He Keeps Singing

Why is trust so hard? 

Why is the One who can save me 

the one I suspect? 

My lover has filled the porch 

with flowers and chocolates 

He sings cheesy love songs 

exuberantly 

and dances alone 

But flinching behind my locked door 

all I hear 

are snatches of mocking 

All I see 

is my barren, empty house 

And yet 

he keeps singing 

his love songs 

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV) 

Image, Flowers on the Porch, by slgckgc https://flic.kr/p/otJo7o

Secret Debate

I think we all have doubts and fears at times – the secret debate.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. Philippians 2:14‭-‬15 (ESV) 

Wow, have I ever really read this verse before? OK, I admit that I am a grumbler and God has been putting his finger on things in my heart, but this really stunned me as I read it this time.  

Is Paul really saying that I can’t be a blameless and innocent child of God, without blemish, that I can’t be a light in this dark world, if I don’t do everything without grumbling or disputing? Other translations say “complaining or arguing” (NLT) or “murmuring or questioning [the providence of God]” (Amplified). That last translation really hits the nail on the head. 

The Greek word translated “grumbling” is goggusmos (γογγυσμός). It means “a murmur, murmuring, muttering.” it is applied to a secret debate in John 7:12. It means “secret displeasure, not openly avowed.” It comes from goggýzō which means “to murmur, grumble; to show “smoldering discontent.i 

The Greek word translated “disputing” (dialogismós) comes from a Greek word which means “’back-and-forth reasoning’ – reasoning that is self-based and therefore confused.”  

Apparently there is a connection between secret grumbling and not obeying God. The psalmist writes of the Israelites in the desert, “They grumbled in their tents and did not obey the Lord.” (Psalm 106:25)

Dialogismós is “’the thinking of a man deliberating with himself,’ inward reasoning, the reasoning of those who think themselves to be wise, an opinion, a deliberating, questioning, about what is true, hesitation, doubting, the intellectual rebellion against God.”  

“An intellectual rebellion against God.” Wow, that strikes to the heart. Either I believe what his word says, or I don’t. And no matter how much I try to cover it over and pretend that I believe and that I am light in this struggling world, the secret debate, the smoldering discontent, and questioning of God’s providence comes out. And the thing is, it negatively affects those around me. For Jesus said: 

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45 (ESV) 

Grumbling and complaining is something that we often give ourselves a pass on. But it’s like calling someone an idiot in traffic. That seems fairly innocent, but Jesus says that it will put me in danger of hell (Matthew 5:22). What comes out of our mouths matters.* 

The whole world is stuck in the muck of smoldering discontent and self-based, confused reasoning. How can I be a shining light if I am, even secretly, doing the same thing? I think we all have doubts and fears at times – the secret debate. But what we need to do is make a decision to take a stand on the Rock who is our strength and salvation and refuge,ii persevering. I know I do. I need to seek out what the Word says and believe it and cling to it no matter what. I need to surrender to His will for my life. I need his grace and help (and he will do it, and he is doing it!) to let the Word be in me “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 ESV) 
 

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. Isaiah 26: 3-4 (ESV) 

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. Habakkuk 3:17-18 

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (ESV) 

*Wow! Just as I was writing this blog, this excellent blog came into my email Slow to speak-words matter

God is good. All the time. 

i All quoted definitions from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, and Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon at https://biblehub.com/ 

ii Psalm 62:7, 89:26 

Image copyright by Jack Bair

Do Not Go to Pieces

The Lord is present with us, near, at hand, ready to carry us in his arms.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6 

“Do not be anxious.” That is a hard one for me. Actually, anxiety is pretty pandemic right now, wouldn’t you say? The Greek word is merimnáō which means “drawn in opposite directions,” “divided into parts,” “to go to pieces” because pulled apart in different directions. Literally, it means “to be divided.”i 

I am very familiar with the “go to pieces” part of anxiety, also the “pulled apart in different directions” situation. However, the “to be divided” meaning of the word caught my attention and reminded me of David and his undivided heart.  

Undivided heart  

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. Psalm 86:11 

David was actually praying for “unitedness of heart”- a heart not divided into parts, not pulled apart in different directions. A heart not pulled apart by fears and idolatries. A heart united in focus and trust. 

This is not something that we can accomplish ourselves I don’t think, but God promised through the prophets to give us this undividedness, this singleness and unitedness of heart. 

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 11:19 

I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. Jeremiah 32:39 

One 

The word translated “undivided” and “singleness” in these verses is the Hebrew word echad – one. God was promising to give us one heart. It is the same word as in this verse: 

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Deuteronomy 6:4 

This is the verse that Jesus pointed to when one of the teachers of the law came and asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” 

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” Mark 12:28-30 

In the Greek the word describing God as “one” is holos. It means whole, complete. It means “wholly, where all the parts are present and working as a whole.” 

“All the parts are present.” God is always one; he is never divided. He never “goes to pieces.” He is never pulled apart in different directions. All the parts – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One. Present. With us.  

Let’s look at Philippians 4:6 again in context: 

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near (at hand, near, nigh, ready). Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace (eirḗnē = wholeness, when all essential parts are joined together) of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:5-7 

It looks like not being anxious, pulled apart, and divided, but trusting God with our prayers and petitions, gives us His peace and enables us to have a gentle demeanor, evident to all. After Jesus spoke the most important, or first, commandment – to love the Lord your God with all your heart – he continued with the second most important: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  

This may seem impossible, especially in these anxious and contentious days, but let me leave you with a wonderful hidden treasure in this verse. The word translated “near” in “the Lord is near,” comes from a Greek word that means “an arm, especially as bent to receive a burden.” Do you see what that says? You don’t have to be anxious for anything because the Lord is present with us, near, at hand, ready to carry us in his arms. He carries all our burdens. Our strength and ability are in Him. 

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” John 17:20-23 (ESV) 

i All definitions from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance 

Image, Safe by Barbara W https://www.flickr.com/photos/barbasia/15537309689/

Gratitude and Jumping Off the Cliff 

So, I keep getting this message about giving thanks no matter what. (Thank you to all my fellow bloggers and online devotionals!) I admit I am having a hard time getting there. Life is hard! Does gritting your teeth and saying it just in obedience count?? Maybe it does take flinging myself off the precipice. 
 

When the storms come, and our trees of delight are bare and leafless, when He strips us of the comforts to which His love has accustomed us — or more painful still, — when He leaves us alone in the world, to mourn the absence of the chief desire of our heart; — to sing to Him then, to bless and praise and laud His dear name then, this is the work of His free grace only. — Susanah Spurgeon, The Sword and the Trowel, December 1903, 606. From online devotional by Ray Rhodes, The Other Spurgeon https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-other-spurgeon  
 
 

I have realised that irrespective of our circumstances, there is nothing as meaningful as showing gratitude irrespective of our current circumstances. For the apostle Paul states in the book of Philippians that. “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want.”  

This morning I would like to admonish you, irrespective of your current situation; there is nothing more potent than our great God. If he came through for people in times past, remember, He is still the same. He is unchanged. He expects you to leave the past behind and show gratitude for what He has done for you.  

Being alive is a miracle you should be grateful for. That incurable medical report? That declining academic report? The financial crisis? My friend, just leave it into His hands. He will come through for you.  Blogged by Eliezer https://eliezerontim.wordpress.com/2021/10/15/gratitude/   

The Psalmist wrote, “Our fathers trusted in you; they trusted, and you delivered them. They cried to you, and were delivered; they trusted in you, and were not ashamed” (Psalm 22:4-5, NKJV). The Hebrew root word for ‘trust’ suggests “to fling oneself off a precipice.” That means being like a child who has climbed up into the rafters and cannot get down. He hears his father say, “Jump!” and he obeys, throwing himself into his father’s arms … The trusting heart always says, “All my steps are ordered by the Lord. He is my loving Father, and he permits my sufferings, temptations and trials but never more than I can bear. He always makes a way of escape. He has an eternal plan and purpose for me. He has numbered every hair on my head, and he formed all my parts when I was in my mother’s womb. He knows when I sit, stand or lie down because I am the apple of his eye. He is Lord not just over me but over every event and situation that touches me.” — David Wilkerson, A Perfect Heart is Trusting https://worldchallenge.org/devotion/perfect-heart-trusting?ref=devos  
 

 
How can we live a truly grateful life? When we look back at all that has happened to us, we easily divide our lives into good things to be grateful for and bad things to forget. But with a past thus divided, we cannot move freely into the future. With many things to forget we can only limp toward the future.  

True spiritual gratitude embraces all of our past, the good as well as the bad events, the joyful as well as the sorrowful moments. From the place where we stand, everything that took place brought us to this place, and we want to remember all of it as part of God’s guidance. That does not mean that all that happened in the past was good, but it does mean that even the bad didn’t happen outside the loving presence of God  . . . Once all of our past is remembered in gratitude, we are free to be sent into the world to proclaim good news to others. — Henri Nouwen, The Grateful Life  
 

The adult who has lived life and attained hindsight now fights with the  
ever present child who was born of rejection.  

