For those of you who have just joined us for our summer study, let me do a brief review. We are going on a “God Hunt” in life and in Scripture. This week, because of the 4th of July week, we are going to focus on hunting God in every day life.
Karen Mains had said, “The passion children bring to “hide-and-seek” is the same passion we need to bring to finding God.
When our two sons, James (J. R.) and John, got older, they morphed the hide-and-seek game into “Scare Hide-and-Seek.” When the seeker got inches from the hider’s hiding place, the hider would leap out from the bushes or the broom closet with “BOO!” Or, if the seeker thought he saw that blanket move suspiciously, he would pull it off and yell “BOO!” or “GOTCHA!” to the hider. Our boys loved it and got very clever with their hiding places, bursting out of the huge outside garbage can (yuk!) or leaping from a tree. The game sometimes caused our third child, Sally, who was considerably younger, to burst into tears. Then I’d say: “No more “Scare Hide and Seek with Sally!”
But she would follow me around pleading plaintively, “Please, Mommy — I will be BRAVE like the BROTHERS! I want to play too!” But too often, if I relented, her terror and tears returned, compounded by her sense of failure.
There are times when we have those approach/avoidance feelings with Jesus. We want Him to show up, yet if He really does, we are shocked and scared — like the disciples in the boat when a storm came up and Jesus was asleep in the stern. They pleaded with Him to help, but when He did, they were more afraid of the One who could stop a storm than of the storm itself.
Or we may want to pray for one we love to be miraculously healed of cancer, blindness, or infertility — but we fear Jesus might choose not to heal him or her and we will be piling disappointment on one already suffering.
That is a bit how my dear friend and neighbor Jeff Johnson felt one fateful day in July when he, as an optometrist, was on one of his frequent medical mission trips to Honduras. On a Tuesday in July, 1998, in Tegucigalpa, a young single mom brought her twelve-year-old daughter to the church that had been transformed into a clinic for the week. She had taken Carla to six other clinics over the past several months. Each time Carla had been diagnosed with congenital glaucoma. This was the same medical condition that caused Ray Charles to go blind. It is permanent and irreversible. Jeff said:
Another doctor and I examined her and we formed the diagnosis. Her corneas were smoky white as a result of the extremely high eye pressure, and her eyes constantly wandered. She was unable to fixate on any object, and unable to see the light from the flashlight.
We spent time talking to the mother and told her that there was no medical treatment available for her daughter. She had now heard the same diagnosis and prognosis for the seventh time.
They hadn’t prayed for her to be miraculously healed, yet Jeff decided they should pray as they were escorting them out, thinking, It wouldn’t hurt. The group surrounded the young girl, and Jeff put his right hand over her eyes, and they began to pray. He said, “I really don’t remember specifically what we prayed, and I honestly did not expect anything to happen. After a few minutes of group prayer, I removed my hand from her eyes and the girl exclaimed:
‘I can see!’
My response was, ‘What did you say?’
‘I can see!’
We looked at each other, stunned in silent disbelief, while before our very eyes we witnessed a miracle. God had restored the visual pathways to her brain, and as the pressure normalized, her milky white corneas became clear. As word of this spread through the packed clinic, a ‘Holy Silence’ swept through the building, for both Hondurans and North Americans alike.
The German scholar Rudolf Otto had a phrase for this “holy silence,” this awe that people from all cultures feel when they come into the presence of One perfectly holy and powerful. He called it the “mysterium tremendum.” Again, there is this “approach/avoidance.” We are in awe, drawn – and yet we realize how sinful we are, and it can make our blood run icy cold. As the old spiritual “Were You There?” says: “Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.”
Jeff said that he had all those feelings the morning of the miracle: bountiful joy, a fearful awe, and a deep conviction of how often he may have short-circuited God’s plan because of a pre-conceived notion on how He works.
Now Jeff is much more sensitive to pray when he senses a patient needs intercession.He has never had that kind of instantaneous miracle happen in the United States, but it happened once more in Honduras.
Because this week is a vacation week, with the 4th of July, I know most of you are busy with family and friends. So this week will be a little different. Each day will be a “God Hunt” of a different kind, supported by one verse. I’ll give you the verse, and an illustration, and then you need come up with your own illustration from a memory or that day!
Then next week we will return to hunting for Jesus and His gospel in the Old Testament, and I absolutely want to have you find Jesus in the Song of Songs, for that is the week my book, He Calls You Beautiful (Hearing the Voice of Jesus in The Song of Songs) will be released — and I so covet your prayers and your help in getting the word out!
