Sunday, June 18, 2017

Dad Listened to Me

"We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done...that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children,so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments." Psalm 78: 4, 6-7

One of my favorite memories that I have of  my Dad is the night we discussedthe book The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey.  We were all in our Apache popup trailer,  in the midst of a campground out in the Midwest,  tucked into our sleeping bags for the night.  Before drowsiness consumed us  the topic of possibly living in the end times came up. Dad had recently borrowed a copy of the book from his realtor.

My sisters and mother  dropped off to sleep and finally it was just me and him talking. He was eager to discuss it, and I felt elated because I wasn't sure at that point if he was saved. That night was such a blessing, sharing about things that are prophesied to happen, that will happen, things that were not mentioned in our ritualistic, formal church.

Dad liked to talk politics and such with my older sister. My own thoughts and opinions were drowned out as they got into heated debates. Of  course, her attitudes came to align with Dad's once she grew into adulthood, but back then I always felt like I didn't have much of a voice, that is, until that night in the trailer.

So began a tradition of rich talks with my Dad that lasted up until his death last fall. Dad was from the Midwest, and in the year 2016, he made two last trips out to see his family: one in the early spring and the last one late in the summer. I went with him and Mom on the first trip, and my younger sister went on the last one.

In spite of being eighty-four years old, Dad did almost all of the driving on that trip. In order to keep  awake at the wheel, he enjoyed conversing with me, even in spite of my mother's protests that he was talking too loud. Again we shared much about our faith, the nation of Israel, politics and then he began to tell the story of his army days to me. I learned how he "broke rank" in order to be transferred to a civil engineering unit in Germany and the hard lesson he learned from that. I learned how an older engineer mentored him and taught him how to be polished in the business world. This was all information I never heard before. Finally, I grabbed a notebook to write it down. In the back of my mind was a question, "Dad, why are you telling me all of this?"

Fast forward to a year ago, June 2016. My son and daughter in law paid a surprise visit to my parents home to introduce them to their new great grandson. My strong father was amazed to hold the newest member of the family. I looked at the two of them together, and in spite of Dad's great strength, noticed how much weight he had lost. Somehow I just knew his time was coming.

I think he knew too. He made a point of getting all of his affairs in order, and showing us where things were. But most of all, Dad had ensured that the most important transaction of all had taken place: Dad placed his personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for his salvation, and never was afraid to share that faith with others. The day he had his hunting accident, his neighbor and friend found that Dad had a copy of Billy Graham's Decision magazine up there with him in the tree stand. One of the last things Dad looked at on this side was to read about his precious Lord and Savior. That magazine is tucked away in the drawer upstairs, too precious to be thrown away.

Dad eagerly  shared his faith with family members, neighbors and friends from the business world. He shared it with his grandchildren, the generations coming after him. This is my first Father's Day when I have not been able to give him a card and a gift and tell him how much I loved him and how much he meant to me. 

With tears in my eyes, I still thank my Heavenly Father for giving me the gift of a wise earthly father, and cannot wait to see him again when we are reunited in heaven. Dad wasn't perfect, but he gave me an inkling of how great our Heavenly Father is by his own example. The most profound of those lessons was...Dad listened to me. If he as an imperfect human showed so much care and love for me, his whining middle daughter, how much more does my Heavenly Dad care about all of us unworthy yet adopted children?
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah  Psalm 62:8  

If you have not yet come into the family of God, what are you waiting for? You too can be His adopted child, with all its rights and privileges simply by trusting in His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3: 16-17
Abba Father, thank You for giving us earthly fathers that can represent to us just a glimpse of the depth of Your love for us. Thank You for making a way that we can be reunited with them once again on that great Resurrection day. Amen. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Serving with Helplessness

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Cor. 12:10 

I don't like sitting around doing nothing. I don't like feeling helpless.  But for the past couple of days, that is exactly what I have been doing. I am recovering from carpal tunnel surgery on my left hand yesterday morning, and also still having some pain from the surgery I had on my right hand almost two months ago. Using my hands in normal daily activity is painful in even simple chores.

My husband said to take it easy. So I have, but sometimes it is hard to sit when I think of all the things I should be doing. Like cleaning the house, or starting a new writing project, or.... the list goes on.

I have spent the last couple of months taking care of Mom, that throwing my normal life off schedule. Half of my stuff is at home, and half of it is at her house. I will be here a couple more days recuperating then back to her place, then back here when my sister comes, and on and on for this summer. It hurts to see her unhappy and saying she just wants to die.

