Category Archives: ANXIETY

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)

Image result for public domain picture of father whispering to child

 

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

Image result for Jesus Reaching Out Art

“ 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.

 

 

Freedom from frustration and fretting

Image result for royalty free picture of tow truckA flat tire and frustration. Bang, clang, bang clang! The noise began then intensified as my car drew alongside the big cement mixer.

“Wow”, I thought. “I never saw one make that much noise!”

Then I realized it was my little sedan that was making the noise and was also now shaking, all this at about 65 miles an hour. I said, “Jesus! Help!” slowed, pulled off at the exit ramp only, providentially, a hundred yards ahead, called AAA, witnessed to the tow truck driver (who witnessed right back to me, praise the Lord!), spoke of God’s mercy to the man at the tire store who gave me a good price on four new tires, and was at home in less than two hours. Yet, in spite of God’s great mercy, I felt frustration and, I admit it to my shame, angry. In those two hours between the gym and school pickup, I had planned to finish a blog post and get it on the website. I can only say that it is indeed, because of God’s great and unfailing mercy, loving-kindness and tender compassions that we frail humans are not consumed! (Lamentations 3:22)

Frustration can cause fretting. This morning when icy roads thwarted my plan (notice the “my”) to go to swim class, frustration flared again. Hot on its heels came fretting as I tried repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, to settle down and take advantage of the forced day inside.

Image result for royalty free clip art of couchGod is the only remedy!  Finally, I decided to rest on the couch, pray in tongues, and review some of my basic meditation Scriptures. Then, I decided, I would wait and listen to God, a spiritual discipline I have worked on recently.

I had only prayed in the Spirit a few minutes when thoughts started bubbling up. I stayed still and “listened” (avoiding my tendency to jump up and grab pen and paper), as Holy Spirit showed me a gap in His protective wall around my heart. Specifically, when I am frustrated, I tend to start fretting, which if allowed to continue, leads to sin.

As I remained on the couch, John 16:33 came to mind.

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.] John 16:33, AMPC)

Surely, I thought, all of us living in February 2022 face constant frustration. We all need to be admonished to handle frustration correctly, rather than letting the enemy use frustration to ensnare us into fretting and further evil.

Fretting leads only to evil. Three passages of Scripture came immediately to mind.

Image result for royalty free clip art of antique bottle of tonic [1] Psalm 37:8, b — “Do not fret—it leads only to evil.” (NIV) Please read all of Psalm 37, which is a protective daily tonic for the world’s present situation. In Psalm 37 God says “Do not fret because of evil men. . . for like green plants they will soon die away.” (v.1) Rather than fretting, we are to actively trust Him and do good BECAUSE

The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; He is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, BECAUSE they take refuge in Him.” (v. 39)

[2] Isaiah 8:12-14 — This verse speaks clearly to today, when America is being threatened by evil as surely as Israel was threatened by Assyria in the time of Isaiah. The message of God through Isaiah was:

(12) Do not call conspiracy [or hard, or holy] all that this people will call conspiracy [or hard, or holy]; neither be in fear of what they fear, nor [make others afraid and] in dread.

(13) The Lord of hosts—regard Him as holy and honor His holy name [by regarding Him as your only hope of safety] and let Him be your fear and let Him be your dread [lest you offend Him by your fear of man and distrust of Him].

(14) And He shall be a sanctuary [a sacred and indestructible asylum to those who reverently fear and trust in Him]; but He shall be a Stone of stumbling and a Rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 8:12-14, AMPC)

Notice that verse 13 teaches that we honor God when we consider Him as our only hope of safety and that we offend Him when we fear man and distrust Him. Selah, selah and selah! Consider also Jeremiah 15:19-21.

Image result for royalty free picture of peace and safety[3] Jeremiah 15:19-21 – It is vile to distrust God’s faithfulness.

(19) Therefore thus says the Lord [to Jeremiah]: If you return [and give up this mistaken tone of distrust and despair], then I will give you again a settled place of quiet and safety, and you will be My minister; and if you separate the precious from the vile [cleansing your own heart from unworthy and unwarranted suspicions concerning God’s faithfulness], you shall be My mouthpiece. [But do not yield to them.] Let them return to you—not you to [the people].

