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.

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My Shepherd Farmer

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Photo credit to Herdwick Shepherd.

 

“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.” Hosea 10:12

 
This is the standard, but this is not the reality for us all. “Sow to yourselves righteousness, reap in mercy…You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped iniquity.” Yes, that is the standard and it’s the possibility but it only becomes a probability when we follow and do what the words say.

 
“Sow to yourselves righteousness (tsedaqah), reap as mercy (hesed).” First, how do we determine what righteousness is? Is it just doing good things? By whose standards? Tsedaqah is more than doing good things. Tsedaqah is about everything that God does. He is the standard setter and the standard bearer. It’s everything right, pure, true, good, just and more. Think of the heart of God, think of the actions of God and you have tsedaqah. I think of the widow at the temple who put her last coin in the offering box (a form of tsedaqah). She put all her trust in God and His care. She put all her tsedeqah in God’s tsedeqah which is a bigger box than that offering box outside the temple. I think of Jesus who was made unto us wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:30) I think of the Son of God, Jesus, who God made “to be sin for us, [He] who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) I think of how Paul declared “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 14:17)

 
I think of those things and see that righteousness is more than being good. Righteousness is a relationship with the heavenly father. It is a joy in all the things that bring Him joy and a distaste for all the things that are distasteful to Him. It is a joining in with Him in what He is doing and an absence of desire for what He is not delighting in. It’s self-sacrifice for the benefit of others. Sometimes it’s painful but it is always good and always the best. It always glorifies God and never glorifies self. It always thinks of others.

 
Tsedaqah or righteousness isn’t about speaking in tongues, or having prophetic powers, or understanding mysteries, or having knowledge. It’s not about having faith that moves mountains or giving everything up or delivering ourselves over to death for the sake of something good. It’s about pure, unadulterated love from God and love of God. It’s letting the character of God flow through me and out to others. It’s what each of us was created for, to be vessels of God’s character, image bearers of our Creator in this world.

 
Because His love is patient and kind, we realize that which was planted in us and we plant that around us. We realize it’s not about us and it never was but it was always about You, God, and our boast that we plant, is in You. I’m not puffed up or rude but the humility You displayed is what I plant. You could have had Your own way in every life. You guide and You invite but You don’t insist. I plant those same seeds and give people the choice to choose righteousness or wickedness, life or death. You didn’t treat me with irritability or resentment, but love and forgiveness and I plant those seeds for the sake of others. You never rejoiced in doing wrong even if I deserved it, but You rejoiced in the truth and doing it and being it and living it and sharing it. So I sow, no matter what someone else might deserve. Your righteousness bore all my wrongs and all my injustices to You and yet You still loved me. I must sow the same to others. You believed in me before anyone else. I must do the same. You endure no matter how hard things are and so must I. Your love never ends and neither must mine if it is in You and from You. This is righteousness. This is only attained in relationship with You. But I cannot sow without it. At least, I cannot sow and reap hesed without You sowing in me first.

 
If I want hesed to spring forth from my life and its influences, If I want “mercy, lovingkindness, unwavering care and concern, goodness” and more to flow from my life I have to sow Your conduct and Your integrity. It takes my sowing the seed and breaking up the hard ground to give nature the chance to put the rain and sun and warmth and air together in such a way as to grow the seed and produce that which nourishes me as I eat it. But if I don’t sow, I don’t grow food, and I don’t get fed. Sowing righteousness doesn’t just feed others; in feeding others, I am fed. No man lives by that kind of bread alone.

 
What does that mean? Of course if all I ate was bread and no other nutritional source I would die because of lack of adequate nutrition. But what was Jesus trying to tell us by that? What did He mean when He said He was the Bread of Life? Am I not just to look to sowing? Am I in need of the reaping? Does the reaping and accepting from others feed me? Am I in need of being sown in myself? Do I need to know that I am not sufficient in myself and that I must be fed from You, Lord, and from what You feed others? Just a thought…

 
It’s time to seek the LORD, that He may come and rain righteousness upon us. I can sow, but I can’t make it rain. I can sow, but I can’t make the sun shine and make it warm enough. So I can’t sow rightly without seeking You first, Lord. I sow, but You provide. I mean, You’re even the One who gives me the seed. I mean, unless I’m planting healthy, good seed, I’m not going to have a healthy, good crop. That’s got to come from You too.

 
But there’s a problem. I can plow iniquity. I can turn the soil and plant tainted seeds. I can plant seeds that are foreign to You. I can plant seeds of hate and distrust, of anger and shame, of pride and apathy. I can choose to plant those things. But then I will reap them in greater measure. And those around me will reap them. I mean, what do I want to feed on and feed others? Injustice? Lies? Is it really worth it to trust in my own way and in all the people around me instead of trusting in You, my Creator and the Lover of my soul?

 

Everyone will plow something. Everyone must harrow for himself. But what will it be?
You can blame it on God if you want to. But He didn’t invite injustice into the world. We did. We have the choice to sow righteousness or not. Why do bad things happen? Is it because God does not love? Or is it really because we don’t love enough to practice what God practices, to let Him have His way in us and in the world? Do we have injustice because it’s the logical consequence of sowing wickedness? Well, if we don’t like injustice, why not choose to sow righteousness in Christ instead?

