Even When

In their hunger You gave  

bread from heaven  

and in their thirst You brought  

water from the rock 

But they 

but they 

Forgiving God  

gracious and compassionate  

slow to anger and abounding in love 

You did not desert them  

Even when 

even when  

You did not abandon them in the wilderness  

the pillar of cloud did not fail to guide them   

the pillar of fire to shine on the way  

You gave  

Your good Spirit to instruct them  

You did not withhold  

manna from their mouths  

You gave  

water for their thirst 

Your compassion delivered them

Even when 

even when 

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4-5 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 

From Nehemiah 9:15-20 

Image by Derek Bair

My Song

Jesus is the song, the song that God has been singing since the beginning of creation, the song that God gave to the world.

The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. Exodus 15:2 (ESV) 

This is part of what is known as “The Song of Moses and Miriam.” The Israelites sang it after they had been rescued from the pursuing Egyptians who wanted to re-enslave them. They sang it to celebrate their deliverance after they had walked through the sea on dry sand, but the waters had closed over their enemies. And, I just realized that this song is repeated three times in the Bible. It is recorded here in Exodus, in Isaiah 12:2 and in Psalm 118:14. Wonderfully, it appears in both Isaiah and Psalms in chapters prophesying the Messiah.  

But what captured my attention here is the phrase “my song.” That God is my strength and salvation I understand. But how is He my song? Charles Spurgeon explained it this way: 

… “The Lord is my song” that is to say, the Lord is the giver of our songs; he breathes the music into the hearts of his people; he is the creator of their joy. The Lord is also the subject of their songs: they sing of him and of all that he does on their behalf. The Lord is, moreover, the object of their song: they sing unto the Lord. Their praise is meant for him alone. They do not make melody for human ears, but unto the Lord. “The Lord is my song.” Then I ought always to sing; and if I sing my loudest, I can never reach the height of this great argument, nor come to the end of it. This song never changes. If I live by faith my song is always the same, for “the Lord is my song.” Our song unto God is God himself. He alone can express our intensest joy. O God, thou art my exceeding joy. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, thou art my hymn of everlasting delight.” from Jubilate, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, October 25, 1885 

Jesus is the song, the song that God has been singing since the beginning of creation, the song that God gave to the world, the song He commanded us to sing. Not the song of the world that we had been singing. This is the new song about a new hope, a new covenant, the new wine poured into new wine skins. Jesus is our Song. He is the song we sing in the desert place, pursued by our enemies, backed up against devouring impossibilities. 

The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. 

The heart that has been changed by the gospel sings the praise of the Savior. For only in Jesus, we have been redeemed. We have been saved from our sins that have separated us from our God. We have been raised from our spiritual death to walk in the newness of eternal life. We have received and have been sealed by the Holy Spirit, the guarantee of future and final redemption. We have been called out of darkness and into his marvelous light to proclaim his praises. He is our new song.” — K. Jason French1 

But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress. Psalm 59:16 (ESV) 

By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:8 (ESV) 

Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:6-8 

Let the trees of the forest sing, let them sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. 1 Chronicles 16:33 

Let the trees sing. Let us all sing, for He is our song. And, the Song has arrived. 

This is my story; 

This is my song. 

From the heights of heaven’s glory 

To the depths of earth’s despair, 

Came a love song in the darkness, 

Came a song beyond compare. 

And from the humble stable 

God sang His lullaby, 

A song of peace, as song of joy, 

The music of the sky. 

This shall be my alleluia; 

This shall be my highest praise. 

Let my every word and deed proclaim it; 

Let me sing it all my days. 

This shall be my benediction; 

This shall be my dying phrase. 

This shall be my alleluia; 

Jesus is my song of grace! 

From the golden streets of heaven, 

To the shores of Galilee, 

Came a love song for all people, 

The music of eternity. 

And from a wooden cross, 

God sang His song of grace, 

And filled the world with the sound of hope 

And everlasting praise. 

This shall be my alleluia; 

This shall be my highest praise. 

Let my every word and deed proclaim it; 

Let me sing it all my days. 

This shall be my benediction; 

This shall be my dying phrase. 

This shall be my alleluia; 

Jesus is my song of grace! 

— “Jesus Is My Song of Grace,” by Joseph Martin2 

1 God Put a Song in Your Heart  https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/god-put-a-song-in-your-heart  

2 Listen to this wonderful song here Jesus Is My Song of Grace 

Photo of trees by Jessica Dillon

Broken Hearts

broken hearts 

broken hearts everywhere you go 

walking through crystal shards 

cutting again 

bloody feet 

bleeding hands 

jabbed with flashing slivers  

working deep 

rending despair   

yielding 

relentless 

 hope 

… he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound … Isaiah 61:1 (ESV) 

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3 

But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. John 19:34 

Image by Peter.Lorre https://flic.kr/p/3yeriz  

Who Am I?

Bonhoeffer’s anguish and self-doubt ring so true they capture me.

Who Am I? (a poem by Dietrich Bonhoeffer) 

 Who am I? They often tell me 

 I stepped from my cell’s confinement 

 Calmly, cheerfully, firmly, 

 Like a Squire from his country house. 

Who am I? They often tell me 

 I used to speak to my warders 

 Freely and friendly and clearly, 

 As though it were mine to command. 

Who am I? They also tell me 

 I bore the days of misfortune 

 Equably, smilingly, proudly, 

 like one accustomed to win. 

Am I then really that which other men tell of? 

 Or am I only what I myself know of myself? 

 Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage, 

 Struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat, 

 Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds, 

 Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness, 

 Tossing in expectations of great events, 

 Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance, 

 Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making, 

 Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all. 

Who am I? This or the other? 

 Am I one person today and tomorrow another? 

 Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others, 

 And before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling? 

 Or is something within me still like a beaten army 

 Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved? 

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine. 

 Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine! 

This is the most beautiful poem about self-doubt that I have ever read. Written in his jail cell, it was one of the last Bonhoeffer wrote before his execution by the Nazis for his ties to the July 20, 1944 conspiracy to overthrow the Nazi regime. Bonhoeffer’s anguish and self-doubt ring so true they capture me. I cry out together with him. How many times have I found myself holding down contempt, prejudice, judgement, anger with one hand and blessing with the other? How many times am I harboring fear, hopelessness, even despair in my heart, but praising God with my mouth?  People say, “Oh what a wonderful person!” But I know the truth. 

Isn’t this what Paul meant when he cried out “what a wretched man I am!”? 

For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:22-25 

Yes! Thanks be to God, He has delivered me from my self through Jesus Christ my Lord! I know (at least in my head I know, but it is working its way down into my heart!) that I am not part of the “beaten army fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved”- the victory achieved by our Lord on the Cross. I know, along with Bonhoeffer, to whom I belong. 

Yes, I know the truth about what is in my heart, but so does God. He knows I am a terminal mess in my flesh, but that my path is doggedly along the Narrow Way. I may be crawling through the mud most of the time, but He knows I am moving towards Him. My heart is wanting Him. He knows that whoever I am, I am His. 

Photo, Inside Looking Out, by José Eugenio Gómez Rodríguez https://flic.kr/p/pz1jrM  

Standing There

“He stands in my place, where I should stand and cannot.”

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Acts 7:55 

At this, [Mary Magdalene] turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. John 20:14 

Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” John 20:26-27 

There for me the Savior stands,
shows His wounds and spreads His hands:
God is love! I know, I feel;
Jesus weeps, but loves me still! — Charles Wesley

“’Where does he stand?’ He stands pro me. He stands in my place, where I should stand and cannot … At this place I cannot stand alone. Here Christ stands in the centre, between me and myself, between the old existence and the new.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Christ the Center (emphasis original) 

If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31 

When you’ve played out  
Your last chance  
And your directions  
Have all been lost  
When the roads that you look down  
Are all dead ends  
Look up  
You could see if you’d just look up  

You’re on the verge of a miracle  
Standing there  
You’re on the verge of a miracle  
Just waiting to be believed in  
Open your eyes and see  
You’re on the verge of a miraclei 

— Rich Mullins 

For He stands at the right hand of the needy, to save their lives from those who would condemn them. Psalm 109:31 

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:19-20 (ESV) 

You’re on the verge of a miracle … 

Salvation

i Richard Mullins, from Verge of a Miracle lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group 

Photo of door by Jack Bair

Greatly Huge Love

Your abundant, excellent, multitudinous, greatly huge love …

But I pray to you, LORD,  

in the time of your favor (an acceptable time, your will, good pleasure, delight);  

in your great (abundant, excellent, multitudinous, greatly huge)  

love (goodness, mercy, pity, kindness, lovingkindness, merciful kindness),  

O God, answer me (respond, sing, shout, testify, announce)  

with your sure (firm, faithful, true, assured, right, certain, trustworthy)  

salvation (deliverance, rescue, safety, saving). Psalm 69:13 

****

Lord at the time acceptable to You,  

Your will be done 

your delight, your good pleasure,  

(for you love mercy) 

In your uncontainable love  

your abundant, excellent, multitudinous, greatly huge love 

(language cannot contain it) 

sing, you who are my Song!  

Shout, testify, announce to me 

your salvation that is sure,  

forever unchanging, 

trustworthy,  

certain,  

Faithful and True 

****

This is what the Lord says: 

“In the time of my favor I will answer you, 
    and in the day of salvation I will help you; 
I will keep you and will make you 
    to be a covenant for the people, 
to restore the land 
    and to reassign its desolate inheritances, 
to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ 
    and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’ 

“They will feed beside the roads 
    and find pasture on every barren hill. 
They will neither hunger nor thirst, 
    nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. 
He who has compassion on them will guide them 
    and lead them beside springs of water. Isaiah 49:8-10 

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. Isaiah 12:2 (ESV)  

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. Revelation 19:11 

Lord, thank you for your greatly huge love!

Photo copyright by Derek Bair

God is Pleased

This pleasure doesn’t just mean to be happy, but reaches out to embrace me by accepting the sacrifice made on my behalf.  

For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. Psalm 40:12 

“My heart fails.” How often lately have I felt that way! I was drawn to look closer at this verse and was amazed (but I shouldn’t have been!) to find it leading me to the passion of God for the reconciliation of the world to himself. It all leads back to the Cross where the way back to God was opened. Everything leads to the Cross. 

Though I went looking specifically at verse 12 and the “my heart fails” part, it was the next verse, Psalm 40:13, that arrested me. 

Be pleased (with me, delight yourself to make me acceptable, accomplish, accept the sacrifice, satisfy my debt, reconcile me, pardon me) to save (deliver, rescue) me, LORD; come quickly, LORD, to help me. Psalm 40:13 

It was the “be pleased” part that struck me. When I looked at the Hebrew I saw that it doesn’t just mean to be happy, but reaches out to embrace me by accepting the sacrifice made on my behalf.  

The Hebrew word is ratsah (רָצָה). It means, according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, “to be pleased with; specifically, to satisfy a debt.” It means to be acceptable, approve, delight yourself, enjoy, pardon, be favorable, reconcile.  

God is pleased, delights even, to make me acceptable. He takes pleasure in accepting the sacrifice satisfying my debt. He delights to reconcile me, pardon me, save me!  

For God was pleased (took pleasure, was willing) to have all his fullness dwell in him [Jesus], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Colossians 1:19-20 

What amazing grace! My heart fails from sin. I am oppressed and trapped under impossible debt. What is God’s response? He is pleased – takes pleasure, enjoys, is willing – to reconcile me to Himself, through the shed blood of His Son. It is not because He has to, but because it makes Him happy. It gives Him great pleasure. It delights Him. And even more than this, God is pleased to give me the kingdom, an everlasting inheritance with Him. God is pleased to do this as Jesus affirmed in Luke 12. 

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased (takes pleasure, is willing) to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:32 

I am overtaken now, not with my inescapable sin, but with His overwhelming, unfailing, unending, amazing grace and compassion. 

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion (inheritance, allotment) forever. Psalm 73:26 

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

Rahab

Do you see the message of grace and mercy printed right into the DNA of Jesus? 

So she [Rahab] let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. Joshua 2:15 

The story of Rahab, described as a harlot in Jericho, is told in Joshua chapters 2 and 6. She hid the Israelites who were spying out the city, and helped them to escape, and in doing so saved herself and her family. In Hebrews 11:31 it says that Rahab did this by faith. She decided to put her faith and life in the hands of this wonder-working God she had heard of.  

Rahab, and her actions hiding the Israelite spies, is mentioned twice in the New Testament as an example of faith showing itself in good works. But, did you know that Rahab was the great-great grandmother of King David, and therefore in the genealogy of Jesus? 

But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day. Joshua 6:25 

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham … Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. Matthew 1:1, 5-6 

Here’s some commentary on Rahab’s marriage to Salmon: 

The Old Testament records are silent as to the marriage of Salmon with the harlot of Jericho. When they were compiled it was probably thought of as a blot rather than a glory; but the fact may have been preserved in the traditions of the house of David. It has been conjectured that Salmon may have been one of the two unnamed spies whose lives were saved by Rahab, when he was doing the work which Caleb had done before him. The mention of Rahab in James 2:25, Hebrews 11:31, shows that her fame had risen at the time when St. Matthew wrote. —Elliott’s Commentary for English Readers (emphasis mine) 

I always thought that this was why Boaz had no qualms about marrying a despised Moabite, Ruth, because his own mother was a Canaanite outcast. Both Rahab and Ruth had converted and chosen to follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. What is so wonderful is that these two foreigners and outsiders are prominent in the family tree of Jesus (see Matthew 1:1-16).  

And they are not the only ones in the genealogy that raise eyebrows. There is Tamar, who acted as a prostitute to lure Judah into obeying the command of God. There is Bathsheba, whose extramarital tryst resulted in an unplanned pregnancy and the murder of her husband. Not to mention Mary, who became pregnant out of wedlock. And that’s just the women. There was also David, who committed the murder of Bathsheba’s husband, Ahaz who sacrificed his children to false gods, and Manasseh, about whom it is written that he “shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end.” 

