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, February 14, 2017

Trials, Part Two

The tests and trials of our lives are not accidental, but designed for each of us.

Tested by God

We children of His are tested by God
To see if our faith is real or fraud,
And that is the first of many tests we'll take,
But never at any time will He ever forsake us.
Whatever length and depth and difficulty we face,
He'll be there with His sufficient grace.
He tailors the test to the student
And remedial work may assign,
But every step on our way with Him
He knows the work for our mind,
The strength our spirits need to increase,
The time we can stand before we give way.
He knows and will give strength for the day.
What comfort it is to be so known
By the One on heaven's throne!

One of the most encouraging verses in Scripture is Hebrews 4:15: "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin."

How is this possible? Go back to Hebrews 2:9-10: "But we see Him who was for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him though whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings."

Philippians 2:5-11 gives us a glimpse into what Jesus willingly experienced on our behalf: "who, although He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Every knee, every tongue, without exception--did you see that? How I look forward to that Day--every knee, every tongue, as Christ's glory is sung, as the Father is blessed, by the called and the rest.

Paul would later writer: "If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness" (2 Corinthians 11:30). The apostle explains: "And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Paul saw contentedness in multiples of weakness, insult, distress, persecution, difficulty, because he recognized that in these, if he experienced them on behalf of Christ, he would have the indwelling power of Christ through them.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Trials, Part One

After Job learned that his possessions and his children had all been taken from him, this is how he responded: "Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and worshipped. And he said, 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.' In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong" (Job 1:20-22; ESV).

After Job's health was taken, this is how he and his wife responded: "Then his wife said to him, 'Do you still hold fast to your integrity? [Remember, she had lost her children, too.] Curse God and die.' But he said to her, 'You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?' In all this Job did not sin with his lips" (Job 2:9-10; ESV).

Many chapters later, face to face with God, Job said this: "Then Job answered the LORD and said, 'I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 'Who is this  that hides counsel without knowledge?' Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 'Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you will make it known to me.' I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:1-6; ESV).

Years ago, the women's Bible study I attended studied the book of Job. Job did not know why he underwent the trials he did. The same is sometimes true of us. Like Job, we have to humble ourselves and trust God at such times.

At the end of that Bible study series, I wrote the following; how do we identify and recognize and respond to trials?

Terms and Trials

Terms and trials:
When is the thing just annoying?
When is it really adversity?
When is it a loss of sleep?
When sovereignty gives way
And tranquility is absent,
Doom and gloom on the ascent,
Sighing is strangling,
When sovereignty is absent
And tranquility gives way,
When God is too appearance-distracted
And I can only sway,
Wondering what to grasp
Of terms and trials,
Arrogance and denials,
Sleepless in my sleep,
Loneliness increasing deep;
Spiral this way and that,
Cry like an almost four on her mat.
Terms and trials--
Neither is for naught--
Victory for each
Already Christ-blood-bought.
Rest, O heart and restless mind--
In His holding comfort find!
Already Christ-blood-bought,
Rest, O heart and restless mind--
In His holding comfort find!

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Returning to Psalm 23--When the Common Is Uncommon

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever" (NASB).

Psalm 23

I would guess that many, if not most, memorize this psalm while doing Scripture memorization programs. It becomes somewhat like the passage we know as the Lord's Prayer: common, rote, rattled off without much thought.
When we were on a trip some time ago, I spent a considerable amount of my quiet time thinking about Psalm 23, and the common became uncommon to me.

"The LORD" not just any lord but the One and Only Lord
"Is" not might be or just hoped for
"My shepherd" guide, provider, and discipliner
"I shall not want" because He provides for all of my needs.

"He makes me to lie down" which I might not think of doing
"In green pastures" sweet and full, meeting my needs.

"He leads me" otherwise I would not know where to go
"Beside quiet waters" necessary for nourishment as much as green pastures
"He restores my soul" and do I not need this daily?

"He guides me" me, personally!
"In paths of righteousness" again, very specific
"For His name's sake" so remarkable that His leading me is for His name's sake; more to think about: His name.

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me" how can it be the valley of the shadow of death and not the valley of death? Christ's death has made it so for those who are His own. His rod and His staff discipline and guide me.

"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows" He prepares a feast, anoints my head, and causes my cup to overflow; I do not need to fear my enemies because He is with me.

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever." What does it mean to have goodness and mercy following me? Protecting me. And, "I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever"?

John 14:1-3: "Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come and take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also" (NASB).

John 17:24: "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world" (NASB). 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Peaceful Transfer in Government

When Scripture was written, peaceful transition of government leadership was unknown, for the most part. This makes the following passages all the more important for us as our new president assumes office.

Paul's first letter to Timothy includes this: "First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity" (2:1-2; NASB).

Peter's first letter includes this: "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king" (2:13-17; see also Romans 13:1-7; NASB).

Note the motivations here: so "that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity," as Paul wrote; and, "for the Lord's sake," as Peter stated.

These are to be the reasons for our entreaties, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings, and submission: "For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men."

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Considering the Father's Love

The Father's love is shown above,
And on earth as well,
For we see it in His Son,
Who came to earth to dwell.

The Son came willingly,
Knowing what He faced,
Drawing with each breath
On the Father's grace
To do the Father's will.

What did the Father will?
A wife for His Son,
But at what cost?
The Son would die for the lost.

O perfection for corruption,
The holy for the unholy,
The eternal for the mortal,
The righteous for the unrighteous,
The just for the unjust,
The worthy for the unworthy,
The loving for the unloving.

"Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him. See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not 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. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him, purifies himself as He is pure" (1 John 2:28-3:3; NASB).

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Pruned

Today some workers pruned four bushes that are close together
Outside our window, and until today appeared to be one,
And gathered up the leaves and branches with cheerful care.
In this season, pruning is called for,
Whether a bush or tree or me.

Jesus says in John's gospel:
"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away;
And every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it that it may bear more fruit"
(John 15:1-2; NASB).

What is the nature of the fruit believers bear?
Paul tells us in the letter to the Galatians:
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law"
(Galatians 5:22-23; NASB).

(Jesus warns us in Matthew's gospel:
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit. But a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits" [Matthew 7:15-20; NASB].)

When the right season comes,
The bushes will be full of healthy leaves,
Branches where birds can rest.
And similarly,
When the right season comes,
I will be more spiritually fruitful.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

A Refuge for the Weak and the Weary

Like a weary pilgrim, with flesh and spirit contending,
I yearn for Jordan and this life's ending.
Like a weary pilgrim, tent grown tattered,
Sand and windstorm rim'd, heart and eyes increasingly dimmed.
Like a weary pilgrim, travel-stained and sore,
Yet I yearn to serve until I reach heaven's door.

"For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart" (Hebrews 12:3; NASB).

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28; NASB).

"Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will real if we do not grow weary" (Galatians 6:9; NASB).

"The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him" (Nahum 1:7; NASB).

"Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His lovingkindness, to deliver their soul from death and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name" (Psalm 33:18-21; NASB).

"The righteous cry, and the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all" (Psalm 34:17-19; NASB).

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might, He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will walk and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary" (Isaiah 40:28-32; NASB).