Friday, February 27, 2015

"The Lord's Song of Love" {Love Without Fear}

We've snow here today after ice Monday and Tuesday. Not bad weather for staying inside and nursing an upper respiratory infection.
"To know that love is of God and to enter into the secret place leaning upon the arm of the Beloved--this and only this can cast out fear. Let a man become convinced that nothing can harm him and instantly for him all fear goes out of the universe. The nervous reflex, the natural revulsion to physical pain may be felt sometimes, but the deep torment of fear is gone forever. God is love and God is sovereign. His love disposes Him to desire our everlasting welfare and His sovereignty enables Him to secure it. Nothing can hurt a good man.

"'The body they may kill:
God's truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.'

"God's love tells us that He is friendly and His Word assures us that He is our friend and wants us to be His friends. No man with a trace of humility would first think that he is a friend of God; but the idea did not originate with men. Abraham would never have said, 'I am God's friend,' but God Himself said that Abraham was His friend. The disciples might well have hesitated to claim friendship with Christ, but Christ said to them, 'Ye are my friends.' Modesty may demur at so rash a thought, but audacious faith dares to believe the Word and claim friendship with God. We do God more honor by believing what He has said about Himself and having the courage to come boldly to the throne of grace than by hiding in self-conscious humility among the trees of the garden....

"The Lord takes peculiar pleasure in His saints. Many think of God as far removed, gloomy and mightily displeased with everything, gazing down in a mood of fixed apathy upon a world in which He has long ago lost interest; but this is to think erroneously. True, God hates sin and can never look with pleasure upon iniquity, but where men seek to do God's will He responds in genuine affection. Christ in His atonement has removed the bar to divine fellowship. Now in Christ all believing souls are objects of God's delight. 'The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing [Zephaniah 3:17, KJV] ....'

"The love of God is one of the great realities of the universe, a pillar upon which the hope of the world rests. But it is a personal, intimate thing, too. God does not love populations, He loves people. He loves not masses, but men. He loves us all with a mighty love that has no beginning and can have no end.

"In Christian experience there is a highly satisfying love content that distinguishes it from all other religions and elevates it to heights far beyond even the purest and noblest philosophy. This love content is more than a thing; it is God Himself in the midst of His Church singing over His people. True Christian joy is the heart's harmonious response to the Lord's song of love."

~A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, "The Love of God," pp. 154-155, 157, 159.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Sin Beneath {Love Without Fear}

The moon on the Wednesday before last
"The sin underneath all other sins is the lie that we cannot trust the love and grace of Jesus and that we must take matters into our own hands."
~Martin Luther

Friday, February 13, 2015

Does This Cell Phone Make Me Look Fat?

I hope you enjoy the following transcription of a phone conversation with my sister Terza's oldest son. 

Aunt T: So how tall are you boys this year?

[Grandpa gives me the growth chart stats.]

Aunt T: Wow! Only 12 more inches, and you'll catch me. You're getting so tall!!

Thunder [nephew, age 7 3/4]: I don't want to be as tall as you. I want things to stay just like they are right now.

Aunt T: You think that now, but you won't always. You'll grow tall like your Mama and Daddy, and before long you'll be the ones giving me piggy-back rides.
[giggles in the background as Rocky and the Thunder Twins repeat that last idea to each other]

Thunder: Well, one thing's for sure: I'll never be heavier than you.
[Grandpa guffawing and slapping his leg. Auntie coughing in disbelief.]

Aunt T: Actually, um, there aren't very many grown-up men heavier than me.

Grandpa: Once you start really doing sports, you'll get big strong muscles and be heavier than you are now. Heavier doesn't mean fat though.

Thunder: No, I don't like sports. I'm pretty sure I'll never be heavier than her.

In fairness to Thunder, you should also know what he said the next time we spoke on the telephone:

Thunder: Aunt T, I have 2 things I really need to tell you.

Aunt T: Really? Great! I'm all ears.

Thunder: Okay, the first thing is that I lost three teeth.

Aunt T: Three all at once?? Uh-oh, did one of your brothers punch you in the face?

Thunder: Noooo. They just came out. Well, Daddy kind of helped me with one of them, but nobody hit me.

Aunt T: That's good. What did the tooth fairy do, seeing three teeth at the same time? Did she pay you for all of them?

Thunder: Yep. All three. But there's another thing I really need to tell you.

Aunt T: I remember. What's this other thing?

Thunder: I wanted to tell you that those hats you made us for Christmas really do come in handy in this cold weather we're having.

Said Christmas hat
Aunt T: I'm so glad to hear it! This is good hat weather, isn't it? Have you worn it to school?

Thunder: Noooo, I don't think I should wear it to school because it might get lost. But I wear it to sleep in!

Aunt T: That sounds smart about not wearing it to school. I'm just glad you like it and it keeps you warm. I loved making it for you.

Thunder: Well, I just wanted to tell you that because I thought it would make you feel good.

