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Archive for May, 2016

 

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My knowledge of boat parts is limited, but this much I know: throw an outboard motor in the water; it will sink. Throw a propeller in the water; it, too, will plunge to the bottom. So will seats, cleats, and other parts. But when they are assembled together on a strong hull, the boat floats.

Similarly, our lives are comprised of a variety of experiences: some heavy and hurtful, others light and joyful. When properly assembled as a whole, they create a life that floats, and one that’s headed on a course toward worthwhile purpose.

Proper assembly of negative as well as positive events requires the trait of resiliency—the ability to press on through setbacks again and again.

Do those words, press on, sound familiar? The great missionary-adventurer, Paul, said he pressed on toward the goal of becoming what God intended for him (Philippians 4:12-14).  Paul is a worthy case-study for resiliency.

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(The apostle Paul by Rembrandt)

 

He suffered plenty of hurt, disappointment, and failure. For example, Paul was:

  • stoned (Acts 14:19),
  • flogged and imprisoned (Acts 16:23),
  • unjustly charged with treason (Acts 18:13),
  • nearly killed on at least several occasions (Acts 21:30-31), and
  • rejected by many, even after brilliantly preaching about God and his Son, Jesus (Acts 17:16-34).

 

How do you bounce back from such defeats? Researchers have identified the following ways to cultivate resiliency:

 

  1. Get real.

No one sails through life problem-free. Accept the reality that troubles will come, then apply those strategies that provide relief, strategies such as: exercise and proper nutrition, sufficient sleep, laughter, and meaningful activity, including acts of kindness each day.

 

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  1. Get hope.

Be watchful for God’s blessings in spite of the circumstances, and thank him for his loving attention. Gratitude does indeed transform attitudes.

Find fresh strength in God’s Word, especially in his promises and assurance of his faithfulness to keep those promises (Romans 15:4; Psalm 145:13; 1 Corinthians 1:9).

We can ask God to help us set new, worthwhile goals, then look forward to the day when those goals will be met.

Researchers have noted that resilient people do not strive for riches, fame, power, or recognition. Instead they are focused on their legacies—what contributions their lives will make to those around them.  Hope in God—in all circumstances—is in itself an invaluable legacy.

 

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  1. Get in community with other Christians—not just by being present, but by actively participating.

Years ago while I was dealing with an ongoing disappointment, Sunday morning worship on the praise team and mid-week rehearsals did much to recharge my spirit. (Not that all was smooth sailing in between! I still struggled to stay on an even keel; but with God’s help I didn’t stop trying.)

In addition, when we contribute hope to others through listening and encouragement, we find our own outlook much improved.

 

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*           *          *

A boat that floats is not built by just lining up the various parts in the boatyard. It requires the hands and expertise of a master boat builder, to craft a skiff of beauty, function, and purpose.

 

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A satisfying, meaningful life cannot be achieved by mere acceptance of the various events in our lives. It requires the hands and expertise of the Master. He takes all of it—the delightful and the demoralizing—to craft a life of beauty, function, and purpose.

 

(The boat metaphor idea came from Ralph W. Sockman, author of The Higher Happiness (1950).

 

Art & photo credits:  www.inland-boats.com; http://www.slideplayer.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.pinterest.com (3).

 

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“The whole meaning of history is in the proof that

there have lived people before the present time

whom it is important to meet” (1).

 

I greatly enjoy meeting the heroes of history and hope you do, too.

One such hero, a founding father of America, is remembered more for his words than his deeds–words such as:

 

“Give me liberty or give me death.”

 

His name: Patrick Henry, born May 29, 1736. (His birthday is this Sunday.)

 

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But what brought Patrick Henry to that pivotal moment in history and that immortal statement? What influence did he carry afterwards?

A bit of exploration revealed the following:

Patrick Henry’s education and faith began at home, under the guidance of his college-educated father and his namesake-uncle, an Episcopal minister. Uncle Patrick’s teaching, example, and encouragement helped instill in young Patrick the Christian virtues that would impact his entire life.

As Henry grew into manhood, he transitioned from business to law to government. He was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1765.

Soon after, Great Britain established the Stamp Act, which required almost everything printed in the American colonies to be inscribed on specially stamped paper, available only from agents of the British crown–with the payment of a hefty tax.

Henry spoke eloquently against the Stamp Act: “If this be treason, make the most of it,” he challenged. The Virginia Stamp Act Resolutions passed, and those with pro-British leanings did consider the action treasonous.

