No Greater Joy…

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth”
the apostle John said.(3John 4)  He could have continued but didn’t: ‘and no greater anguish than when they stray from the truth.’ 

Being a person who sees the cup as half empty more often than half full, I gravitate to seeing the anguish end of the spectrum more often than the joy end.  So it was very sweet this week to have my own daughter poke her thoughts into my sphere via a text message pointing me to a couple of passages that I needed to be reminded of.

Mine was a week without a lot of down time; we were visiting the grandkids. My Bible reading and quiet times suffered consequently and I was fast heading to the default of feeling fearful and helpless about ones I love but cannot shield from their own choices and from the big bad world we all live in.  The kids were tucked in bed and I took a few minutes to reflect on where this tension I was feeling was coming from.  As is my habit, I was journaling about it.  I got to the end of the page with no answers, just questions, and a prayer: “Lord, change my heart. Show me how You live with kids in process—and still at peace.”

For me journaling helps to unearth what’s bothering me so that it doesn’t just simmer below the surface building up pressure.  But its best product is in helping me bring what is troubling me to the Lord and the Word.  This night was no exception.  Earlier in the day, Rachel had texted me pointing to a couple passages she’d been reading and was very excited about.  I was in the middle of playing “Grandmom” and hadn’t had a chance to look the verses up.  Now they came back to mind.  And turning to the familiar  Isaiah 53 I found the answer to my question.  How does God live with kids in process?  How does He have peace in the midst of a sinful world?  “…he poured out his soul to death…he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.”  (Is.53:12)  It was as if God had been waiting all day to answer my question, and He had sent the answer via my own daughter.

I asked her to write down her thoughts for me after we had talked on the phone and I’ve invited her to share them with you here:

“ It’s like one person wrote the Bible,” my Bible professor used to say, “and had one thing to say.” –Kelly Doherty, Torchbearers school.

Isaiah 53 is a passage we all know is talking about how Jesus went to the cross and died for us. We can almost quote it from memory. Crazy thing is, it was written years and years before it actually happened. Imagine someone reading that before. We can clearly see it happened; we understand it was talking about the crucifixion. I was reading through Isaiah and you know how you peek ahead in your Bible to see what’s coming? Well I did, and I thought I knew; I already had read that passage. Nothing new here, I thought. But I was wrong. It’s kinda cool how new things pop out of the page when you read the passage again. Go ahead read it for yourself.

Verse 11 and 12 really stood out to me.  Ready for it?
“As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied.
By his knowledge the Righteous one, My Servant, will justify the many,
As he will bear their iniquities.” (Is.53:11 NASB)

Than, holding your finger in Isaiah 53, hop over to the New Testament to Romans 5:18:
“So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.” (NASB)

Than, go back to reading Isaiah 53:12–
Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors. (Is.53:12NASB)

This is where it gets really exciting…

If you flip over to Hebrews 12:2 and read it you could say your jaw pops open. It’s like that verse wraps up Isaiah 53’s passage:
“… fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb.12:2NASB)
Wow.  And because He intercedes for us, we can draw near to Him at the throne of grace. (Heb.4:16) Know what that means? We can bring any care, any worry, any problem to Jesus because he intercedes for us. He cares for us so much he even died for us. When is the last time you did that for your friend?

And what I find really cool with the Bible–it’s like one person wrote the Bible. It’s like the Bible fits together perfectly with verses that match so well you shake your head in disbelief. It’s like you don’t even need a commentary to read the Bible. The Bible is the best commentary on the Bible. It is really like one person wrote the Bible. But…you say, a lot of people wrote the Bible, not just one. But God inspired it. He just used men to write what he wanted them to write.

I went to Bible school last year at a Torchbearer school. There are many teachers that I remember; I can almost hear their voices now. There was one outstanding voice I hear even to this day, in his British accent, a guest speaker. “ There is a man in heaven!” he’d shout, giving you a heart attack if you weren’t listening already,  “Who intercedes for us.”

Amen!

