Category Archives: DEPRESSION

Are you dwelling in the secret place of the Most High? – Psalm 91, Pt. 1

Image result for Free Picture of Home Sweet Home. Size: 162 x 102. Source: www.publicdomainpictures.net“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand]. “I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust.

“The secret place of the Most High.” Hmm. . . I pondered, as I took a sip of half-caf, lowered the volume of the gentle piano music streaming on the computer, and leaned back in my chair. “Dwell” means to live permanently, to make someplace your home by living, eating, sleeping, and finding shelter. And what exactly is the secret place? I think I know but. . .

Do you have your own arsenal of Scripture? Psalm 91 is part of my arsenal of Scripture, the verses I deliberately keep fresh in my mind through repeated meditation and which I use every day when something threatens to steal my peace or my feeling of security in Jesus. I discovered this group of verses in the spring of 2019, when deep healing of life-long depression began. Many things, including Bible reading and study, prayer, Christian counseling, and medicine, all had helped greatly.

However, deep healing of the root causes of sorrow and discouragement did not happen until God helped me give His Word its proper place in my daily life and in my heart. Only when God taught me to diligently study His law, His precepts, instructions, and teachings and to meditate, to ponder and study them, by day and by night, (Psalm 1:1, AMPC), only then was I able to keep my emotions stable and to walk in victory. Only then could I trade my ashes for beauty, my mourning for joy, and my spirit of despair for a garment of praise (Isaiah 61:3, NIV)

Image result for Free Picture of Tangled Roots. Size: 174 x 110. Source: denisepass.comPeace and security in the secret place. The biggest causes of depression for me–the ugly roots that caused death and decay– were fear and insecurity. Two years ago while memorizing Psalm 91, I realized that the powerful promises of Psalm 91 were dependent on what I did, like dwelling, trusting, making God my refuge, and loving Him. Part of the reason the Word helps me so much, I think, is that verses like this give me something to “do” and the confidence that if I do my part, God will certainly do His. For example, keeping Psalm 91 in mind, I did the best I could to stay in God’s presence all day long and as I did so, even though I was mired in the mud of negative feelings at the start, I kept reminding myself that God would do His part and that no foe could withstand His mighty power (Psalm 91:1, AMPC). That brought a small, but ever-increasing measure of peace and security.

I felt little difference at first but by day by day, week by week, my faith in God’s promises grew as I saw Him deliver me one hour, one situation at a time. When we do our best to obey God, God does good things for us. Hebrews 11:6 in the NIV tells us “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He reward those who earnestly seek Him.”

Image result for free picture of promiseThe “thens” of Psalm 91. A clear example of how God rewards us for seeking Him is found in Psalm 91. The AMPC has this footnote for Psalm 91: “The rich promises of this whole chapter are dependent upon one’s meeting exactly the conditions of these first two verses.”  Before we examine verses 1 and 2, let’s look into those rich promises. The “thens” that follow verses 1 and 2, along with the “becauses” in verses 9 through 16, (using the 1965 Amplified Bible) highlight those promises, as follows:

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

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

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

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

and finally. . .

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

So, let’s begin pondering this beloved psalm, often called the soldier’s psalm. Let’s explore what those essential first two verses instruct us to do.

Verse 1: “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand].

Dwelling in the secret place of the Most High. In considering what “dwelling” meant, I turned to John 14, a passage that speaks of dwelling. In John 14, Jesus promised to send Holy Spirit—“Whom the world cannot receive (welcome, take to its heart) because it does not see Him, nor know and recognize Him. . .“–but Whom the disciples would recognize because the Comforter lived with them and would be in them (meaning after Jesus ascended to heaven and Holy Spirit came).

Jesus promised that after His resurrection, His disciples would know, for themselves, that “I am in My Father, and you [are] in Me, and I [am] in you.” (v. 20). Jesus said that if they really loved Him, they would obey Him and He would show Himself to them and let them clearly see Him and He would make Himself real to them. That promise also applies to us, His current-day disciples.

Image result for Free Clip Art of Moving In. Size: 168 x 204. Source: www.clipartpanda.comWhen asked how He would reveal Himself to us and make Himself real to us—and not the world– Jesus answered that if someone loves Him, that person will obey His Word and Jesus and the Father will “come to him and make Our home (abode, special dwelling place) with him.” (John 14:23, AMPC).  Jesus reiterated that if we really love Him, we will obey His teachings.

So, our love and obedience causes God to dwell, or live, in us and our love and obedience causes us to live in God and God in us. And His abiding in us is how He makes Himself real to us. So that means that He does not show, reveal or manifest Himself to the world—to those who do not love or obey Him. People who do not love and obey God do not think He is real.

His dwelling in us is hidden from the world. It is a secret, like the secret mentioned in Psalm 25:14: “The secret [of the sweet, satisfying companionship] of the Lord have they who fear (revere and worship) Him, and He will show them His covenant and reveal to them its [deep, inner] meaning.”

God’s hidden, or secret, companionship, God’s friendship, is promised to those who fear, revere and worship Him, which includes obeying His commands. As we just read In John 14, Jesus promised to make His home with those who love Him and do what He says.  So where is this home? Jesus promised to make His home with “each” of us, so that implies to me that the “home” is in our individual hearts.

Child Whispering to Grand ParentI think this helps describe that “secret place of the Most High” of Psalm 91. It is a secret place, where no one else can see, a place created when we love and obey God. When we deeply love someone, we tell them they “have a place in our hearts”, right? So, that phrase must apply here. We give God a place in our hearts when we love Him and respond to Him, and He makes His home with us. He is always with us. We are His dwelling place.  I think that must be like a cousin would make your residence his home if he moved in and became part of the routine of your family, if he had his own seat at the table and his own bed, and other members of your household included him in their daily activities. That cousin would be making your residence his home.

“the Most High. I think Scripture uses “Most High” here to remind us of this attribute of God, that He is “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” and that He is above, and in control of, every being that exists. “Most High”, or ‘El’Elyhon is saying that “God is the very highest of all spiritual begins to which humans give the title ‘god’. (https://namesforgod.net)

Image result for free picture of anchor on a ship“shall remain stable and fixed”. The NIV and the NLT say that the one who dwells in the secret place shall “find rest”. I love the idea of finding rest in His presence, but remaining stable and fixed spoke more powerfully to me in the months when I was fighting desperately for emotional stability. “Stable and fixed” implies something is anchored in place securely and is unlikely to overturn or be changed.  There is that security theme again!

“under the shadow of the Almighty.” “God Almighty” is from the Hebrew El Shaddai, meaning “God, the All-powerful One”. (www.compellingtruth.org).  It comforts me to ponder the fact that this God, this Holy One Who is protecting me, is the most powerful Being that exists. He is THE Highest. and if I am in His shadow, that means He is above me, covering me, and because He is The Highest, He is covering me, shading me, from all things because He is above all things and He is All-powerful.

“whose power no foe can withstand.” How reassuring to hear that no enemy can stand against my God! “Withstand” means “to oppose or resist” (Webster’s 1828 online dictionary). Withstand also means to hold out against, or to stand one’s ground, as in the case of a battle. It also means to remain undamaged by, as when some structures withstand hurricane-force winds. I smile each time I repeat that phrase—“whose power no foe can withstand.”

I smile because, when I look closely, I see that it is the foe who will be unable to withstand, it is the foe who will be unable to hold out, it is the foe who will be damaged by the power of God Almighty, which means God Almighty is fighting my enemies for me! God is the One attacking. The foe is the one trying to not give ground and not be damaged and destroyed. Almighty God is going to move the enemy back, God Almighty is going to damage the enemy! The enemy will not be able to resist God Almighty! This verse did not say that God Most High can withstand all the power of the foe, although that is more than true. That would imply that the Most High was in a defensive position. No, to me it means that although God protecting us is a defensive action, from our human perspective, when God defends us He always gains ground against the enemy and defeats the enemy! God never, no never, no never fails!

Verse  2: “I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust.

Image result for free picture of children buiding a fort“I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God.” Picture two nine-year-old boys building a fort in the woods bordering their back yard. They cannot lift a heavy log they want to use. One boy says, “Wait til my Dad gets home. He will move it for us. He can pick up anything!”

The boy says that because, in that boy’s experience, his Dad can lift anything the boy has needed. If I have sought refuge in God before, I know, by experience, that He keeps me safe and shelters me from danger. If I have experienced the security of being safe and unharmed in the Fortress of His love while the enemy warred against me, I too will say “the Lord is my refuge, my Fortress.”

This is another wording of the truth expressed in verse 14 of Psalm 91 and in Psalm 9:10, which is that those who are familiar with the character of  God, through experience with His character, will trust in Him.

“They who know Your name (have experience and acquaintance with Your mercy and) will lean on and confidently trust in You, for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek (inquire of and for) You [on the authority of the Word and the right of their necessity.] (AMPC)

If I have seen, through experience, that He shows Himself strong on my behalf when I call upon Him (2 Chronicles 16:9), then I can say, with confidence, “The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress, and my Deliverer, my God, my keen and firm Strength in Whom I will trust and take refuge, my Shield, and the Horn of my salvation, my High Tower” (Psalm 18:2, AMPC). Then I will love Him “fervently and devotedly” and He will be my strength (Psalm 18:1, AMPC)

“on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust.”  To lean, as a verb, means “to incline, deviate, or bend from a vertical position; to cast one’s weight to one side for support.  MacMillan’s dictionary also says it means to “to tend to choose or support something.” Decades ago, when I first made Jesus the King of my heart, I memorized Proverbs 3:5-6 and made it the guiding principle of my life. Although my meditation back then was not as deep as it is now, I clearly remember the first time I experienced that inner knowing that Holy Spirit had touched my mind with fresh understanding. As I was Image result for free picture of little girl sleepingreflecting on those two verses, having my evening devotions after tucking my daughter into bed, I realized that leaning on God, rather than my own understanding, meant to lean or depend on Him so much that if He did not come through I would fall, just like if I truly leaned on a crutch or a cane I would fall if the crutch or cane broke.

Experiences of God’s mercy are what empowers us to trust God with confidence, but we have to incline our heart, and our actions, toward Him and we have to walk, or live our lives, holding to Him and letting Him take the weight of our burdens and needs. Actually leaning on a crutch or cane requires me to lean forward, grasp it and take a step on my weak foot with the crutch bearing much of the weight. If I step out letting my weak foot support my weight, I am not really leaning. And I am further harming my own weak foot – and my own silly self.

Image result for free picture of check bookI remember taking a quivering breath as I wrote out my tithe check that first time so long ago. There would not be enough money left to pay bills and buy groceries for my precious little one and me if God did not do something miraculous with finances.  I had several tremulous days until I saw God steadily supply our needs, week after week, with specials on the foods we regularly ate, a unexpected reimbursement from insurance, invitations to dinner, and on and on and on. God did do miracles that month and every time I have needed a financial miracle–for the last forty years. We-can-depend-on-God! He-IS-faithful!

Confidence in God—and the matchless peace it brings—is built by acting in faith. I have a wonderful quote written on a post-it note, scotch-taped to the cubby above my desk: “We live by believing, not by seeing.”

We become confident that God will keep us “stable and fixed” in His presence as we actually try to do that. And wobbly first attempts to find His presence must be exceedingly precious in God’s eyes. How does a mother or father feel when their baby boy takes his first step? And when that baby says “Papa” and reaches upward, what does Papa do?

