History

I’m continuing with great quotes this week — there are so many right now in my life!  God is so faithful to keep them coming, and I’d like to pass them on to you, as they’ve been a huge encouragement to me.

History is of no use if we don’t remember it. The rich heritage of God’s mighty works gives neither insight nor inspiration if we are ignorant of it.”  –Eugene Peterson

As Christians, we see the acts of God in history as an essential part of our faith.  We make a mistake if we think that Christianity is based solely on the catechisms and the teachings of Jesus (the Beatitudes, etc.).  Christianity is rooted in history.  We believe that our life is critically affected by things that happened in the past.  Old Testament history shows God at work for his people.  The promises God made to his people were fulfilled in historical events.  That’s why it was important for Jewish parents to keep reminding their children of them through stories and through historical psalms like Psalm 77, 78, 81 and 83.  These examples of God’s acting on behalf of his people give new generations, including our own, hope that God will continue to act for us.  In this way, we see history truly as his story.  —One Year Book of Psalms, 6/24

When Israel out of Egypt came

They left the proud oppressors Land

Supported by the great I AM,

Safe in the hollow of His hand

–Charles Wesley

Innocent

Here is the last set of quotes this week.  As promised, the first quote is a continuation of the previous quote I mentioned.  We don’t behave perfectly all the time, but nevertheless we can be certain we are innocent before our Heavenly Judge:

Justification declares the sinner righteous, but it is external to the man.  That is, the justified man may be no better off for his justification if that is all that happened to him.  Justification is a judicial thing.  Just as a man may stand before the court and be declared innocent of a crime — not guilty, and yet it does not change the man inside.  He weighs exactly the same as he weighed before; stands at the same height, with the same color of hair and eyes as before. He has the same relationships and in every way is the same man he was before.  The only difference, he is judicially free, declared not guilty before the law.  — A. W. Tozer, My Daily Pursuit, pg. 184

Of course he doesn’t leave us that way if we truly seek Him in repentance and offer Him our hearts:

In the history lesson of Psalm 78, we find the Israelites following the Lord “only with their words.”  They knew what to say, but they didn’t know how to live.  They would come to God’s Temple with sacrifices but they would not offer him their hearts.  “I want you to be merciful,” God said,  “I don’t want your sacrifices.”  The people were going through the motions, but not letting God’s emotions go through them.  —One Year Book of Psalms, 6/21

Repentance is primarily a change of moral purpose, a sudden and often violent reversal of the soul’s direction.  The prodigal son took his first step upward from the pigsty when he said, “I will arise and go to my father.”  As he had once willed to leave his father’s house, now he willed to return.”  — A. W. Tozer

The atonement (the fact that Jesus lived a perfect life for us, and died a perfect judgment for us on the cross, and truly did rise again from the dead as proof) makes all the difference in the world and can even change the inside of a man, though we will never be perfect until Christ returns.  How do I know Jesus did rise from the dead?  See my previous “God is Real” posts — Part 1, Part 2, Part 3!

Atonement is the basis upon which God acts toward humanity.  Atonement makes justification possible, and justification leads to regeneration.  This is the work of God outside of a man that has the potential to change the inside of a man.  Regeneration takes place at the same time justification takes place…A regenerated man is a man [or woman] who partakes of the divine nature, a man who has a new relation to God, which gives him eternal life.  –A. W. Tozer, My Daily Pursuit, pg. 185

But now we are seeing the righteousness of God declared quite apart from the Law (though simply testified by by both Law and prophets)–it is a righteousness imparted to, and operating in, all who have faith in Jesus Christ.  (For there is no distinction to be made anywhere: everyone has sinned, everyone falls short of the beauty of God’s plan).  Under this divine system a man who has faith is now freely acquitted in the eyes of God by his generous dealing in the redemptive act of Christ Jesus.  God has appointed him as the means of propitiation, a propitiation accomplished by the shedding of his blood, to be received and made effective in ourselves by faith.  God has done this to demonstrate his righteousness both by the wiping out of the sins of the past (the time when he withheld his hand), and by showing in the present time that he is a just God and that he justifies every man who has faith in Jesus Christ. What happens now to human pride of achievement?  There is no more room for it.  Why, because failure to keep the Law has killed it?  Not at all, but because the whole matter is now on a different plane–believing instead of achieving.  We see now that a man is justified before God by the fact of his faith in God’s appointed Savior and not by what he has managed to achieve under the Law.  — Romans 3:21-28 (PHI)

