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)

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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)

 

Dark Valleys and Fiery Furnaces

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My ESV Study Bible noted that “valley of the shadow of death” in Psalm 23:4 could also be translated “valley of deep darkness.” The notes explained that when people traveled through valleys, the hills or mountains on either side blocked the light, and bandits, wild animals, or who knows what could be lurking in the shadows.

I had always associated this verse just with death before. Within the larger context of Psalm 23 describing how our Shepherd cares for and accompanies us, this promised that even when death looms on the path ahead, our Shepherd remains with us and comforts us. While this verse certainly does assure of us that wonderful truth, it goes even further: He will accompany us and protect us through any scary possibility.

That doesn’t mean He will always prevent the scary possibility from happening. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced being thrown into a fiery furnace because they refused to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s idol, they told the king:

Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up (Daniel 3:16-18, ESV).

The same day I read the above notes concerning Psalm 23, the selection for the day in  Spectacle of Glory by Joni Eareckson Tada discussed this incident in Daniel. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were tied up and tossed into the fiery furnace. But shortly thereafter, Nebuchadnezzar saw “four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods” (Daniel 3:25, ESV). Nebuchadnezzar called the men out, and they were unharmed. They weren’t even singed or smelling of smoke. Joni comments:

Who was the fourth man? An Old Testament appearance of Christ. But notice this. These men were walking in the midst of the fire. We tend to think heartbreaks and tragedies will stop us dead in our tracks–and keep us from moving forward in life. But the truth is, a trial is one of the streets through which we move to reach our destiny. a road leading us deeper into the heart of Christ.

Lord, I have so often seen suffering as something to escape–a puzzle needing to be swiftly solved so I can “get back to normal.” But maybe You are inviting me to walk in the fire rather than cower in self-protection. It’s so good to know You’ll be walking with me (p. 171).

Isaiah 43:1-3a says:

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

I’ve always thought it interesting that the verse says when, not if. There are going to be scary moments in life that God takes us through, not around. But He promises to be with us. And that makes all the difference.

Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.
 Isaiah 50:10, ESV

(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)

Trusting a Good, Kind, Wise Father Even When We Don’t Understand

For months during and after an election cycle, we see people in social media constantly framing their responses and opinions according to their like or dislike of a candidate.  If a rumor or negative news report is going around about my guy, then, of course, it’s false. People are just trying to smear him because they don’t like him. In fact, some nefarious enemy started or twisted this to cast aspersions on my guy. And if something negative is reported about the other guy,  well, then, of course it’s true and his supporters are blind/stupid/dishonest/just as bad as he is, etc. What’s especially frustrating to me about these keyboard commentators on both sides is that they are so far removed from the situation and the candidates, they can’t possibly know for sure what’s going on behind the scenes. They’re either acting out of blind loyalty or the needs of their party or agenda.

Did you know some people accuse Christians of this same blind loyalty or agenda-pushing? I’ve seen people say something like this: “You prayed for this outcome, and you didn’t get it. So then you changed your mind to say that this must be God’s will.” Or they accuse us of blindness or dishonesty if we maintain God’s goodness in the face of disaster.

It’s natural that people frame their interpretation of circumstances according to their point of view, personal philosophies, etc. But there is a major difference between defending a candidate because we’re on the same side and defending someone we know personally. If someone starts a rumor or twists the truth about someone famous, most of us hope it’s wrong and believe in giving the benefit of the doubt, though we have been disappointed at times. But if someone tries to smear my friend or family member, that’s a different story. I might be proved wrong even there, because people have sin natures and fail sometimes. But I have a better basis for my defense.  I know that person. I know their character, I’ve spent time with them, I’ve seen how they react in various situations. I know that this rumor about them is uncharacteristic of them and unlikely to be true.

The same can be said of true Christians. Sure, there are some who’ve grown up in the culture and are just defending an ideology. But those who have truly believed on Christ as Savior are not acting in blind faith. We’re acting on a faith based on knowledge of God through His Word and through personal experience of walking with Him over the course of years. We may not understand everything He does. He’s God, after all, and we are not. He may not answer every request positively, but what good father does?  Every parent and every authority has to say “no” sometimes. There may be some reason on our end why He can’t say “yes.” So, if we pray for something and God doesn’t answer the way we wanted, we’re not putting a spin on the situation by saying our request was not His will. A young child in its immaturity might fuss, complain, cry, wheedle, or get angry when a request is denied. But as children grow, both in maturity and in experience with their father, they’ll realize that, though they may not understand why their father said no, they know he loves them and has their best interest at heart. So it is with God’s children. We’re continually growing spiritually, continually adjusting our thinking to His, continually evaluating our circumstances in light of His truth.

