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, August 23, 2016

Two Poems We Hope Will Comfort You

One: Whatever Beauty This World Holds Whatever beauty this world holds, It holds as a poor reflection of heaven. It holds yet as pure as the earthly can be, It holds, and it draws me more close to Thee. Whatever beauty this world contains, It contains as a gift from heaven. It contains as mist or rains, Something of the glory to be known. It contains yet a bit, yet a scent, And through it I see and sense Incense which draws me more close to Thee. Whatever beauty of bird or morning's dew, Can only point me more to You For all that is lovely in truth and delight, Is at God's right hand in radiant light. Two: When and Why Does a Christian Die? A Christian's death comes when he or she has completed the tasks Their Lord asks-- And then comes the rest, And then comes the glory, And then comes the seeing. And then death is the means To life in its fullhness, For life is being with and like Christ.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A Grace Prayer

Father, Before I thank You for the freedom Your grace has provided for me, I have to ask for forgiveness for not appreciating it, not even giving it much thought most days. If I give it thought apart from Sunday--church--or Tuesday Bible studies--it is when I am in the Bible and in prayer, and all too often, even those times, I end up lacking full focus on You.
I need to ask for forgiveness for that too, for letting my mind wander, and rather than bringing it back with my will, letting it take me, letting inertia dominate; I think I have a lot to repent of. But Father, if not for Your grace, I would not, could not, see the need to repent, nor would I have this access to You through Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. If not for Your grace, I would still be dead in my trespasses and sins, and think I was alive. If not for Your grace, I would neither be the woman I am, nor have any hope of being the woman I am in the process of becoming. Help me understand and appreciate the ramifications of Your grace--and mercy and peace--in daily life, and to apply them in all of my life with my husband and everyone else--even those who call at inopportune times. Before I can appreciate the freedom Your grace has provided, I have to be more aware of all that grace itself includes--and be able to give an answer if someone asks me about that grace. Way too often I just go and do not see grace, even when grace is going with me. Way too often when someone mentions saving grace, my thoughts go to life's end rather than to life's present, or even life's past; how limiting that thought is! Way too often I don't come to the well of grace, but go dry and more dry, then complain about the dryness in my life/heart, when that is my own fault--and fault I do not seek grace for. Way too often--let this be the end of that; let there be no more "way too oftens," no more regrets for choices made without thought. And then there are the consequences: When I do not receive grace, I cannot deliver grace to others who need it. When I do not receive grace, I cannot appreciate its full value. When I do not receive grace, I fall back into the so-called gospel of works. When I do not receive grace, I, in essence, abuse it, frustrate it, turn from it. But God .... But God, Your grace pursues me, through circumstances and Scriptures, through messages from others and through messages from Your Word in study. And O, my Father, how grateful I am for Your pursuing grace. May I so live that others realize that that is what it is, and that it pursues them as well. May Your grace work to Your glory in all, to all, through all, for all. Amen.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Perfect Harmony

"Above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony" (Colossians 3:14; ESV).

For those with an ear for music, we appreciate the work it takes to accomplish perfect harmony.

For those who are in Christ, it takes work, too, to accomplish perfect harmony--the process of sanctification that will not be completed in this life but only in that to come, when as John wrote in his first letter, we will be like Christ because "we will see Him just as He is" (1 John 3:2).

What are we commanded to do in Paul's letter to the Colossians that precedes the verse first quoted here?

"Put on, then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also forgive" (Colossians 3:12-13; ESV).

Only the redeemed are God's chosen ones--holy and beloved--and will desire compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, seeking to bear with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgive each other, understanding that as the Lord has forgiven us, so must we also forgive.

We desire, then, to exhibit and grow in compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, and then love, binding in harmony and unity of the Spirit to the glory of God.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Reflecting on Psalm 102

While I often go to Psalm 103, this week I was reflecting on Psalm 102, which the psalmist headed: "A Prayer of the Afflicted when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the LORD."

