Category Archives: Bible teaching

Our light and momentary troubles

Dear friend,

“Afflicted by an Itch . . . for My Good!” is more of a short story than the type of blog post I usually write. It is now available on the “Books and More” page of this website. It was first on this website in the form of four blog posts in the early summer of 2020.

Below is an exposition of 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, the central truth in this little story. I added this explanation when I compiled the blog posts into one document. I have learned much more about affliction since the summer of 2020 when this story was written. Through it all, God has always, always, always brought good out of it! I pray you have the same view of your own trials.

Such an attitude, I have learned, takes much of the sting out of the “troubles, trials, distress, and frustration” Jesus said we would have in this present world but about which He says we can rejoice because He has “overcome the world and deprived it of power to harm” us. (John 16:33, AMPC).

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Comfort in affliction . . .  treasure in jars of clay. The first four chapters of Paul’s second letter to the believers at Corinth show why and how Paul triumphed over afflictions.

2 Corinthians opens with Paul praising God for giving him comfort in his afflictions so that he (Paul) could share that comfort. Paul says it is “our” lot to experience suffering, just as Jesus and His disciples did, but that his (Paul’s) troubles turn out for the Corinthians’ good when the Corinthians “patiently endure the same evils (misfortunes and calamites) that” Paul suffered. (2 Corinthians 1:6, AMPC)

Pressures make us depend on God. Paul wants the believers at Corinth to know that the pressures he endured made him “despair even of life” but that the pressures happened so that he would depend not on himself, but on “God Who raises the dead.” Paul says he joyfully and confidently expects that God will again deliver him, while the Corinthians help him by their prayers.

Paul reminds them of his holiness and sincerity toward them, then he speaks of his love for them, instructs them in the right attitude toward believers who have sinned, and explains that the new covenant, of which he is a minister, gives life and transforms us into the likeness of Christ.

The transforming power of the truth about ourselves. Notice that Paul says we are transformed: [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord.” (3:18, AMPC.)  It is steadily gazing into the instructive, revelatory mirror of the Word and changing our actions accordingly—as we would wipe away smudges and adjust unruly hair when looking into an actual mirror–that makes us more like Jesus. (James 1:22-25)

No discouragement! Then comes a “therefore” in the first verse of Chapter Four. Paul says that because the Corinthians were all are being made more Christ-like, he engages in his ministry by God’s mercy, without discouragement. He does not become “spiritless and despondent with fear, or become faint with weariness and exhaustion” (4:1b, AMPC) The opportunity to minister to the Corinthians keeps Paul encouraged!

This “therefore” in verse one begins a short discourse the NIV labels “Treasure in Jars of Clay.” In this discourse, Paul explains that even though the gospel is veiled to “those who are perishing” (because Satan has blinded their minds so that they cannot see the “illuminating light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ,”), Paul preaches “Jesus Christ as Lord” and he, Paul, their servant for Jesus’ sake. Paul says that that preaching lets the light of God (which God had put into his heart) shine forth and illuminates the truth about God as that truth is revealed in Jesus.

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The precious treasure of the lifegiving Light of the Gospel. In verse seven, Paul returns to the theme of our inevitable suffering as humans when he says “However, “we possess this precious treasure [the divine Light of the Gospel] in [frail, human] vessels of earth”. And why? So “that the grandeur and exceeding greatness of the power may be shown to be of God and not from ourselves”.

Paul next affirms that the pressure and persecutions he endures are revealing the life of Jesus in him. When he is being handed over to all these hardships, to “death” in other words, it is so that the “life of Jesus also may be evidenced through his (Paul’s) flesh which is liable to death.

Paul says all these things are happening for the sake of the Corinthians and also so that more grace may be extended to more people and thus more thanksgiving will increase and will contribute to the glory of God.

Why Paul never gave up. Then, Paul says “Therefore”—because of all I just told you—

“. . . That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NLT)

What do I learn from this? I see that if we take the attitude that we are all ministers of the gospel—that we are all called to shine the light of God into our part of this dark world—we can take Paul’s life-giving attitude toward troubles. We can remain encouraged, even in troubles, because we have the chance to work for God.

Paul’s attitude toward troubles was that as we shine in the darkness of our troubles with, by, and through the light and grace of God in us, then the light (the truth) of the Gospel will shine into the darkness.

As we let God shine through our life, we spread the gospel, we help others and we also store up treasures in heaven, which Jesus tells us to do in Matthew 6:19-24.  Oh, that we would all press on until the impenetrable, divinely-ordained armor of this attitude is fully formed within us, surrounding and guarding our hearts even as “the mountains surround Jerusalem” (Psalm 125:2, NIV)!

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“As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people both now and forevermore. “(Psalm 125:2, NIV)

Blessings and grace to you!

Fresh focus for

FRESH FOCUS. There is a renewed focus for, which is  to give you hope and help in your daily life so that you can,
>>   live a holy life before God,
>>  press on to spiritual maturity,
>>  and take your position in the great awakening God has already begun.

Image result for Free Picture Of Focus. Size: 156 x 100. Source: www.pixelstalk.netDEAR FRIEND, this website is changing. When I began blogging in 2016, I aimed to share hope and healing for emotional and spiritual hurts through stories showing what happens to an ordinary person who uses God’s Word like the medicine it actually is. (Proverbs 4:20-22).  However, as I dug deeper into the Word, I fell deeper in love with God and more convinced of the power of His Word to change lives.

Sensing God’s loving direction, the inspirational, short-story type writing focused more on the Word and on spiritual maturity, not only on emotional healing. All the while, as I asked God to grow me up, as I joined in on intercessory prayer calls, God urged me to learn more about current events from His perspective and more about modern-day prophets and spiritual warfare.

That is how I found fresh fire, fresh focus, and my personal assignment in the Kingdom.

