Some thoughts on Isaiah 33.
"Woe to you, O destroyer, you who have not been destroyed!"
There really is one who desires our demise. We, modern folk, don't like to talk much about him. We think it unsophisticated and he likes that.
Since the first conversation, now almost two years ago, about the possibility of planting a church I, we, have experienced turmoil. Peace and rest have been illusive, like success or beauty, just beyond ones grasp. I have felt opposition, no I have felt one opposing me. We are not merely planting a church, but one that witnesses the glory of God and His gospel unite the deeply divided races and classes of Memphis. Something, someone hates unity, love, peace, and loves division, restlessness, and hate. There is a destroyer and he lives to destroy us.
"O Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress."
There really is One to believe, but don’t you sometimes wonder? I typically question in times of bliss. The past few weeks have challenged my faith, created moments of intense fear and despondency, but in the end my faith is deeper, more seasoned. Having to reach deeper to find my footing in Him solidifies, even purifies faith. Jesus comes much more into focus in need than in plenty. Being threatened with loss, I have longed for Him more. And He shows himself true, gracious and strong.
“At the thunder of your voice, the peoples flee; when you rise up the nations scatter.”
I have never maxed out a credit card limit, until now. As of this morning, three are at their capacity. Fear grips me that I will receive a call and the voice on the other end declare, rather matter of factly, “Mr. Rieves, it appears that you missed an insurance premium payment. You have no coverage for you fire!” It is irrational because our mortgage company demanded and received payment for the entire year at our loan’s closing. However, when you are spending money faster than the speed of light, it is more unsettling than freeing.
I spoke with our insurance adjuster yesterday and told him my fear, “I am spending a lot of money and I don’t want to be left holding the bill!” He responded, “I am not going to let that happen.” I don’t trust him. It has more to do with past experience than his present demeanor. He wields a lot of power. He could get to my file just after an argument with his wife. He could resent the fact I don’t buy my suits at Sears. His daughter could tell him he is the worst father ever. That is how the real world, this broken world, works. I know because I am a husband, and father. I know because my heart resents more than it rejoices over those with nicer stuff.
I long for an advocate who is bad, like Stallone or William Wallace. I want someone with more influence to thunder into the uncertainty of my life using his authority for my certain good. That is how Isaiah got to see God, my God. When the situation becomes unjust and detrimental to His children, His heart is moved and He stands up and my adjuster, I mean, the nations scatter. He brings justice and righteousness to the oppressed. That is our hope and trust and that calms my fears.
“Look upon Zion, the city of our festivals; your eyes will see Jerusalem, a peaceful abode, a tent that will not be moved; its stakes will never be pulled up, nor any of its ropes broken. There the Lord will be our Mighty One.”
When I am driving, and not on the phone, I picture the open house we are going to have when this is all over. Well, it started as an open house, but now, in my mind, it is a block party. We are going to close the street, invite a band, maybe James Taylor, and I am going to get my dad’s smoker, the one on wheels, and cook pork butts and ribs. Our neighbors, the firemen, those that have prayed, given clothes, money, time and encouragement, even our friends from around the country, will all come and we will have a party.
Some Believers are dry, like melba toast. I hate melba toast and I don’t even know what it is. Is it in the bread section? Paul asked the Believers in Galatia, “What has happened to all your joy?” Joy is different than giddy. Giddy is canned cheese. Joy is sincere, authentic, real, enviable. Solomon said there is a time to cry and a time to laugh. I am ready to laugh.
We really do have a reason to laugh. Even in the face of tragedy and loss. God was gracious to give His people prophets. Prophets declared judgment, but they also spoke of joy and hope. To a distressed people they spoke of a city in which God’s people would enjoy festivals. A city with homes that would not be moved, or destroyed. A city of permanence, that was predictably good.
God gave us festivals and parties that we might taste and long for the more. Like our father giving us a taste of meat on the grill just before he takes it off, our Father gives us parties that we might long for what IS to come. It is hard to experience the goodness of what is to come when you are on the phone with insurance adjusters, or wading through burned out piles of stuff. Parties are like fast forwarding a movie to the end, it doesn’t completely dull one to the tragedy of the story, it, however, does make the tragedy bearable. So I dream of the party, knowing it will not end the tragedy, merely shadow a day that will.
~ Please pray for a church to rise out of this mess. It really is the perfect soil for a gospel church. it is really the only soil for a gospel driven church to grow. Pray it will grow. I continue to speak with candidates for the co, lead or assistant role. I am really curious about two right now. Please pray for God to move and provided the man of His choosing and soon!
~ Pray for all the decisions on replacing all the stuff of our lives and re-build a house. All the colors, tile, flooring, re-designs, etc. need to be firmed up in the next couple of weeks. Not much time for such major decisions!
~ Pray for our hearts. We really do have an enemy and his presence is felt daily.
~ Thank God for His faithfulness. He is answering so many prayers...many we haven’t even prayed.
We are in our rental house near our old house. We are settling a bit, which is wonderful. It helps knowing we will be in this house until the renovations are complete. Please know that we are more than grateful for the support, love and care you all have shown. It encourages us more than you know!
Grace and Peace,