Those old wringer washing machines

Image result for free picture of wringer washing machineDear friend–a quick note to say I will have a post next week.  I have been working on one for many days now, and I believe it will bless you.

The last few weeks have felt like going through one of those old wringer washing machines, over and over. I imagine you can relate to that because we know Satan is very busy right now BUT WE KNOW GOD IS IN CONTROL AND IS WORKING ALL THINGS OUT FOR OUR GOOD!  Hang in there! Hold on to your hope! Keep proclaiming and believing the Word and watch out for special signs of His love for you. He never, no never, no never fails us in any way! (Hebrews 13:5, AMPC)

So, until next week – Woo hoo and GO GOD!

 

 

Do you think you are walking well? Part one of two

Image result for free picture of jesus holding childEarly morning whispers. “If you think you are leaning well, take heed lest you start standing up straight.” I lay in bed, aware Holy Spirit was speaking. It was one of those mornings of getting straight out of bed and sitting at the computer—no splash of water in the face, no cup of tea, not even a moment of “formal” devotional time. I sensed God was saying something important.

I looked up the verse I knew Holy Spirit had used to make a little joke, I knew it was a HUGE teaching for me. “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (I Corinthians 10:12, NIV). In this verse, God lovingly warns against pride – because when we get prideful, about anything, a fall is coming. Proverbs 16:18 warns “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (NIV).

Image result for Jesus Holding Face of ChildWriters know that the less words used, the clearer the message. Mark Twain said, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one.” Nevertheless, whenever I talk about staying in victory through leaning on Him, I preface my comments with some “extra” words, which are – even the leaning is BY GRACE ALONE. Why? I have (by grace alone!!!) learned the danger of thinking that walking well with the Lord comes by my effort. Here are four Bible-based reasons I know this is true.

[1] All we have comes from God. Romans 11:36 tells us “For everything comes from Him and exists by His power and is intended for His glory” (NLT). When King David was offering to God the treasures he had accumulated for building the temple. David blessed and adored the Lord before all the people. He acknowledged God’s greatness and God’s ownership of the heavens and earth:

Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand are power and might; in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. Now, our God, we give You thanks, and praise Your glorious name. But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” (I Chronicles 29:13-14, NIV)

God repeats this truth often in His Word. Obviously, He wants it imprinted on our hearts. I believe He does that because it helps shield us against pride. James 1:17 tells us:

Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us His true word. And we, out of all creation, became His prized possession. (NLT)”

Image result for free picture of close to jesusAnd Ephesians 2:8-9 declares: “God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” (NLT)

[2] Only God can change the heart. You have likely heard Jeremiah 17:9, which says “The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly perverse and corrupt and severely, mortally sick! Who can know it [perceive, understand, be acquainted with his own heart and mind]? (AMPC)” The KJV says “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

So, who can understand the human heart? In I Chronicles 28:9 God says He understands the heart and the mind and every thought we have. In light of the natural state of our heart, how good it is that God promises a new heart!

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36: 26-27, NIV)

Image result for Jesus Holding Face of ChildHow blessed we are that God not only tells us how to get a new heart but also a new mind. In Romans 12:2 He spells out:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (NIV)

[ 3] Even our desire to please God comes from Him. When a crowd was arguing that Jesus could not really be the Bread of Life because they knew His father, Joseph, and mother, Mary, Jesus replied:

Don’t bicker among yourselves over me. You’re not in charge here. The Father who sent me is in charge. He draws people to me—that’s the only way you’ll ever come. Only then do I do my work, putting people together, setting them on their feet, ready for the End” (John 6:44-46, The Message).

Image result for free picture of leaning on jesusI Corinthians 1:30 firmly declares who is responsible when we finally think and when we finally live right. Everything that we have – right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start – comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. (The Message).” That is crystal clear!

[4] We are truly only humble servants. Could it be any clearer than what God says in Philippians 2:12-13, that it is God working in us that causes us to want to do His will and live so that we fulfill His purpose in our life? Spending some time prayerfully pondering Paul’s words in verses 12 and 13 using the Amplified version is beneficial here. Notice that Paul urges his readers to have an attitude of reverence and awe BECAUSE it is God who is working in them, giving them the power and desire to follow Him. Here is the AMPC translation:

(12)“Therefore, my dear ones, as you have always obeyed [my suggestions], so now, not only [with the enthusiasm you would show] in my presence but much more because I am absent, work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ). (13) [Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight.” (Emphasis added)

Image result for free picture of jesus holding childThus, therefore, consequently, because of the truths we just saw, for those infallible reasons in the Word of our awesome, compassionate and gracious God–we can have TOTAL confidence and faith and trust in God to keep us close IF we do our part by seeking Him. Why? Because being close to God requires that we live like Jesus, to the best of our ability, and God promises to never forsake those who base their requests for legitimate needs on His Word. We obviously need God’s help to live like Jesus. Consider these three verses.

[A] “Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.” (I John 2:6, NIV)

[B] “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us-whatever we ask-we know that we have what we asked of him. (I John 5:14-15, NIV)

Image result for free picture of leaning on jesus[C] And they who know Your name [who have experience and acquaintance with Your mercy] will lean on and confidently put their trust in You, for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek [inquire of and for) You [on the authority of God’s Word and by right of their necessity.] (Emphasis added)(Psalm 9:10, AMPC)

  • So, we are asking for something we know is God’s will (living like Jesus) because He tells us to do it, (1 John 2:6)
  • It is a genuine need (we can do nothing righteous in our own effort (Isaiah 64:6), and
  • We are basing our request on the authority of God’s Word (Psalm 9:10).

In sum, we are seeking to live as Jesus did, because God told us to, which is “the authority of His Word”, and our need for His help in doing that gives us the “right of necessity.”

Notice that this works for those who are seeking God. In the AMPC, the word “seek” often includes the phrases “inquire of and for and require”. This obviously means people who are desperately seeking God, people who have learned, by experience, what Jesus taught in John 6:36, that “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life (NV).”

Image result for free picture of leaning on jesusTwo powerful psalms to pray. Have you heard the verse, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me”? This is part of the psalm wherein David confesses his sin with Bathsheba and then sincerely, with his whole heart, repents. All of us have sinned and “. . . we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans 3:23, NLT). This psalm should catapult us all into humility, the only right attitude to have about living this life of leaning on Him alone.

Another comforting, reassuring psalm about asking God to keep us close is Psalm 25. I have pondered this psalm every morning for weeks now and never fail to be reassured that God is and will continue to guide me, with all my human failings, into the paths He has chosen for me. How beautiful are these words to the thirsty heart:

Image result for free picture of jesus holding child[9] He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way.

[10] All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of His covenant.

[11] For the sake of your name, O LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

[12} Who then is the man that fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.” (NIV)

One final thought. If you are leaning so hard you think you might fall over, you are probably walking well, for God has said—for our comfort, for our encouragement, dear friend:

My grace is all you need, for My power works best in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT)

Therefore, let us say, with Paul,

So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [in human strength], then I am [truly] strong [able, powerful in divine strength.]” (2 Corinthians 12:10, AMPC)

And, lest you think I sound overly confident about not being overly confident, next week’s blog post will indicate quite the contrary, dear friend and fellow pilgrim!

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Can you give God each hour?

Image result for free picture of woman sleeping in bedroomWhen you (think you) lose some hours. “Oh!!” I groaned. Ten a.m. I had fallen back asleep, though I had planned to be at my desk by eight and stay till noon, for four uninterrupted hours of writing before the day fogged my brain. As I lay there, I became aware my back felt better.


“Hmm, Lord. Maybe I needed the extra rest?” While washing my face, feeding Lily, eating breakfast, and tidying up, I talked silently with the Lord.

Father, I give this day to You, although it is not going as planned. Help me stay with You this next hour as we tidy up and do our little walk. . . “ After the walk, “Father, I give these next two hours to You as we write.” After that, “Father, I give these next few hours to You as we get groceries, then pick up the boys and play with them.”

How did the day turn out? Wonderfully blessed! I got some writing done, and errands, and then, because I had decided to make the afternoon especially special for the boys, after pickup from school we curled up together on the bed and watched “The Lorax” on my laptop, then played Chinese checkers until Papa picked them up. Then, I devoted the three hours of evening to God, as we ate dinner, had devotionals and then some down time before bed.

Changing habits of the heart is hard. Plenty of my days do not feel as organized and purposeful as the one I just described, but by God’s grace, I am learning to better redeem the hours of my days. Ephesians 5:16-17 tells us to “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, (16) making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil. “(NIV)

Image result for free picture of being in loveGod keeps us in peace when our mind is stayed on Him (Isaiah 26:3, NKJV)–when we are stuck, fixed, infatuated with, embedded, smitten with, and preoccupied with Him. Initially, I became absorbed with keeping my mind on God – and off me and my troubles!– when God began healing depression more than two years ago. By His grace, I learned to take God’s Word like the medicine it is and meditate, speak and think about His truths all day, deliberately, until it became a habit. (This is the foundation of the book about depression on which I am working and for which I ask you to pray.)

Even so, sometimes discouragement, hopelessness, and feelings of worthlessness attacked, as did fear that depression and anxiety would ensnare me yet again. One day, while fighting those feelings through reading my Bible, an idea up: I can give each hour to God. I stared out the window and prayerfully pondered.

When I’m struggling, like now, I can focus on one hour at a time, like the “one day at a time” AA and Al-Anon slogan. I can get through anything for an hour if I consciously lean on and think about God and His Word.”

Image result for Free picture of Clock. Size: 188 x 105. Source: wallpaper.wikiAdvancing the Kingdom each hour. As a retiree, I was especially susceptible to feeling my life was unimportant, even though I knew better. But that day, I told myself:

Right here, alone in my house or as I run errands, I can do something that advances the Kingdom of God. I can praise and thank and worship God, I can write (my individual place of service for the Lord), I can pray for others, I can text or call someone, I can work God into the brief comments I exchange with the grocery store checker – AND IT ALL COUNTS FOR THE KINGDOM!!!”