–Rachel

Rachel

Well, that’s my Rachel.  Actually, that’s God’s Rachel.  And not only am I encouraged at the reminder that the most important intercession of all has already been done for me and for mine, but I am encouraged to see my own progeny following hard after truth and coupling it with faith in the One who ever lives to intercede for us.

When my gaze falls short of Him I begin to think it’s up to me to do something to control outcomes.  I begin to feel desperate, panicky, fearful and faithless, as though if something is to be, it’s up to me to bring it about.  I may indeed have a calling.  For instance, I too am called to intercede.  But this must flow from a God-confidence borne of the reality that it is God, not I, that is accomplishing the work of redemption.  He is in the process of bringing many sons to glory.  He will complete that work. Meanwhile He calls me to believe and so to walk, trusting and obeying, faithful to His calling and leaving the rest with Him.

I needed the reminder this week. Thank-you, Rachel, and thanks be to God.  He is indeed faithful to those He has called to be His own.

–LS

BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; AND IF HE SHRINKS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM.  But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. Heb.10:38,39 NASB

Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted. Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession;  He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house. Heb.2:17,18; 3:1-2 NASB

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.  Brethren, pray for us. I Thess.5:23-25 NASB]

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Rachel Love is my youngest child. I’ve written about her here before.  She’s cut from a different mold than I. She’s adventurous and positive, not easily discouraged or held back by ‘what if’s. She’s continually coming up with ideas that bounce right past my more practical objections.  She lives with confidence that God will direct her steps as she takes them.  And so she is currently spending the summer with her Grandma in the boonies of Alaska which has opened up for her the opportunity to do office work (something she’s always wanted to do!) at a local campground while she waits to see what doors God will open next for her. Her faith inspires me.

God wrote a book

I was quite taken with a short video clip by John Piper this week.
The intro reads:

“It is one of the saddest effects of the fall that over time the greatest wonders in the world become routine. The first day among the Alps we are speechless with wonder. By the end of the week, we’re playing video games. This reality is a great human tragedy.

So it is with the Bible. It is an immeasurable wonder that God has given us an inspired book containing the truth about himself and his ways and what he wills for our lives. If it had not been around for two thousand years, stocked in every bookstore, found in hotel drawers, courtrooms, mobile apps — if it arrived today, we would either write it off as a ludicrous myth, or we would bow down in worship and scarcely dare to touch it.”

Piper speaks in hopes of restoring our wonder in the Word of God.  And I ‘get’ what he’s saying because I distinctly remember my first sight of the Swiss Alps as a teenager on a school trip.  They were so achingly beautiful in the light of the setting sun that I wondered how anything ever again would seem beautiful in comparison.  That thought almost made me cry.  I remember it still.

The Word of God is like this—an incomparable revelation of God’s heart, God’s will, and the glory of God’s Son, all written down for us.  And yet, the wonder fades… Why is that?

That’s what I’ve been pondering this week.  Have a listen to John Piper’s thoughts here, then I will add my own.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOhkldCSs04

Some see a portrait…others a window with never ending beauty beyond.

God wrote a book—pages and pages of God—His thoughts, His heart…We see God Himself in this book.  We meet Him here or we don’t meet Him, not with any hope of friendship…

Our weak, tired, distracted eyes see a boring portrait on the wall, but it’s a window… it breaks through into the real world, the better world, the lasting world.  And through this window shines a divine light that changes everything!

Discipline and resolve can carry you only so far. We need something stronger.  There are too many traps and hurdles along the path. At the root  of the  reasons we don’t read the Bible is that we don’t want to read the Bible.

We see a wall, not a window, a boring portrait, not the never ending beauty beyond it.  So we leave it shut and we miss the miracle.

The God who said let light shine out of darkness loves to shine…

He wakens our dead bored souls.

He frees us from bondage to sin.

He satisfies us with Words, His words.