(20) And I will make you to this people a fortified, bronze wall; they will fight against you, but they will not prevail over you, for I am with you to save and deliver you, says the Lord.

(21) And I will deliver you out of the hands of the wicked, and I will redeem you out of the palms of the terrible and ruthless tyrants.

 Verse 19 warns us that it is a mistake to yield to distrust and despair. Further, it is a vile thing to suspect or doubt the faithfulness of God. Vile means disgusting, dreadful, horrible, offensive, abominable, repulsive. Oh, merciful God! May Your Holy Spirit engrave the truth in Isaiah 8 and Jeremiah 15 on our hearts!

Worry and fretting – disguised forms of fear, which IS sin.  Many of us have said, “I am just a worrier. I cannot help it.” Well, God says fear, which includes worry and fretting, is sin. God commands us not to fear over and over and when we do not follow His commands we sin.

As I ponder this truth, it pierces my heart and motivates me to further study. It also shows me how great the Father’s love is that He takes care to teach how to guard against fretting and worry, the more subtle forms of fear which are tempting to excuse in ourselves.

Freedom from fretting and frustration. I pray we all are warned to cling closely to God when we encounter frustration and are tempted to fret. Here is what I plan to do. I will:

  • Stop what I am doing and set aside time to reconnect with God.
  • Remind myself that:
    • God is SOVEREIGN, (Isaiah 46:9-11)
    • He has every day of my life already planned (Psalm 139:16)
    • He does not make mistakes (Deuteronomy 32:4)
    • When I make mistakes, He makes even them turn out for good because I love Him and am living whole-heartedly for Him (Romans 8:28)

In yielding myself to the truth that God is sovereign and choosing to believe He is directing the details of my life (Psalm 37:23) for my good, I am submitting myself to God and resisting the temptation of the devil to doubt God. And the Word tells me that the devil will then flee from me.

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7, NIV)”

Image result for royalty free picture of shepherd's rodThe loving correction of His Rod. I write these words gratefully! His Rod of loving correction imparted to me a much-needed lesson, as He used the apparent disruption in my plans. He has sharply reminded me to catch the little foxes that spoil the vines (Solomon 2:15) and to:

“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (I Peter 5:8, NLT)

How blessed we are that the Lion of the tribe of Judah is on our side! Let Him roar!  Let His Spirit within us rise up!  Let us stand firm in our positions and hold our ground. God Himself fights for us and He always, always, always wins!!

Listen! I hear Him say:

“Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord Who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!” (Nehemiah 4:14, NIV) 

See the source image

Under His feathers – ALWAYS!

Image result for free picture of eagle soaring over nestSoaring, ah! I stretched from spine out to fingers and toes, like a cat, then curled back up.

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty (Whose power no foe can withstand) . . .

I opened one eye. 5 a.m. I pulled the white thermal blanket over my head.

“I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust! For then He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. [Then] He will cover you with His pinions and under His wings you will trust and find refuge.” (Psalm 91:1-2, AMPC)

My eyes popped open. My habit for many months has been to start repeating the Bible passages in my basic arsenal of Scriptures as soon as I wake. (See the October 2, 2020, blog “God’s Arsenal for Peace and Security). This morning, though, I heard something new.

“Lord, I picture You as an eagle, hovering, circling over its nest. So long as we dwell in the secret place of Your Presence, the shadow of Your hovering wings covers and protects us. And, Lord, when our words and actions say, “You are my Refuge and my Fortress, my God and on You I lean and rely and in You I confidently trust” then You deliver us out of the devil’s snares.  But, Lord, for an eagle to cover its eaglets with its wings, the eagle must descend from above and fly down to the nest.

Image result for free picture of eagle soaring over nestWhat a beautiful picture, Father! You carefully watch over us as we live in close communion with You, but when danger comes, You swoop right to where we are and spread Your wings wide—so You can draw us close to Your very heart. When You cover us with Your feathers then we feel the trust and find the refuge we have declared!  Oh, the thought! Nothing, no nothing, no nothing is going to harm an eaglet under an eagle’s pinions!

