The Message is Always the Message

“Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You have permission to speak for yourself.’ Then Paul stretched out his hand..:

“’I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews…

“’In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests.  At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun… And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me.., ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?..’ And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you… to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you  to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

“’Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance… To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass…’

“And Agrippa said to Paul, ‘In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?’ And Paul said,’Whether short or long, I would love to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am – except for these chains.’” Acts 26:1-3,12-20,22,28-29

Paul was giving his defense before King Agrippa for false accusations that he’d been inciting violence. What seemed on the surface simply a personal defense for baseless allegations was actually the gospel. He sought and seized every opportunity to proclaim it. (Acts 25:7-25)

Into every morning, every work day, every encounter with another person and every interaction in commerce or friendship, we carry the hope we have in Christ. Is the gospel at the forefront of heart and mind and passion? What can we do to know it so well that in peace or conflict, when asked or when bumped into, we spill over with the truth of the gospel?

Do we pray for opportunities to spell out the hope of Christ, to exhibit His mercy, forgiveness, justice, and love? Do we speak against Satan’s power and in confidence of God’s? Do we exhibit a life of steady faith, choices made depending on the promises of God, present and future?

Gracious Lord, please help me tuck the light and freedom of your gospel into every part of my day. May your excellencies and the beauties of your heavenly gifts adorn my speech and actions so that others may turn to you and be saved.

When the Heart Deceives

“When Isaac was old and… could not see, he called Esau his older son and said,.. ‘Go out and hunt game for me, and prepare for me delicious food, such as I love.., that my soul may bless you before I die.’

“Now Rebekah was listening… So when Esau went to the field.., Rebekah said to Jacob,.. ‘Bring me two young goats, so that I may prepare from them delicious food for your father, such as he loves… so that he may bless you before he dies.’ But Jacob said, ‘My brother Esau is hairy, and I am smooth… Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him and bring a curse… and not a blessing.’

“Then Rebekah took the garments of Esau,.. and put them on Jacob… And she put the delicious food, which she had prepared, into the hand of Jacob.

“So he went in to his father… And he said, ‘Who are you, my son?’  Jacob said, ‘I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me…’ Then Isaac said to Jacob, ‘Please come near, that I may feel you, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not… The voice is Jacob’s, but the hands are of Esau.” And he did not recognize him… So he blessed him…

“As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, when Jacob had scarcely gone out from [his] presence.., Esau came in from his hunting… And he said to his father, ‘Let my father arise and eat of his son’s game, that you may bless me.’ His father Isaac said to him, ‘Who are you?’ He answered, ‘I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.’ Then Isaac trembled very violently and said, ‘Who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me,.. and I have blessed him?..’ As soon as Esau heard [this], he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry and said, ‘Bless me, even me also, O my father!’ But he said, ‘Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing.’  Esau said, ‘Is he not rightly named Jacob? [Jacob means He cheats] For he… took away my birthright, and now he has taken away my blessing.’” Genesis 27:1,3-6,9-12,15,17-19,21-23

“The heart is deceitful above all things,
    and desperately sick;
    who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9

From the womb, Jacob was marked as a deceiver. His name and early actions proved that earnest intention never made its way into prayerful or honest effort. Tangled in family manipulation, he fell to the lowest common denominator of conniving, impulsive action. While it was not wrong to desire the birthright or blessing he’d been promised by God, it was misguided to add sin to sin and mix it with self-effort and deception. (Genesis 25:21-34)

Where do we manipulate and mislead? When do we answer mischief or lies with the same? How might the Lord intervene if we stop finagling people and circumstances to get our way? Will we trust Him to right the wrongs we suffer? How can we honor Him anew by ceasing dishonest deception altogether? (Romans 12:16-19,21)

Father, search me and cleanse me from any deceptive impulses. May my whole desire pure and my life surrendered to Your truth, ways, and glory.

Colorless

“Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
    and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
    and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the deer’s;
    he makes me tread on my high places.” Habakkuk 3:17-19

“But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
    my glory, and the lifter of my head.” Psalm 3:3

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.  To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 5:10-11

The winter scape is monochromatic, shades of grey mottled beyond bare silhouetted trees. The threat of snow layers heaviness upon cold in the air, no color now or in the forecast. It is a long way till green or bloom.

