Our Perpetual God

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Photo credit to Pearls of the Torah, Ahavat Ammi

“Because you have had a perpetual hatred…” Ezekiel 35:5a

 
Can you imagine having a perpetual hatred for someone? This is a pretty strong hatred. God uses the Hebrew word olam. Strong’s Concordance likens it as being unto the vanishing point or time out of mind. Sometimes it’s used for eternity or without end. The Pulpit series called this feeling that Seir or Edom had for Israel a “hatred of old, or eternal enmity.” Now remember who Edom is. Edom represents Esau and his descendants. Esau is long gone. Yet here his people are, generations later, still carrying deep enmity against Israel. The story of Esau and Jacob perpetually lives on, never changing, never being resolved, never being reconciled. Can you imagine life like that?

 
It doesn’t just make me think about the effects of hatred, but it makes me want to look at that word perpetual, or olam, because I’ve heard it used before in Scripture. And it makes me think that there are some things that God wants us to “perpetualize” in our lives. What might that be?

 
When I look back to Genesis 9, I see God establishing the rainbow. It was established for perpetual generations and as an everlasting covenant between God and every living creature on earth. How many generations is that? Who knows? I mean, where is the vanishing point? Maybe there is no vanishing point and that’s the point. How long will this covenant last? To that same vanishing point, where ever and how far away in God it is. And I’m wondering if the vanishing point isn’t less of a time or place than it is a position in God? After all, He’s the one who established this covenant. It’s all on him. It really doesn’t matter what we do or how we respond. He’s not going to break His word and destroy the whole earth by a flood again. Out of love and faithfulness and His glory, He made this perpetual promise to be perpetually displayed before us.

 
Then there’s the land of Israel. In Genesis 13, God tells of a land that will be given to Abram’s seed for ever. It’s that same word olam. Now, Noah Webster says of the word perpetual that it is “literally true with respect to the decrees of the Supreme Being.” It’s never ceasing, continuing without intermission, permanent, and endless. Outside of God, what is? Maybe this olam is all dependent upon being in God. Face it, Seir and others are still fighting against Israel today, but there it still exists. Yet, does it exist as fully as God has decreed it would? Or will that existence solidify upon God being fully known and glorified in Israel? Yet try as you might to fight against God’s will, it’s a losing battle. God is this perpetual God and His will is perpetual and it will be as He declares. It really doesn’t matter how perpetual your hatred is. God’s glorious, loving, and righteous perpetualness is immensely more powerful and more real.

 
I could go on and on. Through Isaac, God established a perpetual covenant with his seed and those after. Get it, these perpetual covenants so far haven’t required action on man’s part. This is God’s doing, because He can and because His is faithful. In Exodus when God is telling Moses what to say to the children of Israel, He answers, “The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me unto you: this is My name for ever [olam], and this is my memorial unto all generations.” Are we just talking about God having the same name forever? Or are we talking that He is always the same God whose every decree and every word is true and worthy of respect and is and was and will be exactly as He decrees?

 
As we progress through Exodus, we see God establishing the priests and giving them their office as a perpetual statute. It’s not just that God appoints who shall be priest. It’s that the priest must be so in Him as well. Their honouring His statutes isn’t legalism, it’s part of understanding the perpetual life-giving nature of God and His presence and power over our lives. Or what of the perpetual incense that Aaron was to burn? Is Aaron able to do something perpetually outside of God and the generations of priests that God would equip? Is the incense the point or is it the understanding and living in the perpetuallness of God?

 

Keeping and observing the sabbath throughout their generation was a perpetual covenant. Not eating fat or blood was another perpetual statute. Why? Because God was showing us something about Himself in all these things to help us grasp His perpetualness so that we could live in Him from day to day and not just some day in some far away future in some far away place. Maybe you disagree and that’s o.k. But I can’t help hear it again in Jeremiah 5:22 as God says, “‘Don’t you fear me?’ says the Lord: ‘won’t you tremble at My presence, who has placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it can’t pass it: and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet they can’t prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it?’” It’s not just that God set these boundaries in motion for the waves. It’s perpetual. He’s always there controlling it. He’s never left. He’s not just in Heaven. He’s here, still, just as present and just as strong. All these things that mattered to Him still matter today. He’s never changed. We just missed out on what it means to fear Him. We forgot who and what He is. We forgot what it was to tremble at His presence because we live as though He’s not here.

 
It was Esau’s problem way back when. He didn’t get the perpetualness of God with Him and around Him. He forsook that birthright, that place in God and then despised his brother for treasuring it. God asks another good question in Jeremiah 8:5, “Why then is this people of Jerusalem slid back by a perpetual backsliding? They hold fast deceit, they refuse to return.” And isn’t that Seir’s problem and our problem too often too? Instead of holding on to that which is truly perpetual, to God’s truth in Him and to His presence, we hold on to lies and deceit and hold on so tightly our lives our bound up in them. It could be hatred, or self-gratification, or pride, or whatever, but we ditch perpetual reality in God for perpetual falsehood because we like it better and figure the outcome is more to our immediate liking.

 

There are things that are perpetual in God that lead to blessing in Him and knowing Him and safety in Him and a future and a hope in Him. And there are perpetual things outside of Him that lead to perpetual sleep, perpetual desolation, and perpetual shame. This word olam or “perpetual” and it’s other forms is used at least 438 times in Scripture. Maybe it’s a truth God would like us to understand and live in.

 
Here’s a tidbit of Judaism. “Judaism advances the daring idea that man and God are partners in the work of creation. Faith is a call to human responsibility.” (Jonathan Sacks) It’s not that we can do it on our own. We must first partner with God in order for Him to partner with us. God created us for this purpose. Look back into the garden. God’s purpose, His perpetualness, was already in existence and already acting. Then He brought us into it, in Him and invited us to partner with Him in this work of spreading His perpetualness.