 
I can plow wickedness by having a total disregard and contempt for Your ways, Lord, or I can sow righteousness by loving and adhering to Your ways. I can follow my false heart or follow You God who is always true. I can declare “We have no king, for we do not fear the LORD; and a king-what could he do for us?” I can do things on my own, my own way, but I better be ready for the outcome.

 

On the other hand, I can declare, “You are my King! Not only do I fear You, Lord, but I love You with every part of my being. You can do everything for me. You sing over me. You give me life. You give me purpose. You give me You. Yes, You can do everything for me for You are my Everything!” Lord, I want to sow everything I have in You. I want You to teach me to sow You in my life so that what is brought forth nourishes me and those around me in You. I love Your righteousness, Lord, and I want to live in it and draw others to it. You are the most amazing King I know. You are King, yet You are humble Shepherd and Farmer as well, and You are unashamed of teaching me step by step all that I need to know to follow in Your footsteps.

The Stickiness of God’s Love

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Photo credit to marciopereiraarrebola .

“If they dig into Sheol, from there shall my hand take them; if they climb up to heaven, from there I will bring them down. If they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, from there will I search them out and take them; and if they hide from my sight at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the serpent, and it shall bite them.” (Amos 9:2,30)

 
Yes, this is the prophet Amos, and prophets usually had a message from God about impending doom caused by the people hearing but not listening and doing, or by refusing to hear at all. This message reminds me of a message by Jonathan Edwards. Hmm, I just now noticed that he thought about these same two passages. But he also thought about Deuteronomy and the song of Moses to the people of Israel before God when they were preparing to enter the promised land. It was a song about proclaiming the greatness of the LORD, that He alone was the Rock whose work is perfect, and all His ways are justice. He’s a God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright. And it’s also a warning.

 

It’s a warning about remembering that He is the Rock and His people’s personal Rock. He’s the One, the Father, who created them, and made them, and established them. And how did they remember Him and honor Him for all He is and all He did? They scoffed the Rock and became unmindful of Him and stopped remembering Him and worshipped other gods who were not. Their problem was that they were “void of counsel” and there was “no understanding in them” though they thought they were wise. “If they were wise, they would understand this; they would discern their latter end!” (Deuteronomy 32:29) They went from trusting a Rock who could make one chase thousands, and two put ten thousand to flight, to trusting rocks that were not the true Rock.

 

And Jonathan Edwards comes to where You say “Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip…” The King James Version that Edwards used says, “their foot shall slide in due time.” We can choose another rock, even though we know the truth, but we’re choosing our own slippery dangerous path just like the children of Israel who fell away.

 
To choose to disregard Your ways is for us to choose instead of a path of security and care and love and provision, a path of destruction and slippery ways to our own hurt. I can expect to fall. It can come suddenly and unexpectedly because we have lost our discernment. The danger that is visible to those who would heed instruction, becomes invisible to us and before we know it, we are caught in it’s harmful grips. It doesn’t take someone to knock me down or push me into the deep water. I slip right in by my own choice. The ‘catcher in the rye” could warn me, but I wouldn’t listen. Down I would go, right over the edge of the precipice. To all this, Edwards says, “There is nothing that keeps wicked Men at any one Moment, out of Hell, but the meer Pleasure of GOD.”

 
It’s the will of God alone that preserves us. His will and His pleasure are demonstrated and withheld by His power. Amos reminds us that this is the Rock, the God, who is the GOD of hosts.  He touches the land and it melts, He rises the water up like a flood, He builds His chambers in the heavens, and vaults of waters in the earth that He pours out at His bidding. When He commands, it is done. Moses reminds us how He chooses a people of His own, encircles them, cares for them, and keeps them as the apple of His eye. He is intimate with them as a mother hen is with her chicks, He guides them and provides for them and gives them strength and suckles them.

 
This Rock, this God, has the power to destroy us. He can easily destroy us. Actually, we deserve to be destroyed. I mean, honestly, look at our track record. Look at Israel’s track record. Do I think I am better? Do I realize the slippery places I have chosen to walk and sometimes still choose to walk? The truth is, outside of the grace and mercy of God, we are all pre-prepared and fit for hell. Now, that’s a scary thought. But didn’t Jesus Himself tell the religious leaders, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires”? And wasn’t hell prepared for the devil and those who follow him? Actually, the devil himself would more than enjoy to deceive us into making ourselves more ready for hell. The corruption and desires of our own hearts would often prepare us.

 
Here’s the thing, we try to hide from the Truth. But the truth is, no one can hide from God. You can choose your own way, but He knows. He knows everything. You know when we sit down and when we rise up and You know our every thought even before we think them. You know my haunts and where my mind dwells. You know what rouses me and stirs me up. You know the thoughts that are most precious to me. But where can I go that You won’t find me? Jonah tried to hide but You knew every step. Peter thought he needed to run, but You found him and got to his heart. Sampson thought he could do it his own way, but You never lost him, although he lost You for a while. And Paul, who thought he had You, found out he hadn’t known You at all despite his religious fervor. They all found out how close to the precipice they were by choosing their own way. But it was You alone who drew them back by Your grace.