How else will I know Him. How else will I prepare myself to enjoy Him forever.  I’ll spend the rest of my life looking out of this window, waiting for another sight  of Him, another glimpse of my God  –John Piper

Piper’s words make me think about my own experience of the Word of God.  I have read it nearly all my life.  And mostly, I have loved it.  But not always.  Some days I get up early to read it, longing to hear God’s voice—to sense His Spirit speaking to mine in its pages–directing, reassuring, counseling… But many other mornings I don’t wrangle myself out of bed. I don’t rise to listen.  Why is that?  I think I’d rather sleep a little longer, (or lie there awake but cozy, as the case may be).  There is in me this lingering nagging doubt.  Maybe God won’t ‘show up’.  Maybe it will be a frustrating waste of time to open those pages and search in vain for a living word.  Maybe this morning the Word will be dry and empty, like chaff to my hungry soul.  And I’ll come away wishing I hadn’t wakened my hunger. Or maybe I’m not even hungry.  All seems well in my world.  I think I’ll do quite fine today without the manna.

I suppose there are lots of reasons we don’t read the Word with an insatiable appetite—reasons we see it as a severe-faced portrait on the wall rather than a window overlooking the Alps.  One thing that has helped to sustain my appetite for the Word through good times and low times is this.  Where once I came looking for a verse for me, a tidbit I could pluck right off the page to make me feel better about me, more and more I’m coming to Scripture looking for what God is saying about Himself, His own heart, His desires, His plans.  What does He want me to know?  Why did He include this passage in the collection of ‘all Scripture’ that is declared ‘profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…’ (II Tim.3:16) Asking this question has taken my attention off my need and turned it back to God’s heart.  He’s given this inspired Word for my benefit but it is not primarily about me.  It’s about Him.  And the more I look at it that way, the more I see, and the more I want to come back to know Him better.

Suppose we were to come to the Word to see God, to know Him as He really is, not as we have imagined Him to be? What if we were to come full of wonder, to marvel, to fear, to bow, to adore this God who is so unlike us and yet has stooped to make us in His image so that we can walk with Him and hear His voice in the cool of the day?

Suppose I could refrain from trying to make every passage fit my immediate need—like  a TUMS for the soul, some quick-fix to take away the discomfort of life in a disordered world?  Suppose instead I would keep coming back to this book as God’s remedy for the underlying cancer that’s causing all the pain in the world as we know it.  There may be no quick fix, but there is hope here, an eternal  hope that resets my fixation with the present.

Here lies God’s unfolding story of reaching down to the likes of us.  In the beginning, here is God creating.  In the end, He’s banishing evil and wiping away our every tear.  And in the middle God manages the messes man makes as He brings His Kingdom reign to earth.  God’s word gives me a window into all of this.

Do I come to the Word as an old portrait on a wall I’ve passed a thousand times or as a window framing the never-ending beauty of a God who makes Himself known to me in its pages?

–LS

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.  Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.”

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,  so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Is.55:1-3,9-11 ESV

My Testimony—the conclusion for now…

Here I sit all these miles from where I began–closer to the West coast than the East, a ‘landed immigrant’ in a country I knew nothing about growing up, a wife to a humble man of great faith, a mother of six (one gone ahead to glory), a grandmother to four, a friend to a smattering of persons all across both countries, and still a homebody.

In many ways I was the least likely of my friends to head off into the horizon, leaving our tight knit community of faith for a bigger world. We thought we had a corner on church and holiness and ‘missionary work’. Why leave?  But my mom had a subscription to this little magazine called “The Overcomer” from Prairie Bible Institute in Alberta, Canada. And she was the dreamer, not I.

I suppose she was a bit of a schemer too. For she noted that Prairie also had a boarding highschool. Recognizing this as an opportunity for me to grow beyond the confines of my cloistered life, she got ahold of an application and sent it to me while I was away on a summer missions trip in Alaska. [That trip in itself was testimony to God’s quiet but powerful moving on a willing heart. He gave me the ‘want to’ in response to a testimony I read and He paved the way!]

Anyway, my mother sent me this application to Prairie Highchool, told me to pray about it, and left the decision with me.

