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Archive for the ‘Encouragement’ Category

Pretend you’re on an ocean liner headed from New York City to England.   You and several thousand other passengers enjoy your days at sea, free to choose from dozens of activities—games, shopping, shows, sports, crafts, and more.

You can eat anytime you like, sleep whenever you feel drowsy, make friends among the other passengers or remain solitary. In other words, you make many choices during the voyage, but all the while the ship is headed towards its predetermined destination.

A.W. Tozer gave us this ocean-voyage illustration in his classic, The Knowledge of the Holy, to help us understand God’s sovereignty:

  • Our all-powerful God wields total authority in the universe, just as the shipping authorities exercise sovereignty over the course of a ship.
  • We’ve been given much freedom within the confines of God’s sovereignty to move about and make choices.

Now some folks take issue with God’s control. They want to direct the course of their life-ships.  I for one find great comfort in the numerous, reassuring scriptures about God’s sovereignty.

For example, everything in heaven and earth belongs to Him. He is the glorious head over all, the ruler of all things (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). That includes us–those who know Jesus and belong to the family of God.

As our Heavenly Father, he provides for our needs, guides us through decisions, bestows many blessings, and more. What encouraging truth! The Almighty God of the universe is in charge of our lives as we submit to him. We don’t have to navigate alone.

The key, however, is submission. God is a gentleman and will not force himself upon us. He’s chosen to limit his sovereignty, to allow humans free choice.

Another reassuring truth: God is totally competent. We’ve all known inept leaders who couldn’t fulfill their responsibilities.

But our Ruler is supremely capable. Nothing is too hard for him (Jeremiah 32:17).  As we focus on his complete sufficiency, our worries shrink in significance.

In addition, no plan of God’s can be thwarted (Job 42:2).   What God says, happens.

His sovereign plan is efficient and goal-oriented. He works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his perfect plan (Isaiah 25:1).

God’s sovereignty is also employed with infinite wisdom (Job 12:13).  No foolish decisions come from God’s throne!

And contrary to appearances, he does maintain over-arching rule on humankind (Daniel 4:35).

Consider how circumstances must have seemed to the people of Judah as the barbaric Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B. C., murdered all the nobles, and took thousands of Jewish captives to Babylon.

That wasn’t an isolated case of oppression either. Good people have suffered at the hands of the wicked for eons, and it breaks our hearts. It breaks God’s heart too (Isaiah 63:10). 

Our question of why God allows bad things to happen to good people doesn’t always get answered. We’re not privy to everything God knows or all the reasons behind his decisions (Romans 11:33-36).

What we do know is this: evil never wins in the end. Every evil empire of history that rose in prominence and power eventually fell in ruin. Our sovereign God knows what he’s doing.

And he will have the last word.

So when the squeaky wheels of worry, doubt, or fear begin to spin in your head, and you wonder, Who’s in Charge Here?, apply the oil of gladness, delighting in who God is—your all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise, and yes, in-control God!

Take joy in the knowledge that “if God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31)?

And rest in thIs affirmation: “from him and through him and to him are all things” (Romans 11:36, emphasis added).

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Sovereign Lord of the universe, I bow in worshipful wonder of your magnificence. Your greatness shatters all boundaries! I stand in awe of your vast power and infinite wisdom, always at work in the world.

But for those times when I cannot understand your plan or your ways, help me stand in the truth of who you are.

(Revised and reblogged from February 26, 2015, while we enjoy the company of out-of-town family.)

Photo credits: http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.heartlight.org (2); http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net.

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Many who follow Jesus long for the fulness of blessings he’s promised, like intimacy with God, peace of mind, and life to the fullest (1).

When these blessings aren’t apparent, it’s natural to wonder why. A person might think, I just need to try harder, become more disciplined. Maybe I should severely limit recreation and sacrifice more.

Don’t get me wrong. Self-discipline and sacrifice are part of a dynamic Christian life (2), and actually become delights as we mature in our faith.

But what if:

Intimacy with our Heavenly Father doesn’t require a monk-like lifestyle but stillness and spending time with him in scripture.

“The world applauds achievement; God desires companionship. The world clamors, “Do more! Be all you can be!” But our Father whispers, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Joanna Weaver, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World

If Bible study sounds like a chore, talk to someone who considers it a joy. Learn from them how to experience the same.

Faith doesn’t require long prayers about inadequate faith, but simply resting in what we know about God.

“If you feed your faith, your doubts will starve to death.”

