Psalm 11:1-4

The last line of each stanza comes from Psalm 11:1-4.

My strength has failed, my courage weak,
My resolve has faltered, the path looks bleak,
But when clouds obscure the mountain peak,
In the Lord I take refuge.

There is a fortress that stands above all,
There is a hand that will catch when I fall,
And there’s something inside me that answers the call
So how can you say to my soul,

“There is no purpose, no point to the fight.
Careful not to miss out cause you’re chasing a kite.
You haven’t the might to attain to that height,
So flee like a bird to your mountain.

“Do as you please and live as you will,
Chase after safety or run after thrills.
Your magnificent mountain is only a hill,
And behold, the wicked bend their bow.”

The weight keeps increasing, the voices begin;
As the pressures mount up, my soul’s caving in.
The fortress’s walls appear to grow thin,
And they have fitted the arrow to the string.

I cannot see clearly with pride in my eyes.
Compared to the next man, we’ve all become wise.
I try to defeat it but still fall for the lies
That shoot in the dark at the upright in heart.

For if false was the truth then all was in vain;
I’ve been setting a pace that I cannot maintain.
I’m drifting, uprooted, nothing remains
If the foundations are destroyed.

But if faith is a seed that grows into a tree,
Then its roots run much deeper than mere man can see.
If you always answer our knock when we seek,
What could the righteous do?

The foundations are steady, barren of cracks;
You’re grace for my weakness, enough where I lack,
My refuge and compass, the wind at my back.
The Lord is in his holy temple!

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Why do you stand here?

men of galilee

the angel asked. It was as if he was mocking their astonishment at their Teacher’s ascension. Didn’t you know this was going to happen? his merry eyes seemed to say. He’s going to come again, too. Will you still be standing here staring?

“We’ve never seen anything like this before!” they could have exclaimed. But they had. They’d been with him for three years, watching him heal the sick, turn water into wine, make the blind to see and the lame to walk. Peter, James, and John had been with him at the Transfiguration. They’d seen far more dramatic things than a simple disappearance. In fact, you’d think they’d be used to it by now! Jesus had been coming and going like a wizard with a hole in his Floo-powder pouch for several weeks, appearing and disappearing from the Upper Room and on the road to Emmaus. So why did this event leave the disciples staring?

Maybe it was his words before he left. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses.” What was this Holy Spirit? Maybe they were waiting around for it to descend right there–not that the disciples had a great track record for taking Jesus at his word.

To be fair, who could blame them? He had an awkward tendency to say the craziest things. “If anyone comes to me and does not despise his mother and father…yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.” “If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.” “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.” Whaaat?

The disciples sometimes take a lot of flack from the modern-day church for this. He’s talking about himself, you idiots! But seriously, what would it look like if we started taking Jesus at his word? “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” “If anyone slaps you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.” “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” “Seek, and you will find; knock, and I will answer.” “Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Think our lives might look a little different?

Before Jesus left, the disciples had asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel?” His answer? Not yet. Wait and see. And in the meantime, he had a job for them.

“Why do you stand here?”

Maybe it was because they didn’t know what else to do. Maybe because the weight of Jesus’ last charge hadn’t fully sunk in yet. “Go and make disciples of all nations.”

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand here? This same Jesus, who you have seen go up into heaven, will come back in the very same way.” The angel spoke with urgency, galvanizing them into action. These were the words that lit a fire in the early church! The disciples had to prepare for their Lord’s return!

But he didn’t come. Not yet.

I think the two thousand years since then have made us complacent. We metaphorically stand and stare into heaven every day, blinking into the sunlight and wondering what to do.

“Why do you stand here?”

If Jesus came back today, would he ask you the same question? Don’t just stand here; move! In your current vocation and location, what is he calling you to do?

Maybe you don’t know. Overwhelm is an understandable feeling. Maybe you should start by taking Jesus at his word: “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

Ours is the same charge as that of John and Peter–of Paul and Joshua and Timothy and Moses. Maybe we should spend less time squinting into the sky and waiting for answers to come to us, and a little more soaking in his word and letting him teach us how to love. Maybe that’s where the answers really come from. Maybe sometimes, when we think we’re waiting on God, God is really waiting on us.

So why do you stand here?

Fear is optional

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said my pastor this morning. “For God did not give us a Spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).”

Don’t you think our world could use a little less fear, and a little more power and love and sound-mindedness?*

Uncertainty is unavoidable, but fear is optional.

Do you know why? It’s because of the God we serve. We serve a God who parts the waves and shakes the solid ground, the God who at a word would stop the sun or send down chariots from heaven. We serve a God who holds a host of angels at his command and formed the earth with his breath, the God who makes water spring from rocks in the desert and lets bread fall like rain from heaven.

We serve the God who holds the world in his hands yet catches the sparrow before it falls, the God who reversed places to take the curse we deserved. We serve the God who conquered death, who went through hell and back for me and crushed the darkness beneath his heel like an insect.

This is why, while uncertainty is certain in this broken world of ours, we do not have to be afraid, because this God is on our side. Our sovereign Lord has become our friend.

I am reminded of the old hymn:

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

That’s power, isn’t it? To know that that God is the one who is with me. Acts 1:8 says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…” How little do we take advantage of that power!

When I was a little girl, I often fantasized about what it would be like in heaven to meet Moses, and Abraham, and Peter, and Paul, and to ask them, “What was it likeWhat was it like, to have the literal voice of God ringing in your ears, to hear his voice and commands and to carry out his work directly?”

