Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Week Fifty-Two - Angels in the Wilderness

Tomorrow night we kiss 2020 goodbye and take our first intrepid steps into 2021. After traveling through the 2020 wilderness of emotions and uncertainty, I'm sure we all feel ready to leave the weariness behind and look for new doors of hope. Though we take this same journey once every 365 days, this year seems to be more poignant. 

I plan to take time to have a private funeral for 2020 somewhere around midnight, to lay it down and let it rest in peace. Then, by faith, pick up hope and look for the morning of 2021.  

But as with every New Year, it is good to look back and review what has been learned and experienced. For me, 2020 was amazing. I started out with a list of goals and watched God change them around. Some were dropped. Some were exceeded. But God was there with me through every day, every emotion, and every hour of loneliness. I hope you can say the same.

Even as I prayed this morning, I found myself thanking Him for the activity of His hand in my life during 2020, and I was reminded, "There is no wilderness without its angels." How true.

God's ministering spirits have been beside me through every lockdown, every disappointment, and every long, lonely day of 2020, and they will continue being with me into and through the unknown of 2021.

I thought of Elijah laying down by the brook, exhausted with the ministry and labour. Then, an angel touched him. Angels guarded him in his blackest depression and ministered to his wearied soul. He may have felt lonely and isolated, but he was accompanied by legions of angels, and more than that, God touched His exhausted child and renewed his spirit.

As we leave 2020, we can be assured of the same. God has never left our side and never will leave us. Though we may have experienced moments of fear and extreme loneliness, His angels have been ministering spirits accompanying our every step. In our darkest hours, there were angels in our wilderness.

Dear child, God does not say today, "Be strong,"
He knows our strength is spent; He knows how long
The road has been, how weary you have grown,
For He who walked the earthly roads alone,
Each bogging lowland, and each rugged hill,
Can understand, and so He says, "Be still,
And know that I am God." The hour is late,
And you must rest awhile, and wait
Until life's empty reservoirs fill up.
As slow rain fills an empty upturned cup.
Hold up your cup, dear child, for God to fill.
He only asks today that you be still.

                                        Grace Noll Crowell

Dear friend, as you take time to mark the passing of the midnight hour, pause and be still. Allow God and His ministering angels in the wilderness to fill you with the much needed courage for 2021.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Week Fifty-One - He Shall Be Great

Like many of you, I have sat through numerous Christmas programs and carol services over the years.

Each year I face the challenge of seeing something new in the Christmas story, something fresh that keeps the season alive in place of repetitious. Virtually every year, the Lord answers my quest, and I am dazzled with a reflection of truth that illuminates my Christmas celebrations.

This year, as I put up my tree, I began again asking the Lord to show me another aspect of His love or a truth that would crown my festivities. He didn't fail. On the very first Sunday in December, as I sat through yet another Christmas sermon, the Word of God burst a ray of light straight into my heart through one phrase.

Nestled in the middle of Luke 1:31-32 are the words "He shall be great." The preacher lingered there but a moment, yet my heart was captivated, and this became my 2020 Christmas meditation. "He shall be great."

Here in these few verses of the Christmas story, the angel gives Mary a promise and a bit of an explanation about the child she is to deliver. His name is to be Jesus. He is the Son of the Highest and will have the throne of David and reign forever. And - he shall be great.

What is to begin in a lowly stable with two humble souls will be great. Her heart must have wondered how that would all work out, but Mary was one of those precious souls who gave her complete devotion, her whole life, to the Lord's will. "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word," was her reply. And from there, she obediently followed on.

But let's come back he the statement, He shall be great. The truth of the greatness of our Saviour captured my thoughts. Exactly how great is he?

Ephesians 2:4, "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us." He is great in love and mercy. Love that extends to no limit. Love that places the Almighty God in the hands of a little maid. Love that protects and provides. Love that showers the heavens with praise and adoration. Love that sacrifices all. Great love, love that never fails. You could mediate here for the rest of your natural days.  Ephesians 3:19 says, "to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge."  You wouldn't run out of things to consider, for his love is that great.

