Saturday, February 26, 2022

Abundantly Available Help

God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble.
Psalms 46:1 CSB

O God, You are our refuge and strength,
Our very present help in trouble.
You are the God who was,
And is, and is coming,
And You are the very present God,
Present in this ticking of the second hand,
In this stroke of the pen,
In this tapping of keyboard,
In this swallowing of medication,
In this swing of the bat,
In this meal prepared,
In this pairing up of clean socks, 
In this diaper change.
As constant as breath,
You are very present
in this present moment with me.

And You in whom we live and move and have our being,
From whom no one can flee or hide--
You are the very present God,
Here in this aching body,
In this consoling chair,
In this warm house,
In this solitary office,
In this Mom-taxi,
In this basketball court,
In this blackland prairie town,
In this languishing culture,
In this groaning world.
As pervasive as my DNA,
You are very present
In this present place with me.

You are my refuge and strength,
A very present,
Abundantly available* help
And Now,
In trouble and in triumph.

Therefore we need not fear.
Lord, we believe.
Help our unbelief.

*NASB1995 margin, Ps 46:1

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Five Steps to Being Discontent

On Wednesdays, Mom and I are watching Elisabeth Elliot messages on YouTube. First we viewed the "Suffering Is Never for Nothing" series on the Ligonier Ministry channel. After that I discovered the Elisabeth Elliot Foundation channel, where Elisabeth's granddaughter posts a message each week. (Hooray!)

In "The Vitality of the Crucified Life: Chasing the Wind," Elisabeth read the five steps to discontentment, according to Samuel Johnson (1709-1784).

They are:

  1. Perceive a deficiency in your present situation.
  2. Imagine another state of change and happiness.
  3. Oversimplify the imagined state without any undesirable features.
  4. Work to attain that dream.
  5. Discover that no improvement has come after all; nothing has materially changed.
That got me thinking. If those are the five steps to discontentment, might there be five steps to contentment? Perhaps I may propose these:
  1. Perceive a deficiency in your present situation.
  2. Offer it, and yourself with it, to your Lord and Savior, and imagine that He can bring change and happiness in your present state.
  3. Overimagine the heavenly glory ahead of you, which will finally be a home and life without any undesirable features.
  4. Work with all the energy He works into you to believe and prepare for that dream. Fix your eyes on the unseen, eternal splendour awaiting you, and rejoice that the deficiencies in the present are light, momentary, and actively generating that future bliss.
  5. Discover that much improvement has come here and now, though nothing has materially changed.

"For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:17–18, ESV).

"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

"Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

"Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony" (Colossians 3:1-5, 12-14, ESV).

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Notes to Self: 50 True Things {Part 5}

 We are all of us gospel amnesiacs, in need of preaching the gospel to ourselves again and again, as long as it's called "Today," until the Lord returns. Over the next several weeks, here are half a hundred things (one per year) I need to remind myself of, things I would want to tell my younger friends and family when they are old enough to have ears to hear. May the Lord bless them to your encouragement as well. 

Notes to Self: Part One

Notes to Self: Part Two

Notes to Self: Part Three

Notes to Self: Part Four

Moose Tracks recharging his solar cells

41. Every object of trust will fail and fall short except the Triune God revealed in Scripture. He alone will never leave, forsake, or fail us. “Whatever God takes away, He never takes away Himself. He can immediately convey the comfort I have lost from others. If all the world were taken away, I yet have all in Him” (Richard Sibbes). 

42. This God is the supreme cause of all that befalls me. No hard thing can touch me without passing through His hands, and nothing can pass through His hands unless He wills. What He allows through His fingers is for my good and for His glory.

The story of Joseph, son of Jacob, in Genesis illustrates this, as does the life of Christ. Joseph’s brothers sinned terribly against him by selling him into slavery and, in effect, telling their father that wild beasts had killed him. In God’s providence, this is the means of fulfilling the dream He gave young Joseph, the dream his brothers wanted to prevent. In God’s providence, it also positions Joseph to save the lives of the rest of his family in a time of severest famine, when he alone, as prime minister of Egypt, is in the position to provide them food. In God’s providence, all these plot twists preserve the line of Messiah, from which Jesus would come almost 2000 years later.

Joseph tells his brothers, “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest.  And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.  So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt” (Genesis 45:5–8, ESV).

And again, after their father has died and the brothers fear retaliation, Joseph says, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20, ESV).

Hannah Whitall Smith calls all these earthly slings and arrows of outrageous fortune “second causes.” God Himself is the first and ultimate cause of all that befalls us, and the visible earthly causes are instrumental causes. 

Second causes must all be under the control of our Father, and not one of them can touch us except with His knowledge and by His permission. It may be the sin of man that originates the action, and therefore the thing itself cannot be said to be the will of God; but by the time it reaches us it has become God’s will for us, and must be accepted as directly from His hands. No man or company of men, no power in earth or heaven, can touch that soul which is abiding in Christ, without first passing throughHis encircling presence, and receiving the seal of His permission. If God be for us, it matters not who may be against us; nothing can disturb or harm us, except He shall see that it is best for us, and shall stand aside to let it pass (Hannah Whitall Smith, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, p. 102). 

43. God always answers prayer, but He may answer “yes,” “no,” or “not yet.” 

44. Here is a prayer He always answers, “yes”: “Thy will be done.” 

45. Here is another prayer that never fails: “Lord, be glorified. Show up and show off.” 

46. Here is one more: “God, be merciful to me, the sinner. I have no right to ask anything of You. All I have to offer is my sin. I believe You sent Jesus the God-Man to live the perfect life I cannot live and die the death I deserve. I trust Him as the Lamb of God that takes away my sin. Please forgive me. Take my life, and make me Yours forever. Amen.” 

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’  But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9–14, ESV). 

47.  Honest lament to God is an act of worship and part of our healing from grief and loss. Giving God the silent treatment cuts us off from the comfort He delights to give. Lament runs to our Father, crying, beating our tiny fists against His chest, and through that process receives His comfort and healing for our broken hearts. Lament binds us more tightly to Him in love as He binds up our wounds. In Dark Clouds, Deep Mercies, Mark Vroegop writes, “You might think lament is the opposite of praise. It isn’t. Instead, lament is a path of praise as we are led through our brokenness and disappointment” (Kindle location 376).

48. When overwhelming darkness presses in upon the child of God, it may be the pressure of His sheltering wing. Darkness is not dark to Him, and He gladly lends His courage for the asking. Though He sometimes leads us into dark places, He never leaves us alone there. Many times for me, deliverance from fear of something has come through the Lord leading me straight into the valley of the shadow of death, but staying at my side and giving grace, strength, and comfort to guide me through it. My catastrophizing always omits the sweetness of Christ’s fellowship in my Gethsemanes.

49. Suffering is a gift nobody wants, a gift wrapped in sandpaper and barbed wire, sparkling with shards of broken glass. For those who brave scraped and bloodied hands by unwrapping it, the pearl of great price inside is more than worth the pain.  

God hath made many fair flowers, but the fairest of them all is heaven, and the flower of all flowers is Christ. When we shall come home and enter in the possession of our Brother’s fair kingdom, and when our heads shall find the weight of the eternal crown of glory, and when we shall look back to pains and sufferings; then shall we see life and sorrow to be less than one step or stride from a prison to glory; and that our little inch of time—suffering is not worthy of our first night’s welcome home to heaven (Samuel Rutherford, Kindle location 202, The Loveliness of Christ).

In the words of Paul the apostle, who knew a thing or two about severe suffering, "For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:17–18, ESV).

50. The God who rules great fish, storms at sea, the growth of a plant, the destruction of a worm (Jonah), a king’s sleepless night (Esther), a den of lions, a fiery furnace (Daniel), and the deliverance of a deliverer from infanticide (Moses and Jesus) is still on His throne governing every big and little burden worrying your soul today. In the words of Charles Spurgeon,

There is a God in the motion of a grain of dust blown by the summer’s wind as much as in the revolutions of the stupendous planet. There is a God in the sparkling of a firefly as truly as in the flaming comet. We may carry home to our houses the thought that God is there—at our table, in our bedroom, in our workroom, and at our counter. We may recognize the doing and being of God in every little thing. A great God in little things, I am sure, will spare us a world of vexation if we will but remember this, for it is from this our vexations come.