God’s Promises for Hard Times

In Psalm 56, David faces seemingly insurmountable difficulties. In the midst of them, he affirms that he can trust God. One of his primary reasons is that God’s keeps his word, his promises never fail. This week I reached out to the Grace family and asked about promises that have been especially meaningful to you. Here’s what you shared. Thank you for trusting God…and sharing why you do!

As more come in on the FB post, I’ll update this blog. Consider it a treasure chest to be opened every day. And that’s one of my favorite promises and the reason for the title of this blog. God’s mercies are new every morning (enough for today). What a faithful God!

But this I call to mind; and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him. (Lamentations 3:21-24)

And here are the ones you shared.

It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)–Nancy Elliot, Shannon Delaney, Crystal Baker

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear… (Psalm 46:1)–Marie Grindstaff, when God protected their home from being flooded

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. (Isaiah 43:2)–Mary Shomaker

Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made and I will bear. I will carry and I will save. (Isaiah 46:4)–Tammy McCrory

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)–Jeanna Gowan

Behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:3-4)–Margaret Fretwell

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)–Jennifer Buchanan

They who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)–Joyce Poplin

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (‭‭‭Psalm‬ ‭18‬‬:‭2‬‬‬)–Don Grindstaff

The Lord will take me in. (Psalm 27:10)–Ray Revis

I will never leave you or forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5.)–Tina Laughridge

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)–Sue Salladin

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)–Janis Bolick

For I consider the sufferings of this present time not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. – Rom. 8:18
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison… – 2 Cor. 4:17

Fear as the Antidote to Fear

Sounds strange. Replacing fear with fear. Yet from someone who was terrified at the possibility of death, David posits the fear of God as the response to our fears and troubles. He writes:

I sought the Lord and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. This poor man cried and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. O fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack.

Psalm 34:5,7, 9 (ESV)

This Psalm chronicles David’s near-death experience. On the run from Saul, he runs from trouble to trouble. Thinking the king of Gath will be a hiding place, he arrives only to be discovered and immediately begins to feign insanity to the point of spit running down his beard to throw off his would be assailants. God delivers him and he writes Psalm 34 to thank and praise him.

How do you and I replace our fears with one fear?

  1. Don’t forget your story, and I’m talking about the time when you were in dire straits and God came through. This doesn’t mean you got the outcome you were looking for. But you can see how God was present. It’s okay (and good!) to repeat that story.
  2. Don’t forget that you have a God to praise. (So many attributes)
  3. Discern the difference between fears and troubles. (vs. 5 and 7) Fears are things that could happen. Fears live in the future. Troubles are real and present. To give too much attention to fears leads to paralysis. To ignore troubles leads to more troubles.
  4. Remind yourself daily of the Gospel. Look at verses 15-20 and remind yourself of this: The Father turned away from his Son on the cross, and as a result the Father looks toward me. The face of the Father was against his Son and, as a result, is for me. The Father did not respond to the cry of his Son on the cross, and as a result he will respond to my cry. The Father was not near to his brokenhearted Son and as a result, today he is be near me.

In other words, fight your fears with one fear, the fear of the Lord. For more on this, read Michael Reeves, Rejoice and Tremble, a great study on the fear of God.

Why We Should Pray Now

As pastor at Grace I have deliberately focused on the gospel and deliberately steered clear of engaging in politics. I still hold to that position because the gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16) The good news of Jesus Christ is worthy of center stage, now and always. This blog is not a departure from that position. However, the timeliness of what we are experiencing in our country regarding pre-born children requires a response.

At Grace we value life…at every stage. This week I visited with someone dying from cancer, and another person whose dementia is advancing while his cognitive capacity is diminishing. Their lives matter. Just two weeks ago we received the invitation to host Night to Shine, a prom for people with special needs, next February. Their lives matter. So do the lives of pre-born children. In Psalm 139, David wrote, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139:16)

A society that devalues life at any stage will ultimately devalue life at every stage.

In an August 2017 CBS story on Iceland’s almost complete eradication of children born with Down’s syndrome (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/down-syndrome-iceland/), a mother of one of only three children born with Down’s in Iceland that year asked, “What kind of society do you want to live in?”

As we face the potential decision to overturn Roe V. Wade, pray that our Supreme Court will be undeterred by popular opinion. Pray that we will return, for all the right reasons, to a country that values human life, regardless of that person’s ability to contribute to our society. Pray that states, specifically North Carolina, will embrace the value of human life since the Supreme Court’s decision could shift this responsibility to the states.