I have never felt this unsettled. Never. I don't know what the future holds, it seems so uncertain. And more and more, the Lord shows me my own helplessness to even pull out of the rut I seem to be in.

One thing is certain. I cannot face the things ahead alone. I need Him desperately. Do you need Him that way too?

I used to think that was a bad thing, but now am learning to rest in it. He isn't expecting anything from dust like me but to look up in faith to Him.

Last week, on a farm near Mom's I saw a poor cow that had fallen down in the mud. The farmer tried several times and in different ways to lift the cow out of the muck but it just kept falling down again. I could not help but cry looking at that poor helpless cow, with udders full of milk, unable to lift herself or flick away the many flies assaulting her. In vain she swished her tail and lifted a leg. But it was of no use. A couple days later, I saw her lifeless body being hauled away on a truck from the neighbor's farm.

If I could have pity on that helpless creature how much more does my Heavenly Father pity us as His weak children?  I used to think that if only I tried just a little bit harder, then certainly I could succeed in the Christian life, and pull myself out of the pits I dig for myself. Now I rejoice to know that only when I am weak will His strength be shown in me. He can be glorified even in a weak vessel like me.

Just before I was ready to sign off tonight I found this little quote from None but the Hungry Heart (edited by Miles Stanford) for today, June 10. It encouraged my weary and discouraged heart. Maybe it will encourage yours too:

“Two glad services are ours, Both the Master loves to bless. First we serve with all our powers, Then with all our helplessness.” 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

All this and Heaven Too

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in Him." Lam. 3:22-24

I have been thinking about probabilities, choices, and the opportunities or the lack thereof each of us gets in life. Is there ever a reason for us to be bitter about our circumstances, about our lot in life?

Some might say yes, when you think about the poor of this world and there lack of opportunity to escape the cycle of poverty. Doesn't that prove God is unjust, and therefore not worthy of our praise and devotion?

And then I think about the wealthy of this world: the movers and the shakers, the people who have the goods of this world and all their luxuries freely at their disposal. Doesn't that guarantee that they of all people should be happy?

But I thought some more. They have it all, the poor are envious of them, but that is no guarantee of happiness. In fact they can be most miserable in the midst of having great prosperity.

And then I think about opportunities: the chances to go on a trip of a lifetime, being the owner of a fantastic piece of real estate with the best view, having a spouse who agrees with everything you say and goes along with whatever it is you want to do.

Does that guarantee happiness?

Being honest with myself and the world around me, I say, "No!" We walk around and look at others who appear to have more than we have and we think in our puny minds that "those people" must really be happy while we stew in our own miserable situation. Then I realized that is just a complete lie of the enemy which he uses to hold us in bondage to fear and envy and, most importantly, the lack of being able to be content with just what we have.

I love the portion above from the Prophet Jeremiah. Talk about going through things. How about being dropped in the bottom of a miry dungeon and no one believing your message of impending judgment? How about being overcome by weeping as you see your nation going down, being carried away into captivity?

Yet Jeremiah said that the Lord was his portion, even after going through all those things. Today, Mom and I drove just a couple miles to go to the park and sat at the marina. There was much more to the park: biking, camping, swimming, picnicking, but we just chose to go to the marina, sit on the bench, and listen to the clinking of the ropes hitting against the poles on the sailboats, and hearing the swish of the greenery from refreshing breezes.

I thought to myself, "Maybe I should have come here more, maybe it would be nice to be the owner of one of those boats." But then, reality of the Word came back to me. There is no guarantee that anyone in one of those boats is truly happy. I can be just as glad to sit on the shoreline, watching everyone coming and going. I can be just as happy sitting on my back porch meditating on the Word of God than I could be if I was on the most fantastic cruise in the Carribean.

That is one of the biggest lies that keeps us in bondage and never content. The lie says someone, somewhere, is better off than you, so therefore you must be miserable. But Jeremiah, in the most depressing situation still knew that the Lord was his portion.

If we have the Lord as our portion, it is enough for this life and the one to come. Every experience now just flees away, but the realities of God's preparing a home in heaven for us (one which will never be corrupted) is reason to be more than satisfied for whatever happens to us on this side of eternity.

As we sat on the bench and read our books, I commented to Mom that if it could be this beautiful in a corrupt, depraved, sin-filled world, what does He have in store for us once we get to the other side? What beauties we'll enjoy, what pleasures we will have when we enter our heavenly home for all eternity.

