Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Week Forty-Three - The Pity Party


Do you remember the song, "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to?" It might make a great theme song for 2020. We've certainly had plenty to moan and cry about.

Asaph wrote a psalm with similar lyrics. "I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah. Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so trouble that I cannot speak"  (Psalm 77:1-4).

Obviously, pity parties are not new.  Ahab had one, Absalom had one, and even King Saul had a few.  But when I read these first three verses of Psalm 77 my eye catches several specific phrases that make me think.

"My soul refused to be comforted." Have you ever refused to be comforted?  Refused someone's offer of help or kindness because you were too busy pouting and crying?  Have you ever turned your back on support because you enjoyed your misery or were too stubborn to admit you needed help?  This idea of refusing to be comforted paints such a picture.

"I complained and my spirit was overwhelmed." Have you been complaining?  I know I have. 2020 gives reason to complain, but what happens when we give over to a complaining spirit?  We get the feeling of being overwhelmed.  The negatives loom larger and larger.  The nightly news, Facebook posts, and general confusion leave us flabbergasted, exhausted, and weary with the whole process.

"Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak."  I don't know what Asaph was crying about, but he was definitely struggling.  He was not sleeping--that's what "mine eyes waking" means.  And he was dumbfounded by the trouble in front of him, he saw no solution.

In verses five and six he grows nostalgic and introspective. "I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search."  Has this been your experience?  I know it has been mine. 

Pity parties usually lead to looking back and looking inward. We begin wishing things were as before.  We long for the good ole days and start looking inward to find encouragement or the answer to why we feel as we do.  Then, just like Asaph, we start accusing God of abandoning us. Look at verses 7-10a.  "Will the Lord cast off forever? And will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? Doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah. And I said, This is my infirmity."

"Poor me!" Asaph is saying, "Poor me.  God has forgotten me.  He doesn't love me anymore. I am stuck with my weakness, bowed down in my depression. It's my party and I'll cry if I want to." But I'm so glad Asaph didn't stop his song here.  It's a really sad place to be.

In verses 10b-12 he cancels his party and changes focus. "But I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High. I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings."

Just like Asaph, we might be down in the dumps, refusing to be comforted, facing sleepless nights, and an overwhelmed, complaining spirit, but.  And there is the keyword - but.  But - there is another way to look at things.  There are things I am not taking into account.  I don't have to stay in my weakness. I can think back on how God worked things out for me in the past and I can meditate on the greatness of all He is doing and begin talking about His goodness.

Asaph had a choice, and so do we.  We can cry and whine or adjust our thinking and attitude. I don't know about you, but I don't enjoy pity parties for very long.  They are hard work and soul-destroying, but when I allow my mind to think about my good, good Father and all He has done for me, the spirit of complaining lifts and I begin partying with praise.

If you read the remainder of Psalm 77 you will find Asaph begins praising God, too. He points out God's greatness, and ends with, "thou leddest thy people like a flock." God led Asaph to a brighter prospect and a happier party full of hope.  God will lead us thee, too, if we lay aside our pity and put on the garment of praise.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Week Forty-Two - Be Prepared


As a child, I learned the motto of the Girl Scouts - Be prepared. We know that being prepared means, don't we?  It is the state of being ready, organized, and equipped.  This truth of preparedness is taught in Scripture, exemplified by our Lord and one for which we should strive.

Look at these examples from Scripture.

Mary came to anoint Jesus before his death and burial.  Mark 14:8

The disciples found the upper room already prepared for the Passover.  Mark 14:15

Jesus had a meal prepared before the disciples came to shore.  John 21:9

After the resurrection, the bewildered disciples heard that Jesus was already in Galilee.  Matthew 28:7

In John 14:1 we read Jesus has gone ahead to prepare a place for us.

And in 1 Corinthians 2:9, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."

God is prepared.  He has everything thought through, everything prepared.  He doesn't make a new plan for each day.  NO!  He is always in advance of time.  As we woke this morning, He had our day already ordered and planned from the beginning of time and was waiting for us to join Him.

He is there in the hours ahead, in tomorrow, and in eternity preparing the way for us.  He will bring us to our appointed place and we will find our appointed resources along the way. As we follow, we discover His insight, His oversight, and His foresight.  We might not see HIm, but as we walk by faith, we know He sees us, and we trust Him because we believe He is already there with everything prepared.

As I meditated and pondered this beautiful truth, I saw a few more encouraging things.

Preparedness is the teaching of the Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25.  Five were prepared to join the bridal party, five were not.  1 John 2:28 admonishes us to be prepared so we won't be "ashamed before him at his coming."  The unprepared Virgins were ashamed.  Let's not be likewise!  He is coming soon, and we have a duty of preparedness.

Over the years, I have learned to ask God to prepare my heart for things ahead.  I pray ahead of time when I anticipate facing resistance or fear. "Lord, prepare my heart and mind for what I am about to face.  Give me your Spirit of wisdom, calmness, and foresight as You direct my words and reactions."

And, when I ponder the future, when I wonder how things will all work out, I pray, "Lord, I know you have my future prepared; that you are already there.  Help me to entrust my future to you and live each day in faith keeping my focus on what you have given me to do today."

