It Is Well With My Soul

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“Humility is like the lead in the net, which keeps the soul down when it is rising through passion; and contentment is like the cork which keeps the heart up when it is sinking through discouragement. ”

Thomas Watson

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Truth to Hang Onto on Difficult Days

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This morning the spring winds were especially blustery.  As unseen winds pushed up against my house, eerie howls encircled the windows of my home leaking in creepy noises.  I heard strange thumps and groaning creaks as the house bemoaned the gusty punches.17854851_1401467119876040_4599875741995813320_o In our front yard, a large limb from our street tree snapped under the pressure and fell hard to the ground.  My neighbor’s children were playing basketball outside next to it when it happened.  I am extremely grateful that none of those precious kiddoes were harmed!  I am writing with a grateful heart this morning and have an unexpected desire to hug those little people.  But, it also reminds me that the breaking of the limb evidences the strength of the wind, that though unseen, it still can damage what is not strong enough to endure the persistent pressure.  

In the same way, the persistent pressure from life’s turbulent stresses can cause us to bend and even break, to fall hard, and to realize real damage to our souls.  If I don’t have a strong root in truth, my weaknesses will succumb to the blustery beatings.  On those difficult days, what can I hang onto?  What is the truth that cannot be shaken?

In one of his letters, Paul addresses the problems of life and how to continue faithfully through them.  Here is what he wrote:
1-corinthians-10_13

Okay, when I am experiencing the strong winds of difficulty, what is the truth that firmly holds and keeps me unmoved?  What can I rely on?  I need to know and understand God’s heart toward me, so I have taken the same Pauline words and re-written them using my own words striving to understand how this applies to my everyday real life.  God’s Word tells me that I can know and believe that I will experience trials and testings that are common to the human experience.  None of my trials are a special exception, but are just normal like everyone else’s.  But, I need to know this, my God is faithful; so, I can trust Him.  My God sovereignly rules and will impose boundaries on my trials, so that I will not be tested above and beyond what is right (even though it may not feel like it, this is the still the truth.)  I also need to know that God promises to provide a way out of the trial with His help, so that I am able to walk in faithful obedience while enduring the stormy, gale-force pressures and difficulties I will encounter again and again.

This is truth that cannot be shaken no matter how fierce the winds blow!  Matt Chandler speaks about the good news of the gospel applied to trials in this way:

The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is regardless of our circumstances, we get God, and he’ll be enough. On the day of trouble, we’ll cry out, and we will hear, “Here I am.” When marriage is difficult, and we cry out, we will hear, “Here I am.” On the day the doctor says, “Can you come in? We need to talk,” we will hear as we cry out to God, “Here I am.”

He will not abandon. He will not quit, and he will not cut out his children. He is ever present, ever chasing, ever hoping, ever putting his Holy Spirit’s power into us to sustain us and hold us up regardless of life’s circumstances. This is how he blesses those who are saturated in grace. He is present. He is enough.

So, when the difficult days come-and they will-remember the faithfulness of our Father and the ever present nearness of our wonderful Jesus, and the resurrection grace and power granted to us by our Helper, the Holy Spirit, and do not be shaken.  Let the Word of truth be a deep root to secure your faith in Christ.

Don’t Give Up!

Banished on the island of Patmos, can you imagine what the apostle John must have felt when Jesus’s beloved friend heard the voice of “one like a Son of Man”?  How long had it been? 16 yrs? . . . did he remember the breakfast smells of freshly caught fish wafting from the shore kindly prepared by a risen Lord? hope in the clouds Did he remember the day His dearest Friend left, his departure so stunning as he effortlessly ascended into the drifting clouds?  John’s own brother had now been killed by King Herod . . . faithful Paul, too, had been martyred. I wonder what he felt in the persistent silence of aloneness? John himself had been exiled for his testimony of Jesus, and now he was waiting weary & longing, patiently persevering.

Christ now stands in the midst of the churches, and we read what John records, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, & the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” The coming King . . . don’t give up, John. Remember who I am. The foundation for our faith, courage and endurance is laid on this cornerstone. Oh, how He loves His church! Jesus is still the Shepherd of His sheep, leading us safely home.

When Fear Paralyzes

key to my life   FEAR PARALYZES.  God gave his people an inheritance of land with a promise. However, the people of Joseph came to their leader Joshua complaining that that their population was too dense for the land space allotted to them. Joshua didn’t budge. If they were so numerous, then be a numerous people with great power and make something of the land. Still, they complained of the obstacles that seemed to define them in their shaky selves. Joshua kept pushing back with God’s promise already given to them.

What devastating weakness lurks in my life, that doubt that makes me shake in my boots?  Remember, fear paralyzes when we forget who is in control. Measure risk by God’s promise. His promise is a sure thing outweighing the loss every time.