It hit me. I can joy and revel in my Lord and Savior, and all that He has given me even though my circumstances might not be as outwardly pleasing as others. I have Him! This beautiful day will come and go, but I will still have Him. The rains are predicted to come for tomorrow, but I still have Him, and all that He died to give me is mine freely, without my earning or deserving it.

Many years ago, when another pristine day was being enjoyed by yours truly, I remember Mom saying when I remarked that it was a gorgeous day, "Yes, we have all this and heaven too."

While we are still on this side, we have good things, we have hard things, but we will always have Him and heaven too, if we have taken the free gift of salvation that He offers to one and all.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

His Light is Breaking Through

But I, through the abundance
of your steadfast love, will enter
Your house. I will bow down toward
Your holy temple in the fear of You. 

Psalm 5:7

Yesterday God demonstrated His "dunamis" power to me in a small but magnificent way. I've been staying with my mother for a few months now, caring for her since our Dad passed away. There have been times when I felt as if I wanted to run away, and it's easy to fall into a self pity trap.Yet I felt no burden of that when I arose from bed on Tuesday, only the peace of God.

Mom and I were going to Ladies Study, just a group of women from different areas of our city gathered together in Jesus' name to learn about respecting our husbands and loving our families, but really about letting God live through us, whether married, single, divorced or widowed.  This study only "opened up" recently, shortly after I arrived at Mom's. At times, "getting out the door" makes me anxious when Mom's sense of timing seems off. I dressed myself quickly and put on a dab of lipstick.When I went downstairs I saw that Mom already put on a pretty pink sweater and pants and was almost ready to go. There was no frown, but a smile on her face.

Without any cross words or impatience we both made it into the car early enough for a time cushion for our commute. So far, so good. But it was the message of the study that really got hold of both of our hearts.

Grace. Mercy. Forgiveness for people who don't deserve it. Because none of us deserve anything from God but He died on the cross to give us all things. Every day can be like Christmas with the free gift of God's salvation and the blessings He wants to shower us with.

All of this so that we don't have to continue on in the same old miserable rut we feel helpless to escape.

 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases ,
who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
          Psalm 103: 1-5

He comes along and releases us from the heavy burden of wanting to do whatt's right, but finding it utterly impossible when we try in our own strength to do it.

At study, we read  letters that talk about these life-changing principles. Judy Seligman wrote the letters nearly thirty years ago when she went through a severe testing. In this trial, God personally taught her that He would come inside her and love the unlovely through her, and demonstrate to men and angels the power of Christ'slife lived out in a weak and fragile vessel. Back then, the message was powerful, but now there is even more to receive from this godly woman who has continued in the grace of God and exhibits the joy of the Lord more than anyone I know.

Mom has  come with me for a few weeks now to study , but the first couple of weeks she could barely hear. Her face showed frustration, and I probably showed it too. I wanted her to feel a part of things, but she was having trouble processing it all. Judy knew it was hard for both of us, but this time, Mom seemed to be actively participating, smiling and laughing, and then she perked up enough to share something from her own heart to the group.

In her own lovely way, Judy told Mom it was a wonderful thing to contribute . A light flashed on, as it were, in Mom's soul. I love this verse, and feel it explains the mini-miracle I witnessed yesterday:
Psalm 34: 5-6  Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.

Suddenly, I realized that Mom was not again saying she just wanted to die. She was brightened and encouraged by the word of God's grace. When we went home, she looked at her Bible even more and re-read some of our study material.

Then it occurred to me. God wants Mom to have this chance to hear the grace message, maybe in a new way. For many years she may have labored under wrong concepts, but God wants her to be free. None of this would have happened if God had not allowed the circumstances of the past year to happen in our lives.

Every day, it seems her spirit seens to lift a bit more. A hard yoke becomes easy for both of us when we take the burden of the One who gave everything to redeem us.

Monday, May 1, 2017

A Sudden Storm

They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, And are at their wits' end.  Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble, And He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm, So that its waves are still.  Then they are glad because they are quiet; So He guides them to their desired haven.

Psalm 107: 27-30

I had no special plans for today when I got a call that my Mom needed an antibiotic. Rather than wait til we did errands tomorrow, we decided to drive the seven miles into town to get it. Just as we were loading up the garbage cans to take down the hill with us, I got a call that a bad storm was headed our way, even a tornado watch.

I probably should have waited, but we were ready to go and so I backed the car out of the garage and the rain started to pour as we drove down the steep hill.

I crept along the road and the rain kept coming harder and harder. We got her prescription (thank God for drive through pharmacy pick ups) and then we started to brave our way through the overflowing roads back home. At one point the rain came down in sheets, so strong that I pulled over. How could I drive when I couldn't see in front of me?

