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Martin and Katherine Luther

In 1527, the plague approached Wittenberg, Germany, home of Martin and Katherine Luther. Some say it was this looming calamity that prompted Luther to write one of the great hymns of the church: “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” [1]

In fact, our congregation sang the ancient lyrics this past Sunday, although we were accompanied by keyboard, guitar, and drum—not organ. I was struck by the second line of the third verse:

“We will not fear, for God hath willed

His truth to triumph thro’ us.”

My mind wandered a bit. I wonder how many scriptural truths promise the result of triumph through us—verses like “My God will meet all your needs.”[2] There must be hundreds!

A bit of research revealed that Luther based his hymn on these scriptural truths from Psalm 46:

  • God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (v. 1)
  • We will not fear though the earth give way (v. 2)
  • The Lord Almighty is with us; God is our fortress (v. 7)

Even though Luther and his family stayed in Wittenberg to care for the sick and dying, he wouldn’t have expected God to spare him or family members from the plague. Luther knew God doesn’t always intervene; he never promised heaven on earth.

But Luther understood: with God as our spiritual refuge, we find the comfort, strength, and support we need through the darkest valleys (Psalm 23).

God will lead us to triumph and provide victory over fear.

Another confidence-building scripture is tucked into the book of Nahum: “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” (1:7).

If we put our minds to it, every one of us can attest to the truth of those statements, because the Lord is good to all. [3]

Consider a few ways God demonstrates goodness to his people, and see if examples from your own life don’t come to mind.

  • He draws us to himself, gifting us with eternal life as we believe in his Son Jesus [4]
  • He provides mentors and experiences that grow our faith as well as blessings that increase our joy [5]
  • He attentively cares for us and spares us from grave errors in judgment as we obey him [6]
  • He bestows comfort and security during difficult times and augments the delight of happy times [7]
  • His Word guides us in perfect wisdom day by day, year after year [8]
  • He empowers us to accomplish tasks we never could have completed on our own [9]

“It’s important to rehearse the lovely, rich truths and promises that remain when other things change. Keep telling these truths, in all their many-sided glory, and one day, walls already cracked will crumble and fall.”

Jim McGuiggan [10]

Picture your fears cracking, crumbling, and falling in a heap in response to the weight of God’s truths.

That’s a picture of triumph!

“We will not fear, for God hath willed

His truth to triumph thro’ us.”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    *     *

Thank you, Father, for Your gracious invitation to leave our concerns with you and free ourselves of anxiety. As I affirm your truth, you provide fortitude and peace.

One day, the father of lies who provokes all fears WILL be defeated. As Martin Luther wrote, “One little word shall fell him!”[11] We eagerly look forward to that day.

(1 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6-7; Romans 16:20; Philippians 3:20)

Addendum: Martin Luther and his family were all spared during the plague of 1527.


 

[1] No copies of this hymn have been found before this date, but a growing number after, leading various scholars to support this theory (https://www.challies.com/articles/hyms-stories-a-mighty-fortress-is-our-god/).

[2] Philippians 4:19

[3] Psalm 145:9

[4] John 6:44; 3:16

[5] Proverbs 12:15; 18:15; Psalm 4:7

[6] Psalm 27:10 HCSB; 37:23-24

[7] Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 16:11

[8] Psalm 32:8. However, I must confess to not always being receptive.

[9] Philippians 4:13

[10] Quoted by Beth Moore in Praying God’s Word, 138.

[11] From the last line of verse three, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”

Art & Photo Credits: http://www.worldhistory.org; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com.

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(An imaginary conversation between God and me)

ME:

O God, each time I come across a scripture that affirms Your delight in me, my heart responds with amazement. I fall far short of the excellence I’d like to present to You—even after all these years as Your child. How is it possible You could still delight in me?  

GOD:

Think about this: How do others know that you take delight in your children and grandchildren? You spend time with them, correct? You listen to them, praise their efforts, and encourage them. You give them gifts. You forgive them.

I do all these things for you and more, proving my delight through my actions. When you see Me clearly—my faithfulness, goodness, and love in action for you—you’ll see yourself more clearly–one who is cherished and brings me pleasure.

