Crane Song and Common Grace

They sing to God

“And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe.  The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command.” 

Hebrews 1:2-3, NLT

There is an idea of an existance of a ‘common grace’ that touches every person on this rock called Earth.  What is suggested with this, is that every person has access to grace; at least on a basic level, such as nature, government, medical, education and judicial.  We all are sharing in common grace whether we are saved or not.

Common grace explains a great deal, He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt. 5:45) They both benefit from His care, whether they believe or disbelieve.

On the other pole, lies ‘special grace.’  It is different.  It is grace that is given to those who put their trust in the promises for salvation, deliverance and healing.  These promises can only be enjoyed by a Christian believer.  Special grace is grace that God gives to each one who is in a covenant relationship with Himself.

I got up early the other morning, with a cup of coffee in hand and went to sit out on my steps.  I have to tell you that mornings are truly delightful here in Alaska.  As I sat looking at the trees and watching the clouds,  the sun was caught by the trees and they began to glow.  (I always think of the burning bush of Moses and secretly wonder if trees don’t remember and try to emulate their ancestor so long ago.)  I hear the cranes from the lake.  And all of this touches me.

Just as I physically awoke 20 minutes ago, I now awaken spiritually. Common grace makes this all possible.  When I first became a believing Christian, I was quite amazed at how blue the sky was. The grass seemed greener. I remember feeling amazed that I hadn’t noticed these things before. I guess I was full of joy over the special grace that I had just been given.crane1

Common grace curbs the destructive power of sin, maintains in a measure the moral order of the universe, thus making an orderly life possible, distributes in varying degrees gifts and talents among men, promotes the development of science and art, and showers untold blessings upon the children of men.”

–Louis Berkof, Christian theologian

I love common grace.  It makes it possible to enjoy my coffee in the sunshine on the deck.  Common grace allows me to hear the crane’s special song.  People everywhere are drawing from the common well of common grace. “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.” (John 1:4)

 

 

 

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Gather Around Jesus

“The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.”  

Mark 6:30, NIV

You couldn’t find a more intensely amazed group of disciples on the green hills of Israel.  Coming from the four points of a compass they gathered at the predetermined time around Jesus. They excitedly told Him of wonders and miracles beyond,  but He was their center.  He was holding His sheep close to His heart, and they responded to Him.

I believe that the Lord desires that we first activate, and then implement verse 30.  That we come to Him and share the details of our day.  The things we did–in His name, and in His heart.  We should tell Him all that we did, how we endured temptations (or didn’t).  Our thinking and our acts of mercy, the Kingdom’s blazing success or it’s perceived failure.

Jesus wants to know from our own lips the things we have accomplished in His name.  This is not a formality. Rather,  it is our personal testimony.

It is only right that we share with him any failures and setbacks. His love is not contingent on our performance. We may have failed him in someway, but everything we do is a treasured moment with him.

Jesus will not condemn or judge you–that is a given.  But as we tell Him about these things, He can transform them so good will come from them.  Difficulties encountered also are to be communicated.  He is fully absorbed with our sharing, He devotes Himself to you during these times.  He even understands when we come back carrying nothing.

But let us tell Him all.  This inventory or diary should be the bulk of our evening prayer.  It needs you to be honest, and completely forthright.  Sharing the days failures and successes,  Jesus is wonderfully attentive; as we share and release things to Him (and in His name), we become more like Him.  And that can’t be all bad.

“No matter how high the powers of reason, no matter how deep the intellect, no one can discover God’s secret messages without paying the cost of true discipleship.”

 Winkie Pratney

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Listening to God’s Voice 101

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“But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.”

Matthew 13:16, ESV

There is a vast audio ocean that surrounds us.  Did you know that in the room where you are reading this, that there are cartoons, music, mysteries, and concerts going on? You just don’t see or hear them unless you have your radio or television tuned in to the right frequency. We live in the golden age of Bluetooth and cell phones. (Oh my!)

There is a frequency that we must lock into, where we can hear important things (or block-out confusing sounds.) God is so into ‘communicating.’  We understand He desires us to communicate with Him. He yearns for a dialogue with us,  just like He had once a long time ago in the early chapters of Genesis.

Knowing that I’ve been created in imago dei. I ponder the visible, which is a simple shadow of the real world. Mankind in general, creates and communicates–this is what we do–because it’s how God acts. In a certain sense, you might say we are miniaturized versions of Him. Afterall, we are in His image.

He is always speaking, but we’re not always listening.

The attribute of listening is amazingly profound.  Often, I listen to my local radio station while I’m driving in my car. When I drive away from the radio tower, the signal gets weaker and weaker. But if I turn the car around and drive back into town, the signal becomes stronger and I can hear it again.

In the same way, we stop hearing God when we drift away from Him. But if we will turn around and come back to Him, we’ll hear His voice again. The closer we are to God, the clearer we can hear Him. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).

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Waiting On God (Who is Waiting on Us)

by Andrew Murray 

And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will He be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.”

