Saturday, September 29, 2012

Precious, Warm...Nostalgia

Seeing our Autumn in full "bloom" has made me pull things out to enjoy for the season.

The Year at Maple Hill Farm, by Alice and Martin Provensen and also Our Animal Friends,
bring back to my mind such precious, warm nostalgia.

We use to gather many books from the library each week with many repeats as each of us had our favorites.  We spent many an hour reading and rereading by our selves and to each other.  These two books were such favorites.  The children would comb over the pictures and relish each time they would be  read to them---eventually they would read the books themselves.  

The simple pictures, the relating of what is normal on the farm and in nature, and the silly humor will capture your attention.

Those days are so long ago.  The library we borrowed from has probably sold those worn books at a book sale decades ago.  But we have our own copies now and I have given so many of them as gifts through these many years.

I can still hear the soft giggles of our little people as we enjoyed these books together.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The LORD is Our Dwelling Place

Psalm 90

Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.

2 Before the mountains were born
Or You gave birth to the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

3 You turn man back into dust
And say, “Return, O children of men.”

4 For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it passes by,
Or as a watch in the night.

5 You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep;
In the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew.

6 In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew;
Toward evening it fades and withers away.

7 For we have been consumed by Your anger
And by Your wrath we have been dismayed.

8 You have placed our iniquities before You,
Our secret sins in the light of Your presence.

9 For all our days have declined in Your fury;
We have finished our years like a sigh.

10 As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years,
Or if due to strength, eighty years,
Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow;
For soon it is gone and we fly away.

11 Who understands the power of Your anger
And Your fury, according to the fear that is due You?

12 So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

13 Do return, O Lord; how long will it be?
And be sorry for Your servants.

14 O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness,
That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

15 Make us glad according to the days You have afflicted us,
And the years we have seen evil.

16 Let Your work appear to Your servants
And Your majesty to their children.

17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us;
And confirm for us the work of our hands;
Yes, confirm the work of our hands.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Seek Forgiveness

Confession seeks pardon from God,

not amnesty. 

Pardon accepts guilt; 

amnesty, derived from the same Greek word as amnesia, "forgets" the alleged offense without imputing guilt.

Confession admits wrong and seeks forgiveness; 

amnesty denies wrong and claims innocence.

Devotional author, Max Lucado, Remembering our Foundations; Turn, page 78.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Suffering produces perseverance

It is Well with My Soul

By Horatio Gates Spafford, 1828-1888
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea-billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
“It is well, it is well with my soul.”
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though satan should buffet, tho’ trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin --- O, the bliss of this glorious thought,
My sin --- not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And, Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend,
“Even so” --- it is well with my soul.

Horation G. Spafford, a forty-three-year-old Chicago businessman, suffered financial disaster in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.   He and his wife were still grieving over the death of their son shortly before the fire, and he realized they needed to get away for a vacation.   Knowing that their friend Dwight L. Moody was going to be preaching in evangelistic campaigns in England that fall, Spafford decided to take the entire family to England.   His wife and four daughters went ahead on the SS Ville du Havre, and he planned to follow in a few days.

But on the Atlantic Ocean the ship was struck by an iron sailing vessel and sank within twelve minutes.   Two hundred and twenty-six lives were lost --- including the Spafford’s four daughters.   When the survivors were brought to shore at Cardiff, Wales, Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband, “Saved alone.”

Spafford booked passage on the next ship.   As they were crossing the Atlantic, the captain pointed out the place where he thought the Ville du Havre had gone down.   That night, Spafford penned the words “When sorrows like sea billows roll … it is well, it is well with my soul.”

We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings,
because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
perseverance, character;
and character, hope.
Romans 5:2-4
from:  The One Year Book of Hymns, February 4

Monday, September 24, 2012

Part Two of: Renewed Day by Day

Here I conclude with Dr. Ray Pritchard's, The Blessing No One Wants:

The Ministry of Divine Comfort
... the Bible has a great deal to say about the ministry of divine comfort. It tells us a number of important truths we need to remember.

1. God Himself draws near to those who hurt.

Psalm 34:18 says, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." 

Here is a promise of God's special presence in the midst of our pain.  Through the Holy Spirit, the Lord Himself draws near to us in times of great suffering.   We sense His presence in a way that goes beyond the natural.   We "hear" His voice though there is no sound in the room.   Many Christians can testify to this special sense of God's nearness felt during a time of great suffering.