Keep reminding yourself, you don’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. [1]

Just this morning you took great delight at the get-together of moms at church. In fact, you smiled from ear to ear and laughed for joy over children you didn’t even know:

  • the baby who waved with gusto at everyone who passed by
  • the little boy who wanted you to play catch with him
  • the three-year-old conversationalist who explained how hourglass egg-timers work

Granted, not one of these little ones is perfect, but each is perfectly wonderful—and so is every other child of Mine, including you.

 I also take great pleasure in watching My children grow, just as you’ve delighted in the development of your children and grandchildren—even your students when you taught school.

ME:

It’s true—each milestone is celebrated with joy, especially those that required effort. It stands to reason that each marker of our spiritual growth makes You smile with joy—markers that include: establishing a quiet time (because You desire relationship with us), learning to be patient and self-controlled as well as manifesting the other fruit of the Spirit, practicing Your presence throughout the day, and turning to You in faith for the strength, guidance, and help we need.[2]

GOD:

Absolutely! I also delight to see:

  • The development and use of the talents I’ve given you, just as you celebrate the growing abilities of the children around you.
  • The joy you experience in the company of family or friends, just as you enjoy watching children play happily together. Their pleasure becomes your pleasure; the same is true for Me.
  • The expression of gratitude for My blessings and favors, just as gratitude from your children warms your hearts and makes you smile.
  • The perseverance to develop spiritual maturity, just as you’ve taken joy in the skills mastered by your children, grandchildren, and students through the years.

Many think of Me as far removed, gloomy and mightily displeased with everything. And while it’s true that I hate sin, because of My Son, Jesus Christ, all believing souls are objects of My delight.[3]

Take that to heart, precious child.

ME:

I pray, Heavenly Father, that my choices going forward might bring You increasing delight. And may I rest contentedly, even joyfully, in the pleasure You already take in me.


 

[1] ______, Values for Life, Walnut Grove Press, 2004, 131).

[2] Revelation 3:20; Galatians 5:22-23; Psalm 16:11; Hebrews 11:6

[3] A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, Harper & Brothers, 1961, 107-108.

Photo credits: http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.stocksnap.io.

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“This is your last chance!” shouted the leader of Columbian guerillas. “Join us, convince the Motilone to join us, and you will live. Otherwise, you are a dead man.”

The surrounding group of rebels aimed their guns at American missionary Bruce Olson. He fully expected to see Jesus in the next moment.

Of course, this was not the first time Bruce faced death during his twenty-seven years with the fierce Motilone tribe.

No sooner had he arrived in 1961, than Bruce was surrounded by tribal warriors who shot him in the leg with an arrow and took him captive. The guides who had led him to their village fled.

Bruce was just nineteen years old and had received no backing from any mission organization, because of his age and lack of training. But he’d seen a picture of the remote Columbian tribe and felt drawn to share with them about Jesus.

His own life had been wonderfully transformed by Christ, and Bruce desired that for others—especially for this people-group who knew nothing about Jesus.

(The Motilone live in northeastern Columbia and western Venezuela.)

Some would say, “Bruce must have misunderstood God’s plan. Otherwise, why would he experience calamity the minute he arrived?”

But look what God did.

First, the Motilone chief forbade the warriors to kill Bruce. Later he and his men would admit there was no reason to spare him; they just did.

The next day the chief’s son, Bobarishora, brought worms for Bruce to eat, which thankfully tasted like liquified bacon and eggs. In spite of the language barrier, Bruce and Bobarishora began to build a friendship.

The leg wound became infected. Bruce escaped and returned to civilization for treatment. But upon regaining strength, the young missionary went back to the tribe—only to contract dysentery and have to seek medical help again. He almost died in the effort.

For his third attempt to settle with the Motilone, Bruce brought medical supplies. The witch doctor took great interest in their healing powers and learned from Bruce how to use them. With Bobarishora and the witch doctor as allies, Bruce began to achieve acceptance in the tribe.

Over the next four years he learned the Motilone language and set about translating the New Testament into their language, putting to use his knowledge of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.

Bobarishora, or “Bobby,” became the first to accept Jesus into his life. At a festival not long after, Bobby sang about the jungle trail of life, a metaphor familiar to the Motilone. Bobby explained he’d seen the footprints of God.

“There are many trails in the jungles,” he said. “But there is one trail that goes to the horizon.” (Bobby was referring to heaven.)  “Christ came to walk that trail so we can walk in his footsteps.”[1]

It wasn’t long before many tribespeople had become Jesus-followers. They began sending their own missionaries to neighboring tribes to tell them about Christ.

