Tuesday, January 19, 2021

It's Just that Simple



Jerry and I have spent a good bit of time close to home these past weeks for various reasons related to the pandemic. Because of this we’ve again had time to listen to online teachings. An interesting point came up in a sermon from pastor David Yarborough this past week who referenced I John 4:18. He recited, “Perfect love will cast out fear.” But then he said, “But fear will cast out love.”

This past year has been a time of anxiety for us all with the pandemic, racial unrest, and political strife. It’s understandable. But we’re reminded there’s a better way than living in fear.

The word for love in that verse is the Greek agape, for which the shades of meaning according to Strong’s Concordance are brotherly love, charity, affection, good will, and benevolence.

So, if the converse of that verse is true, then those things could be displaced in us by allowing fear to grab hold. And maybe some of what we’ve seen in ourselves and in the world is the result of that.

Many times, we’ve heard or said in these past months, “I’m not going to live in fear.” But even that phrase has sometimes been tinged with anger and aimed at people with whom there is disagreement—not something that bespeaks good will or love at all. Love must be lived. It has to be the first thing in and the last thing out.

If we don’t want to live in fear, love will have to be our watchword. It’s just that simple. And if love is our banner, then it will look something like what we find in I Corinthians 13. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

And if you cringed a little when you read those words again, join the crowd. I think we all can see where we fall short of what God desires in these verses. I would not use the word always in conjunction with any of these attributes in my life (especially patience) and am often in confession and repentance of the ways I fall short.

Since we’re here in the house so much, when I took down our Christmas decorations, I jumped a little ahead and put up a few Valentine’s Day wreathes here and there. When I see these hearts, I can ask, “Is my heart right with God?” I can’t change a lot of what’s out there in the world, but I can allow God to deal with what’s wrong in me.

Somewhere in my childhood, I learned this song that reads as a prayer. Written in the early twentieth century and derived from Psalm 139, the lyrics are:

 “Search me O God, and know my heart today; Try me, O Savior, know my thoughts, I pray. See if there be some wicked way in me; Cleanse me from ev’ry sin and set me free.”

Yes, it’s just that simple. We ask God to cleanse our hearts so that love will reign supreme. Let it be so.

 

 Still need a little Christmas? A Season for Everything available in print and ebook HERE . 

 


 

 

 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Calling All Bridge Builders

I began writing this piece last fall but somehow never finished it. It didn’t seem the right time for it, and after the events of this past week, now I know why.

I’d been reading David McCullough’s masterful book about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, The Great Bridge.

John Roebling, who designed the bridge was a genius and when McCullough goes into the description of how the bridge worked, the complexity of it makes my grey matter vibrate. Roebling died before he could execute his plans, so his son, Washington Roebling became the chief engineer and builder.

At the time, mid-nineteenth century, suspension bridges were considered suspect because so many of them had fallen.  But Roebling once put a two-level wooden bridge over the Niagara River which supported both a roadway and a railbed on the second level. Can you imagine rolling across the bridge in your horse and buggy and a locomotive comes steaming over the top of you. The whole thing shook with traffic.

Mark Twain once wrote of it, “You drive over to Suspension Bridge, and divide your misery between the chances of smashing down two hundred feet into the river below, and the chances of having a railway-train overhead smashing down onto you. Either possibility is discomforting taken by itself, but, mixed together, they amount in the aggregate to positive unhappiness.”

Yeah, what he said.

But the Niagara bridge stood until trains became so heavy the bridge could no longer support them.

The idea of connecting New York with Brooklyn over the East River with the longest single span ever was astonishing. Hardly anyone thought it could be done. But Roebling’s design was of such brilliance and intricacy, that it has now stood for 140 years and it’s said with proper maintenance, it could last indefinitely.  

Folks right now, I don’t know how we’re going to bridge the raging river of political strife, a rampant pandemic, and racial tension. It’s going to take some Roebling-esque bridge builders in this old world because this distance we’re looking at seems impossible to cross.

