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Posts Tagged ‘God’s Power’

 

During a former chapter of my life, I taught fourth grade language arts and social studies.

One of the reading strategies we emphasized was looking for Ah-HA Moments—places in a book where readers finally receive answers to the questions they’ve been asking—questions like:

  • Why is the main character doing that?
  • Who could be responsible for this situation?
  • How will the main character(s) solve this problem?

The quest for Ah-HA Moments helps keep readers engaged, aids comprehension, and adds more pleasure to the reading experience.

I took great delight in seeing my students internalize this strategy. Even during other subjects, I’d hear “Ah-HA!” now and then, as a student found the perfect verb for her writing or a history research-team discovered why the Erie Canal was abandoned.

Eons ago the apostle Paul desired Ah-HA Moments for his children—the spiritual offspring he’d led to faith in Jesus.

 

(“St. Paul” by Rembrandt, c. 1657)

 

In Ephesians 1:18, Paul prays that his readers would experience spiritual Ah-HA Moments.

No, you won’t find those exact words in any translation. What you will find is a statement with similar meaning:

 

“I pray that the eyes of your heart

may be enlightened” (NIV).

 

 

And then Paul chose to highlight three aspects of our Christian experience that can create those Ah-HA moments: 1) Our hope in Jesus, 2) The riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and 3) God’s incomparable power.

I wonder what Ah-HA Moments we might discover while meditating on each one?

Consider the following:

 

Hope

 

“Hope is the reality that is being constructed,

but is not yet visible.”

—William Stringfellow (emphasis added)

 

And just what does our reality-under-construction include?

  • God’s good work in us that is never-failing and never-ending (Philippians 1:6)
  • Peace and joy, because we hope in Jesus (Romans 15:13)
  • God’s delight in us—not when we’re finally perfectbut when we put our hope in him (Psalm 147:11)
  • Hope that translates into strength—especially strength to persevere (Isaiah 40:31)
  • Refinement, as the anticipation of Jesus’ return “acts as a purifying hope in our lives” (1 John 3:2-3 and Kay Arthur*)

 

 

Did any of those statements provide an Ah-HA Moment for you?

For me it was the third bullet point. God delights in me, simply because I hope in him. I don’t have to wait until I’m perfect to receive his approval.

 

The Riches of His Inheritance

 

Some Bible scholars believe Paul meant God’s inheritance in us.  

We are his treasured possession, adopted into his family when we accept Jesus into our lives (Deuteronomy 7:6; Galatians 3:29).

As such, he takes care of us, provides purpose for us, and even takes pleasure in us. He enjoys our company and looks forward to the day when we’ll all be together with him for eternity (Revelation 21:3).

 

 

 

Again, any Ah-HA Moments?

I, for one, am astounded to realize God treasures me—sinful and flawed as I am.

 

God’s Incomparable Power

 

Every one of us can relate stories of God’s miraculous work, as he’s provided, protected, and guided in ways beyond human explanation.

But sometimes he produces super-human perseverance, inner strength, and even joy through difficult circumstances.

The Christian who avails herself of God’s power is ready for both kinds of intervention. She knows that God will supply all her needs, including the wherewithal to turn every negative into a positive.

That last statement provides my final Ah-HA for this post; maybe for you too. We can find delight—in spite of distress—as we avail ourselves of God’s power.

 

Of course, these two verses from Ephesians aren’t the only places in scripture where we can experience Ah-HA Moments. In fact, we will never come to the end of them—for which I am very grateful.  You too?

 

“Nobody ever outgrows Scripture;

the book widens and deepens

with our years.”

–Charles Spurgeon

 

 

That’s especially true as we invite God to enlighten the eyes of our hearts—with Ah-HA moments.

 

*Kay Arthur, His Imprint, My Expression, p. 31.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.needpix.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com.

 

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“He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.”

–Psalm 104:5

 

The ancient psalm writer, with his limited knowledge of how the universe works, could only express what he observed: the earth remains stable. Perhaps he noticed we never veer too close or too far from the life-giving sun. And without knowing why, he knew who was responsible: God Almighty.

Now, after centuries of research, we can understand more clearly the reasons for our constant position in space.

 

Isaac Newton (1643-1727)

 

Isaac Newton was the first to surmise that the planets are held in place by the sun’s gravity.   Why?   The more massive an object, the more gravitational pull it produces. Since the sun is by far the largest entity in our solar system, it exerts the strongest pull.

But what keeps the planets and their moons from being drawn into the sun and consumed? Rotation. As the sun exerts pressure inward, the planets’ orbit around the sun pulls them outward. (Think of an object tied to the end of a string and spun in a circle.) Centrifugal force pulls the object outward. Perfect tension between these two forces keeps every celestial body in its place within the solar system.