I have yet to see Him fail to answer my prayers for preparedness.

So, what about you?  Are you prepared for today?  Are you trusting and believing that the Lord is ahead of you, leading and preparing your life?  Should He come today, are you ready?  Or would you be ashamed?

In Ezra 7:10, Ezra "prepared his heart to seek the law."  Other verses also teach us to prepare our hearts to obey, seek, trust, and hear what God says.  Is your heart preparing?  Are you prepared to meet your God?

2 Chronicles 27:6 says, "So Jotham became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God." 

Let's follow Ezra and Jotham's example and be prepared!


Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Week Forty-One - Weeds and Seeds


"There is a legend of a man who found the barn where Satan kept his seed ready to be sown in the human heart and on finding the seed of discouragement more numerous than others, learned that those seeds could be made to grow almost anywhere.  When Satan was questioned, he reluctantly admitted that there was one place in which he could never get them to thrive. "And where is that?" asked the man.  Satan replied sadly, "In the heart of a grateful man." (Springs in the Valley, p 281)

Oh, dear friend, how true this is.  Seeds of discouragement appear in every area of our lives.  We get discouraged with ourselves, our jobs, our children, our marriages, our church, our pastor, our lot in life, and many, many other things.   But when we turn our discouragement into the seeds of gratitude, things grow into something much more beautiful!

It's all a matter of amending our perspective.  Instead of thinking negatively about our job, let's be thankful we have one.  Instead of despairing about our children, let's be grateful for the little lives under our care and the young people we are raising.  Instead of lamenting our marriage, let's be thankful we have opportunity to work on it.  Instead of growing discouraged with our church or pastor, let's get in and volunteer, hold them up in prayer and serve with a willing heart as unto the Lord.  Instead of complaining and growing discouraged with our lot in life, let's take it to the Lord in prayer, thank Him for where we are, and plot our course more closely to His design.  And instead of growing discouraged with ourselves, let's remember we are but flesh, and yet loved with an everlasting, and ever-patient Love.

You see, if you remain discouraged and choose to stay disgruntled, Satan's seeds take deep root.  They start to blossom into evident weeds and reseed themselves.  They poison your relationship, create havoc, and mar the beauty and spiritual health of your life.  Remember, the enemy comes only to kill and destroy.  Don't let his weeds take over!

Jesus came to give us life, and that abundant life grows from a grateful heart.  It is a choice we make - a conscious choice.  Each day we have the opportunity to sow seeds of thankfulness.

As you read Psalms, you see a man who learned this secret.  David knew gratitude played an essential part in worship, drawing strength, and living a happy life.  Even in his darkest hours, he sang the praises of God.  "When he was in despair, he called on God, and his praises soon mingled with his cries of anguish, showing the victory accomplished by his habitual thankfulness."  (Springs in the Valley)

Do you make thankfulness a habit?  Let me challenge you.  Each day, record three things for which you are thankful.  Write them down and pin them up where you can see them.  Do this every day for a month, and see if your weeds of discouragement aren't withering away!  And then, keep weeding, by sowing seeds of thankfulness. You will reap what you sow!

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Week Forty - Waiting Collectively



This past couple of weeks, I have studied, read, and meditated on the subject of waiting. Monday's video included some of what I learned, and we will talk about waiting again this coming week, but I wanted to share one thought with you here Beside the Well because it was something I had never considered, and it challenged my heart. I hope it challenges you, too.

Isaiah 25:9 reads, "And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us; this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation."

Precious thoughts come from this verse. The first one I noticed was the people were waiting on God. They believed He would save them.

While we are all in this holding pattern of a pandemic, are we waiting on God? Do we anticipate Him showing up? Do we see Him at work? Do we believe He can save us?

The children of Israel were waiting--waiting collectively. They were in a hard place, exiled from their homeland, but anticipation held them together as they waited for God to restore them to their land.

I think this element is missing today from our spiritual lives and in many of our churches. We are waiting, but are we waiting collectively? Are we expressing our anticipation of the Lord's return to our brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we preparing for His coming? Or are we keeping it to ourselves? Are we guilty of doubting that God will do anything about our situation? Do we feel stuck and alone wondering if He will really show up?

The other thought is that the fruit of waiting is God revealing Himself, so the people could joyfully express, "Lo, this is our God.  This is the Lord." There is power and blessing in united waiting!

We, as fellow Christians, are to unite in waiting for our God. We ought to draw together and lay aside all ideas of human hope or help, and with one heart, set ourselves to wait for God.

We wait for the sound of the trumpet - and we should be doing that. It is sooner than we think! But we can also wait for Him to meet with us, to answer prayer, to increase our fellowship, to forgive sin, and to heal our land.

2 Chronicles 7:14 reads, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

Can you see the plurality? The people are collectively repenting, collectively waiting, and God promises to show up!

I'm afraid we aren't expecting God to show up. We show up. We show up to "do" worship, to lead, to preach, to teach, and to serve, but sadly, we fail to show up to see God. And if we are looking for Him, we are not waiting collectively. We are looking for an individual blessing. We are waiting for our part of the pie.