The Motilone wanted to learn how to read and write, so Bruce started a school. He also set up a medical clinic, and led the effort to grow cacao, to help support the tribe.

(Cutting a cacao pod from the tree.)

Over time the proceeds helped finance 48 schools, more than 20 health clinics, 12 farming cooperatives, and numerous scholarships for Motilone students to attend high school and university.[2]

Then came the day in 1988 when 15 Communist guerillas kidnapped Bruce with the plan of forcing his cooperation, and convincing the Motilone to do so also. Bruce spent several months chained to a palm tree and became very ill. Somehow he survived.

One of the leaders asked Bruce to teach them how to read and write. They brought a book to Bruce, not knowing it was a New Testament. Bruce used it to teach the men to read, and many became Jesus followers.

Bruce’s health continued to deteriorate. The guerillas decided to give him a blood transfusion.

“I will give him some of my blood,” one rebel announced.

The next day he told Bruce that when he was a young child, the Motilone had given food to his widowed mother for three years, never asking for anything in return. “You saved my life,” he said, “Now, I save your life.”[3]

Months passed. No amount of mistreatment had convinced Bruce to help their cause.

One day a group stood him against a tree, announced his execution, and aimed their guns at him. But when they fired, Bruce remained unharmed. They’d shot blanks at him, expecting this final test to break him.

Sometime later one of the leaders told Bruce that capturing him had been a mistake. He hoped that Bruce could forgive them.

He promised the rebels would leave the Motilone alone, and Bruce could continue his work. After nine months of captivity, they released him.

As a result of Bruce’s long devotion to the tribe, more than 400 Motilone have graduated from high school, and over 30 from university, trained as physicians, accountants, translators, forest rangers, agriculturalists, and more. Still others have received technical training.

All have returned to their jungle communities to share their expertise within the tribe.

As of 2018, more than 70% of the Motilone tribe are following in Christ’s footsteps to the horizon.[4]

As for Bruce Olson, now 80, you’ll find him still working with the people of 18 different tribes and languages of the jungles.[5]


 Notes:

[1] https://missionexus.org/an-interview-with-bruce-olson/

[2] https://www.tms-global.org/story-details/bruchko

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] https://www.godreports.com/2021/02/legendary-american-missionary-ate-maggots-wore-a-flea-collar-to-survive/ 

Additional Sources:

https://www.bruceolson.com/en/index.html

https://www.theopedia.com/bruce-olson

Photo credits: http://www.picryl.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.commons.wikipedia.org (2).

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“As followers of Jesus we have the opportunity

to live each day in wild amazement of God.”

–Margaret Feinberg[1]

Doesn’t that sound like a glorious way to live? Amazement can be a doorway to joy.

Even secular research has discovered positive effects for those who report feeling awe on a regular basis:

  • Lower markers of inflammation
  • Refreshed energy
  • Less anxiety
  • Enhanced sense of well being[2]

Now we know why God inspired King David to write: “Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles” (Psalm 105:5a). God doesn’t need our adulation; we need the recalibration that wild amazement provides.

What follows are categories of wonder and personal examples for each month of 2023. Perhaps this list will trigger memories of your own moments of wild amazement.

January—the wonder of nature

We woke up to a light snowfall that continued all day. At sundown Steve and I stood at the back window to enjoy one last time the white landscape and frosted trees when a fox trotted by, his plush tail extended gracefully behind him. Dark motion against pale stillness.

February—the wonder of friendship

Old friends since college visited for three heavenly days. The reminiscing, heart-to-heart conversation and much laughter strengthened the long-held connection between us.

March—the wonder of kindness

My cousin sent a package of family heirlooms she discovered while spring cleaning, items she thought I’d like to have. Imagine my delight to receive several handkerchiefs with tatted trim, created by our grandmother, and a needle case stitched by our great-grandmother. Such precious things to pass on to my granddaughters.

(I should have ironed them before snapping a pic!)

April—the wonder of family

When all thirteen of us gather, the house is filled with multiple, simultaneous conversations and much laughter. Beautiful noise!

May—the wonder of participation

What a happy privilege to speak hope and encouragement into the lives of others—sometimes to a group in a formal setting, sometimes to individuals over coffee-shop lattës, sometimes to a stranger.

