All there is

When despair has obliterated ordinary prayer, when the psalms fail and all words are stupid and meaningless, the mantle of loneliness surrounding me becomes a mantle of dark and wordless love. This darkness reveals the paradox of prayer: in the absence of God, all there is, is God. 

Suzanne Guthrie 
Grace’s Window 

Strange House Guest

It is comforting for me to know that when this strange house guest, suffering, walks in, Jesus walks in with him.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 1 Peter 4:12 

This one of those verses that most of us would rather skip over. But recently I was drawn to look at the meaning of the Greek words closer. Very interesting, and strangely comforting too. 

The words translated “surprised” and “something strange” in the above verse are the Greek words xenizo (ξενίζω) and its root xenos (ξένος). Xenos means a foreigner or a stranger (it’s where we get the “xeno” part of the word xenophobia); it also means a guest. Xenizo means to be shocked, “to surprise or astonish by the strangeness and novelty of a thing.” But it also means to receive as a guest, to entertain, to be host, to lodge. 

It is like Peter is saying, “do not be shocked by the painful trial you are suffering as though a complete stranger had walked into your house looking for lodging.” I guess he is saying that suffering should not, or will not, be a stranger to us. Suffering was not a stranger to our Lord. 

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with (acquainted with, knew) suffering. Isaiah 53:3a 

Jesus was intimately acquainted with suffering and, if we are following Him, we share in that acquaintance. 

that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death. Philippians 3:10 

It is comforting for me to know that when this strange house guest, suffering, walks in, Jesus walks in with him.  

The word translated “fellowship” above is koinonia. It also means association, community, communion, joint participation. It comes from the noun koinonos which means partner, associate, comrade, companion (how wonderful to be Jesus’ companion!).  

But what I love is that the very core root of both of these words is the Greek word for “with,” sun (σύν). It means with or together, companionship, beside. He is with us, beside us, our companion in our suffering. And that makes all the difference. That makes the impossible, possible. 

“It is precisely the presence and help of Christ in times of suffering that makes it possible for us to stand up under pressure … The only way to keep putting one foot in front of the other on this dark road is through union with Christ and with the promise of resurrection to light the way.” ― R.C. Sprouli 

Jesus has suffered for us, and he will suffer with us. He will never leave us or forsake us. 

He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.  1 Corinthians 1:8-9 

But rejoice that you participate (come into communion or fellowship with, become a sharer, are made a partner) in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:13 

One foot in front of the other, holding on tight to his hand. 

… that I may know Him 

i R.C. Sproul, Surprised by Suffering  https://www.ligonier.org/blog/suffering-well-union-christ/  

Image by Andrés Þór https://flic.kr/p/79jJCz

Yet God

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

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

Hidden Treasure

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

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

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

Yet!…

View original post 387 more words

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

How Long?

He knows that a thousand years may seem like a day to him, but it sure seems like a long time to us.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me. Psalm 13

The beginning words of this Psalm are familiar to me. I have said them a lot in the past 48 years. “How long, Lord? Feeling like I am forgotten, that God has turned away. Especially the “wrestling with my thoughts” part. These verses seem almost scandalously unfaithful – Charles Spurgeon called this the “How long Psalm,” or the “Howling Psalm.” But the words are real. It is how we feel many times. I am so glad that God let them stay in the Bible.

There are many other places, especially in the Psalms, where the Holy Spirit includes these scandalous thoughts and cries. Our being real with God does not bother him. In fact, he loves it when we turn to him and cry out to him, even with doubts in our hearts. Because he knows that a thousand years may seem like a day to him, but it sure seems like a long time to us. And he will respond. His father-heart cannot help but respond. And we can trust in his unfailing love, his chesed. The Psalmist always, somehow, comes back to that trust.

It made me smile when I saw that the Hebrew word chesed, which tries to encompass the kindness and mercy and goodness of God, is translated into Greek as Bethesda – the House of Mercy. This is the name of the pool where they would lay the many disabled people – lame and blind and paralyzed – and they would wait. Wait for the chesed. One man had waited 38 years when Jesus came and healed him. I imagine he may have wondered many times “How long, Lord?”

But sometimes God has to wait for us. Jesus asked the man, “Do you want to become well?” I can hear him adding to himself, “now? Yet? Are you ready?” Because we have much to wrestle with – me in particular. Much anger and resentment and pride and rebellion to fight through and howl about.  But God is there. And he is working in us, whether we can see or feel it or not. He won’t give up on us, even if it takes a thousand years. So, we can say:

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

With

This seemingly insignificant Hebrew word – here humbly translated into English as “with” – carries within it the very heart of God.

