The Power in Death

After this he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. 5 And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to humble him. And we will each give you 1,100 pieces of silver.”
Judges 16:4-5

Dear God, I can’t help but think about all the times I’ve been seduced by worldly desires Like Samson, at times I’ve let confidence in myself be the backbone of my battles instead of You.  I’ve pushed aside Your Spirit’s wisdom speaking warning into my mind, and chose willingly to arrogantly rely on my own tactics to win the battle. You are the giver of all good gifts. Any strategies I might consider come from the intellect You have given me.  My passion, my boldness, my strength, just like Samson, came from Your design. I was made to worship You and be a tool of Your kingdom, yet I have pursued victory with arrogance and trust in my own power.

I know that the lesson here can be that You will still use me, sloppy and self-serving as I am, for Your greater good, because that’s what You do.  You chose to partner with me, knowing my flaws. But Lord, I think the deeper lesson for me is that the enemy is tricky and will beguile me into falling for schemes that cause me harm.  If I would take the time to be vigilant and watch for the attack of the enemy, my defense will be stronger. I would rely on You for my salvation, instead of myself.

You want me to use the gifts You have given me, but under Your leadership and authority.  When You give me power, it must be for Your Kingdom and not my own. I can’t serve myself and also serve You.  That’s Christianity 101. I know that.

So why do I fall short?

I’m so broken, Lord.  

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

Then maybe we can get some stuff done!  I love you, Jesus. Thanks for taking me broken and gluing me back together with Your Spirit.  I will walk in Your restoration. Only when I die to myself and my own strength, can we truly win the battle for life that is Your Victory.

 And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life.
Judges 16:30

Samson did so much for You God.  He judged Israel for twenty years.  But He didn’t truly have victory until He’d experienced the truth of his power: that all his power was from God and not from himself.  He had to die to himself and live for Your Victory, knowing that only His death could bring victory.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
2 Corinthians 4:7

Jesus said it best:

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
Matthew 16:24-26

 

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From Strength to Strength

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Isaiah 41:10

God, it’s been a rough week, but you have “upheld me with your righteous right hand”. It’s true, every moment felt worse than the last. The onslaught of the enemy was vicious. It was cruel. It was painful. It seemed to go on forever. Yet through it all, you were there. Your enduring and steadfast love was a triumphant sound that shook the heavens. Your banner over me was love, and your peace washed over me time and time again.  

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Romans 5:1-5

For a long time I’ve known that suffering produces endurance, then character, then hope, but God I really never had a grasp on how it could possibly make me happy, or how I could “rejoice in my suffering”.  Sure, I knew that I should rejoice, but actual rejoicing was a real struggling. I don’t like hurting. I don’t like suffering. I’m not a masochist! Why on earth would I want to suffer?! But I couldn’t reconcile that with how Jesus suffered, or how he willingly went to the cross, allowed himself to be tortured and mocked, and then murdered.  I knew it was because of love, but I couldn’t figure out the joy part. There’s joy in the resurrection, not the suffering, right?

Wrong.

There is joy in both.  One leads to the other.  

 “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
   I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.”
Isaiah 48:10

It all hit me this week.  It hit me so hard, it would have knocked me down if I hadn’t been held up by your righteous right hand.  This furnace of affliction was no different than the literal furnace of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo. It was terrifying, but you stood with them, and you stand with me.  Through it all you were there, and you are here now. Amidst all this incredible trial, suffering, and pain, I watched the springs of living water burst forth out of the desert.  Every time I’d falter, you’d raise me up again. Your strength would fill me. Your endurance sustained me. Your joy sprang forth! Your love permeated my steps, and all around me people were blessed.  The peace and strength and joy you gave me to endure, blessed everyone who witnessed it! Everyone! And that brought so much joy.

I remember collapsing onto my bed after so many hours with my daughter in the hospital, and the people who came around me to be with her so I could go home and sleep.  Instead of sorrow, I was filled with joy. You provided and sustained me. And you provided peace and rest. I fell asleep speaking your praises. Your presence filled my vision and my heart.  Your love endured. And as the days went on, and I traveled back and forth to the hospital day after day, you continued to provide: not just for me, but for everyone around us. And you’re doing it still.  Your strength refreshes daily within me.

