Tuesday, March 28, 2006

You Have Taken Hold...

"Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You have taken hold of my right hand.
With Your counsel, You will guide me,
And afterward receive me to glory.

Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." -Psalm 73:23-26

These verses really emphasize the power, pursuit, and persistence of God. They are beautiful because they reveal the weakness of man and the strength of God. God is continually with me not because I am living day in and day out keeping up with everything I ust do in order to stay in stride with Him. What the words do say, however, is that I am continually with Him because He has taken hold of my right hand and is leading me. It is God who has come after me and it is He who is not letting go--I am continually with Him!

And knowing that my hand is clasped with His, that this intimacy has been established by God Himself, do I go to Him for counsel? Do I have enough trust in God to know that if He has taken me by my hand, that He will never leave me nor forsake me, and that I am His child--in all these do I trust in His counsel? Do I trust that God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, breathing life into all things, desires to counsel me correctly, according to His will and good pleasure? Do I know that He is just and right all the time, even when it seems not to be in my favor? Fact is that the Lord does and will guide me with His counsel, but I must continually look to Him to trust that, to understand that, and not to resist that.

"Whom have I in heaven but You?" What a beautiful question that elicits such a simple response--no one. But it is the statement afterward, which lead to a question that may be much more difficult to answer. The question in response to that statement is "do I really desire nothing but You on this earth?" How many times do I try to let go of the hand of God and seek pleasure in the comforts of this world? How often do I attempt to grab meaningless things off the shelves of comfort and convenience with my left hand as I am walking with the Lord my God?

This is also a confession of my weakness and need for dependence. "My flesh and my heart fail." There is no secret to the fact that we are all sinners, that nobody is perfect. In my everyday living I fall short; my heart and my flesh are so weak, that is, apart from Christ. "By You I have been sustained from my birth" writes the Psalmist (71:6) and here I recognize that God is the strength of my heart; He is my portion forever! I can not deny that my life is engulfed in the power and majesty of my God. He is my hope; He is my confidence. He takes hold of my right hand; He guides me; He leads me. I am continually with Him; I rest in the shadow of His wings. He is my portion; He is my strength; He is my song!

Whom have I in heaven but You?

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Knowledge of God

Oh Lord, how You call us to know that You are God! I priase You for Your Word and how in Your sovereignty You have chosen to reveal Yourself to us through Scripture. I trust that the teasing taste we have which is so pleasant to drink while on earth will cease to satisfy the day we are in Your majestic and glorious presence. We as Your children long for that day! But in this time while we remain here, anticipating Your return and ultimate establishment of Your perfect kingdom, I come to You in prayer, seeking knowledge--the knowledge of God. I pray on behalf of a people who have forgotten how to fear You, I along with them all. I pry for all of us who do not know what it means to long for You, to pant for You as a deer pants for the waterbrooks.

"Listen to the word of the Lord, O sonos of Israel,
For the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land,
Because there is no faithfulness or kindness
Or knowledge of God in the land." (Hosea 4:1)

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge..." (Hosea 4:6)

"For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice,
And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings." (Hosea 6:6)

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." (Proverbs 9:10)

"Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations [much service]; and she came up to Him and said, 'Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? The tell her to help me.' But the Lord answered and said to her, 'Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.' (Luke 10:38-42)

"Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and as stewards of the mysteries of God." (1 Corinthians 4:1)

"Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord." (Hosea 6:3a)

Do we busy ourselves so much serving Christ that we have forgotten (or worse, never learned) how to live for Him? How many of us sit in awe of Our Lord and Savior as we listen to His word? Do we frantically seek His Scripture for truth and knowledge, pressing on to know Our God? We are a people who profess religious affiliation by mouth because it is easy, but with the same mouth could we share the truth of His gospel in love and knowledge, being ready both in season and out of season, able to defend the beauty of Our God against teachers who tickle the ears of those who do not have sound doctrine? Are we so busy with the milk that we never desire the meat of God's Holy Word, sitting at the feet of Jesus, savoring every moment, consuming the words of the One who has given His life so that we will enjoy life in His presence forever?

Is there knowledge in our love for God?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Persistence by Faith

Luke 18:41
"'What do you want me to do for you?' And he said, 'Lord, I want to regain my sight!'"

What a question to be asked by our Lord, Jesus Christ. There is a theme of persistence that is clearly evident throughout this chapter, first seen in the parable of the widow seeking protection from her opponent (vv. 1-8). She "kept coming" to the unrighteous judge who did not fear God or man. With this judge she was so persistent that he was bothered to the point of granting her what she had requested. The unrighteous judge hated the thought of her continually coming to him with the same thing, knowing that she would wear him out (v.5), that he almost selfishly gave her protection from her opponent. The widow knew what she wanted and she also knew with certainty that the unrighteous judge could provide her protection.

Then Christ asks a question that should cut to the heart of all His children: "Hear what the unrighteous judge said, now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?" (v. 7) We are reminded to hear (and in hearing, remember) that this unrighteous judge who grants requests to a widow he does not know because of her persistence. Then we asked that if this is the case, how much more then will the righteous, just God do for those who He has called and elected? Will He delay long?

