Faithful Landmarks to stay the course of truth


In unfamiliar territory winds and waves may veer a small boat off course. Without nautical charts to mark the rocks the little boat may ground on a hidden rock, punch a hole in its hull, and founder…Even if it escapes these perils, without a chart to indicate the pertinent landmarks it may miss its destination altogether. ‘Never sail in unknown waters without your charts’ is a rule of thumb for mariners. The ocean is a place of changing weather, strong currents and fluctuating tides. Rocks far underwater at high tide may be just below the surface at low tide. Watch the charts. You may not see the rocks. Know the landmarks.

I wonder if we believers in any age aren’t like boats on a voyage. Each generation has its unfamiliar territory, changing tides of faddish teaching and practice, currents of teaching that create unseen undercurrents, hidden perils, nasty rocks lying in wait for an oblivious sailor at ease…Winds and waves happen in culture. Tides rise and fall. Fads and movements come and go. How do we keep from being blown or carried off course?

We have the Chart. Rocks are marked. Beware—the world, the flesh, the devil. Beware false teachers. Beware the leaven of Pharisees. Beware…But what of the landmarks? What landmarks might we chart our course by? Where are those non-negotiable unchanging points of land or clanging bell-buoys to keep us off the reefs and on due course?

I’ve been pondering landmarks of our faith–sure things to measure a teaching, a ministry, a set of beliefs by, to ensure we aren’t being “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Eph.4:14)

The first, perhaps obvious measure of any landmark is whether it’s on the Chart at all! Does what I’m seeing line up with the Word of God? Every since Sinai (Ex.20:19), God’s people have been prone to want to hear from God through a man. How often have His people been misled by trusting the word of a man and not consulting the Chart itself? God’s Word is written to speak to the common man. His Spirit indwells the believer to enlighten his mind as he studies (I Jn.2:27) We can know God’s will, His voice, His intended course for our lives. His purposes are unchanging. His Word has not grown obsolete. Any word given more credence than this inerrant written Word is bound to steer us off course.

A rule of thumb for me in evaluating any ministry is what value it places on the Bible.
If a ‘new revelation’, experience or interpretation trumps what’s written or claims greater significance, I am suspect.
If the Word of God is handled piecemeal or taught in a leapfrog fashion, hopping over problem verses and passages, I’m wary.
Pastors, teachers and prophets are gifts to the Body of course, but are not infallible. How do we measure their ministries? By the Chart! There’s no substitute for being good ‘Bereans’ (Acts 17:11) and distinguishing the true from the counterfeit. Rule 1 of the High Seas. Learn to read and trust the Chart for yourself. Many perils will thus be avoided.

Have you ever studied a nautical chart?


Whew! There’s an awful lot of information there. Distances, points, bell buoys, rocks, sandy bottoms—I guess I should confess that when it comes to nautical charts I’m almost illiterate. But I have had a few lessons. I can spot the rocks. I recognize the sand spits…I look when Jim points out channels and points of land and shows me how they appear on the chart. This is challenging—identifying how the chart relates to the real thing. I once found myself in a little motor boat with just ‘the girls’, making our way out of a rock-strewn inlet. None of us could read the miniature chart we had along. Only I could actually see it–not yet needing reading glasses. That was stressful! I can testify, it is best to learn to read the Chart and be able to rectify the actual landmarks with those on the chart.

So yes, landmarks. I’ve been pondering what are the landmarks that I use to keep my little vessel off the rocks?

Landmark #1 The Cross—is it center front? Does it matter anymore now that the rescue has been made? Or is it an offensive doctrine best swept under the carpet and replaced with sweet smelling rose petals. The doctrine of the ‘substitutionary atonement’ of Christ on our behalf is taking a beating these days. Sin is not that serious. God not that ‘cruel’ they say. He is love…But the Cross declares His holiness in tandem with His love. It is a landmark we can safely chart our course by.

