My Always-Living Advocate

“Jesus… holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them… We have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places.” “He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Jesus Christ… at the right hand of God, indeed is interceding for us.” Hebrews 7:24-25; 8:1-2; Romans 8:27,34

Permanent, continuing forever, always living, seated at God’s right hand….and interceding perfectly for me! He is for me, who can be against me? He knows all my needs, how can I lack supply? He works all things for good, how can I fear? He never leaves nor fails, why would I feel alone? He is seated victorious, why should I be shaken? He is alive forever, why do I doubt? He is light when I see dark, why would I fret? His hope is an anchor for my soul, how can I worry? (Romans 8:31-39; Matthew 6:8; Philippians 4:19; John 8:12; Hebrews 6:19;13:5)

Great comfort I find in knowing my Jesus is in constant prayer for me, and for each of His children. He is by my side and on my side. I seek to know His mind and pray regularly and from scripture, but He is the Perfect One, and never ceases praying rightly. What a Savior, High Priest, and Friend!

Lord Jesus, You know the way that I take and are my Advocate always and forever. Settle me in quiet trust that You know best, and teach me to pray perfectly with You according to Your good and sovereign will. (Job 23:10; Luke 11:1-4)

Mountains in the Desert

“As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore. I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust.  Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!” “A king will reign in righteousnesslike a hiding place from the wind, a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.” Psalm 125:2; 143:5,6,8,10; Isaiah 32:1,2

I watch the early sun blush the Santa Rosa Mountains with pink, then swath on more light. Palm Springs is surrounded by the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa ranges, rocky promontories rising almost unnaturally out of the flat desert. The areas left to nature’s dirth of rain are a colorless tan-gray, while those irrigated are lush green decorated with regal palms and vibrant flowers.

Wondering at these mountains, rising like so many obstacles in our otherwise (seemingly) smooth lives, I ponder what they teach us. At times, they block a more distant view, yet offer beauty in themselves; I want to see beyond my obstacles and interruptions, know the end result, and ofttimes the Lord means for me to trust Him in my limited vision, rejoice in my challenges and unknowns and walk by faith. They also shield this area from coastal wind and rain (and fire), yet in this buffering leave the area arid; when my days are guarded, comfortable, and safe, they can also become dry, forcing me to go deep for true nourishment, living water. And the beauty… the majesty of mountains always causes me to look up, to behold facets of stone and light that reflect the glory of their Maker, just as immovable difficulties in my days urge me to look up, to trace God’s grace and beauty therein, to pray through the whats and hows and Who behind them.

Thank You, Lord, for having purpose in all Your creation, for mountains that loom in my life and turn me to You. Sharpen my senses to take in all You have for me; make my spirit teachable, my soul dependent.

Take With You Words

“Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take with you words and return to the Lord; say to him,Take away all iniquityAssyria shall not save us; we will not ride on horses; and we will say no more, Our God,to the work of our hands. In you the orphan finds mercy. Hosea 14:1-3

In a culture of fractured civility, ruthless violence, almost non-existent courtesy; in a world rife with pride run amok, injustice, persecution, why is it so hard to admit sin? How can we see so clearly the splinters in others’ eyes and not the planks in our own? How can we be certain of another’s nefarious motives and not recognize the malice in ours? (Matthew 7:1-5) Hosea calls us here to return to the Lord, and specifically to use words when confessing sin. Name them, lay them out, pin them to the cross.

God’s word exposes us to its spotlight of truth, it’s standard of righteousness. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.Taking time in it shows up our faulty thinking, convicts of our every unkind remark, sigh of spirit, condescending attitude, penchant for recognition, self-focused insecurity, prejudice against others and for our own comforts, inordinate affections. It takes discipline and desire to allow the Spirit to convict and teach us the words to bring in repentance, but the reward is great. (Hebrews 4:12)

Hosea goes on to say God will heal, love freely, turn His anger, be like our dew, cause to blossom and take root and spread out in beauty and fragrance and flourish beneath His shadow. What blessings we miss in not returning to Him! What goodness and fulfillment He has for us!

O God, I have heard Your call to return; I come. You are my God, my Lord and the strength of my salvation, and I know You hear the voice of my pleas for mercy. Cleanse, restore, that I may flourish for Thee. (Psalm 140:6)

Early My Song Shall Rise

“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

Our little grandson was lying awake one morning when I went in to his room and asked, “Have you been awake long? What have you been doing?” With a contented, peaceful expression he replied, “I’ve just been lying here thinking about all the things God made.”

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning.” Lamentations 3:22-23

For many years I have prayed our children’s first thought in the morning and last thought before falling asleep would be Jesus.

“Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, early in the morning my song shall rise to Thee; Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty, God in three persons, blessed Trinity.” ~Reginald Heber (1826)

I recently asked a dear friend who is suffering with cancer what she thought about when she awoke. She said she recites the Covenant Prayer:

“I am no longer my own, but Yours, put me to what You will, rank me with whom You will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be exalted for You or brought low for You; let me be full, let me be empty; let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and heartily yield all things to Your pleasure and disposal. And now, glorious and blessed God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, You are mine, and I am Yours. So be it. And the covenant I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.”

Most mornings when I awaken, I sing a refrain I learned in Sunday school as a child, “Thank You, Lord, for saving my soul; thank you, Lord, for making me whole; thank you, Lord, for giving to me my great salvation so rich and free.” Other favorites are simple hymns we sang in school: “God, be in my hands, and in my doing, God be in my mind and in my understanding…” and “Awake, my soul, and with the sun my daily stage of duty run; shake off dull sloth and joyful rise, to pay thy morning sacrifice!”

Often I also pray Psalm 19:14, “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in Thy sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer,” or the commitment of Romans 12:1-2: “I offer my body a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to You as a spiritual act of worship. Let me not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of my mind, so I may prove what is Your good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Each new day is a gift from God and an opportunity to live for Him, to rejoice and thank Him, to offer ourselves to Him for His kingdom purposes and glory. What occupies its first moments?

Bright Morning Star, captivate me when I awake each day, and fix my gaze, my thoughts, my affections on Thee. You know what lies ahead, and a praise-filled attitude will influence all as I connect with You first to set my priorities right and to know the way to go. Stamp every agenda, each list, concern, motivation, task, effort, with a blazoning “REJOICE.” (Revelation 22:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17).

The Test of Treasures

“And Hezekiah had very great riches and honor, and he made for himself treasuries for silver, for gold, for precious stones, for spices, for shields, and for all kinds of costly vessels; storehouses also for the yield of grain, wine, and oil; and stalls for all kinds of cattle, and sheepfolds. He likewise provided cities for himself, and flocks and herds in abundance, for God had given him very great possessions. And Hezekiah prospered in all his works. And so in the matter of the envoys of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart. But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud.” 2 Chronicles 32:27-31;25

“At that time Merodach-baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that Hezekiah had been sick. And Hezekiah welcomed them, and he showed them all his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them. Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah, and said to him, ‘What did these men say? And from where did they come to you?’ And Hezekiah said, ‘They have come from a far country, from Babylon.’ He said, ‘What have they seen in your house?’ And Hezekiah answered, ‘They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them.’ Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, ‘Hear the word of the Lord: Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord.’” 2 Kings 20:12-17

I love King Hezekiah, have always been moved by his whole heart for God, his expense of will, effort, energy in leading his people for God’s cause and glory. And I get frustrated at his lapse near the end of his life- I want him to be perfect! But gracious God, as He always does, keeps interest in our hearts, and gives a test by way of an envoy from Babylon who visits him after he’s healed from what would have been a life-ending illness. We’re told humble, righteous Hezekiah allows the puff of his success to gnarl into pride, and once he opens a door, he can’t stop opening. Is the order, the beauty, the sheer amount of his treasure, intoxicating? Has it become an idol he can’t help but flaunt? His new identity before fawning foreigners? Surely, it is his downfall, a sad decline after a life spent for his God.

