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Monday, April 29, 2013

Don't Hate the Desert.

I love to travel. One of the greatest blessings was my trip to Africa in 2008. Flying into Africa, we crossed over the Sahara. At better than 500 mph it took about three hours to cross. From 30,000 ft, it looked like a big tan ocean. Speaking of an ocean, nothing is more beautiful than a coral reef. The colors and marine life are absolutely breathtaking.  Get out of sight of that reef and you know what you see? The equivalent to an underwater desert. My point is, we are never far from a desert. Despite the breathtaking sunsets and rugged landscapes, deserts aren't exactly at the top of my vacation destinations. Then again, God doesn't take vacations.
A desert's the kind of thing you marvel for its size but wonder what purpose God would have for creating it. I mean, when is the last time you heard of someone having a spiritual retreat in a desert? Grab the good book and head to the Mojave. I don't think so.

So, I am wondering why Jesus was led into to the desert to be tempted?  It's not like temptation can't come in a tropical paradise. You could argue temptation is more readily available in a garden than a desert. After all, Adam and Eve were sure in a beautiful paradise and temptation was in no short supply there.
The best thing about deserts, they offers little in the way of distractions. Except that big distraction, yourself.  Nobody wants to go there. Nobody wants to even talk about the desert. But the desert has a lot to offer.
I don't think Jesus went into the desert looking for temptation but rather knew that it was going to come and wanted it in the desert. Here's what I have drawn from the Bible's desert stories.

 The spirit leads, we must follow. Even to places we don't want to go. The desert is the forge God uses to shape the hearts of man. No matter where you are or aren't, you are where God has placed you now. That job you hate. That pulpit you love. That stage you wish you were on. That thing you can't seem to finish. That project God told you to start. That grave you're crying over.  Don't take His sovereignty for granted. Don't hate the desert.
 Alone in the desert, we are forced to remember only God supplies our needs. Only in the desert does the manna fall. When resources are in short supply, miracles we take for granted seem much larger. God gets bigger in the desert.
God's people sacrifice to Him in the desert. Focus on pleasing God rather than your comfort.
The promise land is just beyond  the desert.   I was reminded of this today, when the unpleasant memories of the circumstances of my friend's untimely death, helped me to comfort and lead a stranger in a prayer for salvation. These encouraging words from Deuteronomy 32:9-14. remind me of what God is doing while I'm in the desert. God is leading us to the promise land. He is building that stage for you. The desert is just on the way.