A prolonged attack. That tender wakeup with the Lord was three weeks ago, when all was well. Then came a prolonged attack and my soaring as an eagle stopped. (Actually, it just felt like it. Keep reading.) What happened?  Each of my family had covid for a week, then, the day I could see them again, I got it. I stayed in victory the week my family was sick and for most of the week I was sick but  gradually slid toward the pit of depression.

Not the pit – again!!! Feelings and thoughts of discouragement, dread, fear, hopelessness and self-criticism descended. I asked friends for prayer as I struggled mightily to do things that had kept me free for nearly three years– talking with God, meditating on the Word, being grateful, praising and worshipping, keeping my mind on God and not the worsening feelings of depression.

Image result for free clip art of pitWell, dear friend and fellow pilgrim, I failed. I could not focus. Prayer and Bible reading turned into staring out the window. Meditating on Bible passages as I did chores spiraled into negative, self-critical thoughts. Oh, woe was me for quite a few miserable days!

Ever faithful, ever true, ever loving! Our Father in heaven is ever faithful, ever true, ever loving and so very mighty to save!  Yet our loving Father again delivered me from the snare of the fowler. How did that happen and what did I learn? On reflection, here is what I learned and re-learned.

Image result for free clip art of stumblingWe all often stumble. “For we all often stumble and fall and offend in many things.” (James 3:2a, AMPC).  While depressed these last few days, my undercurrent of thought was that it was my fault because I had not meditated or prayed or trusted enough or not done something enough. That lie, of course, bred guilt and shame which remained, subconsciously, until a wise friend reminded me that there is no formula guaranteeing we will not sometimes fall into our own individual weaknesses. I had not been thinking I was perfect but I had, at some level, felt that I could avoid future occurrences of depression. Once again, I learned why Paul warned “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (I Corinthians 10:12, NIV)

<< When under severe enough and long enough attack we are all susceptible to stumbling into personal weaknesses. >>

My tendency when under severe attack is to become depressed and fearful whereas others might yield to an addiction, anger, or compulsive spending. My recent, and blessedly brief, plunge into depression reminded me that God does not condemn or blame us for our human frailties. Far from it!

God shares the feeling of our weaknesses. God does NOT condemn our weaknesses or punish us for them. Rather than condemning our weaknesses (which we tend to do to ourselves), God “understands and sympathizes and has a shared feeling with our weaknesses.”  When we lose awareness of God’s presence, it is good to examine ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5) and ask God if we erred. Sometimes we do feel separated from God because of our sin (Isaiah 64:6-7). However, even then He is always with us! (Matthew 28:20, Hebrews 13:5) and there is NO condemnation from Him! After we confess and turn away from our sin, any guilt and shame come from the enemy – NOT God! Resist those lies and arm yourself with the knowledge that:

“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)

Image result for free picture of father walking with toddlerPicture an adoring young father, leaning over, walking carefully, holding the hand of a wobbly toddler. If loving earthly fathers hone in on the needs of their children, how much more does God! Selah!

Ponder these two verses as well:

For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning. (16) Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it]. (Hebrews 4:15-16, AMPC)

Read that again. God shares in our feelings and wants us to approach Him boldly and confidently because He has just what we need when we need it!

In those miserable days of depression, I subconsciously felt I had done something wrong, and that God was disappointed in me. Now, I see the lie for what it is but it felt true when darkness atttacked. Our enemy is crafty (Genesis 3;1), which means skillful in the use of subtlety and cunning (www.merriam-webster.com) He is a master of schemes and lies  ((2 Corinthians 2:11; John 8:44).  But, we can rejoice because “The Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3, NIV). God did indeed strengthen and protect me. As I simply kept battling in my mind, God lifted me up and out of the pit.

Image result for free clip art of ROMAN SOLDIERThe Battlefield IS INDEED the Mind.  You may have read the excellent book by Joyce Meyer “The Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the War in Your Mind.”  My copy is marked up and tattered from being toted everywhere. I understand and have applied that teaching for years – however – this recent experience sharpened my understanding of the importance of immediately taking every wrong thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) immediately. I plan to review that teaching regularly. Until you get your copy of the book (hint. . .  just google “Battlefield of the Mind verses” and be amazed as you study. With the lies and deception of the last two years, keeping our minds filled with truth is essential.

