Friday, July 20, 2018
Sunday, July 15, 2018
Life is not always "hunky-dory," as David Bowie and my father would say. Jesus agrees: "I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and a man's enemies will be those of his own household" (Matthew 10:34-36).
Sometimes, in our paltry efforts to live out our faith, misunderstandings arise and separate us from those we love. We may think that others need to be set right, and that may be true—"all have sinned"—but more often then not there are things in us that need to be done.
And the "doing" of it can be extremely painful.
Keep in mind, however, that our Lord always has our highest good in mind: "All things work together for good," Paul insists, a "good” spelled out in the verses that follow: All things are to the end "that we may be conformed to the image of His Son," and enter into eternal glory (Romans 8:28-30). God is remaking us in the image of his Son that we may share his beauty forever. This is the purpose for which all things—even the most wearisome and vexatious things—exist.
In the meantime, we can be encouraged by the thought that Jesus fully understands our frustration and sorrow when love for a loved one is thwarted. "He came to his own, but his own did not receive him." When Jesus became a man he became a man in full and "took his own medicine" (Dorothy Sayer).
Saturday, July 14, 2018
What God Has Promised
LORD, you hear the yearning of the afflicted; You will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more (Psalm 10:17–18).
Justice is promised, but it is almost always deferred. It’s a given that we will suffer for a while. But one promise is never deferred: God will strengthen your heart.
God hath not promised skies always blue
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.
God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain rocky and steep,
Never a river turbid and deep.
But God hath promised strength for the day
Rest for the labor, light for the way;
Grace for the trials, help from above;
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.
—Annie Flint Johnson
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Monday, July 9, 2018
Sunday, July 1, 2018
The man who separates himself seeks self-gratification; he bares his teeth against sound judgment (Proverbs 18:1)
Idaho is famous for its loners: Free Press Francis, Buckskin Billy, Cougar Dave, Dugout Dick to name a few—all mavericks who chose to separate from the crowd. I've read their diaries and talked to people who knew them. In almost every instance these men and women became, well...wacky.
Loners can turn into unbalanced people, a principle underscored by the proverb above. (You'll note that there is no conjunction between the couplets, a grammatical nuance that connects antisocial withdrawal with irrational behavior.)
A proverb is not an absolute; it's a general rule, and there can be exceptions to the rule. Some loners are as sane as one can be in this world. But in general, those who seek to gratify themselves and save their souls through isolation will lose them in the end. It’s an application of the time-tested axiom: he who would save his life will lose it.
I've always gravitated toward a solitary lifestyle; it's in my genes. I'd be happy to have a permanent job in a fire lookout tower or an offshore lighthouse, and that inclination has become more attractive as I’ve aged. People wear me out. It’s too easy for me to withdraw from the world and it's troubles.
But I know what isolation would do to my soul; it would wither away. I need someone apart from me to give myself to. Without the daily grind and rub of sinners and saints God cannot make the most of me. I would never learn to love.
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
The Would–be Woodcutter
2 Kings 6:1–7
One year, when I was in college, I cut, stacked and delivered firewood. Other than a summer spent shoveling gravel, it was the hardest job I ever had. Thus I have a good deal of empathy for the hapless logger in this story.
Elisha’s school for prophets had prospered, and their meeting place had become too small. Someone suggested that they go into the woods, cut logs and enlarge their facilities. Elisha agreed and was invited to accompany the workers.
The party made its way up the Jordan Valley to the spot where they planned to fell trees and float them downriver to the building site. Things were going well until, as Matthew Henry put it, “one of them, accidentally fetching too fierce a stroke (as those who work seldom are apt to be too violent), threw off his ax–head into the water.”
“Oh, my lord,” the man cried, “it was borrowed!”
“Where did it go?” Elisha asked.
When the man pointed to the place, Elisha cut a stick, reached with it into the water, and “made the iron float.”
“Lift it out,” Elisha said. The man “reached out his hand and took it.”
Some have suggested that nothing miraculous happened, that Elisha simply probed in the water with his stick until he located the ax–head and dragged it into sight. That would hardly be worth mentioning, however.
No, it was a miracle: Elisha caused the axe-head to “flow” as the text actually says. The axe-head was set in motion by God’s hand and drifted out of deep water into the shallows where the workman could retrieve it.
The simple miracle enshrines a profound truth: God cares about the small stuff of life—lost axe-heads, lost coins, lost keys, lost files, lost contact lenses, lost lunker trout, the little things that cause us to fret. He does not always restore what was lost—he has good reasons of his own—but he understands our loss and comforts us in our distress.
Next to the assurance of our salvation, the assurance of God’s love is essential. Without it we would feel that we are alone in the world, exposed to innumerable perils, worries and fears. It’s good to know that He cares; that He is moved by our losses, small as they may be; that our concerns are His concerns as well.
I think of those times when my children grieved over some small loss and my heart was touched by their grief. The broken or mislaid thing had no significance for me—it was some trifling thing—but it wasn’t trifling to them. It mattered to me because it mattered to them and my children mattered to me.
And so it is with our Heavenly Father. Our small worries mean everything to Him because we mean everything to Him. We can cast our care upon Him because he cares about us (1 Peter 5:7).
His grace is great enough to meet the great things,
The crashing waves that overwhelm the soul,
The roaring winds that leave us stunned and breathless,
The sudden storms beyond life’s control.
His grace is great enough to meet the small things,
The little pin–prick troubles that annoy,
The insect worries, buzzing and persistent,
The squeaking wheels that grate upon our joy. —Annie Johnson Flint
Excerpted from my Flavord with Salt, Discovery House Publishers
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