The God of Jacob

The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Psalm 46:7

I have put all my trust in the God of Jacob.  But why the God of Jacob?  Why not “The God of Israel”.  That’s the question I can’t stop contemplating.  When you stop and think about it, something very specific is being magnified in that verse.  It’s the God of Jacob who is my fortress.

Jacob came out of the womb holding his twin brother’s heel.  His mother named him Jacob because the name meant to grab the heel of another person, or literally to supplant or trick someone out of something.  And Jacob’s name characterized him from the beginning.

Let’s look at him for a moment.  What is Jacob known for?  He tricked his brother out of his birthright.  He tricked his father-in-law out of his livestock. He was lied to and treated unfairly.  He was terrified and hid from his brother for years out of fear of retribution.  And then he wrestled with God and demanded a blessing.  

So, to recap: Jacob was a liar, a trickster, a scaredy cat, and a control freak who thought it was perfectly fine to make demands of God, steal from his family, and hide and run away from his enemies.

And it’s the God of Jacob that is our fortress.

Is it sinking in yet?  The God of Jacob is our fortress.  The God of the trickster, liar, coward, narcissist, control freak is our fortress.

I’ve had a lot of conversations with God about how unworthy I am.  I get hard on myself.  I’m overly critical.  I’m a perfectionist that fails at perfection on a daily–no, hourly–basis.  To chase a rabbit for a minute, sometimes I think that the only reason God loves me is because of Jesus.  Seems like a fair statement.  

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21

So before Jesus I wasn’t good enough for God.  Right?  Not quite.  

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

So, he died for us while we were his enemies, while we were sinners.  Before He died for us He loved us.  And we know that because of Jacob.  (And a million other people in the Old Testament who were equally awful.)  We know that God loves us before and after our salvation.  

The God of Jacob is our fortress because God made a promise to Abraham and God doesn’t break His promises.  

 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty;[a] walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram,[b] but your name shall be Abraham,[c] for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
Genesis 17:1-8

The next time you think God isn’t with you because of what you’ve done, I want you to remember this one simple fact:  The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.  

And who are we?  We are made by God with an offer to accept the rights of God’s promise to Abraham.  God made a way for us (and we know that way to be Jesus) and in that we have salvation from our enemies, even if your enemy is yourself.  

The God of Jacob is our fortress. It’s liberating, isn’t it? 

Be Still

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.
Psalms 1:2

I’ve had a season of introspection.  I think a lot of us have.  Isolation in uncertain times does that to a person, I guess.  My thoughts have kept me from some things and for a time I beat myself up over it, but as I talked to others and listened to their struggles I discovered that I wasn’t alone in that either.  

Being alone isn’t as lonely as it seems, I suppose.

I could have gotten lost in my work.  I could have buried myself in a never ending pile of distractifying, unfulfilling, money making.  But I didn’t.  And I kind of hated myself for it.  Being unproductive with no excuse is definitely guilt inducing.

I could have drowned my fear and anxiety in the solace of sweets and baking and endless bottomless glasses of wine.  Let’s be honest, I did that a little bit, and then I felt a guilty about that, too.

I could have plugged my ears and stomped my feet and sang songs really, really loud until everything went back to normal.  Yes, I did that, too, and felt the sorrow of denial in the days that followed.

I started thinking about all the things I had been doing to try and be normal, to try and carry on, to try and adapt and take advantage of my time in lock down.  None of it mattered.  Like the false bravado of a little yapping dog, it had no real power to protect me, or soothe me, or heal me.  

Even the things I thought I could do for God seemed to fall short in my mind.  I wasn’t writing.  I wasn’t reading the Bible enough.  I judged my prayers as selfish and unsatisfying.  I beat myself up for not helping other people better navigate this crazy pandemic.

But I just couldn’t muster up enough of anything to do much.  I just sat there.  In the stillness.  In the nothing.  I didn’t want the fear, the shame, or the guilt.  I didn’t want to be busy.  I just wanted it all to be over! 

I don’t like pandemics, and injustice, and death, and unemployment.  I don’t like any of it. It’s not the Kingdom of God and I want the Kingdom of God more than I want anything, and all I can manage to do is say, “I can’t do anything about this, God!”

But there is value in the stillness.  God is unveiling it bit by bit.  “Be still and know that I am God.”  The treasure comes in surrender.

Beautiful, honest, end of myself surrender.

My meditations have become Jesus focused.  I started reciting Psalm 23 in my head over and over again every night when I went to sleep.  It’s led to better sleep.  It’s led to deeper trust.  Each time I recite it, I pray the words to the Lord.  I meditate on the truth of his love and steadfastness.  

I’m memorizing more scripture.  I just want it all in my head.  I want to breathe it in and live by it.  I know the Word.  I’ve been studying the Bible for years.  But I want more than that.  In my surrender I want to revel in the knowledge that Jesus is my everything.  

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

The Word made flesh became the flesh made words, and in those words I have begun to meditate day and night.  

I need my Jesus and I found Him palpably again in the flesh of His Word.  I’m losing my desire to judge my inaction or the inaction or injustice of others.  I just soak Him up in myself.  I let Him be enough.  I let Him be everything.  His Glory, His Fullness, His Might is coming alive in me in a deepness I have yet to fully know.  

It’s hard to believe that such scary times could bring such a deep closeness with the Lord, especially since I honestly kept thinking about how miserably ineffective I had been in regard to my Christian walk.  I was so caught up in judging my inaction and insecurity, and judging my sporadic moments of faith and action as not near enough to prove my love to my Savior.  And yet His answer all along has been, “Be still and know that I am God.”

I’m working on memorizing Psalm 46 right now.  I’d gotten the first part down a couple years ago and then gave up because, well, memorizing is hard.  I’m back at it now, though, with renewed trust that the meditations of my heart are now drawing me closer and closer to the Lord of Hosts.  He truly is my fortress and my strength.  I don’t need to do anything else.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Psalm 46:10-11

A Case of Stolen Identity

The world has gone nuts over the Covid-19 virus.  Our homes have become quarantine zones: a refuge from a suddenly terrifying hostile environment beyond our walls.  Hand-sanitizer, bleach products and toilet paper have disappeared off grocery store shelves. Everyone can tell you that you need an N95 respirator mask, but good luck finding one.

Everyone has become some sort of apocalypse prepper.

Every conversation is about this virus.  The news is all about how bad it is, or how bad it isn’t.  We’ve heard every statistic about the R naught value, fatality rates, countries infected, citizens at risk, complication rates, and on and on.   Have you seen some of those graphs!?

You have to be a mathematician to even understand it. 

What about social distancing?  It’s really just a fancy term for becoming a hermit.  Are you a loner? No? Well you better lock yourself in a closet, because you are now!  Or at least you better be if you’re listening to the preppers and the mathematicians. Stay away from people!  If you smile at a stranger you might get infected!

Solitary confinement is the new social butterfly in town.

Public gatherings are a thing of the past. Jimmy Falon is doing monologues from his living room.  My daughter’s high school graduation? Cancelled. Disney World? Cancelled. And you can forget about sports. Cancelled, cancelled, cancelled.  

Social media and Netflix here we come.

Then there’s church. Pastors are running around trying to solve this problem of not being able to congregate their congregations!  Live streaming sermons. Small groups? You guessed it! Mostly cancelled. We’ve got Zoom calls for prayer meetings. Praise and worship on Facebook live videos.  Long distance everything. We must have no human contact. What have we become?

We’ve become isolated and frightened mathematicians, with a special emphasis in the pseudo-sciences, desperately mumbling conspiracy theories and hoarding toilet paper like doomsday preppers with no N95 masks and nothing but a box of Cheerios in our cabinet.

Can I get an amen?

We are in a war with the world over our identity right now. We need to stop allowing Covid-19 and the complications there entailed, to define who we are! 

I’ll admit it, I’ve been an anxiety ridden mess.  I’ve been talking to the Lord about it and He’s been gently reminding me of who I really am.  I am a daughter of the King of Kings, yes, and I’ve never lost sight of that, but I’m also so much more.  I’m a warrior woman. A preacher. A worshiper and a prayer. I’m a mother, a grandmother, a wife, a friend.  I’m an encourager and a writer and a speaker of truth. I am alive in Christ and I don’t have to be afraid.

Has your identity been stolen from you?  

The enemy is doing his best to throw you into fear.  But fear doesn’t have to be who you are. Go ahead and let it be a feeling, that’s fine, that’s normal, but don’t let it rule you or define you.  

9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

God is with you, and He’s got this.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

 

 

Teach Me, Oh Lord

Do you ever feel like God is trying to tell you something and you think you’re hearing Him only to discover that He’s still talking and you don’t get it?  I realized last night that I wrote two consecutive blog posts about basically the same thing. Using a lot of the same verses, I wrote about the joy that comes after the suffering.  Even the titles were similar.

I didn’t notice until last night.

I wasn’t listening as clearly as I thought.  Don’t get me wrong, I want to listen and I was listening.  I desperately want to hear God’s voice. How am I supposed to function properly without the Lord’s direction and guidance along the way?  

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Psalm 119:105

Without the light, how am I supposed to see?  Without God’s voice to guide me, how can I get anywhere?  

I’m missing something and it’s something important.  Unfortunately this isn’t one of those blog posts that’s full of great information or insight.  Instead it’s a blind girl trying to find hope and direction from a voice I don’t fully hear sometimes.

It’s like talking on the phone with someone when you don’t have a good signal.  You hear a part of every other word and you might grab the jist of it, but never the whole thing.

