The Folly of Pride

“Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it, or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it? As if a rod should wield him who lifts it, or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood!” Isaiah 10:15

How easy it is to slip words into conversation that make us feel big, important, even superior. It might be subconscious, or unintentional, but still betrays a sense that we have earned, achieved, or experienced something that adds to our value, that we deserve to be esteemed or elevated because of it. Who are we trying to impress?

“What do you have that you did not receive? A person cannot receive even one thing unless it was given him from heaven.” 1 Corinthians 4:7; John 3:27

“Thus says the LORD, ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,’ declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 9:23-24

Cornwall, England, wired cross on church

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,                                                                                             Save in the death of Christ, my God;                                                                                                 All the vain things that charm me most–                                                                                          I sacrifice them to His blood.”                                                                                                       Isaac Watts (1674-1748)  

O LORD, may my words and actions, even motivations, boast only in You (2 Corinthians 1:31; 10:17).   

 

Hail the King!

Isaiah 9 prophesies Jesus’s birth and reign: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be on his shoulders, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end.” Combatted daily with turmoil, threats, and aggression, as world leaders connive and compare, make alliances and break treaties, act from distinct motivations fueled by distinct beliefs, experiences, forms of government, and pride, all can seem tenuous and uncertain. Instability, “breaking news,” fluctuating markets, ruthless persecution shake our confidence and sense of security.

But our Mighty God, our Prince of Peace, reigns! Our King is wonderful, upright, everlasting, and able! His throne is unshakeable. His rule is peace, and as a child of His kingdom, I have peace. While we live in this world, we are citizens of another kingdom, whose “throne is established and upheld with justice and righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.”

Thunderhead at sunset

“Christ’s reign from all eternity is the perspective from which all history is to be viewed.” Alistair Begg

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. The LORD , the Most High, is a great king over all the earth. God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.” Psalm 46:10; 47:2,8

Hail, my King!

“So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall never,
Like earth’s proud empires, pass away:
Thy kingdom stands, and grows forever,
Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.”                                                                                            John Ellerton (1870)

Parched or Quenched?

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters…Why do you labor for what does not satisfy?” Isaiah 55:1,2

In Isaiah 8, the LORD renders judgment. “Because this people have refused the waters of Shiloh that flow gently….therefore behold, the Lord is bringing against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks, and it will sweep on to Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to its neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land.”

What makes us refuse living water and choose the world’s drink, promised satisfaction that leaves us parched, wanting, ofttimes poisoned? We think we know better. We think we don’t have time for gently-flowing waters. We think it’s better to be busy, when really we are choosing to be frenzied, to expend effort on inferior, fruitless things that end up choking our lives and drowning our purpose. Or, we don’t think at all.

McKinney Falls creek

“The Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of living water.” Revelation 7:17

Lord, may I drink long draughts of the living water that You give so it will become in me a spring of water welling to eternal life, and I may never thirst again. (John 4:14)

Shouldering or casting?

No matter what the weight, the longer we carry something, the heavier it seems, and the more difficult the task.

“Cast your burden on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22)

Throughout this psalm, David pours out his burden- the noise of the enemy, oppression of the wicked, trouble, anger, grudges against him, fear of death, hurt of betrayal, taunts, strife–“the raging wind and tempest” of his life–in complaint and plea for mercy. And there he rests. “I will trust in you.”

“There is none like God…who rides the heavens to your help. The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:26,27

Cloud arms encircling, God holds the world 1

“Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God….casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7

Good Father, trustworthy and strong, this day I transfer my cares from my shoulders to  You. All of them. I cast, You carry. You hear, You receive, You answer, You contend with those who contend with me (Isaiah 49:25), and You will never permit me to be moved. Hallelujah.

                                      “The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,                                                                            I will not, I will not desert to his foes;                                                                                           That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,                                                                    I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”                                                                                 Unknown, probably 18th century

 

 

 

 

Kissed

Why would God raise the sun day after day, and paint the sky like this? Because He loves us, because He is glorious, kind, covenant-keeping, generous, faithful, and good. The earliest light reflects on the tops of the clotty clouds, like kisses on the head from our Creator. Oh, such love!

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Fear not, let not your hands grow weak. The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:16-17

Lord on high, as the recipient of Your amazing love this day, may I honor You by my words and actions. May I pass along the kisses of affection and favor You lavish on me to those in need.

