Month: June 2022

Worthless To Treasured

Before our relocation fourteen years ago, I owned a primitive antiques store located in a 100+ year old tobacco barn. Sometimes with the help of my husband I attended auctions, bought from individuals and dealers, and scoured markets and malls; however, my favorite part of the business was finding things that others might regard as worthless. I preferred to think of them as one-of-a-kind possibilities; and as soon as I saw a possible buy, I immediately pictured what I would do with it- the item was already completely restored in my mind’s eye. Then, if butterflies fluttered in my stomach from excitement, I knew for certain I needed to buy and restore the piece- it became my overwhelming desire to redeem it. To be sure, some items required a lot more time and elbow grease than I had anticipated, but in the end, the reward of my efforts paid off with a deep sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. I believed I had saved a treasure (often something someone had lovingly made by hand long ago) from forever being discarded. But, the greatest satisfaction was when the newly restored treasure found a place in the home of a satisfied customer.

If I was able to redeem what appeared to be worthless items and fashion them into something beautiful, how infinitely more our Father can redeem and beautify our lives! “Now to Him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly all that we ask or think” is the way our God operates (Eph. 3:20). And, if I can derive great satisfaction from restoring mere things, how infinitely more our Father must be pleased when one of his precious image-bearers is redeemed- Psalm 149:4, “For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the meek with salvation.”

God’s Ways Are Higher

Fourteen years ago, the Lord made it clear that we were to relocate. We left family and friends, my business, our church and the farmhouse we had just finished renovating- the place our children considered home. I was shocked over how difficult it was for me to adjust to the move. In fact, I wrestled with depression and loneliness as we settled into an area that was unfamiliar and where no one knew our name. Looking back, I am somewhat bewildered regarding how much I lamented over our loses and how precious familiar possessions became to me.

Finally, one day I decided to explore the area to learn my way around. I felt some relief and hope as I slipped into my car; it was familiar and comforting- my spirits began to lift as I drove around and picked up some groceries. However, as I pulled out from the grocery store and came to a stop at the stoplight, a vehicle barreled across two lanes and crashed into my door, pushing me completely off the road into a gas station. The upshot of the whole ordeal was back and forth contention between the repair shop and the insurance company which unfortunately resulted in a decision to total my car.

It seemed crystal clear to me that the enemy had decided to unmercifully burden my fragile faith with the incident; and there were many other factors that are too lengthy to include in this writing. The enemy’s attack was successful in that I grew more depressed and full of self-pity; yet my Father never took his hand off of the situation, as I was about to learn.

One day I grew increasingly unsettled as the Holy Spirit began convicting me about my lack of faith, and at the same time encouraged me to pray in a manner different than I had been praying. Something broke in my spirit and I could almost feel the weight lift as I gave up the burden of my will in favor of my Father’s. I began to confess and finally was able to say, “It is okay if my car is not returned- please help me accept your will in this.” Just as I finished, the phone rang. It was the master mechanic at the dealership, “We are going to fix your car. You will never be able to find another one close to its condition and low mileage. Give us a few weeks.”

Over the years following the accident, my car has continued to run like a new one. Just as according to Romans 8:28 (see 6/24 post), the Lord truly worked all things- every aspect concerning the incident- together for good.

What is the “Good” God Works?

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

In the last post, we considered how our battle prayers can open the door for God to work out our trials for our good. Yet most, if not all followers of Christ, could probably recall times where it seemed that things did not work out for good; in fact, it may have seemed that our prayers were not heard or answered as we had hoped. Nevertheless, God’s word is always true and God always keeps his promises, so a better understanding of scripture will undoubtedly support the promise of good in Romans 8:28.

Notably, this promise is made to true believers- those that love God and who are are called according to His purpose. Furthermore, the verses prior to verse 28 (verses 26 and 27) explain how the Holy Spirit will help us pray and even more, intercede for us according to the will of God when we are unable to pray in that manner. This is good news since 1 John 5:14 teaches, if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

It’s important to consider what is meant by “good” in verse 28 since it will help us understand the true nature of that promise. Isaiah 55:9 declares concerning the Lord, “my ways [are] higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” It follows that our idea of good can differ from the Father’s and that we might not understand what he is doing when something bad happens even after we have earnestly prayed. The key is that God can turn every unfavorable circumstance around for the ultimate good; but, the ultimate good may beyond our earthbound ability to comprehend it. It all comes down to faith where we choose to believe in God’s goodness and love, and continue to trust that He has a bigger and higher plan no matter how things appear: ” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’ “

