Light to Live By

"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

Category: Faith (page 1 of 2)

Strength and Courage

Four times in Joshua chapter one Joshua is told, “Be strong and courageous” (1:6, 7, 9, 18). This follows up on his being told this twice previously (Deut. 31:7, 23). Joshua was given this command directly by God Himself (Deut. 31:23; Josh. 1:6, 7), by Moses (Deut. 31:7), and by the people he was to lead (Josh. 1:18). Not only was the leader, Joshua, given this command, the people themselves were as well (Deut. 31:6). Both leader and people are commanded by God to “Be strong and courageous.” This command would continue to be echoed down through his leadership of these people (Josh. 10:25) and at critical times in the life of the nation after them (1 Chron. 22:13; 28:20; 2 Chron. 32:7).

This same command comes down us today and with the same weight of divine demand behind it. What does it mean for us to “Be strong and courageous”?

On the face of it the command “Be strong” is not only not encouraging, but almost a mocking, taunting, demeaning imperative. What is required of us is more than is within us. The challenges that stand before us are bigger than what we can gather up from within ourselves. In the face of challenges so daunting and a personal condition so depraved, the command to “Be strong” is not only futile, but mean-spirited … unless, of course the command is accompanied by a promise. And in this case, that is exactly what we have. Accompanying this command is the thrice-given promise of God’s abiding presence (Joshua 1:5, 9, 17).

Thus, to live out the command to “Be strong” is to live out of an alien power. We must come into the experience of something more than what we can reach down and do with additional effort.

In New Testament terms this means living in the fullness of the Holy Spirit’s personal presence and power. We are not left the option of assessing our options and choosing our way based upon what is within us or what we are able to do by the power of redoubled efforts. We are to “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Eph. 6:10). If we rely upon our own ingenuity, our own wisdom, our own strength, we will achieve only what is humanly possible. But if we truly come into a fresh experience of the infilling of God’s Spirit, there won’t be enough time to tell the stories of what He will do through us.

Similarly, to be commanded “Be … courageous” is, without divine enablement, a mocking of our naturally fearful state. By itself it amounts to little more than whistling in the dark. But with the promise of His presence and the provision of His Holy Spirit, being courageous is simply living out an alien purpose. No longer are we able to make our choices out of fear, comfort or passivity. Timidity, discomfort and a shrinking spirit must give way—not to something from within ourselves, not from some dredged up daring, but from the knowledge that we have been given a divine task and resourced with divine presence and power … and so we simply step forward, confronting fear, comfort, passivity, timidity and that shrinking spirit and simply do what God calls us to do.

We are “strong and courageous” as we intentionally view our lives (and the circumstances and people and relationship that fill them) as under a purpose that is not dredged up from within us, but which is laid down upon us from above … and when we choose to live for that purpose (rather than our own desires/wishes/whims) by the strength of God’s indwelling presence within us.

So hear it from God. Hear it from me. Hear it from one another. Hear it again and again and again, until it becomes the drumbeat by which you march through life: “Be strong and courageous”!

Which is it?

Of late I have been memorizing and praying back to God the great prayer of Habakkuk 3:17-19. But during much of that time I’ve also had in my Bible a 3×5 card upon which I wrote, some time ago, the text of Genesis 32:26b. Recently, as I was praying back the former to God, I happened upon the card in my Bible. In an instant, seeing them side by side, I realized the contrast between the faith of Jacob and that of Habakkuk.

“I will not let you go unless you bless me.” (Genesis 32:26b). These are, of course, Jacob’s words while wrestling with “the angel” through the night. He says, “I’m not letting go of you, Lord, until you bless me.”

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments” (Habakkuk 3:17-19). This is the prophet’s prayer of faith as he surrendered to God’s sovereignty over the nations and over his own life. This is Habakkuk saying, “I will not let you go even if you don’t bless me.”

See them side by side:

  • I will not let you go unless you bless me.
  • I will not let you go even if you don’t bless me.

So which one is it?

Or, is it both?

Yes, both.

For the blessing for which Jacob holds out is God’s own presence with him. And that of which Habakkuk will not let go, no matter his earthly state of blessedness, is the presence of God with him.

Bless me or bless me not, you, O Lord, are the one essential. You are the one thing I cannot live without. Amen.

that T in the road

bumbling through life

Quite

Unaware

I encounter a

T in the road

What to make of this T?

An impasse? The end of my road?

A signal I should QUIT?

Or does the T signal, not a Termination, but a Transition?

As I consider my options something Emerges, standing between me and that fateful T

Exaltation of the King who rules my journey

Examination of my heart as part of my journey

Exploration of the King’s leading for the next stage of the journey

In fact, I discover the E is not just one thing, but many things

Yet it is not Everything

No, that is the Exclusive domain of my King

Him alone in that place between me and the T

Embracing Him as my Everything Transforms my journey

opening new options as I stand there before that great T in my road

there, with Him the T no longer demands I QUIT, but invites me to become QUIET

for, says my King, “in Quietness and in Trust is your strength” for this journey

This is My Father’s World

“History is but the unrolled scroll of Prophecy.” — President James A. Garfield

james_garfield

“This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord …” (Ephesians 3:11)

“… according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will …” (Ephesians 1:11)

“… remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.'” (Isaiah 46:9-10)

“… the King of the ages …” (1 Timothy 1:17)

“Known to God from eternity are all His works.” (Acts 15:18, NKJV)

“… God desired to show … the unchangeable character of his purpose …” (Hebrews 6:17)

Plucked from the Fire

firestorm

On August 31, 1894 a firestorm swept across the woodlands of northeast Minnesota, swallowing the thriving town of Hinckley and several other smaller burgs as it cut a swath thirty miles wide as it plunged northeastward. As the inferno hit Hinckley temperatures soared to as high as 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit and the wall of flame soared up to one hundred fifty feet high. The heat vortex may have ascended as much as 30,000 feet into the sky. Under the intense heat steel wheels on train cars and the tracks upon which they once ran melted and ran into pools like water seeking its lowest level. Hundreds of lives were consumed by the flames as people frantically tried to outpace the driving firestorm.

Daniel James Brown in his account of the tragedy in Under a Flaming Sky recounts the story of one particularly fortunate group of the endangered from the tiny village of Partridge.

“A few of the villagers commandeered handcars and stated pumping their way up the tracks; others simply ran along the rails behind them. The largest group, though, remaining remarkably clearheaded, set out on a road toward a logging camp where a hundred acres had previously been burned over by another fire. It was three miles away—a long haul—and there was no chance to pause or rest, as a survivor later remembered: ‘All the time the fire was right behind us. The smoke had gathered again and thickened into a grayish-black mass which rolled forward at an incredible speed with a deafening roar, whining and rumbling. We had barely reached our place of refuge when the great wall of smoke behind us split, or rather was flung asunder, and a blood-red flame of fire shot out like a flash of lighting. In a moment, every particle of smoke had disappeared and in its place we saw a sea of fire as far as the eye could scan.’” (p.122)

Jesus echoed the prophets before Him in promising a judgment by fire. On the last day He separate the peoples and “will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Matt. 25:41).

Indeed, the end of the Book tells us all, “if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15).

But there is hope, for Jesus bore the judgment of God against our sins in His own body on the cross. In those moments the fires of God’s holy wrath swept over Jesus who stood in our place, His death accounted as ours that we might be free.

This act in which Jesus satisfied the just wrath of God against us is called “propitiation.”

  • “Therefore [Jesus] had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17).
  • Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
  • “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10)
  • “God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Rom. 3:25a).

Jesus is the only safe ground from the coming wrath of God. When we flee in faith to Him we find ground where the fiery wrath of God has already burned over and where the fires of judgment will never again be visited. Flee to Jesus and be saved!

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