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Archive for February, 2013

 “My heart rejoices in your salvation,” David proclaimed (Psalm 13:5).

When I hear that word, “salvation,” my first thought is salvation from the consequences of my sins. Jesus paid the debt I owed, considers me “not guilty,” and has graciously given me eternal life. That in itself is an overwhelming gift–more wonderful, more generous than any gift I could hope for.

Yet there is more.

God offers me salvation from a number of ills, such as:

Guilt. He not only forgives my sins, he doesn’t even remember them anymore (Isaiah 43:25).

Fear, because he is my stronghold in the time of trouble (Psalm 37:39).

Worry, having promised to supply my every need (Philippians 4:19).

Foolish decisions, by providing his wisdom when I ask for it (James 1:5).

Discouragement, as I put my hope and trust in him, because all things are possible with him (Matthew 19:26).

Loneliness, because he is always with me (Matthew 28:20).

Sadness because in his presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).

Feeling useless, when I live each moment for the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:11-12).

Feeling helpless, because in his hands are strength and power (1 Chronicles 29:12). He helps and delivers (Psalm 37:40a).

No doubt a thorough study of scripture would uncover even more ways that God’s saving work is accomplished in my life and yours.

And why is he spending so much time and effort on our behalf, to save us from these malignancies of our souls? You know the answer: He loves us and has our best interests at heart.

That love is not just for the whole lot of us, as one big group. It’s for each one of us individually. We know this, but don’t always live in the confidence of this truth.

So look into his eyes and see the tenderness he feels for you–personally.

Listen to his saving, encouraging word for you and hear the passion in his voice.

Draw near and feel his loving arms pull you close to his heart (Isaiah 40:11).

“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

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Water and Worship

It is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, made up of two abundant elements, hydrogen and oxygen.

Simple and ordinary, yet absolutely indispensable for life. Water.

Did you know that water performs multiple functions in our bodies? I certainly didn’t.

1. Water helps regulate body temperature. It absorbs heat and releases excess heat as perspiration.

2. Water lubricates joints. It cuts down on friction that can cause injury.

3. Water protects our organs. It delivers the necessary nutrients and oxygen.

4. Water helps regulate blood pressure. As it moves through the blood vessels, water carries away other fluids. Vessels are not “pressured” with too much fluid so they can relax, and blood pressure is reduced.

5. Water detoxifies. It carries waste products away from cells.

6. Water even improves our moods. When all of the above is accomplished, we feel better. When we feel better, our moods are elevated.

And those are just a few examples of why our physical bodies need water every day.

Similarly, we also need worship every day—expressions of praise, adoration, and gratitude to our God. Water hydrates our bodies; worship hydrates our souls.

Did you know that worship performs multiple functions in our spirits? I certainly didn’t.

1. Worship regulates our spiritual temperature. For example: Are you hot under the collar with frustration? Are you sweating bullets of worry? Are you getting the cold shoulder from someone, and now you’re feeling chilly toward him or her? Worship helps to regulate our spirits while dealing with emotional ups and downs. A heavenly perspective calms the frustration and worry.

2. Worship lubricates our spiritual joints. Time spent in God’s presence, focused on his attributes, gives us the strength to press on, with greater ease.

3. Worship offers protection for our spirits. It’s like a fortress, a place of security and safety, where hope and strength are restored (Psalm 62:5-8).

4. Worship regulates the day-to-day pressures of too much to do and not enough time, of people pulling us in different directions, of a shrinking paycheck and mounting bills. As we worship our almighty, all-wise, loving God, the pressures of life subside.

5. Worship detoxifies our spirits. Spend a few moments in worship and feel the negativity and worry drain away. Into the resulting void God infuses perfect peace, as we keep our minds steadfast upon him (Isaiah 26:3). I have to admit: for me this is an ongoing process. Toxins can invade my spirit at least several times a day. But I am learning to acclaim my God more frequently, to walk in his presence more consistently, and praise-away the toxins (Psalm 89:15-17)!

