Thursday, October 30, 2008

Encouragement Times Two

“Jesus Christ is stronger!”

“Ready for some good news? . . .

Jesus Christ is stronger!

Stronger than my fears about the future or my shame over a past that cannot be altered though I wish so much I could do some things differently.

Stronger than my tired prayers with well-worn phrases and weary pleas.

Stronger than my need to know now, and have the trial terminated.

Stronger than the enemy of my soul who would discourage me with my own failings and disillusion me with the faults of others.

Such a simple truth—Jesus Christ is Stronger. ‘Stronger than what,’ you ask? Stronger than whatever would cause you doubt or discouragement today.”

—James McDonald, “Jesus Christ is Stronger”

The Two ‘Courts’

“There are two ‘courts’ we must deal with: the court of God in Heaven and the court of conscience in our souls. When we first trust in Christ for salvation, God’s court is forever satisfied. Never again will a charge of guilt be brought against us in Heaven. Our consciences, however, are continually pronouncing us guilty. That is the function of conscience. Therefore, we must by faith bring the verdict of conscience into line with the verdict of Heaven. We do this by agreeing with our conscience about our guilt, but then reminding it that our guilt has already been borne by Christ.”

- Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace (Colorado Springs, Co: NavPress, 1994), 54.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

World Without Truth

Make me know Your ways, O LORD; teach me Your paths, lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day.
(Psalm 25:4)

I work in an office. As is common in this type of workplace, many desks are decorated with family photos, scenic pictures, quotes and inspirational sayings. One saying that I have taken notice of lately is, “There is no set path; just follow your heart.”

To most people, this would seem like fairly sound advice, especially in this day and age when absolutes are shunned, and individualistic self fulfillment is encouraged. Followers of Jesus Christ, however, realize that this type of philosophy is precisely what has brought humankind to the levels of chaos and sin that we see all around us today. God keep us from being directed by the human heart, which is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick (Jer. 17:9)

From the Beginning

Following our hearts began in the Garden, when Eve believed the lies of Satan and ignored what God had commanded. God has, from the beginning, given us standards and principles to live by. But since that first man and women were evicted from God’s presence, we have carried on in the same rebellious attitude of rejecting what He has provided and commanded, choosing instead to go our own way, paying homage to a never ending list of idols.

There is a set path, and it is lighted by the Word of God (Ps. 119:105.) Instructions on finding it and staying on it can be found inside the Bible, scattered throughout the ages and pages therein. Psalm 119 is filled with entreaties to be taught and led according to the Truth. Contrary to what the world would have us believe, there is absolute Truth. And how comforting and confidence building it is to know that there is a God in Heaven Who is the author of this Truth, a Sovereign God Who befriends all that bow the knee to Him, becoming for them their Savior and Protector in a world filled with uncertainties and potential for tragedy.

God’s Truth

God’s Word is the ultimate Truth. God cannot be separated from Truth or it from God. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6.) He is the Word (John 1:1), and is full of grace and truth (John 1:14b.) He is its author. He reveals it, and so reveals Himself. There is nothing stronger than this Truth, whether shouted with the loudest, most commanding voice, or whispered faintly with one’s dying breath. Truth never shrinks back. Nothing else can match it, or threaten it, or overturn it. Even when it is silent, and unseen, it is at work, proving itself. It never loses power, or runs out; it supplies us with every confidence and a hope that cannot be shaken.

Not Just Words

We can’t have a living relationship with mere words on a page. We can, however, have a real relationship with the God Who is revealed on those pages. He is at work in our lives by His Spirit, revealing Himself to us in Scripture, and we can recognize Him being actively involved in our lives as we seek Him with all our heart, even with the new heart that He gives to us at salvation. He is a God Who draws near as we draw near to Him, a God Who knows us intimately and Who brings us into a love relationship with Himself. He adopts us into His Kingdom, and becomes for us a Heavenly Father Whose love is everlasting, and Whose grace knows no bounds in our lives.

Truth at Work

• Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17.)
• If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free (John 8: 31b-32.)
• Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth (John 17:17.)

Truth sorts out our thoughts. Like a great sieve, it sifts the contents of our mind and hearts, separating truth from lies. It is living, and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts an intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12.) It is our thermometer, compass, measuring stick and map. It always points to the right way.

The Christian is fed by Truth, and has learned that man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4.) It is growing inside us, transforming us by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2.) As we walk through this world, there is much going on around us that would deny what God’s Word tells us. Thank God for His Word, and for His Spirit Who lives in us, teaching us all things (John 14:26), and directing our path (Prov. 3:6.)

Dear Lord: You light our way in a dark and foreign land. Your word is a beacon, leading us home. When it illumines the confusion around us, we see a clear and straight path carved out. Your Spirit unlocks the doors of our understanding, so that we can walk in freedom, confident of your purpose and working in our lives. Let us ever look to You, the author and finisher of our faith. Lead us in truth and triumph in Christ Jesus, Who is full of grace and truth. Like little children we look to You for all truth. Amen.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It Is Finished

For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;
and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

(Hebrews 9:24-28, 10:19-25)

"Father you made a way, a new and living way. No more sacrifices, nothing to add. One perfect life, and one perfect sacrifice. Precious blood of a Lamb, Your Lamb. What stands in our way now? Unbelief, or lack of understanding. Make these things clear to our hearts, that we may come boldly, with full confidence. No shadow of guilt or shame need follow us; the blood of Your Son cleanses once for all. You are faithful. In You we trust, to You we turn, in our doubt, confusion, fear, regret. You receive us always, for we come through the very Person of Jesus, our great High Priest. We can lay all at Your feet, and rest in Your perfect love. Help us to understand the place of safety we now inhabit. Nothing can separate us from Your love."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Everyday Gifts

I folded laundry today. This is a task that I usually enjoy; the fresh scent of towels and sheets just off the line, the orderly piles of linens and socks when I am done, signaling that another week’s worth has been dealt with. Today as I folded towels, I thought of how much I appreciated having clean ones. It struck me that there are thousands, perhaps millions, who do not have clean towels, or even dirty ones. It is such a small thing, really. Like countless other things in our daily lives that we reach for and use, and take for granted. In this society, we are rich indeed in material possessions, and in conveniences of travel, and every aspect of daily living.

I work with a girl who emigrated from Romania. She came to Canada as an adult. I love to hear her recount, in her lovely accent, her amazement, when she first arrived, over the bounty of benefits that this country provides. She wept the first time she saw a supermarket, overwhelmed at the abundance and variety of foods available there. So impressed was she that she took pictures to send to her family back home. Today she will most days walk down to the nearby grocery store on her lunch hour, carrying back her bags of treasures, still marveling at the many types of foods that she can purchase. Hearing her express her gratitude and joy at being fortunate enough to live in this country causes my conscience to stab me with sharp little reminders of how much I take for granted in my life.

If I were to send a “Thank You” card to God, I would never be finished writing it, as I have so many things to be thankful for. I am trying to cultivate a thankful heart, instead of my usual complaining one. Lately I am thanking Him for the beautiful Fall weather we are currently enjoying. Every day, I can thank Him for family, and health, and material things that I am blessed with. Mostly, though, I thank Him that He cares for me, and knows what is best for me every day. I thank Him that He provides me with all that I need, in this life and the next, out of the bounty of His mercy and grace.

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:17 NASB)

What can you thank Him for today?

(PS, I wrote this some time ago, but posting it now as Amy's recent post reminded me of it)

It Is Finished

For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those wo eagerly await Him.

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;
and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

(Hebrews 9:24-28, 10:19-25)

"Father you made a way, a new and living way. No more sacrifices, nothing to add. One perfect life, and one perfect sacrifice. Precious blood of a Lamb, Your Lamb. What stands in our way now? Unbelief, or lack of understanding. Make these things clear to our hearts, that we may come boldly, with full confidence. No shadow of guilt or shame need follow us; the blood of Your Son cleanses once for all. You are faithful. In You we trust, to You we turn, in our doubt, confusion, fear, regret. You receive us always, for we come through the very Person of Jesus, our great High Priest. We can lay all at Your feet, and rest in Your perfect love. Help us to understand the place of safety we now inhabit. Nothing can separate us from Your love."

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Grace is God’s blanket of mercy. He holds it out to us, when we see our own wretched hearts a little clearer than we had before. He holds it out to us, as a covering for the shame we feel, for having been so easily deceived by sin. Did He not also make garments of skin for Adam and his wife? Even then, when they had sinned against Him, He took pity upon them. And so that is His way with us.

