Five Minute Friday: Rest

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Ten years.

A decade.

Sometimes it feels like eternity. Sometimes it feels like a few months. There are ups and downs, twists and turns. Marriage. It’s nothing like I thought it would be. Not better. Not worse. Different. In all the right ways.

Marriage is work. Marriage is mystery. Marriage is laughter and tears and empty bank accounts and cold nights made warm by the presence of another. Marriage is lighting candles because that will make your husband feel good when he comes home from work. Marriage is sitting, wrapped up in a blanket, fighting nausea while your husband brushes your hair.

Marriage is a holy thing.

Chris, I’m glad to walking this weird, wonky, wonderful road with you.

Go.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are My ways higher than your ways
    and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

– Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV)

I am arrested by these words recorded by the prophet.

This portion of the Isaianic corpus concludes with a divine invitation. It is an invitation of grace, to receive lifegiving water free of charge. It recalls Yahweh’s earlier provision of manna and water in the desert and foreshadows the One who said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink” (Jn 7:37).

Vv. 6-7 are a final appeal to the exiles to seek Yahweh and return to him. Vv. 8-9 remind the people that their deliverance is beyond human comprehension. God’s word has promised it. It will not return void. We recall the opening verses of this portion of the book of Isaiah, “The word of our God stands forever” (40:8).

The prophet concludes this section by announcing and celebrating the departure from exile. Again, this act of deliverance will cause all creation to join in the celebration, and restored Israel will stand as an everlasting sign to all the nations that Yahweh is faithful to His covenant. – Asbury Bible Commentary (under the “study this” tab)

“Yahweh is faithful to His covenant.”

In the middle of the swirling, soupy clouds that so often block our vision, He clears a path. A space. He bids us come and sit with Him.

And there is rest.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Jan Schulz

An Embarrassment of Weeping

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com (2)

Gentle Reader,

I made an idiot out of myself during church yesterday.

Instead of a sermon, my pastor gave everyone in attendance time and space to speak about what God has been doing in our lives. His stated goal was to “make much of Jesus.” I listened as others praised Him for His goodness and provision or shared prayer needs, chewing my lower lip and staring at my Bible. Despite maternal Pentecostal roots, I’m not really one to get expressive during church. Sometimes I’ll raise my hands during a song or groove to the beat, but that’s about it.

I really wanted to take part in glorifying the Lord, though. I wanted to share how He’s been taking me back to these words time and time again over the last two years:

This is the reason why we never collapse. The outward man does indeed suffer wear and tear, but every day the inward man receives fresh strength. These little troubles (which are really so transitory) are winning for us a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to our pain. For we are looking all the time not at the visible things but at the invisible. The visible things are transitory: it is the invisible things that are really permanent.

– 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (PHILLIPS)

I wanted to be encouraging. So, with the fluttering heart and shallow breath and sweaty palms that strike any time I gather the courage to speak publicly (a rare occurrence), I stood.

And promptly started to cry.

I’m not a crier in general, and I certainly don’t cry in front of strangers. Nevertheless, mascara-streaked mess was I.

Almost immediately I began to berate myself internally. Nobody wants to see this! Who do you think you are? Why would anyone want to hear a thing you have to say? All aboard the Negativity Express. But (and when it comes to learning how to walk this road of faith, the “buts” are holy stops along the way) this time I took all of that and spread it out before the Lord. I asked if this sense of needing to shut up and sit down was from Him.

In response, He led me here:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

– Isaiah 61:1-3 (NKJV)

This is a Messianic passage, fulfilled by and in Christ Jesus. He even read the first two verses in the Nazareth synagogue at the beginning of His public ministry (Luke 4:17-21). I pondered why God would bring these words to my mind as a way of answering my question. It struck me that just as Jesus was about His Father’s business, so are we to be. Is this passage not the Great Commission explained? We preach, we proclaim, we comfort. We do all of this in the power and grace of the Holy Spirit.

That took me back to 2 Corinthians 4:

This priceless treasure we hold, so to speak, in a common earthenware jar—to show that the splendid power of it belongs to God and not to us.

– vs. 7 (PHILLIPS)

Those common earthenware jars? Sometimes they leak.

So I have this Spirit inside of me, the very presence of the Living God. But I’m a weak and broken thing. I don’t always have the right words or the right way. Apparently I get up and cry in front of people. That’s a thing I do. I could take the familiar route of shame, shoulders slumped and head hung low. Instead I’m attempting a new perspective. Maybe, just maybe, someone in that room was comforted in witnessing my desire to please God but my total inability to do so in a coherent way. Maybe the mess I was in trying to be bold will encourage her to be bold at another time. And God will be glorified, because that’s the point, tears or not.

I think He smiles upon our efforts to do as He wills. I think He accepts that we are like newly-mobile toddlers attempting to walk on sand. I don’t know why I cried. I think I was just overcome with thankfulness. I do know that He doesn’t condemn me for it, nor does He condemn you, dear one, for the messy ways your love and obedience come out. He just wants that willingness. Things like results and responses are in His hands.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Crafty Creative Kathy

The LORD Your God in Your Midst: Introduction

The Lord your God in your midst,The Mighty One, will save;He will rejoice over you with gladness,He will quiet you with His love,He will rejoice over you with singing.” (1)

Gentle Reader,

God.

Prophets, priests and kings.

Consequences and disaster.

Renewal.

Divine music.

We’re about to take a trip through the pages of Zephaniah.

I have no agenda beyond learning from and about the Lord and growing in love for Him. I’m in no rush. There are riches for us to mine in these three short chapters. Warnings and wonder. Doom and delight.

Up front:

  1. I am not the best or brightest Bible study author you’ll ever come across. Please consult others. Jot down my opinions in the lightest of pencil. Search the Scriptures for yourself.
  2. I don’t believe that the Church has replaced Israel. The historical setting of this book plays a significant role in our study.
  3. The prophecies contained in Zephaniah had an immediate fulfillment. They also have a future fulfillment. This is okay. Layers are good.
  4. I’m not Reformed. If you’re looking for predestination in every line, go elsewhere with my blessing.
  5. I’m not Complementarian, so I don’t write to or for women. Welcome, all.
  6. I have a high view of Scripture. It is a reliable record of people that really existed and events that really happened.
  7. Please interact! Questions and comments are encouraged. I may not have time to respond to every single one, but I’ll try. Just be sure to keep civil tongues in your heads.

As a way of dipping our toes into the water, consider:

Zephaniah understood this judgment was inevitable and pointed to the coming [D]ay of the Lord. He pictured the coming judgment on the nation of Judah and the Gentiles, but he then indicates that the Day of the Lord would also bring deliverance for Israel and the Gentiles. – Hampton Keathley IV

Judgment and deliverance coupled together in the mysterious outworking of grace.

As only God can.

Until next time.

My journey to faith. (15)

For all entries in The LORD Your God in Your Midst series, go here.