Category Archives: HARD TIMES

Opportunities for great joy

In the early hours. . . I squinted, then squinted harder at the glowing red numerals. Four o’clock. Not drowsy at all. No chance of going back to sleep.

“Well, Father, You say in Ecclesiastes 5 that dreams come when there are many cares. I think it was some kind of dream that woke me up.”

I reached out for my phone and opened my audio copy of the Bible, knowing I needed to hear some psalms. For the next two hours, I lay in the dark, moving the heating pad from neck to back to ankle.

“Thank You, Father, that I can listen to psalms with my whole heart and make those words my own prayer. Thank You for all the reassurances of Your love for me and all the reminders of Your power for those You love.

Father, I cannot fix everything that has happened these last two weeks. I know the enemy seeks to push me into worry and fear and then depression. So I am casting all my cares on you. I will stay alert and resist him (I Peter 5).

Satan, I command you to get behind me and flee away! It is written that if I submit myself to God and resist you, you must flee (James 4:7) and I am submitting myself to God, trusting in Him and following Him with my whole heart.

I praise You, Father, that You are in me and You are greater than the evil one (I John 4:4). I praise You that all things are in Your hand, that You busy yourself with the details of the lives of those who live in right standing with you (Psalm 37:23). I thank You that You are my strength, my personal bravery and my invincible army! (Habakkuk 3:19).”

With that I got out of bed and began the day.

How to Fight Discouragement | Kelly LangstonEveryone is having “troubles, trials, distresses and frustrations.” (John 16:33) Revivals are breaking out across the country as God’s Great Awakening continues. God is exposing evil throughout the world. And the devil–“filled with fury because he knows his time is short” (Revelations 12:12)—is doing all he can to torment believers. You are not alone!

What to do “when we face trials of many kinds”? I know your tale of worries and woes is much like mine. Yet, the Word gives us light for our next steps and the path ahead (Psalm 119:105). So, what does God tell us to do when seemingly surrounded by troubles that seem to have no solution?

[1] Actively consider it all joy.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4, NIV)

The New Living translation says: “Consider it an opportunity for great joy. . . “  Although that is not how my feelings initially react when hard things happen, thinking on this Scripture stirs my faith and lets me say “God, I trust You in this. I choose to believe that You will use this for ultimate good.” Whenever I take that simple step, God’s peace starts bubbling up from inside. Obedience brings blessing (Deuteronomy 30:2).

So, I pray: “Father, I know this is an opportunity for spiritual growth. I thank You for the faith You have given me and for loving me enough to help me grow. Help me have the attitude You want me to have about it all.”

Image result for PUBLIC DOMAIN PICGTUR OF PRAYING HANDS[2] Present your specific requests to God.  Philippians 4:6-7 gives specific instructions not only about difficulties but about how to live every day. God says—in everything–rather than worry, to pray specifically, giving thanks to Him as we pray.  Then we will have His peace, which will protect our hearts and minds.

6 Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.

And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (AMPC)

So, I pray:

I present this situation to You, Lord. I thank You for the good things in this situation and I thank You for all the countless blessings Your pour on me every day. Thank You for salvation, for Your presence, for food to eat and clothes to wear, for the health You give me. Thank You that as I hope confidently in You, and keep my mind fixed on you, You will “guard and keep me in perfect and constant peace.” (Isaiah 26:3).

Image result for PUBLIC DOMAIN PICGTUR OF THE BIBLE[3] Remind yourself about some basic truths from God’s Word —meditate on the Word. God is very clear: meditating on His Word leads to prosperity and success. Yes, it can be hard to keep your mind on God and His Word when the distresses of life cascade one after another or when an affliction continues on and on, but consider these two passages:

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:8, NIV, emphasis added)

And. . .

“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.  But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. (Psalm 1:1-2, NLT, emphasis added).

God’s Word covers every situation you will face. Meditating on the Word is one of the best ways to obey Philippians 4:4-8 and fix your mind on good things.

So, I pray:

Father, I know You are working everything out for good (Romans 8:28). I know You will never fail me or leave me helpless in any way so I am comforted and I am encouraged and I say “with confidence, ‘The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5 NLT) I know that You have good plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11) I know that You have put understanding and joy in my path and I will find them as I keep walking (Psalm 97:11). I know that You draw near to me whenever I draw near to You (I John 4:16).

Oh Father! Help me not lose heart, because I know You are working in my heart and that these troubles are light and temporary compared to the eternal things You have prepared for me. Help me fix my mind on unseen things, which are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).

It helps immeasurably if you have the Word “hidden in your heart.” The verses you know will come to mind, like water gurgling up out of desert sand. For a deeper discussion of this topic, see the booklet “Diligent Meditation” on the Books and More page of this website.

[4] “Trust in the Lord and do good.”  Psalm 37:3 tells us: “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.”  When hard times come, we are not to sit down and worry and give in to fear and dread. Actively trust God and go on with the next thing that needs to be done in your life. Seek out something good you can do for someone. Keep living the godly life God has called you to live. Trust God and do good.

Below is a link to an encouraging post about Elisabeth Elliot, the well-known Christian missionary and author whose missionary husband was martyred. When Elisabeth “. . . didn’t know which way to turn or what to do next. Elisabeth kept re-committing herself to trusting Christ, then she got busy doing the next right thing she knew that the Lord commanded in Scripture. Elisabeth didn’t let go and let God; she trusted Jesus and did good like Psalm 37:3 teaches. Her faith in Christ was active, not passive.” (For the entire post see Do the Next Thing: Elisabeth Elliot – Words of Hope (wohbm.org)

What if we are confused and do not know what is the next right thing?” God promises to direct our steps in life (Proverbs 3:5-6) if we trust in Him with all our heart. That includes times when our personal world seems to fall apart. He also promises to give us wisdom if we ask with faith (James 1:5-8). Another verse I lean hard on when I am confused about anything – what steps to take, which task to do first this day—is Proverbs 16:3: “Roll your works upon the Lord [commit and trust them wholly to Him; He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and] so shall your plans be established and succeed.” (AMPC)

You know what a relief it is when someone strong takes a heavy package out of your hands. You lean forward, release your grip and suddenly the weight is gone. God promises: “Commit to the Lord whatever you do and He will establish your plans.” (Proverbs 16:1, NIV). When I ask God, sincerely, to have His way with whatever it is, big or little, He promises to make my thoughts “become agreeable to His will” and to establish my plans.

Sheep Grazing in the Mountains at Sunset | Best Pictures in the World[5] Dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture while you are doing the next right thing. I like how Joyce Meyer summed up this part of the verse. She says be bold enough to trust God and enjoy your life WHILE He solves your problems. As the years, and trials, go by (and they both do, you know) I am learning to let go of worry before I see solutions and enjoy the blessings that are right in front of me. Each trouble I go through teaches me more about God’s faithfulness and His loving kindnesses.

I implore you: prayerfully study Psalm 37. It is filled with reassurances about God’s faithfulness to help and deliver the righteous “because they take refuge in Him. (Psalm 37:40, NIV)

So what were my problems? Here is a brief account of experiences that led me to ask three questions.

Within Our Grasp | Jesus christ images, Pictures of jesus christ ...Opportunity to trust #l. Upon Whom am I really leaning?   When my car’s “Check Engine” light came on, I took it in for an oil change, which makes that light go off unless there is something else wrong. That shop (not my regular one) said the car needed struts and a UV joint. For $2100. But, they had a six months, same as cash program. I gulped, took the opportunity to witness to the young man and drove down the road to my regular car shop. There, the estimate was $1500 – but no payment plan. I took that chance to, as I have before, thank the young man at my regular shop for being honest, went home and prayed. And looked at my stash of cash and the savings account.

I could pay for the repairs but it would nearly wipe out my stash of cash and the savings, both carefully accumulated twenty dollars at a time, for years. I thanked God for the wisdom to have been saving regularly and for the honest car repair shop and asked Him to help me not worry.

What I learned (again) regarding financial troubles: I did not realize I was trusting in the money I had saved, rather than trusting God. As long as I had that stash of cash I felt I could make it a few weeks, if financial catastrophe happened. While it wise to have savings, I am to lean on God for all my needs, finances included. Because I am so very human, I often do not see that I am leaning on something, or someone, until that thing or person is removed. The problem with the car led me to start writing about these trials.

