“Do You Work Wonders For the Dead?”

Life…

It never stays the same does it?

Somewhere,

Out there,

Ahead of my present minute,

Another change awaits me;

I hate change.

Really, really….

I’m not talking about a new paint colour or changing the furniture around, or an old recipe with a new twist, or old music with a new arrangement.

I’m talking about change that squeezes my heart and crushes my lungs and sends my head a million different directions all at the same time.

Ouch, ouch and ouch….

ouchy…

deep sigh…

Change; like when all your children leave home , a move, a loss of vocation or career, a life altering illness, or when death comes knocking far too soon and unexpectedly.

Scripture creates reflection deep within my soul, it creates pondering and a lingering in my mind like a hungry face over a bowl of homemade soup.

I read Psalm 85-88 today; I would like to share a few verses that stirred up these invasive thoughts:

“Do You work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you?

Is Your steadfast love declared in the grave, or Your faithfulness in Abaddon?

Are Your wonders known in the darkness, or Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?” (Psalm 88: 10-12)

One of my favorite writers is Charles H. Spurgeon; I share a few of his comments on these verses of scripture:

“While I live thou canst in me display the glories of Thy grace, but  when I have passed into the unknown land, how canst Thou illustrate in me Thy love? If I perish Thou wilt lose a worshipper who both reverenced, and in his own experience illustrated, the wonders of Thy character and acts.” (on verse 10).

“The living may indite “meditations among the tombs”, but the dead know nothing, and therefore can declare nothing…” (on verse 11).

“…Is not a living dog better than a dead lion, and a living believer of more value to the cause of God on earth than all the departed put together?” (on verse 12).

….  

As I grow older, change must become my friend, a welcomed friend. If I am alive to welcome this “friend” than I am obviously still alive to be influenced and shaped by it. Will I welcome its life movement or will I become dead even while I live?

Through these few verses I discover that if I am alive than I am a recipient of God’s wonders (vs. 10); I can “rise up to praise” the Lord (vs. 10); I can declare His steadfast love and His faithfulness (vs. 11); And I will know His wonders and His righteousness (vs. 12).

Matthew Henry comments on these verse; One sentence in particular stands out to me: “The life we are born to at first, and the life we hope to rise to at last, must thus be spent.”

 

Some day my body will rot beneath the cold fingers of earth. Blood will no longer run through the thousands of miles of highway within me. My mind will be dormant and still; no more thoughts, no more processing, no more dreaming. My tongue will no longer utter words, my lips no longer receiving the warmth of my husband’s kiss, etc.,etc! I could write my way through my entire body to describe one word; DEATH. My soul will be very much alive in eternity with Jesus while my physical body lays lifeless and void.

So for now, just what does this meant for me in this little blip of earthly life? I can and must choose to SPEND myself for the sake and glory of my precious Savior Jesus. He will ALWAYS be WITH me! This is amazing hope for me while I live! Jesus is my constant, He does not change! In life and in death He will reside with me ALWAYS! God’s word tells me this and I believe it with all my heart, soul and mind!

I leave you with these verses of scripture: “I (God speaking) will NEVER leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

“God is not man, that He should lie, or son of man, that He should change His mind. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not fulfill it? (Numbers 23:19).

“For I the Lord do not change” (Malachi 3:6).

So what’s a little change on this side of the river? I know who walks with me in EVERY earthly change and who will be waiting for me when this life is over.

What is there to fear? Perhaps it’s time to celebrate life and worship the One who gave it to us!?

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Happy Anniversary to us

I celebrated 25 years of marriage with my dear husband this week.

I found myself lost in reflection as my heart and mind walked backward to that day when we stood before God and man to make a covenantal vow of marriage.

It was a beautiful warm spring day in eastern Canada. Snow covered the ground, with muddied patches of earth emerging in the sunshine.  Our horse-drawn carriage made its way around a little loop on a camp parking lot. I remember feeling like a princess as I sat there beside my new husband, smiling and waving at family and friends standing around, their cameras posed to catch just the right picture.

Little did I know that my wedding vows were about to be tested over the next few years as my husband and I began to make painful discoveries about each other. My word! We were as different as night and day! How the heck did we miss that!?

The details of our long journey of pain, forgiveness, and healing no longer matter to me; What is of greater value is the discussion we found ourselves in 25 years later. Words of wonder and praise to God for His love and faithfulness., words of testimony of transformed lives…our lives; and words of wonder over how “one flesh” we had become. Believe me when I tell you that our marriage is a miracle.

As we talked, we ackowledged that our differences had become similarities. For a few years our marriage had proved to be a refining fire through which God had paved a path of redemption for each of us. We were each other’s life boat of rescue from self-absorbed actions of anger, bitterness and disappointment. The rescue revealed the power of the love of God in action.

I am more in love with my husband today than the day I married him! His life has proven to shape my own, and I his.

Both of us could have walked away in those early years, God knows it was spoken of  many times, but our faith in Jesus Christ held us firmly to our covenant vow to remain together until death would separate us.

On our wedding day I sang a song to my husband that I had written for him, for us; (my talented friend Barbie, nee: Essau, wrote the music) it included the words from Song of Solomon 8:6, “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm…..”

“A seal”, a binding agreement before God and in God that our marriage would BE a marriage, NOT a game of survival of the fittest and best, nor a chronic battle ground of wit and will.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends… (1 Cor. 13:4-8a).

The Heart of the Matter

“The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and THE LORD TESTS HEARTS.” (Prov. 17:3)

“I know, my God, that you test the heart and HAVE PLEASURE in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things…” (1 Chron. 29:17)

“PROVE ME, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and  my mind.” (Ps. 26:2)

“I the Lord SEARCH the heart and TEST the mind, to give EVERY man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jer. 1:10)

Our hearts are God’s blank canvas, how will we yield to the drawing and erasing hand of the Divine Artist today?

Read with me a few verses from the Psalms; 78:22,32,36-37,39, 41-42)

 “…because they DID NOT BELIEVE in God and did NOT TRUST HIS SAVING POWER….”

“DESPITE HIS WONDERS they did NOT believe…..”

“But they flattered Him WITH THEIR MOUTHS and they lied to him with their tongues, their HEART was NOT STEADFAST toward Him; they were not faithful to His covenant.”

“Yet, He being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity, and did not destroy them. He restrained His anger often…”

“He remembered that they were but flesh and wind that passes and comes not again.”

“They tested God again and again….they did not remember His power or the day He redeemed them from the foe, when He performed His signs in Egypt.”

I am drawn into this Psalm, particularly after reading Proverbs 17; the heart and mind of man are a big deal to God! His pleasure is in hearts of purity, His pleasure cannot be otherwise because it is WHO HE IS!

As I read Psalm 78 I see how extravagantly patient God is and how desperately self-absorbed man is! Does this Psalm not reveal the depth of man’s heart?  Man seeking God, perhaps out of fear, but  maybe deeper still swift desire to tack up an external life message that says “All is well, now leave me alone!”

In verses 36-37  (of Psalm 78 ) we read that their hearts were NOT steadfast. Steadfastness would surely eliminate the pendulum swing from celebratory faith to raw, unrepented disbelief! Over and over I see, I hear, I read: “they did NOT believe”, BUT God IS  the persistent Lover.! He is unrelenting when we have forgotten Him; He pursues though we turn our hearts and minds onto other things; He is EL KANNA! (meaning, “I AM JEALOUS”).

The Word of God speaks so often of man’s heart and mind; of its wickedness and God’s crazy desire for purity to define it.

I see through this Psalm God’s powerful love. I can almost hear His cry to His people, “If only you knew, if only you would taste WHO I AM, If only you would be STEADFAST in your belief of me!”

The remembering of WHAT He had done for them was really a calling to remember HIM, ( you might have to read that sentence twice!!); the Word teaches us that EVERY man is known by his actions, would that not then be true of the God?

Perhaps we focus only on what He has DONE, and forget to remember the ONE the miracles define.

HE IS FAITHFUL! And if He desires a steadfast heart of me, then is it not obvious that HIS HEART is steadfast? He would not ask from us different from WHO HE IS!!!

This is precious truth to me! And through this truth, my heart and mind hear God’s word from both the new and old testaments folding into one river of constant, consistent truth!

