It’s Not Mine

“And the Lord gave victory to David wherever he went… When Toi king of Hamath heard that David had defeated the whole army of Hadadezer, Toi sent his son Joram to King David, to ask about his health and to bless him because he had fought against Hadadezer and defeated him, for Hadadezer had often been at war with Toi. And Joram brought with him articles of silver, of gold, and of bronze. These also King David dedicated to the Lord, together with the silver and gold that he dedicated from all the nations he subdued, from Edom, Moab, the Ammonites, the Philistines, Amalek, and from the spoil of Hadadezer the son of Rehob, king of Zobah.” 2 Samuel 8:6,9-12

King David had many noble aspirations, and one in which the Lord gave him great success was warfare, securing and establishing Israel. As remarkable a military leader as David was, he held accolades loosely, and offered honor and rewards received back to the Lord his God, Whom he deemed worthy of the praise. He himself was merely a man used of Almighty God to achieve His ordained ends. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. All things come from you.” (1 Chronicles 29:11-14)

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Are we this caught up in Him and His providential purposes here on earth? How do we view our belongings, our resources? Is there any attention or recognition we foster, any compliment we secretly treasure? Do we take up our baton of warfare, our basket of goods, our bag of tricks, our energy and talents and lungs full of breath, and head out daily to do our will? Or are we surrendered to the Master’s plans, forging forward in His assigned steps, malleable as instruments in His hands, deflecting any notice or reward back to Him? The secret to David’s victories was the One Who brought those victories; he knew it, and would boldly proclaim it.

What defines our kingdom, our castle, our calendar? When we begin the day reviewing all that is before us, then acknowledge all for which we are merely stewards and entrust it to the Lord’s care and authority, we can march forth on mission for the King of kings, free of self-interest or personal agenda. There is such joy in following His lead, doing His work, enjoying His spoils by spreading His praise. His grace always abounds to us so we can do His will wholeheartedly, for His pleasure, and we can never outgive Him. (Luke 6:38; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Philippians 2:13)

Father, worthy Owner of all, I open my hands to You, and dedicate my time, my will, my efforts. From You, through You, and to You are all things. To You be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:36)

The Beautiful “Yet”

“I made you flourish… You were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, and you became mine… But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whorings on any passerby; your beauty became his. You took some of your garments and made for yourself colorful shrines, and on them played the whore… You also took your beautiful jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself images of men, and with them played the whore. And you took your embroidered garments to cover them, and set my oil and my incense before them. Also my bread that I gave you—I fed you with fine flour and oil and honey—you set before them for a pleasing aroma; and so it was, declares the Lord God. And you took your sons and your daughters,.. and these you sacrificed. Were your whorings so small a matter that you slaughtered my children and delivered them up as an offering by fire? ..How sick is your heart, declares the Lord God, because you did all these things, the deeds of a brazen prostitute… I will deal with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath in breaking the covenant,  yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant. Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed… I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord God.” Ezekiel 16:7-8,15-21,30,59-63

Reading this long chapter becomes uncomfortable, verse after verse describing the “whoring” and “lewd abominations” of Israel; I want to skim the descriptions like I want to close my eyes to wickedness in my own heart. Do we have to go here, Lord, be this honest and specific? But every abuse and misuse of God’s generosity is listed here for us to read, and because it is included in Scripture, so we can know better the nature our Lord God. Tears filled my eyes as I came to verse 60, in the sixth column in my Bible for this chapter… yet I will remember…I [will] atone for you for all that you have done.” The beautiful, unimaginable, inexplicable yet! Can that word embody a more wondrous love, a broader mercy? 

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Wide and deep are the foreign gods and selfish lusts of the heart. Hard as flint can be our rebellion, our pursuit of temporal gratification, yet living water gushes freely from my beautiful Savior, ready to drink. His blood has atoned once for all, His life alone satisfies, forever. Allelujah! (Isaiah 55:1; John 7:37; Hebrews 10:10,12,14)

Plunge me into Your beautiful “yet,” my Lord God. May my confounding at Your measureless grace transform into constant praise, and the telling of Your “yet” to others.

Shine Like the Sun

So may your friends be like the sun as he rises in his might.” “The God of Israel has spoken; the Rock of Israel has said to me: When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, he dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning,
like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.” “And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Judges 5:31; 2 Samuel 23:3-4; Daniel 12:3; Matthew 13:43

In a land with lots of sky, the sun is a constant companion, and she shows herself in a myriad of ways throughout each day. Rising, she begins by tinting the ink expanse, causing it to be distinguished from the horizon, then blush the faintest hues of purple, then blue. Her rays split the darkness and spread abroad her favors, bringing into focus all that has lain asleep and invisible. Over the day she runs her course, declaring God’s handiwork, broadcasting His glory, penetrating warmth to all who reside below. And at the end of day, she just as regally makes her departure, washing the sky from west to east with her fiery shine and brilliance as she dips below the horizon. (Psalm 19:1-6)

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The scriptures tell us that the wise man, the leader, the beloved of the Lord, shine like the sun. We’ve seen the radiant, serene and kind, full of love and warmth, generous with wisdom and justice, aglow. We are drawn to such friends and leaders; they uplift, and their light has a regenerating impact on those around them. Would the Lord have us be as such?

