Surely

Saturday reflections…

How many times did I focus on the “what ifs” of worry rather than the “surely” of scripture? How many times was I more gripped by restless thoughts than the steadfast love of God?

But where there is failing in his child, there is his grace to sanctify. Where there is struggling faith, there is his grace to strengthen. And surely his goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life. And at the end of my life, I will dwell with him forever. A promise better than a thousand lifetimes.

“Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love.”

Peace

The world gives peace only when there is no fear. When there is no fear, a person is at peace. However, this verse implies the opposite. Followers of Christ are at peace, so they need not be afraid. Peace in Christ does not mean the absence of frightening things or trouble, but peace in it.

Jesus gives his followers his peace. This is the death-defying peace of the Divine Son of God who sweat drops of blood a few hours later at the prospect of his sacrifice on the cross. The peace that asked for that cup to pass, but desired the will of the Father over being spared from suffering. The peace of the One who was the Man of Sorrows, who was acquainted with sorrow, who bore our iniquity and griefs. The peace of the One who endured the cross because he had set the joy before him. The peace of the Son with the Father.

This is no ordinary peace. It trusts the will of the Father, even unto death. It focuses on the joy of God’s promise, not the situation. Even more than all of that, it is peace with the Father. This peace of a heart is possible only for one no longer under condemnation, but under God’s banner of love as his child.

This moves my heart to pray for the ability to believe and practice this peace. May I be able to say whole-heartedly with the Psalmist:

“I have set the Lord always before me;

because he is at my right hand,

I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad,

and my whole being rejoices;

my flesh also dwells secure.

For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,

or let your holy one see corruption.

You make known to me the path of life;

in your presence there is fullness of joy;

at your right hand are pleasures

forevermore.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭16:8-11‬ ‭

Abide and Rest

Mondays can be busy days. Or maybe they only seem more busy because it’s the first workday after the weekend. Too often the temptation can be to give in to the tyranny of the urgent and dive willingly into the rush that offers no real rest or relief… at least it is for me.

So how welcome this reminder is to dwell, to stay, to abide, to find rest in the shelter of the Almighty. The One who gives work and gives rest. The One who does not call for a frenzied rush, but endurance in doing good. The One who, for the believer, has already assigned eternal favor and the worth of being his child. The One who, in his matchless power, is working all things out for the good of those who trust in him.

How different would each hour be if his children (including this one) abided in his love and shelter, even while out working in the world? How different would it be if his children anchored their soul in the bedrock of eternal hope instead of striving and trusting in the efforts of man, including themselves?

Sunday Song: I Will Sing of my Redeemer

The book of Psalms is a great gift. It teaches us to remember, to trust, to cry out, to rejoice… in song.

When troubles, worries, temptations, and frustrations take hold, when I can’t see past tomorrow’s responsibilities or today’s failures, when I’m gladdened with deep joy and contentment, my soul needs most to remember Christ’s great sacrifice on my behalf. And from that remembrance, my soul and body must join together and sing.

By God’s grace, arranged and played by Katie

Thanks and credit to Marianne Kim who inspired the introduction.

To my Teacher Self: you are serving the Lord Christ

This week in my fifth grade class we are reading “This I Believe: Free Hearts and Minds at Work”, a radio talk by Jackie Robinson. This quote toward the end really stood out to me:

“And in the largest sense, I believe that what I did was done for me — that it was my faith in God that sustained me in my fight.” – Jackie Robinson, This I Believe: Free Hearts and Minds at Work

That got me thinking: How often do I think about what I have to do instead of what has been done for me by God? How often do I think about what God will do for me?

When my heart is focused on the work I have to do, expectations from myself and others, that student (or administrator) who seems to have it in for me, or the sleep I just can’t seem to get, my heart is overwhelmed and temped toward resentment, impatience, and worry.

As I was praying through today, the Lord brought this verse to me:

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”  Colossians 3:23-24 ESV

So that got me thinking through practical implications of how to address frustrations. Some of these apply to me at the moment, some do not. However, they are all possible in the world of teaching. I don’t voice these frustrations because we should dwell on them, but to practice meeting real frustrations and temptations to sin with the truth of what Christ has done for those who hope in him alone for salvation. In other words, I hope to address what I have to do with what Christ is doing and has done for me, because I am serving the Lord Christ.

