Keep Fighting 

“And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek with the sword.” Exodus 17:13

I don’t feel very brave. I feel like a coward. It doesn’t look like I’m winning, it looks as if I’m losing. It seems as though the waves are pulling me under. It seems like everything I touch falls apart. But what if I am winning, what if I’m indeed walking on water and in fact building the kingdom with one choice at a time? What if it’s all falling into place instead of falling apart? What if instead of my calling shrilviling up its actually plumping up? It’s hard to tell the difference between victory and defeat in the midst of the battle. I wonder if Joshua knew he was winning against the Amalek? (Exodus 17)  Or if he just kept pushing forward until the end revealed the outcome.  Everyone keeps saying how strong I am or how brave I am… I know better. I know I’m neither. I wish to be, hope to be…but this battle is getting oh so long and right now…I can’t see. I can’t see how the outcome is going to be. So, I cling to the promises of Jesus. I cling to them as a life preserver. Because I know at this point they are all that’s keeping me a float. My mind is a torrent of questions. Crisis has a way of creating them. So now my mind manufactors one every few minutes and demands an answer. My mind. It’s against me these days. Convincing me it’s all over and I lost. Telling me my time is done. But my soul argues those accusations. My soul begs me to keep my head up and in the battle. My soul is smarter than my mind. For deep within faith lives. Deep within the broken barriers of my heart lies a fortitude that overpowers the ignorance of my mind. Deep within lies something that won’t let me quit. Deep within is the abode of the Spirit. Emmanuel, God with us. Instead of a feed trough in a stable, he now lies in the manger of my heart. He’s there. He’s here….in the midst of brokenness, in the middle of devestation, right here where you are-the place you never thought you would be. The place where the hurt collides with the Healer. It’s here-in the confusion of our callings, in the chaos of our cumute to purpose that the battle is faught. It’s there in the margin of life that victory is found. 

He’s here. Right here. Keep fighting. 

Maybe that was Joshua’s key to victory, he locked his eyes on the Promise Keeper and kept fighting. He didn’t have extraordinary bravery-he had an extraordinary God. It was His presence that fortified the warrior. And it is His hand that fortifies us now. 

“He trains my hand for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.” Psalm 18:34-35

Familiar with Favor

“In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up.” Isaiah 6:1
   

Too familiar? Is there such a thing as being too familiar with God? King Uzziah exemplifies for us what happens when man restrains the holy by casualness, becoming too familiar with the hand of God. 
   King Uzziah was a prosperous king. Submitting under the hand of God, all he touched turned into gold. Years into the golden favor of Jehovah, the familiarity with favor caused the king to step across the boundaries God had set for sacrifices, assuming the place of priest, Uzziah lit incense in the temple. He had become too familiar with the holy, he was so accustomed to Gods favor, he took advantage of it. It’s a dangerous thing when Gods Chosen lose their wonder; Holy is mixed with the common and as a result glory is tarnished by mans touch. We bring God down, stuffing Him into our status quo; favor has become familiar. 
We are just as guilty as the prideful king. We make Gods favor about us. We expect it but we don’t marvel at it.

Christians who have had the opportunity to serve in a third world country will tell you the marvel of running water. After seeing an entire civilization who are without the modern  amenity of indoor plumbing, who retrieve their water from pits in the ground; muddy and dangerously contaminated. The people return with a fresh awareness of the favor we experience everyday. We know some live without-we also understand we are priveleged. Yet, the familiarity robs the wonder of it all. We treat the favor of God the same way. Our faith is muddy and dangerously contaminated by casualness. We are grateful, understanding the privilege that has been placed on our heads, yet we are so familiar with it-the wonder is submerged in the common and drowned by our smugness.
 
The death of Uzziah could have meant many different things to Isaiah; a year of loss or  disappointment. Even a year of change. Many speculations have been made over the tie between the leper king and the prophet. But could it be that the death of Uzziah symbolizes the death of casualness? That when he had taken his last breath, all that was familiar was shaken up? 

Nothing was as it once was. 

Many times God will shake up our lives to wake us up. Like a divine alarm clock, the winds of change ring in our souls to awaken us from our slumber. 

Nothing brings us out of familiarity like change. It’s here, in “the year that ______”, where we know nothing will ever be the same, that we are set up to see the Lord. He doesn’t like to be made small. He won’t stand for it. So, He shows us just how big He really is by removing our safety net, drawing us out of our comfort zone-onto the waters, to experience a fresh vision of glory. 
Change ignites awe. When the familiar walls of comfort zones are torn down, we will find that “comfort” has been blocking our view all along.  The ceiling of complacency obstructed the splendor of the throne. Change often tears the roof off our limitations and we are left in slack jawed amazement at this God we serve. 

This glory Isaiah experienced was wasted on Uzziah, because he grew too familiar. The king who had His favor never saw His glory because he allowed the holy to be tainted by the common. He lived a life where favor was expected but glory was never experienced. Isaiah, on the other hand, expected nothing-because he experienced the glory and that satisfied him. One was lifted up in his own eyes, the other saw God high and lifted up; one was never satisfied, the other was.

Is His presence enough for you? 

The mark of Familiarity is the unconscious dissatisfaction with favor. Uzziah wasn’t appeased with the anointing given to him, he had to have more. Gods presence wasn’t enough. The loss of wonder excuses glory as common. May we never grow so familiar with favor that we miss His glory, never so accustomed to His presence that we make Him small. 

Wonder widens our perception of God; it gives us eyes to see His glory. 

This is the people God will use; those who marvel at His glory-those who are satisfied in His presence. 

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying “whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”And I said “Here I am send me!” Isaiah 6:8

Here…in His presence, that’s the launching point for mission. Yet, as our lack of wonder keeps us from the joy of His presence, it will also keep us from the thrill of the mission. 

Without wonder, we lack willingness to go. 

How many of us can honestly raise our hands and say “Here I am, send me.” Casualness robs us of glory; glory that is only seen when heaven touches earth-through the mission given by God to man. The mission of bringing His kingdom come. 

We miss the mission because we miss the marvel. 

Glory Released

 It was a churning down deep, in the place where desires and plans are lodged. Something was displaced. Something hadn’t gone as planed. I had it all figured out, calculated just right…I knew what God should do–but then He didn’t. The feeling of divine disapproval lurched into my throat. 

Why is it when plans fall through we feel as though Gods love has too? Like His steadfast love is as sturdy as an ice covered lake in late March. 

The feeling in my gut-wasn’t Gods disapproval. It was my disapproval of God. I had set a plan and He didn’t follow through-so now I was on the brink of despair. 

Pride isn’t only seen in arrogance it’s seen in the causal ways we try and take control from the King of the earth. 

Many times, our dreams, our callings, our plans, hold so much influence over our lives because they are staked on our pride. We want what we want, not necessarily what Christ wants. We do as we please, and demand God does the same. Pride says we know best. We have the solution for the family’s problem, for our friends marriage, and even for the nation. We know what’s best for our children. After all “mother knows best.” We have a checklist and we demand providence to bow to it. Pride forces our plans on providence and as a result we bear the weight. 

The irony of the kingdom is when we release what we are holding onto, we receive what Christ is holding out for us. We do not remain empty handed. It is only through empty hands that we will find true fulfillment.

 

This doesn’t mean we will hate where God leads, it is just the opposite—if we surrender than all our dreams come true. When we release them to the heavenlies, then God releases His in return. It’s a grand exchange we cannot afford to miss. But pride will and has cost millions of Christ followers to die without releasing any glory on earth—all because they sought their dream instead of the Dream Maker. Pride will tell us our way is better. Our hearts will pull and plunge within our chest at the thought of going a different route. It seems irrational and impossible to go that way. Denying our own plans for our lives, for the lives of our children, is never easy—pride cements our plans into our hearts. Humility releases them.

Glory is never released in the proud. In fact, God stiff-arms those who trust in their own ways. Pride disarms our purpose, for without glory there is no distinguishing quality about us. For example, when Moses was praying for the nation of Israel to go to the promise land in Exodus 33, he told the Lord that without His presence he didn’t even want to go “for what will distinguish us from all the peoples of the earth.”. After that prayer, Moses asked to see God’s glory. He knew that without glory we are nothing; we look the same, act the same, make the same choices…. nothing is different without it, we blend into society and in doing so leave no mark. We will never make a difference without being different. The difference we need is the mark of God’s presence; His glory.

 

Glory takes many forms. In the Old Testament, it was when the manifest presence of God would fell onto someone/thing. It is when God reveals Himself in or to someone. The heaviness of His presence would encase the common, transfusing splendor to the mundane.

 

The same happens to us when we are wrapped in His presence. Glory is proclaimed through our week vessels. Psalm 16: 5-11 displays this perfectly:

5LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. 6The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. 7I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. 8I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 9Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, 10because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. 11You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

 

I am not convinced that there is anything that translates the pleasure of God onto one’s life like joy in the midst of suffering. We’ve already talked about the sabbatical joy, the rest that comes from surrender to God’s plan. But let’s look a little closer. Look at verse 5, the Lord was the psalmist portion-nothing else. No dreams. No ambitions. Nothing held a candle to the presence of God. The problem for most of us is we are lacking joy because we are drinking from the wrong cup. When it is saying the Lord is our portion, it is referring to the allotment of inheritance. Our portion in not merely a sliver of land, it is the Lord Himself. Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:3, that we have been blessed with every heavenly blessing in Christ. This means that everything that Christ represents has been given to us. Since we are now brought into Christ by His sacrifice, the boundaries of our inheritance now lie within the limitless boarders of Christ Himself! He is our inheritance. If we settle for anything else then we have cheated ourselves. You see many of us dream in order to find significance. We dream because we feel like the lot we have is insignificant, and lacking. We plan to keep things under control. We feel less than so we chase after something that offers us importance. The news of the gospel informs us that we no longer have to chase significance- He has chased us and clothed us in it! We will always lack joy when we are drinking from the wrong “cup”, when we go outside our “portion” to find significance. We do this anytime we set anything before us besides the Lord. David had one direction- to get closer to the Lord, to know Him more. That’s the key to unleashing glory on our lives; setting the Lord always before us. Because then our future, our presence, and our past will be steeped  in the glory of His presence. If He is always before us, then we never outrun His glory. The Hebrew word for “Set before” is shavah and means among others things, “to agree with”. You see when we set the Lord before us, we are agreeing by submission to His will. It is when our dreams agree with His. Sometimes that is the greatest sacrifice we can give; when we look to nothing else, forsaking all other outlets, taking the pleasure of the Lord over the pleasure of the world. This glory of God that clothes the throne room of heaven,where God is ruling, is the same  glory that infuses every heart that becomes His throne.

 

If we do this, set the Lord continually before us, then we will find joy that transcends our circumstances. Joy that cannot be shaken by anything of this world-because it is not anchored in this world. It is laid beyond the veil, in the heavenlies, at the throne. When the throne is our landing place, we will find our lives lodged in glory for “in your presence there is fulness of joy, at your right hand there are pleasures forever more.”. A life filled with glory, is a life filled with joy-because we have taken from the Cup and are not found lacking. We may suffer but we are not sinking. We may be poor but we are indeed rich. We may be hungry, yet full. We may be seemingly insignificant, but we are famous in the eyes of our God. Wherever His presence is, nothing remains empty or lacking. His presence is the stuff dreams are made of.

 

Maybe we lack glory because our plans leave no room for God. But what if we left them blank, leaving a margin? Miracles happen in the margin; where God is given space to write His own story. In the openness of surrender, God uses the white lines to be a witness of glory. Many times when we find ourselves struggling for joy, it is because we have set our plans before us-and when we miss the mark on our check list we spiral into despair. To have the Lord always before us is to live expectantly, not frivolously. To live on purpose for a purpose. Most of our plans are frivolous, we use them as a leverage for control, that’s it. The irony is the gospel teaches that the ones who maintain control never find abundance. For Jesus said “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for my sake you will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)

Our need for control is locking out the bounty of the kingdom. We have safe guarded ourselves from the purpose and privilege of the kingdom. Expectancy and surrender go hand in hand. We expect little of God, not because we think He is unable but because we are unwilling to let go. Expectancy isn’t being spontaneous, its being faithful. Its when we are not anchored in our plans but in the throne,not in our plans but in providence. We can rest, laying our checklist aside, because providence promises we will never be abandoned. That the path of life is paved for us in the shawdow of the throne. 
How about we let our calenders be glory releasers instead of suppressors?