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Two Degrees

Three guys headed out Perdido Pass to an oil rig 100 miles out for some big game fishing. After being gone long enough, the rig wasn’t even in sight. They had to turn back. It was later discovered the boat’s compass was off two degrees.

Two degrees in a long trajectory will make you miss your mark. No matter how many times you try, until the compass is corrected, you will miss your mark.

I missed mine for 30 years. Trying to find the new life, with God, that was at first, nothing worked. I’ve heard the harder we try to get close to God by being good enough, the further away he will make you feel. That is a true statement.

At 30 years in, I decided to start over. Nothing had worked. But why? I was determined to find out. And I did. Two mistakes can be made in our pursuit of God – never starting or stopping short. I stopped short more times than I care to think. I wasn’t way off – just two degrees – but it was enough to make me miss my mark.

Jesus said, “I am the vine. To bear fruit, you must remain in me.” Staying connected is the correction. It’s not on us to be good enough; it’s on us to stay connected. Jesus also said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. I am gentle. You will find rest for your souls.” That is also a true statement.

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If one thing is clear, not one king was perfect; not even David. But . . . David had a heart for God and he was God’s friend.

Rehoboam, David’s grandson, was almost solely responsible for splitting Israel into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. But when God turned up the heat on him, he humbled himself and God was pleased with him for doing so.

Asa, Rehoboam’s grandson, started well; “He commanded Judah to seek the Lord.” But, “Although he did not remove the high places from Israel, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life.”

Of Jehoshaphat, Asa’s son, it says, “The Lord was with him because in his early years he walked in the ways of David.” And in spite of a mis-step it says, “There is, however, some good in you, for you have rid the land of the Asherah poles and have set your heart on seeking God.”

When informed of approaching armies, “Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord. We have no power to face this vast army. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

“The Lord is with you when you are with him.” And the Lord was so with them, that he turned the armies against each other so that all Judah had to do was collect the plunder. It took 3 days.

God is not as interested in our perfection as he is in our affection.

If My People

“If my people . . .” So much like a wave that starts miles out, so, 1 Chronicles 7:14 starts as far back as Leviticus 26. God said, if things aren’t going well, and you humble yourselves and confess your sins, I will hear, forgive and restore.

As far back as Deuteronomy 30, God said, when curses come upon you, and you return with all your heart, I will have compassion and restore.

All through Judges, there’s a forgetting, a crying out, a hearing and forgiving.

If 7:14 is the breaking wave, chapter 6 is the visible swell. In Solomon’s dedication of the temple, he asks God, “When they pray, hear from heaven; and when you hear, forgive. When they sin, for there is no one that does not sin, and they have a change of heart and pray, hear their prayer and forgive them.”

7:14 is the culmination. It is God’s heart, perfectly expressed by the one who asked for wisdom. Whatever the case, “If my people, will humble themselves and pray, I will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Prayers too, can be like a wave. They can form and travel, virtually unseen, for miles/years, building momentum until the visible swell just before the break. Many have prayed for our nation for years. And finally . . . a barely visible swell is immerging. I believe when it breaks, it is going to break hard. Be encouraged to pray, if you aren’t already.

Light for Our Path

At our grand girls year end school event, we were led in the pledge to the Bible, which contains the line, “I will make it a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

When I read my Bible, I often see things that stand out and feel that is God’s way of directing my thoughts. It really is, ‘Light for My Path.” It is especially light for my praying. And lately, I’ve been doing a fair amount for our nation. I tell my wife sometimes that I have been slaying dragons.

From 1 Kings 22, I saw where God was looking for a way to get rid of an evil king that was leading his people astray. A spirit stepped forward and said, how about I entice him with lies through all his prophets. God liked it and said, “Go and do it.”

So, the spirit enticed Ahab’s prophets to believe a lie. Ahab believed them, went into battle, and God got rid of his evil king.

When I read that story, it gave me light for my praying. I could see where God may have used a similar tactic to get rid of the evil players that has been leading our nation astray with lies. If God didn’t like it then, my guess is he does not like it now. It was his leading, not mine. And I will say I followed it. I prayed we would see their deserved end.

2 Kings 18-20

To me, this is one of the greatest stories in the Bible, the story of Hezekiah, king of Judah. It says, “he trusted the Lord. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.”

So out of the cesspool that king after king after king had created by doing evil in the eyes of the Lord and leading his people astray, Hezekiah comes along and does what is right. We meet, for the first time, Isaiah in this story. Perhaps Isaiah influenced Hezekiah’s dedication. We don’t know for sure; but Hezekiah is a man who is willing to stand and it gets God’s attention.

For starters, the Assyrian king has him pinned in and is demanding submission or else. I love what it says and how it says it. It chokes me up just reading it. “When Hezekiah heard this, he went into the temple of the Lord. He took the letter containing the demands and spread it out before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed.”

He sends for Isaiah, wanting him to pray; and puts it this way. “This day is a day of distress and disgrace, as when children come to the point of birth and there is no strength to deliver them.” They are on the edge of great things, but . . . the Assyrian army.

Ever been at your end? It is a good time to go into the temple of the Lord. “It may be that the Lord will hear and help.” He heard and helped Hezekiah. “That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death 185,000 men in the Assyrian camp. The king of Assyria withdrew.”

Before stopping short, spread it out before the Lord . . . and pray.

Humility

I like this Martin Luther quote from Andrew Murray’s book, Humility.