It took me a lot longer than usual to drive back out into the country to her house, and all along the way we saw evidence of the ground being oversaturated as muddy water flowed into the roads.

Isn't life often like a sudden storm? We think we have it all planned out but then a tragedy comes along and we feel like we are drowning in the midst of a huge deluge. It's easy to panic when these things come our way. That's my usual reaction, stopping to think my way through a crisis is not easy for me.

I knew my parents were getting old, I was helping them out by weekly visits and cleaning, going along for Mom's doctor appointments, etc. But then suddenly, Dad fell from a tree during a hunting accident last fall. A storm descended upon our family as we all gathered around his hospital bed, hoping desperately he could pull through. But God called him home four days later. 

Now I work with my sisters and we all take turns caring for mother, and sometimes I feel I am in a storm again. I had no idea a year ago that I would be living with her,being her caretaker. But God prepared me for the storm even in some of the things Dad said to me before he passed.

Just knowing that God is sovereign above all things is of such encouragement. Dad's "accident" was no surprise to God. It was appointed that my father would leave us then, even if it is so hard to accept, when we see so dimly on this side of eternity.

We have no guarantees of smooth sailing through life. Jesus promised us there would be trouble. How could there not be when every creature in this world is affected by the fall of man in the Garden?

Yet even in the midst of all the trials, the heartbreaks, the sadnesses we see in this vale of tears, we can be assured that God is still in control, that He watches over His children, that precious in His eyes is the death of His children. I know he rode with Mom and I in the storm today. 

Just one of thousands of His precious promises He gives to His undeserving children:

He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. Psalm 91:15
Even if His way of delivering us is our death in the midst of the storm, God is still in control. He has taken the sting out of death, remember? 

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?" I Corinthians 15: 54-55

My comfort is in knowing that even if I don't know what tomorrow holds, I have a Savior that loves me, who never abandons me. Life is confusing, with its sudden twists and turns, but as a child of God I settle down and rest in His promise:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ladies Study...Then and Now

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

Titus 2: 3-5

Yesterday Mom and I  drove an hour  to attend a ladies study by my friend Judy. There were working ladies, widowed ladies, married ladies that attended. Yet the message Judy shared with us was the same message she taught many young wives and mothers thirty years ago.

The lessons are life changing, no matter whether one is married, divorced, widowed, working or staying at home. For though it is mainly about our relationship with our husband, it can be applied to anyone we meet in daily life.

Back then, Judy found herself in an impossible situation as a young mother in her own marriage relationship. In the midst of her trial, one day she heard the Lord ask her if she was so sinless she could throw stones at her husband. Her mouth (of accusation) was suddenly shut and their relationship became transformed. During this time, she asked God to show her everything the Bible had to say about  the role of the woman in marriage. She learned the secret that saved her marriage: submitting to her husband as unto the Lord, no matter where her husband was with God.

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. I Peter 3:1-2

The fruit of this study has been written in a simple booklet (and now an ebook too.) At that time, I was a young wife and mother and when I was going through a particularly hard time (insomnia before the birth of my last child) I went up to Judy in church and asked her counsel. A couple of months later, after pleading with my husband, I ended up hauling my three young children and driving across town to hear words that saved my marriage. For though I was married, I thought my ways were the best ways and the result was my husband and I often disagreed.  The resultant friendship and godly advice I received from Judy helped me so much, I hope now in some small way to pass on to others who may struggle, especially now that I am getting to be "an older woman" myself!

Yes, the message is about submission. But the thing is,the only way we can do that is to look, really look,at the cross of Jesus Christ. On that cross, He submitted to His Father's will and took the weight of all mankind's sins. But not just mankind, but each of us personally. In believing this, I find courage to forgive myself when I fail and start each day with a clean slate. I don't have to carry around the baggage of yesterday's mistakes. If I forgive myself and get ahold of the fact that He loves me, I can forgive others also.

 God does not ask us to do anything that would ever be bad for us. So if submission seems like an impossible thing, first we must learn that it is for our good, and because God loves us so much He wants us to be in a place of protection.

It all starts with a  relationship with Christ through trusting that He paid for our sins on the cross. Through that, we become brand new creatures with a new nature. That's just the beginning, though. When we enter into that new relationship, we receive the Holy Spirit and the ability to manifest the love of God to others who hurt us.

