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Posts Tagged ‘God’s Strength’


Mayflower_compact

 

They had been at sea for sixty-six days, enduring overcrowded conditions. Storms had caused damage to their ship and sea sickness plagued them all– passengers and crew alike. Meager provisions and no heat on chilly autumn days caused further discomfort.

So on November 9, 1620, when they finally saw the coastline of North America in the distance, the Pilgrims and others aboard the Mayflower must have cheered enthusiastically. Soon they could abandon the cramped, cold, and fetid ship and begin new lives in a new world.

But. All had not been peaceful and congenial among the passengers during the crossing. And when it became apparent the storms had blown them too far off course to land in the Virginia Colony as planned, relations deteriorated further.

Not all of the travelers were Pilgrims. Also aboard were merchants, craftsmen, skilled workers, and indentured servants. The Pilgrims called them “strangers.”

No sooner had the decision been made to anchor off Cape Cod, than an argument ensued. Several of the “strangers” pointed out that, since they were not going to be under the jurisdiction of the Virginia Company, they would “use their own libertie” and do as they pleased. “None had the power to command them, they said.” (Quoted words are from William Bradford’s records. He served as historian for the Pilgrims.)

To avoid anarchy, five men gathered in the cabin of the ship to create a basis for law and order. The result of their efforts: the Mayflower Compact.

The first words of the document give strong indication of the Pilgrims’ hearts.

In the name of God, Amen.

“Everything they did started with God” (The Founders’ Bible, p. 187).

Next, the Pilgrims stated their purpose for coming to America.

We, whose names are underwritten,…by the grace of God,…having undertaken for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our King and country…

Several phrases indicate the Pilgrims’ desires for their new colony:

  • “For the glory of God” would be a guide for all manner of decisions.
  • “Advancement of the Christian faith” would encourage them to remain strong in Christian faith among themselves and to introduce others to Jesus.
  • “Honor of our King and country” indicates their loyalty to native England and its monarch, in spite of his untoward actions that caused their flight to America in the first place.

…[We] do solemnly and mutually in the presence God and of one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic…

The Mayflower Compact expressed their commitment to live together in a civil manner, in the sight of God.

[We] will enact…such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.” 

Note:  there is no mention of a leader who would oversee the colony. The Pilgrims created a democratic, representative form of government, in covenant with one another, rather than by a monarchy or dictatorship.

It was the first document of its kind in the history of the world.

But the Mayflower Compact would only be as good as the commitment of Pilgrims and Strangers alike to abide by its guidelines.

Would the mutinous Strangers sign?

John Carver, church deacon and one of the organizers of the voyage, was the first to affix his signature. Other Pilgrims followed.

One book says there was a long pause. Then Captain Myles Standish stepped forward to sign. Standish had been hired by the Pilgrims to be their military captain; he was with them, but not one of them.

Soon other Strangers followed Standish’s example.  In total, forty-one signatures appeared on the document. One freeman, two hired men and seven servants declined.

At long last, Pilgrims, Strangers, and crew were able to disembark. And what did they choose to do first?

Pray.

According to Bradford, they “blessed the God of heaven, who had brought them over the fast and furious ocean..and a sea of troubles before.” Then he quoted scripture:

“Let them therefore praise the Lord, because He is good and His mercies endure forever.” (Psalm 106:1).

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

We, too, praise you, Lord, for your goodness and mercy upon America all these years.  As we celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday, may we remember the solemn history behind this occasion.  Thank you for the supreme example and sacrifice of our Pilgrim forefathers–strong in faith, commitment, and perseverance.  May we follow their example, not only because you are faithful to the faithful (2 Samuel 22:26), but out of appreciation for what you, our loving God, have already done.

 

(Sources:  By These Words by Paul M. Angle; The Founders’ Bible; The Intellectual Devotional:  American History by David S. Kidder & Noah D. Oppenheim; The Rebirth of America;  http://www.learningtogive.org; http://www.humanities360.com; http://www.crf-usa.org; http://www.americanhistory.about.com; http://www.tparents.org; http://www.mrkash.com; http://www.mayflowerhistory.com; http://www.plimoth.org.)

 

Art credit:  www.washingtonmayflower.org.  

 

 

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desert

 

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.”

 

garden-waterfall-design

 

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.”

 

TotalChildCareVegetables7 

 

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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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.

igibrat001p4

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.

Verteba_Cave

(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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 frazzled-career-woman

 

Ever had a pending appointment you didn’t want to keep? A person you didn’t want to encounter? A task you didn’t want to complete?

Some days are filled with unpleasantries. And if I’m not careful, it’s an easy slide down into a gloomy funk.

How does that happen?

My thoughts provide the slippery slope…

What a lousy day this is going to be. I sure hope So-and-So is in a good mood for that meeting this afternoon. Last time he was as irritable as Oscar the Grouch. And while I’m looking forward to that (Ha-Ha!), look at this impossible to-do list. Talk about crazy. And then there’s our double-date tonight with that new couple from church. I am in no mood to be sociable. All I want to do is go home, put on my sweats, and park on the couch!

