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Archive for the ‘Encouragement’ Category

The psalmists of old seemed to have a favorite metaphor for God: Rock. You’ll find the imagery used twenty-nine times.  Sometimes the writers included reasons why this was a meaningful comparison for them; sometimes they included synonyms:

  • “The Lord is my rock, my fortress” (18:2)
  • “My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield . . . my  stronghold” (also 18:2)
  • “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (61:2)
  • “God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe” (62:2 CEV)
  • “Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come” (71:3 NASB)

David seemed especially fond of this metaphor, perhaps because he spent months hiding from King Saul in the rocky terrain of the Judean wilderness. Psalm 57 was written specifically when he escaped into a cave. It may have been the characteristics of the rock walls surrounding him that brought to mind descriptors of God—solid, strong, protective, and unchanging.

Perhaps a cave such as this hid David and his men.
Might such a formation as this have provided the inspiration behind
“Be the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2)?

Later when he became king, David composed Psalm 18, probably after the numerous battle victories summarized in 2 Samuel 8.  Four times in that psalm he extolled God as his Rock.

In the New Testament we find Jesus’ parable about a foolish man building his house on sand, and a wise man building his house on rock. The point is clear: God is a reliable foundation-Rock on which to build our lives.  He provides:

  • solid, trustworthy wisdom for decisions 
  • strength and power for life’s challenges
  • protection from our arch enemy, Satan
  • unchanging reliability, faithfulness, and love—to name a few unfailing attributes
“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise,
like a person who builds a house on solid rock” Matthew 7:24.
(House in Meteora, Greece.)

One of my favorite examples of Bible imagery is found in Philippians 2:15.  To understand the context though, we have to start reading at verse fourteen:

Do everything without grumbling or arguing,

so that you may become blameless and pure,

children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.

Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky

as you hold firmly to the word of life.

–Philippians 2:14-15 NIV

Isn’t that a glorious statement in the fourth line above?  We can shine into the darkness of the world like stars as we allow the Spirit to foster purity within us!

Ngc 3603 Nebula Cluster Of Stars

Now why would letter-writer Paul choose stars to make his point? Perhaps their beauty reminded him: with kindness, patience, joy, and more we can bring beauty to the world around us–a world darkened by selfishness, greed, and hatred.

Paul would also have known about using stars for navigation.  As far back as 3000 B.C. ancient Minoans were using constellations to navigate the Mediterranean Sea (1).  Perhaps Paul connected the starlight to God’s wisdom shining in mature believers, enabling them to provide guidance to those around them.

But now, centuries later, we know more about stars than Paul did and further comparisons can be drawn:

Stars shine by burning hydrogen into helium in their cores.  We shine as the Holy Spirit burns away the dross in our lives—those unbecoming traits like pride, negativity, and ingratitude. That’s when we can become radiant.

One prominent star in the evening sky of Fall and Winter is Deneb in the constellation Cygnus (the Swan), which is 19 quadrillion miles from earth.  The gleam we see left Deneb about 1500 light years ago in 521 A.D (2). The gleam of our lives can also achieve far-reaching effect as one life touches another which touches another, and then another . . . ad infinitum.

Stars not only create beauty but fulfill function.  They manufacture and distribute into the universe such elements as carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen (3). As we shine like stars in our circles of influence, we too fulfill function, manufacturing and distributing such elements as goodness, encouragement, and helpfulness.

From earth and sky come these two insightful examples of biblical imagery:  rock and stars.

Do you see the connection between the two? As you plant yourself on the firm Rock of Almighty God and shine for him like a star . . .

. . . YOU are a Rock star!

Notes:

  1. https://nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/navigation/
  2. https://earthsky.org/space/ten-things-you-may-not-know-about-stars/
  3. https://science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/focus-areas/how-do-stars-from-and-evolve

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Fixate on current events and become anxious.

Consider the bleak projections for the future and become fearful.

Dwell on your own struggles and become discouraged.

Focus on personal inadequacies and become doubtful.

