Strength and joy for pilgrims

What joy for those whose strength comes from the LORD,
who have set their minds on pilgrimage…
They go from strength to strength,
until each appears before God in Zion.
(from Psalm 84:5, 7)

Search for the LORD and for his strength;
continually seek him.
(Psalm 105:4)

It pleases Him to make us strong.
(from Psalm 89:17)

May we, you and I, fellow pilgrims, be strengthened with all His glorious power
so we will have all the endurance and patience we need.
May we be filled with joy, always thanking our Father.
He has enabled us to share in the inheritance that belongs to His people,
who live in the light.
(from Colossians 1:11-12)

Amen.

 

*

Psalm Prayer:

Look down and have mercy on me.
Give strength to your servant.
(from Psalm 86:16)

*
More hope of new strength: 1 Chronicles 16:11; 2 Chronicles 16:9; Psalm 18; Psalm 22:19; Psalm 23:3; Psalm 28:7-8a; Psalm 29:11; Psalm 68:35; Psalm 73:26; Psalm 74:26; Psalm 84:5-7, 12; Psalm 86:16; Psalm 89:15-17; Psalm 105:4; Psalm 138:3; Psalm 139:9-10; Psalm 146:3-6; Isaiah 12:2; Isaiah 40:28-31; Isaiah 41:10-11; Daniel 11:32; Haggai 2:4; John 15:5; Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 1:8-9; 1 Corinthians 16:13; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 2 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 12:8-10; Ephesians 3:16, 17; Ephesians 6:10; Philippians 4:13; Colossians 1:11-12; Colossians 2:6-7; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17; 2 Thessalonians 3:3, 5; 2 Timothy 4:17; 1 Peter 4:10-11; 1 Peter 5:10

*

 

© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Finding New Strength: For His glory and mission

“Could it be that He gives us strength to lead not a life of comfort, but a life of risk and daring for His glory?” That’s a thought from the Everyday Servant, and I thank him for pushing us to think about this. (Click on name to see site.)

Too often, we can’t see beyond our own noses, and when we celebrate our hope of God providing us strength, we’re thinking only of our own benefit, of getting through our own hard times.

And He does provide strength, both for our everyday walk and for the fire and flood. We depend on that. That’s one way He cares for and protects His children.

But here’s more to think about today:

His strength in us works to achieve His purposes. If I belong to Him, then the purpose of all that I do and all that I am is now to point others toward His glory. That is why I am still here on earth. As He supplies everything I need, it is not only for my own journey, it is also to shine a light toward Home for others and to help them along the way.

Our very weakness can bring Him glory. I think of my friend with the terminal illness. She glows with God’s strength and peace. I think of another family who are writing their own book of Job. It seems they have been asked to bear much more than most of us. Yet they have an uncommon radiance and vitality in their faith. Paul wrote about it: God’s power shines through our weakness. When we are weak, then we are strong. When we are weak, then our strength points to our God, our rock.

He works through us. As I wrote yesterday, I believe we’re given strength and training in battle not only for ourselves but also to help others in their battles with the enemy. Peter wrote encouragement to use the gifts God has given to each of us “Use them well to serve one another … do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:10, 11).

He gives us strength to live out our call to His mission. Paul was thinking along the same lines when he wrote: “So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live…” (from 2 Thessalonians 1:11,12).

Back in the times of the Jewish exile in Babylon, some of the people had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the Temple. However, work lagged and eventually stopped as enemies opposed the project. Finally, God sent a message through a prophet: “Be strong and get to work, for I am with you.” (see Haggai 2:4)

Could God be saying that to me in some area of my life today?

Christ had very much the same words to His disciples as He sent them out on His mission: “Get going. Make more disciples. And I’ll always be with you.”

As sons and daughters of God, we’re now a part of Christ’s mission here on earth. “Could it be that He gives us strength to lead not a life of comfort, but a life of risk and daring for His glory?”

 

*

Psalm Prayer:

Look down and have mercy on me.
Give strength to your servant.
(from Psalm 86:16)

*

© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Finding New Strength: Armed and trained for battle

I have to admit that I like the picture. My foot on the neck of my enemies. Destroying all who hate me. Grinding them up as fine as dust and sweeping them into the gutter like dirt. I like it, even though I grew up in the Mennonite pacifist tradition. And even though today I am an even stronger believer in Jesus’ way of non-violence.

I like the picture, because as I read the verses in Psalm 18 describing this scene, I long for such victories over my spiritual enemies, those powers that hate me and are out to destroy my soul. I do want to see them ground up and blown away like dirt. I want my foot on their neck!

I want Psalm 18 to be a model for my own warfare.

The Psalm begins with wonderful, confident words:

I love you, Lord, you are my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
(Psalm 18:1,2)

But things weren’t always so good, as we find out by reading further. There were bad times, fearful times, desperate times:

The ropes of death entangled me; floods of destruction swept over me.
The grave wrapped its ropes around me;
death laid a trap in my path.
(verses 4,5) 

Sound familiar? I can recall similar feelings at a certain time of my life. Trapped by the enemy. Tangled in ropes of death. Not much hope.

But in my distress I called out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. (v. 6)

God heard, and came thundering from heaven to reach down and rescue “from those who hated me and were too strong for me.”

