To Higher Things

three line tales, week 229: someone trekking up the steps to the tower on top of Glastonbury Tor

photo by Nik via Unsplash

Upward climbing, though the way is steep

To higher things hoped for, Divine promises to seek

The path may be wearisome. but the rewards you shall keep

 

Padre

 

Three Line Tales, Week 229: Photo of people climbing hill towards a partially obscured church tower.

 

 

 

 

True Down-pouring

Rainbow, Cloud, Evening Sun, Rain

Pixabay

Troubles and woes

Oft seem to downpour.

Life’s tribulations build up,

Till we can’t stand one more.

We suffer disappointments,

Grief, loss, and pain.

Sometimes feeling,

We’ll never be whole again.

But there are silver linings –

In those clouds of storm.

Moments of calm and peace –

Giving us a respite,

And a chance to release.

Look upwards beyond

Those menacing clouds,

To heaven’s grandeur

Above their dark shroud.

There you will find ready,

The Author of all Blessing.

He will downpour sweet things,

All your soul’s needs caressing.

 

Padre

 

Weekend Writing Prompt #158 – Downpour in 88 words

 

 

Of Whom Shall I Be Afraid

good-shepherd-catholic-clipart-10

Psalm 27: 1—“ The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

Just about a year ago I lost my Uncle Woodie, and my wife Dianne was dying of cancer.  I was (as I do) reading through her prayer journal today and noticed that at that time her notes were about prayer for my Cousin Darlene and her family in their bereavement.  She also noted that she looked for opportunities to witness to her hospice nurse.  On the latter front I know that she did indeed testify to her on her visit later that week.  She made clear her lack of fear of death, and her assurance of everlasting life.  Dianne completed her entry with the verse above.

We are in troubled times.  The world has a lot of unsettled things happening.  People are concerned over disease, isolation, and employment issues as things seem to come to a halt.  But the same is true today as it was a year ago,“ The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

Padre

No Need To Fear

Jesus, The Good Shepherd

Pixabay

John 10: 11 states, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”  In these words Jesus is speaking symbolically of His relationship with His church, and literally in a prophetic tone of what is shortly to come to pass.

Speaking of the sheep under Jesus’ stewardship, the shepherd-king David reveals five promises that the Good Shepherd makes to us.  These are found in Psalm 23.

The first of these promises is found in verse 1 and 2: “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters.”  The Shepherd promises to provide for our needs.

The second promise is that we will be provided with rest and revival.  Verse three reads, “He restores my soul. . . .”  This leads directly into the third promise: He will guide us and lead the way.  Not only leading the way, but preparing the way.  “He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake (v 3).”

The fourth promise builds on this even further, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,  I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”  He will accompany us in the darkest of times and provide us with emotional comfort.

The fifth promise, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever,” is one of overcoming.  Enemies and evil have no power over us in the presence of our Shepherd.  He, as in verse one, provides for us – our table prepared.  But there is so much more at this point.  We are anointed, and blessed to the overflowing.  Best of all, when our journey through the valleys of danger and the shadow of death is complete, we will find an even better rest than in verse 2, because “we will dwell in His house forever.”

We His sheep need to follow.  We need to stay close to Him, and maintain our relationship.  John 10 continues, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father (vs 14-15).  We need to know our Shepherd, and heed his voice.  When we do, we need to have no fears.

Padre

Based on a sermon outline prepared for me by Dianne on 21 February 2018.

Still Emmanuel

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In the family service this week, Pastor Rich spoke of Jesus’ enduring presence in our lives.  While Rich themed his message on Jesus staying with you, there is a deep parallel theme of Jesus as Emmanuel.

In Matthew chapter 1, the Messiah is given two names, the first a proper noun, Jesus (the Lord saves)and the second an adjective – Emmanuel (God with us).

“. . . an angel of the Lord appeared to him [Joseph] in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:  ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’) [vs 20-23].”

This Saviour in both name and deed, was not distant but compassionate.  He was God, and a God that walked among the people.  Matthew 9 records that  Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (vs 35-36).”

But even in the fulfillment of His mission in His own death, Jesus did not leave us abandoned.  He remains Emmanuel.  In Matthew 28, He said to His disciples, Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (vs 19-20).”

This is a reiteration of His words in chapter 18, verse 20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”  He is God with us!

John’s gospel notes that we are never abandoned, but have a Paraclete or advocate by our side (John 14: 16, 26).  We are in the presence of Emmanuel, even “to the very end of the age.”

We are not alone.  He stands with us.  He stays with us.  He is the Emmanuel.

 

Padre

 

 

 

“New and Improved”

Tent, Sport, Leisure, Camping, Outdoor Lyndhurst, Tarrytown, New York, Mansion

Back on the 7th of July in the midst of a very severe health crisis, Dianne reflected on 2 Corinthians 5:1-2.  For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.  Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling.”  

She noted that “the comparison between the the earthly body, described as a tent, and the heavenly body which is referred to as a building or house.”  She concluded that, “the spiritual body is more substantial and permanent than what we have now and that it will have facets which will amaze us, beyond what we can even imagine or presently believe.”

Padre

 

The Seating Plan

Reserved, Table, Wedding, Tablescape, Place Setting

Image by Gretta Blankenship from Pixabay

Pastor Vince gave us encouragement today about the trials and stresses of life.  He noted that no matter how rough day to day existence may seem, there is a bigger plan.  That plan is an encouragement from God.

Paul wrote in Philippians 2: 1-4:

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Christ’s love and compassion for us is such an encouragement.  It is also a model of how we in turn are to be encouragements in our valuing of others.

Yes, but how does looking beyond myself to serve others make me any better equipped to deal with life?  Philippians continues with both Jesus’ example and the answer:

 “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man,  he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (vs 5-8).”

Jesus who was in the beginning with God, and who was God (John 1), gave it up to lift us from our sins, and our existence in the mire.  There is our first encouragement – someone cared about us in our debased state.  He loved us enough to die to lift us from it.

But in Jesus’ humbling came an exultation.  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,  in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (vs 9-11).”

Jesus has gone to sit at the right hand of the Father.  There He is above every other name, and every knee will bow to Him.  Yes, He became a mere man.  Yes, He was despised and rejected.  Yes, He was crucified, died, and was buried.  But He rose again to a life at the right hand of God.  That is our second encouragement.  The troubles of life are not the end!  There is more however.

Ephesians 2: 1-10 tells us we too are to be raised and glorified:

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,  in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,  made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,  in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

No matter what our trials here.  No matter how far we have fallen.  We will be lifted up.  Jesus has returned to His seat at the right hand of the Father,  But we too have reserved seats being “raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”  

When we suffer setbacks (none which even come close to the trials of Holy Week), we should praise God regardless, for we are lifted.  As Pastor Vince put it, “There is a man in heaven.”  Jesus is already there seated on His throne.  Other men will join Him.  The seating plan is made and our seats are reserved.

Padre

 

 

 

 

 

Turbulence

 

Clouds, The Plane, The Sun, Sky, Flight, Floating

Pixabay

Turbulent – life can be

Like the gathering clouds of a storm

Swirls of chaos oft is all we see

As worries around us swarm

The cyclones which beset us though

As great as they may seem

Pale in comparison to the power of God

Who offers us peace supreme

 

Padre

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

This is a passage Dianne reflected on in the face of cancer, fatigue, and pain.   It was not an empty exercise.  She found peace in the trials, and trusted in His promises.  It allowed her to not only “find rest” but to joyfully continue on.

 

 

The Shelter of the Most High & The Shadow of the Almighty

oasis-en-gedi

Oasis at En Gedi – image: Padre’s Ramblings

I was looking, once again, at some of Dianne’s notations on putting her trust in God.  One of her “notes to self” included Psalm 91:1,

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

David is usually credited with be the author of the majority of the Psalms.  If he is indeed the writer of the 91st Psalm, I wonder if his experience at En Gedi was on his mind as he penned it.

In I Samuel 23, we find that David had fled into the Judean Desert as he was pursued by King Saul.  He took refuge at En Gedi.   This natural fortification of high walled canyon, punctuated with caves was truly a shelter provided by the Most High.

Later in chapter 24, Saul catches up with David, and in a reversal of position, David in the refuge of En Gedi has the opportunity to finish off Saul.  He does not do so however, as he honours the Lord’s anointed.

David is at that moment acknowledged by Saul as King.  David dwelt in the shelter of God, both spiritually/figuratively and literally is the safety of the Oasis.   But the second part of the verse also has a resonance for those who have seen En Gedi.  The surrounding area is bleached rock, with dazzling light, and oppressive heat.  Yet, in the oasis there is shade and flowing water.  A shadow of God’s love both literally and figuratively.  The wonderful palms provide wonderful relief from the unrelenting sun.

While this is purely conjecture on my part, as I have no idea what images David had in his mind’s eye as he was inspired by the Spirit to compose the Psalm, it does at least to me make a wonderful image.

En Gedi can therefore be a metaphor for the truths of David’s words.  But metaphor aside Psalm 91 is powerful on its own.  It is a promise of protection, and care no matter what life throws at us.

Padre

Weapons of Faith

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What are the strongholds that we must face each day?  Are they hatred, jealousy, dependence, or disease?   Maybe there is a particular foe which rears its head – just for you!

The Apostle Paul wrote to the saints at Corinth and reminded them that as we face opposition in life – whether to our faith, or to us personally we are not to battle them as the world does.  He wrote:

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (II Corinthians 10:4-5).”*

There are loads of applications to this.   On the face of it, he notes in reverse order, that our own thoughts may be an issue.  This may be doubt, worry, or despair.  But these can be altered – “taken captive” – by making our minds obedient to Christ, and in subjection to His will.  In so doing all we will focus on is His promises – and therein lies the root of the battle.

He also notes that there are “arguments and pretensions.”  These are often direct or implied attacks on our faith.  Gainsaying a belief in anything other that “science” and other empirical based systems is common place.  Yet these at best are no more comfort than believing nothing.  But as people of faith we can hold firm to promises which were made and manifested when Jesus physically walked upon this Earth.   As the hymn puts it “all else is sinking sand.”

Then there are those strongholds.  Whether they be principalities or powers they cannot not stand in the face of the Almighty.  We are armed and equipped by Him (Ephesians 6:10-18).  

My wife Dianne saw this (yes I bet some of you were wondering when I would bring her into this).  He battle was with cancer and fatigue.  She fought both in the worldly way – with medicine, doctors, and a strict diet.  But she did not put her trust in hose alone.  She realised that it was in God’s plan when to call her home.  If she had invested all in the way the world did, despair might well have set in as she began to decline, and the doctors said there was no more they could do.  But she did not despair, she was faithful and above all else positive to the very last.  Why?  Because she took captive every thought to made it obedient to Christ.  She used not the weapons of the world, but the stronghold busters of the Lord.

Padre

*From Dianne’s notes 23 November 2018.