 
Israel was choosing to hang at it’s own peril. Each of us can choose this peril too. Jonathan Edwards likened it to this foolishness on our part: “You hang by a slender Thread, with the Flames of divine Wrath flashing about it, and ready every Moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no Interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the Flames of Wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one Moment.” But our fate, just as Israel’s was is up to us. Because any one of us can call out to God and remember His sacrifice He made for our return to Him. For Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. And He stands waiting to embrace us as His own in His very arms. God is a God of wrath only because we force that hand upon Him by our hard-heartedness and stubbornness. For in all honesty He is a God of love who is just waiting for us to turn to Him instead of the flames, not because He needs us but because He desires us to have life and Life is only found in Him.

 
He is a God who owes us nothing, absolutely nothing. We are like worms or ants underfoot. Yet he regards us as precious, so precious that He gives us the right amount of time to respond to Him. But if we choose to refuse to respond, we also choose our own destruction. And that choice makes You angry God, very angry, because why would Your very own creation chosen for life, choose destruction? Maybe we worms are just stupid deep down. I mean, if we would rather choose death over You, what else can I think?
I haven’t seen the plagues over Egypt. I haven’t witnessed first hand the waters of the sea separated and Pharoah’s army drowned. My shoes don’t last for forty years and my clothes wear out. But I have seen my life changed. And I’ve seen You change other people’s lives. I’ve seen thieves become evangelists and people from broken homes have beautiful marriages. I’ve seen the sun rise and set every day for all the days of my life. I’ve seen compassion that leads to salvation and joy in You.

 
On the other hand, I’ve seen people mock You. I’ve seen people who’s heads were split open and salt poured on because they believed in You, Jesus. I’ve seen people who were cast out of their own countries because of believing You and people who’s houses were destroyed because of it. I’ve seen a Pastor tell of other pastors whose fingernails were plucked out and then they were killed because they believed. But that’s the truth, that those who stood against You were the ones delivering death. You still deliver life to Your own. Like Paul said, “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” But to live without Christ is to die a purposeless and terrible death.

 
The truth is, we all have a choice. I can choose to deny God, to deny Jesus, and slip my way into Sheol. And it will all be my fault, my choice, and not God’s. He warned me. Or I can choose God. I can hear and heed. I can live out my life with You living Yours out in me. I can demonstrate Your love and compassion and be the kind of pure and holy and loving and brave “catcher in the rye” that You are. Just as You snatched me back from the flames as I was hanging on that thread, so You desire to snatch others back. It’s not Your desire that any should burn but that each would come to You.

 
If that thread is like a spider thread it’s actually very sticky and very strong. And maybe it even takes a lot of work for us to come off that thread, like I really have to fight staying on. Isn’t it a shame that You place before us so many warnings and do so much to hold us back and draw us to You and yet we fight it all? I don’t want to fight Your ways. I want to see and experience the joy of Your presence. I want to live in the safety of You. My prayer is that others would start looking so that they would start seeing what they are missing. Because maybe, if they start seeing things differently, they might choose to set their feet on the Solid Rock and find You.

The Comfort of Your Brooding Wings

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“The LORD repented for this: ‘It shall not be,’ said the LORD.” Amos 7:2

If God is God, why would He ever need to repent?  After all, Numbers 23:19 states, “God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent: has He said, and shall He not do it?  or has He spoken, and shall He not make it good?”  So, isn’t Scripture contradicting itself here?  And what about Your own words, Lord, through Malachi, “For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore you sons of Jacob are not consumed”?  How does this all come together, truthfully?

What if our misunderstanding lies in a two-fold problem?  What if part of that problem is not looking at God the right way, through the right mindset?  And what if the other problem is not understanding the full Hebrew meaning of the word “repent” or “nacham”?  Maybe it’s a good idea sometimes to just sit and meditate and search out the truth.  Maybe it’s a good idea to realize I don’t know all that I think I know, especially about a God who is great and greatly to be praised, “and His greatness is unsearchable.” (Psalm 145:3)

Amos’ situation was not the only time we hear of You, repenting, Lord.  Moses interceded on the part of the children of Israel when they worshipped the golden calf.  His intercession is documented as causing You to repent.  What did that look like?  It looked like You changing Your actions regarding executing their judgment in that particular moment.  So, does that mean You were going to make a mistake?  Did that mean that Your thinking as God changed?  Does that point to a fickleness in God?  Absolutely not!  Just the opposite. 

It’s a fault against You IF I view You as a static God, as a God of rules and demands and ordinances only written in stone.  But IF I view You the way You are, as a Dynamic Divine Being who is all about relationship that breeds a loving, intimate obedience, I can begin to see and understand.  That’s why Jesus, Your chosen one who brings it all together for us and in us can tell us, “A state of bliss belongs to those who mourn because they will be comforted through a relationship with Me.”  It’s why You don’t leave us comfortless but promised and sent us the Comforter.  And it’s all because of “nacham” which is also about comfort.

