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Archive for July, 2020

 

Soon-to-be-king David faced big trouble. Some of his own men, who had fought with him for years against enemy tribes and King Saul, were now talking of stoning him.

He and his troops had just returned from Gath to their base in Ziklag, and found their homes burned as well as their wives and children kidnapped by the Amalekites.

David and his men exhausted themselves with weeping (1 Samuel 30:1-5). But note the leader’s response to his anguish: “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (v. 6). The King James Version says: “David encouraged himself.”

I can imagine him meditating on the worship songs he had written. Lines such as these may have played in his mind:

 

 

  • “Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge” (16:1).
  • “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer” (18:2a).
  • “The Lord preserves those who are true to him” (31:23b).

 

We too can encourage ourselves when life’s pathways deteriorate into rough terrain. And the psalms are the perfect place to begin.

In addition, God has gifted writers through the ages since biblical times who supply wisdom and inspiration for his people. We’d do well to take note of their words also.

Following are a few encouragement-gems I’ve collected over the years. I pray they lift your spirit too.

 

1. Has your life-path become strewn with rocks?

 

 

“With God’s help the rocks can become stepping stones” (1).

Surely you’ve experienced the phenomenon: difficulties turned into perseverance, frustrations into patience, and temptations into self-control as we learned to rely upon God more consistently (2). And now when we look back on those rocks-become-stepping-stones, it’s with gratitude.

 

2.  Do your days feel dull, repetitious, and ordinary?

God is the Manager on the stage of life, “in control of all the players. In the midst of what seems terribly ordinary, he is doing something extraordinary” (3).

Count on it. Our extraordinary God can do nothing less (4).

 

3.  Are you discouraged because you haven’t already become the person you want to be?

 

 

A radio DJ recently said: God isn’t so much interested in who we are today; he’s looking at what we’re becoming.

And praise God, he doesn’t leave that becoming solely to us. He’s our loving, participatory Father always guiding us along (5).

 

4.  Do the world’s problems seem insurmountable and your prayers insignificant?

On the contrary, our prayers matter very much. “Herbert Butterfield, the Oxford historian of modern history, is convinced that what Christians do in prayer is the most significant factor in the shaping of history—more significant than war and diplomacy, more significant than technology and art” (6).

Such an observation from a distinguished scholar inspires me to be more faithful in praying for our beleaguered country and other nations, to follow more intently Paul’s appeal to “pray without ceasing” (7).

 

5.  Are you uncertain about your future and your ability to handle what’s ahead?

 

 

Remember: God does not equip us in advance. That would cancel the need for faith—a very important commodity to him. Instead God chooses to give us what we need when we need it (8).

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise you, O God! Your watchful eye is upon each of us, your listening ear bent to our prayers, your strong hand ready to support and guide, your unlimited intellect disposed to teach us truth. I praise you for your acts of power and your surpassing greatness!

 (1 Peter 3:12; Isaiah 41:10; Proverbs 2:1-4; Psalm 150:2)

 

 

What encouraging word have you heard or read recently? Please share in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1. Barbara Johnson, Pack up Your Gloomies in a Great Big Box, Word Publishing (1993), 83.
  2. James 1:2-4; Psalm 37:7-9; 1 Corinthians 10:13
  3. Alice Mathews, A Woman God Can Use, Discovery House (1990), 77.
  4. 2 Corinthians 12:9
  5. Philippians 2:13; Psalm 139:24b
  6. Eugene Peterson, Under the Predictable Plant, William B. Eerdmans (1992), 98.
  7. 1 Thessalonians 5:13
  8. Sarah Young, Jesus Calling, Integrity Publishers (2004) 123, and Hebrews 11:6; Matthew 6:34; Luke 12:31; Philippians 4:19.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pikist.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.needpix.com; http://www.canva.com.

 

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Younging. That’s a word coined by author Valerie Burton Bell in her book A Well-Tended Soul.* She says, even as our bodies become less reliable, we can continue younging on the inside, growing more lively in our spirits.

Author and minister, George MacDonald (1824-1905), would have agreed:

 

 

I like the sound of that—younging and ripening with fresh life within. Maybe you do too. (Even if you’re under fifty, you can still determine to choose younging when the time comes.)

The question is: How do we achieve it?

Perhaps the best answers come from those who’ve gone before us who demonstrated lively, spirited living into their eighties and nineties. How did they swell with fresh life within?

