Sunday, November 27, 2011

They That Worship


"Our fathers worshipped in this mountain;
and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship."
Jesus saith unto her, "Woman, believe me, the hour cometh,
when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem,
shall ye worship the Father.
Ye worship that which ye know not:
we worship that which we know;
for salvation is from the Jews.
But the hour cometh, and now is,
when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth:
for such doth the Father seek to be his worshippers.
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
John 4:20-24

This is a passage which I have always read and passed, slightly confused.
I think it began to open to me today.

For some time, I have been aware of a "Christian" materialism
that seeps into our hearts.
It denies the spiritual in all but name.
It acts without regard to the leading of the Holy Spirit,
without hope in the active presence of God,
and without any attention to the Christ at all.
It's a deadly plague, in my opinion.

Some time back, in paying attention to Elijah's first spoken words in the Scripture,
("As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand..."),
I found myself praying that I would see the unseen.
Sometimes I have wondered if that was a well-advised prayer.
Because I start seeing Him best in sorrow, it seems.

"I heard, and my body trembled, My lips quivered at the voice;
Rottenness entereth into my bones, and I tremble in my place;
Because I must wait quietly for the day of trouble,
For the coming up of the people that invadeth us.
For though the fig-tree shall not flourish, Neither shall fruit be in the vines;
The labor of the olive shall fail, And the fields shall yield no food;
The flock shall be cut off from the fold, And there shall be no herd in the stalls:
Yet I will rejoice in Jehovah, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
Jehovah, the Lord, is my strength;
And he maketh my feet like hinds' feet,
And will make me to walk upon my high places."
Habakkuk 3:16-19

Jesus said that the Father was seeking those
who would worship Him in spirit and in truth.
And true worship continues, though the material world fails utterly.
But I wonder if the Lord not only looks for those worshippers,
but in a sense builds them out of us?
So many of the Psalms express devastation in the midst of worship.
Or perhaps even as a prerequisite to true worship.
That passage in Habakkuk shows a turning of the heart
from the material to the spiritual, I think.
We become aware of our existence first here in the material world,
and we worship in the material.
We have to learn to see the unseen.
To be His when no fruit is on the vine and all the material fails.

The Samaritan woman asked Jesus where the right place was to worship.
But God is Spirit.
He isn't confined to Jerusalem or Samaria --
to times of plenty, and locations of holiness.
In declaring a major drought, Elijah said he stood and lived before the Lord.
"By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph;
and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff."
Hebrews 11:21

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I Thirst


"They said therefore among themselves, 
'Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,' 
that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: 
They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.' 
Therefore the soldiers did these things..."

"After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, 
that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, 'I thirst!' 
Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; 
and they filled a sponge with sour wine, 
put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. 
So when Jesus had received the sour wine, 
He said, 'It is finished!' 
And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit."
~ John 19:24, 28-30

I read these things to my children tonight, and wondered as I read them.
Jesus said at another time that He did always
those things that pleased the Father.
He gave up His spirit when He had fulfilled
every jot and tittle of God's will for Him.
Right down to His thirst.
His thirst was in perfect harmony with His Father's plan.
Psalm 22:15 describes it: My strength is dried up like a potsherd, 
and My tongue clings to My jaws; 
You have brought me to the dust of death.

All His desires submitted to His Father's will.
Even those desires that were pain to Him.
He would not leave until He had suffered those, too.
God's hand was involved
in the distribution of His belongings to His persecutors.
This stuns me to think of.
And I wonder, are my desires the Father's desires?
Am I thirsting because He's dried up my mouth?
It seems like we assume if we thirst we're not doing His will.
But perhaps this thirst, this need, this dried up strength
is what the Father has for me.

My grandmother, in her last few days here on this earth,
was receiving hospice care.
Too weak to leave her bed, the hospice nurse asked her,
"What is it you would like?"
And in her barely audible whisper, my grandma said,
"To do the will of the Lord."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Beauty For Ashes



She was born in 1935 in Oklahoma in her grandmother's house in Love County.
Not even her own house.
The town is nearly empty now.

