The Safest Place

“You have tried my heart,..
    you have tested me, and you will find nothing;
    I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.
With regard to the works of man, by the word of your lips
    I have avoided the ways of the violent.
My steps have held fast to your paths;
    my feet have not slipped.

I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
    incline your ear to me; hear my words.
Wondrously show your steadfast love,
    O Savior of those who seek refuge
    from their adversaries at your right hand.

Keep me as the apple of your eye;
    hide me in the shadow of your wings,
from the wicked who do me violence,
    my deadly enemies who surround me.

They close their hearts to pity;
    with their mouths they speak arrogantly.
They have now surrounded our steps;
    they set their eyes to cast us to the ground.
He is like a lion eager to tear,
    as a young lion lurking in ambush.

Arise, O Lord! Confront him, subdue him!
    Deliver my soul from the wicked…
As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
    when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.” Psalm 17:3-13,15

David cries out from danger, in imminent need, yet from the safest place of communion with his Savior. Surrounded by enemies, his confidence is in the covenant God, his refuge. He approaches on the basis of forgiveness, pleads on the basis of God’s steadfast love and character, and entrusts his enemies to God’s justice and power. In dark times, the shadow of His wings is his light and security.

When new days begin, and with the sun rise doubts, responsibilities, and pressures, we can establish ourselves by prayer in the Lord’s safe place. On His path clear of sin, under His presence of protection, we have peace no matter what buzzes, entices, pokes, or taunts all around.

What wayward lusts or violent reactions or hatred lurks in situation or mind? Under His wings we can purpose to avoid that way. What adversaries- both flesh and mental- pester our peace, poke discontent or dismay, plant fear, regret, or resentment? In the shadow of His wings we can block out the world and fix our hope on beholding God’s face. Indeed, between the Almighty’s shoulders we find perfect peace and safety. (Deuteronomy 33:12; Psalm 91:1-2; Isaiah 26:3)

While we work, serve, and interact here below, activity and distractions can prevent us from resting secure in Christ. We become jaded to think safety is only a ‘one day’ future promise, and to be sure, in many ways it is. Yet, when Jesus has by grace applied His salvation to our souls, our lives are secure forever. We carry the guarantee of His Spirit within, no matter what happens without. Will troubles occur? Yes! Will opposition ridicule and inflict pain? Yes, and yes! But will our souls remain untouched, safeguarded forever? Yes again! In His word and promises we are at peace. (John 10:28-29; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22)

What changes would occur in my outlook and demeanor if I perceived life in the adjusted light of the shadow of God’s sovereignty and love?

Lord, help me see troubles in the keeping shadow of Your goodness and justice, and to articulate my prayers according to Your promises. May increasing trust magnify Your grace, might, and glory.

Confer through Complaint

“Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.  But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’  And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.

“And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” Acts 6:1-7

As the early church grew, there were naturally bumps and bruises in relationships and the smooth running of things. Spirit-filled fellowship and sharing resources within small gatherings brought challenges in organization and opinions over the how what when. The twelve, clear in their calling and trained well by the Good Teacher Jesus, implemented practical and godly solutions. We are all people of faith and the Spirit, yet we have different kingdom callings. Each is vital in contributing to the whole ministry, and must do his own part in God’s grace and power. Rather than pushing to be the superior public face, or belittling the ministry of service, they conferred together to come up with an agreeable plan to make sure the Word and the food were distributed. With each devoted to God’s mission, all were pleased to serve as needed under His anointing. (John 6:5-13)

How easy it is to posture and bicker according to pride, personal preferences, and professed right opinions. How could our churches better thrive if, rather than complaining, and allowing consternation to stew and bubble over into caustic destruction of civility and the joy of agreement, every complaint and need was treated as an opportunity to confer with one another? When we discuss, share ideas, think through strategy together, and maybe even compromise, resolutions are palpable to the masses and pleasing to the Lord. When we pray, He leads us in unity and direction. (Acts 1:12-26)

Whose best interest drives our responses and decisions- our own, or the Lord’s? Where have we not taken the high road in dealing with complaints and disagreements, slipping instead to aggression, bossiness, favoritism, or condescension? Will we commit to seeking first the Lord and the welfare of His kingdom, and trust Him with assignments and outcomes? When called upon, how willing are we to do the menial tasks, or to support others in doing so? Conferring and serving together fortifies the communion of saints, and is a brilliant example to a lost and angry world of how the Spirit works among His people. (Matthew 6:33; Romans 12:1-8,16; Philippians 2:12-15)

Jehovah Shalom, help me bring Your peace, wisdom, and grace into every grumble, and so smooth the way for others to behold and praise You.

The Magnet of God

“She arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food… Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, ‘Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me.  The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!’ Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. And they said to her, ‘No, we will return with you to your people.’ But Naomi said, ‘Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband… Even if I should have a husband this night and bear sons, would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters...’  Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

“And she said, ‘See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.’ But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.’ And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.” Ruth 1:6,8-18

Ruth had every practical reason to stay in her native land. It was all she knew, her people and religion were there, and her marriage into this Israelite family had brought untold sorrow, disruption, and broken dreams. Some may have said they actually brought a curse. But Ruth. She could not resist the pull to their God. Something about Him drew her like a magnet to leave everything familiar to venture out in faith and follow, and for that she was eternally blessed. (Ruth 1:1-5; 4:10-12,18-22)

Responding in faith to the pull of God initiates an exciting love life with Him and opens a fount of blessings beyond measure, yet for varied, weak reasons, we fail to embark on the adventure. We stay back with a provincial group of people we know and default to narrow, worldly reason, unwilling to embrace new horizons and relationships. We snuggle cozily into comfort and familiar, and let fear and fretting grow into undefined but brooding monsters ‘out there.’ We nurse wounds and sludge through bitterness and the pain life brings, resigned that we can never escape. (1 Corinthians 2:9; Ephesians 2:8-10)

Where are we surrendering to the enemy’s Turn back, Turn back instead of pressing forward with God? When will we name the limitations we’ve foolishly set, confess our sin of rebellion or unbelief, and leave behind our foreign gods for full, unfettered life in Christ?

Lord, quicken my spirit to follow where You lead. Keep me clinging to You always as I go, stay, serve, and worship.

Much Reason to Exult

“‘For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.’ And he worshiped the Lord there.”

“Hannah prayed and said,

‘My heart exults in the Lord;
    my horn is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies,
    because I rejoice in your salvation.

‘There is none holy like the Lord:
    for there is none besides you;
    there is no rock like our God.

Talk no more so very proudly,
    let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
    and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
    but the feeble bind on strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
    but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger.
The barren has borne seven
...
The Lord kills and brings to life;
    he brings down… and raises up.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
    he brings low and he exalts…
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
    and on them he has set the world.

‘He will guard the feet of his faithful ones..,
    for not by might shall a man prevail.
..
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
    he will give strength to his king
    and exalt the horn of his anointed.’” 1 Samuel 1:27-28; 2:1-10

Barren Hannah knew that it was the Lord who opened her womb. How else could she and Elkanah have conceived and borne Samuel? How else could she have experienced this joy of motherhood had not He intervened and done what was humanly impossible? All the deep lessons of suffering and cultural shame, of longing and trusting in prayer, of releasing idols to absolute and whole affection for Him, of the Lord’s personal, comforting, and intimate presence, God used to magnify His character and increase her worship of Him. Through these she understood and could exalt God’s majesty, goodness, and power. He alone was sovereign, the immovable Rock, the giver of life. (1 Samuel 1:1-6,10-11; Job 12:10)

As fickle humans, we tend to praise God easily when circumstances fall into place with our desired plans. But come delay or difficulty, in haughty swagger we question and castigate Him. What if we accepted our waiting as the vehicle to the fruit of patience, our trials as the method by which we learn to trust God’s strength? What if we did not cease praying until we were at full peace with His answers? What if we persevered to understand and know His ways firsthand, how He stabilizes our faith, shapes our desires, raises up and brings low according to His strategy for His glory and our good? We would exult much, because He is infinitely worthy!

Even in unmet dreams and relational pain, God is good, faithful, and trustworthy. When work, financial, or physical challenges seem impossible, God is able to make His grace abound. We have much reason to exult! When will we make this a regular rhythm of our days? (2 Corinthians 9:8)

Worthy Lord, fill my mind with You and my lips with rejoicing all the day. Permeate my attitude and expression to reflect Your glory, and my hours with songs of praise.

The Power of Response

“The boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.

“At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was.

“Then the Lord called Samuel, and he said, ‘Here I am!’ and ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call; lie down again.’ So he went and lay down.

“The Lord called again, ‘Samuel!’ and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call, my son; lie down again.’  Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.

“And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down, and if he calls you, say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.”‘ So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

“And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant hears.’ Then the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.'” 1 Samuel 3:1-11

The contrast between old Eli’s clouded vision and sluggish spirit and the alert senses and eager readiness of young Samuel is stark. Eli had grown spiritually apathetic, while Samuel, entrusted to the Lord early on, grew in familiarity and wisdom through his early years. Idle and dull no frequent vision, meet intuitive and daring Here I am!

To recognize and respond to Jesus, it is vital to be still. Busyness, intense productivity, packing every Sabbath with tasks and activities otherwise neglected all obviate precious time in His word and prayer to glean His broader vision for life. When are we actually still and uninterrupted? (1 Samuel 1:27-28; 2:12;21b-26; Psalm 46:10)

It’s also vital we listen and act, which may require unplugging from constant noise and undoing pre-edited information and false messages. Have we built margin for attending church consistently, reviewing sermon notes, and engaging with other Christians about needed advice, to process lessons learned and applied? Praying for discernment in everything we hear and choose to heed attunes us to God’s voice.

How will we train our senses and will to arise to God’s call? Are we more prone to a sedentary snore of ease than a ready jump to present, listen, and go? How thoroughly do we follow through on Spirit-planted intentions? Do we keep elongating lists, or eliminate items with intentional action? Every response should involve heart, soul, feet, and hands. God gives passion and commitment when we ask.

Father, tune my ears to hear and my mind to comprehend every call and prompting of Your Spirit. Cause my will to respond with vigor and delight, to the furthering of Your purposes and the praise of Your glory.

No More and Forever

“‘This is the covenant that I will make… after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.’

“Thus says the Lord,
who gives the sun for light by day
    and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
    the Lord of hosts is his name:
‘If this fixed order departs
    from before me, declares the Lord,
then shall the offspring of Israel cease
    from being a nation before me forever.’

“Thus says the Lord:
‘If the heavens above can be measured,
and the foundations of the earth below can be explored,
then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel
for all that they have done,
declares the Lord.’” Jeremiah 31:33-37

The eternal God is potentate from everlasting to everlasting and ruler of nevermore and forever. In the scheme and parameters of time, His promises for the future are already certain, and He knows all things but forgets what he chooses not to remember. Indeed, His ways are not our own, nor His endless measures comprehensible to our finite minds. (Psalm 90:2; Isaiah 55:8-9; Hebrews 8:12)

When the Lord wants us to understand the gravity and certainty of His word, He speaks in lofty concepts to instill in us lofty thought and affection for Him. His majesty and high position are beyond our understanding, and in their grandeur reflect on and undergird His great and gracious promises. This is His covenant, thus says He, so we can wholly trust His word: that He has put His law in our hearts, He is our God, we are His people, we are forgiven. These truths are as sure as the rising sun.

What does it mean for our everyday that no more is He beyond our reach of faith but His Spirit actually indwells His children? He is counselor, comforter, and helper! What courage and confidence can I espouse because of Christ’s merciful gift of salvation, instead of nursing insecurities while comparing myself to others? I am His and He is mine! What habits or sins need I put away forever, so that my daily hours escape their influence and forget their hold? And how does God’s perpetual love for me give the will and hope to do so? (John 14:16,26; Acts 17:24-28; Ephesians 1:13-14)

“How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in God’s excellent Word!
What more can be said than to you God hath said,
to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
that soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake.” ~George Keith (1787)

Lord , keep me trusting and rejoicing in Your no more and forever.

Boasts of the Wicked

“The wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,
    and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.
In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him;
    all his thoughts are, ‘There is no God…’
 As for all his foes, he puffs at them.
He says in his heart, ‘I shall not be moved;
    throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.’
His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
    under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.
He sits in ambush in the villages;
    in hiding places he murders the innocent.
His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
    he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket;
he lurks that he may seize the poor;
    he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.
The helpless are crushed, sink down,
    and fall by his might.
He says in his heart, ‘God has forgotten,
    he has hidden his face, he will never see it.’

Arise, O Lord…
Why does the wicked renounce God
    and say in his heart, ‘You will not call to account’?
But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
    that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself…
Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;
    call his wickedness to account till you find none.

The Lord is king forever and ever.” Psalm 10:3-16a

The disheartened psalmist cries for help, strength, and justice from poignant experience. His afflictions at the plans and hands of the wicked have carved deep pain. Their ubiquitous contempt has given keen insight and a vantage point not desired but well-honed. Arise, O Lord! (Psalm 12:8)

The desires of the wicked are fodder for greed that gnarls with flesh and curses the Lord. Want for more to satisfy ever-escalating lusts repudiates thoughts of God, shutting out any conviction or accountability. Do away with God = do away with judgment. If he struts and puffs enough, he belittles and discounts foes who would stand against his boasts of autonomy.

The ways of the wicked are vile, deceitful, oppressive. He is a vicious predator of the innocent, vile and conniving, seeking his own advantage at all costs and with willful destruction. He undermines, fools, crushes the unsuspecting, caring for naught but personal gain and power.

How horrid are these wretches! How can God tolerate this pomposity, this flippant rejection of His supremacy and caustic cruelty to His own? Here below we struggle to comprehend, yet must remember the cross. It was there the Prince of glory took the heinous punishment we all deserve, to free us from chains of everlasting servitude to sin. But for God’s grace applied to us we would be the arrogant, selfish tyrants.

How quickly do I condemn the wicked without taking thought for my own avarice and self-willed ways? When have I lusted or hoarded or indulged to the diminishment or detriment of another? When have I proffered advantage or accolades but dishonored my King? Guilty are we all except for His gracious salvation.

He hears our anguish, He knows the mischief and vexation of the wicked. And He reigns as just, benevolent Regent. One day every tear will be gone, along with every urge to sin. Alleluia. (Psalm 11:4-5; Revelation 21:3-4)

Lord, until that day, guard me from falling in with the wicked by keeping me in Your word and grace. May I in thought and deed honor You alone. (Psalm 1)

Am I a Flirting Felix?

“Then he called two of the centurions and said,.. ‘Provide mounts for Paul to ride and bring him safely to Felix the governor.’ And he wrote a letter to this effect:

“’Claudius Lysias, to his Excellency the governor Felix, greetings.This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed when I rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman citizen. And desiring to know the charge for which they were accusing him, I brought him down to their council…’

“They laid before the governor their case against Paul..: ‘Most excellent Felix, reforms are being made for this nation… We have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes…’

“When the governor had nodded to him to speak, Paul replied: ‘Knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defense… This I confess to you, that according to the Way.., I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust…’

“But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, ‘When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.’ Then he gave orders… that he should be kept in custody but have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs.

“After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, ‘Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.’ At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him. When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.” Acts 23:23-28; 24:1c,2c,5,10,14-15,22-27

Felix lived his spiritual life on a seesaw. He pretended reason and kindness, but callously avoided courageous decisions. He flirted with truth, but just as quickly fled its potential penetration of his pompous heart.

Felix had a good measure of prestige and power, and was acquainted with professing Christians and their distinct beliefs and behaviors. His heart was curiously drawn, but flesh and self-autonomy won out. He must not be seen as weak or submissive, he must maintain his image. As long as he could manipulate the situation and hold out for some personal gain, he did, to his eternal loss.

Control and privilege have temporal and public allure, but cannot stand when confronted with life-altering truth. Felix was held forever accountable for rejecting the gospel of righteousness and judgment, and refusing Christ. Ambiguous belief leads to indecisive living leads to lost opportunity.

Do I recognize the eternal imperative of responding to Jesus? In what areas of my life have I grown smug managing my own world, or relished the attention of others, and only flirted with what really matters? What will I do to remedy that?

Father, help me boldly believe, stand, and speak for what is true about You.

“I Am Ready”

“’You know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and tears and trials..; how I did not shrink from declaring anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house… But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God… I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God…  And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified…

“When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them. There was much weeping..; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because… they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship…”

“The next day we came to Caesarea… A prophet named Agabus… took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’ When we heard this, we… urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Paul answered, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’ And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, ‘Let the will of the Lord be done.’ After these days we got ready and went up to Jerusalem.” Acts 20:18-20,24,27,32,36-38; 21:8,10b-15a

Paul’s readiness welled up from Christ’s transformation of his heart, mind, and life purpose. Where he’d been a zealous Pharisee and persecutor, he was now a zealous apologist and evangelist, and nothing would stop him from giving his all to God’s call. He was vigilant and ready whatever came next because he was sold out, wholly committed to the Lord who owned, directed, and deserved His every breath and effort. He would never shrink from declaring truth that led to salvation and glory to God. (Acts 21:18-20a; 22:3-21; Philippians 1:6; 3:13-14)

Our readiness for what we face around and before us begins with commitment within us. Salvation-fueled willingness and gratitude always heeds God’s call.

Are we ready for today, for whatever divine appointment God scheduled on His books? Are we ready to stand firm, fully convinced of our call in opposition? Are we ready to enter daily battle with the enemy who never lets up in his mission to steal, kill, and destroy? Are we ready with an answer for the hope we have? Are we ready to meet Jesus face to face? (John 10:10; Acts 24:14-16; Ephesians 6:10-18; 2 Timothy 4:2; 1 John 3:2-3)

To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfill;
Oh, may it all my pow’rs engage
To do my Master’s will!

Arm me with watchful care
As in Thy sight to live,
And now Thy servant, Lord, prepare
A strict account to give!

Help me to watch and pray,
And still on Thee rely,
Oh, let me not my trust betray,
But press to realms on high.” ~Charles Wesley (1762)

Lord, may I readily keep Your charge and calling and so glorify Thee.

Beware the Bad Root

“You know how we lived in the land of Egypt, and how we came through the midst of the nations through which you passed. And you have seen their detestable things, their idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold, which were among them. Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’ This will lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike.” Deuteronomy 29:16-19

“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” Hebrews 12:15

Every warning in scripture stems from wisdom, omniscience, and blessed grace to God’s people. Remember from whence you came, remember how you have been set apart, recognize the horror and foolishness of idol worship and self-will. And stay vigilant. Beware. See to it. The Lord loves us and intends for us to thrive, but knows well our fickle nature and the errant tendencies of our flesh. (1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 4:15-16)

Seldom do we plan to fall, or make a thoughtful decision to turn away from God or against another. Sin comes insidiously, one small choice at a time. The devil craftily employs his tools of deception and blinding, skillfully distorting mind, perception, and will to conform to his sinister plans. When we fail to take notice and care, we fall to his wiles. Bitterness, pride, and stubbornness grow and spread beneath the surface and break through in rash rebellion, ugly behavior, rancid resentment, and biting words. The only cure is Christ’s mercy and cleansing that extricate our sin and bring a renewed spirit and resolve not to return. (Genesis 3:1-5; Psalm 51:1-2,9-10; John 8:44; James 1:14-15)

What has caused a cold heart toward God? Where and with whom have we turned from benevolence, acceptance, or devotion to bitterness? It’s vital to get at the root of our root! At some point there was a turn from humility and trust at salvation to thinking too highly of ourselves, or too lowly of our sovereign God. Success may have stoked pride that poked its ugly head through gratitude to the Lord and a sober view of self, or a new right asserting its way through mutual peace. Suddenly who someone else is, or how they behave, or a specific thing they do, gets under our skin and sets us to thinking we are superior. Why do we allow these attitudes to take root? It’s vital to guard against destructive roots to avoid spiritual droughts and ensuing trouble inside and out.

Master Gardener, uproot any bitter tentacles that have spread deep and wide in my spirit, and by Your grace, remove their poison. Cause me to grow clean and strong to bear pure fruit in every season.