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Are You a Burning Bush?

A Burning Bush

One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.”

When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

“Here I am!” Moses replied. (Exodus 3:1-4, NLT)

suffering

What an incredible sight! Out in the wilderness, Moses discovered a blazing bush that didn’t burn up.

It got Moses’ attention. He stopped. Intrigued, he moved closer. And then God spoke to him.

A Spectacle of Grace

Over 200 years ago, John Newton realized that this burning-but-not-burnt bush was a vivid metaphor for Christians as they go through fiery trials. Newton wrote:

Some Christians are called to endure a disproportionate amount of suffering. Such Christians are a spectacle of grace to the church, like flaming bushes unconsumed, and cause us to ask, like Moses, ‘Why is this bush not burned?’ The strength and stability of these believers can be explained only by the miracle of God’s sustaining grace.¹

Newton called these suffering-but-victorious Christians “spectacles of grace.” Joni Tada uses the phrase “spectacles of glory.” Joni, by the way, is the perfect example of this! Not only is she a quadriplegic, but Joni has also battled cancer, and she lives with chronic pain. Despite immense suffering, she faithfully maintains a joyful, thankful spirit.

Perhaps you are a spectacle of glory.

At some point, God calls all of us to be spectacles of glory. When we walk through difficult circumstances without being destroyed, it grabs people’s attention. They say, “How can this be? What is going on here?” They turn their eyes from their usual focus. They stop to look. And as they gaze, still and attentive, God speaks to them.

Smoke or Spectacle: Your Choice

When you experience fiery trials, you can be badly burned, and your life can turn into ashes. You might become bitter, resentful, and stuck in grief. You may feel abandoned by God, and you might feel sorry for yourself. Discouragement and despair may overtake you. Your strength, your success, your usefulness—it all seems to go up in smoke.

suffering

OR … you can be a bush that is not consumed! 

You can be a spectacle of glory as the fires of suffering burn without burning you. Do you remember the young Hebrew men who were thrown into the fiery furnace? They were not consumed—not a single hair was singed. And when they came out of from the flames, they did not even have the smell of fire on them.

A Captive Audience

You can be a miracle that gets the attention of others. (It will probably get your attention, too!) Like a burning-but-not-consumed bush, you will create opportunities for people to hear the voice of God.

suffering

People will say, “What’s this? How are you going through these circumstances with a calm spirit? How are you going through all this without being bitter or belligerent? Why are you not anxious or angry or addicted?” Because  your response to suffering is unusual, they will stop for a moment and look away from their usual activity—like Moses turning away from his flocks—and they may hear God speaking to them.

We can yield to the indwelling of the Spirit of God. He will be our radiance—the blazing fire that fills us but does not consume us. We can let God turn us into spectacles of grace and glory.

Whose Suffering is This?

The Scriptures tell us:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal you are going through, as though something strange were happening to you. Instead, rejoice—be very glad— as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12-13, NLT)

Notice that we participate in the sufferings of Christ. Usually, we participate in our own sufferings, don’t we? We participate in our life, our pain, our worry, our frustration, and our feelings of being rejected. But when we live that way, we are like bushes burned and consumed.

Instead, we must give our lives to Christ. We must walk through hard times knowing that these are His sufferings. We can say, “This is God’s life. He can do with it whatever He pleases. I gave it to Him, and I trust Him.” All the pain, the weight, and the rejection is His suffering. It all becomes redemptive suffering, in which nothing is wasted. All of the pain is being molded into a container for glory, a vessel that will overflow with glory.

Redemptive suffering increases our capacity for joy.

Keep On Doing What is Right

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (1 Peter 4:19, NIV)

So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you. (1 Peter 4:19, NLT)

What are some of the good things that we should continue to do? Here are several things that are always right to “keep on doing”:

  • Keep trusting that God is fully attentive to you, absolutely loving, and perfectly wise. Keep trusting that He is trustworthy!
  • Keep forgiving.
  • Keep praying fervently and without ceasing.
  • Keep your heart open and soft toward your spouse. (God often uses the hot coals of kindness to melt icy-hard hearts.)
  • Keep honoring the spirit of your spouse.
  • Keep your covenant vows.

God has given us this wonderful promise:

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. (Isaiah 43:2, NLT)

If you are walking through fiery trials, I pray that God will sustain you as an amazing “spectacle of grace.” As you are filled with His Spirit, you will be like a burning bush, radiating with His spectacular glory!

Blessings to you,
Tami
 

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¹Quoted in A Spectacle of Glory: God’s Light Shining through Me. Joni Eareckson Tada. Zondervan. 2016. Page 7.

 

 

Cutting (self-injury)

You may not realize that 20% of high-school and college students engage in the self-injuring practice of cutting. As this becomes more common, it also affects more marriages.

Most of us have not purposely cut ourselves, but we have all experienced inner pain, and we have all searched for ways to relieve that pain. Although this is not my usual topic, I am sharing this today with the prayer that it will be helpful—perhaps to you or someone you know. 

The Cutting that Cures

God understands this pain
of cutting.

He knows this pain
that cries
with the voice of a knife.

He feels this pain too heavy
for words or tears
alone
to carry;
the flesh must join.