A week and a half ago, after the main part of church was over, a guy I never met before came over to me and wanted to pray for me.  I said ok and he began to pray and suddenly started prophesying. There’s a lot to it that I won’t go into, but I went home and wrote it all down.  I wanted to remember it. I wanted to hear God’s voice in it.

Then, last Sunday I went to a church I love dearly but don’t get to regularly attend because of ministry obligations.  My teenage daughter went with me and after the service she asked a lady (a friend of mine) to come and pray for me.

Guess what happened?  She began to pray and then started prophesying almost everything that the Lord had given me the previous week from someone else at a different church service with a different congregation. 

You think God was trying to tell me something?  It’s like these two people had read my deepest thoughts, and were speaking into them in ways only the Lord could do.  There was so much love. No judgement. No condemnation. Just love.

Then there’s this whole business of the two blogs in a row talking about the same thing.  Same verses, same message, same feelings. I feel pretty dense right now. But you know what?  I’m not going to beat myself up over it. That’s not the point.  

God never uses shame to get His point across.  He’s a good father. He’s so patient. His love is so fierce and true and righteous.  My God is not a God of shame. So, I’m not going to even say I need to listen better. I’m not going to say I suck at hearing God’s voice.  Nope. I’m not going to roll that way.

Instead, I’m going to listen.  

8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Psalm 32:8

He’s teaching me tenderly so that I may learn and then teach others.  There’s something in that I don’t want to miss. In fact, I refuse to miss it.  I will accept a little bit of gentle correction, a bit of embarrassment, and receive the truth. I’m going to admit I’m not hearing it all and ask for more wisdom, more humility, and more correction.

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

Lord, I want to hear Your voice.  I want to trust all that You have given me and nothing else.  Sift through the static for me, God, so I can hear only You. There’s something you want me to learn.  There’s always something. And I don’t want to miss any of it. Teach me. Correct me. Discipline me.

12 Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord,
    and whom you teach out of your law,
13 to give him rest from days of trouble,
    until a pit is dug for the wicked.
14 For the Lord will not forsake his people;
    he will not abandon his heritage;
15 for justice will return to the righteous,
    and all the upright in heart will follow it.
Psalms 94:12-15

Jesus has become my righteousness.  He has made me whole and pure in the eyes of God, my Father.  I want to be taught. I want to learn. I want to overflow with the wisdom and knowledge the Lord asks me to steward, whether the knowledge is for me alone or for me to share.  I want what He wants. His way is right. My way is broken.

16 Who rises up for me against the wicked?
    Who stands up for me against evildoers?
17 If the Lord had not been my help,
    my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.
18 When I thought, “My foot slips,”
    your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.
19When the cares of my heart are many,
    your consolations cheer my soul.
Psalm 94:16-19

Only in God is there victory.  Only in God is there rescue. Only in God is there deliverance.  Only in God. Only in God. Only in God. 

Let me be in unity with You, Lord, as the Father and Son are in unity.  Let us all be in unity with You, Jesus.

Precious Lord Jesus, You say it all.  I believe You. I trust You. I want what You want and to be in You as You are in the Father.  And I know that even this is the longing of Your Spirit within me. The Spirit that cries, “Abba, Father!” I’m crying out to You, Lord.  I’m crying out to You alone.

Jesus prayed,  20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
John 17:20-26

 

Oh Mighty Man of Valor

And the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.”
Judges 6:12

I’ve had a lot of people tell me I was courageous.  At times in my life I’ve felt like I was. I even have “Be strong and courageous” tattooed on my wrist.  But there are times when I just want to hide away from the world and stay “safe”, afraid and in the dark, but safe.  

But as I was praying this morning, the Lord reminded me of this verse from Judges.  Poor Gideon was hiding in a hole, afraid of getting killed, when he had a visitation and a calling from the Lord.  

Gideon felt and acted like a coward.  And that’s sometimes what I do. We all do it, right?  But that’s not what God sees. He doesn’t see our fear or failings.  He blotted out our transgressions, our fears, our cowardice, our doubt.  

Our God defined Gideon as a mighty man of valor before he’d done anything valourous at all.  But if you are familiar with the story, you know what happens with Gideon. God patiently, pleasingly, persistently guides Gideon into discovering who God made him to be.

We need to remember that.  We aren’t who we think we are.  We were made with a purpose, to be God’s ambassadors.  We were made to be strong and courageous, not by overcoming our fear and doubt, or fighting through our circumstances, but by God.  God made us strong and courageous. We walk confidently into battle because of Him.

As David said so confidently, as a kid with a slingshot against the world’s definition of a “mighty man of valor”:

“You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”
1 Samuel 17:45

I think that one of the most important things we can learn from scripture is that we don’t have to rely on ourselves.  God is with us. And what a great relief that is. I don’t know about you, but I’m really done relying on myself. I put all my money on God’s power within me.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Romans 8:31