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Archive for the ‘God’s Faithfulness’ Category

 

In the town where I lived till age ten, great elm trees bordered a number of the residential streets. Their wide-reaching branches stretched across the pavement and met in the middle, creating a thick, verdant archway in the summertime.

As we walked or drove underneath, the view was dominated by tree trunks—sentries of the streets in two straight rows.

One stand-alone tree, tall and far spread, is an inspiration, as Joyce Kilmer’s famous poem attests. But a double row stretching to the horizon? That’s a wondrous sight you don’t forget—even after six decades.

Not long ago I came across an observation of Charles Spurgeon, based on just such a view. And immediately I thought of those stately elms of my hometown:

 

“We delight to look down a long avenue of trees.

It is pleasing to gaze from end to end of the long vista.

Even so look down the long aisles of your years,

at the green boughs of mercy overhead

and the strong pillars of loving-kindness

and faithfulness which bear up your joys.”

(Morning by Morning, p. 366).

 

 

What better time to look down those aisles of our years than this week of Thanksgiving?

Down my own personal road…

…I do see the green boughs of mercy—times when God treated me with grace and compassion that I did not deserve—even in small matters.

One example out of many:  the time I forgot to order new books for the women’s Bible study at church. (This was long before amazon.com and priority shipping.) An emergency run to the Christian bookstore was necessary.

While driving there, I prayed to find sufficient copies of a worthwhile study that we could complete in the necessary time frame: eight weeks.

I know, I know. Such specific requirements. But sure enough, God supplied exactly what was needed, in spite of my foolish forgetfulness.

 

(Women too!)

 

…I see the strong pillars of loving-kindness—times when God demonstrated his tender and compassionate affection.

Again, one example out of many: I spilled a bit of coffee on my computer and the mouse died. Steve tried the hair dryer trick, and miraculously, my mouse came back to life.

But Steve would be the first to tell you God gets the credit, first for bringing to his mind that solution, and because “every good and perfect gift comes from above”—even problem-solving power.

 

 

…I see the strong pillars of faithfulness—times when God demonstrated his firm and devoted support.

Just a list of categories is quite long. God offers protection and provision, equipping and encouragement, instruction and guidance, comfort and strength, forgiveness and restoration, support and deliverance, healing and blessing. Surely there are even more.

Often, God expresses his strong and loving support through his Word.

One morning while settling in for a quiet time, I opened my Bible first instead of the study guide. “Wake up,” I chided myself. “You don’t even know what scripture you’ll be studying today.”

I turned to the morning’s lesson and discovered my Bible was already open to the proper page, and the prescribed verse was right at the top. Before even reading the verse I felt a strong impression from God: “Nancy, this scripture is for you today.”

Now before I reveal the verse, let me explain that just a few days prior I’d received disturbing news. Hurt and discouragement were fighting against faith and hope in my spirit.

So imagine my astonishment when I read, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand” (John 13:7).  An overflow of joy in my heart became tears in my eyes. He saw my distress and came alongside with encouragement and support.

 

 

No doubt you have stories of your own green boughs of mercy and strong pillars of loving-kindness and faithfulness, as you gaze down the long aisle of your years.

I’d love to hear one of your examples; I’m sure other readers would too.

Please share in the comment section below, and together we can praise our God for the wonders he has performed (Psalm 105:5a)!

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.strongtowns.org (Daniel Jeffries); http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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Some believe that indulging in memories is a waste of time, that past events have no meaning for the present. But nothing could be further from the truth— especially if we acknowledge God’s part in those events.

When we include God in our remembering:

  1. We gain a sense of perspective.

Even difficult times are part of God’s plan. Sometimes, with the gift of hindsight, we catch a glimpse of his purpose later.

For example, how many students have struggled through school, yet in adulthood flourished in careers well matched to their gifts? Most of them are actually thankful for the early challenges, because they learned perseverance and developed strength of character. Those late-bloomers are often compassionate and understanding toward other strugglers, because they remember the difficulties of those formative years.

 

 

  1. We acquire wisdom for today.

“Reflective thinking turns experience into insight.”

