"I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord,
the praises of the Lord,
according to all that the Lord has granted us,
and the great goodness to the house of Israel
that he has granted them according to his compassion,
according to the abundance of his steadfast love."
"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
It is amazing that God should ever choose to bless me or have anything to do with me because of my sinfulness. Of course, it is all because of his grace and Christ's righteousness that he does. I am utterly thankful for the Cross. Without it, times like these would be unbearable when evidences of remaining flesh abound, were it not for the saving blood that I can rest secure in. How undeserving am I!!! That the Lord should bless so richly, that he would grant me my dreams, and even more than I could have asked for, despite my sinfulness and the times I have turned from him - it is amazing. To think that he delights over me with singing...I who have failed him and wounded him...I whose sin held him to the cross! The Lord has been so good to me! I have no room whatsoever to complain about the small things that do not go my way, because I have so much that I am completely undeserving of.
If it were biblical to hate myself I might do so now. Instead, I am despising my sin and grieving over its effect upon others. Specifically, its effect upon a particular friend of mine (I hope you will forgive me) who I feel like I have let down and whose trust I have perhaps betrayed.
Oh my. My heart is very sad this evening.
Eyes Upon the Goal
You know that feeling when one person after another keeps saying the same thing to you, and you realize God is trying to get a point across? I am thankful that God uses others to help us keep our perspectives in line. I have been several times reminded this week to remember the goal and hope that makes my present struggles worthwhile. As Jesus did, to focus on the joy set before me. "It's worth it," others say, "remember the wonderful end, consider the blessed goal!" How nice that this does have an eventual end! <whew> And if we seek to honor the Lord he will bless our efforts. Reminds me of Psalm 126 (a special one to me) when it says "Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him." I guess the key is to go out with the seed and to sow it, not just walk around moping.
About a year ago I memorized the following passage from Hebrews. I think I should try to relearn it (the switch from NIV to ESV messed me up) because it continues to be so relevant...
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
'My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.'
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed."
Be Still, My Soul
This is a song that Ginny Owens sings on her newest CD. Both the song and that CD have become top favorites of mine. Today is one of those days I could let it play on repeat for long time...
Be Still, My Soul
Be still, my soul, the Lord is on your side
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain
Leave to your God to order and provide
In every change he faithful will remain
Be still, my soul, your best, your heavenly friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end
Be still, my soul, your God will undertake
To guide the future as he has the past
Your hope, your confidence, let nothing shake
All now mysterious shall be bright at last
Be still, my soul, the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while he lived below
Be still, my soul
Be still, my soul
Today has turned out to be quite a suspensful day, as I guessed would be the case. Lord-willing tomorrow some answers will be revealed. I know that God has heard the prayers I offered today and I know that our lives are in his hands. In one of the books I read this morning the Lord gave me a wonderful poem that has blessed me...
I am so glad! It is such rest to know
That Thou hast ordered and appointed all,
And wilt yet order and appoint my lot.
For though so much I cannot understand,
And would not choose, has been, and yet may be,
Thou choosest, Thou performest, Thou, my Lord.
This is enough for me.
- Fraces Ridley Havergal
I know that God has ordered and will order everthing. It is definetly true that much I have not understood and would not have chosen and some that is still to come I probably would not choose either. Yet God chooses, he brings all to pass, and this is my assurance and peace. "My times are in thy hand." (Ps 31:15) My faith rests in the promise that "Every purpose of the Lord shall be performed." (Jer 51:29) This is enough for me.
A Song of Joy
A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
It seems almost pointless to say anything more after that Psalm so well expresses my heart! My soul longs for the Lord yet more as I glimpse his power and glory...his love is so precious to me, causing me to sing praise unto him. Oh that I may bless his name forever and always be satisfied in him, for he alone completly quenches my thirst in the deserts of life. As I meditate upon him, clinging to him beneath his sovereign wings, he has been my help and given me a song of joy.
Unrelated random comment of the day: "Among all these were 700 chosen men who were left-handed; every one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss." (Judges 20:16) Being left-handed sounds pretty special!
Women have it hard.
I just looked at the last time I added an entry, and was surprised that it was four days ago. Seems like I just wrote it! I have been very busy the past two weeks, both at work, home, and church. Those three are all connected and innertwined, in reality. Isaiah 41 has been the chapter of continued meditation for me these past few days, and the Lord has been faithful to supply his grace.
I feel like I am so much in the dark, however. Sometimes I know that the Lord speaks to me clearly, yet at the same time I remain thouroughly puzzled. In the end, I believe my response is to have faith for what may be while trusting the Lord in the midst of what might not. (Vague enough? ) It is hard to be a woman! Men get to have their plans and they purpose towards their goals, but a woman must rest in darkness forever waiting on the men in their lives (fathers, husbands, suitors, etc) for who knows how long and for who knows what! Now of course, this is where the men step up and start to whine about the responsibility and pressure that they have to bear by being the bold leaders. () I am sure it is hard - I do not doubt that at all. But right now I think being a woman is harder.