You know that saying, “you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family”? Well, God could have. God could have arranged that Jesus be born of a spotless, totally righteous bloodline of perfect people. But he did not.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones has written that when Jesus left heaven “he left heaven as God, God the Son, but when he returned to heaven he was God and Man. He has taken human nature with him.”1 How wonderful! How amazing! Right from the start, and on into eternity, God, through Jesus, embraces humanity, embraces the sinner – even the most horrible, detestable of sinners. By taking on human nature and living a perfect human life, Jesus has made a Way to take us back to heaven with and in him.

Rahab’s scarlet cord, that she tied in the window to ward off the attackers, was a foreshadowing of salvation by the atoning death, the shed blood, of Jesus. Ruth laying down at the feet of Boaz and asking him to marry her is a picture of Christ and the Bride, the Church. Do you see the message of grace and mercy printed right into the DNA of Jesus? 

It doesn’t matter what you have done, you can come to God and be accepted into the family through the blood of Jesus shed for you. Turn from your sin. Put your faith in what He did for you on the cross. Bow down at his feet as Ruth did. He wants to receive you, cleanse you, save you, and marry you as the holy Bride of Christ, the Church. 

Salvation 

You can use this as a free Bible study here.

1Sanctified through the Truth, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Crossway Books. 1989

Image free download from pixabay 

Nothing

Might we dare to become nothing with him to bring his lost loved children home? 

Recently I read a quote by Kierkegaard that took my breath away, until I realized what he really meant: 

“I have only one word to say, but if the power were given me to utter it, that single phrase, so that it would be fixed and unforgettable, then my choice is already made and I know what I would say: ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ was nothing; O Christendom, remember this!’” — Søren Kierkegaard, Papers 

“Our Lord Jesus Christ was nothing!!” This statement was startling, even blasphemous, to me at first. But then I remembered these verses: 

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as (think like, direct your mind, seek for, set your mind, have the mind and thoughts of) Christ Jesus:  

Who, being in very nature God (though he was God), did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage (grasped, asserted, clung to, exploited),  

rather, he made himself nothing (emptied himself, gave up his divine privileges, made himself of no reputation, without recognition, valueless) by taking the very nature of a servant (slave), being made in human likeness.  

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled (assigned himself a lower rank, abased) himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV) 

Kierkegaard, in Denmark, was reacting, as Wilberforce had done earlier in Englandi, to the prevailing Pharisitic mindset that focused on outward appearances, and believed that all it took to be a Christian was to live in a “Christian” nation, attend the State-approved (acceptable) church, give your tithes, and, even better, have your own noticeable pew dedicated to your family. What you did the rest of the week didn’t matter. Individual responsibility for holiness was unknown or ignored. 

Most of these, especially well-to-do, churchgoers wanted to be “something.” They wanted to be “somebody.” But our worth to God does not come from outward appearances, accomplishments or wealth. In fact, these sorts of “something” may be detestable to God if they become our gods. 

He said to them [the Pharisees], “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight. Luke 16:15  

But Jesus chose to be “nothing,” though he, of all humans to ever walk the earth, had the right to be Somebody – King of Kings and Lord of Lords. But he chose to be of no reputation, valueless, and he is our model. The word describing Jesus’ choice to become “nothing” is the Greek verb kenóō, which meansproperly, to empty out, render void; (passive) be emptied – hence, without recognition, perceived as valueless (Phil 2:7).” ii 

This Greek word comes from kenós, which means “empty, void; hence, worthless (“null”), amounting to zero (of no value, profit).”   

Very few of us choose to be a big fat zero. We may feel like one, but we rarely choose it. Most of us crave the approval, the recognition, the respect of the world. You can only choose to be nothing and valueless in the sight of the world if you have a solid-rock certainty that you are of infinite value to God – and that others also have infinite value. 

And Jesus knew his value to God – “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 17:5). And he knew our value to God, for it beat passionately, faithfully, unending, unchanging in his heart, the very heart of God. And so, he came to be a nothing and to be “obedient to death— even death on a cross” for us. You are of great value to your Father. 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16  

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 1 John 4:9 

Might I dare to become nothing with him to bring his lost loved children home? What would that look like? It would mean to trust utterly, even to the last breath. 

But he has demonstrated his own love for us … 

“God creates out of nothing—wonderful, you say: yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.” — Søren Kierkegaard, Journals 

God keeps bringing this theme back to me in different facets. See also Emptied

i A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Middle and Higher Classes in this Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity. William Wilberforce. Fulltext available at Project Gutenberg https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/25709  

ii Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

Image: Detail from Ford Maddox Brown, Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet [1852-6], Tate Archive, image  released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

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