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Posts Tagged ‘Blessings’

No, that’s not a typo in the title; I intentionally chose rust. However, that parody on an old hymn actually did result from a typo years ago.

Steve was just a few months into his first pastorate in St. Petersburg, FL. The mean age of the congregation was somewhere in the 70s. When the church secretary typed the opening hymn title for one Sunday’s bulletin, ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus, she accidentally omitted the “T” in trust.

But there was a whole lot of truth in that typo-title. Many saints of that congregation could testify, even into old age: “Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust” (Psalm 40:4).

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And just what might those blessings be? A few possibilities quickly come to mind. When we put our trust in God, we enjoy:

  • Peace of mind (Isaiah 26:3-4)
  • Guidance (Proverbs 3:5-6)
  • Help (Isaiah 41:10)
  • Strength (Isaiah 12:2)

But there are many more blessings that come to those who trust in God—some of which are quite surprising. The following is undoubtedly just a partial list:

Intimacy with God–not just acquaintance. The more we exercise trust, the more we recognize his involvement in our lives. With David, we can affirm: “All those who know your mercy, Lord, will count on you for help. For you have never yet forsaken those who trust in you” (Psalm 9:10).

Hope. Praise God for his hope that fills us with all joy and peace as we trust in him (Romans 15:13)! I can’t imagine going to bed at night without hope for tomorrow—much less for eternity.

Joyful Expectation and Quiet Confidence. Our lives are in the hands of an absolutely perfect, all-powerful, loving God. We can count on him to see us through every situation. So with great delight we can say, “I don’t know what God’s up to, but I know it has to be good!”

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Life above the Fray. Like Paul, we can learn to be content in every situation (Philippians 4:12), knowing that God will give us the strength to endure (v. 13). A heart full of trust has no room for worry or stress. (Remind me of that when the challenges pile up, will you?)

Adventure. Think of the adrenalin rush these Bible heroes must have experienced, as they placed their trust in God:

  • Joshua fighting the battle of Jericho—with trumpets and loud shouts!
  • Elijah praying for fire to consume a drenched offering to God, in front of 450 prophets of Baal
  • Nehemiah watching the walls of Jerusalem reconstructed, after the Israelites had been held in Babylonian captivity for seventy years

Are we going to sit on the sidelines of life and miss the miracles, because we’re afraid to trust? Perish the thought!

Influence. The Light of Jesus shines most brightly through those who demonstrate trust in the midst of dark circumstances. People remember those saints who maintain a positive, faith-focused outlook in spite of trials.

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For all these reasons and more, it is indeed sweet to (t)rust in Jesus–to rest secure in the loving, everlasting arms of our Heavenly Father.

 

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I praise you, Lord, with all my heart,

for being a trustworthy God who never fails his children.

How glorious to know

I can trust in your unfailing love!

(Psalm 9:1; 13:5; 52:8)

Photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.pixgood.com; http://www.masterfile.com.)

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Dove chocolates come wrapped in foil on which are printed positive and encouraging statements. Recently I found this one:

“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

A positive attitude of praise and celebration, even for the little blessings, does contribute to a sense of well-being.  But there’s an important omission in this quote–the cause of all those blessings.  Perhaps the sentiment might be worded like this:

“The more you praise and celebrate God in your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

Now a pleasing sentiment has become solid truth, because with God in our lives, joy is our constant companion.

“You make me glad by your deeds, O Lord;

I sing for joy at the works of your hands.”

(Psalm 92:4)

 It requires such a small effort, really.

 Sometimes, all we need to do is focus on the pleasure of ordinary events:

  • Water vapor curling up from a cup of coffee
  • Sunbeams finally breaking through, after three days of unrelenting rain
  • The first butterfly of spring dancing among the daffodils

Sometimes all we need to do is change our perspective.  We can choose to:

  • Get depressed over the huge stack of dirty dishes in the kitchen, or reminisce (while we clean!) over the delightful meal just enjoyed with family and friends
  • Grumble that vacation is over, or celebrate that two weeks out-of-town makes even our scuffed-up, well-lived-in home look mighty inviting
  • Sigh with dissatisfaction that personal goals have not yet been reached, or take note of how far we’ve come

Sometimes all we need to do is make a celebration out of a small moment.