Life goes that way at times, in dreary soul seasons of wintry sorrow, of dull living and aspiration. Weighty curtains of disappointment or grief block out light and color, press down weak efforts to raise the head and breathe fresh air. Brokenness chills the heart, freezing out joy, and bleakness of future shadows today with desolation, even despair. But the divinely-instilled indomitable spirit still hopes enough to ask, Where shall we look? To whom shall we go? (2 Chronicles 20:12)

“I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.”
Psalm 121:1-4

The Lord who made heaven and earth is He who saves and is our strength. He walks beside us and takes us on the heights. He surrounds us and strengthens us. God’s glory encircles the ugly and lifts the head up and out. God’s image bearers know this mourning has a morning beyond, that the cross and grave are prerequisites for resurrection, restoration, and ascension. Little while suffering will be swallowed in eternal rejoicing.

What causes despondency that our Lord has not known and understood? What weight is He not strong enough to carry, what ill can He not heal? What fracture can He not repair, what gloom can He not cast away, what temptation has He not conquered? (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Though we tarry in hard times, sadness, no answers, weighty circumstances, the Lord promises joy in the morning. His call to eternal glory carries us through transient troubles. Will we faithfully walk that shadowed path in assurance that it is His way of ultimate triumph? (Psalm 30:5)

“This is my Father’s world:
O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the Ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world:
Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King: let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let earth be glad!” ~Maltbie D. Babcock (1901)

Lord, keep me trusting Your dominion to create color, life, and joy where there is none, that You be glorified.

The Wonder of Watchpost Waiting

Habakkuk’s Complaint

“O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
    and you will not hear?
Or cry to you ‘Violence!’
    and you will not save?..”

The Lord’s Answer

“Look among the nations, and see;
    wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days
    that you would not believe if told.”

Habakkuk’s Second Complaint

“Are you not from everlasting,
    O Lord my God, my Holy One?..

“I will take my stand at my watchpost
    and station myself on the tower,
and look out to see what he will say to me,
    and what I will answer concerning my complaint.

“And the Lord answered me:

“‘Write the vision;
    make it plain on tablets,
    so he may run who reads it.
For still the vision awaits its appointed time;
    it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
    it will surely come; it will not delay.

“’Behold,.. the righteous shall live by his faith.'” Habakkuk 1:2,5,12; 2:1-4

“My soul waits for the Lord
    more than watchmen for the morning,
    more than watchmen for the morning.” Psalm 130:6

“Thus the Lord said to me:
‘Go, set a watchman;
let him announce what he sees.
When he sees riders, horsemen in pairs,
riders on donkeys, riders on camels,
let him listen diligently,
very diligently.’
Then he who saw cried out:
‘Upon a watchtower I stand, O Lord,
continually by day,
and at my post I am stationed
whole nights.'” Isaiah 21:6-8

A quick or cursory glance around us can bring confusion and unrest at what God is doing. Violence, tragedy, chaos, and sadness hold captive our emotions and distort vision, preventing us from seeing life as God sees. To take on His view, we must rise above our circumstances and the world’s view and climb up to the watchpost, to the heavenlies where an eternal perspective is possible. There we can adjust our eyes to His light and long view, settle our hearts, and wait for His perception in His time. Faith gets and keeps us there.

To assess the whole order of things in a singular moment is to deprive an occasion of setting and context. To make sweeping decisions based on immediate strain or ecstasy is to neglect reasoning for the long term. While it’s appropriate to bring current complaint to the Lord, it is resolved by listening keenly to His response, tracing His hand that’s always guided by His infallible character, and choosing an eternal perspective. He is faithful to answer over time.

When have I jumped to conclusions in a situation, claiming it wasted or without possible remedy? Where have I given up working and praying, exasperated at setbacks and deeming someone or something beyond redemption? Where am I blaming God, questioning His goodness, condemning His actions, or feeling chafed He’s not answering my way and immediately? Would I choose to articulate my angst, then patiently be still and know, by faith in who He is and how He works, that God is God, good, and will be exalted in every circumstance? (Psalm 46:1-3,8-11)

Gracious Lord, help me see life as You do with an eternal perspective, wholly trust that You are working all for Your ultimate glory and good. (Romans 8:28)

Join the Choir of Thanks!

