Today's reading comes from Proverbs 4. Verses 25-27 in the Message states,
Keep vigilant watch over your heart;
that’s where life starts.
Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth;
avoid careless banter, white lies, and gossip.
Keep your eyes straight ahead;
ignore all sideshow distractions.
Watch your step,
and the road will stretch out smooth before you.
Look neither right nor left;
leave evil in the dust.
I love this series of verses, especially in the Message translation because the Word is explicated more clearly, and we see that the writer (Solomon) was stressing the importance of Godly character and walk MORE SO than purpose or direction. I know that at times, I am guilty of taking Scripture out of context, and for using it to suit my interpretation (or my thoughts, feelings, etc.) However, as I think about these verses today, I am reminded that often our purpose AND our walk coincide. This means that where we walk (e.g., the path we walk on) is just as important as how we walk on that path. Does that make sense?
The writer of Proverbs is stressing the importance of not walking toward evil things, but staying focused and determined on the good path, the path that leads to life (in Jesus). The call is to remain fixated on the goal, to not lose sight of the purpose of our walk. In this way, we see that our purpose and our path as well as our position (how we walk) all merge together to form what I believe is the call of every Christ-follower -- to walk in such a way that the world sees that we are different -- that we have something they don't, and that something is the hope of Christ, eternal life. Yes, our calling is more about showing the world this HOPE than it is about telling them, yelling at them, or demonstrating against them. It is about living out what we believe, and making sure that our life, all the aspects of it, align with His Word, His Way, and His Will. We must be consistent, neither turning to the left or the right, but staying the course through to the end. This is what is the good will of the Father, the will that pleases Him most. The Lord desires to see us come to maturity, to be strong believers, faithful to His cause and genuinely concerned for the world.
As I think about my life, where I am today, and where the Lord seems to be leading me tomorrow, I am aware of the importance of these verses. I see that often I feel pulled one way or another, and that pull seems to hurt the most, when I strain against it. I want to stay steady, to be strong, and to not give in to the enemy as he tempts me and taunts me with his lies. I want to be stalwart (my favorite word) because I know that each time I stand, each time I lift my shield of faith, and each time I brandish the sword of the Spirit, I am able to defeat him, beat him back, so to speak. I overcome this world, the evil onslaught through His blood and the word of my mouth (my testimony). Revelation 12:11 NIV says it this way,
These are powerful words of encouragement, and they foreshadow what is to come -- the day when the accuser is thrown out of heaven and cast down for all eternity -- and because of John's blessed vision, we can take hope to know for certain, for sure, that this is what will be in time. We can be bold in our faith, bold in our courage, and bold in our witness because we know the end of the story, we know that Christ has TRIUMPHED, and evil has lost. We can stand free, so long as we stand in His blood, and are empowered by His Holy Spirit. His grace truly is sufficient for any situation, any circumstance, and any event that we may face today. Selah! God be praised!!
As I mediated on the Word today, I am more and more convinced that our road ahead, the hard road ahead will not become easier for us, but the walking on it, the traveling and journeying, will be less difficult as we draw nearer and closer to the Lord, and as we rely upon His strength, His power, and His Goodness each and every day. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me this good day! Selah!
My life has clarified of late, and I am seeing it more and more as a long journey toward my home going. I love that phrase, "home going," and I mean it just as it is stated here. In common language, it simply means when we die and leave this earth and enter into heavenly bliss. I know that my time, the day and hour, are fixed. The Lord has my days numbered, and He knows both my beginning and my end. Thus, I can focus on the days because I am not concerned with His time, and I am not worried that today may or may not be my last. I can live with abandonment (in a good way) and not think so much on the end, but rather focus on the in between, the journey, the process, and the way.