June—the wonder of life

The daughter-in-law of dear friends posted the ultrasound image of their son, due in December. “He’s perfect,” the doctor assured them. Such glorious news after they’ve endured three miscarriages. I can only imagine their pain and sorrow, yet their faith has remained strong. (Perfect little Cam was born December first.)

July—the wonder of giving

My husband frequently blesses delivery people, wait staff, etc. with generous tips. One waitress puddled up with gratitude. After heart surgery she was behind on her bills; we had the joyful privilege of assisting her.

August—the wonder of imagination

Our five-year old granddaughter drew a picture of herself getting scratched on the leg while hiking a trail with her parents. However, the illustration didn’t depict a bush causing injury; it was an ogre.

September—the wonder of rest

Quiet time on our deck provides supreme restoration, especially when a light breeze keeps me cool and cheerful cardinals add a soundtrack. Beginning this time of year, our black walnut tree provides flashing, golden leaf showers. Mesmerizing.

(These are maple leaves, but they reflect the same golden glow as our black walnut.)

October—the wonder of miracles

Our pastor-son and his wife have served their current church for four and a half years. When they arrived, the church faced financial difficulty. But God began his good work among the people, giving increased, and they even established a savings account. Recently a dire need developed and $85,000 was required. Guess how much was in that account?!

November—the wonder of gratitude

Just this month alone, I celebrated God’s goodness for tasks completed in spite of little time, prayers answered, blessings not asked for, numerous moments of delight, laughter (especially that of our grandchildren), thoughtfulness of others, and memories of years past. “Joy doesn’t cause us to be grateful,” wrote Brother David Steindl-Rast, “joy is born out of our gratitude.”

December—the wonder of Jesus

He is our Savior and King, our Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. These titles only begin to express his identity and attributes.

God is infinite, his marvelous works are infinite. What moments of wonder have come to your mind? Or perhaps you’ve thought of a whole new category. Please share in the comment section below.

Let’s begin this new year by celebrating our wild amazement of God!      


 Notes:

[1] Wonderstruck, Worthy Publishing Group, 2012, 173.

[2] https://guideposts.org/angels-and-miracles/miracles/gods-grace/why-a-sense-of-wonder-is-important/ and https://hbr.org/2021/08/why-you-need-to-protect-your-sense-of-wonder-especially-now

Photo credits: http://www.pxhere; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.commons wikimedia.org; http://www.pxhere; http://www.canva.com.

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Who better to expound on the wonder of God’s presence with us than the eloquent Charles Spurgeon:

“Immanuel, God with us.”

Satan trembles at the sound of it . . .

Let him come to you suddenly,

and do you but whisper that word, “God with us,”

back he falls, confounded and confused . . .

“God with us” is the laborer’s strength.

How could he preach the gospel,

how could he bend his knees in prayer,

how could the missionary go into foreign lands,

how could the martyr stand at the stake,

how could the confessor own his Master,

how could men labor if that one word were taken away?

“God with us” is eternity’s sonnet,

heaven’s hallelujah,

the shout of the glorified,

the song of the redeemed,

the chorus of the angels,

the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky.

-Charles Spurgeon

The Treasury of the Old Testament, III:430

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Oh, for words to praise you rightly, Heaven Father, for the glory of “God with us!” Thank You, Lord Jesus, for coming to earth to be our Immanuel, for gracing us with your ceaseless presence.

We stand in awe of what Immanuel means. In addition to the strength Spurgeon mentions here, you provide comfort, encouragement, peace, joy, and more.

May we never take for granted this precious reality!

Photo credit: http://www.dailyverses.net

 

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For the last two posts I’ve shared journal-contemplations from the first two stanzas of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” As with most hymns and praise songs, it’s easy to sing through the lyrics and miss their full significance.

But when we put pen to paper and delve into word meanings, explore implications of the lyrics, and ponder the impressions God brings to our spirits, wonderful blessings emerge: increased understanding of God and his Word, renewal of the mind, and augmented intimacy with God.

Contemplations become worship.

With those thoughts in mind, let’s savor the third stanza:

Hail, the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!

I praise You, Lord Jesus, the only One who can mediate reconciliation between the sin-prone people we are and the righteous God of heaven. Without You, we’d have no hope of eternal life.

I praise You also for the peace of mind you provide as we affirm Your attributes. By Your omnipotent strength you will uphold, and by Your omniscient wisdom You will guide, until our days on earth are complete. We are safe in Your hands (1).