I found myself rejoicing yesterday, that God has seen fit to keep me close to Him all these years now, even if I have made mistakes along the way. I was glad my Mom could hear God's message of unconditional love as well, as she struggles through the grief of widowhood. Most of all, I rejoice God's provision for the woman is still the same, no matter how much the world has changed.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

In Dire Straits...

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.

The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

Psalm 119: 71-72

Dire straits is not such a bad place to be. Hard times stretch our unworn spiritual muscles, make us cling to the Word of God for dear life. God shows me His faithfulness in these times, times where I am being stretched beyond what I think I can take.

The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years complaining and grumbling. Then, they did not even get to go into the land, after all that. They died in the desert and their children got to go in instead.

Paul told us in I Corinthians 10 that their story was written for us, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. So I began to think about my life and my own wilderness journey. I have been a Christian for most of my life. But I think nearly forty years of my own have come to pass where I spent a good deal of the time grumbling and complaining.

Grumbling and "venting" feels good for the moment. But it never gets me anywhere, never gives me any solutions, except to commiserate with others who are also struggling. It doesn't build me up, it doesn't build them up either. 

Did you ever think "if only" something was going the way you wanted, you could then be happy? I know I have believed that lie so many times. If only so and so liked me, if only I had done this instead of that, if only I hadn't made that mistake way back when, or was "there" instead of in the place where I am now.

You know what? The list of "if only's" could go on forever. Here is a shocking revelation: I don't have to have any condition outside of myself in which to be happy. Happiness comes from a source way beyond myself, if only I will avail myself of it moment by moment. It comes from one constant unchangeable fact: that God of all Gods looked down from eternity and saw us in our misery and decided to do something about it by taking all of our sins and guilt onto Himself at the cross. He proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that He loved us by dying for us on the cross.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

I need to spend the rest of my time here on earth just going and learning what all that really means, unwrapping this wonderful gift of salvation and walking in fellowship with my blessed Lord and Savior. It makes my life worth living. It is the only thing that does. 

If I love Him, then I can I trust Him that He will take the hardest and most trying times of my life and work them together for my ultimate good. It is to this simple fact that I am clinging.

Lately it seems that so many of God's children are going through difficulties. Are you trying to lean on your own understanding? You will never understand why all these bad things happen except that to see that they are the only way that God can get our attention, wake us out of our spiritual stupor and cling with all our might to the Lover of our souls.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Hand in Hand

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch out Your hand Against the wrath of my enemies, And Your right hand will save me. Ps. 138:7

A couple of weeks ago, I held a sweet, chubby little hand. It was the hand of my grandson, who lives far away and who I don't see often. I had the special treat of visiting with him and his family for an entire week. It was hard for me to say goodbye and return to the cold north.

Last night I held another hand. It was an old hand, a cool hand with fragile skin that displayed many marks of aging, yet in many ways it reminded me of the little hand. Mom was worried about many things last night, about how the rest of her life will go and I suggested we pray together before she went to bed. Together we prayed and I asked the Lord to give her a restful sleep. Then, together we prayed the Lord's Prayer and she seemed to relax as she recited that prayer she's known so long.

One week after I came home from my vacation in Texas, my life changed dramatically. I now live with my mother in her rural log cabin home. No one prepared me for this, but each day I look to Him and He gives me strength. 

In Texas, my grandson and I walked up and down the streets in the neighborhood, in search of "treasures." In the same way, Mom and I walk slowly, her holding onto my arm whenever we go outside or on an errand. I hope she is learning to trust me, that I will look out for her in our new relationship of me caring for her.

She is weary and misses my Dad so much. It seems the only thing that really lights her eyes is to see my own grandchildren, her great-grandchildren. Two of them are close enough to come and visit, and the oldest of them was glad to snuggle with her on her recliner. Her great grandson whom I visited from far away said hello and that he loved her on Skype. How she loved to hear him tell her about his snail collection and watch him eat his lunch.

Little things charm my grandsons. Snails, acorn, dandelions, fish in a pond, chickens and tractors seem more important to them than fancy toys. It doesn't take much to keep them happy. 

Oh, if we"grown ups" could also be that way, satisfied with the little blessings God bestows on us daily. Even though my life is uprooted, I do have all that I need as I take on this new role. God has promised it to me in the 23rd Psalm. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." Late Pastor R.B. Thieme translated this Psalm 23:1 like this:

The LORD is the one who keeps on shepherding me, I cannot and do not lack anything.*

It is quiet and the days can be long, but Mom and I are getting to know each other in a new way. Laughter seems to keep us going when we disagree. Caring for her is a privilege, not a duty, I remind myself.

