Jealous with His Jealousy

And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in my jealousy. Therefore say, “Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace, and it shall be to him and to his descendants after him the covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the people of Israel.”’” “You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God.” Numbers 25:10-13; Exodus 20:5

While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.” The heathen Moabites harassed the Israelites with their wiles, and beguiled them into sexual impurity and idol worship of false gods, and their jealous God would not have it. They were His betrothed, and He would not let them pander to another lover, so He executed harsh judgment through His brave servant Phinehas. What moves me in this story is the peace that was brought in this ugliest of sin and harshest of judgments, peace through atonement wrought by righteous jealousy. (Numbers 25:1-3,18)

Do I grasp God’s jealousy for me, and relish it, or balk at the high expectations that attend His love? His righteous jealousy is vastly different from what we as humans feel. The motive is what distinguishes His love-filled yearning over our souls for goodness and abounding joy from our coveting, often in impulsive or passionate desire, for our own temporal pleasure. His jealous yearning over us is great proof of His amazing, boundless love, yet again and again we can shirk Him to be free into our own devices, shaking Him off and dashing ourselves on the rocks of emptiness and purposelessness.

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How jealous am I for my great God and His glory? For my loved ones to live for Him and be untainted by the world? Do I pray with fervency, jealous for God’s honor in our government, churches, communities, homes and marriages? How do I live differently, knowing my loving God is jealous for me, that He is constantly interceding for me and wooing me away from sin? (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25)

To serve the present age, my calling to fulfill:
Oh, may it all my powers engage to do my Master’s will!                                                          Arm me with jealous care, as in Thy sight to live;
And O Thy servant, Lord, prepare a strict account to give!”  ~Charles Wesley (1762)

Lord, make me a Phinehas, wholeheartedly and jealous for You and Your people. May the way I live each day not only guard, but promote Your glory among my world.

Whose Friend Am I?

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’?  But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4:1-8,10

James sets forth a spectacular dichotomy between good and evil, contrasting our unbridled passions against right thinking, adulterous relationships against faithful ones, greed against self-control, the world against God, pride against humility, resistance against submission. They are always at war, and always stir up the vilest conflict and turmoil both within and around us. Like a tug-of-war, we can want to do (and think and desire) what is right, but the snarky, scrappy enemy is always playing games and pulling hard at our resolve. To beat him, we need to put up a fight, dig in our heels, lean back on God’s “more grace,” and resist him.

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Am I a friend of the world, or friend of God? What evidence is there in how I speak of others, respond to others, pray, interact, whose friend I am? How do the ways I plan, behave at work, spend my time, spend my money, identify my allegiance? If I claim to be God’s friend, are there areas where I arouse His jealousy because I am flirting with a lesser comrade? Where do I need to lay down selfish desires to win, to have, to be recognized, for the greater exaltation that comes from humility and purity of heart? As the world tenaciously pulls at my attention, can my will succumb to my Lord’s more alluring (and vastly superior) love? Where do I need simply to let go of the rope, and turn, and walk into the arms of my Savior?

“Do not love the world or the things in the world.” “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” 1 John 2:15; Matthew 6:24

Lord, I bow before You to be cleansed, purified, and set aright in my allegiances and affections. May I ever delight in You, that the desires of my heart are fulfilled in You alone. Thank You for making me Your friend forever. (Psalm 37:4; John 15:13-15)

In the Day of Trouble

I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying. You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I consider the days of old, the years long ago. I said, ‘Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.’ Then my spirit made a diligent search: ‘Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time?.. Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?’ Then I said, ‘I will appeal to this,  to the years of the right hand of the Most High.’ I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people. Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flock.” Psalm 78:1-2,4-15,19-20

These have been days of trouble for several loved ones, for many I do not know. Trouble does not discriminate. Deep pain with erring children, recurring cancer, torn marriages splitting families, unjust accusations that can ruin reputation and livelihood, devastation from natural disaster. The psalmist cries, and cries again, convinced that God will hear, yet weary of trouble and unable in restless sleep to find his song in the night. Feeling helpless, he pours out his beleaguered soul, then in an act of his will, appeals to his God’s character. Through all His years, He has been faithful, working wonders in might and holiness. This is the God he would choose to trust, this the One Who could lead him through the sea again, unseen, mysterious, omnipotent, his Deliverer.