From there, we can encourage one another in our relationship with Jesus, our Savior.  The apostle Paul spent much time in prison writing to believers in various places, encouraging them in their faith.  Here is just one example of many, beautifully expressed in the J.B. Phillips translation:

I wish you could understand how deep is my anxiety for you…How I long that you may be encouraged, and find out more and more how strong are the bonds of Christian love.  How I love for you to grow more certain in your knowledge and more sure in your grasp of God himself.  May your spiritual experience become richer as you are more and more full of God’s great secret, Christ himself.  For it is in him, and in him alone, that men will find all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge…in spirit I am by your side, watching like a proud father the solid steadfastness of your faith in Christ.  Just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so go on living in him–in simple faith.  Grow out of him as a plant grows out of the soil it is planted in, becoming more and more sure of the faith as you were taught it, and your lives will overflow with joy and thankfulness.  –Colossians 2:1-7 (PHI)

And now, if you haven’t already, go back and read my “God is Real” posts, to see why I’m so certain that all of this is true — Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

 

Harmony

This first quote was read at our wedding and is very special to me.  Perhaps this is part of the reason why our marriage has lasted over 40 years and is still strong today.  However, this scripture goes far beyond marriage to relationships with all others.  It’s wonderful to see it as translated in the J.B. Phillips version of the Bible.  I love the thought of “harmony” in relationships–not pushy or proud; forgiving, understanding, waiting when necessary; kind, peaceful, putting others first.  We don’t succeed at this, of course, but that’s where the first sentence comes into play — “purified and beloved of God Himself” — God is the one that purifies us (see the first quote on my next post).

As, therefore, God’s picked representatives of the new humanity, purified and beloved of God himself, be merciful in action, kindly in heart, humble in mind.  Accept life, and be most patient and tolerant with one another, always ready to forgive if you have a difference with anyone.  Forgive as freely as the Lord has forgiven you.  And, above everything else, be truly loving, for love is the golden chain of all the virtues.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, remembering that as members of the one body you are called to live in harmony, and never forget to be thankful for what God has done for you.  Let Christ’s teaching live in your hearts, making you rich in the true wisdom.  Teach and help one another along the right road with your psalms and hymns and Christian songs, singing God’s praises with joyful hearts.  And whatever work you may have to do, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, thanking God the Father through him.  Wives, adapt yourselves to your husbands, that your marriage may be a Christian unity.  Husbands, be sure you give your wives much love and sympathy; don’t let bitterness or resentment spoil your marriage.  As for you children, your duty is to obey your parents, for at your age this is one of the best things you can do to show your love for the Lord.  Fathers, don’t over-correct your children, or they will grow up feeling inferior and frustrated.  Slaves (or workers), your job is to obey your masters (employers) not with the idea of currying favor, but as a sincere expression of your devotion to the Lord.  Whatever you do, put your whole heart and soul into it, as unto work done for the Lord, and not merely for men–knowing that your real reward, a heavenly one, will come from the Lord, since you are actually employed by the Lord Christ, and not just by your earthly master.  –Colossians 3:12-17

I just heard recently in a sermon that at the time these words were written, slavery was nothing like we understand it today.  Roman slavery was a choice; one third of the population voluntarily connected with a master, giving up freedom in order to obey another.  Sadly, I would assume this was the poorest of society, so whether it was closer to slavery as we know it, or to a worker/employer relationship, I don’t know.  I do know that Christ rightfully expresses the value and equality of all–slave and free, master and servant, male and female, all races and nations (see Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11, Psalm 67:1-4).

