Who is Grateful?

Richard is grateful for the Faithful Shepherd who has patiently led him along in a very happy and fulfilling life.  Discovering a relationship with God, he has moved from a life characterized by worried performance to one of grateful resting.

He is a retired physician who has lived in Indiana and Texas, the married father of two adult men and four Montana grandchildren.  Scripture memory and meditation upon it have changed his life, and he wishes to add value to the lives of others through his writing.

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You will fall, but not headlong

23 The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.
24 When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,
Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.
25 I have been young and now I am old,
Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
Or his descendants begging bread.
26 All day long he is gracious and lends,
And his descendants are a blessing.                            
 Psalm 37:23-26

It need not be disconcerting that David says that we must expect that we will fall.  It is our life experience, confirmed to us every day all around us.  We are in good company.  It is the universal experience.

breaking a fallVery comforting, however, is the main clause of that sentence, “he will not be hurled headlong.”  We can tolerate adversity and failures and weather it out until it passes over.  But we dread irreparable disaster, resulting in permanent pain, loss, and grief.  It lessens the pain of our fallings just to know that our Father will break the fall before the benefit of the stumble is outweighed by irreparable damage.

child n dad ride bikeAfter you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”                        1 Peter 5:10

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
”                  Psalm 34:19

Lord, I trust You to dictate the severity of whatever needful suffering You assign to me, as well as the duration of it.  I trust You to remove Your hand when my time in the furnace has become sufficient to produce its desired effect upon my life.  Let me be patient, trusting You to do what is right, as my loving Father.

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The Lord laughs

I remember, as a child, how my father’s good nature, humor, and confidence made me feel secure in the face of threatening circumstances.  When we would get lost on family vacation, he would laugh and enjoy the adventure, allaying my fears.  As long as my Protector was in the driver’s seat and he was not ruffled, then I felt I would also be all right.

There is so much evil, hurt, and suffering around us constantly that can intimidate us.  Our fear can be driven away by the knowledge of Who is in control.  The first lines of Psalm 2 are highlighted in Handel’s Messiah:

Why are the nations in an uproar
And the peoples devising a vain thing?
The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast away their cords from us!”

He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.                                                                    Psalm 2:1-2, 4

None of this evil and mischief takes God by surprise.  Their arrogance is preposterous to Him.  And it makes Him laugh.  This thought can be a comfort to us.

 

Behold, they belch forth with their mouth;
Swords are in their lips,
For, they say, “Who hears?”
But You, O Lord, laugh at them;
You scoff at all the nations.                                                              Psalm 59:7-8

He does not laugh at the terrible fate they face, reaping what they sow.  He is not glad they will suffer for their rebellion.  He grieves over His creatures’ sins.  He laughs at how ludicrous it is for the mouse to shout insults at the lion.

12 The wicked plots against the righteous

And gnashes at him with his teeth.
13 The Lord laughs at him,
For He sees his day is coming.
14 The wicked have drawn the sword and bent their bow
To cast down the afflicted and the needy,
To slay those who are upright in conduct.
15 Their sword will enter their own heart,
And their bows will be broken.

35 I have seen a wicked, violent man
Spreading himself like a luxuriant tree in its native soil.
36 Then he passed away, and lo, he was no more. . .                       Psalm 37:12-15, 35-36

Lord, I, too, see myself in this sad cartoon too often, choosing audaciously to go my way, disdaining Yours.  Forgive me for this swagger.  Break my haughty spirit and fasten Your kind yoke upon me.  Let me plough through life at Your side.

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Gradational weight-training

Just as in physical training, spiritual maturity is a gradual, intentional process that requires a plan and the time for it to be executed.  In spiritual training, it is a coach-athlete relationship of struggling through assigned difficulties to experience anticipated results.

athlete running” . . . an inheritance . . . reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. . .”                                                      1 Peter 1:5-7

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”               James 1:2-4

person holding black barbell

Photo by Victor Freitas on Pexels.com

“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”                   Romans 5:3-5

The hardships God allows us to go through all contribute to the eventual mature holiness He intends for us.  All through life, these trials must become gradually more difficult, to accomplish the strengthening He desires.  Though the medicine is bitter, the result is health, holiness, and usefulness.

more modest DavidHe disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”       Hebrews 12:10-11

“But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”                                                                                Hebrews 5:14

Do not let up, Lord.  Wisely demand of me all the arduous, painful exercises that will make me strong, mature, wise, holy, and useful in Your hands.  Sharpen me as a useful tool in Your hands.  Help me not to wriggle out of your loving hand, cringing and complaining that it is too hard.  I trust You to do what is right, as my loving Coach.

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When Jesus is interrupted

Look with me at something beautiful.  If God is sovereign and His purpose cannot be thwarted, and if Jesus is God-in-the-flesh, how is it that He seems to allow Himself to be interrupted at times?  In Genesis, God merely speaks a word and, instantly, the world is created.  Yet Jesus at times allowed His indicated intentions to be interrupted.  After his disciples returned from a very fruitful (and probably stressful) preaching and healing trip, probably needing some time to decompress and debrief with Him:

When the apostles returned, they gave an account to Him of all that they had done. Taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida. But the crowds were aware of this and followed Him; and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing.                 Luke 9:10-11

As much as His disciples needed Him to interpret for them the glorious things they had seen God do and ask Him questions, other human needs pressed in.  And He allowed the interruption, as though pressing pause for a moment.  Another example:

tap on shoulderAnd there came a man named Jairus, and he was an official of the synagogue; and he fell at Jesus’ feet, and beganto implore Him to come to his house; for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, and she was dying.

But as He went, the crowds were pressing against Him.  And a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and could not be healed by anyone, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. And Jesus said, “Who is the one who touched Me?” 