“At the dedication of the wall they sought the Levites, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres.  The sons of the singers gathered together from the district surrounding Jerusalem and from the villages…

“Then I brought the leaders of Judah up onto the wall and appointed two great choirs that gave thanks. One went to the south on the wall… After them went Hoshaiah and half of the leaders of Judah… and certain of the priests’ sons with trumpets..; with the musical instruments of David the man of God. And Ezra the scribe went before them.  At the Fountain Gate they went up straight before them by the stairs of the city of David, at the ascent of the wall, above the house of David, to the Water Gate on the east.

“The other choir of those who gave thanks went to the north, and I followed them with half of the people, on the wall, above the Tower of the Ovens, to the Broad Wall,  and above the Gate of Ephraim, and by the Gate of Yeshanah, and by the Fish Gate and the Tower of Hananel and the Tower of the Hundred, to the Sheep Gate; and they came to a halt at the Gate of the Guard.  So both choirs of those who gave thanks stood in the house of God… And the singers sang with Jezrahiah as their leader.  And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.” Nehemiah 12:27-28,31-32,35-40a,42c-43

The rebuilding of the wall under great duress and opposition was finally complete. The Lord had provided supplies, protection, and stamina. There was much reason to give thanks, so leaders Nehemiah and Ezra made it happen in a grand, meaningful way. The joy at all God had done welled up to melodious, unrestrained praise.

Giving thanks with deliberation, attention, and responsive joy is a vital part of spiritual life. We own innumerable spiritual riches, and receive new morning mercies and blessing upon blessing every day. God provides ongoing, generous wisdom, inspiration, and peace. What selfishness causes complaint instead? How will we make praise to this good and gracious Lord a daily rhythm? (Psalm 34:3; Lamentations 3:22-23; Ephesians 1:3; 5:19-20)

“Joyful, joyful, we adore You,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flow’rs before You,
Op’ning to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!

Mortals, join the mighty chorus,
Which the morning stars began;
God’s own love is reigning o’er us,
Joining people hand in hand.
Ever singing, march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife;
Joyful music leads us sunward
In the triumph song of life.” ~Henry Van Dyke (1907)

How infectious is our praise? How far will our song be heard?

“Thou that hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, a grateful heart.

Not thankful, when it pleaseth me;
As if thy blessings had spare days:
But such a heart, whose pulse may be
Thy praise.” ~George Herbert (1593- 1633)

Worthy Lord, with whole soul and voice may I ever sing Your thanks and praise.

If Only I May Finish

“Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.  And when they came to him, he said to them:

“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia,  serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews;  how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.  And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there,  except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.  But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God… I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God… 

“‘And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified… ‘ And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all.

“Paul answered, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’  And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, ‘Let the will of the Lord be done.’” Acts 20:17-24,27, 32,36; 21:13-14

When Paul was drastically saved, a testimony he repeatedly recounted, his mindset and passions were completely reoriented. The Lord had revealed that he would suffer much for the sake of His name, and a humbled, grateful Paul embraced that call wholeheartedly. His every breath was spent to finish the work God had saved him and sent him to do: preach the gospel. Even when fellow believers attempted to persuade him to avoid impending harm, it was important to him that they take note of and take up this passion to fix their eyes on Christ and finish His race. (Acts 9:10–16; 21:7-12; 2 Timothy 4:7)

Where has the Lord nudged us to serve and we have rebuffed His Spirit’s promptings due to ease and personal preference? Even when we say we are all in, are we prone to flagging in zeal and giving up when things get difficult? Where have we focused more on the risks and roadblocks than the promises of God? How many projects do we start and not finish? (Romans 12:11)

How might the Lord change our motivations to welcome His call with eagerness and faith? Maybe we list His promises, and memorize them. Could we match His word to every doubt and fear in order to face obstacles head-on? Would we pray for reoriented passions and bold courage?

It is an amazing gift to be saved by the relentless love of God. And it is an indescribable privilege to serve Him in response. Are we committed to finishing the course He marks for us?

