Ever More Faithful

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“Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him.” (Daniel 6:4)

 
Did you ever hear the expression “aging with dignity?” I read today’s account of Daniel and that’s what comes to my mind. I mean, when was the last time in any movie about Daniel, he was depicted as a 70 year old man being lowered into the lion’s den? According to Biblical timelines, he was probably a little older than that but just knowing that he was there around 605 BC when he refused to eat the king’s portion and then this lion’s den incident took place around 539 BC, we can easily do the calculations and see that Daniel is no longer a young man. But what else we see is that over all these years he has been a faithful man. And his age doesn’t stop him from continuing to be faithful.

 
For every time I have thought, “God, this is too hard. I can’t do it,” or “God, I’m too tired to go on,” Daniel may have felt that way, but he certainly didn’t live that way. I see a man whose sites were set on God. I see this faithful man who, because he was faithful first and foremost to God, was able to continually be faithful to those he served and those around him, no matter their walk of life or religious beliefs. I see a boy who was loved by those around him because of his character. I see him grow into a man who continues to be loved by those around him because of his character, well, loved by those who respect a faithful character.

 
I mean, here he is brought under another conquering ruler. And here God provides Darius, who, like Nebuchadnezzar, wanted to surround himself with wisdom. So who impresses him? Daniel. Our Daniel is set as one of the three highest satraps over the kingdom. Now, Daniel does his job so well that he is preferred over all the counselors so the king was wanting to set him over the whole entire realm. Why again? Because there was “an excellent spirit” in him.

 
What does it mean that there was “an excellent spirit” in him? Maybe to the king it meant Daniel’s mind was far above everyone elses and his wisdom surpassed all. But don’t forget that the word for spirit here, “ruach” is also used for God’s very breath and His living Spirit, the Holy Spirit. Could it be that Darius saw that Daniel was guided by God? That Daniel had a relationship and knowledge from a God like no other?
Well, Darius saw something extra special in Daniel. But, the other officials weren’t looking that way. They were just plain jealous of Daniel. So, what do you do, when you don’t like someone? You try to find fault in them. They wanted to ruin Daniel in the eyes of King Darius. Only, he was so faithful to the laws of the kingdom and to God that he was squeaky clean. If they were going to catch him up, it would have to be in something that went against His God. So they created a situation that would fit their cause.

 
So much for character in these men. They weren’t about faithfulness. They were about getting their own way. If deception would get them there, then that’s what they would use. Now, I’m pretty sure that Daniel was supposed to have a say in things. But these fellows approached King Darius with an idea that had not been shared with Daniel. Only they said, “All the high officials, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed…” Really? I don’t recall Daniel being included. So here is King Darius thinking that Daniel, along with all the others, has established this ordinance that no one should petition any god or man for thirty days, except for the king, or they would be thrown to the lions. Because they said all had agreed, Darius signed the injunction.

 
Knowing that Daniel prayed three times a day, the satraps watched for their opportunity. They had him! They knew one thing about Daniel. He was faithful and he would be faithful to his God no matter what. And he was, just as he always had been. They bring Daniel before King Darius. The king spent all night trying to find a way around the law, but there was no way once a law was signed. He felt terrible and tried to find a way to rescue him. But the king was forced to command Daniel to be lowered into the lion’s den. It was out of his hands. It was out of his control. But the king held onto one hope, that it wasn’t out of the control of Daniel’s God. “May your God whom you serve continually, deliver you!”

 
Darius was a king who cared about Daniel. He cared about what was happening around him here. I know because he couldn’t sleep, he didn’t eat, he didn’t enjoy the king’s pleasures that night. Daniel was on his mind. The acts of the other satraps were on his mind. I’m supposing that Daniel’s God was on his mind.

 
The king didn’t wait, but at the break of day went to the pit. I think he was in anguish because God’s word says he cried with a lamentable cry. That sounds like a heartbreaking, heart wrenching kind of crying to me. And he called, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, is your God whom you serve continually, able to deliver you from the lions?” And imagine the state of the king’s heart when he heard Daniel’s voice answer, “O King, live for ever. My God has sent His angel, and has shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before Him innocency was found in me; and also before you, O King, have I done no hurt.”

 
So Daniel was lifted up and the deceitful satraps and their families were cast into the lions’ den instead. Only this time, the lions were not merciful at all. And before a whole nation, King Darius declared that Daniel’s God was a living God, steadfast for ever, whose kingdom shall not be destroyed, and whose dominion shall be to the end. He declared God to be a deliverer and a rescuer who works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, who was even able to deliver Daniel from the power of the lions.

 
Now, what if Daniel isn’t supposed to be some unique and fantastic story? What if Daniel’s example is supposed to be one that we follow? I mean, most of the time Daniel was involved in normal affairs and normal life. Only he chose to live his every walking and every sleeping moment according to God’s ways and for God’s glory. He chose to be faithful in You, God. He didn’t choose just to be faithful sometimes, or only in the good times, but to be faithful. And so, when the hard decisions came, it didn’t matter how hard they were, he already knew the choice he would need to make, and he did it, he remained faithful no matter the cost. Because in truth, the cost of being unfaithful is far worse.

 
Jesus asked a question once, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, doesn’t sit down first and count the cost, whether you have sufficient fund to finish it?” (Luke 14:28) I need to be like Daniel and count the cost from the start so I already know that I have a sufficiency of all I need at any point down the road. Daniel’s life story reminds me of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 2, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?” Well, who is, but God?

 
The truth is that Daniel wasn’t sufficient in and of himself. His sufficiency for every moment, for himself and for those around him, came from God. Paul continues in 2 Corinthians 3:5, “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God…” God, You not only delivered Daniel multiple times, but you made his life a continual ministry of Your Spirit and of You. You call us to the same life today. Your grace and power is just as sufficient for me today as it was for Paul and Daniel, and anyone else who would choose faithfulness in You. May we become people who would rather glory in our weaknesses so that You and the power of God in Christ Jesus might rest upon us and the world around us would see Your glory manifested in the midst of our faithfulness to a God who is ever more faithful to His children.

The Good Work That Glorifies

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Photo credit to Nheng Villanueva Rubio.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 5:16

I’m starting to think that unless we read Scripture through the eyes of the whole Scripture, we fall into the danger of misrepresenting Scripture.  Because, if I just start here, with Your “sermon on the mount”  I’m left with the impression that I’m supposed to shine before others like a city lit on a hill or like an unconvered candle in a house.  I’m left to think that it’s up to me do do all the shining and then as I do my wonderful shining, my wonderful shining is going to lead to me doing things that glorify You.  Really?  When was I ever able to shine that brightly on my own that whatever I did, people stood amazed and said, “Wow, that had to be of God!”?  I mean, isn’t that what You are saying here, Jesus?  Isn’t that what You are saying should happen as people see the light reflecting from me?