I had been shopping at the mall for several hours, scouring the sales racks to no avail. Suddenly I looked down at my purse on which I had draped my light jacket and sweater. The sweater was gone. It was one of my favorites.

So not only did I not purchase an addition for my wardrobe that afternoon, I had subtracted a piece of clothing I already owned.  That sweater had just been dry cleaned, too. “Insult to injury,” as they say.

Retracing my steps seemed pointless; I had been in so many stores.

Not long after realizing my sweater was gone, it was time to meet Steve for dinner at a restaurant attached to the mall.  We ordered our meals, and then I told him what happened.

“I’ll check the mall lost-and-found after we eat,” I said. “By then maybe someone will have found my sweater and turned it in.”

So that’s what we did.

No sweater.

Steve suggested we stop at the stores where I’d shopped, as we made our way back to the car.

At the very first store the eyes of the young sales girl lit up when I asked about a lost sweater. “What color was it?” she asked.

“Red,” I told her.

“We did find it! It’s right back here!” she enthusiastically replied, walking to the back of the store.

Sure enough, there it was. Someone had even put it on a hanger.

Well! I thanked her, and the manager behind the counter, not knowing which of them had found it and been so thoughtful.

One of them jokingly said something about doing good deeds for chocolate.

As it happened, just two doors down was the Godiva Chocolate Shop. Steve and I popped in, bought two little boxes, and went back to the clothing store.

When those two girls saw the Godiva bag they whooped in surprise and delight. Steve and I laughed, too.

“God blessed me through you by returning my sweater; we wanted to bless you,” I said.

“Oh! That remark about chocolate was just a joke!” the salesgirl cried. “But you have no idea how much I needed this. Today has been especially rough.” She started around the counter with her arms outstretched. “Come here! I need to give you a hug!”  Then she added, “Look!  I’m crying!”  I had tears in my eyes as well.

The level of endorphins was so high in that shop the lights shone brighter, the air smelled fresher, and the atmosphere crackled with joy.

And all because we took a small moment and magnified its significance, and we gave God the glory as we celebrated a God-orchestrated event.

Truly, “The more you praise and celebrate God in your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

And God celebrates, too.  After all, he loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7), right?  Surely that includes givers of chocolate and hugs.

(Photo credit:  www.inhabityourmoments.com.)

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What are you celebrating in life today?  Share your joy in the comments below!

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“Everything is beautiful in its time,” Solomon wrote (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

That means today is beautiful—in spite of the long to-do-list, the stress, the mess, the frustrations, the disappointments, the uncertainty, the pain.

How can that be?

Because the negative aspects of our lives do not need to supersede the positive.

God’s glory—his splendor, his creative genius, his love—is being expressed all around us, every day, as…

…pinpoints of sunshine glimmer on a fresh dusting of snow.

…cups of hot tea warm the hands and spicy citrus flavors warm the spirit.

…the baby squeals with delight while chasing bubbles in the kitchen.

…the mail includes a handwritten note.

…a song on the radio speaks encouragement, perfectly suited to a current situation.

…the fire crackles merrily, enticing one to sit and rest in its glow.

The question is, am I aware of the God-infused beauty around me? Am I pausing from my work every now and then to look for it?

Sometimes my vision is clouded by the past. Guilt over poor choices and hurt over unfair treatment can interfere with the enjoyment of now. Even past blessings can be a distraction, if my attitude is, “Oh, if only I could go back to __________. Those were the best years of my life.”

Not that the past doesn’t serve us in the present. Experience is an important teacher. But when I keep looking back with longing, I miss the present.

On the other hand, a preoccupation with the future (the way I would like life to be next month or next year) can also interfere with my full participation in the present. Wishful thinking can easily slip into covetousness.

“Watch out!” Jesus said. “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). Would I be stretching the truth of his statement to say: A beautiful life does not consist of the perfect spouse, perfect children, a perfect house, and a perfect job—even if such perfection existed.

A joy-filled life comes from embracing the gifts of each day. “We should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work. It’s God’s gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now (Ecclesiastes 5:19-20a, MSG).

I need to train myself to stay in the present, to enjoy the beautiful moments God is granting me now—to the fullest.

