Trusting God When You Can’t See – January 18, 2018

Lately, I’ll admit I’ve struggled with the ‘why?’ a lot.  These past few years have been both a joyous time and a rough time for me and my family.  Our littlest one was born in summer 2016 happy and healthy, and we are thankful.  It was a bumpy ride getting through the pregnancy, and has gotten bumpier and busier with other stuff going on since, but she’s been a joy in our lives.

I started blogging here a few years back to openly share some of my struggles and questions and things that I am learning in my studies of the Bible, the way I feel like God’s Word speaks to me and how to apply it, because writing is a good therapy for me, and I hope my experience can help encourage someone,  just as so many posts on here have encouraged me along the way too.

Often the studies leave me with more questions than answers, but that’s okay.  I think I’m being taught a lesson here, maybe it’s to trust Him when I don’t know or understand.  So often I want things in black and white with no extraneous spaces in between, spelled out in specific detail.  I think it’s just human nature  (don’t I wish my kids had come with instruction manuals too?!).

I struggle with OCD.  Some days, weeks, and months are better than others.  Sometimes it’s exacerbated by stress, other times it flares up out of the clear blue.  My 19 year old daughter was, after several inpatient stays where we couldn’t figure out what was wrong, finally diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, and my mom is diagnosed with schizophrenia,  and we are currently waiting on a neurology referral to find out if she has had a stroke or has an underlying neurological disorder that is causing her difficulty with movements and normal activities of daily living.  She is not yet even 60, but has just in the past few months declined significantly both mentally and physically, and my sister and I are currently sharing caregiving tasks.

I say all of this because mental illness is one thing I definitely don’t understand.  And I get that we live in a fallen, sin-filled world where sickness and disease runs rampant.  But it hurts to suffer, and to see the ones you love suffer, and you try to trust in the Lord, knowing that He has the answer, but you can’t help but wonder why He won’t give it to you.  Where is the cure?  Where is the healing?

It’s times like these when I hang onto the words that Jesus said even more.  I don’t want to let go.  I pray when struggles come that I’ll run to Him, not away (been there, done that).  Deep down in my heart of hearts, I know the Truth, even when I get discouraged.

So, in my study today, I was reading about the guy commonly known as Doubting Thomas in John chapter 20.

It says, “Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  The other disciples therefore said to Him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’

So he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.’

And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them.  Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said ‘Peace to you!’

Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at my hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into my side.  Do not be unbelieving but believing.’

And Thomas answered Him and said, ‘My Lord and my God!’

Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed.  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’ (vv 24-29 NKJV).”

Did you catch that last sentence?  That’s what got me.  He says we are blessed when we believe when we haven’t seen.  So often, I wish Jesus were standing in front of me and I could reach out and hug Him or talk with Him face to face.  And oh how easy is it for me to say, “Well, if you’re there, why don’t You heal this problem, or why don’t You show me a sign?”

But then, the cross.  Oh, I guess He did give me a sign.  Oops.  And when I think about what He did for me on the cross, how much He’s forgiven me for, how many second, third, fourth, umpteen chances He’s given me, and the things He’s delivered me from, all of a sudden I fall silent.

I’m still left with questions.  Will there ever be a cure for the mental illness?  Will we ever be delivered?  Will it always be this hard?  What part does all of this play in God’s plan for my life?  How is He going to bring good out of this?

But when I read His words to Thomas, I realize the questions are okay.  But He’s not asking me to figure it all out.  He’s just asking me to believe.

“Father, I thank You for the hope I have through your Son Jesus.  I thank You that through Thomas’ story, I can see myself and identify.  I do believe, Lord, help me in times of my doubt and unbelief.  Please forgive me for the times I don’t trust You enough.  Please give me strength, both physically and in my walk of faith, that I would not waver, that I will be obedient even when I can’t see.  I pray for others struggling with mental or physical health issues,  Lord, that You would wrap Your arms around them with Your peace and Your presence as well, Lord.  Thank You for all that You have brought me through.  I pray that through it all You would be glorified. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

 

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We’re All Guilty – December 19, 2017

I wish I could think of a better or more positive-sounding title, but this one about sums up the lesson I took from 2 Kings, Chapter 10.

Honestly, this was a hard chapter to read and an even harder chapter to write about because I think of God as a loving, merciful God, who sent Jesus to save us, but sometimes I forget just how holy He is, and the magnitude of what He saved me from.

The beginning of the chapter tells us that wicked Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria.  King Jehu wrote letters to the rulers of Jezreel, to the elders, and to those who had reared Ahab’s sons, challenging them to a fight.  His letter reads:

“Now as soon as this letter comes to you, since your master’s sons are with you, and you have chariots and horses, a fortified city also, and weapons, choose the best qualified of your master’s sons, set him on his father’s throne, and fight for your master’s house. (vv 2-3).”

But the text goes on to say that the rulers and elders were afraid of a battle with the king, so they acquiesced, saying, “We are your servants, we will do all you tell us; but we will not make anyone king.  Do what is good in your sight (v 5).”

