Wednesday, April 29, 2020
Sometimes it is easy to get confused about what God is doing through this pandemic. Curiosity causes us to wonder how this is all going to work out and what the future holds. Personally, I do not like living with uncertainty. But, these are uncertain times. So, I know my best course of action is to turn to God’s Word for encouragement.
Today, I found myself in 2 Thessalonians, and the second verse of the second chapter jumped out at me, “That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter.” I had to stop awhile and take time to think through this and ask myself some questions.
Is my mind shaken? Or am I standing steadfast and determined? Am I troubled? (It means to make an outcry.) Are my voice and demeanor anxious? Is my spirit trembling? Am I allowing the things I hear and read to unduly affect me or cause me to shake in my boots? If God’s instruction is that I am not to be shaken, then what am I to do?
I found some clues!
1. 2 Thessalonians 2:15 says, “Stand fast.” In the face of adversity, hold on tight to what you know, what you have learned from past experience about God’s faithfulness.
2. Look to God for comfort and stability. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 says He is the everlasting consolation (support) and our good hope. He will comfort our hearts and establish us in every good word and work. It will all be okay. He’s got a plan!
3. 2 Thessalonians 3:1 tells me to move on with my job – evangelize, be a witness, do the next right thing. The gospel is going out into cyberspace like never before. I see it as God seeding the internet for any who would look for Him in the future! We can spend extra time in prayer for others and reach out to them in so many ways, even while we are at home.
4. 2 Thessalonians 3:3-5 reads, “But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you and keep you from evil. And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you. And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patient waiting for Christ.” I am to do the next right thing. God is faithful; I need not fear. I am to keep my heart directed toward the Love of God. We are told the same thing in Jude 21, “Keep yourselves in the love of God.” And, I am to be waiting for the return of Christ – the time is growing nearer for sure!
5. 2 Thessalonians 3:12 - I should do my work quietly and eat my bread. Isn’t that funny? What God is saying is calm down, do what you need to do, and enjoy the goodness around you – eat your bread!
6. 2 Thessalonians 3:13 - Don’t grow weary! That’s easier said than done. But we need to learn to pace ourselves, to be content with what we can accomplish each day, and not be straining at the bit as we stay isolated in our homes.
7. 2 Thessalonians 3:16 - Let the Lord give you peace! He is with you. He has always been with you and will continue to be with you—even after we are all released!
So, there’s no need to be shaking in my boots when the Lord has placed so much comfort and instruction around me! I can travel through this uncertain time, assured in Him alone. And, so can you!
“Be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter.”
2 Thessalonians 2:2
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
Proverbs 3:5, 6
Monday, April 27, 2020
Tuesday, April 21, 2020
Sing with me if you remember the song, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me, all the days, all the days of my life.” This old hymn uses several phrases from Psalm 23 but reserves the last verse for the chorus.
I used to think of goodness and mercy as an underlying promise, but a friend shared a definition by Chad Bird, that opened my eyes to a totally different view. He writes,
“In the Hebrew of Psalm 23, goodness and mercy do not “follow” us all the days of our lives. That translation is far too bloodless for the verb radaph. It means “chase after or pursue.” The goodness and mercy of God do not follow us like a good little puppy dog, trailing along behind us. Rather, they gallop after us like a celestial stallion. As in the famous poem by Francis Thompson, the Lord’s goodness and mercy chase us down labyrinthine paths like the Hound of Heaven. They stay hot on our heels. The divine love and grace of our Shepherd radaph us all the way to heaven’s gate and into the arms of our waiting Father. We are pursued by mercy. We are chased by grace. We are not merely followed.”
Big difference, huh? I need the underlying promise of the goodness and mercy of God, but they do not lay dormant, they are active. They pursue me—and you! Throughout the Psalm, we see an active God. He makes, leads, restores, comforts, and prepares things for me.
So, what does the pursuit of goodness and mercy look like? Here are a few truths that came to mind:
1) The goodness of God leads me to repentance. Romans 2:4 It holds me accountable and causes me to seek a right relationship with my Father.
2) The goodness of God protects me. Psalm 31:19 “Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men! Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man: thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.”
3) The mercy of God is renewed daily. Lamentations 3:23 He knows I need a top-up every morning! So, He meets me at the rise of every day.
4) Mercy is there to meet our every need. Hebrews 4:16
5) I can cast myself upon His mercy in the face of distress. 2 Samuel 24:14
6) His mercy raises me up! Eph 2:4-7
So, goodness and mercy are not only an underlying truth or characteristic of God; they are the action of God to His children.
Since we have a good, good Father, it is no wonder his all-seeing eye traces our every path! It is the privilege of spiritual adoption to know we are not out there fending for ourselves, but rather, the goodness and mercy of our heavenly Father are hot on our heels!
(Chad Bird, Three Hidden Hebrew Treasures in Psalm 23, 1517. Christ for You, July 27, 2019)
Wednesday, April 15, 2020
Charm School? There is no such thing in the Ozarks where I grew up! Any charm gained came from the instruction of parents, the influence of more cultured friends, and the patience of teachers! Even then, the grace of hillbilly girls is a far cry from the refined debutant!
A few years ago, I was reading The Jesus-Hearted Woman by Jodi Detrick, where I saw the beauty of Christian life through the words of Corrie Ten Boom. I recorded two quotes in my journal and then began pondering my own life. I’m hoping to be brutally honest and open with you as I share this directly from my journal. Let’s start with the two quotes.