Each hour of each life is cherished by God. The feeling that such things do not really “count” is just lies from the enemy! God is with us always (Hebrews 13:5. Every day (and that includes each hour!) has been ordained by God (Psalm 139:16). And Psalm 37:23 says:

Image result for free pictures of god watching usThe steps of a [good] man are directed and established by the Lord when He delights in his way [and He busies himself with his every step]. (AMPC)

God says He is immersed in and focused upon every step the righteous take.

Each word of our adoration and praise and trust is attractive, or comely, to God, it blesses Him, and advances His Kingdom. God tells us in Psalm 147, which is a jubilant hymn of gratitude and praise, to: Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God, for He is gracious and lovely; praise is becoming and appropriate.”

When David says in Psalm 34:1: “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth” he is showing us that when we praise God we bless God, and we actually do good for God. We make Him happy. Now, that is something to think about!

And Psalm 34:3 says: “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.” So when we praise the Lord, when we talk about His goodness, when we speak highly of the nature of God, we are magnify or increase the Kingdom. And that applies when we are alone and praising Him as much as when we are with others.

We can ALL give God each hour. No matter your situation, nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37) and we can purposefully give God each hour of our day. No matter how (apparently) limited or how busy your life may be–whether you are retired, living alone and struggling with health issues, a mom with four kids under five, a CEO, college student, a devoted dad working two jobs–you can give God each hour.

You may have to give Him segments of your day sometimes when you cannot stop to connect consciously with Him. If you have a job that almost literally leaves you no time to think until lunch or you have four straight hours of classes or you have little ones in your care, you can consciously at the start of your day, even if it is just a few words, give God the next four hours, the next portion of the day. Regardless, you can dedicate every activity of your day to God and include Him in it. If you are not free to speak out loud to Him, speak to Him silently in your heart; He knows your thoughts. (Psalm 139:5)

Image result for free picture of father walking toddlerGod promises to guide our steps. Ponder Psalm 25 over and over until your heart absorbs the same attitude—and confidence!–David had when he wrote this psalm. David depends on God and asks God to show him his ways, his paths, and the way chosen for him. David reminds himself that BECAUSE the Lord is “good and upright, therefore He instructs sinners in His ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way.” (v.8 and 9, NIV) Clearly, if we are trying to please God with our daily life, He will guide us! Praying this psalm to God each morning never fails to encourage my soul.

Key Bible truths to cherish:

  • Each hour of my life is planned by God. (Psalm 139:16)
  • God is with me every moment of every hour of my life.(Hebrews 13:5)
  • I can honor God with this one hour. Even if all my plans and hopes for the day fall, I can honor God, in some way, in this one hour, and then the next, until I lie down and He blesses me with His sweet sleep (Psalm 127:2)
  • God sees me this moment, alone in my house (or wherever I am alone) and “I will walk within my house in my integrity and with a blameless heart.” (Psalm 101:2b, AMPC)

Image result for free picture of purposefulPurposefully giving God each day and each hour helps us be focused, thoughtful and wise in using time. It helps us “number our days aright” so that we can live wisely (“gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12, NIV). At the start of this writing, we read Ephesians 5:16-17. Ephesians 5:16-17 tells us to:

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, (16) making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil. (17) Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.“(NIV)

Verse 17 in the AMPC says:

Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is.”

Image result for free picture of grasping god's handTo me, this means we are not to be vague in our approach to daily life. In other words, we are to give purposeful thought regarding the best use of our time and we are to be aware of and work in line with (to “firmly grasp”) the things God wants to be done, or what His will is.

These verses appear in a passage the NIV labels “Living as Children of Light” (Ephesians 4:17-5:21). They are one of many passages where the New Testament instructs us to how to walk in the light. Walking in the light has many blessings, as I John 1:5-7 tells us:

(5)This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. (6) If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. (7) But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. (NIV)”

Deliberately, consciously dedicating our time

to God is wise!

A sample prayer of dedication for each hour or segment of your day:

Dear loving Father, I thank You and praise You for all You are doing. I choose to purposefully give You this hour of our life together here on earth. I know You will guide me regarding what to do, as You promise in Psalm 25 because I am asking You to. I know You will also give me your strength, as You promise in Psalm 68:35. Thank You, Lord, for Your compassions, which are new every morning and which never fail, as You tell me in Lamentations 3:22. I love You and I trust You!

Pics I Trust in You Lord

Shhh, shhh. . . everything is okay


Image result for free picture of father hugging child(Chorus) I need to be still and let God love me.
I need to be still and let God love me.
When this old world starts to push and shove me
I need to be still and let God love me.

[1] I need to relax and let God take over,
I need to relax and let God take over.
He’ll take this load off my shoulders.
I need to relax and let God take over.

[2] When there’s trouble all around me
And my soul cries out for rest.
When I feel that I’m failing
Even though I’ve done my best.
When decisions get so heavy
And there are answers that I need,
I know it’s time to just be still, and let
God love me. . .

Chorus

(Recorded by B. J. Thomas, written by Archie P. Jordan and Naomil Martin Traducido.)

Music you can feel. I hit play, opened the frayed and yellowed drapes, and curled up in the chair. Three tall pines, in silent silhouette, stood sentinel against the night-time sky. I stared, unblinking, into the darkness. Then I heard the voice, that voice, murmuring, soothing, caressing, gently loosening the hurts and calming the fears, those hurts and fears I hid until my daughter was sweetly tucked into bed.

How, Lord? How am I going to do it? I can’t provide the video games and designer jeans her friends have, I can’t give her the love and influence of a father, I can’t. . . “ Tears finally fell then, as I felt, through the music and the voice, the heart of God join with mine.

The marriage had never been right, so there had never been gentle, tender embraces, those need-meeting, hurt-soothing encircling cuddles designed by God that let a woman feel, once again, small and cherished and safe, like a little girl nestled against her father’s broad chest, enveloped by strong, gentle arms. But in that music, in that voice, I felt the fiercely tender love of my Heavenly Father. As if I could feel His arms around me, I relaxed. I just relaxed and let God love me.

Image result for free picture of father hugging childWhen you just need a big hug. That was a night more than 30 years ago, and God has been hugging me in many different ways so faithfully all these years. We all long just to be held and comforted sometimes, if we are honest. Sometimes, the world pushes and shoves without letup. Or maybe we react to ordinary, daily life with unordinary, unreasonable feelings. It was both of those things for me just yesterday. My beloved Lily was sick, numerous calls failed to secure an appointment with a veterinarian because it was not an emergency, I felt drained and tired and irritable, damp weather soaked into my back and hips, the piece of writing I was working on would not come right after three days of revision and blah blah blah with fears and complaints and other very real problems I could not get off my mind. I kept trying to quote verses as I went about the tasks that (I thought) had to be done. Although I knew what I needed, I never actually sat down with my Bible and talked with God. I never actually got still and let God love me, not until time for evening devotions.

Take time to sit down with God. Then, finally, I sat in my rocker by the window and picked up my beloved Amplified Bible, the cordovan faux-leather covered one that had belonged to my Dad. As I re-read Psalm 25 through 34, which I have been doing for weeks now, two verses brought peace, that peace I had forfeited all day long because I had not set aside time to sit and be alone with God, and I had allowed fretting—rather than meditating—to occupy my thoughts.

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Psalm 32:10 says, “Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but he who trusts, relies on and confidently leans on the Lord shall be compassed about with mercy and with loving-kindness.” (AMPC)

Psalm 34:9 promises, “O fear the Lord, you His saints – revere and worship Him! For there is no want to those who truly revere and worship Him with godly fear.” (AMPC)

I circled those two verses with red ink and drew arrows to them, the only way to make them stand out on pages already marked with underlines, brackets, and parenthesis. Then I prayed, something like this:

Tell Him exactly how you feel. Oh Father, I do trust and rely on You, even though I do not feel that way right now and I am sorry for that. I do depend and lean on You with complete confidence because You have always, always, always taken care of me, just as You promise in Hebrews 13:5. And Psalm 32:10 says Your mercy and loving kindness will completely encircle me, so that means nothing can harm me. It is like Your arms really are around me. It is like You really are hugging me close and whispering, “Shhh, shhh. Everything is okay.” as we do when a child wails over a scraped knee.

And Psalm 34:9 promises I will not want for anything if I truly revere and worship You with godly fear. You know, Lord, I do from the bottom of my being honor and respect you, I appreciate You, I cherish You, I know You rule over all that is and was and is to come. And I know You know I am very mindful I am only a mist, a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes (James 4:14), and I am awed that You love me and sent Jesus to die for me so that I could have an abundant life with You here on earth and then spend eternity with You in heaven. And You know I do truly adore You, Father. You are my everything!

Image result for free picture of father hugging childLord Jesus, I know you don’t love me any less just because I am tired and I could not do the things I felt I should today, although my self-critical thoughts, and maybe the enemy, make me feel that way right now. I know You understand the frustration of living in a human body and dealing with silly, wrong-headed feelings we humans have sometimes, feelings like hopelessness and discouragement, even though we know better than to let feelings like that linger and pollute our heart.

So, Father, I will think about these two promises as I go to bed—that your mercy and loving kindness will completely encircle me and that I will lack nothing. I don’t FEEL like that right now because I fretted most of the day, and, as You tell us in Psalm 37:8, “fretting leads only to evil.” And that is what happened to my thoughts today, so Lord, please forgive me for fretting and not trusting better today. Please help me keep my mind on Your promises.”

I sat there, slowly rocking, wondering if I should go to bed yet. But I still did not feel peace, so I continued.

Give Him all your cares and worries, fears and doubt. Father, You say in I Peter 5:7 to cast, or toss, all our cares onto You because You care for us. And you also say that You know just how I feel. In Hebrews 4:15 You say You are our great High Priest Who is “. . . able to understand and sympathize and have a fellow feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation. . . Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning.” (AMPC)

And that next verse says, that because of all of that, we should

“. . . then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace—the throne of God’s unmerited favor [to us sinners]; that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need—appropriate and well-timed help, coming just when we need it.” (Hebrews 4:16, AMPC)”

Image result for free picture of father hugging childI walked to my desk and picked up the sheet of paper on which I had printed the definition of mercy from www.gotquestions.org:

In the Bible, mercy is extended to an offender in the form of forgiveness or to the suffering in the form of healing or other comfort. In any case, mercy can be characterized as compassionate treatment of those in distress. Whether the distress is caused by the guilt or penalty of sin or by a debilitating physical condition, mercy is there to help.”