If the to-do list is long, I want to invite God to set the priorities and help me accomplish what is needful for that day. Those items that must be held over to another day may be postponed guilt free, because “there is a time for everything” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). A simpler, slower-paced life will certainly be a more beautiful life.

If uncertainty plagues my thoughts, I want to embrace the truth that God is in control, including the timing of events. He will keep me in perfect peace when I keep my mind steadfastly on him and trust in him (Isaiah 26:3). Trust is at the heart of a beautiful life.

If Plan A (that I was counting on) suddenly becomes Plan B (a debilitating disappointment), I want to accept and even appreciate the change of plan as an opportunity to grow. After all, Plan B did not catch God by surprise. There will be beauty in Plan B, too.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Dear God, I thank you that you have made everything beautiful in its time. May I rest in the knowledge that this season of my life, with its particular challenges, was appointed by you. On this day may I:

  • embrace the blessings of NOW,
  • celebrate the completed tasks you gave me to do,
  • handle the challenges with grace and trust in you,
  • grow to be a little more like your beautiful Son, and
  • behold your beautiful glory, on display all around me.  

(Art credit:  www.biblia.com.)

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Christmas. The first syllable surely needs no explanation of origin. It speaks of the One we celebrate.

But what about the second syllable, -mas?

Christmas is a term that has been around for nearly a thousand years, coming to us from Old English. Cristes Maesse meant “Mass of Christ.” It was established by church leaders to disconnect the church celebration of Jesus’ birth from pagan holidays and customs—holidays such as Winter Solstice. (Even before the birth of Christ, Romans were celebrating the shortest day of the year, in anticipation of the sun’s gradual return.)

As a matter of fact, as early as the fourth century, Christians were creating their own wintertime celebration. One theologian pointed out in 320 A.D.: “We hold this day holy, not like the pagans because of the birth of the sun, but because of Him who made it.”

Yet there are those who wish to keep the customs of Christmas without including the One being celebrated. Seems they’d like to take away the first syllable, Christ. But then all that’s left is –mas.

Sounds like mess.

Indeed. I am confident that without Christ, my life would be a mess. 

A mess of fears.

A mess of brokenness.

A mess of worry.

A mess of guilt.

A mess of dissatisfaction.

It’s possible that for a long while I’d be able to hide the mess under glittery packages of stuff, noise and distraction, busy-ness.

But eventually, a body must stop and rest. That’s when my mind would kick into high gear and the mess would wreak havoc in my soul. Chances are I’d develop sleep problems, depression, or perhaps even physical manifestations like ulcers. Stress can do that to a person.

Shouldn’t I at least consider the alternative? What if I do allow Christ in my life?

Oh, my. The list of precious gifts He bestows is astounding and practically endless. To begin, he provides:

  • Calm in place of fear.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” (John 14:1), Jesus said.

  • Restoration in place of brokenness.

 “Anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons” (2 Corinthians 5:17, The Message)!

  • Peace of mind in place of worry.

 “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met…God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes” (Matthew 6:33-34, The Message).

  • Forgiveness in place of guilt.

 “Everyone who believes in [Jesus] receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43).

  • Contentment in place of dissatisfaction.

 “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

 And among his many other gifts to us, Jesus grants us the incredible privilege of eternal life (John 3:16)—with him in heaven.

But how will I be able to enjoy all these gifts if I don’t give Christ a chance?

I really have nothing of value to lose. Just the mess.

 

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15)–the Christ of Christmas!

 

(Art credit:  www.emblibrary.com .)

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Martin wrapped his muffler tightly against his neck, then pulled his hat firmly down over his ears. The night was bitter cold. As his feet trudged through the snow, his thoughts warmed him. Soon he’d be sitting by the fire surrounded by his loving family, and together they would celebrate Christmas Eve.

Thank You, dear Lord, for this blessed night, he prayed. Thank you for the precious gift of your Son, the King of Glory become Savior of those who believe.

Martin’s eyes lifted heavenward in worship. It was then he noticed the ethereal display above him: evergreen branches lit by hundreds of tiny lights. Of course, it was the stars. But on that night, for Martin, they appeared to be sprinkled among the treetops.

Oh, I wish the family were with me to witness this, he thought. And then he had an idea.

