Book Review: Full Assurance

For several years I struggled with whether or not I was really a Christian. During that time we visited my mother-in-law’s home, and I discovered on her book shelves Full Assurance by H. A. Ironside. I borrowed it, and it helped me with one key point in particular.

Recently while looking for something else on my bookshelf, I came across this volume again (I guess that means I never gave it back – sorry, Mom!) I couldn’t remember much about it except for the one point that had helped me so much some 30 or so years before, so I decided to read through it again.

Ironside says in his introduction that he wrestled with assurance for a while himself, and he wanted to “make as plain as I possibly can just how any troubled soul may find settled peace with God” (p. 7). He said that “so many people who profess to want help along these lines are too indifferent to investigate,” but he wanted to appeal to “earnest seekers after truth” (p. 7). He assures that God cares about us and wants us to rest in His salvation.

In subsequent chapters he unpacks several verses that speak specifically of assurance, like Isaiah 32:17 (“And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever”) and Colossians 2:1-3 (especially verse 2: “That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding“).

Then his longest chapter deals with “Difficulties Which Hinder Full Assurance” in the form of questions and answers, like “How can I be sure I have repented enough?” and “I do not feel fit to come to God” and “I don’t know if I can hold out.”

Ironside had been a preacher for almost 50 years at the time of this writing, and he deftly handles every issue from the Scriptures and shares several anecdotes to illustrate his points.

The point I mentioned having trouble with was whether I had repented “right” or “enough.” Forgive the long quote, but I wanted to share his whole answer here:

Very often the real difficulty arises from a misapprehension of the meaning of repentance. There is no salvation without repentance, but it is important to see exactly what is meant by this term. It should not be confused with penitence, which is sorrow for sin; nor with penance, which is an effort to make some satisfaction for sin; nor yet with reformation, which is turning from sin. Repentance is a change of attitude toward sin, toward self, and toward God. The original word (in the Greek Testament) literally means “a change of mind.” This is not a mere intellectual change of viewpoint, however. but a complete reversal of attitude.

Now test yourself in this way. You once lived in sin and loved it. Do you now desire deliverance from it? You were once self-confident and trusting in your own fancied goodness. Do you now judge yourself as a sinner before God? You once sought to hide from God and rebelled against His authority. Do you now look up to Him, desiring to know Him, and to yield yourself to Him? If you can honestly answer yes to these questions, you have repented. Your attitude is altogether different to what it once was.

You confess you are a sinner, unable to cleanse your own soul, and you are willing to be saved in God’s way. This is repentance. And remember, it is not the amount of repentance that counts: it is the fact that you turn from self to God that puts you in the place where His grace avails through Jesus Christ.

Strictly speaking, not one of us has ever repented enough. None of us has realized the enormity of our guilt as God sees it. But when we judge ourselves and trust the Saviour whom He has provided, we are saved through His merits. As recipients of His lovingkindness, repentance will be deepened and will continue day by day, as we learn more of His infinite worth and our own unworthiness (pp. 89-90).

One other point that I remember being struck with, though I can’t find now the specific place he discusses it, is from Hebrews 6:11-12: “And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Showing “diligence to full assurance” helped me understand that when we’re having problems along this line, we need to “be not slothful” but diligently seek God’s Word for the answers rather letting doubts and questions fester in the background for years.

I have many places marked in the book. Here are a few of the helpful, standout quotes:

It is well to remember that some vivid emotional experience is not a safe ground of assurance. It is the blood of Christ that makes us safe and the Word of God that makes us sure” (p. 29).

Faith is not the savior. Faith is the hand that lays hold of Him who does save. Therefore the folly of talking of weak faith as opposed to strong faith. The feeblest faith in Christ is saving faith. The strongest faith in self, or something other than Christ, is but a delusion and a snare, and will leave the soul at last unsaved and forever forlorn (p. 39).

Assurance is not based upon any emotional change, but whatever emotional experience there may be, it will be the result of accepting the testimony of the Lord given in the Scriptures. Faith rests on the naked Word of God. That Word believed gives full assurance (p. 45).

So long as a man considers himself worthy there is no salvation for him; but when, in repentance, he owns his unworthiness, there is immediate deliverance for him through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Without repentance the sinner is unable to believe unto salvation (pp. 91-92).

Many times Ironside counsels readers to study the Bible:

As soon as one knows he is saved, he should begin, in dependence upon the Holy Spirit, a careful regular, systematic study of the Word of God. The Bible is our Father’s letter to us, His redeemed children. We should value it as that which reveals His mind and indicates the way in which He would have us walk. ‘All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (II Tim. 3:16-17). The study of the Word will instruct me in the truth, it will show me what needs to be rectified in my life and walk, it will make clear how I may get right with God, and it will guide me in paths of uprightness. No Christian can afford to neglect his Bible. If he does, he will be stunted and dwarfed in his spiritual life, and he will be a prey to doubts and fears, and may be carried away by every wind of doctrine (p. 48).

