Gratitude and Jumping Off the Cliff 

So, I keep getting this message about giving thanks no matter what. (Thank you to all my fellow bloggers and online devotionals!) I admit I am having a hard time getting there. Life is hard! Does gritting your teeth and saying it just in obedience count?? Maybe it does take flinging myself off the precipice. 
 

When the storms come, and our trees of delight are bare and leafless, when He strips us of the comforts to which His love has accustomed us — or more painful still, — when He leaves us alone in the world, to mourn the absence of the chief desire of our heart; — to sing to Him then, to bless and praise and laud His dear name then, this is the work of His free grace only. — Susanah Spurgeon, The Sword and the Trowel, December 1903, 606. From online devotional by Ray Rhodes, The Other Spurgeon https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-other-spurgeon  
 
 

I have realised that irrespective of our circumstances, there is nothing as meaningful as showing gratitude irrespective of our current circumstances. For the apostle Paul states in the book of Philippians that. “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want.”  

This morning I would like to admonish you, irrespective of your current situation; there is nothing more potent than our great God. If he came through for people in times past, remember, He is still the same. He is unchanged. He expects you to leave the past behind and show gratitude for what He has done for you.  

Being alive is a miracle you should be grateful for. That incurable medical report? That declining academic report? The financial crisis? My friend, just leave it into His hands. He will come through for you.  Blogged by Eliezer https://eliezerontim.wordpress.com/2021/10/15/gratitude/   

The Psalmist wrote, “Our fathers trusted in you; they trusted, and you delivered them. They cried to you, and were delivered; they trusted in you, and were not ashamed” (Psalm 22:4-5, NKJV). The Hebrew root word for ‘trust’ suggests “to fling oneself off a precipice.” That means being like a child who has climbed up into the rafters and cannot get down. He hears his father say, “Jump!” and he obeys, throwing himself into his father’s arms … The trusting heart always says, “All my steps are ordered by the Lord. He is my loving Father, and he permits my sufferings, temptations and trials but never more than I can bear. He always makes a way of escape. He has an eternal plan and purpose for me. He has numbered every hair on my head, and he formed all my parts when I was in my mother’s womb. He knows when I sit, stand or lie down because I am the apple of his eye. He is Lord not just over me but over every event and situation that touches me.” — David Wilkerson, A Perfect Heart is Trusting https://worldchallenge.org/devotion/perfect-heart-trusting?ref=devos  
 

 
How can we live a truly grateful life? When we look back at all that has happened to us, we easily divide our lives into good things to be grateful for and bad things to forget. But with a past thus divided, we cannot move freely into the future. With many things to forget we can only limp toward the future.  

True spiritual gratitude embraces all of our past, the good as well as the bad events, the joyful as well as the sorrowful moments. From the place where we stand, everything that took place brought us to this place, and we want to remember all of it as part of God’s guidance. That does not mean that all that happened in the past was good, but it does mean that even the bad didn’t happen outside the loving presence of God  . . . Once all of our past is remembered in gratitude, we are free to be sent into the world to proclaim good news to others. — Henri Nouwen, The Grateful Life  
 

The adult who has lived life and attained hindsight now fights with the  
ever present child who was born of rejection.  

Logic wrestles with raw emotion.  

Yet what we know, is that in the end, love does indeed win.  

Because we know that anyone who calls  
themself a Christian, is adopted by Grace.  

I am a child of Grace and I am a person who is so ever grateful  
to that of the unconditional…  

Blogged by Julie, https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2021/10/15/an-adopted-path-to-grace/   

Yes! I don’t have to grit my teeth to be grateful for his unconditional love. Thank you so much my ever-present, loving God! 

Image in the Public Domain

Our Rudders Mislead Us

Just as the ocean’s currents carry a ship
You carry us
Just as the wind running along
the surface of the deep
to fill the sails and guide the ship
You guide us

We depend on You for our
every breath
We depend on You to
cause the seed to grow so we can eat
We depend on the sun to bring
life to the Earth

Our rudders mislead us
for we do not understand
We depend on your wind
to guide us
When we cannot sense you
carry us on the shoulders
of the currents

by Derek Bair

Text and image, copyright by Derek Bair, all rights reserved

He Moves Mountains

When God comes on the scene our mountains crumble.  