Yet God, Who is rich in mercy, intervenes. “But Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart…so that the wrath of God did not come upon them in [his] days.” (2 Chronicles 32:26)

What has God entrusted to me that I am tempted to call my own, to claim as my accomplishment? Where am I tempted to security in my buffer, or beautiful things, or comforts? Is there anything I have valued that has taken on too much value to me- family members? Role or position? Work? Relationships? Place or things? In what areas am I tempted to treasure first anything apart from Christ? (Matthew 6:19-21,33)

Lord, You give such bounty. May I never ‘graze and become full, and being filled, let my heart be lifted up.’ With a loose hold on every treasure, may I love You with all my heart, mind, soul and strength, and ever voice Your excellencies and praise. (Hosea 3:6; Matthew 6:22:37)

When the Heat Turns Up

“As soon as King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth and went into the house of the Lord. And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the secretary, and the senior priests, covered with sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah. They said to him, ‘lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left. Isaiah said to them, Say to your master, Thus says the Lord: Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have reviled me.“‘ … Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord and spread it before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord and said: O Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. So now, O Lord our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Your prayer to me about Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard.‘” 2 Kings 19:1,4,6,14-20

We learn in chapter 18 that godly King Hezekiah, who “trusted and held fast to the LORD,” was faced with formidable military hostility from Sennacherib king of Assyria, as well as his taunting- if other gods had not saved the countries he’d already conquered, how would Israel’s God save them? Hezekiah was fit with God’s armor- the belt of truth and breastplate of righteousness- and he held fast to his shield of faith and sword of God’s true word, so his immediate response to the threats was to turn to Him. He requested prayer from his trusted advisor, the prophet Isaiah, and went to the Lord himself, praying reverently, boldly, and specifically. He filled his mind with God, not himself or his circumstances. He pled according to God’s power and for the honor of His name and reputation among the nations. (Ephesians 6:12-18)

Hezekiah did not wring his hands, he did not fret. He did not consult with others or waste time complaining about his enemy or plotting strategies against him. He knew that he knew that the LORD was great and above all gods, and he knew he could trust his impossible need with Him. Am I inclined to do the same? (Psalm 135:5,13,15-18)

O King of kings and God of gods, in the heat of conflict, threats, blatant immorality, ravages of disease, pain of sin’s consequences, You are our impenetrable Defense and perfect Offense. You are God alone, and knowing all, You do all You have determined. Keep me in the secret place of prayer and full trust, and act for Your fame in every situation. (2 Kings 19:25,27)

Once…, but Now

“In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ it shall be said to them, ‘Children of the living God.’” “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Hosea 1:10; 1 Peter 2:10

“We ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:3-7

Between the ‘onces’ and ‘nows’ in our lives can lie moments or months, crises or celebrations, circumstances beyond our control or willful decisions. What is sure is that in spiritual onces and nows, it is the great God Who intervenes in marvelous mercy and kindness. He is the amazing change agent.

Fall trees, St. Louis

No matter how much effort I expend to “better myself,” to change my habits, to “get through this, solve this,” God so works in my life to prove it is only He Who quickens the rebel spirit, transforms the affections, gives life to the dead, inspires the will, makes enemies friends, redeems the lost. ‘Onces’ can only become certain ‘nows’ by being plunged into His deep work of mercy and grace, accomplished by Jesus in His death and resurrection. No human toil or resolve can do the work only He can do— but thanks be to God, He does it! (Ephesians 2:1-5;5:8)

Father, with You is steadfast love and plentiful redemption; You alone redeem me from all my iniquities. You alone call me out of darkness into Your marvelous light, and I marvel at Your mercy. Take all that is dark, mean, resistant, unkind, self-absorbed in me and make it “once.” Plant me in Your “now,” so with a grateful and whole heart, and with all my doing, I ever proclaim Your excellencies. (Psalm 130:7-8; 1 Peter 2:9)