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Posts Tagged ‘Sustaining’

Many the comment that comes from students the last few days for school. Many are gracious, wanting to end on a friendly note. It shows a measure of decency on the part of the majority of students. Others are harshly truthful and others contrived, far from truthful, out of some need to right a never done wrong. “I can’t wait until this class is over. Friends told me that I wouldn’t be able to wait to get out of here, but that I would miss you afterward. I don’t see that happening.” It seemed like a complement to me, if not from the student in front of me, then certainly from the ‘friends’. Dealing constantly with people is not easy business. It wears on the emotions, particularly if you care even a little bit. It doesn’t help that you always know that you have failed in some small way with every person you interact with, even though you know you did your best overall and intended the best for your students. It is for all of this difficulty in the midst of trying that the occasional word of genuine encouragement lifts the weary soul. At the end of the last assignment to be graded for one class there was the following statement: “Mr. __, I’m so glad you were my teacher! I learned alot from you! Science and life choices.” That is the way that I want to be remembered as a teacher- passionate about teaching Science and life. Many of my years of teaching have been stressful for reasons inside the class and out. This past year was not the worst for stress, but it did rank. At the same time it was a year of spiritual benefit in my own life and in opportunity to talk to students about eternal things. It sometimes amazes me how often students will bring up the subject of where we came from, or do I believe in God, or how do you solve life’s difficult problems, or what is the meaning of life. Some of the questions relate directly to the subject at hand and others seem random, though I am sure that the underlying thought process that brought them forward was not. I hope that I taught many students science and life this past year and that God will take what I offered for His glory and their good.

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Hebrews 1:3 is a deeply insightful verse about our God: “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” I have long been fascinated by the phrase “radiance of His glory” and have written about it once upon a time here (Radiance Check out the poem, too.). “Radiance” is translated “brightness” in several versions but seems to fall short of conveying what Jesus accomplishes by revelation to us of His Father. He shines forth His glory, that is, we could not know of God without seeing His glory in Jesus’ representation of Him. You only see the sun because of the light radiating from it. Analogies can be taken too far, in this case to make Jesus out to be something or someone separate from the Father. That is heresy and not at all my intention in explaining radiance. Rather, hear what Jesus said, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9) That verse, of course, bears on the phrase “exact representation” also. In the ESV it reads, “exact imprint”. As an illustration I pressed my truck key into Play-Doh. I pointed out that plastic could be poured into the imprint, harden and used to open my truck door. Again, you could get into positive/negative imprint or representation being a facsimile rather than the original but that is not what the Scripture is saying. These analogies fall short because of the mystery of the Trinity, meaning our inability to understand the essential nature of God, but He gives us insight to extend our understanding even though we fall short of full understanding.

The next phrase is the one that has caught my attention most recently. I am now going to indulge in some manifest musing (or “thinking out loud” as we usually say if I were talking to you). Heupholds all things by the word of His power.” “Word of His power” is an odd construction in English. NASB, KJV, NKJV, and ESV use this phrase. NIV, HCSB, and NRSV say, “His powerful word”, and the RSV says, “his word of power”, both phrases which seem to me to have a different meaning from “word of His power”.  I suspect the three newer translations (NIV, HCSB, and NRSV) made interpretative decisions for the purpose of clarity. Is this change justified? The Greek Interlinear Bible (http://www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/NTpdf/heb1.pdf) has the literal English word order as “declaration [word] of the ability (power) of Him” (“[]” being my addition and “()” being theirs). Not claiming to know more than the slightest inkling of Greek grammar, I can at least say that the majority translations are going with the more literal wording. The interlinear translation and Strong’s help us with what the particular words mean. “Word” here is not logos, the expression of God, but rhema, a declaration. And “power” is dynamis, which means ability or potential for power or action.

The “of” is important. It denotes possession. If I say, “son of mine” I mean the same thing as “my son”. The shade of difference is the emphasis on son in the first phrase. So the reason I don’t think “word of His power” and “His powerful word” mean the same thing is that “powerful” is not possessive, but a descriptive modifier. It says His word is powerful. “Word of His power” says His power’s word. The power is expressed in a declaration (word). Rather than saying His word has power, it seems to be saying that His power has word. His power proceeds forth as that which communicates what will be (be that static (“upholds”) or dynamic (“created” Isaiah 40:26)). Word modifies power rather than power modifying word. If we had the word it could read, ‘His wordful power’. The emphasis is on declaration (word) that upholds all things but the source of that word is His power. From His power proceeds forth a word which upholds. The way his power is being exhibited is through efficacious declaration.

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Rocking Chair

To and fro, there and back
I love a rocking chair
Floor and chair creak and crack
As back and forth I tear

Back and forth hard I go
I like to rock with flare
Recurved tips stem the flow
Making mishaps so rare

I can rock fast enough
To stir surrounding air
Long enough, plenty rough
To make a carpet bare

Mom rocked me on her knee
And yet she would declare
Mark my word, wait and see
His rocking all will wear

I rocked babes fast asleep
Secure in arms that bear
No crying, not a peep
Disturb babe, don’t you dare

Rocking is relaxing
Relieves the mind of care
Time for intense praying
Turns darkness into fair

Some prefer a TV
Recliner in man lair
Me, a rocker you see
Where I can grunt and stare

Write a poem rocking
Eat a bowl of soup there
Some essay concocting
Or read the Word and prayer

Worries come a-knocking
Decisions like sun’s glare
Before considering
To rocker I repair

When red flags go flying
As false ideas blare
Search for truth while rocking
And find where it does err

Slow, easy, day is done
Sort thoughts as combing hair
Hard, easy, sorrow, fun
Like runners are a pair

I decided I wanted to write a poem that was on a different subject than my usual several favorites. I had come across Robert Louis Stevenson’s
“The Swing”, which I quite like. And I like swings very much, too, but most of
my motion while sitting pivots about a rocking chair. Here is how I write a poem.
Firstly, an idea for a poem comes to me, as reading “The Swing” had provided in this case,
or the first line or two of a poem rolls off my mind as I am considering an
idea. This first line or two or the first verse form the basis for the challenge
(perhaps game is a better word) that I begin. I constrain myself to writing
the rest of the poem with same rhyme scheme (number of syllables per line) at the very least. Frequently I use the same sound ending for the same lines in each verse, as in this poem. Sometimes I even constrain myself to the same tenor of the lines in each verse. For example, the following verse illustrates this idea:

Each new day God provides our need
He our bodies and spirits feed
Sometimes it feels like we are starved
It is then we are apt to plead

Lines 1 and 2 in this poem either communicate a blessing or command of God or a demand placed on our lives. Line 3 in each verse of the poem conveys and doubt or other faith struggle followed in line 4 by the solution or provision God gives. I know that my self-placed constraints are not necessary but it is part of the challenge that keeps wanting to write poetry, that plus a real strong feel that poetry should rhyme. A humorous side note to this poem is I had written seven verses minus one line without much difficulty, but the last line would just not yield itself. So I did an exercise I generally like to avoid, partly because it seems like cheating in the game. I wrote out all of the words ending in the “-are” sound that I could think of. At this point I thought, “Wow, all of those expressive terms and I’m not using them.” That’s when the poem ballooned into eleven verses. Oh, there is one other constraining “rule” I place upon myself that is a higher priority than the rest. The lines must tell the truth. Certainly I mean philosophically, but also I mean personally. For example, my mom did rock me on her knee, and though I am not quoting what she said about my rocking wearing on people, she did comment many times about how I wore her out watching me and I how could wear out a rocking chair. So the crazy thing about you reading this poem, if you understood all that it says, is that you know more about me than many people that I have spent years around.

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How could I not be thinking about testing with the situation I was in. But my thoughts went to a different, more significant and substantial type of test- the test of faith. Some days I am trusting fairly well but others I am failing miserably. The thoroughly up side of this type of test though is the guaranteed perfect grade at the end of the term for those enrolled in the class.

Mark it well, this is only a test
Heaven comes after, eternal rest
Now prove the metal of who you are
It's faith in God will carry you far

It's not by works you enter the rest
Nor by your goodness you pass the test
Your goodness comes by God's work in you
Obtained by faith in the Savior true

Not one temptation can overwhelm
When you cling to God who's at the helm
Storms, wind, and hail will batter your boat
The trusted Master keeps you afloat

Saved by grace through faith in Christ alone
Scripture instructs, by this you are grown
God receives praise as only He should          (Solae Quinque)
For God passed your test, He only could

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I listened to a youtube video as I often do, and this one was titled “Self-Efficacy”. The intent of the video was kind but the result was mistaken and really sad. It explained that “self-esteem is this idea about how you see yourself, how capable you think you are, how happy you are with yourself, but self-efficacy is something kind of different, and its rather important. It’s how you perceive your ability to accomplish something.” The video went on to explain how one must develop self-efficacy to accomplish anything and that no one else can really show you how but only inspire you to try. It went on to say that there are people that use self-efficacy for evil to gain confidence to hurt people. A sad part to me was the realization that all self actualization is bad because it emphasizes and exalts self and ignores or even rejects God. We should have Christ-esteem which then provides us with value because He created us and died for us and enables us. And we should bless His efficacy that enables each one of us to “do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) The most sad part of the video, however, was the inadvertent admission later in the video that the speaker did not know how to bring about world peace even though he thought that it must be emphasized. I can’t bring about world peace either but I know from whence peace comes and whence world peace shall come. We may have peace with God and within ourselves now by trusting in what Jesus did on the cross. That enables us to pursue growing peace with those around us and will one day result in world peace when Jesus returns and sets the world right.

As I mulled over some difficulties within my family recently I concluded that even though life may be difficult at times, it is right and good and beneficial for us to trust God. The following poem came to me as I thought on these things:

Each new day God provides our need
He our bodies and spirits feed
Sometimes it feels like we are starved
It is then we are apt to plead

To call on Him for our supply
Is His command, He will reply
Of delay that seems not answered
Glorifies Him when we rely

Emotions raw so often we cry
Relationships have gone awry
All hope of healing seems removed
Then must we trust Him though we sigh

Good health eludes us though pursued
Accidents happen though we cared
For these struggles so unprepared
Faith does not mean we will be spared

It is then we trust God so wise
Know Him more as each moment flies
Submit, expectations altered
Temporal and eternal prize

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In the fourth generation and 60 years after King David died there arose a king over Judah whose name was Asa. His father and grandfather had no heart for God, worshipping idols and allowing the people to run wild in their pursuit of idolatry. And his great-grandfather, Solomon, turned away from God in His old age because of the enticement and idolatry of his many wives. So it is a surprise the high praise Asa is given in I Kings 15: “Asa did what was right in the sight of the Lord, like David his father. He also put away the male cult prostitutes from the land and removed all the idols which his father had made. He also removed Maacah his mother from being queen mother, because she had made a horrid image as an Asherah; and Asa cut down her horrid image and burned it at the brook Kidron… the heart of Asa was wholly devoted to the Lord all his days.” (v.11-13, 14b) Much of Asa’s story is repeated in II Chronicles 14-16, but as is frequently the case the story includes more spiritually commentary on details given in Kings. Besides removing idols and their worshippers, II Chronicles 14 also says that he “commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers and to observe the law and the commandment” (v. 4) and God rewarded him in that “the land was undisturbed, and there was no one at war with him during those years, because the Lord had given him rest.” (v. 6) Asa took advantage of these benefits of time and security by fortifying cities and strengthening the number and equipment of his army. And yet he did not put his trust in these but called on God to defeat a million man Ethiopian army that came against him. In response God indeed defeated the army and sent Azariah the prophet to strengthen and encourage Asa and Judah to continue seeking God because there is reward in it (II Chronicles 15:1-7). Asa indeed took courage and increased his reforms in Israel by more idol worship removal, restoring the altar of the temple and sacrificing on it, and promoting a covenant among the people to serve God only. There was peace for 20 more years.

     In all of this glowing report about Asa there are two blindspots of his that arise in the story. One is obvious and the other is not. “In the thirty-sixth year of Asa’s reign Baasha king of Israel came up against Judah and fortified Ramah in order to prevent anyone from going out or coming in to Asa king of Judah. Then Asa brought out silver and gold from the treasuries of the house of the Lord and the king’s house, and sent them to Ben-hadad king of Aram, who lived in Damascus, saying, ‘Let there be a treaty between you and me, as between my father and your father. Behold, I have sent you silver and gold; go, break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel so that he will withdraw from me.’” (II Chronicles 16:1-3) Baasha does withdraw and Asa has all of his people carry away the materials of fortification to build other fortifications. Well played, right? No, poorly played because as the prophet Hanani points out, “you have relied on the king of Aram and have not relied on the Lord your God.” (v. 7) Asa’s blindspot, indeed his sin, is pride in the form of self-reliance. This had not been a problem 20 years before when he had called on God to defeat the enemy. Three indicators that it is indeed pride and not a simple oversight follow. Asa throws the prophet into prison and oppresses some of the people, maybe because they agreed with Hanani. The third indicator of his old age pride appears three years later when God further tests him with disease in his feet. “Yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians.” (v. 12) The word “yet” indicates that this activity was a continuation of the self-reliance with the scheming that trusted a king rather than God. Such self-reliance is a danger for us all. For youth it may generally fall more in the realm of strength and supposed invincibility, but for the wizened king it may have been more the bane of years of experience without continued growth in reliance upon God due to comfort. We cannot let our guard down, “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (v. 9) The biter was the prophet’s next words: “You have acted foolishly in this.” If Asa had repented right then and there God may not have strapped him with so much war thereafter, or not tested him with foot disease. God is more concerned with purifying us than making us comfortable.

     The less obvious blindspot of Asa appears in one short phrase basically repeated in the other passage. “But the high places were not taken away,” and “…not removed from Israel.” (I Kings 15:14a; II Chronicles 15:17a) These detractors from Asa’s reputation are almost dismissed by their follow-up phrases: “nevertheless the heart of Asa was wholly devoted to the Lord all his days,” (I Kings 15:14) and “nevertheless Asa’s heart was blameless all his days.” (II Chronicles 15:17) It seems that even though the high places were an oversight in Asa’s reforms and worship, his intentions toward God in worship were always pure. But this is not quite the end of the discussion because the Chronicles passage adds some facts that seem to confuse this whole problem. One of the first things that II Chronicles 14 indicates that Asa did was “he removed the foreign altars and high places, tore down the sacred pillars, cut down the Asherim…” (v. 3). Did he remove the high places or did he not? I think that the answer is both yes and no. This latter mention of high places is surrounded by mention of “foreign altars” with specific examples. The other high places may have been of the type mentioned when God spoke to Solomon in I Kings 3: “The people were still sacrificing on the high places, because there was no house built for the name of the Lord until those days. 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. In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, “Ask what you wish Me to give you.” (v. 2-5) Solomon along with the people and subsequent kings all had this blindspot. They were worshipping God but not how and where He told them to worship. In fact it was not until Hezekiah, 9 generations and over 210 years later, that “he removed the high places…” (II Kings 18:4) The Assyrian general scoffing at Judah’s confidence confirms that these are the high places of worship to God when he says, “is it not He whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and has said to Judah and to Jerusalem, ‘You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem’?” (II Kings 18:22) What then is my point by all of this “high places” discussion? What may I learn? As I grow older I certainly want to avoid the glaring sin of self-reliance, and repent where it rears its ugly head. But I also want to ferret out the more subtle blindspots, sins of my culture that are dragging us down and we don’t even see it. God is gracious with us overlooking so much. When our heart is right before Him, He extends more grace, guiding us through many difficulties with help and rest on all sides. But our blindspots are not overlooked; He knows them every one. O Lord, reveal them to us so that we may go deeper with You, gain Your blessing on ourselves and our culture, and glorify Your name in every crack and cranny of life, so that “we are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5).

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Humility should always be donned by a Christian. We were sinners; we are sinners saved by grace; we will one day not be sinners by the grace of God. Oh, that I could communicate by words and deeds a life of repentance and trust, repentance and trust.
Ups and downs and all arounds
The days go rolling by
No matter all the times we fail
We must again retry

Thank your God or take the rod
A smile or else a cry
Repent, forgiveness will prevail
Joy replaces a sigh

Trust Him now and so learn how
To overcome the lie
That Spirit's power has no avail
To cause the flesh to die

When upside down makes you frown
Recall God is on high
No matter what may you assail
He is all your supply

Jesus died to sin applied
Believe, do not deny
His power over death and hell
One day to heaven fly

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