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Eastern Sixers

My daughter decided to start hiking to build up her stamina. She said that she needs intermediate goals in order to make progress and keep interested. So, she decided to start hiking to the top of the 25 tallest peaks in the Eastern U.S. That had to morph into a different goal because it is either hard or silly to do, depending on which list of highest peaks you look at. The hard has to do with deciding which peaks are the 25 highest. Different lists credit different peaks with that status. You may think that is silly in the days of Global Positioning. In one sense it is silly. One site included any peak that rose from around the surroundings for 160 feet. That means that you could “bag” five or six peaks on two hikes along two different ridges. The site she settled upon was a Wikipedia page called “Southern Sixers“. It includes all of the mountains east of the Mississippi that are taller than 6000′ above sea level, except Mt. Washington (6288′), which is in New Hampshire and would rank 22 on the list. The list has 53 entries, so 54 with Mt. W. I don’t what my daughter is going to do, but she suggested some number like 32 on the list. She will bag some peaks lower on the list with the two ridge walks that I mentioned above. I hope that I might be included in a fair number of these excursions.

Click on A Good Beginning to see how the first two “sixers” went.

Ending Poorly

In I Kings 15:8-22, the Scripture provides us a biographical sketch of King Asa including one notable interaction he had.

The wider context for his life and reign was during the Divided Kingdom which followed after the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon for 120 years. Ten tribes split to the north under the evil rule of Jeroboam. In fact, there were no good kings in the 200 years of Israel’s existence before the Assyrians exiled them.

Rehoboam, son of Solomon, and then his son, Abijam, were no better in the south. So, the great-grandson of Solomon, Asa, comes to the throne in a culture full of idol worship. The time is about 910 B.C. Asa ruled for 41 years, which certainly brought stability to Judah. His grandmother, Maacah, daughter of Abishalom (or Abisalom, son of David) was queen mother. Some translations say mother, but the Hebrew word can also be translated grandmother, and since Asa’s father had the same mother and father by name, she must have been Asa’s grandmother. This fact of who she was brought further stability and increased claim to the throne on Asa’s part since both his father and mother were in direct line from King David.

“Asa did what was right in the sight of the Lord.” (v.11) Of the 20 kings who ruled in Judah during the 325 years after Solomon until the Babylonian captivity, only 8 received this commendation. But Asa is in a narrower group of four who received an additional good word similar to his: “…like David his father.” (v.11) How did he do right in God’s sight? He removed all idol worship, delineated in three ways: 1) He did away with male prostitution, which was a religious rite probably of Asherah, the female fertility goddess, 2) he removed the idols of his father, and 3) he removed his grandmother, Maacah, because she had made an Asherah pole which would have been in the form of a female, “horrid” (v.13 NASB), “abominable” (v.13 ESV), and “repulsive” (v.13 NIV). Asherah could be groves of trees or carved, wooden poles. The latter is in view here since it is so terrible looking. Asa cut it down and burned it. The burning was for the particular reason of desecrating it so that it would no longer be worshipped, and the Kidron valley was where unclean things were deposited. I believe there is a connection between Maacah and the male prostitution. Even more important to telling who Asa was is the boldness with which he would go after even his own family to do what was right and pleasing in God’s sight.

Verse 15 adds another commendation: “ He brought into the house of the Lord the dedicated things of his father and his own dedicated things: silver and gold and utensils.” Dedicated things were usually spoils of war, at which he had been successful with God’s help.

In this description of Asa there is one negative, “But the high places were not taken away.” (v.14) This detail seemed to be a blind spot for many of the good kings. Solomon seems to have set a precedent, for it is said of him in I Kings 3:3-4, “Now Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place; Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.” God had directed otherwise long before when Joshua said, “Far be it from us that we should rebel against the Lord and turn away from following the Lord this day, by building an altar for burnt offering, for grain offering or for sacrifice, besides the altar of the Lord our God which is before His tabernacle.” (Joshua 22:29) So, Solomon cannot be excused for sacrificing other places because the temple was yet built, because the tabernacle was present. Asa did not stop this unprescribed worship, and though perhaps ignorant of its sinfulness, it was no excuse. God through the writer extends grace because He knew Asa’s heart when it says, ” nevertheless the heart of Asa was wholly devoted to the Lord all his days” (v.14)

Then begins the account of an adversarial interaction with Israel to the north. Asa is being threatened by Baasha, king of Israel, by a fortification of Ramah a mere 5 miles from Jerusalem, Asa’s residence and capitol. And being on the main north-south trade route, the fortification could shut down trade for Judah. There is no indication that Asa prayed or took counsel with prophets. Instead, he reverses his dedication of gold and silver to the temple treasury and sends it to his enemy to bribe him to attack Israel. It is a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” kind of move. So, Ben-hadad, king of Aram at Damascus, breaks his treaty with Israel and attacks their Northeastern flanks, killing and destroying. Baasha had his hands full at home, so he stopped fortifying to hem in Asa. Asa conscripts all of Judah to haul off the incomplete fortifications at Ramah and fortify elsewhere. It appears from this account that Asa got away with his scheme unscathed. There is one other mention of disease in his feet in his latter days, but otherwise, he dies in old age, reckoned a good king.

And so he was, but the II Chronicles 16:7-12 tells a fuller story of what was going on, and what God thought about it.

“At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, “Because you have relied on the king of Aram and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Aram has escaped out of your hand. Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubim an immense army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars.” Then Asa was angry with the seer and put him in prison, for he was enraged at him for this. And Asa oppressed some of the people at the same time. Now, the acts of Asa from first to last, behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa became diseased in his feet. His disease was severe, yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians.”

For thirty-six years Asa lived and ruled in pursuit of God and His ways. We don’t know what changed or when, how suddenly or slowly, but Asa became proud and self-reliant. God had even graciously warned him to not go this way when Azariah the prophet said, ““Listen to me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The Lord is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.” (II Chronicles 16:2)

I want to end well, not flame out in anger or doubt or rebellion against God. I must cling to God all of my days, for I am no better than good king Asa who started and proceeded well but ended poorly. May God spare me and each of His servants from presumptuous sins, from rebellious acts, from arrogant decisions to instead serve Him in humility, giving attention to His Word and His Spirit’s leading, for His glory and the good of those who watch me and us.

Birthday Hike

My oldest brother turns 74 today. Always looking for an excuse to go on a hike and get together with family, he emailed the family via group email about hiking not too far a drive from any of us. Schedules being what they are, three out of the four brothers and their wives and one son out of eight children and his family made it for the hike, 14 souls in all. We had done this hike as one of our Thanksgiving hikes several years ago. For some reason, all of us remembered the falls but forgot the hike. It is not steep but it is continuously up. It is not long at 1.5 miles out, but it is rough with randomly pitched small boulders in sections. Small children needed assistance and less stable older participants gave out. The purpose of the hike was time together and time in the woods. Both objectives were completed. For half of us there was a little extra adventure as well. Check out the pictures at Margarette and Bailey Falls to see why.

Last Roundup

Permanently or for a while, I don’t know, but certainly for the next few months I will not be building any decks since I have started a new, fulltime job indoors helping people recover their health. It is a major career and direction change for a 62 year-old, but one I have been pursuing for nearly five years now. I agreed to this deck somewhat reluctantly because I knew that it was going to push right up to the time I would be moving. In fact, I did end up pushing very hard to complete it the day before I started packing the truck. The completion of this short phase in my life reminded me of a song on an old 78 RPM record my mother had in the Livingroom Closet. On the very static recording, Gene Autry is crooning, “I’m headed for the last round-up”. In the song, he is actually talking about going to heaven, but as a boy I didn’t catch on to that. Instead, I took it to mean that an old cowboy was riding in his last cattle round-up, meaning he was retiring. I get asked somewhat frequently how I like retirement, having retired from public education after 28 years. I don’t really know. I have built decks for two years and now end that round-up circuit in order to start a new adventure.

There were costs to building decks. I worked long hours on the clear days and not at all on the rainy days. I was totally worn out at times. Making mistakes and having cost overruns was frustrating. I was frequently exposed to chemicals that I have a reaction to. It was difficult to price things to make money without chasing off potential customers. I knew that I could not physically do this work long-term. There were benefits to building decks. I was my own boss and kept my own hours. I met new people and had many profitable conversations. I was physically stronger than I had been previously for many years. I sweated profusely which is good for a body. Solving problems was a good challenge. I had the sense of a job well done and thank you’s for accomplishing it. It paid many bills.

For a tour of the process on this latest and possibly last deck, click on Something Old and Something New.

A Blessing

Have you ever given in to stress, let it strain you, that is, contort your deportment. I did yesterday. My wife was patient, realizing that I was stressed beyond my ability. But it really doesn’t take much when I am not walking by the Spirit. I sulked a bit, but I decided confession and pleading for help was a better way forward. I had written a thank you/comfort card the day before in which I composed the following blessing. The card had a painting of Hummingbirds on Bee Balm, which directed my thoughts toward the Balm in Gilead (Jeremiah 8:22, 46:11). The next day I knew that I was as much in need of this blessing as the person I sent it to.

May the Balm in Gilead be your comfort and stay

With peace and joy lead you in the way

May His Spirit in you always have sway

That you may please God each and every day

Restricted Pursuit

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.

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.

Over the Hump

I have not divulged the recent goings on of my wife and me for two reasons. Firstly, I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out. Then when it did work out faster than I anticipated, life got very busy. There was so much to finish up where we were and so much to do in transition and so much to do at our new location. As one friend used to say, “I’ve been going hard in the paint” for several months now. In fact, I just recently realized that I was truly exhausted, the kind where one or two good nights of sleep are not sufficient. But God is good, sustaining us through all of this transition, and though we are living in a forest boxes, we have moved in and slowing down somewhat. In fact, today we went to a local park and took a leisurely walk, the first time in months. Check out a few pictures of our new house and the walk we took today at ETN Move. We moved away from East Tennessee 29 years. My wife commented just today that she thought we would never return. I agreed. At my new job several weeks ago, I came into the room to meet a new client. She stared at me for a long moment. “May I help you?” I queried somewhat uncomfortably. “Did you ever teach Biology?” she questioned. “Oh yes,” I replied, “many times to high school students.” “No, I mean, did you ever teach Biology at Northeast State Community College?” “I can’t believe this is happening! I taught there for one semester, 29 years ago.” “Yes, I was one of your students. I liked you as a teacher, but what impressed me most was one night after class I came up to you and said, ‘I can’t come to the next class because I don’t have a babysitter for my 2-year old. You said it was no problem, just to bring him with me and I did. He is 31 now.” That was another significant transition in our lives. I am thankful that I could influence someone in a good way in the midst of that stressful time. Oh, that I may do so this time around as well, giving God the glory.

I hope to cycle back around and share some thoughts on several things that happened before the move and caused the move. Now we are in a new phase of our life, still moving forward, still finding purpose in what God is calling us to.

WPG

As my pastor prayed this morning, he extolled God for being “wise, powerful, and good”. I contemplated the intersection of those three attributes. Being wise He always knows what to do and what is best. Being powerful He can bring about what He knows is best. And being good, what He knows to do and can pull off will always be kind and just and for the good of those He loves. Therefore, we should have no hesitation in trusting Him, and no lack of energy in praising and honoring Him.

Horseshoe Farm

While we were in Johnson City, we looked at several houses to possibly buy. One was near to a place we used to live, so we drove up to see what the old home place looks like now. I’ve always heard it said that real estate is about three things: “Location, location, and location.” From the prices for homes, the huge size modern homes have become and the less than desirable locations of many of those homes, I doubt that is true for many people. But for my wife and I, it is huge. And this little house had location, being situated on a small inholding of private properties surrounded by TVA land and National Forest. It sits just below a gap in the mountain between two lakes, near the Appalachian Trail in fact. Click on Cardin Place to see the pictures of the old home place. I should take some more pictures of the surrounding mountains and lakes for a better indication of location. There are few places so beautiful to my heart. It was a place of peace and nature, wherein two of my children were born with good memories of life and work and even struggle.

Beveled Deck

I like the idea of building something unique into a deck, however, I must need to get better at estimating how long it will take to design and build something new and different. Obviously, this statement is somewhat self-contradictory. How can you anticipate and predict the length of an event, and therefore get better at estimating its length, which you have not observed before? The owners wanted clear sight of the swimming pool, so no railing. They wanted something functional but attractive. So, they came up with the idea of beveled steps and I was tasked with executing it. See how I did at Beveled Stairs.

gps

GPS is recognized as the acronym for Global Positioning System, an amazing gridwork of 31 functioning satellites that allow very accurate position and time information for anyone with a receiver.

gps is a new acronym I have been thinking about that orients the user to true evaluation of the source of good. gps stands for gracious providential serendipity. Grace is unmerited favor, or as I like to say, “getting what you don’t deserve”, compared to mercy, which is “not getting what you do deserve.” Providence is divine guidance and provision. Serendipity is “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for” (1) So, unmerited guidance or provision in an area unsought for is gps. God knows our need and desire and frequently graciously provides for us apart from our knowledge.

Several times recently I have been in utter need of knowledge and discernment regarding what I was doing. I prayed for clear answers. In the sense of seeking an answer, the guidance was definitely sought for, but the answer was several times surprising in content, delivery, and source. God is indeed gracious; He is sovereign; He has all knowledge and all power. I am constantly in need of His guidance but especially cognizant at the moment of that fact with significant decisions on the near horizon. I need some good gps signals.

  1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/serendipity

While working and living in Johnson City recently (see Vacation Villa), our daughter and two grandchildren came to visit and spend several nights. The children enjoyed the swimming pool, of course. We spent one long morning at two different playgrounds. One had adult exercise machines. I was sore the next day.

The day before, Mamaw, Mother, grandchildren, and I went to the Hands On Museum and Gray Fossil Site. It was fun and informative. The Hands On part had many of the exhibits from years ago when we had visited it. They are good exhibits, but some need repairs, and all need educational explanations to make them, well, educational, as opposed to merely fun.

There were two new exhibits that were well done. One was the presentation of fossils found at the Gray site. It had been a sinkhole that had collapsed. I don’t accept the long time scales, and it very likely collapse in the Worldwide Flood of Noah’s day, but the variety of fossils and depictions of flora and fauna of that time were good. There were Mastodon and Tapir bones, the latter being in more profusion that any other fossil site. There was a new species of hickory tree found in the fossilized muds. Types of fossils were well explained along with small samples well exhibited with good convex lens for viewing.

The second good exhibit was one of the best combinations of hands on and technology I had ever seen. So many techy exhibits are glitzy and purely spectatorial. This one taught by doing and interacting with the both the very tactile sand and constantly adjusting video. The exhibit consisted of an approximately 4 1/2′ x 5′ sandbox with a detector/projector above that measured the distance to the sand and projected contour lines and elevation colors onto the sand. As you move the sand into a pile or scoop it out, the system adjusts the contour lines and colors almost immediately. Children and adults alike had trouble pulling their hands out of the sand. With hand above any spot, moving one’s fingers, the projector produced what looked like a lava flow that persisted for 10 seconds or so. I think they could up the game even a bit more by providing a map legend of contour lines and intervals and elevation colors for educational purposes.

We of course enjoyed time with our daughter and the grandchildren. While they were there, my granddaughter and I finished our reading of the Chronicles of Narnia which I had been reading to her over Duo (a video chat format for Android) for about six months. It was quite the enjoyable time. Check out a few pictures at Hands On and Gray Fossils.

Never Always

Some things that we say and believe are not what we presently experience in full,
but are what is true about us in our new nature, is becoming true about us through
sanctification, and will be totally true in heaven.

Never lonely when He is near
Never overcome by any fear
Always hopeful though life be drear
Always at peace even when not all is clear

Momentarily disturbed, oh sure
Momentarily give in, not pure
Eternally made right, the cure
Eternally held tight, secure

Daily the struggle goes on
Daily His Spirit I must don
Slowly sinful tendencies gone
Slowly His righteous ways in me dawn

Fearfully and wonderfully made
Fearfully work out my salvation I am bade
Joyfully go forth with His aid
Joyfully with His Spirit arrayed

Nevermore sorrow overcomes
Nevermore to sin succumbs
Forever peace until and when He comes
Forever glorious gracious outcomes

