Seven Perfect Words

In retrospect, I can see many events in my life that have had distinctive beginnings and endings. A few examples of those for me are schooling; jobs (I am retired, I think); and some relationships (my parents are both deceased). The only constant, the one ongoing reality, is God—and his sense of order and purpose.

Almost everyone knows at least something of the story of creation, even if they heard it long ago as a child in Sunday school, and have had no real contemplation of it since. Being once again at the start of a new year, I am again reading in Genesis, but I noticed something I have not before.

Were there to be a survey of the most remembered words in the story of creation in Genesis 1, my guess is the majority of those responses would be, “In the beginning…” That was certainly familiar to me as I read, yet another phrase grabbed my attention recently. And wouldn’t let go. The phrase is, “And it was so.” Together those two phrases seem to form seven perfect words, a message of completion. “In the beginning…And it was so.”

Without getting too mystical about it, it is a fact that certain numbers are used more frequently and with significance in the Bible. Some of those recurring numbers are 3,7,12 and 40. For example, the number seven correlates to the number of days of creation, even if God rested on the seventh (and by the way, the word rest in Hebrew in 2:2 of Genesis means not only to stop or cease but also to celebrate); many of Israel’s feast days were seven days long; and the Feast of Tabernacles and the Day of Atonement take place in the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar. Our own calendar still defines one week as seven days.

The phrase, “And it was so” in the reading is found in verses 7,9,11,15, 24 and 30 of the first chapter of Genesis (ESV). The verses and the wordage may depend on what Bible translation you are using. (Some others that I found use the phrase, “And that was what happened”, or “That is how it was”). These words and phrases share the same meaning—they reflect completion.

Charles Spurgeon, the prolific pastor and orator, opines in his Genesis 1 commentary on the phrase: “…what he has spoken shall certainly be fulfilled…These words are often repeated in this chapter. They convey to us the great lesson that the word of God is sure to be followed by the deed of God. He speaks, and it is done.”

The Psalmist also writes about this in Psalm 33:8-9. “Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.”

A New Testament scripture both confirms the Old and elaborates on the promise to us: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

And in Revelation 1:8, the concept of God’s complete plan is reiterated once more. “ ‘I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending’, says the Lord, which is and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” (KJV)

Interesting to note that the first scripture and the last scripture used in this blog are from Genesis, then Revelation. Just chance? No, just another confirmation of the order and perfection of God’s ways. I did not plan that in my outline. He is ceaselessly amazing!

The proclamation is true. In our lives now and in the future the Lord will do what he says he will do. In our lives too—it (will be) so.

Bookends, Bulwarks and Such

As a true bibliophile I love books, but also all things book related. Along with loving the appearance of books, you can add to the list the feel of them in my hands, and the smell of a new book is the sweetest perfume to me. If there is any other way to absorb them, I want to find it. I am besotted of anything book connected.

When I was younger I collected bookends to contain all my books. I recall scouring yard sales and on occasion, an estate sale, for treasures. One of my first sets was a pair of ceramic praying hands that were in the unfinished stage, which I painted a very pale blue and put to use. I don’t remember if these were found on one of my adventures or given in church camp or Sunday school, but there is a razor sharp memory of exactly how they looked. Sadly, many of my bookends are no longer with me, as downsizing and purging were necessary when we moved out of state.

The genres I enjoyed as a child were: Call of the Wild, Black Beauty, My Side of the Mountain, the Little House series, and many more. I have evolved to others as an adult, of course. I still enjoy an occasional biography or autobiography about how people learned, lived and survived, and a mystery by one of my favorite secular authors is hard to resist. But overwhelmingly, I find I am drawn to the Bible and books about the character and nature of God. The things of the spirit and Christian life are what I hunger for, and what comes first.

I have come to realize that the Lord is representative of my set of spiritual bookends. The Lord is my bulwark. He holds me in order, He keeps me upright, He surrounds me before and behind. Perhaps that is one thing that speaks to me so much in Hebrews 12:2, when it states: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” (NIV) The Lord started me on this journey of faith (first bookend), and He will complete my path (second bookend). The Amplified is further eye-opening and confirming when it says: “Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the leader and Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher…” (Zondervan, 1980 edition).

This was a concept David seemed to grasp, as he prays in Psalm 25:21: “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for and expect you.” And again his statement of faith in Psalm 7:10: “My defense and shield depend on God, Who saves the upright in heart.” Both the understanding of where David’s uprightness came from, and how God looked on uprightness of heart and living were seen clearly by him. And if anyone of us is unsure of what it means, God’s definition of what uprightness means can be found in countless scriptures in the Bible. It is woven throughout.

When I am feeling overwhelmed in general, when I am challenged by illness, or relationships, or making ends meet, when I am fearful and uncertain of my earthly future, my Bookends keep me safe. My Bulwark surrounds me. A bulwark is defined as something strong surrounding or supporting. Its purpose is to provide defense or protection; to fortify. Jesus is and does all of those things.

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“A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing”—Martin Luther, Hymn A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Wait-Fors and Expectations

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In years past, I made a New Years resolution right along with many people. Resolutions are nothing more than set goals with a new title. Some of my yearly goals I actually kept, but many more went by the wayside.

Over the last decade I have begun asking God to direct me to a specific Bible verse to stand on for each year. For example, as 2020 began and sequed into 2021 the scripture was Isaiah 33:6, in part “…and He will be the stability of your times…” We were not yet aware of Covid in January of 2020, but obviously God knew, and I was given the verse for comfort throughout that challenge. I sincerely needed that scripture to cling to as almost everything in our world was turned upside down.

In 2022, there were two scriptures that were graciously given to me for direction. One was, “Pray without ceasing.” I Thess. 5:17 Impossible to do intellectually but very attainable spiritually. I think our spirit prays all the time without our even knowing it. The second was, also in part, “…having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you…and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe…” Ephesians 1:18-19(a) God knew I would need to be reminded that the “eyes of my heart” were enlightened, and his “incomparably great power”was for me in the midst of some health and relationship challenges.

My 2023 supportive verses(s) seem to be leaning toward the concept of waiting. Wait-fors are never easy. All wait-fors are a blend of asperity wrapped in anticipation. We all groan a little when we have to be patient and watch. I remember as a child it seemed torturous to wait for birthdays, then the start of school and subsequently the start of summer break. My list grew with teen years as I waited for new friends, first date, and high school graduation. Adulthood brought the wait-fors of first “real” job, wedding day, children, college and career, grandchildren and yes, retirement. All goals, all resolutions in a sense.

Isaiah 25:9 says, “‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he would save us. This is the LORD; we waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.’” I will cling to that in 2023. Psalm 130:5 says, “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.” My hope for 2023 is grounded in the Bible.

There is a song that has been replaying in my mind lately. It comes from an old Scottish hymn, but has been recorded several times in variations—by Keith Getty, and Shane and Shane most recently. I cannot get the refrains out of my head, and it is appropriately named, I Will Wait. It is so good, I strongly suggest you give it a listen!

The refrains go like this: (1) “ I will wait for you, I will wait for you, On your word I will rely. I will wait for you, surely wait for you, until my soul is satisfied.” (2) “I will wait for you, I will wait for you, Through the storm and through the night. I will wait for you, surely wait for you, For your love is my delight.” This is my prayer for my New Year.

I am reminded that I should look with hope for whatever the Lord will do this year. I should have a feeling of anticipation, not gloom and doom. Whatever God exposes, creates or transforms in this world, or in me—it will be a good thing once completed. I want to please the Lord with the right attitude in this. We will know the favor of God if we do have the right mindset, because he says in Isaiah 30:18(b), “ For the LORD is a God of justice, blessed are ALL those who wait for him.” (emphasis mine). How valued by God is our waiting on him!

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“Prayer means not always talking to Him, but waiting before Him; waiting before Him until the dust settles and the stream runs clear.” -A.W. Tozer

The Gift of Presence

One of my most clear Christmas memories occurred when I was 10 years old. I vividly recall receiving a pretty blue robe, and the best thing, a new AM-FM transistor radio. A big deal for a 10 year old back then!

