Stability and Strength

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“Is it not my family God has chosen?
    Yes, he has made an everlasting covenant with me.
His agreement is arranged and guaranteed in every detail.
    He will ensure my safety and success.

David’s last words, 2 Samuel 23:5, NLT

Covenant is a critical ingredient to our faith. Understanding it gives stability and a strength that can not be found anywhere else. Being in a covenant relationship with God Almighty gives us security and hope.

“Now may the God of peace—
    who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus,
the great Shepherd of the sheep,
    and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—
21 may he equip you with all you need
    for doing his will.
May he produce in you,
    through the power of Jesus Christ,
every good thing that is pleasing to him.
    All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.”

Hebrews 13:20-21

The nature of this covenant comes exclusively through the blood of our Lord Jesus. It simply can come in no other way. The spilled blood gives us all the benefits of a perfect man (even if we’re far from perfect).

The blood says everything about us. It definitively establishes us a righteous (and even holy) in God’s estimation. Once it flowed in Jesus veins and arteries, but now covers us completely. We have no righteousness apart from his death.

 for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.”

Matthew 26:28

Our status as broken believers does not negate or diminish this covenant. If anything, it makes it easier to accept. We make no claims to any righteousness apart from his blood. We walk in covenant only because he makes it so. As outcasts we receive special grace when it comes to certain things. Trusting in His work means we forever give up our own claims to  ‘completeness.’

“For the mountains may move
    and the hills disappear,
but even then my faithful love for you will remain.
    My covenant of blessing will never be broken,”
    says the Lord, who has mercy on you.”

Isaiah 54:10

Stability and strength. Things we prize and seek. They come to us via the promises. They are only activated by the blood of Jesus Christ.

We apply this covenant by faith. Faith is the only way you can make this work. We dare not pretend there is another way, for there isn’t. We handle these promises of covenant, but we must believe them, and hold them to our believing hearts.

Being a struggling believer, I find myself looking for something (anything) that will work for me. Being included in this New Covenant eases the restlessness and calms my fears. I rest in his blood alone.

“I am ready to meet God face to face tonight and look into those eyes of infinite holiness, for all my sins are covered by the atoning blood.”

 R.A. Torrey

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There is a Crack in Everything

“Ring the bells that still can ring/Forget your perfect offering/There is a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.”

Leonard Cohen,  Anthem

A crack in everything. As someone who has experienced brokenness in my life,  I appreciate the wisdom of these simple words. You see, I am intensely aware of being different then others.

I had a night job working my way through school frying donuts.  I remember clearly an incident were I overheard my boss telling someone that, “Bryan is one of the most eccentric people I have ever met.” Now I honestly was not trying to be odd, or eccentric.

To put this in perspective, I just happened to be taking N.T. Greek at the time and knew that the word for eccentric was a contraction, (of ek, meaning “off, or off to one side, and “centros”, meaning, “center”).  He was saying that I was “off centered”. That really troubled me because I always felt like I was intensely stable, and very much a well-balanced person. (But I was just 22.  I guess that fact alone explains much.)

Cohen’s poem tells us certain things. First, he describes bells that can’t be used, they don’t work anymore. Second, he tells us of our need to get real and to understand that “a perfect offering” is beyond our capability. Maybe 30 years ago, ‘naive idealism’ might have carried the day for us. But now I’m in my mid-50s  and I have tried to figure out a thing or two.   By then we start to see the cracks in everything, nothing has gone by untouched. We live in a fallen and broken world.

But the poet delivers a paradoxical truth, he states, “that’s how the light gets in.”

To learn this deeply, is to turbocharge your recovery. You’re a broken person. But that is actually a good thing. It summons up a discernment of how we grow spiritually.

I find it quite astonishing that the broken, weak, and the burned-out are closer to the Kingdom then the strong, the sure, and the gifted. This is a rich and an incredible truth, we are to see our brokenness and ruination in a whole different perspective.  We must see that that is how the light gets in.

“Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.”

Matthew 5:3

“God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.”

Vance Havner

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A Picture Is Worth a 1000 Words

Each morning I begin my prayers, “Heavenly Father, I praise You and worship You. You are the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. You are merciful and loving; You are Holy and Just.” Then I think, almost without fail, that those words are never enough to describe who He is to me. Words are never enough to truly reveal the glory and majesty of our Creator.

