Tower of Strength

Proverbs 18:10 (ESV) says, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” Psalms 61:3 says, “For You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.” The photo shows the top of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse in Corolla, NC. To me it is a symbol of security and protection. A symbol that reminds me of my need in troubled waters for genuine defense and guidance…

I compare running away from God’s Truth to opposing the true Tower of Strength, the True Lighthouse. Like many, I default to the “quick fixes” to meet the challenges of life, yet as I’m running away from Jesus the True Tower, I’m really portraying a compulsion to delusion. I spend way too much head space and time relying upon things that cannot possibly promise refuge, safety, defense, or guidance.

One of my favorite reliances is upon my car – a symbol of freedom and mobility… Well, until the car doesn’t work or I am injured and can’t even get in or out of the car. Almost the worst thing is not being able to move or go anywhere (so I think). Although the gift of mobility should never be taken for granted, it is not the worst thing. The very worst thing of all is turning away from Jesus Christ’s Lordship over my life when He is the only Provider of true freedom that can be found anywhere; He is the only Tower of Strength.

Another thought from my box of “tower-of-weakness ideas.” I’d like to think that Vitamin D will protect me from viruses like Covid. The vitamin certainly bolsters the immune system, but it is definitely not the critical Tower of Strength I need for the ultimate defense of my life, both physical and eternal. “Silver bullets” that are able to eradicate what is fallen in Creation simply don’t exist… So, why do I try to think so?

My personal “go-to’s” among my “tower-of-weakness ideas” are my own abilities to get work done and achieve a comfortable life, using my own intellect to keep my environment ordered, or using an array of “mother’s-little-helpers” to cope with the stresses of life. I can be pretty sure that I am fully deluded when I rely upon these so-called resources. Having lost complete sight of the True Tower Jesus Christ, I must learn to recognize the competition for my heart and mind that is really going on. The next coffee fix, the next new fad vitamin, the next sugar fix, the next relationship, the next exercise regimen, the next purchase… These are not saviors.

In the collection of prayers from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, in the chapter on “Reliance,” there’s a quote I love that goes like this, “but teach me that I cannot satisfy thy law, that this effort [my fill-in-the-blank: to fulfill my image of good wife, good mother, good daughter, good friend] is a resting in my righteousness, that only Christ’s righteousness, ready made, already finished, is fit for that purpose…”

I must begin again and ask what I am trusting? Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” The competition is always present. Yet the truth is also near, that Jesus Christ is the sufficient Tower of Strength. That He is my best thought, never an afterthought. God’s plan to make us fruitful, mature us, and transforms us happens daily in the context of relationship with Him rather than any of the extraneous things we try to rely upon. Our ever deepening relationship with Jesus Christ and increasing knowing of Him as our true Tower – these form the basis of real defense, guidance, safety, security, and freedom. Backburner faith that makes self-reliance a mixture of occasional reliance on Him for forgiveness and intermittent prayers for sick and hurting friends and family, is simply ineffectual faith.

2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient…” In the constant tug of war in life, the battle for lordship continues on. Whenever I look to the next thing to fulfill some need, I must learn to stop and realize that Jesus is the supreme and sufficient One, and then turn my attention, my devotion, my invitation to Him – my Strong Tower, my defense, my safety, my guide, my security, my protection. The true Savior.

Many Are The Wonders

When I look out of my front window of 35 years, at my favorite time of the year (around Thanksgiving), when color is still on the trees, I think of Psalm 40:5 – “Many, Lord my God, are the wonders You have done, the things You planned for us. None can compare with You; were I to speak and tell of Your deeds, they would be too many to declare.”

All in God’s plan. This piece of property, hidden in the depths of a wooded community. The manner in which this location for our family was revealed to my husband many years ago. The way our family became completed in this spot. The refuge it has been while keeping us near to work and school and church commitments.

Many are the wonders! Quirky flamingo ornamentations. Prolific wildlife of the good, bad, and ugly variations. Plenty of shade and privacy. Even a creek view in the winter. And yes, technically it is a swamp somehow survived by past generations I guess without bug repellent, chain saws, and severe allergies (but how? is the question). Still, it is our peaceful place, swamp or not. Home.

