The Good Fight

Yes, the fight is agonizing, a struggle, a grueling conflict. But good? What does that mean “good fight?”

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:12 

“Fight the good fight.” That phrase stopped me in my tracks as I read it this time. I think we all feel like we are in a fight, actually lots of fights. It seems like everywhere you go, everything you hear and see there is a fight going on. More like a war. The Greek word translated “fight” in the above verse is agon. It means anxiety, conflict, contention, fight, race. Sounds all too familiar. BibleHub.com commentary adds this to the definition of agon: 

agṓn (a masculine noun, and the root of the English words, “agony,” “agonize”) – properly, a contest (struggle), a grueling conflict (fight); (figuratively) positive struggle that goes with “fighting the good fight of faith” (1 Tim 6:12) – which literally states, “Struggle (agōnízomai) the good struggle (agṓn) of the (life of) faith.” — BibleHub.com 

Yes, agonizing, a struggle, a grueling conflict. But a good fight? What does that mean “good fight?” Spurgeon said this about it: 

“‘Lay hold on eternal life.’ Observe that this precept is preceded by another—’Fight the good fight of faith.’ Those who lay hold on eternal life will have to fight for it. The way of the spiritual life is no easy one—we shall have to contest every step of the way along which it leads us. ‘Contest the good contest of the faith’ would be an accurate rendering of the passage and a contest it is against the world, the flesh and the devil! If we live unto God, we shall need to war a daily warfare and tread down the powers of death and Hell.” — C.H. Spurgeoni  

“A daily warfare.” Wow, that makes me tired and is hard to see as good. So, it was a shock when I saw what the Greek word translated “good” in English means.  

The word is kalos and it means beautiful, handsome, excellent, eminent, choice, surpassing, precious, useful, suitable, commendable, admirable. We are in a beautiful fight (!!) A precious struggle. I may have a hard time seeing it this way when I am in the midst of the battle, but to God my fight is precious. Think about that for a minute – your fight is precious to God. To me, my battle for faith and hope feels like failure. (Shouldn’t the battle be easier by now?) I’m sure the battle will never end until the Lord takes me home, and it probably won’t get easier. But, knowing it is precious to God helps me keep going. 

So, I will hold this in my heart. When I stand in the darkness with naked faith, when I proclaim the truth of the cross of Jesus, when I cling to the promises though right now there is no evidence, when I fall over and over, but keep getting back up, when I cry out in despair, when I wrestle with him, when I lift up my eyes once again to fix them on Jesus. That is beautiful and precious in his eyes. And he is right there with me. And he gives grace for this good fight. 

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. Psalms 116:15 

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7 

The God Who Wants to Celebrate

He is always preparing, and calling for us to join in the preparation of this great party he wants to give.

But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ Luke 15:22-24 

“William Tyndale, the man who translated the Bible into English in the 16th century, said: 

Evangelion (what we call ‘the gospel’) is a Greek word, signifying good, merry, glad and joyful news, that makes a man’s heart glad and makes him sing, dance and leap for joy. 

A church without the gospel fails to be a church. It’s something else—a social club or political action committee or a rallying point for pet projects or hobby horse hermeneutics. Those are man-centered organizations. And they can’t last. They make us sad. Maybe not immediately, but ultimately. Every man-made institution ends in tears. But the gospel ends with a party. It’s good news of great joy.” — Adam McClendon, The Gospel is Big Enough for Your Church (blogged recently by Dr. Peter Cockrell https://pjcockrell.wordpress.com/2020/10/06/the-gospel-is-big-enough-for-your-church/ ) 

Henry J.M. Nouwen also writes that God’s irrepressible love is the “love that always welcomes home and always wants to celebrate … ‘Rejoice with me,’ the shepherd says, ‘I have found my sheep that was lost.’ ‘Rejoice with me,’ the woman says, ‘I have found the drachma I lost.’ ‘Rejoice with me,’ the father says, ‘this son of mine was lost and is found.’” i  

I love that God’s love always wants to celebrate, that his good news ends with a party. He is always calling out to us, “rejoice with me!” He is always preparing, and calling for us to join in the preparation of this great party he wants to give. 

