Tag Archives: exile

The Desert Prepares You for a Comeback

I spent the last several months talking about “exile”. Once I came upon the theme of “exile” in the Bible, I started to see it everywhere. It’s like when you buy a car and you start seeing that make and model all over the road. 

No matter what your situation is today, no matter how remote, how harsh, how isolated…God can use it to make you grow and become strong. 

I just started a study of Luke’s account of Jesus. The last verse in chapter one seems like a “throwaway” verse…a simple statement that wraps up a long chapter. But on second look, I saw another truth about exile. Luke is talking about John the Baptist:

…the child grew and became strong in spirit and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel. Luke 1:80

Where did he grow and become strong?  In church? In seminary? At the university? No. In the desert…the last place we think good things can happen. Our view of the desert is a place where your strength is drained. But not in God’s economy.

God can make you grow and become strong any place he wants to do it. No matter what your situation is today, no matter how remote, how harsh, how isolated…God can use it to make you grow and become strong. It can be the place he prepares you to make a comeback.

Father, help me to see my desert as a place where I can grow and become strong. Help me to not limit what you want to do in my life by my circumstances. Thank you for the good things you have in store for me. 

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Out of Exile: Day 40 – Goodness and Mercy

Today marks the end of our 40-day journey in, through, and hopefully out of exile. Thanks for walking with me over these months as I’ve sought to help you process the losses, betrayals, setbacks, and outright rebellion that landed you in exile, far from anything that looked remotely familiar, wondering if you’d ever find your way back. 

My hope in writing for these 40 days, and my prayer for you now, is that you would experience the fullness of God’s goodness to such an extent that it would overflow you and into the life of others. After all, isn’t that what God is working into all of us…a generous heart to reveal his goodness to others? 

Let me quoted Richard Rohr one last time:

The soul has many secrets. They are only revealed to those who want them, and are never completely forced upon us. One of the best-kept secrets, and yet one hidden in plain sight, is that the way up is the way down. Or, if you prefer, the way down is the way up.

In Scripture, we see that the wrestling and wounding of Jacob are necessary for Jacob to become Israel (Genesis 32:26-32), and the death and resurrection of Jesus are necessary to create Christianity. The loss and renewal pattern is so constant and ubiquitous that it should hardly be called a secret at all.

I hope you see by now that loss, or what I’ve been calling “exile,” is not a misnomer…it’s not an aberration that hits people God is upset with or just “bad luck.” Loss comes to us all. It’s a part of life that we need to learn how to recover from and even dance with it gracefully.

When I lived on our farm, one of the many things I learned about farm life is that death is as much a part of the farm as was life. You think of a farm as a place with many living animals. But when you are there 24/7, you begin to realize that death happens all around you. There is almost a rhythm of life and death. I’d imagine people who work in hospitals experience the same thing.

We live in a sanitized world where we quickly remove pain, suffering, death, or anything that makes us feel uncomfortable. We have lost our ability to suffer, learn patience, grieve and then recover well. As a result we become shallow, self-absorbed people who get stuck in exile, having no idea how to return.

But I’m confident that God not only provides a way to return from exile but longs to restore and prosper us.  David was convinced that “goodness and mercy” would “follow him all the days of his life” even though he walked through the valley of the shadow of death. Psalm 23

When my wife and I moved off of our farm, into town and back into ministry, I was surprised at how quickly the blessings of God came back into my life. That was in 1997, and they continue today. One day I was reading through Psalm 31 where it says:

How great is your goodness that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you have given to those who trust you. You do this for all to see. Psalm 31:19

I felt like God was speaking to me directly, saying: Remy, you think you wasted seven years. You think the world passed you by and life will never be what you hoped. But all the time you were enduring hardship, I was storing up the goodness that you were missing. And now I’m bringing that goodness out of storage for you to enjoy.

I find it hard to believe that God would want any more for me than he wants for any of his children. I have to believe he has goodness stored up for you as well.

My hope in writing for these 40 days, and my prayer for you now, is that you would experience the fullness of God’s goodness to such an extent that it would overflow you and into the life of others. After all, isn’t that what God is working into all of us…a generous heart to reveal his goodness to others?

I haven’t gotten as many comments since I took a break for the holidays. But I’d love to get your final thoughts now that the journey is over. Please leave them below or email me directly.