Mull over regrets and become guilt-ridden.

Contemplate fading dreams and become despondent.

Permit negativity free reign and become depressed.

How easy it is to drift away from the truths that provide prosperity of soul.

We must choose to remember the following.

NO MATTER what we see happening, no matter the fear beginning to build, we can affirm: “For every visible reason for terror, there is an invisible and immensely more powerful reason for trust.” [1]

O Lord, God of our ancestors,

you alone are the God who is in heaven.

You are ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth.

You are powerful and mighty;

no one can stand against you!

–2 Chronicles 20:6 NLT

NO MATTER that we may not know the way forward; we do know the loving, all-powerful, and trustworthy Way Maker who has promised:

NO MATTER that life is a struggle right now, God will use it for good.  “There is coming a day [when] . . . We will have the glorious truth of our difficult ‘now’ laid out before us in a way that makes perfect sense, that will leave us panting a breathless ‘hallelujah’ for the process we’ve walked to get there.” [2]

“You do not realize now what I am doing,

but later you will understand.”

–John 13:7

NO MATTER how inadequate you feel because of failures, shortcomings, and doubts, you must remember:  “Weakness . . . is the very thing that qualifies you. Never mind your feelings of inadequacy; it is God’s work, not yours. 

“Simply make yourself available, and let go of any need to impress others, or prove yourself worthy, or achieve ‘success.’  What matters is that God has chosen you, and that God claims you as His own.” [3]

NO MATTER what you’ve done, “You no longer have to fear the consequences of your past, for your sovereign God promises that he will cause everything in your life to work together for your good and Christlikeness.” [4]

“Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven. . .

. . . Blessed is the one whose sin

 the Lord will never count against them.”

–Romans 4:7-8

NO MATTER that your dreams may be fading; “the death of your dream [is] not the death of God’s dreams for [you].” [5]

NO MATTER that circumstances conspire to steal your joy, you can . . . “Begin to rejoice in the Lord and your bones will flourish like an herb, and your cheeks will glow with the bloom of health and freshness. Worry, fear, distrust, care-all are poisonous! Joy is balm and healing, and if you will but rejoice, God will give power.” [6]

“Do not be worried,

for the joy of the Lord

is your strength and your stronghold.”

Nehemiah 8:10 AMP

NO MATTER the uncertainties and challenges of life, we have an all-powerful, wise and caring Companion for the journey, who provides all we need to experience prosperity of soul.

Stanza #3 from “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” by Elisha A. Hoffman

[1] Elisabeth Elliot, These Bold Ashes, 11.

[2] F. Elaine Olson, Peace for the Journey, 101.

[3] Brother David Vryhof

[4] Kay Arthur, His Imprint, My Expression, 274 and Romans 8:28.

[5] Tasha June, Take Heart, 25.

[6] A. B. Simpson

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You’re going to be so glad you stopped by today.  I’ve prepared a pop quiz for you—a little trivia challenge!  But don’t worry–it’s multiple-choice and short.

 

How many stars do astronomers estimate occupy the universe?

A. 500 trillion

B. 750 quadrillion

C. 1 septillion

What are the objects in the above photograph?

A. Virus microbes

B. Husks

C. Starfish babies

What is the average weight of a cumulous cloud?

A. Over 10,000 pounds

B. Over 100,000 pounds

C. Over 1,000,000 pounds

Number one is a freebie, because an accurate count is impossible.  But there are those astronomers who would agree with Answer C—1 septillion. That’s a one with 24 zeroes after it![1]

For the second question the answer is B—husks.  In a few select areas of the Western Pacific Ocean, live tiny organisms called Foraminifera.  When they die, the tide carries their husks—millions of them–to beaches on the coasts of Japan and Okinawa.[2]  Visit those places and you can walk on the stars.

Look close! Can you see a few stars that are still intact?

The answer for #3 is C. Holding up even the largest of cumulous clouds is the air beneath them, which weighs even more.[3]

I’m guessing you know a few amazing trivia facts too.  Isn’t it astounding that the body of information about the universe continues to grow, even after centuries of study?

