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Surety

 
One of the wonderful aspects of the truth we looked at yesterday–that God has a plan for good which he laid out for history and for us–is that God is absolutely faithful: He plans, and then unwaveringly, inexorably and powerfully keeps all on course.
This is obvious in the dozens of prophecies given in the Old Testament which are exactly fulfilled in the New Testament, many of them thousands of years after being given. God promises and He brings it to pass, period.
The rebellion and evil of Satan, of men, or of me cannot derail His purposes, His over-arching plan. He has the infinite ability to weave our evil actions into the overall outcome of the good that He desires. As Joseph said to his brothers near the end of his life: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Gen 50:20)
This is also seen in Daniel’s life, where every attack on him resulted in more glory for God and more influence for Daniel. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand” (Pro. 19:21).
This was especially encouraging to me as, over the several years, I helplessly watched Barbara spiral down into depression and weakness. God has a plan here and I can trust Him in it, join Him in it, knowing that in the larger picture, He will use it for our good.
God’s faithfulness assures us that He will bring the right outcomes at the right time. His plans are so certain that they can be expressed as finished before they come to pass, calling Jesus, “…the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” Rev 13:8b. The certainty that Jesus would die for us was so solid, so set in stone that God was able to express it as being done before history even began.
You, the living God, the Triune Lord, are all we need, for you are the faithful Creator and the trustable Ruler of all. To you be glory today as I join you in your plans, listening to your Spirit, living in your power according to your Word, being a person of praise. May you be exalted in my life today. Amen.
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Future?

 
Lord, I praise you that I did not wake up alone this morning, for you were there, waiting for me, ready with the elements of this day, all carefully arranged, wisely laid out, lovingly prepared. Truly, “My times are in your hands…” (Ps. 31:15).
As human beings, we live in the river of history where events propel us through the day, the week, the year and beyond. The vast majority of these events are outside of our control, swirling in and out of our lives without our desire, beyond our power: wars, floods, famines, storms, political changes, economic shifts, accidents, illnesses and deaths.
These come and go in seemingly meaningless, random patterns, empowering some, snuffing out the lives of others, bringing and taking prosperity, uniting and separating families and strangers.
Even on a personal level I have only a certain amount of decision-making control, mostly in how to spend the time, money and energy given me. In the limited scope of my life, this seems to be quite a bit of power, but outside events can easily disrupt this control: an accident, sickness, loss of income, a fire, a storm, a fight ending a relationship Any one of these can come to me easily without my wanting or being able to prevent it.
To think of how powerless I am is disturbing: human beings do not like weakness, randomness and insecurity. However, when we become a child of God, born again into His family, there is a great shift in this scene. While the situation remains the same, there is one significant truth added that alters everything drastically: all those events and things that are out of my control are fully and securely in the hands of our loving and powerful Heavenly Father.
He who breathed the stars into existence, who hung the earth on nothing, who set it in exactly the right orbit around the sun, who spun it at the needed speed on a perfectly tilted axis, who formed the mountains and valleys, who spoke the animals into life–He is the One who holds our lives, our future in His hands.
He is not only in control, He has a specific, detailed plan, one that will not fail: “…the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” And no one can frustrate Him in it: “The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples” (Psalm 33:11,10). No matter how hard we may try, we cannot circumvent what God has prepared: “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD” (Pro. 21:30).
And what our Father has prepared for us is good: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'” (Jer. 29:11). He may lead us through many difficulties, as the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness, but these are for our good, our maturity, our equipping, our bringing more glory to God.
So, Lord God, I willingly submit myself to your plan for today, whatever it may be, painful or pleasant, difficult or delightful, and commit myself to honoring you by offering the sacrifice of thanksgiving for whatever will come.
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Worship Journal Entry

 
An entry from my worship journal written in 2015
This morning I slept until 7:45! Not to my liking. I’d rather get up much earlier, as I usually do, but I praise you anyway, Lord, for this. You know what is best, and I thank you for what you have allowed.
You are the God of glory, the Lord of Love, the King of kindness, the Ruler of righteousness and the Shepherd of strength. To you we belong, as well as our time, energy, abilities, possessions and relationships.
 
