Saturday, June 30, 2018

In Him, No Need

Hebrews 13:5 NKJV 

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."




What a precious promise from the Lord. Imagine if we really believed it, how much happier we would be.

How often lately I have caught myself coveting, wishing I had a little more money, for instance. It makes me sick to even say it. Compared with the rest of the world, I have so much, how could I ever want something someone else has in order to be happy? The fact is that if I got that thing, like a fancier house for instance, I still wouldn't be happy. If that made people happy, then why are the rich and famous committing suicide? The real fact is, this whole business of coveting is a big lie from the enemy, telling us that God is not enough.

Not only coveting material things, I find it easy to covet when I hear about other people's vacationing all over the world, as if seeing the world would take away the dissatisfaction in my soul. I remember hearing once from my old pastor, "Wherever YOU go, you have to take YOU with you." So even if I jet-setted over all the place, I would still have to contend with the person I see in the mirror every morning.

It has taken me a long time to realize this is just plain sin, and to be able to overcome it by realizing how very rich I am to be one of God's children, to be a part of His church and His very own body, even. It is not about what I see all around me, but being part of an invisible Kingdom. And that is enough to cause satisfaction that the world and all its tantalizing temptations cannot ever take away.

The whole world seems to scream at us to get more, want more, promising us happiness but never, ever delivering.  "Grab the gusto," the world hollers. But still we yearn for more.

Maybe that is part of the reason why people are giving up. They realize it is all just a big lie but they don't know what the answer is.

Just one verse from Psalm 23 is enough to quell this anxious stirring to have what others have, to do what others do.
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." Psalm 23:1
The most commonly quoted verse from the Bible tells us the answer if we just took the time in our busy lives to stop and think about it. We could spend the rest of our lives contemplating what that single verse promises to the child of God. We don't have to covet even one thing if we have the Lord. Not wanting means I will always have what I need, not necessarily what I want, but what I need.

 The plain and simple fact is that we live for the promises of the next life, not this life. So we really can agree with Paul when he told Timothy in I Timothy:
Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.          I Tim. 6:6-8

"The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I hope in Him!" Lamentations 3:8



Friday, June 8, 2018

There is an Answer...

Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God, believe also in Me. John 14:1   


And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.  Matt. 28:20





Oh what a time to be alive. I see a headline in the Tribune Review online today. The rate of suicide in Pennsylvania has gone up by 34%.http://triblive.com/state/pennsylvania/13739159-74/suicides-increase-by-more-than-third-over-17-year-period-in-pennsylvania  Also today, I open to another a major news story online, a famous chef has followed a famous fashion designer in ending his life. These two in just the last week. Suicide seemed to be their only answer...but was it really the answer? Where did they go, once their heart beat for that final time? Did they find relief, or just another nightmare, one without an end?

Many people are running out of other options to the hopelessness and despair that they feel. Where is their relief? It is not in a bottle, it is not in a pill, it is not in food, it is not in money, it is not fulfilling the greatest dream of one's life. Those people tried those things, and they did not work. Still, deep down inside the emptiness remained and options ran out.

 Most of my generation would agree that the Beatles Let it Be is a powerful song. Seems perfect for this age we live in, They sang that there would be an answer.  But as much sway as that song held over me when it came on the radio, I found myself changing the words slightly as I sang along. Instead, I sang to myself, "JESUS is the answer..."

Maybe that sounds too simplistic to most who read this? But I would be in the same boat with the fashion designer without my Rock, my Anchor, my answer in a world that is running out of answers, that actually ran out of them ages ago.

Jesus is the answer. Just try Him, really. Take Him at His word. He will not make all of your problems disappear. In fact, He promised our lives would be full of problems on this side of eternity.

"What's the use in trusting Him if I will still have problems?" I can hear someone thinking that even as I write the words. No, the hard things do not stop when we believe in Christ. In many ways, our human life gets harder because Jesus is not welcome on this planet. His enemy has temporary control. Temporary, remember that.

