Month: September 2022

It is Never Too Late to Have a Good Day

Have you experienced a day so fraught with trying people, incidents, or even personal mistakes that you found yourself wishing it was over?

You might say to yourself, “If I can just make it to tomorrow…” or “Will this day never end?” I have certainly chalked some rare days up as total losses—void of any meaningful offerings during their 24 hour span (most likely because my attitude and mind had developed a blind spot to anything positive).

However, the Bible provides us with clear instruction to rejoice and be glad in every day that the Lord has made (Psalm 118:24 ). So, how can we genuinely rejoice even on those seemingly irredeemable days? The scriptures tell us how, if we will take them to heart and commit to the truths they contain:

  • First, accept the fact that one day is at its foundation as good as another simply because the Lord Himself made it (Ecclesiastes 7:14).
  • Commit to blessing the Lord every day because He is worthy of praise (Psalm 145:2).
  • Take to heart the counsel of 1 Peter 3:10“The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil …”
  • Ask the Lord to enable you to hear His loving kindness every morning (Psalm 143:8).
  • Never forget to make the most of the good opportunities that come our way everyday because the days are full of evil influences (Ephesians 5:16).
  • Understand that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8); therefore, He is present with us each and every day and we can count on Him without fail.
  • Be encouraged because Psalm 68:19 proclaims, “Blessed is the Lord who DAILY loads us with benefits.”

My Thought for Today

If we fill our lives with endless activity in order to be more acceptable to the Lord, we are trying to change from the outside-in (conforming) through our works; but rather, we should change from the inside-out (transforming in heart, mind, and spirit), which is through the effective and powerful working of the Holy Spirit.

(Ezekiel 36:26-27; Psalm 51:10; Psalm 139:23-24; 1 Corinthians 6:11)

In Our Father’s Arms

I once heard the following anecdote that helps demonstrate the heart of our Heavenly Father and our security in His love:

There was a young father who had two daughters– one was six years old, and the other four. When he returned home from work one day, his two children ran excitedly up the drive to meet him; however, the oldest was able to run faster and leaped into his arms before her little sister could get there. When the four-year-old arrived, her sister, who was already in her father’s arms taunted, “I’ve got Daddy now!” The wise father gave the older daughter a warm hug and put her down on the drive and immediately lifted the younger child high up into his arms. Then the four-year-old looked down at her big sister and joyfully exclaimed, “But now Daddy has me!”

Our Heavenly Father loves us with an everlasting and perfect (1 John 4:18) love; therefore, we are welcomed to run to Him and take refuge. However, perhaps the even greater blessing is that our security and acceptance doesn’t depend on us; it is His strong arms that keep us safe and secure– He has us!

Test Yourself and Your Ways

Galatians 6:1, “Keep watch on yourself, lest you be tempted.”

2Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?

Lamentations 3:40, “Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord.”

The Bible clearly tells us to examine ourselves; however, there are some important considerations if we are to benefit from this process. Ultimately, the key to steadfastness and constancy is to keep our focus on God rather than ourselves, because we fluctuate in our level of commitment and attitude when facing trying situations. Therefore, our self-evaluations will fluctuate and vary in truthfulness…although we are instructed to examine and test ourselves, we mustn’t stop there!

It is necessary to look at our failings and weaknesses in the light of the Scriptures; then we can more accurately understand ourselves and our situation– we will gain a more biblical perspective. Besides seeing ourselves more realistically, we also need to view God more accurately. Once we realize that our Heavenly Father never fails, always keeps His promises and word, and is always true to His holy and perfect nature; then, everything comes into focus and we can benefit from increased understanding and wisdom– we grow in our faith and mature in our walk with the Lord.

God Will Direct My Path

My post on 9/8/22 relayed how I struggled when presented with an opportunity to teach in our new church. Thankfully, the Lord had — through a lifetime of spiritual lessons– taught me it is good and best to submit to His will when He presents the next step to take on the path of maturity in Christ. Just as with the Ninevites, God laid the preparatory groundwork to turn my heart toward discernment and obedience to His will. In this post I would like to share one aspect of how my Heavenly Father equipped me to respond to the new teaching opportunity:

There was an extended period of time that elapsed between opportunities to teach…partly due to the pandemic, and also because the process of finding another church was very challenging. During this period a dear friend Diane, who lived in another state, stepped out in obedience to the Holy Spirit– she expressed a desire for us to utilize our phones to come together in a weekly Bible study. She stated expressly that she wanted me to teach; as she put it, “I will be the student.” I began to sense the Lord’s involvement in her proposal and as we continued to come together, I knew God was indeed ordering my steps by providing a way for me to consistently exercise the gift He had given me.

