Do Not Be Negligent Now

My sons, do not be negligent now, for the Lord has chosen you to stand before him and serve him, to minister before him and to burn incense. 2 Chronicles 29:11 

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. Revelation 5:8 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV) 

Stay awake (watch, be vigilant, give strict attention to, take heed) and pray … Matthew 26:41 (NET) 

For we know, brothers [and sisters] loved by God, that he has chosen you … 1 Thessalonians 1:4 (ESV) 

“Persistent prayer is a mighty movement of the soul toward God, and it stirs the deepest forces of the soul toward the throne of heavenly grace. It is the ability to hold on, press on, and wait. Restless desire, restful patience, and strength of grasp are all embraced in it. Prayer is not an incident or a performance but a passion of soul. It is not a want or half-needed desire but a sheer necessity.” — E.M. Bounds, The Necessity of Prayer 

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity (impudence, persistence) he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.  Luke 11:5-8 

“[Jesus] shows that prayer is not just mere words, but it is inconvenience, intercession, precision, and asking for the impossibilities … In a nutshell, prayer take guts. God grants our requests not only because He is our Friend, but because we have the guts and faith to ask. ‘Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need’ (Hebrews 4:16) … ” — The Nature of Prayer, Mulyale Mutisyai  

… do not be negligent now, for the Lord has chosen you … 

i https://carolynemutisya7.wordpress.com/2021/08/02/the-nature-of-prayer/

  Image from Flickr, Praying Woman Hands by Long Thiên

My Eyes Are Fixed

This past month my father and I endured COVID.

But my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge … Psalm 141:8 

This past month my father and I endured COVID. I have spent hours in the emergency room, in isolation, away from loved ones, and then away from home caring for my parents. I have had many sleepless nights, constant stress and worry, and even lack of food. I have whined and crabbed to God and cried a lot. I have found out how weak I am, and how much I need His strength for anything – especially to love and to serve. But praise to our loving caring God for his patience and care! And a big thanks to my fellow bloggers for your faithfulness to write what the Lord gives to you. 

“Look at Jesus and only Jesus. The waves and winds are there but don’t look around. Look to Jesus. When I look around me, I will sink because fear consumes me. But when I look to Jesus, I have peace. I have salvation! When Jesus taught me this, right that moment, I felt complete peace. I felt fear drawing away. Instead, fear was replaced with peace and confidence in Jesus.” — Deborah Agustin, Stop Looking Around https://lifehub.home.blog/2021/06/22/stop-looking-around/  

“‘So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what we see is eternal’ (2 Corinthians 4:18). When we begin to look at the unseen, we perceive the reality that there are no delays in God’s operations. In fact, we get to realize that in the spiritual realm, everything is accelerated, compared to the physical realm. That is why Christians find it difficult living in the present world because we have already beheld the end in the spiritual realm. Our supernatural view then clashes with the natural, which is painstakingly slower and disturbingly different from the spiritual.” — Mulyale Mutisya, Appearances of Delay https://carolynemutisya7.wordpress.com/2021/06/21/appearances-of-delay/  

By faith [Moses] forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.  Hebrews 11:27 NKJV 

“In this one short verse we discover the essence of endurance: seeing Him who is invisible. How do we see that which is invisible? What faculty enables you and me to see it? The answer is faith. Faith is related to the unseen. Faith is a sure conviction concerning things not seen (see Hebrews 11:1). If you and I are going to hold out, the unseen world will have to be more real to us than the seen.” — Derek Prince, Endurance Through Focus 

“If you’re not already walking through a trial, you will soon. As you do, resist the temptation to hide your flaws or your sin. Fight the desire to pretend everything is okay. You’re surrounded by other broken people (like me!) who long to help you. And each one of us is strengthened not by our own gumption but by the gentle hand of a Mighty God. 

 It is good news that should cause us to proclaim with David: “I love you oh Lord, my strength” (Ps. 18:1).” — Hannah, For When You Feel Broken https://agratefullifelived.wordpress.com/2021/06/10/for-when-you-feel-broken/  

And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. Hebrews 12:1-2 

Image in the Public Domain

Those Who Knew Him

There was only one thing that could have kept them standing there with him that terrible day.

When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. Luke 23:48-49 

There were two groups of people that day witnessing the death of Jesus on the cross. The Greek word translated “sight” above is theoria, which means spectacle or something to be viewed. It comes from theoreo – to be a spectator. So, there were the spectators. We are very familiar with being a spectator to tragedies these days. We do what they did, mostly, “beat our breasts” at how horrible it is – then walk away and go on with life. 

But those who knew him …  

Then there were the ones who knew him. The word “knew” here does not mean just to know about Jesus, but it means to be well known. They knew him well. They were the ones who had followed him from the beginning. The word comes from a Greek word that is even used for married intimacy. These were the ones who had sat around the campfire with him and told jokes, seen the sparkle in his eyes, heard him call their name, been electrified at the probing questions, felt his touch as he washed their feet. 