When Martin finally crossed the threshold of his home, his wife and children were surprised to see him carrying a small evergreen tree.

“Children!” he cried. “I just enjoyed a most amazing sight as I walked home this evening. And we’re going to recreate it, at least partially so, right here in the living room!”

Whatever could this be, they thought, as Papa sent them to gather a small pot and candles.

Together, Martin and his six children set up the tree and fastened candles to the branches. Then the room was darkened as the tree-candles were lit. And while the little tree glowed brightly in the corner, Martin told his family about the exquisite beauty he had witnessed—sparkling stars shining through the evergreens on a crisp and clear Christmas Eve.

“It looked something like this!” he proclaimed and gestured toward the tree.  The children stared in wonder at the glorious sight.

 

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This, according to legend, is how Martin Luther introduced the tradition of the Christmas tree, nearly five hundred years ago. (I did add a bit of imaginative embellishment!)

Of course, no one can verify the truth of the legend. But I like to think that one of our most devout fathers of the faith brought to us this most delightful custom.

Not only is the custom embraced by nearly everyone who celebrates Christmas, it embodies much symbolism.

The tree of choice in most homes is the evergreen. Green represents life—the eternal life Jesus offers.

The lights also remind us of Jesus, the Light of the world (John 8:12).

  1. He brings the light of sweet peace and effervescent joy that contrasts sharply to the darkness of fear. His Light transforms our quality of life.
  2. Jesus’ light reveals our sin, and then he offers to extinguish that darkness in our souls with his life-giving salvation.
  3. His Light also guides us along the path of life.

Finally, the decorations offer reminders of God’s blessing:

  • Ornaments gifted to us over the years bring to mind precious family and friends.
  • Miniature crèches, angels, shepherds, and wise men invoke fresh wonder in the glorious story of Christmas and God’s indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15).
  • Toys and teddy bears bring to mind the children for whom Christmas is the source of delirious joy. Almost as great is the vicarious pleasure we adults enjoy, while watching the young ones revel in all that is Christmas.

 

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And when the tree is fully decorated, we can exult:

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!

Thou hast a wondrous message.

Thou dost proclaim the Savior’s birth,

Good will to men and peace on earth.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I praise you, O God, for your goodness. Your blessing does indeed bring me much wealth (Proverbs 10:22), including: life eternal in your presence, Light to guide my way, precious family and friends with whom to enjoy the journey and with whom to celebrate this rapturous season of Advent.

And then, would it be too trivial to thank you for Christmas trees? Their splendor graces our homes like no other adornment. May I enjoy the decorated tree, not as something bright and pretty in itself, but as a reminder of the Branch of the Lord. HE is the beautiful and glorious One (Isaiah 4:2).

(Photo credits:   http://www.i.istocking.com;  www.jpeg.pinterest.com; http://www.madiganmade.com

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Abundance: a word that easily comes to mind as we contemplate Thanksgiving Day.

Many dining room tables will be filled to overflowing with delectable offerings this afternoon. Most Americans will consume a plentiful amount of turkey, salads, vegetables, and pies. Food in abundance has become synonymous with Thanksgiving.

Very soon Steve and I will head over to our son’s house to celebrate Thanksgiving with family–for the first time in about ten years.  We and our three children, their spouses, and children have lived states apart for that long, and we’ve had to wait until Christmas each year for get-togethers.  (Sadly, not all of us will be able to gather today, but most.)  In June, Steve and I moved close to our older son and his family, not far from our younger son and his wife.

Friends will also be joining us this afternoon, making for a full, heart-warming day. Even more than the abundant feasting, I look forward to the abundant togetherness—the camaraderie, affection, story-telling, reminiscing, and humor.

But abundance also describes the plentiful amount of blessings bestowed by another family member, our Heavenly Father.

His abundance includes:

Grace.

“Those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ(Rom. 5:17, Ryrie).

We were ruined by sin. But out of his loving forgiveness and acceptance, God offers the gift of eternal life through his Son, Jesus.

Mercy.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who with his ample mercy has given us new birth into a life of hope, due to the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3, Berkely Version).

When God gives us what we do not deserve, that’s grace. When God does not give us what we do deserve, that’s mercy.   He is abundantly generous with both.

Peace and security.

 “I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security” (Jeremiah 33:6).

We can rest in calm assurance of God’s loving care and his provision of salvation.

Love and faithfulness.

“The Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness(Exodus 34:6).

God expresses his love in countless ways.  He is faithful, never forgetting a promise.  And he never fails to provide for our needs.

Goodness.

“They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness” (Psalm 145:7).

All of God’s glorious attributes are generously poured out upon us day by day.

Holy Spirit.

“He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously” (Titus 3:5-6).

Empowerment, renewal, guidance, and comfort are just a few of the benefits our precious Holy Spirit provides.

Life

“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10, KJV).

 Not mere existence, but a rich, full, satisfying life, in relationship forever with The. King. Of. The. Universe.  Incredible.

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How is it possible, Lord, you would even want to open the storehouses of heaven to pour out this abundance upon us? How do we begin to thank you for such rich, abounding blessings? Words are pathetically inadequate.  All we can offer you is our lives—to live for the praise of your abundant glory. Help me to do so—today and always.

(Photo credit:  www.happyfathersday.com.)

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Last Thursday we pondered these promises from Isaiah 58:11:

 “The Lord will guide you always,” and

“He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land.”

 Today, more discoveries and encouragement await as we meditate upon the last two promises:

  • “[He] will strengthen your frame.”
  • “You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

 

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Do you long for strength within your frame, that is, inner strength? Perhaps you’re moving as fast as you can, but never quite reaching the end of the to-do list. And you’re bone-weary from the effort.

Perhaps the stresses of life—difficult relationships, a high-pressure job, financial obligations—are squeezing in hard.

Perhaps boredom or depression surround you in a gray shroud, and you haven’t the energy to fight against them.

“He will strengthen your frame.”

But God doesn’t wave a magic wand over us and suddenly turn weakness into strength. Usually he invites us to be part of the process.   And his solutions are radical.

For example, celebrate anything and everything (Philippians 4:4).

 

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Take joy in:

  • Your cozy robe to ward off the morning chill.
  • That cute tuft of hair sticking up on your toddler’s head.
  • A parking place opening up when and where you need it.
  • Licking the stamp just as the mail carrier pulls up in her truck.
  • An earring lost last week turns up between the counter and stove this week.

You see, joy and strength are closely related. Ezra told the people of Israel, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Those five examples above, and thousands like them, are gifts from your Heavenly Father. “Every good gift and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17).

In the same way we can build up physical strength with exercise, we can build up spiritual strength with praise—by expressing gratitude and joy for every good and perfect gift.

And now, the last promise of this verse describes in metaphor the result of living according to God’s design.

“You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

 

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Visualize a flourishing garden, with rich, green plants overflowing with healthy, ripe produce.

Those can be descriptors of you and me.  We are:

  • Rich in God’s grace, which he has lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding (Ephesians 1:8).
  • Green and flourishing, because we spend time with the Master Gardener and allow him to cultivate our spirits (Psalm 1:2-3).
  • Healthy and prosperous of soul (v. 3). As we soak up God’s Word, we’ll produce actions and attitudes that honor God and bring us inner satisfaction.
  • Ripe and mature, lacking in nothing (James 1:3).

God offers us “a continual source of thirst-quenching, drought-ending, fruit-producing, spiritual hydration” (James MacDonald).

Doesn’t that sound refreshing?  Who could turn down such provision?

*     *     *     *     *     *    *     *     *     *

Thank you, Father, for the precious assurances of these promises: 

  • You are leading me along the path you preordained before time began.
  • Every day of this earthly journey I can count on you to supply my needs.
  • Every day you provide fresh strength. One way is through the exercise of praise.  
  • As I spend time in your presence, I will be transformed–like a garden replenished by hydration. In fact, I can grow into your likeness with ever-increasing glory!

 “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me. It is too lofty for me to attain.” Yet I know it to be true because these are truths from your reliable Word.  My heart overflows with wonder and gratitude.

(Psalm 139:16; Philippians 4:19; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Psalm 139:6)

 

(Photo and art credits:  www.dayofgrace.me; http://www.anativegarden.blogspot.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.naturalearning.org.)

 

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How would you finish this prayer: 

“Oh, Lord, what I need most right now is ____________________.”

What word would you put in the blank?

