Fractured

Anxiety, as I’ve experienced lately, can become my default mode. But He cares for you. 

Cast all your anxiety (merimna) on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 

The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries (merimna) of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. Matthew 13:22 

Both of the above verses about worry or anxiety use the Greek word μέριμνα, transliterated merimna. J.D. Walt has this to say about this word: 

“The word is transliterated ‘merimna’ and sounds like it spells. It carries a meaning of dividing and fracturing a person’s being into parts. Anxiety, in a very literal sense, pulls us apart. It dis-integrates our very sense of self by attacking our core sense of security. 

So how do we deal with anxiety?  

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 

Is it as simple as telling God what we are anxious about? It sounds good, but all too often when we are anxious we tend to worry our prayers rather than casting our anxiety on God. Anxiety must actually be displaced within us. The little word, ‘because,’ tells us how this displacement works. It brings us to the four most important words in today’s text: 

He cares for you.  

Did you hear that? 

He cares for you.”

J.D. Walt https://seedbed.com/swing-thought-2/ 

Merimna means care, anxiety, “properly, a part, separated from the whole,” “worry (anxiety), dividing and fracturing a person’s being into parts.” It dawned on me that it is the opposite of the “all” I wrote about recently – loving God with all. When we let our hearts and minds be pulled apart by worry into parts it separates us from God. We need to cast it all unto God and love-worship Him with all. 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:36-37). 

The Greek word that Jesus used in quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, translated “all” three times in the verse, is holos (ὅλος). It is the root of the English term “whole.” It means whole, complete, entire, “properly, wholly, where all the parts are present and working as a whole – i.e. as the total, which is greater than the mere sum of the parts.” 

Worry, then, is the opposite of this “all.” Worry fractures me into parts separated from the whole. Loving the Lord with all – all the parts present and working as a whole – is the opposite of being fractured into parts by anxiety. Anxiety robs God of my all-love. It means I am reserving some of my love – worship – for that which I worry about. Do I really trust God whole-heartedly? Anxiety, as I’ve experienced lately, can become my default mode. But He cares for you.  

The Greek word translated “cares” above is meló (μέλει) and means to be an object of care. I love that! “To be an object of care.” As Louie Giglio says “you’re on Heaven’s radar.” Even when we can’t feel it or see it or hear it. Even when it seems we have been abandoned and forgotten. 

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 
Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care (meló) if we drown?” Mark 4:37-38 

“Don’t you care?”  

How many times have I asked this question, roiling in my anguish and doubt? But he said he cares for me, and has demonstrated that love.  

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares (meló) nothing for the sheep. John 10:11-13 

So not being fractured, but being whole, means following the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for me. As Henry Nouwen wrote, it means trusting in God’s love. 

“It’s a question here of trusting in God’s love. The Greek word for faith is pistis, which means, literally, ‘trust.’ Whenever Jesus says to people he has healed: ‘Your faith has saved you,’ he is saying that they have found new life because they have surrendered in complete trust to the love of God revealed in him.” — Henry J.M. Nouwen 

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. 1 John 4:16 (NLT) 

God wants me to be whole. I become whole following the Good Shepherd – trusting – loving with all, complete, entire, as one. Letting Him lead and guide me, bind up my wounds, rescue me, hold me close. Christ in me and I in Him, making it possible. His all, my all. 

Christ is all, and is in all. Colossians 3:11 

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:4-6 

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. John 17:22-23 (ESV) 

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 

“Did you hear that? 

He cares for you.” 

Photo, Fractured, by Brett Jordan https://flic.kr/p/8f8EHy  

His Right Hand is Free

If God is holding me by my right hand I can’t use it.

Yet I am always with you; 
you hold me by my right hand. 
You guide me with your counsel, 
 and afterward you will take me into glory. 
Whom have I in heaven but you? 
 And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 
My flesh and my heart may fail, 
 but God is the strength of my heart 
 and my portion forever. Psalm 73:23-26 

When I was meditating on these verses I realized that if God is holding me by my right hand I can’t use it. And since I am right-handed anything I tried to do with my left hand would be awkward and malformed.  

The right hand in the Bible is a symbol of strength. Also, “The right side of a man is the side on which God ‘marches’ when assisting him in battle (Isa. 63:12; Ps. 109:31; 110:1, 5) and it is the right hand which God grasps as a symbol of election (Isa. 41:13; 45:1; Ps. 73:23).” i  

Wow, what amazing grace! He has grasped my right hand; He has chosen me! But, if my right hand is in His, I basically can’t do anything in my own strength. I would have to take my hand out of His. That explains my frequent urge to do just that – shake Him off and do it myself. Fearful that things are taking too long, that I’m missing out, afraid He has forgotten me.  

But His word assures us that He will never forget. Yet, I am always with you. He will never leave us or forsake us. And think of this: though His left hand is occupied holding on to me, His right hand is free. And so, “though my flesh and heart may fail” God is my strength and help. He is fighting for me with His mighty right hand. 

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Psalm 138:7-8 (ESV) 

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 

Lord, keep my right hand in yours

iJewish Virtual Library “Right and Left” 

Photo, free download from Piqsels

Not Chicken Hearted

Does the heart empowered by the Presence of God stand and love no matter what?

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:5 

According to Barnes Notes on the Bible, the word translated “downcast” means to sink down under the weight of sorrow; to be depressed and sad. The word translated “disturbed” means literally, to growl as a bear, to be agitated, troubled, or anxious in mind, to moan internally. I’ve done a lot of both growling and moaning lately. 

That last part of this verse says in the Hebrew: I will yet praise him for the salvations of his face. 

“For the help of his countenance – literally, ‘the salvations of his face,’ or his presence. The original word rendered help is in the plural number, meaning salvations; and the idea in the use of the plural is, that his deliverance would be completed or entire – as if double or manifold.”i 

It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them. Psalm 44: 3-4 

  
The Psalmist, like me, was downcast, depressed, despairing, trying to inspire and encourage his soul to wait, to be patient, to hope expectantly. Ah, that is hard. Charles Spurgeon commented on this verse: 

“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? As though he were two men, the psalmist talks to himself. His faith reasons with his fears, his hope argues with his sorrows. These present troubles, are they to last forever? … Why this deep depression, this faithless fainting, this chicken hearted melancholy?” — Charles Spurgeonii 

“Chicken hearted melancholy.” That made me laugh, and reminded me of the 1961 exercise song we were forced to sing as part of President Kennedy’s Youth Fitness Program: “Give that chicken fat back to the chicken and don’t be chicken again!” Maybe what I should be singing now is, “Give that chicken heart back to the chicken and don’t be chicken again!” 

Ruth in a recent blog from Planted by Living Water (https://plantedbylivingwater.wordpress.com/2018/03/24/antithesis-of-love-1-corinthians-13/ ) listed the antithesis of love as defined in 1 Corinthians 13:7-8.

This anti-love:  

  • runs from difficulties,
  • is unbelieving, cynical, and suspicious, 
  • feels there is no hope, and 
  • gives up. 

Is the opposite of love to be chicken hearted? Does the heart empowered by the Presence of God stand and love no matter what? Is it like the Ukrainian President refusing to leave the city under siege and reassuring the people after the long, dark, terrifying night, “I am here.” iii 

The psalmist commands his failing soul to hope, which means to wait expectantly for the promised salvation. That is the opposite of despair, isn’t it? As my pastor asked in his sermon this past Sunday: am I walking around in anxiety or anticipation? A lot of times I walk in anxiety, but “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” I think it is time for me to stand on the Rock, grab onto His hope and pray. And that is only possible by the salvations of His Face, the Light of His Face, for He loves us.   

Lord, let it be! Help me to stand and keep loving in the light of your Face. Work in me persevering faith and expectant hope, no matter what is going on around me. 

“A loss of the present sense of God’s love is not a loss of that love itself; the jewel is there, though it gleams not on our breast; hope knows her title good when she cannot read it clear; she expects the promised boon though present providence stands before her with empty hands. For I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance. Salvations come from the propitious face of God, and he will yet lift up his countenance upon us.” — Charles Spurgeon 

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24 

I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. 

iBarnes Notes on the Whole Bible, by Albert Barnes 

iiTreasury of David, Charles Spurgeon https://archive.spurgeon.org/treasury/ps042.php  

iiiUSA Today on Twitter https://twitter.com/USATODAY/status/1497635825860820993  

Image in the Public Domain

They Took Him Along

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 

They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Mark 4:35-41 

Reading this verse, I was stopped, and maybe a little amused, at the phrase “they took him along.” I think it is a curious statement. They brought Jesus along, or so they thought. Jesus had been in the boat all day teaching the crowds. So, they brought him along just as he was already in the boat. They brought him along as the Teacher, but did they bring him along as Lord? When it was time to go, they got in the boat with him and started off – right into a huge storm. While they began fighting for their lives, Jesus slept.  

“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 

I think Jesus was sleeping for a couple of reasons. One, I’m sure he was exhausted. But also, he wanted them to discover that he is in control and sees what is happening, even when it seems he is asleep and doesn’t care. And that you don’t just take him along with you. As J.D. Walt wrote, Jesus needs to be at the helm of our boat, not the stern. 

I am with you. I am not distant or far from you. I am in the boat, sleeping. The problem is not that the storm is raging all around you (though that is a problem). It is that the storm has gotten inside of you. These waves may do irreparable damage, but I will redeem it. What the enemy meant for evil I will turn to good. I AM THE PEACE OF GOD, the one who sleeps in the storm, and though I am with you, I will come closer. Welcome me to come within you, from the stern to the helm. — J.D. Walti 

Lord you are my peace. When the storm has gotten inside of me and I am fighting for my life and struggling, seemingly all alone, help me to see that I have put you behind me in the stern. That I have “taken you along.” Help me to put you before me as Lord, to follow you whom the wind and waves obey. To trust you to turn this evil into good. You are the One who cares. 

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 

This Just In! We Interrupt This Series for a Word from Our Sponsor https://www.seedbed.com/this-just-in-we-interrupt-this-series-for-a-word-from-our-sponsor/?mc_cid=6ff101d8c2&mc_eid=27234cb1e3 

Image, Gandalf’s Gallery, Ludolf Backhuysen – Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee [1695], https://flic.kr/p/22qS8Sx  

God Does Not Leave Us Alone

Well, it sure is obvious when God is sending me a message. Here is what came to me in my email this morning. Maybe it is for someone else too. Thank you bloggers!

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. Deuteronomy 31:8 (ESV) — blogged by Beholding Him Ministries  

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 

“You might need to read the verse again. Did you see the shift? God changes the focus for the Christian from what he has, to who he has. God tells us to do more than match our desires to our circumstances; we reconsider our circumstances based on the promise of enduring relationship with our God: I will never leave you nor forsake you.” — Greg Morse https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/in-love-with-the-life-you-dont-have  

Today, and every day, may we remember the secret of contentment in all circumstances: “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”—Philippians 4:13 (NIV) — Alan Kearns https://devotionaltreasure.wordpress.com/2022/01/30/when-little-is-much/  

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Psalm 37:7 — blogged by Beholding Him Ministries 

“What I find amazing is that our feelings of fear and doubt do not repel God from us. God does not label us as coward or weak when we feel afraid. In the Bible, whenever God meets a man who is fearful, God never turns away. He deals kindly, gently, and patiently as a loving father is to his child. So, His Word always instructs us not to fear. He always tells us, as if reminding us all the time and knowing that we easily fear and we easily forget, to ‘do not fear’. 

“For I, Yahweh your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I will help you.’” Isaiah 41:13 (WEB)  

God does not leave us alone in our fears. Instead, He stays with us, comforts us, assures us, and helps us overcome our fears.” — Deborah Agustin https://lifehub.home.blog/2022/01/29/god-helps-us-overcome-our-fears/  

Thank you so much Lord that you do not leave us alone with our fears! 

Photo by Sheila Bair

Do Not Be Dismayed

So do not fear (be frightened, be made afraid, dread, have fearful reverence, stand in awe of this thing that is happening to you, or this enemy who confronts you),  

for I (Myself) am with (together with, beside, before, among, in common lot, in fellowship and companionship, accompanying) you;  

do not be dismayed (gaze about you for help, look away, turn, depart, have regard or respect for some other god, some other savior), for I (Myself) am your God (Elohim, exceeding, very great, mighty).  

I will strengthen (make you courageous, of steadfast mind, strong, confirm, establish and fortify) you  

and help (succor, surround, protect, aid) you;  

I will uphold (grasp, support, attain, take, follow close, keep fast, maintain, retain, sustain) you with My righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 

Ah, I didn’t realize that when I am afraid, I am reverencing, standing in awe – worshiping – the enemy of my soul. I didn’t understand that when I gaze about in dismay and bewilderment for a savior, I am looking right past the One who is beside, before, close behind, accompanying me. The Savior who is with me, who has thrown his lot in with mine from the start. I didn’t see that I am trying to wriggle and fight my way out of his sustaining, protecting, compassionate, loving grasp.   

Elohim, Adonai, exceedingly great and mighty God, make me courageous as only you can do. Surround me, sustain me, keep me fast. Take my face in your loving hands and turn my gaze back to You.    

Image, Edge of Frosted Creek, copyright by Jack Bair

He Keeps Singing

Why is trust so hard? 

Why is the One who can save me 

the one I suspect? 

My lover has filled the porch 

with flowers and chocolates 

He sings cheesy love songs 

exuberantly 

and dances alone 

But flinching behind my locked door 

all I hear 

are snatches of mocking 

All I see 

is my barren, empty house 

And yet 

he keeps singing 

his love songs 

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV) 

Image, Flowers on the Porch, by slgckgc https://flic.kr/p/otJo7o

Once Again

Sorry 

I know 

You are there 

You are with me 

You care 

You have a good plan 

You are working 

always  

My heart knows  

I am sitting on your lap 

leaning on your chest 

in the Everlasting Arms 

unfailing 

But  

my head panics 

and once again 

I am flailing  

and I need 

another sign 

another word 

another touch 

You 

I need 

You 

always

Image, Strong by Eduardo Martinez https://flic.kr/p/2ihGeUk   

Reckless Faith

I think that kind of reckless love deserves a reckless faith in return.

“The Lord desires that you believe him to bring you into his promised rest. God never intended that his children live in fear and despair. We need a reckless faith and trust in God in the face of fear, trouble and death itself.” — David Wilkerson (1931-2011), Promises of God for Every Season 

What a good quote for the times we are in! The phrase, “reckless faith,” especially caught my attention, for a couple of reasons. Most of the time, the word “reckless” has a negative connotation to us. While to “reck” means to care, even to worry, about something, “reckless” is defined by The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary as “Careless of the consequences of one’s actions; heedless (of something); lacking in prudence or caution.”  

The phrase also reminded me of Cory Asbury’s song, Reckless Love.  

The overwhelming, never-ending 
Reckless love of God 
It chases me down 
Fight ’til I’m found 
Leaves the ninety-nine 
I couldn’t earn it 
I don’t deserve it 
Still you give yourself away — from Reckless Love by Cory Asbury 

Cory received some criticism for calling God’s love reckless. I love the defense and explanation he offered on his Facebook page: 

“When I use the phrase, ‘the reckless love of God’, I’m not saying that God Himself is reckless. I am, however, saying that the way He loves, is in many regards, quite so. What I mean is this: He is utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His actions with regards to His own safety, comfort, and well-being. His love isn’t crafty or slick. It’s not cunning or shrewd. In fact, all things considered, it’s quite childlike, and might I even suggest, sometimes downright ridiculous. His love bankrupted heaven for you. His love doesn’t consider Himself first. His love isn’t selfish or self-serving. He doesn’t wonder what He’ll gain or lose by putting Himself out there. He simply gives Himself away on the off-chance that one of us might look back at Him and offer ourselves in return.” — Cory Asbury, on Facebooki 

God’s reckless love is portrayed by the father in the parable of the prodigal son. The prodigal’s father was reckless with his love. Running out like that with his robe flapping, probably exposing his legs (and himself to ridicule). Going against all polite etiquette, tradition and rules pertaining to that sort of situation. Risking his success, reputation, possessions – everything he had worked for all his life.

God’s love is that kind of love – the kind that would send his only son down into this hateful, dark chaos and broken mess. The kind that would “bankrupt heaven” for us.

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32 

I think that kind of reckless love deserves a reckless faith in return. David had such a faith. Running straight out toward the giant (1 Samuel 17:48), dancing in crazy joy at the return of the Ark – heedless of what people thought, lacking prudence or caution for his safety or reputation.  

David returned home to bless his family. Michal, Saul’s daughter, came out to greet him: “How wonderfully the king has distinguished himself today—exposing himself to the eyes of the servants’ maids like some burlesque street dancer!” David replied to Michal, “In God’s presence I’ll dance all I want! Oh yes, I’ll dance to God’s glory—more recklessly even than this. And as far as I’m concerned . . . I’ll gladly look like a fool . . .” 2 Samuel 6:20-22 (Message) 

What David was saying is, “I will praise and glorify God with all my strength, with all my being, not caring what anybody thinks!” David was a “man after God’s own heart” because he had reckless faith, banishing all care about his reputation, or even care about his personal welfare, striving only to delight his God. In Psalm 62 David wrote: 

My salvation (deliverance, salvation, rescue, safety, welfare) and my honor (glory, reputation) depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Psalm 62:7 

Lord, thank you for your reckless love for me. I want to have a reckless faith in return. In this time of “fear, trouble and death itself,” help me not to live in fear and despair. Give me a reckless faith, a reckless trust, in you and you alone. A faith that simply gives myself away. Let me proclaim, “My salvation and my honor depend on God.” 

And in that very moment, away behind in some courtyard of the City, a cock crowed. Shrill and clear he crowed, recking nothing of wizardry or war, welcoming only the morning that in the sky far above the shadows of death was coming with the dawn. — J.R.R. Tolkien, Return of the King 

i quoted by Jake Gosselin in Reckless Love by Cory Asbury – Song Meaning, Review, and Worship Leading Tips https://churchfront.com/blog-churchfront/2017/11/8/reckless-love-by-cory-asbury-song-meaning-review-and-worship-leading-tips  

Photo, Sunrise on the River, copyright Derek 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

%d bloggers like this: