The Bow of Bronze

“They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but YAHWEH was my support.”
Psalm 18:18

Lord, I feel kicked when I’m down a lot.  My troubles seem to stand up and mock me every time I turn around.  And no sooner than I overcome one obstacle, another rises up to take its place: bigger and stronger and crueler than the last.  But You truly are my only support. You alone are my rock and my fortress. You alone are my salvation.

I love you, O Lord, my strength.
2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
   my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
   my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
   and I am saved from my enemies.
Psalm 18:1-3

Thank you, God, that when I am beaten, you lift up my head.  You comfort me and strengthen me. This battle training builds me up for the war to come.  The armies of Satan are an endless stream of terror and rage, but You truly are my strong tower.  

The battles will come.  I will grow weary. I will get caught up in fear.  I will have moments when I believe every lie the enemy hurls at me.  But You, YAHWEH, You are my shield in spite of my weakness.

The cords of death encompassed me;
   the torrents of destruction assailed me;
5 the cords of Sheol entangled me;
   the snares of death confronted me.
Psalm 18:4-5

I’m tethered to this world and the evil that rules it.  I’m tethered by its brokenness and my own. I walk in the mire.  I get tired. I get scared. I get overwhelmed. But You are always present.  You are always there. You hear me. You answer me. No matter what sin ensnares me, You will save me!

In my distress I called upon the Lord;
   to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
   and my cry to him reached his ears.
Psalm 18:6

I know you are training me for what is to come, Holy Father.  You train and refine me. You make me stronger and stronger. All I can do is stand and wait and watch and learn.  All I can do is trust You and what You will do.

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He trains my hands for war,
   so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
Psalm 18:34

Who can bend back a bow of bronze but YOU?  I will trust in Your strength and not my own.  

“For You equipped me with strength for the battle;”
Psalm 18:39

 

Jesus Wept for Me

41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
Luke 19:41-44

Dearest Lord Jesus, how great is your love for us!  Sin had filled the minds and hearts of your people when You came to them and it broke Your heart.  In another Gospel you said you wished you could gather them up like little chicks beneath your wings.  But your people refused to recognize You. They refused to acknowledge Your complete sovereignty. They wanted to worship themselves.  They wanted to worship their own filthy rags of righteousness.

Thank you, Lord, that You weren’t content to see us die that way.  Thank You Lord that you wept for us, and walked the road of suffering into Jerusalem and onto the hill of Calvary’s cross so that we could have our sins paid for.  

And thank you, Lord, for Your Holy Spirit, that finally gave us the help we needed to see You for who You really are.  Even amidst the cacophony of sin that drowns out Your truth in our lives, Your Spirit makes You known to us. Without Your Spirit we would never know You.

So, thank You, Jesus.  Thank you! I worship You and the Spirit of God within me by Your power!  Thank you!

When It’s Hard to Read the Bible

Over the years I have fallen in love with reading the Word of God.  I love the truth that I find there, the promises, the grace, the freedom.  But when my heart is heavy and I get depressed, I feel a war on my spirit that tries to keep me from the Word.  I get caught up in sadness and loneliness.  I know that in the Word I can find truth and comfort, and yet I get so sad that I don’t want to read.  And I sure don’t want to write about it.

I’ve been in that place over the last few weeks.  I have days when I want to read and write and pray, and other days when I can’t even hardly look at the Bible on the table, let alone read it.  There is life there and I push it away in frustration, anger, hurt, sadness, or doubt.  Why?