 

1. By serving others

My parents modeled this strategy. Even when arthritis caused painful challenge for Dad, he served at the church food pantry, assisted in the kindergarten Sunday School, and read to students every week at my nephew’s school.

Mom also assisted in the Sunday School, lavishing her love on children and parents alike. She sang in the choir, participated in women’s ministries, and volunteered at the church office.

 

Mom and Dad with their first great-granddaughter, 2010

 

“Experts in aging make a distinction between passive aging and purposeful aging. Successful, purposeful aging calls for continued involvement, relationships, discipline, and an attitude of faith” (George Sweeting).

I’m sure Mom and Dad never researched what successful aging entailed. It just came naturally to them, as an outgrowth of their love for Jesus and a desire to serve him.

 

2. By maintaining a positive attitude

Not only do joints get a bit rusty as we age, our attitudes can start to corrode. It’s so easy to let negative thoughts grate in our minds, or respond to “How are you?” with creaking complaints.

But a positive attitude contributes to joy, and joy works like oil, lubricating our spirits. In addition, the oil of gladness tends to overflow, providing positive impact on those around us.

My father-in-law was just such a person. To those who asked him, “How are you,” his stock response was: “If I felt any better, I couldn’t stand it!”

 

Mom & Dad Ruegg, 1983

 

That’s the kind of attitude I want to foster—not for the purpose of reaching my nineties as he did, but to avail myself of the abundant, overflowing joy Jesus provides (John 15:11) and then share it with others.

 

3. By keeping a sense of humor

 

 

A cheerful heart is good medicine (Proverbs 17:22a), perhaps all the more so as we age.

And no one had a more cheerful heart than Hazel, a merry senior in the fourth church my husband pastored. She was the one with a bicycle horn on her cane.

One day, in a phone conversation with her adult son, she informed him of her date that evening.

“A date?” Andrew inquired, more than a bit surprised that his widowed mother, now in her late eighties, would be venturing out on a date. “With whom?”

“His name is Michael.”

“And where did you meet Michael?”

“At church.”

“Where are you going?”

“Out to dinner.”

“Well, tell me about this Michael.” Andrew prodded.

“Oh, he’s the nicest young man—you’d like him.”

“Young? Just how old is he?”

“In his early thirties, I suspect. He…

“Mom!”   Andrew interrupted. “What are you doing, going out with a man nearly a third your age?!”

Hazel finally admitted to Andrew he had nothing to worry about. Michael was on staff at our church, his wife (a nurse) was on duty that night, and Michael had offered to pick up Hazel and be her “date” for the Senior Sunday School Class banquet.

 

 

Younging—by serving others, fostering a positive attitude, and keeping a sense of humor– certainly contributes to those pleasures.

 

Thank you, Father, for the opportunity of younging as we age,

providing numerous delights as we do so.

__________________________

 

What younging strategies have you adopted in your own life or observed in others?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

*Zondervan, 1996.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.canva.com; Nancy Ruegg (2); http://www.canva.com; http://www.pikist.com.

 

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(Brown Caterthun, Scotland)

 

As you know, paleontologists dig up dinosaur bones; archaeologists dig up ancient ruins. I aspire to be a chesedologist. That’s a word I made up, splicing together chesed*, the word for loving kindness in ancient Hebrew, and –ologist, a suffix referring to someone who deals with a certain topic or subject.

As a chesedologist, I aspire to specialize in the subject of God’s loving kindness, searching for his gifts–especially in hidden places. And though the gifts themselves are precious treasure, their value is increased because his glorious attributes are represented in each gift.

Last week we meditated on a list of God-given delights that stretch from A to Z, creating an alphabet of joy. This week, let’s add a few more, but focus on those blessings that may be hidden from view at first glance. For example:

 

 

The blessing of surprise

 

No doubt you’ve experienced astonishing incidents like this one that only God could have engineered:

As the coronavirus swooped down upon us, I received a call from my brother John. He just happened to have a whole box of N95 construction masks that a friend just happened to leave behind when he moved out of state.

John sent us a carton of thirty, knowing that my husband would need such protection, given his compromised immune system. We shared the bounty with our daughter-in-law, a physician, when even hospitals were in short supply of the specialized masks. She shared with vulnerable colleagues.