Nothing will make up for lack of this diligent study of the Bible for yourself. You cannot get the full assurance of understanding without it. But as you search the Scriptures, you will find truth after truth unfolding in a wonderful way, so that doubts and questions will be banished and divinely given certainty will take their place (p. 50).

How necessary then for His redeemed ones to study His Word in dependence upon His Holy Spirit, that they may be delivered both from the fears that are a result of ignorance of His truth and pride that is a result of self-confidence. The liberating Word alone will give to the honest, yielded soul who searches it prayerfully, in order that it shall have sway over his life, the full assurance of understanding, for it is written: ‘The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple'” (p. 54).

There’s a very helpful section for those fearing they might not be “elect” or “predestined,” but it’s about three pages long, too long to share here. But one excerpt: “But what does the Word say? ‘Christ died for the ungodly.’ Are you ungodly? Then He died for you. Put in your claim and enter into peace” (p. 92).

I have seen this book listed by various titles just Full Assurance, or Full Assurance: How to Know You’re Saved; Full Assurance, or A Series of Messages for the Anxious Soul, and the author’s name sometimes listed as Harry A., most times as H. A. Ironside. I assume they are all basically the same book, but I don’t know whether there might have been some revisions between reprintings. The copy I have is from 1968, but it says it is a revised edition. If you look at Kindle versions, check the reviews first: one I came across said that several chapters were left out.

This book is an excellent resource especially for those who have wrestled with assurance of salvation or those who counsel such people, but it is also a good resource for those who want to learn more about what salvation is or for those who are already saved to understand and appreciate more what their salvation involves.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)

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You are not enough

I keep seeing the same message all over the place: “You are enough.” I’m sure people mean it as an encouragement. Sometimes we feel broken down, inadequate, criticized, unsure of ourselves, and dear encouragers want to lift us up by assuring us, “You can do this! You are enough!”

But the thing is, I know I am not enough.

Apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. Romans 7:18

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. Isaiah 64:6

I know, because the Bible tells me. I know, because I have tried in my own strength and failed.

But thankfully, the story doesn’t stop there.

And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord God. Ezekiel 16:14

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God. 2 Corinthians 3:5

God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 1 Peter 1:3-4

Ye are complete in him, Colossians 2:10, KJV

For a while when I was facing a task that I felt was particularly beyond me, it helped to reduce 2 Corinthians 9:8 to a few words to carry with me and remind me what God had promised: All grace. All sufficiency. All things. All times.

Sometimes as Christians encouraging Christians, we take God’s grace and help for granted when we assure others, “You are enough.” We think, “Well yes, of course it’s understood that we are only enough in His strength. Of course they know that.”

But we shouldn’t gloss over or take for granted that wonderful truth that God enables us to do His will when we abide in Christ. Sure, sometimes we need a boost of confidence or a switch from a negative to positive attitude. But we need to remind ourselves every day that we can only do His will by His grace and power. We need to consciously depend on Him. And when we achieve success, we need to remember that it came from Him, thank Him, and give Him the glory.

If you have blogged this phrase recently, please don’t be offended or think I am “getting after” or “correcting” you. I am not “blogging at” anyone in particular and have not kept track of the places I have seen this phrase. I’ve just been pondering the concept, and the Daily Light on the Daily Path selection for August 9 dovetailed with my own thinking. I wanted to share what was on my heart.

So what would some better encouraging phrases?

If this is God’s will, He will help you.

You can do all things through Christ. He will strengthen you.

God’s got this!

Or just quote 2 Corinthians 9:8.

What phrases encourage you yet keep the focus on God?

I Need Thee Every Hour

by Annie, S. Hawks, 1872

I need thee every hour,
most gracious Lord;
no tender voice like thine
can peace afford.

I need thee every hour,
stay thou near by;
temptations lose their power
when thou art nigh.

I need thee every hour,
in joy or pain;
come quickly, and abide,
or life is vain.

I need thee every hour;
teach me thy will,
and thy rich promises
in me fulfill.

I need thee, O I need thee;
every hour I need thee!
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to thee.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Wise Woman, Faith on Fire)

Toward a Quiet Soul

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me?

Have you ever felt disquieted?

Three times the psalmist asked himself why he is cast down and disquieted (Psalm 42:5, 11 and 43:5). The ESV says “in turmoil”; the NASB uses “disturbed.” Other translations say “sad,” “restless,” “upset.” But “disquieted” aptly includes all kinds of disturbances.

