My New Year’s Resolution in 2018

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Moses said, “Please show me your glory. – Exodus 33:18

We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:2b

Verses like the above have always startled me and caused me to think that some Christians must be VERY different from me.  I don’t even understand what that hope looks like.  Just what is it about God’s glory that others find compelling?

This theme of God’s glory as being something to be VERY happy about has birthed a growing desire to understand just what this glory is.

What tipped this quest into the ‘gotta know NOW’ category was a recent Pastor John Piper’s meditation on glory. John Piper writes about God’s glory.

Reading that, I knew that the only New Year’s resolution I wanted to set for myself was to keep my eyes open as I journey through the Bible again this year, searching for all the mentions of God’s glory.  I mean to write them down in order to grow my understanding and (I hope!) appreciation of this gift our Father holds out to His adopted sons and daughters.

And if I need a compelling example of someone else on the hunt for this kind of intimacy with God, the apostle Paul comes to mind. Beyond question, this former Pharisee had re-oriented his life toward KNOWING God’s glory.  Just read how he encouraged believers in Philippi  (chapter 3, verse 14):

  • I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  

Just what did this formidable evangelist long for that he willfully embraced hardship to hold out this prize to many?  Nothing else but seeing God face to face and experiencing His essence as much as possible.

So what is God’s glory?  In one sentence, I would say that God’s glory is the visible, physical manifestation of His holiness.  It would be akin to describing patriotism as the love of country made manifest in military service, citizen action, political representation, etc.  We can apprehend something of God’s holiness through this observable and usually physical and emotionally OVERWHELMING experience of His glory.  Beyond that, I cannot say.

What am I hoping for?  That my love for the Triune God will warm up and that I’ll long for Him more, so that I can say with all sincerity, “Come Lord Jesus”.

 

A sheep’s reflection on the Shepherd

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Sheep

The Lord is my Shepherd:

Jesus is my protector, guide and provider.  And I belong to him.  Shepherds take care of helpless animals who can’t look after themselves.  That must be God’s assessment of me.  I’m not fit to go it alone.  I need to be with other vulnerable ones in Jesus’ flock.  He’s also not just ‘any ole’ shepherd.  He’s MY shepherd.  That makes me HIS sheep and he knows me by name.

I shall lack nothing:

Jesus is a good shepherd.  He provides all I need.  That promise, that he will give me the time, energy, desire and ability to do what is needful this day, comforts me.  Especially when not a day goes by that I don’t struggle with trusting that he really will come through.  He’s ‘forcing’ me to learn NOT to live each day based on the provision I see waiting for me.

Having a shepherd also means I don’t have to hoard my own supplies. Besides, sheep don’t have pockets! AND I don’t really know what the day will bring.

He makes me lie down in green pastures:

I obviously don’t know a green pasture when I see one.  Or else my shepherd wouldn’t have to lead me to one.  And the fact that he forces me to lie down there speaks of my needing to learn to wait patiently and keep my eye on him. If I were in charge of my life, I’d move on, ‘knowing’ what was best for me.

He’s a good guy and I can trust him, because these abundant grazing areas are first on his agenda. Because of our stubbornness, he has to drive us, his flock, to rich and nourishing pastures both to feed and to rest in security.

He leads me beside still waters:

Gosh!  I was thirstier than I thought!  The calm quality to the stream implies no danger or threats.  And along with food and rest, Jesus takes care of all my other most basic needs and desires.

We all thirst for something, whether recognition or accomplishment or truth or comfort. My good shepherd can sort all that out and give me what is best.  The fact that I require him to herd me and the other sheep along implies I don’t know what I’m really thirsty for or how to satisfy that need.

He restores my soul:

My French Bible translates this as ‘He gives me renewed strength‘.  Boy, do I need to know the shepherd cares about that!  Especially since my energy is depleted about 9 pm each day.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his own sake:

The direction Jesus takes us is ‘God-ly’ and in keeping with the characteristics of the happy, triune Godhead.  And since all his decisions accord with his divine nature, I can trust him.  If Jesus’ next step were contingent on how I acted or thought, my life would be precarious.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death:

The way is dark and confusing at times. I don’t see where I’m headed.  And I probably don’t detect all the dangers.  The text also reassures me that I’m not meant to live there.  I’m walking through it.  There’s an end to this scary trial.

