Friday, May 31, 2019

So, Keep walking!
  To all who mourn in Israel, he will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of despair. For the LORD has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory” Isaiah 61:3

This verse is telling us of the Lord who takes our burdens and replaces them with “beauty, praise and joy” while planting us in firm ground like a strong oak tree with grace for the glory of God. What an image and promise.  I am also reminded of
Psalm 1 that speaks of him whose walk in righteous and delights in the law of the Lord. “He will be like trees planted by rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in season, whose leaf shall never wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:3).  I can take delight in this promise in and through my trials. In fact I can take courage and do what the Lord has called me to do; encourage other people in their trials.  An encouraging passage in Isaiah 61 starts says,
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—“

This is the same passage that Jesus as a youth read in the synagogue with great power and authority causing the leaders to be astonished and filled with wrath. Sometimes we are called to a ministry where others will rebuke or reject us. If fact, now in the end-times, persecution is increasing and distain for Christians and our teaching is ramping up as Jesus predicted in Matthew 24. Satan would want to sift us or make us ineffective, so we must continue to proclaim the word of truth in and out of season. How do we continue with assurance and confidence?

“The eternal God is your refuge,
    and underneath are the everlasting arms.
He will drive out your enemies before you,
    saying, ‘Destroy them!’” (Deuteronomy 33:27).

This verse was the theme verse of Elizabeth Elliot on her radio shows “Gateway to Joy.” She returned to Ecuador as missionary to the Quichua Indians after her husband Jim had been murdered by them. She persevered and won them over to Christ. How? By knowing and trusting that a powerful and loving God would deliver her through the trial into His presence no matter what may come.

My ministry is not to native peoples, but to those in crisis and hurting in hospitals. As a chaplain, I am “called” to care for the lost and broken in spirit. I am charged to share light in the darkness of life. Sometimes patients and their families do not want to see me, but most will. So I take courage in the Lord’s help.
“if the Lord had not been on our side
    when people attacked us,
they would have swallowed us alive
    when their anger flared against us; 
the flood would have engulfed us,
    the torrent would have swept over us, 
the raging waters
    would have swept us away. 
Praise be to the Lord,
    who has not let us be torn by their teeth. 
We have escaped like a bird
    from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
    and we have escaped. 
Our help is in the name of the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 124).

This wonderful psalm reminds me of God’s faithfulness to always be on our side in trials. This psalm and those 121-134 are called the Psalms of Ascent. These were song by the Jewish pilgrims on their annual journey up to Jerusalem for religious festivals. Eugene Peterson, author of The Message and A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, writes of our need to persevere on our pilgrimage to the Promised Land. They are psalms for the in-between time, the period between the dashes on our gravestones. He reminds us to rope together like mountain climbers, to each other and God’s word during the tough times in order to get to the summit.

So, keep on walking! Isaiah the Prophet would say, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”’  (Isaiah 30:21). This is the title of one of my books written in two volumes to articulate God’s guidance on how to make our walk sure in obedience to His word. This verse is my “calling” verse, spoken by God audibly to me while in a Christian counselor’s office. It resonated with both of us with an unmistakable power and clarity that has led me in hospital chaplaincy the last 15 years. So, keep walking!

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