The Hebrew word translated “disquieted” in those two psalms includes these definitions:

“To murmur, growl, roar, cry aloud, mourn, rage, sound, make noise, tumult, be clamorous, be disquieted, be loud, be moved, be troubled, be in an uproar, to roar, to be in a stir, be in a commotion, to be boisterous, be turbulent.”

Ever felt any of those?

Each of those times the psalmists asks himself why he is disquieted, he answers himself, “hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.

That’s the course of many of the psalms. The writer has no peace of mind for various reasons: enemies are after him; sin weighs on his conscious; wicked people are prospering at the expense of the righteous. I love the honesty of the psalmists’ emotions as they lay out their dilemmas and questions before God. And gradually, as they remind themselves of what they know about their God and put their situation in the proper perspective, their souls return to peace, to rest.

Psalm 107 speaks of a physical storm, but there are parallels to a spiritual, emotional, or mental storm as well.:

Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. Psalm 107:28-30, KJV

We’re always glad when peace and quietness reign after any storm.

A quiet soul is not a result of Zen-like tranquility or an emptying of the mind. It’s not a mystical state. It comes from deliberately, consciously reminding ourselves of God’s love, wisdom, promises, and power and resting in Him. Whatever we’re going through, God has a reason for it and will give us grace to deal with it.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. Psalm 131:2, ESV

It’s fine to pray for calm circumstances.

I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 1 Timothy 2:1-2, ESV

God doesn’t always remove the problems, but He gives His peace. I once saw a saying on a plaque that said, “Sometimes God calms the storm: sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child.”

But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil. Proverbs 1:33, KJV

A quiet soul is not passive, but actively resting in God.

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling…Isaiah 30:15, ESV

A quiet soul can go from God’s Word and prayer into everyday life, still trusting and resting.

But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. 1 Thessalonians 4:10b-13, ESV

For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12, ESV

But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious, 1 Peter 3:4, ESV

Having a quiet spirit does not mean one is silent or mousy: it doesn’t quell exuberance. It’s a quietness of rest and peace. It’s not stirred up in a wrong way over the wrong things.

It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:26, KJV

And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. . Isaiah 32:17, ESV

Sometimes God has to disquiet us before He can quiet us. Sometimes we need to be shaken out of our complacency or chastened. Jonah was disturbed at God’s calling for him and tried to run away. God dealt with him rather severely. In Jonah’s prayer in the fish’s belly, he laments:

For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me (verse 3, ESV).

The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains (verses 5-6, ESV).

But when his “life was fainting away,” he “remembered the Lord” (verse 7), prayed, thanked God, and promised to fulfill his vows. God delivered him, and Jonah went on to obey God. Unfortunately, Jonah continued to have attitude problems and never did seem to come to truly rest in the Lord, at least in this book. The end result of chastening rightly received is “the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:5-13).

I originally wanted to publish this post last week, but felt strongly impressed to go with a different one instead. I think one of the reasons for waiting was that God knew I would come across two quotes in my reading this week that tied in with this topic.

H. A. Ironside said in his book Full Assurance:

As one walks with God, and learns to suffer and endure as seeing Him who is invisible, eternal things become more real than the things of time and sense, which are everything to the merely natural man. Thus there comes to the heart a trustful calm, a full assurance, based not alone on the revealed Word but upon a personal knowledge of communion with God, which gives implicit confidence as to this present life and all that lies ahead. (pp. 59-60, emphasis mine).

Then the ESV Study Bible says of Psalm 62:1-2:

The description of a trusting soul is there to set an ideal for God’s people: each one should aspire to this kind of quiet faith (p. 1011).

And the introduction to Psalm 63 in the ESV Study Bible says:

This psalm opens as if it were a lament, seeking God in a time of trouble; and yet the overall flow of the song is one of confident expectation. Hence it is best to see the psalm as enabling each of God’s people to develop confidence during their times of trouble (p. 1012).

Whatever the source of our trouble – God’s chastening or growing us, outward circumstances or inward turmoil – we can rest in His presence, wisdom, love, care, and provision.

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness;  he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17, ESV

He Will Quiet You

In this life, there are times of tribulation;
Hearts are filled with deep despair.
Heartache and pain and troubles abound;
Is there comfort anyway?
In your times of trial,
Lift your eyes to the Father above
He alone is the Answer,
The Source of please and love.

He will quiet you,
He will quiet you.
He will take delight in you,
And quiet you with his love.
His plans for you are perfect
And all His ways are best.
He will give you rest
As He quiets you with his love

He longs to take you into his arms,
And gently shelter you.
Only He can calm the storms in your life,
And give you peace anew.
And He will rejoice,
He will rejoice over you with singing.
He will rejoice,
He will rejoice over you with singing.
The Creator of all will lift up His voice;
And over your life
He will sing and rejoice!
He will rejoice!
He will rejoice!