Yep, I’m still thinking about what it means to be the light of the world according to what You mean about it.  And that part about glorifying my Father in heaven really stands out.  I mean, this can’t just be talking about doing good things here.  Good things aren’t what glorify God.  God things glorify God.  Acting in ways the world doesn’t act, glorifies God.  Loving when others hate You, relying on God when circumstances tell you not to, that’s God stuff.  I mean, if I want to know what You mean, I need to look back at what You did and what You thought about in Scripture.  So that’s what I’m going to do.

I’m taken back to Mathhew 12 where Jesus meets the man possessed with a devil.  He was also blind and dumb.  And You heal him so he’s free and can speak and hear.  And all the people were amazed, and said, “Is this the son of David?”  See, this is a title saying that the people believed from this action that You, Jesus, were the promised Messiah.  What You did was so amazing, “existemi” in Greek, that it put them out of their wits!  I mean, no one, absolutely no one but God could do something like that.  That was a good work that glorified Your Father in heaven.  No man could do that on his own.

In Mark, You tell of another man who was possessed by a demon.  Imagine this happening in front of your eyes!  “And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, ‘Let us alone; what have we to do with you, you Jesus of Nazareth?  Are you come to destroy us?  I know you, who you are, the Holy One of God.’ And Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Hold your peace, and come out of him.’ And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him.  And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What thing is this?  What new doctrine is this?  For with authority commands he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him.'”  The people were amazed at Your works again.  And they knew that the only One who had authority over spirits, over demons, was God.  And You were as that One in authority.  Wow!  That was a good work that glorified Your Father in heaven.  No man could do that on his own.

Let’s move on to Mark 2.  Some friends bring a paralyzed man to see Jesus.  They even rip apart a roof top to lower him into the room because it’s the only way they can get him near Jesus.  So Jesus, You proceed to forgive his sins.  But the Pharisees say that’s blasphemy because only God can do that.  So You tell the man, “Arise, and take up your bed, and go your way to your house.”  “And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, ‘We never saw it on this fashion.'”  That was a good work that glorified Your Father in heaven.  No man could do that on his own.

Now here’s a twist.  In Luke 2 we jump back to when You were 12 years old, Jesus.  And You’ve remained back in the temple, while your parents were heading home.  And there You were in the temple, “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.  And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.”  That’s that same word, existemi, because the spiritual insight You had was so intense for a young boy that all they could say was, “This must be from God!”  That was a good work that glorified Your Father in heaven.  No man, or boy, could do that on his own.

You go to a house of a little girl who has died from a fever.  You say, “She’s just sleeping.”  Everyone laughs because they know she’s dead.  But You take her parents and Peter, James, and John into her room and close the door.  You take her by the hand and say, “Maid, arise.” And she does!  “And her parents were amazed (existemi)…”  That was a good work that glorified Your Father in heaven.  No man could do that on his own.

Later in Luke, there were women standing outside Your tomb.  And they amazed the disciples with news that Your tomb was empty.  The women were bearers of that God news.  That was news of a good work that glorified Your Father in heaven.  No man could do that on his own.

Jumping ahead to Acts 2 we find the believers gathered together on the day of Pentecost, all in one accord, in one place.  “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”  And those that were gathered around them that day, “were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, ‘Behold…we hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God’.  And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?'”  And then Peter told them what it meant.  See, this was a good work that glorified their Father in heaven.  No man could do that on his own.

But let’s not miss something here.  Scripture also tells me that I can focus on the wrong amazement.  My existemi can be be wrongly focused and when it is, my works will not glorify my Father in heaven.  Why?  Because I can do it on my own.  Or because it focuses on other power.  See, there was this certain man named Simon, and he was a sorceror.  Acts 8:9 says that he bewitched the people of Samaria and posed that he himself was a great one.  He astounded people with his works, his magic, his ways.  That word translated as bewitched is our word existemi.  And all the people paid attention to him and said, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.”  Scripture continues, “And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic.” But then Philip came to Samaria and pointed them to the Good News and they believed in Jesus.  Even Simon believed.  And Simon himself, as he walked life out with Philip and saw God working through Philip in signs and miracles, was amazed.  Simon became so focussed on the miracles, since that had been his focus before, that one day when Peter and John prayed and layed hands on some believers and they received the Holy Spirit, Simon wanted that power and wanted to pay money to receive it.   

Listen to part of Peter’s response.  “For I percieve that you are in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.”   Noah Webster says that phrase, the gall of bitterness, means that Simon was in a state of extreme impiety or enmity to God.  He was standing in the door of apostasy.  His attitude towards the works of God through the hands of man was ungodly, and irreverent toward God.  His attitude actually showed comtempt to God’s character and authority.  He was implying that man can control the acts of God.  Poor guy.  It’s so easy to fall into our old ways.  That’s the bond of iniquity.

See, our sin wants to draw us back.  You, Lord, want to take us forward.  Before trusting in You, we controlled our own lives, our own destinies, or at least we felt we did.  And if I’m not careful, it’s so easy for me fall back into controlling things again.  What Simon did was wrong.  If he didn’t handle that root of “bitterness” it would lead to him not letting God be in control, not letting You be You.  But what makes me any different than Simon?  Are there areas of my life that I try to control?  If I’m so busy fundraising, am I really letting God show Himself to be my provider?  Is there a point I need to step back and let God be God and let Him do the work?  Am I busy manipulating people to get what I want God to do?  Do I need to step back and let God move in people’s hearts, and stop thinking that the power is mine?

Yes, I think, as I sit and examine myself, I have to be very cautious to not be caught in the gall of bitterness myself.  I’ve been sent to let God be in control, to let Your light shine, and not mine.  I need to learn to do that and I can only do that as I learn to fully surrender to You.  I’m not there yet Lord, but I’m so glad that You don’t give up on me, that this work that You began in me, You will continue until the day of Christ.  You sent me to be a light and not just any light.  You sent me to be a light for You.  Teach me to let You outshine me.  Teach me to just absorb Your light and reflect You to others.  Guard me against my own selfish ambitions and desires.

Philip wasn’t busy doing good works.  That wasn’t his focus.  Philip was all about going everywhere and preaching the word.  That doesn’t mean he was going everywhere giving sermons.  Preaching, euaggelizo, means to announce the good news, and in this case it’s the Good News about Jesus, the Gospel.  And when you start sharing the Good News for real because you’ve come to know the Good News, it effects more than your words.  The Good News comes alive in your life.  The Words shine forth in truth.  That’s what Simon was missing.  The relationship is so much more important than the stuff, but if the relationship is right, then the glorious stuff of the relationship will just naturally flow, not because we’re focussed on the “stuff” but because we’re living understanding and doing and walking in and sharing the will of our God.

It’s not just about announcing the Good News with our voices.  If I am Your workmanship, if my whole being and my body are Your temple, then all of me must publicly declare Your goodness.  I’ve got wonderfully blinding glad tidings to tell.  I’ve got wonderful news of a coming kingdom of God and wonderful tidings of a glorious salvation in You, Jesus, because of Your death, burial, and resurrection.

Father, You sent Jesus into the world to be the Light of the world so that the people which sat in darkness would see a great light, and so that those which sat in the region and shadow of death , light is sprung up. (Matthew 4:16)  Jesus, You said, “as the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you.”  It’s true.  You said, “What I tell you in darkness, that speak in light: and what you hear in the ear, that preach upon the housetops.”  (Matthew 10:27)  This time, that word preach, is kerusso, like the faith-based T-shirt company.  I’m to proclaim, to herald, like a public crier, Your divine truth, the Gospel.  And for me, to herald that, is to let You shine Your ways from my life.  My life ought to speak louder than any “Christian” T-shirt ever could.  See, I can do something a T-shirt can’t.  I can love like You love.  I can forgive like You forgive.  I can let You demonstrate Yourself through me in every situation as I remain surrendered and dependent upon You.  Lord, in the same way as You, by listening to my Shepherds voice, by letting You have Your way in me, teach me and make me to be a true light for You in this dark world. That is a good work that glorifies my Father in heaven.  No man can do that on his own.

Salted for Life

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“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.  Matthew 5:13

Well, I’ve just been learning the absolutely necessary characteristics of a believer, the characteristics that reflect those of You, Lord, Yourself.  I’ve been learning of the characteristics that flow from one who is walking and living in a personal, obedient, surrendered relationship with and in You.  And I’ve learned that persecution and hard times will accompany this relationship just by nature of the fact that it is antagonistic to the status quo in the world.  But regardless, I can know You so deeply and experience Your presence and power in such a real way that I can still rejoice and be glad in the midst of it all.

So it sounds to me like I as a believer have something to shout about, like I as a believer have something that ought to benefit others and benefit the world around me.  After all, this relationship, this salvation, this forgiveness, this power has benefited me.  Well, how is this relationship of mine effecting the world around me?  Is it?

Jesus, You Yourself were talking to Your disciples, even the would-be disciples, which means that You are still talking to us today.  “You are the salt of the earth.”  What does that mean?  What did people think of when You mentioned salt as an object lesson?  Today we use salt for flavoring, for melting ice on roadways and walkways, and for a preservative but I’m not so sure we think about that preservative part as much now adays.  In the days when You walked on earth, in this day that You uttered these words for the first time for our ears, probably the greatest importance of salt was for preserving food.  There was no refrigerating system.  If food wasn’t preserved by salt, it decayed quickly.

The day You shared this message, Lord, You were standing atop a hill beside the Sea of Galilee.  That sea was a sea teaming with life.  Peter, Andrew, James, and John especially would have realized that because they were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee.  Now what if when You were sharing about being salt, people were drawn away from thinking of the healthy, life-giving, fresh water of the Sea of Galilee, to the thoughts of another sea?  What if their thoughts were drawn to the Dead Sea which they also would have been familiar with.

The Dead Sea actually has such a high quantity of salt minerals that it is impure and cannot be used for drinking water.  It has so many salt minerals that there are layers of undesolved crystals on the bottom of the deepest parts because the water cannot saturate any more.  Water flows into the sea but there is no out source for the water to flow from the sea.  So evaporation removes water content and the sea continually acts as a receptacle for more and more salt.  It’s so deadly to plant and animal life that if a fish happens to start swimming into it, even at the edges the fish will immediately die, being coated by the chemicals, and immediately preserved!

So, I want to think of those two contrasting seas today.  One a sea of living water that flows in and out to other sources.  A sea that teams with life.  And another sea, a sea of death and stagnancy.  Could these seas represent my life?

“You are the salt of the earth.”  Now all salt is not bad.  We need salt to live.  Salt adds flavor,  it enhances, it makes things able to endure, it purifies, and it preserves.  So the question I have to ask is, “Who is the real salt?”  Jesus, You must be the Salt that makes me salted.  I’m Your receptacle just like the Sea of Galilee or the Dead Sea.  What I determine to do with You, determines my effect on the world around me.  I suppose that ignoring or denying You is just as detrimental as receiving You and then never letting You do anything through my life because I remain in control.

Salt was precious in Biblical times.  It was covenantally binding.  In Leviticus, You shared, “You shall season all your grain offerings with salt.  You shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.”   But this salt was to not only be added to the grain offerings, but to all the offerings.  In Numbers 18:19 we find, “All the holy contributions that the people of Israel present to the Lord I give to you, and to your sons and daughters with you, as a perpetual due.  It is a covenant of salt forever before the Lord for you and for your offspring with you.”  See, the priests weren’t receiving a land inheritance.  You, God, were their inheritance and their provision.  But here’s a twist.  This phrase is used one last time in 2 Chronicles 13:5 in reference to David.  “Ought you not to know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt?”  So maybe, just maybe, this whole idea of salt goes deeper than we’ve been thinking.

Some people argue it’s preserving element in the offerings when salt was added.  But those weren’t even supposed to be eaten by the priests.  The whole animal was consumed by fire.  Some argue it’s purifying or cleansing properties to clean away the blood.  But that wouldn’t always fit either.  And what about David, who was from the tribe of Judah, and not the priestly tribe?

Chris Suitt shared the words of another scholar, “salt had an enduring quality and therefore in the Middle East salt was used in ceremonies to seal an agreement.  Hence, the idea may simply be that God’s call upon the Kohenim and their service whould endure, i.e., overcome all things.”  But Chris continues this thought.  “Could it be that the ‘covenant of salt’ was all about a relationship with God based upon trust?”  He continues, “The people were to trust God by giving the salt that was put into their offering.  Their God would provide for them and they were to give back out of love and obedience.  The priests and Levites were to trust God by serving Him without a land inheritance like their brothers.  Their God would provide for their livelihood while they were away from their cities which were interspersed throughout Israel.  David and his sons were to trust God as the King and serve Him, believing He would keep the throne moving through David’s line long after David and his sons departed the scene.”