Timothy Keller notes that “in his first public exercise of divine power, Jesus turned several large containers of water into wine. Amazingly, John the gospel writer calls this miracle a ‘sign,’ a signifier of what Jesus’s’ ministry was all about. Why would Jesus, to convey what he had come to do, choose to turn 150 gallons of water into superb wine in order to keep a party going? The answer is that Jesus came to bring festival joy … Jesus’s salvation is a feast …” ii 

It is not surprising that the first miracle done by Jesus in this great story of the gospel celebration was at a marriage. Even though Jesus told Mary that it was not really his time yet, I don’t think he could resist a celebration – especially one of a marriage. Because that is how, finally, the gospel story will end: 

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Revelation 19:7 

 “… his bride has made herself ready.” The word translated “ready” is hetoimazo, which means to prepare, to make the necessary preparations, get everything ready. We take part in the preparation by getting ourselves ready – working out our salvation, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us, dying to self, becoming holy. But we also help prepare by going out and inviting others to the party and helping them prepare. 

The father in the parable of the two sons calls for the preparation of a great celebration. Mark recounts the beginning of the gospel – the joyful celebration – also as a preparation.  

The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way — a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” Mark 1:1-2 

Jesus told another parable, that is called the Parable of the Great Banquet. Again, it includes an invitation to a party that has been prepared. 

Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ Matthew 22:4 

If we are his servants, let us go out and proclaim the joyful news: There is a great party that has been prepared for you if you will come. Return! Come rejoice with the Father! Come in! You are invited to the wedding banquet of the Lamb! 

But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. Luke 15:32 

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 15:7 

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9 

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come. Revelation 22:17 

Photo by stainedglassartist, Cana detail jars, https://flic.kr/p/7bUyuv  

All

None are left out here. All are included on the sin side, and no one is excluded on the redemption side.

All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:6 (NKJV) 

This verse begins and ends with the Hebrew word kol, translated “all.” It means the whole, any, each, every, altogether, as many as, whatsoever, howsoever, whosoever – all. 

None are left out here. All are included on the sin side, and no one is excluded on the redemption side. Henry Allen Ironside wrote of this verse as a balancing of the books of heaven and as a condensed version of the story of the world. 

In verse six God, as it were, balances the books of the world – two debit entries and one credit entry. The two debit entries: “All we like sheep have gone astray” – there is the whole fallen human race; “we have turned every one to his own way” – there is each individual’s own personal sen; and then the credit entry that clears it all on the books of God if men would but receive it: “Jehovah hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (R[evised]. V[ersion].)

Here we have the entire story of the Bible epitomized: Man’s ruin both by nature and practice, and God’s marvelous and all-sufficient remedy. The verse begins with all and ends with all … The first is the acknowledgment of our deep need. The second shows how fully that need has been met in the Cross of Christ.

H.A. Ironside, Expository Notes on the Prophet Isaiah

And where it is translated “the Lord has laid on Him” our iniquities, the Hebrew word is paga. In the form used in this verse it literally means that the Lord made our iniquity to fall on him or attack him.  

[Paga] sometimes refers to a hostile encounter or attack … the Lord makes “sin” attack “him.” In their sin the group was like sheep who had wandered from God’s path. They were vulnerable to attack; the guilt of their sin was ready to attack and destroy them. But then the servant stepped in and took the full force of the attack.

NetBible Translators’ Notes

I love that! He stood between us and our sin and took the full force of the attack! And who is the “Him” who is spoken of in this verse? He is God’s Servant who is first introduced in Isaiah 42. He is the One who will “sprinkle many nations” and who will be “despised and rejected by men,” who will take up our infirmities and carry our sorrows. The one who will be, and has been, pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, and healed us by his wounds (Isaiah 52:15-53:5). He is Jesus Christ our Lord. 

All (the whole, any, each, every, altogether, as many as, whosoever) we like sheep have gone astray (erred, wandered, reeled and staggered, been intoxicated, led astray, misled, deceived); 

We have turned (turned from, away, back, aside), every one, to his own way (road, path, journey, direction, manner, habit, course of life, moral character);  

And the LORD has laid on Him (made to fall on him and attack him) the iniquity (perversity, depravity, sin, moral evil, fault, guilt, punishment, consequence) of us all (the whole, any, each, every, altogether, as many as, whosoever).  

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:22-24 

… for it is God

If you feel lost. If you feel far away from God. Cry out to him, for it is God who gives, who restores, who draws, who works. He is yearning for you. You cannot make yourself want to know him. He will do it. He is already.