He will quiet you,
He will quiet you.
He will take delight in you
And quiet you with his love.

His plans for you are perfect
And all His ways are best.
He will give you rest
As He quiets you with his love.
Come to Him for rest
Let Him quiet you with his love.

~ Words and music by Cindy Berry

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories, Wise Woman, Faith on Fire)

Bedrock Truth

Society today is trending away from absolute truth – truth that always has been and always will be real for everyone. Instead everyone has his or her own truth. This mindset is one of the tenets of postmodernism; another is valuing questions more than answers.

Unfortunately, this way of thinking has filtered into the church.

Sure, it’s irritating when someone gives a trite, pat response to a complicated question, especially without even hearing out the question first. Or when someone expresses obnoxious assurance about an area where there’s room for nuance and speculation. There are mysteries about life and even Christianity that we’ll never understand completely this side of heaven.

But Jesus said we can know the truth, and it will set us free. He said we can discern His teaching if we’re willing to do God’s will.

Here are a few solid, bedrock, foundational truths we can rest on:

God’s Word is reliable (2 Peter 1:16-21). Peter was one of only three people to experience one of the most awe-inspiring experiences ever. He, James, and John saw Jesus transfigured before their eyes talking with Moses and Elijah, though the two prophets had been in heaven for centuries. Yet Peter called Scripture a “more sure word of prophecy” than even this experience. (See also Romans 16:25-26).

Jesus is the Son of God. “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20, ESV). “ So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:67-69, ESV). He is in the Father, and the Father is in Him.

We’re not good in ourselves. “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18, ESV).

We can know God: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3, ESV).

We can know His love.

Jesus has authority to forgive sins.

Jesus redeemed us to himself by His blood.

We can be justified by faith in Christ. “we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:16, ESV).

We can know we have eternal life. “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13, ESV).

We can live a godly life: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3, ESV).

Jesus was raised from the dead, and we will be raised, too.

His sheep hear His voice.

Suffering has a purpose. “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4, ESV). (See also James 1:2-4).

We can learn something about God from His creation. “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:20, ESV).

It’s worth everything to know Him.

We don’t know everything. Someday we’ll know more clearly. But what we do know, we can have full confidence in.

“I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me” (2 Timothy 2:12, ESV).

True, some people will deny and undermine these truths. But I’d rather stake my soul on the truth that God made us and communicated His will to us than try to build a foundation on forever shifting sands of self-invented realities.

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Wise Woman, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories, Faith on Fire)

Violence in films, books, and the Bible

Sometimes when someone objects to bad words, nudity, or sexual scenes in a media, someone else will bring up violence. Some are quite incredulous that anyone could object to a word or image which “doesn’t hurt anyone,” yet have no problem someone getting killed in a movie.

Well, words and images do hurt people. I’ve discussed that before in other posts. But violence in media may be acceptable or not, depending on how it is handled.

There has to be conflict in a story, or else there is no plot. Sometimes the conflict is physical: war, a robbery or murder investigation, a woman fleeing from an abusive husband, etc. These things happen in real life, so of course they make for real conflicts in stories. But they can be shown in ways that makes the danger real and suspenseful, or they can be handled in ways that are gratuitous, just for the shock and gore factor. The dividing line between acceptable and unacceptable portrayals of violence has to be determined by more than just our feelings or what we think we can handle.

I decided to do a little Bible study, looking up verses that contain the words “violence” and “violent” in the ESV. I discovered violence is a bigger topic than I had thought, because there are many passages that describe something violent without using the word. So I did not look up every single violent act in the Bible at this time, but I came up with six pages of references and found some good principles.

There is, of course, violence in the Bible. A murder occurred among the first children born on Earth, and it seems violence has been part of the culture ever since. Just a few chapters later, “the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them'” (Genesis 6:11-13). In the major and minor prophets, part of the condemnation they preached was due to violence on the part of those they preached to. For instance, Jonah did not tell the people of Nineveh to repent, but then king called the people to”Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands” (Jonah 3:8), in hope that God would forgive. In Ezekiel 28, a passage that talks about the king of Tyre but also references Satan, the power behind the king, Satan is described as being “filled with violence” (Ezekiel 28:16).

God condemns violence.

Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways, for the devious person is an abomination to the Lord, but the upright are in his confidence. Proverbs 3:1-2

Be not envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them, for their hearts devise violence, and their lips talk of trouble. Proverbs 24:1-2

Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. Jer. 22:3

Thus says the Lord God: Enough, O princes of Israel! Put away violence and oppression, and execute justice and righteousness. Ezekiel 45:9a

Words often associated with the violent in many of the verses are wicked, treacherous, scoffer, evil, devious. The wicked are said to “eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence” (Proverbs 4:17); “The mouth of the wicked conceals violence” (Proverbs 10:6,11); “pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment” (Psalm 73:6).