While He was still speaking, someone came from the house of the synagogue official, saying, “Your daughter has died; do not trouble the Teacher anymore.” But when Jesus heard this, He answered him, “Do not be afraid any longer; only believe, and she will be made well.”  He said, “Stop weeping, for she has not died, but is asleep.”  He, however, took her by the hand and called, saying, “Child, arise!” And her spirit returned, and she got up immediately. . .                           Luke 8:41-45, 49, 52, 54, 55

Was Jesus so moved by the heartbreaking human condition around Him that He would put His present mission on hold momentarily in order to show kindness to someone in need?  Or was He so confident that His Father would do what is right and good for the disciples and the sufferers, regardless of any little delays and detours?

I could do with a large dose of that confidence in God rather than in keeping my agenda.  Help me, Lord, to have so large a view of You that I do not worry about my little part down here.  Help me to leave the results to You.  Let me acknowledge that you are in charge of my schedule.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.      Philippians 4:6-7

 

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God “shows off” through you

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”                       Titus 2:11-14

first prize pigGod has designed all of creation to bring glory to Himself.  Considering His majesty and worthiness, this is only right.  In His grace, we are part of “showing Him off” to the world.  The work He does to turn us – rebellious and faulty raw material – into prized displays of His grace is nothing short of breathtaking!

Paul tells Titus that this process involves four actions with which we are to cooperate with our Master Restorer.

  1.  We are to deny ungodliness and worldly desires.  This is what he told the Ephesian church in a helpful metaphor of taking off old clothes and putting on new.  “. . that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit. . .”        Ephesians 4:22
  2. Next, we are to appropriate the new, to receive and live the new, divine life that we could never produce in our own efforts.  That we “be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”  Ephesians 4:23-24  Addressing Titus, Paul urges that his Cretan church live sensibly, righteously and godly.  
  3. Through this process, we are to keep our eyes upon the destination He has for us – looking for the blessed hope of Jesus’ second coming, when the process will be completed perfectly.  Single-minded travelers are less likely to go astray and get lost.  “If you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”   Colossians 3:1-2
  4. In this directed, intentional frame of mind, we are then to perform under His authority.  We are to acknowledge that we “are not our own” (1Corinthians 6:19), but His possession.

The final product is something the Creator is very proud of.  He wants to show us off to the world, that the world might know that He is mighty and good and wise.  They look at us and, hopefully (if we have cooperated with His craftsmanship), see the good deeds that He intended us to produce.  We have the honor to be a small part of His restoration of this broken world to what He intended it to be.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”            Ephesians 2:10

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”                        Matthew 5:16

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The Quiet Time

The Quiet Time is the term often applied to the efforts a Christ-follower makes to experience closeness with God, usually one or more times a day.  It often includes getting alone, silence, prayer, Bible study, meditation, and often the recording of thoughts gleaned from the experience.  Christians consider this time their life-blood or their oxygen hose, so dependent are they on it for their spiritual health, happiness, and effectiveness.

praying over Bible 2During this time, we can grow to think God’s thoughts about life (and our situation), rather than our own amateurish thoughts.  It is like taking the time to read the owners’ manual of some new device we just bought, or actually having a personal question-and-answer session with the maker of the device himself.  What we learn in this exercise can untangle our knotted thoughts and bring direction out of confusion.

watchman on wallOne important function of the quiet time is open our eyes to the many ways we are messing up our lives and the lives of others, which also sabotages our Creator’s wise intent for our lives.  The quiet time process can both point out these dangerous flaws to us, as well as move our hearts to actually want to change them.

I will stand on my guard post
And station myself on the rampart;
And I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me,
And how I may reply when I am reproved.
”                    Habakkuk 2:1

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAHow we reply to God’s reproof is dependent on how we view His correction.  If we see it as Someone sticking His nose into our business, though uninvited, we will resent it, lick our wounds in self-pity, sorry to be caught.  But if we welcome His intervention, as though our kindly coach were showing us how to more skillfully run the race, we are grateful and eager to apply His advice.

For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.”                              2 Corinthians 7:10

Lord, give us watchful, vigilant, eager, teachable, obedient spirits as we seek Your healing and guidance in our lives.  Fix us, O Lord!

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Are you clinging to a mirage?

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.”                                           1 Timothy 6:17-19

false front movie setSo, is there a quality of life that is not life indeed?  Is there a make-believe life that has no real substance?  God’s wording, through Paul, certainly suggests this.  How unnerving it is to think that the years and hours we spend assessing the options around us, pursuing our choices, and seeking significance could be pursuing a mirage!  Like a movie set, the things we spend our precious lives acting among we later discover to be only false building faces with nothing behind them.

house fellEveryone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”            Matthew 7:26-27

Certainly, we would serve ourselves well to carefully discard worthless things from our lives, though they might be outwardly attractive.  Only by doing this will we have the time and energy to pursue that which is of eternal substance.

The first crucial choice we must make in life is whether or not we will yoke ourselves with our Creator.  We do this by receiving His gift of eternal life contained in the person of Jesus, God-in-the-Flesh.  The apostle John viewed this to be so important that he did not consider life without Christ to be any real life at all.

And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.”    1 John 5:11-12

house on rockOnce we have received this gift of eternal life, we then can begin to experience it this side of heaven as God intended, as we learn to love what He loves and to pursue those things.  Likewise, to hate what He hates and flee from those.  As Matthew put it (above), wisely acting on the principles God gave us for living is building upon the Rock.  These things are those of permanent importance.  The Bible is full of innumerable ways we can live according to His values:  prioritizing our dependent relationship with God, yielding to the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we go through life, seeking to represent His wisdom and grace to those lost sheep around us, relieving suffering, and encouraging the dismayed.

We will find, both in this life and in the next, this is not pursuing a mirage, but that it is life indeed.

 

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