daily life, Meditations

Risky Faith

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. . . And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (ESV)

This assurance, this conviction must be based on who God is. What I think I need, what I want, is based on my perspective, which is notoriously self-focused. God alone is sovereign and omniscient — He who created the universe knows what is for my best.

Why the title of “risky faith?” What will you do if the answer is “no?” What if life looks dramatically different from what you expected? What if current circumstances do not make sense? What if “why?” does not receive a clear answer?

Biblical faith draws near to God, and believes His character is unchanging. The God who “rewarded” you with a special blessing or good health or the extra check in the mail is the same God now, when the check doesn’t come, or the doctor visit is not “good news” or the job is lost or the relationship is fractured. Biblical faith is the assurance that God is for me. Biblical faith is the conviction that though I cannot see it, God is always at work for my good and His glory.

God is the same today, as He was when He told Abram long ago, “I am your shield, and your great reward” (Genesis 15)

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Meditations

Fact or Feelings, God’s Word in my Heart

Psalm 119:81-88 ESV –

81 [Kaph] My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word.
82 My eyes long for your promise; I ask, “When will you comfort me?”
83 For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten your statutes.
84 How long must your servant endure? When will you judge those who persecute me?
85 The insolent have dug pitfalls for me; they do not live according to your law.
86 All your commandments are sure; they persecute me with falsehood; help me!
87 They have almost made an end of me on earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts.
88 In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.

Some days are easier than others. There. I spoke it out loud. Some days I feel lonely. useless. misunderstood. misused. dismissed. tired. pain-ridden. foggy-brained. . . (feel free to add your own modifiers)

When I am having one of those “what’s the point?” days (and, yes, there have been many more than one, over the years) I am even more grateful than usual for God’s Word planted (stored) in my heart. God’s truth must have more credibility than my feelings. That even sounds strange to say — “of course, God’s Word is true!” but, be honest — what has more impact on your mood, your identity, your behavior: your feelings, or God’s Word?

Feelings come and go. Seriously. Some days I feel useful. content. hopeful. significant . . .(feel free to add your own modifier). Is God’s Word more true on those days? No.  “Forever, O Lord, Your Word is firmly fixed in the heavens . . ” (Psalm 119:89). There is no substitute for memorizing/meditating on God’s Word. Otherwise, I am prone to believe my feelings. And my feelings change. But . . .

Psalm 102:25-27 ESV –
25 Of old you [God] laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.

Amen.

By the way, if Psalm 119 intrigues you, Sweeter Than Chocolate: an Inductive Study of Psalm 119, by Pam Gillaspie is an excellent “digging deeper” into this psalm. There will be an online, live discussion of this 8 week study, beginning June 13. Beloved Truth Psalm 119 study. You can purchase the workbook here Amazon or here Precept Ministries

If your schedule doesn’t allow for a weekly commitment, Pam Gillaspie is also offering her study on her website in a flexible format. You can sign up here https://pamgillaspie.com/

Having God’s Word in my heart is the only way that I can survive the “wineskin in the smoke” days  . . .

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Meditations

God’s Awesome Sovereignty

I love that the Holy Spirit can give me a fresh insight on a familiar passage of Scripture. God’s Word will never grow old. . .

Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

refuge – machaceh e.g. deliverance from; strength – ‘oz e.g. deliverance through; trouble – tsarah e.g. distress, affliction, adversity

2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

It’s so easy to think, during times of adversity and confusion, that God is as out of control as the circumstances.

That thinking is wrong thinking.

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the
earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.

Nor is God wringing his hands as a helpless bystander. He has a purpose. He has a plan. He is powerful enough to carry out his plan. No kingdom, no natural disaster, no force of evil, no disease, no financial difficulty, no relational disaster can stop Him.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

11 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. 

Be still. Stop fighting me. Cease striving. That does not mean throwing up my hands and crying, “what’s the use?!”

“Be still” means to consciously decide to trust in God’s sovereignty. Stop arguing with Him about everything. Choose to believe that God only allows that which will serve to bring Him glory and refine my faith. Accepting God’s sovereign rule in my life does lead to peace and even joy. I am never alone. I am always loved and cherished by my Sovereign, Almighty Heavenly Father.

I am still absorbing the reality of “systemic severe microvascular ischemia” and “endothelial dysfunction” — no cure, difficult to treat. It’s not a new diagnosis. The endothelial dysfunction was found in my heart in 2003. What we know is that over the past decade it has worsened in my heart and spread to my other organs. Diet, supplements, medication serve the purpose of slowing down the progression. The fatigue, the headaches, the sensory overload, are simply a consequence of the worsening progression.

I am not throwing up my hands. I am not giving in to despair. God is with me. God is for me. He has a task for me to do, and that task will be accomplished through my weakness.

The apostle Paul wrote most of his letters to the churches from prison.

The Philippian jailer and his family were converted through the ministry of prisoners Paul and Silas.

Fanny Crosby gave us so many wonderful hymns and songs of praise despite her blindness.

Corrie and Betsy ten Boom were a tremendous witness and encouragement to others while suffering in a Nazi concentration camp.

That is only the tip of the iceberg. I don’t know if it is an American thing or just a normal human thing to demand escape from suffering.

God does not promise escape. He promises presence. He promises sovereignty.

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Meditations

Thankful for Strong Shoes

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. Colossians 1:9-12 ESV

I read this quote from Corrie Ten Boom this morning–

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and I thought how my perspective is changing. Until recently, I would have wanted the quote to read, “if somehow you get on a stony path, God will pick you up and carry you so you don’t hurt your feet.”

However, the reality is that suffering is a part of life. On the stony paths of trials and suffering my faith is refined and deepened (1 Peter 1:6,7); maturity and endurance are developed (James 1:2-4); I learn to rely on God rather than myself (2 Corinthians 1:9).

When the apostle Paul prays for the Colossian believers (while in a Roman prison) he prays

that they would be strengthened (dunamoo) with all power (dunamis) according to God’s glorious might (kratos). God’s ruling control or dominion (his kratos) is limitless; from that limitless supply He gives strength and ability (dunamis)

For what purpose?

for all endurance (hupomone — endurance for external circumstances)  and patience (makrothumia — forbearance with difficult people) with joy.

God does not mean for me to “grin and bear it” or to pretend that pain is not pain. Rather than leaving me to fend for myself, God enters in to my pain, with me, giving me His strength and power, giving me the “strong shoes” so I can walk on that stony path. . .

Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord,

Fully pleasing to him,

Bearing fruit in every good work,

Increasing in the knowledge of God.

Are you on a stony path right now? Let God fit you with strong shoes. I really love how mine fit. . .

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Meditations, Prayer

weekly prayer 04.23.18

Psa 32:1-11 ESV –
1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 
2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. 
3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. 
5 I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. 
6 Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him. 
7 You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. 
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. 
9 Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you. 
10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD. 
11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
 
Almighty God, my Father,
You are a God of mercy, as well as a holy God of justice. O Lord, one does not diminish the other. You cannot overlook or excuse sin — it is a gross offense to Your holiness. We do not deserve to be in relationship with You. We deserve hell, and Your wrath.
Yet, You have established repentance. You provided Your Son to satisfy sin’s penalty. You provide all the means for us to have a relationship with the Holy Sovereign of Creation. What a horrid affront to Your goodness and grace when we run from You, when we do not confess our sin; when we try to hide and cover it up!
Lord, I run to You for forgiveness and mercy. I do not try to hide from You. You are my hiding place, my refuge from the shame and the guilt. You took it all for me, so I can walk in Your steadfast love and acceptance.
God, I don’t want to be stubborn and prideful. I want to know Your ways, I want to walk in Your paths. Your law, Your precepts, are not punishment — they are boundaries for my good. 
Father, I can be glad in You. I trust in Your steadfast love. I am so grateful for Your forgiveness and grace. I thank You for Your law, Your instruction, Your leading and guiding me. You love me. I love You.
amen
Please remember to pray for our brothers and sisters in Egypt
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Meditations

Even in our Darkest Hours

. . .my soul clings to the dust; give me life according to Your Word. When I told of my ways You answered me; teach me Your statutes. Make me understand the way of Your precepts, and I will meditate on Your wondrous works. My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to Your Word. Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me Your law. I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set Your rules before me. I cling to Your testimonies, O Lord; let me not be put to shame. I will run in the way of Your commandments when You enlarge my heart . . .Psalm 119:25-32

Listen and read the words to this song. There is no despair too deep that God is not there. There is no trial too difficult that God is not there. What an amazing God, who not only is the Sovereign of all creation, but He also “heals the broken hearted, and binds their wounds . . .” Psalm 147:3

In my Darkest Hour – Rescue Acapella

 

What good can come of this?
My desperation runs so deep
Oh I can not even speak
I find myself doubting You (doubting You)
I’m blinded by my pain
Fear grips my heart with no relief (no relief), and all
I know is grief
I did not ask for this, so I cry out to God
Are You really there, or do You even care?
Have You turned Your back on me?