 

Heart

Here is the “heart” of Andrew Murray’s thoughts that spoke so clearly to me last week in his book, Waiting On God.  This is really special; don’t miss what He has to say here:

Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all ye that wait for the Lord. –Psalm 31:24 (RV)

“Let your heart take courage.”  All our waiting depends on the state of the heart.  As a man’s heart is, so is he before God.  We can advance no further or deeper into the holy place of God’s presence to wait on Him there, than our heart is prepared for it by the Holy Spirit.  –pg. 35

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”  (Prov. 3:5)  In all faith, we have to use these two powers.  The mind has to gather knowledge from God’s Word and prepare the food by which the heart with the inner life is to be nourished.  But here is the terrible danger of our leaning to our own understanding and trusting in our own comprehension of divine things.  People imagine that if they are occupied with the truth, the spiritual life will, as a matter of course, be strengthened.  And this is by no means the case.  The understanding deals with concepts and images of divine things, but it cannot reach the real life of the soul.  Hence the command:  “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart, and lean not upon thine own understanding.”  Man believes with the heart and comes into touch with God.  God has given His Spirit in the heart to be the presence and the power of God working in us.  In all our faith, the heart must trust and love and worship and obey.  My mind is utterly unable to create or maintain the spiritual life within me.  The heart must wait on God for Him to work it in me.  –pg. 36-37

Murray likens this to physical nourishment:

My reason may tell me what to eat and drink, and how the food nourishes me.  But in the eating and feeding, my reasons can do nothing–the body has its organs for that special purpose.  Just so, reason may tell me what God’s Word says, but it can do nothing to the feeding of the soul on the bread of life–this the heart alone can do by its faith and trust in God. –pg. 37

Then he compares this spiritual process to physical sleep:

A man may be studying the nature and effects of food or sleep.  When he wants to eat or sleep, he sets aside his thoughts and study, and uses the power of eating or sleeping.  And so, the Christian always needs, when he has studied or heard God’s Word, to cease from his thoughts, to put no trust in them [his own thoughts], to awaken his heart to open itself before God, and seek the living fellowship with Him.  –pg. 37

Let the heart wait at times in perfect silence and quiet; in its hidden depths.  God will work.  Be sure of this, and just wait on Him.  Give your whole heart, with its secret workings, into God’s hands continually.  He wants the heart.  He takes it and, as God, dwells in it.  –pg. 38

I love these thoughts:  Let Your Heart take courage!  Sometimes we’re unwilling to rest or trust.  Sometimes we’d rather worry and fret about something.  Or we’d like to try something in our own strength. And yet, here in His Word, He encourages us:  “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all ye that wait for the LORD.”

Strength and Courage

Here are more quotes from Andrew Murray’s book, Waiting On God.

Wait on the LORD:  be strong, and let thine heart take courage; yea, wait thou on the LORD.  –Psalm 27:14 (RV)

One of the chief needs in our waiting upon God, one of the deepest secrets of its blessedness and blessing, is a quiet, confident persuasion that it is not in vain.  –pg. 31

“Be strong, and of good courage.”  These words are frequently found in connection with some great and difficult enterprise, in prospect of the combat with the power of strong enemies, and the utter insufficiency of all human strength.  Is waiting on God a work so difficult that such words are needed:  “Be strong, and let your heart take courage?”  Yes, indeed.  The deliverance for which we often have to wait is from enemies, in whose presence we are so weak.  The blessings for which we plead are spiritual and unseen–things impossible with men–heavenly, supernatural, divine realities.  Our heart may well faint and fail.  –pg. 32

You are going to wait on God, to know first what He is, and then after that, what He will do…Come, and however feeble you feel, just wait in His presence.  As a feeble, sickly invalid is brought out into the sunshine to let its warmth go through him, come with all that is dark and cold in you into the sunshine of God’s holy omnipotent love.  Sit and wait there, with the one thought:  Here I am, in the sunshine of His love.  As the sun does its work in the weak, one who seeks its rays, God will do His work in you.  Oh, do trust Him fully!  –pg. 33-34

It takes strength and  courage to wait for an answer from God, and He gives it to you (both strength and courage) as you determine to wait.  I can’t tell how often I have needed an answer to a problem or situation, and have gone somewhere to sit before Him and await His answer.  When I open His Word, or even the newspaper or some book in the morning, there is my answer — specific, personal, final.  It’s truly amazing how clearly He speaks to those who will sit quietly before Him and wait.