Trying to cope with this world can so damage and infect your soul that coping becomes your main focus. I aim to focus you on God, His Word and Holy Ghost power. In so doing, I pray I can help you fulfill the one purpose of your life as a believer.

Image result for free Picture of Vessel of Honor. Size: 158 x 110. Source: www.slideserve.comYOUR ASSIGNMENT AND MINE. We both have an ASSIGNMENT in God’s Kingdom, not a purpose, rather an assignment.  What? You say you already know your purpose? Listen to Mario Murillo in his must-read book “Vessels of Fire and Glory”.  Mario says that:

“Jesus is the one with a purpose and we have an assignment within that purpose.”

“What is Christ’s purpose on earth? First John 3:8 says, “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”

Your assignment in the army of God is your individual expression and extension of Christ’s destruction of the works of the devil. You are a destroyer of the works of the devil. God will give you a way to do it that is all your own.

Until that gets through to you—until you admit and agree to those terms—God will remain silent about your assignment.” (p. 116-117)

That is what I experienced, and let me tell you: once you find your assignment, look out! God will pour out on you more than you can ask or imagine or even dream about. What you have now of God in your life will be as a trickle compared to a mighty river. Zealously, passionately give God all you have, and watch what He does.

Don’t dare entertain doubts about qualifications or lack of time, health or other resource. Someone said, “God does not call the equipped. He equips the called.” Beloved, God has called each of us into the harvest. He WILL equip you.

I aim to help you grow even more than you have, to help you learn how to apply the Word and Holy Ghost power more effectively, and to help you fulfill your assignment in our world today.

HOPE AND HELP FOR YOU. I offer you hope and help—concrete, practical help—-as you grow in maturity and consistency. Living a consistently victorious daily life, growing up in God, and finding your assignment is hard work. We all need all the support we can get! There are no shortcuts but I aim to shine the light of God’s truth on the path before you. Though not perfect, God has—through His Word and Holy Ghost power–trained me to keep fairly consistent victory.

WHY LISTEN TO ME? If your spirit does not bear witness with what I say, then do not listen. But if you are stirred and desire to know more—more about consistent, victorious living, more about applying God’s Word, more about the Spirit-filled life and understanding God’s activity in our current world—here is what I offer.

HELP IN WALKING AND WARRING. I am offering to help you keep growing, to walk in the fullness of the Spirit and to start engaging in the battle. Regarding things of the Spirit and the spiritual battle waging today, as a Spirit-filled believer for 40 years, I explain, from a foundational level, what might seem strange, even unbiblical to you if you have not been around Pentecostal believers. You may have doubts and fears about talking in tongues, laying on of hands, words of knowledge, prophecy and other facets of Pentecost. Let me assure you: they are all Biblical. You may have seen God’s gifts misused and even some counterfeits, but His gifts are in operation today in millions of hearts across His beloved earth.

Image result for Free Picture of Holy Spirit. Size: 206 x 110. Source: standrewsgreencastle.orgDO NOT BELIEVE LIES ABOUT GOD’S HOLY SPIRIT! One key point–Do not believe the enemy’s lie that such things are not biblical. C.S. Lewis said one of Satan’s most effective lies is that he does not exist. Satan uses the same tactic to keep people from using the unlimited devil-smashing power source of the Holy Spirit for fruitful witnessing and living a holy life.

Though not an expert, I understand one thing thoroughly enough to explain basic facts and teach Biblical guidelines–how to apply the Word and Holy Ghost power to mature the sincere believer into consistency.

I can also help you start learning what God is doing in our world and point you to people with decades of experience and knowledge about that, people with whose work I am acquainted.

HOW DID GOD GET ME ON THIS PATH? Desperation led me to apply God’s Word like the medicine it is to break the bondage of depression and fear so severe that they were life-controlling. Continuing in the Word and the power of a Spirit-filled life trained me to maintain victory and to be about my Father’s business, rather than my own featherweight purposes.

In all the writings, I show how all that looks in clear, easy to follow steps, saturated with practical application of God’s Word and fully leaning on Holy Ghost power.

Image result for Free Picture of framed in House. Size: 153 x 110. Source: ALL NEED A FOUNDATION FOR NEW THINGS. Having a framework of basic understanding about anything helps you progress faster. This is especially critical if what I have been saying is new or just plain strange-sounding to you.

Learning and retaining and applying what you learn works best when you have a framework to which you can attach new ideas. If you hear teaching and do not understand the basic terms and principles of that topic, you will have nothing to help you retain and apply that knowledge. Try building a house by nailing horizontal wooden beams to vertical beams made of cardboard. I can provide a solid foundation of vertical beams for you to build upon.

I can provide that framework because I have been there, skeptical and uneducated in these matters but wanting desperately to please God. I am mindful of what might need explaining. Also, because I am an ordinary person, I am assured that what worked for me will work for you. I strive to communicate clearly, step by step, what God did as I followed Him. I know how helpful simple summaries of complex topics can be as well as previews, definitions, diagrams, flow charts and memory tips

Image result for Free Picture of Child jumping into father's arms. Size: 112 x 106. Source: forwardfertility.comHEALING AND GROWING. I am offering to help you grow, which includes having the Word and God’s spirit occupy their rightful place in your heart and your conduct. We do not know what that feels like until we start doing it. If you now struggle with emotional problems, all this might sound too strong for you right now. Be assured: it is not! The way to healing is to jump into God’s arms and let Him heal while He grows you up in ALL areas, not just where your heart now hurts. He did that for me, and I want to share those stories with you.

Just as God had a bigger assignment for me, so He has for you, no matter the struggle that may now hinder you. He has an assignment for you in this world-wide revival now happening. Yes, you!