Lord, may I finish all You’ve called me to do with zeal and for Your glory.

Great Work, Meet Great Opposition

“So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

“But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry.  And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it.  And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.”

“Now when Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies heard that I had built the wall and that there was no breach left in it… [they] sent to me, saying, ‘Come and let us meet together in the plain of Ono.’ But they intended to do me harm. And I sent messengers to them, saying, ‘I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop..?’  And they sent to me four times… the fifth time… with an open letter. In it was written, ‘It is reported… that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall. And according to these reports you wish to become their king… So now come and let us take counsel together.’ I sent to him, saying, ‘No such things as you say have been done…’ For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.’ But now, O God, strengthen my hands…

“So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days.  And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God… And Tobiah sent letters to make me afraid.” Nehemiah 4:6-9; 6:1-9,15-16,19b

Any great work for God will at some time meet great opposition. The devil snarls and plots against anything that would honor God or promote God’s kingdom, seeking to undo, steal, kill, divide, and destroy. It’s his nature- he hates God’s people and plans, and does all he can to disrupt and discourage them. Although unsettling trials and temptations to give up will certainly come, handling them with truth and prayer secures our footing and fortifies us to proceed and prevail. (Luke 17:1; John 10:10 1 Corinthians 11:19; 1 Peter 5:8)

Often God orchestrates circumstances so it is evident only He has done it. When we are challenged or shaken, rather than rely on ourselves, we must look to and rely on His wisdom and strength, work His way through and seek His victory over enemies. Deep faith is forged in deep trouble, and great work for God gives great glory to Him.

What significant work for God carries challenge today? Would we turn any flesh-pull to quit to a press toward our all-sufficient God? Would we trust His presence with us to confirm and sustain the work? (1 Peter 5:10)

Father, keep me focused on all You assign despite opposition. Establish it for Your good purposes and glory. (Psalm 90:17)

Making Sense Makes Sense

“All the people gathered into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard… And he read from it facing the square… from early morning until midday… And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law…  And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people [on a wooden platform], and as he opened it all the people stood.  And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen,’ lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground… The Levites helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading…

“On the second day the heads of fathers’ houses of all the people, with the priests and the Levites, came together to Ezra the scribe in order to study the words of the Law.” Nehemiah 8:1-8,13

“An Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure, had come to Jerusalem to worship  and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. The Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over and join this chariot.’ So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ He said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him… Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.” Acts 8:27-31,35

Through the ages, God has appointed people to help others make sense of His Word, and since Pentecost, He has also given His Spirit to guide in truth. What a privilege to have access to the complete Scriptures and these means of grace for knowing God Himself! (John 14:26; 16:13; Acts 8:36-38; Ephesians 4:11)

When and how are we availing ourselves of God’s powerful word? If we struggle to be consistent, ask Him to develop an insatiable taste for it, and persevere. If it seems stodgy, difficult, or impenetrable, pray for enlightenment. Would we seek out someone or a group for study, encouragement, and accountability? Whom can we help with what God has taught us? We have not because we ask not, and God delights to awaken holy motivation and supply what He knows will be life-giving. (Matthew 7:7-8; James 4:2-3)

Making sense of the Word brings conviction, and confession brings freedom and joy. Understanding compels obedience which results in gladness, life transformation, and hunger for more. The Word guards against sin, and imparts wisdom, strength, and direction for our days. It actively works to sanctify us, bears eternal fruit, and never returns void. (Psalm 119:11,105; Isaiah 33:6; 55:10-11; Nehemiah 8:10,12,14-17; 9:1-3; Hebrews 4:12)

Lord, keep me hungry to make sense of Your word. Lead me to those who can help, and those to help, as we grow together in knowledge and love for You.

A Time for Confession

“Pray then like this:

‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.'” Matthew 6:9-13

“I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy… I prayed and made confession, saying, ‘O Lord, the great and awesome God… we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules… To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame,.. because of the treachery committed against you… To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed… We have sinned, we have done wickedly. O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away… O Lord, hear,.. forgive,.. pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God.” Daniel 9:3-5,7,9-10,15-16,19

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

There is nothing like exalting God and hallowing His name and character to bring us to a genuine understanding of who we are before Him. Acknowledging His holiness necessarily exposes where we fall short of His glory. Truth humbles us into confession and repentance. (Isaiah 6:1-8; Romans 3:23)

Would we take regular time for thoughtful confession from top to bottom? My mind: On what do I think? Is there jealousy, smug superiority, criticism? Indulgence of fear, worry, prurient interests? (Philippians 4:6-8; Colossians 3:1)

My eyes: Do I look with envy, coveting, judgment, prejudice? Does what I watch implant beauty or sensual suggestion? (Matthew 6:22; James 2:1-4)

My ears: Am I a busybody that seeks out gossip, salacious information, music that offends the divine? Do I develop discernment by balancing worldly opinion with biblical truth, or tickle my ears by listening only to what I want to hear? Have I stopped my ears to conviction or the cry of the needy? (Acts 7:55-57; 2 Timothy 4:3; James 1:19)

My mouth: Have my words diminished others, interrupted, pontificated in pride, cast doubt on another’s motives, spread untrue or unflattering suggestion, confessed another’s sins, betrayed a confidence? Does my language break down or build up? Include filth that reduces the soul, or elevate the atmosphere and give life? (1 Corinthians 14:3; Ephesians 4:15,29; Colossians 3:14-16; 1 Timothy 5:13; 1 Peter 3:15-16)

My hands: Where do I busy myself unnecessarily, or neglect vigor in work? Do I use my hands to hoard or give, in caprice or intention, temper or gentleness, anger or love, destruction or creation, idleness or serving? (1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:11)

My heart: On what idols or temporal things have I set my affection? Is my default response toward those unlike me to loathe or love? (Matthew 6:19-21,24; Colossians 3:1)

My feet: Do I daily charge out on own agenda, or readily bring good news wherever God leads? (Isaiah 30:21; 52:7; Ephesians 6:14-15; Colossians 3:23)

Based on the merit and mercy of Christ, true repentance leaves sin behind and walks anew forgiven and free.

Search me, O God, and be glorified through my honest confession. (Psalm 139:23-24)

The Moon is Still Round

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

“Fear not, for I am with you;
    be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

The perfect incandescent white crescent encupping a grey circle of moon pokes large and bright above the horizon in a sky smattered with stars. (A star streaks in an arc, then quickly burns out.) This new day is barely unfolding, yet full of promise from that one slice of light that there is more awaiting, more at work than meets the eye. There is completeness in the sharp edges, substance in the darkness. Though we may not see fully, the moon is still round.

In many seasons and situations we see dimly and know incompletely. We scramble for information and long for answers. We rage at what we learn because it cannot really be so, and yet it is, so we search to tie pieces together to gain understanding. Is the valley endless? Can the shadow be any thicker? Will the darkness ever lift? Is there even a glimmer of hope in the heaviness? Why can’t I see it all now? (1 Corinthians 13:12)

As long as we live here below, we will have unanswered questions and unresolved pain. But there are truths we know for certain and can trust by faith. Faith propels us forward without fear. Faith in God guards against bitterness. Faith’s fruit develops and fosters deeper trust as we learn to walk by the light we have. We can believe the moon is still round, though we cannot see it all.

Where am I fainting, fearing, or flagging in faith? Would I trust more than my eye can see, that God is working behind the scenes, and reveals gradually increasing slices of light as He sees fit? He who designed and sustains lunar cycles knows the beginning from the end and every part in between, but calls me to do the next right thing as light is revealed to me. (Isaiah 46:9-10; Revelation 1:8)

“Jesus, I am resting, resting
in the joy of what thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
of thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon thee,
as thy beauty fills my soul,
for by thy transforming power,
thou hast made me whole.

Simply trusting thee, Lord Jesus,
I behold thee as thou art,
and thy love, so pure, so changeless,
satisfies my heart;
satisfies its deepest longings,
meets, supplies its ev’ry need,
compasseth me round with blessings:
thine is love indeed.” ~Jean Sophia Pigott (1876)

Lord, keep me ever trusting and resting in Thee, knowing the moon is round, and that You are writing my story according to Your perfect, glorious will.