Angel Army

I had the opportunity to contribute a blog post for 31 days of Halloween on the blog, mnbernardbooks.wordpress.com. 
Each writer picked a “creature” and wrote about it in any style they wanted. I chose angels and wrote a story loosely based on an experience I had in high school. Enjoy!

https://mnbernardbooks.wordpress.com/2017/10/16/angels/

The door of the yellow Chevette came swinging back toward the passenger in response to the swift kick she’d given it.  Throwing out her acid-washed denim covered leg, she stepped out and thrust her right hip against the door, swiveling to grab her bags.

“You really need to get this door fixed,” she said to the driver.

“I know,” yawned her friend. “My dad said he’d look at it one of these days.”

“Am I the only one who mentions it?”

“You’re the only one who complains about it.”

“Figures. Thanks for the ride.”

“Sure. See you tomorrow. And don’t forget I want to borrow that dress you bought tonight.”

“I suppose it’s the least I can do for free taxi service.” She kicked the door behind her with her left foot and headed for the entrance to her building.

Evening air blew crispy leaves across her path as she made her way to the building entrance. Her tall blonde bangs bent back at the winds’ pressure. The royal blue discs hanging from her earlobes fluttered in the breeze. Standing under the building’s only light, she piled her belongings under her left arm and reached for the door. Cool metal felt good on her hand as she pulled open the door and entered the building heated in a temperature a bit too ambitious for the season.

The stench of stale urine gripped her nostrils. Sighing she wondered when the manager would ever wash away the stream that had dried days ago between the first and second floor landings. She dragged her tired body up the three flights of stairs stopping at the door that would take her to the third floor hallway. Her eyes rested on the walls of the landing, taking a minute to register. Their dull white shone in superficial brightness against the rich red gloss splattered across them.

From the left wall the spray traveled over the hallway door and onto the right wall where it stopped and hung in three strands halfway down before drying midstream.

She slowly let out the breath she’d been holding as she looked from side to side at the scene in front of her. Just mere feet from her stood the door to the small two-bedroom apartment she shared with her mom and younger sister. The problem lay in the fact that it was behind the door she now stood in front of, and not knowing what might be waiting on the other side caused overwhelming anxiety.

She looked behind her at the three flights she’d just climbed. Should she turn around and go back down? And then what? Back outside into the darkness to whomever might be waiting to finish what they started? Unsure of what to do, the seconds crept by. Her pulse quickened, and she could feel a fear rise up that threatened to choke the life right out of her. She felt frozen in a body that couldn’t move while she desperately wanted to move somewhere, anywhere.

Pull yourself together, Casey. She could hear the words in her head, but her lips refused to move. In any other stressful situation, tears poured easily, but this time was different. Her tear ducts refused to release the wet that often ushered in the release of stress.

At that moment, on the other side of the door, the sound of footsteps running down the hall pulled her out of her stupor. With each step toward her, another part of her body began to wake up until she finally had full use of her legs again. Her arms released their contents, and she turned and flew down the stairs, her feet barely touching the orange-carpeted stairs.

She pushed through the door and into the cool night air, stopping in the middle of the quiet parking lot bending over, catching her breath, crying, and wondering how she would ever get back upstairs and into the sanctuary of her apartment. Had she been followed?

Spinning around, she turned to look where she’d come from. But there was no one. The night air was quiet and crisp and breathable. It held a peaceful calm.

I can’t stay out here all night, she thought as she savored the peacefulness. You have to get back upstairs. Suddenly her thoughts went to her mom and sister. Were they safe? Had they been there when whatever had happened, happened? She had to get to them. Her fear threatened to surface again. She felt stuck knowing she couldn’t stay outside, scared to go back in, wanting to get home.

Lord. What do I do? she whispered the words. I’m so scared.

Look up.

Jerking her head from side to side, she looked around for the source of the words. But there was nothing. Nothing but the sound of dried leaves scooting across the pavement, the flicker of the building’s one light, the smooth breeze that moved the almost-empty branches back and forth in a rhythmic sway.

She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. This is crazy, she thought. Your mind is just playing tricks. Get it together. But the thought of moving toward the door caused another surge of panic that threatened to overwhelm her, and she could feel her eyes heating up with the tears that refused to come moments earlier. Determined to get a handle on herself and the situation, she closed her eyes and took several deep breaths. Then she heard it again.

Look up.

This time, without thinking, she lifted her chin and opened her eyes to an unbelievable scene hovering over her building. An army of white-robed beings cloaked in blinding light stood in a circle each facing outward and holding a flaming sword raised to the sky. Beautiful and unexpectedly calming, it reminded her of a painting she’d expect to see in a museum that leaves the observer transfixed. She couldn’t take her eyes off it.

I will take care of you, the voice whispered. You’re safe.

And then a verse she’d been taught years before in church suddenly came to mind.

For the angel of the LORD is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him.

She drank in the truth of the words evidenced in front of her like a cool drink for a parched mouth

Thank you, she whispered and moved toward the door.

At the top of the stairs, her stuff lay strewn across the landing where she’d left it. She gathered it up, opened the door, and tried to ignore the evidence of evil on the walls as she entered the third floor hallway making her way the few steps to her apartment.

She turned the key into the lock and pushed open the apartment door. Inside, her sister was laying in front of the television on the living room floor, her mom standing over the stove stirring that night’s dinner.

“Hey honey,” her mom greeted. “How are you?”

“I’m good. Long day.” She dumped her stuff on a kitchen chair and kissed her mom. “How was your day?”

“Uneventful,” her mom said.

“Really?”

“Yeah. Why?”

Casey shrugged.

“It was odd though.” Her mom said. She turned off the stove, reached for three mismatched dinner plates scored at a garage sale, and began serving up dinner. “Earlier today, I was going to run some errands, but I just had the strangest feeling that I shouldn’t go. I don’t know why.”

“I do.” said Casey. “I’ll tell you later.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are Your Qualifications?

“God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called.”

I heard those words in a speech one year at a fundraising dinner for the school where my husband was teaching. I’m sure they weren’t new words to most of the people in the room, but they were to me. I’ve rolled them over and over in my mind since hearing them and clung to them like a bulwark in a storm. In difficult circumstances, when the calling of God on my life seemed daunting, I would recite them as if in doing so, I would somehow release a mysterious power to aid me in my time of need.

Over the years as they proved to be less helpful in practice and more lofty in theory, I wondered where I was missing the boat. The idea that God would qualify me to handle the difficult tasks He’d called me to frustrated me as I didn’t see the truth of the statement playing out in my life. Did I have an incorrect view of “qualify”?

One particular situation was the one I found myself in this past summer. Several things changed at once: my husband resigned from a 14-year teaching career to do something completely different, my oldest was getting ready to go off to college, we were homeschooling our youngest for the last two years of his high school career, and I was going back to work full-time after a 23-year break from the 40-hour work week grind. It was a lot, and I felt overwhelmed; overwhelmed by the change in our family structure, overwhelmed that my sweet daughter wouldn’t be asking me to go shopping or sitting on my bed late at night to discuss the latest happenings in her teenage life; overwhelmed by the fear that my son would graduate stupid because of my poor teaching; overwhelmed that my house would be dirtier than normal and I’d be too tired to clean it; overwhelmed by what I had to learn at my new job.

Don’t misunderstand, the changes were good, but they were still changes. For years, my husband had summers off, and we could enjoy much-needed time together for a few blissful weeks; for years it had always been the four of us, and even if we were all in different rooms of the house, it had always been the four of us; for years I’d depended on the school for my kids’ educational upbringing, and now I was doing the unthinkable and taking it on myself. To top it all off, after cleaning houses for 20+ years, I knew more about dismantling and reassembling a vacuum than I did about running multiple computer programs while answering phones and making split-second decisions. In my mind, I was grossly unqualified for the task at hand, and the reminder that God would qualify me for said task brought me little comfort. What? Was He magically going to arm me with multi-tasking prowess and computer literacy overnight to do what in my mind was the impossible?

Back to my question: did I not understand the concept of qualify?

