The LORD on High Is Mighty

Psalm 93:4 – “Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the LORD on high is mighty!”

Giant Atlantic Ocean wave Shetland Sumburgh Head

Our family recently returned from our 12th annual trip to Fenwick Island, Delaware. A huge blessing by my mother-in-law, we look forward each year to our week in Fenwick Island, cherishing the annual traditions it brings, while we relish the opportunity to soak in the summer sun one last time before the school bell rings and signals the beginning of a new (school) year.

This year the ocean was particularly inviting, boasting temperatures in the mid-70s, nearly a match for the weather greeting us as we stepped outside our cottage doors. Unlike some years, everyone got in. Everyone got wet.

There’s nothing on earth quite like the ocean. The proximity of the house we stay in each year allows the opportunity to just sit and listen to the waves and gaze at their beauty. I love that. There’s something so majestic about the power of the ocean tides, the relentless rhythm of its actions. It can make you jeer with laughter one moment and then knock the breath right out of your lungs as it pulls you off your feet the next. Its waves can invigorate you, and then frighten you, and then revive you again.

The ocean is unpredictable. It’s majestic; it’s mighty.

Every trip to the beach reminds me of Psalm 93, and I wonder again at the power and majesty of our Almighty God.

“Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the LORD on high is mighty!”

The psalmist exclaims that “The LORD reigns; he is robed in Majesty” (Ps. 93:1). Against the backdrop of human depravity and the unpredictable wickedness of men stressed in the previous psalm (Psalm 92:6-9), the author here glories in the Sovereign Rule and Power of the Almighty God:

Mightier than the Ocean

Our Majestic God holds the world in His hands and under His Sovereign rule and control. His throne is established, and from everlasting to everlasting HE is God.

Verse 3 of this psalm speaks of “floods (that) have lifted up their voice… the floods (that) lift up their roaring.” Forces of evil and darkness will rise up and roar; they threaten oppression; they oppose the kingdom of God; at times, they appear to rule.

Yet, the psalmist glories in the eternal perspective, the only true reality, that God alone reigns (v. 1).

“The seas have lifted up, O LORD,
the seas have lifted up their voice;
the seas have lifted up their pounding
waves.”

Maybe you, at times, feel like chaos is the only order of the day; that the seas are pounding you with relentless abandon, like you can’t get your footing against all that opposes you to knock you down.

That’s when we need to remember Psalm 93:4. The LORD is Mightier than the thunder of the great waters and the breakers of the sea. He controls even the crashing of the ocean tides.

As the forces of evil and opposition lift up their voice to roar, to wreak havoc, to terrorize, and to oppress, they are not the final authority. They are not ultimately in control. “Mightier is the LORD”; “The LORD on high is mighty.”

The LORD God Almighty, the Majestic, Everlasting God is the One who rules and reigns. And He speaks comfort to His people who are tempted to fear:

“But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior'” (Isaiah 43:1-3a)

No matter how high the waves rise, our God is in control of them. My soul, trust today in your Majestic, Mighty, Sovereign, Reigning God and be refreshed again in the Ocean of His love and mercy. HE is Mighty, and He is for you in Christ.

A Review of The Book “God Took Me By The Hand” by Jerry Bridges

Over the 4th of July holiday weekend, I visited a local bookstore and picked up a copy of Jerry Bridges’ new book God Took Me By The Hand.

God Took Me By the Hand

For many reasons, I have been greatly anticipating the release of this particular book. As I sat down one early morning to read it over the holiday weekend, I was not disappointed. A rare experience for me, I actually read the entirety of the book in one day. I simply could not put it down.

Why I Am Personally Grateful for Jerry Bridges

Mr. Bridges is 84 years old. He’s been walking with the Lord for over 65 years. There is a wisdom, grace, and spiritual maturity that comes from one who has been walking with Jesus for so many years. I’ve met Mr. Bridges personally and have been impacted by his humility, his reverence for God, and his personal appropriation of the goodness of God and the gospel of grace. I’ve heard him teach several times, and the simplicity and profundity of his teachings and writings have greatly impacted my spiritual life over the years.