With the vaccine coming, I hope at least we have some light as far as the virus goes, but there’s still a way to go until we see its effect. We know several people fighting for their lives right now and I pray the national situation doesn’t worsen before it gets better.  

I imagine the breach that most needs bridging today is the one between us and God. All this spanning distance begins with our individual relationships with our Creator. In the body of Christ, if we discuss political matters, there is schism even among those who formerly agreed, and it’s going to take faith, hope, and love to overcome. Every message I listened to this past Sunday had to do with putting God above politics or anything else. But it’s hard to do. We all have opinions, and we all think we’re right. There’s only one way and that’s to lift our eyes to Jesus. A good check on whether we’re putting Jesus first might be to notice where our focus is on social media.

Washington Roebling faced many controversies and adversaries as he built the bridge, only one of which is those in New York weren’t so sure they wanted a bridge to Brooklyn. I’m not sure how many today are interested in spanning our gulf either. It took thirteen years for Roebling to complete the structure and he would suffer from the little understood decompression sickness for the rest of his life because of how much time he spent working in the caissons as they descended into the riverbed. The role of a bridge builder can come with a cost.

The three words God gave me two years ago to prepare me for 2020 were “Dwell in hope” from Psalm 16:9. They came in a dream and I realized when the pandemic started that they were for this time. I’m continuing to dwell in hope that God will make a way where there seems to be no way--that no matter what we face, God has a way across, and that if we submit to him, he can use us to do the impossible. In fact, there may be someone reading right now whom God would call to be a bridge builder.  It may be a role you never considered but for which God has been preparing you your whole life. And if you’re wondering if you have the power to do it. You don’t. But remember Paul’s words, “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

I thank you for the honor that you would spend a few minutes of your time here each week. You are a blessing to me and despite the circumstances, may 2021 be filled with unexpected blessings for each of you.


 

 Still need a little Christmas? A Season for Everything available in print and ebook HERE . 

 


 

 

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

21 Verses for 2021

As many of you do, I try to read the Bible through in a year. Year before last, for some reason I fell behind in my readings which pushed me into the new year finishing. Then I lagged even further in 2020. Determined to try and finish in the calendar year, I’ve spent hours every day this past week finishing up my readings. It was a great way to end the year and help reset for 2021. I have another day or two and then I’m ready to start again. 

As my first post of the year, I thought I’d share a few verses that have been meaningful to me. As you can tell, my readings have primarily been in Old Testament history and prophecy as well as the Psalms and so the verses are limited to those books. Trust me when I say that I have no agenda in posting these. I’m simply sharing verses from my readings which were meaningful to me and thought they would be for you.  I’ve whittled a longer list down to twenty-one (which was really hard by the way) to encourage us all as we face what could be some of the toughest weeks of our lives ahead due to the pandemic and other reasons. I know many close to us who are suffering, and I imagine our situation is not too different than yours. I’m praying that as we enter this new year, we will do so with our eyes on the Lord and trusting in Him alone. Many blessings, friends. 


1. I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy; your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. Joel 2:28-29 

2. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 

3. Look at the nations and watch and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. Habakkuk 1:3 

4. Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy. Habakkuk 3:2 (This is a prayer I’ve prayed daily for years). 


5. Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, through the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. Habakkuk 3:17-19 

6. The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17 

7. Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty. Zechariah 4:6 

8. Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. Zechariah 9:12 


9. He has made everything beautiful in His time. Ecclesiastes 3:11 

10. The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121:8 

11. . . . and in His Word I put my hope. Psalm 139:5 (This verse is referenced in a verse of “Amazing Grace,"-- “His word my hope secures . . ." 

12. How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity. Psalm 133:1 



13. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. Psalm 138:7 

14. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:16 

15. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 


16.Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Psalm 150:6 

17. If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us. 2 Chronicles 20:9 


18. For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you. 2 Chronicles 20:12 

19. Know therefore that the Lord our God is God, he is the faithful God keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. Deuteronomy 7:9 

20. He is the Rock, his works are perfect and all his ways are just. Deuteronomy 32:4 

21. The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...