 

The problem with Seir is that they were not involved in any kind of intimate relationship with God. Life is all about embracing Him and all He does and thinks. Imagine having this kind of partnership with the One who created you! But Seir wanted none of it. Seir acted against it. We’re supposed to be intimately involved with Him managing His creation and being busy with restoration. We’re to be perpetually involved in what the Perpetual One is involved in. Eternal life doesn’t start in Heaven. It starts when we enter into the Perpetual One. Eternal Life has always been in Him. Eternal life is exhibited everyday and into forever.

 

Paul understood. That’s why he urged us, “by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1) It’s not just our spiritual service, it’s our perpetual service, and our perpetual position of being present in Him. This is life from now until eternity. This ought to change my every perspective.

 

Therefore, I’m still blessed in Him if people hate me and treat me poorly. Therefore I can love my enemies and do good to those who hate me. Why? Because I live in the One who perpetually loves and forgives. I live in the One who perpetually takes care of the hated and the forgotten. I live in the One who perpetually judges rightly and whose word and ways and decrees are true. I don’t just know about Him. I am intimately connected with Him through Jesus Christ. And because of this, I can enjoy Him now and look forward to an anticipation of something more to come in Him.

 

“In the Mishnah, one rabbi says, ‘This world is like a lobby before the Olam Ha-Ba. Prepare yourself in the lobby so that you may enter the banquet hall.’ Similarly, the Talmud says, ‘This world is like the eve of Shabbat, and the Olam Ha-Ba is like Shabbat. He who prepares on the eve of Shabbat will have food to eat on Shabbat.’” (Jewfaq.org) I can choose to live life in and according to the perpetual nature of God, or I can choose to live according to my own nature, whether that be through hate, or whatever. One will leave me walking into God’s future for me with Him, prepared in Him. The other will leave me living outside of the presence of God, unprepared for a future with Him, devoid of His presence. What will my perpetual choice be? It doesn’t only matter for later. It matters each and every day of my life. What do I really want my perpetual story to look like? Maybe today is a good day to decide, before God must choose for me.

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Just One

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“And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.” Ezekiel 22:30

 
“Could a mariner sit idle if he heard the drowning cry?
Could a doctor sit in comfort and just let his patients die?
Could a fireman sit idle, let men burn and give no hand?
 Can you sit at ease in Zion with the world around you damned?” Leonard Ravenhill

 
That’s pretty much the problem that stands out in Ezekiel 22. Of course, Lord, You declare to all what made the city a “bloody city” and You list her abominations. She had come such a long way from who she was created to be. She was Yours, but now she defiled herself from that image and looked like fake idols instead. Instead of caring for the stranger, they oppressed them. Instead of caring for the fatherless and widow, they vexed them. Instead of loving and adoring and seeking after Your holiness, they profaned it. They made fools of others and lacked respect. They were filled with lust and misused others for their own pleasure. Greed grew and generosity failed. They totally lost sight of You, God. Even the religious teachers and leaders were twisted in their thinking. So here they were, hearing the drowning cry and not reaching out to save them. They were drowning themselves and didn’t even know it. Here they were watching their people die, emotionless to the loss, as they were unwittingly dying themselves. Here they were watching men burn without pulling them from the fire because there they were in the middle of the fire with them but without realizing it. Yes, here they were, sitting at ease when the world was falling apart around them. But how can one help, if one is blind to the truth around them?

 
And I know that this is not just a message to be heeded in Ezekiel’s day so many years ago. This attitude matters today. I think of the words of Hanani to Asa, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him…” (2 Chronicles 16:9) So this idea of You, God, looking for someone to stand in the gap on Your behalf and on behalf of the people, is no novel idea. And it wasn’t like there weren’t Godly men in Ezekiel’s day. There was Jeremiah who was being tortured by being stuck in a pit and silenced. And here was Ezekiel, who we’ve already heard 22 chapters of standing for You. And there are probably others. But there is not one at this time who is able to build up the broken wall and stand in the breach before You to intercede on the behalf of those who have fallen and there is none who are able to turn the hearts of the people. Sometimes, all it takes is one person, one person like a Moses, or a David, or a Noah or a Job. Or one person like a Hudson Taylor, or George Muller, or a woman named Miriam whose real name I can’t share, or another named Isik.

 
And I don’t think this is about church leadership. I think this is about knowing You, God, and knowing You for real. It’s not about position, it’s about who we really are in You. It’s not about popping out pastors and teachers. Manson says, “O ye ministers of the Word, consider well that you are the first sheets from the King’s press; others are printed after your copy. If the first sheet be well set, a thousand more are stamped with ease. See, then, that the power of religion prevail over your own hearts lest you not only lose your own souls, but cause the ruin of others.” It’s true, the King’s printing press is at work. But it isn’t printing out professionals and workers and such. It’s printing out individuals after His own image to become His priests and His disciples and His representation on this earth. That has never changed. First and foremost I am to be modeled and made and molded after Your image. I’m not supposed to look like a pastor or teacher or missionary or whatever. I’m supposed to look like You, talk like You, think like You, act like You, be like You. How else can I stand in the gap?

 
But if I won’t let myself be copied faithfully after You and then I draw others to me, how many faulty copies, so far from the original am I guilty of? Why would I want people imitating me, instead of You? I want to point them to You. I want them to be printed off of the Master Press, not me. But I want to so order my steps that it will lead them to You. What good is a flawed master copy? What good is a watch that is out of time? Should others set their time by it and be off also?

 
The Lord reminds us in Chapter 14 that there isn’t a righteous person that can deliver the nation from judgment based on his own righteousness. Noah, Daniel, and Job wouldn’t even have been able to do that. Moses couldn’t even do it. When he stood in the gap for the people, it was based on God’s righteousness and image before the world. But here, in Ezekiel’s day, God couldn’t even find someone to turn the people’s hearts back like that.
Reading this sad truth that God could find no one to stand in the breach, made me wonder about Ezekiel. Surely Ezekiel was trying to stand in the breach! So it couldn’t mean that there were none who would stand for God. I’ve been reading 22 chapters of Ezekiel taking a stand. Stuart stated that it meant “that there were so few among the people who were righteous that the net effect was as if no one at all cared about God’s will.”

 

It’s not that God didn’t have faithful representatives. He had Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah too. But why were they so ineffective? Were they deficient? Or were the people just that defiant? And then I wonder if the faithful were faithful but not in the political positions necessary to turn a people? Like Hezekiah and Josiah who were kings and led people, as opposed to Jeremiah and Ezekiel who were prophets and instructed people. Maybe it matters if there is even just one king after God’s own heart.

 
Moses was one of those “gap men.” Psalm 106:23 tells us, “Therefore He said He would destroy them—had not Moses, His chosen one, stood in the breach before Him, to turn away His wrath from destroying them.” How could he do that? What if Moses understood what it was to be willing to accept the wrath of God for the salvation of those He loved and for the glory of the God He loved? What if this is the closest one can come to understanding the heart and compassion of God in Christ Jesus? What if this is how Jesus pleads for us, for mercy and malleable hearts and places Himself in the breach of God’s wrath for us? Do I really think that Moses stood there without any fear of God’s anger himself? Or what if he understood like Paul, when he said, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” How’s that for extreme standing in the gap? Wow!

 
Is this about intercessory prayer? God used this expression back in Ezekiel 13:5 also, “You have not gone up into the breaches, or built up a wall for the house of Israel, that it might stand in battle in the day of the Lord.” The Hebrew of “built up a wall” or “make up the hedge” is gadar gader. It’s all about building a wall “of security and assurance around a city or a life.” (Dr. W. A. Criswell) So, here is supposed to be a wall of safety, but there is this breach, this peretz. There is this hole that let’s harm enter the city. And when harm enters the city, it enters our lives. Nehemiah talks about removing the breaches or holes by repairing the walls. People stood in and did that. Isaiah calls God the “Repairer of the Breach.” God used Jesus to stand in the breach for us, to pour out His life for ours and for the glory of God, to offer us safety and security in Him. He intercedes on our behalf, yes, but He doesn’t only intercede in prayer. He intercedes by His life.
Think about it. Jesus did more than pray for His disciples and for us. Jesus showed us what God looked like walking on this earth. Jesus touched and healed and raised from the dead. Jesus suffered and yet loved those who persecuted Him. Jesus washed the feet of his followers. Jesus was patient. Jesus was zealous for God. He interceded with and through His whole life. That’s true worship.

 
What if You are looking for men and women and boys and girls like that? What if You are looking for people who will worship You with all of their being and stand in the gap for You and those around them? What if You couldn’t find any at that time because the ones that were, were actually being detained by the opposition? Like Jeremiah who was in a pit to die? Like Ezekiel who the people weren’t listening to?

 
God always seeks for one person at a time. Why? That’s how we must respond. He seeks for one to stand in the breach. He’s not looking for a ministry or an institution or a nation or anything like that. All it can take is one person. Persia took a Cyrus. Babylon took a Nebuchadnezzar. Greece took an Alexander the Great, Rome, a Caesar. Closer to home, America had a George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Oh, but those aren’t necessarily religious leaders, right? Maybe not the way we think of it but Scripture has God calling Cyrus his son that He raised up for this purpose and this time.

 
Now think about the individuals that God raised up that impacted whole countries for Him. What about George Muller, or Billy Sunday, or Martin Luther, or Charles Spurgeon. I think about the first believer from the Maldives and how God has used her to lead others of her people (a 100% Muslim country!) to Him as well as others where she is ministering. I think about Mother Theresa in India and the Dawsons in Venezuela and Timothy and Yvonne Kinyua in Kenya. They pray but that’s not all. They put their faith and prayers to their feet and their lives. They walk it out. They live it out. They take their lives and through them walk Jesus out to the people around them for miles and miles, whether it’s dangerous or not, whether it’s taxing on their bodies or not. That’s the kind of standing in the gap that You are looking for, isn’t it?

 
Think about it this way as Dr. W. A Criswell shares the account of Moses and God. “God said to Moses in that thirty-second chapter of [Exodus], ‘Now Moses, you stand aside, you stand aside and let My wrath burn against these people. I will destroy them out of My sight: and out of you will I raise up a nation to do My will’ (Exodus 32:9-10)” Wow! Wouldn’t that be great? Wipe out the people who are a problem and make me great, Lord! Only that’s not the heart of God, is it. But I am so grateful that Moses had the heart of God in his response. “And it was then that Moses stood in the breach and as you read, he interceded, saying, ‘If these people cannot live, I do not want to live. If You blot them out of Your Book of Life, blot my name out of the Book of Life.’ [Exodus 32:32] And God spared the nation for Moses’ sake. He stood in the breach. [Psalm 106:23]” And I don’t think it was just for Moses’ sake. I think Moses was thinking of God’s sake, of what the nations all around would think of God. And I think God honored that kind of thinking in Moses, that was concerned for God’s glory and God’s people more than he was concerned with his own comfort or rights or image. That’s that kind of person that You look for to stand in the gap. Am I that kind of person?

 
Give me a person of God, just one,
Whose faith shines foremost for the Son
Who covets prayer and time with God
And walks it out where ever He trods.
Give me a person of God, just one,
Who lives in the light of the Living One
Who bears the image of the Risen Son
And loves and serves and forgives wrongs,
Where God’s vision fills his heart with songs
That he sings and lives out all day long
So that it rubs off on the watching throng.
Give me a person of God, just one
To stand in the breach, though they be undone,
And I’ll show You a life strong in God’s grace
That’ll make a difference in every place.
Make me a person of God, that one,
Wholly undone in the Glorious One.

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.

More Than Robots and Rubber Bracelets

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Photo credit to redrocketmedia.

“…And this shall come to pass, if you will diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God.” Zechariah 6:15

Here You are, Lord, in the middle of telling Your plans to Zechariah.  You are telling him Your immediate plans as well as plans for the future good of all people in the One who is the BRANCH and who will inhabit and rule from Your ultimate temple as King of Kings and High Priest eternal.  But You give a warning to Zechariah for the people of Israel.  “…And this shall come to pass, IF you will DILIGENTLY OBEY the voice of the Lord your God.”  And if they didn’t obey?

