With New Eyes…Thankfulness

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Have you ever looked at a place you have passed by for so long; then, the very next time you happen upon it, it takes on a new look, even a wonder?  You see things about it you never have noticed before.

What about a favorite place? Each time you return, you may see another angle, another view; your enjoyment of it grows with time or another layer of sweet memories are added one on top of another.

Thankfulness is often like that. It will look different at various times and how we view people, places, circumstances, and situations will determine how we respond, perceive, and engage with each; how we allow it all to inform our hearts and mind…and our actions.

Something familiar that we have grown “used to” can become a new thing of beauty, a new place of delight, another reminder to give thanks to God in the ordinary as well as the extraordinary.

A place or person of wonder and joy can take on even greater pleasure when we stop looking for “the new” and don’t just take it or them for granted. If we stop and intentionally express our gratitude to the One who has created all and ordered our world as well as that which He has placed in it, we can begin to see with His eyes and experience a new gladness.

A harsh place with difficult memories or a present reality that wearies our souls can find a soft place to land when we ask God to show us ways to give thanks to Him then do it when He does!

Finding ways to thank God can begin a journey that refocuses our hearts, changes the way we pray, and sets our “hope fully on the grace to be brought to (us) when Jesus Christ is revealed…” (1 Peter 1:13). (That is future and present reality)!  It redirects our gaze from the disillusionment of our past or present circumstances or from our fickle emotions and deceitful hearts to our ever-faithful redeeming God who is “with us,” Emmanuel, transforming and making all things new; who holds us when we are shaking and carries us when we cannot take another step. It causes us to stand on His Word that never shifts with the shadows or changes with the times or circumstances rather than leaning on the faulty opinions based on the waves of culture that break on the sands of time.

We can find peace in a thankful heart.

Thankful in great joy and in the center of great suffering.

Thankful when a hope deferred is realized and when waiting.

Thankful when our long-awaited plans and goals have come to fruition and when those desires are no longer obtainable.

Thankful when doors are open and when doors are closed.

Thankful when choosing to forgive and when forgiven.

Thankful as we labor and as we rest.

Thankful for lessons learned, continuing to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18) in the midst of life as we know it and when we are still seeking to know what we are to glean.

We can choose to cultivate or subdue a thankful heart.

We can choose to see hard circumstances as they are and so grumble, growing angry or cold. Or, in humble trust and prayerful expectation, we can “give thanks in all circumstances,” (I Thessalonians 5:18) asking God to increase our trust and settle our hope in Him…even in the dark.

We can choose to see glory in the ordinary and thank God for it or continually long for the next big moment so much so that we miss the joy right before us.

We can choose to see the beauty in the ashes or the pain, knowing that, as we give thanks to God, we are choosing rest over restlessness; a willingness to sacrifice it all on the altar (even if it is minute by minute) for His glory.

Amidst it all, when the center of our hearts and our thankfulness is the very One who is the center of our true joy, the invading hope and delight of God Himself, we rest regardless of “what” is in our lives – sometimes slow and painfully and sometimes with great resolve.

But, as we give God thanks at all times and in all circumstances, we are, in essence, saying “I believe, Lord; help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)

And, He will!

Give thanks to the LORD for He is good; His steadfast, covenant love – His hessed – is never ending, never failing! Psalm 106:1

Peace! Be Still!

salt lake

Peace – be still!

Sometimes those are the hardest words to hear.

Sometimes they feel like platitudes.

Sometimes we cannot fathom that either are possible.

Yet, Jesus, God in flesh, spoke these very words – to a raging storm.

And, it obeyed.

Peace – be still!

We want what they convey, but we know we can’t muster it; too often, we can’t settle our own souls.

But God!

And, sometimes, it is in those “But God” moments, that all we can do to utter a whisper, to not let the terror of the turmoil, the hurt of the heart, the discouragement of the moments piled upon moments, or the overwhelming heaviness of life set in.

It’s all we can do to utter a whisper, but it’s all we need.

Jesus!

Peace – be still!

If Jesus can say that to the winds and waves and they surrender to Him, can He not also say that to our trembling souls?

Can He not make it so, settling our hearts Himself by His Spirit?

There is no storm so fierce that the Savior cannot still it – even if it is in us.

And, if the storm still rages on, He will hold His child, steady us, and cause us to be still.

Peace!

 

Setting My Heart on Simple Truths

simple truths

At times I find myself learning to rest…AGAIN.

 
I find myself re-centering on the beauty, delight, and power of the simple but powerful Truth; the Word of God “un-jazzified.”

 
It is the Word of God that “tunes my heart to sing His grace!”

