A Countenance Ashine

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the Lord had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. Whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people what he was commanded, the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.” Exodus 34:29-35

This mysterious shekinah glory that emanated from God Himself and was reflected in the face of Moses intrigues and fascinates me, and makes me want some. It is as though Moses’s countenance, as he conversed with the Lord, absorbed a glimpse of His very character, the beauty, the shining splendor that emanated from Him, and could not contain it. We know God was not present in human form, but I delight in the picture of intimate communion between these ‘friends,’ imagining the warmth and light shared in that holy space, and the divine ‘mantle’ Moses carried out of the tent with him. (Exodus 33:11; Deuteronomy 34:10)

Sunrise grey and yellow w rays behind clouds

I have known people who, when I spend time with them or hear them teach, have obviously been with Jesus, basking in His presence. They have a sense about them, a serenity, a ‘glow,’ a knowing, a humility blended with extraordinary and winsome boldness, and they make the Lord attractive, even irresistible. This I admire, this I desire. (Acts 4:13)

Spending time face to face with our Lord, where we are vulnerable and receptive, enables Him to transform our countenance, and fill us with wisdom and gladness we can then share with others. When He shines in and through us, He makes us inviting, and divinely draws them to see and adore Him. A man’s wisdom makes his face shine, and the hardness of his face is changed.” “A glad heart makes a cheerful face.” “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (Ecclesiastes 8:1; Proverbs 15:13; 2 Corinthians 4:6)

Glorious Lord, lift Your countenance upon me, infuse my demeanor and expression with Your shining and irresistible glory, that all I encounter see I have been with You, and want to be with you also. (Numbers 6:24-26)

Take My Hands

Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and struck him with their hands…Pilate said to [the Jews], ‘Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ They all said, ‘Let him be crucified!’ And he said, ‘Why? What evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Let him be crucified!’ So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood… Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him…’ And they crucified him… Eight days later… Jesus came and stood among them and said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands.'” John 19:1-3,6; 20:26-27; Matthew 27:24; Mark 15:24

What a contrast there is, in the few verses describing the crucifixion, in the use of hands, the magnificent creation of God and gift to His people. Imagine the soldiers’ rough, strong fingers tying shards of stone onto the ends of leather strips to make a many-corded whip for His flogging, and calloused hands that have just gripped that whip forming a crown of thorns and pressing it onto Jesus’s head, then balling into fists to strike him, then hammer metal through His skin. Pilate, in comparison, unnerved by the crowd fomenting violence, opened his weak, soft hands upward, shrugging, ‘I don’t get you and this is not my fault– you are making me do this,’ then washed them illustratively in front of them.

But our Savior’s hands, the carpenter’s careful, creative hands that had soothed the anxious and touched outcast lepers, written in the dirt and made mud for healing, raised bread to heaven in thanksgiving before breaking it to feed thousands, washed the disciples’ feet, served them wine, these hands were pierced through, with thick nails, to a cross. These hands bore His weight as well as the weight of all our sin, and became, after the resurrection, the scarred hands that awakened faith and fed the disciples and lifted over them in the blessing of a call and power. (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:50; John 20:25-28; 21:9-13)

Hands in sidewalk, Sydney

How do I position my hands? When I raise them high in worship, and open them to be used for God’s will, He infuses them with compassion, strength, gentleness, generosity, a knowing of where to go and whom to serve. But when I ball them up, clutching my selfish will and wants, I not only resist God’s prompting but can actually, driven by my own impulses, slap Him in the face, brush off His inspiration, push away His instruction, stop my ears to His truth.

And how do I use my hands? Do I deliver death, or life? Do I construct edifices to self, amass what does not last, busy myself with meaningless activity, idle them in sloth? Or am I serving others, creating beauty that shines God’s loveliness, expressing affection, writing encouragement, touching away tears, holding hands of the sad, lonely?

Lord, take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love, as Yours always have for me. (Inspired by Frances Havergal)

“Blessed Is Everyone Who Fears The Lord!”

“Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord!” “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.” “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” “In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.” “The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom.” “By the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.” Psalm 128:1; Proverbs 1:7; 8:13; 9:10; 14:26-27; 15:33; 16:6 

When I ponder the fear of the Lord, I think about the current confusion between truth and feeling. I heard a modern poet quoted yesterday as saying, ‘People will not remember what you said, but how you made them feel.’ In so many spaces in our culture today, feelings have trumped truth as the raison d’être, the standard for making decisions and legislation, the justification for action and reaction.

The fear of God felt by most in the world stems not from accurate knowledge of Him but from perceptions rooted in feelings that can change on a whim. Media and societal dictates, inner struggles with changing emotions, guilt, and misunderstanding, the insatiable desire to have my opinions validated as gospel, have a right to do things my way, and have my choices condoned and celebrated, all confuse the true image of God. These misperceptions drive me to assume He is mean, a kill-joy, an angry, bellicose tyrant; therefore, I can only tremble but never approach Him.