Some would say, “What a coincidence!” That’s a misnomer. Such occurrences as these are God-incidents, proving his propensity to bless us beyond what we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

 

 

The blessing of wings

 

No, not wings for us. Maybe God will issue those when we get to heaven. For now we are blessed to take refuge under his protective wings (Psalm 91:4) as he tucks us next to his heart—especially during times of hurt, discouragement, or fear.

When my husband underwent a liver transplant in December 2018, I waited mostly alone more than eight hours for word of his prognosis. But I felt those protective wings around me the entire time, providing inexplicable calm and peace.

 

 

The blessing of uncertainty

 

In February I received a summons for jury duty. Just getting to the courthouse presented challenge: 1) navigating a traffic-jammed, downtown district with one-way streets, 2) finding a parking garage with an open spot, 3) finding my way out of the garage and to the courthouse, and 4) finding the jury room.

In the afternoon, the challenges were reversed: 1) find my way out of the courthouse, 2) find the garage again, and 3) find the car.

That first day I had to pray myself through every step. And God turned every apprehension into blessing. The first garage I pulled into had open spaces starting on Floor 7.  The courthouse was not far away, and a kind woman on the street gave me directions. In the afternoon, no mishaps or mis-turns occurred. All went well.

It’s foolish of me to fret about the unknown. Nothing is certain—except our God. And he does not fail (Job 42:2).

 

 

Uncertainty becomes blessing when viewed through the lens of adventure.  It builds our trust muscles, and sets the stage for miracles.

 

Perhaps you too are an aspiring chesedologist and have found blessings hidden in unusual places. Please share in the comment section one of your discoveries.  Reach out with your story and offer the chesed of encouragement to others!

 

*chesed is pronounced with a guttural “ch” and two short “e’s.”  The accent is on the first syllable.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pickpik.com (2); http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.canva.com.

 

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In the midst of a pandemic and political turmoil, such a scripture as quoted above offers much needed hope. God’s lavish blessings do extend from A to Z for those who put their trust in him. And if we focus our attention on counting those blessings, we’ll have little time to count anything else (1).

So which of the following are you enjoying currently? Count them on your fingers while scrolling through the list.

  • Assurance of purpose (Ephesians 2:10)
  • Beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3)—including peace, joy, and comfort in the midst of pain and sorrow
  • Contentment (1 Timothy 6:6-8)
  • Direction (Psalm 23:3b)
  • Empowerment (Isaiah 40:29-31)
  • Favor (Psalm 5:12)

 

 

  • God’s Goodness (Psalm 145:9)
  • Help (Psalm 46:1)
  • Inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-4)
  • Joy (Nehemiah 8:10)—in God and his attributes
  • Knowledge for a satisfying life (Proverbs 2:6)
  • Love (Jeremiah 31:3)

 

 

  • Mercy (Ephesians 2:4-5)
  • Needs Met (Philippians 4:19)
  • Optimism (Romans 8:28)
  • Presence of God (Psalm 145:18)
  • Quietness of soul (Zephaniah 3:17)
  • Refreshment of spirit (Psalm 23:3)
  • Spiritual Strength (Isaiah 41:10)

 

 

  • Treasure of Scripture (Psalm 119:159-162)
  • Usefulness—even into old age (Psalm 92:12-15)
  • Value in God’s sight (Ephesians 2:4-7)
  • Wisdom (Proverbs 3:13)

 

 

  • X-pectation (Mark 9:23)
  • Yes, because “all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding ‘Yes’” (1 Corinthians 1:20 NLT)
  • Zion—the eternal city of new Jerusalem waiting for us (Hebrews 12:22-24, Revelation 21 and 22)

 

I’m guessing you tallied twenty or more, because many blessings are ongoing no matter our circumstances. Sometimes we just need to avail ourselves of the joys God has already provided.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. We could undoubtedly name many more blessings as a result of trusting in God.

Take “P” for example. God offers such additional pleasures as: peace that defies explanation (Philippians 4:6-7), pardon from guilt and shame (Isaiah 55:7b), participation with God in his work (Philippians 2:13), and pleasures at God’s right hand (Psalm 16:11).

 

 

So there you have it, a mere sampling of the joys continually provided by God as we trust in him. Just how many might there be in total? DailyVerses.net lists eighty scriptures that speak of blessing.

Our joys that extend from A to Z do outweigh our sorrows.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

We praise you, O God, for your abundant love, kindness, faithfulness, and compassion, expressed every day by your overflowing generosity. How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who trust in you. We will sing your praise for as long as we live!

