February 23, 2013

The manifold grace of God

I needed grace this week.  I need it always I suppose, the need is just more evident at some times than others. And God’s grace picked me up and carried me through another week of homeschooling.  Perhaps someone prayed, I know I did.  I had been reading of Moses, and was envying him, not because of his oh-so-difficult-job but because it seemed so simple for him to just ‘cry out to the Lord’ for help and then hear some specific instruction from Him.

Like the time the Israelites are all cornered at the Red Sea and God says: ‘Lift up your staff; stretch out your hand.’  (Ex.14) and voila, the sea parts. 

Or, the time when the water’s undrinkably bitter and everyone’s thirsty--‘look there’s a tree’ and Moses throws it into the bitter water and it is made sweet. (Ex.15)

Then there’s the time when the people are about to stone Moses, again, because they’re thirsty. And the Lord says: “strike the rock, and water shall come out of it.”(Ex.17)

The contingencies keep coming.  Moses keeps calling out for help. God keeps instructing him in what to do.  I felt a little envious of Moses, (though I think I’m changing my mind, having taken a second look at the miserable job he had!) because it seems God answered him so clearly, with such specific instructions.  And I was wishing I would get such detailed lesson plans.  Then I had to wonder, is it that God’s not instructing?  Or that I’m not listening well?   I read somewhere once that the prerequisite for hearing from God, is a heart ready to do whatever He says. Moses was known as the meekest man that ever lived for a reason.  He was ready and listening for every drop of counsel God would give, glad to comply!

But in retrospect, though I did not get an audible response to my pleas for guidance—little germs of wisdom did begin to gel in my mind. Insights, ideas, new ways of doing things presented themselves.  And fresh determination and renewed hope seemed to spring up overnight. I didn’t have to raise a staff, or toss a tree, or strike a rock but grace did flow and it was enough for one more week in our journey.  God’s manifold grace was evident.

God always makes a  way, still.  In temptation he promises a ‘way of escape’. In weakness he promises ‘sufficient grace’. In times of plenty he instructs us to maintain thankful hearts.  His grace is always there though at times we may miss seeing it or experiencing it…  

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled’ (Heb.12:15)

“I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” (Gal.2:21 NLT)

The stories of the children of Israel illustrate this so well.  There they were on the verge of entering the Land of Canaan at last—the spies go in and find it ‘’an exceedingly good land” (Numb.14:7ff) Joshua and Caleb try to persuade the people that “if the Lord delights in us, He will bring us into this land and give it to us…” But all the other spies can talk about are the giants and the insurmountable difficulties they will have to face. They fail to obtain the grace of God.  This grace is contingent on faith in God’s ability, not our own.  It requires confidence that what we are too weak to tackle, He is well able to take care of.

Fear led the people to rebel against God’s direction. They missed out on what His grace would have provided.  And the Lord took them to task:How long will this people despise me?  And how long will they not believe in me? in spite of all the signs I have done among them?” (Num.14:11)  GULP.  God’s grace is always there for every task He sets before us.  We can access it by faith, or brush it aside in fear and obstinacy to ‘do it my way’. Wow.    The verdict was not good for these folks.  They would traipse about in the wilderness for another 40 years till the whole adult population had died.  The children would suffer for their parents’ faithlessness. (Num.14:33)

Wow (again).  A pertinent object lesson for me.  I am so grateful for grace, the grace I’ve been shown this week, the multi-faceted graces of God scattered through all my days.

As we receive God’s grace, we become stewards of it to others “…as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”  (I Pet.4:10) This concept was brought home to me this week in the reading of Joni’s memoir: The God I Love, her story of a lifetime of walking with Jesus  through a degree of  disappointment, suffering and loss few of us will ever know.  It is a joyful testimony to God’s incredible grace as she embraced her lot (quadriplegia) and found God to be more real than she had ever imagined. It is God’s story of using Joni in her weakness to encourage innumerable others and to offer a perspective of eternity not easily come by in times of health and plenty.  Her story, her faithfulness to walk with Jesus in joy, is a gift of God’s grace that extends to me.

I have to take these things by faith. I have not known much suffering.  I sometimes fear because I’ve been given so much. Not just material goods, but faith, family, health, friendships, marriage, freedom, wisdom, the very Word of God!…so many good things.  So much to lose. (And so much to use. ‘To whom much is given much will be required’ is a haunting concept! But that’s another issue.)

Being one who fears suffering, I admire Job, who wouldn’t? Even Satan knew he was an amazing tribute to the grace of God—in the loss of everything but life itself he submitted to God his rights: The Lord gives and He  takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. (Job 1:21) What does any of us possess that is not a gift anyway?  When did it become an inalienable right?

It occurs to me that noone likes suffering, anymore than our kids enjoyed being disciplined. But we do fall down and scrape our knees. Bad dogs do bite. Pets do die, and people too. And we do get spankings. As children of God, we will suffer for one reason or another.  But by faith, I can hear such testimonies and know that there will be grace, because we will never lose Jesus.

I bumped into these words today, written more than a century ago: “The only inalienable gift I have, is a Divine Savior. He never will be taken away from me. He is mine--mine forever.” –Stephen Tyng

And right along these lines is a new ‘hymn’ I also met this week, another testimony to God’s sufficient grace in every circumstance.  With it I close:

I Run to Christ
[Click here to listen in]

I run to Christ when chased by fear
And find a refuge sure.
“Believe in me,” His voice I hear;
His words and wounds secure.

I run to Christ when torn by grief
And find abundant peace.
“I too had tears,” He gently speaks;
Thus joy and sorrow meet.


I run to Christ when worn by life
And find my soul refreshed.
“Come unto Me,” He calls through strife;
Fatigue gives way to rest.

I run to Christ when vexed by hell
And find a mighty arm.
“The Devil flees,” the Scriptures tell;
He roars, but cannot harm.


I run to Christ when stalked by sin
And find a sure escape.
“Deliver me,” I cry to Him;
Temptation yields to grace.

I run to Christ when plagued by shame
And find my one defense.
“I bore God’s wrath,” He pleads my case—
My Advocate and Friend.

by Chris Anderson and Greg Habegger
with Gregg Howlett at the piano

The testimonies of ones who have walked with God and found Him good, these too are God’s gifts of grace to us--whether a beautifully penned memoir, or Christ-exalting lyrics, or  the tinkling of fingers on a keyboard… Whether a smile or a FB note or a warm hug,  all are gifts of God’s grace-- the wonderful manifold grace of God dished out by His stewards, tokens of His delight in His children. 

May we all have eyes to see and hearts to embrace
His all-sufficient manifold grace.


“The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land.  If the LORD delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey.” Numbers 14:7,8

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

If you enjoyed Gregg Howlett at the piano, consider
No More Night, a spine tingling reminder of the good land yet to come!

For my review of Joni’s THE GOD I LOVE, go here.

February 15, 2013

A Good Place to be after all…

What mother of us has not felt as Moses surely felt standing before the burning bush…here I am barefoot, standing before you Lord.  You are saying you have a job for me to do?  I am chosen particularly for it…and yet, this job?  Who is sufficient for these things?  I am unqualified, overwhelmed, undone at the thought of it.  Yet, called, chosen, and out of options.  You are God.  I am your clay pot formed for your purposes…

You’d think that now, nearing the end of this phase of my career, I would see things differently…but I am also a homeschooling mother, and the finishing of highschool has never been easy.  There is no formula. Each child is different.  How is one ever ‘finished’ and ‘ready’ to be released into life on their own—in the big wide world where there is no mother at hand to come to the rescue…How does one really prepare a child for that?  And if it’s done poorly, whose fault is it? And who will suffer?


Never were these words so poignant as they are this week sounding in my ears: “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” Ps.127:1  Unless the Lord is involved in the construction, it’s wood, hay and stubble that will burn, not a lasting product.  (I Cor.3:13,14) It’s a waste of time and energy, in other words.  What matters is what the Lord empowers, what He does in and through us, what He builds in us.

David knew this when he commissioned his son, Solomon, to build the temple he himself had not had the privilege of building. The task was not to be David’s but that didn’t stop him from gathering materials and doing all he could to encourage his son for the daunting task: "Now, my son, the LORD be with you that you may be successful, and build the house of the LORD your God just as He has spoken concerning you. Only, may the LORD give you discretion and understanding…that you may keep [His] law. Then you will prosper…Be strong and courageous.  Fear not; do not be dismayed.” I Chr.22:12,13

Maybe that’s the main thing any of us do as parents—we gather the stuff for the building of the next generation.  We point them to the Chief Architect and urge them to love the Lord their God with all their hearts and always to consult Him in everything.  Maybe that’s all this crisis is about for me—a reminder that the Lord is the One with the blueprint and only He can complete this work He’s laid out for me to participate it. 

Crisis is often invitation to run to the One who is what I’m not, the great “I AM” who mentored Moses.  The great I AM  who led him through the wilderness with a stiff-necked people in tow that tried even the patience of God with their grumbling obstinence!   This One Moses was continuously crying out to: "What shall I do to this people?”! Ex.17:4

Who would Moses have been without this assignment that left him so constantly in need of wisdom and desperate for intervention?  Would he have resorted to the Tent of Meeting so often—meeting with God as with a best Confidant so that his face shown in the afterglow?  Would he have been so intent on knowing God and having Him near, always?  And would he have experienced the glory of God—his mercy and grace, His slowness to anger, His steadfast love and faithfulness… (Ex.33:18ff) had he not been given this assignment to shepherd God’s children?

My own heart is calmed and softened as I ponder these things.  I am turned back to gratitude for this trust I have been given of shepherding some of God’s own children.  For I too am thereby made dependent on God’s mercies and compelled to know Him more and so reflect His glory. I too am dependent on the One who is all that I am not, and though I stand here nonplussed and barefoot, it is, after all,  a very good place to be.


"Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people. And He said, ‘My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.’" Ex.33:13,14

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. II Cor.12:9

Then David said to his son Solomon, "Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you until all the work for the service of the house of the LORD is finished.” I Chr.28:20

February 9, 2013

Chewing on Chesterton

I dived into G.K. Chesterton earlier this week, never mind that there are dozens of books on my priority shelf waiting, barely waded in to…No, instead I tried something new, an online audio book.  And while I listened I looked at an online print version, and cutandpasted thought-provoking morsels to chew on later.  Chesterton churns out a lot of these. He was a man characterized by indomitable joy from what I’ve read, along with a brilliant mind and a charming wit.

So I decided to try The Man Who Was Thursday: a Nightmare.* Peculiar title, I know, but fitting; the chief characters each had code names after the days of the week.  The genre of ‘metaphysical thriller’ did little to pique my interest.  What does ‘metaphysical’ mean anyway?  (I now have turned to Wikipedia and sort of get it)  And I’m really not into thrillers, but I do admire Chesterton’s genius and optimistic outlook, and the book was recommended by a friend, so… I tried it.

I think I might not have persevered without the excellent rendering, complete with wonderful accents, at LibriVox. [Don’t miss this terrific free resource if you enjoy an audio book!] It was definitely not a story to fall asleep to, or even doodle idly to.  Once I’d realized this and took it seriously enough to start at the beginning a second time, (with notebook at hand) the chapters started flying—suspenseful and strange, surreal and outrageous, full of intriguing symbolism.

On the surface were issues of anarchy vs. law and order--a plotline based on a police detective infiltrating a top-secret Anarchist society. But this is an allegorical and impossibly bizarre tale of a world that is not what it seems. (And do we not live in just such a world?) The detective’s profound and unexpected discoveries culminate in a profoundly soul-satisfying finish, revealing…

Well, I don’t want to give the whole story away.  Suffice it to say the story, in retrospect, is all wound around with God superintending the affairs of man, God who appoints all things (and people) to accomplish His purposes, and ultimately wishes to be known.  And scattered all along the way to keep me from getting too serious in sleuthing out the story’s hidden meaning were gems of dry wit that tickled my elusive funny bone!

Even if an allegorical ‘thriller’ is not your idea of a good read, this one is worth the effort just for its triumphant, faith-affirming, every-thing-is-gonna-be-alright conclusion. Only after you’ve been along for the harrowing journey of Thursday can you appreciate these closing lines:

“He felt he was in possession of some impossible good  news, which made every other thing a triviality, but an adorable triviality.”

Are we too not in possession of such Good News? Pessimism be vanquished! God is in control.  His redemptive purposes will be accomplished in and through and despite the evil and heartache which surrounds us.  Though we be called to suffer, though we may long to understand what’s going on when things just don’t  make sense…God knows and ordains all things for our good, for He is not only supremely powerful, He is supremely good, no matter what the enemy of our souls may say! 

And that has been the storyline undergirding my thoughts this week—as I wrestle for answers to perplexing problems, as I live day to day on the manna He does supply, and as I revel with thankful heart in His plentiful blessings… In all these things God is superintending and sufficient.  In all these things, whether obvious or hidden, God is good.

Two passages come to mind that affirm Chesterton’s storyline and with these I’ll stop, not having intended a book review today but glad for the chance to re-affirm God’s steady goodness towards the likes of us.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  II Cor.4:17,18

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Rom.8:18

Oh and never mind stopping there, may as well keep going and read the whole of Romans 8, very good news indeed! 

Need that to music?  Consider these perspective restoring lyrics: “…purpose in all our suffering and Joy that will never die."

[from Risen, by Sovereign Grace Music]

You are Our Hope

[Doesn’t work in your browser?  Click here to go directly to YouTube]

Thanks for stopping by today to consider my ponderings ( :


May I leave you with a little taste of Chesteron thought, excerpted from The Man Who Was Thursday:

“Through all this ordeal his root horror had been isolation, and there are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematicians that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one. That is why, in spite of a hundred disadvantages, the world will always return to monogamy.”

*Full audio version of The Man Who Was Thursday available here.

Online print version, available here.

February 2, 2013

Indomitable Joy


My thoughts run hither and yon tonight, scrambling to summarize my week’s ponderings.  I think they’ve run in a big circle actually, starting with an excellent message  built on this thesis:
What the world needs most to see in the church is ‘our indomitable joy in suffering and in sorrows’*. (John Piper) 
They already know how to be happy when everything’s going well!  What makes us salt and light to the world is our joy in Jesus that is not dependent on our circumstances…

I went on to other message excerpts by Piper and soon was at one titled: When God Ruins Us.**  gulp.  In a related vein Piper continued with great winsomeness to paint a picture of a deep abiding confidence that finds in Christ the source of its contentment so that  when all the ‘props’ that might have contributed to its sense of well-being are knocked out, still there is joy.  He suggested that God knows when our hearts need help not to trust in things other than Him (whether health, job, pleasure, or chocolate!) for our contentment.  Listening to John Piper preach is as restorative to the soul as eating a roast beef dinner is to the body!  But I got to thinking…

And that sometimes leads me into troubled zones… particularly when faith is left  suspended on the sidelines while I entertain fear.  Let me explain: I know I live in great comfort.  I have food, good food, and and more where it came from of whatever sort I would most relish.  I have a roof over my head and great warmth within its walls, not only of the physical cozy wood-stove kind, but of love and laughter and commitment, of a solid marriage, of children who enjoy coming home…I have SO much—security of life and limb, not to mention health and freedom from pain, freedom to be a home-body blithely at work and play in my ‘pumpkin’.  Many are the mercies that come fresh to my ‘doorstep’ every morning.  All this, and heaven too…

I have peace and contentment too, almost…only this nagging thought:  Is the source of my contentment Jesus, or is it all these good things He’s ravished me with?  And how would I do with all the props knocked out?

“When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay” the old hymn goes.  Do people still sing such things?  Will I in the event of such loss?  I don’t consider myself a gross narcissist but I do enjoy my pain-free comfortable life…and I do enjoy chocolate….and I do fear pain and loss.

Is my contentment truly based in knowing Christ? Or is it in good things I possess and pleasant circumstances?  How can I know? 

What am I leaning on anyway?  Do I really lean on God for everything?  Am I leaning so hard that if He were to fail me, I would topple over helpless?  Or am I counting on my own understanding, my own resources, my own ability to back me up? 

These thoughts with variations have tumbled about in my head this week with the dull rumble of sneakers thrown in the dryer. I justified the thudding sounds at first as the symptoms of proper spiritual self-examination.  But as I am prone to ‘think too hard’ about such introspective sorts of things…it now seems more likely that there is more fear than faith in them. Hallmarks of the Spirit’s wooing are life and peace, not unrest, fear and doubt! (Rom.8:6)

But I will leave with you some of the gems along my path back to God-confidence, some of them paraphrased…

“But as for me, I will look to the Lord.  I will wait for the God of my salvation, my God will hear me.” MIcah 7:7

“Do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and turn away from evil…” Prov.3:5-8

Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for God is at work in you to make you both willing and able to carry out His good pleasure.  So carry on with no grumbling or questioning.  This is what will set you apart as unblemished, children of God in a crooked and twisted generation as you hold tight to the Word of life! (Phil.2:12-16)

Watch out for dogs, evildoers, mutilators of the flesh—those who from impure motive will encourage you to do more, try harder, and put stock in your good efforts at rule-keeping.   It’s not about all that. The real product is Spirit-led worship with your whole life and awe in Christ Jesus with not a stitch of confidence put in how you’re doing on your own steam….What matters is the righteousness of Christ put to your account by God solely on the basis of your faith! (Phil.3:1-9)

And one more thing:
Don’t be anxious about anything—whether you’ll have what it takes to weather trials, whether you’re doing enough, being enough, denying self enough, leaning on Jesus enough, living by faith enough…don’t be anxious.  Let your Father know what you need (and what troubles you) then His peace, which exceeds all your best understanding, will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. (Phil.4:6,7)


I still don’t have all the answers to all the questions my ponderings have generated.  But somehow, it matters most that they have been raised and turned to the One who does know. 

I may not know how I will fare in trauma but I can choose by faith to trust and give thanks in everything, starting now, in plenty. Paul said “In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”  Phil.4:12 The same Christ Jesus who gave him that kind of strength is my helper.  I don’t need to develop a self-defense plan but to rejoice in the Plan that is already in place! 

Paul puts it so succinctly: Rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.” Phil.3:1

So somehow I’ve come full circle.  There it is, learning to rejoice in the Lord, for this is what the world needs most to see in the Church—real joy! May it be so.


“For we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” Phil.3:3

This one came singing as I woke up the morning after writing this blog…—LS

[If this video won’t play in your browser, try Internet Explorer, or go directly to YOU TUBE and look for “Sing for Joy” by Robert Pierre. Sorry for the inconvenience.]


*Sorrowful Yet Always Rejoicing by John Piper is a 45 min. message available in audio form here.

**”When God Ruins Us”, also by John Piper, is a short audio clip available here.