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.

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My Forever Refuge

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“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.”  Psalm 9:10

Well, here I am thinking about what it means to trust again.  In the Hebrew, it’s the word batach.  It’s root means to hie for refuge.    Hie, since I don’t really use that word, is a word chiefly used in poetry meaning to move or run with haste.  So batach is about moving or running with haste toward refuge.  Refuge, according to Noah Webster, is all about shelter or protection from danger or distress.  Batach is all about trusting in someone, being confident in someone, being sure in someone, being bold in someone, being secure in someone, and having hope in someone.  Oh, I can trust in the wrong someone or the wrong something, but then that’s not what trust was designed for.  Trust was designed to be placed in One Someone and then I will reap the benefits of trust properly placed.  But if my trust is where it shouldn’t be, I will reap the consequences of running to an empty shelter, a useless refuge.

There are 120 occurrences of batach in Scripture.  And if I take the time to look at them I see how what I trust makes a crucial difference in my life.  If I go back to Deuteronomy 28, I see God warning Israel because they have placed their confidence in their high and fenced walls instead of the God who gave them the city.  Because their trust was misplaced, they wouldn’t know where to run when the time came.  They didn’t really have a proper picture of who You are God, nor did they have a proper picture of walls, no matter how tall and thick.  Every wall I know of is made of the temporal.  Every wall I know can be breached somehow and someday, something will be invented to destroy it.  A wall doesn’t care for those inside or out.  It may defend but it can’t run to your defense.  Not like a living, all powerful God can and will.  How do we miss things like that, Lord?  How do we ever find ourselves trusting in walls instead of You?  Is it because we would want to have our way so badly that we would choose ignorance over truth and surrender to Someone who is fully able to be our Refuge and Keeper?

In Judges 9 I see people running after their own ways.  A guy named Gaal comes along and people put their trust in him.  See, earlier there were a lot of sons of this one guy, the famous Gideon, actually.  And one of his sons decided he wanted to be head honcho, so he went out and killed all his brothers, except for one who hid.  He had no idea what it was to trust in You, Lord.  And other people trusted in him instead of You.  And the people that backed him, well, You used inner turmoil and false trust in another to bring them to implode upon themselves.  That’s where Gaal comes in.  I mean, why would we choose to trust in a man who can be unreliable and bent on his own ways and his own benefit, when we can trust in a God who is always faithful and always doing right, on a God who is fully able and has all the power to back it?  Why would I put confidence in a man instead of God?

Trust is being quiet and secure.  Where do I go for my quietness?  Where do I go for security?  Is it a thing?  Is it a person?  Is it a place?  All those pass.  All those can change.  All those are flawed.  Why don’t I go to You?  You don’t pass, You are forever.  You don’t change, You are the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  You are not flawed, You are incorruptible.  How do I forget?  How do I get so wrapped up in other thoughts?

See, You promise us that You will be that place where “there is no want of any thing that is in the earth.” (Judges 18:10)  We only find that in You and whatever You give us.  And what You give isn’t for us to have to occupy for ourselves.  What You give is for us to occupy for You.  When You blessed Adam and Eve and told them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth,” You never intended for us to do that in our power, for our own kingship.  Why do I say that?  Because before this mandate, God created man for His glory.  I was created to glorify, You God, not myself.  Every man, woman, boy, or girl was created in the image of God, to bear Your image and likeness in the world and over all created things.  We were created to trust You and live lives that demonstrate that trust and confidence and dependence before all of creation.  We’re to subdue or keep the whole world under Your reign God, under Your image. 

Think of it though, right there at the start, You told Adam and Eve to fill the earth and subdue it.  Why would they need to fill something You had just completed and saw was good?  Why would they need to subdue what was already good.  If it was good, why would it need to be kept under subjection, to be kept good?  Something inherently good, just is, right?  Well, what if You knew all along what was coming?  What if You knew that Adam and Eve were getting ready to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  What if You knew they wouldn’t always trust You more than themselves or another or the things they wanted?  And what if it takes some really hard treading down on our part to say no to trusting another?  What if it takes deliberate disregard of false trust, and a deliberate effort to conquer that tendency and everything that defies You in my life.  What if I’m going to be in bondage to one thing or another and so I better determine what I want to bring myself under subjection to because One leads to life and the other to death?

There are so many things I can trust in.  The Israelites trusted in the lies in wait.  I can trust in people, my profession, my money, my fame, my talent, my friends, my ministry, my possessions, my fun, my knowledge, my whatever.  I can even trust in what I fear.  I can trust bitterness, love, tolerance, my sexual “preference” or whatever I want that suits my purposes.  But where will it lead me?  It will lead me to emptiness and subjugation to someone or something who doesn’t give a hoot about my eternity.  Or I can trust in You Lord.  I can cleave to You, and follow You no matter what, and keep Your ways, and experience You being with me and what it is to prosper in You. (2 Kings 18)  I can rebel against the things that stand against You.  I can stop trusting in broken reeds and trust in the Reed that Never Breaks.  I can stop listening to those who don’t even know You and falsely talk about You.  I can know You and what You require.  I can walk with You and in Your ways.  You tell me that You want me to delight in You.  Yes, I can delight in You.  You know what, Lord, I have no problem with being subdued or brought under subjection to someone who wants me to delight in them and wants to delight in me.  That would be shear joy!

I could trust in horses or chariots, but what are they to me?  They don’t want a relationship of love and care with me.  They can’t make me more than I am.  They won’t rush in and rescue me.  But You do, God.  You rush in and rescue us all by Yourself when there is no one else who can.  But You are able.  And You do.  There is so much deception.  I don’t have to believe it.  I can know You well enough, closely enough, that I can tread down the lies. I can bring the lies under Your subjection, the subjection of the truth by living according to it.  I can defy the world and it’s ideas by trusting You and living in that trust.  I can be a visible image of Your power in this day and age, of Your ways, or Your words, of You.  That’s what Adam and Eve were called to.  That’s what we are called to today.

Psalm 2:12 ends with a different word for trust.  It says, “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.”  When I put my trust in the Son, it’s not just a factual belief or even an intellectual agreeing.  Here’s this different word, chasah, a verb, that means to flee for protection, to confide in, to have hope, make refuge, (put) trust.  This is my obligation to the One who is our only refuge.  God rescues me but I have a personal obligation to run to that rescue.  I think of flood warnings where people were warned to leave and take shelter, yet they chose to stay where they were and lost their lives.  We can choose to do that with You too, God.   But if I want to be whole, if I want to be satisfied, if I want to be safe and secure, if I want to know true joy, I have to choose to run to You. 

It’s what Hezekiah did.  He didn’t fill his mind with Sennacherib’s words.  He laid it out before You.  He ran to You for protection right away and spread it out before You.  He knew You alone were God over everything and everyone.  He prayed.  He cried out for Your help.  He prayed to a living God, a God who is able to protect.  It didn’t matter if the kings of Assyria had destroyed other nations and lands.  It didn’t matter if Assyria had cast out the other nation’s gods.  Why?  Because none of the other gods were real.  They weren’t alive.  But You are a living God.  You can deliver.  You can help.  Only You can do this.  But I have to put my confidence in You and demonstrate it by my actions and my life.

So, when I act upon my trust, when I place that trust in You, I receive all kinds of benefits.  These are just the side products of that relationship of confidence in You.  My heart bursts with rejoicing in Your salvation.  (Psalm 13:5)  It’s not just that I realize salvation as a fact or a doctrine. I get it.  I realize the reality of what You have done for me.  It excites me and moves me.  The appreciation is real.   You put a song in my heart that wants to burst forth because I realize the depth of what You have done and are doing.  You keep me strong.  I experience Your power.  I’m delivered time and time again.  I delight in You and You delight in me.  You give me hope when there is no other hope around.  You help me when no other help can be found.  You take away my shame and give me victory.  You take away my fear and give me confidence.  You give me integrity.  I get to dwell with You so closely that I can gaze on Your beauty and experience it, experience You first hand.  I have pleasure in obeying You because in You and Your ways is my protection and my Protection is real, my Protection is a person who loves me and cares for me and hides me.

David’s cry in Psalm 27 was all about this.  “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall.  Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.  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.  For He will hide me in His shelter in the day of trouble; He will conceal me under the cover of His tent; He will lift me high upon a rock.”  You know the truth is that every day is a day of trouble.  Every day I need to be hid in Your shelter.  Every day I need to be concealed under the cover of Your tent.  Every day I need to be lifted high upon the rock that is You, Jesus.  Because any day that I am not finding my refuge in You is a day of great trouble.  “You have said, ‘Seek My face.’ My heart says to You, ‘Your face, Lord, do I seek.’”  I want to actively remain in the shelter of You.  Lord keep me from the will of my adversaries, which sometimes is my very own heart.  I want to love the goodness that is You and just feast my eyes upon You all the time.  I want to wait for You and in the waiting be strong and courageous because I know You, I really know You my living God!  Yes, in my waiting let me continually flee to You so that there is no separating us.  Be my forever Refuge that I never leave.