but for you who fear My name

Remember yesterday? When I was holding on to hope?

It was like someone tried to pop my balloon after that post went live. It was just a 20 minute thought in the middle of yesterday’s traipsing… but hours later I wondered if my cases had read it and wanted to prove me wrong.

Today, I’m remembering what it means to have my feet planted in future grace. It means God has freed me from anxiety, authored my peace, and anchored me in hope. In faith, I believe this today – that the Son of God will rise with healing in His wings. And I believe my day can look different because of my belief.

The Lord is good and gracious to those who fear Him.

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.

Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.

Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.

The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
What man is there who desires life
and loves many days, that he may see good?

Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking deceit.
Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.

Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The LORD redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
(Psalm 34 ESV)

 

Trust in the Lord, and do good.

Piper suggested (well, he said “perhaps”) the whole Old Testament could be summed up in this tiny verse.

“Trust in the Lord, and do good.” Psalm 37:3

Does that cause you to pause at all? a little? Well, it does me. The whole Old Testament in seven words. Hm. Trust in the Lord is one of those “givens” I might breeze by in my morning reading because my heart is used to the way it sounds. Of course, trust in the Lord. Lean not on my own understanding. Yes, yes. Trust in the Lord and in His mighty power.

Have you ever done that when you are reading a book that has texts of Scripture in it? They appear as large chunks indented on either side to make them stand out and draw your attention. Sometimes (embarrassed admission), I breeze past what feels like “givens” so I can get to the point. It’s like my mind is saying, “Caroline, of course you agree with that part – it’s Scripture. Just move on so you can find the conclusion.”

Well, this morning I lingered on Psalm 37:3 because I didn’t want to breeze past its truth. If I believe the Word is powerful and sharper than any two edged sword – that it never returns void and holds the secrets to abundant life – than nothing should ever be breezed by (no matter how many times I’ve read it).

“Trust in the Lord, and do good.” Psalm 37:3

Piper follows his assertion by saying, “…let the great works of past grace sustain your faith in future grace so that you always trust God rather than the offers of help and guidance that come from other gods or other counselors. The root issue behind the disobedience of Israel was lack of faith in future grace.”

Could the root issue of my disobedience look like similar faithlessness? The Israelites had many proofs of God’s faithfulness and salvation, but they chose unbelief. They chose not to trust the Lord’s word would be true for the future as it had been in the past. They chose instead to take their chances with a future of their own contriving.

The “do good” piece is not just tacked on for good measure. As much as the trusting is an act of belief in what God can and will do, “doing good” physically walks out this belief in the offices and street corners and dining room tables of life.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy…
today, where you are, as you trust in the Lord who empowered you to love at all

sometimes I speed what should be slowed

I’ve been thinking lately about pace.

What speed is fitting as we pursue the Lord – is it always an all-out, relentless rush? Are we always breathless about getting to where God is leading?

I’ve been thinking about pace because I wonder if we sometimes speed what should be slowed. I wonder if we create some of the crazy that surrounds our spiritual sprints – like we’ve thrown into the air all the race markers and so haphazardly attempt to fix our eyes on Jesus while anxiously searching the way.

Maybe this isn’t making any sense to you (is it?), but I’ve sure noticed that God means for some things to be experienced slowly. Prayers are sometimes this way, and blessings. And suffering. Sometimes, it seems, we’d like to think we can control the outcome of the race we’re running, the “race marked out for us,” by more intensity. Or maybe it’s just me.

It is a beautiful thing to take slow steps of faith. Not timid steps, just slow and steady steps that say,

“I am not worried where my foot will fall. I am not anxious about getting somewhere sooner or later. I am at peace with the amount of grace God has given for this step. I do not doubt the Lord’s provision.”

It is a beautiful thing to take slow steps of faith and I’m learning this, slowly. Maybe it’s because slow steps allow my frenzied, distracted heart time to believe in the God who will sustain me.

Maybe my hurried, race pace is something I’ve thought up as a back-up plan if God’s doesn’t work. Maybe I need to be restful even while I’m determined to persevere as a runner in a race – believing that my finishing doesn’t depend on my performance as much as it depends on God’s grace.

“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21

“It is in vain that you rise early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.” Psalm 127:2

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:34

Today, I’ll try taking slower steps.

This song seems to be about the right pace.

let LOVE fly like CrAzY

carried away

With news like this morning, the world suddenly sees what ripples underneath the culture’s glossy veneer. It’s horrible. It makes us sick. It’s ugly.

The world is not okay.

No amount of money or brick walls or achievements of institutions will suffice to mend it.

The world is not okay.

It’s painful to peek through the blinds and view the world outside ourselves – outside the way we’ve arranged our lives to make things comfortable and proper. It hurts because what we see outside our windows is ugly. When we pull back the curtains, it’s horror we see when people can walk into a school and kill our little children. And how startling, once the drapes have been drawn, our own reflection in the window as we look out.

The world is not okay and it’s not just the horrors in the news.
It’s the horrors that don’t make the news, too.

Oh, friends. Be encouraged before you get carried away with fear and doubt and pain and sadness. Ask the Lord to teach you to know the number of your days (Psalm 39:4) and then ask Him to be the strength to keep your heart grounded in His Word and His promises.

Teach me to know my number of days
hold on, my heart, from gettin’ carried away

The world is not okay.

But what better reason to introduce a Savior?

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

a steady boat | a raging sea

O, goodness.

When life is like a fistful of jacks, jostling around in a child’s sweaty palm and waiting to be thrown to the carpet – when life is like that, you get desperate for something steady. My first inclination is to pray for the jostling to come to a gentle stop because the obvious antidote to jostling is the opposite, no?

I recently scrawled this prayer,

Thank you, God, for your provision that steadies the seas so you are glorified in my sailing.

And then, I thought about my prayer. I tried to cut through my poetic tendencies to find out what my heart was saying (sometimes my pen gets carried away and wants the words to read like a song). I thought about my prayer of thanksgiving for steady seas, paused, then added,

Thank you, too, for “steady enough” to sail through the thickest of storms looming on the horizon. 

If I only thank the Lord for steadying the seas, then I would be silent while I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I was offering God thanksgiving that depended on His actions (and my judgment of them) and not on His character. God is always able to steady the seas, but sometimes He instead steadies the boat. When we pray desperately for Him to stand up and lift His hands to silence the storm, sometimes He simply readies the boat to weather the waves.

I am thankful He provides and protects, but if my thanksgiving is dependent on the existence of storms, I will end up feeling abandoned. His provision and protection are simply part of His character – He will never not be Provider and Protector.

We can always describe the Lord as being steadfast – His love never ceases. During the storms? He is steadfast. During the stillness? He is steadfast.

For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
(Psalm 100:5 ESV)

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

We must always remember that it is appropriate to be thankful for who God is even when we are hoping for His character to provide or protect in a specific way. The raging storm is not evidence of His carelessness.

God is always able to steady the seas, but sometimes instead he readies the boat to weather the storm.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

shouting praise with sinner-strangers

Lord of all the earth we shout Your name, shout Your name
Filling up the skies with endless praise, endless praise
Yahweh, Yahweh! We love to shout Your name O, Lord!

There was something sacred about a the crowd of sinners filling up the Knapp Center with praise last night. And I’m not just saying that because sacred sounds postmodern and ambiguous and the right kind of religious. I use the word sacred because sometimes I need to shake off all my cynicism about Christian music and shout the name of the Lord with a bunch of stranger-sinners because the Lord deserves my praise.

Period.

I didn’t know very many people – what kind of car they drove up in or what kind of family situation they’d be driving back to after we all filed out – but we must have all understood the invitation to fill the skies with praise. I was literally sing-shouting in harmonizing fashion and I couldn’t stop the grin that raced across my face. I felt like Will Ferrell in Elf,“I’m in love, I’m in love and I don’t care who knows it.”

J.I. Packer said, “Any theology that does not lead to song is, at a fundamental level, a flawed theology.” And sometimes we have to start singing to remember all the songs hidden in our hearts. Sometimes we get wrapped up in the time signature and the notes on the page and the really tricky key change on page 43… and we forget to sing.

We forget all His benefits. We forget His abundant goodness. We forget what we once were. We forget He is the Giver of every good and perfect gift.

We forget to sing.

I really did get a little overwhelmed – thinking about all the sin we brought into that place; all the brokenness and despair and guilt and regret that hung on us like dark clouds. Sin is not unfortunate or uncomfortable – not something we can “get over” or medicate with the right public service announcement. I got overwhelmed because there was a song on the other side of the dark clouds hanging from all of us sinner-strangers.

There is a song to sing when we step back and look at the sheet music and realize the Lord of all the Earth upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. He is Provider, satisfying the desires of every living thing. He is righteous and kind and near to those who call on Him in truth (Psalm 145:14-18 paraphrase).

His response to a bunch of sinner-strangers singing His praise is delight. He delights in the praises of His people (Psalm 149:4). He delights. The Lord of all the Earth delights when sinner-strangers sing His praise.

Please, let’s not forget to sing.

I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you
and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The LORD is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.
All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD,
and all your saints shall bless you!
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
and tell of your power,
to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
[The LORD is faithful in all his words
and kind in all his works.]
The LORD upholds all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.
The LORD preserves all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD,
and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.
(Psalm 145 ESV)

joy: a moral obligation

Given the opportunity to experience joy, are we morally obligated to take advantage?

My cousin Vince sent me a text in the hours between night and morning – just a little note about he and his new college friends wrestling with the idea of joy.

It’s something I’ve been in the middle of pondering for a couple days and reading his text in partial wakefulness brought it into clearer view – what do we do when joy is on the other side of an open door?

Open Doors
Open Doors (Photo credit: *Fede*)

“Taste and see that the Lord is good,” from Psalm 34:8 and “Delight in the Lord and He will give the desires of your heart,” from Psalm 37:4 both imply action before experience. A person can read these verses a hundred times, recite them with monk-like stoicism and meditate on them with scholarly reverence. But, there is a threshold implied in the command, for tasting and seeing happen only with open mouth and eyes.

Something must be eaten to be tasted, no?
Something must be experienced before it is pronounced delightful, no?

What do these open doors to joy look like and how many have I walked by?

It’s crazy how relentless God is to pursue us with opportunities to experience Him. He doesn’t give up when I pass by an open door marked “FOR YOUR JOY” with a foolish hope that there is something better down the road. He doesn’t flinch when I’ve opted out of His best for my safe settling of just okay. His patience in pursuit overwhelms me because it’s so altogether different from our apathetic inclinations.

I’m still thinking through these joy questions – still trying to figure out if it’s a sin to walk by those open doors clearly marked for God’s glory and my joy. But I’m not confused about joy being good. It’s something I’m willing to fight for.

Here are some helpful ways to fight for joy, from John Piper at Desiring God.