Taking a leader for the fight

As soon as dawn broke, the armies joined battle,
the one having as pledge of success and victory not only their valor but also their reliance on the Lord,
and the other taking fury as their leader in the fight.
(2 Maccabees 10:28)

I found this passage striking. One army was led by their reliance on the Lord.

The other took “fury as their leader” in the fight. Some translations say “rage” instead of fury.

Who chooses to be led by rage or fury? Who would want to live that way?

And yet when I think about it, I do see people who live their lives approaching everything with fury. They strike and struggle and rage against others, against “the system,” against God.

Others take regret as their leader: “if only … my life would be better.” Some take a variance of “self” – self-pity, self-reliance, self-centeredness, self-fulfillment – as their leader. Their focus is either on what they don’t have, or on seeking to fulfill their own dreams at any cost.

But there are others who seem to focus more on gratitude. Even if they have little or if their struggles are great, they focus on something beyond themselves. They are as if “having a pledge of success and victory.”

They are lead by their reliance on the Lord, whatever is given to them they receive.

That is the leader I want to take in the fight.








Wrestling Angels

As I wrote yesterday about walking with God, I was reminded of Jacob wrestling with an angel. The story is found in Genesis chapter 32, from verse 23 to the end of the chapter.

I re-read the story this morning and am smiling as I take a few notes:

  • “In the course of the night …” My biggest struggles with God have certainly been “in the night,” in the dark times.
  • “Jacob was left there alone.” Again, these struggles come when I feel most alone.
  • “Then some man wrestled with him …” You know, it often feels like my struggle is against “a man” or a person or a situation in my life. But eventually I come to realize that the REAL struggle is spiritual, and with God. He is asking something of me and I wrestle with it, with Him.
  • “But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go until you bless me.'” Perseverance. Seeking blessing. Refusing to give up until you receive what only God can give, even though the pain at the moment is great.
  • “… you have contended with divine and human beings and have prevailed …” and “Jacob limped along because of his hip.” Jacob wrestled with an angel! This is explicitly stated in Hosea 12:5. The angel told Jacob he had prevailed, but the victory wasn’t without cost. Jacob was left with a limp, a reminder of the struggle.

I am reflecting on all of this. I realized yesterday that I really am willing in my mind and my heart to do anything God asks, but sometimes it takes a while to figure out what … or with Whom … I am struggling. This time it isn’t the “dream” I’m giving up that is difficult. The difficulty is my feelings about the unfairness of this situation and wanting to make a point or “win the argument.”

I suspect that moving forward, I’ll continue to struggle with resentment as I watch things happen I didn’t want. But those “things” are just a limp I’m left with. God has blessed me, and has told me, “Walk with me.”

Walk With Me

I’ve been in a great struggle. What I want is at great odds with what my husband wants and I feel angry, discouraged, resentful.

And when I pray, God tells me, “Walk with me.”

What does that mean? Does that mean I just give in? Truly and honestly, It isn’t fair.

“Walk with me.”

But I have dreams too, and these are mine. Why do I have to be the one to give up my dreams?

“Walk with me.”

I’ve searched myself with brutal honesty. I can truthfully say that the root of my dreams truly is to be closer to God, to be in a position to grow in my relationship with Him. I want to be nearer my church, my church family; I want to purposefully create a worship space.

I know what I want isn’t “wrong;” what I desire is “good.” And yet … and yet it clearly isn’t God’s will for me right now. I don’t know why; I don’t understand. But I hear Him, and I trust Him.

“Walk with me.”

Speak, Lord, your servant is listening. Yes, I will walk with you. Yes, I will surrender my own dreams. Yes, I trust that you have purpose in this. Yes, I will work to overcome my tangled feelings about all of this, and toward my husband.

Please grant me your strength, your wisdom, your grace. Help me keep my eyes on you.

Teach me how to walk.

Journey With the Holy Spirit

I’m reading Forgotten God by Francis Chan, a pastor at Cornerstone Church in California.

One of the things the author writes about that has resonated with me is how some people focus on, “What is God’s will for my life?” as if it was a single big thing we should set as a goal to achieve.

But in reality, God’s will is to be found (when we seek it) in ordinary everyday moments. It’s a daily seeking, not a one-time revelation or something God gives to us once in a while for big decisions.

It reminded me of my “life scripture:”

“Rejoice always! Pray without ceasing!
In all circumstances give thanks, for this is God’s will
for you in Christ Jesus.”
(1 Thess 5:16-18)

TODAY I am exactly where God has placed me. TODAY’s circumstances are His will for me, whether blessing or trial.

How do I respond? Am I seeking the Holy Spirit to guide me through it? Or am I caught up in trying to figure out the future, a plan or a goal or a “bigger thing?”

God tells us He has a plan for us … but He doesn’t lay out the plan or explain how it’s going to work. In fact, we learn to trust Him and to walk in faith because we don’t really know.

I think part of the reason I like this, is I catch myself sometimes wondering if I missed something – I haven’t done any big or grand or important thing in service to God. I’m just a very small, ordinary person; not any great saint.

So it is comforting to be reminded that I’m where He has placed me, my quiet little life is His will for me, and as long as I keep seeking Him in the ordinary moments of ordinary days, I’m on the path He’s set out for me.

It’s about the journey, with Him.


“But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was hidden from them
so that they should not understand it …” (Luke 9:45)

We struggle to understand. We are an impatient people and want answers now.

But some things aren’t meant to be grasped immediately; we have to wait for them to unfold before we can really put everything together in a way that makes sense. Sometimes its a matter of maturity and growth before we “get there,” but I think other times it is a blessing given to us. When we finally see and understand, we can remember and be comforted that once again, God knew and prepared us.

How often are we told that Mary pondered things in her heart? The things announced to her by the angel, the report from the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth, the words of Simeon and Anna in the temple. She must have been puzzled, but she seemed to submit herself to what she was given to know at that time. Eventually all of it made sense.

In some ways I am a very patient person. I can wait my turn and wait for things to happen in my life quite easily on a physical level.

But “understanding” is different … there are times I am so anxious to understand and when I don’t “get it” I feel much distress.

I think the LORD is showing me I need to stop struggling. Receive what is given and continue to wait on the LORD. Be watchful as events unfold; recognize His hand in everything going on, and remember.

Who is the enemy?

33 After this, Nicanor went up to Mount Zion. Some of the priests from the sanctuary and some of the elders of the people came out to greet him peaceably and to show him the burnt offering that was being sacrificed for the king.
34 But he mocked and ridiculed them, defiled them, and spoke arrogantly.
35 In a rage he swore: “If Judas and his army are not delivered to me at once, when I return victorious I will burn this temple down.” He went away in great anger.
36 The priests, however, went in and stood before the altar and the sanctuary. They wept and said:
37 “You have chosen this house to bear your name, to be a house of prayer and supplication for your people.
(1 Maccabees 7:33-37)

This morning as I read this passage, I wept.

What a reflection of today’s world, of its hatred toward the people of God. In large ways (martyrs in the middle east) and smaller ways, “comedians,” “artists,” and “celebrities” mock and ridicule believers; groups disrupt mass and attempt to defile the altar and Eucharist.

And as in this passage, besides the arrogance there is often great anger.

I get it that not all Christians behave very well; I understand people sometimes feel wounded by the church. But I read a passage like this and I feel great sorrow for all involved … both for the people being mistreated, and also for the people who are so filled with anger and rage, arrogance and disgust at other people … even who have received them peaceably.

What an pitiable existence; how empty and without peace. How broken.

These people are not my enemy. I fast and I pray for them, sincerely. What an amazing witness it would be if a Bill Maher, Madonna, or Dan Savage were to be transformed even as Paul was.

For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the
principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness,

with the evil spirits in the heavens.
(Ephesians 6:12)

Gratitude for Trials

I have a mental list of passages that remind me to be grateful for trials. Here are only two of them:

Now this trial the Lord therefore permitted to happen to him,
that an example might be given to posterity of his patience, as also of holy Job.
(Tobit 2:12)

“Besides all this, let us give thanks to the Lord our God for putting us to the test as he did our ancestors.
Recall how he dealt with Abraham, and how he tested Isaac, and all that happened to Jacob in Syrian Mesopotamia while he was tending the flocks of Laban, his mother’s brother.
He has not tested us with fire, as he did them, to try their hearts, nor is he taking vengeance on us. But the Lord chastises those who are close to him in order to admonish them.”
(Judith 8:23-27)

I was reminded this morning of a beautiful story about the Refiner’s Fire. It’s not long, and I’d like to share it!

And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver:
and he shall purify  
the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver,
that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.

 (Malachi 3:3)

While reading Malachi chapter 3, a woman noticed a remarkable expression in the third verse: “And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”

She went to visit a silversmith and, without telling the object of her errand,
begged to know the process of refining silver, which the smith described to her.

“But, sir,” she said, “do you sit while the work of refining is going on?”

“Oh, yes, ma’am,” replied the silversmith. “I must sit with my eye
steadily fixed on the furnace, for if the time necessary for refining is
exceeded in the slightest degree, the silver will be injured.”

The woman at once saw the beauty and comfort of the expression,
“He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” God sees it needful to put
His children into a furnace: His eye is steadily intent on the work of purifying,
and His wisdom and love are both engaged in the best manner for them.
Their trials do not come at random: “the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”

As the woman was leaving the shop, the silversmith called her back
and said he had forgotten to mention that the only way to know when
the purifying process is complete is  . . .

 . . .when he can see his own image reflected in the silver.


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