Landmark#2 The Saviour—is He made much of as both fully God and fully man? Or is He actually sidelined as the One who makes me great? Whose esteem is made much of: mine or Christ’s? I elaborated on this already last post, so will not repeat myself here except to point you to a book (review) you may have missed that is well worth the read and available online besides! Christ Esteem is the book. I’ve posted a review and sampling of quotes here. [Click link to access]

Landmark#3 The Second Coming—is it a ‘blessed hope’. It may seem spiritual to insist that one is more concerned with saving souls or bringing the kingdom to earth or in some other way serving God now, and therefore not concerned with His coming, but for me this is a red flag. All through the history of the church beginning with His ascension, the coming again of Jesus has been held out as our ‘blessed hope'(Titus 2:13). John says this hope is in fact a purifying hope: We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (I Jn.3:3) We are called strangers in exile here. This world is not our true home. We are not to love it or the things in it but to follow the example of the Hebrews 11 crowd of witnesses who lived in hope of a ‘better country, a heavenly one’ (Heb.11:13-16) Any movement or teacher that loses this hope has lost their way.

Landmark#4 Moral Purity—is the teacher/leader above reproach? This would seem to be a ‘no-brainer’ but oddly (or perhaps not so oddly) where teaching is unsound, very often moral laxity slips in. It may not be apparent on the surface. It may not even be present at first—but it’s not unusual to find persons claiming to be speaking for God who have abandoned their own marriages in the process. This should be a clanging ‘bell-bouy’ that the shoals are near. Do not trust this teacher, no matter how ‘spiritual’ they seem.

Landmark#5 Fear of God—Is God revered as the Almighty Sovereign before whom man cannot stand in his physical state and live? Or is a sloppy ‘intimacy’ with God boasted of and encouraged. Is God spoken of flippantly and casually as though he were a chatty chum, or with deep reverence? An authentically spiritual man or ministry will be characterized by the fear of God.

Landmark #6 Their testimony—Is it about Jesus, conviction of sin, repentance, and a new life in Christ? Or something else? Listen carefully. I have heard ‘testimonies’ that were more about advertising one’s authority to speak in God’s name, based on a bizarre encounter, than they were about genuine heart transformation. Nor does an emotional experience equal salvation. A testimony of God’s gracious salvation will exude humble gratitude and recognition of having been wrong. It will promote Jesus not self.

Landmark#7 Gratitude—Is this the theme echoing behind all their other teaching? A genuine minister of the Gospel will never have gotten over the marvel that God stooped down so low to bring him/her to Himself. This is a landmark requiring maintenance in my own life lest it deteriorate with the fading memory of what Christ has done. And on this Thanksgiving evening what better note to close on.

“Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe.” Heb.12:28


Thank YOU for considering my ponderings. I hope you will feel free to ammend this list of ‘landmarks’ with your own comments on ones that you’ve discovered along the way. We are after all in this boat together!

When “Who I Am” is overrated!


We ladies all stood there reading aloud together things we know to be true; the Bible says so…”I am God’s child…I am a friend of Jesus, I have been justified…I am free from condemnation, I am assured that God works for my good in all circumstances, I am a branch of Jesus Christ, the true vine, and a channel of His life…I am God’s temple, I am God’s workmanship….”

All we said was true. Why then my misgivings? The list was long, grouped under headings of “I am accepted”, “I am secure”, and “I am significant”. Ah yes, my ultimate set of needs according to secular theorists. Having these needs fully met is said to be necessary for self-actualization, critical to reaching my self’s full potential.

Seems that God knew what I needed. As His child I am all these things. So, what’s the problem? Why my uneasiness? I couldn’t put my finger on it right away. Apparently others haven’t either. Consider the logical extension of these Biblical “I am’s”, and I quote:

“I am amazing!”

I am God’s greatest creation.

He loves me to death.

I was born to do greater works than Jesus.

I was born for glory.

Nations are attracted to me ’cause I’m so good looking.

I have the mind of Christ: I think like God.

He’s my inheritance. I’m His inheritance,

And He actually likes me.

I like me too, and if you got to know me you would like me too.

Creation knows who I am.

The devil knows who I am.

God knows who I am.

Angels know who I am.

Today, I know who I am.



I kid you not. This is a verbatim script recited responsively with great enthusiasm by a large gathering of earnest students.* They are being trained to recognize who they are so they can go out and release all of Creation from the curse and take dominion of the earth. They are being taught they are little gods and therefore they should be asking: “Where’s my power?!”