Hail, the Sun of Righteousness! Light and Life to all He brings

I praise You, Lord Jesus, that Your radiant presence brings comfort, joy, and prosperity of soul.

Your Light of truth obliterates the lies of our enemy and brings us closer to You.

From Your Light shine beams of blessing such as these:

  • The variety of wholesome pleasures in this world, benefiting us in mind, body, and spirit
  • The love of family and friends, increasing our joy
  • The ability to read and learn, providing knowledge and wisdom
  • The delight of hands, allowing us to pursue a myriad of satisfying activities (2)

Risen with healing in His wings

I praise You, Lord God, for raising Jesus from the dead. Because He’s alive, we who believe in Him can be confident of eternal life also.  

One day Your Son will come on swift wings, ready to bestow perfect healing upon all who’ve come to Him. Our healing from the sickness of sin that causes so much woe will finally be complete. There will be no more pain and suffering, no more harm and brokenness, no more sorrow or death!

But even now, Lord Jesus, just as beams from the sun bring health to every living thing, You bring health to our spirits—a deep-down contentment only You can provide (3).

Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die

I praise You, Lord Jesus, for laying aside Your glory as the Son of God. You left Your celestial throne, the unceasing adoration of angels, and all the splendors of paradise to be born a helpless baby.

During your earthly life, few praised You as You deserved; many found fault with Your glorious perfections.

Nevertheless, You see worth in every human being; you desire that everyone accept God’s gift of eternal life, that “man no more may die.”

I praise You for saving us from the death-sentence of our sin (4).

    

Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.

I praise You, Lord Jesus, for the transformed life You offer, raising each believer out of his plight of eternal death and into the pleasure of eternal life with You–pleasures that begin the moment we say yes to You.

Those gifts include:

  • Security, because our final destiny is secure, and in the meantime You’re always with us, working toward our best good
  • Provision of guidance, strength, help and more
  • Rest for our souls, as Your Spirit of counsel and power takes up residence in our spirits
  • Gladness, as we celebrate Your work around us and in us

One day, Lord God, You will raise all Your children into the magnificence of Your heaven! With joyful expectation we anticipate the wonders You’ve planned for us.

Thank You for making possible this second birth into Your family. All the amazing blessings highlighted in this carol come to us when we choose adoption into Your family (5).

I praise You, Lord Jesus, for providing reconciliation with God, ultimate victory over death, over-arching peace and joy, healing for the wounds of our spirits, and more.

Glory to You, my magnificent, sovereign King!

Notes:

  1. Acts 4:12; 2 Timothy 4:18
  2. Psalm 23:4; John 15:11; Philippians 4:11-13; Hebrews 4:12
  3. John 6:40; Revelation 21:4; Psalm 23:1-3
  4. Philippians 2:6-7; Revelation 5:11-12; 2 Peter 3:8; Romans 6:23
  5. John 11:26; Matthew 28:20; Romans 8:28; Isaiah 11:2; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Psalm 92:4; John 14:3; 2 Corinthians 4:14; John 14:3

Photo credits: Nancy Ruegg; http://www.openclipart.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.open.life.church/resources; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org.

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Last week I shared with you journal-contemplations from the first verse of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” As with most hymns and praise songs, it’s easy to sing through the lyrics of this carol and miss their full significance.  

By putting pen to paper, we slow our thinking and wonderful blessings begin to emerge—like increased understanding of God and his Word, renewal of the mind, and augmented intimacy with God.

Contemplations can become worship.

With that in mind, let’s savor the second verse:

“Christ by highest heaven adored”

How glorious the music in heaven must be! Rich, clear voices, every note perfectly pitched. Intricate harmonies and faultless instrumentation.

All these sublime elements come together to worship You, Lord Christ–the Anointed One–who left the magnificence of heaven to be the Savior of humankind.

Thank you, Father, for giving us a glimpse (in the book of Revelation) of the heavenly song that celebrates King Jesus. I can’t help but hear Handel’s majestic melody from Messiah for the lyrics:

I praise You, Lord Jesus, for Your splendor!

“Christ, the everlasting Lord!”

You, O Christ, existed throughout the infinite past and will prevail into the infinite future.

Though Son of God, You are also the Eternal Father, forever with us and LORD of all. Nothing is outside Your control (1).

Power often corrupts in the human realm. But You are perfect in all attributes and motivated by matchless love.