Power-filled Prayer For Battle

King Asa of Judah, as described in 2 Chronicles 14, was a good king who endeavored to serve God by doing what was good according to the Lord’s will. Yet despite the fact that King Asa had served the Lord, Judah’s period of peace and rest came to an end when the powerful army of the Ethiopians came out against them. Here is the king’s prayer as he cried out to the Lord while he prepared for battle against an overwhelming enemy:

(2 Chronicles 14: 11-12 )

” Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many or with them that have no power: help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. O Lord, thou art our God; let not man prevail against thee. So the Lord smote the Ethiopians before Asa, and before Judah: and the Ethiopians fled.”

Undoubtedly, we all have faced many battles along the way; and, the Bible assures us that there will be other challenging ones ahead. In fact, our struggles will become increasingly more fierce and frequent throughout the end times because Satan realizes he doesn’t have much time left, and he is furious about it! (Mt. 24: 7-13 and Revelation 12:12). Therefore, it would be valuable for us to learn how we can pray as powerfully as King Asa as we encounter these inevitable battles.

Asa acknowledged that nothing was too hard for God, and it didn’t matter how big and powerful the enemy was, or how small his own army was that faced them. We too can stand strong knowing that our God is the same God that the king served and just as then, nothing is too hard for Him (Jeremiah 32:17 and Luke 1:37). Our prayers do not have to be eloquent or lengthy; when we acknowledge that we battle in his name and rest in (keep relying on) the Lord, He will help us. Our battle becomes the Lord’s battle and he will turn it for our good (Romans 8:28).

Beloved Eagle

Some time ago my family and I visited Dollywood in Tennessee and as we were exploring the grounds, we unexpectedly came upon the park’s refuge for injured eagles. While I was imagining possible scenarios responsible for these severe injuries, my eyes locked with an eagle’s piercing stare; he immediately looked away- could this poor creature feel despair or shame? Fortunately, just as an unexpected sadness began to overwhelm me, an announcement over the speakers informed us the show was about to begin.

Our host began to explain the plight of hunted eagles and his organization’s endeavors to save them. The breeze picked up as we watched a video depicting some of eagles’ astonishing abilities, such as their ability to see up to 50 miles away and to fly up to 13,000 feet at speeds as fast as 60 mph. However, just as we were admiring pictures of these magnificent birds, images of maimed eagles slowly crossed the screen. The breeze stopped as if in reverent silence and my sadness returned. Suddenly there was another image so strange that I strained forward to decipher the details- an eagle strapped to the top of a hang-glider soaring high above the earth, guided by a figure from underneath the glider’s red wings.

My first instinct was to pity the poor creature because it seemed to me that the glider was a weak attempt to simulate the eagle’s well-deserved freedom. Yet, my eyes brimmed with tears as a still small voice whispered within my spirit, “Much like this, I can carry you where you need to go…” The feathers on the eagle’s body fluttered in the wind of flight; in my imagination there was a sense of peace and perhaps joy in the creature’s abandon to the moment.

Again I heard in my heart, “Life can wound, but there is restoration. Let go of struggles and put your trust in Me.”

“Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (Isaiah 39:31).

Now Is the Time

“This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118: 24)

Do not live (abide) in the past or the future- I AM is the God of now. The word “am” expresses present states and conditions; and so, Jesus is telling us to be joyful now and to be glad now for another day in which He has given blessings. We need to discover the good things in this day because it is all that we have- the past is gone; the future is not here. Our spirits will not rest as long as we need future anything to be happy. Paul and Silas knew this and that is why they were able to sing in a dirty, damp prison cell (Acts 16:25). They decided to be cheerful and thankful on that very day- they made a decision; they chose to express joy. I believe their prayers and singing were genuine because their joy was not based on their circumstances, but on their relationship with Jesus, whose love and grace remained unchanged in spite of dire physical conditions.

Regret over the PAST can lead to depression and/or anger: Depression, when we cannot change the mistakes we made or the consequences of what we did or didn’t do; anger, when we cannot change what was done to us or what was lacking regarding our needs and desires. 1 John 1:9 is a key verse to remember concerning our past behaviors, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” After we have done everything we could to correct our mistakes and repent from them, we will be able to rest with assurance in His forgiveness and cleansing. And, as far as others’ mistreatment of us is concerned, it remains in our power to forgive and set ourselves free from anger and possible bitterness towards them ( Col. 3:13-14; Heb. 12:14-15; Eph. 4:31-32).

