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Posts Tagged ‘God’s Promises’

Woman with piggy bank at rainy window

 

“Save for a rainy day,” financial experts advise.  And they’re right.  It is smart to have funds set aside in case of emergency.

But we would also be wise to save up for another kind of rainy day:

  • The day great disappointment shatters our joy
  • The day the doctor begins a consult by saying, “I’m terribly sorry, but…”
  • The day a loved one calls with disturbing news

What could we possibly save up that would help in such circumstances?

Consider: monetary deposits in a bank account insulate us against financial emergencies.

Similarly, we can make faith-statement deposits into our soul-accounts, to insulate us against life’s emergencies.  A healthy soul-account offers peace of mind, confidence, and a sense of well-being.

The most valuable faith statements are those straight from scripture, since the Bible is our source of truth.

Statements such as these are worthy starting points:

  • God is with me, even in the midst of trial.

“Those who know Your name will trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You” (Psalm 9:10).

  • God is my stronghold in time of trouble, offering help and deliverance.

“The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble.  The Lord helps them and delivers them” (Psalm 37:39-40).

  • He will supply all my needs.

“My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

 

Sometimes God makes deposits in our soul-accounts through other reading.  Here are a few examples I’ve collected:

  • “God makes good things out of the hard times.” – Erica Hale
  • “Difficulties are sent to make us grow. Move from complaining to proclaiming what God is doing through the problem. Remind yourself, for every Calvary, there is an Easter.” – Barbara Johnson
  • “When we understand that life is not about us, we learn to overlook the trivial and fix our gaze on the eternal. What is an offense compared to His love? What is a rejection compared to His unconditional acceptance? What is a momentary trial compared to an eternity with Him?” – Emmanuelle Gomez

 

Faith statement deposits also come through experiences, such as:

  • The spontaneous hug of a good friend who knows of our struggles. That’s God’s way of assuring us…

…We are not alone.

  • An answered prayer—and the answer is far beyond what we asked for. That’s God’s way of showing us…

…His love and blessing never fail, even in the midst of difficulty.

  • A transformed spirit through worship.  Worry becomes faith. Fear becomes courage. Depression becomes gladness. That proves…

…The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 4:8).

 

Faith-statements, deposited in our souls even before we have need of them, provide a deep, sweet sense of security.

When difficulties arise, and the time comes to make withdrawals, we can praise God for each truth. Praise will fill our hearts with song and drown out the voices of worry and fear.

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Your faithfulness, O God, is unwavering and unfailing.   Oh, how I want to be faithful to you, especially during difficult circumstances.  You have provided the tools.  I praise you for the deposits your Spirit makes into my soul account, offering solace, perspective, strength, and wisdom.   Help me to avail myself of your gracious provision.  

 

(Photo credit:  www.dailyfinance.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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jeremiah-3133_3733_1600x1200

 

 

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.

 

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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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(This is the last new post until July 3.  As most of you know, Steve is retiring from the pastorate, after serving forty years in Florida.  Mid-June we move to the Midwest, to be close to our sons.  And if our daughter and her family would just move east from Washington State, life would be near-perfect!

Packing and unpacking are time-consuming tasks, as you know, so I’ll put the blog on hold for a few weeks.

But please continue to visit!  I’ll re-blog some previous posts, and hopefully you’ll find them meaningful again, or perhaps for the first time.)

 

TODAY’S POST

 

True or False:

 God will do the right thing at the right time.

–Max Lucado

 

We believe that’s true, right?  We can even find scripture to back up that statement:

“I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge uprightly” (Psalm 75:2).

Never in a million years would we say, “This statement is false. God can’t be trusted to do the right thing!”

But we do sometimes wonder why our ideas of the right thing don’t seem to match his idea.

And we do unabashedly wonder about his idea of right timing.

We also wonder why there’s not even a hint of progress toward that right thing we desire. We wonder why God is silent.