That’s me, Father,” I continued. “I am in distress, still, even after praying and trying to be at peace. And it is because I have given in to worry. Forgive me, Lord. Thank You that You deal with our failures with compassion.”

Believe that He is tender and compassionate toward you every day – because HE IS!. I paused and just kept silent. Portions of Lamentations 3, another verse in my arsenal, came to mind, where Jeremiah was recalling how hard life had been but then said,

Image result for free picture of jesus and lamb[21] But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation:

[22] It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not.

[23] They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness.

[24] The Lord is my portion or share, says my living being (my inner self); therefore will I hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him.

[25] The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God’s Word.]

[26] It is good that one should hope in and wait quietly for the salvation (the safety and ease) of the Lord.”

I paused again, staring into the darkness outside the open window, remembering how often I had repeated verses 25 and 26, many months ago now, when I was deep in the mud and mire of depression. I had been using the NIV version at the time, which reads “The LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD”.

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Thank Him for His faithfulness to you personally. Yes, Lord,” I resumed, “You have taught me so very much these last two years about staying uplifted in You and thus avoiding the enslavement of discouragement and hopelessness and despair. Thank You, Father. I do remember how faithful You have been and always will be. You said in Psalm 107:43 that it is wise to take notice of and consider the great love You showed in delivering Israel over and over. I will think about how faithfully You have delivered me from all my fears and troubles, over and over. I know You never change (Hebrews 13:8)

So, dear dear Father, One Who loves me so, I do put all my cares into Your loving hands, and I choose to wait with hope and expectancy and confidence, because You promised in Lamentations 3:25 that when I have a need and I ask with the authority of Your Word, that You will be good to me. You are good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for You, Lord. You are merciful and gracious, as You say in Psalm 103 and that You do not treat us as our sins deserve and I know it is because of what You say right here, in verses 11 through 14:

[11] For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great are His mercy and loving-kindness toward those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him.

[12] As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

[13] As a father loves and pities His children, so the Lord loves and pities those who fear Him [with reverence, worship, and awe],

[14] For He knows our frame, He [earnestly] remembers and imprints on His heart] that we are dust.”

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Think about how much He loves you and His attitude toward the nature of your human condition. Oh, Father! That is another way of saying that Your mercy and loving-kindness fill the earth, isn’t it, that there is no place I could go to and not be enveloped in Your tender, loving, care. And You say the fact that we are human is imprinted on Your heart. If something were imprinted on my heart, then every beat of my heart and every thought of my mind, every fiber of my being would be affected by that.

So You are saying that with Your every thought toward us, You remember our human weaknesses. Maybe it also means that You remember the moment You created each of us, as parents remember when their beloved child was born.

Could it be that You also remember that without You, our Fountain of Living Water, we cease to exist, that we return to dust? When You look, with compassion and mercy on our humanness, do You stir up those “ rivers of living water” (John 7:38) that You give to us when we believe in You? Yes, Lord, I think that whenever we reverently and worshipfully fear You, You stir up those waters and our thirst is satisfied. Like now, Lord, this time with You and Your Word has refreshed my soul, and I feel Your peace beginning to settle. Nothing has changed yet everything has changed.

Image result for Free Picture of God My Fortress. Size: 161 x 92. Source: www.youtube.comThank You, Lord, thank You! You and You alone are my Rock, my Source of Strength, my Refuge, my Fortress, my Strong Tower into which I run and am safe, my Shelter, my king of Kings and lord of Lords, Who rules and reigns with majesty and splendor over all the earth and all its inhabitants, Who brings the Light of Truth and Love into the darkest night, Who carries Your little ones in Your arms, my great and Good Shepherd, my Savior, my Redeemer, my Glorious One Who lives in unapproachable light, Who is the Light of the World, my Defender, my Healer, my Mighty One and my best Friend, who holds me day and night safe in His all-mighty, ever-faithful, ever-merciful, ever kind and loving arms. How truly great and awesome You are, Lord!

Image result for free picture of god will help meFear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and harden you to difficulties; yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain your with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice. (Isaiah 41:10, AMPC)

Dear friend, I sincerely pray that your days like I had, days when you forget or simply cannot keep your mind on God and His Word, are few. But when those days happen, take time to sit and quiet yourself in His presence, and let God love you through the life-giving truths of His Word. He will never, no never, no never fail you! (Hebrews 13:5).

The grass withers, and the flower falls but the Word of our God endures forever” (Isaiah 40:8, NIV).

Taking God’s Word into your heart brings light and life.(Psalm 119:130)

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When we wobble, God doesn’t! Part 3 of 3

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True troubles! Without some true trouble, some stress and real strain, I confess much of self would still yet remain.That couplet popped into my spirit more than 30 years ago, when I was returning home after taking my eleven year old daughter to school. I typed medical dictation at home that year, since the tiny company I had worked for had gone bankrupt, and I pinched each penny. Hard. Back then, although I constantly worried about providing for my daughter and myself, God was teaching me to trust Him and to see whatever hardship came up as loving training from Him. And that lesson is as applicable—and just as hard sometimes—today as it was then.

Regarding wobbliness and wobbly times, so far we have learned that:
[1] We learn more when our way is wobbly.
[2] Trials (times that make us wobble) are good for us.
[3] Trials teach us things we learn no other way.
[4] Trials are necessary for the continuing growth that is part of Christian maturity.
[5] Trials protect us from the deadly condition of complacency.
[6] We CAN make progress during trials because God equips us with what we need.
[7] No matter what happens, we can–like Habakkuk–be confident that God will get us through the trial.

Today, we will consider the following points:
[8] Experience, the best teacher? YES!
[9] Do trials ever end for the believer?
[10] The more we wobble, the less we will.
P.S. Just for you, dear friend!

[8] Experience is the best teacher. Yes! You can thoroughly practice swimming, on land, but until you are actually in the water. . . You can thoroughly practice rock climbing at the gym, but until you are actually on a mountain. . . You can thoroughly study about trusting God in hard times, but until you are actually in hard times . . .

As I learned years ago when my daughter was little, God sometimes puts us in hard places that make us desperate – for the loving purpose of helping us grow. He is being kind to us. Scripture reassures us that “God is loving toward all He has made.” (Psalm 145:17b, NIV)

Image result for free picture of person ion deep endDuring trials, it may feel like God has thrown us in the deep end and left us, but that is merely our flesh reacting. As our human bodies react to threat, so do our soul and spirit. There is an automatic response in our heart when we face what we perceive as danger, just as there is an automatic response in our body when we face a physical threat.

And that is precisely where the possibility for growth comes. In that moment when we feel fear, or discouragement or whatever negative arrows the enemy is shooting at us, we can learn to lean on truth, and—to the extent that we do that (Psalm 33:22)–that truth will set us free from fear and its consequences (John 8:32). If we allow it, the enemy can magnify our natural, human reaction of fear. But, if we turn instead to God, God can turn that fear into strength.

In those moments, as we seek God by meditating on His word constantly (Deuteronomy 6:4-8 and Psalm 1) we can calm our frail, human hearts by focusing our mind on passages like Isaiah 41:10.

So do not be afraid, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (NIV)

I remember the morning at the gym when trying to memorize this verse. Holy Spirit helped me reflect: “The all-mighty, all-loving One who made and sustains the universe is right here with me, He Himself, and He adores me. There is no reason to fear. That One is the Person I am depending on, who I am calling and making my God, the Ruler of my life. He has promised to give me strength and to help me and to support me. And that includes this very moment. . . ”

Image result for free picture of father and child in waterConsider this. How would a loving, compassionate father begin teaching his child, who has never before seen deep water, how to swim? He holds his little boy firmly in his arms while wading slowly in until the boy’s feet are submerged, all while he holds the boy snugly in his arms. The father pauses and splashes the water with his hand, lets the boy play with the water and get used to it and they laugh about it together. Then, the father goes a bit deeper, pausing each time for reassurances and more laughter until finally the water is up to the child’s chest and then the father starts walking through the water, letting the boy experience the feel of water flowing over his little body. That might be enough for the first time. The next time, the father would hold the boy in his arms and let him splash about on his own, while being held, and so on.

That beloved little boy is never endangered although he feels he is! Only the presence and embrace of his father calms him enough to let the lessons proceed. Trials can make us afraid, even terrorized, but we can, through choosing to believe what He says, benefit from the presence and embrace of our Heavenly Father and, step by slow step, learn to use our God-given potential to keep going through trials. Then, when we come to a big trial, we will go right through it, just as a traveler swims across a river that obstructs his path.

As I reflect on my relationship with God, I can see that the trials in the early years were easy compared with trials in recent times. He strengthened me and hardened me to difficulties, as He promises in Isaiah 41:10. So, by God’s grace I now stay steadier through trials and I look for God’s blessings while I walk through them. Experience has taught me the truths of Lamentations 3:19-66—that indeed” The LORD is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God’s Word.” (Lamentations 3:25,AMPC)

Beloved, God NEVER abandons us or fails us or lets us down, in any way (Hebrews 13:5).It just feels like it sometimes. And the cure is always trusting and obeying.

Image result for free Clip Art of End of the road. Size: 72 x 100. Source: clipground.com[9] Do trials ever end for the believer? The short answer? No. Why? It is because of the nature of our fallen world, the nature of man, the nature of our enemy, and the nature of God’s plan for mankind. BUT GOD HAS MADE A WAY TO LIVE IN VICTORY AND JOY!

The nature of our fallen world—so long as we live on this earth, we will have troubles. The world is under the curse described in Genesis 3. We will not enjoy the Edenic type of life that God planned for mankind until our inmost beings leave the earthly tabernacle of this flesh and live in the presence of God Himself in heaven. “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward”, Job 5:7 tells us.

