The superscription of Psalm 63 notes how David prayed the psalm in the wilderness of Judah, either while fleeing from King Saul or, later, from David’s rebel son Absalom.
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. —Psalm 63:1
The “dry and weary land” that David described also described his own weariness, and the lack of water around him served to surface an even deeper thirst.
At the height of his emotional and physical distress, David sought refuge in his spiritual life. He yearned for God.
Our physical needs are connected to our spiritual lives for that very reason.
Have you noticed how often hymn writers use the Jordan River as a metaphor for transitions in the spiritual life? That may be because the Bible does the same.
The Jordan River usually flowed a hundred feet wide at the place across from Jericho where Israel crossed over into Canaan after the Exodus (Joshua 3:14–4:23). But because the Israelites crossed at flood stage, the river surged much wider and deeper.
- When the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant stepped into the Jordan, the water ceased its flow 16 miles upstream.
- This left a stretch of dry land some 20 miles wide for the nation to cross en masse, perhaps several thousand abreast.
Joshua compared the miracle of the parting of the Jordan River with the miraculous parting of the Red Sea (Joshua 4:23). He linked the power of God that allowed them to enter Canaan with the power that freed them from Egypt.
This was a critical comparison. Why? The same grace that redeemed them from bondage led them home.
This also reflects our own spiritual lives.
We fear what we think may happen in the world we see. But the world we don’t see is the source of our real fears. Our spiritual lives hold the solution to it.
(Photo: By Alex Micheu Photography from VILLACH, Austria Uploaded by Sporti CC-BY-SA-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
That’s what happened with Jacob.
Returning to the land of Canaan forced Jacob to face a problem he had run from 20 years earlier—his deception of his brother Esau. As he approached the border of Canaan, angels of God came to meet him.
The presence of the angels gives us a critical reminder during our times of fear.
An interest in my stepdad’s guitar at age 15 sparked an interest God has used to guide my life. I’m sure God works in a similar way with you. In fact, I know He does.
(Photo: By Pisethinfo. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
More than 30 years ago, I started playing songs on the guitar by John Denver, Jim Croce, Don Francisco, Gordon Lightfoot, and Dan Fogelberg.
I was hooked. I lived and breathed with the instrument. In a few years, I had written more than 100 of my own songs. It seemed this is what God wanted me to do with my life. I decided to pursue the dream of becoming a Christian artist.
- I majored in music (classical guitar) from North Texas State University (now UNT).
- I attended Dallas Theological Seminary so that I could learn to write theologically sound songs.
- I had an influential person with connections in Nashville who promised to introduce me to the right people.
I was ready. Cue the lights. Then God uplugged my guitar.
Playing guitar for all these years has taught me more than music. It has taught me these 3 lessons.
If you think about it, King Solomon never started out to build pagan shrines. It was his failure to deal with the tiny spiritual cracks in his heart that produced a life of compromise and dissatisfaction.
(Photo: Design Pics, via Vivozoom)
The backwash from Solomon’s life reminds us how we only kid ourselves when we think we can have a healthy walk with God and still keep our hidden life of compromise on the side.
The good news? We don’t have to.
After my grandfather died years ago, I planted an oak tree in his memory in our front yard. The skinny stem stood only 8 feet tall (like Granddad did). I planted it on a windy day.
(By Almonroth. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
A few hours later, my neighbor hollered: “Hey, Wayne, your tree was really leaning over in the wind!” I grabbed the trunk and slightly bent the tree over. The whole base moved, because it had no root system yet. So I staked it down.
Two years later when I bent the tree, the base didn’t move. But you know what? The tree looked the same. No visible change. Its goal for its first two years was its roots, not its limbs and leaves.
That little sprig offers a contrast (and a lesson) to you and me.
Years ago my wife bought me a table saw for Christmas, and I’ve enjoyed the first hobby I’ve had in my life. I like what the Canadian born physician, Sir William Osler, once told an audience of medical professionals:
No man is really happy or safe without a hobby, and it makes precious little difference what the outside interest may be—botany, beetles or butterflies; roses, tulips or irises; fishing, mountaineering or antiques—anything will do as long as he straddles a hobby and rides it hard.
But woodworking is more than a hobby. It has marvelous metaphors for your spiritual life.
In an earlier post, I shared the first half of 10 ways I’ve discovered that woodworking affirms your spiritual life:
- You will have to cut cross grain, so stay sharp.
- Good tools save you time and give you better results.
- You can do a lot more than you think with the little you have.
- Following a plan gets you where you want to go with greater success.
- Mistakes always teach you, and they rarely ruin the piece.
In this post, let’s complete the list it’s taken me years to write.
What would you add to the list?
We live in an age where avoiding obstacles, traveling great distances, and finding something to drink no longer prove a challenge.
With a transportation system that requires little more than a basic understanding of road signs and airline gates, our world gives little attention to the importance of geography.
But think about the times you visit a place you’ve never been before. It’s all strange.
(Photo: Sunrise over the Sea of Galilee)
The unfamiliar landmarks, the sudden turns, and the unexpected potholes are impediments to your progress. It’s the same with Bible study.
Those of us who seek to understand the meaning of the Bible strongly believe in interpreting a passage in its context. But context is more than words. When one reads the Bible, it becomes clear how geography is the stage on which the redemptive narrative takes place.
The land God chose was not arbitrary, for He designed even the land itself to develop the spiritual lives of His people. The land was never intended to be just a place to live.
The same is true where you live.
My favorite Jewish carpenter other than Jesus is Norm Abram. I’m a weekend woodworker, and the hobby has done more than just save me money and provide a healthy diversion for my mind.
It’s more than sawdust and saw blades. For me, it’s also spiritual.
(Photo: Completing a recent project)
During the many hours I’ve spent woodworking, I’ve come to realize how much of the craft relates to our walk with God. I’m not alone. The Shakers of the 19th-century viewed the craftsmanship of their unique furniture as an extension of their worship of God.
I want to share with you 10 ways I’ve discovered that woodworking affirms the spiritual life. I’ll do this in two posts.
For fun, I’ll also show you some pictures of stuff I’ve built.
As worriers, we often place more value on possibilities than certainties. We’ll invest plenty of money to insure ourselves against theft, flood, fire, sickness, or accident—all only possibilities. But we give little thought to the most certain event in our lives.
Death. Even life insurance doesn’t cover that.
I believe in insurance. I pay for it, consider it prudent, and enjoy its benefits. In a way, my blog distributes spiritual insurance in bulk.
- I explain people’s options and risks regarding the events following death.
- I do my best to warn them of buying into cheap insurance that looks good up front but raises its premiums exorbitantly and reneges on paying the final benefits of their claim.
Such shams offer heaven for the price of good deeds.
Only God offers the best insurance for the most certain event in your life.