When I am planning my lessons with my weekends or late nights, I am serving the Lord Christ who loved me and gave himself for me. (Ephesians 5:2)

When I write my agendas on the board every morning, I am serving the Lord Christ who is my strength and song. (Psalm 118:14)

When I am dealing with a defiant – or even just annoyingly talkative- kiddo, I am serving the Lord Christ who has shown me mercy. (1 Peter 2:10)

When I’m faced with a conflict with co-workers or supervisors, I am serving the Lord Christ who multiplies grace and peace to me. (2 Peter 1:2)

When my planning (or lunch) is taken up with petty annoyances or more serious, seemingly impossible issues, I am serving the Lord Christ who awoke my heart from death and sin to salvation and life- a work impossible for me, but not for him. (Luke 18:27)

When I am grading papers, I am serving the Lord Christ who has promised to never leave me. (Hebrews 13:5)

When I am having an observation that may or may not be going according to plan, I am serving the Lord Christ who has already placed his favor on me. (Psalm 84:11)

When I seem to not be getting answers to work e-mails, I am serving the Lord Christ who hears my prayers and answers them. (Psalm 116:1)

When I’m buying more school supplies for my classroom out of my pocket, I am serving the Lord Christ who deals bountifully with me. (Psalm 116:7)

When I’m talking with or being harassed by an upset, unpleasant parent, I am serving the Lord Christ who enables me to do what is right. (Philippians 2:13)

So my prayer for myself today, as well as for us all, is that I set the Lord always before me so that my heart will not be shaken with resentment or worry.

“Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.

The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.

Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever.” Psalm 28:6-9

And may God guard my heart and faith today against any lie that would tell a different story. May he increase my faith to believe in the good promises and hope of his word.

To love and good works

“Look Miss W. I put the encouragement up on the board so that everyone would know to do their best job today.” -G, 5th grade

I smiled at his sweet sincerity and helpfulness. I was also a little disconcerted. Had he known that Hebrews 19:24 was that morning’s “verse of the day” on my Bible app?

It got me to thinking. I had to ask myself about what stirs up my heart – especially as a teacher- to endure in loving others and doing good, even when I’m tired and discouraged. A couple things came to mind. Admittedly, it feels disjointed, but it is a beginning of the beautiful canvas of hope painted in Scripture. So, disjointed thoughts or not, I want to share in hopes that it can encourage us all to love and good works today.

The love of God

“God loves his people. If you are a believer in Christ Jesus, trusting only in His merits, God loves you as surely as He is God. There is no question about the matter. His divine love is yours as certainly as His power is displayed in creation. Set God’s lovingkindness before your eyes. Think of His faithfulness! God’s lovingkindness never pauses. It is as constant as the flight of time. Never a moment but there has been love for that moment. Never an hour but there has been that hour’s portion of lovingkindness.” C.H. Spurgeon

Since I am loved out of a never-ending abundance of pure, perfect love, I am free to pour out that love on my students and others, not worrying about keeping back for myself. May God use the conviction of His steadfast love to increase my patience and kindness- in short- my loving actions. May His love empower my mouth to speak gracious words that build up, my eyes to shine kindness, my posture and tone to show His patience. Out of the divine security of resting in his love, may my classroom hold security for the children who enter.

God’s Presence

God goes with me today and everyday. He has promised to never leave nor forsake His children. So I can go back to our classrooms and say “God is in this place” and know He is. He is just as much with me when I’m walking to pick up copies as He is when I am dealing with a student’s battle of the will, or talking with a parent, or writing (more) lesson plans, or trying to get 5th graders excited about writing a summary… again. The presence of God gives me joy that doesn’t depend on my circumstances. May that knowledge make me smile and laugh and take joy in the presence of God today. May my students get to share in that joy.

“Surely His goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.” Ps. 23

That includes today. May the recurring refrain of my daily thoughts not be worry or resentment, but the thanksgiving of remembering:

God is so good, he cares for me, he loves me, he is with me.

For days to come

May the Holy Spirit always bring to my mind the words of the Bible so that I can get through each day strengthened (because of his power!) to bear good fruit and “work good work” as one of my students says. May I always delight to remember that in the faithfulness of God I have “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow” (hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness)

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Galatians 6:9 NIV

What would have been

Psalm 139:16 tells me that God has a great plan and it will come to pass. A book of what has been, what is, and what will be.

This verse brings hope and comfort to me for the days that are and will come. It also gives me hope for the day that would have been.

Because today would have been my uncle’s 60th birthday.

Today would have been my friend Rebekah’s 30th birthday.

Today would have been a day my friend could laugh with her dad instead of burying him.

Like many others, I have shed tears over my book of “days that would have been”. And I wonder how the hard and even devastating days could be written in God’s book, a book I cannot yet see and know.

It’s then that the Holy Spirit whispers heart reminders- words from the book God has given me to know.

Words…

  • From Psalm 139 that say even the greatest distance and greatest darkness cannot diminish his hold or guidance.
  • From Psalm 23 that even in the valley of the shadow of death he is present.
  • From Isaiah 25 that promise one day that God will swallow up death forever and he will wipe away all tears.
  • From John 11 that God wept with his friends over the death of their brother.
  • From John 14 that promise his peace and love.
  • From Revelation 22 that the Alpha and Omega is coming soon.

In the certainty of his unfailing love and promise, I can rest in the certainty of the days he has planned. In the power of the Holy Spirit, I can submit my “days that would have been” to his greater “days that are and will be”. I can even grieve, knowing that His heart toward me is tender and that one day he will wipe away my tears. That day is planned for me and it will come to pass. So I trust Him with the days He has written for me… and the days He has written for others.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:12

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