Who governs your heart today?

Unseen Footprints

“YOUR way was THROUGH the sea,YOUR path was THROUGH the great waters; YET your footprints were UNSEEN. You led your people LIKE a flock BY THE HAND of Moses and Aaron.” (Ps.77:19-20)

I like how Charles Spurgeon comments on these verses; “Thy way is in the sea. Far down in secret channels of the deep is Thy roadway; when Thou wilt thou canst make a sea a highway for Thy glorious march. And Thy path in the great waters. There, where the billows surge and swell, Thou still dost walk; Lord of each crested wave.”

I wonder today if there is anyone out there who needs to be encouraged to keep walking through the valley of shadow?

Do you find yourself with more questions than answers? Is your heart heavy with burden for what you cannot see?

The above verse intrigues me as I reflect on the story of Moses’ calling to lead the Israelites out of bondage and slavery.

The Israelites long journey OUT was laced with hardship, loss, questions, doubts, and anger; but despite the people’s groaning and complaining they STILL had to walk GOD’S path TO freedom, and part of that journey was THROUGH the Red Sea, NOT around it.

In Exodus 14 we read of this account. I am thankful that we have record of this event, it not only teaches us, but reminds us of God’s character and LOVING ways as we walk through the barren valley of shadows.

Humanly speaking the Israelites did have reason to fear; perhaps they had good reason to whine!? Why did they have to leave everything and trudge through the desert in search of some hokus pokus path to freedom only to encounter one hardship after the other? After all, they did obey initially, did they not?

God was painting a bigger picture around their freedom story! Chapter 14:17-18, “And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians SO THAT they shall go in after them (into the Red sea), and I WILL GET THE GLORY OVER Pharoah and ALL his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. AND the Egyptians SHALL KNOW that I AM THE LORD, when I have gotten GLORY OVER PHAROAH, his chariots and his horsemen.”

You may be thinking, so ….. what? Does that mean that my journey is for God to “get” the glory? Is there a piece of your heart speaking from a shadowed corner, “what kind of God would do that sort of thing? What kind of God desires glory so intensely that He would allow me to suffer through hardship in order to ‘get’ it?”

Then let me ask you this, What kind of God would go to such great lengths to rescue His people? To rescue YOU? What kind of God would give His own Son, so that YOU could be free from bondage and slavery? (Rom. 8:32)

For God to desire glory for Himself was to give testimony of TRUTH to WHO He was and IS. NO MAN, and NO PLAN can prevent God from being God, both then and now, (see Prov. 21:30-31).

Our initial text today cites that HIS WAY, and HIS PATH was through GREAT waters; His footprints unseen to the human eye, yet seen with the eyes of faith.

Exodus 14:15-16: God speaks to Moses as they stand at the edge of the body of water, “WHY do you cry to me? TELL the people of Israel to get their stink’n butts down here and walk through the water!!”…well, kinda said it like that! GOD’S words were, “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the people of Israel TO GO FORWARD. LIFT UP your staff, and STRETCH OUT your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go THROUGH the sea on DRY ground.”

WOW!

There are the verbs for us again, placed FIRST in God’s sentence, before He does His ‘thing’ for us…”Go (forward)!”, “LIFT UP (your staff)!”, “STRETCH OUT (your hand)!”….

The point today dear reader, whomever you may be, is this; Though God’s footprints may be unseen on the path before you, though the sea surge with moving tide in front of you and the lighthouse remains darkened by fog, CHOOSE to walk, choose to put one foot in front of the other and move forward. Stretch out your hands to the heavens with trust SO THAT you WILL SEE the glory of God, and know His path to deliverance.

Hold fast to God’s word, it is “a LAMP to my (our) feet and a LIGHT to my (our) path.” (Ps. 119:105)

Every valley has two sides and a path through it, be patient with the Lord God, and be patient with yourself.

 

Message In a Bottle

Walking slowly along the shoreline of the ocean I can see that the sun is sinking silently on the horizon. I am lost in wonder as my eyes scan the colours displayed in the few remaining clouds painted across the heavens;  My ears hear only the sound of the waves crawling along the white sand beneath my feet. 

My mind is playing with pretending; a child’s game; a game that captures my imagination as I lose myself in God’s palette of creation.

I pretend for a moment that I am picking up a bottle that has been brought to shore by the tide. It is an old bottle and I can see that it holds a scroll of ancient paper. My heart begins to pound as my mind races with considerations of what could be scripted for me to discover.

My hands tremble, and quickly my eyes search for something to aid my itching fingers to get inside this exciting discovery of written secrets.

Ah! I see it; a small black retired piece of lava rock poking its head out of the sand, it is beckoning me to bring the bottle. Quickly I step toward it and lower the bottle against it’s hard surface. I hear the sound before I see the damage done to the old friend of the sea. The bottle is now in two pieces, but the old scroll is perfectly in tact.

Slowly I unroll the ancient text; an ancient language written in black ink stares back at me from the page.

I imagine that I can interpret the written text:

“The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are collected sayings; they are given by ONE SHEPHERD. My son (daughter), BEWARE of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgement, with every secret thing, whether good or bad.”… Ecclesiastes 12:11-14.

I stand in sacred silence. My mind still as I stare at the script laying open in my hands…..

Imagine.

Can you imagine such a discovery of truth?

Every day we hold this sacred scroll in our hands, every word given to us by ‘ONE SHEPHERD’; every word coming from the SAME SOURCE.

This is profound and glorious!

Matthew Henry comments on these verses of scripture: “If the end be not attained in the use of those books of scripture which God has blessed us with, neither should we obtain the end, if we had twice as many more; nay, if we had so many that the whole world could not contain them (Jn. 21:25), and much study would but confound us, and would rather be weariness to the flesh than any advantage to the soul. We have as much as God saw fit to give us, saw fit for us, and saw us fit for.”

“In the beginning was the WORD, and the WORD was with God and the WORD WAS GOD.” (John 1:1)

“EVERY word of God PROVES true…” (Prov. 30:5a)

You would think with such knowledge we would dine faithfully at such a banquet table of truth.

May we be found growing in our knowledge and understanding and love of God’s Word, our ONE SHEPHERD, THE WORD.

Don’t Kiss Donkey’s Hind, Kiss the Floor…

“But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” (Ps. 3:28)

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” (Jas. 4:8)

“And without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God MUST believe THAT HE EXISTS and that He rewards those who seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6)

“The Lord is near to ALL who call on Him, to ALL who call on Him in truth.” (Ps. 145:18)

Charles Spurgeon says of Psalm 73:28, “The greater our nearness to God, the less we are affected by the attractions and distractions of earth. Access into the most holy place is a great privilege, and a cure for a multitude of ills.”

In my opinion, to “draw near” to God means that I approach Him having already made a decision that I am willing to let go of everything I have clenched inside my dirty little fists….EVERYTHING! For me to draw near to God is to approach a holy, sacred place and space before Him; it requires action on my part, a choice of a premeditated action of humility, and repentance of sin.

“Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart…” (Ps. 24:3-4)

I LIVE to draw near to God, but I keep getting in the way! Dang it!!

There is great personal cost in drawing near! It is a very narrow road, and we are told in the Word that this road to life is HARD. (See Matt. 7:12-14) It is like choosing to walk through a million little furnaces, each one stripping away more of our fleshly desires and passions. The part of us that remains exposed either reveals purity of intention of ascent to the Holy Hill, or it will reveal a layer of flesh that is intent on one person, ITSELF.

Can we not just skip across the little rocks that lay above the flames of refinement? Must we face ourselves as we draw near? Do I have to walk the narrow road?

Do you really think that it could be otherwise?

Look at the marriage relationship. My hubby and I have been married for 25 years; we have had some VERY painful years; There were days I desired to walk away, and I know he did too, but we chose not to; we made a covenant vow before God that we would be together until “death do us part”.

The pain was BECAUSE OF the growing depth of love and understanding we were “acquiring” towards one another AS we were growing closer. The “understanding” part was revealing the truth about who I really was. YIKES! (The descriptive word that comes to mind is not a word I will type!).