Faith grows in the furnace, in the fire, and in the flood. The next time a situation or your feelings seem overwhelming, act in faith, while you are still feeling overwhelmed. That is worth repeating: Faith grows in the furnace, in the fire, and in the flood. While you are closed in, it is hot, and you feel you are suffocating, make the effort to get alone with your heavenly Father for a few minutes. Remind your soul of His good qualities and of all the times He has taken care of you. Read the promises in Psalm 91 and rest in the peace of knowing that He will fulfill those promises for little old you if you make Him your dwelling place, by loving and obeying Him.

If you love Him and obey Him, He IS your dwelling place. He DOES live in you, and you DO live in Him. Your feelings and thought arrows from the enemy might lie to you, but if you are doing your part in one of the promises of God, God IS doing His part to fulfill that promise in your life. Let the truth of those promises from Jesus comfort you as the warm embrace of a father soothes a fearful, restless child.  Find your rest in His presence, in just being with Him.

Next time, we will look into what God promises those who make Him their Refuge and their Fortress, those who lift up their hearts to Him and call on His name, those who run into His arms, like a little child crying “Abba! Father”! (Romans 8:15)

Image result for Free Picture of child Running into father's Arms. Size: 147 x 105. Source: www.youworkforthem.com

Our never, never, never failing God

“. . . be satisfied with what you have for He, (God) Himself, has said:

I will not, in any way,  

fail you, 

nor give you up, 

nor leave you without support.

[I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not]

in any degree

leave you helpless,

nor forsake you,

nor let you down [relax My hold on you]

Assuredly not!

So,  we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say:

The LORD is my helper.

I will not be seized with alarm.

[I will not fear

or dread

or be terrified] 

What  can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6 AMPC) (Emphasis added to words in bold and underlined)

“Nana, can we play outside afta’ you exacise?” I smiled down at my grandson and gently stroked the back of his head.“ Of course, darlin’.” 

Image result for free picture of daycare roomPondering the Word. I watched him put his Garfield water bottle and hoodie into one of the red and yellow cubbies lining one wall of the playroom, then walk over to the table where the childcare worker was tracing little hands onto white paper plates. I smiled. I knew what Ansel would proudly give me in an hour and a half when I finished my “exacise”. 

“Thank You, Father, thank You, thank You, thank You that I live close to my grandsons. Thank You for the privilege of helping care for them.” 

I walked down the hall and into the kitchen area, filled my own, non-Garfield, water bottle and added an energy/vitamin powder. The familiarity of the kitchen and lounge area of the big, window-walled YMCA enveloped me. A twenty-something woman sat in one of the cushy chairs near the silenced TV, yellow baby blanket draped from shoulder to lap, caressing little feet in tiny lace-topped socks as she talked to another mom opening snack boxes of grapes and cheese for the two toddlers staring at the Cookie Monster.

I nodded and smiled at the retired couple sitting at one of the four countertop-height tables. As usual, he was reading the paper and she was working the crossword, several copies of which were  set out each morning for the many seniors who frequented the YMCA, some of us by choice and others of us, like me, to combat arthritis and keep some body parts from further loss of function.

After putting my gym bag and water bottle into their usual spot in the corner by the rack of weights, I spread a mat on the floor, sat down cross-legged and put the stack of hand-written papers on the floor so I could look at them while I stretched my quads. For the next twenty minutes of stretching, I looked at the top paper in the stack, moving it from one side to the other as I twisted and turned, repositioning legs, arms and torso, reading one phrase, doing one stretch then glancing at the paper again to be sure I had that phrase right, then moving on to the next phrase as I held the next stretch for fifteen or so seconds.

Two weeks earlier, I had started studying, desperately, Bible verses about peace, my area of greatest need. Heeding the sound teaching of Joyce Meyer and Derek Prince to take the Word of God like the medicine it is and to meditate constantly on verses in my areas of need, I had used a rickety card table as my desk, perusing the Word as if for a test.  I copied the verses in longhand so I could carry them everywhere and use them as the sword and shield they actually are, to fight back against fear and other negative feelings.

Image result for free picture of a hand writing on paperAs I copied the verses, I put groups of phrases that went together, on a separate line, anything to help me deeply understand what God was saying and to ensure God’s imprinted Word came to mind when negative feelings surged. That little stack of handwritten verses had become my lifeline and that morning, while Ansel played and I stretched, lifted weights and then bicycled, I thought about what God was saying in Hebrews 13:5-6. 

The context of Hebrews 13:5-6.  Hebrews 13 opens with instructions about loving each other, practicing hospitality, and the surety of God’s judgement on adultery. Verse 5 begins with the warning to not love money, but rather to be satisfied with what you have because God would never fail or abandon us and that, because of that, we can confidently say “God is my helper, so I will not fear. What can people do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6, NLT) . By God’s grace, thirty-plus years of experiencing His faithfulness had molded a trusting heart, and years of consistent effort to be thankful had molded a grateful heart. However, I was now desperately pondering God’s faithfulness to provide for my biggest need, which was emotional. I glanced at the page as I leaned sideways, arms overhead.

“. . . be satisfied with what you have for He, (God) Himself, has said: . . . “ “So, satisfied means content, which brings to mind a cud-chewing, peaceful, cow, one that has ceased grazing and is not fretting about the next mouthful of grass, simply enjoying what she now has.  So, I reflected as I leaned to the other side, to be content emotionally I should relax where I am right now and stop searching.  I inhaled deeply. And I can do that because God, God Himself, the Amplified version says, is making the rest of promises I have copied down. God Himself, the One Who created and sustains the entire universe, is here with me, He Himself.  I repeated those words several times — “God Himself”. 

“I will not, in any way, fail you nor give you up, nor leave you without support . . . “ “Father, those three beautiful words, “in any way”, cover everything. How reassuring! And You have, in every way, taken care of me and Sharon for so many years. And not just materially. You sent godly men to be father figures for her, kind-hearted people to initiate friendships in my years of painful shyness, the energy to finish school and get a good job, and a wonderful husband for Sharon. And then You brought me here to Austin when she had Ansel’s older brother. 

            I paused as I flipped on my back for crunches.  “Lord, I am certain that the words ‘in any way’ include healing my heart of depression and fear and teaching me to stay in peace, though that seems impossible right now. I choose to believe that, Lord.  no matter my feelings.”

Image result for free picture of support            . . . fail me, nor give me up, nor leave me without support.  My margin note from Webster’s 1828 dictionary defined fail as “to become deficient, to decay or decline or to be entirely exhausted” (http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/fail).  “Well Lord, You are the exact opposite. You are all-sufficient, never-ending, ever the same, and without limits. Failing is impossible for You, and You say You will never fail me.

            And regarding giving up, that sounds like giving someone up to an enemy, and I know You would never do that, because the enemy of my soul is Your enemy. I need to ponder on that some more, but the promise of never leaving me without support brought hope and comfort the first time I saw it. You know, Lord, how often ‘I can’t do this!” comes to mind. In just the three days I’ve been pondering this verse You have already done something because now, as soon as that thought comes, this truth of Yours overrides the lie, and I think of You right beside me, helping me. Then I do not feel so alone or scared. I know that in You, with Your support, in any way I need it, I can do anything You want me to (Phillippians 4:13) and that includes sitting down with the bills, getting the car fixed, and hanging on to Your Word until depression is only a memory.  

[I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not. I held the papers in my hand as I did leg extensions. “Bible teachers and preachers consistently say pay close attention when You repeat something three times, Lord. Thank You for focusing my attention on that. It speaks of the fierceness and determination of Your love for us. And it strengthens all of these promises.”

Image result for free picture of degrees of a circle“in any degree” I know that degree can mean part of something or how much of something is present. It is also a term in geometry, like the smallest parts of an angle or circle. And Your Word has lots of references about how You encircle us or surround us or compass us about. That is another way of saying You have us completely covered.

. . . leave you helpless, nor forsake you, nor let you down [relax My hold on you]. “ Lord, that is so comforting! You know how often I feel helpless and like everyone has given up on me. You know how dreadfully alone I feel sometimes. Help me hear, with my heart, how intensely You are saying in these verses that You will take care of every single aspect of every single thing I need.

“Assuredly not!” I put the papers on the floor by the biceps machine as I read the next phrase and thought: As if He had not already made it clear, with this “Assuredly not!”, God is reinforcing, like rebar undergirding concrete, everything He said before. He is saying that He will DEFINITELY take care of me.

Image result for free picture of gift“So, we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say: The LORD is my helper. . .”  Hmm, that “so” is there because it connects these thoughts, meaning that everything in the previous verse, I am empowered to take comfort. And I notice the word “take.” God offers it, but I must take it. That is a choice. So, because of everything else God has just said, I can be comforted and encouraged . I can know God will help with whatever I am doing and I can have confidence to say boldly. . .

I will not be seized with alarm. [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What  can man do to me?”     I pondered that phrase and the whole passage during the next thirty minutes on the recumbent bicycle. Then, I put my verses in my gym bag and walked toward the Child Watch room, pondering the phrase “seized with alarm.” “Lord, that is what the fear feels like. It feels like someone has grabbed me. So, maybe that means if I give in to fear, if I think about the problems instead of You, the enemy uses fear to grab and control my heart. Help me think about that, Lord.”

Image result for free picture of children on playgroundGod Himself. .  . I signed Ansel out then followed his eager feet down the hall to the playground. With him seated on the bench next to me, swinging his legs, I opened the package of cream-cheese and chives crackers and made a circle of the six crackers on the napkin in his lap. He leaned against my left shoulder, I opened my baggie of grapes, and we had our usual snack as we watched other children run up the ramps and giggle on the see-saw.  Grandfather oaks interlocked thick branches overhead, grackles flew under the shaded canopy  from one tree to another, and butterflies zigzagged above the tall grass at the distant edge of the play area, all as familiar to me as my own bedroom.

“And to Ansel”, I reflected. “He is at ease here with me. Although he cannot verbalize it yet, he feels safe and he is fully immersed in the moment. He is not afraid of anything here, he is not dreading anything, and if something does scare him, I will not let his fear turn to terror because I will take care of whatever has troubled his little heart.  I will not let anything happen to him. I have the power to do that. He is safe and content because I have never, never, no never, failed him in any way. Assuredly not! And don’t I tell him over and over “I love you, I love you, I love you”? And don’t I show it a thousand ways?”

Image result for free picture of grandmother and child on park benchA soft breeze whispered in my ear and I turned to the side to be sure the paper plate was securely nestled in the top of my open gym bag, safe from any gust of wind. I placed my hand over the little hand print traced in the center, encircled by paper flowers with white glue bulging around the edges.

“Yes, Lord, and don’t You tell me You love me in a thousand different ways? And don’t You take care of me a thousand different ways? I will be content, Father, right here where I am, with You, with You Yourself. That is more than my mind can comprehend, Father. Thank You! Help me have more faith, faith like a little child.”  

Image result for free picture of childs hand in fathers hand

 

 

Complete and constant peace IF . . .

Image result for Free Picture Of Doctor's OfficeIn the midst of daily life, Holy Spirit speaks. Bzmmmmm. The floor-to-ceiling glaring-white machine rotated itself, and me, 45 degrees so the technician could record a different view of the heart. I closed my eyes again and took a long, slow breath, careful to stay still.