The Shadow of Your Wings

The week prior to Hurricane Irma was heavy with changing forecasts, premonitions, warnings, planning, preparing. Beautiful fresh days betrayed the monster lady who would ravage Puerto Rico and the southernmost part of our state; an irrepressible tension still hung in the air. On my way home one afternoon to finish my checklist, the Lord of raging winds lifted my eyes to behold His wings in the sky, our shelter from the storm.

“He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you will find refuge.” Psalm 91:4

He shelters me, cloud wing covering 9-17

“Be merciful to me, O God, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge. Your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.” Psalm 57:1,10

“Hide me in the shadow of your wings.” Psalm 17:8

There is no safer place than to be covered by Jesus–under His blood, His mercy, His protection, the banner of His love. Under His wings.

O Lord, You have been a shelter from the storm. You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I will sing for joy. (Isaiah 25:4; Psalm 63:7)

From What to Who

“And now, O LORD, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.” Psalm 39:7

At the wind-tossed beach and chopped grey sea last evening, watching a rainbow later rise in a threatening eastern sky, gazing with delighted awe at sunrise this morning, I ponder the ‘whats’– the longings in relationships, self-improvements, purposefulness. God’s beautiful, always-relevant word turns me to the Who, the only true, trustworthy, and satisfying object of hope.

Sunrise w strom clouds

“Be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.'” Hebrews 13:5

O Father, bring me to the psalmist’s place of certain hope and right perspective, from ‘what’ to ‘Who.’ “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth I desire but you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:25-26)

Savoring the (Subtle) Seasons

My husband’s grandmother used to call Florida “samey,” and after a short stint here moved back to the vibrant seasons of North Carolina. But now that we are full time residents here, we marvel at the subtle changes that indicate the turn of seasons.

As a dry, clear winter turns through spring, clouds appear, making for dramatic dawn and sunset skies, and offer some shade, even if not yet rain, during the days.

Dawn over Tampa Bay, AprilDawn in springSunset April

Gardenias and hibiscus are in magnificent bloom, and certain palms and trees boast prolific fruit and flowers not seen nine months of the year. Sand dollars babies cover the bottom of the sea.“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

I think of my new season of age, stage, and place. The weather of circumstances and location has brought subtle changes to routine and daily priorities. The ‘Potentate of Time,’ Master of all seasons, calls me to display His attributes, to bear fresh fruit in the present. (John 15:16)

“Arise, my love, my beautiful one…for behold the winter is past. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree ripens its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance.” Song of Solomon 2:10-13

Lord, through every season may I savor the subtle ways You work, and bear much fruit and song and fragrance, to Your glory.

Whose to Choose?

Back in our home town of thirty years, spring is lush, abloom, and dinner with dear friends a feast. I read in Leviticus 18, “You shall not do as they do in Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. If a person does them, he shall live by them. I am the LORD your God.” 

I hear God say, “You are not to be identified by your place, where you lived, nor where you are now living, but by Me. You are not to be ‘like’ either people, but ‘like Me.’

This reminds me of Joshua, approaching Jericho and asking the man with drawn sword before him, “‘Are you for us or for our adversaries?’ And he said, ‘No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, ‘What does my lord say to his servant?’ And the commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.'” (Joshua 5:13-15)

SIngapore church, open window

My identity, my call, is to be my Redeemer’s, and while He places me in a new community and culture, He is the One I am to be marked by, the One I am to reflect. O Lord, thank You for this!

Following Jesus requires inverted thinking, taking on a heavenly, eternal, other-worldly  perspective. When presented with different human viewpoints, we need to seek God’s.

Lord, when I am tangled in choosing this or that, cause me to look up and choose Thee.

Tassels, Frontlets, and Obedience

Numbers 15 commands, “Make tassels on the corners of their garments…and put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after. So you shall remember and do all of my commandments, and be holy to your God.”

In Deuteronomy 6, Moses also commands, “These words that I command you today shall be on your hearts. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them on your hand, and they shall be frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Patmos, John's cave of exile

Not only is the Lord clear in His instructions to us in His word, He is generous in His reminding us to recall them, absorb them, and obey. Tying a red string around our index finger was His idea! Where and how am I establishing these remembrances? How easy it is to read, then rise and ‘follow after my own heart and eyes.’ When I’m steeped in His word, I learn to think, love, and live differently. “Blessed in the man who…delights in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1,2).

Your Spirit reminds and teaches me (John 14:26; 16:13); Your word, dwelling in me richly, lights my path (Colossians 3:16; Psalm 119:105). Thank You for the tassels and frontlets you give that remind me what You say, and to heed.