He Moves Mountains

When God comes on the scene our mountains crumble.  

He moves mountains without their knowing it and overturns them in his anger. Job 9:5 

I love that phrase: He moves mountains without their knowing it. Some commentators say that “without their knowing it” means suddenly, or “before they know anything.” But the meaning that caught my heart was, “God does not know it, meaning, it is so trifling to God that he can do it without thinking.”i God just has to show up for the mountains to melt: 

The mountains melted like wax at the presence of the LORD, At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. Psalms 97:5 

God says through Ezekiel (38:20 ESV) that at his presence “the mountains shall be thrown down, and the cliffs shall fall, and every wall shall tumble to the ground.” All the mountains, every wall. 

We all have mountains in our lives, some of us suffer very big mountains, and their removal is no trifling matter to us. But God moves mountains without even trying. 

Job says that God overturns the mountains in his anger. When he is angry at injustice or angry because we are being beat up by the enemy of our souls. This is echoed by David in Psalm 18. 

In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry. Psalm 18:6-7 

I love this image! But Habakkuk says something even more wonderful for many of us stuck in despair in hopelessness. 

He stood, and shook the earth; he looked, and made the nations tremble. The ancient mountains crumbled and the age-old hills collapsed. Habakkuk 3:6 

The ancient mountains – the perpetual, continuous, seemingly forever mountains – those mountains that have always been there, handed down through the generations. The cycles of addiction and abuse, the seemingly permanent soul-wounds, the misery, futility, failure. They crumble, they melt, they fall down. The word translated “stood” also means “to take a stand,” to arise, appear, come on the scene. When God comes on the scene our mountains crumble.  

God is so powerful to save that we need only the tiniest bit of that power to move our mountains. We do this by faith. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” 

This is so hard for those of us who have embraced the lie. The lie that there is no help for me. It is hopeless. It has always been this way. Nothing will change. It’s impossible. We have to ask him to show us these lies that have sunk so deep and mangled our souls. We have to reject them, ask forgiveness, and let the truth repair and restore our hearts. 

For while God moves mountains without even thinking about it by just showing up, he also moves mountains by taking a stand against our enemy, by arising to help us, by responding to our cry for help. We do have help. It’s not impossible. Cry out to him. Let him be there with you. Dwell in his mountain-moving Presence.  

“Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered!” Psalm 68:1 (KJV) 

Image, Detail from photo by Derek Bair, all right reserved

Going Forward

But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward. Jeremiah 7:24 (ESV) 

Recently I read this verse and the idea of going forward struck me. What does that exactly mean, going forward and not backward? So, I looked up the Hebrew word translated “forward.” I love it when I find hidden treasure! 

The word translated forward here in Jeremiah is paniym, and its primary meaning is “face.” Paniym means face, presence, person, toward, forward, before, in the presence, in the face of, in front of. It is used for the face of God. The Presence. 

The LORD replied [to Moses], “My Presence (paniym) will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14 

Paniym comes from the root verb “to turn,” as in turning the face. As in not going backward anymore, but turning around and going forward. For when you are going backward you have turned your face from God. Turning around, turning your face to the light of his face – which is what repentance is all about – is going forward. Face to face with God. His heart for us. 

I have been pondering holiness a lot lately. Could this be what holiness is all about? Going forward not backward? Turning toward God? Dwelling before the face of God, in His Presence? When our backs are turned away from God we travel deeper into self and all the self-stuff: pride, greed, self-love, self-preservation, self-aggrandizement, “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy” (Galatians 5:20). But when we are going forward, no matter what, into the refining light and fire of his Presence, dying to self, letting him burn away the dross, we abide more and more in him, becoming more and more like him: his humility, obedience, self-sacrifice, and love.  

In the midst of the chaos and terror and fear of almost certain death for Christians in Afghanistan, I read of one man going directly to the Taliban to share the gospel. The report did not say what happened to him. But it made me think. I don’t know if I could do that, but surely, this is true “going forward.”  

Faith may falter; hope may sink. But love keeps going forward. Toward the face of God, into the Presence, deeper into love. 

