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Posts Tagged ‘Isaiah 41:10’

Jesus made it perfectly clear: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b, emphasis added).

 

 

And in our minds we affirm that truth. Yes, he’s invisible, but we know God is involved in our lives. We look back over our personal histories and see evidence of his work, as he engineered circumstances for our good.

But sometimes our emotions long to feel his bodily presence.   Wouldn’t it be wonderful, we daydream, if he literally took us by the hand, put his arm around our shoulders, or pulled us toward him in a close embrace?

Sometimes our ears long to hear his voice, telling us loud and clear exactly what step to take next, encouraging us we’re headed in the right direction, or offering perfect words of comfort that assuage our pain.

And sometimes our spirits long for assurance of his love in spite of our frailty, that progress in maturity is occurring, and the trials we face today will have meaning tomorrow.

There have been close encounters. Every now and then we’ve come within an angel hair of his touch—he felt that close. We’ve received impressions so strong they’ve almost been audible. And we’ve sensed his affirmation in our spirits that immediately settled our uncertainty for the moment.

 

 

But in between those intermittent occasions, our Heavenly Father would have us exercise a bit of faith (1) and take to heart what he’s already told us—truths such as these:

God isn’t even the width of an angel hair away from us. Remember the passage where Jesus declares he is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:5)? Just how far is the branch from the vine?

Exactly.

And because he’s right there, we can face uncertainty. God is no cheerleader, standing on the sidelines and shouting encouragement. He’s promised to be deeply involved, to strengthen, help, and support (Isaiah 41:10).

 

 

God hasn’t lost his voice. He most often chooses to communicate with us through his written Word. But sometimes he speaks to us through other Christians—their writings or spoken words. And he still implants impressions into the quietness of our souls—if we sit still long enough to listen.

Writer and theologian, Mike Yaconelli was probably right:  “The problem isn’t that God has stopped speaking; it’s that our lives have become louder.”

God wastes nothing.  Every event, every relationship, every circumstance has potential for meaning and  benefit somewhere down the road—including mistakes, disappointments, our own poor choices and those of others.

They become transformational moments to develop our maturity and prepare us for opportunities to come.

Consider:

  • Moses, once prince of Egypt, reduced to tending sheep for forty years. Yet God chose him to lead his people out of slavery.
  • Young Daniel, taken captive to live faraway in a strange culture. Yet God’s plan included his rise to provincial ruler in that land.
  • The man born blind, in order to one day display the work of God in his life (John 9, especially v. 3).

 

 

God doesn’t require hoop-jumping. We don’t have to conjure up articulate prayers to access his presence or follow a prescribed set of steps to avail ourselves of his guidance, comfort, and power.

Even the simple act of speaking Jesus’ name invokes all that he is and all that he can do (John 16:24). How reassuring to know: “When there are no words, when there is no strength, there is always his Name” (1). God intends for us to use it.

Finally, and most encouraging:

God is on our side.  We.  Cannot.  Lose (Romans 8:31-37).

 

 

Now the question becomes: Will we move forward on what we know, or stagnate because we cannot see, hear or touch?

 

Notes:

(1) Faith is a quality God greatly values. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). But all it takes is the equivalent of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20), and our God can move mountains of insurmountable difficulty!

(2) Marilyn Meberg, Boundless Love

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com (Salvatore Gerace Tuscan); http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.photolib.noaa.gov; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.canva.com.

 

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“If God is for us,

who can be against us?”

–Romans 8:31 NIV

 

As I write…

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Here’s what I’ve come to understand:

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

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

What God has promised here and now is to:

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

 

 

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

God may have promised:

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

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

The problem is me.

 

 

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

His goals include:

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

 

 

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

 

“Our momentary light affliction is producing for us

an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.”

–2 Corinthians 4:17 HCSB

 

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

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

 

 

Also helpful to keep in mind:

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

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

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

My own experience provides bountiful evidence.

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

Who could possibly win against such supremacy?

 

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

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

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

 

 

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

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How would you finish the title-statement above?