But those who knew him … stood. 

At a distance, helpless, in despair, not knowing what was happening. But they stood with him to the end. The women followed his lifeless body to the very end, to the tomb. 

The word translated “stood” is histemi in the Greek. It means “to cause or make to stand … in the presence of others, in the midst, before judges, before members of the Sanhedrin … to make firm, fix establish, to cause a person or a thing to keep his place … [I love this one!] to be kept intact (of family, of a kingdom) … to stand by or near, to stop, stand still, to stand immovable.” 

Soon they would receive the power from on high to go on. But just then, when things were darkest, all they could do, all there was to do, was stand. 

Their leader was being executed. They themselves, therefore, were on a very dangerous blacklist. The fear and the doubt must have been oppressive. There was only one thing that could have kept them standing there with him that terrible day. They knew him – it all comes down to knowing him. 

I can deeply empathize with them. All those wonderful words and promises nailed to a cross and spit upon and dead. All the expectations and dreams bled out, the last breath gasped. Joy suffocated. Hope buried in a tomb. Sometimes the days are very dark. 

Yet (!) I too have heard his voice calling my name. I, too, have looked into his eyes, and felt his touch and the breathtaking power of his unfailing love. I know whom I have believed, and I know that – even though sometimes it doesn’t feel like it – he has given me power, not my own, to stand and to endure to the end. 

Family of God, you who are of His Kingdom – you who know him – when you feel lost in the darkness, when fear and doubt overwhelm, when you are tempted to walk away – he will keep you intact, he will cause you to stand, make you firm, fixed, immovable. Fix your eyes and heart on him. Strive to know him and follow him deeper each day. Cling to him. And when there is nothing else you can do, stand. 

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:13 

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2 

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:10-11 

Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. 2 Timothy 1:12 

For those who don’t yet know Him, come!   Salvation

Image, detail from Storm by texaus1 https://flic.kr/p/R41Zbp  

Running Heart

“Come what may, I want to run.”

I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free. Psalm 119:32 

To run with a heart set free, a heart of passion. Running this way, on a narrow path, to me implies fearlessness, trust, knowledge of the path, being in good shape (preparation, training), focus, selflessness. Not carefully picking my way over, possibly dangerous or rocky, unknown ground. Not slowly, ready to turn and go back if it gets too hard. This running implies commitment to a goal. It implies wholeheartedness. 

Runners in the Old Testament many times were part of the Royal Guard who served the king, running before and after the king’s chariot (see 1 Samuel 8:11; 2 Samuel 15:1). Other runners were messengers. 

One poignant story of a runner-messenger is in 2 Samuel. David’s son, Absalom, had tried to overthrow the throne, but the rebellion had been put down and Absalom had been killed. Joab commanded a runner to go and give David what he thought would be good news. But, Ahimaaz son of Zadok knew his king. So, he begged to also run with message. 

Now Ahimaaz son of Zadok said, “Let me run and take the news to the king that the Lord has vindicated him by delivering him from the hand of his enemies.” 

20 “You are not the one to take the news today,” Joab told him. “You may take the news another time, but you must not do so today, because the king’s son is dead.” 

21 Then Joab said to a Cushite, “Go, tell the king what you have seen.” The Cushite bowed down before Joab and ran off. 

22 Ahimaaz son of Zadok again said to Joab, “Come what may, please let me run behind the Cushite.” 

But Joab replied, “My son, why do you want to go? You don’t have any news that will bring you a reward.” 

23 He said, “Come what may, I want to run.” 2 Samuel 18:19-23 

“Come what may, I want to run.” Ahimaaz wasn’t running for reward. But rather, he knew that David would be heartbroken at the death of his son and he wanted to get there first and maybe soften the blow a little. He was running for the love of his king. 

In Psalm 119:32, David says he runs in the path of the Lord’s commands. The Hebrew word is the noun mitsvah (מִצְוָה). It comes from the verb tsavah (צָוָה) = to command, charge, give orders, lay charge, give charge to, order, send a messenger.  

“Command [tsavah] is used for the instruction of a father to a son (1 Sa 17:20), a farmer to his laborers (Ruth 2:9), a king to his servants (2 Sa 21:14).”  — Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vol II  

If we have received Jesus as our Savior, we are all of those things. We are children of our Father God, laborers in his field, servants of the great King. We are his runner-messengers and we run in the path – the Way – of his commands. He has illumined the Path and shown us the Way to run. He has given us great and faithful promises that if we run on this Path we will not stumble or grow weary. 

I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. Proverbs 4:11-12 

But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)  

He has commanded us to run with His message of love, redemption, hope and healing to a heartbroken world. Let us run for the love of our King – fearlessly, selflessly, wholeheartedly, passionately, faithfully. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run … Hebrews 12:1 

Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message (or word) of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored (literally in the Greek, “may run and be glorified”), just as it was with you. 2 Thessalonians 3:1 

Draw me after you and let us run together! Song of Songs 1:4 (NASB) 

Photo by Raid Gaspésie  https://flic.kr/p/Yp1wfA  

Yet God

I am reblogging this post from a while ago. Still true. Always my heart.