Although I had a crisis of belief later when presented with the offer to teach a ladies’ group at church, I have no doubt that the study with my friend kept the door cracked open for me to trust in the Lord and receive the blessing He had in store for me.

My Times are in God’s Hand

Psalm 31:14-15, “But as for me, I trust in Thee, O Lord, I say, ‘Thou art my God…my times are in Thy hand…'”

As each day passes and the world seems to be in greater and greater chaos, perhaps we can all agree that these are troubled times. King David wrote extensively about the troubles and enemies he faced on a continuous basis; yet he always came back to the hope he had in the Lord. I find great comfort in his writings in the book of Psalm– they are amazingly applicable to my life at this time in history.

Ascertaining the literal meanings for three key words contained in the verses makes the passage’s application clear and meaningful:

TRUST: Confidence, security, boldness, hope, surety

TIMES: Time of an event, experiences, fortunes, occurrences, occasions

HAND (OF GOD): Power and strength

Taking these definitions into account, the passage seems to counsel me in this way: If I will fully place my confidence and security in the Lord, I can be emboldened and hopeful. After all, the hand of the Lord is powerful, a place of great strength– all the strength I need– to navigate the troubled waters of this life. It is a place where I can put myself in His perfect care, and that fact is comforting. And so, despite the fact that these times (experiences, events) are challenging to say the least, my times (our times) are in our Heavenly Father’s hands.

The Jonah in Me- Final Thoughts

The book of Jonah is only 4 short chapters– a brief historical account about a real person, Jonah. In fact, Jesus Himself referenced Jonah as a historical prophet who was indeed swallowed by a great fish (Matthew 12:39-40). A reading of the full account in the book of Jonah is easily achieved and will avail much insight and encouragement to anyone who takes opportunity to explore it.

Old Testament scripture looks constantly to the appearance of the Savior, Jesus Christ; the reference in Mt. 12: 39-40 removes any doubt that this is so. With this in mind, we might ask who the central character really is in the narrative– I believe a case could be made that he is God, who demonstrates his mercy and grace to bring salvation throughout the entire story:

  • MERCY FOR AN INDIVIDUAL, JONAH: Despite the fact that Jonah immediately fled from obedience to the Lord, God kept watch over him throughout the storm and provided a place of life and safety– the great fish. Additionally, the Lord was patient to give Jonah a second chance (Jonah 3:1-2) and continued to instruct him despite Jonah’s stubbornness (see chapter 4).
  • MERCY FOR A GROUP: In his immeasurable mercy for the lost, God also brought salvation to the mariners on the boat. Jonah 1:16, “Then the men [mariners] feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord and made vows.”
  • MERCY FOR AN ENTIRE CITY: Jonah 3: 10, “And God saw their works , that they turned from their evil way” and spared them from his judgement. The king of Nineveh said everyone should, “cry mightily unto God…and turn everyone from his evil way and the violence in their hands” (Jonah 3:8); therefore, from the very top of their society to the lowliest, God drew them to receive His mercy.

God is committed in his mercy and love to all who will give their hearts to Him– whether one, few, or many.

Although Jonah continued to stubbornly desire his own will rather than humbly submit to the will of God, he nevertheless knew and believed the truth about the Lord: “…for I (Jonah) knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness…” (Jonah 4: 2). It is very reassuring to know that although the Lord is a holy and just God, his great desire is to show his mercy and love at every possible opportunity.

The Jonah in Me- Part 3

Jonah 3: 5, “So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.”

We have seen that Jonah had already judged the people of Nineveh to be unworthy of God’s grace and tried his best to get out of contributing in any way to their repentance. Yet, God had already begun the process of softening and preparing their hearts to do just that before He ever called Jonah: Historical records show that they had endured plagues and famine; there had been celestial signs; God even used the great fish to speak about their false fish-god, Dagon. Jonah’s delivery of God’s word was the final tool God used to bring about their redemption; and Jonah was very angry and displeased about that:

Jonah 4:1, “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.” After God asked Jonah if he had good reason to be angry, he replied, “I have good reason to be angry, even to death” (Jonah 4:9). Jonah continued to justify his rebellion. I have discovered a new word to aptly describe Jonah– “recalcitrant”; that is, he was stubbornly rebellious. If I am totally honest, I think I must confess that there have been times when I might have been described as recalcitrant, or at minimum, pouting.