 

Wondering

 

But God’s silence is not like that of people.   He doesn’t give us the silent treatment in some petty game of payback. And it’s not a case of forgetfulness either.

More than likely God is working on other matters rather than that one we’re focused on– other matters such as perseverance, faith, and spiritual maturity. These character traits and others don’t grow so well if we’re always getting what we want when we want it.

We can rest assured there is purpose in the pause.

And just knowing that can ease our impatience.

Something else that’s important to know, too:

There’s really no such thing as silence with God, because we always have his Word, chock full of glorious promises and encouragement.  And it’s always available.  (I’m assuming you have an iPhone or computer–you’re reading this post; therefore you have access to a Bible–even if it’s online!)

One of my favorite promises is Isaiah 65:24.

 

Unknown

 

(“Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear.”)

And one more, also from Isaiah:

“I will accomplish all my purpose” (46:10b).

God is not only working in our behalf now, he foresaw our need and began working toward its fulfillment before we uttered the first prayer. He started arranging events and bringing together people and resources so that at just the right time the right thing will happen.

Notice the “I will” in each of those verses above. Isaiah did not record God’s good intentions. These are promises of the Almighty God of the universe, our always-truthful, always trustworthy Heavenly Father.

WHY DO I WONDER?!

 

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I praise you, Heavenly Father, for being reliable and trustworthy. I can’t imagine life without you as my foundation. Thank you for every promise in your Word that gives me support. Once again, I avail myself to your plan, so you can do the right thing at the right time—without the interference of my impatience or doubt!

 

(Art and photo credits:  www.kemingshen.com , http://www.brendaboen.blogspot.com.)

 

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(“In all your ways acknowledge [God] and he will make your paths straight.” — Proverbs 3:6, NIV)

M-m-m.  God will make my paths straight? Sounds as if he is promising a life of ease on a flat, straight course. Smooth transitions from Point A to Point B.

But I know God doesn’t work that way. Life on Easy Street can result in laziness and worthlessness.

In checking other translations of the Bible, I discovered fresh insights for this familiar verse.

Berkeley says, “He will direct your paths.”

The Douay-Rheims Bible presents a nuance of difference: “He will direct thy steps.”

New Living Translation, “He will show you what path to take.”

Holman Christian Standard Bible, “He will guide you on the right paths.”

And my personal favorite: “He’s the one who will keep you on track” – The Message.

I wonder if I could compose my own amplified version, combining all these translations? Something like: “He will direct my steps along the path that he knows is right and keep me on track.”

How glorious that our Heavenly Father cares enough to guide us so attentively. What a relief to know…

…we can trust the One who knows us  better than we know ourselves. After all, God made us.   He can be trusted to choose just the right path for each of us. “He will teach [us] his ways, so that [we] may walk in his paths” (Isaiah 2:3).

…we don’t have to direct our own steps. In fact, “It is not for man to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). How wonderful to depend on God, who can see into the future. We certainly can’t!

…He won’t just set us off in the right direction, then leave us to our own devices. He will remain by our side, providing guidance all along the way.  Our God is all-wise; we are not.

I’m remembering a visit to the Governor’s Palace in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. In back of the large home is a labyrinth of boxwood bushes, replicating the maze that was first constructed there hundreds of years ago. Children and adults alike find it hard to resist the challenge, including me.

 

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Oh, my. With my lousy sense of direction, I became hopelessly lost. Every time I thought the next corner would be the way out, a wall of greenery would greet me. What I needed was somebody with a bird’s-eye view of the path who could tell me which way to turn.

That’s exactly what we have in our Heavenly Father.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” (Isaiah 30:21).

And we’re talking about much more important matters than a labyrinth of bushes! We’re talking about:

  • Day-to-day choices that form our character
  • Decisions that impact our influence upon those around us
  • Selections of what church to attend, what friendships to cultivate, what activities to pursue, and more
  • Guidance for those unexpected twists and turns of life

In all these ways, “He will direct our steps along the path that he knows is right and keep us on track.”

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Oh, Lord, help me to look up toward you—often! I want to walk the right path you have chosen for me, with confidence and strength, because I am trusting in you. May I turn my thoughts to you and your Word continually—so I can receive frequent instruction. And thank you for walking with me, offering support and encouragement, every step of the way. “Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul” (Psalm 143:8b).

 

(Photo credits:  www.rockchurchofindia.org; http://www.colonialwilliamsburg.photochelter.com.)

 

 

 

 

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The place:  Spindletop, Texas.

The time:  1892

A group of five investors formed the Gladys City Oil Company.  Sulphur springs in the area gave them great hope that black gold lay beneath the surface, especially since gas seepages in the area would ignite if lit.

Soon the area was dotted with holes–holes that produced nothing.  Two investors pulled out.

A geologist was brought in.  More investors were convinced to take the risk.

Nine long, unproductive years went by, and  still no oil. That’s 3,285 days of discouragement, disappointment, and exhausting labor.  Yet those men would not give up.

Finally, on January 10, 1901, their long-held dreams were realized.  At the depth of 1,139 feet, the company struck oil.  And it wasn’t just a gurgling flow.  The discovery at Spindletop gave new meaning to the term, “gusher.”  The oil shot over one hundred feet into the air, spewing enough to fill 100,000 barrels a day.  It took nine days to get the well under control.  No oil field in the world, up to that time, had been so productive.

Lucas_gusher

I wonder what those men said to each other each morning, over those 3,000-plus days of working, learning, waiting, and wondering?  Surely their conversations included some positive uplift, or they would have quit.  Perhaps they made such comments as:

  • “If we don’t find oil, at least we can say we gave the effort everything we’ve got.  If we quit before all possibilities are tried?   That‘s failure.”
  • “All the signs indicate there is oil.  We cant quit!
  • “Today might be the day!”

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Just as oil is sometimes discovered by accident, so God’s blessings fall into our laps as glorious surprises. Other times,  God chooses to postpone a blessing while we dig our way through learning, working, waiting, and wondering–like the oil men of Spindletop, Texas.

How do we press on when circumstances look bleak, when common sense tells us to quit?

1.  Pray!  The key to knowing when to persevere and when to change direction is to spend time with God.  Ask him to make clear what the next step is.  Most likely he will not reveal the whole plan at once.  He rarely works that way, because it eliminates the faith factor.  Our moment-by-moment trust in him is too crucial to the abundant living he desires for us.

2.  Believe!  Dozens of promises in scripture probably apply to your situation and mine.  We can recite those promises–not as demands (“God, you said this, so I’m expecting you to do it.”) but as faith-builders.  (“God, you said this, and I know with you all things are possible.”)

3.  Fight!  Fight against discouragement with plenty of encouragement.  God is very creative in the ways he brings hope to our spirits.  Often it’s through Bible reading and other Christian material.  We must keep reading!  Sometimes it’s in a sermon or a song.  We must keep listening!

A friend or even a stranger can speak uplifting words that resonate in our hearts.  Sometimes it’s as if God is speaking directly.  One sign for me, that someone is speaking for God?  Goosebumps!  I can almost feel his light touch on my arm and his voice saying, “Pay attention to this, Nancy.”

Our God is a well of unending supply.  Whatever we need in this life, including wisdom, direction, and perseverance toward a goal, he will provide.  In fact, he will do whatever it takes for his praying, believing, fighting children to discover the oil of gladness, instead of mourning (over failure), a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

That’s one way our loving, supportive Heavenly Father displays his splendor (Isaiah 61:3).

(Photo credit:  www.en.wikipedia.org.)

