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Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

I Peter 1:3-9: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”

The bold type I added to point out that the best reason to rejoice is contained in this passage. For those of you who believe in and follow Christ as your Savior and Lord, your faith brings with it an assurance of being one day in heaven in the presence of God. A joy inexpressible is one that wells up despite the circumstances and beyond ability to explain. It is full of the glory we see in Christ, both for who He is and what He has done.

Paul gets a bit redundant when he is talking about the security of our home in heaven. He says our inheritance is imperishable, will not fade away, reserved, protected by the power of God. “In this” refers to what? The “this” is the soon to be revealed inheritance of heaven, most notably the presence of God. For though we do not see Him now, we are among the “pure in heart”, who “shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) By no merit of my own, but only by His free, sovereign grace am I afforded in heaven a place.

Heaven is mine, I will rejoice
To thanksgiving and praise give voice

Believe the truth and love God’s Son
Salvation eternally done

Focus my mind on things above
Nurture, rekindle my first love

And when trials come, I will rejoice
For heaven is mine by His choice

Persevere will I by His strength
And rejoice in heaven at length

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Pastor continued his exposition of Philippians today. He explained with references that the dual themes of the book are joy and humility. Paul presents himself as a bondservant, equal to Timothy, and the Philippians as saints, that is, sanctified slaves. The scriptural bondservant or slave is not a compelled or degraded slave of our understanding, but a voluntary servant to a great and glorious master who makes us kings and priests.

I heard the whole sermon, but I had a moment of mental wondering when he said the following: “I am content to be a third-row galley slave pushing the kingdom of God forward. I am not the captain of the ship.”

My mind went immediately to the scene in the movie, “Ben Hur”, in which Judah Ben-Hur (Charleton Heston) is being punished unjustly by being a Roman galley slave. The general admires him and has his chains undone before the battle begins. Judah in his mid-ship starboard placement rows defiantly with anger. Later, when the ship is sunk by a portside ramming, he rescues the drowning but victorious general to be adopted as his son and victorious companion in the parade before the emperor in Rome.

All of this flashed through my mind but is not where my focus alighted. The pastor was talking about humility that is not recognized, not angry pride that is rewarded. I visualized a third-row port-side galley slave rowing for all he is worth going down with the ship. Am I willing to stay in my voluntary bonds to further the kingdom of God when this ship called America goes down? Oh, yes, I will receive reward in heaven, but I may never see any praise or reward or even the results of my efforts on this side of heaven. One day soon persecution is coming and the cause of Christ will be a punishable crime, even a capital offense. How many will stay at their post and keep rowing then? Who among us will continue “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”? (Hebrews 12:2) And who among us will “consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (v.3)? Will we be able to continue to the point of shedding blood though we “have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin.”? (v.4) God is so very gracious to call his bondservants to do hard things but with abundant reward with joy now and into eternity. “Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) Let us focus on these things, brothers and sisters. Unbelievers seek this path of salvation, purpose, and reward “while it is said, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me.”” (Hebrews 3:15) Repent, believe, and serve our great and glorious Master, Jesus Christ.

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I have over the years used and shared a metaphor for God’s dealing with me and directing me. For many years I traveled a curvy, steep, two-lane road over the mountains to get to healthcare and hiking and climbing destinations. I have traveled it alone, with my family, with my wife, or with friends in all conditions: snow, blazing heat, intense storm, beautiful Autumn days, full bloom of Spring, wildlife crossing the road, semi’s and cars and motorcycles (1) wrecked, and fog.

This metaphor, I believe, first began to form in my mind when talking to my former landlord about traveling this stretch of pavement. He was a telephone lineman for many years until his retirement. He once told me that he had seen fog so thick on that stretch of road that he actually walked beside his truck with hand on the steering wheel looking down to see the white stripes on the pavement in order to make progress. He was not given to exaggeration or metaphor, but regardless, the image in my mind directed me toward how I would feel many times subsequent in the midst of trying to move from one point to another in my life. As the old hymn says, “God Leads His Dear Children Along” (2), sometimes in the clear blue, sometimes in the dark, and sometimes through deep fog. He makes use of the conditions of our circumstances He has allowed or created for His glory and our good. More specifically, He may be about encouraging our souls in the crisp, new morning or slowing us down to follow closely in the fog. We may only be able to see one dashed line ahead of us on our life’s road, which causes us to pay attention and pray constantly. I have felt as though He has closed in the fog so near at times that I could only see the next step in front of me, and that light only a moment before I took the step. Perhaps He knew I would run ahead and miss the path if given more light, or perhaps He was training me to follow closely, trusting only Him.

As I have shared and contemplated this metaphor, one little detail has not satisfied me. It seems to be a mixed metaphor with vehicle and dashed lines on the one hand and footsteps and path on the other. I may tell someone the fog on the mountain story only to finish with the footsteps along the path. Musing on this discrepancy a few days ago, a more pointed application illumined my understanding. Sometimes I may go at a pace of a car in the fog and others I must pick each step one at a time, not knowing what precipice I may be traversing (3). God chooses the pace by the depth and duration of the fog and roughness of the path. The weather is not the point; following patiently and circumspectly without either running ahead or falling behind is. I long for some clear days, but I cherish the quiet intimacy of the fog.

  1. Not having gained the fame of “The Dragon”, it is nonetheless a draw for motorcyclists who like the challenge of the curvy highlighted by exceptional scenery: NC181.
  2. Colored, underlined script are links, in case you didn’t know. I am reminding myself as I tell you that I should write a blog entry about the circumstances in which I learned and sang that hymn over the years. God is good to direct.
  3. Having read the Chronicles of Narnia to my granddaughter recently, this idea reminds me of the scene when Lucy had seen Aslan in the woods near the precipice’s edge, pleading with his eyes to follow her. Her siblings, save Edmund, and the dwarf voted her down. When their choice failed, Aslan graciously appeared again, and they followed through the dark down a narrow path between cliffs to its base. At the bottom when the sun arose and the fog cleared, one of the siblings, I believe it may have been Edmund, remarked how amazing it was they navigated safely down the path. But, of course, they did, Aslan was leading.