ARE YOU ENGAGED IN THE WORLD? Believers today must participate in the world-wide revival now going on because that is what God is doing in the world today. You can participate by targeted prayer, getting informed and telling others, and in many other ways. If you listen to mainstream media, if you do not hear news from godly sources, and if you do not follow God’s modern-day prophets, you might not perceive the fierceness of the battle taking place all around us in the unseen, spiritual realm. You also might not know that world-wide revival has begun. This is what many are calling the Third Great Awakening.

Image result for free picture of jesus and the worldTHE THIRD GREAT AWAKENING. It has already begun—the greatest spiritual awakening earth has seen. The prophets are saying this awakening will be even greater than the one that started the Jesus movement of the 1960s, when Holy Spirit simply overwhelmed people outside churches and hippies walked into churches, wanting to know more about God and what had happened to them.

These last few years, while God has worked mightily behind the scenes to clean up and to expose the evil and filth in our nation and the world, He has already begun this greatest move of God, starting with thousands saved and miraculous healings in tent revivals in California, one of the most left-leaning, anti-God states. These revivals are spreading as God sends His Holy Ghost power. Pastors are smashing denominational walls as they gather together to equip and encourage each other to take their part in this awakening.

The darkness and evil of our present world has made people desperate for light and all that is good. The fields are ripe. God has already begun His harvest. World-wide revival is upon us.

WILL YOU PARTICIPATE?  If you do choose not to participate in this next great move of God, you will be not just be on the sidelines. Jesus says in Matthew 12:30 “He who is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with Me scatters.” Trying to stay neutral and uninvolved in the battle now going on means you are against God.

If you decide to join the battle (and I pray you do!) you do not have two years to conquer addiction or depression or other life-controlling problems, to press on to maturity, to learn to walk in the fullness of the Spirit, and to find your place in God’s mighty army. God is doing great and fearsome and wonderful things NOW. God needs ALL His warriors engaged in the fight NOW. That is why the focus of this website is more than ever on helping you grow and mature.

I aim to point out snares in your path so you can drink deeply of Living Water and feast on the Bread of Life as God grows you up and helps you walk further along that narrow path.  Notice I said as “God grows you up”, not me. I am even now nudging you toward Him as hard as I can. Righteousness with God and skill in applying His Word and His Holy Ghost power is necessary to overcome this world and destroy the works of the devil.

God is exposing evil and has already begun the Great Awakening. We must fulfill our assignments! Sharing what I learn is one way I am gratefully fulfilling my assignment. I am excited beyond words to share this new and deeper hope, this new and deeper healing and fulfilling of God’s purpose, the reason He sent Jesus for us—to destroy the works of the devil. (I John 3:8)

Image result for free picture of pressing on to the goalLet us follow Paul as he followed Christ (I Corinthians 11:1) and press on to maturity. Let us make Philippians 3:12-16 our aim. Let us say, with Paul:

12 Not that I have already obtained it [this goal of being Christlike] or have already been made perfect, but I actively press on so that I may take hold of that [perfection] for which Christ Jesus took hold of me and made me His own.

13]Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,

14 I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

15 All of us who are mature [pursuing spiritual perfection] should have this attitude. And if in any respect you have a different attitude, that too God will make clear to you.

16 Only let us stay true to what we have already attained.

Image result for free picture of praying hands and bibleIf you think I am too “far out”. If talking in tongues, prophecy, the laying on of hands for miraculous healing, and other elements of the Spirit-filled life offend you, you might reject my words, for now. I pray, though, that when you get desperate for the power of a Spirit-filled life, you will be back.

Whether you use this website now or not, I pray God stirs you up mightily and gives you no rest until your heart burns—and remains–white-hot with holy zeal!

Grace to you!

Waiting, hoping, and expecting – Part 2 of 2

Please note: The “What is God Telling You to Do?” post is available as a printable document on the “Books and More” tab. Please share  it with your friends.  Friends tell each other the truth, even when it hurts – Proverbs 27:6.

Image result for free picture of child waitingPart  One: Last week we began exploring Psalm 27:14 which tells us to “Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage, and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait and hope for and expect the Lord.” (AMPC) We saw how the phrase “Wait for and hope for and expect” appears six times in Psalm 25 through 33, and we are to “let our inner selves wait earnestly for the Lord.” This week, we will continue by looking at how God earnestly waits for us.

God waits earnestly to be good to us.

And therefore the Lord [EARNESTLY] waits [EXPECTING, LOOKING, AND LONGING] to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. 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)

God IS just and fair, but He will treat us more than merely fairly. He will be merciful to us and show us lovingkindness if we reciprocate His earnestness by waiting, expecting, looking and longing for “His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship!”

This verse alone contains several sermons! It comes in the middle of Isaiah 30, after God’s people had spent all their resources trying to obtain help from Egypt (the world) rather than from God. God told Israel:

“In returning to Me and resting in Me you shall be saved; in quietness and in (trusting) confidence shall be your strength” (v. 15)

Image result for Free Picture of Resting in God. Size: 204 x 204. Source: quotesgram.comGod told them they would be terrorized when the enemy attacked them and that because of that, He is waiting EARNESTLY His children to return to putting Him first and depending on Him. And why is that? Because “the Lord is a God of justice” (v. 18) and we are blessed if we EARNESTLY wait for Him.” Clearly, “waiting for and hoping for and expecting the Lord” earnestly brings great rewards. Many other verses and passages teach this same cause and effect principle. And what are the benefits?

Waiting, hoping, and expecting, confidently and earnestly bring renewed strength and protection from despair. Renewed strength.  Dear friend, I urge you to ponder deeply Isaiah 40. In this magnificent chapter God comforts His people by explaining His infinite power and sovereignty. After teaching us about His infinite nature, God ends the chapter with a promise to change and renew the strength and power of those who wait for Him, who expect, look and long for and hope in Him (verse 31). Carefully consider each phrase of the well-known verse 31.

31 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.

Who are these who never grow weary? Those whoImage result for free picture of tired runner wait for and hope for and expect the Lord, with confident and earnest hearts. If we ever needed to take these verses seriously, it is surely today!

No more despair or discouragement. Another benefit of waiting for and hoping for and expecting the Lord, confidently and earnestly, is that it encourages us and prevents despair and discouragement. Lamentations 3 shows us that if we bring to our mind God’s mercies and loving kindnesses to us and His tender, never-failing compassions, we will have hope and can wait expectantly for Him. When he was in desperate circumstances, Jeremiah remembered God’s goodness and it strengthened him.

Lamentations is the prophet Jeremiah’s lament over Jerusalem, the city he tried so hard to save. In Lamentations 3, Jeremiah reviews all his troubles and then asks God to earnestly remember his afflictions. (There is that word earnest again.) Jeremiah says that thinking about his afflictions bows down his soul BUT as he remembers God’s mercies and loving kindnesses, he is moved to hope in God and wait expectantly for God. Jeremiah reminds himself that “The Lord is good to those who hopefully and expectantly wait for Him” and he says that “It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation—the safety and ease—of the Lord.” (v. 26)

This powerful passage shows me that God understands how discouraged we sometimes become by things that happen but that—in the midst of it all—we are not destroyed because God IS, WAS AND WILL ALWAYS remain merciful, filled with loving-kindness toward us, tenderly compassionate, stable and faithful as we “hopefully and expectantly wait for Him, and as we “seek Him-inquiring of and for Him and requiring Him.”

Verse 25 assures us that God responds with this goodness whenever we have a real need and we rely on His Word.

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

Image result for free picture of bird under waterfallProtection and deliverance from the evil seeking to overtake the world today is a true need! And His Word never, ever, no never fails! I have set my heart to wait for and hope for and expect the Lord, earnestly and with confidence. I am convinced that, as I do my part by praying, declaring His Word, and doing whatever else God shows me, He will deliver me and keep me safely in His peace, right in the middle of whatever happens.

An artist once won a prize from a king for his drawing of peace. Other artists drew calm lakes and other pastoral scenes. The painting the king selected was that of a bird, because, as he said, true peace is being able to remain in the midst of hard things and stay calm in your heart.

Conclusion.  When God says something more than once, especially when His statements about something come close together, I pay careful attention. He urges us to “wait for and hope for and expect” Him several times in Psalm 25 through 34, as we have just seen. Notice that He uses the “wait for and hope for and expect” verbatim in Psalm 27:14 and in Psalm 31:24.

Psalm 27:14 “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 and hope for and expect the Lord.”

Psalm 31:24 Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for and hope for and expect the Lord!

In doing that, in waiting and hoping for and expecting the Lord, I am saying “God is my refuge. Words carry power and when I declare God is my refuge, God IS my refuge.

Image result for FREE Picture of Spiritual Armor. Size: 179 x 102. Source: sunrisechapel.churchNotice also the word “let” in “Let your heart take courage.” That shows us it is an action we must take, like putting on our spiritual armor (Ephesian 6:10-18). “Let” means to allow or permit. That says to me that my heart—my inmost being, that place inside me where God Himself dwells—my heart knows the truth about God and if I allow that truth and His spirit within me to operate, I will take courage and I will be strong-hearted and able to endure. So, yes, I will “wait for and hope for and expect the Lord” confidently and expectantly!

Hope for today. In the middle of our world where it seems evil is overtaking everything good and godly, we can remind ourselves that the One who made and sustains everything that exists loves us fiercely, and that He Himself is fighting for us.

With that knowledge, we can wait for and hope for and expect the Lord and take refuge under His outstretched wings. We know that as a mother hen lifts herself up so that she may shelter her little chicks, so the Lord is even now lifting Himself up, eagerly waiting for us to rely–not on the world as His rebellious children did in Isaiah 30—but rather on Him, to save us.

. . . the Lord [EARNESTLY] waits [EXPECTING, LOOKING, AND LONGING] to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. 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) 

Our loving, all-powerful God is ready, eager, to pour out His goodness upon us. He watches over us 24/7/365. “Indeed, He who watches over Israel never slumbers nor sleeps.” (Psalm 121:4, NIV) We never need to fear because the Creator and Sustainer of all that was and is and is to come adores us and watches over us. Let us declare Psalm 27:14:

I will wait for and hope for and expect the Lord; I will be brave and of good courage and I will let my heart be stout and enduring. Yes, I will wait for and hope for and expect the Lord!

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Waiting, hoping, and expecting – Part 1 of 2

Image result for free picture of coffee shopWaiting confidently. The sharp scent of coffee mingled with the aroma of fresh bread, pastries, soups and sandwiches. Soft voices hummed, and easy listening music floated above the clink of spoons and forks on stoneware mugs and bowls. I stared through the big window at Thursday morning traffic on William Cannon. “Thank You, Father. You know how I love studying in coffee houses. Thank You for Your presence here and for helping me see more in Psalm 27:14. . . “

I looked up and smiled at my friend as she slid into the booth. “I was just digging into Psalm 27. Do you know it says . . . “  Knowing me well, she indulged my excitement with this  latest discovery in the Word then she explained the unexpected long line that had made her ten minutes late.

“No problem!” I said. “I might not have seen this if you had not been delayed.”

And it truly was no problem because I know my friend, I know she does what she says she will and I could wait, confidently, until she arrived, just like I wait for a doctor’s appointment or in line for groceries.  Waiting is, of course, often a challenge. And no wonder! Waiting is an integral part of being patient.

