Category Archives: ANXIETY

Compassed about with . . .

Image result for Public Domain Picture of rising FloodwatersFor this [forgiveness] let everyone who is godly pray—pray to You in a time when You may be found; surely when the great waters [of trial] overflow, they shall not reach [the spirit in] him.” (Psalm 32:6, AMPC, emphasis added.)

“Great waters of trial”.  “Father, You said to cast all our cares on You, so that is what I am doing, Lord. thank You for highlighting I Peter 5:6-10 to me last week. Help me have an attitude that pleases You as I try to just talk with You about what is on my heart, as I cast my cares on You. Lord, oh, please let me not complain or murmur! Help me just talk with You, as I would a human friend.”

I rocked slowly, so as not to spill the mug of chamomile, and watched as the horizon separated into bands of cobalt blue and pigeon gray. I snugged my thin house sweater closer around my shoulders.

“Father, I am so sorry but I feel so alone. I know You are right here with me, and in me and all around me. I know You have everything in my life and in this world in Your complete control. I know You will work everything out for my good, that You have only good plans for me. I know You are always working with those I love and pray for.

I am so grateful for the surgery but Lord I am so tired of dealing with recovery and still feeling so bad, without enough energy to write or do things I did just a few months ago. And I am so, so tired of fighting negative feelings!

Thank You that I know we are to resist the enemy at the onset of his attack on us. I know that helps the negative feelings not get a grip. I confess I have given in to his onslaught so many times these past few months.  And I know that is why I feel so bad now. The stress of those emotions has accumulated. Even though I know better, I surely know better, I have fallen into an emotional pit. Again. My foot has been snared and I am not moving forward with You.”

On the horizon, the orange glow expanded from a thin line to a broad band then fingers reaching out and up. I did not want to start this day. I leaned over and stroked Lily’s soft fur, wishing I could just hug her tight. No, actually wishing I could be hugged by someone big and strong, wishing I could just cry on someone’s shoulder. A long time. Wishing I could hear a deep voice murmuring close to my ear, “Everything will be all right. I have you.”

Seasons of trials. This writing is a little slice of life, my life as a frail and flawed follower of Jesus. You likely know, as I do, that seasons of trials, those unending days, weeks, or months when situations test our endurance, come to all of us.  What are we, as followers of Jesus, to do?  Count it all joy and exercise our faith. That leads to perseverance. And perseverance—when its work is finished—leads to maturity. (James 1:1-4) Yes, but our flesh! Ah, our weak full-of-feeling flesh!! Praise God that He earnestly remembers the weaknesses of our flesh (Psalm 103) and He always, always, always makes a way of escape from the world, the flesh, and the devil. (I Corinthians 10:13; Philippians 4:19: Isaiah 41:10; and Isaiah 43:16). And that includes emotional pits and snares that halt our progress on the path of maturity.

So, because by grace I have personal experience with these truths, yesterday morning I kept talking to the Lord as I fixed oatmeal, dressed for the day and put a water bottle and book into my gym bag.

Setting my mind. “Lord, I am going to just keep trying. I don’t want to. I just want to turn off my mind and stay on the couch. But I am setting my mind to keep moving forward with faith, to go on with the usual activities of daily life, my daily life, this day. I know You are faithful and loving and kind and merciful. I know You will deliver me from this trial. I know You will restore me to the joy of being aware of Your presence. I will do the things I know to do, like being purposefully grateful for what is in my hands, thinking how to help others, praying for them, and meditating on Your Word as I walk through this day, this day which I know is a gift from You, a true loving gift.”

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Notes on Kitchen CounterI picked up the three sheets of type-written Bible verses lying on the kitchen counter and read them over, once again. Yesterday, I had picked out three of my favorite verses about comfort and typed them all on one piece of paper, trying to keep them in mind all day long even though the dark cloud of emotions lingered still, like a cold, damp unwelcome fog.

“Let Your mercy and loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us in proportion to our waiting and hoping for You.” (Psalm 33:22, AMPC)

“The Lord is my strength and my impenetrable shield; my heart trusts, relies on and confidently leans on Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him.” (Psalm 28:7, AMPC)

“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 lovingkindness.” (Psalm 32:10, AMPC, emphasis added)

Image result for Public Domain Picture of 360 degreesCompassed about. “Oh, Father!  Thank You for this promise! That is what I need right now and all day, to be totally surrounded by Your mercy and lovingkindness, in every area of my life, in every moment today. Compassed about means to be completely encircled 360 degrees. It means to be hidden in You, with mercy and lovingkindness forming a shield around me so that the enemy’s arrows cannot touch me. I am trusting in You, Lord, I am relying on you and I lean on You with confidence because You have never, no never, no never failed me in any regard! Please do cover me with mercy and lovingkindness today.”

I stepped out the door into sunshine, down the stairs, along the sidewalk and into the parking lot. As I turned the ignition, the upbeat music filled the car. “Oh, Lord have mercy, have mercy on me!”  I smiled, a tight little smile.

“Thank You, Father. That song playing at just this moment is a pat on the head from You. Thank You!”

I listened to the music as I drove, then made that sharp left onto Jones at the bottom of a hill, smiling as I remembered my youngest grandson singing out “Wheeee!” as we made that turn on our way to the gym. My two grandsons were well into elementary school now, no longer with me during the day. How I missed them! But, as was my habit, I thanked God for every day I had been with them, realizing my great fortune as a grandmother who lived close. I also thanked God that my years of office work were done, no more of that frantic pace of life, always struggling to carve out enough time for prayer and Bible study.

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“The evidence of Your goodness . . .” As I drove onto the I-70 entrance ramp, I also thanked God, as I did so often, for all the years of His help raising my daughter. And, as always, love and concern for her and my now-expanded immediate family, surged up from the innermost depths. At just that moment, from the radio came “I see the evidence of your goodness all over my life, all over my life!” Tears immediately spilled over, ran down my cheeks and kept flowing.

Against the backdrop of that song, flowed a kaleidoscopic montage of treasured up and cherished memories,

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  • Sharon carrying the Holly Hobby tote bag I made for her crayons and coloring books to use during evening church service (Thank You, Father, that I was saved when she was young so she could learn about You when she was little!);
  • the family with two girls her age at whose house we had attended Friday night Bible study when I was first converted (Thank You for those Christian friends who gave such spiritual and practical help!),
  • countless snapshots of her smiling, laughing face as we did life together—evenings, errands, shared daily routines, inventive special occasions (Thank You, Father, for the friend who advised to “get involved with whatever she does and let other things go.”
  • the anonymous benefactor who paid her tuition at a Christian school for seven years,
  • the two twenties we had found under a box on the closet shelf that time she needed new shoes,
  • the steady merit increases at the civil service job, the pension from which let me retire and relocate to Austin for my grandsons’ preschool years.

So we would know how much God love us. Interwoven with the repeating refrain of “The Evidence of Your Goodness” flowed another song God had so often sent when things were hard. Playing on a parallel track in my mind was “So You Would Know” by Al Hobbs.

“How many times must I prove how much I love you?
How many ways must My love for you I show?
How many times must I rescue you from trouble
for you to know just how much I love you?

Didn’t I wake you up this morning?
Weren’t you clothed in your right mind?
When you walked through that problem
didn’t I step right in on time?
When you got weak along life’s journey
didn’t My angel carry you?
So you would know just how much I love you.

How many days must I be a fence all around you?
How many nights must I wipe your tears away?
How many storms must I bring you safely through
for you to know just how much I love you?

Didn’t I put food on your table?
show up when your bills were due?
When the pains were racking your body
didn’t I send a healing down to you?
When you were lost in sin and sorrow
didn’t I die to set you free
so you would know just how much I love you?
. . . so you would know just how much I love you

Image result for public domain Picture of church Choir I saw a much younger me standing in worship services, hands raised, tears flowing as the choir sang “How many times must I prove how much I love you?” So many, many years of faithfulness, more than forty now and never once letting me down in any way. The scenes kept playing through my mind as I drove and listened and wept

“Thank You, Father, thank You for all those years, all those times! You took such good care of  our physical needs, on my secretary-level salary. You were such a good father to Sharon and a husband for me. And You still are, Father. Help me embrace this beautiful life You have given, in every detail!”

I sat in the gym parking lot a while before the tears stopped. As I worked out, I remembered having written a blog post (December 2, 2021) on “The Wisdom and Safety of Giving Thanks” And I pondered.

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Angry ChildIf anyone is truly wise—the lesson of Psalm 105-Psalm 107.  Psalm 105 commanded Israel to thank God, rely on Him, and remember “the wonders He has done.” Psalm 105:8 through Psalm 106:43 recount countless times God’s people complained, forgot to remember what He had done for them and rebelled against Him. Yet God delivered them over and over when they cried to Him in their troubles. Psalm 107 ends with “Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the Lord.” (NIV)

Though I surely knew better, I had behaved just like Israel, and for how long now? Weeks? I had tried to be grateful but deep inside I had still been complaining – in the very face of Divine provision, just like the Israelites complaining about manna! Oh, how our desperately proud heart blinds us to faults we so easily see in others! Through those two songs and bringing Psalm 105-107 to mind, God had given me the same loving message three times in less than 30 minutes: “I have always provided for your every need and will continue because of how much I love you. You have nothing to fear, My child. I am with You this very moment.”

When my stubborn heart finally let go of self-pity, my ears finally heard what I needed to do and what would restore my soul to that blessed awareness of His presence that my complaining and doubt had hidden so many days. And what was that? Simply trust and obey.

Trust, really trust, and do good. Psalm 37:3 sums up the plan of action that, along with heart-deep gratitude, always gets me moving forward with God, even while still on “the dangerous heights of testing and trouble.” (Psalm 18:32-33)

“Trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) in the Lord and do good; so shall you dwell in the land and feed surely on His faithfulness, and truly you shall be fed.” (Psalm 37:3, AMPC)

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Father Holding ChildRecalling God’s goodness and expressing my gratitude to Him always rekindles trust and confidence in the Lord and makes me want to be about the business of living my life for Him. That, in turn, gets my mind off of self and self’s problems and focused on God and others. In more than 40 years, God has never once failed to reward the simplest of such little acts of obedience. Why, oh why had I been unable to do those simple things? True, prolonged illness then surgery and recovery can weaken anyone’s mental, emotional, and spiritual strength but I knew better! God had trained me how to keep my mind safely on Him and to focus on Kingdom work.

Our loving, forgiving, and exceedingly compassionate Father. God taught much through this latest cycle of trials, falling down, and, by grace, getting up again.

[1] I learned to be less critical of myself because I had ample time during this dry spell to contemplate the fact that we each have our own personal weaknesses. Two of mine are worry and, ug, self-pity. I also pondered how forgiving God is and that He really means it when He says He “earnestly imprints on His heart that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14, AMPC)

[2] I also recalled that, while on earth, we will never attain perfection but are always to be pressing on toward maturity (Hebrews 6:1-3).

[3] And, God demonstrated, through my failings, why He said to “put no confidence in the flesh.”  It is a blessing to feel secure and confident that that you can, by grace, guard your heart and keep yourself spiritually and emotionally strong. However, I had, unknowingly, been depending on my ability to guard my thoughts as I reassured myself that I was doing everything God had led me to do. I was leaning on me, not trusting in God. What ugly pride! What danger!

God will let us have no other gods before Him and that includes the toxic idol of confidence in self effort. To the extent that we depend on our own actions to keep us peaceful and moving forward, we will inevitably fail and fall. God will deal with our pride. He loves us too much to let us carry that lit stick of dynamite around!

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Father Walking with Little Girl One message of Psalm 32. As I ponder Psalm 32, I see the rich blessings of remaining in right standing with God. God instantly forgives when we openly confess our sins and iniquities to Him, including things we deceived ourselves about. If we do that, God keeps our spirit safe, even through great trials. God clearly teaches us how to live if we walk with Him willingly, and He completely encircles us with mercy and loving-kindness. Thus, in every aspect of our lives, His mercy and loving-kindness will be unmistakable.  We will truly be compassed about, completely encircled, with mercy and loving kindness.

“For this [forgiveness] let everyone who is godly pray—pray to You in a time when You may be found; surely when the great waters [of trial] overflow, they shall not reach [the spirit in] him.” (Psalm 32:6, AMPC, emphasis added)

“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 lovingkindness.” (Psalm 32:10, AMPC, emphasis added)

“Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you [uncompromisingly] righteous [you who are upright and in right standing with Him]; shout for you, all you upright in heart! (Psalm 32:11 AMPC)

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Away in a Manger/Inside My Own Heart

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Child PrayingInside my own heart, in God’s secret place,
I talk with my Jesus, we talk face to face.
Although I can’t see Him, I know He is real.
He gives me His peace, a peace I can feel.

Dear Reader: The following is a repeat of the December 2021 blog post, only with a different Christmas carol. The message still fits–I am still desperately and diligently studying and meditating on His Word. And my gratitude for His great grace grows each day.

I pray that He draws you closer than ever to Him this Christmas season, in the very midst of the craziness of the world.  He is the One Who “spreads a table before us in the presence of our enemies! (Psalm 23) So come! Feast on His love and His precious presence!

Image result for Public Domain Picture Of BibleDesperate about His Word. The short poem above, and the three stanzas below, can be sung to the tune of “Away in a Manger” while you go about your daily life this Christmas season. I wrote this poem two years ago [now three years ago], in the Christmas 2019 season. It is one of several poems singable to Christmas carol tunes, which you can find in the booklet entitled “Carols for Consecration” on the Books and More page of this website. They were all written as I was pondering Scripture.

Two years ago, I was learning how to maintain healing from life-controlling depression and fear, a healing God began in March of that year. What brought healing? Diligent, daily meditation on God’s Word. Two years ago, I desperately needed the constant reassurance this poem describes. Fortunately, that desperation led me to meditate on comforting Bible verses hour after hour, all day long, during every free minute, every day, week after week, month after month. God’s Word healed my heart after all else failed.

God has maintained the healing and helped me grow. How? By His grace moving me to continue delighting in His law and diligently meditating “on His law day and night.” (Psalm 1:2, NIV).

Still desperate about His Word. I am still desperate about His Word because I have learned I can do nothing without Him but that “I can do everything through Christ Who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13, NLT) By His grace I can now say to my loving, gracious Father:

“I will keep Your law continually, forever and ever [hearing, receiving, loving, and obeying it]. And I will walk at liberty and at ease, for I have sought and inquired for [and desperately required] Your precepts. (Psalm 119:45, AMPC)”

Image result for Free picture of Tree By Water. Size: 143 x 100. Source: pixabay.comI pray this and the other poems in “Carols for Consecration” move you to diligently meditate more and more on His truths, so that you may “have a constant supply of Living Water, that you may bear your fruit in season, that your leaf may not wither, and that all you do will prosper.” (Adapted from Psalm 1:3). To learn more about “Diligent Meditation”, see the booklet by that title on the Books and More page.

Below are the other stanzas of “Away in a Manger/Inside My Own Heart”

[2] He loves me each day, He loves me each night.
And all through the day He makes all things right.
He’s walking beside me, He is my best friend,
He’s with me forever, on Him I depend.

[3] Outside it is dark, outside it is cold
With Jesus inside me I’m strong and I’m bold.
I know He is with me, for I feel His hand.
He’s with me forever. He helps me to stand.

[4] No matter the problem, no matter the fear.
I trust my Lord Jesus. I know He is near.
He’s strong and He’s mighty and He cares for me.
He loves me forever. He simply loves me.

Dedicated with all my love forever, to my two grandsons.
Nana

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Keeping yourself calm – Part Three

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and a thank offering and into His courts with praise! Be thankful and say so to Him, bless and affectionately praise His name!