I’m not sure how much I will be posting in days to come. Much less for sure. But I’d love to post the thoughts and stories of people who are either going through an exile or have found their way out…especially if you are in ministry. People in ministry have their own special exiles and we need to hear from our peers to gain comfort and insight.  Click the mail icon in the margin to email me.

Thanks again for traveling with me. God bless you in your journey.

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Out of Exile: Day 39 – Double Blessings

I mentioned the other day that King David was confident that God restores our soul (Psalm 23).  It’s interesting to look at how God has restored people through the years.

A common theme in restoration is that God restores you to a place that is better than you were before your exile, often with a double blessing.

  • Naaman’s leprous hand “was restored like the flesh of a little child…” (1 Kings 5:1-14).
  • God restored Job’s fortunes “two-fold” (Job 42:10).
  • God restored Nebuchadnezzar with “surpassing greatness” (Daniel 4:36,37).
  • God spoke through Zechariah that he would restore double to them (Zechariah 9:11,12)

Is it too much to hope that God might restore double to you as well? 

Restoring double implies that the exile is at last over, you are fully accepted, and the gate of blessings is now wide open to you. 

Exile stripped you but God wants to make your life good again. More than that, he wants to celebrate you…YOU…in all of your weakness and failure.

Isaiah’s famous words say it best so I will quote them for you:

1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted , To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners (exiles);

2 To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God ; To comfort all who mourn,

3 To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.

4 Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, They will raise up the former devastations; And they will repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.

5 Strangers will stand and pasture your flocks, And foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers.

6 But you will be called the priests of the LORD; You will be spoken of as ministers of our God. You will eat the wealth of nations, And in their riches you will boast.

7Instead of your shame you will have a double portion, And instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion. Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land, Everlasting joy will be theirs. Isaiah 61

I’ve been trying to show you a way out of exile. Above all, you need to have hope. You need to believe that God desires your best.

Like the Prodigal, he welcomes you back from exile. But more than that, he puts a robe around your shoulders, a ring on your finger, and sandals on your feet. Why? To restore you. Exile stripped you but God wants to make your life good again. More than that, he wants to celebrate you…YOU…in all of your weakness and failure.

But as with the Prodigal, you have to be willing to receive the blessing. He could have refused, saying that he wasn’t worthy. But he stepped into the blessing.

Do you have hope of being restored?  Is God trying to bless you now but you are unwilling to receive it? Leave your comment below.

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Out of Exile : Day 38 – Traveling Companions

Our 40-day journey is nearing the end. I hope you are getting your questions answered. If not, let me know before this train comes to a halt.

Today, as I continue to offer a way to return from exile, I want to talk about a touchy subject: your fellow travelers. It’s touchy because the truth is you might get stuck in exile if you are afraid to distance yourself from them. 

Some people like exile. They like the drama. They like being contrarian. They’ve never fit in. They wouldn’t know what to do if life was “normal.” 

You see, some people like exile. They like the drama. They like being contrarian. They’ve never fit in. They wouldn’t know what to do if life was “normal.” 

You think they want to return from exile. They don’t. They like to TALK about returning. But they don’t want to return. They like to make PROMISES about returning, but they have no intention of doing it.

Meanwhile you wait for them. You hope for them. Your pray for them. You believe in them…until you don’t. Until it becomes painfully obvious that they don’t want to leave exile. They never did. Deep down they like people feeling sorry for them. They thrive on pity and self-pity. When this realization hits you, you getting a sinking feeling as you think of all the time you’ve wasted on them.

So here’s the hard part: you may need to walk away from them if you ever want to return from exile. I know you don’t want to do that. Exile is hard enough with someone, let alone on your own. Plus, they always lay a guilt trip on you when you mention it. So you give them more time.

But seriously, walking away might be the right thing…for you and them. Your sticking with them only enables their self-defeating behavior. And besides, you won’t be alone forever. Eventually you’ll find other people headed in the same direction you are…healthy people…humble people… people ready to live the new life they discovered in exile.

I think you know what I’m talking about. You know WHO I’m talking about. The question is: will you walk away and return from exile or allow them to lead you in circles through the Wilderness forever? It’s your choice.