The nature of man. So long as we live on this earth, we will struggle with sin (Romans 7:7-25). Psalm 51:5 tells us we are all born as sinners. Romans 3:23 says we have all “sinned and fall short of the glory of God” but verse 22 joyfully proclaims the righteousness which comes “from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” Once saved through faith in Jesus, we must keep pursuing and obeying God, as we saw earlier in this writing. No person, except Jesus, has ever been and can ever be good enough. Right before he died, the great apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church at Phillipi. In Chapter 3 of that letter, he explains why he puts no confidence for salvation in anything he does (or “in the flesh”) but rather he keeps pressing on, he says, toward “the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14, NIV) And that was right before Paul died. Think about that!

Image result for Free Picture of Earth. Size: 204 x 204. Source: dreamicus.comThe nature of our enemy. So long as we live on this earth, Satan will constantly seek to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). For an excellent teaching on the activity of Satan—and a teaching that will calm fear and fill you with hope!–see “Satan’s Ten Strategies Against You”, by John Piper at www.desiringgod.org. Eventually, at the end of time Satan will be “thrown into the lake of burning sulfur . . . and will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:10). In the meantime, throughout each of our lifetimes, we can walk in the victory over Satan and sin that Jesus purchased for us.

The nature of God’s plan for mankind–As Genesis 2:16-17 records, God made humans with the freedom of choice, and that includes whether or not we love Him. We can, through Him, choose NOT to sin, as we see in Romans 6:11-14. We can overcome sin, through offering our whole selves to God and choosing to love and serve Him (Joshua 24:15).

If we truly love God more than all else, we will place more value on heavenly things than things of this life. If we “set our minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2, NIV). We will then be empowered to consider what we learn through trials of greater value than whatever inconvenience, hard work and even suffering trials may cause.

In light of all that, we can be encouraged and accept trials as part of life and as of no more consequence than the fact that we must keep breathing, eating, sleeping, etc. as long as we live. Certain things are just part of life.

Image result for free clip Art Of Abundant Life. Size: 125 x 106. Source: clipground.comAnd our life can be abundant! We can choose to believe what Jesus told us in John 16:33, that in Him we:

may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have troubles, trials, distress, and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage, be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]

For me, investing time and energy in meditating on and memorizing that Scripture and many others has gone far in developing a better attitude than I once had about the trials of daily life.

[10] The more we wobble, the less we will. So here we sit, you in the trials and temptations of this day in your individual life and me with mine. No matter where you are and what you are doing, God is right there, watching over you, loving You. So, I pray,

May He strengthen you with power in the inner man by the Holy Spirit [Himself] indwelling your innermost being and personality). May Christ through our faith, [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, and make His permanent home in your heart!” (Ephesians 3:16-17a, AMPC)

Image result for free picture of wobblingHere I sit, using an alternative word processor program, my three favorite Bible translations opened on my desk, pausing to look out the window and stroke Lilly as I think of a word, and also pausing every fifteen minutes to stretch. Most of the trials described at the start of this blog are still present, but I am making great spiritual progress precisely because of and through the difficulties. God is working His strength into my heart. He is training me to keep my mind better fixed on things above (Colossians 3:2) and He is doing that through my experiencing the difficulties of life on this earth. Just as using the wobble board in physical therapy improved my balance, so do trials improve my innate wobbliness. The more I wobble, the less I will!

Oh, trust Him! Lean on Him and hope, with confidence, in Him! Wait on Him. He has not failed you, and He never will. He is training you through hardship and trials because He loves you and it is for your safety and your good. His mercy and loving kindness are upon us in proportion to our waiting and hoping in Him (Psalm 33:22), so wait patiently on Him! God is good to those who wait on Him (Lamentations 3:25). Like the eagle, turn your face into your storm and spread your wings of faith. Let God use the very storm that threatens you to cause you to mount up with Him and renew your strength!

P.S. Just for you, dear friend:

Image result for Free Picture Of Hawk Soaring. Size: 164 x 110. Source: www.smithsonianmag.comAs I sat in the sun, purposefully getting vitamin D, proof-reading this piece of writing, God sent a hawk soaring right in front of my eyes as I reclined on the lounge chair beside the pool. I see hawks fairly often in the neighborhood close by when I walk there but never this far. And that is not all . . .

As I sat, frantically scribbling, trying to describe the beauty and awe of watching that one hawk soar right above my head, back and forth, surfing the invisible currents of air, the sun shone through its outstretched wings, revealing the tips were lighter colored than the rest of those long wings. As I sat writing with part of my mind, with the other part, I was thinking:

A spiritual message. . . There is a spiritual message in the fact that I could not see the wind on which the hawk was soaring, just as non-believers do not see the wind on which we believers soar through troubles. But non-believers are watching and they know something unseen is helping us. Whether they “believe” in the Power they cannot see or not, they are still seeing that Power in action and our soaring gives God the means to demonstrate His power to them.

A word from Holy Spirit? . . . Then, while jotting those thoughts down, I felt a powerful urge to write that Holy Spirit says someone reading this will be enabled to soar in victory through their trial.

Image result for free clip art of Who me. Size: 73 x 100. Source: handymanwire.comSelf doubt. . . replaced with boldness! How dare I, little old me, say that? I am not like the powerful prophets and teachers of God I see and hear that I should say such a thing. But then, praise God, faith, truth and obedience overcame those lies of the devil as God’s truths bubbled up from within: that timidity and fear did not come from God (2 Timothy 1:7), God does not have favorites (Romans 2:11), God does train those who are willing to hear His voice clearly (John 10:27-29, Isaiah 30), and I could trust God and be bold (Jeremiah 1:8).

Obedience brings blessing (Luke 11:28) and when we use what we have, God gives even more (Luke 19:11-27). The moment I made up my mind to write that statement—that Holy Spirit was saying someone would be empowered to soar when they read these words—that very moment, friend, I saw a small group (called a “kettle” I later learned) of hawks suddenly appear in my field of vision, straight ahead. And that first hawk (had he been scouting?) began circling them.

Image result for Free Picture of Kettle of Hawks. Size: 163 x 110. Source: www.pinterest.comIt is a whole host of them, Lord!”, I thought, “like an army! It is like a picture of Your body of believers, faithfully soaring on the wings of Your wind, following along obediently, and, like eagles, using the very trials surrounding them to soar high up, with You, where You want them to go.”

It’s like Your believers today, in the United States and the world, who choose to believe and to know You are still on Your throne, in the midst of the apparent victory of evil and wickedness. We know You are working ‘everything out for the good of those who love You and are called according to Your purpose’, as You say in Romans 8:28. As we trust in You and face the future with faith, You lift us up, to heavenly places with You.

I watched, open-mouthed, eyes squinting, as the kettle of hawks soared back and forth, each following a different path, left, then right, each at a slightly different height, like fish in an aquarium, like children playing on an azure playground. Then, as if hearing a command, they began soaring northward, one after the other, one or two at a time, until the last one faded to a black dot then vanished. I could see them no longer, but as I gazed in that direction, I knew they were there, steadily, continuing their journey, returning to their home.

Dear dear reader, I believe God wants you to know:

He hears your cry in your trial, He wants you to know He has good plans for you, He has not let go of Your hand. He never will loosen His grip on you or forsake you or leave you helpless. He will give you strength and everything else you need to walk through this trial, and you will not even smell like smoke when it is over.

Oh, fellow pilgrim! Just trust and keep His Word in your mind and in your mouth! God hears the cries of the righteous! His mercy and loving-kindness will be upon us in proportion to our waiting and hoping in Him. Wait and hope in the Lord, with confident expectation! He is right there with you and He is working for your good! Our loving, all-mighty, ageless, eternal Father in heaven is loving and kind and compassionate and faithful and merciful and good – all the time!

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When we wobble, God doesn’t! Part 2 of 3

Image result for free Picture of Prayer. Size: 154 x 103. Source: theblazingcenter.comLast week, we considered the first three of the statements below about trials. Did the Bible passages we examined make sense to you? I pray so! If not, James 1:5-8 tells us “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do” (NIV)

This week, we will examine statements four through seven below.

Wobbliness and wobbly times:

[1] We learn more when our way is wobbly.

[2] Trials (times that make us wobble) are good for us.

[3] Trials teach us things we learn no other way.

[4] Trials are necessary for the continuing growth that is part of Christian maturity.

[5] Trials protect us from the deadly condition of complacency.

[6] We CAN make progress during trials because God equips us with what we need

[7] No matter what happens, we can–like Habakkuk—be confident that God will get us through the trial.

[8] Experience, the best teacher? YES!

[9] Do trials ever end for the believer?

[10] The more we wobble, the less we will.

P.S. Just for you, dear friend!

Image result for Free Picture of Sprout. Size: 152 x 102. Source: www.istockphoto.com[4] Trials are necessary for the continuing growth that is part of maturity. James 1:2-4 says:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, BECAUSE you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work SO THAT you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (NIV)” (emphasis added).

Could God be any clearer with us??? We are to think about, or consider, trials as a good thing. God is saying trials are a good thing because they provide a chance to use our faith, which will help us develop the ability to keep going in spite of difficulties. And then, after our need to persevere has done what it needs to do in our character, we will be mature and complete. He is telling us, giving us a kind warning so we can prepare our minds and hearts for a long process. He is also telling us there is a good thing coming at the end of the process, and that gives us hope and strength.

This is one of the passages I memorized as a new believer, and it has floated up into consciousness countless times since then. I admit that at first I approached this truth with a somewhat begrudging attitude, trying but most often failing to have the right attitude. Looking back, though, I can see how God worked good out of each and every trial (Romans 8:28). By His grace I now have a better attitude when a fresh trial comes. No, not a perfect attitude but a greatly improved one!

Image result for FREE Picture Of Three Size Plants. Size: 181 x 110. Source: www.gettyimages.comContinual growth is part of being a Christ follower and it is a refuge, a way of life that keeps us safe. If we strive to keep growing, we will be kept safe. In 2 Peter 1:3-11, Peter tells us how to “make our calling and election sure SO THAT we will not stumble or fall (v.10-11.) He assures us that God has already given us everything that we need to live and to be godly and that through God’s promises we can become like Him and overcome the moral decay of the world. In verse 5 through 7, he lists qualities we are to make every effort to obtain: faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.” (Notice the similarity to the nine fruits of the spirit in Galations 5:22-23.)