“Ten more minutes or so strapped into this device,” I thought. “Harumph! Help me have a good attitude, Lord!”

“Thank You for training me to meditate on Your Word. It helps in every situation! So, let’s start at the beginning of my verses again, with Isaiah 26:3-4.

“You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because He commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. So trust in the Lord—commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him—forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting rock—the Rock of ages.” (AMPC).

Hmm . . .  “ the mind [both its inclination and its character]”. . .  I opened my eyes and managed not to jerk upright only with effort.

“Lord, what does character of mind mean? I have repeated this passage how many times and I only now see this? I believe that “inclination of the mind” means what your thoughts are focused upon and that was my subconscious thought while meditating on this verse these many months, but what does “character of mind” mean?

Clear guidance. I was reviewing the first of the verses and passages I had memorized on my way to victory over depression last year. For the last three days, after completing the blog post for the week, I had wondered which of the many topics floating in my mind to start on for next week. I was wondering, that is, in brief snatches of time during the work of daily life, which now included extra time invested in health and thus, less time to write, some of the “troubles, trials, distresses and frustration” which Jesus said His followers would experience. I was indeed frustrated!

Image result for free picture of notes handwrittenSo many things I wanted to write! I desperately wanted to finish the book about depression but other topics, including blog posts on each verse I had memorized, had fluttered overhead like birds zipping across the high ceiling of a big building. Some writers, like me, have difficulty picking and completing one topic. But I recognized when Holy Spirit was getting my attention, like now, in the middle of the stress test. He was saying write about Isaiah 26:3-4. Now.

Complete and constant peace is possible. So, dear friend and fellow pilgrim, here we are, you and me, exploring God’s truth in Isaiah 26:3-4, the first weapon in my “spiritual arsenal”, that list of verses that opened the dungeon doors of depression and fear for me.

It helps me think deeply about the Word to put new thoughts on a new line and sometimes to put each word on a new line.  Many months ago, as I pondered Isaiah 26:3-4, I wrote it in long-hand like this.

“You will guard him and keep him in

perfect and constant peace

whose mind [both its inclination and its character]

is stayed on You,

 because                                                                 

He commits himself to You,

leans on You,

and hopes confidently in You.

So trust in the Lord—

commit yourself to Him,

lean on Him,

hope confidently in Him—forever;

for the Lord God is an everlasting rock—the Rock of ages.” (AMPC).

Let’s look at each phrase and see what God might be saying. Remember, this is the Amplified version of the Bible, which has phrases other translations do not include. These phrases give the fuller, or amplified, meaning of words that modern-day readers do not understand but which speakers of that time would have automatically known was what the words meant. I find it extremely helpful to study and meditate using the Amplified. For a more detailed explanation as to why, please see the blog post “God’s Arsenal for Peace and Security”, October 1, 2020.

Isaiah 26:3-4. Two years ago, when I desperately needed peace, I studied verses about peace. I had not purposely memorized Bible verses for a long time and those hidden in my heart years earlier, including this one, had faded.  I liked the essence of this verse that remained in memory, the concept that God keeps us in peace if we fix our minds on Him. So, I began studying this verse in more detail, through meditating on the clarifying phrases in the Amplified.

Image result for free Picture of Guard In Bible TimesGuarding and keeping. “You will guard and keep. . . “ The first thing I noticed was that the verse said God would guard and keep our minds in peace, whereas the NIV, only said God would keep.  It was reassuring to ponder that God would not only keep us in peace if we kept our minds fixed on Him, but He would guard us as well. To guard something or someone, is to protect or shield them from harm by keeping potential danger away. So that must mean God will not allow anything to damage my peace when my mind is focused on Him.

“Complete and constant peace”. The next phrase shows two aspects of the peace God promises:  it will be complete, or perfect, and it will be constant. Complete peace would mean freedom from worry about any aspect of one’s life. One aspect of peace is freedom from struggle and fighting, and phrases similar to “He was given peace from his enemies round about” appear often in the Bible. So, if the nation of Israel was given peace on all sides, then maybe God is saying we will be free from attacks of worry, or fear or irritation any such thing, on all sides of our life, in each aspect of life, including health, family, friends, finances, our world, etc. That would be complete peace.

Image result for free picture of clockAnd, I reflected, constant means constant, sixty minutes each hour, twenty-four hours each day, seven days each week, and so forth until we see our loving Father face to face and, finally, no longer have to battle the world, the flesh, and the devil. That must mean there is a way to stay in peace all the time, so that means no dread at any time–no  dreading hard mornings or exercise or the job or house cleaning, or anything! And that verse “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30). Life, life from God, the good life He planned for human beings, is a peaceful life, with us enjoying every day and staying in God’s presence every day.

Inclination of mind. You will guard and keep in complete and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is fixed on You.”  As I pondered “inclination of mind”, I thought about focusing and I thought about the psalm when the psalm writer asks God to incline His to him. To incline your ear to someone, you focus all your hearing powers on that person’s voice. And I know the earth is inclined, or tilted toward or focused, at a precise angle toward the sun and that angle causes the seasons of the earth. To me, that means our thoughts, our mind, is focused or pointed toward God. And that means I am to be consciously thinking about God—His innumerable good qualities, His love and power and goodness and strength, His loving ways, His faithfulness, and the things He has done for mankind and for me in particular. That leads to light and life and all good things.

Image result for free picture of earth tilted toward sunAnd I think that principle operates in my life only in those minutes and hours when my mind is focused or inclined, toward God, thinking about Him as the earth is inclined, tilted toward, the sun. If I incline my mind away from God, then my thoughts will start darkening.

The character of the mind.  “Hmm. . . Lord, I know we develop character by repeating actions over and over and over, like that truism most people credit to Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”

So, just as our character, our “mental and moral qualities”, is shaped by what we repeatedly do and think, so is the quality or nature, the quality or character of our mind, shaped by what we repeatedly think and do?

Lord, I know that thinking on the Word all day long remakes our heart, but is the doing of that meditating, the habit of meditating, does that habit in itself also change the nature of the mind and how it works? Is that like if someone develops the habit of being patient by choosing, time after time, to wait quietly and calmly and then eventually they develop a patient character so that their  automatic  reaction to frustrating situations is to consciously stay calm?

I know that getting Your truths deep into my heart healed depression, but were You also changing how my mind actually works? Now, when problems arise Your Word immediately pops into consciousness. However,  before You trained me in the habit of constant meditation on Your word, my mind consistently thought negative thoughts and my heart constantly felt negative emotions, not only when problems came.

Image result for free picture of calendar That is such an encouraging thought, to know that You have already changed at the fundamental, most basic level, how I think and act, that You have already begun forming a stronger, more Christ-like character of mind. That is encouraging because I know it took months of persistence on my part, but the change did happen. So I know that, as I continue to persist, these occasional flare-ups will become less and less as You continue to give me a stronger character of mind, Lord! Thank You!

“Fixed on Him.” And “fixed on You” would mean to always have You on my mind, as that old song says, so that not only do I consciously, deliberately think about You but also in the moments when my mind is not occupied with some task or some other thinking, there You are! It’s like being in love or being a new parent or being preoccupied with an enjoyable project. So, it is a choice but it is also automatic because of deep, all-consuming love, attraction, and pleasure.

Image result for Free Picture Of Cause and Effect. . . because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in YouThank you, Lord, for showing me to ponder cause and effect links in Your Word, like here, and to study entire verses and passages.  I see that You keep us in peace when we keep our minds fixed on You because we commit to You, lean on You, and hope confidently in You. I had always quoted just the first part “You will keep in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on You” (NIV) and forgotten the second part of the sentence. So I see that peace requires a trusting heart as well as a mind fixed on You. How had I overlooked that all those years?

So, trust in the Lord – commit yourself to Him, lean upon Him, and hope confidently in Him — forever.  That word “so” is another connecting word, meaning “therefore” or “for this reason”. That “So” after verse 3 means that “because of verse 3, do verse 4.” Clearly, You are saying that trust is essential in this process of having peace.

And, as I look at verses 3 and 4 together, I see another example of how Your Word defines itself. In verse 3, You say You will keep us in peace as we keep our minds on You and commit, lean, and hope confidently in You. Then verse 4 says “So trust. . .”  The Amplified version sets the next three phrases off by dashes, which signifies “additional phases of meaning included in the original word, phrase, or clause of the original language” (from the preface to The Amplified Bible, Zondervan, 1965.) So trust means to “commit ourselves to You, lean upon You, and hope confidently in You.” That shows me that the kind of trust You require is not some half-hearted thought or mindless repetition of a verse.

Rather, Your kind of trusting requires purposeful, focused thought and mental effort. You require trust like Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines it (as a verb) meaning “to place confidence in; to rely on”.  The definitions of trust as a noun give even more clarity:  “confidence; reliance or resting of the mind on the integrity, veracity, justice, friendship or other sound principle of another person.” And perhaps Noah Webster also defined trust as “confident opinion of any event” and “credit given without examination” because he was mindful of how You meant it in Your Word. Your Word is used often in Mr. Webster’s 1828 dictionary!

Image result for free picture of picnicSo, trusting You means committing to You, leaning, and hoping confidently on You. If I really trust the weather report (and wouldn’t I be a rare bird!) I will schedule a family reunion at an outdoor park, with no alternate location identified. Furthermore, I will bake beans, make potato salad, and ice cupcakes with confidence. I would thus commit to, lean upon and hope confidently in the weather report. So, if I really trust You I will go about my life with confidence and NOT WORRY! Oh, help me, Lord!

And You say we are to trust You that way for ever.  Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines “ever” as “at all times; always; continually; eternally.” That leaves no exceptions, does it Lord?

“. . . because the Lord God is an everlasting Rock – the Rock of Ages.” And here is another connecting word. We are to trust You like that because You are our Rock. I had seen Scripture use rock as a metaphor for the Lord many times, which I knew from a footnote (I forget where) that says rock means a source of strength. And sure enough, that is how Webster’s 1828 defines rock: “defense; means of safety; protection; strength; asylum; and a firm or immovable foundation.”  In looking into this, I saw that the website for R. C. Sproul clarifies that the meaning for this metaphor is multifaceted and that it “. . . tells us of the Lord’s stable, unchanging nature (Deuteronomy 32:4)” as well as “His strength and ability to safeguard His people, much as stone fortifications provide an excellent refuge from the elements and other dangers.”  https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/rock-ages/.

And Father, six days after starting this piece of writing, I see another truth: we are to trust You like You said so because doing so strengthens us. Phew! I need strengthening today, Lord, especially so thank You for  fresh insight today. That is related to the thought that just as meditating continually on Your Word has made big changes in the character of my mind so will keeping my mind on You make me stronger. That is so encouraging, Lord.  You really do know just how to encourage us and You know when we need it most. You are such a loving and good Father, Lord. Thank You for loving us like You do, with such understanding and such tender mercies!”

So, dear friend, in conclusion, when considering the whole chain of thought in Isaiah 26:3-4, I see that because our God is our Defender and our impenetrable place of refuge, He will surely guard us and keep us in complete and constant peace IF we keep our minds fixed on Him AND trust in Him, in the full, original meaning of those words. That is a guarantee from God, who cannot lie (Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29) and whose promises are always yes.