Isaiah 30:18

We must not only think of our waiting upon God, but also of what is more wonderful still, of God’s waiting upon us. The vision of Him waiting on us will give new impulse and inspiration to our waiting upon Him. It will give us an unspeakable confidence that our waiting cannot be in vain.

If He waits for us, then we may be sure that we are more than welcome; that He rejoices to find those He has been seeking for. Let us seek even now, at this moment, in the spirit of lowly waiting on God, to find out, something of what it means. ”Therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you.” We will accept and echo back the message, ”Blessed are all they that wait for him.”

Look up and see the great God upon His throne. His love an unceasing and inexpressible desire to communicate His own goodness and blessedness to all His creatures. He longs and delights to bless. He has inconceivably glorious purposes concerning every one of His children, by the power of His Holy Spirit, to reveal in them His love and power. He waits with all the longings of a father’s heart.

He waits that He may be gracious unto you. And, each time you come to wait upon Him, or seek to maintain in daily life the holy habit of waiting, you may look up and see Him ready to meet you. He will be waiting so that He may be gracious unto you. Yes, connect every exercise, every breath of the life of waiting, with faith’s vision of your God waiting for you.

And if you ask: How is it, if He waits to be gracious, that even after I come and wait upon Him, He does not give the help I seek, but waits on longer and longer? There is a double answer. The one is this. God is a wise husbandman, who ”waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it” (James 5:7). He cannot gather the fruit until it is ripe. He knows when we are spiritually ready to receive the blessing to our profit and His glory.

Waiting in the sunshine of His love is what will ripen the soul for His blessing. Waiting under the cloud of trial, that breaks in showers of blessing, is as necessary. Be assured that if God waits longer than you could wish, it is only to make the blessing doubly precious. God waited four thousand years, until the fullness of time, before He sent His Son. Our times are in His hands. He will avenge His elect speedily. He will make haste for our help and not delay one hour too long. The other answer points to what has been said before. The giver is more than the gift; God is more than the blessing. And our being kept waiting on Him is the only way for our learning to find our life and joy in Himself.

Oh, if God’s children only knew what a glorious God they have, and what a privilege it is to be linked in fellowship with Him, then they would rejoice in Him! Even when He keeps them waiting, they will learn to understand better than ever. ”Therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you.” His waiting will be the highest proof of His graciousness.

”Blessed are all they that wait for him.” A queen has her ladies in waiting. The position is one of subordination and service, and yet it is considered one of the highest dignity and privilege, because a wise and gracious sovereign makes them companions and friends. What a dignity and blessedness to be attendants in waiting on the everlasting God, ever on the watch for every indication of His will or favor, ever conscious of His nearness, His goodness, and His grace! ”The LORD is good unto them that wait for him” (Lam. 3:25). ”Blessed are all they that wait for him.”

Yes, it is blessed when a waiting soul and a waiting God meet each other. God cannot do His work without His and our waiting His time. Let waiting be our work, as it is His. And, if His waiting is nothing but goodness and graciousness, let ours be nothing but a rejoicing in that goodness, and a confident expectancy of that grace. And, let every thought of waiting become to us the simple expression of unmingled and unutterable blessedness, because it brings us to a God who waits that He may make Himself known to us perfectly as the gracious One.

My soul, wait thou only upon God!

 

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  Andrew Murray (1828-1917), was born in Cape Town, South Africa and became a revered missionary leader in the late 1800s and early 1900s, promoting and establishing missions in South Africa. His devotional writings are considered classics of the Christian faith.

Life in the Fast Lane, [Rest]

“Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, Like a weaned child with his mother; Like a weaned child is my soul within me.”

Psalm 131:1

“We are going as fast as we can, living life at a dizzying speed, and God is nowhere to be found. We’re not rejecting God; we just don’t have time for him. We’ve lost him in the blurred landscape as we rush to church. We don’t struggle with the Bible, but with the clock. It’s not that we’re too decadent; we’re too busy. We don’t feel guilty because of sin, but because we have no time for our spouses, our children, or our God. It’s not sinning too much that’s killing our souls, it’s our schedule that’s annihilating us. Most of us don’t come home at night staggering drunk. Instead, we come home staggering tired, worn out, exhausted and drained because we live too fast. “

— Michael Yaconelli

We have a problem.  We cannot hide it anymore.  It is invasive and a detriment to our lives.  It is called activity, or busy-ness.  It can destroy our souls as much as adultery, or stealing would.

Jesus commanded his disciples to rest, so we must conclude that this is necessary for us as 21st century disciples.  But the current is strong and it seems there is no “slow lanes” anymore.  Our days start early and we are propelled through it by the frantic pace of continual demands.

Can we honestly say that this is the abundant life that Jesus promised us?  Is this the fruitful Christian life?  The verse we must consider, “Be still and know that I am God.”  That word “still” means to be without motion, calm, at rest.

Tozer wrote to his generation with the penetrating question, “Has busy-ness become the new holiness?”  He observed that the Church was partial to activity, and that discipleship was becoming equated to work and movement.  The presence of the Lord was no longer a factor to the modern disciple.