Someone I said this to once responded: “I think maybe they’ll say, ‘No, you tell me what it was like, to have the literal spirit of God dwelling inside you?”

How quickly we forget! How quickly we take it for granted! How often do we let the power of God blow our minds? How often do we let his love ravish us, sweep us away on his tide of grace? His love and faithfulness, to never give up on us, never let us go, to see us through to the end as we “run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1).”

Uncertainty is unavoidable, but fear is optional. He takes our fear, and fills us with his spirit–with love, and power, and a sound mind. May you never lose your wonder at his grace.

Blessings,
–Bre


*Spell-check isn’t underlining it, so I’m going to assume it’s a word.

“Who are you, that you fear mortal man?”

This poem comes from Isaiah 51:12-16.

Who are you, that you fear mortal man?
That you lose sight of the Lord’s mighty hand,
That you get lost in the bland finances and advances
Disenchanted
Seeking canned, secondhand romances
With the things of the land.
You swim with the school, having forgot how to stand.
Though your days are as sand,
You ignore every chance,
Fearing to be looked at askance.
So focused on man
That you forget the Lord your Maker,
Creator,
Invader of the hearts of the clay-born,
Who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth,
Who quenches every thirst
And deserves to be first
He’s a sunburst
You serve a God who reversed
Places, took the curse on himself,
Defeated the worst hell had to offer
And yet you live in constant fear because of the wrath of the oppressor,
Aggressor,
Assessor,
Fearing displeasure,
Impossible to measure up,
Despite your endeavors.
Feel compressed,
Under pressure
But where is the wrath of the oppressor?
I feel a tremor–
The cowering prisoners will soon be set free
Indeed.
No more fatigue or defeat;
His promise complete
Taste and see,
The sweet freedom for which he bleeds.
Triumphant,
They will not die in their dungeon,
Nor will they lack bread.
No fear or dread,
No longer dead or beset by impossible debt
But instead a seedbed, a witness of what he has said.
For I AM is the LORD your God,
Who churns up the sea so that the waves roar,
Who transforms and adorns,
Raises you to soar–
The LORD ALMIGHTY is his name!
Who covers us in grace and sets our souls aflame,
Who reigns awesome over an endless domain,
Whose faithfulness always remains,
Who lights the way,
Who’s never swayed,
Who rules the day
Yet knows my pain–
The LORD ALMIGHTY is his name!
For, says the LORD,
“I have put my words in your mouth,”
To shout,
Arouse the silent houses,
Impossible to douse or to doubt,
Louder than thunderclouds,
The water in the drought.
He vows,
“I have covered you in the shadow of my hand,”
Able to withstand any demand or attempt to disband
For all the earth is under his command,
Establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth.
I no longer thirst
But headfirst am submersed
In the unreserved light of your glory that burst
From the sky, raining down on the earth.
He says unto Zion, “You are my people,”
My cathedrals,
I will lift you up on wings as eagles.
I will guard you from evil,
And my grace will sustain.
Through the joy and the pain,
Through the loss and the gain,
I will show you the way
If you only have faith.
My truth will remain;
It cannot be restrained.
I’ll give you a new name
In my arms you are safe.

He is King, and he reigns;
To the world I proclaim–
The LORD ALMIGHTY is his name!

mt

WHEREVER you go

j19

I was praying last night about the horribleness of the college search and future decisions and this verse just popped into my head. It’s a familiar old passage, but this time I really heard it anew.

I had just read a devotional about strength in and even gratitude for the hard times, but I didn’t really apply it to my life. After all, things are going great for now — it’s the future I’m worried about.

Ah, the future. The cold black abyss of uncertainty. However many times my dad tells me that oh, you still have plenty of time and we’ll just keep praying about it and maybe a lightning bolt will magically fall from the sky — however many times my wise mom offers me her advice and makes me feel better about it — however many times my teachers express certainty that things will come together or my friends sympathize over the decisions they too are facing or I just try to avoid thinking about it altogether — while all of these people mean well, and often their words do help, it doesn’t change the fact that time is winding down in the next few months and that there are actions that do need to be taken and decisions that do need to be made and I have no clue where to even start.

Another word for “dismayed” is discouraged. That’s really how it feels. Discouraging and overwhelming. There are so many options and how the heck am I supposed to know what’s best? Have I been praying about it? Heck yeah. But I haven’t seen any lightning bolts yet.

But you know what? This verse says that’s okay. And it doesn’t say it’s okay in the way that one person assured me that at least one college in the world received applications from seniors just the other week, in May (because seriously, how do you think those seniors whose applications didn’t come in until the last possible day have been feeling all year, huh?), or okay in the way that people toss over their shoulders that it’ll work out eventually, or okay in the way of well, it’s okay to not know so I should just sit back on it and not care about my future. This verse is God’s voice saying “Do not be discouraged, for the I, the Lord your God, am with you wherever you go.” And suddenly he means wherever not in a metaphorical sense like wherever is a state of mind or emotion or stage of life, but in a very real and practical and physical way. And that’s why it stood out to me. Because I do not walk alone; I have a travelling companion. And that’s regardless of how I act or feel — God’s faithfulness is not a conditional promise.

And for that reason, I do not have to be discouraged. I do not have to fold my arms or tighten my grip; I do not have to block off my heart or fear the uncertainty of what is to become of me. While it is true that the decisions still have to be made and I am still in the waiting, I am reminded that not all who wander are lost, and those sneaky voices in my head are drowned out by a different one. So maybe if I search less for my future and more for his faithfulness, I will be able to find contentment in the shadow of his wings and step forward, undiscouraged.