God Is My Guide
Chapter taken from " The Very Heart of Worship"
Written By Cypress Ministries
Copyright Material, all rights reserved
“Then I will lead the blind along a way
they never knew: I will guide them
along paths they have not known.
I will make the darkness become light for
them, and the rough grounds smooth.
These are the things I will do;
I will not leave my people.”
In the next core study of Nehemiah 9, we see that God’s protection didn’t stop at the parting of the Red Sea. He protected them day and night and gave them direction. He was their compass and showed them which way to go. He didn’t take them out of Egypt, part the seas for them and then tell them to simply cross the desert and make their own way over to the Jordan River, where He would meet them there to give them further instructions. Nope, God went with them day and night and guided them every step of the way. He didn’t leave them. And guess what? He still does the same today!
Core Study Verse: Nehemiah 9:12
“You led our ancestors with a pillar of cloud
by day and with a pillar of fire at night.
It lit the way they were supposed to go.”
I would like to stop here for a moment and share with you a bit of my own “crossing.” Almost a year ago before the time I am writing this, I was sitting in my car at a church parking lot, not too far from the house, looking in the rearview mirror contemplating where to go. The place I was at is where I like to go periodically when I need quiet time to think but isn’t as far away from the house as my “special prayer place” is.
There is more to this story I will share with you later in a different chapter, but for now I will summarize the events so that I can focus on what I consider to be part of God’s divine direction.
It was a Friday morning and I hadn’t been outright terminated, but I hadn’t actually quit my job either. However, I had just experienced an eruption that had been extremely unexpected and a little bit shocking. After the dust had settled, I realized that God was saying, “I have plans for you and if you won’t move on your own, I will move you.” When I think back, I am reminded that even the Israelites didn’t want to leave Egypt at first. But one way or the other, God had plans for them, and leaving is what they were going to do! So when it came time for me to go on to what God’s purpose for me was, He made sure that I moved!
So there I was on this Friday morning. I had already gone to a place where I had known for a while they’d needed a manager, but the week prior they had found someone. I have to tell you that instead of being upset or worried, I was at peace. I didn’t know where I was going or what I was going to do but at that moment I was not surprised the position had been filled nor was I overly concerned about my next move, which was why I was sitting in my “parking space.” I was somewhere between praying and just talking to God. Every so often I would look in the rearview mirror at the traffic driving past on the main street behind me. Verses kept coming to mind: “Seek first the kingdom of God…” “Be still and know that I am God…” “For I know the plans I have for you…” “Don’t go away searching, stay where you are…”
I remember sitting there letting this concordance of verses filter through my mind. Again, I caught myself looking in my review mirror but after remembering Lot’s wife looking back and becoming a pillar of salt, I stopped. After a while, I drove down to a spot at the river that is very important to me and went to my favorite place to pray. And pray I did! I didn’t so much pray for help as I did surrender to God. Then I went home to spend time with my family. My thoughts were that it was a Friday and nothing could really be done at the end of the week so I would wait until Monday to get a fresh start. Dear friend, I never had to. And this is the part of the story that I really want to discuss with you.
That evening it was brought up by a friend that I should go back into business for myself -- that I should start doing private bookkeeping for small businesses. I was totally against it, thinking there was no way, we didn’t have the finances, the timing wasn’t right … the list went on and on. Then an interesting thing happened: my friend asked me what I would call it. Out of my mouth came “Cypress.” When I was asked why, and what was a cypress, I found myself looking around the room trying to see what in the world would have brought that word to and out of my mouth.
I had a fleeting image in my mind of the huge tree I was sitting under earlier while I was praying, but as I said, it was fleeting so I didn’t think much more of it. I went on to explain that down South, where I am from, a cypress is a huge tree. As we were talking, the thought of “Cypress Bookkeeping” became more of a possibility. Before going to bed that night I got on my knees and prayed, telling God I didn’t know what He was up to or what He was doing, but I trusted Him. If this was something I should consider doing then I was willing, but He was going to have to bring it to pass.
