Every once in a while the soul needs a little talkin’ to.

“Bless the Lord O my soul….” (Psalm 103:1; 104:1; 143:1)

These pep talks between self and its soul are needful at times. The soul face down in the dust, the inward places in such turmoil that not much blessing or praise can be found tucked away anywhere.

Hope was once described as “a psychological necessity if people are to envision any future… even if there are no rational grounds for it.” (Tyndale) ‘Faint, trembling, desperate, phantom,’ are words that have been associated with hope. Abraham, father of all hope, believed against all hope yet came through the other side.

Does “hope in God” need to come before the soul can praise or bless Him? Is hope in God the motivation the soul needs before it can sing praise to God? Does hope in God provide the fuel which allows God’s praise to flow continually in my mouth?” (Psalm 146)

I’d like to say all that is within me has blessed His holy Name this week thus far, yet I cannot. There have been more moments where what is going on around us and this world seem greater than God’s greatness. I have not forgotten all His benefits, but I have been continually reminded of what is lacking, what was lost and remains lost and does not want to be found.

“Praise the Lord!” meant nothing to me as a new follower of Jesus. As I heard folks at the first Church I attended utter their exclamation at what seemed like almost everything, three words used with such familiarity and frequency I figured I was missing out on something significant. I had no idea what that was. “Praise” and “the Lord” took years to reveal themselves to me. It took God’s steadfast love, mercy and grace to open my eyes to see all my soul had sought praise from and had learned to bow down to in complete adoration. This remains a work still in progress.

It is with thanks the Lord has not dealt with me according to my sins, nor has He repaid me according to my iniquity. When His anger would have been the appropriate response towards my thoughts, actions and desires, instead He revealed His Word of truth and Father’s heart of love, though at times His steadfast love shook the very foundations of all I had believed to be true and trustworthy. His was a slow and steady love which illuminated all which did not align with the truth of His Word. Idols hinder the heart’s ability to praise God. I cannot praise Him as Lord if I am praising other lords. I cannot bless His Name if I am seeking the blessing of other names, including my own.

Our understandings are so bad that they understand not their own badness; our wills, which are the queens of our souls, become the vessels of sin; our memory, good only to draw straws and treasure up trifles of no moment; our consciences, through errors in our own understanding, sometimes accusing us when we are innocent, sometimes acquitting us when we are guilty; our affections all disaffected and out of order. We love what we should hate and hate where we should love; we fear where no fear is, and fear not where we ought to fear; and all our affections either mistake their object, or exceed their due measure.” – Thomas Fuller.

Lord, Your steadfast love is strong enough to endure our soul’s tendency to wander from You. You know our frame needs firsthand experience of Your mercy, steadfast love and compassion. Lord, as are our Great Physician You know the cure for what ails our soul. Your steadfast love, and Father’s heart of compassion sets free the soul so that joy can come not only in the morning, but all day long.

Spiritually we are daily under His care, and He visits us, as the surgeon does his patient; healing each malady as it arises. No disease of our soul baffles His skill. Soul-satisfaction calls for soul praise. All wrongs shall be righted, all the oppressed shall be avenged. Justice may at times leave the courts of man, but it abides upon the tribunal of God. God alone can reveal Himself.” – Charles Spurgeon

Bless the Lord O my soul for You enable us to praise You as Lord! You have redeemed my life from the pit and crowned me with Your steadfast love and mercy. The good You satisfy me with renews unlike anything the world can offer. You alone work righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed, even when I am unable to see or understand how You are doing this. You do not deal with me according to my sins nor have You repaid me according to my iniquities. The vast measure of Your love towards those who fear You remains hard to comprehend. Your Father’s heart of compassion towards those who fear You is endless and relentless, from ever lasting to everlasting. In this Your glorious Name I pray Jesus, amen.

Because of Him, through Him, and to Him, are all the things that pertain to my existence, health, comfort, knowledge, dignity, safety, progress, power, and usefulness. The breath that I am commanded and enabled to modulate in praise, neither comes nor goes without a most surprising exhibition of the condescension, kindness, wisdom, power, and presence of Him whom I am to praise. Praise Him so far as you know Him; and He will make known to you more of His glory.” – George Bowen, 1873.

Do I hear “Who is a sinner”, as a statement or question? Luke 19:1-10

Living in a fifth wheel, especially to those not accustomed to such a form of “space planning” in all its various limitations, can be a bit of a shock for those more accustomed to a more traditional home. Ironically, back in 2012 when we lived in a lovely little Florida cottage, it was proposed to us by friends: “why don’t you just get an RV and live that way? I could see you doing that.”

The problem was neither my husband nor I could see nor desired that possibility.

Thankfully the merciful Fount of many blessings is also most patient.

Both my husband and I have experienced living in abundant square footage able to provide more than enough space for an abundance of items, with more than enough space and seating and rooms to house or entertain others. Yet as the “much” of this world continues to grow strangely dim, this weekend I recognized I needed some Divine adjustments in my perspective when it came to those that “have” and those than “have not”.

It was Zacchaeus and the town of Jericho that opened my prejudiced eyes today. (Luke 19:1-10) Maybe there is always a danger of prejudice when one leaps from one extreme to another; the returning prodigal at risk of becoming the elder brother, the elder brother stooping to the lifestyle he had contempt for. The humble becoming proud, while the proud become humble.

Pendulum swings are tiresome to watch, more so to live out.

“Jesus pleads with immoral outsiders and moral insiders. Both the irreligious and the religious are spiritually lost.” – Tim Keller

Prejudiced thinking, I continue to learn, can cloak itself in numerous disguises. There are some beautiful areas surrounding us, yet technically we would be considered to reside “on the other side of the tracks.” To be content with “much or little” is one thing, to exclude any possibility that Jesus came only to the poor and not the rich, is another. I realize the stats don’t speak well for the rich following Jesus or for them to “pay attention to an impoverished Messiah, preaching a doctrine of universal mortification and self-denial.” (Clarke) Yet Zacchaeus , who was rich, shows us it is not impossible.

“Jesus is accessible to all classes.” – Heubner

“The evangelist thought it worthy to record Zacchaeus was rich, perhaps because it was so unlikely that a rich man should follow so poor and despised a person as Jesus of Nazareth. He does not disdain the mansions of the rich any more than the dwelling places of the poor, provided there be a humble heart.” – Barnes

Lord, I confess I have believed there was not much hope You and Your Gospel message would be desired by or sought after by the “rich” of this world. The allurement of this world has such a powerful influence which can make the reality of the world yet to come more an annoying background noise than something to seek first. I confess I do not know all the ways You can reach those genuinely seeking You, for Scripture records there are many different ways You led sinners to repentance and faith in You. The “lost” can be found everywhere, even in the most luxurious and comfortable of places.

Jesus, it is not recorded that You were ever awed by the splendors of this world, be it mansions, position, possessions or worldly rank. The lost You came to rescue from danger and destruction live with much and with little, both sides of the track need You.

Lord, may You open our ears to Your question: “Who is a sinner?” so that when the world makes Your question a statement: “…who is a sinner!” (Luke 19:7) we can intercede with hearts in harmony with Yours.

“I am a sinner, saved by grace.”

Thank You Jesus for the Gift of Your resurrected life offered to all. Lord, may we not be ignorant of the righteousness of God by seeking to establish a righteousness of our own, for then it becomes impossible to submit to Your righteousness. (Rom.10:2-3) You know how difficult it is to realize how lost we are when all we can hear is the world’s voice affirming we’ve found all it states anyone could need. Nothing this world values can justify the soul in Your sight Father. Thank You Lord for the continued and merciful work You do through Your Word and Holy Spirit to sanctify each son and daughter so that we are ready for You when You return. In Jesus’ holy Name I pray, amen.

Lord, guard us from silencing the voice that cries for Your mercy.

“Be silent.”

It’s a message worth heeding on some occasions, but some desires to silence can be eternally damaging.

When I came to faith, I met some dear women who walked me through many questions as I was trying to get to know who Jesus was. Everything was new to me. I came with no understanding about the Bible, the Gospel or anything contained within. I had a lot of questions. Asking what I did amid people who had either been raised in a Church since early childhood or “known Jesus their whole life” required a courage that admittedly I shrunk away from frequently. I felt embarrassed as I began to realize all I did not know, and see all they seemed to know. Yet having a lifetime of trying almost everything else, something drove me to keep seeking.

Maybe that’s why the healing of the blind beggar in Luke 18:35-43 means so much to me. Maybe its the fury of his cry, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” that resonates in my own heart. It reinforces my own wavering soul to read this blind beggar did not shrink back in silence or turn away in offense when the folks up front in the crowd rebuked him to settle down in secret silence.

“Be silent” may be the voice of the crowds that can miss the greater miracle for fear of preventing something from going wrong in the immediate. There is nothing more wrong that missing Jesus as He passes by. There is nothing more wrong than “Holding your peace,” by silencing this kind of cry.

What could be more important than to have Jesus come near?

“But he kept crying out all the more.” Its a determination of the heart in desperate need because it knows of its need. It is a shout that beseeches unlike anything else because it knows there is nothing or no one else that can do what Jesus, Messiah can. Its the kind of cry that stopped Jesus, a week from the Cross, on a mission that could understandably easily have distracted Him from hearing or seeing this man, but it did not.

“Jesus stopped.”

The work on the Cross was not hindered in any way. His mission on earth was accomplished and not delayed. No one missed out on anything by this miraculous work of mercy.

“Bring him to Me.”

I love this.

Lord, for each beloved soul that may find them self in a similar place, may You reassure each one that their cry and desperate need for Your mercy You will always stop for. Your ears are open and ready to bring Your child near to You. You are more than able to open blind eyes by giving that precious gift of faith that only comes from You. Your love is an individualized one. Mercy as You define it, as it agrees with Your truth and covenant-loyalty, we all need. Your “best offer” is when You birth faith in us. Nothing empowers as does faith which enables us to place our full trust and confidence in Your character, nature and essence. May we can glorify You with the honor You deserve, something far beyond a compliment, or “thumbs up” kind of approval. It is an utter adoration. In Jesus’ Name I pray, amen.

How necessary is a first hand experience of God’s mercy or is reading about it enough?

Over the last 6 months I have met 3 young adults who have never seen snow. Florida natives to which snow is only something they can imagine from what they have seen in pictures. They have never felt those first few flakes land upon their upturned nose, never experienced that holy hush of millions of unique flakes landing silent and steady, never woke to a brand new scene where earth and trees are all around are covered in the same pure everywhere, softening the harshest of landscapes.

With Florida’s summer heat making an early arrival, ironically it is snow which has been on my mind.

Whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51:7; Isaiah 1:18)

Slowly making my way through Luke I continue to stumble upon the persistent mercy of Jesus. Mercy for those who saw no need for Him. Mercy for those who wanted Him to be something and someone He was not. Mercy for those who wanted to hear Him say that which He did not say, and wanted Him keep quiet about that which spoke most about.

Mercy which took Him to the Cross.

Sin and a Savior. Sinners and repentance and the cry for mercy as the starting place for a life made new. There is nothing more freeing to the soul, heart and mind than to know with utmost certainty, “You are forgiven.” Pardoned. Penalty has been paid in full.

Undeserving opportunity to turn one’s life in an entirely new direction.

Create in me a clean O God, renew a right spirit within me,” kind of new life. (Ps.51:10)

Psalm 51 has guided me through many seasons of working through some of faith’s greatest challenges, particularly when face to face with the unyielding and seemingly harsh heart of “Sklerokardia.” The heart all dried out and hardened. Something dreadful can happen when the heart cleansed and softened with the influence of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word naively expects it will not experience some of what Jesus, Stephen, Paul, Peter and history’s long lineage of saints have.

“Offenses will come.” (Matt.18:7; Luke 17:1)

When face to face with one with a heart such as this, damaged by the blinding effects of sin, it takes both wisdom and courage to respond in a “Christlike manner”. How can I expect someone will react to a message that states the need for the creation of a new heart if they believe the old heart is just fine? How well would anyone receive teaching that speaks of renewal of spirit when there is no recognized need for a restoration? There is no question that Jesus came here to set captives free, to bind hearts crushed to near ruin, to heal the sick in mind, body and soul, yet is this miraculous work possible if some of the building blocks of “Logos”, the “Legos”, are removed or added to?

When or to whom does our Lord call to speak such a message?

Do the followers of Jesus speak the loudest when they use the fewest of words?

Rebellion is nothing more than “antilego”, a contradiction to His Word which brings about a conclusion contrary to the one God has come to. Nothing offends the heart in rebellion to God than His Word.

Can a new heart be created if we remove from God’s Word the truth that sin exists and is defined on His terms? Can a heart be set free if it does not believe it was “brought forth in iniquity and conceived in sin”? Can the child of God be washed whiter than snow if I believe I have not transgressed and have no iniquity for Jesus’ shed blood to wash clean? Can I have “truth in the inward being” and be “taught wisdom in the secret heart” if I believe the truth and wisdom already exists within me, therefore I just need to draw it out?

What I love about Psalm 51 is that David never cried out for justice. He never blamed. He did not downplay his sin. Mercy changed him utterly. Mercy allowed him to see himself as he had not. Mercy declared to him God was right and justified in His verdict on humanity and sin. Mercy vindicates God from all worldly accusations. The heart which has first hand experience of God’s mercy knows God has just cause for punishing sin and sees He has done this in the most abundantly merciful way. Mercy can see that God is in the right and silences humanity’s plea of innocence.

Have mercy on me O God, according to Your steadfast love, according to your abundant mercy.”

It is in my nature to seek justice before I cry for mercy, but when each offense is laid at the foot of the Cross, the cry for justice is changed:“Lord, help me see them as You do,” and the plea for forgiveness is set free to flow from the heart.

Sometimes wisdom says “speak this,” sometimes wisdom knows silence is the most merciful response, sometimes wisdom needs to beseech the throne of grace from a safe distance.

I need my Great Physician’s care so that I have faithfulness in the inward places of my hearts. I need the daily provision of His Word and Holy Spirit so that my heart remains pliable in His hands. I trust Jesus to remove every last trace of “sklerokardia” in my heart that I am unaware of so that I do not turn away from what the Lord asks of me in His Word.

First hand experience of God’s mercy changes everything.

Lord, the holy hush that follows when You create in Your child a new heart which has received Your mercy-filled pardon is something to rejoice in! Though it can be hard to understand how You could crush any part of Your child, we have confidence You know what is best for our eternal good. Only You can bring such a shattered heart or soul to full recovery. Though the heart repentant stings with anguish for its sin, You set each broken place within us, not mending the old but creating the new, that which was not there before. (Ps.51:1-12)

Thank You Lord that though the world has often despised those broken in spirit or heart, You do not. (Ps.51:17)The lowly place where we find those the world rejects, abandons or have crushed, those broken in spirit and contrite in heart have the certain hope You came to reconcile them to our Father in heaven. This work of mercy has nothing to do with what we have or have not done. Your pardon for humanity stands up in God’s court. You have passed sentence and the penalty for sin has been paid through the sacrifice, blood and broken body of Your Son. Thank You Jesus for what You have done so that this prayer is even possible. In Your merciful Name I pray Jesus, amen.

It is not a mere amendment, improvement of our moral habits, it is a creation out of nothing, of that which we had not before. We were decayed, corrupt, dead in trespasses and sins. What is dead becomes not alive, except by the infusion of what it had not.” (E.B.Pusey, 1853)

The working out of what is eternally good: faith and what remains unseen.

After weeks without more than a couple of minutes of rain, Saturday the skies opened and rain fell hard for several hours. As when anything dried out for prolonged periods of time is exposed to a sudden outpouring, the rain pooled everywhere as the ground was too dry to absorb much of anything.

“It was not enough for what we need,” was the theme on the local news.

Picking away at the keyboard with hands blistered, swollen and cracked from what appears to be a reaction from pesticides at work, I’ve been wondering as of late “when is ‘enough’ really ‘enough’?” When is God’s grace enough? When can I simply rejoice in the Cross of Christ as Paul did? When it is enough that my name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life?

Faith is a challenge these days. My husband and I hit one of those “Are we all in or not?” walls last night. We have witnessed and been recipients of God’s specific provision in numerous and miraculous ways, yet when facing the reality that God Omniscient, Lord of all, all powerful with unrestricted power allowed this season of utter dependence upon His provision, healing, and guidance, I realized sometimes there needs to be a “breaking down” before there can be a “breaking through.”

The gloves I wore were insufficient in strength to protect my skin, God’s natural protective barrier , from the elements I am exposed to at work. Yet the protective covering we have in our Lord, His Name and Word, also needs the shield of faith and empowering of His Holy Spirit to effectively guard, protect and keep His child in perfect peace.

Peace that passes all understanding. All well with the soul regardless of circumstance.

How does one not lose heart when faith’s pulse is faint and weak, especially as faith is nothing I can manufacture in my own strength?

I have underestimated the power and increased faith essential to resist and stand firm, refusing to be moved or pushed back, in that 180 degree position which Jesus and His disciples exemplified . Human power, strength or ability is impotent against such an offensive force as is in this world. (Eph.6:10-18)

“All warfare is based on deception. The secret lies in confusing the enemy so that he cannot fathom the real intent. Those skilled at making the enemy move do so by enticing him with something he is certain to take. Begin by seizing something which your opponent holds dear, then he will be amenable to your will. ” (Sun Tzu 544-496 B.C.)

George Whitefield once preached: “Without faith, like poor Peter before the little maid, I should tremble and deny my Master. But that same Peter with faith, fears not to stand before a frowning Sanhedrin, to speak of his Master amid the scoffings of the high priests. Little faith is drowned in a drop of rain, it begins to think of going back at the slightest trouble. Says faith:’ It is a rough road; the thorns are sharp…but thy shoes shall be iron and brass.’ Take care of your faith for its very often so weak that it demands all your attention.”

Lord, I join today with Your Apostles when they said, “Lord, increase our faith.” It is a prayer I offer before Your throne of grace understanding You have full knowledge of what daily supply of faith is needed for each son or daughter. May we make best use of Your Word and the power of Your Holy Spirit for those matters which will have an eternal benefit and give glory to Your Name.

Lord, though eternity is real as it gets, it seems easier to place the Kingdom of Heaven in the background of our heart and thoughts as matters of this world appear most important and demanding our attention. Faith enables us to see the unseen, open our eyes of faith so that we seek first Your Kingdom.

We give You thanks and acknowledge that Your grace works for our eternal gain and Your glory. May mercy,peace and love be multiplied to Your sons and daughters as You continue to work out that which is eternally good. In Your most merciful Name I pray Jesus, amen.

The Father’s heart of mercy: Luke 15

Malvina Reynolds wrote a song in the mid 50’s which served as the foundation to my understanding of what Church and Christianity was all about. It was sung at the start of each Sunday School class I attended for a brief time at the local United Church. Blind to the extensive sin going on with the pastor, blind to the impact this was having on my parent’s understanding of Christianity and Christian leadership, our collective blindness keep us from seeing what the full Gospel message was all about.

“Love is something if you give it away, you end up having more. It’s just like a magic penny, hold it tight and you won’t have any, lend it, spent it, and you’ll have so many they’ll roll all over the floor.”

Not longer after we stopped going to Church. I learned about magic and spirits and spiritualists. I learned about holding tight to things of this world. I learned about spending money on things that promised peace, comfort and satisfaction. I lent and spent and gave away and ended up with far less peace, comfort and satisfaction than I started with. I never heard about sin. I never heard repentance. I never experienced, saw nor heard what was so precious to God that He would seek and search diligently for even the 1%. The 1 in 100, the 1 in 10, the 1 in a family of 2. (Luke 15)

I never understood the value of a single soul.

I did not understand what we were to be “found” from and “brought home” to. I never understood “lost” as in: “I am perishing; rendered useless; utterly destroyed; cutting off entirely from; a permanent and absolute destruction.”

In all that promised to bring me to a “safe and sound” life where I would be healthy and whole, I did not understand how spiritually dead I was. With all the seeminglyly life-giving influences and opportunities around me, if there were any that pertained to God, I was unresponsive to them, unable to respond, powerless to choose what God called “good, pure, right and reasonable.” I was “destitute of a life that recognized and was devoted to God.” (Strong’s)

Now I understand how easy it is for sheep to wander anywhere but where is best for their safety and well-being. I understand the best of humanity can lose that which should be most treasured, even if by unintentional neglect. Yet I am challenged at how easy it is to celebrate so many other things, and not rejoice as Jesus did when a soul is rescued from the Kingdom of darkness.

“Rejoice with Me…for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:6, 9,23)

Resurrected. Revived. Life recovered and restored to God and God’s gift of life. Christ living in me.

What happens to our hearts when we cannot view as miraculous to have our names written in the Lamb’s Book of life? What happens to our hearts if we believe that 99% is enough? What happens when we say, ‘God bless you!’, yet when He does bless the Body of Christ by resurrecting new life into those once dead, and finding the lost, we become angry and refuse to recognize God’s grace?

Is there a risk the prodigal in us all can become the elder brother? Is there a danger when all I can see is all I have done or have not done, that invalidates and rules out the reality of what God has done and has not done?

“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.” (Ps.103:10)

Father, at times it seems as if there are vultures circling over Your perishing children. We understand our tendency to wander away into dangerous territory, yet also understand there is no safer place for Your child than when we experience so that we can understand Your Father’s heart of mercy.

Mercy opens our eyes to see declaration of what we have or have not done through Your eyes of truth and love. Mercy receives the heart of repentance and godly sorrow to see through new eyes each demand which states: “I am good, therefore I deserve,” and replaces it with “I have no good in me apart from Your good in me,” then You can grow us up in our most holy faith.

True repentance silences blame, self justification, and excuses so that we see ourselves, others and You Lord as we could not see before. In Your mercy grant us hearts that understand the worth of a single soul. In Your merciful Name I pray Jesus, amen.

“The father’s love allowed rebellion and in some sense respected human will. The father knew the son made a foolish and greedy request, yet allowed him to go on his course. The son left to be independent of the father. He began to be in want… driven by hunger and need…His misery drove him to the good resolution. He was finally able to think clearly.” (Guzik)

“Light a lamp, sweep the house, search carefully. This is how the church, led by the Holy Spirit, will search for lost souls. First they put forth the light of God’s Word, then sweep and clean their own place, then search carefully for lost souls.” (C. Spurgeon)

Uprooted or about-face? The process of removing even “positive obstacles” in the journey of faith.

When a crowd takes interest enough to follow, its natural to encourage all to remain so to increase the size of the crowd. The habit of counting, “How many,” remains a difficult one to break. Yet “How many were there?” is not always an accurate measure of knowing whether or not folks have had opportunity to count the cost of following Jesus.

“Count the cost…bear your own cross…renounce all that you have…” (Luke 14:25-33) seems a bit demanding. Or is it? Would this kind of teaching not cause the crowds to disperse?

Some calculations are difficult to compute. At the time I made a decision to become a follower of Jesus I feared my faith may take me to a land and lifestyle uncomfortable to what I grown comfortable with. Ironically, 23 years later, I find myself 3000+ away from the place this journey of faith began, living in a fifth-wheel, married to a man with a heart after God’s, currently with a hot water heater which no longer works. Though God’s peace, joy, provision, strength and wisdom is more than enough to sustain us, He has not yet provided the means to replace our hot water heater. My husband reminds me, “hot water is a want not a need.” Easy for one who enjoys cool showers, not so easy for one accustomed to hot showers.

I’m thankful for running water, for the provision the Florida sun can heat enough water in the hose to have a warm shower, and a stove to heat the rest. I’m thankful for access to fresh water to wash up after working in a greenhouse in this heat, understanding many other Christians do not have even this.

There’s been a lot of counting these past few weeks. Some of that counting involved counting mint, which gave me new eyes to read the confrontation Jesus had with the Pharisee who invited Him to share a meal. There is nothing more confrontational than to realize one’s traditions, values, what seems most important is asked to be relegated to second place. Or at least to be loved less.

“Woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint…and neglect justice and the love of God.” (Luke 11:37-42)

In order to accurately tithe 10% of one’s mint, all the mint leaves had to be counted. Tedious and time consuming, so I understand if someone put in as much work as these Pharisees did, they may have assumed Jesus would acknowledgment their diligence in observing the traditions they held so dear.

Maybe it would have been easier on everyone if Jesus politely declined the invitations to the various homes of these religious leaders, but He did not. If Jesus sees our spiritual condition and need, therefore understood that no parable, no miraculous act, no great teaching or even stern rebuke would pierce through their determined minds and seemingly hardened hearts, why did He not just leave them alone?

Was it relentless mercy? Was there one lost sheep in their midst that love could not leave alone? Were their souls as valuable as all the others who did decide to follow Jesus?

Each year the “cost of discipleship” takes on new meaning. What was a great cost 10 years ago seems not much of a cost when compared to what my husband and I are facing now. But is that not grace? Only a love most patient can wean the heart from all those worldly attachments in a manner that leads it to “renounce all that I have.” The effort needed is a continuous one which at times involves antagonism and conflict. As the world says, “go with the grain,” Jesus says, “You may need to go against the grain.” Not all obstacles are negative.

“Positive obstacles can also prevent the soul from coming to Christ.” (Cambridge Study Bible)

Last week I pulled up mint plants which had been harvested down to their last few leaves. The seedlings had been placed on a type of fiber mat for the young plants to root into. When all that could be harvested from the mint was complete, leaving scraggly plants cut down to near nothing, they were re-potted to grow in soil and be reused. Some of the mint pulled up easily, the roots of others entwined into the mat making it difficult to pull the plant off the mat in a way that would not injure its roots.

Thankfully mint has a hardiness unlike the other herbs. I knew they would eventually thrive once transplanted. Its one thing to bloom where one is planted, quite another to be taken up and moved in order to bloom somewhere else.

It seems “you’re in the world but not of the world” takes a lifetime to learn. Mercy continues to reveal how deeply rooted my soul has been into this world. Mercy continues to gently wean me away so I can continue to seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and God’s righteousness above my own.

Lord, of all the costs to follow You, it is those costs which seem reasonable until You call upon Your child to follow through in action. Its hard to know how rooted our soul is to this world until Your Word and Holy Spirit tugs at our heart and calls us to release our grasp of that which is held so dear.

Your mercy knows what is needed to fine-tune our heart which prays, “Your will be done” so that it is in full-harmony with Yours. Sanctification is a process yet needful. To remain clothed in humility involves dismissing reliance upon Self so that we can remain dependent upon You Lord. Thank You for Your great patience. It is always much easier to sing, “You are my all-in-all” than live it out, but this You know.

Living in a time where self-reliance is extolled, the God-reliant are a peculiar people. We are not to be anxious about our life, what we will eat, nor about our body, what we will put on. (Luke 12:22-34) Thank You Jesus for the specific provision You know each child needs in order to thrive, living in this world yet not of it. Thank You that You are God and not a man, the Holy One in our midst. (Hosea 11:9) In Your most merciful Name I pray Jesus, amen.

“True religion is costly. Free grace admits one to the sacred way. But when that one is put on the road to heaven, it will cost Him something. What is the expense? If you be Christ’s and have His salvation, you must love Him beyond every other person in this world…Unreserved surrender of all to Jesus. Wisdom suggests we should count the cost. If you do not count the cost, you will not be able to carry out your resolves. Faith and repentance are a life-work. Christ does not ask you to do anything that He has not done Himself.” (Charles Spurgeon)

“Let it alone”: discerning when to dig in and when not to.

At times it only takes a few words to carry into effect the greatest impact.

Father, forgive them…Jesus wept…Let there be light…I AM THAT I AM…

Yet this week 3 words, “Let it alone” in Luke 13, have caused me as much anguish as relief. Sometimes it is best to “let alone” and “leave it at the foot of the Cross” that which to cling to would cause a far greater offense and sin. (John 20:23) Sometimes it is best to “let them alone” as Jesus spoke to His disciples regarding their concern about the offended Pharisees. (Matt.15:12-14) Sometimes to “let alone” is not the best thing at all if it involves leaving first loves or tolerating something or someone that never should be tolerated. (Rev.2:4,20-21) Jesus was “let alone” when all His disciples left Him and fled. (Matt.26:56; mark 14:50) There is a“let alone” as Jesus described the difference between the hired hand’s response to the wolf’s presence versus the Good Shepherd’s. (John 10:11-13) When Jesus “lets alone” those determined to honor what ends up being their destruction, and reject the One who longs to love them to freedom for all eternity, an agonizing lament follows. (Matt.23:37-24:2)

I wonder if we allowed mercy the opportunity to echo in the depths of our heart Jesus’ lament and longing of heart, if this would prevent the weightier matters of God’s justice, mercy and faithfulness from being neglected? I wonder if we allowed ourselves to linger in communion with the our Lord if then we would no longer need the coaxing that at times seems more like begging, to leave the elementary doctrines of Christ so we would all go on to maturity? (Heb.6:1-3) I wonder if God’s manifest presence were revealed to the soul which clings to that which seems impossible to forsake, if then what seemed most needful would be dropped at Jesus’ feet so it could cling to Him instead?

“There is nothing so terrible as the anger of gentle compassion, the fiercest and most destructive wrath is the ‘wrath of the Lamb.’ Scathing exposures, full of sorrow and severity, wailing of an infinite compassion heard in an outburst of lamenting in which Christ’s heart runs over; the blending of sternness and pity. Tones of love and righteous anger joined in echoing through the ages. The parting wail of rejected love; that sad cry of lamentation…He calls, unwilling to give up hope. The saddest punishment of long-continued rejection of His pleading love is that it ceases to plead.” (A. MacLaren)

Yet our Intercessor has not ceased to plead! God of second chances, long-suffering and patient mercy offers one more “let it alone,” one more year to excavate the soul and dig in that which is able to fertilize and nourish new life so that fruit in keeping with repentance could be produced. (Luke 13:6-9)

Mercy that places on hold the reasonable response to fruitlessness:

“Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?”

“A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vine-dresser, ‘Look, for 3 years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none.” (Luke 13:6-9)

I’ve shared that attitude when it seems reasonable to put mercy on a timed schedule. But when does patience run out of time? How long is “long-suffering”? Is it our call to make?

“And he answered him,’ Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” As “Sir”, “Lord, and Master” that is His call to make, not mine.

Grace has not always appears in the manner I expect. Sometimes the only hope left to cure fruitlessness is to cut deep and severe at what roots remain, plow up the hardened soil of the heart so that the dung pile becomes the very thing which brings the lowliness needed for repentance. The same repentance required from all of us, none more-guilty or none less-guilty. All likewise are guilty on God’s terms.

“No, I tell you, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:5)

Lord, until You direct otherwise, may we not cease to plead with hearts in harmony with Yours. You desire that none should perish but all come to repentance, yet we also read that there are some whom You gave time to repent yet were unwilling to repent. (Rev.2:20-21) This seems in such conflict with the Gospel of grace, yet what can be reasonable on our terms is not always reasonable in Your sight.

You have made clear what the fruits of the Spirit are and what they are not. We need Your wisdom and discernment so that we can clearly understand what You call us to “let go of” and cling to that which You call us to cling to. (Gal.5:19-24) You consecrated Yourself that we may also be sanctified in truth, thank You for all the ways You continue to watch over us so that we are kept in Your Name. (John 17:11-19 May we hallow what is holy to You as You keep us from the evil one I pray, In Your Sovereign Name Jesus, amen.

Healthy respect

With the clear plastic communion cup still containing a drop of grape juice on its rim, what followed immediately were accolades to a soul, valued by God, who in human terms had accomplished a great deal.

“Yes, but what about Jesus?” was all I could think. Can anything that has become simply routine become much more than that? How does reverent fear for the Holy One of God develop? What does it take for the soul, most valued by God, to honor Him more than man?

Fear is a powerful motivator. “Do not fear those who kill the body,” probably one of the most understandable fears. Yet somehow, there is Jesus tracing out for His friends, in warning and instruction, this truth that there is One who possesses an authority that none other do.

“Fear Him” Jesus says. (Luke 12:4-7)

Knowledge of the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven, the “after that” which follows the death of the body, is difficult learning. The life of Rowland Taylor exemplifies a heart which understood we have one life to lose and one soul to save and which one to sacrifice and which one to preserve.

Dr. Taylor was executed in England in 1555 because he believed that priests cuold marry and that the bread and wine of communion did not become the actual, literal, body and blood of Jesus.

“Kicked out of the priesthood, led out to be executed, burned to death in the city where he served as a pastor and in front of his congregation.  The sheriff allowed his wife and 2 daughters one last meeting.

“Farewell my dear wife: be of good comfort, for I am quiet in my conscience. God shall raise up a father for my children. I pray you all stand strong and steadfast to Christ and His Word.”

“The sheriff asked him how he felt, and he said, “Well, God be praised, good master sheriff, never better; for now I know I am almost home…even at my Father’s house…O good Lord, I thank You! I shall yet once more before I die, see my flock whom You, Lord, know I have most heratily loved and most truly taught. Good Lord, bless them and keep them steadfast in Thy Word and truth.”

“The streets were crowded with people who wanted to see him…they cried and wept with all their strength…”Ah, good Lord, there goes our good shepherd from us, that so faithfully has taught us, so fatherly cared for us, and so godly has governed us. O merciful God! What shall we poor scattered lambs do? What shall come of this most wicked world? Good Lord, strengthen him and comfort him.”

“Taylor answered back, “I have preached to you God’s Word and truth, and am come this day to seal it with my blood.”

Taylor wanted to speak to the people one last time but as soon as he opened his mouth a guard put a spear right up to his open mouth, and made him stop. He started giving away his clothes…He then cried out with a loud voice,

“Good people, I have taught you nothing but God’s Holy Word, and those lessons that I have taken out of God’s blessed Book, the Holy Bible; and I am come here today to seal it with my blood.” But then one of the guards clubbed him over the head and said, “Is that keeping your promise of silence, you heretic?”

“Seeing he could not speak, he knelt down to pray. A poor woman came to kneel beside him and pray, and the guards tried to push her away but she would not go.” (J.C.Ryle)

Lord, Your Word says that not one soul You forget. Each life You have created is precious to You and remembered by You. Our Father in Heaven, may we indeed hallow Your Name, for Your Kingdom will come and Your will shall be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. In Your Name Jesus I pray, amen.

“Believe, love, fear, and obey Him: pray to Him, for He has promised to help. Count me not dead, for I shall certainly live and never die.” (Rowland Taylor)