Psalm 147:5, "Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite."  He is great in power. In this same portion of the Christmas story, Luke 1:37, Mary is told, "For with God nothing shall be impossible." Nothing is outside the power of God, even for a virgin to conceive. He is able, fully able, to accomplish his plan from creation to the birth of Jesus, and to the end of time. He holds everything together, and His purpose will be fulfilled, so great is his power. (Colossians 1:16, 17; Ephesians 1:9-11)

And he is great in understanding. His knowledge is unsearchable. He knows our every thought, every word, every hair on our head. And he knows the future. There is no wisdom, nor counsel, nor understanding that can go against him. You will never think of anything God has forgotten. His understanding is complete. He is exact to the minute detail, watering every moment. Check out Psalm 139:1-10. You'll find the psalmist says the same - he is great!

Zechariah 9:17, "For how great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty." We look with awe and wonder at the beauty of the babe in the manger, but the true beauty of our Lord is seen in his holiness and sacrifice. His goodness toward undeserving humankind. He is good, always. He does good, and it good, and his work is beautiful - awesome! Angels bow down to him, all heaven adores him, all creation sings his praise.

Psalm 145:3, "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable." See there! His greatness is unsearchable. 

This simple phrase in the Christmas story has been my meditation for nearly a month, and it remains inexhaustible.  He shall be great. He is great. He always has been, and always shall be great. The greatness of his love, understanding, power, and goodness is boundless. Such is our great Saviour and  God.

O, come, let us adore him! Christ, the Lord.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Week Fifty - Tenderness

"For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground; he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him" (Isaiah 53:2).

Jesus grew up as a tender plant, like a hidden seed buried in the ground, unseen, silently developing into beauty. He was born in a lowly position and conducted his life with a meek and humble character, nothing of great note, silently and simply obeying his Father. 

However, the Jews, looking for a Messiah of power, greatness, nobility, with public fanfare and pomp, striking in charm and beauty, dismissed him. What does that mean for us?

We praise and follow those who boldly make loads of noise and draw attention to themselves or their cause. We, too, are looking for someone to follow, someone to lead the way with charisma and energy. But that is not the image of Christ from the manger to the cross. His was a simple, single-minded life of tenderness and love for all. 

I was challenged by Ephesians 4:32, "Be ye kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as Christ hath forgive you."

Tenderhearted. Am I? Are you? Do we even know what that means? It basically means compassion, love in action. It is the very essence of the Gospel - for God so loved that He gave.

When we read Jesus' attitude in life and reactions on the way to the cross, we see nothing but tenderness. He knew his purpose and the outcome, and he also knew how he was to give his sacrifice.  

In Isaiah 53:7, 8, 3, we see that foretold. "As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth, he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." 

The gospel writers also bear testimony of how Jesus laid down his life with a spirit that quietly and tenderly exhibited his divine sensitivity and beauty of spirit.

We are called to be and do likewise - to be Christlike. "Deep tenderness of spirit is the very soul and marrow of the Christ-life." Oh, we can be very religious and heartily do our Christian work. We can strive for sanctification, be a brave defender and preacher of holiness, and yet, lack tenderness.

Tenderness is that "all subduing, all-melting love, which is the very cream and quintessence of Heaven and which incessantly streamed out from the voice and eyes of the blessed Jesus." 

It is a "supernatural work throughout the whole spiritual being. It is an exquisitely interior fountain of God's own sweetness and tenderness of nature, opened up in the inner spirit to such a degree that it completely inundates the soul, overflowing all the mental faculties and saturating with its sweet waters the manners, expression, words, and tones of the voice; mellowing the will, softening the judgment, melting the affections, refining the manners, and molding the whole being after the image of Him who was infinitely meek and lowly in heart."

Have we been touched by the depth of His tenderness?  Or are we hard and critical, cold and demanding, wearied and impatient? Are we looking for something stronger, louder, and more exciting to follow?

As we take time to focus on the babe in the manger, maybe we need to shut out the noise of the season and look at the quietness of the holy night, the gentle babe, and His mission.  Then, maybe our prayer would be, "O, Lord, may the tenderness of Christ be the striking chord of my heart and demeanor this Christmas."

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Week Forty-Nine - Cares and Confidence

"Be careful for nothing" was the focus of my devotion from Springs in the Desert. (Philippians 4:6) We know it means do not be filled with care or worry.  Psalm 37:1 says something similar. "Fret not thyself because of evil-doers." How many times have we read these verses or heard them and dismissed their instruction or felt it impossible to obey?

