Purpose

A blog that focuses on the quest to know and please God in a constantly increasing way. The upward journey never ends. My prayer is that this blog will reflect a heart that seeks God and that it will encourage others who share the same heart desire.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Master and Servants

Of all the pictures in the Bible that present the relationship between God and believers, that of a master with his servants may be the most common. Both the Old and New Testaments regularly refer to God's followers as His servants. This includes Israel as a whole, as well as individuals like Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Daniel, and even the Messiah. The New Testament writers referred to themselves as servants of God. This relationship of a master with his servants helps to reveal the nature of God's love for His children.

At first glance, this may seem to be an odd relationship through which to demonstrate love or even an appropriate designation for God and His followers, but it is one that God Himself claims. "Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven" (Colossians 4:1). It is true that the master/servant relationship is not one typically associated with love. Even within the confines of human experience, however, care and love can be exhibited in this relationship.

Slave owners throughout history have typically been known for their cruelty, but abuse was not the exclusive treatment. Particularly with house servants or personal servants, there have been many instances in which the bond between the master and servant was quite strong. There were slaves who admired their master or mistress or who doted on the children under their care, sometimes to the extent of loving them as their own. The reverse was also true. There have been children or even adults who were so devotedly attached to their slaves that they thought of them as family and were emotionally devastated to lose them. Such servants were well-treated, provided for, appreciated, and loved.

If even a human example (of something normally viewed as horrible) is capable of providing such a pleasant picture, how much more can the divine example do? Every human relationship has flaws and shortcomings, but when God presents Himself as a member in that relationship, He fills His role perfectly. God takes what humans do awkwardly and imperfectly, and He masterfully shows the ultimate demonstration of what that relationship can and should be. God elevates the quality of the interaction, thereby revealing the greatest and noblest potential.

God's role as a loving master to His servants is expressed in three ways. First, He is a Master who gives clear and purposeful direction for life. "Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, until He is gracious to us" (Psalm 123:2). Slaves are dependent. They don't know what to do unless the master tells them. They don't know how to do it unless the master provides instruction. They don't have the materials necessary unless the master provides them. In fact, they don't even have the necessities of life unless the master makes provision for them.

Believers have this type of dependence on their Master, and He appropriately gives all that they need. When they look to their Master for guidance and provision, He lovingly directs and supplies for them. In essence, the Master provides both the purpose for life and all that is required for the outworking of that purpose.                                                                                  

Second, God is a Master who lovingly serves His servants. "You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet" (John 13:13-14). This aspect is nearly incomprehensible. If a man has servants, it is so that they can serve him. Why would a man who has servants stoop to do his own work, let alone serve those who should be serving him instead? Yet Jesus in loving humility stooped to wash the feet of His servants.

The only explanation is that Jesus had a love that transcended earthly formalities and expectations. In this particular instance, He was trying to teach an important lesson to His disciples, and His love for them led to such a strong determination to teach them that He was willing to reverse the roles and be a servant to them. A Master who sacrifices Himself and His dignity in order to bring about the greatest benefit for His servants is one whose heart overflows with love for them.

Third, God is a Master who lovingly extends to His servants a position they do no merit. "You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you" (John 15:14-15). While the picture of believers as servants of God persists throughout the rest of Scripture, this interaction between Jesus and His disciples significantly changes and, in fact, nearly abolishes the relationship.

Jesus reveals that the master/servant relationship with His disciples is not like any master/servant relationship that has ever been seen before. The revelatory distinction is that this Master gives personal insights that a master in an ordinary relationship would never give. He lets His servants in on details. He shares His plans with them. There is an intimacy and a closeness that would normally never exist in this type of relationship. Yes, believers still serve Him, but they are invited to an unbelievable friendship and familiarity with the Master who loves them.

What an amazing position to serve such a Master! What a wonder to actually be useful for Him! Such useful service is possible. "Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work" (II Timothy 2:21). The usefulness comes as the servant learns to be like the Master. "It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master" (Matthew 10:25a).

"Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes." Luke 12:43 (NASB)
 
This study was prompted by and partially based upon the final sermon in a series about knowing God that can be ordered here.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Shepherd and Sheep

God's love for His children is illustrated through the picture of a shepherd with his sheep. In the Bible God frequently utilizes this picture to describe His relationship with Israel and with all of His children. The passages that refer to this relationship reveal many details about the love and care that God has for His children.