The next morning I got up and made coffee for everyone, then sat down with a devotional I had been reading. It was a nice devotional, though I will admit that now I can’t quite remember what it was about, but it referred to a passage in Isaiah 55. Now, I am no Bible scholar, but I am somewhat familiar with Isaiah 55; however, for the life of me I couldn’t think what part of Isaiah 55 the writer of the devotional would be pulling from in reference to his topic. So, I got my Bible to look it up. Yes, Isaiah 55 was what I thought it was, but I kept on reading and in the last two verses of Isaiah 55 this is what I read:
“So you will go out with joy and be led out in peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees in the field will clap their hands. Large cypress trees will grow where thorn bushes were. These things will be a reminder of the LORD’s promise, and this reminder will never be destroyed.”
I have to tell you, I sat there dumbfounded! I read it and reread it! There it was: “cypress trees.” Now I am thinking and wondering, what are the odds of that? I was already convinced that this was a “God thing.” There was nothing the night before to have brought the thought of “cypress trees” to my mind and out of my mouth, so in my heart I was already reeling from this, but just to appease the skeptic in me, I did a word search. Keep in mind there are over 31,000 verses in the Bible. I chose the four most common Bible versions plus my own preferred version. I figured five times 31,000 verses is 155,000, so how many times would a word search of “cypress trees” produce results? Seven times. Out of over 155,000 Bible verses from these five Bibles, the phrase “cypress trees” only came up in seven verses. When I looked to see what terms were used instead, I found several places in the different versions said “large pine trees” instead of cypress.
Not only did God give me the name, but He did it in such a way that “in my language” I saw and understood it. If I had just read the phrase “large pine trees” you probably wouldn’t be reading this now, because I would not have thought anything else about it.
But you have to remember that when God is working in us, or talking to us, He will do it in a way or in a “language” we can understand. When God is giving us directions, He isn’t going to speak Spanish to you if all you speak and understand is English.
If it had been one of my sons reading their Bible that morning, Isaiah 55:13 says, “large pine trees.” They would never have thought anything else about it. But, because I had been praying for direction and guidance and asking God (“What do you want me to do?”), when He gave me direction, He made sure it would come up and be confirmed to me in a way that I would see it and understand that He had spoken. I often think of the sign above the cross when Jesus was crucified and how the same phrase was written several times in different languages so everyone there would be able to read and understand it.
However, my story of God’s divine direction doesn’t stop there. After reading these verses and doing a word search, my mind started racing. By that afternoon, I had found a completely furnished office, and quite a bit of temp work along with it. By Monday, I was opening a checking account and was bonded. Two weeks to the day that I sat in the parking lot, I was sitting in my new office working. And life was amazingly good. For all of three and a half months!
For three and a half months, temp work kept coming; I was staying really busy and I was convinced God had put me in that office, doing what I was doing. But I could never get full-time assignments. It was just one temporary assignment after another. Then it started slowing down until several months later I came to a complete standstill! I couldn’t go this way, I couldn’t go that way, and I sure didn’t want to go backward, but there was no going forward either. In fact every time I would start to pray, the term “standstill” was what I kept coming back to. I kept praying and asking God for clarity. I knew He had led me to it -- I knew He had put me there -- but I didn’t understand so I kept asking Him what the “standstill” I had come to was all about.
Then over and over again, everywhere I turned, every time I read anything including sermons and devotionals everything kept coming back to “health” and “healing.” I started reading about healing and health. Also Jeremiah 33 started becoming a major Scripture reference. Someone was always quoting something from Jeremiah 33, so one morning I decided to slowly, and with openness, read Jeremiah 33. What startled me was verse 6: “But then I will bring health and healing to the people there.”
One evening I was listening to a sermon podcast while I was working on some things. I was listening but not real intently. The sermon was about Paul’s imprisonment in his own home for two years. The pastor was talking about how active Paul had been and that his primary objective before this imprisonment had been starting and planting new churches, so it must have been quite something for Paul when God had brought him to this standstill in his life.
As you can guess, this got my attention very quickly! Now I was listening very intently. In fact I rewound it just to hear those words over again! Yes, the pastor really said Paul had come to a standstill in his life! God had brought him to a point where he couldn’t just keep going and going. But what others might have viewed, and had even intended, as an imprisonment God was using for good. It gave Paul much needed time for rest and to physically heal. It also gave Paul time to write four of our New Testament books that may not have been written had Paul not had the downtime his imprisonment had given him.
Immediately, I was brought to conviction! I knew what my standstill and downtime was about. A few years earlier I had started the rough drafts to this book you are holding and one other. But for many reasons I was forced to put them down, then aside, and after awhile completely out of mind!
I spent several days in prayer about this and the whole “cypress” thing. I asked for wisdom, understanding and most of all clarity! It started becoming clear. God had brought to me and given me the name “Cypress” and I added bookkeeping to it and ran with it! God got me an office, gave me divine guidance, and even gave me a name, but then I went racing with it. I realized then that God was trying to do something totally NEW in my life, but I was trying to turn it into something I was familiar with. I was trying to take the leading and direction God was giving me and turn it into something I could do!
I quickly began to have a new appreciation for Joshua 3:1-5: Early the next morning Joshua and all the Israelites left Acacia. They traveled to the Jordan River and camped there before crossing it. After three days the officers went through the camp and gave orders to the people; When you see the priests and Levites carrying the Ark of the Agreement with the LORD your God, leave where you are and follow it. That way you will know which way to go since you have never been here before. But do not follow too closely. Stay about a thousand yards behind the Ark. Then Joshua told the people “Make yourselves holy, because tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.”
Now to bring us back to our study of God as our Guide. There are several lessons here I hope you are learning and grasping. Also, I hope that in sharing my story, it will help you to have confidence in the fact that (1) God does give us divine guidance, and (2) When God is ready, He will take you someplace completely new! But I also hope that in sharing my story with you, you will learn from my mistake in following too closely so you don’t wind up in front of God, and then detouring from what it is He is trying to do.
Just like the Israelites, I had never been this way before so I needed to focus on God. Yet Joshua told the people: don’t get too far away from the ark, but don’t get too close either. I understand both reasons now. I guess hindsight really is 20/20. If we don’t stay focused on God and we get too far behind, we run the risk of getting distracted and losing our way completely. But, on the other hand, if we follow too closely we run the risk of running out ahead of Him trying to do it our way and then we realize we’ve missed a step or even a turn!
If you will look back at our core verse of Nehemiah 9:12, God led them by day and by night. He led them each step of the way, every day. He stayed with them and continued to make a path for them, long after the waters had parted and then closed back. My friend, know that He has done this for me over and over again, and He will do the same for you if you will let Him. He is willing and more than able to lead you through any “crossings,” whether it is water or desert you have to go through. Just don’t be afraid if you find He is taking you someplace completely new and unfamiliar to you. Trust me, or better yet, trust God. He knows the way and will lead you on the right path if you will focus on Him and ask for His guidance.
In closing of God Is My Guide
♥ PRAYING IN FAITH
Father God, thank You for the experiences You have given me that I may share with this reader and others. Lord, I pray that as my friend here comes to know You more, that they also will have a journey to repeat as testimony for You. Thank You for Your promise that if we will stay focused with our eyes to You, that You will lead us and make our paths straight and light the darkness so that we may follow You.
Once again, Lord, thank You for this time in Your Word. I also continue to pray for this dear reader, and ask that You will lead them and guide them on the path You have for them. I ask You, Lord, to shed Your light on them so that they may see what steps to take.
In Christ Jesus’ name I pray,