I praise You, O Christ, for the supreme grace of Your Lordship!

“Late in time behold Him come”

To those who waited for Your arrival, You must have seemed late! Centuries had passed since the last prophecy of Your coming.

“But when the time was right,” You, O God, sent Your Son to redeem us (2).

In retrospect we can see why You chose the time of Roman rule. They had established stability in their far-reaching empire, built thousands of miles of roads, and established a common language.

Such factors meant early Christians could spread the good news about You more easily than ever before (3).

I praise You, O God, for Your masterful orchestration

that’s always in operation for the benefit of Your children!

“Offspring of the Virgin’s womb”

You are the One and Only begotten Son of the God the Father, the only Man of heavenly origin who ever lived on earth.

You committed no sin. Without that absolute perfection in You, there would be no salvation for us. God made You, who never sinned, to be sin so we could be made right with Him (4).

I praise You, Righteous Savior, for Your perfection!

“Veiled in flesh the Godhead see”

You embodied all the magnificent attributes of God during Your time on earth, yet You were also human.

You dealt with exhaustion, frustration, temptations, and discomforts, just as we do. The fullness of Your glory was veiled behind the ordinariness of Your humanity (5).

How difficult that must have been to know Your full capabilities yet continually hold Yourself in check.

I praise You, Lord Jesus, for your fierce love

that compelled You to complete such an arduous mission.

“Hail th’incarnate Deity”

No one has ever lived a sinless life except You.

No one espoused wisdom as You did or performed miracles like You.

You are the radiance of God’s glory!

I praise your for your divine holiness.

“Pleased as man with men to dwell”

You chose to come to earth and dwell among us, in spite of our self-centeredness, pride, weakness, and brokenness.

Such an incredible reality!

I praise You, O Lord, for your mercy, for wanting to be with us.

“Jesus, our Emmanuel.”

You are Emmanuel—God with us (7). Once we invite You into our lives we’re never left to our own feeble devices; we’re never without Your attentive care.

In Your presence we experience joy, refreshment, help, and pleasure (8). You enhance every moment of life with Your radiant attributes!

I praise You, O Christ, for choosing to veil Yourself in flesh that we might behold You.

I praise You for dwelling with us that might enjoy You!

Notes:

  1. Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 28:20; Philippians 2:9-11
  2. Galatians 4:4-5 CEV
  3. See “The Appropriate Time” for further details
  4. John 3:16; 1 Peter 2:22; 2 Corinthians 5:21
  5. Daniel Ruben, http://www.fbccarson.org/harktheheraldangelssing
  6. John 10:17 and 1:14
  7. Matthew 1:23
  8. Isaiah 9:3; Acts 2:28 and 3:19; Psalm 42:5; Psalm 16:11

Art & photo credits: http://www.rawpixels.com; http://www.openclipart.com; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.worldhistory.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.freebibleimages.org (2); http://www.wallpaper4god.com; http://www.hippopx.com.

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Take a walk over wooded hills and chances are you’ll encounter a spring-fed, babbling brook, tumbling over rocks and ever-flowing to its mouth.

Just the sound of it refreshes the soul.

Perhaps in his travels, the Apostle Paul encountered spring-fed brooks, and God brought them to his mind as inspiration for this instruction:

Let your living spill over into thanksgiving.

–Colossians 2:7c MSG

Such a lovely image of refreshing, ever-flowing gratitude.

Paul urged his readers to be thankful seven times in the four-chapters of Colossians, and forty more times in his other epistles.

Now why would God inspire Paul to encourage gratitude so often?

Surely God wanted us to discover that when we seek to be thankful, we find our trust growing. Look at all these wonderful ways God is blessing and investing in my life, we begin to realize. He IS a good and loving Father; I CAN depend on him!

Perhaps Paul himself had learned: the more we thank, the more we see to be thankful for.

“The grumbler undoubtedly sees few blessings;

The grateful person finds blessings everywhere.

In fact, blessings seem to find her.

J. E. Yoder (1)

I also like Warren Wiersbe’s reason for cultivating gratitude: “When a believer is abounding in thanksgiving, he is really making progress!”

Surely this was one of Paul’s strong desires—that all Jesus-followers make progress toward becoming all that God intends them to be.

