November 24, 2011

Thank Goodness!

“Thank Goodness!” Countless times I’ve said this with little consciousness of its meaning. It’s usually uttered with some sense of relief that something has worked out well, (at least from my perspective!) but with no real acknowledgment of who I owe my thanks to…

Yesterday I came across this historical tidbit, President George Washington’s 1789 proclamation creating the first official American “Thanksgiving Day”. I’m impressed by its bold statement of the need to acknowledge God as the source of all good things. Allow me a patriotic moment and have a read-along:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have … requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God”… Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection…, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence…, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed... for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us…

Wow! How far we’ve slipped in the acknowledgment department!

I’ve been considering some familiar verses in Proverbs: “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” (Prov.3:5,6) And of course the preceding ones that give the context: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”

Following my own understanding will likely NOT lead me in a straight path. Things I perceive as good, may in fact be very bad ideas. Things I oppose, may be a part of a bigger plan God is weaving... But if in all my ways I will learn to acknowledge Him…I’ll be led in straight paths, ‘where the good way is’, the walk that will bring rest to my soul (Jer.6:16).

I was chewing on that word, “acknowledge” this week. What does it mean? A standard dictionary would say it means: to recognize the existence of, to express recognition of, to express gratitude for, etc. Sort of a “Yes, Lord, I see you there. Thanks.”   But when I looked up the actual Hebrew word, there’s more to it.  [Don’t miss the wonderful resources   BLUELETTERBIBLE offers ad-free!]

The word translated ‘acknowledge’, is “yada”. It means ‘to know’, to learn to know, to perceive, find out and discern…It involves knowing by intimate experience, learning to recognize… God desires that we “acknowledge Him” in all our ways…learn to see His hand at work, begin to perceive Him in everything. Reminds me of Paul’s challenge to the Philippians to work out their salvation with fear and trembling because it was God who was at work in them to accomplish His good pleasure (Phil.2:12,13). This is our God, the One that is at work often unseen, but inviting us to see with spiritual understanding the work that He’s doing.

He longs for His people to understand His way of working. Psalm 95 has that haunting finish to an otherwise joyful celebration of God’s excellence: “For forty years I loathed that generation and said, ‘They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.’” He accompanied them through the wilderness. Did they not comprehend He was there though unseen? That they were ‘the apple of His eye’, the object of His unflagging devotion? Did they really think they’d been abandoned just because they got thirsty? They did not understand His ways, that though they might be physically in a wilderness, He was committed to providing everything they truly needed and to using their walk with Him as a testimony to the nations around them, for His own glory.

So I come back to my own life, the everyday-ness of it. Acknowledging His active presence in my every moment is a beginning. In the mundane, in the traumatic, in the slow grind, in the delightful…do I perceive He is with me, in me, for me, working out His purposes for His great glory. Will I acknowledge Him in this moment, as I write, as I read…present, working, shaping all things for His great glory? This is holy ground. My actions become a kind of worship. This body a living sacrifice offered as I type, as I put wood on the fire, as I help Rachel with grammar, as I create a pumpkin pie and pop the turkey in the oven shortly…when I acknowledge Him in all my ways, in all the moments of my days, life becomes worship of a God who is forever Good, and forever worthy of my gratitude.

“Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving…let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!” Ps.95:2,3

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.” Ps.136:1

May [we] be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God… Col.1:9,10


P.S. I highly commend to you Ann Voskamp’s faith-stirring devotional on “Why every day begs to be Thanksgiving”. Beautiful, as her posts always are.

And for a musical accompaniment to these thoughts on acknowledging God, try this glorious hymn sung by Fernando Ortega: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation.

Oh, and HAPPY THANKSGIVING! no matter what piece of the globe you reside in!

November 18, 2011

Walking by Doubt

It’s an age-old battle, the same temptation that lurked in the wilderness when the food and water ran out: “Is God among us or not?!” the people cried. Never mind that He had promised to provide all their needs—His name was after all Jehovah-Jireh. Never mind that they hadn’t gotten around to asking for the obvious: “Lord, we need some water. Lord, we’d like to have some meat, but we are content with this manna if that’s all You want us to have right now.” They were guilty of walking by doubt.

I know a person similarly prone. But this is not the way she wants to live, so this week she is making an about-face and dwelling on things that remind her of her Sovereign Lord’s right to rule and direct as He sees fit--in her life and all the ‘world’ around her. She is committing before the people of God (and her readership) to walk by faith in the God whose ways are beyond comprehending but who deigns to fill her with Himself and the very power of the resurrection, (Eph.3:16-18) and who has promised to flow like living water from her life (Jn.7:38) as she believes in His Son and abides in His words…

Toward that end, I’ve been looking closely at Habakkuk. He knew what it was to be alarmed by circumstances spiraling out of his control. He didn’t just sit there in shocked disbelief. He cried out to God about everything—Lord, there’s violence and destruction, strife and contention everywhere. The wicked are getting away with it. There’s no justice. How long do I have to keep on calling to you about these things?!

God’s answer wasn’t just what he was hoping for. No, problems weren’t going away any time soon. In fact, his own nation was about to be plundered by their worst enemy, the Babylonians. Talk about violence! “They gather captives like sand. At kings they scoff, and at rulers they laugh. They laugh at every fortress, for they pile up earth and take it. Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men, whose own might is their god!” (Hab.1:9b-11)

Habakkuk’s reaction was to take all this in and reflect on what he knew to be true of God. Conclusion, ‘we shall not die’; this is meant as judgment(1:12). But still, it just doesn’t make sense?! How can an infinitely holy and pure God let this happen, let His own people be overrun by evil greater than their own? Habakkuk determined to stand and watch to see what God would answer. I love this confidence in dialog. He knew his complaints were heard even if he didn’t understand the timing of the answers and didn’t like what he did hear. He kept listening.

God’s answer: Get a pen and paper; write this down. Write clearly, this is important. Ready? And then, among other things this: the righteous shall live by his faith.’ (Hab.2:4) Yes, there was a certainty of judgment coming on God’s own people but following that were the WHOA’s (actually Woe’s) pronounced over God’s enemies. These were to be recorded. Judgment was sure. God’s people would be delivered. But in the meantime, they would have to live by their confidence in God’s Word, not by subjective feelings or impressions.

A similar prophecy had come to Israel under Isaiah’s ministry regarding the coming invasion of the Assyrians. God’s word to them was: “If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.” Is.7:9 ESV Oh boy! This is a potent antidote for my waffling tendency to doubt! Stability will never come with my eye on circumstance, only when it’s fixed on the Lord who is Himself unchanging.

One morning this week I was reflecting on what it takes to strengthen faith. The Word of God taken to heart was clearly the top priority. (‘Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God’, Rom.10:17). But it seems to me that I am lacking an overarching mindset that is essential to absorbing the Word in a transformative way. How do I ward off doubt when things don’t appear to be heading the right direction?

What do you do, for instance, when people make dumb decisions (well, that’s how you perceive them anyway, and consequences follow and it looks like God’s not got this under control)?  I was reading in I Kings this week, (my ‘regular’ reading, when I’m not doing bunny trails elsewhere), the story of Rehoboam inheriting his dad’s (Solomon’s) kingdom. He followed a bad piece of advice in setting policy with his subjects and next thing you know, POOF, they’ve given allegiance to somebody else and he’s lost the bulk of his kingdom. Oh NO! what’s happening!! If I’d have been his mom I’d have been in deep distress! But Scripture records: “It was a turn of affairs brought about by the LORD that He might fulfill His word.” (I Kings 12:19) There were far-reaching effects of Rehoboam’s foolishness but none that escaped the Sovereign plan of God. And lest crestfallen Rehoboam attempt to undo things and fix his mistake or fight his consequences he was warned: don’t do it ‘for this thing is from me.’

Now, those simple phrases give me great encouragement. They supply the missing ingredient to a mindset of faith. To walk by faith is to trust God’s sovereignty over every circumstance. No wonder it’s His will that we give thanks in every thing, (I Thess. 5:18) because He is in control and will use it for good. Even the bad things He makes to fit His design, for His Kingdom’s sake. The Lord would preserve a remnant despite the foolishness and sinfulness of faithless kings. From the tribe of Judah would come the King of Kings, first as a Lamb to die for the likes of foolish kings and doubting commoners and then as King, to invite them  to join His invisible Kingdom until it comes into plain view. He is the sovereign King weaving His plan, fulfilling His purposes in everything.

So no matter what the situation ‘seems’ I can trust Him. Habakkuk had this one nailed down. He had gone to God with problems to big for him. God’s answers were likely not the ‘salvation’ Habbakuk was hoping for-- this being carried off into captivity by a merciless enemy. Things were definitely going to get much worse before they got better. But God had a plan and it was enough for Habbakuk to know that the Sovereign God was accomplishing His purposes in His people. He does what seems an uncanny thing at this point. He recites a list of potential disasters…let me see, how bad might things get…as the backdrop for his dramatic statement of trust: “Yet will I rejoice in the Lord. I will take joy in the God of my salvation. Jehovah God is my strength.” He rested in the knowledge that God had everything under control and not only that, but that God would care for him and enable him to have the sure-footedness of a deer, to scale the heights and find there his refuge. This God is the author and finisher of my faith too.  How can I walk by doubt when He invites me to ‘tread on my high places’?

Thanks again for sharing the journey with me.  Won’t it be something when we can see how all the things God allows are woven into a shining tapestry for the glory of our Great King?!  It’ll be a sight for sore and straining eyes!


“For who is God, except the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the deer, and sets me on my high places.”
Ps.18:31-33 NKJV

November 11, 2011

Remembering the old, old story…


Lest we forget…The record is history. They died, laying down their lives to preserve our freedom. And this day, on the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year of our century at the 11th minute of the 11th hour, (11:11 on 11/11/11) we pause to remember…

There was an infinitely greater sacrifice made, another Life laid down to actually purchase our freedom and all history was changed—the Good News of it has been disseminated throughout the world ever since—but somehow, the news doesn’t seem so fresh anymore. The transformative dynamic of it seems to have ebbed, at least in North American culture. We’re starting to look around in alarm and wonder what’s happened as the younger generation bids ‘adieu, I don’t need you’  to church, and a rising radical tide proclaims religion in general, and Christianity in particular, to be a danger to the human race. The average person on the street is unaware of any radical hope offered in the Gospel. Why is that?

There are a number of directions one could head in answering this question. And maybe it is different for every group of believers. Some possible answers are: It’s because there are no signs and wonders happening. Others say, it’s because there’s sin in the church. A case could be made for insufficient love between believers (which is to be the hallmark of who we are!) Maybe we just live in the ‘end times’ and this cold state of affairs is inevitable…Or maybe we’re just not being obedient to share the Gospel with the ‘lost’?!

But rather than ‘passing the buck’ I thought I’d start with my own appreciation of the Gospel. Does it resound powerfully in my own soul? Is it transforming the way I live? If not, why not?

I sat riveted to a sermon at my son’s church recently. The passage roughly in view was I Tim.4:1-7. The title: Facing Down Falsehood. The pastor proceeded to present a compelling case for living by grace rather than rules, and seeing the glory of the Gospel as far exceeding the self-styled ‘salvation’ of either legalism or lawlessness. He suggested that when we comprehend the extent of God’s love for us personally, which is at the heart of the Gospel, we will be drawn to live out the obedience that pleases Him. This obedience will not be circumscribed by rules and standards but freely given out of love, and directed by God’s very Spirit residing in us, transforming us into the image of Christ. It is for such freedom that we were set free. This is the Gospel.

He clarified: “Morality grows out of trust in God’s radical grace as expressed in Jesus Christ. Acceptance does not grow out of morality. To get these two confused is to miss the Gospel!”

Paul was always warning believers not to shift away from the hope held out in the Gospel, not to fall for another Gospel, not to be taken captive by wrong thinking or intimidated by impressive testimonies…but to hold fast to Christ. He urged the Colossian believers to stand firm against anyone adding requirements to the Christian life. And he spent a good bit of energy extolling Christ in whom all the fullness of God dwells, and who is our source of fullness!

He also realized that it would take super-human strength to ‘get it’. So he prayed that the believers at Ephesus would be strengthened by the Spirit to comprehend this incomprehensible, unconditional, beyond anything they’d experienced, sort of love. (Eph.3)

God so loved us. That’s where the Gospel starts, and believing it is where the power of the Gospel begins to be unleashed.

God loves me. Christ died for my sins. In believing in Him, I count myself dead to sin, (crucified with Christ), forever forgiven, granted access to God, and indwelt by the living Christ. This is incredible. It is from this foundation that I can begin to practice true Godliness—and really to live out the fruit of the Gospel, Christ in me, the hope of glory!

The pastor went on to illustrate what this pursuit of Godliness looks like for the one who is living by faith in the Gospel. (Perhaps this is where we have failed to produce a Christianity that is compelling in our generation?) Here is his illustration:

Let’s liken the pursuit of Godliness to the goal of crossing the Atlantic Ocean. You’ve got three options:

--You can get a rowboat, stock up, and get rowing. You’ll never make it.

--Or you can get a lifeboat. Blow it up; plop yourself in and pray, hoping that the currents will take you over. You will never make it.

--Or you can get a sailboat and learn to sail. Catch the winds of the Spirit, of grace, and enjoy the freedom of knowing what godliness is all about.

This is what the Gospel is all about, not rules, not requirements, but living from a place of forgiveness and love, learning to listen to ‘the music of the Gospel’. It will take effort and time and patience, he said. It will seem hard only because it will seem like you’re doing nothing. (If you’ve ever sailed you get this!) “But the music of the Gospel will transform you. It will make you dance.” ( And I loved this part) “The law will tell you what the dance steps are and are not. It will guide you, but it will never make you dance. Only grace will.”

Then in closing he urged us to Nourish yourself on the truths of the faith, the Good News. That’s how you fall in love. That’s how it happens. You hear the voice of love coming to you from God continually and finally when you say, ‘You mean me?’ your heart opens to love. You begin to trust the Gospel and your life begins to change. Draw life from the Gospel. Be strengthened by God’s acceptance of you in Christ; it is your food and drink. It’s what will give you strength to live in freedom.”

So that’s where I’m at today… reviewing the truths of the Gospel and praying for God to give it new life in my heart. I don’t want this to be a purely cerebral exercise, but I have to start somewhere. If the Gospel story has become old and crusty to me, how can I expect it to be of compelling interest to my neighbor? May God revitalize our understanding of the Gospel—and may its power be unleashed in our lives for His glory.


And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in [your] mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and [be] not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard… (Col.1:21-23)

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2Tim.2:1)

[quotes from Doug Schroeder, Crossroads Community Church,  Calgary, AB. Oct.30,2011]

November 3, 2011

Anti-Reflective Aids

Reflective journaling has its place but sometimes it’s good to be jarred out of it and into the present…

I picked up a little bottle yesterday wondering what it was…thinking it to be drops for ingesting, a potion of some sort.  Had to chuckle when I read the label: “Anti-Reflective…”   Ha!  Just what I need sometimes, something to make me less reflective and more ‘present’ in the moment!

Well, turns out it was actually Lens Cleaner and nothing to do with altering moods or any such silliness conjured up by my overactive reflective mind! It did give me pause to think though that the ‘lenses’ of my soul can get fogged sometimes and there’s nothing like a good cleaning out of negativity and doubt and fear and all those grimy substances that dim my faith.  The Word has the power to do that when the Spirit applies it at the point of need. Jesus loved and gave His life for His bride, the Church, for this very purpose:  “that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word…”  (Eph.5:26)

Well I was having my morning ‘bath’ in the Word in bed this morning, gathering up the thoughts flitting about in my mind since early dawn, applying doses of the Word to them…jotting down some pertinent verses, some fresh convictions… about a time to clap one’s hand over one’s mouth lest foolishness get out!…(Prov.30:32)  and other such things.

And who do you suppose came trundling in with his new toy truck and a big grinning: “GRANDMOM!” to disperse all my reflections like leaves blown away by the wind?!  My very own ‘Anti-reflective’ aid!  Here he was with all his morning cheer to have a a cuddle, a chat, a story and a song.  Next thing you know we were re-enacting Jesus and his disciples in a storm at sea while Jesus lay sleeping … How perfect to have a blue, poofy  comforter to play the part of the waves.  The wind blew (Grandmom’s own special effects), the boat rocked (Chase helped with this part) and the waves splashed (the part that made him break into squeals of delight) and there we were in our own boat caught in the storm! 

“Wake up, Jesus!” came his little animated voice.

And I got to play the “Peace, be still” part.  Or in child’s lingo: ‘Why are you afraid? Everything’s OK when Jesus is in the boat.’

Ah, yes, good reminder for child and Grandmom alike, and what a fine lens cleaner.  My view gets beclouded by circumstances all too often, all those ones I can’t control—you know: kids, spouse, parents… I can’t even control my own tongue!  But here I am calling on Jesus in the middle of the storm: “Save us, we’re perishing!” and here He is bringing peace…Everything’s under control.  We’re all in good hands. 

Thanks Chase for the morning wake-up call ( :