When flaming arrows hit the mark

Image result for public domain picture of writingI wrote as fast as I could, straining to say each word out loud as I wrote, straining desperately to connect any way I could.

“I am so mad at You God! I am so sorry, but I really just am! (Tears, then a long pause). Why did You let this happen? Why? (Tears, then a longer pause.)  This is awful, just awful! No, no, no! I know this will turn out for good. You promise that in Romans 8:28. I know You are still in control of everything no matter what it feels like.

“Please help me, Lord! Oh, Father! How I need You, like the song says, how I need You now! I feel so torn up inside. I don’t know what to do. I just feel like giving up. I really do just want to give up. All this hurts too much.  I can’t handle it if life is going to be this way. I just can’t!”

When the writing is hard. Although I regularly write about details of my life because I hope to help others grow closer to God, sometimes the feelings are too raw. Sometimes I am ashamed and embarrassed about how I felt and what I did or said. Like now. What caused the desperate prayer above? Whenever we decide to go forward with something for God, our accuser (Revelations 12:10) tries to hinder us (I Thessalonians 2:18, Matthew 13:3-19).

A few weeks ago, I began praying for God to help as I redoubled efforts to improve my health. I have a lot of writing I want to do for God before I go home to heaven, and that requires a healthy body and mind, which requires exercise and good health habits.  The past nine months had included four hospitalizations for atrial fibrillation on top of long–standing debilitating fatigue and worsening feet, neck and hip problems.  Exercise and health in general had suffered.

Image result for public domain picture of creams and medicine bottlesSo, I renewed my determination to lose those fifteen pounds the cardiologist says would help the heart. I got back onto a stricter diet, added in more exercise and stretching, prioritized getting more rest, etc. etc.  I felt good for two days. Then came the attacks. I strained a leg muscle, which meant I limped and could not exercise at all for a week and after that only with great caution. Then, although it had disappeared for decades, the itching and burning red skin of eczema reappeared, which required about fifty dollars of over-the-counter creams and lotions. Then, also after a long absence, came athlete’s foot which can make the soles of your feel like they are on fire at the same time they itch and which also required fifty or so dollars of creams, sprays and powders, not to mention the cost in time and effort and frustration. The achy feet, hips, neck and back quickly worsened with the near complete lack of exercise.

Then, my eyes began hurting as soon I began typing on the computer, and sitting at the desk for more than fifteen minutes meant aching hips, two more new negative things. Then on top of the panic that threatens all of us each time we pay a bill, buy anything or go to the grocery, the garbage disposal had to be replaced. All this in the midst of the genuine difficulties extreme summer heat imposes on us all.

Image result for public domain picture of womans hands prayingThrough all of that, by great outpourings of grace, I had kept a good attitude, telling myself, “Well, that’s one more thing to ignore and trust God to take care of because He loves me and He IS taking care of me.”

Then came the incident when the flaming arrows of our enemy attacked one of the most precious things in my life.

What were the reactions? I panicked. I fell apart inside. I felt fear, and I got furious, not just angry but furious. There seemed, and still seems, no way this precious, precious part of my life can ever be restored.

Image result for public domain picture of flaming arrowsThen I prayed. “Oh, Lord! I know You tell us in Ephesians 4:26-27 in the AMPC that when we are angry we must not sin and we must not end the day being exasperated or furious or indignant because it gives the enemy a foothold in our life. Well, I feel all of that right now and more. So, I am trying to talk with You about this. As this awful day has gone on, Lord, I have started to feel as depressed as I did five years ago before You used Your Word to heal the depression. Everything in my life and everything about my life feels sad and pathetic again, my tiny home, my old used car, my overweight and aging and sagging body . . .”

Resisting at the onset. By grace, those thoughts did not linger long because the Word God had planted in my heart bubbled up into consciousness.

Image result for public domain picture of the shield of faith

“Lord, you say in I Peter 5 that we are to resist the enemy when he first starts attacking us, so I will do that, with Your help. I will go about our normal life, just as if that had not happened. I will do my little stretches, eat dinner, have our quiet time and go to bed and tomorrow I’ll do our usual routine.  I will keep doing our normal life, trusting in You, staying close to You, until things feel better.”

And that’s what I did. I finished out the day the best I could which, unfortunately for the diet, included chocolate and some other comforting edibles. Then I went to bed.

Learning more about humility.  The next morning, I sorely wanted to stay in bed but as I fixed a cup of tea, John 16:33 came to mind.

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

“Thank You, Lord. Help me know the truths in this verse deep in my heart. I do know they are true, though I still do not feel like it, and I choose to believe You. I know You do not want me to be unhappy, not even for one day, so I will keep trying.”

At the gym, verses I have recently meditated on and memorized about humility came to mind. After a wimpy workout, but a workout nonetheless, I walked back to the car.

“Lord, I do not know if I made a mistake and I do not know what I need to do differently now about this situation that has gone so wrong, but I will trust and obey. I ask You to guide me and show me what You want me to do. Help me to truly walk humbly with You, as You tell us in Micah 6, where You say that You require us “. . . to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy and to humble” ourself and walk humbly with You, our God.”

I drove home in silence, reflecting on that verse and the one about resisting the devil at the onset of his attacks. When I got home and read the whole passage that contains “resist the devil at his onset”,  I was reminded, from previous study times, that it begins with the admonition to act with humility toward each other because “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (Hebrews 5:5, NIV).

How to Study the Bible in College: Four Easy Steps - Dear Little SisI also saw in my Bible where I had drawn arrows from one phrase to the next, indicating that because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble, that we are to humble ourselves before God so that we are in the position for Him to lift us up, in due time. We are also to cast all our worries, anxieties and concerns on God, to control ourselves, keep watching alertly for our enemy, and resist him at the onset because our fellow believers around the world are having the same kinds of sufferings we are having. And God will, after we have suffered a little while, restore us and make us strong, firm and steadfast. (I Peter 5:5-11).

By grace.  I lay down then, to take my usual hour of rest, pondering “I can do hard things like this, no matter how bad I feel. I have done many hard things by God’s grace, and this is no different.  The enemy wants me to think it is impossible to keep living my usual life with God while this heartache of a situation goes on, but I can do whatever I need to do through God because He gives me His strength (Philippians 4:13.) And that passage in Peter might be the scriptural basis for what I’ve heard Bible teachers say, that hard times give us the chance to really grow because we learn more when we stand strong in trials than in easier times.

As the afternoon went on, I felt I should take time to read more of the two books about prayer that lay on the table beside the rocker.  One book reminded me of the importance of spending time praying in the Spirit and how that helps when you do not know how to pray.

I took time right then to pray in tongues for a good while, feeling nothing, thinking nothing at first. Then, however, I sensed clear guidance from the Lord on some changes and additions I should make to my prayer life regarding this new painful situation.

“Father, thank You. I know by faith, that I will feel better soon. I am already feeling better, and thank You for bringing Psalm 86:17 to mind, for reminding me that when You help and comfort me, You are showing Your approval of me. I certainly do not deserve Your approval, Father, but I thank You that You earnestly remember and have imprinted on Your heart the fact that I am merely frail, human dust (Psalm 103:14). I still feel so helpless but I am hoping in You, with confidence and expectation.

Daddy’s Hand - Daily Devotions | CBN.comThank You that, though this might not be a serious thing to some people it is desperately serious and hard for me and I know You are busying Yourself with this detail of my life. I know Your eyes are on me and Your ears are open to my cries for help. I know You will never, no never, no never fail me or forsake me or relax Your grip on me. I know nothing, nothing, nothing is too hard for You. I know You are with me. I know You put my every tear in a bottle. I know You are with me wherever I go and that You keep careful watch over me. I know You will always help me. I know You will always guide every step I take as I keep trusting You and following You. I know You will keep guiding me. I know, Lord, that. . .

Dear friend and fellow pilgrim, I began writing this blog post to share how God can give us strength in the midst of what seems impossible, and that is still my purpose. However, as I wrote I realized I was able to get to a better place heart-wise, even though nothing at all has changed outwardly, because the Word I have studied and meditated upon and hidden inside my heart kept bubbling up into consciousness, in the very midst of roiling emotions.

So, again, I plead: take time, now, to diligently study the Word.  Take time, now, to meditate-on-the-Word-with-the-intent-to-memorize it (even if you do not actually memorize it perfectly) so that you can resist the enemy and keep living this beautiful abundant life God has prepared for you. If you need help getting started on Bible study and meditation, see “Diligent Bible Study” and “Diligent Meditation” on the “Basics of Believing” tab of this website.

In this world, we all will have great troubles, but Jesus has overcome the world and deprived it of power to harm us, so we can be of good cheer (John 16:33). We can “put on God’s complete armor, so that we will be “able to resist and stand our ground on the evil day [of danger] and, having done all [the crisis demands] to stand [firmly in our place] (Ephesians 6:13, AMPC).

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Jesus reaching out. Size: 183 x 185. Source: www.peopleschurchtoday.orgWhatever crisis you face today, I sincerely pray God gives you grace to put on His full armor and to stand firmly in your place. God adores you, and He wants you to walk in His ways so that you can have peace and the abundant life His Son Jesus died to give you (John 10:10).



God earnestly waits – Part Six

Image result for public domain picture of divided pathIsaiah 30:19-21.  O people who dwell in Zion at Jerusalem, you will weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you.

20 And though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide Himself any more, but your eyes will constantly behold your Teacher.

21 And your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way; walk in it, when you turn to the right hand and when you turn to the left.

in Parts One through Five, we:

  • examined the context and main points of Isaiah 30,
  • discussed the subtle ways the enemy of our souls deceives us into devoting our hearts to idols, rather than the one true God,
  • saw God explain to Israel how their rebellion against His ways would cause calamity, and
  • examined verse 18, which described how God earnestly, eagerly waits and longs for us to return to Him and that, while He waits, He is getting ready to show us mercy and loving-kindness when we begin again to whole-heartedly trust Him and whole-heartedly obey Him.

In Part Six, we start looking at some of the unbelievable things God is earnestly longing to do for us when we return to Him.

[v, 19] O people who dwell in Zion at Jerusalem, you will weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you. Can you hear the sincerity, the pleading in that “O people”? “Oh” is a strong cry that expresses sudden and intense emotion. The writer of this book, Isaiah the prophet, must have had a crystal-clear idea of how much God wanted to bless His people because it made him start this section of his prophecy with the intense exclamation “Oh people.”

Downton Abbey The Exhibition Formal Dinner Table | the enchant me podcastThen Isaiah says their sorrows will cease because God will surely be gracious to them. Here in verse 19, he repeats the word gracious from verse 18 (“And therefore the Lord [earnestly] waits [expecting, looking, and longing] to be gracious to you.”)   The word gracious reminds us of a host or hostess, someone who kindly, generously gives us the best of their home, their best chair, their best food and drink and entertainment. It speaks of someone who has gone out of their way to prepare good things specifically for us. The root word of gracious is, of course, grace.

Webster’s 1828 online dictionary says the main idea of grace is free, ready, quick, and willing. It means good will, favor, kindness and a tendency to help another. Specifically, it means “The free unmerited love and favor of God.”  That is the point Isaiah is making here and the main idea of Isaiah 30:19-33. The whole time we rebel and refuse to trust and obey Him, God is longing, eagerly looking to be gracious to us when we return to Him.

Remember that in Part Four we examined the last part of Isaiah 30:18 which shows us that God must wait on us to return to Him because He is fair and gives what is due. That means we experience the consequences of our rebellion and idol worship. But God is abundant in mercy and loving-kindness and He is ever looking and longing to be gracious to us.

Musings in a Major Key: 2016[v. 20-a] And though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction. . .  This verse clearly tells us that God sometimes sends adversity and affliction to us. Sometimes, trials and troubles come to train us (Hebrews 12, James 1) but sometimes we bring them on ourselves by our rebellion. When we err, God lovingly corrects us because He loves us.  And sometimes that correction is painful. This is a fact of the believer’s life and one we must accept, gratefully. It is stated in the Bible in words, in principles, and in stories.

Consider Lamentations 3. Verse 33 says clearly that “God does not willingly and from His heart afflict or grieve the children of men. . . (AMPC) “ but that both calamites and good things come from God and that we should examine ourselves, repent and ask for forgiveness from God. Then, from the pit of our despair and our desperate circumstances, God will hear us, He will draw near and He will say ‘Fear not”. And we will see that God has been rescuing and redeeming our life all along, just as when Jeremiah was in a pit.  (Lamentations 3:34-58).

[20b-21] “. . . yet your Teacher will not hide Himself any more, but your eyes will constantly behold your Teacher. And your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, “this is the way; walk in it, when you turn to the right hand and when you turn to the left.”   Think now on the last half of Isaiah 30:20. The “anymore” means that for a time, some previous time, God our Teacher did hide Himself from us, He did for some previous time not let us see Him. He does this while we worship idols, while we insist on rebelling against His ways and while we refuse to trust, lean, rely on and be confident in Him. In that condition, we, like the idols that we are worshipping, become blind, deaf and dumb.  Ponder Psalm 115, especially verse 8, which says “those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.”  Verse 8 is talking about those who make and trust in idols, as described in the previous verses. But notice what Isaiah says God will do once we return to Him.

Once we repent and turn back to God, He lets us see Him.  He speaks very clearly to us, constantly, and very specifically. Psalm 25 describes the happy, fortunate and to be envied state of the one who humbly fears the Lord. Verses 12 and 13 say that God will teach such a person in “the way chosen for him, he will spend his days in prosperity and his descendants will inherit the land. (NIV)”

"We are all just walking each other home." (With images) | Pictures of ...Such a one is blessed in the best way possible by having the friendship and closeness of the Lord. Psalm 25:14 in the AMPC says “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.”

To have these blessings requires the attitude and actions the psalmist demonstrates in Psalm 25:1-11 and that we see in Isaiah 30. We must trust in God, repent of our sins and ask for His guidance, reminding ourselves of His goodness, fairness, and His great love. This is the attitude God wanted the Israelites He was addressing in Isaiah’s time (and us now!) to have. When we have this attitude, we stop all idol worship because we see it for the detestable, worthless thing it is.

In Part Seven, we will continue looking at the unbelievable things God is earnestly longing to do for us when we return to Him.

The Prodigal Father – Pastor Whitney Bruno Sermons

God earnestly waits – Part Five

Liz Lemon Swindle - The Prodigal Son - Christ-Centered ArtAnd therefore the Lord [earnestly] waits [expecting, looking, and longing] to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice.  Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship]! (Isaiah 30:18, AMPC, emphasis added)

Review: After examining the context and main points of Isaiah 30 in Part One, in Part Two, we discussed the subtle ways the enemy of our souls deceives us into devoting our hearts to idols, rather than the one true God, the Maker of heaven and earth. In Part Three, covering Isaiah 30:10-17, we saw God explain to Israel how their rebellion against His ways would cause calamity. In Part Four, we examined verse 18, which describes what God is earnestly doing as He watches over us and waits for us to return to trusting Him and whole-heartedly obeying Him. In Part Five, we will examine the second half of Isaiah 30:18.

Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those . . .”Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship]!” (Isaiah 30:18b, AMPC, emphasis added)

One of the first passages I memorized as a new believer was Matthew 5:3-12, well known as “the Beatitudes” or the be-attitudes. Each of the beatitudes begins with the word blessed. The word blessed appears 295 times in the AMPC, blessing 188, and bless 576. Blessing obviously is important to God. So, what does blessed mean?

Westers 1828 online dictionary defines blessed (an adjective) as “Happy; prosperous in worldly affairs; enjoying spiritual happiness and the favor of God; enjoying heavenly felicity.” As a verb, to bless means “To make happy; to make successful; to prosper in temporal concerns; as, we are blest with peace and plenty.” No wonder the clarifying phrases of the AMPC are “happy, fortunate, to be envied”!

So, whenever God promises a blessing, we should be eager to find out how to obtain that blessing. God knows the human heart. He knows how to motivate us. Living out the beatitudes–being meek, merciful, pure-hearted, and a peacemaker, etc.–is not easy, but each command in the beatitudes is linked to a blessing.  Everything God tells His children to do is for their good and brings about blessing. God wants us to know this. It motivates us toward good behavior. He says in Hebrews 11:6 “For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out] (AMPC).”

God also wants us to know that He will give us strength to follow His commands. Consider Isaiah 40:29. 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].” emphasis added) Consider also Exodus 15:2, Joshua 14:11, and Psalm 10:17, which is just a start on examples of God’s giving His children strength.

Some of the conditions that bring about blessing are easier to live out, like earnestly waiting, watching for and expecting God.

Child Hand Free Stock Photo - Public Domain Pictures. . . who [earnestly] wait for Him]

“Here Nana. Do you want a piece of my cookie? You can have it.”

I looked at the small outstretched hand, still so tender, soft and unformed, the tendons that one day will be cabled with male strength now veiled beneath soft flesh, the fingers that one day will be thickened now slender, the skin that one day will be hairy now smooth. I smiled. Pinched between thumb and forefinger was a teaspoon-size piece of his double chocolate chip cookie.

“Oh, yes! Thank you darling!” I said as I took the offering from my grandson’s hand.

“Mmmmmm.  That is delicious! Thank you!

Portrait of happy children with emotions and feelings. Black young boy ...I ask you, is anything on earth sweeter than the face of a young boy offering a gift? Such earnestness, such whole-hearted sincerity, such clear and pure love enlightening features as yet largely indistinguishable from those of a girl, brow ridge not yet formed, brows not yet thickened, jaw as yet unsquared, chin as yet not more noticeably protruding. And the eyes, those windows to the soul, so filled with light, with joy, with sincerity.

My grandson, his brother and I were celebrating the end of school at in the small dine-in area in their favorite bakery.  That cookie was a treasure to him. When he finished, he always popped into his mouth any large crumbs left on the table or the napkin. Two or three years earlier, his gifts had been mere pinches of cookie but generosity had grown. And I had treasured those mere pinches as much as this larger piece. My grandson gave of his best to me with earnestness.