 

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In 1774, Patrick Henry was elected to the First Continental Congress. Delegates met to determine a course of action for the colonies, in response to Great Britain’s offenses: taxation without representation, searches and seizures without probable cause, confiscation of firearms, and more.

On March 23, 1775, Henry rallied the Second Virginia Convention, calling them to arms against advancing British troops. England was already at war against the colonies, he reasoned. Then Henry concluded with those famous, rousing words:

 

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(“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet

as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?

Forbid it, Almighty God!

I know not what course others may take;

but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”)

 

No doubt such eloquent and impassioned words held the delegates spellbound. But more astounding still? Henry had not prepared a speech for that day; he held no notes in his hands.

Another surprise for most of us: Henry spoke of God throughout that speech, and quoted from the Bible.  In one short paragraph, he used eight scriptural phrases.

 

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Other examples include:

  • “Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace—but there is no peace (Jeremiah 6:14). The war is actually begun! 
  • “The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone” (Eccl. 9:11). 
  • “There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us” (2 Chron. 32:8).

 

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Remember, his speech was delivered with no notes. These verses and many more were imprinted in Henry’s memory.

On many occasions during the war that ensued, he encouraged the beleaguered soldiers to pray for divine intervention, reminding them that:

 

“…the same God whose power divided the Red Sea for the deliverance of Israel,

still reigns in all of his glory, unchanged and unchangeable…” (3).

 

The American Revolution officially began April 19, 1775 at the Battle of Lexington and dragged on for  eight long years.  At first, Henry served in the military, as commander-in-chief of the Virginia militia.  But in 1776, Henry shifted his attention from the military to governmental aspects of the war and the development of a new nation.

In fact, governmental affairs were to be his main focus from that time forward. Henry served five terms as governor of Virginia and as a representative in the state legislature.

Yet it was not his accomplishments that he prized most.

 

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(“Being a Christian…is a character which I prize

far above all this world has or can boast” (4).

 

After Henry’s death, this note was found, containing truth just as appropriate for today as in 1799:

 

“Whether this [the American Revolution] will prove a blessing or a curse

will depend upon the use our people make of the blessings

which a gracious God hath bestowed on us.

If they are wise, they will be great and happy.

If they are of a contrary character, they will be miserable.

Righteousness alone can exalt them as a nation [Proverbs 14:34].

Reader! – whoever thou art, remember this! –

and in thy sphere practice virtue thyself and encourage it in others.

–P. Henry” (5).

 

Patrick Henry certainly practiced Christian virtue himself, and is still encouraging it—in those who will listen.

 

Notes:

(1) Eugene Rosenstock Huessy, Speech and Reality, Argo Books, 1970, p. 167.

(2) The Founders’ Bible, p. 1734

3) http://www.christianhistorysociety.com

(4) www.faithofourfathers.net

(5) The Founders’ Bible, p. 957

 

Sources:

www.christianhistorysociety.com

www.faithofourfathers.net

The Founders’ Bible, Shiloh Road Publishers, 2012

www.patrickhenrycenter.com

www.wallbuilders.com

 

Art credits:  www.wikitree.com; http://www.thinkershirts.com; http://www.patriotpost.us; ce-wiki.wikispaces.com; http://www.azquotes.com http://www.thefederalistpapers.org.)

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Say the word, “blessing,” and what immediately comes to mind?

For me, it’s happy events and lovely gifts, engineered or bestowed by God out of his loving kindness.

But James, the brother of Jesus, saw a different side of blessing: “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides” (James 1:2, MSG, italics added).

Tests and challenges as gifts?! Sounds a bit daft—until we consider:

 

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Take, for example…

 

THE CRAZY BLESSING OF WANT

Do you wish you had a bigger house? A newer car? Better furniture? Consider yourself blessed, that you’re not like King Solomon–the wealthiest person who ever lived. For all his striving to achieve and accumulate, Solomon discovered that when every desire is gratified, the end result is nothing but meaningless smoke (Ecclesiastes 1:2, MSG).

The blessing of want protects us from the pit of depression caused by self-indulgence.

The blessing of want fosters contentment, as we learn to enjoy and be grateful for what we already have.

 

THE CRAZY BLESSING OF DIFFICULTY

Difficulties provide a surprising number of positive opportunities. Here are ten:

  • To press in closer to God and trust him more completely.
  • To experience the adventure of God’s sufficiency (Philippians 4:13) as he enables us to endure—in ways we never thought possible.

 

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  • To see how God will bring beauty out of ashes (Isaiah 61:3).
  • To discover more of who God is.
  • To witness the fulfillment of his never-failing promises.
  • To present a sacrifice of praise to God, beginning with the affirmation that he has our best interests at heart—in spite of what we see.
  • To be prepared for greater usefulness for God (John 15:2), which fosters greater fulfillment and satisfaction in our spirits.

 

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  • To have a compelling story to share, as encouragement for others. Years ago I heard a speaker say, “With no test there is no testimony.” In the final analysis, I’d rather have the latter. You, too?
  • To become mature, complete, not lacking anything (James 1:4). That doesn’t happen without trials.  As Thomas Carlyle wrote:

 

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(“No pressure, no diamonds.”)

  • To love our Savior more passionately. Josif Trif, a pastor from Romania during the days of Communism, said, “If it weren’t for Communism, I would not have loved our Lord as much. I kissed the cross the Communists gave me” (1).

 

THE CRAZY BLESSING OF FAILURE

If failure served no purpose in our lives, God would not allow it to happen. But since he does, we can know that failure is either for our benefit or for God’s glory—often both.

Failure is the soil from which great success can grow, beginning with a crop of positive character traits, such as perseverance, humility, and greater reliance upon God.

 

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Out of failure comes experience; from experience comes greater wisdom; and wisdom leads to a godly life.

“How blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because it is they who will be satisfied (Matthew 5:6, ISV)!

*    *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Crazy as it sounds, I want to praise you, Father, for the blessings of challenges and tough times. Thank you for your loving attention that carries me through, transforming me and makes me a better version of myself.  I also praise you for the glorious promise that through trouble, hardship, disappointment, or pain–“overwhelming victory is ours through Christ” (Romans 8:37, NLT)!

 

What crazy blessing have you experienced in the crucible of trouble, hardship, disappointment, or pain?  Please join the conversation below!

 

(1) His Imprint, My Expression, Kay Arthur, Harvest House, 1993, p. 135.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.imagesbuddy,com; http://www.wallpaper4god.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.izquotes.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.harvesttotable.com.)

 

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After more than a week of full-blown cold symptoms—painful sore throat, totally stuffed-up nose, throbbing headache, and complete lack of energy–I finally woke up feeling more like my old self.

Such euphoria!  I could swallow without pain, take in glorious gulps of air through my nose, and function without the tight hat of sinus pressure on my head or the virtual suit of heavy armor on my body.  Throat, nose, head, and limbs were once again operating in unified wholeness!

But what if I still carried deep heartache, suffered from depression, or continually dealt with on-going stress at work? Relief of cold symptoms would be a small matter by comparison.

Unified wholeness must include mind and spirit as well as body.

This was the kind of completeness Jesus was referring to when he told a healed leper, “Arise, go your way: your faith has made you whole (Luke 17:19, King James 2000 Bible).

 

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You no doubt remember him, the one-out-of-ten healed lepers who took an extra step beyond healing, returned to Jesus, and expressed his gratitude.

Such effort demonstrated a spirit of humility and righteousness as he set aside his own agenda and did the right thing. His faith had impacted his body, yes, but also his mind and spirit.

The leper’s wholeness* manifested holiness—not perfection or proud piousness—but completeness and health of the total person as God fully intended.

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) explained it like this:

“The old word for holy in the German language, heilig, also means healthy. And so Heilbronn means holy-well, or healthy-well. You could not get any better definition of what holy really is than healthy—completely healthy.”

Wholeness is holiness, and God is our example. He is the picture of complete perfection with the sum of his glorious attributes: love, joy, peace, wisdom, and more.

By contrast, we are pictures of imperfection, with our deficient condition and inability to perfect ourselves on our own.

Yet God comes to us, arms outstretched in welcome, and says, “Your faith can make you whole.” We can turn to him like that one leper did, and he will begin the work of making us like him.

 

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Oh, that sounds wonderful! Just as I desperately want to be made whole when a cold wreaks havoc in my body, so I want to be made whole as sin wreaks havoc in my spirit.

But such transformation involves choices.

During a cold, the choices of rest and plenty of fluids will speed the healing process toward wholeness.

My mental and spiritual wholeness this side of heaven will also require at least two choices:

 

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  1. “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always” (1 Chronicles 16:11, NIV).
  1. Distill the positive out of the negative—goodness out of evil, peace out of pain, joy out of sorrow.

 

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And from the fullness of Jesus’ grace we will receive one blessing after another (John 1:16)—beginning with his power and wisdom to make these sound choices toward wholeness.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Oh Father, sound choices are easy to talk about, not so easy to live out. Remind me that from your wholeness, you provide grace upon grace—if only I look to you. Help me turn away from fear, self-pity, and anger, which lead to brokenness, not wholeness. How I praise you for your good will toward me and the good work of restoration you continue to develop within me!

