Strength in Your Touch

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“And, behold, a hand touched me, which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands.” Daniel 10:10

 
When I first learned of Jesus as a child of five years old, the thing that attracted me to Him most was the fact that He reached out and touched, that He let the little children come unto Him. And here we have Daniel, who was fasting and praying and pouring his sorrowful heart out before the Lord, not only for himself but for his nation, his people. For three full weeks he ate nothing but plain, basic food (probably just what would sustain him to have energy to be faithful to his responsibilities), he drank no wine, and did not anoint himself with oil which I suppose would be like using aftershave for a pleasant odor. Something was on his heart and he was lifting it up to You Lord, and looking for and expecting an answer.

 
Well, because You are a God who reaches out and touches us, Daniel looked up one day and there he saw a man unlike any other. But the people around him didn’t see this vision. Instead, they trembled and in fear, fled and hid themselves leaving Daniel to himself and this man unlike any other. Daniel was not unaffected by the sight and presence before him. He lost all strength. All his goodness or loveliness of body and character was destroyed and void in the presence of this man. He was nothing but a spineless jellyfish in comparison. And at the sound of his voice, he was cast into a deep sleep prostrate, face down on the ground. Now imagine that the word for that deep sleep can also imply death. This is serious fear here. This is serious power.

 
Yet, here is this “man” who is not a man of earth, with such a foreboding presence and what does he do to Daniel? He reaches out his hand and touches Daniel, setting him up on his knees and on the palms of his hands. In other words, he begins to help him up. And as he is helping him up in his presence, he begins to speak words of encouragement to him. “Daniel, you are greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto you, and stand upright: for unto you am I sent.” And Daniel stood, still trembling.

 
There was something about this “man” that continued to be more than Daniel could handle so he continued his encouragement, “Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to chasten yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I am come for your words.” Do you know why it took three weeks, the length of time Daniel had been seeking God’s wisdom? The man visitor had been hindered fighting spiritual battles with Michael, the archangel, against the spiritual forces of the kings of Persia. Daniel’s prayers were a part of fighting that battle.

 
So this angelic man prepares to tell Daniel about what shall befall his people in the latter days and again Daniel’s face is to the ground and he became speechless. Come on now, this is a fearful thing. This isn’t the normal stuff of men here. And another being comes, like the “sons of men” and touches Daniel’s lips and opens his mouth so he can speak. Yet, even so, Daniel announced he was to weak to breath, and he was strengthless. So now one like the appearance of a man came and touched him and strengthened him and again encouraged him, “O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto you, be strong, yes, be strong.” And he was able to be strong and speak in his presence.

 
“Do you know why I am coming unto you?” he asked Daniel. And I’m wondering if it’s more of a statement like, “You know why I’ve come to you.” And now this “other” is going to continue the spiritual warfare that has been going on, that spiritual battle that Daniel has been praying over and seeking God. the battle of spiritual forces vying for control over Persia and those to effect Greece. But the truth of scripture concerning it all, the spiritual realms and the effects on men will be made clear to Daniel. Why? Because there were very few, almost none, holding faithfully and clinging to this fight but Michael, Israel’s prince. And I can’t help but think that Daniel was included.

 
Can you imagine a spiritual battle over extreme evil forces being fought by only three? And imagine that one of those fighting that extreme battle and not even realizing it, was a mere man? And God loved him dearly for it! I don’t know if this man angel was Christ or not, but he sure touched like Jesus does and he sure imparted strength and power like Jesus does, and he sure encouraged like Jesus does. But I love to think about why he came and touched Daniel and why Daniel was so beloved by God and the angels.

 
Here is this man, this man set above most other men, and yet all he wanted to do was know and understand and walk in the ways of His heavenly Father and Master and Lord and King. His eyes, no matter what was going on around him, were not distracted by wealth or disaster or love or anything. His eyes were so firmly seeking after You, Lord. He was completely Yours; You were his everything. And You always reach out and touch those who seek You.

 
And even if there is only one in all the world, “the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chronicles 16:9) Now, it’s not hard for God to search the whole world over. He can do it in a blink of an eye. He’s not just searching the world for good people doing good things. He’s not even searching for that at all. That’s not impressive to Him. That’s why Daniel fell in fear and the others ran. Goodness doesn’t cut the cake compared to God’s goodness. He’s looking for those “committed to His purposes” so He can make them strong in a world that is not committed.