Qualify: to be entitled to a particular benefit or privilege by fulfilling a necessary condition (according to Bing)

There are a couple of things to unpack in this definition. First, to be qualified is to be entitled; entitled to whatever it is that encompasses the situation you’re in. In my situation, I was entitled to all of the negative feelings of inadequacy, frustration, and questioning that I had entertained if I wanted to take that path. I was also entitled to the hope that God, in his infinite riches would provide me with exactly what I needed to do exactly what He had called me to do.

But there’s a catch: according to the definition, entitlement to the benefits and privileges associated with any situation apply only by fulfilling a necessary condition. Now we’re getting somewhere. So what was I not doing? I’d already followed the path He was laying out for me. I’d obeyed. What more could there possibly be for me to do? I simply had nothing left to apply to my circumstances. And then the words of Paul came to mind, and it all became crystal clear.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  II Cor 12:9-11

The thorn in Paul’s side was put there as a reminder of his insufficiency apart from Christ, and upon recognizing this, the power of Christ was his for the taking. This attitude of being poor in spirit, the recognition of who we are before Christ-weak, empty, lacking everything good- and who He is, opens wide the gate to the immeasurable riches at the fingertips of God for our use and benefit. God doesn’t call the know-it-alls. He calls the weak and qualifies them by showing them their weakness.

It’s a little difficult to teach a four-year old to tie their shoes if they don’t know that they don’t know how to do it, and even if they are aware of their lack of skill, until they stop trying and admit their need for help, it’s pointless. They’ll keep stringing those laces together in all manner of concoctions only to wind up at the same place: a knotty mess.

The simple truth is in the irony: the only qualification you need to fulfill the plans of God for your life is in admitting that you are grossly unqualified for the task. Do this, and you open wide heaven’s coffers bursting with resources ad infinitum.

What Difference Does It Make?

Do you ever wonder how salvation makes a difference in our lives here on earth? I will never forget sitting in a class in college and being given the assignment to write out my testimony. The professor, having assigned this particular task for several years, was familiar with the rebuttals from students like me. “I don’t have a testimony. I was saved at a young age. I haven’t done anything majorly wrong yet! I have nothing to write about.” I think this is particularly common for those of us who were saved at a young age, grew up in church, in a Christian family, with Christian friends, etc. etc.

His answer, to write about a turning point in our lives that brought us closer to God and changed the course of our lives, somewhat allayed my worries that I had nothing to say. I’d had plenty of turning points: dedicating my life at camp, going on a missions trip when I was 17, deciding to go to Bible college rather than the university I’d been accepted to. I’d experienced the power of God many times in my 19 years. I’d experienced His goodness over and over again in the form of answered prayers and mended relationships. But I didn’t have a big story in terms of recovering from drug addiction, experiencing abortion, turning to Him after living a life of complete and utter rebellion against Him. Though thankful that I had not experienced what so many I knew had, my faith felt stale and lacked a serious wow factor. 

Fast forward to the present, and I find myself on my knees thanking Him for what He’s saved me from. I’ve talked about the study of Revelation that I have been in over the last several months. As it comes to a close, I’m reflecting on the holiness of God more than ever before. Though I’ve barely touched the surface of this truth of God, I’ve encountered enough of it in His Word to start to understand my sin in relation to it. 

You know those thoughts that creep into the back of your mind out of nowhere that you would never dream of telling anyone about? You know the temptations you face on your way to work? You know the voices in your head that scream something about you that is contrary to the truth of Scripture? You know the sin tendencies you battle every day as soon as your feet hit the floor? 

That’s what He saved us from! Salvation is not merely fire insurance for the life to come.  He owes us nothing, and that would be enough. But not only did He save us from an eternity of pain, separation from Him, torment, He saved us from an earthly life of it too. God, in His mercy, has saved us from having to follow the rabbit trails of our thoughts. He’s given us a way to refute the lies of Satan that would paralyze our faith, He’s provided an escape from the temptations of sin that we face every day, He’s given us an escape from the sin bent that each one of us is born with. All we have to do is take what He’s offered. When we accept salvation, we are accepting it both for the life to come, and for the life we live now on earth in front of our family and friends and a watching world. We’re saved from a life of living like every other lost soul on this planet. We’ve been saved to new life. 

Sometimes salvation seems far off because heaven seems far off. Though grateful for the eternal life He offers, we forget that salvation starts now. It doesn’t start the moment we step out of this life and into the next. No, the next life is merely the perfection of everything He’s started here. 

This simple truth is this: like marriage is a commitment that starts the moment we say “I do” so salvation is a lifestyle that starts the moment we accept the gift. If that’s not enough of a wow factor, then nothing will be!

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20, NKJV).

It’s Who You Know

What if we started looking at our lives with all of its problems, joys, situations through the lens of what we know, really know, about God? What would change? What would life look like?

This seems like an obvious perspective for a Christian to adopt in daily life, and maybe for some it is. In the past I’ve flirted with this idea but have never really grasped the life-changing power this perspective provides. Let me explain.

Several months ago, I started attending the Revelation study through Bible Study Fellowship. This is the first time in its 50-year history that this study has been offered, and it took the writers three years to put it together. Currently, every week 400,000 women from around the world are studying this book.

My view of Revelation has always been from the perspective of how’s it all going to end and in what order. That first night the teaching leader reminded us that there are many interpretations of this book: literal vs. figurative, pre-tribulation vs. mid-tribulation vs. post-tribulation vs. pre-wrath, etc. She said that this study would not answer those questions for us. Instead she wanted us to concentrate on one thing: “Our hope is not in the details. Our hope is in God.” That was an “aha” moment for me.

Honestly, as a person who pays no attention to detail whatsoever (ask my detail-oriented husband), this really shouldn’t be an issue. It’s the reason in all the years of cleaning houses I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve noticed cobwebs in corners or dust on ceiling fans. It’s a detail. It’s the reason why when I make hamburgers for dinner we rarely have buns to put them on. Details often get lost in my day-to-day existence so why, when faced with frustrating circumstances, I focus on those rather than on what I know, is beyond me.

But God, the great Teacher, used a moment last week to show me how this could be applied in everyday life. One of my kids came home with a long list of expenses for different activities they are involved in. I was irritated, of course and directed a wordy diatribe at the Lord. Give me a break. Why do I always feel like I’m constantly putting money in pockets with giant holes? I just can’t seem to hang on to it. This kind of attitude will often put me in a funk that can last for days. But almost instantly I heard the voice of God: Your hope is not in the details of this situation. It’s in Me. What do you know about me? Concentrate on that. Eureka!

So I started recounting all the things I know about God in relation to money. I thought back to all of the times I’ve experienced His provision, what His Word says about Him as Jehovah Jireh, the Provider, what He promises regarding His provision. Miracle of miracles, I instantly calmed down within minutes-pretty good turnaround time for me. Oddly enough I felt relieved. I didn’t have to worry about how everything was going to turn out. It’s really not my problem. I just have to know that it will and hang on to the knowing.

So I ask you, what circumstances in your life have your knickers in a bunch? What do you know about God in relation to your situation? Comb the Scriptures for truth and your brain for experiential proof and cling to what you know.

This is what Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego did when faced with a fiery furnace at their refusal to bow down to the image King Nebuchadnezzar had built. Here’s the conversation:

 “Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, ‘Is it true,Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?’ Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up’” (Daniel 3:14-18, NKJV).

If anyone had the right to question the details of a situation, it was these guys. But they didn’t. They clung to what they knew: God was able to deliver them right then and there if He so chose. If not, their greater deliverance was waiting. Either way, they had won.

The crazy thing about it is that even the most basic of faith, the newest of Christians can cling to what they know, that is, that Jesus is Who He says He is based on His revelation to that person. If that’s all a person has, it’s enough to hang on to. Every single one of us claiming to know Jesus as Savior should be hanging our hats on I Timothy 1:12:

 “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (NKJV, italics mine).

Here’s the simple truth: Our hope is not in the details. It’s in God. Rest in the knowing.

Directionally Challenged

The first time my parents and I realized that I was born without a sense of direction was in seventh grade during a semester of map skills. I hated it immediately. First of all, as a visual person, the workbook wasn’t even a little aesthetically pleasing. Printed on newspaper-like paper and covered in bright blue and black ink on dirty white paper, it was all I could do to get through the pages stapled together. Coupled with my assumption that forward-facing is always heading north, it’s not hard to believe that I didn’t do well as evidenced by the massive amounts of red pen covering my work and screaming “fail!”.

Once I got my license, things didn’t improve much. Because that was the era of no GPS or cell phones, much of my time on the city roads included tearful stops at the nearest gas station to call my mom and ask for directions on how to get home. If I thought ahead and got directions before leaving my house, they always started with, “Imagine you’re at the mall…” For some reason, I always knew where I was in relation to it, and the following instructions seemed to make sense.

After marrying my husband, he took over the task of getting me from point A to point B; often taking me to the house of a new cleaning client the night before I started so I wouldn’t get lost on my first day. When he wasn’t with me, his instructions would often start with, “Ok. Imagine you’re at the mall…”

I’d say the GPS has been helpful, and it has been to a degree. But even the talking machine sitting on my dash has failed me as it did one day as I was driving to work. It was a fairly new area for me with road construction, and after doing exactly what “she” said, I still ended up in a farmer’s cornfield where he stood at his door screaming at me to get off of his property. “Do you think I want to be here,” I screamed back at him tears pouring down my face.

Hebrews 13:8 says this,

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever”

In recent months, I have been hit by just how closely this idea of alternate routes parallels the Church’s evolving theology. If you pay attention you will notice everything from Christians wanting to change the message of salvation to appeal to the culture, to questioning whether we can really be sure that absolute truth exists. We’ve gotten to a place of entertaining Satan’s age-old question of “Did God really say?” leaving ourselves naked and without God’s hand of protection meant for us. I recently heard someone say that one of the greatest issues facing the Church today is homosexuality. This makes about as much sense as our government telling us that the biggest problem facing our world is climate change.

While homosexuality in the Church is definitely a disheartening trend we are now seeing I wholeheartedly disagree with the idea that it is one of the greatest issue we face. The greatest issue facing the Church today is the absence of absolute truth and the courage to stand by it.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’” (John 14:6).

As a person who cannot read maps, decipher drawings, or leave the house without a GPS, this verse is especially meaningful to me. Nothing strikes fear in me quite like the big orange detour sign I’m not expecting. I only know one way to get to any of my destinations.

One of the worst instances of getting lost happened when my friend Mary and I were headed to a conference in a town about 2 hours away. I didn’t realize her sense of direction was as lacking as mine until I watched an exchange between her and her husband taking place right before my eyes, echoing the one I’d just had with Bruce. The conversation was filled with concentrated instructions and words and drawings in an effort to help us get to our destination as smoothly as possible. An hour later, we still hadn’t made our way out of our own town. Due to road construction, the exit that both of our husbands had told us to take was shut down so we continued to circle the circumference of the city until we had to decide which one of us would put our tails between our legs and call our husband. When I explained the situation to my husband later on from the hotel (by the way, we totally missed the opening night activities), I remember wondering if he was even listening due to the silence at the other end, until I heard him finally take a breath in the middle of hysterical laughter.

There are multiple ways to get someplace in any given city which for people like me is a real problem. Praise God that His Word never changes, nor does His truth, nor do His instructions. In a culture that is constantly changing, don’t we want to cling to the one thing that doesn’t? I would caution all of us with these words:

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power “(Col. 2:6-10).

Want know how to obtain eternal life? Open His Word. Want to know how to treat other people? Open His Word? Want to know if what you’re being told from the pulpit or the culture is correct? Open His Word. It’s all in black and white, much like my map skills workbook. However, instead of screaming “failure”, the words in red are coaxing, “follow me.”

On Establishing Good Habits

When my son was about two years old, he had a favorite shirt he always liked to wear. It was red and white striped, made of super soft cotton and cost me all of five dollars at an outlet mall. I’m guessing that the soft fabric next to his previously burned skin felt soothing, and it didn’t hurt that it sported his favorite color-red. The shirt wasn’t just a favorite. It became the only shirt he would wear to the point that getting him to switch it out for pajamas at bedtime became a fight I was most nights too tired to deal with. So I did what any parent whose kid is running the show did and waited for him to fall asleep. I would then take it off, wash it, dry it and put it back on before falling into bed myself. Had it not been for the fact that it spent several days on the body of a two-year old I may have let it go, but at some point the thing had to be washed.

Nick was and still is a creature of habit. He wears the same clothes most days, jeans and a t-shirt, eats the same foods, sits in the same spot at lunch via a seating chart he and his friends have made up and followed all school year, orders the same thing at the two restaurants he will eat at for fear of wasting hard-earned money on something that may turn out to be too exotic for his simple American taste buds. He brushes his teeth with the bathroom door closed, drives with the windows closed so as not to muss his perfectly styled hair and always buys the same kind of Nike tennis shoes when a new pair is warranted.

Psalm 112:7, 8.

“He will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is established; He will not be afraid, until he sees his desire upon his enemies.”

To say my son is established in his habits and lifestyle would be a gross understatement. If we’re honest, most of us aren’t much different. We find security in the routine, mundane habits of daily life. Then there are those of us who are caught in habits that provide anything but security, but we can’t seem to shake them so great is the pull they have on us.

When I first read this Psalm, it was these two verses that popped out at me, specifically the word “established.” I started asking myself what makes a heart established in something? Is the author assuming that because the heart is established, the person does all of the things listed in the preceding six verses, or is it the actions of these verses that causes a heart to be established?

I started reading the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. In the book are seven habits that the author argues will that produce certain results provided the reader spends time establishing these habits. In the same way a heart established in God will produce certain behaviors. Habits are established through the repetition of certain behaviors, but that repetition has to start with the choice to make those behaviors a habit.

In Psalm 111:10 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. This is just the beginning. Fearing the Lord is the start to the life of a righteous man. Get that down, and you’re well on your way to establishing your life in righteousness and all of the blessings that flow from it. In Psalm 112:1, the author states that a man who fears the Lord is blessed, and so we have the rest of chapter 112.

S. Conway, a famous preacher said this:

This fixedness of heart, which is so blessed, is the result of habitual trust. Trusting in the Lord. We can form habits of trust, as of any other act of the mind. It is not a single act of faith, or a spasmodic intermittent trust, which will ensure this fixedness of heart. Built must be perpetually repeated until the habit is formed. We must put our will into it, and we must abandon everything which would render such trust impossible, as all allowed sin will and must. – S.C.

It’s for this reason that some people, when given bad news about their health, have a complete calmness about them, a peace that passes all understanding, while others go home, pull the curtains shut and go to bed to avoid having to deal with the reality of their situation. It’s for this reason that some of us find ourselves in debt because of certain spending habits that have been established while others roll with the punches when something comes up they weren’t expecting to have to spend their money on.

Established habits and routines are comforting. We count on them when everything else around us goes haywire. The Hebrew word for establish is samak which means to lean against, rest weight upon, to support.

One commentator says this:

“[Trusting] in Christ, the essential Word…leaning upon him, laying the whole stress of his salvation upon him.”

Paul says the same thing in Ephesians 3:17 (NIV).

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Having been established in love, the reader can then fully grasp the love of God. Without the foundation of God’s love, the very root of our souls, we cannot know the depth of it for ourselves. In the same way, the Psalmist is arguing the case for the righteous life. The way to it is the established fear of the Lord as the base from which flow all other disciplines and blessings of righteousness, one being a steadfast heart as quoted in verse seven.

To drive it home just a bit further, note Ezekiel 24:2 in the King James version:

“Son of man, write thee the name of the day, even of this same day: the king of Babylon set himself against Jerusalem this same day.”

In other translations the wording is laid siege to Jerusalem, the same word, samak, used in Ezekiel and again in Psalm 112:8. Essentially, King Nebuchadnezzar, driven by his animosity for both God and His people, set himself or bore of his weight upon, the task of destroying Jerusalem. That the same word is used in this verse as it is in Psalm 112 speaks to the strength of its meaning. King Nebuchadnezzar set himself against Jerusalem and laid siege to it. His heart was established, and his actions backed it up.

In answer to the question at the beginning, Scripture shows both that a heart established in truth renders righteousness while, at the same time, the continual righteous acts of the person further establishes a righteous heart.

So what are your habits established in? What is your thought process established in? Why do you do what you do? Are your habits motivated by righteousness, or are they merely perpetual action?

 

 

On Being Remembered

Psalm 112:6

“Surely he will never be shaken; The righteous will be in everlasting remembrance.”

The first five verses of this Psalm lay down the basic habits of a righteous person: a healthy fear of the Lord, a delight in God’s commandments, one who is gracious, full of compassion, fair in his dealings with others, who lends and lives with discretion. All of those things sound wonderful, but realistically in a sinful world this is completely counter-cultural making it often difficult to live the righteous life we’ve been called to. However, God’s commands are often followed by promises which is where we find ourselves in verse six, the beginning of the list of promises enjoyed by the righteous.

Oftentimes it would seem there is much to be shaken up about so great are the problems around us. We find ourselves distracted wondering what the point is in doing the right thing. Does it make any difference? Does God even notice? It’s tempting to quit, thinking it futile, and just live our lives and try to get by. But then I’m reminded of people like Dietrich Bonhoffer. What if he had given up? How many prisoners in the Nazi concentration camp where he was imprisoned would have died never hearing about Christ?

What if the Coptic Christians had renounced their faith in the face of certain death? Where would the Church in Egypt be?

What if Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of Iranian pastor Saeed imprisoned in Iran for his faith, had retreated after hearing of her husband’s imprisonment? Who would have shared the gospel with the United Nations? Who would have been the voice of support on national radio and TV for those imprisoned for their faith?

II Corinthians 6:7-10 has the most encouraging take on the topic:

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed-always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”

What torch do you need to pick back up and carry? And what are the benefits of remaining strong?

There is a conversation that takes place frequently at my house. It goes something like this:

Kid: Mom, we’re going to go get baseball pants today, right?

Me: What?

Kid: I thought we were going to go get my pants today.

Me: What are you talking about?

Kid: We talked about this. My first game is in two days.

Me: This is the first I’m hearing about it.

Kid: Seriously? We just had this conversation yesterday. Don’t you remember?

Me: I have no recollection of this.

Kid: You don’t remember anything.

Me: Silently combing through the stacks of mental clutter searching for that elusive conversation.

The specifics of the conversation change depending on the situation, but the theme, my forgetfulness, is always the same. If I were 30 years older I would be concerned that something serious was wrong. For now, I’m chalking it up to a cruel joke that both my age and gender are playing on me.

Thankfully, God’s memory is not subject to human failure. In verse 6 of Psalm 112 He assures us that the righteous will be remembered forever. Having spent much of Matthew 25 telling the disciples that in giving to the poor, they are giving to the very Savior, He explains that not only are their works remembered, they are rewarded with eternal reward. Not to mistake works as a means to salvation, they are an important part of our relationship with Christ. They are the proving ground for our salvation, the proof of a Savior to the outside world, and a partnership with God in expanding His kingdom.

Conversely, God’s memory “gives out” when it comes to our sin. One of the things most amazing about Him is His selective memory, if you will.

Isaiah 43:25

“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.”

Hebrews 8:12

“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

Hebrews 10:16, 17

“’This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,’ then He adds, ‘Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.’”

Isaac Newton is remembered for his discovery of gravity and his contribution to modern physics.

Ernest Hemingway will be remembered as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century.

Beethoven will be remembered as one of the most influential composers during the time music was transitioning between the Classical and Romantic eras.

Dr. Alexander Fleming will always be remembered as the inventor of penicillin, making it the most widely used antibiotic in the world to date.

As long as history is taught these and others like them will continually be remembered and discussed. Though most of us will never be mentioned in the history books for anything noteworthy, that which we do for others out of our love for God will be remembered and rewarded by Him for eternity.

Verse six is both a reminder and an encouragement to stay strong and to hold onto the hope of His remembering us for eternity.