So King Jehu writes them another letter, saying, “If you are for me and will obey my voice, take the heads of the men, your master’s sons, and come to me at Jezreel by this time tomorrow (v 6).”

Was Jehu expecting the elders and rulers to actually do what he asked?  I’m not sure, but the sarcastic tone of the first letter suggests that he may have been upping the challenge to battle, perhaps thinking that they would appoint themselves a king from Ahab’s sons and go to war with him.  Then again, maybe he knew they wouldn’t.

Regardless of Jehu’s intent, the rulers and elders were more than willing to kill Ahab’s sons in order to save their own skin.  This, even though some of them had helped raise Ahab’s sons!

They slaughtered Ahab’s seventy sons, put their heads in baskets and sent them to Jezreel  (v 7).

Jehu made a speech the following morning.  He said, “You are righteous.  Indeed I conspired against my master and killed him; but who killed all these?  Know now that nothing shall fall to the earth of the word of the Lord which the Lord spoke concerning the house of Ahab; for the Lord has done what He spoke by His servant Elijah.”  The story goes on to tell us that Jehu killed the rest of Ahab’s family,  acquainances and priests.  Then later, he killed the remaining members of Ahab’s family in Samaria (vv 11-17).

This part gave me pause for a minute.  If God is loving and merciful and good, how could He possibly sanction such a massacre?

Well, to understand,  we have to get to the bottom of the reason God was angry at Ahab and his family.  They were not nice people.   They were Baal-worshipers who practiced and condoned the practice of rituals such as sacrificing of children in the fire, ritual prostitution,  and other terribly heinous, lewd and violent acts.  Not only had they turned their backs on God, but they were responsible for the slaughter and destruction of innocent lives, whether they participated in it directly,  or whether they condoned, encouraged and allowed it.

Not only this, but God had sent Elijah to warn Ahab that he was only bringing destruction to himself by participating in Baal worship (1 Kings 17-18).  Think about it, even after all that he had done, Ahab could’ve changed the course of his fate by turning from the idolatry and heinousness of Baal worship, and choosing to follow the Lord.  God had a multitude of patience with him and gave him a chance to put a stop to the awful things that were happening, but Ahab wouldn’t listen.

This story gets even sadder, as we shall see.  Jehu ultimately destroyed the temple of Baal and all of its worshipers, thus putting an end to the atrocities as the Lord had warned Ahab to do earlier.

God said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in doing what is right in My sight, and have done to the house of Ahab all that was in My heart, your sons shall sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.”  It goes on to say that “Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart; for he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, who had made Israel sin (vv 30-31).”

What was the sin?  It was allowing the golden calves that were still at Bethel and Dan.  Basically,  he got rid of one system of idolatry and allowed and condoned another.  He knew God’s truth and exchanged it for a lie.

I started thinking how this applies to us in the present day.  Our actions have consequences.  We can choose to squander our health with addiction,  unhealthy habits, reckless behavior, etc and the end result is years of life lost and pain to those we love.  We can choose to commit a crime and be put to death or serve time in prison.  We can choose to turn away from the Lord and miss out on the untold joy and blessings that come with choosing to follow Him.

The bad news is that we’re all guilty of disobeying God in some form or another.  How many times have I, have we, hurt others out of selfishness, anger, pride?  But the good news is we have Someone who loves us so much that He saw humanity, even in our worst moments, as lost sheep that need a Shepherd.

After the reign of Jehu, Israel continued to get worse.  The world continued to get worse.  Sound familiar today?  There is no way politics was ever going to change people’s hearts.  Humans would still, and do still, operate from selfishness and sin a lot of the time.

God knew we needed more than an earthly king.  He knew we needed divine redemption.  He knew we needed forgiveness. He knew we needed One who could break the chains of destruction and sin in our lives.  He knew we needed hope.  He knew we needed Jesus.

Do you know that He loves You so much that He is willing and able to help you, right now, to have a clean slate, a fresh start?  No matter where you are in life or geographically, no matter how far down you have gone, no matter what you’ve done?  Like Ahab, He loves us so much, He is calling us – calling us to follow Him.

If you’ve never heard the good news, let me tell you.  See, God knows we’re guilty. He knows that no matter how hard we try we’ll never be perfect.  But because He’s holy, atonement is required for our sin.  See, that’s why Jesus stepped down from Heaven and came and endured ridicule, scorn, being cold, hungry, and ultimately nailed to the cross.  He did it willingly.  No one forced Him to.  He could’ve said, “Nope, never mind.  Those people just aren’t worth it.”  Oh, but friend, He loved us so much He didn’t want to leave us like this.  He thought you and I, even with all our mess, were worth suffering and dying for.  Then, after He gave His life for us, He rose from the dead after three days and promised to prepare a place for us in Heaven, a wonderful place where there won’t be any more sorrow or tears.  And He doesn’t leave us here on earth like He found us either.  He came to break those chains of sin that hold us back, whether they are addiction, anger,  fear, whatever they are, He promises to change us and never leave us, to walk us through this life and on into the next.  He said, “The thief [Satan] does not come except to steal, and to kill and destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

But like Ahab, like Jehu, we have a choice.  We can say yes or we can say no and turn away.  But He promises that if we accept His gift of forgiveness, salvation and hope, He won’t let us down.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).”

Father, I thank You for Your wonderful Gift of grace.  I pray that I would honor You with my actions.  I know I sin on a daily basis, Lord, but I thank You that You never leave me, and I’m sorry for the ways in which I fail.  I know I could never repay the debt of love I owe You.  I just come to You with a humble, grateful heart and I thank You, Father, for Jesus and for my salvation.  I ask that You show me anything in my heart that is not honoring to you and help me to change it.  I want to be faithful, I want to follow You.  I pray for anyone reading this who has never known You or Your great love and mercy, that they would make the decision to put their faith in You, Lord, and therein find hope and forgiveness.  Help us all to know You more.  In Jesus name, Amen.

 

 

 

The Dreaded Word “Submit” – December 17, 2017

I believe one of the hardest lessons in this life to learn is obedience.  It starts when we’re young.  As soon as a toddler learns the word ‘no’ it becomes his or her favorite word.  As a wife, the Bible calls me to submit to my husband.  Ouch.  It is still a struggle for me because I have a strong personality.

Now, before I get hate comments from wives on here, let me preface this by saying I don’t think submit means to grovel or to put up with physical abuse.  Jesus was a great example of what pure submission out of love for and obedience to the Father looks like.  For Him, it was doing the hard things, sacrificing His own comfort, and surrendering His will in order to save the people He loves and thus also obey the Father He loves.  He willingly left Heaven in order to come and suffer in this fallen, sinful human world in order to redeem His creation.

In Chapter 1 of the book of Esther, we read about King Ahaseurus, who reigned over several provinces, from India to Ethiopia (v.1).  He first threw a six month long feast for the nobles, then afterward, a seven-day feast for all of the people in Shushan.  Queen Vashti also threw a feast for the women of the royal palace.

The story continues, “On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing her royal crown, in order to show her beauty to the people and the officials, for she was beautiful to behold.  But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command brought by his eunuchs; therefore the king was furious, and his anger burned within him (vv 10-12).”

To be honest, when I read this, I really didn’t blame Vashti for being upset.  Her husband gets tipsy and then wants to parade her as his “arm candy” in front of all the people?  I might be pretty miffed too.  On the other hand, maybe he was proud of his wife and thought she was beautiful and wanted to introduce her to the people.

It made more sense when I read the next part.  The king apparently sought legal advice from the wise men on the matter, “and Memucan answered before the king and the princes:  ‘Queen Vashti has not only wronged the king, but also all the princes, and all the people who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus.  For the queen’s behavior will become known to all the women, so that they will despise their husbands in their eyes, when they report, “King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought in before him, but she did not come.”  Thus there will be excessive contempt and wrath…'(vv 16-18).”

In this light it does make more sense, given Vashti’s position as Queen.  After all, her husband did not ask her to do anything that was immoral or disobedient to the Lord, he just wanted her to make an appearance before the people.  An equivalent example would be if the President was giving a banquet and the First Lady was ticked at him and refused to show up and everyone heard about it.  We’d be the laughingstock of the world.  And no, this is not a political statement,  just an example to illustrate the point that this account is making.

Because of her important position, her actions were disrespectful to and affected not just her husband, but the nobles and citizens of the entire community.

From my research, there are differing opinions as to exactly what the king’s intent was, and some contend that she was basically ordered to appear naked, which would then make her refusal completely justified.  But the Word doesn’t say anything like that that I could find.  It just says, “wearing her royal crown” to “show her beauty before the people and the officials.”  One would think wearing the crown means being in her full royal regalia, much like the Queen of England.

Assuming the latter is the case, then we can conclude that Vashti’s refusal was like a snub to the courtiers and citizens.  She ultimately lost her position as Queen because of this, and was later replaced by Esther.

The King could definitely be a cad, as Chapter 2 of Esther goes on to prove,  but I believe the greater lesson in this story is that we have all been placed by God into important positions.  I’m not a noble, but as a wife and mother, I’ve been placed into a position of influence over my children.  I also have influence with my husband, though I’m not in authority over him (even if I admittedly do act a little bossy sometimes!).  My children are watching how I treat their father.

Even more importantly, as Christians and as people, we influence those around us.  What would the world look like if we gave up our selfish desires more and thought of ourselves less and others more?  What if we were willing to obey God with all our hearts no matter what the cost, just because we love Him, just like Jesus did?  Submission isn’t such an awful word after all.