Is God purposefully strengthening us all? Perhaps God is now deliberately strengthening the entire Body of Christ, as He strengthened me through this latest trial. Why? The greatest awakening and soul harvest of all time has already begun. We must be about our Father’s business, equipped to stand against evil. God knows the coming turnaround will include even harder times. I believe He is providing extra training so we can not only survive but thrive in this next season for America and our world.

Besides God’s concern that we be equipped, God needs strong warriors!  The modern-day prophets whom I have followed for a long time all say that God will soon bring an end to the wickedness attacking our world. I urge you to examine the “What is God doing?” page on this website if “modern-day prophets” sounds strange to you. You will find links to reliable sources providing the truth of what God is doing in our world today. I also urge you to see the February 9 podcast of Flashpoint at www.flashpoint.com.

In these dark times, we must be bold about our faith and be engaged in the world around us. Although God has been patient with sinful America and weak believers for decades, the prophets are saying judgement is coming, to the Body of Christ as well as the world. No more standing on the sidelines. Thomas Jefferson said, “Evil triumphs when good men do nothing.”

I must ask myself, “Am I strong enough to do my part in this battle? Am I embracing the struggles of daily life as God’s loving chance to grow stronger in Him?”

Strengthen your feeble arms, Freda! Take time to read Hebrews 12:1-13. God tells us to consider all Jesus endured so that we “may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in” our minds. (Hebrews 12:3b, AMPC). He explains that discipline is for our good and in verses 12-13 tells us to man up. God says, “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” (verses 12-13).

See the source imageTo me, this says that if set my heart to live for the Kingdom as Jesus did—if I get my life in order or “make level paths for my feet”—then as I run my appointed race, my “lame and halting [limbs] may not be put out of joint, but rather may be cured.” (verse 13b, AMPC).

In other words, living for the kingdom, which includes enduring trials with our eyes fixed on the joy set before us as Jesus did, strengthens our weaknesses! As—in proportion to our effort—we trust God and bear up under His training, the very things we thought were too hard will help and heal us! Woo hoo and go God!

This encourages me to purposefully repair any broken walls as I take the words of Nehemiah to heart. I will not be afraid of the enemy. I will, as Nehemiah urges:

“[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)

Notice that we can take our courage from God,  Who is indeed great and terrible. Our God is awesome in battle and mighty to save!  “But the salvation of the [consistently] righteous is of the Lord; He is their Refuge and secure Stronghold in the time of trouble. And the Lord helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they trust and take refuge in Him.” (Psalm 37:39-40, AMPC)

Image result for free picture of eagle on nestAlways under His feathers. As we go forward with our individual race, let us remember that as—in proportion to—we habitually live in the secret place of close fellowship with God, we will remain stable and fixed. He—Whose power no foe can withstand–will hover over us. And as we say, and our actions say, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, on Him I lean and rely and in Him I (confidently) trust!’ THEN—because we have done all that—He WILL deliver us and THEN He will come very near to us, He WILL cover us with His wings and we will be able to trust with all our being and find true refuge. (from Psalm 91, AMPC)

We will all fail at times and we may feel alone—as did many great Bible heroes—but the truth is that God is always, always, always with us. We may not feel like it but if we earnestly seek Him, we ARE snuggled close to His feathers. How loving God is to reassure us of this as we step out and take our part in His great awakening and harvest!

Image result for free clip art of confusion and crazyP.S.  Just to make it more challenging, the very day I began writing on this blog post, Thursday, February 3, came another round of testing and trials. Just as I was feeling better after covid, a four-day stretch of below freezing temps with possibly “wintry mix” was forecasted. Having stocked up and prepared for a four-day isolation, since I do not drive when roadways are icy. I had a great first day alone at home, writing and talking with the Lord all day. But the next day came an episode of tachycardia (which means lying down, with a scary heart beat, and waiting for hours until the medicine takes effect.) Well, that took all of Friday. But I kept my good attitude. Saturday morning I was at  the computer, back in the saddle, enjoying writing and being alone with God when a migraine headache began, which I have not had in many years. Well, that lasted the rest of Saturday and into the late evening.  Sunday I was tired!

