Wineskin in the Smoke

Like David, I must choose hope.

Kaph 

 My soul faints with longing for your salvation, 

    but I have put my hope in your word. 

My eyes fail, looking for your promise; 

    I say, “When will you comfort me?” 

Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke, 

    I do not forget your decrees. 

How long must your servant wait? 

    Psalm 119:81-84a 

For years I have been reading that phrase “though I am like a wineskin in the smoke” and wondering what it means. It has been an enigma to me. But now I am starting to get an idea. Maybe, sometimes you have to be there in the dark smoke to finally understand.  

Each of the sections of Psalm 119 start with one of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This section starts with kaph. 

“Jewish writers state that kaph means ‘bent.’ It has a dual symbolism, standing for the palm of the hand serving as a container and, at the same time, as a measure for what it holds. Ibn Ezra states that kaph means ‘result through mental and physical effort.’ While yod stands for the hand indicating power and possession, kaph denotes productivity and accomplishment.” — Mick Mills, David Michael, Messiah and his Hebrew Alphabet. [emphasis mine] 

David used kaph as a word in Psalm 139:5: You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand (kaph) upon me. “You have laid your kaph on me” – You are doing, producing, accomplishing something in me! 

The first word of this section of Psalm 119, kalah, starts with the letter kaph. Kalah means to be spent, be used up, to waste away, be exhausted, fail. My soul faints. My eyes fail. But it also means to come or bring to an end, to complete, finish, to accomplish, fulfill, bring to pass. On our side we are exhausted, spent, we have failed and are failing. On God’s side, he is bringing us to the end of our own strength, he is finishing, accomplishing, fulfilling his purpose and promise in us, bringing his Word to pass. 

What does that have to do with wineskins in the smoke? 

There are two things that I have found. Nomadic peoples would hang their skin-bottles in their tents which were full of smoke and they would become, over time, black and dried out, shriveled, and useless. Many commentators conclude that David is lamenting that he feels like such a skin in the hot, blinding smoke – suffering, helpless, waiting. (See, for instance, Spurgeon in The Treasury of David https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=spur&b=19&c=119&v=45

But there is another beautiful meaning here. Hanging skin-bottles over a fire, or in a smoky place, was an ancient method of refining the wine inside of them.i 

  “A bottle in the smoke. One object amongst the ancients of such exposure was to mellow the wine by the gradual ascent of the heat and smoke from the fire over which the skin was suspended; and thus the words teach us the uses of affliction in ripening and improving the soul.” — Ernst Friedrich Karl Rosenmüller, quoted in John Mason Neale, Richard Frederick Littledale, A Commentary on the Psalms 

“And in that custom the psalmist finds an illustration of the meaning, and of the mercy, of the afflictions to which he has been exposed. They have been sent to act on him like the warm smoke on the wine – to refine, mellow, and ripen his character; and because, under them all, he has refused to part with his faith in God and duty; because he has been true to God and God’s statutes, they have had their intended and proper effect upon him.” — Rev. Robert Tuckii  

How long must your servant wait?  

Yes, it’s the waiting that makes it so hard. I’m not good at waiting even for good things, let alone waiting in the suffocating smoke of misery, not knowing what is going to happen, how long it will last, helpless, not able to change or affect anything. Like David, I must choose hope. 

“To wait with openness and trust is an enormously radical attitude toward life. It is choosing to hope that something is happening for us that is far beyond our own imaginings. It is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life. It is living with the conviction that God molds us in love, holds us in tenderness, and moves us away from the sources of our fear.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen, Radical Waiting 

“What seems to be in mind is a long waiting-time, which was also a time of suffering and strain. The watching for God was prolonged; no response seemed to come; much had to be borne while he was waiting; he seemed to get dry, shriveled, and blackened, like the wine-skin in the chimney that had waited so long (and seemed to get tired of waiting, even as he did) for the moisture and refreshing of being used, and filled again with wine. But the question of supreme importance was this – What was he doing during this hard waiting-time?” – Rev. Robert Tuckiii  

What was David doing in the waiting? I have put my hope in your word … looking for your promise … I do not forget your decrees. He believed, because he knew God, he knew that all the time he was hanging there in the dark, hot, choking smoke – God was working, God was accomplishing his purpose, God was fulfilling his promise.

Lord help me do that too. When I’m hanging there, when despair and hopelessness swirl around me like the strangling, blinding smoke – give me that grace. 

Even when I don’t see it, You’re working 
Even when I don’t feel it, You’re working 
You never stop, You never stop working 
You never stop, You never stop working 

— from Way Maker by Osinachi Kalu Okoro Egbu 

Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” John 5:17 

Photo, free download from Pixabay 

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

Unum Necessarium

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42 

I have written about this verse before (see https://wrestlingwordblog.wordpress.com/2018/09/28/one-thing/ ), but God has been showing me some different facets of this hidden treasure. 

I always looked at this verse as Jesus pointing out something I was supposed to do or not do. Busyness vs. Contemplation. Works vs. Faith. I saw some kind of judgement on Martha and a holding up of Mary as an example. But is that what Jesus is really saying here? 

Service and missions and doing good works are good things, aren’t they? And we are called to these, aren’t we? Prayer and study and meditation on the word are life-giving and good for the building up of the body. But what is fundamentally needed, a necessity, necessary? What can’t I live without? What gives me life and breath and holds me together? If I was paralyzed and couldn’t communicate, if I was in a coma and couldn’t hear or even think. When I die and all that I have done in this life is left behind. What is the “one thing” that is necessary? In Latin it is called the Unum necessarium, and Douglas Taylor wrote of it this way: 

“It was a saying of former ages, Unum necessarium, ‘One thing is needful’, drawn from the Latin rendering of the Lord Jesus’ words to Martha in Luke 10:42, when she had shown herself ‘careful and troubled about many things’. In contrast with her care and agitation, there was actually only one thing truly necessary, and Mary had seen it and chosen it. But what was it, and what is it? Some say that it is ‘the contemplative life’, as opposed to mere activism; some take it to be salvation, some, repentance, some, regeneration, or new life in Christ. Who is right, or is the answer something else altogether?  
                                                                            … 

But what is the one thing needful? What had Mary chosen to do? Surely it was to listen to Christ’s words in a serious and believing way? Surely the implication is that the one thing needful is to receive and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, as he is revealed in Holy Scripture? Those who profess to be Christians disagree on many things. Some are important. Some are not. But one thing is absolutely indispensable, and surely all sincere and genuine Christians can agree on this: Christ himself, as he is revealed in the Scriptures, is the truly indispensable One. We need him absolutely and unconditionally. We hang on him; we depend on him. We are lost without him. He is the Unum Necessarium, the ‘one thing needful’, the Rock of our salvation. If we have him, we have everything. If we do not, we have nothing. Praised be his holy Name forever that he has had mercy on us!“i   

So, again, God is saying: it’s not me. I’m not the Wonderful One. It’s not what I do or say or think or write or even how fervently I believe. It is Jesus Christ my Lord. It is Him. It all – everything – always comes back to Him. In my heart, Christ in me, the hope of glory. It is Him, what he has already done on the Cross and which cannot be outdone or added to. Christ Himself. Could that be what Jesus was saying to Martha – and to Mary? Only one thing is needed and that is Me, and Mary has figured it out? It’s Jesus, the One who will be with us and for us and in us to the end and will dance over us with joyful singing on into eternity. 

You know, I always heard Jesus saying, “Martha, Martha,” shaking his head, as a gentle, but disappointed rebuke. However, recently I have learned that in the culture of Bible times, repeating the name was an expression of intimacy and affection. (See Bible.org https://bible.org/illustration/repeating-names) Think of “Abraham, Abraham” (Genesis 22:11), “Moses, Moses” (Exodus 3:4), “Simon, Simon” (Luke 22:31), “Saul, Saul” (Acts 9:4), and many more. 

 Maybe Jesus was not so much rebuking Martha for stressing out in doing her good service, but lovingly pointing her to the Way to do it. To dwell in him, find rest in him, to let him be strong in her and let his love do the loving through her. Pointing her, and me, and all of us, to the Unum Necessarium. 

Lord, I come, I confess 
Bowing here I find my rest 
Without You I fall apart 
You’re the One that guides my heart 

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You 
Every hour I need You 
My one defense, my righteousness 
Oh God, how I need You 

(Songwriters: Christy Nockels / Daniel Carson / Jesse Reeves / Kristian Stanfill / Matt Maher) 

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. Psalm 27:4  

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:17 

i Posted 13th June 2011 by Douglas Taylor http://worksworthdeclaring.blogspot.com/2011/06/unum-necessarium.html 

Photo by Jack Bair

Perfect Peace

Could God be saying that our hearts were formed, were created, to trust in Him?