See Endnote #4.

The short sampling of creation’s wonders mentioned above gives us a glimpse of God’s glorious capacities at work:  his inventiveness, engineering skill, power and more.  But we also see evidence of his magnificence in:

  • The Bible.  No other book matches its wisdom.  And when put into practice, it transforms a person’s life.
  • God’s attributes at work in the world—his love, grace, faithfulness, and mercy—to mention a few.
  • Miracles—happening around us every day.  The problem is we’re so used to them we call them ordinary.[5]
  • The gracious actions and glowing faces of his saints–miracles in themselves.

Truly, God reveals his glory TO us every day in countless ways.

But perhaps even more astounding: God—in all his magnificence—chooses to reside IN us when we say yes to his Son, Jesus.

Imagine.  The fullness of God—all his glorious attributes—within us.  And over time, as his Spirit instructs and trains us, we become more and more like Christ—more joyful, hopeful, and contented; less self-centered, dissatisfied, and distressed.  Such a glorious reality![6]

“God is mercifully shaping our lives

into what is useful and beautiful.”

–Eugene Peterson[7]

And then God chooses to make us channels of his glory, working THROUGH us to impact others.

How?

Every time we choose to be generous instead of selfish, patient instead of peevish, mindful instead of thoughtless, or merciful instead of intolerant, we’re demonstrating the attributes of God to others.

And as we make ourselves available for him to work through us, we may very well become the answer to someone else’s prayer.

“To become the answer to someone else’s prayer

is to live a life of rich purpose.”

–Maggie Wallem Rowe[8]

*      *       *      *      *      *

O God, thank you for revealing yourself TO us in numerous ways, producing joy in our spirits as we earnestly seek you.  I praise you for dwelling IN us, providing all we need (and then some!) for the abundant life Jesus promised.  And I thank you for working THROUGH us to positively impact others and give us satisfying  purpose.  There is no one like you!


[1] https://www.space.com/26078-how-many-stars-are-there.html

[2] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2085f_Japon_Hatoma.jpg  

[3]https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/how-much-does-a-cloud-weigh?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects

[4] The heavens don’t only include the stars, other planets, and moons.  Our planet occupies a tiny corner of the universe, and everything in it also tells of the wonders of God.

[5] Hans Christian Anderson

[6] Ephesians 3:21; 2 Corinthians 3:18

[7] Run with the Horses, 79.

[8] This Life We Share, 242.

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More than 1,000 miles east of the Philippines lies the Mariana Trench, the deepest point of earth’s oceans—so deep it reaches into the earth farther than Mount Everest reaches into the sky.  That’s more than 36,000 feet, or close to seven miles.

Not even today’s sophisticated submarines can submerge to that depth without imploding from the pressure of 15,000 pounds per square inch–the equivalent of a full-grown elephant standing on your big toe.

But in 2014 oceanographers constructed a cube-shaped basket, attached it to cables, and dropped it into the depths of the trench.  The descent took four hours. 

They left the basket in place for twenty-four hours, to gather data by camera and hopefully collect samples of life—if it existed at all in such inhospitable conditions.

At the end of twenty-four hours, they used acoustic signals to release the weights that had caused the basket to fall.   With the help of flotation devices, it then rose to the surface.  Against all odds, here is what the scientists found in the trap:

The new species of fish, about eleven inches long, received the name Mariana Snailfish.

Video revealed their activity in the depths—swimming, tail-swishing, foraging—what you’d expect from healthy fish.  They appeared to be perfectly content, unfazed by the bone-crushing pressure of the water around them.

So how do they survive?

God has especially equipped them.  For example, instead of bones snailfish skeletons are made of cartilage that can withstand pressure. These fish also produce certain fatty acids that help cell membranes stay flexible. Even at the molecular level, the muscles of the Mariana Snailfish contain certain enzymes that help them flourish at the bottom of the ocean.