*ducks flying pillows*
Today I sat down at my computer and opened up my Bible software concordance. As I tried to sort through my present state the most fitting word that occured to me to search for was "help." So I did, and the first verse to pop up was Eve speaking in Genesis 4:1. She said, "I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord." LOL!!!!! I don't know if you find that as funny as I did, but it totally cracked me up. I can't help giggling again as I think about it. (BTW, the context of Eve saying that was a little different. ) So I decided to keep looking down the list, and the next verse to catch my attention was Duet 28:29. I Perhaps this was God's word to me:
And you shall grope at noonday, as the blind grope in darkness, and you shall not prosper in your ways. And you shall be only oppressed and robbed continually, and there shall be no one to help you.
Hah! Only kidding. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Seriously, I think God's verse for me is one that is already a familiar passage from Isaiah 41:
Fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
I know God is with me, and I know he will help me. Sometimes I feel too weak and weary to persevere under circumstances, but God is with me and will help me. Becuase I know that he will uphold me I can have confidence in his strength. On my own, there is no doubt to me that I would crumble. But with God to uphold me and God to help me - why should I fear or be dismayed?! There is no one who is stronger to conquer my weakness!
Our Limited Vision, Continued
(breifly restating...) I believe we try to put God in a box over and over by creating human standards and ideals that are not God's own. It is as though all areas in life must fit into tiny little boxes that we have carefully constructed, in every little detail, and you had better fit into that human-crafted box or else you will recieve serious condemnation. I have decided not to use a specific example to illistrate but rather, look at this passage from Colossians 2 where Paul is addressing the Colossains regarding human regulations that some were imposing upon them in the name of wisdom:
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ...
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" (referring to things that all perish as they are used) according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
In Paul's day, the issues were over permissable food, holidays, the like. Some of the issues are different today, but the principle remains the same. The way to please God and holiness is not by following these human precepts and teachings, even when they are insisted upon in the name of religion or wisdom. Rather, as Paul goes on to say in chapter 3, we are to,
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Are you looking to human precepts as your guide rather than to God's precepts? Or, are you judging others for not following your own set of regulations that go beyond what is commanded in the Bible? Instead, look at the fruit of their lives to see if the trademark of love binds all that they do, and if everything is done in the name of the Lord. And let us be careful to live in peace with everyone, and not to cause others to stumble by our freedom,
However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. (1 Cor. 8:7-13)
Our Limited Vision
Time for another rant. This time, the topic of human knowledge. I have a hard time discerning where human knowledge stops and biblical wisdom begins, and how to tell the difference. I do know that I almost constantly hear people speaking with their limited perceptions of what they see without taking into account God's power and that hope and faith are in the unseen. They say things are set down as near fact that have not yet happened and God has not spoken concerning, simply because they appear probable.
Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit" yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that."
But I think most of us understand that. What seems much more common, is to limit God in the events of tomorrow. By this I mean, that we say something won't happen because it seems unlikely to us, ignoring how frequently God chooses to move in "unlikely" ways. So often I have slipped into this mistaken mentality!!!! It is a daily battle for me of whether I will choose to view tomorrow with my eyes or to trust in God's eyes. Think now: how many times has God opened a door for you that you never expected or could have guessed?! In my own life, I cannot count to the times when I did not see any possible opening doors until God in his incredible power and knowledge suddenly made a way. It is easy to let our human understanding prevent us from allowing God to be God. He posseses far more power, far more knowledge, and far more wisdom than we do. Our finite minds may not grasp how God could make a way in a particular situation, but God has known the beginning from the end and can turn any situation around, even when there is no hope in sight. He can turn the darkness into light with a single word.
Jesus looked at them and said, "With man it is impossible,
but not with God. For all things are possible with God."
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for,
the conviction of things not seen.
One application I believe this has to our lives, is to be open to how God may speak to us even when we do not think what he is calling us to is possible. Perhaps God will bestow some great promise upon you, but because you cannot imagine it occuring you do not listen. Or maybe he will instruct you to do something that seems strange or foolish, but you resist though you do not know his purposes. Where he leads, he will make a way.
Also, I believe we try to put God in a box over and over by creating human standards and ideals that are not God's own. All areas in life must fit into tiny little boxes that we have carefully constructed, in every little detail, and you had better fit into that human-crafted box or else you will recieve serious condemnation. This one is tough to explain. I am afraid to pick a topic to illistrate with because I know people will be offended or shocked. Hmm. I will have to think about this one more till I come up with a suitable example. Unfortunetly it is also the point I wanted to make most! Oh well.
