0 Thankful That He Hears And Answers

Just a psalm I was reading this morning. So thankful that he hears and answers! I love the imagery evoked by these words of David that shout to the ends of the earth the display of God’s glory and power. Truly the whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders O God!

You who answer prayer, to you all people will come. When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions. Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple. You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations. The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy. Psalm 65:2-8

0 Trust In Him At All Times

It is easy to trust in God in the good times when life is easy, but often difficult when trials or tragedy strikes. But it says to “trust in him at all times.” Let us pour out our hearts to him and find hope and strength in his sure foundation. Let us not be shaken when disaster strikes. Please continue to pray and lift up those devastated by this attack!

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:5-8 NIV

Please join me and pray for those in Boston who lost their lives or were injured by this senseless violence, and lift up their loved ones in prayer. We ask, God, that you would give them your peace which surpasses understanding even in the midst of this tragedy.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7

Weeping with those who weep. Praying that God will wrap his arms around them and be their Comforter.

You who are my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me.
Jeremiah 8:18 NIV

0 No Fishing Allowed

I was recently reading this passage in Micah 7, and was struck by the imagery of God hurling our sins into the deepest, dark depths of the sea.

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. —Micah 7:18-19

Have you ever seen the creatures that live at the extreme, dark depths of the ocean? Most of them are blind and fairly frightening to behold; definitely not something you would want to find at the end of your fishing line if you were to pull one up. I like this dual meaning to having our sins cast into the deep. Once there, they are not meant to be retrieved or pulled back up. Indeed it should be impossible to find them again down in the dark, where no light reaches, but if we were to somehow snag and retrieve them they would be ugly to behold—that is if they weren’t completely crushed to nothingness first by the extreme pressure and weight of the water at those depths!

With this in mind, I find it interesting that when we forgive others who have wronged us we often try to get away with only tossing the memory into the shallows at the very edge of shore. It’s like we want to be able to have them close at hand and easily accessible to fish them out whenever we want to revisit the hurt and feed the bitterness. But we are called to forgive just as God has forgiven us, to forget and remember their sins no more!

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. —Ephesians 4:31-32

I love this quote from Corrie ten Boom, who of all people had cause and perhaps according to the world’s standards the right to hold onto a grudge and harbor bitterness for her captors and tormentors.

When we confess our sins, God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever … Then God places a sign out there that says No Fishing Allowed! —Corrie ten Boom

This is the model we are to follow. We are to forgive and forget, cast the bitterness and anger into the deepest ocean and then obey the posted “No Fishing” signs!

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. —Colossians 3:12-13

I was inspired to start working on some song lyrics that speak of this “No Fishing Allowed” concept. Here are my initial thoughts that will perhaps change as the song is more fully formed.

If our forgiveness is no more
Than minnows in the shallows
Then we’ll be too quick to reel it in
When bitterness snaps its jaws closed
We’ll just reel it in
Instead of seven inches down,
Let seventy times seven fathoms drown
Our hurt, our anger, our sense of deep betrayal
Let the depths of the deep drag them down, down, down

No, there’s no fishing allowed
When we forgive those who’ve wronged us
Just like our Father forgives
We’re to leave it behind
Just forget about it
As far as East is from the West
That’s how far he has cast them away
All our iniquities sink into the depths of the deepest sea
The sign says, “No Fishing, Please!”

I find I take bitterness’ bait
Swallow hook line and sinker
When those ugly bottom feeders rise
I think to myself, “Look what’s for dinner”
But he has called us to release
Not to catch, release, then re-catch
Instead of angling for anger
Let’s let love for our neighbor be the day’s catch

Let’s let our bitterness sink
Into the depths of the deepest sea
Where the sign says, “No Fishing, Please!”

I for one am so thankful that God does not hold our sins in remembrance or pull them out and dust them off to remind us of our shame and guilt. No, instead he blots them out as if they never happened and remembers them no more!

I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more. —Isaiah 43:25

He does not hold on to his anger or nurse a grudge, nor does he repay us according to what we deserve. Instead he sent his only Son to die in our place and pay the penalty for our sins, so that he could look at us and truly see us as spotless and blameless in his sight—for he sees the perfect white Lamb of his Son when he looks at those of us who are buried and hidden in Christ!

Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. —Psalm 103:2-5, 8-12

It’s not just a good idea to forgive others in this manner, but it is something that we are called to do.

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. —Matthew 6:14-15

And yet, even in light of these verses, we so often like Peter try to hem and haw or bargain with the Lord. What if I forgive them seven whole times? That is surely a great amount and I should be crowned a saint for my long-suffering and patience, right? I’ve already forgiven them so many times, and yet they still continue to hurt and wrong me. When is enough enough? Jesus reply is that we are to forgive again, even when it seems an innumerable number of wrongs have been stacked against us!

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. —Matthew 18:21-22

May this be a gentle reminder to all of us the next time bitterness comes knocking and we are tempted to cast our line into the shallows to reel it back out again. First we need to throw it out into deeper waters, and then we need to obey the posted limit—zero, No Fishing Allowed!

Scriptures to look up:

0 Hope

I’m not talking about the kind of “hope” people normally mean when they say, “I hope it won’t rain today,” or “I hope I can find the perfect {job/wife/husband/car} (insert want/need/desire here).” That isn’t really hope at all! Those statements are already laced with doubt and in some cases cynicism that the thing “hoped” for won’t really happen at all.

The hope I am speaking of is not some wishy-washy soap bubble, ready to pop at the slightest disturbance. It is a strong assurance—the absolute expectation of coming good. In the original greek used elpiß or “elpis” means “a strong, joyful and confident expectation.” It is such a sure thing you could stake your life on it!

And indeed we have! For we have fled the sinking ship of the failed promises of this world to take hold of the firm hope of salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross once and for all.

Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged.Hebrews 6:17-18

Let me be clear. We should replace the word “hope” in that sentence with our established definition from above. We need to take hold of the firm assurance, the absolute expectation, of our salvation in Him.

He is our rock, our secure foothold and foundation; the anchor for our souls that keeps us from being tossed by the waves of life’s stormy seas. Let the winds and waves do their worst we are anchored by a hidden line below the turbulent waters to the solid Rock of Christ!

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. —Hebrews 6:19-20

He is our unshakeable Bedrock who holds us steadfast and provides us a calm perseverance, a peace if you will, in the midst of the wild tumult. But do not lose heart and pull up the anchor too soon, lest you be swept away by the surging sea.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

Ride out the storm, secured by your anchor in the unshifting Rock of our Savior. For His promises are true! When He said, “I will never leave or forsake you,” He meant it!

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” —Deuteronomy 31:8

He can speak to the storms and the waves must obey when He says, “Peace. Be still.” Since He is the Creator of the very fabric of the universe, even the concept of the atom and the molecule, the elements have no choice but to obey Him! Why do we so quickly lose our faith in the sign of strong winds and when the waves are crashing down around us? It is then that we should all the more cling to Jesus as our source of strength, and look to Him to bring peace in the midst of the stormy seas of life.

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Mark 4:39-41

Any storm or trial you are going through He has already experienced, so He can fully sympathize and come alongside us in those moments. There is no longer a veil between us, but we are able to come boldly before the throne of grace to seek mercy and find help in our time of need!

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. —Hebrews 4:14-16

So be still, and have hope!

Scriptures to look up:

0 Simpler

Disclaimer: So… this is perhaps a slightly off-kilter late night rambling about life, love, hope, faith and salvation. It may land a bit far of the bizarre line for some, but perhaps others will dig deeper and hear the truth and heart where it was coming from. Comments and feedback are welcome.

My friend once asked if life on earth could be simpler.

But that would make it far too easy and then we would lose any whiff of the smallest trace particle of motivation that we are barely a smidgen of the thickness of a bee’s wings away from losing already! Challenge is what drives us to do better, to reach farther, to dare to love, hope, dream & succeed. Take that away, and what’s the point?

Then all that is left is desolation, depression, and a severe vitamin D deficiency brought on by endless days of darkness without a ray of hope or light. It is that striving toward the light, to bask in it’s warmth, to run the race and attain the prize that makes us get back up and dust off our knees after we’ve tripped headlong attempting a hurdle that was chin high on a giraffe.

None of us can truly make it through some of these trials we face alone that can make Unobtainium look as obtainable and easy to reach as those last twenty pounds we think we need to lose before others, including ourselves, will accept us as having worth and value. So why do we kick and scream like a child who would rather run out into rush hour traffic on the 580 hoping to be hit by a car than face the truth that we need to go to the Dentist and get the rotting cavity-filled tooth of our sin pulled?

Sure it might hurt a little to have the tooth pulled, to die to our old selves and bury those previous impulses that we are still so ready and tempted to pick back up again that we need to up shovel and mound the dirt high daily. But we are not alone and fortunately do not have to make it on our own steam; which frankly is so weak and pathetic that it makes lukewarm tea look powerful enough to drive a train across country.

And that is the Good News with a capital G. N. that we aren’t alone, that we don’t have to make it on our own or somehow foot the bill for that crazy visit to the Dentist that we could never possibly pay in 4 lifetimes! He’s already paid the bill for us and now we have life insurance that stretches beyond death into eternity!

I for one am glad that there is nothing that I have to do to qualify for this amazing life insurance policy since there is truly nothing that I can do of my own strength, effort, good deeds or striving to somehow be good enough to measure up to the standard of holiness and perfection that would be required if I had to apply on my own without a co-signer who already meets and exceeds the criteria and has chosen for some reason to graciously offer surety in my stead!

All I have to do is humble my stupid pride that is wound tightly around my neck like a noose, admit that I am desperately in need of a benefactor, and accept the free gift that has been offered. So why do we still dig in our heels and cling to the last tuft and blade of grass at the lip of the cliff before plummeting to our deaths rather than take the hand that is reaching down to save us?

It couldn’t be any simpler; there are no 36 pages of forms in triplicate that we need to sign and have notarized; no magic words, foolish wand waving or silly incantations; no other lender we could choose which would cancel the debt and offer surety in our place. All that we have to do is acknowledge our debt which is piled high like some proverbial pink elephant in the room; allow him to co-sign for us and take over responsibility for it, and then shout aloud that we are free indeed.

Frankly, I can’t see how life on earth could get any simpler.