In addition, scientists believe the following characteristics also contribute to their survival: big stomachs,  transparent skin, thinner muscles, and incompletely closed skulls. 

Just as the Mariana Snailfish can withstand extreme physical pressure, we can endure extreme mental, emotional and spiritual pressure—with God’s special equipping.

First, he’ll gladly help us develop resiliency—the ability to handle significant sources of stress. The snailfish manifests several characteristics in the physical realm that can be applied in the spiritual.

A Big Appetite

The large stomach reminds us that those who have a big appetite for God’s truth in the Bible also tend to be survivors; they’re strengthened to withstand the pressures of life.

Abraham Lincoln was just such a person, enduring great pressure from politicians, the press, and the burden of civil war.  He had this to say about scripture:

Transparency

This quality reminds us to be transparent about our concerns–before God and a few good friends. Just telling someone else about our stresses has been proven by researchers to reduce anxiety—a truth scripture has taught all along.[1]

It’s worth noting that just as the Mariana Snailfish lives completely at peace in the midst of physical pressure, we can live completely at peace in the midst of emotional stress as God frees us from worry and trusted, grace-filled friends support and encourage.[2]

Flexibility

These fish are also examples of flexibility—deep down at the cellular level.  You’ve probably heard the maxim, “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape.”  The flexible person will look to God for the adjustments needed to handle the pressures of life  and search out his guidance for how to cope.

The great missionary to China, Hudson Taylor, would have us remember:

If we allow the stresses of life to accomplish the latter, they will not only be survivable, they will be accompanied by the deep contentment of nearness to God.[3]

Notes:

[1] Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

[2] James 1:2-4; Philippians 4:6-7; Proverbs 12:25

[3] Philippians 4:11-13; Psalm 23:4; Psalm 27:1

Sources:

  1. https://www.washington.edu/news/2017/11/28/theres-a-deeper-fish-in-the-sea/
  2. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01158-x
  3. https://theconversation.com/the-deepest-dwelling-fish-in-the-sea-is-small-pink-and-delicate-88991
  4. https://www.natureasia.com/en/research/highlight/12923

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You, O Spirit of God, have made me. Your breath has indeed given me life—physically and spiritually. Just as a deep breath of fresh air refreshes the body, so a deep breath of your Spirit and all your benefits rejuvenates my soul:

I can breathe in your BLESSINGS.

“Every day is a treasure box of gifts from you, waiting to be opened”—gifts like wisdom to choose what’s best, grace to forgive all wrongs, and peace that transcends understanding.[1]

I can breathe in your RESTORATION. 

“You are the divine Gardener, perfect at the task of transforming withered trees”—trees withered by discouragement, trouble, and pain. 

You renew me day by day, refreshing my weary soul with your Word and your presence.[2]

I can breathe in the truth of your EXCELLENCIES. 

Attentive living provides the opportunity to discover the golden threads of your perfections woven into common, everyday experience. 

I see your love expressed in a rainbow, your grace in a stranger’s smile, your wisdom on a page, your joy in a butterfly’s dance, your peace in a sunset. [3]

I can breathe in the comfort of your AUTHORITY. 

“[You are] the stage manager in control of all players on the stage.”  You are ordering events to the conclusion you ordained before time began—by your power over all things, your wisdom in all matters, and out of love for all people.[4]

I can breathe in your TRUTH. 

“The Bible is an armory of heavenly weapons, a laboratory of infallible medicines, a mine of exhaustless wealth.  It is a guidebook for every road, a chart for every sea, a medicine for every malady, a balm for every wound.”

These statements only begin to name the benefits of your Word.  The more time I spend absorbing its truths, the more time I want to spend.  “I rejoice at Your word, as one who finds great treasure.”[5]

I can breathe in your ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE. 

All the difficulties of life I can view as slight, temporary distresses that are producing a transcendent Glory never to cease.