Praise the LORD. Blessed is the man who fears (reverences, honors, holds in awe) the LORD … He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes. Psalm 112:1, 7-8 

This verse was in my daily reading yesterday and it really hit me. Because I have been living in fear of bad news for a while. One bad thing after another – what’s next? I had been crying out to God for a while, but not receiving an answer. This had even caused me to be in danger of doubting God’s promises and becoming bitter. So, I decided to look closer at these verses. And God, in his great mercy and unfailing love, answered me. 

Where it says “his heart is steadfast trusting,” the word translated “steadfast” is the Hebrew word kuwn. It means established, prepared, made ready, fashioned. According to the Theologisches Handwörterbuch zum Alten Testamenti, ” [t]he root meaning is to bring something into being with the consequence that its existence is a certainty … bringing into existence, of a thing.” 

It is the same word that is used in Psalms and Proverbs here: 

Your hands made me and formed (kuwn) me; give me understanding to learn your commands. Psalm 119:73 

When He established (kuwn) the heavens, I was there, When He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep … Proverbs 8:27 (NASB) 

The word for the little cakes formed by the hands of women in Jeremiah 44:19 is derived from kuwn. Could God be saying that our hearts were formed, were created, to trust in Him? And that if we are not using our hearts as they were intended, not trusting, we are fearful – that we will have what David Wilkerson called “foreboding fears of the future”? And if we are trusting – as our hearts were made to do – we do not fear? 

Look at the next verse (Psalm 112:8): “His heart is secure, he will have no fear.” The word translated “secure” there is the Hebrew word camak. It means supported, upheld, sustained, borne up. It means someplace to lean or lay upon, rest upon, lean against. This is the word used here (which verse God sent me through two different sources yesterday!):   

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast (camak), because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3 

One of the sources for this verse that I received in my email was a recording of a message preached by David Wilkerson in 2009. Right at the beginning he says that he wasn’t going to leave his seriously ill wife and come to church, but God told him to go and deliver this message because there were people who needed to hear it, there were people with “foreboding fears of the future.” That’s us.

Isn’t that amazing? Eleven years ago, God gave a message for me, for us, in this very fearful time. If you are like me right now, fearful and doubting and verging on bitterness, listen to the whole message. It is for you. Let God bring you back into his arms where you can rest upon His mighty heart. 

God Knows, David Wilkerson, 2009  https://worldchallenge.org/sermon/david-wilkerson/god-knows?ref=em1120  

Photo by Jack Bair, 2005

Faith Looks

A theme again emerged this week from the blogs and devotionals I follow. May these encourage you!

On accepting adversity in our lives: Always it is initiated by an act of will on our part; we set ourselves to believe in the overruling goodness, providence, and sovereignty of God and refuse to turn aside no matter what may come, no matter how we may feel. I mistakenly thought I could not trust God unless I felt like trusting Him. Now I am learning that trusting God is first of all a matter of the will. I choose to trust in God, and my feelings eventually follow. ― Margaret Clarkson, Grace Grows Best in Winter 

(Blogged by Beholding Him Ministries https://beholdinghimministries.org/2020/11/04/wisdom-wednesday-the-sovereign-god-110420/

Faith looks not at what happens to him but at Him Whom he believes. — Watchman Nee 

(Blogged by Cookiecrumbstoliveby https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2020/11/03/calm-cool-and-collected/

You are good, you are kind 

 You are more than these 

 I’m lost for words trying to describe You 

 Elohim, Elyon, Alese lewi [He who does what He has said] 

 Your greatness is all I see 

 There is nothing You cannot do 

 There’s no mountain You cannot move 

If You have said it, then You will do it 

 ’cause You have a track record of keeping Your word 

 And You’re not about to stop doing it now 

— Olorun Agbaye – You Are Mighty, Nathaniel Bassey, lyrics 

(Blogged by Precious John-Adeyemi https://goodandloved.wordpress.com/2020/11/01/my-top-5-songs-of-the-week-2/

“In this world you will have trouble.” — Jesus 

Friends in the Lord. We need to get over it. In this world we will have trouble. We will get cancer. Tragedy will strike our families. Untimely deaths will occur. Our children will endure trauma. At the other end of the spectrum, people will be beheaded simply for their faith in Jesus. Trouble is the unfortunate feature and bitter fruit of the insanely complex, compounded brokenness of the whole fallen creation. It is neither an indictment on the goodness of God nor the faith of his followers. 