 

Psalm 86:15; 116:5; 31:19; 146:2

 

Now it’s your turn to make an alphabet of joy. (“Z” might be a challenge; you can borrow the word “Zion” from this list!) I promise, you’ll find the exercise a delightful blessing.

Meanwhile, which joy is especially meaningful to you in this moment? Please share in the comment section below!

 

 Notes:

  1. Woodrow Kroll
  2. https://dailyverses.net/blessing/esv

 

Photo credits:  http://www.canva.com; http://www.wallpaperflare.com; http://www.canva.com; Unknown; http://www.pixfuel.com.

 

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We hear it again and again, especially this time of year: few of our founding fathers were Christians, many were Deists. That is, they believed God created the universe and set everything in motion, but he does not participate in the affairs of humanity.

Those who perpetuate such statements are ignoring a great deal of evidence to the contrary.

Last Independence Day we noted thirteen signers of the Declaration of Independence who clearly put their faith in Jesus. Their quotes from documents, letters, and last testaments offer the proof. You can access that post at Faith in a Participatory God.

This post provides proof-of-faith for ten more men who signed the Declaration.

Some of the quotes are lengthy; feel free to skim read!

 

 

Josiah Bartlett, while serving as governor of New Hampshire, issued a Proclamation for a Day of Fasting and Prayer, March 17, 1792, calling for the people to:

“confess before God their aggravated transgressions and to implore His pardon and forgiveness through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ . . . [t]hat the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ may be made known to all nations, pure and undefiled religion universally prevail, and the earth be fill with the glory of the Lord” (1).

 

 

Samuel Chase, while serving as a circuit court judge in Pennsylvania, spoke to the defendant, John Fries, during his trial for treason, 1799-1800:

“I expect that you are a Christian; and as such I address you. Be assured my guilty and unhappy fellow-citizen, that without serious repentance of all your sins, you cannot expect happiness in the world to come; and to your repentance you must add faith and hope in the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ. These are the only terms on which pardon and forgiveness are promised” (2).

 

 

Samuel Huntington, while serving as governor of Connecticut, issued a Proclamation for a Day of Fasting, Prayer and Humiliation, March 9, 1791, including these remarks:

It becomes a people publicly to acknowledge the over-ruling hand of Divine Providence and their dependence upon the Supreme Being as their Creator and Merciful Preserver . . . and with becoming humility and sincere repentance to supplicate the pardon that we may obtain forgiveness through the merits and mediation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (3).

 

 

Richard Henry Lee, while serving as a delegate to the First Continental Congress in 1774, joined Samuel Adams and Daniel Roberdeau to recommend:

“Thursday, the 18th of December next, for solemn thanksgiving and praise, that with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere acknowledgments and offerings, they may join the penitent confession of their manifold sins, whereby they had forfeited every favor, and their humble and earnest supplication that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance” (4).

 

 

Philip Livingston, in his last will and testament, wrote:

“First, I do resign my soul to the great most mighty and most merciful God Who gave it, in hopes, through mercy alone by the merits of Jesus Christ, to have a joyful resurrection to life eternal, and my body I commit to the earth to be buried decently and without ostentation” (5). (Dated May 18, 1778, and on file at the Family History Center in Texas.)

 

 

Thomas McKean, while serving as a judge, presented the following in a public address given to the defendant who had just been sentenced to death:

“It behooves you most seriously to reflect upon your past conduct; to repent of your evil deeds [Acts 8:22]; to be incessant in prayers to the great and merciful God to forgive your manifold transgressions and sins [1 Kings 8:50]; to teach you to rely upon the merit and passion of a dear Redeemer and thereby to avoid those regions of sorrow—those doleful shades where peace and rest can never dwell, where even hope cannot enter [Ephesians 2:12]” (6).

 

 

George Read, known as “the Father of Delaware,” wrote “the first edition of her laws,” and the Constitution of the State. The requirements, stated in the Delaware Constitution, for holding office include:

“DELAWARE 1776. Article XXII. Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust…shall…make and subscribe the following declaration, to wit: “I, ________, do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration” (7).