All those years ago, all that pain, and unforgiveness and anger and bitterness surfaced BECAUSE we continued walking towards each other, NOT away from each other.

If a human relationship is designed this way; (we are taught in the Word that marriage is to be a picture of Christ’s love for the church; Eph. 5:22-30), would we not expect a walk through the hall of mirrors as we draw near to God? Would you not expect to face yourself in the presence of a Holy God?

Have you struggled with knowing the presence of God? Has this led to a life of sitting on the big white fence? Disillusionment settles deep, and the heart makes a decision of unbelief. (see Heb. 11:6 above)

Are you willing to allow God to probe your life? Are you willing for Him to convict you of your unbelief? Are you willing to step onto the narrow road, knowing that as you do you are beginning the ascent to the “Holy Hill’? What is it that you are refusing to let go of OR FACE?

I think perhaps we are all just ….

just….

Lazy cowards..

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is NARROW and the way IS HARD that LEADS TO LIFE, and those who find it are few.” (Matt. 7:13-14)

The School House….

School and Karolyn; night and day; North and south; black and white.

Opposites.

My life and a school room equal mental AND physical trauma!

I have battled to accept this truth about myself because I have been married to the equivalent of an “Einstein” for 25 years. My husband has been given an unbelievable brain; Copious amounts of information absorbed, remembered AND used! He LIVES to learn, he LOVES education! I think part of his life calling is to be a chronic student! I love this about him and I admire it because a learning of this capacity produces a great struggle for me (Maybe all those tumbles during figure skating practise when my head hit the ice has something to do with it…? Or maybe I’m struggling to accept that God did not create my brain to function this way?)

As I sat in my old rocking chair this morning I reflected upon my daily routine of running to the Word of God. To learn more of Who He is, to catch glimpses of hope, of purpose of life and to hear Him speak to me. I read; “Morning by morning He awakens; He awakens my EAR to HEAR as those WHO ARE TAUGHT” ( Isa. 50:4).

It is not only a learning that takes place in my mind, but it is also a learning that takes place in my heart and my soul. It is as though Divine crayon goes to work within me; colouring in the heart places void of His own expressions of truth.

I am reminded of Jesus’ words to His disciples: “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He WILL TEACH YOU ALL THINGS and bring to YOUR REMEMBRANCE all that I have said to you” (Jn. 14:25-26).

Matthew Henry elaborates on this verse in his commentary: “….Christ was a teacher to His disciples; if He leave them now that they have made so little proficiency, what will become of them? Why, the Spirit shall teach them, shall be their standing tutor. He shall teach then all things necessary for them either to learn themselves, or to teach others. For those that would teach the things of God must first themselves be taught of God; this is the Spirit’s work.”

The word picture that comes to mind is a school classroom. I enter this learning time with God as though I am literally walking into a classroom to be taught. I sit down and focus my attention on the Divine Teacher, who PROMISES TO TEACH ME. And who has promised me a “Helper”, a tutor to stand right there beside me and lead me into all truth. Read 1 Cor. 2:6-16.

“O God, from my youth you have taught me” (Ps. 71:17).  Today I am awakened even more-so to  God’s word teaching me that I am always being taught!! However, this does not always translate into life transformation if I am not intentional and disciplined of hearing and application; I have only learned if I live out what I have been taught.

Why is there pursuit of further education or degree in a particular field of career? Is it not to excel? To understand? Even to enjoy one’s path of calling? We would expect no less from them! In fact we congratulate them, we applaud them! And we are so proud of them! Why is it  then that we approach God’s word so carelessly? It is as though we read with no expectation of being taught or expectation of its transforming power. I call to mind James words: “Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22), and”For the Word of God is LIVING and ACTIVE, SHARPER than ANY two-edged sword, PIERCING to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12)

I don’t know about you, but I will choose to run into this classroom of life-giving, life transforming teaching!

I sign off with a prayer today: “Jesus would you purify the soil of my heart so that your life-giving words would be planted within my heart and “tatted” on upon my flesh. If my life is to be like that of a “city on a hill” than it can only be such if you have made yourself at home within me through Your life and through Your Word. I am not interested in a life reflective of Karolyn, but a life that is known and defined by being Yours.”