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The holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day fills our senses with:

  • Sights of Christmas trees, candles, Santas, and angels.
  • Sounds of carols, from the light-hearted “Frosty the Snowman” to the heart-stirring “O Holy Night.”
  • Textures from prickly pine to plush velvet.
  • Aromas of cinnamon, spice, and gingerbread.
  • Tastes of iced sugar cookies and egg nog.

But the seasonal pleasures are over for another year.  And the uncertainties of our times—political, economical, as well as personal—that we set aside for a few weeks, are coming to the forefront again.  If we’re not careful, troublesome thoughts can raise our blood pressure and take away restful sleep!

What to do?  Take comfort in God’s Word.  “Great peace have they who love your law,” said the psalmist,” and nothing can make them stumble” (Psalm 119:165).  I suppose that would include uncertainties, don’t you?

Two verses have ministered to me lately, Romans 8:30-31:

“Those he [God] predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified, those he justified, he also glorified.  What then, shall we say in response to this?  If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Of course, those key words in the first sentence beg to be examined more closely.

Predestination has been the subject of entire books and sometimes causes controversy.  I like the way the Living Application Bible explains the concept, in a footnote to Ephesians 1:5.  “Predestined” means marked out beforehand.

God knew each of us and loved us before we were even born.  He provided the way of salvation so we could be in relationship with him.  That does not negate our responsibility to believe in Jesus, in order to bring to pass God’s predetermined plan.

Called means we have been divinely summoned or invited.   Some Christians are divinely summoned for specific tasks.  Peter (John 21:15-17) and Paul (Acts 9:15) are perfect examples.

Most of us are called to love, obey, and serve God right where he’s placed us—in our homes, churches, business, schools, and neighborhoods.

Whatever our task, he cheers us on to work heartily because we’re doing it for him—to please him and bring him honor (Colossians 3:23-24).

And with his call comes hope, peace, joy, and blessing!

Justification is God’s way of making us right with him.  Out of his gracious love for us, he declares us “not guilty” for our sins. We deserve harsh punishment, but he treats us as righteous if we put our trust in Jesus.  Then the perfect sinlessness of God’s Son is credited to us  (Romans 3:22-25).

Imagine standing before a mighty king who’s dressed in elegant robes.  And there you are, wearing ragged, smelly clothes, staring at the floor, and wishing to be anywhere else but in this imposing throne room.

Suddenly the king’s words break through your embarrassment.  He’s calling for one of his son’s perfect robes to be brought for you.  He doesn’t just want to trade your rags for a  beautiful, pristine robe—he’s eager to do it!  And then, even more amazing, he welcomes you to his banquet table.

That’s justification—being treated as if we weren’t soiled by sin.  Being treated like  a royal son or daughter of the king, though it’s the last thing we deserve.

Full glorification  will occur when we arrive in heaven.  It refers to that moment when you and I will become like Christ (1 John 3:2.)  It is so certain, Paul uses past tense.  Our glorification is taken care of; it’s just a matter of when.

But the process has already begun.  Our glory—that is, anything that brings honor and praise to God—is developing day by day as we allow the Holy Spirit to have influence of our thoughts and choices.

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Now consider the magnitude of these four processes which God lovingly, even anxiously, works within us.  I like the way Ken Taylor expresses verse twenty-nine in The Living Bible:

 “Having chosen us, he called us to come to him; and when we came he declared us ‘not guilty,’ filled us with Christ’s goodness, gave us right standing with himself, and promised us his glory.”

 And last, in light of whatever you may be facing in 2014, please take comfort in these joyous words:

“What can we ever say to such wonderful things as these?  If God is on our side, who can ever be against us?” (Romans 8:30, The Living Bible).

 

 

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Before my friend, Elizabeth, even spoke, I knew something was wrong.  The slump of her shoulders, the wrinkled brow, the tears welling up in her eyes–they spoke loud and clear.

“You know how Michael and I would like to have a little brother or sister for Ashley,” my friend said, dabbing at her eyes with a Kleenex.  “Well, it’s become more than just a desire for me.  I so desperately want another child.”  Her voice became tight.  “The waiting and uncertainty are becoming unbearable.”

We stood together, in the emptying sanctuary after church, arms entwined.  And I prayed for Elizabeth and Michael.

Psalm 113:9, a verse which had ministered to me years before, came to mind.  I included the promise in my prayer:  “God, you’ve promised ‘to settle the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children.’  We are claiming that promise today for Michael and Elizabeth.  Even now we look forward to the day when they are holding a new, precious baby in their arms.”

Note the verse says children, not child.

The prayer came out of my mouth with certainty and brazen expectation, not in keeping with my cautious personality at all.  I have to admit, the thought crossed my mind, What if God intends for Elizabeth and Michael to have just one child?  You’ve gone way out on a limb with that prayer!

But I voiced no disclaimers, no caveats.  I let the prayer stand on its foundation of conviction–conviction that didn’t come from my spirit as much as from the Holy Spirit.

For the weeks that followed, I continued to pray that God would bless this couple with another child.

Weeks later, Elizabeth approached me once again.  Even before she spoke, I knew what she was going to say.  Her outspread arms, wide grin, and sparkling eyes spoke loud and clear.

“I’m pregnant!” she cried.

We hugged each other tight and noisily exclaimed our jubilation.

Would I have been as excited had I not been praying for this family?  Delighted, yes.  But jump-up-and-down-ecstatic?  Probably not.  My joy was greatly expanded because I had invested myself in the outcome—with the effort of prayer.

Yes, there are many reasons to pray, including these benefits:

  • Our wills are aligned to God’s will (Psalm 37:4).
  • Strength of character is developed through the discipline of perseverance (Luke 11:5-8).
  • We have the opportunity to bring glory to God (John 14:13).
  • Prayer is a means for fighting against evil (Ephesians 6:10-18, especially verse 18).

But the wonder of prayer, for me, is the privilege God gives us, to be part of the process, as he engineers circumstances to accomplish his will.

Every time God moves in situations for which we’ve prayed, he is giving us a precious gift:  the gift of participation with him–in a miracle.

Maybe two.

Michael and Elizabeth had twin girls!

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Heavenly Father, thank you for the splendid privilege of participating with you in the healing, protection, provision, and guidance with which you bless others.  May I never get tired of bringing my requests to you, knowing that the joyful conclusion will be worth every moment spent in prayer!

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Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith  -             By: Jon Bloom, John Piper

Imagine…

…the woman caught in adultery (John 8:2-11), walking home after her encounter with Jesus.  What must she have been thinking?

…Zacchaeus, the despised tax collector, coming to your door to return the money he owed you—plus four times more (Luke 19:1-10).  What would have been your reaction?

…how it felt to be Joseph Barsabbas, the candidate not chosen to replace Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:26). How might he have responded?

These are just three out of thirty-five scenarios Jon Bloom explores in his book, Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith (Crossway Books, 2013).    Indeed, they are fresh, creative takes on familiar Bible stories.

And although quite short, just three pages or so in length, each vignette still gives plenty of food for thought. I found them to be compelling, insightful, and instructive—encouraging my walk of faith.

One of my favorites is “Staying Faithful When Things Get Worse.”  Jon imagines what Joseph must have been thinking as a falsely accused prisoner in Egypt.  For at least twelve years he endured the hellish conditions and tormenting hopelessness.  Those should have been the best years of Joseph’s life—his youth.  Many would have said, “What a waste.”

 

Imagine year nine, Jon suggests.  Surely Joseph fought against depression and discouragement, even as he recited to himself the promises of God.  No doubt he reviewed in his mind the stories of his ancestors—Abraham, Isaac, and even those of his own father, Jacob.

Jon Bloom imagines Joseph affirming repeatedly that, just as God had been faithful to them, he would be faithful to Joseph.  Each patriarch had faced situations that seemed impossible.

Abraham and Sarah were much too old to have a child.

