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

My Impossibles List

It seems the whole world has an impossibles list right now. And, I don’t know about you, but my list just keeps getting longer.

Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” Luke 18:27

Impossible = Greek adunatos: without strength, impotent, powerless, weak, disabled, unable to be done, impossible

Possible = Greek dunatos: able, powerful, capable, mighty, strong, possible

I’ve started keeping an impossibles list. All the impossible things I’ve been praying for. The unable to be done, not possible things. So much of what I am praying for seems impossible. Sometimes the impossible thing is to just get through the day; sometimes it is the healing of a brokenhearted nation. We all have that same struggle right now, to keep from sinking into hopelessness and despair at the impossibilities.

But recently, God has been showing me – no that is too wimpy of a word – he has been blazing this light of truth into my darkness, that he, and he alone, is the one who can do the impossible things. All the stuff with what is going on in the world and our own problems – our kids and financial problems and job problems and health concerns. All our impossible things. The things that wake us up weeping and gasping in the middle of the night. If fixing these things are just up to me and you they are without strength, impotent, powerless, weak, disabled, unable to be done, impossible. Not possible.

But all things are possible with God. That’s what Jesus impossibly proclaimed. So, I have been making a list of all my impossibles. And then, like Hezekiah I take it and spread it out before the Lord.

Hezekiah was the king of Israel when King Sennacherib of Assyria came to lay siege to Jerusalem. His armies had already roared through Judah, capturing the fortified cities. And now they were surrounding Jerusalem and mocking Hezekiah’s God (Isaiah 36), sending letters full of sneering impossibilities.

Surely you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries, destroying them completely. And will you be delivered? Isaiah 37:11

But Hezekiah took those impossibilities to the Temple and spread them out before God.

Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD.  And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: “O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.” Isaiah 37:14-16

It seems the whole world has an impossibles list right now. And, I don’t know about you, but my list just keeps getting longer. And this impossible army surrounds me and mocks my God, either in anguish or arrogance. Even in writing this it besieges my mind and heart with black-hole doubt and ancient fear. But I am spreading my list out before the One who is able, powerful, capable, mighty, strong, possible. The One enthroned between the cherubim, the One who alone is God. And I’m saying, “OK, God here are some more impossible things for you. I am giving them over to you. For, nothing is impossible for you.”

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles. 2 Chronicles 32:7-8

I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard (too difficult, too high, beyond one’s power, extraordinary, wondrous, marvelous) for me? Jeremiah 32:27

“But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Mark 9:23-24

Photograph copyright 2018 by Derek Bair

What Are You Storing Up?

Fear made David act like a madman. Fear can make us do some pretty crazy things.

And David laid up these words in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath. And he changed his behaviour before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard. 1 Samuel 21:12-13 (KJV)

When David was fleeing from Saul to Achish, the king of Gath, he heard the king’s servants talking about him – “Isn’t this David, the king of the land?” It says that David “laid up” these words in his heart, or took them to heart, and he was afraid that if Achish thought he was the king of Israel, he would kill him. The word translated “laid up” in the King James means, among other things, to “heap up” and “to preserve.” Later, when David wrote about his experience, he proclaimed:

I sought the LORD, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4 (NASB)

The word translated “fears” here means, in addition to fear, a granary or storehouse. It comes from two words: a word for “terror” and a word that means “dwelling place.” The dwelling place of terror. These two verses together invoke an image of David preserving these words of terror in a storehouse of fear in order to keep feeding on them. In David’s case, feeding on fear caused him to act like a madman. Fear can make us do some pretty crazy things.

There are a lot of verses in the Bible about fear, what we are listening to, and what we store up in our hearts.

So they spread discouraging reports about the land among the Israelites … All the people we saw were huge. Numbers 13:32-33

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad. Proverbs 12:25 (NASB)

Your word I have treasured (stored up, hidden) in my heart, That I may not sin against You. Psalm 119:11 (NASB)

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful (pain, sorrow, idol) way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way. Psalm 139:23-24 (NASB)

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19

And He was saying to them, “Take care what you listen to.” Mark 4:24a

What are you storing up? Is your heart a dwelling place of terror, a granary of fear? Or is your heart a treasury of the Word. What are you listening to? What are you believing?

I sought the LORD, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4 (NASB)

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

 

Image by Irving Rusinow, Photographer (NARA record: 5307166) – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17210867

Bad News

Praise the LORD.

Blessed is the man who fears (fears, is afraid, stands in awe of, is awed, reverences, honors, respects) the LORD,

who finds great delight in (inclines to, bends down to, desires, delights in, wills) his commands …

He will have no fear of (will not be afraid, stand in awe of, be awed, reverence, honor, respect)

bad news (announcements, news, reports, rumors, tidings);

his heart is steadfast (established, stable, secure, enduring, fixed, securely determined, prepared, ready),

trusting (confident, sure, bold, secure, sure, hoping) in the LORD.

