Spread

Sometimes you ‘ve just got to lay it all out there.

Literally.

I’ve always loved finding a story in the Bible that startles me and makes me say to myself, “Why haven’t I ever heard that before?”. Sometimes I think with all the years I’ve spent in church and all the Bible studies I’ve done, I must have come across every story.

And then God surprises me. Hidden in the 19th chapter of 2 Kings, I found one of those stories.

King Hezekiah had just received a very unpleasant letter from Sennacherib, the enemy King of Assyria. He told Hezekiah that his God couldn’t be trusted. Sennacherib said he’d destroy Israel just like he had destroyed other kingdoms. Their gods didn’t protect them and Hezekiah’s God wouldn’t deliver him either.

Just a little bit threatening, wouldn’t you say?

So what did Hezekiah do? He didn’t wring his hands and worry about how to respond.

“Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord and spread it before the Lord.”
2 Kings 19:14.

I stopped in the passage after reading that. And I wondered how much more powerful my prayers could be if sometimes I could take the actual thing that I’m praying about and literally spread it out before God. It’s a tangible act of submission and faith.

After spreading out that letter before God, Hezekiah worshiped and prayed and gave glory to God. And a little while later 185,000 Assyrians were dead at the hands of the angel of the Lord.

Shouldn’t we be doing the same thing?

What if instead of just praying about it, I spread out the certified letter I got from my insurance company notifying me that a neighbor is wrongfully accusing me of damage to her property? What if I spread out pictures of the people I’m praying for as I pray?

What if we spread out bank statements and doctor’s reports and any other things that threaten to destroy us? What if we said, “Here they are, Lord. I need your guidance and wisdom and intervention.”

Praying is powerful on its own. But could it be more powerful if we literally handed over these things to the Lord, just like Hezekiah did?

I think I need to clean off the area of the dining room table where I have my prayer times. I need room to spread out.

Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved. Psalm 55:22

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; Philippians 4:6

Risk

I didn’t realize cleaning off that old bulletin board I wrote about last week would yield so many life lessons. Here are two more:

destiny

I don’t remember exactly what was going on in my life when I cut those quotes out of a magazine and pinned them in a place of prominence on that board. I think I was looking for courage to do something, maybe courage to make a move either literally or figuratively, or say something that needed to be said to someone.

They aren’t Bible verses. They didn’t come from a great sermon or commentary. But I believe they reflect some pretty important Biblical principles.

Courage. Obedience. Faith.

God wants us to be fearless in the pursuit of the things He wants us to do. Sometimes He wants us to step off those ledges of faith and believe that He’s going to take care of us when the outcome is unknown.

This morning those quotes made me think of the story of Esther, and how Mordecai believed she was placed in that place, in that time, for God’s plan to rescue the Jews to unfold. She had a choice. She could take the risk, or she could allow fear to cost her the destiny God had for her.

For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come into the kingdom for such a time as this? Esther 4:14

God hasn’t called me to rescue a nation. But there are things I’m praying about. Things that could be risky and scary (to me, anyway) and make me wonder if I’m up to the task. And if God says to step out in faith, I can’t let fear cost me my destiny.

Or, in Biblical terms, I can’t let fear make me miss out on being right in the center of God’s will for my life.

I may play a very small part in God’s kingdom. But if I don’t play that small part well and God has to get His will done some other way, I’ll be the one who misses out on the blessing. God may ask me to take risks and step out in faith and be obedient when it’s uncomfortable or scary or uncertain.

But the greatest risk may be not taking one.

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6

Be of good courage, and let us be strong for our people and for the cities of our God. And may the LORD do what is good in His sight. 2 Samuel 10:12

Arise, for this matter is your responsibility. We also are with you. Be of good courage, and do it. Ezra 10:4

Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the LORD. Psalm 31:24

Interrupted

I got into some kind of cleaning frenzy yesterday. It was long overdue. I pulled the furniture away from the walls and put my vacuum cleaner through a workout like it’s never seen.

And in the process, I found some very interesting things.

For a long time I had a bulletin board hanging in my bedroom. I’d pin photos, ticket stubs, cards, quotes and all sorts of other things to it. Things I wanted to remember. Things that meant something to me. I had taken it down a few years ago and somehow it got stuck behind some furniture, which is where I found it.

Later yesterday afternoon, it was dark and stormy outside. Perfect weather to sit on my living room floor and take the memorabilia off that forgotten and dusty bulletin board. A memory lane for sure.

Here is one of the things I found:

Interrupted

It’s a plane ticket stub from a flight from Nashville back to West Palm Beach. In October of 2005, I was visiting friends in Nashville and Hurricane Wilma interrupted my attempt to return home. I got as far as Atlanta when they told me the airport in West Palm had closed. Fortunately, they could get me back to Nashville, where my little weekend trip turned into 5 days. Twice the airlines told me the airport had opened back up, only to find it really hadn’t. After three days and a few tears, I was finally given the OK to return home.

I was frustrated and worried about the fact that my home still had no electricity after the storm. I didn’t plan on being away so long. Didn’t plan on Hurricane Wilma tearing across Florida.

Sometimes our plans get interrupted. “Interrupted Travel for Virkler/Sharon”. When I found that yesterday, I laughed out loud. What a statement about life! How many times have we made plans along this journey of ours, only to have them interrupted? Interrupted by disappointment or tragedy, or things just not turning out the way we thought they would. Sometimes we’re interrupted by good things – love, new friendships, delightful and unexpected surprises.

Look at the ticket again. See where I was sitting on the connecting flight from Atlanta to West Palm Beach? Seat 6D. First Class. When everyone else getting on the plane turned right to go to Coach, I was directed left into First Class. I hadn’t even realized the airline had done that for me. So what started out as an interruption that made me worried and frustrated, ended up with me having an experience I’d never had before, and probably never will again.

God uses interruptions in our lives. God interrupts our travels through life to give us the opportunity to trust Him even when our best laid plans go awry.

I threw out a lot of the things from the bulletin board. But I’m saving this ticket. I may have interruptions in life. But God might just be about to bless me in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Romans 8:37

But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good… Genesis 5:20