Forgetting What is Behind

“Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Christ.”

I have been struggling mightily with guilt and regret over past sins and their consequences that cannot be undone. And I have asked God to forgive me again a thousand more times, but still there is the torture. The past week or so especially I have cried out to Him. And then today this happened in my inbox. Blessed, blessed assurance (thank you so much all you wonderful, faithful bloggers!). Please, if you have been struggling too, may this minister to you.  

‘Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead’ ~ Philippians 3:13 

Paul stated this after a discourse of putting ‘no confidence in the flesh’ (Philippians 3:3). Paul came to the realization that perfection is not a thing to be obtained, but a thing we set our eyes to. Jesus says, ‘the Spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak’ (Matthew 26:41). Paul realizing that he has not yet taken hold of perfection while in the flesh continues to say; ‘I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 3:14). Only in forgetting what is behind, can one press on towards perfection. King Solomon admonishes, ‘Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you’ (Proverbs 4:25). Because by forgetting what is behind and looking on ahead, we see perfection. We see the Perfect One.  — blogged by Mulyale Mutisya, https://carolynemutisya7.wordpress.com/2021/01/01/forgetting-what-is-behind/  

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43:19).”  –blogged by Beholding Him Ministries https://beholdinghimministries.org/2021/01/01/blessed-new-year/  

So what are we to do? First, we must send the foxes back to where they belong: in their foxholes. And then we must open our minds and our hearts to the voice that resounds through the valleys and hills of our life saying: “Let me show you where I live among my people. My name is ‘God-with-you.’ I will wipe all the tears from your eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness. The world of the past has gone” (Revelation 21:2–5). — Henri J. M. Nouwen 

 
“The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you! He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid–do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8 
 
As we launch out into another year, there is little visible prospect of a smooth and pleasant voyage. To the natural eye, the clouds are dark and fierce storms seem imminent. The very uncertainty of what the morrow may bring forth, fills many with uneasiness and trepidation. 
 
But how different should be the state of God’s children! An all-sufficient Object is presented to the eyes of their faith, from which unbelief derives no comfort. The poor worldling is concerned with what lies before him–but it is the blessed privilege of the believer to be occupied with Who goes before him–the One who is his Captain, his Guide, his Forerunner. “The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you!” What a difference that makes! O that writer and reader may be enabled to lay hold of this grand Truth as we enter another period of time, and keep it steadily in mind throughout the coming days!    
 
“Do not be afraid–for I have ransomed you. 
I have called you by name–you are Mine! 
When you go through deep waters–I will be with you. 
When you go through rivers of difficulty–you will not drown. 
When you walk through the fire of oppression–you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. 
For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!” Isaiah 43:1-3  

– Arthur Pink, “New Year’s Comfort” 1943, blogged by Steve Rebus https://steverebus.com/2021/01/01/as-we-launch-out-into-another-year/  

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)  blogged by Beholding Him Ministries https://beholdinghimministries.org/2020/12/31/hope-for-today-gods-plans/  

You shall not go out with haste,…for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.  Isaiah 52:12 

Security from Yesterday. “…God requires an account of what is past” (Ecclesiastes 3:15). At the end of the year we turn with eagerness to all that God has for the future, and yet anxiety is apt to arise when we remember our yesterdays. Our present enjoyment of God’s grace tends to be lessened by the memory of yesterday’s sins and blunders. But God is the God of our yesterdays, and He allows the memory of them to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual growth for our future. God reminds us of the past to protect us from a very shallow security in the present. 

Security for Tomorrow. “…the Lord will go before you….” This is a gracious revelation— that God will send His forces out where we have failed to do so. He will keep watch so that we will not be tripped up again by the same failures, as would undoubtedly happen if He were not our “rear guard.” And God’s hand reaches back to the past, settling all the claims against our conscience

Security for Today. “You shall not go out with haste….” As we go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impetuous, forgetful delight, nor with the quickness of impulsive thoughtlessness. But let us go out with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us. Our yesterdays hold broken and irreversible things for us. It is true that we have lost opportunities that will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Christ. 

Leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him. — Oswald Chambers, from My Utmost for His Highest Updated Edition 

The uphill climb that is still ahead is not daunting, because I know that the darkness cannot maintain its grip on children of the Light (1 Thess. 5:5) … So press on, yes, but not into oblivion. Press on in faith because those who trust in Christ have a greater hope than this world has to offer. His name is Jesus, and He came to set you and I free.  — blogged by A Grateful Life Lived  https://agratefullifelived.wordpress.com/2020/12/31/hardest-year-of-my-life/#like-2787  

Photograph by Jack Bair

Wineskin in the Smoke

Like David, I must choose hope.

Kaph 

 My soul faints with longing for your salvation, 

    but I have put my hope in your word. 

My eyes fail, looking for your promise; 

    I say, “When will you comfort me?” 

Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke, 

    I do not forget your decrees. 

How long must your servant wait? 

    Psalm 119:81-84a 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How long must your servant wait?  

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

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

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

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

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

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

— from Way Maker by Osinachi Kalu Okoro Egbu 

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

Photo, free download from Pixabay 

Joy Beyond

In this dark world the shepherd needs to be our LORD.

I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. Hebrews 13:23 

This verse is a little oh-by-the-way postscript to the letter to the Hebrews. It is like “and, oh yeah, Timothy has been released from prison.” The way it is tacked on at the end like that really struck me. It communicated to me that this was a common occurrence. This idea of persecution for our faith is foreign to most of us in the United States. But there are thousands and thousands across the world for whom this, and worse, is still common. I was thinking about this when I read this from A.W. Tozer speaking to the Church here in the U.S.: 

“The gradual disappearance of the idea and feeling of majesty from the Church is a sign and a portent. The revolt of the modern mind has had a heavy price, how heavy is becoming more apparent as the years go by. Our God has now become our servant to wait on our will. ‘The Lord is my shepherd,’ we say, instead of ‘The Lord is my shepherd,’ and the difference is as wide as the world.” — A.W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man 

The first emphasis keeps our gaze on ourselves. What we crave, what we need, what we think we deserve. Affliction is no longer unexceptional, it is unacceptable. The idea that “the lord is my servant, I shall not want,” keeps us in the little-lamb baby state always looking for the next blessing. When my heart’s attention is only on what God can do for me, it is easy to slide into errors like prosperity-gospel-type thinking. Trials and afflictions shake my cozy, planned-out little world and my faith wavers. 

But, the second emphasis puts our Lord on the throne (or realizes that he is on the throne). It opens our eyes and minds and hearts to Amazing Grace. The amazing, almost incomprehensible, uncontainable grace of the unfailing love of the Mighty God. Creator, King – God of gods and Lord of lords – who has bent down to pull us up out of the pit and lead us into His very Presence. Unworthy, self-centered, rebellious as we are. When the emphasis is on the LORD, gratitude and thanksgiving and praise naturally flow. We are enabled to bear the Shepherd’s rod and staff of testing and discipline willingly and joyfully. 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds James 1:2 

This is a hard saying whenever, but it is especially hard when our assumption is that the job of the lord (small “L”) who is our servant-shepherd is to lead us to good pasture and quiet waters and make us feel good. 

“The prosperity gospel believes that God wants to reward you if you have the right kind of faith. If you’re good and faithful, God will give you health and wealth and boundless happiness. Life is like a boomerang. If you’re good, good things will always come back to you. Think positively. Speak positively. Nothing is impossible, if you believe …. 

“In his sermon on the mount, Jesus didn’t say, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they will never have to deal with infertility. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive a Porsche 911. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will never have medical complications or financial hardship.’” — Rachel Chimits, Do Bad Things Happen to Godly People? i 

But if our eyes are on our majestic LORD and his Amazing Grace we can expect afflictions – In this world you will have trouble (John 16:33) – but we can consider it all joy because we see beyond – But take heart! I have overcome the world. 

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2 

The joy was beyond for Jesus (and that joy was us, by the way, us with him). The joy was beyond the scorning and mocking and shame. It was beyond imprisonment, testing and afflictions and suffering and death and the cross. And if we are going to persevere to that joy we need to be following our Lord (capital “L”), who is also our Good Shepherd. We can trust that shepherd through anything. We can trust knowing we will hear his voice leading and guiding. We can trust the One who has gone this way before, knowing that our hard way produces good – for us and for others – and he will be with us all the way. And if we do that, the joy beyond will be here and now too. 

In this dark time, let us follow the Shepherd who is our LORD.  

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4  

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 

[P.S.] I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. Hebrews 13:20-21, 23 

i Rachel Chimits’ complete blog post here https://worldchallenge.org/blog/do-bad-things-happen-godly-people?ref=em1020 

Photo copyright 2009 by Derek Bair

The Good Fight

Yes, the fight is agonizing, a struggle, a grueling conflict. But good? What does that mean “good fight?”

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:12 

“Fight the good fight.” That phrase stopped me in my tracks as I read it this time. I think we all feel like we are in a fight, actually lots of fights. It seems like everywhere you go, everything you hear and see there is a fight going on. More like a war. The Greek word translated “fight” in the above verse is agon. It means anxiety, conflict, contention, fight, race. Sounds all too familiar. BibleHub.com commentary adds this to the definition of agon: 

agṓn (a masculine noun, and the root of the English words, “agony,” “agonize”) – properly, a contest (struggle), a grueling conflict (fight); (figuratively) positive struggle that goes with “fighting the good fight of faith” (1 Tim 6:12) – which literally states, “Struggle (agōnízomai) the good struggle (agṓn) of the (life of) faith.” — BibleHub.com 

Yes, agonizing, a struggle, a grueling conflict. But a good fight? What does that mean “good fight?” Spurgeon said this about it: 

“‘Lay hold on eternal life.’ Observe that this precept is preceded by another—’Fight the good fight of faith.’ Those who lay hold on eternal life will have to fight for it. The way of the spiritual life is no easy one—we shall have to contest every step of the way along which it leads us. ‘Contest the good contest of the faith’ would be an accurate rendering of the passage and a contest it is against the world, the flesh and the devil! If we live unto God, we shall need to war a daily warfare and tread down the powers of death and Hell.” — C.H. Spurgeoni  

“A daily warfare.” Wow, that makes me tired and is hard to see as good. So, it was a shock when I saw what the Greek word translated “good” in English means.  

The word is kalos and it means beautiful, handsome, excellent, eminent, choice, surpassing, precious, useful, suitable, commendable, admirable. We are in a beautiful fight (!!) A precious struggle. I may have a hard time seeing it this way when I am in the midst of the battle, but to God my fight is precious. Think about that for a minute – your fight is precious to God. To me, my battle for faith and hope feels like failure. (Shouldn’t the battle be easier by now?) I’m sure the battle will never end until the Lord takes me home, and it probably won’t get easier. But, knowing it is precious to God helps me keep going. 

So, I will hold this in my heart. When I stand in the darkness with naked faith, when I proclaim the truth of the cross of Jesus, when I cling to the promises though right now there is no evidence, when I fall over and over, but keep getting back up, when I cry out in despair, when I wrestle with him, when I lift up my eyes once again to fix them on Jesus. That is beautiful and precious in his eyes. And he is right there with me. And he gives grace for this good fight. 

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. Psalms 116:15 

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7 

Put in and Drop the Anchor

For this reason we must pay much closer (earnest, exceeding, more abundant, more frequent) attention to what we have heard (hold it in our minds, bring our ship to land, put in at safe harbor), so that we do not drift away from it (glide by, carelessly pass, let it slip our minds). Hebrews 2:1 (NASB)

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  Hebrews 6:19 (NIV)

Only hold on (seize and hold fast, don’t let go, keep carefully and faithfully) to what you have until I come.  Revelation 2:25 (NIV)

 

 

Image: U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Kathleen Gorby [Public domain]

With Tears

I have this picture in my head of my grandmother packing away in the few trunks they could bring beautifully sewn coverlets and lace curtains, along with all her dreams of hanging those curtains in the windows of that cute little starter cottage.

As I get older, I have become interested in genealogy. I especially like to explore the less-trod histories of the “Grammas.” In doing so I recently dug up a real hidden treasure. The story starts with my great-grandfather, Nathan Douglas. According to the History of Oakland County Michigan, my grandfather, as a young man, accompanied his father, the Rev. Caleb Douglas and the pastor of their church, Rev. Elon Galusha on a mission trip from Whitesboro, New York to the wilderness of Michigan in the fall of 1822. There, they preached to the scattered pioneer families and founded the first Baptist church near Pontiac. In June of the following year Nathan came back to Michigan in the company of his father “who preached and broke bread to the church.”[i]