Also, catastrophes don’t disprove God’s existence or reflect negatively on His character. Awful things happen in this world that we don’t understand. Sometimes they’re just a result of fallen human nature. People sin. Sin affects the innocent. One day God will right all those wrongs, but that may not happen in our lifetime. (But before we get excited about the wrongs to us being dealt with, we need to remember that we’re answerable for our wrongs as well.) Sometimes disasters are a result of human error. Sometimes they’re caused by Satan (see Job 1 and 2, Luke 22:31). Sometimes in the Bible God sent disaster to judge or punish people or to try to bring them to repentance, but those who try to attribute every catastrophe to God’s judgment are wrong. There may be any number of reasons why God allows suffering. Though we don’t understand, we trust His character, His wisdom, goodness, and love. That’s not a blind, baseless, deluded faith: that’s faith based on the One we know and on His Word to us.

Thousands of years ago, three men were threatened with death in a fiery furnace if they didn’t bow down to the king’s idol. But they were believers in the one true God, and they couldn’t do that. They told the king, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18). They were trusting in an ideology. They were trusting in their God, even if the circumstances didn’t turn out they way they hoped. And God blessed them with His presence and deliverance.

We can’t possibly understand why God does everything He does. But like Job, even though we don’t understand what’s going on, we know His character and we trust Him (Job 13:15; 19:25). And, like Job, even if we don’t get “answers” to explain our situation, God will bless us with His presence. That’s not “spin.” That’s truth.

See also:

Scriptural Reasons for Suffering
But If Not…
Our Trials Are Not Just For Us
Though Everything Go Wrong

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Coffee For Your Heart, Porch Stories, Faith on Fire)

Book Review: Trust: A Godly Woman’s Adornment

TrustTrust: A Godly Woman’s Adornment by Lydia Brownback is one of a series of “on the go” devotionals for women: small, relatively short books focusing on one main topic.

After an introduction titled “Why Women Fear,” Lydia deals with various aspects of battling fear and anxiety. Each chapter is just two, sometimes three pages long, making it very easy to grab a “nugget” to carry with you through the day.

To give you just a taste, some of the chapter titles are:

The What-If Woman
A Phobic’s Only Reemedy
False Security
Resting on Self-Righteousness
Afraid of the Pain
Whose Fault Is Our Fear?
Control Freaks
The Path to Healing
A Fence Against Fear

And some of the quotes that stood out to me:

The only thing big enough to conquer this kind of fear is God, who rules every detail of every day of your life. Rest assured that nothing can touch you apart from your heavenly Father’s permission. Out of his love for you, he is well able to prevent the thing you are so afraid of, and out of that same love he might allow it. Either way, whatever happens, he only allows what is going to work for your eternal happiness and blessing and his glory (p. 26).

God wants more than our symptom relief. He desires to get at the core of what underlies our fears, which, at the deepest level, have to do with our relationship to him (p. 27).

God allows us to experience fear at times to help us recognize our false foundations, things on which we are resting our security that have no more strength to support us than a mound of whipped cream (p. 28).

God often acts contrary to how we think a good God should act. The answer we think we need seems so logical and clear to our way of thinking, yet God does not provide it. That is where faith comes in. Real faith isn’t the belief that God will do a particular thing; real faith is the conviction that God is good, no matter what he does and however he chooses to answer our prayers (p. 30).

We care much less about long-term results and the glory of God than we do about simply feeling better (p. 48).

“I’d never put my child through what God is doing to me.” But God is a wiser parent than we could ever be. He places us in situations that provoke us, not to cause us to doubt but to strengthen us against our doubts” (p. 72).

God let [Jonah] go his own way, as he does with us when we insist on running our own show; but because God is merciful, he will make sure that any way we take away from him doesn’t work out so well (p. 79).

That very thing you want God to fix may be his instrument to teach you first to depend on him rather than on yourself or on peaceful circumstances (p. 90).