How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Psalm 84:1-2

I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart. Jeremiah 24:7

Restore us (draw us, turn us, bring us back, restore, repair, rescue us), O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved. Psalm 80:3

Restore us (draw us, turn us, bring us back, restore, repair, rescue us), O LORD, and (renew, rebuild, repair us) bring us back to you again! Lamentations 5:21

… for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Philippians 2:13

I drew them with gentle cords, With bands of love, And I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. Hosea 11:4

Sin

It’s never too late to confess our sins to God and seek refuge in His salvation.

This week a definite theme emerged in the blogs and devotionals I receive daily. Sin is not something we like to think or hear about, but it became obvious what the Spirit is saying. 

Just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned   Romans 5:12 

The Bible does not say that God punished the human race for one man’s sin, but that the nature of sin, namely, my claim to my right to myself, entered into the human race through one man. But it also says that another Man took upon Himself the sin of the human race and put it away— an infinitely more profound revelation (see Hebrews 9:26). The nature of sin is not immorality and wrongdoing, but the nature of self-realization which leads us to say, “I am my own god.” — Oswald Chambers, The Nature of Degeneration, From My Utmost for His Highest Updated Edition 

The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. Psalm 34:18 

A broken heart, a contrite spirit, and a subdued will are rare things, especially in this age in which men everywhere are taught to demand their rights; and the church has become a place where man is exalted and enshrined as though he were God. Self-esteem, self-worth, and self-promotion are the cry of the day. Every man does that which is right in his own eyes. — Steve Rebus, Broken People!, https://steverebus.com/2020/10/05/broken-people/  

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  2 Corinthians 5:21 

Sin is a fundamental relationship— it is not wrong doing, but wrong being— it is deliberate and determined independence from God. The Christian faith bases everything on the extreme, self-confident nature of sin. Other faiths deal with sins— the Bible alone deals with sin. The first thing Jesus Christ confronted in people was the heredity of sin … — Oswald Chambers, The Nature of Reconciliation, From My Utmost for His Highest Updated Edition 

Just as the nature of sin entered into the human race through one man, the Holy Spirit entered into the human race through another Man (see Romans 5:12-19). And redemption means that I can be delivered from the heredity of sin, and that through Jesus Christ I can receive a pure and spotless heredity, namely, the Holy Spirit. — Oswald Chambers, The Nature of Regeneration, From My Utmost for His Highest Updated Edition 

When a Bible verse comes to me from two different sources in the same week, I pay attention:

How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:9, 11 

The psalmist answers his own question: By living according to God’s Word … Then he goes on to say, “I have hidden God’s word in my heart that I might not sin against God.” That’s the secret of purity. It’s hiding God’s Word in your heart, because one or other of two things is going to happen: Either God’s Word will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from God’s Word. 

So don’t just flow with the current like a dead fish. Be willing to be a live fish and swim against the stream. God’s Word will give you the strength if you hide it in your heart. It is possible to lead a pure life even in today’s world. — Derek Prince, Devotional: Hiding God’s Word 

With my whole heart I have sought You … Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You … I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways. Psalm 119:10-11, 15 – Blogged by Gary Wilkerson, Attentive to His Presence, World Challenge online devotional https://worldchallenge.org/devotion/attentive-his-presence?ref=devos   

Blogging about the raising of Lazarus, J.D. Walt writes (The Problem behind All Our Problems): 

Death was not part of God’s plan for his creation. It was a consequence of human sin—not a consequence as in punishment, but as in irrevocable laws of the universe, like gravity. If sin, then death. It turns out the law of sin and death was not so irrevocable after all. In fact, it’s not really accurate to call it a law. It’s an aberration. The only true and real law is the law of the spirit of life. The law of sin and death merely describes the outcome of rebellion against the law of the spirit of life … Love overcomes sin and life overwhelms death. 

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” John 11:40 

The gospel is the good news that God saves his sinful people from his wrath through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, promising to share his glory with them in a renewed creation forever—all to the praise of the glory of his grace. — Adam McClendon, via Dr. Peter Cockrell, The Gospel is Big Enough for Your Church https://pjcockrell.wordpress.com/2020/10/06/the-gospel-is-big-enough-for-your-church/  

It’s never too late to confess our sins to God and seek refuge in His salvation. He will deliver us from our sins if we only acknowledge and repent them. — Derek Prince 

Photograph copyright 2018 Derek Bair

God’s Sigh

As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you … Isaiah 66:13 

The Hebrew word translated “comfort” in this verse is nacham. It means to be sorry for, to be moved to pity, have compassion, console, to sigh, to comfort. The meaning of this kind of comfort was vividly demonstrated to me recently. 

I have been taking care of my newest baby granddaughter. It is so frustrating to be so little and not able to communicate your pains and needs. Recently, she was crying and would not stop. Nothing I tried helped – she refused the bottle, toys, singing, walking around and bouncing, even dancing with her didn’t help. Finally, I just entered into her grief and frustration. I groaned and sighed with her, saying, “Oh poor baby! Nobody knows her problems; nobody understands!”

Almost immediately she relaxed against me and fell asleep on my shoulder. I was amazed. But when I read the above verse God reminded me of this. It was the sighing with her, the pity and consolation, the joining in, the participation with her suffering that comforted in the end. It is the way that God, the great Comforter, participated and participates in our suffering. Henry Allen Ironside describes it this way: 

“As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem” (verse 13).

Compare chapters 40 and 61 for GOD’s plan and design for His people. The Hebrew word translated “comfort” in this verse is from a root meaning “to sigh!” It says, “As one whom his mother sighs with, so will I sigh with you.” We know how a loving mother enters into the sufferings of her children. Taking the little one in her arms she sighs with him as he sobs out his grief upon her bosom. So does GOD feel for us in our trials. Of old He said concerning Israel when they were in Egyptian bondage, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people. . . I know their sorrows; and am come to deliver them.”  

He is ever the same in His concern for His afflicted children. His great heart of love is moved with compassion as He beholds the ravages that sin has made and the sufferings that it has entailed upon all mankind. Yet we are so slow to refer our troubles to Him, thinking of Him as a stern Judge rather than a tender, loving Father.

H.A. Ironside, Expository Notes on the Prophet Isaiah 

Henri Nouwen in his book about the great painting of Rembrandt, The Return of the Prodigal Son, describes the welcoming father as a type of our Father God, who is like both a father and a mother to the returning son. 

The Father is not simply a great patriarch. He is mother as well as father. He touches the son with a masculine hand and a feminine hand. He holds, and she caresses. He confirms and she consoles. He is, indeed, God, in whom both manhood and womanhood, fatherhood and motherhood, are fully present. That gentle caressing right hand echoes for me the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Can a woman forget her baby at the breast, feel no pity for the child she has home? Even if these were to forget, I shall not forget you. Look, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” … Day and night God holds me safe, as a hen holds her chicks secure under her wings.

Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son 

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” Matthew 23:37 

Let us not be slow to refer our troubles to God. He is, yes, a righteous Judge, but also our loving Father. Let us return to Him, “sob out our grief,” and find rest on his mighty, gentle shoulder. 

Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forever. Psalm 131:2-3 (NASB) 

Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. Isaiah 49:3 

May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant. Psalm 119:76 

I, even I, am the one who comforts you. So why are you afraid of mere humans, who wither like the grass and disappear? Isaiah 51:12 (NLT) 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1 3-4 

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Revelation 21:4 

“Day and night God holds me safe …” 

 

Photo by Jack Bair 

Naked Intent

Back then I would sneak out of choir practice and go sit in the dark sanctuary.

“This is what you are to do: lift your heart up to the Lord, with a gentle stirring of love desiring him for his own sake and not for his gifts. Center all your attention and desire on him and let this be the sole concern of your mind and heart … And so diligently persevere until you feel the joy in it. For in the beginning it is usual to feel nothing but a kind of darkness about your mind, or as it were, a cloud of unknowing. You will seem to know nothing and to feel nothing except a naked intent toward God in the depths of your being … But if you strive to fix your love on him forgetting all else, which is the work of contemplation I have urged you to begin, I am confident that God in his goodness will bring you to a deep experience of himself.” — The Cloud of Unknowing, chapter 3  

“… a state of naked faith, sustained by God alone in our absolute abandonment to Him …” — Jeanne Guyon, Union with God 

Sunday at church we sang the doxology.  