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20, NIV).

Image result for Free Picture of Rock of Ages CleftOur Rock of Ages. Writing this has made me more aware of the fact that it is God who does the work here. Certainly, I have to “try” my best, but the bottom line, the reason we are to keep our minds fixed on Him and fully trust Him is because He will defend and protect us. That takes the emphasis off me and my fickle frailties as I visualize seeking refuge from a storm in the hollow of a huge mountain, as Augustus Toplady, writer of that great hymn “Rock of Ages” actually did.

The fiercest wind, snow or rain cannot penetrate into the cleft of a great mountain. That mountain, and that small, sheltered place within the side of the mountain, will be untouched by any storm. The mountain, and that small hollowed out place, stand firm. All I have to do is choose to walk into that place and stay there.

Rain through Bedroom WindowAs a native Floridian, I know the snug feeling of being safe inside while hurricane force wind howls and rain flings itself against buildings. In the storms of my life and each ordinary day of my life, I can let my mind be battered and pounded, or I can choose to step into peace, into the everlasting, almighty, merciful, and ever-loving arms of my Heavenly Father, as I fix my mind on Him and trust (lean, rely, and hope confidently in) Him. And in doing that, I can know He will give me strength for whatever I need. It will be His strength, not my own weak strength, and it will make His strength complete. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

And, I am thinking it must give God a special joy when we turn to Him with trusting hearts and let Him take care of us and bear our burdens, just like a loving parent is gratified when they can carry a tired child and snuggle them close in their loving arms.  Oh, my Father! Let it ever be so! Amen.

Father Carrying Children

Fretting is forgetting

Fretting is forgetting, eyes off what He has done—
the victories He has given, the battles He has won.
My peace is in the knowing, eyes fixed on Him not me—
heart pondering His power.
In trusting, I am free.

See the source image

A personal note. My dear friend, I am sharing how I have stumbled and how God put me back on the right path. My prayer is that it encourages you to receive more of God’s goodness and grace and to better understand His deep, abiding passion for all of us.

Since God healed deep depression and fear, I have stayed in victory for many months. However, deep emotional struggles tangled up the last few days, and feelings have gradually worsened for weeks. One morning, I reviewed the past month, searching for what had gone wrong. A  month ago when reviewing  the nearly complete manuscript about overcoming depression, I had been living daily life consciously with God, being productive, and free from thoughts, feelings and reactions caused by depression and fear. And I was writing almost daily, my work for God and my joy.

I moved away, not God. So, on that first truly cold day here in Austin, I sat in the rocker with the window cracked two inches, relishing the truly cold air and the predawn darkness outside the window, re-reading my journaling notes back to when I had felt so close to God and joyful and excited about each day.  I have heard, more than once, that when you feel distant from God, it is you who moved, not God. So, I knew that because I no longer felt close to God meant that I had moved away, not Him.

So, I prayed and began taking notes as I reviewed the month.

Fretting is forgetting, eyes off what He has done. I had by grace been walking in the light (Psalm 56:13), BUT when several physical problems intensified simultaneously (asthma, feet issues, joints, heart concerns, etc.) I spent precious time and energy doing the best I could with each problem, which included prayer, going to doctors, refining my diet, adding more stretches and exercise as well as rest, etc. That was where my eyes turned off God and toward the problems, thus, toward darkness.

Image result for free picture of a dark pathThe path of fretting leads to darkness. Although I know better, I began fretting, focusing on problems, rather than God’s promises. We can focus on only one thing, so in turning my focus away from light, and toward my problems, I was heading toward the darkness with its deadly snares of discouragement, fear, and despair.  And I kept on in that direction, unaware that my pathway was growing darker, my vision growing dimmer. God lovingly warns us in Psalm 37:8 b:  “. . . Do not fret– it leads only to evil.” (NIV)

The victories He has given, the battles He has won.  Even though the book I was finishing described the many victories God had given over depression, I was not thinking about them myself and thanking God for them afresh, which would have kept my attention on God’s power and my heart filled with light.

Image result for free picture of poisonWithout God’s power and victories in mind, we often start thinking our current situation is impossible. We begin losing hope and subconsciously begin doubting God and His power and His love for us. Eventually we can even start to doubt His goodness and fall for the same lie Satan told Eve in Genesis 3:4-5. Satan told Eve that God was withholding good from her and Adam, that He was not giving them the best.  Those kinds of evil thoughts can flow subconsciously, in our hearts, beyond our awareness because, as Jeremiah 17:9 cautions, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, NIV)

Psalm 105 to 107: the wisdom of often remembering what God has done.  Psalm 105, 106, and 107 clearly tell us it is wise to consciously, intentionally  recall what God has done. These three psalms show the wisdom of regularly observing and heeding the Lord’s “goodness and loving-kindness and His wonderful works to the children of men.” The key idea that links these psalms is Psalm 107:43:

“Whoso is wise [if there be any truly wise] will observe and heed these things; and they will diligently consider the mercy and loving-kindness of the Lord. (AMPC).”  

“These things” are God’s goodness and loving-kindness and “His wonderful works for the children of men”, some of which are recounted in Psalm 105 and 106.

Psalm 105 opens with “O give thanks unto the LORD; call upon His name; make known His deeds among the people” (KJV) Verses 1 through 5 tell us five things to do: thank the Lord, sing to Him, glory in His holy name, look to Him and His strength, and remember “the wonders He has done.”  In the rest of Psalm 105 God reminds Israel, and us, of how faithful He was to them, beginning with Abraham all the way through their history to when He gave them the promised land in order that “they might observe His statutes and keep His laws (hearing, receiving, loving and obeying them].” (AMPC) In other words, He created a people of His own and put them in the wonderful land He had prepared so that they could love and follow Him. He does the same thing when He matures us, taking us on a journey to a position of right-standing with Him, so that we can enjoy the fulfillment of His promises.

Image result for free picture of red seaPsalm 106 starts with praise for God and His merciful doings and then confesses that “our fathers in Egypt understood not nor appreciated your miracles; they did not [earnestly] remember the multitude of Your mercies, nor imprint Your loving-kindness [on their hearts], but they were rebellious and provoked the Lord at the sea, even at the Red Sea (v. 7, AMPC) Then we read that “nevertheless, He saved them for His name’s sake [to prove the righteousness of the divine character], that He might make His mighty power to be known.”   And we read how He saved them over and over when they kept rebelling all throughout their wilderness journey. Read for yourself and see how merciful God was with them, “nevertheless” hearing their cry and how

He [earnestly] remembered for their sake His covenant, and relented their sentence of evil—according to the abundance of His mercy and loving-kindness [when they cried out to Him]” v. 45, AMPC)

They forgot what God had done and turned away over and over and over but every time God rescued them when they called out to Him.

Psalm 107. Then read Psalm 107, which opens with “O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever.” (AMPC). Notice that the idea of thanking the Lord for his goodness and mercy and loving-kindness is repeated four times as a lament, in verses 8, 15, 21, and 31. The psalmist is deeply grieved that people are not doing that. He laments –“Oh, that men would praise [and confess to] the Lord His goodness and loving-kindness, and His wonderful works to the children of men!”  Psalm 107 concludes with verse 43, which tells us it is truly wise to “observe and heed these things” and “diligently consider the mercy and loving-kindness of the Lord.”

God is clearly telling us what to do—we are to “Give thanks to the LORD because He is good. His love endures forever.” (Psalm 107:1, 136:1, NIV) And, as with all that He does, it is for our good. Selah and selah and selah, oh my soul!

Image result for free picture of gods loveBesides Psalm 107, another psalm, Psalm 136, also opens with “O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever.” The phrase “His mercy and loving-kindness endures forever” is repeated in all 26 verses of Psalm 136, after statements about His great wonders from the time of creation to His current bountiful provision for Israel. God wants us to remember that “His love endures forever” (NIV)

So, dear friend, I lament . . . If only I had remembered to remember His countless gifts to me personally and His eternal loving nature, I would have recalled the battles He had fought for me and the victories we had won as He trained me to keep myself calm in times of adversity (Psalm 94:13). I would not have kept fretting about my problems and looking to my own strength. I could have stayed out of the snares of discouragement and despair that bound me up in self-focus.

My peace is in the knowing, eyes fixed on Him not me. In hindsight, I can see where I failed in my part of the blessed promise in Isaiah 26:3

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

My heart remained committed to Him but I was leaning on my own understanding–my mind not fixed on Him– as I tried to figure out solutions to the problems. I was trapped in the snare of fretting and worry because it made me feel in control. I had stopped hoping confidently in God. How the enemy must love it when he manages to steal our hope and our conscious confidence in God!

. . . heart pondering His power. . . in trusting, I am free. When my mind is on God, either through talking with Him or pondering on His Word, I am free from hurt from the world, my flesh, and the devil. Keeping my mind on God and the truths of His Word keeps me trusting, believing, and waiting with confident expectation.

Image result for free picture of chainThere is a deep mystery and connection for me between the words trust, faith, hope, confidence and expectation and what it produces in the life of God’s believing children. I see a faint glimmer of how it works. It is cause and effect, like the links of a chain. I believe the mechanism of its operation, the way it works, is summarized in “We live by faith, not by sight.” or as I heard paraphrased recently, “We live by believing not by seeing.”

To me, that means we have to reach out, into the unseen and eternal spiritual realm (2 Corinthians 4:18) and when we do, our faith (which is trust, hope, and belief) is doing our part and then God responds. I know our faith pleases God, because He says we have to believe in Him and have to believe that He will reward our diligent seeking of Him.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6, NIV)

The way of faith in Psalm 91. In Psalm 91, I see this same cause and effect between our faith and the rewards of being consciously aware of God’s presence, which includes peace.

When I do my part and dwell in the secret place of the Most High (verse 1) and

When I say the Lord “. . . is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Hm I lean and rely and in him, I [confidently] trust!

THEN He delivers me from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.

THEN He will cover me with His pinions,

and while I am there, under the covering of His wings—and His wings are spread over me, covering me, BECAUSEI reached out in faith to Him—I shall (which means definitely) be enabled to trust and find the refuge I seek.

And His truth and faithfulness will THEN be my shield and my protection.

This Is the main idea of the poem that started this writing, this idea that when I remember what God has done, I can put my faith—my active, reaching out trust—in Him. THEN, in the act of trusting itself, I am at peace.

Like firmly embedded nails, during my emotional stumbling, our loving Shepherd has deeply rooted more of His wisdom about trusting into my heart (Ecclesiastes 12:11). And I am grateful.

Image result for free pictukre of child on stairsHis discipline is so, so loving.  The depth of God’s love—the little we can understand of its fathomless depths—is astounding. “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10b, NIV).  I get a small understanding of this when I recall a story I heard long ago. As a woman tearfully watched her young son, who had a pronounced limp, struggle to get his tricycle up the stairs and onto the porch, her friend asked why she did not help. The loving mother replied, “If I help him now, he will never learn to do things for himself.”