This is ‘self-esteem on steroids’, as Jim puts it.

If ever there has been a self-actualized generation, ours should be it! We have no want of teaching on who we really are…(or do we? Have we missed something?) Now if we can just get this self-talk into our psyches till we really believe it. Just think what we might accomplish?!


Is focusing on ourselves really what we need?

This same teacher* had more to say:

“When you act like God you’re being yourself” he explained, not realizing the full implications of what he had said. Wasn’t this the original sin– wanting to be like God!

“The only reason you have a bad thought in your head is because you have [there is] a Devil who wanted to be what you became,” he explains, complete with a mocking depiction of those who contest that we are actually ‘sinners saved by grace.’

The Devil wanted to be like God, he explains. God said, “No way”, stripped him of power and made him watch while billions of people were made what he wanted to be– the image of God. [This is messing with my head, and my Bible, what about yours? Have I really gotten what Satan wanted–God-hood?!]


It seems so right… God has glorified you. You rock! You have only to recognize who you really are to exercise the dominion you’ve been given. This is the natural (humanistic) extension of the focus on Who I Am (in Christ).

And the kids lap it up like so much sweet antifreeze…

But somehow the ‘IN CHRIST’ part of the equation gets lost in the flattery. Everything seems to come from Scripture, right? kinda? This message did have a text—Daniel 7, with the key verse: “And the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom.”

And there was a great collection of ‘Kingdom of God’ Scriptures fired off like so much ammo culminating in this heady conclusion: The time is here and now. You rock!

But where did Jesus go? I thought the whole point of life, the universe and everything was the ‘summing up of all things in Christ’ and ‘the praise of His glory’. Eph.1:10-12

How did we get to this place of being so amazing anyway? Used to be we were content to be ‘sinners saved by grace’?  I was preparing this morning to play piano at the local old folks’ home. As I leafed through the old hymns I marveled at how far we’ve come…

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me…” [oops that slipped by the ‘self-esteem police!]

Beneath the Cross of Jesus: “two wonders I confess: the wonders of redeeming love, and my unworthiness.”

When I survey the Wondrous Cross: “Forbid it Lord, that I should boast, save in the death of Christ, my God; All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.”

“Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness my beauty are, my glorious dress. Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed, with joy shall I lift up my head”

“Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus—By it I have been pardoned. Saved to the uttermost.”

Oh sweet relief. I do not have to work myself into a fever-pitch of egotistical affirmations. When my eyes are on the One who really is amazing, worship is the only fitting response. When I take my rightful position, one of gratitude and awe at this Wonderful Saviour, this Coming King…self takes its rightful place–as catalyst for praising my Redeemer, not something to gratify, build up, and make much of.

Could it be that in shifting our focus in the here and now to ‘Who I Am’ we have set ourselves up to fall for Lucifer’s temptation? His own beauty went to his head. Considering it intrinsically his he declared: “I will make myself like the Most High.” Is.14:14

This was raw pride, the same substance that lurks in our hearts the instant we think we are or have some good thing originating in ourselves. Original sin is as good as it gets! Eve demonstrated the nature of our hearts when she opted to do her own will rather than God’s (Gen.3). This is who we are when left to our own devices. Of course this is why we needed a Redeemer. But is that need all in the past? Can we afford ever to forget “[our] purification from [our] former sins” (II Pet.1:9).

Is it really inappropriate for redeemed saints to speak of themselves as sinners? Do we not still daily need this Redeemer?

Yes, there is the objection that we are new creations in Christ. We are declared ‘holy ones’. And of course this is true. We do indeed stand freed from condemnation. And we are seated in the heavenlies too! Yet, here these bodies are living in earth’s gravity. And sinning. We are prideful. We continuously consider our selves to be of greatest importance, far more than we recognize I suspect.

As long as we inhabit these natural bodies we will know the nakedness of self-consciousness where we were intended only to know God-consciousness. For good reason our Redeemer ever lives to make intercession for us (Heb.7:25). For good reason we are called to ‘die daily’–to put to death the self-will that dogs our every waking moment
(I Cor.15:31; Rom.8:13).

Who I am in Christ is an incredible marvel. The list is worth reading regularly, but only as a backdrop to Who Jesus is. We will be on a surer footing to major here—on Christ-esteem.** Otherwise we are apt to mistake “Who I am in Christ” for my claim to fame, and to forget from whence we’ve come. To confuse my identity in Christ with my intrinsic nature is to fall for a subtle lie. And from that lie stems all manner of horrible, self-exalting, God effacing nonsense. I am… I am… I am… And forgetting all self-restraint we are soon feeding the flesh instead of putting it to death!

Do we think God’s Kingdom and ours can co-exist? It’s no use declaring who I am in Christ until I’ve filled my mind and bowed my heart to Who Christ Is. And when I’m occupied with that, who I am becomes a non-issue. I simply don’t need to talk about it. I am accepted, secure and significant in Him and the rest of my story is all to His credit. He is amazing and not only does he ‘rock’ but He is the ROCK of my salvation!

His Kingdom will come and He will be the uncontested glory of it. We will be forever the grateful creatures enthralled with Who He is, oblivious to how glorious we have been made, intent on worshiping the Lamb that is worthy because He was slain to redeem us to God. We will be free at last from self-interest, free to reflect His glory fully; this will be our ultimate fulfillment.

When we are tempted to ponder who we are we might do well to consider God’s response to Moses when he asked “Who am I…” in the face of a daunting assignment. God made no attempt to affirm poor inept Moses. Instead He diverted His attention to His own identity as the great I AM. This was in fact what Moses needed most to know. God would go with Him and that was enough. Ex.3:12-14


“And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
I Cor.1:30,31

” His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence… be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; …for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” II Pet.1:3,10-11

When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you… Col.3:4,5


*Kris Vallotton, “Your Identity as Sons of God” audio, Jan.27,2011.

**If you’ve ever grappled with how Biblical the concept of self-esteem is, you will be keenly interested in the book: Christ-Esteem: Where the Search for Self-Esteem Ends by Don Matzat (Harvest House, 1990). Now out of print, the unabridged text is available online in easily-readable pdf format. It’s perceptive and challenging, well worth reading.  I’ve tucked in a book review and some favorite quotes at my book review site.

I Love this Word!

It’s like fresh bread, dropped from heaven for our sustenance and delight.

It’s like a hammer, that breaks the rocks of resistance in our lives to pieces, if we let it. (Or we can throw away the hammer. Re-think it. Re-word it. Re-move its hardness…to our own loss.)Jer.23:29

It is like a sword, a fine-tuned sharp sword, slicing through our delusions, pointing out our motives, opening our abscesses for cleaning out. Heb.4:12

It is like a fire that burns away the lies we have believed and leaves us purified, pure gold and untarnished silver. Jer.23:29

It is a light in dark places, a beaming torchlight making our way plain, showing up the tripping hazards, allowing us to walk in this world without falling Ps.119:105, II Pet.1:19

It is like water, cleansing, refreshing, reviving for the marathon that is this lifetime. Eph.5:26

I love this Word. I love that I have God’s very Words in my own language, in a variety of versions, at my fingertips.

I love its trustworthiness, its unchangeableness, its absolute authority and sufficiency for the life I’m called to live.

There will be cleverly devised myths. There will be false words that try to slip in to exploit the hearers. II Pet.2:1 But this Word is a sure measure of truth. It is my God-given, infallible guide.

It is profitable for teaching, for reproving, for correcting, for training, for perfectly equipping me (and you) for every good thing He calls us to.
II Tim.3:16,17

We can tickle our ears with other things, tantalize our appetites with half-truths, look for meaning in dreams and omens and wordless pictures, hang on man-made words delivered with authority, thinking them all more significant than mere words on a page in an ‘old-fashioned’ book that surely needs upgrading to our ‘postmodern’ times…

But “what has straw in common with wheat?” Jer.23:28

We can sift through the text for words that bring only comfort and shake them free of context and appropriate them for ourselves willy-nilly. For instance, “I know the plans I have for you…” What graduate has not received a card with these words imprinted on it? “…plans to give you a future and a hope…” God had plans alright. Seventy years of captivity were first up. This reassurance was given to God’s people as they headed off to Babylon! Jer. 29:11 I suppose there is a principle here based in God’s character but…

Interesting that we don’t likewise grab other verses in Jeremiah: “I am devising a plan against you…” I have set my face against [you] for harm and not for good” (21:10) We are clearly selective!

But for all the misuse, abuse, and faulty exegesis, God’s Word stands sure and eternal—a clear revelation of a God who wants to be known, a clear statement of His love and invitation to relationship, and of the mess we are in without Him! Without this Word we would be adrift to figure out how best to live. We would be hopelessly sabotaged by our own inability to find our own way out of the woods of what seems right… But we have this Word, this true and timeless Word, a custom-fit for the likes of us.

For this I am thankful.


“Your words were found and I did eat them and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.” Jer.15:16

“And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” II Pet.1:19

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” II Tim.2:15

Unchanging Words to Live by

lil“It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.
And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew.”

It happens. Life gets dark. Storms come. Jesus is nowhere in sight. We strain at the oars to make headway alone. When yikes!– Is that a ghost? Our worst fears get the better of us and HELP!!! Panic ensues. And then the voice: “Don’t be afraid. It’s me.” WHEW! And gladly we let Jesus into our boat and suddenly we’ve reached our destination. What was the big deal? [Click here to read John 6]

One moment we’re exhausted, haunted by imagined ghosts and about to die. The next we’re safely in harbor, the wind either abated or not an issue… The difference? Jesus in the boat.

“Without me, you can do nothing” He says. (Jn.15:5-7)  Funny, how much energy we can expend doing nothing!!!  But when we abide in Him and let His words abide in us—when we let Him in for the boat ride–it’s amazing what will be accomplished just for the asking.  Peter admonished his readers as they were undergoing persecution to be self-controlled for the sake of their prayers because the end was at hand. I Pet.4:7

In a similar passage Jesus warns his followers of tumultuous events that will come upon the earth and says they should “watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.” In the midst of “people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world” and “in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves”, we are to be those who walk with confidence, recognizing that “our redemption is drawing nigh!” Lk.21:25-34 How is this possible? Only because we have His words. We know the rest of the story. Heaven and earth will pass away, but not His words…

I listened with sympathy this week to a young guy candidly rationalizing the acceptability of his lifestyle choices. He has chosen to forego ‘old school’ moral standards. He’s got the map upside down and is heading a direction he doesn’t expect. Things are pretty backwards, but in a world of other people doing the same sorts of things, he figures it will all work out. He can’t see through this fog of relativism. His grandparents wouldn’t approve. His girlfriend’s parents either. But this is a new generation. It’s all good… And I thought, no. I sympathize with the way things ‘seem’ to be, but it’s a sham. I’ll stick with the ‘old school’ any day if that means the tried and true Word of God. When did God get old anyway? He’s not a Grandpa! He is forever timeless. His standards don’t flex with our changing times and that’s a good thing, not a bondage. His Word is a lifeline! And I’m praying for this young starry-eyed couple. They’re entering a storm unawares. I’m holding out the hope that they will cry out in the storm and find that Jesus is close by.

Way back when, people were offended at Jesus’ words too. He claimed to be better than the sweet manna that had fed their forebears. He claimed to offer eternal wellbeing, true nourishment. They scoffed and thought Him sacrilegious and impertinent to make such claims.  They only followed for today’s loaves and fishes… Many turned back from following Him. This was too much.

But His hand-picked disciples, what did they say? “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!” (Jn.6:68)

This is the one whose words we most need to hear in the storm surges of life. When all is dark, when the rules to live by seem to have changed and we’re unsure what to do, when we can’t see past the rising waves… we can invite Him into the boat and listen to His reassuring, eternally true words—these words of spirit and life that transcend all craziness of place and time. Operating on any other basis is a useless expenditure of energy at best, and a recipe for destruction at worst. Only the Spirit of God, breathing through the Word of God gives the life and peace that we so need. (Jn.6:63)

And I’m passing on this story of Jesus climbing into the boat, to a new generation. With a three-year old attention span my grandson listened this morning, all cuddled up on Grandmom’s bed, imagining as best he could what it would be like to be in a boat at sea in a storm… and the difference it could make to invite Jesus into the boat. He knows little of storms, or boats, or oceans, or life!  But one day I pray this story will hold him in good stead. With Jesus in the boat, we can weather anything.


“For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Jn.6:33


Loose ends. The term comes from the old days of sailing ships and their multitudinous rigging ropes. Each end had to be tightly bound to prevent it unraveling. I’m a little like a rigging rope; I unravel easily.

Give me predictability, a plan, a steady routine and I hum along through days and weeks and months. Make a sudden move and I jump (ask Jim how many times I’ve squealed when he’s come up silently behind me in the kitchen in the quiet of a pre-breakfast morning.) Ask me to make an unexpected move on short notice and I am overwhelmed at all the minor details required to transition smoothly. And smoothly is the ideal, right?

Loose ends proliferate in my mind. What will unravel if I don’t attend to it? I hate lose ends. The unexpected makes me uneasy. I haven’t had a chance to prepare for it. I prefer that everything be tickety-boo, (Don’t know this expression? Danny Kay will help. Have a listen here! ) (with perhaps a blue-bird on my shoulder too?)  But Life doesn’t seem to come in such a tidy package.

My mother-in-law (the greatest cheerleader a wife could hope for) is dying. These many miles away we ‘watch’ and wonder how long and are poised to travel. Death always seems so unexpected even though it’s one thing in life that is assured.

For that matter, life itself is a series of loose ends. Growing up is that—for both child and parent. What will the future hold? Parenting is not an occupation with a tidy job description. Just do this and that and results are guaranteed. Child 4 of 5 is moving out next week. Did we see it coming? Well, yes. Was I expecting it? Well, yes. But am I ready? No. Shouldn’t there be a ceremony of some sort? Should it be a celebration or a teary-eyed farewell? Both, I think. But it will pass without fanfare. We may not even be here to wave…

Whether it’s a tiff or a task, a birth or a death, or all the growing up in between, I long for the peace of resolution, completion and closure. The uncertainty of the unknown plagues me like a canker sore at holiday time. Makes me edgy and, well, at a loss to know what to do next—’at loose ends’ you might say! Leaves me not knowing what to do with expectations. Do I postpone hope or nourish it at risk of disappointment?

Unanswered prayer is another loose end I’ve been staring in the face this week. Praying without fainting on the one hand, and on the other, resting in faith that my prayers have been heard (even when I can’t see the end results!) I don’t find this an easy balance. But I’m pretty sure that redoubling my efforts, fueled by doubt as to whether I’ve been heard, is not the solution. There is no peace here. One could argue from the case of the persistent widow petitioning the unjust judge, but my petitions sometimes seem more like the odious sound of a dripping faucet, the likeness of a quarreling wife never pacified, (Prov.27:15) nagging reminder that her will has not yet been done.

Must I have all the answers before I can rest? Must I know ‘the rest of the story’ before I will trust? Life is too long a process to be lived in this suspended animation of holding my breath till I can see all the outcomes. Or of living beneath guilt, that I am to blame for hopes gone awry, and therefore must do something, or at least pray harder?!

As a related aside, I read this helpful word from John Piper this week in response to a mother who was feeling the guilt of her child’s suicide:

“If you spend your time trying to figure out whether you should be feeling guilty, you’ll always come up with an ambiguity. Just relax and feel guilty, and then deal with it the only way that you’ll be able to deal with it at the judgment day, because I promise you at the judgment day you’ll feel guilty….And if you don’t have a solution for that issue now, you may not then. So let’s just relax. We’re guilty as charged. And now I repent.”
[eds:John Piper, Justin Taylor,Stand: A Call for the Endurance of the Saints, Crossway Books, 2008,p.138]

But this whole pressure of wanting loose ends resolved and prayers dramatically answered (now), has come to a head this week. I have been wrestling for assurances instead of resting in the ones already given. Fixation with present loose-ends distorts my perception of God’s overarching purposes and unremitting vigilance to fulfill them.

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might;

(from Immortal, Invisible God only Wise—Walter Smith, 1876)

I’ve had to step back, repent, and ask for fresh faith to see His ways as I ought. If I insist on loose ends all being properly tied up before I am at peace… well I am not going to know much rest. It is not to the one who has no loose ends in view that God promises rest, but to the one who knows who is in charge of all those frizzled ends!

They have not known my ways, they will not enter my rest… He said.

We are in fact the flock in His pasture, the sheep of His hand. (Ps.95:7,10-11) The desert walk was a long trudge for the children of Israel. It got hot. Sometimes hunger and thirst set in. The end in sight for the parent generation was death! But for their children, the promised land. For both parents and children the directive was to follow the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night and learn to trust God to care for all the loose ends, all the details in between. He longed for them to know His ways and experience His rest.

I have to come back to this story and specifically this Psalm 95 again and again, and I pray often David’s prayer: Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Ps.25:4,5 This was, incidentally, the verse inscribed on a prominent plaque in my mother-in-law’s home. I read it many times. It continues to be my own prayer…

And He hears, and answers. What have I seen this week of His ways?

  • Firstly He asks that I hold on to faith. The righteous must live by it. There’s no alternative. We do not and will not see the whole story God is orchestrating until this life’s chapter is closed. Habakkuk’s testimony beckons me to do the same. In the face of impending disaster—the enemy invading, he writes (and I paraphrase):

I will stand at my watchpost and look out to see what God will saythere is an appointed time—it comes—if it seems slow, wait for it. In the meantime, “The righteous shall live by his faith.” Don’t count on idols. “The Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him.” (Hab.2:1-4; 18-20) There’s no way around the necessity of faith. We do not need a ‘sign’ of His presence and provision. We need to count on it, come what may.

  • Another reminder. This life may seem to be a riot of loose ends but the things that matter most are forever secured. Jesus finished His mission (Jn.19:30) My sin debt has been cancelled. I am somehow declared forgiven and therefore perfect, while yet in the process of having my loose ends bound up… “because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” Heb.10:14 What a paradox.

He invites me to revel in this place of grace, to firmly take my stand by faith that I am His, as is, by grace alone. Not because I scrambled to tie up the loose ends of my unrighteousness into an acceptable offering, but because of His mercy.

  • Lastly, there is this: He found me before I knew to seek Him. He shows Himself to those who have not asked. Ultimately, ‘it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” (Rom.9:16) And that is the other ‘way of God’ I’ve been reminded of this week—His sovereignty. Have you read Romans 10 and 11 lately? Here is the marvel of the Gentiles being grafted into the family tree of Israel, being brought into fellowship with God. In the meantime God’s own people, the Jews’ are hardened against their Saviour and Messiah. But only for a time. It’s part of a bigger plan of redemption that reaches to you and me.

God’s purposes run far beyond the circumstances we behold on any given month or year! They are eternal. We are the clay and He is the potter. It’s not our place to question why one heart is hardened–one pot designed for ‘dishonorable use’, while another is fashioned for honorable use. He works in everything to show the riches of His glory’, not ours. Everything is from Him, through Him and to Him. No loose ends excluded! Every strand will be woven for His eternal glory. (Rom.11:36)

In these things I only scratch the surface of God’s ways. Ultimately they are so far above ours as to be inscrutable, past finding out! (Rom.11:33) Mercifully, we are given glimpses, and this assurance–He is the alpha and omega (the beginning and the end). And in between? We are asked to present the loose ends of our lives to Him for His use, as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable though frayed around the edges! (Rom.12:1-2)

Knowing I am in His hands for His purposes I can take a deep breath (and let it out!) and pack, and travel unexpectedly, and parent and pray and walk in a frazzled world, by faith that in every ‘loose end’ He is at work.

The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.Hos.14:9


Be encouraged with me as you consider these verses that point to the great end of all loose ends—

The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. (I Pet.4:7)

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. (Heb.3:13,14)

He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. (I Cor.1:8,9)

Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. (James 5:7,8)

Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. (I Cor 15:24)

His kingdom will have no end. (Luke 1:33)

And I hope you won’t think it irreverent or impertinent if I tack on this carefree song from my childhood—Zip-a-dee-doo-day, Zip-a-dee-ay—there’s plenty of sunshine heading our way!! It’s the truth; it’s actual. Everything is ‘satisfactual’ after all!


“I will meditate on your precepts, and fix my eyes on your ways…” Ps.119:15