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!i 

I have been singing it since I was a child in the children’s choir at the Methodist Church. Suddenly, as I sang, I was in that place beyond time singing it again as that child who didn’t really know what she was singing. The child who wasn’t sure what or who was a “Holy Ghost,” the child who looked up at the stained-glass window depicting Elijah, Jesus, and Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration and was sure, as she sang those lyrics, that she was looking at a picture of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I didn’t know much, but I had a “naked intent toward God” as the unknown monk wrote, the “naked faith” described by Guyon. It was a faith beyond reasoning or logic, a faith that totally bypassed intellect because there was no real knowledge of the scriptures at that time.   
 

Back then I would sneak out of choir practice and go sit in the dark sanctuary – literally and intellectually in the darkness, in the cloud of unknowing – and wait on God. I didn’t know I was doing that; I didn’t even have any words for a prayer. Almost holding my breath, I would just be there. There was just that naked intent, that yearning and thirsting after God. And he gently met me there, though I could not fully comprehend him.  
 

I have come a long way since then. I have studied the Bible for many years and have a lot of head knowledge now. But still I know that what God wants, what he looks for, what delights his great heart is that naked intent toward God, that hunger and thirsting after Him from the depths of my being. My essence seeking after His essence. Let me just be there. 

My soul longs for You, as a parched land. Psalm 143:6 

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” Matthew 11:25-26 

And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3 

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 (NASB) 

For more on the “naked intent” toward God see a previous post https://wrestlingwordblog.wordpress.com/2018/09/20/a-naked-intent-toward-god/

Photo, detail from Coloured Reflection by Ben Keating, https://flic.kr/p/GHzQ3T  

Taking Refuge

Taking refuge is crucial in these times we are in, but it must be beyond mere head knowledge. It must become part of my very being, like breathing.

O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! Psalm 34:8 (NASB) 

When God highlights something to me that I have been blithely skipping over for 48 years I know he wants me to dig deeper. In this case it was the phrase “takes refuge” that stopped me. To “take refuge” implies action, something I do. I am beginning to see that I have been standing outside the refuge in the malevolent, pummeling storm holding my flimsy umbrella, recognizing correctly that there is a refuge, understanding and believing in the refuge, even memorizing all the verses about the refuge. But, most of the time, not actually doing the effort to “take refuge” – get under His wings, crawl up on His lap. So, my head knowledge, or even my faith in the refuge, does me no good.  

The Hebrew word translated “takes refuge” above is chacah. It means to seek refuge, flee for protection, to put trust in God, confide or hope in God. A related word is batah – to trust in, rely on, take refuge in. A commentator notes that chacah “is probably to be distinguished from batah ‘rely on,’ ‘take refuge in’ as denoting more precipitate action.” [emphasis mine]i

To do something precipitately is to do it in a way that is “sudden and done without thinking” (Cambridge Dictionary). This definition reminds me of kids jumping into the parents’ bed at a house-shaking crack of thunder. It is done without thinking because in their subconscious level that is where safety and security is; where their trust is.

Is trusting in the Lord something we do “without thinking” almost by instinct? Do we jump into his arms when the earth shakes and the storm roars? God is showing me that this only happens when we have made putting our trust in him a long discipline, so that it has become a habit. We have tasted and seen his goodness many times, over and over without fail. The struggle between God and us is over. We have surrendered to Him and experienced his love. Deep down below the level of thinking and logic and reasons we know – we know Him.

Since God showed me this, I have started practicing this taking refuge action against my almost constant fear and regret and self-condemnation and complaining against God. It takes determined effort and is hard, like stopping a train and reversing the direction. But it is making a huge difference. What does that look like? 

When I find myself floundering, when a condemning thought comes into my mind, I remember the Cross of Jesus Christ and make the decision and effort to take refuge in his Word.  

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Romans 8:1 

As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Romans 10:11 

When fear oppresses me, I cling to the promise.  

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. Psalm 56:3

When, in my rebellious self-life, I start with the complaints, even resentment, against God, I look around for something to be grateful for. I offer up a sacrifice of praise. 

I will sacrifice a thank-offering to you and call on the name of the LORD. Psalm 116:17 

Taking refuge, trusting in God, is crucial in these times we are in, when philosophers and politicians and journalists and marketers clamor for my trust. But it must come from beyond mere head knowledge – I must get out from under my leaky umbrella. My trust in Him must become part of my very being, like breathing. Like the pumping of my heart. I must “do” taking refuge, until I abide there, always leaning against his chest, feeling his sweet breath on the top of my head, listening to the eternal, unstoppable, vehement, passionate, fierce, zealous beating of his mighty heart. 