“Lord, I know that I am stubborn, and just plain pig-headed sometimes, and I’m sorry.  Please forgive me and help me to be more like You.  I pray that You would give me an obedient heart like Jesus, and that I would be willing to honor and serve You no matter the cost.  I pray that You would give me strength in this area, for it feels like I am weak.  Help me to serve You with a humble heart. I pray that others would see more of You in me, not for my glory, but for Yours, Father.  I pray that my children would see a mom who loves the Lord and lives it out with her actions, and that I would be a better, more loving wife as well.  I thank You Lord, that You’re still working in my life, and that You’re not done with me yet.  I praise You for You alone are worthy.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

 

Overcoming Doubt – December 16, 2017

Do you think of yourself as a Doubting Thomas or a person of faith?  I know I like to believe I am a person of faith, but doubt creeps in before I even realize it sometimes, and I find myself slipping into negative thinking and neglecting my time with God, which for me often leads little by little to impatience, a quick temper, worry, and trying to do things in my own strength rather than trusting in Him.  Then I find myself worn out, tired with a stomach ache and a million worries going, “Lord, help!”

I know I’m not the only one.  When I was reading Matthew 16, it hit me right between the eyes.  Jesus spoke about this very thing.

The Pharisees and the Sadducees, it seemed, also had a problem with doubt.  Verse 1 begins with the Pharisees and Sadducees testing Jesus and asking Him to show them a sign from heaven.  I thought to myself as I read this, how often do I do the very same thing?  “God, show me a sign!”

But Jesus refused. “He answered and said to them, ‘When it is evening you say, ”It will be fair weather, for the sky is red”; and in the morning, “It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.”  Hypocrites!  You know how to discern the face of the sky but you cannot discern the sign of the times.  A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.’  And He left them and departed (vv 1-4).”

The Pharisees were so caught up in following laws and traditions that when the One that they had been waiting for was right there in front of them, they refused to believe it.  There had already been healings. Mute people speaking, lame people now able to walk, blind people being able to see (Matt. 15:29-31).  The Pharisees saw this and couldn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah.  They couldn’t stomach the idea of a servant King.  In their minds,  He was supposed to solve the political problems of the day and establish an earthly rule.

The Sadducees on the other hand did not believe in an afterlife. Hence, they denied the resurrection.  From what I’ve read, they weren’t necessarily atheists, as they did believe in some tenets of the Torah with regard to the Law, but they largely denied the spiritual realm.  In essence, as they saw it, people are created, they’re born, then they die.  They too tested Jesus, asking for a sign.  Is it possible that deep down they were starting to doubt their own philosophy,  yet looking for a way to disprove it because it was easier to do that than to embrace change and the unknown?

Doesn’t it sometimes seem easier for us too to just try to reason things out on our own and “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” than to trust God, who we can’t see?  Or to keep our blinders on because it’s easier to remain comfortable than to step out of our comfort zone and embrace change?

See, when first reading this, it’s easy for me to say about the Pharisees and Sadducees, “Were they blind?  Did they not see the miracles that Jesus was doing all around them?”

But, I need to ask myself the same question in my life when I start to doubt.  “Am I blind?  Do I not see all the miracles and changed lives because of Jesus?  Has He not answered many prayers and saved me?  Not just my soul, but rescuing me time and time again from myself.

What Jesus is getting at here is that the sign He gave them was Himself.  The sign He gives us is Himself.  His trip up the hill to Calvary, being crushed by the weight of the cross, then being nailed to that cross after having been mocked, beaten and suffering, and giving up His final breath on earth as He said, “It is finished.”  Then, just when His haters thought they had won, He rose from the dead so that now you and I can have eternal life too.  His very presence a sign in neon lights for sure!

Jesus talked with the disciples after the exchange with the Pharisees and Sadducees and explained how a little bit of false belief or doubt (in this instance the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees) can become a huge problem.  He likened it to the way that yeast makes bread rise (vv 5-12).

When those thoughts of doubt, worries and stresses creep in, what I need most is more time with Jesus.  Somehow, when I talk to the One who is in charge of miracles, I find that He changes me.

“Thank You Father, for Your Word, and for exactly what I needed to read today.  Help me to remember You are more than enough, and that You are more than able.  Forgive me for many times trying to figure things out on my own, and sometimes acting like I don’t need You.  I do, Lord, I do need You desperately, every day, every hour.  Forgive me for the times when I doubt.  You proved Yourself faithful 2000 years ago, and You’re still faithful Lord.  I pray for anyone reading this who may not yet have trusted You.  I pray that they will ask You into their heart and life and that You will change them in a great way, that they will truly know Your precious gift of forgiveness and salvation by grace.  Change me too, Lord.  Make me more like You.  I love You, Father.  In Jesus name, Amen.

November 12, 2017 – Praise God, He Loves Us Anyway

Are there times you feel unworthy or undeserving of the Father’s love?  I know I do.  I was saved as a teenager and my pastor’s wife, a lady who encouraged and invested in me so much, used to tell me, “God can use you.”  I remember thinking, God can use me?  Why in the world would He want to do that?  I still find myself feeling woefully inadequate for His work, even over 20 years later.

