Friday, April 15, 2016

Describing the Indescribable

I've been contemplating Isaiah 55 and couldn't help but think it offers a great Gospel guideline as we seek to "proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light".  (1 Peter 2:9)

Here's my bullet-point thoughts: 

vs. 1: "Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters..." The call goes out to all...and the call is to embrace Christ ( Jesus said in John 14:4, "But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again--ever! In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life."")

vs.1 cont'd: "and you without money; come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost!" Salvation from our sins, God's judgement, and wrath is a free gift for those who believe, though, it was incredibly costly...it cost Jesus His very life. 

vs. 2 "Why do you spend money on what is not food, and your wages on what does not satisfy?" Ecclesiastes calls it "chasing after wind". You'll never have enough and your soul will never find rest until it finds rests in God alone (Augustine). Psalm 107:9 says,  "For He has satisfied the thirsty and filled the hungry with good things." 

vs. 6 "Seek the Lord while He may be found; call to Him while He is near." Our lives are but a vapor, don't wait, don't presume there may be a tomorrow. 2 Corinthians 6:2b says, "Look, now is the acceptable time; look, now is the day of salvation." Cry out for mercy and grace! 

vs. 7 "Let the wicked one abandon his way, and the sinful one his thoughts." Salvation involves not just being saved TO something (eternal life) but it also involves being saved FROM something, our sin. That means, genuine salvation begins with repentance. A broken spirit that sees her sin for what it is, treason against a holy God, and then, disgusted by it, turns away from her sinful ways, thoughts, and actions to Jesus who is "the way, the truth, and the life". 

vs.7 cont'd "let him return to the Lord so He may have compassion on him, and to our God for He will freely forgive."  1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 

vs. 8-9 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts and your ways are not My ways. This is the Lord's declaration. For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." Now what? God saved you but you realize that your thoughts and ways of living have not been what God desires. His ways and thoughts are perfect...true and righteous altogether (Psalm 19:9) He's not left us alone. He's given us His Word to know His thoughts, and, when we are saved, He seals us (places inside of us) His very Spirit, the Holy Spirit, to help us better understand His thoughts and conform us to His ways.  

"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift." I Cor. 9:15



Friday, April 8, 2016

Do the Next Thing

We have the privilege of living in an area that has LOTS of walking/hiking paths through the woods behind and around our house. Some of these trails are relatively flat and I can keep talking to Bryan at my normal 250 words per minute. ;) Other trails lead you right up the side of the mountain and, while the view is beautiful, the climb has me focusing on my breathing as though I were in labor. It's the quietest part of the hike for Bryan, which may explain why he takes me on those routes so often! :)

It isn't long after we start climbing the steps, or walking up the switch backs, that my legs start to burn and I start looking up and ahead at how much farther I have to go. Invariably, it's much farther than I hoped for and I have found myself stopping several times on the way up to "rest" because I feel like I just can't make it. (Insert the "clearly she is out of shape" that I know you all are thinking!)

But I did something different the last couple of days and I made it to the top without stopping. I simply looked down at the ground and the very next step ahead of me and said to myself, "I can make the next step". And all those steps, taken one at a time, totalled 250 yards of uphill climb without a break. What changed? Certainly not the hill I was climbing, and it's not my out-of-shape body...it was my thoughts. It was my direction and my focus. I just took the next step.

As I took one step after another, I couldn't help but be reminded how true this reality is, not just for my hike, but for so much of my life. I can start out the day rejoicing that the Lord has made it and excited to see what He has in store for our waking hours...and the smile can quickly fade from my face just by entering the kitchen. The stack of dishes reminds me that I forgot to turn on the dishwasher and now I have backed up dishes on my counter and in my sink that are turning whatever was eaten on them to glue as fast as possible. The fridge reminds me that I forgot the pull out the meat last night and now I need to come up with a new plan for dinner on top of the fact that it's almost empty and I still have not made up my grocery list. I look at my desk and see my computer, and the piles of papers that surround it, reminding me of the emails I have not returned and the list of to-do's that require attention before the papers consume my computer. And I haven't even made it to the homeschool room or peaked into the laundry room to see how the clothes hamper grew overnight. Just like that, my smile is replaced with a grimace, joy is replaced by frustration, and excitement is replaced with dread. I've tried to take my whole day and tackle it in my mind in the span of a minute...and, in the space of that one minute, I already feel like I can't make it through the day.

Elisabeth Elliot shared something once (based on an old saxon poem) that has been a source of encouragement to me when I feel overwhelmed by all that is in front of me. She said, "Just do the next thing".

Do it immediately; Do it with prayer; Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, Tracing His Hand, Who placed it before thee with
Earnest command. Stayed on Omnipotence, Safe 'neath His wing, 

Leave all resultings, DO THE NEXT THING.

I'm not on the other side of this battle...I'm in the midst of this battle to not be overwhelmed, to not grow weary, to laugh at the days to come, to rejoice in God's new mercies every morning, to give thanks instead of grumble and complain, to rest instead of worry, to see through the trial to the gracious hand of God, to trust and obey instead of control and force my way, to do the next thing. But, praise God, I am not defenseless in this battle, though, and neither are you! We have the full armor of God at our disposal as we wrestle our thoughts to the ground and take them captive to obey Christ, as we cling with all our might to God's Word and the precious promises that we find within...like Ephesians 6:10-18. Our God has unlimited strength...and that strength is ours in Christ. We can stand armed for daily battle with the truth of God's Word in our hearts and minds, with the righteousness of Christ giving us access to the Father through prayer, with words that bring peace to our homes and relationships through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, as we lived faith-filled lives fixed, not on what is seen, but what is unseen. This is our hope, this is our confidence, this is true reality!

Ready to do the next thing?

"Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.  For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities,against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand, therefore,
with truth like a belt around your waist,
righteousness like armor on your chest,
and your feet sandaled with readiness
for the gospel of peace.
 
In every situation take the shield of faith,
and with it you will be able to extinguish
all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
 
Take the helmet of salvation,
and the sword of the Spirit,
which is God’s word.
Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints."