In the Palm of His Hand

Grandma Jeanne, this is for you. (And anyone else who would be blessed by this lovely song.)

(From Psalm 91and Isaiah 40:31)

You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord,
who abide in His shadow for life,
say to the Lord: “My refuge, my rock in whom I trust!”

Refrain: And He will raise you up on eagles’ wings,
bear you on the breath of dawn,
make you to shine like the sun,
and hold you in the palm of His hand.

The snare of the fowler will never capture you,
and famine will bring you no fear:
under His wings your refuge, His faithfulness your shield.

Refrain: And He will raise you up on eagles’ wings,
bear you on the breath of dawn,
make you to shine like the sun,
and hold you in the palm of His hand.

You need not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day;
though thousands fall about you, near you it shall not come.

Refrain: And He will raise you up on eagles’ wings,
bear you on the breath of dawn,
make you to shine like the sun,
and hold you in the palm of His hand.

For to His angels He’s given a command
to guard you in all of your ways;
upon their hands they will bear you up,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.

Refrain: And He will raise you up on eagles’ wings,
bear you on the breath of dawn,
make you to shine like the sun,
and hold you in the palm of His hand.

It Wouldn’t Sell Today

I came across this prayer book my husband Tom’s parents gave him at Confirmation many years ago. Tom had underlined several of the lines in the prayers in key places. These are the old ways, the simple, non-flashy truths of Christianity. These kinds of prayer books wouldn’t sell well today.  Publishers know  the evangelical  public isn’t looking for this kind of thing. But the state of churches and what passes for Christianity in general is a sad reflection of that.

This is the Night

It is truly right
that with full hearts and minds and voices
we should praise the unseen God, the all-powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
and paid for us the price of Adam’s sin to our eternal Father!

This is our Passover feast,
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.

This is the night
when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.

This is the night
when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin!

This is the night
when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

This is the night
when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.

What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.

O happy fault,
O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

Most blessed of all nights,
chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!

Of this night scripture says:
“The night will be as clear as day:
it will become my light, my joy.”

The power of this holy night dispels all evil,
washes guilt away, restores lost innocence,
brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.

Therefore, heavenly Father,
in the joy of this night,
receive our evening sacrifice of praise,
your Church’s solemn offering.

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
The strife is o’er, the battle done;
Now is the Victor’s triumph won;
Now be the song of praise begun.
Alleluia!

chains

Small Girl, Big Faith

fb_img_1485441432706Emily was not feeling well and was home from school last week. She wanted to watch kids’ shows on PBS, but I said, no, today was a books only day. She got propped up in bed and got her Bible story books, three different ones and spent the day, literally, immersed in them. About 11, she came into the family room where I was and had her face crumpled up with tears coming down. She held open the story of Jesus’ crucifixion with an illustration of Christ on the way to the cross. “This is so sad, Mom. They did this to Jesus.” She said several times, “It’s so sad…” We had a wonderful conversation about what it all meant. She also asked about the two criminals on the cross on each side of Jesus, how one believed and one did not, how Jesus triumphed over death by rising again, how He ascended into heaven and before He left, how He promised He was coming back. She came back several times with questions about Old and New Testament, and showed me the illustration of Jesus with the children, and then, she came back again with the story of Jesus healing the blind man, and again, showing the beautiful illustration of young Jesus at age 12, discussing the Law with the teachers in the Temple.

I have seen a great uptick of interest in our daughter about spiritual things lately. Her love for Jesus is real and it shines in her eyes when she talks about Him. It’s a very sobering responsibility to know that our children are watching and listening to us, and that we can either blunt that faith, destroy it, or nurture it, water it and help it to grow. Having this responsibility with Emily has been a great help to me spiritually. Why? Because the ugliness of this world, the harm done to us by the inexplicable evil we experience—especially from other professing Christians– can cause us to make shipwreck of our own faith. It’s in the simplicity and trust in a child’s eyes and praise that I find my way home again to the Lord many times, and I understand newly, nearly every day, why God places such value on the example of children in the area of faith. All our sophisticated thinking, intellectual pride and self-righteousness drop away when we look into the face of the Savior, like a child, and believe that his atoning wounds on Calvary covered our sin. Thanks be to God.

 

When a Stronghold Falls

For the weapons of our warfare are not those of the world. Instead, they have the power of God to demolish fortresses.   ~ II Corinthians 10:4

Did you ever see a stronghold of the enemy fall? The enemy I refer to is the enemy of souls who the Scriptures describe as a “roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” In our world broken by sin, there are certain situations long dominated by the enemy that are his territory, and it seems that nothing will ever take down those fortress walls.

It does not often happen in this world that these walls fall. Every one of us knows of families, areas in society, or people who are under the sway of evil, and even prayer, no amount of it, will change that. Even churches can be a stronghold of evil and those committed to praying against it will sometimes end up leaving when nothing changes. (Just a note to such places – when the prayer warriors leave, that is a major warning sign that judgement is at the door. When God removes those who are on their knees in intercession, your days of warning are over.)