This is the summary preceding the actual verses of the Psalm. The author calls out to the LORD in ways many of us can identify with.

"Hear my prayer, O LORD! And let my cry for help come to You. Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my distress; incline Your ear to me; in the day when I call answer me quickly. For my days have been consumed in smoke, and my bones have been scorched like a hearth. My heart has been smitten like grass and has withered away, indeed, I forget to eat my bread. Because of the loudness of my groaning my bones cling to my flesh. I resemble a pelican of the wilderness; I have become like an owl of the waste places. I lie awake, I have become like a lonely bird on a housetop" (verses 1-7).

As if that were not enough, the psalmist also states:

"Because of Your indignation and Your wrath, for You have lifted me up and cast me away. My days are like a lengthened shadow, and I wither away like grass" (verses 10-11).

"He has weakened my strength in the way; He has shortened my days" (verse 23).

How grim and graphic are these descriptions! Yet they are not the sum and substance of the psalmist's experiences, nor do they have to be ours. We can also rejoice in these eternal truths:

"But You, O LORD, abide forever, and Your name to all generations" (verse 12).

"He has regarded the prayer of the destitute and has not despised their prayer" (verse 17).

"Of old You founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. Even they will perish, but You endure; and all of them will wear out like a garment; like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end" (verses 25-27).

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

All Things for Good

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)

All things for good--
Contingent, of course--
To those who love God,
Who are called
According to His purpose.
All things for good to those who meet
These criteria.
What comfort!
For those who meet these criteria.
And I want to, if I don't.
But I do.
And that overwhelming grace causes me to want
To love God and live a life of obedience,
And to realize how little I do and do,
And grieve in that realization.
When He is working all things for my good,
Why would I not want to do all things according to His will,
Live in line according to His purposes?
Knowing that in the struggle
I am not alone,
Not having to carry on
In my own strength.
There is comfort, encouragement, strengthening, and the increased desire
To do His will.
And I listen, having read,
"Be still and know that I am God."
And I listen, having read,
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."
And I listen, having read,
"The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; and His song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life."
And I listen, having read,
"Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken."
And I listen, and I rejoice, and I trust
That He IS working all things together for good--
All visible and all invisible; all temporal and all eternal.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Some Humbling Words

Sometimes the Lord needs to do a humbling work in us as part of our sanctification.

When I started college, I needed to learn 1 Corinthians 1:18-21: "For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, 'I WILL DESTROW THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.' Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe."  You may want to read the rest of the chapter some time.

Later, as I was in the working world, I needed to learn 1 Corinthians 4:7: "For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?"

Then, when Garry and I were going through a difficult time, we found ourselves in James 4:13-15: "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.' Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.'"

During that same period, when my Dad passed away suddenly, we found great comfort in Psalm 46:1-3: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah."

I have rejoiced in Lamentations 3:19-24: "Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and the bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is bowed within me. This I recall 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.'"

Recently I have come back time and again to these promises in Hebrews 12:10b-11: "He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness."

I pray as the psalmist in Psalm 143:10: "Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground."

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Christian and Suffering

We find that suffering comes from many sources and lasts for various periods of time.

We suffer when someone in the church treats us poorly, especially if this is unresolved for any length of time.

We suffer when someone we love dies.

We suffer from chronic pain/ailments.

We suffer when someone we love suffers from chronic, debilitating illnesses with no end or cure in sight.

We suffer from weather events.

We can find comfort from God's Word in these instances: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God" (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

We suffer from our own choices sometimes, and this can bring on God's discipline. Read Hebrews 12:7-11: "It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness."

What about suffering for doing what is right?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said this: "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:10-12).

We see the example Christ set in responding to suffering unjustly, for doing good: "For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly" (1 Peter 2:21-23).

We need to plead with the Holy Spirit to enable us to be like Christ when we find ourselves suffering for doing right.

We need this reminder, too: "For consider Him who has endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart" (Hebrews 12:3).