When God created the earth and humankind, he saw everything he had made and “behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31).

It still is.

The God of Again

The scene was a picture of what had been. Glory days had given way to gory details of a merciless attack, vicious enough to make even the hardest of men sick on their stomachs. A city that had once been visited by the Queen of Sheba now hosted vultures and ravaging animals. King Nebuchadnezzar had his way–the carnage of death and destruction lay in his wake.

Seventy years passed. The people were working but weary. Lest you think they were alone in their weariness, Zechariah gives us a glimpse into heaven. He has a vision of the angel of the Lord. In a rare glimpse into glory, the angel of the Lord asks the Lord of Hosts a question. It is a question you may be asking today: How long?

Who is the angel of the Lord who is bold enough to ask God such a question? Bible scholars believe that the reference to the angel of the Lord in the Old Testament is a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ–a theophany. If this is the case (and I agree with Bible scholars on this), then when you ask How long? you are in good company. I not only love the question, I love the answer.

Cry out again, Thus says the LORD of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity, and the LORD will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.’” (Zechariah 1:17, ESV)

Again. Four times God said again. What the angel of the Lord’s intercession reveals is that God is a God of again. God was waiting for, longing for, anticipating the day he would again bless Jerusalem. God desires to overflow our lives. He longs to comfort us. As a matter of fact, later Zechariah writes:

He who touches you touches the apple of his eye.

Zechariah 2:8

You are the apple of God’s eye. And he is the God of again. I don’t know what your “again” is, I don’t know where you need God to step in and be your “God of again” but I can assure you of this…that he longs to be gracious, that his heart hurts with yours, and that Jesus knows how you feel when you ask “How long?”

Because He looks down, I’ll look up

With Covid cases rising, teachers returning to class not knowing what the next day or week might bring, six inches of rain threatening low-lying areas in our neighborhoods, Haiti crumbling (again) from a 7.2 earthquake, and Afghanis clinging to airplanes to take them out of harm’s way, discouragement and despair can easily set in. Psalm 33 begins with a call to praise God, to worship him. And by the end of the Psalm you realize the call isn’t to praise him when life is good, but in the wake of death and famine. (vs. 19). How can the unnamed Psalmist of Psalm 33 call us to worship God in times like these. He uses words like shout, praise, give thanks, make melody, sing. When we are tempted to look around at our circumstances, why must we look up?

We look up because God created the cosmos. By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deep in storehouses. (Psalm 33:6-7, ESV) How did he create? He talked! He spoke and it came to be. A God who is strong enough to speak creation into existence, is also strong enough to sustain it…even when it appears to be falling apart from our point of view.

We look up because God confuses the counsel of nations. The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen for his heritage. (Psalm 33:10-12, ESV) The Taliban, United Nations, United States, China, Russia…the list could go on and on…stand confused without God.

Satan may have his day but God will have his way.

We look up because God fashions our very hearts. The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. (Psalm 33:13-15, ESV) To fashion is to mold into a shape or form. Picture a potter sitting at the wheel, clay in hand. What emerges from that wheel is the potter’s desire and design. You are no accident. God fashioned your very heart. Your desires and design are his doing.

Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love. (Psalm 33:18, ESV) God is looking down. His eye is on you. Look up. As hard as that might be, peel your eyes away from the news for a few moments and look up. As difficult as it may be to pull away from Facebook, do it. Look up.

The Psalmist finishes. Our soul waits for the Lord, he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you. (Psalm 33:20-22, ESV) Even in the face of death and famine, the Psalmist says look up. As you read this, I know you are facing grief, disappointment, disillusionment. Looking around only brings more of the same. Look up. He’s looking down. Lock eyes with him.

For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. (2 Chronicles 16:9, ESV)

My Heart, Christ’s Home

Robert Boyd Munger

One evening, I invited Jesus Christ into my heart. What an entrance He made! It was not a spectacular, emotional thing, but very real. Something happened at the very center of my life. He came into the darkness of my heart and turned on the light. He built a fire on the hearth and banished the chill. He started music where there had been stillness, and He filled the emptiness with His own loving, wonderful fellowship. I have never regretted opening the door to Christ and I never will.

In the joy of this new relationship, I said to Jesus Christ, “Lord, I want this heart of mine to be Yours. I want to have You settle down here and be perfectly at home. Everything I have belongs to You. Let me show You around.”