The big difference on this point is not between people who follow Jesus and people who don’t. Trouble is our common lot. The big difference is the people who follow Jesus get to add this tiny little hand grenade of a footnote to our bumper sticker: “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” — J.D. Walt 

The issue of faith is not so much whether we believe in God, but whether we believe the God we believe in. – RC Sproul 

Photo copyright Derek Bair 2006

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 

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  

Trusting in Chariots

Having faith in faith is a lot like being in love with being in love.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. Psalm 20:7-8 

This was an old friend of mine, Josephine’s favorite verse. She was in her nineties when I got to know her. Telling me stories of her life, she said that when things got really bad – and things did get very bad for her at times – she would go into her closet and pray that prayer. Then she would come out and face what she had to face in God’s strength. And God would answer. She trusted God through being kicked out of her home as a teenager, freezing in an unheated attic apartment, days of hunger and grueling hard work. Through her whole life, she had a thick prayer notebook. She often prayed that verse for the problems and people on her list. 

It was Josephine who taught me to pray. She would say, “Let’s pray! You start.” I would pause, composing a wonderful prayer in my mind. She would give me about two seconds and demand, “Well are you going to pray?” I learned early on to just jump in and start talking, hoping God would give me the words. And you know what? He did! And I learned to stop putting my faith in my ability to put together the correct prayer – putting faith in my chariots and horses, faith in my faith – and just trust and let his Spirit pray in me. 

The Hebrew translated “we trust in the name” in Psalm 20:7 actually says, “The name, reputation, fame, glory, honor, authority, character of the Lord we will recall, call to mind, mark so as to be recognized (i.e., remembered), recount, think on.” We mark to be recognized or remembered – like putting a bookmark in the page of a great book to go back and reread over and over again – we remember his character, who he is, and we trust.   

A.W. Tozer warned against having faith in faith, not in God. 

There are preachers who devote themselves completely to preaching faith. As a result, people have faith in faith. They largely forget that our confidence must not be in the power of faith but in the Person and work of the Savior, Jesus Christ … It is the character of God Himself, you see, that gives us this confidence. — Faith Beyond Reason 

Having faith in faith is a lot like being in love with being in love. We just like the idea of being in love. It is exciting and makes us feel good. But it might not have much to do at all with the actual person – their feelings, thoughts and desires. Having faith in our ability to have faith – or even having faith in the promises of God – is really just trusting in chariots if our faith is in how well we can dredge up “faith” and memorize and proclaim. Our faith must rest on the Faithful One, on the Promise Keeper. Its foundation must be on the name, reputation, fame, glory, honor, authority and character of our Lord. It is because we know him, who he is, that we can believe. 

This is important, because when things get really bad and it seems your prayers are not being answered, you will not be thrown for a loop, you will not be overwhelmed. You will come out of your prayer closet and stand firm on the Rock. Put your bookmark there, in the great I AM, Immanuel, God with us, Shepherd, Comforter, Redeemer, Savior, in his proven character, in his unfailing love and mercy.  

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:2

In him our hearts rejoice, for we are trusting in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone. Psalm 33:21-22 (NLT) 

But we trust in the name. 

Here is a place to start getting to know the goodness of our Father https://biblereasons.com/who-god-is/

Image, Tattered Spine by Tim Samoff on flickr https://flic.kr/p/51oAP  

To Him Who is Able

Quite frequently the daily devotionals and blogs that I receive all have the same message. God is amazing and faithful! When that happens, I make sure to pay attention. That happened again this week and I thought, in this challenging time, that the message they convey might be of comfort to you too. 

You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Psalm 139:5 (NASB) 

Sometimes, especially when we are facing intense challenges in life, it feels as if God is distant from us. We might even think He has deliberately withdrawn from us. Nothing could be farther from the truth … In fact, at all times, His hand is upon you. — Derek Prince Ministries 

When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth? Luke 18:8 

Will He find the kind of faith that counts on Him in spite of the confusion? Stand firm in faith, believing that what Jesus said is true, although in the meantime you do not understand what God is doing. — Oswald Chambers 

Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. John 7:17  

Translation: Trust in me, and you will discover the truth of my words. It’s not trust me because you already fully grasp the truth. No, it’s trust me and you will discover the truth and the truth will set you free. Jesus offers the test of active trust. He is looking for people who will choose to belong to him even before they fully believe in him. How does one belong to Jesus? Start following him. — J.D. Walt 

Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord. Hosea 6:3  

Not all at once, but by degrees shall we attain to holy knowledge, and our business is to persevere and learn by little and little. We need not despair, though our progress may be slow, for we shall yet know. The Lord, who has become our Teacher, will not give us up, however slow of understanding we may be; for it is not for His honor that any degree of human folly should baffle His skill. — Charles Spurgeon 

To Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. Jude 1:24-25 

Image by Jack Bair

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