He moves mountains without their knowing it and overturns them in his anger. Job 9:5 

I love that phrase: He moves mountains without their knowing it. Some commentators say that “without their knowing it” means suddenly, or “before they know anything.” But the meaning that caught my heart was, “God does not know it, meaning, it is so trifling to God that he can do it without thinking.”i God just has to show up for the mountains to melt: 

The mountains melted like wax at the presence of the LORD, At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. Psalms 97:5 

God says through Ezekiel (38:20 ESV) that at his presence “the mountains shall be thrown down, and the cliffs shall fall, and every wall shall tumble to the ground.” All the mountains, every wall. 

We all have mountains in our lives, some of us suffer very big mountains, and their removal is no trifling matter to us. But God moves mountains without even trying. 

Job says that God overturns the mountains in his anger. When he is angry at injustice or angry because we are being beat up by the enemy of our souls. This is echoed by David in Psalm 18. 

In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry. Psalm 18:6-7 

I love this image! But Habakkuk says something even more wonderful for many of us stuck in despair in hopelessness. 

He stood, and shook the earth; he looked, and made the nations tremble. The ancient mountains crumbled and the age-old hills collapsed. Habakkuk 3:6 

The ancient mountains – the perpetual, continuous, seemingly forever mountains – those mountains that have always been there, handed down through the generations. The cycles of addiction and abuse, the seemingly permanent soul-wounds, the misery, futility, failure. They crumble, they melt, they fall down. The word translated “stood” also means “to take a stand,” to arise, appear, come on the scene. When God comes on the scene our mountains crumble.  

God is so powerful to save that we need only the tiniest bit of that power to move our mountains. We do this by faith. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” 

This is so hard for those of us who have embraced the lie. The lie that there is no help for me. It is hopeless. It has always been this way. Nothing will change. It’s impossible. We have to ask him to show us these lies that have sunk so deep and mangled our souls. We have to reject them, ask forgiveness, and let the truth repair and restore our hearts. 

For while God moves mountains without even thinking about it by just showing up, he also moves mountains by taking a stand against our enemy, by arising to help us, by responding to our cry for help. We do have help. It’s not impossible. Cry out to him. Let him be there with you. Dwell in his mountain-moving Presence.  

“Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered!” Psalm 68:1 (KJV) 

Image, Detail from photo by Derek Bair, all right reserved

The King’s Friend

Hushai was “just” the king’s friend.

Hushai the Arkite was the king’s friend. 1 Chronicles 27:33  

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13 (ESV) 

These are two verses that seem strange to put together. But that is what I felt the Lord doing recently. What could these verses have in common I wondered.

  The first verse comes after a long list of King David’s royal officials and their important responsibilities. One was in charge of the king’s storehouses, one was in charge of the field workers who farmed the land, one the vineyards, another the olive and sycamore trees. There were officials in charge of the cattle and the other livestock, the king’s property, the king’s sons, and Ahithophel the king’s adviser.  

And then at the end it says, “Hushai was the king’s friend.” As a performance-oriented person, tempted to salvation by works, that jarred me. Just his friend. The word for friend used here is a Hebrew word which means friend, companion, intimate. It comes from the verb form which means to be a special friend. But still, just a friend. 

So, what does that have to do with joy and peace in believing? I decided to look into the meaning of the Greek word for joy used in Romans 15:13 and I was pretty shocked. 

The Greek word is chara (χαρά). It means “cheerfulness, i.e. calm delight.” The verb form is chairo which means “calmly happy” according to Strong’s i

This surprised me because I’ve always thought of joy as expressed like David dancing with all his might – singing songs at the top of my lungs, jumping and clapping and dancing. 

Joy always has seemed like a doing thing to me, even something I had to manufacture, some kind of outward expression. Certainly not calm delight.  

There is another Greek word for joy or rejoice, agalliao (ἀγαλλιάω). And that one does mean “jumping for joy.” It is the word that Mary used in her song of praise: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices (jumps for joy) in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47). 

But the joy expressed in Romans 15:13 is a different kind of joy. It’s a believing, firm, standing on the Rock, I know-it-in-my-knower kind of joy. So, it makes sense to me for this calm delight to be paired with peace. Peace is the Greek word eirene (εἰρήνη). It means, among other things, the “tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God.” 

According to the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament peace is, in its widest sense, the “normal state of all things.” Wow, I love that! Peace is what is supposed to be the normal state of all things, but especially between me and God. It is peace of soul. “Peace of soul is meant in Rom. 15:13, although this peace is possible only through the saving work of God which restores our normal state … it is a positive state inseparably connected with joy and faith.” 

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. 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 4:25-5:2 

Let not your hearts be troubled (agitated, troubled, anxious, distressed, take away your calmness of mind). Believe in God; believe also in me. John 14:1 (ESV) 

But what does all of this have to do with being a friend of God? It’s the “doing something” thing again. The salvation by works thing. All of King David’s royal officials had works they did. But Hushai was “just” the king’s friend. I see now that there is no “just” about it in God’s mind. 