Logic wrestles with raw emotion.  

Yet what we know, is that in the end, love does indeed win.  

Because we know that anyone who calls  
themself a Christian, is adopted by Grace.  

I am a child of Grace and I am a person who is so ever grateful  
to that of the unconditional…  

Blogged by Julie, https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2021/10/15/an-adopted-path-to-grace/   

Yes! I don’t have to grit my teeth to be grateful for his unconditional love. Thank you so much my ever-present, loving God! 

Image in the Public Domain

Not Abandoned

We were on vacation not long ago “up north.” One night I was up alone for hours trying to be quiet in the tiny camper while my husband slept. Couldn’t sleep and very depressed. Thinking about all that was going wrong. Sickness, financial troubles, family members leaving the faith. That is when I told God I felt abandoned. In the morning more devastating family news on Facebook. By the time we were eating breakfast I was bawling. Not a fun time.  

Packing up to go “enjoy” the day, my husband stepped in some doggie doodoo and it got tracked all over the camper. At least an hour was spent cleaning rugs and mats and shoes at the camp water pump. Then he banged his head real hard trying to wrangle things back in. Finally, on our way to the beach, a big heavy, wet floor mat that we thought could ride on the hood a few miles flew up and smacked the windshield while we were driving, covering it and scaring us and making us, shaken and blinded, pull over quickly to the side of the road.  

To top the morning off, when we got to the beach my husband cracked his elbow badly getting things out of the truck. At that we both just started laughing, and I felt God say, now THAT is what it would be like if I had abandoned you. 

Lord, thank you that we aren’t even aware of all that you do for us. Thank you that you watch over us continually, though we cannot see you. That, though bad things happen, you are there with us. That you carry us through it all. But, thank you most of all that Jesus endured abandonment for us on the cross that we might never – ever – be abandoned. 

At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Matthew 27:46 (NLT) 

The LORD will guard you from all evil; He will preserve your soul. The LORD will watch over your coming and going, both now and forevermore. Psalm 121:7-8 

… and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place. Deuteronomy 1:31 

For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” Hebrews 13:5 (NLT) 

Image by DVIDSHUB, from flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/dvids/13938506188

Unarmed Hungers 

Naming our hungers helps. But they must be disarmed too.

This is the place 
where unnamed hungers 
are fed, the place 
of clear water, 
refreshment. 

A fellow blogger, Deep calls to deep, recently posted a poem, a redux of, or leading back to, the 23rd Psalm (full poem below). As I read the portion above, instead of “unnamed hungers,” at first I saw “unarmed hungers.” I started to laugh at myself, but then I thought, no, our hungers often are armed and need to be disarmed.  

Even unnamed hungers can be armed. They may be unnamed because they are unconscious or subconscious. Pushed down, walled off. We may not know what is fully going on down there, sometimes screaming for relief, sometimes huddled in a ball. Only God knows our hearts. But there is sure to be included unnamed hungers for love, acceptance, respect, recognition, approval, belonging, family. A hunger to be known. To be heard. 

Naming our hungers helps. But they must be disarmed too. What arms our hungers? Anger, rage, unforgiveness, bitterness, rebellion, blame, resentment, insistent claims for defrauded rights, vengeance, suspicions and assumptions, hopeless expectations. Could they even be armed with self-righteousness, pride, prejudice, denial? How can we receive his hope, strength and solace when we have armed ourselves against needing it? Against trust? 

Let us surrender to the One who fills every hunger, for Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger” (John 6:35). Let’s lay down our arms, give ourselves up, yield to his love and care, trust, rest in Him. 

You lift my head; my vision clears. 
The blessing cup overflows. 

Psalm 23 redux by Carla A. Grosch-Milleri (Blogged by Deep calls to deep https://deepcallstpdeep.wordpress.com/2021/08/30/psalm-23-redux/

This I know: 
My life is in your hands. 
I have nothing to fear. 

I stop, 
breathe, 
listen. 

Beneath the whirl of what is 
is a deep down quiet place. 
You beckon me to tarry there. 

This is the place 
where unnamed hungers 
are fed, the place 
of clear water, 
refreshment. 

My senses stilled, 
I drink deeply, 
at home in timeless territory. 

In peril, I remember: 
Death’s dark vale holds no menace. 
I lean into You; 
Your eternal presence comforts me. 
I am held tenderly. 

In the midst of all that troubles, 
that threatens and diminishes, 
You set abundance before me. 
You lift my head; my vision clears. 
The blessing cup overflows. 