Debbie MacComber

One way to feed your faith is to keep a journal of events that give evidence of God’s work in your life, his guidance, provision, and blessing (3). I promise, you’ll be amazed.

Peace doesn’t come from distracting ourselves with busyness, but from knowing God, focusing on him through worship, and meditating on his attributes.

Reverend Croft M. Pentz expressed it this way:

“No God, no peace. Know God, know peace.”

Croft M. Pentz

And Ruth Bell Graham discovered:

We’d do well to learn from her experience.

Hope isn’t generated by wishful thinking, but by affirming the Word of God.

Some of you will remember the old hymn, “Standing on the Promises.” The second verse offers this encouragement:

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
  Standing on the promises of God.

–Russell K. Carter

For every hope—of a problem to be solved, a relationship to be healed, and a need to be met—there are scripture-promises on which to place our hope. To trust God is to trust his promises. 

Contentment isn’t the result of having all desires fulfilled, it’s the result of gratitude for what we already have.

When we begin to thank God for such delights as the friendly wave of a neighbor, the worshipful toll of church bells, the bright lady bug on a stem, we soon realize how many gifts he bestows.    

Add to his daily delights the assurance that God is with us to support, within us to empower, and going before us to lead the way (4).

Most of our wants pale in comparison to the glories we already enjoy. . .

. . . in creation . . .
. . . in relationships . . .
. . . in usefulness.

A rich and satisfying life doesn’t come through self-centered gratification, but through obedience to God’s ways.

“God’s commands are designed to guide us to life’s very best” (5), including the qualities we’ve considered in this post: delightful intimacy with God, restful peace, constant contentment, and more. That’s a life overflowing with joy.

Pursuing this kind of rich, satisfying life is a bit like making soup! Every ingredient that goes in the pot impacts the flavor of everything else in the pot. In the spiritual realm, everything we do, say, or even think impacts the flavor of our faith.

Gratitude produces contentment but also impacts our worship and quality of life. Faith grows our knowledge of God, but also grows contentment and spiritual strength. Scripture study instills peace, but also nurtures hope and tightens our connection to God. The list could continue but you get the idea.

The bottom line is this:

The question becomes, what actions will we pursue to genuinely impact the flavor of our faith?  


1. James 4:8; John 14:27; John 10:10

2. Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 5:2

3. “Christmas Afterglow” includes several examples.

4. Isaiah 41:10; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Deuteronomy 31:8

5. Henry Blackaby

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In 2 Peter 1:17 the apostle calls God, “the Majestic Glory.” Isn’t that an inspired name for God?

This week I chose to use each letter as a portal into aspects of his majestic glory—other names that reveal his Personhood. With each one, my awe for Almighty God expanded.

See if your spirit responds similarly, as you consider God as the:

Maker of All Things (Nehemiah 9:6)

He is responsible for every star in the heavens (200 billion trillion of them, thereabouts), every tree on our planet (all 3 trillion, give or take) and every fish in the seas (among 34,000 or so species)!

A rchitect of Heaven (Hebrews 11:10)

Here on Earth we marvel at God’s handiwork in the towering mountain peaks, delicate butterflies, and far-reaching rainbows. Try to imagine the fresh beauty, new wonders, and absolute perfection he’s prepared for us in heaven!

Jealous (Exodus 34:14)

God’s jealousy is simply passionate eagerness to protect what belongs to him, what is precious to him—you and me. He doesn’t want us following after such false gods as greed, self-gratification, or popularity that will never satisfy. Only he can.

Everlasting God (Genesis 21:33)

In contrast to this ever-decaying world, our God’s perfections never change and his mercies will never end. He is always and eternally available to us.[1]

Song (Psalm 118:14 ESV)

Think of song as a synonym for joy. He is the Author and Giver of joy, even in difficult times. In fact, “He uses troubles to show where true joys are to be found—in him.”[2]

True God (John 17:3)

He’s the one and only Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Yet, as holy, powerful, and awe-inspiring as he is, God invites us to know him—to pull up a chair to his table and talk with him.[3]

I AM (Exodus 3:14)

With this name that encompasses all his glorious complexities, God makes clear: “I AM the God of absolute power and sublime perfection, abiding faithfulness and assured reliability, unfailing love and generous benevolence.” Of course, these descriptors just scratch the surface of his infinite glory!

Comforter (Isaiah 51:12)

We can take comfort in the knoweldge that, even in the dark pit of emotional pain., we are not without hope. God always comes alongside to help us endure until it’s time to bring us out of those depths. And then, when we stand at last on the solid ground of restoration, we experience the exhilaration of greater faith and the enrichment of wisdom-from-experience.

Gardener (John 15:1)

Jesus often used figurative language in his teaching. One time he compared himself to a grapevine and called his Father the Gardener/Vinedresser.

Of course, our God knows intimately what we–the branches–need.  He supplies streams of living water to continually nourish and refresh, and he provides optimum conditions for growth, in order to produce the best yield of the fruit of the Spirit within us.

Light  (Psalm 27:1)

His Light reveals the way on the dark path ahead, lifts the shadows of hurt and despair, and guides us through “the grayness of doubt and uncertainty.”[4]

Only Wise God (Jude 1:25)

Yes, there is darkness and confusion in our world. Wickedness seems to be winning in the battle between good and evil. BUT! Our all-wise God knows what he’s doing—in our personal lives and in the world at large.

When the time is right he’ll dispel the darkness with his dazzling light and bring order out of confusion. One day he’ll rid the world of evil once and for all.

Revealer of Truth (John 16:13)

Our God is the “possessor and giver of all truth. Truth is not men’s discovery; it is God’s gift. . . At the back of all truth there is God.”[5]

And the more we avail ourselves of his truth in scripture, the more we treasure it.

Your Very Great Reward  (Genesis 15:1)

How rich we are because God is in us and with us, wielding his glorious attributes for our best good. How poor we are without him.[6]

Look upon God in all his MAJESTIC GLORY. This is your Heavenly Father who loves you with an everlasting love!

Breathe in the wonder.


[1] Lamentations 3:22; Isaiah 41:10

[2] Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, Songs of Jesus, 200.

[3] 1 Corinthians 8:16; Colossians 1:17; Jeremiah 33:3

[4] Iris Hesselden, quoted in Grandma’s Inspirational Recipes, 40.

[5] William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, The Gospel of John, Volume 2, 229.

[6] MacLaren’s Expositions

Photo credits: http://www.rawpixel.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.flicker.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pixnio.com.

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“This is the property,” his agent told him, as they flew over a great swath of swampy real estate—about 43 square miles worth.  “What do you think?”

The passenger, W.E., smiled with satisfaction. He hardly noticed the scrub pines, cypress groves, and marshy ponds dotting the landscape. In his mind’s eye he saw beauty and grandeur. “I like it!” he cried.

Ground view of the kind of landscape W.E. saw that day

Within days, W.E. and his associates were arranging to purchase the land from the various owners. The final price tag: five million dollars (the equivalent of about 43 million today).

That was in 1963. In 2011, the property was estimated to be worth over 1.3 billion dollars, because of W. E.’s vision and his ability to accomplish what he started.

Development of the property began in 1965. It took thousands of workers and six years to complete the initial phase of W. E.’s plan.

First, the acreage had to be cleared, then lakes dredged as well as canals built in order to control the flow of water. Before the first foundation could be poured, the land had to be elevated. Millions of trees, shrubs, and plants were also installed.

Some might say what followed was pure magic, as the massive project resulted in Disney World. And ever since its opening in 1971, the visionary genius of Walter Elias Disney has dazzled the senses of visitors.

Someone else sees value in places where most of us don’t. The King of the universe recognizes worth in you and me, scrubby and nondescript as we might be. In fact, he smiles with satisfaction on his people of faith, because what he envisions is the beauty and grandeur of what we’re becoming.[1]

The Apostle Paul explained it this way:

And what does God’s good work include? Here’s a partial list:

  • He guides us to know what’s right and then empowers us to do it
  • He creates the desire within us to follow his way of wisdom
  • He draws us toward a heavenly perspective that impacts our choices and motives
  • He grows our love for one another
  • He develops godly traits that minister to others and provide us satisfaction as well
  • He transforms us, day by day, into the beauty and grandeur of Christ’s character[2]

“The life of a Christian is a series of miracles” wrote Charles Spurgeon—miracles that include wisdom, love, godliness, power, and more. Such transformation is much more spectacular than turning swampland into a stunning park. And God will never stop developing his miracles within us until we’re home with him.

Our challenge is to submit to his work.  