Rather than take God at his word, they just looked at the difficulties. Rather than doubt their own viewpoint, they doubted God’s (p. 97).

The devil is stronger and smarter than we are; so arguing with him won’t help us very much and can actually enhance our difficulty. Jesus has provided us with the way to resist…there are Scripture passages to refute every one of [the devil’s] lies. Immersing ourselves in the Bible is one of the primary ways we keep, or guard, our hearts (p. 130).

This book is a treasure that I am pretty sure I will revisit often. In addition, this experience with Lydia’s book makes me want to check out her others as well.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday, Carole’s Books You Loved)

The blessing of certainty

Some years ago I caught part of a TV program involving a group of people from several different denominations discussing tolerance. How the conversation progressed was quite interesting. In the part that I saw, they were at first discussing how intolerance can lead to persecution of those who believe differently. Then someone remarked that even the term “tolerance” smacked of arrogance — that one group is right but they are going to tolerate, or allow for other groups. Someone else remarked that in order to tolerate others you must have a seed of doubt that your beliefs are right, that there is a possibility that you could be wrong and other belief systems could be right. The last sentence I heard before turning the TV off was, “There is no room for certainty.”

I couldn’t disagree more.

I do believe in tolerance. The first Dictionary.com definition is “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.” I don’t believe “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude” smacks of arrogance: just the opposite. Nor does it indicate doubt of one’s own beliefs.

And I do agree that intolerance has led to persecution and should not have. New Testament Christians, especially, are not told anywhere to persecute in any way those whose beliefs differ from ours.We believe that those of other beliefs have every right to exist and practice their beliefs. We’re to love, both our neighbors and our enemies. We’re instructed to share God’s truth, but if people don’t believe, we leave them to the Lord and hope and pray they have a change of heart. We don’t persecute them.

But what I disagreed with most was that last line about there being no room for certainty. I don’t believe that faith is a nebulous thing, that as long as you have faith in something you’re fine, that all religions are basically the same and lead to the same place. You don’t have to examine them very long to realize they don’t have all the same values and ends.

Our postmodern world wants to move away from absolute truth. “The questions are more important than the answers,” we’re told. Even people who call themselves Christians chip away at doctrinal truth.

It’s true there are mysteries to life and faith. We spend way too much time arguing over things that are unclear rather than living out what is clear.I often hear people say, “We’ll never understand until we get to heaven.” Surely we’ll understand much more than we do now, but I don’t see any guarantees in the Bible that even then we’ll understand everything. God’s mind and ways and thoughts will still be much greater than ours. But our trust will be perfect then.

Yet there is plenty in the Bible that is clear. God communicates specific truth to us. And sure, there are things we don’t understand, things we gain insight on from talking with and reading others, things we wrestle with, things that are hard to come to terms with. Most of us wrestle with a measure of doubt at times and carry around a list of unanswered questions. There are things we wish were more clear.

But reading and hearing the Bible taught shouldn’t lead us into more and more of a morass of uncertainty. There are plenty of bedrock truths to hold onto.

There is a God.

He made everything, including us.

He gave us His Word.

He is righteous, holy, and just, and we have sinned against Him.

He is merciful, kind, gracious, and loving and has provided salvation for those who will believe in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, and rose bodily from the dead.

There is a literal heaven and a literal hell.

There are clear and definite sins.

Faith is too important an issue to leave up to uncertainty. God doesn’t leave us in a philosophical fog on the most important issues.

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:30-31, ESV

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. I John 5:13, ESV

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 2 Peter 1:16-21, KJV

 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.Hebrew 6:17-20, ESV

That doesn’t mean I feel I have all the answers to every little philosophical question or that I know how everything always works together. But I have a firm foundation, a “sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.”

See also:

Why Study Doctrine?
What Do You Know?
The Foundation of Our Faith.

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday, Inspire Me Monday, Glimpses, Faith on Fire, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Coffee For Your Heart, Porch Stories, Wise Woman)

Laudable Linkage

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I found a lot of good reads the last week or so:

On Blind Faith and God.

Why You Desperately Need the Holy Spirit , HT to Challies.

The Power of De-Conversion Stories: How Jen Hatmaker is Trying to Change Minds About the Bible, HT to Challies.