God knows we indulge in those activities more often than we care to admit. Why else would He take time to warn us against them if it were not that He knew allowing them to overtake us would be detrimental to faith, peace, and stability?

This little poem was at the end of the devotion. I printed it off and added it to the reminders pinned up around my computer.

It is God's will that I should cast
On Him my care each day;
He also bids me not to cast
My confidence away.
But, Oh! I am so stupid, that
When taken unawares,
I cast away my confidence,
And carry all my cares.

During 2020, with all its craziness, I, too, have found myself falling beneath the cares of this world. Guilty of trying to solve problems and figure things out that were outside my realm of responsibility, and annoyed by events around me, I knew I had traded confidence for worry and fretting.

And then, the Lord reminded me of Hebrews 10:35, 36.  I knew this portion by heart but had never equated it with the sin of worry. It reads, "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise." 

After some sincere thought and prayer, I came away from my quiet time repentant of my sin of worry, and more equipped to discern my attitude.  Worry accomplishes nothing of eternal value. It holds no promise of relief and eats away at inner strength. But confidence - faith - is always rewarded. It holds great recompense, meaning it really pays off!

The devotion records the prayer of the soul who recognizes the same. "O Christ! I must overcome worriment, and Thou alone knowest how I have tried to do so. I have fought; I have struggled; I have wept bitter tears. And I have failed. Oh, Lord Jesus, unless Thou dost undertake for me now it is all over with me."

We must all come to this point - the point of confession and repentance for our worry and fretting, ready to turn to the Lord with renewed confidence and place our future and hope solely in His promises, which never fail.

The testimony of the one who does so is sure. "Then and there I threw myself in utter helplessness upon Christ. Somehow, where before I had been struggling, I now found myself trusting as I had never quite done before. From that time onward Jesus Christ began to give me the beauty of victory for the somber ashes of defeat."

Dear friend, if worry and the cares of this life have overtaken you, cast yourself wholly upon the Lord. Pick up the confidence afforded you in His word and go forward with spiritual poise singing,

I care not today what the morrow may bring
If shadow or sunshine or rain.
The Lord I know ruleth o'er everything,
And all of my worry is vain.

Living by faith, in Jesus above,
Trusting, confiding, in His great love.
From all harm safe in His sheltering arms.
I'm living by faith and I feel no alarm.

Do those lyrics ring true to you? They can if you cast aside worry and pick up confidence!

Monday, November 30, 2020

Week Forty-Eight - The Porch Swing

I tend to live life by ideal, meaning I lean toward seeing things as they should be or as I wish they were instead of focusing on the sadness of reality. I usually view life positively, see sparks of possibility in most situations, and greatly prefer to avoid conflict because I don't like to get worked up or unsettled. 

My image of life is best described as a lovely old farmhouse with white picket fences and a gracious porch with a swing for whiling away the hours listening to bird song and enjoying the laughter of children playing nearby as I chat with a friend. No press to get on with anything. No fret or fear, no need for entertainment, just to be and let be as I enjoy a tall glass of iced tea and nibble on chocolate chip cookies.

I thought of my porch swing again when I read this sentence in my devotional. Oswald Chambers writes, "I have a world within the world in which I live, and God will never be able to get me outside it because I am afraid of being frost-bitten."  Yep, that's me. I have a world within the world - my hiding place. And I had to agree with Chambers. I don't want to leave it to be frost-bitten by the outside world. My ideal world is warm and cozy. The outside world is harsh and cold.

This "world within a world" Chambers refers to is not an imaginary place like my porch swing. He is talking about a life wholly given to the purpose of God with no barriers to God's will, no set personal ambition, or focus on material gain. He writes, "You can only get the by losing forever any idea of yourself and by letting God take you right out into His purpose for the world."

Sometimes God's purpose is to take us right out into the world. He needs us as lights, mouthpieces, and helping hands. It is our privilege to be used, to get off the porch and do obedient service even when we don't understand why or see an immediate result. We must still be surrendered to His will both on the porch and in the world.

This idea of a porch swing has carried me through our 2020 lockdown. I see myself as shut up with God. My world within the world is the safety of my four walls. I don't have a white picket fence or an old-fashioned porch swing, but I do have my Friend to chat with, children playing next door, and birds singing in the sunshine.