But the biggest problem of your life will be solved by your believing in Jesus. Now, instead of drifting in a world of uncertainty, you can be assured of an eternal home with the One who created you. You will not face separation from Him at the end of your time here. Your problems can be the very things God uses to bring you closer and closer in trusting Him, in advancing your faith. Give Him a chance, I beg you.

In a devotional I love, None but the Hungry Heart, by Miles Stanford, for the day of June 5, I read these words:

"Not a hair of the child of God can fall without God's permission. Satan is but the unintentional instrument to accomplish God's will; he can do no more than he is allowed to do..."

If this were not true, how could any of us keep on trusting God in the light of everything we see around us? Last night I was lured into feeling sorry for myself for certain hardships I face in my life. Then it hit me, God allowed them. He knew beforehand the tragedies I would face. All I need do is to believe that He really does have this, He will bring good. And all the stirred up anger and frustration just melted away.

I now think of another song. This time, it is a Christian hymn, Only Trust Him by John Stockton. How simple the chorus is. So simple that the proud could pass it right by. But if any child of His will just believe, there is peace. Peace this world cannot ever give.

Only trust Him, only trust Him, only trust Him now. He will save you, He will save you, He will save you now.

I can let my heart be troubled by all I see and hear around me. Or I can trust the One who is unseen, and have peace in the storm. Jesus told us to do it, so we really can choose to not let our hearts be troubled. I give Him my problems, and He gives me peace, what an exchange. You can have it too.

Then Peter began to speak: Now I really understand that God does not show favoritism, but in every nation the person who fears Him and does righteousness (ie, believe in Him, my comment) is acceptable to Him. He sent the message to the Israelites, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ-- He is Lord of all.  Acts 10: 34-37 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Sense in a Senseless World

If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself.

John 7:17








Many years ago, I came across the promise from John 7:17 and it was a balm for my troubled soul. For I wrestled with the fact that God could be loving yet there was so much evil in the world. I thought God was random and arbitrary, but the verse of John 7:17, proved otherwise. We need only be willing and God will get the gospel to us. It is as easy as saying "yes" to God, I do believe that Jesus is exactly who He claimed to be.

I have an old booklet containing the message of salvation in John's gospel, written by a James Ely in 1924. Mr. Ely has a note for John 7:17 which reads: "Since Jesus was what He claimed to be-- God incarnate-- then if you will fulfill the requirements set forth in 7:17, God will absolutely convince
you that the doctrine of Jesus Christ is true and He will do it in His own good time and way."

When I first read the words, "willing to do His will," I wondered what God was really asking. Was he asking something that really was too hard to do, something nebulous and ill defined? But I kept reading in John's gospel and found the answer to that question too in John 6: 28-29.
"Then they said unto Him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent."  John 6:28-29
The answer is simple, believe on Him whom He (God) has sent. Anyone can do that, it is so simple a child can do it.

This is the absolute beauty of our salvation. It is a free gift to us, because Jesus had to do the hard part. He had to take in His body the sins of all the world and provide Himself as the perfect sacrifice for them all.

It has taken me years and years, but I am just starting to realize that if it seems He asks us to do something and it seems hard, like saying no to yourself in order to be His disciple, it really is because He really does know what is best for us.

He doesn't ask us to deny ourselves for the gift of salvation, only that we believe in the name of the Son of God. But if we want to know Him more and more, then we must say no to ourselves. Through hard circumstances, He allows us to try out our own way in contrast to His, realize it is utter vanity, and then trust Him with each day and find out how wonderful He is, how loving, patient and kind He is with His wayward and rebellious children.

Both the beauty of a simple flower or the millions of galaxies attest to the fact that we are not here by some random accident. I heard a famous atheist give the explanation for denying God.His reason for being one  it was based on a total misunderstanding, that because there was evil there could not be a good God. 

We are here by some random chance then? 

But I would say to him, yes there is evil. It is only intensifying more and more with each passing day. But that does not mean that there is not a God who doesn't care. 

All we need do is to gaze on the bloody cross upon which He died to realize that God loves us and wants the best for every one of His creatures.

In a senseless world, the simple truth of the gospel is the only thing that makes sense.




Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Missing Dad

[As for] man, his days [are] like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, And its place remembers it no more.
But the mercy of the LORD [is] from everlasting to everlasting On those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children's children...Ps. 103: 15-17

I am a bit melancholy today. Today would have been my Dad's 86th birthday, but he only made it to 84 1/2. 


I miss talking with Dad. He could talk to you about anything, especially deep things about God. My Dad could do just about anything, but he never bragged about how smart he was.


He was humble about his accomplishments and thought about those around him who didn't have the things he did. He volunteered with the food kitchen in town, served his church and prayed for the lost.


I don't know why I miss him so much today, but I do. Things are not the same since he left us, and sometimes I wonder what he would think of things if he were still here.


My Mom did not seem to remember that today was his birthday and I did not remind her, it just would have made her cry. He was her life and she flounders without him.


I know that I will see Dad again, and I can still hear his voice in my mind. I miss him so much with all of his thoughtful care for his girls, but I know he wouldn't want to be back here if offered the chance.


Before Dad died, others I knew passed away and I was saddened to see them leave us, but with Dad gone I have a heartfelt wish to be reunited with him one day, hopefully soon.


Dad had a windmill on his property that said "Praise Jesus." I am sure he agrees that was the perfect message to put on it.  One day soon I will be joining Dad in bowing before Christ's throne doing exactly that.


Happy birthday to my dear father in heaven. Can't wait to see you again, Dad.



==================================================

On this the day of my Dad's birth, I know nothing would make him happier if anyone who happens to read this without knowing Christ would put their simple faith in Him to save them from their sins. Our God is so gracious, all He asks is that we believe in Him, that He took the punishment we deserve when He died for us on the cross. You can have brand new life and look forward to heaven, just as I do today.


"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. John 5: 24

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Useful to Him


"For there is hope for a tree, If it is cut down, that it will sprout again, And that its tender shoots will not cease.

Though its root may grow old in the earth, And its stump may die in the ground,

Yet at the scent of water it will bud And bring forth branches like a plant.               Job 14: 7-9



I took this picture last year, around this same time, when I was staying with my mother. I was fascinated to see the pussy willow trees bearing glorious golden buds, right on cue for the spring season, though it was still cold. Yet these little friends did not live to see spring. As we prepared to get the house ready to sell, a month or two later the lovely weeping willow trees were cut down, much to my chagrin, in order to give a better view of the fields below and the rolling hills behind them.

I sometimes think about things that more logical minds might think are silly. Like those beautiful buds, even though they soon were cut down, were a wondrous creation by God that gave beauty and glorified Him. God knew the exact moment they would be cut down, and yet He let them bud. He wanted me to see them, and to praise Him for His glory displayed in His creation. It was almost as if I were a little child, beholding them for the first time that day. I never saw up close how pretty the buds were until I was a 55 year old woman. How many more wonders will await us in the New Jerusalem?

Now Mom is in an assisted living facility, and despite our efforts to encourage her, she finds her life is short on joy and long on despair most days.  My Dad has been gone about 1 1/2 years now, and she misses him so much. It is hard for her to find a reason to still be on this earth, even though we try to remind her that God's time for Him to take her home is perfect, and we just have to trust Him in spite of what we feel. I want her to believe that God has a use for her if only she will trust Him.

I 've been reading the book: Amma: The Life and Words of Amy Carmichael by Elizabeth Skoglund. I wrote about Amy and her mission in Dohnavur, India in my own book, Sure Mercies: Hope for the Suffering. What a beautiful testimony of faith she bore.

 Amy rescued hundreds of orphans from the temples in India, but in her old age, she had a severe back injury which left her an invalid for the last twenty years of her life. In much pain, Amy used this time to write many books and lovely poems. She did not give in to despair.

 In this book I found a quote about old age and how we can still flourish in it. Most beautifully, Amy wrote:

Dear Companions in the Patience, do some of you find it hard to be contented to grow old?... Perhaps your thoughts have said, O to feel well for just five minutes! Listen, and perhaps you will hear something like this: My child, you will feel well for all Eternity. Your thoughts have said, Nothing else would matter if only I could be of use to someone. Listen and you may hear the gentle rebuke, My child, look out of the window. I find a use for the smallest leaf and bud on the tree, even the smallest drop of dew on the grass; can I not find a use for even you*?..."
 Amma: The Life and Words of Amy Carmichael by Elizabeth R. Skoglund, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1994, page 46. Quoted from Carmichael's book, Though the Mountains Shake.
emphasis mine

With the knowledge that every bud, every drop of rain is useful, so I want to make my life useful to Him. I fail constantly, but it is my prayer each day to present myself to Him a living sacrifice (Romans 12:2).

In this season of Easter, I think of how He was a dying sacrifice for the whole world. For any and all who will believe in Him He offers a purpose for each moment, even though at times it seems the sun hides its face and the gloom is palpable.

All the promises of His first advent came true, so we can trust that His promises to us about His return will prove true as well. One day soon, there will be the sound of a trumpet, and all those who have died in Christ will rise...

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed--in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory."
         "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is                 your victory?"
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
                    I Corinthians 15: 51-57

So hang on, dear friends. In the midst of the swirl of confusion, plant your hope in the One who cannot lie. Like the beautiful buds on the trees and flowers, we can have the wonderful privilege of revealing a tiny bit of His glory. One day soon, we will hear the trumpet sound.




Thursday, March 15, 2018

Waking from Winter Slumber

"Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.
"He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him.
"So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth." Hos. 6:1-3


It is a yearly ritual, when the warmth starts to tease us for a day or two but winter won't quite let go. I know they will be there...

 I search for my tiny purple snow crocuses that faithfully return somewhere between winter and spring, even if only for a couple days. And there they were, waiting for me.

The day I took this picture, I was awaiting a big operation, one I was not relishing. Just a day or two later I was under the knife for more than four hours as the surgeon fixed my hiatal hernia and took biopsies. You see, my breath had become shorter and shorter as of late. Even walking up a flight of steps was so tiring. I've been winded for years, but not like this. I had this funny bump on my forearm for over a year and finally went to the dermatologist. I thought it might have been precancerous or something but it came back as sarcoidosis.

Sarcoidosis, how come I had never heard of it before?

Thought to be somewhat like an autoimmune condition, these non-caseating granulomas start to grow in your body. The main place they attack is the lungs. When I saw a CT scan filled with nodules, we wanted to find out for sure if this was sarcoidosis and not cancer. 

Now we have a diagnosis, and will try to treat it with the help of my pulmonologist. Hopefully  medicines will calm the little buggers from growing anymore or invading any more organs.Yet having this diagnosis has not made me cry, not really. After many years of choosing worry over fear, this time I choose not to fear, but to live in the reality of God's unfailing love.

 A couple of posts ago, I wrote about numbering my days. At the time, things hadn't flared up yet with my lungs. Now I see why I wrote it. The Lord really does want me to number them, because just like those little friends that popped up from the cold, barren ground to say hello to me for a day or two, human life is just as fragile.
"Man, who is born of woman, Is short-lived and full of turmoil. Like a flower he comes forth and withers. He also flees like a shadow and does not remain." Job 14: 1-2
The first couple of days home it was all I could do just to lie in the recliner most of the day. But it hit me, if my days are numbered (and they are) then what really matters?

There are too many choices and distractions, but One book and One Person whom my soul longs for. Every time I long for Him, He is there, faithful, while the things of the world seem so empty.

Outside my window today I hear the winds roaring, just like the March lion. My tiny friends are slumped over in the grass. 

I face a tough road ahead to try and get this mystery disease under control. But I thank Him for it all, because He is using it to awaken me from my own winter slumber,  to know what it means to abide in His love, to have that perfect love cast out all my fear.

His love has allowed this, I will not ask why. Just as those tiny crocus displays His glory, it is my prayer that I will too. 

If there is something big looming in your life right now, I know He will show Himself utterly faithful as you simply trust Him. He loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.




Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Life-Saving Cross

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God... For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified... I Cor.1:18-22a


We all are given the gift of twenty four hours each day. How we spend them is up to us. In this busy world of multi-tasking  it "seems" foolish to spend a chunk of time each morning reading the Bible and in prayer. But in this time, I find daily rest for a soul that is so weary of this world.

My sister is weary of this world too. Just yesterday I encouraged her to come away from it all and to take the time just to be with Him, just to hear His voice and find refreshment for her struggling soul.

The Word is the only protection we have against the lies ready to bombard us from the media and in the world in general. It is also our protection against our own efforts to be "good" in and of ourselves.

And why can't we be good? The Bible tells us flat out that there is none good in Romans 3:12. 

As I have been faithfully taught, we can't "do" right if we don't "think" right first. But how can we think right if we are fallen beings, prone to the constant lure of sin and doubt?

The answer is taking His cross.

The blessing of this is that I apply this cross to my own right to form my own opinions and judgments of others, or even to how I think God thinks of me. I may think I "know" how a person is (as if I'm omniscient) or how a certain situation may unfold. But the Word tells me, not to be saved, but if I want to be a disciple, that I must lose my own life and take up my cross daily to follow Him.

That sounds hard, right? Taking up a cross daily? But really it is grace, because it saves us from ourselves.

If we look at Matthew 11: 28-30 we see that cross is really our salvation from the tyranny of our old person who wants to stay on the throne and have his own way.

Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11: 28-30


Many years ago, I  questioned if that statement was really truthful.  Deep down, I believed the Lord was a hard taskmaster, demanding things just too hard for me, walking around in constant condemnation. I figured in my heart that this could not be true, but until I understood that it is grace from start to finish did I grow to love this passage.



"Come,"# 1204, deuro,...calling or encourageing and may be translated, "come," "come hither" as an exclamation or an imperative (command) 

EW Bullinger in the Companion Bible says of "come" : "Here Christ refers, not to sins, but to service, not to guilt, but to labour; not to the conscience, but to the heart; not to repentance, but to learning; not to finding forgiveness, but to finding rest."

of the word all, Bullinger continues that this word is limited to those seeking "rest"

Heavy laden: is the Greek word #5412 phortizo*, "to load up"...to overburden with ceremony (or spiritual anxiety): be heavy laden, load.

rest is the word anapauo, #373 "to repose... to refresh--... relax (give, take) rest. When used as a noun, it means "rest, quiet, from occupation, oppression, or torment."*
Bullinger says of rest: "Ours must be found in His gift. We have none to give."

Take is the Greek word airo "To take up and place on oneself, to take up and bear, meaning to bear, carry His yoke.

Learn is #3129, manthano: "ask, learn, study, be taught...particularly: intellectually, from others or from study or observation."  
A disciple is a disciplined learner.

Jesus said He was gentle. #4235, it is defined praios, or in the ESV, # 4239 praus, an adjective meaning meek, mild, gentle

The Creator of this universe is meek, mild and gentle toward us, and pities us in all our troubles. 

Humble is #5011, tapeinos- primarily signifies low-lying. This same thought of Christ's humility is expounded in Philippians 2.

In verse 30 is where is where this passage really encourages me, for:

 His yoke is #2218 zugos: serving to couple two things together is used 1) metaphorically, of submission to authority... not simply imparted by Him but shared with Him.

This yoke is easy. This word is #5543, chrestos: easy, good, kind. 
In speaking of Christ's yoke, "as having nothing harsh or galling about it."

and His burden is light, #1645, elaphros: light in weight, easy to bear.

This Savior that I speak of longs for this intimate fellowship with every one of His dear children. When I find myself out of fellowship with Him, I simply can ask myself how I went off His path of an easy yoke and a light burden? I confess it, knowing it's already paid for, and again take up His gracious, life-saving cross.

"Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law." Psalm 119:18--  consider in light of this wonderful passage. 

I pray that God might bless anyone who reads this who may be worn down and burnt out, to find His yoke easy and burden light today. Amen.

References
The Complete WordStudy Dictionary of the New Testament, Spiros Zodhiates
Zodhiates, AMG's Annotated Strong's Greek Dictionary of the New Testament
Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words
https://www.blueletterbible.org/