 
When this “angelic man being” tells Daniel that none holds with him, it’s this Hebrew word chazaq. It’s about holding fast and standing with strength. It’s about God loaning us His power like when Daniel was afraid and enabling him to get up and speak. But He only does this when we are in line with His purposes and not ours. Because Daniel’s heart was in line with God’s heart, God laid on his heart those things to pray for and God gave him power to prevail even in the spiritual realm over the nations.

 
This is the kind of heart attitude and life attitude that God reaches out and touches. This is good news because we can turn our hearts to God like that. It’s not making the right choice in life or doing the right thing that brings power and fulfillment. It’s the One we choose to line our life and being up with. Success is about our goals being in line with God’s purposes. Why? Because success isn’t about what we attain. It never was. Success is all about being touched by God, having a relationship restored with Him, being His wholly and unabashedly, being the image of Him in this world that we were created to be, and delighting in Him every moment of every day. Wow! Our goals have gotten so messed up, haven’t they?

 
We’ve gone from relationship with a God who wants to joy in our presence and us in His, to a people who run after “domination, expansion, protection, success, and fame.” We settle for momentary pleasure instead of eternal pleasure. We even fight battles for it. And then someone comes along and tells us the “bad” news that this isn’t the way. There’s not just a better way; it’s the Only Way. But will we align our lives with God’s way? Do we even care to feel His touch? Do we want to know His power and His strength? Do we really want to see what He sees and fight for what He fights for?

 
I’ll never feel Your loving touch like Daniel did, or the woman with the bleeding issue, or the children at Your knee, or John as he leaned his head upon You until and unless I align my will and ways with Yours. Do I want to be on my own?  Do I want everything I do to be numbered?  Do I want to fall and my plans to fall with me? Am I completely mine or will I be completely Yours?  Only one leads to You and to Your fellowship and Your touch and Your strength. Is my heart completely Yours?

 
Let the world turn its back to me. I want You to touch me and raise me up and give me strength that I might hold with You always. It’s funny, the religious leaders of Your day, Jesus, on earth wouldn’t touch other people’s burdens, but here You are, bearing our burdens with us. You touched Naman and other lepers no one would touch. You touched sick people whose family’s sought You for their healing. You touched the blind so they could see. And let’s not forget the crippled. Well, I’m like them all. I’m sick of spirit without Your touch. I’m blind and crippled without You. I’m an unholy cast off unless You do something inside of me. I’m just as desperate as Daniel for You, Lord, and I need Your touch just as much to raise me up and make me who I need to be in You. I want to be wholly Yours, Lord. Help my weakness so that You turn it into strength in You.

His Valiant Ones

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“And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, ‘The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor.”  Judges 6:12

It really amazes me, Lord, that You would say this to any one.  I mean, really?  But here’s the marvellous thing- You, the God of the Universe, our Creator, the God of Angel Armies, who sees and knows everything, God who is so far above us, cares to encourage us and lift us up to Yourself.  That is just mind boggling.  There is no other god like You.  What other god thinks of His own subjects, His own creations that way?

I’m not really sure what got me thinking about this.  Maybe because Gideon can represent each of us and how You feel toward us.  See, You already know Your plan and purpose for us.  You know better than me what I am capable of because You created me for a purpose for You.  So You look at me and see the hero, the valiant one You have placed inside that is just waiting to shine forth in You.  I look at me and I see weakness.  You look at me and see Your handiwork and all that comes from Your hands is valiant.

I went back and read all of Judges 6 with my family last night.  And we talked through it and watched Gideon’s progression of faith.  I’m not so sure that Gideon was a  “scaredy cat” hiding in the winepress while threshing his wheat.  That may have been the only wise thing to do under the circumstances.  I mean when you have this horde of enemies that sweeps in like locusts and takes whatever they see, it’s best not to let them see what you have.  Of course this swarm of locusts was plaguing the Israelites because they where being disobedient to You, Lord.  They had lost their way and their focus.

