Unsatisfied By Average

The Musings of a Stubborn Believer

Category: faithfulness (page 1 of 3)

Sympathy with Humanity

I wasn’t complaining. Though it sounds a bit like it now…
On a peninsula of rock jutting like a castle between a gorge and a vale I stood, breathless from the scramble. Hands in my pockets and with eager step, if heavy heart.

Perhaps a few will understand when I say I carry on my heart at any given time a thousand reasons to laugh, and a thousand reasons to weep. Most all of them with first and last names.
Such is the cost of loving humanity, I suppose.

Anyway, this post isn’t about me.

I’d just gained the crest, just finished a brief review comparing the power at my disposal with my far-too-often dismal performance, just realized afresh how deep mercy reaches, and

It’s not fair, You know? I deserve the lot of the criminal, but here I stand in converse with The Infinite, while people I love slowly die in the clutches of fear….

Can you see why happiness means nothing to me when it’s mine alone?

…So, it’s all or nothing.

Either I am to be completely at Your disposal to help the weak, comfort the wounded, and actually lift, and heal, and effect a lasting change, or…

Or, I want out right. now. 

Because it hurts too much to be in sympathy with humanity.

Ever have you been in that place or time when suddenly every tree in the wood seemed to drop its jaw and gape? and you wonder:

what did I do. What did I just say?

The only answer is this electric silence.

I glance one way and the other. Wait.

He never says. But suddenly it’s as if every snowflake has recovered from shock and found a voice.

He would know.

He would know just exactly how much it hurts to be in sympathy with humanity. And He chose it, over the alternative, not because there was no alternative. For Him, there’s no “out.”

For Him, there’s no wanting out.

“For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.”  Hebrews 4:15 

Sleeping Before Gethsemane

In my mind I think that nothing would have persuaded me to sleep that night…
I should think I would have been too afraid. 
They watched Him, walked with Him. He, having just given what He knew to be His last words– His last will and testament. Now He is gripped by a sadness such as they have never seen before. The Healer stumbles and sways into the garden, and more than once they have to hold Him up so He does not topple to the cold ground. 
Can you enter in to just how frightening that must have been?
Cold night; stricken Savior. 
He, who’d never stumbled? Not once?
Perhaps the 8 of them were glad to be left near the gate of the garden. Maybe sleep would erase all memory of this dread they could not understand? 
I don’t know, I wasn’t there.
What I do know is, they slept. 
The three closest ones, they followed Him till He told them to stay. But did anybody look unreservedly into His face? Did anyone dare ask why He was sorrowful unto death? Did no one cling to Him and insist He share the burden that was crushing out His life? Did any say “I’ll watch with you. I’ll go with you. Wherever. Only entreat me not to leave You…”
Or with pounding hearts did they pray, for a few minutes, that it would just go away…
I wasn’t there. 
But these two things I know: they neglected to share (or shrank from sharing) His heart because its burdens were unknown, awkward and fearful. 
And when the moment of truth burst upon them, they scattered.
Might I venture to say that had they stopped and just looked into His face, accepted the dreadful reality written there in bloody sweat, and sought to share its grief, 
they would have read there the truth about the moments to come? 
Or at least, they would not have been shocked by them. 
Jesus knew. 

I wonder: Could not they have known a little too?
In my mind I think that nothing would have persuaded me to sleep that night… 
I should have been too afraid. 
But then, what of His burdens in the overflowing eyes of this people His flesh and blood? His bride?
Don’t I sometimes neglect to share them, or shrink from them because they are fearful, awkward, unknown?
Do I ever pray, rather than that I might share them, that they might just go away?
Oh Jesus… Perhaps I would have slept too? 

PC and post: Nathan Lee Westbrook

Strong to Save [When God Goes to War] Part II

You know the story isn’t over.
It could be. I mean, wouldn’t it be enough if He swooped in as the Hero of every rescue mission, and picked up broken pieces again, and took them home to heal?
That’s already more than we deserve.

But that’s not the end of the story. Or the chapter.

