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Archive for January, 2019

God, Our Promise Maker

 

 

Tucked here and there throughout scripture are more than 2,300 promises that God has made to his people. And he is committed to keeping them all (Psalm 145:13b)—how and when he deems best.

To be honest, sometimes his methods and timing don’t make sense to me. I have to remind myself that finite minds can’t expect to understand the all-knowing, far-reaching work of a righteous God (Romans 11:33-36, 2 Samuel 22:31). He also works outside the limitations of time, in the realm of eternity.  That means some of God’s promises may not be realized in my lifetime.

However, I can be confident of this: He has the future perfectly planned out, to accomplish the highest good (Proverbs 16:4a). There is no stopping the perfectly wise, precisely timed will of God. And his promises are the guarantee of those flawless, plans.

 

 

Consider:

  • God never lies or even changes his mind (Numbers 23:19). Every scripture promise is founded on truth.
  • He is all-powerful (Jeremiah 32:17). No promise is beyond his capability to keep.
  • God is all-wise (Romans 11:33). He does not make foolish promises for things that would be to our detriment.
  • God is gracious and compassionate, loving and good to his people (Psalm 103:8, 86:5). Out of such benevolence, he will keep his word.

Just by reviewing such attributes of our Heavenly Father, we can fuel of our faith. And the more we know him, the more we will trust him and his promises.

 

 

We, the Promise-Takers

Our part is to take God’s promises to heart.

 

“The sacred promises, though in themselves most sure and precious,

are of no avail for the comfort and sustenance of the soul

unless you grasp them by faith, plead them by prayer,

expect them by hope, and receive them by gratitude.”

—Charles Spurgeon

 

In light of Dr. Spurgeon’s wise advice, Promise-Takers take these specific steps, as they wait for the promises of God to be fulfilled:

  • “Fight uncertainty with certainty” (Selwyn Hughes)—frequently.

 

I know you have this situation well in hand, O God.

You WILL provide what I need;

Nothing is impossible for you.

(2 Corinthians 9:8, Matthew 19:26)

 

 

  • Express gratitude for the answer that will come in God’s good time.

 

My hope is in you—

because of who you are

and what I’ve seen you do in the past.

I will praise you now for the God-glorifying outcome

that is to come!

(Psalm 42:5, Hebrews 13:15)

 

  • Quote appropriate promises often; include them in your prayers.  For example:

 

I know you WILL instruct me and teach me

in the way I should go.

You WILL counsel me and watch over me.

(Psalm 32:8)

 

  • Be mindful of any instruction that accompanies the promise.

 

I will turn away from worry

And focus my attention on you.

Then your unfailing love will surround me

Because I am trusting in you.

(Psalm 32:10b)

 

 

Promise-Takers stand on the flawless word of our Promise-Maker (Psalm 12:6a), even when we see no sign of fulfillment–yet.

With King David we aim to stay confident:

 

 

And we wait—patiently and expectantly—knowing that:

 

 

Is there a particular promise that you are taking to heart for 2019?  Please share in the comments below!

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com (3); http://www.pexels.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.flickr.com.)

 

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The eagle that soars in the upper air

does not worry itself how it is to cross rivers.

—Gladys Aylward

 

That’s a worthy quote to keep on file, don’t you think? I love the imagery of flying high through life close to God, the One who empowers us to traverse challenge.

But I wonder, who is this Gladys Aylward? Author? Teacher? Did she soar in the upper air? What rivers of challenge did she have to navigate?

A bit of research revealed that Gladys’ life began in the challenging river of the working class in London, 1902. By age fourteen she had to leave school and become a maid, to help support the family.

Two events changed her course, however. One, Gladys met Jesus at a revival meeting, and two, she became impassioned about China, after hearing a pastor speak of several missionaries who worked there.

 

(Millworker in Henan, China, 1930)

 

Gladys’ thoughts turned toward China frequently and to the millions of people who had never heard about Jesus. She longed to be one of those to tell them, so she applied to the China Inland Mission.

Gladys was turned down. They said she didn’t have the aptitude or education necessary to learn such a difficult language as Chinese.

The rejection was a deep disappointment, but it did not stop her. She spent four years working extra hours, scrimping and saving every possible pence from her meager wages, in order to pay her own passage.

During that fourth year, word reached Gladys that an elderly widow missionary, Jennie Lawson in Yancheng, China, was in need of a helper.

Several months later, in October of 1932, she set out on the dangerous, weeks-long journey through Europe and Russia, mostly by train. (Passage aboard a ship would have provided a shorter, safer trip, but train travel was cheaper.)

 

 

When Gladys finally arrived, she found Jennie—not directing an established mission, but living alone in a ramshackle inn. Within a year, however, Jennie, Gladys, and their Chinese cook and friend, Yang, had completed the needed repairs.

The two missionaries were finally able to host the mule drivers who caravanned through Yancheng, transporting their various wares.  In the evenings, Jennie told Bible stories to the guests.

It wasn’t long before Gladys was also telling the stories. She learned Chinese quite readily while conversing with Yang and the muleteers—a feat she later called one of God’s miracles.

 

(Gladys Aylward)

 

No sooner did their situation become secure than Jennie fell, and died several days later. Gladys couldn’t sustain the inn on her own. But God made provision for her to stay. The Mandarin of the area offered Gladys a job, inspecting women’s feet!

 

(foot-binding shoes)

 

A law had been passed in China forbidding the ancient custom of binding girls’ feet in order to keep them dainty and small. The practice also caused lameness and pain. Gladys accepted the position, eager for the opportunities it would offer to tell people about Jesus.

But life still did not settle down into a comfortable, peaceful routine, as Gladys faced a number of seemingly impossible situations. And she soared over them all with God.

When a prison riot occurred, the Mandarin sent for Gladys—all 4’ 10” of her—to settle the inmates. God gave her the wherewithal (in spite of her fear) to command attention, ask a representative of the prisoners to explain the reasons for the riot, and then act as liaison with the prison guards to improve conditions.

 

 

In 1937, the war between Japan and China grew into a full-scale conflict. Gladys became a spy for her Chinese countrymen. Her foreign status gave Gladys the ability to cross into Japanese-controlled areas. When they became aware of Gladys’ espionage activities, a bounty was posted for her capture—dead or alive.

One time, Gladys narrowly escaped the bullets of her Japanese pursuers. As she hid in some bushes, Gladys used her padded coat as protection, wadding it up like a shield.

But the day came, she had to seek sanctuary elsewhere.  It was not just her life that was in danger; Gladys was concerned for the orphans who now lived with her at the inn.

She chose to flee to a government orphanage at Sian. When word spread through the community of her plan, other orphans were brought to her, so they too could escape the war zone. Soon 100 children had gathered for the trek—mostly four to eight years of age.

 

 

They walked through the mountains for twelve days—on rough, little-used trails where they could remain hidden. Some nights they spent with welcoming hosts; other nights they slept on the mountainsides. Most of their cloth shoes wore out before they reached Sian.

Miraculously, all of them arrived safe and sound, except Gladys, who was suffering from typhus and pneumonia and collapsed into a coma. She almost died, but did finally recover.

And as soon as she could, Gladys returned to what she loved: helping others in need and telling everyone about Jesus.

Gladys Aylward certainly proved she knew how to soar in the upper air, with God as her strength. And he did indeed carry her across many rivers.

Postscript:  Among the many that accepted Jesus into their lives as the result of Gladys’ efforts, was the Mandarin of Yancheng.

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

May I also soar, O God, resting in the confidence that you will never leave me or forsake me. You have promised to be my Helper. May I focus on you, my loving and powerful God, and not my circumstances, because you are the Lord of every situation. 

(Isaiah 40:31; Hebrews 13:5-6; Ephesians 1:11)

 

(Some of you may recognize Gladys’ story. It became the basis for a movie in 1958, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, starring Ingrid Bergman.)