If only burdens
would flow
with blood.
If only blades
could strip sorrow
as well as skin.¹

This draining of the body
leeches life from the soul.

“Imago Dei”²
is written upon us,
yet we mar,
not knowing
the handwriting of God.

*

“Without the shedding of blood,
there is no remission of sin.”³
Without having heard,
we seem to know.
But we hope only
for the remission of pain.

Only God really knows
how great is the loss and
how deep is the pain.

Through the tearing of His own flesh,
He felt the torment of the whole world.
With the gushing of His own blood,
He marked the loss of love.

He carried the weight of our suffering
in His own body
that we would not
in ours.

cutting

Our pain became His pain,
and His wounds became our healing.
His brokenness
bought our wholeness.

There is, therefore, now
no cutting
for those who are in Christ Jesus,
for there is now
no condemnation and
no separation.

There is no loss
that He will not accept as His.
There is no emptiness
that He cannot turn
inside out
into fullness.

The only cutting
that will ever put things back together
was the crushing of Christ on the Cross–
the tearing of a veil,
and a new covenant cut.4

“It is finished.”

cutting

With lavish love,
He engraved our names
forever
on His palms.

The scars of Christ,
sealed on our souls,
mark us now
as His.

cutting

 

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1 In The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp writes that she cut herself as if “you could drain yourself out of pain” (Zondervan, 2016, page 11).
2 This is the Latin phrase for “image of God.” Genesis 1:27 says that God created people in His own image.
*  By User:BardFuse (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
3 From Hebrews 9:22. The Bible teaches that the consequence of our rejection of God (who is Life) is death.
4 In English, we say that we make a covenant. But in the Hebrew language of Scripture, a covenant is “cut.”

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FOR HELP in overcoming cutting, please visit Focus on the Family’s website for a series of helpful articles.

 

 

Facing the Brokenness in Life

Do not be afraid of the brokenness in your life.


We all have to deal with broken relationships, broken promises, broken dreams, and broken hearts. All of us are broken by our own sin and by the sin of others.

But God says to us:

Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Joshua 1:9)

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. (Isaiah 41:10)

God meets us in those broken places, and He is the Restorer. He repairs and renews and redeems. That is what Resurrection is all about.

brokenness
Enter a Garden

We do not come just to the Cross, which is the place of forgiveness. We come also to the empty tomb, which opens into a springtime garden. We receive forgiveness at the cross, but we receive new life in the garden.

brokenness

When we open up to Christ our tombs of suffering, He speaks life into every place which is yielded to Him. Every deep wound becomes a place for deep healing. Every cruel piercing becomes a place for tender filling. Our pain can break the hardness of our hearts so that our spirits finally open up to His love and goodness. God longs to pour His power into our weakness,  and His peace into our distress. He knows how to fill our emptiness with His fullness.

Roll Away Some Stones

Do you remember the New Testament story of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus? These three siblings were close friends of Jesus. Several days after Lazarus died, Martha was hesitant to open the tomb of her brother to Jesus. We, too, can be reluctant to expose places of our heart. But we are safe with this God who has written love for us on His own arms.¹ He will not shame us, and He certainly will not violate us.

Jesus did not do what Martha expected. What He did was far greater than what she expected. It will be the same for you.

Trust God with the Seeds

Ann Voskamp reminds us that we are like seeds that are broken apart and completely undone, and then something mighty and beautiful grows out of that very brokenness.² Jesus said that unless a seed dies, it remains alone. But buried in the ground, it dies, producing “a plentiful harvest.”³

I am easily distressed by brokenness—the neediness, the failures, the suffering, the struggles, the lack. It is around us and within us. But I am learning not to be disheartened. I am learning—just a bit—to allow the Spirit to bring His peace to the core of my being. It’s something like “a feast in the presence of mine enemies.”¹¹

Hold and Behold the Hurting

We can feel great compassion for those who are hurting, and we can also feel utterly helpless to heal their wounds. But we can do something very powerful. While we cannot fix those who are broken, we can carry them to the One who can. We can “hold and behold.”

Sometimes we can actually hold others in our arms, but always we can hold them in
our hearts and in our prayers. And we can behold them. We can behold them as treasures, and we can behold their stories and their unique hearts. Holding and beholding, we can lift up those who are broken to the One who repairs and who makes new.

As we encounter brokenness, we need not sink down in despair. Instead, we can walk knowing that God meets us in these broken places. This is where He works His miracles. Jesus Christ is the God who stoops to make us great,²² who washes dirty feet, and who touches unclean lepers. Christ enters our brokenness with us, walks through it with us, and turns ashes into beauty.³³

Hold and Behold Your Healer

We are all walking through pieces of brokenness right now, but when the Perfect comes, then we will walk in glorious wholeness and beauty. Until then, we walk with the One who is Himself Glory and Beauty.

 

 

 

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¹   In Isaiah 49:16, God says, “See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands” (NLT).
    To Write Love on Her Arms is an organization dedicated to helping people who are struggling with self-destructive habits: twloha.com.
²   The Broken Way. Zondervan. 2016.
³   John 12:24, NLT
¹¹  Psalm 23:5, KJV
²²  Psalm 18:35, NIV
³³  Isaiah 61:3