task of opening up the dusty chamber, removing the bag (hopefully without squeezing it), and carefully attaching a new one.

Reflecting on my faith journey, it occurred to me that sometimes I am like the old vacuum cleaner. When I choose to ignore God's Word in Proverbs 4:23, dirt begins to accumulate. If I continue to ignore that instruction, sadly the fresh dirt of irritation and frustration lands on top of the old dirt of offenses and unforgiveness, filling the hidden chambers of my heart. It is not a pretty sight.

God's invitation to me, I believe, is to live life more like that new vacuum: to walk with a transparent heart daily inviting the Holy Spirit to "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life" (Psalm 139:23-24 NLT). Ultimately it means living a life that extends beyond keeping short accounts with God to keeping current accounts with God.

So, how is it with your soul? Perhaps you've been carrying around accumulated "stuff" hidden on the inside. God invites us to accept His invitation in I John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (NRSV). Receive the gift of His Spirit to vigilantly guard your heart (Proverbs 4:23) and keep current accounts with Him (Psalm 32:1-11). You will experience the joy of unhindered and uncluttered intimacy with God who relentlessly loves you!

I recently had the privilege of riding shotgun in a small plane. Confident, gracious, and instructive, the pilot tracked our flight progress and monitored the weather radar on his iPad.
Approaching a cloud, the pilot looked at me and said, "We normally can go around these, but there are times when you just have to fly through them." "But don't worry," he added, "I wouldn't fly through something that would put us in danger."

As we entered the cloud, the bright blue sky was swallowed by "grey nothingness." Desperately trying to peer through the void, a tear welled up in my eye as an unexpected sting of pain pierced my numbness. In this one moment, the last two months of my spiritual journey were poignantly illustrated: emotional and spiritual "grey nothingness."

The pilot's voice startled me out of my deep thought. "It's going to feel like you're driving over a speed bump." He was exactly right. As we continued, he said, "This is going to feel like a pothole." Within a few seconds his words were fulfilled.

Unwittingly prophetic, he said, "You will know when you are coming out of the cloud because you will see little bursts of blue sky." He continued, "They will become more frequent and then all of a sudden you will come into this explosion of blue sky." My heart was clinging to those words of hope as we landed at our destination.

While on the journey through the "grey nothingness" of emotional or spiritual clouds, here are three "bursts of blue sky" that provided eternal perspective:

1. You cannot always avoid the clouds. Sometimes you have to fly through them. Oswald Chambers said, "Clouds are the sorrows, sufferings, or providential circumstances, within or without our personal lives, which actually seem to contradict the sovereignty of God...."

2. You do not fly alone. God, your Pilot, wants to orient you along the journey. Chambers continues, "...Yet it is through these very clouds that the Spirit of God is teaching us how to walk by faith... They are a sign that God is there..."

3. You will come through the clouds, and the explosion of clarity will come. Again, Chambers writes, "...His purpose in using the cloud is to simplify our beliefs until our relationship with Him is exactly like that of a child - a relationship simply between God and our own souls."

So as you continue on the path towards that explosion of clarity, rest in the assurance of God's promise found in Isaiah 42:16: "But I'll take the hand of those who don't know the way, who can't see where they're going. I'll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country. I'll be right there to show them what roads to take, make sure they don't fall into the ditch. These are the things I'll be doing for them - sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute" [MSG].

Recently I was asked to minister at a funeral for a dear sister in Christ. Exploring the internet to research travel options, I visited sites for maps, driving directions, car rentals, airlines, and hotels carefully weighing each transportation alternative.

Narrowing to three potential scenarios, I offered them up to God with a simple prayer, "God, which do You want me to choose?" At that moment I received a text from a friend in that area asking me if I was coming to the funeral. We texted back and forth and then came this offer: "I could come and get you in my plane and take you home if it means you'll come." Pardon the pun, but that option was not even on my radar!

Words cannot adequately express the deluge of emotions I felt: blown away, in awe, surprised, excited, and in disbelief. Mostly, I was just plain humbled. I melted before God, undone by this lavish expression of His love for me, and feeling extremely unworthy to be the recipient of the extraordinarily unselfish sacrifice that a brother in Christ was willing to make.

In those quiet moments, God reminded me of His Word in Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT), "My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the Lord. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." In His love, the light of His Word gently exposed my pride and the folly of a finite creature like me offering "best-case scenarios" to an infinitely omnipotent and omniscient God.

Faith and hope erupted with my confession, "God is not limited to the parameters of my intellect!" God's ability to resolve a hopeless circumstance or to provide in an impossible situation is limitless! He is not bound by my "potential scenarios of A, B, or C" or "Options 1, 2, or 3." He may choose to work in a way completely outside of the realm of my understanding!

Isn't that great news? Think of what that means for your circumstances! Be encouraged this day as you face seemingly impossible circumstances or perhaps feel trapped by the perception that there are no viable alternatives in your situation. Oswald Chambers invites us to, "Set all your opinions and speculations aside and 'abide under the shadow of the Almighty'" (Psalm 91:1). Find rest in the assurance that God may have solutions that are not even on your radar. As you seek Him, you will discover that indeed, He is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think (Ephesians 3:20-21). To Him be glory!

When I first wake up in the morning, I usually direct my thoughts toward prayers of gratitude to God. One early morning the Lord brought to mind the words of Psalm 8: “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth… when I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” I nodded my head in thankful prayer, freshly amazed by the grace and mercy of God.

As I lay quietly lingering over that Scripture, I sensed the Lord redirect that question to me: “What is man that you are mindful of him?”

To be honest, this divine challenge startled me. God quietly asked again, “What is man that you are mindful of him?” As I began to sift my heart in search of an answer, He gently exposed the fact that I am frequently "mind full” of men: full of people’s opinions, accusations, arguments, and projected emotions. He showed me that my “mind fullness” is even found in my use of social media when I wonder who is "following" me, who is "friending" me, who "likes" me, who "commented," who “retweeted,” and who “favorited”. It is all a subtle symptom of my “mind fullness” of man.

But what is “man"? James asks that question and comes to a humbling conclusion: “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (4:14). Isaiah poses that rhetorical question a little more pointedly: “Who are you that you should be afraid of a man who will die, and of the son of a man who will be made like grass? And you forget the Lord your Maker Who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth” (Isaiah 51:12 NKJV).

Ouch! The painful truth is that when I am mindful of man, there is no room to remember God. In fact, when I allow my mind to be occupied with the assessments of finite human beings, I literally displace the Eternal One who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth.

God’s invitation to me is to fill my mind and heart with Him. He lovingly extends that same invitation to you: To be “filled with the Spirit in the following ways: speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts; always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:18-20 CEB). God, help us be “mind full” of You!
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Every few days I receive a symbol on my electronic devices notifying me that there are “pending updates” available for the apps I have downloaded. One quick tap on the App Store icon lets me know exactly which apps have updates and “What’s new” in the updated version. While some days there are simple “bug fixes,” other days there are complete redesigns of the app. While these updates can be easily ignored, I find it a bit more of a challenge because I use my iPad for my daily quiet time and journaling.

Sitting down one morning for time in the Word, I discovered that there were “Updates Available.” Mindlessly, I spent the next couple of moments updating my iPad. My next thought was, “I ought to check to make sure my iPhone updated correctly.” So I spent a couple more minutes confirming that indeed, all the apps had correctly updated on my phone. Then I decided to open and explore some of the apps to see what the redesigns looked like. Before I knew it, 10 minutes had gone by.
With a quick prayer of apology to God, I settled back in to my quiet time. In those moments the Holy Spirit gently whispered, “You know, I have divine ‘pending updates’ for you as you spend time with Me in My Word. There are necessary updates that you need for this day: grace, divine revelation, instruction, and impartation that will be vital as you journey through today.” The sad thing was that I was willing to forgo eternal guidance in order to receive temporal “updates.”

I believe God was lovingly showing me that if I consistently neglect my relationship with Him, I may miss the very “updates” that He wants to give. While sometimes they may be simple “bug fixes,” other times, I believe God offers a complete redesign. How could the prophet proclaim that “The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue to know the word that sustains the weary”? The Scripture gives the answer: “He wakens me morning by morning to listen like one being taught” Isaiah 50:4 (NIV).

My confession and ongoing prayer to God has been shaped by Azariah’s Spirit-prompted exhortation to King Asa in 2 Chronicles 15:2 (AMP): “the Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him [inquiring for and of Him, craving Him as your soul’s first necessity], He will be found by you.”

Would you join me in that prayer? God, create the hunger in me to daily crave You as my soul’s first necessity. Why? Because there are divine “pending updates” available just for you and me!

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