His Right Hand is Free

If God is holding me by my right hand I can’t use it.

Yet I am always with you; 
you hold me by my right hand. 
You guide me with your counsel, 
 and afterward you will take me into glory. 
Whom have I in heaven but you? 
 And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 
My flesh and my heart may fail, 
 but God is the strength of my heart 
 and my portion forever. Psalm 73:23-26 

When I was meditating on these verses I realized that if God is holding me by my right hand I can’t use it. And since I am right-handed anything I tried to do with my left hand would be awkward and malformed.  

The right hand in the Bible is a symbol of strength. Also, “The right side of a man is the side on which God ‘marches’ when assisting him in battle (Isa. 63:12; Ps. 109:31; 110:1, 5) and it is the right hand which God grasps as a symbol of election (Isa. 41:13; 45:1; Ps. 73:23).” i  

Wow, what amazing grace! He has grasped my right hand; He has chosen me! But, if my right hand is in His, I basically can’t do anything in my own strength. I would have to take my hand out of His. That explains my frequent urge to do just that – shake Him off and do it myself. Fearful that things are taking too long, that I’m missing out, afraid He has forgotten me.  

But His word assures us that He will never forget. Yet, I am always with you. He will never leave us or forsake us. And think of this: though His left hand is occupied holding on to me, His right hand is free. And so, “though my flesh and heart may fail” God is my strength and help. He is fighting for me with His mighty right hand. 

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Psalm 138:7-8 (ESV) 

For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Isaiah 41:13 

Lord, keep my right hand in yours

iJewish Virtual Library “Right and Left” 

Photo, free download from Piqsels

To Be Conversant

I think that this continual conversation pleases God – even if I am struggling and wrestling with what is happening in my life.

Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. Genesis 5:24 

Noah walked with God. Genesis 6:9 

What does it mean to “walk with God”? The Hebrew word is halak (הָלַךְ). It means to go, to come, to walk. It means to walk along, to walk apace, to walk forward, to walk on continually. But the part of the definition that I love the most is: to be conversant.  

Enoch and Noah were conversant with God.  

Gotquestions.org answers the question of what it means to walk with God this way: 

“Walking with God is not an activity reserved for a select few. [Not just an Enoch or a Noah, but me and you!] God desires all of His children to walk with Him. What happens when we walk with someone? Imagine that you and a close friend are enjoying a walk down a country lane. You are in close proximity. You talk, laugh, listen, and share your hearts. Your attention is focused on this person to the exclusion of almost everything else. You notice the beauty around you or an occasional distraction, but only to point it out to your companion. You share it together. You are in harmony, and you both enjoy the peaceful camaraderie. Walking with God is like that. When we enter into an intimate heart relationship with God through faith in His Son (Hebrews 10:22), He becomes our heart’s greatest desire. Knowing Him, hearing His voice, sharing our hearts with Him, and seeking to please Him become our all-consuming focus.” https://www.gotquestions.org/walk-with-God.html (my note added)

When I first gave my life to the Lord, I was part of a small congregation that was renovating a building to use as a church meeting place. One afternoon as I was working there not far from one of the pastors, I heard, what sounded to me, like him mumbling and talking to himself. It was pretty loud and it startled me, and I was a little embarrassed for him until I moved a little closer and realized he was not talking to himself, but to God. Not really praying, like we think of formal prayer, but just conversing with God about the work and each little problem that came up.  

That really impressed me and I have tried (when I remember!) to emulate this continual conversation. I think that it pleases God – even if I am struggling and wrestling with what is happening in my life. I believe it is a way of remembering Him, of acknowledging our need of Him, of recognizing His abiding, boundless, never-ending, unchanging, relentless, compassionate Presence with us. It is also, I think, what Paul was talking about when he said to pray continually. 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 

“… do you know what it is to pray continually? Old Brother Lawrence, who wrote The Practice of the Presence of God, said ‘If I’m washing dishes I do it to the glory of God and if I pick up a straw from the ground I do it to the glory of God. I’m in communion with God all the time.’ He said, ‘The rules tell me that I have to take time off to go alone to pray, and I do, but such times do not differ any from my regular communion.’ He had learned the art of fellowship with God, continuous and unbroken.” — A.W. Tozer i 

Washing dishes, cleaning toilets, shoveling snow – whatever and wherever. Because of what Jesus did for me on the cross, I have entered within the veil, into the Holy of Holies, into His Presence, and I can know God, be with God, walk with God continually. And that is His passionate desire. 

“There is no manner of life in the world more sweet or more delicious than continual conversation with God.” — Brother Lawrence

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him [or know him], and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV) 

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13 (ESV) 

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 (ESV) 

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25 

As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 2 Corinthians 6:16 

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” Genesis 3:8-9 

iWorship: The Missing Jewel of the Evangelical Church https://www.hsraadio.net/raamat/Tozer-Worship%20The%20Missing%20Jewel.pdf 

Image free download from Pixabay

When You Pass Through the Waters

Choosing love, choosing possible, most-likely, suffering, means choosing over and over.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:2 (ESV) 

I noticed it says “when” you pass through the waters and the rivers and “when” you walk through fire. Not if. Right now, is a “when” time for me. Both parents in Hospice. Exhausting caregiving. And I am sure that there are others of you reading that are up to your neck or smelling the smoke too. I would like to share with you some writings that have encouraged me. 