Opportunity to trust #2: Can I trust God when the enemy strikes my flesh? The next day, I woke up with a painful rash around my nose, where the CPAP mask sits. I also had a painful rash at the corners of my mouth. It hurt to even open my mouth. And the burning on the bottoms of my feet, long-standing, off and on, was nearly unbearable. All this on top of the usual aches and pains and other physical challenges so many older people have.

Mercifully, I obtained an appointment with a dermatologist the next day. He quickly diagnosed all three issues and gave prescriptions. It was a blessing that the other two rashes finally led me to see a dermatologist because I had struggled with the feet issue for many months, thinking it could not be athlete’s foot because there were no blisters or redness, as my father had had.  The face rashes cleared almost immediately but addressing the feet issue has required much time and energy and money – treating all shoes and socks, new shoes, special washing instructions for laundry and the feet, and on and on it seems.

Opportunity to trust #3: Can I trust God when the enemy hurts my loved ones? Just as I was beginning to feel more stable, one of my loved ones passed out, had to have CPR and spent four hours in the ER getting stabilized and receiving three units of blood. Doctors are now trying to find the cause. The next day I learned another of my loved ones is facing a job change and drastic cut in pay.

I have worked on this blog post since the problem with the car. Blessed I am to have instructions from God on what to do right in my hands. I know God loves my loved ones far, far, far more than I ever can, and I know He is working all things together for good. I know He is loving in all that He does. I know His mercies are new every morning. I know there is nothing too hard for God. I know God is good and His mercy and loving kindness never, never, no never end.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.  (Psalm 136:1-3, NIV)

Christian, know that God understands when things fall apart and you do, too. He does not get angry or criticize. Rather, He is “close to the brokenhearted.” His compassions are new every morning. He has the utmost tenderness toward you. “Great and abundant is His stability and faithfulness.” Meditate on Lamentations 3:18-26.

Jesus hugging lamb, so precious. Prophetic art. | Jesus christ images ...

Do you know what happens when you love God?

Image result for free clip art of CAUSE AND EFFECTPlease note: This is a reprint from April 8, 2021.Life has been blessed – and busy!

The “if-then” nature of God’s promises. While studying Psalm 91, God has taught me much about the “if-then” nature of His promises. I am very grateful! In all the years I have studied the Bible (and I feel I have only begun understanding how to study this last year) I do not recall being so aware of how often if-then, because, for, therefore, thus, and similar words appear. Perhaps that is because two years mired in the muddy pit of depression imprinted a zeal to understand what God wants me to do so that I can remain safe in “the secret place of the Most High.”

As we conclude our exploration of Psalm 91, let’s review what we learned about the “if-thens”, when we began this study of what is often called “the soldier’s psalm.”

The “if-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.”  Here are the “thens” that follow verses 1 and 2, along with the “becauses” in verses 9 through 16, (using the 1965 Amplified Bible) :

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, verses 14-16):

  • 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.

Image result for free clip art of GODS PROMISESPsalm 91: 14 through 16–eight thundering “I wills! Eight powerful “I will” promises conclude Psalm 91.

14 Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore will I 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] 15. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. 16 With long life will I satisfy him and show him My salvation.

Let’s look at these promises once more, in list form:

(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
  • I will answer him when he calls on me,
  • I will be with him in trouble,
  • I will deliver him,
  • I will honor him,
  • I will satisfy him with long life, and
  • I will show him My salvation.

Image result for FREE PICTURE of sun moon and starsWhen we set our love on God. Notice that these eight promises apply to us when we set our love upon God. I see God’s fairness in Verse 14 in that when we set our love on Him, he sets us on high. How do I “set my love” on someone? “To set” means to put something in a specific place or position, like setting a book on the table. I like what Webster’s 1828 online dictionary says, “To put, place, or fix in any situation. God set the sun, moon and stars in the firmament.” That means something is permanently fixed and secured in a particular place. And that is how we are to love God—permanently and unshakably. If we do that, God promises to deliver us, which Webster’s 1828 defines as “to free or to release, as from a restraint; to set at liberty, as from captivity” and also “to rescue or to save.” The enemy of our souls always intends us deadly harm, but we have the promise of Almighty God that He will deliver us IF we meet His conditions.

Image result for FREE PICTURE OF HIGH GROUNDIf we set our love on God, God will deliver us and “set us on high.” It is good to be on high ground during a battle, and we know this life on earth is a battle! “Setting on high” also implies being lifted up from having fallen down or being in a low position. Job 5:9-16 lists a few of the kind things God does, one of which is “The lowly He sets on high, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.” (V. 11, NIV). God will keep us fixed and secured in a high, or safe, place.

Stand in awe of the Word. I think a word of loving caution is needed here. I do not pretend to know exactly how God works, but I do know He tells us to study His word diligently, 2 Timothy 2:15 clearly instructs us to “Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly] handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.” That includes understanding the context of a verse upon which you are relying. I have heard and read many instances, as I am sure you have, where a verse is obviously used incorrectly. However, we all need to be on guard against mishandling the Word in subtle ways. I have done this in the past, but by God’s grace, I now work diligently to ensure I handle His Word correctly.

Image result for FREE PICTURE of bibleSearching out context helps prevent such subtle as well as obvious errors. At a minimum, I read a few verses before and after. Preferably, I read the entire chapter and peruse an outline of the book of the Bible in which the verse is located. This does take extra time and effort, but it is a safeguard for us. Below is a link to an excellent article about handling the Word of God correctly at knowableword.com The Dangerous Consequences of Ignoring Context (knowableword.com)

Because we know and understand what God is like. . . “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]. (Psalm 91:14b, AMPC)

The AMPC translation of verse 14-b teaches us what it means to “know and understand” God’s name, which means His nature or what He is like. The phrases in brackets state “has a personal knowledge of My mercy, love and kindness—trusts and relies on Me, knowing I will never forsake him, no never.” So as we personally experience God’s mercy, His love and His kindness, we will be able to truly trust and rely on him because we will know—through our experiencing it—that God will never, no never, no never forsake us. (Now is a good time to meditate afresh on Hebrews 13:5-6 in the AMPC)

Image result for free picture of sick woman in bedI may have heard that someone with whom I have a casual acquaintance (let’s call her Sandy) is a kind person, but when Sandy brings soup and other food and medicine to my house when I have the flu, I know—through personal knowledge and experience—that Sandy is kind.

Perhaps one reason God tells us to consider ourselves blessed when we have trials (James 1) is because trials give us chances to experience God’s love and faithfulness. After we have walked through a few trials and seen God deliver us, we can have the confident hope and expectation of the writer of Lamentations. In the first part of Chapter 3, he remembers all his afflictions, the “wormwood and the gall” (AMPC) but in Verse 21 he remembers something that gives him hope and expectation—which is that “Because of the LORD”s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. (NIV)”

Image result for free picture of sunrise

We will have all we need. The other six “I wills” cover everything we need in this earthly life. If we set our love on God and come to know Him through experiencing His love and mercy, God says:

  • I will answer him when he calls upon Me;
  • I will be with him in trouble;
  • I will deliver him and
  • I will honor him.
  • I will satisfy him with long life,
  • and I will show him My salvation. (Psalm 91:15-16, AMPC) (Besides the theological definition of “deliverance from the power and penalty of sin.” salvation also means “saving or protecting from harm, risk, loss, destruction, etc.” (www.dictionary.com).

In these promises I hear God’s thundering voice, but I also hear Him gently, quietly, pleading with us, urging us to set our love on Him, to put Him first. Why? Because He loves us and knows what is good for us. Oh, how great the love of God! Dare we offer Him anything less than total, passionate, faithful love, obedience, and devotion?

Look how Matthew Henry talks about these promises :

Whatever happens, nothing shall hurt the believer; though trouble and affliction befall, it shall come, not for his hurt, but for good, though for the present it be not joyous but grievous. Those who rightly know God, will set their love upon him. They by prayer constantly call upon him. His promise is, that he will in due time deliver the believer out of trouble, and in the mean time be with him in trouble.

The Lord will manage all his worldly concerns, and preserve his life on earth, so long as it shall be good for him. For encouragement in this he looks unto Jesus. He shall live long enough; till he has done the work he was sent into this world for, and is ready for heaven. Who would wish to live a day longer than God has some work to do, either by him or upon him?

Image result for free picture of heavenA man may die young, yet be satisfied with living. But a wicked man is not satisfied even with long life. At length the believer’s conflict ends; he has done for ever with trouble, sin, and temptation.” (from the Matthew Henry commentary on Psalm 91:9-16 at www.biblehub.com

Is it any wonder that so many of us memorize all of Psalm 91? Selah, selah, selah!