Aunt T: Mission accomplished. Thank you.

The next time I saw him and his brothers in person, he wrote me this note:

A blessed Valentine's Day to you, Crumbles. To paraphrase a wise boy, I hope you are feeling good, and wherever you are remember that God loves you wherever you are.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Growth Chart {Amaryllis 2015}

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
 it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and singing.

The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

And a highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;
the unclean shall not pass over it.
It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.

No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Isaiah 35, ESV

Monday, January 19, 2015

Parable of the Bell Sheep

A mentor introduced me to the following idea almost two decades ago. W. Phillip Keller's classic book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 provided her source material. The image has reemerged in my thinking in multiple circumstances recently, so the time seemed right to share my storification of it with you.
Once upon a time, a good, wise, loving Shepherd bought a foolish and bedraggled little sheep to save her from the slaughterhouse her wicked former owner intended for her. Finding her in dangerous woods, He drew her to Himself, quickly winning her love and obedience by His tender care.

After a while, though, she grew tired of simply following the Shepherd and enjoying His presence and began to wander about in search of opportunities to help and serve her Master. Eagerly, she would trot off in search of imperiled sheep who had gotten lost or hurt. Unfortunately, she often ended up lost, too, in the attempt to bring them back. She never minded her trials, since through them He found other lost sheep, as well. More than once, she herself was wounded by wolves or bears (or her own foolhardiness) attempting to rescue other wounded woolies. Never complaining, she wore her war-wounds proudly as emblems of her dedicated service.

Without fail, the Shepherd rescued her and brought her back, but the wayward, well-intentioned little lamb grieved Him. His desire was for her more than her wearing herself out in effort to please Him, and His greatest delight was in having her follow close by His side. Since she had never taken the time truly to know Him, she remained ignorant of His sorrow, until He finally stopped her wandering by breaking one of her legs.

Bleating in pain and astonishment, she kicked and bit and refused His kind overtures of comfort. Eventually, however, she grew too exhausted from the struggle to fight anymore. In her silent, helpless weariness, He bound up her wounds and cradled her tenderly, carrying her in His arms until her leg healed and she could walk again.

As she recovered, she learned to know the Shepherd’s heartbeat. She grew to love the mere pleasure of His nearness. Far greater than the superficial adrenaline rush of her former labors, her greatest joy became simply that of belonging to Him.

When her leg healed, and the Shepherd set her down to walk again, she no longer desired to wander from His side. In recognition of the change and as a reminder of her own brokenness, her Shepherd placed a bell around her neck. This way as she followed close by Him, the bell continually testified to the presence of her Good Shepherd. Wandering sheep often heard the bell and followed its ring back to His side. Wounded or cast sheep heard His approach and bleated for help, and the bell sheep would trot along beside Him, ringing the good news that help was on its way, as He went to their rescue.

This “service” proved far more satisfying, as the glory all went to the goodness of her Shepherd. Moreover, He used her to accomplish His work without her ever leaving His side. While she never wanted to repeat the brokenness, she would never have traded the lessons learned through it. She finally discovered her Shepherd was all she needed when He was all she had, and the pain of the process paled beside the beauty of His preciousness.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Hang on Until You See His Glory

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens—
Jesus the Son of God—
let us hold fast to the confession.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but One who has been tested in every way as we are,
yet without sin.
Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness,
so that we may receive mercy
and find grace to help us
at the proper time
(Hebrews 4:14-16, HCSB).

"I don't know what you are suffering right now, but he does. He is not capricious, picking petals off a daisy: 'I think I'll help them, I think I won't.' He's bearing your suffering and has entered into every bit of it, but he is waiting. Perhaps your deliverance will come before you take your next breath; perhaps it will come as you take your last. I don't know. But I do know that he has made a promise to you: if you believe you will see the glory of God (John 11:40). Just imagine that. Hang on to him in faith and imagine that you will see the glory of God! Your eyes will be opened to see how truly wise, powerful, and good he is. Somehow, in some way hidden to your weak eyes, your suffering is making a way for that to happen. I don't know when your 'Lazarus' will rise, but when he does, you will see him as he is, and then you will understand....

"Lord, help me believe that your glory is worth this suffering, just as you knew that my seeing it was worth yours. AMEN."
~Elyse Fitzpatrick, Comforts from the Cross

Monday, January 5, 2015

Hope for the First Monday of a New Year

The steadfast love of Yahweh never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“Yahweh is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations 3:22-24, ESV

Full moon, 5 January 2015

Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.
~Thomas Chisholm, "Great Is Thy Faithfulness"

Our hope today lies not in our circumstances,
Not in our emotions,
Not in the faithfulness of our discipleship,
But in the unceasing lovingkindness of Yahweh our covenant-keeping God;
In His unending mercies;
In the greatness of His faithfulness;
In His sufficiency as our portion.
He will not fail you, dear crumble.
Therefore may you hope in Him.