Does He accuse or condemn us? No, rather, He is for us. He delivered His Son for us, and in that death, His own wrath is satisfied. We are justified, and He is the Justifier. Does He look with scorn upon us? Never. Instead He has so much compassion on us, who have learned to revere Him. Does He love us less when sin has found us out? How could He, when He has known us so perfectly, having knit us together in our mother’s womb, having laid out all of our days before us. He has chosen us in eternity, and while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We are included in the Beloved, accepted in Him, and made co-heirs with Him. The Father loves us with the same love that He loves His Beloved Son with.

When His blade of pruning has done its careful work, His grace is there, binding up our wounds, and our broken hearts. His word to us is “what horrors of iniquity are concealed in your heart that I have not already known? Come, lay down your head upon my breast, while I enfold you with my Grace. For it is enough for you, and freely given. My mercies are new every morning, every moment.”

This, then, is how we can go on. This is how we get up again, and follow Him. We should not delay our running to Him, to let His grace have its way in us. It is meant to be our greatest comfort, this forgiving mercy. It does not take away the fact of our sin, but it tells us that it is forgotten, as far as the east is from the west. And if we go on condemning ourselves, we have missed the whole point. For grace frees us; His blood has cleansed the stain of our sin.

Under the canopy of grace, we can face our sin, bowing our hearts in the dust, yet knowing that only grace has brought us here, to see our own need. For until we see it, there is no growing, there is no going on. There can be no knowing grace itself, and the One who provides it so abundantly.

Is the path of grace that He has traced for us full of much pain in our discovery of ourselves, of what remains hidden in our hearts? So it must be. But here is hope, that even in that, He works all together for good. Best to turn our eyes upon Him, His goodness, His righteousness, for it is only in Him that we can have hope. Best to lay aside each weight, leave behind every carcass of each sin found out, and rejoice in knowing He is the Potter, and we are the clay. Be still, and know that He is God. It is Him working in us, according to His plan and purpose. Give thanks, for He Who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it. And all the glory will be His.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Considering Creation

I have of late been marveling in the created world that I see around me, from the tiniest insect to the incomprehensible vastness of the universe. At the same time, I have been considering the creative bent that is in humankind, and the varied ways that it is expressed, in art, literature, music, dance, fashion design, architecture; the list is long and varied

We are not all artists in the strictest sense, but we can all be creative. Indeed, the desire to create is innate in us. As toddlers, we pick up crayons and play doh in our first efforts to replicate things familiar to us. These attempts continue as we grow older, as we try to imitate and reproduce the beauty of nature through various mediums. We do this instinctively, as we respond to what we see and experience in our daily lives.

In creating our world, God began with nothing. His designs are far beyond anything mankind can come up with, in spite of the advances that we make daily. God’s creation of man was judged by Him to be “very good” (Gen 1:31).We are still learning of the complexities that are involved in our physical, emotional and spiritual makeup.

Over the centuries, we see a vast array of evidences of the creative spark that is in us, left there by our Creator. These abilities can be used in helpful, benevolent ways, or for destructive purposes. We can create beauty, in the soul’s aspiration to somehow replicate what is all around us, in the wonder of God’s Creation. We can even glorify God, as a worshipful response to Him, acknowledging His incredible wisdom and creative power as we praise Him through the many means He has made available to us.

In the busyness of life, and amidst the continual technological advances of mankind, I find it wonderfully refreshing and humbling to pause and give thought to the awesome wonder of creation, and of God’s sustaining power in the universe. As I do, I re-align my priorities, realizing afresh the many blessings He has bestowed upon His creatures, and His goodness in doing so.

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Rev.4:11, NIV)

Living Proof

I cast my eye about one day
In mainly careless gesture,
Not meaning in my glance to find
E’en one thing that would then remind
Me of this world’s Creator.

But lo, behold! Before my eyes
Too many things to count!
A vast array of species lay,
Some flora, fauna, birds of prey;
We must no longer doubt.

There is a force unseen by us
Upholding hour by hour.
Though we give little thought to this
That every moment we exist
We’re girded by this power.

All these, and that means us, you see,
With life and breath are nourished.
A grand design, before all time,
Made only with His will in mind.
We’ll by His power have flourished,

Until His purpose be fulfilled,
Though much is hidden now.
We will yet see what’s meant to be,
All one in Christ so perfectly;
Before Him all will bow.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nest of Grace

We can become so good at the game of hiding ourselves. From behind a wall of what we think we ought to be, we sit and observe. We weigh and measure each response, every lifted eyebrow, and adjust accordingly. Behind the scenes, we continually re-write our script, always searching for that one right way to be. Yet we are unable to calm our anxious hearts, for we know full well that we will never be truly “right”. We are made this way, and have grown this way, however bent and gnarled we may be.

But we are no surprise to You. You knew us from our mother's womb. Foreknown by you, we were saved. Even our struggles, our hearts' straining to know truth, You foreknew. “All things” can only mean all things. So even in our weakness, our groans, our stumbling, You work out Your purpose for Your glory. Even in our constant turnings, worries over what we've said and done, You stand guard over us.

We huddle within You, like newly hatched sparrows in their nest. We feebly lift our upturned faces to You, eyes still dim, our mouth opens, straining to be filled with understanding, with knowledge of You. For this is our food and drink, this knowing of You. We know that this Truth is the answer to all of our searching. We can take it and hold it up against every thought, every situation. It lines everything up in order. It casts away the dross, and makes more brightly shine the gold. It polishes and chips away, even at us.

Lord we are safe in You, in this nest of grace. Within it we can take new steps, even the wrong ones. Our searching after You is done with our whole heart, and You will guide our eventual end. You oversee every thought and action, and even in our wrongness, You gently lead us to Truth. Up ahead is so dark, like a gloomy forest at dusk. But Your light shines before us, one step at a time. God, if only You can see our hearts, if only You can know us through and through, it is enough, it is become even our great hope. For even though knowing us, You still love us with an everlasting love. This is our resting place.

"How priceless is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings!" (Psalm 36:7)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Encouragement from Hudson Taylor


If God has called you to be truly like Jesus in all your spirit, He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility. He will put on you such demands of obedience that you will not be allowed to follow other Christians. In numerous ways, He seems to let other good people do things which He will not let you do.
Others who seem to be very religious and useful may push themselves, pull wires, and scheme to carry out their plans, but you cannot. If you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.

Others can brag about themselves, their work, their successes, their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing. If you begin to do so, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.

Others will be allowed to succeed in making great sums of money, or having a legacy left to them or in having luxuries, but God may supply you only on a day-to-day basis, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, a helpless dependence on Him and His unseen treasury.

The Lord may let others be honored and put forward while keeping you hidden in obscurity because He wants to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade.

God may let others be great, but keep you small. He will let others do a work for Him and get the credit, but He will make you work and toil without knowing how much you are doing. Then, to make your work still more precious, He will let others get the credit for the work which you have done; this to teach you the message of the Cross, humility and something of the value of being cloaked with His nature.

The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch on you, and with a jealous love rebuke you for careless words and feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem distressed over. So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign and has a right to do as He pleases with His own, and that He may not explain to you a thousand things which may puzzle your reason in His dealings with you.

God will take you at your word; if you absolutely sell yourself to be His slave, He will wrap you up in a jealous love and let other people say and do many things that you cannot. Settle it forever; you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue or chaining your hands or closing your eyes in ways which others are not dealt with.

However, know this great secret of the Kingdom: When you are so completely possessed with the Living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of heaven, the high calling of God.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

God's Will

In considering how I can know God’s will, Psalm 119 came at once to my mind. It is one of my favourites, and I think it conveys, not a method or a formula, but the importance of God’s Word, of studying it, knowing it, and obeying it, in relation to, as they say, “being in” the will of God. If we read it slowly, meditatively, we begin to understand that Truth has to be the beginning, and remain as the constant measuring stick, of our relationship with Jesus Christ.

In this Psalm, the Psalmist is saying that God’s will is revealed in His Word, through His

I. law
II. testimonies
III. precepts
IV. statutes
V. commandments
VI. judgments
VII. ordinances
VIII. ways
IX. promises

They are so precious to him. More precious than thousands of silver and gold, sweeter than honey to his lips. They are become his hope, strength, joy, peace. He seeks them with his whole heart. In the midst of trouble and persecution, he trusts in them, in God’s promises. They light his path, and he delights in them.

My Will Vs. His

But start with this. The thing is to have no will of your own. To have nothing lingering there to put up resistance to His. If my heart is “flat out” for Him, if I am so abiding in Him, that I have no will, no plans, no presumptions of my own, then His will becomes mine, is mine. I will be so receptive to it, that I will automatically be walking in it. I won’t be putting up a fight, trying to hold on to my own agenda or desires.

So much is already laid out for me in His Word. These few words say so much about His will for me. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30) My sanctification. That is His will for me. My being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. That will be my end result, in glory. What stands in the way of that, in the meantime? Me. Myself. I must be chipped away at, as a sculptor chisels a block of stone. In his mind’s eye, he sees the finished product. He sees his masterpiece. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.

Am I content in this? Oh yes, in my spirit, I rejoice. As for my flesh, it flinches every time the chisel comes near. When I am reading this beautiful Psalm, as I meditate on it, my heart cries “Yes Lord! May it ever be so for me!” And then I get up from that place, and immediately my mind is at work, dallying where it should never go, seeking after self being satisfied. Turning to idols once more, so easily putting aside the precious truths I so recently feasted upon.

God is Sovereign

God is sovereign. God is God. He decides where I will work, whom I will marry, how many children I will have. Ultimately. I go through the motions, the decision making process, but I see this: “My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skilfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” (Psalm 139:15-17) And I know that everything in my life has a purpose, is part of His grand design. Even the pain, even the sin. He is working it all together for good.

Before I understood this, I thought that everything depended on me. On how good I was, on how obedient, on how “in tune” I was to His “voice”. But here is what He asks of me. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” He promises that if I seek Him first and His kingdom, that He will look after all the details.

This is framed over my desk at home, “The people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits.” (Dan.11:32) So I must make knowing Him my priority. Knowing, fearing (revering), loving, obeying. It happens in that order. Bit by bit, what He says matters more than what I want. Bit by bit, what He says becomes what I want. His will becomes mine. Even though the struggle is always there, and will always be. Increased obedience needs increased grace. Supply and demand. That’s how it works. There is never a shortage of His grace.

God Speaks

Does God still “speak” today? I believe He does. Through His Word, first and foremost. In it, He lays out the basic framework of His will. He shows me in it Who He is, and who I am. He tells me what His will is for me in all of my relationships and situations, including my relationship with Him. I am His, His child, His servant, His purchased possession.

So if things are getting complicated, if I seemingly “can’t see the forest for the trees,” then I must be looking in the wrong direction. I must be looking over the fence, for some greener grass. I have to come back to the beginning, back to Him, back to His Word. Begin at the bottom. Do I know my proper place in His scheme of things? Am I being faithful, am I being obedient, with what He has given me, where He has put me? In my situations, in my relationships? Am I content in these? If not, why not? What am I not content with? Do I want to change them, to run from them? I have to line everything up with Truth. I have to ask Him to search my heart, and show me my motives. I must ask Him to change my heart, to reveal Himself, and His love to me in a greater way. I must set my mind on things above, and learn to trust Him for the things below.

One Step at a Time

Are things not going according to plan, my plan? Should have known! My plans aren’t likely to line up often with His. Self wants the easy way, the short cut, the “no muss, no fuss” method of sanctification. But here is what He seems to do. He arranges things so that I must keep turning to Him. For strength. For guidance. For wisdom. For forgiveness. Over and over and over. That is His will for me. To rely on Him, for everything. To realize that it is Him leading the way. To help me to understand that I can’t make any long-range plans. He makes them all. And He only lets me see one step at a time. That is all He will trust me with. Good thing, too. If I knew more than that, I would start embellishing, and putting in my two cents worth. As if He needs my input! He doesn’t want me to try and figure everything out in advance. He wants me to trust Him with all my heart, not lean on my understanding, acknowledge Him in all my ways, and He will direct my path.

But must I pray specifically about every move, every decision that I make? No, I don’t believe that I do. For one thing, I have not yet reached the point where I am continually acknowledging Him in all of my ways. So much of the time, most of the time, I do lean on my own understanding, my own emotions, or the opinions of others. But still He does lead me. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the LORD upholds him with His hand.” (Psalm 37:23,24). Whew! I can count on God’s wisdom, His strength, and most of all, His grace, to uphold me while I stumble along in this life.

Like the hymn says “He leadeth me: O blessed thought! O words with heavenly comfort fraught! Whate’er I do, where’er I be, still ‘tis God’s hand that leadeth me.” When I seek Him, to know Him, to love and obey Him, with all of my heart, His grace is a net beneath me, and He sends angels to watch over me. If it were not so, how hopeless it all would be. Because I know that all of my own thoughts, plans, motives, and desires are tainted with sin, and always will be. But His purposes, His will, His grace overrides them, and somehow He will accomplish what He has set out to do, even in me. “The Lord will perfect that which concerns me. Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; do not forsake the works of Your hands.” (Psalm 138:8)

Heavenly To-Do Lists?

But how does He “lead” me in the day to day kinds of things? Do I hear a voice every morning, listing my instructions for the day? Is there some mysterious handwriting on the steamed up bathroom mirror? Hasn’t happened to me yet. But this has. On different occasions, I have been impressed so strongly to pray for a person, right then and there. And later, I have found out that at that exact time, they were going through a particularly difficult experience. And other times I have “been led” to give someone a particular book, or send them a note, or call them. At the time, it just seemed the thing to do, and I had no sense of expectation about it. But later, it would turn out that whatever I had done had a special significance for that person. And at other times, I have been “impressed” to talk to someone, to introduce myself to a person, to get to know them. It is like the Holy Spirit shines a spotlight on them, and says “that one. Talk to that one.” And usually it is someone that needed encouragement, or just needed a friend for a time.

Those are some of the ways that I think God “leads” us. He just drops ideas or thoughts into our minds, without any big fanfare. He does order our steps, kind of automatically. Not forcing, or ordering us to do things. But if we are abiding in Him, resting in Him, just going from moment to moment, being content in Him, and trusting Him, He makes straight paths for us. He steers us in the way we should go.

God is not limited in how He can operate, but that He won’t do anything that contradicts what He has said in His Word. I do believe I have “heard” God’s voice on occasion. If He chooses to speak that way, that is fine. But I would never seek it as a way to know His will. I must always begin and end with scripture. Begin with it as the foundation, the main channel through which I know and understand God’s will, and end with it as a plumb line against which I measure every other thought, emotion, and experience that I am tempted to use in addition to scripture.

When I consider the vast richness of God’s Word, the patient forbearance of the Holy Spirit in teaching us truth, and the grace that allows our continued perseverance in this race, I am incredibly grateful, and humbled, that this Most High God would allow us to understand even one iota of His Word, and to approach Him as our Heavenly Father, our Abba Daddy. He is captivating in His beauty and grace, and following Him one moment at a time can be our greatest joy.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What Then Shall We Say?

Daily I am “meeting” new folks in the blog world. It is, as I have said before, incredibly refreshing and encouraging to connect with others who are stepping out and forging a relationship with God that is unmediated by any human authority. (I am still a bit giddy myself as I continue to apprehend my freedom in this; indeed the freedom that has been there all along, hidden behind tradition and religion.)

In blogging, and reading, and commenting, I have observed a certain trend. It is almost as though there is an unwritten rule. If it were written, it would go something like this:

“Thou shalt not disagree with anything that a fellow blogger or forum poster states as their understanding of truth. Thou shalt leave them be, since they are on their own journey with the Father. If they are in error at all, Father will, at some point, show that to them. Thou shalt not quote scripture so as to in any way disagree, admonish, or warn them of the error they have fallen into. Thou shalt only find those things thou can agree with, and so state them so as to simply encourage the writer, and allow them to carry on in believing a lie.”

It seems to be that whenever there are objections raised in any online arenas, and scripture is used as supporting the argument against some idea or statement in the post, the objector may be labeled as legalistic, or religious. The blogger may gently imply that the commentator is simply at a different place in their journey, and that they were at that place themselves in the past. In many of these exchanges, the actual scriptures mentioned are seldom refuted in a way that could be termed polemic. Most often, they are simply ignored, as personal experience and opinion are re-iterated, making it impossible for any conclusion to be reached that is based on reasoning from the word of God.

