When others don’t do their part

When others don't do their partYears ago, it dawned on me that when Ephesians 6:1-3 and Colossians 3:20-21 teach that children should obey and honor their parents, it doesn’t add any qualifiers. Those passages, as well as the ten commandments in Exodus 20, don’t say “Obey your parents if they are Christians” or “if they are perfect” or “if anything.”

Some time later, I noticed that these passages mentioned responsibilities on both sides of relationships.

  • Wives submit to husbands as unto the Lord (Ephesians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:18); Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25; Colossians 3:19).
  • Children, obey and honor your parents (Ephesians 6:1-2; Colossians 3:20); Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21).
  • Servants, obey as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart (Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22-25); Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him (Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1). (I wrote about slavery in the Bible here. Generally we apply these verses to employee/employer relationships these days.)

Beyond these, the Bible speaks of relationships between people and rulers. When Paul in Romans 13:1-6 and Peter in 1 Peter 2:13-17 spoke of obeying and even honoring rulers, do you know who their ruler was? Nero, one of the worst rulers ever.

Then, most of the epistles speak to how we’re supposed to act towards our fellow church members.

Now, as an aside, we know from other passages of Scripture that we obey authorities unless they ask us to do something sinful. Then we have the right to refuse. And this passage does not give parents or spouses or anyone else the right to be abusive. If you’re suffering from abuse, please let a trusted teacher, doctor, neighbor, or someone know.

But for the purposes of this post, we’re just talking about everyday normal interactions.

In all of these pairs of relationships, it’s easier for one side to do their part if the other person is doing theirs. It’s generally easier for a wife to submit to a husband who loves her like Christ loves the church. It’s easier for a husband to love a wife who isn’t always at cross purposes with him. It’s easier to parent cooperative, obedient children; It’s easier to obey parents who are loving and nurturing. And so on.

But the Bible doesn’t say to do your part only if the other person does his.

It just says to do your part as unto the Lord.

That doesn’t mean we can’t discuss what’s wrong in a relationship. That’s healthy to do, even to call in help when needed.

But sometimes the grace shown by doing our part even when the other person doesn’t can lead to conviction, restoration, and encouragement.

We’re not only to love and do good to our friends and closest loved ones. Jesus said we’re to love, pray for, and do good even to our enemies.

God exemplifies this for us. In most of His relationships with His people, they fail. There are a very few people in Scripture against whom no sin is recorded. That doesn’t mean they never sinned, because we’re all sinners, except for Jesus. It just means their wrong-doing wasn’t pertinent to the narrative about them. It may mean they sinned less than others. But the point is this: there is no fault, no failing, on God’s side. We fail Him often. But He doesn’t stand apart, arms folded, rescinding His promises because we didn’t keep ours. He pursues us in love, drawing us to Himself, leading us in His goodness to repentance. Jesus died for us when we were His ungodly enemies. He didn’t wait for us to clean up our act first. He knew that was impossible. Yes, God disciplines and chastens, but in love. He’s always faithful to His own.

And, by His grace, He calls us to be faithful to Him and to the others we have relationships with.

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (1 Peter 2:21-25, NKJV).

It’s natural to want to strike back or withhold love or respect or obedience when the other person fails to hold up their end. Doing so only widens the chasm. And as Christians, we’re not called to react naturally, but supernaturally—something we can only do with God’s help. We seek His grace do the right thing. “Do not be overcome by evil,” or failure or disappointment, “but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection (Colossians 3:12-14, NKJV).

Romans 12:21, overcome evil with good

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Psalm 91 and COVID-19

Does Psalm 91 protect from COVID-19?When COVID-19 first broke out, a lot of Christians posted verses from Psalm 91 on their social media accounts. Several verses sound like God will protect people who believe in Him from pestilence:

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
    nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you (Psalm 91:3-7).

A friend said in an email recently that some psalms seemed to provide blanket protection, yet she didn’t think that’s what was meant. Therefore, she was having trouble knowing quite how to apply them.

Psalm 91 is one of those passages for me, so as I responded to my friend, I looked up commentary on it. One interpretation said we may have to face these trials, but we don’t have to fear them. That conclusion was based on verse 5: “You will not fear the terror of the night, . . . ” the arrow, the pestilence, etc. Another spiritualized it: we may have to face physical trials but we’re safe spiritually. The ESV Study Bible notes said on these verses:

Pestilence (Psalm 91:3, 6) and destruction are diseases that God sends on his enemies or his unfaithful people (cf. Ex. 5:3; 9:15; Lev. 26:25; Deut. 32:42, “plagues”). The terror and arrow, together with a thousand may fall, envision God’s people under attack. If the psalm were describing every situation of danger, it would clearly be untrue: faithful people have fallen prey to these and other perils. It is better to allow Psalm 91:8 to guide the interpretation [“You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.“], pointing to cases in which these events (plague, battle) are sent as God’s recompense on the wicked (whether Gentile or Israelite); in such cases, the faithful can be sure of God’s protection (ESV Study Bible, p. 1054).