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
(Col. 1:11-12)

Tim Keller object of faith
Often, courage  is defined by NOT reflecting what we are surrounded by, but rather courage will call for us to step away from the devastating norm and lead into a new direction by faith in God’s promise.

 

Progress Going Nowhere

pct Pinchot National ForestWhile walking along a long winding path deep in the forest, its canopy providing the perfect barrier to the sun, I feel nervous.  I can’t see past the winding curves that are filled with overflowing floras & low-hanging branches.  It seems that I have plodded the trail for a long time now, occasionally tripping on the bare root of a massive fir.  It can be dark & the way seems unending and full of switchbacks; it is all back and forth, over and over.  Life feels a lot like this sometimes; our own life can be a mystery of switchbacks.  My heart sighs,  Lord, still?  How long?  I am tired.  I know for certain that I have no more strength left for this.  Still?  I reflect  back on the road traveled.  Heart bent over with the weight of pressing burdens.  Weary tears are difficult to hold back; and, like a child, I whine, “Are we there yet?”.

The Word whispers, “Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not.” (Psalm 17:5, KJV).
!.  Who? God.
2. What? Hold up my goings.
3. When? Present tense.
4. Where? In thy paths.
5. Why? That my footsteps slip not.
Are you saying, Lord, that I must learn to trust you without knowing every step, to trust you to hold onto me and to keep me on your path?  

In his book Spiritual Rhythm, Mark Buchanan pens,  “Winter shames those in it.  It feels like failure, something we’ve caused, or missed, or faltered in.  . . . And most people around us don’t help.  They pep-talk us.  They serve up warmed-over platitudes.  They scold us or offer useless advice.  They hold themselves up as examples of how to beat the winter blahs. . . . ” In ancient days, Job had a similar response to his friends lack of understanding, “You pretend to tell me what’s wrong w/my life, but treat my words of anguish as so much hot air.” (The Message). Sitting in the long church pew, I hear my seasoned pastor caution, “It is very easy to say more than you know.” The words are poignant, pregnant with truth.  I need this heart of wisdom.  Then I remember the One whose footsteps I follow, for my gentle Savior has already cleared the path with meekness & gentleness, “a bruised reed He will not break.”  Teach me to use words to heal & to bless, to be gentle with others as I meet them on their journey, to embrace them during their suffering, to listen boldly with love, to pray silent more than I talk loud.

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My feet have tread uncertainly through misty, dark valleys of fear & failings, meandered through lush mountain valleys only to head up sharply on rocky steep crags that seem to go nowhere.  My pastor Scott Reavely states a simple, hopeful truth:   “You can make progress
going nowhere.”

I get his meaning as he speaks of learning my God in my goings. “Andrew StuderGod dwells in shadows and in pits, and in the skin of all who seek and reach, brazenly bold to those with eyes to see,” writes Ann Voskamp.  O, God, I fear I know You too little.  I am  afraid that I am still unable to conceive of how magnanimous Your goodness, of Your mercies freshly birthed each morning, of Your heart that swells with pity for Your child. Give me great faith to cast away doubts & speedily run to You in my need.  I will  praise Your name; for Your great arms hold me close.

Yes, all that our Father plans is far greater than we could have ever guessed, for He chooses to surprise us through the pain with Himself, unveiled, revealed & intimately known. Author Paul Tripp writes, ”Whatever plans God’s people made and however they tried to figure out God’s plans, they were constantly greeted with surprises. They faced turns in the story that they never would have anticipated. God’s plan again & again included things that would not have been in the story if his people had been doing the planning.” I hope that behind a frowning providence you might begin to see the glimpses of a smiling face . . . God’s gracious rescue of surprise.”  And my pastors words ring out true in agreed harmony, “Don’t oversimplify suffering or God.”

O my God, show me Yourself!
“Shew it to my intellect, & remove my ignorance;
shew it to my heart, & revive my gratitude;
shew it to my faith, & renew my confidence;
shew it to my experience, & deliver me from all my fears,”
wrote C. H. Spurgeon in The Treasury of David.

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The Psalmist declares, “My times are in Your hands,” and Spurgeon meditates on the safety of being held by those scarred hands, “The Lord Jesus loved me, and gave himself for me, and my times are in those hands which were nailed to the cross for my redemption.” I slowly embrace knowing my times are in His hands, for my soul has longed for that “safe place” where power, justice, goodness, & everlasting love cohabit.  There is sweet consolation in His living nearness which flows through me warming me with His undeserved attention, steadfast love, and the strong assurance that He knows the way.

Affliction may refine, but cannot waste
That heart wherein my love is fixed fast.

 ~Francis Quarles.