Let me challenge you to not only wait for God yourself but express that hope to others. Create an atmosphere of encouragement and anticipation in your church, your family, our group, that looks for the moment when we all sing, as a confident chorus, "Lo, this is our God, this is our Lord. We have waited for Him!"

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Week Thirty-Nine - Washtub Prayers


As we come Beside the Well today, I simply want to share with you the devotion from Springs in the Valley, August 25, because it spoke such hope and joy to my heart.

"An old woman with an halo of silvered hair--the hot tears flowing down her furrowed cheeks--her worn hands busy over a washboard in a room of poverty--praying--for her son John--John who ran away from home in his teens to become a sailor--John, of whom it was now reported that he had become a very wicked man--praying, praying always, that her son might be of service to God.  What a marvellous subject for an artist's brush!

The mother believes in two things, the power of prayer and the reformation of her son.  So while she scrubbed, she continued to pray.  God answered the prayer by working a miracle in the heart of John Newton.  The black stains of sin were washed white in the blood of the Lamb. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow" (Isaiah 1:18).

The washtub prayers were heard as are all prayers when asked in His name.  John Newton, the drunken sailor, became John Newton, the sailor-preacher.  Among the thousands of men and women he brought to Christ was Thomas Scott, cultured, selfish, and self-satisfied.  Because of the washtub prayers, another miracle was worked, and Thomas Scott used both his pen and voice to lead thousands of unbelieving hearts to Christ--among them, a dyspeptic, melancholic young man, William Cowper by name.

He, too, was washed by the cleansing Blood and in a moment of inspiration wrote:

  There is a fountain filled with blood,
  Drawn from Immanuel's veins,
  And sinners plunged beneath that flood,
  Lose all their guilty stains.

And this song has brought countless thousands to the Man who died on Calvary.  Among the thousands was William Wilberforce, who became a great Christian statesman and unfastened the shackles from the feet of thousands of British slaves.  Among those whom he led to the Lord was Leigh Richmond, a clergyman of the Established Church in one of the Channel Islands.  He wrote a book, The Dairyman's Daughter, which was translated into forty languages and with the intensity of leaping flame burned the love of Christ into the hearts of thousands.

All this resulted because a mother took God at His Word and prayed that her son's heart might become as white as the soapsuds in the washtub."

Dear friend, if you have a wayward child or a lost loved one, never cease praying.


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Week Thirty-Eight - Let It Go


It is said that the composer of the song, Let It Go, from the film, Frozen, felt he must apologize to parents because the song was heard, sung, and played so repeatedly.  I know my granddaughters loved it.  The younger of the two would begin singing it and running from the kitchen to the living room every evening.  We knew she was tired and ready for bed when this started happening.

The song holds an amazing truth we see taught in Scripture.  1 Corinthians 13:5 says, "Love...doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil."  Some translation read, 'keeps no record of wrongs."

We could say, "Love lets it go."

I know I've heard people say to me, and I have whispered to myself, "Let it rest, let it go."  And though my heart was on the brink of anxiety, that simple thought calmed me.

Maybe you, too, have experienced a similar thing.  Perhaps a friend or situation has wounded you by bad manners or lack of tact, and you said to yourself, "let it go.  We don't need to bring this up again."  And, your heart, by the choice of love, overlooked the sin.

Or maybe a harsh or unjust sentence has irritated you.  Let it rest.  Let it go.  Like windy words coming from a hidden source, whoever may have vented will be pleased to see you have forgotten, forgiven, you have let it go.

Perhaps a mishap is about to break a friendship; let it rest.  Let it go.  Perserve your love, friendship, and peace of mind.  Love covers a multitude of sins.  1 Peter 4:8

Or a suspicious look knocked your confidence.  Let it go.  There is probably something else behind that look than you!

We live too often in fear of being wounded, and "take pleasure in collecting and piercing our hearts with thorns that meet us in our daily intercourse with one another."

The enemy would love nothing better than for us to take every unkind word, every thoughtless comment or action, every misunderstanding, and every suspicious glance to heart.  When we do that, we are wearing our feelings on our sleeve, and we can be sure the enemy will not miss the opportunity to poke us in precisely the right spot.

But we can always choose to Let It Go- to not be offended, to overcome evil with good, to not keep a record of wrongs, and to think no evil.  This is the path of love.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Week Thirty-Seven - Mark My Words


Over the years, I have formed a habit of reading my Bible through yearly.  It’s a good habit, but not one without challenges.  I make it a goal to read five chapters each day.  Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail, but that is my goal.  When I get to the Old Testament prophets, I take a huge gulp because they no longer read like a story narrative or poetry; they are sermons!  Hard sermons!  But invariably, I find they open new treasure boxes of truth.

Another habit I enjoy is that of reading at least one chapter of a book each day.  Again, sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I fail.  Other times, I get so absorbed in the book that I finish it in a few days.  Lately, I have read two books by Glynn Harrison, The Big Ego Trip, and A Better Story.  I would highly recommend them both.

I make mention of them because, more often than not, God uses His word and my outside reading to help me understand principles and ideas.  Like the other day, after trying to digest what I had been reading in Glynn Harrison’s books, I read through five chapters in Jeremiah.  My eyes noticed a matching instruction in God’s Word.

Allow me to show you what I was seeing.

Jeremiah 20:12 reads, “But, O Lord of hosts, that triest the righteous, and seest the reins and the heart.”

Glynn Harrison was affirming that God knows and tries our hearts.  He sees right down to the thoughts and intents of our hearts, as we read in Hebrews 4:12.

Jeremiah 23:16, “Hearken not unto the words of the prophets (the false prophets) that prophesy unto you! They make you vain: (empty, void of knowledge) they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord.”

Harrison was saying that man is successfully sculpting a society void of richness and contrary to God’s design while calling it Christianity.

Jeremiah 23:17, “They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.”

What? Do we not read this all the time and hear it in music lyrics and TV programs and movies?  “Be yourself.  Do what makes you happy. Follow your heart.  That old wives’ tales of the judgment of God is outdated.  Nothing bad will happen to you.” But Proverbs 28:26 says, “He that trusteth in his own heart of a fool.”

Jeremiah continues, “The burden of the Lord shall ye mention no more: (stop telling me what the Bible says) for every man’s word shall be his burden; (every man did that which was right in his own eyes.)  Result:  “for ye have perverted the words of the living God, of the Lord of hosts our God.” (Jeremiah 23:36)

And don’t think God doesn't know or see.

Jeremiah 23:23, 24, “Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord.  Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.”

I began to wonder how many people swallow the preaching of the world.  Oprah, Joel Olsten, etc. they all preach the same gospel – their own.

Jeremiah 23:18  “For who hath stood in the counsel of the Lord, and hath perceived and heard his word? Who hath marked his word, and heard it?”

It is time to try the spirits and search our hearts!  Are we following the counsel of the world and the gospel of false prophets?  Are we following our own hearts to the disregard of God’s word?  Or, do we live in God’s presence, acknowledge His activity, and seek to stand in His counsel?  Do we mark His words?

 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Who is Resting in Your Boat?

Week Thirty-Six - Open House


Sometimes I think about the things I’d like to do, like go kayaking and float the river with my sister, or have enough money to buy a whole new wardrobe or even my little dream of building my own house.  They are all things that may or may not be possible.

 

I might get to take a trip with my sister someday.  I’d hope so!  I’ll probably never purchase a whole new wardrobe!  I don’t like much of what I see, and my taste is too expensive! And build a little house, well, that’s for the future, and only the Lord knows.

 

I’m sure you have bucket list things you’d like to do or see or places to go.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  But when our desire for things beyond our reach begins creating discontent or resentment, then we need to rope them in!

 

Contentment does not mean begrudgingly settling for the status quo.  It has its root in satisfaction.  It works from the knowledge that time is temporary, and the future is secure. 

 

Where I am today is not where I will be tomorrow, but where I am today, what I have today, and what I am doing right now is important and valuable in God’s economy and for my life. 

 

Contentment rests and generates thankfulness and hope, trusting in the truth found in Philippians 2:13, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”

 

Taking time to measure my hopes and dreams against what God wills for my life helps bring things into focus.

 

I can choose to go kayaking with my sister.  There is no issue there. Except for the fact that I live on a different side of the planet from her.  If I let that fact needle me, it creates discontent.  However, if I lay that hope before the Lord, I live in anticipation of the day He might grant that wish.  It isn’t impossible; it just isn’t time for it right now.

 

If I pine for that new wardrobe, or any temporal, material item, to the point that I become unthankful for what I have, my heart gets distracted and complaining sets in.  I might run up the credit card!  My desire for material things potentially leads me to sin, bondage, and unhappiness. 

 

On the other hand, I can be thankful and do the best with what I have, shop wisely, and remember that I am rich compared to ninety percent of the world.  Others wish to have only a pair of shoes for their child, while my closet has multiple pairs strewn on the floor.

 

The same goes for my dream of building a little house.  It is a dream I’ve had for years. Who knows?  Maybe the Lord will allow me to do that someday.  But if I grapple and push to make my dream come true, I lose the beauty of what God is doing now.  He promised to give me the desires of my heart if I delight myself in Him. (Psalm 37:4) I’m excited to wait and see how He works that all out!

 

Friend, we all have hopes and desires.  There is nothing wrong with that.  But the most vital choice you can make today is to bring them in line with what God is doing.  If He has you at the bottom of the ladder, do what is required with a good spirit, learn all you can, and make choices that move you forward.  If you are at the top of that ladder and feeling lonely, reach down and pull others up. If you wish life were different, start being thankful for the joys around you, and let the Lord sort the messy parts.

 

You see, life is a matter of choices and the hand of God.  The two go together.  I challenge you to start where you are.  Settle your heart, knowing today is today, and tomorrow holds potential.  Live one day at a time, and lay your desires and choices before the Lord, and see what He can do!

 

By the way, you’re invited to my open house!

 

 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Scarlet Cloak

Week Thirty-Five - Adjust


I’ve always thought I was pretty good at adjusting.  I mean, I can flex.  I can shift to plan B.  I can push in that clutch and change gears when I need to! But, I’m finding this elongated time of adjustment wearing me down.  I mean, if they want me to stay in my house, fine.  Just say so.  If they want us to try to get back to normal, then make it possible.  Suppose they want us to take precautions, fine.  Just keep it clear, consistent, and precise.

I got to thinking about some of this the other day, and I noticed something.  We are all trying to get back to normal.  But what if normal isn’t where God wants us?  What if He wants us to change things up?  Can we do that?  Or are we so set on getting everything back as it was, that we miss out on new opportunities or amendments that would benefit?

My oldest daughter is a Real Estate agent.  Her Facebook post prompted me to think more about adjusting.  She posted -

“Every Monday, Liz Moore, (Her office) sends out her mojo for the week. Sometimes it’s a challenge or idea, and other times, it is encouragement. This week it was a little of both.

It hit a few notes with me. Learning how to do work in our new environment means I'm going to have to adjust.

Adjust:
👉 How I connect with people
👉 Where I do my work
👉 What a workday looks like

 

As with any other time, adjusting means:

💜 I'll learn new skills.
💜 I’ll have more empathy.
💜 I’ll come out stronger.

So, while adjusting is uncomfortable and sometimes hard, it will be worth it.

How are you adjusting your work to come out stronger on the other side?”

Then, she shared this quote: “It’s quite normal to hear of a change and see it as a problem, but it’s probably an opportunity, depending on how quickly you can adjust.”  Jim Pattison.

Let me challenge you to stop trying to make things as they were, but allow the Lord to show you new things that are now possible, things that could be done better, and ways make the new normal full of potential.

By adjusting to what God is doing around us, we will learn new skills, have more empathy, and come through all of this much stronger.  Maybe that’s what He is trying to teach us anyway!

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Week Thirty-Four - Trivial Matters



Rev S Martin wrote, “The things which you look upon as trivial, have been subjects of eternal thought, and of eternal purpose…God cannot be almighty, He cannot have full control of His creation, unless He foreknew and foresees all things—things both great and small. And if it be so that the Lord does reign in our circumstances, and over them, then we owe an appeal to the throne of God on whatever concerns us.” (p 167-168)

Did you catch that? Every trivial thing has been the subject of eternal thought and has eternal purpose. We will never understand the depth of God’s knowledge or how everything works together, but we can find comfort and assurance that just as He knows every thought we think and every word we say, He has a purpose in it all. Nothing is too small or trivial for His attention.

When we returned from our furlough in 1996, I was on a strict diet of whole foods only. I found Subway the best place for me to eat while we traveled in America, but there was no Subway Sandwich Shop in England.

One day, while wandering around town we noticed a new store going in. We didn’t think much about it because several shops were opening and doing renovations. As we got closer, we recognized the colors and the logo. It was a Subway shop! The first one in England and it opened ten minutes from my house.

I knew God did that! He purposely gave me my own store! I felt so loved and cared for! It truly was an unexpected answer to prayer. God showed me that even that small detail was not outside His reach!

Most of us pray with a sense of God being above us in the heavens. Some pray with the awareness of the presence of God in the very room. Prayer is a very personal thing.

Lamentations 3:41 speaks of lifting up our hearts and hands to the Lord, no doubt, in supplication for our needs. But how many times are we guilty of trying to fix things ourselves instead of lifting them up to God in prayer? We walk around with our heart deflated and our hands hanging down. We believe God helps those who help themselves, and so we try to create our own answers to prayer. How foolish are we?

There is a place for our effort. We are to be actively obeying, providing for our families, and serving with all our love and might. However, the same Lord encourages us to wait on Him, be still, and look for His hand to move. He is in the details, just as when He provided the Subway shop for me.

We can also be guilty of looking to others for blessings instead of God. Yes, God uses men to give to our needs (Luke 6:38). But men are not the source of the blessing. God is. If we aren’t careful, we allow God’s human instruments to block our view, failing to see the hand of God in all things.

Whatever concerns us, we must be taking it to the throne. God does not send a deputy! He attends us personally. No matter what we face, “The Lord is there” (Ezekiel 48:35). He is a good, good Father who cares for His children.

It is a parental relationship we have entered. We needn’t stop at considering ourselves a disciple; we must recognize we are a child of God. Lifting up our hearts and hands to the Father for our every need keeps the relationship vibrant. Nothing is too small or trivial for His attention.

I am too often aware of my keeping God at a distance. I fail to see my needs as pressing. Sometimes I believe God has bigger things to deal with than my petty complaints. But I am reminded that just as I would want to know any concern of my child, God, my Father, desires me to bring every matter to Him. Right down to the sandwich I eat!
           
AND...speaking of trivial matters, today my text refused to stay in one format and my image refused to go to the right-hand side.  Either the Lord wants one of you perfectionists annoyed, someone pleased that I make mistakes, or me humbled because I can't control tech!           

Tuesday, August 11, 2020



Do you know the Bible story about Elisha’s servant?  While trapped by the enemy, Elisha prays for God to reveal to his servant the surrounding army of God. (2 Kings 6:17) That story always excites my heart and encourages me when I feel trapped, thinking all is lost.  God reminds me He is still there, even when I can’t see Him.  He is with me, ready to fight my battle.

 

Mark Batterson, in his book The Circle Maker, talks about circle promises.  Those are the ones in God’s word that use the word compass.  This word means to encircle or go around, like when Joshua and Israel marched around Jericho or when Elisha’s servant saw the fiery chariots of God filling the mountains around them.  They were compassed about with God’s protection.

 

Here are a few more verses that use the word compass. 

 

Psalm 5:12 reads, “For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield.” 

The idea is of a group of shields, like a riot squad encircling with shields for protection.  But the verse is talking about favour.  We are encircled by God’s favour, his goodwill, delight, and acceptance!  Sounds to me like a big hug!

 

Psalm 32:7 says, “Thou art my hiding-place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.”

We are surrounded by heavenly music!  We sing the song of the redeemed.  And, as Albert Barnes puts it, “The birds of the air; the wind; the running stream; the oceans; the seasons, hills, valley, groves,--all, to one redeemed, seem to be full of songs.  The feeling that we are pardoned fills the universe with melody, and makes the heaven and the earth seem to us to be glad.  The Christian is a happy man; and he himself being happy, all around him sympathizes with him in his joy.”

 

And Psalm 32:10 reads, “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about.”

Just as we are surrounded by the air we breathe or the sunlight that brightens our day, we find mercy and favour everywhere.  We live surrounded by the eternal mercies of God which are renewed day by day.

 

It is easy to feel like Elijah’s servant when we listen to the news and watch social media posts.  We begin feeling like we are trapped by the enemy, like our doom is sealed, and we have no help in sight.

 

But that isn’t true.  Is it?  God is always there encircling us with his loving hug, heavenly music in our souls, and eternal mercies.  Let me share with you Mark Batterson’s comment on these circle promises.

 

“Long before you woke up this morning and long after you go to sleep tonight, the Spirit of God was circling you with songs of deliverance.  He has been circling you since the day you were conceived, and He’ll circle you until the day you die.  He is praying hard for you with ultrasonic groans that cannot be formulated into words, and those unutterable intercessions should fill you with an unspeakable confidence.  God isn’t just for you in some passive sense; God is for you in the most active sense imaginable.  The Holy Spirit is praying hard for you.  And supernatural synchronicities begin to happen when we tag-team with God and do the same.”  (Circle Maker p 85, 86)

 

Dear friend, don't forget whose we are.  Let’s ask Him to open our eyes to see flaming swords and the army of God on every hand encircling us with His loving, shielded protection and boundless mercy as we join Him with songs of deliverance.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Week Thirty-Two - F.E.A.R.




I’ll admit I coast Facebook more than I did before this pandemic.  My favorite thing is seeing funny posts that brighten my day.  I avoid the political ones, the negative whining ones, and those that try to draw discussion.  I just want to be entertained!  But sometimes, a post catches my attention and makes me think.  Like this one:
 

  “FEAR has two meanings.  Forget everything and run or face everything and rise.”  


That simple post got me thinking and comparing.

 

   Elijah forgot everything and ran when Jezebel threatened.

   The three Hebrew Children faced the fiery furnace and came out unscathed.

 

   King Saul forgot everything and sacrificed instead of waiting for Samuel.

   King David faced the giant and brought him down.

 

   Joseph’s brothers forgot everything – their family responsibility.

   Joseph faced his brothers and showed mercy.

 

I’m sure there could be more, but the point is clear.  Facing our fears has a better outcome than running from them.  When we run, we forget God’s promise.  By our action, we say we are inadequate to the task.  And truly we are, but we are forgetting the power of God within us that counters every fear.

   With all the fear associated with this pandemic, it is tempting to wish it would all go away or dream of escaping to the beach or mountains, but that is not the way to face fear.  Escaping only delays the inevitable.  And, I think of those who cannot escape—the doctors, nurses, and caregivers.  They are facing fear head-on, while we stay isolated in our homes.  I’m so thankful for these people who are not running!

   So how can I face this fear when I am not in the place of responsibility?  I thought of four ways.

1.     We can hold the frontline workers up in prayer.  We face fear through prayer.

2.     We can speak calmly to those around us.  We face fear by exhibiting courage.

3.     We can volunteer where possible.  We face fear by positive action.

4.     We can keep our heads!  We face fear by self-control.

 

  We must remember that we are not the first people in history to face challenging times.  The Greatest Generation, and others before them, who faced their life challenges with courage and dignity saw a rise or a blessing after their conflicts. 

   Our conflict will pass.  How we come out on the other side greatly depends on how we face the challenge before us.  Will we run?  Or will we rise?

  

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Week Thirty-One - Math is Logic

Of all the classes I disliked, math was at the top of my list. Oh, I could do it, but I never enjoyed it. As a matter of fact, when I was a freshman in High School, the State of Missouri started a trial in school curriculum. High School students were only required to take math and science in their first year. It was voluntary for the remaining three years. So, guess who never took another math or science class after their freshman year? Yes! Me!

 

My youngest daughter, however, loves math. She is a managing accountant for a large charity and keeps books to the last penny. I’m still happy to round things off!

 

But when it comes to looking for things we can count on, God comes top of the list! We talked about making deliberate calculations last week, the “I Wills” of scripture. Today, I want to show you why we can have such confidence.

 

It is because God is a deliberate calculator. He is total logic. His promises make perfect mathematical sense—in His calculations! To do math well, you learn how to calculate. Right? To add, subtract, divide, and multiply gives starting points for more difficult summations.

 

Let’s see if I can explain this with my limited ability!

 

When I face C, I know that A+B is greater than C.

 

When I face temptation (C), I calculate (A) 1 Corinthians 10:13 and (B) Philippians 4:13 are greater than my temptation.

 

(A)  God says, in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

(B)  I rest my faith in Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

(C)  Has no place to go! With the Lord’s promise to help me escape temptation, and the strength I am given through Christ, temptation is out-numbered.

 

When I face afflictions, I add Psalm 34:19 and 34:4 together and they become greater than C – my affliction.

 

(A)  God says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” Psalm 34:19

(B)  My response? “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”

(C)  Afflictions are temporary. When I lay them before the Lord, though they be many, I will be delivered from each one in the Lord’s time.

 

A = the promise of God.

B = my response by faith to His promise.

C = my challenging circumstance.

 

Here’s what I’ve found. There is a promise of God for virtually every situation I face. And, there is a biblical response of faith on my part that activates the promise of God to my life.

 

I can know that 2+2=4, but if I decide I don’t like that outcome or pass it off as inconsequential, I am left powerless to resolve the sum. It is similar with God. I can know His promise, maybe even repeat it, but if I don’t want God’s intended outcome, or don’t have faith in the power of God’s promise, I will be left at zero—without strength.

 

We must do the math. God’s promise plus my obedience by faith equals the desired outcome. The “I Will” of God overrides whatever I face or experience.

 

 

Have a look at these promises – the “A” of the situation. God says:

 

I will be with you. (Isaiah 43:2)

I will protect you. (Psalm 121:7)

I will be your strength. (Psalm 18:2)

I will answer you. (Psalm 91:15)

I will provide for you. (Philippians 4:19)

I will give you peace. (John 14:27)

I will always love you. (1 John 4:16, 19)

 

What is my part – the “B” of the equation?

 

I will live in your presence. (Psalm 16:11)

I will trust in you. (Psalm 56:3)

I will draw strength from you. (Ephesians 6:10-11)

I will ask, seek, and knock. (Matthew 7:7)

I will let you be my portion. (Lamentations 3:24)

I will rest in you. (Psalm 37:7-9)

I will love you with all my heart, soul, and mind. (Luke 10:27)

 

So, are you doing logical math with God, relying on His promise, obeying by faith? Or are your calculations off?

 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Week Thirty - Deliberate Calculations

There’s a little two-word phrase scattered throughout Psalms that always catches my attention, “I will.”  It’s a deliberate choice.  It says, “In the face of whatever circumstance, I choose...” 

 

Let’s look at just a few. 

 

Psalm 5:3 – “I will look up.” 

Psalm 9:1 – “I will praise thee…I will shew forth all thy marvelous works.”

Psalm 9:2 – “I will be glad and rejoice…I will sing praise to thy name.”

Psalm 18:3 – “I will call upon the Lord.”

Psalm 34:1 – “I will bless the Lord at all times.”

Psalm 39:1 – “I will take heed to my ways.”

Psalm 55:17 – “I will pray  and cry aloud.”

Psalm 58:9 – “I will wait upon thee.”

Psalm 119:62 – “I will rise to give thanks unto thee.”

 

This type of deliberate calculation moves us into deeper faith.  Without it, we stand doubting, confused, or self-reliant.

 

Take time to peruse Psalms and mark all of the “I wills.”  You’ll find many more.  Then, look and see how you are doing.  Like one of the personality tests, add up the ones you practice and the ones you don’t and see how willing you are to deliberately calculate with God.

 

The “I will” of the Christian life is essential, especially in the circumstances we face today.  Unless we make a decided choice to continue following by faith, we risk getting side-tracked by the noise of the world and the threats of the enemy.  We need to deliberately calculate that the choice to believe God, follow His Word, and wait upon Him, adds up to the wisest path and the most secure future. 

 

Such was the choice of Daniel and the three Hebrew children.  Their “I will” said, “We will not defile ourselves.”  Or Isaiah, whose “I will” came as his heart melted with conviction and surrender at the vision of God.  “I will go,” he said.

 

“I will” takes you to amazing places.  It bows you in humility at the foot of the cross.  It lifts you up to soar with eagles.  It leads you to the sureness of His call and the great promise of Himself. God reveals His power, His love, and His beauty to the yielded heart. 

 

The walk of faith demands, “I will.”  Isaiah 50:7 reads, “For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall (will) I not be confounded; therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall (will) not be ashamed.”  Isaiah is saying, “I choose to follow, no matter what.”  What about you?

 

“I will” is why I am where I am today.  Not just serving in England, but also spiritually and in ministry.  I am walking by faith in what He has revealed to me.  If the course needs alteration at any time, He will make the adjustment, and I will know it adds up to my yieldedness to His superior calculations.

 

The walk of faith is not a blind walk.  It is a confident, assured stride based on the knowledge of God’s word, character, and promises.  It is a walk that says, with deliberate calculation, “The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:6).

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Week Twenty-Nine - Sorrow is Lent


The subject of my last video, Facing Sorrow, prompted several comments, but one that caused my heart to rejoice was this quote shared from a friend. 

 Amy Carmichael, in The Edges of His Ways wrote, “Sorrow is one of the things that are lent, not given.  A thing that is lent may be taken away; a thing that is given is not taken away.  Joy is given; sorrow is lent.  We are not our own, we are bought with a price, “and our sorrow is not our own” (Samuel Rutherford said this a long time ago), it is lent to us for just a little while that we may use it for eternal purposes.  Then it will be taken away and everlasting joy will be our Father’s gift to us, and the Lord God will wipe away all tears from off all faces. So let us use this “lent” thing to draw us nearer to the heart of Him Who was once a Man of Sorrows (He is not that now, but He does not forget the feeling of sorrow).  Let us use it to make us more tender with others, as He was when on earth and is still, for He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” 

 

Sorrow has to be the word as we look at our world today.  Sorrow due to illness and loss.  Sorrow due to civil unrest.  Sorrow at the language of hate.  Sorrow at the destruction of history.  And sorrow because we seem unable to find our way forward.

 

But I was encouraged as I thought about Amy Carmichael’s thought, sorrow is lent for a while.  Sorrow will pass.  Time will heal our wounds and this whole thing will be reduced to a few chapters in a history book.  But for today, sorrow is very real.

 

There’s a precious little scripture that reads, “O Lord, I am oppressed, undertake for me” (Isaiah 38:14). And David wrote, “My heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2).

 

While we are in the grasp of sorrow, we can still look up.  The Lord continues being the lifter up of our head.  He will undertake for us.  These are precious promises.  And here’s one more to think about, “Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better” (Ecclesiastes 7:3).  God is perfecting our hearts through this process.  We struggle to understand His method, but that doesn’t deter His truth!

 

Amy Carmichael’s comment on joy brought a few more scriptures to my mind.  She said, “Joy is given.”  Psalm 30:5 says, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”  And Isaiah 61:3 promises the Lord will “give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”

 

My video lesson discussed things we can learn through a time of sorrow, like a deeper intimacy with God, spiritual growth, and empathy for others.  But today, I needed this thought – sorrow is lent; joy is given.

 

O, Lord, help us to endure and benefit from this time of great sorrow.  May the promise of Your eternal purpose rest in our hearts as we wait for the morning of joy. 

 

“In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."  

John 16:33



Light that Shines and Contentment and Captives are available on Amazon as Ebooks and paperback.  These two books each contact twelve devotionals from the videos I have been posting.

 

 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Week Twenty-Eight - Calculating Without God

Nahum 1:7 reads, “The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.”

 

What a beautiful verse full of promise and assurance. God is good all the time. His goodness can be seen even in times of great trouble. His mercy remains constant. He is our stronghold.

 

Proverbs 18:10, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.

 

Proverbs 14:21 says, “In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.”

 

When the day of trouble comes, God’s children draw upon this refuge, this strong tower, this safe place. A stronghold is a place of protection, but also a place to stand your ground, a last bastion against the enemy.

 

Proverbs 21:30 “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.” The world can rage and say what it wants, but He is the final word, the last stand. We need not live or react in fear to the day of trouble, but stand our ground by faith.

 

My thought today is, “How do we react when faced with trouble?” Nahum 1:7 and Proverbs 14:26 instruct us to turn to our Lord for safety. But more often than not, we move most quickly to fretting. And fretting means we are “calculating without God,” as Oswald Chambers puts it.  

 

“It sounds so easy to talk about resting in the Lord and waiting patiently for Him until the nest is upset—until we live, as so many are doing in tumult and anguish; is it possible then to rest in the Lord? If this “don’t fret” (Psalm 17:8) does not work there, it will work nowhere. This “don’t fret” must work in days of perplexity as well as in days of peace, or it never will work. And if it will not work in your particular case, it will not work in anyone else’s case. Resting in the Lord does not depend on external circumstances at all but on your relationship to God Himself.”

 

He went on to say, “Fretting springs from a determination to get our own way.” I’m afraid this is too true! We often see trouble and move to think our way through. Have you ever found a Bible verse that teaches thinking through a problem? I haven’t.

 

Instead, we see verses exhorting and instructing us to trust in the Lord. To wait patiently on Him. To live by faith. To cast our cares on Him. To commit our way to Him.

 

If I were in a stronghold for safety, I wouldn’t be strengthened by the fretting and fear of those inside. I’d rather be in lockdown with those whose eyes were on the Lord, speaking of His goodness, and full of faith.

 

Dear friend, which are you? A fretter or a faithful rester? Are you inside the stronghold, or still out there trying to figure your way through?

 

Only God knows how 2020 will work out, and I assure you, you will better survive confident of His goodness in the stronghold of faith.