As much of a stickler as I am for context, somehow I had missed the importance of verse 8. And though I’ve read these comments before, I didn’t remember them.

So this psalm isn’t blanket protection: it’s not saying that God’s people will never suffer from disease or attack. But if God is sending disease or an invading army as a punishment or judgment, those who “dwell in the shelter of the Most High,” who “abide in the shadow of the Almighty,” and who trust in the Lord as their “refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust” (Psalm 91:1-2) will be safe.

However, not all plagues and diseases are sent as judgment on God’s enemies. Sometimes He allows His own to get deadly viruses, to suffer attacks. Hebrews 1 speaks of some who “were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:35-38). They were commended for their faith (verse 39) just as much as those who “conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight” (33-34).

A missionary in Colombia takes issue with the phrase, “The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.” He has amended that statement to say, “The most fulfilling, joyful, and peaceful place to be is in the center of God’s will. But it is not necessarily the safest.” After citing Scriptural examples, he says, “Most prayers in Scripture focus not on the personal safety and benefit of believers but on the power, majesty, testimony, and victory of God over his-and, of course, our-enemies.” He asks supporters to pray for their faithfulness.

If you’re like me, it’s unsettling to know that anything could happen to us. Does that mean we can’t trust in God’s protection?

We can. We can pray for it. We know that nothing that happens to us comes as a surprise to Him. We know He loves us and He is good: in Him is “no darkness at all.

In Daniel 3, everyone was called to bow down to the king’s idol. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused, even in the face of the fiery furnace and the king’s threats. They stood firm, saying, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18). They were thrown into the furnace, and God manifested His presence to them, and to the king, in a marvelous way.

As Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

If God allows disease or trauma to come into our lives, He promises His presence:

I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him (Psalm 91:15).

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20b).

He promises His strength and help:

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. . .For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you. (Isaiah 41:10, 13).

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

He promises His love:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8:35, 37).

He promises His peace:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid (John 14:27).

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

He promises His purpose:

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:3-4).

 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:16-17).

We can rest in the hollow of His hand, knowing that nothing reaches us there but what He allows. He provides His grace to deal with anything that comes our way.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him (Nahum 1:7).

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety (Psalm 4:8).

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Philippians 4:13 is for losers, too

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens meTwo rival Christian school basketball teams get revved up for their annual match.

All day long they hear Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (KJV).

Someone quotes it at the pep rally. Both coaches share it in the locker room. Some players repeat it to themselves. Some write the reference on their person.

Both teams hit the court trusting God to help them win the game.

But one will have to lose.

Did Philippians 4:13 fail the losers somehow? Did they not have enough faith? Did God not hear their prayers?

Have you ever read Philippians 4:13 in context? Switching to the ESV now, here’s the rest of what Paul said:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Notice, Paul wasn’t just trusting God for grace in abundance and plenty. He also relied on God’s strength when brought low, in need, in hunger.

Hunger? Wait—doesn’t God know we need to eat? He made us to need food. Why would He let people hunger for a time?

Well, in one case He said:

And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3).

So He might let us suffer need or fail in an endeavor to humble us. Sometimes not getting what we want or need causes us to do some soul-searching. James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” Perhaps a victory would have done us more harm than good.

He might be bringing sin to our attention. Israel faced a stunning defeat at Ai, which they should have won easily, because there was “sin in the camp.”

He might be working to make us more dependent on Himself. Sadly, when things are going well, we tend to forget we need him. We lean on our own strength instead of His.

He might be trying to help us remember that everything we have comes from Him. In order to strengthen our faith, sometimes God has to put us in situations requiring faith.

He might be teaching us to lose graciously. To honor others. Not to envy someone else’s success—especially when we think we deserved that success.

He might be spurring us to work harder or better. Our salvation depends on God’s work in us and not our own efforts. And He miraculously delivers us out of some situations. But in others, He wants us to trust Him and put forth effort. Someone said, “God feeds the birds, but He doesn’t throw food in their nests.” We can’t ace the test without studying. We can’t lose weight without exercising and making wise food choices. We can’t grow in grace without spending time in God’s Word and obeying what it says. Paul said, “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:29).

He might be drawing us closer in our personal relationship with Himself, reminding us that that’s more important than whatever it is we’re hoping for.

He might be reminding us that His Word is not a talisman or good luck charm.

There are a number of reasons why God might say no to our prayer or expectation.

I’m thankful Paul that he learned contentment in any situation. That tells me that contentment doesn’t come naturally, that it can be learned, and that it is a process.

Yes, it’s good to rely on God for strength, to remember that without Him we can do nothing. When a situation doesn’t come out like we hoped, when we have legitimate unmet needs, we can go to our good Father in faith, ask Him what He wants to teach us through the situation, and rest in Him to provide in His good time.

