He Never Leaves Us Empty

11 Jan

Day 11 of the New Year.

Most have probably stopped reflecting on 2013 by now and begun carving out life in 2014.  Me, I don’t even have our Christmas decorations down yet.  Truth is, I like our home with the glow of it all and, more truth, I haven’t stopped reflecting yet either. I’m basking in the glow of 2013 every bit as certainly as I am our still-lit Christmas tree.

Christmas on the Boulevard

Christmas on the Boulevard

It wasn’t an easy year.  In, fact it was a hard one.  And I’m not just talking about the things that occurred on the outside of my skinI’m talking about all the things He brought me face-to-face with on the inside of my skin. . . haughtiness, jealousy, pharasitical thinking.  But Oh, the refining work that God has begun in this Girl!

He confirmed for me again that I am of such importance to Him that He will not allow me to be stagnant in my faith or to settle for less-than.  He made it possible for me to glimpse His Glory and go places in my Promised Land that I never would have gone without the trials that left their footprints all over Biddinger Boulevard in 2013. Part of who I am has started to look a little bit more like Who He is because of the challenges my soul has faced and, Sister, that quiet joy . . . the peace of knowing that He is involved in it all, that He desires more for me. . . well, that’s worth everything.  I think it’s part of what God was saying through the Apostle Peter in His opening chapter.

 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while

you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 

These have come so that your faith

of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–

may be proved genuine

and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Though you have not seen him, you love him;

and even though you do not see him now, you believe in

him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy…

1 Peter 1:7-8 (NIV, 1984)

Isn’t it beautiful?  I’m coming out on the other side of 2013 with a knowledge of what I believe to the marrow of my bones and what I still want to fully believe with every part of my heart but might be just lingering in my head.  Do you see that?  God already knows, nothing needs to be proven to the Omniscient One. The trials don’t reveal a thing to Him.  He already knows it all.  It’s me who walks away with more than I walked in with. 1pet172

You see, there’s a concept that God has rolled through my mind over and over the last couple of years and I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the next piece of understanding it.  The concept is plunder. Not a common word and not a common notion in our dispensation of time but I think I was blessed to live it this past year.

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance links the verb plunder with to “strip away” and the noun counterpart connects to the word “booty.” And it seems to me, no matter what the form –verb or noun—it’s always connected to a battle or to captivity. The Israelites had been enslaved and oppressed by the Egyptians for 400 years when God appointed Moses to lead them out.  They had been subjected to harsh conditions and brutal treatment but God had not forgotten them nor did He plan to set them free from their captivity empty handed.  No.  God decimated the Egyptians and sent His children toward the Promised Land weighed down with plunder–silver, gold, clothing.

Now the sons of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, for they had requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; and the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.  Exodus 12:35-36

As the Israelites walked the dry ground, a wall of water to the left and wall of water to the right, their hands were full of what God had provided.  Every foot that touched down on the other side of the Red Sea emerged not only free from their oppressors but possessing their wealth as well. That’s so God.  He wasn’t content to simply free His people, He blessed them with abundance as well.

But all too quickly the Israelites looked back toward Egypt, the place of their oppression and began to romanticize their enslavement.  They grumbled about their freedom, complained about their blessings, and longed to return to the land of their captivity.

The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat FREE in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.” Numbers 11:4-6

Wow Sister!  Talk about rose colored glasses and distorted vision.  How could they remember anything in the land of their slavery having been FREE?  Did they not recall the miraculous ways God intervened to deliver them?  Had they forgotten the plunder God had sent them out with?  Were they really so unwilling to remember the pain of their captivity that they would risk returning by choosing to believe the comfort of the lies?

They hadn’t even faced an enemy from without yet and they were already considering surrendering to the enemy within.

Galatians 5:1

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep

standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:1

Beloved, is this beginning to touch a heart string  with you?  Is it possible that in 2013 you emerged from a land of captivity?  That you walked between the wall of water on the left and the wall of water on the right and set your feet on the other side declaring freedom in His Holy Name?  Did you hold in your hands, maybe for the first time ever . . . peace, trust, assurance, confidence?  Was your heart full of the God of More but now you find yourself looking backward and wondering?

Girlfriend, see it for what it was.  Don’t let the unknown of freedom pull you back to the misery of captivity.  Fix your eyes on the One leading the way and trust the God who set you free.

He did not bring you out empty handed.  He loaded you down with one blessing after another.

fruitofspiritBut the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,

kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;

against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

But we cannot be afraid to remember the truth of where we have been and what He has delivered us from.  I have to remember the sting of realizing the haughtiness that lived in my heart.  I must be willing to recall the pain of the jealousy that was devouring me from the inside out.  I have to look at the ugliness of my pharasitical thinking.  And you can fill in whatever has held you captive . . .we must remember. 

Not in a put-ourselves-above-Jesus-can’t-forgive-myself kind of way, but in a way that puts the spotlight on our Redeemer and keeps us from believing that apart from Him there is any good thing living in any one of us. I heard a Bible teacher once warn against developing spiritual amnesia, I think she was spot on.  If we don’t remember the captivity we may fail to remember the rescue.   And the plunder that once thrilled our souls, the freedom to hold our heads high, well. . . it might begin to seem ordinary or worse, we might begin to believe we deserve it.

So you might not and I might not have the whole concept of plunder, spiritual plunder, figured out.  But Girlfriend, if we shrink back from staring our struggles, our challenges and our battles straight in the face . . . we’re in danger of returning to our captivity and that Sweet One is not what your God intended when He planted your beautiful feet on this planet. 

You were set free to live life to the Full . . . (John 10:10)

Your Soul Full of Freedom . . . . (2 Corinthians 3:17)

Your Hands Full of Plunder and . . . (Deuteronomy 28:8)

Your Heart Full of Him.

eph319

. . . to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge;

that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:19

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