Webster’s 1828 online dictionary defines earnest as “Ardent in the pursuit of an object; eager to obtain; having a longing desire; warmly engaged or incited.”  Also, “Serious; important; that is, really intent or engaged; whence the phrase, in earnest To be in earnest is to be really urging or stretching towards an object; intent on a pursuit.”

Think now of the last part of Isaiah 30:18. Because of Israel’s idolatry and rebellion against Him and His ways, God is earnestly waiting, “[expecting, looking and longing] to be gracious to” them. It is only fitting that we, too, should earnestly wait for Him.  Whole-heartedly. Sincerely. Ardently. Passionately. Go to Bible Gateway and look at the 180 times Holy Spirit moved on His anointed writers to use the word earnest or earnestly. Notice also that it is used to express both God’s feelings toward us as well as what our feelings should be toward Him.

How do we earnestly wait? Read through Psalm 106 and note the word earnestly in verses 7, 13, and 45. The psalmist is declaring the mighty deeds the Lord did with Israel and the psalmist is giving God the praise that is due Him. In verse13 the psalmist says “our fathers in Egypt understood not nor appreciated Your miracles, they did not [earnestly] remember the multitude of Your mercies nor imprint Your loving-kindness [on their hearts]. . .” The psalmist goes on to recount the many times God delivered Israel out of troubles they had brought on themselves. And he states that, even then, they remained rebellious and became even more wicked. Yet God “[earnestly] remembered for their sake His covenant.” And He rescued them yet again.

It is exactly the same with each of us today as it was with ancient Israel. We vow to follow God, but we fail in countless unintentional and far too often intentional ways. Yet God earnestly forgives us when we earnestly, sincerely, turn to Him, put Him first by obeying Him and trusting in Him rather than our idols and our rebellious way of living. Our earnest repentance moves His heart (Psalm 51:17).

FIngers in ears small - My Quin StoryAnd what are we to earnestly do? Wait for Him. That means obey and then wait, with confident expectation, for Him to deliver, bless and guide as He promises. In Isaiah 30, Israel sinned by relying on the help of Egypt against their enemies and refusing to “hear the law and instruction of the Lord.” Part of God’s laws and instructions to them was verse 15 when He said, “In returning [to Me] and resting [in Me] you shall be saved; in quietness and in [trusting] confidence shall be your strength.” But Israel’s actions told God “Get out of my way! I do not want to hear about the Holy One of Israel!” We do the same when, in trying to solve a problem, we disobey God. We also do the same when we let worry or fear or other wrong emotions dominate us, rather than waiting on God to act while we rest our souls, quietly and confidently, in Him.

This last is a hard saying. How are we rebelling against God when we worry or live in fear? Prayerfully read Hebrews 3:7-19. When we worry or live in fear, we are not believing God and His promises, just like the Israelites who refused to believe God would give them the promised land had ”sinful, unbelieving hearts” that turned “away from the living God.” (Hebrews 3:12, NIV).  When we worry, we are refusing to believe God will fulfill His promises of peace and provision for us. Like Israel, our “sinful, unbelieving heart” causes us to turn away from God because we do not believe God is really sovereign over everything and we do not believe He actually means Romans 8:28 and Genesis 50:20. God swore that those who disobeyed would never enter His rest because of their unbelief. (v. 16-20.)  Just like Israel, we disobey and we deprive ourselves of living in the fulfillment of God’s promises.

Most commonly used translations render the second half of Isaiah 30:18 as “Blessed are all those who wait for Him.” We must obey God and then wait for Him, rather than taking the matter into our own hands. Consider one of Saul’s chief errors. When facing the Philistine army, instead of waiting on the priest, Saul offered sacrifices himself. God then told Saul that his kingdom would not endure but instead would be given to a man after His own heart, because Saul had not kept the Lord’s command (1 Samuel 13:5-14). God has orderly ways of doing things and has designated an orderly way of life for His children. We are to live as He says to, in hard as well as easy times, and wait, with confident expectation, for Him to fulfill His promises.

. . . who expect and look and long for Him. Notice that God is described as expecting, looking and longing to be gracious to us and we are blessed if we wait for Him and expect and look and long for Him. When we expect something, we believe that something will happen. Expecting is synonymous with trusting and faith. We are also to be looking for God, which means our eyes will be focused fully on Him, just as our eyes will be focused on the door of a coffee shop if we are looking for a friend who has promised to meet us.

This compilation of military reunions will make you laugh and cry all ...And think about that word long. Far stronger than mere wanting, longing implies yearning, pining, craving, and having a hunger for something. When your husband or wife serves in the military and you have not seen him or her for thirteen months, do you want or do you long to see him or her? Think about it.

. . . [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship]! Most translations end Isaiah 30:18 with the word “Him.” The AMPC, as always, adds more understanding.

One of many reasons I love the Amplified Classic Bible (AMPC) is its amplifying phrases guide your mind as you meditate. You have the subtle meanings of those key words or phrases that speakers of the original hearers would have automatically understood.

Think about that in reverse. When I say “Let’s go get a burger” you know I mean go to a fast food place or a restaurant and eat a piece of beef on a bun. An ancient Israelite would not understand us. Likewise, when we read words written for people living in Bible times such as faith in Colossians 1:4, we do not automatically think, as they would, that faith means [the leaning of your entire human personality on Him in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness].”

In Isaiah 30:18, the AMPC lists for us some of God’s countless wonderful aspects to comfort and stir ourselves with as we wait on Him. We are to wait for, expect and look and long for the following from Him. Let’s look at these aspects of God we are to expect and look and long for.

—His victory – God always, always, always comes through for His children (Hebrews 13:5), and He always, always, always wins (Psalm 33), and He stores up victory for the righteous (I John 5:4, Deuteronomy 20:4,I Corinthians 50:57.).

–His favor – God surrounds the righteous with His favor as with a shield. Psalm 5:12 promises that if we are upright and in right standing with God, He will shield us with His goodwill, pleasure and favor. That means God will make people kindly disposed toward us, we will have pleasant things in this life, and we will experience His special kindnesses and support.

–His love – I do not know how many sermons, books, songs and poems have been written about the love of God but were you to multiply them by a trillion you would barely have a beginning. I can only echo Charles Wesley and say, “O, for a thousand tongues to sing. . .” and Frederick M. Lehman, who wrote:

Sea And Sky Free Stock Photo - Public Domain Pictures“Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.”

–His peace. I could say the same about the peace that God gives. It truly is far, far, far beyond our human ability to comprehend (Philippians 4:7). Jesus promises His peace, not the peace of the world (John 14:27). At the last meal Jesus would share with His disciples, He taught them, and us, many things, and ended by saying:

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

—His joy. Another thing we are to be expecting, looking and longing for as we obey God and then wait on Him, is His joy. Joy is used 250 times in the AMPC, rejoice 214, glad 163, happy 108, and, some form of bless, 576 times. It is also the second-mentioned fruit of the spirit. Joy was, pre-fall, the natural state of the human heart.  It is the natural state of children before the world, the flesh and the enemy steal it. Joy is, in all its marvelous manifestations, one of God’s greatest gifts. Psalm 35:27 tells us God delights to give His children joy.

Why? One reason God delights in giving us joy is that His joy is our strength. In Nehemiah 8, when the people were grieved because they had just heard and understood God’s laws and become aware of their great sin, God told them, through Ezra:

“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. So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, Be still, for the day is holy. And do not be grieved and sad.” (Nehemiah 8:10-11, emphasis added).

God requires true sorrow and repentance for our sin but He does not want us to remain sorrowful! How quickly He draws us back into His arms, and presses us close.

Jesus and the Lamb by Katherine Brown 1982 "a comforting depiction of a ...You may have seen this picture of Jesus holding a lamb close to His face. I have two framed prints of it in my two-bedroom condo. I can never glance quickly at it. What an anointing must have been on the artist! Notice that Jesus has pulled that little lamb close to His face. Can’t you feel Him gently pressing His cheek into that fluffy fleece, like a parent clasping a child or lover embracing lover? See the fingers of the nail-scarred hand spread wide, tenderly supporting and holding the lamb securely. See the eyes of the Good Shepherd, closed by the intensity of joy and pleasure flooding through Him. That is how God feels about you, this moment, no matter your situation.

–And His matchless, unbroken companionship. Matchless means incomparable, beyond comparison, unequalled, unsurpassed, supreme above all else. Once we taste and see how good God’s companionship is, we never want to do anything to interrupt that. We say with David “As the hart pants and longs for the water brooks, so I pant and long for You, O God.  My inner self thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God? (Psalm 42:1-2, AMPC)

If we have God’s companionship, we are satisfied, dwelling in unsearchable peace. 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 25:14, AMPC)

According to www.gotquestions.org, the Aaronic blessing in Numbers 6:23-27 has been extensively used since it was first uttered. But that blessing has been given permanently to believers living after Calvary’s work was completed.

