But God! Part 2

DSC_0107Once again, we watch our nation struggle as if it rocks on the edge of a precipice.

If all we watched were the sensationalized news/talk shows, men and women bent on creating a narrative based on their own ideological views rather than on what is factual; men and women seeking to promote an ideology based on shifting human wisdom rather than on the unchanging wisdom of God in His Word, we would think there was no hope. We would assume that all consideration of unity and peace is but a vapor, a dream that has died.

BUT GOD!

He is not wringing His hands over or bound by angry mobs, insidious plans, self-loving talking heads, rabble-rousing “inciters,” corrupt and conniving people in authority, or a culture warped by human opinions and driven by emotions.

In little pockets all over the country, there is a quiet rumble of those who will not be manipulated into hate or deception.  Instead, they are reaching across imaginary lines drawn by the enemy of our souls who seeks to divide and conquer; to steal, kill, and destroy not just here on earth but for eternity.  (John 10:10)

And, in those pockets, the love and grace of God is being poured out in Truth; for we, His image bearers, are able to love and forgive because HE first loved us. (I John 4:19)

We are able to speak the Truth that is sometimes hard because we do love well, because we know that “faithful are the wounds of a friend.” (Proverbs 27:6)

We are able to point to the unchanging Word of God as our straight edge because it is what undergirds our lives and the life of a society that will stand. A society built on anything other will not long endure.

We are able to share the full hope of life in Christ – not just acknowledging with one’s head that God exists, that Jesus died, and that He is coming again, but allowing that to transform us, humbling ourselves before the God of the universe and saying, “I am Yours! Change me. Use me.”

And it is what He commands His people to do – over and above what we, in our flesh, want to do at times. Even those who do not acknowledge Him still bear His image because He is Creator; though they mar that image as they exalt themselves.  And, as image bearers, they still have His fingerprints all over who they are no matter how far they seek to run.

The powers that desire division want to stamp out hope.

BUT GOD!

He is Hope!

He is Healer of the broken-hearted and sin-scarred.  Those living in shame and regret need not anymore.

He is Restorer of the breaches. He is able to repair what the enemy of our souls has broken down.

He is Deliverer. He rescues us from ourselves and is ready to bring us from darkness to light, from playing in mud puddles to a castle by the sea. (adapted from a quote by C.S. Lewis)

He is the Mighty One, able to save and redeem, but also Mighty to judge and bring true justice.

His judgement may just be to lead us to repentance rather than destruction, so we must hear His voice and let Him devastate our self-rule and, in humility, say, “Speak Lord, I am listening…

“Create in me a clean heart oh God, and renew a right spirit within me…search me and know me; see if there is any wicked way in me…” (Psalm 51 and 139) and transform me, O God!”

Yes, let it begin with me!

An often heard and argued verse from God’s Word is just an echo of His grace:  “If God’s people who are called by His name will humble themselves and pray and turn from their (own) wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven…and heal their land.”  2 Chronicles 7:14

Is He bound to show us mercy?  Of course not.  His judgment may be for destruction.  But, He commands His people who are called by His name, that’s me, that’s you – individual followers of Christ – to confess and turn from our sin, to God Himself; we His people who so often look at the “bigger” sins of those around us with a shaking head yet coddle our own rebellion against God, justifying our own pet sins. We see their rebellion and make light of our own.

He has promised that if we cherish sin in our hearts (be it an attitude, thoughts, or action), He will not hear us (Psalm 66:18). But, if we will humble ourselves and turn, He has promised to listen and, according to His glory and goodness, act.  All we are responsible for is our own obedience to Him even as we show the way to others still setting their foundations on shifting sand.

We’ve been a nation divided before.  Yes, there was a remnant of noble men and women, but there were also many who wanted to destroy; the spirit of lawlessness appeared to have taken over.

The complete dissolution of our land appeared imminent.

BUT GOD!

It was He who changed hearts and minds and brought reconciliation and healing where there was none and no one believed it would ever be so.

It was He who transformed souls by His grace and brought revival to a thirsty land.

It is in our arrogance that we would deem to exactly know the mind of God, to throw up our hands in resignation and say, “We might as well admit it – all is lost” when God says pray, repent, live before God and man righteously with His grace, His peace, and His love, speak truth in a way that draws men to Himself and restores lives, not watered down or compromised but with the sure hope of the true Gospel of repentance, forgiveness, and restoration!

What we do know is that He is merciful to us when we don’t deserve it, so who are we to think He might not yet relent, soften hard hearts, take the scales from blind eyes, and redeem this rebellious generation? He is able to do exceedingly and abundantly more than we can think or ask.

And because He is…we can have HOPE, we can choose JOY!

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And HOPE does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  Romans 5:1-5

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Is He Worthy?  (video below: Andrew Peterson)

Do you feel the world is broken? (We do)
Do you feel the shadows deepen? (We do)
But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through? (We do)
Do you wish that you could see it all made new? (We do)

Is all creation groaning? (It is)
Is a new creation coming? (It is)
Is the glory of the Lord to be the Light within our midst? (It is)
Is it good that we remind ourselves of this? (It is)

Is anyone worthy? Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah, Who conquered the grave,
He is David’s root and the Lamb Who died to ransom the slave.

Is He worthy?
Is He worthy of all blessing and honor and glory?
Is He worthy of this? He is.

Does the Father truly love us? (He does)
Does the Spirit move among us? (He does)
And does Jesus our Messiah hold forever those He loves? (He does)
Does our God intend to dwell again with us? (He does)

Is anyone worthy? Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah, Who conquered the grave,
He is David’s root and the Lamb Who died to ransom the slave.

From every people and tribe, every nation and tongue,
He has made us kingdom priests to God to reign with His Son.

Is He worthy?
Is He worthy of all blessing and honor and glory?
Is He worthy?
Is He worthy?
Is He worthy of this?
He is!

Is He worthy?
Is He worthy?
He is!
He is!

Amid the Thorns

 

amid the thorns

The child’s toy was broken…and there were tears.

The bone was fractured, ending an athletic moment…and there were tears.

The car careened off the road and was demolished…and there were tears.

The rains came, the flood waters rose, and all that was “life as they knew it” was covered…and there were tears.

The relationship was broken, trust shattered, hope tenuous…and there were tears.

The medical tests revealed a broken body…and there were tears.

In this fallen world, there are thorns. We are incapable of “fixing” many things we would like to make new or return and “re-do.”

It reminds us that we are but dust. That is said not with a sigh of resignation; rather, as a reminder that, while we think we can control our lives and destinies, doing our own thing again and again; or while we think we have been “good” enough to not experience pain, we are living between the now and the not yet.

We are created in the image of God; yes, we are created not Creator.

Tears fall and life is often hard.

But we can lean even harder on the One who is able and, when our strength is such that we can hardly even lean in, He will carry us.

“(The Lord God) tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart.” (Isaiah 40:11)

It may be an “It is what it is” situation, but our response can, by God’s grace, be an “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24) reply.

The pain may be fully evident.

The brokenness may be seen or simply known.

The “what is to come” may be unknown.

But we can hold to the One who sees, who knows, and who will make known in His time.

And, we can say with Sarah, “You are the God who sees me…” (Genesis 16:13), my El Roi!

For the broken body, He may heal in the present or He may have a purpose we either can’t see or must wait to see; but always He is seeking to draw those hurting into His presence and provide a clearer view, not necessarily of the circumstances, but of our Jehovah Rapha, our God who heals both the body and the soul though sometimes not fully until eternity; our Shalom is our peace.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

For the broken relationship, it is His purpose that light shine into the dark places not to destroy but to reveal His path of redemption, to bring repentance and restoration, for broken trust to be reestablished and a deeper oneness to be formed; or He may reveal to protect one from a walk down a harder path. But, always, He will draw those involved deeper into Himself – for His child a return to the truth or, for the unredeemed, the offer of new life.

“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” (Luke 8:17)

“And now I rejoice, not because you were made sorrowful (or were grieved), but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you felt the sorrow that God had intended, and so were not harmed in any way by us.  Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:9-10)

And, in the midst of the thorns, David reminds us to tell ourselves of what is true about us and what is true about our God:

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust…But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him…” Psalm 103:13-14,17

That’s not a devastating thing; it is a tender thing for He knows our frame…He knows all there is to know about us, more than we even know ourselves and He is mighty to save and bring in the new.

He knows our weaknesses, but He doesn’t leave us to make them our identity or claim them as the burden we must to bear or the sin we get to coddle, knowing that to do so destroys us and others.

He knows our frailties and He weeps with us even as He comforts us. He is not blind to our sorrows; no, He has “…kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (Psalm 56:8)

So, we can say with David, “When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I trust, I will not be afraid.” (Psalm 56:3-4)

He knows the wounds we have from others and He gives us the ability to forgive, even if need be, minute to minute.

He knows when our worlds have turned upside down and will provide for His children; He may extend our bounty following a material loss or give us just what we need; either way, it is for us to see His provision and give Him praise as our God Who provides, our Jehovah-jireh!

All this life is intended to give Him praise!

The joy and the sorrow.

The healthy and the broken body.

The steady and the wounded relationship.

The abundance and the lack of material wealth and goods.

All come from the hand of the one true God, who is making all things new!

“Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;

               His greatness is unsearchable.

The LORD is near to all who call on Him,

               to all who call on Him in truth.

My mouth will declare the praise of the LORD;

               let every creature bless His holy name forever and ever.”

Psalm 145:3, 18, 21

 

 

 

 

 

But God!

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Several years ago, we had a particularly full year and a half or so – a whirlwind of highs and lows.

We saw our daughter marry, our youngest son graduate college, and our oldest son completely change career paths, setting in motion significant change.

Then and even now…

In and outside our family, we’ve seen beauty and brokenness.

Relationships flourish, even restored, and relationships end.

Health return and health fail.

Plans come to pass and plans be turned upside down.

Sometimes the roller coaster of happiness and weariness has felt overwhelming.

BUT GOD!

Oh, how I love those two words that hold such truth! For in them is abiding joy…regardless of circumstances.

His call is to lay down our burdens. He may not always give the answers we want, but HE will BE our peace and HE will give us rest in the midst.

How many times have we watched things happen seemingly out of control?

How many times have we or someone we love been hurt by another?

How many times have we known what God was asking us to do, and, yet, our response has been a whiney, “But, God…”? And, in that instant, we are the petulant child – quite sure we know better how we would “fix” situations, what will make us “happy,” or how we believe we should respond to hard people. In general, we plow ahead, confident of how we think we should react to life with its occasional (sometimes feeling more like routine) curveballs regardless of God’s direction.

Yet, it is also in that moment that, if we will be still and listen. If we will run to His Word and not harden our heart to His voice, we will hear the Spirit of God speak as He reminds us that He isn’t surprised by any unexpected turn, any unmet expectation, any physical pain, or any hope deferred, even if unforeseen or unanticipated by us. Our Lord and King, our Adonai – God, whose tender love for His children never ceases, is actually doing so many more things than we can see.

Because of that we can say in a different tone and with a humble, submitted heart, even if through tears, “Yes this…BUT GOD!”

And it is good!

He may be disciplining us, His beloved children, who often need a reset, yet sometimes fail to see it.

He may be chipping away at ours or someone else’s self-satisfaction or self-rule that directly or indirectly affects us or others.

He may be preparing something far greater for us than we can know or begin to imagine.

He may be using circumstances and even wounds from others to make us more like Himself and able to empathize with another, help another heal, or show the same grace and mercy we have been given.

He may be teaching us to forgive even if the hurt is never acknowledged and we are never asked for forgiveness.

He may be teaching us to die to self.

He may be working through our response to our circumstances to point a watching world to Himself.

There are myriads of ways that He uses the most difficult times for His glory and our good. But always He intends that we set our gaze on Him instead of what we see with our eyes or feel with our hearts.

Always, He is seeking to draw us near and set our feet on the firm foundation of Truth.

So, He calls us to “not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

As redeemed children of God, we have the privilege to not grow weary as we pray, as we set our hope on the faithfulness of our El Shaddai – our all sufficient One, the unchanging truth of God’s Word, and the “LIVING hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” so that we are “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (I Peter 1:3, 8) even when, at times, our hearts are breaking and the very breath of life seems to be sucked from our lungs.

We have the responsibility and the power to not grow weary as we choose obedience to God even when our flesh cries out to the contrary, to do it our own way or respond to hurtful people in like kind.

We have the God-given charge to not grow weary as we re-format our thinking, not allowing the temptation to think outside God’s Word to set up camp in our hearts and minds but rather, to “…demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and (to) take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). It may be that we are to ask the Lord to show us our faulty thinking in the moment and intentionally remind ourselves of what is true and/or it may be a proactive choice to change what we allow and choose to put in our minds and dwell on which then permeates our thoughts and how we respond to our emotions and temptations.

We have the opportunity to not grow weary as we speak words of life and truth as well as setting forth an attitude of joy that is not dependent on circumstances, trusting man, or gaining our identity from another’s opinion or treatment of us, but is rooted and grounded in trusting our Sovereign God.

Our lives can grow chaotic and we may feel out of control.

BUT GOD!

We do not rest on what we see. We do not rest on what we feel. We rest on truth…

He is faithful.

He is merciful.

He is Redeemer.

He is the Mender of the brokenhearted.

He is Healer – sometimes of our broken bodies but always of our broken souls as we call on and submit to Him.

He is the Father who disciplines and sometimes lets us have our own way to show us the deceitfulness of sin and our need of Him.

He is our Abba Daddy who is ready to restore us to Himself and draw us near as we repent and return.

He is unchanging.

He is our peace.

He is good.

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”  (C.S. Lewis, Aslan being a character picture of Christ in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses (sin), made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus!”  Ephesians 2:4-7