THE LORD OUR TEACHER

This week, I’m still gleaning from Psalm 25.  Verses 4 and 5 read, Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.  Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior, and my hope is in you all day long.  And again in verses 8 and 9, Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.  He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.  God doesn’t leave us on our own.  Those who come to him he teaches.

As I read these four verses, I remember all that God has shown me through the years.  He has guided me, shown me his truth, instructed me in what is right, and taught me his ways.  He has indeed made life easier.  I say this because I remember how it was when I went my own way.  It was not easy, and it was not smooth.

Let me share an example with you.  When my children were young, I directed and corrected them as a father should.  When they became adults, I released my control of their lives to God.  He is really their father.   He taught me to surrender them to him.  This was hard to do, but very important.

Well it hasn’t gone as I would have planned, but I am very pleased with how things are turning out.  God has patiently worked in their lives.    God’s way is building fine adults that I am very proud of.  By staying out of God’s way, I have gained great relationships with my adult children.  I would never have known how to accomplish this, but God did.  All praise, honor, and glory are to our great God.  His ways are beyond our ways.

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RIVER OF LOVE

One of the truths that our Pastor is continuingly emphasizing is that God loves us.   He also says that God’s love is hard for us to comprehend.  I think we all know this.  There’s not an abundance of examples of this kind of love here on earth. 

The other day, I was singing an old song, “I’ve Got a River of Life Flowing Out of Me”, and I thought of this analogy.

God’s love for us is like a river flowing to us.  We throw rocks of sin into this river; they make ripples, but they never stop the flow.  When we choose a life of sin, sometimes, we actually dam up the flow, but the pressure of his love is always there.  One act of repentance permits his love to breach the dam.  And if we allow it, the flow of his love will continue to wash away the dam, and his love will pour into our lives.  Receiving his love makes us a new person.

This river of God’s love doesn’t stop with us; it flows through us and blesses those around us.  When we doubt his love, the waters get murky and hinder the blessings we can bring to others.  Once again, our quest in this life is to learn to trust God.  A big part of this is to trust that he loves us.  The enemy of our souls will shoot fiery darts from the banks of the river to make us doubt God’s love.  The shield of faith will divert them.  

PSALM 25

(Psalm 25:1-2a)  To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God.

While reading Psalm 25, I recalled that this psalm, written by King David, was written approximately 3,000 years ago.  It stands out to me that the soul of man, and our relationship to God, is the same as it was those many years ago.  The truth about God and man has not changed.  King David knew that if we give ourselves fully into God’s trust, we will lead a blessed life.

Imagine starting every day with this declaration: I entrust my inmost being to you, Lord.  Meaning that all that I am or hope to be in this day, I give into your hands my God.

When I first awake in the morning, I lay there thinking of what the day will bring.  I can think it through, make a plan, and then do whatever preparations are needed. Or, I can entrust my being to God, and let him lead me through the day.  Which one would you think to be the most beneficial?

Whether 3,000 years ago or today, this life for us humans is about learning to trust God.  I believe it’s that simple, but I do recognize that trusting God is a lifelong pursuit.

WHEN THE TIME HAD FULLY COME

I have always been fascinated by the revelation that God has a plan. This quote from Galatians 4:4, “When the time had fully come”, tells us that the timing of Jesus’ birth was planned.  Even today in the midst of our daily life, God’s plan is unfolding. 

I have been reading the Christmas story in the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel.   The story of Elizabeth and Zechariah in chapter 1 has captured my attention.  As you may recall, they were the parents of John the Baptist. The couple is introduced in verses 4-7.  Zechariah is a priest, and he and his wife Elizabeth are upright in the sight of God, yet they have been unable to have children.  They were both well along in years.

This couple apparently spent their time going about the daily processes of life.  In their daily life, they were faithful and trusted in God.  I’m sure they had prayed for a child, but they did not abandon God for his seeming failure to answer their prayers.

One day, “at the appointed time”, when Zechariah was ministering before the altar, an angel of the Lord appeared to him.  The angel said, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John…..”  How many times have you prayed for something and thought that your prayer wasn’t heard?  Maybe, it just wasn’t the right time. 

God has a plan that he is working out through history.  We only have a broad very general insight into his plan.  Each of God’s children has a part in his plan, but we usually aren’t sure how we fit in to his plan.  That is where trust and patience come into play.  Don’t lose heart; stay faithful.  God has a plan, you have a part in his plan, and in faith we know, God will execute the details of his plan when the time has fully come.

REBEL, THE RETURN HOME

Mrs. Grady’s eyes sparkled when she saw James standing in the doorway of her pantry.  “Come in James,” she said with revealing enthusiasm.  “I heard you were coming.  Have a seat here at the table.  Just so happens I’m making some of those cherry tarts you’re so fond of.  The tea’s ready.”

“I’d love a cup, thank you.”  James said with warm appreciation.

Time passed quickly as Mrs. Grady seemed to have an endless supply of James’ favorite foods and sweets.  He was also enjoying her flow of conversation.

When the servant let James know that the package was ready, he looked at his watch and realized he’d been there quite some time.  He thanked Mrs. Grady for her kind attention and headed out to the carriage.

“Come back soon,” Mrs. Grady said with affection in her voice.”

James turned and smiled.

The carriage was ready to go when he arrived at the stable.

“You’re all ready to go James,” the servant said.  “The master offers his apology for the wait.”

“That’s okay,” said James. “The time passed quickly.”

The servant gave him a knowing expression then said, “The fog’s beginning to set in, so be careful.  It’ll be especially thick near the river.”

James took his place on the carriage seat, gave a nod of thanks, and he was on his way.

The long trek to the river progressed well.  The two horses managed the road smoothly.  Rebel seemed to follow Josh’s lead without concern.  The sun was getting low in the west, but it still gave plenty of light.  The dappling of the light from the trees along the road produced a peaceful feeling.  As they progressed the fog began to appear first as a light mist then ever thickening.  They approached the river just as the sun set.  The fog was dense and visibility was minimal.  As the fog thickened Rebel’s trust began to thin.  James could see his uneasiness.  Near the bridge Rebel tried to bolt.

James stopped the carriage, gave a moment’s pause, and then proceeded slowly.  Josh was so familiar with this foggy bridge crossing that he moved ahead with confidence.  Rebel, not being able to see where he was going, was apprehensive and skittish.  Trusting Josh was out the window.  He felt on his own and afraid.  Rebel inched forward jumping at every sound and rearing at every dip in the footing.  James was patient, allowing the team to move as slowly as they needed.

On the descent from the bridge, the fog was especially thick.  James couldn’t even see the horses in front of him.  Fortunately, the road was wide and flat here.  They moved forward cautiously.  Josh could feel the edge with his hooves, and he was able to keep them on the roadway.  Eventually the road began to ascend, and with the ascent, the fog thinned.

Barney greeted them as they approached the stable.  “Good to see you finally home,” He said.  “We were worried.”

“There was a three hour delay at Grantham Estates,” James offered.  “I had to wait for the package.”

“Mrs. Grady take good care of you?” asked Barney as a friendly dig.

James just smiled.

 

Epilogue 

 

I had two scripture passages in mind as I wrote this little story.  Like Rebel I struggle with trust issues.  These scriptures delight my soul and challenge my flesh.

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Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct you paths.

 

I recognize that Rebel has trust issues, and I see that his journey would have been easy if he was able to trust in Josh’s knowledge of what lies ahead.  Being yoked with Jesus requires trust, but the rewards of that trust are peace and contentment.  I’m working on it. How about you?

FATHERHOOD

This Sunday during worship we sang the song “Blessed Be Your Name” by Matt and Beth Redman.  I was taken by this line, “You give and take away.”  My immediate thought was that any good father understands this responsibility.  When you’re raising your children, you give to them good things, and you take away the bad things.  Children don’t always like what their father does for them, but a good father does what is good for them regardless. 

As a father I carried this responsibility, and now I watch my son shoulder this responsibility.  He’s a good father willing to make the tough, though at times unpopular, decisions.  I recognize that none of us human fathers do this perfectly.  Just ask our children.  But our Heavenly Father, now there’s the perfect father.

Even though God is a perfect father, his children often complain.  I think it’s because we don’t like the answer no.  I know he’s a perfect father who cares for me, but it sometimes tries my faith to trust him when things don’t go my way. 

I’m glad God is my father.  He’s led me to a fulfilling life.  He holds the line even when I kick and scream.  I just have to trust him and remember that he has my best interest in mind.

TROUBLE

John 16:3 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

James 1:2-3 Considerate it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

1Peter 4:1-2 (The Message) Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him.  Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way.  Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.

I think these passages make it clear that “In this world you will have trouble”.  Since we will have trouble, it is not about the trouble; it’s about how we handle it.  I see two options: one trust in self and the world’s ways, or two trust in God.  In my early life, I chose option one; but now I’ve had enough years with the Lord to relish option 2.  The longer I struggle with these options, the easier it gets to live under option two.  The Apostle Peter in the above scripture paints a clear picture of how working through troubles frees us from the pursuit of our selfish will.

As a father, I have watched my adult children walk through many of life’s troubles. It was painful.  I helped when I could, but circumstances didn’t often allow me to intervene.  I learned that they are God’s children, and I need to allow him to be their father.

Now, how wonderful it is to see my children maturing in the Lord.  I am truly blessed, and so is our Father.  As I trust him, he is blessed; and as my children trust him, he is blessed.

Now he and I get to see my adult grandchildren go through the troubles of this life.  It will be at times painful to watch, but I know God and I will be blessed.  It’s his promise to me.