To you also belong trust, surrender, dependence, obedience and love. To you belong worship, praise, honor, fear, awe and glory. And to you belong wisdom, power, grace, goodness and holiness. All of these you share with us whole-heartedly, abundantly, richly, graciously.
Praise be to you, Lord Jesus, for your sweet shepherding of us through the valley of the shadow of death, through the disappointments, hurts and difficulties of life, through loss, failure, pain and suffering, through conviction, repentance, forgiveness and restoration. You are wise and good in knowing what we need.
I thank you for the “limbo” we are in now with Barbara’s illness and the disorientation she is suffering. I praise you, Father, that you have things planned out: how long we must wait, the help you will give and the circumstances we will go through.
I praise you, our Sovereign God, who allows us the privilege of choice in our sphere of responsibility, and that you then weave together our choices, both good and bad, and those of others around us, to bring about the great conclusions you desire.
Praise be to you for the guidance you will give today, the protection you will provide and the strength you will grant. Help me to make decisions in partnership with you, bringing about what you desire for today.
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Psalm 34:21-22

 
Psalm 34:21 “Evil will slay the wicked;”
[we cannot play with evil and win. In the end it will devour those who indulge in it. The devil always destroys his own, of that we can be certain.]
In contrast, “the foes of the righteous will be condemned.”
[The righteous, those who are in Christ, will be vindicated and their foes, those who oppose righteousness, will be judged, condemned and sent to the holding place of wickedness, locked up forever. This includes Satan and his minions as well as those humans who reject good and love evil, who refuse to bow before Jesus as God, Savior and Lord.
 
Praise you, Lord, for your just and right hatred of evil, for your not allowing it into Heaven. You are purely good and only what is good will be allowed into the new Heaven and new earth, continuing for eternity.
Praise you that you made the way to eliminate evil from our nature, to free us from both the essence and penalty of sin, to transform us from enemies into emissaries of your Kingdom, from being condemned criminals to cherished children.]
Psalm 34:22 “The LORD redeems his servants;”
[In you, Lord Jesus, we, your beloved servants, have been bought back from the kingdom of darkness, from dwelling in the land of the dead, from blind stumbling through life and we have been ushered into the Kingdom of light, sight, love and life.
I praise you for your faithfulness in following through on your promises given in the Garden, Father, to provide a Savior and salvation for all. I praise you for holding open the gate of grace to every human being, continually offering eternal life to all, and bestowing it on who are willing to come, bow before you and receive your forgiveness.]
“no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.”
[You, Lord Jesus, are the true and mighty Rock of refuge, the Place of protection and pardon, the Fortress of favor and forgiveness. Praise be to you for your lavish Love, your persistent Power, you gracious Grace and your great Goodness as you seek to bring all into your Kingdom, even though you know all will not come.
Your unending Love is so Mighty, so Eternal, so All-embracing, always flowing on and on in spite of what we are. You are worthy of our love and adoration, our fear and obedience, our worship and exaltation.
Lord, today may you be glorified in my life because you are worthy. May you be lifted high in my being, exalted in my words, extolled in my thoughts, honored in my actions and magnified in my motives. To you belongs honor; may it flow bountifully to you today. Amen.
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Psalm 34:19-20

 

Psalm 34:19 “A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all….”

[Being righteous in you, LORD, does not protect us from trouble–I think of Job and his trials, of Daniel and the multiple life-threatening crises he experienced. But as you were clearly with each of them, so you are with each of us in every challenge and will properly deliver us from every difficulty when the proper time comes.

You may deliver us at the moment, or in a while, or years later or at death; you know the best timing and we can trust you in it. I think of Abraham waiting for a son, of Joseph waiting to get out of prison, of Elisha’s flood of difficulties, of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Jesus in what they suffered. You were with each and delivered them at the right time and in the right way. Praise you for this promise which I personally can trust, even as my wife is in the midst of a distressing illness with no end in sight.]

Psalm 34:20 ‘he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.”

[Here is a clear reference to how you protected Jesus in His beatings, crucifixion, anguish and death. In spite of all the physical abuse he took, you kept his bones whole–every single one. You are the God of detail, of power, of total awareness.

And so you also work in our lives. I think of the many times you have spared me in driving, times when I should have had an accident because of my own poor choices, but you sovereignly intervened and kept us safe.

You are God, you are King, you are wise and you are powerful. You are worthy of our trust. I surrender myself to you this day, willingly giving my life into your hands again.

Fill me with your Spirit, may He overflow onto to all whom I meet today. May you be honored and exalted in what I think, say, do and accomplish. May I praise you in and for all things. May your name be lifted up by my responses to whatever comes. I praise you for the privilege of exalting you in the midst of suffering. Amen.