 

 

 

Do I really need God?

Image result for public domain picture of white cats pawsHow much do I depend on God? Eyes closed. I’m snug and warm under the covers. The blanket edge flops  over most of my face. On my cheek comes a velvety soft fluttering, a tap tap tap, tappity tap, tappity tap. Lily, my sweet cat, is waking me a bit early. I turn on my back and she climbs on my chest. Nothing happens, so she administers more tappity tapping. After a few ear rubs she jumps to the floor, but not for long. In thirty seconds, she again sits on my chest, tappity tapping my cheek.

Then I was out of bed, heading to the bathroom, getting a drink of water, washing my face, getting dressed, walking to the kitchen, putting on water for tea. Through all of that, Lily was right there within three feet, looking at me with her beautiful eyes, intently watching my every move. The moment I reached for a can of cat food, she meowed and ran back to the bedroom, to sit in front of her two white feeding bowls. Focused and persistent she was.

Why? Lily needs me, for her very life. I am essential to her, a vital necessity. Without me, she has no food and no water.

Do I need God like I need breath? The Word is filled with verses where God tells us to seek Him with all our heart.  In his farewell address before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, Moses warned that they would be scattered and many of them destroyed if they worshipped idols. But Moses told them that even from that place of idol worshipping they could still be saved if they sought God desperately. “But if from there you will seek (inquire for and require as necessity) the Lord your God, you will find Him if you [truly] seek Him with all your heart [and mind] and soul and life. (emphasis added, Deuteronomy 4:29, AMPC).

Lamentations 3:25 instructs us that “The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God’s word.] (AMPC, emphasis added)

This verse tells me that I am to wait for God with hope and expectation. It also tells me that my need gives me the right to ask God for help and that I can do so with confidence when my need is covered by the Word. And God promises to “supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”  (I Corinthians 4:19, NLT)

All I have to do is remember the many times God has come through for me and I can lean on God with confidence and trust Him while He works out my problems.  Ponder Psalm 9:10.

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

hands, pray, prayer, praying hands, faith, folded, hope, meditation ...Do you see that God is telling us again that we can ask for God’s help based on the authority of the Word of God and that our need gives us the right to ask?

Being desperate for God is a blessing. It is good when God lets be aware that we have, in some way, turned our face away from the light of His truth. I have a built-in safeguard in that regard because all kinds of negative feelings start if I let my mind drift.

Despite the miraculous healing God did of life-long depression, it is still sometimes a struggle to maintain emotional balance. Through many failures, many times repeating the lesson, I have learned that I need God as I need breath. I learned that if I do not keep my mind on God and His Word all day long, that the enemy’s destructive lies can quickly flood my mind with darkness. My fleshly tendency is to feel afraid, to worry, and to grumble and complain, about the little as well as big “troubles, trials, distresses and frustrations.” Jesus warned us we will have in this world (John 16:33)

Free Images : landscape, tree, nature, path, grass, light, sky, night ...If I do not immediately reconnect with God and let the truth of His Word light the way for my next steps, I continue stumbling along in the dark, listening to the enemy’s taunts of doubt, fear, and hopelessness. With every step, it is harder to turn back to the light of God’s presence and the peace and joy He has stored up for me. My foot has been trapped in the snare.

I wish I could say this never happens anymore, but it still does because the enemy of our souls, satan, is exceedingly evil and cunning and always seeking to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).

How has he attacked lately?  Like many fellow believers, I have struggled with several health problems for many months now, praying and believing for healing and doing all I can to improve my health. However, despite a good diet, medicine, exercise, and physical therapy (with God’s hand evident in each of these), it has become progressively difficult to keep writing. Problems with my back, neck, eyes and hands, energy and mental clarity – the very things I need to write – have continued for months now, one new difficulty after the other.

What to do when hope dies. Somewhere along the path of the last few weeks, I failed to keep hope alive. Subconsciously, I began to doubt that God would be able to keep me writing. This was layered of course over other ongoing burdens, like unsaved loved ones, bills, repeated plumbing problems, and of course the darkness of our present world we all are facing.  Every day, climbing out of the mire of negative thoughts grew harder. I grew irritable and short-tempered with traffic, neighbors and every little annoyance.

Fortunately, I kept seeking God, asking Him to guide me, show me what to do, and to restore my soul. I read and listened to Psalm 25 through Psalm 33 repeatedly. One morning I felt so desperate that I made repeating two passages of Scripture all day long my only goal.

Psalm 28:7 The Lord is my Strength and my [impenetrable] Shield; my heart trusts in, relies on, and confidently leans on Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song will I praise Him.

Psalm 33:18-22 – Behold, the Lord’s eye is upon those who fear Him [who revere and worship Him with awe], who wait for Him and hope in His mercy and loving-kindness,

19 To deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.20 Our inner selves wait [earnestly] for the Lord; He is our Help and our Shield.

21 For in Him does our heart rejoice, because we have trusted (relied on and been confident) in His holy name.

22 Let Your mercy and loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us, in proportion to our waiting and hoping for You. (AMPC, emphasis added)

That day was, by grace, better and I kept persisting, being honest with God and leaning on Him for His strength because my strength was gone.

I must guard my expectations of how deliverance will come. I think I was expecting God to do as He has done countless times before, to open a passage of Scripture for me or let me hear a bit of music or catch sight of a bird or flower or hear an encouraging word and all of a sudden get my heart back in the right place.

Winding Path – Clean Public DomainBut this time, this time I think God was lovingly letting me develop more spiritual muscle. I have had to patiently plod along, one hard step at a time, one day after another, doing what I know to do, and reminding myself of all God’s previous deliverances (Psalm 107:43).

The following three passages of Scripture especially helped.

Philippians 4:4-7 – “wonder-working power.”

 Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, gladden yourselves in Him]; again I say, Rejoice!

Let all men know and perceive and recognize your unselfishness (your considerateness, your forbearing spirit). The Lord is near [He is coming soon].

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.

And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (AMPC)

This verse tells me to:

  • choose to be glad in the Lord,
  • think how to help others, and,
  • rather than upsetting myself with worry, to ask God specifically for what I need in every situation and to thank Him.

If I do that, He promises to keep me in peace and guard my heart. He will build a permanent fortress around my heart. That’s how carefully He will protect my heart.

Jeremiah 15:19 – blessedly firm conviction about doubting God.

Therefore thus says the Lord [to Jeremiah]: If you return [and give up this mistaken tone of distrust and despair], then I will give you again a settled place of quiet and safety, and you will be My minister;

and if you separate the precious from the vile [cleansing your own heart from unworthy and unwarranted suspicions concerning God’s faithfulness], you shall be My mouthpiece. (AMPC, emphasis added)

As He told Jeremiah, God clearly tells me that if I return to trust and hoping in Him that He will give me “again a settled place of quiet and safety” and I can go about my work of living for and serving God. Furthermore, the Lord clearly tells me that it is a vile thing to have “unworthy and unwarranted suspicions concerning God’s faithfulness.” He is lovingly but firmly rebuking me for doubting Him, just as the Israelites did in the wilderness over and over, despite all the times God had forgiven and rescued them. But the verse also shows me that it is precious to God when I trust Him and have faith in His faithfulness.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 – renewed hope and strength.

17 Though the fig tree does not blossom and there is no fruit on the vines, [though] the product of the olive fails and the fields yield no food, though the flock is cut off from the fold and there are no cattle in the stalls,

18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the [victorious] God of my salvation!

19 The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]!

The example of the prophet Habakkuk is a model of the right attitude to have while living in desperate times. Habakkuk said that no matter how hopeless circumstances look (v. 17) we can choose to be exceedingly glad in the Lord and to have an attitude of victory. Why? Because God IS our strength, God IS our bravery when we have none, and He IS our army that can never, never, no never be defeated. When we are weak and afraid, God Himself will be strong and brave in us. He Himself will fight our battles.

An Ode To The Magnificent Feet Of Mountain Goats | Gizmodo AustraliaDespite all life’s troubles, sufferings, and responsibilities, God gives us the ability to walk right through them all and to make spiritual progress because of and on top of the very troubles themselves. Just like a mountain goat moves forward in its daily travels across rugged terrain.