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

Image result for free picture of waitingThe message of Psalm 27. Considering all of Psalm 27 teaches why we can and must wait confidently for the Lord. Read the entire 14 verses for yourself. Notice that David first declares he is not afraid because he is trusting in God and would remain confident, no matter what, because he had obeyed God’s command to seek His presence as his vital need. David declares God would keep Him safe in His presence, he asked for continued teaching in God’s ways, and reflects that his life would have been awful if he had not believed in God’s goodness upon this earth. Then in verse 14 David urges his listeners to Wait for and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage. Let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait and hope for and expect the Lord.” Notice that David seems to pause, consider, and then say to himself “Yes” and then he repeats the phrase “wait for and hope for and expect the Lord” with which he began the verse.

Why to “wait for and hope for and expect” the Lord. Six verses between Psalm 25 and 33 address this idea of trusting in the Lord, of waiting for and hoping for and expecting the Lord, this notion of being confident in the Lord, either in those same words or words very similar.

  • Psalm 25:2             O my God, I trust, lean on, rely on, and am confident in You. Let me not be put to shame or [my hope in You] be disappointed; let not my enemies triumph over me.
  • Psalm 27:14  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 and hope for and expect the Lord.
  • Psalm 28:7              The Lord is my Strength and my [impenetrable] Shield; my heart trusts in, relies on, and confidently leans on Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song will I praise Him.
  • Psalm 31:24  Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for and hope for and expect the Lord!
  • Psalm 32:10  Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but he who trusts in, relies on, and confidently leans on the Lord shall be compassed about with mercy and with loving-kindness.
  • Psalm 33:21 For in Him does our heart rejoice, because we have trusted (relied on and been confident) in His holy name.

Psalm 34:22 shows the benefits of this waiting for and hoping for and expecting God: God redeems our life and we will not be condemned or held guilty.  “The Lord redeems the lives of His servants, and none of those who take refuge and trust in Him shall be condemned or held guilty.”

Image result for free picture of shelter from rainTrusting in God means taking refuge in Him, which is saying “God is my refuge” (Psalm 46:1-3, 91:2) or “God is my portion.” (Lamentations 3:24, Psalm 73:26)” Waiting for God, with confidence, or trusting God—waiting for and hoping for and expecting God–is a choice we make. It is like we choose to walk under a shelter, to have refuge from rain or noontime heat. We choose to take refuge in Him, knowing He will protect us just as a roof under which we take refuge protects us from pelting rain or blistering heat. I am not truly trusting God as my refuge until I say and act like it, not until, for example, I give tithes, alms and offerings even when it seems the paycheck will not last the month.

This waiting for and hoping for and expecting God also includes being earnest.

How to let our inner selves wait earnestly for God.

Psalm 33:20 “Our inner selves wait EARNESTLY the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For in Him does our heart rejoice BECAUSE we have trusted (relied on and been confident) in His holy name.”

Image result for free picture of child waiting for christmasIf we wait for and hope for and expect the Lord, if we trust in Him confidently, we will, like a child on Christmas morning, have an earnest expectancy. The night before Christmas a child exemplifies each aspect of earnestness. He has a longing desire, is warmly engaged, eager, zealous, animated, intent, fixed, and sincere (from Webster’s 1828 online dictionary.) As that child is—effortlessly– zealous in his waiting on Christmas, so we can be— effortlessly–zealous in our waiting for God.

Does a child waiting for Christmas say flippantly, “I am waiting for Christmas.” NO! His eyes will sparkle at just the mention of it, he will strive hard to be nice and not naughty, and he will be sure to set out cookies and milk. The certainty of reward makes the waiting exciting but also more bearable.

The same applies as we wait eagerly and earnestly for God. We will know—to the bottom of our being, our “inner selves”—that God is helping and shielding us, and we will be joyful BECAUSE we have trusted (relied on and been confident) in His character, or His nature, His name. We will be as happy as a child anticipating Christmas because we know He will be good to us.

Verse 22 of this chapter says that God’s mercy and lovingkindness will be “upon us in proportion to our waiting and hoping for” Him. That is a loving nudge, telling me to wait and hope for Him earnestly, whole-heartedly, every day, just like a child before Christmas or a bridegroom before his wedding.

And did you know that God says He also waits earnestly? We will look into that next week in Part Two.


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Am I consistently joyful in my walk? Part Two of Two

Image result for free picture of walking with jesusLast week as we considered how to consistently “maintain a joyful Christian walk”, an investigation sparked by Andrew Murray’s jewel “The Ministry of Intercessory Prayer”, we covered points one through 9 in the outline below. This week we will finish with points 10 through 15.  I pray these words help you draw closer to the One who loves us so, so, so very much.

  1. Practicing His presence.
  2. “As you do not know the path of the wind. . . “(Ecclesiastes 11:5)
  3. The message of the hummingbird.
  4. Drawing nearer to God includes pulling away from the world and self.
  5. Steps to wholeness of healing, which is this joy of depending only on Him.
  6. STEP ONE:
  7. “But I am already living a holy life”, my flesh says.
  8. More pruning produces more fruit.
  9. Too straight and too hard?
  10. Are You my vital necessity, Lord?
  11. Am I (still not yet) a slave to righteousness which leads to holiness?
  12. STEP TWO
  15. I know You will guide me, Lord.

Image result for Free Picture of Bread and Water. Size: 158 x 105. Source:[9]       Are You my vital necessity, Lord? Jeremiah 2­9 is a letter God wrote through Jeremiah to the captives exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem because of their wickedness and unrepentant idol worship. In the first nine verses, God told the captive Israelites to settle down and work for the good of the place they lived (Babylon) because “its welfare will determine your welfare.” (V. 7b, NLT). God told them they would stay in Babylon 70 years, which was until their punishment was completed. (Notice how God is taking care of them, even while they are being punished, by telling them how to have a better life.)  In verse 10, God promises that after 70 years He would return them to Jerusalem and “do for you all the good things I have promised.” (v. 10b).