Why should we strive to keep growing? The next verse tells us clearly that by pressing on we will make our Christian lives effective and productive. Verse 8 says “For IF you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Notice the “increasing measure” concept. That says we have to keep growing and keep growing and keep growing. And just as continually bearing fruit is no trouble for a fruit tree, so will our spiritual fruit bearing be natural. .

Notice also the stern, loving warning in verse 9: “If anyone does not have them” [those qualities in increasing measure]”, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.”

Image result for Free Clip Art of Pride Before Destruction. Size: 81 x 110. Source: www.christart.comMay God have mercy on each one of us and move us to keep making every effort to grow! That is a stern warning indeed, but do we not sternly warn our children not to play in the street? It is very easy for the enemy to lead a nearsighted or blind person off the path of godliness. God clearly warns us against behaviors that lead to blindness, such as depending on idols. Satan tries to use spiritual pride to tell us we have arrived spiritually and we do not need to keep striving so hard. Danger! Danger! Danger! God warns over and over against pride and complacency.

[5] Trials protect us from the deadly condition of complacency. If we do not keep growing we tend to become complacent. Stop exercising for a week and see how hard it is to get yourself back to the gym! God knows how easily we slip back into old habits, so He speaks through the prophet Amos and warns “Woe to you who are complacent in Zion. . . ” (Amos 6:1, NIV). Peter ends his second letter to believers by telling us to live holy and godly lives and keep growing as we anticipate the return of Christ:

. . . be on your guard SO THAT you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. BUT GROW in the grace and knowledge of our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18, NIV) (emphasis added)

In Matthew 7:26 Jesus warns that we pursue our own ruin if we do not act on His words. Jesus said “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.”

Remember the children’s song? “Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, not hearers only. . . “

Ever heard the saying “There are no atheists in foxholes”? When we are in desperate situations, we tend to become more intense in seeking God. Have you heard someone recall a very hard time and say almost wistfully, “But I was never so close to God as I was then.” When God uses trials to get us focused on Him, He is acting in love. He wants us to have a passionate love for Him because loving, revering, worshipping and obeying Him keeps us safe and brings multitudes of blessings.

In the NIV Bible, the last section of that great chapter 12 of Hebrews, verses 14-29, is labeled “Warning Against Refusing God”. Verse 25 says

See to it that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from Him who warns from heaven?” and Verse 28-29 urge us to “be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.” (NIV)

Image result for Free Picture of God is a Fire. Size: 178 x 101. Source: www.godisreal.todayIn saying “our God is a consuming fire’, the writer of Hebrews is referring to Exodus 19:12-13 when Israel was warned not to even approach the foot of Mount Sinai, where God had met with Moses, else they would be killed. They were to treat God with reverence and fear and awe AND SO ARE WE TO DO THE SAME TODAY. God has not changed and He will never change (Hebrews 13:8). He is steadfast, enduring, ageless, matchless, and eternal! He is our Rock, our Refuge and our Redeemer, our “King of kings and Lord of lords!” (Revelation 19:16)

If we appropriately remember who God is and who we are, we will strive with all our heart to obey Him. We will not treat Him or anything about Him lightly or half-heartedly, and our love for Him will be fervent. Thus we may avoid the condition of a lukewarm heart. Read Revelations 3:14-22 and see for yourself how much God hates our being lukewarm toward Him. Being lukewarm is a condition from which we must earnestly repent (verse 19). In verse 19, God pleads with those who are lukewarm to open the door of their hearts to Him.

The love and kindness and compassion of our God for us is higher than the heavens are above the earth (Psalm 103). When He helps us avoid complacency—no matter the means He uses–He is acting in love, for our good.

[6] We CAN make progress DURING trials because God equips us with what we need to walk through the trials. Trials do not stop our journey with God, and they do not stop our growth. The truth is just the opposite! They are a lovingly planned part of the path of every believer’s life.

Image result for free picture of mountain goatsHe gives exactly what we need. Just as God gives mountain goats specially constructed hoofs and powerful neck and shoulder muscles, Psalm 18:33 promises He will give us what we need to walk on our high places securely.

He makes my feet like hinds’ feet [able to stand firmly or make progress on the dangerous heights of testing and trouble]; He sets me securely upon my high places.” (AMPC)

Notice also that times of testing and trouble are dangerous. But be encouraged! God’s special provisions equip us to stand firmly and also make progress upon, through and because of the very difficulties themselves. If a mountain stands in our path and there is no way around it, we can go right over the mountain and keep going forward along our desired path, in the same direction, making progress upon the mountain itself.

This powerful verse, verse 33, comes in the middle of Psalm 18, a psalm which gives all of us courage to endure trials with confident hope and expectation. Psalm 18 starts with praise to the LORD for His strength, then David recalls how, when he faced death and destruction, God answered him and fought mightily for him, setting him in a spacious place because God delighted in him. David declared that God had rewarded him according to his righteousness (v. 24) because “To the faithful You show yourself faithful, to the blameless You show yourself blameless. . . . “ (v. 15) David keeps encouraging himself as He describes God’s power and mercy on his behalf, including (in verse 32-36) how God had enabled him to make progress and “stand on the heights”. David concludes with more praise for the God who saves him from his enemies and shows unfailing kindness to him and his descendants forever – that includes you and me!

[7 ] No matter what happens, we can–like Habakkuk—be confident God will get us through the trial. Most of the book of Habakkuk speaks of the coming judgment on God’s people because of their wickedness. (To see how applicable the Bible is to this present world, read the minor prophets and reflect on the apparent victory of evil we now see in the United States and other parts of the world.) Nevertheless, even though judgment would come, Habakkuk concludes with praise to God and a declaration of trust in God. He says:

Image result for Free Picture of Olives and Figs and Grapes. Size: 157 x 104. Source: smittenkitchen.comThough the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD. I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18, NIV)

Think about what Habakkuk is saying – though every single thing I usually depend on fails me (figs, grapes, olives, fields, sheep and cattle, which was everything people in those times depended upon) – yet even so, in spite of all of that, I WILL be happy in God and I WILL be joyful in the God who is my Savior.

I think Habakkuk could make that declaration BECAUSE Habakkuk was thinking about the last verse, verse 19:

Image result for Free Picture of Mountain goat feet. Size: 158 x 105. Source: flickr.comThe Lord is my strength, my personal bravery and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet, and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering or responsibility]!” (AMPC- notice the ! At the end).

Wow oh wow oh wow! How can we not be encouraged! God will BE our strength, He will BE the bravery we need and He will BE our unbeatable army. He will make our feet as perfectly suited for our personal path as a deer’s feet are suited for mountains. God will cause us to walk. He will not let us stand still and be terrorized. He will cause us to make spiritual progress upon the very trials themselves, whether the trials involve trouble, suffering or responsibility.

Next week, we will finish this brief examination of trials. Think about what you have learned so far from the Bible passages we have examined. Do you feel any differently about daily life? About the occasional long spells of troubles? Are you convinced that, in spite of how they feel, trials are truly good for you?

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When we wobble, God doesn’t! Part 1 of 3

Image result for Free Clip Art of Attitude. Size: 92 x 102. Source: www.clipartpanda.comOur attitude toward trials. Our attitude toward trials and our ability to “make progress upon the dangerous heights of testing and trouble” (Psalm 18:32-33) is of vital importance for the believer. When I began this writing, I intended to make it short; however, God showed me I needed to study and think deeply about this topic. And that is how I uncovered 10 truths that we will explore in this three-part series. Keeping these truths in mind is gradually giving me a better attitude about the difficulties of daily life and the occasional seeming disasters we all face. May God grant us great grace to see trials from His perspective! We will cover the first three points today about times when we wobble.

Wobbliness and wobbly times:
[1] We learn more when our way is wobbly.
[2] Trials (times that make us wobble) are good for us.
[3] Trials teach us things we learn no other way.
[4] Trials are necessary for the continuing growth that is part of Christian maturity.
[5] Trials protect us from the deadly condition of complacency.
[6] We CAN make progress during trials because God equips us with what we need.
[7] No matter what happens, we can–like Habakkuk–be confident that God will get us through the trial.
[8] Experience, the best teacher? YES!
[9] Do trials ever end for the believer?
[10] The more we wobble, the less we will.
P.S. Just for you, dear friend!

Girl On Balance Beam CartoonI wobbled last week. Did you? Our loving heavenly Father has such a sense of humor! While skimming the internet about improving balance, since spiritual balance is the subject of this writing, I saw a video of four young girls walking in rapid tandem across a balance beam. Next came a video of an, uh, older man staggering from side to side as he tried to walk on what looked like a deflated fire hose lying flat on the ground. Guess which one I felt like? Ha.

Growing up with two brothers and a father who coached Little League deepened my natural tomboy tendencies and helped ensure I would be picked early in playground games during elementary school. However, junior high gymnastics taught me much about embarrassment. I had grown several inches that summer, and I watched as my shorter classmates (which was all of them!) did fairly well on the balance beam set a few inches off the ground. However, Coach Bunny Crippen kindly shook her head and smiled as I repeatedly failed to take more than one step without falling off. “That’s okay, Freda. Good job trying!”

Well, I am happy to say I am better at keeping my spiritual balance than I was at walking the balance beam, by the grace of God! Why is that? Because God has lovingly given me lots of practice, and then more practice, like all last week. . .

Teetering, leaning, and wild waving of arms. I sniffed, yet again, blew my nose, yet again, squinted my watery eyes, and stood up to take an allergy pill. I opened my eyes wide in a futile effort to shake off the drowsiness caused by allergies and rolled my shoulders in an effort, also futile, to alleviate the stiffness. I chugged a full glass of home-made ginger tea with the pill, then twisted side to side a few times and reached overhead, one arm at a time, twenty times each side, in an also futile attempt to shrink the roll of just plain fat that had taken up residence at my waist for lo too many months. My loud “Ugh!” startled Lilly, my calico beauty napping next to the computer. “Why does the weight keep going up? I don’t know what else to do. I am trying . . . “

I sat back down, stared into the creamy beige of lukewarm coffee, scratched Lilly’s head, and scrolled up and down, up and down the document, labeling pages and paragraphs. Then came twenty minutes cutting, pasting and reordering paragraphs that had scrambled themselves like so many eggs during the the last two days of editing and re-editing one simple chapter. Finally, the line of thought flowed and I hit save.