Let me dwell in Your tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. Selah. Psalm 61:5 (NASB) 

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. Psalm 57:1

It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. Psalm 118:8-9

Photo by lars_o_matic on flickr.com https://flic.kr/p/e9V5ZM  

Crucified with Christ

Here is a compilation of what the Spirit has been saying to me this week through the blogs and daily devotionals I receive. May it encourage you too.  

Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.”  Luke 18:31  

In our Lord’s life, Jerusalem was the place where He reached the culmination of His Father’s will upon the cross, and unless we go there with Jesus we will have no friendship or fellowship with Him. Nothing ever diverted our Lord on His way to Jerusalem. He never hurried through certain villages where He was persecuted, or lingered in others where He was blessed. Neither gratitude nor ingratitude turned our Lord even the slightest degree away from His purpose to go “up to Jerusalem.” — Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, updated edition 

In every Christian’s heart there is a cross and a throne, and the Christian is on the throne till he puts himself on the cross. If he refuses the cross he remains on the throne. Perhaps this is at the bottom of the backsliding and worldliness among gospel believers today. We want to be saved but we insist that Christ do all the dying. No cross for us, no dethronement, no dying. We remain king within the little kingdom of Mansoul and wear our tinsel crown with all the pride of a Caesar, but we doom ourselves to shadows and weakness and spiritual sterility. ― A.W. Tozer, The Radical Cross: Living the Passion of Christ 

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Matthew 7:21 

The glory of God is the love of God, which we see in its fullest expression on divine display at the cross of Jesus—unfathomably full of grace and truth. While his entire life is the cross, Jesus’ finest hour comes on Good Friday. In the hour of his greatest glory, he wears human sovereignty as a crown of thorns. On the darkest day of human history, the Light of the World shines brightest. On the day when the Son of God is emptied of his life, grace and truth are poured out in their fullest measure. In the hour when all of the vitriolic hatred of the human race is unleashed on this sinless suffering servant, the love of God reveals itself as the very essence of divine sovereignty. — J.D. Walt, Why the Glory of God is Not What We Think http://www.facebook.com/sharer.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.seedbed.com%2Fwhy-the-glory-of-god-is-not-what-we-think%2F          

Like Jesus and David, Christians, the ‘royal priesthood’ (1 Peter 2:9) also have to go through a Mount of Olive experience. An experience where we are stripped of all we know, face conspiracy and unspeakable anguish. This is our make or break moment. A moment where we are hanging in the balance- between life and death, faith and fear, and victory and defeat. What makes a difference is what we do when we are up that mountain. When darkness reigns and we can’t see God, we ought to relinquish our wills to Him regardless. Once we surrender to God while at the mountain, He strengthens us for the battle ahead. — Mulyale Mutisya, Something about the Mountain https://carolynemutisya7.wordpress.com/2020/09/25/something-about-the-mountain/#like-1465  

One thing taught throughout the Bible, and particularly in the New Testament, is that the Christian life is a progression, a journey of the redeemed soul toward God. Another is that Satan stands to resist every step and to hinder the journey in every way possible. To advance against his shrewd and powerful opposition requires faith and steadfast courage. The epistles call it “confidence.” 

In his Philippian epistle Paul declares his own determination to advance against all obstacles. He says in effect that while he is not yet perfect and has not yet attained unto the goal set before him, he is putting the past behind him psychologically as well as chronologically that he may go on to find in Christ his all in all. “I press on toward the goal,” he says, “to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Then with a fine disregard for apparent self-contradictions he urges, “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things” (3:15). — A. W. Tozer, Sermon: Keep Growing 

Graham Cooke said, We’re saved once, but we get redeemed from our old ways every single day! We’re learning how to be a new creation.” This is critically important to understand if we’re going to walk in what God intends for us. While Paul said “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith” (Eph.2:8), he also said, “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil.2:12). — Mel Wild, https://melwild.wordpress.com/2020/09/22/walking-out-our-redemption/#like-39182  

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-25  

[M]aturation in a spiritual sense is a growing willingness to stretch out my arms, to have a belt put round me, and to be led where I would rather not go (John 21:18). — Henri Nouwen, A New Vision of Maturity, Daily Meditation, September 20, 2020 

This is a true saying: If we die with him, we will also live with him. 2 Timothy 2:11 (NLT) 

Photo by Jack Bair