6. Worship improves our moods. Solomon expressed the concept well: “The fear of the Lord leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble” (Proverbs 19:23). Surely contentment is the greatest ingredient of a good mood. Expressing my reverence and appreciation for God will help me develop that state of mind and spirit.

How can we incorporate the habit of daily worship into our busy routines? Perhaps it can begin with water. As we hydrate our bodies throughout the day, we can hydrate our spirits with worship at the same time.

DRINK     UP    AND    LOOK      UP!

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How has worship impacted your life? Please share your story in the Comments!

 

 

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“I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity…I have seen with joy how willingly your people…have given to you. O Lord, God of our father Abraham, Isaac and Israel,…keep their hearts loyal to you” (from King David’s last recorded prayer, 1 Chronicles 29:17-18).

On Monday I asked why the Israelites would speak of or pray to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Perhaps their focus on the patriarchs brought to mind all the ways God had protected, guided, and cared for their forefathers. Just the mention of their names conjured up stronger faith for what God could do in the here and now.

I, too, come from a heritage of faith, my grandparents. I believe in the God of Rachel, Henry, and Clara.

On Monday I gave evidence of the God of Rachel bringing her through very difficult circumstances. You can read her story by clicking on the link above to Monday’s post. Today’s story: The Miracle of Henry and Clara.

Roller skates | Hammonton, NJ

Henry met Clara at a roller rink in Chicago, in 1922, and just nine months later the two were married. She was eighteen; he was twenty.

On Henry’s good salary from the Santa Fe Railroad, Clara settled down to make a home for them. Henry did everything but settle down. He was on the rise through the minor leagues of baseball. In fact, people said Henry had a good shot at playing catcher in the majors. These were the best years of his life, and he wasn’t about to spend them sitting at home every night.

Henry knew he was going to make it big, and started celebrating a little too soon and too much. Alcohol started to get the better of him.

He made promise after promise to Clara he’d stop drinking. Of course, he didn’t. He couldn’t. Over a period of ten years or so, dependency on alcohol became full-blown alcoholism.

He left Clara and his baby daughter, and began drinking his way from town to town, hitching rides on freight trains. An odd job here or there supplied his habit. One day he woke up in a gutter and had to admit to himself, “Henry, you’re nothing but a bum.”

Meanwhile, Clara had no way to support herself and her little girl, Geraldine. They lived with one relative, then another, as circumstances changed in those households.

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When Geraldine was five, Clara contracted tuberculosis and had to go to a sanitarium. Geraldine continued to live with relatives, mostly with Clara’s sister, Hester, who had six children of her own. But to Aunt Hester and Uncle Jimmy, six or seven really didn’t matter. Geraldine was welcomed and loved.

After some time, Clara began to regain her strength, and attended a worship service at the sanitarium. Never before had she gone to church or Sunday School. So the message about Jesus, who offered forgiveness and eternal life, gave her the hope she desperately needed. Clara accepted Jesus as her Savior that very night.

A Bible study, led by Mr. and Mrs. Moore, was held weekly at the sanitarium. Clara became an eager student, and Mr. and Mrs. Moore lovingly mentored her. All three started praying for Henry. In fact, due to the city-wide connections of the Moores, many people all over Chicago began to pray.

One evening, a Dr. Hunt, assistant superintendent of a local mission, came to share with the patients. He explained their outreach programs and mentioned the ministry to alcoholics. Afterward, Clara told him, “If a man by the name of Henry M. should come to your mission, would you tell him his wife asked about him?”

Talk about the laws of improbability. Chicago was serviced by several missions in the 1930s. And most of the alcoholics who frequented the missions preferred to remain anonymous. In addition, how could Dr. Hunt possibly remember the name of one derelict out of hundreds?

But God loves to refute the improbable. He specializes in the impossible. Dr. Hunt replied, “Henry M. came into the mission just three days ago!”