We won't be in lockdown forever. Time will come again when we hear God's call to step out and be the faithful witness, the hands-on servant, the preacher of righteousness on the muddy path of life. And when we do, let's do it with zeal and immense love. Let's be bold and purposeful because I believe there is a harvest ahead. God is preparing us for more extraordinary things, restoring us for increased usefulness, and stowing us away unto an appointed time.

Meanwhile, He is doing a work in the world around us. Make no mistake. He is working all things according to the purpose of His own will. (Ephesians 1:11)  We can find comfort and assurance in that fact - that promise from His Word. Everything works according to the purpose of His own will - not ours!

So, if you are out there dragging your boots in the mud and frost-bitten by the world, come aside. There is a spigot of fresh water beside my porch. Wash yourself in the Word and come sit for a while in the sunshine of His love while we wait for our next appointment.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Week Forty-Eight - God With Us

One of my favorite truths to meditate on is found in Matthew 1:23. I know it is from the Christmas story, and tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, but with where we are now, I found great comfort again in this truth. "And they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." When life gets confusing and uncertain, it seems legitimate and necessary to run from the crisis, but knowing God is with us restores my peace. 

God is intimately interested and involved in my life, even when I don't feel it. He is actively there. Psalm 31:15 tells me, "my times are in his hands." And Isaiah 27:3 reminds me that God waters every moment. I love that truth. There is not a moment when God is not tending and caring for me. When life feels too hard, and I can't figure it out, I remind myself that figuring it out is not my job. I am to trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not to my understanding. And I am to acknowledge him, and he will direct my path. (Proverbs 3:5,6) He will direct because he is with me. He is there. 

This truth of God's presence is one I have exercised for years. When my children were very small, my grandmother encouraged me, "Gail, they are only babies once. Stop and take time to enjoy them." I began making a practice of stopping everything to sit and watch them play. I would take turns holding them on my lap or rocking them while I rested myself in the everlasting arms - God with Me. 

Years down the road, and I still know the blessing of stopping, to be still and know God is there, to enjoy all he has placed around me. It is hard to see God and be thankful when you are racing and noisy or fretting and uptight. You have to stop, rest, and recoup. For me, that creates room for thankfulness. 

I need intervals when I do nothing, think nothing, and plan nothing; time to rest. And when I do, I place myself in his arms and allow him to be my portion and comfort. Time spent stopping is not lost time. It is the source of a renewed mind and energy. It is the place to do repairs, sharpen tools, and revitalize the soul and spirit. 

Thanksgiving 2020 would be best peppered with moments of silence, moments to stop and let thankfulness arise, and to worship, as we recognize God With Us.

I hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving Day, and the presence of God is very near.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Week Forty-Seven - Pandemics and Politics

I read Lysa TerKeurst's book, Uninvited, several years ago. At that time, I took away one truth that has stayed with me, and today, as I reread the same chapter, that truth gripped my heart again. She writes, "I can choose to bring my emptiness or God's fullness into any situation I face."

The first time I captured this truth, I pictured myself entering a room full of strangers. That always petrified me. I fear new situations and people I don't know because I feel socially clumsy and insecure, I guess. You'd think a person would outgrow those feelings, but I never have. So, working with the picture of God going into the room ahead of me gives me a bit more courage. I've even learned to stop and pray, asking Him to go in first when I felt I wanted to turn and run instead.

That simple prayer calms my nerves, gives me a quiet sense of confidence, and helps everything work out much easier. As I thought again about her statement, I saw it in another light. Let me reword it this way, "I can live in my emptiness or God's fullness as I face today's situations."

My nerves have strained during this pandemic. I go from perfect peace to inner tension and an overwhelming need to cry. I'm feeling cooped up, and for the first time in years, I'm longing for family. The political wrangling is leaving me frustrated and weary with the process. I find these two situations emptying me of joy, peace, and purpose.

However, I know if I approach each day in my own strength, empty of power, and entering alone, my emotional roller-coaster will continue. But if I pray before the day starts, before I hear a newscast or read a post, and before I allow my mind to start bemoaning my fate, I enter the day in God's fullness. He goes before me.