What are your troubles? Dear friend, on the authority of God’s Word I can tell you that if you are seeking God, He is right there with you (2 Chronicles 15:2). Your life may seem small and insignificant, like my quiet, retiree’s life does, and troubles may have nearly swamped your little boat, but the God Who made and controls the entire world loves you and His compassion for you is as high as the heavens are above the earth (Psalm 103).

He understands exactly what you are going through, He feels it with you, and He has prepared a way ahead of time for you to escape into His place of safety and peace and, yes, even rejoicing.

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure. (I Corinthians 10:13, NLT, emphasis added.)

All that you have I have to do is wait, with confident expectation and loving obedience, on our all-mighty, forever loving God. He will renew your strength.

Image result for public domain picture of flying eagle over mountains28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, does not faint or grow weary; there is no searching of His understanding.

29 He gives power to the faint and weary, and to him who has no might He increases strength [causing it to multiply and making it to abound].

30 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and [selected] young men shall feebly stumble and fall exhausted;

31 But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired (Isaiah 40:28-31, AMPC, emphasis added).

Did things get better? Outward circumstances have changed little but, by grace, I have a grip again (which is to say I have a grip on God’s hand. He never, no never, no never for one second let go of me). And you know, while I was writing this blog post for you, on a gray cloudy day, I felt the warmth of His touch on my heart again, after many days. As the song says, “Oh, how He loves you, oh how He loves me, oh how He loves you and me.”

Daddy’s Hand - Daily Devotions | CBN.com

 

 

 

I didn’t feel like being grateful

Image result for Public Domain Picture Of Gray skies. Size: 139 x 104. Source: www.imageafter.comI didn’t feel like being grateful. My right foot began to throb as I depressed the brake, waiting at the light. I ran my thumbs over the smooth curve of the steering wheel, impatient.

“I am so tired of all these physical problems!” I moaned to myself. “Is part of the foot pain coming from the low back, like that one doctor said? Or is it something else? And if it is, how am I supposed to pay for the decompression treatments he said would likely help?”

The gray, overcast day reflected my mood. For days, impenetrable murk had hidden the shape of God’s vault of blue heaven above. Instead of feeling lifted up and free upon stepping outside, oppressive gray clouds weighed heavily on the mind, closing you in, stealing the chance for an upward, hope-giving glance at that inverted bowl of blue and the majestic mountains of white clouds.

Across the intersection, I saw a gray-haired man in a wheelchair, also waiting for the light. Time flashed back thirty years, to one of those moments that, when you experience it, you know you will always remember.

Pin on Graphic Design Art FashionThirty years ago I had been driving home from my secretarial job where I sat outside the door of a sarcastic, mean, and hyper-critical boss. I was feeling sorry for myself, dreading sitting down with the bills when I got home where I would have to stretch my single-parent income beyond belief, and angry that my daughter, at age 15, worked at McDonald’s so she could have extras like magazines, make-up to experiment with and an occasional movie. There, bumping along on the side of the road, in the uneven dirt, was a young man in a wheelchair. There were no feet propped on the footplates of the wheelchair.

Instantly a saying from Al-Anon days came to mind. “I complained because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” That day, through tears, I had counted my blessings, literally, all the way home.

Now, as I sat at the light, looking at that old man in the wheelchair, recalling the lesson God had written on my heart so long ago, I knew something was really wrong. I still did not feel like being grateful, even after such a direct message from God.

Why was I floundering? The immediate reason for my sour mood was that I was returning from the gym, to which I had driven for the swim which aways eases my back. But three minutes in, they closed the pool for chemical rebalancing. The light changed. I resumed my fuming.

“I have to exercise more than anyone else I know and I still have so many physical problems. That is not fair!”

As I pulled into the parking lot, light finally penetrated my darkness.

“Lord, You promise to work good out of everything so I am going to see what lessons You have for me in this experience. I am going to get good out of this. Please help me get my attitude right, Lord! I am sorry but I am really mad about everything!”

I inhaled deeply as I walked toward the stairs, enjoying the smell of the drizzle that was starting and the slight chill in the air that gets pleasantly into your bones, so refreshing after months of sticky heat. As I unlocked the door, insights flooded in. I was reminded of the series of blog posts I had just finished on Isaiah 30, which teaches that all the time we have turned away from God He is eagerly waiting, looking and longing to be gracious to us (Isaiah 30:18) and that He fights our enemies for us when we return to resting and depending on Him.

Sun in the Sky with Clouds Picture | Free Photograph | Photos Public DomainLike a pouting little child stamping her foot, I had, finally, looked up at my Heavenly Father and raised my arms to Him. And, like the father of the prodigal who was eagerly watching for his son to return, God ran.

The blessings of insights from God. How blessed we are that God invites us to talk things over with Him. In Isaiah 1:18 He says:

“Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool. (AMPC.)” And James 4:8-11 tells us “Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up. (NIV)

Prayerfully I reviewed what had gotten me into such a vile state of “unworthy and unwarranted suspicions regarding God’s faithfulness.” (Jeremiah 15:19, AMPC). For days, I had tried to be grateful, to just talk with Jesus about the problems, ignore those fickle old feelings and just move forward. For days I had been unable to feel His presence and His peace. So, despite strong effort, worry, fear, anger and resentment settled into my heart.

Animals Eating Grapes listOh, those foxes, those little foxes! [My heart was touched and I fervently sang to Him my desire] Take for us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards [of our love], for our vineyards are in blossom.” (Solomon 2:15, AMPC). When I look back now, now that I have, by grace, regained peace, the problems that made me stumble seem so little. I am sure you could write a similar list. Mine was ongoing and worsening back problems; no funds to cover the treatment that might help; ongoing and worsening foot problems related to that; the need for minor foot surgery in two weeks, surgery that would further complicate all the back problems when I could not exercise for a while afterwards; having to wait three weeks for insurance to cover new eyeglasses; worsening eye pain and strain each day, not knowing if that was caused by the need for new glasses or cataracts or dry eye, the expensive remedy for which insurance also did not cover.

It seemed that everything I use each day, to just live and to write, which is a great joy, was falling apart. Another contributing factor to self-pity and irritability was the lingering week-long cold.

“Why couldn’t I be grateful for all God had done?” I asked myself as I reviewed the blessings God had showered on me this week: stopping the blood thinner, which had caused much fatigue for an entire year; getting me unstuck after weeks of struggling with a hard chapter in the next book; and showing how to modify some daily activities so as to help with feet and back issues.

Besides all of that, there were the huge, huge blessings that are a part of daily life: salvation, a close relationship with Him, some of my family being saved and faith to believe for the others; living close to family; living in America; money for all my needs and many of my wants; deliverance from depression; training in keeping emotions stable; and the knowledge of how to return to God when I sin and/or bad things happen.

God’s deliverance. So, here is what I told myself to do.

Where Do You Begin? | Steve Dieringer[1] Ask God to forgive me for my wrong attitudes and complaining and ingratitude. Two verses I greatly value are: 1 John 1:9, which says “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (NIV)” So simple. So necessary. The second is Proverbs 28:13 which teaches us that “Whoever conceals their sin does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” In doing that, we humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand and He will lift us up in due time, as He promises in Peter 5:6-7.

Confessing our sin is doing what James 4:7-10 commands us:

7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

[2] Make up my mind to God thanks for everything I can think of, no matter how I feel, and to praise Him. I Thessalonians 5:18 tells us “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (ESV) Psalm 100:4 tells us to approach God with thanksgiving and praise in our hearts. Consider this quotation from Debbie Przybylski on www.crosswalk.com.

God inhabits our praise. The word “inhabit” or “enthrone” (yashab) means to judge in ambush. When we praise God, He will seat himself right in the middle of our lives and judge the enemies that are surrounding us. The Japanese translation of Psalm 22:3 is: “When you praise God He brings a big chair and sits there.” Think about that! God is seated in the center of your life. The enemy cannot dethrone you because God cannot be overthrown!” https://rb.gy/fz4791

Heart,hands,sunset,beach,public domain - free image from needpix.com[3] Ask God to impress the lesson of this painful experience deeply on my heart. Psalm 103:18 in the AMPC has a vital lesson for me. Verse 17 says that “. . . from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him. . . “(NIV) The thought continues in verse 18: “to such as keep His covenant—hearing, receiving, loving and obeying it; and to those who [earnestly] remember His commands to do them [imprinting them on their hearts] (emphasis added). To me this verse says that when we earnestly, whole-heartedly, lovingly obey the Lord we imprint, or write, His word on our heart. This is part of the new covenant we now have through Jesus that God explains in the book of Hebrews. In Hebrews 10:16 God says “I will imprint My laws upon their hearts, and I will inscribe them on their minds (on their inmost thoughts and understanding.)” (AMPC)

Taken together, these verses reassure me (and, oh how I need that reassurance!) that as I follow God’s commands God imprints them, like a brand, on my heart and mind. This is part of how He works in my heart to give me godly desires and enables me to live a holy life (Philippians 2:13). He is changing my nature so that I want to love and serve Him even more.