Image result for free clip art of frustrated with computerI stared in silence a full sixty seconds, I think, at the pop-up “File Permission Error. . . “ Last week, my son-in-law, my technical support hero, had spent hours fixing that problem, which was far, far beyond my capabilities. “Ohhhhh!” I wailed. The family was out of town this week.

Two hours later, with blood pressure elevated, shoulders even tighter, eyes aching, and head throbbing, I gave up and made notes on paper of the order in which I had arranged paragraphs on the computer file which would NOT SAVE!!!–beautiful, gorgeous paper that never said “file Permission Error” or “Read-Only File”. By then it was time to start dinner, and too late to tidy up the frustration-inducing clutter, which had crept into my little condo like an invasive vine during the last three days of writing angst. It was also too late to take my little evening walk which would have eased emotional as well as physical kinks. And. . .

Image result for Free Picture Of No Good Very Bad. Size: 130 x 100. Source: www.walmart.comWhew and UGH! Sound familiar? I am sure it does, though the details of your “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad” week are no doubt different. (For a most excellent book to teach children that we all have bad days, see “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” by Judith Viorst.) But, I learned much from the wobbling, things like the fact that: we learn more when our way is wobbly.

[1] We learn more when our way is wobbly. All last week had been like that one day and as the days wore on, old bad habits had threatened to steal my hard-won peace. Each new and ongoing frustration grabbed my attention more and more, leaving less mental space and energy to keep my mind on God, talk with Him and ponder a passage of the Word as I went about the business of daily life. The day I described above had been the last straw. And that turned out to be a very good thing.

Laughing Baby Floating on AirHa!” I said out loud to the devil as I fixed supper. “You are not going to steal one more hour of my peace. God says He laughs at you and that you are already defeated so I can laugh at what you are trying to do, too. I know Romans 8:28 is true, and Genesis 50:20, and Psalm 94:12-13! I am going to rejoice in this very day and this very hour because God has made it, He is right here with me, and He will never, no never, no never fail me in any way! He is good in all that He does, He rules everything that is and was and is to come, and He adores me! My name is written in the palm of His hand, He sings over me, HE delights in me, and He watches my every step with care, and He is using all of this to teach me, and . . . “

Guess what? Before I knew it, I was truly rejoicing and truly laughing then making an outline of this blog post. So, why, when we are trying our best to love and serve Him, does God let us experience hard things that make us wobble? God answers this question clearly in His Word.

Image result for free picture of father scolding child[2\ Trials—times that make us wobbly–are good for us. God allows trials—things that make us wobble-because He loves us and they are good for us. God lovingly tells us in Proverbs 3:11-12, NIV) “My son, (notice the tenderness here in the words “My son”) do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent His rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those He loves, as a father the son He delights in.”

The whole chapter of Hebrews 12 overflows with encouragement and wisdom. Verses 1 through 4 tell us to throw off everything that hinders us from running our race and says that if we “Fix our eyes on Jesus” and think about what he endured from sinful men we “will not grow weary and lose heart.” Because. . .

(v. 4) “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (v. 5) And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: (v. 6) ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son’.

(v. 7) Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? (v. 8) If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. (v. 9) Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! (v. 10) Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. (v. 11) No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been exercised by it.

Image result for free picture of feet walking a path(12)THEREFORE , strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. (13) ‘Make level paths for your feet’, SO THAT the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” (NIV)

Please, please stop and ponder Hebrews 12:4-12 s-l-o-w-l-y. I feel I should underline every word of this passage. Please also take time to read and ponder this life-giving passage in the Amplified Classic version, which you can find at www.biblegateway.com. Getting these truths deep into our spirit is the foundation of a godly attitude toward trials.

These verses state clearly that enduring the discipline of trials leads us to share in His holiness and eventually produces righteousness and peace once we have been trained by those trials. (Hebrews 12:10-12). Did you catch that? Trials train us. It is clear to me that we must continue through the training experience and not bail out. We must persevere SO THAT so we may become mature (James 1:4-8.) As we cooperate with God through trials and let Him produce righteousness and peace in our lives, we are serving Christ and are pleasing to God and approved by men because “ the kingdom of God is . . . a matter of “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17-18, NIV)

[3] Trials teach us things we learn no other way. Understanding the truth of Psalm 94:12-13 gives a godly perspective on trials, which is that we are truly blessed when God uses trials to teach us.

Blessed-happy, fortunate, [to be envied]–is the man whom You discipline and instruct, O Lord, and teach out of Your law that You may give him the power to hold himself calm in the days of adversity, until the [inevitable] pit of corruption is dug for the wicked.” (AMPC)

These verses tell us that God instructs us, by using His law, SO THAT He can give us the power to keep ourselves calm in hard times. Think about that. Could you give, or teach, your toddler the ability to balance himself and walk by himself and get himself up off the ground if you hold him perfectly upright every step he takes and if you put him back on his feet each time he falls down? God has to let us wobble and fall down sometimes, too, so that we learn how to keep our balance, even on rough terrain. And when we do fall, He has to hold back and let us scramble around until we finally push ourselves up and get to a standing position again.

I believe some of our trials come because of mistakes we make as we learn to walk more closely with God and some trials God allows, out of His boundless love, so that we can gain better balancing skill.

Image result for free picture of wobbling babyWe learn by experiencing cause and effect, by experiencing the natural consequences of our actions. How does a toddler learn balance? He learns by experiences with the law of gravity. If a toddler leans too far forward, he wobbles or falls; through that experience, the law of gravity teaches him. When a person steals, he eventually lands in jail. Through that experience, the law of man teaches him. If I let my mind dwell on negatives, I become fearful. Through that experience, the law of God teaches me. We learn how to stay spiritually balanced by experiences with the laws of God, when we get the natural consequences of our right or wrong actions and thoughts. The corrections that come from discipline lead us to life (Proverbs 6:23)

Next week, we will begin by considering the statement “Trials are necessary for the continuing growth that is part of Christian maturity.” Do you agree? Why or why not? Think about it!

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Do you know what happens when you love God? Psalm 91, Pt. 5

Image result for free clip art of CAUSE AND EFFECTThe “if-then” nature of God’s promises. While studying Psalm 91, God has taught me much about the “if-then” nature of His promises. I am very grateful! In all the years I have studied the Bible (and I feel I have only begun understanding how to study this last year) I do not recall being so aware of how often if-then, because, for, therefore, thus, and similar words appear. Perhaps that is because two years mired in the muddy pit of depression imprinted a zeal to understand what God wants me to do so that I can remain safe in “the secret place of the Most High.”

As we conclude our exploration of Psalm 91, let’s review what we learned about the “if-thens”, when we began this study of what is often called “the soldier’s psalm.”

The “if-thens” of Psalm 91. A clear example of how God rewards us for seeking Him is found in Psalm 91. The AMPC has this footnote for Psalm 91: “The rich promises of this whole chapter are dependent upon one’s meeting exactly the conditions of these first two verses.”  Here are the “thens” that follow verses 1 and 2, along with the “becauses” in verses 9 through 16, (using the 1965 Amplified Bible) :

IF I dwell in the secret place AND SAY God is my refuge AND TRUST in Him (verses 1 and 2)

  • THEN God will “deliver me from every trap” (NLT),
  • THEN He will cover me,
  • THEN His “faithful promises will be my armor and protection”,
  • THEN I will not be afraid of anything evil, at any time,
  • THEN “No evil will touch me” (NLT) though people fall all around me. (phrases in parentheses are from the NLT)

. . . the “because” point the way to promises, too . . .

  • BECAUSE I make God my refuge and dwelling place (which repeats verses 1 and 2), “no evil will conquer me”, (NLT) and that is true because “He will order His angels to protect me wherever I go” (NLT)

(and finally, verses 14-16):

  • BECAUSE I love God and trust in His nature, He will rescue me, protect me, answer me, honor me, give me a long life, and show me His salvation, which includes deliverance, as well as redemption from sin through the blood of Jesus.

Image result for free clip art of GODS PROMISESPsalm 91: 14 through 16–eight thundering “I wills! Eight powerful “I will” promises conclude Psalm 91.

14 Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him; I will set him on high, because he knows and understands My name [has a personal knowledge of My mercy, love, and kindness—trusts and relies on Me, knowing I will never forsake him, no never] 15. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. 16 With long life will I satisfy him and show him My salvation.

Let’s look at these promises once more, in list form:

(Because he has set his love upon Me, THEREFORE:

  • I will deliver him,
  • I will set him on high,
  • because He knows and understands My name
  • I will answer him when he calls on me,
  • I will be with him in trouble,
  • I will deliver him,
  • I will honor him,
  • I will satisfy him with long life, and
  • I will show him My salvation.

Image result for FREE PICTURE of sun moon and starsWhen we set our love on God. Notice that these eight promises apply to us when we set our love upon God. I see God’s fairness in Verse 14 in that when we set our love on Him, he sets us on high. How do I “set my love” on someone? “To set” means to put something in a specific place or position, like setting a book on the table. I like what Webster’s 1828 online dictionary says, “To put, place, or fix in any situation. God set the sun, moon and stars in the firmament.” That means something is permanently fixed and secured in a particular place. And that is how we are to love God—permanently and unshakably. If we do that, God promises to deliver us, which Webster’s 1828 defines as “to free or to release, as from a restraint; to set at liberty, as from captivity” and also “to rescue or to save.” The enemy of our souls always intends us deadly harm, but we have the promise of Almighty God that He will deliver us IF we meet His conditions.

Image result for FREE PICTURE OF HIGH GROUNDIf we set our love on God, God will deliver us and “set us on high.” It is good to be on high ground during a battle, and we know this life on earth is a battle! “Setting on high” also implies being lifted up from having fallen down or being in a low position. Job 5:9-16 lists a few of the kind things God does, one of which is “The lowly He sets on high, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.” (V. 11, NIV). God will keep us fixed and secured in a high, or safe, place.

