Where Shall We Go?

In Isaiah 36-37, the Rabshakeh, a high-ranking military official of the Assyrian king, advanced with a great army to taunt and intimidate King Hezekiah. His staff took the threat directly to their sovereign. “As soon as Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes and covered himself in sackcloth and went into the house of the LORD.” He sent for Isaiah to ask him to pray also, then ‘spread the messengers’ letter before the LORD.’

When Nehemiah faced relentless opposition while rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem, again and again he turned to the Lord in prayer. “Now, O God, strengthen my hands.” (Nehemiah 6:9)

In Psalm 73, when Asaph “almost stumbled” in envy of the arrogant, angry at the prosperity of the wicked, their “strutting tongue,” and flippant disregard of God, and their seemed ease in their riches and pride although they took advantage of others, he, too, went directly to the LORD. “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.”

Open Door

Where do I go when under attack, overwhelmed, confused, righteously angry, in need? Bombarded with many choices at our fingertips– to connect with someone right away, to complain to others, to ‘get this off my chest,’ to research or begin acting on a ready solution– it can be easy at first impulse not to bend the knee. I heard years ago, “Go to the throne, not the phone.” How prudent this is still today.

Whether we face fear over a diagnosis, threat of division in a relationship, frustration at injustice, or conviction over a paralyzing habit or an ungodly attitude toward another, we can always find solace, counsel, clarity, strength, grace, at the Lord’s feet. The all-sufficient God Who is enthroned above the cherubim hears, and sees, and awaits our pleas.

Lord, may I always, ‘with confidence, draw near to Your throne of grace, that I may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.’ (Hebrews 4:16)

Sustaining Power

When I was young, my great Uncle Ted had painted the ceiling of their Northwoods summer cottage deep blue, with glow-in-the-dark stars, exactly as the constellations, that shone on it at night. We children, including cousins and friends, would clamor over there for Aunt Nan’s tunnel-of-fudge cake and a lesson on the greatness of God as he read from Psalm 19 and Psalm 8. “The heavens declare your glory, and the skies proclaim the works of your hand.” When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” If we weren’t at their home, we were often lying on blankets out in the meadow watching the sky, brilliant with the swath of the Milky Way, punctuated every few minutes by shooting stars. There is nothing like night-sky-gazing to illuminate God’s power. 

Full moon and star

“To whom will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created all these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one of them is missing.” “Can you bind the Pleides or loose the cords of Orion? Can you lead the Mazzaroth in their season, or can you guide the Bear with its children?” “In him all things were created. In him all things hold together.” Isaiah 40:25-26; Job 38:31; Colossians 1:16,17

This God, Who determined the number of the stars and gave to all of them their names, know our names, and cares for us. He Who has held these constellations in place since setting them there, meets us in our weakness. He graciously humbles us by His majesty, and then upholds us, sustaining His people with His strong arm, His mighty hand, His abiding power. (Psalm 147:4)

Isaiah 40 finishes the passage on the stars with, “The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall be faint and weary, and young men shall fall exhausted, but they who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

You, Lord Jesus Christ, know our fainting hearts, our weary faith, our waning strength, and You will sustain us to the end. May I daily wait on You and walk in your power, for Your glory. (1 Corinthians 1:8)

Always and Everywhere the Word

“You shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on your doorposts and on your gates. Be careful to do all this commandment that I command you to do, loving the LORD your God, walking in all his ways, and holding fast to him.” Deuteronomy 11:18-20,22

I watched a rather plain sky this morning, carbon turning milky, with a few charcoal flecks. The longer I gazed, the more splendor shone. As the sun climbed its way toward the horizon, it painted the splotches deep pink, and what had seemed uninteresting was now captivating, causing my spirit to soar, my bland heart suddenly lost in wonder, love and praise.

Sunrise surprise, pink on grey

Looking into God’s word offers a similar experience: spending time there turns reading words into understanding meaning, beholding the revealing. The light of living truth blazes in to flood the inner recesses of the heart, to inform all aspects of the mind, to penetrate our worst hidden proclivities. “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

We have easy access at all times to man’s word: “breaking news” that someone else has decided is urgent, pop-up ads with suggestions for my purchase or listening pleasure, teasers for more and varied versions of what is supposed to interest me, a constant clamor of opinion and chatter and did-you-hear?s and this-is-how-you-should-eat/raise your children/invest/look-and-feel younger/protect yourself/help society/vote. Making time in God’s word takes more effort, but enables us to assimilate all other input through the filter of God’s truth. In His light, we see light. There is no greater gift to give our children than laying up His word in their souls. (Psalm 36:4)

“Speak, O Lord, as we come to You to receive the food of Your holy word;                             Take Your truth, plant it deep in us, shape and fashion us in Your likeness,                                  That the light of Christ might be seen today in our acts of love and our deeds of faith;   Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us all Your purposes for Your glory.

Teach us, Lord, full obedience, holy reverence, true humility;                                                    Test our thoughts and our attitudes in the radiance of Your purity.                                    Cause our faith to rise and our eyes to see Your majestic love and authority,                     Words of power that can never fail, let their truth prevail over unbelief.

Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds, help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us;     Truths unchanged from the dawn of time that will echo down through eternity;                And by grace we’ll stand on Your promises, and by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us;    Speak, O Lord, till Your church is built and the earth is filled with Your glory.”                           –Keith Getty, Stuart Townsend 

Amen.