The Study
The first room was the study—the library. In my home, this room of the mind is a very small room with very thick walls. But it is a very important room. In a sense, it is the control room of the house. He entered with me and looked around at the books in the bookcase, the magazines upon the table, the pictures on the walls. As I followed His gaze, I became uncomfortable. Strangely, I had not felt self-conscious about this before, but now that He was there looking at these things, I was embarrassed. Some books were there that His eyes were too pure to behold. On the table were a few magazines that a Christian had no business reading. As for the pictures on the walls— the imaginations and thoughts of the mind—some of these were shameful.

Red-faced, I turned to Him and said, “Master, I know that this room needs to be cleaned up and made over. Will You help me make it what it ought to be?”

“Certainly!” He said. “I’m glad to help you. First of all, take all the things that you are reading and looking at which are not helpful, pure, good and true, and throw them out! Now, put on the empty shelves the books of the Bible. Fill the library with Scripture and meditate on it day and night. As for the pictures on the walls, you will have difficulty controlling these images, but I have something that will help.” He gave me a full-size portrait of Himself. “Hang this centrally,” He said, “on the wall of the mind.” I did, and I have discovered through the years that when my thoughts are centered upon Christ Himself, His purity and power cause impure thoughts to back away. So He has helped me to bring my thoughts under His control.

The Dining Room
From the study we went into the dining room, the room of appetites and desires. I spent a lot of time and hard work here trying to satisfy my wants. I said to Him, “This is a favorite room. I am quite sure You will be pleased with what we serve.”

He seated Himself at the table with me and asked, “What is on the menu for dinner?”

“Well,” I said, “my favorite dishes: money, academic degrees and stocks, with newspaper articles of fame and fortune as side dishes.”

These were the things I liked: secular fare. When the food was placed before Him, He said nothing, but I observed that He did not eat it.

I said to Him, “Master, don’t You care for this food? What is the trouble?”

He answered, “I have food to eat that you do not know of. If you want food that really satisfies you, do the will of the Father. Stop seeking your own pleasures, desires, and satisfaction. Seek to please Him. That food will satisfy you.” There at the table He gave me a taste of the joy of doing God’s will. What flavor! There is no food like it in all the world. It alone satisfies.

BE A DISCIPLE MY HEART CHRIST’S HOME 2

The Living Room
From the dining room we walked into the living room. This room was intimate and comfortable. I liked it. It had a fireplace, overstuffed chairs, a sofa, and a quiet atmosphere.

He said, “This is, indeed, a delightful room. Let us come here often. It is secluded and quiet, and we can fellowship together.” Well, as a young Christian I was thrilled. I couldn’t think of anything I would rather do than have a few minutes with Christ in close companionship. He promised, “I will be here early every morning. Meet me here, and we will start the day together.”

So morning after morning, I would come downstairs to the living room. He would take a book of the Bible from the case. We would open it and read together. He would unfold to me the wonder of God’s saving truths. My heart sang as He shared the love and the grace He had toward me. These were wonderful times.

However, little by little, under the pressure of many responsibilities, this time began to be shortened. Why, I’m not sure. I thought I was too busy to spend regular time with Christ. This was not intentional, you understand. It just happened that way. Finally, not only was the time shortened, but I began to miss days now and then. Urgent matters would crowd out the quiet times of conversation with Jesus. I remember one morning rushing downstairs, eager to be on my way. I passed the living room and noticed that the door was open. Looking in, I saw a fire in the fireplace and Jesus was sitting there.

Suddenly, in dismay, I thought to myself, “He is my guest. I invited Him into my heart! He has come as my Savior and Friend, and yet I am neglecting Him.” I stopped, turned and hesitantly went in. With downcast glance, I said, “Master, forgive me. Have You been here all these mornings?”

“Yes,” He said, “I told you I would be here every morning to meet with you. Remember, I love you. I have redeemed you at great cost. I value your fellowship. Even if you cannot keep the quiet time for your own sake, do it for mine.”

The truth that Christ desires my companionship, that He wants me to be with Him and waits for me, has done more to transform my quiet time with God than any other single fact. Don’t let Christ wait alone in the living room of your heart, but every day find time when, with your Bible and in prayer, you may be together with Him.

The Workroom
Before long, He asked, “Do you have a workroom in your home?” Out in the garage of the home of my heart I had a workbench and some equipment, but I was not doing much with it. Once in a while I would play around with a few little gadgets, but I wasn’t producing anything substantial. I led Him out there.