He is the Hero of every rescue mission. And there’s a reason His exploits come first…

But keep reading till the end of the tale.

He saves the afflicted, simultaneously putting the adversary in his place.
And then!–

He lights a candle. A little flame of light atop a stick of wax strung out.
Fresh home from the smoke and dust of battle, He shares His life.
He puts in the soul a fire, out of Himself, a part of Himself, and with that fire comes all the power that is His. Power to live. Power to overcome. The same power that just sent hills and hoodlums scurrying.

And watch the servant. Watch the flame suddenly catch on, as if he was all oil inside. Watch him fly into the darkness, like an arrow himself. Burning as he goes, consumed, but . . . not consumed.

Watch him run right through the midst of the garrison of darkness, setting the place ablaze. Watch his enemies come to their senses, pick themselves up to follow hard in the trail of smoke. Watch him get to the end– the dead end. And just when the pursuers think they’ll have vengeance at last, watch him leap. Watch him sail over what should have been his death sentence. While his enemies remain, confined by their own fortifications.

Watch him stop on the far side, catch his breath, raise one hand to heaven and say:

“As for God, His way is perfect:
the word of the Lord is tried:
He is a buckler to all those that trust in Him.
For who is God, save the Lord?. . .

It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.
He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet. . .
He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms. . .

Thy right hand hath holden me up,
And thy gentleness hath made me great.
Thou has enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.

I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them:. . .
I have wounded them that they were not able to rise:
they are fallen under my feet.

For Thou has girded me with strength unto the battle. . .”

(Ps. 18:30-39, emphasis mine.)

How can it logically be said that even with unlimited access to unlimited power, we must accept the prospect of limited progress, and perpetual setbacks?

I don’t get that.

What I do get, is that when I am His, then I am strong.
And under no other circumstances.

Strong to Save [When God Goes to War] Part I

I have no tolerance for the idea that defeat must be regarded as at least occasionally inevitable. Absolutely none.

As if every third day or so the angels trade sides for an hour and evil somehow becomes omnipotent. Really?

I think it would be good if we all made it a habit to regularly review Psalm 18. To me it’s the ultimate drama of faltering servant, and faithful God. No wonder it’s one of my favorites…

But I guess you realize it requires more than the simple existence of Omnipotent God to keep me from falling… Well, herein lies that secret too. In the first four words of the chapter. The spark that heralds a storm of Divinity.–

“I will love Thee…”

I Will. My little part to play. So simple, so absolutely necessary. Whole sermon right here…
Love. Because love will move my heart, my head, and my hands. The way work won’t…
Thee. Because love is actually inevitable. You were wired for it. It’s not if, it’s who. And only this Master has life to give away…

In other words, I’m Yours. Head, heart, and whole.

And then do you see what happens?
Hear a few verses later when David bleeds out this distress of sorrows and death–

The servant cries, and the whole earth reels in the thunder from his chariot wheels.
Hills and rills run out of the way, because He is wroth.
Breath of life and creative Word come out of mouth and nose as smoke and fire.
His chariot is alive. An angel with wind for his wings.
He arrives at His war room –a secret pavilion carved out of darkness– in the midst of the earthquake.
Walks in under escort of raining fire and ice.

He stands in the midst of His council of war, utters words that cut atmospheres. More thunder…
And His speech gets the whole host moving.

Next thing you know, “his arrows,” the very best of His fighting force, they shoot out from the place, wreak havoc on the enemy.
Seemingly out of nowhere.
And when the scattering seems complete, He sends lightnings after them.

Then all at once the agenda, the fortifications, the vulnerabilities of the enemy are laid wide open.
And He calmly walks in and picks up His servant, and carries him out.

“With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful;
with the upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright;
with the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure;
and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.” Ps. 18:25, 26

I’m not making it up. That’s what the Book says.

I have no tolerance for the idea that defeat must be regarded as at least occasionally inevitable. Absolutely none.

