A Mass of Reasons

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good (good, rich, valuable, excellent, right, beautiful, best, bountiful, fine, gracious, joyful, kind, loving, merry, precious, sweet).
Psalm 100:4-5  

For the Lord is good. This sums up his character and contains a mass of reasons for praise.”—Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David

“A mass of reasons” – I love that. Yes, there is always a reason to thank and praise. Though there are always reasons to complain and even despair, let me turn my eyes to my loving Father, to my beautiful, gracious, kind, precious Lord. He is the one I can always run to – when I have a “skinned knee” of the soul, when I am afraid of the thunder of what is going on in this world – he is always there with open arms.

Give thanks to him and praise his name!

 

I would like to thank Ruth at the Plantedbylivingwater blog for her 365 Days of Thanks challenge. Thank you for the daily prod and reminder!

 

Middle of the Story

Ann Voskamp wrote, “Faith thanks God in the middle of the story.”[i] The middle of the story is the hard place, where behind me, and at my feet, is the stumbled-over rubble of past mistakes, rebellions, regrets. And before, is the obscured darkness of unknown hazards and hopes. Faith thanks God amid the wreckage. Faith asks me every day to turn from fear and trust the One who has promised. How do I do that? Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV) says:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

The amazing Greek word translated “substance” is hupostasis.  It partly means “steadfastness of mind, firmness, courage, resolution, confidence, firm trust, assurance,” and it is mostly translated that way as “confidence.” It literally means “a setting under”[ii] as in setting under a support, a substructure, a foundation, that which is firm. Faith is the setting under me of the foundation that makes or causes me to stand and be confident. Jesus is that foundation[iii] under me. He is the Rock on which I stand.

Thinking of it this way helps me, because it makes me realize that faith is not so much something that I “have,” something I am required to manufacture or come up with. But faith is something I do. I simply step onto the Rock. I place my faith and hope, not in my ability to produce faith, not in something that may or may not happen, but in Jesus – his faithfulness, his truth, his Word, his love and care.

But, the hidden treasure in this word is another facet of meaning. Hupostasis also means “actual existence, substance, real being, essence.” It is used in this sense in Hebrews 1:3.

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being (hupostasis) sustaining (bearing up, upholding, keeping from falling) all things by his powerful word.

Faith is the essence of hope as Christ is the essence of God – His exact representation. When I step onto the Rock, I am sustained, upheld, kept from falling by the very essence of God, which is love. God is love; his real being is love. I will thank God here in the middle of my story, confidently standing on Jesus, the Rock of my salvation, supported and sustained by his Love that was proven at the cross.

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:16 (NIV)

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:2 (NIV)

There is so much in Hebrews 11:1! I will look at the second half of the verse next time. Read more about faith in the blog Faith, Part Two

[i] Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

[ii] All translations from NetBible.org and Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

[iii] 1 Corinthians 3:11 

 

Build an Altar

Build altars in the places where I remind you who I am

Build altars in the places where I remind you who I am, and I will come and bless you there. Exodus 20:24b (NLT)

In all your ways acknowledge (know, perceive, recognize, admit, acknowledge, confess) Him, And He will make your paths straight (make right, make smooth, make straight, lead, direct, lead you straight along). Proverbs 3:6 (NASB)

Have you ever been going along when God reminded you who he is? Healer, Provider, Comforter, Redeemer, Savior! Have you ever stopped in that place and known, recognized, perceived that God was there, working, answering a prayer, comforting you in your waiting?

In that place stop and build an altar. In that place acknowledge and confess Him. In that place offer up your sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. And He will bless you there. He will lead you straight along.

The Highway to Your City

“And how blessed all those in whom you live, whose lives become roads you travel.” Psalm 84:5

A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.” (Isaiah 40:3 NIV[i])

A voice of one calling in the desert, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” (Luke 3:4)

I have read these verses many times, but for some reason I didn’t realize that in Isaiah this verse says: A voice of one calling, “IN THE DESERT prepare the way for the Lord.” However, in Luke it says: A voice of one calling IN THE DESERT, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.”

Both speak life to us, don’t they? John the Baptist was a voice calling in the desert to prepare the way for the coming Messiah, but also, it is in the desert or wilderness places of our lives where the “way” is prepared. The Israelites were tested there:

“Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands” (Deut. 8:2)

Even Jesus, The Way, was tested in the desert.

“At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert for forty days, being tempted by Satan” (Mark 1:12)

For us, the desert is also the place where we learn to lean on the Beloved:

“Who is this coming up from the desert leaning on her lover?” (Song of Songs 8:5)

But note, in Isaiah 40:3 there are two things happening: a way is being prepared or cleared, but also a highway is being built. The word “way” is the Hebrew word derek (דְּרָכַ֫יִם) which means a way, road, or path that is trodden – a journey, manner, habit, or course of life. It’s like a deer-path in the woods that is made because they get in the habit of walking that way. The “way” is prepared or cleared away like a path through the underbrush of our lives. And how is the way prepared?

“He who sacrifices thank-offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.” (Psalm 50:23)

Thanking God is hard in the desert places, when everything looks so hopeless and we want to despair! But that is where the way is prepared for salvation. That is where we chop through the thorny vines and bitter roots of grumbling, fear, unforgiveness, faithlessness, and hopelessness that trip us up, and offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving. It is a sacrifice. It involves a death of self.

As we learn to praise Him no matter what – to make thanksgiving a habit, a way of life – those places of hopelessness and despair are changed into places of blessing.

“Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. Selah. Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage (or, in whose hearts are the highways – NASB). As they pass through the Valley of Baca (weeping, affliction), they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools” (Psalm 84:4-6)

Or as The Message says “And how blessed all those in whom you live, whose lives become roads you travel.” The word translated “pilgrimage, “roads,” or “highway” here and in Isaiah 40:3 is the Hebrew word m@cillah (מְסִלָּה), which means highway, raised way, public road. It’s a public road; it’s not just for us, but for others as well. Our lives can become a place of blessing, a highway where God shows up.

Thank you Lord that there is a highway that runs through my heart, and that you travel on it with me, no matter what. I will prepare the way for you and your salvation. I will offer up thank offerings in the desert place. I will set my heart on pilgrimage and build up your highway. Teach me how to lean on you as we walk, that this place of weeping and affliction can become a place of Salvation and Life.

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)

“The highway to Your city runs through my heart” – Ted Sandquist

[i] All Bible verses from the New International Version unless noted