What’s the idea of having to obey You?  That’s such a hard concept for people today.  Submission, what a tough idea.  Servant, who wants to be a servant?  But over and over again throughout the Old Testament, or should I call it the First Testament, because it’s still relevant and not outdated, You emphasize the importance and necessity of obedience. 

“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 28:1)  Why would You set Israel above the other nations if they faithfully obey You and do what You desire?  Is it so You can show what good little robots they are?  I don’t think so.  Obedience to You shows our alignment with You.  If we love someone, I mean really love them, we care about what they care about.  We care about what’s on the heart of the one we love.  We desire to do things that bring them joy.  We understand their feelings.  And when we know that someone else loves us, truly loves us, we know that their heart is for us.  You know when someone adores You.  You know when someone wants to protect You.  You know when someone truly cares for You by the things they do.  And You know if they don’t care as much as they ought.  You know if some of their love or all of their love is lacking by their actions and attitudes.  And those actions and attitudes rub off on the people around you that look up to you or that stand in the background and mock you.  And since You, Lord, love Your people so much to go to such extremes to show it, faithful obedience is the least we could give back to show the measure of our love for You.  Because it matters.  The nations are watching and if we say You are the True God and then don’t treat You like the True God You are, we make a mockery of our relationship and who will be drawn to a relationship like that?

“And He said, ‘If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer.’” (Exodus 15:26)  You want Your people to earnestly heed Your voice.  It’s one thing to hear, but it’s a totally different thing to hear and do, to hear and care enough to act upon what we hear.  I have to heed Your voice and do what pleases You; I have to give ear to You and complete that action by keeping and doing what You say.  Does that mean I’ll never be sick?  No.  It meant for the people of God that they would not be plagued with the diseases that came as a judgment for denying You and worshipping false gods. 

“But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.” (Exodus 23:22)  The Angel of the Lord went before Israel in the wilderness.  In trust and commitment, they were warned to “truly obey his voice and do”.  Trusting is following through with doing.  And God always makes good on His promises.  Trusting and obeying and acting upon that trust leads to You standing in for us against our enemies.  You become our number one Advocate.  You even stand in for those who stand in for Your own.  But if I want You to stand in for me, I am called to stand in for You.

I wear a little black rubber bracelet that says, “He who belongs to God hears what God says…” (John 8:47)  And that’s not just about hearing Jesus speak and walking away.  It’s about being changed by his thoughts.  It’s about agreeing with His thinking.  It’s about finally understanding and desiring things God’s way instead of our own and seeing how much better it is not just for us, but for the world.

“But you shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from your midst.”  (Exodus 23:25)  Pride is a terrible thing.  Pride will keep us from the truth, just like it did for the people in John 8:47 that Jesus was speaking with.  Wanting to be on top and not willing to humble yourself to serve sets us against You, Lord, because here You are, God and Creator of the universe and every person.  You are the highest and the mightiest and the smartest and yet You humbled Yourself to come as Jesus, as a baby birthed through that inglorious method that all babies are born through.  You humbled Yourself to become a man, yet God, and serve those You created.  It’s the most glorious thing ever!  And it’s love beyond measure.  So is it so much to ask that kind of service of us back to You and to those around us?  I’d say pride is a major sickness that would be removed with that type of service.  Maybe we’d all be healthier for it in other ways too.

The other day, I heard someone share the Gospel, the good news of how we can not only know God but be His.  And it centered around the doctrine of believing that Jesus is God, that He came to earth to be the sacrifice for our sins, that He died on the cross to pay our penalty, and that he rose again to give us new life.  That’s all absolutely true.  And we must believe that to be saved and to be His.  But unless we believe and obey that belief, it’s nothing but doctrine.  When You said, “If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out…” in Leviticus 26:3, You were telling us that actions must follow our belief.  Doctrine is just doctrine unless I let it change my life.  Doctrine is just doctrine unless I commit to act upon it with all of my being.  I must trust and obey or I don’t really trust at all.  I must believe and confess and then live in that belief, in the fellowship of what You have done for me.  I cannot trust and my life not be changed.  I cannot trust and my attitude not be changed. 

“Then it shall come about, because you listen to these judgments and keep and do them, that the Lord your God will keep with you His covenant and His lovingkindness which He swore to your forefathers.” (Deuteronomy 7:12)  Is this really sounding like God rewarding us for our good works?  I don’t think so.  This sounds to me like God rewarding us with a close relationship with Him.  It sounds like the more I lean my ear into You, Lord, and listen and agree with You and act upon that agreement, that our relationship deepens and I get to experience and see and revel in Your lovingkindness which You have just been waiting for me to experience along with You.  Is obedience so tough?  I mean, if the reward is a deep, personal, generous relationship with You, Lord, well then, I so much want to obey You no matter the cost.  It certainly seems more worthwhile to obey You than not to.

I could keep sharing Scripture after Scripture.  But I’m so happy that I’m sharing this one, “It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul…” (Deuteronomy 11:13)  Do I get that?  It’s about true love for You God and true love is exhibited by what we do and how we serve the one we love.  True love is love that gives our whole heart and soul.  I mean, how is that too much to ask from us?  You’ve shown every evidence that You have given Your whole heart and soul for our benefit?  Who am I to refuse that and mock the love You’ve shown?

The truth is, I can choose to ignore Your love and withhold my love from You.  You warned against that.  “Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and you turn aside, and serve other gods and worship them…” (Deuteronomy 11:16)  We’re all going to worship something.  We’re all going to cleave to something.  Everyone is diligent about something, it’s just not always the right something.  And what we choose to cling to, well, we’re going to lead others to cling to it too, whether it leads them to life or to death.  Are we willing to take on the responsibility of leading others to death?

