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Archive for the ‘God’s Faithfulness’ Category

Sovereign Lord of Creation, who

Drapes morning mist across the hillsides,

Paints the dawn with ever-changing hues, and

Scatters sparkling crystals of dew on grass and flower,

I worship you with incredulous wonder.

Sovereign Lord of Salvation, who

Gave your precious Son, the King of kings,

To die a cruel, criminal’s death for my sin, and

Provide the way of eternal life,

I worship you with overflowing gratitude.

Sovereign Lord, who

Now considers me righteous,

Making possible an intimate relationship with you, and

Granting perfect peace and effervescent joy,

I worship you with a humbled spirit.

(Detail from The Return of the Prodigal Son

by Rembrandt)

Sovereign Lord of Affection, who

Mercifully withholds the punishment I deserve,

Graciously bestows blessings I have not earned, and

Carries me close to your heart,

I worship you with overwhelming love.

Sovereign Lord of Revelation, who

Gave us your timeless, trustworthy Word, that

Offers infallible wisdom, inspired instruction, and

Encouraging promises to lead us and lift us,

I want to worship you with my obedience.

Sovereign Lord of Transformation, who

Actively pursues my best interest,

To mold me into the image of Jesus

With ever-increasing splendor,

I want to worship you with my submission.

Sovereign Lord of Distinction,

There is no one like you.

Your greatness is beyond human comprehension.

I stand in awe of your splendor and majesty, and

I worship you with all that is within me.

(Revelation 17:14; Philippians 2:8; Romans 5:17; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Revelation 3:20; Romans 14:17; Micah 7:18; John 1:16; Isaiah 40:11; Psalm 119:160, 130, 50; Romans 8:26-29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Psalm 145:1-5.)

Photo and art credits: http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.creazilla.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.wallpaperflare.com.  

(Reblogged from June 18, 2015 while we enjoy another visit from our younger son and daughter-in-love.)

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Erin has prayed for years that her estranged son would come home.

Tricia can’t seem to shake a gray cloud of despondency, ever since her fiancé broke off their engagement.

Jack worked many extra hours to qualify for a prized promotion, but the boss’s unpleasant nephew was awarded the position instead.

Stacie has faced the loss of one job and a stressful transition to another.

Kate goes through the motions at church and even continues with her quiet time. But God seems to have distanced himself. She hasn’t sensed his presence for weeks.

Such circumstances can cause a downward spiral in our spirits, as debilitating emotions like frustration, anger, worry, and depression threaten to move in and take over. If we feed these emotions with negative thoughts, our faith in God begins to falter, and the devil’s lies begin to sound like truth:

  • So much time has passed; God is never going to answer your prayer.
  • Since bad things keep happening, it’s obvious God has abandoned you.
  • God doesn’t care about your life. Otherwise, why would he allow you to fail?
  • They say God offers love, peace, and joy, but none of it’s coming your way.
  • It looks like God’s forsaken you and to make matters worse, you don’t even know why.

Is it possible to fight against such feelings and fortify our faith? Oh, yes!

Our fight begins with truth—straight from God’s Word. We have to choose facts over feelings—just like a pilot does, as he flies through miles of thick clouds. In order to stay on course, he can’t trust what he feels is proper speed, direction, and altitude; he has to rely on the facts presented by his instruments.

So what scriptural truths might help us maintain our spiritual equilibrium? There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of passages that address our various needs with pinpoint perfection.

Other scriptures provide broad-sweeping truths that cover almost any situation. One example:

If we read the Bible with the intent of finding applicable truth for our circumstances, we won’t be disappointed.

“Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us.  And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.”

Romans 15:4 NLT

Now the question becomes: Will we take God at his word and act upon it?

Hebrews 11 gives us a lineup of faith-stars who did just that–based their actions on faith, not feelings.

By faith Noah built an ark (v. 7).   He didn’t allow feelings of inadequacy to stop him.

By faith Abraham left home with no notion of where he was going (v. 8). He didn’t allow fear of the unknown to deter him from following God’s direction.

By faith, the parents of Baby Moses hid him from Pharaoh. They didn’t allow fear of punishment to stop them. “They were not afraid of the king’s edict” (v. 23).

By faith the people of Israel marched around Jericho, even though it must have seemed a strange tactic (v. 30).