But Monday, by God’s grace I resumed work on this blog post, wanting even more desperately to hear what God is saying to me about these trials so that I can find words to encourage you, too

Beloved, I say, with new hope:

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13, NIV)

Stand, dear friend, stand! Stand with hope, confidence, peace and the very power of God indwelling you! There are countless more with you than are with the enemy! We win! God never, no never, no never fails us in any regard! (Hebrews 13:5).

Image result for Free Clip Art Of News. Size: 212 x 106. Source: clipart-library.comAnd “this slight distress of the passing hour” we all face? Why, we do not become discouraged because this distress is creating something far, far greater for us as we look to the things that are unseen and eternal. Let us look to Jesus, the One Who gives us His strength for all things!

(16). “Therefore we do not  become discouraged (utterly spiritless, exhausted, and wearied out through fear). Though our outer man is [progressively] decaying and wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day after day.

(17) For our light, momentary affliction (this slight distress of the passing hour) is ever more and more abundantly preparing and producing and achieving for us an everlasting weight of glory [beyond all measure, excessively surpassing all comparisons and all calculations, a vast and transcendent glory and blessedness never to cease!],

(18) Since we consider and look not to things that are seen but to things that are unseen; for the things that are visible are temporal (brief and fleeting), but the things that are invisible are deathless and everlasting.”  2 Corinthians 4:16-18, AMPC)

See the source image

 

Look! The Lord my God is near!

Image result for free picture of hark the herald angelsLook! The Lord my God is near! He will keep me safe from fear.
Though the enemy roar, God is king forevermore!
I submit to God’s great hand. He will lift me up to stand.
Casting all my care on Him, on His love I can depend.
Look! The Lord my God is near! He will keep me safe from fear!

Desperate about His Word. The short poem above, and the three stanzas below, can be sung to the tune of “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” while you go about your daily life this Christmas season. I wrote this poem two 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 “Look! The Lord my God is near!”

[2] I can keep my heart controlled. God Himself indwells my soul!
I’m alert, and I watch out, for the devil prowls about.
I resist him, I stand strong, though the trial might feel long.
In my weakness, He gives grace, so I rise and run my race!
I can keep myself controlled. God Himself indwells my soul!

[3] My God covers me with peace. All my fears and worries cease!
He will keep me in His rest as I think on what is best.
In my weakness, He is strong. He will keep me from all wrong.
I will walk with Him in love. I will keep my mind above.
My God covers me with peace. All my fears and worries cease!

Image result for Free Picture of Earth in God's Hand. Size: 188 x 104. Source: concordpastor.blogspot.com[4] God Himself has full control. He who rules earth rules my soul!
He will give me grace to fight. We will win o’er darkest night!
Nothing that attacks me stands, for He holds me in His hand!
God is faithful. He will save!  This the banner that I wave!
God Himself has full control. He who rules earth rules my soul!

 

 

Your love for God pleases Him

Image result for free picture of jesus hugging a childDear friend, one morning Holy Spirit woke me up, with clear ideas for this piece of writing. I knew it was for a dear, dear friend, a precious saint at the Joshua 14:12-15 stage of life. A few days later, I felt it was also for another friend. That is when I saw that it was also for you, and for me, for all of us who whole-heartedly love God and are pressing close to Him with all our heart, and soul and mind and strength. We do not have to be perfect for God to feel this way about us. We just have to love Him with all our heart and do the very best we can to obey Him and stay by His side, hour by hour. We have no way to understand how much He loves us!

I wrote this a month ago but find myself needing this comfort today. I pray these words comfort you. Here is what I wrote for my friend.  .  .

See the source imageI believe the Lord is deeply touched by your love for, your dependence upon, and your trust in Him. I believe He sees you as a sweet little girl, walking along a beautiful garden path with Him, holding on to His hand and looking up at Him with adoring eyes.

It pleases Him greatly that you choose to just be with Him, to stay in His company and to walk close by Him, each day, all day long and through the night.

On your way along the garden path, when you grow tired—or sometimes just because He loves you so very much—He picks you up into His strong arms, gives you a sweet kiss on your cheek and holds you in a warm, tender embrace. You tell Him, “Thank You, my Father!” He looks into your eyes and says “I love you, my precious, my beautiful daughter. You are my delight.”

