Monthly Archives: January 2020

The unseen wind of the Spirit

Image result for royalty free picture of morning in the city“As you do not know the path of the wind”  I stepped from the bus onto the sidewalk and into that strange light of predawn, just before orange enflames the edge of gray sky. I hitched the straps to my purse and lunch bag higher on my left shoulder and glanced at the index card in my right hand.

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit] gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8, NIV)

The cold wind blew open the flap of my coat, partly exposing a bright pink dress, one of three from my Mom. The pink clashed with the burgundy walking shoes, also a gift from Mom, but I was grateful the dress was not frayed and that the shoes were not tennis shoes, which they would have been but for her generosity.

As I walked, the biting wind whipped across the empty lots here at the edge of downtown, chilling my fingers holding the index card. I found myself wishing for gloves. As a single mom, money was spent with care, as was time. Each hour from pickup to bedtime I focused on my daughter. Bible study and prayer came after she was asleep or before she woke. Travel to and from the office was for memory work.

As I burrowed into my coat, I focused on verse 8. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“Yes!” I thought, “you cannot see the wind, but you know it is there by the effect it has, like moving tree branches. And the same with God’s Spirit. We know He is there by the effect He has!”

I pondered that nugget all that long day at the office. More often than I can count through the ensuing 30 plus years God has brought that truth to mind, just when I needed it. I am grateful for every bit of Bible truth I have hidden in my heart, but I do wish I had been more consistent with memory work. Why is memorizing the Bible so difficult?

Image result for royalty free clip art of hard workWhy does Bible memory seem so hard? Three obvious reasons come to mind.

[1] The enemy of our souls understands and fears the Word of God, so he attacks with all his might to keep us from getting the Word safely inside our heart, where he cannot steal it and where we have it ready to use at a moment’s notice. God’s Word is a blessed shield and sword in battles where the enemy shoots arrows of thoughts that can lead to negative emotions, such as anxiety and depression.

[2] An “I can’t” mind set. It may take countless repetition (especially if you are older, like me!) but we can do it. You did memory work at one time in your life or else you would not be reading these words. Our minds are not as quick as when we were children, but God will help us as we try.

[3] Making new habits takes persistent effort. Again, God will help if we try.

How to memorize. Hiding the Word in our heart is God’s will so we can ask for help, with confidence. “And we are confident that He hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases Him. And since we know He hears us when we make our requests, we also know that He will give us what we ask for.” (I John 4:15-16, NLT)

[1] Be strategic. Use a concordance to pick a verse or passage in your area of greatest personal need.

[2] Focus on one phrase at a time. Repeat that over and over until you know it. Do the same with another phrase. Then link the two phrases, repeating them until you know them both. Continue.

Image result for Royalty Free Clipart Of Index Cards[3] Keep the Word you are memorizing before your eyes. Carry your index cards with you and look at them during the day. Post another copy of your verse on your bathroom mirror, over the coffee maker, or the sun visor of your car. This is one modern-day version of Deuteronomy 6:7-9, of talking about the Word all day long and of keeping it visible before your eyes, as a reminder. If you have children, follow God’s command in Deuteronomy 6:7-9 and talk about the Word with them throughout the day.

[4] Be systematic and keep a record. Begin with your area of greatest need and ask God to lead you from there. Maintain a list of the verses you have memorized and review them regularly.

Benefits of memory work. Again, there are multiple benefits of hiding God’s word in your heart.

[1] You can resist the enemy at the outset of temptation or weakness, immediately and in instances where you cannot access a Bible, like Jesus did in Luke 4.

[2] God will bring verses to your mind when you need them, for yourself or for others. (Matthew 10:19)

[3] You will experience greater understanding in your Bible study, because you will have a bigger foundation of Bible facts in your mind. (Isaiah 28:10)

[4] You are obeying God and He will bless you. (Jeremiah 7:23)

My recent experience with memorizing. God has been so very gracious this past year to help me overcome life-long depression and fear. Diligent studying of the Word in my areas of need has made the biggest difference. I had to dig into the Bible for myself, me and Holy Spirit alone, rather than rely on what someone else had dug out of the Word. Memorizing scriptures has been a key factor as well. During my routine at the gym, while watching my grandkids play in a park, while standing in line at the grocery store, throughout the day I repeatedly repeated phrases from notes I carried with me everywhere.

Image result for royalty free picture of grass blowing in the windHis Word bears fruit in the garden of the heart over and over.   I got the idea for this blog post late one afternoon, while returning home after playing with my grandsons all afternoon. Leaving the warmth of family and facing the empty-feeling condo can be hard. But, I noticed the wind gently bending the lush grass bordering the sidewalk. Suddenly, I remembered that morning, more than 30 years ago and how often that piece of the living Word in John 3 had helped. And I found myself repeating the chain of scriptures I had memorized about God’s love and tender care. With my mind turned back to God–and out of the self-pity snare — the Lord, my Barny cat and I had a wonderful evening together.

I urge you: Persist! Perhaps you are like me, with years of sporadic memory work. Friend, you and I must in this, like Paul, forget what lies behind and press on in our journey with God. Ask God for His forgiveness, avoid that deadly snare of regret, and move forward, knowing that God delights in your efforts to draw closer to Him! He will help you. It may be in ways you do not understand and could never imagine. . .

“As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in the womb, so you do not understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” Ecclesiastes 11:5-6

 

No way? No way!

Image result for Free Picture Of Oak Tree Beside House

Nature does the impossible. The sound of the chain saw ripped the air as savagely as it ripped into the root of the grandfather oak. I thanked God for my friend who was leaning over, holding the chain saw over the exposed root of the tree. That root had travelled ten feet from the base of the tree, under the patio slab and on under the building, finally entwining itself around the water pipe, which had caused my kitchen wall in the kitchen to leak water.

“No doubt” I mused, “The folks who drew up blueprints for this townhome complex thought that they had positioned the buildings far enough away from the oak trees.

But they had not reckoned with the power of nature.

It only takes a little reaching out.  While in a group therapy session for depression, I heard a powerful metaphor about making even tiny efforts.  The illustration was that plant roots have tiny hairs reaching toward sources of water. Growth requires only an almost microscopic root hair reaching out. What a deep spiritual parallel for me!

Image result for Royalty Free Clipart of A Mustard SeedFaith like a mustard seed.  Psalm 103 says God remembers that we are frail humans and that He always keeps that mind. He knows we are weak and that believing things we cannot see is hard. That is why He does not require perfection – just a whole-hearted commitment. (Deuteronomy 6:5; Ecclesiastes 12:13; Micah 6:8). Surely that is one reason why Jesus comforts us in Matthew 17:10 with the promise that, with a tiny bit of faith, no bigger than a mustard seed, nothing will be impossible for us. Sometimes my faith feels about one sixteenth of an inch, but God keeps it alive and reaching out.

No way is there no way with God! The Bible is filled with stories of how God did the impossible for His children. Consider the Red Sea, the fiery furnace, Jericho, and Goliath. God made dry land appear in the middle of the sea, prevented three Hebrews from being burned while in the middle of a raging fire, made the walls of a fortified city fall down, and enabled a young shepherd boy to kill a giant with one small stone in a slingshot.

However—and here is the hard part—the Israelites had to step into the sea before it parted. The three Hebrews had to stand up for God and face the consequences. The Israelites had to march around Jericho a total of 13 times, and David had to step toward what appeared certain death. Likewise, you and I must take steps of faith, though we may feel afraid and though it may look impossible.

God will help us. Beloved, no matter how weak our faith, or how seemingly impossible our situation, God will help. He cares for every detail in the life of His children (Psalm 34:23). That means the same omnipotent God who created and sustains the universe, the same loving One who did all those miracles in the Bible,  is working in our lives. Our victory in Him requires only a tiny bit of faith, and stepping out (James 2:14-26).

And how do we get more faith and strength for that step?  Romans 10:17 in the NKJ says: “So, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Friend, let us study our Bible and so increase our faith that we may reach out to take hold of God’s promises with whatever measure of faith we have.

God is our “Way Maker, Miracle Worker, Promise Keeper, Light in the darkness” as the song by Sinach says. Click on the link below to see the comforting, faith-building words of this worship song and let your faith arise!

https://sifalyrics.com/sinach-way-maker-lyrics

 

 

 

God will always give us a hug

God knows when we need extra hugs.  “Meeow!” I ignored the sad sound and kept typing.

“Meeow!”

“You’re okay Barny. I’m working. In a minute. . . “

On the third meow, I put my laptop on the table, picked up the cat brush, and sat on the floor, pulling my beloved Tonkinese close, resting my forehead on his. His quiet purr revved up to a louder pitch as I rubbed his ears and crooned to him. When I pulled back and began brushing his coat, he pressed his head into my leg, a posture I had learned meant he wanted more face time, forehead to forehead. I put the brush down, leaned over and crooned “Good boy, Barny. Love you baby. You are my sweet friend.” Then he went back to sit quietly on his corner of my desk. My faithful and loving companion had craved just a few moments of my time and my affection, nothing else.

God’s love is available to us.  Because it has been a topic of recent study and writing, Image result for royalty free picture of child hand reaching to parent handsmany scriptures come to mind about seeking God’s presence. Two stand out: “God is with you while you are with Him.” (2 Chronicles 15:2) and “He earnestly imprints on His heart that we are just dust.” (Psalm 103:14, AMP.)  

God really is with us while we are with Him. 2 Chronicles 15:2 in the Amplified is “God is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him [inquiring for and of Him, craving Him as your soul’s first necessity], He will be found by you.” God is clearly saying that if we seek Him whole-heartedly, we will find Him. Unfortunately, I sometimes ignore my beloved Barny’s  whole-hearted plea for the comfort of my love and affection. How blessed we frail human beings are that our God is perfect and knows our thoughts (Psalm 139)! As our perfect Father, He knows when we need that extra reassurance, and the comfort of being especially aware of His presence.

God has imprinted our human frailties on His heart (Psalm 103:14). Psalm 103 is one of my go-to passages when I have stepped into the snares of fear and worry. Verse 13Image result for royalty free picture of parent carrying child reassures me that just like a father has compassion on his children, or loves and pities them, God “. . . loves and pities those who fear Him – with reverence, worship and awe.” Why is that? Verse 14 says because “He [earnestly] remembers and [imprints on His heart] that we are dust.” Human parents will instinctively pick up a tired child, soothe a crying  child, and feed a hungry child. When a nursing mother hears her infant’s cry, her milk is released or “lets down” – by instinct, automatically, with no effort on her part because that response is imprinted on her heart. 

Friend, our needs provoke a far more powerful response from our loving Father. All we have to do is ask and we will receive His mercy and loving-kindess, which endure forever. (Psalm 136:23) 

God hears our every cry. If I can be mindful of the tender nature and needs of my little pet, how much more is my almighty, merciful and kind heavenly Father aware of when I need some extra love from Him? No matter how low some moments of daily life may seem, I can remind myself that God has promised to deliver me out of all my troubles. “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their distress and troubles” (Psalm 34:19, AMP.)