What I found very interesting is that the Bible has a lot to say about bad shepherds. For example, . . .
Bad shepherds don't have trusted voices. (John 10:5)
Bad shepherds don't meet the needs of the sheep. (Jeremiah 23:2)
Bad shepherds don't feed the sheep. (Ezekiel 34:2-3, 8)
Bad shepherds don't tend to the weak, sick, or injured sheep. (Ezekiel 34:4)
Bad shepherds don't dispel the fears of the sheep. (Jeremiah 23:4)
Bad shepherds don't protect the sheep from danger. (Ezekiel 34:5, 8)
Bad shepherds don't stick around when danger comes. (John 10:12-13)
Bad shepherds destroy and scatter the sheep. (Jeremiah 23:1)
Bad shepherds don't gather the scattered sheep. (Ezekiel 34:4)
Bad shepherds allow the sheep to be lost. (Jeremiah 23:4)
Bad shepherds don't seek the lost sheep. (Ezekiel 34:4, 8)
Bad shepherds use the sheep for their own selfish benefit. (Ezekiel 34:3)
Bad shepherds are cruel and forceful. (Ezekiel 34:4, 6)

It is not hard to immediately realize that God is a very different kind of shepherd. Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd" (John 10:14). There is a very distinct reason for the difference between bad shepherds and the Good Shepherd. A bad shepherd "is not concerned about the sheep" (John 10:13). Jesus, on the other hand, expressed great care for the sheep. "When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things" (Mark 6:34). Unlike the bad shepherd, Jesus cares about the sheep. He cares because He sees their great need. He then dedicates Himself to meeting the needs of His beloved sheep.

Psalm 23:1, probably the best-known verse about the Shepherd, expresses this very thought: "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want." God's love means that He dedicates Himself to meeting every need of His sheep so that there is nothing lacking to them. John 10:10 echoes the thought: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." God, in the picture of a shepherd, shows His love by doing the opposite of what the bad shepherds do.

The Good Shepherd is trusted. His sheep know His voice and gladly follow Him. The trust comes because the Shepherd knows them - in fact, knows them individually. This personal care breeds trust. "To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. . . . I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me" (John 10:3, 14).

The Good Shepherd meets the immediate needs of His sheep. "He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters" (Psalm 23:2). He provides food and water for them. (Also Ezekiel 34:13-14). The Good Shepherd gives his sheep proper rest (Psalm 23:2, Ezekiel 34:15). In fact, His tending to their needs is so complete that it can be described as abundant and overflowing. (Psalm 23:5, Ezekiel 34:25-26).

The Good Shepherd gives His attention to the most needy of His sheep. He heals the sick and tends to the injured (Ezekiel 34:16). He even ministers to the souls of those who are injured internally. "He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake" (Psalm 23:3). He can do this because He is no ordinary shepherd, but rather "the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls" (I Peter 2:25).

The Good Shepherd relieves the fears of His sheep. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me" (Psalm 23:4). He can calm the fear of even the most desperate situation. (Also Jeremiah 23:4 and Ezekiel 34:28).

The Good Shepherd delivers His sheep from danger, whether the danger comes from false shepherds or from ravenous beasts. "So the shepherds will not feed themselves anymore, but I will deliver My flock from their mouth, so that they will not be food for them” (Ezekiel 34:10). (Also John 10:11-15, Ezekiel 34:22, 25, 28).

The Good Shepherd carefully guides and leads the sheep so that they are not scattered. “And he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice" (John 10:3-4). (Also Psalm 23:2-3). When the sheep are scattered, He gathers them again and keeps them together in the safe confines of the fold. "Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare in the coastlands afar off, and say, 'He who scattered Israel will gather him and keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock'” (Jeremiah 31:10).

The Good Shepherd earnestly seeks the sheep that are lost. This is true of large flocks of sheep, as He will someday gather Israel back together. "Then I Myself will gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and bring them back to their pasture, and they will be fruitful and multiply" (Ezekiel 34:11-13, 16). It is also true of an individual sheep that is lost. “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?" (Luke 15:4).

Far from being selfish, the Good Shepherd selflessly gives Himself for the sheep. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. . . . and I lay down My life for the sheep." (John 10:11, 15). This Shepherd cares so much about the sheep that He gives His very life in sacrifice for them.

Finally, the Good Shepherd is full of comfort, kindness, and tenderness. "Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me" (Psalm 23:4). "Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes" (Isaiah 40:11).

The sheep would be lost with this Shepherd, but thankfully, He has claimed His sheep as His own, and He takes responsibility for them. "We are His people and the sheep of His pasture" (Psalm 100:3). Since the Shepherd lovingly meets every need, the only thing for the sheep to do is to simply follow their Good Shepherd. Never resisting His guidance, they must follow His faithful voice. "For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness" (Psalm 95:7-8).