God wants to dredge self-centeredness from our spirits so rivers of living water can flow freely. Then we’ll enjoy the continual, life-giving spring of contentment he provides.[3]

God wants to place us on the foundation-rock of his Word, providing peace and security—especially when the storms of life threaten to overtake us.[4]   

God also wants to establish us like trees planted by water. Then we won’t fear the heat of difficulty or a drought of deprivation, because our roots grow deep into the river of God’s delights—delights like His love, his truth as found in the Bible, his strength and presence.[5]

Walt Disney and his team did accomplish incredible feats of innovation, design, and technology. But God shaping us into beautiful, joyful, purposeful people?  That’s mind-boggling miraculous.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Thank you, loving Father, for continuing to grow me in your grace until your task within me is finally finished. Thank you for never giving up, for completing what you start. May I be an enthusiastic participant in your good work!

Sources:

https://dozr.com/blog/building-disney-world

https://d23.com/we-say-its-disney/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/megandubois/2021/09/23/looking-back-at-50-years-of-walt-disney-world-history-and-business-strategy/?sh=a0fc33fff209

https://www.themeparktourist.com/features/20140323/17091/making-walt-disney-world-20-amazing-photographs

Notes:


[1] Psalm 147:11

[2] Psalm 119:33-37; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 3:2; Philippians 1:9; Galatians 5:22-23; 2 Corinthians 3:18

[3] John 7:37-39 and footnote to v. 38, The Woman’s Study Bible

[4] Matthew 7:24-27; Psalm 119:24

[5] Jeremiah 17:7-8; Psalm 36:8; Ephesians 3:16-19

Photo credits: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.rawpixel.com; http://www.flickr.com.

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Thomas Jefferson gave us this bit of wisdom:

 https://www.azquotes.com/quotes/topics/brevity.html

Note how the following authors demonstrate this most valuable of all talents:

  • “It is good people who make good places.”—Anna Sewell, Black Beauty
  • “Trials come to prove and improve us.”—St. Augustine
  • “Change always comes bearing gifts.”—Price Pritchett

Conciseness contributes to effectiveness, agreed?

In Romans 15:13, the Apostle Paul wrote a magnificent but concise blessing for the Christians in Rome. He brought together five key concepts of our faith—hope, joy, peace, trust, and power—in just thirty words or so, depending on the translation:

Whole books have been written to expound on each concept. But since this is a blog post, not a treatise, I’ll try to keep it short—and concise!

HOPE

Our Christian hope is not wishful thinking; it is confident reliance on the sacred certainties of our Heavenly Father.

Paul calls him our God of hope because of his glorious attributes manifested in our lives—his omnipotent power, gracious mercy, continual patience, lavish kindness, and absolute reliability—to name a few.

And with statements of faith we can bolster our hope—statements such as these:

  • “God is kind and good, wise and powerful. All his attributes are always at work for my benefit.”
  • “God is accomplishing purpose in these circumstances, just as he always does.”
  • “He will bring me through this situation, and I’ll be a better person for it.”

JOY

Joy is not the absence of all misery and the presence of every whim; joy is found in the presence of God.

Sound silly? Talk to an old saint who has walked with Jesus many years—who’s felt the Lord’s presence surrounding him, heard God’s whispers in his heart, and experienced his guidance and provision again and again. 

This saint will tell you: the pleasures of this life don’t begin to compare to the soul-delight of intimacy with God.

PEACE

Peace is not found in circumstances; it’s found in a Person, the Prince of Peace. The better we know him, the better we know peace.

Tension decreases as we affirm:

  • He is completely trustworthy.
  • He knows everything; he’s in control of everything.
  • He takes pleasure in blessing us with all that we need.
  • He is with us to comfort, strengthen, and encourage.
  • Even in the midst of difficulty, we can experience his peace. In fact, it’s a promise.

TRUST

It’s God’s part to work all things for good; it’s our part to trust.

The question becomes, What can I do to grow in trust?

The answer: express gratitude. “The foremost quality of a trusting disciple is gratefulness”[1]

So thank God, even in the midst of frustration, disappointment, heartache, and pain. “There’s a good God leading, working all things into good. It is safe to trust”[2]!

POWER

The power to thrive does not come from within ourselves; it comes from the power of the Holy Spirit.

Do circumstances appear impossible to rectify? Think on the power of God. He scatters the stars in space. He breathes life into every creature. He provides everything necessary to sustain our little planet.

It’s that kind of absolute, unlimited power that will see each of us through every crisis until we’re home with him.

And so, in one concise verse Paul majestically highlights five pillars of the abundant life.

When we embrace the hope, joy, and peace that God offers, when we trust in him with expectancy and resolve, when we pray for his power to be released in and through us, our lives and outlook will become radiant and alive[3]!

Doesn’t that sound like a glorious way to live?

Scriptures for further reflection:

Hope–Psalm 145:8-9; Daniel 2:20; John 5:17; Philippians 1:6; Romans 8:28; James 1:2-4

Joy–Psalm 16:11; Psalm 71:5-8

Peace–Deuteronomy 32:4; 1 John 3:20b; Jeremiah 31:3; Philippians 4:19; Deuteronomy 31:8; Isaiah 40:29-31; Philippians 4:6-7

Trust–Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalm 9:10; 28:7; 112:7; Colossians 2:7; Psalm 110:4-5; 1 Peter 1:6-7

Power of the Holy Spirit–1 Corinthians 8:6; Psalm 8:3; Job 12:10; Psalm 46:1

Notes


[1] Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 24.

[2] Ann Voskamp, 1000 Gifts, 155.

[3] The last clause is based on Touchstone’s revised version (1995) of the J. B. Phillips’ translation for Romans 15:13.

Art & photo credits: http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.rawpixel.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pxhere.com.

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Stuffed pork tenderloin, prepared by our son.

Our son became interested in cooking while attending university, and he’s been experimenting ever since. Now guests often say his fare is better than what many restaurants offer.

Father’s Day last Sunday was no exception. We enjoyed a sumptuous dinner off the grill: perfectly-seasoned, tender steaks; thick, golden, onion slices sprinkled with bleu cheese and slivered almonds; and polenta squares topped with lightly-sauced mushrooms.

The big surprise came skewered: Brussel sprouts alternated with radishes. I’d never eaten the latter cooked, but these were amazing—nothing like their raw flavor.

Our daughter-in-law creates memorable desserts. One time she constructed a rainbow cake—six layers of jewel-toned deliciousness under a cloud of butter cream frosting. All from scratch of course.

H.’s cake looked every bit as perfect as this one.

Now what if E. and H. invited new guests unfamiliar with the stellar meals these two can produce. And what if E. shared that the menu would include onions with bleu cheese and cooked radishes.

These unaware invitees might say, “Uh, no thanks, our schedule is really tight, plus we have other plans.” Later to themselves they’d likely comment, “E. and H. actually eat that stuff?! It sounds awful!”

But they’d miss out on a memorable meal.

God offers us gourmet cuisine too, but of a different variety.

“Open wide your mouth and I will fill it,” he says. “I would feed you with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you” (Psalm 81:10, 16).

God offers fine food for our souls, found first of all in the Bible. Some people believe the Book is out-of-touch and irrelevant, containing whole sections of unintelligible gibberish.

These folks are like those invited dinner guests, turning down a marvelous opportunity because the offerings sound unappealing. If they’d only come and try the dishes new to them, they’d be more than pleasantly surprised.

God’s soul food also includes wonderful surprises: useful wisdom, uplifting encouragement, fortifying support, and sweet comfort. We miss so much if we let a busy schedule and other interests interfere with the feeding of our souls.

A well-read Bible is a sign of a well-fed soul.

–Unknown

Just one of my father’s well-read Bibles.
Note the numerous and tiny comments he wrote in the margins.

To make time, we may have to give up something—like those long minutes on social media or watching TV. During my years as a teacher, making time meant getting up earlier than everyone else in the house. And the ten years I commuted a half-hour each way, the alarm sounded at 4:30 a.m.

But it was not a hardship; I just went to bed earlier. The feast each morning was well worth it. (For an example of one feast, you can read from an earlier post, “Down the Aisle of Your Years.” Scroll down to just below the James 1:17 image.)  

Another problem: The Bible looks like a huge buffet to some. They wonder where to start. Add all those puzzling cultural and historical references, and it’s tempting to give up before turning the first page and taking the first bite. What we may need are a few utensils.

Just like a shrimp fork or steak knife make it easier to eat those foods, certain tools help us consume God’s Word. Many are available online. For example, www.biblestudytools.com or www.studylight.org offer word definitions, cultural and historical background, commentaries, and more.

Bible study guides also help us dig into the sustenance the Bible has to offer. A few recommendations include:

  • NavPress LifeChange series, with each study focused on a book or two of the Bible. Luke is a good place to begin, with its many stories and teachings of Jesus.
  • LifeWay Press also produces worthwhile Bible studies, including an overview by Angie Smith, titled Seamless. Others I’ve enjoyed include: Believing God by Beth Moore and Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer. You can’t go wrong with studies by these women.
  • Another LifeWay Press classic? Experiencing God by Henry T. Blackaby and Claude V. King. Millions of people have already benefited from this study.
  • Harper Christian Resources offers 40 Days through the Bible from Lysa Terkehurst and her team. They provide an overview by theme, including: identity, freedom, and fulfillment.

