Look to the Victory!

Now these are the nations that the Lord left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan. 2 It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before.
Judges 3:1-2

God, it’s so easy for me to get caught up in the battle that rages all around me.  I guess that makes sense. It’s a big battle raging all around me! Hard to ignore!  But I keep forgetting that the war is won. The spiritual carnage all around me can be so oppressive.  It creeps up on me with complacency, discouragement, worldly delights, a critical spirit, and with shame.  Instead of looking at the victory, I look at the battle.

Thank you, God, that You’re not content to leave me that way.  Gently but firmly, You take me in Your hands and walk me through the destruction.  You place my feet on the conquests of Your own shed blood. You teach me the ways of war.  Your train me diligently. You personally dress me in Your own armor, the armor of Jesus, and You carry me forward as a wrecking ball of Your majesty.  

Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle;
Psalm 144:1

Why does my heart grow weary?  Why do I stumble? Why do I struggle?  Why do I doubt?

The victory is mine to inherit.  You’ve told me so! It is already won.  But You will continue to teach me. It’s not my power that brings victory, it’s Yours.  I’m sorry for trying to take responsibility for defeating an enemy that has already been made a footstool beneath Your feet by the power of the blood of the Lamb.

The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”
Psalm 110:1

The enemy will continue to fight until You put a final end to his reign of terror.  And until then I must be in the midst of the chaos. Help me remember that You bring order from chaos.  You are teaching me with each battle how to claim my victory! You are teaching me how to lead others. You are teaching me to keep my eyes on You and my faith in Your power and not my own.

You’ve let the enemy keep fighting for a little while so that I can participate in the victory as well as the spoils. I will know war and be taught by trial how to fight, just so You can look at me with a big grin on Your face and say, “We did it!”  I marvel at Your love and desire to let me partner with You. But partnering in battle means partnering in the suffering as well as the victory. Thank You for counting me worthy to suffer for Your name.

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
Philippians 1:27-30

I know it’s only going to get worse.  The more I learn to fight, the harder the barrage against me becomes.  But with my eyes trained on You, trained with the experience of battle, I can trust You deeper.  I will have the victory. Let’s give them that “clear sign of their destruction” one more time.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
   I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
   your rod and your staff,
   they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
   my cup overflows.
Psalm 23:4-5

So, let’s eat!  The war is won.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
   all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
   Forever.
Psalm 23:6

Teach Me, Oh Lord!

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
Exodus 14:14

Jesus, sometimes I’m just overwhelmed.  It seems like taking my next breath is too difficult.  Depression has this way of crippling you down to the deepest part of yourself, and for so long I have scratched and clawed away at life just to find a smile.  It’s been really, really hard. I found myself crying out to You, God, with phrases like, “Lord, just take me!” or, “Lord, come back already! I can’t do this anymore!”  And then I felt frustrated, even angry that You didn’t abide to my demands.

But God, You’ve never been content to let me be swallowed up by my own self-pity or the schemes of the enemy intended to destroy me.  I was too important to You to have my life thrown away because I was weary of fighting. All along You have offered me Yourself, Your Salvation, Your strength.  I cried, “save me!” and Your response has always been, “I am.”

You truly are I am, aren’t You, God?

You’ve taught me so much through these trials, Lord: lessons You weren’t content to let me lose.  Each step of the journey, You have taught me, strengthened me, and helped me. You have made my paths straight, no matter how drunk on my own self-loathing I became.  You pulled me up out of pits of my own folly, and wiped away my tears with the tender kisses of Your breath of Life.

Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
   the Lord answered me and set me free.
6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.
   What can man do to me?
7 The Lord is on my side as my helper;
   I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
Psalms 118:5-7

No matter where I am, no matter what I do, You will teach me and guide me and strengthen me.  You are God. When I am discouraged, when I am depressed, when I have given up, You remain strong within me, teaching and guiding me and building me up in Your image and molding me to be more like You.  Your Word teaches me, Lord. You are the Word made flesh, Jesus. I will submit to Your teaching.

My soul clings to the dust;
   give me life according to your word!
26 When I told of my ways, you answered me;
   teach me your statutes!
27 Make me understand the way of your precepts,
   and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
28 My soul melts away for sorrow;
   strengthen me according to your word!
Psalms 119:25-28

 

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!

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.

Good Fruit

For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
Luke 6:43-45

If my mouth is praising You in all things and if my actions are full of mercy and love for everyone around me, my fruit is good!  It is abundant and full! It is reassurance, dearest Jesus, that the abundance of my heart is your love and mercy. I don’t need to worry about what people think of me, or even what others expect of me.  All I need to do is focus on You, Your Word in my heart, and the offerings of Your love and mercy that flow through me. I know I’m not going to get it right all the time. But I see You working, God. I see Your hand gently guiding me and faithfully teaching me to “bend the bow of bronze”.