Sometimes You send really tough things back into our life so we realize how desperately we really need You.  Well, these invading Midianites and Amalekites were having the desired effect.  The Israelites were beginning to cry out to You.  But I’m not so sure the full effect was reached yet.  Verse 7 says “Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites…”  You heard and You sent a prophet to keep the effect coming.  You reminded them of Your deliverance from the captivity of Egypt and how they were to continue to obey Your voice.  But they weren’t.  You didn’t just want them to cry out for deliverance from their rough times; You wanted them to cry out to return to their fellowship with You and the rest would fall into place.  It’s the same for us today.

Then You come to Gideon at the wine vat.  Gideon, from the smallest, weakest tribe and maybe he was even the youngest or weakest in his family.  And You look at him and call him, “mighty man of valour.”  And that really throws Gideon for a loop.  Because he knows that he is weak and little and of no effect compared to everything around him.  And he’s wondering how the Lord could be with them if all these terrible things are happening.  Where is their deliverance like in Egypt?  God’s forgotten.  That sounds like a man without strength, without valour, without hope.

But You, Lord, don’t give up on him and You don’t let him go on thinking that way.  Because he’s thinking about things through his perspective and not Yours.  Because he’s just looking at himself and not You.  And I love what You say next.  “And the LORD looked upon him, and said, ‘Go in this your might, and you shalll save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?'”  Were You really telling him to go in his own strength?  I’m pretty definite You were not.  “This your might” was not Gideon’s own might.  Gideon’s might was in the might and strength and power and valiancy that You were calling him and sending him and equipping him.  Now that’s the lesson we all need to learn.  That’s when faith starts, when we start understanding that and acting upon that.  When we start looking at You and Your ability instead of us and our ability, then we start learning to walk and battle in faith and power.

Gideon doesn’t get it yet.  “I’m so weak and little, God.  How can I do this?”  Boy are You longsuffering with us!  Thank you!  “Surely I will be with you, and you shall smite the Midianites as one man.”  Think about that, with God with him, he will be able to kill the masses of the Midianites as though they were just one person.  At least that’s the image I get.  That’s the power of catching God’s vision and following Him in faith and taking our eyes off of ourselves.  So what does Gideon do with this?

He wants to make sure this is really God and he asks God to show that.  I suppose he wanted to make sure he wasn’t just taking this advice from some other person.  Well, You show Him that You are God.  He knows it’s You.  And finally he “perceived” that it was You and that He had seen You face to face and lived.  And that, I believe, terrified him.  But You reassured him.  And that was all it took.  Gideon understood that it was Your valiancy that would strengthen and enable him and now he stepped forward in faith.

It wasn’t immediate, right out in the open, daytime bravery.    With your first command to him, he was still afraid of the people so he snuck and obeyed during the night.  But the point is, he took a risk, and obeyed You despite the fear and the risk.  That’s faith.  And when He did, You showed Yourself faithful.  He was protected and delivered from death from his people.  And He knew even more deeply that He could trust You to perform Your promises in Him.  He even got a new name because of it and a reputation.

And his faith increased.  And when Your Spirit moved him next, he again wanted to make sure his plan was from you and not just his leading, and so he did the “fleece test.”  This time when I read the story, I don’t see it as a test of you because of doubt, I see it as wanting Your confirmation that this was Your desire and that this was Your design.  Now that’s a man of faith, a man who is starting to think the way that You will act, before You even tell him, and that is willing to confirm that with You before acting, but ready to act upon the moment of confirmation.  That’s that assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  He really is a valiant man after all in You.  And You knew it all along.

But this isn’t just a story for men.  I just saw that  You, Lord, see us women in You the same way.  Look at Proverbs 31.  There we read about the “woman of valor,” the woman of courage and strength.  And where does she get that from?  The same place Gideon got it from.

I used to be afraid to speak in front of adults.  I was afraid as a teenager and afraid as an adult.  And I had other fears.  But every time I trusted You and obeyed You anyways, You chipped away at those fears until the joy of sharing You, the joy of loving You before others outweighs any fear and now, I’m looking for opportunities to speak before others, and even though I can’t sing well, to sing songs about You before others that will encourage them and make them think about You.  My legs used to shake because I was afraid.  But now, when I sit back, there’s this different kind of shaking, that’s like excitement coursing through my body.  Nobody else knows, but I feel the excitement.  I feel the joy.  I feel the pleasure of obedience in faith and the presence and strength and confidence in the Lord that comes with it.

Gideon and I and that women in Proverbs 31, well we’re nobody special on our own.  We might as well be John and Jane Doe.  What makes us special is what You do in us, Lord.  Because You created us to shine with You and You are more than special.  It overwhelms me every time I stop to think about how You take the time to place the treasure of You in me and each of Your precious human treasures who are receptive to You in obedience.  You don’t have to.  You don’t owe it to us because we’re the ones who owe You everything.  But You delight in doing this.  And all I can say is, God, there is none as good as You.  I love You, Lord.  Keep making me more like You every day.  May I be willing to take any risk You lay before me because I know that You are faithful and You alone are able.

Child of Encouragement

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“Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.”  Acts 4:32

Now, Lord, I’m not trying to promote my own thoughts here.  I’m trying to look into Your Word and search for Your truth.  I want to see how real people demonstrated their belief in You.  I want to see how real people were changed by their belief in You.  I want to know what belief really looks like in person.  I want to know what You commend as belief.  And it seems like it’s a lot about me.  But that’s how I have to look at it.  Because until I get what You are trying to show me and until I get it Your way, I’m lost.  And if I only get it a little bit, well, then I’m mostly misguided.  And the last thing I want to do is misguide others.  So, I have to get it.  We each do.  On our own.  I have to get it and You have to give it to me.  It’s how You make Yourself known so that it is all about You and not about me.  But I have to get there somehow.  And You are that somehow.

So what led up to these believers all being of one heart and soul and sharing all their things?  I need to do a little review.  This isn’t long after You, Jesus, were crucified and raised from the dead.  The disciples and apostles were still in Jerusalem.  But now they were changed men.  No one was running and hiding and afraid.  What happened?

Here were Peter and John, sharing from Old Testament Scripture and showing how it spoke of what had happened with and to You, Jesus.  Now they were speaking in the authority of the Holy Spirit.  They were speaking with a new boldness and a new power they did not have before.  Their witness was so powerful, I mean, what they were saying through Your word and what they shared about what You had done on the cross, was so powerful that 5000 men came to believe in You.  And what of their families?  And the religious leaders like Caiaphas, the same guy who said it was “expedient that one should die,” take Peter and John and put them in jail. 

What started the uproar?  What started shaking things up?  Peter and John noticed this beggar outside the Temple gate Beautiful.  Zechariah 9:17 says of You, Lord, “For how great is His goodness, and how great is His beauty!”  Isaiah 33:17, I can’t help but think it is referring to the Lord, “Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty…”  “In that day shall the LORD of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of His people, and for a spirit of judgment to him that sits in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate.”  Isaiah 28:5-6

And here is this crippled man, waiting every day outside the Beautiful gate.  I wonder if every day he hoped that the Lord would intervene on his behalf?  I wonder if Peter and John would have given him much thought before they were changed by the power of the resurrection and of the Holy Spirit.  Oh, wait, I know the answer.  They saw a blind man once and wanted to know whose sin caused it.  They weren’t even thinking about his need to be healed.  But now, something has changed.  They see him there, and they feel about him the same way the Beautiful One feels about him.  And they give him the only thing they have of value to give.

I love the fact that Peter and John said they didn’t have any money but they would give what they had.  I can identify with that part of not having money to give most the time.  But I want to give so badly.  And maybe there is something more valuable than giving material things.  Maybe I can give something of eternal value, something of life changing value to others, just like Peter and John.  Well, Peter and John spoke healing in Jesus’ power, in His name, and the man was healed.  And it started such an avalanche of believers that the religious leaders arrested Peter and John.

Now let’s finish a whirl wind tour of the account.  Before the council, Peter testified as the Holy spirit filled him, that they healed this man by the name of Jesus Christ whom the council had crucified and whom God raised from the dead.  Boldly he declared, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  They recognized his boldness and that they had been with Jesus.  Everyone saw the healed man.  What could they say against Peter and Paul?  The evidence was so overwhelming.

So the council told them, “Speak no more to anyone in this name.”  Well, Paul and John’s answer was basically, “Think about that.  Would God say it’s right to listen to you more or to Him more?  We don’t have the power not to speak about what we’ve seen and heard.”  Then followed threats, their release, because due to the people, they couldn’t punish them.  All were glorifying God,  the evidence was right there.   When the company heard the testimony they “lifted their voice to God with one accord” in thanks and praise, seeing God’s sovereignty-  tying in to Scripture like Psalm 2:1,2 “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed…”  “For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”  They prayed for boldness to speak even in the midst of opposition while “He continued to stretch out His hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of His holy servant Jesus.”  The Holy Spirit shook the place, they were filled with the Spirit, and continued speaking the word of God with boldness. 

So here they were, all the believers with the apostles, surrounded by power, and great grace over them all, mega grace.  So I see that belief is boldness.  But it’s a boldness that comes from the filling of the Holy Spirit.  It’s boldness that comes from a personal knowledge of the Holy One and it is empowered by the Holy One.  I see that belief gives me an eye and a heart for those around me.  I have an attitude where my lack doesn’t matter because I don’t want others to lack.   I willingly and lovingly and joyously share all that is mine for the good of all my brothers and sisters.  I want to care for them as I want to care for my own body.  They have become my body. 

You know, today, I’ve heard a lot of my brothers and sisters in Christ say that this idea of selling everything and living this way isn’t for us.  They say this was for the believers then.  It’s irresponsible now.  Why?  What ever changed?  Did something change?  Who told these believers to lay ” all they had before the apostles feet to be shared with their brothers and sisters in Christ”?  Or did believing, I mean REALLY believing really change their hearts and their desires and their “want to’s”?  Interesting. 

You, know, Lord,  (and of course You do!), I don’t think I ever realized before who this particular believer was that’s mentioned today as following along and selling all his property.  It’s this believer named Joses.  He was a Levite.  That means he was one of those religious people, one of the Temple worship crowd.  But now he believed and he was totally changed.  As a matter of fact, You say he was so changed that he was given a new name, Barnabas.    His name means “son of consolation.”  And that’s pretty meaningful because it means  Son of encouragement.   Isn’t this the Barnabas who we read about accompanying Paul later?

His name comes from the word “paraklesis” and it has everything to do with exhorting, encouraging, and comforting.  And it has everything to do with coming up alongside another in order to do that.  But another tremendous truth is that the Holy Spirit is called a “paraklete.”  He is first the One who comes alongside us, well, actually as close as inside us.  And He exhorts, encourages, and comforts believers.  So, what if the response to sell all and equip all was not just Barnabas’ idea or the idea of the other believers who where acting this way?  What if their response to act like this was just the response of the Holy Spirit, the Paraklete, who now abided in them?  So how have You, Holy Spirit, changed my responses and shaped them to be like Yours?  Or have I let You?

I’ll be the first to say that everyone shouldn’t sell all their possessions.  But, if the Lord moves in Your heart to give it all for the sake of others, follow His lead.  Read on in Acts about Barnabas’ journey in the Lord from that point.  The Lord used him in His great adventure to draw others to Christ and to encourage even Paul.  See, there’s danger in taking other people’s steps of faith; it led another couple to their death.  I have to forsake and give out of the generosity and love of the Holy Spirit’s moving in me.  If I forsake or give for any other reason, other than this new generosity I’ve been given, it’s a lie.  And God will not allow Himself to be represented by a lie.  But love and generosity is at the heart of God.  God is love.  God loves a cheerful giver.  Why?  Because He gives to all men freely that which is of Himself.  There is no end to the treasure that is Him. 

I wonder if it’s just part of Your lovingkindness, chesed in Hebrew.   That part of You that just bestows all good things even to those who don’t deserve it?  And what if this is just an evidence of Your lovingkindness flowing through me, or what amount of it is flowing through me?  Maybe those who realize how greatly they have been forgiven, can realize the greatness of Your lovingkindness.  And I don’t just mean realize it intellectually.  I mean realize it by actually experiencing it.  Then how could I, after having experienced that lovingkindness, not overflow with it to others?

Lord, I want to be filled with Your lovingkindness, Your generosity, Your Spirit, so that I love and live and give like You.  You, the King of Kings, didn’t even have a house of Your own.  And it wasn’t because You couldn’t have one.  You knew there were more important things.  Us.  And You generously gave up all Your rights, You had no property of Your own, and even laid Your pride aside and gave everything for us, so we could have all of You.  If You held nothing back for me, how could I hold something back from You?  Lord, teach me to live as selflessly and as generously as You.  And make me a child of encouragement.  Lord, I’m excited about this adventure in You no matter what it costs me.  To know You, to be Yours, is worth everything.