You see, it was November, damp and chilly. Henry had decided to stop in a mission and get warm. Yes, he’d have to sit through some singing and a sermon, but then they’d serve hot soup and give the men warm beds for the night—if they went forward and accepted Jesus.

Rescue Mission

Henry had accepted Jesus many times, in order to get that soup and warm bed. But this night was different. Even though he’d been drinking just before the service, and was in his typical alcoholic stupor, when Dr. Hunt—yes, that Dr. Hunt—put his arm around Henry’s shoulder, Henry’s heart began to respond.

Dr. Hunt lovingly shared that when Jesus gave a man new life, he was a new creation. The old is gone; and new things happen (2 Corinthians 5:17). Suddenly, Henry decided he’d had enough of his old life on the streets. He accepted Jesus into his life–for real this time. To add to the wonder, it was November 5, Geraldine’s birthday.

The story does not end there with a “happily ever after” as Clara and Henry reunited. Henry owed a debt to society for not supporting his family. He spent six months in jail. But during that time and afterward, Dr. Hunt and others mentored Henry. Just like Clara, he became involved in Bible study. And after his release from jail, Henry took a job at the Christian Industrial League, the mission where he had met Jesus.

Meanwhile, Clara still had the hard work of recuperation, even after release from the sanitarium. The Moores invited her to come live with them, and later, Geraldine moved in, too.

Finally the day arrived when the little family was able to live together once more. I can only imagine the joy on Clara’s face to see her handsome Henry, healthy in body and spirit. I try to imagine the joy on Henry’s face, to realize God had not only saved Clara’s soul, he had saved her physical life as well. And I imagine their overflowing gratitude to God, who had worked amazing miracles behind the scenes–before either one of them even knew he was there.

“Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24).

Even though their faith would be tested again and again, including a house fire that destroyed all their belongings, Henry and Clara remained true to their God.

House fire

The grandma and grandpa I knew were involved—heart and soul—in mission work for over twenty-years. Grandpa even became superintendent of a mission in Atlanta, then another in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He spent his days making a difference in this world—among the hungry, the thirsty, the strangers, and the ones needing clothes (Matthew 25:37-40).  Grandpa worked for the least among us, to share with them the hope of Jesus, and to express appreciation for what Jesus had done for him.

Hall House Homeless Shelter Renovation

God of Clara and Henry, I thank you for the miraculous transformation you performed in Grandma and Grandpa. Their story offers further proof that nothing is impossible with you! I thank you, too, for their powerful legacy of faith, characterized by loving kindness, service, and generosity. Unselfishly they gave to family, friend, and stranger alike.

You, God of Rachel, Henry, and Clara, have done great things for our family, and we are filled with joy (Psalm 126:3)!

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“I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity…I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. O Lord, God of our father Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever” (from King David’s last recorded prayer, 1 Chronicles 29:17-18).

The Israelites often spoke of or prayed to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Why would they address God as if he belonged to someone from the past? Perhaps their focus on the patriarchs brought to mind all the ways God had protected, guided, blessed and cared for their forefathers. Just the mention of their names conjured up stronger faith for what God could do in the here and now.

I, too, come from a heritage of faith, my grandparents. I believe in the God of Rachel, Henry, and Clara.

Grandma Rachel married in 1910, at age 20, to her sweetheart, Edward, from a neighboring farm. They moved into town—Aurora, Illinois,  thus ending her two-year teaching career in a one-room schoolhouse.

WPV One room schoolhouse

Several years later, Elizabeth was born, and then twin boys came along, Algen and Louis. But during the influenza epidemic of 1917, Algen contracted the illness and died.  He was only two years old.   I can only imagine the inconsolable heartache for Rachel and Edward, as well as the children.

My dad was born in 1924, so he was much younger than his two siblings. For the next six years life must have settled into a quiet rhythm, but then the effects of the Great Depression became painfully real. Grandpa lost his job as an insurance salesman.

