When Your Mood Matches The Weather

The buds of the tree frozen in ice

Laura and I woke up early this morning to let our new labradoodle, Tulip, out of her crate and into the cold air to “do her business” in the out-house of our front lawn. A gift for my oldest daughter’s 11th birthday, Tulip has brought a lot of joy to our home.

When I opened the front door this morning, I was somewhat surprised, but not shocked, to be greeted by snow flakes falling in the crisp, cool air. Spring officially began on March 20th, but it still feels like winter in the section of the Northern Hemisphere where I reside.

It’s no wonder that this Spring would tease us by peeking and dashing like a school-age game of hide-and-go-seek. Snow in Spring is fitting following a winter that has been unusually cold.

Sometimes I imagine that it’s all the fascination with the movie Frozen that is delaying the inevitable, and enviable, arrival of warmer weather. And as much as I love the movie, I’m ready to sing, “Let it go!” with a new idea in mind.

Snow, in and of itself, is a beautiful thing, and I’m grateful to live in a place where we typically experience all four seasons. The problem for me (and, as a result, my wife at times) is that often my mood matches the weather. Lately, it has resembled a yo-yo effect of vacillating frequently, and it has not been uncommon to end a day encouraged only to wake up feeling very sad. I wonder if you can relate?

One Thing Never Changes

Over the years, through many changing seasons, I have been greatly served by the writings and sermons of Charles Spurgeon. It seems he had a constitution much like my own, so his writings have served me well. This quote is from Beside Still Waters, and it can be of help to all of us whose moods tend to match this weather we are experiencing:

“I have sometimes envied those good people who are never excited with joy and consequently are seldom or ever depressed. ‘Along the cool, sequestered vale of life they hold the even tenor of their way.’ Happy people! At the same time, when I rise as with eagle’s wings in joyful rapture, I feel right glad to be capable of the blissful excitement. Yet if you soar to the skies, you are apt to drop below sea level. He that can fly, can fall.

If you are so constituted that you rise and fall, if you are a creature who can be excited and then depressed… then you can only be strong by faith… Settle this in your heart. “Whether I am up or down, the Lord Jesus Christ is the same. Whether I sing or sigh, the promise is true and the Promiser is faithful… If you will stand firm in Christ Jesus, even in your weakness you will be made strong” (p. 21).

This morning, as the snow falls and the wind chills in Spring, I am so thankful that the Lord Jesus Christ is the same: yesterday, today, and forever – the same. Our God does not change like shifting shadows or erratic seasons, and His mercies are new every morning, regardless of the weather. We are secure in Him, and that’s a reason for joy in every season!

Where Is God In All of This?

iStock_000029190302Empty Hands

The prophet Habakkuk also struggled with the question of “Where is God?” in the midst of his trying circumstances. He felt, at times, like his world was falling apart around him.

After reading Habakkuk several times, I can’t imagine what he went through.

But, rather than giving in to the despair that so easily accompanies life’s great difficulties, Habakkuk made a life-altering decision. He decided that, though he didn’t understand what God was up to, he was going to trust Him through it all.

Habakkuk’s proclamation and affirmation of trust is a reminder to me that God is at work in all things, whether it is fully apparent or not. He is at work all around us, accomplishing his grand purposes for our lives.

Sometimes, it doesn’t feel like God is at work, but He is there and He knows exactly what He is doing.

Here’s what Habakkuk wrote, hundreds of years ago, and it’s what I am clinging on to today:

“Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

Sometimes the fig tree buds, the vines are full of grapes, the olive crop is rich, the fields produce great grain, and the sheep and cattle are abundant.

At other times, our hard work is met with failure and the fields produce no food.

But, AT ALL TIMES, God is in control.

Though, at times, I can’t rejoice in what I’m experiencing, I can always rejoice in the LORD; I can always be joyful in God, my Savior (“Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in every circumstance for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” – 1 Thess. 5:16-18).

A very good friend encouraged me today with God’s heart for me:

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32, ESV)

God takes pleasure in giving me His kingdom. I am a co-heir with Christ. What do I have to fear?

Take heart, my soul,
and fears take flight!
God works in you
to please His sight.

Nothing to fret
Nothing to fear
As long as God
My God, is near

I will rejoice in the LORD. I will be joyful in God, my Savior. It is His good pleasure to give me the kingdom, and I will trust in Him.

Breathe

Pleasure of a life

In a recent sermon at Redeeming Grace Church, Dave Odom communicated that “grace is like an oxygen mask for the soul.” When we receive God’s grace, our souls can breathe again, and we begin to truly live – maybe for the first time.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5)

God loves to bestow His grace on needy sinners, and He is rich in mercy.

It’s one thing to be rich, it’s quite another thing to be rich and generous. Not only is our God rich in mercy, He is also generous with His mercy.

Because of his great love, He lavishly grants His mercy and grace to desperate sinners in need.

He takes us from being dead in sin, makes us alive together with Christ, raises us up with him and seats us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

Through no merit of our own, God graciously redeems us from death to life to royalty as heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). That’s amazing grace and mercy.

This is what causes the soul, even the dead soul, to breathe again.

And the good news is that there is enough mercy and grace for all of us in Christ.

Enjoy grace, and breathe!

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever. (Psalm 23:6)

“Endless Need Glorifies Endless Supply”

Ray Ortlund @ RGC

This Saturday evening, Redeeming Grace Church had the joy of hosting Ray Ortlund, pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, as our Guest Speaker. For many reasons, it was an immensely encouraging evening for us all.

Ray has been so kind to our church plant and has already served us in countless ways with his encouragement and support. After spending many Sundays benefitting from Ray’s teaching and care during our “waiting period” (prior to the launch of Redeeming Grace Church), Ray has become a very dear friend to us.

Immanuel Church has also become a beloved partner in gospel ministry. So, it was an honor, a privilege, and a pleasure to have Ray with us on Saturday night.

He served us so well.

After communicating about the necessity of Gospel Doctrine and Gospel Culture in Gospel-Centered Churches, Ray preached from the beginning of John’s gospel, John 1:1-18, a text that he said “may be the greatest passage ever written in all of human history.”

As Ray proclaimed the truths of John 1:1-18, my soul was greatly comforted, encouraged, strengthened and filled with joy. I saw once again that “our endless need glorifies his endless supply” and just as the ocean rolls with wave upon wave, so God’s love and grace in Christ is unceasing.

I can’t hear that enough.

Here’s a link to this wonderful message. Trust me, it is worth listening (and re-listening) to.

Upheld By Grace, Daily

iStock_000003374170Upheld

“Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up. God is our salvation.” Psalm 68:19

Every day, we need to be upheld, supported, enabled, helped, empowered, borne up, sustained, and strengthened in our faith.

God does not give us all the grace we will ever need in one large sum. Rather, the grace that we need comes daily as we need the grace.

This is how dependent we are, and this is how gracious God is:

He daily bears us up.

Meditating on this verse, I am reminded of something Jerry Bridges wrote in his excellent book Is God Really In Control? Trusting God In A World of Hurt:

“I think of a physician whose son was born with an incurable birth defect, leaving him crippled for life. I asked the father how he felt when he, who had dedicated his life to treating the illnesses of other people, was confronted with an incurable condition in his own son. He told me his biggest problem was the tendency to capsule the next twenty years of his son’s life into that initial moment when he learned of his son’s condition. Viewed that way, the adversity was overwhelming. God does not give twenty years of grace today. Rather, He gives it day by day. God stores up goodness or grace for our times of adversity. We do not receive it before we need it, but we never receive it too late” (p. 106).

In this world, every day we are in need of grace. Jesus said, “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). Wonderfully, that grace is bestowed on us daily as we are in need.

Daily, we are dependent, and daily God provides.

God’s care for His people is constant. His grace is sufficient, and He is with us in our trouble and pain (Psalm 46:1). In every day and in every moment, He will sustain His people.

“Even to your old age I am he,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.”

God, in Christ, will bear us up daily and bring us safely home to our desired haven. Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up!

“Nevertheless”

fresh green grass with bright blue sky

“Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.” Psalm 73:23-24

Nevertheless. What a word! What a thought! What a truth this verse contains!

Asaph’s Struggle

The psalmist, Asaph, has just explained how he was embittered in his soul and acting in a brutish manner, like a beast, before God (v. 21-22). He was doubting God’s Sovereignty and God’s wisdom, complaining in the bitterness of his soul (v. 13-14) and envious when he saw the prosperity of those who were not serving the Lord (v. 2-3).

Asaph had doubted God’s care and God’s control over the universe, and he had questioned God’s care and love for him personally.

God, in His mercy, opened the psalmist’s eyes toward the truths of His Sovereignty and final justice, and He gave the psalmist understanding and wisdom to discern the final end (v. 17-20).

After spending time in the sanctuary of God and receiving this fresh insight and perspective on life, Asaph was convicted of his sin. He was convinced of his pride and arrogance, his unbelief and sinful complaints (v. 21-22). He had doubted God’s love, doubted God’s control, doubted God’s care, and questioned His wisdom and power and rule over the universe.

In essence, Asaph had thought he could do a better job than God in ruling the universe with equity and justice. What an offense toward God!

And then we come to this one glorious word:

“Nevertheless”

    “Nevertheless, I am continually with you.”

    “Nevertheless, you hold my right hand.”

    “Nevertheless, you guide me with your counsel.”

    “Nevertheless, you will receive me to glory.”

What an ocean of grace is found in this one little word: nevertheless! I want to bathe my heart in it this evening! I want to enjoy every gentle wave of mercy it brings.

God’s love to me meets me right where I am. In the midst of all my sin and doubt, pride, selfishness, and complaining heart, I heard the Savior say, “Nevertheless, I am with you.” “Nevertheless, I forgive you.” “Nevertheless, I will guide you.” “Nevertheless, I will take you to eternal pleasures at my right hand.”

    “Never-the-less.”

Take heart, dear believer. If you are in Christ, this is the banner that hangs over your life, even in the midst of your fallenness and sin.

“Nevertheless, I am with you and I receive you.”

What a word! What a truth! What a Savior is Jesus, the Christ!