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with (beside, by, among, accompanying) your God. Micah 6:8

“… to walk humbly with your God.” That little word translated into English as “with” is the Hebrew word ‘im (עִם). Within this lowly word lies an amazing hidden treasure. It is related to the Hebrew word ‘am, which means people, nation, clan, tribe, family. According to the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ‘am is “predominantly used to express two basic characteristics of [people] considered as a grouping: 1) relationships sustained within or to the group and 2) the unity of the group.”

Already, ‘im carries this meaning of relationship. The Wordbook goes on to say:

“‘im, the preposition, as ‘am the noun, expresses the concept of inclusiveness, togetherness, company … the basic conception conveyed is that of fellowship, companionship, common experiences of suffering, prosperity etc. … the term, as all other prepositions, may have definite theological implications. All prepositions indicate relationships, and ‘im in particular stresses a close relationship. This type of relationship should be maintained between God and man, man and man since it is essential for any person’s salvation, eternal life and the worship and service of God.”[i]

This little word translated “with” is the first part of the word Immanuel which is the “symbolic and prophetic name of the Messiah, the Christ, prophesying that He would be born of a virgin and would be ‘God with us.’”[ii]

This seemingly insignificant Hebrew word – here humbly translated into English as “with” – carries within it the very heart of God. His heart that we should walk with him in relationship, fellowship and companionship. That we would share in his sufferings here on earth. That we would be part of a people and a family as his children. That we should accomplish, bring about justice. That we should do, and love doing, good deeds of mercy and kindness. That we should grow more and more like him, walking humbly beside and among our brothers and sisters and our Lord, who accompanies us always.  

By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. 1 John 2:5-6 (NASB)

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. Ephesians 5:1-2 (NASB)

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. John 13:14-15

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34

Lord, give us grace to walk humbly with You.

Photo copyright by Jack Bair 2019


[i] Archer, Gleason L., Jr., Harris, Robert, Waltke, Bruce K., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Moody, 1980.

[ii] Gesenius, H. F. W., Brown, Francis, Robinson, Edward, Driver, S. R., Briggs, Charles A., A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament.

My Testimony During My COVID Struggle

A dear friend of mine has been struggling through COVID-19 illness for many weeks. Yesterday she posted this wonderful testimony of her experience of God’s love and faithfulness through it all. I asked her for permission to share it here because it is so uplifting and encouraging – no matter what your current struggle is.

My testimony during my COVID struggle:

My Father has given me three very intense and personal experiences with Him to make sure I KNOW with every cell and every part of who I am, how deep His love is for me, how He has compassion for me and how He SEES me with no condemnation but PURE LOVE.

  1. Jesus is sitting right beside me at the table He has prepared for me, in the presence of my enemies. Sitting right next to me, laughing with me, enjoying me, eating with me… MY BEST FRIEND who SAVED me. Every door to my heart is open to Him and He is fully with me. I feel His joy in me, His friendship with me and His complete love for me.
  1. My Father God is sitting right beside me. His face shines on me with PURE JOY. I saw Him beside me and saw Him turn His face and look directly into mine. He fully SEES me, and I am UNDONE. Pure love. Pure joy. Pure compassion. With NO CONDEMNATION.

I am undone. On my face before Him with just that brief glimpse of total love for me. When the veil is removed, and I get to spend eternity with Him face to face how can I stand? For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face.

  1. This life is precious and sacred because God is WITH me and IN me. With everything that is in this world and this life that would beat me down and cause me to give up and give in… I push into Him. Wanting only deeper love for Him and a deeper KNOWING Him.

Death means FULL JOY, FULL LIFE, FULL LOVE. A full knowing and understanding of the love and joy He has in me and for me. And it means I will be fully with Him with no veil and no barriers ever again.

For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.

Whether I am healthy or sick. Whether I grieve or experience pure joy in His presence. Whether I am overwhelmed by life, or am sitting with Him on the beach at Lake Michigan at sunset. Whether I am alone, or in the presence of a husband and family He blesses me with. Whether I feel very far from Him, or I feel Him in me and with me. Whether I can’t catch my breath, or peacefully breathe in His presence through the Holy Spirit.

NOTHING in this life will EVER separate me from the love of Jesus, my LORD and SAVIOR, who rescued me from running after sin, and rescued me from death.

HE IS EVERYTHING to me. EVERYTHING.

I am uniquely His. Here on earth and into eternity.

 

 

 

Image copyright by Jack Bair