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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From Judgment to Song

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“…for you have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock…” Amos 6:12
This is awful news. The destruction of Zion and Samaria is foretold. People who ought to have known better and taught others better were so wrapped up in themselves they got lost and led others to lose themselves along the way. They were lost in drunkenness, gluttony, and pride and contempt over others. National dissolution was on the way, just as it had come to other nations, and will, as they adopt these attitudes as their character.
What is the example of the impending destruction that is used? A household. A household of 11 people. Plague. Ten die; one survives, and the only survivor isn’t even a near relative, but an uncle. And when he goes to carry out the burial, the cremation, even the funeral custom is abandoned. Why? “…[W]e may not make mention of the name of the LORD.” And I wonder, why is that? Did the You say not to make mention of Your name? F.B. Meyer says it’s because of the “stress of such a time,” but I wonder if that is it. Or is it that men decided they didn’t want to think about and remember You? I mean, who told them they couldn’t mention Your name? Or did the remembering just become too painful because they wouldn’t want to blame themselves for the losses they were suffering? Wouldn’t it be easier to just blame You and walk away from You altogether so no one would have to acknowledge the truth of how they got to where they were? I don’t know, but it’s a thought.
Isn’t it easier to ignore Your voice, God than to hear the truth about ourself? Isn’t it easier to ignore God than to hear that I’m the reason that judgment and righteousness are all screwed up? It wasn’t You that turned judgment into gall. You didn’t take that which You established as right and true and good and make it bitter like a poisonous plant to us. It didn’t start out bitter. But twisted hearts twisted the taste.
I don’t know who the author of Psalm 119 was but He understood the divine taste of Your ways and Your words. He understood that in living in and by Your laws and words was a special, unique, safe, and secure, and beautiful relationship with You. Instead of leading to defilement it led to being undefiled. It led to being a keeper of Your testimonies and a seeker of You with ones whole being. It led to one doing righteousness and not sin, and walking like You in real life, every day life. It led to diligence in remaining in You, in living in that relationship. It accepted direction from You to do that which was of You. It was a relationship void of shame and filled with respect and honor and glory for You. It was a relationship filled with praise for the goodness of Your being that changes my being into one of goodness. It’s a joy in obeying what is right and what You say and what You do and who You are. It’s realizing that to do anything else is to wander from Your presence and that relationship.
Instead of tasting bitter like gall, Your ways and Your words and Your laws and Your statutes were desirable to be hidden in ones heart, to learn from , to declare to others, to rejoice in more than riches, to meditate in, to respect and do, to delight in, and remember. “I will delight myself in Your statutes: I will not forget Your word.” In truth, it is a WONDROUS thing. It is separate and distinguished. It is great, sometimes difficult for “mere men” to grasp, yet continually wonderful. Yes, it’s hard, and hidden, and high, and marvelous, and miraculous, but all the more gloriously tasteful to search out.
But everyone is given free will. And each of us has the freedom to decide what we will do with You in our lives. We can choose to see You as the Psalmist experienced You by imbibing You, or we can choose to see You as the people in Amos’ day, and rebel and find delight in other fleeting things. I can choose to twist Your will and leave it all together and follow my own. I can choose to despise and treat as poison that which You have established as giving life and well-being and choose my own temporary pleasure and idea of right and wrong. Not only can I turn judgment, Your establishment of how to live life to the fullest in You and in a world of others, but I can turn the fruit of righteousness into hemlock or wormwood, another poison and accursed thing.
I love that word, tsedaqah. It’s Hebrew and it has to do with all the right things and good things and loving-kindness that flows from God. It’s rightness and justice and virtue and strength and prosperity and goodness in action and thinking and love shown Your way. But look at how corrupt man’s thinking can become, that it would see that and experience that as poisonous and accursed.
Instead of asking, “Dear God, how did I come to this point of forsaking You?” , we point our fingers at You and accuse, “Why, God, have You forsaken us?” Is it any wonder that You don’t answer our prayers when we don’t even acknowledge You until a tragedy arises? Is it any wonder that we don’t sense You when we don’t even give You the time of day? Is it any wonder that we have no feelings for You and can’t sense Your feelings for us when we reject anything about You? Yet here we are, living in Your world You created for us, under Your heaven beneath which You shelter us, becoming drunk on Your wine that You provide, and gaining weight on the provision of Your food, and living in the comfort of homes that You created the materials for building. And we think, “Who are You that we should stop to remember You? Have we not taken to us power by our own strength? Have I not made myself the master of my own destiny?” Well, you are the master of your own destiny if your destiny is outside of the presence of God. But I hate to tell you, because you’re not going to like this, that He was the one who created even that destiny in the first place, and it wasn’t intended for You.
Why would You, Lord, not be at home around us? Why would You seem to forsake people? Could it be as Hershel thought that You are, “not at home in a universe where [Your] will is defied and where [Your] kingship is denied. God is in exile; the world is corrupt. The universe itself is not at home.” If we want to not be forsaken, we need to stop being forsakers. I can absolutely refuse Your supremacy in my life, everything I desire can trump Your desires, but in so doing, I choose to live in a strange universe and not one as it was created to be. It’s as though I fight against it by my irresponsiveness. After all, You tell me outright what is required to restore everything as it was and is in heaven. Why doesn’t it happen? Because I refuse to remember and live by Your name and Your character and Your ways. I won’t listen. I throw out Your word with the baby’s bath water. Even though, in truth, my life now and into eternity depends upon it I treat it as “ethnically dependent, culturally irrelevant, theologically unnecessary,” “archaic, ridiculous, narrow-minded, un-educated, confining.” But who really is the foolish one?
The truth is that horses don’t run over rocky summits. Oxen don’t go plowing in rock. For some reason we keep choosing to do things the hard and unnatural way. It happened before Amos’ day, it happened in Amos’ day, it happened after Amos’ day in Saul’s day. Saul, who became known as Paul, recounts his encounter with Jesus, “I am Jesus whom you have been persecuting: it is hard for you to kick against the pricks.” (Acts 9:5) Here’s an interesting thing about bringing up these words today. That word for pricks is kentron in Hebrew. It’s a prick or a point like a sting or goad, like those used to prod cattle. But that sting part can figuratively mean poison and the goad part figuratively refer to divine impulse. Now think about that. Saul was treating the divine impulse as poison. Jesus wasn’t only warning Paul and revealing truth to him, He was warning us and revealing truth to us. It’s a dry and empty place filled with harshness and severity to be in that place of treating You and Your impulses and prodding as poison, but it’s a place some of us take ourselves into. And then the problem is we can’t find our way out. We wind up trapped there.
Is there hope? Yes! When God prods us we can listen and respond in trembling and astonishment like Saul. We can turn from our self-conceit and humble ourselves again before our Creator and our God and ask in submission, “Lord, what will You have me do?” And then we can turn our hearts to listen and obey and love all that is of You and live in Your strength all the days of our lives. I won’t have to feel the sharp goading because I will be walking with You of my own accord. I will know Your will and do it. I will delight in Your will and rejoice in it. You will be my delight and as I delight in You, I will know and experience Your delight in me that You have always wanted to share with me but I would have none of it before.
Maybe there are some things we have chosen to forget and we need to remember again. Maybe there are some false ideas we’ve believed and we need to let go of them. Maybe there are some old songs we’ve been singing and we need to learn a new song like in Revelation 5:9,10, “And they sung a new song, saying, ‘You are worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and have made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.’” Well, we can choose to sing this new song in our hearts or we can choose to keep singing our own song. But the day will come when one song will be true, one song alone will be sung throughout eternity, and it won’t be yours unless it was His first. I want to sing Your song, a song of my gratefulness to all that You are and all that You have been and all that You will be forever. You are worthy, not me. You brought everything into being and have the right to direct my path because everywhere I walk, You made, it’s Yours. Be my song and may Your music shine forth from me. No matter what happens in life around me, may I remember You and glorify Your name Your way.

Adorned in the Beauty of Christ

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but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. “  1 Peter 3:4

I think of all the beautiful and precious things in the world, and right now, everything just looks pale.  I wish it didn’t, but it does.  It seems like the more I want to look at the Most Beautiful Thing, the harder it gets and the more evasive.  Other things start paling in comparison.  I haven’t quite figured out how to not get grumpy about my disappointment.  It’s like a child who is waiting and looking forward anxiously to spending time with their parent, yet other responsibilites get in the way so that the child must wait and wait and wait some more.  I’m like that sulking child.  I haven’t figured out how to stop my sulking, Lord.

Here I am reading a book I asked for for Christmas about You Jesus and how You “evangelized.”  And I’m seeing again the beauty of You and Your message and Your ways.  And that’s really what I want to know and I want to know more of You.  And I don’t just want to know about You.  I want to know You more and more every day.  I want to walk with You like Enoch or David or Moses or Mary Magdelene.  I want to walk with You like You want me to walk with You.  I want to draw near to Your beauty.  I want to be influenced by the beauty of You.  I want others to be influenced by that beauty.

I understand David when he cries out, “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.”  My heart cries out for You that way too.  Funny thing is, I was just reading another blog about that verse.  And in that searching I was doing, You showed me that it wasn’t easy for David either.  See, David was a King and a man of war and He was calling out to You to allow Him to have the kind of relationship with You that priests have, not men of war and men of state.  How could that even be a possibility?   I think it’s true that David was crying out about all the things of his life that stand in the way of that desire, the responsibilites and the interruptions and the events of war and state and family and friends that take that time away.  And some of those things may be wonderful yet still distractions from having time with You.  Here was this man of war who wanted to spend time just being with You, who would rather be studying about You and learning about You and meditating in Your beauty.  I think I have the same questions he does.  How do I do it, Lord?  How do I meet all my responsibilities and live with the cultural standards in such a way that I can still seek You and dwell with You as my heart desires and as You desire?

Well, David didn’t just ask it of You, he sought it.  He took action.  But he, like me, had to wait for when You gave him permission to act.  I have to learn to wait better, Lord.  I have to learn to be content and revel in even the waiting for Your presence.  The more I read the Psalms, the more I see people who are just like me, going through problems just like me, struggling with how to live and love and keep a right focus in You and not be twisted by our circumstances.  I see people fervent for You but sometimes not responding as You would.  Because sometimes I compare the words and prayerful cries of the Psalmists, and I don’t think I would see some of those requests coming out of the mouth of You, Jesus.  But then my mouth has cried out some similar things as those Psalmists.  But it’s good to know that I’m not alone, that the problems I’m facing, are faceable and overcomeable.  It’s good to know that none of this is new to You.  It’s good to know that You love me anyways.

There is real pain in life.  There is pain in not being near You.  I mean, You are a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty to Your people.  We see that beauty.  We want to be near that beauty.  We want that beauty to rub off on us.  That beauty is full of grace and truth and mercy and forgiveness.  We’ve been effected by that beauty.  We’ve begun to be changed by that beauty.  How sad to be separated even momentarily from the beauty that is You.

But Your desire is not that You be the only beautiful One.  Your desire is that Your people would be “a crown of beauty” in Your hand, that they would be “a royal diadem in the hand” of their God.  Maybe this is why it hurts so much when we want more of You and everything seems to fight against that, because You created us and put this desire in us to desire more of Your presence so You can rub off on us.  How would Moses have shone if he had not come near to Your presence and how would he draw near to Your presence unless You had invited him and he accepted that invitation?  It is the same for us.  But who will accept unless first they see the beauty of who You are?  Otherwise, we send others because we are too afraid to approach You and we miss out on beauty that has no comparison.

We’re supposed to be effected by this beauty, the beauty of Your presence in our own lives.  Just like Moses its supposed to make us stand out as different.  Ezekiel 16:14 tells us that like Israel, God is equipping us and making us beautiful.  Our “renown” is meant to “go forth among the nations because of [our] beauty.”  What beauty?  The beauty and splendor that You, God bestowed on us.  And where does it come from?  Truly abiding in the person of Jesus Christ.