The writer of Hebrews described faith like this:

 

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(“Faith is being sure of what we hope for

and certain of what we do not see.”

–Hebrews 11:1, NIV)

 

Other commentators and authors have added the following:

  • “Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe.” – St. Augustine
  • “Faith is believing that Christ is what He is said to be, and that He will do what He has promised to do, and then to expect this of Him.” – Charles Spurgeon
  • “Faith is the belief that God is real and that God is good…Faith is the belief that God will do what is right.” – Max Lucado (1)

 

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  • “Faith is more than a feeling; it is acting on our belief that God is able to bring a redeeming value to any situation.” – Carole Ladd (2)

And my personal favorite:

  • “Faith is expectancy.” – Selwyn Hughes (3).

Now if true expectancy characterizes my faith, it’s going to be evident in the way I live.

That evidence will no doubt include:

 

  • Optimism and hope, not pessimism and despair.

 

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Scripture provides numerous statements that generate a positive outlook.   One of my favorites:

 

“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,

who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long;

they exult in your righteousness.

For you are their glory and strength.”

–Psalm 89:15-17a)

 

Collecting faith-building quotes can also contribute to a positive outlook. For example:

 

“He is beneath me as my foundation, beside me as my friend,

within me as my life. There’s no need to worry about limited visibility.”

–Barbara Johnson

 

  • Gratitude, not grievances.

 

gratitude

 

“Our words are the evidence of the state of our hearts

as surely as the taste of the water

is an evidence of the state of the spring.”

– J. C. Ryle (3)

 

That includes the words I speak only in my mind. Silent prayers of gratitude to God will bolster my faith; rehashing the challenges I face will weaken it.

 

  • Affirmation of truth, not doubts.

 

Isaiah 41:10 might be a good place to begin.

 

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Am I feeling afraid and alone? God says, “Do not fear; I am with you.”

Am I plagued by worries and what-ifs? God says, “Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.”

Do I feel weak and helpless? God says, “I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

 

  • Pressing on, not giving up.

 

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Exercising my faith will move me forward; giving in to despair will bring me to a dead stop.

But just how do I move forward by faith? Philip Yancey says, simply respond to the next task that lies before me (4)—in a faith-directed manner. That might include making the bed while humming a praise song, sending the kids to school with hugs and a prayer, entering the office with cheerful greetings and a smile.

That monstrous problem may not be solved yet, but positive action while I wait will affirm my faith: God is at work; I can rest in his supreme competency. (That’s easier-said-than-done for me. I must continually reset my mind and spirit on him and the truth of his Word.)

 

  • Confidence, not discouragement.

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Yes, I may be stymied by the circumstances facing me now. And who knows what will happen tomorrow? But you and I do know the One in charge!

He is:

Almighty (Revelation 11:17)

All-wise (Romans 11:33)

An immovable pillar of strength (Psalm 46:1-2)

Rich in love (Psalm 103:6)

Sovereign (Psalm 22:28)

Gracious (Exodus 34:6)

Trustworthy (2 Samuel 7:28)

Our Provider (Philippians 4:19)

Our Protector (Psalm 32:7)*

Our Guide (Psalm 48:14)

Perhaps our exercise of faith should begin with attribute stretches—stretching the mind and spirit with a character-review of the One in whom we trust, to build our muscles of confidence and strength.

_________________________

*Protection sometimes comes through trouble rather than from trouble. If God chooses to bring us through, he provides the wisdom and fortitude necessary.   Either way, the outcome is always for his glory.

 

Notes:

  1. Grace for the Moment, p70.
  2. Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive, p93
  3. Same as above, p. 130
  4. Every Day Light , p. 253.
  5. Grace Notes, p233.

 

What evidence of faith have you witnessed in others or recognized in yourself? Please share in the Comments section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.etsy.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.allpoetry.com; http://www.turnbacktogod.com; http://www.godinterest.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

*     *     *     *     *     *   *     *     *   *

I praise you, Lord, with all my heart,

for being a trustworthy God who never fails his children.

How glorious to know

I can trust in your unfailing love!

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

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

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“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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