But what if I choose to diligently keep all You say, and what if I choose to do it, and love You, Lord, and walk in all Your ways, and cleave to You like I’m glued, because I want LIFE and I want to lead others to true life?  When the disciples saw Jesus calm the sea, they marveled, asking “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!”  The winds and sea have to obey because they are just matter and You are in charge of matter.  But You give me a choice to obey.  I think it’s a much more marvelous thing for a man or woman to choose to obey than for the winds or sea to calm.  I don’t think the angels in heaven marveled as much that day at the calming of the winds and sea as they do every time one sinner obeys and turns in love away from his old life and into Your new life. 

I mean, even demons obey you.  The people were all amazed again at how you commanded unclean spirits and they obeyed.  “What new doctrine is this?”  But it’s not a teaching.  It’s You, it’s Your life, it’s life in You.  And if a demon who won’t love You has to obey You, why would I, who can love You, choose not to?  See, it’s a way more amazing thing for me to choose to love You back than for a demon to flee.  I can run to You; he must run from You.  I can abide in You.  I can receive more than I ever imagined in You because I can become Your very own beloved, Your precious child and faithful servant.

Peter and the other apostles made that choice.  They came to their very own conclusion that, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)  That means obeying God rather than ourselves, too, because we are only mere men. 

And we’re not alone when we commit to You because You give us the Holy Spirit to be our resident witness within each of us that obey You.  We’re all going to serve somebody.  We’re all going to yield to something or someone to obey, either sin or death, or obedience that leads to righteousness. (Romans 6:16)  What will it be?  Or rather, who will it be?

I want to commit to love the author of my eternal salvation who was made perfect and complete before us all through His obedience to You.  I want to obey Him in love, that I may be part of Him.  I want to love You so much, that I obey You, that I love Your ways, even if they are hard, and even if no one around me gets it.  I want to press forward for You no matter how difficult, because You are worth so much more than I have to give and yet You still love and delight in my giving of myself.  I want to obey You because I appreciate You so much.  I want to obey You because I adore You and I am so grateful that You adored me first. 

What the Faithful Should Pray

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“This is what everyone faithful should pray at a time when you can be found.  Then, when the floodwaters are raging, they will not reach to him.”  Psalm 32:6 The Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

I’m so happy that the stories and things that are related in Scripture are not just that, stories.  I’m so happy that the stories and things related in Scripture were for the benefit of those we hear about, and those around them, and for us today, and for those in the future.  I’m so happy that everything in Scripture is for all of us forever to learn and draw nearer to a loving God who is inviting us to know Him.  I’m so glad that You God, use those who have gone before us, and Your Holy Spirit, through Scripture to call us each by name and say, “Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28)

The CJB puts it this way, “Come to Me, all of you who are struggling and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  So what am I struggling and burdened over?  What is keeping me from rest?  I think for a while I’ve been thinking that the tough things in my life have been causing me to struggle and burdening me and keeping me from rest.  You know, Lord, those things that disturb my sleep and my peace, or those things that seemt to stand like mountains or roadblocks in the way You are drawing me.  But after going through these things, and reading Your Word, I’m starting to think differently.  And today You give me David’s words, his song, in Psalm 32.

I read this and I think, hm, this doesn’t really sound like a song to me.  Well, maybe in Hebrew it just flows as a song more.  Or, maybe, just maybe, when You open our eyes to agree with You and to see things as they really are and we repent and agree, no matter what the words sound like, it comes out as a song from our hearts.

I think I can start getting the idea of how David felt here and I think I can understand the song of joy and release on his heart.  David had been living in sin, trying to hide things from people and hiding his own face from God.  He committed adultery with Bathsheba.  It was his own choice, his own rebellion against God, his own sin against Bathsheba, his own sin before the flock of his pasture.  And then to hide it from Uriah, her husband, he went so far as to arrange his death.  In my book, that’s premeditated murder.  And here David is, King of Israel, second to God in authority.  That means, that David is God’s man shepherding the flock of Israel.  That’s a big responsibility.  That means that David is responsible for teaching all of Israel and those around Israel about God’s ways.  That means that David is responsible for being the example of living in God’s ways before them.  Is this how you do that, Lord?

The servant who was supposed to be serving You, Lord, as King, showed his people what unfaithfulness, rebellion against You, adultery, secrecy, pride, lust, deceit, murder, greed, and devaluing other humans looked like.  He showed what it looked like to be a leader under You covered in sin.  He showed them what it was to be like to be controlled by sin instead of You, God.  And that has serious ramifications. I’m taken to the parable of the unfaithful servant.  What was his due?  “Now the servant who knew what his master wanted but didn’t prepare or act according to his will, will be whipped with many lashes; however, the one who did what deserves a beating but didn’t know, wil receive few lashes.  From him who has been given much, much will be demanded–from someone to whom people entrust much, they ask still more.”  (Luke 12:47-48)

Our responsibility, Lord, to You and to others is serious stuff.  It will cause our own pain and the pain of others when we disregard it for our own selfish desires.  Let me relate Your own words to David here. “Adonai [the Lord] sent Nathan to David.  He came and said to him, ‘In a certain city there were two men, one rich, the other poor.  The rich man had vast flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing, except for one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and reared.  It had grown up with him and his children; it ate from his plate, drank from his cup, lay on his chest–it was like a daughter to him.  One day a traveler visited the rich man, and instead of picking an animal from his own flock or herd to cook for his visitor, he took the poor man’s lamb and cooked it for the man who had come to him’.  David exploded with anger against the man and said to Nathan, ‘As Adonai lives, the man who did this deserves to die!  For doing such a thing, he has to pay back four times the value of the lamb–and also because he had no pity.’  Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man.  Here is what Adonai, the God of Israel says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel.  I rescued you from the power of Saul.  I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives to embrace.  I gave you the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  And if that had been too little, I would have added to you a lot more.  So why have you shown such contempt for the word of Adonai and done what I see as evil?  You murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite as your own.'”  (2 Samuel 12:1-10)

It takes the finger of God upon us for us to really see our own hearts and our own sin.  David’s eyes and heart were opened, “I have sinned against Adonai!”  And here’ s where the song is born.  “Nathan said to David, ‘Adonai also has taken away your sin.  You will not die.  However…'”  Sin brings terrible consequences.  It rips families and individuals apart, and it rips our own hearts apart.  It breaks our relationship with our loving heavenly Father as we hide things and refuse to confront the truth.  Proverbs 28:14  shares “How blessed is the man who fears always, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.”  Isn’t that what happened with David?  Is that what happens with me, Lord, when I try to feed my own desires, or handle the tough things my own way?

