His Support When Props Give Way

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Removal of trees has become commonplace in our yard. What once attracted us to our wooded homesite 30 years ago has been replaced by a healthy respect for natural disasters and a determination to be preventive of said disasters in the future. We have a bit of storm anxiety these days and lots of stories to back us up… (That is not my husband up in our tree. We are not totally crazy.)

Hurricane Isabel severely damaged our house in 2003. The cooling shade trees of our thickly wooded subdivision quickly became the means for great damage resulting in months of expense and repair. Our family shelter simply couldn’t withstand the forceful winds and rain. Many trees fell during that fury. Others snapped during lesser storms that would come years later.

Anxiety takes a huge toll on people I know and love – including me. Anything I can’t control troubles me. Like trees falling on houses. Dramatic! So much for the wonderful shade and beautiful scenery. Even the tree removal “professionals” made me anxious. (Were they really “professionals?” I wonder still.) The tree guys have special shoes, tools, and ropes, but you still question if they’ll hold as large limbs come thumping down. The work is still dangerous and the ground still shakes.

Likewise, there are shoes, tools, and ropes that we plant around our lives, hoping for impossible outcomes of lasting support. Truths about the things we trust are steadily revealed. Medicines cannot absolutely guarantee restored health. I don’t even know what to say about the collapsing status of health insurance… Reputations fluctuate. Successful careers end. Good friends end up enemies. Often accidents cause death. Money is not the security we thought it was. Loneliness occurs even when we are surrounded by people. Social media superficializes relationships. The things we lean on for safety are no more than theater props – fake and feeble.

When our comfort is compromised, when our diagnosis is terminal, when our career is interrupted, when our friends betray us – God is the only rock in whom we can take refuge. I love the scripture passage Psalm 94:11-23, especially verses 18-19: “When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ Your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, Your consolation brought joy to my soul.” I draw support from the Author and Finisher of my faith – Jesus. He doesn’t change and He is always there when my props give way. “But the Lord has become my fortress and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.” (Psalm 94:22)

Attempts to find security in health and financial resources, or in a good name and occupation, prove to be unsustainable. Yet, God sustains us with His love and provision when we completely trust Him. His resources are spiritual and His strength is eternal – no match for the fleeting and flimsy props that we hope will give us happiness. His salvation is forever. His kingdom is not of this world. Psalm 94:18-19 tells us that God’s love supports us when our footing gives way and His joy consoles us when we are paralyzed by anxiety. In Christ, our ultimate fortress, we no longer chase after collapsible props.

“Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.” (Psalm 94:17)

Confident Approaching

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Photo Credit: Kim Clayton Lance

CONFIDENCE IN APPROACHING GOD

I John 5:14-15 says “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to HIS will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of Him.”

I was in a discipleship class about 25 years ago and had to memorize this scripture. I remember thinking then, as I do now, that this is an amazing promise and responsibility. It is amazing that Jesus makes us members of God’s family, the Father’s inner circle, because we know Him personally, and not just about Him. As believers, we have a God-given appetite for the Holy Spirit’s presence and we have precious communion with Him when we “remain” or “abide” in Him (John 15).

To abide in Him, we commit ourselves to a relationship whereby God speaks to us through His Word and we speak to Him through prayer, and the Holy Spirit draws us into the divine conversation between Father, Son, and Spirit. Although not beyond comprehension, this is still hard to grasp.

The responsibility we have is to “abide” or “remain” in Him. I am not sure which word carries more weight. But, I am sure that our store of spiritual power evaporates with the passage of time, daily distractions and spiritual warfare. Therefore, praying for the filling of the Holy Spirit needs to be a continuous activity of the heart, daily and nightly, personal and corporate.

Depending on the Spirit for comfort, counsel, wisdom, understanding, teaching, convicting, prompting and guiding is an essential activity for “Family of God” tightness, and so that we can be sure that we are praying in God’s will. From a corporate perspective, Charles Spurgeon has said that a church’s true spiritual condition can be gauged by its prayer meetings. He calls the measurement of divine working in God’s family a “grace-ometer” reading, and that slothfulness in prayer is surely indicative of God’s absence.

How precious are our prayers to God! Psalm 141:2 says, “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” And Revelation 5:8 says, “And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”

When I was a student in Christian high school many years ago, students were taught to remember Jeremiah 33:3 as “God’s telephone number.” Although there is no need for any technology to call on God, the scripture says, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” What a mighty and powerful God we have! Unsearchable things will be disclosed. I will have power against the world in prayer. Out of my tears, fears, and need I can call out, cry out, implore aid and know that I am heard.

Jim Cymbala, Head Pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, wrote a book called Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, published in 1997, and in it he said, “God will manifest himself in direct proportion to our passion for Him. The principle he laid down long ago is still true: ‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’ (Jeremiah 29:13).” Pastor Cymbala writes that when believers bring their needs to God, that the wind of prayer takes root as a gift of the Holy Spirit. The result of the deeper joy and power of God’s presence brings the reality of “greater things will be done” (John 1:50).

“Abiding” or “remaining” in Him is a serious responsibility. We know that our spiritual vitality, our fervency in prayer, and our closeness to the Lord are what bring glory to God. So, Hebrews 4:16 becomes our key to the divine unsearchable: “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” As God’s children, we are given this gift, this key, and the tremendous reality that we are in God’s inner circle, and therefore in His will.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Well

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Psalm 37: 5 “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this.”

There is a haunting question in scripture that Jesus asks an invalid (John 5): “Do you want to get well?” The obvious answer is yes. Who wouldn’t want to be healthy again after 38 years of disability? But, below the surface, the deeper meaning of wellness is provocative and may not always render easy yeses like we would imagine.

My pastor preached on this recently. (Check it out – Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, 2-26-17). He challenged listeners to think deeply about the diagnosis of un-wellness, or better yet, un-wholeness. I looked in the spiritual mirror and wondered why I and others choose to be satisfied with surface healing and push down our places of misery far away from our “wired in” longing for wholeness – spiritual, emotional, and physical? Why do we settle for forgiveness, but want nothing more? Especially after what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross?

Eternal life starts here. But, we look at it far off in the distance and forget that healing is available now. Hindsight has reminded me that my youthful profession of faith was seriously blind to what healing Jesus had already accomplished. But, by His grace, He enabled that first precarious faith step in my life. Like the invalid at the pool, I got up and knew something was different and even public, but I didn’t recognize the Healer yet. Like the invalid, I got to skip the expected pool path (“angel-touched healing waters”) and just move forward quietly with Jesus. In the meantime, God reached down through my Christian parents to plant me in a faith-fertile place so that I could eventually recognize the Healer for Who He is.

Against the backdrop of adult life and the wooing of the Holy Spirit, I finally recognized the Source of Wholeness – Jesus. Don’t get me wrong. I still chase after things to supercharge my sense of wellbeing – the next women’s conference, the next audio or video sermon, the next prayer meeting, the next theology book, the next ministry position. That just makes me a collector of Christian trappings, not a Christ lover. Real healing is in Christ alone. Be advised.

I have to trust Him in the brief steps and seasons without really knowing what He is up to behind the scenes of my life. Then, hindsight shows me that He has been adding grace upon grace to my life and has formed in me a longing for true wholeness. Like the invalid, I often want to grow comfortable with my familiar affliction surroundings. But, like a Christ lover, I want to risk it all and allow the maybe painful movement of the capable Healer in my brokenness. I want to get really well.

Psalm 73:23-26 “Yet I am always with you; You hold me by my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”