And yes–sometimes the wait is longer, but it will come, always, if you wait.

Wait

Lately I’ve been reading a great devotional from Andrew Murray (1828-1917).  This week I’m sharing quotes from that book.  The topic (as can be seen by the title) is waiting on God.  These words are so meaningful and true:

Show me thy ways, O LORD: teach me thy paths.  Lead me in thy truth, and teach me:  for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.  Psalm 25:4-5 (KJV)

A soul cannot seek close fellowship with God, or attain the abiding consciousness of waiting on Him all the day, without a very honest and entire surrender to all His will.  –Andrew Murray, Waiting On God, Whitaker House Publishers, pg. 28

It must be clear to us what we are waiting for.  There may be very different things.  It may be waiting for God in our times of prayer to take His place as God and to work in us the sense of His holy presence and nearness.  It may be a special petition to which we are expecting an answer.  It may be our whole inner life, in which we are on the lookout for God’s putting forth of His power.  It may be the whole state of His church and saints, or some part of His work, for which our eyes are ever toward Him.  It is good that we remember and keep track of the things we are waiting for on God.  — pg. 29

It must also be clear to us on whom we are waiting.  Not an idol, a god of whom we have made an image by our concepts of what he is.  No, but the living God, such as He really is in His great glory, His infinite holiness, His power, wisdom, and goodness, in His love and nearness.  The presence of a beloved or a dreaded master awakens the whole attention of the servant who waits on him.  The presence of God, as He can in Christ by His Holy Spirit make Himself known, and keep the soul under its covering and shadow, will awaken and strengthen the true waiting spirit.  Let us be still and wait and worship until we know how near He is…   — pg. 29

It doesn’t seem to me that many people are willing to wait for anything any more, even regarding spiritual matters.  We seem to have much strength in our own wills, plans and ways.  But God tells us to wait on Him; wait and see what He will do!  There are things only He can do, and they are certainly worth waiting for.

Never Give Up

I have recently been encouraged by a book I’ve been studying this year from Beth Moore, and would like to share a devotion from it for anyone that is weathering a storm of any type.  These words are true, and I can tell you from personal experience that it works!  The thoughts are based on Acts 17:13-26 when the Apostle Paul and Dr. Luke ended up in a fierce storm, which became worse when others made poor decisions.  We all end up in situations like this based on the actions, attitudes, or words of others in our family, work place, community or nation.

Some end up in fierce, literal storms, such as Haiti just experienced, and yet I’m reading many stories of people giving to supply their needs, and of God’s faithfulness to them in their struggles.  Before I give you Beth’s words, let me share this recent note from my missionary friends in Haiti (Craig and Renee Janofski):

A post from a missionary on the front lines in some of the hardest hit areas of the country shared these words…it proves the strength and resilience of the Haitian people! They have hope, even in the sorrow.

“The cities and villages along the roads are destroyed but the villages in the mountains are decimated.  Life is hard in the mountains on a good day and after this folks are pretty down and out. Their houses and gardens are gone. They have infections from stepping on nails and tin slicing them. They are sleeping under whatever they could salvage from their homes.

But…there is always a but…

There is hope, there is laughter and there are smiles. When I talked to a farmer about what he could plant now and harvest quickly his eyes sparkled at the thought of getting back in the garden. There was pride in showing me the one goat that survived the storm.

The leaves are resprouting on the trees that didn’t fall. Where there is life there is hope!”
-Kelly Crowdis
http://www.cvmusa.org

Isn’t that encouraging?  If they can weather their physical storms with God’s help, and with our support (you can give here), then we can weather our emotional storms, as Beth explains below (and don’t miss a bit of this–it’s powerful!):

The sailors on board with Paul took steps to deal with the storm that enveloped their ship.  In their actions I see practical behaviors we can also apply in our lives for surviving our personal storms.  Although the points I am about to make might not apply to a literal ship on an angry sea, they will be helpful in the storms we encounter when someone close to us exercises poor judgment.

  1. Don’t pull up the anchor (see v. 13).  The ship’s masters were ill advised to attempt to sail, but they decided to weigh anchor anyway.  Jesus Christ is our anchor beyond the veil (see Heb. 6:19-20).  When gentle breezes blow in our lives and all seems calm and peaceful, we often become less attentive to Him.  We’re not as aware of our need for the One who secures our lives and holds us steady until the storms begin to rage.  Don’t let a few calm breezes give you a false sense of security in yourself and your surroundings.  Stay anchored in Christ in gentle times too.
  2. Don’t give way to the storm (see v. 15).  Peril caused by another person’s poor judgment can often cause feelings of immense helplessness.  Don’t give way to the storm.  Give way to the Master of the seas.
  3. Do throw some cargo overboard (see v. 18).  As the storm worsened, the crew began to jettison cargo to keep the ship afloat.  Raging storms have ways of identifying some old stuff we’re still hanging on to.  When we’re upset over someone’s poor judgment, we have a tendency to drag up memories of other times we’ve been wronged as well.  Storms complicate life enough.  Ask God to simplify and clarify a few things in your life by helping you throw some old cargo overboard.
  4. Do throw the tackle overboard (see v. 19).  After jettisoning the cargo, the crew still needed to further lighten the ship.  The tackling on a ship included all kinds of gear:  ropes, pulleys, spars, masts, and planks.  These objects were man-made provisions needed to master the storm.  Storms are seldom pleasant, but they can serve an important purpose.  They help us to see the man-made solutions we’re substituting in place of depending on and getting to know God.
  5. Never give up hope (see v. 20).   Luke uses the word “we” when identifying those who gave up hope.  This is a man who wrote one of the Gospels!  How could he lose hope?  He had witnessed miracles!  This text reminds us that anyone can lose hope when a storm rages.  The original word for “gave up” in verse 20 is the same one translated “cutting loose” in verse 40.  We might say Luke and the others cut loose their hope when the storm continued to rage day after day.  The psalmist offers us a lifesaver in our raging storms in Psalm 62:5:  “Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him” (HCSB).   The “hope” in Psalm 62:5 is the word tiqvah, which literally means “a cord, as an attachment” (Strong’s).  The psalmist contrasted the disappointment he often experienced in man with the security he found in his faithful God.  His cord or rope was attached to God alone.  We’re all holding on to a rope of some kind for security, but if anyone but God is on the other end, we’re hanging on by a thread!  Hang on to Christ for dear life when the waves break hard against you.  He will be your survival no matter what the storm may destroy.  Only He can keep you from becoming bitter.  Only He can rebuild what gale-force winds tear apart.
  6. Listen for God to speak (see v. 24).  Incline your ear to the Master of the seas when the storms rage.  He will not be silent.  Just when the passengers and crew had lost hope, Paul stood to testify.  He told them, “This night an angel of the God I belong to and serve stood by me, saying, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul.  You must stand before Caesar.  And, look!  God has graciously given you all those who are sailing with you'” (vv. 23-24 HCSB).  God will probably not send an angel from heaven to speak audibly to you, but He may send a fellow believer, a neighbor, a pastor, or friend.  You can also hear Him speak through His Word anytime you are willing to open the Bible and receive.  Job also suffered for reasons outside his control, in ways we will never experience.  He had plenty of places to lay blame.  I believe one reason he survived such tragedy was because God proved not to be silent as Job had feared.  The place in which He spoke to Job is very applicable to us today.  Job 40:6 tells us, “The Lord answered Job from the whirlwind” (HCSB).  God will speak to you too–straight to your heart.  Sometimes others can make decisions that are devastating to our lives.  I cannot promise you everything will be OK.  It may be; it may not be.  But I promise you based on the faithfulness of God that you can be OK.  Just don’t pull up that anchor.  And never let go of the rope.  [Beth Moore, Portraits of Devotion, pp. 406-407]