Stand in awe of the Word. I think a word of loving caution is needed here. I do not pretend to know exactly how God works, but I do know He tells us to study His word diligently, 2 Timothy 2:15 clearly instructs us to “Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly] handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.” That includes understanding the context of a verse upon which you are relying. I have heard and read many instances, as I am sure you have, where a verse is obviously used incorrectly. However, we all need to be on guard against mishandling the Word in subtle ways. I have done this in the past, but by God’s grace, I now work diligently to ensure I handle His Word correctly.

Image result for FREE PICTURE of bibleSearching out context helps prevent such subtle as well as obvious errors. At a minimum, I read a few verses before and after. Preferably, I read the entire chapter and peruse an outline of the book of the Bible in which the verse is located. This does take extra time and effort, but it is a safeguard for us. Below is a link to an excellent article about handling the Word of God correctly at knowableword.com The Dangerous Consequences of Ignoring Context (knowableword.com)

Because we know and understand what God is like. . . “Because he knows and understands My name [has a personal knowledge of My mercy, love, and kindness—trusts and relies on Me, knowing I will never forsake him, no, never]. (Psalm 91:14b, AMPC)

The AMPC translation of verse 14-b teaches us what it means to “know and understand” God’s name, which means His nature or what He is like. The phrases in brackets state “has a personal knowledge of My mercy, love and kindness—trusts and relies on Me, knowing I will never forsake him, no never.” So as we personally experience God’s mercy, His love and His kindness, we will be able to truly trust and rely on him because we will know—through our experiencing it—that God will never, no never, no never forsake us. (Now is a good time to meditate afresh on Hebrews 13:5-6 in the AMPC)

Image result for free picture of sick woman in bedI may have heard that someone with whom I have a casual acquaintance (let’s call her Sandy) is a kind person, but when Sandy brings soup and other food and medicine to my house when I have the flu, I know—through personal knowledge and experience—that Sandy is kind.

Perhaps one reason God tells us to consider ourselves blessed when we have trials (James 1) is because trials give us chances to experience God’s love and faithfulness. After we have walked through a few trials and seen God deliver us, we can have the confident hope and expectation of the writer of Lamentations. In the first part of Chapter 3, he remembers all his afflictions, the “wormwood and the gall” (AMPC) but in Verse 21 he remembers something that gives him hope and expectation—which is that “Because of the LORD”s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. (NIV)”

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We will have all we need. The other six “I wills” cover everything we need in this earthly life. If we set our love on God and come to know Him through experiencing His love and mercy, God says:

  • I will answer him when he calls upon Me;
  • I will be with him in trouble;
  • I will deliver him and
  • I will honor him.
  • I will satisfy him with long life,
  • and I will show him My salvation. (Psalm 91:15-16, AMPC) (Besides the theological definition of “deliverance from the power and penalty of sin.” salvation also means “saving or protecting from harm, risk, loss, destruction, etc.” (www.dictionary.com).

In these promises I hear God’s thundering voice, but I also hear Him gently, quietly, pleading with us, urging us to set our love on Him, to put Him first. Why? Because He loves us and knows what is good for us. Oh, how great the love of God! Dare we offer Him anything less than total, passionate, faithful love, obedience, and devotion?

Look how Matthew Henry talks about these promises :

Whatever happens, nothing shall hurt the believer; though trouble and affliction befall, it shall come, not for his hurt, but for good, though for the present it be not joyous but grievous. Those who rightly know God, will set their love upon him. They by prayer constantly call upon him. His promise is, that he will in due time deliver the believer out of trouble, and in the mean time be with him in trouble.

The Lord will manage all his worldly concerns, and preserve his life on earth, so long as it shall be good for him. For encouragement in this he looks unto Jesus. He shall live long enough; till he has done the work he was sent into this world for, and is ready for heaven. Who would wish to live a day longer than God has some work to do, either by him or upon him?

Image result for free picture of heavenA man may die young, yet be satisfied with living. But a wicked man is not satisfied even with long life. At length the believer’s conflict ends; he has done for ever with trouble, sin, and temptation.” (from the Matthew Henry commentary on Psalm 91:9-16 at www.biblehub.com

Is it any wonder that so many of us memorize all of Psalm 91? Selah, selah, selah!

 

 

 

Do you know what God will do for you? Psalm 91 – Part 4

Image result for Free Picture of the Most High Your Refuge. Size: 124 x 105. Source: ptbradley.comBecause you have made the Lord your refuge, and the Most High your dwelling place, there shall no evil befall you, nor any plague or calamity come near your tent. For He will give His angels [especial] charge over you to accompany and defend and preserve you in all your ways [of obedience and service]. They shall bear you up on their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent shall you trample underfoot.” (Psalm 91:9-13 AMPC)

Image result for Free Picture of Cardinal in Snow. Size: 150 x 110. Source: roadsendnaturalist.wordpress.comI cannot “outgive” God. Can you? Now, that is a rhetorical question if ever there were one! Every time I start writing for you, dear reader, God blesses me far beyond anything I could ask or imagine. And that includes the day I wrote this blog, which was the fourth day of record-breaking cold and snow for Texas and many other states. From my desk, I saw snow lining the wide expanse of bare branches in front of the big double window. Piles of snow that had fallen four days before remained trapped in the forks of the bigger branches. Ice coated the smaller branches not big enough to capture snow. I watched, in wonder, as a cardinal, one of my most favorite birds, perched on a snow covered branch – just like Christmas cards I have loved all my life! Those rare snow-bound days gave extra hours for writing and Bible study and motivated me to make more time—when life returned to normal–to just sit down and search out the meaning of passages, new and old, talking with Holy Spirit, trusting Him to lead as I search His Word. By His grace, I have done that. Truly, Romans 8:28 is true!

Line upon line. . . that concept – again! On that snowy day, as I heard the unfamiliar crunch of snow being shoveled from the sidewalk, thanks to a kind-hearted neighbor, I was looking again at that well-known passage in Isaiah 28–”line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little” . To dig deeply into that passage is a topic for another time, but briefly I see that God says He carefully taught His people that they must depend on Him and nothing else, that He has a “place of rest” for the weary, but they refused to heed His instruction so He will teach them with bitter consequences. Psalm 91 also speaks of that “place of rest”, that secret place of the Most High. Hopefully, we voluntarily seek out the place of rest that God has lovingly prepared, without being pressed there by the harsh consequences of complacency toward God.

Here is what we saw in previous blog posts on Psalm 91, dated Feb. 4, 11, and 25.

  • V 1-4 If we make God our home, and confidently trust Him THEN He will deliver us and cover us, thus enabling us to find true refuge. THEN
  • V 5-9 From our chosen position within that secret place, we will not fear, and we will be protected AND
  • V 9-13 Because we obey and serve God, His angels will protect us and we will do exploits AND
  • V 14-16 Because we love God deeply and serve Him, He will give us a peaceful, victorious, overcoming, satisfying and long life.

Image result for free picture of if thenVerse 9: “Because you have made the Lord your refuge, and the Most High your dwelling place, there shall no evil befall you, nor any plague or calamity come near your dwelling.” Notice the “Because” that starts the passage from verse 9 through 13. The KJV also uses “because” and the NLT and NIV both use “If/then”, which makes the conditional nature of the promises in verses 9 through 13 even clearer. God says that because we stay close to Him and trust Him, He will protect us from evil (harm in some translations), plague, and calamity.

Image result for free picture of nothing shall harm houWith this verse, as often happens when I try too hard to nail down what a verse means, I sense Holy Spirit saying to reflect on different translations and related verses that He has brought to mind, and then move on. So, I will just make note that in John 16:33 Jesus says He has overcome the world and deprived it of power to harm us. To me, that means that although we will encounter the “troubles, trials, distress, and frustration” Jesus said we would in this fallen world, those things will not do lasting damage or harm. Perhaps that is what God means here. Also, in Luke 10:19, Jesus says to His disciples “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” (NIV) Such deep truths to ponder!

So, why does God promise us protection from evil or harm, from plagues and calamities? He says clearly that it is BECAUSE we have made Him our refuge and we dwell, or remain constantly, in the secret place of the Most High. Then, in verse 11 He explains how He will do that.

Verse 11: For He will give His angels [especial] charge over you to accompany and defend and preserve you in all your ways [of obedience and service]. (AMPC)

Image result for free picture of protecting angelsThe NLT says “For He will order his angels to protect you wherever you go.” Angels are a profound mystery and, obviously, an essential part of all that God does and of spiritual things. (I know that is a woefully inadequate statement.) I know angels are real and that Hebrews 1:14 declares “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” I have never personally seen an angel, but they are mentioned often in the Bible, and that is enough for me! I have friends who have, however, seen angels,  and I have learned something of them in the books “Angel Armies: Releasing the Warriors of Heaven” by Tim Sheets and “Angels, God’s Secret Agents” by Billy Graham.

Notice that God says His angels will protect us “wherever we go.” It is important to recall that Satan tried to tempt Jesus to misapply this verse. Read Luke 4:1-13 to see the temptations Jesus endured before beginning His earthly ministry. In Luke 4:9 to 12, Satan quotes Psalm 91:11-12 and urges Jesus to throw Himself down from the highest point of the temple. Jesus answers this temptation with another verse, Deuteronomy 6:16 “Do not put the LORD your God to the test.” It is essential for us to follow this example of Jesus. Yes, God’s angels are watching over us, wherever we go, but if we deliberately do foolish things, we are testing the limits of God’s patience and should not be surprised if disaster falls upon us.

Our ways “of obedience and service”. We are promised God’s protection as we go about obeying and serving God. To me, this verse says that If we are living in disobedience or not serving Him, this does not apply.

We will do exploits. When we follow God whole-heartedly, He protects us and, as verse 13 indicates, we will do great things. What could be greater than defeating the enemy of our souls? Holy Spirit led the writer of Psalm 91 to tell us that, if you meet God’s conditions, “You will tread upon the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent shall you trample underfoot. (Psalm 91:13, AMPC)” The devil is compared to a roaring lion in 1 Peter 5:8 and in Genesis 3:14 God cursed the serpent, who had tempted Eve.