 Can you identify my problem here? I’m focusing on the negative. The solution is obvious: turn my thoughts to the positive.

But some days that is next to impossible. It’s as if the problems and challenges are shouting giants, jumping up and down, with arms waving no less. They block any view of the positive.

Making the effort to think about praiseworthy things works for a while, but those negative thoughts often return, unbidden and oh, so unwanted. To make matters worse, I feel guilty for allowing those giants access to my mind and spirit.

Why can’t I get rid of them once and for all?

Maybe I’m not supposed to. Maybe God wants me to become more watchful, to learn perseverance, and to practice proactive behaviors, like gratitude and praise.

But one strategy for fighting the giants is particularly important: Get out my sword.

I’m talking about the Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17).

Scripture is full of wisdom and encouragement for doing battle, like Psalm 73.

Asaph writes about his challenge: arrogant and wicked people (v. 3) who scoff and speak malice (v. 8).

“What is going on here?” he writes. “Is God out to lunch? Nobody’s tending the store. The wicked get by with everything; they have it made…When I tried to figure it out, all I got was a splitting headache” (vs. 11-14, The Message).

Sounds like the giants of negativity had been pestering Asaph, too.

But at the end of the psalm, Asaph affirms what he knows about God and his ways:

 

“You [God] hold me by my right hand.

You guide me with your counsel,

And afterward you will take me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you?

And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

But God is the strength of my heart

And my portion forever.”

(Psalm 73:23-26)

 

I need to meditate on Asaph’s affirmations and make them my own:

  1. My loving Heavenly Father holds me by the hand, offering protection and security.
  1. He guides me with wisdom, especially through his Word, infusing me with comfort and strength.
  1. God gives me perspective for my earthly troubles as I look forward to blissful eternity with him.
  1. He is all I need.

 

Thank you, Asaph. I’m going to memorize those verses so they’re ready to draw like a sword—on a moment’s notice!

 

(photo credit:  www.ideas.tome.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Does your to-do list for tomorrow include such items as:

  • Send birthday, get-well, or encouragement cards?
  • Attend a meeting or rehearsal at church?
  • Prepare for teaching a Bible study or Sunday School lesson?
  • Pick up your husband’s prescription?
  • Prepare for dinner guests?

Young woman cooking in her kitchen

Our days are often filled with small deeds. We tend to think they’re insignificant and therefore, so are we.

But that negative evaluation is not from God!

“Who despises the day of small things?” he spoke to Zechariah (4:10).

In fact, evidence indicates that God loves to take small, seemingly insignificant actions, and use them in creative, powerful ways:

  • A piece of wood thrown into bitter water turned it sweet (Exodus 15:25).
  • A cord hung from a window saved a family from destruction (Joshua 2:17-21).
  • An army of 300 defeated a powerful enemy, just by blowing trumpets and breaking clay jars to expose torchlight (Judges 7).
  • A dab of mud applied to a man’s blind eyes restored his sight (John 9).
  • Paul’s handkerchiefs and aprons became healing agents as they were laid upon the sick ((Acts 19:12).

mud

It doesn’t matter that we’re not famous, wealthy, intellectual, or strong, because it is “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,'” says the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6).

Might = strength, resources, and ability.  If that describes you, wonderful!  But those blessings alone will not guarantee significance.

Power = persistence, resolve, and consistency.  Again, if you are able to power through with effort and efficiency to accomplish much, terrific!  But what’s truly important is if the effort is achieving God’s purpose.

Granted, God has given us talents and gifts, opportunities and choices.  We must be prayerful and wise in the ways we use them.

John Wesley advised:

025-All-You-Can-John-Wesley

(“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever  you can.”)

Just remember:  apart from the Lord Almighty, we accomplish nothing worthwhile (John 15:5).

On the other hand, little is much–IF God is in it.

He rejoices in what is right, you see, not necessarily in what is big.

So, when you feel like a nobody who’s accomplishing nothing, be mindful of this:

Does the place you’re called to labor

Seem small and little known?

It is great if God is in it

And He’ll not forget His own.

–Kitty Suffield

(Art & photo credits:  www.whattoexpect.com; http://www.auyouth.com; http://www.kokabella.com.)

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Wise Man - Foolish Man House

You probably remember the story.

A foolish man built his house on sand; a wise man built his home on rock.  When a storm came, the house built on sand fell with a great crash.  But the wise man’s house stood firm (Matthew 7:24-27).

With this parable Jesus offers visual imagery for choosing man’s way to live or God’s way:

1) You can choose to build your life on getting ahead and having a good time, but in the end you will have nothing.

Or,

2) You can choose to build your life on faith in Jesus, and in the end you will receive great gain–a Rock of stability to depend on now, and perfect bliss in heaven for eternity.