And so I will go from strength to strength, trusting in your provision of steadfast love, and the strength you provide.  I will rejoice and be glad, because your strength always renews.  And that strength brings rivers of living water to everyone who sees it.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
   in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
6 As they go through the Valley of Baca
   they make it a place of springs;
   the early rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
   each one appears before God in Zion.
Psalms 84:5-7

 

Walking Out of the Garden

Jesus, like Peter I want to follow you anywhere, even unto death.  I want to pray with you in the garden of Gethsemane and hold you while you cry out to God, and guard you while you worship, and sing praises with you in trial.  But, I fall asleep. I run away naked. I deny you. I weep and mourn and anguish. You said it yourself,

“The spirit is willing but the body is weak.”

I’m daily assailed by the torment of the world, but you are faithful, Jesus.  You overcame the weakness of your body even unto death. And because of you, because of what you did on the cross, and because you left the tomb behind you, I am free.  You had victory over sin and death. And that means you have defeated the very things that hold me hostage.

I refuse to continue to look at the past.  I refuse to hate myself for falling short of your glory.  I refuse to think differently of myself than you see me. I refuse to fall asleep or runaway naked.  Because you are God, and your Spirit is in me. It empowers me to act in accordance with your Spirit instead of in my flesh.  The spirit is willing. My body is weak. So I want to look to your example. You showed me what obedience in the Spirit looks like.

In Gethsemane you prayed.  Even though your friends fell asleep, you prayed.  You cried out to God. Even though you were alone. You worshiped Him.  You sought Him with your whole heart and your whole mind. You sweat drops of blood, your anguish was so intense!  You agonized over the road of suffering that awaited you on your journey to the cross. But you took it anyway. It wasn’t what you wanted in your body, you didn’t want pain and suffering and humiliation.  But you wanted victory. And you knew God’s will for you and for me was victory. You knew that God’s will was better than your flesh. You knew that your flesh would be remade. You knew that your victory, though it would come at a hefty price in your flesh, would bring life forever to us all.

So you walked out of Gethsemane.  You willingly took the road of suffering.  The road of blood. The road of pain and scorn.  

You took the cross.

Lord, help me walk out of the garden.  As you walk with me on the road of suffering, bring people around me to offer me a drink, to help carry my cross, to stand at my side, amidst their own pain, to be with me and show me love, as you love me.  And Lord, let me do the same for others.

“12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:12-14

 

God is With Me

 

“God was with Joseph” Genesis 39:2 

Dear Lord, thank you that you are with me through your Spirit.  Thank you God that I don’t need to fear the schemes of the enemy no matter how bad things might look.  I can rest in the assurance that you are on your throne, but you are also with me.  You have given me your Spirit.  You have given me your love.  And you have given me your forgiveness.  I am safe from the intent of the enemy to destroy my blessings and kill me.  He can hurt me, but he can’t have me and he can’t have my blessing.  What you have promised me you will be faithful to give to me!  Nothing can separate me from you.  Nothing can thwart the plans you have for me.  

Like Joseph, I feel so trapped by my circumstances, God.  I feel helpless to succeed because of the enemy’s plans to kill me.  But Lord, you have reminded me that you are so faithful.  In the midst of my trials and oppression you are there with me and you will bless me even if I’m in slavery or prison.  So often my body feels like a prison, God.  It has kept me from so much.  But Lord, you have given me charge over my body.  You have blessed me with your Spirit to resist sin and follow you in the path of righteousness.

Help me God to always see your plans and blessings for me so that I can call on them.  I want to always be reminded that you are with me and that your plans cannot be thwarted.  Nothing the enemy can do can keep me from your blessing and your promises for me.  Nothing.  

I have nothing to fear.  Though the nations rage and tremble.  Though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea.  You are with me, God of Jacob.  (Psalm 46) You are my shelter and my safe place.  You are my life and my blessing.  You are my king and my savior and my beloved one.  You are my heart and my soul.  And I am yours.  I will not fear.  Amen.

Music Video: Psalm 46 by Shane and Shanepsalm 46