How much does a soul weigh?

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To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God.

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truths and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

For the sake of your name, O Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish! Look upon my affliction and my distress, and take away all my sins.

from Psalm 25

What does it mean to lift up your soul to the Lord? How much does the soul weigh?

The answer, I think, is simple: the soul is too weighty for even this feebly limited humanity in which we carry it. We cannot even lift our own souls, ad therefore we trust God to lift then for us.

He lifts and carries our souls down the right ways and paths. He lifts the burden of iniquity from our souls. And when the ever-multiplying troubles, distresses, afflictions, and sorrows of this life cling to the soul like a stone coffin in a sea of sadness, He – and He alone – is able to lift us up and set our feet on dry ground.

The soul was built with the capacity to experience eternal joy, and what great sadness it must also be able to contain, then! The weight of a soul is the space for eternity it contains. And who can lift the weight of eternity? Not us, certainly! Our souls are too deep to be lifted by our own strength.

So…Friend: put your hope in God, trust in Him, look to Him all day long. He can free you from an anguished heart! He can lift your soul! He is the Maker and Sustainer, and eternity is in His hand.

Let your soul be in His hand today, also.

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Hold unswervingly today!

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Turbulent. Violently changeable. Ever shifting. Transient. Painfully finite and brief.

That’s what most things in this life are. “Most things”? We should likely say “all things”. It’s no secret that what we have and what we enjoy in this life can easily be taken away from us.

The writer of Hebrews is speaking to some who had experienced persecution, and can there be a more vivid example of good things being taken away than this? Property confiscated, freedom denied, loved ones snatched away – all endured by our brothers and sisters. Yet here’s what Paul says:

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful…[You] joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting promises.
Hebrews 10:23,34

Their hope did not swerve and their contentment did not fade. Why? Because they were of that mythical and titanic society of Christians who seem especially powerful to us: the early church martyrs? NO! They were not different than you or I.

Friends, you and I both are able to have unswerving hope and contentment in the face of loss. And we may have it in the same way they did:
–Their hearts were fixed on the faithfulness of God.
–Their minds were convinced that God WILL give something better and lasting to those who persevere and love Him.

Their eyes were fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of their faith.

THAT, friends, is how their hope did not swerve and their joy did not fade. Though everything else might be taken, who could take Christ from them? And who could keep the Lord Jesus from giving eternal possessions in paradise? No one!

Brothers and sisters, an unswerving hope comes from fixing our eyes on an unswerving Savior. Let all the world fall around us – our Lord will stand. Let everything we love be taken and hidden from my eyes – still our eyes may be fixed on Him who is over all, and through all, and in all.

Let this be in your bones today: Jesus will stand forever, His love for you will not diminish, and His promises will surely come. And may we hold unswervingly to this hope!
Amen

“Let us resolve at once…”

Andrew Murray, one of the most deeply influential writers/pastors on my devotional and spiritual life, says this in His book Waiting On God:

“These all wait for thee, that thou mayest give.” Psalm 104:27
It is God who gives all: let this faith enter deeply into our hearts. Before we fully understand all that is implied in our waiting on God, and before we have even been able to cultivate the habit, let the truth enter our souls. Waiting on God, unceasing and entire dependence upon Him, is, in heaven and earth, the only true faith, the one unalterable and all-comprehensive expression for the true relationship to the ever blessed One in whom we live.
Let us resolve at once that it will be the one characteristic of our life and worship, a continual, humble, truthful waiting upon God. We may rest assured that He who made us for Himself, that He might give Himself to us and in us, will never disappoint us.

Do you believe that it is God who gives all?
What are you waiting for, and will you today look to God to give it to you?

Let this truth stand in your mind today: God gives all good things, and supplies our needs in due time. Look to God throughout the day, and when you do, acknowledge Him as the Giver. Expect that He has something to give you or show you. Wait for that to come.

Blessings to you!

He Will Never Stop Blessing

November 11, 2013

In Jeremiah 32, God assures those in Jerusalem that they will certainly fall to the armies of Babylon, and the city will be destroyed. Why? Because of their idolatry and their wickedness. (If you start asking what sort of wickedness warrants the destruction of their city, check out Jeremiah 19. They were burning their children as sacrifices.)

Yes, in the same chapter, He also promises to continue to bless them; to bring them back:

They will be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them.

I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me.

I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul. This is what the Lord says: As I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will give them all the prosperity I have promised them.
Jeremiah 32:38-42

God will never stop doing good to His people.

Aye, and there’s the price of His beneficence as well: our total submission to Him as our own Lord and King. “You shall have no other gods before me,” He demands and commands. We see the consequences of having submitted to other gods in the life of Israel: falling into wretched wickedness, calamity, and in the end – destruction. And alas! The song holds true for all of us:

“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it;
Prone to leave the God I love!”

But God, in His great mercy, has provided even for this propensity in us to run away from God: “…I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me.” (“Fear” here has more closely the sense of extreme reverence, though it is also right to acknowledge that the power and wrath of God are cosmic terrors not to be trifled with.)

Wandering from God means wretchedness, calamity, destruction; therefore God put deep and reverent fear of His holy judgment in His people so that they might not wander away from Him and experience grief. He knows that we turn away, so He says, “I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well with them…”.

God will never stop doing good to His people. He delights in doing good to us. And one of the good things He does for us is to help us recognize the terrible danger of sinning against Him. He helps us fear rightly, and that good fear keeps us from calamity and destruction and judgment.

Praise this God, who does good to His people!

God is Gracious to Evil People

September 12, 2013

But I say to you who listen:
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…

Love your enemies, do what is good, and lend expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most high. 

For HE is gracious to the ungrateful and evil.

Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

Luke 6:27-28, 35-36

What a powerful statement of the love and mercy of God! I think generally most of us can accept the idea that God is gracious to the people who love Him and try to serve Him, but the ones who hate God? The ones who do evil…can God really be gracious to them while they are actively spitting in His face?

The answer is yes: He can be, and He is. And thank heavens! Because the Scripture tells us that at some time, ALL of us are among those who hate God (Ephesians 2:3). If He were not gracious to those who were ungrateful, then you would never receive grace. But He gives grace not on the basis of our actions. He gives grace in the face of our rebellion! Consider what the above passage tells us about God:

He gives grace to the ungrateful and evil.
He does good to those who hate Him. 
He blesses those who curse Him.
He is merciful.

What an extraordinary God! But here comes the gut-clenching part: He commands us to do likewise. BUT NOT ALONE. Let’s go ahead and clear that up: this is not a labor you can grit your teeth and accomplish by your own willpower.

To accomplish this, Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit to abide in us, and as we soak ourselves in God’s presence, He put His grace within us and shapes us more and more into His image. That doesn’t mean you won’t have to labor at this. You will. But first and foremost you need the grace of God to mirror the actions of God.

So…that person who is incredibly ungrateful for all you’ve done? Give him/her grace.
That person who hates you? Do good to them out of a genuine heart.
That person who slanders you and hopes terrible things will happen to you? Bless them, and pray for their blessing.

Your Father is merciful. Submit to His hand and act in obedience with His character.

A Lasting Sabbath

September 10, 2013

Jeremiah 17:19-27 (see below) is a reminder and rebuke from God for the people of Israel regarding resting on the Sabbath. Obviously, we are under no such law as those who have been united to Jesus Christ. However, in thinking about how a Christian should understand these words from God, one cannot help but recall Hebrews 4:9-11.

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest…”

We do not carry the burden of our salvation. We live in an ongoing, eternal Sabbath. We lay down the burden of saving our souls and never again pick it up. This is the Law of Christ! The people of Israel were commanded to rest on the Sabbath; to do no labor as an act of their trust in God and His provision. In the same way, the great and unchanging command we receive through Jesus Christ is that we rest from our labors! And this is not a rest that lasts one day of the week. No, when we put our trust in the forgiveness of Jesus, our Sabbath rest from the labor of salvation ends for eternity. We, in an act of trust that Jesus will provide exactly what He promised (salvation as a gift), rest from our labors as Israel rested from theirs.

Praise the name of the Lord Jesus Christ! Our Sabbath rest comes through trust in His promise to save.

 

 

19This is what the Lord said to me: “Go and stand at the Gate of the People,c through which the kings of Judah go in and out; stand also at all the other gates of Jerusalem. 20Say to them, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, you kings of Judah and all people of Judah and everyone living in Jerusalem who come through these gates. 21This is what the Lord says: Be careful not to carry a load on the Sabbath day or bring it through the gates of Jerusalem. 22Do not bring a load out of your houses or do any work on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your ancestors. 23Yet they did not listen or pay attention; they were stiff-necked and would not listen or respond to discipline. 24But if you are careful to obey me, declares the Lord, and bring no load through the gates of this city on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy by not doing any work on it, 25then kings who sit on David’s throne will come through the gates of this city with their officials. They and their officials will come riding in chariots and on horses, accompanied by the men of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, and this city will be inhabited forever. 26People will come from the towns of Judah and the villages around Jerusalem, from the territory of Benjamin and the western foothills, from the hill country and the Negev, bringing burnt offerings and sacrifices, grain offerings and incense, and bringing thank offerings to the house of the Lord. 27But if you do not obey me to keep the Sabbath day holy by not carrying any load as you come through the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle an unquenchable fire in the gates of Jerusalem that will consume her fortresses.’ ”
Jeremiah 17:19-27

Terms of Peace from Christ

In Luke 14, Jesus does something that must strike many of us as odd: He begins to warn people about how much it will cost them if they choose to follow Him. We typically do everything we can to make people feel comfortable, to remove any difficulty from people following Jesus. Yet Jesus Himself did not flinch from the truth. He warns everyone, with utter clarity, that to follow Him means to lose everything else but Him.  Family becomes secondary, so secondary in fact, that Jesus can say that we must “hate” father, mother, sister, brother, wives, husbands, and children in comparison. Yes, and we must even consider our lives as a lesser possession than Christ.

He gives a number of parables to drive this piercing truth into the soft flesh of our souls. The one that gripped me this morning comes in verses 31-33 of Luke 14.

Or suppose a King is about to go to war against another King. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with 10,000 men to oppose the one coming against him with 20,000? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.

In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

Now, read that again. Carefully.

Jesus is the King who comes with an overwhelming force. There is no hope of victory against the one who could unmake your being with less than a word. Jesus doesn’t say, “It would be a nice idea for you to follow me.” He says, “You are a weak king of your own tiny kingdom, and you have no hope to stand against me.”

Upon realizing this, we weak kings follow the only possible course of action: surrender and ask for peace.

And Jesus, secure in his absolute power, gladly accepts our surrender and gives us His terms: “You will surrender to me your city and all the possessions in it, as well as your wives, your children,  and yourselves – down to your very lifeblood. These are my terms, everything or nothing.”

Jesus is not a conqueror who allows us to retain the throne as He passes through to His own Kingdom. No, He is the King who will have peace through one of two ways: our absolute submission to His utter sovereignty, or our absolute subjugation under His conquering power.

This is the cost of following Jesus, from the mouth of Jesus Himself. “…any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” We cannot retain our own rule and still follow. We cannot name any possession as our own and still follow. We cannot hold any other relationship as more important than our kneeling before Him and still be named a disciple.

But therein lies the hope of glory: when we relinquish our own rule and release our hold on every possession and person, the King gives us treasures that far exceed the worth and goodness of what we have surrendered. Our absolute surrender is the inauguration of our divine adoption! We lose our paltry possessions and laughable kingdoms, but become sons and daughters, with all the rights a privileges of that title, in the kingdom of the Eternal King and Father.

We may become frustrated with children who angrily clutch at some broken toy as if it were worth anything. Yet how often do we, in the shrill tones of ignorance and childishness, cry out in anger when the King-Beyond-kings says we must lay our “treasures” down?

Be warned: following Jesus will cost you absolutely everything. It is unqualified surrender.

Be encouraged: your surrender is your adoption into a kingly house. You stand to gain everything of the goodness of Jesus Christ.