I looked up the Hebrew or Greek words for violence for just a few of the verses I found, and words often occurring there were cruelty and injustice.

There are acts of God that would be considered violent, though the word is not used in those passages: the worldwide flood, the killing of the firstborn in Egypt and the drowning of the Egyptians in the Red Sea, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the wars of Israel against Canaan, to name a few. But these acts were not the result of cruelty and injustice. God is the righteous judge. He is longsuffering and gracious, but his “spirit shall not always strive with man.” At some point, time is up. If there has been no repentance and faith, judgment must come.

God promises in several places to punish violence. Sometimes He acts directly, sometimes He uses the human authority system He set up: and authorizes them to use a “sword” (in that day, other means in ours, but He gives them authority to punish wrongdoing).

Jesus condemned not only human physical violence, but the hatred of heart and anger that leads to violence:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Matthew 5:22-23

And James reinforces the truth that violence starts in the heart:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:1-4

But there is hope for people with violence in their hearts (which includes all of us since, as Jesus said, hatred and anger are sinful as well). Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” (verse 9). He then lists several types of sinners and adds, “And such were some of you.” Were. Past tense. What happened? “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (verse 11).

God says the overseers (spiritual leaders) of the church must be “not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome (1 Timothy 3:2-3) and “not…arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain (Titus 1:7). And those who are filled with God’s Holy Spirit display His fruit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Back to viewing or reading about violence: we see that the Bible condemns personal violence towards others. But it also tells us about many violent acts, like any other sin. Yet it doesn’t present violence in a way that glorifies it and it doesn’t share unnecessary gory details. Take, as one example, one of the oddest stories in the Bible: the man who cut into pieces his concubine, who had been raped, beaten and killed, and then sent the pieces among the twelve tribes of Israel to enlist their support for is revenge. The Bible says that “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). This is one of those extreme examples of someone doing right in his own eyes apart from any instruction from God. The story itself is gory enough, but it doesn’t expand on the details unnecessarily. There is no description of dripping blood, bulging eyes, entrails, sounds, smells. etc.

One of the most compelling verses I found in my study was Psalm 11:5: “The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.” The one who loves violence. I think that’s one key. A villain in a story may display a love for violence, but is the story told in a way that appeals to or stirs up a love of violence in the reader? Is the violence glorified or made appealing in any way? To me that’s one difference between, say, a war movie and a slasher or horror movie.

The other extreme might be desensitization, indifference. I don’t recall a specific verse which spells that out, but it might be indicated by several passages which show people considering violence as just normal when it should not be. Years ago my husband and I were watching a TV how when a character in the program was shot – not an uncommon occurrence.  But this viewing took place shortly after a close friend’s mother passed away at a fairly young age. The thought of death was still fresh, and seeing it displayed so easily and carelessly disturbed me greatly. It’s easy to let TV or movie violence float past us because we know it’s not “real,” but I don’t want even fictional violence to dull my sensitivity to it.

Violence is a humongous topic, and this one blog post can’t do it justice. I’m not sure why this was on my heart to write about this week. It’s an area I have been interested in and have thought about a lot and wanted to study a bit further, but I would rather have written about other subjects today. Yet, since this topic was on my heart, perhaps these thoughts will be of help to others.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories, Faith on Fire)

Psalms for the Sleepless

Most of us occasionally wake up in the middle of the night and then have a hard time getting back to sleep, but it seems to happen more as we get older. Sometimes I can get right back to sleep after a brief nocturnal trip to the bathroom, but other times I’m awake for a couple of hours. I don’t know what makes the difference. Generally I try keep things quiet, turn the lamp back off as soon as possible, avoid checking my phone, and do whatever else I can to make the atmosphere conducive to sleep. But still I find myself staring into the darkness.

I know some who read if they wake up during the night. Reading on the couch makes me doze off: reading in bed keeps me awake.

I’ve learned that stressing about it only makes it worse. Elisabeth Elliot once said that when she woke up in the night, she could luxuriate: she didn’t have to be up and doing anything else, so she could relax and rest, even if she didn’t get back to sleep. I’ve tried to take that tack, and it helps some.

But sometimes I find myself distressed, even in tears, over my sleeplessness. As it is I struggle with finding the best way to arrange my schedule and get everything done that I want to during the day. A nap sometimes gets me over feeling draggy, but it takes a chunk of time out of my prime work hours. I’d rather sleep when it’s time to sleep, not when I want to be busy doing other things.