If you've read American history,
you know that Oklahoma in 1935 was an ecological disaster.
An unheard of catastrophe.
Her family joined the largest migration
in the shortest amount of time in U.S. history,
and moved to California.
They picked cotton when she was five.
They picked prunes.
Her father dug tunnels for the mines.
He worked on roofs and at carpentry.
Her grandfather died before she was four of TB,
leaving her father to provide for his own wife and children
and his family of origin.
He had three older sisters, three younger sisters, and two younger brothers.
Her grandfather's brother also died of TB.
My Grandma and her brother came down with TB.
It required 15 months or more in a TB hospital when she was six --
which is where she was first taught to knit by a nurse.
Two older women from the Assemblies of God church
traveled out to where she lived in Northern California,
and began a Sunday School.
She went with a number of other children from her neighborhood,
and in 1945 was baptized in the creek.

There were four children when her home was broken.
Her father remarried and moved to Alaska.
Her mother remarried a man with four children,
two of which joined their household.
Being the only girl in the home,
at 14 she had the responsibility of making breakfast for six,
getting lunches for them all, doing all the dishes,
making the beds, and getting them to school.
They were late.

In 1949 she came home from school one day and a neighbor said,
"You all's house burned down."
Her stepfather had the top of his head burned
by the fire that came under the door of the room he was sleeping in.
In 1952 Papa's family moved into the area.
She told me once when I asked her about Papa,
that he had asked her seven times to marry him before she said yes.
His final winning proposal was, "When are you going to marry me?"

Mother to five children, she took in two more while hers were still young.
She has so many grandchildren (both real and adopted)
that we have difficulty counting ourselves. 22?
And great grandchildren? I think 20.
But her habit of adopting those who might need a 'bonus grandma'
has spread to her own children,
and those have been accepted in just as readily as her own.

I doubt she has left any money to her heirs,
because she probably spent it all on gasoline and Motel 6 and postage stamps.
Every one of us has something she made with her own hands.
She gave up knitting when she learned how to crochet,
and her hands have been busy with it for many years.
I never saw her when she wasn't giving something to someone.
She opened her trunk as soon as she drove up
and came up with something for each grandchild.
If she didn't have something, she sat down and made something.
And if it wasn't finished by the time she had to leave, she mailed it.
She gave to her children,
and she gave to her grandchildren,
and she gave to her great grandchildren,
and she gave to old people in homes,
and she gave to homeless people,
and the babies of strangers.
And just this week, in characteristic fashion,
she made the plans final that she has always intended.
She gave her body to science.

Her life began in the ashes of what might be called a plague.
But it has been a life of love, and forgiveness, and thankfulness and praise.
A legacy of grace.
When she was diagnosed with lung cancer, she said,
"What I know is that the Bible says
'He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it.'"

She had four generations of her family around her in her final weeks,
praying with her, singing with her.
She made videos for her children and grandchildren,
reminding them of the truths in Philippians
which she had been in the habit of telling them for many years.
"I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me -- and that means you."

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; 
because the LORD hath anointed me to publish good tidings to the meek; 
he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, 
to proclaim liberty to the captives, 
and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; 
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, 
and the day of vengeance of our God; 
to comfort all that mourn; 
To appoint to them that mourn in Zion, 
to give to them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, 
the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; 
that they may be called trees of righteousness, 
the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. 
~From Isaiah 61

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Our Outward Man


I was not looking for what I found.
I was looking for the second passage.
But this one came up first:

But the LORD said to Samuel, 
Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; 
because I have refused him: 
for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; 
for man looketh on the outward appearance, 
but the LORD looketh on the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7

I was looking for this one to contemplate:

So then death worketh in us, but life in you. 
But having the same spirit of faith, 
according to that which is written, 
I believed, and therefore did I speak; 
we also believe, and therefore also we speak; 
knowing that he that raised up the Lord Jesus 
shall raise up us also with Jesus, 
and shall present us with you. 
For all things are for your sakes, 
that the grace, being multiplied through the many, 
may cause the thanksgiving to abound unto the glory of God. 
Wherefore we faint not; 
but though our outward man is decaying, 
yet our inward man is renewed day by day. 
For our light affliction, which is for the moment, 
worketh for us more and more exceedingly 
an eternal weight of glory; 
while we look not at the things which are seen, 
but at the things which are not seen: 
for the things which are seen are temporal; 
but the things which are not seen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:12-18

As our outward man perishes, our inward man is renewed.
The outward grows weak and frail, gasping for breath.
The inward grows stronger, breathing Spirit-life.
Outwardly too weak to sing, she makes a silent noise.
More frequently, she forgets herself.
But she remembers Him.
"Jesus."
She remembers that 'He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it.'

