Georgetownrose

…from glory to glory

Meditations…

…on wealth

desirable treasure proverbs 21vs20Wealth: an abundance of what is valuable; currency for exchange of goods and services is probably the first example which comes to mind in the modern culture.  To classify wealth in the category of the abundance of minted or printed currency is the narrow view, because wealth includes other kinds of abundance, such as time and real properties and intellectual/creative/practical/occupational skills and spiritual wisdom–all of which, when properly stewarded and generously shared, yield dividends in one’s gladness of heart and which work effectively in the good welfare of others with whom we share them.

People more widely read and of greater experiences than I can relate all manner of culturally relevant anecdotes, stories and quotes to urge a worldly wisdom about how to view wealth. My understanding of life comes from the pages of Scriptural history. Nothing makes the impact on my thinking and my conscience like the way God interacts with people like me in their dusty existence this side of glory. There are so many examples from Scripture which powerfully underscored to my mind and heart that God owns everything I have–every breath I take, and every blessing He has granted. Here are the passages which came to the forefront of my mind as I listened and examined the Proverbs presented in my pastor’s sermon on wealth.  He took us through a study in the Book of Proverbs with specific verses. I have printed the ones featured in the sermon. Everything else I share are my meditations as I work out with trembling the calling of God in my life to use what He has given me for His glory. I hope you will take this time to go with me into the Word of God as I share my meditations on His sovereignly faithful and righteous posture on wealth and its acquisition and its use.

The Book of Proverbs in the Bible presents Solomon’s sober reflections on wealth: how it is acquired and how it is viewed and how it is invested. Solomon also reflected on how people naturally react to both wealth and poverty. Solomon was one of the wealthiest men on earth. He was endowed by God with riches of wisdom and material wealth in measures beyond our modern comprehension for one man to possess–let alone to steward. He did not know very much about poverty, but he observed a radical difference between the lives of those who are wealthy and the lives of those who are not wealthy.

The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends.”

–Proverbs 14:20

Don’t many of us know the truth of that observation in our own experience?  In our modern culture, social media points directly to the truth of how the population sector pictured there in abundance of youth, abundance of physical appeal, abundance of cash and all it purchases, is highly favored in the following. The popular attraction does not require one to be thoughtful or prudent; in fact, in our day, it is better for one’s popularity if he is not. To be sure, Solomon is the most desired celebrity figure among all the aspirations of kings and rulers on earth; many know of his material wealth and social and political conquests; but few ever absorb his thoughtful writings on wisdom in the Book of Proverbs. A graphic example from the pages of Scriptural history is the painful reality of social snubbing in the life of a man named Job. While Job enjoyed abundance and shared it in his broad social circle of influence, he was honored and widely respected and favored among the populace of his day. But when Job suffered extreme losses to his “bottom line” and his health,  his friends lost their attraction to him and their respect for him; in their abundance of enjoying God’s mercies in their own lives they shared precious little mercy with Job.  Anyone who suffers grief and mourning in the loss of youth/vigor/physical beauty, loss of a dear one by death, or the loss of home or livelihood by natural disaster or corporate downsizing knows the truth of Proverbs 14.20.

* * * * * * *

Solomon observes that wealth acquired by honest labor and patient diligence is blessed; laziness and squandering will only yield ruin:

A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.”

–Proverbs 10:4

Whoever is slothful will not roast his game, but the diligent man will get precious wealth.”

–Proverbs 12:27

Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it…A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.”

–Proverbs 13:11, 22

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.”

–Proverbs 21:5

There is desirable treasure, and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man squanders it.”

–Proverbs 21.20

Solomon was privileged from his childhood. He lived in the palace of his father king David. He enjoyed the favor of his father and his mother, with education and attention and exposure to the principles of administrating a monarchy, as well as instruction in the covenant between God and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He enjoyed the life of a prince and heir to his father’s throne. When he ascended the throne, he realized the enormity of what God was bestowing upon him;  he had the sense to be unnerved by it–to know that his own strength was not sufficient or equal to the task. He prayed diligently for wisdom, that the work of the kingdom given into his hands would diligently glorify and uphold God’s Kingdom, governing His people wisely. Had Solomon hastily taken the reins of the monarchy, had he begun his reign slothfully, had he ignored that desirable treasure of wisdom, he would have come to dishonor among the peoples he influenced. For a monarch, all the gold of Ophir could not compensate for the poverty of being dishonored among his people. Nevertheless, we can see from the history of Solomon’s life, even the model king squandered his God-given abundance of power, privilege and influence to make him hasty in the matter of acquisitions of property which God forbade, and of making political treaties with pagan kings through marriages to wives from pagan cultures. The king whom every political figure on earth desires to emulate sired offspring from wives adherent to pagan culture, and he occupied himself in such prodigious and intensive urban development projects that, somewhere along this line of excessive achievement, his parenting relationship with the prince and heir to his throne was impoverished.  The grave consequences for Israel began to unfold when his son Rehoboam succeeded Solomon on the throne. Rehoboam’s heart bore the bitter root of parental neglect, and his haste and squander of his power and privilege and position yielded a judgment from God ending in a divided kingdom and a loss of honor and provision for the children of Israel for generations and centuries to come. My heart is torn apart by the realization of the weight of what Scripture and history declare about the consequences of becoming complacent and blind and lazy in the understanding and investment of God’s gifting which I carry in my life.

* * * * * * *

Solomon speaks of the dangers and ruin which come upon those who acquire wealth of any kind by wicked and deceitful devices:

Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death.”

–Proverbs 10:2

The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death.”

–Proverbs 21:6

A graphic and sober warning comes from the encounter between king Ahab and a vineyard owner named Naboth. Ahab coveted Naboth’s vineyard and attempted to press Naboth to trade it for another vineyard or sell it for money. Said vineyard was Naboth’s family heritage over several generations. He was unwilling to trade it or to sell it for any price, since it was his family’s heritage and was his chief means of sustenance and trade. Ahab’s wife Jezebel comforted him by promising to acquire the vineyard. Her scheme unfolded deceitfully by way of dinner invitation to Naboth, at which dinner Naboth was falsely accused of blaspheming the king. What followed was the brutal execution of Naboth by stoning. Having eliminated the hindrance to possessing the vineyard of Naboth, Ahab took possession of it. Not very long afterward, the LORD spoke to Elijah the prophet, commanding him to go to Samaria to confront king Ahab with the following words of judgment:

Thus says the LORD: ‘Have you murdered and also taken possession?’ And you shall speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD: In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, dogs shall lick your blood, even yours’.”

1 Kings 21.17-19

Elijah went on to pronounce a comprehensive woe upon Ahab and his posterity as a consequence of his deceitful ensnarement of Naboth:

Because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the LORD: ‘Behold, I will bring calamity on you. I will take away your posterity, and will cut off from Ahab every male in Israel, both bond and free. I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, because of the provocation with which you have provoked Me to anger, and made Israel sin.’ And concerning Jezebel the LORD also spoke, saying, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’ The dogs shall eat whoever belongs to Ahab and dies in the city, and the birds of the air shall eat whoever dies in the field.”

–1 Kings 21.21-24

Scripture tells us that Ahab repented for his wickedness and that God gave Ahab a remitted sentence, saying that the full weight of the promised calamity would not fall upon Ahab in his days, but instead, would fall out upon his son (1 Kings 21.27-29). Three years later, war with Syria was on the horizon, and Ahab went out to war in disguise to avoid being killed. The strategy failed and Ahab was struck down in bloody battle. When he was buried in Samaria, his bloody chariot was brought for cleansing in the pool at that place, drawing a significant gathering of bloodthirsty dogs to drink at the bloody pool (1 Kings 22.37-38).  Twelve years into the reign of Ahab’s son Joram, there was a battle with Syria in which Joram was wounded, forcing him to leave the front and return home to Jezreel to recover (2 Kings 8.25-29). While Ahab’s son Joram was recovering in Jezreel, Elijah’s successor Elisha was commanded by the Lord to anoint another king over Israel; his name was Jehu, son of Jehoshaphat, son of Nimshi (not the same Jehoshaphat who ruled in the southern kingdom of Judah a generation earlier). Twelve years after Ahab’s death, the day of reckoning pronounced on the house of Ahab and Jezebel had arrived. 2 Kings 9 tells of the outcome of God’s displeasure with the predation of Ahab and the unrelenting wickedness of Jezebel on the murder of Naboth and the seizure of his family’s heritage as God spoke to Elijah in 1 Kings 21.17-24. Ahab and Jezebel are only one frightful expose in the historical accounts.

* * * * * * *

The Book of Esther tells us of the greed and murderous envy of Haman who was the viceroy of king Ahasuerus of Persia. Haman was greedy for recognition to the point of being worshipped. When one man in the kingdom refused to worship him, Haman plotted a mass genocide of all of the people in the kingdom of this man’s ethnic heritage. The man’s name was Mordecai, and he was a Jew. Mordecai had saved the king’s life by informing him of an assassination plot perpetrated by two of  the king’s guards. When the king remembered Mordecai’s loyalty and bravery, he planned to give public honor to Mordecai–instead of Haman. Ultimately, queen Esther revealed to king Ahasuerus the deceit and lust for power which fueled Haman’s plan to murder all the Jews throughout the kingdom of Persia. Haman and his sons perished by hanging for their greed and lust for the riches of power.

In the New Testament, a married couple who owned a significant piece of property decided to participate in the “crowd funding” to help the Christians in Judea who were being blacklisted from trade and commerce for their faith in Jesus the Christ. They were becoming impoverished and even losing their properties because of the tradition of the Jewish laws of ownership and acquisition. This couple sold their property to contribute, but they lied about the amount they received for the property, misrepresenting the sacrifice of their giving. When Peter confronted them about their deceit, they died on the spot (Acts 5.1-11).

There is no getting away from God’s judgment on those who play wicked games.

* * * * * * * *

One who increases his possessions by usury and extortion gathers it for him who will pity the poor…”

–Proverbs 28:8

my heart stands in awe of your wordProverbs 28.8 is prophetic in nature as it promises the greedy and exploitative opportunist that everything he acquires by his code of acquisition will inevitably be handed over to the Righteous One who will pity the poor. This warning is in contrast to the prophetic blessing of Christ Jesus upon the meek–those who are gentle and compassionate in their dealings with others; these shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5.5)

* * * * * * *

Solomon observes the judgment on the selfish and the stingy who are endowed by God plenty while their hearts are hardened by a begrudging and unfaithful spirit:

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.

–Proverbs 11:24

A stingy man hastens after wealth and does not know that poverty will come upon him. 

–Proverbs 28:22

I remember the encounter David had with a fellow descendant of Judah, his father Jesse’s patriarchal tribe. His name was Nabal, and he was wealthy–extremely wealthy.  I read about this in 1 Samuel 25, and it has made a lasting mark on my soul. While David was forced to live rough, in exile in the wilderness of Paran, avoiding armed conflict with king Saul, David and his men had been watching this cousin’s flocks and protecting them from harm and theft by marauders and sheep stealers. When sheep sheering time came, Nabal went to Carmel with plentiful flocks of healthy sheep for sheering. It was a time of feasting, and Nabal was feeling like he was living the wealth of life itself. When David sent 10 young men to Carmel to request of Nabal whatever he would agree to share with them, the answer that came back from Nabal to his cousin David was this recorded in vss 10-11: “Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants nowadays who break away each one from his master. Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers, and give it to men when I do not know where they are from?”  It cuts my heart open every time I read it, because Nabal knew that David is the son of Jesse, and he knew his relationship with David’s family line. Nabal knew of David’s reputation as a valiant warrior and defender of Israel; quite probably, he also knew the testimonies that God had directed Samuel to anoint David as the next king. But even if he did not know of David’s destiny, he knew that David’s reputation as a shepherd had secured his prosperity at the festival of sheep sheering, as one of Nabal’s young servants testified of David and his men: Look, David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master; and he reviled them. But the men were very good to us, and we were not hurt, nor did we miss anything as long as we accompanied them, when we were in the fields. They were a wall to us both by night and day, all the time we were with them keeping the sheep.” (vss 14-15)  With Nabal’s hardness of heart and stinginess with his properity, David’s own heart was burned severely enough to consider leaving Nabal’s prosperity nothing but a wasteplace of scorched earth behind him: I have protected all that this fellow has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belongs to him. And he has repaid me evil for good.” (vs 21)  Nabal’s wife Abigail, instead, ministered to David and his men with food and refreshment, apology and encouragement in the Lord.  Aware of all that God had ordained for David, and deeply apologetic to David for her husband’s folly, Abigail spoke to David of God’s judgment awaiting the wealthy fool who refuses help to a fellow shepherd who has done him good, while yet suffering in his own adversity: “My lord, as the LORD lives and as your soul lives…a man has risen to pursue you and seek your life, but the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with the LORD your God; and the lives of your enemies He shall sling out, as from the pocket of a sling.” (vss 23-29) When Nabal returned from Carmel, he settled into a private feast for himself. Upon Abigail’s return, she found her husband stinking drunk and spoke nothing to him until the next morning, when she laid out the facts of his hostile behavior toward the good shepherd and his men on the prior day:

So it was, in the morning, when the wine had gone from Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became like a stone.Then it happened, after about ten days, that the LORD struck Nabal, and he died.”

* * * * * * *

Solomon reflected on how wealth does not guarantee freedom from trouble; he speaks openly about how a holy fear of the LORD is better for the peace in a person’s life, whether he owns much or little; and he soberly reminds those who are given to heeding wisdom that the LORD is the Maker of both. God is sovereign over the fortunes of all men.

The rich and the poor have this in common, the LORD is the maker of them all…By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches and honor and life.”

–Proverbs 22:2, 4

Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.”

–Proverbs 11:28

Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it.”

–Proverbs 15:16

One of the most commonly known tragedies in Scripture is the moment when the “giant” of lust “slew” king David. David had slain giants of all kinds during his life and career as shepherd, warrior and king. It was a moment of leisure and laziness of mind which found the chink in the armor of his disciplines. Instead of going with his armies to battle, he chose to remain at home in the comfort of his palace. Instead of using the quiet time for being in the Word of God and prayer for his troops on the frontlines, he allowed his leisure and idle mind to draw him into a daydream of craving another man’s wife–his neighbor’s, to be exact. Greater treasure and trouble came to him because his fear of the LORD was on vacation.

* * * * * * *

Why don’t the contemporary anecdotes from our day make the same penetratingly cautionary imprint on my soul? I believe that is so because God’s immediate punitive response in the contemporary circumstances reported are not visible; and any that might be proposed are subject to much modern conjecture; and nobody wants to talk about God’s judgment in our day. In the Scriptures, what we see is direct, unmistakable judgment from God without any variables. He may delay judgment in our times, and the circumstances of His method of judgment may be explained away. Nevertheless, He does fit the judgment to the insult against His wisdom and His righteousness in the matter of wealth in any provision in our lives.

These are the passages which came to the forefront of my mind as I listened and examined the Proverbs presented in my pastor’s sermon about what wealth is all about. These are the examples from Scripture which powerfully underscored to my mind and heart that God owns everything I have–every breath I take, and every blessing He has granted. It’s all His. And He has given me all the riches in Christ forever–no one can take them away from me. Makes me realize how much I can truly afford using and giving and serving Him in this world for His Kingdom’s sake. I don’t regret one moment of energy poured into serving Him in the Body of Christ while something of a worldly pleasure passed me by.  But I pray that I will finish well as I grow into greater understanding of God’s desires for how I use what He has given me in this season of my life. May He multiply it for His glory.

Meditations…

…on Proverbs 3.5-6 and the last six minutes of the sermon: PLANS – 17 JULY 2022 – SERMON

Proverbs 3vss5-6

As children of God and heirs in Christ, to live wisely is to live for God’s Kingdom and not our own. “Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth [in my life] as it is [done] in Heaven:” immediately, completely and with exultant delight.

Nothing ignites my trust in God’s sovereignty more than the dazzling, panoramic view of His faithfulness and sovereignty exercised over millennia recorded in the Scriptures. There’s the panorama; and there’s the close-ups in the lives of human beings living in a dusty existence this side of glory–like me. There are so many examples from Scripture of learning to live wisely; to live for God’s Kingdom and not my own.

  • David turned to God for planning strategy in battle; David trusted in God when all the plans for his coronation as king were challenged and he was hunted like public enemy #1 for 18 years.
  • Job was obviously a wise man and a great planner; his plans for his family changed abruptly and without warning.
  • Jonah planned to avoid preaching the judgment of God to Nineveh, an arch enemy of Israel. Most all of us know how Jonah’s plans changed. Jonah is taken to Nineveh under special escort and he preaches what God told him to preach, fully expecting Nineveh’s destruction. But to Jonah’s surprise and consternation, Nineveh repents.
  • The apostle Paul intended to go to Rome; he planned to go to Rome; his plan worked out differently than he expected. Circumstances developed where he was forced to go to Rome under military guard to be examined by Caesar, as a suspect accused of insurrection. And on the way, his wise advice to the crew of the ship about their sailing plans was rejected; his mission to Rome was blown off course and shipwrecked.

If anybody had reasons to cry, “Hey, God! What are You doing?” these guys would.

  • Jonah did complain and cried, “No fair, God” until God taught Jonah a simple lesson about His sovereignty–and grace.
  • Job lamented his agonies and losses, but he did not lose his trust in the sovereignty of God. Job planned to trust God even if God would slay him.
  • David lamented about the contract out on his life by king Saul and all the king’s men; but David always turned his heart to trust in the sure plans, promises and mercies of God. David planned/committed in these circumstances only to groom his company of soldiers and to live quietly and serve God in whatever way he might without waging war on Saul and the armies of Israel. Israel found him irresistible at God’s appointed time.
  • Paul used the crisis at sea to awaken the ship’s crew to the sovereign providence of God in His plan to get His precious cargo to Rome—Paul was the precious cargo intended to reach Rome. His presence onboard the vessel essentially saved the lives of every soul on the ship. Paul used the shipwreck to be a testimony of the truth of God’s Kingdom to an unreached people, because his life plans were always to live for God’s Kingdom and not his own.

And does anybody else besides me ever complain and wrestle with God when He closes a door thought surely He had opened? Does anybody else besides me neglect to pray those dangerous prayers seeking His will? Am I the only Christian this side of glory who delays in examining and accepting how God wants to work in and through me in the changes of life and circumstances for His Kingdom instead of my own? Am I the only Christian on this pale blue dot who discovers that I have a lazy streak and am woefully oblivious to what God wants; and when my plans don’t work the way I want them to go, on my timetable? Does anyone else ever discover they’ve been living like a functional atheist–taking a very long time to realize and remember God’s sovereignty over all things in our lives? Does anybody else besides me ever lapse into a blue funk, self pity, doubt God’s integrity and entertain depression like a visiting celebrity?

Proverbs 3.5-6 answers in all the din of protest and struggle: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own [pitifully myopic] understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.”

So I ask myself: “Self, do you believe this? Do you want this?”

Yeah, I do. In this last season of my life this side of glory, I want to be more like the ant of Proverbs 6.6-9, and keep storing up the Word of God in my life like my very life depends on it. And pray “Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done.” The prayer that never fails and is prayed by those who seek first the Kingdom of God, the Giver of perfect wisdom (not always a detailed explanation) for life in all circumstances in this dusty existence this side of glory. And maybe, just maybe, my meditations on the Word of God might increase His Kingdom. 🙏✝️👑

There’s a Pill for That…

…but there’s a Bible verse for that, too 

Had a difficult night and a struggling kind of morning. While I was struggling with God about getting out of bed, I thought about all the things I was feeling and wondering if I could find a friend to talk to and pray with me through it. I decided the burdens were too heavy to lay on any of my friends’ minds and I certainly did not want to consult the clinical community. All I ever hear from the clinical practitioners is “There’s a pill for that.” When I thought of that, I realized there is also a Bible verse for that. I nearly rolled out of bed with laughter as I realized the truth my brain cloud had been eclipsing. I knew it is true and the two verses I routinely remember from Isaiah 30.15 and 2 Corinthians 12.9 came instantly to mind.

So I spoke them to my own heart as if the Lord Himself were speaking His comfort directly to me. And I prayed, “God, I need Your strength to get up out of this bed and trust You for each step, one upon another, today.”

photo of child reading holy bible

Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

Up I did get, with very trimmed expectations of any achievement for the day.  Focusing on basic needs, I found mercy upon mercy as I bathed and dressed. Then met my husband in the kitchen who gave me a hug and asked me about the long delay in my rising to meet the day. I told him the truth. He hugged me again, and asked, “Is someone you want to talk to about it?”

“I already talked to God about it,” I answered, “and He is the only reason I am standing in this kitchen. still breathing, and thinking about breakfast.”

“I have a problem with envy,” I confessed. “I do not envy anybody on this planet,” I said. “I envy my friends who have gone on to be with Lord. I envy Peter, Paul and Mary.” 

He looked at me with a quizzical smirk. I looked back into his eyes. “No,” I said,  “not the pop folk singing trio. I envy the apostle Peter, the apostle Paul and Mary the mother of Jesus.” And then I named a few other dear ones who keenly blessed my life with theirs, but whom God blessed by taking them to be with Him. 

My husband remarked, “They’re all dead.” I answered him, “Nope. They are more alive in heaven than I am right here on this planet. I envy them.”

But all in due time, according to God’s will…

Not that I begrudge them their joy–no, no! I wouldn’t rob them of that joy at all. I am glad for their joy. Just clarifying my envy is not a bitter one that leads to hate…

We gathered our breakfasts and went to the livingroom where we sit together and read our daily Bible studies and passages for our one-year through the Bible readings. I thought it was going to be kind of a dry, academic exercise, as my “feeler” was all stuck on wanting some personal connection of compassion. As we read through the daily study with the extra Bible passages related to it, I found God’s kindness to me from my brother in Christ, the apostle Paul–one perfect word spoken from a brother who endured exceedingly more trials and challenges to his life than I am facing. But he wrote this for us who in Christ in the 21st Century A.D. are feeling the weight of longing for the visible reign of Christ for all time and eternity–for those who are not weary in well doing, but who are just plain weary of this world. Paul didn’t lecture me this morning; he didn’t tell me what a wimp I am and should be ashamed of myself and repent. He wrote on the pages of his journal 2000 years ago,

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

(Romans 15.13).

The prayer and benediction of Paul for me in a moment of struggle was like the balm of Gilead to my ragged and frayed soul. Too bad Job didn’t have a friend who shared this with him when his soul loathed life (Job 10) and when he felt as if God had taken his lump of clay and was crumbling it to the dust; when he felt like God was taking his bones and sinews and curdling them like cheese; when he felt hunted by a fierce lion, feeling the weight of God’s testing on his life, added to it by friends whose counsel was (as Proverbs 25.20 says) like snatching his garment from him in freezing weather and like vinegar on soda.

But I found my brother Paul who suffered more than Job for the sake of Christ and for my sake, that I would see the majesty of Christ alive, 2000 years after Paul wrote of life in Him. Because Paul was faithful to share this truth with those who believe in the Lord Jesus in a world where “changes and war are ever with [them] (Job 10.17), in a world trying to rip their consciences and their hope in Christ and their very lives to shreds, I have another Bible verse–better than medicine–to remember when the joy in Christ I experienced a day before has been attacked by the Evil One whose chief purpose is to steal, kill and destroy.

There are many pills for many things in our age. Some of them may be necessary in carefully measured doses. But before you reach for another pill or another substance to numb that gnawing feeling of being torn apart, reach for the Lord first. Call on Him. Let Him remind you that there is a Bible verse for that, and seek His counsel and compassion in His enduring, eternal Word.

Summer…

…a season of abiding in Christ.

fruit border2Summer is fully upon us. It is a season of fruit bearing and harvest in our region of the earth. I think how appropriate the Feast of Pentecost should herald this season of bearing fruit in the Kingdom of God. All the summer missions teams are gearing up and busy bringing the Gospel of the Lord Jesus to their communities and to places on the far reaches of the earth. And everywhere they go, there is a great spiritual challenge to confront with the Truth of who God is. Negativity is abundant; many things are unfolding at once which are beyond our control. Alongside all the overwhelming wonders of our times are the voices of the influencers who seek to drown out the painful realities by being agents of positive thinking. Some do it with music; some do it with visual media; some do it with spirituality which claims to draw the positive energy from within people but summons it with meditation on external sources from creation and the spirit world–both real and fabricated: powerful delusions.

“I am the true vine, My Father is the vinedresser…every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit…Abide in Me, and I in you…I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit.”
–John 15.1, 2, 4, 5

Fruit of the Spirit2For us who are not appointed to go, it is also a season to pray diligently for those who go, and also to pray for ears to hear and hearts to be open for the divine confrontation with the Word of God. While we wait, we must pray for our laborers that they would not merely evangelize but would fervently make disciples for the Lord Jesus Christ among those where they speak. This labor of love is the only way the fruit of the Holy Spirit will manifest and increase on the earth—through the lives of those who are made alive and are growing in the Lord Jesus Christ in His Word. It is this uncommon spirit of the love of God and joy in all circumstances that is a stunning witness in this age of negativity and the “positive” babblers who offer baseless and shallow peace and unity and “love.”

Here is a word which is truly positive because it positively comes from the lips of the Lord Jesus, the Sovereign over the cosmos:

“In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
–John 16.33

It’s a whole different kingdom. For us who positively believe, Pentecost is not only a season; it is a forever life of bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit, walking by a faith positively set on the Lord Jesus Christ who is faithful and true.

fruit border2

Faithful and True

I live a very quiet kind of life, nothing dazzling or glamorous about it on the surface. But beneath the exterior of my dusty existence there is a constant dazzle of excitement in Christ. The more I study the accounts of His life on this pale blue dot, I am swept away by His awesome god-quality in the most humble of gestures of His daily life. If I thought long enough and hard enough, my little grey cells could eventually muster the words to articulate something of the glorious in the simplicity of an earth-bound existence. But instead, I want to share with you precious readers a link to another writer’s exquisite perspective on this phenomenon of the glorious in the humility of faithfulness in this dust. I pray the Spirit of the Living God will move away any cloud that eclipses the certain knowledge of this dazzling life in Christ in the stuff of your daily life–whether it is that you are a glamorous, renowned public figure blessed with many perks or an aging widow who lives in humble anonymity.

william_hole_mary_and_young_jesus_400

The Faithfulness of Christ in the Little Things – by Sinclair Ferguson

And if this article has touched the dust of which you are made, I earnestly encourage you to partake of the goodness of study provided by my friends at Ligonier Ministries HERE or tap the Ligonier Ministries link icon ligonier_logo_iconin the menu on my home page. Your heart and soul will thank you for the dazzle you discover in the Word of God beneath the surface of this dusty existence.

The LORD of Psalm 145

I have always loved the Psalms, but Dr. Robert Godfrey’s perspective in the Ligonier study entitled, “Learning to Love the Psalms” has been enriching beyond my expectations.  The following discussion question was launched to the participants on the last session which dug deeply into Psalm 145, particularly Psalm 145.8-9: 

How is Christianity’s emphasis on God’s goodness different from other world religions? How is God’s steadfast love and mercy at the heart of biblical religion?

My reflections on these two verses follow.

“The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The LORD is good to all, and His mercy is over all that He has made.” –Psalm 145.8-9. This echoes the declaration of God to Moses in Exodus 34 when He showed Himself passing by Moses in the cleft of the rock: “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth.” (Exodus 34.6) In these verses are found God’s declaration to us of:

1) His being: “The LORD, the LORD God;” and
2) His character: gracious; merciful; longsuffering; abundantly, steadfastly loving; good to all; abundantly good and truthful.

92a6f8fe174eabe315213cc70f218c0bGod’s goodness is pure and perfect. His goodness is not capricious as if His character were that of a vain and corrupt man tossed about by whim and fetish and fickle compulsions. Other religions of the world cannot depend on their gods to be purely good, universally good, good through and through, without fault or caprice.

The God who is omnipotent and has the right to crush us with one word, instead shares His benevolent love to all. That benevolent love and mercy and His saving love are what break a heart open for Christ to want to love Him back; to want to know Him and be known fully and completely by Him; to want to live only for Him; to be glad to belong to Him as one He keeps and governs and teaches and loves.

Religion is a response in thought and action to what one believes is true. Biblical religion is a response to what Scripture teaches us of the being and character of the only true and living God–“the LORD, the LORD God.” When one is touched by the reality of who God is, the whole of life becomes an unending act of worship in everything—in the simple and the sacred, in the pleasant and the painful, in abundance and in abasement. And when crises arise, the certainty of the knowledge of God’s steadfast love and mercy will draw one to seek Him in the fire and the trembling and the sorrow; and praise will swell up with the prayers of faith even in tears, even in the midst of the rubble of brokenness.

The Perfection and Fullness of God’s steadfast love and mercy is exposed in brilliant beauty in “the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2.7)​

No other religion on this planet or in the cosmos could ever offer a god who approaches the magnificence of God’s goodness, His steadfast love and His mercy.

Our Galactic Ride

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?”

–Psalm 8.2-4 NKJV

galactic ride

Good morning, dear ones! I’m sitting here near my dining room window looking out on the green “shire” whose edge reaches the great road through Reston. Busy bodies roll by in brightly colored engine carriages, all purposed on their various callings of the day. I wonder sometimes… Do they ever realize where they are in the vastness of the firmament. We are sitting on a jewel orbiting a star in the galaxy some 28,000 light years from the center of the Milky Way. Poised on an arm near the edge, we are still being hurtled through space at 600,000 miles per hour as the galaxy spins on its unseen center. Meanwhile the entire galaxy is hurtling through the vastness at 1.3 million miles per hour, while our little planet is spinning on its own axis at 1040 miles per hour, and rotating around our star in the galaxy at 66,600 miles per hour. Are you dizzy yet? What a ride!!! And God is in control of it all…

May you know the presence and providence of God in all your comings and goings where He has placed you in time and space this side of Heaven today!

Being Human

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my Strength and my Redeemer.”

–Psalm 19.14

Seven years ago in the closing days of the merry month of May I posted reflections on the conclusion of nine months of study of the Book of Luke in the Bible. When I began the study with my Community Bible Study the previous September,  my inward parts thought I would not learn much that was new or even challenging to my life. I confess that I even groaned a little, because I was hungry for something that would challenge me and change me. My pride in my decades of Bible study led me to entertain a fantasy that I would probably not be provoked or challenged by the sublime familiarity with the content of Luke’s testimony of Jesus Christ. So, naturally, I was surprised when, along about November of that year (two months into the journey through the apostle Luke’s historical Bible “blog,” I was awakened to a new and deep challenge to my life: seeing in living color, panoramic vision, and soul-surround what it means to be human…

By May the following year, I had been meditating on this for months, prayerfully seeking expression of what God has shown me in the Book of Luke about being a human.

On this misty, mild day in the merry month of May 2022, my mind continues to be imbued with the living imagery of pure humanity rising up off the pages of the Scriptures in Luke’s gospel account. Seeing and meditating on the life and character of the perfect humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ shining on the pages of the Book of Luke still takes my breath away. I cannot get it out of my mind: Jesus is the Perfect Human—from the hour of His incarnation, throughout the accounts of his incarnate youth and in every action and response and prayer in His earthly ministry unto death. On the pages of the Book of Luke, I continually find the Living Truth driven deeper into my understanding about my intended place in relationship to God; that is, to be in relationship with God is to be human. To abandon relationship with God and to deny His existence is to become un-human.

Forty-one years ago, I relinquished my “humanism” to bow before the Lord Jesus Christ whose grace and sovereignty I was glad to embrace. But in this study of His life and ministry, God unfailingly impresses on my heart a greater awareness of what He thought about when He formed me in my mother’s womb. I was not formed to perpetuate my SELF.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us…Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day…”

2 Corinthians 4.7,16

jesus-prayingAs I examine Luke’s record of Jesus’ life in His earthen vessel, I see Him totally co-operative with the Father—the purpose for which Adam and Eve were created from the beginning, as being a real human, to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Where the first Adam abandoned his cooperation with God, the Second Adam, Jesus Christ awakens us who have been blinded to what being in full cooperation with God is like. Besides His miracles which were the authenticating signs of His Deity and authority to judge, His obedience to the Father in all things is the authenticating sign of His Perfect Humanity and His right to judge all who perpetuate rebellion against God—because He demonstrates obedience without fault in His Humanity. In His earthen vessel, the Lord Jesus lived to co-operate with and to glorify the Father—the same purpose for which Adam was formed: not to be God, but to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. As an image-bearer of God, it the image of God that is the image imprinted upon us. In legal terms, we are under the authority of the One whose image we bear, and we are to honor and uphold Him to whom we belong and whose image is imprinted upon us. His is the Spirit Breath which was breathed into Adam’s lifeless clay and made him alive.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

Genesis 1.26; 2.7

This is what being a real human is; anything less is a perversion of humanity.

Adam corrupted all humanity in his very loins and wounded all creation with his rebellion against God.

By his rebellion against God, Adam did not exalt his humanity, he lost it; he was blinded to his humanity and has passed on that blindness and fallen intellect which has perverted the image of it throughout his generations.

But Jesus, the Son of God, was humbled to live in a human body for the purpose of turning the hearts of the children to the Father, to fulfill the Law, and to keep the Father’s promise of the redemption of Adam’s progeny. Even the angels of Heaven have not experienced such a work of valiant, sacrificial, glorious love. This is what it means to be human…

As a former “humanist” who worshiped a god of my own making, I might be read here as returning to my humanistic rantings of old, in which I placed humans as the highest form of life in the universe. This was all before God took hold of my blindness and opened my eyes to what it means to live in denial of Him.

Indeed, you might be asking, “Isn’t she just substituting one form of humanism for another?” No. I am not promoting worship of man or his “human spirit.” What I am saying is that if a person refuses to put the Lord Jesus Christ first and supreme in his life, he is abandoning his real humanity; his life is on the road to becoming less and less human. It is only in Christ Jesus that a person will ever begin to become—to grow into the fullness of being—a real human again, the being God intended when He formed him with His own Hands and breathed into his nostrils His own Life-giving Breath. This is enormously beyond what  our fallen intellects consider about being human.

I would venture to say at this writing, that the radical and increasing devaluation of the sanctity of human life across the entire spectrum of crimes of thought, conspiracy, attitude, posture, apathy, neglect, bias, discrimination, rage, insult, slander, thefts, perversions, brutality, disrespect, murders and the ever increasing philosophy of the expendability of inconvenient human life–all these are testimonies to the fallenness of our intellect and the loss of our true God-intended humanity.

To be a real human is to be humbled to the truth of your resident inclination to resist surrendering to God, to be willing to be numbered with the transgressors, not the humanist masters of the universe, das uber menschen. To be a real human is to stop playing a “Game of Thrones” with the God who is sovereign over all things. To be a real human is to trust in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ to rescue you from the perversion which has corrupted your understanding and which has led you to exalt your fallenness above His glorious beauty and purity and holiness. To be a real human is to become like Jesus for the glory of God in Christ. To be a real human is to daily, hourly, by each minute and in each circumstance, choose surrender to and co-operation with the will of the Father in the Lord Jesus Christ by the Spirit of God. To be a real human is a “becoming” kind of life; that is, to be clothed with the garments of salvation and the robe of righteousness which are impossibly oversized for you in your natural fallen condition. But for that sinner set apart for new life in Christ’s pure righteousness, what is impossible for man is possible with God, for all who are in Christ grow into it daily, soli Deo gloria: for the glory of God alone.

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom  decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

Isaiah 61.10

What all this looks like for me, in my here-and-now, I cannot begin to define or describe. I am not drawn to paint a “selfie,” because I can only see what I am becoming through a smoky glass at best, still aware that I fall short of coming into the glorious magnitude of the dimensions of the enormous garments of salvation and robes of righteousness with which God has clothed me by His grace. I love the way the apostle Paul described this wondrous condition:

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3.12-14

What I do know for a certainty is that I am glad I have been rescued out of my treason against God by His gift of grace and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. By Jesus’ redemptive work I have been restored to becoming a real human, once again living to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. By the record of Jesus’ Life in the Word of God, I have the perfect description of what being a real human looks like—surrendering to the will of my Father without bristling and kicking against it; increasing His Name and His Reign in the earth; seeking the increase of His government in my life…

Easy for angels; valiant, passionate, daily holy battle for us mere humans in Christ as we are growing:

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…”

2 Corinthians 10.3-5

…and glorious victory in Jesus for those who are being real humans.

This Pale Blue Dot…

…We are often asked to step back and ask, In the midst of this chaos of what has unfolded on this pebble, is there a unifying purpose for all of creation? Can it all be held together by something greater than itself?”

–Tony Reinke, Senior Writer, DesiringGod.org

…a link to a wonderful article with a spectacular view.

earth from distant view

“This Pale Blue Dot with Eternal Purpose”

Heartbeat of Spring…

This year, the month of March began with some promises that perhaps winter had finally surrendered its grip on us. The air warmed, the skies began to brighten, the trees began to bud more aggressively than I have seen in years past. Today, after the official vernal equinox and declaration of spring, I sit in my little studio on Northern Virginia in layered garb like mid-December. God has made us think and reflect on how easily we assume the weather is merely a natural happenstance phenomenon; or even that our science of climate control is expert enough in our own hands and our own power to govern the elements He has created. With the fall of mankind in a garden ages past came the struggle for the dominion over creation which God had ordained His image bearers to exercise for His glory. Our biological ancestors chose to please and exalt themselves and trust in their own myopically perceived power–and lost the clear vision of the knowledge of the God of the cosmos. In the Spring, all the natural world around us shouts a message and displays the visual evidence of God’s power and His faithful mercies. We have only to look that our hearts might beat back to LIFE which no circumstance underneath the vault of Heaven can harden into the bitter chill of the deadly dark and cold. Praying Spring’s Rising encourages you and dazzles you with the joy of God’s redemption of our fallen selves and our fallen world by Christ’s blood poured out on the woody column of a cross and His rising from a garden grave only a little more than 2 millennia past…

“Blessed are your eyes, for they see…Now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.”
(Matthew 13.15-17; 1 Corinthians 15.20-22)

Spring’s Rising!
by Patricia Stachew
©March 2019, 2022

“Bring forth,” He said,
     to all the waiting branches of the trees,
their lacey crown’ed silhouettes under bluing skies
     of th’ earliest winds of Spring;
to every slumb’ring tendril of the shrub along the path,
ev’ry bush a resting place for feathered
     prophets bearing promise on their wing.
“’Tis the hour,” He said, “to wake and bear your young!
Fear not the last remaining lash of winter’s breath!
Heed not the darkness
     which now sees its timely hast’ning death!
Look up to see the ever lightening, brightening,
     dazzling blues of days,
waking early from the passing nights
of starlit indigo, adorned in myriad twinkling blaze!
There’s a message to be spoken to mankind
whose eyes have dimmed
with all their futile notions, fabrications
of their busy, frantic musings in all their fantasies,
striving in their vanities,
conceiving an illusion, pretending life immortal
from their factories of the dead.”

Spring's Rising photo

“We will,” they answered. “Thy will,” they said.
And all the wood from tallest, robust trees
     whose trunk so stout could feel in every woody
     bone the memory of pain and grace
in mankind’s Greatest Story,
to smallest bushy bush of delicate twig and branch:
they all began their laboring to please the King
Who made them for His glory.
And every man whose eyes would see could now behold,
in ev’ry lacey crown’ed top of tree
‘neath cathedral blue of skies,
and ev’ry fring’ed, tasseled shrub and bush
of earthy ground on which it lies:
on every inch of outstretched arm
and limb of every one, came forth
those orbs of blood-red bud.
These bloody little bodies speaking
of Redemption’s glory
when once blood poured upon a tree
which bore the pain and grace
in mankind’s Greatest Story.
And not only His bloodied body did that tree once bear,
but all the weight of rebellious man
who mutinied against their King
among the trees ‘neath cathedral blue of skies
in a Garden from of old,
and cast away their sight
of all the goodness they had known,
their minds now captive, pris’ners trapped
in darkened musings,
endless, futile fabrications of their own;
     and by their quest to wield the sovereign sceptre
     of the One in whom their life and breath reside
they brought upon the whole of all creation,
in all its living beauty,
the judgment of the dead.

Here, then, now in tide of Spring,
is the message to be spoken
to mankind whose eyes have dimmed
with all their futile notions, fabrications
of their busy frantic musings,
as on each branch and bushy twig
those bloody orbs break open,
beneath the vaulted ceiling
     of the lightening, brightening,
dazzling blue of skies of Spring,
new and verdant life bursts forth
from blood-red bodies broken–
life not fashioned from the daydreams of man’s vanity–
but created and designed
     by the True and Living One,
after winter’s frozen sleep of death
is now left far behind.
And every man whose eyes would see can now behold,
in ev’ry lacey crown’ed top of tree
‘neath cathedral blue of skies,
and ev’ry fring’ed, tasseled shrub
and bush of earthy ground on which it lies,
on every inch of outstretched arm
     and limb of every one:
a splendorous array of neo-natal green,
brilliant pink and yellow dazzeling,
stunning beauty spoken into life at His command
for all whose eyes are blest to see in Spring
the message of Redemption’s glory
when once blood poured upon a tree which bore
the pain and grace in mankind’s Greatest Story.

Truth it is! No legend, no vain and futile fable
     of some hope pretending life immortal.
Nay! Creation which man’s vain rebellion
     brought to suffer death,
now in Spring declares the Truth:
     the sovereign sceptre of the God
in whom reside all life and breath.
And His Son the Holy One, the Righteous One,
     named Jesus
Whose beaten, bloodied body
once upon a fallen tree was nailed,
and having suffered all the judgment
due rebellious, wicked man,
with arms outstretched in God’s great plan,
     yielded up His soul to death.
In Passover’s third cool morn of Spring,
     beneath the vaulted ceiling
     of the lightening, brightening,
dazzling blue of skies
creation’s Lord came forth in glory as He said,
triumphant from the grave wherein He laid
among the dead,
under lacey crown’ed tops of trees,
embraced by ev’ry fring’ed, tasseled shrub
and bush of earthy ground on which it lies:
for all whose eyes are blest to see
the One in whom all life and breath reside,
Jesus, the risen, reigning, ever-living King!

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