Tuesday's slice of bread

A weekly post premised on this: Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord (Prov. 16:20)

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Location: Florence, Kentucky, United States

married to my best friend, writer, teacher, avid reader, occasional poet, volunteer

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Right Remembering vs. Yearning for "The Good Old Days"

Years ago, after a major household move, I wrote several poems, which were all forward-looking rather than chock full of reminiscences. This year, as I have been making photo albums as gifts, I have enjoyed thinking about the years since those photos were taken, not just getting caught up in remembering when the events took place.

Why is this important?

Ecclesiastes 7:10 states, "Do not say, 'Why is it that the former days were better than these?' It is not from wisdom that you ask about this."

Reminiscing is one thing, but yearning for the "good old days" is something clearly forbidden by this verse.

What is the difference? Let's consider several of the psalms as well as looking at Lamentations 3:22-24.

In Psalms 42 and 43, the psalmist is distressed and yet encourages himself by remembering and anticipating in Psalm 42, verses 5 and 11. And again in Psalm 43, verse 5, we have this refrain: "Why are you in despair, O my soul, and why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God."

In Psalms 77 and 78, Asaph encourages first himself and then the nation to recall the deeds of the Lord, remember His wonders, and meditate on both His words and deeds--history experienced.

In Psalms 106 and 107, the nation is encouraged to remember God's deliverances, and Psalm 107 ends with this: "Who is wise? Let him give heed to these thing, and consider the lovingkindnesses of the Lord."

In Lamentations 3:20-24, Jeremiah poignantly states: "Surely my soul remembers, and is bowed down within me. This I call to mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. 'The LORD is my portion,' says my soul, 'Therefore I have hope in Him.'"

We need to remember the goodness of the Lord instead of yearning for the "good old days" and having such nostalgia drag us down. His lovingkindnesses never cease and His compassions never fail.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

All the Nations of the Earth

All the nations of the earth
Shall either be blessed or cursed
According to their response to
God's promise to Abraham in
Genesis 12:1-4:
"Now the LORD said to Abram,
'Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father's house,
To the land which I will show you;
And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.'"

Some from every nation shall be
Redeemed, per Galatians 3:13-14:
"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us--
for it is written, 'CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE'--
in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles,
so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."
Because of the gracious mercy of God
Proved in the sacrifice of His Son,
Jesus the Christ,
All the nations of the earth
Shall be represented in
His bride and family,
For all eternity.
Psalm 22:27-28: "All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will worship before You. For the kingdom is the LORD'S and He rules over the nations"; Revelation 5:9-10: "And they sang a new song, saying, 'Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.'"

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Reposting a Renewed Perspective on Suffering

In his first letter, Peter writes: "And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen" (1 Peter 5:10-11; NASB).

What was going on when Peter penned these words? Believers were being persecuted and were in need of encouragement. Suffering is a recurring theme in this letter. And the Lord inspired Peter to write these words not only to to sustain the first recipients of this letter, but generations following, including us.

Let's look at the opening:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:3-5).

Before Peter takes us to the matter of suffering, he directs our thoughts heavenward, to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, His great mercy, a living hope  through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our reserved inheritance, our protection by the power of God through faith for a sure salvation.

Contemplating these great truths should guard our hearts and minds for what comes next.

"In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:6-7).

"Even though now for a little while, if necessary"--we so often do not see the necessity of our trials, but God does.

Peter's words remind me of what James wrote: "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4).

Short-sighted, we don't realize the benefits of our God-designed trials, even when these are spelled out for us in passages such as the ones we're considering.

Who doesn't want more spiritual endurance? It's primarily trials that produce that.

Who doesn't want to hear well done from the Lord? Successfully handling testing will result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

This is what we need to remember and embrace: "And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen" (1 Peter 5:10-11; NASB).

Our suffering is, in the perspective of eternity, just for a little while. Christ's own will be perfected, confirmed, strengthened and established by the God of all grace Himself.

And we respond with Peter: "To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen."

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A City Not Made with Human Hands

The longer I live and the more people I know who have passed from this life to the next, the more I look forward not only to that journey, but to the promised city not made with human hands.

The following are what I am looking forward to:

Not only that city, but the sinlessness and the tearlessness and the painlessness and the fearlessness that those who live there will experience: "They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, not any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to the springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes" (Revelation 7:16-17);

Not only that city, but the bodies glorified to be able to reside there: "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not yet appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is" (1 John 3:2);

Not only that city, but reunions with those who have already passed from this life, reunions that will not end because of time constraints: "All  these died in faith, without having received the promises, but having seen them and welcomed them from a distance, having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if  they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to  return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepare a city for them" (Hebrews 11:13-16);

Not only that city, but the light that will be eternal because God is in the midst of her: "And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb" (Revelation 21:23);

Not only that city, but to see my Lord and Savior who has redeemed me, purchasing me with His own life and blood; read the Gospels.

Who else is with me?

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

So Teach Us

In the 12th verse of Psalm 90
Moses implores the Lord:
"So teach us to number our days
That we may gain a heart of wisdom."

What preceded this request?
"Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world,
From everlasting to everlasting, You are God.
You turn man back to dust.
And say, 'Return, O children of men.'
For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it passes by
Or as a watch in the night.
You have swept  them away like a flood, they fall asleep;
In the morning they are like grass which flourishes and sprouts anew;
Toward evening it fades and withers away.
For we have been consumed by Your anger
And by Your wrath we have been dismayed.
You have placed our iniquities before You,
Our secret sins in the light of Your presence.
For all our days have declines in Your fury;
We have finished our years like a sigh.
As for the days of our lives, they contain seventy years,
Or if due to strength, eighty years,
Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow,
For soon it is gone and we fly away.
Who understands the power of Your anger and Your fury,
According to the fear that is due You?"

Rereading those verses, it is no wonder that Moses pled,
"So teach us."

Perspective is key:
Seeing God as eternal and man as time-bound;
Seeing God as holy and man as sinful;
Seeing God as righteous judge and man as  righteously judged;
Seeing God as wise and man as needing wisdom,
So we too need to pray,
"So teach us."

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Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Let Us Exalt His Name Together, Considering His Faithful Provision

Proverbs 3:5-6, a familiar passage, reads, "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 your paths straight."

How often do we trust with most but not all of our hearts and lean just a little bit on our own understanding to make up for that lack of trust? And in consequence, we do not acknowledge Him in all our ways nor have Him make our paths straight?

This passage from Proverbs, as well as some from Philippians and James, has meant a lot more to me in recent months. Let me illustrate.

My family needed to move our Mom into a memory care facility, and how were we going to do that? The LORD made a way.

The family home of 29 years needed to be sold, and how were we going to do that? The LORD made a way.

My sister, after retiring and selling the house, needed the right apartment, and how was that going to happen? The LORD made a way.

We had 29 years of items (and some being much older than that) to clear out of the house when it sold, and how was that going to happen? The LORD made a way.

We could not lean on our own understanding at any point, so we turned to James 1:2-5: "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given him."

How often during these months have we rejoiced in this truth as we sought wisdom from God in each circumstance--He has given it generously and without reproach.

Another pertinent reference is in Paul's letter to the Philippians: "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" (Philippians 4:6-7).

It is easy to be anxious when we can't see how God will provide. We found ourselves discussing how thanksgiving fits in with prayer and supplication, and concluded that we give thanks for His faithfulness to us in the past. And the peace of God has guarded our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus, as He promised.

"The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

One Thing: A Call to Focus

We are pulled in many directions, no matter how old we are or what our occupations may be. Certain passages brought my attention to the need for one thing: a call to focus.

In Psalm 27:4, David wrote, "One thing I have asked of the LORD; that shall I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to meditate in His temple."

David knew that this could not be where he would be physically, but it was where his heart was and what he called the "one thing" he "asked of the LORD": that his whole being would be wholly His.

In Luke 10:38-42, we see the Lord and His disciples visiting their friends, Martha and Mary: "Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came to Him and said, 'Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.' But the Lord answered and said to her, 'Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.'"

Martha welcomed the Lord, but left Him for what she may have thought He wanted her to do: prepare Him a good meal. What a rebuke, then, for Martha to be told she is worried and bothered about so many things. Martha seems to have been focused on serving the Lord's physical needs, whereas Mary was more focused on learning spiritual truth from Him.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all recorded the encounter of the Lord with an anonymous man, the very rich ruler.

In Luke's account (18:18-24) we read this: A ruler questioned Him, saying, 'Good  Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?' And Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, "DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER." And he said, 'All these things I have kept from my youth.' When Jesus heard this, He said to him, 'One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.' But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. And Jesus looked at him and said, 'How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!'"

As He does with all how meet Him, Jesus knew what kept that man from the kingdom. This is not Jesus telling any and every person who would follow Him to sell all they have and give the proceeds to the poor. This is Jesus pointing out the cost of following Him.

When I read Paul's letter to the Philippians, I am reminded of that very rich young man. In Philippians 3, we read Paul's testimony: "If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which in in the Law, found  blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of  the surpassing value to knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him; not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith. that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it it; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (3:4b-14)

This was not the response of the very rich ruler. However, Christ made all of Paul's accomplishments under the Law less than nothing to Paul. I think these were among the things he chose to forget as things that lay behind as he reached forward, pressing on toward that one thing: "the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."  As those also in Christ, we need to focus on the same: that one thing, that call to focus.