Month: November 2022

Jesus is in My Boat- Conclusion

Romans 8:28 was becoming a lifeline in the storm; but, I needed to understand what the “good” that God could bring out of my suffering would look like. To be sure, physical healing was still foremost in my mind, although I was certain there was deeper truth hidden within the scripture. I remember when I was first able to walk down steps and go outside…there was a refreshing breeze as I gingerly picked a few blueberries. I thought to myself, “The sun feels so good and look at these berries; I’ve given them no attention, yet here they are.” Later, as I slowly grew stronger, my husband took me for a brief outing. I noticed a lady, seemingly much older than myself who was walking at a brisk and unencumbered pace in front of me and I questioned inside if I would ever be able to walk that energetically again without exhaustion and pain. It seemed that victory over all doubt and discouragement would not be easily won.

Nevertheless, a teaching I had read prior to my illness came to mind: The enemy (Satan) can never be victorious in any trial if you keep loving God, no matter how dire the circumstances might be. Perhaps it is just as important to learn to walk by faith and not by sight (or feelings) so that we do not come to doubt his love for us, no matter what befalls us. It seemed to me that anyone could love the God who gave them Eden, but could I love Him from my sick bed? I began to take hold of every blessing— picking a few blueberries, walking more than a few steps, even being able to turn on my side in bed— to the point that I could continually develop an increasing measure of genuine gratitude. As I grew more and more thankful; eventually, I was able to offer the sacrifice of praise from my heart to Jesus, the Giver and Sustainer of life; and as I discovered, the One who would never abandon the boat.

Without a doubt, the “good” that the Lord worked throughout my situation was of greater value for my spiritual growth than healing in my body; nevertheless, to this day, I am awed how God keeps restoring and sustaining me physically. The Bible promises that inwardly believers will be renewed day by day despite the fact that our aging bodies will inevitably grow weaker (2 Corinthians 4:16). And so, I believe the Lord will use my trial to help equip me to finish the race of life well…a truly precious gift.

I have learned that the the Lord Jesus is not only willing to speak to my storms, He has the power to calm them. And because the Lord patiently worked everything together for good, it has become my desire at all times and through all trials, to proclaim with sincerity of heart:

Jesus is in My Boat-Part3

The Lord counseled me onto the path of recovery with the foundational truth that His ways and thoughts were higher than mine (Isaiah 55:9); therefore, I needed to concede that aspects of my illness were beyond what I could comprehend, at least at that time. Indeed Proverbs 3:5-6 further reinforced that truth: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean into your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Yes, God’s perfect ways were far beyond my ability to understand, and I could not trust my own assessment of the situation; rather, I needed to submit to His will and place all aspects of my well-being into the Lord’s hands.

Yet, every time I tried to bolster my faith with prayer and Bible study, it seemed a new complication would arise that increased my pain and physical inabilities. And so, I began to question: What was it the Lord wanted from me in this situation? What was the lesson I needed to learn? Would there ever be an end to this?

One sleepless night I reached the limit of what I thought I could bear. I found myself in the frame of mind the prophets Jonah and Elijah must have had— Jonah said, “O Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than live” (Jonah 4:3); and Elijah expressed it this way, “It is enough; now O Lord, take my life…” (1Kings 19:4). My own plea to the Lord was one of sheer desperation and hopelessness— I could foresee no good to come out of any of my suffering; nor did I have hope the pain would end. The Lord was silent.

The next morning, as a new day dawned, I was broken in my spirit and spent in my body. Looking back, it seems the Lord had allowed me to reach the end of myself— a place where I would fully surrender so that He could work everything for good:

More tomorrow…

Jesus is in My Boat-Part 2

Focus Passage- Mark 4: 35-40

[Learning “what manner of man” Jesus is]

In this passage, Jesus bid the disciples to enter the boat in order to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee; and as they were crossing, Jesus fell asleep— undoubtedly due to exhaustion from His extremely demanding day. Although the disciples were seasoned fishermen, a storm arose that was so fierce that they were all filled with fear— so much so that they anxiously asked Jesus, “Master, don’t you care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38)

This passage relates to my experience with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in several ways, for example: I felt that I was dangerously close to losing my battle with RMSF complications just as the disciples feared for their lives due to threatening conditions beyond their control. Additionally, it seemed to me that God could have prevented the tick bite, or spared me from such searing pain; why “bid” me to go through this storm of suffering? Lastly, I was doing my part to help— searching frantically for cures, praying, and seeking medical treatment; yet, it seemed in my fragile emotional state that Jesus was “sleeping in the boat”— not hearing my cries for help.