The older brother, Esau, would never serve his younger brother, Jacob–even if the age difference between twins was slight. That promise of God went against all tradition and logic.

Jacob was a poor runaway.  He couldn’t possibly become a wealthy herdsman.

But each man and his family had been blessed, just as God had promised.  Why?  They remained faithful.  Yes, they made mistakes and failed to obey God on occasion.  But they never turned their backs on him, even when circumstances turned bleak.

Jon Bloom also imagines Joseph reaffirming his faith in God and his willingness to wait for him to act.  Meanwhile, he would continue to honor God, even within prison walls.

As Jon brings the vignette to a close, he shares fresh application:

Even in the care of Almighty God, circumstances may get worse, not better.  “Faith in God’s future grace for us is what sustains us in those desperate moments,” Jon says.  Our hope is best placed in God, in his promises, and especially the assurance of eternal bliss in heaven yet to come.

Jon Bloom perfectly fulfills the role of a writer, as defined by Anais Nin, American author of the twentieth century:  “The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.”

Page after page, this is what Jon Bloom did for me.  No doubt he will do the same for you.

(Art Credits:  www.angieblattner.theworldrace.org ; www.illustrationartgallery.com )

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Years ago in my hometown, when the community pool was built, Dad often took my brother and me swimming.  I marveled at the way my father could slice the water with a smooth dive, roll over on his back, and float.  Without even moving his arms and legs, he could remain on top of the water.  Amazing!

When I tried it, I sank–immediately.

“Daddy!  Show me how to float!” I cried.

First, he helped me to lie flat-out on top of the water.  His hand gently supported the middle of my back.  And then Dad said the strangest thing.

“Now, relax.”

What?!  Every fiber of my being was tense.  I just knew that if I relaxed, my nose would instantly fill up with heavily chlorinated water.

But I trusted Dad.  He wouldn’t trick me into a catastrophe.  So I tried to relax.

Easier said than done.  Try as I might, my body would not relax.  My focus was more on the possibility of sinking than it was on the one thing that would keep me afloat.

“That’s OK,” Dad probably said.  “This is just your first try.  Keep practicing, and all of a sudden you’ll get the feel of it.  That’s how it happened for me.”

This experience came to mind as I read Charles Spurgeon’s comment on an excerpt from Isaiah 30:15.

First, the scripture-excerpt:  “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”

And now, the Spurgeon quote:  “We are sinking by our struggles when we might float by faith.”

But learning to relax in the spiritual realm is just as difficult as it was to relax on my back in that swimming pool.  It is so much easier said than done–at least for me.

Why is fretting and worrying my default mode?  It’s so pointless.  Resting in God is the only way to hope and peace (Psalm 62:5).

The big question is how.  How can I relax into quiet confidence that will be my strength, and keep me afloat?

Perhaps the answer is in that word practice.  As I reaffirm over and over God’s glorious attributes, as I review His wonderful promises, my focus will change and my spirit will learn how to rest.

What attributes might be wise to focus on?  King David included a number of them in his glorious psalm of thanksgiving, found in 1 Chronicles 16:8-36:

  • Power (vs. 9, 12, 14) – He is able to work wonders.
  • Integrity (v. 15) – He is totally trustworthy.
  • Holiness (v. 29) – He is absolutely pure and righteous, totally set apart from anyone else in the universe.
  • Goodness (v. 34) – His blessings to us are bountiful and frequently displayed.
  • Love (v. 34) – Not based on our paltry deeds, but on his kind and gracious nature.

And what promises would build my confidence?  Here are three for a good start:

  • “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless.  He is a shield for all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 18:30).
  • “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
  • “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.  These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them” (Isaiah 42:16).

Notice:  He promises protection, provision, and guidance.  Everything we might face is covered.

Thinking back to those summer days at the community pool, I’m reminded of two things that happen when we float:  1) Our eyes are focused upward.  2) Our ears cannot hear very well, situated as they are beneath the surface.  Noise is silenced.

Those two things need to happen in the spiritual realm if we’re to float by faith.  Our eyes need to be focused upward on our powerful, loving, promise-keeping God, and our ears need to be stopped to the voices of worry.

The former will undoubtedly take care of the latter.

(Photo credits:  www.sciforums.com ; www.dailyencouragement.net ; www.flickr.com ; www.confessionsofasmowflake.com )

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Back in the 1970s I saw Helen Hayes in a made-for-TV movie.  Some of you may recognize her.  She was known as the “First Lady of the American Theater,” beginning her career on Broadway in 1905, when she was only five years old.  In the 1930s, Helen expanded her stardom to films, and finally to television.

The reason she comes to mind now and then is the impression she made upon me, as an energetic, sparkly eyed senior citizen.  I remember thinking, “When I get old, I want to be like that!”

Poof.  Four decades have passed, and I am indeed getting old!  I don’t feel like it, but that doesn’t stop the incessant turning of the calendar pages.

So I was delighted to come across these verses from Psalm 92 that cast aging in a positive light:

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God.  They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him” (vs. 12-15).

Palm trees do indeed flourish, living up to 100 years.  Withstanding heat, drought, and high winds, these trees stand tall and strong; their leaves fresh and green all year long.

 

What a perfect picture of an energetic, sparkly eyed senior citizen! 

How do we achieve such age-defying qualities? 

First, notice that the righteous will flourish.  When our faith is grounded in God, when we follow his principles for a prosperous life, we flourish.

Like the palm tree that grows straight up toward heaven, the righteous reach for the God of heaven.  That’s how they’re able to stand strong through the winds of change and difficult circumstances.

The psalmist then continues:  “The righteous will…grow like a cedar of Lebanon.”

Majestic cedar trees grow to 120 feet in height and up to 30 feet in circumference.  They provide the perfect picture of a firm, stable person.  Just as the cedar’s roots go deep into the soil, so the righteous person is rooted and grounded in God’s love (Ephesians 3:17).  From those roots comes the nourishment needed to remain strong and spiritually healthy.

Second, notice where these trees are planted:  in the house of the Lord.  They flourish in the courts of our God.

Charles Spurgeon, that eloquent preacher and writer of the 1800s, had this to say about those who dwell in habitual fellowship with God:  “They shall become men [and women] of full growth, rich in grace, happy in experience, mighty in influence, honored and honorable.”  Now that sounds like a very satisfying way to live—so much better than the opposite!

Think of a complaining oldster whose mouth turns down from constant disgruntlement.  His bottom lip protrudes from perpetual pouting, and his brow is permanently lowered into a frown because anger often rules his emotions.  All this negativity has stunted the growth of his maturity.  He’s unhappy much of the time, and is not held in high regard by others.  Do you suppose he ever considers that his way of life is terribly unsatisfying?   

However!  When our lives are centered upon worship of God, as we express gratitude for his blessings, praise for his attributes, contentment for where he’s placed us, and joy in the midst of trials, we become those admirable men and women Dr. Spurgeon described above:  mature, gracious, and happy.

Dr. Spurgeon also added “mighty in influence and honored.  God rewards the righteous aged with “fruit.”  In other words, we may still bring glory to God by our words and actions—well into old age.

We can be:

  • Energetic—with the power of the Holy Spirit
  • sparkly-eyed—with the indwelling of God’s peace
  • grace-filled—with continual demonstrations of God’s love to others
  • joyful—with hearts focused on God’s blessings

These kinds of saints provide a powerful example of God’s faithfulness—through pleasant times and challenges, through plenty and want, year after year.

May we continue to grow deep and stand tall—all the days of our lives.

(photo credits:  www.pachd.com, www.captainkimo.com, www.forestertreeservice.com, www.centrifueleadership.com, www.seniors.ovetoknow.com)

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