Zeal in Action

One day Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young man who carried his armor, ‘Come, let us go over to the Philistine garrison on the other side.’ Within the passes, by which Jonathan sought to go over to the Philistine garrison, there was a rocky crag on the one side and a rocky crag on the other side.  Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armor, ‘Come, let us go. It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few.’  And his armor-bearer said to him, ‘Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul.’ Then Jonathan said, ‘Behold, we will cross over to the men, and we will show ourselves to them.’  If they say, “Come up to us,” then we will go up, for the Lord has given them into our hand. And this shall be the sign to us.’ And the men of the garrison hailed Jonathan and his armor-bearer and said, ‘Come up to us, and we will show you a thing.’ And Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, ‘Come up after me, for the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.’ Then Jonathan climbed up on his hands and feet, and his armor-bearer after him. And they fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer killed them after him. So the Lord saved Israel that day.” 1 Samuel 14:1,4,6-8,12-13,23

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: …the one who leads, with zeal… Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Do not be haughty.” Romans 12:1-3,6,8,11,16

I am struck this day by Jonathan’s zeal for Israel and for his Lord. In 1 Samuel 14 he and his armor-bearer take on a group of cocky Philistines and defeat them, leading Israel to bold conquest in the name of the LORD. He is brave, focused, sure of God’s promise, guidance, and help. His father had been a weak example to him, yet with his allegiance directly to his God, he succeeds, causing Israel to see God’s victory. (I wonder what influence David had on his faith?)

DSC_0468

Though it was penned centuries later, Jonathan has implemented the teaching of Romans 12. He has willingly offered his body a living sacrifice to God, understands God’s will and his unique gift of leading, and uses it to lead with zeal, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. He is not haughty, but appropriately confident. It is a great and biblical quality to understand our God-given gifts and utilize them for His purposes, as He calls, and for His glory.

Lord, may I be zealous for You and Your causes as Jonathan was, following You as my good Leader. Thank You for his example. And may this zeal be contagious to others, that they may watch and say, “he has worked with God this day; I will also,” and pick up their swords. (1 Samuel 14:45)

His House, or Mine?

Now when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, [he] said to Nathan the prophet, ‘See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.’ And Nathan said to the king, ‘Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.’  But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, Go and tell my servant David, “Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. The Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.”‘”  2 Samuel 7:1-6,11-13,16

David was a gifted man whose heart beat for his God. He led Israel with great skill, bravery, and determination, was zealous for the Lord Who had been His constant Help, and wanted to build Him a house. Why should he, a mere man, dwell in a house of cedar while God dwelt in a movable tent? Though he was commended for having this desire in his heart, God’s response through Nathan the prophet was “no.” Then He put His hand under David’s chin and lifted it up above the things of earth. He had house plans of a different kind. Once David grasped the enormity of God’s promise to his family, that his seed and kingdom, his “house,” would endure forever, and that God had a distinct and different plan for him (other than building the house), he was overwhelmed at the astounding love and favor of his God. He could not help but be consumed with Him. (1 Kings 8:18-19; 1 Chronicles 22:7-10)

IMG_3931

“Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord God! And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord God! Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it. Therefore you are great, O Lord God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears. And now, O Lord God, confirm forever the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, and do as you have spoken. And your name will be magnified forever, saying, ‘The Lord of hosts is God over Israel,’ and the house of your servant David will be established before you. For you, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant. Now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you. For you, O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever.” 2 Samuel 7:18-22,25-29

 

When I have great thoughts for God, and yearn to honor Him with some deed, a project or relationship or ministry or structure, do I take time to check in with Him? And if I pray, is my prayer full of me, or Him? Do I seek only His blessing on my ideas, my wants, my efforts, or His will and rule above all? What are His plans, how and where does He intend to use my gifts? Are there more important assignments I have neglected because I have poured myself into my own agenda, and thus missed His higher plans? How might He be working through me to prepare another to take this on, to perpetuate my ‘dream,’ to do the work instead, and how does He want me occupied in the mean time?  David’s example of captivation with his Lord, humility before Him (you know your servant, O Lord God!), and utter submission to Him according to His trustworthy promises, is remarkable and inspiring. 