–John Maxwell

In my younger days I used to be a champion talker. But somewhere along the way I began to notice the listeners—caring folks who often demonstrated the gentle and quiet spirit Peter spoke of (1 Peter 3:3). They reminded me of my sweet grandmother.

I valued that demeanor and began to turn insight into a new experience of focused listening. (Please understand: practice hasn’t achieved perfection yet. But improvement? Yes.)

 

  1. We build a foundation of stability for today as we remember God’s grace and faithfulness in the past.

But memories easily fade. So some believers keep a book of remembrance or a praise journal, as a way to savor God’s faithfulness.

Just for fun, I randomly opened my loose leaf praise journal in search of an entry to share with you. Here’s what I wrote, December 23, 2003, about our older son, who was in college at the time:

 

 

(“Eric got a new job yesterday and it starts today! The owner of the bike shop has not paid Eric for ten days, but a friend offered him a job in their family’s fireplace shop at the same salary.”)

Entry after entry highlight God’s provision, protection, and guidance through the years. And each memory contributes to my foundation of stability.

 

  1. We foster gratitude in our hearts.

As you can see, the entry recorded above ends with: “Thank you, Lord, for answering our prayers and providing for Eric.”  Joy just naturally overflowed into appreciation.

On the opposing page I wrote, “I am overwhelmed, Lord, by this continuing string of blessings. You are SO good to us, always demonstrating your faithfulness and grace. May your praise continually be on my lips!”

Research has now proven a number of benefits of gratitude.*  But surely one of the best: it nurtures a contented soul.

 

 

  1. We can turn remembering into a beautiful act of worship. 

That’s exactly what scripture invites us to do: 

“Rejoice in all the good which the Lord your God has given to you and your house” (Deuteronomy 26:11).

Praise the name of the Lord your God, who has done wondrously with you” (Joel 2:26b).

“You make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands” (Psalm 92:4).

 

 

Such glorious cause and effect! Remembering God’s wonderful deeds of the past turns our hearts to worship, which causes a powerful, positive impact on the present.

 

  1. We can tell our stories of God’s miracles and mercies, to encourage the faith of others and refresh our own.

Scripture invites us to do that too: 

“I will tell of the kindness of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all he has done for us” (Isaiah 63:7).

.

 

So let’s begin here! Please share in the comment section below about a kindness, miracle, or mercy of God from your memory. And together we can praise the name of the Lord who has worked wonders for us!

 

* Another post details some of those benefits, “Happiness.”

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.nellis.af.mil; Nancy Ruegg (3); http://www.heartlight.org.

 

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It was almost time for Mom and Dad to say good-bye and leave five-year old me—by myself—to spend the night at the hospital.

Yes, there was a pretty, friendly nurse who promised careful attention. But, of course, a strange bed in strange surroundings with strangers in charge, left me feeling very uncomfortable—in addition to the tonsillectomy-induced sore throat.

The thought occurred to me, I should have brought my special blanket. Its soft, pink familiarity would surely make me feel better.

When I expressed my wish out loud, Dad said he’d go home and get it.  (It wasn’t far.)  Mom stayed until he returned.

Dad’s response surprised me. I thought he’d say, “Don’t worry. You’ll be fine without it.”

But Dad understood this was hard for me, and did what he could to ease my discomfort.

Nonetheless, it took a long time to fall asleep that night. But holding my security blanket close and rubbing my fingers against the satin trim did provide sweet comfort.

 

 

Perhaps as a child, you too owned a special blanket or stuffed animal that provided a sense of calm well-being at bedtime. However, part of the maturing process is letting go of such things, right?

No, in actuality, it’s just the source of security that changes as we grow up. Everyone seeks comfort in something, perhaps:

  • A settled career that provides a comfortable income
  • Meaningful and stable relationships
  • Good health, enhanced by careful eating habits and exercise
  • Physical safety, procured through security systems, guard dogs, etc.

 

 

But all of these examples offer only external security. And no matter how protected a person might feel today, we all know how quickly circumstances can change. Ask the one whose company downsized during the recession, the one whose spouse suddenly wanted “space,” the one who received life-altering news from his doctor, or the one whose computer files were hacked.

What we need is internal security. And that can only be found in God.

At the first sign of distress we can call out to him, asking him to draw especially close (Psalm 145:18).

 

 

And when difficult situations linger, we can meditate on God’s wonderful works, as King David did in his psalm of praise, #145. He suggests we:

  • Buoy our faith by remembering God’s miracles (vs. 4-6)
  • Affirm all the benefits and support he’s supplied (vs. 5-6)
  • Keep our minds focused on his glorious attributes (vs, 7-9, 11, 20)
  • Review God’s promises—such as those listed in verses 13-16
  • Remind ourselves that all his actions are absolutely perfect (v. 17)

 

 

Each uplifting thought offers soothing comfort. And strand after strand weaves a virtual security blanket for our souls–a blanket under which we can rest secure.

 

“The Lord’s beloved rests securely on him.

He shields him all day long,

And he rests on his shoulders.”

–Deuteronomy 33:12 CSB

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

We praise You, Father, for the comfort, peace, and security you provide. You alone are able to make us dwell in safety and serenity, where no lasting harm can penetrate. Thank you for your abundant goodness to care for us as we trust in you.     

(Psalm 4:8, 91:4; Romans 11:38; Nahum 1:7)

 

 

(Photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.dailyverses.net (2); http://www.recreation.gov.)

 

Is there a particular scripture you turn to for comfort?  Please share in the comment section below.

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Wingstem waltzes at woodland edge,

Gilt buckeye leaves tumble and twirl.

Creation sighs a cool breeze of relief

As summer wanes and fall approaches.

 

 

Squirrels scamper over tree-branch highways,

A hummingbird breakfasts on day lilies,

Mums turn round faces to bask in the sun–

A bustle of activity, but not a sound.

 

 

Much is accomplished in the quiet.

Trees stretch skyward, adding rings of growth,

Dew crystals bring moisture to petal and leaf,

Butterflies pollinate flower after flower.

 

 

God orchestrates harmony, even in stillness,

But not for self-flattering fanfare.

His efforts provide undeniable evidence

Of who he is—proof of his glory.

 

 

Note his artistry on sunset dahlias,

His genius in the strength of spider silk,

His wisdom in the female finch’s cloak,

His faithfulness in the circle of seasons.

 

 

God also desires to work within us,

Applying his artistry, genius, and wisdom—

Fostering change, fulfilling purpose—

Quietly, faithfully, day by day.

 

 

Within the silence of God’s holy presence,

We find strength and serenity of soul.

All we need do is accept his welcome

Into the quiet discovery of HIM.

 

 

(Romans 1:20; Psalm 104:24; Job 12:7-10; Philippians 1:6; Psalm 28:7, 29: 11, & 46:10.)

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixabay.com (2).

 

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“Oh, what a beautiful tree!” my mother-in-law exclaimed with enthusiasm. Her comment referred to a tall bush, planted near the house and visible outside our kitchen window. “What’s the name of it?” she asked.  Being from Ohio, Mom wasn’t familiar with some of the unique foliage of South Florida.

“That’s a sea grape,” I told her. “It’s actually a shrub, but they can grow quite tall.”

“Well, it’s lovely. Such big leaves!”

Now clearly there’s nothing remarkable about this conversation, until you know that Mom had asked the very same question with the very same enthusiasm every morning of her visit. And each morning I supplied the same answer.  Mom was in her late 80s, and her dementia was becoming more and more noticeable.

Mom’s fresh outlook each morning reminded me of Lamentations 3:22-23:

 

The faithful love of the LORD never ends!

His mercies never cease.

Great is his faithfulness;

his mercies begin afresh each morning (NLT).

 

 

Just as Mom brought new enthusiasm to each morning, so God brings new mercies for each day. Yes, the challenges we faced yesterday required wisdom, strength, and perseverance. But today we’ll need a fresh supply.   Praise God he never runs out of such gifts; he is always able to provide.

In the same way, God’s new mercies for today are not meant to be sufficient for tomorrow. In other words, we shouldn’t expect to feel ready this morning for the potential challenges of the future—much as we’d like to. (Who hasn’t wished to know now exactly how the next day or week will unfold, and how best to respond?)