In the (sadly) inevitable event that the sheep do stray, they must be willing to return to the good paths of the Good Shepherd, who is always willing to receive His sheep again. "I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commandments" (Psalm 119:176). "For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls" (I Peter 2:25).

"Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen." Hebrews 13:20-21 (NASB)

This study was prompted by and partially based upon the final sermon in a series about knowing God that can be ordered here.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Husbandman and Vine

In the previous post, I began examining a series of pictures that illustrate God's love for His children. I was introduced to the idea through a sermon; the discussion below originates in that sermon. The nature of God's love is displayed through the picture of a husbandman caring for his vineyard.

The picture was first used of God's loving relationship with Israel in Psalm 80:8-11. The psalmist recounts, "You removed a vine from Egypt; You drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground before it, and it took deep root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shadow, and the cedars of God with its boughs. It was sending out its branches to the sea and its shoots to the River."

Much of what God did for Israel is like what He does for all of His children. He rescued them from a desperate situation and established them in a land of blessing. He prepared the land for them, removing obstacles that might hinder their growth. In Israel's case, He gave them deep roots that established them very firmly in that land. He then caused them to prosper to the extent that they overshadowed everything else in the vast region controlled by their nation.

The extensive nature of God's loving care is further described in Isaiah 5:1-2. "My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill. He dug it all around, removed its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. And He built a tower in the middle of it and also hewed out a wine vat in it."

God gave the very best. He chose a fertile setting, prepared it thoroughly, removed obstacles, and then planted the choicest vine. He built a tower for watching over the vineyard, and verse 5 reveals that He also surrounded that vineyard with the protection of a hedge and a wall. If any vine were to prosper and thrive, it would be this vine, which was given every opportunity. God Himself asks this question in verse 4: "What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?"

God did not stop there. He also made a wine vat to process the grapes after they were produced. Verse 2 reveals that "He expected it to produce good grapes." Considering all the loving care and preparation, the expectation was quite reasonable. This particular aspect reveals the love of God on an entirely new level. God's love did not stop with simply giving thorough care or providing the best; He ascribed worth and value to the vine by setting forth a purpose of fruitfulness for it. He wanted the vine to be able to accomplish something worthwhile.

I have gone through an extended time of unemployment, and it is not easy to have nothing significant to do. I have transitioned from Christian service to secular employment, and at times I have struggled with the seemingly reduced value of my labors. Even as a single person, I have noted the emptiness of working only for my own welfare. While I understand that God's perspective gives those situations purpose, I am nevertheless able to grasp the need of the human spirit to have something profitable to do. People need to sense their value and need to believe they are doing something that matters. In His love, God provides for those longings to be attained.

Sadly, in spite of all that God had done for Israel, they failed to meet His expectations. Isaiah reveals that they produced only worthless grapes. Jeremiah 2:21 describes it this way: “Yet I planted you a choice vine, a completely faithful seed. How then have you turned yourself before Me into the degenerate shoots of a foreign vine?" This failure on Israel's part brings the illustration into the New Testament. Romans 11:17-24, although speaking of an olive tree instead of a vine, declares that God grafted the Gentile nations into the trees under His care.

In a parable found in Matthew 21, Jesus tells a similar story: "There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower" (v. 33). When the landowner (God) sent for the harvest of that vineyard, the vine-keepers (Israel) rejected and killed those sent to them (prophets and Messiah). Jesus asked His listeners what the owner's response should be. They answered, "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons” (v. 41). Jesus agreed with their assessment, saying, "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it" (v. 43).

God's love illustrated through the husbandman's care of his vineyard thus extends to believers of all times. Wonderfully, His care (though it may seem impossible) even increases in the New Testament. John 15 again describes a vine: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit" (vs. 1-2,5).

Christ Himself is now the vine, and the believers are branches joined to that vine. This organic union gives incredible and indispensible productivity to the branches. With Christ's vitality flowing through them, they are certainly able to produce fruit. Conversely, without connection to the Vine, the branches are just as certainly unable to produce any fruit (vs. 4b, 5b). Not only does union with Christ assure productivity, the Vinedresser also works to increase fruitfulness. He continually prunes the fruit-producing branches so that they will produce even more fruit. Beyond producing simply good fruit, the Vinedresser now also has the expectation of much fruit.

What a loving husbandman to provide for such a level of value, worth, and productivity! God provides the best conditions and care to make the vine grow and produce fruit. He wants His children to be productive, and the grafting into Christ as the vine grants that capacity.

There is a caution in this relationship. The fruitfulness is intended to be for the benefit of the husbandman. Isaiah's account expects that. Matthew's parable echoes that expectation. I Corinthians 9:7 asks the rhetorical question, "Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it?" The harvest is for Him. Hosea describes what happened when Israel forgot God in their fruitfulness. "Israel is a luxuriant vine; He produces fruit for himself. The more his fruit, the more altars he made; the richer his land, the better he made the sacred pillars. Their heart is faithless; now they must bear their guilt. The LORD will break down their altars and destroy their sacred pillars" (10:1-2). Israel's blatant words of rebellion and disrespect toward God resulted in judgment "like poisonous weeds in the furrows of the field" (v. 4). Essentially, they brought about their own destruction when they rejected God instead of producing on His behalf.

Psalm 80 also describes that judgment, in which the protective hedges were broken down and any fruit was plundered by man and beasts. The vineyard was burned, cut down, and left desolate (vs. 13-16). In this broken condition, Israel cried out for help from the One who could restore them and could renew their productivity. Even when a believer forgets God and serves himself, he still has the hope that he can call out to God and ask for His renewed cultivating and care - and when his heart is right, he still needs God's help.

"O God of hosts, turn again now, we beseech You; look down from heaven and see, and take care of this vine." Psalm 80:14 (NASB)

The sermon referenced was the final one in a series about knowing God that can be ordered here.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Hen and Chicks

I recently listened to a sermon about the love of God. The premise of the sermon was that because God's love is so difficult for believers to grasp and so impossible to adequately describe, God employs pictures to illustrate His love for His children. These pictures found throughout the Bible help to give some understanding of the love of God. (The message was the final sermon in a series about knowing God. The series can be ordered at 

The message itself discussed six relationships that help to illustrate the love of God. I have personally added three relationship pictures to that list, including the one discussed below. Because the love of God is so vast, it is possible that other illustrations could be added as well. For the next several weeks, I would like to examine these nine revelations of God's love that I have either borrowed from the sermon or added in response to the sermon's idea.

The first picture is that of a mother hen with her chicks. Jesus Himself presents this illustration in Matthew 23:37. "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling."

Jesus speaks of His desire, not just at that moment but throughout history, to gather His children (specifically those of Jerusalem/Israel) like a hen gathers her children. While His message was specific to these people, His words reveal the same concept that is shared elsewhere in Scripture.

What does the picture illustrate? My first thoughts go to things like claiming them as belonging to Him and holding them close. I think of the sense of security and comfort, like a mother's embrace. Perhaps there is even the idea of the exclusivity of the relationship; only the children are taken under the wings, and they are thereby removed from the chaos of the world. Being taken under the wings implies a sense of peaceful and serene belonging.

As I looked at other Scriptures that present the same concept, I realized that my understanding was shallow. I was not wrong in my conclusions, but when the Bible talks about being under the wings, there is one very specific application that is found consistently. The picture is that of a refuge.

The Hebrew word can be translated as having hope, making a refuge, or putting one's trust in the source. There are two Hebrew words for refuge; one of them refers to an established place of confidence that one resorts to habitually. The other involves fleeing precipitately and desperately for protection in a moment of crisis. The word used in these verses is the second word.

Think of a hen with her chicks. When do the chicks hide under their momma's wings? They do so most poignantly in the face of danger, like when a fox appears or a hawk suddenly swoops toward them. Small children have the erroneous understanding that if they can't see someone, that person can't see them either. Closing one's eyes or hiding under a blanket do not make the danger disappear; hiding under the wings of the mother hen is more effective. I was once confronted and chased by a mother turkey, and she was very effective at keeping me away from her little ones.

Thinking of God as a mother hen who gather His chicks in a time of danger reveals Him as someone in Whom believers can safely confide. They can flee to Him and trust Him completely for protection. No matter what the danger is or how threatening it may seem, the Christian can run to God who loves him and will shield him from harm.

Boaz recognized that Ruth had done this. "May the LORD reward your work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge" (Ruth 2:12).

The following verses from Psalms consistently refer to the refuge, the place of trust, found under God's wings. "How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings" (36:7). "Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by" (57:1). "Let me dwell in Your tent forever; let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings" (61:4). "He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark" (91:4).

Psalm 17:8-9 does not use the word for refuge that is found in the other verses, but the context makes it clear that the wings are a place to hide for refuge in the face of imminent danger. "Keep me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings from the wicked who despoil me, my deadly enemies who surround me."