Psalm 112:1, 7

 

Image copyright by Jack Bair, all rights reserved

Center of the Storm

I stood there beside him, and because he was there with me, so brave and calm, all the fear evaporated.

Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and ask him more directly to give you joy, peace, and a pure heart. Purity of heart means a heart where God is the center of your attention. Take a simple sentence like “The Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I shall want,” and repeat that quietly during the day until the truth of it enters the center of your being. You will always continue to have feelings of depression, anger, and restlessness, but when God dwells in the center of the storm, the storm is less frightening and you can live with trust that in the midst of all of the darkness you will be led to a place of joy and peace.—Henri Nouwen

This quote brought me back to my childhood. Our new house was the last built on the block, and beside and before us to the west were empty fields. That was the direction the storms came from and we could watch them awesomely and terrifyingly racing towards us. Dark sky and writhing, black clouds, and spectacular lightening.

Most of the time my mother would herd us down into the basement to ride out the storm. I know that was the safe place, but there was a lot of fear in that because we couldn’t see what was happening, only hear the roar of the wind and the crash of the thunder, and the ominous warnings coming over the radio.

But sometimes I snuck up to the open garage where my Dad stood watching it come and overtake us. And I stood there beside him, and because he was there with me, so brave and calm, all the fear evaporated. We shared the awesomeness and the glory and the majesty of the storm together. I was in the center of the storm. But I was with my Dad. I was never afraid of a storm again.

Nouwen’s suggestion of meditating on the word in these times is a good one. You may feel overwhelmed with what is roaring about you right now. But your Father is always there with you in every storm. Sneak away now to stand with him. Fix your eyes on Him. Be still and know.

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

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

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

I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until this violent storm is past. Psalm 57:1 (NLT)

 

More encouraging verses can be found here: Fear Bible Verses

 

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

 

Joy Overcomes Fear

Hope gave them boldness to stand. Joy gave them strength to run.

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the LORD came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Matthew 28:1-8

These verses always make me smile (sorry!) The men, the guards at the tomb, fainted dead away at the sight of the angel and the earthquake. But, when the angel turned to give the good news to the women, they were still standing. Not only did the women not collapse in fear, they were able to make their legs work to run and give the disciples the angel’s message.

But I think the reasons behind why the men and the women were there at the tomb gives the clue to their respective responses to the angel. The women were there out of love for Jesus, to serve him one more time. They had been there with him in his life; they had followed him and listened to him and saw his love and care and healing touch. At least one of them had received healing herself. But, they had both heard Jesus say he would rise again.

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Matthew 16:21

They were there to take care of his dead body, but in the back of their minds must have flickered that great hope of the resurrection. In spite of the hopeless situation, they clung to that hope. And when they saw the angel, that hope must have flamed up.

The guards were there because they had been told to keep the tomb secure. It was a assignment, nothing more. They may have seen and heard Jesus, they definitely had heard about him. But, they didn’t know him. They had not put their faith and hope in him as the women had. It reminds me of a couple of verses.

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.  2 Corinthians 3:12 (NIV)

Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10 (NIV)

Hope gave the women boldness to stand before the angel. Joy gave them strength to run with the message. Let us also boldly run with joy to carry the Good News!

For love is as strong as death… Song of Songs 8:12

He is not here; he has risen!

He is risen indeed!

 

 

Image in the Public Domain: He is Risen, the First Easter by Arthur Hughes (1832-1915)

 

Easter Saturday

We are in a very dark and scary time right now. It is easy to succumb to fear and even despair. By faith, and in hope, let’s sit with him in heavenly places and see the end of this trouble.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (conquered, prevailed, been victorious).” John 16:33 (NIV)

You probably already knew this, but I just realized that Jesus said this to his disciples at the last supper. After Judas had left to betray him.

Yet, Jesus said, “I HAVE overcome,” because from where God sits, there is no time. Jesus had already overcome, in fact he had overcome from the foundation of the world.

He [the Lamb who was slain] was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 1 Peter 1:18

Jesus knew what the disciples were going to experience in the next days and he wanted to give them something to cling to. He hoped they would remember his words in that dark day between the despair of the crucifixion, and the blazing light and joy of the resurrection. As Philip Yancey wrote, “It was no accident, I believe, that Jesus spoke his triumphant words, I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD, even as Roman soldiers were buckling on weapons for his arrest.”

We are in a very dark and scary time right now. It is easy to succumb to fear and even despair. Let us rest and abide in the One who promises to always be with us. Let us be still and know that he is God. He has already overcome this dark world, and whether we live or die, our peace is in him, our ultimate home is with him. By faith, and in hope, let’s sit with him in heavenly places and see the end of this trouble.

“It is a good thing to remember, when we encounter dark, disturbing times, that we live out our days on Easter Saturday.”—Philip Yancey[i]

Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 (NASB)

 

[i] Where is God When it Hurts?

 

You Will Not Fear

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.

Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.

Psalm 91:1-6

 

Image by Jack Bair, all rights reserved