I started blogging mainly as a way to express my thoughts as I journeyed away from church attendance and all that it encompassed. I am at a point now, however, where I am re-evaluating my purpose. I have so many questions.

What is my blogging a means to an end to?

Can it replace face to face fellowship?

Do I look to scripture for all the ways I am to relate to brothers and sisters, and try to make that happen online? Is it at all realistic to expect that I can do that?

How important is what I write on my blog, and in comments on others, in the advancement of God’s kingdom and His purposes?

Should I care at all when I see others sliding into what the word of God clearly proves is error?

Are my responsibilities to them the same as they would be with my “real life” brothers and sisters, i.e. that I would be expected to encourage, exhort, admonish, and warn them as I travel with them, love them, and always have their best interests at heart?

My belief is that I AM responsible for my brothers and sisters. It is an accountability FOR them, not so much TO them. I am accountable TO God for how I treat them. The New Testament is full of instructions on how we are to relate to one another. In real life “church” it was difficult to comply to those instructions. If our online relationships are to move beyond what happened “in the building” then it would be obvious to me that we must move beyond polite platitudes and simply being members of an online Mutual Admiration Society. We must be prepared to disagree and admonish in love, and be prepared to defend the truth, even if it may upset the other person. We must also be willing to discuss, be open to learn, and be humble enough to admit when we are wrong. If we simply allow each other to express personal thoughts and feelings, what gain will there be? Freedom of exspression, yes. But we are to be upholders of the truth, and we are to speak the truth to one another, in love.

Maybe you have had similar thoughts. If you have, and have answers, or even if you don’t, please leave your comments. I would appreciate it very much. I am still learning how to go about these things.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Some Encouragement

(Thinking on things eternal reminded me of something I had written last year. So here it is.)

We Have This Hope

“For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.” (Romans 8:19-22)

Sitting early one morning in our family room, I paused in my reading to take in the view through the patio door. It was the middle of April, yet the recent weather had been more suited to March. Days, seemingly weeks, had gone by, with few glimpses of the sun. Everyone was longing for the fair weather that the month ought to have ushered in. But on this day, there was a blue sky and fresh white clouds. I gazed out at this most welcomed sight and relished the happy chirping of birds in the still skeletal tree branches. It was a welcome retreat before I was launched into the busyness of the day.

A Frightening Forecast

Contemplating this delightful scene, my thoughts turned to the state of our planet. Recently, the threat that is called global warming was receiving much attention in the media, amongst scientists, politicians and celebrities alike. I thought of how disturbing the predictions of the experts could be. It truly would appear that we were doing too little too late, and that the fate of the earth was sealed. We were slowly eroding and poisoning our resources, and harming our atmosphere to the degree that catastrophic weather conditions were inevitable. Added to this was the threat from diseases such as AIDS, SARS, and flu pandemics. Truly a bleak picture was being forecast for all of mankind.

It would be easy to feel hopelessness and fear in the light of these doom and gloom predictions. But as I sat there enjoying the tiny scrap of nature presented in my backyard, God seemed to be leading me to a different viewpoint. I thought of how perfect His creation had been in the beginning, and of how sin had entered the world, bringing with it death. (Rom. 5:12) For truly, since Adam and Eve first rebelled in the Garden, our world has been slowly dying. Just as sin brought physical and spiritual death to all of mankind, the earth has also suffered its consequences. Because of that one sin committed, the whole of creation was then subjected “to futility” by God Himself. (Gen. 3:17)

God Made Us Stewards

God made mankind ruler over all of His earthly creation. We have had a wonderful privilege and responsibility for thousands of years. But being the fallen, sinful race that we are, we have made a mess of things. The state of the world today should be no surprise to us. As Christians we understand that sin has infected every aspect of humanity, and that it is only God’s restraining grace that keeps us from totally annihilating ourselves.

Science holds out answers to us; reasons why, and remedies for the peril that seems to loom ahead only a few decades. But Science has left out a critically important factor in its’ reasoning. It assumes a universe with no creator, and so can look no further than mankind for hope. It sees our earthly life, and the life of this planet, as the most important, valuable things in existence. This is the conclusion that worshipping the creature rather than the creator (Rom. 1:25) has brought us to. Mankind stands helpless, yet blind to his own inability to control the destiny of this planet. This worldly mind set, in rejecting the idea of a sovereign, creating God, has also rejected its only hope of life, even eternal life.

Where Is Our Hope?

It is sad that millions are desperate to find their ultimate happiness, contentment and safety in this dying world. They are deceived in thinking that this life is the most important thing and that this creation can be saved and corrected in their own strength and wisdom, that they have the power and authority to control the destiny of mankind. Indeed they must do if they are to justify their rebellion and be successful in living apart from our creator God. If His existence is not acknowledged, then He cannot be sought for help.

We can go to the moon and to Mars, and fertilize human eggs in petri dishes. We think we have accomplished great things. But in comparison to the Creator of the universe, we are as puny ants in an ant hill, busying ourselves with our little piece of the universe, totally unaware of our own smallness in the face of Almighty God and eternity.

Later, on the same day of my backyard musings, I read in a letter to the editor about the disastrous effects that global warming would have, and the need to be finding solutions before it is too late. The writer saw “human ingenuity” as an “amazing force” that “is required now for a better world for our grandchildren and their grandchildren.” Again, putting hope in the creature, and giving glory to the creature, rather than the Creator.

We Are But Dust

In our society today, there is a frantic desire to be “young”, a desperate seeking after looking younger, feeling younger. Looking “your age” means being unattractive, and must be avoided at all costs. I don’t believe that it is entirely about vanity, or competing with others to look better than they do. The root of it is a belief that this life is all there is, and that this body is the only one we will ever have. There is a desperate attempt to preserve it as long as possible. Not only outward appearance, but inwardly though exercise, diet, health foods, and more. This is further evidence of creature worship. Not that these things in and of themselves are wrong, but when we leave God out of the equation, it becomes all about us, and is idolatry.

What to Think?

It is easy to become caught up in this mind set, to let the threats of doomsday form cold hard lumps of fear in our gut. But we have a greater hope. We can look beyond this earthly life to an eternal one. We know the true reason for our dilemma, and the condition of the earth today. And we know its only cure - the grace and mercy of God in the cross of Jesus Christ. Creation is God’s handiwork, and mankind is His crowning achievement. We should seek to care for and preserve this earth as obedient stewards. We should seek to care for our bodies, knowing that our lives are not our own, and our bodies are to be presented to God for His use and glory. Seeing eternity, seeing the glory of God as our ultimate purpose, and this earthly life as simply a means to that end, go a long way in rooting out fear of the future, self absorption and discontent.

We can have peace in the face of all of these threats, knowing that nothing is by accident. We need to remind ourselves that these things are not dictated by the whims of an out of control “Mother Nature”, but that all events are directed and controlled by God. That all is unfolding according to His plan and purpose, and that no matter what goes on in the wold around us, our hope is in heaven, our treasure and inheritance of eternal life is reserved and kept safe for us there. We look forward to a “new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1), when “creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:21) This will take place when we realize our ultimate purpose and destiny, and are glorified, being made like Christ, to dwell with Him for eternity.

In the end He will be proven. “Every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” (Phil 2:10) Mankind will not succeed in restoring the earth, and in fact it will be destroyed (2Peter 3:19). But God will bring a new heaven and a new earth. Mankind will realize his smallness and God’s glory. All of God’s plans and purposes in redemption will be realized, both in saved souls and in the created order. “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.” (Eph 1:9,10) Speaking again of Christ “whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.” (Acts 3:21)

Should we care about global warming? Should we recycle, educate ourselves about toxins in our environment? Yes we should. We are accountable before God to do whatever is within our means to do, as the Holy Spirit leads. Not in a spirit of fear of the future, but in a spirit of worshipful obedience to our loving, sovereign God.

We should recognize the urgency and importance of living our life totally for and before God. Make His glory our highest goal, make our resources and ourselves available to the Holy Spirit so we may be the ones to bring lost souls to the safe haven of Jesus Christ.

He Is Our Hope

As God’s children, we have so much to hope for, so many promises in His word that can steady our souls in the midst of a world that is on a collision course with disaster. Even our earthly bodies will be made like His body, “For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality”. (I Cor 15:53) Even our great enemy, death, will be “swallowed up in victory”. (1Cor 15:54)

Let us ponder these wonderful truths as we live each day, “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” (Titus 2:13)

Dear Lord: The days are born as if without effort; they glide along, one following another, like ducks on a pond. Yet I know that only You are upholding all things: sun rising and setting, earth’s turning and revolving, every movement of wind and cloud. You are Author and Master of every moment in time. The whole earth is Yours, and everything in it. Like some vast stage it serves Your purposes as You work out Your will in countless ways and places. I think of Your faithfulness, not only to Your creation, but to Your own Word and Honour. This gives me so much peace, knowing You are always faithful to Yourself. I see Your plans laid out in Your Word. I see the beauty and perfection of them. I am encouraged, and certain in my mind and in my heart that all You have determined will come to pass. So much would appear to be in confusion around me, but I have You as my center, my point of reference. I can bring all things to You and You put them in their place. Everything becomes as incidental in the face of Your sovereign purposes. I walk amongst chaos, amongst those who have nowhere to turn for hope. But my hope is in the LORD Who made heaven and earth. This lets me look straight ahead, not to the left or the right. My soul is steadfast; it does not flinch. This is a gift beyond price, this gift of faith. I wait in joyful hope for the bringing together of all things in Christ. All glory and honour is Yours, dear Lord.

We’ll Know You Then

We’ll know You when we see you, Lord
When freed from this life’s hold,
And carried to our final home
To walk on streets of gold.

While in this earthly body now
Our eyes but dimly see.
The beauty that is fully Yours
We’ll view eternally.

For now as in a glass so dim
With feeble sight, in part,
But then full known You’ll be to us,
As us to You now art.

We’ll need no one to introduce us,
Standing at Your throne.
You’ll look at us with the same love
That let us be Your own.

We’ll know You by the wounds you bear,
Though given long ago.
These marks You will forever wear
That all may look and know

The price You paid to set us free,
When led so meek and mild,
You took our place at Calvary
So each would be Your child.

With faith we look to what will be
When we will be transformed.
Completely from all sin set free
Pure worship we’ll perform.

This truth to us an anchor sure;
We wait in hope enduring.
Se zealous to have hearts made pure
To show at Your appearing

All praise and thanks to You we give
For only by your grace
We have eternal life to live
And strength to run this race.

The here and now is but a taste
Of what You have in store
When not a second will we waste;
We’ll praise forevermore.

So till that time when faith is sight
O Lord be pleased to give
Your grace to make our hearts more right;
Our lives to you we’ll live.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but
then face to face; now I know in part,
but then I will know fully just as I also
have been fully known.” (1Cor 13:12)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Never Ending

I was thinking recently of all the folks I have been connecting with online, and how there is an instant “connection” with them when we have that one thing in common- a desire to know the one true God in an ever deepening way. A lot of the time, we don’t know what the other person looks like. I asked one new friend how old her children are, so I can guess at her age. But for the most part, we are “ageless” to one another.

In most of the communications, we get right to the point; sharing the life of Christ within us. Age is not a factor. I am 54 years old. That seems old to some, young to others. When I am talking to people in their thirties, I tend to think that they will consider me “old”. I want to say, “yes, I am 20, or 30, or whatever years older than you, but inside I am still young. I connected with you right away, because your heart is in the same place as mine.”

Yesterday I was trying to pinpoint exactly what it was that made me feel so young, and able to connect with others, no matter what their age. I came up with the notion that it is because we are connecting in a spiritual way. We are dealing with the things of eternity, in our conversations, reading, praying, and thinking. And truly, we are ageless, in that our spirits will live forever. In Heaven, 10 or 20 years won’t matter in the slightest.

I am reading two books right now. That’s what you do when you can’t decide which one to read first. They are “The Normal Christian Life” by Watchman Nee, and “The Blood of the Cross” by Andrew Murray. I was pleasantly startled to read this in Murray’s book last night. He was talking about the word “eternal” and what it means in scripture. It went so well with my thoughts of earlier that day.

“The object of Scripture in using that word is to teach us that if our faith lays hold on what is eternal, it will manifest itself in us as a power superior to all the changeableness of our mind or feelings, with a youth which never grows old, and with a freshness which does not for a moment whither.”

Mr. Murray put into words what I struggled to identify. I knew exactly what he was talking about when I read it. And if you have the eternal Spirit of the Living God dwelling inside of you, then I’m sure it will resonate with your heart as well.

(Think I’ll let my hair grow out grey. I’m gonna live forever!)

Friday, October 10, 2008

What is Truth?

My horizons have certainly been broadened as I have stepped away from “regular” church. I have learned that there are many others like myself out there, living out their walk with Christ in different ways. It has been refreshing and encouraging, as I have met many like-minded, truly earnest seekers of Christ. It seems incredible to me that I am broadcasting my heart across the Internet to virtual strangers, when during my days in church, while amongst “real life” brothers and sisters, I was resigned to a position of one way communication; from the pulpit on down, with me sitting mutely on the receiving end.

I shared with very few folks back then, as the form of fellowship and worship that we were taking part in necessarily restricted a true sharing of the life of Christ in us. I was also encumbered very much by fear; fear of others’ opinions, fear of being “wrong”, fear of being rejected as I shared the “real me”. Somehow sharing this way poses fewer risks; I don’t really “know” most visitors to this site, and if I ever get uncomfortable with any relationship that I am part of, I can simply no longer communicate with that person. But there is also a camaraderie that exists amongst us. There is a freedom to express and discuss without any of those fears that previously were a hindrance. In many ways, I feel “let loose”.

However, I have, from time to time, come across opinions or teachings that have both startled and disturbed me. Cruising around cyber space I have pondered some of these things and have observed a commonality that they all share. I discern a trend afoot (not intentional, perhaps) to undermine the written word of God, and to elevate human wisdom and experience.

Coming away from “religion” is a process. It is something like delicate brain surgery to remove a malignant growth. The tumor has wrapped itself around areas of brain tissue that are healthy and necessary to function as we are meant to as humans. The decision is made to take away the invasive, life threatening tissue. But in doing so, a great danger exists. That healthy, vital organ may be damaged. Parts may be cut away with the cancer, or it might otherwise become injured, making it ineffective in carrying out the functions it was designed to perform. The patient could end up living out their life with greatly reduced function. Or they may even die.

I have proceeded cautiously in my leaving the structures of organized church/religion. While moving along in my journey, I have asked God to give me wisdom. I have, from the beginning, realized the value of not “throwing out the baby with the bathwater”. Along the way I have also asked for the courage that I need to follow where He leads me. (Remember, my greatest tendency is to say and do what will make others thing well of me.) I am by nature shy, and have never been one to take up “causes”, or be outspoken. But since God saved me, I have been increasingly burdened to speak and live the Truth in my life; to honor Him in so doing, and to encourage others to do the same. That is, the Truth as written in His word, and as shown to us through Jesus Christ.

Throughout the centuries, God has inspired many men and women to expound and comment on the scriptures. Many wonderful books have been written that have inspired, instructed and comforted Believers. I have benefitted enormously from the wisdom of many authors/teachers, both living and dead as God has confirmed His word to me through their writings and teachings. However, along the way I have also given in to the tendency to elevate certain of these gifted people so that I have accepted what they have said or written without truly seeking for myself to know that it lines up with God’s written word. This is what we are all prone to do, as humans. We want a “leader”. Humankind throughout the ages has created idols to worship. The Israelites wanted a King to rule over them, and petitioned Samuel to appoint one for them. Samuel took their request to the LORD, Who responded:

“The LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day-in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods-so they are doing to you also.'” (1Samuel 8:7-8)

It has occurred to me that in this state of being out of organized church, there exists the danger of simply becoming another “denomination”, complete with commonly held beliefs, and mutually appointed “leaders”. I believe I am witnessing it now as I read and discover many authors and teaching that I have never been exposed to. I am not saying that God does not use people to clarify truth as set down in the Word. What disturbs me the amount of material that I have seen that contains barely any reference to scripture at all. It is, in many cases, largely subjective, based on personal opinion and experience.

One of the greatest revelations that I had when I left church was that there was no longer any human “authority” that I had to answer to in terms of my conscience. That in itself has been the most liberating truth to me, and has colored every aspect of my life. It has helped me enormously, as I am tempted to follow one group or another in the online community of believers that I have encountered. But I hang back. I don’t post a big list of people’s blogs that I follow. Because I understand my felt-need to “belong” to one camp or another, and recognize the folly of giving in to this longing, I tread very carefully amongst the websites, forums and blogs that I encounter, and resist the urge to just jump on one or another of the many bandwagons that are out there. I have done this too often in “real life” religion, and know how disastrous the results can be.

I don’t want to name persons, books, or websites. But I have seen certain of these being held up as “life changing” and "truth revealing." I want to state a word of caution. No matter what any person says or teaches,or if it “witnesses” with your spirit or not, everything must be held up to the written word of God, and be judged by it. If we step away from that qualifier, even one inch, we are automatically putting ourselves in danger of following deceiving spirits working through fallible human beings. They may love God, they may be sincere in what they believe, but they are only flesh and blood, and subject to deception like any one of us.

No man or woman has all the truth. And the less emphasis they place on scripture, the more likely they are to stray from truth. If we do not stick to the word of God, and keep it as our highest authority, and believe in the God that it reveals, we may as well trust in Superman to save us, and subscribe to” The Book of the Month Club” to find our “truth”.

“How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.

With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments,

Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.

Blessed are you, O LORD;
Teach me Your statutes.

With my lips I have told of
All the ordinances of Your mouth.

I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.

I will meditate on Your precepts
And regard Your ways.

I shall delight in Your statutes;
I shall not forget Your word.”

(Psalm 119:9-16)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Button

It was the time of evening when the sun had not quite dipped down past the horizon. There was still enough light to say that it wasn’t yet dark, in that late winter time of year. The snow had melted off the sidewalk, leaving the odd patch of ice to be wary of. As I walked along, scanning the ground in the half-light, I told myself again that I must be crazy. Why would I ever hope to find a button that had fallen off my coat the night before? The odds had to be astronomically stacked against it. So why did I seem to just know that I would find it if I retraced my steps? It really was ludicrous. But on I walked, searching as carefully as I could in the failing light.

Some months before this, I had bought a new coat. I hadn’t set out to do so, but as I was putting in time at the mall before an appointment, this one caught my eye It was the three season type, with the lining that comes out. I didn’t have a good coat, the kind that you can wear with dresses and nice slacks. The colour was navy; very practical. And it was on sale. Not liking to buy on impulse, it took a while to convince myself that it was a legitimate purchase. The buttons were attractive; navy with a bit of gold on them. I determined to do my best not to lose any, since they would be difficult to replace.

Time went by, and I wore the coat often. I was pleased with my purchase. One day as I was getting ready to leave for work, I discovered that a button was missing. I was disappointed, but reminded myself that I still had the spare that had come with the coat.

That evening as I set out on my forty five minute walk home, the notion struck me that I might find the button if I retraced my steps. Of course, common sense and reason immediately told me not to be ridiculous. But, in my mind, I countered this with my belief that God knew where it was, and that He could lead me to it. This certainty only seemed to grow, even as the light failed more with each passing minute. On I trudged, head down, searching all the way, praying now and then to myself, ‘You know where it is, Lord. You can show me’.

Nearing my neighbourhood, I felt a mixture of disappointment and confusion. Now it truly was dark, and I began to abandon hope I had been so certain. I had prayed and asked God to help me find the button. Finally, I told myself not to be so silly and juvenile; why would God care about my button? Surely He had more important prayer requests to answer. I arrived home, and soon my ‘button quest’ was forgotten in the busyness of the evening.

The next morning on my way out the door to catch the bus, I grabbed a spool of thread and a needle. Having resigned myself to the fact that I would have to use the spare button after all, I planned do the needed repair as I rode to work. What had I been thinking, anyway? Asking God to help me find my button. Ridiculous.

Opening the front door, I noticed that the porch and steps glistened, as though there had been freezing rain overnight. Cautiously I navigated my way down the steps with my head down, making sure of my footing . As I reached the bottom, and was about to step onto the sidewalk, I saw it. My button! There on the sidewalk! It had been there the whole time! I was flabbergasted. Yet, hadn’t I known that I would find it?

As I sat on the bus, I could barely contain my excitement. You would have thought that I had seen the Red Sea parted! I had found my button! And I knew that God had something to do with it. He had planted the thought in my mind. He had known that I wanted to keep all of those buttons.

When I arrived at work, I told the first co-worker that I saw about my button. I wonder what she thought of me, all a flutter about a silly button. But I just had to tell someone. It was too incredible not to share.

I was a fairly new Christian then, just beginning to learn about God. My general impression of God while I was growing up was of some fearsome, distant Celestial Judge who looked down from heaven with a frowning countenance, cognizant of my every thought, word and deed. As this God of my imagination observed each aspect of my life, he stood with a great clipboard, marking down all infractions. He was keeping record of them to be tallied at Judgement Day. The relief I felt after going to ‘confession’ was short lived. I was always aware of my inability to be ‘good enough’, and often experienced a nagging, dreadful doubt that I would ever get to heaven.

When I was forty years old, God opened my eyes to see that my only hope, for the here and now and for eternity, was in Jesus Christ. Suddenly I had the assurance that I had always longed for, and my journey into Truth began. The Lord has been so kind to me, slowly revealing to my sometimes reluctant heart the incredible love and patience that He has for me. In so many small ways, He has steadfastly watered and grown the seed of faith that He placed in me on that day nearly 12 years ago. Finding my button for me was one of those small ways.

I still wear that coat, and buttons still fall off of it. Sometimes I hear them fall onto a ceramic or marble floor, and so ‘catch’ them. Twice I have found them in my car. I seem to be missing one at the present time, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it turns up one day. Each time that I recover one of these stray fasteners, I remember that day when God impressed upon my heart that He was watching me. That He was concerned with what concerned me. That He cares enough for me to let me know in that little ‘big’ way that He really is a God who is not too busy or distant to strengthen my weak faith, and help me to see just how intimately He is involved in my life.

He is the God of the big and of the small. Size doesn’t necessarily dictate importance, and He uses the most insignificant things in life to cause us to experience Him in a personal way. Just as Hagar did in the desert as she fled from mistreatment by her mistress Sarai, we can know Him as ‘El Elroi’, the God Who Sees.

It is incredible that we can know this God of all Heaven and Earth. Not just know about Him, but experience Him in a real way as we see what Scripture says about Him proven in our daily lives. His faithfulness and loving-kindness are not just lovely thoughts, they describe the attitude that a heavenly Father has toward His children. ‘Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His loving-kindness’ (Ps 33:18). He is watching over us every moment, caring for us and leading us. ‘I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you’ (Ps 32:8). He is sovereignly involved in every need and detail in your life. ‘The LORD will accomplish what concerns me ‘ (Ps 138:8a).

Perhaps you have been praying for a long time for a big answer to a big prayer, and you are discouraged. You may be tempted to conclude that God isn’t listening, after all. That He is too busy, or that you and your problems are too insignificant for His attention. If this is the case, I would encourage you to take note of the details in your life. The little things that you might take for granted, or maybe not notice at all. When you manage to find a good parking spot in the pouring rain, saving yourself from getting drenched. When you have just enough change for that something that you ran into the store to pick up. When you get a card or a phone call from a good friend, just when you are feeling at your lowest. That is Him, you know. Watching over you, working in every detail of your life, proving over and over that He cares for you, and that there is no situation or problem that is too small for Him. Sometimes we trust Him for the big things, but forget that He orchestrates all the little things as well. He is a God who sees, and He sees you!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Way It Should Be............

Feast of Love

Late afternoon sunlight streamed in through the open door, flooding the room with a glow that was matched by the luminous faces of those assembled around the room. There were 12 of them in total, in groups of two or three, either engaged in lively conversation with their neighbours, or praying quietly for one another, hands held and voices low. Laughter, light and refreshing as a soft summer breeze, along with the savoury aromas of the meal that they had shared, drifted through the air, completing the perfect scene; a feast for all the senses. The time had come for some to leave, yet all seemed reluctant to say goodbye.

Milah stood in the doorway, drinking it all in. She relished these times when they were all together. She felt completed somehow, as though having them here brought the Master’s presence as well. It seemed so long ago that she had stood before Him, struck dumb by what had just taken place.

Smiling at the memory, she slowly shuffled across the room, settling onto a chair, and set her cane aside. “Milah!” said Joseph, a young boy from the neighborhood. “Tell us again. Tell us about the Master again”. This was followed by a chorus of other voices, urging her to repeat once more the events of that day, years ago.

Milah laughed, eyes sparkling and wrinkling at the corners, pleased to be able to recount her tale. About to begin, she paused as a shadow appeared in the doorway.

“Oh, I am sorry to interrupt,” said the elderly man as he stood, empty wooden bowl in hand, seeming unsure of how to proceed. “I only wanted to return your bowl from the other day. Thank you for the stew. It was very good, and kind of you.”

“Please, come in! Take a seat, and join us.” answered Milah. She indicated the empty space beside her, and, hesitating for only a moment, he took a seat there.

“How have you been? We haven’t seen you out in a couple of days.” She was pleased that he had agreed to join them. He had recently lost his wife, and she had been attempting to draw him out, so that they could minister to him. His wife had come to believe just a few months before she died, but Balen, her husband, had refused to hear anything at all about the Master, or the new life that He could give.

“Oh well, sometimes I just feel too tired to go anywhere. It’s easier just to stay in the house, and rest. I suppose I am still getting used to Ruth being gone.” He was startled to find his eyes welling up, as Milah put her hand over his.

“Yes, we can understand that. You were together for so long. Of course you will miss her greatly. Please, we are your friends. Let us know if ever you need anything, even just to sit and talk. We are here for you. We loved your wife, and we love you too.” Her words were gentle caresses to his grieving heart. She gave his hand a squeeze before she took hers away.

After a brief moment of silence while they all paused in their conversations, Candace, a young woman in her twenties, began to sing a Psalm about the loving-kindness of the Lord. Her clear, sweet voice was soon augmented by the voices of all present. All but Balen’s. He sat quietly while they sang words that threatened to pierce his heart with their beauty.

What a strange folk they were! All so happy and full of joy. Yet he knew the circumstances of each one. They were poor, as poor or more poor than he was. It remained a puzzle to him. And his wife, after she had come to believe as they did, took on a peaceful, composed demeanor, even to her last moments. In fact, on her deathbed she had displayed a quiet excitement, as she anticipated finally seeing the One that she had come to love and believe in. He couldn’t understand it, yet there had been growing in him a desperate desire to possess the thing that had transformed her, and these others. He knew they were all gathered there, had heard the chatter and the singing that had gone on for several hours. Returning the bowl provided the perfect excuse to come over and try to find out the explanation for the hope that they all had within them.

After the singing, several of those present offered words of praise and thanksgiving to their Lord. Then two of the women got up and cleared the remaining dishes away from the table, including the halves of the loaf and the goblet that they had passed as they had remembered the Master.

“Now then, where was I?” said Milah and proceeded with her tale. Each man, woman and child present sat in attentive stillness, devouring every word as she described the moment she had touched the hem of His cloak, and the feeling, unlike anything she had ever known before, that had raced through her body, before she realized that the flow that had debilitated her for those long years had ceased. Eyes closed, and, as if she were beholding Him again, she told of looking into His face, and seeing His eyes flashing with love and joy, as He waited for her to speak, and watched the look of amazement on her face. “Your faith has made you well,” He had said quietly as He cupped her cheek with a warm, tender hand. Her tears had begun then, and He wiped them away as she struggled to find the words to thank Him.

So had begun her journey of faith. She had followed Him from that moment on, and others had joined her. She had lost count of the many tiny bands of believers that had spread throughout that part of the city, all stemming from that one act of healing. Many lives had been transformed, and they had settled into a rhythm of sharing and celebrating, joyfully awaiting the time when Jesus would return.

Their lives intertwined, they met together as often as they could, sharing whatever food they had. These times were rich with songs of praise and thanksgiving, prayers, and learning from one another. And then there were the visitors who came, bearing copies of precious letters from those holy men, many of whom had actually walked with Him. These letters they cherished, and read and read again, never tiring of hearing the instructions, admonishments and encouraging words that they contained.

As always, when she finished her testimony of how Jesus had healed her, tears glistened on her face. She prayed a prayer of thanksgiving, giving glory to the God that had healed her and saved her from her sins. Again, others joined in with words of praise and thanksgiving. Hearts were full, and once more they sang a Psalm, this one blessing the name of God for His mighty works, and for His salvation.

Balen had not moved during all this time. Inside his chest, his heart was pounding as though it would burst. Events from his life paraded through his mind, memories long forgotten, of hurts, disappointments, guilt, shame, and loneliness. And now, though he had never seen this Messiah, it was as though he could see Him! He could see those eyes that Milah had described, and they were looking at him with such love and understanding, looking right into his very soul. And Balen knew, he knew what it was that this strange group possessed. Only it wasn’t a thing, it was a person. It was this Jesus. And Balen knew he had to have Him too, knew he needed Him as much as a man dying of thirst needs a drink of water.

Finally he could remain quiet no longer. “How can I know Him?” he asked, his voice low and desperate. “I must know Him!” Milah’s words were a gentle interruption in the sudden silence that followed. “Why, you have only to believe!” she said, taking his hands in hers, and looking into his eyes. Others around the room nodded, and began to pray for this old man who had recognized his need. Gently they spoke to him, and explained the way of eternal life. His heart broken by grace, he bowed his head and, weeping, reached out to this Jesus, this Messiah, and finally knew peace.

Later, as Milah watched the last visitor leave, she prayed again, thanking God for widening the circle, praising Him for His mercy. Slowly she readied herself for bed, and blew out the lamp, tears of joy and thanksgiving still wet on her cheeks.

Monday, October 6, 2008

He Is My Identity

I watched a beautiful clip over at a friend's blog. Check it out if you want to be greatly encouraged.

Forgetting the Former Things: He is my identity#links#links#links

Sunday, October 5, 2008


“How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!
How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit!

When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
Through my groaning all day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.

I acknowledged my sin to You
And my iniquity I did not hide;
I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’;
And you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found;
Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him.
You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble;
You surround me with songs of deliverance.

Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but he who trusts in the LORD, lovingkindness shall surround him.
Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous ones;
And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.”
Psalm 32:1-7, 10-11 NASB)

There are moments when the reality of God’s forgiveness pierces my heart with an extra sweetness. When the realization that I am no longer under His wrath and condemnation seems fresh, like a gift I had forgotten that I had. I see the treasure of it, the priceless value of having been translated from the kingdom of darkness into His kingdom of marvelous light, and of being accepted in His Beloved Son Jesus. These verses, from one of my favourite Psalms, seem to capture some of the joy of that realization.

When I was first saved, I went through a “Honeymoon” phase. I suppose nearly every Christian goes through that experience. The reality of God’s love and forgiveness was so real and wonderful to me. I was in a cloud of contentment and wonder. Kind of like when you fall in love. Nothing else that was going on in my life at that time could come close to topping the joy of being forgiven, and knowing that the God I had offended loved me.

As time went on, that wonder faded. I went through many periods where I doubted my salvation. Again, I’m sure many can relate. I began to learn a lot about God, and also a lot about religion. I didn’t see those as two separate subjects then. It is only in hindsight that I discern the difference between them.

In previous posts I have described my journey through denominations, so I won’t go into detail. I will just say that in my last church, where God’s word was highly revered and where I did learn a lot about Him, I also learned a lot about my sinfulness. Which is a good thing, to a point. But in my opinion, there was truly a lack of balance between hearing about my sin, and learning about God’s grace, which is always greater. My perception of my position before God became one of always striving to make some kind of requirement. I knew that I could never be righteous before Him without Christ. But instead of resting in the truth that I was now IN Christ, and totally accepted and loved by the Father, I was told, and often, that I needed to be more sorrowful over my sin, and that my heart was cold, and that I didn’t love God as I ought to. My joy and exitement over learning about the character and nature of God quickly became overshadowed by a sense of guilt and condemnation. I couldn’t enjoy my salvation, because I could never love, trust, or obey God enough. It became more about me and my lack than about His bounty of never ending mercy and grace.

In these last months, I am, thank God, beginning to regain some of the joy and rest that I have lost along the road of religion. I am beginning to come back to the basic truth that there is nothing I can do to deserve God’s love and attention. It is all mine, through Christ. I am beginning to once more respond to Him as my loving Father in Heaven, and not approach Him with a continually shame based attitude. I am beginning to rest in the wonder that He holds me, and will always keep me. Not because of who I am, but because of Who HE is.

I hope that if you are struggling with living in the reality of His love and forgiveness that you will simply take Him at His word. Jesus said “it is finished.” And so it is.