Page 31 – Corrie Ten Boom – “Every experience God gives us, every person He puts into our life, is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.”
Page 28 – “Gracious confidence means I take the gifts God has placed in me and develop them as fully as I can, in every way I can.”
Then, I journaled: “Sometimes I do wonder what is ahead for me. The college, the church, Tom and I, England/USA, my desire to write and publish a book, and to build a little house someday. I know I am where God wants me right now. I am serving as He would have me to serve. I also know He is answering prayer, providing, and comforting my fears.
Last night I noticed another of my insecurities. The image of the refiner looking into the pot of silver is not one I have ever personalized. I see it in my mind, but I am only watching. I do not see myself in the pot. When I try to, I grimace because I feel all the dross churning in my heart. Dross of fear, hidden thoughts, prejudices, insensitivities, and intolerance, subtle disobedience, and insincerity. I am confronted with my humanity and my spiritual anemia.
I recoil and go back to my safe place as an observer. But, I want to be that beautiful Christian. I want my Saviour’s pleasure and smile—his approval. How is it that I can osculate between confidence and fear, assuredness, and insecurity? Am I double-minded? I don’t think so. Am I unstable? Hardly a definition that would be used of me.
Yet inside is a child—a fearful child. I need God’s hug. I need to hear from His Word—the source of all my strength, comfort, and confidence. And, I need to focus my thoughts on truth—not self-focused evaluation.
If and when things need to change in my life, my loving Father will not hold back. He will tell me straight up, and I will hear Him clearly. Then, I face the choice of obedience.
Mully-grubbing in self does not produce health in my life. Better to recognize that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing. True. But the life which I now live is not lived in the flesh but in the Spirit.
That old dead man may still cry out for attention, but the new man takes precedence. Greater is He that is in me – Praise God!”
To me, that is where the actual beauty and charm of Christianity is revealed—in a life surrendered to Christ and walking in the Spirit. There is a gracious confidence, and a consideration for others that lifts up our Lord drawing them to His beauty.
In this time of uncertainty, let us take heart in the certainty of our Saviour and remember the words of Corrie Ten Boom - “Every experience God gives us, every person He puts into our life, is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.”
We are the people He chooses to use – Lord, let us, in all our weakness and vulnerability, be tools in your hands! Prepare us for the future you have designed.
Tom M. Jones
Wednesday, April 8, 2020
Do you ever feel broken inside? Like there’s a rift of sorrow going across your soul as shattered fragments fall away landing with sharp pricks on raw, unhealed places. You look whole and happy on the outside and keep trying to convince yourself you are, but inside there’s brokenness, confusion, wonderment, and the fear of being found out. Or, the desire for rest and freedom from haunting doubt and unresolved questions? You are not whole.
There is a commercial about mental health here in England that asks, “What is normal?” It concludes that there are millions of forms of normal dependant on many factors: the type of person you are, where you live, what you have experienced. Normal isn’t a consistent definition.
Here’s God’s truth. We live in a fallen world. We, ourselves, are fallen, too. Brokenness is all around us—that is normal.
Once I came to understand this truth, I found much peace! The more I read my Bible, the more I began to see that every person, since the angel stood at the entrance to Eden, experiences these feelings. Satan tries to convince us we are odd, or no one else would understand, but the truth remains that all humanity is in the same boat. We are all normal. Broken, as a result of Adam’s choice. We cannot escape it.
So, what can we do with it? Well, we can succumb to it. We can let our brokenness overtake us, creating depression, psychosis, and fear or we can accept it and allow God to deliver us.
When I feel my brokenness trying to overcome my sanity, I go straight to the book of Romans. I don’t sit around arguing my goodness. I admit my weakness. Romans 7:18, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.” I am a sinner, faulty, normal—a normal sinner. Satan’s accusing voice leaves. He knows I am standing in truth. There is nothing more he can say!
But I don’t stop there. Though I am no good, if you will, I am not left there. Romans 7:24 is my next step. “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
Do you know the meaning of wretched? It has the idea of worthless, inadequate, inferior, miserable, heartbroken, and distressed. All the words Satan throws at me! And all the feelings I experience. I need someone to help me!
Romans 7:25 tells me a man is there for my rescue. “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” He delivers me. He helps me. He fights my cause. He restores me. He forgives when I call on Him.
His grace and love heal my heart, and I become accepted, forgiven, valuable, and made adequate. I come boldly to the throne recounting my misery, broken heart, and distress to Him as a child of God to have my “normalcy” restored.
But beyond that, though I live in this fallen world, and still battle my flesh, I know the blood of Christ has covered my sin, and I can now choose to live above sin, above the taunting voices of Satan and my own weaknesses, because of the sacrifice of Christ applied to my heart.
For me, then, brokenness is reduced to a fact. It is just where I live; it no longer defines me. There is no condemnation upon me. I have been made free, and walk in Christ. That, I choose to be my new normal!
These days of extraordinary pressure might be God’s tool to bring you to understand your brokenness, your vulnerability, your wretchedness, your need of a Saviour. The story of Easter provides you a vivid example of the love of God for you. There is no better time to admit your need and call upon Him for healing and forgiveness. You can read more about it below.
“I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:
and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God,
who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
If you need a Saviour: Admit your need. Believe Christ is the only one who can forgive and heal your sin. Confess your trust in Him. And then, share your decision with others!
If you need encouragement: On the Beside the Well blog page and Facebook page you will find videos of support for these days, please take time to listen. I pray they strengthen your heart.