“For ancient Israel, the Aaronic Blessing expressed the highest state of blessing that the nation would enjoy as they were faithful to God. The application is slightly different for the New Covenant believer. Jesus Christ has already granted us all of the things that are asked for in the Aaronic Blessing, and they have been granted on a permanent basis. Our direct experience of these things can fluctuate over time. For the believer, this blessing should be a reminder of what one has in Christ. It should also be a prayer for a fuller understanding of God’s blessings in Christ and for the corresponding feelings that should accompany that understanding.”

And the Lord said to Moses,

23 Say to Aaron and his sons, This is the way you shall bless the Israelites. Say to them, 24 The Lord bless you and watch, guard, and keep you; 25 The Lord make His face to shine upon and enlighten you and be gracious (kind, merciful, and giving favor) to you; 26 The Lord lift up His [approving] countenance upon you and give you peace (tranquility of heart and life continually). 27 And they shall put My name upon the Israelites, and I will bless them.

Have you ever heard that “You can have as much of God as you want.”  I believe it because the Word backs that statement up Fellow believer, you and I can have awareness of the unparalleled joy of God’s companionship — in proportion to our waiting and hoping in Him (Psalm 33:22.)  We can have God’s face shine upon us.

So I say let us strive to “dwell in the shelter of the Most High” so that we may “remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand.]” Let us “say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely and in Him I [confidently] trust!”

If we do that, all the promises of Psalm 91 will be ours. Consider the footnote for Psalm 91 in the AMPC: “The rich promises of this whole chapter are dependent upon one’s meeting exactly the conditions of these first two verses (see Exod. 15:26).” Selah, oh selah!

Pin su Fourth of July

In Part Six, we will start looking at all that God is earnestly, eagerly longing to do for us when we return to Him.

God earnestly waits – Part Four

This My Son by Elspeth Young - Art | Mormon art, Jesus art, Bible artSo the Lord must wait for you to come to Him
so He can show you his love and compassion.
For the Lord is a faithful God.
Blessed are those who wait for his help.  (Isaiah 30:18, NLT, emphasis added)

And therefore the Lord [earnestly] waits [expecting, looking, and longing] to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship]! (Isaiah 30:18, AMPC, emphasis added)

Review: In Part One, we briefly examined the context of Isaiah 30 and summarized the main points. In Part Two, covering Isaiah 30:1-9, we discussed the subtle ways the enemy of our souls deceives us into devoting our hearts to idols, rather than the One True God, the Maker of heaven and earth. In Part Three, covering Isaiah 30:10-17, we saw God explain to Israel how their rebellion against His ways would cause calamity to fall upon them. In Part Four, we will examine verse 18, which describes what God is earnestly doing as He watches over us and waits for us to return to trusting Him and whole-heartedly obeying Him.

Why Clipart and Stock Illustrations. 3,892 Why vector EPS illustrations ...Do you see how God explains why? Analyzing a passage of Scripture to uncover the reasons God does something is instructive and motivating. Go back and notice each therefore, for and yet in Isaiah 30:1-17 in the AMPC. God is telling Israel, and us, clearly that when we depend on and seek worldly things more than Him, that that worldly thing will bring us shame, humiliation and confusion. Why? Because the help of the world is worthless. God commanded Isaiah to write that message down as a lesson forevermore. Why? Verse 9 says because we are rebellious and will not hear His law and instruction, because we say by our conduct that we want to hear “smooth things”, that we do not want to hear about God’s holiness.

In verse 12 and 13, God says “therefore” (because of all that which I just said, which is that you despise and spurn Me), “this iniquity and guilt will be to you like a broken section of a high wall, bulging out and ready [at some distant day] to fall, whose crash will [then] come suddenly and swiftly, in an instant.” God says that what you depended on in place of Me will be smashed to utter uselessness.

Image result for public domain picture of one tree on mountain topWhy? In Verse 15 God says I told you that “In returning [to Me] and resting [in Me] you shall be saved; in quietness and in [trusting] confidence shall be your strength” But, you would not. Not only that, but you said you would get away quickly from your enemy on your horses, “doing our own way.”  God goes on to say that because of that, those who pursue you will be the swift ones. You will be terrorized until you are utterly scattered and utterly alone. The Living Bible phrases it: “One of them will chase a thousand of you! Five of them will scatter you until not two of you are left together. You will be like lonely trees on the distant mountaintops.”

Applying Verses 1-17 to us today. Today, we follow the same path when we persist in engaging in idol worship. We may use alcohol or drugs or whatever to escape our troubles but eventually the very thing we depend on will cause us shame, humiliation, and confusion. It will become obvious how our idol worship is destroying us. Some forms of idol worship, as we saw before, are hair-splittingly subtle and the path to destruction may be longer, yet the end is always the same.

But look how God is waiting. Verse 18 is surely one of the most reassuring and comforting verses in the Bible. While we are in the midst of our detestable idolatrous lifestyle, actively spurning and rejecting God and going our own stubborn, sinful, vile way, God is all the time earnestly waiting, expecting, looking and longing to be gracious to us!

18 And therefore the Lord [earnestly] waits [expecting, looking, and longing] to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. (Isaiah 30:18a, AMPC)

Hear the passion in those words!  Let’s take time to examine this verse phrase by phrase. God took time to record a clear statement of the depth of His love for us. We owe His words careful attention.

And therefore. This therefore connects verse 18 with all the verses that came before. It means to me that every time we put something before God and, as is inevitable, end up terrified, alone and defenseless, God is eagerly watching and waiting to rescue us. Every time. We cannot err without God eagerly watching and waiting to restore us. “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayer.” (I Peter 3:12, AMPC)

Image result for public domain picture of arms reaching. . . the Lord [earnestly] waits [expecting, looking, and longing] to be gracious to you; Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines earnest as ardent (which means passionate) in the pursuit of an object; eager to obtain; having a longing desire; serious; warmly engaged or incited; really intent, fixed. “To be in earnest is to be really urging or stretching towards an object; intent on a pursuit.”

Ponder each of these words. Is it not the picture of the prodigal son’s father who was earnestly waiting to the extent that he had his eyes fixed on the far horizon and thus was able to see his returning son from far away? Luke 15:20 tells us that while the returning prodigal “was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity and tenderness [for him]; and he ran and embraced him and kissed him [fervently].” (AMPC).

When we reject Him and His ways, God is earnestly waiting, “expecting, looking and longing to be gracious” to us. He is moved with pity and tenderness for us, for He knows how we are made (Psalm 103). He yearns, He longs for the chance to be kind and forgiving toward us and to give us good and pleasant things, to be gracious.

Websters 1828 says gracious means “favorable, kind, benevolent, disposed to forgive offenses and impart unmerited blessings.” The root of the word grace connotes ready, quick, prompt, willing.” And then it says “from advancing.” To me, that means from a position of advancing, of reaching. It suggests the father of the prodigal, the loving and merciful father who was eagerly looking down that road and ran to embrace his beloved son.

In that culture and at that time, it was disgraceful for an honorable man to tuck up his robes and run. It would be like running down the street in our underwear today  https://rb.gy/d3xz3. Some commentators also say that the father ran in order to walk beside his son and, by his presence, spare his son the ridicule of the villagers. That seems consistent with how God always makes provision for each detail of our life.

But I also think that the father of the prodigal simply could not contain his emotions. His heart simply overflowed with joy. What a thing to ponder, that God is somehow, in some way, overcome by His love for us and His desire to bring us home to Himself. Selah, oh selah! Every word of God is flawless (Proverbs 30:5), and this sentence is no mistake. God obviously wants us to understand how much He loves us and how eager He is to forgive and welcome us back into the shelter of His arms.

And therefore He lifts Himself up, that he may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. The several commentaries I read generally concurred that this phrase “lifts Himself up” means God will “bestir himself, and will work gloriously on your behalf.” (Matthew Poole commentary). This is one of those phrases where, even though I’ve tried, I am not exactly sure what God means so I ask Him to make it clear and then go on with the rest of the text. The rest of the sentence clearly says that God is wanting to show us mercy and loving-kindness. Obviously, we need His mercy! And how stirring to be told that He is wanting to show us loving-kindness. That means He is longing to be tender and affectionate with us because He is fond of us. When you are fond of someone, you adore them, you are devoted to them, and you dote on them. Think about that a while!

Transparent Scales Of Justice, HD Png Download - kindpngFor the Lord is a God of justice. Keeping the story of the prodigal son in mind helps me understand this phrase. We know God is just, which means He acts fairly. He does what is proper and orderly. He gives what is due. Yet we also know He is merciful and kind and that His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever. Recall that Psalm 136 has this statement in each of its 26 verses that describe God’s mercy and loving-kindness toward us, from the time of creation to the time the psalm was written.

So, because God is just and gives what is due, we experience the consequences of our rebellion and idol worship. Yet that same justice works for our rescue because when we repent, turn from our wicked ways, and turn to God, He is, again acting justly when He takes us back to Himself.

