Category Archives: DEVOTIONALS

All-Seeing, All-Knowing

Image result for Royalty Free Clip Art of Quill PenThis writing thing. Well, fellow pilgrim, I must say this writing thing is an adventure, with many twists and turns along the way. I intended this poem to be an easy blog post because, lately, writing time has been reduced. Then, I found an answer to something I  have pondered for years– how to make poetry more useful.

Writing poetry blesses me because Bible truths come to my mind, but I could not see how to ensure readers saw the underlying Bible truths. Today, I saw the obvious, i.e., just add the explanation into the  poem. So, here we go.  First, the entire poem alone, and then the poem with Bible truths added in.

And would you do me a favor please? Let me know what you think about this format, either in the comment section below this post or by sending me an email (on the “Email me” tab.) God bless you as you read!

“All Seeing, All Knowing”

All seeing, all knowing, how great is Your name!
It wipes out all fear, all guilt, and all shame.
Oh! Thank You, my Dearest, my beloved Sweet One,
for new life in my soul, through Jesus, Your Son.

May He live deep within by the Spirit’s great grace.
May He guide and correct as I run this great race.
He’ll help me press on. In His strength I’m made whole
forgetting the past, made new in my soul!

No more of old me! That person is dead.
I’m risen with new life, Lord, just as You said!

I’m risen with . . .

. . . new life that arises and shines from within,
that shines through the darkness and keeps me from sin,
that reveals the desires of the flesh and the eyes,
that reveals deadly pride and helps me walk wise.

How I thank You, my Jesus, for all that You’ve done,
for abounding new life, for making us one!
No more are we split by sin’s great divide,
We’re one in the blood that flowed from Your side,

Yes, when I walk in Your way,
when I carry Your Name,
all things are made new, yes, nothing’s the same!

“All Seeing, All Knowing” — Bible Truths Included

All seeing, all knowing, how great is Your name!
It wipes out all fear, all guilt, and all shame.
God sees and knows everything. (Isaiah 40:28-29) That is His nature, part of His name or attributes. A name is a word by which we know or describe someone or something. God’s name means His nature. This is helpful to remember when pondering Scriptures with the “name” of God. For example, Psalm 33:22 (“In him our hearts rejoice for we trust in his holy name”) shows that when we trust in the name, or nature of God, in His good qualities, our hearts will be happy.

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of CrownWhen we are adopted into His kingdom, when we bear His name, all fear, guilt, and shame are wiped out. (I John 1:7)

Oh! Thank You, my Dearest, my beloved Sweet One,
for new life in my soul, through Jesus, Your Son.
May God, who gave us new life through the blood His only begotten Son Jesus, shed on Calvary (John 3:16), be the “Fairest of Ten Thousand” to our souls, as the 1881 hymn “The Lilly of the Valley” by Charles Fry says.

May He live deep within by the Spirit’s great grace.
May He guide and correct as I run this great race.
Before Jesus left this earth, He told us that if we truly love Him and obey His teachings, He and the Father will love us and make their home in our heart. (John 14:23)

Image result for royalty free clip art of feet runningLet us long for Holy Spirit’s guidance as we endeavor, like Paul, “. . . to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and run with patience the race set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1, NIV)

He’ll help me press on. In His strength I’m made whole
forgetting the past, made new in my soul!
Like Paul, let us remember that although we will never attain perfection on earth, we can “press on” toward maturity, putting all our confidence in Christ as we strive to “. . . take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of” us. (Philippians 3:14)

 No more of old me! That person is dead.
I’m risen with new life, Lord, just as You said!
As we learn in Romans 6:1-23, when we were baptized into Christ Jesus, our old self was “. . . crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be done away with in order that “we should no longer be slaves to sin “ (v. 4- 6)

So, we can “count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore . . . “ we do not have to let sin reign in our mortal bodies. (v. 11) As we follow Jesus, He frees us from enslavement to sin. We are free from its power. (NLT)

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Empty TombI’m risen with . . .
. . . new life that arises and shines from within,
What a promise 2 Corinthians 5:17 contains. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (NKJV) The AMPC says, “. . . the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away.”

that shines through the darkness and keeps me from sin,
God’s Word cuts through the darkness of our world and lights the way for my next few steps (“Your Word is a lamp to my feet. . . ”) and it also shines light further away, along the path (. . . and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105.) Jesus is the Living Word and when He lives in our hearts – what a bright light we are privileged to have! As I John 1:5b teaches us “. . . God is Light, and there is no darkness in Him [no, not in any way]” AMPC.

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Lamp On Dark Path

that reveals the desires of the flesh and the eyes,
that reveals deadly pride and helps me walk wise
With the light of God–Light that is God–in our hearts, our eyes are enlightened to see sin as sin. And when we use the Sword of God’s Word (Ephesians 6:17), that Living Word penetrates to the deepest part of our hearts and shows us whether the thoughts and purposes of our hearts are good or evil.

“For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immoral] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, AMPC)

How I thank You, my Jesus, for all that You’ve done,
for abounding new life, for making us one!
Although the enemy of our souls, the devil, always seeks to steal, kill, and destroy, Jesus came to give us a “rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10, ESV) We have that life when we are one with Him. “But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” (I Corinthians 6:17, ESV)

No more are we split by sin’s great divide,
We’re one in the blood that flowed from Your side,
Sin separates us from God. It is a huge chasm we cannot cross on our own. Isaiah 59:2 tells us that our iniquities have separated us from God; our sins have hidden His face from us, so that He will not hear. But, when we are united in purpose with Jesus, when we are one with Him, when we strive to live like Him and pour out our life for others as He did, our life is united with Him in His life, His blood.

Image result for royalty free picture of walking with jesusYes, when I walk in Your way,
when I carry Your Name,
all things are made new, yes, nothing’s the same!
When we strive, with all our heart, soul and mind, to walk, or live, like Jesus did, when we make His purposes the focus of our life, we share in His likeness. We carry His likeness, His nature, His Name, to the world. As God shines His light and love through us, He uses us for the sake of His Kingdom. And His presence in our life overflows us with blessings.

Once we give up our old life of sin, we are new creatures, and nothing is ever the same again. It just gets “sweeter as the days go by”, as James Poyser attested in his famous song. May we strive to be “. . . to God the sweet aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” (2 Corinthians 2:15, Berean Study Bible).

 

 

God busies Himself with your details

Little details are BIG. I signed in at the office and walked down the hall, gazing fondly at pages taped to walls, grouped by classroom, thickly-penciled letters sprawling above and below that distinctive blue-lined paper, with red dots splitting each line. The mashed-potatoes-and-baking-bread smell led me to the cafeteria, filled with mostly empty metal folding chairs.

“Whew!” I took a seat on the front row. Waiting for fifteen minutes was a small price to ensure Haskell saw me. I touched the gold-plated spiral pin clipped to the neck of my tank top and tugged my long skort forward to cover more of two pudgy knees. Haskell would think I was gorgeous, that was all that mattered.

I talked with the mom who joined me on the front row, musing that she was about the age of my daughter, who had to work this morning. Then, students filed in, class by class, the principal welcomed everyone to the award ceremony, and called the two kindergarten classes to the stage.

Haskell was the twelfth kindergartner in line. When he turned around, wide eyes searching the audience, I stuck my hand up high and waved. He smiled a tight, close-lipped smile and waved back, lifting his hand just above his waist.

“Had the teacher told them not to wave?” I wondered.

Then Haskell touched his neck, at the spot where I wore the pin and smiled the wide, full-hearted smile I loved. Tears sprang to my eyes as I touched my hand to the clip at my neck, nodded, and gave him two thumbs-up. After he had spotted that clip in Nana’s joo-ree box a few months ago, I had worn it, whenever he asked, which was often, and wherever he wanted, which included the gym and the grocery, and while vacuuming, delighted that he wanted to decorate his Nana.

“Thank You, Lord, that I remembered this little detail. It is huge to him!”

Image result for royalty free clip art of footstepsTeach me gratitude, Lord, for Your daily attention to details of my life. As I drove back home, I reflected on what I remembered of Psalm 37:23, that God busies himself with the steps of the righteous. When I got home, I looked it up:

“The steps of a [good] man are directed and established by the Lord when He delights in his way [and He busies Himself with his every step]. (Psalm 37:23, AMPC)

“Oh, Father” I said. “I was overjoyed when Haskell noticed I had worn our special pin. His smiling face said ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you, Nana!’ Father, help me remember to thank You, with my whole heart and a big smile, for the countless details of everyday life You prepare just for me, like songs on the radio, a text from a friend and smiles from strangers, just when I need them. You truly do arrange every detail of the life we share, don’t You, Lord?”

Teach me gratitude, Lord, for Your new mercies that come every day. “And make me more mindful for the big things You give day after day, like the breath of life, food, a home, a loving family, and most of all the privilege of knowing You. Truly, Father, Your faithfulness is great, just like You show us in Lamentations 3:22-23, “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

I paused, seeing the dining table of my childhood, Daddy at the head of the table, orange knotty pine wall behind him, lengthening late afternoon shadows visible through the window, the view partly obscured by drapes embossed with turquoise flowers. Daddy taught us to thank Mother for supper, and my two brothers and I did, in our own words, and, as I recall, using the same words each time – “Thanks Mother. It was good.” “Thank you, Mother. ‘ppreciate it.” and “Thank you, Mother, for a good supper.” She had always smiled and given each of us a sincere “You’re welcome!”

“But how much more would she have appreciated our thanks,” I pondered, “If we had said, ‘The meatloaf was great tonight!’ or ‘Your biscuits and gravy are the best!’ or ‘That fried chicken was sooo good!”

She never got tired of hearing us thank her, and You never get tired of hearing us thank You either, do you Lord? So thank You, Father, again, for my family, thank You that I have a car to drive to Haskell’s school, thank You . . . “

Royalty Free Pic of Open Bible

Teach me gratitude that You are the loving Father who teaches us. I sat at my desk and opened the three Bibles I use most often when I write. I wanted to check my memory. As I read verse 22, I saw it was connected to verse 23. Psalm 37:22-23 said:

  • (New Living) “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.”
  • (New International) “If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD holds him with his hand.”
  • (Amplified Classic) “The steps of a [good] man are directed and established by the Lord when He delights in his way [and He busies Himself with his every step]. Though he falls, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord grasps his hand in support and upholds him.” (Psalm 37:23-24, AMPC)

As I compared translations, I marveled again at how Holy Spirit deepens our understanding when we focus and try earnestly to understand God’s Words. As I read and reread the verses, cause and effect linkages emerged:

[1] When we live a godly life, God delights in our way, or our manner of life.

[2] When God delights in how we are living, He busies Himself with every detail of our lives,

[3] Because of [1] and [2], even though we stumble and fall, we will not stay down because the LORD holds our hand and supports, sustains, and strengthens us.

At first glance, the NIV and NLT, which said we would never fall, seemed to disagree with the AMPC, which indicated we would fall.

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Father And CHILD Walking“Hmmm, Lord? What is the key to understanding this? Well, if I think of a father holding the hand of a little child as they walk together, that child could stumble and fall, but a loving, attentive father, like You are, Lord, would grasp that little hand even more tightly the moment the child began falling so that the child would fall only to his knees and not all the way to the ground, as he would have if the father were not holding his hand and pulling him back up.

Oh, Father! Teach me to always, always, always hold on to Your mighty hand! Let me be grateful You hold my hand. Let me not resist but agree willingly when Your hand tugs me in a specific direction. Keep teaching me to have the same mind as You, to agree with You, so that we can walk together (Amos 3:3). Keep my feet on the paths of righteousness that lead to eternal life. (Proverbs 12:28) What comforting reassurance these verses bring! Thank You, Lord!

Image result for royalty free PICTURE OF SCROLLTeach me to rightly divide Your Word. I closed my eyes and searched for words to express my gratitude. “Thank You, Father, for teaching me to look at more than just one verse. Otherwise, today, I would have missed the connection between verse 22 and verse 23.”

Recently, God had impressed on me the importance of studying out the context of verses I memorized and ones that reappeared in teachings and sermons I heard.

At minimum, I had learned to scan several verses before and after any one verse, checking for connecting words and phrases that indicated cause and effect, words like for, because, therefore, and so that. Ideally, I wanted to know the main message of the book of the Bible the verse was in, the historical, Biblical, and cultural context, a broad outline of the book and a detailed outline of the chapter.

“Well, no, I pondered. “Not just one chapter. I have learned that the original writings were not divided into chapter and verse. I see both missed blessings and danger in letting the thoughts of men, no matter how learned and holy they were, rather than Holy Spirit, determine for me where to “divide” the Truth.

Father, I will study out 2 Timothy 2:15 more but I do believe part of the meaning of “rightly dividing the Word of Truth” is to keep the passages that are all of one piece, as one piece in our thinking, rather than picking one or two verses here or there.

However, I do know that just one or two verses or brief passages can accurately be taught if the pastor or Bible teacher has followed 2 Timothy 2:15 and done the diligent, time-consuming study necessary for proper understanding. That is the spoon-feeding I had lapsed into for so long. Thank You, Father, for using fear and depression to make me desperate enough to study Your Word, diligently, for my personal needs.

Thank You, Father, for busying Yourself with the details of my life today by teaching me how to better study Your Word. It feels like You put truths there just for me, just like I wore that pin so that Haskell would know I was thinking about him, and so he could see that what was important to him was important to me. What a loving Father You are, Lord!

Thank You for Your great grace and Your mercies, which are new every morning, as You say in Lamentations 3:23. . . and I see that verse 22 says, “It is because of the LORD’s great love that we are not consumed because Your compassions never fail. And actually, that whole Chapter Three of Lamentations is so instructive, let’s see . . . let’s start at verse one and recall that the author is probably Jeremiah and that he was writing about. . .

Image result for free ;picture of studying the bible

 

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

 

How much does God love you?

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Grand PianoA few notes into the pianist’s prelude, and I knew what the choir would sing. Eyes closed, shutting out all distractions between me and God, Holy Spirit was right there with me. I felt I could almost touch Him. With the rich harmony of many voices, the familiar melody and words rippled along:
“How many times must I prove how much I love you?
How many times must I show my love for you?
How many times must I rescue you from trouble
for you to know just how much I love you?”
(from “So You Would Know” by Al Hobbs.)

Smiling, I lifted my face upward and raised my hands, murmuring, “Oh, Father!” as tears trickled down. God’s voice continued . .

“Didn’t I wake you up this morning?
Were you clothed in your right mind?
When you walked in on a problem didn’t I step right in on time?When you got weak along life’s journey My angel carried you,
so you would know just how much I love you.”

I shook my head slowly as I recalled how many times God had miraculously come through for my daughter and me during ten years of single parenthood. God’s voice continued. . .
“How many days must I be a fence all around you?
How many nights must I wipe your tears away?
How many storms must I bring you safely through for you to know just how much I love you?”

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of CrucifixionAfter giving my heart to Jesus, three years into single parenthood, the lifetime loneliness had greatly lessened as I sat alone with Him, after Sharon was asleep, looking out the window at the stars. I was so grateful I could feel His love, so grateful He showed me how to take good care of Sharon. God’s voice continued. . .
“Didn’t I put food on your table?
Show up when your bills were due?
When the pains were racking your body didn’t I send a healing down to you?
When you were lost in sin and sorrow, I died to set you free,
so you would know, just how much, I love you.”

I stood, hands lifted, face upturned, as more tears poured down. How many times had God sent an unexpected check for us? How many times had family and friends bought clothes for Sharon, taken us out for dinner, and paid for school activities? How many times . . . That was decades ago. All these years have only added more times to remember how clearly God has shown how much He loves me.

 God reassures us of His love, so many times. The powerful song “So You Would Know”, written by Al Hobbs, trumpets God’s gentle reminder of His love for His children. The melody and words show God’s gentle patience, like a father answering his child, “Yes, sweetheart, how many times do I have to tell you. . .” Why does God reassure us so often, in so many ways?

God knows how we are made. God knows that we, being human, would like to actually see and hear Him, especially during trials, and especially during times like the whole world now faces. Psalm 103:14 reminds us “For He knows our frame, He [earnestly] remembers and imprints [on His heart] that we are dust.” That says that God, seriously and with intensity, always remembers our humanity. He knows we need constant reminders of His love, His presence, His provision, and His power. Let’s look at some things God wants us to know about His love, presence, provision, and power.Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Sunrise

Reminders of God’s love. How loving He is to inscribe into nature itself two visible reminders of His love for us: the height of the heavens and the distance between east and west. “ for His unfailing love toward those who fear Him is as high as the heavens are above the earth. He has removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west.” (Psalm 103:11-12, NLT). Step outside and selah.

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Jesus Holding PersonReminders of God’s presence. Isaiah 41:10 says “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 you and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice. (AMPC) When I remember that the God of the universe is right here beside me and living in me, when I remember that I have, indeed, made Him my God by loving and obeying Him, His peace descends like a warm blanket over my troubled soul.

Reminders of God’s provision. Hebrews 13:5b tells you and me to “. . . be satisfied with your present [circumstances and 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 nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]. Dear fellow believer, let us take God’s Word like the medicine it is and read this verse, out loud, to ourselves, 10 times or more until we feel His peace, right in the midst of this trial!