I believe that is precisely the point.  None of us are worthy of or deserve His grace, but that’s what makes it Grace, and that’s what makes His love even more profound.  He loves me anyway.  He sees everything I have ever been, all the things I have ever done or ever will do, and He says, “I love you.”

In Acts chapter 8, there is a story about a sorcerer named Simon.  Simon has been deceiving the people through his sorcery and claiming that he has the power of God.  But as the apostle Philip preached the real gospel message,  and Simon saw the real power of God at work through the name of Jesus, he believed and was baptized.

The text says that “…and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done.

Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.  For as yet He had fallen upon none of them.  They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, ‘Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit'” (Acts 8:13-18 NKJV).

As I was reading this, I thought, What a scoundrel.  But as I pondered the story, I started to wonder why Simon would’ve offered money for a Gift that was freely given to the believers at Samaria.  After all, the text says that “Simon himself also believed (v.13).”

My first thought was ok, maybe the guy thought he could make money and a name for himself by becoming a disciple, especially with the power of God to heal and perform miracles.  After all, he had made money and a name for himself by performing sorcery.  And that very well could’ve been a reason.  But I wonder too if maybe he felt he had to buy this gift from God because he felt unworthy to receive it like the other believers had?  This is pure speculation on my part, but part of me empathizes with Simon if that’s the case.

How often have you or I tried to earn God’s love?  Or felt that we have missed the mark so much in our life that He couldn’t possibly use us?  I have felt that way many times.  And when God has His arms outstretched just waiting for me to receive the gift of His forgiveness and grace when I fall short, how often have I said to myself, “I’ll try harder.  I’ll work more.  I’ll give more.  I must be able to make it up to Him somehow.”? Or gotten discouraged and thought, “What’s the point anyway?  Why should I even try?  I’ll never be good enough to do this Christian thing anyway.”  Yep, been there too.

But what I’ve learned is that He loves me more than I could even fathom.  Not because I’m great, but because He’s great, and because He’s a loving Father.  I can’t “earn” His love and I can’t buy or work for it, and praise God, I don’t have to.  Jesus did the work for us, we can just climb into our Father’s arms and rest.

Simon was rebuked by Peter for thinking that the gift of God could be purchased with money.  Peter told him he couldn’t be a part of their work because his heart was not right with God.  Peter urged him to repent and receive forgiveness (vv 20-23).

But listen to this, “Then Simon answered and said, ‘Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things {consequences of sin} that you have spoken may come upon me.’  So when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans (vv 24-25).”

Simon repented and asked for God’s forgiveness.  The story doesn’t specify whether he continued on with the disciples to preach or not, or if he stayed where he was, but I believe that he was forgiven the moment he repented and asked for forgiveness.  There are varying opinions as to Simon’s relationship with God, whether he truly did believe or not, and only God knows his heart, but the message is the same.  While we cannot buy God’s love, it is a gift freely given and so is forgiveness when we reach out to Him with a broken, repentant heart.

Praise God, even when we fall, even though we make stupid mistakes, He loves us anyway.  His arms are open wide for anyone (even the messiest of us).

“Father, I thank You for Your gift of grace over and over again in my life.  I feel so undeserving, and indeed I am undeserving, but I thank You that You love me in spite of my mess.  I thank You that You’re not done with me yet, and I’m humbled that You would want to use me, out of all people, clumsy,  awkward, often prideful me, to work for You.  Not to earn Your love, but to be a part of the greatest work there is, and that is to tell others about Jesus and how much He loves them too.  And that if You can use me in spite of my mess, You can use them too.  I can never thank You enough, and I love You Father.  Thank You for loving me and never giving up on me.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

November 5, 2017 – Security in our Faith

I don’t know about you, but I tend to worry.  I also have insecurities.  Did I sound like a total dork when I said that?  Is that big zit on my nose really that noticeable?  Do my thighs look fat?  What if they don’t like me?

Most of us, being human, do have these insecurities, and for some of us it turns into worry and fear, which can often be paralyzing.  Chemical imbalances too can cause anxiety and need professional treatment, but what I’m speaking of here is more of the self-consciousness that causes us to be critical of ourselves and others, compare and compete with others, and can cause indecision and missed opportunities.

Proverbs 27:1-2 says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.  Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips.”

The first part is a reminder that there are no guarantees in life, and often this uncertainty doesn’t make us feel any better!  We want something we can count on, we want to be able to be sure about our plans.

The second part, if I’m honest, I’m definitely guilty of sometimes.  Like for example, I clean up the kitchen, the table looks nice and pretty, the house is actually clean (well, with a toddler, a pre-teen and a teen, I can dream, ha!  But let’s just go with it.) and it looks great (if I do say so myself).  My husband walks in and if he doesn’t say anything, I say, “Do you like the way I cleaned up in here?  Looks good, doesn’t it?”  I want him to notice it and I’m going to make sure he knows how good it looks!  This is just one example.  A lot of you are probably either nodding your heads in agreement or shaking your head in disgust.  How many of us check to see how many Facebook ‘likes’ we get?  Or how many Twitter followers? Or we “humblebrag” from time to time.  Yikes, guilty again.