And what difference does that make? Well, I have more joy because praise and hope come more easily.  I find more peace because He has already overcome the world, and through Him, I am an overcomer, too. And I find purpose because He is working all things according to the purpose of His own will as we read in Ephesians 1:11. He gives my life purpose, even in a lockdown.

I put up a post on Facebook this week by Oswald Chambers that read, "Never allow the thought - I am of no use where I am, because you certainly can be of no use where you are not." That's so true. The enemy wants us to believe the restrictions we are experiencing nullify or hinder our purpose. But where are we? We are exactly where the purpose of God has designed. He has entered the room, and we are invited to join Him!

That simple truth means His fullness is already in the situation. If I refuse to join Him, I remain empty.  If I hesitate at the door, my frustration grows. I am best to launch out into His fullness and be filled, as Ephesians 3:19 says, "with all the fullness of God."

"I can choose to bring my emptiness or God's fullness into any situation I face." Any situation, be it pandemics or politics!

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Week Forty-Six - Dare to be a Daniel

There is a post that keeps popping up on Facebook, saying, "In a world where Nebuchadnezzar is king; be a Daniel."  Do you know the story? Daniel, along with other Hebrew children, became captives of the Persian Empire. They were young men of integrity and grit who refused to eat the king's meat and purposed to remain loyal to the God of their fathers. Go with me to 1 Peter 4:7-11, and let's explore what being a Daniel might look like for us today.

In 1 Peter 4:7, we read, "But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer." We are in the end times, the Lord is coming soon, so, we need to be sober. It means to be in the right state of mind, self-controlled, or have good judgment instead of being out of control and overwhelmed. This was Daniel's manner, no matter what he faced. Is it ours?

Watching in prayer. Daniel prayed three times a day, looking east from his window. I don't know there is any significance for us to pray eastward, but Daniel was praying with his face toward his homeland and Jerusalem, the City of God. I guess there would be nothing wrong with us taking the same position, but the key thing is Daniel prayed with regularity. We could all adopt that habit.

1 Peter 4:8 says, "And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves." Do we love our family or social bubble with the warmth needed to carry them through the pandemic and politics? Are we acting in love, speaking in love, and allowing love to be our motivation?

1 Peter 4:9 says, "Use hospitality one to another without grudging." Are we hospitable? It means to be friendly and welcoming, especially to strangers. To be inclusive, as we would say. Do we open our lives to strangers? Do we show friendliness and put others at ease? It creates a much happier and healthier community.

1 Peter 4:10 tells us, "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards." If you have the gift of mercy, use it.  If you have the gift of giving, give.  Whatever God-given gift you have, you are to be a wise steward using that gift to minister to others.

1 Peter 4:11reads, "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God." Tell about the Lord, share your testimony. People need to hear.

Verse 11 goes on to say, "If any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth." So, minister to others, meet their needs, encourage, and lift them up. Hurting people need the Great Physician. Point them to Him!

Daniel's character and behavior made a difference in the Persian Empire and brought both King Nebuchadnezzar and King Darius to publish decrees stating Daniel's God was supreme. (Daniel 6:26)

So, with the end of all things at hand, let's stand out as those whose behavior exalts the God of Heaven through integrity, purpose, as we lovingly minister to the needs of others, and share all God has given for His glory. Let's make a difference. Dare to be a Daniel.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Week Forty-Five - Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

When Tom and I set up our first home, my grandmother gave me a full-length mirror. I was thankful but wondered why she thought I needed it. So, I asked her.  Her reply? "Sweetheart, it is good to see what you look like." I don't know if she disapproved of my dress-sense (it was the early 70s), but she was definitely encouraging me to keep an eye on my attire.

As I moved forward with the Uninvited book study, I heard the same message from the Lord. "Sweetheart, it is good to see what you look like." 

Taking a good look at ourselves doesn't always make for the most flattering sight. Think about this morning, as you passed the mirror you saw disheveled hair, creases from a face squashed against the pillow, and eyes squinting in the morning light. Not a very becoming picture.

Immediately you grabbed tools and started combing your hair, washing your face, and brushing your teeth. Sometimes we forget that all of us start our day making these minor corrections.