Nothing can compare to God’s grace in this homeplace. There are too many stories to tell which would declare God’s mercy here. Three children and six grandchildren later, we marvel at our heritage of faith and unconcealed love for God, but acknowledge that His work is never finished, even after 35 years.

As older means wiser, we more often count our blessings, knowing it started with a Savior born in a stable and a Lord Who would wrestle us all down and teach us humility, a thing He had planned for us in this wonderful place. Many, Lord my God, are the wonder You have done…

Later in Psalm 40, verse 10 says, “I do not hide Your righteousness in my heart; I speak of Your faithfulness and Your saving help. I do not conceal Your love and Your faithfulness from the great assembly.” Not unexpectedly, our faith has been challenged, tested and measured in 35 years. We are a household of admitted control freaks, authority haters, easily given to stress and perfectionism, short on patience, and big on independence. But God has been faithful to take His gracious sandpaper and file us down. Of course, there are scars… His work continues…

Still, when I look out of my front window of 35 years, the sunrise of God’s love and faithfulness, new every morning, is blinding and pure. And, of course the beauty of this place is a physical wonder because the chief landscaper is meticulous (and it is not me). However, the spiritual wonder is like the Christmas tree lights! They sparkle, they cast away the darkness, and they whisper miracles. Many are the wonders!

I am grateful that Christmas becomes the pathway to Easter in my heart, now and forever. It starts with a Savior born in a stable and ends with the Lord Himself Who gave us the gift of faith and life, and even specifically placed us in this certain location, in this certain home, with these certain family members, for such a time as this. Many are the wonders!

To Be Human

Romans 8:29 says, “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” He made the ultimate way for us to be restored humans – to end our spiritual poverty, to be remade in God’s original design, to be free from the power of sin and degradation and decay. That Jesus took on our humanity and still maintains his “fully Godness and fully humanness,” is our eternal Hope. He didn’t provide salvation so we could simply escape hell. He provided it so that our humanity might be preserved according to what the Creator-Designer God fully intended His humans to be. Preserved for eternity, preserved for a new heaven and new earth, preserved for life with Him.

A book that recently challenged my thinking about Jesus and His humanity is called GENTLE AND LOWLY by Dane Ortlund. I needed this book to remind me that, to this day, Jesus Christ is still fully God and fully human, both before and after His Ascension…

As God’s Creation, humanity has uniqueness in purpose. To be human was and still is to love the Father, Master, Savior and Lord. Any exception to that Truth reveals a loss of our humanity. We were created to live in relationship, fellowship, and communion with God, just like Jesus does. In the Garden of Eden, humanity was devastated by corruption. And because of that, Jesus entered our world through the Incarnation to rehumanize us as we were truly meant to be and to replace that which was stolen by sin and death.

In the Beatitudes (Matthew 5), the first mention of blessedness goes to those who are “poor in spirit” or those who recognize their spiritual poverty and recognize their need for a Savior. That Truth opens our awareness to what being fully human means – that being our dependency on and accountability to God our Creator.

By God’s grace, Jesus came to rehumanize me and you by humanizing Himself in obedience to God the Father. He came to reveal my sinful heart, and to offer a 180-degree course correction. If I will only live by faith in Him, I will be made new. Jesus will release me from the sin problem that defeats my human flourishing. He’ll remove the deceptions that take away my true humanity, the things that degrade my status as God’s child, the things that undermine His good purposes in my life.

Although important, the matter of our faith in Jesus Christ is not all about what happens after we die. Faith is also about what happens while we live in the world as recipients of Christ’s purpose to restore in us human flourishing according to God’s design. His Holy Spirit works to sanctify us, to prepare us, to recreate us, to make us new. We are “made-new” humans, who will die (yes), but not be swallowed up by death. We will live in eternity with Him in the full reality of being humans saved by His grace. In my restored humanity, I am able to identify and reject lies, I am able to combat the assaults of worldly culture, I am able to flourish in Christ.

Truth is a Person, not a dogma, not a code for living, not a set of laws. Jesus is the rehumanizing resurrected Savior, the firstborn from among the dead. Colossians 1:18 says, “And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy.” Revelation 1:5-6 says, “And from Jesus Christ, Who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him Who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priest to serve His God and Father – to Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.”