Moses, Daniel, Isaiah, David, and many more wrote of the wonder of our God in the Old Testament. Their words, inspired by God Himself, make up ¾ of the entire Bible, which is no small book. Still, for all the prophets spoke and wrote of God’s love, mercy, and holiness, the people didn’t completely understand the majesty of God because our languages are insufficient for that task.

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A little book with big truth

I was thinking about this during my prayer time one morning, and the children’s book Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney came to mind. It is a story about Little Nut Brown Hare and his dad Big Nut Brown Hare. Little Nut Brown Hare tells Big Nut Brown Hare how much he loves him: “I love you as high as I can hop!” he says. His father responds, “Well, I love you as high as I can hop,” which is, of course, higher. Throughout the story they try to describe how much they love each other as Little Nut Brown Hare is getting ready to go to bed. Just as he is drifting off to sleep, the little one says with a smile, “I love you to the moon!” After he is off into dreamland, his loving father says, “I love you to the moon . . . and back.”

Then I heard God say, “I love you to the cross . . . and back.” A thousand words and more can’t adequately describe the love of God. But this one picture — of Jesus on the cross, of His bleeding brow ringed with a crown of thorns, of His bleeding side — portrays it so well.

I believe that’s why the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. Words alone were not enough to portray His love. He had to come down from Heaven and show us. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 John 3:16 (NIV).

I know I love God, but I also know that He loves me and you more. He loves us to the cross . . . and back.

_______________

This post was originally posted on my blog, Linda Kruschke’s Blog, and is offered here as a reminder of how much God loves the broken believers of the world.

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Picking Out a Kitten

cute-kittensOne of the highlights in a child’s life is choosing a kitten, it will rank up there with many other memories. It’s often the first big decision they will make on their own.

The child will be introduced to a litter, and then be encouraged to choose. And typically there will be some hard picks, but often it comes down, not to the most playful and adorable, but the kitten in some way different from the rest. 

Often the kitten chosen will not be the prettiest or liveliest of the bunch. It maybe lame or “weak” in some way. However once that child embraces that kitten, the bond is irrevocable. We could insist they make a better choice– thrusting another kitten at them, but ultimately it’s their choice. We shake our heads, acquiescent to our child’s choice.

The bonding is surprisingly quick and strong. They’ve made their pick, and they won’t be persuaded to take another. The parent must be content that things will work out somehow. They have decided. 

“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”

! Thessalonians 1:4, ESV

To be chosen is the highest privilege and honor there is.We may not be the best or the brightest but God has selected us to be his very own.

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

1 Corinthians 1:26, 28-29

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A little rough around the edges

We might be mangy,  flea-bitten. Many are deeply dysfunctional and profoundly flawed. Often we are the misfits and the loser. Yet he has chosen us to be his very own. He loves us not because we are special; but he makes us special because he loves us. 

Someone once said that if God had a refrigerator that your picture would be on it.

Beloved, this kind of love is good news for most of us. We are not chosen because we are pretty or talented, you see we are not vital to the kingdom. Rather we’re chosen because he wants us.

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!”

1 John 3:1, NLT

You are God’s choice. Now the trick is to learn about walking as it. Prayer, worship and fellowship with the many others who are also chosen will bring you understanding. The Holy Spirit will show you how.

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For the Repeat Offenders Who Are Loved, [A Poem Prayer]

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“Lord,

Every family has a rascal, someone who breaks the rules

a delinquent of untold frustration and sleepless nights

a repeated offender and bearer of woe

The problem child who needs the most chastening.

Is this why you love me most persistently?

When you correct me, is it because

I’m the one most contrary

Or because you love me so?”

 

I wrote this thinking about Hebrews 12 and God’s purpose of chastening. I don’t pretend to understand this dynamic; but my childhood was punctuated by so much difficulty. As a father, my two children are now grown and fatherhood has been far easier than my dad had with me.

7 “As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? 10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.”

Hebrews 12:7, 10-11, NLT

I think we really understand our Heavenly Father when we spend quality time with this part of scripture. We are given insight into His care and into our own issues. It is a good thing He gives us— it enriches our spiritual lives. When He disciplines you, He proves that He is your Father. It’s critical to remember: God’s correction is always for our good.

“Father, I’m so sorry that I grieve you. I promise to behave. Thank you for being a faithful Father to my soul. Amen.”