Once I dealt with sleeplessness for several Saturday nights in a row…and had trouble staying awake in church the next day. I would plead with God in prayer: “Lord, You know I need sleep. You made me to need sleep. You know the things I need to do tomorrow. I’d really like to stay away in church, and I think You want me to as well. You’ve said you give to your beloved sleep. Why won’t You help me get back to sleep?” I try, instead, to rest in the fact that He does know when I need sleep. I ask Him in the morning to multiply the few hours of sleep like He did the loaves and fishes and make them sufficient for the day ahead. And He does.

Recently I looked up a couple of verses that refer to thinking or praying during the night, and that turned into a Bible study with much more than I bargained for! I primarily searched through Psalms but checked in Job and Proverbs a little, too.

Apparently many Bible people were up in the night. Job said, “When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ But the night is long, and I am full of tossing till the dawn” (Job 7:4). Here’s what some Biblical writers did during their sleepless hours (some of the verses could be used in multiple categories):

Attend to needs

Some got up or stayed awake to attend to urgent tasks.

David vowed, “I will not enter my house or get into my bed, I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob” (Psalm 132:3-5).

One who had gotten himself involved in an unwise pledge was urged to “Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber; save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler” (Proverbs 6:1-5).

“He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame” (Proverbs 10:5).

The Proverbs 31 woman got up “while it was yet night” to prepare food and worked late into the night (Proverbs 31:15, 18).

I just finished a book in which the author told of using late night hours to write because she had trouble falling asleep. My husband has said that he can often get much more work done when he wakes up in the night than when he is in a busy office.

Mourn and seek comfort

Painful or sad thoughts can be kept at bay while we’re busy through the day. But at night, there is nothing else to distract us. Asaph said: “In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah. You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak” (Psalm 77:2-4). David mourned over sin until he found forgiveness (Psalm 6, especially verse 6: “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears” and 32, especially verses 4-5: “For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.'”) It’s good to confess sin as soon as we’re aware of it, but it’s not a bad practice at the end of the day to ask God to search us and show us anything we overlooked.

The psalmist of Psalm 42 mourns because of an enemy (verse 9): “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?'” (verse 3). He remembers past times of praising God in the house of God and admonishes himself, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (verses 5 and 11).

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:4-5).

Meditate

Biblical meditation is not an emptying of the mind but turning something over in your mind.

Psalm 1 says of the blessed man “his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:5-8).

“My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise” (Psalm 119:148).

“I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me“(Psalm 16:7).

“Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent” (Psalm 4:4).

One good example of the process of meditation is Psalm 77. There Asaph was so troubled he could not sleep. But then he reminded himself of God’s character, grace, faithfulness, love, past works and deeds.

Pray

Sometimes when I lament nighttime wakefulness, someone glibly advises me to “just pray.” That makes me feel they don’t understand or aren’t taking into account the problems with wakefulness I mentioned above. On the other hand, though the advice comes across as a little unsympathetic, those hours are a good time for undistracted, heartfelt prayer.

“O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before you. Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry! For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol” (Psalm 88:1-3).

“I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words” (Psalm 119:147).

Of course, the mourning and seeking comfort above and singing and praising below are also parts of prayer.

Sing

“By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life” (Psalm 42:8).

“I said, ‘Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.’ Then my spirit made a diligent search” (Psalm 77:6).

One of my favorite posts discussed songs in the night.

Praise

“For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds” (Psalm 149:4-5).

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night” (Psalm 92:1-2).

“Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord!” (Psalm 134:1).

Rest from fear

Like mourning, fear can plague at night. When we’re still and quiet, our thoughts can run rampant. But we can take our thoughts captive and turn them to God’s protection.

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).

“He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day” (Psalm 91:4-5).

“He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night” (Psalm 121:3-6).

In the context of rejoicing in God’s presence with him everywhere (“Where shall I go from your presence?” verse 7), David says, “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,'” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you” (Psalm 139:11-12).

Among the benefits of keeping “sound wisdom and discretion” is this: “If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught” (Proverbs 3:21-26).

Then there are people whose nighttime activities we don’t want to emulate. The adulteress of Proverbs 7 was active at night. “The wicked…plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil” (Psalm 36:3-4) and “they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble” (Proverbs 4:16).

Some people dread night, but God “made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting. You make darkness, and it is night, when all the beasts of the forest creep about. The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God” (Psalm 104:19-21). “Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun” (Psalm 74:16).

It would be a profitable exercise to read some of these psalms in their entirety, maybe one a day, and see in context what the psalmist was troubled about and how he turned his thinking around. I love how so many of the psalmists begin with trouble and anguish, remind themselves and the reader of God’s truth and love, and end up in hope and peace.

Losing sleep in the middle of the night can be frustrating. But if we turn our thoughts to the Lord, those moments can become precious times of fellowship with Him.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Wise Woman, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Faith on Fire)

Doing or Don’t-ing?