The dread of not being able to support his family became too much for him.  Grandpa Edward committed suicide in 1930. Again, the family faced the inconceivable. And now their future lay on Grandma Rachel’s shoulders.

How could she possibly support her children, at a time when jobs were so scarce? Who was going to hire a mother when so many men were looking for work? But the God of Rachel provided a way.

Baking day - bread and cherry pie.

You see, Grandma was an extraordinary baker. Her hands could turn out the flakiest pie crusts, the most tender bread, and the gooiest pecan rolls—all without measuring. A handful of this and a pinch of that turned out perfection.  (Hers looked much better than the fare in this photo!)

 Grandma was able to establish a clientele of families and businesses to buy her baked goods. That meant she was working much of the night, and then grabbing what sleep she could while the children were in school.

The God of Rachel gave her strength to accomplish the impossible. Her family survived the depression without government assistance, and they were able to keep their house.

Sometime later, Grandma remarried, but Grandpa Will also passed away much too soon. She remained a widow for the last twenty years of her life.

Not many, I would dare say, have been subject to so many difficulties in one lifetime. But Grandma Rachel would be the first to tell you God remained faithful–guiding, upholding and providing for her.

The Grandma I knew was calm, gentle, and patient. Very little ruffled her feathers. She prayed—on her knees, read the Bible consistently, and memorized dozens, if not hundreds, of verses. Kindness, industriousness, and goodness would also be good descriptors for her.

Toast & Jam

I can still remember the many ways she demonstrated her loving kindness to me. What a treat it was to spend the night at her house! I’d wake up in the morning to the aroma of Ralston Purina (a hot cereal). She would serve it with orange pinwheels, toast, and her homemade raspberry jam–yum!  (The prunes I could have done without, but Grandma was only looking after my best interest!)

We’d spend much of the day reading books, putting puzzles together, making crafts, and playing games. Sometimes we’d investigate the treasures in the corner cabinet of her living room—the old books, Uncle Louis’s wind-up donkey cart from his childhood, the large Conch shell in which we could hear the ocean. (To a Midwestern girl, that was quite a phenomenon!)

Grandma Rachel gave me my first Bible for my eighth birthday, and encouraged me to memorize Bible verses, too. But her greatest influence came through her example of gentleness, endurance, and quiet strength.

Thank you, God of Rachel, for allowing me the privilege of knowing Grandma for twenty-two years and for the many precious memories of happy, peaceful times.

But thank you most of all for the legacy of faith she passed down and encouraged in others, including me. You were of supreme importance to her, and never far from the surface of her thinking. May I follow her example when difficulties arise. You, the God of Rachel, will bring me through, just as you did for her.

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Please come back on Thursday for the story of the grandparents on my mother’s side. God did some amazing things for Henry and Clara, too!

P.S. to the cousins: If I don’t have all my facts straight on Grandma’s story, please let me know. It’s important for posterity to be accurate! You can email me at nancyaruegg@gmail.com .

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Humble Pie

No one likes to eat humble pie—to be forced into a situation where an apology or retraction is blatantly required. It’s embarrassing to eat and does not taste good.

But below you’ll find an alternate recipe for Humble Pie that may be more to your liking. Upon eating this “soul food,” you’ll find more contentment with life and with others. A deep sense of security will settle in your heart, and a fresh perspective will enlighten your mind. Doesn’t that sound delicious?

Given below is a list of ingredients for new-and-improved Humble Pie. Equal amounts of each are recommended:

1. Gentleness—consideration of others, putting their needs
above my own.

2. Modesty—remembering that God and others are responsible
for any success I’ve been able to achieve.

3. Patience—able to wait, tolerant, not requiring
deferential treatment.

4. Quiet strength—self-control, doing what’s needed without
requiring recognition or even appreciation.

5. Obedience—recognizing that God’s ways, not mine, are
right and good. Christ is my supreme example of humble
obedience (Philippians 2:8).