I want to pray with Psalm 90:17.  Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us!  Oh, Lord, establish the work of our hands upon us.  Be the One to establish it, Lord.  I’m so grateful for Your words through Isaiah 6:13.  Why is there mourning in Zion?  Is it the same reason there is mourning in my soul?  Is there mourning because we realize how much we miss Your presence and how much we need You and how much we love You?  Well the good news is that You have something special for those kind of mourners, those who mourn after the King.  Out of Your presence we are nothing but ashes, but in Your presence You give us beauty.  This is not a beauty of our own.  This is Your beauty.  I don’t want my own beauty.  I want to reflect You.  I want to shine with You because there’s nothing in me worth shining unless it is You.  You replace my mourning with the oil of joy.  You anoint me and equip me with Your joy, Your joy that is unspeakable and full of glory!  You take this spirit of heaviness, this darknes, and clothe me in praise. That is so amazing in itself.  Why?  Because You are the One, and the only One worthy of all praise.  Why again?  Because “‘Praise’ is really genuine adoration and thanksgiving due to the worth of an object.” (Skip Moen) You are the One, the only One who lays Your worth upon me.  Imagine the God of eternity, of angel armies, bearing my punishment on the cross just so He can clothe me in His beauty instead.  Imagine that!  See, once I was an oak of idolatry, all about myself.  But You make me a tree of righteousness.  You plant me and prune me and care for me and nourish me and the glory and beauty of Your husbandry shines if I let it, if I just accept it, if I just continually bathe in it.

Jesus was beautiful because He was all that You are.  You were well pleased in Him not because He understood Your ways and understood what was right and good but because He was willing and freely chose to live out Your intentions, Your resolves.  He was Your image and His whole being was wrapped up in You.  That should be my model.  My life ought to be wrapped up in You, Lord.  I want You to be pleased with me like that.  I want You to make me beautiful in Your eyes and to see me as beautiful.  The truth is that some people don’t please You, like those overthrown in the wilderness.  I could just as easily be one of those.  Or I could choose to submit to a God of unfathomable love, no matter how hard it is, because I’ve had a glimpse of Your beauty and nothing else compares.

What pleases You, Lord?  Sacrifices of bulls and oxen? Or doing good and true fellowship?  And what is doing good and true fellowship if it first doesn’t flow from Your goodness and being in fellowship with You?  The beauty of the Lord, the wonder of meditating in Your temple, all flows from the goodness that is You and the fellowship that You offer.

David was seeking Your favor.  But he wasn’t seeking riches, fame, and fortune.  He was seeking the favor of just being able to be allowed to be present with You.  He wants Your presence and Your favor.  Yet even David had this list of obligations that made this hard.  Like Mary, David isn’t the only one who ever took flack over the choice to step away from the important and the trivial to follow our deepest desire and simply sit with Jesus.  There are always family needs, toilets needing to be scrubbed, laundry, children to be tended to, friends to visit, jobs to fulfil, phones to answer, dinners to make, oil to change, and the list goes on and on.  It’s exhausting, it’s hard, sometimes it’s rewarding and sometimes there is no reward in sight.  Sometimes it’s exhilerating and sometimes it’s absolutely draining.  And sometimes it’s just discouraging because even the good things and even the loving on others pales in comparison to spending that time with You.

Like David, I don’t want to wait for some time in the future.  I want to seek You now.  And the beauty of it is that You grant me permission to enter into Your presence.  I will seek by setting aside whatever I have to in order to get You.  Sometimes it may be my sleep I have to set aside.  Sometimes it might be something else I feel obligated to do.  Sometimes it might even be a person I need to set aside or their needs.  Sometimes I just might need to set myself aside.  I have to set it aside for something good, for something better, for something far more beautiful.  So Lord, I’m pretty sure that You have actually given me all the time I need to walk with You, to spend time with You, to revel in You.  Adjust my priorities so that I use my time rightly as I seek You.  Adjust my attitude.  Direct my longing.  Make me beautiful like You by teaching me how to return and rest in You in every circumstance.  Adorn me with the imperishable beauty of Your gentle and quiet spirit.