The Christian community I was once part of seemed to emphasize what we as Christians don’t do. We don’t dress like that. We don’t listen to that kind of music. We don’t watch those programs. We don’t play those games. We don’t use that kind of language. Any new fad was viewed with suspicion and placed on the “don’t” list.

During part of this time I had a job in retail sales. I wanted to be a good testimony. I definitely stood out as I politely said no to invitations to places I didn’t feel comfortable going with my coworkers, as I quietly absented myself from certain conversations, as my style of dress was noticeably different from that of others. They knew I didn’t do a number of things: some were even kindly protective of me, careful not to put me in situations where I might be uncomfortable. I couldn’t help but wonder, however, what these actions (or inactions) indicated to my coworkers and customers. They knew I was “religious.” But could they tell the difference between me and an adherent of any number of other religions? They saw my standards, but did they see my Jesus?

The Bible does have a lot to say about what we should not do. God’s command for our holiness filters down into every part of our lives, and our love for Him does influence our choices of dress and entertainment. We need to understand what things are wrong. We need to realize we’re innately drawn towards wrong. Paul said, “if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet'” (Romans 7:7). It’s important to remember the Bible’s warnings against sin. Some people fall off-balance by minimizing or even overlooking the “don’ts” in the name of love and positivity or an effort to be inoffensive.

But the Bible doesn’t stop with a list of “don’ts.” “So flee youthful passions,” 2 Timothy 2:22 says. But it goes on to say, “and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

Colossians 3:5-9 tells us to “ Put to death ” or “put away” “sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry….anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another.” The reasons given: “on account of these the wrath of God is coming” and though “you too once walked” in them, “you have put off the old self with its practices.

But then verses 10-17 continue: “...and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”

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 you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Ephesians 4:17-32 has similar instructions to “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (verses 22-24). We trade lying for truth (v. 25), stealing for honest work (v. 28), corrupt talk for edifying words (v. 29). We don’t let anger linger (v. 26), and we replace bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice with kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness “as God in Christ forgave you” (vv. 31-32).

We’re not aiming just for “positive thinking”: we’re seeking a balanced focus. “Putting on the new” not only keeps us balanced, but it actually helps us put off the old. We have known of preachers who have fallen into sexual sin after years of preaching against it. Surely a number of factors contributed to their fall, but one may have been an undue focus on the forbidden. Erwin Lutzer shared a helpful illustration in How to Say No to a Stubborn Habit: if someone tells you not to think of the number eight – suddenly that’s all you can think about. The more you try not to think about it, the more it fills your mind. But if you start thinking of other numbers or working equations, you’re distracted from eight. Likewise, if I try to diet by repeating to myself, “Don’t eat chocolate cake,” my mind is filled with chocolate cake and I am likely to give in and have some. But if I turn my thoughts toward other things I can eat, chocolate cake lessens it’s hold on me, and now I can focus on the positive, on what I can do rather than what I can’t. Years ago I read in a forgotten source about “chastity meetings.” The author didn’t elaborate, but evidently these meetings were held to help young people make a decision to pursue purity. His wise advice was, “Have your chastity meetings, but then go on to another subject.” If every single week these young people were warned about sexual sin and urged to avoid it, their thoughts would be filled with it just like mine would be with the chocolate cake I needed to avoid.

Concentrating on “doing” rather than just on “don’t-ing” not only helps us avoid sin and pursue good, but it presents a better testimony. If all we talk about is what we don’t do, we sound either curmudgeonly or self-righteous. Pursuing the positive also creates joy in Christ rather than mourning what we can’t do.

But we don’t follow a list of impossible good works in order to gain favor or rack up points with God. We focus on these good traits not to become righteous but to demonstrate that God has changed us and made us righteous. The Ephesians passage mentioned above says the goal is to  “attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (verse 13). It also says we effect these transformations by being “renewed in the spirit of [our] minds (v. 23) and because that’s the way we have learned Christ (vv. 20-21). Romans 12:2 tells us “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Colossians 3:10 tells us our “new self…is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

We learn to reflect our Savior by beholding Him: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). He works these changes in us as we behold Him in His Word, as we study Him and get to know Him better. 

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Porch Stories, Faith on Fire)

Free Indeed

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Glorious Freedom

by Haldor Lillenas

Once I was bound by sin’s galling fetters,
Chained like a slave, I struggled in vain;
But I received a glorious freedom,
When Jesus broke my fetters in twain.

* Refrain:
Glorious freedom, wonderful freedom,
No more in chains of sin I repine!
Jesus the glorious Emancipator,
Now and forever He shall be mine.