Bottom line: Faith is the exercise of our minds, based on the stable truth of God’s Word, in spite of what we might feel. Emotions are just the unreliable, fluctuating condition of our minds. [1]

On the other hand, God doesn’t ask us to ignore our feelings. Job, David, and the prophets honestly expressed frustration, fear, disappointment, and discouragement. But! They didn’t allow their emotions to cripple them. [2]

Also worth noting:  None of these faithful people were perfect, yet God honored their faith.  He doesn’t need perfect people to accomplish his purpose, just willing and faithful ones.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Forgive me, Lord, for allowing feelings to impact my faith. Help me to fit every thought. emotion, and impulse into the structure of a Christ-shaped life.  

Thank you for listening and offering encouragement as I confess my feelings.  You even supply strength, peace, and hope.  

And finally, I praise you that you preserve the faithful. I am secure in you.  In fact, you, my all-powerful God, are security itself.

2 Corinthians 10:5, MSG; Psalm 10:17; Psalm 29:11; Psalm 31:23; Proverbs 18:10

Notes:

[1]  J. Clarke, http://www.writtentreasures.org

[2] See Psalm 13 for a worthy example.

Art & photo credits: http://www.pexels.com (Liza Summer); http://www.pexels.com (Karolina Grabowska); http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net (George Hodan); http://www.publicdomainpictures.net (2); http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.dailyverses.net.

(Revised and reblogged from February 9, 2015 while we enjoy a visit from our younger son.)

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Once again we find ourselves grieving for families, friends, and community of victims gunned down in another school shooting. Why does this madness continue? What makes a person choose to kill children?

And then there’s the war that drags on in Ukraine, causing death, devastation, and hardship. Why do we humans resort to such horror?

Across our nation, crime, homelessness, and drug addiction plague many of our cities. How has such deterioration been allowed to escalate and why haven’t proven solutions been implemented that help correct these plights?

Also producing distress and fear are the continual reports of terrorism, riots, fraud, lawlessness, disasters, and other disturbing events.

In addition, some of you are dealing with your own overwhelming problems caused by other people and not your fault.

When God chooses not to immediately intervene, what’s a person to do? An unidentified psalmist gave us the answer.But before we consider his plan-of-action, note how current his observations sound as he described evildoers. They:

  • Seem to be triumphing
  • Boast a great deal
  • Crush God’s people
  • Band together against the righteous
  • Bring misery to others with their decrees
  • Condemn the innocent to death [1]

Then just before slipping into depression, this poet wrote:

He would want us to know: God provides joy-filled comfort—not just reassuring consolation. The psalmist surely had in mind solace, help, support, cheer, and restoration of a sense of well-being—all facets of comfort.

Our part is to avail ourselves. How? By walking through the G. A. T. E:

1. G = Glory in biblical truth.

Find refuge in God and His infallible Word.

Read until His peace mounts a guard

around your mind and heart and soul.

Kay Arthur [2]

Among the many comforting truths found in scripture, here are a few of my favorites:

  • 1 Chronicles 29:11-13—God is great and all-powerful, the ruler of all things.
  • Psalm 23:4—Our caring Shepherd never leaves us to fend for ourselves.
  • Psalm 46:1—He provides refuge, strength, and help.
  • Isaiah 25:1—We can count on His faithfulness because he’s been completely faithful in the past.
  • Romans 11:33-36—He is continually directing, sustaining, and upholding all things in his perfect wisdom–even in the face of tragedy.

2. A = Affirm God’s promises.

As you glory in biblical truth, keep alert for the promises. Ask yourself, “Has God already done this in my life?” Take comfort in the evidence of promises already fulfilled. For example, when has he:

  • Brought good out of difficult circumstances?
  • Guided you in the way you should go?
  • Delivered you out of trouble—physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually?
  • Granted peace in the midst of turmoil?
  • Provided beyond your expectations? [3]

And as you affirm the evidence of the past, be expectant for the future. What God promises, he will do [4].

3. T = Take joy in who God is.

He is a way-making, promise-keeping,

battle-winning, water-walking, storm-stilling,

Faithful Friend and Savior.

Kaitlyn Bouchillion [5]

Isn’t that delightful description? Let’s use it as a model for creating more uplifting characterization. I’ll get us started with:

He is a sin-forgiving, death-defying, hand-holding, strength-infusing, gift-giving Gracious Father.   

 Do you feel your heart filling with the comfort of gratitude, praise, and joy? Me too.

4. E = Enter into his presence with prayer.

Prayer crowns God with the honor and glory due His name,

and God crowns prayer with assurance and comfort.