Because the Bible is no more an instant fix to my problems than Jesus.  While it is a comfort and it holds truth and life, it doesn’t change the situations I’m in.  It doesn’t fix all the worry or struggles I’m facing.  It doesn’t shoot out twenty dollar bills when I open it, or cause wars to cease in the world or in my heart.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:12

Because the Bible is only a glimpse of God.  It’s only a taste of things to come.  It offers the answer to life’s biggest problem: what can be done about the evil in the world, and how can we be saved from the evil in our own hearts.  But the final judgement is yet to come.  And until then, I’m stuck in this world, with the promises of God warring with the evil in my own heart.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
Romans 7:18-20

So my sin will keep acting within me.  I know the promises of God are true.  I know that my only salvation from the evil of my own heart and the world is found in Jesus.  And I know that He has given me the promise of His salvation by putting a deposit of His own Spirit within me.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Ephesians 1:13-14

And until that day that Jesus returns and I receive that full inheritance promised me.  I must accept the fact that I’m going to have bad days.  I’m going to have days of sin and doubt.  Then enemy continues to war against me.  My own sin wars against me.  The sin of others wars against me.  All of the things of this world war against me.  I’ve got to be patient.  I’ve got to wait it out.  I’m not alone.  We suffer together, struggling with the war that rages all around us.  And we’ll all get through it.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
1 Peter 5:6-10

So, have hope.  It’s not over yet.  And Jesus will restore us.  That’s a promise.

A Mustard Seed

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
Luke 17:5-6

Jesus, I’ve always looked at these words You spoke to your disciples and felt ashamed of my faith.  I’d feel this great sadness that my faith wasn’t even as a big as a tiny mustard seed because I couldn’t move a tree or a mountain into the sea.  Sure, I’d look at things that happened, things that my prayers and my faith had effect on, and think to myself, “I’m getting there, I guess.” But I always felt so much pity for myself.  I’d feel ashamed that my faith was still so small.

And then You touched my heart and I saw this verse in a completely new way.  (I love that You never stop teaching, Lord, even when I’m quick to decide I already know something!)  I asked you to help me understand why my faith was so small. I asked You to help me understand why the disciples’ faith was so small.  And You answered!

A mustard seed of faith is tiny.  But, Lord, You provide the increase!  You are the one who makes the seed grow!  My job is just to have the tiniest amount of faith and then watch You go to work.  You will make my faith grow. You will do the miracle! You will increase my tiniest bit of faith and multiply it.  That’s what you do! You did it with fish and bread. You did it with oil. You did it with people. You did it all the time!  And You’re still doing it! You provide the increase. And so my faith will grow by Your power, no matter how tiny the start.

So, I confess Lord, that I’ve twisted that beautiful teaching into shaming myself.  I confess that in some way I was looking to myself to be the miracle maker. But only You have the power to move mountains into the sea.  Only You!

I will try to trust in Your power, God, and stop looking within myself for anything other than Your Spirit, Your Glory, and Your Power.  Then that tiny little bit of faith I started with can grow and grow. And by Your power I can do whatever You ask of me without fear!

Loved by God

Father, why is it that we always seem to seek our value in our own terms and not by Yours?  Over and over again You tell us that our value comes from Your love for us, and yet over and over again, we seek to make our value in ourselves.  

Jesus, in Luke 15 and the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son you showed us what our value looks like.  It is completely independent of our circumstance. Whether we’re just unwittingly lost, like the sheep, or lost by the carelessness of another person, like the sheep, or whether we’re lost by the pure foolishness of our own heart, like the prodigal son, the value of each was equally as precious to You.  

Your love is completely independent from our circumstances.

You made us all.  We rightfully belong to You as our Maker.  Yet we place our value on our own deeds, our circumstances, or our expectations.  But You look to each one of us and say, “You are mine. You are worth everything to me.  You are valuable to me!” That value doesn’t rely on us at all!

The celebration comes when we recognize that You have given us our value.  When we turn away from defending our poor behavior and defining ourselves based on our own perceived merit we can finally see that Your value for us is all that matters.  And You love us! We are worth everything to You and when we finally see that and turn to You to receive Your love, there is much celebrating for us and for You!

Thank You, God, for loving me.  Thank You, God for defining me as someone who is valued and loved by You.  I am someone who is worth dying for, not because I did anything to earn it, but because You made me and You I am highly valued by You!  Yay! Thank You!