But God’s Word tells us that we should leave the accolades to others to give us. Or more importantly,  serve the Lord, so that we can hear him one day say, “Well done, good and faithful servant…”(Matthew 25:23)

1 Peter 5:6 says, “Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.”

We can take comfort in knowing that He knows the right time for everything.  We can keep working and not give up, knowing that it’s all in His hands anyway.  Even when it seems like no one notices the hard work we do, even if we feel overlooked or unappreciated at work or at home or elsewhere, God sees everything, and He notices.

We can also find security in that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday,  today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8)

Politics and world events and circumstances, even the weather, may change on a dime.  Sometimes it seems like society is dictated by what’s popular, not always what’s right.  But our Lord is the same, unchanging and unfailing in His love, mercy and dependability.

“Father, today I thank You that in a world of such uncertainty, You are the same today, tomorrow and forever.  I thank You that You will never leave me or give up on me, even when I do fall short, and I do every day.  I pray that I would grow closer to You each day and more fully trust in You rather than the accolades and opinions of others.  I pray that I would work, not for the accolades,  but to honor and glorify You and tell others about You, Jesus, and of Your wonderful gift of grace.  Help my faith to be bigger than my fear.  In Jesus Name, Amen.”

God With Us – November 4, 2017

Wow, it’s been a LONG time since I’ve written here.  I tend to be a slacker when it comes to my writing, but am trying to be more disciplined about it since writing is something I’ve loved to do since I learned how.  Anyhow, I had a baby last year, and have had such a busy time with family illness and issues to take care of that I’ve neglected my writing, and my Bible studies have not been what they should be either.  Neither is my house, it’s always a mess these days.  What can I say, I’m just grateful that God doesn’t judge based on merit! 🙂

Do you ever wonder why things happen the way they do?  Or where is God when all the craziness is going on all around us?  I confess, there have been times in my life when God has seemed silent. Like, I know in my heart that He’s there somewhere, but I can’t feel him.  Like being in a large darkened room (think living room or rec room) and feeling around for the light switch, only to find yourself walking around like you’re playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey and still can’t find it, even though you know it’s there somewhere.

Well, with all the troubling stuff in life, be it on the news or things that happen on a personal level, I think those questions are easy to ask and wonder about from a human standpoint, and God knows we have those questions too.  He doesn’t always answer the why, but He promises never to leave us.

I was reading the book of Acts and in Chapter 14, beginning with verse 8, there is an account of where Paul and Barnabas are preaching at a city called Lystra.  God gave Paul the power to heal a man who had been crippled since birth.  When people saw it, they called Paul and Barnabas “Zeus” and “Hermes,” saying, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men! (v.11)”

The passage goes on to say that when Paul and Barnabas heard this, they rushed in to the multitude and “crying out, saying, ‘Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them, who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways (vv. 14-16)”

Not always by any means, but could it be that sometimes God is allowing us to “walk in our own ways” while tugging at our hearts to “turn from these useless things to worship the living God”?

But I love this next part that says, “Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness (v.17).”

Wow, what an awesome verse to remind us what Thanksgiving is all about.  Even though I can’t see him, He provides for me.  He provides the food that I eat, the rain that waters the ground, the air that I breathe.  That’s one way I can know He’s there.

But the best news of all, is that He gave us Himself in His Son Jesus who is called Immanuel, literally meaning “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)

In Hebrews 13:5-6, we are reminded of God’s promise.  “…For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say:  ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?'”

Because of Jesus, we have the hope that He walks with us in every trial, in every season, in every storm of our lives.  Sometimes when it feels like He is silent, we can reach out in faith and find that the One who can calm our fears is always there.

“…and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Thank You Father, for the security we have that You will never leave us, Lord.  Thank You for Jesus, for His precious gift of salvation, for the fact that He is Immanuel, God with us.  I thank You that even when it feels dark and scary in this world, like you’re not here,  for reminding us that You are, and that You are walking beside us every step of the way.  Take my hand, Lord, and lead me in the path of righteousness, that I will follow you all of the days of my life.  Wrap your arms around us Lord and help us to be all that You intended us to be, without fear of the unknown.  Thank You for all you have provided for us, and for giving us life.  In Jesus name, Amen.

 

God’s Words of Comfort in Times of Fear – January 3, 2016

I wrote a little bit the other day about the news of my pregnancy that we found out right before New Year’s Eve, and about living by faith in this New Year.  I write this as much for me as for my readers, and hope that these words can offer encouragement to the both of us.