 

*Synonyms from Webster’s New College Dictionary include: health, restoration, healing, and completeness.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.families.com; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.verseoftheday.com; http://www.ourdailyblossom.com; http://www.verseoftheday.com.)

 

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(“Every day we should hear at least one little song,

read one good poem, see one exquisite picture,

and, if possible, speak a few sensible words.”

–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1749-1838)

Author and lawyer, von Goethe, was much too easily satisfied.

Yes, a day without music would be dreary.

Poetry does feed the soul and intellect in ways that prose does not.

An exquisite picture does lift the spirit.

It’s also true that sharing a few words of wisdom can be satisfying.

Yet, is that enough for one day?  What about:

  • Offering the music of “thank you” or “you go first” or “I love your smile?”
  • Reading and pondering several verses of scripture?  That will feed the soul and intellect even more than poetry.
  • Creating an exquisite picture of kindness by finding ways to be helpful and engaging?  Such artful living often impacts people more than we realize.
  • Speaking a few sensible words of encouragement, and feeling uplifted ourselves?

But beyond von Goethe’s suggestions of music, poetry, art, and wisdom are many more possibilities for a day full of delight.  We can:

 

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  • Savor a pleasurable moment or memory–better yet, when the two happen back-to-back.  Just today a neighbor girl whooshed by on her scooter, and I was reminded of happy, long ago days doing some whooshing of my own on bicycles or skates.  I smiled.
  • Make a discovery or learn something new.  Read.   Listen.  Think.  Recently in C. S. Lewis’s The Weight of Glory (Eerdman’s Publishing, 1949), I came across this statement:  “Obedience is the road to freedom, humility the road to pleasure, unity the road to personality” (p. 36).  Well deserving of some careful pondering, I think.
  • Celebrate at least one small miracle of nature:  a magnificent cloud formation, bright green growth on the tips of evergreen boughs, a cardinal’s song echoing through the woods.
  • Engage the creative side:  draw (even if it’s doodling), paint (even if it’s adding color to someone else’s art), or write (even if it’s in a journal that no one else will see).
  • Offer a smile–wherever we are.  “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.  Peace begins with a smile” (Mother Teresa).  Better yet, add words–a cheerful greeting, a compliment, a bit of gratitude.

 

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  • End the day by counting blessings.  Drift off to sleep in an attitude of prayer–a prayer such as this:

*     *     *     *    *     *     *     *    *     *

Thank you, Father, for your gifts that offer daily delight–gifts like the warm pleasure of childhood memories bubbling to the surface unexpectedly, discoveries that challenge the mind and inspire the soul, and miracles of nature that amaze.

Thank you, oh God, for creating us in your image, including the ability to imagine, design, and produce.  Thank you for the deep satisfaction of the creative process.

And thank you for the astounding privilege to be a positive influence in this world, an ambassador for your Son.

 

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(Art & photo credits:  www.doublequotes.net; http://www.beactive.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2).

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(reblogged from 10-24-13)

“Mail’s here early today!” called Lorna, as she entered the kitchen.

Oh, that was good news. Living far from home in Quito, Ecuador made letters a very precious commodity.

“Terrific!” I responded, and dashed upstairs to get my keys.

Lorna and her husband, Elbert, served as missionaries with HCJB. I was a short-termer, living with them for the four months of my assignment as a preschool and kindergarten teacher.

 

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The compound was only a brief walk from the house. Once there, it was just a matter of unlocking the gate, heading down the main walkway a short distance, up a few steps, and into the post office alcove where all our mailboxes were located.

I jogged the whole way there and back, excited to read my mail. But no sooner did I return home than my head started to pound, nausea engulfed me, and all I wanted to do was lie down. Never mind those coveted letters!

My problem was not a sudden onset of the flu, but mild hypoxia–oxygen deprivation. Quito is located 10,000 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains.

My experience (as well as those of countless others) proves: we humans require oxygen—lots of it.

Even folks who live near sea level can suffer from lack of oxygen, because they’ve become accustomed to shallow breathing. Their bodies never receive enough oxygenated air, causing them to feel short of breath and anxious.

On the other hand, research has proven that deep breathing helps us manage stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and even spark brain growth. By not taking slow, deep breaths now and again, we deprive ourselves of these benefits.

M-m-m. Reminds me of Ecclesiastes 2:10-11, where King Solomon lamented the results of shallow living: chasing after wealth, accomplishments, and pleasure. In the end, nothing gave him lasting satisfaction and fulfillment.

Shallow living brings on symptoms in the spirit, similar to oxygen deprivation in the mind and body: heartache, fatigue with life, nausea from repetitive, meaningless activity, and shortness of temper.

In contrast to Solomon’s lament in Ecclesiastes is Paul’s praise to God for the power and strength of deep living:

“Oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength” (Ephesians 1:19, MSG)!

Deep living happens when we breathe in God’s strength with a prayer, his wisdom and encouragement with a scripture, his joy with a song.

Deep living happens when we practice his presence as automatically as we breathe.

And how do we do that, “practice his presence?”

By pausing frequently throughout each day, to turn our attention to God.

I might say such things as:

  • Thank You, Lord, for this new day. Work through me to accomplish your purpose.
  • I love you, Heavenly Father. Thank you for filling my heart with peace and joy every time I turn my attention to you.
  • Thank you for your power at work in me as I complete this task.
  • The wonders of your creation–graceful tree branches dancing in the breeze, lyrical songs of the mockingbirds, delicious aromas of pine and orange blossoms–They make my heart sing with praise!
  • Oh, Lord, I shouldn’t have spoken to Mary like that. Forgive me, I pray. Help me to think before I speak. And yes, I will apologize to her.

Refreshing. Energizing. Purifying. Like a deep breath of oxygen.

Shallow breathing causes a lesser quality of life. So does shallow living.

Deep breathing fosters strength of mind and body. Deep living does that and more.

Deep living radically transforms the spirit.

Let’s breathe/live deep!

* * * * * * * * * *

What deep living habits help you practice the presence of God?

(photo credit: http://www.wikipedia.com)

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(a personalized psalm)

 

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“Trust in the Lord and do good;

dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

–Psalm 37:3 NIV

I praise you, oh God, that you are trustworthy. Your motives are always pure, your guidance always wise, your actions always righteous. Everything you do in my life is for my good.

Now, Father, I want to do good for you. May I dedicate myself each day to fulfill the to-do list you’ve designed. Remind me that interruptions may be divine appointments, ordained by you to accomplish a specific purpose.

I praise you that I can “dwell in the land and live securely” (v. 3, HCSB). How comforting to know my dwelling place is in you (John 15:5), where I find:

  • Refuge (Psalm 46:1),
  • Good things (Psalm 65:4),
  • Rest (Psalm 91:1), and
  • Enjoyment of all your glorious attributes (Ephesians 3:17-19).

 

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Delight yourself in the Lord

And he will give you the desires of your heart.

–Psalm 37:4 NIV

 

At first glance it would appear this verse teaches that as long as I’m worshiping you, you’ll grant what I want. But that would discount your wisdom, compelling you to do only what’s good for me.

No, undergirding this verse is an important truth: the more I delight in you, the more I’ll want what you want. Your desires become my desires, as I’m influenced by your infinite wisdom.

I praise you, Father, that steadily over time you have molded my spirit to be more accepting of your delights. Jeremiah’s words are more readily becoming my prayer: “As for me, I am in your hands, do with me whatever you think is good and right” (26:14*).

I praise you, too, that when a particular delight of my heart does not come to pass, you ultimately cause it to melt away!

 

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Commit your way to the Lord;

Trust in him and he will do this.”

Psalm 37:5 NIV

 

I praise you, oh God, that you provide guidance in what I should do, wisdom for how to accomplish that plan, and strength to see it to completion. I can depend upon your enablement for success in the endeavors you have ordained.

How comforting to know:

  • This is your world (Psalm 24:1). That includes the little corner where I live and work and love. I can relax, knowing that Someone much wiser and stronger is in charge.
  • You’ve already planned out the events of my life in advance (Psalm 139:16). You don’t make decisions as you go along, nor do you leave everything to chance.
  • Your plan is good (Jeremiah 29:11). No matter what happens, good will come out of it.

With your goodness that desires my highest welfare, your wisdom to plan it, and your power to achieve, I. Lack. No. Good. Thing!**

All praise to you, my loving Heavenly Father!

___________________________________________

* These words of Jeremiah were not a prayer to God, but a response to the officials of Judah who wanted the prophet sentenced to death. However, when addressed to God, they do communicate heartfelt trust and submission to Him.

** Based on a quote from A. W. Tozer: “With the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare, the wisdom of God to plan it, and the power of God to achieve it, what do we lack?”

 

(Art credit:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.holy-bible.org; http://www.indulgy.com.)

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