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1901-2000/gladys-aylwards-impossible-mission-to-china-11630754.html
  2. http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/73.html
  3. http://www.thetravelingteam.org/articles/gladys-aylward
  4. https://urbana.org/blog/gladys-aylward

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pexels.com; http://www.wikimedia.org;  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.dailyverses.net.

 

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You know the verse well, Precious Child:  “In [my] presence is abundant joy” (Psalm 16:11).  One day you will know the full abundance of My joy, when you arrive in heaven and experience the totality of My absolute perfection.

But today I invite you to meditate on the abundance of delight available to you here and now.

Do you know it is possible to greatly expand your joy–just by sitting with Me in solitude and silence?

It’s true.

So come away by yourself to a quiet place. Close your eyes, slow your breathing, and simply acknowledge My Presence. When you come near to me, I immediately come near to you and we become as close as a vine is to the branch. There is no separation between us (1).

 

 

Visualize My strong arm of comfort and protection around you. Remember: I will never let you go. You are perfectly safe and secure in My omnipotent care (2). Lean on Me, Child.

Note My right hand holding yours, infusing you with sustaining power that upholds, encourages, and affirms. In addition, My right hand is filled with righteousness (3)—kindness and compassion, provision and protection, wisdom and guidance, grace and mercy—all for your behalf. I am continually giving My best for you.

Do you see how I look at you, My Beloved Child, with love in My eyes and a warm smile of approval? Never will I condemn you; never will My love for you diminish. It is everlasting and lavished upon you day after day (4).

 

 

I am wholly devoted to you, therefore I will supply the wherewithal to overcome whatever you might face. In fact, My perfect love can drive away your every fear (5), because “all that you need is found in all that I am” (Unknown).

Never forget how important you are to me.   I love you so extravagantly I sent my only Son to die for you (6).  No one loves you or cares about your welfare more deeply than I do.  I will help you, hold you steady, and keep a firm grip on you.

Hear my soothing words of comfort, encouragement and peace, listen as I share great and hidden things you haven’t known before, open the ears of your heart to the trustworthy instruction and hope-filled promises of My Word, and you will find the joy of your heart amplified (7).

 

 

Can you perceive how intently I listen to you? My ears are open to your every prayer. In fact, before a word is on your tongue, I know what you’re going to say, because I’m perfectly in tune with your spirit. You can also take joy in the knowledge I’m already working on the answers to your prayers (8).

All these blessings and more come to you as we sit in companionable togetherness. You’ll soon discover:

 

“The joy of living in My Presence

outshines all other pleasures.”

–Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

 

So come, dear _______________ (Insert your name in the blank). Come into my presence and experience all the joy-filled delights of quiet yet exultant repose with Me.

 

 

 

Notes:

  1. John 15:4-5; James 4:8; Romans 8:38-39
  2. Deuteronomy 31:8; Psalm 121:7-8
  3. Psalm 18:35b; 48:10
  4. Romans 8:1; Jeremiah 31:3; 1 John 3:1
  5. 1 John 4:18
  6. Isaiah 41:10 MSG; John 3:16
  7. Psalm 119:76; Isaiah 41:10; Philippians 4:7; Jeremiah 33:3; Psalm 119:137-138, 162; Psalm 119:11
  8. 1 Peter 3:12; Psalm 139:14; Isaiah 65:24

Photo credits:  http://www.canva.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com; wwwldailyverses.net; pixabay.com.

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The call came at 5:34 a.m., waking Steve and me from sound sleep. Immediately he thought, This is it. My brain hardly registered a phone ringing.

Within moments, however, my body was in high gear, preparing to leave for the hospital. This day—December 19, 2018—Steve would receive a new liver, the only long-term solution for his liver cancer, caused by non-alcoholic cirrhosis. He had been on the transplant wait list for six months.

That predawn phone call became Miracle #1 out of at least twelve over the next two weeks. Steve’s name had only been moved to the top-tier twelve days prior.  (Some patients must wait a year or more.)

Upon arriving at the hospital, Steve underwent two-hours of surgery prep. And then we waited, and waited some more, until the orderlies finally came and wheeled him away.

Miracle #2: Much of the day I waited alone, although Hilja (our daughter-in-law and a physician at the same hospital) sat with me as she could, especially in the evening. But God’s peace that transcends all understanding absolutely guarded my heart and mind the entire time.  I knew all would be well.

 

 

Miracle #3: The first hours in ICU are critical for any patient. God chose a special nurse to care for Steve, one that a colleague had highly praised to Hilja. In addition, Steve was her only patient for about six hours.

Miracle #4: Hilja insisted on spending the night in ICU. As Steve’s blood pressure and some bleeding became an issue, she was there as an extra set of eyes and ears, ready to advocate on his behalf. (Her expertise and support have been invaluable for the entire nine months since Steve’s diagnosis. She’s even attended some appointments with us.)

Miracle #5: The next day, the breathing tube was removed, and Steve was able to sit up in bed. His voice sounded raspy, but he wasn’t groggy, and soon Steve was joking with the nurses, Scot and Mac (What delightful, attentive young men!). By afternoon, they had Steve walking around the nurse’s station. His progress toward healing amazed us all.

 

 

On Day 3, Steve was transferred to the step-down unit where Laura and Katie took over his care. Again, such kind, helpful nurses. In fact, we’ve been highly impressed by the expertise and compassion of the staff at University of Cincinnati Hospital.

Steve continued to make rapid progress, sitting up in a chair for longer stretches of time, circling more laps around the unit each time he walked.

An added blessing those first few days: a young mom from our church babysat for our granddaughters so our son Eric could run errands and visit Steve.

Pastor Michael came to see Steve that day, stopping short upon entering the room. “This is not what I was expecting!” he cried. Although Steve was in bed, he was sitting up, looking perfectly healthy and alert.

 

 

 

On Saturday, Hilja, Elena (our five-year old granddaughter), and I were supposed to attend The Nutcracker. I expected to miss the performance, with Steve only three days post-op.

But because he was recuperating so well, because Laura and Katie were taking such good care of him, and because Eric could keep Steve company for part of the time, I felt confident all would be well in my absence.

Eric was even allowed to bring Maarit, our almost two-year old granddaughter, with the understanding that hugging, kissing, and sitting on Papa’s lap would be forbidden. That was okay by Maarit. Papa’s walker provided great fun.

Meanwhile, we three girls enjoyed the ballet performance—glorious moments of respite.  (God knew I’d be ready to lose myself in the Land of Sweets!)

 

 

Miracle #6: Steve was released the afternoon of the 24th, just five days after surgery.   Christmas Day we reveled in the granddaughters’ gift-opening at our home—not at the hospital.

Miracle #7: Our younger son and his wife arrived the 26th, our daughter and older granddaughter flew in on the 27th. They had all planned to visit anyway, but what perfect timing God supplied! For ten days they provided gracious help.

Miracle #8: Insurance is covering a visiting nurse on Thursday, so we only have to go to the hospital for post-op check-ups once a week.

Miracle #9: Steve has experienced very little pain. Within twelve days he was taking only Tylenol at bedtime. Now he’s not even taking that.

Miracle #10: The discomfort of acute swelling caused the most trouble after returning home. The doctor told us the edema could take up to three weeks to resolve, but within one week it was much improved.

 

 

Miracle #11: Transplant patients almost always require insulin until the medications that raise blood sugar can be reduced. Steve’s insulin dosage has already been lowered, and only several times has he needed extra insulin beyond the once-daily dose.

Miracle#12: The huge outpouring of love, support, and prayer throughout this entire process have contributed greatly to Steve’s healing.  Many of you reading this post are part of this miracle.

At Tuesday’s post-op check-up we were told his platelet and white blood cell counts are continuing to rise. “Your new liver is happy!” exclaimed the physician’s assistant.

Needless to say, so are we.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     * 

Just these past three weeks, O God, You have done such great things for us! “Our hearts brim with joy.” Now may your unfailing love rest upon us, even as we put our hope for the future in you.

 (Psalm 126:3; 33:21a MSG; 33:22)

 

(Nutcracker image from http://www.flickr.com.)

 

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