Not In Vain: Final words for 2019.

What is the Comfort for fear, the Balm for pain, the Light for hope, the Way to forgiveness, the Sum of love? You are, LORD.

14 But I trust in you, Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
from those who pursue me.
16 Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
17 Let me not be put to shame, Lord,
for I have cried out to you;
but let the wicked be put to shame
and be silent in the realm of the dead.
Psalm 31:14-17

What have You been teaching me this year?

That the LORD submitted Himself to the Father, trusting and waiting for His provision when it was in His power to satisfy His desires Himself. (Luke 4)

That Your Word is true: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
(1 Corinthians 10:13)

Like Jacob learned at Peniel  (Genesis 32), that Your blessings are not to be won by deception or taken by my strength, but from You, through earnest and humble petitions.

That life is shorter than we think… Our lives are but summer’s grass and autumn’s mist –Here and gone. So for a greater desire to live for You and before You… For fewer days of ruminating over choices and living with debilitating doubt. And like Jacob at Peniel  (Genesis 32), to confess the false images and names I have clung to, and to treasure the name You have given me. Yours. 

 

And as I wrote, these were the songs that You chose:

“And if I give up too soon
And take my eyes off of You
I know that love will endure
And lead me right back to You 

I will trust in Your presence
You won’t let me drown in my sea of doubt
When I stopped believing, You came running
I found my hope while I was sinking
You are my refuge, You are my freedom”

“‘Cause You’re more than enough Surround me with Your love
You bring courage to the coward So of course, I’ll sing it louder
You’re more than enough for me 

If it takes a fire to sing Your praise, then let it burn
If it takes a storm to know Your strength, then let me learn
If it takes a flood to build my faith, then let it rain
God, do everything it takes to lift Your name”

LORD, as You promised that those who hope in You will not be put to shame (Psalm 25:3),
in the end, allow me to say that this life was not lived in vain.

Made Like Us.

10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren…17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. — Hebrews 2:10-11, 17-18
15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16

I’ve often been challenged by these verses… What does it mean that the LORD suffered, was tempted as we were, yet without sin, that He could sympathize with our weaknesses. Why does it mean that we can obtain mercy and find grace.

I reading the book of Luke (rather timely, as we enter the Christmas season), and came to chapter 4, the days before Jesus began His Galilean Ministry, and came to the passage where He was tempted by Satan. I was stuck at the first temptation of turning stone into bread.

I thought a bit about why, after 40 days in of fasting in the wilderness, the LORD would not turn the stone into bread, for He would do this for others, but why not for Himself? I found Matthew Henry’s writing helpful in explaining this.

“How he was assaulted by one temptation after another, and how he defeated the design of the tempter in every assault, and became more than a conqueror. During the forty days, he was tempted of the devil (Luke 4:2), not by an inward suggestion, for the prince of this world had nothing in Christ by which to inject any such, but by outward solicitations, perhaps in the likeness of a serpent, as he tempted our first parents. But at the end of the forty days he came nearer to him, and did as it were close with him, when he perceived that he was hungryLuke 4:2. Probably, our Lord Jesus then began to look about among the trees, to see if he could find any thing that was eatable, whence the devil took occasion to make the following proposal to him.

1. He tempted him to distrust his Father’s care of him, and to set up for himself, and shift for provision for himself in such a way as his Father had not appointed for him (Luke 4:3): If thou be the Son of God, as the voice from heaven declared, command this stone to be made bread. (1.) “I counsel thee to do it; for God, if he be thy Father, has forgotten thee, and it will be long enough ere he sends either ravens or angels to feed thee.” If we begin to think of being our own carvers, and of living by our own forecast, without depending upon divine providence, of getting wealth by our might and the power of our hands, we must look upon it as a temptation of Satan’s, and reject it accordingly; it is Satan’s counsel to think of an independence upon God. (2.) “I challenge thee to do it, if thou canst; if thou dost not do it, I will say thou art not the Son of God; for John Baptist said lately, God is able of stones to raise up children to Abraham, which is the greater; thou therefore hast not the power of the Son of God, if thou dost not of stones make bread for thyself, when thou needest it, which is the less.” Thus was God himself tempted in the wilderness: Can he furnish a table? Can he give bread? Ps. 78:1920.
Now, [1.] Christ yielded not to the temptation; he would not turn that stone into bread; no, though he was hungry; First, Because he would not do what Satan bade him do, for that would have looked as if there had been indeed a compact between him and the prince of the devils. Note, We must not do any thing that looks like giving place to the devil. Miracles were wrought for the confirming of faith, and the devil had no faith to be confirmed, and therefore he would not do it for him. He did his signs in the presence of his disciples (John 20:30), and particularly the beginning of his miracles, turning water into wine, which he did, that his disciples might believe on him (John 2:11); but here in the wilderness he had no disciples with him. Secondly, He wrought miracles for the ratification of his doctrine, and therefore till he began to preach he would not begin to work miracles. Thirdly, He would not work miracles for himself and his own supply, lest he should seem impatient of hunger, whereas he came not to please himself, but to suffer grief, and that grief among others; and because he would show that he pleased not himself, he would rather turn water into wine, for the credit and convenience of his friends, than stones into bread, for his own necessary supply. Fourthly, He would reserve the proof of his being the Son of God for hereafter, and would rather be upbraided by Satan with being weak, and not able to do it, than be persuaded by Satan to do that which it was fit for him to do; thus he was upbraided by his enemies as if he could not save himself, and come down from the cross, when he could have come down, but would not, because it was not fit that he should. Fifthly, He would not do any thing that looked like distrust of his Father, or acting separately from him, or any thing disagreeable to his present state.

