Strength in Your Touch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Clinging Tighter Than Our Lives

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“And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many…” Daniel 8:25

 
Did you ever imagine that peace, yes, PEACE, could be destructive? Could these words of Daniel written 2,500 years ago be important to us today? Should they make us stop and think? Should they cause us to be moved and to change our thinking and actions? Daniel saw this vision from God, heard it’s interpretation from the angel Gabriel at God’s command, and became weak to fainting and sick. And even after he got over that, the things he had seen still made him feel numb. And still he couldn’t put it all together. But here’s the point: He didn’t walk away unaffected. He carried those thoughts with him and they affected his whole being.

 
Maybe it would be beneficial to take time out to think about what Daniel was shown. His vision is about kings rising to power and then being overthrown by other kings with other kingdoms. This is actually a vision given right before King Belshazzar was overthrown and it tells of his destruction. So knowing that must have made Daniel uneasy. After all, he had already been through the destruction of his own kingdom, and seen the death and havoc it rained on those he cared for. Now to see that again? But this wasn’t just a vision of now, for David. It was a vision that stretched to the end times. How near were they?

 
Lord, You didn’t just give this vision to Daniel for people of his time to be aware. You gave this vision to Daniel so we could be aware today also. Because Your vision has not yet been completed. It is still coming to be. Even now, we are somewhere in that latter time of the kingdom. Even today we may be in the time of the king with the fierce countenance and understanding of stratagems.

 

What could that mean to have a fierce countenance? It could mean Hebraicly that your face, your personage exhibits strength, vehemency, harshness, power, or greed. It could be that you are hardened and that your self is puffed up in it’s own strength, like what happens with so many leaders. Here’s someone who is coming who will understand stratagems. Understand that stratagems can be conceit, tricks, and being good with lots of wordiness about philosophy and general principals.

 
But this leader, who will have power, well, it won’t be his own. I wonder then from whom this power is imparted to him? Who gives him this power to “destroy wonderfully”? That word for wonderful can mean miraculously. That’s pretty scary. I mean, Jesus came to seek and save and did and does so miraculously and we know that His power is of God. “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Luke 9:56) So who comes to destroy them?

 
Jesus discussed this with His disciples and for our benefit. “The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) Who is the thief? It’s not God because God gave Jesus as the Good Shepherd. But there is also a thief at work trying to destroy God’s work by destroying His workmanship- the people of God, His beloved.

 
Well, let’s continue to search for who this ruler’s power comes from. Who is the thief of thieves? Peter warned believers, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.” (1 Peter 4:15) Obviously, these characteristics are not of God, not a part of being in Christ. Jesus Himself accused some men of these characteristics and let’s see who He equated that with: “You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8:44)

 
Think about it. What will it be like to be under a ruler who is full of the power of deception given from his father, the devil? Think about him or her prospering, pushing forward, doing his will. And what is his will? What is Satan’s will? He’s a defeated foe. How do they act? I think of Japan in the Philippines when they knew the Americans were coming back and they would be defeated. I have a friend who was there, living in Manila. His dad was working for the Japanese, (actually telling secrets about them to the resistance!) and the Japanese he was working with liked him and his kids. So one day, they told my friend’s father, “Get your family and leave because all the people will be gathered into the fields and slaughtered.” Defeated enemies can be terribly violent. This is the type of enemy that the devil is.

 
His aim will be to use this man to destroy God’s people, the mighty and holy ones of God. Who are these mighty and holy ones of God? That’s you and I if we are His. And how will this leader empowered by Satan do that? By his policy, the way he uses his intelligence and understanding, deceit and fraud and subtlety and treachery will be employed to its fullest. And people will be sucked in to this way of thinking. He’ll be puffed up in his own heart which will lead others to be puffed up in their own hearts. And get this, by peace he shall destroy many! Can you imagine that? We all cry out for peace and he will use peace to destroy. How is that?

 
The Hebrew word here for peace is shalvah. It’s about security. It incorporates abundance, peace, prosperity, and quietness. It’s what the world is looking for in itself but what can only really be found in God. So this leader, under Satan’s influence will give it to everyone the world’s way and deceive them into thinking that security in things and power, and abundance in wealth and possession, and quietness between people and nations is the goal of life. Now here’s the scary part. As a society, actually as societies all over the world, the majority are already buying into this way of thinking. Terrorism is at our door but we choose to believe the lie that all people are good. So we don’t act upon the facts but upon our false feelings. And it’s not just people who don’t know Christ. It’s among people who call themselves believers and yet don’t act like You. Instead, believers are clinging to the security of their government instead of God. We fight Islam with weapons instead of the power of God’s word and God’s love. We choose comfort and abundance and quietness instead of sacrifice. It’s not just the problem of those on the outside. We’ve allowed ourselves to become deceptively corrupted from Your intent. And it’s time that it made us weak inside and sick like it did Daniel. But does it?

 
One day You are going to show us that our beautiful big homes that we feel so secure in, have no security at all. Just let an earthquake or Tsunami or flood or fire come, and then what? Where will our security be? One day, banks will fail, or we will be robbed, or lose our job, or so many financial things will happen at once that we’ll wonder what happened to our abundance we were relying on. And what happens when something happens to my happy family and it’s not so happy and peaceful any more? Where will I be then? What happens when my quietness I have rejoiced in becomes loneliness? What benefit is that kind of peace?