 

 

Richard Stockton, from his last will and testament:

“I think it proper here not only to subscribe to the entire belief of the great and leading doctrines of the Christian religion, such as the Being of God, the universal defection and depravity of human nature, the divinity of the Person and the completeness of the redemption purchased by the blessed Savior, the necessity of the operations of the Divine Spirit, of Divine Faith, accompanied with an habitual virtuous life, and the universality of the divine Providence, but also . . . that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom; that the way of life held up in the Christian system is calculated for the most complete happiness that can be enjoyed in this mortal state; that all occasions of vice and immorality is injurious either immediately or consequentially, even in this life; that as Almighty God hath not been pleased in the Holy Scriptures to prescribe any precise mode in which He is to be publicly worshiped, all contention about it generally arises from want of knowledge or want of virtue” (8).

 

 

John Witherspoon, the only clergy among the signers, spoke the following in a sermon, “The Absolute Necessity of Salvation through Christ, January 2, 1758:

“It is very evident that both the prophets in the Old Testament and the apostles in the New are at great pains to give us a view of the glory and dignity of the person of Christ. With what magnificent titles is he adorned! What glorious attributes are ascribed to him! All these conspire to teach us that he is truly and properly God – God over all, blessed forever” (9)!

 

 

Oliver Wolcott, in a letter to his daughter, Laura, April 10, 1776:

“Through various scenes of life, God has sustained me. May He ever be my unfailing friend; may His love cherish my soul; may my heart with gratitude acknowledge His goodness; and may my desires be to Him and to the remembrance of His name….May we then turn our eyes to the bright objects above, and may God give us strength to travel the upward road. May the Divine Redeemer conduct us to that seat of bliss which He himself has prepared for His friends; at the approach of which every sorrow shall vanish from the human heart and endless scenes of glory open upon the enraptured eye” (10).

 

Of course, not all founding fathers drafted and signed the Declaration of Independence.

The website, www.biography.com, lists eighteen men among the most influential of our founders (11):

  • John Hancock**
  • James Madison
  • John Adams*
  • Ben Franklin
  • George Washington**
  • Patrick Henry**
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Alexander Hamilton*
  • Thomas Paine
  • Samuel Adams**
  • Richard Henry Lee*
  • John Dickenson*
  • James Monroe
  • Roger Sherman*
  • Benjamin Rush*
  • George Mason*
  • John Marshall
  • John Jay*

 

The asterisks indicates those who included statements of faith in Jesus Christ in their writings. Two asterisks by a name indicates other posts on this blog that share their stories.

Count up the names with no asterisks: six.  Six who may have been Deists rather than Christians. That does not constitute “many.”

And why does it matter whether our founders were Christian and strived to live by Christian principles?

Perhaps Alexis de Tocqueville explained it best in his book, Democracy in America (1835):

 

(Alexis de Tocqueville)

 

Not until I went into the churches of America

and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness

did I understand the secret of her genius and power.

America is great because she is good,

and if America ever ceases to be good,

she will cease to be great.”

 

Therefore, we must beware of those who distort the facts of our Christian heritage and downplay the importance of Christian values.

We must be informed voices of Truth.

 

Notes:

  1. https://wallbuilders.com/founding-fathers-jesus-christianity-bible/
  2. https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/evans/N27848.0001.001/1:7?rgn=div1;view=fulltext , p. 203.
  3. https://wallbuilders.com/founding-fathers-jesus-christianity-bible/
  4. http://reclaimamericaforchrist.org/2010/11/24/faith-of-our-founding-fathers/
  5. Brad Cummings and Lance Wubbels, ed., The Founders’ Bible, Shiloh Road Publishers, 2012, p. 1612.
  6. William B. Reed, Life and Correspondence of Joseph Reed (Philadelphia: Lindsay and Blakiston, 1847), Vol. II, p. 53. Quoted in The Founders’ Bible, 1733.
  7. http://reclaimamericaforchrist.org/2010/11/24/faith-of-our-founding-fathers/
  8. http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=78
  9. https://quotepark.com/authors/john-witherspoon/
  10. (from Letters of Delegates to Congress: January 1, 1776-May 15, 1776, Paul H. Smith, editor (Washington DC: Library of Congress, 1978), Vol. 3, pp. 502-503. https://wallbuilders.com/founding-fathers-jesus-christianity-bible/
  11. https://www.biography.com/people/groups/founding-fathers

 

Art credits:  http://www.en.wikipedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.nyplgetarchive.net (2); http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.picryl.com; http://www.nyplgetarchive.net (2); http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.nypl.getarchive.net.; http://www.wikimedia.org.

 

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