Something begins happening this time of year to those of us who live in cold weather conditions. From November through March the mercury hardly rises about 45 and the air is biting and dry. Some days it is as if we can feel it deep within our chests. However, it takes a toll on our skin and lips as they become dried out. They begin to crack and even bleed if not treated properly.
I can remember being a kid opening my mouth and feeling the natural split in my lips. OUCH!
Maybe you can relate to this feeling, maybe you cringe at the very thought of it? Maybe this feeling isn't limited to how our body reacts to cold, dry weather? Maybe this is condition also exists within our hearts on a spiritual level?
One of my favorite chapters of the Bible is Psalm 119. It also happens to be the longest chapter in the Scriptures, weighing in at 176 emotion dripping verses. The chapter is broken down into stanzas, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. David writes about he delights in the word of the LORD. He has hidden God's word in his heart, so that he might not sin. The word of the Lord is life-giving.
The section of this chapter that has been seared in my mind is a word picture that is painted in the KAPH stanza (verses 81-88). Specifically, verse 83, check it out:
"Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke,
I do not forget you decrees."
Picture a tent, with a small fire to keep the inhabitants warm. The wineskins are strung near the top of the tent where the smoke rises and caresses the wineskins as it departs into the sky. Over time, the heat from the fire and the smoke will dry out the wineskins causing them to crack and render them useless.
Such is the condition of our heart in a season of struggle. When nothing seems to be going right. Yet, the second half of verse 83 provides the hope. "I do not forget your decrees." This is the Psalmist saying, "Even though I'm riding the struggle bus right now...your words preserve me."
When you read the Bible you will be hard-pressed to find a more honest book than Psalms. The wide-range of emotions are covered in these 150 chapters. It's a blessing to all who read it. It is a prayer-filled journey worth taking.
Prayer + Scripture = a conversation with God
Even though, you might be feeling like a wineskin in the smoke right now...find your way back to the Scriptures. As the weather gets colder, fix yourself a warm beverage, open your Bible to the center and begin a journey through the Psalms, you won't be disappointed.
This week, I had the opportunity to attend the ReChurch Conference at The Creek Church. This is an environment for church leaders (ministers, elders, and ministry leaders) to converge for a 2-day empowering experience. The theme this year is Into The Wild. The "wild" is a place that is untamed, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable. For leaders in the church this means figuring out how to bring the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people who are hostile toward God and broken.
...just like we were.
"And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."
1 Corinthians 6:11
PAY IT FORWARD
I'm so thankful for the preacher who came into the wild to speak to a group of high school students about the hope that Jesus can bring into their helpless situations. If it weren't for the courage of that man, I don't know how I would have ever made the decision to put my faith and trust in Jesus as my Savior and Lord.
I need to make that same step into the wild to help anyone that God brings across my path. I trust that He will bring the opportunities. I trust that He will give me the words. I pray that I will have the faithfulness to honor God in the days that I have left in my life.
God so loved the world. He loved people who were far from Him. So He sent Jesus into the wild. Those who believe in Jesus will be eternally thankful that God sent Him.
My biggest takeaway from this powerful conference is the fact that Jesus emptied Himself of His status in heaven to become nothing, taking the nature of a servant. (Philippians 2:5-11)
How could I...How could we...believe in what Jesus has done for us and not seek to do the same for someone else?
Who do you know that is far from God?
Will you begin praying for them?
Are you willing to go into the wild to tell others about the hope that Jesus offers?
Imagine the eternal difference that could be made.