What if, when E. and H. invited dinner guests and shared what’s on the menu, I was there to add, “Oh, you’ve GOT to come. I’ve eaten at their house numerous times, and it’s always delicious!” Might they be more likely to come? Perhaps.

In the same vein, consider this post my affirmation of what God has to offer in His Word. I’m here to say, “You’ve GOT to read it, study it, digest it. I’ve dined at God’s table of truth countless times over the decades and have never been disappointed!”

What Bible study materials or methods have you found nourishing to your soul? Please share in the comment section below!

Art & photo credits: Nancy Ruegg; http://www.flickr.com (2); Nancy Ruegg; http://www.picryl.com; http://www.freebibleimages.org; http://www.canva.com.

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If you or a family member are among the 16 million people in the U.S. who suffer from COPD, you’ve no doubt checked into the pros and cons of oxygen tanks (unwieldy and weighing up to 20 pounds) vs. oxygen concentrators (small, and just 5 pounds or so).

These latter devices can be carried around, even in a backpack. That’s much easier than wheeling a cumbersome, heavy tank everywhere. Such an amazing invention.

Whichever device is chosen, the increased oxygen flow is life-giving to the patient, improving their quality of life and providing peace of mind.

As Christians, we carry something with us that is also life-giving—into eternity. It improves our quality of life in astounding ways, and provides such overwhelming peace of mind, it surpasses understanding.[1]

This entity is lighter than air even though it possesses the awesome weight of God’s glory (the infinite wonders of who he is) and the full height and depth of his love. It doesn’t have to be pulled along or carried on the hip or back; it’s carried within the spirit.

What is this invisible reality? God’s kingdom. We are Kingdom Carriers[2]—if we’ve accepted his Son Jesus into our lives. That choice leads to the abundant life he promised.[3]

Carry an oxygen concentrator and you can supply yourself with that one necessity for as long as the battery lasts, about 8 hours. But as Kingdom Carriers? Oh my!  God provides numerous necessities for a lifetime and beyond. Some come quickly to mind, such as the peace of mind mentioned above, wisdom for decision-making, and the assured hope of a glorious future.[4] 

But what else do we carry in our invisible Kingdom satchels? Here are a few examples:

  • God’s encouragement. Within the pages of his Word we find heartening promises, assuring each of us, “You’re not alone; I’m here to help you. Remember, with me all things are possible.”[5]
  • God’s equipping. He provides courage in distress, serenity in difficulty, strength under pressure, comfort in pain, and more.[6]
  • God’s faithfulness. Reflect on the numerous times God has graciously protected and provided. With King David we can affirm:
  • The truth about our identity. We are God’s children, created in his image for divine purpose.[7]
  • Joy—even in the midst of trouble. Paul is our example. “In all our troubles,” he wrote, “my joy knows no bounds” (2 Corinthians 7:4). We can live like that too!
  • Security. “There isn’t a single moment when you’re not tucked next to the heart of God.”[8]

Our Kingdom backpacks even include a new wardrobe!

And what does this new wardrobe include? A long coat of humility that envelops everything else, soft gloves woven of kindness and gentleness, quiet slippers of patience (as opposed to tap-shoes of exasperation), and a large scarf of forgiveness that covers a multitude of grievances (vs. 11-13).

Now, at least several questions present themselves:  

Are we putting to good use these amazing provisions? What can we do to avail ourselves more readily?

And, as Kingdom Carriers, are we sharing the life-giving, peace-imparting contents of our invisible backpacks with those around us?

*     *     *     *     *     *      *      *     *      *

I praise You, O God for transferring us from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of your beloved Son. You, the King of the universe, have made us your sons and daughters!  Now, wherever we go, we carry within us your invisible kingdom—and all its amazing qualities. May we be faithful to access what you’ve provided and generously share them with others.   

(Colossians 1:13; 2 Corinthians 6:18; Luke 17:21; John 10:10; Hebrews 13:16)


[1] Psalm 145:13; John 10:10; Philippians 4:6-7

[2] A phrase coined by Elaine Olsen, Peace for the Journey, 141. (Elaine is one of my former second-grade students!)