Well, as Lysa Terkeurst says, "Tweaking in quiet is the saving of us in public." But she isn't referring to our morning regime. She is talking about having a good look at ourselves inwardly, spiritually. We all need tweaking. As we look into the mirror of God's word we see ourselves as He sees us - mess and all and in need of some grooming. It's amazing that we would not dream of going out in public without preparation, but we move through our spiritual life without taking time to even apply the salve of God's word to our wrinkled souls.

Well, after we fix our face, we usually begin thinking about what to wear. At which point we rummage through the closet and put a few things together. Then, we come to our full-length mirror to check before we head out.

Well, what do you look like? I'm not talking about shiny shoes or a crisp pressed shirt. What do you look like spiritually?

That is where I found myself; staring into the mirror of God's word dressed in the most incredible outfit. It's found in Isaiah 61:10. 

"I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels." 

The mirror of His word reflected the love of God placed upon me and I saw myself glistening from head to toe clothed in the garment of salvation and covered with the robe of righteousness.

"Sweetheart," my Lord said, "it's good to see what you look like." And I'd have to agree. What a beautiful reflection of our position in Christ as mirrored by God's word; clothed and covered.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Week Forty-Four - Seared and Rejected

I recently joined my first virtual book study. I've done Zoom meetings and Facetime and other online groups, but never to do a book study. I have to admit, my motivation was not necessarily for the book because I had read it before. What I really wanted was to learn how this is done. Also, my daughter-in-law was leading it, and I wanted to be an encouragement. But even though my motives were not solely focused on learning, God's purpose remained.  I was there, not by chance, but by sovereign design.

When you do a virtual book study, you do prep work ahead of time. My assignment was to read the first three chapters, complete the questions in the workbook, and listen to a video from the author. Well, my brain started collecting a plethora of ideas and insights from the reading and teaching. I was almost on overload when the time came to meet with my fellow virtual learners. I worked hard at containing my excitement and listening as each shared their responses. Somehow, I managed to be considerate, but honestly, I felt I could have taken over the whole lesson sharing all the Lord had placed on my heart.

So today, dear reader, you are going to get a portion of my brain-dump. The book we are considering is Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst. The subject of the book is rejection; which all of us have experienced at varying levels throughout our upbringing, schooling, marriages, and life. None of us are exempt. Let me share a few quotes.

Lysa says, "Rejection steals the best of who I am by reinforcing the worst of what's been said to me." Haven't you found this true? Someone makes a comment and their words sear your heart and soul. They replay over and over until you begin allowing them to become the label you wear. Over time, they become like broken floorboards making your walk unsteady. And when life gets hard, the lies and rejections we have seared on our hearts make life harder.

"The beliefs we hold should hold us up even when life feels like it's falling apart." But when we have built our life on the negative, rejecting comments of others, we do not have a level place to stand.

Thankfully she says, "I don't have to figure present circumstances out. I don't have to fill the silence left behind in another person's absence. I don't have to know all the whys and what-ifs. All I have to do is trust. So in quiet humility and without a personal agenda, I make the decision to let God sort it all out. I sit quietly in His presence and simply say, 'God, I want Your trust to be the loudest voice in my life. Correct me. Comfort me. Come closer still. And I will trust."

And all of this is just in the first two chapters. Well, I drew aside to look at the rejections I have seared in my heart, to the voices that tell me "You can't, You won't, You'll never" and I laid them before the Lord. You know what? God had another word to say-a word I had never heard HIm say before.

As I thought about replacing the negatives and rejections with truth, God whispered His word to my heart. "You shall know the truth." He will reveal the truth to me. The truth about who He is. The truth about who I am. "And the truth," He said, "Will set you free." Free? I can be free from these seared words? "Yes," He said. "the truth will set you free. Not your truth, but My truth."

Oh, my heart rejoiced. I was set free right there! God placed His word in my heart, His love upon me, and set me free. That's why I was bounding with joy as I came to that first meeting. That was the truth I tried to share with those in my little group who were so hurt by the things they had experienced. God's truth sets us free. We not longer need to live under the curse of our experiences. We can stand on a sure foundation and reinforce ourselves with His word - His truth.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the book study and I'll share along with you as we go because I know we all need God's truth to heal the wounds seared upon our hearts by rejection.

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.

👉 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

Week Thirty-Three - Encircled

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?