Image, Baby’s hand, by Fruity Monkey on flickr https://flic.kr/p/99tqDR

Hidden Treasure

“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.” (Psalm 73:23 NIV)

“Yet” is my favorite word in the Bible. That may seem weird, but what comes after “yet” in many verses so often is a startling declaration of the faithfulness of God, of faith, hope, or of steely resolve to persevere. Many times, these are some of the most beautiful and inspiring verses in the Bible.

What comes before David’s declaration above in Psalm 73 is his expression of frustration and anger at the seeming injustice of God, saying at one point, “Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning.” (Psalm 73:13-14). His doubt and bitterness increase to the point of acting “senseless and ignorant” like a “brute beast” before God.

Yet!…

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Joy Beyond

In this dark world the shepherd needs to be our LORD.

I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. Hebrews 13:23 

This verse is a little oh-by-the-way postscript to the letter to the Hebrews. It is like “and, oh yeah, Timothy has been released from prison.” The way it is tacked on at the end like that really struck me. It communicated to me that this was a common occurrence. This idea of persecution for our faith is foreign to most of us in the United States. But there are thousands and thousands across the world for whom this, and worse, is still common. I was thinking about this when I read this from A.W. Tozer speaking to the Church here in the U.S.: 

“The gradual disappearance of the idea and feeling of majesty from the Church is a sign and a portent. The revolt of the modern mind has had a heavy price, how heavy is becoming more apparent as the years go by. Our God has now become our servant to wait on our will. ‘The Lord is my shepherd,’ we say, instead of ‘The Lord is my shepherd,’ and the difference is as wide as the world.” — A.W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man 

The first emphasis keeps our gaze on ourselves. What we crave, what we need, what we think we deserve. Affliction is no longer unexceptional, it is unacceptable. The idea that “the lord is my servant, I shall not want,” keeps us in the little-lamb baby state always looking for the next blessing. When my heart’s attention is only on what God can do for me, it is easy to slide into errors like prosperity-gospel-type thinking. Trials and afflictions shake my cozy, planned-out little world and my faith wavers. 

But, the second emphasis puts our Lord on the throne (or realizes that he is on the throne). It opens our eyes and minds and hearts to Amazing Grace. The amazing, almost incomprehensible, uncontainable grace of the unfailing love of the Mighty God. Creator, King – God of gods and Lord of lords – who has bent down to pull us up out of the pit and lead us into His very Presence. Unworthy, self-centered, rebellious as we are. When the emphasis is on the LORD, gratitude and thanksgiving and praise naturally flow. We are enabled to bear the Shepherd’s rod and staff of testing and discipline willingly and joyfully. 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds James 1:2 

This is a hard saying whenever, but it is especially hard when our assumption is that the job of the lord (small “L”) who is our servant-shepherd is to lead us to good pasture and quiet waters and make us feel good. 

“The prosperity gospel believes that God wants to reward you if you have the right kind of faith. If you’re good and faithful, God will give you health and wealth and boundless happiness. Life is like a boomerang. If you’re good, good things will always come back to you. Think positively. Speak positively. Nothing is impossible, if you believe …. 

“In his sermon on the mount, Jesus didn’t say, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they will never have to deal with infertility. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive a Porsche 911. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will never have medical complications or financial hardship.’” — Rachel Chimits, Do Bad Things Happen to Godly People? i 

But if our eyes are on our majestic LORD and his Amazing Grace we can expect afflictions – In this world you will have trouble (John 16:33) – but we can consider it all joy because we see beyond – But take heart! I have overcome the world. 

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2 

The joy was beyond for Jesus (and that joy was us, by the way, us with him). The joy was beyond the scorning and mocking and shame. It was beyond imprisonment, testing and afflictions and suffering and death and the cross. And if we are going to persevere to that joy we need to be following our Lord (capital “L”), who is also our Good Shepherd. We can trust that shepherd through anything. We can trust knowing we will hear his voice leading and guiding. We can trust the One who has gone this way before, knowing that our hard way produces good – for us and for others – and he will be with us all the way. And if we do that, the joy beyond will be here and now too. 

In this dark time, let us follow the Shepherd who is our LORD.  

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4  

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 

[P.S.] I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. Hebrews 13:20-21, 23 

i Rachel Chimits’ complete blog post here https://worldchallenge.org/blog/do-bad-things-happen-godly-people?ref=em1020 

Photo copyright 2009 by Derek Bair

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 

Just

Thank you for

just

for only

for though

even though

even when

Thank you for

but

for yet

Yet!

always

Thank you for

with

for

You

***

Though the fig-tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. Habakkuk 3:17-18

Yet I am always with you. Psalm 73:23a

Photo by Sheila Bair