[3] John 3:16; 3:3; 10:10

[4] James 1:5; 1 Peter 1:3-6

[5] Psalm 23:4; 46:1; Matthew 19:26

[6] Psalm 27:1; Psalm 9:9-10; Isaiah 40:28-31; Psalm 147:3

[7] John 1:12; Ephesians 2:10

[8] Chrystal Evans Hurst, Kingdom Woman, p. 157; Isaiah 40:11

Art & photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.flickr.com.

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A nail is driven out by another nail;

habit is overcome by habit.

So said Desiderius Erasmus, Dutch philosopher and theologian of the 1500s.

Desiderius Erasmus

Research in recent times has proven his statement true.  One of the best ways to break a bad habit is to replace it with a good one.

That’s why President Reagan replaced his cigarettes with jelly beans, dieters replace chips with popcorn, and late-night TV addicts forego talk shows to read calming books.

Some of the most stubborn bad habits are those that occur in the mind. It’s no easy task to shut down anxious, negative, or covetous thoughts—even when we know they contribute nothing to our well-being.

But if we apply Desiderius’ advice, we can retrain our brains toward healthy, even delightful thinking. For example, we can:

Replace anxiety with trust.

Worry spirals us downward into fear; trust-statements provide the way out–trust-statements such as these:

  • I can trust the One who died for me. He will thwart every plan that should be stopped and complete each one that results in his greatest glory and my highest good.[1]
  • God is with me and for me. His strength enables me, and his light guides my way.
  • Time and again I’ve witnessed God’s provision and protection, his miracles and blessings. “All that I have seen has taught me to trust him for all that I have not seen.”[2]

As other trust statements come to our attention, we can record them in our journals or in Notes on our phones. Then we’ll be prepared when the slide into worry begins.

Replace negativity with positivity and praise.

Continual praise is what changes the emotions,

lifts the darkness, offers hope, frees the mood

and blesses God so that evil is driven out.

Praise changes everything.

–Arnold Prater[3]

Throughout the day take a praise-pause now and then. Praise God for his power to keep this world on its axis, tilted just right to support life. Praise him for the proofs of his creativity in nature, for his goodness and loving mercy that prompted him to make a way to heaven for us.

Of course, the demands of the day often distract us from such thoughts. But if we post reminders here and there—around the house, on the visor of the car, at our places of work—we can jump-start this habit.

Replace covetousness with gratitude.

Gratitude doesn’t change the scenery;

it merely washes clean the glass you look through

so you can clearly see the colors.

–Richelle E. Goodrich

Too often our attention gravitates toward wants instead of haves, fostering discontentment and envy–emotions we’d do well to eliminate.

One helpful strategy is keeping a gratitude journal. Even brief entries can be effective. I only record one or two things each day, but discovered there’s benefit in the process of reviewing the day to glean the highlights. An added delight: rereading old entries and feeling grateful all over again.

Of course, developing good habits is not as easy as driving out a nail. What about those days when we fail? That’s the time to remember: even in failure there is progress.

Failure points to the inadequacy of striving on our own, and turns us toward greater dependence on God.

We learn, on the one hand,

that we cannot trust ourselves

even in our best moments,

and, on the other,

that we need not despair even in our worst,

for our failures are forgiven.

–C. S. Lewis[4]

We can begin our habits of trust-statements, praise, and gratitude right there!


[1] Based on a quote from J.H.M., Streams in the Desert (Zondervan, 1997) 295.

[2] Ralph Waldo Emerson

[3] Bonding with God (Marno Books, 2000) 78.

[4] Mere Christianity (MacMillan, 1952) 78.

Photo credits: http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.heartlight.org (2); Nancy Ruegg; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.heartlight.org.

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“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1 KJV).

Many of us memorized those words as children. And some of us may have thought, “Wow! That means God will give me whatever I want!”

So we prayed for new bicycles, the latest gadgets, and swimming pools in our backyards—absolutely certain that if God gave us these hearts’ desires, we’d be truly satisfied.

Some of our prayers were answered affirmatively. A new bicycle with sparkling spokes actually materialized by the Christmas tree. Or Aunt Kate heard the pleas for Mattell’s Magical Music Thing, and sent it as a birthday gift.

But as the years went by, the wise and introspective among us realized:

1. When one desire is fulfilled, another quickly takes its place.

Years ago I heard that a famous actress had accumulated seven houses, each one a different style from the others. Why? Because moving from one to another eased her boredom. (I wonder how long it took to become discontented with House #4, or #5, or #6, before she hired an architect to start the next?)

