Saturday, April 29, 2017

Don’t Touch My Pain

wound-106374_1920Spring weather has arrived and with it many afternoons spent playing outdoors. With five children, I always have the Band-Aids close by. There is always a scraped knee or scratched elbow from running, climbing trees, or riding bikes. Recently there have been a plethora of ticks also, so we have to carefully check for them and remove them to prevent disease.

With each scraped knee, splinter, or tick, my kiddos cry out for help and relief from the pain. I reach for the peroxide and the Neosporin, but they pull back away from me. They are afraid of the sting which I know will clean their wound and ensure that infection is kept at bay. The sting is just for a moment, but without it the pain of infection will be worse and longer lasting. But my kids don’t understand that.

Even though I coax and whisper sweetly that it will be alright, sometimes they don’t trust me enough to care for their wound. I know the pain will stop in a moment, but they only know the certainty of the sting and pain of the cleaners and cream.  They want me to fix it, but they don’t want me to touch it.

As I repeat this several times each week, I can’t help but notice the similarity to my own life. I experience a trial or difficulty and I cry out in pain for God to stop it, to heal my wound, to make it all better. I grip my bleeding, painful heart and scream that I can’t handle the pain. I plead with Him to help me, ,to remove the pain, and to wipe away my tears. And yet, when He comes to me with healing hands, I shrink back from what He is doing, afraid of any more sting and unwilling to have Him touch my open wound. The pain has blinded me. I don’t realize that He is working and purifying my life. I don’t feel His touch as tender because I can’t get my mind off the sting. I don’t see that He is preventing the infection of sin and worldliness because I only feel the fresh pain of the open wound or the tweezers removing the splinter.

Pain is purifying. It removes the dross. It cleanses away the weakness. It makes us stronger. It is not pleasant and I hate the feel of it. Sometimes I shrink away from what I know He must do in order to restore wholeness and holiness to my life, because it just hurts so much. But I must let the Great Physician work. He can see the wound with eyes that grasp the whole picture, not just the moment of pain. He knows the best medicine, and His skillful hands perform surgery with the highest success rating.  He is using this pain for my good.

Even in my pain, I must trust Him to touch. He can heal. He can hold me and bear the pain with me. He knows best.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

A Day in the Life of Jesus

Pacific City, OregonRecently I have been reading through the Gospels, particularly to watch and see the suffering and trials that Jesus endured while on earth in a human body.  The Scripture tells us that He was tempted in all points like we are, but I know sometimes I feel like I am the only one going through _______________.  Sometimes I even wonder if the Lord knows how I feel or what I am struggling with.

In Matthew 14, we get a glimpse into the daily schedule in Jesus’ public ministry.  It makes me weary just thinking of it, and it helps me know that He understands when I feel like life is swirling out of control and I am weary to the bone.

This chapter begins with Jesus learning that His cousin, and His ministry partner, John the Baptist, has been executed in prison.  Jesus immediately departs for a “desert place”.  I can imagine He wanted to be alone.  To mourn.  To process what had just happened.  Sometimes I feel like I am drowning in everything going on around me, and I can’t quite get a grasp on it because more and more keeps flying my way.  I need to take a break and have some silence.

However, Jesus doesn’t get the silence or the quiet time to pray or talk to God.  The multitudes of people follow Him, and He spends the entire day healing them and teaching them.  When evening comes, His disciples implore Him to send the people away so they can buy food.  But Jesus takes His ministry a step further and feeds the people.  He expends yet more energy to perform a miracle, provide the meal, and clean up the leftovers. 

Jesus instructs His disciples to get in a boat and go while He sends the people away.  Have you ever seen a stadium after the crowd has disappeared?  What a mess is left behind!  Or entertained another family for dinner, and after they go you don’t have energy to wash the dishes?  But I don’t imagine Jesus left the hillside a mess.

Finally, Jesus will get His quiet prayer time.  I sometimes get to the end of my days with five little people and realize I didn’t have time to pray or study my Bible that day.  I’ve been trying to make place for it all day long, but it constantly gets crowded out by the needs of others around me.

Jesus gets to His quiet place, and then He sees that the disciples are struggling in the middle of a great storm.  So He goes to their aid.  My Bible says it was the fourth watch of the night, which I understand to be 3-6 a.m.  As a mom, sometimes I cannot wait for bedtime.  I finally close my eyes in exhaustion, and the baby cries in the night.  Even far into the night Jesus hasn’t had much time to Himself or to rest or to “recharge His batteries.” 