At the judgement seat, we will receive what is due to us for what we have done while on earth. (“. . . we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Corinthians 5:10, ESV). Proverbs 11:31 tells us we also receive our just due on earth. “If the righteous receive their due on earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner!” (NIV) God treats us justly here on earth as well as hereafter.

Now consider how God illustrated those two aspects of Himself, just and merciful, in the prodigal son parable. So long as the prodigal son lived the way of the world, his father was eagerly, earnestly waiting to rescue him but could not until the son repented, turned from his prodigal ways and turned back toward home. But, the instant the father saw his son, he ran to him and restored him to sonship.

So long as I keep going my own way in something, rebelling against what God has commanded rather than putting God first and obeying Him, God must wait to pour His mercy and loving-kindness on me. But the instant I repent and turn toward God, God is right there embracing me.  His eyes are always on me, His ears are attentive to my cry even in the darkest pit I may fall into.

This My Son by Elspeth Young - Art | Mormon art, Jesus art, Bible artOur earnestly waiting Father. I thank God for artists who devote their talents to Him. There are more than a thousand of God’s tenderest words for us in this picture of the prodigal son in his father’s embrace. See the father’s brow creased with the intensity of his feelings, the entire brow of the fine old noble head drawn inward, eyes crushed closed. See the hand, blue-veined with age but yet strong, work-thickened fingers spread and clutching as wide a span as possible of his son’s dear flesh. Can’t you feel the father pressing his head close to the boy’s?

Do you see the son, a little shorter, perhaps not yet having reached his adult height, reaching up and around his father’s neck? Don’t you know the father is clenching his son as close to his chest as he can? Don’t you know tears are overspilling their eyes and coursing crookedly across cheeks lifted in smiles of irrepressible joy?

Beloved, that is how our heavenly Father longs to embrace us.  This eager earnestness of our Father toward us is the same whether we have walked away from Him for hours, days or years. Think of young lovers, as eager to see each other when separated for a day as for a week. If that is human love, how much stronger and deeper is the love our Father has for us? Pondering that makes it easier—once I perceive the disgusting mess that dependence on self and this world have led me into—to turn back, in true humility and submission, to my loving, earnestly waiting Father.

Part Five: In Part Five, we will finish Isaiah 30:18 and start looking at the rest of the  chapter, at all that God is earnestly, eagerly longing to do for us when we return to Him.

This My Son by Elspeth Young - Art | Mormon art, Jesus art, Bible art

God earnestly waits – Part Three

Prodigal Son Parable - A Prodigal Parable, Part 2: The Runaway - Christ ...Review: In Part One, we briefly examined the context of Isaiah 30 and summarized the main points. In Part Two, covering Isaiah 30:1-9, we discussed the subtle ways the enemy of our souls deceives us into devoting our hearts to idols, rather than the One True God, the Maker of heaven and earth. In Part Three, we will examine verses 10-17, which explain one reason why God sometimes must wait to help us.

And therefore the Lord [earnestly] waits [expecting, looking, and longing] to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice.

Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship]! (Isaiah 30:18, AMPC)

Idol worship is subtle. In verses 1 through 9 we learned, through seeing what God said about Israel’s actions, that when we do not trust God and instead trust something or someone else and take action based on trusting that thing or that person, we are guilty of idol worship. This is rebellion against God because we are not hearing—which is to say, not doing—the things He says we are to do. One thing He says do is

trust Him and obey Him and
depend on Him to provide and deliver.

You may think: “I am not rebelling against God in anything. I am doing what I should do.” I hope that is true. However, it is valuable to remember that we all rebel in many ways. We rebel when:Blue Shiny Confetti Background Loop Stock Footage Video 3002290 ...

  • We do something He says do not do, like when we show favoritism by avoiding the  hard-to-love people God puts in our path. See James 2.
  • We fail to do something He says to do, like when we neglect prayer and Bible study. God says to “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5, NIV). What would your spouse or friends think if you did not speak with them for a day or week even though they were with you all that time? Or what if you did not read the letters they wrote while away for three months?

Our conduct shows in whom, or what, we trust. This thing about who we trust is as subtle as a razor is sharp. It is potentially dangerous spiritually. The enemy is always seeking ways to steal our love and obedience to God, so we need to ask God to search our hearts (Psalm 139:23-24). We also need to examine ourselves regularly (2 Corinthians 13:5). One way to do that is to consider what we are doing. We reveal who we trust by our conduct, by what we do, just like Israel in Isaiah 30. When Israel purchased help from Egypt, they showed they refused to trust God and wait for Him.

How might idol worship look today?

  • If I spend my entire paycheck on bills instead of paying my tithes and offerings first, I am trusting my money. I am rebelling against God by refusing to trust Him to take care of me.
  • If I fill each hour of every day with noise or other people and avoid time alone with God, so that I can give Him my total attention, I am not trusting God to be my companion.
  • If I say there is not enough time for daily devotions, I am failing to trust that God is sovereign over time. I am trusting in myself and I am, by my actions, saying that whatever I did that day is more important to me than God.
  • If I say I just cannot understand when I study the Bible for myself so I’ll listen to others teach and preach, I am disobeying God’s command to study His Word. I am failing to trust that God Himself can teach me. I am also accusing Him of being unfair because my actions say I believe He has told me to do something that is beyond my abilities.

Serious Man Stopping Ears With Fingers | Photo GratuiteIsaiah 30:10-11.  Now consider verses 10 through 11.

Who [virtually] say to the seers [by their conduct], See not! and to the prophets, Prophesy not to us what is right! Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceitful illusions.  Get out of the true way, turn aside out of the path, cease holding up before us the Holy One of Israel. (emphasis added)

God says very clearly that Israel rejected him by the things they did, by depending on Egypt for help. Their actions were saying they did not want to hear about the Holy One of Israel and His ways, one of which is for His people to trust Him to be their Shield and Defender (Deuteronomy 31:6, Psalm 18:2, Psalm 91, Psalm 34:7 and on and on.)

Isaiah 30:12-14. In the next three verses, God explains why disaster will overtake them.

12 Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel: Because you despise and spurn this [My] word and trust in cunning and oppression, in crookedness and perverseness, and rely on them,

13 Therefore this iniquity and guilt will be to you like a broken section of a high wall, bulging out and ready [at some distant day] to fall, whose crash will [then] come suddenly and swiftly, in an instant.

14 And he shall break it as a potter’s vessel is broken, breaking it in pieces without sparing so that there cannot be found among its pieces one large enough to carry coals of fire from the hearth or to dip water out of the cistern. (emphasis added)

In Verse 12 God just does not say “Therefore”, which means for the reasons that came before, He also restates the reasons. He says to Israel . . . because you despised and spurned My Word and showed by your actions that you trusted your own perverse way of depending on Egypt to save you. . .

Then God says “therefore” again. That makes three times God is emphasizing to Israel that disaster is coming because of their actions. God “does not willingly and from His heart afflict or grieve the children of men.: (Lamentations 3:33, AMPC).  God is compassionate, full of loving kindness and tender mercy. But God is also just and fair. That means our actions must have consequences.

Durham Centre for Roman Cultural Studies : Collapsed wall - Durham ...God tells Israel that their sin and guilt will be to them like a bulging wall that will suddenly collapse. The collapse will be shattering, leaving not one useful thing left.

Isaiah 30:15-17:

15 For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning [to Me] and resting [in Me] you shall be saved; in quietness and in [trusting] confidence shall be your strength. But you would not,” (emphasis added)

In verse 15, God again emphasizes to Israel that it is their sin of refusal to follow His instructions which will bring calamity upon them. God links verses 1 through 14 with verse 15 with that word “For.” God says that verses 1 through 14 will happen because (or for) I told you that you would be saved when you return and rest in me. I told you that you would find strength when you were quiet and had trusting confidence in me. But you would not obey Me!

Verses 16 and 17 continue God’s explanation to Israel about why they will fall into calamity.

16 And you said, No! We will speed [our own course] on horses! Therefore you will speed [in flight from your enemies]! You said, We will ride upon swift steeds [doing our own way]! Therefore will they who pursue you be swift, [so swift that]

17 One thousand of you will flee at the threat of one of them; at the threat of five you will flee till you are left like a beacon or a flagpole on the top of a mountain, and like a signal on a hill. (emphasis added)

God says “And”, meaning not only did you refuse to trust in Me but you said you would swiftly escape from your enemy by doing things your own way. So because of that, your enemies will be swift, so swift that they will terrorize you and make you flee in utter panic until you are left totally helpless.

stack of books – The Science of Early LearningRebellion—idol worship–takes many forms. As we walk with God, He requires more of us and rebellion, which is to say idol worship, becomes harder to detect. It is easy to let our desires—which we can inaccurately perceive as needs—deceive us into putting something before God.

A personal example: Over the years I’ve walked with God He has cleansed me of many sinful habits and attitudes and replaced them with godly behaviors and attitudes. The last few years, in an effort to avoid eye strain, I often listen to rather than read the Bible and other books. Recently, I discovered an author I liked who was an excellent writer. Listening to him was not only pleasurable but, as a writer, it was instructive. I listened to one book and was delighted to see he had written ten others and was still writing. There was a bit of profanity but not much. However, in the next book he introduced a character with consistently profane language.

I confess that for a while, I kept listening, in spite of doubts, because I was subconsciously reasoning that I needed to hear good examples of writing. I knew Romans 14:23 specifically teaches that if we do something we have doubts about, we are sinning. Yet, I kept listening, ignoring that little guilty feeling inside. Thanks be to God that did not last long, I repented, with many tears.

For about a week, I found no audio books that I enjoyed and that were clean. Why? In the last ten years I had foraged in my library’s audio book catalog and found that most were uninteresting to me, poorly written, or else had profanity and sex scenes or witchcraft or something else that set off alarm bells. So, after deleting that novel with the vile language, I started on some of the books I had already heard four or five times. Then, one evening, quite by accident (ha!) I discovered two new authors and one I had forgotten about who were better writers than the one I had given up.

Everything I have ever given up for the purpose of honoring God has been replaced with something far, far better. Every time, for over forty years. Oh, how good God is!

In Part Four we will examine verse 18, which vividly describes what God is earnestly doing as He watches us and waits for us to return to Him.

Viewpoint: Repent and Return to Christ - Church News and EventsAnd therefore the Lord [earnestly] waits [expecting, looking, and longing] to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice.

Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship]! (Isaiah 30:18, AMPC)




God earnestly waits – Part Two

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Idol

In Part One, we briefly examined the context and main points of Isaiah 30. In Part Two, which covers Isaiah 30:1-9, we will unveil one of the subtle ways the enemy of our souls deceives us into devoting our hearts to idols, rather than the One True God, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Depending on the world, rather than on God. The first half of Isaiah 30 (verses1-17) show us how Israel, when threatened by their bitterest enemy the Assyrians, rebelled against God by taking the treasures of the Temple to purchase help from Egypt, with disastrous results. Verse 18 tells us that all throughout Israel’s dependence on Egypt, God was earnestly, eagerly waiting to shower His love and mercy on them. The second half of Isaiah 30 (verses 19 through 33) show how powerfully God promises to fight for them when they turn away from Egypt and put Him first, which is to say when they stop worshiping Egypt. How had Israel had made Egypt into an idol?

What is an idol? An idol is an object (such as a statue) that represents pagan gods and is worshipped. A person who is deeply loved can also be an idol. So can things, like money, power, and prestige. Carefully consider how Webster’s 1828 online dictionary defines an idol:

“1) An image, form or representation, usually of a man or other animal, consecrated as an object of worship; a pagan deity. Idols are usually statues or images, carved out of wood or stone, or formed of metals, particularly silver or gold.

(2) An image.

(3) A person loved and honored to adoration.

(4) Anything on which we set our affections; that to which we indulge an excessive and sinful attachment.”

Free Dictionary Cliparts, Download Free Dictionary Cliparts png images ...Webster’s then quotes “Little children, keep yourselves from idols (1 John 5:1)” and further states “An idol is anything which usurps the place of God in the hearts of his rational creatures.” (Can you see why this is an excellent dictionary to use for your Bible study?)

I have never been tempted to worship a physical object and, since salvation, I always tried to put God first in my affections. However, for a season I depended on worldly methods as the primary way to handle depression. That was idol worship. Look again at that last comment from Noah Webster:

An idol is anything which usurps the place of God in the hearts of His rational creatures.”

In Isaiah 30, the Israelites chose to let Egypt usurp the rightful place of God as their defender and provider. They thus engaged in idol worship

What is idol worship?  The first thing we think of when we say worship is the love we show for God when we, as a group or individually, sing songs to God, praise and thank Him and speak of His goodness. We also worship God by how we live our life, by what we do with our our time, energy and affections.

Merriam-Websters dictionary defines worship as “to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion.” I can be devoted to many things at the same time—God, family, work, horses, good health, friends—but if any of those other things come before God, I make them an idol. If I love anything or anyone more than God or if I count on anything or anyone to meet my needs more than I count on God, I make that person or thing an idol.

The following two paragraphs from www.gotquestions.org make it clear.

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“An idol can be anything we place ahead of God in our lives, anything that takes God’s place in our hearts, such as possessions, careers, relationships, hobbies, sports, entertainment, goals, greed, addictions to  alcohol/drugs/gambling/pornography, etc. Some of the things we idolize are clearly sinful. But many . . . can be very good, such as relationships or careers. Yet Scripture tells us that, whatever we do, we are to “do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31) and that we are to serve God only (Deuteronomy 6:13Luke 16:13). “

The article explains that when we pursue such idols, they usurp God’s rightful place in our lives and leave little time to spend with God.  Further, to cope with the hardships of life we sometimes turn to addictive behaviors like drugs or alcohol. And

“. . . even something like excessive reading or television viewing, may be used as a means of temporarily “escaping” a difficult situation or the rigors of daily life.  

As the article goes on to point out, when we place trust in such behaviors, we are making them idols. Then we become, like idols, spiritually useless.  Psalm 115 says that those who make idols become like them – blind, deaf, dumb, useless.

“We need to place our trust in the Lord “who will keep [us] from all harm” (Psalm 121:7) and who has promised to supply all of our needs when we trust in Him. We also need to remember the words of Paul, who teaches us not to be anxious about anything, but rather to pray about everything so the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, can guard our hearts and our minds (Philippians 4:6–7).”

Isaiah 30:1-2. Let’s look at the warning God gives to Israel about depending on Egypt for help rather than on Him when the Assyrian army attacked Israel.

What was the Ancient Egyptian Army Like? - A guide for KS2Woe to the rebellious children, says the Lord, who take counsel and carry out a plan, but not Mine, and who make a league and pour out a drink offering, but not of My Spirit, thus adding sin to sin; Who set out to go down into Egypt, and have not asked Me—to flee to the stronghold of Pharaoh and to strengthen themselves in his strength and to trust in the shadow of Egypt!

God says that trouble (woe) is coming to His children who have rebelled against Him by seeking advice and making agreements contrary to what He has told them to do.

Isaiah 30:3-7. God has told them countless times–and demonstrated to them countless times—that He is and will always be their Helper, Defender and Protector. He has taught and demonstrated to them that He is sovereign over all that is. Yet, they refused to trust Him and instead have sent to Egypt for help. It is a vile thing to God when we have “unworthy and unwarranted” suspicions regarding His faithfulness (Jeremiah 15:19).  Vile means disgustingly depraved or filthy. If God says even our best efforts to be righteous are like “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6), how much more filthy and disgusting is it when we do not even try to do what is right and trust Him to be Who He says He is?

Therefore shall the strength and protection of Pharaoh turn to your shame, and the refuge in the shadow of Egypt be to your humiliation and confusion. For though [Pharaoh’s] officials are at Zoan and his ambassadors arrive at Hanes [in Egypt], Yet will all be ashamed because of a people [the Egyptians] who cannot profit them, who are not a help or benefit, but a shame and disgrace.

Depending on idols leads to great harm. God next says that because of their actions in verses 1 and 2, the thing they chose to depend on (the strength and protection of the world) will cause them shame, humiliation and confusion.  They will become aware of how wrong and foolish their behavior was, they will be embarrassed, and they will be confused. The reason is that, even though Egypt and Pharoah (the world) seem to be powerful and everyone pays homage to them, they are of no help and only cause loss of respect and honor.

A mournful, inspired prediction (a burden to be lifted up) concerning the beasts of the South (the Negeb): Oh, the heavy burden, the load of treasures going to Egypt! Through a land of trouble and anguish, in which are lioness and lion, viper and fiery flying serpent, they carry their riches upon the shoulders of young donkeys, and their treasures upon the humps of camels, to a people that will not and cannot profit them.

For Egypt’s help is worthless and toward no purpose. Therefore I have called her Rahab Who Sits Still.

The Camel Caravans Of Rthe Ancient - The metropolitan museum of art is ...Wicked King Ahaz, as other kings had done, took the treasures of the Temple and the palace, loaded them on camels and donkeys and sent them across the desert to buy help from Egypt. The Enduring Word commentary observes that Isaiah felt sorry for the beasts of burden because they were carrying such heavy loads of treasures across the fiercely hot and dangerous dessert and it was all for nothing – because the help of Egypt was worthless and would do no good.

 We weaken ourselves when we depend on idols. The Matthew Henry Commentary notes that those who “trust in God, in His power, providence and promise are never made ashamed of their hope” but those that put their confidence. . . “ in anything or anyone else will be disappointed sooner or later. Our “strength is to sit still, in a humble dependence upon God and His goodness and a quiet submission to His will. . . “ rather than seeking help elsewhere. If we stay calm in troubling times, quietly waiting for God’s help and using only “lawful regular methods”, this will strengthen our soul and “engage divine strength for us.”

Matthew Henry says “We weaken ourselves, and provoke God to withdraw from us, when we make flesh our arm, for then our hearts depart from the Lord.” When we tire of seeking help elsewhere, we will find rest when we finally say to our Creator “Here I am. Do with me as You please.”

Isaiah 30:8-9

Now, go, write it before them on a tablet and inscribe it in a book, that it may be as a witness for the time to come forevermore.

For this is a rebellious people, faithless and lying sons, children who will not hear the law and instruction of the Lord;

God commanded that His prophecy be written down. When the events He predicted happened, it would be evidence of His omniscience and omnipotence, for people living in those times and for you and me today.

God said that Israel was rebellious because they would not hear His instructions, which means to take His instructions to heart and follow them. God had demonstrated His omnipotence and faithfulness and instructed Israel to depend on and trust in Him. Yet they ignored Him and decided to depend on Egypt, rather than Him, for help against their enemies. This was rebellion against God.

What might that look like today? It is impossible to remind ourselves too often of the fact that the enemy is extremely crafty and deceitful and a liar. Consider the following instances.

  • A long-time Christian tells a new believer, an impoverished single mom of three, that she does not have to tithe, that God will understand her situation.
  • An intense young man finds that running excessive distances calms him down. Soon, to get in more miles, he abandons his daily time with God, church attendance and Christian friends.
  • A believer, finding that visiting family diminishes the negative feelings of depression, spends every spare moment with family, and begins neglecting spiritual things.

Prayer: Dear Father, open my eyes to see any snares the enemy may have laid in my path. Deal with any pride or defensiveness that blinds me to my faults. Forgive me for the times I trust in things and people more than in You. Grant me the courage to wait on You, with complete trust and confidence, in the hard times of life. Help me remember what You said in Hebrews 13:5:

” 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!] (AMPC)

Help me be comforted and say with boldness “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 13:6, AMPC) Amen!




God earnestly waits – Part One

FreeBibleimages :: Prodigal Son :: A parable of Jesus about two sons ...18 And therefore the Lord [earnestly] waits [expecting, looking, and longing] to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship]!  (Isaiah 30:18, AMPC)

Confidence in the world or in God? Many believers would say they put their trust in God more than anything else. In this series of blog posts, we will explore what it is like when Satan deceives us into idol worship. My experience was that, like Israel, for a while I depended on worldly methods first rather than God to solve a big threat from the enemy of our souls – depression. The story has a very happy ending because God did heal me and made me stronger than ever. He gave the “double recompense” mentioned in Isaiah 61:7.

Free Images : silhouette, light, night, sunlight, tunnel, love, shadow ...The message of Isaiah 30 – light for the afflicted and oppressed. In a nutshell, the message of Isaiah 30 is that anything less than dependence on God first eventually leads to sorrow, shame, humiliation and confusion. However, while we struggle with the misery caused by our depending on things of the world, God is lovingly, longingly waiting to shower mercy and loving kindness on us (v. 18). When we return to Him, then God helps us utterly destroy our enemies. And He gives us abundant life while He restores us.

In Isaiah 30, Israel depended on Egypt rather than God to save them from their bitterest enemy but God promised to save them when they returned to Him. Let’s get the background for this story.

Historical Background of the Book of Isaiah: The name Isaiah means “Jehovah is salvation” or “Jehovah saves.” While Isaiah prophesied in Judah, the Southern Kingdom, Assyrians had already destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel. As Halley’s Bible commentary explains, prophets are “the spiritual conscience of the nation. They are appointed to remind kings, priests, and the people of their obligations to God and people.” (p. 363).

Isaiah Chapter 30: Isaiah 30 is one of the “Sermons of woes upon the unbelievers in Israel.” (Open Bible, New American Standard, p. 626).  Chapter 30 is labelled “Confidence in Egypt versus Confidence in God.” Chapter 30 occurred in the reign of the very wicked king Ahaz. When surrounded by his enemies, instead of turning to God for help, this horribly evil King Ahaz took the treasures out of God’s Temple and sent them to Egypt, to purchase help.

iron chariots - Gods War Plan | Best Bible Battles & War StrategyThe Assyrian threat. For Isaiah’s entire life, the Assyrians threatened Judah’s existence. Isaiah witnessed the destruction the Assyrians inflicted on God’s people, including captivity and exile of the entire Northern Kingdom, part of Judah (the Southern Kingdom) and the near capture of Jerusalem. Throughout his life, during the reign of four kings, Isaiah warned over and over that Jerusalem and Judah would be destroyed because of their wickedness. But he also offered comfort with these promises from God: 1) the Babylonian exiles would be allowed to return to Jerusalem; 2) a righteous, suffering servant would bring salvation; 3) God would set up a new, righteous kingdom.” (1984 NIV Bible (Zondervan, page 593.)

One way to apply this Bible story is to see ourselves as Israel and the Assyrians as an illustration of our worst enemy. The prophet Isaiah’s warnings to Israel on how to deal with their enemy apply to us as well.

Read Isaiah 30.  Take time now to read Isaiah 30 and see what God shows you. After that, read the following overview and summary. The summary states the principles I see demonstrated in the story as they applied to my struggle with depression.

Overview:  We rebel against God when we rely on anything more than Him. Eventually, the very thing we lean on starts destroying us. God will answer us when we return to Him, He will destroy our enemies, and He will give us joy as we fight together to destroy our enemies.


  • Verses 1-9: Anything less than dependence on God for strength and protection eventually leads to great sorrow, shame, humiliation, and confusion.
  • Verses 10-12: Dependence on the world and worldly ways–rather than God–for strength and protection, shows we are rebelling against God.
  • Verses 13-17: This rebellion removes part of the protection around our heart and, eventually, “at some distant day” the enemy attacks through this open door with sudden, total destruction. That happens because we refused God’s warnings to return to depending on Him, quieting ourselves and letting our trust in God give us strength. And because we said no to God and went our own way, thinking we could outsmart, or outrun our enemies, our enemies will totally terrorize us
  • The Parable of the Prodigal Son | Nate's NookVerse 18 (The verse we will examine in detail): God earnestly waits, longing to be gracious, to have mercy and compassion on us. God is faithful and just, so therefore we are blessed if we wait and hope for Him, with expectation. He will be gracious and faithful to our waiting and trusting in Him.
  • Verse 19-22. God hears His people when they cry out to Him, and He answers by letting us constantly hear His clear instruction, even though He hid Himself and gave us adversity and affliction when we turned from Him. After that, we will totally turn away from putting anything before God because we will understand how disgusting that is to God.
  • Verse 23-26: While God is healing the wound He inflicted because of our sin, He will abundantly bless our work and our life. He will give refreshing water everywhere and give us seven times the usual light.
  • Verse 27-28: God will burn with anger, with indescribable consuming fire and power, when He comes to fight for us.
  • Verse 29-33. We will have the highest possible joy while God annihilates our bitterest enemies, completing the destruction He has prepared for them.

Application questions:

  1. Do I depend on anything or anyone more than I depend on God?
  2. When I have a need or a hurt, where do I turn first?
  3. Is there anything in my life more important to me than God?

The Prodigal Son - Sharing HorizonsPrayer:

Oh, Father, help me as I search my heart with the lamp of Your Word! I confess that my heart is desperately wicked and I cannot understand it. I depend on You to cleanse my heart, and I submit to You.  Amen.


Bounteous blessings

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Phone on Car Seat

“. . . and in His law he meditates. . . ” As I slowed for a red light, the rich resonant voice of David Cochran Heath said,

“Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. (psalm 1:1-2, NKJ)”

“Hmmm,” I pondered. “Psalm 1 is saying to mediate on the law of the Lord. Hmmm.”

I recently began listening to the Word while driving by using an audio copy of the Bible on my phone. I had been meditating, deliberately, purposefully, for many months now and this latest tool was a big help. I had been meditating on Scriptures addressing areas where I needed healing and maturity. “Meditating on the law” sounded different. Was I truly meditating on the law? Or was I missing something?  Following are some things I discovered as I sought to understand. First, I reminded myself of what God means by meditation.

What is meditation? To meditate is “to dwell on anything in thought; to contemplate; to study; to turn or revolve any subject in the mind.” (www.webstersdictionary1828.com). Synonyms include to ponder, muse, brood, concentrate, be lost in thought, think deeply and carefully upon–and my favorite—to chew the cud! Cows chew their cud up to eight hours a day, chewing each mouthful 40 to 60 times so the grass will be digested properly and absorbed by the body. The cow eats the grass and then, later chews it. We read the Word, and then, later, we think about it until it is digested.

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Cow Chewing CudMeditation on the Word changes us from the inside out. To meditate means to ponder and think about a verse or passage so long that it becomes part of you. Grass, properly chewed, becomes part of a cow. The Word, properly meditated upon or thoroughly chewed and swallowed, becomes part of who we are. The Word changes our innermost being. It renews our mind (Romans 12:1-2).

Meditation is NOT yoga. When we meditate, we do not repeat a mantra or try to make our mind blank. We are thinking about and talking with the God Who made heaven and earth, God Most High, and His Word to us. We are purposefully thinking about Him and what His words to us mean.

