“Sweeter”…

I thought–no, I knew–that there could never be any more peace than the day I gave my heart to Jesus. Nothing could ever be as comforting as that day when I was four, taking Communion in that Christmas Eve service and somehow, by God’s precious Spirit, knowing deep within the significance of what He had done for me. No, nothing could be more peaceful than choosing to trust Him always and follow Him with my life, my very, my all.

I thought- that there was no greater joy than receiving the fullness of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. To guide and to fill my every moment, to comfort in times of sorrow, to lead me in the Word of God, to fill me with a knowledge of His presence… To have gifts and blessings poured upon my heart–things that I had literally not known existed until He “clothed me with power from on high”. No, there could be no greater joy.

I assumed that there was no more beautiful wisdom than the day I asked Him to help me memorize His Word, and He answered. Oh, I couldn’t quote verse references–my mind reads the lines, not the numbers. But suddenly and without any great effort on my part, Philippians and John, Ezekiel and Daniel and Revelation, Jeremiah and Luke–all were stored in my memory. And through His grace, I understood what I read–not all, not perfectly, but a good portion. To study those beautiful red letters especially was my greatest delight. Certainly, no greater wisdom…

I was certain that there was no more awesome glory than 3 February 2003. That day is difficult to write or speak of, so marvelous were the things that He showed me. Things about the throne of God, about the meaning of “shekinah”, and one sheep who heard His voice–all while “I Can Only Imagine” played in the background. No greater glory!

Many years later, I thought the sorrow was insurmountable. I can’t say that there was “greater sorrow”, for the Bible does not measure human anguish by degrees: we are in turmoil, we take it to the Lord, He sets us free–but pain isn’t compared with pain. So, I shan’t say that the devastation I experienced was “greater and greatest”, but I do know that it led to a year of fear so deep that I could scarcely rise in the morning and misery so profound that I found it hard to breathe. Day after day, I cried out to the Lord… Until I stopped. Stopped, because I felt that He did not hear me after all. Stopped, because I wondered whether this distress was somehow part of His will. Stopped, because I was simply so weary. Then:

I thought there was never such exquisite hope as 23 June 2015. I was trudging through a workout and listening to anything that happened to be playing on my iPod when I came upon an old CBH Ministries podcast. CBH: The Children’s Bible Hour, which none of God’s servants are too old to enjoy, for those children have revival in their hearts. Anyway, the podcasted radio program opened with a little tune called “Brighten Up Your Pathway with a Song”. Oh, such intensity as was wrapped in those two minutes! Those anointed worshipers were singing of the One Who could right all wrongs and fill all emptiness. Powerful, powerful conviction. In the next moment, I had flung my workout and the treadmill’s safety key to the wind, danced my way upstairs, and stood near the thermostat. The temperature controls, you see, have a little slip of paper hanging over them–undecorated save for a border that I only added recently. On this sheet are written all the promises that God has given to me and my brothers and sisters in Christ. One by one, I reread what I knew in my heart but had temporarily forgotten. Knelt and prayed and asked God’s forgiveness for such unbelief. Held to His promises, clung to His provision. Most assuredly, I thought, there could be no greater hope.

Then, too, I was convinced that there was no greater rest than that evening–hearing His words from Exodus to the effect that I must remain still and see His salvation, treasuring absolute wonder as I went to sleep, and waking in the night to more of the same. No greater rest.

And when He did as He said He would, I knew that there was no greater freedom than 12 August 2015. Release from all strife–and in a way that only our loving Lord can accomplish. In one evening—a mere two hours–all of the desolation of the previous year was cleansed completely and in its place was something very near to a covenant, an agreement between myself and the Lord and one precious sister in Christ. Now, with no earthly friction swirling around me, I could focus on working for the Lord. No greater freedom!

Digressing for a moment… I thought there could be no greater holiness than 3 July. My sister and I had decided to attend an early fireworks display. As we waited for the festivities to begin, we began to sing to the Lord, so filled with praise were we. Hearing us, a little girl of perhaps seven approached and began worshiping the Lord, too. To this day, I am convinced that the Lord put each of us there for a specific purpose: the child was there to be encouraged, my sister was there to encourage, and I was there to listen–just to listen and absorb the love of God. No greater holiness, I affirm in a whisper. Standard font is too common for moments such as these, so my readers shall have to imagine small, humbled font–the kind you’d use if you were nearly too overwhelmed to even begin putting pen to paper but knew you must.

I knew there was no greater awe than 7 July. I ought to let the date stand on its own merits, so ponderable is it. Mary treasured many things in her heart, and the longer I live in the Lord, the more important it becomes to let certain things remain unspoken while emphatically thanking the Lord for them. Suffice it to say–no greater awe.

Without question, there was never any greater delight than Tozering a brother in Christ. If you don’t know what I mean, beloved reader, make your way to sermonindex.net and download all of A. W. Tozer’s sermons on the attributes of God. ATTEMPT to wrap your mind around them, though you likely won’t succeed. The sermons are that profound; even Tozer himself said that he couldn’t explain the absolute depth of God’s infinite grace, love, and holiness–and he was trying to preach about these things! On 16 July, the Lord enabled me to relate Tozer’s ideas in a less scholarly manner that this brother could understand. A mighty, mighty work was wrought that evening. No greater delight, honor, joy, or privilege.

I thought there could be no greater work for the Lord than the prayer ministry in which I became involved. Surely, this is the most fulfilling thing I have ever done outside the prayer-closet throughout this wondrous walk in the Lord. To be able to offer prayer freely to those who may need it, to discuss the things of the Lord–oh, it is beyond words! To lead devotions for the staff at the organization at which I volunteer… I will never be able to hear Keith Green’s song “Stained-Glass” or read Mrs. Cowman’s Springs in the Valley without thinking of this time of serving my Savior. No greater work than this, surely.

I am certain in this moment that there is no more fruitful season than the one I now have the joy of experiencing. Fruitful and beautified and harvest-like–a rich combination of green pastures and delightful gardens. And how detailed this time has been! Hitherto, I have avoided excessive detail in this account because it seemed irrelevant. However, I will say that the past several months have included many a foray into the allegorically-based teachings of Alexander White, the hymn “Oh, the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus”, and extensive studies in the book of Acts. Any refrigerator with unique magnets now holds profound associations–I can’t look at such a refrigerator without seeing the magnets on the staff refrigerator at the place where I do prayer ministry. London fog tea lattes taste like peace, and the summer Under-the-Weather tent is a place of worship and study. Jana Jackson’s music and a special prayer conference go together. A favorite room, whose exact location is arbitrary, contains a shelf with a large Bible on a stand. Cheese, crackers, and cucumbers will never cease to remind me of lunches with a beautiful woman of God. Then, there have been the fun things–the Jesus Our Savior Busy Bible, for example, which is a Bible storybook intended for young toddlers but which the former reviewer in me had to investigate anyway. That book, austensibly for a young audience, had at least three people in tears of adoration when I showed it to them as a sort of light novelty, so Spirit-filled was that little book. Oh, such joyous moments in Him!–and certainly, I reason, no more fruitful season than the one I’m experiencing now…

No greater guidance than 24 September–of that I am certain. Over the years, the Lord had given me some specific guidelines as to how I must conduct my own life. One of the most important pertains to how I minister to others: neither numbers nor finances nor other earthly statistics may dictate my interactions–only the working of the Holy Spirit in my life and that of the other person/people. Not quality over quantity, but quality instead of quantity. Well, recently, I was pressured to relax this standard. Statistics were needed for the proper running of the organization, and this was proving extremely stressful–to the point that I was no longer acting out of love. Right in the midst of this fight with conformity, the Lord reminded me of what He had shown me over the past several years. Then, deep within, I knew He was asking me whether I would actually apply what He had shown me, or whether I would discard it and allow it to remain theoretical in my life? The struggle was great, but I eventually surrendered in the knowledge that all necessary statistics were in His hands. I was to remember quality only, provide the numbers that I was told to provide, but not to worry about them beyond providing accuracy. Such unspeakably glorious guidance.

I just know that there is no greater Agape than that which the family of God has shown me over the past few weeks. A casual request for prayer galvonized at least two people into true, sincere petitioning on my behalf. Then, there’s THE CHURCH. At last, I have found a place to worship! Lacking available transportation, I had searched throughout the city for a church that provided rides to those who couldn’t just jump into their cars. The one I found is a good forty-five minutes from home, but they don’t care. It’s not that they are so terribly gracious that I’m made to FEEL comfortable; the staff truly seems to find the extra time and gas inconsequential. Quality over quantity! And once through those welcoming doors, the church is filled with the Holy Spirit in all love and fellowship–with God, and also with the brethren. Time and words fail me to speak of solid, Biblical worship; of a sermon that filled to overflowing; and of the pastor’s joyous words during Communion. No greater Agape, Shalom, or Hesed.

Today, there is no greater consecration than that found at Bethesda. Bethesda–my House of Mercy, the home that the Lord has provided. After much prayer, the Lord removed several proverbial mountains that seemed to be standing in my way and began to strengthen my entire family in profound, even miraculous, ways. The result was a Bible study that left me speechless, a time of intense worship, and a series of plans to remain steadfast in His service. Just as Lazarus’ house was filled with the fragrance of costly oil after Mary anointed Jesus’ feet, so my family’s home was filled to overflowing with the presence of God–times of holiness for which I have no words. It was something to absorb, to enjoy without comment, to kneel down and thank the Lord for, to rejoice in and dance in and try to sing about but fail–the Light of the world, the Bread of Life, and that thirst-quenching living water. It was overwhelming–not a cup running over only, but also a sacuer… Our entire tabletop, so to speak, was filled! Oh, no greater consecration or purity.

I feel this way–assuming that there could never possibly be anything greater than what the Lord has already given us–and then He showers still more blessings on our way. The things of the Lord, in their various facets, are the one thing that we can never be weary of. Things of this earth–every intellectual pursuit, every new car or house or electronic gadget, every travel experience–after awhile, even the best of these begin to lose some of their sparkle. We seek for some new amusement, but with the same results… But the infinite, incomparable presence of God never loses its splendor. The same joy I’ve experienced day after day after day since beginning to walk with the Lord still seems brand-new, just as beautiful as “the hour I first believed”. In this precious time of seeing Him more clearly, I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 3:18: “we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord”. And for the moment, examining this verse, I say… No greater renewal.

Addendum: The song that must needs accompany this post is from Travis Cottrell’s album ALIVE FOREVER. “Sweeter”–the title says it all, as does the oft-repeated line throughout this celebration anthem: “Every day with You, Lord / Is sweeter than the day before”. Yes and amen!

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