Dealing with Offense

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
   Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
2 He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
   and speaks truth in his heart;
3 who does not slander with his tongue
   and does no evil to his neighbor,
   nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
4 in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
   but who honors those who fear the Lord;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5 who does not put out his money at interest
   and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.
Psalm 15

Recently a couple whom my husband and I lovely dearly, and who dearly love us but don’t know us very well, approached us to discuss their concerns over a recent set of back to back crisis that had occurred in our family.  While their intentions were honorable and intended to encourage and help us, they had the opposite effect. And I’ve been hurting over it ever since.

It’s easy to say, “Forgive them.”  And it’s easy to say, “Have mercy.”  And I know that I have tried to have both for them as I’ve contemplated their words and tried to humble myself to receive them.  Yet, my heart was not following the truth in my soul. I felt so much shame and condemnation, though our friends intended neither.  

Why did I feel like that?

After processing our feelings with each other, with God, with my counselor, and with some trusted and close friends, I realized something.  No matter what your intentions are, correction should never come at the cost of injury to another person. As verse four above says, it’s better to take on a hurt yourself, than to hurt someone else.  

Because our friends love us, and because they were concerned for us, and because they didn’t know us well enough to really know what was fully going on with us, they took it upon themselves to discuss the matter with people who they thought might have more insight into our circumstances.  This became the source of my first wound. Talking about the trauma in our family with other people only lead to more supposition on our situation, and offered no actual truth. Unfortunately, because the people they spoke to also didn’t know our situation very well, they were unable to offer a very accurate picture of our hearts.

Talking about the trauma in our family with other people only lead to more supposition on our situation, and offered no actual truth.

My second wound came in the translation further inaccurate suppositions.  Our friends, likely became more and more concerned for us as they spoke to more and more people who had witness glimpses of our recent trials, and perhaps glimpses of our past actions, and then drew conclusions about us regarding those glimpses.  Again, honest love and concern, led to an inaccurate transcript of all that had transpired. So, when our friends met with us, they had already established in their own hearts a general idea that there were certain issues and were then seeking to help us draw out those issues in confession and repentance.

This was a bad idea.  

They had formed an agenda based on love and concern, that had been built upon conjecture.  

Therefore, while their intentions were honorable, their method had been so tainted by poor information that they were unable to approach the situation with us in a way that truly expressed the love that they have in their hearts for us, and the genuine desire they had to help us walk through correcting bad behaviors.

I was captured this morning by Psalm 15.  It’s all about abiding with God and what dwelling with the Holy One looks like.  And David spells out what that looks like. It is walking blamelessly, doing what is right, speaking truth in his heart, not slandering, not doing evil to his neighbor, not taking up reproach against a friend, who despises evil, honors those who fear the LORD, who takes on hurt himself rather than hurt another, who doesn’t put out money with interest, or take a bribe against the innocent.  But, the fact remains that we can do none of those things on our own. Only with the Holy Spirit of God, the Salvation of the Hand of God through Jesus, by the power of God the Father, can we even begin to mirror these things. Sure, we can try. But if we start to source our thoughts and actions on the opinions of others, we head down a road that leads to nothing but hurt, and the ramifications of that can be devastating.

I was devastated by the encounter we had with our friends, even though I know that was never, ever their intent.  

But because they had come by their information about the situation from others and not from us and from God, it was doomed from the start.  Fortunately, our Lord is a reconciling God. He is a God of healing, love, and restoration. So, even through the pain of that conversation and the subsequent days that followed, my husband and I began to find peace.  

We gained a deeper insight into how to walk the path of “speaking the truth in love” with a much deeper understanding of what that should look like.  I learned that how I source information is vital to reconciling a situation. My source must be the Lord and the people directly involved alone, not the opinion of friends or family, or even my own!  

I also learned that without a personal experience in a situation or deep relationship with someone, I’m not capable of bringing specific instruction or correction to a situation without first talking to the people involved.  Our friends sought advice from too many people before they spoke to us, and unfortunately that skewed the entire outcome. Am I saying we shouldn’t take counsel from trusted friends in the faith who have wisdom and experience?  Of course not! But, counsel must be sourced from the Word of God, and not the opinions of the people who have witnessed the incident. When our friends sought counsel, it should have been about how to approach the situation, not about the situation itself.  

How many times have I fallen into gossip by seeking counsel from someone I trusted and then falling into the trap of the enemy to start basing my opinions on a person without knowing all the facts?  How many times have I spoken to someone just to express my frustration or concern, when I should have just given it to God, or spoken directly with the person that offended me?

I’ve also been humbled, which I am in constant need of learning.  I’ve gained practice in patience and endurance when I’m misunderstood.  And I’ve learned that how others see me and interpret my actions is usually wrong, so I better be as “above board” as I can about my intentions, my actions, and my complete dependency upon God and not myself (or others.)  And that even when I think I’m right, I could actually be wrong.  Shocker!  I need to be humble enough to let the Lord show me things, without beating myself up or walking in shame or condemnation.  And if I start to feel shamed or condemned by another person, I need to speak up, instead of silently suffer.  Once I go there, I’ve lost touch with the Spirit of the Lord within me because of my hurt.

Most importantly, I’ve gotten the sharp reminder from the Lord, that my value cannot be measured on a man’s scale.  I’ve always tried to honor the Lord in my actions, and raised Him up when I’ve been called to account for myself, but I’ve also made excuses for bad behavior.  And I’ve allowed my heart to be swayed by pride, insecurity, and a desire to be accepted.  Of course I should always lift up the Lord.  I should always testify to His power at work in my weakness.  I just need to make sure that when I do that I am speaking from my weakness and not my pride.

I am accepted by God.  That’s all that matters. So, I will try to speak the truth to others with more love than I have in the past by trying to source my love from the Spirit of the Living God within me, rather than from any power of my own.  And I will try to receive the truth spoken to me in love, even if it is poorly executed, by sourcing my translation of those words through the filter of the Holy Spirit instead of my feelings.

Man, Daddy, that’s some deep stuff.  Thanks for helping me figure it out. I love you, Holy Spirit, for giving me peace.  And Jesus, you are my greatest delight. Because of You, I can do all things through You.  Even deal with hurt feelings. I feel much better, now, God. Thank you.

 

No Other Love Compares

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38-41

Lord, You don’t look at me the way I look at myself.  You see the labels I put on myself as a distraction to me that keeps me from sitting at Your feet and worshipping You.  It’s humbling to be reminded of how often I get distracted and side tracked by my own opinion of myself, or even worse, the opinion that others have about me.  I get caught up in what I think I’m supposed to do. I worry about obedience to what You want from me and don’t stop to listen to what You are saying.

Lord, help me to listen.  Help me to stop putting pressure on myself to do what people expect of me.  Instead, let me fall at Your feet and worship You. Teach me to lay aside the world and the constraints of my own sinful pride and a misplaced desire to serve You in a way that I have decided I am supposed to.  I just want to hear your words teaching and guiding me.

I want to wash Your feet with my tears, Jesus.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
   and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10

Holy Spirit, move in me.  Humble my arrogant heart. Temper my human longings and create in me a clean heart.  Guide me in the ways of Your thinking and desires for me. Drown out the sounds of my human will and the demands that the world has placed on me.  I long to be in Your right mind and not my own. I long to be true to Your definition of who I am and what I am to do. I long to worship You with humility.

39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.
Luke 11:39-41

I don’t want to be like the Pharisees who puffed themselves up on the outside with their dependence on praise and obedience to the Law.  I don’t want to be honored by men or even know what they think of me. I don’t want to care, dear Jesus! I don’t want to care! Let me be a fool or a loud mouth.  Let me be brazen or unrefined. Let me be so aware that there is nothing good in me, that I all I can see is Your grace lifting me up! Let me choose the better portion in You, my Love!  

Sweet Holy Spirit, let me hear Your whispers.

I will submit to Your love for me, my Lord Jesus.  Only in You am I free. And no other love or praise can compare.