What would it take for us to rise like the sun in might, breaking strongly, confidently into the world’s dark places with blazing, irresistible hope? Do I earnestly seek the Lord’s filling of mercy, compassion, insights, love, wisdom, so my presence even makes a difference? Are there people I avoid because of their despair, their complaining, their crazy addictions or personalities or complicated issues, who need the light of Christ? Would I risk being bold like the sun instead? As light brings security, do I offer a safe place to those who need a confidante? Am I willing to take the time and thoughtful preparation to be someone’s morning light by speaking truth that is clear, blazing the goodness and grace of God, giving eternal context by which they can see and understand their identity and value?

“Awake, my soul, and with the sun
Thy daily stage of duty run;
Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise,
To pay thy morning sacrifice.

By influence of the Light divine
Let thy own light to others shine.
Reflect all Heaven’s propitious ways
In ardent love, and cheerful praise.”  ~Thomas Ken (1637-1711)

Lord on High, as I awaken and rise with Thee, so rise in me to be a shining light to the world, a radiant reflection of Your glory.

Shared Comfort

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Paul, in words that illustrate his experience, sandwiches affliction and suffering in the much greater, overlapping comfort of God. He had suffered much, mentally and physically, from the start of his life in Christ; God ordained it to bring about His grand purposes in Paul’s life and ministry. The apostle learned how God brought affliction so He could prove and lavish His comfort, and perpetuate a cycle that was to identify the church: passing and sharing the divine comfort of the Savior. (Acts 9:15-16; 2 Corinthians 11:23-33)

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As years go by, I meet new friends who share sorrows, and I find that time and again, God weaves a beautiful web of mutual comfort through shared pain. It may be that I have experienced a similar hurt, or know well another who has or is presently. WIth a willingness to bear the yoke alongside a sister or brother in Christ comes a glorious realization that this is what Paul was talking about: God ministers to us in our own pathos not only so we know Him better, but for the sake of others. We know best, and can share best, God’s comfort when we personally know suffering. Jesus bore the ultimate rejection and agony, sorrow and wrath against sin, to the cross to ‘win’ for us this comfort, and daily offers it to us with open arms. When once I have been enveloped in it, I have tasted the inexplicable abiding presence that brings peace beyond understanding, I cannot help but wrap my comfort around others, offering its mysterious and palpable fruit to them. (John 14:27; Philippians 3:10; 4:7)

Sense is made in our suffering when we receive His comfort and allow it to flow. Sometimes the resolution we long for is realized when we pass along what Jesus has given; there is a flowering in the sharing that brings beauty from ashes and pain. ‘For this I have suffered, for this my Lord has come to me, that I can share Him with another.’ All around us are those sad, lonely, sick, barren, hurting, hopeless because of a rebellious child, reeling from a broken marriage, uncertain how financial responsibilities will be met, grieving a loved one’s death. What will I do with the rich and blessed comfort I have received? (Isaiah 61:1-3)

O Lord, Your purpose in every pain is redemptive, and I bless Your merciful name. May I never hoard Your good gift of comfort, but keep stoking its very nature by sharing it with those in need.

A Good, Every Good Transcending

Then King David went in and sat before the LORD and said, ‘Who am I, O LORD GOD, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?  And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O LORD GOD. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, O LORD GOD! And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O LORD GOD! Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it. Therefore you are great, O LORD GOD. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears. And who is like your people,.. whom you redeemed for yourself?  And you established for yourself your people to be your people forever. And you, O LORD, became their God.” 2 Samuel 7:18-24

David wanted to build God a temple, and God responded by promising to build David a house, a kingdom and throne through Jesus Christ that would be forever. David, overwhelmed, breaks out in glad and humble praise. God knows him, the depths of his heart, and still would lavish such love, such mercy, such hope for secure, joyful eternity?

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Isn’t it true that our LORD GOD (the highest and holiest form of God’s name, which David used) is able and bountiful in doing far more than we ask or imagine? We seek help, He gives deep wisdom. We ask for fellowship, He gives His presence that never leaves. We want a specific blessing, He gives a good that every good transcends, beyond all we can even understand is good, by providing us eternal salvation and every spiritual blessing in Jesus. When He meets our requests with this kind of answer, we cannot help but be filled with gladness that spills over with endless praise! (Ephesians 1:3; 3:20; Philippians 4:19; Hebrews 13:5)

“O let your soul now be filled with gladness,
Your heart redeemed, rejoice indeed!
O may the thought banish all your sadness,
That in His blood you have been freed,
That God’s unfailing love is yours,
That you the only Son were given,
That by His death He has opened heaven,
That you are ransomed as you are.

“It is a good, every good transcending,
That Christ has died for you and me!
It is a gladness that has no ending
There in God’s wondrous love to see!
Praise be to Him the spotless Lamb,
Who through the desert my soul is leading
To that fair city of joy exceeding,
For which He bought me as I am!”  ~Peter Jonsson Aschan (1726-1813)

All our desires pale in comparison to God’s plans for us. All our longings of the flesh are transformed in His holy economy to be fulfilled in Jesus. We can never out-hope or out-give God’s grace. (Psalm 38:9; 87:7)

My Holy LORD, may I ever rejoice at Your abundant goodness to me in Christ, with gladness that is unending and contagious.

Always Entwined

“David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, ‘…The Lord lives, who has redeemed my life out of every adversity…’ And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him… And David knew that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel… And David inquired of the Lord, ‘Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?’ And the Lord said to David, ‘Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand.’ And David came to Baal-perazim, and David defeated them there. And he said, ‘The Lord has broken through my enemies before me like a breaking flood.’ .. And the Philistines came up yet again and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim. And when David inquired of the Lord, he said, ‘You shall not go up; go around to their rear, and come against them opposite the balsam trees. And when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then rouse yourself, for then the Lord has gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines.’ And David did as the Lord commanded him, and struck down the Philistines from Geba to Gezer.”  2 Samuel 4:9; 5:10,12,19-20,22-25

Reading through the life of David makes us privy to a deep friendship with ongoing communion, one that is easy to admire and want for ourselves. David knows his God by many different names, and in a moment requiring immediate wisdom, names Him his faithful Redeemer, and makes a decision in full reliance on this dependable One. His Lord established him as God’s king for Israel, strengthening him in character, mind, and deed, and David accepted his position with a trusting confidence. He took up his mantle for the sake of God’s people, not to serve self. He communed with his invisible but palpably-present confidante in every situation, listened carefully for instruction, went about his work obediently, and gave God the credit for every success. A person entwined with his Lord grows strong. (Proverbs 3:3-7,26)

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Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.”  ~attr. St Dallán Forgaill, Irish hymn (8th century), translated by Mary Elizabeth Byrne (1905)

From this day forward, we can carry on continual conversation with Jesus. Quieted before Him early, immersed in His word, we can offer ourselves as His instruments, and cling. Firmly rooted in our Rock, interwoven with His life, we can grow and bear beautiful, lasting, God-glorifying fruit wherever He appoints us. Will I make the ongoing small choices to walk and talk with Him? (John 15:4-5,7-8)

Father, keep me ever entwined with You, abiding in Your good word, communing with you constantly and seeking You with all my heart. May I live out Your great and hidden graces for the sake of Your eternal kingdom. (Jeremiah 29:12-13; 33:3)

A Sojourner, A Guest

O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather! ..I am a sojourner with you, a guest, like all my fathers.” Psalm 39:4-6,12

“But who am I, and what is my people? ..For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding.” 1 Chronicles 29:14-15

Responsibilities I cherish keep me from settling too tightly in one place, and though I love being at my own address, and often my body and soul long for home, the Lord is teaching me my home is with Him. We are sojourners together, my Savior Who had “no place to lay His head” and I. We are temporary guests here on earth, with a heavenly inheritance and dwelling being prepared, and reserved, for us. (Luke 9:58; John 14:2-3; 1 Peter 1:3-5)

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 A sojourner takes in the world while not letting the world take him in. The sojourner does what he can to make everywhere in his passage a better place, while not letting it own him. He invests wisely where he lives and interacts, yet always with an eye for eternal returns. He, as a guest, might unpack for a time, but never takes ownership of this world, holding it loosely. He knows he is traveling through, and so relishes every moment as though he will not have it again. He delights in where he is, yet is always “looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:10)

Is this my mindset, or am so I steeped in the here and now of this life that I have no eternal perspective? Do I live as though I’ll be here forever, hoarding to build security, fearing change, or worse, death? Where do I close myself to new opportunities in order to ‘stay safe,’ missing out on the Lord’s adventures to stretch my faith and make a difference? Yes, it’s important to be “all here,” present where God has me, serving His Body, loving those He has placed around me, but my roots are to go deepest, and my hopes are to be highest, with Him above. I am to be investing for eternity, not where moth and rust prevail. (Matthew 6:19-21)

How willing am I to release home’s familiar comforts for the deeper comfort of knowing Jesus, to get on the road again if the Lord bids me rise and go? What will it take for my selfish coddling to be subdued by a greater desire to sojourn as His agent on His mission? What objects, what loves, am I holding too tightly here on earth?

Lord, it is a privilege to sojourn here below alongside You. Please help me hold life’s treasures loosely, and keep a spring in my step, that I never forget that with home, the best is yet to come.