Lord, transform my desires to make them Yours. When You entrust me with ideas, resources, a home, talents, even peculiar heartaches and trials, make them all about You, not me. Deepen my trust that You own all, You know best, that Your plans are superior to mine. (Isaiah 55:9)

From Comfort to Comfort

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

The Gulf is dimpled glass this morning, reflecting blue. On the bottom I see but cannot reach are sand dollars, imprints of starfish, and crab craters. I paddle above schools of fish, dash-sized and larger, and watch their morning exercise sweep them in esses and pock the water like silver rain. I spot a sea turtle and he spots me, quickly to re-submerge his crackly head. A flock of pelicans glides gracefully by. All is calm, all is bright. Eight hundred miles to the north, all is raging, all is dark, as Hurricane Florence unleashes her wrath on the North Carolina coast.

A year ago, her cousin-once-removed, Irma, was wreaking violent havoc with where I am now. I know the pulsing anticipation, the sweaty preparation, the concern for the unknown, the opening of the hand on all you own and planned for, the waiting. And I know the untouchable peace of the God of all comfort Who rides every storm. There is nothing like enduring the wrath of a hurricane, or the death of a parent or grandchild, the pain of a loveless marriage, the journey of a debilitating or terminal illness, to teach us lessons of breath-taking suffering and God’s palpable comfort, and to enable us to empathize with and offer comfort to others in similar distress. There is a mysterious draw to, a connection with, others who have shared our sorrows.

Lord, broaden my heart and care for others. May no storm, no suffering, no grief be wasted. May the inexplicable comfort You give regenerate through me into comfort shared.  Because of my storms, I will never be the same; because of the storm You suffered for me on the cross, life is never the same. Allelujah.

That You May Know

“Thus shall my anger spend itself, and I will vent my fury upon them and satisfy myself. And they shall know that I am the Lord—that I have spoken in my jealousy—when I spend my fury upon them. You shall be a reproach and a taunt, a warning and a horror, to the nations all around you, when I execute judgments on you in anger and fury, and with furious rebukes—I am the Lord; I have spoken—. Wherever you dwell, the cities shall be waste and the high places ruined, so that your altars will be waste and ruined, your idols broken and destroyed, your incense altars cut down, and your works wiped out. And the slain shall fall in your midst, and you shall know that I am the Lord. Then those of you who escape will remember me among the nations where they are carried captive, how I have been broken over their whoring heart that has departed from me and over their eyes that go whoring after their idols. And they will be loathsome in their own sight for the evils that they have committed, for all their abominations. And they shall know that I am the Lord. I have not said in vain that I would do this evil to them. Thus I will spend my fury upon them. And you shall know that I am the Lord. Then they will know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 5:13,15; 6:6-7,9-10,12-14

These are hard words, but God’s words. His character is perfect and complete, and His righteous anger and judgment are as much a part of Him as His compassion and love. He does not delight to judge, but in His holiness He must, and He has divine purposes that point to the greater, all-encompassing, cosmos-changing judgment Jesus bore for us on the cross. (Job 32:12; Ezekiel 18:23,30-32; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 1:9)

God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.” Psalm 7:11

Rainbow, Sunday morning

He Who shows forth His majesty through the glories of color, the upholding of our earth in orbit and the certainty of day and night and seasons, the love between husband and wife, parent and child, the humor in a dog running figure-eights or a description of a character in a book, is the One Who will not yield His glory to another, and Whose holiness causes us to fall as unclean. (Isaiah 42:8; 48:11; 6:1-5)

The beauty of these passages is the stated intent (which I regularly mark in my Bible with a symbol), “that you may know that I am the LORD.” This high and holy transcendent God is also personal, immanent, and wants us to know Him! Like the facets of a polished diamond against black cloth, how beautiful His mercy against the backdrop of our sin and the righteous condemnation and judgment we deserve! The God Who judges sin without winking at or excusing it, is the God Who in immeasurable love sent His perfect only Son to bear on the cross the punishment we deserve. He exercises His whole character so we can know Him fully, and respond in richer worship.

My Father, increase my knowledge of the perfections of Your character, that I might know You better, and worship You more completely.

 

 

My Sanctuary

“Thus says the Lord God: Though I removed them far off among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a while in the countries where they have gone.” “My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.” Ezekiel 11:16; 37:27-28

Sanctuary: a place of refuge or safety; a holy place; the holiest part of a church containing the high altar; haven, harbor, shelter, retreat. Our great God promises that He is our sanctuary. When His people were in exile in a foreign land, He did not abandon them, but was present and near.

Penzance, England

I carry Him; He carries me, always. No matter where we are: in a clinical room awaiting a diagnosis or chemo, a crowded commuter train, a difficult workplace or marriage, enduring loneliness or sleepless nights, traveling hotel to hotel in a foreign country, facing persecution due to our stand for truth or awaiting an ominous storm, God is our sanctuary. No walls are needed: He hems us in. No door is required: He closes us in. No altar must be present: the veil has been torn and the way opened to the Holy of holies. God is our very present help in trouble, in our midst, with us as our ruling Peace. He is our place and object of worship. We can hide in Him and be secure, wherever and always. (Psalm 139:5; Genesis 7:16; Mark 15:38; Psalm 46:1,5,7; Isaiah 9:6; Exodus 15:17; Proverbs 18:10)

“A little Sanctuary art Thou to me! O Jesus, best beloved! I live with Thee;                              My heart has found it’s everlasting home, its sure abiding place where’er I am.                        A little Sanctuary art Thou to me! My heart is stilled beneath love’s canopy;                        The ‘Holiest of All’ is opened wide, And I may enter and be satisfied.                                         A little Sanctuary art Thou to me! No fabled shrine, but deep reality!                                  Thou saidst it should be so when at Thy call I rose and followed gladly, leaving all.                A little Sanctuary art Thou to me! All joyfully I pitch my tent with Thee;                                  Or ready still to journey at Thy word– ‘In Thee’ I ‘live and move,’ most blessed Lord.            A little Sanctuary art Thou to me! I always am ‘at home’ on land or sea;                         Alone, yet never lonely now, I prove The ‘Hundredfold,’ Lord Jesus, in Thy love.”                   ~Emily May Grimes (1864-1927)

O Lord, my Sanctuary, may I ever delight in, rest in, worship in, Your hallowed Presence.

My Body, God’s Temple

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

The biblical description of Solomon’s temple in 1 Kings 6 details careful craftsmanship and exquisite beauty for the place of God’s holy Presence and worship. “Will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this [temple] that I have built! Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant, that your eyes may be open night and day toward this [temple], the place of which you have said, ‘My name shall be there.’” In 1 Corinthians, Paul addresses sexual immorality, which I expand into any gluttony of the flesh and idolatry of the body, by getting to the bottom line: Your body is God’s temple; you are not your own. In other words, the Lord has intricately designed and beautifully made you, and your life cost Him His; therefore, honor Him, not yourself!

Lee's Camera as of Nov 2008 190

 

If I am merely a steward of my body, if God’s Holy Spirit lives in me, if Jesus paid the ultimate price with His crucifixion for my sake, how can I not be deliberate in exalting God with my body? With any decision for food or drink, for activity or inactivity, for self-pampering or serving others, for how I use my tongue, or eyes, or time, am I filtering it through the fact that I am a custodian, and my body is the dwelling of the Holy God? And all I am and present and do should glorify Him?

“God be in my hands, and in my understanding;                                                                          God be in my eyes, and in my looking;                                                                                           God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;                                                                                    God be in my heart, and in my thinking.”                                                                                   ~19th Century

“Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.

Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice and let me sing,
Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee

Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.”                                                                                                   ~Frances Havergal 1874

So be it, Amen.

“It’s Just a Thing”

 “Behold, the day! Behold, it comes! Your doom has come; the rod has blossomed; pride has budded. Violence has grown up into a rod of wickedness. None of them shall remain, nor their abundance, nor their wealth; neither shall there be preeminence among them. Their silver and gold are not able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord. They cannot satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it. For it was the stumbling block of their iniquity. His beautiful ornament they used for pride, and they made their abominable images and their detestable things of it. Therefore I make it an unclean thing to them.” Ezekiel 7:10-11, 19-20

I recently discovered something dear to me was broken. I initially felt sick–an irreplaceable decades-old treasure from someone I loved was in pieces. I didn’t even want to look. But as I thought on the ‘travesty’ with an eternal perspective, the freedom started to come, peace took over as I opened my hands. It is only a thing! I will not take this with me! What has given delight in its beauty has served its purpose, and I can rest in that.

God’s strong judgment on Israel through His prophet Ezekiel hits hard on the all-consuming greed and accumulation of man. Amassed wealth of silver and gold, the abundance of things, beautiful adornments, had become their idol– their sustenance and pleasure and identity and cause for boasting without which they were not satisfied. “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God.” (Exodus 20:2-5) Misplaced affection had taken over as first love, and a jealous God will have nothing to do with that. Is there any thing I am valuing more than I should?

Good Father, First Love, I am rich only in You. Keep all You entrust to me in proper perspective. Remind me, and keep me reminding myself, these are just things, vehicles for the working out of Your plans for me and for the glory of You. (Revelation 2:4; 3:17; Ephesians 2:10)