Set Up to Burn!

You shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive oil for the light, that a lamp may regularly be set up to burn… Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening to morning before the Lord. It shall be a statute forever to be observed throughout their generations by the people of Israel.” And there shall be a time of trouble… And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” Exodus 27:20-21; Daniel 12:1,3

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure… Be without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life.” Matthew 5:14-16; Philippians 2:13,15-16

Burning consistently and burning bright does not just happen. It takes the pure tested oil of the Spirit, and it takes deliberate establishing and setting to flame that light in the course of our day. Thanks be to God for His limitless supply for us to obey His commands.

0974C486-0055-48A2-BE2C-6389AB19E8CA_1_201_a

Our world needs light. Nations are in turmoil, wrangling with the known challenges of a still-in-many-ways-unknown virus, and the darkness of anger, grief, fear, confusion, and anxiety permeates homes, communities, cities, countries. Behold the Light of the world, come to dispel darkness and bring brilliant and eternal life beyond the here and now! Behold, believe, and be bold! (John 1:4-5,9-14; 8:12)

How is my supply of beaten oil? What am I doing to empty myself of me, and any blemish of self-serving sin, and remain filled with Him? Am I taking time otherwise spent on lesser things to partake of His word and to pray for brave resolve? What steps and risks am I taking to bring His light into places of darkness? How intent am I on bending my will to God’s daily wisdom, and applying it in good works that make an eternal difference?

Where God calls for regular devotion and regular burning, He provides every means for our obedience. His indwelling Spirit is our inexhaustible oil, His power ignites our flame, and His very breath fans it to burn continually as we abide in ongoing surrender to Him. Are we available, and willing, to burn and be used for Him? (2 Peter 1:3-4)

Lord Jesus, as I follow You, may I hold fast to, and hold high, Your word of life. Fill me with the oil of Your Holy Spirit that I brightly shine to this needy world with Your everlasting love and transformative truth. Burn with such resplendence that people know, and receive, and believe in, You.

Grant Us Wisdom, Grant Us Courage!

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Psalm 90:12; Ephesians 5:15-16

God who created time, and set earth spinning on its axis  and the heavenly lights in place so we could mark time, reminds us through world events that our times are in His hands.  He who is unruffled by what ruffles us, whose gentle eyes see our fretting and says, “Fear not,” is the One who moves the pendulum from birth to death, embracing to distancing, war of disease and emotion and pressure to perfect peace. (Genesis 1:14-19; Psalm 31:15; Matthew 14:27)

A94D12E0-2E0C-4E02-A132-2161AB61571C_1_201_a

 

This trustworthy God enlists us to participate in His kingdom work by carrying Him to those around us. His spiritual riches supply for every season, every matter, every changing hour under heaven. He reigns over the present, He knows and rules the future, His plans are never thwarted. Will we trust Him and sing? (Job 42:2; Isaiah 14:27; Romans 11:33; Philippians 4:19)

“God of grace and God of glory,
on your people pour your power;
crown your ancient church’s story,
bring its bud to glorious flower.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
for the facing of this hour,
for the facing of this hour.

Lo! the hosts of evil round us
scorn the Christ, assail his ways!
From the fears that long have bound us
free our hearts to faith and praise.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
for the living of these days,
for the living of these days.

Cure your children’s warring madness;
bend our pride to your control;
shame our wanton, selfish gladness,
rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
lest we miss your kingdom’s goal,
lest we miss your kingdom’s goal.

Save us from weak resignation
to the evils we deplore;
let the gift of your salvation
be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
serving you whom we adore,
serving you whom we adore.”  ~Harry Emerson Fosdick (1930)

Father, grant me wisdom and courage to focus on today, knowing that tomorrow is Yours and I can trust Your will to be done. Help me live this hour for the sake of Your kingdom and honor, and this day in light of Your forever. (Matthew 6:34; James 4:13-15)

A Time for Humbling

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” “Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I made confession, saying, ‘O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments. We have not listened. To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed [his] voice by walking in his laws. All this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. The Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice. O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy. Open your eyes and see our desolations. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your people are called by your name.’” 2 Chronicles 7:14; Daniel 9:3-10,13-14,17-19

In the scriptures, a repeated, yet unnatural and difficult, call during a time of ‘desolation’ is that to humble ourselves, to seek God and repent. We pray instinctively for peace, protection, healing– in other words, for things to get better, easier, safer. But it is not our bent to take time to acknowledge our rebellion and wickedness, our disordered affections and idolatry, our real filth before holy God. As people called by His name and cleansed by Jesus’s blood, we own a secure position of righteousness and can boldly approach His throne of grace. Yet, we are sinners who have too long trifled with the dark disease in our hearts, and justified the calloused habits to which we choose to be blind, but that are an affront to God. (Hebrews 4:16)

9CF1A355-225C-445E-AB83-B8A0F35C7349_1_201_a

Called by His name! What a privilege, what an identity! But do we sling that name around with cheap grace and haughty self-promotion while hiding disdain and bitterness within? Are we braggarts who puff out our chests with ‘enlightened’ thinking and superior living while putting others down? Where are we displeased with God’s ways and timing and order, and so fashion and worship our own gods instead? Where have we misspent our freedom in Christ to serve self and ease instead of our Redeemer and others? (Exodus 32:1; Isaiah 43:1,4,7; Romans 6:1-4; 14:7-8,20-21; 1 Corinthians 8:1,9; Galatians 5:13; 1 Peter 2:16)

Oh God, let Your people not waste this unusual time in our world! Burn bright, expose us so we humble ourselves before You, pray, seek Your face, and repent from our wickedness. Have Your full way with us that, in Your perfect time, refreshing, healing, and revival will come, all to Your magnificent, glorious praise. (Acts 3:19-20)

King of Kings and Kingdoms

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’” “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Genesis 1:26; Romans 13:1

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: ‘Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem.'” Ezra 1:1-3

Jesus, the Lamb who conquers, is Faithful and True. He is the Word of God, who in righteousness and holy wrath judges, makes war, and rules with a rod of iron. He alone bears the name King of kings and Lord of lords. He it is who appoints every earthly ruler, and orders all that transpires in history. He raises up earthly authorities, and uses them for His divine, eternal purposes. (Revelation 17:14; 19:11,13,15-16)

70EC6266-2075-48AA-AF7C-A4D57EE76AC0

This God named the Persian Cyrus more than a century before he was born, much less in power over an empire not yet established, to implement His plans: 

Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,
    whose right hand I have grasped,
to subdue nations before him
    and to loose the belts of kings,
to open doors before him
    that gates may not be closed:
‘I will go before you…
I will give you the treasures of darkness
    and the hoards in secret places,
that you may know that it is I, the Lord,
    the God of Israel, who call you by your name.
For the sake of my servant Jacob,
    and Israel my chosen,
I call you by your name,
    I name you, though you do not know me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other,
    besides me there is no God;
    I equip you, though you do not know me,
that people may know, from the rising of the sun
    and from the west, that there is none besides me;
    I am the Lord, and there is no other.
    I am the Lord, who does all these things.'” Isaiah 44:1-7

Why would we ever doubt this King? Why would we question His good purposes, His benevolent sovereignty in all that comes to pass? He rules over all things for His holy sake, the eternal blessing of His children, and His glorious renown.

Hallowed and only Sovereign, King of kings and Lord of lords, may all my days be spent in service and homage to You. Engage my faculties, senses, emotions, and vigor to honor You in the charges You assign, to exercise dominion over all You appoint, in a fashion that glorifies Your royalty and worth. (1 Timothy 6:16)

Suspended, Yet Grounded

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

“Continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven.” Colossians 1:23

Plunging the paddle into the green water, I stand upright, balanced, gliding along in air while solidly upheld by water. Toward the horizon floats the moon, a chalky orb suspended in the blue morning sky, pulled along its invisible arc by gravity’s unseen power. I consider how we can feel, and in many instances be, suspended, yet are never actually beyond the gravitational pull that grounds us to home.

When life is in limbo, when decisions and emotions are hard to ground, and plans bob afloat in a swirl of news and cancellations and information, opinions and warnings and what-ifs, we may feel we are suspended above certainty, adrift. Arrangements change, fortunes swing; no one shows up, everyone wonders, many fret in confusion or grow anxious in isolation.

But we have a steadfast anchor for the soul, a firm foundation, a sure hope, and that is Jesus. His unfailing love keeps us attached, His holy and good purposes are the gravity that keep us on course through life’s fluctuations. Tides rise and fall, celestial light waxes and wanes, but the sea’s rhythm is constant and the moon is still round. (Hebrews 6:18-20)

How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!
What more can he say than to you he has said,
to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

“Fear not, I am with you, O be not dismayed;
for I am your God, and will still give you aid;
I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand,
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.”  ~George Keith (1787)

Secure in Jesus, when we are suspended in uncertainty in the here and now, we can be certain we are grounded in the unseen. Look in faith to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith! There is resolution and joy fixed in heaven, to be unfolded in God’s perfect time and way. (Hebrews 12:2)

“Be still, my soul: your God will undertake
to guide the future as he has the past.
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.”  ~Kathrina von Schlegel (1865)

Has a pendulum unsettled to swing in your heart? Where are we shifting off balance, allowing confidence or peace to waver, instead of standing strong? Though there is new news (and that disturbing) each day, there is unchanging good news to grasp, and cling to when we feel suspended between what seems unreal and mysterious, and what is tangible and known.

Oh Lord, may I both trust in You, and trust You, no matter what comes. May I stand this day with hope and joy, grounded in Your immovable truth.

Signs? Or Savior?

The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, ‘Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.’ And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.” Mark 8:11-13

The Pharisees were driven by doubt and argument. They were so easily distracted by the trappings of religion, blinded by their legalism to the love and true message Jesus carried. Had their eyes been opened, they would have seen the power behind the healings, the promise of true healing and soul restoration and life everlasting. They would have understood the spiritual nourishment and fruitful ministry illustrated in the multiplied loaves and fishes. But the signs and miracles Jesus had already performed they dismissed in a wrangle of rules broken and traditions not upheld. They did not really want to believe.

54D74BFA-A61C-494F-800D-66D19AC999D8

This leaves us to ponder, how about me? How often do I give in to shallow trusting for easy fixes, to worldly thinking about heavenly realities, to quick soundbites of trite religious pledges, and miss the deep lessons God intends? What triggers, personal rights, and self-interest, set off my arguing against His patterns and ordered ways? Where has my pride opened the door for manipulation and deceit?

Where does Jesus sigh deeply in His spirit over my meanderings of demands and belief? Have I distanced Him ‘to the other side’ by my constant challenge to His designs on my life, His demands on my heart, or His clearly communicated truth? Are there areas where I insist on my way, my time table, my plans, to the impairment of listening and learning from the Almighty? Have I so stubbornly determined to see things my way that I’m blinded to His?

Lord, help me see that whenever I make demands of You, or argue with Your unfolding of things, I am on shaky spiritual ground, in danger of an avalanche of disappointment, destruction, and loss. Instead of signs and trinkets, feel-good favors and special messages, may I seek You, my Savior. May I set aside self to surrender to You, who alone are worthy of my affection and praise.

Great Expectations?

The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment. But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.’ And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest…  but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.” Luke 23:55-24:9,11-12

Again and again, Jesus had told His followers that He would be killed, and on the third day rise again. But as we humans tend to do, they heard only what they heard, and had no great expectations for what He was really saying to them. They wanted a present king, a deliverer from Roman rule, so when Jesus died, they buried their hopes for His triumph along with His body. (Matthew 17:22-23; 21:7-11; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22) 

Canadian Rockies w distant mts 3

The women remembered what He had said only after the angel at the grave reminded them. It sank in- He had risen! Yet each one had to adjust expectations as the news spread: some needed physical proof; some, blind to Jesus even as He walked and talked with them, recognized Him only when He opened the scriptures and broke the bread, triggering a familiar memory; one needed to touch His hands and side. (Luke 24:13-45; John 20:27)

Where do I box Jesus in to my self-made limits and definitions for Him? When He teaches one thing, do I believe another? How do I twist His promises to fit my preferences? Where am I limiting His power, His grace to me, the reaches of His forgiveness, and mercy, and love?

Do I limit my expectations of what He can do in any given situation? Does weak faith diminish my hope for all He is able to do in the life of loved ones, a hard or broken heart, a foreboding future? Does limited vision inhibit confidence in invisible, supernatural purposes coming to pass? Do I assess God’s ability and adequacy by finite human measure?

To have great expectations I must regard my God as the great God He is, great beyond the heavens, limitless in love, mercy, and power over the enemy, greater than my sin. (1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 103:8,11-12; Romans 5:20; 1 John 4:4)

Father, increase my understanding of Your uncontainable greatness, and therefore my expectations of Your ways. Magnify Yourself before and through me.