This I know: 
You are my home and my hope, 
my strength and my solace, 
and so shall You ever be. 

i Psalms Redux: Poems and Prayers. Carla A. Grosch-Miller. Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd. 2014. 

Image, photograph copyright by Jack Bair 

Our Rudders Mislead Us

Just as the ocean’s currents carry a ship
You carry us
Just as the wind running along
the surface of the deep
to fill the sails and guide the ship
You guide us

We depend on You for our
every breath
We depend on You to
cause the seed to grow so we can eat
We depend on the sun to bring
life to the Earth

Our rudders mislead us
for we do not understand
We depend on your wind
to guide us
When we cannot sense you
carry us on the shoulders
of the currents

by Derek Bair

Text and image, copyright by Derek Bair, all rights reserved

Rest

“‘Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him.’ Yes, for Him. Seek not only the help, the gift, seek Himself; wait for Him. Give God His glory by resting in Him, by trusting Him fully, by waiting patiently for Him. This patience honors Him greatly; it leaves Him, as God on the throne, to do His work; it yields self wholly into Him hands. It lets God be God.” — Andrew Murray, Waiting on God

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10

I Am The Way

We don’t get a map and detailed instructions when we decide to follow Jesus. We get Him.

I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” 

Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” 

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:2-6 

I love how Thomas speaks up and says and asks the potentially dumb, or embarrassing, things for all of us. He was an all-my-ducks-in-a-row type person that I can relate to. He wanted to see the nail marks and put his hand in Jesus’ side. He wanted to hold the map in his hands.  

“How can we know the way?” This time, when I heard him ask the question, I heard the underlying panic (or maybe it was mine). Wait! How can I follow you when I don’t know the way? It sounds like you are saying that I have to DO something. Perform, be perfect. I’ve got to be RIGHT (read self-righteous). I need a detailed map. Where is this way?! 

But what did Jesus say to him? “I am (I exist, I am present, I was, I am, I will be) the way …” 

Basically, Jesus was saying “I am the map.” The get-it-right-performance junkie in me (and, in my imagination, Thomas) immediately is anxious. What does that mean? How do I DO that?  

But Jesus compassionately went on to say, “No one comes to the Father except through (through, with, in, by the means of) Me.” 

We don’t get a map and detailed instructions when we decide to follow Jesus. We get Him.  

Recently I read a quote from Oswald Chambers that took my breath away. 

“To be so much in contact with God that you never need to ask Him to show you His will, is to be nearing the final stage of your discipline in the life of faith. When you are rightly related to God, it is a life of freedom and liberty and delight, you are God’s will, and all your commonsense decisions are His will for you unless He checks. You decide things in perfect delightful friendship with God, knowing that if your decisions are wrong He will always check; when He checks, stop at once.” — Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest 

“You are God’s will.” At first the idea repelled me. It almost seemed blasphemous. How could I be the will of God? This is how my wise sister answered my question: 

“This confirms in my spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:16 tells us we have the mind of Christ and do hold His thoughts, feelings and purposes. We grew up “wrong” but we are now God’s masterpieces created anew in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:10). In Christ we are new – the old has gone (2 Corinthians 5:17) and we are whole in Christ (Colossians 2:10). 

And really, what’s the worst that could happen if we get it wrong now? God makes all things new. Faith steps out of the boat.” 

Praise God for wise sisters! What is the worst that can happen if I mess up? I get to experience his gentle correction, the rod and the staff of the loving Shepherd.  

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, what does it take, walking this Way? Complete surrender. Drawing my life from His. Dying to self and letting him live in and through me – this temple of the Holy Spirit. Walking forward, sometimes in the dark, through, with, in, and by the means of Jesus. 

It’s not about my righteousness – about me getting it right – but about his righteousness. His is the righteousness; his is the faith; his is the love; his can be my actions and my words. If I lean on Him. If I abide in Him. 

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5 

I get this feeling that we will need to be abiding, hidden in his great heart, more and more as we follow him forward. If you are not already abiding in Christ and he in you, please give your life to him today (see wrestlingwordblog.wordpress.com/salvation/ for help.) 

For anyone out there who doesn’t know where you’re going, anyone groping in the dark, Here’s what: Trust in God. Lean on your God! Isaiah 50:10-11 (Message)  

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”  

And He said, “Come!” i 

Image, You Are Here by Mario Klingemann https://flic.kr/p/ddNU5   

iMatthew 14:27-29 (NASB) 

Yet God

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

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

Hidden Treasure

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

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

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

Yet!…

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