6. Respect—regarding the feelings others, valuing them,
being gracious to all.

7. Teachability—accepting of instruction from God’s Word,
from God himself, and from others.

8. Appreciation of others–commending them for their gifts
and talents, their good ideas and accomplishments.

9. Submission—God increases (in my thoughts and
motivations, in importance in my life); I decrease (John
3:30).

10. Worship—recognizing that every good and perfect gift
(talent, ability, creative idea, etc.) comes from
above (James 1:17). Everything we are, everything we
have, everything we accomplish comes from God. He alone
deserves the praise and glory.

Yes, it’s a challenging recipe with lots of ingredients. But when you put them altogether, the medley of flavors creates a winning combination. And the effect upon ingesting is remarkable. Certain ills of the soul completely disappear, like self-absorption, self-advancement, self-importance, or self-promotion. (That self-toxin wreaks havoc, doesn’t it?)

And don’t forget the positive results listed above: Contentment, security, and a fresh perspective on life.

Oh. And one more result: Those who eat a steady diet of this kind of Humble Pie will one day be exalted (Luke 14:11). In other words, they’ll be raised in rank, elevated, and glorified.

To achieve that result, perhaps we should sprinkle one more ingredient on top:

Perseverance—the ability to delay gratification.

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The Bible contains over 2,300 promises, all proclaiming God’s blessings upon us—blessings of provision, protection, and guidance.

And God is faithful. He never breaks a promise (Psalm 145:13b), he doesn’t lie or change his mind (Numbers 23:19), and everything he does is motivated out of love (Romans 8:32). What comforting news in an unsettling world!

But here’s my dilemma. Which promises apply to me, right now, in the circumstances I face? I don’t want to assume; I want to be realistic.

For example, is it reasonable to expect the promise of Psalm 91:9 to be in effect in every situation?

“If you make the Most High your dwelling—even the Lord, who is my refuge—then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.”

There have been godly men and women who most certainly made God their dwelling. They lived on that elevated plane of God’s presence. And yet they suffered dire circumstances—disease, famine, persecution, poverty, and more. From our finite, shortsighted viewpoint, it appears unfair. And dare I say it? It would seem God was not faithful, or at the very least he did change his mind.

And therein lies the pitfall of promises—not in the vows themselves, but in our thinking. It’s a pitfall of misunderstanding. We look at promises with blinders on, envisioning only the lovely, glowing fulfillment of our dreams, our desires.

We read, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4), and our thoughts head horizontally toward things, human relationships, healings, and accomplishments. Of course, many of those desires are right and good. God may very well grant them. But should I count on those blessings as “good as done” because of this scriptural promise? I hesitate.

It may be that God’s desires for me are on the vertical plane between heaven and earth—to dwell in his presence, reflect his light, and bear fruit to his glory. Those divine delights certainly supersede the earthly variety.

If we take off the blinders that focus attention on ourselves, we’ll widen our view. We’ll glimpse the possibilities of God’s desires for us, which would include the best fulfillment of his promises. Granted, visibility will be unclear, because our finite vision of godly matters is so limited.

But at least the view will be wide, not narrow. Wide = accepting of God’s way to fulfill his promises in my life. Narrow = claiming a promise, and expecting my desires to be fulfilled.

My choice? Jeremiah expressed it first. He was talking to the people of Judah, but these words would certainly be appropriate to address to God:

“As for me, I am in your hands; do with me whatever you think is good and right” (Jeremiah 26:14).

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At Bible Study the other night we were discussing the wonders of creation as evidence of God’s glory (Isaiah 6:3). One woman shared that she and her husband had witnessed a triple rainbow once, while driving on the interstate. Each bow stretched from one side of the sky to the other in bright, glowing splendor. Vehicle after vehicle slowed, then pulled off the road, so the occupants could marvel at the spectacle.

