November 14, 2015

The Barebones of a Godly Legacy

Just before he died, Joseph gave his sons instructions concerning his bones, and for this he is commended as a man of faith (See: Heb. 11: 22) . He died and was embalmed in Egypt, among foreigners, leaving his progeny to the whims of a future and hostile king ("Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph." Ex.1:8) So concludes the book of Genesis--the historical account of the generations of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The land of their prospering and multiplying had become the place of their enslavement. God foreknowing this, had told Abraham generations earlier that this would be their lot-- "Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years!" Gen. 15:13-16 But God had also promised that this bondage would not be the end; in the fourth generation He said He would bring them back to the land where Abraham now only camped and they would settle there, displacing its inhabitants, becoming a people among whom God would dwell--a nation unlike any other, on whose behalf God would show Himself strong. (See: Deut. 4: 32-35)

Abraham had not seen this promise fulfilled but he had believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. Rom.4:20ff  Now three generations later, Joseph lay dying in a foreign land. Still God had not brought His people into their inheritance. But Joseph was confident He would. And on his death bed he said: 'God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.' Joseph died far from the land God had promised to his descendants. But God had promised... and Joseph knew in his bones God would keep His Word. This was the legacy he left--this God-confidence that despite his own helplessness to contribute to their redemption God would somehow, sometime, bring it about!

I've been reading day by day the account of the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt--how God let his people fall into harsh oppression there. Perhaps this was the only way they'd ever have wanted to leave behind its lushness and plenty, its leeks and garlic?  Cf.Num. 11:5 . In their oppression they cried out to God and He sent a saviour, a kinsman-- Moses, to intercede on their behalf with Pharaoh.

It was a hard won victory. Pharaoh wasn't quick to release them from such a lucrative enslavement. But this too God used on their behalf (and for the enlightenment of all the nations watching!), that they might never forget His greatness and power, that they might 'tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.' Ex.10:2

For generations to come they would recall this night of their deliverance, this night when the blood on their doorposts would save them from the death angel, this 'night of watching by the Lord' (Ex.12:42) to deliver them from bondage. They would recount God's mighty deliverance again and again for generations to come, (eg.Ps.107) , that night of the tenth plague: the death of every firstborn in Egypt, the urgent summons to Moses and Aaron, the emancipating edict: "Up, go out from among my people...and serve the LORD as you have said. Take your flocks and your herds... and BE GONE!" and the desperate plea from Pharaoh: "and bless me also!".

This was the night of their deliverance. It had come just as God had foretold it would, not one day early, not one day late. "At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt." Ex.12:41 And in their hasty exit Moses took the bones of Joseph with him in accordance with Joseph's dying wish: "God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here." Ex.13:19

Joseph is only one of many in the great Hall of Faith who died not having received what was promised. But physical death is not the end all. Being interred, embalmed, cremated... for those who believe these are just the commencement of life as we have yet to know it. Joseph believed. And it was counted to him as righteousness, the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. (Phil.3:9) And it occurs to me that this is the very best legacy we can leave our children and all those who have known us in this lifetime--this confidence that 'God will surely visit you...'

My own father sits slumped in a wheelchair, beyond reach of human reassurances but having lived his life in faith that God is to be trusted and served come what may. His body is in bondage to decay. Day by day he grows weaker in mind and body but not so his spirit. The Spirit within is helping him in his weakness. The Spirit himself is interceding for him with groans that words cannot express, bringing about the fulfillment of God's purposes in his body, the redemption of which is just around the corner. Yes, Dad, God will surely visit you...

He may not come with signs and wonders but the upward call will come and it will be glorious! Whether in life or in death the Saviour is coming for each one who has trusted in His salvation. God is not slow concerning His promise (II Pet. 3:9) He is accomplishing His purposes in us, in our progeny, in the world around us... Those God has chosen, He justifies. Those He justifies, He glorifies. (Rom.8:30-34)  A glorious day is coming when these bodies will be freed from their bondage to sin's decadence and brought into the glorious freedom prepared for the children of God. We can live and bless and die in this assurance: "God will surely visit you..." Let this be our legacy.


I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Rom.8:18

According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. Phil.1:20

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Phil.1:21

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. Heb.11:13-16

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. Heb.10:35

November 7, 2015

Teach us to number our days…

I was in a Bible study group lately where the question was posed to a couple of retired couples—“So, what’s it like being retired? What do you do with your time?” Free time is one of those coveted commodities in the busy-ness of our ‘working’ years.  We’re sure that if we had more of it we would be able to fulfill all our dreams, develop our talents and find true contentment.  We would be… well, Happy!

I remember being in the throes of homeschooling family life—that was my career--designing and implementing curriculum to shape the minds and hearts of the five young people under our roof, and making our house a home besides. They were busy times.

“So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom”

was emblazoned on my teacher notebook.  I didn’t want us to be just busy; I wanted us to end up wise and God-fearing, knowing His thoughts in all the areas we studied…  Friday was Lesson Plan making day.  I loved setting goals and  filling in the squares for each weekly assignment sheet.  I am a lover of order and books and learning new things in a bookish way.  My career seemed a perfect fit.  God knew.

Considering my own school days, this was really no surprise. I thrived on a rigid schedule, prescribed reading, regular lectures, note-taking, gaining head knowledge irrespective of its practical value… ahh yes, school was my ‘thing’. And there was even homework to take home to give direction to the free hours of time and provide an excuse not to do extracurricular social things…Then the bells would ring and another predictable school day would commence.  I was good at regurgitating a fixed array of knowledge and the tidy rows of A’s on my report cards made it all seem worthwhile.  Life was simpler then, but it left whole parts of me underdeveloped, neglected in the satisfying busy-ness of achieving grades and filing knowledge away on paper…

Being busy can be a great stand-in for being truly significant.  So long as you’re busy in approved practical ways, you are OK in North American culture. And better yet if you’re making lots of money at it.  It’s generally recognized that to be busy is to be important.

“How are you doing?”

--“Oh, I’ve been busy….” is the unquestioned right response.

To ‘read books all day’ is irresponsible, lazy, and frowned upon. As are other occupations that don’t appear ‘productive’. But what is God’s measure of our days? 

I find myself now neither making money nor directing a busy household and yet  confident that God has directed us to this place and time.  We have abandoned the American dream and are in fact both jobless and homeless by some definitions.  And worst of all for this ISTJ personality of mine which functions best with a carefully delineated job description and a schedule, my days lie uncharted, free for the filling.  But don’t be too quick to say, “I wish.”  With freedom comes responsibility and decisions!  How do I best fill my days?  What will be my priorities?  How can I best use this stage in my life to prepare for the next unknown one?  I wrestle with these questions on a daily basis.  I’ve even considered drawing up a schedule and Lesson Plans for myself to keep me on track.  I’m just not sure how to fill them out, for now I am the pupil.  But my  Master Teacher hasn’t changed.  The promises I held onto back in the busy homeschool/parenting stage of my life are still relevant.  Though they were not given directly to me—they speak of God’s covenant with Israel—they stand as warnings and reminders of the character of God and of man.  These have not changed.

In Isaiah 30 the Lord addresses His people:  [here’s the warning part!]

Ah, stubborn children, who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit…unwilling to hear the instruction of the LORD.”

To this people God speaks that oft repeated promise:

“In repentance and rest you shall be saved: in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”Is.30:15

Alas, His people weren’t wiling.  They couldn’t wait. They looked to the nations around them for direction; they copied their worship and were led astray by their idols. 

So Isaiah reminded them: “…the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and he exalts himself to show mercy to you…blessed are all those who wait for Him.”

I’ve read and re-read these words over the years when decisions have had to be made, and curriculum developed and schedules arranged.  They remind me still that God is eager to direct our steps.  He only asks that we give Him our attention and wait for Him to point the way:

The passage continues: “your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.  And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” (Isaiah 30:20,21)

So these days I bring my heart back to these evidences of God’s character and my propensity to doubt His guidance, and my prayer continues to be that of Moses:

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations…
from everlasting to everlasting you are God…
the years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty;
they are soon gone, and we fly away….
So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom…
Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children. 
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us; 
yes, establish the work of our hands!

And as I have prayed asking for guidance to direct the nitty-gritty of my days these six principles point the way:

A heart of wisdom…

1-—trusts that God’s Spirit within is leading through thick and thin and in the plain mundane, regardless of the seeming ‘significance’ of the product.  It is the privilege of the child of God to be led by the Spirit of God.  He only asks that I present this life of mine a daily sacrifice at His disposal. “Take my yoke and learn of me…”

2—makes the Word of God a priority.  I read and meditate to know God’s heart, to see what matters, to hear His voice.  His Word is light and life to me. (Ps.119:105)

3—knows that the value of an action (or even apparent inactivity!) is not in its tangible product.  Virtue does not derive from check-off lists of accomplishments but from the motive and dependence with which they are done. No good thing will be accomplished apart from the empowering of the Spirit.  Apart from abiding in Christ and learning to live with my ear to His directives, whatever I fill my days with is nothing!  By the same token, my day may appear a ‘wasted’ bunch of time but if the Spirit has directed it that’s enough.

4—discovers that faith working itself out in love is all that matters, not how much I got done but how.  Have I done it all to the glory of God, in conscious dependence on Him and in gratitude for His enabling.  Are my actions driven by love? (Gal.5:6)

5—learns to just do the ‘next thing’ when there are too many choices to prioritize.  My worth in God’s eyes is not based on my time management skills. Wasting time is not the unpardonable sin.  I can relax and enjoy this stage of life as I learn to walk by the Spirit.  It’s a process He is glad to accompany me on, without condemnation!  (Rom.8:1)

6—pauses often, not just to smell the roses (or to look up and notice that the first snow of the season has begun to fall just now!) but to thank her constant Companion for this daily bit of life, as is. (I Thess. 5:17)

Thirty-two years ago this song was sung at our wedding.  It is still the song of my heart::

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise….

Take my hands, my feet, my voice…

Take my lips, my silver and my gold, my will, my heart…

Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.


I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.
Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.
Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!