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David (e.g. Psalm 144:1) and several of the prophets (e.g. Isaiah 1:4) and patriarchs (e.g. Genesis 22:14), even Hagar (Genesis 16:13), gave names to God for who He is and what He had done for them. I don’t know if it is appropriate for me to do that since I am not a Spirit-inspired writer of Scripture, the canon being complete.

I have been contemplating recently how God should be Lord of every area of my life, the public and private, the work and leisure, the thoughts and actions, all of it. It is so easy to then proceed in mind to all the things I have to be and do. But I am wholly incapable of the big and the small, the short and long term, the internal or external. I need Him for it all. He must be my all in all. To me He is Lord Ubiquitous. He is not merely omnipresent, but present and enabling in every area of my life according to His desire and for His glory. His power to do right is present in every challenge, temptation, joy, provision, even failure, and certainly forgiveness. As a Spirit-indwelt son of My Father I only need to obey, looking to Him in each situation. Oh Lord, keep me from neglect and rebellion of You. Enable me to trust rather than fear.

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We don’t think of heaven enough; we are too earthly bound. We cannot imagine the glories there; we look through a glass dimly. What will be our focus, what our glory there? I was listening to several hymns on the YouTube channel A Cappella Hymns. The simple, unadorned polyphony of voices helps me to focus on the words and learn the melody and parts. Arriving at the last verse of the hymn, “The Sands of Time”, I thought, “Yes, that is what I will do there.” I won’t be glancing around at lesser glories and gifts, but upon my glorious Redeemer. Then, because of His grace through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and finished work of salvation, the phrase will be secured, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) The metaphor in the song is biblical and applied well:

“The bride eyes not her garment,
but her dear bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory,
but on my King of grace;
not at the crown he giveth,
but on his piercèd hand:
the Lamb is all the glory
of Emmanuel’s land.”

And it reminds me of a similar thought in the hymn, “Oh, That Will Be Glory”:

“When by the gift of His infinite grace,
I am accorded in heaven a place,
Just to be there and to look on His face
Will through the ages be glory for me.”

Mind you, infinite, all sufficient, sovereign, free grace is all that you or I need to enter heaven. The preacher I heard this morning pointed out that free grace is a tautology, a repetition of ideas, since grace, unmerited favor, could be no other than free, that is unearned. But then to say grace is sovereign, meaning that God has made the free, uninfluenced choice is yet another shade of the same thing. It seems man’s mind hunts for ways to contaminate the simple teaching of Scripture and we must add modifiers to limit and clarify terms to the exact meaning within Scripture. And so with infinite and all-sufficient, the same idea is emphasized in slightly different ways. Infinite speaks to my heart of the never ending nature of grace and all-sufficient pronounces all my sin and shortcomings fully covered by grace.

A mere place in heaven, “a cabin in the corner of gloryland” would be glory, but trivial compared to looking upon His face. And”That will be glory, be glory for me!”

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The first answer that I received was, “You should pray without ceasing.” (from I Thessalonians 5:17) Yes, we should, but I am not there, though under the Holy Spirit’s tutelage, I do pray far more now than in years past. But really, under what circumstances do you pray? Frequently, we pray when we are hurting, confused, afraid, sad, or lonely. Do you pray when you are angry, happy, dull of mind and spirit, or thankful?

Listen to Jeremiah’s prayer: “O Lord, You have deceived me and I was deceived; You have overcome me and prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; Everyone mocks me.
For each time I speak, I cry aloud; I proclaim violence and destruction, because for me the word of the Lord has resulted in reproach and derision all day long. But if I say, “I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name, ”Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it. For I have heard the whispering of many, “Terror on every side! Denounce him; yes, let us denounce him!” All my trusted friends,
watching for my fall, say: “Perhaps he will be deceived, so that we may prevail against him and take our revenge on him.” But the Lord is with me like a dread champion; therefore my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will be utterly ashamed, because they have failed, with an everlasting disgrace that will not be forgotten. Yet, O Lord of hosts, You who test the righteous, who see the mind and the heart; let me see Your vengeance on them; for to You I have set forth my cause. Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord! For He has delivered the soul of the needy one from the hand of evildoers.” (Jeremiah 20:7-13)

Jeremiah is clearly upset, dare I say angry, with God. He doesn’t say God has lied, but he does say He has deceived him. He is angry about the mocking, threats, subterfuge, and potential harm coming his way because he is obeying God. And unlike me on occasions, Jeremiah is not mistaken in his following of God. God clearly told him what to say and do. And he can’t even hold in the words given to him by God because they are “like a fire” (v.9) within. So, Jeremiah pours out his complaint before God. But this is not like the complaining of Israel in the wilderness, because that whining involved unbelief (Hebrew 3:7-19).

And that is the turning point of this prayer- belief- when Jeremiah says, “But the Lord…” (v.11). The simile he uses feels deep and substantial, like the tune (1) most used for “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.” God is “like a dread champion.” Despite our present society’s aversion to war (2), our God is a Warrior, and of the most fear inducing kind for His enemies. Jeremiah knows His Champion defends him, as He is “with me” (v.11), and they will fail at their scheming and threats. Even with this knowledge, in his pain, Jeremiah longs to personally, presently see their judgment, not merely in the afterlife. As he struggles his faith comes to the fore and he praises God for his deliverance. He transitions from accusation to appreciation and anger to approval. Prayer accomplishes much in the heart of the one praying.