Freedom from all the carnal affections,
Freedom from envy, hatred and strife;
Freedom from vain and worldly ambitions,
Freedom from all that saddened my life.

Freedom from pride and all sinful follies,
Freedom from love and glitter of gold;
Freedom from evil, temper, and anger,
Glorious freedom, rapture untold.

Freedom from fear with all of its torments,
Freedom from care with all of its pain;
Freedom in Christ, my blessed Redeemer,
He who has rent my fetters in twain.

John 8:32, 3: And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

When the solution I want isn’t what I need

I saw a new point in an old story today.

A man had been an invalid for thirty-eight years waited for “a long time” by a pool of water which, in his day, would heal any who could get into the pool when the water was stirred. But because he could not move quickly, others got in before him, and he couldn’t make it into the water in time.

One day a stranger came up to this man and asked him if he wanted to be healed. The man explained his dilemma, his inability to get to the pool in time. Perhaps the man thought this stranger would help him get to the pool. Instead, the stranger told him the oddest thing: “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” The invalid could have thought, “Weren’t you listening? That’s exactly what I cannot do.” But before the words even formed in his mind, he found that all of a sudden he could stand! Not only that, but he could walk and carry a load, all impossibilities just a few moments before.

This story, as I am sure many of you know, is from John 5:1-17 and occurred at the pool of Bethesda. Among other things, this incident shows us Jesus’ power. The invalid wasn’t a “plant” in the audience who had been engaged to respond to a healer. The invalid had been lame for a long time and was known to stay at this pool. Anyone who knew him, anyone who hung around that area, would have known the invalid and his condition. The fact that he could stand, walk, and carry his bedding instantly, when his muscles would have been atrophied, when he otherwise would have needed time regain his balance, all magnified the ability of Jesus to heal.

What I had always missed in the story, however, was this: the invalid was fixated on the one solution to his problem, and had been for a very long time. His one focus was to get into that pool, and he kept trying despite repeated failed attempts. He didn’t recognize that the stranger standing in front of him could provide another solution, much less be a better solution. And the invalid did not even realize that the healing of his body was not his primary need. When Jesus found the former invalid later, Jesus told the man to “Sin no more.”

We have a tendency to fixate on our own solutions, too, don’t we? If we can just marry that guy, land this job, get that loan, treatment, or whatever, life will be perfect. We’ve looked at the situation from every angle, and, yes, this is what we need. And we overlook Jesus in the process.

Too, while we’re so focused on that one area of desire, we can miss the greater need: the need of our hearts for forgiveness and a closer walk with Jesus.

There may be nothing at all wrong with what we want. It may, in fact, even be the Lord’s will to provide us with that very outcome. But it might be God’s will to bring that answer about in a different way than we had planned, or to provide a different (and better) outcome, or to withhold the answer we wanted while providing grace to deal with it.

One of my favorite prayers in the Bible is Jehoshaphat‘s in 2 Chronicles 20. When King Jehoshaphat learned that a great enemy was coming, “Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah” (verse 3). He reminded himself who his God was: “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you” (verse 6). He recounted times of God’s provision in the past and His promises. He laid out the problem. He asked for God’s help. And he confessed, “we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” How often I have prayed something like that. “Lord, this is what I think the solution might be. But I don’t know all the ramifications. You know the need. You know the best way to meet it. I don’t know what to do. But I love You, and I trust You. Your will be done.”

Let’s not overlook the Lord in our desperation to get our needs met. Let’s not overlook our spiritual needs while trying to meet our outward desires.

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:31-33, ESV

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(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories, Faith on Fire)

 

Active Faith

The verbs in the first few verses of Psalm 37 (one of my favorites) stand out to me:

Fret not

Trust in the Lord

Do good

Delight yourself in the Lord

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him

Be still before the Lord

Wait patiently for him

Fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath

Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.

The repetition of “fret not” indicates the Israelites were in a situation that could cause them to fret, namely, the encroachments and threats of the wicked. Later in the chapter God assures them that He will take care of them, provide for them, protect them. Their faith was not passivity nor naiveté, not sticking their heads in the sand: rather, it was characterized by active trust, patient waiting (v. 7), and focusing on doing good to others (v. 3).

Peace is a part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), but we’re also to “keep in step with the Spirit” (v. 25). We can work against peace of heart by fretting, magnifying the problems, spending too much time with swirling, fearful thoughts. Or we can work with God to promote peace of heart by focusing on Him, committing our way to Him, delighting in Him, trusting Him to take care of the issues, and getting out of our own heads to see what we can do for others.

It’s counterintuitive to pray for or expect peace of heart without taking the means God provided to take our thoughts captive. When we find ourselves fretting, fearful, downcast, we seek God and remind ourselves of His truth in His Word.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories, Faith on Fire)