When Things Are Right

Can anything be more precious in life,
Than a heart that is right with the LORD?

Could money obtain, secure, or regain,
The rest only grace can afford?

An apple, so shiny, and bright red, with candy,
Can sparkle and catch the eye

But hidden within, are bruises, like sin,
That fester unseen, and defile.

O joy of knowing His forgiving embrace,
Of meeting His gaze without shame.

Much dearer and priceless, more lovely by far,
Than all idols your heart longed to claim.

O LORD grant us grace, these lessons to learn,
Us who are dull, fickle, and vain.

We long to be like you, our heart next to yours,
With nary a blemish or stain.

Teach us our weakness, our proneness to fail,
So daily we might look to You,

For strength and discernment, and grace, to prevail,
In striving to be, like You, true.

Reward here and now, in knowing You near,
So rich, undeserved, and so sweet;

To think that there waits, in heaven, for us,
Delights that we have yet to meet.

But may we look forward, in all of our hope,
Most often, most deeply, with love,

To the moment, and moments, forever to come,
Seeing You, face to face, at last Home.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


If all I manage is to breathe
It is alright.
When my eyes can’t hold themselves open
It won’t make any difference
In how You feel about me;
You let me rest.

“Be still”, You say.
“I am God”.
Now I know
What You meant
When You said
“Be still”.

This is all I need know for now:
You are all that I need to be.
All that I cannot be, You are.
You will never stop
You will never end
You will always be
What I can never be
For me.

If I never move from here
If my mind gives way to madness
I will not have moved
Away from my place
In You.

If I never lift a finger
Speak a word
Pray a prayer
You will
Still keep me.
Your thoughts
Will be for me.

I am deformed
Yet lovely.
I am empty, void of good
But full of every good thing
That comes from You.

I am learning
As You teach
Where to look:
To You.

I am dead.
My life is hid.
With Christ.
In God.
In You.

Friday, October 3, 2008

God Bends Down

"You have also given me the shield of Your salvation,
and Your right hand has held me up; Your gentleness
and condescension have made me great."
(Psalm 18:35, Amplified Bible)

How beautifully God’s grace is depicted in this verse! Here we see His so-great salvation, freely given by Him and infinitely undeserved by us. It does not only include salvation from sin’s power and its punishment, but gives to us every spiritual blessing for the here and now. He takes this salvation and wraps it lovingly around us like a shield against many arrows from without and within. Picture it, a cloak and a seal of protection and promise.

The world is our enemy. Its attitudes constantly try to convince us that we have no need of the Savior. Or that to trust in Him is folly and our faith will be for nothing in the end. But as we hold up Truth to these notions, they must cower and retreat. Greater is He Who is in us, and Whose Truth steadies us against the barrage of worldly thinking that we face each day.

The enemy of our souls speaks lying accusations to us, telling us that the mess of us is too far gone, that we are useless to God’s great cause. But His Spirit is in us, and He faces down these deceitful thoughts, bringing hope once more to our hearts. When we are tempted to despair, to retreat and give up, this new life in us stirs us to press on.

How do we have victory? Not because of our own puny strength or wisdom. It is God Who undertakes for us. He lifts us up from ourselves and gives us glimpses of His will being worked out around us. We see Him, our King, and we see His Kingdom being birthed, even in the midst of this perverse world. We see His power demonstrated and His purposes being fulfilled. Trusting completely in Him, we are comforted and confident.

The Lord has taken us in to Himself. We are no longer of this world, but are hidden in Him. Because He has included our poor lives in His plans and purposes, our mission is the greatest one possible. Now we have a role in eternity, in the carrying out of what God has ordained from before the foundations of the world. Think of this: our life can make a difference forever! Almighty God has stooped to bring us into His eternal scheme of things, and no earthly endeavour can compare with what He might choose to accomplish through us.

We are inside His greatness, having none of our own. If we see the desire in our heart to have our own greatness, we must squash it. For if we want anything to be about us, then we have tainted His purpose for it. When we grab at glory, the deed will be for nothing, and will be burned up. We must dissolve ourselves in Him; He must increase even as we decrease. By His Spirit, He carries out this mysterious work in us, slowly shaping our mind, will and heart to be as His own.

What peace would be ours if we would truly grasp that there is nothing in us that caused Him to reach down and scoop us up from the miry clay of our self absorbed living. That there is no need for us to try to hold His attention, earn His loyalty or affection, or appease the wrath that we so greatly deserved. It is finished and it is all of grace! He purposed to love us of His own volition, not because we ever did or ever could deserve it. Here is contentment: to know one’s own helplessness, to surrender oneself to God’s mercy and grace, and to be carried along by Him, having no will of one’s own.

"Lord grant us a deepening revelation of the distance that was spanned when You bent down to save us. You are Master of every destiny, and we are Your servants; teach us humility today. For Your Name’s sake, Amen."

In Spirit and Truth

I had lunch yesterday with a woman from my former church. She is a dear lady, and we have shared many moments of authentic fellowship in the past. At that meeting, though, we stayed away from the topic of "church" (which is fine, as we have some conflicting ideas around what that term means). She did, however, ask me what I now did on Sundays. Did I get together with others? I know she was asking me how I marked the Sabbath in terms of a set apart "worship" time. I was a bit unsure of what to say, but just said that no, I do whatever I do on Sunday, but meet with others 2 or 3 times during the rest of the week. I explained my hope to at some point be meeting with others on a Sunday.

This has got me to thinking about the Sabbath. I have heard some teaching around the "Lord's Day" being a day to set apart. There are varying opinions regarding how we should keep to the Mosaic Law's interpretation of keeping that day holy. Everyone has their own convictions around that. At this point in time, I am in the process of re-learning a lot of "church" stuff that I once took for granted, and keeping the Sabbath is surely one of them.

I recently learned that in Old Testament times, the Pharisees and other law makers of the day added 1500 "extra" (not from God) laws around the one commandment that God gave to keep the Sabbath day holy. I'm sure we can all testify of many modern day man-made regulations that we have attached to this law. Today, the most widely accepted means of keeping the Sabbath would be to attend church.

I have to admit that for the first little while after I stopped "attending", I felt a bit strange on Sunday mornings. Before, I would have been at 3 services each Sunday; two in the morning and one in the evening. Even though this took up most of my day, and my husband didn't attend with me, I felt compelled to go. Even though many other denominations had only one service on that day, the fact that my church had 3 was enough reason for me to faithfully attend all of them. And truth be told, most of the time I truly wanted to . But there were many times, expecially near the end of my time there, that I really didn't want to. Times I would have loved to skip the first service and enjoy a leisurely coffee time with my husband. Times I was tired, and overwhelmed at the thought of going back to work the next day, and really should have stayed home and given myself time to prepare for the week ahead.

The compulsion I felt to go was very strong, and if I stayed home on a Sunday night, I would still feel that I should at least listen to a sermon, or do some extra Bible reading or study during that time. For instance, if I stayed home and did some badly needed catch-up on my ironing, I felt justified somehow if I listened to a taped sermon while I did it. That almost made up for two things: missing church and doing ironing on a Sunday.

I look back with sadness on the perceptions I had then of what God expected of me. The reality is that I wasn't really doing what He wanted. I was doing what tradition and the attitude of the leadership and membership of my church required. It was implied, and said directly from the pulpit, that to be a faithful "member" of that body, one should attend as many services as possible. Especially important was the Breaking of Bread service. Those who didn't attend that were perceived as not quite as "spiritual" as the rest of us.

Hebrews 10:25 states that we should not stop "assembling" together, but we should meet to encourage one another. I would never want to stop meeting with other Christians. In all my years of church going, the best times were still when I met with another believer for lunch or coffee, and we just shared with each other our zeal and experience of Christ in our lives. That is what this verse means to me. It doesn't mean a bunch of us sitting in an auditorium listening to one man talk about God. It means being with others and sharing the life of Christ that is in each one of us. Sitting mute in a pew does not allow for this exchange. And as far as worship goes, well I think we all know it is not meant to mean only that one hour a week when we stand and sing hymns, and sit and listen to a sermon. It has to be a whole heart, whole life attitude.

"The woman said to Him, 'Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.'
Jesus said to her, 'Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.
You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.
But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshippers.
God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.'" John 4:19-24

Jesus spoke these words 2000 years ago. He said that the hour "now is." How much more should we now be seeking to know how to worship in spirit and in truth.