No Good Thing

flower-1364217400whR

When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.”

– Corrie Ten Boom –


Help me trust you.

I DO trust you. But I also fear you, dear Lord. I, silly child, fear that this one thing will be kept back from me. One incredibly good thing, scooted away from the table’s edge out of the reach of my grasping fingers.

But You do not withhold any good thing from me, do You?

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
The Lord will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold
From those who walk uprightly.” – Psalm 84:11, NKJV

I was praying this last week, struggling with fear. Fear that my plans would go awry and all my carefully-constructed life would go tumbling off into uncertainty.

I’m not sure this has ever happened so vividly before, but as I was praying–nearly crying–over my fear, this verse popped into my head. “No good thing will He withhold…” I suddenly thought. The words were immediate and forceful. Not a voice, but a sudden assurance.

It took me by surprise. What a good God we have! Not a moment after I confessed my fears, He allowed this perfect verse to jump into my mind.

I was immediately both calmed and convicted. A moment before, I had been almost panicking because I was not getting my way. Now, I breathed and realized something:

If something would be good for me today, God would have given it to me.

The fact that He held back this desire of mine doesn’t mean He is not good–instead, it means that what I wanted wasn’t the best thing for me right now. Maybe it will be good for me later. Or maybe it will never be a good thing for me.

How simple! And yet, my heart was so comforted by remembering the God is not a hard taskmaster scheming for my misery. How often do we picture Him that way, just waiting to squelch our dreams?

He is not like that at all! He is a loving, indulgent Father who delights to bring us joy…but He also delights to strengthen our character. Sometimes that means doing things that we don’t particularly understand or even like at the moment. But it will end up for our ultimate joy and good.

“My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing. But anyone who needs wisdom should ask God, whose very nature is to give to everyone without a second thought, without keeping score. Wisdom will certainly be given to those who ask.”

– James 1:2-5, CEB –

That is my big struggle, how about you? To believe that “God is up to something good for us in all our delays and detours” (John Piper). Because, honestly?

They just feel like plain ol’ delays and detours. And dead ends, sometimes, too.

But I believe they are so much more than that. Today, I chose to smile at that precious verse–that reminder that God will not withhold one single good and lovely thing from me. And I choose to trust that His definition of “good” is a lot more accurate than mine.

Take a deep breath. Isn’t that freeing? Today, God has given me every gift I need. Because He is so good.


“Outside of the will of God, there is nothing I want, and in the will of God, there is nothing I fear.”

 – A.W. Tozer –

 

Advertisements

Monuments of Mercy

landscape-1376582205Yno

“You are more sinful than you could dare imagine and you are more loved and accepted than you could ever dare hope.”

– Timothy Keller –


Even when He was angry, God started out with the good news. “I have loved you” (Malachi 1:2).

I often come to passages like this with a preset attitude: “What terrible people those Israelites were! Look at all God did for them, and were they thankful about it? No!”

But in Malachi 1, as God exposes the calloused hearts of His chosen ones, I am afraid that I stand guilty as well. God declares his love, but in the next breath, I too often say, “What love are you talking about? Prove that you love me.” (verse 2).

He sets me apart as one of His dear children, but I wonder if He is really treating me better than those who are not His (verse 3).

I deny my lack of honor, show surprise that He would say I’ve done something wrong (verses 6,7).

Too much, I offer Him my leftovers — leftover energy, leftover love, leftover time. And yet I persist in thinking that I’m doing beautifully spiritually (verse 8).

After all He has done, when I can just look around at any time and see the works of His majesty, I still somehow grow weary of pursuing the One whom my soul loves. Weary of trying to understand. Weary of seeking His ways (verse 13).

All this brings me down, to my knees, in repentance…And He lifts me up.

“There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.” – Richard Sibbes

Because — look back at that first pronouncement of His:

“I have loved you.”

Striking, isn’t it, that our God begins with that assurance. Yes, He contrasts it with our doubt of His affection. But first, right as He is about to deliver the thunder, He first gives the rain, “I have loved you.”

Related Post: Four Words

In his commentary on Malachi 1:1-5, Matthew Henry writes:

“The Israelites shall be made the monuments of his mercy, and he will be glorified in their salvation….”

When I read that this morning, I latched on to that one phrase, “monuments of his mercy.” Because that’s what we are.

All His chosen ones are monuments to mercy.

Whatever strange winds may blow on me today, I have this anchor. He loves me. Whatever failures I may fall into yet again, I know this: He loves me. Despite my dishonor, my perpetual amnesia of His grace, my quickly-wearied mind– He loves me still.

Today, I am a monument to His fantastic, immense mercy. He will be glorified in my salvation, no matter how much I blunder and fall. His work is being completed, and His beauty is coming to rest on our heads.

Remember today that you are a monument to His mercy — a visible picture to a watching world. As each day goes by, may our inscriptions become ever clearer:

“To the one who is able to protect [us] from falling,
        and to present [us] blameless and rejoicing before his glorious presence,
to the only God our [S]avior, through Jesus Christ our Lord,
        belong glory, majesty, power, and authority,
            before all time, now and forever. Amen.” 

– Jude 25-26, CEB –

 

 

I Can Do That

dandelion-on-black-background-1369467954jtg

“Learning never exhausts the mind.”

– Leonardo da Vinci –


My grandpa never wanted me to forget it.

“Learn everything you can,” he told me. “That way when someone needs a job done, you can say, ‘I can do that.’ ” That same entrepreneurial spirit is what drove him to get me in his driveway rotating tires, driving his vehicles, and learning to repair things at a young age.

I’ve never forgotten.

I’ve tried a lot of things, done well at a few, gotten by with many others. I may not be master of many trades, but I have dabbled, and I have learned.

Recently, though, I was thinking about my tendency to escape life instead of pursue it. I like to curl up with a mug of tea and a book and get away into adventurous lands.

It is not purely escapism, but if I take it too far, it can be.

While picking blackberries a few days ago, I realized how easy it is to withdraw so much into our “fake worlds” — social media, books, television — that we almost stop living in reality. Our interaction with the real world narrows into a thin strip of time reserved for eating, sleeping, and the occasional conversation.

I do not want to live like that.

Of course, I adore reading. Social media, and yes, even television, have their places.

But are we really living? Are our virtual or imaginary worlds stealing energy and joy from the real one?

I have so many aspirations that books have awakened.

While lost in the pages of a beloved book, I swell with the longing to be like the dear heroine of the story, to share her joy and zest for life. I grow hot with anger at the oppression of children caught in slave trafficking. Adventure beckons me, and —at least in my secret world — I follow.

But what happens when I put the book away?

Getting caught up in a well-written book is not a bad thing. But how am I bettered if I do not act on what I have learned?

All too often, I am like that. In my deepest places, I want to be like that book character. But when I step out of my room and start cooking dinner and engage with real conversation with real people, I find that my world is much more real, vivid, and difficult than the book. Intentions are challenged with real trials, not make-believe ones. 

It takes real action to turn book learning into reality.

While thinking about all this, I haven’t decided to read less. But I have decided to do more.

As beautiful as words are, life is more potent. As nice as it is to read about the wind swimming through a grassy meadow, it is better to see it, to feel the wind in your own face.

Why do we content ourselves with only living someone else’s experience, to the point of avoiding having our own experiences?

So this is for you and me, all my dear bookworms. Relish your books, enjoy the chance to join in on some of the glories of history and travel that you may not have the chance to see in person. Learn from the characters. Aspire to great things.

But when you and I close our books, let’s set them aside with joy, because we get to go live our own adventure.

It is messier and lovelier, brimming with more joy and pain, harder and worth more than any book.

How about we go out and live it? Be ready, every day, to learn, so that you will be able to say it too.

“Sure, I can do that.”

You’ll be able to step up and serve, because you’ve actually lived, right here, in the life God has set before you.

What could be better?


“Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.”

– 1 Samuel 12:24, ESV –

Wonder

fresh-green-leaf

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.

But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

― G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy 


Maybe all of us have grown up too much, too fast.

And imagination has lost ground to dazzling virtual realities, so that we don’t have to stretch out with our creativity quite so much. Have you noticed that it takes more and more to capture kids attention these days?

Have we lost all our wonder?

Somewhere along the way, I have lost the wonder, like an addict who needs just a bit more to get his high.

And I walk by the flag proudly snapping in the morning wind, glance past the dusky velvet of the upturned caladium leaves, pass the wide-eyed child without even cracking a smile.

I do it without wonder, because brightness has blinded my jaded eyes.

You know, wonder, I think, is deeply tied to thankfulness. Being so full of thanks that it bubbles out in smiles and sparkling eyes.

So today I slow.

Like a child learning to walk again I try to school myself in the steps of wonder. I breathe, smile, try to pry my eyes open a little wider.

“Help me see.” It’s becoming a rhythmic sort of prayer.

Habits are such tiny, unseen, huge, life-shifting things. Have you, like me, fallen into the habit of finding fault with things around you? Have you become critical instead of thankful?

Or, like me, have you gotten so swept up in your to-do list that you forget to enjoy the thing right in front of you?

“Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living.”
― Jim Elliot

We get so focused on our plans for the future, or so bogged down in reliving — or regretting — the past that we let these things kill our zest for life. At least, I know I do. So easily, I take my mind off God’s goodness in the present in exchange for worrying over things I either cannot change or can’t know yet.

“I will bless the Lord at all times;
    his praise will always be in my mouth.” – Psalm 34:1, CEB

I pray that this becomes my reflex — that I will fix my eyes so much, so constantly upon my Savior that praise is always bubbling up inside me. I’m tired of missing out on the good things He has placed all around me. Today, I pray for my eyes to be wide, for my heart to be ready to soak up the wonder.

Are you ready to be made young again?



“Taste and see how good the Lord is!

    The one who takes refuge in him is truly happy!
You who are the Lord’s holy ones, honor him,
    because those who honor him don’t lack a thing.
Even strong young lions go without and get hungry,
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”

– Psalm 34:8-10, CEB –