 
It is the Word of God through the Spirit of God that gives me eyes to see when my spiritual sight is dim; it brings joy to my heart and light to my eyes! (Psalm 19:8)

 
It is the Word of God that keeps me grounded even when I want to run…from the “stuff” of life that threatens to steal my joy and rob me of peace. But it is HIS love, HIS grace, HIS mercy, HIS truth that pursued me from the start and keeps me even now! And I am confident knowing that “HE who began a good work in (me and you who are redeemed by Christ and sharing in the partnership of the Gospel) will perfect it and carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus!” (Philippians 1:6, NASB and NIV)

 
It is the Word of God that then invites me to run in freedom, to “run in the path of (His) commands, for (He has and) will enlarge my heart and broaden my understanding!” (Psalm 119:32)

 
It is the Word of God that endures and is unchanging even as our God never changes! (I Peter 1:23-25, James 1:17)

 
It is the Word of God that leads me to know and worship my Savior “in spirit and in truth,” (John 4:24) not out of my emotions or my deceitful heart!

 
It is the Word of God that causes me to “set a guard over my mouth” and a “covenant with my eyes” (Psalm 141:3, Job 31:1) and to not be haphazard about keeping the vows I make!

 
It is the Word of God that causes me to “set my eyes (and thus my thoughts and imaginations) on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:2)

 
It is the Word of God that reminds me that, as a sinner in need of grace, Jesus has given me the faith to receive His grace and has redeemed my life once and for all but never to be the same…making me new day by day! (Ephesians 2:4-9, 2 Corinthians 4:16)

 
It is the Word of God that reveals the will of God to me beginning with the “fear of the Lord,” walking in Truth, and submitting to His divine power that has “given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory…” (Psalms 111:10, 2 Peter 1:3)

 
It is the Word of God that leads me to remember that it is His kindness that may bring me to godly sorrow but that leads me and others to repentance where there is great joy. (2 Corinthians 7:10, Romans 2:4)

 
It is the Word of God that calls me to that repentance before Him and to any I have hurt in my sin when I have failed to walk in truth and that He has redeemed my life from the pit, wiping out the guilt of my rebellion, “setting my feet on a firm place to stand,” so that “times of refreshing” may come from the Lord. (Job 33:28, Psalm 40:2, Acts 3:19)

 
It is the Word of God that is “God-breathed,” “alive and active” and doesn’t allow me to be complacent with or indulging of my sin but “penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow,” and discerns, judges, and exposes “the thoughts and intentions of (my) heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) It is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16) for my oft times stubborn will, so that I will become more pliable to His Spirit and less desirous of my own will and the approval of people.

 
It is the Word of God that positions my heart and mind to remember that it is for His glory that He disciplines us and renews me; that He gives me a new heart and a new spirit, removing my heart of stone and giving me a heart of flesh; that it is He who puts His Spirit in me and moves me to be careful to follow His decrees and commands. (Ezekial 36:26, 27)

 
It is the Word of God that directs my heart to forgive others as He has forgiven me and to not let a let a bitter root implant itself in my heart that will cause trouble in a multitude of ways. (Hebrews 12:15)

 
It is the Word of God that propels my non-confrontational self to speak the truth in love so that we may grow up in all things; that a relationship can be a healed, one lost can know the hope of the grace of God, or a brother or sister wandering from the truth of God can be brought back to the Savior and his soul saved from death. (Ephesians 4:15, James 5:19)

 
It is the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit, that enables me to not be taken “captive through philosophy and empty deception, which are based on human tradition and the spiritual forces of the world rather than on Christ” and “anything that sets itself up against the knowledge of God” but to rather “take every thought (and intention of my heart) captive to make it obedient to Christ!” (Colossians 2:8, 2 Corinthians 2:2,5)…even when my own deceitful heart and my flesh grow faint or the enemy of my soul seeks to whisper the same old lie, “Did God really say?”

 
It is the Word of God that renews my strength and revives my soul! (Psalm 19:7)

It is the Word of God that reminds me that my God is faithful and true when the world and those in it are not. (Revelation 19:11)

It is the Word of God that continuously causes me to take my eyes off me and my circumstances and set them fully on the grace that will be brought to (those who are redeemed by Christ) at the revelation of Jesus Christ! (I Peter 1:13)

It is the Word of God that emboldens me to not be “ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” Rather, it makes me confident to always be prepared and ready to give an answer to everyone who asks (me) to give reason for the hope that is in (me)…with gentleness and respect.” (Romans 1:16, I Peter 3:15)

It is the Word of God that heartens me to hold the line; to hold fast and firmly to the Word of Life! (Philippians 2:16)

It is the Word of God that devastates my little “kingdoms” and even the good things I end up making idols.

It is the Word of God that prepares me to say…No, THIS is what God does say and He can be trusted!

 
Throughout history, men and women have tried to complicate it, to make it lofty and unattainable.

 
Men and women have sought to extinguish its power by declaring it to be the word of men.

 
Even we, His redeemed children, have tried to twist it and change it to fit our perceptions, our inclinations, and our “understanding” (or lack thereof) of truth to rationalize our own desires and coddle our feelings and emotions.

But it is the powerful Word of God and it will not be shaken because HE will not be shaken!  It will not be moved, because HE will not be moved! It will not change, because HE will not change!  In a world of shifting shadows and fickle people, that is our steadfast hope that is certain!

It is the Word of the God Who is mysterious and mighty; Who will not be put in a box but who graciously makes Himself known to those who “call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth!” (Psalm 145:18)

 

For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. I Thessalonians 2:13

 

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