“The joys of heaven will surely compensate for the sorrows of earth.  This world is but a narrow span, and we will soon have passed it.  Time, how short—eternity, how long!  Death, how brief—immortality, how endless!” [6]

As tensions increase around us and around the world,

may I continually BREATHE in the realities of your . . .

B lessing

R estoration

E xcellencies

A uthority

T ruth

H ealing and

E ternal perspective . . .

. . . so that I’m refreshed and strengthened to be for the praise of your glory (Ephesians 1:11-12).


[1] Psalm 68:19; quote from Joan Clayton

[2] Isaiah 40:29-31; quote from Henry Drummond; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Jeremiah 31:25

[3] Deuteronomy 32:4

[4] Psalm 22:27-28; quote from Alice Mathews in A Woman God Can Use, p. 77; Proverbs 16:4; 1 Chronicles 29:11; Romans 11:33; John 3:16

[5] Psalm 119:160; quote from Thomas Guthrie; Psalm 119:162 AMP

[6] 1 Peter 5:10; 2 Corinthians 4:17 AMP; quote from Charles Spurgeon

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Long ago one of my cousins (Alice, I think) knitted her brother a sweater for Christmas, and had almost finished it by the end of November when the extended family gathered for Thanksgiving.  However, the sweater had turned out much too big, and Alice was stymied how to downsize it.

“Give it to me,” suggested Aunt Orsie, the most skilled knitter in the group.  “I think we can fix that.”  As she chatted away the afternoon with the other aunts and older cousins, Aunt Orsie helped Alice take apart the sweater, undo the extra rows, snip, knit, and bind off the shortened rows until the sweater had miraculously shrunk to proper proportions.  (That terminology and order of steps is likely inaccurate—I’m not a knitter!)

Alterations make a significant difference, and not only in the way clothing fits.  As we know, standard counter height can be altered to accommodate those especially short or tall, and the print in books can be altered to accommodate the visually impaired.

Some alterations, however, are much more challenging to accomplish—even more difficult than downsizing a sweater.  Take attitudes, for example.  How do we alter negativity into positivity, a critical spirit into grace, discouragement into hope, or frustration into gratitude?

Here are a few possibilities:

Negativity can be altered by a different viewpoint.

Poet Langston Hughes wrote:

How altered our attitude could be if we searched for the rainbows and refused to focus on the dust of life.

A critical spirit can be altered by truth.

Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the family on a beach vacation.  While building a sandcastle their first day, the children spotted an old woman wearing a faded dress and floppy hat, bent over and mumbling to herself as she approached.  Every now and then she picked bits out of the sand and put them in a burlap bag.  

Though the children called hello to her, the woman didn’t respond.  She appeared lost in her own world. The parents watched warily, expressed their doubts about her mental state and a hotel that would allow her on their premises. They warned the children to stay away from her.

Each day the woman combed the beach, muttering and plucking as she went.  Finally the family asked the concierge if he knew about this strange woman.

“Oh yes,” he said.  “That’s Mrs. Thompson, a retired schoolteacher who lives up the road. She’s made it her mission to rid this section of beach of anything that might cut people’s feet, and while she walks, Mrs. Thompson prays for the people nearby.  No doubt she prayed for you!”

Discouragement can be altered by hope.

And in what do we hope? 

  • The promises of God
  • The development of our character, growing us into our best selves
  • The fact that God executes good plans even through our suffering 
  • That for those of us who know Jesus, the best is always ahead*

We know these routes to hope; it’s the determination to take them that requires our diligence.

Frustration can be altered by appreciation.

Sometime during our younger son’s toddler days, he scribbled on several pages of my Bible–splotchy eyesores among my straight-edge underlinings and carefully written comments. 

As the years went by, however, when I’d encounter one of those scrawls, my response completely altered.  “Aw, there’s one of Jeremy’s notes,” I’d smile, remembering the rambunctious and ever cheerful little boy he once was, just trying to be like Mommy and Daddy.

My frustration not only disappeared but became appreciation.

No matter the attitude that needs altering there is a means to transform it.   We can snip away at undesirable attitudes (like negativity and a critical spirit) with proper perspective and truth.  We can bind off the damage of harmful emotions (like discouragement and frustration) with hope and gratitude.

Most beneficial of all, we can invite God to miraculously shrink our erroneous ways of thinking until we’re good and pleasing to him.

What attitude-alteration have you witnessed or experienced?  Please share in the comment section below!  


* See the previous post, Promises Kept as well as Romans 5:3-5 and 1 Corinthians 2:9.

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A few weeks before the big trip

Years ago when our oldest son Eric had just turned three and our daughter Heather was four months old, we planned a long car trip from Columbus, Ohio to our home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

I had flown north with the children ahead of time to visit family in the Chicago suburbs. Meanwhile, a week or so later, my husband Steve drove to Columbus, and the kids and I flew in from the Windy City to meet at his parents. Steve intended to drive home straight through again, so I tried to explain to Eric what was to come.

“It’s going to take us a long time to get home—much longer than our trip on the jet.  We’ll ride in the car all morning, and then we’ll stop for lunch.  After we eat we’ll get back in the car and ride all afternoon.  Then we’ll stop again for dinner.  After we eat, we’ll get back in the car and keep riding until after the sky is dark.  You’ll probably fall asleep.  And a long time after it’s dark we’ll finally be home.”

You can guess where this is going.  We’d been on the road perhaps twenty minutes and were just entering the southern outskirts of Columbus when Eric chirped, “Are we there yet?” 

Obviously no amount of explanation could prepare him for such a long journey.

And we smile at a toddler’s lack of understanding and impatience. Yet I have to admit, I’m just a toddler in God’s family. On the occasions when the time between Point A and Point B has been protracted beyond understanding, my patience has often worn thin.

What’s a child of God to do?

First, our Heavenly Father would have us remember:

  • He may be silent for a time but he is never still; he’s always working on our behalf.
  • Even as we’re waiting on God we’re waiting with God, whose mere presence can bring peace, joy, and strength[1]–when we avail ourselves.  
  • There’s always purpose in wait-time, including the opportunity for our prayer lives to be intensified.  We also tend to cling more firmly to God’s promises during a season of waiting, and find our character refined.
  • Even delays are part of his goodness as God accomplishes his plan—a plan that may very well include others, not just ourselves.
  • “If God waits longer than you would wish, it is only to make the blessing doubly precious”—Andrew Murray.

Such affirmations provide expectation and hope for me; I pray they provide the same for you.

Second, our Heavenly Father would have us purposefully occupied as we wait.

  • Delight in him.  Contemplate his character traits and his glorious activity in the past. Grow in awareness of his presence.[2]
  • “Harvest the holy in the hollow desert times.”[3] We can use a season of waiting for growing our character, developing such traits as perseverance and spiritual strength, the ability to live above our circumstances, and more.
  • Trust God’s timing. He is never too late, and he never makes mistakes.  What happens while we’re waiting may be more important than what we’re waiting for.    
  • We can live in a receptive mode, enjoying the good he’s providing today while waiting for his perfect plan to unfold for tomorrow.[4]

With my mind and spirit renewed in these ways, I’ll be able to sit back with more contentment, less impatience, and enjoy the ride through life—even as I wait for God’s plan to unfold.  How much more pleasant than repeating, “Are we there yet?”

No doubt he’ll be delighted too, as I demonstrate my faith.

What keeps you purposefully occupied as you wait for God’s timing? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Notes:     


[1] Isaiah 26:3, Psalm 16:11, Philippians 4:13

[2] To grow in awareness of God’s presence we contemplate his Word, the Bible.  We turn our thoughts to him, conversing with him, offering praise, gratitude, and worship—all day long.

[3] Jean Wise blogs at www.healthyspirituality.com , but this particular quote comes from one of her thought-provoking books, Christmas Crossroads, p. 41.

[4] Lamentations 3:25

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Well-known preacher, C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892), delivered at least twelve sermons on the same three verses of scripture, but attested that a minister could never preach too often on the passage. 

“In its depths are pearls for which we hope to dive,” he said [1].

Another anonymous enthusiast for these verses called them “the greatest invitation that was ever issued.”

What scripture were they referring to?  Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew 11:28-30.

Will you go diving with me for the pearls of this passage?  What new treasure might God present to us, even in such familiar verses as these? 

Each key word and phrase offers insight into the glorious ways Jesus wants to bless us:

Come 

To come to Christ is simply to put our trust in him. As our Savior who died for us, he is more than worthy of our trust. As the all-powerful King of kings over everything in the universe, he is more than qualified to warrant our trust.

All who are weary and burdened 

A 2017 Gallup Poll revealed eight out of ten Americans feel stress sometimes or frequently every day [2].  But Ann Voskamp, in her book, One Thousand Gifts, suggests that “to choose stress is an act of disbelief”[3]. I see her point.

On the other hand, choosing to trust in Christ—with praise and gratitude for all he is and all he does—results in peace and joy.

Rest 

Our souls find rest when we affirm the truths we know about our Lord, including his constant presence to strengthen, help, and guide.  “The very act of confidence is repose,” wrote theologian, Alexander Maclaren.

Take my yoke upon you 

Like the young ox who is teamed with a trained animal in the wooden harness holding them together, Jesus invites us to companion with him and follow his ways, his example.

Learn from me 

He’s anxious for us to enjoy the abundant life he offers, so Christ suggests we learn how he handled life—in close companionship with his Father.  And for his part, our Father delights in manifesting his life-enhancing attributes in our lives.[4]

I am humble and gentle 

You’ve probably noticed our Savior is not an unreasonable and stern taskmaster, wielding his omnipotent power to bully us into submission.  Time and again in the Bible record of his life we see evidence of Jesus’ being kind and understanding, gracious and tenderhearted.  He is the same toward us because:

My burden is easy and light 

Easy = well-fitting.  Just as the farmers of old would shape the wooden yokes to uniquely fit their oxen, the ways of Christ fit us perfectly.  After all, he designed us; he knows what’s best for us.  And his yoke is lined with love.[5]

Perhaps now you see why someone would call these verses the greatest invitation ever issued. Jesus offers:

  • Salvation from the consequences of our sin
  • Relief from our burden of cares
  • Rest in his all-sufficiency
  • Instruction in the ways of abundant living, side by side with the gracious King of the universe

No wonder Spurgeon called such blessings pearls—lustrous pearls that can transform our reality, when we simply come to Jesus.

Which pearl(s) particularly caught your attention today?  Share with us in the comment section below!


[1] www.preceptaustin.org

[2] https://news.gallup.com/poll/224336/eight-americans-afflicted-stress.aspx

[3] p. 148.

[4] Jeremiah 9:24

[5] Matthew Henry

Photo credits: http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.wikimedia.org.

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In the cool of morning two weeks ago, I sat on our deck before the sun had cleared the distant trees–much less those close by.   Below, the creek bed of lush foliage loomed dark and still, but above me birds chattered happily while one lone cardinal out-sang them all.  Thankfully the cicadas hadn’t started their ruckus yet.

a bit later in the morning

From several blocks away, commuter traffic already rumbled, and high in the sky the occasional jet roared northward.  Yet the serenity of my immediate surroundings superseded the extraneous noise.

And I sensed God saying to me:

Breathe in the stillness, in spite of traffic din and aircraft drone. 

I’m referring to the serenity you feel in your spirit because of what you see around you:  quiet trees unmoved by breeze, the tranquil creek bed, and the peaceful yard to the east where golden light silently presses against deep shadow—portraits of stillness in spite of the noise.

Be mindful that, as the sun faithfully turns darkness into day, my face shines faithfully upon you with the golden light of peace (1).  I push back the shadows of worry and fear while the noise in the world clamors around you—political factions arguing against one another, loud voices contending for self-serving agendas, terrorists, criminals, and thugs wreaking havoc, and more (Philippians 4:6-7).

 

Learn from the birds and woodland creatures who find refuge in the thick foliage of bush and tree. You too can find refuge—in me.  In fact, peace grows in direct proportion to time spent with me (2).

Picture yourself surrounded by my protective, calming presence and affirm:

  • I will never stop caring for you or supplying your every need (3)
  • I will never leave you to struggle alone (4)
  • I will never fail you, no matter how the future unfolds (5)

Focus the eyes of your spirit on such promises. Feel their truths calm your heart (6).

Even as the noise of this world grows louder because the end of time draws near, breathe in such peace-generating realities often.  Let them usher you into my Presence, surround you with comfort, and encourage your soul (7).

I long for you to live within the tranquility and protection of my Presence.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    

Thank you, Father, for even wanting to be my shelter. Thank you for your loving care expressed in countless ways over the decades.

I know you are trustworthy. I praise you for your unfailing love that will see me through whatever the future holds. In addition, you will provide quiet refuge within my spirit where I can rest in you.

Help me keep focused on you, to live in the shelter of your love no matter the noise of the world.

(1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 9:10; Psalm 32:10;

Isaiah 26:3; Psalm 119:114)

Notes:

  1. Numbers 6:24-26
  2. Isaiah 26:3
  3. Philippians 4:19
  4. Isaiah 41:10
  5. Hebrews 13:5c
  6. Psalm 119:50b
  7. Psalm 119:165

Photo credits: Nancy Ruegg (2), http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; www. heartlight.org.

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As far as I know, the apostle Paul was not one to create surprises. It’s possible he arranged a surprise birthday party for Barnabas, or gave a gift-for-no-reason to Timothy, or secured a bouquet of flowers for Lydia in appreciation for her hospitality, but there’s no record of such deeds.

However, when he prayed for the believers at Ephesus, he did include a startling statement:

Note that Paul asked God to give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, not so they would make judicious choices or recognize and follow God’s plan.  For me, those two requests would more closely fit what I’d expect.  Instead, Paul desired the Ephesians to know God better.

Centuries later, author/pastor A. W. Tozer brilliantly summed up why that would be uppermost in Paul’s mind:

Paul knew from his own experience that developing intimacy with the Heavenly Father would provide more pleasure, meaning, and satisfaction in this life–beyond what earth can offer. In fact, life’s journey can become a wonder-filled treasure hunt as we study the scriptures and look for evidence of God’s glorious Presence all around us, because:

God’s richest gift . . . this side of eternity

is the revelation of himself.

F. Elaine Olsen (1)

As we seek to know God better, we’ll discover delightful facets of his shimmering Personhood—facets such as these:

  • Grace.  Even though he knew every act we’d commit that would break his heart, God the Son willingly died for us anyway.  Nothing can separate us from his fierce love.
  • Goodness.  Even when trouble overtakes us there is good, because there is always God—with his empowering strength, his sweet comfort, and his unfathomable peace.
  • Power to transform. “All we are is by Christ, all we have is from Christ, and all we will be is through Christ” (2).  He alone can transform us, creating beauty out of ashes. 
  • Power to produce.  What we offer him may be as insignificant as five loaves and two fish, but when we put them in God’s hands, he produces more than we can imagine.
  • Love.  “Every door that opens into a treasury of love shows another door into another treasury beyond.  We need not fear that we shall ever come to the end of God’s goodness, or any experience for which he will have no blessing ready” (3).

That’s because our God is a “way-making, promise-keeping, battle-winning, water-walking, storm-stilling, faithful Friend and Savior” (4).  What treasure could possibly surpass such magnificence?


  1. F. Elaine Olsen, Beyond the Scars, 27.
  2. Herbert Lockyer, Seasons of the Lord, 206.
  3. J. R. Miller, quoted in Seasons of the Lord, 199.
  4. Kaitlyn Bouchillon, Take Heart, 210.

Photo credits: http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com; http://www.quoteinspector.com.

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