My life thus has become routine. I know what I will do today, what I will do tomorrow, and what will be the eventual outcome of all my days on this planet. I will seek to serve God and others, I will demonstrate my love for God through my love for others, and in the end, I will do the work He has purposed, planned, and prepared for me to do. I will do it until the last breath, and I will remember that my witness, my testimony, is predicated not on what I do, but solely upon what He has already done. I work steadily, with steady hands, to do this work, and in my faithfulness and obedience to His call on my life, I will show, I will demonstrate, His goodness to the world around me. I will do this today, tomorrow, and every day henceforth, and in doing so, I will feel confident that I am living out my calling, my purpose, and I will take joy in the fact that I am doing the very thing He has desired for me to do. I was created for a purpose, and praise be to God, I know what that purpose is and in knowing my purpose, I can live my life freely, completely, and undeniably "sold out" for His Name, His praise, and His cause. He is good, so very good to me.
Today marks a new beginning for me. I am completely confident that the plans the Lord has for my life are far bigger than I can imagine. I stress over the details, the "minutia" as I call them, when in reality the details are so large that I cannot even fathom them. Yes, the Lord has a very good plan for my life. I am blessed, I am highly favored, and I am good. In that, I simply mean that I am in a very good place, and because I am resting 100% upon Him for everything, my every need, want and desire, I can be bold in knowing that the plans He has today will be fulfilled. I will not stand in His way. I will not be the problem, but I will be part of His solution. I will go and do as He asks, and I will faithfully, with cheerfulness, do the work He has assigned to me to do. It is a good thing to be used by God. I am blessed in that He has chosen me for this work, and I am thankful that He has equipped me to do it. I may not always like what I am doing, and there will be times when the workload seems too heavy for me to bear -- but -- I can take heart to know that He has me well-covered, and that He is with me, right up to the end of my days. He is good in that way, He is so very good to me! Praise His Holy Name! He is Good, He is Good!
On this beautiful morning here in sunny, and somewhat warm Phoenix, I am resting well because I know today what God wants me to do with the rest of my life. Selah! Yes, I finally figured it out! Praise be to God! Praise His Holy Name! As strange as that may seem, to have finally "figured it out," I guess I am saying that I have finally come to terms with IT all, with the struggle, the strain, and the stress that has consumed me for the past five-six years. I have finally said "You win, Lord!" and I have given up my desire to have my way. I have relented, let go, and in doing so, I have accepted His way over my way. In this grand move, I have said to Him that in no-uncertain terms, I trust Him completely, that I believe what He is doing is far bigger, better, and bolder than my imaginings, and that He is more capable and able to do this very thing than I could even attempt. In short, He is able, and I am not, and for all my attempts (futile at best) to do the work, to complete the work, to even contemplate the work, I have failed. He has succeeded as only God can succeed, and my limited efforts have fallen short, missed the mark, and failed to measure up. He is good, He is God, and I am blessed in the knowledge that as God, He truly does know best. He knows what is best for me and for my life. Praise God! Selah!
I sit here on my blog, and for a moment, my mind wanders backwards. I see what has transpired over the past 10-15 years, and I see how everything in my life has worked together to get me to this point, this very point. How precious and good is His plan? He has known what it would take to get me to agree with Him, to come into 100% agreement, and to accept His provision for my life. He knew that I would not relinquish my efforts, not stop trying to do my best to be acceptable, until I was put in this very place, this place of utter and complete dependency upon Him. He knows that, in my flesh, I am capable. I am smart, I am strong, and I am disciplined. People who know me well marvel at how much I can accomplish in a day -- should I put my head and my heart into it. They know that I can do pretty much what I promise or that I will attempt to keep my word no matter how many competing thoughts or activities come against it. I will always do my best, give 100% to the cause, and in the end, more than likely through sheer effort and determination, I will overcome and achieve whatever I put my mind to doing.
It is a good thing by world standards, but it can be a challenging thing when it comes to the plans of the Lord. I mean, the Lord loves disciplined and focused people. He has always seemed to favor the stubborn, the hard headed, the willful, for His work. I wonder why sometimes, and then I realize that it is the will, the determination, the sheer effort that these people possess naturally that the Lord desires to harness for His Name. He must do it, though, and to get to the point where He can do it, well that requires a lot of work on His part. He must tame the beast, so to speak. He must get the horse to accept the bit, and that requires a gentle whisperer who can persuade, convince, and in the end, prove faithful and worthy. He has done all of this, and He is worthy, He is faithful, and He is good. The Lord has demonstrated His care toward me. He has shown me time and time again His faithfulness. I have strained at the bit, not wanted to be "broken," but in the end, I have come to see His bit and His brokenness is what I must allow in my life. I have learned through His strong arm that "things" will be easier, the yoke I mean, if I let it rest on me. His yoke makes my life better.
Thus, today, I think about all the straining, the pulling at the yoke, and I realize that my broken experience has been necessary. My will had to be broken, not crushed, but broken so that I could accept His yoke, and in doing so, I could allow Him to begin to rebuild my life, to center it around His will, His way, and His work. Yes, I had to be broken before I could follow Him wholly, completely, and without fear of death (as John says in Revelation). I had to get to this place where I was able to say, "Yes, Lord, I will go" and mean it. I had to be able to say "Yes, Lord, I will do this work" and mean it. I had to be able to say, "Yes, Lord, I will live this way" and mean it.
For years now I have said that I would go and do His work. I have repeated my mantra (so to speak) that says,
I will go where you send me
I will do the work you have prepared for me to do
I will live where you tell me to live
And, truly, I believed every word. I believed that I would do those things, yet experience has not proven this out. In truth, I was not willing to go, to do, or to live where the Lord wanted. I liked bits and pieces of the plan. I liked parts of the idea. But when it came right down to it, the only place I was truly content to remain was right where I was -- in Phoenix, doing the work of a teacher at Grand Canyon, and living with my parents and son in this shared home. I didn't want to go anywhere else. I didn't want to do anything else. I didn't want to live in any other way than the way I was living at present. Sigh!
Yes, I am sure the Lord has "face palmed" me a number of times. I am sure He sighed as He waited patiently for me to let go of the reins, and for me to stop "straining at the bit." I would often ask Him, "Lord, why are you so good to me? Why are you so patient with me?" and deep within my spirit, I would hear Him say to me, "Because I love you." Yes, He loves me. He waits for me, patiently waits, while I learn what it means to live "broken." He waits for me to let go, to rest, to stop wanting my own way because He knows that in time, in time, I will stop. I will rest. I will let go.
God is so good to me. He is my King, my Shepherd, and my Rock. I have come to learn what it means to rely on Him, to abide in Him, and to lean upon Him. I have come to rest in His mighty and majestic Name, and to recognize that He is God. He is so much bigger than my mind can comprehend, and He is so much more able to do His work than I am. I mean, even in all my perfected strength (if there was such a thing), I couldn't achieve what He is asking me to do. Even in all my "best efforts," I would still fall short. No matter how good, how studied, how well-seasoned, etc., I would still not be able to do this THING, this work. Not to His satisfaction, that is. And, not to His beautiful and wonderful standard. No, I would fail miserably. I would fail, fall on my face, and faint through the effort, the process, the outcome. I can only do this work through His effort, and because I must rely on Him for everything, I must be totally willing, completely surrendered, and officially resting for Him to begin the work.
My day has begun a new way. I am ready now to do the work the Lord wants me to do. I look at my life, I see it in its completeness, and I think to myself, "How is all this possible?" How could the Lord take what was used up, cast off, and unwanted, and turn it into something beautiful, something powerful, and something useful for His purpose and plan. I look at my life, where I once was, and how miserable I was as I lived the yoke of bondage, a life of enslavement to sin, and a life mastered by people who desired only to control me, to use me, to take what I had naturally and profit from it. I lived as a person under the control and authority of another for so long, and after a time, I came to accept that way of life as being "normal." I came to accept the life I was living as "all that there was," and I believed that my life would never be any different, it would never be better, and I would have to suffer through it because I had chosen the path, chosen the way, and made the decision to align myself with someone not interested in following after the Lord.