Vacation Villa

I heard my pastor say to the several young people, whom he was congratulating for being graduated from high school or college, that it is a time for them of transition and need for guidance from God. I thought to myself, ‘You don’t have to be freshly graduated in order to be in that transition period. I taught high school science for 27 years in one school district, but now I am transitioning into a new “career”. As a part of the transition, I need to build a clientele in the new location. Apart from God’s intervention, I fully expect that to initially be a slow process. I am, however, starting off with a big bang. My boss is on a long overdue 5 week vacation, and I am seeing many of his clients. This is good training. How I was going to pull off this 5 week stint two hours from home without a place to stay was a mystery to me. But then my employer and his wife decided to graciously allow us to enjoy the comforts of their home by house sitting for them. Of course, God knew the provision He had for us, and I had to take each fog veiled step forward by His leading. That is what trust is, not knowing where you are going or how you will get there, and taking the next step as each one is revealed. Sometimes God provides a sunny view of many days ahead, but at other times He allows the fog to thicken so that we must step cautiously and confidently in the light He gives. The house we have been living in is a good provision for our needs at this juncture, but it is far from fancy. The house we are house sitting is of another sort. You can click on Vacation Villa, which is what I have decided to call it, to see a few pictures.

A funny side note. We needed to return to the other house this past weekend in order to take care of a few chores. On Friday evening we sat on the front porch overlooking the field and the trees growing off to the horizon. My wife wistfully said, “I like trees.” I replied, “Let me get this straight. You’d rather live in a shack surrounded by trees than a mansion without them.” With a very definite tone she said simply, “Yes.” I added, “Me, too.” That will help us to know what to look for and hope for when we go house hunting.

Well, part of it anyway. We met at the Smoky Mountain Highland Festival Games. We watched some of the cabers and bails being tossed. The Border Collies are always amazing, herding geese and sheep without wearing down their charges. I talked with several clansmen in tents, particularly asking about some history of Stewart. The older gentleman recognized that I had a Stewart nose with a crease in the tip of my nose. The history of outlawed tartans for men after the Jacobite Rebellion was interesting. The women had to carry the tartans in their skirt patterns. At the Burnett tent I was gazing at the motto drawing, thinking that I had seen something similar before. A clansman asked if I had a question. This precipitated a discussion about how their motto, “Virescit Vulnere Virtus”, is the same as the Stewart motto. Both clans have the same ancestry. The motto is said to have been adopted after Mary Stewart, Queen of Scots, embroidered it into one of several still surviving tapestries that her and her ladies in waiting made during her long years of confinement at the hand of her cousin, Elizabeth I. The motto translates to “Courage grows strong at a wound.” It is supposedly a political statement against her cousin. All of these tidbits, demonstrations, sport, dance, instruments, weapons, and clothing were interesting, but the main event was seeing our grandchildren and interacting with them. If you want to catch a little of the flavor of the day, click on Scottish Clad Grandchildren to see a few pictures.

Our Rock

“The Rock they followed was Christ.” (I Corinthians 10:4) Paul is saying that the cloud and pillar were the glory of Christ and all of the provision was from Christ. (1)

“Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.” (Exodus 17:6) Why did Moses strike the rock? Well, because God told him to. But the significance is seen in what Christ did for us, rescuing us from the thirst of separation from and lack of knowledge of God. Christ was struck many blows and killed on a cross.

“Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink.” So Moses took the rod from before the Lord, just as He had commanded him; and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, “Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” (Numbers 20:8-12) “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go up to this mountain of Abarim, and see the land which I have given to the sons of Israel. When you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother was; for in the wilderness of Zin, during the strife of the congregation, you rebelled against My command to treat Me as holy before their eyes at the water.” (Numbers 27:12-14) Why was God so upset about Moses striking the rock rather than speaking to it. Firstly, it was because God told them to speak to it and they did not obey. Secondly, there is strong evidence of anger and arrogance from Moses in the passage, whereas he had been humble before. “Listen now, you rebels” sounds like he is angry with them. Righteous anger is appropriate, but “the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20) Evidence for the arrogance is seen in the phrase “shall we bring forth”. God works the miracles; Moses or anyone else is the conduit or messenger. Thirdly, by not obeying God, they were not showing the people proper reverence (fear) of the Lord. Fourthly, and I think significantly, Moses’ and Aaron’s presumption twisted the meaning of God’s analogy of Christ’s work. You see that the second time that Christ comes, He will not suffer on the cross but come triumphantly in order to gather His own to Himself. As the Scripture says, “Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.” (Hebrews 9:28) God struck Christ in order that we may go free from the penalty of sin. Now we may ask what is needful so that we may be free from the power of sin, and one day we will ask in order to be freed from the presence of sin. We ask for the what God has provided.

Christ is our provision in whom we trust. He is our protector. He is our power. David knew this very well in the heat of battle and in the intrigues of palace. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change.” (Psalm 46:1) “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge.” (2 Samuel 22:3)

Moses wanted to know more of God. He presented his case logically, concluding, “if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight.” (Exodus 33:13) “Then the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.” (Exodus 33:21-23) As the hymn says, “He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock, that shadows a dry, thirsty land; He hideth my life in the depths of His love, and covers me there with His hand, and covers me there with His hand.” So, Christ is not only a protector and refuge from the evils of the world, the flesh, and the devil, but more significantly, from the wrath of God. We have far too low of a view of God’s righteousness and justice. His very character compels Him to have wrath for sin. Christ is as an indestructible umbrella shielding us from the rain of brimstone coming from the very hand of God for sin. He shields us because He has taken our wrath, and in His death is “the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:26) I dare not step out from under my protection from God’s wrath, but by His help, I persevere in trust of Christ’s finished work on my behalf.

In summary, Our Rock, the Lord Jesus, was cleft by dying on the cross, so that we may have a refuge from the wrath of God and one day see Him because the Spirit is making us the pure in heart (Matthew 5:8). Therefore, as one hymn says, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.” And another hymn confirms, “No merit of my own, His anger to suppress. My only hope is found in Jesus’ righteousness.”

“Indeed their rock is not like our Rock, even our enemies themselves judge this.” (Deuteronomy 32:31)

  1. I feel that this blog entry is woefully inadequate in the covering the scope of this subject, and therefore, it jumps around as a rough survey of many of uses of rock as an analogy for Christ. This needs to be a chapter or book. Our God is awesome!

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!”

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.

I decided awhile back in writing blogs that since accurate quotes are hard to come by, especially from notes taken from live talks (sermons, lectures, conversations, etc), that I would at least communicate with myself when I was not exactly quoting, but just accurately summarizing with words actually spoken (or synonyms thereof) but not necessarily in that order, to surround them with apostrophes (‘) rather than quotation marks (“).(1) See if you think that I am wrong to pass these off as nearly quotes.(2)

In the sermon this morning, my pastor said many noteworthy things. I was dull of mind and slow of pen and didn’t get many of them down, but following are a few essentials I grabbed out of the verbal stream:

“God is Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer… These are the foundational issues we build our lives upon.”

‘In the variable winds and choppy waves of our rapidly changing culture that make us soul sick, we do not build our lives upon trends in our culture or traditions of better days, but the truth of God’s Word.’ Actually, he didn’t use ‘variable’ or ‘choppy’ but described the bounce on a small boat that made him sick. And though he conveyed all of the thoughts with almost all those words, they never appeared in one sentence. So, what are you building your life upon in these changeable time- trends, traditions, or truth? Trends and traditions may align with truth, but they are not the judge or guide of our choices, truth is.

He read about the sixth day of creation from Genesis 1:24-31. Though he said much more could be gleaned, he did offer 5 applications:

“God is our authority. Life is precious. Men and women are different theologically and biologically. We should celebrate the differences in men and women.” ‘We live within our God given callings and then we are blessed.’ I was behind on my writing and could not get down the last one exactly, but it most interested me. He talked about how obeying God’s calling, which he prefers over the word role, brings life, while living counter to it brings death. We see the promotion of so much death in our culture these days that verify the judgements of Romans 1 on those who refuse to acknowledge God and His callings. Are you as a church-goer, perhaps even devotee of Christ, following these life cursing trends in our culture? For the sake of us all, please stop!

1. That was such a fun sentence to write. I hope it is grammatically correct and easily understood.

2. Do you realize that I am suggesting a new grammatical form and use of the apostrophe? Old School Grammarians would disdain my attempt to amend the rules. They might say, ‘You do not need such non-sense. We already have quotes and summaries of ideas.’ I would retort, “That is what they said. I just am not willing to swear in court that they used those exact words in that exact order.”

Overflows from the Heart

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

CreatorWorship

Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains