Friday, December 15, 2017

Delightfully Delirious

Sounds like an ice cream flavor or the name of a rock band. I suspect it is not a feeling that you have had recently. But this is how the Lord feels about you. “The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).  This prophetic thought comes at a time of Assyrian conquests with Nineveh as capitol. The Israelites feared them, but God’s love for His chosen people and the return of Jerusalem to peace and prosperity was coming. A new day was coming. The book tells us that if we seek the Lord with righteousness and humility our future is good.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). What a wonderful promise. Yet it is a conditional promise based on our delighting in the Lord. It also is saying that if you delight yourself in what the Lord delights, that you will receive it. In other words, live in and obey God’s will and He will give you whatever you desire. Now that is delightful. For me this has been a concept or principle that I have come to later in life. I particularly recall how God has worked in my life at a time of great darkness and hardship when I pastored a church. I have written about being the only pastor standing after a church implosion and removal of the three other pastors over conflict. I am not saying that I was the holy one, but God allowed me to stay, even though I was in for great trials. Trying to hold together a fractured church brought great stress and darkness. Much of the angst and anger of many members fell on me, the lightening rod. Depression fell on me and took me very deep. The staff was not understanding and in fact quite the opposite, even blaming me for the failures of the church. The trial took me to a place of despair, even of considering suicide. But on Pentecost morning, the Holy Spirit came down “like a dove” and landed on me bringing complete and utter physical and spiritual healing. The exalted moment brought great warmth and power surging through me, leaving me soaking wet and feeling deliriously delightful. I stood in the sanctuary dripping and joyful, knowing that God had reached down and touched me like the woman with the issue of blood or the blind men so they could see. It was because I had waited on the Lord, and praised Him in the trial. I had been obedient and stayed under it until He released me with His power. I was deliriously delighted.

The Psalms do talk about what the Lord delights in, “You do not delight in sacrifice or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart.” (Psalm 51:19). This psalm is written by David praying in humility and brokenness for forgiveness and cleansing of Him and his people in sin. It is a penitential hymn often used by Christians to speak of how Christ was broken for us that we might be forgiven. God wants us to seek Him. “Your statutes are my delight…for there I find delight” (Psalms 119:24,35). Psalm 149:4 says “For the Lord takes delight in His people; He crowns the humble with salvation.”   Proverbs 8 personifies “wisdom” saying, “I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in His presence, rejoicing in His whole world and delighting in mankind” (Proverbs 8:31).

Throughout the Bible are verses of delight. In the “Love Chapter” as 1 Corinthians 13 has become know, “Love does not delight in evil.” Paul goes on in his second letter to the Corinthians to saying, “That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10). This is one of the great paradoxes of the Christians faith, that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. For He delights in our weakness, which also means meekness here, saying that we know that we need the Lord. “He rescued me because He delighted in me” (Psalm 18:19).

As we grow in faith and love of God we should come to know “How priceless is your unfailing love! for you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life, in your light we see light” (Psalm 36:7,8-9).  These verses remind me of drinking from mountain streams and springs after a long hike upward on a sun-scorched day. It was such a time in the Montana summer sun that the three of us hike down a canyon to the Hound Creek to fly-fish for brown trout. I was with a dear family friend who had introduced us to Montana fly-fishing. He was already in his 80s, yet still strong like his favorite Bible character, Caleb. We descended about 600 vertical feet to the valley floor along rocky crags full of thirsty rattlesnakes. We had not brought water, so we became parched quickly. The temperatures soared into the low 100s. We caught fish in abundance, but needed to dive in to quench our dripping bodies. The trip back up became arduous. Our octogenarian friend led the way like a trusted mule going back up the canyon. We rued our decision not bring water. Soaking wet and straining we reached the top of the cliffs back to the ranch above. There we found the hose out. We showered and drank ourselves silly. The cold spring water made us delightfully delirious.

The lights were coming at me like a giant 18-wheeler. No sound just lights high and low, dozens of them. I was on my bike in the pre-dawn darkness, so I was anxious about getting out of the way. As they came along side me I realized that it was a peloton of bicyclers on a morning ride. Each greeted me in turn, “Good Morning” until the last who bellowed out in a powerful voice, “Good Day.” There was something deliriously happy about the bunch of guys whose chattering voices disappeared into the night behind me. Now that is delightfully delirious.

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