Infinity Emptied into Infancy

The people were scared, terrified actually.  Strong forces were joining to wage war against them, and their hearts trembled like the great trees in the forest bowing to the wind. 1383498429_4-640x477 Isaiah, the prophet, is sent with a very simple message: “Do nothing-be careful, quiet, watch your heart, and don’t let it be afraid.” God gave the message of hope to his people, because God knew what they could not know.  His warning was clear: If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.  

This way of faith seemed inadequate to the people.  Isaiah didn’t budge.  “I will wait for the LORD who is hiding His face…I will hope in Him.”

But, the people wanted to control the future.  Their hearts sought the false & the futile.

hope-world

God promised joy to come.  Would they believe? or would they choose to only hope in what they could see?  God promised to give a royal son. His zeal would bring peace, joy, justice and righteousness without end.

 

 

 

The people who walked in darkness have see a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has a light shined.
You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy
at the harvest…For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.
isaiah-9-6-for-unto-us-a-child-is-born
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 of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Isaiah 9:2-3, 5-7

Seven centuries would pass before the birth of Christ.  God masterfully designs His promise to span across the centuries and tells His people, “Do not fear; I will do it.”

Between 2 FINITE things there still remains some degree of proportion; for example, a drop of water exhibits some proportion to the ocean. But between the finite and the infinte, it is IMPOSSIBLE; the Psalmist writes, “Who is like Yahweh our God—the One enthroned on high, who STOOPS down to look on the heavens & the earth?”

Amazingly though, infinite God becomes a finite man–on purpose–in order to reconcile a very messed-up child back to a hallowed Father! The humiliation is mind-boggling!! Apalling wonder…God sends His own Son Jesus, who STOOPED, making voluntary descent from His elevation, “who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He EMPTIED Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men.”

jesus-in-manger

Infinity
e  m  p  t  i e d
into infancy…

 

The promise fulfilled.  And so we wait again in calm assurance and quiet hope for our Lord Jesus to return.  If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.  

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.

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.

Mount-Hood-Oregon-USA-Photography-by-Andrew-Studer-@Studercinema.-OurPlanetDaily

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.

Psalm 31-v-14-15

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.