Exhilarated with the success of the missions and, I’m sure, loving the beautiful Michigan wilderness, the young man, who would later come to be called “Deacon Nathan,” went home determined to return. Apparently, as the story goes, my great-grandmother was not so thrilled with the idea. But, in 1824, the Deacon and his bride of six months, Frances, packed up all their belongings into an oxen-drawn wagon and started the 570-mile trek to, what is now, Troy, Michigan. The History of Macomb County Michigan relates that they “located in the primal wilderness, cleared a space and built a log home, in which they lived four weeks before doors and windows could be procured.  The time was made interesting by the screeching of owls and howling of wolves.”[ii]

I have this picture in my head of Gramma Frances packing away in the few trunks they could bring beautifully sewn coverlets[iii] and lace curtains, along with all her dreams of hanging those curtains in the windows of that cute little starter cottage with the white picket fence and flower arbor and perhaps a secluded rose garden retreat in the back.

The story continues with the bride walking ahead of the slow-moving oxen, weeping as she went, and sometimes sitting down on a fallen log to have a good cry, “of homesickness and dread of the trials of pioneer life.”[iv]

Yup. That would be me – the one being dragged kicking and screaming. I wonder if it is genetic.

I think Jesus understood the feeling. With grace and mercy, he told a parable of two brothers.

 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered. Matthew 21:28-31 (NIV)

So, what was Jesus saying here? That the son, who at first, kicking and screaming, wailed, “I don’t wanna!” but who went anyway, was the one who did the will of the Father, the one who pleased God. It’s part of that picking up your cross daily decision, “dying to the flesh,” getting out of your comfort zone, leaving your cozy little cottage and trekking into the wilderness where there are wolves and mosquitoes and hard work. It’s about perseverance and endurance. It’s about how you end, not so much how you start out.

My grandmother raised eight children, six sons and two daughters. Four sons were dentists and one was a minister, and the rest of the children sturdy farmers. Deacon Nathan and Frances celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1874. They continued on working in the church that whole time. It is said that grandmother “sang in the church choir a great many years, having a fine contralto voice.”[v]

But I think I will remember her mostly walking and weeping, putting one foot in front of the other. Persevering. Anyway. Yet.

I hope that is genetic too.

Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him. Psalm 126:5-6 (NIV)

Passing through the Valley of Weeping (Baca), they make it a place of springs; The early rain also covers it with blessings. They go from strength to strength [increasing in victorious power]; Each of them appears before God in Zion. Psalm 84:6-7 (Amplified Bible)

Photograph is of my grandmother, Mrs. Nathan Douglas (née Frances B. Smith), which has been passed down in the family.

[i] Durant, Samuel W. History of Oakland County, Michigan, p. 96.

[ii] Leeson, Michael A. History of Macomb County Michigan, pp. 653-654.

[iii] My grandmother was a talented sewer. A sampler and two coverlets made from cloth that she spun herself now reside in the Romeo Historical Society Museum, Romeo, Michigan.

[iv] From James H. Downie and Elizabeth Clark Douglas’s scrapbook. Transcribed by great-granddaughter Aug. 2010.

[v] Ibid.

Middle of the Story – Part Two

When I step up on the Rock in faith, I must endure the testing of that faith. That’s part of the deal. I cannot “accept” Jesus but refuse the cleansing flame.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)

The last blog looked at the first part of the above verse – that faith is the substance or essence of hope. It is the setting under me of the solid foundation, Jesus. The stepping up on the Rock. This time I want to look at the second half of this verse – faith is “the evidence of things not seen.”

The word translated “evidence” is the Greek word elegchos. It means conviction, as in assurance, certainty. But it also means proof – as in “that by which a thing is proved or tested.” My faith must be tested, but, as God meets and holds me up in the testing, his Word and promises are proved true to me in my life. They become my assurance, evidence of what I cannot see with my eyes. The word elegchos also means reproof and is used that way in 2 Timothy 3:16 (NASB).

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness …

Or as the Message puts it, “showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way.”

Exposing, correcting, training. It’s not God and his Word that needs proving or testing, but me. Testing is no fun. The Bible compares the testing of our faith to the purification or proving of gold.

These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold––and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. 1 Peter 1:7a (NLT)

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart. Proverbs 17: 3 (NIV)

The proving of precious metals involves heating them to the melting point and skimming off the impurities that rise to the top. For me, there is still a lot of ugly stuff that rises when the heat is turned up.