I’ve had a lot of fear and anxiety the past few days, as I await speaking with my doctor’s office tomorrow to schedule my first prenatal appointment, as well as some scary symptoms that I have experienced off and on that have at times made me wonder if everything is okay.  Baby seems fine for now, but I’ve been doing a lot of praying and trying to keep God’s Word in my mind as I hope for the best, but try  to mentally prepare for the “what if” of something going wrong.  Because of the miscarriage that we suffered last August, it’s an intensely joyful yet angst-filled pregnancy this time around.

I’m studying some Bible verses on fear, and I’m finding comfort in knowing and remembering that no matter what, His strength is there, and that I am not walking alone.  Let’s take a look at some of the ones I’ve found so far:

Psalm 23:4 “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me (NKJV).” – This one is a great encouragement because again, it lets me know that I’m not walking through the valley alone.  Our Shepherd watches over us with great care and leads us down the right path.

Psalm 115:11 “You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield.” – Because of who God is, I can trust Him in the outcome.  He is my help and my shield.

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – Here Jesus is talking to the disciples to let them know that it’s getting close to time for Him to be crucified and resurrected.  He is letting them know that though He is going away shortly to prepare a place for His people in Heaven, He is leaving with them His peace.  This encourages me today because I know that I can call on Him and receive His peace also.

Psalm 56:3 “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.” -This verse reminds me again of the word trust.  I can trust that God is good and that He knows best.

Psalm 112 begins with the verse, “Praise the Lord!  Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments.”  Then it goes on to say in verse 7, “He will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” – This tells me that I don’t have to be afraid of bad news because I can still trust that the Lord is good.

Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness.  He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” – This shows the loving character of God, our Heavenly Father, and reminds me of His tender mercy, and also of the way in which He has already saved me through the cross.

Are all of these verses easier said than done?  Absolutely, as least for me they are.  But it’s a great comfort to know that through His Word, He has given us many reassurances that He is there, shepherding His flock and walking us through whatever life may throw at us.

Yes, I am going to keep on praying for my child, and having faith that everything will be all right, but I will commit to trust in Him no matter what because I can trust that He is good.  I will no doubt have more times of anxiety the further along I get, but I can have faith in a God who sees me, knows me, loves me and cares about the things and the people in my life.  After all, if my precious child means so much to my husband and I, how much more does he/she mean to the Creator?

I hope this has perhaps brought a little encouragement to you today, as writing this down did for me.  We serve a mighty God who loved us so much His own Son came down to endure the agony of the cross so that He could bring His children home.  And He’ll walk with you and me every step of the way along this rough and bumpy road called life.

“Heavenly Father, I thank You that You are always there, in good times and in bad.  Please forgive me when I fail to trust You.  Help me to have faith that You are good even in difficult circumstances.  Be with this pregnancy, Lord, for You know what’s best.  I pray that if it is possible, our baby would be born healthy with no complications.  Please draw me closer to You during this time, and for anyone reading this, please draw them closer to You also.  Ease our fears, Lord, and reassure us through Y0ur Word and Your Holy Spirit that You are here right beside us, going before us, in whatever we are walking through.  I pray that this situation in my life will glorify You, Father, and I thank You for Your overwhelming love and grace that You’ve already given me time and time again.  Help us to be filled with Your perfect love that casts out fear, Father.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

Living by Faith in the New Year – December 31, 2015

In reading from Hebrews today, I read some words that spoke deeply to my heart.  It’s wonderful how God sometimes speaks through His Word the exact message we need to hear – of comfort, encouragement and just the motivation to keep on keeping on.

Hebrews 2:10-18 says, “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.  For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying:

I will declare Your name to My brethren;  In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.’

And again:

I will put My trust in Him.’

And again:

‘Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.’

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.  For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham.  Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted (NKJV).”

These verses tell us that we can trust Him because He is faithful, and because He has conquered death, sin and temptation.  He’s been in our shoes, and He knows what it’s like to live here on Earth; yes, in Him is our victory.  So, I ask myself, “Why are there times when I’m still so afraid to trust?” and, “When trusting is hard, will I do it anyway?”

The reason these words speak to me today so poignantly is that my husband and I got some great news yesterday:  We are going to have another baby!  I feel a mixture of joy and outright fear, because we had a miscarriage in mid-August of this year during the 5th week of pregnancy.

So, when I read the words that the Lord spoke through the prophets, “I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.  I will put my trust in Him.  Here am I and the children whom God has given Me,” I felt the challenge to make this my prayer for the New Year.

Trusting is very hard sometimes, and especially when the outcome is not what we’d like.  As I read the words above, I asked myself, “Do I really trust God with my life and the lives of my children?  I say I do, but do I really?”  I think sometimes I’m afraid to trust because the devil wants to remind me of everything that could go wrong now or in the future.  Yet, I know, in my heart of hearts and through His Word, that He has our best interests at heart.  He has shown me numerous times in both my life and the lives of my children that He is faithful beyond anything I can imagine.

At times when I’ve read in the Old Testament how the Israelites kept wandering from God after He proved Himself faithful over and over – He parted the Red Sea and made water come out of a rock for crying out loud! – I’ve shaken my head in disbelief that they could forget how God had provided.  Yet, I laugh as I write this because don’t we do the same thing?  I know I do.  No sooner does God get me out of one jam, and then something happens that wasn’t what I wanted or how I planned, and I’m wondering if God forgot about me or I’m shaking my fist at Him.

I pray in the coming year that God would remind me (and all of us) of the ways in which He’s blessed us, and that we would cling to His Word of faithfulness, so that when the storms of life come, we will put our hope and trust in a God that we know to be good, loving, merciful and faithful.  One who suffered so that we could have life abundantly – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).”

“Father, I thank You for Your faithfulness, Your love and Your mercy.  Thank You for being with me every step of the way this year, and help me to put my faith in You the way that Jesus did in His example, both through His Words and in His actions.  I pray that I will trust You with all of my heart, with my life and my family, and know that You are good, and will never leave my side.  Please bring to mind all of the times in which You’ve been faithful, both to us and to the people in the Bible, and throughout history, Father.  Grant us an abundance of faith, and peace that passes all understanding, that we may shine Your light into the lives of others.  I pray that in all things we might glorify You.  Thank You for Your Hope and Your salvation and help us to remember that victory is already ours through Jesus.  May we dedicate 2016 to You.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

A Father’s Delight – December 26, 2015

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas!  It’s been a busy week around here, as our youngest son’s 10th birthday was three days before Christmas and I still hadn’t finished my shopping yet that day, so I was among the last-minute people braving the holiday crowds in the stores and parking lots.

All of the hustle and bustle was totally worth it, though.  Like the kids, I was looking forward to time for everyone to open presents.  I wanted to see the smiles on their faces and hear the squeals of delight as they got at least some of the things that were on their Christmas wish lists.

Do you think God does the same when He blesses us with something special?  I wonder if He watches in delight as we savor a special gift, or an opportunity that we’ve prayed for, like a pregnancy test that has two lines, or an announcement of a long-awaited job opportunity, or the moment you meet the person who will be your spouse.  I bet He’s smiling when we admire a beautiful sunset or when our eyes (especially our kids’) light up in the winter after we wake up to a snow-covered yard.  And I bet He cherishes those moments when we bow our heads or lift up our hands in prayer and say, “Thank You, Father,” and give Him a heavenly hug.

1 Corinthians 2:9 says, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him (NKJV).”

When we look at all of the beauty of nature, or into the face of a newborn child, His Love is written all over them.  His love was also written all over a blood-stained cross – and His love was the Hope that appeared to the disciples a few days later when they thought that Hope was lost.

After Jesus had been buried for three days, Mary Magdalene and another disciple named Mary (possibly Mary of Bethany) came to see the tomb, and were surprised to see an angel.  “But the angel answered and said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here; for He is risen, as He said.  Come, see the place where the Lord lay.  And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him.  Behold, I have told you.’

So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.  And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, ‘Rejoice!’  So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him (Matthew 28:5-9).”

Can you imagine the look of delight on His face as He shouted, “Rejoice!” and surprised them with His presence?  He had come to announce the greatest News yet:  that victory had been won.  And He gave us the greatest Gift of all: salvation.  We have good reason to rejoice, and Jesus told the disciples that “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10).”  He loves us so much that when we finally come “home” and ask Jesus into our hearts, He has a big celebration over each one of us!

A book by a Christian author once (can’t remember the author or title) stated that through His death and resurrection, not only did Jesus rescue us, but He also played the biggest practical joke in history on Satan!   It’s true if you think about it.   Just as the devil thought he’d won, Jesus got up and walked right out of that grave, even leaving the linen handkerchief that had been around His head folded neatly off to the side (John 20:7).

We can rejoice not only in knowing that victory is ours if we have placed our faith in Jesus, but that there are even greater things to come.  Jesus told the disciples, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:3).”  He’s with us today, and we’ll physically be with Him in Heaven one day.  I can’t wait to see what great things He has prepared for us up there!

As we get ready to go to bed tonight, I hope we’ll pause and think of some of the greatest gifts/blessings that we’ve been given this year, and tell our Heavenly Father “Thank You,” and “I love You.”  I believe that will bring a big smile to His face, and to ours too!

“Father, I thank You so much for so many ways in which You’ve blessed me, big and small.  I thank You for Christmas, and for Jesus and His great Gift of hope and salvation, and for the victory that has permanently been won over sin and evil.  Please help us to keep the joy and wonder of Christmas in our hearts all year long, and to share that joy and wonder with others, Lord.  I pray that our faces will light up when we think of You and how good You are, and that we will smile more each day as we grow closer to You through Your Word, Father, and it becomes more and more real in our lives.  I thank You for grace, and for a brand new day each morning.  Help me to appreciate and make the most of the gifts that You’ve given me, and to offer You praise and glory.  Let me turn my blessings into praise to You, my King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”