On my bookshelf, among others, are the following books:

Bridges

    The Pursuit of Holiness
    The Practice of Godliness
    The Discipline of Grace
    Transforming Grace
    Trusting God
    The Joy of Fearing God
    The Transforming Power of the Gospel
    The Gospel for Real Life
    The Fruitful Life
    The Bookends of the Christian Life

So, what makes this book unique from all the others?

God Took Me By The Hand is, in my view, the most personal of all of Mr. Bridges’ books. The book is actually structured as a personal recounting of the providence of God in Mr. Bridges’ life.

Mr. Bridges writes,

“When I was seventeen years old, it seemed as if God took me by the hand and said, ‘Come with Me.’ And for more than sixty-five years, God has, as it were, continued to hold my hand and lead me in the path He has marked out for me… There have been lots of times when life has been hard and discouraging, but through it all, I see God’s hand drawing me along the path He ordained for me before I was born… The purpose of this story, then, is to explain, illustrate, and exalt God’s providence… so that believers will come to recognize and appreciate more of God’s work in their own lives” (pages 11-12).

Following this structure, the book gives the reader a sensation as if he or she is sitting in the living room with Mr. Bridges, enjoying a cup of coffee and conversing around the glory of God’s providence displayed throughout his years of walking with Christ.

Mr. Bridges describes four physical defects and deformities he was born with (e.g. he was cross-eyed, with an underdeveloped right inner-ear, and he had abnormalities in his breastbone and spine among other physical difficulties he coped with throughout his childhood and adult life). He sees the providence of God in it all:

So I was born physically exactly the way God wanted me to be and to parents who were poor, uneducated, and socially isolated, all because that was the plan God ordained for me before I was born. But if you fast-forward my life to the present, you have to be amazed at what God has done for a cross-eyed, partially deaf boy growing up in poverty alongside the railroad tracks… Furthermore, all that God has done, He has done solely by His grace” (Page 17-18).

Throughout the book, Mr. Bridges describes the circumstances leading up to his conversion, his entrance into the US Navy, his providential passing of naval hearing test (through a make-shift hearing exam administered through a naval officer), his introduction to the Navigators, his conversion to Christ, and his invitation to write and teach.

In the account of his life, suffering is intermingled with joy, and hardships are mixed in with God’s blessings and grace. As I read the book, I found myself reviewing the 37 years of my own life and thanking God for His quiet providence that led me to Christ and to where I am today. I also found myself wondering at what the future may hold as I continue to walk with Jesus. It definitely had a comforting, encouraging, strengthening, and inspiring effect on my own soul.

For any Christian seeking to grow in their faith and awareness and appreciation of God’s providential working in their own lives, I highly recommend God Took Me By The Hand.

Like me, you may not be able to put it down.

Question: Have you read God Took Me By the Hand, and if so, what effect did it have on your own soul? What other books by Mr. Bridges have you read, and how have you benefitted from them?

Expect More From God

iStock_000013606813MoreWillBeGiven

“For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance.” Matthew 13:12

This is happy news for every believer in Christ! Here’s why.

For to the one who has, more will be given.

Have you received the glorious gift of salvation? Then, you can expect that more will be given and you will have an abundance of grace. “He who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

Has God shown mercy to you? Then, you can expect that his mercies will be renewed to you each morning, so great is his faithfulness (Lam. 3:21-23).

Have you been justified by His grace? Then expect to be sanctified, as well. “It is to the Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8).

Christ will distinguish his own. To the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance.

    Could this be? Could God be so gracious?

    Could the spring once opened to me never run dry?

    Could the fountain of grace that has renewed my soul really be ever-flowing?

Yes, it is true! God is this gracious.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30

The receiving of mercy from God should inflame an eager expectation for more of his mercy and grace.

This is remarkable. You have received mercy from God, and here’s what you can now expect: MORE MERCY!

Let past mercies foster future faith to anticipate more from your gracious God.

Come, and ask for more. He really is that gracious.

Jesus said,

“Ask and you shall receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you Fathers, if your son asked for a fish would give him a snake, or if he asked for an egg would give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask?” (Luke 11:9-10).

