Buckets

Here are the final quotes this week.  Aren’t they great?

God fills heaven and earth, just as the ocean fills a bucket that has been submerged a mile down.  The bucket is full of the ocean, but the ocean surrounds the bucket in all directions.  So when God says, “I fill heaven and earth,” He does, and heaven and earth is submerged in God as well.  He further says that the heaven of heavens cannot contain God.  You see, God is not contained; God contains, and there is a difference.  In Him, we live and move and have our being.  We have this habit of trying to put God into our life.  We have our own boundaries, and we think God should fit into them.  That is contrary to the very nature of God.  Nobody can control God; and therefore, God does not do the bidding of any person.  God is busy performing His purpose and will.  –A. W. Tozer, My Daily Pursuit, pg. 207

Regarding Exodus 17:8-13:

Whenever Moses raised his staff, the Israelite army succeeded.  Whenever he lowered it they started losing.  Moses’ arms grew too tired to hold the staff, however, so Aaron and another man held his arms steady.  In the original Hebrew, the word for “steady” in that story is the same word that appears in Psalm 89:8 as “faithfulness.”  This word also appears as “faith” in Habakkuk 2:4, where the prophet denounces the proud people of his day:  “They trust in themselves and their lives are crooked; but the righteous will live by their faith.”  This psalm recognizes that faithfulness is at the very core of God’s character.  And it’s not just that he will try to do what he promises–he is mighty enough to do it.  His arms are strong enough by themselves; the doesn’t need helpers to hold them up!  The psalmist tosses around other characteristics of the Lord:  righteousness and justice, unfailing love and truth.  All of this combines to paint a portrait of a God you can count on–even when everything else in your life seems to be falling apart.  As we steadily trust in God’s steadiness and faithfulness, we find life, even when the powers of death surround us.  He holds us up in his mighty arms and he will not let us down.  —One Year Book of Psalms, 7/15

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Help When In Need

As you may know, I had a bicycle accident in Jackson this summer.  I ended up with two sprained wrists, a sprained ankle, bruised ribs and a contusion of the liver.  Since I was alone at my dad’s house I had to drive myself to the hospital and back, and didn’t get to bed until 3:30am.  In addition to being unable to breathe deeply for the next three weeks it was extremely painful.  While at the hospital I was not able to take any pain killers because I would need to drive myself back to the house.  When I arrived home and tried to open the bottle of pills I couldn’t twist the cap or hold it to twist with the other hand.  I thought, “What would Daddy do?” and put the bottle on the kitchen counter and whacked at it with a hammer until I got it opened!

That week was difficult; I could barely get in and out of bed, walk, breathe or even stay awake.  I’d arranged for a plumber to come to the house for repairs, but slept most of the time he was there.  My body was really in shock.  It helped me relate to what my dad had suffered with COPD, and what my mother had undergone with cancer regarding CT Scans and awaiting results (the doctor had originally said that I had a blood clot in my liver completely unrelated to the accident, but later decided it was trauma related).  When I drove back home to Buffalo (normally a 6-7 hour trip) it took 10 hours because I had to pull over to sleep so often.

I’m doing much better now, although I’m still strengthening my left wrist and hand through occupational therapy.  My problems were nothing compared to what others have:  I pray every day for friends that are dealing with cancer and other serious illnesses, and can’t even begin to relate to the struggles and fears they may have.

But I do want to share about the faithfulness of God in my hours of need when I wasn’t even sure I could get through the night.  In my normal, daily devotions He spoke very clearly and assuredly to me.  The first verse is the one I read while lying in the emergency room, awaiting various tests, and it gave me the peace and certainty that He was in this with me and would see me through it.  It was June 26 so I’d looked up Psalm 26:

Examine me, God, from head to foot, order your battery of tests.  Make sure I’m fit inside and out so I never lose sight of your love, but keep in step with you, never missing a beat.  –Psalm 26:2-3 (MSG)

From there, everything else I read the rest of the week was equally timely and encouraging, and was right in my regular readings each day:

Just as Joseph and the psalmist keep turning to God and trusting Him to turn evil into good, so we, too, must keep looking to God in difficult times.  —One Year Book of Psalms, 6/27

Since all that I meet shall work for my good, the bitter is sweet, the medicine food:  though painful at present, ’twill cease before long; and then O how pleasant the Conqueror’s song.  –John Newton

Show us your mighty power, come to rescue us!  Turn us again to yourself, O God.  Make your face shine down upon us.  Only then will we be saved.  –Psalm 80:2b-3 (NLT)

Now I will take the load from your shoulders; I will free your hands from their heavy tasks.  You cried to me in trouble, and I saved you; I answered out of the thundercloud and tested your faith when there was no water in Meribah.  –Psalm 81:6-7 (NLT)

Happy the child who in thunder-claps detects the Father’s voice.  There is no fear in love, because perfect love casteth out the fear that hath torment.  –F. B. Meyer

Yes, there were thunderstorms that week in Jackson when I was sleeping nearly all day and night.  And yes, that last quote had my Word of the Year in it–“cast!”  I”m thankful He met with me in my need and assured me of His presence.