Just as I treasure my grandsons, I will treasure this time with Mom. Help me Lord, to honor mother and take care of her just as she once took good care of me.

*From the booklet, Psalm Twenty-Three, R.B. Thieme, Jr., R.B. Thieme Jr., Bible Ministries, 2007.  (All material can be ordered from the ministry free of charge.)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Choosing God's Thoughts

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD."For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.   Isa. 55:8-9

This was my view as I flew to Texas in early March for a trip to visit my beloved son and his family. Up there cruising  above the clouds, I happily remembered that the sun always shines, even when below it is gloomy and overcast.

I enjoyed having a window seat both coming and going, and couldn't help but to keep craning my neck to enjoy the view. "How great is my God!" I thought to myself when I gazed on these puffy clouds like a giant snowy castles below me while the horizon faded into pure azure blue.

Surely God knew each puffy cloud and the thunders and lightnings that might blow up inside them. And He knows little old me, and every thought of mine before I think it.

You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether. Ps. 139: 2-4
God knows all.
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there." Ps. 139:17-18

On the way home, as toddlers cried and newspapers were rattled I witnessed the sun slowly descending over the western horizon as we headed north to home. The sight took my breath away, even though my camera's batteries were dead. The violets, the reds in the atmosphere, and the huge lone star that sparkled brightly all served to again remind me that I serve a magnificent God, one above all gods.

I chatted with some of the fellow passengers both coming and going. Each of them had their own unique story and background and I couldn't help but think of the great love God has for each one of us, no matter where we are in life. He is just tapping His holy toes, so to speak, and waiting for us to acknowledge Him. 

One girl was completely immersed in a movie on her cell phone. I felt bad that she had missed God's work of artistry in the sky. How we are so bound to this earth and forget God's majesty.

The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. Ps. 19: 1-2

Looking at the beauty I saw around me, how glad I was to remember that God's thoughts are not my thoughts. My biggest focus in life is not to stew and worry how things will turn out with all the details of my life, but instead to get God's thoughts constantly into my thoughts.

Today I celebrate double nickels of existence on this planet. (What a long, strange trip its been...) When I think about it, that is a long time. Many people don't make it that far. And then I realize there is only a limited amount of time left for me to get God's thinking into me.

 I realize that every minute I get to choose what to think. If I think a thought of self pity, there is no help for that thought but to tear myself and others down as well. If I think about preserving my own comforts and dignity before others, it will be but wood, hay and stubble at the Judgment Seat. 

But if I get so familiar with God's thinking through His Word that it abides in me, I will prove to be His disciple. To think with God in many ways reminds me of the picture of the clouds in the airplane. They soar high above this earthly sorrow and all the world's problems. Surely God has an answer for each one of the troubles left to me in my life.

But I need to find them. They are only in one place: His treasure trove, of course.

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:13

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Vital Partnership

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ... And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. I Corinthians 12: 20, 26

If one member of the body suffers... I heard today about a sister in the Lord who has tragically lost her adult son.

My heart breaks for her and her family. And I will pray for her.

But sometimes it doesn't seem like "enough" if we pray for people undergoing suffering. Yet it's the one way we can invisibly support the hurting and grieving members of the Body of Christ.

And in Christ's body, we all need each other.

We should not diminish the fact that we "just pray," as if that is just a small thing. We live in a world where we want to see tangible results. But prayer is accomplished in the spiritual realm that we can only enter by faith.

Did you ever wonder if your prayers were going no higher than the ceiling? If we pray in faith, we take it on faith that somehow our loving Father hears us and will act on our behalf if we ask according to His Word. How is it that an invisible God can hear all the prayers of all His children simultaneously? Again, we take it on God's Word by faith

He's God and not like us limited humans.

Sometimes I'm overwhelmed by the number of prayer requests that I come across in a typical day. I know that I can't keep track of all of them.

 God still hears even when we pray in a way that covers any believer going through a certain circumstance. For example, I think of all the North Korean prisoners kept in chains and suffering for even having one page of the Bible in their possession. I don't know their names, but God does. Sometimes I pray for all of them as a whole. Yet God knows each one individually and sees each one of their hearts at any given moment.

I know there are times when I can "go and do" something to help. But the problems that the world faces at this time are too many for one person, except the Person of Jesus, to be able to solve.

Brothers and sisters in the Body, no matter where they are, believe in the same Lord as I do, and are part of the same body I am part of. If one of them hurts I am to identify with them.

