Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Dear Pilgrim, is anxiety great within you?

Dear Pilgrim, is anxiety great within you (Ps 94:19)? Are thoughts crowding into your head, as troubles press in around you, refusing to give you any peace?

Ah, dear Pilgrim, precious Pilgrim, the tears in your eyes tell me that such is the weight upon you at present, you cannot even answer. My friend, precious friend – come, let us spend some time thinking about your walk with Him, that His consolation might bring you joy (Ps 94:19) as your eyes are lifted upwards.

Remember when He led you into a field all those years ago, and uncovered before your eyes the richest treasure of all, the treasure of the Kingdom of God – with joy you sold everything you had and bought that field (Mt 13:44)! You left that field a changed person. Where you had lived without hope before –  now joy had been birthed in your heart. Roots were laid down in the desert and the parched land of your heart, as joy began to blossom there. With joy you took your first draught from the wells of salvation. Ohhhh! How good the taste! Shouts of joy erupted from your soul!

As you grew in your understanding, waves of mourning swept over you, threatening to extinguish the flame of joy. As you have listened to His Words, you have wept over your own sin and the unrighteousness around you. You have mourned, precious Pilgrim. The gates of Zion lament and mourn (Isa 3:26). You have followed the path of wisdom and your heart has been in the house of mourning (Eccl 7:4). But you have taken comfort in these words: “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh 8:10). As His joy has filled you, so His comfort has flowed over.

For it is in His presence that you have come to know the fullness of joy (Ps 16:11). It is in His presence that He has filled you with a joy unspeakable, a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, as He has come alongside and shown you His own wounds. The One whose soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death as He took your sin upon His shoulders (Mt 26:38), He is the One who rejoiced over His lost sheep when He found you and joyfully put you on His shoulders (Luke 15:5).  The One who offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death during the days of His life on earth (Heb 5:7), He is the One who now rejoices over you with singing (Zeph 3:17). Where a crown of thorns was once cruelly set upon His head, He has now been anointed with the oil of joy (Heb 1:9) and it pours down His head, pours down His robes and in His presence, precious Pilgrim, it pours down upon you! Oh, Pilgrim, draw closer to Him! Share in the oil of joy with which He has been anointed! Allow that oil of joy to pour upon your head, to seep down your collar, to drip down the robe of righteousness you are wearing. Oil travels slowly, dear Pilgrim, so take your time in His presence, do not rush away until that oil of joy covers you completely.

His Word has become a feast for you – when His words come, you eat them, for they are your joy and your heart’s delight (Jer 15:16). You rejoice in following His statutes as one rejoices in great riches (Ps 119:14). Trouble and persecution come your way because of the word, yet because your roots stretch deep into Him, the enemy is unable to snatch your joy from you! For the One who endured the cross for the joy set before Him has so transformed your heart that deceit no longer dwells there, but rather you promote peace – and because of this, dear Pilgrim, you have joy (Pr 12:20)!

And Pilgrim, the joy He has given you has given me joy too! See how His Kingdom works! Your love has given me great joy and encouragement because you have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people (Phm 1:7)! My prayers for you are always filled with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now (Php 1:4-5)! I rejoice when I see you because you have put your hope in His Word (Ps 119:74)!

Oh Pilgrim, be encouraged, be strengthened, be heartened. It is His consolation that brings you joy at times of great anxiety. The One who comforts you – His Spirit, the Comforter – oh! He has not left us as orphans, praise God! Draw consolation from the Comforter, lean against the breast of Jesus, pour out your concerns to Him, then allow Him to turn you to His word, to the promise that your grief will turn to joy (John 16:20), that those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy (Ps 126:5), and be strengthened by Him alone.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Dear Pilgrim, would you be strong?

Dear Pilgrim, would you be strong? Would you be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power?

Then first, dear Pilgrim, you must tremble.

Tremble as He passes by as you stand in the cleft of the Rock, after you ask Him to reveal His glory to you. 
Worship the Lord in the splendour of His holiness and tremble (Ps 96:9)!

Tremble as you grasp the perfection He demands through His law (Ps 119:120).

Tremble at His Word, as you bow before Him, broken and contrite in spirit (Isa 66:2).

Tremble at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob (Ps 114:7)!

And then, dear Pilgrim, after He has stripped you bare of every last ounce of self, allow Him to comfort you. Hear Him as He says of those who tremble before Him: “These are the ones I look on with favour” (Isa 66:2). Favour, Pilgrim! He looks on you with favour!

Hear Him as He says: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isa 41:10).

It is His righteous right hand that will uphold you and strengthen you. You see yourself as a worm, dear Pilgrim, weak and powerless – and apart from Him, this is what you are (Isa 41:14). But now, He has redeemed you! And it is He who will uphold you with His righteous right hand.

Oh, Pilgrim, come with me to the tents of the righteous, come and listen to the tumultuous noise of celebration! Oh, lift your voice to the heavens and join with their shouts of joy and victory! Shout out with every fibre of your being:

“The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things (Ps 118:16)!
The Lord’s right hand is lifted high (Ps 118:16)!
His right hand is victorious in power (Ps 20:6)!
 His right hand has worked salvation for Him (Ps 98:1)!
His right hand is exalted (Ps 89:13)!
His right hand is majestic in power (Ex 15:6)!
His right hand is filled with righteousness (Ps 48:10)!"

Oh, Pilgrim, take heart, take confidence, be strengthened by this truth, that His right hand will hold you fast, whether you are lifted high on the mountains or find yourself in the deepest valleys (Ps 139:8-10).

So come, dear Pilgrim, and take refuge in His right hand. You will find that you are never shaken as He fills you with joy in His presence, with eternal pleasures at His right hand (Ps 16:8-11).  For these eternal pleasures, everlasting delights, this abounding joy – oh Pilgrim, do you see - they are to be found in the One who sits at His right hand – the One upon Whom we fix our eyes, Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith, His beloved Son!

He sat down at the right hand of God, and now He waits for His enemies to be made a footstool for His feet (Heb 10:12-13). Exalted to the right hand of God, He received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured His Spirit out on His people (Acts 2:33). For it is His mighty power in you, which is the same as the mighty strength He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms (Eph 1:19-20), that strengthens you.

So take hold of His weapons of righteousness in your right hand and in your left hand (2 Cor 6:7), put on the whole armour that He gives you, and you will stand, victorious, an overcomer in Him!

Be strong, and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord (Ps 31:24)!

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Dear Pilgrim, are you passing through the gates?

Jerusalem, Old City, New Gate.
Photo by: Daniel Baranek. Reproduced with permission.

Dear Pilgrim, are you passing through the gates on your pilgrimage? Oh, look up at these gates as you pass on through, take note of them, for He is breaking open the way for you, leading the way for you.

Do you remember where you were when He first came and called you? You were at the gates of death (Psalm 9:13), precious Pilgrim, for you were dead in your transgressions. Oh, what dark gates these were. Gates in the depths of the earth. Gates at the roots of the mountains. Gates that were locked and kept you imprisoned.

Ah, but He came. He came, and He called you. And you cried out to Him in your distress…and He came and broke down those gates of bronze, He cut through the bars of iron and He set you free (Ps 107:16)! He lifted you up from those gates of death! Glory!

You were then faced with a choice of 2 gates – a wide gate, with many people walking through, or a small gate, leading to a narrow path, with few walking along (Mt 7:13-14). Oh, Pilgrim! What joy that you went through the narrow gate! He Himself is that gate (John 10:9)! Oh, glory to the King of Kings - for this road leads to life, and you are walking along it! You entered with thanksgiving – and He has made you righteous, for it is only the righteous who may enter through this gate (Ps 118:19-20).

He brought you to the city gate, where your Kinsman-Redeemer declared before witnesses that you would be His bride. And the witnesses declared a blessing of fruitfulness upon you (Ruth 4:11)! Ah, and how you love to come to the city gates, for it is here that you have listened to wisdom crying aloud and making her speech (Pr 1:20-21). You have listened, and you have kept your heart teachable. And as you have faithfully been walking in the good works that He prepared in advance for you to do, there have been blessed occasions when these works have brought you praise at the city gates (Pr 31:31)! But these occasions have been few and far between – for just as He suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through His own blood, so you too have gone outside, bearing the disgrace that He bore, sharing in His sufferings (Heb 13:12-13). For the city gates are not your destination.

Pilgrim, there are gates which are blessed beyond all gates, and it is these gates that we are walking towards. For it is true, the Lord does love all the dwellings of Jacob. Yet it is the gates of Zion that He loves more than anywhere else (Ps 87:2). For it is here that He has installed His King on His holy mountain (Ps 2:6), at the very heart of God - Yahweh-Shammah (Eze 48:35)! It is all too easy on our pilgrimage to tarry at other gates on our ascent to Zion – gates where we can become too easily satisfied with what we have, not realising there is a greater freedom awaiting us. Gates where we can find ourselves falling into captivity, gates where the enemy would seek to waylay us that he might rob and steal us of the full inheritance awaiting us. But how He takes care of us! He opens our eyes to our captivity, and then we find ourselves being carried to the gate which is called Beautiful, asking Him for healing…and in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth we arise once more and go on our way, walking and leaping and praising God (Acts 3:2-8)!

Oh, as we journey through many gates, Pilgrim, this is where we must heed the call to lift up our heads (Ps 24:9)! Lift up our heads! Our King will pass through these gates ahead of us. Oh, Pilgrim, pass through, pass through the gates! Build up the highway, remove the stones, raise a banner for the nations (Isa 62:10)! For it is the gates of Zion that we are heading towards! Do you see them? The gates of Zion….gates that always stand open, they are never shut, day or night (Isa 60:11). These gates of Zion – they have a name - it is Praise (Isa 60:18)! Pilgrim, come, come with me, come and stand here in the gates of Daughter Zion, and let us rejoice in His salvation (Ps 9:14)! Let our praises to Him never cease, as we shout our grateful praise to Him, and say “Salvation comes from the LORD!”