Marked with the Stamp of Divine Purpose

Today, New Years Eve, I read the following comments on Ecclesiastes by Charles Bridges.

Ecclesiastes 8:6, 7 – “Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him. For he knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be?”

All concerning us is determined in the counsels of God, and all in judgment. The time is the best time, because it is God’s time. It is a solemn thought to us all – most precious to the Christian – that each of us has been in the mind of God – the subject of the thoughts of God – from all eternity. Every particle of our being – every trial – every step in our journey – the most minute as well as the most important – everything has been marked with the stamp of Divine purpose. And what a dignity does it give to the veriest trifle of circumstance or work? Yet what can be called a trifle, that is a link in the purpose of the great Sovereign?

What a beautiful lovely prospect, to be “the subject of the thoughts of God from all eternity!” It’s mind blowing, really.

I am thankful that Jesus Christ has made Himself known to me in 2021. After many years of forgetting Him, ignoring Him, denying Him – living in sin with abandon – He opened my mind and heart to His truth again. Interestingly enough, He used another book by Charles Bridges (Exposition of Psalm 119) to trigger these circumstances. To pull that book out of a box in which it was packed for so many years, to see the markings and notes I made when I first read it in 1995, to remember how that book brought me closer to Jesus long ago – made me ask, “What happened to me that I am not that person of faith today?” I consider this to be a great mercy for which I am sincerely grateful.

I am ending 2021 and entering 2022 with the firm conviction that “everything has been marked with the stamp of Divine purpose.” May the fruits of the Spirit be the evidence of my faith in the new year. May those fruits be in more abundant evidence in 2022 than they ever were in 1995 or any previous time of my life.

A Rod for the Fool’s Back

Proverbs 26:3 – A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool’s back.

Oh Lord, the rod of your caring correction has been upon this fool’s back. Thank you for opening my eyes to see that the hardships in my life have not been merely disconnected incidents of random happenstance. Rather, they have been manifestations of your fatherly providence: chastising me, guiding me, persuading me, protecting me (from myself and the evil one), leading this prodigal back to Your house.

Lord, forgive my stubbornness. Lord, please do not take Your rod away from me. The rod of your correction comforts me, though painful for a season. Please do not leave me to my wayward passions. Too much foolishness is still in my heart. Lord, help me to learn the lessons You have designed for me in Your providence. I pray for Your wisdom.

Lord, forgive my sins for the sake of Jesus Christ, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

The Snare

On this date in 2005, I wrote the following blurb:

What is it but a mad dash? A stumble through the darkness? A bashed knee upon the pavement? A “fuck you” in the bitterness and a knife in the throat? A smile in the halls of the office.

My perspective has changed (thankfully) from what it was 16 years ago.

This morning, I am up early, reading the Proverbs, just finishing my first cup of coffee. Part of the reason I’m up so early (4:30 today) is that I am 16 years older. Boy, do I feel it in my neck! It feels better to be upright. (That’s not a statement on morality. But it is true in a moral sense too.)

I logged onto my website to update the page for Proverbs 16 and noticed the above blurb under the “Posts on This Day” section. This is what came to mind as I read my previous, dark, unhappy words:

Proverbs 29:6 – In the transgression of an evil man there is a snare: but the righteous doth sing and rejoice.

Previous to 2005 (more accurately, previous to 1999), I enjoyed many years of singing and rejoicing because I lived differently. I lived as a sincere Christian. I had faith and hope so that, even in very trying times, even through sadness, I had joy while trusting Jesus and living in His ways. (See my post, “Where I Used to Live” for more.)

But by my own evil transgressions, I forgot the Lord. I stopped trusting Him. I walked in darkness. I stumbled. The bloodied knees were of my own doing. That knife at my throat was held by my own hand! Sinister forces in the darkness were eager for me to plunge it into my own neck. The phony smiles in the office were the lackluster facade of a man with a guilty conscience. I was not engaging with people with sincerity, courage, and love.

During 2021, the “mad dash” stopped for me. I am so thankful that the Lord’s light began to shine in my heart again. His word became alive again. Now when I read it each day, I am able to connect to it. I am able to pray. I am even able to sing to the Lord with sincerity. That had not happened for many years. I am also able to see my sins in that light. I see that they only bring a snare for my soul. They rob the joy out of my heart.

These words, also from the Proverbs, sum things up nicely:

Proverbs 4:18, 19 – But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.

A Soft Answer

Proverbs 15:1 – A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.

Yesterday, while waking through a busy Walmart parking lot with my family, I witnessed something that reminded me of Proverbs 15:1. Cars were pulling in and out. People were walking in various directions. It was a bit chaotic.

A family was walking in the opposite direction to us as a car was turning into the lane. There wasn’t much room for cars and pedestrians. The car stopped. The passenger window lowered. I heard an angry voice. The father of the family coming toward us was surprised and stopped for a moment. A person in the vehicle was angrily talking to him.

The situation made me nervous. You never know what someone might impulsively do when they are angry, especially behind the wheel of a vehicle. Something tragic could easily happen given how many people were walking and how close the cars were to us.

To my great relief, the man walking kindly said to the person to the angry person in the car, “I am very sorry. I did not know. It wasn’t intentional.” He then continued to walk with his family. The driver slowly continued and calmly parked in the next open spot.

I have no idea why the driver was angry. Even the man he yelled at didn’t seem to know. I admired that man for softly answering, thereby turning away the other man’s wrath. Where some people would be ready for a fight and would have let some grievous words fly in reply, this man humbly apologized and moved along. It all happened in a matter of seconds. But it was refreshing to witness.