Sure Dawn vs. Morning Dew

Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth. What shall I do with you? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away.” Hosea 6:3,4

Knowing God takes pressing on, and it is an endeavor we can share with our sisters and brothers in Christ. Let us. Let us encourage one another, let us learn together, let us share ways He has revealed Himself specifically and personally. Let us tell each other the great things He has done, how He has delivered, convicted, guided, guarded. Let us know Him, and know Him together.

Red orange fall sunrise, Naples

Our Lord makes Himself available to be known. Like the dawn, He is present, bright and life-giving, dependable and certain. His grace and glory radiate to affect all we see and understand, to seep into us the heat of divine love and warm affection for what pleases Him. He brings showers of blessing, comfort, wisdom, and living water that refresh like spring rain, that cause delight, give time to pause, soften hearts like seeds to begin to grow. He satisfies those in darkness and those who thirst. This is our knowable God. (John 4:14; 7:38-39; 2 Peter 1:19)

And we? In comparison, we are fickle, we are too easily distracted by our acquaintance with lesser things, our attraction to the glitzy and temporary. Our love for God is shallow,  at one moment promising like a morning cloud but quickly dissipating when breezes of busyness blow, damp like early dew but readily evaporating when the heat of opposition or the tickle of favored affections come along. Because we are who we are, we must press on to know Him!

I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14

Do I make the effort to come alongside true comrades in pressing on to know God? Or do I prefer to socialize with those who put up with a complacent or superficial spirituality? Can I quote what people say about God more readily than the very word of God Himself? What do I need to do, what time will I invest, to be such a friend who strives with others to grow in our understanding, to climb to higher faith?

“I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I onward bound,
‘Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.’”  ~Johnson 
Atman, Jr (1856-1926)

Would I lock arms with fellow believers and commit to pressing on to know our Lord better? Whom has He put in my path with whom I will marvel at His dawn and drink deeply of His life?

Father, make my faith and devotion lasting. Help me persevere in pressing on with Your people to know You, and to live for You, all to Your great praise.

 

So Shall I Look

To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he has mercy upon us. Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us.” Psalm 123:1-3

We live so much of our days enthroned, as master of our schedules, manager of our resources, ruler of our hours. It is hard to rise up out of a decorated and cushy place of self-importance and control, but once we do, life with new freedom and power can begin. Acknowledging Who actually reigns is an act of glad surrender because it frees us from the disappointing tyranny of relying on ourselves.

Rainbow in cloudy sky in Grenadines

Lifting the eyes from self and all things here below opens for us wide possibilities of fruitfulness and unshakable security. The similes in this psalm describe a beautiful relationship of dependence and trust we, as servants of the most high God, can know, and they begin with a turning up of the head.

Those under authority of a master look to him for mercy, a gracious means of acceptance and belonging, a safe place where he can come under his protection and care. Our heavenly Master, in mercy and love, welcomes us who are undeserving into our eternal inheritance. A servant would look to his master for identity, because his he is, and he would always be a member of his household. When we are reconciled to God, our Savior places His name on us and gives us a seal of guarantee; we are His, forever. The master provides for every practical need of his servant: shelter, food, clothing, materials, just as our good Master, Jehovah Jireh, the great Provider, amply supplies what we need materially for life, and spiritually for salvation and godliness. A maidservant would seek instruction from her mistress, what to do and how to do it, and our Lord counsels us with His eye upon us, leading us to the work He has designed for us. (Genesis 22:9-14; Psalm 32:8; Isaiah 43:1; Matthew 6:25-33; Ephesians 1:13; 2:4-10; 2 Peter 1:3)

Let us consider this wondrous position, and so look to our Master with resolve and trust. Let us turn from the world’s offerings, and so look to our Lord’s riches. Let us remove ourselves from lowly thinking and doing, and so look to the divine One to learn His ways and live filled with His mercy toward the needy, His love for the unlovable, His tenderness for the hard, His compassion for the downtrodden.

Good Master, I delight to be Your servant. May I ever look to You, and through You see, understand, and love others as You have loved me.

 

 

The Mercy of Being Torn (or, Goats Eating Grass)

I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear and go away; I will carry off, and no one shall rescue… until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me. Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth. What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away. For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” Hosea 5:14-15; 6:1-4,6

Wildfires blaze and ravage, licking up property with voracious hunger until stopped by barren land, food and fuel source cut off, by… goats, who have eaten the grass. So much rending, all the stripping away of what matters to us, tears at our hearts over and over until the mercy of God steps in and says, “Enough.” His limits are perfectly measured, His intentions always redemptive. He Who overseas the raging destruction, He Who tears us into exile away from everything we deemed worthy of our worship, is He Who appoints His Spirit to convict and awaken and pierce the heart, (the goats to eat grass) until we are restored. His tearing is a mercy, an invitation. (Romans 2:4)

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Unless we are torn, we cannot be healed; unless we fall, He cannot pick us up. We must recognize our captivity and sickness in order to cry for rescue and healing. Death to self must come before we can live again, in and for Him. It is in the dying we gasp for real life, and can receive His gift with open arms. Before Him, when our shroud of self-importance falls away and we see ourselves soberly, when our charms and masks are removed, we understand that His requirements are not so many chosen-by-convenience ‘offerings’ of our own conjuring, but earnest seeking, steadfast love, a growing, deep knowledge of Him. (John 12:24-25; Romans 12:3)

When areas of my life begin to unravel, my hopes for a child or my future are rent by poor choices or circumstances, a cut stings so badly I’m consumed with the pain, would I look not to escape, but for God’s mercy in it? He will give eyes to see, and the will to persevere, as He does His purifying, sanctifying, restorative work. The process, not the alleviating of the pain, is what brings about His intended result that we know Him as our Redeemer and be formed in Him. (James 1:2-4)

Thank You, Lord, for the mercy of Your tearing, and for sending goats to eat the grass to stop the fire at Your appointed time. May I learn to yield to Your redemptive hand and daily press on to know You better.

 

Fleeing and Flying

Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness. But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.’ Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.  So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” 2 Timothy 2:14-16,19,21-26

The Christian life is an ongoing expedition of fleeing and flying, escaping from the tangled web of temptation to press to Jesus. When we face the daily pull of the devil’s snares, the Lord provides the gumption to flee, and to fly to Him for power and direction on what to do instead, what not to do, where to go. The Scriptures name some of our most challenging predicaments, and as the inspired word of all-knowing God, give practical alternatives that replace what was natural with the old self with practice of our new nature. (Ephesians 4:22-24)

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When we overhear or are barraged with quarreling about words or irreverent babble, are we prepared to rightly, kindly, gently handle God’s truth and shamelessly speak His name? Are there dishonorable habits that render us useless or unavailable from which we need separate in order to serve more robustly? What passions steal my passion for Jesus? Is there any love, any pet interest, jealousy, resentment, that is hindering an unfettered pursuit of righteousness, faith, love, and peace among others? What selfish claims on my own time and pleasure diminish my fruitfulness for God’s kingdom?

The shorebird intrigued with tiny critters in the sand does not see the larger possibilities beyond the petty. But once he looks up, and takes off, freedom lifts him to heights of fresh strength as he soars on new wind. When we flee iniquity, we need fly toward our Lord. To stop one practice requires replacing it with another. If I turn from offering myself to unrighteousness, sloth, conceit, self-consciousness, I present myself instead to the One Who died to redeem me from those worthless practices and begin to speak His new language in tongue and deed, and bear the Spirit’s fruit.  (Galatians 5:22-23; Hebrews 12:1-3)

Lord on high, make me keenly aware of what I need to flee; turn and lift me to fly to, and with, and for, You.

 

The Provocation of Pride

“Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, began to reign. And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, yet not like David his father… But the high places were not removed; the people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places. He struck down ten thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt and took Sela by storm, and called it Joktheel, which is its name to this day.

“Then Amaziah sent messengers to Jehoash, king of Israel, saying, ‘Come, let us look one another in the face.’ And Jehoash king of Israel sent word to Amaziah king of Judah,.. ‘You have indeed struck down Edom, and your heart has lifted you up. Be content with your glory, and stay at home, for why should you provoke trouble so that you fall, you and Judah with you?’ But Amaziah would not listen. So Jehoash king of Israel went up, and he and Amaziah king of Judah faced one another in battle at Beth-shemesh, which belongs to Judah. And Judah was defeated by Israel, and every man fled to his home. And Jehoash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, at Beth-shemesh, and came to Jerusalem and broke down the wall of Jerusalem for four hundred cubits, from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate. And he seized all the gold and silver, and all the vessels that were found in the house of the Lord and in the treasuries of the king’s house, also hostages, and he returned to Samaria.” 2 Kings 14:1,3-4,7-14

When once we set our feet atop the pinnacle of pride, and all the world seems rosy with me at the helm, any small step can become the first on a slippery slope downward. Here is king Amaziah, whose heart was almost ‘all in’ with God, yet one military victory with God’s help tantalized him with the taste of winning, and the seed of pride took root and tickled his fancy enough that he flirted with false gods, shunned God’s prophets, and provoked one who should have been an ally. The heathen Jehoash even warned him for his protection, yet pride had plugged his ears, and he would have nothing of stopping his hunger for just a little more. Disaster befell him; he lived at least fifteen years more with no noted significance. His own people conspired against him and put him to death. (2 Chronicles 25:2,7-16,27)

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Beware the provocation of pride! The temporary luster of success can blind us to reality, sap us of reason, and distort our view of our own prowess to the point that we make false assumptions and foolish decisions. Scriptures warn us not to think too highly of ourselves, but pride tempts inflated assessment. When we think we can share God’s rightful throne, or try to push Him off altogether, we are doomed to fail. He is King, and will always overrule our attempts at sovereignty. (Romans 12:3; 1 Timothy 6:15)

Lord of lords, give me eyes to see You as the only high and holy One, and myself in light of Your light. Expose my half-heartedness and make me wholly devoted to You. (Psalm 36:9; Isaiah 6:1-5)

Standing Over Understanding

Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works. I am your servant; give me understanding, that I may know your testimonies! The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. Give me understanding according to your word!” “There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land… My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; you have rejected knowledge,.. you have forgotten the law of your God… A people without understanding shall come to ruin.” “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you… When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” Psalm 119:27,125,130,169; Hosea 4:1,6,14; Matthew 22:29; John 14:26; 16:13; 2 Timothy 2:7

Much is emphasized today about our feelings, and they are a masterful gift from God in His creating the whole person. But danger arises when we allow feelings to trump, or dismiss, or neglect, thinking. A ready knowledge and understanding of Scriptures lays a foundation for our souls that is both guide and stay, an immovable standard that stands as security and light for our way. The truth of God’s word in the foreground gives us His perspective and comprehension of all that lies beyond.

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In any big decision, from a sizable purchase to a court case that determines a person’s future, from a move to a new locale to the choice of a life partner, understanding is sought. The fuller the information, the better judgment can be made. So how do we go about gaining wisdom for these life issues in order to avoid the ‘ruin and wrong’ that attend ignorance? There are times we are called upon to answer, to act, where we have little background or experience, situations where we are burdened yet know not how to proceed, but our great God does not leave us to ourselves to respond. He promises wisdom and understanding for those who seek Him. He enables us to stand assured with spiritual understanding. His word lights our path, His Spirit, our Paraclete, divinely develops our insight and directs our thinking. (Psalm 32:8; 119:105)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” Proverbs 3:5-7

Have I trained myself to seek Him and His wisdom? When faced with a problem, or responsibility, do I seek Him first for understanding of all facets of the situation, a grasp of personalities and requirements, possible outcomes and the way forward? Do I make the effort to climb the heights alone with Him to see others and issues through His holy filter?

Father, guard my time in Your word, and from it grant me Your understanding for all that comes my way. May all I say and do bear Your imprint and greatness.

 

 

The Great Gain of Godly Contentment

“Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world… But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness… As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” 1 Timothy 6:6-7,9-11,17-19

Gain: an increase in wealth or resources; advantage acquired or increased; an increase in amount, magnitude, or degree. In a world of commerce and financial economy, we can narrow our perception of gain to the accumulation of financial wealth and material goods, when God’s view is vastly different. He Who owns all resources and bestows them on us for good pleasure says these are not what bring true life. Our craving, our desire, is to be for godliness, righteousness, the invisible but palpable qualities that are like Christ. With these in growing measure we will know contentment and satisfaction, and from this healthy place we will have the ultimate enjoyment of all God’s gifts.

Pursuing worldly wealth can lead us down a path of disordered love, greed, numbed sensitivity, and the world’s many snares, leaving us empty and wanting, even irreversibly ruined. Pursuing godliness and righteousness brings joy in generosity, and contentment in selfless, fruitful living and giving, and untold treasure that can never ruin, and lasts forever. Earthly riches are uncertain, fleeting, and temporary, while the Lord provides spiritual riches that are based on a firm foundation and last forever. (Matthew 6:19-21,24-25; Ephesians 1:3-4)

Is there evidence in my attitude, my measure of patience, my perception of ownership, that in my heart of hearts, I am nurturing a love for money? What am I accumulating in my mind, my space, my life, that breeds discontent, complaining, comparing, restlessness, a gnawing for more? Are the things in which I invest attached by worry and maintenance to this world, or do I intentionally sow the fruit of the Spirit into my involvement with others and the works of my hands, as an outgrowth of an increasing Christ-likeness God is working in me? Growth in godliness manifests itself in sanctified motivations and increasing contentment in the present age, even as we live and build for the age to come. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Good Father, identify my heart’s premier loves, and purify them. Sow in me deep contentment in knowing, praising, trusting, and loving You. Thank You for Your beautiful, rich gift of true life.