 

My Inheritance

Having lost both parents, I have dealt with inheritances–meaningful, helpful, even useful  gifts left behind from one who has passed away. The Bible addresses them in the case of the Levites, and challenges where our true treasure lies.

“At that time, the LORD set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the LORD to stand before the LORD to minister to him and to bless his name. Therefore, Levi has no portion or inheritance with his brothers. The LORD is his inheritance.” “In [Jesus] we have gained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will , so that we might be to the praise of his glory.” Deuteronomy 10:8-9; Ephesians 1:11-12

What does it mean that the LORD Himself is my inheritance? It means that He is of inestimable value, He is lasting while all else fades away, His presence is gloriously sufficient and always brings to remembrance His good nature and ways.

S Africa wispy sunset, water reflection

What does this mean for my day-to-day? Knowing that my inheritance in Him is imperishable, undefiled, unfading, my earthly perspective on work, effort, accumulation, even perceived security comes into focus. Whatever I do, whether in word or deed, I am to do in the name of the Lord Jesus, working heartily as for him and not for man, knowing that from the LORD I will receive the inheritance. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (1 Peter 1:4; Colossians 3:17,23-24; Matthew 6:19-21)

Lord, set my heart on You, my very great reward. Enlighten the eyes of my heart to know the riches of my glorious inheritance in the saints, that I might hold loosely the things of this world. You are enough, my dearest Treasure. (Genesis 15:1; Ephesians 1:18)

“Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,                                                                               Thou mine inheritance, now and always.                                                                                    Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,                                                                                        High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.”                                                                                  –Irish hymn, 8th century

 

Rise and Shine

I have just come through a six-week season where, over the last nine years, I have lost both parents, a brother-in-law, a close friend in ministry, a father-in-law, and a grandson. I have cleared out, packed, and moved 5 homes, three representing over 80 years of life and family. Poignant memories abound around these dates, which happened to coincide with a very dry season at home. Plants languish without rain, as does the heart without hope. But the faithful, great and awesome God in our midst promises renewal! (Deuteronomy 7:21)

“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus. It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God. Waters break forth from the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water. And the ransomed of the LORD shall come with singing; everlasting joy shall be on their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” Isaiah 35:1-2,6 -7,10

My father used to awaken us each Sunday morning with a cheery, “Rise and shine!” and I know my heavenly Father bids me the same. Indeed, “Weeping may tarry for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

Father, thank You for death that brings resurrection, grief that brings comfort, brokenness that brings healing. Thank You for seasons of drought that make all the more glorious Your gifts of water and life. You alone slake the parched tongue. Whatever the heartache, Lord on high, may I arise, shine, for Your light has come! (Isaiah 60:1)

 

Take Care Lest You Forget

“And when the LORD your God brings you into the land–with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant– and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the LORD.” “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘my power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth.” Deuteronomy 6:10-13; 8:16-17

How easy it is to expend ourselves and our resources on earning, attaining, building, pursuing, collecting, saving, and forget that without the Lord, our efforts are in vain. Apart from Jesus we can do nothing. Kings and kingdoms, civilizations and our earthly riches, will one day pass away; only what is done for Christ shall last. We have no profit if we gain the whole world but lose our souls. (John 15:5; Mark 8:36)

When David brought from his great wealth to contribute to the construction of God’s temple, he rejoiced greatly at what he and all the people had been able to contribute, due to God’s generosity to them. He blessed the LORD in the assembly: “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, and praise your glorious name.” (1 Chronicles 29: 9-13)

O Lord, may I take care not to forget You are my treasure and very great reward. May I, rich in this present age, ever set my hope on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. (Genesis 15:1; 1 Timothy 6:17)

All Good Gifts

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.”      James 1:17

“A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.” John 3:27

The gifts of creamy pink camellias, vermillion poinciana canopy branches in full bloom, variegated greens of grass and ground cover, a bee sucking nectar from a purple flower, earth tones of stone, sand and dirt, regal aspen trees, water lilies, electric brights of tropical fish, a giraffe’s patterned long neck and a cheetah’s spots; the gifts of savoring combined flavors and textures of nuts and blueberries and feta cheese on a crunchy salad, and smooth dark chocolate on the tongue; the gifts of rhythmic ocean waves, a cardinal’s chirp, a cicada and tree frog symphony, a child’s familiar cry, a Bach concerto, a parent’s “I love you,” a lullaby; for all these, I thank Thee.

The gifts of sensing which way the wind is blowing, of soul-peace, or ominous danger; of a heart that aches in grief, swells with love, yearns for holiness, leaps at the sight of dolphins; of anticipating a reunion with old friends, deep all-face-and-twinkly-eyed smiles, uncontrollable laughter, hugs that communicate forever-love, sorrow upon parting, and missing another during absence; of smooth wood, Dusty Miller leaves, the firm ground, feet in powdered-sugar sand, a held hand, a tender kiss; for all these, I thank Thee.

“When all Thy mercies, O my God,                                                                                                  My rising soul surveys,                                                                                                          Transported with the view, I’m lost                                                                                                     In wonder, love, and praise.”                                                                                                                —Joseph Addison (1672-1719)

Keep me ever thankful, Giver of all that is good.