Who Is the God of Mormonism?, HT to Challies.“One thing you’ll discover as you’re talking with your Mormon (LDS) friends is that though we use the same terms, we often mean very different things. Mormons have different definitions of Gospel, repentance, salvation, grace, Hell, and nearly every term you’ll be using in your conversation.”

5 Things That People Who Are Dying Want You to Know, by Kerry Egan, HT to Lisa.

How to Choose Worship Songs. Yes, to all the points mentioned here.

My Son, Withhold Judgment, HT to Challies.There are some times we need to act quickly; there are other times to realize we don’t know all the facts and need to wait.

How Do I Fight Pride When Competing in School, Business, and Sports? HT to True Woman.  “If we are better in some subject than someone else, God made us better. And his reasons for doing so are not pride and boasting and elitism. His reason for doing so is that we might use our competencies for the good of others.”

If God Doesn’t Heal You, HT to True Woman. “Although God can heal us, we must never presume that he must.”

The Why of Encouragement.

Why Do I Believe in Credobaptism, HT to Challies.

Why Young Christians Need Old Books, HT to True Woman.

In Defense of Evangelicals Who Support Trump, HT to Proclaim and Defend. Interesting, whichever side you’re on. Not written by an evangelical but by a Jew who acknowledges that “It is usually easier for an outsider to defend a person or a group that is attacked than for the person or group.” As he also says, “Character is a complex issue.” I’m not willing to say it’s not a factor at all – far from it, and I don’t think he’s saying that, either – but it’s true that some people with awful personal lives can be good leaders. But if we acknowledge that on one side of the ballot, we need to concede it for the other as well.

Growing Old Graciously, HT to Challies.”I don’t know everything, but what I do know, I can share.”

The Benefits of Listening to the Elderly, HT to Challies. “Why might the Lord, in his grace, cause the aged to repeat themselves as they do? What is the Lord showing us through it? Rather than rolling our eyes or thinking ‘Here goes Grandma again,’ what can be gained from these times?”

When I Give a Book.

On Writing Books and Getting Published, HT to Challies.

The Incredible “Mehness” Of Social Media, HT to Challies. An aspect we don’t often think of. Even if much of what we do there is harmless or even interesting, how does that impact our everyday lives and responsibilities? Do those things impact those with whom we have to do or take our attention away from them?

Ideas For Things to Do On a Snow Day, HT to Story Warren.

And in the “Seriously?” category: There’s a Reason using a Period In a Text Makes You Sound Angry, HT to Lisa. I never knew this was an issue – and it shouldn’t be. A period is just the end of a sentence, not the end of a conversation or an indicator of anger, disinterest, or insincerity.

Hope you have a fine Saturday!

(Links do not imply 100% endorsement.)

The Strength of My Faith

When I faced surgery two years ago, I also faced a major battle with anxiety. First, with any medical procedure, they have to tell you everything that could possibly go wrong. Even though the things they describe aren’t likely to happen, there is some possibility they could happen. Some people probably are able to dwell in the “not likely” aspect of it, but some of us have trouble getting out of the “Yeah, but what if….” side of things. On top of that, though I am not diabetic or hypoglycemic, I do have low blood sugar issues sometimes. I usually can’t go past 9 or 10 a.m. without getting dizzy, shaky, and lightheaded, and the surgery wasn’t scheduled until 1 p.m., with nothing to eat or drink after midnight the night before. On top of that, I have irritable bowel syndrome, which can get into a vicious cycle with anxiety. It’s one more thing to get anxious about, and anxiety about it increases the likelihood of it being a problem, which increases the anxiety, and so on. I asked just about everyone I knew to pray about it, and God marvelously answered. The anxiety came to a peak two days before the surgery, but the morning of, God truly gave me “peace that passes understanding.”

Some of you who have read here for a while may remember that that procedure was not able to be completed. They thought I had one type of rhythm problem with my heart, but once they tried to treat it, they discovered I didn’t have that after all. I had a different kind, which was a totally different (and riskier, I was told at the time) procedure.

So two years later, which was this last August, that procedure was scheduled. The battle with anxiety was not as intense, I think due both to the fact that I had learned some things about dealing with it, and God had gotten me through all this before. But it was still a factor.

I had the notion that in order to keep the anxiety at bay, to avoid all these possible problems, and, most of all, to have a victorious experience spiritually, I had to maintain a certain level of faith. I saw anxiety as a failure of faith, and if I did experience any problems with blood sugar, IBS, etc., it would mean I had failed.

