Perfect Peace

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock—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.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of [our] faith…Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.

Is. 26:3-4 ESV; Prov.3:5-6 ESV; Phil.4:6-7 NASB; Ps.19:14 ESV; Heb 12:1-2 NKJV; Ps.119:133 ESV


By the time this is posted I will be arriving, Lord willing, at my parents’ home in Alaska to help Mom take care of much business and make hard decisions and look forward in faith to what lies ahead for her…Much prayer and planning (and not a little anxiety) have gone into this trip already, but now our feet are on the ground and the  walking out in faith of all  God has in mind for my sister and I remains to be done.  The above verses are both steadying truths and the prayers of my heart.  May they be a strong support to you in whatever place these words find you today.

–Linda

The practice of waiting…

A raven alights in the tallest pine outside my window to survey the snowy landscape.  This descendant of Noah’s raven reminds me that the people of God have had long practice in waiting.  My wait for spring to banish winter’s white is nothing compared to what Noah’s wife must have felt cooped up in God’s zoo itching to put her feet on solid ground and start planting flowers!

But I’m waiting for other things, less transient than spring’s blush.  I’m waiting for my Dad’s release from the prison his body has become.  I’m waiting for solutions to Mom’s lonely predicament of watching and wondering whatever she will do when he is gone…I’m waiting to see what God will do in a myriad of situations, in a world that grows increasingly hostile to our greatest hopes.  And in the waiting I am stepping forward to offer myself for God’s purposes, asking and trusting that my steps will be ordered aright.  Ultimately only Jesus can banish sin and death, and birth the faith and life we long to see.  Ultimately it is His Kingdom’s coming we await.

Even so, Come, Lord Jesus…

In the meantime we have the cycle of seasons in which to practice this waiting.

I heard a robin calling for a mate the other evening as we walked slowly back to the van following a cross-country ski workout on tracks now creaking beneath our weight with the thawing temperatures that erode their base.

A flutter of chickadees gossiped in the bushes outside the church door on Sunday.

And a four-some of dandelions was spotted beside the church building, meriting an announcement to the congregation lest anyone should miss the sight.

Yes, there are signs of spring’s coming. The wait will not be forever.  Even so, there will be an end to our other seasons of waiting.  Sickness, sadness and hopelessness will not have the final word.  Sin will give way to salvation, death to resurrection. In the meantime faith is our lifeline.

Peter’s second letter was written from the vantage point of one who knew his life on earth was nearly over (II Pet.1:14) He wrote to  encourage his fellow believers to hang on to their hope–that Jesus would come again and that it would be worth the wait!  He warned them not to get caught up in the arrogant lifestyles of those who rejected Christ’s Lordship to follow their own passions.   And he encouraged them to pay no attention to scoffers who taunted “Where is the promise of His coming?”  while claiming despite the evidence that “Everything has remained the same since the world was first created.” (II Pet.3:4)  Instead of preparing for judgment they pretended it had never come and would not come again.

Peter assured the believers:

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!

But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.  Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.  And count the patience of our Lord as salvation… II Pet.3:10-15 ESV

This brings a jolt of perspective to all my little waits, and braces me to keep the big picture in view.  It is faith that God is looking for, a God-confidence that doesn’t lose sight of His Kingdom in the nitty-gritty of life as we know it.

For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. Heb.10:36-39 NKJV

 

Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. I Jn.2:28 NASB

 

…will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? “I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” Lk.18:7-8 NASB

 

And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? “Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.” Lk.12:42-43 NASB

And so I pray:

“Keep steady my steps according to your promise,  and let no iniquity get dominion over me.”

Ps.119:133 ESV

–LS

Lead me to the Rock

I don’t know about you, but my life seems to be a cyclical learning of lessons that keep coming around to be re-learned.  The uprooting of unbelief and learning to rely on all God has shown Himself to be, is for me a continuing lesson.  Different aspects of this unbelief show their face as I age but the answer is the same–Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved!  Not only in an ultimate eternal sense, but in the day-to-day of needing to be saved from my sin nature and to reflect His awesomeness as my good Shepherd.  So I have returned to this post first composed four years ago.  I still need its truth.


 

I was reading this morning the account of the Israelites finding themselves thirsty and miserable in the desert of Zin (hmm… could have been the Wilderness of Sin?)…wishing they were dead, blaming Moses for their plight, looking back to Egypt as if it had been Eden. “Why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place?”  No grain, no figs, no vines, no pomegranates, AND no water to drink.

Did they think to ask for water?

“Ye have not, because ye ask not.” James 4:2

It seems so obvious when I read their story.  All they had to do was ask.  God had brought them here. He would take care of them.  He was orchestrating the paths of their lives to give them opportunity to see His power at work on their behalf.  Avoiding the desert wasn’t the point. Knowing God in the desert was.  He wanted them to know Him, to trust Him, to see His goodness and to love Him.

Instead they complained about their ‘misfortunes’, they blamed Moses’ leadership, and they entertained thoughts of returning to bondage!  All these reactions were characteristic of their underlying problem: They failed to trust God.  Their hearts were hard toward the One who had promised to be all they would ever need—the Great I AM.  He was the only One who could bring them safely through this wilderness into the land of plenty and of rest.   Instead of hanging onto Him for dear life, they clung to their own notions of what life should be and complained and resisted and dreamed of relief from this awful desert God had led them into!

Their refusal to believe that God was with them and for them and committed to doing them good all their days, cost them dearly.  Their generation would never reach the Promised Land; (only their children would live to see it).  They would never rest in plenty and in peace. They would never know lasting joy.

