Monday, February 24, 2014

On Strength for Burdens

Throw your burden upon Yahweh,
and he will sustain you.
He will never allow the godly to be upended.
Psalm 55:22, NET

Last spring as I read from The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs, I copied out this quote to share with y'all and then never did. It dovetailed so well with my thinking on the Psalm 55 verse I read this morning that it seemed a good day to share them both. We all need strength for burdens on Mondays, yes? {Smiles}
A gracious heart has contentment by getting strength from Jesus Christ; he is able to bear his burden by getting strength from someone else. Now this is a riddle, and it would be counted ridiculous in the schools of the philosophers, to say, If there is a burden on you you must get strength from someone else, who is not near you as far as you can see, they would think ridiculous. But a Christian finds satisfaction in every circumstance by getting strength from another, by going out of himself to Jesus Christ, by his faith acting upon Christ, and bringing the strength of Jesus Christ into his own soul, he is thereby enabled to bear whatever God lays on him, by the strength that he finds from Jesus Christ. Of his fullness do we receive grace for grace; there is strength in Christ not only to sanctify and save us, but strength to support us under all our burdens and afflictions, and Christ expects that when we are under any burden, we should act our faith upon him to draw virtue and strength from him. Faith is the great grace that is to be acted under afflictions. It is true that other graces should be acted, but the grace of faith draws strength from Christ, in looking on him who has the fullness of all strength conveyed into the hearts of all believers.

Now if a man has a burden to bear, and yet can have strength added to him--if the burden is doubled, he can have his strength trebled--the burden will not be heavier but lighter than it was before to his natural strength.

Indeed, our afflictions may be heavy, and we cry out, Oh, we cannot bear them, we cannot bear such an affliction. Though you cannot tell how to bear it with your own strength, yet how can you tell what you will do with the strength of Jesus Christ? You say you cannot bear it? So you think that Christ could not bear it? But if Christ could bear it why may you not come to bear it? You will say, Can I have the strength of Christ? Yes, it is made over to you by faith: the Scripture says that the Lord is our strength, God himself is our strength, and Christ is our strength. There are many Scriptures to that effect, that Christ's strength is yours, made over to you, so that you may be able to bear whatever lies upon you, and therefore we find such a strange expression in the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians, praying for the saints: 'That they might be strengthened with all might according unto his glorious power', unto what? 'Unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness'--strengthened with all might, according to the power of God, the glorious power of God, unto all patience, and longsuffering with joyfulness. You must not therefore be content with a little strength, so that you are able to bear what a man might bear by the strength of reason and nature, but you should be strengthened with all might, according to the glorious power of God, unto all patience, and too all longsuffering (Kindle location 730).
And with that, please allow me to pray for you, dear Crumble reading this today, with the passage Jeremiah Burroughs quotes at the end of the text above:
"For this reason we also, from the day we heard about y’all, have not ceased praying for y’all and asking God to fill y’all with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects—
bearing fruit in every good deed,
growing in the knowledge of God,
being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for the display of all patience and steadfastness,
joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has qualified y’all to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light"
(Colossians 1:9-12, NET with Texan version Chrome plug-in adjustments).

For my own part, I thank Him for a few of His gifts the past week or so:
His superabundant strength for our weaknesses,
His willingness--indeed, invitation--to bear my burdens,
friends willing to be faithful custodians of each others' stories,
a great pain day when I needed it for the Thunder Twins' birthday,
Terza's creativity and hard work in her sons' Lego party (see below)

Oreo truffles with a marshmallow "button" on top, dipped in candy coating and decorated with food-safe markers
my amaryllis opening after weeks of suspense,
my friend's birthday amaryllis growing two stalks,
beautiful sunrises,
my Amore and my Ebony Dog catching some snuggles before church,

an unexpected, grace-filled conversation with an acquaintance after church,
permanent orthotics to help my ankle tendinitis heal, Lord willing,
a product exchange going much better than expected,
starting Ephesians 6 at last (perhaps I'll finish that memory project this year!),
a great mission trip report from a friend,
and this lovely text from another friend today: "No matter what I am asked to face today, His Grace has already made it possible for me to see it as a love letter from my Beloved. Hope your week is filled with Love Letters."
And yours too, friends!
(2014 gratitude journal #538-552)

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Thursday, February 13, 2014


And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us (Romans 5:5, KJV).

The vibration of the gravel under the van's tires jarred me alert after the lulling hum of the highway. After a long, scorching day providing a day camp in a Tennessee State Park for children with special needs, perspiration adhered my shirt to the vinyl seat and my eyes stubbornly kept drifting shut on the drive back to the antique dormitory where we ate and slept. Why had we stopped? Did the lead van have a flat tire?

Our driver rolled down his window to consult with the youth director, then turned and said, "Wake up. Shoes on. Everybody out!"

John, our youth minister, headed off into the trees beside the road and told us to come on. We glanced at each other, confused, but followed him in trust. A narrow dirt path snaked through the trees then descended, down and around and down and around, becoming more challenging as we sometimes needed to reach out a hand for something stable to help us balance.

A susurration beyond the trees grew into a roar. We raised our voices to match. "Water! There's water down here!" The athletes among us raced to be the first to reach the rocky pool of fresh water at the base of a hidden waterfall. "Can we get in? Can we swim in it?" John went first and deemed it safe enough, as long as we kept our shoes on for protection and traction and didn't swim directly below the plummeting water.

Ked-clad and fully clothed, nary a swim towel in sight, most of the group got in. I hung back. It didn't look safe. After a few minutes I conceded to wade in. The cool water refreshed and invigorated my overheated ankles and calves. A little farther, and a little farther still, and I was submerged to my shoulders, then my head as well, a baptism of unexpected joy.

How long we stayed I don't know, but we swam, the boys daring closer and closer to the relentless rushing water, until an adult told them that was close enough. Behind the curtain of the falls we took turns sitting on a ledge carved into the rock face, just wide enough for two or three youth. Then back into the water we slid, breathless with the cold and the power and the delight of the thing. Some climbed up the walls of the cove, chilled for the first time all week and ready to dry off. Eventually we all joined them by some unspoken consensus.

At the leaders' word, we hiked back up the trail and returned to our vans, no longer drowsy but drenched, shivering, and chattering all the way back to our home base.

This memory sprang to mind with the vividness of yesterday when I read the following commentary on Romans 5:5 by Dr. J. I. Packer:
Three points in Paul's words deserve comment. First, notice the verb shed abroad. It means literally poured (or dumped) out. It is the word used of the "outpouring" of the Spirit himself in Acts 2:17-18, 33; 10:45; Titus 3:6. It suggests a free flow and a large quantity--in fact, and inundation. Hence the rendering of the NEB, "God's love has flooded our inmost heart." Paul is not talking of faint and fitful impressions, but of deep and overwhelming ones.
   Then, second, notice the tense of the verb. It is in the perfect, which implies a settled state consequent upon a completed action. The thought is that knowledge of the love of God, having flooded our hearts, fills them now, just as a valley once flooded remains full of water. Paul assumes that all his readers, like himself, will be living in the enjoyment of a strong and abiding sense of God's love for them.
   Third, notice that the instilling of this knowledge is described as part of the regular ministry of the Spirit to those who receive him--to all, that is, who are born again, all who are true believers (J.I. Packer, Knowing God, 118).
God's love has flooded the heart of those who, having believed in Christ, have received the gift of His Spirit. His love has inundated our hearts. More powerful, more relentless, more abundant than that falls or any falls, more love than mortal man or woman can hold has gushed into us, so that we may live "in the enjoyment of a strong and abiding sense of God's love" for us.

Beloved, have you ever entered into that love? If you have never trusted the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation, I urge you to do so now. "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). And again, "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved" (Romans 10:9-10).

If you already know Christ, if you have believed in His name and become His true child by faith, do you believe the love God has for us? His Word testifies over and over to His wooing, jealous, purifying love. Romans 5:5 is not the only place. Sometimes when I feel lonely and wallow in self-pity, I need to get out of the van and dive into the pool of God's love as witnessed by the Scriptures. Feelings lie. The Bible never does. God loves us. He delights in us. Every day draws nearer to the day Jesus will gather His bride, the church, to Himself  "in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing" (Eph. 5:27). Sometimes when I feel lonely, I am learning, my real problem is not believing God's revealed truth. I beg and plead for some sign, some token of His love instead of taking Him at His word and believing that His love has drenched my heart, whether I feel it or not. Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!

If you perhaps feel unworthy of love today, disqualified from the sweeping flood of God's love, consider these verses which immediately follow the theme verse of this post:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Romans 5:6-10)
Christ poured out His life for us when we were still weak, ungodly, sinners, and enemies. How can any mere human act disqualify us from His love? (See also Romans 8.) He shed His blood for the disqualified. Our disqualification qualifies us for His grace.

Dear Crumbles, however you may feel about love and Valentine's Day, whether you are with your beloved or alone today, may God drench you with His love. May He flood your heart with the knowledge that He has loved us, He loves us, and He'll never stop loving us, for Jesus' sake. Amen.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Snow Day {On This Day in February 2014}

FOR February 6, 2014

Outside my window...
Our street and sidewalk are smooth and white. The lawn is substantially white with winter-brown grass and leaves poking through. The patio in the back is beautifully patterned with prints of bird feet, thanks to the scoop of seed I tossed out there this morning.

I am thinking...
about birthday gifts for nephews Thunder and Lightning next weekend.

I am thankful...
for refuge from the elements;
for the peace of a sleeping puppy a foot away;
for the way he smells like Fritos corn chips when he sleeps;
for joy in gathering with Bible study ladies, including my mom, yesterday.

In the kitchen...
A big pot of water, lemons, and cloves is simmering to humidify the air dried out by central heat.

I am wearing...
black fleece pants, a periwinkle blue hoodie over a black turtleneck, and a wool crocheted hat.

I am creating...
a black hat from the same pattern as the one I'm wearing.

I am going...
nowhere today, not even the Starbucks on the corner.

I am wondering...
how tricky Amore's commute home will be.

I am reading...
The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle,
Kept for the Master's Use by Frances Ridley Havergal (free Kindle book),
and Pursue the Intentional Life by Jean Fleming.
I'm listening to An Echo in the Darkness by Francine Rivers.
{Those are affiliate links.}

I am hoping...
the amaryllis I've been tending for a friend's February birthday survives and blooms for her.

I am looking forward to...
listening to North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell with the CraftLit podcast community. I read and enjoyed Cranford. Podcast hostess Heather Ordover brings her years of English instruction to a friendly, informal weekly hour of bookish and crafty talk. I always learn from the extra literary and cultural information she brings to the book discussion. (This book starts tomorrow, in case any of you wish to join us.)

I am learning...

Ephesians 5:22-33, ESV:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of your love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Around the house...
We are trying to get our new Simple.TV DVR solution working. The dust awaits my Swiffer and me. My home exercise regimen also awaits. Something about a snow day kills productivity.

I am pondering...
the mystery that the "light and momentary affliction" we endure today is actually producing for us a weight of glory so inexpressible that Paul actually uses the Greek word huperbole twice to try and convey it. Glory so over the top that it's hyberbole squared? Count me in! (It's καθ’ ὑπερβολὴν εἰς ὑπερβολὴν, if you were wondering.)

A favorite quote for today...
"The antidote to fear is to anchor our lives in the character of God."

One of my favorite things...
the Texas Bible Chrome plug-in to replace "you/your/yours" in the English Bible (in online Bible apps) with "y'all/y'all's" whenever the original language indicated a plural "you." Granted, I'm a native Texan who does say "y'all," but this is truly beneficial in terms of Biblical interpretation. Both Greek and Hebrew have distinct pronouns for second person singular and second person plural. Once upon a time, English did too (thou vs. ye), but now "y'all" is the best alternative available to make explicit in the English Bible what is explicit in the original languages.

A few plans for the rest of the week:
to finish dusting;
to watch the Olympics' opening ceremonies;
to complete days 2 and 3 of my Bible study homework (Beth Moore's To Live Is Christ);
to try and learn the last couple of verses of Ephesians 5;
perhaps to begin to catch up on correspondence;
& to work with Amore on filing our taxes.
(Sorry, but there's nothing exciting planned the rest of this week unless you count this evening's snowy commute for Amore. Of course, God may have other plans....)

A peek into my day...

Sharing with Peggy Hostetler's The Simple Woman's Daybook today