Do Thou for Me

“Do Thou for me, O God the Lord,
Do Thou for me.
I need not toil to find the word
That carefully
Unfolds my prayer and offers it,
My God, to Thee.

It is enough that Thou wilt do,
And wilt not tire,
Wilt lead by cloud, all the night through
By light of fire,
Till Thou has perfected in me
Thy heart’s desire.

For my beloved I will not fear,
Love knows to do
For him, for her, from year to year,
As hitherto.
Whom my heart cherishes are dear
To Thy heart too.

O blessèd be the love that bears
The burden now,
The love that frames our very prayers,
Well knowing how
To coin our gold.  O God the Lord,
Do Thou, Do Thou” (Amy Carmichael).

There are times when we simply don’t know how to pray for a circumstance or a loved one. Try as we may, the words will not come.

I think even then God hears the groans and sighs of our petitions and knows what they mean. He hears the deepest desires of our hearts and knows best how to grant them.

Even when we have words, they aren’t always the best ones. Sometimes, we ask without such a limited point of view. Sometimes we ask selfishly. Sometimes we have too small a view of God and ask too little.

In Jan Karon’s Mitford series, Father Tim Kavanaugh always has his go-to prayer, or “the prayer that never fails,” as he calls it. The prayer goes “Thy will be done.”

You can never go wrong with leaving the matter in God’s hands.

Life

I think Fred Rogers had it right.

I think I can speak for some of you when I say that sometimes I think I have my life all worked out and working in perfect order, and then I look back and think, “Well, that was a really nice 45 seconds.”

In some ways, mastering life is like trying to learn a game where the rules and parameters are constantly changing. Just when you think you’ve got a certain part down, it all changes and you have to start all over figuring it out again.

I used to think that there was such a thing as a good or bad Christian, depending on external circumstances. I do think that real faith shows itself in manifesting the fruit of the Spirit by means of obedience to Christ, but I also know that even the best of believers are still deeply flawed (and will be until Jesus calls them home or makes His triumphant return).

Faith is not about how good you are at praying, at Bible reading, at fasting, or in any of the spiritual disciplines. Faith means that every day you show up and trust that God will do something in you and through you. You wait expectantly for God to show up in your life.

Sometimes faith means that no batter how badly you’ve messed up for the past day or week or month, you still get up the next morning knowing that it’s a brand new 24 hours with a clean slate and new mercies.

So how’s my life? How’s my faith? I’m not very good at it, but that doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I keep waking up, showing up, and believing God for His promises for me and for the world. God will take care of the rest.

 

Resolved

Tonight, I heard one of the minsters in residence speak at an event. He mentioned one of his favorite dead theologians and authors, Jonathan Edwards, had made some resolutions.

Originally, my goal was to reproduce them all here, but after a little research, I found that would make for a mighty long blog post, so I’m picking a few that strike me:

“Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.”

“Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.”

“Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.”

“Resolved, never to suffer the least motions of anger to irrational beings.”

“Resolved, never to say anything at all against anybody, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honor, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said anything against anyone, to bring it to, and try it strictly by the test of this Resolution.”

“Resolved, never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession, which I cannot hope God will accept.”

“Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. July 8, 1723.

“Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.”

Maybe this will inspire you (or me) to make our own new resolutions. It doesn’t have to wait until next January 1. It’s never too early or too late to change and make a new start.

 

Happy Last Day of April

I sincerely repent of all the times as a kid when I laughed and made fun of old people for always talking about how fast time goes by. They were right. And now I’m old. Well, older.

Which brings me to the fact that tomorrow is officially May.

That means that we’re officially 1/3 of the way through 2018.

Not only will tomorrow be the first day of May, it will also be the 8th anniversary of the flooding that took place in Nashville on May 1-2, 2010.

Where did that 8 years go? Man, those old people were right again. At least I get to make fun of the funny clothes they wore back in the day, just like someone down the road will look at my fashion sense and roll on the floor laughing at me.

I can still remember seeing all the flood waters, especially in the downtown area. I recall hearing about how Opry Mills had being overrun with flood waters. I couldn’t even get out of my neighborhood to get to work that day. It was insane.

Looking back has given me a little perspective. Like the fact that I’m able to look back. The flood waters left and Nashville is still here. I still remember the words written on a garage door on a street where the flood waters had done the most damage: “Storms pass, love shines, we survive.” Those floods are in the past and you and I are still here.

Philip Yancey wrote, “Faith is believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”

You don’t get the benefit of all the hindsight and 20/20 vision from looking back on something until you’ve lived through it. Faith is believing God’s promises as though they had already come to pass. In fact, faith is knowing that God’s future is so certain that it can be spoken of in the present tense.

Speaking of time flying, there are only 239 days until Christmas, so you best get to shoppin’.

Covered by Blood

“Choose a one-year-old male that is intact and free of blemishes; you can take it from the sheep or the goats. Keep this chosen lamb safe until the fourteenth day of the month, then the entire community of Israel will slaughter their lambs together at twilight. They are to take some of its blood and smear it across the top and down the two sides of the doorframe of the houses where they plan to eat” (Exodus 12:5-7, The Voice).

Blood is not a topic for polite dinner conversation. Or any polite conversation. Or any conversation for that matter. Some people get queasy at the sight or even the mention of it.

Lately, any songs about the blood are becoming more and more taboo at many churches. People like to believe that we’re generally not that bad and that our mistakes aren’t that serious.

Any time that I sing about or hear about the blood of Jesus, it’s a stark reminder of the seriousness of my own sin. I’m reminded again that the gospel of Jesus Christ is not that I’m okay, you’re okay, so let’s all try to be better people in the future.

The gospel is that we all have sinned and missed God’s mark. That sin always comes at a cost. Romans 3:23 say “The payoff for a life of sin is death.” There’s no loophole or any other way around that. Sin earns spiritual death now and physical death later.

But read the rest of the verse– “but God is offering us a free gift—eternal life through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, the Liberating King.”

Easter is all about how Jesus took the punishment and death that we deserved because of our sin, giving us the free gift of eternal life to all those who repent of their sins and place their faith in the final and finished work of Jesus.

I may not like the sight of blood or always like to talk about it, but I’m thankful for the blood that Jesus shed, not sparingly but freely, for my sake and for the sake of all of us who have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.

Here’s how to know for certain if you belong to Jesus:

https://www.lifeway.com/en/articles/salvation-through-christ-a-matter-of-faith.html

 

Under Construction

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way the hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself” (CS Lewis, Mere Christianity).

There’s a building under construction in the square in downtown Franklin. I pass by it periodically and it still looks half finished. Lately, it looks as if little to no progress has been made on it.

Yet I know that sometimes the most important parts of construction are the parts that you really can’t see, like wiring and other stuff that probably only other people in building and construction would appreciate.

God is always at work in us, recreating and remolding us into His image. Sometimes, it feels like we look and act the same and there’s little to no difference in us. Maybe in those times God is working on those small but vital parts that will lead to bigger and more noticeable changes down the road.

Take heart. Don’t give up. God has promised to finish the good work He started in you and me. And God is never slow in keeping His promises.

 

Safe in the Storm

“My soul quietly waits for the True God alone
    because I hope only in Him.
He alone is my rock and deliverance,
    my citadel high on a hill;
    I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my significance depend ultimately on God;
    the core of my strength, my shelter, is in the True God.

Have faith in Him in all circumstances, dear people.
    Open up your heart to Him;
    the True God shelters us in His arms” (Psalm 62:5-8, The Voice).

Right now, I’m typing these words as I’m lying in bed (or laying in bed– I’m still fuzzy on which of these is correct). Anyway, I can hear the thunder rumbling outside, signifying that more rain is coming.

One of my least favorite things to do is to be out on the interstate when it’s storming. One of my favorite things to do is to be safe at home, able to hear and see the storm while being safely under a solid four walls and a roof.

It seems lately that storms are raging all around us. Not so much literal storms with lightening and thunder, but so many senseless acts of violence and destruction. Not even the church building is a safe sanctuary anymore.

I read something amazing today. It was from the pastor of the church in Texas where the latest mass shooting occurred. He lost half his congregation, as well as his own 14-year old daughter. He said, “Christ is the one who is going to be lifted up. What you don’t understand you lean into the Lord. Whatever life brings to you, lean on the Lord rather than your own understanding.  .  .  . I don’t understand but I know my God does.”

I can’t imagine. I can’t say that I’d be half as brave or stedfast in the face of unspeakable tragedy and grief. I only know that God is near to the broken hearted and to those who are crushed in spirit, and in those times, He gives a peace and a love and a trust that truly passes understanding.

Storm come, storms pass, but the love of God is a shelter and a safe place forever.

 

Becoming Your True Self

Earlier today, I was watching a couple of little girls playing and a thought occurred to me. Granted, I am not a parent, so forgive me if I speak out of ignorance in what I’m about to say.

Newborn babies are all cute and precious, but they’re pretty much the same. They have typical newborn behavior that all newborn babies do.

It’s only as babies grow into children who mature into adults that their distinctive personalities really begin to emerge. The older they get, the more their uniqueness shines to set them apart from everybody else.

In the life of faith, it’s only in becoming more like Jesus that we come into our truest selves. The more we grow in grace and take on the characteristics and behaviors of Christ that we truly find out who we really are and what our purpose is.

That’s the irony. It’s only in losing yourself that you find yourself. It’s as if gazing on God reveals more about ourselves than looking inwardly ever could.

As always, I share these things not from on high, having mastered the art of living and figured out all the mysteries of the universe. I come to you like one beggar telling another where to find bread (an image that I still love).

I also believe that you only become truly rich by giving yourself away to those who have need. But that will have to be a topic for another day when I am less sleepy.

 

Still Waiting on God

“I believe that a trusting attitude and a patient attitude go hand in hand. You see, when you let go and learn to trust God, it releases joy in your life. And when you trust God, you’re able to be more patient. Patience is not just about waiting for something… it’s about how you wait, or your attitude while waiting” (Joyce Meyer).

Today, Pastor Aaron preached from Psalm 130 on how to wait on God. Waiting is one of the hardest disciplines of the faith but well worth it in the end.

I supposed I should say waiting well is hard. Waiting by itself takes no effort. You don’t need any special skills to sit with hands folded in your lap, or in front of the TV binge-watching the latest Netflix craze.

Waiting well is different. Waiting well means that you learn to tune your heartbeat to God’s. You learn to discern God’s voice out of the myriad of other voices that are constantly calling to you all the time.

Waiting well means that you let God have His way in you so that you are ready whenever God chooses to end the wait and give you whatever it is you’ve been waiting for.

I’ve come to learn to be thankful that God didn’t give me many of the things I asked for when I asked for them. I probably would have ruined it and ruined myself in the process, especially where relationships are concerned.

Waiting involves open-ended hope. You go from waiting with expectations for a certain outcome to waiting with the sole expectation that God will do what God sees fit, which is always for His highest glory and your best possible outcome.

Lord, help all of us to learn to wait well and not focus on the outcome but who we are becoming in the process. Help us to remember that ultimately who we are as defined by You is far more important than what we have, what we do, or where we are.

 

No Fears

“…new day & *no fears* because fears are just the bad stories we tell ourselves. *And your Father is far bigger than your fears.*
This is why ‘I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand I will not be shaken’ Psalm 16:8. He pulls you right close & whispers it, ‘Do Not Be Afraid.’ He knows how hard things are. And He knows how *faithful He will be.*
That’s why He repeats it again & again, 365 times, so we don’t have need to fear any day of the year: Do Not Be Afraid. He holds every minute of this week & His grace & timing are *perfect.*
So we’re just going to go all out & Trust & be brave this week: It takes courage to listen with our whole heart to the tick of God’s timing, rather than march to the loud beat of our fears” (Ann Voskamp) 
#PreachingGospeltoMyself

Again, I remind you that fear is just False Evidence Appearing Real. Fear always looks to the future but fails to figure God into the equation. Fear always forgets what God has done in the past, but faith as the antidote to fear reminds us that God remains faithful in every circumstance.

Sometimes, fear comes over a specific circumstance, like a loved one being far away from home or the uncertainty of an undiagnosed illness.

Sometimes, fear is generalized and hard to pinpoint. You have anxiety but aren’t exactly sure why.

In either case, the cure to fear is still the perfect love of God. It’s believing that God’s perfect love can overcome whatever it is that you’re fearing.

Fear says that God is not enough. Faith says God is more than enough.

Once again, I say the words, “I believe,” even when my feelings tell me otherwise. I proclaim it until every part of me receives it and until I fully believe it.

God is enough.