This is not the end of his struggle in the prayer, however. I did not quote the whole of the prayer above. In verses 14-18 he curses the day that he was born in a very similar but abbreviated way as Job did in the midst of his suffering (Job 3). Jeremiah ends his curse with, “Why did I ever come forth from the womb to look on trouble and sorrow, so that my days have been spent in shame?” (v.18). Shame is Jeremiah’s focus. I wonder if shame is more taxing and bothersome to us than suffering?

Oh, what is all of this complaining about? Does it show fragility of faith, or is it warranted and acceptable to God? God says, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.” (Psalm 50:15) And “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; be gracious to me and hear my prayer.” (Psalm 4:1) “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:6-7) (3) God wants us to call on Him in our joys and distresses. The other day, while trying to finish a deck before I was to leave town for five weeks, I did not see how it would all get done. I called out in my distress, “God, why does it always have to be so hard?” I didn’t get an answer to the question just then (4), but I did get an answer to my real need. It was a very long day, but my wife observed as we dropped into bed that night, “It is amazing how much you got done today.” It wasn’t just my hard work, though that was involved, but things went smoothly that frequently will not. God is good and He patiently hears our cries.

Indeed, Jeremiah’s prayer reminds me of many of the Psalms in which David bemoans his plight and despairs the outcome, but comes around to seeing what God has, is, or will do. Or consider Psalm 73 where the psalmist bemoans the wicked: “Behold, these are the wicked; and always at ease…” (v.12) But then he says, “When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God; thenI perceived their end.” (v.16-17) Mysteriously, God uses our prayers to forward His purposes. God is all knowing, but somehow prayer can bring about change. Moses experienced it multiple times (e.g. Exodus 32:7-14, Numbers 11:2).

When you don’t feel like praying, pray more. Boldly pour out your complaint and confusion before Him, knowing that He cares and is pleased that you have turned to Him with your troubles.

  1. Tune: Ebenezer
  2. Not that anyone with reason or an ounce of the goodness of God in them loves war
  3. Also see 2 Kings 1, Psalm 102, Psalm 142
  4. A couple of days later I heard the Casting Crowns song, “Voice of Truth”, and I thought, “His purposes and glory were served and need was accomplished.

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“Low in the grave He lay
Jesus my Savior!
Waiting the coming day
Jesus my Lord!

Death cannot keep his prey
Jesus, my Savior!
He tore the bars away
Jesus my Lord!

Vainly they watch His bed
Jesus, my Savior!
Vainly they seal the dead
Jesus my Lord!” (1)

What was He doing? He had suffered but was now at rest, but He was not idle. The Bible says, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.” (Now this expression, “H e ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)” Ephesians 4:7-10 “made alive in the spirit, in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark” I Peter 3:18-19 I don’t fully know what this means, that He “led captive” and “made proclamation”, but it certainly did and will bring glory to Him for His power over death and grace toward sinful man. The next verse may or may not relate to this scene in The Grave where He descended. It may mean that they had the Gospel preached to them during their lifetime, but it may also mean they were preached to in The Grave. “For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.” I Peter 4:6

Back on the top side, “Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.” Matthew 27:65-66 But it was in vain, for He arose, the stone was rolled back, and the guards were as dead, fully fainted away. Death could not hold its prey, nor could the government seal and secure His grave, nor could the religious leaders lie Him out of existence and influence, nor could the crowd crying, “Crucify, crucify Him!” thwart His purpose to rescue His people. The mystery of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection, how God died, how sinners were rescued, the timing, the scope, the suffering, and the victory were a mystery to all, even prophets and angels:

“It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.” I Peter 1:12

His victory was not merely His and our joy, but our assurance and proof to anyone willing to look that He is who He says He is and accomplished what He says He accomplished.

“Up from the grave He arose
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes
He arose a Victor from the dark domain
And He lives forever with His saints to reign
He arose! (He arose)
He arose! (He arose)
Hallelujah! Christ arose!” (1)

  1. Hymn by Robert Lowry, 1874

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In Sunday School we have been studying Romans chapter 6. Some weeks we don’t even get through one verse. We were looking at verse 13: “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” The word translated “instruments” is frequently translated “weapons”, so Paul is using a metaphor that has the parts of your body likened to weapons of warfare. One of the drills in military procedures, particularly since the inception of the firearm, is “Present arms!”. The soldier is displaying his weapon for inspection, drill, and show of allegiance. Also, there is a significant parallelism here, and I find it easier to see if I diagram it. My pastor pointed out that presentation of your members to God is not doing good deeds, which leads to a self-righteous moralism, as opposed to sinning. Rather, we present our members to God, which means sin is everything that is not God and counter to Him. This verse is very practical when it comes to growing in sanctification. This idea is why we must put on the armor of God described in Ephesians 6:10ff. We are at war with the world, the flesh, and the devil, but “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).

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I only visit with my brother about once or twice a year. He is kind to let my wife and I stay in his house when we come to town for family functions. It was Thanksgiving week and we sat reading in the living room, and my daily reading was Psalm 116. When I read verse 13, “I shall lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord,” I mused that I did not know what the psalmist was referring to. Up to this point in the psalm there is not the least context hint of what the psalmist is doing or where he is. The rest of the psalm does give hints but could be taken several ways. So, I asked my brother if the cup of salvation was a celebratory cup at a feast or a cup of oblation before the altar. He whipped out his laptop and went commentary hunting on his Bible software. A number of commentators offered both possibilities as explanation, but there began to be a weight of evidence from the cross-references to other Scripture passages that leaned heavily toward cup of oblation. Scripture is always the best way to interpret Scripture, because it never contradicts and always tells the truth. Psalm 16:4-5 says, “

“The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied;
I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood, nor will I take their names upon my lips.

The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.”

David gives hint at two types of cup here, both the drink offering of idols he will not sacrifice and the cup of abundant supply he has been allotted by God. A quick survey of the uses of cup throughout the Bible reveals that cup is a symbol for God’s provision. The majority of its uses are for the provision of wrath and judgement for the wicked. Other uses include drink offerings of idols, abundant provision of health and supplies for living, and soul salvation.

In Leviticus 17:11 it says, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” Here God is explaining why the blood is drained out of a sacrifice and why He commands that blood be drained out of a slaughtered animal before cooking and eating it. The priest would lift up the cup of blood collected from the sacrificed animal, sprinkle some of it on the sacrifice on the altar, and pour most of it at the base of the altar. (ex. Leviticus 4:7,18,25; 5:9) Some small amounts were used for various ceremonies of sanctifying (setting apart) by sprinkling or rubbing some the blood on the the person or object (ex. Leviticus 1:5, 9:12, 14:14, 16:14). This cup of blood is very significant to the understanding of the sacrifice and its symbolic nature. God clearly explains why a sacrifice is accepted in place of the death of the sinner: “to make atonement for your souls” (v.11). God is accepting a life sacrifice in place of the life of a guilty sinner.

But, “Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation.” (Hebrew 9:9-10) Old Testament sacrifices were temporary “sweeping sins under the carpet” as it were. A better sacrifice was needed.

David mentions the context of the cup. He is fulfilling a vow in a certain place and way, in the temple:

“in the presence of all His people,
In the courts of the Lord’s house,
In the midst of you, O Jerusalem.” (Psalm 119:18-19)

It seems that His vow is to publicly thank and worship God as David raises the “cup of salvation”, the blood to be sprinkled by the priest on the offering.

And this cup of salvation has its fulfillment in Christ, who “not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”(Hebrews 9:12) The blood of Christ is an abundant supply that satisfies the wrath of God for everyone who believes. At the Passover meal, the Last Supper, Jesus “took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” Jesus raised the cup of salvation which He explains symbolizes His blood.

Our worship is a raising of the cup of salvation in thanksgiving for what He has accomplished. David raised it before the fact. Jesus raised it just before the fact, then raised it by His own sacrifice. We raise it in memoriam of what Christ did for us.

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I process my greatest joys and deepest trials and conflicts by writing. I don’t always communicate those on my blog, but here goes.

I was reading as the young couple entered the doctor’s office. Both tall and slender, dressed in black and gray, he walked with a bit of a swagger. I glanced up from my reading and offered for one of them to take a seat as I cleared my personal effects from the chair beside me, mumbling an apology for all my stuff. She bade him to sit down, which he did and turned to me and said, “Hi brother, my name is …”, extending his hand. I returned in kind and we began talking about his first visit to the office. I made a comment about his girlfriend’s (as it turned out) accent, to which he rejoined that she is a citizen of Kazakhstan, later showing me her passport with the Cyrillic lettering. We discussed her native Russian language, homeland, Tartar heritage, and travels.

In the course of the conversation I offered for him to read the first sentence of the book I was reading, published in 1833 but written in 1562, with the warning that the one sentence goes on for a page and a half. Seeing that the sentence was an introduction and authorization by counselors of Queen Elizabeth I under her authority to read the following sermons in the churches in the absence of a proper sermon, it precipitated a spiritual conversation. He commented that he took his girlfriend to church recently, seeming to imply that she had not been before as she thought it was curious. I asked him if he was a believer in Jesus to which he replied yes, and continued by describing his church attendance and regular reading of God’s Word. Now his girlfriend got involved in the conversation. As that progressed she ascertained me that she has a relationship with God. Pressed as to what kind, it quickly became evident that she thought herself god and communed with God and that any sincere belief in God was a path to God. I quoted John 14:6, which says, “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except by Me.'” She rebutted that it was a very exclusive claim. “Yes, it is,” I replied. There were many more rejoinders, so I am giving the essence, most intense parts, and highlights only. “So, then you are saying that a Muslim (remember that she is from Kazakhstan) who has never heard of Jesus is doomed to hell.” I replied that many churches are springing up in Muslim and tribal and isolated places all over the world. “You are saying that I am going to hell.” I explained that is what the Bible is saying, for anyone who does not trust Jesus. Jesus is claiming to be the only way to God. “That is a very arrogant statement,” she said, looking me straight in the face. I replied, “I would agree with you if it were just me saying it, but that is what Jesus is saying. I am only the messenger.” She continued with the skeptic’s angle, saying that anyone could know that their way was right, and that there were many ways to God. I rejoined with evidence of the resurrection. “People don’t just rise from the dead.” The boyfriend ended the conversation by interjecting a possible way out, that Jesus was only referring to His immediate audience. I tried to reply with Scripture, but they both lost interest and the moment was ended. He and I trailed off into polite conversation about our mutual love of nature and exchanged contact information for a possible hike together in the future.