Image result for royalty free picture of earthReminders of God’s power. In Jeremiah 32:27 God says, “Behold I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is there anything too hard for me?” Let us imprint this fact about the nature of our divine God on our hearts, just as He has imprinted each detail about our human nature on His heart. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1), He holds all creation together (Colossians 1:17) and God says, “I am the LORD: there is no other god.” (Isaiah 45:1, NLT)

NOTHING IS TOO HARD FOR GOD!!!

“Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD” Psalm 150:6,NIV. Choirs give a glimpse of what praise will be like in heaven. There is nothing so powerful as the sound of many voices, singing in harmonious praise to God. Search the internet using the phrase “So You Would Know” and worship and honor God along with the Brooklyn Tabernacle and the Radio Angels, right there in your home, with Holy Spirit.

As you worship, put fear to flight (Joshua 10:10-11), glorify God (Psalm 96), enthrone Him on your praises (Psalm 22:3), worship our mighty God, our KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS, (Revelation 19:16), Who alone sits encircled above the circle of the earth (Isaiah 40:22), Whose plans never fail (Psalm 33:11), in Whose presence the mountains quake (Nahum 1:5), and in Whose name demons flee (James 4:7). This Holy One of Israel, this Wonderful One Beyond Words, He is our God, the One we serve, the One Who cares for us each moment, and the One who will bring us home to live with Him for all eternity! “Let everything that has breath Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 150:6, NIV)

“The Lord is good, a Strength and Stronghold in the day of trouble; He knows (recognizes, has knowledge of, and understands) those who take refuge and trust in Him. (Nahum 1:7, AMPC)

See the source image

Are you affectionate with God?

Image result for royalty free clipart of affection“I love You, I love You, I really just love You! Thank You again, Father, for a wonderful day!” I paused a moment, eyes closed, face tilted upwards. “I simply just love You, Lord!” Then I resumed typing.

That was the evening of Day Four of our President’s guidelines to quell the coronavirus, a truly wonderful day. Up at six to feed Barny and have devotions; then shopping for things I might need for two weeks, like allergy and cough medicine; finding Reese’s Easter eggs and Hershey bunnies for the grandsons’ Easter baskets and other little delights to surprise them with when they spent afternoons with me while school was out; then, finding new nuggets in the Word as I worked on a booklet about worry.

I sometimes touch my grandson’s foreheads with mine, make googly eyes, and say, “I love you, I love you, do you know I love you, don’t forget I love you, did you remember I love you. . . etc.”

I am affectionate with my grandsons because I have an intimate relationship with them.

Should we be affectionate with God? The short answer? YES!!! In the Amplified Classic Bible (AMPC), verses 1 and 2 of Psalm 134 tell us:

“Behold, bless (affectionately and gratefully praise) the Lord, all you servants of the Lord [singers] who by night stand in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands in holiness and to the sanctuary and bless the Lord [affectionately and gratefully praise Him]!”

Notice the parts I underlined. One of many reasons I love the AMPC is that it spells out what people living in Bible days would have understood as implicit, or taken for granted, when they heard a word. Words in both Hebrew and Greek, the languages in which the Bible was originally written, have more shades of meaning than English, like the word snow means more than just one thing to Eskimos.

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of The BibleGod’s Word tells us to be affectionate with Him. A searchable, on-line Bible website, like Bible Gateway, shows 23 times in the AMPC when the word affectionately is used to amplify the meaning of “bless the Lord.” Look them up.

Start each day by taking time to be affectionate with God. Notice that most of the findings for the word affectionate in the AMPC are in the psalms, which are so often used for daily devotions. Psalm 145:10 tells us, “All Your works shall praise You, O Lord, and Your loving ones shall bless You [affectionately and gratefully shall Your saints confess and praise You!]”

Image result for Royalty Free Clip Art of Cat Looking upThink about it. Can you be affectionate with someone if you are in a rush? It just does not work. Your actions say “I love this thing I am rushing off to (work, the kickoff on TV, an errand) more than I love you.” No, with affection, you give the object of your affection your full, focused attention. You cannot even give your dog or cat a really affectionate pat on the head if you zoom by.

Be affectionate with God as you go about your daily life. Another instance where the Bible talks of affectionate love for God is when Mary gave Jesus her very best as she kissed His feet, washed them with her tears, dried them with her hair and anointed them with costly perfume.

Image result for royalty free picture of mary washing jesus feet“… and as she stood behind Him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and poured perfume on them.” In verse 45, the AMPC says that Jesus told the Pharisee that Mary had, from the moment He came into the room not stopped kissing His feet “tenderly and caressingly.”

Reading the whole story as recorded in Luke 7:36-50, shows us that Jesus obviously approved of the affectionate way Mary demonstrated her love for Him. Today, you and I can likewise show God our affection by giving our best effort, for Him, all day, in whatever we are doing. (“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might (Ecclesiastes 9:10a, NIV). We also give Him our best by loving Him with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our might (Deuteronomy 6:5).

An awesome reason to be affectionate. Next, notice that, in 1 Corinthians 11:24, during the Lord’s Supper, when Jesus had given thanks, He broke the bread, and said “Take, eat. This is my body which is broken for you. Do this to call Me [affectionately] to remembrance.” And He repeats His request when the wine is taken, in verse 25. “Similarly, when supper was ended, He took the cup also, saying, This cup is the new covenant [ratified and established] in My blood. Do this as often as you drink [it], to call Me [affectionately] to remembrance.” Every time I take the Lord’s Supper, Jesus wants me to remember Him with affection.

I knew that believers in Jesus observe the Lord’s supper to honor and respect Him by remembering His incomprehensible sacrifice for us. However, until I read this verse in the Amplified as I wrote this blog, I did not know that Jesus specifically asked us to remember Him with affection.

He could have, very appropriately, said to call Him to remembrance with respect and awe and fear. This is certainly part of the way we should approach God and it is the most basic, foundational way to think of God. But He clearly wants us to think of Him with affection, too. If you have deep respect and awe and appreciation for Who God is and what He has done for us, if you know Him well and pursue a close relationship with Him, eventually your love for Him will also include affection.

See the source imageI believe that Jesus was, as always, putting us above Himself here because He knew thinking of the agony He endured for us could make us sad. I understand that because I would, if he were alive, affectionately kiss and hold my earthly father’s hands, hands roughened by years of operating heavy equipment, covered with sun-bronzed skin and scars. I would gaze with fondness at the tan lines on his forehead and arms, acquired through decades of loving labor for his family. I would do the same for my mother’s soap roughened hands. And so, when I think about what Jesus did for me, I am affectionately grateful, and privileged to come so close to Him.

We are only affectionate with those we know intimately. Synonyms for intimate include private, personal, secret, innermost, cherished, familiar, dear, devoted, and deepest. Help us, Father, to be more intimate with You!

Being affectionate with the Lord did not come naturally at first for me. As a new believer in Jesus, I had an overly formal attitude toward Him. I had the proper reverence and fear (Deuteronomy 13:4, I Chronicles 16:25, Psalm 2:11) but I also had an unhealthy subconscious fear that I was not doing enough, fear that I was not worthy, and fear that God would one day abandon me because of that. Those wounded attitudes were caused by events in the past, obviously the work of the evil one, but God (whose power no foe can withstand, Psalm 91:1, AMPC ) brought those hurts, with the shame and guilt, into the light of His love and forgiveness. Over time, He helped me learn to ask Him into each moment of my day, including the undignified times (like exercising or scrubbing the bathroom) and times when I fail Him (like in traffic or when I lose patience with someone.)

Image result for royalty free clip art of a little bookMy search for closer closeness with the Lord led me to read the little book “The Practice of the Presence of God”, written in the 17th century by a friar called Brother Lawrence. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It helped me overcome the last remnants of over-formality with God. In this dynamo of a book, Brother Lawrence talks about chatting with the Lord while he worked in the monastery’s kitchen, for example. Brother Lawrence said “. . . during any daily duty, lift your heart to Him (God), because even the least little remembrance will please Him. You don’t have to pray out loud; He’s nearer than you can imagine. . . We can make our hearts personal chapels where we can enter anytime to talk to God privately. These conversations can be so loving and gentle, and anyone can have them” (page 36).

Slowly, I began talking to God more and more during the day, finding that as I drew near to God, He drew near to me (James 4:8) and that He was with me when I was with Him (2 Chronicles 15:2).

This will work for anyone. It took a long time, with countless failures and trying again. However, continually seeking His moment-by-moment presence as Brother Lawrence suggested has brought deep settled peace and the confidence that my loving Heavenly Father will always, always, always help me run into His presence and regain my peace, no matter what I do or what happens around me.

Fellow seeker, we can be confident He will come closer to us as we try to come closer to Him. He reassures us in I John 5:14-15 that:

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that HE hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him” (NIV).

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If there is any doubt in your mind about this, it is a thought arrow of the enemy designed to keep you from your rightful place with God. Lift up the shield of faith and take the sword of truth in hand. Keep pressing on and pressing in until you reach the promised land of delighting yourself in His presence!

God is affectionate with us. Finally, beloved, God says He “. . . cares for us affectionately and cares about us watchfully.” I Peter 5:7 says, “Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and He cares about you watchfully.”

This is not the only place in the Bible where God clearly shows His affection and the depth of His love for us. As you pursue your daily personal Bible study, make note of these places and imprint them on your heart, i.e., memorize them! Some of my favorites include particular verses in Psalm 139, Psalm 136, John 3, John 14, Joshua 1, Isaiah 26, 2 Chronicles 14, and Ephesians 3. . . The Bible overflows with God’s love. It is, indeed, God’s love letter to us, as someone once said.

Ponder God’s affection for us. Would a baby in Jesus’ arms have a single worry or concern—ever? What a wonderful thought as we all walk through the challenge of the coronavirus. God Himself is with us. In Genesis 28:15, God told Jacob, and us: “And behold, I am with you and will keep (watch over you with care, take notice of) you where you may go, and I will bring you back to this land: for I will not leave you until I have done all of which I have told you.”

Ask, seek, and knock. If you ask, God will show you how to love Him more affectionately. The Bible tells us so!Image result for royalty free picture of jesus holding a child

 

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)

God’s Elixir of Gratitude

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Memories of gratitude. 62 degrees. No humidity. Sun beginning to set. A band of soft gray and beige and pink puffs stretches low above the horizon. I pause and stop to say “Thank You, Lord. Those are such beautiful colors and such pretty patterns.”

As I come around the corner of the building, loaded down with grocery bags, headed to my unit, suddenly I remember another early evening, rounding the corner of a building, loaded down with grocery bags, heading toward home. That evening was thirty plus years ago, when my daughter was 12.

Sharon had, as usual, phoned me when she got home from school. I had said I would pick up some videos after I got groceries and be home by six. A three-day weekend was coming up, for both of us. To help offset the fallout of my single parent finances, I made a celebration out of anything I possibly could. Our VCR player got lots of use as we curled up together under a blanket on the couch and ate popcorn. The hormonal storms of adolescence still a ways away, we had many sweet and tender times just being together that year.

I had not told her I would also get a box of fried chicken, a rare indulgence for our little family of two. As I rounded the corner that evening, toting the groceries, video and chicken, I felt an almost palpable reword sense of good will toward the whole world. I was simply grateful down to my bones that I could provide food, and even special treats like the fried chicken, and a few hours of entertainment that would delight my daughter. And I was beginning to finally feel secure in the job I had begun a few weeks earlier. The job had better benefits and we had health insurance now.

I rounded the corner, stood on the tiny stoop and, since I did not have a free knuckle, banged the bags against the door. Almost instantly, the door opened, and she reached to relieve me of some of the bags.

“Oh, Mama! You got three videos! And you got chicken, too!”

Happy tears blurred my vision as I looked into her bright eyes.

Grateful for feeling “Not bad”. Now, the bags looped around my fingers were cotton mesh, not the environmentally-unfriendly plastic of 30 years ago, and rather than anticipating a deeply delightful evening with my daughter, I was heading to my beloved rescued Tonkinese and my beloved Heavenly Father.

“Thank You, Lord, that I feel so much better today. Thank You that my eyes are not so swollen and I can breathe easily.”

Last night, at nine, I had had an anaphylactic reaction, the first in many years, so many that I no longer carried an epi pen. It had been a wild night, walking to the car with eyes swelling, tears gushing, throat swelling, driving to an urgent care clinic, only to find it closed then driving across town, then answering questions and signing papers at the front desk while thinking I might pass out, finally being given two shots and a breathing treatment, waiting three hours at the facility, then driving home, getting into bed at 5 a.m.

So, I was very grateful when I woke at one, feeling almost normal. It felt like a holiday to just get out and see the sun as I drove to the grocery and library. One blessing of trials is it feels so good when they are done!

“But, Lord,” I reflected as I put bananas on the countertop and stacked cat food in the cabinet, “help me be genuinely thankful all the time, not just when You have delivered me from a problem.”

Image result for Free Clip Art of TambourineI believe God loves it when we rejoice with Him when trials have ended and He has given a great victory, like when Miriam led the Israelites in singing on the other side of the Red Sea. Miriam took a timbrel and sang, “Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously and is highly exalted; the horse and rider He has throw into the sea,” (Exodus 15:21, AMPC).

However, the Bible makes it plain we are to be thankful ALL the time. Why?

An attitude of gratitude is good medicine!  The dictionary defines elixir as a “magical or medicinal potion.” Another definition is “a particular type of medicinal solution.” (https://tinyurl.com/wfnrjh9). Like everything God tells His followers to do, being thankful is good for us. (“All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful to those who keep the demands of His covenant. Psalm 25:10, NIV). Being thankful is so powerful it does seem magical. No wonder God says to “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5:18 NIV).

Why are we to do that? Two, of many reasons, are:

[1] God “. . . is good; for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever.” (Psalm 136). Thanking God, all the time, is simply the right thing to do.

[2] It brings us into His presence. “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4, NIV)

Image result for royalty free picture of neglected gardenCultivating the garden of your heart. I have learned, the hard way, that a constant attitude of gratitude is essential for me. Unless I am actively thankful for God’s blessings, the enemy soon steals my peace. I tried, for years, to be consistently thankful but it was like the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. Some seeds of gratitude I was trying to plant never got down deep into my heart, some landed in areas of my heart that were filled with the rocks of envy, jealousy and resentment, and some seeds of gratitude grew for a while but then worry about things of this world choked out the gratitude.

I finally saw that only God could remove the rocks, weeds and thorns. I had to ask Him to show me where the ugly things were, and then do my part. I saw that only God could provide good seed, and that I had to sow then water it by keeping His Word in my mind. I saw only God could make it grow, and that my part was to wait patiently, with hope, and to “Above all else, guard [my] heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV). After much work, for a long time, God did change my attitude, but it was a process of cultivation, like developing a garden.

Image result for Royalty Free Clip Art Of Gardening Tools And Seeds'The process of cultivation. To cultivate the good fruit of thankfulness in my heart, I had to:

[1] Clear my heart of rocks, weeds, and thorns and break up the soil. In ancient times, through the prophet Jeremiah, God pleaded with His people to return to Him, put away their idols and “break up your ground left uncultivated for a season, so that you may not sow among thorns.” (Jeremiah 4:3b, AMPC).

Father, help me root out the thorns of ungratefulness, bitterness, envy, jealousy, and resentment. Use Your Word to reveal the hidden thoughts and intents of my heart that I cannot perceive so I may confess, repent and be forgiven. (Hebrews 4:12)

[2] Plant good seeds. Galations 6:7 (NIV) tells us “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows”.

Father, You have provided all the seeds of truth that we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3). Help me sow bountifully so that I may reap bountifully from Your Word. (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)

[3] Water, watch and wait. Growing anything takes time but God helps us as we seek to grow, and He finishes what He starts. As Paul said “And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up until the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you.” (Philippians 1:4, AMPC)

Father, help me be patient as You do what only You can do. (Revelations 4:11)

[4] Maintain the garden. Maintaining a garden requires regular watering, weeding, and removal of pests.

Father, help me always water the garden of my heart with the Living Water of Your Word (John 4:13-15). Show me the weeds and thorns (Matthew 13:7) and help me to take “. . . the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards [of our love], for our vineyards are in blossom (Solomon 2:14, AMPC)

Dear friend, as we both strive to become more grateful, I can only remind us both of God’s promise in 2 Corinthians 9:10-11:

“And [God] Who provides seed for the sower and bread for eating will also provide and multiply your [resources for] sowing and increase the fruits of your righteousness [which manifests itself in active goodness, kindness, and charity]. (AMPC)

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Start your day feeling loved

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I lay still a moment in the thick silence and darkness, pulling the comforter up to my chin, remembering how my father always rose at five, in pre-dawn darkness like this, and left the house at five-thirty for the rock mine. When I was older and needed extra time to study, he woke me up, too. On those cherished mornings, I shuffled between sink and stove, making toast and the one cup of instant coffee I was allowed, while Daddy sat at the table, skimming headlines and perusing the sports page.

We turned on just the stove light on those mornings.   The bedrooms were at the other end of the hall, but the hall was short so the overhead light would have shone under closed doors and awakened my Mom and my two brothers. Alone in the dimly-lit kitchen, it was like Daddy and I were spotlighted on a stage, the rest of the house hidden in the uniform anonymity of darkness, like a darkened theater, present but possessing no possibility of affecting the actors on the stage.

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For those few minutes, I had Daddy all to myself, and we two, who were more alike than I would realize for many years, sat in a silence as companionable as it was absolute, the only sounds an occasional gentle snap as Daddy straightened the newspaper or a quiet slurp as I took a prolonged sip of my precious one cup of coffee.

All too soon on those mornings, he kissed my cheek then was at the door where he’d left his work boots, coated with lime rock, the night before. Then he was gone, leaving me in the spotlighted kitchen, alone but feeling special and somehow right with the world, having already achieved an early start to my day, just like him. I also felt loved, I felt safe, and I felt secure, like I always did when Daddy was home.

Whether a lark (those who are alert during the day, like me and my Dad) or an owl, those who prefer being awake at night, we all need to start our day feeling loved, feeling safe, and feeling secure. Solitary time with God is the best way.

Feeling loved. God tells us to start our day with our minds on His commandments. In Deuteronomy 6:7 He says “Impress them (meaning His commandments, which He just talked about in verse 6) on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you rise up. . . (NIV).“

When I wake up, if I start to worry about the day or week ahead, I think about all the ways He has fulfilled His many promises to keep me in His peace (Isaiah 26:3, Psalm 29:11, Psalm 76:3, Matthew 28:11-30). That helps me start my day feeling loved, as I remind myself that God has always taken care of me. Just thinking about Daddy made me feel good because he was consistently loving, tender and caring toward me. Pausing to think about God makes me feel good.

Image result for royalty free picture of sunriseFeeling safe. It is natural to look toward the sky on awakening. If we pause long enough, we start thinking about Who made that sky, how powerful He is, and how much He loves us. And those are comforting, soothing thoughts.

Many psalms illustrate how considering nature can calm us. Such psalms follow a pattern:

  • an outpouring of the psalmist’s emotions;
  • consideration of God’s power and love as revealed in nature and His dealings with mankind; and
  • then solace as the songwriter ponders God’s love for him.

What a healthy way to banish negative feelings! Tell God just how we feel and then ponder His power and His love for us until we feel encouraged.

Feeling secure. Psalm 91:14 (AMPC) says, “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him. I will set him on high, because he knows and understands My name [has a personal knowledge of My mercy, love and kindness; trusts and relies on Me, knowing I will never forsake him, no, never.) I felt secure just being in my Dad’s presence because I knew his character. I had experienced what he was like and how he would treat me.

These last few months of maintaining victory over depression, I have come to know God’s character better than before because I have pressed in hard to get closer to Him. He has drawn closer to me in response. (James 4:8) I have been truly leaning on Him, depending on Him so much that if He withdrew His support I would fall, just as if you had removed a crutch that I needed.

I think of that as wrestling with God, like Jacob did at Peniel. “And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel [the face of God] saying, For I have seen God face to face, and my life is spared and not snatched away.” (Genesis 32:30, AMPC) For the rest of his life, Jacob limped. I cannot live now without leaning on God for my every step. I limp but I walk with Jesus and I am happy beyond words!Image result for royalty free clip art of leaning on jesus

Unveiled blessings

 I do have a sunrise! 5 a.m. Still pitch black dark. Earthy smell of coffee in the chill aImage result for royalty free picture of hands holding coffee cupir. I pushed the covers off, went to the bathroom, then downstairs. The dim glow from the streetlight outlined the dark rectangle of the couch and coffee table. I turned on the stove light, poured a cup of coffee and went back upstairs, to the old recliner in the corner, by the open window. Here, in the back bedroom of my small townhome, a grandfather oak spread wide branches across the window, shielding the view from anyone standing below. I seldom closed it.

I kicked back in the recliner, cuddling the hot mug in my hands as I took that first blissful sip. Aaah. . . “Thank You, Father, for a good sleep. And for that automatic coffee maker! Hmmm, I can barely see a bit of blue-black at the horizon. Thank You so much, Father, for the gap in the branches there, to the east. It is in just the right spot so I can watch You change the sky. You know, it never gets old, Lord. How do You make it different every single day? You know, Father, I . . . “

That was twenty years ago, when I lived in Florida. I am very grateful for the two rooms that constitute my current home although two of its three windows face walls ten feet away. For the two years I have lived here, I have tried not to complain about the view. This morning, in the quiet half dark, I opened the blinds on the east-facing window and saw wide bands of blue and wisps of salmon-colored clouds. The blinds on that window usually stay closed until midday when the sun has relocated. I smiled, opened the blinds and had my morning cup of coffee with the Lord and His beautiful sunrise.

Why had I not seen that sunrise before? A profusion of coral crepe myrtle flowers covers that window most of the year. However, the lacey filigree of winter-bare branches now provides a view, like that open spot in those oak branches twenty years ago. I just have to look closely. Winter has removed what once blocked what was always there.

God’s pruning process. Sometimes God removes the good so we can see another or better good. In the first two verses of John 15, Jesus tells us:
1.  I AM the true Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser.
2. Any branch in Me that does not bear fruit – that stops bearing – He cuts away (trims off, takes away). And He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit, to make it bear more and richer and more excellent fruit.”

Image result for royalty free clipart of pruningThe second sentence of verse 2 tells me that I may be doing something good (bearing fruit) but that something good or another something good may be taken away, or pruned. God removes good things for the purpose of making me bear “more and richer and more excellent fruit.” Joyce Meyer shares her experience with God pruning her out of a fruitful job at a church and into the ministry He had prepared for her. She was producing good fruit in her work for God at that church, but God had in mind for her to “bear more and richer and more excellent fruit.” Think what you and I would have missed if she had not submitted to God’s pruning process!

Notice also in verse 2 that He repeatedly prunes His branches. Perhaps God’s plan for you, over a long span of years, is to work at your local church as greeter, then elementary teacher, and finally to supervise all Christian education in your church. God will lead clearly each step of our way (James 1:5-6), but we must keep saying yes to Him and keep following where He leads us (Hebrews 12, especially 6-13; Proverbs 1:23-33).

Image result for royalty free clipart of hand in cookie jarWhere am I looking? Although beauty and good are everywhere, focusing on one thing can block our view. Like a child who cannot withdraw the fist holding the cookie from the cookie jar, we sometimes want one thing so desperately that we miss another, more obvious good. I may despair that my preteen son will not sit and talk. But, if I look for the good in the situation, then I can enjoy his presence at mealtimes and while driving him to school. And I can do what I can about the situation, though it may cost me something, like watching a baseball game with him, or driving him and his friends to the field for extra batting practice.

John has a great job and a happy family but complains that his wife has changed after having three children. Sandra is retired, in good health and surrounded by loved ones but she sees only her small, though adequate, fixed income. You get the point.
If we focus on what we do not have, that thing grows. As we thank God for good things He has already given, gratitude grows and the good in our lives look larger.

Image result for royalty free picture of looking for somethingFind God’s good in your life. Friend, I urge you: find the good God has put in your life and dwell on it, relish it, thank Him for it and talk about it with Him. It may not be the particular thing you long for, but He has blessed you abundantly. Thank Him and praise Him! “Bless – affectionately, gratefully – praise the Lord, O my soul and all that is [deepest] within me, bless His holy name! (Psalm 103:1, AMPC) Thank our merciful and gracious Father for what you have, and you will be given something beyond price: the peace of His presence. It will also strengthen your faith if God is doing some pruning in your life.

If I looked with the discouraged, negative eyes of depression I used to have, I would see a tiny two-room condo, bordered on one side by a street unsafe at night; a twelve-year-old computer sitting on an ancient card table; to my left, mismatched bookcases perched on a beaten up desk, serving as hutches; a one-wall kitchen behind me; and to my right a saggy, fraying couch from the thrift store, flanked by a file cabinet at one end and a toy box at the other, serving as end tables.

But what I, by grace, see is: a blessed home office where I meet God each day as I write for Him, a blessed kitchen where I bake canned biscuits, to the delight of my grandsons; a blessedly-big comfy couch on which we sit while I read and snuggle with them . . .

“Whatsoever things are true. . .” Friend, I urge you again: find the good God has put in your life! What you focus on grows. First, take delight, purposefully, in God Himself and then in all that God gives you each day. (Psalm 37:4) I used to focus on the negative. Now, by grace, I focus on and look for the good. God shows it to me everywhere.

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8, KJV)

Under His wings


Image result for royalty free picture of grandmother hugging grandsonWhen we need a refuge. A woman in gray sweatpants stood, talking with another in skinny jeans and a green hoodie. Next to the orange pole bearing the sign “First Grade – Ms. Jones” stood two women and one man. Small children, siblings of the ones being waited for, ran circles around the twenty or so standing adults. I sat on the bench under the big oak, with another grandmother.

Then I saw him, walking toward me, head down, bravely struggling with tears. I opened my arms. Without pausing to meet my eyes, he burrowed his head hard into my chest. I closed my arms, entirely encircling him, and gently squeezed, then rocked a little back and forth. I just held him a few long moments, knowing he needed comfort, whether there was a justifiable reason for the tears or whether it was just an endofthedayimtiredmelt-down, typical for first graders.

As I held him and rubbed his back, he kept pressing his head against my chest, seeking safety and comfort and love, shutting out the troubles in his little world.
“Just like I do with You, Lord,” I reflected.

Image result for Royalty Free Clip art of Cause and effectThe if/then nature of promises. These last few months, in my pursuit of closer closeness with our loving heavenly Father, I regularly sought the comfort, reassurance, and safety of the many truths in Psalm 91. I printed the entire psalm and marked up the two pages like I did in school, with a textbook. I used the Amplified version, because it includes more of the connecting words, like then, for, and because, than some other versions.

Through coming to the point where I could do nothing but depend on God alone, I have thoroughly learned that everything we receive from God is by His grace alone, not our effort. But, in searching for Him in that desperation, I also learned that we obtain the fruit of His promises when we do our part. There is a cause and effect. An if/then is involved.

For instance, Isaiah 26:3 says “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in You.” That tells me that God will keep me in peace if I keep my mind fixed steadfastly on Him and He does that because I trust in Him.

Regarding the promises in Psalm 91, if I want to remain stable under the care of God, if I want to know God as my Refuge and my Fortress, and to have Him rescue me when I have fallen into the snare of, for example, self-pity, I must do my part. Look at the links (underlined) in the first four verses of Psalm 91.

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].
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!
3. For [then] He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. [Then}
4. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings shall you trust and find refuge; His truth and His faithfulness are a shield and a buckler. [Then] . . .

In other words:
IF I dwell in the secret place,
IF I say … , lean … , rely… and confidently trust —
THEN God will deliver me,
THEN He will cover me, and I will be able to trust and find refuge.

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When you cannot feel the trust . . . yet. The sequence of thoughts in verses 1 through 4 helped me tremendously but what helped most was verse 4. Verse 4 says to me that, once He has covered me with His pinions–which is after I have “said . . . , leaned. . . , relied . . . and trusted”—once He covers me with His pinions, once I am under the shadow of His wide-spread wings, I am able to trust and find refuge. In the first three verses, I trust the best I can, then God responds by covering me and helping me trust so that my soul, my feelings, indeed find refuge.

Someone once related trust to sitting in a chair. I can say I trust the chair to hold me up, but I prove my trust when I actually sit. I can say I trust the Lord but I prove it when, for example, I choose to read my Bible and sing to the Lord when feeling anxious rather than always calling someone. I can say I trust God for finances, but I prove it when I pay God’s tithe to my local church.

Knowledge of His faithfulness helps me trust Him. My darling grandson trusted me, as soon as he saw me today, because I have comforted him numerous times before. His little heart was enabled to trust with all its strength and so find refuge, in the shelter of my arms, as he leaned into me.

If my human love for my grandson is so powerful, how much more will the love of the Creator and Sustainer of the entire universe do for us, beloved? Let us run into His loving arms and cast all our cares and fears and worries on Him and trust Him, because He cares so much more than we know for each of us. (I Peter 5:7)

Image result for royalty free picture of eagle with babies under wing