Wednesday, January 19, 2011

When arrows stick fast, remember that you're still a bird, not a fish

For over two years now, I have been doing a new devotional routine called "SOAP" that my Pastor, Rick Fiechter, taught me from his experience with Pastor Wayne Cordeiro of New Hope Church in Oahu, HI. It seems such a simple process, and maybe even part of what many of you go through every day in your own devotional reading, without the formal name. But I have really benefited from the structural reminder.

The idea is like how the acronym ACTS helps us for prayer, reminding us that a prayer life according to God's will should never lack Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.

SOAP stands for Scripture, Observation, Application and Prayer, reminding me each day that along with my reading of Scripture, I should pay careful attention to details of the true, grammatical meaning and its implications for the historical circumstance, I should listen to God for application to my own life.

Because I believe God is always here with me and really experiences my devotional life together with me, I further believe he is able to speak to me through his Word and use it to help me discern the thoughts and intents of my own heart against the backdrop of his perfect will for me in current and future circumstances.

Prayer is a reminder that I have responsibility for what he reveals to me, because he is there with me. It's my turn to acknowledge what he has said and commit before him to perform all his will, according to his grace at work within me.

I write these down, and it becomes a record of my walk of faith to which I may refer.

Sometimes my SOAP for the day is short. Other times, it's extremely long. It's always what I need for the day. Today's was long because I could strongly sense God had something specific to say to me that would be beneficial to some friends undergoing a trial.

S: In the LORD I take refuge;
how can you say to my soul,
“Flee like a bird to your mountain,
for behold, the wicked bend the bow;
they have fitted their arrow to the string
to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;
if the foundations are destroyed,
what can the righteous do?”

The LORD is in his holy temple;
the LORD's throne is in heaven;
his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
The LORD tests the righteous,
but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
(Psalm 11:1-5 ESV)

O: The "testing" of the LORD is as it is translated, examination, trial, scrutiny, proving-gound, while the "temptation" is more in the category of despairing, assailing. Genesis 50:20 gives some insight into how it is meant by both God and Satan - the same temptation that Satan means for evil, God means for good. So the righteous person is like a bird fleeing to the mountain sanctuary, but the wicked shoot arrows. God's aim in allowing this process is to examine the righteous; Satan's to overcome them and cause despair.

A: That picture stood out clearly to me today. It reminds me of another Psalm:

O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath!
For your arrows have sunk into me,
and your hand has come down on me.

There is no soundness in my flesh
because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
because of my sin.
For my iniquities have gone over my head;
like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.

My wounds stink and fester
because of my foolishness,
I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
all the day I go about mourning.
For my sides are filled with burning,
and there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am feeble and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart.

O Lord, all my longing is before you;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart throbs; my strength fails me,
and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague,
and my nearest kin stand far off.
(Psalm 38:1-11 ESV)

The arrows, in this case, (whether seen as God's, whose purpose is trying, or satan's, whose purpose is despairing), have found their mark, and sunk into the righteous man, for he has fallen to temptation... BUT HE IS STILL A BIRD! It does not change what he is in God's eyes, though he feels the festering wounds and the fever-sickness, the heavy burden of sin, like rottenness in his bones, though he feels as if he's drowning in deep water, he isn't a fish—for then this deep water would seem normal—he's a bird designed and destined to soar! Job's case reminds us that friends, falling prey to temptation of their own, often become part of the temptation as they draw back or criticize. "Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?" (James 4:11-12 ESV) The moment we draw back and judge, we're taking ourselves out of the ranks of the responsible and trying to be objective, to judge others. My calling is to declare God's righteousness and our inability to live up to it in our own strength. Not to detract from the slightest of his requirements (Matthew 5:19) but to remind the one falling to temptation that his lawgiver and his judge (Isaiah 33:22, 2 Timothy 4:1) is also his advocate (1 John 2:1), and that the wounds and panic and despair and burden can do nothing to make a bird into a fish.

P: Lord Jesus, my Lawgiver, my Judge, my Advocate—be my strength, my comfort, my shield and my blessed hope. Will you comfort the weary and fallen, convict those who are tempted to draw back, and in all things use our circumstances to conform us to your holy image? This is the faith in which I walk, that your righteous purpose for which you created me, will be fulfilled in me, because nothing in all creation, not death, life, angels, principalities, powers, things in the present or things yet to come; not height, depth or any created thing is able to separate me from your love, expressed most perfectly in that you laid down your life for me and commanded me to do the same for my brothers and sisters.

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