 

 

And because earth’s foundations are never moved, life is sustained. Any closer to the sun and our glaciers would melt, causing sea levels to rise and massive coastal flooding to occur. More water surface on the globe would mean more heat absorption as well.

Just a minor move closer to the sun would cause drastic results.

On the other hand, if Earth were just a few million miles farther away from the sun, the reverse effects would occur. More ice would form, diminishing the oceans. Their function to absorb heat would be lessened. Colder oceans would not evaporate as quickly, causing less rain to fall.

Again, just a minor change would cause drastic results.

 

 

Now we know:  Our specific, firmly established distance from the sun is crucial to sustaining life.

But our foundations are unique in another regard. Planet Earth is tilted on its axis 23 ½ degrees. (How’s that for precise?)

 

 

The tilt keeps our overall temperature stable.   Each hemisphere, north and south, receives three months of greater sun exposure, creating warmth. They also receive three months of less sun exposure, bringing the temperature down.

If the world was not tilted at all, there would be no seasons. All points on the globe would retain the same temperature in July as in January—equatorial regions would remain intolerably hot; regions toward the poles would be unbearably cold.

 

 

Weather patterns would remain rather static, creating areas of high humidity and other locations of insufferable aridity. As a result, only the mid-latitudes–about half the planet– would be suitable for human habitation and favorable for cultivation.

With these facts in mind, I’m much more appreciative of that truth tucked into Psalm 104: “He set the earth on its foundations.”

Did you notice the psalmist used the plural form of foundation? Perhaps he spoke more truth than he realized.

The viability of Planet Earth rests on at least these three foundations described above: gravity, centrifugal force , and tilt.

 

 

Such precision, multiplied again and again throughout the universe, proves God has thought of everything to keep his creation functioning millennium after millennium.  And…

 

“Nothing under his control can ever be out of control.”

–Chuck Swindoll*

 

If he can perfectly orchestrate numerous factors, with absolute exactitude, in order to maintain life on this planet, he can certainly handle the less-complicated, smaller-scale aspects of my life and yours.

 

 

All that’s required of us is the application of one foundational principle:

Faith.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *    *     *     *

 

*from Intimacy with the Almighty

 

Sources:  https://spaceplace.nasa.gov/review/dr-marc-solar-system/planet-orbits.html and http://www.icr.org/article/planet-eart-plan-or-accident/

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.jpl.nasa.gov; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pxhere.com (2); http://www.canva.com.

 

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Numerous times in the Bible we’re reminded that the Lord is our strength. We’re promised that out of his infinite power he will supply the wherewithal to withstand any strain, force, or stress.

 

 

The question becomes, how do we avail ourselves of God’s glorious might?

The answer may lie in just three strategies: affirm, trust, and thank.

 

1) AFFIRM such scriptural realities as God’s sovereignty over all things, his power at work on our behalf, and his constant, loving presence to sustain us (1).

 

 

We can direct our thoughts toward the promises he’s made to help, guide, and protect (2). In fact, scripture contains dozens of promises that offer hope and encouragement for any situation, because:  “He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23 NIV).

 

 

Asserting biblical truth hour by hour, even moment by moment, results in spiritual strength, much as repetitive moves with weights build physical strength.

Also beneficial to affirm: what we’ve seen God do in the past. Has a surprise check arrived in the mail—almost to the penny of what was needed? Have you escaped a car collision by that much? Has the answer to a prayer far exceeded the request? God has granted such miracles in our family, too.

 

 

 

And that brings us to the second strategy, trust.

 

2) TRUST that the God of perfection will be true to his Word and keep his promises.

But when fretful thoughts do threaten, we can bring them before God with total honesty, just as King David did in the psalms (3). Next, we can return to the Affirm Strategy (above)—which David also embraced. Third, we simply do the next thing, refusing to worry about tomorrow.

 

 

And a trusting heart is a thankful heart.

 

3) THANK God at every opportunity. Even in the midst of trials, we can find joy:

  • In Him and all his glorious attributes
  • In his Word, where we find comfort and encouragement
  • In creation, with all his meticulous handiwork and grand displays
  • In the people around us, with their expressions of loving concern and help
  • Through the five senses, providing unlimited delight

And the joy of the Lord will be our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

 

 

These three strategies–affirming, trusting, and thanking—will enable us to move through each day with grace and a light spirit, just as a deer gracefully and lightly clears obstacles and scales rocky peaks, because:

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Oh, Lord, keep me mindful that no one is exempt from trouble in this sin-wracked world, but you rule supreme and will engineer good even from the worst of circumstances. Help me to be ever-conscious of the ways I can avail myself of your strength. And may I learn not just to withstand stressful times, but actually flourish in the midst of them.