Instead, our wise and loving Heavenly Father has chosen to lead us one day at a time, to protect us from being overwhelmed, easy prey to depression and paralyzed by fear.

No, our best course of action is to avail ourselves of God’s mercies for this one day. As for tomorrow, we can trust God to supply new mercies, more than sufficient for whatever we might face when the time comes.

 

 

 

I’m remembering Corrie ten Boom. (Maybe this post brought her to your mind, too.)

 

 

Corrie and her family suffered cruel hardships in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, as a result of helping Jews escape the Holocaust.

After the war, people would often say to Corrie, “I wish I had such great faith as yours. I could never live through the experiences you survived.”

Corrie would tell a story to explain.

When she was a child, Corrie happened to see a dead baby. A terrible fear gripped her that one of her family might also die. When Papa ten Boom came to tuck her in that night, she burst into tears.

“I need you!” she sobbed. “You can’t die!”

Her sister, Betsy, explained why Corrie was so afraid.

Papa asked, “When you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?”

“Just before we get on the train,” she responded.

“Exactly,” Papa replied. “And God knows when you’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need—just in time.”

Papa ten Boom was proven right. When Corrie needed supernatural strength, God did provide. We can rest assured that his mercies will be new and fresh each morning for each of us–just in time.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise you, Lord God, that we can face each day with fresh enthusiasm, because for every trial, you have prepared great mercies of endurance, strength, and wisdom.

I thank you that in the midst of trouble, you also provide blessings: a more acute awareness of your presence, peace that defies explanation, family and friends to come alongside, miraculous provision, and delightful surprises to make us smile.

You are more than a sufficient God; you are an abundantly gracious God!

 

(Revised and reblogged from 5-28-15.  Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.com.)

 

 

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Jesus made it perfectly clear: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b, emphasis added).

 

 

And in our minds we affirm that truth. Yes, he’s invisible, but we know God is involved in our lives. We look back over our personal histories and see evidence of his work, as he engineered circumstances for our good.

But sometimes our emotions long to feel his bodily presence.   Wouldn’t it be wonderful, we daydream, if he literally took us by the hand, put his arm around our shoulders, or pulled us toward him in a close embrace?

Sometimes our ears long to hear his voice, telling us loud and clear exactly what step to take next, encouraging us we’re headed in the right direction, or offering perfect words of comfort that assuage our pain.

And sometimes our spirits long for assurance of his love in spite of our frailty, that progress in maturity is occurring, and the trials we face today will have meaning tomorrow.

There have been close encounters. Every now and then we’ve come within an angel hair of his touch—he felt that close. We’ve received impressions so strong they’ve almost been audible. And we’ve sensed his affirmation in our spirits that immediately settled our uncertainty for the moment.

 

 

But in between those intermittent occasions, our Heavenly Father would have us exercise a bit of faith (1) and take to heart what he’s already told us—truths such as these:

God isn’t even the width of an angel hair away from us. Remember the passage where Jesus declares he is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:5)? Just how far is the branch from the vine?

Exactly.

And because he’s right there, we can face uncertainty. God is no cheerleader, standing on the sidelines and shouting encouragement. He’s promised to be deeply involved, to strengthen, help, and support (Isaiah 41:10).

 

 

God hasn’t lost his voice. He most often chooses to communicate with us through his written Word. But sometimes he speaks to us through other Christians—their writings or spoken words. And he still implants impressions into the quietness of our souls—if we sit still long enough to listen.

Writer and theologian, Mike Yaconelli was probably right:  “The problem isn’t that God has stopped speaking; it’s that our lives have become louder.”

God wastes nothing.  Every event, every relationship, every circumstance has potential for meaning and  benefit somewhere down the road—including mistakes, disappointments, our own poor choices and those of others.

They become transformational moments to develop our maturity and prepare us for opportunities to come.

Consider:

  • Moses, once prince of Egypt, reduced to tending sheep for forty years. Yet God chose him to lead his people out of slavery.
  • Young Daniel, taken captive to live faraway in a strange culture. Yet God’s plan included his rise to provincial ruler in that land.
  • The man born blind, in order to one day display the work of God in his life (John 9, especially v. 3).

 

 

God doesn’t require hoop-jumping. We don’t have to conjure up articulate prayers to access his presence or follow a prescribed set of steps to avail ourselves of his guidance, comfort, and power.

Even the simple act of speaking Jesus’ name invokes all that he is and all that he can do (John 16:24). How reassuring to know: “When there are no words, when there is no strength, there is always his Name” (1). God intends for us to use it.

Finally, and most encouraging:

God is on our side.  We.  Cannot.  Lose (Romans 8:31-37).

 

 

Now the question becomes: Will we move forward on what we know, or stagnate because we cannot see, hear or touch?

 

Notes:

(1) Faith is a quality God greatly values. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). But all it takes is the equivalent of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20), and our God can move mountains of insurmountable difficulty!

(2) Marilyn Meberg, Boundless Love

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com (Salvatore Gerace Tuscan); http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.photolib.noaa.gov; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.canva.com.

 

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See if this biblical statement surprises you as it did me:

 

 

“The Lord protects the simplehearted.”  Isn’t that puzzling? I thought scripture warned us against Simple Simon behaviors.

For example, the book of Proverbs speaks repeatedly about the folly of naiveté, foolishness, and recklessness:

  • “A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps” (14:15).
  • “The simple inherit folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge” (14:18).
  • “A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it” (22:3).

 

 

God does not generally protect those given to foolishness. More often he allows foolish behaviors to point out our need of him. Clearly simple of heart must mean something else.

I turned to other translations, to see what terms they may have used, and another surprise awaited me. Seven different translations chose seven different descriptors.

The simplehearted are:

  • Unwary (New International Version, 2011)
  • Helpless (Good News Translation)
  • Innocent (New English Translation)
  • Inexperienced (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
  • Ordinary (Contemporary English Version)
  • Defenseless (GOD’S WORD® Translation)
  • Those of childlike faith (New Living Translation)

 

 

M-m-m. Those are not particularly desirable qualities in our culture. We tend to value shrewdness and self-reliance, sophistication and exceptionality, strength and power.

But simplehearted is a positive trait in another culture–the kingdom of God–where those with childlike faith are commended (Matthew 19:14).

Further consideration reveals why the simplehearted are in need of protection. At any given time, we are:

  • Unwary of potential danger caused by our enemy, Satan
  • Caught in troubling situations with no means of escape
  • Blameless yet accused (Consider false guilt part of this category)
  • Amateurs in applying God’s Word to the hard choices of life
  • Trapped on the treadmill of humdrum routine
  • Vulnerable to burnout, discouragement, jealousy, anger—you name it

 

 

Did you see yourself among those descriptors? I sure do.

But praise God, my frailties do not repulse him. On the contrary, because of his loving and caring nature, he deeply desires to protect us simplehearted folks.

Now there’s another word that can trip us up: protect. We’d like God to keep us completely safe from trouble, pain, and harm. And sometimes he does—even in miraculous ways.

Other times, God protects us through the trouble (2).

Satan, however, wants us to think that God’s promises have failed us if we have to endure hardship.

But one look at the godly people around us who suffer and it becomes clear: God does not create heaven on earth for the subjects of his kingdom.

God’s idea of protection is to keep us out of the hands of the enemy, Satan (2 Thessalonians 3:3)…

 

 

…and to guard our hearts and minds with his peace in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7)—until he takes us home. Thats when all heartache and pain will cease.

Meantime, “There isn’t a single moment when you’re not tucked next to the heart of God” (3).

Such sweet comfort for those of us with simple hearts, reaching out with childlike faith for our Father’s perfect protection.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

 

I praise you, O God, that you protect the simplehearted. Your eye is upon us, your arm is around us, your ear is open to our prayers. Your grace is sufficient, your promises unchangeable. My simple heart is filled with grateful praise!

 

(2 Chronicles 16:9; Isaiah 40:11; Psalm 34:15; 2 Corinthians 12:9;

Psalm 145:13b, and a John Newton quote)

 

Notes:

(1) Psalm 116:6a (NIV, 1984, emphasis added)

(2) See Perfect Trouble for more reflection on this topic.

(3) Tony Evans and Chrystal Evans Hurst, Kingdom Woman Devotional

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.goodfreephotos.

 

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