Scripture Journal Challenge: When I Can’t Trace His Hand I Trust His Heart

No matter how much we love someone, we will eventually fail them somehow.

I know I recite my failure as a mother quite often-usually when I’m tired, weak, stressed and especially burdened with this grief I haul around like a bag of bricks every day.

So it’s hard for me to comprehend the unfailing, faithful, never-ending, compassionate love of God.

But it’s true whether I can wrap my mind around it or not: God’s love never fails.

That’s the message Jeremiah was tasked to deliver to Israel in the midst of some very awful circumstances.

They had really messed up. And they were going to reap the consequences of their sin.

It was going to hurt.

But God had not abandoned them. He had not forgotten them. He had not stopped loving them.

31 For no one is cast off
    by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
    so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
    or grief to anyone.

Lamentations 3:31-33 NIV

The God I serve and Israel served is a compassionate God.

He is so very compassionate (which means to suffer alongside) that He chose to send His Son to take our sins, to receive our punishment, to pay the penalty and redeem us for Himself.

Grief is part of this life.

Before Jesus lived on earth, suffered, died and was resurrected, grief was part of the ongoing penalty of sin.

So Israel was punished when she turned from her true Husband and ran after idols and foreign gods.

Now, the penalty has been paid. Yet grief remains.

Our enemy the devil works evil in the world. People’s sinful choices result in death and destruction. The whole earth groans under the general burden of sin which means genes mutate, disease runs rampant and our bodies fail.

God does not always intervene.

But He always comes alongside.

He always offers comfort and promises that grief doesn’t last forever.

He takes those evil things, the broken things, the painful things and the hard things and weaves them into a beautiful tapestry that will eventually reveal His faithfulness, goodness, love and glory.

QUESTIONS:

  • I’ve written before about whether or not grief and loss is a punishment from God. Yet these verses plainly state, “though He brings grief”. How do you explain them to your own heart? Have you thought through and developed a consistent theology that both acknowledges the truth that in the OT God DID bring grief (punishment) on His people for their sins and that in the NT God, through Christ, has taken all the punishment for every sin? (For more on this, read this post: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/01/15/is-god-punishing-me/)
  • Have you ever felt God was suffering alongside you? Do you think God suffers at all?
  • Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd. Most of His followers would have firsthand knowledge of the sacrifices a good shepherd makes for his sheep. That’s not something many of us know much about these days. Can you paint your own word picture of unfailing love?
  • Have you confronted the question of why evil exists, why pain is persistent, why death and destruction still reign? Are you afraid to go there? Why or why not?
  • I used to embroider quite a bit and really love the Corrie Ten Boom poem cited above because I understand it well. The top side of my work was lovely (most of the time!) but the underside was awful! Do you have confidence that God is weaving ALL the things in your life into a tapestry that will eventually reveal how even the dark and ugly experiences, feelings and heartache work together to make a beautiful piece of art? (See Ephesians 2:10)

PRAYER:

Father God, Thank you that I live this side of Calvary!

Thank You that although this life is filled with sorrow and pain I can rest assured that if I’ve received Your gift of forgiveness through Christ You are not punishing me for some forgotten sin. Thank You for your unfailing, faithful, compassionate love.

Help me to remember in the darkest moments, the most desolate path, the deepest pit You are there. Over and over and over You remind my heart that I am not alone. When I can’t comprehend how You might weave the next dark thread into the tapestry of my life, help me trust You anyway.

You are the Master Weaver. You are the Potter. Give me a willing heart to yield to Your work in my life.

Amen

I

Scripture Journal Challenge: Safe In My Daddy’s Arms

When I was a little girl my family made a yearly pilgrimage to the white sand and clear water beaches in Florida.

We were allowed to wade out on our own as high as our waist while the adults talked and sunbathed on shore. If we wanted to go deeper, even for those of us who were good swimmers, we had to wait for the grown ups to join us.

I have a vivid memory of one sunny day when the waves were rolling in and my six-foot-tall dad was standing neck deep in the Gulf. I was a little closer to shore and decided to join him.

My young mind didn’t do the math between my short self and his taller one and stepped off an underwater ledge into water way over my head. I panicked when I realized there was no way for me to save myself.

In a flash, Papa’s strong arms scooped me up and held me close.

As quickly as fear set in, it vanished because I knew he wouldn’t let me go until I could safely set my own feet down in shallower water.

My daddy wasn’t about to let anything happen to me.

I think about that summer moment nearly every time I read today’s verses.

But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.

Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.

10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Isaiah 41: 8-10 KJV

God assures Israel (the nation) that He chose them. He cherishes them. He has called them and He will never forget nor forsake them.

It’s a beautiful thing to know that just like Israel, those of us who have been grafted in by the blood of Christ are also heirs together of these promises. (Ephesians 3:6; Romans 11:17)

If you have received the gift of eternal life through Jesus, you can be absolutely assured that God is your Father . He chose you in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). He will always take care of you.

Fear is a reasonable response to a situation outside our control.

It wasn’t silly for me to be afraid when my head went underwater and I despaired of saving myself.

When God tells me in His Word to “fear not!” it isn’t a rebuke. It’s encouragement.

God is my Father, He loves me so He says, “Don’t be afraid, don’t be dismayed”.

Why? Because He is with me.

As soon as my dad’s arms reached around me, fear fled. I was safe.

And if my earthly father’s strength and love was enough to allay my fears, how much more should my fears flee in the face of the strength, love and power of my Heavenly Father?

There are so many times I am afraid in this life.

So many times when things are out of control and beyond my comprehension. So many ways life goes wrong and I feel like they will never be made right.

But when I stop and point my heart in the direction of these promises, I can hold onto hope in spite of my fear.

Because my daddy has his arms around me.

Homesick

desire-for-another-world-c-s-lewis

Forty years!  

Forty years Israel wandered in the desert, unable to claim the promise given them through Moses.

Forty years forbidden to set foot across the Jordan and partake of the bounty that lay on the other side.

Forty years of death as the rebellious ones were laid to rest because of their rebellion.

I bet they got tired of traveling.  I bet they were weary of moving on.  I bet they wondered (even though they had sure knowledge) just when this would be over.

And all that time, even in the midst of their heartsick longing to go back, have a do-over, make it right and the heavy weight of knowing, knowing, knowing there would be no going back, the LORD was in their midst-a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night-He was there.

I understand completely.  

Sundown yesterday began the  Feast of Tabernacles for Jews around the world.  It’s a seven day period to celebrate God’s faithfulness in the wilderness and to remember that this world is not our home.

Feast of Tabernacles Transp.png

I think it is a beautiful tradition and a wonderful way to speak truth to our hearts.

Because it’s easy to forget.  

Unless something happens that sharpens the homesick longing that lies latent in all our hearts, it’s easy to get comfortable here. Life seems pretty good-we gather our people and our stuff around us and think, “I could stay here forever.”

But no one stays here forever. 

This world is not my home.  

It never has been.

And I am tired of traveling.  I am tired of moving on.  I wonder just when this is going to be over.

But even here, God is in the midst of it.  

Emmanuel-God With Us-is near.

Jehovah-Shalom-The LORD My Peace-is speaking peace that passes understanding to my weary spirit.

I was created for a place where love and light reign and sickness and death cannot enter.

I feel it every day.  

“I began to try to define the pain I felt. Yes, it was sorrow, but it was something more, something infinitely deeper. I felt it all the time, even when I was happy. It wasn’t just sorrow. It was a longing; a pining for a better place and time … no, not just a better place and time, a perfect place and time; a different reality. It felt like longing for home, but not for a home I had ever been to. I began to see that it was something like homesickness …. Perhaps Christians are the most consistently homesick people in the world because they know this world (as it is) isn’t their true home. Yes, I was home, but I was still homesick.”
~Elyse Fitzpatrick, Home

 

Eternal Atonement: Hallelu Yah!

The Fall Feasts of Israel are a beautiful reminder of Who God is and what Christ has done for us.

Beginning this evening and continuing until sunset tomorrow, Jews around the world are observing Yom Kippur  or The Day of Atonement.

According to Scripture (Leviticus 16),  The Day of Atonement was commanded by God for Israel to remember the terrible debt of sin and the only acceptable payment–blood.

The high priest would enter the Holy of Holies and apply blood to the horns of the mercy seat, thus covering over for another year the individual and corporate sin of Israel.

holyholies

According to Jewish tradition, God inscribes each person’s fate for the coming year into a book, the Book of Life, on Rosh Hashanah, and waits until Yom Kippur to “seal” the verdict. During the Days of Awe, a Jew tries to amend his or her behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God and against other human beings. The evening and day of Yom Kippur are set aside for public and private petitions and confessions of guilt.  At the end of Yom Kippur, one hopes that they have been forgiven by God.

Yet year after year, this sacrifice was not enough. 

The blood of animals is insufficient to pay the debt owed by men to a perfect and holy God.

But the blood of the Perfect Lamb, Jesus Christ, has completely paid the debt I owe-I no longer cower in the shadow of my sin.

When I chose to apply that blood to my heart by faith, I was made right with the LORD.

As a believer in Jesus the Christ, I have a High Priest that has offered His own blood as the Perfect Sacrifice once for all (Hebrews 9).

I can rest assured that I’m  not sealed only for a day, or even a year, but for all eternity!

Because Jesus is the eternal and sufficient propitiation for my sins, I need not fear death.

It is sin which gives death its power, and it is the Law which gives sin its strength. All thanks to God, then, who gives us the victory over these things through our Lord Jesus Christ!

I Corinthians 15:55-57 PHILLIPS

We do not have to bring a sacrifice to the altar and hope that our sins are forgiven.  The Law holds no power over us who believe-Jesus fulfilled its every obligation.

But it is a good thing to take a day to reflect on the cost and the gift

Too often we grasp the gift and forget its cost. 

Today, remember what the LORD has done for you.  Remember the burden He lifted by His sacrifice.  Remember His claim on your life–the life He purchased with His blood.

revelation-5_9

Remember.

If you are withholding grace and forgivenessremember, and repentgive to others what God has graciously given to you.

If you are walking outside the will of God for your liferemember and repent-fall back in step behind the Lord Jesus and let Him guide you.

If you are dabbling in sinremember and repent-turn from your wickedness and back to holiness.

Remember and be thankful.  

“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.”  

~Psalm 32:1