Here is Psalm 32, David is rejoicing in how blessed the person is who has been forgiven.  He’s talking more than happiness here. He’s talking about the well-being of his “inner state.”  It’s that feeling and knowledge and experiencing of “it is well, it is well with my soul!”  “O happy day, to be forgiven, O happy day to be set free.  The things that once have held me captive, no longer control me.  My God can look on me with favor, my God can shine His face on me,  O happy day, O happy soul, I’ve been set free!”

Pastor Conlin of Times Square Church shared something in his sermon yesterday that really applies here.  It was about David’s way of approaching what God was telling him and it’s my way, unfortunately, sometimes too.  In Psalm 101, time after time, David is saying how he will behave himself.  It’s all positive.  “I will sing of Your mercy and judgment.  I will behave myself wisely …and with a perfect heart.  I will set no wicked thing before my eyes…I won’t have anything to do with wicked people.  I’ll cut off the person who slanders others.  I won’t even allow the proud hearted around.  I’ll hang out with those who are faithful to You and destroy all those who do wickedly.”  Wow!  Go David!  That’s the way to be, right?

I never thought about it this way, buy Pastor Conlin shared from the point that You, Lord, were warning David these things You laid on his heart.  That here You were giving David a glimpse of the danger zones in his own life.  But instead of David crying out for You to make his way right in these areas, he established them in his own strength.  When he should have been crying, “Lord, teach me to sing of mercy and judgment unto You always,” he seemed to have it under control himself.  Instead of crying out, “Give me wisdom and lead me in a perfect way,” he was confident in himself.  Instead of saying, “Lord, I want to commit to setting no wicked thing before my eyes, but I need You to direct my eyes to that which You approve,” he committed in his own strength.  So with that start, let’s just look at our downfall, when the faithful forget to pray moment by moment for God’s spirit to strengthen and guide their desires and actions.

When David fell into sin that day, it didn’t just start with Bathsheeba.  Pride and self justification had already crept in.  There was a time when kings were out in the battlefield.  Where was David?  Skipping the hardships of the battle and resting back in Jerusalem.  I wonder if he thought, “I’m a good king, and my people know what they’re doing.  I’ve been working hard and now I need a little rest.  I’ve got it under control”?  Or maybe he was getting a little tired of all the responsibilities of being king and decided, “God’s got it and it’s time these folk stepped up and were responsible.”  I really don’t know.  But all I do know is that he wasn’t where kings should have been.

And here’s the first problem.  We ignore and justify what we know is true and right, to satisfy our own desires, whether they be for rest, or gain, or whatever.  Already, he was not behaving wisely, because a wise king always LEADS his people.  He’s God’s example to them, right Lord?  “[T]he sheep hear his voice and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out.” (John 10:3)  So who was leading the people?  Not the king, not David.

So David was not leading.  And even in his own house, he was not walking with a perfect heart.  It’s one thing to glance on a woman by accident, but it’s another thing to continue thinking on that thought and pursuing that thought.  Bathsheeba was not the wicked thing he set before his eyes.  I mean, I have no idea if she thought she was unseen or what,  but David had a choice to make.  Like Joshua, he could have said in his heart, and out loud at that moment, “As for me and my house, we will choose the Lord.”  But that’s only something we can do in Your strength, Lord.  We can’t just do it because we say it or even because we make some commitment, like words in a song.  We have to confront You and we have to submit and we have to let You rule our heart and actions and desires.  We can’t fight our hearts without Your strength empowering us.

David isn’t the only believer with this problem.  Listen to Ezekiel 22:26.  “Her priests have done violence to My teaching and they profane My set-apart matters.  They have not distinguished between the set-apart and profane, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean.  And they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, and I am profaned in their midst.”  Who would have thought that this is what a man after God’s own heart would do?  Who would think that I could do this?  No, not me!  Right?  But isn’t that what was happening?  Isn’t that what happens.  My eyes, which desire the things of my heart, twist Your teachings and profane Your desires, Lord, by twisting them to my own.  I stop distinguishing between what pleases You  and what doesn’t and just concern myself with what pleases me.  I stop regarding the difference.  I hide my eyes from the truth in Your word and pick and choose what I want to obey, what I want to understand, what I feel like.  And what happens?  You are profaned and I enter into the perverse, like David.  Well, maybe I don’t have an affair, but come on now, sin, any sin, is perversity before a holy God!

This is the thing about eyes.  The eyes are a window of our soul.  How?  The eye sees.  And when it sees something, it acts upon what it sees.  Now, that action flows from the heart.  If the heart belongs to You, Lord, then Your response will flow from it.  But if the heart is not Yours, if it is not surendered to You, it will see as it’s owner, and act as the owner would act.  So, who really owned David at that time?  Who really owns me?

I have to understand this.  “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him.”  (2 Chronicles 16:9)  Your eyes, Lord, see, and that seeing is accompanied with the appropriate action.  You see, and then You act and support.  If I continue to read that verse, I also see it’s a warning.  You see, and for those who are not seeing likewise, You rebuke.  How is my acting upon my seeing?  How was David’s acting upon his seeing?

What was David pondering?  Your ways and Your words, or this temptation among others?  What do I spend my time pondering?  What did he set before his eyes?  What I set before my eyes is what my actions are toward.  Did he contemplate evil or did he love You more and weep and cry out that You might change his thinking?  What about me?  Was his heart aligned with Yours, or did it succumb to perversity?  What about mine?  Wasn’t he guilty of slandering and worse to his neighbor, Uriah?  Wasn’t that because he succumbed to his own haughtiness and arrogance.  And noone would practice deceit in his house?  What’s adultery?  Where did that happen?  What was he practicing before Uriah and all his people?  What was he doing morning by morning?  How did he get to the point of morning by morning destroying good instead of evil?  Could I come to that point?

