Monday, April 6, 2009


After reading a third of the book of Judges in a single sitting, I'm struck by how far and fast God's people went astray without tangible leadership. Judges describes the bizarre roller coaster ride of Israel's unfaithfulness and oppression (the low points), as well as their renewed faithfulness and deliverance (the high points), with no middle ground in between. Rather than following God steadily from day to day, God's people went whizzing along either completely off-course and out of control, or riding the rails to the heights of victory and freedom behind their judges. They seemed helpless in spite of their good intentions, strapped in for a bumpy ride.

It is a lot like that with me. I take roller coaster rides between oppression and deliverance, either on course and willing to honor Christ in every detail, or way off (off track, off my rocker, "off" like something left in the 'fridge too long). When I spend time in God's word from day to day, it is a lot easier for me to stay on course, but when I get out of the habit of reading the Bible, I can quickly get off course. God's word provides me tangible direction, and I pray the Lord will use his word in your daily life as well, to guide your prayers, your conversation, and your thinking. May he use it to enable you to withstand the distractions that try to take your focus off Jesus.

The word is unique when it comes to keeping us on track. Look at our armor, described in Ephesians 6:11-18. Every piece except one is an abstract concept (truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, salvation). There is only one piece of our spiritual armor which is tangible. We can hold it in our hands and view it in printed form. The Bible is also unique in its use. Each piece of armor save one we use for our spiritual defense: belt, breastplate, boots, shield, and helmet are all to keep us safe, but the sword -- now that's different! With the sword you reach out and advance forward, claiming ground. I pray you will continue to pick up your sword, and practice wielding it even if it feels heavy and awkward at times.

God's word IS heavy and awkward at times, especially the current Old Testament readings, like Judges, which describe things like tent pegs struck through temples (Judges 4:21), wars waged with trumpets and torches (Judges 7:20-21 -- think about it. With a jar trumpet in one hand and a torch in the other, in what hand did the soldiers hold their weapons? Yet the enemy ran for their lives!), and a father's sorry oath before God which resulted in human sacrifice (Judges 11:35). It is almost too much to process. It might seem preferable to choose some intermediary (a teacher, preacher, writer, or mentor) to stand between you and the word of God. It might seem safer to have somebody tell you what the Bible means, to insulate you from the hard facts and harsh realities contained in scripture -- yet I hope the Spirit will call you to keep reading!

May the Lord bring his word alive to you, and use it to speak to your heart. God promises his word is living, active, and sharper than a two-edged sword (that wonderful weapon analogy again). Learning to use a sword is an awesome undertaking, one that calls for practice and patience. To use it responsibly, we often turn that sharp point inward to cut away falsehood and hypocritical thinking. It takes a lot of guts to pick up the sword and point it at the enemy of our souls, to swing it and cut down the devil's lies. It takes precise control to use the sword with authority, praying the truth of scripture in intercession on behalf of others and not in judgment or condemnation. May God continue to bless you and keep you on track in your training from day to day.

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