New Strength

sunrise

Why do you say, O Jacob

And complain, O Israel,

“My way is hidden from the Lord;

My cause is disregarded by my God”?

Do you not know?

Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

The creator of the ends of the earth.

He will not grow tired or weary,

And his understanding no one can fathom.

He gives strength to the weary

And increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary,

And young men stumble and fall;

But those who hope in the Lord

Will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

They will run and not grow weary,

They will walk and not be faint.

-Isaiah

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The Unseen Hope Nestled Within Failure

“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” Prov 28:13

I have been facing the reality of failure. It is a hard lump to swallow, especially when there is no going back to fix things. Throughout my life, I have been a runner, an emotional runner. I’ve liked to pretend that I could run away from my problems and they could disappear from reality if I didn’t dwell on them. But life does not work like that, does it? Mistakes don’t go away. And running away is just an illusion. Wrong-doing, intentional or not, demands payment and comes back to bite, often times with a vengeance.

So then, what hope is there for a sinner like me? How am I to persevere in life without sinking into despair? If I cannot undo what I have done, and if concealment of consequences is impossible, then what do I have left? Regret. Guilt. Self-deprecation.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Co 12:9-10

My weakness is tangible, my failure so real. Yet, I have this amazing and beautiful promise of a miraculous and beneficial blessing! I can receive mercy! Even more, I can be assured that at my lowest, Christ is exalted and his grace becomes all I need. His power is available to me and I am not abandoned to darkness.

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces  hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

Even if my suffering is self-inflicted, I am confident that the love of God is sufficiently ample to cover both my sin and my guilt. Therefore, I am able to rejoice in this suffering, because it leads me to great hope!

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

All things work together for good! All things work together for good! What that good is, I cannot say. But I can trust and confidently await the revealing of life’s puzzle, as God puts it together, piece by piece. This hope is worthy of rejoicing! He will do this, not me. He will complete his work in my life, not me. He will shine and glorify himself in my weakness, not me. In his sovereignty, He will cause all things to come together for good, not me. Praise his holy name!

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

God is Not Fair

God is not fair!

Is it not eternally penned? Stories of God commanding the killing of people, the annihilation of nations, the harsh and violent punishment for sin and evildoing? God is not fair to require the slaughtering of animals, the constant shedding of blood – bulls, goats, doves – Whatever did they do to deserve it? This God of the Old Testament, this God of the Jews: Not fair.

And how about here and now? All we need to do is look around or read the news. Some are rich and others poor. Some die old and some get killed. Some are free yet some are prey. Where is the fairness? “The poor will always be with us,” said Jesus. We live in this world that is saturated with tears and pain, conflicts and wars. And here we are: Stuck! We are all powerless to change the evil of this world. God, however, is mighty; yet he doesn’t change it either! For reasons that He only, fully understands, he chooses to permit suffering to continue. Unfair.

And then, there is me. Hard as I try to be happy, careless, and free, I am inevitably disappointed. I don’t want to cry from pain, but people I love, die; those I want, don’t want me back; and things I crave, I fail to attain. Unfair! It is all unfair!

God is unfair. But he is just. Justice is part of his name, his nature, his core. His justice never fails to punish the guilty. And so here we see the most unfair work of God. Out of all the unfairness in the entire history of our world, one act stands out as the most outrageous and outlandish. God planned this day with the utmost of care – every detail pre-arranged – From the beginning of time, whenever that was, however that worked, he willingly and purposefully lined up the events in human history to culminate in this heinous act of utter unfairness. He warned us. Isn’t it eternally penned for all to see? Abraham spoke of it, as did Moses, David, Isaiah, Daniel, and many other prophets with countless amounts of words, both spoken and written for the world to know.

God’s anger burned, for sin and evil were great. So his wrath against malice and his unceasing need for justice were finally poured out. God the Father assigned God the Son, in the form of man, to be the recipient of his wrath. He knew mankind could not handle such punishment, such anger, such justice. So he poured it out on one man; his only son; his most loved and cherished being. But Jesus was innocent! He had done no wrong to deserve this! But willingly he came, as a lamb to the slaughter. And willingly he died the death of a criminal. And willingly he became a curse, taking the form of sin, the meaning and guilt of sin, all upon himself. In one selfless act, God himself satisfied his wrath once and for all. It was so great and so vast that alas, his anger was forever spent! The guilt of mankind on one man. Unfair! Unfair!!