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?” John 18:4 (NKJV) 

Image, copyright 2018 Derek Bair

Yet You Are Near

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 (ESV) 

The Lord is near (in place, in time, in personal relationship, in kinship, father, brother, friend) 

to the brokenhearted (the heart, mind, soul that is broken, maimed, crippled, wrecked, crushed, shattered) 

and saves (delivers, liberates, gives victory to, defends, helps, preserves, rescues, keeps safe, brings into the spacious place, open, wide, free) 

the crushed (crushed to dust, destroyed, contrite) in spirit. 

When your heart is broken and shattered by this world. When your spirit is crushed into the dust. When you feel like your life is over, that you have messed up irretrievably, and God has turned his back in disgust. Yet – beyond understanding, unfathomable, amazing grace! – that is when God is near. 

Yet you are near, O LORD, and all your commands are true. Psalm 119:151 

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Isaiah 55:6 

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18 

… the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. Deuteronomy 30:14 

Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8 

He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Isaiah 50:8 

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Romans 8:33 

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. Luke 15:20 (ESV) 

Yet … 

Come near to God Salvation

Image, The Prodigal Son by Sir John Everett Millais. Released by the Tate https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/millais-the-prodigal-son-a00811 Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

Don’t You Want to Be Famous?

His whole life Jesus had an audience of One .

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” John 14:21-22 

I have read this passage many times, but this time it made me sad. Jesus was in the middle of explaining to the disciples the whole reason why he came, the whole reason he was going to die on the cross for them – and he gets this totally oblivious question. 

In chapter 14 of John, Jesus is telling his disciples that when he leaves them (via his death on the cross and resurrection) the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, will come. He is revealing to them the whole reason he came – to be, once and for all, the sacrifice for sin so that we could be in the Presence of God once again – that His Spirit could come and be with us and in us. The “Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive” (John 14:17). 

But they are still not getting it, and this disciple voices a question that echoes something that Jesus’ brothers had said, “No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world” (John 7:4). In other words, “Don’t you want to be famous?” 

I had just read this verse about King David when I read the above verse: 

And David became famous after he returned from striking down eighteen thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt. 2 Samuel 8:13 

This is one of the stories that the disciples would have grown up hearing. David’s famous exploits. And wasn’t the Messiah the Son of David? Wasn’t he supposed to come and strike down their enemies? Wasn’t he supposed to be famous? 

But being famous was never Jesus’ goal. His goal was to fulfill the scriptures written about Messiah, one of which is, “He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets (Isaiah 42:2), or as NetBible translates it, “he will not publicize himself in the streets.” Many times, “[h]e warned them not to tell others about him. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah” (Matthew 12:16-17). He would choose instead to reveal himself, or show who he really was, only to his followers. 

Jesus warned them about the love that the Pharisees had for honor and fame, and how that desire corrupted all of their good works (Matthew 23). Being famous had become their goal, replacing the desire to please God. Jesus commanded his disciples not to be like them.  

When I was growing up becoming famous was always pressed upon me as the most desirable goal. Being admired by others equaled being of value. So, I pursued a stage career, where standing ovations are the ultimate expression of approval and love. One night, in the middle of performing, looking out at a large, admiring (I hoped!) audience, it all seemed suddenly empty. I thought, “What am I doing here?” And when the run was done, I turned and walked away. It was only a few months later that Jesus revealed himself to me as Lord and Savior and ultimate Lover of my soul. 

If Jesus had only come to do famous exploits, to be victorious over the Romans and set Israel free as a nation, it would have just been another entry in the history books. Like David conquering the Philistines, it would have just been a good story. It would not have meant anything much to me.  

But his whole life Jesus had an audience of One – “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49) – and that audience gave him a standing ovation. “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). That’s what I want, to have an audience of One, to make pleasing God my life’s goal, and to hear him say someday, “well done, good and faithful servant.” 

“Look,” [Stephen] said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Acts 7:56 

Image, Ovation, by Joi Ito  https://flic.kr/p/R3nQd  

Draw Near

This week the theme highlighted for me by the Spirit was obviously prayer! I received a cascade of blogs and devotionals on this subject, a welcome confirmation as God has been speaking to me about prayer too. “If you love someone, you talk to them.”  

… I had a strange epiphany in my early college years at the realization that I didn’t really understand why I was praying. Have you had similar thoughts? As soon as you utter, “Amen,” you start to doubt the words that proceeded it. If God is good, why is He waiting on me to pray to bless me, heal that friend, or right that injustice? And if He already has those things in mind, then why am I praying at all? … while I can’t fully explain the theology of prayer, I can explain a little bit about relationships. If you love someone, you talk to them. You relax and talk and (read this part carefully) listen. — 5 Practical Ways to Grow (or start!) Your Prayer Life, blogged by A Grateful Life Lived. Read the whole excellent post here https://agratefullifelived.wordpress.com/2020/11/08/5-practical-ways-to-grow-or-start-your-prayer-life/  

We do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  Romans 8:26 

 We realize that we are energized by the Holy Spirit for prayer; and we know what it is to pray in accordance with the Spirit; but we don’t often realize that the Holy Spirit Himself prays prayers in us which we cannot utter ourselves. When we are born again of God and are indwelt by the Spirit of God, He expresses for us the unutterable. — Oswald Chambers, The Unrivaled Power of Prayer, from My Utmost for His Highest Updated Edition 

Your part in intercessory prayer is not to agonize over how to intercede, but to use the everyday circumstances and people God puts around you by His providence to bring them before His throne, and to allow the Spirit in you the opportunity to intercede for them. In this way God is going to touch the whole world with His saints. — Oswald Chambers, The Undetected Sacredness of Circumstances, from My Utmost for His Highest Updated Edition 

But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you” (Matthew 6:6, NAS) 

What’s the “inner room”? I think it’s the place of stillness; the place where you’re shut off from all other voices and influences and you can really hear the voice of God, and when you’re in that relationship with stillness in your inner room, then God speaks to you, you receive faith, you receive revelation and your prayer has a different quality to it. — Derek Prince 

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 

“Come to Jesus, come the Great High Priest, come to the throne of the Living God, the Lamb who was slain BUT is alive, the grave could not hold Him and you will find His grace is sufficient for your every need. 

Draw near – love Him, fellowship with Him, worship Him, hunger and thirst for Him, cast your cares on Him – draw near with a sincere heart in intimate relationship. 

Note this is not an invitation to come to church, nor is it an invitation for intellectual assent, nor is it an invitation to empty works … this is an invitation to bring our hearts into the very presence of God and commune with Him. The blood of the Lamb, Jesus the Christ, gives us access to into His Presence …” Let’s Approach God, by Beholding Him Ministries https://beholdinghimministries.org/2020/11/10/lets-approach-god/  

Image from Flickr, Praying Woman Hands by Long Thiên

In a Pitiful State

The concept of checed is as big as God himself it seems. There is no limit to God’s checed, so of course it would overflow us.

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Psalm 90:14

Satisfy us (Hebrew sabà=to be satisfied, sated, fulfilled, surfeited, filled, have desire satisfied, have in excess, be surfeited, overflowing, sate, i.e. fill to satisfaction, have enough)  

with your unfailing love (Hebrew checed=goodness, kindness, faithfulness, lovingkindness, merciful kindness, plus, plus, plus, more, more, more),

that we may sing for joy (overcome, triumph, be overcome/undone, cry out, shout for joy, give a ringing cry in joy, exaltation, praise, sing out for joy, rejoicing)

and be glad (rejoice, be joyful, be merry) all our days.

That word translated “satisfy” above is the Hebrew word sabà – to be satisfied, more than satisfied. This Psalm asks that we may be sated, fulfilled, overflowing with God’s checed. The concept of checed is as big as God himself it seems. There is no limit to God’s checed, so of course it would overflow us.

The LORD’S lovingkindnesses (checed) indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. Lamentations 3:22 (NASB)

 Checed is too big for a short definition. The NetBible reference notes from the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament uses 2,444 words to attempt a definition, but still doesn’t sabà-fulfill this concept. But one statement resonated deeply with me as the very heart of checed.

[Checed] is a kind of love, including mercy, ḥannûn, when the object is in a pitiful state. It often takes verbs of action, “do,” “keep,” and so refers to acts of love as well as to the attribute. The word “lovingkindness” of the KJV is archaic, but not far from the fulness of meaning of the word.

