He Keeps His Own

And the mind of the king of Syria was greatly troubled because of this thing, and he called his servants and said to them, ‘Will you not show me who of us is for the king of Israel?’ And one of his servants said, ‘None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.’ And he said, ‘Go and see where he is, that I may send and seize him.’ ..He sent there horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city.

“When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’ He said, ‘Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.’ So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” 2 Kings 6:11-17

Elisha was under constant suspicion and intended retribution by foreign leaders, because he spoke truth. He did the right thing, and others did not like it, so they sought to harm him, to stop his message. The king of Assyria suspected a spy was determining his strategies, but was informed that no, it was Elisha the prophet who knew their plans, thus protecting God’s people, so he set out to harm him. Elisha’s servant could see only the vast army threatening, but Elisha prayed God would open his spiritual eyes to higher faith in what was really true. He knew that God was greater than the enemy, that His armies encamp around His beloved, that He would keep His own, and he wanted his companion to know the same. (Psalm 34:7; 139:5; 1 John 4:4)

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God is honored when we follow Him no matter what, and He watches over His own, keeping and guarding them in the midst of every seemingly endless volley of attack. When we face an onslaught of poisoned words and accusations, health challenges, grief, financial uncertainty, betrayal, fear over what we cannot control, we can take comfort that the Lord of Hosts is nigh. When we rest in His keeping, others who watch us can see Him.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ ..He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday… For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” Ps 91:1-2,4-6,11

My Keeper, grant me spiritual eyes to see You as greater than anything I face here on earth. Keep me close to You.

Let the Redeemed Say So!

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

“Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!
For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

“Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.
He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!
For he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron.” Psalm 107:1-16

Calling all the redeemed: Give thanks! The LORD is good and His steadfast love endures forever! Consider His marvelous deeds of deliverance, provision, mercy, and thank Him!

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Human troubles are many, and varied. Wandering without direction and purpose, empty of soul, we can cry to the Lord and find direction and satisfaction. In the darkness of affliction and overwhelming sorrow, under the weight of sin’s consequences, we can cry for help and be rescued. When we are fools and choose to transgress God’s ways, we can cry for mercy and be healed. When flooded with a deluge of stress and distress, the pressures of work and responsibility and time constraints and impossibilities, we can cry to the Lord with our every trouble, and He can hush the stormy seas and fill us with peace. This is the cry of the redeemed, and He Who causes the hunger, the hard labor, the afflictions, the stormy winds, is the Redeemer Who makes the parched land fruitful, Who delivers and brings us to His haven. His steadfast love flows through hardships into His raising the needy to bring a wise and wide recognition of His grace. In this we cannot help but give thanks, be glad, and exalt His glory. (Psalm 107:17-43)

 

O soul, do you see He is good? Can you trace His hand of mercy? Can you feel His invisible comfort? Do you know His supernatural satisfaction and peace? Is His light real in your darkness, His forgiveness palpable in your misery, His calm sure and steadying in your storm? These are His good gifts, ours for the taking, and praising. (Psalm 18:28; Mark 4:39; 2 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Peter 5:10)

Lord, along with all the redeemed, let me ever say that You are good, Your steadfast love endures forever!

Blessings of Alone

“Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain.” “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” “And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.” “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” “And he said to them,’Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” Exodus 34:2; Matthew 6:6; 14:23; Mark 1:35; 6:31

I watched a lone dolphin this morning, dipping, gliding, arcing up to gulp air out from his natural abode. He had no companion, appeared unfettered, and seemed to have unlimited time to swim in the clear green water. I have been transfixed at a swan, graceful and calm in a wide deep pond, in solitude watching her reflection. There is something intrinsically beautiful, and alluring, in watching God’s creatures, often in groups, fully alive, serene, peaceful, in their aloneness.

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How seldom we get alone. Seldom do we take time to dip and glide and stretch beyond our normal habitat to breathe in holy air. Away from people and screens and man-made noise. Apart from the cacophony of urgencies, information vying for our attention, clutter. Quiet, able to reflect and see what we reflect to others. Alone, with eyes closed, allowing ourselves to review, to consider, to think. How rich is our fare when we do!

What keeps me from taking time alone? It is a discipline that does not come naturally, but must be cultivated. What Charles Hummel coined “the tyranny of the urgent” incessantly competes for our focus and and affection, but why do I so readily yield to its allure? Can I no longer discern between what is distracting and what is important? Have I become addicted to checking off trivialities to the neglect of the significant?  Where am I being deceived and re-routed off a good course that includes quiet to one that hums with busyness?

Am I afraid to see my own reflection, do I fear what I might hear from my Sovereign? Have I become so comfortable with my status quo that I cringe at the thought of God messing with me if I have to be vulnerable with Him? Do I fear getting to know myself more than I fear the God Who made me?

When I do get away with God, is it with my prayer list I want stamped with ready approval, my coins for God’s vending machine, instead of alone, with empty paper, no agenda, open hands and heart?

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night.” Psalm 63:5-6

Father, teach me the regular practice of leaving behind my worldly companions and getting alone with You.

Using Skin to Get to the Heart

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, ‘Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.’

“So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.’ But Naaman was angry.., saying, ‘Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.  Are not the rivers of Damascus better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?’ So he turned and went away in a rage. But his servants came near and said to him, ‘My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, “Wash, and be clean”? So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. Then he returned to the man of God,.. and he came and stood before him. And he said, ‘Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel.'” 2 Kings 5:1-3,9-15

Namaan had all the trappings of worldly success, but underneath the decorated uniform of valor, on the surface of his body, was diseased skin. The nameless servant girl had none of the visual finery and public aplomb of her mistress’ husband, but she was adorned with confidence in God’s grace and power; on the interior she was a stalwart of compassion and faith. She lived by assurance in the unseen, the rules of her Sovereign’s supernatural working through His prophet Elisha, and willingly reached into the life of one consumed with notoriety and pomp to introduce her God. How beautiful is God’s clash to unite these two worlds! Only in submitting to the Lord’s prescribed ‘wash,’ prodded on by ‘mere servants,’ was Namaan able to know Him. (Hebrews 11:1)

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We care so much for our skin. We fret and fuss over how we appear, how superficial credentials, and what we do, will look to others, often to the neglect of the inner man. Do I spend more attention and time on glossing my exterior than surveying and purifying my interior? Do I consider myself above God’s required Jordans, because they lack my desired social status? Where am I settling for surface when God wants to go deep? (1 Samuel 16:7)

Good Father, plunge through my skin to tend the matters of my heart, that I pulse with Your love, and identify with the praise of Your glory.

Heavy for Us, Light for the LORD

“The king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel… So the king of Israel went with the king of Judah and the king of Edom. And when they had made a circuitous march of seven days, there was no water for the army or for the animals that followed them. Then the king of Israel said, ‘Alas! The Lord has called these three kings to give them into the hand of Moab.’ ..Jehoshaphat said, ‘The word of the Lord is with [Elisha].’ So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him… And [Elisha] said, ‘Thus says the Lord, “I will make this dry streambed full of pools.” For thus says the Lord, “You shall not see wind or rain, but that streambed shall be filled with water, so that you shall drink, you, your livestock, and your animals.” This is a light thing in the sight of the Lord. He will also give the Moabites into your hand.'” 2 Kings 3:5,9-10,12,16-18

When the heat was on, and fear set in, Israel’s King Jehoram rallied nearby allies to fight Moab, and they headed out in their own strength. When self leads, every roadblock seems a kismet of doom, setbacks portend failure. ‘Since this is so hard, it must mean it’s not going to succeed. The lack of water must be an omen that God is against us.’

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But this is not true in God’s scheme of our lives. He often orchestrates difficulties and detours to turn our eyes from our agendas to His, from our muscle to His might, our strategies to His higher purposes. His man Elisha announced that the LORD would fill the streambed with water for them. If they would look for the divine, they would see the LORD act on their behalf. He would supply not only for their personal need, but also for their victory. They were tripped up by what was hard for them; this was not hard for Him. Thirst was necessary in the stratagem of their plotting and doing so they would recognize His sovereignty over even their royal position.

Life is about so much more than the temporal plans we make. Our grave and all-consuming concerns are minuscule compared to the larger, more significant intentions of Almighty God. Certainly we are required to deal with comparatively small issues, and God gives grace for those, and even sanctifies us through the mundane. But He also gives us thorns in the flesh to irritate our flesh so we reach higher, delve deeper, see more broadly, trust more vigorously. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Where am I whining about the small when God is asking me to stand tall? Are there triggers of annoyance, or discomfort, or right-infringement, that cause me to complain, and limit my vision and expectation of what God is doing?

Lord, wing me high above the tyranny of earthly concerns that weigh me down. Give me eyes of faith to see Your higher workings, Your redemptive purposes wrought in the exhibition of Your power in individual lives as well as world history. Order my world in Your purposes that cannot be thwarted, and show Yourself glorious as You bring them to pass.

How Do I Work?

It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps; and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account. Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him… Daniel got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God.” Daniel 6:1-4,10

“‘Pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to [serve tables]’… They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit… Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of [them] rose up and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking… His face was like the face of an angel.” Acts 6:2-3,5,8-10,15

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24 

Daniel and Stephen are just two biblical examples of those who did their work in an exemplary way, and kept their focus even when confronted with opposition. They accepted their positions from God their true Master, and unto Him did they perform. They were zealous, not slothful, and fervent in spirit, not flagging. They were wholeheartedly devoted to serving the Lord, even as they served men. (Romans 12:11,16)

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Challenges come in and to our work: difficult personalities, unclear goals, disparate views, power grabs, disunity, pride, boredom in monotony, red tape, feeling under-appreciated, performance pressures. We are expected to do jobs we think we are above, and we are fearful of those that test the extremes of our abilities. None of these pesky situations surprises our Lord. He bids us rise above the floundering and fickleness of the flesh to work in all jobs with willingness, fervor, cheerfulness, energy, and gratitude. (Colossians 1:29; 1 Thessalonians 5:14-19)

Daniel was supernaturally spared being eaten by hungry lions, and Stephen was stoned to death. No matter the threats and vicious attacks against them, neither was swayed from his God-given call to work. Their eyes held fast on God, and each honored Him distinctly. King Darius was so moved by Daniel’s God he decreed His dominion to the whole kingdom, and Saul, who was cheering on the murder of Stephen, soon was transformed by the Spirit he witnessed in him. (Daniel 6:16,18-27; Acts 7:54-60; 8:1-3; 9:1-20)

How do I go about my work? For whom are my best efforts spent? If I truly delight to work in all things as unto my Lord, what evidence is there in my demeanor, words, and actions?

Lord Jesus, please establish my heart in every good work You assign, with every day You give. May those who observe my work, and me working, not fail to recognize You as Sovereign and glorious. (Matthew 5:16; John 9:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)

Going, Giving, Gone

Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. And Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.’ But Elisha said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So they went down to Bethel… Elijah said to him, ‘Elisha, please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.’ But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So they came to Jericho… Then Elijah said to him, ‘Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.’ But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So the two of them went on… 

“Then Elijah took his cloak and rolled it up and struck the [Jordan], and the water was parted to the one side and to the other, till the two of them could go over on dry ground. When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.’ And Elisha said, ‘Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.’ ..And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha… saw him no more.” 2 Kings 2:1-2,4,6,8-9,11-12

Somehow, the LORD had let Elijah know that his life on earth would soon end and he would be taken to heaven. Over his remaining days, with vitality ‘in the present,’ he kept on doing what God had given him to do, alongside his soon-to-be successor. They traveled and conversed from Gilgal to Bethel, then Jericho, then the Jordan, each place a reminder of Elijah’s life with God.

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Elijah repeatedly gave Elisha opportunity to stop, wisely inviting his faith to follow at will, to go further. We can imagine the stories told of God’s faithfulness, encouragement, might, and intervention over his years as a prophet. We almost hear the probing questions and gentle answers, the recounting of fears allayed and fatigue assuaged, as time after time, God met him and supernaturally supplied more than enough. He did not know when his moment would come, but Elijah was committed to living to the end, giving every last breath to the work of God Who had breathed it into him, and giving all he could to the one who would carry on after him.

What time am I giving to seek His will in opportunities for each day and season? Do I seize each moment for my own ends and plans, or offer them for my Master’s business? Am I spending time and resources narrowly on myself, or with broad generosity toward others? In whom am I investing, even when it is costly, to encourage faith and the wonder of God?

Potentate of time, You have numbered my days. Give me a heart of wisdom, and vigor of soul, to live and give every day to the full. Establish my work as Your business, done Your way, according to Your holy purposes, for Your glory. (Psalm 90:10,12,17)