What do you say? Do you know what I’m talking about? Have you ever had to do this to find freedom? Let me hear from you by leaving a comment below.

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Out of Exile: Day 37 – Reframing God

Several years ago I was lamenting the life of someone I was counseling. It didn’t seem like they would ever climb out of the hole they were in. Then I remembered Psalm 23 where David said of God, “…he restores my soul.” It struck me that those words were either true or false. Did I believe God was a restorer of souls or not? I believe he is.

I’m convinced that many people stay stuck in exile because of a low view of God. For whatever reason, they don’t believe God is a restorer of souls, and they pay the price for it.

My last recommendation for reframing has to do with choosing to see God as a god of abundance, not scarcity.  Will you look at life expecting God to show up in a big way? Or will you assume the worst? 

We serve the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.

Scarcity is about fear. You are afraid there won’t be enough: enough money, enough love, enough time, enough forgiveness: whatever it is you feel you need in life. 

Scarcity focuses on what little you have; it’s all you’ll get, and if you aren’t careful you will even lose that.

Scarcity is about walls and locks and secrets and hiding because you can never be too careful to guard your meager holdings.

Abundance is the opposite. Abundance is about hope. Abundance sees opportunities when others are cutting back and preparing to throw in the towel.

Have you ever noticed how many seeds a tree throws off every year? Literally thousands. One tree shed enough seeds to create a forest. God has wired abundance into his creation. If he’s done that for trees, won’t he do it for his children?

In the wanderings of the Sinai Wilderness, God’s people doubted his goodness. They doubted he would meet their needs. God responded:

How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? Numbers 14:11

When I have a scarcity mindset I hold God in contempt. I tell him he’s not enough. He is not sufficient for my need.

Paraphrasing, God responded by saying: Okay. It’s your choice. If you don’t think I can help you overcome the obstacles then fine, don’t enter the Promised Land. And in fact, they didn’t enter. They wandered in the Sinai Peninsula for forty years.

It didn’t have to be that way. They had a choice.

In contrast to their contempt for God was Abraham. He believed in a God of abundance: the God of resurrection. Paul wrote that Abraham believed in:

…the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations …Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead–since he was about a hundred years old–and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:17-22

We serve the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.

I know there are exceptions. I know that all stories don’t end in resurrection and deliverance in this life. But God is a god of abundance. Why not expect the best? Why not expect something amazing…even if that’s an amazing sense of peace and joy in your exile?

Maybe you are in a hopeless place. But did you see what Abraham did? It says… against all hope, Abraham believed in hope… 

You are not a fool to hope. You are a person of faith.

Do you see God as a God of abundance or scarcity? Be honest.  What will it take to renew your hope in the God who gives life to the dead? Leave a comment below.

 

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Out of Exile: Day 33 – Be the Hero

I’m on the final stretch of our journey out of exile.

When you are stuck in exile there comes a time when you need to “be the hero” of your story. A negative way to say this: stop playing the victim.

It doesn’t take any courage to be angry. It doesn’t take any skill to complain, gossip, cast blame, or feel sorry for yourself. Anyone can do that. But is that the story you want your life to tell?

Would you watch a movie for two hours about a person who suffered an injustice, then complained and felt sorry for himself the rest of the movie? Of course not! What makes a good story is when someone faces injustice with wisdom, courage, and grace. We call these people heroes. So why not be the hero of your own story?

Healthy stories challenge us to be active characters, not passive victims or observers. John Trent

Being the hero requires a choice: a heroic choice. It means stepping up and saying, I’m not going to let my past control me anymore. I’m going to take responsibility for what’s happened to me and move on with my life.

Heroic choices free you from getting stuck in exile and open your life up to new possibilities. They make your story compelling. Engaging. I like what John Trent says about the power good choices have on your life:

Healthy stories challenge us to be active characters, not passive victims or observers. Both the present and the future are determined by choices, and choice is the essence of character. If we see ourselves as active characters in our own stories, we can exercise our human freedom to choose a present and future for ourselves and for those we love that give life meaning. Choosing to Live the Blessing.

Trent makes the case we should be proactive in choosing our future and not let our future simply happen to us. He builds on this idea of choice when he says:

We can curse the past like victims of circumstance, or we can bless it like victors over our circumstances. It’s up to us. It’s our choice. In some of the strongest and most compelling stories, the main character makes life-and-death choices. These choices give the story energy. They make the plot intriguing. They also change the character.