Jesus is:

  • Reliable.  “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just.  A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” (Deuteronomy 32:4).
  • Unchanging.  “Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
  • Protective.  “In the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling..and set me high upon a rock” (Psalm 27:5).

But I’m thinking the story about houses built on sand and rock could be applied to our thought lives, too.

For example, if we allow our minds to focus on the shifting sands of circumstance,  we sink into negativity, worry, and fear.

If we focus on a firm foundation of scriptural absolutes, a sense of tranquility and strength pervades our spirits.

What are those absolutes?  The Bible teaches many, including the following:

God loves us — so much that he sent his only Son to die in our place.  Jesus took the punishment for our sins that we deserve (John 3:16).  Now, I’ve heard that statement thousands of times.  Perhaps you have, too.  But we mustn’t allow familiarity to reduce this truth to banality. His love for us is everlasting.   Deep.   Caring.   Forgiving.   Full of grace.  Let’s bask in the wonder of his love!

God has a plan for each of our lives, and it’s a good plan (Jeremiah 29:11).  Notice God doesn’t promise a pleasurable plan.  God loves us too much to allow addiction to fun.  With his goodness comes discipline, so that we become mature. In the final analysis, immature people are not the most content anyway.  They are self-centered and tend to whine and complain.  I don’t want to be that kind of person, and I’ll bet you don’t either.  So let’s accept the absolute goodness of God’s plan.

God will equip and empower us for his plan (Isaiah 41:10).  He’s the one who formed mountains, engineered ecosystems, and filled infinite space with countless stars.  This same God lives within us and works through us, fostering resolve, strength, and perseverance.  Let’s turn to him moment by moment to avail ourselves of his power.

And as we affirm such truths, we are reinforcing our foundation upon the Rock. Stone upon stone.  Solid, firm, and strong.  When the storms come– economic setbacks, health problems, emotional hurts–we will not collapse into a heap.

With David we will be able to exult in God’s provision:

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand…Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust” (Psalm 40:1-2, 4b).

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

What scriptural absolutes are part of your foundation?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

( art credit:  www.intheleafytreetopsthebirssing.blogspot.com)

 

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“There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18).

M-m-m.  Interesting.  John doesn’t say perfect courage drives out fear.  Not even perfect faith.  Why does he say perfect love will drive out fear?

First of all, this verse is not talking about fears of financial ruin or life-threatening events.  Verse eighteen gives us the context.  John is talking about Judgment Day.  He’s reminding us that, if we know Jesus, there is nothing to fear when we leave this earth for eternity.  Jesus gave his life to save us from the consequences of our sin.  Our place in heaven is secure, if our faith is in him.

And once that matter has been settled, other fear-producing questions can be put in proper perspective. We have to remind ourselves that earthly life fades quickly like the leaves (Isaiah 64:6).  These questions will cease to matter–questions like:

  • Will my job survive the cutbacks?
  • Will I be able to keep my health insurance?
  • Will my kids make it through their personal crisis?

But such questions can cause torment to the point of ulcers and high blood pressure.  If we allow fear to control us, we’re saying that the troubles we face are more powerful than our God.

So here are a few ways to fight against fear:

  • Rename your difficulties as possibilities—possibilities for God to do something glorious.  Without a problem, there’s no opportunity for a miracle.
  • Picture God Almighty accompanying you all day long.  He’s standing right behind you at the sink.  He’s sitting beside you in the car.  His ever-watchful eye is upon you,  his infinite strength is available to you, and his perfect wisdom will guide you.
  • Don’t feed your fear with worry; feed your faith with the truth of God’s Word.  Psalm 23 is a perfect place to begin.  Remember verse four?  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
  •  Listen to what he says:  “I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you (Isaiah 41:13).  Visualize God holding you by the hand as you walk through each day.

Years ago, when a I was a young teenager, my family visited Lookout Mountain in Tennessee.  Dad and I were hiking over the mountain paths when we came to a deep, narrow ravine.  He easily jumped across, turned, and held out his hand for me.

“I can do it myself,” I announced confidently.  Then I looked down into that deep ravine.  What if I fall? I thought.  Grinning sheepishly at Dad, I said, “’Guess you’d better help me after all!”  I had great confidence in my father.  I knew he loved me and would never let me fall.

God is ready to walk hand-in-hand with me along the mountain paths of life.  Problems arise, though, when I repeat that moment on Lookout Mountain and focus on the ravine, the what-ifs.  The  result?  I’m frozen with fear.

How downright foolish of me, when my loving, trustworthy Heavenly Father has assured me:

“Don’t panic.  I’m with you.  There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.  I’ll give you strength.  I’ll help you.  I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you” (Isaiah 41:10, The Message).

 You see, perfect love drives out fear because we can trust the perfect love of our perfect God.

(art & photo credits:  www.gracevine.com; http://www.visualphotos.com)

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