All Things: From,Through, and For Him

God was wisely sovereign when I heard the words on my birthday, “Your chest x-ray is abnormal.”  I had already been struggling with debilitating vision.  Now, I was being told that my lungs were being damaged by an overactive immune system which was attacking this much needed organ for breathing.  Over the last three years I have been struggling with unexpected and weird, even rare, health issues.   And, yet, I am being cared for with a sovereign wisdom that is perfect.  I don’t have to understand the why or know what will happen next; I just need to know my God, for then I will most happily trust and rest in His active care.

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God’s ways are inscrutable, because, honestly, I cannot even come close to knowing what the right questions should be to ask. God surveys all time in one gaze. He knows and sees everything, all at once, all the time. I can’t even begin to go there. I remember some of my past. For, today, well, I am here in the moment. And I have no ability to tell you what is going to happen next, because I frankly don’t know; and even what I suspect might happen doesn’t necessarily mean it will. Not so with God. He is beyond time. He is present in all time. And He controls the minutiae of every day in the universe as well as the invisible world beyond that which we can perceive. There is so much I just don’t know! How can I even begin to control what I can’t understand?


Oregon Thor's Well

 

Not only is God wisely sovereign over everything, but He is also dedicated to completing His work in me; so that I am made able to finish the works that He Himself ordained for me to do (Philippians 1:6).  I am confident that I will not have one unfinished task, because of His divine promises to me, His faithful love over me and His power to accomplish what He says He will do. God is able and trustworthy, so I am assured that He will complete everything concerning me.  When I actively believe these truths about my God, it makes me happy and at peace in and with my God, even smack dab in the middle of difficult days.  God always acts in a way that is beautiful and above reproach, and He is laying up His goodness for those who trust in Him.  “Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!” (Psalm 31:19).   The apostle Paul writes to the Christians in Thessalonica sharing how he prays for them, “…that by His power He may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.” Paul writes in another letter, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?  He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”  So, if God is for me, then I am being held by the safest, strongest, and most worthy hands.


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Who I am and whatever I possess originates with God.  I didn’t create me.  I didn’t decide when I wanted to be born, or where, or into which family.  I have absolutely nothing to do with my existence.  Which is kind of crazy to wrap your mind around, because when things go wrong in our lives it is common to feel that you deserve a bit better in your life.  But, I don’t even exist on my own.  The breath in my lungs doesn’t originate inside of me.  God is generously giving you and me every breath.  It is all from God.  So, when I think about the good life plans ordained for me by God, and more specifically the tasks He has ordained for me to do, I must consider that none of which I was created do comes from me.  Everything comes from God.  It always starts and ends with God.  Even when I do the things I was designed by God to do, I am only giving back to Him what belongs to Him anyway.  God is not any richer by my giving to Him.  God is not needing anything that I can do for Him.  It is similar to a child giving a birthday present to their parent which they purchased with their parent’s money!  My behavior and good gifts will never put God into my debt; everything always comes from Him!  All glory, honor and power belongs to Him.  

Doxology

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgments,
    and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
    that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
    To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Romans 11:33-36

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(All images used are believed to be in the public domain.)

The Crime of Stealing Glory

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To be recognized and esteemed by those around us is a struggle fought deep in the heart.  So, although one may believe in Christ Jesus as the Son of God, the love of being known and esteemed in this world swallows up the greater healing of being known and loved by God eternally.  So, the heart must confess its desire for lesser glory:

O heavenly Father, our mighty God, give to me a heart like Your suffering Servant who came to fulfill all the Scriptures and all of Your holy will.  For Your Son Jesus is the exalted King above every name, and He came as Your Servant sent to save the world.  In Jesus is all of Your glory seen.  You, Father, commanded all that Christ Jesus, Your anointed would say, all He would speak.  Jesus said, “What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”  
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Reshape my heart by Your Spirit so that I will not love the fading glory that is in this world more than I love the Glory that comes from God.  Of Christ, our glory, it is written, “And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name.”

 Forgive me, O God, for any claim to Your glory.  Humble my heart in the hope of the cross. How dare I substitute shameful glory for the surpassing worth of Your great name!  Let me walk in those footsteps to Calvary and only desire to do what You have spoken.  Thank you for covering these sins of mine in the gushing red flow of Christ’s suffering.  Jesus Christ is Lord.  Let my life live outloud the worth of this name.   

 

I cast my mind to Calvary
Where Jesus bled and died for me.
I see His wounds, His hands, His feet.
My Savior on that cursed tree
His body bound and drenched in tears
They laid Him down in Joseph’s tomb.
The entrance sealed by heavy stone
Messiah still and all alone
O praise the name of the Lord our God
O praise His name forever more
For endless days we will sing Your praise
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God
Then on the third at break of dawn,
The Son of heaven rose again.
O trampled death where is your sting?
The angels roar for Christ the King
O praise the name of the Lord our God
O praise His name forever more
For endless days we will sing Your praise
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God
He shall return in robes of white,
The blazing Son shall pierce the night.
And I will rise among the saints,
My gaze transfixed on Jesus’ face
O praise the name of the Lord our God
O praise His name forever more
For endless days we will sing Your praise
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God
O praise the name of the Lord our God
O praise His name forever more
For endless days we will sing Your praise
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God
Songwriters: Dean Ussher / Marty Sampson / Benjamin Hastings
O Praise The Name lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group

Sight of Glory

My Prayer for Today
Please, dear Jesus, do not let me diminish the greatness of your salvation; for my desires betray me, and I must be rescued from my own heart’s reign.  Keep my heart from straying, from soaking in and absorbing the temporal enticements of this world.  Oh, how I am reminded by the prophet Isaiah that I barely understand the weight of glory that surrounds the I AM.
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God, you are both immanent and transcendent. Perhaps, I gravitate toward your immanence (talking of Your love & kindness, stressing your nearness, accessibility and my oneness in Christ) but spend less time remembering Your transcendence (stressing your holiness, your inapproachability, your total ‘otherness’ and distinction from us). Let me see the fulness of your glory! Open my heart’s eyes to see like your servant Isaiah.  Give me understanding so that I might know ALL of your wonderful glory!  I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted us ; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  John commented,”Isaiah said these things because he saw His glory and spoke about Him.” ( Is. 6, John 12:41).  You created us and are separated from us in your glorious holiness.

Isaiah was given eyes to see your rightful judgment on those who would not worship you, our Creator God, as the one and only God.  And Isaiah, gripped with agonizing and extreme feelings of fear, wrote, “Therefore I am filled with anguish. Pain grips me, like the pain of a woman in labor. I am too perplexed to hear, too dismayed to see. My heart staggers; horror terrifies me. He has turned my last glimmer of hope into sheer terror.” (Isaiah 21:3-5).  This is the rightful response to God’s holy judgment by the one who has eyes to see it.
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O Jesus, I bow my knee to your worthy name! I am nothing apart from your great salvation!  That you would consider me blows me away, but I am even more humbled and awestruck that you have pursued me with your relentless grace.
Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; I wait for You all day long.  Your glory is too much for me! I love you and delight in your glory!  There  is indescribable joy in knowing that you have made a way for me to know you!
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Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!

Travel Light

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Travel light with eyes bright
The King’s beauty on display
Let me not be taken away
With longings for lesser glory
At best a temporal story
Wasting my life by wishing for
That which has no Life or Light

Dreaming with a Bigger Lens

vangogh-stars-quote1           (PC:  Rebecca Barray)

Dreams are often wishes unfulfilled.  Our longings take concrete shape as our minds explore endless ways to create what our visions for justice, push for discovery and desires for beauty beg for.  Made in the reflection of the infinite, God wires us with aptitudes and investigative minds able to innovate, design, build, create, examine, explore and solve; and it would seem humanity is a tireless and thrilling resource for more of whatever our restless mind can imagine.  Because dreams are not easily navigated, the formidable limitations that hold us back, whether our own inabilities or weaknesses, or the less controllable ones like being born in the wrong century or the wrong neighborhood, can kill our dreams.   As poor, destitute Fantine would sing, “But the tigers come at night, With their voices soft as thunder, As they tear your hope apart, As they turn your dream to shame.”  Dreams often remind us of what we are not.

Dreams were never meant to define us.  All people everywhere are defined by their relationship to God.  Because we were intended for oneness with God, God is to be central in all things; and the inspiration of our dreams must be motivated by the realization that our longings will only find a satisfying reality when they are in correct alignment to Him .  Hundreds of years ago, the apostle Paul spoke in the meeting of the Aeropagus in Athens saying, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’”  The reality of whatever we are hoping for is made a real hope in the resurrection of Christ, the glorious central figure in all of reality.

Another interesting aspect about dreams and hopes are how they shift and morph along the sands of time.  What you dreamed about as a kid probably is not your current big dream.  slide_442010_5844780_freeSimilarly, as our culture has shifted its focus on what matters most, we discover  it is reflected in our own aspirations.  Dr. Tim Keller states, “In ancient cultures what mattered most was honor and making your community proud by fulfilling your duty. The world was conceived as a testing ground to see whether you would be faithful to truth, beauty, and causes higher than your own emotions and interests.  Today, however, our cultures are highly individualistic. There is no duty higher than plumbing the depths of your own desires to find out who you want to be. In modern narratives, the protagonist is usually a person who bravely casts off convention, breaks the rules, defies tradition and authority to discover him or her self and carve out a new place in the world. In ancient tales the hero was the person who did just the opposite, who put aside inner dreams, aspirations, doubts, and feelings in order to bravely and loyally fulfill their vows and obligations.”  So it is that our lofty goals often mirror our world’s changing reflections.  (PC:  Rhiannon Logsdon)

The coming of Jesus brings hopes to our dreams.  What do you dream about?  What keeps you up at night pondering and planning?  Each part of our life is to be laid in submission to the King’s command, and yet the eagerness of the King is for his people’s eternal joy.  Do we dare to place our susceptible aspirations and most secret, heartfelt longings into the hands of the one who breathed life into us, offers rescue from our sinful destitution, and assures that in Himself is life full of love and acceptance?  Is it hard?  Are we afraid of disappointment? The beloved preacher Charles Spurgeon said, “If you reject Him, He answers you with tears. If you wound Him, He bleeds out cleansing, if you kill Him, he dies to redeem. If you bury Him, He rises again to bring us resurrection. Jesus is love manifest.”  In an individualized society, do we dare to turn over our dreams?

Jesus offers an alternate way of living human.  Jesus asks us to have the same mindset that compelled him to completely empty Himself and become a human.  Though completely equal with God, Jesus did not grasp after it.  Though a king, he became a servant of all. manger2013 Jesus deliberately gave up the biggest, living dream ever, lost it all, in order to gain something greater–the redemption of his people.  Now Jesus tells his followers to do the same, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?  For what can a man give in return for his soul?  For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” The Word became flesh and lived right here among us, and we saw his grace and glory.  This glory is life overflowing, and it spills over onto us to give us what we need; grace and truth is spilled out, ever-present, ever-holding on to us, overflowing like a river in us, giving us grace, over and over, grace upon grace.  828fdc9db1c33ecb221f6a7dc7bed7c5

Jesus also provides us with a new filter for the longings of our heart.  Jesus leaves us with His Spirit, the power of the crucified and resurrected Christ.  The Lord tells us that we may ask anything in His name, and He assures us that He will do it with every desire and every dream processed through that precious name for the glory of God.  We ask for His fame, not ours.  Our desires and dreams are put through that filter–His fame, His worth, His wisdom, His honor, His glory.   And we find that our dreams were never really big enough, our lens were too small to capture the story of glory that is now ours through Christ.  

A Tale of Two Rivers

rivers_title_0There is a tale of two rivers told to the reflective heart.  There is glory in the story and great and gentle a reprieve from all that overwhelms.  This story is set oh so long ago, but the heart of the story never quits thumping loud.  Listen, my friend, and hear hope’s story.  Better yet, it is a true story.

Long ago, the powerful Assyrian Empire reached outward expanding westward.  The surrounding nations were nervous, and Syria and Israel sought to compel Judah to form an anti-Assyrian alliance.  King Ahaz, with arrogance of heart, was unwilling and refused to join.  The prophet Isaiah advised the weak, but prideful, king, “Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands…thus says the Yahweh God:  ‘It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass.'”  But, King Ahaz also foolishly refused the counsel of Yahweh God.  Gathering silver and gold from the temple’s treasuries, King Ahaz eagerly offered gifts to the forceful Assyrian king asking him to come to Jerusalem’s aid against the mounting Syrian and Israeli forces.

Judah’s king was jubilant!  Yes, the king’s own strategic alliance had worked! King Tiglath-pileser had defeated Israel and Aram just as he had envisioned.  He had been right to reject the prophet Isaiah’s warnings and to enlist the help of the formidable Assyrians.  Ah, but the ambitious Assyrian had no motivation to stop.  Tilgath-pilneser king of Assyria came against him and afflicted him instead of strengthening him.  2 Chronicles 28:20.  So, the rage of the rushing River swept over Judah heeding no bounderies.

Once again Isaiah speaks using beautiful imagery to paint on the canvas of the heart:  The Lord spoke to me again:  “Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently, and rejoice over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks,  and it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.”  Isaiah 8:5-8
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The small perennial fountain situated in Jerusalem was called Shiloh, and from it flowed a little river that ran gently through the city.  God reminded his people, “Do you not realize that I am in your midst?  I am a gentle brooklet softly meandering with placid, untroubled waters of life.  I invite life and refreshment.  Will you not come to the well of your salvation?  My everspringing fountain of life was meant for your joy.”

But, their hopelessness and poverty made their hearts envy; and their weakness made them desperate.  Their restless hearts were dissatisfied in God; so they gave their confidence to human aid and worldly powers.  Mad with desire, they sought to control their future by trusting in the resources of a mere mortal king.  How stern the lusts that ravage the soul dictating rejection and contempt of holy salvation only to rejoice in the strength, wealth, and assistance of the false and the fickle!  Euphrates the most celebrated river in all the east is an impetuous river that heeds no boundaries.  If you enter this rapid river you will be plunged into the deep; its rushing powerful waters will overtake you.  This river will rise to your neck and you will be caught in its powerful grip.  In its strength, you will perish.
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So, the tale of the two rivers was told, but the lesson was not learned.  A few years later, the Assyrians completely beseiged Jerusalem fulfilling all that that the Yahweh God had spoken.  The River rose spreading like wings over the land engulfing all into its strong currents.

If only you had listened to My instruction,  then you would have been flooded with peace; Your righteousness would have risen and crested like waves on the sea.  
Isaiah 48:18 (VOICE)

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There is yet glory in the story, for the land belongs to  Immanuel; and though violently wasted, the true king will not abandon her.  He would bring massive righteousness to her, rising strong with power and peace.  But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. … The people who walked in great darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. …For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase ofhis government and of peace there will be no end.  
Isaiah 9:2, 6.

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.
Proverbs 14:27

Hear real hope meant to comfort the heart.  Hear the lesson of the two rivers, and choose life.  Turn and trust in the Prince of Peace to still your heart and give the lasting rest your heart stumbles after.  He is gentle and kind softly wooing your heart with his goodness; for in Christ alone will you find sanctuary.

 

Dancing in the Darkness Bringing Joy!

Lord of all creation is Himself born.
Indeed, a God of wonders bursting forth as divine light,
the rising sun coming to us from heaven,
dancing in the darkness bringing  joy to the world.

Dawn breaking
(Photo Credit:  Mikko Lagerstedt)

Born to save his people, he is a bridge groom in the manger coming for his bride.  The babe wrapped in swaddling clothes dresses his bride in white linen, with love wrapping her in his holiness, pure and bright.   The old hymn begins, “Man of sorrows what a name for the man of God who came…”  Man of sorrows, enduring sorrows with so much joy, suffered even the shameful death on the cross to obtain the embrace of his bride in oneness.   Known by his scars, those astonishing wounds are now healing for the nations, joy to the world.  “What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse for my soul…” are staggering words of joy that millions join to sing in endless hallelujahs.

Darkness has become dawn,
and now sweet Lord of joy,
you invite us to enter the joy of Yourself.

Dawn
(Photo credit:  Joe Holley)

Reflection of Glory

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Your Word, O LORD, is a forever Word, firmly fixed above us in the heavens, unmovable, unchanging, existing in permanent relevance. Your reliability is reality. And this world stands today; only because you rule. Ultimately, all things serve your will. In love, you call us to yourself, away from the ruin and destinies of pain in this world.
To any who believe, love, and trust you, Jesus, you have entrusted your good news of love and rescue to share, an exquisite, invaluable treasure offered to others in a vessel as weak as ourselves.  Wow!  You designed for your glorious love to be shared through us!  It is like putting an one-0f-a-kind, priceless treasure in a disposable, red plastic cup, easily broken or tossed away.  You allowed it to be this way on purpose, so that every one will know that the power came from you and never from us.  So each new day, as we look to you, Jesus, a part of our old self dies; so that, your life in us, Jesus, is seen more and more by others.  And as we fix our eyes on you, our Morning Star, we are being transformed into Your image, from one degree of glory to another.  So, by your grace, every-day-dying is at work in us, so that your life, Jesus, is reflected, your Light in us.  We are made to be in oneness with the Beauty we see.

          “We are to shine as the sun, we are to be given the Morning Star.” ~ C. S. Lewis