He looked over the workbench and said, “Well, this is quite well furnished. What are you producing with your life for the Kingdom of God?” He looked at one or two little toys that I had thrown together on the bench and held one up to me. “Is this the sort of thing you are doing for others in your Christian life?”

“Well,” I said, “Lord, I know it isn’t much, and I really want to do more, but after all, I don’t seem to have strength or skill to do more.”

“Would you like to do better?” He asked. “Certainly,” I replied.

“All right. Let me have your hands. Now relax in me and let my Spirit work through you. I know that you are unskilled, clumsy and awkward, but the Holy Spirit is the Master Workman, and if He controls your hands and your heart, He will work through you.” Stepping around behind me and putting His great, strong hands under mine, He held the tools in His skilled fingers and began to work through me. The more I relaxed and trusted Him, the more He was able to do with my life.

BE A DISCIPLE MY HEART CHRIST’S HOME 3

The Rec Room
He asked me if I had a rec room where I went for fun and fellowship. I was hoping He would not ask about that. There were certain associations and activities that I wanted to keep for myself.

One evening when I was on my way out with some of my buddies, He stopped me with a glance and asked, “Are you going out?”

I replied, “Yes.”
“Good,” He said, “I would like to go with you.”

“Oh,” I answered rather awkwardly. “I don’t think, Lord Jesus, that You would really enjoy where we are going. Let’s go out together tomorrow night. Tomorrow night we will go to a Bible class at church, but tonight I have another appointment.”

“I’m sorry,” He said. “I thought that when I came into your home, we were going to do everything together, to be close companions. I just want you to know that I am willing to go with you.”

“Well,” I mumbled, slipping out the door, “we will go someplace together tomorrow night.” That evening I spent some miserable hours. I felt rotten. What kind of friend was I to Jesus, deliberately leaving Him out of my life, doing things and going places that I knew very well He would not enjoy?

When I returned that evening, there was a light in His room, and I went up to talk it over with Him. I said, “Lord, I have learned my lesson. I know now that I can’t have a good time without You. From now on, we will do everything together.” Then we went down into the rec room of the house. He transformed it. He brought new friends, new excitement, new joys. Laughter and music have been ringing through the house ever since.

The Hall Closet
One day I found Him waiting for me at the door. An arresting look was in His eye. As I entered, He said to me, “There is a peculiar odor in the house. Something must be dead around here. It’s upstairs. I think it is in the hall closet.” As soon as He said this, I knew what He was talking about.

There was a small closet up there on the hall landing, just a few feet square. In that closet, behind lock and key, I had one or two little personal things that I did not want anyone to know about. Certainly, I did not want Christ to see them. I knew they were dead and rotting things left over from the old life. I wanted them so for myself that I was afraid to admit they were there. Reluctantly, I went up with Him, and as we mounted the stairs the odor became stronger and stronger. He pointed to the door. I was angry. That’s the only way I can put it. I had given Him access to the library, the dining room, the living room, the workroom, the rec room, and now He was asking me about a little two-by-four closet.

I said to myself, “This is too much. I am not going to give Him the key.”

“Well,” He said, reading my thoughts, “if you think I’m going to stay up here on the second floor with this smell, you are mistaken. I will go out on the porch.” Then I saw Him start down the stairs.

When one comes to know and love Christ, the worst thing that can happen is to sense Him withdrawing His fellowship. I had to give in.

“I’ll give You the key,” I said sadly, “but You will have to open the closet and clean it out. I haven’t the strength to do it.”

“Just give me the key,” He said. “Authorize me to take care of that closet and I will.” With trembling fingers I passed the key to Him. He took it, walked over to the door, opened it, entered, took out all the putrefying stuff that was rotting there, and threw it away. Then He cleaned the closet and painted it. It was done in a moment’s time. Oh, what victory and release to have that dead thing out of my life!

BE A DISCIPLE MY HEART CHRIST’S HOME 4

Transferring the Title
A thought came to me. “Lord, is there any chance that You would take over the management of the whole house and operate it for me as You did that closet? Would You take the responsibility to keep my life what it ought to be?”

His face lit up as He replied, “I’d love to! That is what I want to do. You cannot be a victorious Christian in your own strength. Let me do it through you and for you. That is the way. But,” He added slowly, “I am just a guest. I have no authority to proceed, since the property is not mine.”

Dropping to my knees, I said, “Lord, You have been a guest and I have been the host. From now on I am going to be the servant. You are going to be the owner and Master.” Running as fast as I could to the strongbox, I took out the title deed to the house describing its assets and liabilities, location and situation. I eagerly signed the house over to Him alone for time and eternity. “Here,” I said. “Here it is, all that I am and have, forever. Now You run the house. I’ll just remain with You as a servant and friend.” Things are different since Jesus Christ has settled down and has made His home in my heart.

Have you surrendered the title of your life to Jesus? Which of the “rooms” of your heart do you need Jesus to work on the most? Take some time to think over the areas of your life. Then spend some time praying and asking Jesus to make those areas pleasing to him. Write down some specific applications and be ready to share about how you will do that.

Paradise is for real…and it’s for you

This morning I read Day 8 in Reading Between the Lines (Scrivener). Yes…I’m more than a few days behind. I had to share it with you. Take a few minutes and let this sink in.

Garden of Eden
Even the phrase “garden of Eden” should make us homesick. “Eden” is taken from the word “delight,” and “garden” when translated to Greek is “paradise.” Here is a paradise of delights–a very lofty beginning for the human race.

According to Genesis 2:8-17, this garden was planted by the Lord God himself. Here we get a different view of God to the one we saw in Genesis 1. There God spoke and it was so. Here “the Lord God” gets his hands dirty.

Who is “The Lord God?”–this one with dirt under his fingernails, planting trees, forming Adam from the dust and giving him the kiss of life? We know that no-one has seen the Father at any time (see John 1:18; Colossians 1:15). This is God the Son, the Father’s eternal Image and Mediator. Here is Christ before He took our flesh.

Many people want to know, “What was Jesus doing before the first Christmas? Well he has always been the One through whom the Father interacts with his world. He is the eternal Word of the Father, or the “Voice of the Lord God” as he’s called in the King James Version of Genesis 3:8. And here we see him as a gardener, preparing a paradise of delights for His favorite creatures.

When we think about the Garden of Eden, we often focus on the one boundary which the Lord sets (the forbidden fruit). But that is to forget the bounty.

This garden is abundant and freely open to humanity. You might think that the garden of the Lord would be the Lord’s own special sanctuary. You might think the Lord would keep it for himself and invite humanity in only occasionally and under the strictest of conditions. But no, humanity not only has access, but roams freely and in authority over God’s own garden.

God says in verse 16: You are free to eat from any tree in the garden.

The Lord fills his garden of delights with abundant fruit. All of it was “pleasing to the eye and good for food” (v. 9). This is profligate goodness. What need is there for beautiful fruit? None. What need is there for tasty fruit? None. Yet this is the way with the Lord. Nothing is necessary. Everything is desired and desirable.

We learn in Genesis 3 that Christ the Lord would come to enjoy this garden and his beloved creatures with an evening walk. This is his nature, to create a space, to make it home, to fill it with beauty and to give it to his friends. He lives to invite humanity into his life of freedom, fullness and fellowship. This is paradise.

But it seems so lost to us now. Here we are stuck in a world full of blood, sweat and tears. And we’re very tempted to think the best has already passed us by. Would we possibly believe in paradise today?

Well the Lord God came to walk with us again in the New Testament. And when he came he was even mistaken as a gardener (John 20:15). But when he came in the Gospels he walked as one of us, and he walked through this world of suffering and pain. His mission took him to the blood, sweat and tears of the cross. As he died, he turned to a dying, despairing, despicable sinner and said:

Today you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43).

Paradise is real. It’s even for despairing, despicable sinners in a dying and depraved world. The Lord God enters our plight and promises Paradise. He has come down to the very depths to offer us his incomparable heights. Paradise is not for the ancient myths. It’s for dying sinners in a dying world. Paradise is for you.

Listen to this testimony…and these two songs. You’ll learn why it has three and half million views. What a day that will be!

A Foretaste of Heaven

In 2016 I was privileged, along with members of our staff, to attend a Together For the Gospel Conference in Louisville, KY. More than ten thousand pastors packed the KFC Yum! Center! We listened to great preaching and sang great hymns.

I also own a Yamaha Baby Grand Piano (purchased from craigslist!). I have to get it tuned…at least once a year. As you might suspect, it gets out of tune without trying. So do I, so do you. And these days there are all kinds of posts, news articles, political views, conspiracy theories, vitriol and YouTube videos to completely cause us to get out of tune.

Robert Robinson penned the words of Come Thou Fount in 1758, at the young age of 22, after having come to Jesus from a totally debauched lifestyle. These words are his testimony.

