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Archive for the ‘Hope’ Category

Hope.

Such a small word for such a big, important concept.

Multi-syllable synonyms seem to carry more clout:  expectation, assurance, confidence, and conviction offer a few.  (Thank you, Dr. Roget.)

Stir them together and we can create a definition for faith-filled hope:  the constant, confident, assured expectation that God will see us through every circumstance until we’re standing before him in heaven.  Those are words with heft that we can hang onto through dark and stormy nights.

 

 

You see, hope is much more than wishful thinking.

But sometimes it hides behind the overwhelming issues we face:  health concerns, financial problems, troubled relationships, difficult circumstances, foreboding futures.

 

 

How can we live with confident assurance that all will be well when uncertainty seems to rule the day, the week, the year?

As always, scripture offers us insight:

  • Understand that hope doesn’t come from a hidden reservoir within ourselves.  According to 1 Peter 1:3, our hope comes from God, provided for us out of his loving mercy.  It’s a living hope, breathing energy and strength into our souls.
  • Remember:  we can move forward with positive expectation because He is our all-powerful, grace-filled God—loving, kind, and wise, too.  He’s not just watching from afar; he’s an involved God, tending over us like an attentive Shepherd (Isaiah 40:11a).

 

 

  • Rest assured that our faithful God will see us through to a satisfying conclusion—either through events that unfold over time, or perhaps through an instantaneous miracle.  It may be the satisfying conclusion will not come until we cross the threshold into eternity (1 Peter 5:10).  But then, in the glorious ecstasy of that moment, our earthly trials will no longer matter (Philippians 1:21-23).
  • God’s plan is designed for our good (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • Hope involves waiting (Micah 7:7)—expectantly and patiently.

Sometime during second grade I noticed that being a teacher looked like fun.  And soon my favorite pastime became playing school with whomever I could cajole into being students.  When necessary, dolls were pressed into service.

That desire to become a teacher stayed with me all through high school and college.  Finally, after fourteen years, I was the one sitting at my own teacher’s desk, awaiting the arrival of my first students.  My hope, my confident expectation that I would one day be a teacher, had at long last become reality.  The import of the moment was not lost on me.  I had to fight back the tears.

 

 

Such euphoric joy does not happen often without waiting.  We appreciate more what we have to wait for.  And frequently, hard work is also involved.

God allows us to be part of the process, teaching us important lessons about patience and perseverance along the way.

Here’s what I need to remember:

Long-term waiting and steady hard work toward a dream makes the fulfillment all the sweeter when it finally comes.

For now, we can enjoy hopeful anticipation of a new reality that is coming, perhaps in this new year 2018—good health, financial security, improved relationships, or fulfilled dreams.  We can take comfort from the knowledge that our God, who is unlimited by the constraints of time, already resides there.  And…

 

Through the dark and stormy night

Faith beholds a feeble light

Up the blackness streaking;

Knowing God’s own time is best,

In patient hope I rest

For the full day-breaking!

– John Greenleaf Whittier

 

 

Let’s step out into each new day breaking with trust and obedience, because God is preparing us for that new reality.

And may these words ring in our ears:

 

“The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,

to the one who seeks him.”

–Lamentations 3:25

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

What hope have you been clinging to?  Are there scriptures which contribute to your confidence and expectation?  What experiences of the past give you assurance for your hopes of the future?  Please share your insights below in the comments section!

 

(Revised and reblogged from January 31, 2013.  I do apologize for posting a reblog again.  Steve and I have been sick, catching a nasty bug on New Year’s Eve.  First I succumbed, and then he did.  A new post will be forthcoming next week!)

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.wikipedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com.

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“Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth to Bethlehem,

because he belonged to the house and line of David.

He went there to register with Mary,

who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.”

–Luke 2:4-5 excerpts, NIV

 

The distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem is about eighty-five miles. Can you imagine walking that far, nine months pregnant? I can’t. Even if Mary rode on a donkey, she’d have been jostled and swayed from side to side. How comfortable would that have been? I think I’d rather walk.

