Called to contend

Watering:

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.

***

…..But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. (Jude)

Watching:

Jude wanted to write about all the amazingness of being rescued by Jesus … instead the Lord compelled him to write about enemy infiltrators in their midst and God’s judgment and the absolute MUST for them to contend – fight hard- for the faith. Ugh… quite a change in writing objectives. Not the ‘warm fuzzies’ he was hoping for.

He warns about those that have “slipped in among you,” about perverts and rebels and self-seeking slanderers. He warns about “grumblers and faultfinders” and those that “boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.” He warns about those who have the power to divide – following mere instincts – but do not have the Spirit.

Strong warnings. Hard truths.

… And yet, how does he call us to combat these infiltrators? With fire and brimstone and holy righteousness?

No.

He tells us to keep ourselves in God’s love by build ourselves up in faith and praying in the Spirit. He tells us to be merciful to those that doubt, that we have the power to snatch those that are heading toward fire. He tells that in reverent fear we can show mercy even as we hate the ugliness of all things ungodly.

We must show mercy.. even as “in God’s love” we wait for the mercy ourselves.

Wondering:

Evil is scary. It’s the “boo” waiting behind the closet door. It can be the land mine hidden that you never saw coming. It is dark, ugly, in your face, or deceptively white-washed in all the trappings of too-sickeningly-sweet.

Even just the thought of evil can bring debilitating fear if considered too long.

But what I love about this letter from Jude is how he sandwiches all this hard, scary, necessary stuff in the warm bun of who we are in Christ and who He is in us:

He starts:

To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept forJesus Christ:Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.

He finishes:

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

Waiting:

Lord, sandwiched in the truth of your mercy, peace and love – all fear, all purposes, all things are possible … even facing fear with love and mercy.

Watering Today: Prov 2, Ps 2, 102, 72; Isaiah 4-5; Jude

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On your mark, get set…

Watering:

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thes. 5:16-16)

Watching:

God’s will.

The answer to the heart cry, “What the heck am I doing here?”

The place where vision begins.

Wondering:

The very heart of God is that I should:

Rejoice always.

Re-joy. Remember. Rehash. Regurgitate. Relive. Renew. Re-determine every moment to see His goodness and reflect all the good that I see.

Pray continually.

Focus and purpose to give my thoughts back to the One who gave it all – my cries, my whoops and hollers, my moans, my questions… Fill my mind with conversation with Him.

Give thanks in all circumstances.

Wait at His feet until I know

KNOW what he’s already done for me,

KNOW that He will never leave me or forsake me,

KNOW that it is God – the Creator of heaven and earth – at work in me, and for me

KNOW that He is purposing good for me and not evil, working in me both to will and to do His good pleasure.

KNOW that He has my eternal back…

KNOW so deep and true that my tongue agrees with my heart and bubbles up in thanksgiving in all circumstances.

…This is God’s will.

Waiting:

Jesus, you know me – every part of me, and you love me just the same. Thank you for being simple in your instructions. Thank you for the knowledge, that with one step in your direction you run to greet me, to help me, to lavish your love and throw me a party. Thank you.

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A New Day Vow

Watering:

Psalm 56

Be merciful to me,my God,
for my enemies are in hot pursuit;
all day long they press their attack.
My adversaries pursue me all day long;
in their pride many are attacking me.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?

All day long they twist my words;
all their schemes are for my ruin.
They conspire,they lurk,
they watch my steps,
hoping to take my life.
Because of their wickedness do not let them escape;
in your anger, God, bring the nations down.

Record my misery;
list my tears on your scroll—
are they not in your record?
Then my enemies will turn back
when I call for help.
By this I will know that God is for me.

 In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can man do to me?

 I am under vows to you, my God;
I will present my thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered me from death
and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.

Watching:

David lived an enemy-filled life. A life filled with war and death, and frontline battles no further than his own front door.

Often using his kingly power, and sometimes being played by it, David was always pursuing or being pursued. But down deep, in the nitty gritty dirt of darkened caves, David knew who had the true royal power… and to that Heavenly King, he was under vows:

“I will present my thank offerings to you.”

Wondering:

I’ve never been chased by a literal army. And I don’t imagine you have a target on your back either.  We don’t have an enemy pursuing us at every corner … or do we?

* Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

* For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. (Mark 13:22)

* And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. (2 Cor.11:14-15)

Prowling. Roaring. Devouring. Deceiving. Masquerading.

This enemy is subtle, sneaky, driven by power-hunger, and dresses in his Sunday best. A defeated, and desperate foe pulling out all the stops to take down as many as he can before his power is no more.

But that’s the point: Right now, his power is no more.

How you have fallen from heaven,
morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!

Those who see you stare at you,
they ponder your fate:
“Is this the man who shook the earth
and made kingdoms tremble,
the man who made the world a wilderness,
who over threw its cities
and would not let his captives go home?” (Isaiah 14: 12-17)

We have overcome by the blood of God’s lamb. Yet, until he is thrown back to the pit of hill, we are easily deceived – just ask Eve.

And we are easily persuaded – just ask Adam.

And we have not been promised a trouble free life – just ask Jesus

So I will follow David’s lead, and grab hold fast and hard to my overcoming King as he whispers his bold-faced strategy, “Be of good cheer!”

And I will make a vow to the Living God.

I will hold my head up and look to the Lord, maker of heaven and Earth from where my help comes and when battles rage, and my enemy laughs… I. Will. Bring. My. Thank. Offerings.

Today. Tomorrow. Forever.

Waiting:

Father, not by might, not by power, but by your spirit … With all my trust poured out in thanksgiving, I will keep my vows to you, because you are worthy.

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Snuggling Closer

Watering:

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24)

Watching:

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.  The love of most. Not a few, not some… but most.

Most.

Wondering:

I’m not going to lie, this Scripture scares me

…because suddenly I’m at the Last Supper, feasting, learning, dreaming of glory days about to be. And then Life stops as my Every Hope says: “Tonight, one of you is going to betray me…” And I’m one of the disciples, with exceeding sorrow looking into the eyes of the One who would know,

            ” … Lord, is it I? ”

Will it be me whose love grows cold?

…because suddenly I’m rising up with Peter, empowered with passion, “Lord, not me, I will never deny you…”

Will it be me who chills beneath Wicked’s growing glare?

…because suddenly I wake with the echo of the rooster’s crow, and see myself dealing with the behavior of yet another “kids these days” – disrespectful and apathetic – acting out as I turn to listen to the drug-leashed parent glaring from behind hazy dilated eyes – the one who can no longer give a rip – telling me all I’m doing wrong

… because suddenly I sense it

the icy danger nipping at my cooling heart

Waiting:

Oh sweet Jesus, help me be the one

the who stands

firm until the end

the one who sees the darkening clouds of wickedness increase

and snuggles near your flame even closer

letting grace increase instead

grace for the one who’s looking

who’s searching

the one who’s waiting for life to make sense and emptiness to be filled

the one who spits and curses

mocks and crucifies

testing, tempting, trying

— looking at me to see if your love is real

if your love is sure

if your love is wickedproof

Love enough to warm a chilly heart

Love enough to keep a fire burning bright and hot and true

Love enough for them

true and firm

to the end

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In the Everydays

Watering:

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 11:1)

Watching:

It was spring.

David was a king.

He was supposed to go off to war.

Ho hum, another war… another sure victory,… let’s see, what else is happening?

Disillusioned? Bored? … or was David just a gorged stomach after a Thanksgiving feast? Power full, victory stuffed…ready for some football and a nap.

Regardless the reason, David sent someone else to fight his battle. Someone else to win his war.

Someone else to do what he should have been doing…

David stayed behind.

Wondering:

Much is made of David’s subsequent decisions surrounding Bathsheba – the juicy tabloid news. But it seems that real problems always start way sooner, more quietly, more internally — more root like.

Problems always start in the Everydays, the day ins and the day outs… deciding to put our hand to the plow, or opting to stay behind.

And that’s the thing, isn’t it? I could no more pick apart David’s fall than he could pick apart any of mine. Because only God sees our heart… the very depths of the Everydays that makes me, me — and makes you, you…

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens,you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139)

And it doesn’t matter weather our Everydays are full of victory or despair, excitement or boredom, everything fulfilling or everything on hold… God waits for us.

His right hand holds us fast to keep us from falling.

Waiting:

Father, you know the depths of my heart, and you love me the same. In all my Everydays, Lord, help me keep my hand to the plow.

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Sandwich Hug

Watering:

 As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart… After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty… and when David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.

“Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

Watching:

Michal was sandwiched between pride and jealousy – between a blessing and a curse. David was returning to bless her and she didn’t even know it.

Pilate was sandwiched between his conscience and the crowd – between personal doubts and perceived authority. Merely washing his hands, he was left unable to wash his heart.

Jesus was sandwiched between one who believed, and one who mocked – between one whose life choices had softened his heart and one who had let them harden and blind. Condemned criminals both, given last minute game-winning baskets to shoot.

And bottom line: Jesus was ready and willing to give victory to all.

Wondering;

Bible days. Modern days. Our choices to what Life throws at us remain the same…

At any given point in time:

* I’m Michal:  jealous, self-righteous, embarrassed by the backlash of a loved one’s actions — ready to open my mouth in hurtful complaints. (And I wonder now, what blessings do I miss when I forget to first give my heart (and my words) to the Lord to make His own?)

* I’m Pilate:  fueled by the public swelling of opinion – pro or con, it doesn’t matter, the stink of misplaced authority is the same — caught in my own battles of doubt, ready to jump to misguided action just to have a matter finished. (And I wonder now, how might God rewrite the scene if I give Him half a chance to lead?)

* I’m the disillusioned criminal: hardened and blind, clinging to hurt– ready to wear anger and pain as leaden shields of misplaced grief. (And I wonder now, what view of paradise do I miss when I hold on to pain rather than reach for grace, mercy and forgiveness?)

At any given point in time, I am a sinner lodged between The Rock of Ages and a hardened place of my soul.

So can I say (again) how stinkin’ thankful I am for Jesus!… because, beyond all unfathomable reason: this wretched sinner is saved from myself, saved by grace!

Saved by the One true God, the one mediator (sandwiched) between God and mankind – the man Christ Jesus who gave himself as a ransom for all people. (1 Tim. 2: 3-5)

You can’t get THAT at Subway! 😉

Waiting:

Jesus,  I rest hugged in your arms of love. Let your gentle squeeze welcome death to all things ugly. Let your embrace help me look for Resurrection-powered Life.

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Every Jot and Tittle

Watering:

David again brought together all the able young men of Israel—thirty thousand. He and all his men went to Baalahin Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim on the ark. They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart with the ark of God on it,and Ahio was walking in front of it. David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals.

When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down,and he died there beside the ark of God.

Then David was angry because the Lord’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah…

David was afraid of the Lord that day and said, “How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?”

(2 Samuel 6:1-11)

Watching:

Yikes. Harsh.

Uzzah was struck down for a knee-jerk reaction, instinct. He reached to ‘help out’ and Boom! in an instant, found himself having a heart to heart with God in Paradise.

But I’m with David, I would have been angry — and then so afraid.

… “How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?”

But that’s exactly the point isn’t it? David asks the disheartened question, but never directed it to God.

In all ways – for every jot and tittle of each battle along the way, David had always inquired of the Lord. Always. And David, in all his trials, had gotten that inquiring thing down. pat.

But this was a different life now. Kingship. Victories. David was excited, caught up in the exuberance of the moment, catapulted in the momentum of new status…David hadn’t had much experience in inquiring the Lord aside from a battle. “By golly, I promised this to God and now I’m gonna do it!” So now, he decides to do this momentous undertaking of relocating the ark. The Ark that represented all power and honor. The Ark that the Lord God Almighty was choosing to abide with his almighty presence  … And this was done ‘behind’ God’s back, without His permission or guidance… Really?

Seems innocent enough, right?… A gift for God. Something I can do for Him.

But Pride can be sneaky. Subtle. It can come in the back door and look pretty darn good from our viewpoint.

Yet God seeks obedience, not sacrifice, and He had already told David how and by whom the Ark should be moved … (it definitely wasn’t Uzzah.)

Then David summoned the Levites. He said to them, “You are the heads of the Levitical families; you and your fellow Levites are to consecrate yourselves and bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel, to the place I have prepared for it. It was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the Lord our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way. (1 Chronicles 15:11-15)

“The prescribed way.”

God – the master designer – has a plan.

Wondering:

Okay, so I get this. God didn’t (and doesn’t) need to be rescued. This Ark wasn’t an ornate jewelry box; it represented the very presence and power of God. To be handled God’s way… with every jot and tittle followed. No. Doubt. About. It. Case closed.

And I get this: God has always – and will continue always – to want us to inquire of him in bad AND good times… Nothing too big. Nothing too small.

But, can I say this? This story makes me SO stinkin’ thankful to the Father for sending Jesus.

Jesus, the One who stumbled on the way to a brutal death, and was touched and helped up, (with no Uzzah body left along Poor Choice Lane.)

Jesus, the One who fulfilled every jot and tittle with every cross of the ‘t’ and dot of the ‘i.’

Jesus, the One who made a way back to the Garden where we are no longer called servants, but friends.

And not only that… God  wants to be helped. He wants to be touched.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

When we reach beyond ourselves, we reach out and take hold of Jesus – – the living, walking, breathing, very presence of God himself.

Reachable. Touchable. Holy God.

Waiting:

Father, I want to touch your heart … Thank you, that you made a way that I can.

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