Nature.

How big is your world? What do you see?
Whose weight do you carry — whose joys and tears, whose faith and fears?

Who holds you accountable, and who is accountable for you?

Some days, the world seems bigger than others.
The weight seems heavier, and the problems harder.

Who takes care of them?
How many will sleep tonight? How many will wake tomorrow?

“The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises.” (Ecclesiastes 1:5)
The cycle dutifully repeats itself ere the dawn of time; it is Man who falls off.

But remember, “[H]e makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)

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Indeed.
On nights, when the world seems heavier, memories tangled in a maze, and the questions too deep to phrase… I look outside the window and observe the beauty of the natural world.

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And remember the One who set the Laws of Nature in place is the One Who controls the path of the greatest storms, and the growth of the smallest seed…

It is He:
Who cares for each of us.

Who knows us all by name.

So, I:
rest, knowing that as He knows.

Do not mistaken God’s patience as apathy or inability (rephrased).

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

 

 

“…Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you
…He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:18, 24)

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1. Give me an Undivided Heart.

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. Psalm 86:11
Twelve years ago, we wrote Proverbs 3:5-6 to one another.  Did we understand what it meant back then? ‘Trust,’ ‘with all our hearts,’ ‘acknowledge Him…’ These days, we are still seeking direction for our paths.

“On our best days, we are but unprofitable servants,” a pastor once prayed, “And if You do not lead us, do not let us go without Your presence.” [Ref 1]
 
Yes, otherwise, we will wallow in doubt. As a poet wrote, ‘For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.’ Years will pass, and we will wonder what happened, and feeling as lost as we did years before.

“Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.”
-RR

The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. Proverbs 16:1-3

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 1 Peter 3:3-4

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

For we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 1 Tim 6:7

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

[Ref 1] Exodus 33:14-16 “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”
The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

21 to forever.

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” Corrie ten Boom

This morning, I looked at my calendar and realized we’ve made it past the 21-day mark.
Friends, if you have begun new habits at the start of 2016, some circles will say that you’re on your way to making permanent change.

(Science would suggest that making and breaking habits is more complicated than simply the number of days. But today, for the sake of putting down a milestone, let’s call it ~21 days.)

2016 continues to bring along changes.
Some days, it seems like everything is new, and I wonder when things will settle into a routine. But to be able to learn — and from learning, to grow — is a blessing.

Question

“The future seems uncertain.”
A favorite phrase in younger circles, likely traced back to the day someone gave us a sheet of paper and asked us to fill in the blank to ‘I want to be _______ when I grow up.’

But over time, I’m seeing this question doesn’t go away.
I had dinner with an elderly couple tonight. It has been a few years since we’ve seen these old friends. Time has not been kind to their faces (I see this), and age has not been kind to their bodies (they tell me).

With every appointment and check-up, it’s a new health condition: a new medication, another food they shouldn’t be eating, something else they should watch for.

“Ahh, but what else can you hope for at this age?” They sigh.

Time spent with the old and the young is humbling…

We start with our dreams and aspirations, trek through the fog and challenges, settle on something like a plateau, and belong long, it unravels until we are naught.

In the eyes of the world, this is it. We aim to preserve as much as we can for as long as we can. But this is how it will go. And would you not wonder, “Then what is all of this for ?”

But there is a turning point…
For those who call ourselves Christians, 1 Cor 15:19 comes to mind: “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

Answer

My answer tonight comes from Job 42:2 “I know that You can do everything,
And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.

Our lives on earth are but a flicker in an immense sea of stars — too little to see how we fit, too small to fully comprehend the happenings around us, too short to understand the things that were, are, and will be.

Like Job, the more I speak, the more I realize: “I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”

The song below is on repeat tonight. It’s based on Job, but I find it applies to times when I ask about things that I cannot understand.

Yes. We may live out our lives never fully knowing the reason for certain things…but we rest knowing that His goodness never changes.
(Father, at times like this, help our faith remain steadfast.)

But there are also times when we receive answers to questions that gnawed at us. By grace, we may be shown a small part of why there was such and such a pain, and see the works that the suffering has produced.

Both are by God’s grace. How great is His love towards us:
“Although I had no right to ask, My God knelt down and answered me.”

Lesson 1-3 of 2016:
1) Yes, there are unanswered questions, and yes, the future remains uncertain.
2) But He always provides enough – in His way, in His time.

3) Faith is: To walk in uncertain paths, with a steadfast heart – to God, for God.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb 11:1)

 

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:58

[Currently reading: The Essential Church by T. Rainer & S. Rainer III ]

On hunger and nutrition.

Our spiritual lives are often explained using the examples from physical needs. I’m particularly fond when it comes to nutrition-related examples.

On tonight’s drive home, a pastor on the radio station shared this example:

 Spiritual hunger works just opposite from physical hunger. When we are physically hungry, we eat and satisfy our appetites and cease to be hungry. But when we are spiritually undernourished and are then given a feast of good spiritual food, it makes us hungrier than ever. Thus the more we we learn about God’s love, the more we want to know; we can’t get enough.

When we are physically hungry and miss a meal, our appetite becomes ravenous. But if time passes and we receive no spiritual food, we may lose our appetite for it. Malnutrition sets in and we cease to care.

May we always have this hunger for spiritual food.
For we can be filled (and satisfied) in no other way but in Him.

But in all this abundance, I was also reminded of this passage tonight:

Lord Jesus, You have blessed me with an abundance of revelation — all of it, in fact, in the pages of Scripture. Help me embrace [these gifts]  as more than [things] that make me feel better about myself. May Your words move past my mind and my checklist to my hands, my heart and my mouth. May I apply Your words as the life-changing agent You intended when You first spoke them beside the Sea of Galilee. (W. Stiles)

It is not for us and our feelings. These words are not to end in our minds, and have no power or change in us. It is meant to change lives. Starting with our own.

Duty is ours; consequences are God’s – Stonewall Jackson.

SDg

 

 

 

There is enough.

Seek the Lord and His strength;
    seek His face continually! (1 Chronicles 16:11)

The LORD is near to all them that call on him, to all that call on him in truth.(Psalms 145:18 )

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

Discipleship

Discipleship is anything that causes what is believed in the heart to have demonstrable consequences in our daily life. – E. Peterson

I came across Peterson’s quote this morning, and the phrase “to have demonstrable consequences” stuck with me.

  • ‘What is Believed in the Heart’
    Faith and Love: It is wonderful to meet hearts with a goal to serve.
    Sometimes we have grand desires and goals to serve and to do, stemming from things we have read from Scriptures, heard in sermons, or seen in others’ examples… or a mix of all of these, and with the moment’s passion, we vow and make dedications to do such and such.
  • ‘To have Demonstrable Consequences’
    The call to action: Do our beliefs become evident in our actions?
    Sometimes we start (or sometimes we never even reach the starting point), and the will dies.
  • ‘In our Daily Lives’
    Here it is, the call for perseverance: It is great to have goals, and sometimes to bring these goals into action. But how do we sustain this?

 

It brings us back to Discipleship.
Follow, and keep following.

There are times when it’s good, and you notice a crowd with you, and are cheered on in your walk. And you’re happy to keep going.

Yet there will be times when there seems to be no one else, ‘for the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life.‘ But what then? Keep going!

You follow Christ! And this is your walk with Him. Keep following!
We do not bear fruit based on our own efforts, but as we abide in Him, we will bear much fruit.

It is a personal call, and will be a trying, but delightfully personal and intimate journey — a daily walk — all the way Home.

So, friends. Do not give up hope when the road seems narrower, and the crowd dissipates.

I smile to think that Jesus’ response to His disciple still applies to us today:
“…What is that to you? You follow me!

SDg

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.  If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. (John 15:5-8)

Day One – Take two.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” Hebrews 10:24

There were half a dozen things I wanted to say before this, but when it came time, all my words were found wanting.

History repeats itself if one is not keen to learn from one’s mistakes.

 

But who is to say unexpected encounters are not opportunities to make amends?

Humility, simplicity, faith — Lessons for 2016.