2. God uses suffering to draw us to Himself.

In this same Psalm David declared, "I sought the Lord, and He answered me;  He delivered me from all my fears" (v.4)  

Suffering turns us to the Lord as nothing else can.   Perhaps you've heard it said this way,  "You never know if Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.  And when Jesus is all you have, then and only then will you discover that Jesus really is all you need."

Recently we received a letter from a prisoner named Monica who said,

"I finished reading "An Anchor for the Soul," and I  am about to begin reading it again ... I truly believe I have been blessed by the situation I am currently in.   Because of it I know I have gained eternal life with Jesus.  If I had not been arrested, I doubt I would have ever come to know Jesus as I do now."

Prison is not "good" in the sense that we usually use the term, but going to prison can be good if it causes us to turn to the Lord.  So it is with all the troubles, difficulties, and afflictions of life.  We pray more. We pray more fervently during a time of crisis because we know that if God doesn't help us, we're sunk.  Sometimes I think that God allows certain things to happen to His children in order to get our attention focused completely on Him.

3. We grow faster in hard times than we do in good times.

Romans 5:2-4 describes the process God uses to develop godly character in our lives.  In fact, Paul says that "we also rejoice in our sufferings" (v.3).  

That may appear to be a misprint, but it isn't.  Paul isn't suggesting that we should become masochists who rejoice in the hard times as if we enjoyed the pain.  That wouldn't even be a Christian idea.  He doesn't say, "We rejoice because of our sufferings" but rather, "We rejoice in our sufferings.

Even in the most difficult moments, God's people can rejoice because He is at work doing something important in them.  The next few verses explain the process.  Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, character produces hope, and "hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit"  (v.5). 

What starts with suffering ends with the love of God.  This is a wonderful progression, but you cannot get to the love of God without starting in the place of suffering.

More than one person has said to me,

"I wouldn't trade my pain for the things God has shown me." 

If that doesn't make sense to you, it is only because you haven't been there yet.

4.  Our sufferings qualify us to minister to others.

2 Corinthians 1:4 tells us that God "comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." 

The Greek word translated "comfort" in this verse is the same word Jesus used in Matthew 5:4.  God uses our sufferings to comfort us so that when we are better, we can minister to others in His name.

No one understands cancer like someone who has been through it.  No one understands divorce like a person who's been through it.  No one understands the pain of a miscarriage like a mother who has lost a child that way.  No one knows the pain of losing a job like someone who has been told, "You're fired."

Many Christians are superbly qualified to minister to others, and they don't even know it.  They are the ones who have been deeply hurt by the troubles of life, and through it all they have discovered that God is faithful.  Those folks have an important message to share.  They can say with conviction,

"God will take care of you.  I know, because He took care of me."

They have earned their degree in the School of Suffering, and now they are qualified to minister to others  who are newly enrolled.


The Majesty of God's Sovereignty

What do these things teach us about the character of God?

1.  Because God is sovereign and we are not, most of our questions will never be answered in this life.

Some people can't live with that truth, so they devise human answers to explain suffering and death.  Those answers almost never work, and sometimes they hurt more than they help.  When I am called to the hospital, I never try to answer these hard questions.   They are beyond me.  Better to say less and be silent before the Lord than to try to explain the mysterious ways of God.

2.  Because God is good, we know that He has our best interests at heart.

That sentence gets to the heart of Romans 8:28.  The older I get, the more I am convinced that the goodness of God is the central issue of life.  If you believe God is good,  you can endure things that would break most people.  You can live with unanswered questions so long as you believe in the goodness of God.  But once you doubt His goodness, you must become either a secret atheist or an angry Christian.  And really, there's not much difference in those two categories, if you think about it.

In stating it that way, it is important to remember that God's goodness doesn't depend on our happiness.  When our oldest son was in high school, he and a few friends survived a late-night wreck that totally destroyed our new van.  The man at the local body shop estimated that when the van hit the tree, it was going at least fifty miles per hour.  The force of the impact drove then engine eighteen inches off its block and into the passenger compartment.  You could see tufts of hair in the windshield left from the force of the impact.  In the providence of God, the van hit the tree in the center of the front bumper. 

"If it had hit the tree six inches to the left or right, you would have been going to the funeral home, not to the hospital,"  the man told us.

I cannot explain why things happened the way they did.  At one point that night, there were four people in four different hospitals.  But no one died, and we eventually replaced our van.  Several months later, during a Thanksgiving service, my wife rose to give a testimony.  She said something like this:

"Many of you know that our oldest son and his friends barely survived a terrible wreck.  Some people have told us that God was good to spare Joshua and the others who were with him.  It's true that God was good to us, but God would have been good even if Joshua had died in the wreck."

I confess that I was unnerved when I heard those words.  Like many people, I am accustomed to connecting God's goodness with my happiness.  But it doesn't work that way. 

I listened to Eddie Fox describe what happens in the Methodist churches of Nigeria.  He said that whenever the church gathers, the speaker will say, "Hallelujah,"  and everyone responds, "Amen."  When the speaker says,"God is good,"  with one voice they reply, "All the time."  Our Nigerian brothers and sisters are right. 

God is good all the time.

God's character is not on trial in your sufferings.  You may think it is, but it isn't.  Job tried to put God on trial, but the Lord ended up putting Job on trial.

God is good, and His mercy endures forever.  That is true regardless of our moment-by-moment experience.

3.  Because God is wise, nothing is ever wasted on our experience.

Romans 8:29 tells us that God has predestined us to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.  I often think of a sculpture sitting down before a hunk of marble.  On the outside, the marble looks ugly and unformed.  But the sculpture sees something beautiful inside that hunk.  So with hammer and chisel, he begins to chip away.  For many weeks he shapes, cuts, and polishes, until little by little an image emerges from the stone.  On and on he works, never stopping until the sculpture is complete.  What was once ugly is now a thing of beauty.

Even so, the Lord takes the hammer and chisel of human suffering to shape us into the image of Jesus Christ.  In those moments when we feel that God has simply hammered us into the ground, we discover later that nothing was done in anger, nothing in haste, but everything was according to His plan so that, in the end, we might be beautiful, like Jesus Himself.

The most beautiful Christians I know are not the young, the rich, the educated, the successful, or the influential.  Those persons may be happy, but their lives are shallow because the sculpture has not yet picked up the hammer and the chisel. 

No, the most beautiful Christians I know are those who have been through suffering and come through it with their faith in God intact.  They may not laugh as much as others and their faces may be lined with care, but the beauty of Christ is in their eyes and their voices testify to God's amazing grace.

If you feel the heavy weight of God hammering down on you, rest assured that nothing is being wasted.  Everything has a purpose.  In the end, God will be glorified, and you will be more beautiful than you ever dreamed possible.

4.  Because God is love, He will not leave you alone in your pain.

This is the promise of the second Beatitude, 

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted"  (Matthew 5:4).

God will come to you.  You may not feel it or believe it, but it is true, for He has promised it.  If it were necessary, I could produce a long line of witnesses who could testify to God's comfort in the midst of great suffering.

But it is not necessary to do that.  I know God will come to you, because He came for you two thousand years ago.  God proved His love when He sent His Son Jesus into this sin-cursed world.  He didn't have to do it.  He chose to do it.  He did what we would never do.  He voluntarily sacrificed His only Son.  He not only sent Him to earth, He stood by and watched Jesus die a terrible, bloody death.

After Calvary, God has nothing left to prove to anyone.  How can you doubt His love after you look at the bleeding form of Jesus hanging on the cross?

See from His head, His hands, and His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e'er such love or sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Isaac Watts, ("When I Survey the Wonderful Cross")

I realize that this may not answer every question, but it does answer the most important question:

Does God care for me in the midst of my suffering?

The answer is yes, God cares for you, and if you doubt His love, fix your gaze on the Cross and be comforted.

We understand these strange words a bit better when we see them refracted through the bloody haze of Good Friday.  See Him on the cross, "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3). 

He knows what you are going through.  He will personally comfort you, and in the end, you will be blessed.

HT Dr. Ray Pritchard, Founder and President of Keep Believing Ministries

Renewed Day by Day

The Blessing No One Wants

This is one of the strangest statements in the Bible.   It is a paradox and a mystery.

"Blessed are those who mourn," said Jesus.  

 Happy are the sad!   What do these strange words mean?   Who are the mourners, why are they sad, and how are they comforted?

The Mystery of Human Suffering

Most of us know about Jim Elliot, the missionary martyr who died in Ecuador in January 1956 when he and four other missionaries were killed by the Auca Indians (now called the Waoranis).   The story made headlines around the world and inspired books, films, and generations of Christian missionaries.   His wife, Elizabeth, told the story in several books, including the best seller Through Gates of Splendor.   More than a half-century later, we still repeat Jim Elliot's famous words, 

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

Jim Elliot's story gripped the evangelical world, making him arguably the most famous missionary of the 20th century.  What most people don't know is that he had an older brother who went to Peru as a missionary in 1949.    During his 62 years on the field, Bert Elliot established 150 churches.   He died in Trujillo, Peru on February 17, 2012 at the age of 87.  When Randy Alcorn interviewed him in 2006, Bert described his younger brother this way:

Jim and I both served Christ, but differently.   He was a great meteor, streaking through the sky.

Bert Elliot was home on furlough when Jim and the other missionaries were killed.   He and his wife wrestled with whether or not they should return to the field:

"Why doesn't God take care of us?"  he remembered asking.   "If we give our lives to serve Him, how come there's not the protection?"  The answer that came to him them became the hallmark of his own life.   "It's in dying that we're born to eternal life," he said.  "It's not maintaining our lives, but it's giving our lives."  So a few months later, Bert Elliot and his wife, Colleen returned to the jungles of Peru. 

Randy Alcorn described Bert Elliot as a "faint star that rose night after night, faithfully crossing the same path in the sky, to God's glory."

Jim Elliot was a great meteor, streaking through the sky.
Bert Elliot was a faint star, crossing the same path night after night.

Which one did the greater work?
Why did one die young and the other live 87 years?

No matter how long we ponder the matter, these questions cannot easily be answered because

"the secret things belong to the Lord our God." Deuteronomy 29:29

God has His reasons but He's not obligated to explain them to us.  The "secret things" describe the deep purposes of God that we simply are not capable of understanding.   What sort of explanation would suffice to explain to us why one man lives while another man dies?

God has His reasons but He doesn't explain them to us.

Strange Pain

I still remember the last time I saw Peter Blakemore.  It happened at a pastor's prayer meeting in connection with the National Day of Prayer.  I came a few minutes late and found the men gathered in a a circle ready to pray.   As I walked in, I recognized most of the pastors immediately, except for one man in a wheelchair who was facing away from me.  He had two teenage boys by his side.

When I sat down, I realized the man in the wheelchair was Peter Blakemore, pastor of Harrison Street Bible Church in Oak Park, Illinois.   Peter was 42 years old, married, with seven children.  He had lived in Oak Park all his life, the only exception being the years he spent in college and graduate school.   His father pastored Harrison Street Bible Church for over thirty years, and then Peter took up the ministry in his father's stead.

It all started when Peter noticed a strange pain that wouldn't go away.  He sought medical help, but the doctors couldn't pinpoint the source of trouble.   Eventually they found a tumor, performed a biopsy, and sent it off for analysis.  It took a long time to get a correct answer, but in due course, a lab on the West Coast reported that Peter had contracted a rare form of cancer.  He began chemo therapy in a desperate attempt to eradicate it.

When I saw Peter at the prayer meeting, he was bent over a bit, but smiling as he sat in the wheelchair.   As we prayed, I heard a strange noise coming from my left.  It was Peter's eldest son, rubbing his Dad's back because the pain was so intense.

A Face Radiant with God's Glory

I think Peter was the last one to pray.   He said something like this:  "Lord, when I discovered I had cancer, the only thing I asked was that You might use this to honor and glorify Your name.  I thank You, Lord, that You have abundantly answered my prayer.   If I make it, I will stand up and give You praise.   But if I don't, I'll give You honor and glory till the very end."

As soon as the prayer meeting broke up, I sat down beside Peter and asked him how he was doing.  The news was not good.  A tumor had developed in his right lung, growing to the point that it had shattered several of his ribs.   That is why he was doubled over in pain.

Peter told me that the doctors did not know for sure what kind of cancer this new tumor was.   They told him that it could be one of two kinds.   "If it is one kind," he said, "I have two or three weeks to live.  If it's the other kind, then I have one or two months."

He said it calmly, without fear or panic.  In fact, he was smiling as he said it.  As I looked at him, his face was radiant with the glory of God.   Like Moses of old, my friend Peter had seen the Lord, and now nothing else mattered.

You Can't Trace God's Footsteps

He told me that he preached the previous Sunday for the first time in seven weeks.   They had to prop him up in his wheelchair, but he somehow found the strength to preach for an hour from Romans 11:33, 

"His paths are beyond tracing out."

That text means that you can't trace God's footsteps.   You don't know where He's come from, and you can't tell where He is going.  All you know is that He is with you in the midst of your suffering.

The room was empty.  All the other pastors were gone.  Peter's last words to  me were these:

"All my life I've been speaking about God's grace and trying to get people to listen.   Now they listen when I speak, because I've discovered that through it all, God's grace is sufficient."  With that, his sons began to wheel him from the room.  Though bent over with pain, he smiled and waved at me as he left.

The words of Paul came to my mind, 

"Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day."  2 Corinthians 4:16

And still the questions remains.  Why did my friend Peter die so young when he had so much to offer the world?

It is a mystery hidden in the mind and heart of God.  All human explanations must ultimately fail.   Is there an answer to the question, WHY?  Yes, there is, but the answer is hidden from our view.

To all our questions, God replies,

"I AM WHO I AM"  Exodus 3:14.

The answer is a Person, not an explanation.  Someone may reply, "But that's not enough.   I want a real answer." 

To which I reply, "If God Himself is not enough, then no answer would ever satisfy you.

The Ministry of Divine Comfort

But to leave the matter there would not be fair, for the Bible has a great deal to say about the ministry of divine comfort.   It tells us a number of important truths we need to remember.


This is where we will pause with this post.  I will continue with:

God Himself draws near to those who hurt.
God uses suffering to draw us to Himself.
Our sufferings qualify us to minister to others.
And many more gems ---

Meanwhile look for Part Two of The Blesssing No One Wants coming soon.

HT Rightly Concerned, Dr. Ray Pritchard

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Night Fear

By David Jeremiah, August 22, Journey
The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime., and in the night His song shall be with me.
Psalm 42:8
Research shows that newborn babies have no fear of the dark.   After all, they’ve just spent nine months in the darkness of the womb.   We put nightlights in the nursery so we can see them, not so they’ll be unafraid.   But a strange thing happens as we start growing.   Many children develop night fears, imagining creatures outside their windows or monsters under their beds.   As we age those nighttime fears become more sophisticated.   Many of us struggle every night with letting go of our worries so we can sleep.

Listen to what the psalmist wrote:

The day is Yours, the night also is Yours …
He who keeps (you) shall neither slumber nor sleep …
I will both lie down in peace, and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety …
You will light my lamp; The LORD my God will enlighten my darkness …
I meditate on You in the night watches …
He gives His beloved sleep …
(Psalm 74:16; 121:4; 4:8; 18:28; 63:6; 127:2)
                                                       As Spurgeon said: 
“They slumber sweetly whom fatih rocks to sleep. No pillow so soft as a promise.”

Friday, September 21, 2012

Have a Wonderful Future

By Jim Kraus

There is a fortune-teller a few miles from our house. Above the front door of the small house is a neon sign that promises customers will “know the future.”   Another sign in the window blinks other services like tarot readings and ESP advise.   The owner of the business drives a ten-year old car with rusted fenders, so I am not certain how far into the future she can actually see.

Recently I was at a stop light and saw a middle-aged woman leaving the fortune-teller’s house.   She did not look happy.   If anything, she seemed markedly sad.

Most people think that knowing the future would give them peace, that with no surprises or hidden shocks, a person could manage life better and prepare for the difficulties.   But fortune-tellers don’t dispense the truth; they offer counterfeit futures.   If the seer in my neighborhood could truly see ahead, she would be rich and living on a beach in Hawaii.   Instead, she is selling stories of sad fortune to people seeking solace and truth.

So where does one find peace and solace --- especially in light of a future that may appear ominous and scary?   There is only one path to peace and comfort, and that is through Jesus Christ.

Real followers of Christ simply cannot lose.   Even if they experience persecution and loss as Christians, they can “Be very glad!  For a great reward awaits you in heaven” (Matthew 5:12).   “God…is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into His glorious presence without a single fault” (Jude 1:24).   If we follow Jesus, we will be well directed, well connected, and well protected.   That is true peace.

In our world there is a constant barrage of hatred, strife, corruption, and fear.   In sharp contrast, believers in Jesus can lead very different lives.   Although they sometimes suffer heartaches like everyone else, they have Jesus to help them carry those heavy burdens.   Jesus says to those who trust Him, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

If you haven’t encountered Jesus, look for Him now.   If you haven’t trusted Jesus, do so now.

I can promise that your future will be characterized by God’s peace, which you can enjoy forever. God loves you so much that He gave His only Son, so that if you believe in Him (trust Him), you will not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).

