Sunday, September 25, 2016

My Continual Resort

I sit in an airport in Southeastern Tennessee.  It is 6:30 in the morning.  A man at the end of a long row of chairs plays on his cell phone.  A woman a few chairs next to him works on her computer.  One couple leans against each other, yawning, attempting sleep. 

It’s the South and a fairly God-friendly area.  Every person we’ve offered a tract to has taken it, even the woman behind the counter at the coffee shop where I had just stopped—although she didn’t offer a hearty “Thank yew!!” as most people had.  

The airport is still fairly empty.  I know that in a few hours it will be bustling with people; but now it lies sleepily, just like the morning dawn, which is barely painting the eastern sky in hues of the darkest indigo and crimson. 

As I read Psalm 73 today, I find myself empathizing emphatically with its writer, who wants to let God be his trust, asking that he never be put to confusion or shame.  Later he prays that God might open an escape route from whatever difficulties he has endured.  Then he petitions, “Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress" (Psalm 71:3).

God, my continual resort.  I like that.  The day before we'd been hiking in the Smokies, enjoying vistas of breathtaking beauty.  Meandering along trails shaded by canopies of overhanging branches of fir trees, we'd emerged into sunlight every half mile or so to feast our eyes upon tree-clad mountains, which dipped in ridges as far as the eye could see.  “Day unto day uttereth speech" (Ps. 19:2).  And certainly those traversing these trails have much general revelation to draw them nearer to God.

Billowing clouds overhung the mountains, offset by the azure blue of the sky.  When we reached our destination, a gorgeous overlook with the unsightly name of “Charlie’s Bunion,” my husband scaled a rock face and sat atop an amazing summit.  We ate our lunch from a rocky bluff that granted us a spectacular view. 

Enjoying vistas such as these reminds me of other grand perspectives I have witnessed while vacationing in Yosemite, trekking the Grand Canyon, and hiking the Himalayas.  But in God, such wonder can be a way of life, not merely a vacation experience.  He is the One to whom we can continually resort. 

Continually.  Looking up that word with the help of Accordance Bible software, I note that in the Hebrew, continually is linked to the notion of burning, an effervescent glow that never fails to generate energy.  No matter the circumstance, we too can go continually to God and He, in return, can be our “strong habitation”—the One who provides strength for the journey that is life.  He is our shelter in storm, our resort in joyful times, and our abiding confidence in any experience.  We can go to Him.  Continually.  The psalmist got that.  He understood just how much God could clarify life’s journey, bringing it into crystal clear perspective.  At this particular time, whatever was happening, the psalmist was “as a wonder unto many.”  Many individuals saw him as an oddity, something out of the ordinary, strange.  But he affirmed, “Thou [God] art my strong refuge" (verse 7).  Regardless of others’ perspective concerning him, he had determined to meditate upon this truth:  God would be the One to Whom he would resort.  Because he experienced this view of God, the psalmist could ask God to fill him with praises:  “Let my mouth be filled with Thy praise and with Thy honor all the day” (verse 8).

The situation about him had not gotten any different, as verses 10-13 indicate, but the psalmist had set his heart to “hope continually” and to “praise [God] more and more” (verse 14).  Choosing to focus on God made this man strong.  No matter what his enemies said or how they set themselves against him, he was determined to praise the Lord.  Greatly rejoicing in Him and His salvation, singing to God, and talking throughout the day about Him—these actions would characterize him.

In his commentary on this Psalm, Spurgeon beautifully summarizes, “God is the circle where praise should begin, continue, and endlessly revolve, since in him we live, and move, and have our being.”

Back in the airport as I noticed people walking, sitting, and playing with their electronic devices, I wondered what each one thought of God.  So many today are angry at Him, frustrated by His ways, doubting or questioning His existence.  And yet He gives us all good things.  The air we breathe.  The organs in our bodies that function each second.  The various systems that keep us operating.  Consider the amazing food supply in which we partake daily.  A simple apple reminds us of the provision of our God.  Which apple grower first planted the tiny apple seedling?  Where is the orchard located where the bushels of apples are now harvested?  How many people handled that apple before you purchased it?  

In this network of supply in our modern world, we can easily take for granted the amazing gifts of God.  Let us never fail to wonder at His provision!  Let us ever praise Him for every good and perfect gift.  

Truly from God’s hand comes every physical and spiritual blessing.  To behold God is to get a glimpse of this reality, to be enchanted by Hm and overcome by His existence.

For He is God.  The One in Whom we can find continual resort.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Blessed Are the Meek (Meekness, Part 6)

Behind every person is a human story that began in the mind of God.  He who created the universe and spoke the worlds into existence also allowed every person to be conceived.  He framed and fashioned their beings, while they, as yet, had no understanding.  And this God desires a relationship with each of His created children.  To restore them to fellowship and deliver them to the freedom His Spirit alone produces.

No wonder Jesus looked upon the multitudes and wept, for they “fainted and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd” (Matt. 9:36).  It is this harvest to which God calls His laborers forth.  And He promises something—a present—to the meek.

“Blessed are the meek:” Matthew 5:5 explains, “for they shall inherit the earth.”  I pondered that recently, as I sat aboard an airplane.  The earth dark, with a smattering of stars that graced the evening sky, reminded me of the Creator who has fashioned it all.  The lights below, in high rises and apartment buildings, coming from street lamps and vast stadiums, ascending from tiny villages and million-member cities—likewise reminded me of the people who call this planet home.  That God knows each of their thoughts.  Has each hair on their heads numbered.  And sent His Son to die—not only for those who will be saved—but for the entire world.  Astounding thought!  Amazing love!

I traveled alone but dots of tears formed in my eyes as I considered God’s love to each of these travelers, all strangers to me but all owing their existence to God.  Even the ones who wouldn’t acknowledge Him, who doubted His existence, Who took His name in vain multiple times each day, Who cursed Him and wondered at Him and hated Him for how He had chosen to move in their lives.

In His Providence, God had ordained that I should sit next to 24-year-old Alexis, who was returning home from a Hawaiian air force base.  To attend her father’s funeral.  She wore a cross around her neck, a gift from her dad—whom, she informed me, had not been a believer.  But Alexis was.  And, in the face of this unexpected horror, she knew God had a plan.  And she had chosen to trust Him.  But it was still unbearably hard.  

And every other traveler likewise had a story.  I couldn’t reach them all, couldn’t touch each of their lives so that they would behold Jesus, couldn’t share with them the love of Christ as I desired.  Even if I spent all day handing out tracts—I still wouldn’t reach every single one.  While He has given His church the command to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature,” I am helpless to personally deliver to every human on the planet a detailed Gospel presentation.  Even though I would like to.  And “the love of Christ constrains me” to desire such salvation for every person. 

While God expects me to do all I can to seek to fulfill His Great Commission, another command (found in Titus 3:2) tells us, “Shew all meekness to all men.”  So that those whose paths of life intersect with mine can be touched with this garment that is not my own.  This article of clothing that first began to adorn my spirit at salvation is one I can consciously put on each day.  Believers and unbelievers alike will be affected as I mindfully wear this garment, God’s gift to me.

Having recently taught through the book of Titus, I was especially touched by this verse.  Do I show all meekness to all men?  To that unkind person who rudely slammed the door in my face or that individual who spoke words defaming my character?  Am I continually meek in every circumstance and situation?  These questions reverberated down the corridors of my mind as I considered this verse and held up the light of truth to examine various recesses of my heart.

Meditating on God's Word is transformational, as Psalm 1 clearly indicates.  This powerful verse has helped me to more readily focus on the image of God in all men and to make a conscious decision to esteem every person because of the-image bearing quality that each possesses.  In turn, this perspective is allowing me to perceive the dignity of every individual, regardless of his or her own personal belief system or lack of conformity to the image of God.

Walking in meekness is surfacing as a forgotten truth that I must follow if I am to effectively minister to all other human beings and accurately reflect the God Who begs me to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith [I am] called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” (Eph. 4:1-2).  

The outflow of wearing the garment of meekness has been blessing--including a heart touched by peace and joy that had eluded me for too long, being dwarfed by the enormous awareness of sin that I perceived about me.  Now, regardless of the depravity of the world—which only continues to get worse—this lovely garment of meekness can wrap its exquisite texture around my spirit, becoming part of my daily existence.  

In His Word, God explains one result of meekness in no uncertain terms:  “The merciful man doeth good to his own soul” (Prov. 11:17).  How blessed His transforming Word is!  How priceless!  I have now been made aware of my need to passionately embrace this truth, which for too long lay unseen as a need of my heart—to tangibly reflect the God Who is meek (Matthew 21:5), to wear the garment of meekness.  

Truly blessed--how happy--are the meek!