Even the Hebrew word for “covenant”, “beriyth”, is “an agreement or alliance between two parties where each party makes a pledge to keep their end of the bargain.”  God first used this word with Noah.  If Noah fulfilled his end of the bargain in building the ark, God would fulfill his end and get them safely through.  Think about the trust this took.  Noah had never even seen rain before and wasn’t anywhere near a large body of water.  And gathering food for all kinds of animals of which he may not have even seen before?  Think of the mutual trust.  But Noah demonstrated his trust by his actions carried out according to the words of God.  He “did everything just as God commanded him.”

And even though God sometimes bears all the weight of His covenants, I think we’ll find that trusting is sometimes as hard for us as building an ark.  Trusting You, Lord, seems to become the harder issue for some people, and even me sometimes.  So this is just something to think about when You tell us, “You are the salt of the earth.”

But what about that word for salt?  It’s “melach”.  And I just found out that though it means “to rub to pieces or pulverize, to disappear as dust, or to season or rub with salt”, it is primarily used in Scripture to refer to the Dead Sea!  Listen to what Ezekiel  47:1-10  shares about the Dead Sea becoming fresh.  It shares about the river of life giving water that flows from the coming temple of God.  And as this water flows into the Dead Sea “when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh.  And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish.  For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes.  Fishermen will stand beside the sea.  From Engedi to Eneglain it will be a place for the spreading of nets.  Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea.”  And then the Lord adds one more interesting thing.  “But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh, they are to be left for salt.”  Hm.  Thinking about that one.

So, these people Jesus was speaking to before, when they heard about salt, probably went to thinking about the Salt Sea, well, if they were being guided by His Spirit and opened to His way of thinking.  So they were brought to think about a dead sea of salt, without benefit to others or self, to a sea made new, teaming with life from a new source.  In other words, “You are the salt of the earth by the nature of what You have allowed Me, Jesus, through the power of God in the Holy Spirit to do in You.  You are the salt of the earth as You let my character flow through You.  Guys, that’s what the “beatitudes” are all about.  See, I’m the Living Water.  Without me flowing through you, then you are just a dead salt sea.  But if any man immerses himself fully in Me, I make him a new creation, I make his waters new, the old is history, and the new stuff in him flows like Me, there to give life to others and life abundantly.”

“You are the salt of the earth.”  That verse isn’t a seperate sentence.  It ties in with everything that we’ve just learned before it in Chapter 5 and before.  It’s what a life immersed in trust in You, Jesus, looks like and acts like and is like.  It’s a new life, a changed life, teaming with You.

This is a life that is so changed that it effects the heart of my decision making and choices in life.  Now, I become motivated by Your calling, not according to my planning.  My finances aren’t driven by how I can best care for myself, but how I can best share compassionately with others.  My relationship with You is reflected in my heart towards others, and not even those others I am familiar with, but those I don’t know, or even those who misuse me.  Your truth must flow through me and out to others or I feel like I’ll burst, even if others would reject me for sharing.  I see moral decay around me and I want to act to change it, to hold it back.  I so want to grow closer to You, to seek Your will more and more, that I study Your word and spend time with You like it is my greatest treasure.  I serve You and others not because of what I gain but because of what You have done in my heart.  I must spend time with You in devoted prayer because spending time with You means everything to my health.

See, You make Your people the salt of the earth.  You, and You alone, are our savour.  Without You salting me, I am nothing.  No, it’s even worse.  Without You salting me, I am nothing good and good for nothing.  So here You are, driving Your point home.  Since verse 3, You’ve been inviting me to surrender in You, to let You flow Your living waters through me.  You’ve been inviting me to new life like the Dead Sea one day, only my new life begins or began the day I surrender or surrendered to You.   And the wonderful thing about surrendering to Your lordship, to You as my savior and king, is that Your person, Your nature, Your You-ness flows into me and out of me to others.  But if I’ve never been drastically changed, well, I’m still the Dead Sea.  My question today is, have you let Christ totally change you or are you still in control?  Lord, I want to be totally changed in You.  Don’t ever let me forget the picture of the Dead Sea and how You make it a sea teaming with life.

The Suffering Soldier

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“Blessed are the meek:  for they shall inherit the earth.”  Matthew 5:5

So, here I am on the third beatitude.  First, Jesus, You take me to look deeply into what it really means to be poor in spirit.  We’re talking utter dependency and humility here.  Then I take one step farther and You lead me to try to understand what it is to be a mourner.  And that is humbling and dependent in itself upon You and Your way.  And now, You call me to meekness.  You call me to affliction, oppression, and humbleness under the hand of God, in this fallen world.  It’s like I’m a slow learner.  Because it just seems like different ways to continue to live in and learn the same lesson; how to be humble like You.

And today’s searching, just even the tip of it, already knock’s my socks off.  You’ve already got me in tears.  Because it just keeps getting harder and more personal.  But I see Your hand and I feel it even more as You draw me closer through Your truth.  And the harder it gets in my life, and the more You reveal Yourself in Your Word, the greater You become though my situations or circumstances may grind me into the ground.  Yet there You are, rising above the affliction, standing strong in the midst of the oppression, unchanging, and continuing in control.  And You are my God.  And You will always Be.  And You will never cease being Who You Are.  And a meek person knows that.  And a meek person clings to that.  Because a meek person clings to You no matter what.  And You never let go.  “My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.”  Those are the words of Jesus, of God.  And I can count on them.  Because I can always depend on Him.  Yes, I can ALWAYS depend on You, Lord.

This word meek is “praus” in Greek.  But Jesus is directly quoting Psalm 37:11 here.  “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”  Meek here is the word “anawim” or the root “anaw”.    David uses it again in Psalm 25:9 when he says,  “The meek will He guide in judgment:  and the meek will He teach His way.”  Actually, it’s used over 200 times in the Tanakh, or Old Testament.  So what does this Hebrew concept of “meek” mean?

This is a pretty deep word.  If it doesn’t well up some emotions today, I don’t know what will.  Because it’s basis isn’t really about any moral or spiritual condition.  That’s just an extension.  This is about life and the reality of life and what is inflicted upon us and how we are to look at it and respond to it.  This root, this word, “carries the sense of being forced into submission or being inflicted with pain for punishment.”  It’s always in scenes such as “conflict, oppression and war.”  You know what’s worse?  “It is even used as a description of what God does to His enemies and the ‘humbling’ of captured women.”  Not sounding good, is it?  Pretty sad stuff.

Yes, this is sad.  It seems that humble mourners just became humbled mourners.  I mean, it’s one thing to humble myself, but a whole other thing to be humbled by someone else.  This is painful stuff.  So what does it mean and who does it look like?  Well, Moses is an Old Testament example.  Numbers 12:3 states “(Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)”  This is being stated in the midst of conflict, where Miriam and Aaron are not only opposing Moses, but opposing God’s authority in Moses itself.  But look back on his life.  I see lots of affliction and oppression.  But I also see a man, who though he couldn’t see himself being a leader, submitted to God’s authority anyway.  And he continued to submit no matter how tough it got.  And he was so submitted that the tougher it got to lead, the more he was willing to offer himself as a sacrifice in place of the people who were causing the conflict with him and against God in situation after situation.  Sounds like Someone Else I know.

Here’s the ultimate example–Jesus.  “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls.”  Of all those who have ever been persecuted, oppressed, inflicted with pain, and forcefully humbled, Jesus rises above them all.  In the midst of being humbled by man, Jesus humbled himself before them.  “And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”  Why?  Because Jesus understood that our persecution, our troubles, our oppression, our battles, are testing grounds and are all under the control of our heavenly Father.  This wasn’t man’s battle.  This was God’s battle.  God has it all under control.  He did and He still does.  Am I meek enough to believe that just as Moses did and just as Jesus did?  They didn’t just believe it; they knew it.  And they lived it.  And they died it so they continue to live it forever.

So, all this terrible stuff going on in my life, or yours, or those in countries where women and children are being raped and boys and fathers are being shot, is that just because some evil men are in control?  Are earthquakes and tsunamis and typhoons in control?  Are they just blind catastrophes?  Or is God using affliction.  Is this a mark of His hand on our life?  Do I need affliction to learn what I must learn?  If I can’t surrender to God in affliction, am I truly surrendered to Him at all?

I must remember that I am not a victim.  God is in control.  No matter what, He is in control.  Paul reminds Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:8, “Don’t be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor me His prisoner: but be a partaker of the afflictions of the Gospel according to the power of God.”  That’s strong stuff.  “Hey, Timothy, don’t be afraid of the life and example and death of Jesus.  Don’t be afraid of partnering in that life now.  It’s the same power of God that brought Jesus through.  It’s His power that brings me through.  And it’s His same power bringing You through every one of those similar afflictions.”  I don’t want to stop at verse 8 because I think the rest empowers us to trust amidst the most terrible of afflictions, to walk in that “meek” spirit of surrender to an almighty God “who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace [that’s made known through what we see as the terrible pressing of our oppressors but is really His working (my insight here)], which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but now is made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death, and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel…”  Yes, this Gospel is coming to life in my life and the life of every believer through our being brought through the deepest afflictions.  How else can we be partakers with Christ?  How else can we ever understand His sufferings?  How can we understand anyone’s sufferings?

But it’s not finished yet.  So, for the sake of Christ and for the sake of those yet to know Him, Paul suffered.  He submitted under the hand of God, to be hurt by sinful men, that someone might come to know God by the power of God shining through a suffering soldier.  “For which cause I also suffer these things:  nevertheless I am not ashamed:  for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.”  What had Paul committed to Jesus?  What had Paul committed to God?  Everything.  All of Himself.  All of his hopes and dreams.  Everything he called religion.  All of his belief.  All of his trust.  All of his body.  All of his pride.  All of his shame.  His whole purpose.  His whole life.  His whole death.  His friends.  His enemies.  His circumstances.

Fate does not rule.  Chaos does not rule.  Circumstance and evil men do not rule.  There is One who is sovereign in the midst of all of this.  He is guiding it all to His purposes.  Will I trust Him?  Will I trust Him when it hurts?  Will I trust Him when I don’t understand?  Will I trust Him when the pain seems unbearable?  Because God is working in me.  He has not forsaken me.  He is busy molding me to be like His Son, like the suffering servant.  Yes, all this affliction and trouble in my life has purpose.  It’s not without meaning.  God is shaping me to be more like Him, will I submit to His shaping.  Will I start looking to Him and stop looking at the oppression.  Because if I start looking at You instead, Lord, I can start seeing and hearing what You want me to learn.  And I can walk like Joseph saying, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good.”  I want to keep my eyes, and heart, and mind, and life on what You mean, Lord.  Keep me focused on You so I can walk like You in the midst of affliction and lead others to You in the midst of their affliction.

Living Up to Expectations

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“My soul, wait only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.  He only is my rock and my salvation: He is my defence; I shall not be moved.”  Psalm 62:5,6

Yesterday, I was fed by God’s Word at a Bible study.  It was on patience.  I think I’m a pretty patient person.  But upon listening, I’m seeing that I’m not really up to God’s patience with some people in my life right now, I mean, if I’m really honest about it.  Here I have this Savior, You Jesus, who has always been longsuffering.  I mean, it’s not only the Israelites who were hard-headed and stubborn.  Sometimes I’m right there with them and just as blind to it as some of them were.  And I need You to open my eyes and take the scales off just as much as Saul did before He came to know You.  The sad thing is, that I already know You.  So how can I get so blind to certain things in me in the midst of knowing You?

Maybe part of it has to do with expectations.  And I think I’m beginning to see or maybe re-see that there is sometimes a really big difference between my expectations and Your expectations.  The Hebrew word for expectations (King James Version) also translated as hope in the English Standard Version is “tiqvah.”  Literally, it is a cord.  It’s an expectation, hope, or thing I long for.  But this “cord,” what is it binding me to?  Is it a cord that binds me to You or is it just some cord I’ve created that just binds.  I mean, have a created my own cord and am I binding myself and others by this cord?  Because Your cord binds us to You and each other, yet at the same time sets us all free.  The cords of my creation just bind, and bind tighter, and control and have nothing to do with freeing anyone.

My soul, wait only upon God.  Let You be my every thought.  I ought to have no thought that’s not Yours first.  I might as well be dumb, be silent, be without action if it’s not from You.  Is my expectation for myself and for others from You and You alone?  Or have I fashioned my own expectations?

Here’s the problem for me.  I read Your Word.  I see what Your desire is for each of us in whatever area of life.  Whether it’s Your expectations for husbands or wives or children or friends or believers or enemies or workers or soldiers, I read that and I see that and I agree with You.  I see those expectations and I apply them to myself.  But I also apply those expectations to others.  And then I start to think, well, “You are not living up to God’s expectations for you.”  Guess what?  Then I want to move them toward those expectations.  I just learned something.  That’s not my job.  Those are not my expectations.  They are Your expectations for each of us.  You are in control of bringing Your expectations to pass in each of us.  I can’t guide anyone to live up to Your expectations because I don’t really know what they need to get there.  But You do because You know each one of our hearts.  You know when You designed each one of us to understand, to submit.

In order for me or anyone to live up to Your expectations, we each need to see our need to come to You alone as our rock, to You alone as our salvation, to You alone as our defence.  My focus must be on allowing You to enable me to live up to Your expectations.  I need to take my eyes off of my expectations for others, no matter how good my intentions, because I’m not God and it’s sin for me to play God.  I don’t know other people’s hearts.  I don’t know their deepest needs that need to be met.  I don’t know what is really going on inside between You and them.  Who am I to think I know what they need?

Who am I except someone who is learning to live in Your expectations?  I’m right there with them.  Maybe I’m further along and maybe I’m not.  But maybe it’s time I offered grace and love instead of holding people to expectations.  Funny thing is that I’m in the midst of a broken relationship right now because someone else has set expectations on me and I have disappointed them.  And there is no way for me to be able to live up to their expectations.  But isn’t that what I’m turning around and doing to someone else?  How can I be so easily blinded?

Proverbs 10:28 warns, “The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish.”  Why?  Because one expectation is left in the Lord’s hands, in Your hands, and the other is controlled by human hands.  Proverbs 11:23 says, “The desire of the righteous is only good: but the expectation of the wicked is wrath.”  The longing, the thing that satisfies the righteous person is the thing that is good in Your eyes, is You.  But the expectation of the wicked is all wrapped up in his own passions.  It’s not about Your passion, Lord, it’s all about my own.  My expectations want Your will in other people’s lives so that it’s good for me, not just them.  But Your expectations are all about Your will and the good of others that is only found in You and in the middle of Your will.

Well, I needed that council.  But I need to not just hear it and think about it.  I need to take it to heart and obey it.  See, “God has spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongs unto God.  Also unto You, O Lord, belongs mercy: for You render to every man according to his work.”  Psalm 62:11,12  Dear Lord, don’t let me be like the unmerciful servant.  The same mercy and longsuffering You have shown me, let me demonstrate to others.  Keep my eyes on You so that I can remove my expectations on others and just expect You to be You in every circumstance and in every life.  Don’t let me bind myself or others with cords I have fashioned myself.  Let me live in Your freedom and let me rejoice to allow others to live in Your freedom.  Forgive me for the bonds I have been holding others in.  Set us both free.  I am so grateful that the power belongs to You and not me.  Because I prove time and time again I make a rotten god.  Keep me from trying to do Your work and teach me to understand the work You call me to and Your expectations for me.

Don’t let me ever forget that You know the thoughts that You think toward me.  That they are thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give me an expected end. (Jeremiah 29:11)  See, You not only have already lined up my expectations in You, but my friend’s, my husband’s, my daughter’s, my neighbor’s, and my enemy’s.  You’re the One that has it all in line.  Your the One that has it all fixed, who knows what You are doing about it and what needs to be done.  You are the one in control, not me.  So, turn away our captivity, Lord, that we have created by living up to our expectations and wanting others to live up to them.  You, bring us to You.  Turn us to You and You alone.  Let me free others so that they can find You because I would hate to be the one who held them back by my expectations.

Carry Me In Your Delight

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“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”  (John 21:18)

These are Your words, Jesus, to Peter here.  And John tells me that these words were to show Peter what kind of death he would receive to glorify You.  But the fact that it’s followed by Your telling Peter these words, “Follow Me,” makes me think that it doesn’t just tell about Peter’s future death.  It tells me that this is also a story about Peter’s current and continual death.  And therefore, it’s an opportunity for me to learn about the benefit of my death also.

Now this isn’t supposed to be creepy with all this talk about death and talk about my death.  I’m not talking about my martyrdom here like You were talking about Peter’s future martyrdom.  But Peter’s future martyrdom didn’t start in the future.  Peter’s future martyrdom was not an unrelated future event to the things starting to take place.  And this is important stuff for Peter to grasp just as it is important for me to grasp.  Any time You repeat “truly, truly” You are saying, “Pay attention here.  This is important.”

You start with Peter at the beginning.  You start with Peter at the beginning of himself.  And where was he at the beginning of himself?  When he was young, he used to dress himself and walk wherever he wanted to.  When he was young, he was in charge of himself.  He did what he wanted to.  He made his own decisions.  He put on what he wanted to put on.  He conducted himself in his life the way he desired to conduct himself.  And isn’t that true for me, for each of us?

When I was young, before I knew the Lord, I made my own decisions based on what I felt was right.  I went my own way.  I felt what I wanted to feel.  I acted the way I wanted to act.  I did what I wanted to do.  I conducted my life based on my feelings, my hopes, my dreams, my idea of what was right or what was wrong.  I didn’t realize it, but my life was all about me.  It was all in my hands and up to me.  Or so I thought.  And it was the same for Peter.

That’s because there was a time when I “girded” myself, when I dressed myself, when I “zonnumi”ed myself.  I was a prisoner all tied up in my own affairs.  But that time doesn’t have to remain for all of us.  There can come a day when I’m a different kind of young.  What if my youth is changed by regeneration?  See, that word for young, “neos,” can mean new, or youthful, or fresh, or regenerate.  And what if my life comes to that point where I am regenerated in You?  What if it comes to the point where I see that girding myself is not sufficient?  What if I turn to trust and faith in You, Jesus, and allow You to gird me?  What if, instead of dressing myself, instead of tying my hands in the way I want them tied, and tying them to the things I want them tied to, I allow myself to be under Your control?  What then?

Does it happen all at once?  When I surrender to Your control over my hands and feet and mouth and spirit and soul and body and mind, am I all there at once?  Even in my regeneration, aren’t I learning to allow myself to be girded by You?  Aren’t I still learning in my youth as a child of God what it is to fully surrender into Your hands?   And even though it’s the best and safest place to be, isn’t it the scariest place for me to be at the same time?  Is it not hard to give up my control?  Is it not going to be accompanied with some struggle and some battles as I surrender?

So Peter must learn and I must learn.  And there is no one who escapes the learning.  We must undergo a change of total character.  Peter once conducted his life in the ways he had determined.  Now he must conduct his life in the way You would determine.  He once determined his conduct based on his subjective impulses.  Now he conducted his life based on Your desires for him.  See, once Peter walked where he delighted to walk, where it brought him pleasure.  But not so now in the same sense.

Now, as Peter would mature, his walk would change.  And one day would come when he would willingly stretch forth his hands and allow someone else to physically bind them for torture.  He would choose to submit.  Actually, in his submitting, according to historical accounts, he offered more than just his hands.  He offered to be crucified upside down so as not to be equal to the Lord he had once denied.  He did not fight.  He surrendered.  Because in surrendering to these men, he knew he was surrendering to God.  And this didn’t happen all at once.  Because he chose to walk the path that led to this “end.”  He chose the path that led him where he “would not,”  the path that was not his delight, that was not “thelo.”

“Thela” has to do with expressing “definite action, completed execution, divine desire and absolute readiness. It does not express wishful hope, cognitive acknowledgment or good intentions…If you are willing to do the thelema of God, you do it! You don’t analyze it, think about it, contemplate it or imagine it. You do what He says. It’s not actually a matter of willing to do it. It is in fact doing it. To thele to thelema is to execute and perform.”  (Skip Moen)  Now think of that.  At one point we are wanting to do our own way because we want to feel good.  But doing Your way, God, isn’t about feeling good.  It doesn’t even make sense in human nature terms!  I mean think about it.  I might have to die for my faith!  I might have to forgive someone who was responsible for murdering a loved one or who did terrible things to me!  I might have to give up all my rights!  And what else?  Wow, this is hard!  This is following You.  This is following You?

So this is the promise You give to Peter here?  This is his encouragement to follow You?  And Peter didn’t turn away?  Others turned away at less than that and said, “This is too much for us.”  Why not Peter?

Peter knew.  He understood.  He didn’t get it all yet.  Who does?  But he already knew that there was no one else he could turn to.  Jesus was Eternal Life.  This was the One.  And if the One paid such a price for him, how could he expect anything less from his own life?

It’s not at all about what Peter delights to do or what he delights in. It’s not about what I delight to do or what I delight in.  It’s only about Who Peter delights in.  It’s only about Who I delight in.  And that will compel me to withstand every trial, every hardship, every heartache.  Why?  Because Jesus, You alone are our Joy and our Delight.

And actually, when I line my vision up with Yours, that makes so much sense.  Why?  Because it means I’m finding delight in the One Who purposefully found delight in me.  When I stop to contemplate that it’s actually baffling.  I mean, when I think of all You left, all You stepped down from, all You actually suffered for me for the “joy that was set before” (Hebrews 12:2)  You, I just can’t fathom it.  You went to the depths of suffering the wrath of God for me.  How did I ever become worth that to You?  There is nothing, absolutely nothing I have ever done in my whole life or that I will ever do that could ever warrant You owing me that or anything else.  Why would You choose to do that?  Why would You choose to walk that totally undelightful (to say the least!) way for me?  Why would You stretch out Your hands and let others bind You and carry You where You had no delight in going?  Yes, You did that for me.  You did that for Peter.  And when I really understand that, and when I understand the depth of Your delight for me, that You would do that for me, then that does something about the depth of my delight in You.  And frankly, there is nobody on earth that has ever loved me and delighted in me as deeply as You have.  Who else has demonstrated this intensity of love for us?

Peter followed because he knew that it was more than following teachings.  Peter followed You, Jesus, because Your love drew him after You.  Your love strengthened and encouraged him.  Peter knew that following You wasn’t easy and it comes with a price, maybe many prices and steep prices.  But he also knew that the delight in being delighted in by God is worth the most extreme price.  I think Peter would have sold every last pearl he had just to follow You.  Yes, he gave up his earthly treasures to purchase Your delight.  And I’m not talking about him wanting to make You happy here.  That would be trivial.  I’m talking about experiencing the delight of living in the delight of the Lord, in the middle of Your way and Your will.  I’m talking of walking with You, of standing with You.  I’m talking about being so wrapped up in participating in the things that delight You that it fully delights You.  I’m talking about revelling in the joy of a God who revels in the joy of us being His.  And I’m talking about revelling in it so much that I would pay any price with my life to stay right there in the middle of that joy of Your presence.

You are still telling me the road ahead is rough.  There will be pain and suffering.  It will be hard.  And You are still saying, “Follow Me.”  If You are truly my delight, then I will have to follow You no matter what.  To not follow You would be to lose my Delight, to lose my Joy.  And because You suffered greatly for me because I was Your joy, well, let me be so strong in You that I would be able to withstand every trial not because I’m strong, or anything special, but because I can look beyond them all and wait for and look forward to my final joy being fulfilled in You.  May Your love for me, compel me toward the same love for You.  May Your joy over me, and for me, and in me, fill me with the same joy over You, in You, and for You.  I dont’ have to enjoy what’s happening in my life.  But I can always delight in You.

Delighting in You (Vindication Part 6)

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“He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters.”  Psalm 18:16

Here we are, Lord, looking at vindication again.  And today we’re going to talk about how You bring vindication to a person with clean hands.  And I was first sent, by my outline from the Bible study, to Psalm 18:20, “The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He rewarded me.”  Do you know what my first question was?  Well, You know, Lord, because You know everything, into the deepest part of me even better than I.  How can anyone be righteous and clean by Your standards, I mean continually righteous and clean?

So I decided I ought to read all of what David was saying here, especially since it’s inspired by You.  And I came to verse 16.  I thought, “Look at that, that’s vindication happening.”  But I also had to ask, “What are many waters?  Is that supposed to be like being saved from drowning?  Is it important for what I’m learning today?”  I mean “many waters” can mean many waters, like oceans or streams.  But then it’s also used to give me this idea of the sound of You, Lord.  It’s used of Your voice three times in Revelation.  “And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps…” (Revelation 14:2)  “And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and His voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with His glory.” (Ezekiel 43:2)

Many waters.  I was just reading some thoughts on multiple dimensions and God and sound.  And the way God thinks and the way we think and how we are able to listen or not listen and how You, Lord, are able to know our hearts and just appear where there are closed doors.  And it all pertains.  Because what if sometimes, the many waters, is all about all the things that You control all at once.  What if it’s what You sound like because as You talk You are doing and being and encompassing and inhabiting and upholding and rescuing and rejoicing and more?  What if You are the Ultimate Multi-Tasker and it’s the most beautiful and thunderous noise?  What if it’s like the sound of all the waters of the earth in the greatest storm ever being controlled and molded by a Being Who is taking care of everything?

That really matters to me.  It makes the grandest difference in my life today. Because there are so many things going on in my life right now.  And I don’t have that control.  I hear this sound and that sound and the other sound, and on my own, I can’t bring them together into one cohesive body.  But You can.  You can decipher and control.  You can shape and mold.  You overwhelm and nothing overwhelms You.

Within the church, without of the church, I hear many voices, and sometimes it sounds like rushing waves that want to crash over me.  But this morning, I know those aren’t the voices that count.  This morning I know that there is One who puts all the many waters in my life, and every life, and in the universe and beyond, under and into His perspective and His control and His order.  So when it seems like I’m being drowned in the midst of many waters, I just look up, and I see the One, You Lord, whose voice alone is mightier than the many waters surrounding me.  I listen above the tumult around me, and I hear Your voice raising strong above the tumult, and as I listen I hear the multitudes in Your voice, and I remember that I am one of them.  And I hear the thunderings from You and I am not afraid because You are for me.  And I remember to sing with You, “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigns!”

So with that as my starting point, and I think that’s a Solid Rock starting point, David is helping me see how I can be a person with clean hands.  I want to walk through Psalm 18 again.  My cleanness of hands and heart start with starting with You.   I must love You, rely on You as my strength, let You be my rock and fortress and deliverer.  I must trust in You alone.  You must be my salvation and the one I run to not only for protection but to see what lies ahead and what dangers are approaching.  It’s all about me being all about You.  So it’s all about You.  It’s all about whatever happens, that You are surety, that I run to You for my answers, my peace, my safety, my satisfaction, my being.  If this is my focus, if YOU are my focus, if my focus remains in YOU, if I am Yours and You are mine and I am living in that reality, and I mean living in that reality, then You WILL take care of me as You have promised.

And vindication will come as You deliver me from my enemies and those who hate me and those who were stronger than me.  You will be my support.  You will bring me out into a solid place of safety and rescue me.  I think that broad place of safety is You.  What better place could I be than in You?  Why?  Is it because I deserve it?  Is it because I did wonderful things for You?  No, it’s because You delighted in me because I was delighting in You and living in that delight.

You deal with me according to the way I deal with You and Your ways.  Am I living in You and Your ways?  Am I delighting in You?  Because Psalm 18:20 tells me that You deal with me according to how I deal with You.  Am I continually allowing You the opportunity to continually keep my hands and heart clean?  If I am, then You will reward me with more of You.  That’s the greatest reward I can receive from You.  Am I keeping Your ways or am I following the voices of foreign waters?  Who’s voice am I listening to and following?

It’s 100% about what I am letting You do in me.  But first it’s 100% about what I am doing with You.  Am I delighting in Your mercy?  Then You’ll delight in placing Your mercy in me.  Am I delighting in Your blamelessness?  Then You’ll delight in placing Your blamelessness in me.  Am I delighting in Your purity?  Then You will place Your purity in me.  Am I delighting in Your humbleness?  Then You will place Your humbleness in me.

David is telling me time and time again that it’s all about You and what I’m doing with You and what I’m allowing You to do in me.  You save.  You bring down.  You light my way.  You give me strength to run and leap.  You are my refuge.  Your words equip me fully for battle, and successful battle at that.  You make my way blameless.  You secure me.  You give me skill.  You empower me.  You allow me to overcome my enemies.  You deliver me from strife.  You raise my head.  You subdue my enemies under me.  Sometimes You give vengeance for me.  Why?  Because You live and You are blessed and You are exalted above it all, and if that’s how I’m living my life, then You’ll look to everyone like the God You are because that’s who I’ll be showing them and that’s who You’ll be showing Yourself to be in me.  You vindicate me, You vindicate Your children, who keep their hands clean in You, because You love them steadfastly, so much that You actually delight in us and in this work that You alone are doing in us.

So what does it look like in real life to act this out?  Well, since David is describing it poetically here, let’s look back out how he enacted it in his every day life.  I’m going to jump to 1 Samuel 24.  Here we have David running from Saul and he’s hiding with his small band of man in a cave in the Wildgoat’s Rocks.  Saul, steps inside this very cave to relieve himself.  David’s men think it’s Scripture being answered, that he should kill Saul right then.   But David sneaks up and cuts a piece of his robe.  And even just cutting a piece of his robe, cuts David’s heart.  And even though God’s word had said, “Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you,”  David’s heart was struck because he also remembered Your word that forbids one from putting their hand against Your anointed ones.  How is that for a sensitive heart to You and Your ways?

Then what does he do?  After Saul left, David went out and declared what he had done and asked why Saul was pursuing him when he had only done right by Saul.  He put before Saul the reason he had not killed him, because of obeying Your words, Lord.  He was respectful to this man pursuing his life because this man was still Your anointed one, even though he wasn’t acting like it.  He put judment in Your hands, Lord.  “The Lord judge between me and you, and the Lord avenge me of You: but my hand will not be upon you.”  So who was in control?  David was letting You be, no matter what.  There were many waters trying to wash over him, trying to persuade him otherwise, but he didn’t listen to them.  He listened to Your voice and let that come together over the tumult around him.

He called out to You to look at the actions and the heart of both men.  He called out to You to judge between the two.  He called to You to plead his cause, to deliver him.  And momentarily, David’s decisions had an effect on Saul.  He repented.  He realized his actions were evil and David’s were righteous.  Why?  Because David didn’t respond as he was; David responded with kindness to Saul’s evil actions.  That’s a work of God.  Saul knew he wouldn’t have made that decision.  Well, Saul made David promise to not kill his descendants (as was the custom of conquering kings).  I don’t think that Saul would have made that promise to David.  But isn’t it something how Saul knew that when David rose to power through God’s hand, he could depend on this righteous man who delighted in God and His ways to keep his word?  So even the unrighteous know a righteous man when they see one.  And when God’s full vindication came, and he was avenged, David kept his promise.  And that vengeance that came, well, it wasn’t a sweet thing for David.  The deliverance was, but there was sorrow for those he loved, even the one who had turned against him.

Lord, don’t let me forget what You are teaching me today.  Don’t let me forget anything You’ve taught me ever.  Just let it build up, stone upon stone, delight upon delight, faith upon faith.  Let me so delight in Your Word and bring it back to my mind that I have whatever I need at every right moment.  Instill Yourself in me.  And let me instill myself in You.  I owe You everything, absolutely everything.  I can’t have clean hands or a clean heart without You.  I want to hear Your voice continually.  I want to be caught up in the sound of Your voice, like many waters, like so many mighty waters that all other waters are put to shame, that I know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that You are in control over everything, and I mean absolutely everything in my life and in every life.

Second Peter 2:19 tells me, “For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.”  Well, I want Your voice and Your ways to overcome me.  I want to give into you.  I want to be willingly conquered by You.  Because being Your slave is a beautiful privilege, full of glorious benefits.  Because being Your slave entitles me to the benefits of being Your child.  Why?  Because that’s what You decided, that’s what Your word promises.  It’s worth giving up all my rights, just to have You be in control.  I want to have to do Your will because I want it to be so delightful to me that to do anything else would be utter dissatisfaction.  And I want You to delight so in me that You just have to take care of everything because it’s Who You Are.