The enemy does not want us to think that praying does much good, and will throw discouraging thoughts our way. We have to ignore those subtle thoughts, and just keep praying.

Rationalism teaches that prayer is unreasonable since God must know what is required better than the one who prays. Perhaps God did not need to arrange it thus; but it is revealed (John 14: 13, 14) that prayer now has been divinely constituted an office, or trust. When Christ can say of prayer, "Whatsoever ye shall ask...that will I do," He has elevated its importance to a point where, to a large degree, God has conditioned His response on the faithful prayer of the believer... It is probable that we cannot know all that is involved, but we do know that, in  the ministry of prayer, the child of God is brought into vital partnership in the work of God in a manner in which he could not otherwise partake.*

 Lewis Sperry Chafer, Major Bible Themes, page 240. 

We are partners with God through prayer. That is an awesome and privileged opportunity that we only have on this side of eternity. I love what John the Apostle said of our prayers in the book of Revelation:

Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.
And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel's hand.        Rev. 8: 4-5

That  is "all the prayers of the saints," you and me included. Now is the time to exercise this wonderful privilege as members of His body, on behalf of those brokenhearted by  suffering in this life.

*emphasis mine

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Just Trust

And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are among you and you dwell among scorpions, do not be afraid of their words or be dismayed by their looks, though they are a rebellious house. Ezekiel 2:6

Who'd ever want to be near a scorpion, much less dwell among them? The very thought makes me shudder. Yet God told his appointed prophet to live among people who acted like scorpions and preach to them, even though they would not hear.

In Matthew Henry's Commentary on Ezekiel 2, he says the briers, thorns and scorpions were a representation of the people the prophets had to preach to.

  • 1. God tells the prophet what was the character of those to whom he sent him, as before, v. 3, 4. They are briers and thorns, scratching, and tearing, and vexing a man, which way soever he turns. They are continually teazing God's prophets and entangling them in their talk (Mt. 22:15); they are pricking briers and grieving thorns. The best of them is as a brier, and the most upright sharper than a thorn-hedge, Mic. 7:4. Thorns and briers are the fruit of sin and the curse, and of equal date with the enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. Note, Wicked men, especially the persecutors of God's prophets and people, are as briers and thorns, which are hurtful to the ground, choke the good seed, hinder God's husbandry, are vexatious to his husbandmen; but they are nigh unto cursing and their end is to be burned. Yet God makes use of them sometimes for the correction and instruction of his people, as Gideon taught the men of Succoth with thorns and briers, Jdg. 8:16. Yet this is not the worst of their character: they are scorpions, venomous and malignant. The sting of a scorpion is a thousand times more hurtful than the scratch of a brier. persecutors are a generation of vipers, are of the serpent's seed, and the poison of asps is under their tongue; and they are more subtle than any beast of the field. And, which makes the prophet's case the more grievous, he dwells among these scorpions; they are continually about him, so that he cannot be safe nor quiet in his own house; these bad men are his bad neighbours, who thereby have many opportunities, and will let slip none, to do him a mischief. God takes notice of this to the prophet, as Christ to the angel of one of the churches, Rev. 2:13I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is. Ezekiel had been, in vision, conversing with angels, but when he comes down from this mount he finds he dwells with scorpions.

Today, there is a parallel to the times we are living in. We are in a real battle for our souls, and anxiety over everything and anything seems to be swallowing us up so that we will give up in the fight. We live in perilous times. Could all the evil things that are in our face daily be like briers or thorns, or worse yet, scorpions? Our enemy is not people but principalities and powers that want to kill, steal and destroy. Yet two times in verse 6 alone God tells Ezekiel not to be afraid.

Situations in life are uncertain. None of us know what the future holds. But even if we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, (and barring being part of the Rapture generation, we all will) we are commanded to fear no evil.

Paul the Apostle went through "just a couple" things. He was stoned to death (and revived), received beatings, shipwrecked, in hunger, sleeplessness, among many other setbacks. Yet he called all of it "a light affliction."

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed--
always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
So then death is working in us, but life in you. II Cor. 4: 8-12
and then, further on, at the end of the chapter:
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

But all of it just "a light affliction," lasting for "only a moment?" Come on Paul, did you really mean that? People who have gone to prison for their faith, people who have been martyred, people who are cut off from their families, is that just a light affliction? What about  Ezekiel and all the Old Testament prophets preaching to unrepentant countrymen who were stoned to death or even sawn in two?

The Word says it is temporary and light.  Right now, I face uncertainty over what my near future will hold with family obligations and caring my elderly mother. I'm tempted to get anxious about it. But it's only a light affliction, just a blink of an eye in the light of eternity.

God already sees me in the heavenly places with Him. He wants me to trust Him for this new and uncertain role. If you are a believer, He sees you there with Him too.

If I think about it that way, I can face the future with confidence. One minute my life is here, but in God's view I am already with Him in eternity. 

Fear not. Trust. One step at a time.

God does not show us the future for a good reason. We could not bear to know what will come to pass. But day by day, he was with the prophets and day by day He will be with me.

If I fear Him, I don't need to fear anything else. The problem is, most of the time I fear man more than I fear Him. Today, I repented of my fear and once again said simply, "I will trust You."

Immediately after I said it a little test came along and I was ready to panic once again, fearing the worst. Then I stopped and committed my problem to Him and asked Him to please rescue His silly daughter once again.  Praise Him, He did.

He will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.   Psalm 112: 7

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Convenient Time

"... Felix was afraid and answered, 'Go away for now, and when I have a
convenient time I will call for you.'"

Acts 24: 25

I was reading in John 18 this morning, where Jesus appeared before Pilate, and Pilate asked Him: "What is truth?"

Isn't that the universal question of all time? Just what is the truth, amongst all the lies and madness surrounding us? Truth was standing before Pilate, yet Pilate did not have the eyes to see Him, at least at that time.

In looking up cross references, I found the interaction of Paul with Felix in Acts 24. Felix was the Roman governor of Judea from AD 52 to 60, and presided when Paul was arrested there.

The account in Acts 24:24-27 says:

And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ.
Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, "Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you."
Meanwhile he also hoped that money would be given him by Paul, that he might release him. Therefore he sent for him more often and conversed with him.
But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound.

Felix was talking to the "chief Apostle," the one who went from cheering the martyrdom of Stephen to being God's man to dispense the truth of the New Testament and the mystery of Christ and the Church.

It appeared that they had a deep discussion about Jesus Christ, but then Felix said he would call again for Paul at a more "convenient time."

Is there ever a "convenient time," really? 

The enemy never wants us to have a "convenient time" with the Lord. That's why he sends so many distractions, just at the time when someone might be serious in wanting to know more about the Lord.

It's tragic, really. Because the Lord is a gentleman, He won't force Himself upon us. But who knows if another opportunity to place our faith in Christ will arrive before our moment of death?

Scary and sobering, as it should be.

The Philippian jailer had his "time" when the great earthquake occurred. Before the earthquake, he was a Roman jailor beating his prisoners and only concerned about not letting them escape. After the earthquake, he received the new birth, along with his household, and even had a chance to minister to Paul and Silas.

Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods.
And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely.
Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.
Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed.
And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself.
But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, "Do yourself no harm, for we are all here."
Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.
And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"*
So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household."
Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.
And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Acts16:22-34

An eternal gulf separates the jailer's response from the response of Felix. He did not put it off for a more convenient time. In a split second, his destiny was changed.

There are many other examples. In Matthew 22, Jesus told the Parable of the Wedding Feast. The king arranged a marriage for his son and sent out invitations... 
"But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business." Matthew 22:5*
 Jesus was offering the Jews the Kingdom, but they refused it, so instead it went to the Gentiles. But it also applies to any of us individually. We can say no or yes every day to the Father's bidding us to fellowship with Him.

In Luke 8: 34-37, the negative response of the townspeople in Gadara after Jesus healed the man filled with many demons displayed an awful choice. 

They saw with their own eyes that the man was no longer naked, raging and foaming at the mouth, but rather sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. 

 Instead of praising God for what a glorious healing He had performed, they only wanted Him to go away. The demons begged Jesus to be sent into the pigs, who were a great source of business for the townspeople. Money was more important to them than the visitation of God in the flesh.

When those who fed them saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country.
Then they went out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.
They also who had seen it told them by what means he who had been demon-possessed was healed.
Then the whole multitude of the surrounding region of the Gadarenes asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. And He got into the boat and returned.*
 They missed their golden opportunity.

What does this have to do with me, one might ask? That was then. 

But each day that we are still breathing, fogging a mirror, we have a "convenient time" too. If we do not know the Lord, we personally believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and what He did for us by dying on the cross, and we exchange a destiny of perishing to one of eternal life in heaven with God. (John 3:16)

If we already know the Lord, we only have so much time left on this earth, and He wants us to know Him more and more each day. Like the Apostle Paul said in Philippians,

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 
I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14

"... Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts..." Hebrews 3:7

*emphasis mine