Thank you for my problems

Uzziah was doing quite well. He became king at age sixteen, and “as long as he sought God, God prospered him.” (2 Chronicles 26:5) The chapter goes on to say “that his fame spread afar, for he was marvelously helped until he was strong.” Oh, but his strength was his downfall. In verse 16 we learn that “when he became strong”, his heart became so proud that he acted “corruptly”. After trying to offer incense in the temple (a priest’s job), he became a leper. He was confined to a house, and his son ruled in his place. When he died he wasn’t even put in the kings’ tombs but in the field where they were entombed because “he was a leper”.

God provides His blessings to the one dependent on Him. I guess I will keep my problems after all. If my problems keep me seeking God, then they are beneficial to me. I don’t want to surrender His favor because I have become strong in and of myself. I don’t want to let pride be my ruin. Paul said, “That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10) So I will say, “Thank you Lord for my problems, the ones that keep me depending on Your strength. They remind me of my need for You. They deter me from pride of heart.” Laura Story said it so well in her song, “Blessings”.

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

Burning within me,

JOY!

Cranking your tractor

Here is a passage from Isaiah to crank your tractor!

Isaiah 12 (NASB)

12 Then you will say on that day,
“I will give thanks to You, O Lord;
For although You were angry with me,
Your anger is turned away,
And You comfort me.
2 “Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
For the Lord God is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.”
3 Therefore you will joyously draw water
From the springs of salvation.
4 And in that day you will say,
“Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name.
Make known His deeds among the peoples;
[a]Make them remember that His name is exalted.”
5 Praise the Lord in song, for He has done [b]excellent things;
Let this be known throughout the earth.
6 Cry aloud and shout for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.


I long for “that day”. Thank you Jesus for making the springs of salvation available to me. His name is exalted, peoples. He has done excellent things. He is my strength and my song. And one day, that day, I will get to be with Him on Zion the holy hill.

Burning within me,

JOY!

Who you rely upon

There are bitter and hurt individuals who have turned from the faith or the fellowship in response to being let down by the body of Christ. Whether it was a collective group within the family or an individual, a deep wound caused them to shrink away. Isaiah cautioned us with the words of God: “Stop regarding man, whose breath is in his nostrils; For why should he be esteemed?” (Isaiah 2:22) People have the propensity to turn to other people when they have problems. We errantly assume that Christian people won’t mislead us or disappoint us. We regard men too highly. God, however, desires we turn to Him. Does God use individuals to work in the lives of His people? Of course He does. The Lord sent Philip to guide the Ethiopian Eunuch. Ananias got the fearful joy of ministering to Saul/Paul. David however had no counsel when he was on the run. He was surrounded by disgruntled men. He only had his relationship with the Lord to lean upon, and He developed a sweet fellowship with His God. He was “a man after God’s on heart.”

As we mature in our faith, may we all become quicker to pick up the Word and call out in prayer. May our estimation of men be just that, they are just men. Yes, God can use them to sharpen and to edify us, to provide for us or to encourage us, but at the same time He is a jealous God and wants our sole devotion for Himself. “In that day” that Isaiah writes of often, the Lord alone will be exalted. Practicing that truth in our lives now yields great rewards. We too can have a sweet, sweet fellowship as did David. We can also avoid shrinking back from our faith because of an errant estimation of man.

Looking forward to that day!

JOY!

Isaiah 2:17 The pride of man will be humbled

And the loftiness of men will be abased;

And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day,

Why remember your sin?

Few verses are as encouraging as those which declare God remembers our sin no more. He has buried it in the depths of the sea and cast it as far as the east is from the west. In Psalm 106 however, the Psalmist revisits the sins of Israel in a constructive way. It reminds the people of God what happened in particular instances of rebellion against God’s laws. The writer sees his people falling into the same traps and snares their ancestors did and how the transgressors paid. He writes of rebelling by the Red Sea and that the Lord saves them for His name sake. God delivered the reluctant from the hands of those who hated them (verse 10), such powerful words. In verse 13, though he gave them their requests in response to their cravings, He sent among them a wasting disease. The list goes on, a sin and its consequence are recalled one after another.

As the world around us becomes more and more lawless, we too need to remember past sins and their consequences. God made His laws so that we might avoid heartache, pain and death. Yet, each of us has times we have strayed and paid the price of our rebellion. We should allow ourselves to reflect on what behaviors allowed us to transgress from the way of truth. It is a joyous thought to know our sins are remembered by our Father no more. The hymn writer said it so well, “My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin not in part but the whole, was nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord oh my soul.” At the same time, as the author of this Psalm does, we need to remember the penalty of our sin so that we turn ourselves and others from repeating them. It is a relevant time to do so.

Burning within me,

JOY!

Heaven is a place on earth

A post on Facebook (from someone I know as a hostile nonbeliever) states, “The world moves for love; it kneels before it in awe.” I admit, my first image was of wise men and shepherds before the manger, but that is not what this author was envisioning. We live in a society that worships a false ideal of what love is. Love is the glamorous scene depicted on the covers of magazines and in movies. It involves intense emotions and feelings and cannot be controlled. It is often tragic and the subject of innumerous ballads, novels and songs. The concept is far from the brass tactic basics found in the love chapter of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13. The “love is” part of this chapter reads,

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails.

In our society, there is great failure in what we call love and little perseverance.

In 1987 Belinda Carlisle sang a song with the following lyrics and by God’s design I’ve heard it twice recently.

Ooh, baby, do you know what that’s worth?
Ooh heaven is a place on earth
They say in heaven love comes first
We’ll make heaven a place on earth
Ooh heaven is a place on earth

The lyrics are correct in stating in heaven “love comes first”, but love is not an emotion but rather a person. God is Love. In mathematics we apply the reflective property to equalities and can thus say: Love is God.

We can’t bring heaven to earth less we bring God to earth, and we do not have the power to do that. He, however, chose to come by sending His son. Thus, I can re-envision my image from the start, the world kneeling before the manger.

My loved one from the first of this post would argue what I have written in this blog post. I won’t stop loving her. Love always hopes, perseveres. I will continue to pray she and others like her realize before He comes back again that love is a Who not a what. And because of Who He is, all the world will kneel before Him when He comes again.

Burning within me,

Joy

Never put it in writing

A Western Civ teacher from college quoted a German statesman as saying, “Never put anything in writing. If you write it down, you cannot deny it.” I have thought of that premise as I have thought of the many interpretations of the Bible. It is written down. According to Josh McDowell, “The New Testament was originally composed in the Greek language. There are approximately 5,500 copies in existence that contain all or part of the New Testament. Although we do not possess the originals, copies exist from a very early date.” We cannot deny the text. Ah, but how we wish to interpret it into what our culture values or approves. Considering God took careful measures to ensure we have the writings of these men and then in these writings made purpose to say these words were written by inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:20-21), should we be careless in our reading and belief of His words? I am comforted by the words that God doesn’t change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17) However, today men teach us that the meaning of the Scripture has changed based on the culture and our times. Does it make sense that a God who doesn’t change (the same yesterday, today and forever) would allow for the meaning of His words to change? He put them in writing.

I caution each one who listens to teaching that is convenient to their lifestyle to be wary. If you read Scripture and are not aware of God’s holiness and your sinfulness, be on alert. If the Scripture you read has to be twisted to arrive at the interpretation you accept, you want to re-examine why you trust the Scriptures at all. The world is more populated than ever with endless ideas and movements. If you however believe that one Book contains the way to eternal life, you want to make sure you don’t miss what has carefully been preserved in writing.

Burning within me,

JOY!

Sleep escapes me

When you lie down at night, does sleep elude you? Does your mind churn with all you cannot control? I relate. I have learned to seek words of comfort to calm my heart. There are so many in the Psalms that I often read there until I find a verse that allows me to turn out the light and meditate on the sovereign power of God to keep me and all that ails me. David did similar.

From Psalm 63

When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches,
For You have been my help,
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings [e]to You;
Your right hand upholds me.

For a tranquilizer for your spirit, try putting your Bible on your night stand. Read Psalms on restless nights until you find rest and peace. The author does not sleep or slumber, and He will watch over you. (Psalm 145:20)  He promised.

Burning within me,

JOY!

This morning…

On my computer desktop I have a sticky note with a quote from E.M. Bounds who wrote much of prayer. “The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees. He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking Him the rest of the day. If God is not first in our thoughts and efforts in the morning, He will be in the last place the remainder of the day.”

What was your first task of the day? Did it start you focused on God? Does God enter your thoughts before the first problem arises? As I read this and meditated I thought of David, the King James Version of Psalm 63:1 is translated “early will I seek you”. I have found this is a pivotal time for me. Bible study with prolonged prayer most likely will not happen if I do not make it first. It sets the tone of my day. I once read that Mother Theresa spent four hours in prayer every morning. She was asked how she had time for that. She said I have too much to do not to spend much time in prayer.

I am encouraging us all to give God the first fruits of our day. I have experienced His blessing in this. There is a sweet fellowship in the early hours of the morning. I don’t want you to miss out.

Burning within me,

JOY!


Psalm 63 O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;  2 To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.  3 Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.  4 Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.  5 My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips:

Embarrassed by our choices

What is your heart’s desire? For some the answer to that question may come easily: a spouse, a house, a successful career, a cure, the list is in some ways individual and in others universal. The answers obviously from an earthly perspective. If I asked you to name your heart’s desire and cautioned you to think in light of eternity, what would the answer be? Maybe the answers would come closer to: my children in heaven, to make it to heaven myself, the world to turn to God… When Isaiah speaks from chapter one and verse 29, what do you think the Lord meant for His people to desire?

“Surely you will be ashamed of the oaks which you have desired, and you will be embarrassed at the gardens which you have chosen. For you will be like an oak whose leaf fades away or as a garden that has no water.”

What will cause us to fade away? What would withhold from us water? The answer to both is God Himself. God said to His people there in that chapter of Isaiah, you have abandoned Me, you have despised Me, and you have turned away from Me. Is there anything to desire above Him? You may ask how it is possible to desire something intangible. I say with experience, the tangibles will eventually disappoint you. The spouse, the house, the career, the cure, none of them in the long-term will fulfill the desire of your heart. Your soul is longing for its Creator. David got it. He had a kingdom, many spouses, numerous children, a palace, and a long life, and yet, he knew he would be fulfilled by seeing God.

Psalm 42:2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

Today, like Peter I am just stirring you up by way of reminder. We need to stop often and remind ourselves that what we see is fading and what we can’t see is eternal. What we desire is affecting our eternity. What we choose can withhold life-giving water to the garden of our lives.

Burning within me,

JOY!

I have already lost my train of thought

Self-examination is hard. It takes time and careful thought. We are distracted by so many stimuli. Numerous studies are conducted on our lack of attention span in the digital age. It’s hard to have a long period of reflective thought. But I need it. In Isaiah 1, the question of desire and endearment is addressed. Isaiah speaks for the Lord: “Surely you will be ashamed of the oaks which you have desired, and you will be embarrassed at the gardens which you have chosen. For you will be like an oak whose leaf fades away or as a garden that has no water.” I pause to consider what it is I desire and what I am choosing. Those questions take careful thought. When does that occur in the day? James uses a mirror to describe the Word of God. (James 1:23-24) You look into that mirror and see yourself as you are. Do you walk away and forget what you have seen or do you take time to correct the blemishes of what should reflect His image in the mirror? In our busy lives, can we set aside time to examine ourselves so that we are not fading away and embarrassed as Isaiah describes? The first chapter of Isaiah ends with fire that can’t be quenched. Oh, loved ones, it will be too late to examine ourselves then.

Burning within me,

JOY!

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