Whoa, Or Woe?

“‘Ah, stubborn children,’ declares the Lord‘who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!’ Egypt’s help is worthless and empty… Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord! The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit.” Isaiah 30:1-2,7; 31:1,3

We are taught from many angles that stubborn independence is good. Make your own way, don’t depend on others, be an entrepreneur, look out for yourself, follow your heart. Yet one voice, that of our Maker, says in benevolence, ‘Ah, my beloved children, I see your stubbornness. I know You well, and you are precious to Me. But I see that the path you are choosing will not come to good. Your alliances, your dalliances with frivolity, your unhealthy friendships, your unwholesome reading, your false measures for security, your masks, are fruitless and will leave you empty and stranded. I understand your inclination to make your plans, dream your dreams, and rely on your know-how and guts, but apart from Me, they will not succeed.’

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The world has and offers much glitz, and makes many empty promises. Its pleasures may indeed please, but only superficially and fleetingly, and often not before inflicting pain and regret. Its securities are fool-safe, until they are not. What is it about the boast of Egypt that lures us away from the Almighty? Is it the luscious colors and smooth easy feel of Pharaoh’s lovely garb, the intoxicating power and temptation of position, control, and fame? Is it his sensuously strong horses, the dreams of riding luxuriously in notoriety and comfort, of being my own master? (Romans 4:19-21; Hebrews 11:24-27)

To all these allures, Jesus says, Whoa! If we do not cease our own planning and seek His counsel, if we do not break soul ties to those who lead us astray to be bound instead to His Spirit, if we set our own course without consulting His map and directions, if we lust after the approval of man rather than the esteem of God, and fear man more than we fear Him, if we find affirmation in the accolades of others more than in our Lord’s ‘well done,’ if we value and heed worldly advice over God’s truth, if we do not stop our self-driven momentum and get in synch with His, if we rely on our own strength instead of God for security, then woe! Woe is ours because we are rejecting the One Who gives true meaning, protection, and fruitfulness. (Isaiah 53:6; Matthew 22:29; Luke 11:42-52; 2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Where are His reins pulling and steering me today?

Father, cause me to trust in You alone, acknowledge You in every endeavor, and stick to Your paths and methods. May any favor in my life exalt Your grace and glory. (Proverbs 3:3-7)

 

 

Wrath: Wrestle, and Worship

The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; he dries up all the rivers… The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it. Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him. The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness.” Nahum 1:2-8

No one likes to consider the wrath of God, and many have a hard time reconciling His love with any hint of anger or punishment. But the Scriptures teach both as part of His holy character, each as a worthy attribute of the wholly righteous Ruler of all. We struggle with wrath because we do not want to admit we are sinners and deserve it, and we refuse the harshness of torment, misery, and separation. In doing so, we are actually saying we would settle for a compromising God, a less-that-perfect One who winks at sin, whose heaven is not pure. If God truly loves His own and created us for Himself, He cannot settle for our going our own way. Purity cannot exist with vileness, light is inconsistent with darkness. His love and wrath meet and kiss in His mercy. In abounding grace, He has made a way for us to take refuge from the storm of wrath and fly in freedom from guilt. (Luke 16:22-31; Romans 3:10-12,23)

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Jesus, the unblemished Lamb, carried the full weight of our sin to the cross, and incurred our deserved wrath in our stead. When we contemplate so great and loving a Savior, and allow the truth of what He has done on our behalf to sink in, we can only fall on our faces in humble gratitude, and adore this Man of sorrows, this Friend of sinners. Proper worship is reverence and veneration for all that God is, every attribute encompassing His whole. (Isaiah 53:3-12; Matthew 11:19; 1 Peter 2:24)

Where am I picking and choosing what I want of God, rather than seeking Him for the whole and holy of Who He is, and worshiping Him there?

“O worship the King all-glorious above,
O gratefully sing his power and his love:
our shield and defender, the Ancient of Days,
pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.

O tell of his might and sing of his grace,
whose robe is the light, whose canopy space.
His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
and dark is his path on the wings of the storm.”  ~Robert Grant (1833)

Beautiful Lord, thank You that in wrath, You remember mercy. Revive Your work of worship in me. (Habakkuk 3:2)

 

 

Keeping the Charge

Now Solomon purposed to build a temple for the name of the Lord. And Solomon assigned 70,000 men to bear burdens and 80,000 to quarry in the hill country, and 3,600 to oversee them. And Solomon sent word to Hiram the king of Tyre: ‘As you dealt with David my father and sent him cedar to build himself a house to dwell in, so deal with me. Behold, I am about to build a house for the name of the Lord my God and dedicate it to him for the burning of incense of sweet spices before him, and for the regular arrangement of the showbread, and for burnt offerings morning and evening, on the Sabbaths and the new moons and the appointed feasts of the Lord our God, as ordained forever for Israel. The house that I am to build will be great, for our God is greater than all gods. But who is able to build him a house, since heaven, even highest heaven, cannot contain him? Who am I to build a house for him, except as a place to make offerings before him?’ ..Then Hiram the king of Tyre answered in a letter that he sent to Solomon, ‘Because the Lord loves his people, he has made you king over them. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who made heaven and earth, who has given King David a wise son, who has discretion and understanding, who will build a temple for the Lord.'” 2 Chronicles 2:1-6,11-12

Solomon had been given a holy charge by God and his father David, and armed with determination, divine discretion, and wisdom, set out to serve His master’s will. King Hiram of Tyre, friend of David, recognized God’s hand on his successor, and pronounced a remarkable blessing on him: God Almighty had placed him on the throne because He loved His people Israel. What an affirmation! What a high calling! (1 Chronicles 22:7-12; 28:10,20; 29:25; 2 Chronicles 1:7-12)

The Cathedral Church of St. Philip, interior 2, Birmingham, England

Among whom has God placed me because He loves them? What unique calling have I received to build for Him in a place of work or community, to exalt Him in a relationship or family or neighborhood, to enlist others to participate in kingdom matters? Do I humbly accept my status and position as subservient to the indescribable Sovereign, my role to lead in such a way as to lift high His name and honor? How well does my work pay Him homage and point others to His greatness?

“A charge to keep I have,
a God to glorify,
a never-dying soul to save,
and fit it for the sky.

To serve the present age,
my calling to fulfill,
O 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,
O let me not my trust betray,
but press to realms on high.”  ~Charles Wesley (1762)

Lord, help me accept every assignment from You as a privilege, and with vigor and excellence. May the way I serve You show others how much You love them.

High Wind Warning

Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will… put breath in you, and you shall know that I am the Lord… Prophesy to the breath; say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” Ezekiel 37:4-6,9; Luke 24:49; Acts 2:1-4

The flashing signs stood as electronic sentinels as the highway approached the long, high suspension bridge. WARNING: HIGH WIND ON BRIDGE. USE CAUTION. Wind whipped across the bay, on either side, foamy curls scalloping the blue gray water with white. Kite surfers raced at high speed, criss-crossing the surface with fully-billowed, brightly-colored sails. Ascending with the other cars, my hands gripped the steering wheel, preparing to hold firm against gusts. All around were signs of the wind’s power, and I knew the higher I got, the more I would be swayed.

Sunshine Skyway bridge under clouds

We may not see a flashing sign, but it is true that as we climb higher with the Lord in our Christian life, we better get ready, because the Spirit’s wind will blow hard to move us, to have its way in every area of our life. Each time I open God’s word and invite the Holy Spirit to convict, cleanse, and instruct, I could heed the bridge warning: high wind, take caution. When the Holy Spirit is blowing He will interfere with my thought life, my inclinations, my deepest desires. I can expect Him to expose what I prefer to keep hidden, from myself and others, to steer my affections in new directions, and to move me to new areas of willing service.

As I look ahead, will I prepare for the climb, and commit to forge on, no matter the disruption? Will I cross the bridge from status quo to new adventure? Relationships from ordinary to extraordinary? Conversation from banal to significant? My days from fruitless expenditures to fruitful enterprise and ministry? Am I willing to exert the energy to ascend into God’s high winds and allow them to persuade and sway and change me?

“Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.
Break me, melt me, mold me, fill me.
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.”  ~Daniel Iverson (1890-1977)

Lord, my Captain and Guard, steer me into the high winds of your Spirit, and give me courage to keep climbing with You. Blow Your life into me and Your Spirit’s power through me, that my encounters with You change me forever. (John 3:8)

“Do You Do Well?”

“It displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, is not this what I said..? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’ And the Lord said, ‘Do you do well to be angry?’

Jonah went out of the city and sat.. under [a booth] in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. Now the Lord God appointed a plant,.. a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, ‘It is better for me to die than to live.’ But God said to Jonah, ‘Do you do well to be angry for the plant?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.’ And the Lord said, ‘You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. Should not I pity Nineveh, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?’” Jonah 4:1-11

God has a way of asking questions that expose our hearts. Jonah’s anger was pinpointed because it was the root of his disobedience in rebelling against God’s command and running away in the first place. Anger that made him want to die, because he thought the Ninevites deserved no favor, and he deserved it all, was anger that must be reckoned with, and the Lord has His way of doing just that.

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Jonah knew God’s irresistible mercy and love, but he did not like that the wicked Ninevites would be softened and brought to forgiveness by it. When God gave him relief from heat as he watched the heathen city, he began to think he had a right to that comfort. God’s questions implied that Jonah did not do well to reject His good and sovereign plans, question His judgment, or expect mercy when he was unwilling to extend it. What actually did well in the book of Jonah was not his attitude or manner with God, but the truth he proclaimed as it had its way in the city God pitied.

Do I do well to rejoice over the salvation of others, no matter what their past? Do I do well in aligning my allegiances and emotions with the Lord’s in His plans for His people? Do I do well in giving my all to serve His causes?

Lord God, You do all things well. Adjust my thinking and attitudes to be like Yours. (Mark 7:37; Philippians 2:1-8)

Every Job an Affair of the King

“Of the Izharites, Chenaniah and his sons were appointed to external duties for Israel, as officers and judges… King David appointed him and his brothers, to have the oversight of the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of the Manassites for everything pertaining to God and for the affairs of the king… Over the king’s treasuries was Azmaveth the son of Adiel; and over the treasuries in the country, in the cities, in the villages, and in the towers, was Jonathan the son of Uzziah; and over those who did the work of the field for tilling the soil was Ezri the son of Chelub; and over the vineyards was Shimei the Ramathite; and over the produce of the vineyards for the wine cellars was Zabdi the Shiphmite. Over the olive and sycamore trees in the Shephelah was Baal-hanan the Gederite; and over the stores of oil was Joash. Over the herds that pastured in Sharon was Shitrai the Sharonite; over the herds in the valleys was Shaphat the son of Adlai. Over the camels was Obil the Ishmaelite; and over the donkeys was Jehdeiah the Meronothite. Over the flocks was Jaziz the Hagrite. All these were stewards of King David’s property. Jonathan, David’s uncle, was a counselor, being a man of understanding and a scribe. He and Jehiel the son of Hachmoni attended the king’s sons. Ahithophel was the king’s counselor, and Hushai the Archite was the king’s friend... Joab was commander of the king’s army.” 1 Chronicles 26:29,32; 27:25-34

Supervising. Accounting. Tilling soil. Pruning and harvesting plants. Tending to sheep and camels. Giving counsel. Taking notes and managing correspondence. Being a friend. Developing military strategy and leading the army. God’s kingdom is big and requires much toil for His work to be done. As the divine Master, He names us each and designs our work for the smooth running of His affairs. He implements certain authorities in our lives to determine where we should be and what we should be doing, and it is our responsibility to fulfill that work His way.

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At the start of the week, with the dawn of every new day, do I thoughtfully consult with my King and ask how He would have me plan? Do I remind myself I am steward of His property and calendar, and serve at His pleasure? Do I view my every job as on His agenda and time clock, to be accomplished for His intention? Am I committed to work with a whole heart and willing mind, with keen care and strength and courage? (1 Chronicles 28:1,4,9-10,20)

At times our jobs are especially difficult due to the prickle of thorny colleagues, the heat of required effort, the challenge of a new skill, or fear over another’s reaction or acceptance. But when we serve under the Lord’s rule, we can be confident in His presence, order, and the ultimate beauty of His result. He gives holy meaning to every errand, every hug, every meal prepared, bed made, message sent, lesson taught, assignment completed, budget balanced, project managed, paycheck earned. (1 Corinthians 14:33)

My King, may I do wholeheartedly all You assign, in Jesus’s name, with thanksgiving. May my affairs be one with Your plans. Yours is the kingdom and the glory, forever. (Matthew 6:13; Colossians 3:17,23)

Can’t Do Everything

“Now when David lived in his house, David said to Nathan the prophet, ‘Behold, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the Lord is under a tent.’ ..That same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, ‘Go and tell my servant David, “Thus says the Lord: It is not you who will build me a house to dwell in. For I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up Israel to this day, but I have gone from tent to tent and from dwelling to dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’ I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be prince over my people Israel, and I have been with you wherever you have gone and have cut off all your enemies from before you.”‘” “You may not build a house for my name, for you are a man of war and have shed blood.” Chronicles 17:1,3-8; 28:3

David was multi-talented, and wanted to do great things for God. Despite his many failings, he was a true “man after God’s heart,” and was zealous to honor Him in his military leadership, his writing, and his desire to build Him a permanent house where people could worship. But God said, you can’t do everything. He had a strategic and specific anointing on David for his place and time in Israel’s history, and for David to get distracted by another major project would deter his completing what God had for only him.

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“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” It is important to discern where we are especially gifted and specifically called. When we have other worthwhile, even holy desires, we can put them into play by praying for others to come forward, by helping prepare those less experienced or needing encouragement for the good work. I may not be in charge of every project that moves me, but I can support its success by doing my part and project well. Had David not established Israel’s strength militarily, his son Solomon could not have enjoyed a peaceful kingdom where he had time to construct the temple. (1 Chronicles 22:6-11; Ephesians 2:10)

How am I, because of my upbringing, education, life experiences in family, work, and location, uniquely qualified in God’s service? Are there tasks and ministries where I eagerly jump in because there is a need, but expend energy the Lord intended I invest elsewhere? What roles do I take that could be filled by another less forthright in stepping up, but willing to begin serving and eager to exercise their gifts? Is there a situation where I can help another develop what God has called them to do?

Father, keep me wholehearted for You, and able to discern how You want me expending that heart. Direct my every yes and no to fulfill with excellence everything You call me to do, for Your glory and purposes.