Chorus 1:
In my darkest hour, You revealed Your power and heard
my desperate cry
You shone Your love around, Now blessings they abound
When I was weak You showed Your awesome power
In my darkest hour, You revealed Your power

Is there no other way?
(Father) Father I know this cross is Mine
It is not My will but Thine
I feel so all alone, so I stretch out My hands
This I know, this is the price that must be paid
Oh the life that must be laid
Will they believe in Me?
So I cry out to You, I know You’re still there
And I know You care
Soon they will be free

Repeat Chorus 1

Bridge:
Though He died upon that tree, He lives like You and me
Death could not keep Him in the ground
Through the tears and through the pain, God brings new
life
Like the sun shines through the rain, the rain

For in my darkest hour, You revealed Your power and
heard my desperate cry (my cry)
And reached to dry my eye

Chorus 2:
In our darkest hour, You revealed Your power
And heard our desperate cry, and reached to dry our eye
You shone your love around, now blessings they abound
When I was weak (when we were weak) You showed Your
awesome power
In my darkest hour

When I’m weak You show Your awesome power
In my darkest hour, You revealed Your power

 

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Meditations

Choosing Gratitude Day 29 — A Link in the Chain

While surfing the internet for quotes on gratitude and thankfulness, I came across pithy sayings that may “tweet well” but were empty of  meaning. I encountered the “be happy with what you have” and “a smile is a blessing” sayings (and my cynical side kept hearing a drawl-sounding “bless your pea-pickin’ heart”)

I came across this quote from Helen Roseveare, who spent her adult life as a missionary doctor in the Congo. She was taken captive during the Civil War there and you will not read any of her books without being profoundly impacted. I cried through much of “Enough” with tears of repentance and surrender to God . . .

“When would I learn the secret of happy, contented teamwork? Why did I always want to be the last link? If I would love the Lord with all my mind, I had to give Him all that I thought I knew or could do, and be willing for Him to place me anywhere within the team to do any job He chose for me. Only then would I experience true peace of mind.”
Helen Roseveare, Living Sacrifice: Willing to Be Whittled as an Arrow

What does that have to do with gratitude?

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1

. . .and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2:2

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children. . .Deuteronomy 6:5-7

I am grateful for my teachers. Not just the classroom kind. I am grateful for the people who committed themselves to translating the Bible into my language. Even in the 21st century, there are so many people who cannot read the most elementary Bible story in their own language.

I am grateful for the woman who first taught me to read. She instilled in me a love of books, and a desire to learn. I am grateful for libraries and for the people who donate money and books so reading and learning is not just a privilege of the wealthy.

I am grateful for the Sunday School teacher who encouraged me to memorize Scripture. Not just for candy or for points or for charms on my Awana vest. She taught me that by memorizing God’s Word I would be storing up God’s wisdom for me. It would help me to pray. It would help me never to feel alone. I can remember times on an operating table, or during some very unpleasant medical procedure, when fear or worry would begin to swell, that verses I had memorized would come to mind to drown out the fears. Even though “reading a Bible verse” was not possible, the Holy Spirit comforted me with His Words that had been stored in my mind.

I am grateful for the opportunity to pass on what I have learned. The mistakes and the victories. I do not teach from a place of “having arrived.” I am on this journey of life, and I have to fight for joy. Gratitude does not come naturally to me. I must practice and determine to choose joy. I pray that by my children and others seeing me fight, that choosing joy might be just a little easier for them.

As Helen Roseveare said, why do I think I must be the last link? That kind of pride will kill gratitude. I want to be grateful that God would use me anywhere at all! Even feeling “useless or invisible” is pride, because I am telling God that I don’t think He is using me rightly. No! I am not smarter than the Creator of the universe. Contentment will come when I embrace the assignment given to me, and work faithfully and with a thankful heart no matter where I am in the “links of the chain.”

Lord, I want to love You with all my heart and soul and mind and strength. I want people to see that in me. I want to teach that to others. Thank You for saving me, and for giving me a mind to think and to learn and to teach. Amen

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