In the end, once I was freed from that life, I came to see just how awful it was, and not just through my own eyes of experience, but through the eyes of others (family members and friends) who saw what was going on and who tried to tell me the truth. I accepted His free gift, His freedom, and I walked away from a life I once believed would be the answer to all my prayers -- prayers for safety, prayers for provision -- and prayers for security of home and family. I came to see that my prayers, while good, were predicated on belief that the person I had found had honest intentions, that he was worthy, trustworthy. Unfortunately, I realized too late that I had misplaced my trust, given my trust to someone not worthy of it. The Lord had to show me that there was only One person who was worthy of my trust and that person was Him. I came to trust Him, and in time, I came to experience friendship, relationship, and love. I came to see that He is good, He is fair, He is just. I came to rest in His steadiness, His unchangeableness. He is always the same -- yesterday, today, and forever. He never changes. His character and His nature never shift. He is the same, and He is trustworthy. He keeps His promises, and He never changes His mind.
It was a difficult journey for me, from childhood to adulthood, and the life I once lived is dead. It is gone, it is buried. The mistakes, the pain, the sorrow, the suffering -- all buried now -- buried with Christ Jesus. I am able to look back without the twinge. I am able to reflect without the sorrow or the regret. I can see the past for what is was -- a journey to break me, to create in me a will that is surrendered and submitted to Him -- so that I could do this THING He is calling me to do. I had to learn how to trust Him. I had to learn how to love Him. I had to learn what He was willing to do for me so that I could accept what I would be willing to do for Him. It was a long, difficult process. It was a hard journey, but now as I make this turn, I see it all clearly. I see the past for what it was, and as I stand in the present, I see the future in unmistakeable clarity. I see where I must go, the work I must do, and the way I must walk. All of it is clear to me now. No more fuzziness, no more confusion. I see it, and I know this is the way -- this is the WAY.
Today is such a good day. A day of new beginnings. A day when I pick up my cross and walk on. I know that the path before me is not easy. The path before me is not level. It is going to be straight, for sure, but it is filled with ups and downs, highs and lows, mountains and valleys. It will be a long journey, a long walk, but I will not walk it alone. I am yoked to the One who loves me most, and who knows where He is going. I am walking with Him, beside of Him, learning from Him, and in that way, we walk this road together. From beginning to end, we will walk it together. He is good, so very good. I am blessed, highly favored, and in that relationship, I experience all that is good in Him. I am blessed, so very blessed this good day. Selah!
As I consider what you have said to me this day, I ask now for the words to convey your will so that others, those that are closest to me will know and understand what it is that you are asking me to do. I pray that they will understand, that they will accept your will, and that they will not argue against it. I ask now Lord for the grace to be kind, to be thoughtful, and to demonstrate your great love for all of those you bring into my small circle of influence this day. I ask that you will cover me with your blessing, your favor, and see to each and every need so that I no longer have to worry about them. I ask that you will care for my son, provide for his needs, especially his schooling costs and other concerns this day, and that you will continue to show Him the way you want Him to go. I also ask now Lord that you will honor my request for my parents health and well-being, and that you will provide for them through their remaining days. You are able to care for them far better than I can, so I ask now that you will see to their needs, their physical, financial, and spiritual needs in order to alleviate the pain and suffering they are experiencing now. Lastly, Lord, I ask that as you reveal your will, as you show me my next steps, you will give me the grace to articulate these steps to others. It is important to me that I be able to clearly state what I believe your will is, and to be bold in saying it. May your Name be praised always, and may all my days be summed up in You. Always in You for you alone are worthy. You alone are my sufficiency and my all. You are everything to me, and I give you praise, honor, and ultimately, glory. It is in Jesus' Name that I ask this now, Amen. So be it. Thy will be done. Selah! *Pause and calmly think about it!