 
Here’s the thing. Our peace must be in something Other than this. Paul shared, “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21) Our peace must come through God in Jesus Christ. Our peace and our existence is only found in Him. And in Him we are given the ability to spread that peace to others, that’s that perfection He is bringing about in us to do His will, His way, by His power to make Himself known in those He created to be His vessels.

 
Satan would have us believe that we are our own vessels, dropped here by chance to shape ourselves. But that is total deception and total emptiness. It’s deception of the worst kind because it’s willful maliciousness to turn our hearts to believe that and to disbelieve God’s purpose for us. This is such a tragedy! Jesus wept over it. In Luke 19:42 we hear His voice, “If you had only known today what would bring you peace! But now it is hidden, so you cannot see it.” Today, do I know what will truly bring me peace? Or have I chosen to let it be hidden from me and unattainable?

 
Jesus, You wanted us to understand this so badly. You kept telling Your disciples and by that, You keep telling us. “I’m leaving you peace. I’m giving you My peace. I don’t give you the kind of peace that the world gives. So don’t be troubled or cowardly.”( John 14:27) And right before He would be taken captive toward the cross, “I’ve told you this so that My peace will be with you. In the world you’ll have trouble. But cheer up! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) There is a different kind of peace, an eternal peace that overcomes the hardships and tragedies and heartaches and deceptions of this world. The question is, which peace will I cling unto? Will I cling to a self-serving peace that will be destroyed, that is a lie? Or will I cling to the Prince of Peace who will reign forever and invites me to the security of His presence throughout eternity?

 
Life’s not easy and peace won’t be found permanently in this world system. But I agree with Paul, that the “momentary” suffering I could ever experience here on earth could never surpass the peace of being with You eternally. And Paul’s not talking about light afflictions here. He knew of afflictions and suffering and persecution that led to death. And he believed it was all worth it to know You and to be with You, Lord, and so do I. So, let me conclude by sharing Paul’s words to us: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” (2 Corinthians 4:7-17) So may we become weak and sick over the deception that surrounds us and use that to be appalled by it so that we rise up and cling tighter than our lives to the peace and security that is only found in God through Jesus Christ our risen, living, and intervening Savior and Lord.

“Silly Rabbit, Trix are for Kids”

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Picture credit to General Mills.

“Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that brings good tidings, that publishes peace!…” Nahum 1:15

To look at a summary of the three chapters of Nahum’s prophecy is not a very bright outcome for Ninevah.  It starts with God’s wrath against Ninevah, proceeds to the destruction of Ninevah, and ends with the woe of Ninevah.  But at the same time, it’s a message of good news to those who will listen and be effected by that listening to choose God.

Nahum starts out by telling how You are a jealous God, and how You revenge against Your enemies.  At the same time he reminds all how You are slow to anger, and great in power, and a righteous judge who can’t and won’t acquit the guilty.  Who can stand before You, really?  And then Nahum reminds the hearer that You are good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and You know those that trust in You.  You know every one who truly trusts You in Israel, even though she be scattered or under oppression.  You know any one who truly trusts You that might exist in Ninevah.  You know any one who truly trusts You today.

And that takes me back to thinking about what it means for You to be a jealous God.  Often, jealousy now has a bad connotation.  Men twist jealousy and use it for their own desires.  But You are God, and You are holy and right.  And though all things are for You and according to Your desires, all Your desires are true and good and right and for our benefit because they glorify You.  So what is different about Your jealousy?  The Hebrew roots denote an idea of becoming deep red.  But it’s more than getting that angry red face, it’s a defining character or quality of life.  Love, hate, jealousy- they are all right there together.  The feminine form means ardor, zeal or jealousy. 

Now Proverbs 6 and 27 tell us that jealousy “enrages a man.”  Let’s admit it.  If someone finds someone else in bed with their spouse, there will be a whole different attitude than if the same person were stealing an apple because they were hungry.  Could that be because we don’t love or hate apples, but we do love and value our spouse?  In man, jealousy has to be checked.  God understood that.  In Mosaic law, he made checks to protect wives whose husbands were unrightly jealous.  At the same time, Ecclesiastes 4:4 sees competition as a form of jealousy that motivates men to skill and labor, and in 9:6 jealousy is equated with zeal and right there with love and hate.

Phinehas was described as being jealous with the jealousy of the Lord (Numbers 25:11), when he gored Zimri and Cozbi.  And the Lord blessed him.  When Scripture speaks of the marriage relationship between You and mankind, it comes up in accusations of adultery.  David felt it as we hear in his declaration, “Zeal for Your house has consumed me…” (Psalm 69:9)  It’s that feminine form of qanna.  You, Yourself Lord, confess that You are a jealous God in Exodus 20:5, Deuteronomy 5:9 and more.  “In Exodus 34:14 it’s even stated that the Lord’s name is Jealous God (El-kana).” (Abarim Publications)

So maybe we need to re-evaluate what jealousy is really supposed to mean.  When I go to Webster’s dictionary and look at jealousy, it’s all about suspicion, and that’s just not what this Hebrew word is about at all.  But if I look in Webster at the word zeal, I start to see.  It’s “passionate ardor in pursuit of any thing.”  Only, God, You aren’t just pursuing anything.  You are pursuing Your glory which You deserve and our benefit because we were created to shine for You.  So You are all about being passionate for us and our purpose. 

Even Ninevah’s purpose was to shine for You.  But they had chosen another path.  Paul reminds us that there are vessels of honor and vessels of dishonor.  And God, in His infinite patience holds up His passion and pours it all out at just the right time.  Therefore, the vessels of dishonor become Your means of demonstrating the magnitude of Your passion for Your beloved.  It comes out as anger for those who injur Your beloved and mercy toward Your beloved. 

It’s not easy understanding this jealousy, but it’s worth taking the time to meditate on it.  Like in Exodus 20:5 where You say, “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me.”  Stuff like this seems really harsh.  But am I really understanding it?  Are You a jealous God who holds the children accountable for the sins of their parents?  Is that what this really means?  But maybe I have to understand paqad, visiting, also.  It’s a good guess the meaning has to do with  to ‘attend with care” or “take note.”  There is usually a “positive action by a superior in relation to his subordinates.”  It’s often the idea of “‘making a visitation’ and points to action that produces a great change in the position of a subordinate either for good or ill.”  Some have looked at the Paleo-Hebrew imagery in the word.  In that case, paqad could represent “the expectation of a future encounter.”  What if it’s all about God visiting?  What if God comes to those children just as He came to the parents and offered a relationship with Himself?  What if the third and fourth generations have the hope of You manifesting Yourself to them too?  What if personal involvement with You was something they could attain? 

What if You are not separate from our human affairs?  What if You are involved and visit us?  What if You are so personally involved that You are a part of our life, but You won’t force it on us?  What if You come calling to be involved in our everyday life, and we can accept that invitation or not?  What if You, the Superior, comes to us, the inferior, wishing to invite us into Your good will and we can accept it or deny it?  What if Your qanna, or jealousy, or zealousness is about Your expectation for us to understand this and expect us to expect You and get ready for You?  And when I don’t prepare for You and I deny You, I suffer the consequences of choosing to be Your enemy instead of Your child? 

The truth is that You invite every person to be passionately connected with You and intimately involved with You.  We’re not mere slaves and entertainment as men were to the Greek and Egyptian gods.  You are committed to us and to manifesting Yourself to us.  You are personally involved.  But with that commitment comes an examination and intervention.  You come to do something in us that we cannot do in ourselves.  You participate in our changing.  You guard us from ourselves.  You pay attention to us not because You need to be appeased but because You are truly Father.  Your care and concern extend into the future.  Your character of  qanna, zeal, that right kind of jealousy, enters into Your children but only because they have allowed You to enter in.  And it enters our children’s children if they let it. 

In Revelation 3:20, Jesus declares, “Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”  There’s this door that God has opened to us, since the garden of Eden, and He’s called the Tree of Life.  Once we could have entered it without having to deal with conviction or atonement or without any need for relief.  But now, we need all three.  We need redemption.  God is inviting us into relationship with Him, just like He invited the Ninevites way back in the time of Jonah, and still wanted to invite them, and just like He invited Israel.  But if You choose to avoid walking through the door of invitation, You reap what lies on the other side, outside of His protection.  And the beauty is, to walk into God, to enter into You, is to continue into something more beautiful than we could ever imagine. 

In the midst of whatever is going on in life, “the Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble,” and You do know, intimately, those who trust in You!  There is so much now to see, when we behold upon the mountains the feet of him that brings good tidings and publishes peace!  Isaiah 52 reminds us that You are here with Your people, that You reign so closely and so intimately that Your beautiful feet walk the mountains with us and bring us good news and publish Your peace and bring us happiness, and salvation.  I know that this isn’t just about Nahum’s feet and missionary’s feet because You tell us, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)  The beauty is that You publish this peace in You to all people, and You invite us into it, and You invite us to publish this peace with You.  But it’s an invitation none-the-less.

The truth is, those that You love, You reprove and discipline.  And we have a responsibility under that reproof and discipline, to be zealous and repent.  But it’s our choice how we respond.  You stand there at that door and knock.  We can hear Your voice and open the door, or we can hear Your voice and head to another door.  But only those who hear Your voice and open Your door will benefit from a personal, intimate relationship with You.  Then You will come to them, You will visit them, no matter what there parents’ choices were, and eat with them and us with You.  That’s the beauty of choice and free will.  I can come of my own accord and choose to visit with You.  I can choose to be Yours because the fact is You’ve always chosen to be ours.  Silly humans to choose anything else.  “Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids.”  But God is for us and always has been and it’s ridiculous to choose anyone or anything but Him. 

 

The Reality of Our Every Breath

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Photo credit goes to Psyche Angelik Mendoza Villacillo-Zuhura

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”  Romans 15:13

Yes, I’m still thinking about joy, Lord.  You gave us a lot to think about and meditate on and live in.  Today, I’m thinking about this joy I learned of in batach yesterday, and adding to that the thoughts about the joy chara.  Strong’s defines chara as “cheerfulness, that is, calm delight:- gladness, greatly, (be exceeding) joy (-ful, -fully- fulness, -ous).”  But I want to take that into context with some other thoughts/truths in Paul’s words here.  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing…”  What does that mean?  What does “the God of hope” mean for me, for us, and what bearing does it have on our joy and peace in believing?

Is this about God’s hope?  Or is this about “the God who provides us with hope beyond us”? (Skip Moen)  How often have I stopped to think that it’s one thing for me to “will to believe” but a whole other thing for God to “will that I believe”?   I would like to share more of Skip Moen’s thoughts here, “God’s desire that I believe is beyond me.  It means that He will bend the fabric of the universe in order to bring me to the place of trusting Him.  He will do whatever it takes to provide me the opportunity to choose Him.  It is much more than my hope for something more, something better.  God involves Himself in my attempt to believe.  He steps in where I cannot step and transports me to a place I cannot find without Him.  He believes in me before I can believe in Him.”

The Greek word for hope here is elopes.  It means “to anticipate, usually with pleasure; expectation or confidence” and is tied in with faith.  But faith isn’t just about my head belief or doctrine.  Hope has to do with some Hebrew words.  It’s tied in with batach which is trust, and yahoo which is wait, and qawa which is to look for or wait, and tiqwah which is to expect.  Think about these words.  Hope or faith is an action.  It’s more than thoughts or words.  If we tie them all together we see that hope is trusting, waiting, expectantly waiting and looking for that hope.  Now, putting that all together, Skip Moen added these thoughts, “This means God trusts you, waits for you, looks for you, expects something better from you.  God hopes in you!  He doesn’t have to hope in Himself.  He has no need.  His hope is in what you and I will do, what we will become, how we will seize the opportunities to place our confidence in Him.”

Stop and think about that.  God wills that I believe.  He wills not only that I know Him but that I act upon that knowing.  He is confident that I will find Him.  He orchestrates that finding.  He is the engineer of my life.  He places things and events in my life to bring His will about.  He confronts me time and time again with His faithfulness in my life and the lives around me.  He acts before I ever thought about acting.  And because of His acting on my behalf I come to believe and enter into that acting.

Now that is the cause of joy.  When the shepherds saw the star and rejoiced exceedingly with great joy (Matthew 2:10) it wasn’t because they had to make themselves joyful.  They were seeing You interact on their behalf.  You found them in the fields where everyone else had forgotten them.  You engineered this moment and every day in their lives.  You placed this event there, for their behalf and on the behalf of all people, forgotten or not.  You acted when they were helpless to act.  Now tell me that You wouldn’t be filled with exuberant joy in that moment.  God cares.  God loves me.  God sees me.  God intervenes on my behalf.  I am not lost.  I am remembered.  I am valued. 

The problem is, sometimes we don’t follow suit.  It’s so easy to fall back into our habitual thinking patterns.  We forget the way You responded to us.  And like the seed sown on rocky ground, we hear and see and grab it up with the right kind of initial joy, but then we forget or we look back. (Matthew 13:44)  We stop trusting and waiting and looking and expecting something better from You.  But it doesn’t have to be like that.  I can choose to be like the man who found treasure hidden in a field and covered it and didn’t forget about it but sold everything he had to buy that field and went back and dug it up. (Matthew 25:21)

It was never about making joy happen.  I can’t.  It comes from the knowing of You.  It comes from experiencing Your intervention.  See, the faithful servant, interacted with what You were already doing.  You initiated; he acted upon that.  That’s faith.  He was faithful in the little things, the normal, the mundane where You were still acting and interacting.  And because He interacted with You in the normal and mundane areas where You walked and commanded, You invited Him into Your joy.  Your joy is only experienced in You.  Unless the servant walks in You and with You, he can’t have Your joy, and neither can I.  Because You are the Author of joy.  It’s the essence of Your presence.  It’s the reward of knowing and living in You. (Matthew 25:21)

Women go to the tomb of Jesus to care for His body.  But they find the tomb open and no guards and no Jesus.  Instead, an angel tells them that Jesus is not here, He has risen.  And he sends them to tell the disciples to get ready.  Maybe that seems like it’s just special because Jesus has risen.  It is, but He’s still turning culture upside down.  See, women weren’t recognized as witnesses.  Their witness couldn’t hold up in any court of law.  But God chooses women to be His first witnesses.  He gave them hope in Him.  He entrusted them with the Good News, He waited for them to act, He looked for them, and He anticipated it all expectantly.  He knew they would be the first ones at the tomb before they knew.  And look what His hope for them did in them.  “So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell His disciples.” (Matthew 28:8)

Zacharias and Elizabeth would have joy and gladness at the birth of John (Luke 1:14) because You were intervening in their hope.  The 72 disciples You sent out that ran back filled with joy because even demons were subject to them in Your name (Luke 10:17) were learning of Your hope in them and it brought joy to their hearts.  That’s what happens when we see You intercede in our lives, when we aren’t cast out and alone anymore, when we understand that You want us back with You and You do all this for us.

It doesn’t stop there.  That hope You have for humanity, for each of us and all of us, overflows in Your joy over us so much that it inhabits even the angels around Your throne.  “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”  What if the truth is, that we need to realize how great a thing God has done for us through Jesus Christ, from the beginning of time into eternity, by intervening on our behalf every moment of every day?  What if we all stand in need of repenting for all the times we’ve not seen and not realized and not rejoiced in His hope for us that is so tangible?  What if that is part of the sin we are guilty of? 

I want to stop trusting in false things.  I want to stop waiting for what doesn’t matter.  I want to stop looking for what I think.  I want to stop expecting wrongly and distortedly.  I want to trust in You, in all You’ve done, in all You’re doing, and in all You will do.  I want to appreciate every situation, good or bad, as an opportunity for You to demonstrate hope and bring me joy, not because of getting through or out of the situation, but by drawing closer to You and walking with You through it all, and experiencing You.  I want to wait for You.  I want to wait with You and in You.  I want to look for You in everything.  I want to expect You to be God.  I want to expect You to show Yourself and bring glory in every situation and in me.  I want to be that sinner who repents.  I want to enter into the joy of the Lord.  The truth is, I can have what I hope for.  You’ve already made the way for me and You are continually making it for me.  I just have to embark with You on it.   

Even when my hope and my joy fades, Yours doesn’t.  That’s why I can forever be confident of this very thing, that this good work which You have begun in me and for my behalf and on behalf of others and Your kingdom, You will continue it and complete it.  (Philippians 1:6)  You are the Strong One who will make me strong.  You are the Hope that gives me hope.  You are the Joy that fills my life with joy unspeakable.  It was never about circumstances.  It’s You.  You are my happy thought.  You are my joy.  You are the reality of my every breath.  And I don’t want it any other way.

To Abound in Hope and Joy

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Photo compliments of the internet and Candace Payne.

“Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.”  (Isaiah 51:11)

There’s this woman, Candace Payne, who’s become this instant internet celebrity because of a video posted on the internet.  I saw that first video.  I appreciated it.  And I’m not surprised by all that’s following.  I like to appreciate the joy of little things, even little things like Chewbacca masks that talk like Chewie and have a mouthpiece that moves with your mouth.  Her video made me laugh too.  I’d be right there with her.  But it wasn’t just about a Chewbacca mask.  It was about having a kind of bad day and choosing joy instead.  But her joy isn’t really in the mask.  Her joy is in the Lord and all the things he places in her life.  So, I’ve decided to look into the Biblical idea of joy.  Because, like Candace, my sister in the Lord, I want to live in the joy of the Lord.  I want others to see that special joy in me, despite my circumstances, and I want that supernatural joy to draw others to You, Lord.

Joy is a pretty important thing in Scripture.  In Hebrew, when I did a search, I found at least 15 words and word variations used for joy.  In Greek in the New Testament, I found 4 words used.  When I divided the words between their meanings to study them, it filled 21 pages on my computer!  Do I think joy is important for a believer to understand and walk in?  Yes, I do.  So I want to walk in it.

Simchah is one of those Hebrew words for joy used 83 times in Scripture.  It means blithesomeness or glee.  It envelopes “exceeding(-ly), gladness, joy (-fulness), mirth, pleasure, and rejoice (-ing).  Instance after instance it’s used to describe the joy of the Lord.  And that’s where it really works.  But it can be twisted, like in Proverbs 21:17 which shares, “Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man…”  See, joy or pleasure can go astray.  We can get addicted to joy and pleasure in the wrong things.  Whenever that happens, tolerance ensues.  And tolerance causes addiction.  All the pleasures of the world have this way of not satisfying.  There’s this joy in acquiring things, but then we always need to acquire more for that joy.  When our joy is in sexual gratification, we need more for the same joy.  When there is joy produced from the feeling from alcohol or drugs, we need more.  When our joy is in our family and our family leaves to become adults and we’re left alone and joyless, what then?  When our joy is in a good laugh and the laugh is finished, what then?  They leave me empty and joyless or joy at best is something fleeting that I can only catch every now and then and is determined by my circumstances. 

But if the joy is truly the joy of the Lord, we’ve found that one fulfilling addiction that will not lead to tolerance, because You, Lord, will always satisfy.  When I am left alone or when my world seems to fall apart around me, then I don’t fall with it.  I stretch more for You, Lord, and You draw closer to me.  My pursuit isn’t about pleasure or joy.  My pursuit is You.  You are Joy.  You are Pleasure.  Every substitute is empty.  When I pursue You, I find the divine in things I never expected to.  Candace found God’s joy in a mask that took her mind off her “failure.”  The other day, I found the divine in a limited edition print on my wall.  And the fact is, we find the divine over and over again.  Each time it’s new and different.  Like Skip Moen said, “Tolerance never sets in because I never reach the point where my soul adjusts.  The soul is always hungry for God but no amount of God’s grace will ever fill it.”  You and I and Candace can choose our addictions.  We can choose that which brings a “diminishing return” or “we can pursue the Creator, the One Who built us to absorb all He gives and never reach the saturation point.”

I can dance and sing songs of joy like the women when David struck down the Philistines, or when Solomon was anointed. I can be joyful like when all the mighty men joined David.  It can be part of me like it was a part of the Levites function to sing and play music with one voice with joy to the Lord.  I can shout for joy at a great event for the Lord like the people at the rebuilding of the temple. I can be joyful in keeping the Lord’s feasts and obeying Him or in dedicating the wall around Jerusalem.   But all those things, though good, can be a wrong focus.  Because I can start to worship a circumstance instead of the One who guides me through them. 

David’s words show where His heart was.  “You [God], have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.”  (Psalm 4:7)  The joy doesn’t come from the circumstance, even if the circumstance is abundance.  The joy has to come from knowing and experiencing You, God.  Why?  Because “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)  And how do I get there?  You do it when I start to see You for who You really are.  “For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.” (Psalm 21:6)  “The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.” (Proverbs 1:28) It brings joy because the hope is in a Person and not an outcome.  The hope is in a Person who will perform and accomplish all that He has promised to accomplish.  He is the Joy.  He is the Prize.  And the one who believes is in Him.

In Isaiah, we read how joy and gladness can be taken away, how songs can stop being sung, how cheers disappear, the fruitfulness of a land  is taken away, and no-one shouts for joy.  It can be replaced with outcries, and joy can grow dark.  Gladness can be banished.  Do you know when that happens?  When God is forsaken, when You are left out of the picture.  But the good news is that “The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord, and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy one of Israel.” (Isaiah 29:19)  “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”  (Isaiah 51:11)  Think about it all.  Think about Isaiah 55:12- “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”  Where do we go out from?  We go out from the presence of the Lord.  We are led forth in peace by the Lord.  Everything around us, therefore, sees the influence of the Lord upon us.  If the mountains and hills break forth into song and the trees clap their hands, what do you think of the people that live on those mountains and hills and under those trees?  What will be their response to seeing the joy of the Lord in our lives that are spent dwelling in the presence of our living God?

You know what?  Instead of being depressed or downcast or pouty or bitter; instead of hanging our heads in shame because our yoga pant size isn’t what it should be or because I’m misunderstood or because of my daily pain or the disappointment of something that’s not falling into place the way I wish it would, I can choose to walk in the joy of the Lord, in Your presence and dwell on the beauty of You.  Then “Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy.” (Isaiah 61:7)

I’m really glad for Candace. I totally understand where she’s coming from.  She’s coming from reveling in the joy and presence of the Lord.  And I can’t think of any better place to be that will always satisfy and that will never leave me feeling empty.  No matter how bad my circumstances get, I’m taken back to Lamentations 3.  “Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!  My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.  But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.  It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”  Joy, if it evades us, it’s because we’ve been evading God.  Got joy?  If not, let us run to God in Christ Jesus.  “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)  So, I pray with Paul for us, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)

Does Sleep Evade?

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“I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for You, LORD, only make me dwell in safety.”  Psalm 4:8

Sleep is a pretty special commodity.  It can be really evasive.  As a kid, I used to like to go to sleep because while I slept, I could dream.  I like to dream.  I could dream about things I wanted to dream about.  I could dream about adventures and being a hero chimpanzee that was a sidekick of Batman and Robin.  Maybe not what most people dream about, but I looked forward to it.  And sometimes I would dream about Jesus and being his little sister and getting to go everywhere with Him and learn from Him and be loved by Him.  Sleep was a good thing.  Except for those certain occasions when I experienced nightmares, and then I’d wander into my parent’s bedroom and ask if I could sleep with them.  And in the middle of their bed, protected on both sides, I could lay down again and sleep in peace, safe and sound.

And here in Scripture I read of an even safer place to be in You, Lord.  In You I can lay down in peace and sleep.  The truth is, there are times my mom and dad couldn’t do that for me, and times I can’t do that for myself.  Sometimes there are so many thoughts going around my head, that my brain gets too busy when I lay down, and sleep evades me.  But I ran to You, and You calmed my mind and gave me rest instead, quiet rest so that now I look forward to the rest of sleep again.  Although now I look forward to a rest without dreams because my busy mind needs quietness.  I need quietness and trust.  I need to let You be the one hashing out my days and nights.  I need to let You be God and follow Your lead and cast all my cares on You.

This stuff of laying down in peace, and sleeping, is actually pretty strong “medicine.”  The word for “lay me down” is shakab.  It means to lie down not just for sleep but any purpose like “rest, sexual connection, decease, or any other purpose).  And David isn’t just saying that he aimlessly lays himself down, but that he chooses to lay himself down with purpose in all these situations in peace.  That’s that word shalom. It’s not just some blessing you say to people, or a way to say hello or goodbye.  It means “completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.”  It’s root means to be complete and full.  In modern Hebrew, a variation means to pay for and another to be fully paid.  So here is David, saying he consciously makes a decision to place himself in a susceptible position, a vulnerable position before You God, and before others in order to be whole and complete.  Think about it.  When Saul slept, David could sneak up on him and cut part of his robe.  Jael could sneak up on Sisera and drive a tent peg through his head.  David knew the frailty of sleep, yet He chose to trust in You when he layed down and to trust in You at his most vulnerable, when he slept and couldn’t care for himself.

David knew that You alone protect, that You alone make us whole and complete, that You alone perfect us.  No one made him act upon that belief.  He chose to trust.  He chose to lay down.  He chose peace in You.  Psalm 131:2 states, “Like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me.”  Here’s the thing, a mother weans a child.  She teaches the child that his needs will be provided despite the lack of the breast.  She moves him on to more mature food.  But the Psalmist here isn’t saying that now he chooses to have someone wean him.  He’s not passively choosing.  His soul is like a weaned child.  He has chosen to wean his soul.  That’s what David was doing in Psalm 4.  It’s what I need to be doing daily.  I need to be weaning myself from trusting in things of lesser faith and choosing to come lay at Your breast, Lord, and rest in You, not because I want the milk, but because I’ve come to understand the wholeness and completeness and beauty and power of clinging to You and Your ways, of living and walking step by step, breath by breath, moment by moment in Your presence.  I don’t need the milk.  It’s that closeness with You that strengthens and encourages me and builds me up like You.

Paul said, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. ” (Philippians 4:11-12)  It’s not our circumstances in life that determine our trust.  It’s not our circumstances in life that determine whether I lay down or whether I sleep.  It’s a deliberate choice to trust.  It’s a deliberate choice to choose the presence of God over worry, even over sleep.  I will not dwell in the difficult thoughts and situations of the day.  I wasn’t created to dwell with them.  I wasn’t created to dwell in them.  I was created to dwell with You, Lord.  I was created to “think on these things.”  What things?   “…[W]hatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)  Is that just a list of good things to occupy my mind with?  Or is that reminding me that You, Lord, are the only One that meets all those requirements?  And if I choose to think on You, it will lead me to think on these things, and to act upon these things, because of the influence that leaning on Your breast will have on my life and my thoughts?  I don’t need to be weaned from someone making me think on these things.  I’ve been weaned and now I want to think on You, I want to come near to You, I want to live by faith, I want Your presence.  I want Your presence not for the milk.  I want Your presence just for being close to You because I know You and I love You because of Your love and care for me.

One day, Jesus was walking by the temple. He went to the pool of Siloam by the sheep gate and saw this man laying there.  Actually, there were lots of sick people there.  Legend said that when an angel rustled the waters in the pool, the first person in the water would be healed.  This man had been there, laying, waiting, for 39 years, but had no one to take him to the water.  You know, today is the first day I’ve ever cried over that thought.  39 years of hoping, but no one to help him.  And this day, no one notices him except Jesus.  And Lord, You pose this question to him, “Do you wish to be well?”  (John 5:6)  Doesn’t that seem like a silly question to ask?  Not really, if we look into what these words really meant.

You weren’t just asking if this man was willing to have You heal him.  That’s a no brainer. Of course he wanted that!  You were asking him if he was willing “to be generated whole.”  Genesthai, that Greek word, means “to be generated”, “to begin to be” or “to come into existence.  Sounds like Genesis, doesn’t it?  It’s all about a new start.  “Are you ready for a new beginning, right now?”  And “hugies” is about wellness, being “healthy, sound and whole.”  Jesus wanted to liberate this man’s whole life, body, spirit, and soul.  It’s all about being totally reborn as a whole person, as the “person God intended him to be.”

Isaiah honed in on this in 30:15.  Well, really, God was the one speaking to Israel and saying this of them. “In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.”  To which Isaiah added, “But you were not willing.”   Basically, the people said, “No, we’ll trust in our horses.”  They chose acting on their own accord, fixing their own problems, or running from them, instead of running to You and resting in You and depending on You, and crawling up next to You.  It’s so easy to ignore Your sovereignty.  But it brings such a heavy price.

But our frantic efforts won’t bring our rescue.  Our rescue, our salvation comes through repentance, through returning to You, and rest, resting in You.  It’s the total opposite of what the world teaches us.  But then again, the world didn’t create us, You did.  So what does the world know?  Why do I listen to it?  If doing nothing changes nothing, if standing and waiting, or sitting still, or sleeping in the midst of trouble, doesn’t change things, then what am I thinking?  I mean, what was I doing when You created the world?  Did I participate?  Did the world actively create itself?  You did that, without our help.  What was Adam doing when Eve was created?  What, he was sleeping?  And You did that?  All by Yourself?  For Adam’s good and Eve’s good?  What was Abraham doing when You established the Abrahamic covenant?  What?  He was in a deep sleep?  You established the covenant without his help?  What do any of us do for our salvation?  We weep and cry and don’t understand, we betray, we hurt, we ridicule, we run, we hide, we fight back, we disbelieve, or we go in a room and hide and wait to see if people come torture us too.  We pretty much don’t do anything.  But You choose to die on a cross for our sins, You pay the penalty of death and the wrath of God for us, You descend to hell, and rise again victorious and alive, and You invite us into Your resurrection life.  It’s never been about what we can do.  It’s always been about what You are doing.  If only we learn to stop side-stepping You.

In repentance and rest, in returning and rest parallels in quietness and trust.  Just like that young child that has learned to come to his mother, not for the breast milk but for her, I must choose to act against my natural tendency and allow You, God, to act.  That is putting my trust in You.  I need to stop yanking the reigns of authority out of Your hands by being so ready to take care of things myself.  Because when I jump to take care of it, I keep You from showing Your grace, mercy, and power.  All anyone sees, and all I see, is me, not You.  I need to return to You first, not next.  I need to return to You, to Your bosom.  It’s not about just confessing.  It’s about an actual return to relationship with You, to a right relationship, to a personal relationship, to a desirous and dependent and loving relationship.  It’s about returning to obedience, and returning to remembering all You’ve done and all You are.  It’s recalling the real You.  Rest comes in returning.

Returning brings rest.  Rest brings tranquility.  I can lay in the boat with You as the storm rages around us because I know who You are, I know who holds me in His hands.  It goes hand in hand with trust.  I feel and experience the well-being, the completeness, the wholeness, and wellness of true confidence in You.  Peace and security come through this relationship, this reality, not through my efforts.  But am I willing?  Because the problem is in my unwillingness to submit, my unwillingness to crawl up into Your arms and be still and know that You are God.  We’d rather live with “our myth of control.”

The truth is, that adage is a lie, that one that says, “God helps those who help themselves.”  It’s a lie straight from hell.  God helps those who crawl into His arms and let Him defend them and help them.  God helps those who are willing to let Him be God.  God helps those who don’t resist the truth.  God helps those who are willing to come back to Him.  God helps those who give up their control for His.  God helps those who let Him take charge.  God helps those who are willing “to submit to His authority.”

When I’m in distress, I will call on You.  Only You can give me the relief I need.  I will set myself apart for You, because You hear me when I call and You are able to do what needs to be done for me.  No matter what happens, even if it makes me angry, I want to learn to not act on it, but to give it to You.  I want to learn true self control, where I can lay in my bed, vulnerable as can be, and ponder not the wrong done, but ponder You and be silent and let You remedy things for me.  I want to have a heart right before You, to be a living sacrifice, wholly acceptable to You, and I can’t be if I take control.  I need to learn to trust more and refuse my tendency to fix things my way.  You know, the more whole You make me, the more I understand David.  You have put more joy in my heart than those who rejoice because of abundance of their grain and wine.  I am learning time and again, the pleasure of crawling up into Your bosom and resting in the strength and love that is You.  Yes, I choose You.  And I want to choose You more and more every day.  In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for You alone. O LORD, make me dwell in safety.  Keep me there, Lord, I want to keep choosing to live in You.

The Bliss of Grace and Peace!

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Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”  1 Corinthians 1:3

In a greeting, we wish people well-being.  Paul, wishes for grace and peace from God and Jesus Christ unto the believers.  Grace takes me from here to there.  Grace walks me step by step, day by day to the throne of God.  I love this definition of grace: “the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.”  I’m reminded of it in Your Word, here, Lord, “Being confident of this very thing, that He which has begun a good work in me will continue it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

Grace is underserved merit yet it is a continual process.  Grace came to me and saved me, sealed me with The Promise.  Grace continues to work through The Promise to continue the good work it began in me until it has brought me into a perfect and intimate relationship with You, Jesus.  Lord, I must realize that I shall not be complete or in my “perfected” state until both body and soul have been changed.  Like You, I must endure the flesh for a season as the flesh imposes upon me restrictions from complete intimacy with You.  Yet I now have power in You to control and guide those restrictions.  That’s probably part of the reason You prayed for us.

You were in complete intimacy with God in Heaven.  As man, You took on the restrictions of the flesh.  You know how it feels to long for physical and spiritual intimacy.  You can understand our longing.  You know what it is to be so busy in the world with the affairs and care of men that it would keep You from time with God if it could.  But You made time, probably after a long, hard, spiritually and physically draining day of expending Yourself for others, when sleep probably beckoned softly and sweetly.  Yet You turned her down for intimacy with God.  So I too, can order my day and make time to seek that same intimacy.  I can deny my physical weakness and receive strength through and in communion with You.  This is grace.

Peace.  The Greek word eirene has to do with “the absence of war” which leads to “health, well-being, and tranquility.”  But the Hebrew idea stems from the word shalom.  The Hebrew is all about relationships instead of conditions.  When I get relationships right, other things work out.  I mean tidyng my house all day doesn’t insure right relationships with my family.  Working to provide for my family doesn’t insure healthy relationships with them.  Throwing myself wholeheartedly into my ministry doesn’t mean I have a right relationship with You and those around me.

Peace is not about physical prosperity but richness in the Lord, confidence in the Lord.  This richness, confidence, and intimacy produced through the workings of grace allow me quietness and rest and patience and understanding knowing that You, God, are not only in control of my life but that You are in control of every situation and every life around me.  You expect, no, You daily perform in my heart and life what You desire at the rate and time You deem right for me personally.  And that goes for the others around me.   Grace is not a magic trick that all of a sudden appears and then is over.  It has a sudden onset through salvation, but then constantly works to mold, perfect, build, and lift up.   Peace takes me through all the changes in confidence and love with patience.  Peace helps me hold things together concerning others because I can remember the grace I was shown and given and extend that to them and myself.

Because grace is never disappointed in me but always looks to who I will be, I can have peace.  And I can look that way at those around me.  Grace retains the lesson of my sin, yet removes the stain of sin far from me so that I may be set free.  Peace is knowing this and extending it to others.  Grace holds no records of wrong.  Peace is experiencing that and extending it to others.

In John 14:27, Jesus comforted His disciples withthese words, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  Here You were, Lord, preparing them for Your coming death.  You weren’t leaving them with a greeting to grant them happiness and prosperity.  You were preparing them for events that would turn their world upside down by leaving Your peace.  Now You were alive but You knew You were going to die.  And You were telling them, don’t be afraid.  Why could they not be afraid because You have left Your peace?  Because Your peace was an unending relationship, an unending intimacy with You.  They could only have that relationship when You finished Your mission.  You gave it to us and left if for us.  Unbroken fellowship with God given to us, left for us.  You gave “present-moment peace” to know and have the confidence that my relationship with God has been repaired!

Lord, teach me to truly live in Your grace and peace, not just to know about, but to joyfully live in the exxperience of Your intimacy with me.  And teach me to show Your grace and peace to others, because it ought to be a natural outflow.  Now, Lord, help me to follow Your example of loving and seeking communion with God so that our relationship is right because only then will I be able to set my other relationships right and put everything else into right perspective around me.  May I run to You continually in grace and peace.