 

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Psalm 34:18

Written in 2014
 
Psalm 34:18 “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
[You, Lord, know the heart of each person; you see when we are wounded and overwhelmed, cringing and crushed by the pains of life. And you are there with us, working in us, drawing us to yourself, comforting and supporting us.
We are by nature stubborn and independent, rebellious and stiff-necked, so we often selfishly refuse to come to you, thinking we have the answers to the questions of life. Surrender often comes only when we are crushed and broken by circumstances (often of our own making) and our inability to cope. It is then, in that trauma, that we see our true state of total weakness, of dependence on you, our sinfulness and rebellion, our need for forgiveness and salvation. You pin us down to help us face reality.
This is exactly what you did in me to bring the initial surrender, shutting me into a corner at the end of the earth on an island off the coast of Siberia. There I was powerless to escape–and I praise you for it, for with that dark experience you ushered me into the Kingdom of Light.
Lord, do continue to bring whatever breaking is needed so that we may surrender to you more deeply and be a more useful instrument in your gracious, powerful hands.
I thank you for what we are going through with Barbara’s illness and depression right now and for how you will use it for good. You are trustable, you are gracious, and you are wise.
 
Therefore, we can rest in your love, offering the sacrifice of thanksgiving every day, thereby honoring you and opening the way for you to show us the salvation of the Lord. This salvation could be giving us grace to endure this cross, or it may be bringing healing. Whatever it is, we praise you for it now, for your way is always good.]
 
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Developing Leaders

Following the drama of arrests, trials and acquittal, our attention was now focused on developing leaders for the fellowship, a long and difficult task.
 
If you take the average person who comes to Christ from a working or middle class background in the western part of the world, they are at what I call ground zero in their lives. They are definitely in need of a Savior but are able to function pretty well in every day life.
 
In contrast, most of the believers in our little fellowship had come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Many were fringe people who didn’t fit well into society to start with. This meant that instead of starting at zero, they were at what I judged to be minus twenty-two!
 
There were seemingly endless things they had to learn relationally, emotionally, intellectually, economically and spiritually in order to come to a reasonably healthy place in life.
 
The fact that many of these early believers were from the fringes of society was not surprising. They were the people who had little to lose in becoming a follower of Christ. Solid working class or middle class people risked the loss of jobs, families and positions if they were to leave the local religion and become followers of Jesus.
 
One example of one such person was Abraham. He as a fourteen-year old high school dropout when we met him. His mother was the second wife, meaning his father had two wives at the same time, one legal, one not. And this meant that Abraham’s family got only “scraps” of time and money from the father.
 
When Abraham’s mother became a believer, the father completely abandoned the family of five children, age sixteen down to two year old twins. At the time Abraham was working as an apprentice for a glazier, a very low paying, basically dead end job.
 
However, he was open to spiritual things and after accepting the Lord, he proved to be a “thirsty” disciple. He began having a regular quiet time and pursued input from several of us.
 
Then he took a very significant step: he forgave his father for all the pain, rejection and abandonment he’d given Abraham and his siblings.
 
To forgive is absolutely antithetical to both the culture and religion of this country. To forgive is viewed as a weakness. If you are hurt, you cut off the relationship and nurture hatred for that person for the rest of your life. Abraham , however, rejected his culture in favor of a biblical worldview. Forgiving his father set him free from the past and shot him ahead both spiritually and practically.
 
He went back to high school while continuing to work part time to help support his mother and sisters. He became one of the leaders of the church plant, the youngest and in the end the most mature of the original members. By the time he was nineteen, he had become one of the elders.
 
After graduating from high school, Abraham set his sights on a university education. However, in the educational system in the country, in order to enter university, you had to pass a very difficult test that is designed to keep people out. The score you got on this test determined what subject you would study and what school you would attend. You could state your preference, but without a very high score, you had very little chance of getting your wish.
 
Everyone goes to special tutoring schools for one or two years to prepare for this exam but Abraham had neither the money nor the time to do that. Instead he studied on his own while working full-time and serving as a leader in the church.
 
When he got the results of his exam, we all rejoiced with him, for he not only got the subject he wanted to study–graphic arts–but would study at the university he wanted, right in his home city! It was a miracle that flowed from Abraham’s valuing and obeying God’s Word and from doing his part in diligent preparation.
 
He went on to graduate second in his class and then married the girl was first in the class and whom he had led to the Lord. He became a published artist, an assistant pastor and later the director of the national children’s ministry as well as a church planter. All this was accomplished by a boy who, by every appearance, had been condemned to a life of mediocrity and poverty. When a life is surrendered to God, He lifts it up in every area.
 