We must return to the Master.  We must become quiet and listen to what he has to tell us. Matthew 11:28 tells us,

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

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“For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” But you would not”

Isaiah 30:15


Steps to Use, [Making Wise Decisions]

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The decision to make decisions that will please God is in itself a monumental step.  It means you have come to the place where it matters.  It’s coming to the place where I say “Yes” to all that God says yes to and “No” to everything He has forbidden.  The willingness to be guided is itself a powerful thing.

A fundamental principle to begin with: Every heart has a throne, the question is– who sits on it? 

Step 1:  Putting God First.

In part you have already done this just by your eagerness to do His will.  You  have made a deliberate decision to honor and esteem Him by letting God be completely God.  It is likely that God will withhold His direction if you have no real intention of doing it.  You will just sputter around in the dark. Your life will be painfully empty.

Step 2:  Worship Him willingly.

For me, to commence praise & worship is like firing up the nuclear power plant that I have in my backyard.  It is a source of unlimited energy that I have at my disposal, but it’s not about me at all.  When I start to worship, it must be all about Him.  It’s His character, attributes, love and grace I lift up to be examined by all.

“But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way.”

John 4:23

Step 3:  Read the Word faithfully.

Guidance often comes when we turn to the Bible for light.  Each part or style of my “leather bound Book” is a purposeful and deliberate unveiling of truth.  After 25 years since I became a Christian, the Bible has shown itself over and over to be important.  The Life of David has been rich, and Daniel as well.  I needed to discern the difference between:

  • A moral decision that concerns things that are right & wrong, evil & good.
  • A non-moral decision that directs me in the areas of preference and direction.
  • Reading the Bible provides us with all that we need.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet
       and a light for my path.” 

Psalm 119:105

Step 4:  Seek out the counsel of elders and veteran saints.

The Church has this big ‘brain-trust’ at her disposal whenever she needs it.  There is accumulated wisdom and insight that often is ignored or not even considered.  My life has changed because of my contact with these older saints.  Most of them never really recognized the imprint they were having on me, my marriage, or my ministry.  I realize that I stand on the shoulders of giants, that I only see further because they were willing to raise me higher.  We will fail in decision making if we will not involve our elders.

“Plans fail for lack of counsel,
       but with many advisers they succeed.” 

Prov. 15:22

Step 5:  Prepare yourself to walk by faith.

The scripture is jam-packed with people who had to have faith.  They are everywhere and they are doing everything!  But, all through faith.  I got to thinking about Noah, and his faith.  Directed to construct an ark, which took him years and years.

“It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before.”

  Heb. 11:7

Faith is defined as trusting God to carry out His unseen promises.

 “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” 

Heb. 11:1

Step 6:  Concentrate on eternal purposes.

I have heard it said, that this life is very short, and only what is done for Christ will last.  I believe this. Matthew also tells us to seek first the kingdom of God, and everything else will be given to you.

It is the kingdom that must be paramount.  The kingdom is carried around in our hearts; it is the place where the King dwells and rules.

These are not just noble and lofty thoughts to be smiled at, humored and regarded as quite quaint.  This is for real, these are concrete realities that we choose. God’s will is not some abstract, it is as specific as the believer wants or needs it to be.

Summary

I honestly believe that you and I can know deep inside us what constitutes a Godly decision.  It very often is on the path of greatest humility.  And when you meet up with humility, you will find faith– and then follows goodness.  And as you accrue these qualities it becomes much easier to make Godly decisions.

 

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Recommended Reading 

“Decision Making and the Will of God,” by  Garry Friesen, J. Robin Maxson

Helping Those Who Hurt Intensely, [Compassion]


Job needs God’s wisdom
By John Piper, originally published September 12, 2008  
The following is an edited transcript of the audio.

Can we learn something from Job’s friends about how to help the hurting?

Absolutely. Those first seven days were their golden hour. If they had stopped there they would have been heroes, I think, because they would have shown compassion and patience. And that’s what we should learn.

When you walk into a horrific calamity you should be really slow to speak and quick to listen. You should be quick to cry, quick to hold, and quick to meet needs, bring meals, and wait upon the Lord. The theological wrestling comes later, probably. It’s different with different people.

But I think the lesson we learn from the progress of the book of Job is that while those three friends—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—were sitting in dust and ashes, aching with their friend Job, he was helped by them. And many people are helped just by the loving presence of another.

I don’t think this nullifies the importance of truth. Let me give you an example.

I’m a colleague here with Tom Steller, who has been with me for 24 years. And Tom and I have sometimes said to each other, “It would be great to stay together long enough to die together, Tom.” And depending upon which one of us comes to visit the other in the hospital at our dying moment, we know, because of 24 or (perhaps by then) 54 years together, we don’t have to say a word. It’s all been said.

We have a common theology. Neither of us will have to preach to the other in order to fix their ideas. We will all know that God reigns, God is good, God is loving, and God is wise. We’re perplexed, but you don’t need to preach. Let’s just take each other’s hands and pray and fight this fight of faith together.

 

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