What is “God’s law”?  Simply stated, the law is a set of rules that regulate behavior. It also means, in the Biblical context “the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God” (Psalm 1:2a, AMPC). The entire Bible is “God’s law”, because it explains, either by direct statement or by illustrative story, how His laws work and how His believing children are to live this life.

How do you meditate on God’s law? One particularly productive lens to use in meditating is pondering cause and effect.  A thief may ponder the effect of getting caught and thereby control his impulse to steal. With our desperately wicked human heart (Jeremiah 17:9), we all need laws to help us avoid wrong behavior. We also need His laws to show us what is good – how to please God, to grow, and to deal rightly with others.  It is not enough, however, to hear the law once or twice. We must thoroughly understand how God’s laws work. That includes understanding cause and effect.

Image result for Public Domain Picture Of Scales Of JusticePondering causes and effects — God’s laws. David is credited with writing many of the psalms. As he (and other psalmists) reflected on the history of God’s people, the consequences of their obediences and disobediences to God’s laws, David pondered cause and effect and thus received instruction in God’s laws.

David also found comfort in recalling God’s dealings with him personally. How often does David start a psalm by pouring out his troubles to God but then reminding himself of what God has done in the past and reassuring himself that God will again deliver him?  As we hear David release his emotions to God, then hear his thoughts about God’s awesome nature, His sovereignty, justice, tender mercies and loving kindness, David’s thoughts become our own. David’s words give voice to emotions we otherwise could not express.

The psalms are of great practical value. The psalms are, after all, one of the five wisdom books in the Bible. Psalms are routinely included in daily Bible reading plans.  Besides being a God-given aid to release emotions, they succinctly state God’s laws and instructions whereas the historical books and prophets use stories to illustrate God’s laws. Most of the New Testament also succinctly states God’s laws and instructions for living.

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Gym Learning to meditate, phrase by phrase. As I reflect on past experience, I see how God used my need for regular exercise at the gym to teach me how to meditate. When I first began diligently meditating, I kept copies of verses and passages on the kitchen counter and carried them with me on errands. However, it was at the gym that I really learned how to think deeply about the verses I read. That was where I began meditating-with-the-intent-to-memorize.

This happened accidentally because that span of 30 minutes using weights was devoted to meditating and the only way I could do that was to look at a phrase on my paper, try to hold it in my mind while doing a set of reps, then go back to look at my paper. I was essentially memorizing one phrase at a time. After I repeated a phrase two or three times to myself, while I did the rest of the reps on that particular machine, I would think about what the words meant.

So what did it look like? I would put the paper next to my water bottle on the floor in the corner, then read one phrase and repeat it over and over for two or three minutes while I used one weight machine. Then I’d walk over, read that phrase again or the next phrase, do another weight machine, reread the phrase and so on. By the end of a workout, I would have maybe two or three new verses almost memorized. And, in the process I would have deeply pondered the meaning of words in those verses as well as the links between cause and effect.

So, I began meditating by just trying to think about God’s Word but, by Divine happenstance my efforts at meditation turned into efforts to memorize the Word I was meditating upon. When I was doing things at home or out and about, it was harder to make myself spend that much time repeating one phrase enough times to have the same effect. 

Image result for Public Domain Picture of prescription bottleIn his priceless book “Gods Medicine Bottle,” Derek Prince relates how learning to diligently study and meditate on God’s Word healed his body when doctors could not.  Joyce Meyer, Kenneth Copeland and many other Bible teachers stress the importance of studying and speaking the Word and having it always in our minds and on our lips.  Joyce Meyer in particular teaches how God’s Word can heal your soul.

Personal victory. Joyce Meyer says “Personal victory over personal problems come from personal time with God.”

It was not until I spent personal time with God, studying and meditating upon what His Word said about my personal problems, that I gained personal victory over depression and anxiety.  And He keeps showing me, week by week, new areas of truth upon which I need to meditate.

Image result for Public Domain Picture of cornucopiaBounteous blessings! The blessings of meditation are bounteous. Here are just a few. Meditation:

  • Heals our bodies (Proverbs 4:20-23, Psalm 103:2-3, Proverbs 3:5-8, Exodus 15:26)
  • Renews our minds (Romans 12:1-2, Ephesians 4:22-24, Colossians 2:2-3)
  • Helps us reverently fear God (Deuteronomy 6:2)
  • Helps us remember what He has done (Deuteronomy 6:12)
  • Leads us toward right standing with God (Deuteronomy 6:25)
  • Helps us teach God’s ways to our children (Deuteronomy 6:7 and 11:18-21)
  • Leads to long life (Deuteronomy 11:21)
  • Makes our way prosperous, enables us to deal wisely and have good success (Joshua 1:8)
  • Gives us a constant connection to the Living Water and makes us fruitful even in hard times (Psalm 1)
  • Makes us wise and gives us insight (Psalm 119:97), and
  • Keeps us in complete and constant peace. (Isaiah 26:3 and Philippians 4:4-8)

For a more detailed look into meditation, see the little booklet “Diligent Meditation” on the “Books and More” page of this website.

Image result for Public Domain Picture of wooded pathGod will guide your efforts. God always responds to the heart sincerely reaching out to Him. And we can reach out with complete confidence when we are asking for something that we know He wants for us, such as guidance in studying and understanding His Word.  “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. (I John 5:14-15, NIV).

Your life is no doubt different from mine. You have different demands on your time and resources. But, regardless, I know beyond all doubt that when we ask God for help in understanding His Word better, He leads us clearly.  If you don’t already, won’t you start including meditation in your daily habits?

And though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide Himself any more, but your eyes will constantly behold your Teacher.

And your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way; walk in it, when you turn to the right hand and when you turn to the left.  (Isiah 30:20-21, AMPC)

Image result for Public Domain Picture of wooded path fork



God changes the world for you

What’s your perspective today? When I returned home this morning, I glanced down the length of the sidewalk, turned splotchy gray from rain. Quarter-inch puddles stood here and there in the uneven spots, evidence of the passage of years or else of the impatience of the long-ago sidewalk crew. A patch of black dirt stood next to a single mud puddle that reflected the darkened sky. Not such a cheery scene. However, in the center of the six-by-six-foot patch of black dirt grew a sizeable tangle of some sort of shamrock green foliage. I always take a few moments to draw near this little patch of exuberant green to contemplate dew or rain drops winking like diamonds on the surface of the leaves.

How closely are you looking? As I stepped closer, I avoided three snails, each one using its miraculously-constructed “muscular foot” (I had to look that up!) to push against the sidewalk and propel itself along. When my grandsons were younger, I had, perforce, developed the habit of glancing at the ground for little treasures, like roly-poly bugs, lady bugs, bottlecaps, coins and anything else that attracted their curiosity and their magpie-like vision.

Looking closely at God’s handiwork is a good habit. It is obvious that those whom Holy Spirit used to write the Bible were keen observers of nature. I am grateful to God that He provides glimpses of nature even if we must live and work in an urban environment. How often have I heard the chirp of sparrows in bushes as I walked into my office building? How many times have I thrilled to see the sunset from the lofty elevation of an interstate as I drove home on winter evenings? And, in recent years, I have found deep beauty and peace in city parks. But you have to pay attention. You have to look closely to see things like diamond-speckled leaves, right outside your front door.

Beauty, wonder and peace. As I anticipate the next few weeks, which will include a repeat surgery and recovery, I am determined to focus on the countless good things God has provided, good things like knowledge and skill to physicians, bodies that generally work well (which is itself an unaccountable miracle when you think of how many moving parts we humans have!), food, shelter, family and friends, His Word, His powerful and sweet, sweet presence, a good church, and the way that carefully considering nature brings peace.

I wrote the following poem more than thirty years ago. I’ve lived in several homes since then. In each one, God always included a place where I could sit and drink in the sunset and sunrise, even though the view was often partially obstructed. Nonetheless, I sensed His special presence at sunrise and sunset and at any point in the day where I slowed down, observed His handiwork closely and gave Him thanks.

Won’t you take time, today, to slow down and stand in awe at the beauty with which God has lovingly surrounded you? Won’t you take time to be with God? He is waiting for you – eagerly, watchfully, joyfully.

“God changes the world for you”

Early Morning Sunrise Public-DomainGod changes the world, twice, for you each day.
He dims the light
softens the sound
cools the air
and flames heaven with patterned colors,
all to delight your soul, calm your spirit, and give you rest.

As a tender parent, He blankets earth, and you, with soothing peace.

Stop. Still your hands. Let your Maker tell you of His love for you.

Pause in your rush to do. Listen.
He says “Be with Me” as He said to Adam and Eve in Eden.
Honor His love for you.
Pay attention.

Image result for Public Domain Picture Of garden at duskLet Him show you how He turns green branches into inky black filigree.
Let Him delight your ear with birdsong and thrumming silence.
Let Him cool your skin with gentle whispers of wind that slide through the sheltering trees.

Breathe deeply. Take in the fragrances floating in cooler air.

Let Him give your body rest.
Simply stop. Open your heart and your eyes to your Maker.
And thank Him.

You will feel His presence.
You will know His love.

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.