Wow. I remember sitting down with that paper, in the wilds of Alaska, overlooking a beautiful still lake that mirrored the surrounding mountains… thinking, and praying. Summer was almost over and we teens were eager to trade pup-tent living for home. I had never been away from home for so long. Now this. If the school accepted me I would have only a week or so at home before the school year started. And I had never even seen the school! But I was willing…

Well, my story has been one of the Lord working in my heart to make me willing to do things beyond what my personality would suggest as feasible, and then going before me to make them possible. On the drive back to the mission base in Florida at summer’s end (Yes, we drove in an old school bus all the way from Florida to Alaska that summer!), our bus broke down in Alberta, at none other than Prairie Bible Institute. One of our leaders was a student there and made arrangements for our team to be housed on campus while the repairs were made. I ended up not only seeing the school, but meeting the principle and handing in my application in person. Within weeks I would be back, on my own, to join the Grade 12 class.

This is not a biographical sketch so I will spare you all the details of how I adjusted to that big change. I include this account because for me it illustrates the way God has directed my heart and my steps all down through the years. He knows the good works He has prepared for me to walk in. And He knows the people and experiences He will use to refine and sanctify me. And at each juncture He first shapes my desires to fit His, and then fulfills them. That has been my experience. A host of life-changing events followed on the heels of my willingness to leave the familiar home of my childhood.

*Not only would I never return to live in NJ (other than a summer or two and some holidays) but my parents would make a major move and commit the rest of their lives to missions work, first in Florida, and then, in Alaska!

* During a stint in the infirmary that last year of highschool I would resolve to get into Bible translation with Wycliffe, but first to enroll in Bible School.

* God used even my inhibitions to direct my steps. I chickened out of signing up for a 4 year program because I couldn’t imagine writing an extensive thesis paper. Enrolling in the three-year Biblical Studies program meant I got plunked a year ahead of my age-mates, into the class of a certain red-headed, freckle-smattered fellow with deep brown eyes and an inquisitive nature. We ended up together in Greek class. Quiet little me among just a handful of girls in this male-dominated class couldn’t help but be seen. This was God’s doings.

*Since we were both going the same direction—into Bible translation work, we joined hands and went together. I had not dreamed of being a wife and mother; I thought myself content to be a single-woman missionary or perhaps a librarian. God had other plans. I needed this man’s God-confidence, his easy-going nature, and his love. And I needed the blessing of children to save me from self-absorption!

I could run on about the life we’ve shared, the places we’ve been, the things we’ve done and experienced, but the point of our story is not us! We could talk about ‘missions’ a little and about homeschooling, and about ‘serving God’, but in fact, all the while it has been God at work in us to do His good pleasure. Far more than anything we have thought we were accomplishing for Him has been what He has done for us in the process of these years of attempting to follow His leading. Over and over He has demonstrated His love for us, far more than we have shown ours for Him.

But a testimony is not meant to be about bygones. What is my testimony to God’s grace today? Do I know Him better today than I did a year ago? Do I love Him more wholly with heart, mind, soul and strength today? These are questions that challenge me lately at this strange in-between time in our lives–with family life and home behind us and uncertainty ahead. In the end it will not so much matter what we have accomplished with our lives but how we have loved.

This is really the essence of my testimony thus far: God so loved me… that He invested Himself in my life so that I might know Him and learn to love Him with all my heart and mind and soul and strength. What started with the sacrifice of His Son for me continues day by day with the offering of His Son’s life to live for me, in me and through me by His Spirit. And by that Spirit He whittles away to perfect the design He had in mind for me from before the foundation of the world–to look like His Son.

By that same Spirit God’s love is made known to this ego-centric heart of mine day by day and I am humbled, realizing I have nothing to offer Him that He has not first given me. I only love because He first loved me. I only begin to know Him because He has revealed Himself to me in the person of Jesus and in this Word I am privileged to read in my own language. In the end there’s nothing to boast of but what He has done.

God’s plans for me have been far bigger than any I would have dreamed up. And they will culminate in a glory yet to be seen! Thanks for joining me on the journey

–LS

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. Is.64:4 NIV

However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”– the things God has prepared for those who love him– 10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
I Cor.2:9,10 NIV

I have revealed and saved and proclaimed– I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “that I am God.” Is.43:12 NIV

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. II Cor.4:5 ESV

For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
II Tim.1:12 KJV

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. John 17:3
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FYI: More tidbits of my life story can be found under the  My Story tag here: