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Posts Tagged ‘Sustaining’

I’m not complaining to say the following about 2019. It has simply been a difficult year. Health, stress, strained relationships, loneliness, unfulfilled dreams and expectations, they have all been there. But God has been there, too, and He ordained, allowed, and prescribed the difficulty as well as directed, sustained, and provided in the midst of it. I am not here to say everything is alright now, but I am here to say God’s presence has been more obvious in the midst of the ongoing difficulties. Forgive the overuse of a single rhyme sound. After the first verse came, it became a challenge to continue with coherent, true, and heartfelt lines. Some people say don’t look back, but bracing for the next wave, as well as riding it, requires a steady foothold and keen balance based in knowing your source of propulsion and floatation.

Oh, my goodness, what a year!
Losing things I thought were dear
Trials and temptation to fear
Mundane difficulty drear

Oh, my God, Your presence near!
Comforting when every tear
And discouragement appear
Sparks of joy amidst unclear

Oh, my Comforter, and dear
My cries for help so sincere
Do not fall on a deaf ear
Do not meet with scoff or jeer

Oh, my Jesus, grace so clear
Wipes away my every tear
Makes the voice express my cheer
Pushes worries to the rear

Oh, my Lord, in this new year
Me not from Your path to veer
Own ordained influence sphere
Trials that witness to each peer

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“When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
Your consolations delight my soul.” Psalm 94:19

There is peace and rest and joy for the anxious soul here. But how do you or I access it?

I don’t know if I have ever had what would be clinically considered to be a panic attack, but I have had significant feedback loops where disturbing, worrying, debilitating, anxious thoughts accelerated in my mind, even giving me the shakes or rendering me sleepless. These are rare events for me, as I usually keep very busy and my family can attest to how fast and how soundly I sleep. But I do have garden variety worries and feelings of inadequacies for tasks at hand. Some people genuinely don’t have trouble with anxiety. I say honestly, good for them. I am told that I come across as a confident person. I am not intending to fake confidence. I know what I believe and “I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Timothy 2:12) But even so, I have anxious thoughts, and particularly thoughts of inadequacy. I think that it is a residual of my upbringing that will never go away.

Does that mean I can never have victory over it? Not in the least. And that is where this verse comes in. If there was reason for worry the psalmist had reason. Evil people were being arrogant in every way and harming God’s people and the destitute and there was no visible evidence that God was paying attention. The psalmist goes on to declare that he does believe that God hears and will act in judgement and will support the righteous, but that doesn’t negate the present difficulties nor the “anxious thoughts” that “multiply” (v.19)

For any activity or thought pattern that needs to cease, there needs to be a replacement. To just say to someone or to yourself, “Stop that,” and not give an alternate path for thought or deed is useless. But what is the replacement? “Consolations”? What are those? I understand that God provides them in at least three forms (that are significantly overlapping): promises, practices, and presence.

Following are but a few examples of each one:

     Promises

“Your lovingkindness, O Lord, will hold me up.” Psalm 94:18  

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” Psalm 34:18      

” Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10                

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” John 15:7-11                                                                                                                     

   Practices

“Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

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. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9

But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith,love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” I Timothy 6:11-12

   Presence

“I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

” But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all the I have said to you.” John 14:26

“He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraidWhat will man do to me?”” Hebrews 13:5-6

” then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.”                   I Thessalonians 4:17

God’s consolations are many and ever present to those who by His grace belong to Him. When you and I get caught in moments of worry or waylaid by anxiety, replace it with the promises of God, the life giving practices He has provided for us to live before Him, and the knowledge of His continual and intimate presence as we call upon Him.

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Resolutions are like water off a ducks back. They bead up on the oily resistance of our habits and roll off of the feather weight of our existence. We really don’t have the ability to make change that counts for eternity. We may do that which is good, by common grace, for our neighbor or environment, but still wrongly intentioned.

So why even talk about resolutions or trying at all? The reason is The Enabler, the Holy Spirit, Who lives inside of those who have and habitually submit to Him.

Is this enabling just for the perfect and privileged? No, it is for all who feel a deep desire, ultimately given by the same Enabler, to make change.

And how is this enabling obtained and practiced? It starts with submission to the Son in salvation of the soul and continues in a renewing of that submission as life goes along. Jesus came to save sinners from rebellions and omissions past, present, and future, but He also came in order for those sinners to do what is right in God’s sight. As is says in Romans 8:3-4: For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

My resolve then for this coming year is not by my own puny strength which will fade or become puffed up with some level of success, but “divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (2 Corinthians 10:4; check out verses 3-6).

How do I access that kind of power? Yesterday morning in church after hearing a sermon on how Christ is better than all other ways to God and enables us to live victoriously, I wanted to conclude the service with the following hymn by James Fillmore:

  1. I am resolved no longer to linger,
    Charmed by the world’s delight,
    Things that are higher, things that are nobler,
    These have allured my sight.

    • Refrain:
      I will hasten to Him,
      Hasten so glad and free;
      Jesus, greatest, highest,
      I will come to Thee.
  2. I am resolved to go to the Savior,
    Leaving my sin and strife;
    He is the true One, He is the just One,
    He hath the words of life.
  3. I am resolved to follow the Savior,
    Faithful and true each day;
    Heed what He sayeth, do what He willeth,
    He is the living Way.
  4. I am resolved to enter the kingdom,
    Leaving the paths of sin;
    Friends may oppose me, foes may beset me,
    Still will I enter in.
  5. I am resolved, and who will go with me?
    Come, friends, without delay;
    Taught by the Bible, led by the Spirit,
    We’ll walk the heav’nly way.

I settled for singing one verse and refrain with two sisters from the choir. I hope it will set a tone for my life and theirs and yours in the coming year, that God’s power might wet our most stubborn, bad habits until they are washed away and fire our weak resolve into weighty ballast of the soul for God and His kingdom.

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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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