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Dressing Up to Please, [Authenticity]

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,”

 – Colossians 3:12, ESV

I used to always get dressed up for Sunday church, hey– our whole family dressed in their best.  “Windsor knots” and jewelry, and we looked good.  I was pastoring at this time, and we felt compelled to make a statement.  We were examples, after all. (But we were also idiots.)

This now seems a little ‘kooky’ living in rural Alaska.  During the spring breakup, we would wear big rubber boots as we navigated the mud, and then in the church foyer we would all change into our dress shoes before we entered into the sanctuary.  I admit, I’m glad that we are no longer compelled to do this.

But “dress up” is a major spiritual issue with real consequences.

Not the physical dressing, nor our preening and posturing– but spiritually, getting dressed.  Paul urges us to put on our spiritual man clothing that will honor our Father.  He lists the clothes in our “wardrobe”.  These are the things we should put on, and be seen in.  We are to cover ourselves in what really matters.

“Put on…compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience”

This is a list of items the Lord wants us to wear.  If my dear wife Lynn tells me she really likes to see me in a particular sweater, I will wear it and frequently.  I know she likes it on me, and I want to please her.  The list just above is what the Father really wants you to wear.  He wants to see you in these things.

I just want to urge you today, that you would think about your spiritual clothing.  What is covering your spiritual man?  What do you look like?  This might mean changing your clothes and putting on something that the Father really thinks you look good in.

“Father, when will I learn to dress the inside? Help me attend to the things that really matter to You. Amen.”

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THE SNARE OF THE FOWLER, [Warfare]

Peter Bruegel, "The Bird Snare"

Peter Bruegel, “The Bird Snare”

“Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.

You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.”

Psalm 91:3-6, NKJV

“There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.”

C.S. Lewis

I believe that there is a great opposition to living free. Satan contests every square inch. His ‘modus operandi’ parallels the predator. He likes to hunt human beings. I’m being quite careful not to be melodramatic or manipulative when I say this, but Satan has a terrible plan for your life. He often uses human ‘lackies’ to carry out his wishes.They will use deception, lies and foolishness to snare people’s souls. They [he] will even resort to brute force. Many believers are being persecuted for their faith.

Some Old Testament thoughts:
14 “David now stayed in the strongholds of the wilderness and in the hill country of Ziph. Saul hunted him day after day, but God didn’t let Saul find him.”
1 Samuel 23:14, NLT
5 “My future is in your hands.  Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.”
Psalm 31:15
7 “We escaped like a bird from a hunter’s trap. The trap is broken, and we are free!”
Psalm 124:7

And there is plenty more where this come from. And we haven’t even got to the New Testament yet, where there are substantial references to this kind of attack. The doctrine of Satan is developed further there. Perhaps it is because we encounter the person of Jesus Christ and the act of personal redemption He made for each of us. Through this we discover that we have an enemy that we were never really aware before. And guess what— he hates us!

Some New Testament thoughts:
31 “The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out.”
John 12:31
4 “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News.”
2 Corinthians 4:4
12 “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
Ephesians 6:12

Just as we have in Jesus a personal savior, we find we also have an anagonist and a sworn enemy that is set on going to war on us. You didn’t ask for it, and it would be really swell if he didn’t exist at all. But the evil around us has a source and we dare not minimize it.

“To admire Satan [in Paradise Lost] is to give one’s vote not only for a world of misery, but also for a world of lies and propaganda, of wishful thinking, of incessant autobiography.”

C.S. Lewis, “A Preface to ‘Paradise Lost'”

Our fealty to Jesus becomes critical at times like this. The warfare has an ebb and a flow, sometimes the battles can be intense, and at other times less so. But we cannot do nothing at all. We must defend ourselves, or become a casualty.

  1. We can pray.
  2. We can read truth (the Bible).
  3. We can praise and worship.
  4. We can put on “the armor of God’ (Ephesians 6:11).
  5. We can “submit to God” (James 4:7).
  6. We can resist Satan and be firm in our faith, (1 Peter 5:9).
  7. We can “plead the blood of Jesus” over our lives, and over our loved ones, (Exodus 12:13)

Probably the capstone is the following verse. I pretty much sums up this ‘act of resistance’ we are all called to do. I wanted to emphasize it because it is critical:

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

1 Peter 5:8

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