Yes.  I could, because I am just as human as David.  And if my life isn’t totally surrendered, totally enwrapped within the life and living and being of Christ, I’m lost in myself and to myself.  The whole point is that living in the Lord is a supernatural thing.  I have to understand that I am called to live in Him and let Him live in and through me.  When I sanctify, You, Lord, in my heart, it means I have to let You enter and become my life.  And I must continually, moment by moment, let You enter and become my life.  You didn’t once save me.  I am totally dependent on You to continually save me.  I must say, “let my thoughts be wrong and Yours be right.”  I must stop justifying myself and my actions and my way of thinking.

Here’s something about the kings.  The kings were responsible for reading the Scripture and writing it down for themselves.  Every one of them had to do this.  So they all knew from reading what You required.  But we can write down Scripture all we want, we can read it all we want, our eyes can see, but if we don’t embrace it by embracing You, it’s just words on a page, or words or thoughts in our head.  I need to embrace it as I embrace You moment by moment so that it becomes my life.  “For the word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword.  It cuts all the way through, to where soul and spirit meet, to where joints and marrow come together.  It judges the desires and thoughts of the heart.  There is nothing that can be hid from God; everything in all creation is exposed and lies open before His eyes.  And it is to Him that we must all give an account of ourselves.”  (Hebrews 4:12-13)  David was accountable.  So am I.

These are all the things I need to be praying, moment by moment, so that I may keep my focus on You by Your grace and power in me.  I need to continually remember that it’s not of me, but all of You, and live and eat and breathe, and walk, and think in that reality.  This is the faith that I have to hold firmly to, not just the faith I profess, but the faith I let You live out in me in total desperation continually upon You.  I need to live continually in Your presence, not just in Your thought.  And I can’t think of a better Person to live in the presence of.  Because, when I’m tempted, You feel for me and understand my weakness.  See, You understand them even better than David or me.  But since You were tempted in every way and did not sin, You’re the only One who can give me the power to not sin.  The confidence is not in me.  Ever.  David learned that.  And I must learn that.  The confidence and power comes in approaching Your throne, where I find grace and power.  It’s there, and only there continually, that I receive mercy and find grace to help me when I need it.  And I need it continually!

How do I find grace to help in time of need?  Well, I have to come to the One who knows how to frap the vessel.  What?  To get help at the right time, I have to be with the One who knows how to tighten the ropes and chains on the boat.  The boat doesn’t secure itself, does it?  Well, neither can David and neither can I.  We’re just vessels.  We’re just earthen vessels.  But we’ve got this tremendous treasure inside, this excellency of the power of God.  But we’ve also got this power of self.  What will I rely on?  Because the only excellent power is Yours, God, not mine.  The only supernatural power, that works miracles in me and can take me beyond my own borders and strengths, is You.  Will I let You tighten my ropes moment by moment?  What will my prayer be?  And what will it look like in my life?

Basking in the Faithfulness of God

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“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”  1 Corinthians 1:9

“God is faithful…”  Yes, God is faithful!  You, Oh Lord, are faithful!  You are sure, true, and trustful.  You will continue this work in me that You have begun.  You will fulfill every promise You have made.  You will not change.  You ARE.  It is You who have called me and set me apart to a fellowship with Christ.  You have called me into a partnership, participation, intercourse, communication, and communion with You.  You have called me to reach this point, for this purpose, to this intent.  Your primary desire for me is to know You.  Let my heart’s desire be to know You fully.  Every day may I grow more in You, to know who I am in this partnership.

Teach me how to communicate with You.  Don’t they say that poor communication is what causes the break up of marriages?  Let our relationship always be full.  Teach me to participate with You.  My goal is not to do, but to be Yours.  I have reached my goal yet not in its complete state.  I am who You want me to be right now, because I am Yours.  Let me bask in You.

Remind me who I am every moment.  Remind me who You are always.  You could never love me more than You do already.  You don’t love me for what I do, You love me because I am Your child.  No matter what I do, You will always love me just as much.  I cannot do this work in me, but You, God, are faithful.  You will complete this work in me.

I will focus on being Your workmanship.  I will deal with the moment and not make the moment.  Help me not to jump ahead of You or onto a side path.  What You provide in me, I will use.  Teach me that I can not force the work in my life.  You are the only Craftsman, not me.

Yes, God, You are so faithful!  You are so faithful that You take these meditations from twelve years ago and You bring them before me again to remind me what once You already began to reveal.  But sometimes life gets hard, sometimes we feel like a failure, and sometimes we need to be reminded of what we already know but have forgotten.  I mean, it’s not like the first time You’ve reminded me of this, this faithfulness of Yours to love me so intensely and to stay by my side and even closer than that, to be the God who lives in me!

Situation after situation, it’s like You just keep saying, “Selah”.  It’s a little word, I guess, just a side word in Scripture.  “Think on this.”  It’s like You keep saying that in the midst of all the other things that are drawing my thinking to them, draw back to You.  Think on You.  Think on all the things that You’ve taught me.  Think on all the things that You’ve done in my life and those around me.  Think on the things that You walked through with David.  Think on the Psalms.  Think on the reality of what You were doing then and what You are doing now.

So before journaling, I spent time in Psalm 27.  David was having a tough time.  He was crying out to the Lord.  He did a lot, that crying out and going through a lot of tough times.  He starts out saying and believing (because it’s one thing to say something, but a whole other thing to believe what you say) that “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  And I kept reading.  And as I read I would stop and think on it.  And I put it into words of a simple song.  And the whole thing reminded me that You are the One faithful in the midst of all of this.  That You, my God, yes, MY GOD, are my continual light and my continual salvation through the midst of everything in my life.  You reminded me that what David had learned and was learning about Your faithfulness and Your love, You are teaching me too.  I know this.  I just have to live like I believe it.