Perhaps I must be regarded as at least occasionally (or much more often) failing to call for help, or surrendering my arms voluntarily…

(to be continued…)

Proven Supremacy [Off the Scribbled Page]

Do you know what I learned this morning?…
I’ve learned we can’t leave room for even the smallest infidelity. That to resist accountability in one department means failure to thrive in all others. That the slightest neglect to commit leaves a hole that apostasy will be only too glad to fill.

We can afford no such luxury. (No such villainy.)

Here’s what I learned…

The supremacy of God is manifested to the world by the fidelity of His friends.*

So it was when it appeared God Himself had been made a servant to Babylon. For wasn’t almost every holy thing from His house now beautifying a pagan temple?

No, actually not. Because the most beautiful things from God’s house were the hearts that served Him there.
And some of those hearts stayed true. Even in Babylon.

My God, show Thyself strong in a pagan land, before a pagan people, through the faithfulness of Thy friends…

*See PK Chap 39: In the Court of Babylon

Her Name Was Mary

“Ok, tell me everything you know about this girl.”

I’m on a quest of discovery. And I’m after everything my friend might know.

“Well, she’s a really pious woman.”
                                                “Or… wait.”

–  –  –

Yeah. My thoughts exactly.
Almost without exception, her contemporaries thought differently.
For after all, she was the girl who’d been robbed of parents before she was ready to stand on her own, and had subsequently turned to find love where it can never be found. She was the one who, whether intentionally or accidentally, had thrown away her innocence, her youth, her purity, her piety in the crime-soaked business of human flesh for sale. And to boot, seven times she’d bowed to the dark side, and become a currier for the worst kind of darkness.
She was.

But then, then there was that awful day when she was caught in the act… Dragged from the bed to the street, and thrown in a cowering heap before the Lord of Glory.
And there was that beautiful moment when her broken shame, her stripped-bare necessity, appeared in the shadow of the undiluted Love of Infinite Eternity.

And she got it.

She got it.

Of course the pharisees would always maintain that Jesus regularly ate breakfast, lunch and dinner at a prostitute’s house.
Of course they’d say that what was could never be fully erased.

Of course, we say the same of others. We say the same of ourselves.
You know, that a crippling past must necessarily have a strong effect on one’s usefulness future. That this girl should never know as she might, what it is to trust. Or that, at the very least, it might take a lifetime to learn. And love? Well…

Yes. We often say those things.
And of course, there is an element of truth to them.

But there’s a reason this girl named Mary (which name means “Rebellious,” by the way) is my new favorite Bible character.

Because her story is the story of the power of grace to overcome, and to turn my past into my greatest advantage.

Let me gently remind the world that the home she shared with her big brother and sister was the place Jesus always came to when it was time to rest. That these were, apart from His very own, His best friends on earth. And that after her turning, this girl gained eyes for things everyone else missed.

Because the brokenness of her past was the richest possible backdrop for the truth about Grace, and the power of Love.

Remember that in the midst of the noise of a traditional Jewish party, while everyone was consumed by the festivities, one girl had the presence of mind to anointed her Lord for burial. That when everyone else was consumed with the protocol, this one girl sat at the feet of the Desire of the Ages, and watched Him, all ears, all eyes, all heart.
Remember that on that dark friday, she was there. When they carried Him to the tomb, she was there.

And let me remind you that on resurrection morning, Jesus appeared to one, and only one friend. And that friend was neither Peter, James, nor John.

Her name was Mary.
And she was a former prostitute.

I can’t help but wonder, might it be because she understood something about Love that everybody else missed?
And might that be because God makes “all things work together for good…”?

“Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.”

 “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Ro. 5:20

–  –  – 

Shoes kiss the pavement over and over. Rhythm of breathing and stride. We push miles behind us one at a time, while the truth is soaked in silence.

And I? I’m so taken.

“So, you see why this story, this girl . . .”. . .

Determined Nation

di-ˌtər-mə-ˈnā-shən: firm or fixed intention to achieve a desired end…

Around the tree he goes. All business.
I stop to watch with mild amusement; my mind on other things.

