Central and Primary

David’s example challenges me.

Yesterday morning, I read a few chapters in 2 Samuel. In chapter 5, David sought the Lord before two different encounters with the Philistines. Each time, God answered and gave direction, though his guidance was different each time. David listened and found victory.

In chapter 6, as the ark of the covenant was brought into the city, David danced before the Lord, worshiping and celebrating. Though his wife criticized him, he defended his actions as being done for the Lord alone regardless of who may have witnessed him. The Lord appeared to justify David here.

In chapter 7, the Lord made magnificent promises to David. David, upon hearing the word of the Lord, responded in humility and reverence. He prayed confidently in light of the promises of God.

Throughout David’s life, we can detect a pattern of reverence and obedience. God was central and primary to David’s life, Lord over all of his ways. David sought the Lord before he went to war, refrained from acting against God’s anointed, and lived with a recognition that God ruled over all things.

Of course, David wasn’t always faithful. We see him tempted to take vengeance when wronged by Nabal (1 Samuel 25), though we see too the faithfulness of the Lord in that story. Later, we see David fall to a host of sins, with devastating consequences (2 Samuel 11-12). Yet in spite of the depth of David’s sins, he consistently returned to the Lord, understanding that, “Against you, you only, have I sinned” (Psalm 51:4). Even when he strayed, David eventually returned to a place of surrender.

The stories of David’s sins are instructive in that they illuminate how our own sins often work. If David’s strength was his commitment to keep the Lord central and primary in his own life, his weakness was his tendency to let something else take that central and primary place. So too with us. We err when we place anything else as first in our affections. Leisure, pleasure, comfort—each have their proper place in our lives. When we elevate them above their rightful places, however, shifting our hope from the Giver to his gifts, we move our entire trajectory from the pursuit of the Lord to the pursuit of self.

But David’s heart for the Lord is a worthy example for us. Let us be people who hold the Lord higher than anything else, who keep him as central and primary in our lives. Let us be people who seek him first, love him first, and order our lives around him. Let us be people who see God as God and who respond accordingly.


Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

Confession

Confession: I wish you would do my will,
For I would rather not surrender all.
I would prefer more say in what you call
Me to within your kingdom. Only kill
Those parts of me with which I wish to part.
Pick from the list I curate, then begin
To excise only my unwanted sin,
But leave the rest lest you disturb my heart.

O weak desire, false freedom, foolish dream.
Such service would be fiction, for the throne
Would be yours in name only. Lord, remove
Me from my central focus and redeem
All places where my heart is still like stone.
In grace and mercy, pardon and reprove.


Photo by Kristaps Ungurs on Unsplash

Healing

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I have watched this wound heal for a week or so.
Day to day, I do not detect
movement of skin,
change of shape,
decrease of pain.
Then one day, I do.
The gap is less wide, the depth less deep.
All around,
dead skin darkens,
new skin appears.
It is not finished. It is still sore.
I wanted the process to be faster.
Nevertheless, the process is working.
Healing is occurring.
He is mending,
slowly
but surely.
Perhaps the same is true of my heart.


Photo by lee Scott on Unsplash

Wants

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We want but are not satisfied in gain,
And so we gain new wants to add to old.
This futile journey is an old refrain
Of wants too weak to trust the Story told.
“Our hearts are restless till they rest in thee,”
The saint once wrote, and still his words resound.
They ring from Africa across the sea,
True both on foreign and familiar ground.
For we were wrought to reckon with our ends,
To know the purpose t’ward which passion points:
Temp’ral desires call for that which transcends;
What leads to life divides marrow and joints.
O LORD, align our wanting with your will,
And turn our hearts to you and so fulfill.


Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

The quoted line above refers to a line from Augustine’s Confessions.

Lean Not On Your Own Understanding

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Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
Proverbs 3:5-7

Have you ever tried to stop leaning on your own understanding? It isn’t like avoiding other temptations. In many situations, you can avoid giving into temptation by avoiding the object upon which your temptation fixates. When tempted to overeat, you can set limits for yourself and avoid keeping food nearby. When tempted to look at things you know you shouldn’t look at online, you can set up content filters on your devices. But how do you avoid leaning on your own understanding when you can’t avoid your mind or heart?

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All Things Work for the Good, You Say

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All things work for the good, you say.
I do not doubt the truth.
But shall I see the good one day,
Ever detect your better way
When circumstances ever lay
Before my doubtful heart a “may”
Which shakes the faith of youth
With fears I shudder to convey?

My mind is prone to wonder, though
I know you to be wise.
When progress on the road is slow,
When seasons threaten me with snow
Or desert heat, when all is woe –
God, how much further must I go?
My limits are my eyes.
I cannot see how I must grow.

Yet none can know your mind. You see
Past ev’ry fear I face.
So when I lose perspective, be
The peace amidst confusion, he
Whose presence makes the raging sea
A place of rest: tranquility
Of soul because of grace,
Enduring to eternity.


Photo by Dimitar Donovski on Unsplash

Thanks to Montray for helping me title this poem.

Bitterness

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Bitterness inhabits me,
Burns within these weary bones,
Breaks the heart’s song, shifts the key —
Melodies to monotones.

Feelings fixate on frustrations,
Fast forgetting joy and peace.
Anger turns to accusations
As emotions seek release.

Father, temper this, my temper,
Tossed midst waves of woes and whims.
Devastate my vile distemper.
Heal my heart through holy hymns.

Christ has borne more suffering,
Bears me up in all I face.
Make of me an offering.
Let me ever sing of grace.


Photo by Alina Chupakhina on Unsplash