The most praying souls are the most assured souls.

Thomas Brooks

Take comfort in knowing that:

  • God is not only here, he is near.
  • As we call out to him, he’s already answering.
  • God’s presence quiets the soul, calms the mind, and warms the heart [6].

Decades ago, researchers recorded the heartbeats of mothers and played the tapes in a hospital nursery. They discovered that the infants cried less, slept better, and even gained weight at a better rate.

Those recordings evidently brought comfort, allowing the babies to rest and even thrive.

As we walk through the G.A.T.E. God has provided, and Glory in biblical truth, Affirm his promises, Take joy in who he is, and Enter his presence with prayer, we will hear the comforting heartbeat of God’s love, even through the darkest night.  


[1] Psalm 94:2, 4, 5, 20-21.

[2] His Imprint, My Expression, 289.

[3] Genesis 50:20; Psalm 32:8; 34:18; Isaiah 26:3; Ephesians 3:20.

[4] Numbers 23:19.

[5] Take Heart, edited by Grace P. Cho and Anna E. Rendell, 210.

[6] Psalm 145:18; Isaiah 65:24; Psalm 91:1-2.

Photo credits: http://www.flickr.com; http://www.commons.wikipedia.org; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org (Bonnie Gruenberg).

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Near the end of 2021 I began journaling through some of the old hymns. Such an exercise allows me to slow down my thinking and discover more meaning in the lyrics than when I quickly sing or read through them.

Today I invite you to contemplate with me the hymn, “To God Be the Glory,” rich with encouragement for our spirits. The inclusion of all three verses would make a lengthy post, so I chose just the last:

“Great things He hath taught us.”

I praise you, Lord God, for the wisdom of your Word. We can:

  • Depend on you for strength and help
  • Trust you for guidance and care
  • Pray about everything and receive your peace
  • Ask you for wisdom and know you will give it [1]

I praise you also for the godly examples you’ve provided throughout my life, people who lived out their faith before me and mentored me—Mom and Dad, my grandparents, Sunday School teachers and youth sponsors, professors, older and wiser friends, contemporaries who loved you and lived for you.

How gracious you’ve been, Father, to always provide numerous, grace-filled saints to encourage and bolster me.

And then there are the lessons you’ve taught me through experience—lessons in:

  • exercising patience while raising our children
  • keeping my mouth shut in various situations (!)
  • developing a calm and gentle spirit
  • fostering an attitude of gratitude

You inspired me in 1983 to begin my “God Is Faithful” journal, teaching me about your attributes at work. Now I have a personal record of your loving kindness, goodness, power and more, blessing us in amazing and delightful ways.

And that brings me to the next phrase of this hymn:

“Great things He hath done.”

In my life you’ve:

  • provided for my needs
  • protected me from harm
  • given guidance for decisions
  • developed the fruit of the Spirit within me (a work still in progress!)
  • bestowed numerous gifts over the years beyond expectation

“Great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son.”

Oh, yes! I praise you Lord Jesus for the benefits you’ve made possible:

  • saving me from the clutches of Satan
  • creating me in you (spiritually transforming me, renewing me, making me ready to be used for good works)
  • interceding for me before God
  • inviting me to abide in you, to keep in close and pleasurable communion with you
  • providing peace with God so I can experience his grace
  • giving me all things pertaining to life and godliness (that is, everything necessary for a dynamic spiritual life) [2]

In addition, you reside in me, bestowing peace, joy, and hope [3].

My spirt soars as I contemplate these glorious benefits!

“But purer and higher and greater will be

Our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see.

Yet there is still more to come even more glorious. One day you’ll make each of us pure and perfect, enabling us to live in your pure and perfect heaven.

I can only imagine the wonder and delight when we arrive there and experience all its wonders in the fullness of your presence! Thank you Heavenly Father for providing the way; thank you Lord Jesus for being that way, and thank you Holy Spirit for leading me to the way.


[1] Isaiah 41:10; 58:11; Philippians 4:6-7; James 1:5

[2] 2 Timothy 4:18; Ephesians 2:10 AMP; Romans 8:34; John 15:5; Romans 5:2; 2 Peter 1:3 AMP

[3] Colossians 1:27; John 14:27; Colossians 3:15; John 15:11; 1 Peter 1:3-5

Art & photo credits: http://www.wallpaper.com; http://www.pexels.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net (2).

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“Can I come watch with you, Papa? There’s no school tomorrow.”