 

Being in all things made like unto his brethren, he would, like the other children of God, live in a dependence upon the divine Providence and promise, and trust him either to send him a supply into the wilderness or to lead him to a city of habitation where there was a supply, as he used to do (Ps. 107:5-7), and in the mean time would support him, though he was hungry, as he had done these forty days past.

 

[2.] He returned a scripture-answer to it (Luke 4:4): It is written. This is the first word recorded as spoken by Christ after his instalment in his prophetical office; and it is a quotation out of the Old Testament, to show that he came to assert and maintain the authority of the scripture as uncontrollable, even by Satan himself. And though he had the Spirit without measure, and had a doctrine of his own to preach and a religion to found, yet it agreed with Moses and the prophets, whose writings he therefore lays down as a rule to himself, and recommends to us as a reply to Satan and his temptations. The word of God is our sword, and faith in that word is our shield; we should therefore be mighty in the scriptures, and go in that might, go forth, and go on, in our spiritual warfare, know what is written, for it is for our learning, for our use. The text of scripture he makes use of is quoted from Deut. 8:3: “Man shall not live by bread alone. I need not turn the stone into bread, for God can send manna for my nourishment, as he did for Israel; man can live by every word of God, by whatever God will appoint that he shall live by.” How had Christ lived, lived comfortably, these last forty days? Not by bread, but by the word of God, by meditation upon that word, and communion with it, and with God in and by it; and in like manner he could live yet, though now he began to be hungry. God has many ways of providing for his people, without the ordinary means of subsistence; and therefore he is not at any time to be distrusted, but at all times to be depended upon, in the way of duty. If meat be wanting, God can take away the appetite, or give such degrees of patience as will enable a man even to laugh at destruction and famine (Job 5:22), or make pulse and water more nourishing than all the portion of the king’s meat (Dan. 1:1213), and enable his people to rejoice in the Lord, when the fig-tree doth not blossom, Hab. 3:17.

…What was the result and issue of this combat, Luke 4:13. Our victorious Redeemer kept his ground, and came off a conqueror, not for himself only, but for us also.”

To know that each of His victories were not for Himself alone, but for us. He defeated Satan, that in Him, we also may have victory.

“Did Christ suffer, being tempted, till all the temptation was ended? And must not we expect also to pass all our trials, to go through the hour of temptation assigned us?”

 
The LORD chose to depend upon His Father for His daily needs. That was the reason and the answer. And that is the way for us and those who call Him Lord as well.

 

 

Trustworthy.

Word of the day.
The message you give without saying a word.

Be excellent in what you do; let that be your testimony.

Like David and the temple
I want to bring You praise
Like David and his temple plans
Your ways are not my ways
You don’t need me to build a temple
To know that You love me still, oh
Like Israel on the shore
All I see is crashing waves, but like Israel on the shore
It’s through the wild You make a way
I wanna go where You go
I wanna stay where You stay, oh
I don’t wanna go if You’re not going before me …
Like Moses in the desert
I want to see the land
But like Moses in the desert
I can’t fully see Your plan
Still Your love doesn’t stop
When I see the land from a mountaintop, oh
Like Peter on a hill
I want to make this my place
Like Peter on the hill
Before Your transfigured face
I will go where You go
I will stay where You stay

Anywhere You are, I wanna be there
It’s written on my heart, You’re all I’ve ever needed
Anywhere You go, I wanna be there
It’s written on my soul, You’re all I’ve ever needed

Lord, You know.

For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.” — Psalm 139:4

Lord, You know.

 

“In my weakness You are strong
In my weakness You are beautiful
I will rest, I will rest
In the night You are my song
In the silence You sing on and on
I will rest, I will rest

 
You are the answer for all my questioning
You are the promise
I cling to, lean into You
You are the stillness when the storm is deafening
You are the anchor
I cling to, lean into You
Yes I’m holding on to You

 
You’re the peace I understand
You’re the faithfulness that takes my hand
I believe

That you see me where I am
And that good is all You’ve ever planned
I believe

Jesus You’re my help when I call
I’m holding on to You
I am overcome by the way
You’ve always proved
You’re my strength, my song
My victory in every season
I’m holding on to You

 
Yes I am
I’m holding on to You
You are my strength
You are my joy
You are my song
Yes I’m holding on to You”

The Pursuit Of

“…Teach me that if I do not live a life that satisfies Thee,
I shall not live a life that will satisfy myself.

Help me to desire the spirit and temper of angels
who willingly come down to this lower world to perform Thy will,
though their desires are heavenly,
and not set in the least upon earthy things;
then I shall be of that temper I ought to have.

Help me not to think of living to Thee in my own strength,
But always to look to and rely on Thee for assistance.

Teach me that there is no greater truth than this,
that I can do nothing of myself.


How precious is time, and how painful to see it fly
with little done to good purpose!

I need Thy help:
O may my soul sensibly depend upon Thee for all sanctification,
and every accomplishment of Thy purposes for me,
for the world,
for Thy kingdom.”

— Happiness, The Valley of Vision

 

 

 

 

Pink and blue buttons.
Red and green bubbles.
The blue checkmark and the unnerving silence.
(A hundred questions unanswered.
A thousand questions unasked.)
Numbers and stats.
Statuses
Photos.
Picture frames.
Albums.
Cars and vans.
To do it well. And right.
And even so, presented to the Master Architect,
Mine were all soap bubbles and sandcastles.
Repeated lessons from the One who loves,
Until the sour grapes become the forgotten memories of a restful, weaned child.

After.

“For my beloved I will not fear; Love knows to do For him, for her, from year to year, As hitherto. Whom my heart cherishes are dear To Thy heart too.”

— Amy Carmichael

Isobel, on the platform of Dread Disease:

The future of my loved ones, after I leave them? The Lord who has been so kind to me will not be less so to them.

 

Dross

“I hope He shall lose nothing of you in the furnace, but dross.”
— Letters of Samuel Rutherford

“The LORD will preserve everything else for us.” — Isobel Kuhn

For the past six to nine months, it seems a lot of dross has been picked up, such that it is hard to walk, hard to know which way, what direction. The fear is that I cannot discern between permissible and desired. Was it not best but permitted? Will it become an idol that must also be broken down?
There is an empty echo when the words we speak in public are not backed by a richer walk with God in private. And my words ring out that empty echo on prayer, on service, on devotion, on daily living… I hear and feel it — I don’t know if anyone else does, too.

What is the root cause, and what is the remedy?
The adults may give books and reading…
I think the children and the aged may tell me this: Tell God.

“There but for the grace of God, go I.”

Lost, but for the Good Shepherd, Who seeks and finds. And none can pluck us out from His hand.
If reading, will You pray?
And may the next letter be of answered prayers.

Amen.

The Doors.

O LORD,

Thou knowest my great unfitness for service,
my present deadness,
my inability to do anything for thy glory,
my distressing coldness of heart.

Help my soul to breathe after holiness,
  after a constant devotedness to thee,
  after growth in grace more abundantly every day.

O Lord, I am lost in the pursuit of this blessedness,
And am ready to sink because I fall short
of my desire;

Help me to hold out a little longer,
until the happy hour of deliverance comes,
for I cannot lift my soul to thee
  if thou of thy goodness bring me not nigh.

Help me to be diffident, watchful, tender,
lest I offend my blessed Friend
in thought and behaviour;

I confide in thee and lean upon thee,
and need thee at all times to assist and lead me.

O that all my distresses and apprehensions
  might prove but Christ’s school
to make me fit for greater service
by teaching me the great lesson of humility.

— Need of Grace, Valley of Vision

For Your mercy in keeping some doors shut, not relenting no matter how hard I tried to pry them open.
(Even now.)
May I live to see Your wisdom.
And until then, to rejoice in Your ways.

And to rest in faith and hope and love, as a child.
Yours.

Space

The pause between words.
The distance between two people.
That moment before you make a choice.

So many times, I wish I had filled it with grace.
I wish I had stepped closer and said farewell with a little more grace.

I wish I had turned to overcome fear and asked those questions that get at the heart.

I wish I had smiled.
And said that I do see.

Space.
My gallery of unwanted pieces.
My apologies for the times I’ve unwittingly gifted these pieces.
I’ve often wished to take them back.
But who knows. Maybe we’re all masters of the same craft.

But now, enough navel-gazing and onto something more important:

There is this other space, this hole, this gap we feel.  We do feel it, all of us. We may have partially filled it with the pursuit of things, of milestones, of life achievements, with the general ‘busy’… We may numb it with music, with crowds, with ideas, and other things that help us forget.
But it is there.
If you’re honest with yourself, no matter how much you have and how much you’ve done, you can’t fill it. And you wonder if that’s how it’s supposed to be.

Pascal described in Pensées once:

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”

Friend. You see, we were made to feel that gap, so that we might seek to fill it. But long story short, it is a fool’s errand if we try it our way.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

  We were made to find the answer, and there is only One:

“Just as a square peg cannot fill a round hole, neither can the “God-shaped hole” inside each of us be filled by anyone or anything other than God. Only through a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ can the “God-shaped hole” be filled and the desire for eternity fulfilled.” [1]

So that, friend, is the answer to the great emptiness we feel.

(But for that space which I gave you when I should have given grace… May He give more grace — grace to forgive and courage to care)
I’ve been strong
And I’ve been broken within a moment
I’ve been faithful
And I’ve been reckless at every bend
I’ve held everything together
And watched it shatter
I’ve stood tall and I have crumbled
In the same breath
I have wrestled
And I have trembled toward surrender
Chased my heart adrift
And drifted home again
Plundered blessing
Till I’ve been desperate to find redemption
And every time I turn around
Lord You’re still there
Who am I
To think Your glory needs my praises
But if this borrowed breath is Yours Lord
Take it all
You are faithful and You are gracious
And I’m just grateful
To think You don’t need a single thing
And still You want my heart
I was found
Before I was lost
I was Yours
Before I was not
You wear the scars
For all my mistakes
And I know I don’t deserve this kind of love
Somehow this kind of love is who You are
It’s a grace I could never add up
To be somebody You still want
But somehow
You love me as You find me

 

[1] https://www.gotquestions.org/God-shaped-hole.html

Broken.

As I continue to read Isobel Kuhn’s, In the Arena , I was also reminded of the life of Samson. A person can be so gifted, so strong, so powerful…
But so long as our will seeks to serve ourselves, we are not really walking in obedience, not really serving Him in the way which He intends, even if it was in the guise of ‘doing something’ for the LORD.

 

How much refining, how much chiseling – how much breaking – a life requires before it can be fit for the master’s use! When will we let go of the feeling of humiliation to recognize and accept our need for humility? When will we stop crying over the breaking to see that there is something more beautiful being revealed?

 

I think of Jacob, of Joseph, of Moses, of Peter, of Paul…
Of Amy Carmichael, of Elizabeth Elliot, of Isobel Kuhn…

 

So much breaking and tearing apart. But here is the beauty of all of this — we may be broken, but we are not destroyed. Whether He chooses to use outward circumstances to change us, or sometimes, inner turmoil, so long as we belong to Him, all of these things work for our good (Romans 8:28).

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh…
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 
2 Corinthians 4:7-11, 16-18

 

What is all this brokenness for?
Our heavenly Father is making us more like His Son.
For the LORD, being God, possessing all the power and all access to that power, made Himself of no reputation… humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (See Philippians 2:5-11).

 

Sometimes we want to do so much, to go here and there and accomplish such and such. (And remember, child. Never mistaken movement for progress.)
But the beauty of this is, even as we work for Him, He is working in us to change us to be like Jesus. That others may see Him in us.

And perhaps here is where I shall find the most important thing I can do and the most meaningful way to live: To live before Him in love and obedience.

 

Broken and Beautiful.

 

So, friend: Will you let go of the mourning, the doubt, the fear, and see with that eternal perspective…
He is working.
And He is making something beautiful.