 

 

Notes:

(1) 1 Chronicles 29:11-12; Isaiah 64:4; Deuteronomy 31:6

(2) Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 32:8 & 12:5b

(3) Psalm 10, 13, 31, and 102 offer examples of psalms that begin with lament and end with praise.

 

P.S. A personal update: Steve received his first chemo treatment this week to keep the cancer from growing and spreading to other organs as we wait for a liver transplant. The anti-cancer drug was applied directly to the tumors. We were warned he might experience pain, nausea, fever, and/or other side effects. But except for some discomfort and fatigue he has been fine. We continue to praise God for his faithfulness!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.christianqotes.info; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.brainyquote.com; http://www.quotefancy.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.brainquotes.org.)

 

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Ryan-Spirit-of-St-Louis

“Stay awake! Stay awake!” the pilot yelled at himself.

His little plane skimmed over the ocean, mere feet from the cresting waves. Another moment of dozing might have spelled disaster for the lone aviator.

The scare pumped adrenalin through his weary system. He pulled up out of danger, then banked the plane slightly so he could see ahead through the side window. There was no window facing forward, because an over-sized gas tank blocked any possible view.

Up ahead the young pilot saw towering storm clouds. He decided to guide the plane around the thunderhead. Earlier, he had tried to fly through a large cloud, but sleet began to collect on his plane. He was forced to turn around and get back to clear air immediately.

Once clear of the cloud bank, the pilot thought, Maybe I should eat something. He pulled out one of five sandwiches stored behind his chair. Very little else was packed into the tiny cockpit—no parachute, no radio, not even the usual leather pilot’s seat. He’d opted for a wicker chair, to keep the plane as light as possible.

The young man checked his watch. He had already been awake thirty-six hours and knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep for at least another twenty. The good news: his destination was closer now than his departure point. Of course, that also meant no turning back.

The little plane hummed along, bouncing a bit on the air currents. If any plane is well-suited for this journey, it’s this one.  And the pilot smiled, remembering the camaraderie of the design team, of which he had been a part.   With creativity and engineering prowess, they sought to solve every problem that might present itself during his long solo fight.

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The body of the plane was only 9 feet, 8 inches high, and 27 feet, 8 inches long. But the wingspan was longer than usual, to handle the weight of the extra-large fuel tank. Someone quipped the plane wasn’t much more than a propeller-driven fuel tank.

Yet another cloud bank loomed ahead. The pilot checked his compass, the only instrument he had brought aboard to steer by. It wasn’t working again. Magnetic storms from the North Pole interfered with its function.

So he chose to fly over this bank, skimming the tops of the clouds at 10,000 feet. Darkness enveloped him. There wasn’t even the glimmer of a crescent moon to guide his way. Only pinpoints of stars glinted in the black sky overhead—stars to guide his course.

The tiny plane seemed like a speck, hung in that immensity of space between sea and sky—a sea whose depths were beyond man’s reach, and infinite outer space, beyond human comprehension.  Inside the tiny plane was a man, smaller still. Any moment could be his last on earth.

The pilot grabbed his inflight journal and wrote:

“It is hard to be an agnostic up here…aware of the frailty of man’s devices, a part of the universe between its earth and stars. If one dies, all this goes on existing in a plan so perfectly balanced, so wonderfully simple, so incredibly complex that it’s far beyond our comprehension—worlds and moons revolving; planets orbiting on suns; suns flung with recklessness through space. There’s the infinite magnitude of the universe; there’s the infinite detail of its matter—the outer star, the inner atom. And man conscious of it all—a worldly audience to what—if not God.”

And just as David had proclaimed in Psalm 19:1-2, the young pilot heard in that moment “the heavens declare the glory of God”—as if all the heavenly bodies thundered praise for the Lord’s wisdom, splendor and power—to create such complexities on such a grand scale. Indeed, “the skies proclaim the work of his hands”—in the countless stars of immense proportions. “Day after day…night after night they display knowledge,” as they constantly revolve in the same precise order.

CFKNWtjW0AAWuOG.jpg-large

No one knows how long the young pilot contemplated God and his wonders.  We do know this:

Thirty-three hours after takeoff he landed his little aircraft, the Spirit of St. Louis. He had gone without sleep for fifty-five hours. But Charles Lindbergh had fulfilled his dream to be the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean–by plane.

The date: May 21, 1927. Eighty-eight years ago today.

“Lindbergh did it,” wrote Edwin James, for the New York Times. “Suddenly and softly there slipped out of the darkness [surrounding Paris], a gray-white airplane as 25,000 pairs of eyes strained toward it.”   Later the crowd would be estimated close to 100,000.

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When he returned to the States, Lindbergh was honored by a ticker-tape parade in New York City, attended by four million enthusiastic spectators.

bryson-ticker-tape_2699589b

But I wonder if his most precious memory of that world-changing event was the moment when his heart filled with wonder and he recorded those inspired thoughts in his journal. That was the point he profoundly understood in new ways God’s creative genius, his precise engineering, and powerful control of immense forces in the universe. That was when Lindbergh acknowledged God is the only One capable of producing such perfection.

Sources:  www.biography.com; http://www.charleslindbergh.com; Christmas, by Charles Allen and Charles Wallis, Revell, 1977; http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com; http://www.history.com.

(Photo credits:  www.fiddlersgreen.net; http://www.charleslindbergh.com; http://www.worshipinitiative.som; iconicphotos.wordpress.com; http://www.telegraph.co.uk.)

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a84324051bff03eaec8e389c6eb02608

Slow, somber music faded away.  All lights were extinguished, including the spot on the cave-like tomb, stage left.

Black silence enveloped us for several moments as the burial scene concluded, a dramatic part of the Easter musical production at our church.

In a hushed voice, the narrator picked up the story.  He explained that when Sunday morning came, women went to the tomb. We, the audience, could see them approaching from stage right, talking among themselves.

They peered into the tomb, and cried out as they discovered the body of Jesus was gone. No sooner did they begin to question what might have happened, than an angel suddenly appeared next to them.  I don’t mean, “walked up and joined them.”  No.  One moment that angel was nonexistent; the next moment there he stood, gleaming brightly.

How did the stage crew create such a startling scene? They used a scrim, a large sheet of gauzy fabric, behind the back of the tomb. When the tomb was lit from the front, everything behind the scrim was invisible. When the spotlight behind the scrim came up, suddenly the audience could see the angel.

That scrim-effect made me think: we live with a virtual scrim in front of us every day. We cannot see what God has planned for us in the future. Events of tomorrow—even this afternoon—are blocked from us by black silence. In his infinite wisdom God has determined that’s the best way for us to live.

But! Sometimes we’re able to look back to see behind the scrim, and note how God orchestrated events for our benefit.

I’m remembering a particularly difficult move years ago. We were leaving a much-loved church where my husband had pastored for six years, and beginning a new ministry across-state.

My personal challenge would be obtaining a teaching position in our new locale, at a time when there were more teachers than positions available.

But look what God did:

First, he “introduced” me to Diane, a delightful young woman—also a teacher. Her parents were members of our new church. Diane actually attended elsewhere, but every now and then would join her parents on a Sunday morning. She visited shortly after our arrival.

Second, God urged Diane to offer help with our unpacking. We spent a delightful morning emptying boxes and organizing various items while getting acquainted. I learned that she taught at a small private school, with just two classes at each grade level. The school was close by, too—only four minutes away. Diane suggested she submit my name for the substitute list. I told her, “Yes!”

Third, God created many substitute opportunities for me at Diane’s school, but fulltime employment seemed unlikely. No one was close to retirement; no one was moving. Meanwhile I applied at public schools within a reasonable commute of our home.

But in April, without even an interview, God prompted the headmaster at the private school to offer me a position. One of the fourth grade teachers had just been elected mayor. Trying to fulfill those responsibilities and teach was more than she wanted to tackle.

I started the following August, which gave me the entire summer to prepare. My classroom was right next door to Diane’s.

When that job opportunity opened up, it was as if the spotlight turned on behind the scrim. Suddenly I could see how God had carefully arranged the whole sequence of events.  My disappointment over leaving our previous home and church turned into a God-ordained appointment at that private school, one that lasted twenty-two years.

“Never underestimate what a redeeming God can do, “ says Karol Ladd.*

And keep your eye on that scrim, for the glorious moment when you can see how he’s been orchestrating events for your benefit (Jeremiah 29:11).

 

*from Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive by Karol Ladd, Howard Books, 2009.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

When have you glimpsed behind the scrim of your life?  What events has God orchestrated for your benefit?  Share with us your story in the comments below!

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 cartoon-little-green-men-5535229

 

I was talking to a few aliens the other day–little green guys from outer space–trying to explain some earth-phenomena, since life in their galaxy is so different from ours.

First, a bit of background to explain what prompted the conversation.

Elena, our two-year old granddaughter, and I were exploring the church grounds across the street from her house.  She loves looking for treasures: sticks, stones, acorns, leaves, etc.

 

tumblr_ml0oqnNcYG1r68th6o1_1280

 

On this particular day I noticed the oak trees sporting chubby little buds. Another pair of trees were bursting with bud-clusters, ready to explode into bright pink finery.

Elena and I inspected the juvenile growth. I tried to explain what would soon happen. But with no remembrance of last spring, her understanding was no doubt very limited. I might as well be explaining this to an alien, I thought.

That’s when my imagination kicked in.

What if inhabitants from another galaxy did come to visit Earth? And what if they had never seen buds or seeds before?  Imagine trying to educate them on the process of germination…

“Now, inside this seed is the beginning of life. If we plant it in soil, making sure to choose a sunny spot, and we shower it with water when the weather doesn’t supply rain, it will grow into a plant, bush, or tree.”

They look at me with doubt in their big, round eyes.

“I know it seems impossible. The seed is just a small, lifeless speck.  But I can tell you, having seen it happen repeatedly, that’s what seeds do.”

So the little green guys and I plant the seed in a sunny spot and shower it with water.

A few moments later, one of them wants to dig it up to see the first signs of life.

“Oh, no,” I explain. “It takes time for the water to seep into the seed and for the miracle of germination to take place. But believe me. If we come back in a week or ten days, there will be a little green shoot coming up out of the soil in that very spot.”

 

Oak sapling

 

They like the idea of green, but shake their little round heads in disbelief.

I have to admit.  The progression of tiny seeds to plants, much less tall trees, does sound ludicrous.

And yet that’s exactly what God does.

Sometimes our lives resemble brown, lifeless seeds. There is no sign of hope that circumstances might change for the better.

Sometimes we think it’s too late for a reversal of destiny. It seems our best, productive years are behind us.

Not so fast.

Consider George*, our friend who has retired.  Twice. During his first career, George worked his way up in law enforcement to chief of police; his second career, associate pastor. Ten years or so later, he and his wife moved north to be near family.  When the boxes were unpacked and the pictures hung on the walls, George sat down and thought, Now what? I’m not ready to park on the porch and drink iced tea. What can I do, Lord?

No immediate answer.

 

four-men-walking-on-a-golf-course

 

One day George went golfing with his brother-in-law. They were paired with two more men at the course, to make a foursome. One just happened to be a high-ranking officer on the police force. As George and Tom* became acquainted, Tom expressed how they needed a chaplain on the force to minister to the officers. Stress was high, their jobs becoming more and more difficult as the years passed.

George’s heart started beating faster. A chaplain to police? Could this be the answer to his prayer? It would almost be like a merger of his first two careers into one challenging and fulfilling third career.

Yes, it was. For the next five or six years, George served as chaplain of police in his new community, impacting hundreds of lives in the name of Jesus.

We’ve all known people whose circumstances looked as promising as brown, lifeless seeds. Yet God caused miraculous change, and the lives of those folks burgeoned into glorious fruitfulness.

We can learn like those little aliens of my imagination. We can feed our hope by feasting on the miraculous springtime evidence around us. We can wait with confident expectation for the fulfillment of God’s plan.

And if hope seems all but gone, we can cling to the Source of hope.

 

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(“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”–Romans 15:13.)

 

*Names have been changed.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.dreamstime.com; http://www.brilliantbotany.com; http://www.imagkid.com; http://www.allposters.fr.; http://www.slideteam.net.)

 

 

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life-is-not-fair

 

“Here’s something that happens all the time and makes no sense at all: Good people get what’s coming to the wicked, and bad people get what’s coming to the good. I tell you, this makes no sense.”

Haven’t we all said or at least heard comments such as these? We know it’s true: life is not fair. But knowing the fact and accepting it are two different responses.

That quote up above came from a guy who had it all—fame, wealth, and power. If anyone could claim that life had been fair to him, it was this guy. Yet in spite of the veneer of an enchanted life, he, too, experienced disappointment and confusion.

What was his name? King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. Those sentiments of his at the beginning of the post come from Ecclesiastes 8:14, as interpreted in The Message.

No doubt you’ve experienced your share of disappointment and confusion, too. Perhaps you’re floundering right now, desperately in need of a handhold to keep you from falling.

Selwyn Hughes, that wise, Welsh pastor from a generation ago, recommends we fight uncertainty with certainties.

Certainties would include truths from scripture that apply to our situations. Truths that we can hold tightly in our hearts, such as:

  1. God is in control over the difficulties as well as the blessings. Yes, he could rescue us from trouble in an instant. But in his infinite, all-knowing wisdom, he has chosen not to. The reasons why may never be revealed. What we do know is this: God never acts or (withholds action) without purpose.

 Think of Joseph, a poster-child for unfair treatment. Yet, to the brothers who sold him into slavery, he said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).

Joseph-brothers-reunited

God brings good out of all things—even the problems, hurts, and pain (Romans 8:28).

  1. God has you in his mighty hand—mighty in power (Psalm 89:13), mighty to save (Zephaniah 3:17), mighty in deed (Jeremiah 32:19).
  1. Out of his infinite might, God will provide strength to get us through. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
  1. Even as we plod through adversity, “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him” (Lamentations 3:25). That goodness includes his comforting presence, his provision, his blessings in the midst of difficulty, and more.

King Solomon also observed:

“The good life is reserved to the person who fears God, who lives reverently in his presence,…the evil person will not experience a “good” life. No matter how many days he lives, they’ll all be as flat and colorless as a shadow—because he doesn’t fear God” (Ecclesiastes 8:12-13, The Message).

 In other words, life with God is far superior to life without God–no matter what.

These certainties are just a few God has graciously provided in his Word that can be applied when uncertainty threatens. But if you’re like me, simply reading them doesn’t help for very long. “Out of sight, out of mind” happens frequently.

Perhaps we can make the most of God’s promises by:

  • Keeping a list, particularly those that apply specifically to our situations. As the list grows, so will our faith.
  • Copy especially meaningful promises on Post-Its and tuck them in unlikely places. When we spot them they’ll provide a pleasant surprise and uplift. Possibilities include: inside a cabinet door, on the coffee container, on the dashboard. Move them every week to keep the surprise (and uplift) fresh.
  • Memorize promises while doing mindless tasks like washing the dishes, waiting at red lights, taking a walk. Soon you’ll be able to pray the promises back to God—anytime, anyplace–to bolster your spirit and strengthen your faith.

 

 Rainbow

 

Let’s stand on the certainties of scripture and God’s promises because:

 

“To stand is more important than to understand”

(Selwyn Hughes, Every Day Light, Broadman and Holman, p. 215).

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the handholds in scripture, the truths and promises that help us keep our balance, so we can stand in the midst of adversity. Although I do not understand why troubles and heartache sometimes attack, I do understand that you are unequivocally reliable and you will see us through. I praise you, for you are the strength of my heart (Psalm 73:26b).

(Photo & art credits:  www.mygratitudelife.wordpress.com; http://www.ncbv.org; http://www.sjeciowa.org.)

   

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 QE2-South_Queensferry

Pretend you’re on an ocean liner that has embarked from New York City and is sailing to England.   You and several thousand other passengers enjoy your days at sea, free to choose from dozens of activities—games, shopping, shows, sports, crafts, and more. You can eat anytime you like, sleep whenever you feel drowsy, make friends among the other passengers, or remain solitary. In other words, you make many choices during the voyage, but all the while the ship is headed towards its predetermined destination.

A.W. Tozer gave us this illustration in his classic, The Knowledge of the Holy (Harper & Brothers, 1961), to help us understand God’s sovereignty: 1) Our all-powerful God has total authority in the universe, just as the shipping authorities exercise sovereignty over the course of a ship. 2) We have been given much freedom, within the confines of God’s sovereignty, to move about and make choices.

Now some folks take issue with God’s control. They want to direct the course of their life-ships.  I, for one, find great comfort in the numerous, reassuring scriptures about God’s sovereignty.

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For example, everything in heaven and earth belongs to Him. He is the glorious head over all, the ruler of all things (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). That includes us–those who know Jesus and belong to the family of God. As our Heavenly Father, he provides for our needs, guides us through decisions, bestows many blessings, and more. What encouraging truth! The Almighty God of the universe is in charge of our lives, as we submit to him. We don’t have to navigate alone.

The key, however, is submission. God is a gentleman and will not force himself upon us. He has chosen to limit his sovereignty, to allow man free choice.

Another reassuring truth: God is totally competent. We’ve all known inept leaders who could not fulfill their responsibilities. But our Ruler is supremely capable.  Nothing is too hard for him (Jeremiah 32:17).  As we focus on his complete sufficiency, our worries shrink in significance.

In addition, no plan of God’s can be thwarted (Job 42:2).   What God says, happens.

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His sovereign plan is efficient and goal-oriented. He works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his perfect plan (Ephesians 1:11).

God’s sovereignty is also employed with infinite wisdom (Job 12:13).  No foolish decisions come from God’s throne!

And contrary to appearances, he does maintain over-arching rule on mankind (Jeremiah 32:27). That would include the barbaric Babylonians of Jeremiah’s day, who destroyed Jerusalem, murdered the nobles of Judah, and took thousands of Jewish captives to Babylon.  God’s over-arching rule also applies to the wicked forces creating havoc in our day.

Good people are often hurt in the process, and it breaks our hearts.   Every century has had its martyrs for the faith. And our questions of why God allows bad things to happen to good people don’t always get answered. We’re not privy to everything God knows or to all the reasons behind his decisions (Romans 11:33-36).

What we do know is this: Evil never wins in the end. Every evil empire of history that rose in prominence and power eventually fell in ruin. Our sovereign God knows what he is doing. He will have the last word.

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So when the squeaky wheels of worry, doubt, or fear begin to spin in your head, and you wonder, Is God in control?, apply the oil of gladness in who God is—our all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise, and yes, in-control God!

Take joy in the knowledge that “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31)?

And rest in the affirmation that “from him and through him and to him are all things” (Romans 11:36, emphasis added).

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Sovereign Lord of the universe, we bow in worshipful wonder of your magnificence. Your greatness shatters all boundaries! We stand in awe of your vast power and infinite wisdom, always at work in the world.

“And when I cannot understand” [your plan or your ways], “help me just to stand” (Selwyn Hughes).

(Art & photo credits:  www.en.wikipedia.org; http://www.verseoftheday.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.spiritualinpsiration.tumblr.com.)

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(In honor of Black History Month)

 

Isabella, the daughter of James and Elizabeth Baumfree, was born a slave in New York state about 1797. No one knows the exact date, because birth records weren’t kept for “property.”

Did her parents know the name means, “consecrated to God?” Even if they chose the name for its meaning, those parents could not have dreamed of the future awaiting their Baby Belle.

Her early years were difficult.  Belle was sold five times, several times to cruel masters.

At age eighteen or so, Belle fell in love with Robert, a young slave from a nearby farm. The couple had a daughter. But Belle’s master, John Dumont, forbade her to see Robert again. According to the law, all children of the union would belong to Robert’s master, not Dumont.

Two years later, Dumont forced Belle to marry an older slave. They had three children: Peter, Elizabeth, and Sophia.

In 1826, Belle escaped the Dumont farm with Baby Sophia. In a vision, God showed her a particular home to go to. That home belonged to a Quaker family, the Wageners, who took in the young woman and her baby. They even paid Belle’s price to Dumont and made her a free woman. Belle became a housekeeper, then a maid.

Shortly after her escape from slavery, Belle learned that her five-year old son, Peter, had been illegally sold in Alabama. She took the matter to court and won her case. Peter was returned to New York. That was the first time a black woman challenged a white man in a U.S. court. It was also the first time of many that Belle’s resolve and courage were put on display.

Several years later Belle was falsely accused of poisoning her former employer. In 1835 she took that case to court and won again.

Someone must have encouraged Belle to tell her story of being a slave and becoming a free woman. But she had never learned to read or write, so a friend wrote as Belle dictated. A Northern Slave was published in 1850.

In her book, Belle explained that several years after she was freed, God revealed himself to her, “with all the suddenness of a flash of lightning, showing her, in the twinkling of an eye, that he was all over, that he pervaded the universe, and that there was no place where God was not.”

The book sold many copies and Belle became well-known. She was asked to speak at a women’s rights convention in Massachusetts. Before long, Belle was traveling with abolitionist, George Thompson, speaking against slavery and for human rights.

In 1851, Belle gave a speech at another women’s conference, this time in Ohio. She spoke convincingly (and extemporaneously) about women being every bit as capable as a man:

“I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed, and can any man do more than that?”

And, no doubt with a twinkle in her eye, she added:

“As for intellect, all I can say is, if a woman have a pint, and a man a quart — why can’t she have her little pint full? You need not be afraid to give us our rights for fear we will take too much, for we can’t take more than our pint’ll hold. The poor men seems to be all in confusion, and don’t know what to do. Why children, if you have woman’s rights, give it to her and you will feel better. You will have your own rights, and they won’t be so much trouble.”

She concluded by asking: “And how came Jesus into the world? Through God who created him and the woman who bore him. Man, where was your part?”

It’s not surprising that some were displeased with Belle’s speeches. One time she was told that the building where she was to preach would be burned down if she dared to speak. “Then I will speak to the ashes,” she replied.

Belle was also physically assaulted. One brutal attack caused permanent injury, and she had to walk with a cane for the rest of her life.

In 1863, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote an article about Belle for the Atlantic Monthly:

“I do not recollect ever to have been conversant with anyone who had more of that silent and subtle power which we call personal presence…She seemed perfectly self-possessed and at her ease. An audience was what she wanted—it mattered not whether high or low, learned or ignorant. She had things to say, and was ready to say them at all times, and to anyone.”

Imagine. A slave woman who never had the opportunity to go to school, never learned to read or write. Yet the power of her spoken word helped bring the end of slavery and pave the way for women to be granted the right to vote.

Belle proved:

“There is no difficulty that cannot be defeated.

There is no victory that cannot be achieved,

if you believe in the power of God!”

— Anonymous

Of course, by the time she achieved notoriety, Belle was known by another name.

You see, Belle had asked God for a new name several decades before the Civil War. Again, it was the result of a vision. She said God chose her new first name based on the fact she would travel. Then Belle asked God for a second name, “’cause everybody has two names.” And the Lord granted her request. Her second name proclaimed what Belle always declared from her podium.

Perhaps you remember Sojourner Truth.

 

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(Photo from http://www.wikipedia.org.)

 

Sources:  www.biography.com; http://www.sojournertruth.org; http://www.; http://www.blackpast.org; http://www.americanswhotellthetruth.org; http://www.christianitytoday.com.)

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Back in the 1970s somebody came up with the idea of worry stones—small, smooth pebbles that people could rub between their fingers to release their worries. (What a great money-maker, huh?  Collect some free pebbles, clean ’em up and sell for 100% profit.  Genius.)

According to enthusiasts, the constant rubbing activates the nerves at the base of the thumb, releasing endorphins. As a result, a sense of calmness purportedly settles in the user’s mind.

Even if that’s true, what happens when the person stops rubbing? Since the worry has not been resolved; isn’t it likely to return? I can’t see myself rubbing a stone until I fall asleep at night, can you?

Here’s a better idea.  Instead of going to a small pebble for worry-relief, go to the Rock.

What Rock, you ask?

“There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God” (1 Samuel 2:2).

Next question:  Why go to the Rock?

1.  God our Rock is more stable and reliable than Gibraltar.

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The Rock of Gibraltar has become a symbol for stability, having stood sentry on the southern coast of Spain for centuries. Some say it dates back to the Jurassic Period.

But our God is older still, isn’t he.

“Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord is the Rock eternal” (Isaiah 26:4).

And he is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  Now that’s reliable.

2.  God our Rock is more sheltering than a deep cave.

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(Verteba Cave, Ukraine)

During World War II, a small group of Ukrainian Jews found a way to escape the Nazis. They lived underground in caves for a year and a half.

At night they foraged for food. They even built showers and latrines deep inside.

But imagine living every day in pitch blackness and in fear of being discovered.

One day it happened. Nazi soldiers stumbled upon their hiding place. A courageous woman spoke for the group, as German guns pointed straight at her.

“What are you afraid of here?” she said. “Is the Furhrer going to lose the war because we live here?” Miraculously the soldiers left without doing anyone harm.

The band of Jewish villagers found relative safety in those caves,  and in April, 1944, the cave dwellers were liberated, able to return to the light.

But God our Rock offers guaranteed eternal safety for our souls. His Son, Jesus “became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9)

3.  God our Rock is more protective than Masada.

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Perhaps you’re familiar with the mountaintop fortress, towering 1500 ft. above the Dead Sea.   The refuge was built by Herod the Great, from 37 to 31 B.C., to showcase his power.

Infamous for his brutality, Herod had good cause to be paranoid. He spared no expense to make sure this desert fortress could withstand attack and provide long-term refuge. His plan included protective casement walls, an ingenious water-collection system and cisterns for storage, storehouses, barracks, palaces, an armory and more.

Impregnable? Almost.

When Herod died, Jewish rebels were able to overtake the Roman guard remaining at the fortress. A thousand Jewish zealots lived atop Masada for three years.

Yet nothing or no one on earth can compare to God our Rock.

“Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I,” cried David. “For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe” (Psalm 61:2-3).

And how do we avail ourselves of God’s refuge?  Through gratitude, praise, and prayer.  We can:

  • Thank him for his promises, for the times he has protected and provided in the past.  We must feed our confidence in God rather than our fear.
  • Praise him for his glorious attributes that he is bringing to bear upon our situations–attributes such as power, wisdom, trustworthiness, and love.
  • Affirm our faith. If we occupy our minds with expressions of trust, there won’t be room for thoughts of worry.

“My soul finds rest in God alone;

my salvation comes from him.  

He alone is my rock and my salvation;

he is my fortress, I will never be shaken…

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;

my hope comes from him”

(Psalm 62:1-2, 5).

(Photo credits:  www.ehow.com; http://www.kids.brittanica.com; http://www.noplaceonearthfilm.com; http://www.masada.org.il.)

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