Love That Won’t Leave

After being sold by his brothers to a band of Ishmaelite traders, and by them to be Potiphar’s slave in Egypt, Genesis 39 tells us Joseph was blessed by the Lord. “His master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. The blessing of the LORD was on all that he had, in house and field.” As a hired attendant in a foreign land, Joseph clung to his Lord, Who abided with him.

Then things got worse. He was wrongly accused of seducing Potiphar’s wife, and put in prison, “but the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.”

No matter a hard place, an abandonment of affection or companionship, a difficult work, pain caused by misunderstanding, a grim prognosis, confusion in chaos, the LORD is present and His love will not leave. He brings deep blessing and favor amidst the pain of circumstances, simply because He is with us.

Sunset, peaceful, 'held'

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35,37-39

Wherever I am, Lord, You are there also. May I trust, even thrive, in the truth that You are good, your steadfast love endures forever, your faithfulness to all generations. May I keep your steadfast love before my eyes and walk in your faithfulness. (Psalm 100:5; 26:3)

Blessings of the Body

An octogenarian friend who has had great influence on my husband and me, and hundreds of others, in and since college, has cancer. He has been widowed over 20 years, and spends every day sharing the love and truth of Jesus. We hurt because he hurts.

I received this message as we await news on his chemotherapy regimen. “This morning Daryl asked me to join him for a Bible study at his church. It was a special time as I saw his church family here [California] encourage and pray for him and each other as they studied God’s word together. What a privilege it is to be bound to so many circles of believers through his ministry among us!” How wondrous is the Body of Christ! Across the country, and world, we are united in the Body by the Spirit, in prayer and concern for our beloved brother.

And in our own cities and communities, we gather together as did the early church, “devoted to teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer. All who believed were together…attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes.” (Acts 2:42,44,46) In Revelation 2 and 3, in his letters to the seven churches, John gives different aspects of the Body of Christ, His living church. It is a wellspring of works of love, faith, service, and patient endurance. In the church we learn discernment, undergo testing and tribulation that yields faithfulness, and are spurred on to hold fast to Jesus’s name, keep His word, and not deny our faith. It is in the Body we are loved, reproved, disciplined by God to repent, be zealous, and not lose heart. As members of His Body we can together heed His charge to hold fast, endure, and conquer!

Lord, thank You for the Body of Christ, and for the privilege of being a part of its unique, organic fellowship. As recipients of Your manifold blessings, may Your Body “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering. Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.” (Hebrews 10:23-25) Amen and amen.

Eternal God, Only God

“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold O am alive forevermore.'” Revelation 1:8,17

I remember going to Europe as a student in high school and being overcome at the age of the beautiful buildings, cities, even roads– far older than the U.S. that was about to celebrate its bicentennial. Yet, they were inanimate, and all new at one time in history. It is impossible to imagine anything we know that is living being ageless, without end, and especially without beginning. Only God is. May ‘our hearts approve with gladness what our reason cannot fully comprehend.’ (A.W. Tower) 

“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.” “God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am. Say “I AM has sent me to you.”‘” “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.'” “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Psalm 90:2; Exodus 3:14; John 8:58; Hebrews 13:8)

Magnificent blue orange sunset, vertical

Everything around us is marked by mortality and change, but God “has put eternity into man’s heart;” our longing for permanence and eternal life is satisfied only in the Eternal One. He alone is in control of all things. He knows all, never changes in any of His attributes, is always present, is never surprised or ‘thrown’ at what is occurring in any place at any time, and works all things to His ends. Why should I be shaken? He who knit me together in my mother’s womb and has known the number of my days when as yet there were none of them, is constant. “I am God, and there is no other. I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things not yet done, saying ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.'” (Ecclesiastes 3:11; Psalm 139:13,15-16; Isaiah 46:9-10) I can rest, I can live and serve and work and worship in a constantly changing and uncertain world, confident that God remains the same, forever.

Ancient of Days, eternal God, You are my dwelling place. To You, King of Ages, immortal,  the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (Deuteronomy 33:27; 1 Timothy 1:17)

 

Keeping Silence

In Mark 9:1-10, Peter is at his impulsive best again. When Jesus is transfigured in indescribably splendid light next to Elijah and Moses, James and John stand amazed, but Peter had to speak. “‘Rabbi, let us make three tents for you.’ For he did not know what to say.” Then why did he say anything? God’s unmistakeable voice from heaven quieted him.“This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” I imagine they could have heard a pin drop. Jesus knew Peter well—“as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.”

Rays of cloud and light near sunset, blue and white

We do not know if Peter heeded that admonition, but we do know he was gradually transformed from an impulsive, albeit well-meaning, fire-cracker into a passionate, effective leader in the early church. He later wrote, “Be self-controlled and sober-minded. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God. Be examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 4:7,10-11; 5:3)

What do I miss because I speak instead of listen? What triggers my tongue into thoughtless action? In what situations do I need an extra measure of that beautiful fruit of self control?

“Oh, that you would keep silent, and it would be your wisdom!” “When words are many, transgression is not lacking; but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” “Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” (Job 13:5; Proverbs 10:19; James 1:19)

Lord, hold my tongue, and attune my ears to listen to You.

Ever Present

The sky is all thick oils this morning, no watercolors for tropical depression Alberto. I know the sun has risen because it is light out, and I know it will continue to shine as it gets dark here tonight because I know by its gravity we are kept in orbit. Its power, its pull, its warmth are ever present, though today we cannot see the grand fiery ball we call the sun.

“God is a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

20180530_075611.jpg

“I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people. The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side. The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen.” Psalm 77:11-15,17-19

Ever present, often unseen. Ever present, never failing.

This is our God, the great I AM, all-sufficient, almighty, omniscient, lovingkind, always good.

Lord God, You are present and near. May I be fully present to you.

The Poison of Unbelief

In Deuteronomy 1, Moses recounts the events of Numbers 13-14 with perspective. God’s promise had been, “See, I have set the land before you. Go in and take possession.” Moses had added, “Do not fear or be dismayed.” But instead of looking to God and believing His promise and obeying His word, Israel looked at the “greater and taller people” and “cities fortified up to heaven,” and rebelled. These troublemakers then spread their poison.

They murmured, they accused God of ‘hating them and planning their destruction.’ They blamed their brothers who’d spied out the land for ‘making their hearts melt.’ Their lot and misery were everyone’s fault but their own. Had this been today, they would have barraged social media with complaints and stirred a firestorm. Oh, how toxic is the sin of rebellion, how contagious murmuring and unbelief! Focusing on perceived threats and obstacles, instead of their God and His promises, poisoned their outlook and attitude; all they said and did was warped in unbelief and self.

Path uncertain, MyanmarThe only remedy is as Moses patiently instructed: “The LORD your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did in Egypt and in the wilderness, where you have seen how he carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way until you came to this place. He went before you in the way to seek you out a place to pitch your tents, in fire by night and in the cloud by day, to show you the way you should go.”

Self-centered living is easy. It is promoted all around us; we are constantly told what we deserve, what is too difficult, what is offensive. But it is pernicious. Christ-centered living is hard. It requires faith to take God at His word, time to give attention to His character and ways, and committed resolve to keep on when the way is tough. But it is freeing, fruitful, and victorious.

Lord, lift me above the fearful, murmuring, self-focused, unbelieving masses to be a Caleb, a Joshua, who is ready to take the good land You have offered.

The Mocking Bird

In the cool outside this morning, uneven strings of pink and grey cloud are strewn low across the horizon. And the birds—a flock just flew by, a string of black vees against the other-worldly colors—O God, thank You for the birds! Amidst all the singing, a mockingbird stands out, delighting from its high perch, imitating those of other species in their voices. Twitters, then chirps, then trills, rhythms, then rolled rrrrs, tweets, cheery chrrr-eeeps. Ah, Lord, this creature surely proclaims your glory– as Hillsong sings, ‘then so will I.’

Sunrise pink and grey

20180529_084223

Paul did what it took to identify with and communicate to others, “becoming all things to all people, that by all means some might be saved…for the sake of the gospel.”  (1 Corinthians 9:22-23) What prejudices, preconceptions, fears might I need to lay aside in order to relate to others not like me? What words do I need to learn in order to speak a culturally foreign language? What initiative do I need to take, interest can I show, questions can I ask, eye contact can I use, love can I expend, to convince others they are important and have inestimable value?

“They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance…telling men from every nation in [their] own tongues the mighty works of God.” “The Spirit helps us in our weakness.” “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Acts 2:4-5,11; Romans 8:26, Hebrews 4:16

Father, teach me to be a mocking bird, to listen well and learn to speak in others’ languages, to ‘become all things to all people’ that they might hear my melody, take notice of You, and rejoice.