When I am unable to save myself, when I am unable to face the challenges of life, when destruction or enemies threaten me, I can run to the God who loves me and find refuge under His wings. I can do this often, even daily. I can do it from the beginning of life until the end of life. I will always find Him to be a secure refuge for me. He will hold me close, giving me reassurance. He will also stand between me and the attack, giving me protection.

Sadly, as Jesus revealed, His people are not always willing to go to Him for refuge. What destruction would the Jews have been spared over the years if they had run to Him and hid under His wings? He wanted them to come. He wanted to gather them. Because they refused the source of refuge, they have endured much persecution and destruction. May I not exhibit the same willfulness that would deprive me of the protection He wants to give. If I seek His help, I will be able to rejoice in His successful protection.

"For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy." Psalm 63:7 (NASB)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Unshakeable Foundation

I rejoice that over the past few months and culminating earlier this week, God has lifted a burden that has been on my heart for several years. Additionally, He has carried me through a season of particular challenge that was associated with the process of lifting that burden. "Come and hear, all who fear God, and I will tell of what He has done for my soul" (Psalm 66:16 NASB).

This particular burden has lingered on my heart for years, at times very strong and at other times somewhat subdued. Several months ago God used some specific Bible teaching to strongly impel me to take action toward resolving the situation. I knew this would not be easy for me and that in some ways it would make me look foolish, but I had to obey God.

I moved forward with the understanding that I had, but became quite discouraged when nothing happened for a few weeks. Then in the space of two days I received multiple responses of reaction from others. Each response expressed rather strong opposition regarding what I was trying to do. What was worse, some of the communications went beyond opposing me in the situation itself. I was confronted with some specific and very serious questions regarding my relationship with God, as well as my sensitivity and submission to Him.  In addition to the overt allegations, the content and tone of the letters suggested several other questions, again about some pretty serious spiritual issues.

From there the doubts escalated. I wondered about the value of trying to obey God, the effectiveness of Christianity, the worth of living for God, and the possibility for successful relationships. I was tempted to quit on church, quit on people, quit on God, quit on life. When I say I was tempted in all those areas, these were not necessarily constant or overpowering temptations, but there were times that those various thoughts entered my mind. These attacks of Satan attempted to strike me while I was weak and gain a foothold. I had to repel and guard against those thoughts, but in the midst of the discouragement, I sometimes wanted to believe those things and give in to the temptations.

This is where the unshakeable foundation comes in. Even with the magnitude and multitude of those assaulting doubts, I had an underlying knowledge. I knew there was nowhere else to go. "Simon Peter answered Him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life'" (John 6:68 NASB). God has the only words and the only way with eternal significance. Apart from Him, there is no help.

I also knew that this situation was not too big for God. God is honored when I seek to obey Him, and if I will depend on Him, He will work in His way to make the answer clear. He is a dependable source of hope because He never fails. "I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD" (Psalm 27:13-14 NASB).  

I had to corral my thoughts and keep returning to the certainty of the foundation. The foundation of trust in God and dependence on Him ultimately kept those temptations from gaining a lasting foothold. That doesn't mean the temptations didn't come or that for spaces of time they were not overwhelming, but they couldn't take complete control.

When I think of the foundation that made the critical difference for me, I am reminded of I Peter 5:10. "After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish you."  While all four actions are important, my current thoughts go especially to the fourth word, establish. God establishes a firm foundation for faith, ever deepening and reinforcing the foundation. I can confidently rest on that firm foundation, knowing that I cannot be easily shaken.

While this may not be architecturally accurate, I see the illustration of thick concrete pillars that go deeper and deeper into the earth in support of the building. God has done that for me in the past, especially through my health and employment situations. Because of that work in the past, there was currently a foundation that remained firm in spite of the shaking that was going on above ground.

What is that foundation? I think a lot of it has to do with the character of God. It involves knowing that He is wise, powerful, and loving. Knowing that He is in control. Knowing that He is kind and compassionate. In my weakness I knew that God wanted to help me. I knew that I had a God who is big and strong enough to meet every need. I knew that God is faithful; He is not going anywhere. He is not changing. He is not going to forget about me or abandon me. His arms are not going to let go of me. In spite of my struggles, He does not change.

There certainly are things in life that deliver a powerful punch, and the force of the impact does throw us off balance and makes us stagger. With a foundation grounded firmly in God, however, those blows do not have to conquer us. Instead we can be like a gyroscope that can spin madly when bumped but always returns to its correct position. As we focus on God's truth, our staggering will stabilize and we will return to the place of quiet rest in Him. I thank God for doing that for me (again).

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock." Matthew 7:24-25 (NASB)