We can be not comforted, like in Isaiah 54:11.  “O afflicted one, storm-tossed one, and not comforted, behold: I will…”  There are even times when God is not comforted like in Isaiah 22:4, “Therefore said I, ‘Look away from me; I will weep bitterly, labour not to comfort me, because of the spoiling of the daughter of my people.’”  Obviously, this word for repentance is more than just a change of mind.  It’s rooted in relationship.  The word itself, it’s root, means to sigh, breathe strongly.  But I’m pretty sure it’s more than being sorry, that it’s that feeling of sorrow that comes with a broken relationship that doesn’t have to be broken.  It’s that pity felt because You know what could be instead of what is.  It’s the comfort that is available in You, that may never be realized.  It’s Your dynamic nature that is always caring and ready to show mercy and that also knows when the moment for showing mercy has passed. 

How can a God who is alive and dynamic and personally related with His creation not care about their moment by moment decisions?  How could You not respond according to the Youness of You as we make choices and respond according to our relationship or lack of relationship with You?  Are You a God who only set things in motion and then stepped back and became detached from Your creation?  Then You would not be the same God who created the universe and Adam and Eve with it and even stepped in to intervene on Cain’s behalf.

There is a right time, a right moment, and an opportune time for everything and You get to determine that.  The truth is that because You are God You are not bound by the limitations of creation because Your relationship is living and dynamic with it.  You are not subject to the limitations of the creation, or it’s “life cycle.”  Jesus showed that by experiencing birth, life, death, and taking it a step beyond the order we are bound to, by rising from death and demonstrating His living, dynamic, sovereign relationship and power.  In Hebrew thinking, “the view of God is that of a Living Person, a Speaking Word, and a Fiery Breath that broods over the events of a physical world.” (Skip Moen)  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!  How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37, Luke 13:34)  Isn’t that something how God sits over, covers and cherishes His people?

But I must never forget that Your eyes are not only for Jerusalem.  You called them out to be a light to all people.  So I can deduce that You brood over all “Your chickens,” that You, in that living and dynamic nature of Yourself, don’t stop thinking about them, and as Webster says, “have the mind uninterruptedly dwell a long time on a subject,” and that subject is the people of Your creation returning in relationship to You.

The truth is that judgment is conditional.  God takes us into account.  You have a “heart” and emotions and feelings for each person You created.  You created reality.  It’s not a static thing.  It’s all about responding to situations and doing and ultimately responding to You, the Living God, in the dynamicness of who You are.  Reality is all about doing Your will, the will of God.  Reality isn’t just about being.  You aren’t just a God who Is.  When You say, “I AM,” it’s about more than being because You never stop doing.  You are not just some ethereal essence.  You are a God who interacts and guides and directs and corrects and controls and comforts and bids us come.  You imagine and create and place the stars in the heavens and know them each by name.  How is that for intimacy!  You imagine and create and place us on the earth to bear Your image and You know every hair on each of our heads.  Reality is more than being or existing.  Reality is fulfilling Your character on the earth and in each of our lives. 

So, what if You God, have given us a dynamic relationship with You and because of that, no Word of Yours is final?  What if You have the freedom to have mercy according to our reaction to You?  What if I stopped thinking of You as static and realized that You are more dynamic than anything else?  What if the Truth is that Your character never changes, yet because You are God and because of Your mercy and love and judgment and how it all works together in You, You can sigh and respond and be comforted and comfort us according to our response and relationship with You?  Would that change Your character?  No!  But it would change mine.

You really want us to get this, Lord.  Joshua reiterated it before the people, those people You could have wiped out, and rightfully so.  David reminds us all again.  And even Paul reminds us by saying, “‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 4:7)  God responds because He has a relationship with us.  Sometimes You even respond on the basis of one person, like Abraham, for the welfare of a tiny handful like Lot’s family.  Maybe I should ask myself how many opportunities I miss by not calling out to You and calling upon Your compassion?

I wonder, if You don’t share Your feelings with us, like You did with Moses, to test our own hearts, to make sure they line up with Yours?  Like in Exodus 32, when You tell Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people.  Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”  What if You were testing Moses’ feelings?  What if that was the last thing You wanted to do, though You might have had to do it?  What if there’s more to what You say than meets the eyes if we don’t stop to meditate on it with Your help?  I mean, what if Moses would have said, “Whatever it takes to make me great, do it.  These people are really on my nerves too.”?  But Moses understood Your nature or he wouldn’t have implored You.  Here was urgency and earnestness.  Here was love and caring and a desire to comfort both God and the people on Moses’ part. 

Moses, that mere mortal, had a right picture of You as a living and dynamic God who wanted to comfort Your people and be comforted by them.  We see that in Jesus, whom You sent for us, who says, “‘Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (John 20:21,22)  Your breath is living and dynamic.  It’s not carved into stone to “oooh” and “ahhh” over.  Neither were the ten “commandments.”  Seeing ought to mean living it out.  Hearing ought to mean doing and following through with the reality of the thought lived out.  It’s time we stopped walking around like empty vessels and started living the dynamic breath of God filled lives that You intended, Lord.  It’s time our lives actually resembled the dynamic character of You. 