Had not several of the workers in the office been close by to hear most of the conversation, it might have ended with that. But I had seen the receptionist glare at me several times during the conversation and leave quite quickly as the conversation died down. In a few minutes the doctor called me aside, instructing me to not ever talk about religion or politics in his office again. What amazed me most was his previous claim that he is a Christian.* The conversation had not been loud, and though we vehemently disagreed, it did not end in ugly words. Had the doctor asked me to be careful about overheard conversations or to take care in how I talk to the people I meet in his office, I could have understood, but for him, claiming to be a Christian, to require me to not talk about God because it would upset some people who were there for healing was shocking to me. Have we become Christians in name only, fearing and revolting at the possibility of confronting people with the truth? He was trying to be forceful to get me to agree to not talk about these subjects. I was just replying “OK”, intending only to acknowledge his words. I may need to go back and clarify that I can not agree to not sharing Christ if the subject should come up. I wish that at that moment I had remembered the reply Peter and John had given to the rulers and elders: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20)

Several hours later I was assisting my wife and saw the young woman sitting in a nearby therapy chair. She smiled at me and gave what appeared to be a bit of a wave. I smiled back. After I had helped my wife, I went over and spoke to her, both of us agreeing that we enjoyed meeting each other. She gave no sign of awkwardness or disapproval. Given her total rejection of our discussion about salvation earlier, at least outwardly, I wondered who the conversation had been for: her, her boyfriend, the receptionist, the nurse, the patient assistant, or all of the above.

*I had a friend read this article before I published it, asking if I was out of line or missed something. He cautioned that I needed to see the situation from the doctor’s point of view. Perhaps he had a bad day, or maybe he just wanted to calm his employee who had just complained to him. I then realized that he had gotten the conversation secondhand and not accurately at that.

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When the pastor preached from 1 Samuel 1 yesterday morning, I was particularly struck by Hannah’s response to Eli, the High Priest: “Then Eli said to her, “How long will you make yourself drunk? Put away your wine from you.” But Hannah replied, “No, my lord, I am a woman oppressed in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the Lord. Do not consider your maidservant as a worthless woman, for I have spoken until now out of my great concern and provocation.”” (I Samuel 1:14-16) She uses drinking wine as a metaphor for how she is presenting her request to God. As I contemplated this turn of words, I considered how we so often get it backwards.

We pour comfort into ourselves that results in pain when we should pour out our pain before God that results in comfort from Him.

The comforts we seek are drink, drugs, food, sex, attention, things, excitement, accomplishments, money, relationships. Some are bad in and of themselves, but others are not inherently bad, but we sour them by our selfish pursuit of them. Instead, you should be “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7) And “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) As the pastor pointed out, what we need most is God. He is our source of peace, even when there is no resolution of the problem, not our comfort food or drink, not a psych evaluation.

The result in Hannah was as follows: “So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.” (I Samuel 1:18) Did she just pretend that she was not distraught? Did her troubles vanish in a moment? No, her faith in God that caused her to pour out her spirit to God, had resulted in the comfort from God. She did not even know at that moment if God would answer her request for a child in the affirmative, but she trusted God to do what was best. As pastor pointed out, she was a type for Mary, who had a strange and stressful pregnancy and birth, but trusted God through it all. And when she visited her cousin Elizabeth in Luke chapter 1, Mary quotes or alludes to much of what Hannah prayed in praise to God in 1 Samuel 2, both speaking boldly of God’s salvation.

In my times of stress and strain, I need to pour out my spirit to God concerning my troubles and trials. As Corrie Ten Boom said at the end of the “Hiding Place” that she and Betsy learned from concentration camp to tell others, “However deep our suffering, God is deeper.”

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While the Papists and Heathen celebrate All Hallows Eve, many believers across the world remember Reformation Day when a struggling monk was seeking the truth and setoff a firestorm of changed hearts and minds.

We must all as believers relive times of revival and reformation, for as the nailing of the Ninety-five Theses to the Wittenberg Church door was only a beginning, so our day of salvation and moments of rededication are only beginnings. It is usually at this moment that we quote II Chronicles 7:14 about the the people of God humbling themselves and calling on God’s name or Hosea 6:1 in which we are admonished to return to God. These are worthy of deepest consideration, as we are so often self-deceived about the depth of our walk before God.

But today I call to your attention the words of Daniel 9:3-5: “So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances.” The church in America and our church specifically has seen a period of barrenness and declension in numbers and depth of spiritual life. We need revival. We need restoration. We need reformation.

It is appropriate that we should sing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” by Martin Luther on this day. Not only is it appropriate to remember the work of God through a humble monk, but even more so to recall that God can and will overcome the forces of Satan, the world system, and our sinfulness. We need to call on Him to be gracious to work it powerfully in us now, in this day, in our church, in our country, in our hearts.

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Isaiah 53:3: “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” Certainly Psalm 22 conveys Christ’s death in sorrowful and grief ridden detail. It is the most quoted Psalm in the New Testament (NT). But He was not esteemed and was despised in His life which increased His sorrows and grief as conveyed by the second most NT quoted Psalm, 69. (1) It is interesting that these two Psalms are the most quoted in the NT. The NT writers, inspired by the Holy Spirit thought it most important that we understand how Jesus fulfilled the role of Suffering Servant and what it means for us.

I should count, but it seems like David is repining and distressed at least as often in the Psalms as he dwells on a “good theme” (Psalm 45:1 (2)) It is obvious from these most NT quoted Psalms that David is acting in the capacity of a prophet concerning the coming Messiah, but also he is simply stressed and strained. (3)

Concerning the prophecy, since so much of Psalm 69 is quoted in the NT as referring to Christ (4), it seems reasonable to think it most all refers to Him. The deep waters that threaten Him in vs.1 and 2 are in deep contrast to the deep thirst He experienced on the cross. What were those deep mire and deep waters that threatened Him? Was it the wrath of God poured out on Him for our sin? And what was He restoring (v.4), other than our relationship with the Father, that He had not stolen? Verse 5 obviously does not apply to the Perfect, Holy One, and you might think that v.6 doesn’t either. But Isaiah says, “Kings will be your guardians, and their princesses your nurses. They will bow down to you with their faces to the earth and lick the dust of your feet; and you will know that I am the Lord; Those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame.” (49:23), and Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (1:16) When we trust in Him, we do not find ourselves ashamed of Him. Death loses its sting and trials have purpose and are ultimately for our good, (James 1:2ff, Romans 8:28)

On the subject of David’s complaint, I wonder at the spiritual battle going on while he was trying to be a righteous king trying to do justice. All of the “dogs” (5) bay and howl when their sinful scavenging is called into question. How were the evil doers blaspheming God concerning His sanctuary that caused David’s zeal to flare up? We know what caused it with Jesus: money changers. People were making up excuses to accuse David. In the midst of these trials, God knows that we are but dust, so we may call out to Him as David did. He called out in complaint. He called out in faith. He called out in praise. He called out in curses upon His enemies. He called out, pleading with God to answer him quickly and decisively.

