What do you see?

I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around. —You have eyes—can’t you see? Won’t you ever learn or understand? Are your hearts too hard to take it in? —You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s. —Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly. 

So we have stopped evaluating others by what the world thinks about them. Once I mistakenly thought of Christ that way, as though he were merely a human being. How differently I think about him now! —For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 

…may [God] give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might.

Mk.8:24 NLT; Mk.8:18 NLT; Mk.8:33 NLT; Jn. 7:24 NLT; II Cor. 5:16 NLT; I Cor. 13:12 ESV; I Jn. 3:2 ESV; Eph 1:17-19 ESV


Things are not always what they seem. The blind man knew there was a world out there he could not see. Jesus fixed his vision. The disciples saw a hungry crowd and not nearly enough food to feed them. They were clueless despite having already witnessed Jesus multiplying loaves and fishes to satisfy a multitude of 5,000 people!

How are we supposed to find enough food for them here in the wilderness?

Jesus once again walked them through the process. He took what they had, blessed it and told them to pass it out. They participated in the miracle. They counted the loaves and fishes and leftovers…But just hours later were stressing over having forgotten to pack a lunch.

They had seen but had not comprehended. Yes, they remembered numbers but they didn’t fathom the power of God on tap for their every need.

So Jesus took this physical reality—a forgotten lunch, and turned it into a spiritual object lesson. He wasn’t worried about this trivial forgetfulness to bring bread along, He wanted them to grasp God’s great power and never to forget it. He was shaping men who could see beyond the seen…

And they would learn to see this way, with eyes of faith;  we know this when we watch their lives as recorded in Acts and when we read Peter’s own leter:

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. I Pet.1:8-9 ESV

May God give us eyes to see beyond the physical and to remember what is worth remembering, not just numbers and faces but what God is able to do when we present these to Him!

–LS

Continue in the “Tried and True”

All Scripture is inpired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.  It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.  It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do—Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. … Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. 

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 

II Tim.3:16,17 NLT; II Tim. 2:15 NASB; Ps. 25:1-2, 4-5 ESV;  Heb 4:12-13 NASB; II Tim. 3:14-15 ESV

There are endless possibilities when it come to books-to-read in 2018.  My Reading List continues to grow… What’s new this year? What did people love last year?  What classics ought I not to have missed?  The possibilities are endless.  The recommendations dazzling.  But none of the titles on my list can boast of the things God says of His Book: It is “God-breathed”. It is 100% true.  It speaks to my greatest needs and equips me for every good thing.  What’s more, it is alive, and it knows me.  

Through the reading of the Word, deep recesses of my soul are flushed out, dislodging lies that have shaped my life since childhood.  Through the Word I come to believe that I am both KNOWN and LOVED in a way that answers my soul’s loudest cries: Am I OK? Am I doing good?  Do you love who I am?

God’s answers re-orient my heart to think more of Him and less of me: God is good, always, in everything.  I need Him for life itself. And though He loves me as I am, He has no intention of letting me stay that way. His is a better vision than I can imagine.

His Word is enough for this older-by-the-day- fifty-something woman to continue to grow by, even if I’ve handled it most of my life. Though I am not the poised, self-confident and competent woman I assumed I would be rounding the bend toward sixty, I know I can trust this Word to do the work God has in mind.

Other books offer to entertain or inform; they guarantee to fix me or soothe me.  Discarded self-help books line the shelves of our local thrift store.  Just to the right are the Bibles, free for the taking and reading.  A priceless value mostly overlooked.

Statistics I read this week tell me that of the world’s 7,000+ languages, only 3,312 of those language groups possess the Word of God, and roughly half of these have only the New Testament.  There are still one and a half BILLION people without the Bible in their heart language.

What a privileged people we are!  Let’s take advantage of this great gift. We don’t need a new book so much as we need to mine the depths of the Tried and True One.  May it come first and be the best of all the reading we do in 2018!

–LS

Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth. The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. Eccl. 12:9-12 ESV

Rushed to safety

When Lot still hesitated, the angels seized his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and rushed them to safety outside the city, for the LORD was merciful. 

It is I, the LORD, who makes you holy. It was I who rescued you from Egypt, that I might be your very own God.  I am the LORD. 

“Yes, I know you are innocent,” God replied, “That is why I kept you from sinning against me.” 

For God decided to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us.  He died for us so that we can live with him for ever… —And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight… 

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.  

Gen.19:16 NLT; Lev.22:32,33 NLT; Gen.20:6 NLT; I Thess.5:9,10 NLT; Col 1:21-22 NKJV; Rom 5:8-10 NKJV


 

I once had a bike temporarily stolen from our quiet backyard in our quiet crime-free neighborhood.  It was returned only after the would-be thief, being under the influence of one-too-many had a spill.  In sharing the incident in our Bible Study group later on I chuckled, remarking that it served him right to have crashed; he got what he deserved!  I still have not forgotten how Andy responded.  He said  I never say that because I remember what I deserved and what God saved me from.  Ouch.  Andy was saved out of a very non-Christian background.  I knew his story well and was in awe of his testimony and his subsequent soft heart.  I had never heard a corrective word from him.  This was one I needed to hear.

