His Faithfulness Reaches to the Skies

I had the blessing of spending this morning just before sunrise alone on the beach. It surprised me that no one else was up. The beach was packed yesterday with spring break-goers, yet it was though this time had been reserved just for me. A gift.

I read from Psalm 108:1-6, reflecting on God’s faithfulness that reaches to the skies (Psalm 36:5-6).

It seems the more I know the Lord, the more I see how unworthy and sinful my heart is. Isn’t that just the opposite of what we would expect? The more we know Him, the better we are, we might think. But in reality, the more I come to know Him, the more I see my sinful heart and how faithless I am. This is my experience at least.

And through Him, the power of His Holy Spirit and His strength, we certainly are able to love and obey and serve and please Him, but this I find I truly cannot do on my own, in my own power, by my own strength. (The apostle Paul articulates these ideas far better in Romans and other parts of the New Testament!)

I walked the beach praising Him for HIS faithfulness, because I am not faithful. He does it all for us. He is the covenant maker and the covenant keeper. I think of what we just remembered with Good Friday and Easter Sunday, Jesus laying down His life for us, giving us His righteousness, we sinners, poor and needy, as the song says.

It was good to awaken with the dawn, to start the day in praise to Him for His steadfast love and faithfulness.

I found this commentary from Matthew Henry on Psalm 108:1-13 that so well describes some of what has been on my heart.

We may usefully select passages from different psalms… to help our devotions, and enliven our gratitude. When the heart is firm in faith and love, the tongue, being employed in grateful praises, is our glory. Every gift of the Lord honours and profits the possessor, as it is employed in God’s service and to his glory. Believers may pray with assured faith and hope, for all the blessings of salvation; which are secured to them by the faithful promise and covenant of God. Then let them expect from him help in every trouble, and victory in every conflict. Whatever we do, whatever we gain, God must have all the glory. Lord, visit all our souls with this salvation, with this favour which thou bearest to thy chosen people.

And I’ll end with this song which was filling my heart as I walked the beach.

Sing Praises

Psalm 47 is part of my daily Bible reading today, part of the plan for reading through the Bible in a year. As I read, “Sing praises to God, sing praises; Sing praises to our King, sing praises” (v.6), it reminded me of learning this verse one summer with a 6th grade Sunday school class that I taught. It was easy to learn and stuck with me.

Singing praises reminded me of the story in Acts 16 where Paul and Silas had been beaten and imprisoned, their feet fastened in the stocks (v. 22-24). In the midst of these circumstances, they were praying and singing hymns of praise to God (v. 25)! The prisoners were listening to them (v. 25). (Who is it that hears our praise? Might others also be impacted?)

Suddenly there was an earthquake and the prison was shaken, all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains were unfastened (v. 26). The jailer, roused from sleep, seeing the open doors, was preparing to kill himself thinking the prisoners had escaped (v. 27). But Paul cried out to let him know they were all there (v. 28). Trembling with fear, the jailer fell down before Paul and Silas, brought them out, and asked, “What must I do to be saved?” (v. 29-30).

Acts 16:31, Paul tells the jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” Paul and Silas then spoke the word of the Lord to him and all who were in his house (v. 32). The jailer washed their wounds, and he and his household were immediately baptized, having believed in God (v. 33-34).

I love this story, partly because it began with prayers and singing praise to God in a prison cell. Where do we find ourselves? In our situation, can we sing praise to God? As they prayed and sang hymns to God, “suddenly” the earthquake came and opened the doors and broke their chains, setting them free physically. And ultimately, the dramatic event was used by God to set the jailer and his household free spiritually as they believed in God. And I wonder, what might prayer and praise set me free of?

It’s not that it will automatically change my circumstances, but it might just change my heart in the midst of the circumstances as I focus my eyes on God and pray and praise Him. Do I ever really consistently do this to see what might happen? And not just to receive something, but first and primarily to give honor and glory to God, my King and Savior, the One whom I can trust no matter where I find myself.

I’m dropping in some songs below, ones that God has used to speak to me over the last couple of weeks, songs of encouragement and hope during my current season. They remind me that my present circumstances come from a loving God whom I can praise, even during difficult days, for He is worthy and has good plans for my life.

Progress, Not Perfection

This summer has provided more free time than I can ever remember, and it’s been a wonderful blessing. I’ve been able to make progress in several ways.

  • We’ve been eating better — more eating at home, less eating out.
  • I’ve been exercising, trying to walk every other day.
  • I’ve been enjoying time reading and updating the blog, writing a little more here or just in my journal.
  • Along with my mom, we’ve hosted a summer Bible study and daily benefited from studying the life of Gideon (Judges 6-8) together with a group of women of all ages.
  • I’ve been working less and doing a lot to prepare for a busy fall when school begins later this month.
  • We’ve taken care of dental visits and well checks for the kids.
  • We’ve started college visits!
  • We’ve done some traveling, seen extended family, and celebrated the life of my beloved uncle who went to be with the Lord.
  • We also celebrated birthdays and life in meaningful ways.

All in all, it’s been not only a good summer, but one in which I can see progress. You know the defeating saying, “two steps forward, three steps back”? I feel like for us, it’s been “three steps forward, two steps back” or some variation on that where we’ve moved forward and made progress, not perfectly, sometimes going back a little, but then surging ahead again. For this, I am thankful.

The ongoing process of sanctification (our ongoing growth in the Lord, being set apart for His use) is a good one, where the Lord is continuing His good work in us until its completion at the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

But it’s sometimes also a hard process! It seems to require our active participation, that we continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, trusting and waiting on God to do all that He has planned (Philippians 2:12-13). We don’t trust in the seen, but the unseen. We hope in God, resting in His promises revealed to us in His Word.  Sometimes we must wait to see how it will all work itself out.

So we trust Him, walk by faith, without sight, hoping and waiting in confident expectation that God will act on our behalf and finish the good work.

All of this, this sanctification is ongoing. We won’t be perfect here on earth, but we can make progress. And I am filled with hope that God will finish what He has started, and I look to him and find Him near on the journey as we walk by faith.

Is My Heart Really Yours, Lord?

As I was headed to Walmart a week or so ago, I was listening to this song in the car:

Some of the words:

“My heart is Yours, take it all, take it all, my life in Your hands.

I lay down my life, I take up my cross, Jesus,

you are my God, whatever the cost, Jesus.

All to Jesus I surrender, all to you I freely give.

All through Walmart, I hummed the tune still in my heart, said the words over and over, “All to Jesus I surrender, all to you I freely give, I lay down my life…” with thoughts of surrender. My mind was captivated with the song.

Until I arrived at the checkout. There was an abrupt interruption. There were long lines, and I was in a hurry with about 15-20 items. As I stood in line, a man came and just wedged his basket and pushed his body in front of my cart. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve had people ask if they could go in front of me if they only have a few items, but he just decided he was doing it because he only had a couple of things and I had more. (No, it wasn’t an express lane.)

My first reaction (only in my mind thankfully) wasn’t kind. I didn’t want to say, “Oh, sure, that’s fine. Go ahead.” But the moment my heart got ugly, the words of the song flashed back to my mind.

Really? Will you really surrender your whole life to Jesus, give your whole life to Him — oh, of course, except your place in line, right? I was convicted, shamed. I immediately welcomed his place there and struck up a conversation. He seemed needy for conversation, someone to talk to. I found out where he lived and told him about our church plant in that town. As he left, he thanked me for letting him get in line and told me it was nice to talk with someone.

Wasn’t that better than demanding my rights? I could have so easily missed the opportunity by being abrupt in response, ignoring him.

How very quickly my heart can go from willing to follow and love Jesus to getting irritated and wanting my way. It didn’t take long, but I was thankful for the conviction God gave in that moment to recognize it. I’m sure I often miss it. The words were just too fresh on my tongue to miss the inconsistency.

I’ve pondered this encounter a lot the last week. You’ll give up your life, but not your place in line? And if you don’t give up your place in line, are you really giving up your life? Things to keep considering.