Testing may seem harsh and even cruel in the midst of it, but God is love and the testing is loving. As Hebrews 12:29 declares, “Our God is a consuming fire.” Love does not let us remain as we are, far from Him and alone. But Love consumes, burns up the barriers and idols in our lives and hearts that divide us from him. Henri Nouwen has written, “Let God love you the way God wants.” Oh, that is hard. I want him to do things my way. I want to choose the test. Giving permission to that consuming passion in my life is scary. I want some kind of guarantee that things will work out the way I hope they will.

When I step up on the Rock in faith, I must endure the testing of that faith. That’s part of the deal. I cannot “accept” Jesus but refuse the cleansing flame. But he is always there with me in the proving. Indeed, he is the proof. He is the evidence. He is “the divine Yes–God’s affirmation. For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in him” (2 Corinthians 1:19-20 NLT). He is good, and his ways and purposes are good, though I cannot comprehend it. And he is able to do, and is doing, immeasurably more than all I ask or imagine, though I may not be able to see it now (Ephesians 3:20).

Lord God, give me the grace to let you be God, to let you love me the way you want, in the murky middle of my story. Call me, draw me, woo me to step up onto the Rock and allow your passionate, cleansing fire to sweep over me. Help me remember that Jesus was tested too, that he has traveled this way before me. And I will thank you in the middle of the story and I will dance with joy to the distant songs of deliverance.

I would have despaired unless I had believed (stood firm, trusted) that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Psalm 27:13 (NASB)

But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. Job 23:10 (NIV)

So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts (who is supported, upheld, confirmed, verified) will never be dismayed (will not topple, give way, run away, will not panic). Isaiah 28:16 (NIV)

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29 (NIV)

 

Image is in the Public Domain

 

 

Lupine

Lupine

glorious

in a burned-out field

anyway

 

Hope

tenacious

in my burned-over heart

yet

 

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.      Psalm 42:11 (NASB)

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.     Lamentations 3:21-23 (NIV)

 

Image, Lupine Amongst the Burn Pile by Alan Levine https://www.flickr.com/photos/cogdog/26676650031

Passing Through

What joy for those who can live [abide] in your house [dwelling place],

always [still, yet (!), again, continually, persistently] singing your praises [praising, celebrating, glorying, shining, flashing forth light]. Interlude [Selah]

What joy for [blessed are] those whose strength [boldness, security] comes from [is in] the Lord,

who have set their minds [hearts] on a pilgrimage [on the journey] to Jerusalem [place of worship].

When they walk through [pass through] the Valley of Weeping,

it will become [they will consider, regard, make it] a place of refreshing springs [fountains, source of satisfaction].

The autumn rains [the archer, the shooter of arrows] will clothe [cover, fill] it with blessings [pools, gifts, praise to God].  Psalm 84:4-6

 

Remember, you are just passing through this valley of weeping. Set your heart on the journey. Keep your eyes on the destination, on Jesus. Keep, always, continually persistently shooting your arrows of praise, shine forth your light. Make this sad place a source of blessing, refreshing, life – both for yourself and for others.

“ … the highway to Your city runs through my heart.” [i]

 

[i] From How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place by Ted Sandquist

Encroachment

 

The slow, unwavering
deliberate will
subtle encroachment
on all that is evil
immovable
save forward
gentle love
never ceasing

by Derek Bair

 

I get so tired at the continual encroachment of evil. Do you ever feel that way, almost suffocating, tempted to despair?  But did you ever think of God’s encroachment on evil? Like yeast in dough, sometimes we don’t see it, but God is working. And we have a job to do in that work. To resist evil – both in ourselves and in the world – to persevere through hopelessness, to keep on believing, to keep doing good. To push back against wrong, knowing that we fight with that gentle, unceasing love that never fails.

He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” Matthew 13:33 (NIV)

“Perseverance means more than just hanging on, which may be only exposing our fear of letting go and falling. Perseverance is our supreme effort of refusing to believe that our hero is going to be conquered. Our greatest fear is not that we will be damned, but that somehow Jesus Christ will be defeated. Also, our fear is that the very things our Lord stood for— love, justice, forgiveness, and kindness among men— will not win out in the end and will represent an unattainable goal for us. Then there is the call to spiritual perseverance. A call not to hang on and do nothing, but to work deliberately, knowing with certainty that God will never be defeated.”  Oswald Chambers

 

Poem and image copyright 2019 Derek Bair, all rights reserved