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Tiny Flower. Size: 135 x 100. Source: publicdomainpictures.netEnter His gates with thanksgiving. Something caught my eye as I closed the car door in the parking lot. On the edge of the sidewalk, a Lilliputian flower lifted its tiny face to the sun. As I had done when my grandsons squatted to inspect each roly poly, ladybug and beetle that crossed our path, I leaned close and smiled. One-fourth the size of a dime, the dainty blossom was a miniature daisy. Nearby, nestled among stalks of grass, other closed buds or buds just starting to open perched atop slender stems. Only that one flower fully opened itself, receiving the benefits of facing the sun.

“Thank You, Father, for drawing my eye to this dainty flower. Forgive me for focusing on troubles lately instead of speaking my gratitude all day, each day. Thank You for moving me to stop and praise You and to ponder the wonders of Your creation.”

Have you found, like me, that when you take time during the day not only to thank God but also to praise Him, to verbalize His many marvelous qualities, to admire Him, to adore Him, to pause and ponder all He is doing for you – have you found it brings awareness of His presence? This is the pearl of wisdom in Psalm 100. Verse four tells us to approach Him first by giving thanks and then to enter into His presence by praising Him. We are to admire Him and express our appreciation of Him affectionately and gratefully.  Psalm 22:3 tells us that God lives in the praises of His people. Somehow, I think a fresh part of His love, a living part of God Himself, might actually come down from heaven and merge with the part of His Spirit that lives in our spirit. In our thoughts and feelings of love toward Him we are one with Him.

May God grant us grace to keep our faces, like flowers, turned toward our loving Father, for He is ever looking toward us. He keeps watch over us with care, all day. Wherever we go He takes notice of us. This is our loving Father, our great and glorious but intimate King Who told Jacob:

 “ 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. Genesis 28:15 AMPC).

Oh, what blessings await us when we are mindful that God is with us!

In Parts One and Two, we saw that Psalm 93 and 94 reassure us of God’s sovereignty and tell us that God will give us the power to keep ourselves calm. With confidence that God will make a way, we can let our swords glint with the truths in this psalm:

  • When world situations seem to be going badly and
  • When external personal situations seem to be going badly, and
  • When our internal world floods with doubt and fear and our grasp on hope weakens.

Outline of Part Three. Here is what we will cover in Part Three.

  • Psalm 94, The message of Verses 16 through 23
  • Who will stand up for me?
  • God HELPS when we are desperate
  • God promises to make it easier
  • When I THOUGHT my foot had slipped
  • In the midst of great fear, God comforts and cheers
  • The way the wicked attacks
  • Seek God the way He says to
  • God’s strength
  • And what about the wicked?
  • Pray that God would grant the wicked repentance!
  • As for the godly?

Image result for public domain picture of father with open armsPsalm 94. The message of Verses 16 through 23. The last section of Psalm 94 (verses 16 through 23) shows that—while God is allowing the cup of His wrath to be filled–God stands up for us by offering refuge. His arms are always open toward His children, waiting for us to run into His shelter. Consider verse 22-23. The psalmist says “BUT. . .” –in spite of the attacks of the enemy and his great fear (all he spoke of in verses 1-21), God has become his High Tower and defense and the Rock of his refuge. How did the psalmist reach this place of trusting, strong confidence in God?

He learned to run to God, to let God be his Rock of refuge. In other words, he found the strength of God that comes when we take refuge in or lean on Him. Rock symbolizes strength and in Hebrew “of” can mean of, for, from or to. So, “Rock of refuge” can mean the strength of God that comes from taking refuge in Him.

God’s strength is made complete in our weakness as the strength of a man is made complete when a woman leans on a man. She can limp along the path, and eventually fall, even though he is inches away from her. But if she reaches out and leans on him and uses his strength, she can move forward and with much less effort. The superior physical strength of a man fulfills its purpose when he helps a woman. I do not fully understand it, but I believe the differences between genders is a parallel that models one way to draw on God’s strength. God tells us to lean on and rely on Him over and over and over yet again. It must be important!

Who will stand up for me? Psalm 94:16.

16 Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? Who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?

Verse 16 concerns what had happened in verses 17-19.  In considering how God helped him, the psalmist cries, in amazement, “Who could possibly have stood up for me against the evildoers? I was so very desperate, but God taught me to stay calm and let His ‘comforts cheer and delight’ my soul. Yet I had been truly desperate!”

God HELPS when we are desperate. Verse 17

17 Unless the Lord had been my help, I would soon have dwelt in [the land where there is] silence.

The psalmist says that things were so bad he felt like he would have died if God had not helped him. But God was his help. In Isaiah 41:10 God tells His desperate children: 10 Fear 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 and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.” (AMPC)

God reassures us that He is with us and that, because we have chosen Him as our God, He will BE our God. The enemy may shoot fiery darts at your mind, lies like “you can’t make it. I’m going to win.” But God promises He will help you. A child trying to clean up a spilled box of toys alone soon becomes discouraged, but as soon as the parent stoops to his level and helps, the child brightens. He is no longer alone, and the one who is everything to him and loves him is helping, and that one always takes care of him. Just the presence of the parent helps.  Even so, just being aware of God’s presence helps. And, God will help ease the burden – of everything we turn over to Him.

Image result for public domain picture of parent and child picking up toysGod promises to make it easier. And God promises to “harden you to difficulties”.  After papa or mama help a little child pick up his toys a few times, that child learns it is not so bad. The child has become hardened to the difficulty of having to pick up his toys.  It no longer upsets him so much. After God has gotten me out of emotional turmoil a few times, I am not as upset when it happens again. Why? Because God has strengthened and hardened me to that difficulty. No matter the difficulty God allows, He makes it easier for His child. He is always with us, always close, and very readily found. (Psalm 46:1)

23 The 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]. 24 Though he falls, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord grasps his hand in support and upholds him. (Psalm 37:23-24, AMPC)

God will help! Psalm 37. Reread verse 34 of Psalm 37 again. It says God will help His children who are good, or in right standing with Him. “Right standing” or righteousness does not mean perfect; it just means those who are following Him wholeheartedly. The definition of the simple word “help” encourages me. Help means to give support, to provide something necessary, or to make more pleasant or bearable. (Websters 1828 online dictionary). In the smallest or biggest thing you face today, God, your God, is right there beside you, waiting to help.  And this applies even when you feel you are going under, when you feel yourself wobbling. Part of helping is holding us up even when we feel we have fallen so far as to be beyond help.

When I THOUGHT my foot had slipped. Verse 18.

18 When I said, My foot is slipping, Your mercy and loving-kindness, O Lord, held me up.

Notice that the psalmist is talking about how he felt before God comforted him, when he thought his foot was slipping. If we start believing we are falling, we are in true danger because, in so doing, we step into the snare of fear. And fear grows rapidly, like the invasive poisonous weed it is. Fear destroys faith, chokes out all good fruit of the spirit and plants seeds that can grow into sorrow, unrest, hasty actions, and self-centered harshness born of desperation.

Consider Psalm 91. God says that if we dwell in the secret place of the Most High, God promises to keep us stable and fixed because He, Whom no enemy can stand up against, will be hovering right above, overshadowing us.  If we declare “He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust!” God says that THEN (which means if we do verses 1 and 2), then:

For [then] He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. (Psalm 91:3, AMPC)

Image result for public domain picture of bird snareIn Bible times, fowlers (trappers of wild birds) spread snares on the ground. Once a bird stepped into it, the snare closed and held the bird’s foot captive. If we live according to God’s will the best we can, we will less often step into fear because fear is never God’s desire for us. And, furthermore, when our feet of clay step off the path of light and into a snare, God promises to release our foot from the snare if we lean, rely, and confidently trust in Him (Psalm 91:1-3; Psalm 25:15).

While God is getting us out of snares we step into—whether a passing or lingering mood, a chosen lifestyle or circumstances we did not create—we can calm our soul and “Give thanks to the Lord, FOR He is good. His mercy and love endures forever.” (Psalm 136:1, NIV). God’s mercy and loving-kindness holds us up.

Keeping our mind fixed on God’s mercy and loving kindness is life-giving. Perhaps that is why God had the writer of Psalm 136 repeat “His mercy and loving kindness endures forever” in each of the 26 verses in Psalm 136.  This favorite temple psalm was chanted responsively, with the people responding “His mercy and loving kindness endures forever!” each time the priest made a statement about God’s mercy, loving kindness, goodness and faithfulness to Israel. I find it strengthening to read Psalm 136 out loud, slowly, pondering how God’s relationship to Israel parallels my own. I ponder how He rules over His beautiful creation into which He has placed me, how He set me free from enslavement to sin, how He led me, and continues leading me, through the process of maturity, how He helps me learn to possess the victorious life He promised, and so many more mercies!

Image result for public domain picture of parent and school childPause and ponder what mercy and loving kindness mean. Mercy can mean lenient or compassionate treatment, a fortunate circumstance or compassionate treatment of those in distress. Kindness means of a sympathetic or helpful nature, gentle, giving pleasure and relief, affectionate and loving. (Websters 1828 online dictionary). A wife can walk through the hard circumstances of her day with peace and strength if she knows her strong, merciful, loving and kind husband will be home at close of day to be with her. So can a child better endure daily trials because he knows he will soon be safe in a loving home, with loving parents and family. In trials of all kinds, we can know that He has promised help and relief, deliverance and His presence—and that is all day long, for He is ever with us when we are with Him.  (2 Chronicles 15:2)

In the midst of great fear, God comforts and cheers.  Verse 19. 

19 In the multitude of my [anxious] thoughts within me, Your comforts cheer and delight my soul!

In verse 19, it sounds like the psalmist is still in the snare of fear, with a multitude of anxious thoughts swarming his mind. A seed of fear has multiplied into a multitude of anxious thoughts. As looking into a multitude of anything is visually confusing, so facing a multitude of anxious thoughts breeds confusion. You are carried along with the multitude of negative thoughts and feelings as they swirl and build even as one fish is carried along with the school of other fish. Yet even then, God sends comforts that cheer and delight His tormented child. God’s comforts bring “renewed hope and cheer” ((NLT).

One of God’s richest never-failing comforts is truths from His Word that He brings to mind. The writer of Psalm 119 said “This is my comfort and consolation in my affliction: that Your word has revived me and given me life. (Psalm 119:50, AMPC)”.   Even though proud and arrogant men were mocking him (verse 51) he says “When I have [earnestly] recalled Your ordinances from of old, O Lord, I have taken comfort.” (verse 52, emphasis added).

Image result for Free Word Art of Calm. Size: 160 x 100. Source: ourlittleescapades.comHow much better if we can keep ourselves calm and refused to be seized with alarm (Freda!)  How much better if we can follow Paul’s example and let God comfort and encourage us “and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5, AMPC)

But when we do fall into the pit of fear or any state of non-calmness, we can declare the Word that we need! The sooner we identify the thing we are fearing and neutralize that fear with Biblical truth, the sooner we will be released from the snare. We can learn to speak declarations, like this one by Amy Duggins, “out loud and with authority!” “Fear, I see you. I refuse to partner with you and I command you to leave right now in the name of Jesus.”

Then we can neutralize that lie with God’s truth “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7, AMPC).

Amy’s post “Taking thoughts captive” at www.honorGodmindbodysoul.com will help greatly with this. Here is a link to that post.  https://tinyurl.com/yuame7ex

Image result for Public Domain Picture Of Darkness. Size: 138 x 106. Source: www.clker.comWhether the condition of non-calm comes because of blatant sin, the weakness of our flesh or an attack from the enemy, it helps to identify the lie. That forces it out of the darkness of the subconscious and into the light of conscious awareness. Then we can see clearly what truths we need to speak and meditate upon. I have found that repenting of past failures with those specific kinds of thoughts, as Amy suggests, is a powerful act of obedience. And God helps us form new habits of hand and heart.

The way the wicked attack. Verses 20-21

20 Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with You—they who frame and hide their unrighteous doings under [the sacred name of] law? 21 They band themselves together against the life of the [consistently] righteous and condemn the innocent to death.

The vicious, death seeking nature of Satan is the same in attacking us individually and in attacking our world. For a present-day example of verses 20 and 21 working in our world, look no further than daily news. Radical socialist progressive liberals now ruling our country are calling evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20). They call the murder of unborn children, sexual mutilation and perversion of children by teachers, open borders allowing drug and human sex trafficking, and a host of other evils good. They join together and speak a unified message of hatred and they join together in making and administering laws that harm and seek to destroy conservatives, and even more so those who follow God.

For sources that encourage by telling of the things God is doing—which mainstream media does not—see the “What is happening in our world today?” page of this website.

Back to verses 20-21 . . . Notice, though, that despite their boasting, the evil ones currently on the throne of our nation have no likeness with God; they are nothing like him. Their supposed “throne” is nothing like God’s actual throne. Remember the theme of Psalm 93 and 94? God IS sovereign. His vengeance is certain.  Look at the woes in Isaiah 5:20-23. God says woe to them because they have “rejected the law of the Lord Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 5:24b, NIV) God’s anger burns against them.  Unbelievers may joke about the wrath of God but in their hearts they have an idea of what great sorrows and distress and tribulations await them.

Image result for public domain picture of ancient fortressSeek God the way He says to.  God longs to be my High Tower and my Defense. He wants me to remain safe in Him, in the place of running to Him, while He wipes out the wicked.

22 But the Lord has become my High Tower and Defense, and my God the Rock of my refuge. 23 And He will turn back upon them their own iniquity and will wipe them out by means of their own wickedness; the Lord our God will wipe them out.

The psalmist links verses 20-21 with 22-23. He says that the wicked are attacking, BUT the Lord has become his refuge. Although he is being attacked, he is safe because he has run into the High Tower that is the name of the Lord. “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. (Proverbs 18:10, NIV)”

The psalmist is safe because he is depending on God.  He has, after a wilderness experience, learned to lean on his Beloved (Solomon 8:5). His dependence on and obedience to God have led him into the shelter of loving and serving God. He has acquired the strength that comes from turning to God.

As surely as any child ever stands behind his father, trusting him to fight for him, so the believer who is depending on the nature, or name, of God is safe and can be at peace.

Image result for Public Domain picture Of Mountain Goats. Size: 138 x 103. Source: www.publicdomainpictures.netGod’s strength. Psalm 18 praises and explains God’s strength for David. It was written after God had delivered him from all his enemies, including Saul. Psalm 18 teaches us that God’s way is perfect, and that we can also become “perfect”, as far as we can in our humanity, by becoming complete.  God makes our way of living complete when we learn to let Him give us his strength by leaning on Him. When we lean on Him, God grants the ability to stand and move forward even during seasons of testing and trouble. He gives us the nimble feet of mountain goats.

 As for God, His way is perfect! The word of the Lord is tested and tried; He is a shield to all those who take refuge and put their trust in Him. 31 For who is God except the Lord? Or who is the Rock save our God, 32 The God who girds me with strength and makes my way perfect?

33 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. (Psalm 18:30-33, AMPC, emphasis added)

No matter what the enemy says or threatens, God can give us the power to stay calm. This is our heritage from God.

But no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall show to be in the wrong. This [peace, righteousness, security, triumph over opposition] is the heritage of the servants of the Lord [those in whom the ideal Servant of the Lord is reproduced]; this is the righteousness or the vindication which they obtain from Me [this is that which I impart to them as their justification], says the Lord. (Isaiah 54:17, AMPC, emphasis added)

 And what about the wicked? While the righteous trusting ones are safe, trusting in their God, God will turn back upon the wicked their own iniquity and “. . . will wipe them out by means of their own wickedness; the Lord our God will wipe them out.” (Psalm 94:23, AMPC)

God warns us all very clearly. His Word teaches that God is merciful beyond human understanding but He is also just. Galations 6:7 tells us “Do not be misled–you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.” (NLT)

6 For He will render to every man according to his works [justly, as his deeds deserve]: To those who by patient persistence in well-doing [springing from piety] seek [unseen but sure] glory and honor and [he eternal blessedness of] immortality, He will give eternal life.