Only very rarely are we blessed to see a stronghold fall. But if you ever have, you will never forget it. I once saw a powerful fortress fall. Here’s what it took. It took ONE key person who did the right thing. One person to move from a seemingly immovable position. I often think of situations like this as a log jam in a river – logs forced together in such a way that they simply do not move and become a dam. But all it can take is movement in just ONE key log, and the dam blocking the flow of the river breaks apart.

When strongholds fall, God’s blessing is immediately evident. The fall of those walls will cause a small earthquake felt by many —the thunder of God at work to restore and to heal.

The fastest way to build a stronghold of evil is to shut out God’s call to our consciences, to sit in pride, especially pride or cowardice and silently witness evil done to others. We forget to self-assess or weigh our role in perpetrating or supporting evil, even tacitly. Years go by, relationships are lost, families or churches are destroyed. The ruins left behind on ground sown with salt become a monument to the work of Apollyon – the Destroyer. A Satanic trophy.

But God. There is a photograph from many years ago on a bookcase in my home that marks the earthquake of joy that occurred with the falling of one such stronghold. There are no smoking ruins in that photograph. It is a triumph of love over alienation, of joy over grief and anger, and it is the working of the Author of all that is good and beautiful.

Whenever I grow discouraged at the many strongholds with walls intact, I look at that photo and think, this is what God can do. I saw it happen before my eyes. We all need to see this at least once in our lives, especially now, when things around us are often so dark.

May 2017 see the work of God in the pulling down of strongholds in our lives, and may territory be taken back to the glory of Jesus Christ. He is able to do far more than we ask or think.

I hope to write more on this subject in the coming months. This blog is now in its 10th year, and I pray that those who stumble across it leave with hope that comes from our heavenly Father. God is not dead nor does He sleep.

walls

Just a Small Lighthouse

lighthouseThere is a children’s book that was originally published in 1942 called, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge, by Hildegarde Swift. My daughter and I read it the other night. It tells the story of the building of the great George Washington Bridge through the eyes of a little red lighthouse on the Hudson River (based on a real lighthouse that was once in this location.)

We read the story of how the little lighthouse originally felt proud and important to help keep the vessels on the river safe in fog and rough weather with its flashing warnings about the dangerous rocks on the shoreline. Its warnings, night after night, kept those on the river safe from harm.

But one day, a shadow fell on the lighthouse as a vast bridge was  built right over it. When the bridge was completed, the little lighthouse noticed  that a huge light from the top of the bridge was flashing against the sky.  It was a big, brilliant flashing light that far outshone its much smaller rays.

The lighthouses felt that it was no longer needed, because of the much more effective light at the top of the bridge.  It felt discarded and forgotten and useless. But there came a night when the fog closed in and the lighthouse saw the danger on the river that no light was shining upon. It waited and waited for the man to come who would turn on the light, but the man did not come. Finally, when all seemed to be lost, the man appeared. Someone had stolen his keys, delaying him. He lit the lamp in the lighthouse, and the  light beams immediately flashed out through the fog as a warning to the vessels in peril.

The little lighthouse was needed after all. It had been dark, though, because its lamp was out. It could not light itself, no matter how hard it wanted to. It required the one with the key to come and light it.  In the end, the small, red lighthouse learned that the big flashing light it thought had taken its place was designed to warn airplanes, not boats and barges on the river. Only he could do that.

When I read that story, a light came on in my own mind. What a beautiful metaphor for those of us who feel useless at some points in our lives. We see the bigger, grander lights erected around us, the ones that pierce the darkness so much more effectively  and in a much more professional manner. We sit in the dark and wonder if our use is at an end. It looks that way at times, doesn’t it? We can feel unwanted. Useless. Discarded. And then one dark night, when there is danger for someone traveling in the dark and the fog, we see it, and we want to help light the way. But our light has flickered and gone out. We’ve been forgotten, it seems. The only One who can light our lamp feels like they have gone forever.

And then, there is the sound of the key in the lock, and our  cold, dark  lamp is lit by a kind and steady hand.  The One who had the Master Key all along had to open the door to light our lamp.  Then the  Light flashes on, the darkness is lit by our small but steady, strong beam, and danger is averted for someone lost in the fog of this world.

Our light is needed, no matter how small we think it is.  We may never realize what it means to someone else. This morning I opened a Hope Blog contact form message from someone who wrote anonymously.  The writer sent words of kindness and blessing to me. Their light shone brightly for this one person today. That light was needed. Thank you to the kind man who sent that.  God bless you. May the One who alone can light our lamps come again to our hearts and give us His light to illumine  the darkness.

Call Back, if You Get Ahead

I read this post today from “Streams in the Desert.” Have you ever had someone “call back” and encourage you in your life?

Life is a steep climb, and it does the heart good to have somebody “call back” and cheerily beckon us on up the high hill. We are all climbers together, and we must help one another. This mountain climbing is serious business, but glorious. It takes strength and steady step to find the summits. The outlook widens with the altitude. If anyone among us has found anything worthwhile, we ought to “call back.”

If you have gone a little way ahead of me, call back—
’Twill cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track;
And if, perchance, Faith’s light is dim, because the oil is low,
Your call will guide my lagging course as wearily I go.

Call back, and tell me that He went with you into the storm;
Call back, and say He kept you when the forest’s roots were torn;
That, when the heavens thunder and the earthquake shook the hill,
He bore you up and held you where the very air was still.

Oh, friend, call back, and tell me for I cannot see your your face,
They say it glows with triumph, and your feet bound in the race;
But there are mists between us and my spirit eyes are dim,
And I cannot see the glory, though I long for word of Him.

But if you’ll say He heard you when your prayer was but a cry,
And if you’ll say He saw you through the night’s sin-darkened sky
If you have gone a little way ahead, oh, friend, call back—
’Twill cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track.
—Selected

From “Streams in the Desert”

This song says it all.

The Building of Our Faith

Our pastor published this excerpt from Martin Luther in one of his newsletters recently. I thought I would share it with you.

God Does Not Desert Those Who Trust in Him

We know that tribulation worketh patience, and patience, experience, and experience, hope. – Romans 5:3-4

“When God wants to strengthen a man’s faith He first weakens it by feigning to break faith with him. He thrusts him into many tribulations and makes him so weary that he is driven to despair, and yet He gives him strength to be still and persevere. Such quietness is patience and patience produces experience, so that when God returns to him and lets His sun rise and shine again, and when the storm is over he opens his eyes in amazement and says: ‘The Lord shall be praised, that I have been delivered from evil. God dwells here. I did not think that all would end so well’.

~ Martin Luther

(Painting is by William Pierce Stubbs, 1842-1909. Ship in a Storm)

WilliamPierceStubbs

Laying a Sound Foundation

photo 2 (8)The local PBS station was on in the background last Saturday when our little daughter suddenly said excitedly, “He’s talking about Jesus!” Her eyes were shining.

I looked up at the screen to see Bill Gaither on the Gospel music program he hosts. The mention of the name of Jesus made Emmy’s ears perk up. She knows that that name is special in our home.

This last Monday our daughter began her formal schooling. It has made us think about how important foundations are in our lives. We are seeing the foundations of social order completely broken up and discarded in America. It is little wonder why the walls are buckling and the ceiling is coming down in our country. When the moral and spiritual foundations are destroyed, the rest comes down quickly. The same is true in our personal lives.

The reason we placed Emmy in a Christian school is because we know how important a spiritual foundation is. Begin with the wrong material or lay no foundation at all and you are setting lives up for destruction. Academics are important , yes, they are, but the most important thing of all is instilling the fear of the Lord in the hearts of our children. Introducing them to the Architect behind everything is crucial. We are not here by chance, we are not just carbonized life forms. There is a Designer and a design for all of it. Educators in secular schools teach that we are the result of random chance acting on matter. Then they act surprised and horrified when those who really accept that they are highly evolved slime live out that belief system in the halls.

Emmy’s school begins at the beginning. The very first day of school, she brought home a paper intended for the families. Not just the children, but the families. She already has learned the first of the Ten Commandments that God gave from Sinai. The Law of God gives us the basis for the Gospel message. First Law, then Gospel. I thought I would share a photo of the Congregation at Prayer sheet Emmy received from school. Foundations matter. Without them, spiritual ruination will follow.

 

Bible

Standing Steadfast and Bringing God Glory

steadfast1It isn’t what the enemies of Christ out in the secular world are doing that is the biggest part of the discouragement in these times. The greatest disillusionment, the greatest shock and devastation comes with watching those who professed Christ give up, walk away, and then repudiate all they once believed.

Just in a matter of a few weeks’ time, there has been another rash of this among people and ministries we have known. It’s a deeply depressing time.

In Matthew, Chapter 24, Jesus Christ foretold of a time that directly describes the days in which we live. A significant verse is this one, “And because sin will grow worse and worse, the love of many will grow cold.”

In the middle of moral and spiritual anarchy, and I’m talking about the church now, the profaning of holy things, and the rejecting of the eternal verities, it is not difficult to understand why many bewildered Christians are wondering what it is all about. So much senseless, gratuitous ugliness and brokenness among Christians, in spite of so many claims of Christ’s great power. So little power is seen. At least the kind that comes from above. It can be embittering.

I read this quote today from one of my favorite teachers of the last century, T. Austin Sparks. He describes the right response to darkness around us and in our own lives which is sometimes so inexplicable and so difficult to deal with, day after day.

The glory of God is manifested by every victory won, by every standing steadfast, by every refusing to give up; the Name is saved from dishonor, and the Lord Himself, the Christ of God who bears that Name is vindicated before angels and before demons. There are elements of mystery about it, why it should be necessary, but there it is.” T. Austin Sparks, from his sermon, “The House, the Name and the Glory”

Even in these very difficult days, we can continue to bring glory to God by not moving, not giving in to depression and discouragement, and by setting our eyes on the Savior. This life is brief. Eternity is forever. We can bring glory to God here and then rejoice in His presence for all eternity. This is our Christian calling. Each day, we can make the decision to either give in to our discouragement or to stand steadfast and glorify God before other people, before angels and those spirits below. Will we glorify God today with our lives?

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.~ I Corinthians 15:58