Sunday, July 2, 2017
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
Monday, July 3, 2017: A God Hunt That Caused You To Tremble
I shared above Jeff’s story that filled “the whole clinic” with a holy silence. An experience my daughter Sally had with that was when she did her painting of Aslan. She was in the midst of high-tide grief, of suffering so deep and personal I cannot share it here. But she was looking for answers on how a good God could have allowed her to experience the pain she did. God met her. She tells the story here:
2. Comments on the story?
3. Read Isaiah 6:1-8 and share how Isaiah experienced God and the mysterium tremendum.
4. Can you think of a time when God came to you and produced a holy fear?
Tuesday, July 4, 2017: A 4th of July God Hunt
The 4th of July is all about the freedom our country won through sacrifice.This freedom seems to be slipping away today and we must each pray, so please do, especially today! But what I’d like you to do for the God Hunt is to consider one specific way God, rather than the government, has set you free. I, for example, am being set free (it is a lifelong process) from both my control and comfort idols, and it has brought so much joy and peace. Watch this video from women who are experiencing being set free from heart idols:
5. Comments on the above?
6. Read John 8:31-32 and share what Jesus promises.
7. Name one specific way obeying God’s commands has set you free.
Wednesday, July 5, 2017: Spying God Through Unusual Timing or Circumstances
This week I’m with my dear friend Linda Strom, who founded Discipleship Unlimited. We often marvel at how God brought us together. We never even knew about the other, yet there were so many strands that would connect us:
- Both from Wisconsin
- Both widowed young, losing cherished husbands to cancer
- Both had a passion for prison ministry (Linda founded Discipleship Unlimited — I had volunteered in prisons and had recently had a nephew incarcerated in Linda’s home state of Texas)
The time was ripe for us to meet and God knew it. Our friend Jan Silvious put together a “telephone Bible study” of authors. I’d do almost anything for Jan, but honestly this was crazy. It wasn’t skype, so we could only hear and not see. Each time we spoke we had to identify ourselves and there were three Lindas — Linda from Canada, Linda from Georgia, and Linda from Texas. Most of the time we were LOST. My only goal was to keep my word to Jan and finish the telephone study. But, oh, God had a different plan up His sleeve.
There was one woman who began to stand out: Linda from Texas. I finally could separate her from the other Linda’s and felt drawn. One day during our phone Bible study she said, “I’m in Wisconsin this week.” My ears perked up, “Where are you?”
“I’ll be driving by on my way to the Milwaukee airport.”
“Oh — stop and we’ll meet.” Little did I know, she was being drawn to me too.
The rest is history. Linda has recruited thousands to the prison ministry and she certainly recruited me — it was not long at all before she was asking me to write a curriculum for them! But I am so thankful. It has been one of the best God Hunts of my life!
8. What do you learn from Proverbs 16:9?
9. Can you give an example of unusual timing or circumstances in which you spied God? It could be in friendship, or it could be in leading you into ministry, or in giving you help when you needed it most! You may have had one plan, but looking back, you see how God engineered a different plan: His plan!
Thursday, July 6, 2017: Spying God In Help To Do His Work in the World
I am reformed in my theology, and yet God has given me a great love for my charismatic brothers and sisters. My sister Sally and my son and daughter-in-law J. R. and Dianne are charismatic. Sometimes I get nervous about “words from the Lord,” or their absolute confidence that God will heal. And yet — I know He can do both. When I was a young Christian, before I wrote The Friendships of Women, I had written a Bible study and was speaking at a little church in Nebraska. Afterwards I was meeting people and I saw a woman lingering, watching me. I thought she probably needed prayer. I asked, “Did you want to talk to me?”
She said, “No — but I must.” She walked over to me and put a little tape recorder down. (Remember tape recorders?) She said, “You’ll want to keep this.” I really didn’t know what was going to happen. Then she proceeded to prophesy, telling me God was going to anoint me to reconcile women friends, sisters, mothers and daughters — and that I would be writing about friendship, about Ruth and Naomi, and more. I left that church with the tape, not knowing if she was right or not — and yet it was encouraging — and when it started to come to pass, I was filled with a holy awe. A mysterium tremendum. And it so humbles me that despite my sin, my daily failures, that indeed, He has anointed me. Truly, there are times when I wonder where an idea comes from, or how I remembered that verse — and then I know. I spy God at work in my to do His work in the world.
Many of you are reaching out, obeying His commandments to care for the widows and orphans, to not shut up your heart to the poor, to visit the prisoner, to love your neighbor, to share the good news, to teach Sunday School or lead a Bible study… I’d love to hear stories of how you sensed Him reaching out to help you do His work in the world.
10. .What is one way James 1:5 says God will help you?
11. Can you share an example of spying God in helping you to do His work in the world?
Friday, July 7, 2017: Unexpected Grace
You expect to fail a test, but you actually do well. You expect a speeding ticket, and you get a warning. You deserve a friend’s anger and you get complete grace. Oh my — this happens to me nearly daily. I do so many things wrong, and God gives me grace so often. I get myself in trouble. My most recent example is not getting my son-in-law’s boat up high enough on the lift, and I woke to find it floating along the shore, whitecaps battering it against the rocks. I sent out a call for help to people at my church, The Orchard, and I was overwhelmed with grace. When I tried to pay the man who came running with his strong son, and who battled dangerous whitecaps pushing the big boat off the rocks and back out onto the life, he wrote me the dearest letter on why I had to let him help me and must not pay him, a letter I am saving.
12. Paul had been a murderer of Christians, and after his conversion, some Jews plotted to kill him. What unexpected grace came to him? (Acts 9:23-25)
13. Can you share an example of unexpected grace from God or His body?
Saturday, July 8, 2017: Praise and Take-a-Ways!
14. Is there a story or two from your sisters that stands out?
15. Write your prayer of praise to the God who jumps out and says, “Boo!”