And then comes the well-known verse, Jeremiah 29:11:

11 For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. (NIV)

Let’s look closely at verses 12 through 14.

12 Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you.

13 Then you will seek Me, inquire for, and require Me [as a vital necessity] and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. (emphasis added)

14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will release you from captivity and gather you from all the nations and all the places to which I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I caused you to be carried away captive.”

Image result for free clip art of the plans i have for youGod reassures His rebellious people that He has good plans for them, and that their final outcome will be one where they love Him whole-heartedly and find Him as well as enjoy freedom again. I think God gave them this encouragement because He knew it would take some of them the whole 70 years to seek Him whole-heartedly. Verses 12-14 concern the “then” time or “in those days,” meaning when the captives are returned to Jerusalem. God says “in those days” His people will pray and He will hear, and when they seek Him as their VITAL necessity and seek Him with ALL their heart, they will find Him and He will bring them back to Jerusalem.

Perhaps the lesson for me, regarding spiritual growth, is that when my life includes putting other things before God—which is idol worship—I will get my consequences, as the Israelite captives did. And I will live with my consequences until God’s righteous judgement on my sin of putting things above Him is completed. And then, after I have learned my lesson through the harsh, but righteous circumstances of my sin, I will then be free FINALLY to seek God, inquire for God, and require God [as a vital necessity] and search for Him with my WHOLE heart. And then—when I truly have no other gods before Him—then is when I will find God and He will return me to my own Jerusalem, my own fortified city where God dwells and truly reigns, my own life where I have the light of peace in my heart.

I believe this process of sin-captivity-judgement-restoration applies to any scale of time, from our ‘little” failures that take us away from God part of the day to on-going, unrecognized and/or unconfessed sin that steals our closeness and our peace for many months or years.

Image result for free picture of slave to righteousness[10]     Am I (still not yet) a slave to righteousness which leads to holiness? (Romans 6:19-23) God makes it clear that “when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16, NIV). So as long as we serve and obey our own flesh or the enemy, we are enslaved by our flesh or the enemy. The consequences of our voluntary enslavement is that the enemy takes us “captive to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:16, NIV), and we are unable to “maintain a joyful Christian walk in God’s way”, which is a symptom of the diseased condition of our heart. I have to ask myself, “Is my heart still not totally submitted to obedience to God?”  Am I carried away to Babylon sometimes, made captive and my will controlled by the cruel enemy, because I still sometimes “offer myself’ to sin?

Perhaps we weak humans simply do not truly learn what seeking God whole-heartedly and with our whole heart is, i.e., as if our life depends on it, until we are in desperate circumstances.

First by force, then by choice? This is why I say God blessed me with depression–it forced me to keep my mind on Him and His Word constantly. My case is not as extreme but it reminds me of the book “Shadowlands.”  When his new wife had cancer, C. S. Lewis was so driven to constant prayer that he said prayer was all he could do and that he had to pray to survive.

Image result for Baby Leaning On JesusPerhaps, after circumstances force us to lean constantly on God, the next quality of character to be developed is to choose this constant leaning, even when we feel we can manage “without thinking about God while we visit with family, spend an afternoon at a museum, etc.  I ask myself, “Freda, is that not self-confidence and self-sufficiency?” This voluntary constant leaning Andrew Murray speaks of costs “self-will, self-pleasure and self-confidence.”  I do have to give up all of self if I am to give all my heart to God.

Although I have lately been spending more time in prayer and Bible study and meditating more consistently during waking hours, trying to grow closer, I sense that asking God to “heal me” in this way is a definite, concrete step, much like the very first time you tithe and must trust that God will meet your needs that month though it looks impossible if you give Him ten percent.

I am certain God will help me in this. As He promises in Romans 6, if I offer myself continually to Him to obey Him, I will be a “slave to righteousness”, which means I will be under the control of righteousness.

16 Do you not know that if you continually surrender yourselves to anyone to do his will, you are the slaves of him whom you obey, whether that be to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience which leads to righteousness (right doing and right standing with God

17 But thank God, though you were once slaves of sin, you have become obedient with all your heart to the standard of teaching in which you were instructed and to which you were committed.

18 And having been set free from sin, you have become the servants of righteousness (of conformity to the divine will in thought, purpose, and action). (Romans 6:16-18, AMPC)

Image result for Free Picture of Sitting with Jesus. Size: 86 x 107. Source:[11]     STEP TWO: The second step is to “look to Him as your only help.” (p. 84) We must say, like the lame man at Bethesda “I have no one to put me into the pool” (John 5:7). We must know that there is no help for us here on earth. We must confess our weakness and “know there is no hope for you unless Christ in His mercy heals you.” I think that is something else I must say to the Lord and keep on saying. I do understand that every good thing comes from Him, as James 1 says, and that even our desire to please Him, comes from Him working in us as Philippians 2:13 tells us.

[12]     STEP THREE: The third step is to respond in faith. As the lame man at Bethesda believed Jesus and obeyed and walked, so too must we believe that there is “truth and power in Christ’s word.” (p. 85) “If we fix our gaze on Christ. . . we will have courage to obey.” (p. 85) Yes, I must believe that even I, with all my weaknesses, I can walk in the way God intended. I can exercise my faith which is “. . . being sure of what we hope for and sure of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1, NIV) and I can, like Abraham, believe “. . . in the God who brings the dead back to life and Who creates new things out of nothing.” (Romans 4:17, NLT)

Image result for free picture of rain on fields[13]     ONE LAST “STEP”. Andrew Murray then wisely warns about forming false expectations, to not, for example, expect “to be all at once be proficient in prayer or any part of the Christian life.” He concludes the chapter by saying that, like learning anything, we must start at the beginning, but we must start. I will heed this warning because, as a perfectionist in some areas, I can expect too much of myself and get discouraged. I will take the attitude of James 5:7 and be patient as God works in my heart. I can wait “. . . for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.” (NIV)

[14]     I know You will guide me, Lord.  Thank You, Lord, for the grace I feel to yield and not struggle with the idea of this greater pruning of self. But I do need Your clear guidance, Lord. I will meditate on and pray Psalm 25 with greater intensity, and I will declare it.

You know, Lord, in this matter of living my whole life for You, in the past I have been too zealous in some ways, like staying up too late reading the Word, sitting at the desk too long when I need to go exercise, or depriving myself of so many pleasures that I became resentful and frustrated with the lifestyle I created for myself in trying to put You first.

I know I need adequate rest and exercise and time with family and friends. And I have learned it is essential to invest at least a bit of time regularly in keeping my home and surroundings tidy. But, Father, what about “leisure time”? Lord, I do not want to spend too much time on that but neither do I want to become unbalanced and eventually frustrate myself and cause discouragement.

Image result for free picture of praying handsI paused, but only a moment before a clear thought came. “I can spend time praying in the Spirit for direction about this.” I have learned recently (although I think I knew it in years earlier and ‘forgot’ it) that when I faithfully set aside time each day to pray in tongues about something specific, He answers clearly.

“Yes! Lord! I know You will answer!”

And, another thought came then, one I was not so excited about.

“Lord, is the healthier diet You recently led me to part of all of this? I have fallen away from it lately. Is this part of the things that seem “too hard and too straight”? Well, I will include prayer and prayer in tongues about that, too. As Paul said in I Corinthians 14:15, “I will pray in the spirit, and I will also pray in words I understand. I will sing in the spirit, and I will also sing in words I understand.” (NIV)

“Father, You know this will be a new and exciting adventure. Thank You for leading me to that book through my friend. Something has not seemed quite right between us for a while, and I think it is what I have heard some Bible teachers and preachers say, that You sometimes pull away so that we will press on further and follow You into new places.

Dearest Father, with the psalmist in Psalm 27:4, I say:

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek, inquire for, and [insistently] require: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord [in His presence] all the days of my life, to behold and gaze upon the beauty [the sweet attractiveness and the delightful loveliness] of the Lord and to meditate, consider, and inquire in His temple.

Yes, Lord! Keep me close while I grow!

 Note: For more about “Standing Strong Like the Hummingbird,”see the May 9, 2020, blog post. May our loving Father grant both of us grace to stand strong and to move forward with Him in our personal growth. Amen and so be it, Lord Jesus!

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Am I consistently joyful in my walk? Part One of Two

Image result for Free Picture of Walking with Jesus. Size: 124 x 100. Source: www.fanpop.comThis week we will cover Parts One through Nine of the points listed  below  as we consider how to consistently “maintain a joyful Christian walk”, an investigation sparked by Andrew Murray’s jewel of a book “The Ministry of Intercessory Prayer.” Let us commit this study to God and ask for His wisdom. Let us ask with faith, knowing He will give it, for we know He is good and only good and that He delights in giving good things to His children (James 1:5-8, Luke 11:11-13). I pray that pondering Andrew Murray’s teaching convicts, comforts, and spurs you on to greater commitment to our loving Father, as it did me. May your deepening commitment enable you to feel His loving embrace ever more clearly in your daily walk. Here are the headings of this two-part series.

  1. Practicing His presence.
  2. “As you do not know the path of the wind. . . “(Ecclesiastes 11:5)
  3. The message of the hummingbird.
  4. Drawing nearer to God includes pulling away from the world and self.
  5. Steps to wholeness of healing, which is this joy of depending only on Him.
  7. “But I am already living a holy life”, my flesh says.
  8. More pruning produces more fruit.
  9. Too straight and too hard?
  10. Are You my vital necessity, Lord?
  11. Am I (still not yet) a slave to righteousness which leads to holiness?
  12. STEP TWO
  15. I know You will guide me, Lord.

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[1]       Practicing His presence.   “Father, I love this new habit You led me to, this just sitting with You a while before starting morning devotions. Thank You for guiding me.” I sipped the chamomile fast, so it would help with breathing, and gently moved the rocker, peering into soft morning light, grateful three-story units to the east blocked the direct morning sun. The window framed soft green, intertwined crape myrtle branches in shadow, like a private, secluded forest.

[2]       “As you do not know the path of the wind. . . “(Ecclesiastes 11:5)  The morning Texas wind shoved larger branches to the right, pinning them there, while slender stems at the ends traced quavering circles in the air. As abruptly as it had begun, the wind stopped. Branches snapped back and stood straight, stretching leafy arms toward their Creator.

“Yes, Lord, I remember when I learned that verse, “As you do not know the path of the wind or how the body is formed in the wind, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” (Ecclesiastes 11:5, NIV). It was more than thirty years ago, when Sharon was in elementary school and I was a new believer. I was walking from the bus stop to the office on a cold, gusty February morning, holding an index card as I walked, memorizing the Word. I remember the wind blasted my coat open at that very moment, reminding me that You were with me. That one touch of Your love warmed me the whole day. Hmm.  So sweet, so sweet. . . Thank You, dear Father. Memories of Your Word speaking to me are truly are “sweeter than honey”, as You say in Psalm 119.

Lord, I could not then and I cannot now know which way the wind will turn, and I do not understand Your work or Your ways, but I do love Psalm 25, how the whole psalm is a plea for You to teach the psalmist Your ways and show him how to live. I especially like that short verse, verse 25, “Show me Your ways, Lord; teach me Your paths.” (AMPC).  I am glad it is taking so long to memorize. That’s making me think deeply about each phrase.

Image result for free picture of hummingbird[3] The message of the hummingbird.  “Oooh!” I breathed as I saw a hummingbird hover beside the fuschia flowers of the crape myrtle ten yards from my second-floor window.

“I have never seen one this high up. Thank You Lord!” Before the hummingbird darted away, another treasured memory drifted into thought.

“I remember how, when depression was at its worst, You gave the person praying with me visions of hummingbirds and a rhema word that I must feed on the nectar of Your Word as a hummingbird feeds on flower nectar. That so much confirmed how You had led me to meditate constantly, day and night, on Your Word. And that constant meditation healed the depression and fear and has kept me free.

“Yes,” I thought, “that is part of drawing closer, when God lets events force us to return our mind to Him as often as hummingbirds return for nectar. That pulling away from anything else but dependence on Him must be an essential part of drawing nearer.”

[4] Drawing nearer to God includes pulling away from the world and self.  I have been pondering a chapter in Andrew Murray’s sterling book “The Ministry of Intercessory Prayer.”  He says “Your inability to maintain a joyful Christian walk in God’s way is a sign of disease.” (p. 84). That sentence grabbed my attention. By grace alone, I maintain joy and victory more consistently now than before, but not always.

I have learned to fight my way back to emotional balance and joy, rather than just avoiding depression.  But Andrew Murray’s book explains my “remaining disease of self” is the cause of emotional imbalance and negative emotions that still happen sometimes. Andrew Murray talks about this disease of the self that is so hard to be free from. The chapter “Will You Be Made Whole?” outlines God’s way for healing us of self so we can walk as He intends, with consistent joy and “heavenly power beyond anything we could dare to imagine or hope for.” (p. 81).

Image result for free picture of doctor and patientMurray notes that a doctor heals by making the patient independent of the doctor. Our Great Physician’s aim is to heal by bringing “. . . us into such dependence upon himself that we will not be able to live a moment without Him.” (p. 82). We live frail Christian lives because we do not appropriate Divine truth for our own selves.

“As long as we expect Christ to continually do something for us in single acts of grace, trusting Him from time to time to give us only that which will last a little while, we cannot be restored to perfect health. But when we grasp the fact that we need Him moment by moment in our lives in utter dependence upon His strength and provision, then the life of Christ becomes the health of our soul.” (p. 82)

[5]       Steps to wholeness of healing, which is this joy of depending only on Him. Murray outlines three steps to being made whole: telling God we want to be made whole, looking to Him as our only help, and responding in faith.

[6]       STEP ONE: To achieve this condition where “the life of Christ becomes the health of our soul”, Murray explains, Christ first asks us, as He did the man at Bethesda (John 5:2-9), “Do you want to get well?” And we must tell Him we want to be made well.  Some will not admit we are sick and others will not believe Christ can make us fully whole.

“At the root of it all [this not admitting our sickness and our unbelief] is the fear of self-denial and the sacrifice that will be required. People are not willing to entirely give up self-will, self-confidence, and self-pleasing (emphasis added). The walk in Christ that makes us like Christ is too straight and too hard (emphasis added). They do not want to be made whole. . . . If you are willing to be made whole, you must confess clearly, “Lord, at any price, I will!” (p. 84)

Image result for free picture of pruning grape vine[7]       But I am already living a holy life”, my flesh says. Each round of trials-wobbling-rebalancing these many months has shaken off more self-confidence, more of the flesh, and more of the world. My walk has become more narrow regarding what I do, read and listen to. I also am better now at forgiving and forgetting because they now feel like the poison they are (whereas for years before they stayed buried, unaware, deep in my heart). This narrowing of our daily life is part of the pruning Jesus describes in John 15:2. “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (NIV)” Andrew Murray explains that of all fruit-bearing vines, the grapevine most needs pruning. Pruning cuts away not only dead branches but good, fruit-bearing branches because those branches use sap, and more sap must be channeled into producing fruit, rather than merely sustaining branches.

[8]       More pruning produces more fruit. And now? Now I think God is calling me to sacrifice some good things in favor of better things, lovingly pruning good wood so that more of my life’s energy will, like sap, will go into producing fruit for the kingdom. I believe that includes more prayer and Bible study and more time invested in others rather than self-indulgences, self-pleasures or self-will.

Image result for free picture of narrow mountain path[9]       Too straight and too hard? I am thinking deeply about Andrew Murray’s observation that entirely giving up  our “walk after the course of this world” can seem “too straight and too hard  because it includes giving up “self-will, self-confidence, and self-pleasing.” Suppose, for example, we forego R-rated movies because God shows us those are no longer acceptable. Suppose our path then narrows to only movies with no violence or obscenities. Would our path to greater closeness seem “too straight and too hard” if it means many evenings of foregoing all “entertainment” so as to make more time for Bible study and prayer or acts of service or a higher quality of family evenings?

More than four years ago, when God first showed me it was necessary to keep my mind on the Word all day, I recall thinking “I can’t live like Joyce Meyer and other Bible teachers say they do. I can’t think about the Word ALL day.” At that point, I do not think I wanted to either, although I thought I loved God with all my heart back then. Perhaps I did to the fullest extent I could, BUT He was not yet my “vital necessity,” not until desperation forced me to meditate constantly, just like I had heard.

Is God showing me that He is still not truly my vital necessity, that I still depend on and/or love my own self and worldly things more than Him? Part Two explores this question.

Can you give God each hour?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key Bible truths to cherish:

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

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

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

Verse 17 in the AMPC says:

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

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

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

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

Deliberately, consciously dedicating our time

to God is wise!

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

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

Pics I Trust in You Lord

Shhh, shhh. . . everything is okay

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

P.S. Just for you, dear friend:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wobbliness and wobbly times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[8] Experience, the best teacher? YES!

[9] Do trials ever end for the believer?

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

P.S. Just for you, dear friend!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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