Triple Rainbow

Those of us at the table listened with wide-eyed wonder. We had witnessed double rainbows, but not a triple. Several of us had seen the same double rainbow after choir practice late last spring. It, too, extended completely from north to south in luminous brilliance. I remember thinking, If only we were on the plains of Kansas for this moment, so no buildings or trees blocked this view!

English: Double rainbow

Even a single rainbow grabs our attention. The glowing colors, grand size, and rarity of rainbows all contribute to the wonder. And for those of us who know Creator God, we whisper a prayer of praise and adoration for this manifestation of his glory.

Two Rainbows at Dusk in Denmark.

Did you Know…

…rainbows are caused by light being refracted (bent) while entering a droplet of water, then reflected inside on the back of the droplet and refracted again when leaving it. It boggles my mind that light shining on tiny droplets of water, suspended in the air, can result in the astounding beauty of a rainbow. Give God a cup of water, and look what he can do!

In a double rainbow, a second arc is seen outside the primary arc. The order of its colors are reversed, red on the inside, violet on the outside. This second bow is caused by light reflecting twice inside water droplets. Once is amazing enough, but twice? You wouldn’t think droplets were big enough for a double phenomenon, much less a triple!

Descriptions of rainbows often include seven basic colors – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.  Actually, the rainbow is a whole continuum of colors from red to violet and even beyond to colors the human eye can’t see. Yes, according to the National Center of Atmospheric Research, there are more colors in the universe we haven’t seen–yet (http://eo.ucar.edu/rainbows/ ). But someday we’ll have eyes that can see all!

That brings me to…

The Rainbow of Heaven

Even in heaven, a rainbow encircles God’s throne (Ezekiel 1:28, Revelation 4:3), symbolic of God’s grace and faithfulness. Those attributes were highlighted when the first rainbow arched over the sky. Because of God’s grace and faithfulness, he promised Noah that never again would he flood the earth, even though “every inclination of [man’s] heart is evil from childhood” (Genesis 8:21). That first rainbow was a sign God would remain faithful to His promise (Genesis 9:12-17).

The rainbow in heaven is also a sign of God’s grace and faithfulness. John Gill asserts that the colors express His promises and blessings (www.bibletools.com ). Now that thought presents a challenge! What promise or blessing might each color represent? (Before you read on, you may wish to consider the possibilities.)

Red = the blood of Jesus, through which we have the promise and blessing of forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 9:14).

Orange = fruitfulness (John 15:5), providing the blessings of purpose and fulfillment in our lives. (Can you guess I live in Florida?)

Yellow = the light of God’s Word (Proverbs 6:20-23), giving us guidance, comfort, encouragement and more.

Green = the promise and blessing of everlasting life (1 John 5:11-12).

Blue = the skies and heaven, where someday we will enjoy eternity with our Heavenly Father (2 Peter 3:13).

Violet = royalty, because of the promise we will reign with Christ in his eternal kingdom (2 Timothy 2:12).

The next time a rainbow sweeps across the sky, we might remember these promises and blessings.

But rainbows can represent even more.

A Personal Rainbow

Several years ago, while sitting in the living room, I glanced down to discover a small but brilliant bit of rainbow shimmering on my leg. Revelation 4 had just recently been part of my Bible study, so the rainbow encircling the throne of God came to mind. At that moment in the living room, it was as if God had scooped up a bit of that ethereal rainbow and placed it on me, that God himself was personally touching me!

Now, when you or I reach out to touch a loved one, our unspoken message might be: “I love you; I’m here to empathize, to support, and infuse you with strength.” Well, that little rainbow “spoke” those words to me, from my Heavenly Father (even though it was caused by the beveled glass in the front door). It was a special moment of blessing and promise that brought tears to my eyes.

Of course, rainbows are not the only manifestations of God’s glory on earth. What rare and awe-inspiring moment have you experienced that “spoke” to you? “Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together” (Psalm 34:3). Share your story below in the comment box!

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