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Archive for the ‘Strength’ Category

Work With God

A third grandchild has arrived. It is time to praise God and plead mercy for the child. I pray that God might graciously answer my prayer:

Matthias gift of a gracious Lord

Come early to know your Savior God

That He may mercy to you afford

In the life ordained you run and trod

Knowing the path He gives to you

 

Spurgeon a flower of healing be

As the Prince of Preachers know God’s Word

Live it and speak it so others see

The Gospel and God’s glory be heard

That others taste His goodness through you

 

Francis a freeman by Providence

A slave to righteousness may you be

Soldier in step with Master’s cadence

To challenge fly, from temptation flee

The Lord’s will and work be done in you

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Spring has significantly sprung in our neck of the woods. We may yet have another wintery storm but the bluster is mostly out of that season. Flowers seem particularly profuse this season: carpets of red trillium, bluets, grape hyacinth, and violets. The hardier varieties of Daffodils have already shown their glory. Leaves are sprouting rapidly on the trees.

Neighbor's Redbud

Neighbor’s Redbud

Violets and Grape Hyacinth

Violets and Grape Hyacinth

Violets and Ground Ivy

Violets and Ground Ivy

Variety of Heal All?

Variety of Heal All?

 

As the transformation has occurred, when not out in the yard or woods,  I have been watching from the dining room window as I eat. One sight in the last two weeks has arrested my attention, however, and it is of my own doing. I’ve long wanted fruit trees that produce. I lived for six years across a dirt road from a pear tree that no one cared for or seemed aware of. It would produce a few pears each year that were the old style: hard and sweet- moon glow pears I think. One year just before we moved the spring and summer conspired together with a perfect combination for this old pear tree. It produced so many large pears that it bent over with some of the pears touching the ground. Even more fascinating was the almost total lack of worms or other insects. I ate pears for lunch every day and most usually with yogurt after super. I ate them with my cereal for breakfast. We froze some and I ate them relentlessly. My wife ate her share as well. The tree produced for 3 1/2 months until heavy frost. It was simply amazing. The next year the pear tree produced a few worm eaten pears just like it had in all of my previous notice of it. Soon afterward we moved to our present house. One of the things that drew us to the house we bought was the trees: oak, redbud, catalpa, pitch pine, white ash, chinese chestnut, and two apple trees. I was too busy with house repair and job to prune them the first several years, but I read up on pruning and pruned them later on. I believe that it was the season a year and a half after that they produced some decent sized and number of apples. A fair number were without worm. They are probably what is referred to as cooking apples because they lack much firmness, and much sweetness or tartness desirable in an eating apple. Since then frost has gotten the flowers and worms have rotted the fruit. I sprayed them one year with soap just after the blooms fell off, to no avail. I’m not a pesticide kind of guy and I haven’t figured out the natural ways of preventing apple worms. I have pruned them somewhat since then but finally let them go. My son pruned them heavily last year but they are so tall that you can’t reach half of the apples and those that fall are severely damaged. There is a point to all of this story. I went out to try again this spring and found that the larger tree had several rotten places in the trunk. If there was any possibility of producing apples, it seemed to me, this problem must be dealt with. I cut most of the rot out. Now I sit and look at the sad results of my decisive action.

Ouch!
Ouch!

 I was immediately reminded of two Scripture passages: John 15:1-11 and Luke 13:1-9 Hear a little of each passage:

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit… he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.”      John 15:1-2, 5-6                   And He began telling this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine, but if not, cut it down.’” Luke 13:6-9

Perhaps it is a parable for my life just now. No, by God’s grace, I do not believe I will be burned up because I belong to Him, but does cut down mean eternally separated or ‘fallen asleep’ as those who were disobedient (I Corinthians 11:30)? I have been severely pruned or cut; difficulties with career, health, loved ones. Has my life been unfruitful and full of rot so that it needed a major pruning? Am I too apt to be content, complacent when I have orders to fulfill? There are other ways to look at the reasons for these trials but I don’t want to be oblivious to the obvious. I certainly feel like this tree looks. And I don’t see it or mean it as complaining. I just want to learn the lessons that are here and serve my Lord better rather than have to recycle remediation. The flowers bloom all around; the sun shines brightly; the soil is warming and wet; the grass is greening. Am I connected and abiding in the vine (trunk and root) so that I may bloom, leaf, and bear fruit. I want to be a fruit tree that produces. I want to be pruned, not cut down.

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Stress and strain are engineering terms. Stress is any force, pressure, torque, electrostatic potential, or thermal gradient that tries to distort an object, its surface or its components. (didn’t even look that up) Strain is the deformation of that object resulting from the stress. Motion is apt to result in both stress and strain. In elastic collisions stress does not result in permanent strain to the objects involved because the colliding objects temporarily distort and return to their original form when the deforming energy is converted to other forms, most notably heat. In other words, the strain is passed out of the system, leaving no impression on the objects. The most common example is billiard balls colliding on a pool table. Non-elastic collisions, on the other hand, permanently deform the objects involved. Tossing wet mud onto a wall where it sticks is an obvious example.

So, am I merely in the mood to convey physics concepts which are all too obvious to many who read this page? No, stress and strain have very straightforward analogy to life in the body and mind and spirit. Frequently when people say that they have so much stress in their life, they really mean both. That is, they are saying that all of the pushes and pulls that are stress are getting them down and making it hard to function, strain. I am experiencing both- changed schedule, pressures to succeed, accusations of neglect and slack-handedness, bills, desire to enjoy and play when it’s time to work and serve, and very notably, sadness at seeing someone I love degraded in her ability to serve her family as she likes to do.  You may take this for whining if you like, but it is really just the way that I have learned to deal with the stress. Somehow it’s supposed to be more noble to not talk about your troubles. Of course, there is nothing noble about self-focus and there is way too much of that in this society. Perhaps then I should keep quiet. Aaaccchh! Tangents!

So (love that word) here’s another one. My wife took about 6 hours to fix my son and me supper one day this past week. She can’t much read recipes just now, and her work is very slow and deliberate, but she so wanted to take care of her family that she worked diligently most of the day cutting up salad, baking sweet potatoes, sauteing cabbage and carrots with venison sausage, and baking cornbread so that we could eat a good meal. I about couldn’t eat for the tears. Then this morning she fixed oatmeal pancakes, a recipe that she had never done before. She laughed that it was a good thing that all of the ingredients were 1 (cup, teaspoon, etc) because she could not have made it otherwise. She still can’t say most names or understand much of what is said to her, but she can fix meals and wash dishes and she is happy to be able to do it again. I guess we’ll go grocery shopping together this afternoon.

Anyway, I have concluded that strainless stress is probably not very beneficial to this object. Afterall, if I am not changed by what pushes on me I’m apt to have to repeat that lesson until there is change. The idea of standing up to stress with dauntless courage and stone-faced lack of strain is neither where I live nor useful to my progress forward in the faith. I want to learn now so that I don’t have to repeat the lesson. Of course, the strain I am after is one that conforms me to the image of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, not a wet mud pie stuck to a wall like so much yak dung on the side of the house drying to be used for fuel to cook and heat. Though it is not particularly what I want in the sense of what is enjoyable, change for the sake of conformity to His image is good, and God is good in patiently working strain into my life through the stresses He ordains. The more pliable, that is non-resistant to strain, I am, the easier that strain will conform me without destroying the very fabric of who I am. It reminds me of Philippians 4:6-8: “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.Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” I so want that peace of and with God that so surpasses comprehension that onlookers upon spying it cannot help but attribute it to a work of God. But that will involve far more stress and considerably more strain that I’m not all too sure I’m up to. I have discovered that is not for me to determine. As per Colossians 3 I need to focus above so that I may succeed below:

God’s grace is my comfort and rest

 

My strong tower in the midst of test

 

While I trust Him I shall prevail

 

Raised from the dead without fail

 

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I sure am thankful that it is God who judges me, because He is so merciful and gracious.I lost all perspective during the recent events involving my wife’s stroke. All I could see were the seemingly insurmountable frustration she had with speech, the hesitations I experienced, the pressure from well-meaning people, and the mounting bills. None of those difficulties have been overcome but I am beginning to look up rather than around me as I seek ways to move on. I wish others could give their perspective on these events since they are severely skewed by my own fears and failures, but alas, not here. So here is my last of three poems on my feelings about the events of New Years Day, 2014, and following:

Fretting has no value at all

It only leads to early demise

And turmoil with those you love

And everything that you despise

 

In quietness and trust is your rest

The peace you seek is with God

And love from those who are close to you

Whatever the nature of the test

 

It is God Who is at work in you

To work and to will His good pleasure

The path He ordains is beyond view

So stroll forward in faith at leisure

 

Your struggle and strain is of no worth

Only serves to frustrate all designs

To have peace, joy, value and mirth

Written on your life’s last lines

 

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Be Strong

May God be exalted and may He strengthen our newest grandchild for this life and the next. Thus, I say the following blessing over this young one.

 
Ian Stuart may you be blest
In Christ’s salvation learn to rest
For this vile world would destroy you
Prepare by God’s grace for the test
 
Ian, “God is gracious” for sure
Enables to be strong and pure
Ever cling to his sovereign grace
Avoid temptation’s constant lure
 
Stuart has been a royal name
Carrying quite a bit of fame
But stewards have a charge to keep
Obeying their Lord without shame
 
Francis, the name means you are free
May God grant in every degree
Your mind and frame from worldly foes
And spirit ever God may see
 
Take God’s armor ready to fight
By the Spirit’s leading and might
Deep knowledge of God’s Word and prayer
Spiritual wisdom and insight

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Moving forward is such a hard thing
When the battle within is so strong
Steal your purpose, rob the song you sing
Tedious moments, days that are long
 
Being consistent is harder still
Failing once makes a lie of it all
Cannot be done by an act of will
Unavoidable that you will fall
 
God is faithful and He is your song
He is your reason for living well
The One Who supplies and makes you strong
That you may of His faithfulness tell

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“It is not amazing that God answers prayer; it is amazing we pray so little.”

‘How can you say it’s not amazing that God answers prayer?’ Don’t misunderstand the statement because I do believe it is amazing how He answers prayer. For in pulling off an answer to prayer God must at least redirect the course of God ordained natural forces or the intentions of wills predisposed to wrong. At most He must suspend the rules He has laid down for nature so that they begin running immediately in a new course or give tangible manifestation to spiritual reality. In any circumstance you can name where prayer is answered the supernatural impinges on the natural to bring about God’s purpose with full consideration and at least partial affirmation and completion of the request. All together how prayer is answered demonstrates God’s great power and unending knowledge. How that happens is amazing and wonderful. But that He would answer prayer is not. Answered prayer matches well His character of kindness, mercy, grace, personal involvement in His creation, and goodness. 

But why do we pray so little? Our skeptical, mocking society has largely silenced our praise to God for answered prayer. For one thing they nay say any testimony that challenges their naturalistic presuppositions. ‘That can’t happen; you can’t prove the supernatural.’ Of course you can’t if the only evidence you allow is natural or has a natural explanation. So we Christians back off from saying the truth under the pressure of skeptical mockery. Merely natural explanations, however,  fall short on too many accounts at explaining all that we observe. But our praise to God for answered prayer is silenced for a far more serious reason. Despite the abundant Scriptural evidence to God’s willingness, ability, and examples of answered prayer; the abundant historical evidence (George Mueller very notably); God’s good sustaining grace in our own lives, we pray far too little. We must not believe He will answer. He has many times for me in witnessing opportunities,  financial needs, serious health issues, relational difficulties, bewilderment and discouragement, weather, direction, help for missionaries and witnessing friends. Why do I pray so little? “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive because you ask with wrong motives so that you may spend it on your pleasures…” (James 4:2-3) Perhaps a better question is… What is preventing me now? A big and glorious God answers big and God-glorifying prayers! Lord, work in my life so that I pray more and more intensely!

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We don’t know how, when, or why
The timing of our demise
Whether slow and painful, cry
Sudden horrible surprise
 
Or to loved ones good-bye say
See a vision from above
Then in peace just drift away
To glory fly as a dove
 
 But, oh, our pain is so slight
Compared to burning below
That will give the hardened fright
Pray for souls that they not go
 
 To avoid death’s awful sting
Look to Jesus’ sacrifice
Daily to His promise cling
Thankful for the purchase price
 
By His sacrifice we win
Heaven for which praise we give
Away from trials and pain and sin
In His presence there to live

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Faith or fear, which will it be?
Fixed on Jesus, wait and see
What provision or rescue He will bring
Or falter by small degree
And fret and fail to stand free
By looking to yourself where sin will sting
 
Trust  or retreat on the way
Trivial pursuits that may
Distract from weightier tasks to be done
Or track with His plan today
With the Spirit always stay
Until the path laid out for you is run
 
Practice evil no one should
Pass judgment that you could
Wrath and indignation eternal night
Persevere in doing good
Pursue glory all you would
By grace enabled to do what is right
 
Make His resurrection known
Share your faith eternity sown
Not afraid to live and speak out for Him
Or just keep silent or moan
Seeds of discontentment grown
Timid, no purpose and your joy is dim

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I’m so enamored with the short-term benefits and successes while God sees
eternity along with my utter good and His ultimate glory. Help me, Lord, to
seek what is lasting, to make real breakthroughs through the muck and mire
of life.
 
Lord, I long for something new
Something with a tremendous view
Perhaps a perch overlooking the heights
So my soul might take its fanciful flights
Life is not lived on that plane
We must first teach the heart and train
That you fully see the view above
Fully know all My holiness and love
I don’t want hardship and pain
I want victory without rain
Love, security, adventure, too
Fun, satisfaction, oh, and something true
You have those more than you know
Through rain and storm there’s more to show
Know Me, you must cease to worship you
Submit to Me and know all that is true
Then you will fly in My strength
Know joy and completeness at length
Thankful for trials and what they have done
Building you up, bringing praise to the Son

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What do you do on a less than profitable day?

You search for the hidden, more lasting and substantial, intended profit for the day.

When all goes awry
And my spirit wants to fly
His calling on my life
I must recall amidst the strife
 
When there is stress
And my spirit feels duress
His goodness every day
I want to graciously display
 
When hard things come
And my spirit would succomb
His strength is my stay
I need each step of the way
 
When joy comes to me
And my spirit knows it’s free
His all sufficient grace
I am keeping before my face
 

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One of the ways that God has given us to communicate with people is through words.  Body language and acts of kindness, hatred, or neglect are other ways.  Not only kind, encouraging words, but constructive criticism words and instructive and insightful words that build someone up and demonstrate concern are helpful.  As the Proverbs say, “Anxiety in the heart of a man weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad,” (12:25) and “A man has joy in an apt answer, and how delightful is a timely word,” (15:23) and “Faithful are the wounds of a friend,” (27:6) and “Heed instruction and be wise,” (8:33) and “the tongue of the wise brings healing,” (12:18), and “he who forsakes reproof goes astray,” (10:17) and many more good words. 

But I have observed that though the eargate be open and the volume be sufficient and distractions be few, many good words are not heard.  In fact, the emotional baggage and relationship histories can shut a mind down to where it not only refuses to accept good words, rejecting them or twisting them to have some nefarious meaning or intentions, but such a mind can deny before witnesses that the words were ever spoken.  Though this is an amazement to me, I have both observed it and commited this crime of unkindness to the speaker.  So, I am resolved to hear better and attribute intentions as purer to words that are of benefit to me while understanding that discouraging or untrue words may well come from a speaker who does not fully understand the source of their own intentions.  To this end I have composed a poem:

What is the need for a stern word
From loved ones, colleagues, or stranger
A cautionary note not absurd
When it rescues one from danger

 

What is the use of a taught word
Is it something you need to know
Keep you from running with the herd
Help your mind continually grow

 

What is the goal of a wise word
Of discernment that penetrates
So that on your life you may gird
Tools for living, such worthy traits

 

What is the help of a kind word
With regular sincerity
Just like a beautiful song bird
A seasonal sound rarity

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Pain is a teacher unlike the rest
Mastery through continual test
Speaks loud and clear the nerves to molest
Difficult friend and unwelcomed guest

 

Told to rejoice through various trials
How so when all comfort it defiles
Raises high fears deep emotions riles
Makes a few steps seem as many miles

 

The answer comes through what is induced
Frivolous pursuits greatly reduced
Priorities from limits deduced
Perseverance and faith both loosed

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Father, we look forward to a good school year, but we won’t have one without Your active presence.  We acknowledge Your goodness, and request that Your hand of protection be upon us. We ask that You teach us truth so that we may communicate it to students and adults.  And all of this we ask for the glory and in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

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Psalm 103 begins with both a call for the hearer to worship and summary of what the psalmist desires to communicate to himself and those listening to him.  David is alerting his own soul to bless God’s name and His benefits.  But names of God seem to be absent and even the word “name” only appears once in the psalm, so how is His name blessed?  Consider, how do we know the greatness of God’s name?  We know the greatness of it by what He has done.  All works He has done are benefits to those who trust Him, and the greatness of His name is revealed through these benefits.  Add the admonitions of verses 11,13, and 17 to fear Him and we see the summary teaching and application of the Psalm:  Bless His name, remember His benefits, and fear Him.  This application is not merely a spiritual ‘icing on the cake’, it is the means of survival amidst spiritual battle.  David knew the value of it.  In First Samuel 30:3-6 we observe a desperate situation for David and his men.  Having just returned from following the Philistines, they find their hometown, Ziklag, burned down, their wives and children kidnapped to become slaves, and most of their possessions stolen.  The men have wept over their families until they have no strength and are discussing stoning David because of the loss.  The Scripture  records David’s reaction: “But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” (v.6).  Now your plight and mine probably are not presently so severe.  The danger is to ignore the need for strengthening ourselves in the Lord.  We are thus rendered weaker for the lesser battles and ill-fit for the greater battles.  And so David urged his innermost being to bless the Lord and not forget His benefits.  May we practice the psalmist’s discipline and experience God’s joy.

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Some old sayings recycled and rehashed for the

days we are in:

Desperate times require desperate measures

          So the old saying goes

But are we willing to take the cure

          Before we’re in the throes

 

If it were a snake beside the path

          We’d all been bit for sure

But will we extract the poison there

          So each one can be pure

 

Pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps

          Cannot happen nor would

Since Eve was deceived, Adam rebelled

          We can’t do what we should

 

Problem older than Methuselah

          Recent as your last breath

If not rescued by the Redeemer

          You have no hope but death

 

Right as rain, pure as the driven snow

          Our sin gone by His blood

The Christ has made His beloved so

          By grace’s abundant flood

 

Imitation’s th’best flattery

          Be pleasing in His sight

Now we will and can live for Jesus

          Evidence of His might

 

Oh, lost ones know that the gig is up

          Unless you trust Him too

He died on the cross to rescue you

          And give you life anew

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I did a Bible study with the youth group at my church on Perseverance.  They did the majority of the study in groups of 3 to 5 using a whiteboard, markers, and a Bible.  Through presentation, interaction, and follow-up questions we concluded that perseverance is good and neccessary and that we need to dwell more on the promises of God like heaven and His presence to succeed at it.  If you like you can use my notes to share it with someone else or yourself by clicking on countering-the-excesses-of-affluence

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Here is an oldie but a …. well you’ll have to decide about that.  It certainly isn’t an easy one to get nor was it easy to do.  I sometimes get hung up in my own devices poetically.  I’m sure the poetry suffers but it’s about the challenge.  Hopefully the message does not equally suffer though it may need to be gone over several times to see.  So, with that somewhat disparaging introduction, see if you can figure out what I was intending to talk about by clicking on Source and Reality

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