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Flawed people in a cancel culture

flawed people in a cancel culture

I have not seen the musical Hamilton. But I watched a special on TV called Hamilton’s America, which interlaced how Lin Manuel Miranda became interested in Hamilton’s story, early American history, the road to writing and production, clips from the musical, and commentary from several actors and observers. It was a fascinating special, and I learned much that I hadn’t known about our history.

The musical is famous for is using an ethnically diverse cast. As Miranda said in one interview, he wanted to represent what America looks like today.

In one of the most moving parts of the documentary to me, Christopher Jackson, a black actor who portrayed George Washington, visited Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home. He sat in Mount Vernon’s slave quarters, pondering the disparity of such a great man owning people.

Several of the actors portraying founding fathers wrestled with the fact that these men did both great and terrible things The only conclusion they could come to was that people are are flawed. Appreciating their contributions didn’t mean endorsing everything they said or did.

It doesn’t take much searching to find that most historical figures were flawed. Even most Bible people were flawed. My favorite Bible character, David, was guilty of some of the most heinous sins.

In our fiction, we don’t like a hero or heroine who isn’t flawed because they aren’t realistic.

But somehow, in our modern day, we can’t seem to allow for the fact that people can have sides of themselves that we don’t like or agree with. In today’s “cancel culture,” if you make a single mistake in the public eye, you’re out. People have lost jobs and even been personally threatened when a simple reprimand or correction would have been effective.

Last week when I opened Twitter, I noticed a particular celebrity’s name trending. I don’t follow many celebrities, and am not even all that interested in this man. But I was curious, so I clicked on the hashtag of his name. A backlash had erupted over one of his tweets, which probably could have been worded better. One of those enraged by his comment wrote of “taking great delight in destroying his career.”

It’s horrifying that anyone would enjoy destroying someone’s career in the first place. But it’s even worse to do so while swept along by the mob without taking the time to clarify what was meant or give the benefit of the doubt.

The cancel culture offers no understanding, empathy, forgiveness, or redemption. Just instant judgment, mob rule, and destruction.

We need to hear first.

It’s true, sometimes we need to take a stand or call people. But “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13).

By contrast, James 1:19 says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”

People post links and commentaries fast and furiously online. We should give the benefit of the doubt and not assume. It’s always a good idea to fact-check, to wait to hear the whole story, before forming an opinion.

We need to be careful in judgment

Jesus said, “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:2). He went on to talk about the ridiculousness of trying to get a speck out of someone else’s eye when we have a log in ours. He also said that if we don’t forgive others, we won’t be forgiven.

Some things are obviously wrong. But if someone is on the opposite side of the political fence than we are, or has a different opinion on a major societal issue, the tendency these days is to write that person off completely. It’s all or nothing.

We need to react redemptively.

Maybe someone made an insensitive remark. Instead of trying to ruin their career or lives, wouldn’t it be better to tell them what was wrong with what they said and give them a chance to see the light?

In the passage mentioned above, Jesus did not say that everyone should just live with logs and specks in their eyes. “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). We’re supposed to help each other see clearly, after we see clearly ourselves. 

Our church has been reading through the major prophets in the Old Testament, and now we’re working our way through the minor prophets. Though God threatened judgment on His sinning people, His preference was that they repent and change their hearts and ways. Repentance would avert the judgment, as was the case with Nineveh in the book of Jonah. In the New Testament, chastening and discipline was not destructive but refining. If God gives undeserving people grace, shouldn’t we?

We need to accept each other as flawed.

We know that we are not perfect. We know that no one is perfect. So why do we have trouble accepting people who are not perfect? As the actors of Hamilton came to grips with, good people can do bad things. We all have our blind spots. That doesn’t make wrongdoing okay. But we have to recognize that most people aren’t all or nothing, politically or any other category.

Granted, there are some people with whom it’s impossible to live peaceably. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18). I have unfriended or hidden toxic people on social media because there is just no peace with them. But that was not after the first disagreement; it was after long years of interaction.

There are even times the Bible tells us to separate from someone else. Again, that’s not for every difference or infraction, and it’s with the ultimate hope for the person’s salvation. But most situations don’t need to go that far.

And we need to remember, if we cancel each other out because of our sins, flaws, and mistakes, there will be no one left.

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When the props are removed

Have you ever felt like the rug has been completely pulled out from under you? Or have the props you leaned on been pulled away? Are the things you always depended on just not there for you any more?

Those hard times of life contain some of the greatest potential for spiritual growth.

Here are some of my prop-removal times:

Family

When I was fifteen, my mother left my father and took us children to Houston. My parents’ marriage had been floundering for some time, so I knew something was bound to happen. But the family break-up was still a shock to my system.

We also moved from a very small town (less than 200 people) to a teeming metropolis of over a million. The culture shock hit me the worst when I went to register at the local high school. I left without registering.

To further complicate matters, these were the days before Internet and cell phones. We had moved during the summer. I had no way to make new friends and couldn’t afford land line long distance calls to my old ones.

So there I was in a new and vastly different city, a new family situation, facing a new school I did not want to go to. I felt alone and cast adrift.

Ours had not been a church-going family, but my parents had let me attend services with my aunt and grandfather or friends. I didn’t know a lot, but I knew I could go to God for help. I prayed.

God answered by leading us to a Christian school and laying it on someone’s heart to pay my tuition for two years. I started attending the church connected to the school and started reading my Bible at the pastor’s urging. I had prayed and asked the Lord to save me several times over the years, but this time I finally understood and believed. My life turned totally around.

Marriage

Fast-forward four years. God provided for me to go to a Christian college, where I met my husband. When we were first married, I still had one semester left and he had two. We went to school together and worked together. I guess I thought that blissful togetherness would continue!

But I graduated, he went back to school, and we had separate jobs. I spent a lot of time at home alone. Then he took a third shift job, and I was a basket case home alone at night. Then, after graduation, his jobs required traveling. With two different moves, while kids finished their school year, my husband worked in the town we were moving to during the week and came home on weekends. Before the last move, we lived like that a whole year.

I cried and wailed to the Lord. It’s not supposed to be like this. I didn’t get married to spend so much time alone.

It’s natural to want companionship and to depend on a spouse. But God wants us to know our ultimate source of companionship, provision, protection, and security come from Him. A few years ago I shared some of what I learned through this experience in Coping When a Husband Is Away, and that has been my most-viewed post several years in a row.

Health

I’d had some health issues, but most were fixed by surgery and/or medication. But when I was 38, one morning my left hand felt numb, like I had slept on it wrong. Within three hours, my left arm and both legs were numb, I couldn’t walk, and I was having trouble using the restroom. I thought I was having a stroke.

After eight days in the hospital and multitudes of tests, the diagnosis came back: transverse myelitis. A virus attacks the spine, and the body’s autoimmune system attacks the myelin sheath around the nerves as well as the virus. Symptoms vary depending on where the virus hits the spine. Some have mild numbness and tingling; on the other end of the spectrum, some are paralyzed and ventilator-dependent.

I was fortunate that my symptoms were somewhere in the middle. With physical therapy and much prayer, I progressed from a wheelchair to a walker to a cane, and finally to my own wobbly gait.

But the body I had always depended on was changed. Continuing numbness, weird nerve signals, balance and urinary issues plagued me the first few years. My neurologist told me whatever I didn’t gain back, I’d get used to. No way, I thought. I could never get used to this.

But I did. And in the meantime, I had to draw close to God in the midst of uncertainty and limitations. In the early days, it was hard to make plans because I never knew how I would be feeling. Any outing or exertion would set me back for a day or two. I often asked God for complete healing, pleading that I could serve Him so much better without the distractions and frustrations my body experienced.

But Elisabeth Elliot’s words about limitations helped me. “My limitations…become, in the sovereignty of God, gifts. For it is with the equipment that I have been given that I am to glorify God. It is this job, not that one, that He gave me.” Limitations didn’t hinder my ministry; they defined it.

I’ve always loved this poem, which I found in Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur by Frank Houghton:

Two glad services are ours,
Both the Master loves to bless.
First we serve with all our powers —
Then with all our feebleness.

Nothing else the soul uplifts
Save to serve Him night and day,
Serve Him when He gives His gifts —
Serve Him when He takes away.

C. A. Fox

Other health issues have sprung up over the last couple of decades, reinforcing my dependence on God day by day.

Pandemic

When this pandemic first started, I was shaken. We know much more about it now, and the recovery rate is high for most. But at first, I felt like I was taking my life in my hands any time I left the house. I’d seen shortages of bread and milk before a snow forecast, but nothing like store shelves completely empty of paper products. I was grateful for directives to stay home, but worried about the economy.

Our total way of life had been affected by an unknown invader.

I had to remind myself of lessons learned before: God is in control. He’s not taken by surprise. He has promised to take care of His children.

Our church has been reading through the Old Testament prophets. God often had to deal with His people’s trust in everything else but Him. Some objects of their trust were bad, like false gods and despicable religious practices. Some were not wrong in themselves, like other nations or their own wealth and military might; but those things could and did fail them. Some were even wonderful things, like the fact that they were God’s people, and they had the temple and the holy city. But they didn’t realize that they were trusting in everything except God Himself.

Family, a spouse, a healthy, capable body, and our normal routines are not sinful things: they are God’s good gifts. There’s nothing wrong with depending on them and enjoying them.

But sometimes, instead of seeing God worth through those “props,” we lean on them instead of Him. God weans us away from depending on anything instead of Him, because nothing else will satisfy or help in the long run, and because He alone is capable and worthy.