Think about how much God loves us, but also consider His wisdom. He knows we have to learn basic disciplines of the Christian faith, that we must remain faithful to His teachings (John 8:31), that we must keep growing and developing (2 Peter 1:3-10) and pressing on toward maturity (Philippians 3:12-21). So, God lovingly sends circumstances that force us to grow. He lovingly prunes us (John 15:2) so we will bear even more fruit. And He trains us to cleanse ourselves from ignoble purposes, so that we may be “instruments for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work” (2 Timothy 2:20-21)

When I am in painful struggles, I may wonder, at least subconsciously, as perhaps that precious little boy did, why God does not remove the problem when it would be so easy for Him to do so. But, I can choose, by faith, to remember that God is working for my good, in all things (Romans 8:28). I can also choose to say I am blessed because “Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man whom You discipline and instruct,  Lord, and teach out of Your law, that (emphasis added)  You may give him power to keep himself calm in the days of adversity, until the [inevitable] pit of corruption is dug for the wicked. “Psalm 94:12-13, AMPC)

Image result for free pictukre of heartThe blessings of this trial – a renewed heart and renewed commitment. God used this latest turbulent time, of my own making, to show I needed a specific plan to keep walking in victory and to stay out of the pit of depression and fear. By His grace, I had developed some excellent spiritual disciplines during that season of intense healing, but I needed some “insurance” that I would maintain those disciplines as well as some other habits that guard against discouragement and depression. Failing in some of these areas is, I believe, what opened the door to discouragement this last time. So, I am confessing and repenting of those sins, as I have already done with a close friend, knowing He will cleanse me from them. (“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9, NASB).

I believe God clearly showed me the need for a specific plan to stay out of the pit. I am earnest about this agreement with God, but I am not calling it a vow. Failing to keep vows is sin. It is disrespectful to God and foolish. We are to stand in awe of God in all things. Regarding vows, He tells us clearly:

“When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. 5It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. 6Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? 7Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore, fear God. (Ecclesiastes 5:4-7, NIV).

Image result for free pictukre of waling with godStaying in His presence, feasting on His Word, serving Him with love. I am setting my heart to be as careful as I can in maintaining the spiritual habits I personally need as well as certain other habits. I am recommitting to love the Lord in this way with “all my heart and with all my soul and with all my strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5).  My plan is to:

  • Maintain the daily devotional times of Bible study and prayer He has shown are needed for me personally,
  • The best I can to either talk with God or be meditating on the Word, (Psalm 1), all day, from rising up to lying down, and
  • Do whatever my hand finds to do with all my might and to do it willingly, as for the Lord (Ecclesiastes 9:10, Colossians 3:23).

Confident joy! We can be confident that God is with us when we seek to follow Him more closely, and that He will help us and give us strength.  He says in Isaiah 48:10

“Fear not, [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.” (AMPC)

We can also be confident because we know that growing in Him is in accordance with His will.

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

How blessed we are that God shows us clearly how to live, patiently teaching over and over what we need to know, whether our walk with Him has been long or short! How blessed we are that His presence fills us with joy and the promise of eternal pleasures with Him!

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. “(Psalm 16:11, NIV)

Selah, and selah, and selah, oh my soul!

Image result for Walking in God's Plan

 

“Troubles, trials, distress, and frustration.”

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

Image result for Free Picture of OatmealThe “tribulations and trials and distress and frustrations” of being human had filled the first hours of this day. As I ate my oatmeal, I felt guilty for sleeping late although health issues required extra rest right now. Irritated that negative thoughts, which had led to depression in years past, now swirled in my mind, I asked myself “Are these health problems going to drag me back toward the pit? I am doing the best I can, Lord, but it is really hard.”

“Lord, surely in this world we do have troubles, trials, distress and frustration. Help me be of good cheer, like You said, and to remember that You have overcome the world for me.” I paused. “Even though it surely does not feel like it today!”

Next, after 45 minutes at the computer, I hit save, bagged up the garbage to toss in the dumpster and headed out the door for my daily short, and slow, walk.

“I’m frustrated about the writing, too, Lord. You always give so many thoughts and I want to include so much of the Bible, but I read that people do not want to read long blog posts. And there are so many projects I want to write but my back cannot take long hours at the computer like before.”

“Oh, Lord! Forgive me for complaining! It is such a gift and a privilege to serve You and live for You.  I know You will guide, Lord, and show just what to do each day. Help me focus on Your truths and not my fears and frustrations!”

God speaks through nature. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1-2, NIV)

Image result for Free Picture of Neighborhood StreetI started walking slowly down the short street bordering my building, striving to put my heel down first, as the physical therapist had coached me to do, noticing again how the trees along the sidewalk formed a straight line all the way to the first intersection, which abutted the neighborhood elementary school. When I walked earlier in the morning, several men in work clothes stood together, waiting for a ride to their work, but by late morning, like today, it was just me and the Lord and an occasional cat, napping under a broken toy wagon next to the sagging and soggy yellow couch and the splintered bookcase.

My walk usually ended at the intersection but the wind blowing through the trees along the small, gravel track at the elementary school enticed me. I sidled through the open gate and walked to the green wrought iron bench. Still feeling tired and discouraged, I texted a friend whose husband was facing yet another surgery and another friend whose teenager was being, well, a real teenager.

As I looked, the wind kept moving the overgrown grass in rippling waves, fluttering the leaves of the trees, murmuring in my ears, bringing back the pure pleasures of childhood, like the feel of Florida’s sugary soft beach sand curling around bare toes,  the cool touch of the conch shell pressing  into my ear, and the sound of the ocean’s power echoing within its twisting chamber. Finally, I really looked. Finally, I started listening to God.

Who can know the path of the wind? Who can know the way of God? Part of Psalm 103 bubbled up from within: “As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” (NIV) 

“Lord, surely, I am indeed a blade of grass. Teach me, oh Lord, to “number my days aright” so I can live wisely. (Psalm 90:12) Help me remember that I am here on earth, and You are there in heaven, ruling and reigning over all things. Help me remember I cannot understand Your ways any more than I can tell which way the wind will blow next, like that verse in Ecclesiastes I memorized so long ago, that as I “do not know how the body is formed in the womb, so I cannot understand the way of God, the Maker of all things.” (Ecclesiastes 11:5). Help me stop trying to figure everything out, which I know makes me feel in control. Help me trust You when things seem to be going all wrong.”

Image result for Free Picture of Wind In WheatI looked intently at the grass. The green of the bottom two-thirds blended into yellow and pale brown, with dark brown spikes at the top of each stem, like mature heads of wheat, pulling the entire strand of grass over in the moments the wind was still. The up, then down, left, then right, then swirling patterns made the path of the wind visible.

“How many strands of grass?” I wondered, “cover this little track, the in-field, the surrounding areas up to the fence and then toward the playground. Thousands? Millions? Yet they all move as one when the wind touches them. Each blade is so fragile, but together they make a grand symphony of motion.”

The way of the word in the heart. “Oh, Father! Please help Your silly child. Help me get in the right rhythm with You again, to “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galations 5:25). Help me return to depending on You and not my own strength to keep myself together. That is what I was doing the last few days, right?  Help me yield to Your ways and Your leading, just as these blades of grass yield to the wind and in so doing are beautiful. Help me yield, Lord! Help me trust! I trust You, Lord! Help me trust You more! “

“I know every single person also has loads of troubles, trials, distress and frustrations, just as I do. They are just different for each person. Help me honor You, Lord, in my individual life, this day, this hour. Help me be cheerful, and take courage and be confident, certain, and undaunted, as You told your disciples just before Your arrest and trial and crucifixion.  Help me remember that You have overcome the world and that it cannot harm me because You have deprived it of that power. Help me fix my mind on heavenly things and KEEP it set, because that is where my real life is, with You, not here on earth.”  (And set your minds and keep them set on what is above—the higher things—not on the things that are on the earth.” Colossians 3:2, AMPC)

When I got back home, I looked up the verse about the wind. “As You do now know the path of the wind or how the body is formed in the womb, so you cannot understand the way of God, the maker of all things. (NIV) Then I read verse 6.

Image result for Free Picture of Sowing SeedSow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.”  

“Wow, Lord! Those two verses together mean to me that we are to work steadily each day, all day, because we do not know whether which one or all of our tasks will succeed any more than we can predict where the wind will blow next. Oh, help me, Lord, to do “whatever my hand finds to do” with all my heart, knowing I am working for You (Colossians 3:23 and Ecclesiastes 9:10).  Yes, Father, even if that is a morning of frustrating phone calls and an afternoon of doctor visits and errands. Let the deep meaning of Romans 8:28 resonate inside my heart. Assure me that You are a partner in my labor and that everything is fitting into a plan because I love You.”

“We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor], all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.” (AMPC)

“Remind me that You are a partner in my work. Help me live each hour with that awareness.”

“Help me remember that “the Lord delights in the way of the man whose steps he has made firm” and that “though he stumble, he will not fall for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” (Psalms 37:23-24, NIV). And as the Amplified says You busy Yourself with his every step. That, truly, is remarkable!”

“Believe in the Lord your God and you will be able to stand firm. (2 Chronicles 20:20a) (NLT) As I tidied up before heading out the door, I saw my battered copy of the NLT open on the kitchen counter. From my daily Bible reading that morning, it was to open to the story of King Jehoshaphat’s victory over the combined armies of Moab, Ammon and Mount Seir.  Although Jehoshaphat was initially terrified to learn that the armies were surrounding him, he “begged the Lord for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting.” (2 Chronicles 20:3, NLT)  He stood before the people and prayed a powerful prayer in verses 6-12, praising God for His power, reminding Him of His promise to hear their cry, admitting their powerlessness and looking to Him for help.

Then “The spirit of the Lord came upon one of the men standing there” and Jahaziel told the people not to be afraid or discouraged  because “the battle is not yours, but God’s” (v. 15) He said they only had to take their positions and stand still and “watch the Lord’s victory.”  Verse 18 and 19 records that King Jehoshaphat bowed low to the ground, as did all the people, and then they all worshipped God.

‘Give thanks to the LORD; his faithful love endures forever.’ (Psalm 136:1, NLT) Early that morning, before troubles, trials, distress and frustration invaded my mind, I had drawn a box around verse 20, where Jehoshaphat had encouraged his people saying:.

“Listen to me, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem. Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in His prophets, and you will succeed.” (NLT)

After that, Jehoshaphat had placed “. . . singers ahead of the army, singing to the LORD and praising Him for His holy splendor. This is what they sang: ‘Give thanks to the LORD; his faithful love endures forever.’ (Psalm 136:1)

IImage result for free picture of jehoshaphat stood at my clean kitchen counter and continued re-reading the story. At the very moment they began to sing and give praise (emphasis added), the LORD caused the armies of Amon, Moab and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves. (v. 22)” The story continued, telling that when the “army of Judah arrived at the looking point in the wilderness, all they saw were dead bodies lying on the ground as far as they could see. Not a single one of the enemy had escaped.” (v 24).  

“Yes, I see that, Lord, and thank You! At the very moment they started to sing, You fought for them.”

I smiled, copied verse 20b on a folded piece of printer paper—”Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in His prophets, and you will succeed. I could memorize that much while I waited at the doctor’s office. I walked out the door, saying, from the heart.

“Oh, Lord! How I do thank You! Your faithful love surely endures forever. What wonderful things You do for Your children!  Thank You for Your Word, that gives such clear guidance and encouragement. Thank You for being with us each moment of every day, thank You, Lord, thank You, for . . . ”

Image result for free picture of father holding childs hand

God’s Arsenal for Peace and Security

Image result for free picture of swords, guns and shieldsOverview:

  • God’s weapons for spiritual warfare.
  • Why these particular verses?
  • Why in this particular order?
  • How to use the key word sentences.
  • Why meditate?
  • Why memorize?
  • Why the AMPC?
  • God’s Word has power to change your heart and your life.
  • How does God’s Word change your heart?
  • As God’s truth increases in your heart, lies and darkness decrease.
  • A word of encouragement about meditating and memorizing.
  • God’s Arsenal for Peace and Security – List of Verses

God’s weapons for spiritual warfare. The power of God’s Word– the power of Truth–restored my mind after a long season of severe depression. According to Webster’s online dictionary, https://webster-dictionary.org/definition/arsenal, an arsenal is a “military structure where arms and ammunition and other military equipment are stored and training is given in the use of arms.”

God’s Word contains every truth a child of God needs for victory in this world, and His Word trains us how to use those truths. His Word is a weapon, and it is also a place of training. His Word is an arsenal.

Diligently studying His Word equips you to “put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:11, NIV) The Word teaches you how to put on and use the pieces of spiritual armor God has prepared for us that include truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and “the sword the Spirit wields, which is the Word God.” (Ephesians 6:17, AMPC)

Image result for free picture of peaceWhy these particular verses? The verses given here are a fundamental part of the arsenal of God’s Word because they will help you fight for peace and for confidence that God loves you and will always take care of you. We all need peace, every day, and we all need confidence that God is with us and will take care of us.  These verses will help build that peace and that confidence. I discovered these verses as I searched the Word for healing from depression and for courage to face my everyday life.

Why in this particular order? When I began studying the Word for myself in my areas of personal need, I started studying verses about fear. However, I soon discovered that studying about peace helped more. While I studied, I selected the verse that seemed most comforting and meditated on that verse, phrase by phrase, all day long, until I nearly memorized it, which often took days. When I realized I was memorizing almost by accident as I meditated, I decided to try a bit harder and intentionally memorize the verses.

So, while memorizing the current verse, I kept studying, searching for Scriptures in my areas of need. Once I had a verse memorized, I went on to the next Scripture I had found during study time. Soon, I had a long chain of Scriptures I could play in my mind when negative thoughts and feelings threatened to steal my peace. But I forgot them when I did not have my list with me or when I could not take time to read it, for example, when driving.  What to do?

Image result for free picture of person holding listHow to use the key word sentences.  As I kept trying to remember the list of verses, I saw that the key word or thought in each verse formed a sentence.  Look at the sample below. The left column gives the Scripture reference, and the right column gives the key word or thought of that Scripture. If you read straight down the right column, you will see that the key words form sentences, which are themselves comforting truths. For example, “Peace never fails to return to the secret place.” That thought reassures us that we can always find peace when we stay in the secret place.

Sample of How to Use Key Word Sentences

Scripture Key Word Sentences
Isaiah 26:3 Peace
Hebrews 13:5 never fails
Isaiah 30:15 to return
Psalm 91 to the secret place.

By the way, I did not deliberately put these verses in this order. Holy Spirit did that, by “accident” as I searched the Word! He is our perfect Teacher.

The last page of this article contains the list of verses that I call “God’s Arsenal for Peace and Security.” It fits on one page, which will be helpful. A printable version of this page is on the “Books and More” tab of this website. You will see four sets of verses. Please do not be intimidated!  Take it one verse at a time, at your own pace. Although I suggest you for sure do the first two sets, you do not have to do them all. You might find Holy Spirit leading you to a different chain of Scriptures or adding to these. Let Him lead you. He knows exactly what you need. (Psalm 139)

Why meditate? We know we are to think about and meditate on God’s Word all day, every day. God tells us to meditate, in Deuteronomy 11:18-21, Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1, Proverbs 4:20-23, and Philippians 4:8. Meditation is good for us  and can be health to our bodies if we are diligent with it. (Proverbs 4:23). Thinking about God’s Word throughout the day helps keep us far from sin and close to Him in our thoughts and actions. Hearing, and believing, God’s Word will change the way we think, feel, and live.

Image result for free picture of flaming arrowsWhy memorize? As described earlier, as you meditate on a verse or passage, you are more than halfway to memorizing it anyway. Having what God’s Word says about life’s situations available in your memory is powerful. I compare God’s Word in your mind to having a huge body guard with you 24/7. If you have planted the Word in your mind, then Holy Spirit, like the perfect Guardian and Protector He is, will bring the Scripture you need to your conscious mind in each situation you face. The Word keeps the enemy out of your mind. He may shoot flaming arrows of thoughts, but even the worst of his “lie arrows” bounce off the shield of Truth and do you no harm.

As I described above, if you take one verse a day phrase by phrase, going over each phrase many times during that day, you will nearly have it memorized. If it is not fixed in memory during that day, focus on that verse another day. Memorizing God’s Word weaves it into the fabric of our very being so that it guides our actions. A child who has been told often enough to “Say thank you” finally starts doing so automatically. Hiding God’s Word in our heart works the same way. It helps keep us acting as God wants. Hiding His Word in our heart keeps us from sin (Psalm 119:11).

Why the Amplified translation of the Bible? Here is the description of the Amplified translation from www.lockman.org, the publisher.

“The Amplified Bible is a Literal Equivalent translation that, by using synonyms and definitions, both explains and expands the meaning of words in the text by placing amplification in parentheses, brackets, and after key words. This unique system of translation allows the reader to more completely and clearly grasp the meaning as it was understood in the original languages. Additionally, amplifications may provide further theological, historical, and other details for a better understanding of the text.”

Image result for free picture of dog with a boneTo meditate means to ponder, consider, to roll something over and over in your mind, and to work at it like a dog works at a bone or a cow chews her cud.  Compare the translations of Isaiah 26:3-4 below.

  • NIV – “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast in You because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.”
  • NKJ – “You will keep in perfect peace Whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever. For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength.”
  • NLT – “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, whose thoughts are fixed on You. Trust in the Lord always, for the LORD GOD is the eternal rock.”
  • AMPC – “You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. So trust in the Lord – commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him—forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting rock—the Rock of Ages.”

Picture of All Punctuation MarksYou will see that the Amplified has more words than most other translations.  These “extra” words—those set off in dashes, braces, brackets and parentheses –are shades of meaning that the original readers of the Bible would have automatically understood when they heard that word or phrase. Slowly, carefully reading these phrases in the Amplified is one way to meditate. It slows the mind down and guides the thought process. If I meditate on Isaiah 26:3 in the NIV or the NKJ, for example, I will come up with my own ideas about what “perfect peace” and a “steadfast mind” and “trust” mean, but the “extra” words in the Amplified are, I believe, the first thoughts we should  dwell on as we meditate on a verse or passage because they are, I believe, levels of meaning that God intended when He inspired the writers of Scripture.

So, using the Amplified has two clear benefits for meditation. First, it will force you to slow down and spend more time as you meditate. Second, it will help your meditation uncover more completely, in my opinion, what God is saying in His Word.

One clear example is the word trust in Isaiah 26:3-4. Isaiah 26:3 tells us to trust in the Lord and verse 4 defines trust in the clarifying words of the Amplified, the words between dashes. Verse 4 says “So trust in the Lord—commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him—forever. . .”  That means to me that when I see God use the word trust, He means “to commit myself to Him, to lean on Him, and to hope confidently in Him.”  Using my own thoughts, I did not think of those three layers of meaning.

I suggest you try using the Amplified translation to memorize. If, after a sincere effort, you are not blessed then use a translation such as the New King James or New International. I also recommend using the Amplified Classic edition. Later editions leave out some of the amplifying phrases.

God’s Word has power to change your heart and your life. The power of God’s Word will “fix” your heart no matter if your problem is addiction, anger, self-control, loneliness, depression, or fear. Then, as your heart changes, your life will change.

Image result for free picture of a judgeHebrews 4:12 tells us that God’s Word is alive and full of power, and that it “judges the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (NIV) One thing that phrase means to me is that God’s Word in my mind enables me to discern, or to judge, whether thoughts and feelings in my heart are good or bad, true or false, beneficial or detrimental, holy or corrupted, whether they are from God or from the devil, and whether they lead toward life or lead toward death.

When I was deeply depressed and cowered down by fear, most of my thoughts were negative. The enemy and my own downtrodden heart generated thoughts and feelings of hopelessness and discouragement, day after day. Only when I began studying the Word for myself in my areas of need and then consciously kept those verses in my mind minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, did the healing begin.

The verses in “Your Basic Arsenal” are listed in the order in which I studied and then memorized them during that season. What I needed most when I first began was peace, so I kept repeating God’s promise to keep me in peace if I kept my mind fixed on Him (Isaiah 26:3).  The truth of that Word made the lies in my heart flee, little by little. The light of truth chases the darkness of lies away, just as dawn chases the darkness of night away (Proverbs 4:18).

How does God’s Word change your heart? Here is one example of how the Word changes hearts. Whispering SilhouetteIsaiah 26:3 is true. It is a fact that God will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in Him, whose thoughts are fixed on Him. (NLT) But the enemy tries to make us believe things that are not true. He tries to make us believe his lies, just as he did with Adam and Eve. I became and stayed depressed because, although I knew a lot of the Word, the enemy shot lying thought arrows into my heart, thoughts like “I will always feel bad and stay depressed. God cannot heal me. I am too messed up. I have wasted too much time. I have disappointed God, and He is mad at me.” If you hear something often enough, you can start to believe it, even if it is not true.

But because God’s Word is “alive and full of power,” it is active, it operates in our hearts, it energizes our hearts, and it is effective in our hearts. (Hebrews 4:12, AMPC). As soon as I heard even one short statement of truth (for example, God will never fail me in any way), the light that comes from that truth drove away some of the darkness–immediately. As I kept repeating that truth and thinking about it, pondering what exactly it meant, more light came into my mind and then my feelings.

As I searched the Bible for verses about peace, God led me first to Isaiah 26:3 and Hebrews 13:5. I started trying to keep the truths in those verses in my mind, by reading them repeatedly, then by repeating them over and over all day long, day after day, and thinking about them phrase by phrase, thinking about what each phrase meant, what each word in the phrases meant.

Image result for free picture of dawnAs God’s truth increases in your heart, lies and darkness decrease. When we meditate on God’s truth, truth and light start to take up more space in our thoughts than lies, so that truth becomes dominant, or foremost.  That is like changing undrinkable salt water by adding more fresh water until it becomes drinkable. Really, it is more like a desalinization plant because the salt, or lie, is actually removed, not just diluted!

I believe that is one reason God tells us, many times, to think about His Word all day long. As we keep His Word in our mind, hour by hour, day by day, we begin to think about life and situations like God thinks about them because we have more of the truth about life and those situations in our hearts. We start to walk in truth, to live in truth, to think like God and to act in a godly way.

As we keep diligently studying the Word, building up our library of knowledge about life as it really is, as God explains it in His Word, we grow up spiritually and grow stronger, and we fall for Satan’s lies far less often.

A word of encouragement about meditating and memorizing. You do not have to actually memorize the verses, although it will benefit you more to do so. You will find that if you ponder, think about, and puzzle over what each phrase means, you will nearly have it memorized without even trying. If you have an especially  hard time memorizing I urge you to give it your best effort, with prayer, for at least a week, with just one verse. If you really feel you cannot memorize, then do work faithfully to at least develop the habit of meditating on a specific verse or two each day, hour by hour intentionally rolling it over in your mind.

Image result for free picture of workbootsI heard a story about a man who worked as a laborer, with no way to pause and read the Word of God during the long hours he labored with his hands and back. But that man deeply loved God and the Word, so he memorized what he could of one verse each morning and meditated on that all day. The pastor who told the story said that man had a deeper understanding of God’s Word than many of the formally educated pastors and theologians he knew. The point, to me, is:  try the best you can, with all your heart, to study the Word and God will make your efforts succeed. Study Psalm 1 and selah – pause to think about what it says!

Remember the table below “God’s Arsenal for Peace and Security” is available as a printable Word document on the Books and More tab at www.wordsofhopeandhealing.com.

“Grace and peace to you from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 1:3, NIV)

Gods Arsenal for Peace and Security

Scripture Reference Key Thought – Memory Cue
Section One  
Isaiah 26:3 1. Peace
Hebrews 13:5 2. never fails
Isaiah 30:15 3. to return
Psalm 91 4. to the secret place.
Section Two
Lamentations 3:25-26 5.  God is good,
Genesis 28:15 6. He is near, so
Psalm 27:14 7. I can wait,
Isaiah 41:10 8. and not fear,
Psalm 94:12-15 9. And keep myself calm!
Section Three
John 16:33 10. I can be of good cheer!
Psalm 18:30-36 11. (because) God is perfect.
Psalm 1 12. I can think about Him all day.
Psalm 107 13. And I can thank Him.
Section Four
II Chronicles 15:2 14.  I will find Him
Philippians 4 15. as I rejoice, and
Psalm 103 16. and praise Him.
2  Chronicles 16:9 17. He longs to strengthen me.
See the “Books and More” page at www.wordsofhopeandhealing.com for a printable Word document of this table.

 

 

 

God notices you – always

Image result for Jacob Ladder to Heaven“Behold, I am with you and will keep [careful watch over you and guard] you wherever you may go, and I will bring you back to this [promised] land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:15 (AMPC) – Part of God’s promise to Jacob, when he left his father Isaac’s house.

“Behold, I am with you.”  I stepped out of the front door of my daughter’s house, noticing that her key chain had a heft mine did not. Cool air caressed my face, and I inhaled deeply, relishing the crispness of it, and hoping the chilly days of February would extend well into the springtime.

I climbed into my daughter’s SUV and put the my purse, thermos of water, and two napkins (which my grandsons would put in their laps to, somewhat, catch cracker crumbs from their after-school, on-the-road snack)  in the passenger seat, my usual weekday routine. As I backed up and drove down the neighborhood street under the oaks that nearly met overhead. I started repeating the phrases of Genesis 28:15, my current meditation verse.

Father, that phrase ‘Behold, I am with you’, starts with ‘Behold’, which means to pay attention to something, to stop and take notice, like when the angels announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. You really want me to stop and realize You are with me, don’t You?”

Tears moistened my eyes. My throat tightened. “Thank You, Father that You know how I feel. You know I still feel so small and unimportant and so guilty sometimes that I wasted two years being so depressed and fearful. I am so, so grateful that You are healing the depression as You give me the strength to keep my mind on You and Your Word all day.

And to know, to have You say to my mind almost audibly through that verse, that You are right here with me in this car, that You are here with me in all my failures and fears, well, Father, it is more than I can understand but I thank You so much for letting me feel Your presence. Thank You, Father, thank You. If You are with me, everything will be okay. Help me remember that.”

Image result for free picture of street with brown trees and grass“I will keep watch over you with care.” I turned left on Stassney, then right on Manchaca, heading toward school, driving through streets surrounded by faded brown winter trees and grass and a low, gray sky above. Leaving the heater gave the air inside the car a pleasant, brisk bite.

And the thought, Father, that You keep watch over me, why that is a military term, isn’t it? You want me to think of You like a soldier standing guard through the night and the day, purposefully focused on keeping that which he is guarding safe from all harm. And You say you keep watch over me with care, which means diligently, paying attention to each detail. And it is You, You, Lord, Who made and sustains the entire universe, You are the One who is keeping watch over every detail of my days, every day. That is just too wonderful for me to understand, Lord.”

“I will take notice of you wherever you may go.” The familiar road dipped down then up then turned left in a slow arc as I drove by offices and stores. Excitement and pleasure built, as it always did, when I was about to see my grandsons.

Image result for free picture of parent and child in woods“Lord, there is something about that phrase “take notice of you.” I know it means to pay special attention to, or to be interested in, and the dictionary said it means ‘to observe with special attention.” Father, the picture that comes to mind each time with that phrase is of a parent noticing the tiny things her child is doing and how much that little child wants the parent to notice them, to pay attention to them, to help build a block tower or to take a walk in the park to find roly-polies and pine cones.

I guess that’s why that phrase means so much to me, Lord. You know the hurts of the past that You are still healing. You know I felt unnoticed and unimportant growing up. I did not feel loved, even though I was. And You know how the enemy has used those same lies for all my life to torment me, to steal good things from my life and to get me depressed and discouraged so often through the years.

Thank You, Father, that Your Word, Your truth, is changing my heart at the root level as I keep thinking about Your truths, over and over a hundred times a day even with the same truth, like now, that You, You, Lord up in heaven, are noticing me, right now, this very moment. And that what I am doing—this ordinary, mundane thing—is precious in Your sight. You are noticing how I have prepared the little snack the boys love, You notice how I love the cool weather You’ve given, You notice that I am trying to memorize Your Word, You notice that I am trying with all my heart to please You and do what You want all day long.

Image result for free picture of daytime skyYou notice me, Lord! Help me never take that for granted.  You notice when I feel I have failed, and the truth of Your wonderful Word tells me that Your love for me is as high as the heavens are above the earth, that Your love has separated my sins—and that includes my failures—as far as the east is from the west. Your Word tells me that You do all that because You love me and have compassion on me like a father loves and pities his children, and that You have imprinted on Your heart that I am just dust, a frail human being.  Thank you, Father, for those comforting truths in Psalm 103.

Thank You, Father, thank You. To know that You notice each thing I do, that You observe me with special attention is comforting. It gives me strength to keep going and to trust that You will continue the healing.”

“. . . and I will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done all of which I told you.”  I parked on the street bordering the school, along with other parents and grandparents, then walked up the sloping hill to the school entrance, slowly to avoid getting too short of breath. Sitting on the bench encircling a grandfather oak, waiting for the bell, I saw Ansel, head swiveling as he walked out, third behind his teacher. He broke out of line, said something to her, then, as she saw me, she nodded to him, bumped fists, and he ran toward me, backpack wobbling from side to side, his face lit up.

Image result for free picture of child leaving school“Nana!”, he yelled. “I knew you were coming!”

We waited on Ben’s class, then the three of us walked to the car. As we drove home, I listened to their brotherly chatter in the back seat. I also listened to what Holy Spirit whispered in my heart as I repeated the last phrase of Genesis 28:15-16.

“Thank You, Lord.” I silently prayed as Ansel asked Ben if he had seen the new swings on the playground,  “Thank You that I know You will finish the good work of healing You have started in me. Thank You that I know You will be with me every moment, just as You are right now.”

A personal request

Dear, dear reader, I wish I could adequately explain what a difference keeping God’s Word in my mind has made for me. The scene described above happened many months ago, when I had just  started the habit of studying the Word of God, diligently, in my areas of personal need and meditating upon and memorizing the verses Holy Spirit showed me. During the months of doing that, God healed deep depression and fear. Counseling and medicine had helped, but life remained a daily misery until God’s Word began its healing work.

And the healing came, hour by hour, day by day, week upon week, as I kept studying and meditating all day long on God’s truths about peace and His loving provision and other healing truths. The truth of God did its work as I drove to work, got groceries, spent time with my family, and most of all when I was home, alone with God, facing the struggle of reclaiming the happy and productive life depression had stolen for two years.

God’s Word will heal your life. Your problem may not be depression and anxiety, but whatever it is, God’s Word will heal your heart and your life. I beg you to start the habit of constant, all-day and night meditation upon verses from the Bible that address your needs.

Usually, a piece of writing seems to end itself. But I only know how to end this one by pleading, once again: Please make getting God’s Word into your heart a daily priority.  God’s Word will make your heart whole and sound. God’s Words truly are “ . . . life to those that find them, healing and health to all their flesh.” Proverbs 4:22, AMPC.

The next blog post, “The Arsenal of God’s Word” will give a list of Scriptures that will lead you toward peace and explain more about how the Word works in your heart.

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“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” (Philemon 25)

 

 

Standing strong, like the hummingbird

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Hummingbird Feasting on God’s Presence. In the corner of my bedroom, on top of the cherrywood chest of drawers where my father put his watch, wallet, and keys every night and where, twenty-five years later, I changed my infant daughter’s diapers, stands a light maple jewelry chest, a gift from my daughter. A three-inch hand-carved wooden dog, also my father’s, leans against the jewelry chest. Behind the jewelry chest, a tall, slender faux crystal vase holds a spray of white flowers. On the wall above, where the eye is naturally drawn, hangs a gilt-framed picture of a ruby-throated hummingbird, hovering beside the open face of a crimson day lily, feeding on its nectar.

That picture is my reminder that, as the hummingbird must eat five to eight times per hour to survive, so my soul and spirit must feast continually on God’s presence and God’s Word. Hard experience imprinted that truth on my heart.

Although it was difficult, I thank God for the months of affliction that taught me to seek, to inquire for and require God as my necessity and to truly seek Him with all my heart and mind and soul and life (Deuteronomy 4:29) I now understand why we must always seek the sweetness and strength of His presence. I can truly say that “Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I obey God’s Word.” (Psalm 119:67, NIV)

Image result for royalty free picture of woman with jesus We can be strong in the Lord. “In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [be empowered through your union with Him]; draw your strength from Him [that strength which His boundless might provides.] (Ephesians 6:10. AMPC)

Toward the end of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes “In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [be empowered through your union with Him]; draw your strength from Him [that strength which His boundless might provides.] Notice verse 10 says that our union with Him is what empowers us and makes us strong. We draw our strength from Him, and His strength is boundless, without measure, because it comes from His very nature, His omnipotence.

In the months required to overcome fear and depression, I learned that God’s presence—being in communion with Him– kept me strong. Only God kept me at peace and gave me hope and perseverance, though the path was often rocky.

How did I learn to stay in His presence more often? (I say more often because I still strive to make it constant.) By keeping my mind fixed on Him (Isaiah 26:3), keeping His Word in my sight and within my heart (Proverbs 4:21), and constantly praising and thanking Him for His goodness (Psalm 119:164). Practicing these three disciplines never fails to restore me.

How gracious is our God to give such fullness of joy in His presence so that we, like the hummingbird, may ever be drawn to that nourishing sweetness!

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Trophy God makes us successful.Put on God’s whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier which God supplies, that you may be able successfully to stand up against [all] the strategies and the deceits of the devil”. (Ephesians 6:11, AMPC)

God gives us weapons to fight this great spiritual battle that is the life of every believer. Verse 11 says that I “may be able successfully to stand up against ALL the strategies and deceits of the devil” if I use all the armor God has provided. That spiritual armor includes: truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and His Word as well as prayer (from Ephesians 6:14-18). Read the passage from verse 10 through 20. It shows us that victory as a believer requires drawing our strength from God and using the armor He provides, which includes prayer, and standing strong in our place. To fight the good fight, I MUST have the constant, strengthening nourishment of God’s presence and His Word . . . like the beautiful, delicate but mighty hummingbird.

God knows we face impossible odds.For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere. (Ephesians 6:12, AMPC)

Hummingbird, Flying, Portrait, Wildlife It seems impossible that any living creature could manage to feed itself five to eight times per hour for all its life. God knows hummingbirds face impossible odds in feeding themselves, so God gives His tiny birds the means they need to obtain their 120 to 192 meals each day. He gives them a heart that beats 1200 times a minute; wings that beat 50 to 200 times a second; and aerobatic skill to fly forwards, backwards, sideways, and straight up. They can hover for 50 minutes, and furthermore, do instant 180s while hovering. (www.worldofhummingbirds.com) Possessing those amazing attributes, mature hummingbirds have almost no natural enemies. They simply outfly and outmaneuver them.

Faint of heart! (I am talking to myself here!) How much more then has our all-loving, all gracious, tender-hearted, compassionate, and adoring Heavenly Father given us what we need to face and conquer our impossible odds in the spiritual realms? His Presence and His Word are available to all His children who ask. “God is with you when you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you (2 Chronicles 15:2, NIV).

Image result for royalty free picture of roman soldier standing guard God enables us to stand our ground in hard times. “Therefore put on God’s complete armor that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger]; and having done all the crisis demands, to stand firmly in your place] (Ephesians 6:13, AMPC)

To “stand your ground” is a battle term. It means to stand and fight to defend the ground on which you are standing when the enemy attacks. Think about that and think about it in light of verses 10 through 12. Do you see that drawing on God’s strength and using the armor He gives us enables us to resist the enemy and keep standing, firmly in our place, keeping our life settled and safe?

The Word says we will be able to stand firmly in our place. That means we will not lose one inch of our ground. We will fight, yes, but our feet will stay firm, planted, in our own place. We will not grope around with our feet, seeking a firm place to support us. No! With our God we can not only stand firm but with our God’s help we can advance against a troop! We can scale a wall! (Psalm 18:26)

If we, like the hummingbird, constantly seek out the life-sustaining sweetness of God’s presence, as if our life depended on it, we will draw on His boundless strength and, thus, we will stand, firmly, in our place. Image result for royalty free picture of hummingbird

 

Desperately needing God

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of clock Radio In The Dark  A desperate seeker. “Meowrp” My eyelids fluttered open. My beloved Barny was seldom vocal. In the darkness, the blue numerals of the clock radio glowed 9:00 a.m. as I scritched his chin.

“I got up and gave you both halves of your breakfast, Barn, at 6:00 and again at 8:00,” I mumbled, pulling the blanket to my chin. “But you have not gotten on the bed,” I thought, “since you went blind two months ago, and you have not gotten me up when I oversleep either.”

My hand reached to pull back the covers before the thought completely formed in my mind. “Barny is asking, no begging, for our brushing time! How sweet! Thank You, Lord, for that!”

I had always brushed him and given him catnip. But, since learning of the cancer, each morning I sat on the floor, let him lick a tablespoon of catnip out of my hand then spent fifteen minutes brushing his coat, gently running my hands the length of his small body, caressing his ears and face and, of course, crooning. This morning, Barny had insisted and required this of me. Food alone no longer satisfied. He craved my attention and affection. He had a desperately seeking heart. Why? He had experienced what 15 minutes of pure joy felt like. He wanted more!

A rich blessing of affliction. Talking with a friend last week about seeking God brought to mind my recent experience in seeking greater awareness of God’s presence. I thought I loved God and truly depended on Him, and I did, but after two years of depression I learned that when God says “Seek My face (Psalm 27:8)” He means to desperately insist and require His presence.

During that struggle with depression, I did everything I heard of, including lots of counseling and many times of special prayer. It all helped but each day was still miserable. Some days were a ceaseless torment. Slow improvement came when I overcame my reluctance to take an antidepressant. But the struggling continued, without peace, until I began studying the Word of God, for myself, in my areas of need, and began thinking and speaking the Word as often as I could remember.

Image result for Royalty Free Clip Art of ClockAfter some weeks of success in finding peace through pondering Scriptures during daily activities, I recall thinking I did not have the strength or even want to be like Joyce Meyer and other Bible teachers who sounded like the Word was all they thought of all day long. My sin, rebellion, weakness, doubt, laziness, and the enemy’s lies are obvious in that attitude! But, God graciously gave me a willing heart and renewed a steadfast spirit in me (Psalm 51:10). I soon saw that thinking on His Word all day long was just what I needed (Proverbs 4:21).

So, I began studying the Word MUCH more and spending more time learning new Bible passages or repeating ones I already knew, out loud as well as silently. The more minutes of the day I kept His Word on my mind and in my mouth, the more hours I searched His word and discovered truth I needed, the more healing came. Month by month, discouraging, self-critical and thoughts and fears overwhelmed me less often. Gradually, my mind was renewed enough so that I remained in peace, keeping my mind fixed on Him. (Isaiah 26:3) His Word was becoming life to me and health to my whole body. (Proverbs 4:20-23)

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Food and WaterGod tells us to desperately seek Him. In Psalm 27:8 God tells us, “. . . Seek My face [inquire for and require My presence as your vital need].” And the psalmist replies “My heart says to You, Your face (Your presence), Lord, will I seek, inquire for, and require [of necessity and on the authority of Your Word]” (AMPC). Notice that God tells us to ask for His presence and require His presence as our vital need. If something is vital, it means we must have it to live, like oxygen, food, and water. In older times, a wound was called vital if it was fatal. Ponder this and you will see it means we are to seek God’s presence as the number one thing in our lives. I did not do that before my affliction, but I do now! I know only God can keep my heart at peace.

An excellent Bible study is to type “seek, inquire, and require” into the search window of a website like Bible Gateway, where you can search the AMPC translation for that phrase. You will find 33 results, which will show you that, when God says seek or search, He does not mean a casual, haphazard, if-you-feel-like-it effort.

Image result for Royalty Free Clip Art of Heart  Ask God to make your heart willing. I did not consistently find God’s presence until I desperately pursued Him. My motivation was the fear that anxious, depressing thoughts would return. I say with the psalmist “Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I obey your word” and “It was good for me to be afflicted, so that I might learn You decrees.” (Psalm 119:67 and 71, NIV) I cannot explain how it works but God He does indeed make everything turn out for our good (Romans 8:28) and trials and temptations do help us become “. . . mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:4). That is why James 1:1-4 tells us to rejoice about trials and temptations. Like the goldsmith’s refining fire, hardships purify us.

Desperation for God is good. God knows just what works with each of us because He knows our hearts (Jeremiah 17:10, Acts 15:8), and if we ask for something good, He will give us good things, not bad (Mathew 7:9-11).  God never withholds any good thing from those who walk blamelessly before Him. (Psalm 84:11b) Cling to that promise as you draw nearer to God! He is with you when you are with Him. (2 Chronicles 15:2). So, I say, dear friend, if you want a closer closeness with God, pray Psalm 51:10-12 (NIV) along with me:

  1. Create in me a pure heart, o God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
  2. Do not cast me from Your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
  3. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

God’s presence is a priceless gift. How blessed we are that He makes it available to anyone who seeks Him – desperately!Image result for royalty free picture of gift

 

Can love endure forever?

Image result for royalty free picture of college classroomRepetition aids memory. I leaned from side to side, then twisted left and right, trying to do so unobtrusively. It had been a long day of sitting at work. These three hours of class made it even longer. I took a sip of lukewarm coffee and popped another peanut M and M in my mouth. The freedoms students exercised in class puzzled me when I first returned to school three years earlier, but now I quietly ate snacks during lecture, too.

How I loved school! This Tuesday night class on human learning was my favorite. I hastily put the styrofoam cup down and picked up my pen when I heard, “Now, this is something you can make good use of yourself. Repetition is the key to getting information into long-term memory. So when you study . . .” The professor kept going but I heard that one phrase over and over. That was many years ago, but I hear it now whenever I work on Bible memory. It helps me persist in the necessary repetitions.

God knows how memory works. Obviously, God knows how memory works. God not only tells us to impress His commandments on our children by talking about them when we “. . . sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:7, NIV) but He also tells us to keep them where we will see them all day long as we go about our daily life (Deuteronomy 6:8.) I say, thank the Lord for index cards and sticky notes!

Two key facts about God. Psalm 136 teaches us two facts about God. [1] God is good, and [2] His love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1, NIV). When I first began pondering these two truths, I thought they were in Psalm 118. I was driving and so could not access my Bible. When I got home, I saw it was Psalm 136 and that the phrase repeated 26 times is “His love endures forever.” The “God is good” phrase is only stated in the first verse of this psalm.

His love endures forever. It is comforting to know that God’s perfect love will last forever, especially when we read I Corinthians and see what God means when He says love.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (I Corinthians 13:4-8a, NIV).

We would do well to take each of those phrases and use them as the responding phrase in Psalm 136. For example, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His patience endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His patience endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords. His patience endures forever.”

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Gold NuggetThe phrase “His love endures forever” is repeated 26 times. I have found that I must repeat the phrases of a Bible verse or passage I am memorizing MANY times. Repeating a nugget of truth 26 times is a small price to pay to acquire pure, refined gold straight from the hand of our loving and all-powerful God.

What does God want us to remember? It is my opinion that this must be one of the things God wants us to remember most of all, this unbelievable fact that His love will last forever, that He will never stop loving us. If you have been privileged to study the Bible even a little you know God repeats His fundamental truths many times, in multiple ways. Yet no other phrase is repeated so many times so close together. I think I should pause and think about that!

God IS good. As a believer, it hurts when I hear people disrespect God and when I hear people doubt His goodness. The enemy has attacked God’s goodness from the beginning. He successfully tempted Eve in Eden by lying about God’s goodness. (Genesis 3:4-5). He does the same thing today. How often does someone say there is no hope for mankind or that, if there is “a god”, then He cannot be good because He lets so many bad things happen. Lies, all lies.

How do we fight against that hateful darkness of the enemy? With the Sword of Truth! Look up scriptures about the goodness of God, ponder and memorize as many as you can, to get them down deep into your own spirit, and then speak the truth, with love (Ephesians 4:15) when you hear our wonderful Father in heaven slandered.

God hears our cries for mercy. I am so grateful to have my own copy of the Bible (actually, several translations!) so that I can write in it like the textbook it is. When I was in school, I underlined, drew arrows and brackets, made notes in margins, highlighted . . . anything to enhance understanding. In my NIV Bible, Psalm 118 is well-marked. It sums up the goodness of God and His enduring love in rescuing me from a season of deep depression.

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Jesus rescuing Lamb“I love the LORD, for He heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because He turned his ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live. The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the LORD: ‘O LORD, save me!’ The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The LORD protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, He saved me. Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you.” (Psalm 116:1-7, NIV)

Fellow pilgrim, has God been good to you? Has He proven to you that “His love endures forever”? Then thank Him and tell someone else! He more than deserves our highest praise and gratitude. . . for God “ . . . is good and His love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1, NIV)