Papa nodded and motioned with his left hand for her to join him on the front porch. His right hand remained on the rifle across his lap. “Come on, Sugar. But you sit light, y’hear? Be ready. ‘Member what I told you?”

“Yessir. I’m to run inside but shut the door easy, and tell everybody to skedaddle to the creek, and run.”

“That’s my girl. No KKK Klan is going to mess with us, right? Now, recite for me Psalm 23 soft and slow. Such beautiful words and promises!”

Six-year-old Rosa settled herself in the rocker next to her grandfather, confident he would keep the family safe through the night. She began to recite the favorite psalm.

Violence never came to the McCauley home in Pine Level, Alabama, but throughout her growing up years there and then in Montgomery, Rosa endured the burden of racial injustice against blacks, including different (and deficient) schools and libraries, separate restaurants and water fountains.

One time a white boy shoved Rosa hard from behind. She was expected to endure such abuse without retaliation, but Rosa shoved back. The boy’s mother witnessed the incident and bellowed, “Who do you think you are?”

Rosa courageously replied, “I won’t be pushed around by your son or anyone else.” Then, in spite of her pounding heart, Rosa calmly turned and walked away. The mother let the matter lie.[1]

In 1932 at age nineteen, Rosa married Raymond Parks. He was an activist-member of the NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. A decade later, Rosa’s growing frustration with the status quo led her to join also. She eagerly learned about civil disobedience and served as secretary to the local and then state organization.

(NAACP Meeting in Montgomery, about 1947)

Along with many blacks in the South, Rosa suffered daily humiliation on the city bus, as she rode to and from work. Black passengers were required to pay their fare at the front, then get off and re-enter the bus through the back to sit in the rear. If the bus became crowded, black people had to give their seats to whites.

But on December 1, 1955, Rosa refused to relinquish her seat—not because she was physically exhausted, as some have said. No, she was tired of mistreatment because of the color of her skin.

Enough was enough.

“When that white driver waved his hand and ordered us up and out of our seats,” she later recalled, “I felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winter night.[2]

“God’s peace flooded my soul, and my fear melted away. All people were equal in the eyes of God, and I was going to live like the free person God created me to be. I refused to move.”[3]

Instantly Rosa felt infused with God’s strength. Police arrested her, put her in jail, and charged a $14 fine, but she remained composed through the ordeal. They released Rosa that evening.

As news of her arrest spread, more people—black and white—began to express indignation over the evil of segregation. Leaders in the NAACP decided to establish a boycott of the Montgomery bus company until the law was changed.

Supporters knew they would need God’s wisdom, strength, and perseverance. A prayer meeting was scheduled, and a young minister addressed the crowd: Martin Luther King, Jr.

“We must protest the law of the land because it violates God’s law,” he said. “But violence is not the answer. It is our duty to protest segregation, but we must do so with dignity and Christian love. Join me in praying that the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will soon shine over our great nation.”[4]

Boycott participants (which included blacks and whites) had to find alternate transportation. Many walked up to several miles to work and then home again. Churches helped to find rides for some. Others were given rides by coworkers—again, black and white.

Of course, opposition came quickly. False arrests, harassment, and even bombings occurred, yet the boycott continued. The bus company was losing thousands of dollars and began supporting integrated seating. City commissioners, however, would not back down.

Meanwhile, Rosa’s attorney, Fred D. Gray, took the case from Montgomery all the way to the Supreme Court. A year later, the regulation demanding black people to give up their bus seats to whites was declared unconstitutional.

That decision created a domino effect. If separation was wrong on buses, it was wrong in schools, restaurants, libraries, and elsewhere. Slowly and painfully, one segregation-law after another was abolished.

That pain would impact Raymond and Rosa. They had to leave Montgomery because of harassment and death threats. Rosa responded by spending long hours in prayer, after which “an intense calm swept over her.”[5]

The couple eventually settled in Detroit. From 1965-1988 Rosa worked for Michigan Congressman John Conyers. She remained active in the civil rights movement for sixty years and wrote several books.

Upon her death in 2005, then-Governor Bob Riley of Alabama said, “Rosa Parks will always be remembered as a courageous woman who quietly confronted injustice, and in so doing, changed a nation.”[6]

No doubt Rosa Parks would agree.


[1] https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/church-history-for-kids/rosa-parks-and-the-bus-ride-that-changed-america-11635083.html

[2] https://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20130401JJ.shtml

[3] https://canonjjohn.com/2021/10/23/heroes-of-the-faith-rosa-parks/

[4] https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/church-history-for-kids/rosa-parks-and-the-bus-ride-that-changed-america-11635083.html

[5] https://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20130401JJ.shtml, quoting from Jeanne Theoharis’ biography, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

[6] https://www.baptistpress.com/resource-library/news/civil-rights-pioneer-rosa-parks-dead-at-92-found-strength-in-scripture-church/

[7] Sinclair Ferguson quote from Grow in Grace, 33-34.

Other sources:

https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/rosa-parks-journey-as-a-civil-rights-icon

https://billofrightsinstitute.org/essays/rosa-parks-martin-luther-king-jr-and-the-montgomery-bus-boycott

Photo credits: http://www.flickr.com (Pat Henson); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.picryl.com; http://www.flickr.com; wwwflickr.com (Jim Forest); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.picryl.com; rawpixel.com.

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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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“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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You probably know it, have even memorized it:

Such a statement begs the question: how does joy—of all things–translate into strength? Wouldn’t it be faith in the Lord that makes us strong? Turns out joy is an important facet of faith.

That phrase “of the Lord” holds the key. When we delight in the Author of joy–who he is and what he does–that’s when our spirits begin to grow strong.

To foster that kind of joy and delight:

Express Gratitude

Tonia Peckover wrote, “The feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving” [1].

Research has proven that keeping a gratitude journal works well to develop our appreciation muscles [2]. Just a few lines per day can get joy percolating in our spirits.

Another strategy: turn mindless tasks like folding laundry, loading the dishwasher, etc. into moments of thanksgiving. Go through the alphabet, perhaps, and thank God for one blessing for each letter.

You might begin with AFFECTION among family and friends, BEDTIME and that first BLISSFUL moment on the pillow after a challenging day, COFFEE—the most delectable flavor to start the morning.

For an extra challenge, you might focus on who God is. He’s ACTIVE in our lives, BENEVOLENT to us, COMPASSIONATE, and DELIGHTFUL—you get the idea. (For a sample of such an alphabet, see “God’s Goodness from A to Z,” a post from 2018.)

Meditate on God’s Word

Here’s another joy-inducing, writing-exercise:

In a journal or on a piece of paper, write your reason(s) for being distressed. Then conduct a scripture search (Online resources abound!) for specific promises and encouraging passages that address your concern.  

Praise God for each one as you copy it on the page. Express expectancy for the day when each promise is fulfilled, and feel radiant joy rise in your spirit as you do.

Martin Luther advised:

It stands to reason that something much smaller, our hearts, will also change when we pick up our pens.

That’s happened for me; the same will hold true for you.

Follow God’s Ways

Countless people through the ages have thought that following their own way—striving for success, accumulating wealth, and participating in self-pleasing pursuits—would bring them joy. But such quests never deliver, because that’s not where joy is found.

Joy is found in obedience to God’s ways [3]. He made us; he knows what’s best for us. Of course, we know that. So why do many of us balk at what will bring maximum blessing?!

Anything God commands of us is so that our joy may be full.

Beth Moore [4]

Note that glorious word, full–as in brimming and bursting at the seams.

And what does fullness of joy include? Beauty and bounty.

Beautiful encounters. Beautiful endeavors. Beautiful moments.

Bountiful blessing. Bountiful fruit. Bountiful satisfaction [5].

When we yield in obedience to God’s voice,

he yields a harvest greater than we can imagine.

Denise J. Hughes [6]

And so, joy becomes strength when we delight in who God is and what God does.

Joy becomes strength as we blissfully trust in the truth of his Word.

And joy becomes strength when we gladly follow his instructions.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Lord God, I do want to experience your joy in my life, to delight in you so my spirit might grow stronger. Help me to make choices throughout each day that usher me into your fullness of joy!

(Psalm 112:1; 16:11)


[1] Quoted by Ann Voskamp, 1000 Gifts, 176.

[2] https://cct.biola.edu/thanks-science-gratitude/

[3] John 15:9-11

[4] Values for Life, 169

[5] Ephesians 3:20; 2 Corinthians 9:8 

[6] Deeper Waters, 149

Art & photo credits: http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxhere.com (2); http://www.canva.com (3).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Apostle Paul explained it this way:

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

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

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

Our challenge is to submit to his work.  

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

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

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

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

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

Notes:


[1] Psalm 147:11

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

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

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

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

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

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