The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8

When our props are pulled away, we’re shaken for a bit til we remember the One who never fails. He may not answer prayer just the way we’d like, but we learn to trust His will. When we know God and rely on Him, we find Him abundantly faithful and capable. Then we come to know Him better and our faith grows even more.

Have you ever struggled with the loss of something you depended on and learned to lean more on God? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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(On a side note: The original graphic I had here showed feet with clouds underneath and a building off to the side. I wanted to convey the idea of free-falling, the way we sometimes feel when props are taken away. It didn’t occur to me until Facebook showed only a grey area in place of the picture that perhaps that image might have been disturbing to some. It was obviously photoshopped and edited by the person who originally made it (I found it in the WordSwag app). But it could have conveyed the idea of jumping off a building. We knew a family whose son committed suicide that way. I didn’t realize that connotation at first, and I apologize if that was a trigger or unsettling for anyone. Also, if the graphic you clicked on to get here had a different picture than the one above, this is why I decided to change it.)  

Why Doesn’t God Explain?

Why doesn't God explain?I promised myself that I would not be the kind of mom to say, “Because I said so.”

I believed in discipline and obedience. But I also believed in helping children understand what was requested of them. Understanding would make everyone happy and make life easier.

So I thought. Until I actually had children.

Have you ever tried to explain to a three-year-old why they can’t have dessert before dinner? Why they really do need a nap? Why they can’t stay at their friend’s or the playground for the rest of the day?

Children have an uncanny ability to find loopholes or come up with alternatives. They don’t have the frame of reference to understand why their parents won’t allow what seems perfectly reasonable.

No parent is infallible. We all learn that some of the things we insisted on really didn’t matter in the long run. But usually we do the best with what we know. And sometimes we have to play the authority card.

Sometimes we want to say, “My dear child. I’ve been around the block a few times. I know you. I know how life works. I have your best interests in mind, really. I know you don’t understand, but just trust me on this. It will make sense when you’re older.”

As Christians, our heavenly Father doesn’t always explain Himself. He doesn’t have to, of course. He is God.

Still, we often want to offer our own suggestions. Or we want to dig in our heels and wail until everything is explained to our understanding.

I think one reason God doesn’t always explain what He is doing because He wants us to trust Him. He tells us plenty in His Word. He gives us some reasons He allows and even ordains suffering. He’s given us multiple narratives that show how He worked behind the scenes to bring everything together to fulfill a promise or to deliver His people. The more we get to know Him, the more we realize He knows what He is doing, the more we can rest in His wisdom and love and care.

But I think sometimes He doesn’t explain because we wouldn’t get it if He did. His thoughts are as high above ours as the heavens are higher than the earth (Isaiah 55:8-9). “Man’s goings are of the Lord; how can a man then understand his own way?” (Proverbs 20:24, KJV). We don’t see the big picture. We don’t have His frame of reference. No matter how much He explained, we still wouldn’t understand some things.

John Piper has said, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.”

I’ve always felt a bit frustrated that nobody ever told Job what went on in the heavenlies that led to all his suffering. God didn’t explain, but He did manifest Himself. And that satisfied Job. His glimpse of God’s power, majesty, wisdom, and care was enough.

There are songs that say we’ll understand everything better in heaven. I don’t know if that’s actually the case. He is God, and we are not and never will be. Though we’ll understand much more then than we do now, we still won’t know and understand everything He does. But in heaven, we probably won’t care. We won’t see through a glass darkly any more. Our sin nature will have been left behind. Our faith will be turned to sight. We’ll behold the King in His beauty. We may not understand all there is to understand. But we’ll wonder why we ever questioned Him.

It’s not wrong to ask why. Many Biblical people did. A lot depends on whether we’re asking our of defiance, challenge, contempt, or pain and confusion. God might answer. He might not. We might not be able to understand His answer, anyway. But the better we know Him, the more we can trust Him.

Amy Carmichael wrote in Rose From Brier, a book to suffering people from her own experience of suffering:

What, then, is the answer? I do not know. I believe that it is one of the secret things of the Lord, which will not be opened to us till we see Him who endured the Cross, see the scars in His hands and feet and side, see Him, our Beloved, face to face. I believe that in that revelation of love, which is far past our understanding now, we shall “understand even as all along we have been understood.”

And till then? What does a child do whose mother or father allows something to be done which it cannot understand? There is only one way of peace. It is the child’s way. The loving child trusts.

I believe that we who know our God, and have proved Him good past telling, will find rest there. The faith of the child rests on the character it knows. So may ours, so shall ours. Our Father does not explain, nor does He assure us as we long to be assured… But we know our Father. We know His character. Somehow, somewhere, the wrong must be put right; how we do not know, only we know that, because He is what He is, anything else is inconceivable. For the word sent to the man whose soul was among lions and who was soon to be done to death, unsuccored, though the Lord of Daniel was so near, is fathomless: “And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me.”

There is only one place we can receive, not an answer to our questions, but peace — that place is Calvary. An hour at the foot of the Cross steadies the soul as nothing else can. “O Christ beloved, Thy Calvary stills all our questions.” Love that loves like that can be trusted about this.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

I love Ron Hamilton’s song, “Abba Father” (lyrics here). It tenderly ministered to me after transverse myelitis, especially the line, “Help me when I can’t see Your will is best for me.”

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How do you know if God is displeased with you?

How to know if God is displeased with youAs I skimmed through Twitter recently, I saw a tweet from someone I didn’t know who asked, “How do you know if God is displeased with you?”

I didn’t have time to read all 60+ responses, but I scrolled through several. I was astonished to see that no one appealed to the Bible or prayer.

One mentioned a sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach. Another cited a vague uneasiness. One said that everything going wrong in life was a sure sign of God’s displeasure. But those can all be caused by any number of things.

God uses our consciences to convict us sometimes, but conscience has to be trained. Some people have no conscience about cannibalism or genocide. Others’ consciences trouble them over every little thing.

So how do you know if God is displeased with you?

Ask Him. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24).

Read His Word. There He tells us what’s right and wrong. Of course, we have to be careful to read in context, consider who is saying what to whom, and interpret it with some common sense principles.

Paul says, “Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet” (Romans 7:7b). The Bible gives us the ten commandments (Exodus 20), a list of things God hates (Proverbs 6:16-19), lists of things to put off and put on (Ephesians 4:17-32), the difference between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26), as well as other instructions.

The Bible doesn’t just tell us what not to do: it also tells us what we should be doing. So we could also displease God by failing to do good in some area.

The more we read the Bible and grow in the Lord, the more we grow in our understanding. For instance, we might read early on that we shouldn’t steal. That seems pretty straightforward: don’t take anything that belongs to someone else. Then later we realize that if we goof off on the job, we’re stealing from our boss the work he has paid us for. Then even later we come across Ephesians 4:28: “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” We realize that not stealing isn’t an end in itself: we need to replace theft with honest work not only to provide for ourselves, but to help others.

Besides general right and wrong, the Bible shares some specific things that God is pleased with:

Faith. “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” Hebrews 11:6).

Fear (reverence): “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love” (Psalm 147:11).

Spiritual sacrifices: “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:15-16).

Obedience: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). Wait a minute—I just mentioned sacrifices were pleasing to God, and now I am saying they are not? The sacrifices in this verse were part of the OT system of worship. Too often people fell into religious ritual without their hearts being in it (we still do that, though our rituals are different). God was saying through Samuel that it doesn’t do any good to perform religious rites without obeying Him. That’s the height of hypocrisy.  But the spiritual sacrifices that please God, mentioned above in Hebrews, were ministry to others at cost to ourselves from a heart of love and worship of God.

Jesus: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5). “And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him” (John 8:29). Jesus is more than just an example, but God does want us to listen to Him and live like Him. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2).

One problem with trying to please God is that we can’t in our flesh.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:5-8).

That’s dire. What’s the remedy?

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you (Romans 8:9-11).

How does that happen? When we believe on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and turn from our sin and trusting in ourselves or anything else, Jesus and the Holy Spirit live within us. Jesus lived a perfect life of righteousness, which we could never do. He took our sins on Himself on the cross, so that when we repent and believe on Him, He puts His righteousness on our account.  We could never be good enough on our own to please God. Even if we could from this moment forward, we have a past of not pleasing God. The only way He can be completely pleased with us is through Christ.

We can be saved in a moment. But then it takes a lifetime to grow in grace and Christlikeness. One former pastor used to say that “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) meant not to work for salvation, but to work it out like a math problem: take all those lofty truths and principles and work them into your everyday life.

But we do stumble and fail. When we believe in Christ, God becomes our Father.

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14).

Over and over in the Bible, God is described as longsuffering, slow to anger, merciful, ready to forgive, ready to help. If our heart is with Him and our desire is to walk with Him and do His will, we don’t need to walk around with a vague feeling of spiritual uneasiness. As a loving Father, He will show us right from wrong, forgive us when we fail, and enable us to live for Him.

But some walk in blatant disregard of the Bible yet think God is well-pleased with them. Or they think they know who God is and what the Bible says, but they’re misinformed. We shouldn’t be presumptuous. How we need to read His Word, come to Him with a humble spirit, and seek His grace to live for Him.

Early in my Christian walk, I probably had more of that vague uneasiness that something was wrong spiritually. A former pastor used to say that when we come to God and ask Him to search our hearts, then we wait and deal with whatever He brings to mind. He likened it to opening a box, dealing with what’s there, opening another box, until there are no more boxes—nothing else that God brings to mind. I still do that sometimes. But now, after 45 years of reading His Word and walking with Him, usually conviction is immediate. Often, right after I do or think something wrong, God will remind me of what His Word says about what I just did or thought. Then I try to immediately ask His forgiveness. But it’s still good to ask Him to search our hearts in case we’re overlooking something.

Sometimes it takes a while to sort through whether we’re feeling false guilt over a man-made principle that goes beyond the Bible. But the more we read His Word and walk with Him, the more familiar we’ll be with what pleases and displeases Him.

 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen (Hebrews 13:20-21).

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Come, let us return to the Lord

IMG_2191?ver2God pictures His relationship to His wayward people in the prophet Hosea’s relationship to his adulterous wife, Gomer. Gomer didn’t just drift away, nor was she seduced unaware. Chapter 2:5-7 says she pursued other lovers. She had children by men other than her husband. She thought they would give her “my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink” (2:5).

However, God declared, “she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal” (2:8). She not only didn’t acknowledge God, didn’t even thank Him for His gifts, but she used His gifts to worship a false god.

Later God likened Israel as a child whom He loved and taught to walk, yet “they did not know that I healed them” (11:3).

The Bible says God “richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” (1 Timothy 6:17). “He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything…In him we live and move and have our being” Acts 17:24-28).

God gives us everything we have, even our very breath. Do we acknowledge Him? Thank Him? Or use His gifts in wrong pursuits?

Warren Wiersbe says, “The essence of idolatry is enjoying the gifts but not honoring the Giver” (Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship).

Romans tells us:

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened (Romans 1:20-21).

The chapter goes on to say that since people persisted in living without acknowledging God,

  • “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity” (1:24).
  • “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions” (1:26).
  • “Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (1:28).

Wiersbe says, “One of the greatest judgments God can inflict on any people is to let them have their own way.”

Fortunately, God doesn’t give people up easily. Further in the Acts passage that we looked at earlier, Paul says God  “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27).

Back in Hosea, God disciplines His people and then shares these “I will” promises:

  • I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her” (2:14).
  • I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope” (2:15).
  • For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more” (2:17).
  • I will make for them a covenant on that day” (2:18a)
  • I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety” (2:18b).
  • I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord” (2:19-20).
  • I will answer” (2:21).
  • I will sow her for myself in the land” (2:22).
  • I will have mercy” (2:23).

God draws us with “cords of kindness, with the bands of love” (Hosea 11:4). He seeks out the lost sheep.

From Wiersbe’s book one more time:

The key word is return (Hos. 3: 5), a word that’s used twenty-two times in Hosea’s prophecy. When Israel repents and returns to the Lord, then the Lord will return to bless Israel (2:7–8). God has returned to His place and left Israel to herself (5:15) until she seeks Him and says, “Come, and let us return to the Lord” (6:1 NKJV).

Sometimes the return we need to make is a simple confession of loss of focus, lack of acknowledgement, thankfulness, or love. Sometimes it’s a full-blown 180-degree change of direction.

That’s the essence of repentance: turning from our way to God’s way (for more on repentance, see here). That happens at salvation, but it also needs to happen throughout our Christian walk. As we learn more of His will and Word, we continually adjust ourselves to them as we walk with Him.

May we return to His gracious love quickly and wholeheartedly.

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Help for the Fainthearted

Help for the fainthearted, encouragement to endureThere are at least 25 fillers for the saying “____________ is not for the faint of heart.”

Add pandemics and quarantine to the list.

By this time, most of us are tired of it all. The concerns about whether we or our loved ones will get COVID-19, others in public not taking precautions, what the best next steps should be, finding supplies, canceled plans, not being able to go places or see loved ones or friends in person—it all takes a toll.

In Warren Weirsbe’s commentary on Galatians, Be Free, I was especially taken with a section about not “fainting” based on Galatians 6:9. That led me to do a mini word study on “faint” and “fainting.” What I found encouraged me, so I thought I’d share it with you.*

Here are some things that might might help that weary, exhausted, tired out—faint— feeling.

Nourishment. We feel faint physically when we don’t get enough food or the right kinds of food. We’re faint spiritually when we don’t feed our souls. We need spiritual nourishment to stand strong.

Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress…he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. Psalm 107:5-6, 9

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4

I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food. Job 23:12

Companionship. We often face trouble better with support. But it’s hard when we’re alone or even when we just feel alone. Though God often graciously gives human companionship, there are times in life when we find His presence is all we need.

When my spirit faints within me, you know my way! In the path where I walk they have hidden a trap for me. Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul. I cry to you, O Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Psalm 142:3-5

Remembering God’s past dealings. Many of David’s psalms were written when someone was after him. There’s nothing like an active enemy to make you feel drained and weary. We can feel the same way with this virus. When it first began, I felt like I was taking my life in my hands every time I went out.

For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead. Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled. Psalm 143:3-4

David’s response:

I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.

Answer me quickly, O Lord! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit. Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord! I have fled to you for refuge. Psalm 143:5-9

Confession and repentance. Any number of illnesses can make us feel weak and faint. In Isaiah, God likened his sinful, rebellious people to someone with a fatal illness.

They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged. Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil. Isaiah 1:4a-6

The remedy:

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel,  you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. Isaiah 1:16-20

Right motives*

People in Malachi’s time tried to cut corners on God’s requirements (Malachi 1:6-14) and called it all a weariness (v. 13). The church in Ephesus was commended by God for their work, their doctrinal stand, their endurance (Revelation 2:1-7). But, God said:

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Revelation 2:4-5

All through the Bible we’re called to love God with our heart soul, mind, and strength, to love Him above all else. When that love seems to wane, we should “go back to our first love”: remind ourselves “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He has shown His love for us by saving us, drawing us to Himself, providing for us, answering prayer. He declares His love for us over and over.

The Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love;    therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Jeremiah 31:3

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-6

Let His love for us rekindle our love for Him.

The Thessalonians had the right combination with their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

Persistent, humble prayer

And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint. Luke 18:1 (ESV says “lose heart”).

Then Jesus told a parable about a widow who kept coming to an unjust judge to plead her case until the judge finally helped her. God is just and gracious: how much more will He answers His children’s prayers?

Then Jesus told a parable about a Pharisee who prayed boastfully, trusting in his good works, and a tax collector who had none:

 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. Luke 18:9-14

Centuries earlier, Jonah said in repentance:

When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. Jonah 2:7

Hope

We get discouraged when we look at circumstances. But we can look ahead in hope:

I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord. Psalm 27:14-15, KJV

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Galatians 6:9

Inward renewal

Paul says:

For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory 2 Corinthians 4:16-17, KJV

How is our inward self renewed?

Looking to Jesus

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. Hebrews 12:1-3

The more we behold His glory, the more we’re changed to be like Him:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Waiting upon the Lord

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:28-31

May these truths renew your spirit today.

_____

*The definition for one Greek word translated “faint” is “To weaken, relax, exhaust; to have one’s strength relaxed, to be enfeebled through exhaustion, to grow weak, grow weary, be tired out; to despond, become faint hearted.” Other Greek and Hebrew words I looked up that the KJV or ESV translate as “faint” say similar things. Sometimes those words are translated “weary,” “longing,” or “give up.”

*Thanks to Wiersbe for the thought about weariness that stems from lack of love (p. 147 in the Kindle version of Be Free.

* Verses not labeled are from the ESV.

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Songs About Christ’s Death for Us

IMG_2157?ver2One of the best ways to mediate on what this time of year means is by listening (and maybe singing along to!) Scripturally-based songs about the cross.

The song, “See the Destined Day Arise came up on my phone a few weeks ago, and I made a note to share it around Easter. The day Christ died on the cross was the day destined from before the foundation of the world.

This hymn was originally written by Venantius Fortunatus in 569 and was paraphrased or translated by Richard Mant in 1837. The original lyrics are here. In the past few years it has been reworded a bit and a chorus added by Matt Merker.

See the destined day arise! See a willing sacrifice!
Jesus, to redeem our loss, hangs upon the shameful cross;
Jesus, who but You could bear wrath so great and justice fair?
Every pang and bitter throe, finishing your life of woe?

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Lamb of God for sinners slain!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Jesus Christ, we praise your name!

Who but Christ had dared to drain, steeped in gall, the cup of pain,
And with tender body bear thorns, and nails, and piercing spear?
Slain for us, the water flowed, mingled from your side with blood;
Sign to all attesting eyes of the finished sacrifice.

Holy Jesus, grant us grace in that sacrifice to place
All our trust for life renewed, pardoned sin, and promised good.
Grant us grace to sing your praise, ‘round your throne through endless days,
Ever with the sons of light: “Blessing, honor, glory, might!”

Another favorite about His sacrifice is “It Was For Me” by Dave Bolling (words here).

“What Wondrous Love Is This,” author unknown, words here.

“Face the Cross” by Herb Fromach, words here.

“The Power of the Cross” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, words here.

There are old and new versions of “Beneath the Cross of Jesus.” The first one was written in 1868 by Eliz­a­beth C. Cle­phane (words and background here. A few more stanzas than are normally sung today.)

The second was written more recently by Keith and Kristyn Getty, titled just “Beneath the Cross” (words here).

“Mercy Tree” by Krissy Nordhoff and Michael Neale, words here.

Of course, once you start thinking of songs about the cross, too many come to mind to name: “The Old Rugged Cross,” “Jesus Paid It All,” “At Calvary,” “Calvary Covers It All,” “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” and so many more.

On Sunday I’ll share favorite songs about the resurrection.

What are some of your favorite songs about the death of Christ for us?

(Sharing with Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire)