Compelled to Make a Way

On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal.  And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you. Rise, pick up your bed and go home.’ And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God.” Luke 5:17-20,24-25

When friends have compunction, they will do anything to help one another. What a beautiful visual this is for ones who care so much for this paralyzed man they would not give in to obstacles, but press on to find a way to get him to Jesus. The crowd is too thick? Let’s go to the roof and remove some tiles—extraordinary measures to accomplish their aim, and it was worth it. The Great Healer was moved by their faith, fueled by their confidence in what He could do and love for their friend, and He freed him, giving new and joyful life.

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Am I so willing to go out of my way for the sake of others? Do I even take the time and thought to recognize the condition of those around me–their paralysis of fear, their despair over hopelessness, their shallow living, their baggage and pain? And once I do see these things, how deliberate am I in praying for them, and for how God would have me involved in bringing them to Jesus? What if it takes unordinary measures, methods that are not easy or natural for me? Surely, when God gives the discernment and compulsion, He will make the way and give me eyes to see it. He may require I go to some out-of-the-box place (the roof) and remove some preconceptions or prejudices or preferences (the tiles) to effect His purposes. So be it!

Lord, I want Your eyes and heart for those around me. May Your love compel me as Your ambassador. Give me boldness and creativity when facing opposition, and remove any tiles of resistance, excuses, love of ease. Make me willing and ready and open for Your appeal to others through me. (2 Corinthians 5:14-20)

Filled, Led, Armed, Empowered

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness  for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone.”‘ And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, ‘To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.  If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’  And Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.”’ And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here,  for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,” and “On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”’ And Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”‘ And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee.” Luke 4:1-2,14

While Jesus takes center stage in this passage, it is the invisible Holy Spirit Who is the protagonist. It is He Who had filled Jesus at His baptism, and He Who led Him into the wilderness. Thus armed, Jesus victoriously met every temptation with which the devil attacked. He, the Truth Himself, discerned every motive and knew the appropriate truths to combat each temptation, turning upside down every trick the devil employed. He was weary, hungry, under relentless attack, but circumstances did not win out over the power of the controlling Spirit within. (John 14:6)

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How easy it is to be lax in spending time to know God’s word, the truths that support and defend against the world’s constant onslaught. How subtly we fall into ease, loosen our defenses, and muddy our discernment with false teaching. How insidious it is to be filled with all sorts of inane knowledge and trivia, overwhelmed by temporal concerns, spent in superficial efforts. But when I am filled, led, and armed by the Spirit, His power takes over my choices.

Lord, fill me daily with Your Spirit. May I press on to know You and Your word well in order to be able to combat the enemy. He is wily, evil and destructive, but You are my Defender, the sword of Your Spirit, Your word, my best and sufficient weapon. (Ephesians 5:18;6:11,17; Hosea 6:3; John 8:44;10:10; Acts 13:10)

The LORD is His Name

“The Lord GOD of hosts, who builds his upper chambers in the heavens and founds his vault upon the earth; who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out upon the surface of the earth—the LORD is his name.” Amos 9:6

He has a name, to be known by, to be called upon, this Lord of mine. He is Lord of hosts, of all that live and breathe, of angel armies and the armies of men. He is the active and living Creator of heavens and earth and sea. He rules over all in splendor and majesty and power. He breathes, and creates or destroys; He speaks, and what He says happens; He commands, and all His creation obeys His bidding. (Genesis 2:7; Psalm 18:30;33:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:8)

I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live… I called on the name of the Lord: ‘O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!’ What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.” Psalm 116:1-2,4,12-13,17

Mighty God, thank You that we know each other. You have called me by name, and I commune with You by name, merciful and Everlasting Father, all-sufficient One, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace. May I always value and more deeply understand the names Your word reveals to me, and treasure the intimacy You invite, hiding in Your safe and holy name. (Isaiah 43:1;9:6; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Proverbs 18:10)

Rightful Worship, Thankful Living

And they brought in the ark of God and set it inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before God. And when David had finished… he blessed the people in the name of the Lord and distributed to all Israel, both men and women, to each a loaf of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then he appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the Lord, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the Lord, the God of Israel. Asaph was the chief, and second to him were Zechariah, Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-edom, and Jeiel, who were to play harps and lyres; Asaph was to sound the cymbals, and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests were to blow trumpets regularly before the ark of the covenant of God. Then on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the Lord by Asaph and his brothers.

“Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered. Sing to the Lord, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day.  Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place. Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him!Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth; yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns!’ Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! 

“So David left Asaph and his brothers there before the ark of the covenant of the Lord to minister regularly before the ark as each day required. And he left Zadok the priest and his brothers the priests… to offer burnt offerings to the Lord on the altar of burnt offering regularly morning and evening, to do all that is written in the Law of the Lord that he commanded Israel. With them were Heman and Jeduthun and the rest of those chosen and expressly named to give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever. Then all the people departed each to his house, and David went home to bless his household.” 1 Chronicles 16:1-12,23-34,37,39-41,43

When David brought the ark of God to its rightful place, worship was ‘set aright’ in his heart and living. Acknowledging God’s sovereign lordship and generosity to His people, David directed generous offerings to God first, then gifts to the people, then unified, joyful, meaningful praise. He set in place an orderly, God-directed rhythm for daily worship and thanksgiving that would identify and enrich his people. The outflow of a worshiping life brings honor and hearty praise to God, glad rejoicing in our hearts, and lavish blessing to others.

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What takes first place in my life, in each day? When it is my agenda, meeting my wants and needs, my focal point becomes me, and living is limited–maybe productive, but finite in scope, gratitude, and influence. When first I seek God on high, and offer Him sacrifices of praise and my body- my mind, lips, hands, feet- my focal point is Him, His higher ways, His kingdom, and the fruit of my efforts is lasting, bringing glory to Him, a thankful heart, and lavish living toward others. (Romans 12:1; Matthew 6:33)

Lord, daily expand my heart and exalt Yourself in my vision and living. Set Your rhythm of praise and sacrifice in all my moments, and keep me rejoicing and living lavishly toward others.

Joyful Re-Do

“David prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it. Then David said that no one but the Levites may carry the ark of God, for the Lord had chosen them to carry the ark of the Lord and to minister to him forever. And David assembled all Israel at Jerusalem to bring up the ark of the Lord to its place. And David gathered together the sons of Aaron and the Levites… [He] summoned the priests, and the Levites, and said to them, ‘You are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites. Consecrate yourselves, you and your brothers, so that you may bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it.  Because you did not carry it the first time, the Lord our God broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to the rule.’ So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel.  And the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the LordDavid also commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their brothers as the singers who should play loudly on musical instruments, on harps and lyres and cymbals, to raise sounds of joy… So David and the elders of Israel and the commanders of thousands went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord from the house of Obed-edom with rejoicing.  And because God helped the Levites who were carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord, they sacrificed seven bulls and seven rams.” 1 Chronicles 15:1-4,11-16,25-26

This scene of preparation and the procession of the ark being carried into Jerusalem is a joyful one; but it was not always so. Three months prior, described in 2 Samuel 6:5-11, David led the first failed attempt to transport the ark, with his own choice of people in glad– but foolish– spontaneity. After God struck down Uzzah because of his error, David was angry and refused to continue, leaving the ark at the house of Obed-Edom. But God did a work in David’s heart over the following three months, a re-do of attitude and conviction. Restored in spirit and to right thinking, David carefully, and exuberantly, led the ark ‘home.’

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Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified… in your judgment. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings.” Psalm 51:4,10,12,17,19

What needs a re-do in my heart, my thinking, my proclivities? Where am I stubbornly holding on to my wants and driving my agenda, giving in to impulsive inclinations and chafing at consequences or getting angry at rebuke?

Lord, expose the error of my ways, and set me aright. Show me the way to go, and develop in me a consistent will to follow Your lead, not mine. In You and Your paths are fullness of joy. (Psalm 143:10; 16:11)

A Time and a Time

 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

I was mesmerized by the afternoon western sky, sun obviously blazing as it hid behind thick clots of clouds, rays streaming out in stiff white angles to the right and left, resplendent. But coming down from the center, straight into the ocean, were grey rays in a curtain of rain in the same stiff lines.

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Isn’t this a picture of the ordinary afternoons of our lives? Sometimes they are warm with joy and light- a sweet text from a friend, a confirmed business agreement, a meaningful and edifying conversation, a hard task completed to satisfaction. And sometimes it rains. It rains shivery and cold, or lonely, sad, oppressive, or stop-and-ponder-what-you-really-need-to-be-doing rain. But in either time, whatever the weather, the Sun of Righteousness reigns and is radiating His light, whether we see it or feel its warmth and comfort or not. Just as we know the sun is always shining, we know this is true of our God. (Malachi 4:2)

Lord of creation, keep my heart fixed on You, not the sun or rain You send in my circumstances. Keep me steady no matter what comes, trusting that all that emanates from Your loving hands is a gift to savor for this season.

 

Laying Aside Weight

Cast your burden on the Lordand he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Psalm 55:22; Hebrews 12:1-2

As I walked to the beach with two precious children, laden with baskets of shovels and sand toys, one remarked after two blocks, “This is getting so heavy!” Isn’t it true that a burden, not added to at all, increases in heaviness the longer we carry it? This is like our sin habits, our long-held grievances against others, our bitterness, complaining attitude, negative outlook, secretly-nurtured worldliness or selfish indulgences. The longer we bear them, the more they weigh us down, making slow our progress, heavy our steps of faith, damp our joy, dim our outlook. Often what we were just ‘carrying,’ thinking it a necessity or a right, becomes a true and miserable burden.

Oh, Christian, cast your burden on Him Who bore the full load of our sin on the cross! Be unencumbered and free! His way is good and His load is light! (1 Peter 2:24; Matthew 11:28,30)

Lord, thank You for bearing the weight of my sin that I need not carry it or be entangled by it. Keep me kicking it off, laying aside all that would hinder me from staying focused on You, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, and following You wholeheartedly. Because of You I can run with endurance the race You have for me.