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The End of Your Faith


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
who according to his great mercy 
begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 
unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, 
and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 
who by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation 
ready to be revealed in the last time. 
Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, 
ye have been put to grief in manifold trials, 
that the proof of your faith, 
being more precious than gold that perisheth though it is proved by fire, 
may be found unto praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ: 
whom not having seen ye love; 
on whom, though now ye see him not, 
yet believing, ye rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 
receiving the end of your faith, 
even the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:3-9

From November 12th

Here I sit,
looking at pictures of family at grandma's house,
where I am not,
and feeling glum.
The blind next to me is closed,
but an inch of the edge of it has curled somewhat at the top,
and the moon is hanging in the crack,
reminding me that God is with me,
and He is with Grandma,
and He can see through my window blinds.
Thank You, Father.

Monday, November 14, 2011

But In Every Thing With Thanksgiving


When I asked for the comfort that the Lord had given my brothers and sisters
in times of suffering and grief,
a number of people responded, sharing their manna, so to speak.
Although many comforting things were shared,
two verses were given several times.
Often when the Lord has spoken to me,
it has been in the sharing of the same verse from multiple sources.
So I took particular notice of these:

For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, saith the LORD, 
thoughts of peace, and not of evil, 
to give you an expected end.
Jeremiah 29:11

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
Psalm 116:15

And my Grandma has so often repeated to me:

Be anxious for nothing; 
but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving 
let your requests be made known to God. 
And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, 
will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 
Philippians 4:6,7

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13

But my God will supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19

Grandma made a video recently to remind her offspring of these verses from Philippians.
Chapter 4 -- her most-quoted words of wisdom to us.
It is fitting that the last verse in her favorite chapter of her favorite book says,  
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."
Amen.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Will You Share?

 
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort them that are in any affliction, through the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." 2 Corinthians 1:3,4
Would those of you have suffered losses and griefs mind sharing with me and my family the comfort the Lord gave you? Some of you are aware that two people in our close family are suffering very much right now. Well, it isn't just two -- all of us are hurting. My mom's oldest brother has been stricken down for quite some time -- he was given just a few weeks to live earlier in the summer, and we were recently given a diagnosis of stage 3b or 4 lung cancer for my grandma. 
I'd like to share in the comfort you have personally received from the Lord, and I would like for my hurting family members to share it, too.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Whatever Things


I had a child tonight whose antics were irritating me immensely.
Again and again I went upstairs to correct and rebuke
and finally shut his door and turned off the lights
because he kept getting up and keeping his brother up.
Within five minutes I heard more action, and prayed for wisdom and gentleness.
Gentleness is not mine by nature.
And parenting makes me feel bankrupt of wisdom often.
Oh, how I need His help.

I climbed the stairs wearily at 11 pm, saw the lights back on, and the doors open.
I went into the sinner's room and said quietly,
"This is outright rebellion. You are in complete defiance of what I asked of you."
He began to cry.
I sat down on his bed.
He apologized for it, but excused it because he was scared.
I told him it was wrong to obey fear and disobey his mom.

I asked him what he was thinking about.
At first it was 'I don't know,' but after a few minutes
he admitted he was thinking about scary things -- monsters and stuff.

And I think the Lord gave me wisdom.
I opened his Bible and turned to Philippians chapter 4.
"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, 
whatever things are honest, 
whatever things are just, 
whatever things are pure, 
whatever things are lovely, 
whatever things are of good report; 
if there is any virtue, 
and if there is any praise, 
think on these things. 
Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: 
and the God of peace will be with you."
And then I talked to him about practicing those thoughts.

We began with thinking of and saying out loud things that were good -- 'God bringing Seth into my life'.
Lovely? -- 'looking out the window of an airplane and seeing the clouds brush the wings'.
Then I taught him the ABC game.
Naming something about God's character for every letter of the alphabet.
It's just an exercise in taking your thoughts captive. It gives you a framework for meditation.
You might even argue that David did it if you are a reader of Hebrew.
The Psalms several times use alphabetical acrostics.

My son's eyes lit up as he racked his brain for each word. We took turns.
'D' stumped him. I offered him a suggestion: Daddy.
He looked puzzled. "He's our daddy?"
I nodded, smiling. "The Bible says that the Holy Spirit puts it into our hearts to call Him 'Abba, Father'.
'Abba' means 'Daddy.'"