Wishy Washy Wisdom
In some circles I move in, I hear a disturbing theme. The importance of prudence, discernment, and insight is being questioned. The shortcomings of "human sight" are used to excuse the proper use of a God given gift: wisdom. This theme is particularly unsettling to me coming from the mouths of young people because there seem to be such grave consequences. It is true that we are limited and often led astray if we rely on our human understanding and knowledge, and yet, we cannot deny that God has given these to us to use in accord with his grace. There is no doubt that God speaks to us and thereby leads us, but the Bible in no way teaches that we are to throw out all discretion to follow an inner voice. Rather, when God speaks to us his words will coincide with real, God-inspired wisdom. Too often people seem to say that either you must rely totally on what you believe you heard God speaking to you and not at all on your understanding, or they say you must rely totally on wisdom and that God does not speak to us. I believe that both work hand in hand. They do not cross one another out, but when properly discerned they work in accordance with one another. It is hard for me to imagine that anyone could read the book of Proverbs without coming away with a strong awareness of God's esteem and value of wisdom:
My son, do not lose sight of these
keep sound wisdom and discretion,
and they will be life for your soul
and adornment for your neck.
Then you will walk on your way securely,
and your foot will not stumble.
If you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
Do not be afraid of sudden terror
or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes,
for the Lord will be your confidence
and will keep your foot from being caught.
We do not put confidence in our wisdom, but in the Lord! Still, we should seek discretion and understanding so that we might better understand what the Lord's will is. He will use it to help us to walk in his ways and live lives honoring to him.
To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth
Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.
To make a mockery of wisdom is to make a mockery of God. Part of fearing the Lord means seeking the Lord's knowledge. Not just prophetic knowledge or commands, but applied knowledge of his word to our daily lives.
Get wisdom; get insight;
do not forget, and do not turn away from the words
of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;
love her, and she will guard you.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,
and whatever you get, get insight.
Prize her highly, and she will exalt you;
she will honor you if you embrace her.
She will place on your head a graceful garland;
she will bestow on you a beautiful crown."
I don't know. I just don't understand how you can make a case against its importance when it is so clearly exalted in Scripture. Yes, we are human. Yes, we will not see exactly how God sees. But don't throw the baby out with the bathwater!! ;-) Wisdom is a gift the Lord has given us, and as with all other matters of sanctification it is a process of something to grow in and to be developing - not to give up on because we cannot attain it to perfection. We are to take what God has given us and use it for his glory and not neglect it. There is a place for God's voice to direct our paths, but at the same time he desires for us to apply the biblical principles layed out to our daily lives. That is what true wisdom means: discerning the practical application of God's word and principles to our daily lives.
PS - More to come - eventually - on hearing God's voice and the difference between human understanding and biblical wisdom.
The Freedom to Press On
"Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself."
I have heard many times that the belief that one cannot reach perfection on earth and thereby secure eternal life hinders one from radically pursuing the goal of perfection and promotes a lax following of the Lord. How opposite from the truth!!! Paul had everything to his credit when it came to following the law and walking righteously, and yet every effort he counts as rubbish!!! He throws all his good works away because of his enthusiasm for one thing: that his only grounds for boasting may be the free gift of salvation by faith alone through Christ's righteousness. Paul considers even his best works a loss, compared to the only righteousness that he stands upon...Christ Jesus'.
Yet he didn't end there. At the point when some would say he would slacken and become slothful if his salvation was secure apart from his own goodness, he continues on to say that he will press ahead with all vigor and passion towards the goal of perfection. He exclaims that knowing God, and knowing the power of Christ's ressurection, compels him to strain ahead in his pursuit of godliness. No longer does his salvation depend upon him, but he can "run in the path of [God's] commands, for he has set my heart free!" (Psalm 119:32) When he fails - for he admits he has not, nor will, obtain perfection until the ressurection of the dead - he does not have to fall in a pit of condemnation or fear. His salvation is secure! His pursuit of God and holiness can be so radical, so passionate, because it is not being imposed upon him under chains of fear, but under the freeing motivation of knowing and experiencing Christ Jesus. This is true freedom!
Our Patient Father
"The Lord upholds all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down."
"As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust."
"Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,
and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you."
Have you considered lately the Lord's patience with you? Last night I was contemplating how gracious God is to me, when I fail and fall over and over again. Surely he must get tired of my sin! And yet, though I may fail him, he never forsakes me. He merciful picks me up and bestows his grace upon me yet again. He treats us with such kindness, having compassion on our frail humanity. For me, it seems like I repeatedly slip into the pit of discouragement (about all kinds of things) although I know that is not the attitude God would want me to have. I wouldn't blame him if he got tired of lifting me up, but he doesn't. He is always so ready to pour out his grace on me yet again in his ever constant patience. Does that mean that I do not fight sinful discouragment because I know God will excercise patience? Certainly not! "Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?" (Romans 2:4) His love motivates me to turn from wayward ways and please him.
June has arrived!
Wow! June is finally here!!! I have been counting down the years, the months, the weeks, and the days until June 2002 finally rolled around. Now it is here! It is off to a wonderful start, too. Maybe it won't hold as much as I have at some times hoped, but there is always next month, and the month after that, and the month after that. Last night was wonderful, and I was so blessed by my friends and family with their kind (and undeserved!) encouragement and generous gifts. Although I think I was blushing the whole night, I was truly blessed by everyone's kindness. The Lord has indeed been good to me! How amazing to consider this is only the beginning...!