And yet, in spite of Mary’s unremitting discomfort and Joseph’s growing concern, the couple surely traveled the road to Bethlehem with great hope in their hearts. Her firstborn would soon enter the world—a Child like no other. The angel, Gabriel, had made it clear to both of them: Mary would bear a son, the promised Messiah, and he would save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

Sure enough, Mary delivered the child while they were in Bethlehem, the exact birthplace identified by the prophet Micah (5:2), centuries before the event.

 

 

That same night shepherds cowered in the grass as blinding light pierced the darkness and a startling figure appeared—an angel. Fear quickly gave way to wonder, however, as the shepherds heard the astounding announcement. The Messiah had finally been born, not in the Holy City of Jerusalem as one might expect, but just a stone’s throw away in their own little village.

Soon the shepherds were also traveling a road to Bethlehem. But this was undoubtedly no midnight stroll; they may have even tried to outrun each other. And the exuberant joy that propelled them was accompanied by confident faith in their hearts. They knew the angel’s message had come from the Lord (Luke 2:15).

 

 

Many miles to the east wise men took note of a special star and shortly thereafter set out upon their own long road to Bethlehem. It’s possible they followed the star westward for two years, in order to worship the Messiah and present him with precious treasure: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.   Theirs was a road of generosity.

And now it’s our turn to travel the road to Bethlehem—a figurative one. With Thanksgiving behind us, we journey toward December 25, the final destination after a month-long celebration of our Savior’s birth.

Like Mary and Joseph we can travel with hope because our Heavenly Father is a God of his Word, who loves, encourages, strengthens, and more (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).

 

 

Like the shepherds, we can embrace the truth of our Savior’s birth and all its implications for an abundant, God-enhanced life now and unending euphoria in heaven yet to come (John 10:10, 1 John 5:11-13).

Last, like the wise men, we can follow the road of generosity, not only with presents for family and friends or contributions to ministries and charities, but also with such gifts as:

  • A smile for the harried store clerk,
  • Focused attention on the toddler who wants to sing “Rudolph,”
  • A listening ear for the elderly lady at the grocery store,
  • Cheerful patience while waiting in line at the post office, and
  • The benefit of the doubt—for everyone.

Best of all, our road to Bethlehem extends beyond December 25—into eternity—where hope will be culminated, faith will become sight, and generosity will be rewarded (1 Peter 1:3-4; Hebrews 11:1; Ephesians 6:8).

 

 

The road may seem long at times.   But the destination will be rapturously worth it.

______________________________

Your turn:

Of course these three–hope, faith, and generosity–aren’t the only roads to Bethlehem.  There are many, including the familiar roads of love, joy and peace.  What road (s) will you travel this Advent season?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.slideplayer.com; http://www.pexels.com.)

 

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Ever had a sleepless night due to a relentless whirl of what-ifs, a churning jumble of distress and anxiety, a racing heart?

Worry will do that. No wonder we’ve been told worry is bad for us.  In fact, according to Charles Mayo (co-founder of the Mayo Clinic), worry causes adverse affects on the circulatory system, heart, glands, and nervous system.*

But what about concern? Is that different from worry? Is it OK to be concerned?

The answer is yes. Scripture gives much evidence that even our perfect Heavenly Father exhibits concern. He demonstrates:

  • Compassion on all he has made (Psalm 145:9).
  • Care for each of us (1 Peter 5:7).
  • Mindful attention (Hebrews 2:6).
  • Watchful protection (Jeremiah 31:10).
  • Careful planning for us (Psalm 40:5).

 

 

As God exemplifies, concern prompts beneficial action; worry, on the other hand, accomplishes nothing but harm.

Worry creates a thick fog of fear; concern invites God into our experience with all his wisdom, power, and comforting presence. He is, after all, the only One who can dispel fog, whether it’s water vapor in nature or worry on our minds.

Just the reminder our loving Father is right in the midst of the mess with us will do much to sweep away worry.  And “there is heaven in the depth of that word—Father!” (Charles Spurgeon, emphasis added).

Indeed. If we dig into the heavenly depths of our Father’s love we’ll see:

  • The support of his powerful right hand (Psalm 65:8).
  • The protection of his everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27).
  • The comfort of being carried close to his heart (Isaiah 40:10).

 

 

And that’s just for starters.