It is possible that I remember this so well because there was a photo of me taken by my parents that somehow did not get lost or damaged. Those visual aids strongly influence our memories.

It isn’t a big leap at this time of year to go from the idea of physical presents, to the deeper concept of spiritual presence. They do connect in a way. While raised in a Christian home, I was too young to fully recognize the amazing presence of God, but I saw it in the demonstration of my parents love and giving, and it has developed as an adult.

In reading through the Christmas story once again, I was drawn to the more peripheral characters involved. I noted Zechariah, who was a priest in the temple in the days that Jesus was conceived and born. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth had an encounter with the presence of the Lord during that time, and were chosen to be John the Baptist’s parents. In the flesh and blood sense, Jesus and John were related because their mothers were related. They all played a pivotal place in the Christmas story.

When the angel came to Zechariah and announced that he and his wife, Elisabeth, were going to have a son, Zechariah understandably had some doubts. (Luke 1:8-23) Number one, he was really old. Number two, an angel appeared and told him the news-not exactly an every day occurrence. To his credit Zechariah recognized that God was doing this, and even though he was mute for a time because of his initial disbelief, when John was born Zechariah by faith wrote on the tablet, “His name is John” (Luke 1:63) because the angel had instructed him so.

It would have been fascinating to know Zechariah’s thought processes during the time of John’s gestation. This experience would shake anyone up. In the same sense, what did Elisabeth think in this season of her life? The Bible indicates she recognized God’s presence and His work when she said, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me to take away my reproach among people.” Luke 1:25 (ESV)

Elisabeth also understood and felt God’s presence when she greeted Mary, who had come for a visit. Elisabeth had only to hear Mary’s voice, and her spirit and that of John, yet unborn, reacted to that anointing on Mary and the nearness of their Messiah. She knew that her relative was pregnant and carried Jesus. We probably all know her response by heart. “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” In her wonder, she also states: “And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Luke 1:42-43 (ESV) There was no previous indication that Elisabeth knew her relative was pregnant beforehand, and no record that they had visited recently. Mary was only three months pregnant at this time. The spirit revealed it to Elisabeth. What an encouragement this must have been to Mary! It was likely confirmation to her at a time she most needed it.

Another peripheral player but still very important was Simeon, known as a righteous and devout man. He had been praying for the Messiah to come for many years, who knows how long- but the Bible says the Holy Spirit was on him too. When Jesus was brought to the temple to present him to the Lord at eight days old, as was Jewish custom, Simeon was there. (Luke 2:22-35) And to Simeon’s joy, he recognized the Consolation of Israel indwelling the baby Jesus. No one anticipated the Messiah coming in this innocent, sweet little package, but by the spirit, Simeon saw. “‘Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation…’” vs. 29-30 (ESV) He had the ultimate visual aid right in front of him-in his arms as he held Jesus. I wonder if he knew that Jesus would die for him one day, and hold him in return?

This blog post has stirred questions in me. Do I recognize Jesus in this season beyond the manger scenes and songs about his birth in Bethlehem? Do I recognize the presence of the Lord every day? Can I say that I not only feel his presence, but see him at work? And if I see Jesus, do I have the reaction that Zechariah, Elisabeth, Simeon and the babe-in-womb John experienced? Oh, I want to! I look for it and I look for him.

It comforts my heart that the Lord promises, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matt. 5:8) The fact that my actions do not always prove pure, simply means I am a work in progress. The footnotes from my NIV Full Life Study Bible simply explains “pure” as someone who lives to please God, not themselves. And the word “see” in this verse is defined in Strong’s Concordance this way: to gaze with wide open eyes, as at something remarkable. My prayer is that you and I recognize his presence this holiday season and every day, so that we can devote ourselves even more to him!

“The whole of our life inside and out is to be absolutely haunted by the Presence of God.”- Oswald Chambers

A Different Thanksgiving Prayer

Each Thanksgiving I try to look at a different aspect of being thankful. This year I read the account of David’s acknowledgment of the deliverance of God in his life.

Psalm 18 was written as the pursuit of King Saul was drawing to a close, or had already been accomplished. Portions of the Psalm really stood out to me, beginning in verses 1-3. “ ‘I love you, O LORD, my strength.’ The LORD is my rock and fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.”

David frequently uses a combination of honest dialogue with God interspersed with praise for who God is and what He has done throughout his Psalms. I have a soft spot in my heart for this book of the Bible. In our vernacular today, we might say it’s real! And it is.

Verses 16-19 describe how David saw the deliverance of God during this time in his life. Remember that King Saul was trying to kill David because he felt his position was threatened. “He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.” (It seems that many in society find it easy to be offended or hate, even without justifiable reason.) “They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my stay.”

David often seems to be giving testimony about God to remind himself of God’s character. I have found myself doing this in my prayers too, and it is a type of worship to the Lord and edification of Him. If you do this too, you understand it restates our faith in who we follow.

While there are many gorgeous verses in this Psalm, I have shared the specific ones that remind me today who and what most satisfies and completes me.

The last verse is perhaps the best of all. Verse 49 stirs in me a desire to proclaim my joy in God. “Therefore I will give thanks to You among the nations, O LORD, and I will sing praises to Your name.”

Have a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving, and remember with me just how much materially, relationally, and spiritually we have been given.

Penchant for Pockets

When I was a little girl my mother sewed most of my clothes. She was a good seamstress, and I liked what she made for me. I did not care about color or style when I was little, as long as there were pockets. Not just in pants or coats, as was typical at that time, but in ALL of my clothes-shirts, dresses, skirts, and robes. I just loved pockets!

Pockets (also purses, little sacks, and zipper pouches) were like gold to me. They are practical, giving you a place to squirrel away spare change, cough drops, gum, maybe a hair band or comb. Now as an adult, pockets are useful for keys, cell phones and a debit card.

In reverie, I smiled as I remembered my homemade clothing made with love. Then I began to think more broadly about pockets in my life. I still prefer articles of clothing with plenty of places to stash things, but what of the spiritual principle here? Is there an application to my spiritual life?

I think it is likely that the heart is a type of pocket. The question is do I tuck away things that should not be in there, do I try to hide things from God that are not holy or beneficial to my growth? Or do I allow Him to see into my heart and show me what needs to come out of that pocket, or conversely, what needs to be encouraged to reside there? He also shows us godly dreams and hopes in our hearts that we may not even realize are there. Things in which we may want to serve God, and things we will do in some capacity. “The LORD is near to all who call on him, who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him..” (Psalm 145:18&19a, ESV)

We tend to react in fear when we think about buried things being revealed in us. But we needn’t do so-no one loves us like God loves us. (There is a big difference between feeling condemnation and conviction during the excavation process.) It’s always better to stay open to the Holy Spirit and receive the quality pocket tools needed to navigate this life.

Things that are stuffed down inside limit our ability to use those tools. Hurts, willfulness to have our own way and not admit it, and little indulgences that need to be acknowledged, cleaned out and healed. God wants us to be healthy and free, so He puts His finger on things that rob us.

The apostle Peter is a good example of this. He was outspoken, brash, and probably lacking in social graces. Peter also tended to think more highly of himself than was good for him, and I think he tended to rely on his own strength. So in John 13 when Jesus tells the disciples they ”cannot follow now” where He is going, Peter questions why not, and states emphatically that he would “…lay down my life for you.” Peter did not clearly see that his attitudes and motives were out of order here, so Jesus reveals what would happen so Peter could see it. “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.” (verses 36-38 ESV)

Peter needed to be challenged, to see what was really in his heart so that he could be changed and used in the forming of the Christian church. As painful as this was for Peter, (and I cringe every time I think of this passage), it had to be done. God still reveals things to us, both painful and amazing, to glorify Himself. A pocket of Peter’s heart became known to Peter through the great grace of Jesus.

I don’t want to love pockets if it means I love the treasures in them more than God. Or if I am attempting to hide something away from Him, were that even possible. I want the secret places of my heart to be full of light, and full of purpose, to give glory to God alone!

So let’s be courageous together. Look and see what the Lord shows you is there. It’s life to us. Allow Him to blow out the pocket lint, to review the treasures, and love Him even more through the examination.

“He is the Source of all illumination. The light of day, the light of earthly happiness, the light of reason, the light of conscience, the light of revelation all are from Him.”- W. Gilson Humphrey, scholar, Trinity College-Cambridge

Misdirection

Navigating the highways and byways of life can be tricky. Life surprises you sometimes. One example of this is when you are driving on an unfamiliar road and a road closure sign pops up, giving you barely sufficient time to adjust your trajectory. Or there is a bend in the road and coming around it you see a car muffler lying in the middle of the lane. Or even when you notice a highway patrolman scanning for speeders, and you realize you were going seventy in a fifty-five. At those times there can be the need for a split second decision. This is a small part of a normal life existence.

Most of us have experienced detours in our driving history. The frustrating thing about detours is that once you begin following one, you have no idea how long it will be or how far you will deviate from your route. Once or twice I recall seeing a sign indicating how many miles the detour will be, but those signs are few and far between. When detours interrupt, we sigh and mutter, “Oh great.”

Still with a nod to the driving theme, this is applicable to our spiritual life as well. Believers can be brought up short when God allows something to happen that is unforeseen. When what you don’t think will ever happen does. Or vice versa. The best response to that dilemma is to remember when we don’t know, God does.

It’s safest and best for us to consider spiritual detours that way. Safe, because it keeps us from losing precious time being scandalized over it. Best, because we grow in trust. If our life ends up going in a different direction than we expected, we need to rest in the divine Planner. In the same way, if someone we love appears to make a poor choice outside of godly boundaries, we can trust the great Navigator to correct that right of way.

The Bible says that God longs to be gracious to us, even in difficulty, and I think one way this is shown is His willingness to show mercy and direct us. Isaiah chapter 30 describes this grace, and says in part, “…though the Lord give you the bread of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” (vs. 20-21)

When I was in my late twenties, I discovered my first round-a-bout. For those of you who are unfamiliar, a round-a-bout is a road laid out like a wheel with streets like spokes going off that central wheel hub. The center, or hub, is a one way street going counter clockwise with only right turn offs allowed to prevent collisions. So basically, you can keep going around the wheel, or you can turn off at any of the right turning spokes. I remember thinking, “This is weird,” experiencing my introductory go around, but I could see the store destination, and I managed to arrive there successfully.

In the spiritual sense, I do not admit to immediate success in my spiritual round-a-bouts. Sometimes I keep going around the hub of that wheel. That scenery can get real tiresome until I realize which spoke of the wheel I need to follow. The Lord patiently waits and redirects until I see where he wants me to go.

When God brought the captive Israelites out of Egypt, He did not take them the shortest, most direct way. In Exodus 13:17-18, the verses show that because God knew how they would react to the shortest (and realistically preferable) route, He took them another way. Their enemies the Philistines resided in the path of the shortest route. “For God said, ‘Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.’ But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea.” (vs.17b-18a) God was also going to purify the Israelites during this great journey, and purification takes time.

In our lives, the result of too many detours or failed round-a-bouts can feel like stalling out. When we get frustrated and weary at all the difficulties and seemingly real or imagined wrong turns. (Often, the seeming wrong turns aren’t wrong turns at all, but God’s directive). But the frustration really just gets in the way, and I have realized I must learn how to handle the additional miles as well as that weary, run out of gas or stalled altogether feeling. By and with God’s mercy and patience.

We are NOT misdirected if we ask for and follow the Lord’s leading to the best of our ability. A beautiful promise in the Bible says, “In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:6) Maybe we should write that on a sticky note and put it on our dashboard as a good reminder of His ever present direction!

“God does not call us to follow His commands to their logical conclusion. He calls us to follow them to their illogical result.”-Brian Logue

All Sufficient God

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When I have read about Elijah and the widow at Zarephath in the past, I have thought it an interesting story. But my interpretation of what the widow was facing, and how she faced it was short-sighted. My take on it is a bit different this time around.

In 1 Kings 17, Elijah the prophet is nearing his last days on earth, and there has been a severe drought and famine in the land. For a time Elijah has lived by a brook and was being fed by ravens sent by God. (Amazing thought in itself.) After awhile the brook dries up so Elijah is told by God to find lodging with a widow woman in the city.

When Elijah meets the widow, she, like almost everyone else at this time, is slowly starving to death. He asks her for water and “a morsel of bread in your hand.”(vs. 10-11) The widow responds by going to get Elijah some water but adding, “I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” (vs. 12)

In reading this narrative previously, I thought “Wow, kind a defeatist attitude!” But I see now that the woman was merely being realistic. There was simply no more food, and nowhere to get any more. The famine was so severe that there was no remedy.

I don’t believe the statement she made was said with bitterness. When I look deeper at this widow, I see something more.

She had Courage: She planned to make a last meal from a “handful of flour and a little oil”. Wouldn’t most of us in this same situation just say, “Oh forget it, why bother?” Now, that would be defeatist! But the widow was looking at death as bravely as she could.

She had a heart of Obedience: She took the very small amount of supply she and her son had—not enough for two people, let alone three—and she made bread and gave it to Elijah, FIRST. Because he asked, which would have been a huge trial of faith on her part. The widow tithed, in essence, to God’s representative.

She understood Giving: She gave to her guest before she and her son ate, knowing full well “this is it, all we have.” (It is thought by some scholars that her son was sick at this point, not just slowly starving.) The widow was willing even then to share whatever she had, enough or not enough.

And look what God did! Elijah tells her not to fear, that if she makes him food, God would take care of her and her son throughout the drought. “For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’” (vs. 14)

Was God showing the widow He was enough? Yes. Was He building her faith and blessing her right attitude? Yes. There is a lot going on in this tale of the widow of Zarephath—she struggles with provisions, with trust in God, and with this prophet who has entered her home. But she does what she should do, she does the right thing—even in full face of the starvation and death of her son—and God heals her son and is sufficient for them both.

Where we think there isn’t enough, He multiplies. The widows lack of resources in 1 Kings is one example. Another is in the gospels, where Jesus feeds the 5,000. Think of the loaves and fish, five and two. The disciples thought of those five and two. Their perception was put into words we all would have been thinking. Andrew said, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what is that among so many?” (John 6:9) But we know how that dilemma ends. Jesus created more from a little, plenty from not enough.

Our God is sufficient, enough, and MORE than enough for us! “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God…” 2 Corinthians 3:4-5

Restoring the Broken

I can’t tell you how relieved I am to know that the Lord is a repairer of all things broken.

It is not difficult to identify broken things in our world. Governments that mislead, businesses that don’t flourish, health care that isn’t enough, and most certainly people that are walking wounded. For centuries, mankind has struggled to create infrastructures and entities that succeed long term, and provide sources of income and provisions so that people can be properly cared for and thrive.

This whole thought process started as I was reflecting on what a throw-away society we tend to be. It is difficult to even find someone who will repair things anymore, we simply toss the broken items out (in our sadly overfilled waste dumps) and buy new.

There was a shoe repair shop in our hometown that my hubby and I frequented in our earlier years that no longer stands. The cobbler was extremely good at his craft. It was much cheaper to re-sole a pair of shoes than buy new, and the rest of the shoes were perfectly fine. Another example. I recently considered buying a new mini-grill because my old one was making some mysterious noises (I do too), but I realized the grill still worked well, so I’m holding on to it. Yet another example. One of my Bibles is decades old, with pages loose and some of the maps missing, but it has great notes in it, and it hasn’t been “revised” many times over! I’m keeping it.

God is not a throw-away God. He repairs, restores and transforms.

In Isaiah 58, the chapter addresses proper choices and observances. Part of it speaks of the right attitude when a person chooses to fast. In the last few verses the chapter indicates the results of good choices, observances and attitudes. Specifically, it says: “And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.” (vs. 12, ESV).

If you’ve ever seen a old piece of furniture being restored, or had the satisfaction of doing a restoration yourself, you know the thrill of seeing all the old, tired layers of paint and stain being stripped off, and the gorgeous tones of rich wood begin to shine through. That is how God works as Repairer and Restorer in our lives. He sees value underneath the worn and tired.

Further on in the book of Isaiah, chapter 61 speaks of Jesus and the good news he brings, how he will bring liberty and gladness to worn and tired Zion. Verse 4 in particular describes, “They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.”

Maybe you can apply this more directly to some relationships in your life. Perhaps you have made some mistakes with a friendship and you don’t know how to fix it. Maybe you have a family member that has trouble relating to people and it has caused you pain or the loss of potential or existing friendships. God can and will transform those relationships; if you are praying and trusting, He is at work. He is a healer of the bruises and restorer of the breaches in your life.

Matthew 4:23 says that when Jesus walked the earth and lived with his disciples among the people, he taught in the synagogues, preached the gospel of the kingdom, and healed “all manner of of sickness and disease among the people.” (KJV) It is interesting that “manner” is an Old Testament word used in the New Testament in this reference, according to Strong’s Concordance. It means: a road or course of life, among other definitions.

We can trust that the Jesus who taught, preached and healed back then, still does so today. And, He does so along our course of life in every way—physically, mentally or emotionally in every situation that we need it!

The Perfect Gift of Light

During a family trip over twenty years ago, we experienced first hand just how dark darkness could get-but my husband in particular experienced it. While traveling through Pennsylvania along the turnpike with our two boys, we approached a tunnel going through the mountains. There was quite a bit of traffic and multiple signs to be aware of, so my husband missed the sign close to the entrance which said “Remove sunglasses.” The tunnel seemed many miles long, and during it the boys and I chattered but my husband was mysteriously quiet. Once we were out of the unnerving passage, my husband said, “Thank God, I was freaking out in there. I couldn’t see a thing!”

I came across a biblical application to the concept of light vs. darkness, and good things, while reading the first chapter of James. It speaks of the Father of lights who brings good gifts. I am immensely thankful for the gift of light in my spiritual life, so I can see clearly right and wrong, light and darkness. So that I can see where the Lord wants to transform my thinking, my actions, and my speech.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17 (ESV)

The beginning of the verse seems to state the obvious-that God gives good and perfect gifts. But do we really understand, or more importantly, embrace what this promise gives us? It offers complete rest if we will take it, a respite from dark doubts that like to swirl around inside our brains, and from striving to get ourselves things. God can only give good and perfect things to us. And His gifts are perfect, because they work to perfect us where we are. We just don’t always recognize them as gifts.

The second part of the verse says, “…coming down from the Father of lights..” I don’t think it is insignificant that the first thing God created was light. “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.” Genesis 1:3-4 (ESV)

Light is imperative to our existence today. We have electrical light in our homes and buildings, headlights on our cars, street lights on tall poles that illuminate roads so we can navigate safely. These lights are, however, imperfect. Even if we have every light on in our homes there are shadows- behind a desk, under a bookshelf, or in a lonely corner. Headlights and street lights only show us so much, but God’s light cuts through everything.

The last part of James 1:17 describes that in God, “…there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (ESV) I do find the AMPC translation interesting here. It says, “…in Whom there can be no variation [rising or setting] or shadow cast by His turning [as in an eclipse].” What a great example of the difference between our light here and God’s light. It reminds us that the rising and setting of the sun affects our vision, just as an eclipse will affect it.

Nothing can hinder God’s light. John 1:5 states, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” The verse doesn’t use the word “but” as a connecting word, it uses “and”. It isn’t negating that there is darkness, only that perfect light dissolves it. As society seems to get more convoluted and foggy, this is our promise!

Many times over the years my husband and I have laughed about the “tunnel experience” in Pennsylvania. It was a double whammy-a dark passage and sunglasses. They do not go together, we have learned. But Who was waiting at the end of that tunnel? God—with His gift of light! One of His best gifts I think.

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