The Lord comes to His disciples walking on the water to still their storm, but they scream in terror and assume He is an evil spirit.  No faith to believe Him or to trust that He would come to their aid.  They panic.  Were they even praying for His help?  Were they looking for His rescuing hand?

Peter musters the faith to walk on the water to go to Jesus.  But in his distraction he begins to sink, and Jesus must perform yet another task – rescuing Peter from drowning, and then stilling the storm.

The weary men finally arrive at the other side of the sea.  But the sleepy town is waking up in the wee hours of the morning, and they hear that Jesus has come.  So they bring to Jesus all the diseased people to be healed.  And so begins a new day in the ministry of Jesus.

I am not putting myself on the same level as Jesus, but I am realizing in new ways that He has experienced the same things I am experiencing.  He has walked in my shoes.  And in dependence on the Holy Spirit, He was victorious and had a successful ministry.  In His strength, I can minister to the needs of my family and others around me today, though I be weary, and though I didn’t get much time to pray, and though the demands never seem to cease.  Even though the baby had me up half the night and I never got to prepare mentally for a new day.  Jesus is there.  Am I like the disciples, of little faith,  not really expecting Him to come to my aid at all?  Or do I have faith to walk this road with Him by my side, knowing He has already traveled the road before and knows its final end?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Joy in Answering Right

I haven’t posted anything from my study on joy recently.  It’s a lot to process, and even more to live out.  But I wanted to go back to it (I have moved on to another study now) to refresh and remind myself what I learned.

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One thing that I often struggle with is the misuse of my mouth.  I get carried away before I notice…whether it is saying the wrong thing, using the wrong tone, or just talking too much.  I have two daughters, and I have been noticing that sometimes they just talk incessantly, and often it is the same dribble over and over again.  But then I realized…I do that too!  Prov. 10:19 says that in the multitude of words there wanteth not sin.  But Prov. 15:23 teaches us that giving the right answer brings us joy!

“A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!”

The answer that I give and the way that I speak can bring me joy.  Sometimes it is just the timing that is vital.  Recently I was able to encourage a friend as she went through a trail.  I was able to say to her, at the right time, some of the things that God had taught me previously through the same trial.  It was a great feeling to be able to speak what I know God wanted me to say, at the right moment.  He had prepared me for that situation by allowing me to go through the trial already.  He had worked His own words into my heart through the difficulty, and then they were able to come out and be a blessing and encouragement to someone else in the same difficulty.  That was a joyous moment! 

“Many a good word comes short of doing the good it might have done, for want of being well-timed.”  --Mathew Henry

Last November I completed a study on 1 Samuel 25 – the story of Abigail.  Several times in that chapter Abigail illustrated this principle of the joy that comes from the answer that we give.  She was able to humbly address David (who was not yet the king) and speak words to him that helped him to see the error of his way, and stem the tide of his anger, which was bent on wiping out Abigail’s household.  She was able to not speak to her husband and tell him what had happened, because her husband was drunk and she knew it was the wrong timing to bring up the situation.  Later, when God had taken care of the situation (and her evil husband was dead), Abigail was able to rejoice in her part of giving the right answer.

I also thought of Joseph as a Biblical example.  His brothers had sold him into slavery in Egypt, but God had promoted him to be the second in command in the entire country.  His brothers came to Egypt seeking food in the famine.  Joseph did not reveal himself to them on the first meeting.  He did not lash out and blame them for his trials.  He waited until the right moment to tell them that he was Joseph, and that God had used him to save many souls alive.  He used his tongue in the right way, and in the right time, and his relationship with his brothers was restored.

Some other examples would include Esther – her timing in approaching the king and waiting to give her request illustrates the need for proper timing in our speech.  Mary responded to the angel, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38).  She accepted what he wanted her to do, she gave a submissive response, and she had the joy of being the mother of Jesus.

Let’s have joy by the answer we give today!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Lavish Grace

I came across this quote from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth recently.  It struck me because often I forget that I am the recipient of God’s grace, and I do not deserve it.  When I forget how much I needed God’s grace, I think of myself in lofty terms and often treat others as not-as-good-as-me.  The truth is, we all need God’s grace, and when we get it, it is always undeserved.  I needed a reminder to live in the reality of His grace!

Lavish Undeserved Grace
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Monday, February 27, 2017

Precious Thoughts

I often supplement my current Bible Study or devotional readings with the adoration list from Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet.  January and February the topics were all things I was wrestling through already.  I came to the 22nd when we were looking at the characteristic of God as a personal God, who knows me individually.  God really used Psalm 139 to tie a lot of things together for me.

Psalm 139:17-18 – How precious also are Thy thoughts unto me, O God!  how great is the sum of them!  If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.

For some time now, I have started my {almost} daily prayer time with Jeremiah 29:11-14, which says,

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. 12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. 13 And ye shall seek me, and find [me], when ye shall search for me with all your heart. 14 And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.

I know that these verses were spoken to Israelites which were headed into captivity, and yet the Lord has used them in my life over and over again.  I have struggled with this “captivity” of temporary housing and “limbo” and transition that we have been “stuck” in for 18 months.  I have questioned why God would call us to church planting, provide for our financial needs by allowed us to reach full support after only 2.5 years of deputation, and then just drop us off to sit and wait for three months, because we can’t really get started on church planting until we have a house.  So I have asked God to help me know that His plans are good.  That His plans are not of evil.  That He does have a plan, and that He is at work, even when I can’t see it.

Pacific City, Oregon
I don’t particularly care for sand, but I came across this picture from our very last deputation trip and I was remind that God’s thoughts are more than the sand pictured here, which is a small portion of all the sand there is in the world!

We have done everything we can to secure housing.  And now we just wait for the bank’s decision.  It is all in God’s hands, and my patience has run thin many times.  But today I read that His thoughts (good thoughts and plans according to Jer. 29), are more than the sand, and they are precious.  

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As I meditated on this truth, the Lord caused me to think about my moments and days as a mom to five little kids.  It seems that my day is filled with thoughts of other people (though this in no way means I am an unselfish person…).  It revolves around what DVD the 2nd grader needs me to start for school, and did I remind the 3 years olds to go potty, and did I bake bread so that I can feed these hungry kids, and the five year old needs clean socks so I have to start the laundry, and the baby needs his nose wiped, again.  My thoughts revolve around my family and how I need to meet their needs.  Yet I am sure that if I add these thoughts up, they are no where close to the number of grains of sand on the seashore.  God’s thoughts – of me – cannot be numbered.  They are precious, and they are thinking up good plans.

I have sometimes prayed Jer. 29:11, not out of faith, but out of duty because it is on my prayer list and I know I should pray it.  But God has answered my prayer.  In bringing me to Psalm 139, He has reinforced that He is working and thinking and planning on my behalf, even when I cannot see it.  I cannot even count His precious thoughts toward me, so I could I ever see and comprehend all that He is doing right now?

I am thankful for the waiting time, because it has allowed me to learn and personalize this truth in a way I wouldn’t have without the struggle and the trial.

Update:  The Lord brought this to me on a Wednesday morning when I was sick and not feeling well.  I did not want to make the two hour trek into NYC for church, especially because I felt the Lord wanted me to share this in testimony time.  We did go, and I did share, in obedience to Him.  I think He used it in the lives of others too.  The next morning, we received word that our short sale had been approved and we were moving forward into closing…

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Help

Today I was reading an adoration passage in Psalm 60.  Verses 11-12 say,

Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man.
Through God we shall do valiantly: for He it is that shall  tread down our enemies.

help-153094_1280I was struck with this thought…

Sometimes my enemies aren’t physical people.  Sometimes my enemy is doubt, or fear, or worry.  Sometimes my enemy is stress, or emotions out of control.  Sometimes my enemy seems like five little kiddos all demanding a piece of me at the same time (but that’s really just stress, right?)  So the question that struck me today is, where do I turn for help?  Too often I ask my husband to help, or I turn to my own creativity to solve a problem.  Start a movie for the kids.  Sit down and breathe.  Make a to-do list.  Sometimes I yell and lose control of the situation.  But vain is the help of man

What I really need when all of the situations hit me in the face is to turn to God for help.  When I am drowning in doubt, or guilt, or out-of-control emotions, I don’t just need another set of hands, or a fresh look at the situation – I need God.  I need to turn to Him FIRST.  I need to realize that any victory will only be through His strength.

When I shout, “HELP!” it needs to be to God first.  Sometimes He may use the help of man (or my husband, or my friend, or my kids) to help me.  But I need to turn to Him first.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

God has Joy

Joy

One of my favorite passages from my study on joy was Zephaniah 3.  I actually worked through the whole book, but the good stuff is in chapter 3.  This book is God’s promise that judgement is coming on Judah, as well as the nations.  “Zephaniah” means God hides.  Chapter 3 reminds us that there is always a remnant of God’s people.  The ones who have been faithful and have not compromised or drifted away from the Lord.  As I thought about the man God used to deliver this message, and the meaning of his name, I was reminded that there are always servants of God, though sometimes they seem hidden away.  And I thought about how God is able to hide us from the trouble and the judgement, if we have been faithful.

This book opens with a declaration of man’s apathy in chapter 1 verse 12.  Basically the people were saying “God is not involved in the affairs of men.”  Yet God says, “I am in your midst” in chapter 3, verses 5, 15, 17.  This is comforting to me when I go through difficult times – God is right there with me in the midst of it all. 

Chapter 3 is really full of amazing truths.  I know that it is written to Israel, but we can draw principles from the truth of this passage.  When God brings back the remnant (when He restores them – sometimes our sin drives us away from God but He can restore us again), they will sing & shout (3:14), they will be glad and rejoice (3:14), they will realize that the Lord is in the midst of them (3:15), they will not fear (3:16), and they will be diligent (3:16).

Here are some things I see about the Lord in this chapter:

  • He is in my midst v.17
  • He will rejoice over me v.17
  • He will save v.17
  • He will rest in His love v.17
  • He will joy over me with singing v.17
  • He will gather us together v.18
  • He will undo the affliction v.18
  • He will save v.19
  • He will get praise and fame for those who were afflicted and driven away v.19
  • He will bring us again (restore) v.20
  • He will make us a name (restore) v.20

These promises are so precious.  I can choose to live in disobedience and suffer judgment; or I can choose to be faithful and wait for the Lord to bring His plan to pass (3:8).  I can continue to trust in the Lord (3:12), I can leave my “enemies” to the Lord to deal with (3:15).  I can continue to work for the Lord even when the future seems unknown (3:16).  And then – the promises of verse 17!  He is with me, and He will save me, and when I am faithful even in these difficult or trying times, He will rejoice over me.  I can bring joy to my God.  His love for me will be seen and the fruit of it reaped whe  I return His love in faithful living.  Not only does He give me joy (3:14), but I can bring joy to Him through my life!

Monday, January 23, 2017

What Are Some Things that Bring Joy?

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I am on Day 23 of my personal study of joy through the Bible.  But it has taken me over a month to get that far.  There’s a lot that is just kind of “sitting” in my mind, rolling around, and trying to figure out the right way to express it.  But today as I am nearing the end of my study, I looked at several things that Scripture says can bring us joy.

  1. The Word of God.  Psalm 119 is all about the Word of God, but it is replete with statements of how the Psalmist delights in God’s Word, or rejoices in God’s Word.  I would suggest a read through this powerful Psalm, but the verses that speak of delight in God’s Word are 14, 16, 24, 35, 47, 70, 77, 92, 143, and 174.  Verse 111 states that the Word of God rejoices the heart.  Verse 162 says that “I rejoice at Thy Word.”
  2. Proverbs 23:24 tells us that having righteous and wise children will bring joy to a mother and father.  I am trusting the Lord that we are raising our kids to be this kind of children – the ones that bring us joy and not shame or sorrow.
  3. Proverbs 15:23 states that we can have joy by the answer of our mouth.  Being able to say the right thing at the right time can bring joy to our own hearts…much less those around us!
  4. Luke 15 gives three parables of a lost thing – the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost (prodigal) son.  In all three instances, when the lost thing is restored, the owner has great joy and calls his friends and relatives to rejoice with him.  I know that I have lost important or valuable items before, and I feel sick inside until they are located.  These parables teach us the more important truth, that when a sinner repents, it brings joy to heaven.  It should bring joy to me, too, to be a part of God’s plan for redeeming men.  I can share the Gospel and rejoice when others choose to accept it.
  5. Romans 5:1-5 tells us a couple more things to rejoice in.  The prospect, or the expectation (hope) of the return of Christ and our final redemption for eternity should bring great cause for rejoicing.  I know I don’t always rejoice in, or look for, His coming as I ought to! 
  6. We can also rejoice in our tribulations, because we can look ahead and see that God’s purpose is to make us more like Christ.  This is the hardest area for me to find joy.  I usually start complaining when my circumstances don’t line up how I would choose.  James 1:2-3 also tells us to find joy in trials – because it produces patience in our lives.
  7. Romans 5:11 expresses the fact that we should have joy in our atonement.  How often do we take our salvation for granted instead of rejoicing daily that we are no longer hell-bound?
  8. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus was able to endure the cross because of the joy on the other side.  What is that joy?  Joy in knowing that He had finished His task and fulfilled the Will of God.  I too can find joy in doing God’s Will for my life.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Joy of the LORD is Your Strength

Nehemiah 8:10 is probably one of the best known verses on joy.  This verse comes in the middle of a passage as the people were holding a solemn feast to the Lord.  Ezra read the entire book of the law, while the poeple stood to listen (try that in modern churches!).  The New Testament teaches us that the Law is a schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ.  The Law had the same effect on this congregation, for they were so disturbed by their sin, after seeing how they had violated the Law, that they were mourning and weeping.  Ezra and Nehemiah had to instruct them to stop mourning so that they could worship the Lord properly on this holy day!  They were told to go and have their feast, and make mirth, and that the joy of the Lord would be their strength.

Verse 12 concludes that the people responded this way because “they had understood the words that were declared unto them.”  As we read God’s Word we may be broken because of our sin, but we can also rejoice in the God of our salvation.  As we realize what He has saved us from, the joy we receive gives us strength to live for Him.

Some parallel thoughts include these verses:  (emphasis added)

Prov. 10:29 The way of the LORD is strength to the upright: but destruction [shall be] to the workers of iniquity.

Isa 25:1-4 O LORD, thou [art] my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth. 2 For thou hast made of a city an heap; of a defenced city a ruin: a palace of strangers to be no city; it shall never be built. 3 Therefore shall the strong people glorify thee, the city of the terrible nations shall fear thee. 4 For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall.

Psalm 28:7-8 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him. 8 The LORD is their strength, and he is the saving strength of his anointed.

Isaiah 12:1-3 And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. 2 Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. 3 Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.

Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.

2 Cor. 8:2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.

2 Cor. 12:8-9 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Matthew Henry states, “Holy joy will be oil to the wheels of our obedience…The joy fo the Lord will arm us against the assaults of our spiritual enemies.”

The Hebrew word translated strength in Nehemiah 8:10 also means a place or means of safety, protection, refuge, stronghold, harbour.  As we make the choice to rejoice in the Lord – to be thankful for His salvation, to trust in His strength, to rely on Him in our trial – then He tucks us away in the safety and refuge of Himself.  I think that knowing this only intensifies the joy!

Isaiah 61 says that God wants “to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.”  We should mourn for our sin, as the Israelites did in Nehemiah 8, when we understand the depth of our sin from the Word of God.  But then we allow the Lord to take our mourning and exchange it for joy.  To take the heaviness and sorrow of our sin, and trade it for a garment of praise.  All of this brings glory to the Lord!

“The joy of the Lord is your strength”

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Joy in the Psalms

One of the things which I have done in my study on joy is walk through all the verses that mention joy in the Psalms and Proverbs.  I hand wrote all of those verses in my journal.  Here are some conclusions that I drew:

  1. Joy comes from trusting in the Lord (Ps 5:11)
  2. Joy  is in the presence of the Lord (Ps. 16:11)
  3. Joy comes from the Lord’s salvation (Ps. 21:1)
  4. Joy is worshipping God - we offer sacrifices of joy (Ps. 27:6)
  5. Joy comes at the end of trials (Ps. 30:5)
  6. Joy is in the Lord (Ps. 32:11)
  7. Joy is in doing right (Ps. 32:11)
  8. The Lord wants us to have joy and prosperity (Ps. 35:27)
  9. We worship through joy (Ps. 42:4)
  10. The presence of God and His city brings joy (Ps. 48:1)
  11. We can ask God for joy (Ps. 51:8)
  12. Initial joy is in salvation (Ps. 51:12)
  13. God restores lost joy (Ps. 51:12)
  14. Physical blessings can bring joy (Ps. 65:13)
  15. We can rejoice (or have joy) just knowing that God is righteous (Ps. 67:4)
  16. We reap joy after the trial (which is often sowing in tears) (Ps. 126:5)
  17. Wisdom and peace bring joy (Prov. 12:20)
  18. Joy is not dependent on others (they cannot take my joy away) (Prov. 14:10)
  19. Giving the right answer brings us joy (Prov. 15:23)
  20. Wise children bring joy (Prov. (17:21; 23:24)
  21. Joy comes from doing right (Prov. 21:15)