If we dig into what we know about him, we can affirm:

  • “Nothing happens in any particular unless God’s will is behind it; therefore [we] can rest in perfect confidence in him” (Oswald Chambers).
  • The God who made us will equip us for whatever lies ahead—even if it’s unpleasant (Habakkuk 3:19).
  • Difficulties most often set the scene for his glory to be displayed (Romans 11:36).

 

 

Sometimes, though, the fog of worry shrouds even the strongest mental images and the most affirming truths. We’re forced to admit: trustful concern is not easy.

For most of us, it is a learned discipline that grows over time. Slowly we’re able to embrace the truth that all will be well because all is in God’s perfect and capable hands. Slowly we develop the habit of affirming God’s character and power, to develop a near worry-less state of contentment.

And we learn the value of gratitude amidst turmoil—as illogical as that may sound. The very act of thanking God releases our minds from negative focus. When we turn our attention to him, problems fade in significance and the fog is dispersed. That’s why Paul recommended, “Pray with thanksgiving” (Philippians 4:6).

 

 

And that’s how we turn worthless worry into productive concern.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I thank you, Father, that NO situation is hopeless because you are the God of eternal hope. I can count on you because you are the God of universal sovereignty, complete sufficiency, and abundant goodness.

I thank you for your comforting presence, for your power at work (even though I can’t see it right now), and for your glorious promise that you always bring good from every situation. I praise you that, while we may sow in tears, there will come the day we reap with songs of joy. Hallelujah!

 

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17; Romans 11:36; 2 Corinthians 3:5; Psalm 145:7;

Matthew 28:20; John 5:17; Romans 8:28; Psalm 126:5

 

*www.todayinsci.com.

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.flicker.com; http://www.wallpaper4god.com; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.flickr.com.)

 

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(A personal psalm)

 

 

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield;

The Lord gives grace and glory;

He does not withhold the good

From those who live with integrity.

–Psalm 84:11-12 HCSB

 

I praise you, O God, that you are the Sun of my life (Psalm 84:11a), sustaining me in body, mind, and spirit, lighting my way with infallible dependability.

Just as the magnetic force of the sun keeps the planets in orbit around it, you keep me within the orbit of your love and care.

Like the sun you are my ever-present, never-changing source of power, enabling me to grow into your radiant likeness, day by day.

Even when menacing clouds of despair or discouragement roll in, your splendorous Light breaks through with encouragement, hope, and strength.

 

 

I praise you, O Lord, for being a shield around me (v. 11a)—a living shield that is always present, always on guard, and always ready to act.

Through the fiercest storms of life, you are a refuge, a stronghold in times of trouble (Psalm 9:9).

You have protected me from what I thought I wanted, life choices that would have led me down treacherous paths.

And with the truth of your Word, you’ve deflected the poisoned arrows of hurtful thoughts and harmful lies.

 

 

I praise you, O Father, for the favor and honor you bestow upon me (84:11b).

Evidence abounds every day of your loving benevolence, as you not only meet my needs but graciously supply surprise blessings far beyond necessity.

Throughout my life I’ve seen evidence of your gracious provision: financial obligations met when funds ran low, impossibly long to-do lists shortened by cancellations and changes of plans, difficult circumstances resolved.

Even though I may walk through dark valleys of illness, trial, or tragedy, I know you will pour grace into my soul, enabling me to endure.

 

 

I praise you, O God, that you do not withhold even one good thing from those who live with integrity (v. 11c).

It’s so easy to become focused on material things, even though we know that a full closet, a garage of gadgets, and a large bank account offer fleeting satisfaction at best.

Instead, your priority, Father, is providing the good things of eternal value.  You never withhold your quieting peace or soul-drenching joy, the delight of your calming presence, your perpetual strength to persevere, or the exhilarating hope of eternal life.

These good things and more are always available to those who trust in you.

 

 

Heavenly Father, when trouble invades my life remind me that:

  • My vision of what’s good is severely limited (Romans 11:33-36).
  • Your ways are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9).
  • You accomplish monumental purpose through the meanest of circumstance (Romans 8:28).
  • The perseverance to navigate a hard road will one day be lavishly rewarded (James 1:12).