Guidance?

Provision?

Strength?

Purpose?

One glorious Bible verse tucked into Isaiah presents four comforting promises that cover each of those needs:

 

Isaiah58.11 

“The Lord will guide you always;

He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land

And will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a well-watered garden,

Like a spring whose waters never fail” (58:11).

Lots of truth packed into five short lines. Each phrase warrants careful consideration. For example:

 

1.  The Lord will guide you always.

 

He’s not a life coach, counselor, or psychologist. The almighty God of the universe promises to be your guide—free of charge! And he’s available 24/7. Think, too, of his astounding attributes that make him the perfect guide:

  • God is omniscient—He knows everything (Psalm 139:1-6), including every detail of your situation and the people involved.
  • God is righteous—Everything he does is good (Deuteronomy 32:4). He can be relied upon to lead you down a perfect path.
  • God is merciful—He responds in loving compassion (Psalm 116:5). He’s your understanding Father, your strongest ally.
  • God is truthful—All that he says can be trusted (Titus 1:2). He will not lead you astray.
  • God is faithful—He keeps his Word (Psalm 33:4). God does not lie or forget what he said. Neither does he change his mind.

Notice that first phrase says God will always be your guide. Not every once in a while when you’re really in a quandary, but always. You are never left alone to your own devices—unless that’s the way you want to live. God is a gentleman; he leaves the choice up to you.

 

2.  He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land.

 

Not he might satisfy your needs if he feels like it. He will. 

No matter what the landscape of your life looks like, God will see that your needs are met.

Have you ever been surrounded by sun-scorched land, perhaps a desert or wilderness where no life is visible?

Steve and I visited Israel a number of years ago. One of our tour stops was in the Judean wilderness—a desolate and foreboding sight to behold. Not a single tuft of grass. No bushes or plants of any kind—not even cactus. Only two things are visible when standing in the midst of this desert: sky and pale gray-brown mountainous rock, as far as the eye can see.

 

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Should you decide to live there, you’d have to bring with you everything necessary for survival: all your food, water, and clothing. For shelter, you might find a cave.

Ah! But what if there was Someone there ahead of you? Someone who already had at his disposal the supplies you required? And they would never run out? That’s the life-giving, unfailing provision of your Heavenly Father.

Let’s you and me rest in the assurance that the essentials—and even many delights!—will be generously supplied. If something is meant to be, he will take care of it—just as he’s been doing since each of us was born.

Think how he has led you through the wilderness of broken relationships and difficult circumstances. His grace has been sufficient for every challenge (2 Corinthians 12:9), right?

Now project that assurance into the future. Even if we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we have no need to fear. Our all-powerful God is with us (Psalm 23:4)–guiding and providing.

(Please remind me of that when I come to a wilderness-patch, will you?)

 

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Heavenly Father, I praise you that day by day, moment by moment, you are delighted to guide us in perfect wisdom. You generously provide for our needs and lovingly care for us body, soul, and spirit. Thank you for your compassion, your faithfulness, and grace to see us through the wilderness valleys. “I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God. My times are in your hands.’” (Psalm 31:14-15a).  

 

Please come back on Monday. We’ll meditate on the second half of Isaiah 58:11.

 

(Photo credits:  www.hischurchwomen.com; http://www.freerepublic.com; http://www.biblestudytools.com.)

 

 

 

 

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While skimming through my grandmother’s Bible, I came across a notation she made next to Jeremiah 31:33.

First, the verse:

 “I will put my law in their minds

And write it on their hearts.

I will be their God,

And they will be my people.”

 

Perhaps a bit of context would be helpful.

Jeremiah was a prophet of Judah for over forty years. He was instructed by God to speak strong judgment against the people because of their sin. They were following worthless idols and had become worthless themselves (2:5). God promised disaster from the north, even terrible destruction (4:6).

Babylon, the empire from the north, did attack in 586 B.C. and Jerusalem was destroyed.

But Jeremiah offered great hope, recorded in chapters thirty and thirty-one. The verse in bold print above makes clear two glorious assurances.

Assurance #1

“It is God’s work.” (That’s what my grandmother wrote in the margin of her Bible next to Jeremiah 31:33.)

See the phrase “I will” used twice in the verse?  It is our Heavenly Father who initiates the work of transformation in our minds and hearts. We couldn’t make ourselves godly no matter how hard we tried. It is his Spirit who enlivens the instruction of God’s Word to our hearts.

A friend of mine accepted Jesus into her life as an adult. M. once told me that before becoming a Christian, she had tried to read the Bible, but it didn’t hold her attention and didn’t make much sense. But after coming to Jesus? Oh, my! What a difference! Suddenly M. became a ravenous reader of God’s Word. Every word spoke wisdom and encouragement to her heart.

You see, what God provided for my friend (and for all of us who seek him) is a miraculous, spiritual heart transplant.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you,” God says.  “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

God is not saying he will force us into surgery.   We can accept or reject his offer of a new heart and spirit.

When you receive an appealing offer, how do you decide whether to accept or not? Do you consider the reliability of the person or company making the offer? Probably so.

And when you are given advice to follow, do you consider the source? No doubt.

So let’s consider the One making the offer of a new heart and a new spirit–God Almighty himself.   His love for us is limitless.  He is the all-knowing, all-wise God of the universe. We can trust that his instructions are for our good, that following them will bring peace, contentment, joy, and more.

(Tell me again why we rebel?!)

Assurance #2

He will be our God.

 “When this is fulfilled, you are the possessor of all things,” Spurgeon said.

Think of it: innumerable blessings are ours, beginning with a precious, personal relationship with the King of the universe.

His comforting presence, 24/7.

His guidance and provision for every day of our earthly lives.

And the glory of heaven assured.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

We praise you, holy God, the One who has informed us through your Word, who transforms us by your Spirit, and conforms us, day by day, to be like Jesus. Praise you for the privilege to be yours, guided and cared for by an all-wise, all-powerful God!

(Photo credit:  www.wallpaper4god.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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autumn5

“The land is lit with autumn blaze.”

–Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885)

I’ve been anticipating these few weeks of October ever since we moved back to the Midwest in June—the gilding on tree-covered hillsides, the crimson coats on sumac trees, and, of course, the swaths of gold and vermilion among the maples.

The trees appear dressed for a grand party!

Indeed, autumn was the season I missed most during our forty years in Florida.

So Friday afternoon I sat on our second-story deck, to observe more closely the magnificent display in our back yard. You see, a shallow woods stands sentry between the houses on our street and the houses behind us. Among the tree-fellows, chestnut, elm, oak, and others stretch their colorful arms heavenward.

But already the trees are beginning to lose their leaves.

Elm leaves somersault while they plummet, flashing sparks of sunlight from their luminous topsides.

Oak leaves drift downward, gracefully zigzagging side to side.

But whether they tumble or drift, the leaves of all deciduous trees will eventually fall, having fulfilled their purpose: photosynthesizing light, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen.

As human beings, we, too, have purpose to our existence: to live for the praise of God’s glory (Ephesians 1:11).  What an honor is ours, to inspire others to give praise to the King of the universe.

And how might we do that?

  1. Reflect God’s character, like the elm leaves flashing in the sunlight. Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, we can shine as lights (Matthew 5:14)–offering assistance or a listening ear, being a positive voice and example, exercising self-control and patience.
  1. Give praise to God at every opportunity. As tree leaves fall, the lacey branches are exposed, all reaching upward toward the sunlight. Our hearts should be raised toward the Light of Life, the Son of God.

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(“My lips will glorify you.  I will praise you as long as I live,  and in your name I will lift up my hands” — Psalm 63:3-4)

We can:

  • Praise him in the morning for the opportunities of the day ahead.
  • Praise him in the afternoon for the blessings and accomplishments already enjoyed.
  • Praise him in the evening for his guidance and care throughout the day, his strength for the challenges, and the blessing of rest yet to come.
  1. Be content (Philippians 4:11).  God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).  Begin to name those blessings and note how your heart begins to swell with elation–blessings like:
  • relief of forgiveness
  • liberation from guilt
  • assurance of hope
  • confidence of access to his presence
  • certainty of eternal life.

(How long might the list grow if we continued?)

Just as autumn blazes around us, may our hearts blaze to live for the praise of God’s glory!

(Photo credits:  www.galleryhip.com; http://www.media-cache-akO.pinimg.com.)

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