But gratitude doesn’t always come easy. Sometimes we’re more likely to be overwhelmed by our worries than overflowing with thankfulness. Or we’d rather talk about our woes in order to gain sympathy than share our blessings in order to encourage.

So how do we open the channels of our hearts to let gratitude flow?

We might begin with a daily (perhaps hourly ) habit of giving thanks for the benefits we enjoy—no matter what our circumstances—even if the family is in turmoil, or friends have proved unfriendly, or trouble has dropped in our laps.

As noted, ever-flowing gratitude refreshes the soul.  

Perhaps we could begin with these five blessings:

  • The indescribable gift of Christ and all he offers
  • Rescue from the powers of darkness
  • God’s glorious attributes at work in our lives—his goodness, grace, compassion, and more
  • The precious, life-changing truths of scripture
  • God’s constant presence with us (2)

Of course there are many more. We’d do well to keep a written list of such ever-present blessings, ready to refer to when the flow of our gratitude is blocked by disappointment or discouragement.

And at the top of the list we might copy this wonderful reassurance:

There is always good because there is always God . . .

Even when nothing else around us is good,

his presence in the midst of our deepest pain

is a good gift indeed.

Aliza Latta (3)

Picture a glass of water so full it will not hold another drop. Now what if you bump against it? The water is bound to spill over. Similarly, when trouble bumps against us, what’s inside will overflow.

Out of an angry person will come anger, out of a fearful person will come fear, out of a self-centered person will come self-pity. (I have been all three of these people at one time or other!)

But a grateful person? He/she overflows with gratitude, cheering and soothing the soul like a babbling brook. In addition, their trust in God grows and greater maturity develops. Best of all, their thankfulness delights God.

As the Lord loveth a cheerful giver,

So likewise a cheerful thanksgiver.

John Boys (4)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

O Father, keep me mindful that no matter what I face, there are ALWAYS reasons to rejoice. I don’t want to give in to anger, fear, or self-pity. I want my living to spill over into thanksgiving—a superior way to spend my days and bring you glory as well.

Notes:

  1. Our Daily Bread
  2. 2 Corinthians 9:15; Colossians 1:13; Psalm 145:7-8ff; Psalm 119:72, 93, 103; Psalm 23:4
  3. Take Heart, 16
  4. Dean of Canterbury from 1619-1625, quoted in A Puritan Golden Treasury

Photo credits: http://www.youtube.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com.

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Whitney sought a foothold and pulled herself up, then changed her hand grips and found another foothold above the previous one. Slowly she inched her way up the 40-foot climbing wall. Though only her first attempt, the four-year-old showed no fear.

Dad recorded the feat, and the video is available on YouTube.

We marvel that such a young child could climb with such confidence. But Whitney knew she was tethered to a rope held secure by the belayer, who also gave wise advice as she climbed. And Dad offered encouragement the whole way up and down.

When she touched ground again, Whitney’s broad smile indicated her delight in conquering the wall.

And the preschooler’s experience proves:

Security, wisdom, and encouragement

contribute to confidence. 

What held true during that preschooler’s rock-climb holds true for us in life. We need a strong Belayer to keep us secure, wise instruction to help us succeed, and inspiring encouragement to help us persevere.

Security

First, our Belayer is God himself. He holds us fast and will never let us go.[1]

And just as Whitney’s security did not depend on her gripping the rope, our security of help, strength, and heaven-to-come doesn’t originate with our grip on God, but his forever grip on us.[2] What we cannot do for ourselves, he has accomplished.[3]

Just as Whitney put her trust in the belayer, we must actively trust God to be our lifeline.

Wisdom

A short distance up the wall, Whitney glanced toward the floor. The belayer wisely advised, “Don’t look down, Whitney! Keep looking up!”

She didn’t look down until the belayer gave her instructions for the descent.

God also offers wise advice through his Word. He wants us to know:

  • True wisdom comes from him.
  • It begins with reverence and humility before God, to be in awe of his holiness, his power over all things–including life and death.
  • He gladly provides this gift to all who ask.
  • Whoever heeds his wisdom will dwell secure.[4]

Encouragement

Last, we have a Father who encourages us, just as Whitney’s dad encouraged her. Again, what we need is found in scripture—passages such as these that inspire hope:

  • “I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I shall not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8).
  • “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:11).
  • “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart” (Psalm 27:13-14).

Of course there are hundreds more, assuring us that:

When I allow fearful thoughts to whirl in my mind, I’m really asking, Is God going to see me through this?

How much better to affirm that God will hold me fast until he’s ready to take me home to heaven. He will provide the wisdom and guidance I need for what lies ahead, just as he has in the past. And His Word will continue to offer encouragement, to inspire and strengthen.

Truth leads to confidence.

What contributes to your confidence when facing challenging situations? Please share in the comment section below!


[1] Psalm 37:23-24

[2] https://www.seeyouinheaven.life/secure-forever-in-christ/

[3] Romans 8:3-4

[4] Proverbs 2:7; 1:7, James 1:5; Proverbs 1:33

Photo credits: http://www.youtube.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.flickr.com (Noah Berger); http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org.

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If you brought together six people with diverse traits and backgrounds, their answers to the title question would likely include six different types of spaces.

Some of us prefer cozy decor, surrounded with precious keepsakes.

Others prefer sleek, white spaces with lots of light.

Some like a rustic, log cabin aesthetic; others prefer the industrial look.

And more than a few gravitate toward the quirky.

But no matter our style preferences, research has confirmed that certain environmental factors impact our mood:

  • A warm, cozy home creates a sense of well-being for most people
  • Clutter can cause a person to feel overwhelmed and anxious; tidy, organized spaces tend to calm
  • Beauty in the form of pleasing colors, sounds, and smells as well as meaningful objects can elevate a person’s mood
  • A dark room can make a person feel lethargic; light energizes and exhilarates
  • Bringing nature indoors with plants and flowers contributes to serenity

But we can’t always control our physical environments. Home isn’t warm and cozy in the midst of ongoing conflict. Children (and maybe a few spouses or roommates out there!) make messes they’re loathe to clean up. And days on end of gray weather can sap energy and joy. What then?

We can shift our focus from what’s around us to what’s within–the spiritual surroundings of our souls. But how do we impact that invisible space, in order to experience equilibrium and calm?

Let’s begin by imagining the soul like a room, and consider the bullet points above.

First, it is God who creates a warm and cozy environment in the depths of our being—a sense of peace and contentment that no one or nothing else can accomplish. To access His peace we only need to ask. And as the atmosphere of our spirits change, we discover: “The very act of breathing in his presence is balm.”[1]

Second, clutter in the soul includes such unsightly messes as sin, negativity, and worry. God knows we can’t remove the muck on our own. But out of his love and mercy, he gladly helps get rid of the filth as we turn to him for forgiveness, help, and strength.[2]

We can enhance our soul-spaces with beauty—thoughts that center on all things lovely, excellent and praiseworthy. Imagine hanging on the walls of your spirit pictures of God’s faithfulness—remembrances of his provisions, guidance, and blessings. View with delightful awe his magnificent deeds.[3]   

A few well-placed lights of scripture[4] will certainly energize and elevate our mood—passages such as these:

  • “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long, they celebrate your righteousness for you are their glory and strength”.
  • “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”
  • “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.”[5]

Last, at least for this post, we can bring the delight of nature into our spirits, much as we enjoy bringing plants and flowers into our homes.

Have you noticed that when we take the time to marvel at the intricacies of a leaf or petal, our pleasure is expanded further?

Similarly, we can take time to marvel in God’s attributes and abilities gloriously displayed in creation:

  • his inventiveness and engineering—from insects designed to walk on water to whales that communicate underwater.
  • His attention to detail as he created a planet that sustains life.
  • His mind-boggling power to fill the universe with stars, planets, moons, galaxies, nebula, comets, and more—all governed by the scientific laws he established.

And as a result of such contemplations, our pleasure in him is expanded.

When all these elements are combined within our spirits—warmth and coziness with God, cleanliness, beauty and light from God, as well as delight in God, we discover true sanctuary, a place where we can enjoy intimate relationship with him and rest for our souls–a place of refuge and calm.[6]

Isn’t that a place where youd like to live?


[1] Philippians 4:6-7 and Jan Karon, A Common Life, 116.

[2] Psalm 51:7, Psalm 94:18-19, Philippians 4:13

[3] Philippians 4:8; Psalm 105:5a; Habakkuk 3:2b

[4] Psalm 119:105

[5] Psalm 89:15-17a; Isaiah 26:3; Nahum 1:7

[6] Matthew 11:28-29; Psalm 55:6; Isaiah 25:4; Psalm 16:11

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