While it is good to plan and be hopeful concerning the future, Matthew 6:25-34 commands us not to be anxious about the future; and, Jesus would not make a demand that was not possible to fulfill by the power of the Holy Spirit. We do not know what our tomorrows hold, so we cannot say with certainty what we need to do or what will happen. Thankfully, the Lord gives us all the grace to meet whatever happens today (Heb. 4:16; Lamentations 3:22-23).

Jesus said, “Abide in Me” and Jesus is I AM.

A Life Well-lived

Titus 2: 7, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good.”

Ephesians 5: 1-2, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly beloved children and walk in the way of love.”

Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.”

My Great Aunt Florence left a copy of the following poem among her possessions many years ago. Although it may sound a bit old-fashioned, it is precious to me because she actually lived by its philosophy- she was the purest example of the above verses that I have personally known:

A careless word may kindle strife;

A cruel word may wreck a life;

A bitter word may hate instill;

A brutal word may smite and kill.

A gracious word may smooth the way;

A joyous word may light the day.

A timely word may lessen stress;

A loving word may heal and bless.

Love Never Fails

While our children were growing up, we reluctantly adopted a stray kitten who was lost in the fields by our house for two weeks when he was not yet fully weaned from our neighbor’s cat. He was wild and flea-bitten; emaciated and pitiful, but obviously intelligent. The first thing he did was bite my chin when I picked him up. I sternly explained the rules of the house, then firmly placed him on our back porch where he remained several days…with tuna and milk provided, of course. When we brought him back in and bathed him, he seemed to understand that it was all to help, and he did not resist. We called him “Tiger” because he was so untamed; later as he became more Garfield-like, his name evolved to “Tigger”.

Periodically when Tigger got a wild look in his eyes (which we came to understand meant that he needed to be outside where he could hunt and run free), we would accommodate by letting him roam until he decided to come home. He always returned before nightfall, so when he failed to come back that night, we began to anxiously search for him. After a couple of days, I made it an unalterable routine to stand on our front porch every morning and evening and call for him as loudly as I could. Ten days had elapsed and I was almost resigned to the fact that he wasn’t coming back…”Tigggrrrr” I called halfheartedly and turned to go back inside. I thought I heard a faint meow- I called out again louder and then distinctly heard “meow.” My heart beat faster and unbelievably, I spotted Tigger dragging his legs as he inched toward the porch. He was obviously badly injured; and as I scooped him up in my arms, I was incredulous over the fortunate turn of events.

1 Corinthians 13:8, “Love never fails…”

Although I had much love for our dear pet, my love would likely have eventually failed in that I would have finally given up on his return. Thankfully, our Heavenly Father loves us with a perfect love that never fails! We can be assured that our Father will never give up on us; He remains faithful even when we fail to remain faithful to Him.

Psalm 136:1, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His steadfast love endures forever.”

God’s Will Is Knowable- Life Application

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.” (1 Th. 5:16-18)

BE JOYFUL ALWAYS: As Paul said in Philippians 4: 4, ” Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice.” The prefix “re” means “again, used chiefly to form words denoting repetition.” Therefore, to rejoice means to have joy again and again, as the Apostle Paul emphasized. As discussed in the post entitled Formula for Joy, we can continually renew our joy by bolstering our trust in the Lord’s unfailing and unending love and goodness toward His children; and we can help apply this to our lives by:

1. Learning more and more about the character of God through scripture and prayer.

2. By thinking on good things (read Philippians 4: 8-9).

3. By encouraging ourselves as King David did (1 Samuel 30: 6).

4. Many other ways in which the Holy Spirit might lead us.

PRAY CONTINUALLY: This is simply communicating with our Heavenly Father and not forgetting to listen and watch for answers and guidance. We are instructed to “Pray without ceasing” (KJV) because there should never be a right time to stop communicating with God, or to give up on prayer.

GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES: Recognizing and appreciating the good things that we have in life- not concentrating on what we do not have- is key to being thankful. Often this involves a shear determination to find something we can appreciate and focus on it rather than on the difficult circumstances that surround us. “Oh give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 107: 1)

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, help me to obey you and put into practice these simple instructions for doing your will, and may I heed them in a way that pleases you. Thank you for your unfailing love and goodness! Amen.

God’s Will Is Knowable

Undoubtedly many believers have frequently felt that they misunderstood or completely missed what the will of God was in certain situations, or perhaps even in the direction of their lives. We might make statements to ourselves such as, “I thought I knew what God said,” or “I wish I had a burning bush like Moses to know what I’m supposed to do” (Exodus 3: 1-10). While fervent prayer and seeking the Lord will help lead us in the right direction, there are many scriptures that plainly state what God expects from us- His will for our lives.

A commentator has described the following verses as “the standing orders for the church.”

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God .”

Before getting distressed or anxious about missing the mark of God’s will, a good question I am led to ask myself is, “Have I followed the things I know are right to do, and are pleasing to the Lord?”

Tomorrow we will examine in more detail what fulfilling the commands of these verses in 1 Thessalonians might look like in our lives.

The Comforter Who Never Fails

2 Corinthians 1: 4, “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God gives us.” (NLT)

John 14: 26, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy [Spirit], whom the Father will send in My name, he will teach you all things, bring things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said to you.” (KJV)

While it is true that a measure of comfort can be afforded to other’s by our mere presence and loving words, truly healing comfort comes by the power of the Holy Spirit within us. God looks upon hearts and is able to discern our deepest needs; He knows exactly the words, actions, or amount of attentive listening that will console a grieving or troubled heart. So, as believers, if we need to discern how be present with someone, we have only to listen to the Spirit within us for discernment and sensitivity to their needs. Perhaps he will lead us to pray, take a walk with them, actively listen, weep with them, or any number of things that the Holy Spirit can bring to our minds.

2 Corinthians 1:4 implies that we are best equipped to comfort others when we have allowed the Holy Spirit to console us when we ourselves have been in need of comfort. As with all things from the Lord, it is necessary to cooperate with what He is doing and receive by faith; then, we will be able from experience to turn around and share with others in their time of need.

The Power of Presence

In today’s world it seems that silence is considered to be an awkward state that is best to avoid when possible. Sounds constantly fill our ears- music, machinery, traffic, etc.; and conversations rarely allow for more than a few seconds of silence. However, the Bible seems to point out that silence can be a means by which our presence can be the most appropriately demonstrated- Ecclesiastes 3: 7-8 says that there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak.” An unknown author stated “wise men are not always silent, but they know when to be.”

The biblical account of Job demonstrates even more clearly how our mere presence can be comforting to someone, and can be made more powerful through silence. After Job began to be tormented by the enemy, his friends came and “sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great” (Job 2: 13 NAS).

This example of the power of presence was demonstrated to me after my father died while I was away at college. As a very young adult, I had not experienced the death of a family member and was overcome with grief to the point that I could not find solace. Our family’s pet dog, Bo, seemed to sense my sadness and followed me around, never leaving my side. If I paused in my walk, he would sit beside me, obviously waiting until I wanted to continue on. In the silence, I was able to begin expressing my emotions; the quietness afforded me the opportunity to verbalize my grief- I began to be comforted.

It is absolutely true that words can be powerful and healing; however, I believe we shouldn’t always feel compelled to speak, especially if we are not sure what we should say or how we should say it. After all, Bo could not speak, yet I found solace in the stillness of his presence.

Patience is a Virtue

When I was a child I fell violently against the edge of brick steps and gashed the center of my forehead. To my chagrin, a large ugly brown scab began to situate itself in plain sight just below my bangs. Whenever I looked in the mirror, my focus was immediately drawn to the appalling sore and I became more and more self-conscious about it. It seemed to me that it was never going to heal and go away without my assistance; so, ever so gently I began to pick at it just to help it loosen its hold. It seemed to work at first- no bleeding and I was making progress to loosen the scab; but as I grew more and more impatient with how long the whole process was taking, I finally just ripped it off. I immediately experienced pain and bleeding and realized too late that it was still a deep wound that had not fully healed. To this day, a scar is visible despite the fact that the gash had healed long ago.

In Luke, 4: 18, Jesus explained that the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him, anointing Him to heal the brokenhearted (inner healing) and deliver the captive (set free for change). This same Spirit operates today inside each believer enabling genuine, lasting change and healing. With a little imagination my sore can be seen as a metaphor for inner wounding that needed healing- for changes that needed to take place. My premature assistance for this healing process represented my impatient insistence that those changes be speedy and relatively painless. I have only to look at my scar to recall this lesson about the virtue of patience-it is a constant reminder that trusting in the timing and work of the Holy Spirit is key for genuine, complete healing and transformation.