The miraculous thing is that God wants us all to be called the King’s friend. I believe it is His ultimate goal and passion. 

I don’t know about you, but the command to be joyful has been accompanied by a certain amount of guilt for me. I am not always happy and jumpy and clappy. I get weighed down with the effects of sin and the oppression and sorrow in this world. But I know – I know – that I am the King’s friend. Calmly delighted and happy, tranquilly assured of my salvation through Jesus Christ my Lord. 

Because of what Jesus did on the cross, being the special friend of God, having peace with God, is my normal state. And that is joy. 

I have called you friends … John 15:15 

You too can be God’s friend – Salvation

i Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

Image copyright Jack Bair 

It’s Absolutely Not Possible

It’s like God is declaring, “Not on my watch!”

I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. Luke 18:17 

When reading this verse, I usually concentrate on the “little child” part. But this time the word “never” jumped out at me. It’s actually two Greek words – οὐ μή – that are translated “never” in the above verse. Let me just say up front that studying these words has greatly encouraged my faith and I hope it does the same for you. 

According to NetBible Translator’s Notes, “The negation in Greek used here (οὐ μή, ou mh) is very strong.” Strong’s Concordance, notes that it is “a double negative strengthening the denial.” The meanings include: not at all, by no means, neither, never, in no case, nor ever, not in any wise. 

So, it’s really important to pay attention when Jesus uses this word. He is saying in the above verse that it is vital that we come to God with the faith of a child. (And note that it is matter of our will – “anyone who will not receive.”)

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon adds that “οὐ denies the thing itself (or to speak technically, denies simply, absolutely, categorically, directly, objectively), but μή denies the thought of the thing, or the thing according to the judgment, opinion, will, purpose, preference, of someone.” 

Denying the thought of the thing is like saying “God forbid,” or “don’t even think about it!” Like Peter exclaiming after Jesus predicted his death at the hands of the chief priests:  

“Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never ( οὐ μή ) happen to you!” Matthew 16:22 

This is also translated “God forbid!” “Heaven forbid!” “Impossible, Master!”  

These are negative examples, but there are many, many promises using this word combination. From God’s point of view, it is like he is declaring, “Not on my watch!” Jesus uses this emphatic “double negative strengthening the denial” many times, categorically and absolutely declaring the impossibility of something happening.

It is helpful for me to think of it as “It’s not happening!” (I was going to say “It ain’t happenin’!” but my librarian/English major self won’t let me.) Or I could say, “It is absolutely not possible – not ever.” I want to make sure I realize the implications – to shake myself out of my – what is it? – sleepiness, complacency, apathy? I don’t want to just let my eyes and mind slip by these promises, but grab unto them with both hands and all my heart and soul. 

Below is a list of some of the promises using this double, emphatic negative.* It is mind jogging to me, and so comforting and encouraging to read them with “It’s not happening. It is absolutely not possible – not ever!” preceding the promise. (You can precede these verses in any way that speaks to you): 

It’s not happening. It is absolutely not possible – not ever!

I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Matthew 5:18 

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Matthew 24:35 

Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst–not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life. John 4:14 (Message) 

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:37 

All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Luke 21:17-18 

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35 

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away (never cast them out, never reject them). 

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. John 10:28 

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” John 11:25-26 

And then these wonderful promises: 

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. Galatians 5:16 

And I will forgive their wrongdoings, and I will never again remember their sins. Hebrews 8:12 (NLT) 

Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more. Hebrews 10:17 

… God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 

For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 1 Peter 2:6 

He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death. Revelation 2:11 

All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine. Revelation 3:5 (NLT) 

Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. Revelation 3:12 

That last one! How amazing! We will be in His Presence and never again, not at all, by no means, never ever, in no case, not ever, not in any wise will we leave His glorious Presence ever again. Praise God! It ain’t happenin’! 

*A further discussion and complete list of verses using οὐ μή and be found here https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g3364 

Image copyright by Derek Bair

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

A Hardhat Kind of Love

This kind of love is a “hard hat, lunch pail, pick axe” kind of love.

Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up … Acts 3:6-8 

Usually, I focus on the first part of this verse, the silver and gold part. Peter and John didn’t have a lot of money but they had a real treasure – the power of the Name of Jesus. A power that heals and renews and repairs and restores. As Peter explained to the astonished crowd: 

And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all. Acts 3:16 (ESV) 

And as Paul encouraged the Corinthians, we have this treasure of the knowledge of God and what Jesus has done for us on the cross. 