Lord, thank You beyond measure that You are a God who repents.  You are a God who feels for His creation.  You not only feel for Your creation but You intimately interact with us.  Your ultimate interaction on our behalf is Jesus.  But You are continually interacting with us every second of every day and if only we would stop to look and feel, we would know.  But there is a necessary response on our part.  I must respond according to Your will moment by moment as I encounter each opportunity for decision in my life.  Because maybe, just maybe, every decision has to do with morality.  Maybe morality is more than choosing right and wrong.  Maybe morality is choosing to acknowledge You in everything and maybe if I can find my way there, I will find my way back into You and into the comfort of Your brooding wings over me.

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To Sing and Rejoice Where Others Balk

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Photo credit to Betty Westmoreland.

“Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”  Habakkuk 3:17

Habakkuk lived through some really good things and some terribly awful things.  He saw the end of King Josiah’s reign as King over the people of God.  With King Josiah had come a revival.  But after the death of King Josiah, came a change in the heart of the people toward God.  Habakkuk was witness to invasion by a conquering people.  He saw judgment rain down on his people.  He was foretelling of judgment that would come by God upon their oppressors, the Chaldeans.  With the terrors that he had witnessed, he could have embraced the horror, the depression, the hopelessness, the lostness, but he didn’t.  He was radical.  Just think about it.

“An embrace” is the meaning behind Habakkuk’s name.  He could have embraced what was going on around him, embraced the circumstances and gotten caught up in them by allowing them to control his character.  He could have just acclimatized to the new culture, embraced it, and adapted to it and its gods.  But he didn’t.  He embraced God through it all, and he embraced Your character and conduct.  He embraced every thought about You.  He listened to Your words and kept his eyes on Your vision, the vision of You. 

That embrace is apparent in chapter 3.  You would think that this prophet would just write about You or tell about You vehemently to get people to believe and hope or change their ways.  But what Habakkuk does is write a song.  “I’m going to sing a song that tells about the greatness of You, God, and what You are preparing to do.  I am going to write a song and give it to those who make it into music to be sung by others.  And then they will teach others to join in and sing this song.”  How do I know that?  Because verse 1 tells me this was his prayer upon Shigionoth.  Easton’s Bible Dictionary tells us shiggayon “denotes a lyrical poem composed under strong mental emotion; a song of impassioned imagination accompanied with suitable music; a dithyrambic ode.”  That’s pretty radical thinking, isn’t it?  In the midst of rough times, looking forward to God’s victory and restoration, but still in the midst of the tragedy, he sings. 

But what is the song about?  What is this song I should be able to sing?  It’s a song about the fear of the Lord, this God who puts nations in place and removes them in His timing.  It’s about a God who in the midst of His wrath never forgets mercy.  It’s about a Holy God whose glory covers the expanse of the heavens and whose praise fills the earth.  It’s about a God whose brightness outshines the sun and who has real power coming out of His hands yet He controls that power and withholds it as He wills.  He is what everything is measured against.  The mountains and the water, the sun and the moon tremble at Your voice and obey more readily than we do.  But You don’t go forth for the salvation of the mountains and water and sun and moon.  You come and go to the extremes for the salvation of Your people, for every one who will one day turn to You as their only salvation and as their only hope.

This is the attitude, this is the character of those who believe and trust in You, the God who uses nations to bring His people back into relationship with Him. This ought to be our attitude toward the God who rebukes nations for their treatment of His people.  This ought to be the character of those who love You and owe everything to You, the God who all of nature obeys.  “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.  GOD, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer’s; He makes me tread on my high places.”  (Habakkuk 3:17-19) 

I want to thank You, Lord, for using Habakkuk to speak to the people of his day and to speak to me today.  I want to be continually reminded that no matter what else, You are what matters most.  I could lose everything, yet You are still my God.  Of all things that could turn against me or could be stripped from me, it won’t be You because You are ever faithful and everlasting.  You are worth more than the figs on the trees or the fruit on the vines or the olives or the flocks or the herds.  They may sustain me for a time, but only temporarily.  You sustain me forever and ever in You.  So even when my life is threatened, I still have reason to rejoice because though I die, yet shall I live. (John 11:25)  Like Paul said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  (Philippians 1:21)  I think Habakkuk had that same notion about God.  And Job got it too when he said, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.” (Job 13:15)

The thing is, we usually are in the process of learning, like Job, who wanted to argue his righteousness before God.  We get caught up in arguing why these things shouldn’t happen to us.  Lord, this is why I shouldn’t have this sickness, or why my loved one shouldn’t die, or why I shouldn’t lose my job, or why these people shouldn’t block my goals, or why my husband or wife should respond this way.  The list goes on and on.  But if we saw things the way Habakkuk saw the reality of You, we wouldn’t have room to complain any more because we would hear Your voice and our bodies would tremble at Your holiness and power and mercy.  Our own lips would quiver at the sound because we’d think of what has come out of them and disappointed Your holiness.  Rottenness would enter our bones and our legs would tremble as we saw ourselves for who we are apart from You.  We would look a lot more like the ones we want justice met upon than we would ever care to.  But the good news is, if we start realizing that You alone are our righteousness and wholehearted surrender is the only way to experience the fullness of You, then I can begin to learn to quietly wait for You and Your day.  Then I can learn to rejoice in You, the God of my every moment salvation.  Then I will surrender to let You be my strength.  Then I will let You lead my attitudes and invade my character.  So I guess it’s not just about You invading the enemy.  It’s about You being invited by me to invade me with Your Spirit so that Your character becomes mine, so that I can sing and rejoice where others balk.

Of Fasting and Feasting

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“Say to all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted?’” Zechariah 7:5

So here is this specific day in verifiable history that some representatives of Israel from Bethel come to ask the priests a question as the temple is being rebuilt.  They want to know, “Should I weep and abstain in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?”  They are asking if they should continue to fast religiously as they have been.  When someone says, “Do I have to keep doing that?” it tells something about their heart on the matter, doesn’t it?

And the word of the Lord of hosts came to Zechariah, this man who has already been given 8 visions by God in one day.  Listen to God’s reply.  “Say to all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for Me you fasted?” Our motive matters.  You know our motives behind why we do what we do.  You knew exactly what was going on in their hearts just as You know what is going on in mine.

Your heart, Lord, is filled with zeal and burning desire for Your purpose and Your people who are a part of that purpose.  You have continually chosen to reveal Your heart to Your people and here again, through Zechariah, You were choosing to reveal Yourself.  From creation, You have responded with zeal for us and You are waiting for us to respond with that same zeal and love back to You where we love You with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength.  You woo us with Your promises and blessings and presence.  You desire to woo us into wholeheartedness because You are wholehearted.  When do You step up to us and say, “Do I have to love you?  Do I have to lavish Myself on you?”  I  suppose there was one day in history when You let that thought come into Your mind.  “ Lord, take this cup from Me.”  But You didn’t continue to entertain that thought.  Your answer wasn’t, “Yes, I have to die for you.”  Your answer was, “Yes, I want to die for you because this is the purpose and glory of God in Me, to love this much.”  God is love, really.

The temple was supposed to be a house of prayer, a place for meeting with God and encountering You.  This temple that was being rebuilt had come with its share of discouragement during its rebuilding.  Why?  Because humans get discouraged.  Humans take their eyes off of their greatest Encourager.  So You had raised up two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah to inspire them again.  But even after that encouragement, they needed to be reminded and repent. 

Now most of these fasts had been initiated in response to tragedies that had occurred during the Babylonian captivity.  They weren’t God ordained fasts in Scripture.  Since a new era was dawning, should they continue those fasts?  It’s not a bad question, except that they had been observing the fasts based on ceremonial commitment, and that is never the idea of a fast before the Lord.  You, Lord, are looking for hearts that are coming to You in repentance and soul searching.  You are looking for souls that aren’t coming to You because they have to, but because they want to be right with You and right with others.  You want those to come who are truly weeping because they want a deeper relationship with You and feel they are missing something.  You want those to come who are showing how dependent they are on You.  If I have to come to You and ask You, “Do I have to fast?”  then I am already revealing my heart and my lack of zeal for You.

Fasting is not about duty.  Fasting is about relationship.  Fasting is not about having my prayers answered until after I’ve sought for my heart to be right.  Fasting is about lining up with You and seeking Your will.  Fasting is all about You and all about me becoming all about You.  Fasting is all about me lining my zeal up with Yours. 

The main part of fasting is to be sorry for my sins and to seek Your glory to be released in greater measure.  Fasting has to be accompanied by  “a genuine desire to know, love, and obey the Lord.”  It takes radical dedication to the Lord.  It takes Your grace to fast and pray wholeheartedly. 

It’s easy to avoid fasting.  It’s easy to avoid setting our hearts straight with You.  It’s easy to keep on keeping on the way we are.  It’s tough stuff that takes commitment to come before You and say, “Lord, what is wrong with me?  Show me what is not right in my heart and life and change me.  These things are so wrong in my life.  I need You so desperately.”  It’s easier to feed my own desires.  It’s just easier to eat and be happy and go along my “merry” way.  But it’s not better.

I’m so glad You didn’t love us the easy way.  You sought to love us with all Your strength, all that You are, all that You have.  It’s not too little for me to think that, wow, I want to love You back like that!  It’s not that I ought to, even though I ought to.  A love like that inspires me to love like that.  A love like that swells up inside of me not because it’s forced to but because it is realized.  It empowers me in Itself. 

But the problem wasn’t just with fasting.  Even when they feasted, when they ate and drank, it was all for themselves.  The whole focus wasn’t on their relationship with the Lord or His purposes and I can fall into that same danger.  Fasting is for remembering God and lining myself up with Him.  Feasting is for remembering God and being grateful and rejoicing in Him because we’ve lined up with Him.  Both are because of a desire and acting upon a deeper relationship with You.    We demonstrate that relationship through our obedience, not because of “have to’s” but because of an outpouring of love from our own hearts and lives back to You.

Spending time with You in fasting and seeking Your face leads to a right relationship with You.  That right relationship with You leads to seeking justice, mercy and compassion for the lives around us.  It leads to loving You, God, and loving people.  It leads to obedience because we get it, not because we have to.  It leads to despising evil.  It leads to caring for and doing something about the widow, the fatherless, the strangers.  How can You bless me if I won’t even listen to You and walk in Your ways?  Why would I even expect You to?  If I want You to bless me, then my only choice is to have a right relationship with You, and to line my thoughts and actions up with You, because You are the blessing and every blessing comes from You and is in You. 