 

 

Purpose

My final quote in this series of Great Quotes is this next one, straight out of the Bible.  How amazing is it to know that, no matter your situation or struggles, talents or insecurities, failures or successes, you don’t have to “measure up” or “finally arrive” at some expected place of “being good enough.”  It’s all about our Savior, not about us.

I do not consider myself to have “arrived,” spiritually, nor to I consider myself already perfect.  But I keep going on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ Jesus grasped me.  My brothers, I do concentrate on this:  I leave the past behind and with hands out-stretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal–my reward he honor of my high calling by God in Christ Jesus.  All of us who are spiritually adult should set ourselves this sort of ambition, and if at present you cannot see this, yet you will find that this is the attitude which God is leading you to adopt.  It is important that we go forward in the light of such truth as we have ourselves attained to…But we are citizens of Heaven; our outlook goes beyond this world to the hopeful expectation of the Savior who will come from Heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He will change these wretched bodies of ours so that they resemble his own glorious body, by that power of his which makes him the master of everything that is.  — Philippians 3:12-21 (PHI)

Regeneration

Here is a word we don’t hear often–“regeneration.”  I was surprised to come across it in my devotions. I saw it in the writings of A. W. Tozer (1897-1963).  The book I’m reading is called My Daily Pursuit.  The forward is by Ravi Zacharias, and he says this about Tozer:

The profound realization that God could be known personally drew me, with sincerity and determination, to plumb the depths of that claim…A few short years later, I encountered, through the writings, the distinctive pastoral voice of A. W. Tozer, who expounded on the grandest of all themes to which the human mind could ascend and the heart could embrace:  the study of God Himself.  Tozer’s voice was unique in his era, and I read and reread many of his books.  Works such as The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy opened up vistas that were life-transforming.  Those truths were timely for me and timeless for anyone hungry to know God.  So, his words still speak with power and tenderness today, leaving me with the twin passions of fulfillment and legitimate hunger…Tozer gives us the right kind of pause to learn the value of deep reflection on noble truths.  –Ravi Zacharias, quoted in A. W. Tozer, My Daily Pursuit, pg. 7-8

So now let’s look at this word “regeneration” that is heard so seldom today.  I think there are great truths to be considered here and this first quote is very touching to consider:

A new father goes to the hospital to see his first baby.  He goes to the window to look at all of the babies, but what he is looking for is one that looks like him.  The babies may be cute, but he has no interest in any of them except his own.  When he sees his own baby, what he is looking for is himself.  The little baby has his ears, his nose, his eyes and so forth.  The thing that drove him to that little baby is his own image in that baby.  The thing to draw God to us is His image in us.  Sin has destroyed it.  Regeneration puts it back in.  Now that man in Christ can have communion and fellowship with the Father of whose image he is.  –A. W. Tozer, My Daily Pursuit, pg. 188

Now, if the word “regeneration” isn’t enough of an unfamiliar word, take a look now at “compatibility,” “communion,” “congruity,” “atonement,” and a word that I think Tozer made up–“feelingly!”  It all makes complete sense when you put them together and understand his point:

One of the great Bible truths we should revel in is that the newest convert born again today, has a degree of moral likeness to God, which gives him a measure of compatibility.  Heaven is a place of complete compatibility.  Sin introduced an incompatibility between God and the sinner.  Sin disrupts the communion between God and man.  Sin introduces that quality which throws men and God out of accord with each other.  As it is, there is no accord, no congruity.  But when that sinner believes in the blood atonement, which is trust in Christ, and is justified in heaven and regenerated on earth, there is complete compatibility and communion…That compatibility allows God to draw feelingly near to the man or women, and it makes communion morally consistent.  –A. W. Tozer, My Daily Pursuit, pg. 186

Abba Father, through regeneration I have come back to the place where Thee can see in me Thy blessed divine image.  How I praise Thee through Jesus Christ my Savior!  Amen.  –A. W. Tozer,  My Daily Pursuit, pg. 188

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).