But for those who are self-seeking and self-willed and disobedient to the Truth but responsive to wickedness, there will be indignation and wrath.[And] there will be tribulation and anguish and calamity and constraint for every soul of man who [habitually] does evil . . .   (Romans 2:6-9a, AMPC)

Those who habitually do evil, who reject God’s repeated warnings, will get what they deserve. The evil they inflicted and planned to inflict on others will come upon them. “Whoever digs a pit [for another man’s feet] shall fall into it himself, and he who rolls a stone [up a height to do mischief], it will return upon him. (Proverbs 26:27, AMPC)” The NLT says “If you set a trap for others, you will be caught in it yourself.”

Image result for public domain picture of prayerPray that God would grant the wicked repentance! Far from rejoicing over the soon-coming fate of the wicked, we grieve for them and pray for them, that God may grant them repentance, resulting in salvation.

“. . . in the hope that God may grant that they will repent and come to know the Truth [that they will perceive and recognize and become accurately acquainted with and acknowledge it], 26 And that they may come to their senses [and] escape out of the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him, [henceforth] to do His [God’s] will. (2 Timothy 2:25b-26, AMPC)

We are obligated to pray for the wicked. 2 Timothy 2:25 tells us to pray for those who oppose us “ that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” (NIV). Intercessors for America is an excellent resource for prayer and for people with whom to partner in prayer. Go to www.intercessorsforamerica.org.

As for the godly? God promises to restore what the enemy destroyed and what he stole.

“ Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.

“For I, the Lord, love justice;
I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
and make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants will be known among the nations
and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”

10 I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
and praise spring up before all nations. (Isaiah 61:7-11, NIV)

Image result for public domain picture of jesus and little boyDear friend, whatever storm you are in, whether caused by our present evil world, circumstances of your life or an internal struggle, rest in these truths:

  • God is with you.
  • He adores you.
  • God uses the trials of this life to mature us. He never wastes anything. He IS sovereign. Whatever is happening did not surprise Him.
  • He has already made the way so that you can stay perfectly at peace.
  • He is reaching out his hand, hovering over you in love, this moment.
  • He will treat you fairly – and so so so much more than fairly!
  • He hurts wherever you hurt. He feels with you and for you and He has made the way for you to be comforted in His presence while he deals with the attacks of the enemy. His tender mercies never, no never, no never fail!

May we imprint on our heart that . . .

The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and abounding in mercy and loving-kindness. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works [the entirety of things created].

10 All Your works shall praise You, O Lord, and Your loving ones shall bless You [affectionately and gratefully shall Your saints confess and praise You]! (Psalm 145:8-10, AMPC)

Image result for Quotes About Eagles Soaring

 

Keeping yourself calm – Part Two

Hand On Your Heart Public-Domain“God’s Word is the power of God
in the human heart.”
(Halley, p. 184)

Review of Part One. In Part One we saw that both Psalm 93 and 94 concern the sovereignty of God. Knowing that God is eternally sovereign and that He reigns supreme over all He created inspires awe, which leads to holiness. Holding fast to the truth that God is sovereign helps create a calm heart.

Outline of Part Two. Here is what we will cover in Part Two.

  • The blessings of applying the psalms
  • Psalm 94 – three possible applications
  • Grace and mercy for today
  • Mountaintop overview of Psalm 94
  • Psalm 94, section by section
    • Vengeance belongs to God.
    • Who are “the stupid ones” among us?
    • Whose thoughts are useless?
    • Who are the blessed among us?
    • How do we get that power to keep ourselves calm?
    • Why does God want us to have this power?
    • Though you may feel alone, you are never alone. He is with you always.
    • God will administer justice.
  • Your particular trials.
  • Deconstruction and reconstruction.
  • Your present circumstance.

Image result for public domain picture of key Key verse:

12 Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man whom You discipline and instruct, O Lord, and teach out of Your law,

13 That You may give him power to keep himself calm in the days of adversity, until the [inevitable] pit of corruption is dug for the wicked.

14 For the Lord will not cast off nor spurn His people, neither will He abandon His heritage. (Psalm 94:12-14, AMPC, emphasis added)

As we explore Psalm 94, let’s keep in mind that it is connected with Psalm 93. The theme of both psalms is God’s majesty, the fact that He IS sovereign over all things at all times. These two psalms, I think, could be considered as one.

The blessings of applying the psalms.  As a new believer, I heard someone explain that the truths in the Bible apply to my life, just as they applied to the lives of the writers of Scripture. No matter the trial or tribulation, I can pray the psalms with confidence that my God is fighting for me and will deliver me from all my troubles. What a comfort this has been!

“Many evils confront the [consistently] righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. (Psalm 34:19, AMPC)

Applying this psalm. R. T. Kendall said: “One must not try to make a parable stand evenly on all four legs. That means one must be cautious in trying to make every nuance of a parable have a special meaning.” (p. xxviii, The Midnight Cry.)  All of a passage can apply to the actual situation discussed and at the same time parts of it can apply to other situations, especially the human heart. In Psalm 94, all the verses speak of God’s sure judgement on the wicked and His protection of the righteous during adversities. Most, if not all, the verses, also speak of God’s sovereignty over Satan’s attacks on the lives and hearts of His beloved little ones.

Psalm 94 – three possible applications.  For me, this psalm applies at all levels of life. God’s nature is the same whether He is dealing with the world, a nation, or an individual. Satan’s nature—whom God always defeats!—is also the same whether he attacks the world or individuals.

Image result for public domain picture of double edged sworWith confidence that God will make a way, we can let our swords glint with the truths in this psalm:

  • When world situations seem to be going badly and
  • When external personal situations seem to be going badly, and
  • When our internal world floods with doubt and fear and our grasp on hope weakens.

Even if we feel our grip on hope is slipping, God never, no never, no never relaxes His hold on us – most assuredly not! (Hebrews 13:5, AMPC)

Grace and mercy for today. Whatever the cause of a non-calm soul, Holy Spirit will comfort, counsel, and help us. He is our advocate and our intercessor and He will strengthen us (John 15:26, AMPC).  In Psalm 94 we find grace and mercy to help us in our time of need.

I need to hear of God’s compassion for my humanness. I need to hear that He understands just how I feel, and that He does not condemn me for being human, rather that He is touched by and feels what I do. I need to hear that others through the centuries felt as overwhelmed as I do sometimes.

I need to hear God reassure me that His mercy and loving-kindness will hold me up—today, this moment (Psalm 94:18.) I need to be reminded that, as I lean on Him and trust Him, I can say to God: “In the multitude of my [anxious] thoughts within me, Your comforts cheer and delight my soul!” (Psalm 94:19). I need to lean on God.  I need the strength and comfort that God put in His Word specifically for you and me, specifically for this very hour, for such a time as this. (Esther 4:14).

Image result for public domain picture of mountain top viewMountaintop overview.  Following is how I see Psalm 94 from a mountaintop perspective.

1-11: The psalmist pleads with God to give the wicked what they deserve.

12-15: I am blessed when God is training me because His training will give me power to keep myself calm in adversity, knowing that God will bring justice for me. So, I will not waste my life fretting or being in fear until that happens.

17-19:  I was defenseless and very anxious in my heart and felt I was slipping, but now You, God, have taught me to stay calm and to let You comfort and cheer and delight me.

20-21:  I know evildoers will not stay in power – they are not like You, God, Who truly are Sovereign.

22-23 : I will remain safe when I run to you and thus let You be my Refuge and my Defender. And I know You will wipe out the wicked by means of their own wickedness.

Psalm 94, section by section.
Vengeance belongs to God.

1-2      O Lord God, You to Whom vengeance belongs, O God, You to Whom vengeance belongs, shine forth! Rise up, O Judge of the earth; render to the proud a fit compensation!

Here, the psalmist asks God to give his enemies the punishment they deserve and he acknowledges, twice, that vengeance belongs to God. Possessing the right and power to administer just punishments—vengeance—is part of God’s sovereignty. This is true regarding things happening in our world, in our personal worlds and in our souls.

People tend to remember first and last parts of messages.  The certainty of God’s vengeance for His people is almost the last thing Moses reminded the Israelites of before he blessed each tribe, climbed Mount Nebo and died. On that day, Moses gave a long speech (Deuteronomy 12:1 to 33:29), that ended with his discourse on vengeance and a reminder about living by the Word. After reminding the Israelites of God’s vengeance, Moses reminded them that setting their hearts and minds on all the words he had taught them and teaching them to their children was their very life—not an “empty and worthless trifle.” Rather it was a valuable and precious treasure, a matter of life or death. By that, they would live long in the promised land.  (v. 46-47).

See the source imageTo be victorious, to abide in the promised land today, that condition of life where we see God’s promises fulfilled in our life:

  • We must keep our minds fixed on His sovereignty—which includes His sure vengeance. His vengeance against the enemy’s attacks on our life circumstance and our soul is just as certain as God’s vengeance against what the enemy does in the world.
  • We must be careful to live by His Word and teach it to our children – as if our life and our children’s lives depended on it — because they do. If no children are under our influence, we must help other believers learn to live by His Word – by what we say and how we live.

God’s pending vengeance on the wicked – then and now. The psalmist says to God – look what the wicked are doing, arrogantly boasting of their power and afflicting God’s people and, by neglect, killing those who cannot defend themselves

Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph and exult? They pour out arrogant words, speaking hard things; all the evildoers boast loftily. They crush Your people, O Lord, and afflict Your heritage. They slay the widow and the transient stranger and murder the unprotected orphan. Yet they say, The Lord does not see, neither does the God of Jacob notice it.

The pride and arrogance of wicked, godless world and national leaders comes from Satan himself. The defeated enemy of our souls is also proud and arrogant when he attacks God’s beloved ones through finances, health, relationships, and work. He is equally as vicious and deceived into believing he will win when he attacks our soul.

Who are “the stupid ones” among us? In verses 8 to 10, the psalmist says such people—all those who think God does not see them–are stupid.

Consider and understand, you stupid ones among the people! And you [self-confident] fools, when will you become wise? He Who planted the ear, shall He not hear? He Who formed the eye, shall He not see? 10 He Who disciplines and instructs the nations, shall He not punish, He Who teaches man knowledge?

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Crown and Robe and Scepter. Size: 150 x 118. Source: digitalcollections.nypl.orgThe psalmist, in wisdom, observes that God, Who made eyes and ears, sees and hears them. And this sovereign God who controls the nations of the world and Who is the source of all that is—this sovereign One will punish evil. And we know He makes even evil things turn out for the good of His children. “We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose. (Romans 8:28, AMPC)

God has a specific plan for each of us. And each day of our life is already decided by God before we were ever born. If we believe God is sovereign, this truth is easier to grasp. Ponder Psalm 139:16 –ponder all of Psalm 139! Then do it again!

Whose thoughts are useless?

11 The Lord knows the thoughts of man, that they are vain (empty and futile—only a breath).

This verse seems to conclude God’s statements in verses 8 through 10. This verse says it is not only the thoughts of the obviously wicked that are useless, but the thoughts of all mankind. Truly, without God we are nothing and can do nothing. Just as God hears and sees all we say and do, so He knows all we think and feel.  (Psalm 139:4). Without Him, our thoughts have no power, serve no true purpose and are fleeting as breath. But . . .

Who are the blessed among us?

12 Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man whom You discipline and instruct, O Lord, and teach out of Your law, 13 That You may give him power to keep himself calm in the days of adversity, until the [inevitable] pit of corruption is dug for the wicked.

In contrast to the uncomfortable truth in verse 11 that our thoughts are useless, the psalmist then comforts us by explaining that our thoughts can be trained so that they become useful!  God trains our minds and hearts – through discipline and instruction and teaching out of His law—SO THAT He can give us a very useful thing. That useful thing is the power to keep ourselves calm during adversity.

God’s dear children must learn to stay calm in trouble because: (1) Life in this fallen world includes “troubles, trials, distress, and frustration” (John 16:33) and (2) growing up into who God wants us to be in Christ is also includes “troubles, trials, distress, and frustration.” We are butterflies who must gain strength while struggling against the cocoon. Open the cocoon prematurely, and the butterfly dies. Let the potential butterfly struggle and it becomes a thing of beauty to all who behold it.

Image result for Public Domain Picture Of Power. Size: 135 x 101. Source: publicdomainpictures.netHow do we get that power? How do we get that power to keep ourselves calm during any adversity? Through letting God discipline and instruct and teach us out of His law. It is a process.

A baby learns to walk through experience with the law of gravity.  She takes a step, falls down, tries again and repeats the experience, acquiring a bit more balance and power with each fall. Babies must actually wobble and fall down. To learn to swim, you must actually be in the water, interacting with the laws of flotation and moving in water. Practicing swim strokes on dry land will not work. Children do not learn to save money until they actually feel the pinch of an empty piggy bank. Learning to keep ourselves calm in adversity, requires being in actual adversity!  Selah, my soul (pause and calmly think of that.) O, selah!

Our compassionate Father teaches and trains us although the painful parts of training hurt His heart more than a human parent’s heart. He does that because He longs to bring us to maturity, to the point where we, like Israel, no longer depend on idols but rather on Him and Him alone. We must learn to say:

I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp.
Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me. (Psalm 131:1b, 2, NLT)

Why does God want us to have this power? God does not want us to suffer unnecessarily. Also, it takes time for the cup of God’s wrath to be filled. Finally, adversity usually affects our heart, “out of which flow the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23). God says to guard our heart “above all else” and with all diligence. He wants us to stay calm in His arms while He carries us through life. Whether we feel it or not, He does carry us close to His heart – from birth to old age.

“Listen to me, descendants of Jacob,
all you who remain in Israel.
I have cared for you since you were born.
Yes, I carried you before you were born.
I will be your God throughout your lifetime—
until your hair is white with age.
I made you, and I will care for you.
I will carry you along and save you.  (Isaiah 46:3-4, NLT)

See the source imagePause now and fix in your mind a picture of a small child carried close against his father’s chest. What do you see on that child’s face? Peace. Contentment. Safety. Security. Love. That is what God wants you to feel, no matter if He is carrying you over a raging river, across a dry dessert, through a pounding thunderstorm, or into a peaceful valley. You are safe in His arms. Oh, for the faith of a little child, that we may enter and dwell in the Kingdom.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”  (Mark 10:14b-15, NIV.)

Though you may feel alone, you are never alone. He is with you always. (Joshua 1:9, Deuteronomy 31:6). We can find countless reassurances and examples of this truth in His Word. If we engrave His Word on our hearts, His Word will shield and fight for us when we are troubled. God does carry us, close to His heart, and He will work justice for us.

Image result for Public Domain Picture Of Scales Of Justice. Size: 150 x 150. Source: cliparts.coGod WILL administer justice. Verse 14-15. We can be calm because we know God is fair and just and loving and He will bring about good for us.  He is sovereign, He never forsakes us, and He will work justice.

14 For the Lord will not cast off nor spurn His people, neither will He abandon His heritage. 15 For justice will return to the [uncompromisingly] righteous, and all the upright in heart will follow it.

The more we know about God’s character, the calmer we can be. We can ponder the fact that just as much as vengeance belongs to the Lord, so do mercy and loving-kindness.  We can ponder that, as the pit is inevitable for the wicked, even so is a loving result for those whom God is disciplining and instructing.

When facing adversity and affliction, we can rest in the truth that we are blessed because God will not leave us, and we will be treated fairly. Four facts seem to be part of the same thought in God’s mind. I believe He wants all four facts in our minds when we think about adversity.

  • We are blessed, even in trials, because God will use every situation to train us. . .
  • . . . because He wants us to have power to keep ourselves calm.
  • He will never leave us and
  • He will treat us fairly (much, much more than fairly!)

Your particular trials. The current world situation has led to exploding levels of depression and anxiety. Dealing with our world is the point of struggle for many. For others, the point of struggle involves what God is doing in our life and heart.

We all experience unsettled emotions throughout life. And the process of training—failing, falling and rising again—is the same regardless of whether we become unsettled because of the world at large, our personal external world or the world within that is our heart. We all go through the process of struggling against the weight of the world and sin outlined in Hebrews 12:1-12. Think about it.

God used world situations to develop character in those living during World War II, just as He used the enslavement in Egypt, the journey to the Promised Land, and the Roman persecution. He determines when we are born, and it is no accident you and I are living today. He will use every aspect of life in 2022 to train us.

See the source imageDeconstruction and reconstruction. After forty plus years of gratefully walking with our loving Father, I have repeatedly experienced seasons of being deconstructed then reconstructed, those times when you think you have this Christian life going pretty well and then a wheel falls off. I can sit on the ground, crying over my scraped knee, feeling mad at God and my tricycle. I can sit and do nothing and let hope ebb out even faster than the blood running down my knee and thus open my mind to the lies of the enemy.

Or I can lift up my shield of faith, pick up my sword of truth and reach up to my tender and merciful Father. I can let Him comfort me and clean me up and do needed repairs on that wobbly wheel and axle. Then together, we can move forward on that special path of life He has prepared for me. Together, we can “make progress on the dangerous heights of testing and trouble.”  (Psalm 18, especially verses 30-33, AMPC)

Friend, no matter what causes one of your wheels to fall off—a behavior or addiction you thought was defeated, sickness of a loved one, loss of your job, or things in this crazy world–God will use it for your good. Ponder the life of Job, of Joseph, of David and of Paul. “For God does not show favoritism” (Romans 12:11, NIV)

Image result for public domain picture of stone chiselYour present circumstance. I once read:

“The present circumstance, which presses so hard against you, is the best-shaped tool in the Father’s hand to chisel you for eternity. Do not push away the instrument, lest you lose its work.” Anonymous.

Like that loving and wise mother watching her son struggle with his tricycle, God lets us endure what we must so we can be equipped to prosper in this world. And He feels each physical strain and pain, He knows each fearful thought. He keeps each and every tear in a bottle.  (Psalm 56:8). Every tear? That is what God says.

God WILL bless us! Fellow struggling saint, we can rest assured that, no matter the source of our adversity, God will bless us if we fear and revere and worship Him. And He will be our sweet, oh so sweet, Companion.

Who is the man who reverently fears and worships the Lord? Him shall He teach in the way that he should choose. 13 He himself shall dwell at ease, and his offspring shall inherit the land. 14 The secret [of the sweet, satisfying companionship] of the Lord have they who fear (revere and worship) Him, and He will show them His covenant and reveal to them its [deep, inner] meaning. (Psalm 25:12-14, AMPC)

Image result for public domain picture of god holding childThe love God feels for us is unutterably tender. It is unutterably powerful. He Who holds the world in His hands holds us. He Who watches over every sparrow watches over us and never sleeps. This sovereign, compassionate, merciful and loving One Who IS love, loves us with an undying love. Oh, how He loves you and me!

In Part Three, we will finish Psalm 94. The last section of Psalm 94 lets us see how holding to the truth of God’s sovereignty calms our heart, no matter the adversity.

 

Keeping yourself calm – Part One

See related image detailDear friend, this study of Psalm 93 and 94 will likely be three or more parts. I am still working on it. I do not know what God is doing with my Bible study times and writing but I know He is working for my good and drawing me closer, though the process of growing is painful. Whatever you are doing and wherever you are, I fervently pray you take time to get alone with God and His Word and let Him draw you closer, directly, you and Him alone.  God is getting ready to shake our world, and we must learn to hear Him clearer and clearer.

Topics in Part One: Here is what we will cover in Part One.

  • The blessing of discipline and instruction
  • Getting the tricycle up the steps—the lesson of Psalm 94:12-13.
  • God’s timing is perfect
  • The central message of Psalms
  • Book IV of Psalms
  • Psalm 93 and 94 – the majesty of God
  • Calmness conquers fear
  • Overall message of Psalm 93 and 94.
  • Pondering Psalm 93
    • God is eternally sovereign.
    • God reigns supreme over all He created.
    • Awe leads to holiness.
  • Calm for that unseen world within

 The blessing of discipline and instruction

12 Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man whom You discipline and instruct, O Lord, and teach out of Your law,

13 That You may give him power to keep himself calm in the days of adversity, until the [inevitable] pit of corruption is dug for the wicked.

14 For the Lord will not cast off nor spurn His people, neither will He abandon His heritage.

15 For justice will return to the [uncompromisingly] righteous, and all the upright in heart will follow it.  (Psalm 94:12-15, AMPC, emphasis added)

Image result for public domain picture of boy and tricycleGetting the tricycle up the steps—the lesson of Psalm 94:12-13. I heard a story about two women sitting in the backyard, watching the young son of one of the women struggling to get his tricycle up the steps to the back porch. Leg braces hindered the four-year-old’s efforts. Thoroughly angry, one woman, not yet a mom, asked the other “How can you sit there and do nothing? Don’t you see your son needs your help? He has braces, for pity sake!”

Tears streaming down her face, the boy’s mother said, “I do see.” She paused to gulp down a sob. “But if I help him now, he will never learn to do it himself.”

Beloved, I believe this is a picture of what God feels as He watches our struggles, each moment, each hour, each day—whether our struggle comes from the evil in our world, from some hard thing in our personal world or from the process of God’s loving discipline.

He could, of course, make our individual troubles and those of this desperately evil world disappear in the blink of an eye. And He can give us peace in a moment. I am sure He has done that countless times for you. However, we will never grow into the strong, brave and courageous person He called us to be in this world – until He grants us the power to keep ourselves calm in times of adversity. (Psalm 94:12-13)

See the source imageGod’s timing is perfect. I began working on “God’s Arsenal for Peace and Security” in September 2020. This is one of the nine Bible passages that are the foundation of that book.  While trying to finish writing about those nine verses, God kept leading to other topics. Possibly one reason is that I need Psalms 93 and 94 today even more than two years ago.

Let’s examine these two Psalms, which are the framework for Psalm 94:12-13. They will strengthen, encourage, and equip us to bear up under hardships of our larger world, our personal world and of the discipline process. We can learn to bear up with joy and victory and peace! And, thus, we will delight the heart of our loving, ever-watchful, ever-faithful, ever-present Father in heaven.

Friend, we can learn—yes, we can!!—to calm ourselves like a weaned child (Psalm 131:2) and just rest in the presence of our loving Father. He is watching you and me, you know, each second of each hour, in our good times as well as in our struggles, just like that mom watching her son. And He never sleeps. (Psalm 121). He feels what we feel.

Let’s see what God says about this concept that sometimes He lets us struggle so that we may be strengthened and healed. God wants us strong, and He love us enough to do whatever that takes. Never forget, though, that He feels our hurt more than we ourselves do. God feels what we feel. And He loves us enough to let some small, momentary hurts work a far, far greater and exceeding weight of good and glory! ((2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Image result for Public Domain Picture Of Trust. Size: 143 x 104. Source: alearningaday.comThe central message of Psalms. According to Halley’s Bible Handbook (2000, Zondervan), the leading ideas in the psalms are trust, praise, rejoicing, and God’s unfailing love, but

“Trust is the foremost idea in the book, repeated over and over. Whatever the occasions, joyous or terrifying, it drove David straight to God. Whatever his weaknesses, David literally lived in God.” (P. 321)

That bears repeating: trust is the foremost idea in the book of Psalms. The AMPC reveals that trust in God means to lean upon, rely on, and hope confidently in God. (Isaiah 26:3-4, AMPC). Beloved, God knows what you and I need and, like the perfect and compassionate and loving and merciful Father He is, He has already abundantly supplied for our every need and that includes discipline and instruction as individualized as our fingerprints. He wants us to train us how to live with confidence and sure hope.

Book IV of Psalms. Psalm 94, which is linked with Psalm 93, is in Book IV of Psalms. Here is how Halley labels these 16 psalms (Halley’s Bible Handbook, Zondervan, 2000, p.342-343)

  • Ps 90 The Eternity of God
  • Ps 91 A Hymn of Trust
  • Ps 92 A Sabbath Hymn of Praise
  • Ps 93-94 The Majesty of God
  • Ps 95-97 The Reign of God
  • Ps 98 A Song of Jubilant Joy
  • Ps 99-100 God Reigns—Worship Him
  • Ps 101 A Psalm for Rulers
  • Ps 102 A Prayer of Penitence
  • Ps 103 A Psalm of God’s Mercy
  • Ps 104 A Nature Psalm
  • Ps 105-106 Two Historical Psalms.”

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Mountains. Size: 173 x 100. Source: www.publicdomainpictures.netPsalm 93 and 94 – the majesty of God.  This collection of 16 psalms in Book IV teaches about God’s nature, why we can trust Him, and what our response must be. Part of why we can trust God is His majesty, His royal power. Halley commented that Psalm 93 and 94 speak of:

“God’s majesty and the destruction of the wicked and the power, holiness, and eternity of God’s throne. From everlasting, God reigns forevermore. Wickedness is prevalent in this world, but in the end, God’s justice prevails: the doom of the wicked is certain. This is one of the most frequent themes of Scripture.” (p.340, emphasis added)

Halley wrote this comment in 1961, when Halley’s Handbook was first published. What reassurance and comfort it gives us in 2022!

God obviously wants us to keep this truth in mind or He would not have made it such a central theme in the tapestry of Scripture. I believe one reason is because HE knows our frame (Psalm 103). He understands and—through Jesus—actually is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15). He knows our human weaknesses. He knows how easily we become discouraged in the face of difficulties and wickedness. He knows what Satan wants to do and how he operates.

Calmness conquers fear. God also knows Satan’s principal weapon is fear. It is said that fear appears 365 times in God’s Word.  He tells us repeatedly how to conquer fear. Part of conquering fear is learning how to keep ourselves calm. That requires knowing truth and it also requires practice walking in truth.

What truths held in consciousness calm fear?

  • God is sovereign–far, far, far greater than whatever troubles us (Psalm 93).
  • God loves us (John 3:16).
    God has good plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • God promises to make everything turn out for our good if we love Him (which includes obeying Him) and if we are called, or living, according to His purpose, being “conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:28-29). That includes everything. Period.

Image result for public domain picture of worldThese truths deliver us from fear and the mistakes fear causes us to make in three circumstances we face today. In each circumstance, the doom of the wicked is certain and the defeat of Satan is just as certain.

  • In distressing times for the world at large,
  • In distressing personal times, and
  • In distressing seasons of personal chastening and discipline

Let’s strengthen our hearts by studying more about His supreme power so that He can become, as the psalmist said, “. . . my High Tower and Defense, and my God, the Rock of my refuge. “(Psalm 94:22, AMPC)

Overall message of Psalm 93 and 94. These are the main ideas I see.

PSALM 93
(1-2)   God is King, majestic and immovable because of His strength and power.
(3-4)     He has reigned from everlasting, and is mightier than humanity and wicked nations.
(5)       It is appropriate for His people to be holy – separated from sin and heartily obeying Him.

Psalm 94
(1-2)   (The psalmist cries) Rise up, O Lord, You Who owns vengeance!
(3-7)  Look at what the wicked are doing and they mock You.
(8-10)  People are stupid if they do not know that God, Who created seeing and hearing, hears and sees them. This God Who teaches man knowledge also disciplines AND instructs AND punishes nations.

(11-15) God knows that man, with his worthless thoughts, needs discipline and instruction from God’s law IN ORDER TO learn to keep himself calm while God is preparing judgement for the wicked  BECAUSE God will not abandon His people. God will treat the righteous justly.
(16-19) (David knows that, SO he says) I know God will be my help against evil doers and will comfort me while He is working.

(20-21) Those evil ones temporarily in power have no part in God.
(22-23) BUT I have fellowship with God, who is covering me, and my God will, in His vengeance, wipe out the wicked by their own wickedness.

Image result for public domain picture of mother holding childThus, we see why we can keep ourselves calm no matter what. We can learn to keep ourselves calm whether Satan’s evil is manifesting itself through national and world leaders, someone or some circumstance in our personal sphere or through our flesh as we undergo discipline or chastening.

Pondering Psalm 93.  In the first of these two psalms about God’s majesty the psalmist praises God and blesses God.  The psalmist is perceiving how and who God really is, and he is speaking to God about what He has perceived. He is telling God that he is aware of, that he has perceived, His sovereign power and dignity, the grandeur of His kingship, the splendor of His very being – His royal nature.

We are privileged to see into a sacred, intimate moment between God and the writer of this psalm, a moment of reverent worship. The psalmist is adoring God, worshipping Him with words of awe and respect and love as he ponders and gazes upon God, as surely as any lover ever adored his beloved. Aware of God’s omnipotence and His faithful love, in deep reverence the psalmist might have whispered, “It is fitting that Your people, oh God, be holy, separate from sin and trusting in you and heartily obeying You.”

Let’s consider the details of what was said in Psalm 93.

God is eternally sovereign. V. 1 “The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty; the Lord is robed, He has girded Himself with strength and power; the world also is established, that it cannot be moved. Your throne is established from of old; You are from everlasting.”

God is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelations 17:14; 19:16). He is the ultimate king of all that is. Nothing and no one is, ever has been, or ever will be above Him.  As Moses said in Psalm 90:2b “. . . from everlasting to everlasting You are God.” Think about Psalm 104:2 that says “God wraps Himself with light.” God is light – yet He wraps Himself in light. In Psalm 93:1, God, Who is majestic, clothes Himself in majesty. Selah!

God reigns supreme over all He created. V. 3 The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up the roaring of their waves.  The Lord on high is mightier and more glorious than the noise of many waters, yes, than the mighty breakers and waves of the sea.

Image result for Waves Crashing at NightThe ocean seems—and is—powerful, especially so when its waves roar. But in verse 38:11 in the book of Job (also often attributed to Moses), God says He specified just how far the proud waves of the sea could come.  In Job 38:8-11, God asked Job: ““Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt.” (NIV).

Throughout the Bible, God often reminds us that He “stretched out the heavens”, that He is the creator and sustainer of the ends of the earth and all that is in and on it. He reminds us of this again here. This One, this all powerful One Who loves us and watches our every step,  He is the One who tenderly told Old Testament saints not to fear for He was with them and not to be afraid for He was their God (Isaiah 41:10). This One told His storm-tossed disciples not to fear when they saw a figure walking on water moving toward them.  (John 6:20)

Awe leads to holiness.  V5.  Your testimonies are very sure; holiness [apparent in separation from sin, with simple trust and hearty obedience] is becoming to Your house, O Lord, forever.

With the truths of the first four verses in his consciousness, the psalmist is filled with reverent awe. He is more aware of Who God is and His power. Unstated, I believe is his awareness that he is but dust, a passing vaper in comparison. Filled with awe, he says it is right that he should separate himself from the world and worship and serve this mighty sovereign Ruler of the world. He perceives it is the right thing to be holy.

Image result for public domain clip art of holinessThe clarifying phrases in the AMPC here show us that holiness will be obvious when we do three things:

  • separate ourselves from sin,
  • have child-like trust toward God and
  • vigorously and cheerfully obey Him. This is proper and pleasing.

Reread this psalm slowly. Pause and ponder as God guides your heart. If we imprint the truth of God’s sovereignty on our spirit it will guard and garrison our thoughts and feelings. Truth will completely encircle us with peace, no matter the outward circumstances.

Calm for that unseen world within. God’s truths are an impenetrable shield. We need that shield for today, for the world at large, for our personal world, and for the world of our hearts, for that unseen world within each of us, that place where God tenderly works each day . . .

  • That place where He faithfully speaks the light of His truth into our darkness as regularly as He commands the dawn,
  • That place where He calms the storms of our soul as easily as He calms the roiled waters of the vast oceans,
  • That inner world where He commands violent winds to settle to gentle zephyrs.

Image result for public domain picture of sparrowsYes, this great and high and Holy One, this One

  • Who watches over each creature He has lovingly made,
  • Who clothes His flowers with splendor beyond that of kings,
  • Who carefully paints each individual sparrow with shades of brown and white and black according to its kind, and then feeds each one until its little body falls to the ground and, I believe, then takes it back home to be with Him eternally.

Let us consider His works and His love and stand in awe. (Job 38:1-42:6).

So, therefore, with all that in mind, I ask myself: If that is how this mighty Sovereign, our all-powerful King, cares for His beloved earth and each creature in it, how much more does He care for you and me? How much more does He long to strengthen our faith so that we can keep ourselves calm?

Friend, if we seek Him today, with all our heart, we will find Him. (Jeremiah 29:13)

When we are with Him, He is with us (2 Chronicles 15:2) and His presence will bring His peace, for He Himself is our peace.  (Ephesians 2:14)

“He is calm who believes God is sovereign.”
Craig Scroggie.

Eagle Soaring Over MountainsThe One Who commands the eagles to soar
loves you forever, forever more,
Therefore, take heart! Be strong in your trust!
For the One Who has made you
is mindful you’re dust.
Yes, He knows your frame,
knows just how you’re made
and He longs that you know —
the price has been paid.

In Part Two we will explore Psalm 94. Until then, may the truths in both these psalms calm our troubled hearts and minds, for He Who made us cares for us far, far, far more than we can know.

 

 

 

 

The comfort of His presence

Image result for Public Domain picture Of Sunrise in Woods. Size: 135 x 100. Source: creativemarket.comThat which goes beyond understanding. Sometimes, whether because of the “tribulation and trials and distress and frustration” of this earthly life (John 16:33, AMPC), stumbling with spiritual disciplines or the unavoidable hardship of God’s loving discipline (Hebrews 12), I cannot feel God’s presence. I know—beyond all doubt—that He is always with me but sometimes a cold fog of feelings blinds the eyes of the soul.

Then suddenly, having done nothing but persevere, shafts of light pierce the veil. Like the light of dawn grasping earth by its edges to shake the wickedness of night out of it (Job 38:13, AMPC), the light that comes from awareness of His love shakes distress away. Love Himself pierces the heart afresh from the inside out and, like a mother tenderly brushing away baby tears, He collects our tears in His bottle (Psalm 56:8). And He comforts us.

Friend and fellow pilgrim, I truly doubt human words will ever express how awareness of His love feels any more than words can describe that peace that exceeds human understanding. I pray you know that peace that “garrisons and mounts guard over our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7, AMPC). Awareness of His presence, His love, and His peace is His desire for us.

I share the following personal experience, in detail. I pray it enriches your awareness of His constant presence and unfailing love today and whenever trials of this life cloud your own heart, those times of your own high places. May this help us both remember that God lovingly uses hard times to equip us. He makes us “able to stand firmly and make progress on our dangerous heights of testing and trouble” just as He equips the deer with feet able to stand firm and move on high and dangerous mountains.

33 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.  (Psalm 18:33, AMPC)

The Lord God 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]! (Habakkuk 3:19, AMPC)

Trying to be grateful, trying to be strong. Oh, Father! Thank You for this couch. You had just the right one, brown and long enough to stretch out on, ready for me. Thank You for our lovely condo. Thank You for helping me find that picture of the path and that mirror. Thank You for helping me learn to be grateful and for teaching me that stopping to thank You for things around me turns my heart to You and away from the hard things of life. Thank You that I know this heaviness will lift. Thank You that. . . “

Seated on the couch, I faced the tiny alcove framing the fireplace I had hidden with a bookcase. Atop the bookcase, perched on a brown and gold set of nesting boxes my grandsons had played with (perched on the boxes because nails would not penetrate the gray tile of the alcove), stood an unframed painting of trees bordering a path leading into bright light. Impressionistic, and using only shades of brown, white and gray, it carried the eye outward, expanding the room. Next to the painting of the path stood a mirror, framed in deep brown wood embellished with ornate scrollwork. A lavish peace lily in a brown pot and an ivy in a white pot stood in front of the mirror, next to the oscillating fan which compensated for the lack of an overhead fan. In front of the bookcase stood a floor lamp, ornate scrollwork adorning its wide base and top. Coffee-colored fringe trimmed its octagonal lamp shade.

In front of the alcove, a luxe pillow sham—its shades of nut brown, buff and black a feast to my eyes as the pattern swirled in mind-relaxing complexity—hung over the white fabric of the rocker. Khaki tassels trimmed the area rug which consisted of squares of brown and gold and beige patterns. Alternating panels of solid cocoa and white embroidered with beige flowers hung from an ornate curtain rod, with the tassel my youngest grandson had loved to play with hanging from the end. The rich, old world look of my front room, in soft and rich browns, with touches of white, had been achieved over a span of more than two years and with thrift store items.

“Thank You, Father, for getting all this together. It is beautiful to my eyes. Father, help me be grateful! I am grateful but the effects of this long summer, being trapped inside much of the day because of the heat and all the stresses lately have done something. Forgive me for feeling frustrated and impatient with all the health problems. I know You are working! Thank You for keeping me moving forward, though it feels like one inch at a time. Oh, Lord! Help my ungrateful heart!

See the source imageNever alone but feeling like it. I had just returned from a 7:30 stress test and echocardiogram. All the way home I had fought a familiar and despised self-pity about one more doctor visit and one more procedure alone. A long-time single, it was hard not to think how comforting it would be to have someone to just go with me or to come home to and talk about it all with. I resisted those thoughts because I knew God was with me. I also knew married people can feel as lonely as singles, sometimes more so. Yet, feelings are feelings, and I wanted just to be with someone. I had stopped at a cafe for tea and a treat, which usually lifted my spirits but today had only accentuated my solitude and now, now I was at home and alone.

And I was trying, I was trying to be grateful.

“Lord, I am so sorry for how I feel. I do thank You for all You have given me, including my wonderful, loving family who live so close. Help me, Father. I know my thoughts are not pleasing. I am complaining just like Israel did when You gave them manna. Oh, Father! Forgive me and help me get my attitude right!”

Image result for public domain picture of toddler handsStirred memories . . . overwhelmed emotions. The drive to the stress test had been down Lamar Avenue, the urban street that traverses the spine of Austin. Rich memories had been deposited all along its circuitous route. Sixteen years ago, I had first visited Austin when my daughter and son-in-law relocated there. On my visits, we often drove down Lamar to go to Whole Foods. Four years later, when I relocated to Austin, to be a happy grandmother, I had driven the length of Lamar to get to the chiropractor, until I found one on my side of the river. It was along the southern end of Lamar that I had taken my first grandson every week to buy diapers and baby lotion and such at the department store. Eighteen months later, Ben and I had driven the full length of Lamar to pick up some baby equipment for his newborn brother while Papa was with Mama at the hospital. As Ben grew, we still made those weekly diaper runs down Lamar to the department store but he was soon old enough to sit with me in the orange and white booths of the café in the corner after we shopped.  He played with coffee stirrers and cup wrappers as we each had an oatmeal cookie.

Mama and I alternated days with the boys once little brother Ansel was older. One especially memorable day when I had Ansel he and I drove down Lamar to that same supply store to get some more equipment and we stopped for French fries after. When Ansel went with me on the diaper run, he liked to stick coffee stirrers into his crackers and play with the tiny coffee creamer cups I had emptied. Such sweet, sweet companionship with my boys!  It had been wrenching to see them start kindergarten.

For the last five years, I had driven down the south end of Lamar, alone, for school pickup, the highlight of my day. Driving through that stretch of Lamar this morning had reinforced the painful truth that school started next week. The summer, filled with wonderful days with the boys, was ending. I was not ready to see them move up another grade, to grow a little older, a little further away from me. I felt the loss ripping at my heart with each hug, each “I love you, Nana”. Ah love! Such pleasure when experienced and such pain at its loss! The looming separation from my boys had brought the fog of self-pity over my heart.

The miracle of loving. I leaned over and picked up Lily and carried her to the kitchen counter. Speaking softly, I dampened paper towels with warm water and gently wiped her eyes, then her face and ears, our anti-allergy morning routine which had been overlooked in the rush to get out the door.

“My sweet Lily bugs,” I crooned as I picked her up and pressed her close to my chest under my chin. I walked to the couch murmuring “My sweet, sweet baby girl.” I sat down with Lily by my side and began brushing her face and neck, stroking the velvet of her sides and back. As soon as I released her, she jumped to the floor and swiped at the mouse on a string propped against the basket of cat toys.

“Okay, girl. Here we go.” I swished the mouse back and forth, another daily routine. I knew it helped keep her happy and active.

“Father,” I prayed. “Thank You so much for my darling Lily. She is such good company and it helps so much to have someone to take care of and to love on. . . “

That’s when it happened, that overwhelming awareness that God was right there with me, that unexplainable knowing that He understood, and felt, just what I was feeling. My throat tightened. Tears fell.

He feels our feelings. “God, I guess when you give love to someone and take care of them it feels almost like someone is caring for you. That’s why you gave me Lily, and all the other cats through the years, isn’t it, for all the hours alone at home. That’s why you gave me my family, each one of them. I remember how comforting it was to hold my Sharon and take care of her all those years so long ago. Loving my little Lily helps so much, Father. Thank You! I cannot see Your face and I cannot touch Your hand and I cannot hear Your physical voice but I know You are here.”

I sniffed, blinked and continued staring straight ahead. Two Scriptures came to mind.

“The Lord 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; but if you [become indifferent and] forsake Him, He will forsake you.” (2 Chronicles 15:2, AMPC)

10 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 the right of their necessity]. (Psalm 9:10, AMPC)

Image result for public domain picture of father whispering to childI paused in my thoughts. The awareness that God was there was something like what you sense when someone comes up behind you but has made no sound or when you sense that someone is watching you. It felt like God was saying to me . . .

  • I love you, My little child.
  • I see you. I always see you, and I am always, always, always with you.
  • I am pleased with your efforts to please me. They are as precious in my sight as the pictures Ben and Ansel draw for you.
  • I adore you just as you are.
  • You need do nothing to earn My love.
  • Just as you adore your grandsons, so I adore and accept you, and far, far more.
  • I know your heart. I understand your struggles with fear and worry and keeping life going as you make your way in this dark world. That is why I touched your mind as you loved Lily. I want you to feel the comfort of My love. I want you to feel My presence.
  • You have not displeased Me. I have not removed Myself from you. I am with you and I will always be with you.
  • Some times and some seasons of feeling separated from Me are necessary. This is just as when you train a child. But see! I have prepared you with all you need through the Word we have together planted and nurtured in your heart! My living Word has sustained you through these last weeks when darkness seemed to cover My face and you do often felt I was not with You.
  • Know this truth, My child: I AM with you always!

Our loving God of all comfort. So, dear friend, I am posting this narrative though it seems a bit too personal. I want you to know that whatever you are feeling today, God is right there with you and He understands and He longs to communicate His love to you. He longs to take care of whatever need you have. He is our perfect Father. If human fathers are moved when seeing their children in need how much more is the Father of our spirits moved by our distress?

God has made a special way of loving you that is for only you and Him, a way that no one else in the world shares. Yes, He is that involved in each detail of your life and He has taken that much care to make the way that He can comfort you and love and guide you. That way is as unique as the pattern of whorls on your fingertips. I sincerely pray that He broaden and deepen that channel of communication between you and Him.

One last thought about God’s love for you. One of my favorite passages about God’s comfort is 2 Corinthians 1:1-11. I found this verse more than forty years ago when I was reading the Bible through for the first time after being saved. Back then, my deepest pain was fear that I could not take good enough care of my daughter alone. God has never once let us down and never ever failed to give comfort when I turned to Him.

Today, I noticed that the NIV clearly shows God’s comfort produces patient endurance of sufferings.

If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. (AMPC, emphasis added)

Then, while reading the AMPC, I noticed that each time the word comfort appears in the text, “consolation and encouragement” follow in the amplifying parenthesis. Consolation means to lessen the grief, sense of loss or trouble” of someone. And encouragement means, of course, to inspire, or to breath, courage and hope into someone.

So, I pray that God, through letting you perceive His presence and through your study of His Word, lessens whatever distress you feel. I pray that He breathes fresh and abundant courage and hope into your soul, and that He works your individual experience out for your good, to produce even greater endurance–with greater awareness of His presence–in the very midst of your trials.

But if we are troubled (afflicted and distressed), it is for your comfort (consolation and encouragement) and [for your] salvation; and if we are comforted (consoled and encouraged), it is for your comfort (consolation and encouragement), which works [in you] when you patiently endure the same evils (misfortunes and calamities) that we also suffer and undergo.

And our hope for you [our joyful and confident expectation of good for you] is ever unwavering (assured and unshaken); for we know that just as you share and are partners in [our] sufferings and calamities, you also share and are partners in [our] comfort (consolation and encouragement). (2 Corinthians 1:6-7, AMPC, emphasis added)

“The Lord 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.” (2 Chronicles 15:2, AMPC)

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I will not fear – Isaiah 41:10 – Part Three

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“ Fear 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 and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.” (Isaiah 41:10, AMPC)

Review of Parts One and Two: In Part One we talked about diligent Bible study and meditation and the historical context of Isaiah. We surveyed Isaiah 40 and 41, which show what happened to Israel when they were taken captive by the enemy of our souls, led to idol worship and, because of that, were taken into exile. They were taken out of the location where God’s promises were fulfilled. They were taken out of Jerusalem, the focal point of the land God had put them in and sustained them in when they obeyed and served Him. We highlighted the main threads of thoughts in Isaiah 40 and 41, setting the stage for a deeper look at Isaiah 41:10, which is one of God’s sure cures for loneliness and fear.

In Part Two, we saw that God understands fear and He has a sure cure for loneliness and fear, no matter the circumstances because God is Creator and King over all that is, ever has been, and ever will be. Keeping our mind on Him and recalling Who He is and what He is like brings peace. This works even though we are surely living in the terrible times described in 2 Timothy 3:1-9. Now, more than ever in our lifetimes, people are

“lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” (NIV)

How to live in the present darkness of our world. Paul’s next words tell Timothy how he is to live in this kind of climate, which is to continue in Paul’s teaching and study the Word. Why? Because “All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16, NIV). That last phrase “so that servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” reflects the message in Psalm 1. Psalm 1 promises blessings if we do not live like the evil and wicked ones around us but rather live righteously and keep our minds on and follow the Word.

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Grazing Sheep. Size: 170 x 104. Source: pxhere.com Another passage with the same idea is Psalm 37, which says do not fret about the wicked things and people around us. Rather, God says we to “Trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) in the Lord and do good; so shall you dwell in the land and feed surely on His faithfulness, and truly you shall be fed (Psalm 37:3, AMPC).  Notice: God says if we whole-heartedly trust God and do good we will live in the land and feed on His faithfulness. God says “truly you shall be fed.”  Pondering all of Psalm 37 is a great weapon to use against fear and panic that desperate situations can bring, situations like the current condition of our nation.

The second half of Isaiah 41:10. Recall the context of Isaiah 41 and recall that in Isaiah 41:10 God tells His exiled people: “Fear 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 and harden you to difficulties; Yes, I will help you; Yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.” (AMPC).

Look at the promises God gives in Part B.

  • I will strengthen you and harden you to difficulties;
  • Yes, I will help you;
  • Yes, I will hold you up
  • And retain you
  • With My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.

Let’s consider each of these promises.

“I will strengthen you and harden you to difficulties.” The Word abounds with promises of God’s strength for His obedient children. One of the most often-quoted verses is Isaiah 40:31, which is in the same context as 41:10.

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (NIV)

Notice the condition in Part A of this verse which we must meet if we want the promises in Part B – we must hope in the Lord.

“But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired.” (AMPC)

Think of times in Scripture when the enemy attacks the hope of God’s people, times when there seems no way out and Satan tempts them to give up, or as Job’s wife put it “Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9, NIV). Think of Israel at the Red Sea, Elijah after Jezebel threatens his life, Jonah after his shading vine withered, Nehemiah who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and Ezra who restored worship. All faced direct attacks on their hope. And the enemy uses the same attack today. We must know the Word and use it, for in the Word we have God’s promises of help and deliverance and a multitude of stories of deliverance in the face of impossible odds.

We can have God’s strength IF we believe in Him, adhere to Him, trust and rely on Him. We must exercise our faith as did our spiritual ancestor Abraham “[For Abraham, human reason for] hope being gone, hoped in faith that he should become the father of many nations, as he has been promised, So [numberless] shall your descendants be.” (Romans 4:18, AMPC)

Study and meditate on verses about strength. Ponder—and believe–Deuteronomy 33:15 where God promises “As the days, so shall your strength be” (NKJV)

Image result for public domain picture of lifting weights “. . . and harden you to difficulties.” The hardening in the second half of this phrase is a good thing because God is saying He will change us so that we can endure hardships with grace and peace. As we obey Him and seek to grow, He will help us become more like Paul so that, we too, can say: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.”  (2 Corinthians 4:8-9, NIV.) God will equip us to not lose heart so that we, as did Paul, will know

“. . . though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly, we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16b-18, NIV)

Arming ourselves with the right attitude toward troubles. The right attitude, like Paul had, is armor for our mind. Consider First Peter 4:1:

So, since Christ suffered in the flesh for us, for you, arm yourselves with the same thought and purpose [patiently to suffer rather than fail to please God]. For whoever has suffered in the flesh [having the mind of Christ] is done with [intentional] sin [has stopped pleasing himself and the world, and pleases God]. (AMPC)

See the source imageGetting that right attitude. How do we get this attitude, so that we have the same mind, or attitude, that was in Christ and which Paul had acquired? Paul tells us in Philippians 2:1-13. Pause and prayerfully consider that passage now.

In Philippians 2, Paul says we are to make God glad by considering others (not just ourselves) and by imitating the humility of Christ. Just as Christ humbled Himself and carried his obedience to the extreme, so are we to carry our obedience to God to the extreme, with whole-hearted fervor, holding nothing back.  Part of that is completing our salvation, working it out, realizing that it is God who is working in us and that He will give us His strength.

 For it is [not your strength] but it is God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13, AMPC)

<<When we are exiled, for any reason, we are to keep on obeying and serving God—to the extreme—and we are to press on to even more maturity right in the midst of hard circumstances.>>

Mediate on these passages about the process of maturity and the right attitude toward trials: James 1:1-16, 2 Peter 1:5-10, Romans 5:1-5. As you do so, keep in mind that God promises He will ‘harden us to difficulties.” Does God ever, ever, ever lie? Does God ever, ever, ever have favorites? That means God will change you so that you can bear up under trials.

“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 power to keep himself calm in the days of adversity, until the [inevitable] pit of corruption is dug for the wicked. (Psalm 94:12-13, AMPC)

“Yes, I will help you.” Recall again that Isaiah 40 thru 56 are promises of divine deliverance for Israel. Reread Isaiah 40, where God tenderly comforts His people, reassuring them of His omnipotence and pleading with them to remember what they have been told: that if they wait, expect, look for and hope in Him, He will give them strength, like an eagle’s. He will help them. And consider Isaiah 41. God repeats “I will help you” three times (verses 10, 13 and 14) and the entire chapter gives details of how He will help them.

Think about what help means. To help is “to give assistance or support to (someone): to provide someone with something that is useful or necessary to achieving an end”. Also, “to make more pleasant or bearable”, to improve or relieve. Also “to change for the better” and “to keep from recurring.” (Webster’s 1828 online dictionary).

Help is one of the things God promised when He commissioned Joshua to lead Israel into the Promised Land. (See Joshua 1:1-9) God told Joshua the Promised Land was already his, that no one would be able to stand against him, that God would be with him as He was with Moses, but Joshua was to be strong and very courageous, he was to do all that God had commanded through Moses and he was to meditate on the Word day and night. God ends His charge to Joshua by saying, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be terrified or dismayed (intimidated), for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (AMPC). Notice why God told Joshua not to be afraid—because God promised He would be with Joshua – everywhere he went!

The writer of Hebrews 13:5 (believed to be Paul) refers to this same promise of never-failing Divine help. Paul says we must learn to be content with what we have because God has promised help. Listen to how detailed God is about the help He promises:

For He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake you nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! Assuredly not!” (Hebrews 13:5b, AMPC)

That means that in every situation, in every aspect of every situation, God will support, help, and be with us. Know that, hold that in your heart, and keep standing in faith. With that verse in mind, we can do like Paul says in verse 6. “So, we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper, I will not be seized with alarm. [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What can man do to me? “

Image result for public domain picture of father and teenage daughter One final thought about the phrase “Yes, I will help you.” Can you hear that God is aware of our doubt? Imagine a father, who, having told his seven-year old daughter she can stay up late responds to her quizzical expression with “Yes, you can stay up late.”  God is telling us, YES, I will help you. He will make your life more pleasant and bearable. He will help you, yes you!

“Yes, I will hold you up and retain you. . . ”  Notice that God uses the same sentence structure for this next phrase. He wants to convince us that He will hold us up and that He will retain us which means to “keep something in place.” The phrase “to hold up” implies that the one being held is about to fall. God says of the righteous that “Though he falls, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord grasps his hand in support and upholds him.” (Psalm 37:24).  Can you see a baby learning to walk, holding on to his parent’s hand? Does that parent ever let go and let that baby fall to the ground?

In Psalm 139, David tells God he knows that God is with him always and understands his every thought. In verse 9 David says to God: “If I rise on the wings of dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (NIV) In speaking of a time when his feet had almost slipped, another psalmist—Asaph—said that even when he was embittered, senseless and arrogant “Nevertheless I am continually with You; You do hold my right hand.”

Even when we lack strength to go on, when we cannot find our right attitude, God still holds us.  “He tends His flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart. (Isaiah 40:11, NIV). His promise to carry us is forever. God says “Even to your old age I am He, and even to hair white with age will I carry you. I have made, and I will bear; yes, I will carry and will save you.” (Isaiah 46:4, AMPC).  And how will this wonderful One help and hold us up and retain us? With His righteousness.

Image result for Public Domain Picture Of Justice. Size: 143 x 101. Source: www.public-domain-image.com “with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.” (AMPC) The KJV says “with the right hand of My righteousness.” Righteous means “acting in accord with divine or moral law: free from guilt or sin” (Webster’s 1828 online dictionary). In proclaiming the name, or explaining the nature of God, Moses says ‘He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God Who does no wrong, upright and just is He.” (Deuteronomy 32:4, NIV) And what is justice? Justice means “being what is merited” or “deserved”. In a word, justice mean fairness. Although God is exceedingly merciful (Psalm 145:8) He is also just and fair, which means we get what we deserve.

Consider these verses.

  • Romans 2:7-8: “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, He will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. (NIV)
  • I Peter 4:7-8 “For the time [has arrived] for judgement to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will [be] the end of those who do not respect or believe or obey the good news (the Gospel) of God? And if the righteous are barely saved, what will become of the godless and the wicked?” (AMPC)

The Word is filled with promises that those in right-standing with God will be rewarded according to their deeds—with eternal life and eternal blessings beyond what we can imagine now and after this earthly life. The Word is also filled with promises that the wicked will be judged according to their deeds, here on earth and for all eternity. “If the righteous receive their due on earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner!” (Proverbs 11:31, NIV).

Stand strong in your faith! God will judge the evil and wicked people who are now freely strutting about because “what is vile is honored by the human race.” (Psalm 12:7, NIV). Do not listen to the enemy’s whispers that things will continue to get worse. God is already judging the wicked and exposing what they have been doing. But you will not hear about that if you listen to mainstream media. Start listening to Victory News and Flashpoint, read the praying citizen and the Mario Murillo blogs. Check out the “What is God doing?” page on this website for more resources and use them!

If you are not already, get in the fight! Do not let the enemy lie to you that your prayers for our nation and our world do not matter! They do! Get informed and do something! Write or email your government representatives, speak the truth of what is happening to those you know, ask God what else you can do, and pray, pray, pray with faith! The greatest awakening in human history is starting to unfold, and we must stand strong and take our place in the battle.

“Let not your heart be troubled! (John 14:1) Do not get discouraged when, besides the things we see in the world, you have personal trials! Dust yourself off, encourage yourself in the Lord like David consistently did and get back in the fight! We win because the battle is the Lord’s and God NEVER, NO NEVER, NO NEVER FAILS!!  Do not neglect this privilege of joining with the heavenly hosts and God Himself to fight against evil. Gird up your loins, take up your weapons, strengthen your weak arms and knees, and after you have done everything – keep standing. Sound the alarm on God’s holy mountain and say with me, “Let God arise and His enemies be scattered! (Psalm 68:1)

The God Whose we are and Whom we serve is the same God who threw the horse and rider into the sea, closed the mouth of lions, kept His children through the fire, opened prison doors, and turned the world upside down with a handful of people filled with holy fire. This is our God!

This is the One whom the devil once defied and mocked through Goliath. And what did God’s servant David say to Goliath?

(45) “You are coming to fight against me with a sword, a spear and a javelin. But I’m coming against you in the name of the Lord Who rules over all. He is the God of the armies of Israel. He’s the one you have dared to fight against.

(46) This day the Lord will give me the victory over you. I’ll strike you down. I’ll cut your head off. This day I’ll feed the bodies of the Philistine army to the birds and wild animals. Then the whole world will know there is a God in Israel.

(47) The Lord doesn’t rescue people by using a sword or a spear. And everyone here will know it. The battle belongs to the Lord. He will hand all of you over to us.” (I Samuel 17:45-47, NIV) (emphasis added)

And God did exactly that through a young, unknown, outwardly unimpressive shepherd. Many today have listened to the taunts of Satan and have backed down and stopped fighting. Let us not be among those who shrink back and displease God (Hebrews 10:38). Rather, as we fight, let us take courage and let our hearts be stout and enduring!

“Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14, NIV)

Listen! Do you hear the shofar? Join the fight and keep fighting! God is with you and He will help you. Yes, He will help you! He will never, no never, no never forsake you, or leave you without help – never, no never, no never! Most assuredly not!

When the Israelites rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem faced great opposition from their enemies, Nehemiah told them:

Do not be afraid of the enemy; [earnestly] remember the Lord and imprint Him [on your minds], great and terrible, and [take from Him courage to] fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”  (Nehemiah 4:14, AMPC) (Emphasis added)

Do whatever it takes to get this truth imprinted on your mind and engraved in your heart:

God HIMSELF is with you, and because of that – there is NOTHING to fear!

“ Fear 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 and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.” (Isaiah 41:10, AMPC)

 

 

 

I will not fear – Isaiah 41:10 – Part Two

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Driving Car at Night. Size: 147 x 95. Source: www.actiosecurity.com“You gave my love, when nobody gave me a prayer.” I leaned over, put my hands on my knees and breathed. Sweat ran into my eyes as I straightened and walked, slowly, hands on hips, cooling down. Running in early evening dusk was better than late afternoon’s blazing heat when I usually came to the park after picking up Sharon. Tonight, she was with her father. After a few stretches, I got in the car and drove down Himes then Hillsborough Avenue, toward Parkview Apartments, fighting back tears.

Having taken up serious running two years earlier, I was familiar with emotions being stirred up after a hard run, but that night opened a geyser. Extreme shyness and the need to work long hours and take work home on nights and weekends since the divorce had created isolation from any but shallow work relationships. One close friendship—that I had thought would be so much more than mere friendship—had vanished when Joseph, whom I’d dated, finally admitted he was still in love with his ex-wife. The buried pain of that loss, now a month old, burned fiercely.

I glared into the darkness above the yellow arc of headlights, silently asking “Why, why, why? Will I always be alone? Will it always hurt this bad?” Then I heard it, the song and the words that God used to draw me to Himself.

You Gave Me Love [When Nobody Gave Me A Prayer]You gave me laughter, after I cried all my tears.
You heard my dreams while the rest of the world closed it’s ears.
I looked in Your eyes, and I saw the tenderness there.
You gave me love, when nobody gave me a prayer.”

 God used the lyrics and melody of “You Gave Me Love” (written by Claire Cloninger and Archie P. Jordan) and the rich, masculine quality of B. J. Thomas’s voice to open a secret place in my heart that He has occupied ever since. Searching for the source of the Love I heard in that song led me to a Christian bookstore and, eventually, giving my heart to this One Who gave His life for me and gave me His love to me while I was yet a sinner (Romans 5:8). Listen and let God touch your heart, as He did mine, 41 years ago. . . 41 years in which He has never once failed my in any way.

BJ Thomas – You gave me love – Bing video

The comfort of His presence. Before I began obeying God and living for Him, I was desperately lonely, fearful, and unhappy. However, the intimacy of His presence I felt that night—though I was lost—steadily grew.

In seasons of trial, my awareness of His presence often flickered but the One who is our Living Hope steadily pushed darkness away as I kept loving Him and turning to Him. The blazing light of His peace and His joy now garrison my heart from within. I can only gratefully say with the psalmist:

“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of Your presence, LORD. They rejoice in Your name all day long; they celebrate Your righteousness. For You are their glory and strength.“ (Psalm 89:15-17a, NIV)   

Review of Part One: In Part One we talked about the blessings of diligent Bible study and meditation and saw the historical context of Isaiah and an overview of Chapters 40 and 41. These chapters show what happened to Israel when they were taken captive by the enemy of our souls, sinned greatly through idol worship—depending on and honoring things rather than God—and were taken into exile. We surveyed the main threads of thoughts in Isaiah 40 and 41, setting the stage for a deeper look at Isaiah 41:10, one of God’s sure cures for loneliness and fear and for living in victory through the great trial the whole world is currently enduring.

Part Two Outline. Here is what we will cover in Part Two.

  • God’s sure cure for fear and loneliness
  • Why fear and loneliness hurt
  • The power of presence
  • Isaiah 41:10 Ample provision for fear and loneliness
  • Fear 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.”
  • Being Kingdom-minded
  • Remembering the nature of our great God.

See the source imageGod’s sure cure for fear and loneliness. Isaiah 41:10 is one of God’s many healing balms for fear and one of the verses I meditate upon often. I cling to the truths in this verse whenever the enemy tries to cause fear or loneliness. Isaiah 41:10 teaches us how and why we can trust this One, this Sweet and beautiful One who gives us His very own love and laughter, this One Who hears our dreams and wants us—wonder of wonders—to look into His eyes and see the tenderness there. This great and loving One does not want us in loneliness or fear.

Loneliness and fear, two painful human conditions, come to each of us. For some, it is a long-standing condition, whereas for others it is a blessedly brief state of heart and mind. Loneliness and fear happen to singles and marrieds, young and old, rich and poor, in every nation on earth. www.freedictonary.com defines lonely as “unhappy as a result or being without the companionship of others.” God created people for companionship—with Himself and with each other. We can all enjoy times of being alone but no one enjoys loneliness, that sadness that comes from feeling we are alone when we do not want to be.

Of all the feelings that accompany loneliness, the most dangerous is likely fear. I believe that loneliness is actually a kind of fear. Loneliness comes when I am aware that my God-given need for companionship is not met. Awareness of that unmet need can bring fear—because loneliness hurts and, alone, I might fear I cannot stop the pain. In that moment, I feel it will last forever. In the moment, I feel hurt, I am afraid, my need is not met now, and I am afraid it will not be met tomorrow.

Why fear and loneliness hurt. Loneliness—feeling unhappy when alone-comes often to those of us who struggle with intimacy but also to those of us for whom intimacy comes easily. We all need someone to talk with about the normal ups and downs of daily life and especially when problems come. We need the emotional support of talking with someone who cares, someone on whom we can occasionally lean and someone who will help carry our burdens. We also want practical support and help with the activities of daily life, help to buy groceries, cook, take care of the car, pay the bills, and make decisions. Most of all we all need love. We need to know someone loves us and accepts us just as we are. With that kind of love, we can face daily troubles as well as big ones. And we need that when we need it, which is not always convenient for those upon whom we depend.

See the source imageThe power of presence. Why does the presence of someone who loves us stop fear? Because, in their presence, we perceive their care and concern. We stop feeling alone. We know we will be helped. Why? Because that particular person has helped us before. Crying infants cannot, of course, say they are afraid and they cannot say they need their parent. They do not have to. Even before a feeding or diaper change, the mere presence of the parent and being held calm the infant at a visceral, instinctive level.

God gives newborn living things the instinct to cry out. That instinct helps keep the mewling kitten, the bawling calf, the whining puppy and the crying human infant alive because it draws the parent close. Science has “discovered” what mothers have known for centuries—that hearing their baby cry moves them powerfully to respond.  In one study MRIs documented that with moms and five-month-olds from eleven countries, “each mom, when hearing her baby cry, had virtually the same brain activity which spurred her to move, speak and respond to the child”. How a Crying Baby Affects a Mother’s Brain | Neuroscience (labroots.com)

I believe that, in some way, this reflects what happens when we cry out —in earnestness and innocence—to God. Our cry moves Him and He always, always, always responds to His children. God knows that being aware of His presence will calm His child. God wants us to understand and trust His great love for us. Although His love is unsearchable, in many Bible passages God clearly explains those facets of His love that we humans can understand.

For example, in Isaiah 49, when God is talking about how He will restore Israel, which can be understood to symbolize the believer, He asks:

“Can a nursing mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you. See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands; your walls are ever before Me.” Isaiah 49:15-56, AMPC)

Ponder this. Do you hear God telling you that your needs move Him even more powerfully than her crying baby moves a nursing mother? A nursing mother and her infant have a physical as well as an emotional connection, a mutual need. The infant’s cry stimulates the flow of the mother’s milk, and the mother needs her baby to take that which her body has prepared.

God wants you to know: He is with you and He will meet your needs. He is compassionate—He feels with you, He feels what you feel. Your needs move Him. Everything you need is in Him, and He longs to meet your needs, to love you, and to shower upon you mercy and loving-kindness. Pause now and ponder Isaiah 30:18.

Image result for Public Domain picture of father Holding Toddlers Hand. Size: 171 x 100. Source: preachthestory.comIsaiah 41:10 – Ample provision for fear and loneliness. Whenever we are afraid, no matter the cause, we all need the peace that comes from being aware “I AM THAT I AM” is with us, from knowing that the One who has taken care of our every need and loved us is with us. When we are aware of His presence, THEN, we do not feel alone and we feel safe. God hears the cry of our heart every time we feel afraid or alone. He knows when we need peace. He knows that if we are aware of His presence we will feel safe.

As a father loves and pities his children, so the Lord loves and pities those who fear Him [with reverence, worship, and awe]. For He knows our frame, He [earnestly] remembers and imprints [on His heart] that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14, AMPC)

He knows how susceptible all humans are to fear. It has been said that God speaks about fear 365 times in the Bible.

Let’s examine Isaiah 41:10, one of His many powerful antidotes for fear and loneliness that never, no never, no never fails. (Hebrews 13:5). Remember that this verse is set in the context of Isaiah 40 and 41 where God speaks to His beloved people who have been taken captive and separated—because of individual sin or the sin of those around them–from living in the peaceful place with God where promises are fulfilled. Can you hear His father heart?

Fear 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 and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice. (Isaiah 41:10, AMPC)

“Fear not [there is nothing to fear], . . .” When we are consciously focused on the fact that God Himself is with us—the One who created all that exists and Who sustains all life, Who loves each of us individually—we grow calm. Why? Because when (we are aware that) He is with us there truly is nothing to fear. When we look at him—rather than at things causing fear—our hearts are flooded with the light that comes from perceiving truth—that is, the light that comes from perceiving that God Himself is actually right with us. Our emotions reflect what our mind is focused upon, whether that is the light of truth or the darkness of lies. Not only that, but God Himself is in us and is working in us. (I John 4:15-16, Philippians 2;13).

See the source imageWhen a loving parent hugs a small child, fear stops because the child is viscerally aware that the one who has taken care of its every need is touchably there. That child’s world becomes safe because the parent IS that child’s world.

“. . . for I am with you.” When fear attacks—and Satan is seeking constantly to use this weapon today—I recall verses I have meditated upon and memorized that reassure me God is right here with me and watching over me. Over and over I repeat, for example, 2 Chronicles 15:2 “The Lord 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.” (AMPC). As I repeat a verse, God often highlights one phrase and I talk about it with Him. “Lord, I am definitely trying my utmost to be with You and I am seeking You because my soul needs You above anything else! So, Father, I know You are here with me though I cannot see Your face or touch Your hand. You say You are here because I am doing my best to be with You and I believe You! You are with me”

“. . . do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I AM your God.” Notice the word LOOK.  There is incalculable value in keeping our eyes and minds focused on God and “things above.” (Colossians 3:1-2)

We must look to the Lord. When our mind is turned away from God, looking at earthly things, we see darkness. But when we look to God, when we turn our face to Him, the light of His love and awareness of His presence enlighten the eyes of our heart. When the light that comes from Him and that IS Him penetrates the eyes of our understanding (Ephesians 1:18), we take a bit of God Himself into our heart.

Think about it. When a parent embraces an infant, the infant receives a bit of the parent’s warmth which is actually a bit of the parent’s very physical being. There is an exchange of a part of life itself. I believe that, in perceiving God, in being conscious of His loving presence, our spirit receives a fresh bit of God’s very own Spirit.  In seeing Him, in perceiving Him, in being aware of His presence, we have all that He is – light, love, peace, joy, salvation, and all good and perfect things.

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Earth and Sun. Size: 148 x 100. Source: www.shutterstock.comGod is always with us, but we cannot perceive His presence so long as we turn our face away from Him. For half of each day, earth turns her face away from the light of the sun and, for that time, earth’s face is in darkness. As soon as earth turns toward the sun again, the life-giving light of the sun starts changing that darkness to light. The sun gives some of its very own warmth and light to earth.

In the light, or accurate perception, that comes from focusing on Him, we can say with the psalmist:

I sought the Lord and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them. (Psalm 34:4-7, NIV)

Kingdom-mindedness. The more we have our minds on God and His Kingdom, the more good we do here on earth. Kingdom-mindedness increases our ability to do earthly good. Kingdom-mindedness also multiples our peace.

If I focus on circumstances, I soon experience overwhelming fear and terror. An entire morning fretting and calculating where to cut expenses because of inflation, without God in mind, leads to terror. Terror is “a state of overwhelming fear” and to overwhelm is “To cover over completely” or “to overcome by superior force or numbers.” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary) Focusing on circumstances around me allows fear to increase and cover my soul with darkness.

Image result for public domain picture of crownSo, I can fret about things and do myself great harm or I can prayerfully plan the budget, pay bills and then get on with Kingdom business, with living my life for God right where I am. Psalm 37 tells us what our attitude must be when evil seems to be succeeding. I am to “Trust in the Lord and do good” (37:3a) As (in proportion to or to the extent that) I trust and do good, the Word promises I will ‘dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.” (37:b)

Keeping my eyes on Jesus, rather than troubles of this life, brings good cheer. I can take courage and be ”confident, certain, undaunted” as Jesus told us to be in John 16:33 BECAUSE Jesus has “overcome the world and deprived it of power to harm” us.

This is what Jesus says of those who believe in and trust in and rely on Him, who hear Him and listen to His voice, and who follow Him. Jesus says “I give them eternal life, and they shall never lose it or perish throughout the ages. [To all eternity they shall never by any means be destroyed.] And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand. My Father, Who has given them to Me, is greater and mightier than all [else]; and no one is able to snatch [them] out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:28-30, AMPC)

Remembering the nature of our great God. In distressing circumstances, I do well to remember how powerful my Father is. This is what God reminded Israel of in Isaiah 40 and 41 when He explained His power. This unfathomable power is part of our God but His justice and equally immeasurable mercy and loving-kindness are also part of Who He is, as He revealed to Moses in Exodus 34:5-8.

“. . . and the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there and proclaimed the name of the Lord. . . The Lord! The Lord! a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in loving-kindness and truth, keeping mercy and loving-kindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but Who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.”

See the source imagePeople who honor and work for anything or anyone but the One True God, are rightly filled with terror in hard times because what they are depending upon will fail. God repeatedly warns to worship and serve Him alone, and He warns of the consequences of trusting idols. When we break God’s laws, we get the consequences.

But when we keep God’s laws, we also get the consequences. So, when our mind is fixed on God, when we commit ourself to God, when we lean on Him, and hope confidently in Him, God “will guard and keep [us] “in perfect and constant peace.” As He promises in Isaiah 26.

“You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.” (Isaiah 26:3, AMPC)

God never, no never, no never fails! (Hebrews 13:5). We can be confident, because God says that as–or to the degree that–we keep our minds fixed on Him we will experience His mercy and loving—kindness.

“Let Your mercy and loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us, in proportion to our waiting and hoping for You.” (Psalm 38:22, AMPC)

In summary: Therefore—because of all we just saw–In fearful circumstances like today, let us turn our hearts and minds to God, recalling His message of comfort and His promises in Isaiah 40 and 41. Let us not look at circumstances, rather let us focus specifically on Isaiah 41:10–He IS with us! God Almighty, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the Bible, IS with us and in us and working through us as we love and serve Him! This is the One Whose eye is on us!

(18) “Behold, the Lord’s eye is upon those who fear Him [who revere and worship Him with awe], who wait for Him and hope in His mercy and loving-kindness, (19) to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. (20) Our inner selves wait [earnestly] for the Lord; He is our help and our Shield. (21) FOR in Him does our heart rejoice, BECAUSE we have trusted [relied on and been confident) in His holy name. (22) Let Your mercy and loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us, in proportion to our waiting and hoping for You.” (Psalm 33:18-22, AMPC, emphasis added).

Part Three: In Part Three, we will consider the second half of Isaiah 41:10, in which God promises:

“. . . I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.”

I certainly need His strength! This week, meditate on His truth, as God commanded us to meditate in Deuteronomy. Think about His truths as you wake up, as you walk through your day, and as you go to bed. Ponder Isaiah 41:10 and see what God shows you personally.

See the source image

I will not fear – Isaiah 41:10 – Part One

Image result for royalty free picture of gymFear 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 and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice. (Isaiah 41:10, AMPC)

“Fear not, there is nothing to fear, for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for. . . for. . . “

What was the next phrase? I finished the standing stretches and still could not remember. I walked by two young women doing sit-ups together and a man doing chin-ups.

“Father, please help me memorize. It is getting easier the more we do it but it still takes so many repetitions!”

“Do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for. . . “ I took one mat of the ten or so suspended by two hooks to the wall, walked back to the stretching area, stretched out and leaned over to grab my toes, the smell of the rubber mat strong and slightly unpleasant.

Do You make doing many repetitions necessary so that the Word gets imprinted on my heart? Is many repetitions part of what You mean when You tell us to meditate constantly, like Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1? You know, Lord, if I could memorize faster I would go to the next verse rather than deeply ponder each phrase, wouldn’t I? As always, Lord, You know what is best.

Thank You for the desperation of depression that created this habit. You know that when I began I was not trying to memorize or meditate. At first, I was just repeating a verse over and over because the only thing that stopped fear and negative feelings were verses You had unveiled for me.  Like this one, Lord. Please help me get it imprinted so I have a longer chain of verses to use when I can’t get to a Bible.”

As I turned sideways and reached behind me to stretch the lower back, the elusive phrase bubbled up. “For I am your God! That’s it! Thank You, Father!”  This was the eighth verse I had decided to include in my personal arsenal of Scriptures. Since I had learned the value of diligent Bible study and meditating-with-the-intent to memorize, I had studied many passages about peace and security. As I meditated on each one, God always gave deeper understanding but some verses and passages in particular stirred my soul to such depths that I can still see and feel where I was when God unveiled that part of Truth.

On the morning I am writing about, as I did twenty minutes of stretches and kept meditating, Holy Spirit guided the pondering, and I thought . . . the One who was with me was the One who made and sustains the entire universe, that this One was the One I was living my live for, pouring out my life for as a sacrifice. Just  as idol worshippers in ancient times trusted in their so-called gods to take care of them, I trusted in my God to take care of me but I had the God of all creation, God Himself, God Almighty, the great I AM, this God Who said to Moses:

“I AM WHO I AM and WHAT I AM and I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE . . . You shall say this to the Israelites” I AM has sent me to you!” (Exodus 3:14, AMPC).

The understanding that day in the gym, so distinct I could almost touch it, continues today whenever I meditate on this and other blessed truths He has unveiled.

Outline of Part One:

  • The (blessedly) slippery slope of diligent Bible study and diligent meditation
  • Finding the big ideas in a passage of Scripture
  • Historical context of Isaiah
  • Overview of Isaiah
  • Captivity then exile – a frequent topic in the Bible.
  • Threads of thought in Isaiah 40 and 41
  • Isaiah 40
  • Isaiah 41

Image result for public domain picture of slippery slopeThe (blessedly) slippery slope of diligent Bible study and diligent meditation. When I first meditated on–and thus accidentally memorized— this verse, I was just starting down the blessedly slippery slope of diligent Bible study and diligent meditation. Initially, my effort at diligent Bible study consisted of using a concordance to find specific verses about personal needs. God greatly used those first few verses to start renewing my mind as, in proportion to, I kept those verses in my mind all day long. However, Holy Spirit quickly demonstrated the reward of scanning verses before and after the verse under consideration, carefully looking for connecting words and phrases. This led to scanning the chapters before and after and of pondering the message of the entire book.

Now, when I use my spiritual weapon of Isaiah 41:10, I consider all of Isaiah and specifically Isaiah 40 and 41, I think of the big ideas.

Finding the big ideas in a passage of Scripture. For me, part of learning to study the Word diligently was capturing the context and the big ideas in a passage. I urge you to ask God to show you how to make your own outlines of Bible passages.  I do not mean a formal outline necessarily. Just a list of main points can be effective. Summarizing the Word in my own words often reveals thoughts that, though not stated, are the underlying foundation of a passage. And struggling to identify the main ideas makes the mind dig deeper. By “accident” I discovered that printing out verses on sheets of paper presents more text at one glance and makes it easier to circle connecting words, enclose related verses in parentheses, draw arrows, etc. The website www.biblegateway.com makes it easy to print sections of the Word. With printed pages, you can erase mistakes from your first read-through as well make marginal notes.  God will lead you in the study method best for you.

Historical context of Isaiah.  With that said, let’s consider the context of Isaiah and the main ideas in Isaiah 40 and 41.

The name Isaiah means “Jehovah is salvation” or “Jehovah saves.” Commentaries agree that salvation is the main theme of the book. Isaiah prophesied in Judah, the Southern Kingdom. The Assyrians had already destroyed the Northern Kingdom, Israel. As Halley’s Bible commentary explains, prophets are “the spiritual conscience of the nation. They are appointed to remind kings, priests, and the people of their obligations to God and people.” (p. 363). Isaiah warned kings and the people that God’s wrath would bring condemnation and tribulation. He urged repentance from sin and returning to God.

For Isaiah’s entire life, the Assyrians threatened Judah’s existence. Isaiah witnessed the destruction the Assyrians inflicted on God’s people, including the captivity and exile of the entire Northern Kingdom, the taking by Sennacherib of 200,000 people of Judah, and the near capture of Jerusalem. Isaiah saw his entire nation ruined by the Assyrians. Throughout his life, Isaiah warned of coming judgement for sin but also gave words of comfort as he spoke of the coming Messiah.

Overview of Isaiah. The 1984 NIV published by Zondervan outlines Isaiah as follows:
Chapters
1-6      Judgement and hope of restoration
7-12    Hope in Assyria or God?
13-23  Prophecies about nations
24-27  Israel’s judgement and deliverance
28-35 Warnings and Zion restored
36-39  King Hezekiah withstands Assyria
40-56  Promises of divine deliverance
57-66  The final kingdom established

“Isaiah repeatedly warned the people that Jerusalem and Judah would be judged because of their wickedness . . . but he also held to the hope that the kingdom would be restored again.

Image result for public domain picture of isaiahBeginning in Isaiah 40 Isaiah offered comfort with these promises from God: 1) the Babylonian exiles would be allowed to return to Jerusalem; 2) a righteous, suffering servant would bring salvation; 3) God would set up a new, righteous kingdom.” (NIV, 1984, page 593).

Captivity then exile – a frequent topic in the Bible. I believe captivity is a picture of our condition when we allow the enemy to capture our will. Then—if we persist in our sin–exile comes when we are carried away from our position in the land of promise, where we walk in blessings that come from total love and obedience to our Master.

I believe we can apply this concept on every scale of time and to many situations. For example, if I yield to fear the entire morning, but then repent of that and return to active dependence and trust in God, I am restored, my Deliverer comes and I am rescued from that which took me captive and separated me from God. Or, I can persist in the sin of doubt and unbelief for days, weeks, seasons or years and remain captive.

Image result for public domain picture of chained handsBesides our own actions taking us captive, our life can be in captivity then exile because of the sin of those with whom we are associated, as happened to the prophet Isaiah. This is similar to what we saw in our study of affliction in Lamentations 3. Yet, though the outer circumstances of our life may be in captivity, inwardly (the only thing that matters eternally) we can be victorious and joyful. And we can be victorious and joyful in all circumstances, no matter how difficult, as we cling to the certain knowledge that God is using us right where we are and that He is still in control of our life and will preserve us until deliverance comes.

Threads of thought in Isaiah 40 and 41.  Isaiah 40 through 66 are “messages of Divine deliverance” from exile. Specifically, Isaiah 40 concerns preparing the way for the Lord and Isaiah 41 speaks of God’s help for Israel (Isaiah Outline (biblehub.com)  Both Isaiah 40 and 41 are essential for understanding Isaiah 41:10.

Remember: God is talking in these chapters to Israelites who have been taken captive, most because of their own sin but righteous Israelites have also suffered the same external consequences because they live in the same nation as the idolators and the wicked, just as believers do in our world today.

We can draw strength as we cherish these truths in our hearts, whether our trials are caused by our own sins and weaknesses or whether they are caused by someone else’s (a family member, employer, close friend) or some other thing (our nation, the economy, or the culture).

Isaiah 40—preparing the way for the Lord. Isaiah 40 is located in a passage (chapters 40 to 56) that addresses God’s promise of Divine deliverance. Here are the central thoughts I see in Isaiah 40.

See the source imageIn Isaiah 40, God says “Comfort My people tenderly, telling them help is coming. Tell them that, although man is ‘as frail as grass’, that My Word stands forever. Tell everyone God will deliver.” God pleads tenderly with His children to understand and trust and not fear. God reminds them that He alone—all by Himself—created heaven and earth and that all the nations are like a drop of water, or “small dust”, to Him, so how can we compare anything to God? God says ‘Can’t you tell that idols are mere things made by man? Haven’t you yet (despite all My teaching) understood that I alone rule heaven and earth and that I remove leaders as easily as wind blows away stubble?”

So, therefore (because of those facts), God says how then can we compare anyone to Him? God says “Just look and see how I keep the world in order. So “why, My people” do you think I am not taking care of you? Can you hear the pleading tone in God’s words when He says, “My people!”?

God says: “Hear this: The everlasting God—Who created the ends of the earth–never wearies and is beyond human understanding. He gives power and strength to those who need it. Even strong young men will fall but those who wait, expect, look for and hope in the LORD will be given new strength so that they can draw close to God and run without tiring.

Isaiah 41—God’s help for Israel.  This chapter urges God’s people not to fear because He guides “the destinies of the generations of the nations”. God says to His people “Let’s talk about this point of contention between us about the enemy you fear so much. I, the LORD, raised up Cyrus. The whole world depends on the idols they make but you, My servant Jacob, remember where you came from and Who created you and for what purpose.

God says “You are My chosen servant and I have not cast you off—even though you are exiled. Fear not, for I am with you (Me, not idols). Do not be dismayed (as those who depend on idols are) because I am your God. I will give you strength, harden you to difficulties, and help you. Yes, I will help you. All who come against you will disappear because I will help you and I AM the LORD.

I will make you into a new weapon and you shall destroy your enemies until they are as chaff the wind blows away. I will supply water where there was none for my poor and needy people SO THAT men will see that the Holy One of Israel has done this. Idols made by men can do nothing to show they are gods.

Image result for public domain picture desertThey are nothing and those who worship them are “an abomination [extremely disgusting and shamefully vile in God’s sight]. I have raised up Cyrus, who recognizes that I am giving him his victories. None of the idols predicted this. I, the LORD, announced to Israel that My people the Jews will be restored to their own land through Cyrus. No idol can say one word and their pagan priests and prophets are false, futile and worthless.”

These thunderous declarations are the context of Isaiah 41:10.

God lives in our hope. Fellow pilgrim, fellow captive and exiled one, we all are temporarily not experiencing some of God’s promises because of the sin of our nation and our world. But oh! What richness we have in and through Him—NOW—as we wait on and hope in Him!

God lives in and through (and He is perceptibly present with us because of) our hope, our faith, our trust, our belief in Him. When we have faith and hope in Him, we honor Him. How does a husband feel when his wife shows that she trusts him to take care of her, that she considers him capable, and worthy of her respect? How does he feel when she doubts him? Think about it. Which attitude draws him near? Which attitude deepens his love for her?

Beloved, trust your Maker! Honor Him by walking in faith and keeping your soul in peace as you wait—confidently—for Him!

“Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless unbroken companionship]! (Isaiah 30:18, AMPC)

See the source imagePart Two: In Part Two, we will look in detail at Isaiah 41:10. Until then, ponder Isaiah 40 and 41. Summarize what you hear God saying in these chapters. I pray He speaks comfort and fresh hope and deliverance to you about areas in your life where the enemy of our souls has taken you or those around you “captive to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:26, NIV)

 

God is good to those who wait – Part One

Image result for free picture of waiting for daddy“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)

Learning to meditate. “God is good to those who wait on Him, so it is good to wait quietly for the Lord. God is good to those who wait on Him, so it is good to wait quietly for the Lord. God is good to those. . . “

I stood at the counter, unplugging my phone from the charger, glancing at the folded sheet of notebook paper. “God is good to those. . .” I slung my purse over my shoulder, tucked my lunch bag under my arm, walked to the rocker to kiss Barny on his furry head, then stepped out the door and down the stairs. “The Lord is good to. . .? The Lord is good to . . . ? ”

Image result for free picture of copier in officeWhat was that next phrase?” By then I was on the sidewalk and could safely glance at the paper in my hand. “Oh, yes, “to those who wait quietly for Him.” Once in the car, I set the paper on the passenger seat, ready for quick glances at stoplights. By the time I arrived at work, I had it memorized so that in free moments at the copier, walking to the bathroom, and waiting on hold I repeated, “God is good to those who wait on Him, so it is good to wait quietly for the Lord, God is good. . .”  Then back home alone with Barny that evening, the truth of God’s Word continued to silence the now-faint echoes of howling sadness and despair that had tormented heart and mind for so long.

“Washing with water through the Word” (Ephesians 5:26, NIV) Three years ago, I was just learning how to “delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on His law day and night” (Psalm 1:2, NIV) as I climbed out of a three-year pit of depression. Through these last three years, the Living Water of the Word has, through constant meditation and delighting in His law, washed away most of the enemy’s grime and mud (though my dusty, dusty feet require daily, thorough washing, as Jesus said in John 13:10!)  To learn more about the life-changing habit of meditation that healed my heart of life-long recurring depression, see “Diligent Meditation” on the Books and More page of this website.

In this series of blog posts, we will consider the book of Lamentations, specifically Chapter 3, which is the location of the blessed and well-known truth that:

“It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23, AMPC)

Outline of Part One:

  • Lamentations – light for the dark affliction of our present world
  • Background and context
  • Topical outline of Lamentations
  • Chapters One and Two
  • Chapter Three – Hoping in a special way
  • Verses 1- 18 – The afflictions Jeremiah saw “under the rod of God’s wrath” were so terrible that he was weak and had lost all hope

Image result for free picture of light on a dark pathLamentations – light for the dark affliction of our present world. I have seldom heard sermons on any portion of Lamentations except the well-known Chapter 3:22-23. Nor do I often hear fellow believers speak of Lamentations. Possibly this is because sorrow gushes forth, as the writer wails, moans and weeps over Zion. Who wants to feel sad? However, the light that comes from the truth in Lamentations pierces the darkness of our present world, showing us what steps to take this moment and illuminating the next few steps along the path, God wants us to take. (“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”, Psalm 119:105, AMPC)

Lamentations models a godly attitude toward affliction, whether that affliction comes because of God’s loving discipline, our own sin, the sin of people to whom we are connected, or the sin of our nation and the world. The writer of Lamentations (believed to be Jeremiah) suffered staggering personal afflictions, as did most Old Testament prophets. He lived in the besieged city of Jerusalem, which was eventually destroyed and its inhabitants     taken into exile.

Let’s reflect on Jeremiah’s situation then consider the steps that led him to patient waiting and expectant hope, so that we too may abide in that sheltering place of constant peace under the Shadow of the Almighty whose power no foe can withstand – not covid, not stolen elections, not wicked leaders, not inflation, neither “wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6-8)!

Background and context. The last chapter of the book of Jeremiah gives the background for Lamentations. In Jeremiah 52, Jerusalem fell to King Nebuchadnezzar, and the Temple, every important building and all the walls of Jerusalem on every side were destroyed. Only some of the poorest people were left behind “to work the vineyards and fields” (Jeremiah 52:16, NIV). The rest of the people, 4,600 in all, were carried into exile in Babylon. Below is a one-paragraph summary of the book of Lamentations (Halley’s Bible handbook, page 409):

“This short book is Jeremiah’s lament over the city he had done his best to save. Yet, in his sorrow he also expresses his faith that Jerusalem will rise again from its ruins (3:21, 31-32).  Jerusalem did indeed rise and gave its name to the capital of a redeemed world of eternal glory, the New Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 21:2).”

Image result for copyright free picture of scrollHalley comments that the Hebrew Old Testament placed the book of Lamentations “in a group of books called . . . Writings, to which belong the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther.” These books were read at different feasts and “to this day, the book of Lamentations is read in synagogues throughout the world, wherever there are Jews, on the ninth day of the fourth month, the day of fasting that commemorates the fall of the temple (Jeremiah 52:6).”

I believe one reason God arranged this was so that His people would hear the message of these books at least once a year. These five books speak of the blazing love of God for His people and the sovereignty of His loving providence for those who love and follow Him. Surely, surely we need these reminders now!

Topical Outline of Lamentations.  The outline below combines headings for the book of Lamentations from the NASB, NLT and AMP translations.

  • Chapter 1 The suffering, ruin, and sorrow of Zion (Jerusalem)
  • Chapter 2 God’s anger at Israel’s sin
  • Chapter 3 Jeremiah, the suffering representative of afflicted Zion, shares Israel’s affliction but hopes for relief in God’s mercy and faithfulness.
  • Chapter 4 God’s anger is satisfied in the horrors of the seige of Zion
  • Chapter 5 Jeremiah pleas for restoration and mercy.

Chapters One and Two. Take time now to prayerfully read Chapters One and Two. A shallow reading will cut a shallow furrow and seeds may or may not sprout in the field of your heart. However, attentive, scrutiny of Israel’s and Jeremiah’s afflictions will stir compassion and likely stir thoughts of your own afflictions. I pray that will compel you, like Jeremiah, to cry aloud for understanding, so that you may, like Jeremiah, find strength to wait and hope with confident expectation for your own needs.

See the source imageIn sum, Chapters One and Two, tell of the time of deep sorrow when “. . . the Lord did just as He planned . . . and fulfilled the promises of disaster He made long ago. . . and destroyed Jerusalem without mercy” (2:17) because of her stubborn refusal to turn from her many sins.

As you read, pause and reflect, briefly, on your own needs and the troubles of our present world, which are afflicting us all. Then, step into the blessed hope shining in Chapter 3.

Chapter Three — Hoping – in a special way. In Chapter Three, Jeremiah, the suffering representative of afflicted Zion, shares Israel’s affliction but hopes for relief in God’s mercy and faithfulness. So must we actively hope for relief in God’s mercy and faithfulness—while in the midst of affliction. And this applies whether affliction comes because of God’s loving discipline, our own sin, the sin of people to whom we are connected, or the sin of our nation and the world. The first 24 verses of Lamentations 3 show us that the afflictions Jeremiah saw under the “rod of God’s wrath” (the destruction of Jerusalem) were so terrible that he had become weak and lost all hope. Yet, there was hope of relief in God’s mercy.

As we look at Chapter Three in detail, it will benefit you greatly to read the verses carefully and take time to think about them prayerfully. God’s Word is alive (Hebrews 4:12) and God uses His Word to minister to us individually.

Read Verses 1-18: The afflictions Jeremiah saw “under the rod of God’s wrath” were so terrible that he was weak and had lost all hope. In verses 1-18, Jeremiah says God has put him into darkness, rejected and shattered him, hemmed him in, and made him desolate. These “arrows of His quiver” have become part of his very heart. People mock him, and God has made his soul suffer as if bereaved (which indeed it was as he witnessed utter destruction of the city and people he loved and to whom he had faithfully, earnestly delivered God’s messages to repent). Peace is far from him, he has “forgotten what goodness and happiness are” and he has no strength. He says, “Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost” (v. 18b, NLT).

Image result for free picture of turning to godI think most of us, we common, fragile “jars of clay” fashioned by God’s own loving hand (2 Corinthians 4:7) reach this point. I have. So, what does the Word tell us to do? Turn to Him!

In Part Two, we will see that remembering all the past troubles makes Jeremiah sad but recalling God’s mercy and lovingkindness gives him hope so that his heart is strengthened to choose God and that, because of that, Jeremiah can wait.