 

 

I praise you, Almighty God, for each good thing you bring my way, each blessing mentioned here and countless more unmentioned.

Now may complete trust and enthusiastic obedience be my gifts to you.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.youtube.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pinterest.co.uk; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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No doubt it’s happened to you too: a shift of life-circumstances occurs in an instant and suddenly your world is shattered. Maybe it’s a job transfer or termination. Maybe it’s the break-up of a long-term relationship or marriage. Maybe it’s an accident or life-altering medical diagnosis.  Your thoughts wrap around the event and its consequences with such ferocity, you can think of nothing else.

We know focusing on “what ifs” and “if only-s” is counter-productive. And as people of faith we know God has our best interests at heart. But we hurt, and we wonder what God is up to.

The next time cataclysmic circumstances overtake me, I want to be better prepared, starting with a new perspective.  I want to view obstacles as opportunities:

 

“What is the difference between an obstacle and an opportunity?

Our attitude toward it.

Every opportunity has a difficulty,

And every difficulty has an opportunity.”

–J. Sidlow Baxter

(pastor, theologian, author, 1903-1999)

 

The trouble is, attitudes are not easily adjusted. How do we change our perspective? Perhaps such strategies as these will prove helpful:

 

  1. Be intentional about word choices.

We can call our situations opportunities as Reverend Baxter suggests. Challenges are adventures as we live out God’s plan for this circumstance. And we can change the D of Disappointment to an H for His appointment*—an appointment to learn, grow, and mature (James 1:2-4).

 

 

  1. Consider the circumstances from God’s point of view.

According to Charles Spurgeon, what seems a crushing burden to us is a matter of small dust to God. I need to focus on how great he is compared to the smallness of my problem.

 

 

(“Great is our Lord and mighty in power,”

His understanding has no limit.”

–Psalm 147:5)

 

Such scriptures need to be front and center, posted in attention-grabbing places like inside the refrigerator, on the steering wheel, or in the sock drawer.

 

  1. Let purpose impact perspective.

When our daughter was in high school, she joined the track team one spring. Heather never won a single race.  But she didn’t consider herself a loser, because instead of running against the competition, she ran against the clock. Every tenth of a second she shaved off her time, she considered herself a winner.  Her purpose for running was not to become a track star; it was simply to be with friends and get a good work out.  Her purpose impacted her perspective.

 

 

God has purpose in our circumstances—to produce tremendous benefit in our lives and in the lives of those around us. We can choose to embrace his purpose (even though we may not know what it is) and allow it to impact our perspective.

 

  1. Look for the blessings.

 

 

(“When I am in the cellar of affliction

I always look about for the Lord’s choicest wine.”

–Samuel Rutherford–

pastor, theologian, author, 1600-1661)

 

Rutherford wasn’t referring to material blessings, although God certainly bestows those, even in the midst of pain or trouble. The Lord’s “choicest wines” include his peace (Isaiah 26:3) and joy (Psalm 16:11) that defy explanation as difficulties assault.

But, we must look about. Will the blessing arrive through a special scripture or other reading? Perhaps through a song or the comment of a friend? The possibilities are endless because our God is infinitely creative. Our part is to be attentive.

 

  1. Focus on God himself (Isaiah 41:10).

 

 

By his power the whole universe functions as a cohesive whole. Out of his infinite wisdom, every creature is provided for. And because of his loving compassion, every person may enjoy eternal life through his Son, Jesus. God is able to do all things! He will not fail to see us through all our troubles (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

 

 

One of the first explorers to sail around the southern tip of Africa experienced whipping winds and driving rain during that portion of the voyage. He named the area Cape of Storms.

When Vasco de Gama traversed the same promontory in 1497, he renamed it Cape of Good Hope. His focus was not on the turbulent waters under and around his ship but the treasures of India ahead.

 

Vasco de Gama

 

In life, we can focus on the storms of difficulty and pain.   Or, we can center our hearts and minds on the life of good hope Jesus provides here and now, as well as look ahead to the glorious eternity of heaven.

The choice of perspective is ours. Will we choose to view our challenges as obstacles or opportunities?