One can get rather weary feeling the weight of all that. A few days before the surgery, while once again several of these issues were going through my mind, a line from an old hymn by Ada Ruth Habershon revived in recent years came to mind:

When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast.

It’s not the strength, size, intensity, or maintenance of my faith that makes the difference. It’s the One I have faith in.

This is not a new truth to me. I was brought to this focus way back when I was first saved, and it’s something I have to be reminded of from time to time.

The fact that God knew the depths of my heart and my struggles and ministered to me so personally and tenderly touched my heart so deeply, and this became one of the most special moments of my life. This is the first time I’ve mentioned it to anyone else.

I share it not only to glorify God, but to encourage you. A former pastor’s wife, an older lady who had walked with the Lord for decades, used to often say, when she was speaking or counseling, “Look away to Jesus.” Whatever you’re going through, look away to Him.

There is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength. Isaiah 45:21b-24b, KJV

Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. Psalm 119:37, ESV.

For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:40, ESV

But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness,  the Lord will be a light to me. Micah 7:7-8, ESV

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. Psalm 63:1-3, ESV

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him  and saved him out of all his troubles. Psalm 34:4-6, ESV

And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. Matthew 17:8. ESV

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. Hebrews 12:1-3, ESV

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Glimpses, Tell His Story), Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Coffee for Your Heart, Porch Stories, Faith on Fire)

Laudable Linkage and a Question

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It’s been a little while since I have been able to share interesting reads found online lately, so I have a longish list. But first I have a question.

I used to save all my links on Del.icio.us.com, but they’ve not been up to par for some time now – being bought by various companies, relocating, changing their url. etc., and now they’re “read only” – I can’t add new links to them. I liked that the tags were searchable: if I wanted to look up a link I had saved about the Bible, I could search for “Bible” and find all my links on that subject. Lately I have been saving new links to a draft in my gmail account since I always have that open, but sometimes either the draft itself or the content disappears (maybe when it gets too long?) So my question, or actually two questions are: Is there anything else like Delicious out there, and is there an easy way to import the links I already have over to something else? It would take ages to place all those years of links individually, so I probably just would not do that and hope the read-only version of Delicious stays up, or maybe I’d just do it for a couple of the most important categories. I’d love hearing any suggestions!

Ok, on to the most recent rewarding reads:

Hermeneutics for Parenting: Study the Word, HT to Story Warren. Though this is in the context of teaching one’s children, when it gets to the part about Bible study, it’s good basic, concise Bible study truth for anyone.

The Rise of Digital Technologies and the Decline of Reading. This is not an “abandon all technology, books are better post.” Some good tips for finding balance and adapting.

Empty Tables: Singleness and Barrenness. “I had to learn my purpose could not be put on hold until I was married. In the same way, I have to learn I am not less than, being withheld from, incomplete, or unable to learn what God has for me to learn in barrenness.”

Do I Want My Children to Be Careful or Take Risks? HT to Story Warren. This is a hard one to balance. I think I erred on the side of carefulness probably too much, but I can see the need to encourage and allow for some degree of risk-taking as well.

Millennial Motherhood: Three Traps For Young Moms.

An Ode to ‘Women of a Certain Age.’ Loved this, especially after just recently passing a “milestone” birthday. I have a lot of living left to do!

5 Practical Steps For Seeking Wisdom through Mentorship, HT to Challies.

Charlottesville, Confederate Memorials, and Southern Culture. A difficult subject, one I certainly don’t have all the answers for, but this sounds like a reasonable approach.

4 Reasons You Shouldn’t Be Colorblind, HT to Lisa.

Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parents’ Stuff, Advice for Boomers Desperate to Unload Family Heirlooms, HT to Button Floozies. Also linked to the latter was this place which takes old sewing notions and the like: I don’t like the name of the place but I love the idea!

10 Elements of a Light and Bright Space, HT to Linda. This is exactly my style, except for the open shelving (too much to dust!)

Lessons from the Otter on Doing Hard Things, HT to Jessica. Randy Alcorn draws some observations from an otter afraid to go into the water and then finding it’s “what he was made for.” I’ll include the video below. I love this because this is so me! “Sometimes we need to just get our shrieks out of the way as God lowers us toward the water, finally just jump in that water, and discover the wonderful things God has for us!”