We read more of Philippians 4 together, and it ministered to me, too.
I wish I always seized an opportunity, instead of getting mad.
Maybe that's what redeeming the time is --
grabbing back the cause of anger or irritation or anxiety, and turning it into the right path.
I came downstairs at 11:30 edified and reminded to put my mind on things above,
and the God of peace will be with me.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thee


'“Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.
...What can be more astounding than the unfounded doubts and fears of God’s favoured people?
“How can I have forgotten thee, when I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands? 
How darest thou doubt my constant remembrance, 
when the memorial is set upon my very flesh?” 
O unbelief, how strange a marvel thou art!
We know not which most to wonder at,
the faithfulness of God or the unbelief of his people.

He keeps his promise a thousand times, and yet the next trial makes us doubt him.
He never faileth; he is never a dry well;
he is never as a setting sun, a passing meteor, or a melting vapour;
and yet we are as continually vexed with anxieties,
molested with suspicions, and disturbed with fears, as if our God were the mirage of the desert.
“Behold,” is a word intended to excite admiration.
Here, indeed, we have a theme for marvelling.
Heaven and earth may well be astonished that rebels should obtain so great a nearness
to the heart of infinite love as to be written upon the palms of his hands.

I have graven thee.
It does not say, “Thy name.”
The name is there, but that is not all: “I have graven thee.
See the fulness of this!
I have graven thy person, thine image, thy case, 
thy circumstances, thy sins, thy temptations, 
thy weaknesses, thy wants, thy works; 
I have graven thee, everything about thee, all that concerns thee; 
I have put thee altogether there. 
Wilt thou ever say again that thy God hath forsaken thee
when he has graven thee upon his own palms?'
~From Morning and Evening, C.H. Spurgeon

Monday, November 7, 2011

And Who Is My Neighbor?


Yesterday at church we sang a song that included this:
"Praise to the lamb that was slain
Praise to the Father who gave His son away
The proof of love, the price of grace
You traded all to take my place
And died for me so I can be a child of God"


And I pondered Him.
That when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He answered,
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, 
and with all thy soul, 
and with all thy mind. 
This is the great and first commandment. 
And a second is like it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 
On these two commandments the whole law hangs, and the prophets."

And then of course, the question from our representative of mankind, "And who is my neighbor?"

Have you ever thought about how the Father saw His enemies?
That seeing our condition --
our blasphemous iniquity,
our adulterous fidelity,
and our religious hypocrisy --
that He gave His Son away in order that we might be saved.

The Father did not write the Law, so much as He is the Law.
The Law reveals His nature.
He gave His Son because He is the Law.
The Law demands justice, and the Law commands love.
And He is both.
He is the justice of God, and the love of God.

All His motivations in His dealings with men fulfill that which we cannot fulfill.
Love your enemies.
Do good to those who hate you.
Bless those who curse you.
Pray for those who despitefully use you.
Do unto others what you would have them do to you.
Give to those who ask of you.
If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he's thirsty, give him a drink.

Jesus said, "If you have seen me, you've seen the Father."
And consider what we see when we look at Him --
a man who was reviled without reviling again;
a man praying for his persecutors;
a man feeding hungry people;
giving to those who asked of Him;
touching the untouchables;
who forgives not seven times, but seventy times seven;
whose obedience to the Father was unto death;
whose love for His brethren was until the end.

The Father gave His Son.
His Beloved Son, in Whom He is well-pleased.
Would I give my son for my enemy?
Not likely.
I would sacrifice my enemy for my son.

But not Him.
He loves His neighbor, and His neighbor is His enemy.
And He valued His enemy with the same value as Himself --
giving up His most precious possession to buy back haters.
And I was His enemy.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

He Fixed His Gaze


"Those who take no other guidance in the spiritual life
but their particular dispositions and feelings,
who fancy that they have nothing more important to do
than to examine themselves as to whether they feel devout or not,
such can have no stability nor any certain rule;
because our dispositions change continually,
sometimes owing to our own sloth,
sometimes by the ordinance of God,
who varies His gifts towards us according to our needs...
Our good brother, on the other hand, kept steadfastly in the Way of Faith...
Instead of watching his dispositions
or stopping to test the way in which he walked,
he fixed his gaze on God alone, the Goal of his race,
and sped along towards Him by daily acts of meekness and righteousness and love.
He set himself to do, rather than to reflect on what to do."

~From The Character of Brother Lawrence
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