_____________________________

 

What helps you achieve or maintain a positive perspective when adversity strikes? Please join the conversation in the comment section below!

 

* His Imprint, My Expression, Harvest House Publishers, 1993.

 

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

 

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“If God is for us,

who can be against us?”

–Romans 8:31 NIV

 

As I write…

…two friends are fighting cancer, one of them for the second time.

…Another deals with debilitating illness every day while a fourth deteriorates as the result of Alzheimer’s. 

…A married couple among our acquaintances is separated. He is filing for a divorce that she doesn’t want or deserve.

…Families and friends of those who died in the recent terrorist attacks suffer through the aftermath, as well as those injured, their families and friends. My heart aches for the first responders as well.

 

 

Though I wish it weren’t so, even devout believers in Jesus endure physical pain, emotional hurt, and horrific circumstances. How can God be for us when so many endure anguish?

Here’s what I’ve come to understand:

#1. My interpretation of a particular verse must be measured against the whole of scripture and the experience of countless saints through the ages.

Evidence from the Bible and church history would indicate that “God for us” does not mean he will engineer a problem-free life—even for one of his beloved. Perfection is reserved for heaven.

What God has promised here and now is to:

  • be with us,
  • provide strength,
  • help us through the situation, and
  • uphold us with encouragement and comfort (Isaiah 41:10).

 

 

But when shocking news sends me spinning toward fear, when trouble threatens to destroy my peace and joy, when pain exhausts my strength, those familiar promises seem—dare I say it?—inadequate.

God may have promised:

  • His presence with me, but I want him to show me the way out.
  • His strength, but I don’t feel it Instead, I feel terribly weak.
  • His help through the situation, but I want his help around it.
  • His encouragement and comfort, but I am discouraged and uncomfortable.

Such statements bring immediate clarity to the inadequacy. Look how I am the focus of those statements, how I assert my desires for relief and ease.

The problem is me.

 

 

#2. God’s desire for me during my time on earth is not endless comfort and pleasure.

His goals include:

  • maturity (James 1:4)—fully developed character of faith, discipline, and integrity.
  • Heightened awareness of him so that “in the darkness of adversity, [I am] able to see more clearly the radiance of his face”* (2 Corinthians 4:6).
  • Lessened awareness of the inconsequential things on earth (Colossians 2:1-2).

 

 

And why are these goals important to him? Because the result is an indescribably glorious prize:

 

“Our momentary light affliction is producing for us

an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.”

–2 Corinthians 4:17 HCSB

 

Paul wrote that—a man who suffered much. He was beaten, imprisoned, and even stoned because of his faith in Jesus (2 Corinthians 6:4-5).  

Yet he was able to assert that anything he had suffered was nothing compared to the glorious joys of heaven awaiting him. That’s a critical truth to remember.

 

 

Also helpful to keep in mind:

#3. Evidence abounds that God is for us no matter the circumstances.

Just for fun, I counted up God’s attributes in the index of one of my resources—attributes such as God’s Attentiveness, God’s Blessings, and God’s Care. The list includes twenty-eight different categories.  No doubt there are even more.

How can I doubt the motives of such a loving, generous God?

My own experience provides bountiful evidence.

As some of you will remember, I’ve kept a journal since 1983 of God’s faithfulness to our family. Each year I total up the blessings, and praise God for his help, kindness, and miracles during the previous twelve months. To date there are more than 1,200 entries in all.

 

(Can you see how yellowed and tattered the edges of this first page are?!)

 

At the end of one particularly difficult year my jaw dropped to discover more entries than any year previously. God had indeed been for me—through it all.

The great missionary to China, Hudson Taylor (1832-91905), was right:

 

 

(“All our difficulties are only platforms for the manifestations of his grace, power, and love.”)

 

Every day, every moment, the Almighty God of grace, power, and love is at work for our benefit.

Who could possibly win against such supremacy?

 

* Sarah Young, Jesus Calling, Thomas Nelson, p. 361.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

How have you experienced God’s grace, power, and love during a time of difficulty?  Please share in the comment section below!

 

 

(Art & photo credits: http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.picturequotes.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.biblesociety.ca; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.quotefancy.com.)

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(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 for us instead 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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