There were others who also persisted in obeying the Lord, abandoning their natural worldview for a biblical one and they are also are now leaders in churches and ministries. Transformation comes on every level when we surrender to Him.
Picture: Abraham’s mother with Barbara
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Beauty in the Fall

It was Fall when I wrote, “Praise you, Lord, for the beauty of the trees as the leaves are now at the height of their color. Every corner we turn on the road reveals amazing scenes of blazing reds and blinding yellow, with certain trees standing out in special brilliance.”
 
These trees are a picture of what different believers are like. When things are going well, all look about the same in their beautiful greens. But when difficulties and pressure come, like the frost of Fall, the underlying beauty of belief is revealed.
 
Similar to these frosted trees, some believers stay green, some have a touch of color and some turn brown, while others stand out gloriously, glowing, lit from within in by their reds and yellows.
 
These glowing trees are like believers who respond in faith when things are tough. As it says in 1 Peter 1:6,7 “…for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith…may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
 
When our faith is proven true under pressure, we give glory to God at that moment, and He will then give it back to us when we arrive in heaven. There we will glow in His love and share in His honor: “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col 3:4).
 
Knowing the beauty faith brings, and how this honors God can help us to respond in trust when things are difficult. In offering the sacrifice of thanksgiving, we bring a glow to us and glory for God. In contrast, the self-indulgence of complaining gives us drabness and dishonors His name. Which will we choose? “He who offers the sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me….” Ps. 50:23
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Psalm 34:17

 
 
Psalm 34:17 “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.”
[Praise be to you, the Sovereign, Infinite and Powerful God, who hears every prayer of every one of your children and answers every one in the best way. Praise you that you act at the right time to deliver us from all our troubles–the timing may be very different than we’d like, but we can be confident that you will act just when we need it.
In sending Jesus to suffer, die and rise again, you have delivered us from the most fundamental of our troubles: rescuing us from the kingdom of darkness, from the dominance of sin, from the danger of eternal death, from the devil’s deceit and distortions.
We stand now as your beloved children, free of shame, of condemnation, of hopelessness, of meaninglessness. We stand in your presence, in your light, in your love, in the new life you have given us. We stand equipped for the battle, able to be more than conquerors in whatever comes to us, as we stand firm in the armor you have provided.
You have supplied us with wisdom, patience, love and grace. You have made your Holy Spirit dwell within us. You have given us your wonderful Word. And we live in the certainty that you will triumph in all as you carry us on with you to the end of history, giving us each a significant role to play in your glorious plan.
You have saved us from all the great troubles we were born into in our original sin. And you will save us out of all the myriad of troubles that plague us in this warped world of woe, using each one to mature and mold us into the image of Christ–as we respond with praise and trust in all.]
Yes, you, Lord God, the faithful Father, the delightful Deliverer, the lavish Lover of our souls, are bringing us out from all our troubles at just the right pace. To you be honor and glory today as we live in the light of your Grace, rejoice in the goodness of your Love and rest in the certainty of your Promises.
Keep our eyes on the Truth, Lord; help us to keep on the armor, to keep up the shield of faith, to keep on being people of truth and trust because we know you, the Lord of love and life, the God of goodness and grace. May you be exalted in all that I do today.
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Psalm 34:15-16

Psalm 34:15 “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their cry;”
 
[Praise be to you, Lord, for your rich faithfulness, for your persistent love, for your deep commitment to your children. Praise you that you always watch over us, that you always hear every prayer, every word, every thought. Praise you that you are totally aware of what is going on in our lives.
 
We can rest in your love which is strong and deep and powerful. We can trust you to hear us whether we sense it or not, and to work out what is best, whether we understand it or not.]
 
Psalm 34:16 “the face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.”
 
[What a stark contrast: from total acceptance to total accusation, from total redemption to total rejection. In your great Love, Lord, you hate evil and will deal with those who choose to live in it.
 
The greatest evil is to reject Jesus and His offer of forgiveness. Out of that rebellion and pride flow every other evil. You will righteously end the lives of all such rebels and wipe out even the memory of them. Praise you for your rejection of evil so that it may not continue in Heaven.]
 
Thank you, Lord, for your goodness which defends us in difficulties, permeates our problems and transforms our troubles into the next step up as we praise you for who you are and what you are doing in them–even though we cannot see any good at the moment.
 
I praise you for allowing the present problems in our lives. I ask that out of your love and wisdom, your righteousness and grace that you give us a fresh “Job experience” (Job 38-42) of seeing your greatness and glory so that we may continually bow before you in humility and confess, “I have nothing to say; you are right Lord, praise you for what you are doing.”
And I praise you now for whatever you will do this day, Lord, for you know what is best and have the wisdom and power to bring it to pass!
 
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