Monday, July 28, 2014

3 rings of growth God begins in us in times of testing..strengthen series #10

Psalm 84 has long been a favorite for me. The image of the swallow building her nest at His altar invokes peace and trust - but there is more in this power packed group of verses...

No one knows for sure who the author of the psalm is, or the exact time it was written, but many scholars believe as Spurgeon: exhales to us a Davidic perfume, it smells of the mountain heather and the lone places of the wilderness, where King David must have often lodged.
 In verse 6, the psalmist refers to a place called "the valley of Baca".  By using this word, "baca", the author is actually engaging in a little word playIt means weeping, and is also a reference to a type of balsam or mulberry tree which creates the essence of tears as the sap drips from the trunk and solidifies  into a tear shape.  There are several possible literal locations for this valley.   As a poetic reference however, it could refer to any (or all) of the times when David was faced with incredible events and hardship, including the events from here!   And who of us have not travelled through our own "valleys of Baca"? 

Three verses in Psalm 84 reflect the "rings of growth" that are accomplished in "the valley of Baca", the times of testing.  Let's look at them:

5 How blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
            In whose heart are the highways to Zion!

      6 Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring;
            The early rain also covers it with blessings.

      7 They go from strength to strength,
            Every one of them appears before God in Zion.

Zion refers to the act of worship (scroll to the bottom for a little documentation about this).  It can be both literal or figurative, and in either case, the use of the word refers to a heart attitude...that of worship.  So the place that worship holds in our heart is directly related to how we face a test/trial! {click to tweet}.

These are the "rings of growth":

 from strength to strength
Psalm 84:7
from faith to faith
Psalm 84:6; Romans 1:17
from glory to glory
Psalms 84:5; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

In my last post we explored the receiving of strength, so I won't expound anymore here.

When we step out after receiving strength, and see His work on our behalf, our valley of weeping does transform into life giving springs of water.  That is when our faith grows stronger, and we are moved "from faith to faith".  And as faith grows, we lean in closer to Him.

As the transformation continues, through strength, through faith...our inward being develops "paths to Zion"...a pathway* towards Him, created as we continue to choose to "tie ourselves to Him" and behold Him through worship!   And that is the place of being transformed from glory to glory!  Like Moses' face that shone after spending time in the Lord's Presence, our hearts, our words, our actions and our motives absorb and reflect more and more of Him and His ways.  In this, the reflecting of His glory, others can be sparked to hope in their trials as they observe His comfort in yours.

(Remember too, that Hebrew thought is circular - it isn't a direct progression strength, then faith, then glory...all are connected, all will grow simultaneously, but you will notice one or another more at any given time...)

May the sureness of His hand forming 
strength, faith, and glory
sustain you this day...  


Documentation about Zion 
The City of Zion and Mount Zion are really synonymous.  It is a reference to the literal location of the Tabernacle when King David brought it to Jerusalem.  The area where it was placed and where the people of Israel came into the Presence of God was on Mount Moriah, the eventual home of Solomon's Temple.  Since worship is the central activity of the Tabernacle and Temple, Zion has come to be a reference to a place of worship.  In the New Testament, the writer of Hebrews uses the term to make a point about the difference between law and grace.  Of course, David always knew it was the heart of worship that mattered - the location of worship was always, ever, wherever he was...and so it is for us as well!

*  Even a neural pathway develops as certain actions are repeated! Research here, here and here.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Anatomy of a crisis - 8 things you can do when disaster finds where you live...strength series #9

I love the hope contained in this part of Scripture...faced with an incredible blow, David and his warriors have just wept until they had no strength left (imagine - the mightiest army that you can think of, one that God is showing Himself mighty and that He is with them as they fight - being overcome with such intense emotion...).

Loss and brokenness abounds in a fallen world.  One can move from awesome victory to an emotional blow that sends us to our knees in despair in a matter of hours; minutes; even seconds...consider:

- The families of the commuter jet just shot down this past week...
- The couple mourning their baby who lived only a couple of hours, and the only photos they have to
   remember her by show a constellation of tubes and medical equipment...
- Children neglected by addicted parents...
- Teenagers running away from abuse, only to find more...
- Older people on a fixed income unable to rally in a faltering economy....
- Men and women trying to live and carve a life of blessing when their own past would have
   determined a life full of curses....
- And even if our lives have been relatively good, blessed, redeemed - we have been touched with the
   pain that has wracked others, and if we are walking with our Savior (who has been touched with all
   the pain that humans have experienced) we share the burden with our brothers and sisters around
   the world.

And when the emotional tidal wave is spent - we need help to know what to do next.

David shows us what is the only reasonable next step:

before he was king, 
before he had brought the ark of the Presence of God to the city of Zion,
before the nation of Israel knew he was a hero...
while he was an outcast,
while he was living in the "in between" place,
but while he was developing the character that resulted in God declaring
he was "a man after My own heart" - 

 he strengthens himself in the Lord.