Verse 14 of Psalm 103 is also instructive in this matter. It says that God understands exactly how we are made. “For He knows our frame; He [earnestly] remembers and imprints on His heart] that we are dust.” (AMPC). This says to me that if God imprints on His heart how much we need His compassion, we should imprint what He wants us to do on our hearts. If He loves us so much, how can we not respond appropriately? Selah. See what Holy Spirit tells you about these two verses. And all of Psalm 103.

When is the Best Time to Prune Fruit Trees and How Do You Do It?[4] Thank Him for His loving discipline (Hebrews 12). In times of trial, whether we are partly the cause or not, it is well worth taking time to ponder the truths of Hebrews 12:1-13 and John 15:1-17. God uses hardships to train us, for our good, so that we may share in His holiness (Hebrews 12:10b). He trims or removes from our lives the things that bear no fruit and He also works with the things that do bear fruit so that those things may bear even more fruit (John 15). Clearly, some of my branches needed to be cut off and thrown away. However, God was lovingly working with my heart so that the faith, hope, trust, and self-control I had would increase.

Two thoughts to keep in mind. So dear friend and fellow oh so human human being, here are two thoughts that I pray will ease your heart as they do mine.

One, God knows exactly how you feel and has deep compassion on your fleshly tendencies whether you are a new believer or 50 years old in the Lord. He included many stories in the Bible about mature saints who yielded to complaints, worries, and fears. And He included how He loved and worked with them every time when they sought Him. Consider the failings of Moses, Elijah, David, and Jonah, just for starters.

And two, God is not mad at you for automatic, instinctive reactions of your flesh. Pinch my arm and my flesh reacts with physical pain. Pinch my circumstances and my flesh reacts with negative emotion. It is a trap of the enemy to feel guilty about such feelings and let them continue, subconsciously feeling we have failed Him and He must be mad at us.

father-comforts-son – Hurt2Healing MagazineEven when we, being so very human, let wrong thoughts stay in our heart, God is not mad at us any more than a parent is mad with children who react in childish ways. He just longs to lift us up and restore us to His side. Think of how often He forgave the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness and then when they lived in the land He had promised.
When you see a little child stumble and fall and you hear that piercing wail of distress you want to pick up that child, hold him close and tell him everything will be alright. You feel that child’s pain. That is compassion.

How much more does God feel compassion for us when we stumble? In Isaiah 49, God says His love for us, and His consciousness of us, is greater than that of a mother with a tiny infant. In Isaiah 49:16 God says “See I have engraved you on the palm of my hands;” (NIV)
Beloved one, “The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.” (Psalm 145:8, AMPC). To be filled with something is to have no room for anything else. Do a word study on God’s compassion.

No matter what is happening in your life, no matter how your feelings have reacted, humbly present yourself to God. He will lift you up “. . . for He is good; for His mercy and lovingkindness endure forever.” (Psalm 118:1b and 29b, NIV) Every verse in Psalm 136 repeats that statement. Think about why God did that. He did that for you.

God will always raise you up, to make you more than you can be, because He loves you. Ponder that as you listen to “You Raise Me Up”.

 

Be as the birds

Fields of White Avalanche Lilies bloom in late July along the trail in ...The lilies that live in the field,
the birds that fly through the air,
They blossom, they soar and they sing,
in freedom, unburdened by care,
for God did not give them a spirit of fear
Save only to flee when danger is near.

The rest of the time, like a child, they just live,
waiting, depending, to see what God gives.
They grow and they sing, just happy to be,
to be what God made them, joyful and free.

Can you, oh my soul, not be as the birds?
Can you not believe the truth you have heard?
Your Father has told you that He will provide.
Your Father has told you He’s right by your side.
Your Father has shown you He protects from all harm.
Your Father has shown you the strength of His arm.
Your Father has opened the eyes of your heart.
Your Father has shown you the thing that’s your part.

Image result for publiic domain p;icture of child with sparrow

Your part, oh frail soul, is to be as the birds,
just living, no fretting, no worry, no care,
for the Great One Who made you
Is mindful you’re dust
and He only requires that you love Him and trust.

Yes, serve Him, adore Him, flood your mind with His truth.
Through serving He’ll lead you just as He led Ruth.
When you yield and you love Him and make Him your Lord,
He’ll bind your heart to Him with strong and great cords.

Then, safe in His shelter, ‘neath almighty strong wings
you’ll abide in His peace, whatever life brings.
So be as the birds, my dearest blessed friend.
Cast all your care. All worry will end.

Eagles nets art – Destiny Eastgate Ministries

Light and joy are sown

Image result for Public Domain Picture Of Dawn. Size: 278 x 169. Source: www.publicdomainpictures.net11 Light is sown for the [uncompromisingly] righteous and strewn along their pathway, and joy for the upright in heart [the irrepressible joy which comes from consciousness of His favor and protection].

12 Rejoice in the Lord, you [consistently] righteous (upright and in right standing with God), and give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness.  (Psalm 97:11-12, AMPC)

Just doing the next thing. “Father, I do not know if this walk will do much good. It is so much less than what I did just a month ago. But the joints are so stiff I must do something.”

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Blue Sky and Clouds. Size: 265 x 169. Source: www.1millionfreepictures.comI walked slowly, taking care to stand fully upright, shoulders back, consciously using muscles that weeks without working out had weakened. The neighborhood street bordering my complex was lined with only one- and two-story apartments, so I had a full view of the sky overhead. From horizon to horizon, the inverted blue bowl of God’s heaven, dotted with whisps and puffs of cottony white, elicited a feeling of being covered, of being shielded, of being safe.  Vast as the sky is, it seemed close and comforting.

I glanced at the paper in my hand.

Light is sown. . . “Light is sown for the [uncompromisingly] righteous and strewn along their pathway. . . “

You know, Lord, when I first memorized this a few months ago, I thought about it in the order in which it is written, that You plant light for us and scatter it along the path of our life. But, today, what I see is that there are two separate actions. You plant good things, like light, far down our path but that You also scatter light right where we are, because it takes time for planted things to bear fruit, so we need some of it now.

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Hand Sowing SeedTo strew means to scatter things on the surface, so Your scatter light we can get to easily, now, right on the surface. But You are always providing for our future so You have also planted light for us to use in the future. Perhaps that light takes time to grow and will be a stronger and brighter than what we find so easily today. Perhaps some of that planted light will grow into a tree. Maybe it will be a fruit tree or a shade tree, providing food for the hungry and rest for the weary.”

Resisting the enemy. Thoughts and sorrows started to push their way into consciousness—When will my family finally yield to Your love? How will I ever get back to health? How will I pay all the bills?

“No! I will not give in to these thoughts. Satan, get behind me! It is written if I am subject to God and I resist you and stand firm against you, you must flee (James 4:7). It is also written that I can do all things because Christ gives me strength, and that includes being vigilant about your attacks, and being firm in faith against you at the onset. God’s Word tells me that my fellow believers all over the world have the ‘same identical sufferings’ (I Peter 5:8-9). I am not being singled out with trials.

Lord, You said that while we are in the world we all have “troubles, trials, distress and frustration.” I will do what You said. I am setting my mind to be of good cheer. I will take courage and be confident, certain and undaunted!  I can do that because I believe what You said Lord, that You have overcome the world and You have deprived the world of power to harm me and have conquered it for me. (John 16:33, AMPC).

I will meditate on and delight in the things that are eternal, the unseen things, those things the enemy cannot touch. I will be grateful and thank You for all You have done. I will be thankful for the comfort of Your precious Holy Spirit, for knowing You have prepared a beautiful eternal home for me, and that while on earth I can abide in You and bear much good fruit for Your kingdom. And You reminded Your disciples, and me, of these things so that we may have “perfect peace and confidence.” That means complete peace and complete confidence, about everything.

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Rock Fortress. Size: 236 x 165. Source: www.flickr.comHelp me stay safe in You, Lord! Oh, help me stay in You, safe within You Who are my Rock, safe within the mental and spiritual fortress I create when I say I am taking refuge in You, when I put my trust in You, as Jeremiah did in Lamentations 3:19-33.  I remember, Lord, that verse 25 says You are good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for You, to those who seek You. Then the brackets after seek says “inquire of and for You and require You by right of necessity and on the authority of Your Word.”

My precious, precious Heavenly Father, my Faithful and Loving One, I do have need of Your power to overcome this habit of worry and fear that has returned. This is a real need, and I am trying my best and I have the authority of Your Word that reassures me You will give me strength to do this. I will resist these doubts and fears from the enemy at their onset. (I Peter 5:6-9). I will ponder on and speak of the great deeds You have done. I will remind myself of Your mercy and loving kindness toward all that You created. I will think on good things. . . “

As I told that young mom at the park yesterday, ‘You can have as much of God as you want’, Lord, I want all of you that I can absorb and more! Oh, deal with this worrisome flesh, these weaknesses, these tendencies to doubt and fear. Forgive me, Father! I know You are sovereign over all things, I know You are working all things together for Your good and for Your glory and You can only do good. I know that. Please help my heart absorb that truth yet again as I meditate on Your Word, Your precious, loving and living Word.”

Little trees. . .big trees. Along both sides of the street, at each driveway stood a pair of ten-foot-tall cedars. I knew these must have been planted 35 years ago when this area was military housing. Then they would have been no taller than a kindergartner. I know that because in the home where I lived from age 8 to 16, my father planted a pair of cedars bordering our driveway when we first moved in, and in a few more years, these should grow to about the same size.

“What children,” I pondered, “had played chase around these cedars 35 years ago, as my brothers and I had, while they waited for their father to come home from the base as we waited for our father to come home from the rock mine, dodging each other around the little trees, perilously close to the street, a fact about which our mother never worried in those days when kids played, unsupervised, for hours at a stretch, in those long ago days?

Had those children stood proudly beside their dad while he watered the little trees, coaxing them to grow even as he coaxed his children to grow. Had they wheedled him into a short game of catch before they all went in for supper?”

What a deep vein of memory that row of paired, more than mature cedar trees touched, that vein of memories etched into the bedrock of my heart by my father’s love and attention, night after night, homecoming after homecoming to his family.

Childhood. What a mystery! When in it, unaware of the sacrifices of those who love and nurture us, and unable to articulate what the warmth and security mean to us, we seldom express gratitude. Then it takes years before we understand and, far too often, the one who loved us so well is gone.

Image result for Public Domain Picture OF dusty work bootsBut, Lord, I know Daddy understood. And thank You that I did thank him, many times, once I was older, before he passed away. And I know that the love he had for me was directly from You, that he was a channel for Your very own fierce fatherly love”

Help me be grateful, Lord!Oh, Father! Help me be aware of what You do for me. Help me give You thanks and gratitude. Help me see what You do, like giving light and joy as this psalm says.  You gave given me a very good life, even to the present time, to my gray hair season, as you say in Isaiah 46:4.”

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. (Isaiah 46:4, NIV).”

I reached into my pocket to read the next phrase of Psalm 97:11 but it was gone. I must have not tucked it far enough into the pocket of my hoodie. Turning around, I saw only leaves tumbling down the black asphalt. The wind must have already blown it away.

“Just like that,” I pondered, “We in America could lose our Bibles. Help me, Lord, get more Word hidden in my heart. Help me truly to treasure Your Word.”

In the pondering. As I walked, I pondered verse 11. That familiar rustling stirred inside, that treasured gift of having a thought not my own pop into awareness. How wonderful and how loving that God’s Word is actually alive and interacts with our innermost thoughts and feelings (Hebrews 4:12).  It is almost like God speaking to us with an audible voice.

So, I talked that verse over with God, in my heart, as I walked.

11 Light is sown for the [uncompromisingly] righteous and strewn along their pathway, and joy for the upright in heart [the irrepressible joy which comes from consciousness of His favor and protection]. (Psalm 97:11, AMPC)

“Lord, I know this verse means that You scatter light along my path, in unexpected places here and there, and that You also prepare light that I will need far into the future.  This verse says the same thing about joy – that You have put joy here and there in unexpected places and also prepared it for the future.  The verse says “along the pathway”, which means not just in one spot but all along the length of the path of my life.

Irrepressible joy. I continued thinking, aware that “The irrepressible joy which comes from awareness of His favor and protection” was an instruction, that it suggested being aware of God’s favor and His protection produces joy so intense it cannot be pushed down, not even by the enemy and his vicious attacks on God’s children.

“That is what I need, Lord! Joy!  You tell us over and over to rejoice, to cast our cares on You and do not worry.  And I know that “the joy of the Lord is my strength.”

I remembered that Ezra said this well-known verse when the people were weeping over their sins because they had just heard and understood the Law and their sins. Yet You told them to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, and not to grieve. You said, right in the midst of their tears of repentance:

“Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet drink, and send portions to him for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. And be not grieved and depressed, for the joy of the Lord is your strength and stronghold.” (Nehemiah 8:10, AMPC)

A stronghold is a place that Image result for Public Domain Picture of Rock Fortress. Size: 252 x 168. Source: mikevanhoozer.coms fortified against attack. I know You have prepared a place of safety and a source of strength for me, and by Your grace I will look for it and run into it. Father, You know how little joy I have experienced lately but I trust You to help me find that which You have lovingly prepared, just for me. I know You say You busy yourself with our every step when our ways delight You. (Psalm 37:23).

“The trees of the field shall clap their hands.” (Isaiah 55:12). I hesitated before going back inside to resume the day, pausing, as usual, across the street from the three stately sycamores alongside the complex next to mine. Taller than the oaks beside them, their white trunks in stark contrast with the brown of the oaks, their almost bare branches rocked left and right, as smaller branches wobbled in the wind. In the topmost branches, the few remaining clusters of broad leaves fluttered against one another and crackled, a soothing whooshing sound.

“Lord, You have spoken with me, in so many ways, so many years. I remember that cold. February morning walking to work in 1985, occasionally glancing at an index card with John 3:6 written on it. When You first opened that scripture for me, You possibly put the identical thought into my mind that You had put into Nicodemus’s mind on that long ago night when he asked Jesus how to be born again. I know Jesus explained to him that the spiritual world is unseen, like the wind, but that the spiritual world reveals itself by the effects it has, just as the wind reveals itself by the effects, like sound, that it has.

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8, NIV)

“Father, I cannot see You, but I know You are with me this moment by the peace I feel. And in these recent times when I could not feel Your peace, I know You were with me just as much. I do not know what You are doing to do, any more than I know which way the wind will blow, but I trust You, Father, I trust You with it all, with every care on my heart. And I know You already know each one.

So, on this February morning, 2023, as I watched the sycamores bear witness to the wind, I said in my heart:

“You are good and all that You do is good. I know You will help me. I know You have prepared light and joy for me, this day and far into my future. I know You will lead me in the path You want me to travel (Proverbs 3:5-6).

And I know You will give that “irrepressible joy that comes from awareness of Your favor and protection.”  By Your grace, I will think about You and the good that You do, I will mind heavenly things, I will cast my cares on You and rejoice and think on good things. Your Word never fails, Lord, and You promise peace if we keep our mind fixed on You.

Father, I know You are always with me, You will always help me, You will always give me Your joy and You are always in complete, sovereign control of my life. So, I will rejoice and again I say, I will choose to be joyful. . .”

And I continued with the rest of the day God had made, for me, and for you.

Little miracles aren’t little

Dark Bedroom Pictures | Download Free Images on Unsplash

Verity: something (such as a statement) that is true”. www.merriam-webster.com.

The title for this piece worked itself out in the writing of it. The working title was “Miracles of Comfort and Provision.” However, the God Who adores, cherishes, treasures, prizes and dotes on you and me revealed the incalculable depth of a verity you possibly have pondered just as I have:  Little miracles aren’t little.

A niracle – Strength to keep trusting. Sitting on the edge of the bed, in the dark, head in hands, hands on knees, just like someone with a hangover.

“Oh, Father! I know You are here. I know You are taking care of things but I am so discouraged. Why is it so hard to get and keep a positive attitude? Why do I keep thinking about the negative when I am doing all I can to keep my thoughts on You and to meditate on Your truths? You healed that depression and showed me what to do. What is wrong with me that I can’t do it?

Is it just that so many hard things have happened lately that they added up to more than I can handle, even though I keep trying the best I can to cast my cares on You and leave them there? (Psalm 55:22; I Peter 5:6-10). I know part of it is also the fact that all believers are undergoing intense attack from the enemy. Maybe this is just a natural reaction to it all.”

Image result for Public Domain Picture of TearsThree times in the next two hours of morning puttering around—making hot tea, watching the sunrise, having devotions—tears popped up, tears and weeping.

“Thank You, Father, for leading me yesterday to meditate on Lamentations 3:19-33. It is still in my mind.  I know Your mercy and loving kindness keeps me from being consumed because Your tender compassions are new every morning. And I say that You are my portion, You are my life, and I will hope in You and wait with expectation, even though I feel as bad as it sounds Jeremiah felt..

A miracle – Paying bills. Pressing my lips into a firm line, I sat at the desk and dialed the student loan number, following up on the carefully prepared letter I had written to accompany the application. An hour later, as I ended the call and stared at two pages of notes, tears came again. But this time they were tears of relief. I had been accepted into an income-based payment plan with a more affordable monthly payment.

A miracle – “Gonna be alright”.   When I walked into the bedroom, I heard a gentle, soothing voice sing “Everything’s gonna be alright. I believe, yes I believe You’re working all things for my good.” The announcer said “That was ‘Gonna be alright’ by Ryan Ellis.”  A minute later I was at the computer, listening to the song heard a week ago, on another desperate morning. A thorough internet search had been unfruitful when similar titles kept popping up. For me, the lyrics and the music and the singer all transmitted a mighty anointing. Ryan sang soft and low, his voice a murmur, almost a whisper, reminding me of my earthly father’s gentle lilting baritone, my father who grew up on a horse farm and knew how to settle a horse or an injured pet with his voice and his hands. I sat and listened, hugging a big couch pillow to my chest as hard as I could.

“Father, it’s almost like hearing Your voice and feeling Your arms. Thank You for letting me find this song today. Bless that singer and others who hear this song. . .

“You hear my cry, my deepest pain.
You listen patiently as long as it takes.
You whisper truth over the lies
The words that bring me back to life.
Everything’s gonna be alright. . .”

Image result for Public Domain Picture of GymA miracle – I CAN keep exercising.  I dried my tears and went to the gym, carrying my printed pages of Psalm 86 around with me as I worked out. In Psalm 86, David pleads with the Lord to listen and answer him in his distress, because he is trusting in God.  As I began stretching, I pondered how the AMPC put Psalm 86:

Preserve my life, for I am godly and dedicated; O my God, save Your servant, for I trust in You [leaning and believing on You, committing all and confidently looking to You, without fear or doubt’].

“Father, I am trusting in You the best I can. I do believe You will rescue me. I do have confidence in You and I am choosing to stop fear and doubting about all those problems I cast on You first thing this morning.”

Two weeks ago, all the weight-lifting equipment I had used for five years had been replaced with radically different equipment. Angry, (to be accurate, livid) and frustrated because the new equipment did not seem adjustable to my six-foot tall frame, I had not worked out in two weeks, during which time I had become progressively stiff, all over, and deeply discouraged with the inability to keep neck, back, shoulders, hips, knees, and feet strong enough to cope with old injuries and structural problems. But today, an angry determination, seemingly from nowhere, settled over me. I took time to really study the despised new machines and stopped being afraid they would harm muscles and joints being worked in new ways. With increasing relief, I went from machine to machine, planning out a routine that gave a good workout of the major muscle groups I needed to keep strong.

Then, under the sway of that angry determination from nowhere, I tried the elliptical machine I had not used in ten years and was stunned. Hips and back limbered up and muscles awoke. And, it did not hurt my previously-fractured ankle!

 “Thank You, Father. With the new weights and the elliptical and then a few minutes on the recumbent bicycle, I can get a more vigorous workout than I have had in years. You know how I have missed that and how good it makes me feel!”

Image result for Public Domain Picture of a Garden Spade Tool in the DirtA miracle – “The spade of agony” reminder. Then, while on the recumbent bike, I read several pages from “Beside Still Waters,” (Thomas Nelson, 1999), 365 devotionals on the topic of affliction, by Charles H. Spurgeon. In the devotional “Waiting for Mercy” (page 35), he applies the “no pain, no gain principle,” to heavenly things, stating

“God’s usual rule is to make us pray before He gives the blessing and to make us fervently pray before great mercies are given. . . If we obtained the blessing when we first asked, we would not have a sense of mercy’s value. . . First we ask, then we seek, and finally we plead with cries, tears, and a broken heart. . . I never would have been able to comfort anguished seekers if I myself had not been kept waiting for mercy. . .”

I had read his biography and knew that Pastor Spurgeon had indeed suffered great affliction throughout his life. I pondered his next comments “The spade of agony digs deep trenches to hold the water of life. . . If you knock with a heavy heart, you will soon sing with the joy of the Spirit. Therefore, do not be discouraged because the door is still closed.” What deep comfort that brought about the trials and the spiritual dangers of my loved ones.

Image result for Public Domain Picture of a Mourning Dove FlyingA miracle – a dove in flight.  On my usual route home along Interstate 290, a dove suddenly appeared and flew from right to left directly in front of and above my car. Startling at the sight of it, I looked up just in time to see the Brodie exit sign and turn right, a change in course that prevented ten minutes of frustrated doubling back to reach the grocery.

Driving down the exit ramp, “Father, how many times over the years have You sent a dove or cardinal as a visible sign of Your care for me and Your presence? How many times have I been praying or been despondent or felt deeply alone or in an impossible situation and seen that flash of red in a tree or seen the speeding, powerful silhouette of a dove flash across the sky? Countless times, Father, I truly could never count how many times You have taken my breath away. Just to have a seeable demonstration that You are with me, that You see what I am doing, that You care about each little detail of my life (Psalm 37:23-24) . . .  what more could I ever ask?

I know we are to grow up in You and live more by faith than by sight or feelings. Maybe You have been showing me that truth these last few months when I have not felt Your presence like I usually do. Thank You, Lord, for loving me enough to make me grow up more.

A miracle – a tin of cookies.  I smiled as I picked up the little papaya colored tin of butter cookies. “Father, You know how much I like the butter cookies that come in tins and You know that having that many cookies around is too much temptation.” I put two of the little tins in my grocery car. “Thank You for these little tins of cookies. They will be so, so good with a cup of iced decaf when I’m writing. The perfect little treat!”

A miracle – just the knowing. After four trips lugging grocery bags up the stairs, I flopped on the couch, not even taking my shoes off. Pleasantly tired, the kind of good tired you get after working hard, I reflected on the day thus far.

“Maybe I should finish that blog post from yesterday, the one based on Psalm 97:11 because God has certainly scattered the light of His presence all along my path today. He had a lot of things prepared for me. But maybe the few people who read the blog are tired of hearing about my same old struggles. . . “

My face twisted up and tears popped into my eyes yet again as two thoughts popped into awareness. “Reading about Spurgeon’s and others struggles strengthens and encourages and comforts you, so hearing about your struggles well help others” and “I am not mad at you or disappointed with you because you have a tendency to get discouraged and afraid. Everyone has fleshly weaknesses and those just happen to be yours. I will always, always, always help you and strengthen and comfort you. I will never, no never, no never turn away from you in any way, My child.”

A miracle – frail leaves in the wind. Five minutes later, I cradled a cup of iced decaf, cool on my palms. I scooted the rocker closer to the window. After the unusual ice storm last week, I savored the look of sun pouring through the glass, glaring off the white rocker arms and reflecting off the faux oak flooring. Across the narrow slice of sky visible through the two buildings next to mine floated woolly clouds, as dazzlingly white as the Florida clouds I so sorely missed. Lily Bugs jumped onto the arm of the rocker, gazing at me with her slanting green eyes, leaning her head into my hand as I scratched her furry ears.

Through the window, a cluster of leaves on the end of a twig-like branch quivered in the slow breeze and quivered again, a slice of nature as beautiful and true and comforting as any grand vista of mountains or valley or ocean, a slice of nature prepared just for me. The ice storm had brought down the tree growing beneath my window but, by moving the rocker closer, I could still look out into nature, into God’s handiwork. I could still see His feathered creatures flit about the branches.

A miracle –help and comfort. As I kept thinking about all God had done this day and how to write about it, I started taking pictures, including one of the printed-out Bible verses I had carried around earlier in the day. I paused and read the last two verses of Psalm 86:

“O turn to me and have mercy and be gracious to me; grant strength (might and inflexibility to temptation) to Your servant and save the son of Your maidservant.

Show me a sign of [Your evident] goodwill and favor, that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame, because You, Lord, [will show Your approval of me when You] help and comfort me.” (Psalm 86:16-17, AMPC)

Grateful tears again filled my eyes as I realized that all day long God had been sending sign after sign of His goodwill, His favor and His approval. He had indeed helped and comforted. On first waking, the discouragement and sorrow and the feeling of being had been deep. But God had been a very present and well-proved help (Psalm 96:1) throughout my troubled day. And He was not done showering down mercy and loving kindness.

A miracle – making peace with the suffering of others. Earlier in the week, a wise friend had spoken of her own trials, which included seeing loved ones struggle. She was trying to surrender to the suffering, as she put it, to accept that sometimes we have to see the suffering of the ones we love.

I thought about that and reflected on the undercurrent of anger mixed with sorrow that I had felt all day. I knew my face was as downcast as it had been during the months of severe depression.

“Father, I know it’s okay to be mad and to express it. You tell us ‘Be angry and do not sin’ and the next phrase says not to ‘let the sun go down while you are still angry’, which means do not keep anger in your heart overnight (Ephesians 4:26).

I picked up my AMPC and read:

26 When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down.
27 Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him]. (Ephesians 4:26-27, AMPC)

“I know it’s normal to be mad at the enemy when we suffer and when our loved ones suffer. Lord, I think I have been angry for a long time about health and other on-going trials, especially lately with seeing loved ones hurting. I was probably mad at You, too, but my pride kept that hidden in my subconscious. That gave the enemy a foot hold. With that and the fatigue, no wonder there was so much negative. Forgive me, Father. I am so sorry. Help me change!”

Image result for Public Domain Picture Of Praying HandsA miracle – When “all” you can do is pray. “Father, I think You are showing me how to persevere in trials when there is nothing I can do but pray. You want me to cast all my worries, anxieties and concerns on You, guard my heart against negative thoughts and feelings, and pray.” Yesterday, I had begun re-reading Andrew Murray’s classic “The Ministry of Intercession.”  Using the parable of the friend at midnight in Luke 11, he had explained that impossible situations move us to pray more fervently because ‘all we can do is pray.’

“Lord, I do know that I cannot do anything about my loved ones situations but pray, and I will keep praying. I do not want to see them suffer, but by grace I know You will help me make peace with the process they are going through, even while I pray for Your mercy on them.”

A miracle – Peace that transcends understanding.

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.

And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7, AMPC)

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Dove LandingAs I sat in the sun, staring at the puffy clouds, that blessed peace from God began settling down, that unexplainable peace that you know can only be from God because it comes when things are so bad that it makes no sense to have peace. That morning, to make it more real to myself, I had written a list of cares I was choosing to cast onto the Lord (I Peter 5:7). Today, God had touched each one.

And now, now by His graciously putting the thoughts in my mind, I not only knew but felt that everything troubling me will indeed be alright, because:

  • Our loving, merciful God IS sovereign,
  • God sees it all and loves me and the people I love,
  • He is now working and will continue working all things for our good and His glory,
  • Nothing is too hard for God, and
  • God never for one second forsakes us or relaxes His grip on us.

A miracle – His majesty and might.

Image result for Public Domain Picture of cloudsMajestic and mighty, His mountains—the clouds—
Arise from the earth and the sea they enshroud.
Majestic and mighty, our sweet loving King,
Ruler of every great and small thing.

His little miracles are not little.  Selah, dear friend, selah!

For your comfort. Below is a list of songs that have especially comforted me in recent times. Each of them “happened” to play on the radio at moments of great need, a tender touch from the Lord, saying “I am right here with you. I see you. I have you in My arms. Everything will be alright, My child.”

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!] (Hebrews 13:5b, AMPC)

[1] “Gonna be alright”, written by Ryan Ellis, Ethan Hulse and Ben Cantelo, performed by Ryan Ellis.  https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=gon

[2] “Rescue” (I will send out an army), written and performed by Lauren Daigle.
https://tinyurl.com/2p83zp9e

[3] “Don’t lose heart” written by Steven Curtis Chapman, Bryan Fowler and Micah Kuiper.
https://tinyurl.com/2p8dp2kv

[4] “Life is hard (but God is good), by Pam Thum.  https://tinyurl.com/a3473prh

[5] I also highly recommend the book “Beside Still Waters” by Charles H. Spurgeon. Each page reaches deep into the soul and spirit.

One more miracle – the power of truth.  A few days later, I heard: “Fatigue can mimic  and trigger depression.” I had heard that before but in the moment of hearing it this time, I sensed God was setting me free from a lie that had been floating in my subconsciousness – the lie that I was depressed again and that it would take a long time to overcome it, that there was a basic tendency in my personality that would always cause depression.

Yes, for several months there had been real reasons for fatigue and some might continue for a while. However, understanding that fatigue, and specifically accumulated fatigue, had caused most of the negativity and anxiety made me feel well able to overcome it. That knowledge was reassurance from the Lord that I had done well to keep leaning on Him, to keep meditating on and studying the Word the best I could, and going on with my life, consciously walking with Him the best I could each day and loving those He put in my path.

A second truth I heard was that in hard times it is easy to lose perspective, which is why God tells us to have close fellowship with other believers. That means it is wise to invest time and effort into establishing and maintaining close relationships.

As I re-read this, I heard echoes from a friend of another truth I need to hear often, which is not to get tricked into a “works attitude.”  None of us can ever be good enough to earn salvation, rather, it is a free gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is a gift so that none of us can boast.  Neither do we “earn” any of God’s other gifts. It is all by grace, because it is God Who works in us, to give us the desire even to do good.

 [Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while [j]effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight. (Phillippians 2:13, AMPC)

Dear friend, I pray this writing brings you comfort. As the song says, “Life is hard, but God is good”. Oh, He is so, so, so very good to us! He adores us, and He is with us every moment of this life and will be on into eternity. He wants us to have abundant life now, as well as in eternity. (John 10:10)

“The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, til it overflows). AMPC

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Jesus Reaching Out

Keeping yourself calm – Part Three

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

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

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

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

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

 “ And behold, I am with you and will keep (watch over you with care, take notice of) you wherever you may go, and I will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done all of which I have told you. Genesis 28:15 AMPC).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God HELPS when we are desperate. Verse 17

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

The psalmist says that things were so bad he felt like he would have died if God had not helped him. But God was his help. In Isaiah 41:10 God tells His desperate children: 10 Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.” (AMPC)

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

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

23 The steps of a [good] man are directed and established by the Lord when He delights in his way [and He busies Himself with his every step]. 24 Though he falls, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord grasps his hand in support and upholds him. (Psalm 37:23-24, AMPC)

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

When I THOUGHT my foot had slipped. Verse 18.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The way the wicked attack. Verses 20-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

33 He makes my feet like hinds’ feet [able to stand firmly or make progress on the dangerous heights of testing and trouble]; He sets me securely upon my high places. (Psalm 18:30-33, AMPC, emphasis added)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May we imprint on our heart that . . .

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

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

Image result for Quotes About Eagles Soaring

 

Keeping yourself calm – Part Two

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

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

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

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

Image result for public domain picture of key Key verse:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whose thoughts are useless?

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

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

Who are the blessed among us?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The comfort of His presence

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

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

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

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

33 He makes my feet like hinds’ feet [able to stand firmly or make progress on the dangerous heights of testing and trouble]; He sets me securely upon my high places.  (Psalm 18:33, AMPC)

The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]! (Habakkuk 3:19, AMPC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him [inquiring for and of Him, craving Him as your soul’s first necessity], He will be found by you; but if you [become indifferent and] forsake Him, He will forsake you.” (2 Chronicles 15:2, AMPC)

10 And they who know Your name [who have experience and acquaintance with Your mercy] will lean on and confidently put their trust in You, for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek (inquire of and for) You [on the authority of God’s Word and the right of their necessity]. (Psalm 9:10, AMPC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him [inquiring for and of Him, craving Him as your soul’s first necessity], He will be found by you.” (2 Chronicles 15:2, AMPC)

Image result for public domain picture of father whispering to child