Yet because I am his child, God never left me alone in my resistance to his will. Jonah himself knew that God was, “a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, and one who relents concerning calamity” (Jonah 4:1). Praise the Lord that when we fail in our humanness, God is unchanging in his character and faithfulness.

The Jonah In Me- Part 2

Jonah 1:3, “…and [Jonah] went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshsish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish FROM THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD.”

Did the prophet Jonah actually believe he could escape the presence of the Lord? He obviously made the greatest effort possible at that time to do so: In biblical times, one could only expect to walk 24 miles in one day; so to get to a ship in Joppa from his hometown of Gath-Hepher (which was over 68 miles away) was no small undertaking. Then he paid what would undoubtedly have been a hefty fee because the destination, Tarshish, was as at the edge of the known world to an Israelite– as far as he could go in the opposite direction of Nineveh. I wonder if his desperation to avoid Nineveh led to irrational thinking; or perhaps, he was trying to convince the Lord that he absolutely was not going to go there.

Before we write Jonah off as sinfully and inexcusably disobedient and stubborn, we might consider how we would have reacted. As a side note, Nineveh was a wicked city that was the capital of Israel’s mortal enemy, Assyria. Furthermore, we know from their own inscriptions that they flayed (skinned alive) their enemies. They were pagan. They ruthlessly dominated whomever they conquered. Jonah simply did not want to see them saved.

Do we have a Nineveh in our lives: An individual, a nation, a race, an enemy etc. that we might judge to be totally undeserving of God’s grace? Do we avoid doing good to them; are we fleeing as Jonah did from administering mercy, grace and love to them? It is good to remember Micah 6:8, “What does the LORD require of you but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” In this verse we, as believers, are given the simple requirements (demands that are necessary and needed) from the Father that we serve. Consider this– could it be that we are another person’s Nineveh? Thankfully, God did good to us; He showed us mercy, love, and grace despite the fact that we deserved judgement rather than His love.

The Jonah in Me

Jonah 1: 3, “But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord…”

Recently and unexpectedly, I was asked to teach on the book of Jonah at our church. It had been three years since I last taught in another church that we attended and I missed teaching and longed for another opportunity to do so in our new church; but I perceived that no such possibility was available to me. Eventually, my desire to teach diminished to the point that I was satisfied in finding other opportunities for service– my confidence for teaching was non-existent. In fact, when I received the message asking me to teach, my initial reaction was uneasiness and incredulity about the entire prospect. My words to my husband were, “I just want to run from it!”

Immediately, the Holy Spirit prompted me to take a look at the book of Jonah before calling back with my decision. As I read Jonah 1:3, I inexplicably began to laugh. It was a strange reaction to me due to the fact that I was still distraught about how to politely refuse the invitation for service; yet I couldn’t help but picture myself in the shoes of Jonah– running as hard as I could away from the Lord. “Is this what I am doing, Lord? Is this how I look to you in this moment?”

It was quickly apparent in my spirit that my motivation for declining was due to fear of failure and avoidance of discomfort. Just as clear was the fact that God had orchestrated my return to teaching; I absolutely could not comprehend on what basis this leader could have approached me other than by the Holy Spirit. Finally, the overwhelming assurance about the offer to serve was the book itself– a timely word from the Lord to me to study and use as a mirror for insight and growth. My confidence had to be in God, not myself or my abilities– “For the Lord will be [my] confidence and will keep [my] foot from being caught.”

The Right Equation

Can anyone identify with these statements or questions?:

  • How will my unsaved child ever turn to the Lord?
  • How can this situation not overwhelm me?
  • I keep failing…how can I be used effectively by God?
  • I am not qualified or equipped to _____________________.

This equation might look like this:

Weak insignificant me + overwhelming task = failure

Maybe the questions that would help us move forward are:

  • Am I willing to do what God has asked me to do? (Luke 6:46)
  • Do I believe God can do through me all that He intends? (Philippians 2:13)
  • Am I being driven more by fear and avoidance than faith? (Isaiah 41:10)

An equation based on God’s word will look like this:

God through me + any task He asks of me = success

Recently the Lord has presented an opportunity for me to study the book of Jonah in depth, and I know in my heart that it is timely instruction for me. In fact, because the above equations are inspired by the book of Jonah, this post will serve as an introduction to this book over the next few posts.

God’s Grace is Sufficient

When we are at our weakest (literally, lacking in strength), we are at a place where we are most dependent on the Lord.

When we are most dependent on the Lord, His power and strength are made perfect (literally, completing what we lack in strength).

When we understand this truth we are able to rejoice in our weakness; because at this point, we actually experience His power and the sufficiency of His grace.

May your day be blessed!