So, as I said, I wrote this song from Psalm 27.  And I’ll only share the refrain which comes from David’s initial meditations:  “Where/ Armies could surround me/ I will not cringe/ War break out around me/ They will never win/ You are the One that I trust in/  Whom shall I fear?”  So , knowing that I am Yours and that Your love for me and Your care for me will never change because You are forever faithful, whom shall I fear?  Troubles are going to come.  Time after time, I’ll have to go through hard things because I live in a broken world. 

But the truth of the matter is, my God is not broken.   My God is faithful.  My God is able.  Romans 14:14 tells me that God is able to make me stand. 1 Corinthians 10:13 reminds me that God makes me able to endure the trials in my life.  In 2 Corinthians 1:4 I’m reminded that He is able to comfort me in the midst of affliction.  In 2 Corinthians 9:8 I’m reminded that You, God, are able to make all grace abound to me, so that I’ll be sufficient in all things at all times, for the works You call me to.  And I could go on and on.  But writing this or saying this isn’t enough.  I have to live believing this.  This is truth.  I know.  Because You, God are Truth.  Yes, my God, our God, is faithful!  And I am in Him!  My God is forever faithful in me!  This is what I must remember.  This is what I must live and let You, Lord, live out in me.  Lord, be who You are in me.  Be forever faithful.  And let me be faithful in You.  Yes, You are the One that I trust in.  Whom shall I fear?  I belong to the Faithful One forever.  Praise God!

Faithful Over a Little

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“…and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.'”  Matthew 3:17

Isn’t that wonderful how God announced Jesus and how much He loved Him and how pleased He was with Him?  Did you ever wish people felt about you that same way?  Did you ever wish that more than people feeling that way, God felt that way about you?  Well, the truth is that God is just waiting to say that about you and me.

So here was Jesus, Son of God; pure, holy, righteous One; submitting Himself under the baptism of repentance before all to see.  And why did He do it?  Because it was right in God’s eyes.  Now listen.  Jesus knows what pleases God. He knows, not just because He is God but because He loves the Word of God, the Torah that He has been learning from.  How do I know that?  Because when He was 12 years old and stayed back at the temple, the religious teachers were astounded by His understanding of the Scriptures.  Here’s a 12 year old boy that says, “I must be about my Father’s business.”  ” I must be involved actively in what my Father is involved in.”  This is a man actively and desirously and whole-heartedly involved in the will, the desires, of God.

Therefore, because the will of God is foremost on His heart, He submits to that will no matter what others think.  He obeys.  He delights in obeying.  And what is the result.  He gets wet?  People are impressed? “The heavens are opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on Him.”  Could it be that this type of behavior and heart attitude in my life would bring the same results from a God who is just waiting for me to respond to Him this way?  Could it be that when I come to God in repentance through Jesus, and turn from my life and ways to His, that I would begin to see the heavens opened up to me and that the Spirit of the living God would come to rest in me?

But it doesn’t stop there.  Then there was this voice from heaven and do you know what it said?  “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  So what if I responded like that with a repentant life committed wholly to Your will, Lord?  After You give me eyes to see “heaven” and the Spirit to encourage, strengthen, and teach me, at that moment in time of turning to You, would I become beloved and would that be well pleasing to You?

That question and this whole thought transports me to Matthew 25:21,23 and Luke 19:17.  That’s the parable that You, Jesus, told about the three servants that were entrusted with “coins” by their master.  And two of the three servants had taken those “coins” and excitedly received them and applied them in life.  But the third servant had buried his and treated his as though he was afraid to touch it and had nothing to do with it.  And I want to focus on Your response to those two servants who grasped those “coins” as a treasure and a delight and invested them into their lives.  What was Your response?

“Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.  Enter into the joy of your master.”  And what was the response to the second servant?  “Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.  Enter into the joy of your master.”  Hmm.  They both got the same response.  Did they both have the same amount of “resources”?  No.  One had applied his 5 “coins” and the other his 2 “coins.”  And the master was just as pleased with both?

That’s the whole point.  It’s not a comparison to anyone else.  You, Lord, give us each this beautiful resource for life before any other resource.  That resource is Your beloved Son Jesus.  First and foremost what I do with Him will determine Your pleasure in me.  The moment that I am submitted in faith to the One who gave His life for me and rose to give me life, is the moment that I begin to see heaven and that Your Spirit comes to dwell in me.  Without Jesus in my life, without my commitment to Him, I’m the most unpleasing enemy You ever had.  But in Him my life is turned around.  In that moment that You see Jesus in my life, in me, I become Your beloved just like Him, and You become well pleased in me!

See, it doesn’t matter if I’m a Paul, or a Matthew, or a Mark, or a Zachius, or a Mary, or me.  All our “coins” are little compared to Jesus.  But will we surrender all that You’ve given to us, our every resource, every part of our life and being, to You?  Will I apply everything and every breath You give me to delighting in investing You in every area of my life and those around me?  It’s not the magnitude of what I do that pleases You.  The greatest of anything I could ever do is small stuff compared to You.  I know that all my good works are as filthy rags comparitively.  But a heart and life surrendered and delighting in pursuing Your will, that’s what living is all about.

I don’t really know how well I expressed these thoughts here.  I’m not sure if I’ve done You justice here, Lord.  But You know what I’m trying to say, because You’re the One giving me the eyes to see heaven more clearly, and it looks like beautiful You.  Yes,  just as You sent Jesus, so Jesus is sending me.  What did You give Him?  How much did He apply for You?  Did He delight in applying every part of Himself for You and in You?  What about me?  What You’ve given me, what You’ve made me, every circumstance, every possession, every part of my mind and my body and spirit, am I investing it forward?  Because it doesn’t matter that I’m not much or that I haven’t got much.  What matters is that You desire to do much with me for Your righteousness and for Your glory.  Is that what I live for?  Am I fully submitted to Your will?  Because living there in You is where I’m beloved and where You are well pleased in me.