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

I found myself praying this morning very deeply for someone who had hurt me.  Lord, I know that’s nothing new for You, but I know I don’t do it enough. My logic and understanding of your Word tell me to forgive and show mercy to those who hurt me, but in the moment, I’m often so hurt that I spend all of my energy focused on just speaking love and speaking from the abundance of my heart.  But prayer needs to be the further fruit of those words. Thank you for reminding me of that this morning.

Lord, help me to be more focused on You so that I continue to produce good fruit.  Let every thought be held captive by Your love, Your grace, Your Spirit.  That is where my treasure is. That is where my story leads. That is all my heart desires.  Let me honor You and serve You in all things. It may look strange to the World. It may even look strange to Your children.  But I know that Your Spirit will use me. Your Spirit will guide me. And Your Power will seap out of me to the world around me, without me even saying a word.  That’s just who You are. And You are in me so I can be confident in that.

And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.
Luke 6:19

Use me God.  Though I am a woman of unclean lips, You have made me clean and Your power is made perfect in my weakness.

Favored by God

Trust is a gift from you, God.  Zechariah and Mary both received unbelievable messages from the angel Gabriel about giving birth by a miraculous act of God.  Both received the fulfilled blessing that had been promised to them. But only Mary trusted the promise. Zechariah doubted the promise and suffered the personal consequences for it.  

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah,of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
Luke 1:5-7

Your word says that Zechariah and his wife were both righteous before you and “walked blamelessly in all the commandments”. Yet, because of his doubting, he was silenced.  This silencing kept him from sharing in the blessing that he had been given, but it didn’t stop the blessing.

So often I’m ready to doubt your promises, God.  I get so used to calling them promises that I forget that they really are promises and you are faithful to fulfill them!  Help me to trust you, God. Help me not to doubt the blessings that you are sending to me. I think Zechariah doubted because Elizabeth was barren.  Instead of remembering that you fulfilled your promise to bring a child to a barren woman with Abraham and Sarah, he was stuck in the current circumstance of Elizabeth’s inability to conceive.  

By no means should he have been putting his faith in Elizabeth’s body!  But instead he should have trusted in your power! He was a man who knew you!  And yet his fear and the sorrow of his current circumstances kept him from trusting You.  He was well versed in the knowledge of your faithfulness and yet the familiarity of his personal troubles kept him from fully trusting in the message that he had been given.

And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
Luke 1:28

How favored indeed was Mary!  Her childlike faith and trust in Your message were evident in her from the start.  Her circumstances were simple and humble. She was favored by God, because she didn’t put her trust in her humble circumstances.  Sure, she questioned Gabriel when he said she was favored, but when he told her what that favor was going to give her, she recognized her place as Your servant.  If you wanted to call her “favored” that was good enough for her. So she trusted you.

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
Luke 1:38

Lord, I am highly favored by you.  I know this because of what you have done for me.  You gave me your Son as a ransom for my life. And you gave me your Spirit as a deposit of your promises to be fulfilled in me.  Lord, let me trust you. Let me walk in the favor you have pronounced on me. Let me know Your promises are true and walk in that truth instead of the turmoil of my corrupted circumstances.  

Oh, Jesus!  My love! Help me trust You so that I can share with the world the blessings You provide instead of being silenced by the doubt in my own heart.

The Full Fruit of Your Living Tree

There is so much in my heart, God.  So much longing, so much need. In the depth of my heart you hear me.  You hear my tiny voice and rejoice over me with singing. You prepare a place for me.  You lead me and hold me up. You keep me from drowning. You dry my tears. You release me from my shame and from my sorrow.  

I know your justice will come quickly.  Once it starts it will be quick. Your justice will come and our hearts will be glad.  We will rejoice forever with you. We will never cry again. We will sing songs and be glad.  We will dance. We will laugh. We will rejoice in the eternal glory of your presence and your love.  

No more will there be suffering or pain.  

No more will there be betrayal or heartache or weariness.  Those days will pass away and be forgotten. Your justice will be swift and complete.  How sad for those who don’t know you. How sad for those who will feel the brunt of your wrath because they chose to stand with the false idols.  

You have made your glory and your salvation known.  

But the people reject you for their own gain. They reject you for money, power, and fame.  The fabricate glory and honor from the work of their own hands, and fail to see the majesty of your creation.  They can’t see what you have given them and created for them. They have blinded themselves to your love because of their own desire and lust.

Lord, how free I feel to know that your love is even bigger than my own.  How happy I am to know that when I looked beyond myself and my own desire for love and acceptance, I found deeper love and acceptance than I could have ever known apart from you!  You offer to all people the things we long for most and yet the enemy has convinced the world that joy can come from their own power. But your joy is so much better!