The word "strengthen" here means "to become strong".  It isn't that the person was already strong, and flexed those great muscles.  We know David was in a place of great weakness...and he became strong again because he did something that no one else in camp was doing...he tied himself fast, bound himself strongly to Jehovah Elohim.   

When he was tied in knots with emotion, 
he tied himself to the Creator of the universe.  

David was persistent, held fast, earnest, constant, confirmed, established, and recovered his strength as he girded himself with what he knew of God.  Did this exchange take place in an instant, or over a period of hours, even a day?  We do not know.  But we do know that Elohim is the name of God in its plural form, so we know David focused on attributes and aspects of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit until his soul was settled, until he could rest in the provision of God that would meet his present need, until He knew God was still with him.  He reminded himself of all the promises, all the power, all the plans that he knew was true from his relationship with God, and as God's strength flowed into him, he recovered his senses, finally regaining the ability to inquire and to hear Him on what his next action might be...(verses 7-8).  The rest of the story shows God's intervention in bringing back his family and the families of all the men.  {Truly in the ranks of a really great action-adventure + a little romance novel}.

So how does this tying to God happen in our own lives?

1.  We must have a relationship with Him, and

2.  Recognize that He deeply desires a relationship with us.  When we believe this, we begin to view Him through a filter of His unconditional love, which can eradicate false images that might keep us at a distance from Him and His help for us.

3.  It helps to know some of the general promises of God.  Here are a few to get you started:
     - Jeremiah 29:11
     - Romans 8:1, 31-39
     - Deuteronomy 31:6
     - Jeremiah 31:3
     - Zephaniah 3:17
     - 1 Corinthians 10:13
     - John 14:15-18

4.  Remind yourself of personal prayers He has answered, or the answered prayers of people you
    know or fellow church members (if applicable).  Meditate on James 5:17.

5.  Remind yourself of stories in the Bible in which God showed Himself strong for His people...

6.  Sing/listen to songs of praise and worship - David was a worshipper from before the time he was anointed to be king.  I believe it is safe to say that he had a habit of worship.  The music you need may or may not be what is playing on contemporary Christian radio stations, but the qualitites that mark the worship that is warfare usually a) focuses on God and His character,b) is based on Scripture, and c) contains a message of hope.  Gateway Worship and Hillsong are two church/music ministries that are current and always fall into this category.

7.  Practice listening prayer.  Don't just pour your heart out (though that may need to be the first portion of your prayer!) but quiet your soul and listen for the voice of the Spirit.  Meditate on Psalm 131, it is only 3, yet powerful, verses long...write down what you hear...

8.  Finally, and perhaps the most difficult, is take action on what He tells you to do...whatever it is.  This will most certainly stretch and grow your faith.  It will give you a testimony to share His faithfulness with others.  It will assure you of His love for you as you walk with Him to address what has happened.

Have you been strengthened in the Lord before?
Are you in an experience requiring that you strengthen yourself in the Lord currently?
Leave a comment, let me know - I would love to help in praying for you...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Be My Strength and My Song...strength series #8

I am really liking how all the colors pop and blend together + I found this wonderful music brush (get a similar free one here) in my collection that placed notes riotously over the page...

This series about the Lord giving us His strength and resulting threads of connection have revealed some interesting relationships:

...His strength is connected to our joy...
...relying on our own strength results in bondage to the flesh and wilderness experiences...
...admitting weaknesses, examining vulnerabilities (not denying them) - takes true courage...
...Humility leads us to His strength...

I look forward to sharing these discoveries at the end of this series!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Wait on Him...Strength Series #7

This verse is a foundational verse for my husband and I...I love how the eagle's wings look!

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Strength of His People - He is enough...#6 in the strength series

From Psalm 28:8 - it made me ask, "Who are you trusting for strength?"

Does He ask me to develop my strength, or to rest in His?  Perhaps both?

But perhaps developing MY strength doesn't mean doing some sort of spiritual workout (I've tried that - it is a hopeless place!)  The internal "task masters" are never satisfied; yet I must find a way to "master", to overcome, them.  A person's true strength grows in direct proportion to his reliance on the Lord.  I need to continually decrease my trust in the "arm of the flesh" in order that there is more space for the "arm of the Lord" in my life!

Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?  Isaiah 53:1

In every situation, Jesus is enough. I can agree with the task masters, I am never enough...but He is!

When I gain His perspective, I trust that His way, His power, His nature - is enough.

And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." 
Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, 
so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
2 Corinthians 12:9

His grace is freely given, available to is really a matter of receiving it and learning to walk in it daily...that is how He becomes the strength of His people!
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