Jesus, You set the example of fasting and prayer for us.  I mean, You were God so You didn’t have to fast and pray, but You wanted to because it was all about relationship with God.  It was all about honesty of Your whole life and person.  You did it to show us how we could have a deep relationship with You.  Just like with Zechariah, You were showing us the zeal of God for us and how we should be as zealous for Him.  In Your heart was a burning desire for Your people and Your purpose.  We see that in You. 

I need to ask myself if I am like these men of Bethel or the church of Laodicea.  Am I hot or cold or just lukewarm as I come to You when I fast and when I pray or in my obedience in life?  Do I think I’m rich, and prosperous, and not in need, when really I am wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked?  This is what fasting gives me an opportunity to find out, as I take the time and effort to actually fall before You and draw near to You.  Is my heart looking to find out these things?  Or am I just going through the motions.  I’m so glad You love me enough to reprove me and discipline me, so teach me to be zealous and repent.  I want to hear Your voice.  I want to open the door and let You in where ever I need to in order to set things right in my heart, my mind, and my life.  I want to have an intimate relationship with You where we sit at the table together.  I have ears, so let me use them to hear, to listen, to be changed, and to obey.  You know, I can’t eat at the table with You if I don’t sit down at the table with You first. 

This is a bigger thing than ceremonial worship and obedience.  This is true worship.  It has nothing to do with an outward show unless that comes from a changed heart leading to a changed life.  It has everything to do with sincerity and seeking.  The poor and contrite tremble at Your words and I want to also.  I want to be changed by Your words.  I want to be filled with chased and racham, mercy and compassion.  I want to show goodness, kindness, and faithfulness after that of Your own heart to others.  I want to show the kind of love or pity that a woman does for the child in her womb, just like You do for me.  I want to reflect You before others.  I want to bear Your image.  I want to reflect Your heart to the world.  I want to show them how much better the culture of God is then the world’s culture.

Lord, I want to come to You with a repentant heart.  I want to learn to seek You like that and Your will in my life.  I don’t want You to turn me over to myself.  I don’t want to reject Your words.  I want to respond to You and experience Your responding to me.  So Lord, teach me how to pray and fast and live wholeheartedly.  I’m not good at it, but You are, and You are the best Teacher ever.

True Compassion

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“And there shall cleave nothing of the cursed thing to your hand: that the LORD may turn from the fierceness of His anger, and show you mercy, and have compassion upon you, and multiply you, as He has sworn unto your fathers; when you shall hearken to the voice of the LORD your God to keep all His commandments which I command you this day, to do that which is right in the eyes of the LORD your God.”  Deuteronomy 13:17,18

What is true compassion?  I ask that because I can’t stop thinking about the love of God and how it is demonstrated through Him and how He demonstrates it through us as believers.  I think it’s important to understand what real compassion is according to Your standard, Lord, because sometimes we aren’t trying to live by Your standard, but by our own standard.  And that always falls short.  So today I am digging into this treasure of compassion in Your Word and by the power of Your Holy Spirit to teach and give understanding.

It’s interesting.  Because the first reference I came to was a word for compassion.   I see the daughter of Pharaoh coming to the river to wash herself.  She sees a basket floating among the river grass and sends her maidens to fetch it to her.  Exodus 2:6 tells us, “…when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept.  And she had compassion on him, and said, ‘This is one of the Hebrews’ children.'”  And it’s wonderful that she had compassion on him, on baby Moses, because it compelled her to rescue him and raise him.  But that is not the depths of God’s compassion and the compassion You, Lord, desire from us, the compassion that You, Lord, place in us.  That’s maybe a beginning, maybe what naturally flows from man when we let it, but that’s not the depth of the compassion that flows from Your heart.

I’m wondering if that’s the compassion that says, “I wish I had a child.  Here is one who needs a mother.  I can be his mother.  I will raise him as my own.  Here is a child who will love me as I love him.  I will care for him so that he can be mine.  I will do the things that are good for him because he is mine.”  That is a compassion that does good for another, but God’s compassion is deeper and stronger and more complete and has nothing to do with selfish desires.  The compassion of Pharaoh’s daughter is the compassion I would normally exhibit.  But it’s not the compassion of the God who loves me, who loves you.  What does His compassion look like?

There is another Hebrew word used for compassion.  This is the compassion that God shows to His children.  It’s the word racham.  In Deuteronomy 13:17,18 we see it surrounded by strong words.  “And there shall CLEAVE NOT ONE THING of the cursed thing to your hand: that the LORD may turn from THE FIERCENESS OF HIS ANGER, and show you MERCY, and have COMPASSION upon you, and MULTIPLY you, AS HE HAS SWORN unto your fathers:  when you shall HEARKEN to the VOICE OF THE LORD your God, to keep ALL His commandments which I command you this day, to DO THAT WHICH IS RIGHT IN THE EYES OF THE LORD YOUR GOD.”    What looks right to me doesn’t matter unless it looks right in the eyes of You, Lord.