Christ rescued me from the clutches of those who hate my soul, from those too strong for me. He broke all those powers and offered me freedom from their slavery.

But wait… there’s more!

God arms me with strength, and he makes my way perfect.
He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights.
He trains my hands for battle;
he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow.

You have given me your shield of victory.
Your right hand supports me;
your help has made me great.
You have made a wide path for my feet to keep them from slipping.
(verses 32-36)

God is teaching us to fight this great battle, and He’s arming us with the strength to do it! The next verses create the picture of resounding victory over those enemies who at one time overwhelmed us, held us captive, and were intent on destroying us. Now we chase them down, grind them up like dust and blow them away!

Oh, yes, Father. That’s what I want for my own warfare. Christ has rescued me. Now I want more than rescue. I want to turn around and chase the enemy to defeat. I want to do battle with Your strength.

And I believe we’re given strength to fight not only for our own souls but also on behalf of others who are under attack from the same enemies we know. Each of us has become intimately familiar with particular strategies of the enemy — we can use that knowledge to help others in their battles.

Training for battle? God does that in many different ways, but always through the connection of the Spirit working in us. And, as a disciple of Jesus, I see Him giving us a powerful example — He often retreated to “a lonely place” to pray and be with His Father.

I need that time alone with my Father and Teacher. I need that time to keep my connection to the Source of all strength alive and powerful.

 

*

Psalm Prayer:

Look down and have mercy on me.
Give strength to your servant.
(from Psalm 86:16)

*

© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Finding New Strength: Deep roots go to the Source

There’s a follow-up to that verse from Ephesians 3 that speaks of God empowering us with His unlimited resources. Look at the result:

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him.
Your roots will grow down deep into God’s love
and keep you strong (Ephesians 3:17).

Notice that it is not that we stay strong. We are kept strong. That’s so reassuring to me. I know how quickly any strength I drum up on my own can seep away. I cannot create or sustain real strength on my own. It is His power once again, not mine.

Our strength comes, instead, from drawing on God’s strength. From sinking our roots deep into the love of Christ. From trusting Christ and allowing Him to come in and make Himself at home with us.

Remember King Asa, who raided the Temple treasury to pay for the help of another king? We too strip our own spiritual storehouse when we seek help and security elsewhere — we shut the door of our hearts to Christ and our roots stay shallow, never reaching deeply into God.

Hear Christ’s words to us:

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches.
Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.
For apart from me you can do nothing.”
(John 15:5)

To find power and strength to do anything, we must be connected to the Vine, or, as Paul wrote, sink our roots deep into God’s love and open our hearts for Christ to make His home there.

We have three different metaphors here, but they all say one thing: our lives must be deeply and intricately interwoven with Christ’s life and love.

Without this connection, we will shrivel up and be powerless.

Compare that warning to this confidence:

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).

Our strength depends on our relationship with the Source of strength. There’s a prophecy in the book of Daniel about a ruler who will bring great persecution upon God’s people. “But the people who know their God will be strong and will resist him.” (Daniel 11:32). The people who know their God will be strong… Deep roots. Connection to the Vine. Christ right at home in us.

We need to know our God!

And when God’s eyes search the earth for committed hearts to infuse with His strength, does He see mine?

 

*

Psalm Prayer:

Look down and have mercy on me.
Give strength to your servant.
(from Psalm 86:16)

*

© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Finding New Strength: living on unlimited resources

I’ve written about her before. I had not seen her for almost a year, but I’d heard that doctors had found a disease ravaging her body. She had been told there was no stopping the illness. It would take her life within a year, they said. But when we spent some time together one day, I thought she looked better than I’d ever seen her.

“When they told me what was wrong with me,” she said to me, “all I could think was, What am I going to do? What am I going to do? I knew I’d have to make all kinds of decisions, and I just didn’t know how I was going to go through this.

“So I just prayed and prayed and prayed. And one day — it was just as though someone was talking to me — God said everything would be all right. And I quit worrying.”

She went on to tell me about facing impossible mountains — and God had shrunk them to little piles of dirt in her path. I listened to her stories and thought that I was seeing a jar of clay, a very fragile jar of clay, who had the all-surpassing power of God shining through.

She was positively shining with strength and peace.

I pray that from his [the Father’s] glorious, unlimited resources
he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.
(from Ephesians 3:16).

Inner strength. That’s what I want. My fragile jar of clay has little to offer on its own, but I want to live beyond, living on His unlimited resources every day.

At the end of my rope, I don’t want to just tie a knot and hold on. I want to throw away the rope and lift up my arms to ask my Father to carry me.

When we feel overwhelmed by circumstances or schedule, His Spirit will help us.

When we are so weak and so unable to live the life Jesus wants us to live, He will live His life through us.

When we would rather hold on to bitterness than forgive,
when we are too selfish to live love,
when people are so annoying that we lose sight of how much God loves them,
when we’re tempted to think a situation is hopeless …
then we need the power of His resources.

I want to live beyond my capabilities and strength—living on His glorious, unlimited resources.

 

*

Psalm Prayer:

Look down and have mercy on me.
Give strength to your servant.
(from Psalm 86:16)

*

© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)