My own story is more that of being preserved from many sins by virtue of having been sheltered early on and reared in a Christian family and extended family.  My sins were of the more insidious sort–pride and self-centered thinking, self-righteousness, and want of compassion.  God continues to remind me that just because I have not been involved in ‘sins’ that draw the attention of the Law, does not mean that I have an ‘in’ with Him automatically.  We are all enemies of God by nature, not because He doesn’t love us, but because we have turned our backs on Him in exalting ourselves and our own ways of doing things. We are born heading the wrong direction.  But He pursues us, he snatches us back from dangers we only vaguely perceive.  He rescues us. And He keeps on leading us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. I am grateful.

Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful.
The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
Ps.116:5-7

–LS

Sinners in Good hands…

Who may climb the mountain of the LORD?

Who may stand in his holy place?

Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies.—No one who has a defect may come near to me…his physical defects disqualify him from presenting offerings to the LORD.—“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD.  “I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be my people…And I will forgive their wickedness and will never again remember their sins.” 

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified—Though our hearts are filled with sins, you forgive them all. 

… Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. 

Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! 

God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important, so that no one can ever boast in the presence of God. 

God alone made it possible for you to be in Christ Jesus…He is the one who made us acceptable to God.  He made us pure and holy… 

Ps. 24:3-4 NLT; Lev.21:18,21 NLT; Rom 3:10-12 ESV; Jer. 31:33,34 NLT; Heb 10:14 ESV; Ps.65:3 NLT; Heb 10: 16-17, 19-22 KJV; Ps. 65:4 ESV; I Cor.1:28,29 NLT; I Cor.1:30 NLT

Without a realization of God’s infinitely surpassing other-ness, His perfect holiness, His unapproachable splendor–that which the OT intimates in terms of a strict sacrificial system and the demand for shed blood–we will be clueless as to our own smallness and unworthiness and the inestimable privilege we’ve been given to draw near to God ‘as is’ and find grace and love without measure.  We will make much of our ‘goodness’, and minimize our sinfulness.  We will begin to view God as a doting grandpa who gives us everything we want because we are so cute.

But this isn’t the Biblical record.  Yes, there was an original blessing. God made mankind in His image and for His pleasure.  We were designed to walk with God and enjoy Him forever.  But then came rebellion and its due consequence–death.  And ever since, the natural human condition has been one of ‘original sin’and requisite condemnation.  We can’t help ourselves out of it.  But a better Blessing was coming, One who would die for the sins of the world. This is the blessing we most need, a Saviour to stand in our place before a holy God so that we might be acceptable once again, forgiven, loved, lavishly graced with every spiritual blessing….

It’s all God’s doings through the person and work of Jesus Christ, to the praise of His glorious grace, with no merit to claim on my part at all.  The instant I think I am loved because I am lovely, the wonder of the Gospel begins to fade.  Gratitude and worship shrivel.  Ego swells. And an inordinate craving for affirmation sets in… The wonder of God’s unconditional love becomes lost in pre-occupation with self.

So I keep reading, in the Old and in the New, beholding God’s glory and His unfathomable love, seeing the nature of man and of God over and over again…that my heart may learn to praise Him only.  I’m looking forward to the Day when self will be forgotten in the blinding intensity of the glory of God. In the meantime I am in Good Hands, both known and loved.

 

“…remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

*Eph 2:12-13 NASB; Rom 5:17 ESV

Just Trust Me

But Jesus ignored their comments and said…”Don’t be afraid.  Just trust me.” —in the presence of the God in whom [Abraham] believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 

All who trust in him will praise him, while liars will be silenced—Then everyone will stand in awe, proclaiming the mighty acts of God, realizing all the amazing things he does. *

———-
Jairus had every reason to fear the worst.  Jesus’ delay in coming to his daughter’s deathbed had seemingly cost him his daughter’s life.  While Jesus had stopped to seek out a hurting woman in the crowd and give her his blessing, Jairus’ own daughter had died.  Messengers urged him not to trouble ‘the Teacher’ further. It was no use.  But Jesus reassured him otherwise: ‘just trust me’, and then shutting out the ridiculing crowd He proceeded to wake up Jairus’ daughter and return her to her overwhelmed parents!

Fear and doubt come naturally, and there are plenty of onlookers ready to confirm our worst fears and commend our reliance on somebody other than Jesus.  Trusting  God doesn’t always look practical or even sensible!  But let’s compare the outcomes.  Jeremiah paints a graphic word picture in Jeremiah 17.

The one who resists reliance on the LORD in favor of trusting human wisdom is rendered as impotent as a stunted desert shrub with no prospects beyond barren wilderness and desolate salt flats!  BUT, the one who turns a deaf ear to the clamor of the crowds and listens for the voice of the Spirit inviting trust and rest is like a tree growing on the river bank whose roots never lack for water, whose leaves never wilt and whose fruit is delicious!

Which will I be?  A withered desert shrub or a well-watered green sapling?!

May God, who sees our hearts, transform our doubts into God-confidence, and our fears into praise, as we follow Jesus’ cue and watch to see what He will do.

-LS

*Mk.5:36 NLT; Rom. 4:17 ESV; Ps.63:11 NLT; Ps.64:9 NLT; Jer.17:5-10