Our Arm Every Morning

O Lord, be gracious to us; we wait for you. Be our arm every morning, our salvation in the time of trouble… He will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure. The Lord in majesty will be for us a place of broad rivers and streams. For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king; he will save us.” “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.” “There is none like God, O Jeshurun, who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in his majesty. The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Isaiah 33:2,6,21-22; 59:1; Deuteronomy 33:26-27

I have been especially needy of late, for certain wisdom, insight, understanding of the right way forward. I think I know myself pretty well, yet am finding the Lord revealing new strengths, new areas He wants to develop and use in me that are as yet untested, so I seek His guidance and courage. I feel as though I am trying out new vocabulary words I am not yet comfortable using in conversation. I appeal to His word.

You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand, high your right hand.” Psalm 89:13

Cloud arms encircling, God holds the world 2

I carry a vivid memory of my father scooping up my resistant little sister when she was a pre-schooler, and jumping off a rock into the clear lake, cheered on by the rest of us who had already plunged into its liquid delight. She was fearful at the unknown and large, but held close in her father’s loving strength, was secure. There is nothing like the arms of a father.

So when I feel hemmed in and know not the way to go, I can look to the broad rivers and streams of my Lord. With all my questions and suppositions and ideas, I can ask for His wisdom, knowledge, and stability in thought. He Who judges rightly and hears my cry, interpreting even what I cannot articulate, reminds me of truth and divides His law into my understanding, even as He comes to abide, my Counselor and present help. He upholds and sustains in mysterious and marvelous ways, invisibly but palpably, like arms of cloud riding the heavens to my aid. (Psalm 46:1; John 14:1,26-27; Romans 8:26-27; Hebrews 4:12)

When my Heavenly Father takes my hand, and supports me with His ever-strong arms, I can not only rest in being held, and carried, but I can bravely go forth into the hard, the scary, the unknown, the battle. I can jump into the deep, climb the scrabbly slope, proceed into the fray where He leads, because He is mighty to save and enable and supply.

Lord on high, I know that Your arm is not too short and it is strong. May it strengthen and establish me against fear and dismay. Morning by morning, as You offer Your mighty hand and outstretched arm, keep me holding fast, walking arm in arm with Thee. (Deuteronomy 11:2; Psalm 89:21; Joshua 1:9)

 

Small Sojourners, Beloved Belongers

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?  Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.” Deuteronomy 10:12-22

The LORD and Moses had ongoing communion and conversation, and Moses relayed what God said to him in what seems fatherly story-telling and advice. When I listen in, I feel as though I am a child of the king, hearing great tales of excitement and valor and impossible deliverances, and cogent lessons for life. When Moses gives instruction, it is always with holy intention, and always magnifies the Law-Giver. A malevolent, capricious tyrant we would resist, but a benevolent, covenant-keeping, wonder-working Ruler? Any soft and open heart should delight to ingest every word, and trust, and obey.

South African sunset in mountains, reflected in water

The preface to Almighty God’s commands is that He is great, and we are small. He bids us remember He set His affection on us while we wandered, lost and helpless; He rescued us, showered us with mercy and compassion, provided everything in Jesus for our otherwise-impossible spiritual need, and secured us as His own. In fearing and holding fast to this amazing God, we learn to walk in Him, to serve and follow Him, to cut off all that offends, to see with kind eyes those who wander aimlessly as we did, sheep captive to foreign shepherds. When we contemplate this Most High God and His past and present deeds, He becomes our praise, and it shows in the way we live and love. Once alien, now belonging, we begin to reflect His character. (Ephesians 2:1-5)

Most gracious LORD of lords, in love You have delivered my life from the pit and called me Your own. May I never forget who I was, and who I now am. Embolden me willingly and gratefully to keep all You require, to promote Your divine good, to honor and praise Your great name. (Isaiah 38:17)

 

Sin’s Pleas

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you… My tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. My mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give itThe sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Psalm 51:1-4,6-17

David’s relaxation led to lust led to adultery led to deceit led to murder led to grief led to more death, and he was miserable. God doesn’t let His chosen ones, those He is fashioning after His own heart, sit well with sin. Guilt is a kindness leading to repentance, and merciful God was kind to David. (1 Samuel 13:14; 2 Samuel 11:1-12:23; Psalm 32:3-4,10; Acts 13:22; Romans 2:4)

IMG_5431

The sin he committed in “secret” was not hidden from all-seeing, omniscient God, and although it was immediately, upon confession, forgiven, it would identify King David all his days through the description in the genealogy of Jesus of the mother of his royal son Solomon. But the heart set free is free indeed, and the fear David felt in guilt, that God’s Spirit would be removed from him, is no longer ours in forgiveness this side of the cross. When once we are sealed in and by His Spirit, we are secure forever. (2 Samuel 12:13; Matthew 1:6; Ephesians 4:30)

I have found myself stuck in a sin quagmire of mind and tongue, and while I feel the Spirit’s conviction, have been weak as a noodle in self-control. What beauty, what washing, what refreshing there is, when we read accounts of fellow sojourners of faith who have similarly struggled, and allow His word to do its precise, penetrating work in our souls. Our Jesus sees, knows, understands– He suffered all the same temptations, yet was without sin on our behalf. He became our perfect sacrifice, He frees us from sin’s penalty, He pronounces us, as Nathan did David, “forgiven.” Hallelujah! (Hebrews 4:12-16)

God of grace, You search me and Your word tries me, You convict of sin by misery in the inward parts. Thank You. Wash me, restore me. I will teach, I will praise. (Psalm 139:23-24; John 16:8)

The Whole Way He Leads

“You shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you… For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you… [He] led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, [he] brought you water out of the flinty rock, [he] fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power.” Deuteronomy 8:2-5,7,10,15-16

When we use GPS, we are directed in the most efficient way to our destination, ‘although you will experience some traffic you are still on the fastest route.’ When we ask God for direction, we want quick and clear answers, a smooth path to our desired goal. But this is not how God usually works. He promises to lead us, yet His ways are “whole ways” that are intended for far more than we can imagine. For Israel, their journey to the promised land was fraught with hunger, pests, wandering, formidable enemies, all designed by a benevolent, all-knowing God Whose interest was in their faith, their strength in identity as His, their whole and humble dependence on Him, their wonder at His gracious and marvelous works. He was developing a holy people for Himself, not delivering a destination. (Psalm 32:8; Isaiah 55:8)

Damp winding road in fog, Southland, NZ

When I encounter obstacles, fog, impasses, unexpected turns along my way, do I look for what my loving Father might be teaching? Our natural tendency can be to shrug off the nettles, forge our way through pain, demand needs be met, quickly settle for fast food over heavenly nourishment, push push without considering what patience and trust can be learned in delays, what compassion and sympathy in heartache and suffering, what muscles can be developed when we are required to work harder, carry heavier, or resist more. The LORD’s end is always to do us good, His discipline to sanctify us to bear the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:5-11)

Father, lead me in Your whole ways. May I seek You above any other goal, remember You in every turn. Accomplish all You intend though my life’s path, for the praise of Your name and exaltation of Your greatness.

Chosen, Treasured, Ruthless

When the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, you shall make no covenant with them. You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods… You shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and chop down their Asherim and burn their carved images with fire. For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.  It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you. Your eye shall not pity them, neither shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you… You shall not be afraid of them… You shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them or take it for yourselves, lest you be ensnared by it.” Deuteronomy 7:1-8,16,18,25

Being a child of God the King brings many privileges, and a high call to be distinct, and ruthless. It should boggle our minds to realize how valuable we are to the Lord– chosen, beloved, owned, pronounced holy to Him, adorned by grace with His name. He set His affection on us simply because that is His nature; He promised to do so and He is always true to His word. He values us as his priceless treasure.

fullsizeoutput_6181

Being so treasured, our living response, He commands, is to be equally as committed to Him, and ruthless with the world and all its enticements. Once His bride, we cannot belong to another lover. Once redeemed from slavery, we are never to return to its shackles, its cruel possession or sway. We are to face the enemy boldly, and cut off anything that would lure our affections from our Divine Groom. We are to chop down gods in which we are prone to place our security or identity– things and experiences and degrees and acquaintances that we wave as important. We are to give no pity to the ones who would steal our rightful loyalties and displace our focus. We are not to fear the consequences of putting off the charms and approval of the world, because belonging to almighty God is more than enough and far superior.

Do I rest in God’s favor and unbreakable love for me? What magnets from the world, unbiblical beliefs, shiny temptations, pull at my affections and weaken my resolve to live as the royal that I am?

King of kings, Who has favored me beyond my imagining, grant me strength to be ruthless with the enemy so that I believe and behave as Yours, to Your glory.

 

Incline Your Ear, O Lord

Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day. Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me.” Psalm 86:1-7

I recently had a disturbing conversation that left me tight inside with consternation, sadness, a touch of fear. I knew the only One to Whom I should go, and bent my knee to cry out to Him, my Master. I was poor in understanding, needy for sense, right thinking, and appropriate words. While a storm brewed in my soul, I called out to the LORD of all weather. (John 6:68)

fullsizeoutput_617a

Lifting my soul to Jesus presents me at His throne, a place of trust in His might, gladness at His rule, instruction from His wisdom, rest in His royal domain. At His feet I find grace to help in time of need, cleansing from corrupt motives and emotions, hope in desperation. He hears my cry and listens to my heart. He discerns all that is between the lines and that I cannot articulate. He translates my confusion into clarity, and brings light to clouded darkness, and He always, always answers. (Psalm 26:2; Hebrews 4:16)

“What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!                                                      Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness take it to the Lord in prayer.                                                 Are we weak and heavy-laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge— Take it to the Lord in prayer;
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee, thou wilt find a solace there.”                             ~Charles Crozat Converse (1834-1918)

What griefs, fears, confusion weigh heavy today? Where am I lacking, poor, bereft? What stomach knots need calming, fiery emotions need cooling, resistances need softening? What hinders my moving forward, responding with confidence, progressing in growth? Would I name them all, seek first almighty God, and trust Him to incline His ear to me and provide for all my needs? (Matthew 6:33-34; Philippians 4:6-7,19,23)

Great and wondrous God, I spread out my hands to You. Omniscient, You know each of my needs, and omnipotent, You hear and answer and supply. All glory to You, Caretaker of my soul and every cry. (Psalm 86:10; 88:9; Matthew 6:8; 11:28)

The Convolution of the Rebel Heart

“This people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men. Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, ‘Who sees us? Who knows us?’ You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, ‘He did not make me’; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’?'” “But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels. Oh, that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways!” Isaiah 29:13,15-16; Psalm 81:11-13

Isaiah captures well the convoluted thinking of rebels who live apart from God. Their tendency is to give lip-service to a higher Being but disregard accountability to Him. They clutch their life-reins, justify self-determination and perverted choices, and believe they can hide their actions and motives from the all-knowing Maker. In seeing themselves as a god, they mock the true God. They listen and submit only to self, and bear the consequence. The psalmist describes God’s heart for His people, along with the freedom He gives by releasing them to their own devices.

fullsizeoutput_4f

While I may not consider myself a spiritual anarchist, where has a hint of rebel seeped into my thinking? Do I act as though He is available, but keep Him on the periphery as I make plans and go about my days, fine to forge ahead on my own? I may never consciously pretend to be God, but how have I distorted His character by subconsciously fashioning Him into my (desired) image, expecting Him to act as I want, dispense what I want, when I want? Is there an area I am hiding from His light because I think if I keep in the dark He will not see? Where have I allowed my reasoning to turn upside down because I have exposed myself to folly and refused the conviction of the Holy Spirit?

Many rebels are blinded to the gospel by the god of this world, unable not to be convoluted in their thinking, but believers grow subversive when we shun truth and make up our own. Is there a growing impatience, irritation, stubbornness, bitterness, covetousness, that are evidences of rebellion? When God Almighty, in mercy and lovingkindness, exposes any calcifying of our heart, He beckons us to call out to Him, repent, put away our strange gods, and open wide our mouths to be filled with His finest satisfaction. He delights to soften the rebel heart and make it new, and reconcile us back to intimate communion. (Psalm 81:7-10,16; Ezekiel 36:26; Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 4:4)

Mighty Lord, penetrate my thinking with Your truth. Expose rebellion in my flesh and my mind, that I might, enabled by Your grace, put it away. Grant me discernment and wisdom, the mind of Christ, so my living is consistent with Your ways. (Isaiah 29:14; 1 Corinthians 2:16)