“I’m no sage. I don’t pretend to have this all figured out, but I know this: some live well, some die well, but few love well. Why? I don’t know if I can answer that. We all live, we all die – there is no get-out-of-jail-free card, but it’s the part in between that matters. To love well … that’s something else. It’s a choosing—something done again and again and again. No matter what. And in my experience, if you so choose, you better be willing to suffer hell.” — Charles Martin, Where the River Ends 

Yes, when you choose this Way. When you walk through the fire. When you follow in his steps. 

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21 

Besides descending into hell after his death on the cross, Jesus suffered a great deal of hell while on earth. We are commanded to follow in His footsteps, but we need to do it with His mindset. Becoming nothing. Being a servant. Pure love. 

Against my own best intentions, I find myself continually striving to acquire power. When I give advice, I want to know whether it is being followed; when I offer help, I want to be thanked; when I give money, I want it to be used my way; when I do something good, I want to be remembered. I might not get a statue, or even a memorial plaque, but I am constantly concerned that I not be forgotten, that somehow I will live on in the thoughts and deeds of others. 

But the father of the prodigal son is not concerned about himself. His long-suffering life has emptied him of his desires to keep in control of things. His children are his only concern; to them he wants to give himself completely, and for them he wants to pour out all of himself. 

Can I give without wanting anything in return, love without putting any conditions on my love? Considering my immense need for human recognition and affection, I realize that it will be a lifelong struggle. But I am also convinced that each time I step over this need and act free of my concern for return, I can trust that my life can truly bear the fruits of God’s Spirit.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son  

So, choosing love, choosing possible, most-likely, suffering, means choosing over and over. A “lifelong struggle.” And as Marshall Segal writes, it must be tenacious. 

“In other words, the deepest patience comes from a humble and hopeful joy in God above all else. That means that real patience is not only inconvenient, difficult, and wearying, but, humanly speaking, impossible. The kind of patience that honors God is so hard that we cannot practice it without help from God. It grows only where the Spirit lives (Galatians 5:22–23) … Paul does not charge the church to admonish the weak, but to help them, and the word for help here can also mean to hold firm or be devoted. There’s a tenaciousness in this help, a clinging to the weak, even after months or years of inconvenience and sacrifice. Where does that kind of patience come from? From knowing that “while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” … Those who know how painfully and helplessly weak they are apart from God are more ready to endure the weaknesses of others. They don’t resent helping for the hundredth time, because they gladly trust and submit to God’s plans, including the weaknesses he has placed around them.” — Marshall Segal https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/patience-will-be-painful  

Tenacious, gladly trusting, and, as Henri Nouwen writes, unhesitating.  

“Do not hesitate to love and to love deeply. You might be afraid of the pain that deep love can cause. When those you love deeply reject you, leave you, or die, your heart will be broken. But that should not hold you back from loving deeply. The pain that comes from deep love makes your love even more fruitful. It is like a plow that breaks the ground to allow the seed to take root and grow into a strong plant. Every time you experience the pain of rejection, absence, or death, you are faced with a choice. You can become bitter and decide not to love again, or you can stand straight in your pain and let the soil on which you stand become richer and more able to give life to new seeds.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love 

All this is indeed “humanly speaking, impossible.” But we have a Helper. 

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 

The carvings had faded, but I ran my fingers through the grooves I could reach. ‘When you pass through the waters …’ The passage continued but my arm was too short.” — Charles Martin, Where the River Ends 

Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save … Isaiah 59:1 

I will strengthen you and help you … 

I will be with you. 

P.S. And look what just came out as I was about to publish this! “Faith under fire becomes a furnace of transformation.” There is Another in the Fire

Image by Jackie, Noreaster April 16, 2007 https://flic.kr/p/GSsv8  

The Fellowship of the Unashamed

The guest pastor at our church this past Sunday had us all repeat the following amazing commitment to Christ. It is the text of a note found on the desk of a young pastor in Zimbabwe, Africa, after he was martyred for his faith. You may have read this before. It was quoted in a book by Brennan Manning called The Signature of Jesus. Manning wrote, “Perhaps the only honest measure of authentic faith is my readiness for martyrdom. Not only my willingness to die for Jesus Christ and the sake of the gospel, but to live for him one day at a time.”   

I think that last part may be the hardest. That daily thing. But I think that there is encouragement and hope to be found in those who have gone before. This message from the young martyr is so inspiring and challenging and wonderful that I wanted to share it with you. I know that there are at least one or two sentences in this declaration that will touch each of your hearts. Mine was “I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, rewarded.” Praise God! 

I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made– I’m a disciple of His. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.  My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals. 

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, rewarded. I now live by faith, lean in His presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer, and I labor with power. 

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way rough, my companions are few, my Guide reliable, my mission is clear.  I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed. 

I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. 

I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ.  I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops me. And when He comes for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me… my banner will be clear! 

With

This seemingly insignificant Hebrew word – here humbly translated into English as “with” – carries within it the very heart of God.

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with (beside, by, among, accompanying) your God. Micah 6:8

“… to walk humbly with your God.” That little word translated into English as “with” is the Hebrew word ‘im (עִם). Within this lowly word lies an amazing hidden treasure. It is related to the Hebrew word ‘am, which means people, nation, clan, tribe, family. According to the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ‘am is “predominantly used to express two basic characteristics of [people] considered as a grouping: 1) relationships sustained within or to the group and 2) the unity of the group.”

Already, ‘im carries this meaning of relationship. The Wordbook goes on to say:

“‘im, the preposition, as ‘am the noun, expresses the concept of inclusiveness, togetherness, company … the basic conception conveyed is that of fellowship, companionship, common experiences of suffering, prosperity etc. … the term, as all other prepositions, may have definite theological implications. All prepositions indicate relationships, and ‘im in particular stresses a close relationship. This type of relationship should be maintained between God and man, man and man since it is essential for any person’s salvation, eternal life and the worship and service of God.”[i]

This little word translated “with” is the first part of the word Immanuel which is the “symbolic and prophetic name of the Messiah, the Christ, prophesying that He would be born of a virgin and would be ‘God with us.’”[ii]

This seemingly insignificant Hebrew word – here humbly translated into English as “with” – carries within it the very heart of God. His heart that we should walk with him in relationship, fellowship and companionship. That we would share in his sufferings here on earth. That we would be part of a people and a family as his children. That we should accomplish, bring about justice. That we should do, and love doing, good deeds of mercy and kindness. That we should grow more and more like him, walking humbly beside and among our brothers and sisters and our Lord, who accompanies us always.  

By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. 1 John 2:5-6 (NASB)

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. Ephesians 5:1-2 (NASB)

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. John 13:14-15

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34

Lord, give us grace to walk humbly with You.

Photo copyright by Jack Bair 2019


[i] Archer, Gleason L., Jr., Harris, Robert, Waltke, Bruce K., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Moody, 1980.

[ii] Gesenius, H. F. W., Brown, Francis, Robinson, Edward, Driver, S. R., Briggs, Charles A., A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament.

Brokenhearted God

Brokenhearted God
Who comforts the comfortless
Let us comfort you
We whose hearts are broken here on earth
Let your tears fall
And join with ours
Let them form that mighty justice river
Let it water the brokenhearted earth
Along with the blood of the sufferers
The blood of your Son

 

But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Amos 5:24

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:40

 

Bible verses from the New American Standard Bible

Image in the Public Domain

Light Has Dawned

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2 (NIV)

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12 (NASB)

“My eyes are feeble, and the windows are not clean, but I will wait on the Lord. The light does shine, the light will shine in me, and make me full of light. And I shall learn to walk all day in the light and joy of God.” –Andrew Murray[i]

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day. Proverbs 4:18 (NASB)

Jesus, Light of the world, be born in me again this Christmas time. I know my windows are not yet clean. I know I still walk in darkness, in the shadow. I know I am not fully in the light you have for me. I say again, Yes, Lord! Lead me on your Way. Brighter and brighter. Let your Light fully dawn on me!

 

Photo by Derek Bair, copyright 2019, all rights reserved

[i] Waiting on God, by Andrew Murray (emphasis mine)

Keeping in Step

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25 (NIV)

Keep in step with the Spirit. How do I do that? It reminds me of a little kid trying to keep up with the Dad. And sometimes it does feel like that. He is relentless, focused, always moving, always working, alive, creating. If I stop a minute to dig in my heels, he’s down the path. And then I’m running to catch up.

But “keeping up” is different from “keeping in step.” I have always been deeply impressed by the heavenly creatures that Ezekiel saw in his vision that were so completely responsive to the Spirit of God.

Each one went straight ahead (with their faces straight forward). Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, without turning (not turning around or aside) as they went. Ezekiel 1:12 (NIV)

The word translated “went” is the Hebrew word halak (הֲלַךְ) which means “to walk.” Wherever the Spirit walked, they would walk, straight ahead, without turning. I have always been captivated by that vision – the instant response, without resistance, to the prompting of the Spirit.

“Keep in step” I think means to remain in his Presence, trying to be continually sensitive to his promptings – and to respond immediately, or more and more immediately. To walk the way he walked when he was physically on Earth, and to walk with him the way and where he’s walking now, today. To be so in tune with his great heart that, finally, there is no hesitation. Walk along beside him with my hand in his. Walk in love. Walk where he has always walked – where there is need and pain and the crying heart. Walk with him in the Way that his footsteps made for us to walk

Righteousness will go before Him and will make His footsteps into a way. Psalm 85:13 (NASB)

Jesus answered, “I am the way …” John 14:6 (NIV)

Lord help me keep my eyes on you. Help me keep in step with you on (and in) the Way.

 

Photograph by Jason Jones, Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/search/?text=Camping_FairOaks%20Farm_Sussex27

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