2. God isn’t in the business of making wishes come true.

Psalm 23:1 doesn’t mean: “I’m one of God’s flock! I’m gonna live on Easy Street!”

If he did grant every whim, we’d soon become self-centered and spoiled.

Perhaps a clarifying interpretation of the opening scripture would be: “God is my loving Care-Giver. All that I enjoy in my relationship with him far outweighs anything this world has to offer. I really don’t need another single thing.”

Ah, to be as soul-satisfied as King David, the author of this psalm!  How can we become that contented?

One place to begin is with gratitude and praise.

Think of all we enjoy as a result of our relationship with God.  Peace, joy, and provision quickly come to mind.

Here are a few more:

  • Companionship with a perfect Friend—every moment of every day–into eternity.  He is always listening, always watchful, always diligent.
  • Hope. No situation is beyond the control of our Almighty God.
  • Settledness, because he is in control, and “makes good things even out of hard times” (Erica Hale).
  • Truth. We don’t have to muddle through life like a do-it-yourselfer with no instruction manual. “The unfolding of [God’s] words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130).

The bottom-line is this: No possession or position, no place or person on earth can fill our hearts with contentment.

3. True satisfaction flourishes when we affirm that in God we have all we need.

Remember Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28?

Are you weary of the dissatisfaction that results from striving for the next desire?  Are you burdened by unfulfilled wishes and dreams?

Come to Jesus.  Count the scores of blessings he’s already provided in the past, is currently providing this very moment, and has already prepared in the glory of heaven yet to come.

Cultivate true satisfaction in your heart with gratitude and praise!

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

What helps you cultivate true satisfaction?  Please share in the Comments section below!

Art & photo credits: http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.rawpixel.com; http://www.wikimedia.org.

(Revised and reblogged from 7-10-14 while we enjoy house guests.)

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Play hide-and-seek with a two-year old and chances are, when it’s your turn to do the seeking, you won’t be looking for long. Their under- standing of true concealment is limited.

Some people play hide-and-seek in life. They’re looking for places to hide from such situations as financial ruin, hurtful relationships, and danger. But their understanding of true concealment is limited.

They may build up a hefty bank account, move from one relationship to another when the first difficulty arises, and purchase every means of protection against physical harm.

But these hiding places still leave a person exposed. Not all problems can be solved with money. Shallow relationships don’t satisfy in the long term, and physical protection can fail.

Just as our granddaughter in the first picture needed something bigger to cover her, we need something bigger than bank accounts, a few casual friends, and state-of-the-art alarm systems to cover us.

In addition, we face a number of monumental problems in America that leave all of us greatly exposed: rising drug addiction, increased violent crime, failing schools, the demise of Judeo-Christian values, inflation, supply chain failures, the national debt, and more.

There is only one place where we’re completely hidden and protected: in God himself.

Not that we’re shielded from every difficulty in this life. God hasn’t promised to prevent all trouble. But he is the One who can provide complete coverage no matter what we face, including the security of eternal life and blessings in the midst of trouble.

When God is our Hiding Place, he makes available to us his:

  • Strength

When tumult rages,

We have in him a strong citadel of calm.

–Herman  Lockyer (1)

  • Peace

The very act of breathing in his presence [is] balm.

Jan Karon (2)

  • Help

Be assured, if you walk with Him and look to Him

and expect help from Him, He will never fail you.

–George Mueller

  • Truth, including his unfailing promises

The roots of stability come from being grounded in God’s Word.

–Unknown

  • Hope

God has given no pledge that he will not redeem

And encouraged no hope that he will not fulfill.

–Charles Spurgeon

Rest assured, my friends, once we’ve placed our faith in Jesus Christ, we are completely covered—hidden in God. He is our steadfast and reliable Rock of refuge (Psalm 31:3).

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I praise you, O God, for sheltering me in the Rock-cave of your refuge. I’m surrounded by your unfailing love and compassion, your all-sufficiency in all situations, and your empowering presence.

I also take refuge in the truth of your Word that affirms you will put all things right when the time is right. In the meantime, I nestle into the protective shadow of your wings.

(Psalm 32:10b; Psalm 116:5; Philippians 4:1; Psalm 23:4; Romans 8:28; Psalm 17:8b)

Notes:

  1. Seasons of the Lord, 252.
  2. A Common Life, 116.

Photo credits: Nancy Ruegg; http://www.fox19.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com.

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