I will fear no evil, for your rod and your staff comfort me:

I may not see you (Where are you, God???) but I know you are near me for I feel your correcting rod when I start heading in a dangerous direction. And when I ignore your warning, then I know from experience that you will haul my little sheep derrière out of each pit I stubbornly choose.

You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies:

Spiritual forces of wickedness directed by Satan seek to plant rebellious and wicked fear thoughts in my head almost every day:

  • Why trust what you can’t see?
  • There’s no way God can do that!

Often I have to battle anxiety that takes the form of ‘what ifs’:

  • What if I don’t have enough time to get all my schoolwork done this week?
  • What if Mike doesn’t sleep well tonight?
  • What if my Christian witness at school, as cautious as I am, gets me in trouble?

But Jesus feeds me daily with encouragement from the Bible, from devotional books, from others’ prayers, from podcast sermons AND most especially each time a prayer is answered.   Whether a need on behalf of a friend that I repeatedly and insistently brought before the Father or help I received via others’ prayers for me.  Seeing God come through is the biggest boost!  We, his sheep, get the help and I love to give God the glory. Each time God provides an answer to prayer, my faith deepens, even if by just a bit.

You anoint my head with oil:

Jesus has a job for me, one of his sheep!  And it’s work that he has planned just for me from before the creation of the universe. Tailor-made work meant to advance his kingdom, pushing back the darkness.  I’m reassured again that each one of us, his sheep, is individually important.

My cup overflows:

I receive more goodness from your hand than I need or desire. You keep pouring it on! It never ends.

It’s a fact!  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:

I’m hemmed in by the holy, happy, loving and compassionate community of the one true and living God.

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever:

My life is only going to get better. Living near Jesus forever means I will always be safe and completely satisfied.

**

Often on my morning walks I personalize Psalm 23 or the Lord’s Prayer. Talking it through TO the Father reminds me of these realities and reconfirms to ME my status as a child of God and the privileges and responsibilities that go with my position.  My life DOES matter and this day is a gift. The morning conversation reassures me of those facts and of the one who will be with me throughout the next 24 hours.

 

 

 

God sees ahead and provides for our every day needs – getting real

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el roi

Let’s look at the mom who bore Abraham’s first son.  You remember Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian slave?   Recall also God’s promise to make Abraham the father of multitudes. Ten long years of trusting and following normal reproductive practices had not produced a child for Abraham and Sarah. A bitter wife decided to initiate her own Plan B and foisted Hagar on Abraham.   And voilà – Hagar conceived.  And gloated. And Sarah couldn’t stand it.  She vented her pain of broken dreams and resentment on her slave and Hagar fled into the wilderness.

There by a stream the angel of the Lord appeared to Hagar, asking the rhetorical question about what she was doing. After an honest reply: ‘the angel of the LORD said to her,
“Behold, you are pregnant
and shall bear a son.
You shall call his name Ishmael
because the LORD has listened to your affliction.”  Gen 16:11

I want us to look at this mom’s response to an unimaginable pronouncement of blessing:

She gave this name (El Roi) to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Genesis 16:13

If you’ve been reading your Bible for a while, you know that the names of God are actually attributes or characteristics of God. The good news about that fact is that since God never changes and is 100 % trustworthy (or He wouldn’t be God), we can count on these qualities.  Looking at the name El Roi, we know that El means God.  What’s most fascinating for me is that:

El Roi is not 2 words, but literally 3 words – (the) seeing God who sees.

And if God SEES ahead then He will not leave it at that, He also is the God who provides what we need IN those future circumstances.

Just look at the word ‘provide’: It comes from the Latin

provide (v.) 
early 15c., from Latin providere “look ahead, prepare, supply, act with foresight,” from pro- “ahead” (see pro-) + videre “to see” (see vision). 

So the seeing God who sees is by definition the God who supplies our needs.

This aspect of God, for both Mike and me, is growing more and more central to our lives.  Maybe what I mean is that we are growing stronger in our commitment and ability to take Him at His word and trust Him.

This past week we had some medical issues where God gifted us with some practical exercises (homework?).  The choice was clear, A or B:

A – give in to the sin of unbelief, that is the temptation to worry or

B – cast each of these cares and their component parts on the One who promises to provide our EVERY need.

I’ve been experiencing a swollen lip and uncommonly chapped lips for 4 weeks and no home remedy worked. Mike continued to urge me to see a doctor.  It’s a pain when you’re a teacher and live 45 minutes away from your doctor.  And besides, I felt stupid.

But Thursday night as I was in bed, I resolved to call the next day and SEE if just maybe I could schedule an appointment for the following Tuesday after school, the earliest that school commitments would allow. This time, I uncommonly, but deliberately chose to take God at His Word and give this coordinating detail over to Him. I slept peacefully.

When I called, I actually found out that my doctor had a cancellation at 3:45 pm THAT VERY day, Friday.  Without knowing how THAT slot would work out since I was scheduled to be with students on a tour of facilities for the homeless of Asheville, I said ‘yes’.  Step 1 had fallen into place in an unanticipated way.  Next was to figure out how I could drive away from the city by 3 pm to arrive in my hometown by 3:45.  I ‘rolled’ THOSE details onto my Provider and He came through:

  • I arranged to follow the bus to where the kids were going to be dropped off.  Found parking.  The bus returned in time to collect them and thanks to Miss GPS, I navigated from the unfamiliar location onto my interstate.  My handing over to the ruler of the universe the unpredictability of Friday afternoon traffic amid harried, tired drivers bore fruit and I arrived on time to my appointment.  The doctor prescribed an Rx and I headed to the pharmacy.
  • But the pharmacy never received the Rx sent via the computer.  A bonus extra credit opportunity from God.  I texted my doctor for the first time, not sure the number would work.  It did.  He did what he had to and later that night the pharmacy texted that the Rx could be picked up on the morrow.
  • And as frosting on the cake, the lost time after school on Friday that I normally spend inputting grades and readying for Monday, God gave me Friday morning in some unusual circumstances.  I hadn’t even WORRIED or ASKED Him about that need!

Our good God beautifully handled LOTS of details of this current problem. (God is good all the time, the horror of the evil terrorist attacks in Paris, notwithstanding).

Although maybe minor in the life of other believers, this growth in turning over to God a problem in lieu of clinging and worrying and imagining all the ‘what-ifs’ IS a major step for me.  Listening daily to John Piper sermons, his teaching that the sin of unbelief IS the root sin of all other sins has penetrated my mind and heart in a tangible way.  The drip method works!

Even Jesus taught this lesson in His instructions of the ideal prayer: in essence we plead, “Keep us from succumbing to temptations and deliver us from this and all evil!”

Unbelief IS evil in face of God’s commands to:

  • fear not
  • worry not
  • trust on
  • turn over all concerns
  • dwell on His faithfulness

What I’m learning is that I have to catch the first signs of unbelief as new thoughts of possible (bad) future scenarios spring up in my imagination. Stopping those ponderings and substituting TRUTHS about God IS the fight against unbelief.  Our baseless but SEEMINGLY real conclusions have to be weeded out ruthlessly as part of our ongoing preventative maintenance of the life of faith.  If allowed to take root, musings quickly grow into debilitating feelings.

To cement this new growth in trusting God, both Mike and I were handed our next challenge; an excruciating toothache that kept him slumber-less on that Friday night.

toothache

I quickly spotted the follow-on challenge to this week’s homework.  I handed over to my good Provider the problem of getting in to see the dentist on Saturday. And pulled up each thought/fear weed contrary to God’s word.  Result?

  • Mike’s dentist returned my cell-phone emergency message I left at 7:30 am
  • He spoke with Mike about 8:30 am
  • He told him to come by for Rxs for a painkiller and antibiotic before noon
  • When we stopped by, he actually took Mike back and looked at the crown job completed earlier in the week and is referring him to the endodontist.
  • When the pain killer didn’t seem to last long and Mike thought about the article deadline looming where he had to think clearly, write and submit his defense piece to his editor Sunday night, we together stared down the temptation to doubt. We encouraged each other to trust the ‘seeing God who sees’ ahead and supplies the need at the perfect moment.  We have learned by now that God who is intent on growing our trust won’t furnish resources AHEAD of time.

It’s now 5 pm.  Mike has finished his writing; the painkiller he took at 10 am seems to have worked well enough to keep the pain down.

We are geared up for the next need we are handing over to El Roi, that of getting in to see the endodontist SOON.  Pray with us that we won’t falter and succumb to this temptation. Satan loves to blow on any crabgrass of disbelief like he did with Eve in the garden.

Didn’t you know that weeding gloves are an indispensable part of the armor of God!

weedking gloves

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