To be fair regarding the disciples’s reactions, we are told that the boat was alarmingly filling with water. Furthermore, Jesus Himself had, in a way, put His disciples in this predicament by bidding them to sail to the other side of the sea. And yet, while they were crossing, He continued to sleep in the boat while they were frantically doing their part to save themselves.

Although I began this unwelcome journey attempting to place confidence and trust in God’s goodness and to submit to His sovereignty throughout whatever would come to pass; as time progressed, my faith progressively focused primarily on healing and relief from pain. I began to feel the Lord was not with me despite the fact that I intellectually believed His ways were always good and merciful. The cycle of faith/doubt repeated over and over as I struggled to maintain unwavering trust in God’s goodness and love towards me.

Amid my struggles, the following verse repeatedly came to mind:

This word from the Lord was instrumental in helping me begin to come out of the cycle of doubt into a new level of faith…

[To be continued]

Jesus is in My Boat

Some years back, right around the time I was finishing my masters at Liberty University , I contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which I will refer to as RMSF. I was cleaning out the wooded area in our yard, trying to clear my mind regarding my internship and final examination. Although it was cold weather, I apparently stirred up the ground cover to the point a tick was disturbed and bit me. I did not feel the bite but instinctively knew something had happened; and, upon examination, I discovered a tick the size of a pinhead on my leg. Several days later, the distinctive “bullseye” marking around the bite appeared, a sign that clearly indicated RMSF.

Without going into elaborate detail, my subsequent treatment was inadequate and in fact, exacerbated my symptoms. Finally I went to a clinic that ran the proper tests and the doctor found that my titer readings were, as he put it, “Off the charts; you got a massive download in the bite.” In addition, they discovered other complications— the upshot was that my symptoms and pain quickly increased to the point that I became partially paralyzed and was unable to get out of a chair or bed unassisted. However, the most difficult part of the illness was the indescribable pain that was unrelenting and robbed me continually of much-needed sleep. The most intense part of my struggle to regain my health and achieve a tolerable level of pain took place over a two-year span in which I desperately sought out and experimented with various treatments.

At the same time, as a born-again follower of Christ, I also continually prayed and sought deliverance from my plight in whatever form the Lord deemed to use. Still, the pain continued and I went through spiritual ups and downs, or spiritual cycles of: faith–questioning–doubt–despair. Amidst the Lord’s seeming silence and the lack of progress in my recovery, there was a continual struggle to maintain faith and hope that God would soon remove my pain and restore my physical strength.

Over the next few posts, I will share how God used this experience to teach me about His ways, who He is, and how to surrender to His purposes. Mark 4:35-40 is a key passage that mirrors my spiritual struggle throughout my RMSF experience: Just as the disciples, I needed to understand that Jesus was in my boat— and that was enough.

Are You a Mary or a Martha?- Part2

Luke 10: 41 & 42- But the Lord answered and said to her, ” Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered by so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

In the last post, we learned that Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus despite the fact that her sister, Martha, was frustrated with the resulting lack of help with her preparations. In the verses above, we hear Jesus gently rebuke Martha by explaining that Mary had made the right decision to give her attention solely to Him, resulting in something that would not be taken away from her. This thing that she would not lose is not explained; however, I wonder if the account recorded in John 12:1-8 might be a possible explanation for Jesus’ enigmatic words.

On another occasion when Jesus was a guest in Martha’s home, Mary took a vase of the most costly ointment of that time and anointed the the feet of Jesus, wiping the oil with her hair. Just imagine what a spectacle her utterly selfless and worshipful act must have seemed to the other guests! In fact, Judas hypocritically declared that the oil could have been sold for a lot of money to help the poor. But Jesus defended her act saying, “Leave her alone, she intended to keep it for the day of my burial.” (John 12:1-8)

Mary must have procured the expensive oil in anticipation for Jesus’ burial. Yet, it seems that the only way she would have known to anoint Jesus that evening was by the unction of the Holy Spirit; otherwise, how could she have forseen His imminent crucifixion and the subsequent hasty burial which allowed no time for Jesus’ body to be anointed? Perhaps this indicates what Jesus meant in Luke 10 when He told Martha that the benefits (good part) of Mary’s choice to sit at His feet would not be taken away from her: The time Mary had spent with Jesus prior to that evening sensitized and enabled her to take advantage of a divinely appointed opportunity to prepare Him for burial. Time spent “at the feet of Jesus” is never wasted!

Are You a Mary or a Martha?

Focus passage: Luke 10: 38-42

We learn in Luke 10:38 that Jesus and His disciples entered into a house of a certain woman named Martha, whose home was located in the village of Bethany (John 11:1). It is interesting to note that the name, Martha, means “myrrh, mistress of the home, one who becomes bitter,” according to several Bible dictionaries. Her name seems fitting since the account in Luke describes Martha as troubled and frustrated in fulfilling her perceived role as a praise-worthy hostess. Moreover, Martha had a problem: Mary just sat at the feet of Jesus while the work was left for her to do by herself! It’s not hard to imagine Martha building up increasing resentment toward her sister as she undoubtedly grew more exhausted and frustrated with her seemingly endless preparations.

Finally— perhaps inevitably considering her frame of mind— Martha actually confronted Jesus, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore to help me” (Luke 10:40). Humanly speaking, we might expect a sharp correction on the part of Jesus regarding her behavior; something along the lines of, “Martha, stop worrying and fussing about everything!” Instead, Jesus gave her a tender rebuke, “Martha, Martha, you are concerned and troubled about many things…”

Before we judge Martha too harshly, it is helpful to understand that she probably felt justifiably responsible for the hospitality offered to Jesus while He was in her home. On the other hand, it is good for us to remember— especially as Thanksgiving meals will be prepared here in America— that we should not allow even the good services we perform for others to push us to exhaustion, resentment, or frustration. Time alone with our Savior, even if just a brief prayer, can make all the difference between being a Mary or a Martha.

More from this passage tomorrow…

Jesus Marveled

Mark 6:6- And He marveled because of their unbelief.

Matthew 8:10- When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to them that followed, “Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.”

There are many accounts in the New Testament of crowds, disciples, and various individuals marveling at something or someone. Their astonishment was primarily directed toward Jesus, for example: His wisdom and teachings (Mt. 22:22; John 7:15; Luke 20:26), His miraculous power and demonstration of Lordship (Mt. 8:27), His ability to forgive sins (Mt. 9:8), and His courage (Mark 15:5).

On the other hand, it is interesting to note that there are only two things recorded in the Bible that astonished Jesus. Great accomplishments, tremendous wealth, multi-talents, physical prowess, social standing, outstanding abilities, winsome personalities, or even moral integrity— all of which could be considered desirable— were not among the attributes that caused Jesus to marvel. No, as we read in Mark 6:6 and Mt. 8:10, it was faith or lack of faith exhibited by individuals that caught His attention.

Sometimes it is tempting for me to feel inadequate regarding my accomplishments for the Kingdom; I wonder if I am pleasing to the Lord, or if He might be disappointed with my efforts compared to those of others. And so, it is a great comfort to know that I do not need to depend on my accomplishments or personal attributes to catch the favorable attention of Jesus. Instead, with the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, I can direct my desires and efforts toward building my faith (obedient trust) in Jesus, and thereby also overcome any unbelief…my heart’s desire is to astonish Jesus with faith like that of the centurion (Mt. 6)!

Peace and Security

1 Thessalonians 5:3- “While people are saying, ‘peace and security’ then sudden disaster will come upon them.”

During my early childhood, my teddy bear was a constant companion. No matter how torn or tattered he became, I felt safer when I had him in my arms; so it is not surprising I carried him everywhere— indoors or outdoors. The down-side was that if anyone wanted to torment me, as brothers sometimes do, all he had to do was threaten harm to my bear…please note the missing eye ; ). Therefore, my security was often short-lived and “disaster quickly came upon me.”

King David proclaimed in Psalm 4:8, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety”— he knew the true source of enduring peace and unassailable safety. Some worldly leaders assure us that they will keep us safe, but this is often proven to be an unreliable and unsubstantial promise. No, when we lay down to sleep, it is good to fully rely on the peace of God and dwell in the safety of His power, love, faithfulness and mercy.

Other similar promises and assurances can be found in God’s word:

1 Th. 3:3; Ps. 16:8; Ps. 122:7;Rom. 8:38-39; Ps. 61:3; Phil. 4:19; and Prov. 18:10.

It is my prayer that no matter what has befallen you today, you will receive the peace of Jesus (see John 14:27 ) and lie down to sleep soundly in His security each and every night.

Prayers for Our Children

Sometimes it is difficult to adequately express our hearts in prayer when it comes to our children. Today’s world holds many temptations and pressures to conform to ungodly standards and the worldly schemes of Satan are constantly before the eyes and ears of our loved ones. Yet, the Lord hears and responds to our faithful prayers, no matter how inadequate our words seem to be– Luke 17:6 & James 1:6 assure us that even tiny faith that is not tainted with unbelief is extremely powerful and effective. For those times when we are driven to seek the Lord on behalf of our loved ones, but words seem to fail us, the following anagram, H-E-A-R-T-S, may prove useful:

Hearts: Pray for a God’s Spirit to soften hardened hearts (Eph. 11:19), and for His word to fall on good soil so that they may cling to His word and patiently obey it (Mt. 13:3-9 & Luke 8:15).

E-ars: Ask for God’s workers to come into their lives and then cause our children to have ears that truly hear (understand, receive, and accept) biblical truth (Mt. 9:38 & Mt 4:23-24).

A-ttitude: Ask that they not act out of pride but rather with humility, so that they can serve others with a pleasing attitude and bear much good fruit (Philippians 2:3 & Gal. 5:22-23).

R-epentance: Pray that they come to true repentance; that is, our loved ones confess and turn away from their sin and turn toward Jesus as their Lord and Savior(2 Peter 3:9).

T-ransformation: For transformation to begin and persist throughout their lives: 2 Corinthians 5:17- “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

S-ervants: To become willing, joyful, and obedient servants of Jesus Christ (John 12:26; Galatians 5:13).

Life and Peace

CONDEMNATION: Declare the guilt of; to pronounce punishment.

Jesus bore the punishment, the condemnation for our sins! When His work on the cross is applied to the believer, there is no pronouncement of guilt and punishment; because of Jesus we have been declared “not guilty” in God’s sight. Furthermore, Romans 8: 6 says that “to be spiritually minded is life and peace”, meaning that although we still continue to deal with overcoming sin, we do not have to suffer under the tyranny of sin; instead, we can overcome its hold through the power of the Holy Spirit.

For me personally, I have labored in some measure throughout my life to fully accept and “feel” the immeasurable love of Christ. An important verse in my healing has been 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment.” I came to understand that unless I could take into my heart and live in the assurance of Jesus’ love for me, I would continue to be tormented (punished) for my sins and failings that had already been forgiven in God’s sight. Jesus, God’s only Son, has taken my deserved punishment upon Himself for me; and if I continued to feel condemned, I was diminishing what He had accomplished through His sacrifice.

1 Timothy 3:6 declares that condemnation is “of the devil”, so why should I accept this torment from my enemy and not experience the life and peace of my Redeemer? I will continue to choose to place my faith and trust in the redeeming work of Christ, my Savior!

God’s Consolations Cheer My Soul

Have you ever observed a person who had every reason (in our estimation) to be unhappy or angry; yet remained joyful and loving toward others? On the other hand, we might find ourselves distraught over a small event in our lives because it reminded us of past resentments and hurts. How can others (and hopefully ourselves) walk continually in hope and joy regardless of the circumstances of our lives?

For starters, how often do we say to ourselves something along the lines of, “Because this happened to me, I am the way I am. This experience ruined my life. If so-n-so hadn’t done this to me, then I could be happy.” We are not so much disturbed by external circumstances, but by the view we take of them. That is, our beliefs about the people and events in our lives are what affect our walk, rather than the external factors themselves that we encounter.

Taking our focus off of the worldly events in our lives, and on to the Father and His promises will effectively help us to walk by faith–

Psalm 94:19, “When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”

A few promises upon which we can focus are:

1 Corinthians 2:5, “My faith will not rest in my burden but in God’s power.”

Romans 8:28– There is nothing my Heavenly Father cannot work together for good.

1 John 5:4– I am born of God, therefore my faith is victory.

There are many other promises and truths that I encourage you to personally dig out as you seek the Lord during your times of distress.