This is a year I seek to heal and fortify. A beginning of sorts.
Heal me of any wounds received
in the great conflict;
if I have gathered defilement,
if my faith has suffered damage,
if my hope is less than bright,
if my love is not fervent,
if some creature-comfort occupies my heart,
if my soul sinks under pressure of the fight.
The Servant in Battle, The Valley of Vision
This prayer from the Puritans has so many lines that beckon my heart. “[I]f my hope is less than bright” and “if my soul sinks under pressure of the fight” vibrate strongly. A week ago I deleted a large portion of a post because of the one who reads and mocks my every word. My pastor gave me a term for that lapse: self-preservation. My words, the words that I deleted, were not for him. Christian, you will come under pressure from the fight against Satan— a “vanquished foe” who “has already been overcome”. That pressure will at times crush you to the dust. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, for whom my first-born son gets his middle name: “My dear friend, when grief presses you to the dust, worship there!”
While last year was dark, I wrote Psalm after Psalm into my heart. I found myself working in my shop on a mandolin in the Fall time and again belting out Psalm 144: “Oh, blessed be the LORD my strength, who trains my hands for war”. The dust became the place that I worshipped hardest. And the campfires. Don’t get me started about campfire worship. The way fire illuminates the darkest night, pushes back the whispers and the shadows, and warms the weary soul.
Christian, sometimes your hope will be less than bright, tarnished by the wretchedness of our world. Cling close. Sometimes your faith will be damaged. That’s okay. Cling close. The Sovereign has you.
O thou whose every promise is balm,
every touch life,
draw near to thy weary warrior,
refresh me, that I may rise again
to wage the strife,
and never tire until my enemy is trodden down.
His promises are balm to our open wounds. The Prosperity Gospel is a lie. Life is hard here. The enemy fights fervently and dirty. You will be wounded in this battle. Sometimes it is your heart. You wish it could harden like your enemies so it didn’t hurt so bad. Sometimes it’s your peace, as war drags on and drags you down. You wish you could be unrestrained in the way your enemy is, even for one day, to level the playing field, while forgetting that God has already won and the snake is just in the throws of death. God’s promises are balm. His touch life. Draw near and be refreshed.
This year my hope will be brighten, by love rage fervently, and my soul push back against the pressure. May I rise again to wage the strife, and never tire until my enemy is trodden down.
I bless thee that the issue of the battle
between thyself and Satan
has never been uncertain,
and will end in victory.
Calvary broke the dragon’s head,
and I contend with a vanquished foe,
who with all his subtlety and strength
has already been overcome.
When I feel the serpent at my heel
may I remember him whose heel was bruised,
but who, when bruised, broke the devil’s head.
The Servant in Battle, The Valley of Vision
I am trying something new this month. I left for church yesterday without my phone. I got the new Apple Watch Ultra last January, which has cellular, so I wasn’t out of contact, but no Facebook, Twitter, Safari, RSS, and other distractions. And… I brought paper: My Spurgeon and the Psalms book, an ESV bible, a Moleskine notebook, and a really nice new mechanical pencil.
It was refreshing to not have the pull of that screen around for half a day. And I took three pages of sermon notes.
2022 and 2023 were heavy. Last year the faith of my family lead to threats of death against me, threats against my children, threats against my job, and threats against my reputation. My family has stood steadfast in our faith and the attacks have gotten worse.
I have taken a beating. Many beatings.
But to my attackers, I say: I know the One who wins. And it’s not even close.
Calvary broke the dragon’s head and I contend with a vanquished foe. When the snakes snap at my heel, I remind myself of the Lord Jesus who broke the devil’s head.
My mission is simple: share the Gospel. In the words of Andy Mineo:
They try to shut us down, and it ain’t gon’ slide
Only thing I fear is God and he on my side
That’s the confidence of God, ‘cause he got me
That’s why I really feel like
YOU CAN’T STOP ME