Happy Saturday!

(As always, linking to a particular site does not include 100% endorsement of that site.)

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Trusting God in the Dark

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I’ve been rediscovering a CD that I’ve had for a while that had somehow gotten buried in my little basket I keep on the kitchen counter for CDs: Beyond All Praising by the BJU Singers and Orchestra. One of the songs that stands out to me from this CD is “In Your Silence,” words by Eileen Berry and music by Molly IJames, on the theme of trusting God even when He seems silent and distant.

In Your word I find the echoes of the questions in my mind;
Have I fallen from Your favor, is Your ear to me inclined?
When Your silence is unbroken, though my prayer ascends each day,
Father, keep my faith from failing in the face of long delay.

While You wait in gracious wisdom and my doubts begin to rise,
I recall Your loving kindness, and lift my hopeful eyes.
While Your hand withholds the answer, I will not withhold my heart.
I will love you in Your silence, I will trust You in the dark.

When the troubled thoughts within me hold me wakeful in the night,
And the shadows that surround me seem to hide me from Your sight.
Father, bring to my remembrance mercies shown in days gone by.
Help me rest upon Your promise: You will not neglect my cry!

While You wait in gracious wisdom and my doubts begin to rise,
I recall Your loving kindness, and lift my hopeful eyes.
While Your hand withholds the answer, I will not withhold my heart.
I will love you in Your silence, I will trust You in the dark.

It is performed beautifully here:

I think many Christians go through times like this. Biblically Job and the psalmists share similar thoughts, and this song echoes some of the Psalms: the second stanza brings to mind Psalm 63. The last two lines of the chorus particularly resonate with me: “While Your hand withholds the answer, I will not withhold my heart. I will love you in Your silence, I will trust You in the dark.”

This song also brings to mind a section in Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose (linked to my review). The following occurred while she was in a Japanese prison camp, having been captured while a missionary to the New Guinea during WWII.

I knew that without God, without that consciousness of His Presence in every troubled hour, I could never have made it…Quite suddenly and unexpectedly, I felt enveloped in a spiritual vacuum. “Lord, where have You gone? What have I said or done to grieve You? Why have You withdrawn Your Presence from me? Oh Father—” In a panic I jumped to my feet, my heart frantically searching for a hidden sin, for a careless thought, for any reason why my Lord should have withdrawn His Presence from me. My prayers, my expressions of worship, seemed to go no higher than the ceiling; there seemed to be no sounding board. I prayed for forgiveness, for the Holy Spirit to search my heart. To none of my petitions was there any apparent response.

 I sank to the floor and quietly and purposefully began to search the Scriptures hidden in my heart…

 “Lord, I believe all that the Bible says. I do walk by faith and not by sight. I do not need to feel You near, because Your Word says You will never leave me nor forsake me. Lord, I confirm my faith; I believe.” The words of Hebrews 11:1 welled up, unbeckoned, to fill my mind: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The evidence of things not seen. Evidence not seen — that was what I put my trust in — not in feelings or moments of ecstasy, but in the unchanging Person of Jesus Christ. Suddenly I realized that I was singing:

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

 On Christ the solid Rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

I was assured that my faith rested not on feelings, not on moments of ecstasy, but on the Person of my matchless, changeless Savior, in Whom is no shadow caused by turning. In a measure I felt I understood what Job meant when he declared, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (13:35). Job knew that he could trust God, because Job knew the character of the One in Whom he had put his trust. It was faith stripped of feelings, faith without trappings. More than ever before, I knew that I could ever and always put my trust, my faith, in my glorious Lord. I encouraged myself in the Lord and His Word.

We don’t always know why God seems distant. Sometimes it is sin: though He is with us always, that fellowship can be broken when we’re sinning against Him. Sometimes, as in Darlene’s case, He is teaching us to trust in Him and His Word and not in our feelings. Sometimes, like for Daniel, answers are delayed due to spiritual opposition. There may be other reasons as well, but the answer is the same: reminding ourselves of and resting on His Word.

Though this is not a “dark” time for me, it is for a few friends, so I hope this encourages them, and I can shore these truths up for myself for when those times might come around in the future.

Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God. Isaiah 50:10

(Reposted from the archives)

(Sharing with Inspire me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Wise Woman, Testimony Tuesday, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Word-Filled Wednesday, Faith on Fire)

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