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What troubles assail today? What choking heartache, niggling resentment, empty alone, deep regret, practical impossibility, or oppressive fear is clenching my lungs, taking my air, weighing down with impossible burden? Cry to God! He knows every trouble, and all pain associated with them. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” He Who is the same yesterday, today, and forever has from the beginning worked marvelous deeds for His people. Remember the miracles of old, the answers to prayer that surprised and amazed! Recount His past faithfulnesses, and trust Him again! One day, all will be well; in this we can take heart. (Isaiah 53:4-5; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; Hebrews 10:23; 13:8; 1 Peter 2:24; Revelation 7:17; 21:3-4)

Trustworthy God, there is none like You! It is good to be near You, my refuge, my very present help in trouble, my peace, that I may tell of all your works and lift high Your praise. (Psalm 46:1; 73:28; John 16:33)

Heard, Seen, Touched, Proclaimed

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—  the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” 1 John 1:1-4

John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” had loved Him deeply in their three years together, and was compelled and inspired by the Holy Spirit to write about the fellowship of love Jesus offered His people. What was real experience to him in his relationship with his Savior, involving all his senses, he would proclaim in writing for God’s people to have forever forward, awakening a divine fellowship among them that would also last forever. (John 19:26; 20:2; 21:7,20)

As in his gospel, John begins “from the beginning,” reaching to eternity past to establish the unique existence of Jesus, and his message spans eternal life from then through present proclamation to forever completed joy. Now, he could not hold in his amazing experience with Jesus, but wanted to proclaim it with all who would believe and know it also. He has an urgency because it was the greatest gift any could know. (John 1:1)

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What is my daily experience with Jesus? How often do I take time to recount, and thank Him for, the ways He has revealed Himself to me, showing up in a present flood of peace, appearing in a friend or a note in the mail, or captivating me with a piece of His magnificent creation? Am I attentive enough to hear Him speak through a situation, or clearly through His word, or one of His people? When He touches me with a firm hand of correction, or inexplicable comfort, what is my reaction? How receptive am I? In what ways have I seen Him work in answer to specific prayer, in the invisible through changed attitudes or the quelling of an agitated spirit, in spite of me? Are my senses awake enough to hear, see, and touch my Savior when I meet with Him?

Once I know the sweetness of His fellowship, how can I help but share it with others? How am I shining His joy and bringing others into His fold?

Break through my nature, mighty, heavenly love,
Clear every avenue of thought and brain,
Flood my affections, purify my will,
Let nothing but Thine own pure life remain.                                                                               Thus wholly mastered and possessed by God,
Forth from my life, spontaneous and free,
Shall flow a stream of tenderness and grace,
Loving, because God loved, eternally.”  ~Emily May Grimes  (1868-1927)

Ever present, indescribable, inexpressible Lord, thank You for the gift of loving fellowship with You. As You have made Yourself real to me, may I make You real to others, that they also may know Your deepest, everlasting joy. (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Racing to the Finish

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” 2 Timothy 4:7; Hebrews 12:1-3

My husband and I recently participated in a paddleboard race, and anticipating maneuvering alongside others, at least early on in a restricted area, I reminded myself that my motive was to enjoy the ride, not come in first. As we prepared to launch, I noticed the other (all younger) paddlers, wearing elaborate gear, were on “racing boards,” some even equipped with timers, and I realized they had a very different motive than I: to WIN. It was a beautiful, warm morning, and we dug hard through the sun-dappled bay rippled with breeze and edged with colorful boats and eager locals who had come to cheer us on. As we made the final turn, my husband urged me to push to the end, and although it is hard to’ sprint’ on a wide board in perky water, my tired arms kept on, the welcome staff at the beach in sight. It is exhilarating, even if exhausting, to race to the finish.

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I see the Christian life not so much as a race against others as that toward the finish, perhaps the completion of one service or the closing of a season, but ultimately the day when we will be greeted by our Savior. Pushing hard for a pace can be good, stretching us to press on and work wholeheartedly, without letting up. We often expend ourselves to go farther and more efficiently with others around us heading in the same direction. In all the effort, there is joy in the journey; along the way God has many and varied treasures in store- measures of strength, delightful discoveries, newfound insights- that are ours for the receiving and enjoying if we keep our eyes open, our cadence constant. And finishing well, at any assignment or task, especially alongside someone we love, brings great satisfaction.

Whatever race before me, specific duty or lifelong pursuit, how consistent am I in fighting the good fight, keeping the faith? When I flag in zeal, faint in heart, or lose sight of the joy set before me, will I look to Jesus, the One Who has called me to this faith-life and is writing my story? He has determined the finish line and awaits with glory.

Lord, with all my breath and energy and focus, in the days and years You have given, may I run, serve, and love with perseverance, may I worship with all I have, to Your praise and glory. All crowns are Yours.

 

Reminding unto Recalling

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.” 2 Peter 1:3-9,12-13,15

It would be easy, upon a superficial read of this passage, to hear Peter’s admonition as moral: ‘Be good,’ ‘Stir up your gumption and constantly make yourself better,’ ‘You can do it!’ And he does encourage action and personal effort. But a deeper dive places at the fore God’s calling and immutable, precious promises that are ours so we can partake of His divine nature, His power, His character. It is our salvation, the cleansing of our former self and birth of the new creation, that compels us to live for Him. ‘For the reason’ that you have been saved from sin, delivered from the evil one and his sway over your soul and actions, by righteous decree rescued from the corruption of the world, you are free, by God’s grace, to increase in holiness. Because of Jesus’s gospel applied, you can grow in faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, love toward God and one another, and bear much fruit in spiritually productive lives.  (2 Corinthians 5:17)

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So, am I reminding myself of these great truths, and is my life giving evidence to an increasing measure of God’s nature and growing virtue? Do I daily count myself dead to sin and alive in Christ to righteousness, and thank my Savior for this? Who else am I reminding? As I have influence on young people, when a loved one questions their worth, or someone falls into a besetting sin again, am I quick to help them recall these gospel truths from their Redeemer? (Romans 6:4-8,11; Galatians 2:19-20)

Lord Jesus, may I never forget what You have done for me, and live as though Your gospel is true, daily growing in Your likeness. You Who have set me free from sin are worthy of my every endeavor. May I walk step by step in Your Spirit, may my words and actions ever recall Your gracious deliverance unto excellence and godliness. (Romans 8:2-11)

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For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God… Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?.. We preach Christ crucified,.. Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men… We impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this… these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. No one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 1:18,20,23-25; 2:7-8,10-12,14

How interesting it is to me that as many times as I type ‘God’ on my phone, it never pops up correctly, but is always uncapitalized or some variation. Isn’t this exactly how the unbelieving world views Him? He is minimized, marginalized, one of many, an object or crutch or idol to be manipulated, or He must be attached as an appendage to my week, my wants, my will– never Lord of them, and certainly is never an integral heart-pumping-life through all that is. His coming up wrong as I type reminds me each time Who He is not to the world, and Who He is to me.

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If this is the world in which I swim, what difference does it make in how I interact with others? If we seem as foreigners to each other in the spiritual realm, how can I connect with them in the here and now? This passage says, I can speak and live the language of the gospel, and trust the Spirit to translate its truth. As I love with Christ’s love, model the way of selflessness, and exemplify His grace that for the natural man is unnatural, some will by God’s Spirit be softened, regenerated, and able to understand. Others, blind to spiritual discernment and convoluted in their valuation of strength and wisdom, will be unable to see anything but folly. It is true that the same fragrance is received differently by those who take it in, just as truth is welcomed as wisdom or rejected as foolishness based on the heart of the hearer. No matter what, I am to be unwavering in my message, capitalizing and proclaiming God as Very God, the gospel my impetus, power, and glory. (2 Corinthians 2:15-16)

LORD God, You are very great! Cause every aspect of my life to preach Your secret wisdom, and capitalize Your Mighty Name, for the endurance of Your glory. (Psalm 104:1,31)