H. J. Stoebe[i]

Mercy and acts of love when the object is in a pitiful state. Yes, and amen.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless (strengthless, helpless, weak, feeble), Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8

You could say that when we were in a pitiful state, Christ died for us. When we were sunk in the muck up to our chins and sinking fast, when there was nothing left for us to try, when we were at the end and knew it, stuck, ensnared, trapped, hopeless – pitiful – Jesus stepped in and proved God’s checed for us by dying on the Cross. Jesus, our Emmanuel. God’s very Presence with us showing us the Way to God’s very Presence within us. And shout for joy, give a ringing cry, exalt rejoicing, for that is where we find our sabà. In His Presence.

You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness (sabà) of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Psalm 16:11

Thank you Jesus that you demonstrated the Father’s unceasing, unlimited checed for us, saving us when we were in our pitiful state and making a way for us to find sabà, overflowing fulfillment, in your Presence forever.

Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love (checed) and compassion, who satisfies (sabà) your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:1-5

If you long to find fulfillment and satisfaction in God, but are in that pitiful state, trapped in sin, please pray.

“Dear God,

I know I’m a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness.
I believe Jesus Christ is Your Son. I believe that He died
for my sin and that you raised Him to life.
I want to trust Him as my Savior and follow Him as Lord,
from this day forward. Guide my life and help me to do your will.

I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.”

∗Prayer from Billy Graham ministries

Image copyright 2019 by Derek Bair


[i] Stoebe, H. J., “Die Bedeutung des Wortes Hasad im Alten Testament,” Vetus Testamentum, 2:244–54.

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

 

Except

I’m fighting down fears right now. But that “except” is there, holding me on the Rock.

I assigned the hill country of Seir to Esau, but Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt. Joshua 24:4

This unassuming sentence is tucked into a long account of the history of God’s people at the end of Joshua’s life. But the verse jumped out at me this last time I read it. At first it would seem that Esau got the better end of this deal. God gave Esau the hill country of Seir, but Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt – and we know what happened to them there.

Esau missed out on 400 years of slavery and 40 more years in the desert wilderness. He became very rich and great, with many chiefs. Genesis 36 is the account of Esau and his greatness, his many descendants, and their many chiefs. Esau had “kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king ruled over the Israelites” (Genesis 36:31).

A commentary on Genesis 36 notes, “As F. Delitzsch says[i], ‘secular greatness in general grows up far more rapidly than spiritual greatness.’ In other words, the progress of the world far out distances the progress of the righteous who are waiting for the promise.”[ii]

Yes, it would seem that Esau got the better deal. Except. Except Esau also missed out on:

  • Deliverance from slavery
  • Redemption by the blood of the Passover lamb
  • Miraculous rescue from the enemy
  • Pure water from the Rock
  • Bread from Heaven
  • Hearing God’s voice from the mountain
  • Comfort and protection of the cloud and the pillar of fire
  • The giving of the Word of God
  • The refining as silver
  • The testing as gold
  • Learning dependence on God alone

I know that I would have been right there with the panicked Israelites heart and soul as they grumbled against Moses saying, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” (Exodus 17:3) … “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!” (Numbers 20:5).

Yeah, I’m pretty sure I would have been with them because I’m fighting down similar fears right now. But that “except” is there, holding me on the Rock. Except, I want to be part of the Story.

Esau didn’t just miss out on the hunger and the thirst, the fear and uncertainty, the hardship and the trials. He also missed out on being part of the great Story of Salvation. Esau missed out on being part of Jesus’ story. The Story of the Savior.

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:1-4

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” Matthew 2:15

Lord, bring me out. Bring me through. Bring me into the wilderness with you. Write me into your great Story of Salvation.

Jesus
Write me into Your story
Whisper it to me
And let me know I’m Yours

–Rich Mullins

 

Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. Hebrews 12:16 (MSG)

[i] Franz Delitzsch. New Commentary on Genesis, 2:238.

[ii] NetBible Study Notes

Image by Jack Bair, all rights reserved

Left Vacant

I know that for the right practice of [the Presence of God] the heart must be empty of all other things, because God will possess the heart alone; and as He cannot possess it alone without emptying it of all besides, so neither can He act there, and do in it what He pleases, unless it be left vacant to Him. — Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God, Fifth Letter.

In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:33

 

Image, Open Window by Keith Ellwood https://www.flickr.com/search/?text=open%20window%20keith%20ellwood