Bring wisdom to your people, God.  

Show the world your deep and powerful love through your redeemed children.  Help the world to see that if they can look beyond themselves they can find and receive a love and mercy and peace that they could never know apart from you.  Whatever they have found on their own is nothing compared to what you offer. Let them see that, God.

Let them know the full fruit of your living tree.

Bring life to the nations, God.
Thank you for Jesus.
Make him known!

 

 

Boasting in Weakness

I am so weak, God.  My life is in a constant state of turmoil.  My babies are beaten against the rocks. My heart breaks.  My world is shaken. And yet the audacity of your love is to pour out strength, pour out peace, and pour out love.  It makes no sense in human standards. It makes no sense to me. I can’t even begin to explain the logic behind it. I’ve read it and quoted it in your Word a thousand times.  I’ve bragged on your power! I’ve bragged on my weakness. But you still keep showing me more and more and more. The weaker I get, the harder things get, the deeper the struggles I must endure, the stronger my peace, my joy, and my love because of you.

For when I am weak, then I am strong

 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Certainly if I tried to explain it, I would fail.  People would laugh and call me a fool if they didn’t see it with their own eyes.  If they hadn’t watched it all play out in front of them, they would never have understood it.  hey would think I am strong. They would think I was great. Because they can’t see my heart and my struggle and my peace, except by the work of my hands that you have blessed.  Your light shines through the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. That describes my experience. That embodies my joy.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:5

Your light shines.  Your peace rules. Your power abounds in my weakness.

So, here I am boasting in weakness, because:  WOW! Your power really is made perfect in weakness.  I have seen it first hand. And I have felt the joy and peace that have come from your Spirit.  It makes no sense, but it has happened. Why would I ever want to be anything else but weak? The power of God is beyond joy and love and peace.  It is the perfect testimony of God’s Spirit within me. It has built my faith in ways I could never have dreamed of. It has created deeper bonds of love and insight and connection between us, God!  I want more! Let the world see my weakness, Jesus. Let the world see how mighty you are to save!

Not by Power, Not by Might, but by the Spirit!

Lord, you are so pleased to reveal your wisdom to your children!  What an honor and privilege to have the mind of God imparted within me to know your heart and your plans for me!  So often I struggle and stumble around, blind to your wisdom, deaf to your voice.  You hold my hand and yet I still stray, wobbling around from side to side, straying this way and that.  I trip over rubble and cry and you kiss away my tears and bandage my bruised and bloodied knees.  And your thoughts remain within me.   In the book of James you show me why I’m always stumbling and falling away from you.  I get doubtful.  I lose faith.

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

James 1:5-6

So, God, I’m asking for wisdom.  I’m asking for faith.  I’m asking you to remove the blinders that I’ve put over my own eyes.  Remove the deafening roar of worldly longings and fears.  Let me receive the generous and loving gift of your ample wisdom, freely offered.  Let me take that wisdom with us much freedom as you offer it!  I’m tired of trusting myself!  No matter how smart I think I am, my wisdom is pure folly without the importation of Your thoughts and heart!  I want to trust you!  I don’t want to lean on my own ideas.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

I want to walk with confidence along a straight path, with my fingers interlaced with yours, and my head held high with the pride that comes from standing with you in the righteousness you have made me.  I want to walk in laughter, listening to your voice and seeing all the beautiful sites you have laid out before us.  It’s not just a straight path, it’s a beautiful path.  So, God, I’m asking you to renew my mind.  Take away my focus on the world and the death that it brings to everything, and focus my whole being on You and the life that you offer!

9 But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

1 Corinthians 2:9-13

Thank you, God, that all this has been made possible to understand and digest because of your Spirit in me.  Only your Spirit knows your heart.  And you have given me your Spirit so that I can freely know the deepest thoughts you have about me and about the world around me.  I can see what you intended with eyes that are no longer blinded by sin.  I can see the incorruptible!  I can see life as you always intended and hoped.  

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

1 John 4:13

It’s so crazy to me God!  You’ve given me eyes to see the world as you see it!  To see the life you intended in all things.  Satan is such a liar!  He convinced Adam and Eve, the stewards of your creation, that they would be like you by receiving the “knowledge of good and evil”.  But evil is not from you and its only job is to bring death and pain!  To know you is to be brought back to the Garden in the Spirit, where we can walk with you and talk with you about the wisdom and beauty and light of all the things you have made.  All good things.  All life giving things.  I no longer need to be ruled by the knowledge of evil.  It will only bring death.  While you are the bringer of life.  

Thank you for being the Life Bringer, the Life Creator, the Light of the World,  and thank you for being my friend.  I love you, God.  I love you so much!