When the Maker made all things good,
it was so.
not flippantly but
not carelessly but
Every good gift,
every perfect gift,
is from above.
If this is true,
delight did not sneak in.
When the Maker made all things good,
it was so.
I do not want this weakness anymore,
This want of strength, this will so rife with lack.
I tire of always falling further back,
Forgetting truths I knew just days before.
Corruption keeps its hold upon my core,
Each fault of mine another little crack,
Each inability a grave attack
In this, the never ending inner war.
But at the end of my ability,
Your grace, sufficient for my ev’ry need,
Reminds me of the testifying host
Of those who grasp their own futility
And trust instead your ev’ry word and deed,
So trials become their joy, the cross their boast.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
I love the book of James. I’ve spent more time in this little book than I’ve spent in many other places in Scripture, and I’ve found that further study and meditation often leads to fresh discoveries within the text. Even after years of reading these same words, I keep finding new things. The discoveries aren’t always comforting, though.
How many little moments will we find
Were not without significance at all
But were the subtle graces of a kind
Untarnished by the twistings of the fall?
How many hours of testing will reveal
Themselves to be the reasons for our joys?
How many wounds will show they served to heal?
How many pains upset the serpent’s ploys?
How many seasons thought to have no end
Did end one day with mercy fresh and new?
How many things seemed only to offend
But deepened both my love and faith in you?
How often is there more than eyes can see?
How little do we understand of thee.
Cold, crisp air, bright lights, fresh holly
Mingle joy and melancholy.
In this season, saints are jolly
And still cold.
Friendly faces full of laughter
Offer hope. But what comes after?
Garnished rooftops hide a rafter
Bare and cold.
All the best of man’s adorning
May well hide a heart in mourning.
Sorrow rarely gives forewarning
Of its cold.
But this chapter of the story
Is, for him, known territory.
This is still the road to glory,
Long and cold.
Christmas came and comes each season,
A reminder of the reason
Hope endures in spite of treason,
Through the cold.
Joy to all the world, to ev’ry creature:
God has come to dwell with his creation.
He who knows us – ev’ry fallen feature –
Put an end to our great separation.
Now his presence leads to our rejoicing
For he turns our mourning into dancing.
In the depths of darkness, we are voicing
Victory: the kingdom is advancing.
Joy now grows in souls steeped in the Spirit,
Joy still true when trials stand before us.
Steadfast, nothing e’er can steal or smear it.
It now fuels the everlasting chorus.
On our journeys, this is holy leaven:
We are strengthened by the joy of heaven.
I neither like nor understand your “no,”
Yet neither are required for me to trust
That you make straight the way I am to go
E’en when desires give way to thirst and dust.
If you withhold no good thing from your own,
Then your withholding must be for the best.
I may feel I am utterly alone;
I know you have a purpose for this test.
The LORD will never fail. Thus it is joy
To walk the path of sorrow for a time.
The surest hope, none ever can destroy.
No valley deep can halt the upward climb.
Your love holds fast despite what eyes can see,
Thus sight always defers to faith in thee.
What is God doing in my life? And why?
Fear is a funny thing. People seem to be afraid of everything: heights, spiders, clowns, public speaking, being without cell phone coverage. While our fears may vary, we each likely struggle with fear of some kind. We fear what we can’t control, what threatens our safety, what is beyond us. And while we might think of fear as a bad thing, it’s actually healthy. Fear warns us of danger, highlights what might affect us, and reminds us that we are not as powerful as we might assume. We may fear silly things sometimes, but fear itself is not necessarily bad.
Scripture speaks of a particularly desirable fear: the fear of the LORD. This fear is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10), an aspect of the whole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:13), and the manner in which Christians are to work out their salvation (Philippians 2:12-13). The Psalms even tie it to joy at times, calling out, “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (Psalm 2:11). If we accept the Bible as the Word of God and recognize its authority in our lives, we can’t ignore its emphasis on the importance and the goodness of the fear of the LORD.
But what is the fear of the LORD? While Scripture doesn’t explicitly define it, it does give us glimpses of this fear in practice, Exodus 20 standing as one particularly helpful example. There, the people of Israel have just seen God descend on Mt. Sinai in power and glory and have heard him speak the ten words concerning the moral code by which they were to live. They witnessed his self-revelation and beheld his glory. And they seemed initially terrified.
Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”
They saw the signs, heard his voice, and felt the mountain tremble at his coming, and they were terrified. They stood far off and asked Moses to be their intermediary. And they weren’t wrong. They recognized the danger of a sinful people’s proximity to a holy God, understanding that they could not stand in his presence in their current state.
Moses, however, responded to the situation differently.
Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.
He saw the sights, heard the voice, felt the mountain shake. He, perhaps more than anyone else that day, understood the power and holiness of God. Yet he told the people not to fear. As they stood back, he drew near, approaching the thick darkness.
What’s the difference between the two parties? What makes one group fear for their lives as another boldly steps forward? The difference, I believe, lies in each party’s relationship with God. In spite of all the people had seen of God, from his power over Egypt to his provision in the wilderness, they seemed uncertain of their standing before him. Even in the face of his declaration to make them a kingdom of priests and a treasured possession (Exodus 19:5-6), God’s people were terrified at his appearing. Moses understood that feeling. He felt it too when he heard the voice speak from the burning bush (Exodus 3:6). But he continued to grow in his relationship with God, watching God fulfill promises and act for the good of his people. As he stood with Israel before the mountain in Exodus 19 and 20, he was witnessing the fulfillment of God’s promise that Moses would worship the LORD with the people on the very mountain where God revealed himself to Moses initially (Exodus 3:12). So he drew near in spite of the awesome sights and sounds because he knew who dwelt therein. Moses saw what the people saw, heard what they heard, and may have even felt what they felt. But he drew near because he knew the God of the thunder and lightning was his God.
While fear is a major theme in this passage, maybe fear itself isn’t the heart of the passage. Maybe the lesson isn’t about trying to grow in fear but rather seeking to know the LORD better. Maybe our fear, fear that draws us near to God in reverence and in worship, will naturally and healthily grow as we increase in knowledge of God and grow in relationship with him. This week, consider your relationship with God. Imagine that you stood with Israel before the mountain and ask yourself if you would stand far off in terror or draw near in faith. Because of Jesus, we don’t have to be afraid of God; we can keep the fear of him before us and walk in obedience. And may we walk in the fear of the LORD wherever he leads us.
I want to walk with hope though there be sadness.
I want to be at peace though there be war.
I want to remain sober in the madness.
I want to trust, not knowing what’s in store.
I want my life to testify to blessings
Surpassing the self-pity that I feel.
I want to stand in spite of second-guessings.
I want my love to be alive and real.
I want my joy to show through circumstances,
Joy drawn not from my circumstance or sight.
I want my setbacks to serve your advances,
That, in the darkness, I reflect your light.