NZ, beach w snow-topped mountains, sun in clouds

God’s word teaches us a different perspective. The fear we are to have of the Lord is not one of feeling, but one based on truth; it is a proper understanding of, with consequent humble reverence for, all our great and infinite God is. When we grow in our understanding of His creative perfection, justice, love, purity, sovereignty, He is magnified, and we recognize our rightful smaller place before Him. We are not diminished in any way, we do not cower or cringe; we are His image-bearers of whom He is benevolently mindful, crowned with glory and honor, treasured by Him, yet beneath Him. (Psalm 8:3-6)

Our fear of the Lord brings the blessings of wisdom, knowledge, understanding; it gives us strong confidence and is a fountain of life. Fearing God guards our way from evil, giving hatred for it and strength to turn from it. Over the years, I have prayed our children and grandchildren will fear the Lord, develop a deep understanding of His supremacy and worship Him appropriately. I desire they be filled with wisdom and guarded in their ways. This is the life He promises to bless!

Almighty, sovereign King of kings, teach me to fear You aright, in humility, love, gratitude, and praise. You are very great, and by Your redemption You make me worthy to be called Your own. You are God, and I am not. May I worship You always in Spirit and truth. (John 4:23-24)

 

 

All the Work

Thus all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished, and the people of Israel did according to all that the LORD had commanded Moses; so they did. Then they brought the tabernacle to Moses, the tent and all its utensils, its hooks, its frames, its bars, its pillars, and its bases; the covering of tanned rams’ skins and goatskins, and the veil of the screen; the ark of the testimony with its poles and the mercy seat; the table with all its utensils, and the bread of the Presence; the lampstand of pure gold and its lamps with the lamps set and all its utensils, and the oil for the light; the golden altar, the anointing oil and the fragrant incense, and the screen for the entrance of the tent; the bronze altar, and its grating of bronze, its poles, and all its utensils; the basin and its stand; the hangings of the court, its pillars, and its bases, and the screen for the gate of the court, its cords, and its pegs; and all the utensils for the service of the tabernacle, for the tent of meeting; the finely worked garments for ministering in the Holy Place, the holy garments for Aaron and his sons for their service as priests. According to all that the Lord had commanded Moses, so the people of Israel had done all the work. And Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, so had they done it. Then Moses blessed them.” Exodus 39:32-43

All the details, precision, artistry, exact measuring, carving, weaving, constructing… all the work God had prescribed was completed, and Moses blessed the people. I imagine his hands lifted, his countenance bright, his words of favor and God’s delight in their work washing over them like welcome spring rain. Well done, good and faithful servants. You have listened, set your minds and hands to task, persisted to completion, and your Master is satisfied.

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When opportunities are presented and invitations extended, I need to make sure they align with God’s plans for me. I know from experience that when I add “fluff,” I steal energy, time, and concentration from what matters for what does not. Do I expend effort for His kingdom first, seeking eternal treasure, making the best use of time, or waste my days and resources on insignificant pastimes? The Lord had a grand plan to unite His people in the work that would prepare them for worship, ultimately for intimate life with Him at the center and fore, and though each had a separate and specific part, and sometimes that was a menial task, in His plan every segment was worthy and would fit together. He calls us to do our part for the proper working of His big plan, His high and broad purposes. (Matthew 6:19-21,33; Romans 12:11,16; Ephesians 5:15-16)

Lord, may I be diligent to accomplish the works, large and small, for which You have made and sent me, while it is still day. Teach me to redeem my time, grant me the will to heed Your instruction and wisdom to build until all my work is complete, all for Your blessing and glory. (Psalm 90:12; Proverbs 14:1; John 4:34; 9:4)

Kept in His Name

Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:11-17

What a gift it is for us to be able to look and listen in on Jesus as He communes with His Father just prior to His arrest and crucifixion. His eyes to heaven, He prays for all who have believed and received His truth, who know Jesus and have eternal life. We are privy to what is true about us, what He deems most important, and what will be our future. He specifically asks that God keep us in His name, that we be one– unified under His banner. As He has guarded and kept us, so will the Father, that His joy be fulfilled in us. We have His word in the world, and though we are hated because we are not of the world, we are kept by Him from the evil one, and sanctified by His truth. Guarded, unified, full of joy, equipped, preserved, sanctified– what security, what glad hope this should give!

Above the clouds, CO rocks

Kept. To remain or cause to remain in a given place; to protect; to continue to have in possession or power; to be faithful to; to prevent from leaving; to take care of. And kept in His name, the name above all names, the name that is a strong tower where we can run and be safe. Being kept in His name identifies us as His forever, seals us as His children, and guarantees that His plans for us will be completed, His prayers fulfilled. We are kept by His pledge, kept by His power. (Proverbs 18:10; Philippians 1:6;2:9)

When circumstances roil and the unexpected comes like a torrent of disruption, when I find myself uncomfortable among the world’s godless minions, when I face the unknown  and unsettled, I can know I am kept by my Lord, in His strong and eternal name, and need not be shaken. I am kept there so I can better know Him and be made more like Him, so I can grow closer to His people and increase in joy. This is the place where I want to be planted and live with abandon.

Father, thank You for guarding me to this day, and for Your promise to keep on keeping me in Your name. Please fix my eyes on heaven as I live in this world, bearing Your name and truth, to Your glorious ends.

Ruffled Feathers

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable.” “ Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.” John 16:33; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19

This morning, someone told me of a decision made that I had so hoped would go the other way, and I found my feathers ruffled. I thought I had given the situation over to my Lord, entrusted Him to have His way as this person deliberated, but realized in my reaction that I had not fully yielded. It seems the relentless tendency of our flesh to take up the reins for what is not ours to guide. In my mind I know not only am I commanded against this, but God promises better plans than I, and He completes His work without my help. Still, my weak will gives sway to my emotions, my selfish wants, impatience, and determination for the plans I think are best. (And I have such good reasons!) (Proverbs 3:5-6; Jeremiah 29:11; Philippians 1:6)

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God alone does the best and perfect work according to His good and beneficial pleasure, and He calls me to higher ground by giving me these challenges of the heart. I realize the ruffling is my own doing, when I choose to walk into the turbulence of unmet expectations or hopes, mess in actions and decisions that arouse anxiety but aren’t mine to tend. When I instead face into the wind of His Spirit, He soothes and smooths the feathers of my heart. Looking to Him with my fears and deepest desires, I allow Him to calm me and enable me to capture His vision for what will be. My restless heart anchors its hope in Him, and comes to rest. Will I turn my back on what ruffles to face my Lord with holy resolve, and trust him? It is not wrong to have the right desire, to hope and pray for maturity in character and spirit, for wisdom that supplants emotion, but it is wrong to be anxious and upset when God doesn’t do things the way I want.

Lord, help me to trust You implicitly and completely, with all my cares, and every righteous hope and desire. At every doubt that nibbles at my confidence in You, may I turn to you to refocus. Let me not get stirred up by concern for what may never be, and instead choose to trust you for Who you will always be. Smooth my ruffled feathers of anxiety, restlessness, and impatience, to rest peacefully in You.

The Strangle of Discord

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans,  feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” Proverbs 6:16-19

Reading this numbered list of what the Lord most despises emphasizes our actions that most tarnish his glory and hurt others. Pride, lying, murder, wicked violence all make sense; we would probably write the same. But He ranks up there with these universally repulsive crimes that of sowing discord among brothers. Ouch. Some sins are easier to dismiss because they are committed “by others,” but this one is wily, insidious, and sadly, prevalent in our homes and churches like a contagious disease.

How do we sow discord? “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.” “A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech, winks with his eyes, signals with his feet, points with his finger, with perverted heart devises evil, continually sowing discord.” A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.” Discord begins in our hearts, where insecurity and selfish passions of pride, jealousy, anger, and malice agitate our emotions into words we should restrain. Our sense of superiority, or need to be esteemed, or bitterness over past hurts, or disdain of others, or cattiness at their choices or lifestyles or beliefs, are poisons that taint our attitude and will, rendering us vulnerable to an ugly heart and loose tongue. The less restrained we become, the greater our hardness against others, the more negative our perspective, the more caustic our talk that seeps out in criticisms, mentions of what might be true, suggestions of injustice, judging of motives. Eventually, our habit of internal conflict swells into waves of discord among family members, neighbors, even friends. (James 4:1,11; Proverbs 6:12-14; 16:28) 

McKinney Falls knotted tree roots

How do we break free of this ensnaring and destructive habit? Paul taught the Ephesians what we can begin to practice by the Spirit’s power. “Put off your old self, which is corrupt through deceitful desires, and… be renewed in the spirit of your minds. Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Put away falsehood, speak the truth with [your] neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; and give no opportunity to the devil. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, but instead let there be thanksgiving. It is shameful even to speak of the things that [others] do in secret. Be filled with the Spirit.It is a high and doable calling to work to reverse and heal discord and replace it with blessing. Our efforts benefit the Body and honor our Lord. (Ephesians 4:22-27,31-32; 5:4,12,18)

Father, let me never weary of doing good, even against the tide of discord in this world. May all I do be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:14; Galatians 6:9)