Have a Good Day and a nice forever.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mothers are Important

My son, 
do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments,
for length of days and years of life
and peace they will add to you.
Let not steadfast love and faithfulness 
forsake you; bind them 
around your neck;
write them on the tablet 
of your heart.
So you will find favor 
and good success 
in the sight of God and man. 
(Proverbs 3:1-4)

“O dear mother, you have a very sacred trust reposed in you by God! He hath in effect said to you, 'Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you thy wages.'

"You are called to equip the future man of God, that he may be thoroughly furnished unto every good work. Those who think that a women detained at home by her little family is doing nothing think the reverse of what is true.

“Scarcely can the godly mother quit her home for a place of worship, but dream not that she is lost to the work of the church. Far from it, she is doing the best possible service for her Lord. 

the godly training 
of your offspring 
is your first 
and most pressing duty.”

Charles Spurgeon

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What if your healing comes through tears

May this day bring us closer to our great God no matter what 

agonies we are enduring.

Psalm 10:17-18Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble;
You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear
18 To vindicate the orphan and the oppressed,
So that man who is of the earth will no longer cause terror.

From:  Paul Tautges
Posted: 18 Sep 2012 03:27 PM PDT   
This past Sunday evening, in our church service, we received one of the most God-glorifying, gospel-exalting testimonies we have heard in a long time. As one of our members gave God glory, for His ongoing work of grace in the life of a young woman abused for much of her earthly life, most of us were moved to tears of joy.
After he finished his testimony, he asked a group of young ladies to come forward and sing “Blessings” by Laura Story. If you are not familiar with this song then you need to be. Whatever your trial is—and we all have at least one—this song will minister deeply to your heart. Below are the lyrics. Listen to it here.

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not our home

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The LORD is near

Sister handmaidens,

I have been around the block and lived a full life.  I have known and overcome pain, and I have lived in great agonies and known the LORD is holding me to Himself as I continue to do next things because of Him --- for Him.  

Perhaps some of you could say these very same things, and then others of you have only begun to experience life in all of its joys.   Each of us can praise and glorify His name in our joys and in our agonies.

Philippians 4:4-9
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 

The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Life is full of emotional ups and downs.  Some of these are real, up close and personal, while others are emotionally in our minds and souls.  The LORD wants us to capture our thoughts  and to think of noble and godly things.  When we take our eyes off of Him we can spiral with great speed into our own hopelessness.

2 Corinthians 10:5
We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ

I am not a Super Christian --- who is?  I am just His handmaiden with His strength and with my weaknesses dragging along side.  I can crash and burn like everyone else.  

Sometimes the trials of life continue, we keep our eyes on the LORD, but deep within us the pain and sorrows grow, only to burst out when we are weak and down, or even surprise us when we are strong and up

Hebrews 12:1-2

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, 
let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, 
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, 
who for the joy set before Him endured the cross,
despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

How do the sorrows continue to mount when we choose to have our eyes on Him?  I can only think it is because we are fearfully and wonderfully made.  Humans are complicated beings.  If you have ever been ill, and yet not one doctor can figure out your simple symptoms, you will agree that our physical bodies are wonderfully, complicatedly made.   

Maybe even more fearfully and wonderfully made is our mind, our soul, our spirit.  Our mind can surely do much more than we can imagine.  Capturing our thoughts is more complicated then we can imagine also.  If we only consider how women are designed by God, we could marvel for hours.  

As women, we can think and do many things at the very same time.  Managing a home, perhaps a business, various ages of children, grandchildren, honoring and loving our husband, paying attention to extended family and friends --- then add in all the planning we do in the moment, and also for later in the day, and then far beyond the present --- plus deal with our stresses, sorrows - and these things for everyone else we care about!

It is no wonder we can quietly, silently, without realizing it, begin to harbor hopelessness, fears, anguish, bitterness, etc --- only to be surprised when they show their ugly heads --- just when we thought we were conquering the "capture your thoughts" thing!

Come with me, sisters!  When you fail, crash and burn, or when you realize the bitterness has grown and you thought you were over it, whatever steals your strength, remember that your story isn't over.  You have the LORD in dwelling you!  Run to Him!  Run to His word!  Ask a sister in the LORD whom you trust to pray for you.  

God is full of mercies!  Tomorrow is another day.  We can come to Him anew anytime.

See you there --- I'll be at His feet.