Image result for free picture of victoryNotice that the second half of Psalm 91:13 echoes the first half, saying that not only will we walk upon or trample lions and cobras (NLT) but we will crush them under our feet. Remember the destiny God decreed for Satan in Genesis 3:14-15? Because the serpent had deceived Eve, God told the serpent ”Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all animals, domestic and wild. You will crawl on your belly, groveling in the dust as long as you live. And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” (NLT)

And Romans 16:20 encourages us that “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under our feet.” (NIV) When an animal is crushed, it is rendered powerless and dead, unable to affect the world of the living any longer. We do our part to crush the enemy here on earth in our personal life by living a life of loving obedience to God. And as John Gill commented, we can be encouraged by the fact that in heaven, we will be eternally free from the reach of Satan (from the John Gill commentary at Biblestudytools.com)

Next week we will look at the last four verses of Psalm 91 – which include eight thundering “I will” promises from God.  What a loving Father He is to tell us how to stay safe under His loving wings!

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Do you know you are safe? Psalm 91, Pt. 3

Image result for free picture of girl with 1960s phone God’s good plans for us begin early. “A-n-t-a-g-o-n-i-s-t.” I spoke slowly, waiting until I heard Tammy murmur “Okay” then I continued even more slowly. “The person who opposes the protagonist”. I knew it would take her a while to write the definition. Whereas she wrote slowly, struggling to understand and take notes during the hour Mr. Porter devoted to literature, I wrote fast and also had an aptitude for English and writing. So, Tammy and I had talked an hour each afternoon while I filled in gaps in her notes, genuinely feeling, for once, admired by a classmate.

I wound the phone cord around my fingers as I watched as Mother peel potatoes at the sink, feeling privileged to sprawl on the green corduroy couch in the midst of supper preparations. Knowing she heard each word offended my fifth-grade independence, but a smile softened her features. My difficulty in making friends had begun even then and, reflecting back, I believe she smiled, even though she was doing without my potato-peeling, carrot-scraping, table-setting assistance, because I was talking on the phone with a friend.

In seventh grade, we changed teachers and classrooms for each subject, and I could no longer sustain the accidental friendships, like that with Tammy, that had blossomed from being with the same group of kids all day. No, by then, I considered myself a loner. However, compliments on my writing from Mrs. Loftin, the seventh- and eighth-grade English teacher, watered a heart thirsty for approval and self-esteem, feelings that seldom came from my more socially-adept peers who were busy cementing in-crowd friendships that would endure until and, for some of them, beyond high school .

Mr. Porter, Mrs. Loftin and other beloved teachers imparted good study, writing, and thinking skills as well as a love of learning. Those skills gave me confidence to seek out knowledge on my own which also brought joy and engendered a measure of confidence. That confidence that I could study and write and understand things all by myself sustained me through a painfully shy adolescence and young adulthood, all according to God’s purposes for my individual life, long before I gave Him my heart. (“But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, died for us.” (Romans 5:8, AMPC).

Image result for free picture of teacher in classroomTo each is given. . . “ (I Corinthians 12:7) Now, many years later, it is a pleasure to use those skills in Bible study. Often, when I study and outline a Bible passage, I see Mr. Porter, in the center of his classroom, perched against one of the student desks he had arranged in a what was then a most unconventional circle, or I see Ms. Loftin, silver-framed reading glasses dangling on a a beaded chain around her neck, ever-present sweater buttoned around her slim form, walking along rows of desks, handing out graded papers, our grade and her carefully-considered comments neatly written in red ink above our names.

How good God is to give each of us abilities so that we can find pleasure as we use them for His kingdom! Whatever gifts God has given you (Romans 12:6, I Peter 4:10), I pray you find joy in developing and using them for the Kingdom. As for me and my work for God, as I sit here, reading and re-reading Psalm 91, seeking to understand what God is saying, I am grateful once again for teachers who trained me to outline, to group together similar thoughts so as to grasp and find words for things implied but not stated.

Line upon line, precept upon precept” (Isaiah 28:10) In the previous two blog posts about this treasured psalm, I said I believe the simplest outline and fundamental message of Psalm 91 is: if we make God our home and confidently trust Him, He will take care of us—no matter what!

While pondering Psalm 91 the last two weeks, in reading the whole psalm over and over, another outline that is instructive for me has emerged.

  • V 1-2–If we make God our home, and confidently trust Him THEN
  • V 3-4–He will deliver us and cover us, thus enabling us to find true refuge. THEN
  • V 5-9–From our chosen position within that secret place:
    > We will not fear (v. 5 and 6) and
    > We will be protected (v. 7 and 8) AND
  • V 9-13–As we obey and serve God, His angels will protect us and we will do exploits. (God repeats and explains the messages of verses 1 through 8 , giving details that reassure us.) AND
  • V 14-16–Because we love God deeply and serve Him, He gives us a peaceful, victorious, overcoming, satisfying and long life.

Two HUGE promises for us from God about being in the secret place. In verses 5 and 6, God gives us two promises about what happens when we dwell habitually in the secret place:

We will not fear, and we will be protected.

Image result for free picture of guardian angelIn the secret place, we will not fear. “You shall not be afraid of the terror of the night, nor of the arrow (the evil plots and slanders of the wicked) that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor of the destruction and sudden death that surprise and lay waste at noonday.[Then] . . . (verses 5 and 6)

In verses 5 and 6, God reassures us about things that might frighten us at night or by day and He uses the same pattern in verse 6, telling us we will not be afraid of any danger or destruction in darkness or at noonday. I believe that is another way of saying that He is keeping guard over us every moment, night and day. He is with us as He was with Abraham, and in Genesis 28:15 He promised Abraham “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land.” (NIV) This promise in the AMPC reads

And behold, I am with you and will keep watch over you with care, take notice of) you wherever you may go and I will bring you back to this land, for I will not leave you until I have done all of which I have told you.” (AMPC

Notice: Notice God says wherever you go, He says He will watch over you with care, and He will notice you. What little child doesn’t say, “Watch me!” to Mama or Papa as they hang upside down on the monkey bars or ride a bike without training wheels for the first time.

Image result for free picture of god watching over childChildren who are afraid of the dark are comforted by the presence of their parents and often want Mama or Papa to lie down in bed with them and snuggled them close. They may know Papa is in the other room, but sometimes they need to be in his arms and to feel him next to them. Although we know God will protect us, sometimes we need extra awareness of that truth. God gives that to us here when He repeats His promises. Just knowing Papa will come if he cries out helps a child who is afraid of the dark settle down and go to sleep. Even so, just knowing that we have a place in God where fear will stop helps us calm down.

Life in this world overflows with potential woes and worries, like sickness, disease and hurt from others. However, if we love and obey God, He will work it all out for our good (Romans 8:28 and Genesis 50:20) and it will not harm us (John 16:33). When beset by fresh troubles, I am finding it powerful to repeat to myself, “God will keep me safe in the secret place as I seek Him. I will be at peace and will be protected from anything and everything.”

Image result for free picture of secret placeIn the secret place, we will be protected. “A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not come near you. Only a spectator shall you be [yourself inaccessible in the secret place of the Most High] as you witness the reward of the wicked.” (verses 7 and 8)

If a place is secret, it means that the place is hidden from view, that it is inaccessible to others, and other people cannot find it. In the spiritual realm that must mean that the enemy of our souls cannot find where we are and cannot hurt us when we are in the secret place. It would be like a fawn, camouflaged by its coloring and the spots on its back, lying still Image result for free picture of fawn hidingand motionless, watching danger pass right by.

Two other psalms talk about God keeping us save in the shelter we create in our hearts when we are aware of His presence. Psalm 27:5 says, “For in the day of trouble He will hide me in His shelter; in the secret place of His tent will He hide me; He will set me high upon a rock.” (AMPC) Reading the entire psalm shows that the author, David, is dwelling in the secret place and he makes that his priority (verse 4)because he knows God will keep him “safe in His dwelling”. And where is God’s dwelling? That place in our hearts that we talked about in earlier blogs about Psalm 91.

And Psalm 31:20 explains “In the secret place of Your presence You hide them from the plots of men; You keep them secretly in Your pavilion from the strife of tongues.‘(AMPC) In Psalm 31, David is writing from the secret place. Notice he says “In You, O Lord, I have taken refuge. . . “ (Psalm 31:1, NIV) Throughout the psalm, David is asking for God’s mercy and talking with God about his troubles but David also repeatedly reassures his own soul that God IS his refuge and source of strength (verse 3), that God has not handed him over to his enemies (verse 8), that God has stored up abundant goodness for those who fear Him (verse 19), and that God will hide such a one and keep that one safe “in the shelter of His presence (verse 20). David ends this song of trust in God by recalling a time when God heard him in a seemingly impossible situation (verse 22). David concludes by affirming that “the LORD preserves the faithful.” (verse 23)

Keep seeking the One who loves you so! Beloved, if we run to the secret place and pour out our hearts to God, we will find peace and safety and fresh hope. The secret is dwelling in the secret place.

Keep seeking God! Keep pressing in and pressing on! As Paul said in Philippians 2:12-14, keep working out your own salvation, with deep reverence for God, knowing it is God who is working in you. And follow Paul’s example in Philippians 3:13-14–forget your past and “press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ is calling us upward.” The rewards of pursuing God are far greater than we can imagine! God urges us on when He says:

Image result for free picture eye hsa not seen verse. . . as the Scripture says, What eye has not seen and ear has not heard and has not entered into the heart of man [all that] God has prepared (made and keeps ready) for those who love Him, who hold Him in affectionate reverence, promptly obeying Him and gratefully recognizing the benefits He has bestowed]. Yet to us God has unveiled and revealed them by and through His Spirit, for the [Holy] Spirit searches diligently, exploring and examining everything, even sounding the profound and bottomless things of God [the divine counsels and things hidden and beyond man’s scrutiny]. (I Corinthians 2:9-10, AMPC)

Please reread this verse and notice how God describes the ones for whom He has prepared those things. He says those things we humans cannot even imagine are prepared for   those who love Him, who hold Him in affectionate reverence, promptly obeying Him and gratefully recognizing the benefits He has bestowed.”  May we truly love our indescribable Lord that way!