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 2 Corinthians 4:7 (ESV) 

Silver and gold most of us do not have, but we can have the most precious power in the universe. But this time as I read the passage above in Acts, I was drawn to look at the second part of the verse. The part where Peter reaches down and takes the man by the hand. And I saw that faith in the Name is the treasure, but love, or “works” as James put it, is its expression. 

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:14-18 

This kind of love is, as my pastor Troy Gentz put it in a recent messagei, “a hard hat, lunch pail, pick axe” kind of love.  It is a reaching down, taking by the hand, helping up kind of love. It is not philosophical. It is not just reading about faith and mentally, or even from the heart, assenting to what is written. It is not even just giving of our resources. It is giving ourselves. 

As I was searching for a way to express the love God requires, I came on this list of synonyms: “hands on, personally involved, front line, in the trenches, in amongst it.”ii  Yes, “in amongst it”! Just like Jesus is in amongst us – our Emmanuel (see Jesus in the Middle). 

Love cannot stay just in our minds or even in our hearts. It can’t remain as words on a page, no matter how adored. It was made to be – it exists to be – expressed in works of love that reach out and grasp people by the hand and pull them up and out. As Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” (John 5:17). 

In the same sermon Troy Gentz said, “The love of God is an ocean and it shouldn’t trickle down to a dirty little puddle that we share with people.”iii  What keeps the treasure we have from gushing out all over the place in refreshing, life-giving, good works of love? Fear, prejudice, self-preservation, selfishness, apathy – all things that Jesus addressed in his time here on earth (ex.: Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 10:30-37; Luke 12:15-21).  

“We should resemble God … look like God’s kids. It’s [love is] a family trait.”iv 

For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you. Do not fear; I will help you. Isaiah 41:13 

By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 1 John 3:16 

i Troy Gentz, Greatest Sermon series, Sunday June 6, 2021 https://youtu.be/D-6fr9HWDnw?t=1636  

ii Word Hippo https://www.wordhippo.com/what-is/another-word-for/down_and_dirty.html  

iii ibid, Troy Gentz 

iv ibid, Troy Gentz 

Image in the Public Domain from Wikimedia https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hard_Hats_Required.jpg

Always

Continually, continual, daily, regularly, constantly, always …

Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Psalm 71: 3 

From my birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you. Psalm 71:6 

But as for me, I shall always have hope; I will praise you more and more. Psalm 71:14 

The Hebrew word tamiyd is used three times in Psalm 71. In the above verses, the word translated “always” and “ever” is tamiyd. It means continually or continuously, constantly, perpetually, evermore. I can continually go to God, praise God, and have hope in God. Yes! And you know why? Because of the other meaning of tamiyd.  

According to the Encyclopaedia Judaic, “Tamid is an abbreviated form for olat tamid (daily burnt-offering), and refers to the daily (morning and evening) sacrifices as set out in Exodus 29:38-42 and Numbers 28:1-8.” i

Tamiyd (or tamid) is the regular, daily sacrifice, the fire of which was never to go out (Leviticus 6:12-13) until the Lamb of God, Jesus, the final sacrifice for sin would come (Hebrews 9:15-27).   

But he [Jesus] has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Hebrews 9:26b 

The word also refers to the Bread of the Presence, the shewbread or showbread, which was placed weekly on the golden table in the Tabernacle.  

“The word [tamiyd] is used alone to designate the daily burnt offering in Dan 8:11-13; Dan 11:31; Dan 12:11. Num 4:7 refers to the ‘bread of continuity’ meaning the bread that was always there.” — Dr. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.ii  (emphasis added) 

The Bread that is always there. Jesus, always right there with us. As close as our breath and the beating of our hearts. Hallelujah! 

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” John 6:35 

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20 

Continually, continual, daily, regularly, constantly, always, at all times, all day and all night, constant, perpetual, endless, forever, ever, evermore.iii 

Because of the Lamb of God who was the final sacrifice for sin, the Lamb slain before the beginning of the world, whose passionate, fiery love for us never goes out, I can always go into the Presence of God. 

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12 

Because of the Bread of Life who is always there with us, I can ever praise him 

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. Hebrews 13:15 

Because of Jesus who daily bears our burdens and ever lives to make intercession for us, I can always have hope 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:23 

My Rock of refuge to whom I can always go, may your fire never go out in me. 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 

Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually (tamiyd). 1 Chronicles 16:11 

i Encyclopaedia Judaic, Jerusalem, 1971 Keter Publ. House Ltd. 

ii Hebrew word studies in the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vols. 1- 2, edited by Laird Harris, Gleason Archer and Bruce Waltke, Chicago: Moody Press, 1981. 

iii Some of the ways that tamiyd is translated in NetBible. 