Image result for free picture of sparrow on handThen, He carries you a while, close to His heart, and He sings a sweet and tender melody over you, softly and slowly. As He walks with you in His arms, He points out a busy little gray squirrel here, a yellow butterfly there, a resplendent gathering of flowers over there, and a tiny, perky sparrow chirping on the swaying branch of a little sapling.  He holds out His hand and the sparrow flits to Him, perching on His finger as He lets you stroke the velvety feathers.

He says to you, “My beautiful child, I watch each moment of the life of every creature I have made, and I care for each of them. And, my beautiful daughter, far more—so very much more than you can imagine—I watch each moment of your life and I care for you. I delight in your devotion to Me, your faithfulness in little and big things, My love that you give to others, and the way you walk with Me, in integrity, in your home. It is My delight that you simply want to be with Me.”

As He continues walking, still with you in His arms, He explains how each flower and each tree grows and just where each little creature finds its food and makes its bed at night. He delights at the delight in your eyes and in your shared pleasure. He enjoys the pleasure of your company as you enjoy His.

Image result for free picture of jesus and little girl

 

 

 

“I love those who love Me,
and those who seek Me early and diligently
will find me.”
Proverbs 8:17, AMPC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diligent Bible study – NOW!

Image result for Free picture Of Car console. Size: 166 x 106. Source: pixnio.comRedeeming the time. “Oh, Father! This is Yours!  Help me get these ideas in order. This is the fourth revision. . . “ I looked at the marked-up pages spread across the desk, on top of an open Amplified and New International Bible and, once again, began at the first page. Thirty minutes later, the printer hummed, I stacked the fresh pages in the center of the desk, put crackers and a bit of chocolate into two baggies and headed out the door for pickup. In the car, I recited “Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:8 . . . .”  At stoplights, I glanced at the index card I kept tucked in the console, my memory work this week while in the car. As I waited in the line of cars at the elementary school, I prayed. I prayed for salvation for the children and for Divine protection from Satan’s vicious attacks.

Are you feeling the same sense of urgency to be about our Father’s business? As godlessness increases day by day, desire to do my part in the battle intensifies. I hear reports of revival fires already springing up and I eagerly await the great outpouring of the Holy Ghost that prophets have said is coming soon. I want to be doing my part now, and I want to be ready for what is coming.

For months, prophets have urged us to draw closer to God—now. We need ears that hear Him clearly when He starts judging the evil and evil-doers now seeking to destroy all that is godly. Deep, diligent Bible study is essential to develop hearing ears, so I began writing about that. As usual, the topic expanded as I searched the Word for guidance, so this is the first of several writings.  Why, you may ask, is diligent Bible study so essential right now?

We must study the Bible diligently now because:

Image result for free picture of voice of god[1] God says to. That alone is far more than enough.

[2] We need God’s peace to withstand the evil attacking our nation and our world. With lyin’ Biden, who stole the election, leaving hundreds, possibly thousands, of American citizens and allies behind in Afghanistan to be tortured and murdered by radical extremists; giving $85 billion worth of military equipment to terrorists; launching an all-government push to keep allowing millions of babies to be murdered; threatening to require everyone in the nation to wear face diapers and get an injection whether they want it or not while letting thousands of illegals—untested for covid—cross our southern border; with radical leftists seeking to pass legislation that would allow children as young as five to choose gender-changing surgery; with a homosexual choir singing “We are coming for your children”; with teachers embracing critical race theory. . . and I will stop there.

Can you truly say, and know in your heart, that—even in all these things–we are more than conquerors? (Romans 8:37) You can IF you have the peace that comes from knowing God is still in control, nothing has taken Him by surprise, He will preserve His children no matter what, and He WILL make all this “work together and fit 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).

<<Truths like that must be heart knowledge, hidden inside my
inmost being, so that Satan cannot steal, kill, or
destroy those truths and so that the world cannot twist or pervert them and
so that my own flesh cannot tarnish them. >>

[3] We must be ready. God has already begun the greatest world-wide revival of all time. He needs believers prepared to share Bible truths and His wisdom with fledgling converts and returning prodigals. To do that, we must have genuine faith, faith that comes from understanding what God says. And that understanding comes from the Word (Romans 10:17). We must be “. . . made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” (2 Timothy 2:21, NIV).  We must be ready to explain why we believe and hope in God (I Peter 3:15), to explain how God wants us to live day by day, and to explain how to engage in spiritual battle. That requires diligent, persistent Bible study.

<<Living by and skillfully sharing Bible truths is not
an option in our present world.>>

I strongly urge you to read the book “Vessels of Fire and Glory” by Mario Murillo. You will understand what God is doing in our world and why we must get ready—now—to be used by God. We must have hearing ears, and we must let God make us holy, devoted to and prepared for His service. How? One essential step is letting Him wash us with water through the Word (Ephesians 5:26).

Image result for free picture of bathing a toddlerAre you being washed thoroughly? Daily?  Letting God clean us up through the Word requires diligent effort. Does a three-year-old child get clean by sprinting through a garden hose once? No, that little child needs to sit in a tub of water—for several minutes–while the loving parent washes arms and legs as well as inside ears, between tiny toes and under chubby necks encrusted with dust and sweat. Little children need a serious bath. God’s little children need serious Bible study!

<<Life-cleansing Bible study requires diligence>>.

One method of diligent Bible study. If you already diligently study the Word – press on! You may not need this writing. But if not, know that diligent Bible study will help you: (1) draw forth meanings missed during casual reading or study, (2) see specific things God wants you to do, and (3) hide the Word in your inmost being.

Listed below are the first five guidelines for one way of diligent Bible study. I pray it helps your Bible study be maximally fruitful. Anything less than diligent, systematic Bible study–as I learned the hard way—deprives us of God’s best.

The first five guidelines are:

A. Do read the Bible through each year.
B.  But do not just read – STUDY.
C. And do not just study—study FOR YOURSELF.
D. And do not just study for yourself—study IN YOUR AREAS OF NEED.
E. Let Holy Spirit teach you—DIRECTLY!

Let’s look at the first two guidelines.

Image result for free picture of bible[Guideline A]  Do read the Bible through–repeatedly. I once heard a Bible teacher unintentionally downplay the importance of reading the Bible through repeatedly. The teacher was stressing that we must not merely read but study the Bible. I wholeheartedly agree!  I also believe, in addition, that it is essential to read the entire Bible through repeatedly, throughout your life. Each word of the Bible is put there by God–on purpose. You can find many different Bible-in-a-year plans, which I recommend if you are now reading through the entire Bible for the first time. Such plans include passages from the Old and New Testaments and, usually, the Psalms.  If you have never at least once read through the entire Bible, all I can say is GET BUSY!

I recall, as a new convert, referencing the beautiful nature passages in Job I had read for the first time and being stunned to hear that the person I was speaking with, who had known Jesus for decades, had never even read Job. Fortunately, God instilled a burning desire to study the whole Bible even back then so that particular believer’s disobedience did not lead me along a similar path of neglecting the whole of God’s Word. Yes, some books are hard to understand but God will teach you if you just try (as we will talk about later).

Image result for free picture of calendarGetting the basics. One reason we need to keep going through the entire Bible is so that we hear the basic doctrines of our faith, at least briefly, once a year. Martin Luther required his pastors to “preach every biblical doctrine within a year.” (Vessels of Fire and Glory, p. 80). I know from experience it is too easy to stay in our favorite books or passages and, in so doing, greatly harm ourselves and grieve God. And unfortunately, I also know from experience that not every pastor follows Martin Luther’s requirement. Unless you plan for it, you will likely NOT hear or read the entire Bible in your lifetime, not even once.  How dare we neglect what so many have given their lives for, most of all, Jesus Himself!

After you have read the Bible through a few times, as the Lord leads, you could keep going with the same or a similar plan. You could also make your own plan to, for example, read some chapters from the Old and some from the New Testament each day as well as Psalms and Proverbs. You can quickly see, however, that you need a definite, written, systematic plan to keep you on track. Write your plan down and keep it updated.

Read attentively. Besides reading the entire Bible, it is essential to read attentively, not merely dashing through the daily chapters.  Develop the habit of pausing to reflect, while you read and after you finish that day’s reading. Reading lessons for children include reading comprehension exercises, where students must reflect upon what they read and answer questions about it. I need the same to help me focus.

<<Stop and talk with God about what
He means in those verses you are reading.>>

Image result for free picture of clock grandfatherIt is certainly preferable to read through the entire Bible every year. Doing that as well as deep studying will take an investment of time, of course, and perhaps much more than you now set aside. I ask you: which is more important, hearing God or being entertained two or three hours each evening? If you have obligations like childcare or work that truly do take most hours of your day, ask and God will make time for your Bible reading and study. Perhaps you can do your Bible “reading” by listening during chores or driving time and do Bible study in the time God helps you carve out. You are asking for something in complete accordance with His will; He WILL answer, as He says in I John 5:14-15.

SPECIAL NOTE HERE: If you are a new believer, I recommend the Bible reading plan Dr. Timothy LaHaye presents in his book “How to Study the Bible for Yourself.”  Dr. LaHaye’s plan points the young Christian to which  of the 1190 chapters in the Bible are especially important for new believers. The entire plan is given in Chapter Five.  I recommend getting your own copy of this book, because it is filled with excellent advice.  Pastor LaHaye passed away in 2016, at the age of 90, and I personally owe him a great debt for writing just this book alone. It pointed my newly-converted heart in the right direction regarding Bible study.  Below is his recommended Bible reading plan for the first year of a new Christian’s life.

FIRST YEAR 
> First John seven times
> John twice
> Mark twice
> Galatians through Philemon
> Luke
> Acts
> Romans
> The New Testament twice

Dr. LaHaye gives a plan for the second and third year as well. I say: GET THE BOOK! It also includes excellent chapters about how to study the Bible.

Image result for free picture of person studying[Guideline B] Do not just read – STUDY! Make time for Bible study daily, if at all possible. We get out of anything according to what we put into it. We find more of God—His strength, His power, His love, His wisdom, and His presence– in His Word—IF we give our utmost effort. God tells us in 2 Timothy 2:15:

Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.“ (AMPC).

This well-known verse tells me that I have reason to be ashamed if I do not do my very best to analyze, divide and handle the Word properly and skillfully – and I cannot do that if I only read.

<<Actual studying—as opposed to mere reading–involves
a level of effort beyond mere reading.>>

Beginning learners just read sentences and learn facts put in careful order by someone else. Successful high school students study. They concentrate and devote much time and effort to understanding sentences and paragraphs in their chemistry book. Why? They know they must conduct successful experiments in the lab to pass the course.

Even many superficial read-throughs will not earn a passing grade when the test requires application, wherein that student must understand why and how, when and where, etc.  Applying knowledge, or facts, requires study. It requires interacting with that knowledge, and how to use it, not just hearing or reading about it.

<<We often fail tests in our walk with Christ if
we do not go beyond merely reading the Word
.>>

ANOTHER SPECIAL NOTE HERE: If you have never specifically done so, I recommend studying the chapters listed below (on page 86 of Dr. LaHaye’s book.)  These chapters are essential for Christians to master.

  • Ephesians 5
  • Galatians 5
  • John 14-17
  • Romans 6, 8, and 12
  • I Timothy 2
  • Ephesians 4, 6
  • And I would add Acts 1, 2 and 10

After these chapters listed above, if you have not identified more chapters to prioritize, Dr. LaHaye offers a second list as follows:

  • John 1, 3-5
  • Matthew 5-7, 13, 24-25
  • Matthew 26-28
  • John 11-12, 18-21
  • Acts 23
    I Corinthians 6, 15
  • 2 Corinthians 4-6
  • Proverbs 3
  • Psalms 1, 27, 37

Have you digested First John? And if you have never done so, regardless of how long you have known Jesus, I strongly urge you to first read the little book of First John straight  through seven times. And then thoroughly study it. One key purpose of the book is to reassure those who have eternal life that they are indeed saved from hell. It will also show you if you have not truly made Jesus your personal Lord and Savior.

It is a meaty book, it will enhance your discernment, and it will give you talking points of pure gold.

Next time. Next time we will explore how to study the Bible for yourself, in your areas of need, with Holy Spirit directly teaching you.

See the source imageBe blessed, fellow pilgrim, as we press on, with the lamp of God’s Word illuminating  our path and the light of His Word illuminating the path ahead. (Psalm 119:105)