I think of those words and I think of how strongly You cleave to us.  You could have let Adam and Eve and all of sinful mankind go.  You could have let us fall from Your hands.  You could have cast every one of us away.  You have the right.  But You didn’t.  You chose to cling to us and to make a way for us to become Your own through Christ.  And then You clove to us so strongly that nothing can snatch us from Your hand.  You don’t just hold us in Your palm.  You engraved us within Your hands deep within the nail piercings.  That’s true compassion.  That is so much more than Pharaoh’s daughter did.

You could have been fiercely angry with us.  That’s not just slightly angry.  We deserve death and eternal punishment.  We deliberately defied and defy our very own creator whom we owe our whole existence to. We’re not just talking about being mad here.  This is “charon,” burning anger, sore displeasure, fierce wrath and fury.  This is what You can rightfully feel for me and each of us.  This is what I deserve.  Jonathan Edwards wasn’t wrong when he said that it was a disaster “to fall into the hands of an angry God.”  I must always remember that sin brings wrath.  Wrath brings destruction.  Without judgment, wrath is coming.  But even in judgment, there is no way for me to be declared innocent on my own!  God did not leave His character behind when New Testament times approached.  He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  So I ought to cry out, “Woe is me!  I am undone!  Where is my hope?”

My hope is in God, who made me and the way for me to be returned to Him and His ways.  There is another side of wrath.  On the other side of this deep and fierce wrath is where we find just as deep and fierce a love.  This love is evidenced in the measure of Your compassion and mercy, Lord.  It’s the only thing that prevents our destruction and witholds Your wrath.  This is that kind of compassion, that kind of mercy, that kind of love.  And it’s not because I deserve it or because it will make You more complete to accept me or because I fulfill some longing in You.  You are complete and whole and satisfied completely without me.    It’s unexplainable in human terms or thinking.  It’s solely because of Your character, of who You really are and Your absolute authority.  You rule.  That’s it.  You rule.

I can argue and fuss and fight all I want, but You rule.  You rule either with wrath or with compassion and mercy.   And if I’m wise, I’ll see You like Jeremiah did.  I’ll desire You to correct me with Your judgment based on Your mercy and compassion and not with your judgment based on wrath.

And when I learn to basque in Your compassion and mercy, I am guaranteed by the depth of Your promises that You will multiply me.  That means that You will strengthen, encourage, duplicate Yourself in me, lift me up, do everything that Your character needs to in me to make me Your own and contiually fill me with Your endless compassion so that I become a vessel of the same.  The unloveable becomes the most beloved simply by the nature of the One who loves!  And I am taught to love others like that.  This is unnatural.  This is gloriously supernatural!

What You have sworn to do is eternally binding.  Man’s promises may break, but never will Your promises be broken.  If ever there was a true guarantee, You are it.  Your Word and Your ways are always true and dependable.  There is nothing stronger.  Your love never ceases.  It never fails.  It never falls off.  It’s not just You doing a good thing.  You suffer for us though You don’t have to, nor do You deserve to.  You are kind though we don’t deserve it.  Though You are a jealous God and have a right to be utterly jealous and angry over us, You respond without jealousy.  You have every right to be too proud to rescue us but You humbled Yourself and became as one of us in Christ and humbled Yourself unto death.  You could have inflated Yourself over us but instead You esteemed us as more valuable than Your own Son. You have never behaved Yourself outside of Your character no matter how angry we made You.

Here’s a difficult one.  You didn’t seek Your own.  Though You are worthy of all our worship and deserve all our worship, somehow, beyond explanation, it remained an act of worship to redeem a broken and fallen people.  And though it is all about You, by the focus being on Your love and compassion for us, on the safety from Your wrath, You retain the absolute right to be worshipped while focussing on the care of those You created.  I’m not sure if I can explain that but the One Who is to be worshipped and retains that worship, has a focus to delight in and care for those who worship Him.  And while it always remains in Your will, yet it remains from Your doing to be for the benefit of those You rescue by Your compassion and truly for their good.

And if anyone has ever been provoked time and time again, surely it’s You.  Yet You are not affected by our provoking.  Your ways are above our provocation.  You are the truth and Your focus remains in You despite every lie that abounds.  You continually bear so much for us and because of us.  But Your expectations for us never cease.  And nothing, absolutely nothing can stop Your love.  Why?  Because You are God and it is who You are.

Well, this is the kind of love and compassion that You have shown me.  This is the kind of love and compassion that I want to bestow on others by Your grace and mercy and power in me.  I don’t want to love others because of their benefit to me.  I want to love and be compassionate like You, for their benefit because it’s who I am in You.  I want to love like that because it’s the love and compassion I have experienced from You.  And I want them to experience that.   But unless I’ve experience that love and compassion first hand myself, I can’t share it.  Lord,  I just want to be so filled with Your love and compassion that it overflows no matter the difficulty of the situation I’m in, no matter my own feelings.  I want to be constantly reminded of how Your compassion continually flows out and into me though I am so flawed.  Never let me forget.  And let me always be utterly dependent upon Your compassion and utterly enthralled by it’s grasp as I ever cleave more tightly to Your love and follow Your ways among the people around me.