Upheld by grace, daily, let us rest in the goodness of God’s everlasting love and exclaim with the psalmist:

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

The Pathway to Perfect Peace

trails

“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” – Isaiah 26:3

There is a strong correlation between the mind and the heart. Here’s what I mean.

The mind’s contemplations and the heart’s affections are revealed to be interwoven throughout the pages of Scripture.

In this passage in Isaiah, we see that to trust in God involves keeping our minds fixed on God. The one whose mind is stayed on the LORD is shown to be the one whose heart trusts in the LORD, and that trust leads to perfect peace.

The Apostle Paul speaks in a similar fashion in Colossians when he writes,

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things, for you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1-3)

The mind and the heart, then, are inseparable. What we believe in our minds determines how we live in our actions, which flows from what we set our hearts on.

What a promise we have here in Isaiah!

There is a potential for perfect peace

Perfect peace is promised in this passage to those who keep their minds stayed on the LORD, because the keeping of the mind on the LORD is an expression, a sign, an indicator that one’s trust is in the LORD.

How can we grow in trusting God today? – By filling our minds with the truths of God, His sovereignty, His holiness, His wisdom, His power, His immutability, His Omniscience, His Omnipotence, and most importantly His great love for us in Christ.

In keeping our minds stayed, fixed, settled on Who God Is, we will enjoy peace within our souls. Our hearts will trust in Him and we will enjoy the promise of perfect peace.

God, in Christ, IS the pathway to perfect peace.

Trusting God Through Changing Landscapes

iStock_000003913381SailingSunset

We are sitting in our rented beach condo, enjoying a slow, restful morning before the sun peeks it’s warming presence and invites us outdoors. Pandora is playing an Amos Lee station and the melody of a familiar song has sent me into a reflective state.

I must have listened to the song “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac 50-100 times in the fall of 2012 as I traveled weekly for a 3-month stretch, commuting from Knoxville to Nashville.

A ballad of change, parts of the song so aptly describe the fear and the resolve that I was experiencing as I had made the decision to transition from full-time ministry in Knoxville to starting a new job and serving as a pastor bi-vocationally in Nashville, in order to help plant a new church in the Franklin area.

“Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?”

“Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older too”

That’s exactly how I felt: resolved to push through the fear of change; in a word, I was resolved to “go.”

The realization had set in that I wasn’t getting any younger. My children were getting older, too, and I was absolutely convinced that God was calling me and my family right then to relocate to a new area for the sake of the gospel and to trust Him to make our steps secure.

Pushing Through The Fear, Embracing The Change

Within a matter of months, everything in my life changed. I had a new residence, a new place of employment, a new church to help start, a new circle of friends, a new city to explore, and a new group of people to reach out to.

We moved from eastern time to central time, where the sun sets at 4:30 in the dead of winter and sirens sound in the city to indicate when a tornado could be spinning through.

We had to learn our way around a grocery store again, find a new auto-mechanic (our van has over 175k miles on it), and make first-time visits to a dentist and eye-doctor (I’m thankful that my son’s new baseball coach also happens to be an excellent Optometrist, and one of the guys I see regularly in the line at Starbucks is a local dentist).

The fact is, change is hard. Some change is scary. Some is exciting. But all change brings both life and death, the birth of new things and the loss of others.

No matter how you shake it, new is uncomfortable. Yet, people don’t come to Christ without new conversations. Churches aren’t planted without change (both for the sending and the sent). Growth in any area requires that we stretch ourselves beyond what we are accustomed to normally.

It’s right in the midst of the discomfort that God meets us with His grace.

Psalm 23 reveals to us a God who gently shepherds His people throughout the changing landscapes of life. Sometimes there are “green pastures” and “still waters.” At other times, we find ourselves walking through “the valley of the shadow of death.” Yet, wherever we walk, we have the assurance that “surely goodness and mercy will follow {us} all the days of our lives, and {we} will dwell in the house of The Lord forever.”

If The Lord is calling you to a new normal, keep this encouragement close to your heart:

“Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” – Joshua 1:9

God is with you. By His grace, you can sail through the changing oceans tides and you can handle the seasons of your life. The life that is built on Christ is secure, regardless of the changing landscapes.

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.