The character who doesn’t make choices is weak and passive. So if we want our lives to tell strong and compelling stories in which the characters grow into people of blessing, then we – the characters – have to make choices. Choices that are sometimes difficult. Choices that are sometimes painful. Choices that are sometimes critical, where something important is at stake.

If you think of the movies that touch you, they most often reach a moment of decision for the protagonist. In the beginning of the story she struggles with a problem, but there is a “make or break” moment. Against all odds she decides to take a risk and do the right thing.

The risk adds tension to the story because it adds a level of doubt. Can she do it? Will she regret her choice? In the end her choice pays off. You breathe a sigh of relief. Her choice enables her to overcome her struggle and become the hero. That’s a story you are willing to pay money to see.

Think of your life as a story half written. Half the book is full. You can’t do anything about those chapters. But the rest of your book has all blank pages. You determine how your story will end. What will you write?

Remember, the most compelling stories are turn-around stories…stories where a person was down for the count and made a comeback…even in the eleventh hour. So never give up on your story. (adapted from STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships)

My question for you today is: are you making choices that will tell a good story?  

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It’s good to be back from the holiday break. I look forward to closing out the last seven days of this 40-day journey. Please take a minute to share your thoughts below. Thanks.

 

 

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Out of Exile: Day 32 – Peace in the Pain

A few days back I said it was time to return from exile and I was going to show you the way out. I’ve started us down that road, but maybe you don’t like the path so far!  Naming your losses, facing your nakedness, being silent and listening: not exactly a fun or fast track out, is it? Well, you’ve probably noticed that nothing much happens fun or fast in exile. Leaving it takes time too.

Today I want to look at how to find peace in the pain of exile. With all of the honesty, stripping, and nakedness going on, it is a pretty raw existence. Life is more like chaos where nothing is settled and it FEELS like it never will be. 

Peace doesn’t come from taking control or having someone (even God) fix what’s broken. Peace comes by being fixed on God.

Jesus said he came to give us peace, but not a peace like the world gives it.  His peace keeps us from feeling troubled and anxious (John 14:27). God spoke a similar word through Isaiah – that if we aligned ourselves with God we will have peace like a river (48:18). Combining the two thoughts…the peace of the world is temporary. The peace of God keeps flowing and never stops.

Peace typically leaves us when three things happen: something changes, conflict arises, and/or we lose control.  This is when most of us kick into control mode:

  • Plan A: we work to take back control by what ever means necessary.
  • Plan B: if we can’t take control, we ask or pay someone else to do it for us.
  • Plan C: if Plans A & B fail, we often go into denial by ignoring, minimizing, or escaping our pain.
  • Plan D: we ask God to fix it.
  • If all plans fail, we fall into despair.

Sound familiar? In one sense, there’s nothing wrong with this process. It’s natural. But at some point it’s important to realize that you are chasing the wrong end. The reason God often doesn’t answer these prayers (Fix it!  Get me out of this jam!) is that he is looking for something deeper from us.

Peace doesn’t come by getting God to bring all of your chaos under your control. 

Peace comes when you bring all of your chaos and place it under God’s control. 

If you leave exile without learning this lesson, you left too soon and your exile experience was a waste. Isaiah has more to tell us about peace:

You, Lord, give true peace (wholeness) to those who depend on you, because they trust you. So, trust the Lord always, because he is our Rock forever. Isaiah 26:3,4

Notice the source of peace. Peace doesn’t come from taking control or having someone (even God) fix what’s broken. Peace comes by being fixed on God.

My point in all of this is to point out that returning from exile should never be your goal so “I can get my life back” or “I can be happy again.” Exile IS your life for a season and you need to find a way to experience peace and joy there, not hold your breath and run through this season hoping to exhale on the other side.

No matter what you might be suffering today, God has a peace that will “guard your heart and mind” (as Paul promised the Philippian church – 4:7).

What is your process to take back control in your life? Can you relate to the plans I laid out above?  Have you been asking God to bring control to your life rather than bringing your life under his control?  Let me hear about your quest for peace by leaving a comment below. Thanks.

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