Saturday, September 29, 2018


I was convicted this morning that many (if not all) of my blogs are about me and my life (surprise!). Yes, God uses circumstances and people in our lives, but the purpose is to point to Him. David and the psalmists did that eloquently. I've been reading the book of 1 Samuel interjected with psalms and it's obvious that God used what was going on in David's life to make Himself known.

The book of 1 Samuel begins with the story of Hannah and her prayer has been an inspiration. Although she praises God, who ended her infertility, it was spoken as she presented Samuel to Eli as a young boy. As she gave back God's precious gift, she said:

“My heart exults in the Lord;
My horn is exalted in the Lord,
My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies,
Because I rejoice in Your salvation.

“There is no one holy like the Lord,
Indeed, there is no one besides You,
Nor is there any rock like our God.

“Boast no more so very proudly,
Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth;
For the Lord is a God of knowledge,
And with Him actions are weighed.

“The bows of the mighty are shattered,
But the feeble gird on strength.

“Those who were full hire themselves out for bread,
But those who were hungry cease to hunger.
Even the barren gives birth to seven,
But she who has many children languishes.

“The Lord kills and makes alive;
He brings down to Sheol and raises up.

“The Lord makes poor and rich;
He brings low, He also exalts.

“He raises the poor from the dust,
He lifts the needy from the ash heap
To make them sit with nobles,
And inherit a seat of honor;
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
And He set the world on them.

“He keeps the feet of His godly ones,
But the wicked ones are silenced in darkness;
For not by might shall a man prevail.

“Those who contend with the Lord will be shattered;
Against them He will thunder in the heavens,
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
And He will give strength to His king,
And will exalt the horn of His anointed.” (1 Samuel 2:1-10)

Not, "Woe is me!" or "I just can't," but God is... God is. Look again and wonder at the God we serve. The God who calls us to His glory and presence, the God who provides and sustains. Weep. Clap. Dance. Be silent.

Trust. Obey. Praise. Exult.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Hard Reality

Seeing yourself the way others see you isn't always pretty... Let me speak for myself: seeing myself the way others see me (or, the way I really am) isn't pretty. I think I know who I want to be, the things I try to be, the person I want to be--but that doesn't necessarily match reality. It's like wanting to draw a self-portrait like daVinci and ending up with da preschool. Embarrassing. Humiliating. Sad.


Reality is that way. Sometimes life is really, really good. Sometimes life is really, really hard. Sometimes life

When it's an issue of sin, God's Word tells me to confess and forsake it: selfishness, pride, covetousness, anger, fear, worry. If others are involved, I need to go to them and ask for their forgiveness. God wants me to see it. He will help me change, and He faithfully convicts me of sin because He loves me. If not meeting a desired reality is more about not being liked, however, that in itself is a pride problem. My heart is more concerned with the approval of others than the approval of God. Fear of others has to be addressed before I can move down the road of getting things right.

That's why knowing God and His grace is so necessary. Because God gave His only Son, Jesus, to die for my sin, I have confidence that He is working out everything else in my life for a good purpose--a better purpose than I might see or recognize. And because He is God, He uses hard things, evil things, even my sin, for His glory. I don't know how. I don't get it. I don't even like it. But I can trust Him to do His good work (in spite of me).

Some days, that's what I cling to. Most days, it affects my thoughts, emotions, and actions. God is good. He is sovereign. He is loving, kind, gracious, gentle, patient, and faithful. I am not. Yet. With His help, we're working on it.

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1 John 3:1-3)

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Weight of Life

Last Sunday morning as we sang, "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms," I considered those around me who are, literally and spiritually, leaning on God's everlasting arms. Ahead of me were flocks of children sharing families, singing the chorus with gusto--and that brought a tear to my eye. Do they know what it means? What lies ahead? Someday they will need that truth; someday when hope is elusive and life is hard, they will need to preach to themselves the importance of leaning on the everlasting arms.

I looked at those touched by divorce, sin, and great loss, already leaning on their Everlasting Father.  Mothers, grandparents, and fathers affected by suffering and hardship, death, prison, rejection, poverty, physical limitations, and the realities of immigration sang together, "What a fellowship! What a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms. What a blessedness, what a peace is mine, leaning on the everlasting arms."

And the weight of those lives closed my voice with an overwhelming sense of God's greatness. He is the Giver of grace. He may not change my circumstance, but He will get me through. He may not allow an easy, carefree life, but He is with me. Frances Brook wrote, "My goal is God Himself, not joy, nor peace, Nor even blessing, but Himself, my God; ’Tis His to lead me there—not mine, but His— At any cost, dear Lord, by any road."

Kabod is the Hebrew word for glory, meaning, "weight." Man has weight, or kabod, because He is made in the image of God. God's glory is beyond our comprehension. In using an Old World scale, how do the things I value balance with God's value, or weight? Do I give them more time, energy, thought, and importance? Or does God Himself equal the weight of my life's pursuits? Do I give Him the glory, or the importance He deserves? His glory, His weight, is predetermined. It is what it is and it will not change. How often in my daily life, do I ascribe to God the glory due His name?

One way is, regardless of my circumstance, to lean on His everlasting arms, trusting Him instead of myself, others, or chance. I can believe that He is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do and act accordingly. That is how, in word and deed, eating, drinking, and whatever I do, I can glorify and honor Him above all.

Ascribe to the Lord, O sons of the mighty,
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name;
Worship the Lord in holy array.

The voice of the Lord is upon the waters;
The God of glory thunders,
The Lord is over many waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful,
The voice of the Lord is majestic.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
Yes, the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
And Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord hews out flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
The Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord makes the deer to calve
And strips the forests bare;
And in His temple everything says, “Glory!”

The Lord sat as King at the flood;
Yes, the Lord sits as King forever.
The Lord will give strength to His people;
The Lord will bless His people with peace. (Psalm 29)

Monday, September 3, 2018

When the Going Gets Tough

Over the last couple of weeks, I have experienced victory in an area of struggle. It's both encouraging and empowering. A little glimpse of victory with an acknowledgment of God's hand results in His glory and my edification.

The truth is, however, God is at work in my life whether I acknowledge it or not, whether I experience victory or defeat. As long as I'm fighting the fight--with or without evidence of winning--God's Spirit is evident. So often, we want the appearance and realization of victory, an absence of conflict, a perfect outcome over and above our circumstances. We just want _______ (fill in the blank). We're tired of struggling, losing, and not winning because we're set on the wrong goal. Our hearts long for perfection and eternity with God, for rest and fulfilled expectation. Instead, God desires surrender to His will, humility and endurance. These do not come easily, quickly, or permanently in this life.

As I read about Jesus' trials, crucifixion and burial today, the thing that stood out was not a repeated word or phrase, but the absence of one. Jesus did not fight against God's purpose. He did not demand His rights, defend Himself, argue, or attack. At other times, He simply slipped through the crowd or left. This time, knowing it was God's will, He submitted Himself to mistreatment, hardship, and persecution. It certainly did not look--to anyone--like He was experiencing victory in His Christian walk. But it was only in His most desperate circumstances that God was working out the greatest victory of all--His glory and our salvation.

Paul, who knew both victory and hardship, wrote this:

Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)


But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.

Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:7-21)