Whether or not I can sense it, (I can’t) something was there. And his sense is strong enough that he won’t be easily put off. So he leaps and claws, and sniffs with this furious intensity, so excited he’s almost blind to his own opportunity…

I smell nothing, but I can see what he cannot.

“Listen, son.”

I have his attention.
“You might be able to actually get up there. But you’d have to start from here. See?”

I point to a new spot on the ground, then tap anchor points up the tree to well above my eye level.

“Then here, here, and here.”

I frankly don’t expect him to try. But I underestimate his determination.
He runs to where my finger started; whirls around. He doesn’t even pause to assess the viability of my suggestion.

He makes this scrambling charge, and he climbs.

He climbs to the point of no return, and just when I am thinking I should have thought this through better before making the suggestion, he flies out of the tree, squirrel-like.
And then he does it again. The whole thing. Nose working overtime.

He does it four times. Until his own nose and I finally convince him that what was there isn’t any more.
Crazy dog.
Or is he?

We turn to go. He, on to the next conquest.
I, to my thoughts in the quiet woods.

“Determination: firm or fixed intention to achieve a desired end…”

Intention fueled by the recognition of a reality the rest of the world totally missed.

What if we were like that?
I mean, the holy nation. The peculiar people…
Fueled by a recognition of a reality the rest of the world totally missed…

Who says the impossible is… impossible?
Dogs can climb trees. Especially if someone points out the way.
I can prove it.

Obvious Invisible

“For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made…” (Romans 1:20)

His heart is written out in face and flower and framed in full color of falling leaf…It’s everywhere. 

If I cannot understand the heart of God, the purposes of God; If the invisible is a mystery, the cause lies with me. In me.

It’s that time of year again. I sit arms folded in my leather desk chair to keep my warmth in. 
Who knows what the temp is in here. 

“…So that they are without excuse.” (ibid)

Little lights shine like stars where the wall meets the ceiling. My eyes wander from one to the next.

Invisible, visible. Invisible, visible. The obvious impossible. Unthinkable. 

I start up. Take up the book again, scour the page with something almost like a glare.

If this problem is all mine, you had better believe I will find the solution. 

 “Invisible…visible.” They did, they didn’t… (verse 21)

because they didn’t. They didn’t give Him His due. They didn’t “glorify Him as God” of their lives. And so they couldn’t see Him, where He was indeed to be found. 

 He was there, but their eyes were darkened.

We see Him, when we give Him what is due Him.


Never Stop Believing

“The just shall live by faith.”

Not “we should live,” as though there were actually another way…

But rather–
that unshakable confidence in the promises, in the Providence, in the power of the Almighty is like the air that sustains our very life. That without it, we turn grey and cold and waxy hard.
For death is only life minus breath…

“The just shall live by faith.”

…and that this confidence all consuming, this believing that grips so deeply it necessarily changes the believer himself, shall not alone be the air that fills lungs with life, but also the spring from which newness of life flows… “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed, from faith to faith.”

“The just shall live by faith.”

…and that the necessary result should be fidelity.
Because the end of faith is faithfulness.

“The just shall live by faith.”

Never, never, ever stop believing.

God’s Fortress

“…It’s not even American young people and European young people working together–“

“We’re Adventist young people.”
I sit and listen, fidget while tingles play tag up and down my spine. I brush tears away; squeeze fists together tight till my forearms bulge. 
I’m watching stone walls generations old crack before my eyes.
I’m watching the sun dip low on the heyday of materialism, secularism, postmodernism. 
Yes, even on the continent.
I’m watching a generation wake up and decide all those things are empty and they’ve had enough.
I am one of them.
Oh, and I don’t mean to say we’ll win without paying the ultimate price.
But I am saying, it’s as good as over. 
We can’t lose.
. . . .
I recline early, book in hand under soft glow of christmas lights that grace my office year-round. (Jet lag in my favor, I’m bright and eager at 0200)
My eyes hesitate at the end of this phrase, retrace and return. Revel:
“The church is God’s fortress”
 Acts of the Apostles p.11 | photo: JN

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