And one more thing is unfair: I cannot purchase, bargain, or even work for my salvation or right standing with him. My envy from last week, my lust from yesterday, and my pride from this morning, have all been paid for, fully justified, but not by me. Are there enough “good” things I can do to compensate for the “bad” ones? If that were true, I would end up losing every time! If it’s not arrogance, it’s laziness. If it’s not selfishness, it’s self-pity, but either way, any day of the week, and every hour of the day, my mind thinks an impure thought and my will moves me to a wicked act. And yet, here I stand, forgiven and clean! Unfair! To be washed and pure because the innocent one took the punishment on my behalf, and the anger of God, meant for me, fell on another. Unfair, unfair, unfair!!

God is love, and his love isn’t fair. It is unmerited, from start to finish. It all makes sense now! His commands, his requirements, his need for justice, they all point to Jesus and our immense need of him! Suffering, pain, tears, and death are part of this world, but this is no longer all there is. Happiness is not our greatest need. Fellowship with God is. Through Jesus, he opened a door and made a way for us to experience this. To all who call upon his name, he gives the right to be called children of the Most High! He died and rose again and is now preparing a place for us, for the rest of time. Is it not eternally penned for the world to know? In the most unfair way, he has demonstrated his love forever. Praise him, praise him, praise him!

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

(Charles Wesley, 1738)

In the Cave I Find Mercy

For the director of music. To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.” Of David. A miktam.
When he had fled from Saul into the cave.
1 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
3 He will send from heaven and save me;
he will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!
My soul is in the midst of lions;
I lie down amid fiery beasts—
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.
5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!
They set a net for my steps;
my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my way,
but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah
7 My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!
8 Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
10 For your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!
(Psalm 57)

 

Lord, to be in a cave, as David found himself, with nothing but you. To be surrounded by danger and peril and pain and loneliness, but to have you. To know that in that cave, in that moment, you are fulfilling your purposes for my life, and that my life is really not about me at all, but about your will, and glory, and way. To be confident that I am not alone. You are my protective cover and in you I am completely safe. May your glory fill the earth and inundate my life! May I desire it and seek it! May I overflow with thanksgiving in the midst of suffering, knowing full well that you are good and your will is good. In the cave, may I find mercy, and sing loudly and joyfully.

 

 

Gratitude: The Book

My life is far from perfect. I often go through periods of depression or anxiety; I focus on what is not working for me, or what I am lacking; I self-indulge; I live life as if others (including God) exist to fulfill my purposes and dreams. Thankfully, I do not live like this all the time (I praise God that HE constantly and continually rescues me from my self-centered choices), and by God’s grace I can also see the good and lovely in my life, regardless of my circumstances. For this I give glory to Christ, for without him, I would live only for myself and in the end, drown in misery.

I Thessalonians 5:18 says, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” With this in mind, I purpose to be more thankful, and I ask God to open my eyes to see His grace, goodness, mercy, and love in ALL circumstances.

So today I am grateful the Bible, which speaks to me, to the core of me. Many have been persecuted, killed, and ostracized in order to preserve this book. I reap the benefits of reading it, hearing it, confessing it, and being transformed by it. In it, I find God’s words to me. Without it, I would lack purpose and direction.

El Alto

El Alto is one of the poorest cities of Bolivia, where, God willing, I will traveling to on August 11th, along with about 20 others.

I love Lisa Wiltse’s photos:

http://lisawiltse.photoshelter.com/gallery/Bolivia-El-Alto/G0000OYQPexlTtIg

The purpose of the trip is to support a small, local church in the area. They do great work and we want to increase awareness of their presence in such a needy place. The group I’ll be traveling with will do street outreach as well as service projects in the building and with the staff.

There is a ministry to prostitutes, which helps women to get on their feet and provide for themselves when they leave prostitution. My friend, Tammy, has been consistently traveling to El Alto to train these women and support them in their transition. What a powerful ministry! I’m looking forward to being a small part of it.

I know this trip will be very hard, both physically and emotionally. For one, El Alto sits at over 13,000 feet! This will be very hard to adjust to. I am also aware that being in the midst of such misery and need will be taxing and painful.

But the heart of Jesus is with the destitute, therefore we must go when He calls us to.

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (II Cor 8:9)

 

 

 

The Cliff

Standing on the edge

The void before my feet

No place to run. No safety in sight

Will you catch me if I go?

Will you fly on silver wings and halt my desperate fall?

I sense a scent of death

I shiver in my bones

Frightened in the darkness. Terrified of heights.

What awaits me at the end?

The crushing of my flesh?

Or will you catch me if I fall

Into the depths

Into the night?

I’ve seen you fly before

Around me

Through me

For me

To you, void is light

And mysteries are fully known

You fly and fly

With strength in rescue

Your eyes fierce with purpose

Watching

Will you catch me when I plunge?

No retrieving

No escape

My feet inch forward

The cliff before me

No rope. No handle

Just you and me

I’ve seen you fly before

Catch me

Catch me on my way