I Can Do It Myself

rosietheriveter

I felt the soapy dishwater drip from my fingers as his words cut into my heart.

“I don’t need you anymore.”

The cool November breeze floated through the open door as he turned and walked away.

Not need me anymore? How could he say that?  

I looked out the window watching those brown boots carry him across the yard.  My shoulders rose – then fell as a sigh escaped my lips.  I knew the day would come, but I didn’t know how much it would hurt.  It was just an innocent comment from my then four-year old son, but it stabbed my heart like a dagger.

“Mama! Mama!  I can swing by myself!  I don’t need you anymore!”  For this mother, it was one more sign that my job was changing every day; and this was a good change—he was showing independence, something we all work towards for our children.  Almost as soon as he could talk I heard, “Me do it! Me do it!”  He wanted to be his own (little) man.

Independence is a good thing; it’s a healthy goal as we raise our children.  But it’s not the goal of God for His children.  In fact, the opposite is true – God desires greater dependence, and less independence.  Unlike human parents, He measures our growth by how much we rely on Him.

Throughout Scripture we find man trying to run ahead of God, trying to establish his own autonomy, trying to distance himself from his creator.  Isn’t that the idea behind Satan’s lies in the Garden?  By promising Eve “wisdom and knowledge” he was telling her she could be independent from God; she could make up her own mind about what was good and evil and determine her own destiny.  She could get out from under God’s thumb.

The Bible shows the nation of Israel’s constant attempts to go their own way, make their own rules, and live by their own authority, and over and over we see them fail because God did not call them to independent greatness.  He called them to be His people, in a covenant relationship with Him where He provided and guided and they relied and followed.  When God led them out of Egypt and started for the Promised Land, He meant for them to trust and rely on Him.  But when they came to the edge and saw the size of the enemy they balked and determined to strike out on their own back to Egypt.  The result was hardship and death.  God called them into a covenant relationship that required their complete dependence, but they would not humble themselves before Him. They exemplified the heart of disobedience – prideful independence.  The last verse in Judges gives a chilling report:  “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 21:25).

The Christian faith is built on this same dependent relationship.  We depend on Christ for our salvation. We depend on the Holy Spirit for guidance and wisdom.  We depend on our Heavenly Father for our “daily bread,” for our future, for strength, and for eternal life.  We don’t “stand on our own two feet,” as believers we stand on the work and worth of Christ.  We stand on God’s faithfulness.  No, scratch that—we rest on the work and worth of Christ and the faithfulness of God, and that is what the people of Israel – and you and I – miss when we struggle to be independent of God—we miss His rest.  For those who give up their “right” to autonomy and depend on God there is rest.  Physical rest.  Emotional rest. Spiritual rest.  And isn’t that what we really want?

Perhaps you’ve heard the “verse,” “God helps those who help themselves.”   Friend, I’ve read the Bible from cover to cover many times over—trust me when I tell you, it ain’t in there.  From Genesis to Revelation I find no place where God chastised people for depending on Him too much, but I do find over and over that He rebuked them for trying to live independent of Him.  God wants—demands our reliance.  There’s no other way to live in relationship with Him.

It’s true that Scripture tells us to “grow up in the faith” (Ephesians 4:15), but the mark of maturity in Christ is greater dependence on Him.  Just as the branch relies on the vine for its nourishment and fruit, believers in Christ are to remain attached to our Life-source for our every need.

Let’s declare this our DEPENDENCE day in Christ.

Holy, gracious and wonderful God, it’s not that you want to rule over me: You want to love me, care for me, provide for me and guide me.  Lord help me to rely on You for every need in my life.  I’m so grateful that I can always depend on You.  Amen.

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Thinking about the Words of God

Bible-reading*Note: Because of a heavy school-load, I am reposting this devotional, with some updates.

“The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah” Psalm 46:11

Perhaps you’ve seen the odd little Hebrew word scattered throughout the Psalms – Selah – and wondered what it meant.  You may have even heard it as the name of a popular contemporary Christian group. It is believed to be a choral or musical notation and seems to indicate a dramatic pause in the music.  I discovered that this word translates the phrase “Pause and calmly think about that.” John Phillips says it can be rendered: ‘There! What do you think of that?’”[1] The word and these translations intrigued me, so I began hunting through the Scriptures for the occurrences of Selah.

Generally when we see Selah the writers are declaring God’s blessing, kindness, protection and deliverance on behalf of His people.  It is frequently used as the Psalmist reminds himself and the nation to trust in the Lord:

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.  Trust in Him at all time, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.  Selah” (Psalm 62:5-6, 8)

You will see Selah often in Psalms praising God for His great victories, power and might:

“O Lord, the king rejoices in your strength.  How great is his joy in the victories You give!  You have granted him the desire of his heart and have not withheld the request of his lips.  Selah” (Psalm 21:1-2).

It often became part of a cry to the Lord for help, comfort and mercy.

“Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.  From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint . . . I long to dwell in Your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. Selah” (Psalm 6:1-4 selected).

Imagine that you are part of the nation of Israel, and your enemies are surrounding the city.  You gather your children to your side and pray for strength and safety.  Then the prophet of the Lord stands high above the crowd and proclaims:

“Lord, we have heard of Your fame; we stand in awe of Your deeds, O Lord.  Renew them in our day.” You came out to deliver Your people; You crushed the leader of the [enemy]” (Habakkuk 3, selected).   Then he pronounces the Selah – “Pause and calmly think about that.”

For a frightened people, the reminder of God’s power and might on the nation’s behalf brings renewed courage and hope.  As you stop and calmly think about the prophet’s words you realize that God had been faithful before, and He will be faithful again.

Selah is such a beautiful and powerful reminder to us that the Bible – all of God’s Word – should be received with depth and thought.  God has filled the Bible with promises, assurances, hope, peace, redemption, joy, comfort – and yes, even chastisement and words of discipline; and they are all meant for us to read and ponder. There is nothing you will face in your life that is not spoken to in the Scriptures.  Perhaps we need to add a few Selahs of our own to the words we read.

To those who grieve: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Pause and think calmly about that.

To the prodigal who has wandered far from God: “His father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son,” (Luke 15:20). Pause and calmly think about that.

To the lonely: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Pause and calmly think about that.

When you are worn and weary: “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Pause and calmly think about that.

When the enemy is pressing in on you: “You are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head” (Psalm 3:3). To borrow from John Phillips: There! What do you think about that?

Every endearment, every promise, every warning, word of instruction or chastisement is meant to be examined and pondered and remembered.  God intends for you to take His words and think about them, commit them to memory and live by them.  Make them personal – put your name in the verses, let them speak to you and about you.  The Scriptures are more than a 5 minute devotional for the day, “they are your life” (Deuteronomy 32:47). How might it transform your heart and life if you came to God’s Word each day with the intent to pause and really think about what He is saying?

Jesus spoke “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).  He told His disciples, “Consider carefully what you hear” (Mark 4:24).    I think He was saying to them and us – Selah – pause and calmly think about that.”

Holy Father, You have said “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).  You have promised “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5). Jesus, You have vowed “I will come back and take you to be with me” (John 14:3).  Oh what sweet joy to pause and calmly think about that.  Amen.

[1] John Phillips, The John Phillips Commentary Series: Exploring Psalms, Volume One, An Expository Commentary, (Grand Rapids, Kregel, 2002) 14.