“God created the world out of nothing, and as long as we are nothing, He can make something out of us.”

If there is one clear message in the Bible, it is that God loves us. And yet, in spite of the clarity of the message, we still wrestle with believing it. Lauren Daigle’s song – You Say – has this opening line. “I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough; every single lie that tells me I will never measure up”.

We need a dose of what Paul had. In his letter to the Corinthian church he said this: “For I am the least of the apostles, and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church.”

Do you think Paul “measured up”? He had Christians killed. If anyone had room to think they didn’t “measure up”, it was Paul. And yet somehow he got past that and was able to write this next line. “But by God’s grace, I am what I am and HIS GRACE TO ME WAS NOT WITHOUT EFFECT.”

We can all write a similar line. “For I am the least of Christians and do not even deserve to be called a Christian because . . .“ We all have our ‘becauses’. Yet in spite of them, God offers to us the same grace He offered Paul. It’s not a matter of ‘measuring up”; it’s a matter of grasping the grace. Grasping the grace helps you to believe that God loves you. And believing you are loved, helps you to love – both yourself and others.

If your focus is on measuring up, and time after time after time you fail miserably at doing so, you will have difficulty loving yourself. If your focus is on measuring up, you will have difficulty loving others when you see that they, as well, do not measure up.

One last little dig: if you have difficulty loving your own self, you will doubt that others love you. Maybe someone wasn’t as friendly one day as you think they should have been – as you wish they would’ve been – your first inclination is that they do not like you.

James Dobson line is so incredibly true, “We live our lives not according to what people think about us, but according to what we think people think about us.” What we think people think about us, dictates how we live. What we think God thinks about us, dictates how we live.

If the greatest truth in the Bible is that God loves us, doesn’t it make sense that they greatest lie is that He doesn’t? If God’s greatest command to us is that we should love one another, doesn’t it make sense that it would be the prime target of Satan at which to aim? And where does it all start? It all hinges on our ability to believe first that God loves us. Believe you are loved and you will be able to love. Miss it and you will forever be . . . measuring.

Luke records the story that Jesus told to a Pharisee (who, BTW, thought it was all about measuring up); anyway, the Pharisee had invited Jesus in for a meal. And while He was there, a woman fell at Jesus’ feet crying. The Pharisee criticized the woman before Jesus because he knew she did not measure up; to which Jesus said, ‘She loves because she knows her sins have been forgiven. You do not love because your sins have not been forgiven. To you it is still about measuring up.’

It is not on us to measure up that we might then get close to God; it is on us to get close to God that we might then measure up. God is not as much after your perfection as He is your affection. I think the same is true regarding others. People will not like you because you ‘measure up’; they will like you because you love them.

So in this season where love is celebrated, love and don’t hold back. Don’t let Satan rob you – and others – of what God knows we need the most.

 

Remember the Change

I remember when I saw your light
and the change that came to be.
A whole new hope in life arose –
the thought of you with me.

Former things lost appeal.
My thoughts were all of you.
In a moment’s time, my heart was changed.
The old gave way to new.

A honeymoon in every sense,
where nothing can distract.
But life sets in; the new wears off;
and you try to get it back.

This is where the work begins.
It’s where we have to choose,
to fall back on the former things
or press so not to lose.

The change sets us on our way –
it points to what can be.
To have it is a gift at first;
to keep it is on me.

Remember what you saw at first
and the change in you it made.
Remember what you saw at first
when the change begins to fade.

Remember what you did at first
when love first changed your heart.
“Do the things you did at first”
and from them don’t depart.

 

From Strength to Strength

It is a cool image here as the psalmist refers to those, “who have set their hearts on pilgrimage”. Possibly from captivity back to the Promise Land, they would travel through the desert to get there. They would make the journey in the fall when the, “autumn rains would cover it with pools”. And so, “They go from strength to strength” – from pool to refreshing pool – “till each appears before God in Zion.”

What a picture of our own pilgrimage toward God. From strength to strength, whether from Sunday message to Sunday message or our own daily time with God, in them we get what we need to keep us going. Can you imagine trekking through the desert and passing up these pools? Or making the journey at a time when the pools would not be there? They were critical to the success of the journey. They are critical to the success of our own.

These posts are an example of the strengths I get in my daily time with God – the things I see that help me in my pilgrimage. I put what I see in writing because I enjoy writing. I put what I have written in these posts, in hopes that it will be one source of strength in a string of other strengths that some would find helpful in their own pilgrimage.

 

From John 13

Do the circumstances of life ever cause you to question whether God even is? Do you ever wonder if you have just conjured it all up?

Would you believe that even Jesus probably faced those same thoughts? It is easy to believe you’re the Son of God when you’re performing miracles and walking on water; but what about when you’re facing the cross?

If Satan, on the front end of Jesus’ ministry, would try to trip Him up, you can bet at this critical point at the end, he would not set idly by. On the front end he used this line: “If You’re the Son of God.” But here at the end, he has one last chance and I think chooses another. “Are You sure You are the Son of God? What if You’re wrong? What if You’ve conjured all this up?”

Maybe privy to some behind the scenes stuff that nobody records, I think John gives us this little tidbit in 13:3 that implies that even Jesus faced these same tempting thoughts. Tempted in all points like us, it would make sense that if He would ever face this temptation, it would be here.

“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God.”

Count on Satan to come at your lowest moment. It’s what he does; anything to “steal and kill and destroy”.