At a Distance

We are not betting on ourselves.

“Our heavenly Father isn’t looking for a faith that deals with one problem at a time. He’s looking for a lifetime faith, a lifelong commitment to believe him for the impossible. This kind of faith brings a calm and rest to our soul, no matter what our situation. And we have this calm because we’ve settled once and for all, ‘My God is bigger. He is able to bring me out of any and all afflictions.’” — David Wilkerson 

For some reason, this quote is really hitting something at my core. I recognize that this is what I have been doing – dredging up the faith for one horrible incoming missile at a time. But a “lifelong commitment to believe for the impossible”- why is that so hard for me? I think because I am following at a distance.  

Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire. Mark 14:54 

The truth was, that even though Peter had walked on the water; even though he had seen the transfiguration and declared Jesus the Christ – Peter still wasn’t irrevocably committed. He was waiting to see what would happen. Like me waiting to see where this next bomb will fall and the outcome before committing to faith for the next one. 

“I think most of us do everything we can, unconsciously, mostly, to detach ourselves from The Story and stand by, observing from a safe distance. But the point of The Story is this: the Christ event was not a bittersweet event long ago that we reenact liturgically and aesthetically to settle some faint longing within. The Story is a template of our own innermost truth. To live we must die.” — Suzanne Guthrie 

Ah yes, observing from a safe distance. But “lifelong commitment” demands being willing to die. Or, as A.W. Tozer put it, “Christians ought to be those who are so totally committed that it is final.”i  Our God, who is forever fully, intensely, passionately, one-track committed to us, desires this kind of final lifetime faith from us. A faith that does not watch from a distance, but is willing to go, with him, all the way to the cross. 

Does the Scripture mean nothing to you that says, “The Spirit that God breathed into our hearts is a jealous Lover who intensely desires to have more and more of us”? James 4:5 (TPT) 

Because Your loving-commitment is better than life, my lips do praise You. Psalm 63: 3 (The Scriptures 2009) 

The Hebrew word translated “loving-commitment” above is chesed, or hesed. It’s meaning is as big as God himself, including love, mercy and faithfulness. But Koehler Baumgartner’s Lexicon of the Old Testament describes hesed as also including the idea of the “mutual liability of those … belonging together.” I love that – those belonging together – “My lover is mine and I am his “(Song of Songs 2:16). But it is so much more than just a legal liability.  

According to gotquestions.org, “The core idea of this term communicates loyalty or faithfulness within a relationship. Thus, hesed is closely related to God’s covenant with His people, Israel. As it relates to the concept of love, hesed expresses God’s faithfulness to His people … Hesed finds its home in committed, familial love, and it comes to life in actions. 

The message of the gospel—God’s act of forgiveness and salvation in Jesus—is rooted in hesed. Hesed describes the disposition of God’s heart not only toward His people but to all humanity. The love of God extends far beyond duty or expectation. His forgiveness of sin fulfills a need that is basic to all other needs in the relationship between human beings and God—the restoration and continuation of fellowship with God in Jesus Christ. God’s hesed manifested in forgiveness makes a relationship with Him possible. That forgiveness comes to us freely as a gift from God based on the sacrificial act of Christ.” —  https://www.gotquestions.org/meaning-of-hesed.html  

And, as to those incoming missiles, I think J.D. Walt says it best. 

“We do not fret as to whether the odds are in our favor precisely because we are not betting on ourselves. The odds do not matter one whit to those who are already ‘all in.’ It is God with whom we deal, not our detractors or enemies.” — J.D. Walt 

Am I “all in?” Are you? It is the essential question of our times. 

If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Romans 14:8 

Living Stones

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptised by him … “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.” Luke 3:7-8 

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4-5 

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Luke 19:39-40 

This morning I smiled as I read these verses, because I realized that the words of John by the river, and the words of Jesus to the Pharisees, were prophetic. Jesus did raise up children from the stones – not for Abraham, but for the Father. The hard stone of our hearts he replaced with flesh (Ezekiel 11:19) and made them living. He did this by giving us the grace of repentance and the gift of justification by faith in his atoning death on the cross.  

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26  

By his blood shed on the cross he enabled us to become children of God and living stones that are being built into his house and into his priesthood.  

But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. Hebrews 3:6 

… and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1:6 

Cry out his praise all you stones!  

Photo of stones by Sheila Bair