This is all tied to faith. As the widow had faith in an unrighteous judge, Christ asks "when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" Is He going to find faith like the widow--a persistent, consistent faith in He who has power and provides?

The last section of this chapter is not a story, but a clear example of how this persistent faith can play out. Bartimaeus, a blind man, was sitting on the roadside begging when he heard a crowd going by Him. He inquired and found out that Jesus of Nazareth was passing through. That was all he need to hear because he then began to cry out to Jesus:

"Son of David, have mercy on me!" (v. 38)

From his spot, he was screaming in hopes that Jesus would hear him. The text does not reveal to us how close or far Jesus was from Bartimaeus; He could have been 10 feet away, 100 feet away, or 1000 feet away! But that did not stop him. Nor did those who were at the front of the pack. The one's closest to Jesus in physical proximity were trying to ward off the pesky blind beggar on the side of th road. They didn't want themselves or jesus to have anything to do with him. But similar to the wido, Bartimaeus was persistent. What may have seemed a near impossibility, especially with so many obvious obstacles--blindness, the distance of Christ, others telling him to stop--did not keep Bartimaeus from his pursuit of the mercy of Christ.

What mercy was he seeking? Is it the mercy we all seek from the Living God? How could Christ grant him mercy? Bartimaeus knew something many who were following Christ did not; he knew something many who are following Christ forget.

As the widow "kept coming," Bartimaeus "kept crying out" to Jesus, begging no longer for money or food, but for mercy from the Son of David! "And Jesus stopped..." He command that Bartimaeus be brought to Him. Then the one question that would make the hearts of us all stop, "What do you want me to do for you?" It was the persistence of Bartimaeus that gave him quick access to the righteous and just God-Man. The mercy sought by Bartimaeus was both miraculous and practical; he wanted his sight to be given to him.

So Christ grants Bartimaeus his sight, saying "receive your sight; your faith has made you well" (v. 42) Important to remember is that the persistence of both the widow and Bartimaeus only existed upon the foundation of their faith in those who could grant their requests
But as we know now, the mercy we all must seek in Christ is not only practical, but essential, necessary, and an even greater miracle, for He does not only have the power to grant sight to the blind, He has the power of eternal life--"there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

We must remain atuned to the truth that as we are now saved by Christ through His death, and given life through His resurrection, are also given the right to be called children of God (John 1:12). This salvation came by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8) and it is this same faith that we claimed at the onset of our relationship with God that must stir us to persistence in seeking God for His protection, mercy, and provision. Let us not lose hope on He who has always proven faithful to us!

By His Grace...
...For His Glory

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Personal Prayer

You comforted me in my dreams last night. I don't remember them completely, but I do know that You did something. My concerns, my worries, my doubts, my frustrations--all were taken by You. My heart has set itself on letting go, but I know I could not have done so without the prompting of Your Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit--He has allowed my heart to let go.

By Your Grace. How can I live otherwise? How can I live a life without enjoying every moment under the truth of who You are? What is life apart from Christ?

Vast emptiness and misdirection, blindness and stumbling; treading just enough to keep my head above water. But there you are standing as my legs kick incessantly. With Your arm outstretched, waiting for me to grab hold and stand there along side of You. I don't believe You can save me; I don't believe You are really there; I can not see Your hand, nor hear Your voice.

It is only when I am raised up that I realize You have been there the whole time! And for what reason? Why would You come out onto the waters and rescue me from my own selfishness?

I ran away. I saw the ocean and I thought it could be more pleasing than You.
But I couldn't swim. I knew I couldn't swim. I ran in anyway.

The water seemed so cool and refreshing, just what I was looking for. I thought I had made the right choice. Then my feet lost their footing in the sand as the water seemed to rise everso quickly. What once just rushed over my feet now in an instant convered my entire body as waves would come down over me, constantly crushing my head. I would come up for a little air, look around and see nothing. Nothing. I was lost. I was dying.

But by Your Grace You came after me.
By Your Grace You came out onto the waters to rescue me, to restore me.
By Your Grace You stretched out Your hand and pulled me from my death.

Little did I know that You had once been in my place. I didn't know that You had sacrificed Yourself taking on the death I was so afraid of. You went out into these waters before, not out of rebellion, but out of obedience. You desired not to tread for You knew that You would one day rise and stand on these waters, saving me and so many others from the death You allowed Yourself to experience.

Your death has saved me from death.
Your life has brought me into life.

When did I become worthy of that? When was I ever good enough for that?

Now that Grace has come upon me and I live under the laws of Grace, what do I do? Am I compelled to obey? Did not Christ obey? Was it not by the same Holy Spirit that I am now alive by the Grace of God? Your Grace in my life produces love and this love wants to obey You. Obedience should not only please and give glory to You; it should also please me knowing that I am giving to You the glory You alone deserve.