In 2016 we sang a verse I had never sung before, but I wished I had. I’m attaching the audio from 2016 and including the words below. Every great hymn ends up looking up…this one is no exception.

O that Day when freed from sinning,
I shall see thy lovely Face;
Clothed then in blood-washed linen
How I’ll sing thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransom’d Soul away;
Send thine Angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless Day. 

The news isn’t good. Posts are depressing. Life is unbelievably difficult. Waves are crashing. The ship is reeling and rocking. Which means your heart needs to be tuned now more than ever. Enjoy. It was so good being there in person…a small foretaste of heaven.

Two Roads

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

While Robert Frost (if you read the rest of his poem) sighed over not taking the other road, Solomon, in Proverbs four, says there is a road that you should never travel.

Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on.

Proverbs 4:14-15

Notice how many prohibitions Solomon gives. Do not enter. Do not walk. Avoid. Do not go. Turn away. Pass on. It could not be clearer. The old saying, “sow your wild oats” is stupid. It assumes no consequences for your behavior. If you enter into adulthood having never traveled down the road “more traveled” you have not missed anything. Solomon continues.

For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.

Proverbs 4:16

Wicked people are never satisfied being wicked alone. They must take someone else with them. They know nothing other than to involve an innocent bystander in their wickedness. They gossip in groups. They steal in gangs. They slander in twos and threes. They cheat in tandem.

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. The way of the wicked is like deep darkness, they do not know over what they stumble.

Proverbs 4:18-19

Someone has said, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” Solomon paints a picture of the future for the wicked and the righteous, the perverse and the penitent, the sinner and the saint. For the child of God, light gives way to light. The days get brighter and brighter. And one day, O what a day that will be, there will be the Son whose radiance is such that the blazing ball of fire we call the sun will not be needed. There will be no night in that city called Heaven. No locks on doors. No security systems. No lying. No cheating. No worrying. No fear. Light. Rest. Glory.

For the wicked, the wanton, the wayward. For the deceptive, destructive, the divisive. Darkness. Deep darkness. They do not know over what they stumble. Devastation. Destruction.

So what must you do. How do you take “the road less traveled” and not sigh about the road more traveled. Proverbs 4:23 gives clear instruction.

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.

Proverbs 4:23-24

Guard your heart. Lose “friends” who are not friends at all. Treat your heart like the source of water, the only source for your life. If it gets dirty, everything else will be dirty. Springs provide fresh water for thirsty people. If the spring is dirty, the water supply below it is dirty. All of it. You cannot have a dirty spring and fresh water at the same time. And how do you know if your heart is dirty? Listen to your mouth. Read your texts. Review your Facebook posts. If they are angry, you have an angry heart. If they are bitter, the springs are bitter. If they are sensual, you have a desensitized heart. Jesus said, “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”

I would rather travel the road less traveled with a few good (and godly friends), than the highway to nowhere with the throngs.

Be Still

When I woke up early this morning, these words immediately came to my mind, “Be still and know that I am God.” I couldn’t remember the reference so I googled it and discovered all over again the gift of Psalm 46. I would encourage you to be still too. I can assure you that you need this.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah (Psalm 46:1-3)

“A very present help” can also be translated “a well-proved help.” I love both translations! God is present now and he has been present before. God did it once and he can do it again. Because of that we will not fear. We will not fear though the earth gives way. Because of where we live, earthquakes are not a major fear. However I know that you could finish that phrase with your own fear. We will not fear though my diagnosis is cancer, though my prognosis is grim, though the Covid numbers rise, though I lose my job, though my grades suffer. We will not fear because God is very present and He is well-proved.

Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth, he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. (vs. 4-7)

We have a choice today and every day: what will we behold? We can either behold the works of the Lord or we can behold a litany of other things: the ever changing stock market, backbiting politicians, the news, Facebook drama. The list is endless of all that clamors for our attention. For a moment (or two or three) take your gaze off your circumstances and behold his wondrous works. He is a very present, well-proved help.

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (vs. 10)

This is the only time God speaks in this Psalm! It is as if the sons of Korah are writing and God interrupts! Even they, the writers of the Psalm, need to be still! Another translation renders this verse, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” What God said to me early this morning was this, “Cease striving and know that I am God…and that you are not.” Ouch! Simply put, pray first and solve problems second. Pray more, worry less. Pray more, talk less.

Adrian shared this last night. It might be the best rendition of How Great Thou Art I’ve ever heard. Be still. Listen.