Their hard hearts kept them wandering for a lifetime in the wilderness as one by one they died there.  Pre-occupied with their discomfort and consumed with discontent, they failed to understand that God was training their hearts to trust Him, always, in everything. They thought much of themselves and very little of God; trusting their own thoughts, they ignored His. A people ‘who go astray in their heart, and [who] have not known my ways.’ was God’s evaluation of them. (Ps.95)

But God did not abandon them to die of thirst. Nor did He wait for them to ask for water (or they may have died of thirst!)  He instructed Moses: Get everybody together to watch.  Take your staff with you, and your brother, Aaron.  And “Tell the rock to yield its water”.  (Numbers 20:8)

Simple.  Talk to the rock.  Again the people would see God act on their behalf.  Again they would have opportunity to know their God and to trust Him.

Unfortunately, Moses strikes the rock instead of talking to it and foregoes living to enter the Promised Land himself.  But God does provide for His people.  There is water for everyone.

The significance of this incident at the ‘waters of Meribah’ becomes clearer in the New Testament.  For that rock symbolized God himself in the person of His Son.  He invites, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Jn.7:37,38

God’s answer for all we need is in Jesus, the ‘spiritual Rock’ from which we are to drink all our lives.  (I Cor.10:4)  In Him our roots are to sink down deep and draw up the water of salvation. (Col.2:6)  We were never meant to out grow our need of Him, only to grow up in Him as our roots grow down to abide in His love. From Him will come our life as His Spirit produces in us what we are helpless to produce ourselves.

We aren’t destined to thrash about complaining in a wilderness of unbelief—following wherever our thoughts may lead us.  We can talk to the Rock, yielding our thoughts to His and trusting Him to meet us in our need, whatever it may be.

And right here, right now, in the process of writing this post, I too see doubts and fears and raw unbelief in my own heart.  I may not be in a wilderness parched with thirst and thinking I’m about to die, but I know thoughts that rise laced with panic… “What’s going to happen to_______.”  And I thrash about in my mind considering options…what to do. what to say. how to solve this problem.  how to answer that query for counsel… ‘What is the Lord doing? Why has it come to this? What now?’  I too doubt.  I too give more credence to my own thoughts sometimes than to His!  And I too need to come to the Rock and trust that here is all I need for life and godliness…right now, in the Rock.

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer;  from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Ps.61:1-3

–LS

Listen here to a beautiful song drawn from Psalm 61:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xD18ra41oKo

…when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock…

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to his own glory and excellence…” II Pet.1:3

You are complete (fulfilled, filled up) in Him. Col.2:10

“Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end;” Deut.8:15,16

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;  let us make a joyful noise to the ROCK of our salvation!…For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” Ps.95:1,7

This God–his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.  For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? Ps.18:30-31

“Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”Jn.16:24

(Originally published April 11, 2014 as “Talk to the Rock”–L.Skelton)

Our Great Shepherd

Jesus is the great Shepherd of the sheep by an everlasting covenant, signed with his blood.  To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen. —Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.  

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for ever.  So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas.  Your spiritual strength comes from God’s special favour, not from ceremonial rules… —And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him….By [God’s] mighty power within us, He is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. 

Oh, what a wonderful God we have!  How great are his riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods!  For who can know what the Lord is thinking?  Who knows enough to be His counselor?…everything comes from Him; everything exists by His power and is intended for His glory. 

And now, may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, equip you with all you need for doing his will.  May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, all that is pleasing to Him.  

Heb.13:21 NLT; Ps.95:6-7 ESV; Heb.13:8,9 NLT; Eph.3:17,20 NLT; Rom.11:33-36 NLT; Heb.13:20 NLT


We pray, we wait, we hope, for graces we do not have, for strength we do not feel, for the overcoming of sins that seem genetic, for a breakthrough, a decisive victory a course of action.  But we are sheep, dependent on the Shepherd’s care and provision.  We can try new strategies, implement disciplines, and muster fresh determination but we cannot do for ourselves what most needs to be done.  He is the Shepherd.  He knows His sheep by name.  We kneel before Him and trust His leading for His glory.

And in this process, may David’s testimony become our own strong confidence:

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch out Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand will save me. The LORD will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; do not forsake the works of Your hands. Ps. 138:7-8 NKJV

My memory verses this week are my own prayer as I step into water over my head trusting God to make a way where I as yet can’t see one.  His good words fortify my heart!

Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name.  Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.  Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me. Ps.119:2-3 ESV

–LS

We hate this wretched manna!

In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing…let your lives shine brightly before [a dark world full of crooked and perverse people].

But the people grew impatient along the way, and they began to murmur against God and Moses.  “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?…There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink.  And we hate this wretched manna!”

“I am the bread of life.  No one who comes to me will ever be hungry again.  Those who believe in me will never thirst.”–JESUS 

Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days…

…they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

Be even more careful to put into action God’s saving work in your lives, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.  For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him.—Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!  For He is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

Phil.2:14,15 NLT; Num.21:4,5 NLT; Jn.6:35 NLT; Deut.30:19-20 ESV; Ex.17:7 NIV; Phil.2:12,13 NLT; I Cor.10:11 ESV; Ps.95:6,7 NLT


Did they not know that when they spurned the manna they were spurning the Lord Himself?  Did they not see that when they rebelled against their hard circumstances they were rejecting their Good Shepherd?  Could they not see beyond their discomfort to the promise of a good land to come?

Can we not see? Do we dare grumble?

–LS