God knows my frame, too, that I am but dust. I must call out to Him for help with my challenges and problems and weaknesses. For “The humble have seen it and are glad; you who seek God, let your heart revive. For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise His who are prisoners.” (Psalm 69:32-33)

  1. http://e-mechanika.pl/ryq4jqn/096575-most-quoted-psalms-in-the-new-testament Psalm 110:1 is the most NT quoted verse in the Psalms.
  2. And Psalm 45 is not even written by David, but the sons of Korah.
  3. In Physics stress is causative applied force and strain is the resulting deformation. Psychophysically we can have stress, troubles and trials, and either be strained, worrying or sick or depressed or complaining, or not.
  4. Verses 3, 4, 9a, 9b, 21, 22-23, and 25 are quoted in the NT. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psalm_69#New_Testament
  5. “Dogs” was a Jewish derogatory term for Gentiles in Jesus’ day, but the insult had a wider meaning for any evil doer (see Isaiah 56:11, Philippians 3:2, Revelation 22:15)

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In a previous post (My Lord Draws Nigh), I shared my attempt to put a poem by the hymn writer, DW Whittle, to music. Having sung the second verse, my nephew asked me if I would sing the rest so that he could hear how it sounds.

Understanding Mr. Whittle’s words requires a knowledge of Scripture. Specifically, he refers to bells spoken of in Exodus 28:33-35: “You shall make on its hem pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet material, all around on its hem, and bells of gold between them all around: a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, all around on the hem of the robe. It shall be on Aaron when he ministers; and its tinkling shall be heard when he enters and leaves the holy place before the Lord, so that he will not die.” “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31), so that the priests had to approach an holy God with much reverential fear and caution.

But the text turns this fear to a joy, because our gracious “Heavenly High Priest”, “Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.” (Hebrews 7:22) This high priest of Hebrews is superior, as it says, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)

In the words of Mr. Whittle’s poem I have inserted dashes where two notes are needed to sing the word and braces for words that I have dropped out in the singing because they don’t fit the meter. I believe that these deletions do not significantly change the meaning of the text.

“Swift, with melodious feet,
The midnight hours pass by;
As with each passing bell so sweet,
I think, ‘My Lord draws nigh.’

“I see Hea-ven’s open door,
I hear God’s gracious voice;
I see the blood-washed ’round the throne,
And with them I rejoice.

“It may be – that these sounds
Are [the] golden bells so sweet
Which tell me of the near approach
Of [the] Heavenly High Priest’s feet.

“Not every night is thus;
Some nights with pain are drear.
[Then] I join my moan with crea-tion’s groan
[And] the chimes I do not hear.

“[But] the Lord remains the same;
Faithful He must abide;
And on His word my soul I’ll rest,
For He is by my side.

“Some midnight sleepless saints,
Made quick by pain to hear,
Shall join the glad and welcome cry,
‘The Bridegroom draweth near.’

“Then I shall see His face
His beauteous image bear;
I’ll know His love and wondrous grace,
And in His glory share.

“So sing my soul in praise,
As bells chime o’er and o’er,
The coming of the Lord draws near,
When time shall be no more.”

Major D. W. Whittle died March 4, 1901, at Northfield, Massachusetts.

I am greatly encouraged by courageous Christians of the past and commend to you the reading of biographies of past Christians. I re-watched the movie, “The Hiding Place”, with my wife a few nights ago. Betsy and Corrie ten Boom became deep in the faith because of how they entrusted their very lives to God in the midst of suffering. We may learn much from these faithful ones concerning how to live for Christ. I was struck by two things about DW Whittle’s story: 1) He was so focused on Christ that in the midst of pain that would lead to his death in two weeks, he could compose such deep trust and worship of God, and 2) “In speaking of his hymns he once said, “I hope that I will never write a hymn that does not contain a message — there are too many hymns that are just a meaningless jingle of words; to do good a hymn must be founded on God’s word and carry the message of God’s love.”” (by Jacob Henry Hall). Let us seek to write and speak and sing act in every way based in God’s word with the message of God’s love.

If you would like to hear my singing of this poem to the tune that I wrote, click on My Lord Draws Nigh.

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My oldest brother sent out a family email with a link (Major DW Whittle) and a “hope they will encourage you…” concerning the last words penned by D.W. Whittle, who wrote some 200 hymns. Well they did indeed encourage me for reasons of knowing at present a minor bit of the pain from which he must have written these faith filled words and his focus on heaven and God’s presence then and now. But I was also challenged by the words, “The last words he wrote have never been set to music.” I determined the meter to be 6, 6, 8, 6. I looked in one of my hymnbooks and did not find a tune that fit the words. There was not an exact match of the meter to this this poem, but even if there had been, tunes don’t always fit the syllable emphases. So, foolish neophyte songwriter that I am, I wrote my own tune. Singing it through, I realized that the first line needed an eighth note couplet for differing phrasing in different verses. Then I realized that in three of the lines Mr. Whittle had not been so exact in his number of syllables. In one of these the eighth note couplet took care of it, but in verse 4 I could find no other way to fit the words to the tune than to eliminate two words and add two tied eighth notes that are used in this verse. The deletions I made don’t significantly change the meaning and are shown in parentheses below. Still, line 3 has 9 syllables so “cre-a” in “creation’s” is divided into the two eighth notes.

“Not every night is thus;
Some nights with pain are drear.
(Then) I join my moan with creation’s groan
(And) the chimes I do not hear.”

If somehow my tune might introduce this encouraging poem to singing it for some number of Christians, it would have been well worth the effort. It was worth it anyway as I reflected on God’s goodness to me communicated through the words and sang about it.

My Lord Draws Nigh tune is a link to the melody written and a short mp3 file of me singing the second verse. Enjoy and be encouraged by considering the goodness and nearness of our God.

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On this Labor Day, after chores were done and the moderate heat of afternoon had come, I decided to take a walk. Having focused too much on circumstances and societal ills recently, I was reminded by hymns and prayer and preaching of the Word and reading of the Scriptures and fellowship with brothers and sisters yesterday that I needed to once again renew my perspective in things that are “true, …honorable, …right, …pure, …lovely, …of good repute, …any excellence and …worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8). As I began my walk, parts of my body aching, the sun heating*, and my thoughts melancholy, I told God that I wanted His peace and joy. In fact, I pleaded, “I need Your peace; I need Your joy.” As I thought about why, the following words began to come:

I need Your peace; I need Your joy
Though trials come and storms destroy
Forever on this hope depend
That I am Yours; You will defend**

This world with sorrows ever bent
To rob our joy to full extent
Broken relationships and plans
Beg for a healing from Your hand

Your purposes are hard to see
Sense of security can flee
I on this confidence rely
My soul will to You upward fly

My health and body will decay
Unless suddenly in a day
And some loved ones before me go
We saints ever with You, I know

So frequently with sin beset
With worries frequently I fret
Temptations against me array
Through Your Word and Spirit I pray

And by these means I overcome
And more like Jesus I become
More victory through You I win
And peace and joy in You begin

I am so apt to be drawn to the difficulties of any situation and must constantly place before my mind, my eyes, my ears, and my heart the eternal truths of God’s grace in salvation, past, present, and future. I am thankful that “He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” (Psalm 103:14) And even more so that “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3) My hope, our hope, is in Him.

A writing note about the order of the verses. If you number the verses as seen, 1 – 6, the original order as written was 1,2,,3,5,6,4. I cannot decide if the beginning of peace and joy should be the end or if the order would better be 1,2,4,5,3,6 so that heaven is last. If you care to think about it, I would appreciate some feedback.

.

*for which I had come out for a “therapeutic sweat”

**”I am Yours whom You will defend” was how I originally wrote the line, and I think it may more clearly communicate the intent, but “That I am Yours; You will defend” seems to fit the meter and flow better.

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Over a period of time I was talking to a friend about her need of Jesus. During this time I had a loved one who was sick, bills were piling up, responsibilities seemed endless and overwhelming. One day in the presence of my friend I opened up about my fears and difficulties. On the one hand I guess it made me seem like a more real person, but the next time the subject of Jesus came up I quite honestly said, “I am asking you to trust Jesus when I sometimes struggle to trust Him myself.” She was quite understanding about my struggles, but I had a moment of deep conviction. If we are going to point a skeptical and dying world to the Savior, we must learn ourselves to react in faith rather than fear.

Just as “courage”, according to a quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt, “is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear,” so faith is not the lack of fear, discouragement, loneliness, temptation, confusion, or any other difficulty, but the firm conviction that God is greater and able and willing to give us peace and patience in the midst of the difficulty and regardless of the physical outcome.

I had a moment of fear the other day as I crawled into a tight crawl space to jack up a floor supported by rotten floor joists, which I needed to replace. It was so tight that I could not turn on my side until later when I dug out a space for my hips and shoulders. The fear was momentarily paralyzing, but then I took a deep breath and prayed that God would give me calmness. A peace washed over me in seconds. I had to pray again later when it happened again. I ended up working in this situation for eight hours, only crawling the 20 feet to the tight exit when I needed to cut a board or get an additional tool.

Many fears and difficulties are not so obvious as these two examples I have given. Because of their subtlety, many fears and doubts can creep up on us almost unbeknownst to us. We are tied up in a web of fear we never saw being wrapped around us. We learned it as a child. We think it the natural reaction of any sane person. We hardly give it heed, but are nonetheless confined by its stifling cords.

And that thought directs my mind immediately to Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” The great antidote for fear encumbrance is “fixing our eyes on Jesus”. It was the same for us at salvation when the fiery serpent of sin had bitten us and we were destined for death. “And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.” (Numbers 21:9) Looking was equivalent to believing and had an immediate positive effect for John 3:14-15 says, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.” So, salvation was just a look, or glance, trusting God in Christ to overcome temptation, including fears; faith walk is a “fixing” of our gaze on Jesus. Every moment we are tempted to fear or go our own way, we must fix our gaze on Jesus. The result is that “no temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man, and God is willing, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will give you the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” (I Corinthians 10:13) And when you are tempted to have a worrying fear, “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, let your request be made known unto God, and the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

The Hebrews passage begins with “Therefore”, which points you back to the “chapter of faith”, Hebrews 11. This “great cloud of witnesses” fortifies our gaze on Jesus. We are not in this alone. Others have had worse difficulties and still fixed their eyes on Jesus. As the Holy Spirit enabled them to overcome Satan, temptation, and death by the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 12:11), so we are encouraged to do the same. Practicing this “fixing” brings endurance and the realization that Jesus suffered far more and had a victorious end.

I want to react in faith, not fear. It is a more peaceful way to live and a strong testimony for the truth of God being in my life. The realization that garden variety fear was stifling my walk and my witness has brought focus to my reaction in the last few weeks. I hope it is a focus that causes me to more frequently fix my eyes on Jesus in faith rather the circumstances in fear.

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Rarely do I complete a deck repair in one day, but this job was that small. There were two decks, the main 12 x 12, and smaller 4 1/2 x 10. The larger one had three boards with developing rot, a quick fix. I also replaced three balusters there.

The smaller one had an end rail that was fencing (??), almost an afterthought put up shabbily. Because of the position the back post and the proximity of the tree, I had to put the balusters on the inside.

The lower deck was also made with 2 x 6 joists. I would not use those on anything more than four foot spans. So, I installed a post in the middle to strengthen the span.

Off to one side of the smaller deck was an eroding flower garden. I installed a little barrier and back filled it to preserve the level space.

Small jobs are good. I get the satisfaction of quick completion. Also, most companies won’t mess with a job this small, but a day’s work is a day’s work. God has continued to provide work right along to pay our accelerated bills. I am constantly reminded that I can and should trust Him and must continue to do so, and that this demonstration of His faithfulness and provision means that I can trust in other areas as well. My faith has moments of faltering, but I have not seen Him unable or unwilling to provide as I am diligent to ask and walk into the opportunities which He provides.

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It’s not enough that you know
Or have had a Jesus moment
Life in Him will make you grow
Sanctifying development

If you are not really sure
Receive the gift He does proffer
Then you will surely endure
No better or lasting offer

I would fall away from Him
By doubt or outright rebellion
Going out upon a limb
Cast away to oblivion

Nothing can me separate
Or plunge me headlong into hell
Nor peace with God confiscate
Of these with joy I do tell

I may walk by the Spirit
And not according to the flesh
Trust His words in Holy Writ
My joy and resolve intermesh

After the trials of this life
One day I will look on His face
When forgotten all the strife
With success completed the race

Some of my poetry is straight up how I feel and what I believe. Other parts are aspiration based on what I believe can be and should be and will be. This poem is a combination. Life is complicated and messy, but God is faithful and enables me more as the years go along and I submit to Him more. May He and the the grace He provides be glorified in my turning to Him in every difficulty and disappointment.

Also see “Response to Troubles and Trials

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We need hope, but from whence does it come?

Certainly a sense of purpose or destiny or family and friends bring hope, but what about when these fail or seem distant? Hear what source of hope the Scriptures give us:

“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:4-6

Given that this was written before any of the four Gospels and the book of Acts, it must refer to the Old Testament from which Jesus had “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”” Luke 24:45-47 Now, I am not excluding the great encouragement and instruction given by the New Testament, but I magnify the value of reading and studying the Old, especially for those many of you who don’t spend much time there or see much value in it, thinking I’m “not under law but under grace” Romans 6:14 (1) It was written for our instruction, so read the instruction manual before assembly.

Now we get to the meat of our source of hope. The passage reveals a two-fold instruction on hope from God with an ancillary instruction on hope from fellow believers.

Those who are blood bought, Holy Spirit sealed believers (2) increase in hope of their relationship to God and future rescue through persisting in faith in the midst of difficulty- perseverance. In fact, the teaching of perseverance of the saints is pointing out how believers persist in belief to the end while “the Spirit explicitly says” of those who do not truly belonging to God through belief in Jesus “that in later times some will fall away from the faith.” I Timothy 4:1

How does this strange occurrence of hardship increasing trust in God work? As the believer comes to understand that he or she does not deserve anything and yet God is carrying him or her through difficulty and revealing Himself in the process, the believer trusts more. The unbeliever begins to doubt that God cares and pulls further away. Many a believer will also struggle with doubts and be estranged, but it will not persist. In the end faith will persist. The believer perseveres.

The greatest help to perseverance is the Word of God. For this reason, Open Doors, a ministry to persecuted believers all over the world, frequently reports how believers ask for Scriptures over security, food, or shelter. The Bible brings hope and especially when we are paying attention during difficulty. The passage says “the encouragement of the Scriptures”. As we read of others who struggled but found God’s grace to persevere, we find strength. Promises of God impart strength. Ultimately, the excellency of the character of God imparts strength. Strength comes in the form of hope. When we are hopeless, then we are weak. When we are full of hope, then we are strong, strong in the Lord.

But God gives yet another avenue for increasing hope- fellowship. The passage speaks of “same mind”, that is, unity of belief and purpose. Then it says “with one voice glorify”, which is unified worship. When we worship together in unity and convey how God has increased our faith in difficulty and have comforted others in their difficulty with the hope of God and shared Scriptures of encouragement and instruction, then true fellowship and encouragement has occurred and hope is increased. For this reason “let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

The other disciplines of the faith like prayer, witness, fasting, service, and so forth, are all a part of this perseverance-Scripture-fellowship encouragement that strengthens faith leading to hope. What a good God we have who for His glory and our good by “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” 2 Peter 1:3

And one day we will be removed from all difficulty and spend eternity in His presence. That will be glory!

  1. In context, this verse has nothing to do with the value or truth of the Old Testament. Rather, it refers to the source and power for overcoming sin, grace applied by the Holy Spirit and not striving to fulfill the requirement of the law. Why? Well it is because “a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 2:16
  2. These are not a special breed or dispensation of believers, just plain believers. I use these adjectives to exclude those who have mental assent to the things of God and are spectators in the church, but not saved.

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Overflows from the Heart

"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…" Matthew 15:18

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Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains