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Archive for the ‘Hope’ Category

(a personal psalm based on Psalm 36:1, 5-8, 10 and other scriptures)
 

 

Our world is in travail, O God.

Wicked men create schemes to fraud others;

They viciously hunt down the innocent.

Their mouths are full of curses, lies, and threats.

Blameless victims suffer at the hands of their selfishness and greed.

In prideful arrogance, they even mock You, Father.

 

 

How is it that the wicked accumulate wealth and wield power?

Their dark deeds and unjust treatment of others

stir up frustration and resentment in our hearts.

Then we remember: the days of the wicked are numbered.

Our best course of action is to contemplate You,

And affirm our trust in your wise and loving ways.

 

 

Yes, You are our God of steadfast, self-sacrificing love,

As expansive and incomprehensible as the heavens.

Evidence of your attentive love is all around us—

In the gracious people we meet,

The delightful circumstances we experience,

The unexpected gifts we receive and enjoy.

 

 

You are our God of reliable and unchanging faithfulness.

You keep all of your scripture promises—all 2,300-plus of them!

You always have and always will act according to your holy character;

Therefore we can forever trust you to do what is right.

Never will you turn your back on us,

Even if we turn our backs on you.

 

 

You are our God of perfect and transcendent righteousness,

As firm, immovable, and majestic as mountains.

Everything you do is good,

Motivated by a purity that will not forever tolerate wrong.

Your perfect plans always conform to the prudent purpose of your will.

Everything you say is truth; you cannot lie.

 

 

You are a God of certain yet merciful justice.

To be honest, we’re often mystified by your actions.

We see evil men prosper and righteous men suffer.

Your judgments are as unfathomable as the deepest oceans.

But what we do know is this, and we cling to its hope:

In your infinite wisdom you work all things for good.

 

 

You are our God of strong and ever-present refuge,

Offering comfort, peace, and security through your Word.

In your Presence we are strengthened; our faith is renewed.

You shelter us from the full force of the storms of life.

You even protect us from what we thought we wanted

And provide us instead with what You know is best.

 

 

You are our God of abundant and delightful blessings

That flow continually like a great river.

Who can count all the wonderful works you have done?

But above all, you O Lord, are the embodiment of all blessing—

In you alone we find rest, support, and salvation.

In you alone we place our trust.

 

 
Stanza #1: Psalm 10:2, 7

Stanza #2: Psalm 36:1, 10

Stanza #3: Psalm 36:5a, 7, 10

Stanza #4: Psalm 36:5b; Psalm 145:13; Deuteronomy 32:4; 2 Timothy 2:13

Stanza #5: Psalm 36:6a; Psalm 119:68; Habakkuk 1:13; Ephesians 1:11; 1 Chronicles 16:27; Numbers 23:19

Stanza #6: Psalm 36:6b; Jeremiah 12:1; Romans 8:28

Stanza #7: Psalm 36:7; Psalm 46:1; Psalm 31:19-20; Psalm 9:9; Psalm 18:2

Stanza #8: Psalm 36:8; Psalm 105:5a; Psalm 62:5-8; Psalm 31:14
 
(Art & photo credits:  www.wikimedia.com; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; pinterest.com.)
 

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We’re off! The race to Christmas has begun.

The next twenty-six days will include shopping, wrapping, sending, writing (the Christmas cards), decorating, cleaning, baking, attending, final rehearsing and performing. Did I leave out anything?

No doubt some of you are far down the track. Your house is already decorated, the cards are nearly finished, the cookies are baked and tucked in the freezer. You started preparations weeks ago.

 

Tins of Christmas Sweets

 

I am not among you—never have been. What would Christmas be without a little hustle and bustle to get the adrenalin flowing? Except I almost always become overwhelmed, which leads to frazzled nerves.

This year I want to maintain (or recapture as needed) an Advent perspective of tranquil expectation and worshipful celebration—even when the schedule and the to-do list get a little crazy.

How?  The following three ways might be a good place to begin:

 

1. Gratitude.

Gratitude will prepare the way—the way to salvation from discontent and agitation, the way to the presence of God.

 

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(“He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me

and prepares the way

so that I may show him

the salvation of God.”

–Psalm 50:23)

 

Gratitude renews my mind and spirit as I remember: “The things [I] take for granted, someone else is praying for”–things like:

  • Colorful Christmas cards in the mailbox
  • An ample supply of sugar, flour, and butter for cookies
  • A Christmas tree filled with treasured, memory-laden ornaments
  • Loving family gathered to revel in each other’s company and hear the story of Jesus’ birth once again
  • Presents aplenty under that tree, to express our love

 

Christmas presents under the tree

 

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” – William Arthur Ward (1921-1994).

What better time than Advent to be more thankful, to experience more joy, to take note of our many blessings in the ordinary? M-m-m. ‘Think I’ll reflect on that question in my journal during these days leading up to Christmas.

 

2. Prayer.

 If someone asked me, “Is there a scripture about the impact of prayer on a person’s emotional state?” I’d steer them to Philippians 4:6-7.

 

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“Do not be anxious about anything,

but in everything, by prayer and petition,

with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

And the peace of God,

Which transcends all understanding,

Will guard your hearts and your minds

In Christ Jesus.”

 

How easy it is to steer others in the right direction, but not take that route myself.

So these reminders are for me:

  • Be anxious about nothing – including the long task-list that requires completion by Christmas.
  • Pray with a grateful heart about everything that needs to be done – including what to say on the Christmas cards, what gifts to give, what is needful to accomplish and what is just my OCD in over-drive.
  • Pray for godly perspective. The result will be as he has promised: peace that transcends understanding.

To keep mindful, I’ve put Philippians 4:6-7 on the bathroom mirror.

 

3. Hope.

 

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Yesterday, the first Sunday of Advent, we focused on the word, wait –an action often accompanied by impatience.

But in the ancient language of the Bible, Hebrew, the word wait is the same as the word for hope. How appropriate—hopeful waiting—waiting that includes positive expectation, confident assurance, and absolute conviction, because our God is the One and only God of hope.

And because of him we have confident assurance of:

  • Strength (Psalm 31:24)
  • Blessing (Jeremiah 17:7)
  • Joy and peace (Romans 15:13)
  • Eternal life (Titus 1:2)

 

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What a glorious list.  And that’s just the beginning.

If I focus on my God of hope and all his benefits, my attitude will be transformed (Romans 12:2). If I turn my face to the Son, the shadows will fall behind me.*

Too often in the past, my attitude has turned the season of Advent into an adversary to be beaten.

This year I want Advent to be an adventure of gratitude, prayer, and hope.

 

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*Based on a Maori proverb

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.flickr.com (2); http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.pixabay.com.)

 

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How would you fill in the following blank?

 

It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by _______________.

 

Pop psychologists might tell us that inner strength comes from:

  • Positive thinking,
  • Surrounding ourselves with uplifting, encouraging people, and
  • Appreciating our individual personality traits and abilities.

Their ideas aren’t wrong (The Bible even supports these steps in Philippians 4:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, and Psalm 139:14); it’s just they’re leaving out the most important steps.

Turn to Nehemiah 8:10 and we learn:

 

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Our hearts are strengthened by JOY.

 

 I like the phrasing of GOD’S WORD Translation:  “The joy you have in the LORD is your strength.”  (Emphasis added.)

We have access to God’s effervescent joy because Jesus offers it (John 15:11). The question is, do we avail ourselves? Will we allow our thoughts to spiral around our problems, or will we train our thoughts to focus on God—his glorious attributes and wonderful deeds? It’s the latter, of course, that produces joy.

 

Our hearts are strengthened by HOPE (Isaiah 40:31).

 

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“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”

Hope becomes confidence, confidence becomes strength. Part of the process is to affirm God’s many promises—promises for:

  • His unstoppable love (Romans 8:38-39),
  • A prosperous* future (Jeremiah 29:11),
  • Reliable guidance (Psalm 32:8),
  • Help—sometimes out of trouble, sometimes in the distress (Psalm 34:19), and
  • Victory over death (1 Corinthians 15:54).

 

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Think of it: Our hope is in a God of overwhelming love who has planned the future down to the minutest detail. He is our all-wise God, ready to guide us into that future, and he is all-powerful, fully capable of providing the help we need. In the end, our final destiny is secure; the victory over death has already been won.

Do you feel your hope strengthened? That’s just a smidgen of what he’s guaranteed!

To embrace the promises in faith is not to ignore reality and live in a shell of denial. It means to view reality through a faith-lens, faith in the all-inclusive capability of our God.

 

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(“The permanence of God’s character

guarantees the fulfillment of his promise.”

–A. W. Pink (1886-1952, British Bible teacher)

 

But we still have not filled in the blank from the beginning of this post:

 

“It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by…

 

 GRACE.” (Hebrews 13:9).

 

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Why? Because God’s grace encompasses the full spectrum of his qualities, including joy and hope– each one contributing to our strength of spirit.

Just as brilliant white is the presence of all colors, God’s grace is the brilliant totality of all he is and does.

 

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To grow strong of heart, we need to:

  • Revel in the abundant life he provides.
  • Breathe deep the promises of God.
  • Immerse ourselves in his encouraging Word.
  • Bask in the many facets of his grace.

__________________________________________________

 

I praise you, Father, for your never-failing, all-pervasive grace that strengthens my heart as I turn my attention to you. How thrilling to realize your grace will only grow more delightful as the years pass, renewing me day by day, until I dwell in your house forever!

 

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(Psalm 73:26; Jeremiah 17:7-8; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Psalm 23:6)

 

* A prosperous future with God has nothing to do with monetary blessing and everything to do with a contentedness of heart, soundness of spirit, and perfect peace.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.pinterest (3); http://www.twitter.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.pinterest.)

 

 

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How would you finish the title-statement above?

The writer of Hebrews described faith like this:

 

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(“Faith is being sure of what we hope for

and certain of what we do not see.”

–Hebrews 11:1, NIV)

 

Other commentators and authors have added the following:

  • “Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe.” – St. Augustine
  • “Faith is believing that Christ is what He is said to be, and that He will do what He has promised to do, and then to expect this of Him.” – Charles Spurgeon
  • “Faith is the belief that God is real and that God is good…Faith is the belief that God will do what is right.” – Max Lucado (1)

 

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  • “Faith is more than a feeling; it is acting on our belief that God is able to bring a redeeming value to any situation.” – Carole Ladd (2)

And my personal favorite:

  • “Faith is expectancy.” – Selwyn Hughes (3).

Now if true expectancy characterizes my faith, it’s going to be evident in the way I live.

That evidence will no doubt include:

 

  • Optimism and hope, not pessimism and despair.

 

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Scripture provides numerous statements that generate a positive outlook.   One of my favorites:

 

“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 exult in your righteousness.

For you are their glory and strength.”

–Psalm 89:15-17a)

 

Collecting faith-building quotes can also contribute to a positive outlook. For example:

 

“He is beneath me as my foundation, beside me as my friend,

within me as my life. There’s no need to worry about limited visibility.”

–Barbara Johnson

 

  • Gratitude, not grievances.

 

gratitude

 

“Our words are the evidence of the state of our hearts

as surely as the taste of the water

is an evidence of the state of the spring.”

– J. C. Ryle (3)

 

That includes the words I speak only in my mind. Silent prayers of gratitude to God will bolster my faith; rehashing the challenges I face will weaken it.

 

  • Affirmation of truth, not doubts.

 

Isaiah 41:10 might be a good place to begin.

 

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Am I feeling afraid and alone? God says, “Do not fear; I am with you.”

Am I plagued by worries and what-ifs? God says, “Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.”

Do I feel weak and helpless? God says, “I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

 

  • Pressing on, not giving up.

 

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Exercising my faith will move me forward; giving in to despair will bring me to a dead stop.

But just how do I move forward by faith? Philip Yancey says, simply respond to the next task that lies before me (4)—in a faith-directed manner. That might include making the bed while humming a praise song, sending the kids to school with hugs and a prayer, entering the office with cheerful greetings and a smile.

That monstrous problem may not be solved yet, but positive action while I wait will affirm my faith: God is at work; I can rest in his supreme competency. (That’s easier-said-than-done for me. I must continually reset my mind and spirit on him and the truth of his Word.)

 

  • Confidence, not discouragement.

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Yes, I may be stymied by the circumstances facing me now. And who knows what will happen tomorrow? But you and I do know the One in charge!

He is:

Almighty (Revelation 11:17)

All-wise (Romans 11:33)

An immovable pillar of strength (Psalm 46:1-2)

Rich in love (Psalm 103:6)

Sovereign (Psalm 22:28)

Gracious (Exodus 34:6)

Trustworthy (2 Samuel 7:28)

Our Provider (Philippians 4:19)

Our Protector (Psalm 32:7)*

Our Guide (Psalm 48:14)

Perhaps our exercise of faith should begin with attribute stretches—stretching the mind and spirit with a character-review of the One in whom we trust, to build our muscles of confidence and strength.

_________________________

*Protection sometimes comes through trouble rather than from trouble. If God chooses to bring us through, he provides the wisdom and fortitude necessary.   Either way, the outcome is always for his glory.

 

Notes:

  1. Grace for the Moment, p70.
  2. Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive, p93
  3. Same as above, p. 130
  4. Every Day Light , p. 253.
  5. Grace Notes, p233.

 

What evidence of faith have you witnessed in others or recognized in yourself? Please share in the Comments section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.etsy.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.allpoetry.com; http://www.turnbacktogod.com; http://www.godinterest.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2).

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My knowledge of boat parts is limited, but this much I know: throw an outboard motor in the water; it will sink. Throw a propeller in the water; it, too, will plunge to the bottom. So will seats, cleats, and other parts. But when they are assembled together on a strong hull, the boat floats.

Similarly, our lives are comprised of a variety of experiences: some heavy and hurtful, others light and joyful. When properly assembled as a whole, they create a life that floats, and one that’s headed on a course toward worthwhile purpose.

Proper assembly of negative as well as positive events requires the trait of resiliency—the ability to press on through setbacks again and again.

Do those words, press on, sound familiar? The great missionary-adventurer, Paul, said he pressed on toward the goal of becoming what God intended for him (Philippians 4:12-14).  Paul is a worthy case-study for resiliency.

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(The apostle Paul by Rembrandt)

 

He suffered plenty of hurt, disappointment, and failure. For example, Paul was:

  • stoned (Acts 14:19),
  • flogged and imprisoned (Acts 16:23),
  • unjustly charged with treason (Acts 18:13),
  • nearly killed on at least several occasions (Acts 21:30-31), and
  • rejected by many, even after brilliantly preaching about God and his Son, Jesus (Acts 17:16-34).

 

How do you bounce back from such defeats? Researchers have identified the following ways to cultivate resiliency:

 

  1. Get real.

No one sails through life problem-free. Accept the reality that troubles will come, then apply those strategies that provide relief, strategies such as: exercise and proper nutrition, sufficient sleep, laughter, and meaningful activity, including acts of kindness each day.

 

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  1. Get hope.

Be watchful for God’s blessings in spite of the circumstances, and thank him for his loving attention. Gratitude does indeed transform attitudes.

Find fresh strength in God’s Word, especially in his promises and assurance of his faithfulness to keep those promises (Romans 15:4; Psalm 145:13; 1 Corinthians 1:9).

We can ask God to help us set new, worthwhile goals, then look forward to the day when those goals will be met.

Researchers have noted that resilient people do not strive for riches, fame, power, or recognition. Instead they are focused on their legacies—what contributions their lives will make to those around them.  Hope in God—in all circumstances—is in itself an invaluable legacy.

 

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  1. Get in community with other Christians—not just by being present, but by actively participating.

Years ago while I was dealing with an ongoing disappointment, Sunday morning worship on the praise team and mid-week rehearsals did much to recharge my spirit. (Not that all was smooth sailing in between! I still struggled to stay on an even keel; but with God’s help I didn’t stop trying.)

In addition, when we contribute hope to others through listening and encouragement, we find our own outlook much improved.

 

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*           *          *

A boat that floats is not built by just lining up the various parts in the boatyard. It requires the hands and expertise of a master boat builder, to craft a skiff of beauty, function, and purpose.

 

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A satisfying, meaningful life cannot be achieved by mere acceptance of the various events in our lives. It requires the hands and expertise of the Master. He takes all of it—the delightful and the demoralizing—to craft a life of beauty, function, and purpose.

 

(The boat metaphor idea came from Ralph W. Sockman, author of The Higher Happiness (1950).

 

Art & photo credits:  www.inland-boats.com; http://www.slideplayer.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.pinterest.com (3).

 

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Say the word, “blessing,” and what immediately comes to mind?

For me, it’s happy events and lovely gifts, engineered or bestowed by God out of his loving kindness.

But James, the brother of Jesus, saw a different side of blessing: “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides” (James 1:2, MSG, italics added).

Tests and challenges as gifts?! Sounds a bit daft—until we consider:

 

What-Seems-To-Us-As-Bitter-Trials-Are-Often-Blessings-In-Disguise

 

Take, for example…

 

THE CRAZY BLESSING OF WANT

Do you wish you had a bigger house? A newer car? Better furniture? Consider yourself blessed, that you’re not like King Solomon–the wealthiest person who ever lived. For all his striving to achieve and accumulate, Solomon discovered that when every desire is gratified, the end result is nothing but meaningless smoke (Ecclesiastes 1:2, MSG).

The blessing of want protects us from the pit of depression caused by self-indulgence.

The blessing of want fosters contentment, as we learn to enjoy and be grateful for what we already have.

 

THE CRAZY BLESSING OF DIFFICULTY

Difficulties provide a surprising number of positive opportunities. Here are ten:

  • To press in closer to God and trust him more completely.
  • To experience the adventure of God’s sufficiency (Philippians 4:13) as he enables us to endure—in ways we never thought possible.

 

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  • To see how God will bring beauty out of ashes (Isaiah 61:3).
  • To discover more of who God is.
  • To witness the fulfillment of his never-failing promises.
  • To present a sacrifice of praise to God, beginning with the affirmation that he has our best interests at heart—in spite of what we see.
  • To be prepared for greater usefulness for God (John 15:2), which fosters greater fulfillment and satisfaction in our spirits.

 

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  • To have a compelling story to share, as encouragement for others. Years ago I heard a speaker say, “With no test there is no testimony.” In the final analysis, I’d rather have the latter. You, too?
  • To become mature, complete, not lacking anything (James 1:4). That doesn’t happen without trials.  As Thomas Carlyle wrote:

 

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(“No pressure, no diamonds.”)

  • To love our Savior more passionately. Josif Trif, a pastor from Romania during the days of Communism, said, “If it weren’t for Communism, I would not have loved our Lord as much. I kissed the cross the Communists gave me” (1).

 

THE CRAZY BLESSING OF FAILURE

If failure served no purpose in our lives, God would not allow it to happen. But since he does, we can know that failure is either for our benefit or for God’s glory—often both.

Failure is the soil from which great success can grow, beginning with a crop of positive character traits, such as perseverance, humility, and greater reliance upon God.

 

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Out of failure comes experience; from experience comes greater wisdom; and wisdom leads to a godly life.

“How blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because it is they who will be satisfied (Matthew 5:6, ISV)!

*    *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Crazy as it sounds, I want to praise you, Father, for the blessings of challenges and tough times. Thank you for your loving attention that carries me through, transforming me and makes me a better version of myself.  I also praise you for the glorious promise that through trouble, hardship, disappointment, or pain–“overwhelming victory is ours through Christ” (Romans 8:37, NLT)!

 

What crazy blessing have you experienced in the crucible of trouble, hardship, disappointment, or pain?  Please join the conversation below!

 

(1) His Imprint, My Expression, Kay Arthur, Harvest House, 1993, p. 135.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.imagesbuddy,com; http://www.wallpaper4god.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.izquotes.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.harvesttotable.com.)

 

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(Fair as in true and good)

 

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Yesterday, our church worship service ended with three baptisms. (Seven more took place at two other services.) What a heart-warming delight to celebrate the symbolism of new life with each participant!

One of those baptized was the pastor’s son.  As he rose up from the water, he smiled broadly and hugged his dad. Tears filled my eyes to witness a young boy committing himself to life with Jesus.

Just as physical life requires shelter, food, water, and clothing for survival, our new life in Jesus requires those same needs be met in our spirits:

 

Shelter

 

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(“The one who lives in the shelter of the Most High,

who rests in the shadow of the Almighty,

will say to the LORD, “You are my refuge, my fortress,

and my God in whom I trust!”–Psalm 91:1-2 ISV)

 

But how do we access a shelter that is invisible? By centering our thoughts on God.

Even amidst the business of each day, we can pause now and then and imagine a personal refuge with him (on a quiet beach, under a sturdy tree in the forest, by a lake in view of mountains–those are a few possibilities).

First, we breathe in the peace of his presence. Yes, just the simple act of taking a deep breath while whispering such words as, “Prince of Peace, I welcome you,” can create a shift from tension to tranquility.

Then, like the psalmist, we reaffirm our trust in the Most High God, the Almighty–the One whose kingdom rules over all (Psalm 103:19b), yet he knows the number of hairs on each of our heads.

 

Food

 

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 (“Man does not live on bread alone

but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

–Deuteronomy 8:3)

 

A pantry full of groceries is useless unless the food is consumed. Similarly, the great storehouse of inspiration and counsel in the Bible is of no use unless we read it, believe it, and live it out. The abundant, God-enhanced life of contentment and joy comes to those who taste of God’s character, promises, and wisdom—all found within the pages of scripture, ready to put into practice.

 

Water

 

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“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said,

streams of living water will flow from within him.”

By this he meant the Spirit.”

–John 7:38-39

 

With the refreshing of the Holy Spirit we become like trees planted by a stream (Psalm 1:3):

  • Strong—though not all at once, any more than a tree reaches maturity overnight. Growth occurs day by day, bit by bit, as we cooperate with the Spirit.
  • Green-leafed—radiant with health, reflecting the Lord’s glory, his goodness and character (2 Corinthians 3:18).
  • Full of fruit—a natural by-product of the Spirit’s presence. “Every good tree bears good fruit,” Jesus said (Matthew 7:17). Examples include humility, purity, and selflessness.

 

Clothing

 

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Familiar to many of us is the spiritual “armor” that Paul described (Ephesians 6:11-17). A worthy addition would be a garment of praise (Isaiah 61:3). Like a favorite sweater worn at every opportunity, praise of our Father should accompany us everywhere.

 

_______________

 

This is certain:  God is more than able to provide for our every need—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.

All possibilities for our lives exist within this one truth:

The almighty God rules from his throne in heaven, a throne he established before the beginning of time (Psalm 103:19a).

He’s got this–and everything else.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.cornerstonelife.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.projectinspired.com.)

 

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The Power of Story

Faith Barista

Because some days you need a double-shot of faith.

Rebeca Jones

Building Standing Stones

Wings of the Dawn

even there Your hand will lead me ~ poems and reflections by Heidi Viars

Jennifer Dukes Lee

Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

Holley Gerth

Coffee for Your Heart

Unshakable Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

Healthy Spirituality

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Just Wondering

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Jody Lee Collins

Impressions Becoming Expressions

(in)courage

Impressions Becoming Expressions